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.
In pursuit of the development of my project I felt that I needed an extra element to support the portrait and documentary work that I have been producing. In response I felt that a pertinent way to experiment would be in the direction of imagery of flowers, mainly daffodils. I have some good reasons for this, firstly. My motivation for challenging the theme of male mental health was due to the loss of three friends within a week in March 2020, one of which part of my extended family. All to suicide or preventable actions. This provoked a very powerful response from the local community with many choosing daffodils to represent the people in their thoughts.
As a result, whether it works as a project or not I am currently unsure however as I am very much emotionally invested with my project it did seem a natural destination to explore. Having sought feedback on the initial idea my peers commented that the use of floral elements offers a sense of fragility and metaphor for mental health which will possibly work as a binary opposite to the stereotype of men being strong.
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.
Within this podcast Mike talks of his struggle to find his identity as one of three brothers, suffering crippling anxiety and a making his way to a train station with the intention of taking his own life.
Within this interview ‘Chip’ speaks of his experience of PTSD from his time in the British army in addition to the heartbreak of losing a Son to a brain tumour.
Within this podcast ‘Irish’ talks about a lifetime caring for his mother who was mentally ill and piecing his life together after prison. Having his own struggles with depression and self loathing, he is now putting his extraordinary life experience to use by working in the care sector. A moving story about life, resilience and suffering.
This week has consisted of continuing to edit the audio recordings from the interviews that I’ve been conducting. Until recently I’d been editing using the audio channels in adobe premiere. This was ok for a while, however as the interviews mount up it became increasingly difficult to handle all of the recordings in terms of working with multiple channels and being able to visualise the clips on a timeline. Therefore I downloaded adobe audition which is professional podcast making software. Having familiarised myself with the workspace I was able to set up a multitrack session which was beneficial as the software provides clear channels to import edit and recording. Being able to see each recording in a colour coded channel enabled the organisation of the audio. Once imported I was able to set about editing each interview, removing any unnecessary conversations and interruptions. I was then able to raise the volume of each interview before figuring out how to reduce background noise. Having acquired the knowledge of this software I was able to significantly speed up my workflow which is useful as I had spent long periods of time feeling as though as was making little progress.
At this stage I have a number of separate interviews that have been edited down to what I feel is the most relevant. My next task will be to export each interview as a single text before uploading to a publishing platform. In the past I have uploaded audio to sound-cloud however having had some initial success in embedding the audio into my CRJ, I now realise that this isn’t always the case. I am also unsure of the accessibility from mobile devices however I will continue with sound cloud until I find a better option. Another avenue will be to couple the interviews with images and upload to youtube however I’m not sure the audience experience would be enriched by such an approach. Having a twenty minute piece of audio is a long time for a viewer to look at one to three images. I am conscious of the need to develop methods of dissemination and this approach may represent progress although not appropriate for final presentation.
At the top of the page is a collection of the portraits I have taken thus far. Now that I have made work I find it personally beneficial to continue to look at the photographs. As my relationship with the work matures I find that my relationship changes and I am able to see where I have developed in addition to identifying problems I have in relation to my DNA as a photographer. I’m quite pleased with some of the vantage points and I am able to see the benefit of shooting with a 35mm prime lens and I’m warming to working at this focal length as opposed to shooting a zoom lens at 24mm.
Going forward I would like to begin to make work in locations outside of the home, possibly the work place although this may make future work look more commercial. I’m not sure if this is a danger as it might insert a commercial appeal however a consequence may be the work becomes less intimate. Having identified this quandary a task will be to take the work outside home whilst retaining a sense of intimacy.