Week Six Reflection

Week Six Reflection 

It has been a tough couple of weeks with regards to the module, as the COVID once again takes hold I decided to move quickly to make as much work as I could. Therefore I covered two football matches with the intent of reconnecting with my football past, taking photographs in a way I had done previously with the development of making more work with a fucus on the match itself. This was never my intent at the early stages of the course and I am still unsure if it is the correct route to in the future. Making work at these matches I realise has been my default choice for making work but as the course progressed the relevance of this work I feel hask has declined. Admittedly, COVID restrictions has been a constant threat to my project and at this stage I have evelved my idea several times. As a result, I have been at odds with my project, unable to make a decision but at the same time scared of moving too far away from my initial intent. Read (2017) cites Clarke who makes some useful comments about developing projects,‘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.’ In my current state, I agree with Reads ideas and as my project develops and shifts I have learned a number of things about myself. This first being that when it comes to change and development I often lose confidence in myself due to the fear of failure. This made me reflect further into other realms of my life such as my employment. 

Having been employed as a teacher of media and photography in the same institution for over eight years in addition to owning a wedding photography business. I have been at a crossroads between teaching, and going full time shooting weddings. COVID aside, I have built the wedding business to a stage where the product is good enough to book enough weddings and a price point I am happy with. So why am I still teaching? The honest answer is that I fear the change in circumstances, leaving the relative security of the teaching salary and the pension. Not leaving my job may be considered smart in the current climate however I also understand that I have aspirations beyond teaching and I am never going to realise my ambition whilst in my current role. 

Going back to my project I can’t help but have an eye on the final major project which is the next module and probably the make or break task for the whole MA. At the same time thinking short term and the direction I will take for this module. I am guilty of overthinking which is hindering my progress by making me resist too much change. However as a I continue to understand the philosophy of personal and emotional projects the idea of Scott who states  (2015, P86) ‘The emotional genre of personal projects includes all of the stories that are close to your life experiences.’ With this in mind I began to think away from the football environment, understanding that football as a sport is not my primary concern. When I reflect on my experiences of the game the most pertinent memories are not the matches, rather the people I met and the bonds that I created that have remained in tact over twenty years. 

In response to a developing understanding of personal projects, in addition to feedback from tutor I decided to contact former teammates who I shared a pitch with, with the intention of finding out about the anxieties that surrounded playing football at a high level then making an environmental portrait. In preparation for doing this I needed to consider how i was going to record these interviews as I didn’t want to take notes as i felt that this would be too impersonal. Therefore I decided to record the interviews using my iphone so that I could concentrate on the conversations I was having. This approach was useful and allowed me to engage in conversations with full attention to what was being said. 

At the conclusion of the interviews I felt that I was able to gain an excellent insight into the people I talked to. This was in no doubt due to my existing relationships with these people. Because I had their trust, the interviewees provided a unique insight into their own thoughts and feelings which ultimately served to shift my broader project forward while encompassing broader themes such as mental health, community and identity. What was unexpected was the appreciation I received for taking the time to contact these individuals. When i was initially trying to organise the interviews, I felt that I may have been asking too much of them or at least disrupting peoples lifestyles. Which I did but both interviewees found time for me and both clearly had other responsibilities at the time. Furthermore, they were both happy having their photograph taken which I felt was a big ask as I know both individuals are self conscious for different reasons. In conclusion, 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.  Such comments serve to describe the current state of my work in so far as my short term goals are a significant shift away from my previous concerts which centred around the football environment. Current motivations surround themes such as patriarchy, community and mental health. 

In considering these themes my thoughts are led towards the lockdown period where I learned of three suicides of people I knew within the first two weeks of lockdown. All male, and all in their forties. A sobering thought as I find myself in my late thirties. The Guardian (2020) reports that male suicide rates are at their highest levels for two decades. Currently without understanding exactly why, I do understand that within this period of my life I am saying goodbye to youthhood and embarking on another stage of my life. A stage which is about pressure and responsibility to provide a life for a family possibly. This is also the stage where one may reflect on their past mistakes and be reflective about them. This was the feelings i had when conducting the interviews, and the people I interviewed appeared to value the opportunity to talk about these past mistakes. 

As a result of the weekly webinar, I am going to continue to create these micro narrative editorials, as we are well into the module. Making such a big shift in focus is a risk, however it is the correct direction to pursue at this time. 

