Thursday, 19 February 2009

Food & Thought

Another session - and this week Mike Simmons, one of our course team talked about four bodies of work of his own and it was extremely difficult work to discuss.  Mike asked for questions repeatedly, as if trying to coax us into a meaningful debate about the work, but unusually most of us found it hard to articulate ideas when his work is so rooted in personal experiences that are, or at least seemed to me, to be unmediated through a metaphorical or symbolic abstraction.  Of course photography can do this in a way that most other visual artworks cannot do because of its indexical qualities.  And in the context of a lecture where images that we would - in  the normal gallery context - have to imagine functions and meanings are explained to us by the artist himself that is an artificial (and privileged) construct.  Nonetheless it was a tough ask for most of us (I suspect - certainly for me) to frame questions or arguments around works that touch so directly, openly and honestly on the artist's own feelings of grief and loss.  For my own part I have to simply take delivery of such work and find my own private way through such pieces.  But thanks go to Mike for opening up a channel of communication around work that, by its very nature, must be hard for him  to talk as openly about it as he did.

Onto the crit. re. our first fumblings around our chosen project.  Mine - the 'Professional Engagements' piece - seeks to make a series of  meaningful and interesting portraits of a group of 'professionals' that I have met through my recent life activity.  Some (my boss, my GP) I meet regularly and 'know' in some degree - though a by-product of the work, I'm finding out, is that I don't 'know' them very much at all and am finding out through this process.  Others I have met relatively few times (my Heart consultant, my Heart surgeon) and couldn't claim to know at all.  Others still (my Accountant) is a friend that I've known well for many years.

I choose this group for several reasons - firstly I didn't feel ready or prepared to confront complete strangers in terms of portraiture.  This way enables me to have varying levels of 'entree' into making a picture.  Secondly at least initially there will be quite a lot of fiddling about (I'm literally learning on the job as far as technique is concerned) and needed some of my subjects to be prepared to be victims several times over.  Finally - and maybe most importantly - I'm intrigued to see what this seemingly disparate group might possibly share in common or stylistically or whatever simply by being my circle of professional acquaintances.  I'm seeing it as a kind of visual 360 degree appraisal of me as a fellow 'professional' and possibly a portrait of me as a composite of those I interact with.

Here is a second image of one of the subjects ( I already posted some very early shots of my GP) and the first taken with 'pukka' kit.  Of course the formal technical requirements, lighting and focus mainly, are still not sorted but the pose, and what it says about the 'Consultant/Coach' - Pete mainly works with creative people helping analyze their working practice and his environment is starting to get somewhere for me.  I had some idea about the styling and formal character of the pictures before I went in but I'm now realizing for myself (it will be obvious to many experienced photographers) that the interaction in the space, between the subject, yourself and the camera is both fragile and contested.  Our Prof...Paul Hill talked about the act of stalking your prey and I'm beginning to see how that has to happen.  I wasted (thank god for digital!) many shots because I simply didn't 'warm' the subject up before shooting so had some very unnatural and clumsy poses before I got to these here.  A chance conversation with Nick Lockett was very helpful too where he stressed the vital importance of talking the subject through the session.  

So there will be more sessions and more errors along the way but I'm at least learning more about what the potential making of a decent portrait session might feel like.  And an interesting observation about that of course is the relatively low priority of taking the shot, other than the precise moment it happens.

Food...Adele has a feller...Geoff - and he's a cake maker!  And boy...he's a good his Chocolate cake testifies...Cake File - Week 21.

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