I felt that victoria who has assumed the role of learer did a good job in explaining the idea, and it was me with enthusiasm by Anna who suggested looking at the work of Z Nelson and Michelle Sank.
This was useful and quite exciting as I would welcome the opportunity to make work of this nature.
Initially my thoughts are directed towards the approach of Felicty McCabe who uses portraits and mutiple frames in order to convey a message. Going forward I will consider garments and possible models and locations to use.
Over the course of the MA I have been following a small group of local photographers who challenge themes similar to my own project of non league football. I have previously written about Colin McPherson and been following his personal work in addition to his work for ‘When Saturday Comes’ magazine and I was pleasantly surprised when he sent me a link to a recent webinar he took part in alongside Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Kenny Farquharson.
The webinar, published by the Document Scotland website, entitled Football, Bloody Hell! Took the form of an informal discussion about their respective projects in addition to highlighting what is important to them when engaging with this type of work. For me it was insightful and interesting and on a personal note it was nice to hear a Scotish accent once again as my Dad was originally from Glasgow. I note this because my own project is emotional in its nature and hearing the participants speak provided a sense of ‘home’ that I had not felt since my Dad’s passing in 2015.
Listening to Kenny Farquharson for the first time was an excellent opportunity and upon further research into his career and concerns, I was quite taken aback when I read about his experiences as a child. As my research continued, I noticed that he was a fellow of the Orwell Literary Prize which further drew my attention as my BA final project over a decade ago was to make a documentary retracing Orwell’s experiences of Wigan in the book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. In making the film I worked closely with the Orwell Prize and found them very helpful to the point where we attended the prize giving ceremony and interviewed a range of important contributors.
Learning about Farquharson’s affinity with Orwell in addition to the warm Scottish accents, I felt that I was in the right place and less anxious about the concerns of my own project somehow.
Reflecting on how the webinar was informative regarding my own approach, McPherson offered a critical insight when he asserts that his work in this area is motivated by his desire to ‘recreate his own memories’ going on to use the phrase ‘reservoir of memories’. I felt that this was poignant to my approach as I am in some way trying to reconnect with my experiences through photographing football.
Recently I had begun to think about the term ‘groundhopping’ and felt that this was the process I was engaging with, however as I continue to scratch the surface of my concerts and cultivate my thoughts I understand that I was, and still uncomfortable with this label. The idea of groundhopping aligns with a broader theme of community which I don’t feel my work is primarily about.
Reflecting on my memories as a player I forgot the amount of times I had to walk into the dressing room of a new team where I didn’t know anyone while fully expecting to take somebody’s shirt from the starting lineup. It’s fair to say that I had my fair share of frosty experiences.
Read and Simmons (2017, P222) make useful remarks about understanding my own project‘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.’ My experience of this project is summariesd well in this instance, I feel that from the outset I had the idea of reflecting the landscape of non commercialised football and felt that I had relevant experience of this subject although initially unsure about the story I wanted to tell. When McPherson makes reference to a ‘reservoir of memories’. I realise that my personal motivations are to tell my own story. It may not be a unique story, but it is a story that I have ownership of. The implications of this serve to provide confidence in my own voice which may have disjuncture and photographs that appear unconnected, but taking photographs by listening to my own instinct is the way to go. Reconnecting with my memories on my own terms in the way that I know how.
When the topic of discussion moved towards the equipment used to make such work, the participants discussed the selection of cameras. This was useful as I often pontificate which camera to use. Without going into detail of the technicalities, the assertion was made that a smaller camera helps position the photographer as a ‘fan with a camera’ as opposed to using a larger camera which may position the photographer as a journalist. Farquharson, when making his project about Glasgow Rangers commented about the fans and their unfavorable attitude towards journalists being a challenge that he faced. Having attended Old Firm matches in the past, I couldn’t help but think that I would feel a little nervous as a journalist amongst Rangers fans in small Scottish football grounds with less regulation. However the outcome of the discussion yielded an important consideration going forward which will be the selection of camera I use for shooting. To date I tend to prefer my Cannon 5D, especially in Winter or evening matches as I am able to use a speedlight where necessary. On occasion I have used my Fuji XT20 which is a small but powerful rangefinder camera. The Fuji will essentially enable me to look like a fan with a camera as opposed to the Cannon which may allude to my differing intentions of the fans.
