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Sustainable Prospects WIPP

Book Presentation:

https://indd.adobe.com/view/b917eb7b-22be-4a94-a61e-c5d1a646bb5d

Artist Statement

Growing up on council estate on the outskirts of Manchester was tough, Mum and Dad split up when I was around four years old, my Brother who was much older moved out when he was in his late teens and Mum worked long shifts in the local biscuit factory. 

On a daily basis I would walk home from primary school with my mates apart from once a week when my Father would pick me up and take me to a cafe for my tea. Nan and Grandad lived a few doors away so most of the time I had somewhere to go. 

On the unlucky days when I forgot my keys and Nan and Grandad were out. I’d have to break into the house through one of the front windows, tapping the side of the frame until the latch came loose and then RESULT! I was in. My evening meals would often be sourced from the industrial sack of penguin biscuits located under the sink. 

I’d had a few Step Dads over the years, some of them used to hit me around the head when I was naughty, the result would be headaches lasting a couple of days. I didn’t really think this was wrong as it was common to get a smack in the late eighties/nineties when I’d been back chatting or unhappy at my treatment.

School was tough and I found myself needing extra help in most subjects and I didn’t really achieve much. What I did learn at school was that I could hit a rounders ball further than most, run faster and score more goals than the other kids. 

I also had lots of friends and summer evenings were often spent playing football on the local field or the old car park behind the shops opposite my house. Most of the other kids were a bit older so playing against them was tough, if you couldn’t handle it then you wouldn’t be allowed to play, if you won then you would be on the wrong end of a dig, that’s if you allowed them to catch you. Sometimes you would get caught and have to take the repercussions. 

We accepted the way things were in our community and in hindsight, I have no doubt that the competition we had and the respect we learned was an excellent place to learn the rules of the football dressing room. 

Some went up the levels and illustrated promise within the professional ranks before dropping down to the non league levels. Which is where this story begins. 

Anyone who plays at this level for a prolonged amount of time has my full admiration as my experience was one of learning about my limitations. Coming to realise that a future in the game isn’t possible is a lot to come to terms with. What is more difficult is plotting a route forward. Faced with our own fears and ill discipline, we have all had a difficult journey, we have often shared those difficulties in the dressing room, helped each other, fallen out, been picked up and put back on track. 

Now approaching Forty, the football has gone. The lads disappear as we become parents and role models. For most this is the case, however there are also the people who are no longer here. 

The football community is a unique space to talk, listen and watch. To a large extent, the football environment is where I was brought up. I met people who I aspired to emulate while sharing my problems and fears amongst peers. 

It is a space where expectation on the pitch is paramount, going up the levels that expectation rises and when you stop, you look back with a range of emotions. 

Football was therapy, this body of work has helped me understand the importance of finding new ways to share a conversation. It might just save a life.

Week 11 | Critical Ideas

Below is a list of critical ideas with the potential to inform my work going forward.

Read and Simmons (2017)  Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.

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Read (2017) cites Norfolk ‘when i’m researching i’m still looking back fourteen years and thinking about the line that runs through and joins my work up? 

Citing Okeeffe ‘looking back she had the same concerns in her nineties as she did when she was eighteen and just starting out? 

Read (2017) As a curator I am looking for what is at the core of the work. Powered by authentic concerns of the photographer.

The presence of the authentic voice is what lifts the work above the everyday.

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emphasises ‘feedback from others may necessitate feeling one’s way through the process of making work. 

Citing Dyer ‘You don’t have to know what type of book you are writing till you have written a good deal of it, maybe not until you have finished it.

Books generate a form and style uniquely appropriate to its own needs.

The work may start from a few words, a feeling or question and be a process of discovery, a working towards something which feels right, true or authentic.

Citing Deborah Bright 

The continued process of making work strengthens the artist’s ability to find their way

Intuition is not random but channelled by my individual sensibility, a way of thinking and seeing that has evolved over many years working behind the camera and making and looking at photographs.

Citing Edmund Clarke when making a photograph

‘The decision to is related to all the research i’ve done before. Because you are having to work quickly you are so completely focussed on what you are doing that you trust yourself to make the aesthetic judgement but also to make decisions based on what your brain is telling you is interesting.’

Read (2017) ‘Looking back at the concerns that form the backbone of the work and the interests which fuel it, with or without input from others, will serve to provide evidence of where they have been and point the direction for the future. 

