In order to mark MHAW I decided to make a workplace portrait everyday and share on social media. Today being the last day of the mini project, I saw this as a good opportunity to make work outside the broader project and experiment with different ways to make work. Having conducted some previous research into the Renaissance and Baroque period I wanted to attempt to make work with further intention and structure.
I also attended a multi agency meeting with a range of services based in Stockport to explain my project and ask for future collaboration. As a result I made a contact called Gemma who works for a mental health drop in centre named Making Space. This represents an exciting development and an opportunity to distribute my final project. I also made another contact at the local housing group Stockport Homes who run a number of initiatives.
As a result of making connections I have the opportunity to photography the Mayor of Stockport this week who has shown an interest in my project and stated in principle that he will help with gaining some exposure. In preparation for making the most of this opportunity, this week I begun to use off camera flash in order to further my practice. I have also begun to make mock ups of a newspaper InDesign document. I have requested some samples of newspaper design options and intend to explore this further.
As the journey continues and having recently gone through the lengthy process of making work, editing the photographs then editing the audio files into something manageable. I am now at the next wave of participants which involves the process of of calling for participants, planning and organising the making of new work around my full time job. Having organised the shoot with ‘Pete’ below. I was conscious of the prospect of being in his company for some time. This turned out to be the case and will be another lengthy editing process in the future. At this stage my thoughts go back to my research on Michelle Sank’s book ‘The Water’s Edge’ where she comments that the interview process and the photographic event were kept separate and conducted by different people. This at present is a huge luxury compared to the process that I’m engaged with in having to conduct interviews and photograph in the same sitting.
The work from this shoot I consider far from my best work. Over the lockdown period, Pete set himself the project of building his own pub in his back garden. Pete himself is a very sociable individual who has been affected by the pandemic.
When making this work I found myself working in an extremely tight space with beams across the roof. This made working with on camera flash difficult and in this case impacted on the realisation of my intentions. I do have an image that I think is ok but not really worthy of a submission. As a result of the interview Pete spoke at length about his failed marriage and how it affected him. However he also spoke of his connection with his children and the most powerful aspect was when he told me that every time he drops his teenage children off somewhere he tells them he loves them before giving them a kiss goodbye.
This image perhaps being the strongest and visually, I feel that it is an authentic representation of what emerged from the interview however I’m not happy with the crop on the knee joints as I would have liked to have a vantage point slightly below the knee. However I did work hard to make this photograph and my summative assumption about this shoot is that I worked hard to ultimately fail. At this point I’m led toWebb, A and Norris Webb, R (2014) cite Arbus
‘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’
Comments made by the Webb’s illustrate how I’m feeling at the moment regarding this shoot. Although not happy with the final outcome. I’m not disappointed I was able to understand the difficulties I faced and to some extent address them.
Webb, A and Webb, R (2014) On Street Photography and the Poetic Image. Aperture, New York.
Lacey & Sank (2007) The Water’s Edge. Liverpool University Press and Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.
As my project continues to develop and following an intensive week professionally I find an element of calm in looking to photographs that offer some type of escapism. Looking at the work of Jooney Woodward offers a sense of hope regarding my own practice as she makes portraits that cause me to be excited about my own practice. Whether it be the posing or gestures that subjects make, I enjoy photography that is considered in terms of intent, but most important to me is the enjoyment I take. Pre MA I found huge enjoyment in looking at the work of Rodney Smith and still do. In a personal sense, I remember the enjoyment I took from looking at Smith’s work and now I can add the work of Woodward to that list.
In response to the question of taking enjoyment from the work of others, I feel compelled to ask myself why I am drawn to such work. A complex question of which I don’t thin there is a single answer.
The photograph of Iris Apfel by Woodward is an example of her work that I admire. The multiple elements of detail, the contrasting textures in her clothes and jewellery serve to produce a sense of difference, a juxtaposition between old and new, or the traditional and progressive. Coupled with her spectacles, I sense that Apfel is an interesting individual, progressive in her lifestyle. Someone who has moved with the times. The colour and texture of the light green sofa creates a strong contrast with dark ruby and orange of her coat. I could address elements such as the lips and hair which lend themselves to a sense of glamour and beauty not lost with age. 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.” As a result, I felt that if I was interested in this type of work I needed to work harder to understand the cornerstones and rules that I should be aware of. When Risch cites Woodward commenting about taking inspiration from Renaissance and Baroque paintings I felt that this was a good starting point. Mittendorf (2017) comments “A good word for Renaissance art is “stabilize,” while a good one for the Baroque is “dramatize.” Going back to Woodward’s photograph of Apfel and with Mittendorf’s opening comments in mind, my attention is drawn to the Apfel’s left hand being raised with her fingers slightly closed. Here is where I see drama in the image, the gesture encompasses a type of symbolic sophistication and dexterity that aligns with her profession of an interior designer. As Barthes (1958) in his essay argues ‘Steak and Chips’ makes assumptions about nationalism, masculinity, loyalty and status. In Woodward’s photograph, she makes statements about creativity, innovation, talent and sophistication. The finishing touch to the photograph being the raising of the left hand. A small element that has a huge impact.