As the webinar progressed the conversation turned to the type of photographs that editors look for. This was really useful and a subject that I have little knowledge of at present. Relevant advice by McPherson being the idea of encompassing ‘air’ in the shot, ‘look for the whole story in one photograph and to make work that illustrates the football match as an event and not just a game. With Farquharson adding his approach of bright, tight and upright when referencing his portrait/documentary work.
At the end of the webinar I found that I had pages and pages of notes and guidance, much of which I had already been doing to some extent however I cannot stress enough how useful it was to listen to the advice provided. The golden rule in a personal sense was McPherson when he states that his intention is ‘to look for the photographs that other photographers don’t look for’. I feel that this is similar to the approach that I have taken from the outset of the MA, without being fully able to explain why. I feel that I have now established that my project is about reconnecting with my own experiences as a player. Only now taking the time to photograph the vernacular elements of the game that I used to stare at when the ball had been kicked out of the stadium or someone was injured. Sometimes while the game was taking place.
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Read and Simmons (2017) Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.
Another week has now flown by and it started with that now familiar feeling of not really knowing where i’m going and hoping for some guidance in the webinar.
The week started by taking my camera to the local barbers with the idea to get a haircut, eat some biscuits and make a portrait which was clean, considered and in the style I was hoping for.
I also took the opportunity to look at some of the work I made at the early stages of the MA in order to see if I had any work that represents interest. Most of which was relevant but the overriding emotion was disappointment that my previous work is riddled with indescrepencies, most notably the framing of the people I photograph. On so many occasions I see basic errors especially with portraits specifically the bottom areas of the frame. Often cropping feet at strange angles or not thinking about this area when deciding to fire the shutter. Therefore, my considerations of this are currently at the forefront of my mind when taking portraits now.
Other considerations include avoiding distractions around the area of the head and finally the vantage point as I often pontificate whether I should position myself at a lower angle. In some cases I believe I should but in other cases I feel the vantage point is well chosen. As I would like to pursue this field of work I will use this module to continue development within this area. To conclude such considerations I feel that my work is improving in this area and this improvement is reinvigorating to make future shoots feel like an exciting prospect.
Watching the lecture with Felicity McCabe was insightful and listening to the confident way she speaks about the work was something that I feel that I needed to hear as I am aware that feedback from tutors is extremely relevant but at the same time is largely worthless if the individual is lacking in their own autonomy. An issue that I feel that I am guilty of. As a result of this my approach will shift towards creating that I believe in, and making it in such a way that when the opportunity to receive feedback arrives, it will be a case of advice and guidance on a minor level as opposed to looking for some type of emotional support. Essentially, if I don’t believe in my own work then nobody else will, especially an established professional.
A a result of watching the lecture, I conducted further research into her project ‘Dryland’ and I was intrigued by the way she places two images side by side. In doing this I felt the photographs entered into a symbiotic relationship, creating metaphor and a broadening of a perspective looking both inwards and outwards with the high key lighting demonstrating a confidence in her work by opening up the detail of the whole frame. The overarching personal message being to let go of my insecurities and trust the research I have done.
In order to address issues I am currently reflecting on my initial motivations and the starting point of my non league football project. Having played non league football for many years throughout my teens and 20s, I have already visited many of the places I photograph. This leads to the consideration of why I make the decision to revisit these places? In many instances I have thought about this question and tried to provide some overly clever and academic response, photography as activism, exploring a type of grief for the passing of my father, both of which may substance to an extent although probably not the core of my concerns. Read (2017) cites O’keeffe ‘As a curator I am looking for what is at the core of the work. Powered by authentic concerns of the photographer.’ Throughout my playing experience one of the most exciting elements was travelling to different locations, simply being in different environments, walking through the gates and into a different changing rooms, kit bag over my shoulder and wearing my club tracksuit. Warming up before the game, as a goalkeeper I used to like looking at the style of nets, intrigued by the dilapidated advertising boards that probably haven’t been changed in years.
