Critical Breakthrough

As I continue to reflect on the direction of my own project today has been a very strange day which has been something of a journey in itself. Without wanting to state the obvious, and as I continue to develop my contextual research whilst interpreting the academic theory I feel that doors continue to open. Coupling new reading with the observation of the work of others. I decided to take a look at my previous work, specifically my last submission where I used the football theme as a vehicle to open the broader theme of mental health. In doing this I felt as though the work was connecting with elements of my own identity. In reaching this conclusion it suddenly occurred that this final project should continue with the theme of identity. The identity of the world and people that surround me. In doing this I am exploring the idea of my own identity but through the voices of others. This is how I will tell my story! Burr (2003: p7) states 

‘It might be said that as a culture or society we construct our own versions of reality between us.’ 

When previously reflecting on Burr’s comment I felt somewhat negative because the context of my experience wasn’t a success because I was trying to reflect a community that I wasn’t a part of. I was probably a tourist and my experience was that of a tourist. However with the same idea of ‘constructing a reality’ in the place that I know, I am met with the energy and confidence that will enable to making of work that I believe in and feel able to encompass multiple elements to tell what I think will be a complex story. Elements being location, subject and identity. Colin Pantall suggests 

The complexities and contradictions of life, the flaws and imperfections, the ability to recognise our own failures are what makes things interesting’.

I am drawn to Pantall’s comment, in its most basic form because I am able to recognise the symbiotic relationship between three interrelated elements. In having those elements at play I will be able to present work that offers a didactic experience to its audience. The title of the project ‘Seven Miles South’ infers a story about place, which would be true. However the story is also about mental health and identity within that place. 

Romero in Christenberry highlights regarding his work (2013:p9) ‘Christonberry constructs an account of the South of the United States from within that South’. 

Here, Romero surmises Christenberry well, in referring to the creation of an account by someone from within the geographical location. This is what I would like to achieve with my work. Christenberry’s signature vantage point is partly what makes his vernacular distinct whilst serving as a significant factor in the construction of an identity towards his work. At this stage I feel that I have achieved a type of distinct style of portraiture that may help construct part of my own DNA as a photographer. Making clean portraits using on camera flash to achieve separation of the person from the environment. I feel this assists in separating the subject from the environment whilst making the subject the primary element and placing the environment as a supporting factor to the story. I will pursue this because I quite like the results however the next stage will be to use off camera flash as an experiment. I have been using this technique for a while within a wedding context and have been successful in doing this. My thoughts on not utilising this within my personal work is the fear that I would make work that has an element of glamour to it and I would like to do this at all cost at the moment. 

In looking at my previous work produced as a result of the football environment, whether that being the game itself, spectators or the relationships I have cultivated as a result of my experiences within the game. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little insecure about leaving the football theme behind. After my discussion with Laura, she highlighted my desire to move away as I felt I might become pigeonholed to this style. Moving away is the correct choice and the departure from a football theme doesn’t seem too much of a shift as I have now identified a new theme or destination which is mental health. In doing this I am able to continue to cultivate relationships and tell visual stories from the privileged position of an insider. McNay (2014) cites Gareth Phillips on the subject of being boxed in or given a particular label stating

 ‘Having the freedom to produce without limitations is what excites me as a photographer,’ 

My thoughts somewhat encapsulated by Phillips as the current rejuvenated excitement for the project is the removal of the football element. In a personal sense, this represents a coming of age or empowerment of my voice which is exciting whilst at the same time serving as a relief that my project idea behind the ‘Seven Miles South’ is now becoming clear. The last week has been a source of panic and I felt it was important to respond positively by not thinking about shooting and concentrating on the critical justification of my direction. In doing this I have been able to take important steps forward and almost force a critical breakthrough.  

Burr, V. (2003) Social Constructionism, Second Edition. Routledge, London.

McNay (2014) Photomonitor.  Gareth Phillips: Search for ‘Hiraeth’ [Online] Available at: Accessed (28th Feb 2021)

Pantall, C (2020) Cultural Appropriation, Interpersonal Voyeurism, and Own Voices. Colin Pantall’s Blog. Available at Date Accessed [27th Feb 2021]

Romero (2013) Christenberry, W (2013) William Christenberry. New York, Foundation Mapfre.

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