Laurent (2017) Why We Do It: Photographers and Photo Editors on the Passion That Drives Their Work [Online] Available at: https://time.com/4839246/photographers-passion/ 

They are the ones who sort all the chaos of the world into images that bring clarity to the free-for-all of life. They are the witnesses and artists who can distill the mayhem and beauty that surrounds us.

When they direct our eyes and hearts with precision and honesty, we know what we know differently and better. Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.

I shoot because I see. I shoot because if I don’t, I don’t know who will. Activism is seen as a dirty word. I shoot because I find peace in being especially active, and being a vigorous advocate for a cause.

How does one define what a “cause” is? According to Webster, it is “a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect.”

I wish that every image I photograph reexamines and redefines the image of the black man, the black woman, and the black child. My photography is first and foremost a catalyst or reason to motive human action. Every picture I take asks the questions, “Who am I and what is my role here on this earth?” It is my way of seeing. It is my way of saying this is another way of seeing me.

Photography can defeat time. Images can keep the memory of a loved one alive, hold a moment in history for future generations, be a witness to tragedy or joy.

Now that the image has become devalued as a truth-revealing mechanism, it is free to own its subjectivity and becomes an ideal medium to navigate ideas around humanity, connection, identity, memory, presence, experience and intimacy.

Scott, G (2015) Professional Photography, The New Global Landscape Explained. London, Focal Press.

The Power of a Personal Project 

Scott, G (2015, P83) Our personal visual language is determined by our ability to create from the heart

Scott, G (2015, P83) Allowing them not to be controlled by the head but informed by it. 

Scott, G (2015, P83) Personal work is an essential factor in the DNA of the 21st century photographer 

Scott, G (2015, P83) In an environment in which the ability to capture quality images is available to all, the only difference between one photographer and another is the individual life experiences that shape the photographers unique perspective.

On the photographic Project 

Scott, G (2015, P86) The personal project can be whatever you want it to be. The options are endless but whatever you decide to create, it has to be personal to you by definition.

On the Emotional Project 

Scott, G (2015, P86) The emotional genre of personal projects includes all of the the stories that are close to your life experiences.

Often small scale but rich in detail, explore a subject in depth with sensitivity and understanding. 

Scott, G (2015, P90) Emotional attachment can be a catalyst for a project but very often that initial emotion intensifies as the project develops and grows.

Scott, G (2015, P94) The emotional project is often multilayered and although it may begin on a micro personal level it can both grow and embrace a multitude of elements, people and environments. 

Scott, G (2015, P95) Its concurrent spine is the desire to create a body of work based on a deep seated belief or personal experience.

Scott, G (2015, P95) Personal work takes drive and self motivation, both of which are quickly diminished by a lack of progress.

On Projects 

Scott, G (2015, P103) They don’t have to be unique stories, but like all stories they need to be told well.

Scott, G (2015, P103) The personal project will become the spine of your photographic practice.

Scott, G (2015, P106) Publishing your own work has been titled ‘vanity publishing’ viewed as an option that has been adopted by those whose work has been rejected by the traditional publishers, and is deemed to be inferior quality.

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

 ‘to participate is not to create homogeneity; to participate is to generate vitality’.

Pattison, J (2015) Exploring masculinity and mental health through the image. British Journal of Photography [Online] Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2015/11/alpha-jennifer-pattison/?fbclid=IwAR19oiLn4ehGZZ4h1yBzIFhgju33mfOdcn2Y0bwYeLQtftWTDWzvntSgx5s (Accessed 2nd Nov 2020)

This argument may be furthered by Pattison (2015) who states…

‘I had to be extremely sensitive in my approach. I agreed with my father before we started the project that he would have power of veto over how his story was written. It proved to be helpful to have clear boundaries and I believe this protected our relationship.’ 

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

https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/art/alex-majoli-artists-environmental-portraiture/ 

I learned that the place where one should take a picture of an artist is in their studio.”

Majoli’s sensitivity to the complex interplay between his subjects’ inner worlds and outer lives has made him a gifted portraitist of leading contemporary artists.

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 possesses the ability to distill the essence of each artist to reveal the space where mind, spirit, and body become one.

“The artists saw my photography, and some of my conceptual work. They were excited because maybe they didn’t know what I would come up with. Sometimes they would be skeptical, but they were also intrigued and interested in being more experimental.”

