Memorial Football Tournament

As a form of collaboration I was involved in the organising of a fundraising football tournament to commemorate the life of the man that fuelled the idea for my FMP project. Since posting an open call for participants to my project I have been in regular contact with Chrissy’s family as they have been enthusiastic to hear about the development of the project.

The tournament was held at the grassroots football club where I volunteer and I was responsible for connecting organisers with the venue. The event also had a representative from Mind Stockport who would be the benefactor of the event which raised over five thousand pounds.

Portfolio Review | Kirsty MacKay

I was really pleased when Kirsty agreed to a portfolio review by telephone and we spent an hour talking about photography which was an insightful experience. Kirsty wasn’t overly moved by my symbolic work and suggested that I keep shooting. The need to align the elements of mental health and place occurring once again. I asked her about some of my portraits which I was slightly concerned however she was enthusiastic about them suggesting that British photographers are obsessed with work that is clean with a sense of order. Kirsty suggested that I’m led by the emotion and listen to the stories. She spoke candidly about her personal motivations having lost her father when she was seventeen. And spoke of the challenges that caused in later life. I suspect she has many unanswered questions.

Mackey also spoke of the sense of geography within her work and why that was important to place the work, feeding into my decision to focus my project within a working class setting. On reflection, the comments of both Mackay and Pantall are useful in this sense as I have narrowed my project down to some capacity however I feel I will need to do this further in order go go deeper with my own work.

What struck me and was probably to the detriment of a review in the work was when she talked of an emotional connection between the photographer and the sitter. When I explained my thoughts on the presence of an emotional connection. Mackay agreed totally when I suggested that it was a sense of intimacy within the collaboration. A conversation that I’d previously had with Laura. As said earlier, this led to an an insightful conversation which perhaps wasn’t directly relevant to the my project however I was very pleased to have engaged in such a deep conversation about photography. After a short period I felt as if I was having a conversation with a close friend which is something I will value.

Finally, Mackay emphasised the importance of visually communicating my message. Again aligning with Pantall. She suggested finding things, objects that communicate a message. She suggested that she didn’t understand the starting point of the project which is an issue I will will rectify but maybe this will be achievable when the project is finished.

An interesting point Mackay made was the presence of an authentic voice suggesting a question about the work, is it my voice? Someone else’s voice or a collective voice? Once again food for thought and an important issue I will need to resolve.

Mackay spoke to me about the idea of Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE’s. Having done some research into this I understand that lots of my collaborators talks of what I could now describe as ACE’s. I will need to reflect further on what this means regarding the ‘voice’ of my project.

In conclusion, this was one of the best experiences of the MA and this was in no doubt due to the journey I had travelled throughout the course. There would have been no point in speaking to someone such as this a year ago as my own understanding would have been too weak.

Portfolio Review | Dr Gary Bratchford

As a trustee and curator at the Open Eye Gallery I felt that Gary would be a useful person to seek feedback. Knowing his writing from a number of community, socially engaged projects I sought his comments to see how I could further my work.

He suggested that I needed a method to piece the work together in order to illustrate the research journey. I felt this was a useful comment as Colin Pantall suggested, Gary is alluding to the synthesis of working class vernacular and the mental health theme. He also asked the question of ‘why medium format’ which is a question relating to my position as a functionary while preserving or recognising the past in addition to a sense of my own therapy.

An observation that was really interesting was his suggestion that it could be a show or a play of some description. This was a very interesting observation and would open up the possibility of disseminating my work as a slide show or a film of some description.

In conclusion I feel that it would be beneficial to explore the possibility of making the project into a short film/slideshow of some description. The major challenge I face in doing this is going back through the hours of audio in order to produce a cohesive narrative.

Project Review | Colin Pantall

Having worked with Colin in previous modules I felt it would be useful to gain some insight regarding the current status of my project and in receiving feedback we discussed a number of issues.

Artist statement, Colin felt that my statement wasn’t powerful enough and encouraged me to think about why i’m making the work. He noted that my words shifted from from personal observation to the use of hindsight. He then suggested that this weakens the work and my words need further clarity before challenging me to think about whether the male mental health theme is rooted in the present or the past? Is it because of the way the world is now, or is it because of the way the world was? This represented a really useful entry point to rethink my statement and plot how it might sound when editing further.

