Week 1 | FMP

So it starts again, only this time it is the beginning of the end and the time has come to put the learning of the last eighteen months into practice and deliver a project that is meaningful and capable of featuring in an exhibition. At this point I could eulogise about the huge journey I’ve been on however that is obvious and not unusual for a committed MA student.

More importantly, I am currently looking for a route to start this process as the last four days have been challenging and slightly worrying. Having had a productive first meeting with Laura, I received the usual critical insight and have engaged with the contextual research well. At present I have engaged with the work of Sian Davey, and in my position as the ‘spectator’ (Barthes 1980) I had a feeling that I had seen this work before. I hadn’t, but what I was trying to comprehend was the warmth and intimacy of the work I had been researching. Unsure whether this is achieved by the attitude of the photographer? In addition to an overriding consideration of a gendered response. A sense of matriarchy, an intimacy or a specific impulse to fire the shutter.

Such observations led me to consider whether I could achieve this within my own work. Thinking back to one of the earlier modules of the MA, I remember Michelle Sank once commenting that my work is ‘quite dignified’ or something similar, I’m not quite sure. Over the past week or so I’ve been mulling over this point, wondering if it’s a quality in my approach that I can utilise in the future work I make.

Back to the intention of this first post, which has digressed before it has really started. I felt the natural starting point for my FMP should take me back to one of the starting points, in this case, Roland Barthes. Upon re-reading Camera Lucida, only this time from a much more educated starting point. With my project, only a loose consideration at this point the following passages became interesting;

(Barthes, 1980:p36) ‘Society, it seems, mistrusts pure meaning: It wants meaning but at the same time it wants meaning to be surrounded by noise which will make it less acute. Hence the photograph whose meaning is too impressive is quickly deflected; we consume it aesthetically, not politically.’

Here Barthes make a pertinent observation when considering my own project ‘Seven Miles South’ . At present I intend to make work led by portraits, supported by quieter work with the intention of furthering a story alluding to meaning. Environmental portraits will raise questions about the space I will be occupying in addition to what Barthes describes as ‘noise’ which will further meanings that may appear less straight forward. I won’t comment specifically on work, rather apply this idea when I have made the work. At present I think of the work of Alec Soth ‘Niagara or Sleeping by the Mississippi. His use of motifs and sequencing and the powerful relationship his bodies of work have collectively to make a sequence.

Barthes (1980:p38) further states…

‘If we expect the realm of Advertising, where the meaning must be clear and distinct only by reason of its mercantile nature, semiology of Photography is therefore limited to the admirable portraitists. For the rest, with regard to the heterogeneity of ‘good’ photographs, all we can say is that the object speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think. And further: even this risks being perceived as dangerous. At the limit, no meaning at all is safer:

Here Barthes makes meaningful comment in trying to decode my philosophical approach. Whilst at the same time demonstrating the development of my own photographic literacy in the sense that my appreciation of quieter or more metaphorical work has perhaps seen the furthest distance travelled since my time on the course. I see this photographic literacy as a type of restricted code which possibly confirms Barthes idea that the heterogeneity of photography is seen as a threat to a capitalist society. Such observations are complexed and serve to create a wider gap between photography that resonates with new audiences within the community and work that resonates with audiences that have an existing understanding of photographic literacy.

Barthes. R. (1980) Camera Lucida. Vantage Classics, London.

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