When playing a home match I enjoyed speaking to the volunteers such as ground keepers and the kit man, the bar staff and the ladies who made the tea and coffee. Having light hearted conversations and listening to their stories of past glory. Some of the happiest moments of my life were spent in these places. Being part of a community, being young and free and full of excitement about the future. Romero in Christenberry (2013: p9) writes about his work ‘Christonberry constructs an account of the South of the United States from within that South’. A comment that resonates personally as I feel that by visiting these places and photographing them, I feel that I am visually representing my own feelings about these places by making portraits and directing my attention towards the strange objects and places I used to enjoy engaging with visually and in conversation. Scott, G (2015, P94) comments ‘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 may hold relevance however in a personal sense I disagree that my project was born out of a micro element, rather a sea of micro elements which I was unable to decipher in my own thoughts. And to get to this stage and a type of simplified idea, I have been through a process of elimination, challenging my project in a plethora of different routes. Reaffirming the multilayered nature as highlighted by Scott.
When thinking about whether or not my project is one of an emotional nature I feel that there is definitely an emotional element however I also argue that my project has features of an intellectual project because of the desire to seek and explore the places. In many cases I have no idea what I will find or who I will meet, the places where I once played have long since changed and many of the people I know have long since moved on or are no longer around. Therefore I am both an insider similar to Christonberry in the deep South of the USA whilst being an outsider, not knowing many of the people who frequent the spaces I now visit. Recording them them in portraits is a small celebration of an active space.
Christenberry, W (2013) William Christenberry. New York, Foundation Mapfre.
Visiting the barber is an event that I always look forward to as I usually get to have a beer, sit down and have a chat with my pal. For me it is a chance to talk about football and share funny stories about our past experiences about girls, previous jobs and football. Before my arrival I always make sure that I pick him up a can of Red-bull and a packet of biscuits, usually those of the highest calorie count I can find as he is always on a diet or moaning about his weight. This is symbolic of our relationship as I too spend too much time worrying about my weight. A packet of biscuits is our small piece of activism against the pressures of being in our late thirties, a mortgage, children and our weight.
On this occasion I decided to take my camera with me, unsure how it may contribute to my project but I felt at the very least it was an opportunity to practice my portraits. When scouting the space I suddenly noticed the Eric Cantona mural on the wall. This not only represented a great project opportunity but a way of opening up my project to a theme of heroes. As a child I remember having many footballing heroes and on occasion the opportunity to get a photo with one of my footballing heroes presented itself.
With Julian Germain (Soccer in Wonderland) and Emma Case (Red) in mind I thought about the prospect of opening up my project with a socially engaged element where I could collect photographs of fans with their footballing heroes in addition to collecting short responses to imagery of footballing heroes. Social media will be a good mechanism for this experiment in addition to having the potential to find out some interesting and relevant information.
I will explore and develop this avenue throughout the module.
Today i watched the lecture with Felicity McCabe and on reflection I am really pleased that I was able to find the time as the last couple of days have been hectic to say the least. Monday 5th Oct I tested positive for COVID which meant great upheaval as I needed to quickly prepare remote learning for some 70 A level and vocation FE students, get feedback so that they could move their projects forward and face minimal disruption to their already affected education. The home life wasn’t much better as I have three step children all of which were abruptly pulled out of school in addition to my three year old Daughter who was in Nursery. As a result my family is back to self isolating, everyone is pissed off as they see others going about their normal lives.