When reviewing the work his words fed in to a similar theme as others when they suggested that the portraits were strong. In terms of the symbolic work he made a number of observations with mixed feelings. In conclusion about this, the main theme of his thoughts were that some of the work needed more of a sense of spectacle in order to align the working class vernacular with the theme of mental health.

Finally, Colin’s response to the written testimony was consider how they sit within a broader story and challenge me to see how they fit within a hierarchical story. This perhaps being the biggest challenge I anticipate resolving.

Key themes to consider:

Artist statement

Symbolic work

Use of written testimony.

Flusser

Reflecting on last nights webinar with Dinu and the major question of why I chose to chose to reshoot my project on film, I responded with a partly informed response explaining that it was an action in attempt the value my past and the preciousness of the work I am creating. All of which I understand is important to my emotional reasons for making the work. However in offering this response I feel this neglects the professional reasons for making the work.

Zylinska (2010) who suggests ‘in using analogue techniques and collecting such work is important ‘preservers of value and the past, as keepers, against all odds, of a certain world that (allegedly) once was.’ 

Here Zylinska offers clarity for my emotional reasons as a means of preservation however as suggested, I feel a sense that one is ignoring the selfish matter of self development and the cultural capital to be associated with being adept. Throughout the course I have felt I haven’t taken the development I wanted as I’d often see the work of my peers who had created work in an analogue setting. Although late in my experience I have been able to alleviate this sense of envy as at this stage I have a project in the latter stages of development which has been made using analogue apparatus.

In contextualising my feelings about the analogue/digital debate I had an excellent discussion with my course mate Phil Hill where on a weekly basis we meet on zoom and talk about our projects and photography in general. I very much enjoy these sessions and take much from them. On this occasion he recommended I read the Flusser (1983 p32) chapter entitled ‘apparatus’.

Upon inspection I found a plethora of justification all of which is appropriately concluded when he states ‘Apparatuses are black boxes that stimulate thinking in the sense of a combinatory game using number like symbols; at the same time, they mechanise this thinking in such a way that, in future, human beings will become less and less competent to deal with it and have to rely more and more apparatuses’

Here Flusser compares the photographer not to a worker but a player or a functionary. Therefore as technology develops he suggest that advances in technology mean that the role of the photographer becomes less of a functionary and more towards the role of operator.

Whether such assertions are born out of pretence or authenticity, a subject that could be constantly argued. However in the case of my personal ambition to shoot film. I feel that in operating the analogue machine with my personal intent has allowed the growth and development to point my practice toward more of a functionary and less of an operator. Within that growth comes confidence and satisfaction in addition to producing precious objects which personal meaning.

Flusser. V. (1983) Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Reaktion Books, Glasgow.

Zylinska. J. (2010) On Bad Archives, Unruly Snappers and Liquid Photographs, photographies, 3:2, 139-153, DOI: 10.1080/17540763.2010.499608 

Project Review | Dinu Li

Really useful session where Dinu commended the sequencing of my work suggesting I have a talent in this area which was unexpected as I feel it is an area I struggle with.

He also challenged the use of the black pages, when I explained that they were illustrative of the participants suicide attempt he understood the idea and suggested I try to further the idea in some capacity. Phil Hill suggested making the adjacent page black. an idea I thought useful.

Dinu described my use of graphic design careless which I accept on this occasion as my intention was to seek feedback on size and structure of the sequence of images.

Dinu also suggested that the project would work as a zine due to the lack of graphic design. This was interesting as I felt the project was more suited to being a book as its nature of being a type of memorial.

I received excellent feedback on the quality of the portraits, Dinu was very complimentary of a number of them, finally, he spoke of the presence of the cotton mill which is in two of the photographs. He suggested that it should occur more in the project.

FMP Theory

Barthes. R. (1980) Camera Lucida. Vantage Classics, London.

‘If we expect the realm of Advertising, where the meaning must be clear and distinct only by reason of its mercantile nature, semiology of Photography is therefore limited to the admirable portraitists. For the rest, with regard to the heterogeneity of ‘good’ photographs, all we can say is that the object speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think. And further: even this risks being perceived as dangerous. At the limit, no meaning at all is safer:

(Barthes, 1980:p36) ‘Society, it seems, mistrusts pure meaning: It wants meaning but at the same time it wants meaning to be surrounded by noise which will make it less acute. Hence the photograph whose meaning is too impressive is quickly deflected; we consume it aesthetically, not politically.’

Barthes, R. (1977). Image, music, text. New York: Hill and Wang.