For Majoli, dialogue is a critical part of the portrait process, be it through a conversation or shared activities. “Even when I have my camera in front of a person, the person can collaborate with me by suggesting a set-up they would like to try,” he says. “We go from there to another place — that is the best part: just to be free to express ourselves. It has to be a picture of two people, not only one. Then the cross-over of two personalities materializes in the work.”

The results are a series of portraits that stand at the intersection of two creative minds, allowing each portrait to stand apart from one another by offering a unique, often-unexpected insight into the spirit of the subject.

“Shirin Neshat is so beautiful, fragile, and silent. She was dressed in black with painted eyes that reminded me of a cat,” Majoli recalls. “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.”

“You can fall in love with any man or woman, any artist you photograph, because they are so brilliant of mind.”

As an artist… you wake up in the morning and do what you feel. They keep the flame of creativity focused on the art, rather than how much money they could make with it. I feel like even if they got $1 a day, they would have the same passion and dedication. I am sure — I saw that.”

Colberg, J (2017) Understanding Photo Books, tHE form and Content of the Photographic Book. London, Routledge.

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

Scott, G (2015) Professional Photography, The New Global Landscape Explained. London, Focal Press.Sontag. (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.

Sontag. S (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.

Websites

Laurent (2017) Why We Do It: Photographers and Photo Editors on the Passion That Drives Their Work [Online] Available at: https://time.com/4839246/photographers-passion/ 

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

Week | 11 Plan Going Forward

Plan going forward: 

Saturday 12th Dec I am shooting a wedding for the first time since Aug. In addition to shooting digital I am going to shoot a roll of 35mm film. 

Go in a new direction.

I am going to occupy my local market and make portraits of the people in this space. This will potentially be the route for my FMP. Undecided as yet. 

Website

Set up a new website which is purely focused on my personal projects. This will be minimal and led by the visuals with writing only a supporting element as opposed to my wedding website which is constructed with SEO in mind. 

Produce a physical portfolio in preparation for seeking reviews. 

Finally, continue to research photographers who work on editorial content. This is where I would like to take my work so I will be scrutinising others with the purpose of aligning my work in a fashion that will appeal to editors whilst maintaining the authenticity of my own voice.  

Medium Term

I am going to continue to make work venturing more into the analogue realm, the objective of this will be to acclimatise myself with shooting film with the intention of appealing to this community in addition to editors who commission work of this nature. Longer term I will use money raised from shooting weddings to fund the purchase of a medium format camera. I find this prospect exciting in terms of adding further detail into my work.

Listening to the Maximus Barnett lecture I found the work of Nadia Lee to be interesting, especially as the conversation led towards social media strategy. I found the idea of overlapping between personal and commission work to be interesting in terms of selling not just work but a personality and outlook on life. In a sea of images I feel this approach to be on paper a good idea to broaden appeal. This is something I haven’t really experimented with but will do going forward.

Week 10 | Oxfam Pitch Reflection

Today I represented the group for the live Oxfam brief along with fellow student Thomas Betts. As far as the content of this post, it is difficult to know where to start when considering the whole experience. The idea of volunteering for something that isn’t assessed didn’t initially fill one with joy but I thought that I would give it a go just out of curiosity if anything.

The initial stages of the group meetings I was enthusiastic although reluctant to contribute as I felt a little out of my depth. However as the weekly meetings continued I became more confident as I found my place. As the deadline for the pitch begun to loom I feel that my influence became more important as I was able to draw on my knowledge of social media and running a website for my wedding photography business.

I felt that my contributions were highly valued as it emerged that I was the only member of the group with experience of running a website for commercial purposes. I was able to offer a number of solutions to the group on subjects such as social media strategy in addition to highlighting the importance of a landing page to anchor the various accounts. At this stage it became clear that I could offer a valuable contribution which was a great feeling as I felt I felt useful. It was also nice to receive direct messages from members of the group asking for reviews and advice.

When I started the MA I felt that I would do well to get through the course but in this scenario I found myself assuming the role of mentor. As our idea gathered pace we were confronted with the next challenge which was to begin to formulate a pitch. After tentative discussions it quickly emerged that I could use my experience in a teaching setting to provide a type of structure to our response. My contribution was to suggest am overarching aim in addition to three objectives. In terms of objectives I felt that it was important to encompass a broader aim such first with the most specific being at the end. The group liked this approach therefore we went with the idea of ‘Challenging fast fashion’ to ‘Converting audiences into consumers’.

