Assignment 3 Brief

The brief for Assignment 3 was quite a technically detailed bit of information describing how the photographs should be taken in order to produce a set of photographs that tell a story visually. Despite this detail for the brief in this regard, it was still up to me which subject I chose to tell a story about and this was the part I struggled with. I had an idea in my head about gentrification in Deptford which I liked the sound of on the surface but I didn’t have much clue on how to carry out the brief concerning the story-telling aspect.

I posed this question to my tutor in these words:

Me: I have been struggling with Assignment 3 because I haven’t come up with many ideas for a strong story to tell. I listened to David Campbell’s podcast on Narrative and that helped somewhat but the problem I’m having is conceptualising a beginning, middle and end (or a theme, complications to the theme and a resolution). One idea I’ve had which seems stronger than the others is to document gentrification in the Deptford area. Here, the theme would be examples of gentrification in Deptford, the complications would be that there is still poverty evident as well as high-rise buildings being built rapidly which don’t necessarily conform to the middle-class image. The resolution or non-resolution could be a sense of the new being mixed with the old. My visual strategy would be a kind of late photography but with the inclusion of people to help give identity to the place. Do you feel this sounds like a strong story outline which I can adapt as I get further along with the assignment?

 

My tutor responded with very helpful suggestions which I felt I could take forward with me throughout the rest of the course. His response was:

Tutor: If you’re having trouble pre-conceptualising the assignment why not just start shooting gentrification in Deptford and see what comes up? You already mention this strategy yourself, but I would go a step further and say you don’t necessarily need to plan anything, such as including people or taking a ‘late photography’ style, you can locate the themes in the work as you look at it and organise it at home. In a sense it’s post-conceptualisation, but what matters more is that you’re open to something entirely new. Of course it’s more risky, but (I suggest) much more interesting!

 

I have to admit I have had a tendency to overthink exactly how I would take photographs in past projects before I took them and this approach sounded fresh and more productive as I could continue to conceptualise after I had taken some photos. My tutor’s response was very helpful and made me think about just photographing my area with a mind to gentrification while keeping an eye out for any themes that may develop. I immediately started photographing in Deptford and took some photographs I wouldn’t have without the suggestion.

Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes I
Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes I

I mentioned to my tutor I had listened to David Campbell’s podcast on Narrative and a positive result of listening to the podcast was that, combined with my tutor’s comments and elements of the course, I started to look at Deptford with new eyes as can be seen in my post: Imaginary Documents.

Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes II
Example of My Exploring Deptford While Keeping an Eye Out for Possible Themes II

Going back to the rest of the brief, the requisites were that 10 photographs were to be produced and they should be taken at a place local to myself. Through these 10 photos I should tell a story of my choice. However, not one that is a day-in-the-life exercise but a story with the theme laid out, complications to the theme and then a resolution or non-resolution, depending on the nature of the story. Although it was stated I should use a variety of compositions and viewpoints, I should still maintain a visual consistency so shoot in a similar style throughout. Therefore there was quite a lot of detail and components making up this brief but the part that stood out to me was to tell a story visually.

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Development of My Ideas for Assignment 2 – Documentary

Here are some questions I posed to my tutor and his responses regarding Assignment 2:

Me:

I was interested in brief encounters with strangers in the city street and how then those moments are gone. As a person growing up in a big city like London these fleeting encounters represented something of a feeling of loneliness which I would think I wasn’t alone in feeling. Also they mirrored my own perception of different photographs’ instantaneity as you’re about to take them – one minute they’re there and then they’re just a (semi-permanent) memory. What better way to capture a fleeting moment than with a camera which produces material images that only appear virtually nowadays? One method to visualise these fleeting moments might be through changing light and how that too is transient.

I then read Maartje Van Den Heuvel’s essay: ‘Mirror of Visual Culture’; the part which made the most impression on me was how the media and its images help to create a virtual reality which photographer’s have begun to reflect upon in their work. One potential outcome of this realisation on my part was I could see how transient this virtual world is and yet how prevalent at the same time it has become. This for me is mirrored by the core feature the virtual world is made up of: images – of particular interest for me images including photographs.

By recording the fleeting encounters with my camera in an ephemeral manner I could connate that the image itself was fleeting just like the encounter.

I also noticed while re-reading the brief for Assignment 2 that I would have to submit the assignment on a blog. I began to see a link between the work I might be producing for the assignment and the way it was displayed in the blog format. This link was that both the blog (which is a form of the virtual world and so highly transient) and the photographs (both in form and content) are fleeting in terms of their materiality. One way I could envisage submitting the second assignment in blog format was to rephotograph the photographs taken for the assignment but on a black backdrop so it appears like the photographs are floating in space. The connotations of this could be that the fleeting moment had gone and exists in a vacuum only. Yet here it is, on my blog representing itself as a mirror of visual culture. Where before the image might have appeared in a newspaper/magazine, now the photograph is represented in a vacuum of space. This viewer of the blog could infer loneliness from this which also coincidentally would be the theme for my photographs recording the fleeting encounters.

 Ways to create the photographs themselves – I could carry it out literally and walk by random people in the street and take their picture. However they would be likely to notice me, thereby disrupting the semantics of the image and besides, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to carry out this approach. I could photograph their back as they walk away or I could photograph them from the side and create a ‘slice of reality’. This seems like the most plausible approach and maybe with the strongest visual credence.

The last alternative was to actually meet the stranger in the brief encounter in the following way:

  • Go up to people with an Instax camera
  • Ask to photograph them, they get to keep the photo!
  • But in return you get to take a photo of the photo up close with them out of focus in the background.
  • Displayed on a blog this reflects the fleetingness of the photograph and the fleetingness of the media world.

A link to memories with the fleetingness reminding you of lost moments. Also the people out of focus in the background is a reference to this being a memory formed.

I have been carrying out the approach where I photograph my brief encounters with people from the side or their back using lighting which reflects loneliness in my eyes.

I wanted to check with you the last alternative of meeting the stranger and taking their picture with an Instax camera for two reasons:
1. is this not then a constructed photograph?
2. the Instax cameras are quite expensive for me so I wanted to see whether you thought this approach was a constructed photograph before committing to it also.

 

My Tutor:

Ephemerality of digital imagery is interesting as an abstract concept. If you shoot people walking away it will be harder to make a strong image. You’ll rely more on the concept, so it’ll have to be clear.

The Instax idea sounds alright. Yes it’s constructed in a way but you’re encouraged to interrogate documentary in the broadest possible sense. I think you’ll be fine if you include a clear rationale.

 

My Reaction:

From my tutor’s response I was able to identify firstly that the first method of photographing people from the back or side would not be as visually powerful. Secondly and more importantly for me his response confirmed my ‘new’ idea was sound and related back to documentary in his opinion. Furthermore I could now see the real direction my work was leading towards which consisted of ephemerality of the image. In particular I established:

‘By recording the fleeting encounters with my camera in an ephemeral manner I could connate that the image itself was fleeting just like the encounter.’

I would be photographing fleeting encounters carried out using an Instax camera which further reflects the ephemerality of the image. Also I would make sure my project’s rationale was clear so as to back up my somewhat complicated message.

References:

Van Den Heuvel (2005). Mirror of Visual Culture. Documentary Now! [online] Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/heuvel_discussingdocumentary.pdf [Accessed 3/3/2017].