Barthes (1977) when he states in relation to discourse and narrative ‘In order to conduct a structural analysis, it is thus first of all necessary to distinguish several levels or instances of description and to place these in sentences within a hierarchical (integrationary) perspective.‘

Barthes, R. (1958) Mythologies. Vantage, London.

Barthes (1958) in his essay argues ‘Steak and Chips’ makes assumptions about nationalism, masculinity, loyalty and status.

‘Steak is adorned with a supplementary virtue of elegance, for among the apparent complexity of exotic cooking, it is a food which unites, one feels succulence and simplicity. Being part of a nation, it follows the index of patriotic values: it helps them rise in wartime, it is the very flesh of the French soldier, the inalienable property which cannot go over to the enemy except by treason’.

Levi-Strauss, D. (2020) Photography and Beleif. David Zwirner Books, New York.

Levi Strauss (2020) comments that ‘photography opens up passageways to its subject, not as a signification but as a world, multiple and complex.’ 

Obrist, H (2015) Ways of Curating Hans Ulrich Obrist. Penguin, London

‘The connections and principles that produce a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, findings, experimental possibilities and associations. Collection making, you could say, is a method of producing knowledge.’ (Obrist 2015)

​​Obrist, H (2015: p55) speaks of the process of conducting interviews as ‘somehow bringing him closer to his art’ 

Haggart, R. (1957). The Uses of Literacy, Aspects of Working Class Life. Penguin, London.

Hoggart (1957:20) makes relevant comments when considering instances of good and bad luck

‘in what way exactly can working class people be said to believe in it? They repeat phrases but often with a saving prefatory. They say that…’ They do not intellectually examine them: yet on certain occasions they laugh readily at them as ‘old wives tales’. But usually take care to obey their directions‘.

Abel-Hirsch, H. (2014) Ponte City and the urban myth. The Mail and Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-22-00-ponte-city-and-the-urban-myth/ (Accessed 12th Feb 2021)

Subotzky (2014) states of his project Ponte City ‘Photography has always been about relationships for Subotzky anyway — “the pressing of the button is almost a by-product of engaging with people”.

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

(Helguera 2011) who suggests that ‘participation creates vitality‘.

Lacey & Sank (2007) The Water’s Edge. Liverpool University Press and Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.

(Lacy 2007) comments that the collaborative interviews and photographic events were conducted separately by separate people.

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/ 

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. 

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.” 

Laurent (2017) in the Time website writes about photographers as ‘the ones who sort all of the chaos of the world into images that bring clarity to the free for all of life.’ 

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

Burr, V. (2003) cites (Denzin 1995) ‘Readers create texts as they interpret and interact with them. The meaning of a text is always intermediate, open ended and interactional. Deconstruction is the analysis of texts’.

Burr (2003: p7)‘Social construction denies that our knowledge is a direct perception of reality. In fact it might be said that as a culture or society we construct our own versions of reality between us.’

Burr (2003: p7) states ‘It might be said that as a culture or society we construct our own versions of reality between us.’ 

Burr (2003) comments regarding discourses ‘It refers to a particular picture that is painted of an event, person or class of persons, a particular way of representing it in a certain light. If we accept the view… That a multitude of alternative versions of events are potentially available through language, this means that, surrounding any one object, event, person etc. There may be a variety of different discourses, each with a different story to tell about the object in question, a different way of representing it to the world’. 

Mittendorf (2017) Artistsatwork.com [Online] Available at: https://artsartistsartwork.com/renaissance-art-vs-baroque-art-understanding-the-difference/ [Accessed] 3rd May 2021.

Mittendorf (2017) comments “A good word for Renaissance art is “stabilize,” while a good one for the Baroque is “dramatize.” 

Abel-Hirsch, H. (2014) Ponte City and the urban myth. The Mail and Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-22-00-ponte-city-and-the-urban-myth/ (Accessed 12th Feb 2021)

Abel-Hirsch (2014) cites Subotzky “People see a camera and think you’re photographing for the Daily Sun,” he says. So it was essential to explain what they were doing. Photography has always been about relationships for Subotzky anyway — “the pressing of the button is almost a by-product of engaging with people”.

Joanna Zylinska (2010) On Bad Archives, Unruly Snappers and Liquid Photographs, photographies, 3:2, 139-153, DOI: 10.1080/17540763.2010.499608 

Zylinska (2010) who suggests ‘in using analogue techniques and collecting such work is important ‘preservers of value and the past, as keepers, against all odds, of a certain world that (allegedly) once was.’ 