Mittendorf makes the distinction between Baroque and Renaissance paintings being, the use of vertical and horizontal lines to create a sense of stability in Renaissance work as opposed to angular lines in Baroque paintings. Here you can clearly see a range of angular lines at play here. The angular lines created by the green sofa in addition to the triangular shape of Apfel’s right arm in almost a binary opposite of colour and angle. Going back to the left arm which is raised almost vertically but not quite. To me this represents a common theme with successful people. Almost a metaphor of someone that mostly adheres to the rules however the slight angle represents a personal voice, the sense of individuality which one may need to get to the top of one’s profession. Going back to Risch (2018) and comments about Woodward’s artistic style have helped inform my own intentions going forward. Whether I am able to achieve this level of detail going forward is yet unknown however in scrutinising Woodward’s beautiful image I feel that a roadmap to producing stronger work is a little more visible.
Unfortunately I wasn’t successful in my interview which has left me with a feeling of disappointment and a blow to my confidence. The position was the first photography teaching position I’d ever applied for as my current position is teaching media. And I take some solace for making the shortlist from over seventy applicants. However, now a couple of days after the event I feel the need to compose this response as a method of making sense of the experience as there are a number of small observations I need to record for my own progression.
Competitors: It was interesting to meet a number of art and photography teachers and at an early stage I felt very different. As the teacher from a media background, my practice hasn’t been about having a huge portfolio in a traditional artistic sense. It did worry me that the other applicants arrived with huge portfolios, sketch books and so forth. All applicants had an MA in an artistic discipline which technically rendered me a little short as I’m still studying. I did feel that my moving image background and technical skill with editing would have set me apart but not in this case. In order to respond positively to this I think I would benefit from building a traditional portfolio as opposed to web links.
Micro Teach Session
I was aware that the session I had planned was focussed on looking at the digital world of photography. I wasn’t worried by this and I felt that the session was underpinned with justification and intention in addition to drawing on the work of Eggleston and Alex Webb. Therefore I felt I had some historical philosophies in addition to the progressive approach of Jenny Odell. The session itself went very well and students seemed to be engaged and interested as the feedback below would suggest.
As I have been making work for the FMP and now at a stage where I have a range of work in addition to a number of podcasts I now have a range of text and image. I now need to look at methods of dissemination for sending to interested parties as well as creating a document that will serve as a personal document to help progress my own future.
Produce a hand made book of my project.
Continue to practice in the dark room.
Look at my previous work and put them into a form of presentation.
As my project is now taking shape, the portraits begin to take on a life of their own, my experience of making the podcasts working to create a symbiotic relationship with them. However only I have listened to them all. I haven’t just listened to them, I have collaborated in the making of them. In feeling that I am a little light on contextual research due to podcast production. My research brought me to Mark Neville and his project ‘Battle Against Stigma’. Neville states about the project
‘The exhibition and book intend to give some insight into the issue of adjustment disorder and PTSD which he suffered from on his return to the UK’
In 2011 Neville went to Helmand Province to work as a war artist with the British Army and was compelled to produce a book and exhibition as a result of his own experiences of PTSD and readjustment disorder experienced upon his return.
In a video interview Neville talks candidly about the experience in addition to the production of two volumes
‘The first volume is the re-telling, including his photographs, of Neville’s own personal experience when he was sent out to Helmand in 2011 as an official war artist and his troubled return, and the second volume is made-up of the written testimonies about PTSD and adjustment disorder from serving and ex-serving soldiers.’
What I find interesting is the evolving nature of the project. When attending a portfolio review a couple of months ago, I heard Steph Cosgrove comment about a peers work and how she was ‘turning up the volume’ of her work. A comment that has tuck with me and appears relevant to Neville’s work when he included the written testimony in the second volume of his book.
