Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Out of our comfort zones

Today we had the opportunity to look at 'recent' work by one another and to begin to, tentatively, tease out what our project might be. I don't know how others felt (I had to duck out before the session ended) but the experience was fairly uncomfortable. Putting out unfinished and unresolved work is pretty nerve wracking and as an artist working for thirty plus years isn't naturally something I do. Usually there's a fairly elaborate ritual preceeding the act of showing that takes place in my studio - and as Barney Newman said "Studio is Sanctuary"! I think the intention behind the exercise was a 'loosener' to get us moving into shooting, revealing, selecting and discarding in a more open and relaxed way...whether that's really possible I have my doubts. Still getting seasoned - nay revered - colleagues on the staff riffelling through the scrappy and half baked pictures that I spray the camera over was tough...and something the Prof said really struck a chord, as well as putting the fear of God into me. Suggesting we look through the viewfinder and ruling out anything we've seen before may well present me, for one, with a tough assignment without any pictures to show for it!
This week's Cake file - a delicious, really freshly baked tea cake (yes a cake with tea in it and still warm from the oven) from Daisy...still she lives on a farm so...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


So far I've not put any results of the portraiture experiments up on line.  Not surprising as they are pretty dreadful!  Another kind of results came through this morning - by post - the first two modules.  They were a decent reward for the effort put in and given that I'm on a hiding to nothing in terms of what is likely to be expected of me, at least they were in line with that to.

I have now honed in on the specific content of my intended study for the next couple months - 'Professional Engagements' is the working title and I'm hoping to convince my tutors that portraits of all those professional people I have had interaction with in the past few years might make for a meaningful project.  I like to think that it will give me access to two environments, work and home or play, as well as a rich and accessible group of subjects.  I've begun approaching them and to date they have all been willing to play ball.  I have toyed with the idea of projects that would have involved complete strangers but I simply don't think I'm ready for that, either psychologically or technically.  This could be a kind of half way house as quite a few of the victims are not regular acquaintances. 

I'm also thinking that this disparate group, sharing as they do, simply their relationship to me create an interesting 'portrait' of me as well as of themselves.  This is something that I want to explore further in making this body of images - and try to identify within the works themselves.  
Now I really have to start thinking about which camera, what additional equipment and so forth...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Moving Along

I'm nor at all used to sitting and reflecting on matters, my MO is usually to do something, screw it up, do it again and so on till either I tire of it or it gets to where I want it to be.  Now however I'm actively (or rather passively) trying to slow the process down.  The new project is taxing me as I ruminate over various texts and images trying to establish exactly what I might want to get from the assignment.  Portraiture it will be (unless some very active dissuasion is employed) but what and how is still up for grabs.  I have tried taking a few but so far all I've discovered is that it is a harder task than I'd imagined - so the technical issues of making an image are starting to raise their ugly heads.  This was always going to happen, so better sooner than later, but it will mean a lot of additional work.  The subjects I'm now thinking ought to be grouped in some meaningful way. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Practical...

So this week we have no session and it's obviously a good moment to start putting together the rationale for the practice project thats the focus for this semester.   We are told to "choose an area of photographic practice new to you" and  "challenge your existing practice"whilst being "clearly indicative of a constructive exploration of the assigned area".  We have to produce "an experimental portfolio that demonstrates personal innovation as well as an awareness of contemporary critical practices" no sweat there then!

As I've hinted at I am fairly certain now that I am going to attempt some form of portraiture project...though I'm thinking to take pictures of people in context (something I haven't ever done seriously)...that might constitute documentary I guess.   

I've a huge set of volumes dragged away from the library - Karsh, Avedon, Arbus, Struth, Bown just for starters - and there's all those books and catalogues already around (Parr, Meadows, Sadler, Sarah Jones, Karen Knorr and so forth), including piles of old Creative Camera's and other magazines...where, to be honest, in the past I've tended to pretty much ignore the portrait work in the past.  And having recently subscribed to several current magazines the latest issue of Foam is centred on that must be telling me something too.

Getting started on research around the subject is daunting - as Paul Hill suggests in his own 'Approaching Photography' portraiture is the "most common subject matter in photography and Susan Bright  in Art Photography Now opines "Laden with ambiguity and uncertainty, the portrait is perhaps the most complex area of artistic practice"  Still at least its rich territory to look into!

Amongst a number of starting points to actually take some pictures I've begun a series of self portraits - just one  idea amongst several.  First stabs suggest this isn't as easy an activity as it might - excuse the pun - on the face of it seem...

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Another Week Commences!

I have been pretty remiss with posting over the festive period and beyond.  Still yesterday was the hand in date for the first assignments for the course (Modules 1&2) and we all dutifully rolled up with the two documents required.  Like several others it now seems, there came a point when, whatever faults and errors remained, one just pressed the print button and to hang with it.

I was relatively happy with the final outcome of our major essay (around 3000 words required) project.  It was good to spend a deal of time studying Misrach and Martins as they are both photographers I really admire.  The essay I feel captures at least a few interesting observations about their work.  The other hand in was a summary of our research 'methods' (around 800 words required).  This I found rather more my opinion a lot of serious 'guff' is talked about this topic in the academic community.  After all whilst literature searches, academic referencing conventions, etc. are clearly important to a degree - communicating effectively your passion and ideas is what counts in the 'real' world.  Having already had to make two powerpoint presentations over the preceeding weeks, this laborious writing up of what your processes and procedures were was dreary in the extreme.  Still as a fellow academic I guess the staff have to have something tangible to mark and - as importantly nowadays - be seen to have marked!

We were treated to the information regarding our next two modules, the double module which comprises the first practice assignment - at last - we take some pictures!  and another 'Applied Photographic Theory' - another 3000 words of text!  Deep joy!

Nest week - we get to think about our first practice assignment - the following week we get to take in some recent work.  So as a taster here's an image taken at Attenborough Nature Park over the Christmas break.