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)

“I decided to use this process because I wanted to physically make something with my hands. To experience some of the same benefits my dad did when he was making his objects as part of his occupational therapies.

Leslie, J. (2000) Issues: New Magazine Design. Calmann & King, London 

Leslie citing Carson (2000) comments ‘Whichever style they follow however, the basic elements remain the same: the literate reader expects a headline and a stand-first followed by the text.’ 

Leslie (2000) points out that there is no single way through a magazine and understanding that audiences who view the publication might not view it chronologically

Neville, M. 2020.  Mark Neville. Available [online] at http://www.markneville.com/ (Accessed April 19th, 2021).

‘Throughout 2015 Neville distributed these copies free to Defence Mental Health Services, prison libraries, homeless veterans, probation services, and veteran mental health charities.’

Disease Control and Prevention 

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fviolenceprevention%2Facestudy%2Ffastfact.html 

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). 

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health [Accessed 8th April 2021]

Men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems

Pantall, C (2020) Cultural Appropriation, Interpersonal Voyeurism, and Own Voices. Colin Pantall’s Blog. Available at http://colinpantall.blogspot.com/2020/02/cultural-appropriation-interpersonal.html Date Accessed [27th Feb 2021]

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

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

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

McNay (2014) Photomonitor.  Gareth Phillips: Search for ‘Hiraeth’ [Online] Available at: https://photomonitor.co.uk/essay/gareth-phillips/ Accessed (28th Feb 2021)

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,’ 

Mitchell, M. [Online] Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/shop/passage [Accessed] 22nd June 2021.

Mitchell states of her project ‘Passage’… “I want the viewer to ask themselves a question about how society operates, how choice is related to opportunity and environment. To see that sometimes people choose what they do because really, not much has been offered in the first place.”

Webb, A and Webb, R (2014) On Street Photography and the Poetic Image. Aperture, New York.

‘It’s important to take bad pictures. It’s the bad ones that have to do with what you’ve never done before. They can make you recognise something you hadn’t seen in a way that you will make you recognise it when you see it again’

Risch, C. (2018) Photo District News [Online] Available at: https://pdnonline.com/features/photographer-interviews/delivering-on-challenging-assignments-jooney-woodwards-odd-author-portrait-for-telegraph-magazine/#gallery-3 [Accessed] 3rd May 2021.

Risch (2018) comments “Jooney Woodward draws inspiration for her portraiture from Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and says her work is “quite static and composed compared to more reportage-y photographers.” 

Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Abingdon: Routledge.

Butler (1990) suggests:

‘when we say that gender is performed, we usually mean that we’ve taken on a role; we’re acting in some way…. To say that gender is performative is a little different… For something to be performative means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman… we act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or simply something that is true about us. Actually, it is a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time’.

Franklin, S. (2016) The Documentary Impulse, Phaidon, New York.

Soth in Franklin (2016: pp 167) suggests

“I see poetry as the medium most similar to photography… Or at least the photography I pursue. Like poetry, photography, is rarely successful with narrative. What is essential is the ‘voice’ (or eye) and the way this voice pieces together fragments to make something tenuously whole and beautiful” 

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

Read (2017) reaffirms the fostering intrinsic motivations ‘As a curator I am looking for what is at the core of the work. Powered by authentic concerns of the photographer’. In making this breakthrough I am in a position to increase the volume of the project and take the engagement to new levels. Read then concludes (2017)

‘The presence of the authentic voice is what lifts the work above the everyday’. And at this stage, and lockdown measures easing, it will be all systems go from here.

Project Review | Paul Clements

Having sent my work to Paul, the photographic work was met with enthusiasm. I could reflect endlessly about this however the main point of interest at this point is how i’m going to present the text. Paul highlighted the problematic nature of text and image in perhaps confusing the meaning behind the work. I felt his ideas align with the thoughts of Laura who in my last one to one session suggested further thought was needed in regard to how I present text.  

As a result, when preparing the outcome in the form of a book, I will omit the text from the pages and present them in another way. At present, the method of presentation I find most appealing is the idea of bookmarks/leaflets that slide into a book. The webinar earlier in the week it was suggested by some of my peers that I experiment with Japanese origami paper to emphasise the fragility associated with mental health. 

To conclude this section, the collective feedback all points to the removal of text from the pages. 

