Week 9 | Project Reflection

As the module draws to its conclusion and the anxiety of submission sets in I find myself in difficult position. Having completed a number of shoots I am acutely aware of the disjuncture within my work. My early work took me back to the documentary origins of my project surrounding the football environment which was a welcome piece of normality after the first lockdown period. However I feel that my work has moved beyond this stage with regards to my personal development. 

When I started the MA my ultimate plan was to embed myself within the Stockport County squad and document their season as an insider. I was conscious of not taking on this task too early because I felt that the priority was to allow my work to develop before I took on such a huge project. As a consequence, this option is currently unavailable and feels further away than ever as COVID continues to present huge barriers to the extent that Stockport County as a club are currently not playing matches as the whole club at the time of writing is self isolating. 

In terms of the work that I have already produced, I think that I do have a submission that reflects my development in the form of a collection of portraits. The feedback I have received in recent webinars has been to focus on a more specific element, I have responded to this by making more portraits and less documentary work. Building on this, I have endeavoured to get closer to my project by photographing subjects within their homes as the arena of the football environment was less accessible. 

In making the choice to photograph subjects within their home I feel that I am adhering to my intentions as the emphasis of my work is a reconnection with my football past. At this stage of my life I feel relatively comfortable and I have managed to evolve and challenge myself to become a functional member of society. However arriving at this stage has not been an easy ride. As a football player trying to forge a future in the game and in my case really struggling to cope on a number of levels such as ability, physicality, and mental resilience. When I conducted my interviews and portrait sessions with former teammates I was surprised to find that my peers in some way had their own insecurities that I was able to identify with. Rosen (2020) cites Majoli who recalls when photographing Shirin Neshat:

“Her home was a minimal place in Soho [in New York] with beautiful light. I tried to [create some] symbiosis and translate what I saw. I entered her place: it was white, she was dressed in black, and the work is black and white. It came naturally to do what I did there.”

I find the comments Majoli makes useful in defending my decision to visit the homes of my subject as in doing this I was able to enter into a type of symbiosis or collaborative process. As a result, the interviews I conducted were successful as I was able do learn a great deal about my friends and about myself. The main message I am able to be reflective about is the sense of feeling alone. This point is pertinent as I reflect on the time of my life where I had very little skills to offer the world and didn’t really see a place in society. I was willing but at the same time didn’t see where I fitted in beyond football. Now at the end of our competitive playing days, each person I photographed in the home is a success story because we all have a place that we can call a home. This may be trivial to most but each subject that I have collaborated with has had issues with drink, drugs or both. 

A home. For the last two decades has not been a consistent term associated with safety to them or me. However these people have managed to find a place to call home and find relative happiness. 

In terms of how this fits in with the broader narrative of my work I am led to comments made by Felicity McCabe when she states that her work is a large body of work and her projects represent different chapters within that body of work. Such comments resonate with veracity in a personal sense as I have constantly challenged myself in different directions whilst always making work that I have been emotionally attached to whether strong and informed or weak, experimental and naive. This submission is no different and despite the challenging feedback I receive. I feel that I am making work that I am proud which is significant as this is probably the first time in my life that I genuinely feel that way. Therefore, my submission won’t be about chasing grades or success. My work is my work, I feel a deep connection to it and it has been made in a collaborative nature with people who I have a deep connection with. Perhaps not even realising this connection until now in this reflective state. 

Rosen (2020)‘Majoli’s environmental portraits reveal the collaborative nature of his approach and the importance of developing a space for mutual engagement between artist and sitter in the creative process.’

Majoli perfectly reflects my sentiments here and without the burden of having to reflect my feelings accurately in a CRJ he nicely concludes my current state, and feelings about the work I have made. As a result, the judgements of my superiors have become secondary to the sense of emotion I feel about the work I have created. Helguera makes the comment (2011) ‘to participate is not to create homogeneity; to participate is to generate vitality’. I was able to speak to some of my well known peers and in making work and collaborating with them in their homes, I have been able to penetrate the surface and gain emotional insights into some of the toughest people I know. And this has been achieved from the safety of the home. In considering this chapter of my project like this, I feel that this project has been twenty years in the making as opposed to twelve weeks.

Helguera (2011) Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook. New York, Jorge Pinto Books.

Rosen (2020) Alex Majoli on Artists and the Rewards of Environmental Portraiture. Magnum Photos [Online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/art/alex-majoli-artists-environmental-portraiture/  Accessed: 17th Nov 2020

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