This led to my next role which was that of copywriter. Therefore I produced the first draft of text for the presentation before my peers edited. Although I felt that I had made a significant contribution, Victoria Smith was very much the leader of the group and did a great job in organising and managing the group. therefore I was slightly shocked when she asked myself and Thomas Betts to present the pitch. I was reluctant to take on this role as I felt that Victoria should pitch because of the amount of effort she had put in. My thoughts were that she should pitch as she had worked so hard throughout the process. as Victoria had insisted, I agreed to take on the role of presenter.

The day of the pitch a felt a real buzz about the whole prospect of the challenge. The group functioned really well as we spent over four hours in the days lading up on video calls to organise things. As a result the group really bonded as a team and the networking experience was brilliant.

The pitch itself I didn’t feel was brilliant and I definitely could have done a better job however I wasn’t too disappointed as I felt the experience throughout the process, meeting new people with a similar interest was enriching and valuable. Especially as the country is in a type of lockdown, in some way we were able to share our time and use the live brief as a type of outlet which I value very highly.

Week 9 | One to One

Reflecting on a one to one is usually an extremely loaded experience, trying to remember the reams of feedback but this time was slightly different. I went into the meeting quietly confident that my WIPP encompassed much stronger work in a technical sense than in previous modules. I feel that the endless research is beginning to reward and my work is slowly maturing. I still pick faults in my work however the context of my decision making process has broadened significantly. Taking risks with portraits, getting slightly closer and experimenting had provided a renewed sense of excitement about the prospect of making work. Usually in these one to one I have a million questions and end up machine gunning stories about my experience. I didn’t feel that way in this meeting as I felt quite content about presenting and listening. Maybe still on a high from the Oxfam presentation yesterday. 

Within the feedback, it was useful to gain some insight into the sequencing of my work and it was a bit of a relief to be commended for some of my decision making. I was encouraged to think about the shape and typeface I might use in support of my portfolio submission. I found this useful as in unison with this, as leading into the FMP, I really should be engaging with presentation on a deeper level. Key observations from Colin were that  the work was modern, northern and working class. This is useful in planning further research into presentation and I will use this description to plan a route forward. The highlight of the meeting was the suggestion by Colin that he would run it in a newspaper. 

As a result, I am going to seek the thought of my peers on the course whilst adhering to my own feelings. I also sent the submission to my trusted friend on the course James Shenton who provided some feedback that resonates well.

The conclusions that Colin surmised about the work I presented led me to begin to consider the potential audience for my work if it were to be produced as a book. At this stage I have a number of thoughts regarding this although I wouldn’t consider my insight into this area particularly strong. 

Primary Audience 

Predominantly a male sophisticated group who take an active interest in football culture. Throughout the making of this work I have engaged with many non league football clubs who have a following of attendees which goes into the hundreds. In terms of selling books a POS approach would possibly work with some publicity prior to attending with copies of a book. 

Secondary Audience

The secondary audience may be women who have children involved in grassroots football who might pick up the book after purchase.

Publishing 

In recent months I have opened a dialogue with ADMPublishing who appear to be a small publisher of books. Their products are quite inexpensive but represent an opportunity to get published. My work may appeal to them as the theme of football has a global appeal which may lend itself to online sales. 

Grain Projects may also be an avenue for future opportunities. At present I don’t have a dialogue with them but I do intend to contact in the near future. 

I have also recently been contacted by a representative of ‘Turnstile Magazine’ who asked to use some of my photographs for their first magazine due to be published in 2021. I am currently unsure if this will make it to print but I am very much hoping so.

Magazine Front Cover of Turnstile Magazine using my image. Currently in design phase.

Week 7 | Amy Simmons Shoot

In response to the brief set by Amy Simmons, I decided to conduct a fashion shoot with the intention of demonstrating the intimacy between clothes and lifestyle of aspirational audiences in their twenties. 

In making environmental portraits I was able to establish a connection between people and place. Aiming for a cosmopolitan theme in addition to celebrating the heritage of the UK by photographing at a location with a range of historic buildings. 

In doing this, a European brand would be able to launch their campaign by celebrating Britishness and demonstrating an awareness of of contemporary British life within the target audience. 

The style I wanted to achieve was an echo of Rodney Smith who had an ethos of narrative and humour. Smith comments that he would make his own work when he had the shots he needed for the commission. He liked to experiment and was driven by the idea that he didn’t know what he was going to produce. The challenge for him was to respond to his surrounding in the moment. 

For this shoot I followed the ethos of Smith and treated the opportunity with a sense of total indulgence. 

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