I found the lecture to be incredibly informative and it was interesting to listen to McCabe discuss her work in addition to getting an insight on her journey through photography and it was heartening to hear such a success story. At this stage of the MA I am used to listening to other professionals speak about their work and the understanding that the photographers concerns and motivations are equally as important as the work itself. I find this quite amazing as I discover work, then in researching the intentions of the author the work is transformed into something powerful and moving.
My initial research draws me to the project ‘Dryland’ as I am currently working on a project for Oxfam. It was interesting to see how other photographers have interpreted a brief working with a charity. There are a number of elements that I like about this work, the starting point being the high key aesthetic McCabe utilises. Whenever I see work of this nature I engage with the detail of the work and I respect a photographer such as McCabe as she has the confidence to light the whole frame opening up the photograph to close scrutiny by the viewer. It takes a confident photographer to do this especially within the context of documentary or environmental portraits.
Secondly, listening about the philosophy in terms of sequencing was really useful as this is something I really struggle with in my own work. McCabe was quite up front when discussing how she takes advice from others and probably something I need to take on board further. I find the image below a quite amazing sequence of photographs, the union between the tree stumps and the legs of the young boy illustrates the talent and intricacy of McCabe’s work. The posing of the legs to mirror the tree stumps makes for an image to be looked at and looked at again and at this stage, the more I look the more I enjoy it. Coupled with the high key tones serve to contextualise the image and place it as a photograph with a powerful message about inequality. The introduction of colour would usually dominate such a sequence but in this case McCabe uses the vibrant tones as a supporting act to the legs and tree stumps.
In conclusion, I feel that this is a supremely confident image and representative of a confident photographer who has a firm command of their craft in both a technical and philosophical sense. The outcome of bringing together multiple elements to convey both tension and peace.
When listening to McCabe discuss her work, I took many important pieces of advice however what the advice that i find most pertinent is the idea the photography is one big concern or vision and each project is a chapter within that vision. Read (2017) confirms such ideas ‘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.’ Having listened to McCabe in the lecture I take her concerns about time memory and fragility to be the most important motivations behind her work and more importantly I see and feel these concerns throughout her photographs.
Since embarking on the MA my approach has developed significantly and it is causing nightmares in terms of my wedding photography business. My approach to taking wedding photos, I have three main themes which I need to satisfy to ensure that the people who book me are happy. The general rules I adhere to are moments, couple time and group shots. This is a very loose description and there are other areas such as details etc however I won’t speak about them here.
In terms of the wedding business, I endeavour to build the brand on chasing moments such as instances of happiness, emotion and humour. These type of photographs are what I try to fill the portfolio with as they are spontaneous and provide a greater opportunity stand out against the vast competition in the online jungle. This is an approach that works for us as 80% of the competition usually rely on portraits and happy snaps using a long lens. That leaves the other 20% who I am engaged in a competition with. I shoot at 24mm with an ethos of wide and close, filling the frame with a random moment to invoke an emotion.
Regarding the making work for my project, I understand that I cannot get away with the wide and close strategy in many cases. And from the MA course I have discovered that I really enjoy speaking to people and making portraits. With regards to this, I have made every mistake in the book however I feel that I am slowly beginning to make portraits that are more considered and moving towards my intentions. Looking back at previous work, I feel that much of it has potential but naive in parts, this is still the case although I would argue that my work is improving.
When making wedding portraits I have a set routine that I know I need to cover to make a couple happy. Only when I have done this do I feel able to take risks and try something different which is where the job can become fun. Taking the conventional and trying to push the boundaries. This approach transcends into the type of audience who book us for their wedding photos. Before we meet, clients already have an idea of the type of people we are through the type of work they see on the portfolio.