Butler, P (2020) Male suicide rate hits two-decade high in England and Wales. The Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/male-suicide-rate-england-wales-covid-19 (Accessed 30th Oct 2020)

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

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

Week 5 Reflection

This week was somewhat of a reaction to the previous two weeks being in self isolation. Struggling at home when it seems like the outside world is carrying on as normal. Therefore this week was a very busy schedule with two football themed shoots planned, in addition to a fashion shoot for the Oxfam brief.

The Oxfam Shoot was an interesting distraction from my football project and having convinced some of my friends to model, the challenge was to deliver some work that was well outside my comfort zone. As an experienced wedding photographer I was aware of some basic poses that I could utilise if I was struggling in a creative sense. I wasn’t working with an experienced model although he was a confident individual. The circumstances were made all the more difficult as the I had around 20 minutes of my dinner break to get something together.

I wasn’t unhappy with the results however I did have that nagging feeling that I could have achieved a little more but at the same time content that I had made a contribution to the group.

Whilst in self isolation I was able to organise two shoots for my football project which was quite difficult due to a local club being penalised as spectators were seen to be breaking social distancing rules. However, having contacted around a dozen clubs I eventually had some success. These shoots eventually concluded with my usual documentary approach.

Moving on to my one to one with Colin, I felt prepared however technical difficulties made sharing work difficult. The work I did manage to share was met with mixed feedback with the outcome being that I was trying to achieve too much, including documentary and portrait work, it was felt that there was no clear message or story with my work. This had been stated in previous modules and despite my efforts I feel that I haven’t developed within this area. As stated in earlier posts, my intention was to reconnect with my own time as a player, choosing to photograph the environments that I found interesting but it appeared that this wasn’t enough. The conversation concluded with my establishing of my own emotions to playing at this level of the game. Having played at a higher level, finding self within this world. My emotions eventually became that of fear due to the increased physicality and lack of technical proficiency.

My tutor advised engaging with written text to accompany my images, an idea that I had previously had but advise not to in past modules. As a response, I begun to reflect on what I might say then it occurred to me that I could approach some of my previous teammates and interview them about their experiences. Week six will now consist of at least two interviews which I have organised and intend to record.

With regard to the weekly theme of understanding who buys photography, I found a number of comments by Ryan (2014) of interest. Asserting that an approach to commissioning work can be a process of matching photographers from different genres and putting them in unusual situations in the hope that they bring something new to the concept. This assisted in my decision to take my work in the direction of portraits as I felt that my approach is quite unique within the football environment, allowing my photographic style to emerge and possibly transcend into other areas.

Ryan further states that the emergence and importance of websites leads commissioners to think differently about how the might proliferate their work online using images for web in formats such as slideshows. As a wedding professional I agree strongly in this sense as I often use such techniques to create marketing materials that appeal to an online audience. Within the context of a wedding photography there are ample opportunities to make high quality work however that isn’t enough. I favour making high quality work that revolves around the alternative moments of wedding. I ensure that I meet the generic expectations as quickly as possible before engaging with an approach which in my case encompasses humour. Take a traditional wedding group shot for example. There is lots of potential to produce high quality work here however encompassing an unusual element I find adds personality to my approach.

This approach is beneficial as a couple considering my services from an online search may learn something about my own personality to shooting weddings. I understand that the image below isn’t going to change the world or reinvent wedding photography. But placed within a sequence of high quality traditional wedding photographs. Images such as this serve to make my work stand out whilst making a statement about myself as a photographer.

Drew Findlay | Wedding Group Shot

Interview with Kathy Ryan [IN] HotShoe international Issue 187, Spring 2014 (HotShoe International) Creative Magazines Ltd

Interview | Mike Ryan

In order to further my project of reconnecting with my football past I felt that I needed to move away from a documentary photographic approach at non league football matches and begin to engage with my story at a deeper level. In response I decided to contact former teammates and arrange some interviews with the intention of listening to their experiences of the game.

Having read loads of player autobiographies over the years, my intention isn’t to recite nostalgic stories about famous players as is often portrayed. I want to understand their philosophy and how they coped with life after the professional game. Venturing into the non league realm and understand the challenges this presented in an emotional sense.

Reflecting on my own experience, the overriding emotion was one of fear. In stating this I don’t mean the fear of actually playing in the game. More the constant burden of putting your body on the line twice a week for little reward whilst having to go to work and forge a new career. The consequence of this being a lack of confidence in being able to do anything else. Playing football becomes the norm and continuing to play out of a sense of routine as opposed to enjoyment.

