Portfolio Review | Clare Bottomley

The third and final portfolio of the week was with Clare Bottomley, I wasn’t really sure what to expect which is something I have come to expect from these sessions however, having found my previous experiences enriching and useful I was hoping to get some further critical insight.

In order to prepare appropriately, I took advice from Steph who highlighted the disruption in continuity caused by inconsistent use of flash. In response I decided to present portraits where I have only used flash.

Inadvertently, this served to really narrow down my work and it was interesting to see the portraits in a sequence. My philosophy with using flash is on a ‘need to use’ basis and I would often use it to fill in highlights on a subjects face. Having spoken to Steph, I was surprised she made such an observation but I’m glad she did.

As a result, I felt confident that going into this feedback session I had a body of work that had continuity in addition to a developing sense of style. I have already briefly considered the development of my work in terms of visual language and to now have the further guidance regarding lighting, I felt like I was making further inroads.

In response to my work she suggested that in an aesthetic sense, my portraits were beautiful which was pleasing to hear and she also stated that the creative choices to present the images in pairs was a good choice. I was really pleased with this but a little surprised. My immediate thoughts regarding this was that the pervious contextual development work I had done, especially looking at the work of Jooney Woodward had really paid off.

In terms of the more critical feedback, Clare challenged the philosophical approach to making my work. As I have been accompanying my photographs with podcasts, I felt that I had identified a way to get close to my subjects which I feel has substance. However Clare put forward her views regarding the sense of performance within the subjects of my work. A perspective that I hadn’t really considered previously. When viewing work within the mental health theme, I did notice a reoccurring theme with most subjects wearing jogging trousers, this wasn’t surprising and I felt this was very much a hybrid of the uniform of the street in addition to ‘Dad at home’.

Claire furthered her response in noting the interesting representations of masculinities. The conversation then alluded to ideas around performativity using the metaphor that under a mask is another mask. Of which some of my recent work I felt aligned with with her ideas.

To conclude my reflection of the session, I felt that I was encouraged by Clare to look at my work differently, on a philosophical level and consider representation in relations of masculinity that create. At present, I need to further my understanding of this area and look forward to doing so having ordered Judith Butlers book.

With regard to my early research into this area I was struck by comments asserted by Bate (2009, P82) when suggesting…

‘In ‘projection’, the viewer casts off uncomfortable feelings, which arise in themselves, and relocates them within another person or thing.’

I found this pertinent in exploring the potential relationship I have within my own portrait work. The idea that a viewer may identify and be moved by my work is always an intention, maybe even a signifier of success. Making work that may invoke the ‘relocation’ of uncomfortable feelings is a possible location of my work, through the representation of masculinities, jogging pants and deadpan faces. I wonder if i am able to produce work which has such an effect. Certainly an idea that requires further pontification.

Bate concludes (2009,P86) ‘In projection, a viewer can implant their own feelings in a portrait photograph even though it seems as if these meanings come from the actual portrait.’

The self actualisation and power of a portrait on this level, again offers clarity, making work which changes the intrinsic thoughts and feelings of the viewer, I almost consider a secret language of photography. Is this pretentious or the reason that some works move more than others. The challenge going forward is to connect this philosophical approach with the current motivations of my practice. I will continue to question, what is it about my own vernacular and visual language that invokes such emotions.

BATE, D (2009) Photography, The Key Concepts. Oxford, Berg.

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