Tim Stubbs Hughes suggested that I had succeeded to some extent in achieving a sense of the poetic in the working class vernacular which was pleasing however his observation that the work needed to be a little more dirty with work photographed indoors was really useful. In response I feel that I will add this to the work. 

As a result of the session I feel that I received some critical feedback that will certainly add to the the work in addition to generating an understanding of what to take out. 

I still have some unresolved issues surrounding the balance of the photographic work between the poetic and portrait and how to align them. This will be an ongoing process and a quandary I will seek to resolve in the coming weeks.

Key themes taken from the session: 

The removal and presentation of text. 

The need for more intimate work made in interior settings. 

Latest WIPP Drew Findlay

Thinking about Light

As time presses on and having made the decision to go back and reshoot my project in medium format. I have experimented with Ilford black and white film with improving results as I get to know the camera. which has been sitting in a store room for at least five years. I have had some disasters such as the back of the camera sometimes flipping open in addition to focussing the camera manually which is especially difficult as I am often unsure if I have achieved optimum focus. Using an eye level viewfinder with the weight of the camera is also difficult. Ideally I would like to experiment with a waist level viewfinder however due to financial constraints that isn’t an option. 

Despite the challenges I have fallen in love with the medium format and the emotion I feel when scanning a negative and seeing a sharp portrait with the depth and detail is a great feeling. 

This week I have set about making work using colour film. Having done my research and having a lengthy chat with Phil Hill I decided to go with the Portra 400 film. The reason being that I understand it is forgiving with skin tones and provides some versatility when editing. Being a novice at shooting in this way I felt that I needed all of the help I could get. Remembering the portfolio reviews some time ago with Steph Cosgrove she commented that my work was cinematic in its nature which was interesting to learn. At that time I was shooting digital using a flash to ensure I had a clear light on subjects faces. I grew to like this approach however in shooting medium format I feel that I would still like to encompass this approach although I don’t have the luxury of a flash. In relation to my wider project I don’t think it is totally necessary however it is a technique I would like to pursue beyond the MA. Having had an Instagram conversation with Jooney Woodward on Instagram noticed that she uses a video strip light to achieve a high key light on her commercial work for the likes of the Financial Times supplement ‘How to Spend it Magazine’. When pursuing this type of constructed photograph she is able to align her work with the audience of the text.  

In preparation for working in this way I decided to conduct an experiment with a work friend in the studio based in the college where I work. The objective of this experiment was to understand the amount of light I needed to act as a fill light for skin tones in an environmental portrait. 

Lighting Skintones

In furthering my contextual understanding of the work I’d like to make, I begun to look at the visual language of the band ‘The Streets’ as I remembered the video for the track ‘Dry your Eyes Mate’. The video directed by Johan Renck has a cinematic approach and influence which he describes as coming from his background in photography. In viewing the Streets video I recognised a number of creative choices in addition to a style of lighting that could be described as baroque influenced in addition to chiaroscuro lighting. 

He achieves a working class discourse through the use of vernacular associated with males such as the snooker club and a curry houses. Certainly avenues I could explore further. The ambition in the short term is to produce a portrait using an interior vernacular which is in keeping with the theme of the project. 

To conclude this short post, my project is beginning to align with my personal ambition of how to take my practice further. Shooting medium format will become the new norm while using continuous light will enable me to push the technicalities of my approach further. This represents a huge development from the entry point not just of the course, but the evolution within the FMP. I am not exactly confident that I will achieve my intentions within the confines of the MA although I am hoping this will be the case. The real victory is in the development of my practice. I am increasingly feeling that I have taken what I needed and wanted from the MA course as a whole. My creative choices have developed significantly eventually leading to the evolution of my functional practice and choice of equipment. I have a blueprint for my long term engagement with photography and the pursuit of personal projects. The final consideration I am currently wrestling with is learning to shoot at the 80mm focal length which is challenging as I am tasked to continue to retain a powerful discourse with a tighter frame. In earlier modules I was quite happy shooting portraits at 24mm before shooting at 35mm. I am now working at 80mm and still learning but that journey quickens as I have a capital in working in medium format which breeds confidence in other areas. 

The coming weeks will consist of appeasing my own work. I suspect assessing the many failures and few victories. Outcomes are less important at this stage although I am quietly confident.

Johan Renck [Online] Available at: https://www.johanrenck.com/#/projects/dry-your-eyes/ [Accessed] 27th June 2021.