The first subject of my research was a man I have known through football for over twenty years. Playing with and against on a number of occasions. We are part of a small group of players who have a bond, although we don’t spend much time in each others company anymore. We are a close support network and understand the difficulties we went through at that stage of our lives, having to adjust and find a new direction.

My approach to this shoot was to make a portrait which suggested something about the lives my teammates have now. Whilst speaking to them about their experiences of the past in recorded interviews.

When considering supporting images to fit within a sequence of this shoot, I was interested when Mike suggested that when he left Manchester United after 13 years of his life he felt alone. Not to be confused with being lonely but alone in his experiences of life. Throughout his childhood he was the envy of all of his peers within the community. However this isolated him as he was unable to have a normal childhood as a result he feels that he largely missed out on the vernacular experiences of youth hood.

Transferred from United to Wrexham for 100k, he struggled to settle in his new home deciding one day to get on a train home and not kick a football for three years.

Week 4 Reflection

Week 4 Reflection 

To say the week had been difficult is an understatement. Having tested positive for COVID at the beginning of the week I was unable to take any photographs to further my project. Having to self isolate, pull the children out of school and organise remote teaching for my A level students. 

The early stages of my self isolation I was lucky to be contacted by Colin McPherson who kindly sent me a recording of a previous webinar he took part in by Document Scotland. Aside from the king gesture, the webinar was very useful in furthering the philosophical approach to my project. Uncomfortable with the label of being a ‘groundhopper’ McPherson (2020) speaks of his approach to photographing football, stating his intention is to ‘recreate his own memories’  of playing the game. A comment which aligns well as a summary for my project as opposed to groundhopping. 

In engaging with this approach I feel a certain type of coming of age regarding the ownership of my work. Shooting as a result of my own thoughts and experiences and decisions. Making work that isn’t the result of something I feel I should photograph. Working with the trust of personal impulse and making work that I feel connected to. 

In addition to cracking on with the reading I contacted several football clubs who didn’t respond with regarding photographing at their club. This was frustrating however I persevered and eventually arranged to shoot at Cheadle Town FC FOR the weekend. The lack of interest in my work is perhaps not so surprising due to one club having their maximum attendance reduced as a result of photographs being published on social media, the contents illustrating breaches in social distancing.

In order to make the best of the self isolation period, I decided to take photographs of my step son and photoshop him into scenes from google maps of the football stadiums that Stockport County would have been playing at. This has been met with positive feedback on social media and if anything is raising my profile on a local level. 

The images were met with humour at the weekly webinar which was the intention. However, now I have started I will continue to produce these on a weekly basis and when I have completed the season I will make a decision what I will do with them. The advice my tutor gave was to continue without being too concerned with making them look realistic as the strength is in the idea. My experience of making them is that, in trying to encompass my step son within the environment makes the images look banal. Making him do things such as eating a hot-dog brings more fun to the mini project.

McPherson, Sutton-Hibbert and Farquharson (2020) Football, Bloody Hell! Document Scotland, 9th October. Available at: https://www.patreon.com/posts/42446486?fbclid=IwAR2dRKHR5Ep_xOVy-mD5jJtJNF5gCV2bAo3_BBFB_V8yHPN-lyMDvT0O06Q(Accessed 11th Oct 2020)

Week 4: Forum – Your Market

Plan A

I would like to enter the book and exhibition market in addition to working on editorial commissions. I keep entering competitions on the ‘Life Framer’ website and some type of recognition would be really helpful in establishing myself. I see myself engaging with personal projects and producing monograph style books. This has been the format I enjoy the most and the self indulgence really appeals to me. Up here in Manchester and the North West, there is a really active community of photographers who appear to be journalists or ex journalists, and I feel that networking is really important in this sense and I will continue to involve myself with events and opportunities as they arise. 

Plan B

In a commercial sense my wedding photography business is on pause, with lots of rescheduling for next year which on paper at least, looks extremely busy. Also working as a media and photography teacher in the FE sector, I would like to make the jump into HE, possibly in a part time role whilst still shooting  weddings as it is quite lucrative. In this case I will still engage with personal projects and try to get as much exposure as possible. 

At this stage I feel that plan B is the more likely as i’m currently without a break-though piece of work as it were. I’m obviously hoping that will change and fingers crossed it does. 

In recent months I have had some good opportunities which included shooting stills for a BBC show called ‘I’ve Been There’ (Its on BBC Iplayer) in addition to getting the opportunity to shoot a band called the Blossoms in the weeks before lock down. This was an exhilarating experience and a learning curve as I found myself at the front of the stage amongst 5 other photographers.