A Neville provides further insight when he comments about the dissemination of his book when he states ‘Throughout 2015 Neville distributed these copies free to Defence Mental Health Services, prison libraries, homeless veterans, probation services, and veteran mental health charities.’ And in this comment I feel another critical breakthrough has occurred. My project ‘Seven Miles South’ challenges the theme of mental health and for some time I have been thinking about where to disseminate the work when finished. I have begun to research and contact mental health charities and a local gallery asking about their interest in the project and hoping for some interest. However, I now feel compelled to think differently about dissemination. My attention will now turn to the production of a newspaper which encompasses photographs in addition to transcriptions of the conversations that I’ve had. I can also include contact details of local charities that offer support in the newspaper. Once produced I will have a product that I can send to charities and story editors alike to create interest within the work.
I will discuss this strategy in my next meeting with Laura although I am quite adamant that this is the correct action to take.
This shoot was the third occasion where I went for a roam with the intention of looking for daffodils. However, having reflected on my previous work I didn’t really feel moved by the photographs. Using natural daylight and a fast shutter speed to freeze subjects I felt was rather safe, predictable and boring. However, holding on to feedback I previously received in a peer review, I am still holding on to the idea of a floral element potentially working as a metaphor for fragility which I think aligns with the broader theme of male mental health. In carrying out so much research and trying to contextualise my path informed by others I felt in a hole as I could write about a million great photographers without really knowing where to start beyond reading and pulling some semi pertinent quotes in order to vaguely justify my work.
In light of my frustration I will justify this approach by describing my intentions in a more loose form. Looking at my previous portraits, I’ve fallen into a methodology of using on camera flash and using only a 35mm prime lens as a way to control my workflow and develop a reoccurring theme. Over the past few weeks I found myself going back to looking at the work of Todd Hido and Saul Leiter. Both of which share similarities such as excellent use of colour in addition to making images at night encompassing contrast.
As I roamed through the flowers I was quite happy at the contrast within the images, using the flash on its manual setting was delivering a range of outcomes which I felt were less safe and I quite enjoyed looking at them. This was similar to the editing stage where I begun to notice things within the photographs, the unpredictability, colour variation and infinite yet detailed compositions. In order to further the process of experimentation I decided to slow the shutter, using the flash to freeze objects whilst continuing to move the camera. Within my wedding work I would usually do this with a zoom lens. The gallery below is the outcome of my evening of experimentation. The next stage will be to select (if any) relevant work and see how it might work as part of a sequence. The major question I will be interested in over the coming weeks will be to understand if this work has a place within the project.
From my previous research of the Mental Health Foundation, I managed to identify some key information which will inform my practice of conducting interviews. I decided to further my contextual understanding of the MHF. Upon doing this I identified the Scottish Mental health Arts Festival. The website states…
‘It aims to support the arts, explore how engagement in the arts can help prevent mental ill health, and challenge mental health stigma. Led by the Mental Health Foundation, SMHAF combines high artistic quality with strong grassroots support, community engagement and social activism.’
In response to identifying this avenue I quickly put together an email and PDF of work to hopefully gain some support for my project. However I understand that I am late in submitting my work as the festival starts at the beginning of May.
The festival has a sub theme called ’70 Stories’ which has been curated to coincide with the 70th anniversary of MHF. Having sent an email I don’t expect to be successful in gaining entry however it may be a good opportunity to receive some feedback and identify opportunities in the future.
At this stage of my project I am feeling stronger about submitting work as I now have some of the podcasts in place. This week I shared some of the work with my peers on the course and was met with positive feedback with particular comments about how the photographs make much more sense now that they are accompanied with the audio.
The next task will be to transcribe the audio to see how it fits with the photography, I am in no doubt that this will be a big task and time consuming. Of late, it feels although my project is progressing at a snails pace. Understanding that it is easy to lose motivation at times like these I find that at least having some podcasts to accompany the photographs does represent progress. The benefit of this is that I now have something more than just photos to submit to potential opportunities for dissemination which is heartening.
I have also recently submitted a portfolio to the Open Walls call with the British Photography Journal.
In the pursuit of an exhibition space I have applied to Stockport Art Gallery to hold a local exhibition. In order to do this I wrote a statement in addition to submitting six images from my project. I volunteered to promote the event myself and emphasised the positive response from the community I’d already received.
Having spent most of his adult life as a police officer, Finni is used to death and destruction. In this interview he talks of negative experiences trying to become a professional football player and losing his Father at a in his late teens.