When making work for my project I feel that I scrutinise my work a in much greater depth, firstly looking for a clean composition which isolates a subject whilst encompassing the environment included in the frame. In doing this my intention is less subjective leaving the audience to contemplate the work further as any messages may be less obvious. Bate (2009,P70) suggests that the ‘purpose of surface depth in photography intentionally leaves the spectator out of the equation.’ This may be relevant as I feel that the majority of my wedding photography is mostly about surface depth with the intention of confirming Sontag (1973, p9) and the idea that “the trip was made, the programme was carried out, that fun was had”. Sontag perfectly summarises the objective of a wedding photographer and I need to understand that this type of visual language is appropriate for the context of a celebration. When my commercial/wedding work goes beyond this objective I am in danger of putting my business at risk.
BATE, D (2009) Photography, The Key Concepts. Oxford, Berg.
SONTAG, Susan. (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.
At this stage of my football themed project I am used to feeling at odds with the concerns I had when embarking on the MA. Mainly due to lockdown and the impact of COVID, the disruption has been enormous in terms of exploring the theme non league football as the whole game grind to a holt.
I have struggled to identify a unifying theme which unites mt project as to date I have covered a plethora of football related culture from visualising the game at grassroots level, exploring the motivations of non league spectators and back to football in the sphere of the home. Finally, moving away from the sport to examine my own grief about the loss of my father in 2015 which is where much of my involvement in the game stems from.
At present, the task going into this module is to understand how I can use the work I have produced in order to plot my route forward and generate a new set of objectives based on what I have previously explored. Therefore my future direction must be representative of my initial motivations whilst continuing to shift and evolve, Read (2017) supports this approach when citing Clarke states ‘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.’ Read’s comments encapsulate the context of the decisions I am currently facing perfectly whilst offering some comfort that a cohesive, powerful project is still attainable.
In terms of a rethink, my starting point is Germain (1994) and his book Soccer in Wonderland. I have been aware of this book for some time and used it in my contextual research previously. The back of the book this time being my starting point so that i could fully understand his intentions with this work and states:
In Soccer Wonderland, a fan’s vision of football. This is a book about football’s winners and losers,heroes and legends, the trophies and the terraces. It is about the heroes and dreams of the supporters, the memories, mub and miseries, the fantasy and the glory, the rain and relegation, In Soccer Wonderland shows how football exists in the hearts and minds of the fans.
Deconstructing the blurb on the back of the book this first line offers the major interest, particularly the phrase ‘a fans vision of football’ which at present sounds amazingly simple as throughout the MA I have probably been over enthusiastic in theorising the intent of my project. In response, I will spend the coming days thinking about my project, specifically what the blurb on the back of my own book will say. This will form the basis of my project in addition to a contextual road map which encapsulates what it is I am trying to achieve in addition to serving as an overarching question to ask myself when creating work.
Socially Engaged Approach
Upon further research of Soccer in Wonderland, figure1 appears to be illustrative of a socially engaged approach by encompassing a simple question ‘The worst thing about football is?’ Followed by a collection of short qualitative responses. This may have been collected by a questionnaire or focus group and offers an interesting dimension to the book, this approach may also may be applied to my own project. Collecting responses by participants, possibly asking open questions using social media or a workshop which could provide a deeper engagement with the project. Adding a socially engaged element is an approach that really appeals to me, having previously researched Emma Case and her project ‘Red’ which is a useful example encompassing the objective of creating an archive, although that would be far too extensive for my own project. Helguera (2011) cites Emilia ‘to participate is not to create homogeneity; to participate is to generate vitality’. In encompassing a collection of quotes/thoughts of others I suspect would yield some interesting results and add a nostalgic dimension to the project whilst taking the work away from my own person vision but at the same time provide anchorage to my work. When observing the pages in figure 1 my personal engagement is positive and enables the audience to identify with the work on a universal level. Inroads will be made into this approach and I will look to exploit further.
Going forward I will experiment and develop ideas relating to an achievable dimension of a socially engaged nature.
Germain, J (1994) Soccer in Wonderland Booth-Clibborn Editions, London.
Helguera, P (2011) Education for Socially Engaged Art, A Materials and Techniques Handbook. Jorge Pinto Books, Mexico City.
Read and Simmons (2017) Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.