I began this Module at a time when we had recently moved house and I was slowly unpacking boxes of possessions including the family ‘archive’ of photographs and letters.. This fitted very well with the Module introduction and thinking of context. I began with an intention to work with this archive in some form but, although I did do some initial work during preparation for the final Assignment, the archive still awaits me and now accompanies me into Level 2.
I felt the most comfortable with the topic of narrative. Maybe comfortable is the wrong adjective to use but I do want to tell stories with my photography and so thinking about narrative felt like coming home. The area that seemed furthest away from me was my usual one of portraits. I enjoy looking at them but I just don’t have this concept of myself as a ‘portrait’ photographer and have no desire, at this stage, to be one. So far as self-portraits are concerned, I hadn’t felt a need to explore myself in this way – preferring to write, talk to someone else, or self-reflection to clarify how I think and feel about myself and the world. Part 3 of the Module was therefore a struggle, even though I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to actually take a photograph of myself to put myself in the picture.
I met my own challenge though and proved I could do it. Creating duplicates of myself was absorbing and interesting but I became stuck in conceiving how I could further this. Instead, I turned to exploring my place in landscape and what it was that attracted me towards those small pieces of green in urban spaces. Setting up my tripod and photographing myself in public seemed quite a risk-taking exercise for me so it was rather a shock when my tutor challenged me to go further and also thought there was a performative aspect in my photography. This didn’t fit my self-concept at all but I decided to trust his judgment and gained a lot from that. I enjoyed creating small pieces of art in the landscape and later felt confident enough to take the risk of setting up my mini-exhibition. The connection with created art led me into joining in with the Collaborative Art Swap – something which was completely new to me.
I enjoy the idea of collaborative work and had participated in the “My View” project and also “The Nearest Faraway Place” – contributing to a world-travelling concertina book. I wanted to extend this, though, to working with artists from different disciplines and the ideal opportunity came when the OCA Art Swap was mooted by another student. I felt both challenged and stimulated by my involvement. Receiving those special pieces of art, created in response to my words, made me realise how much I missed the tactile aspect. I usually print my work because to hold a print in my hand is very different from viewing on a screen, and I experiment using different types of paper but now I would like to do more than that.
Reviewing Context and Narrative I have had an epiphany moment regarding personal voice. In my first Level 1 Module, “The Art of Photography”, my final Assignment was about looking for love. In the second Module the final Assignment explored a concept for living, yes, but it was also about bereavement. It seems to me that in different ways, as I have worked through these Modules, my personal voice has been about relationships – between people and also between myself and my environment – and I have found different ways of portraying this. Putting oneself in the picture isn’t only making actual self-portraits but expressing myself through my photography.
With “Photographing the Unseen” and Narrative – portraying an obsession with a relationship, something unfinished. I knew that I was stepping into a fairly stereotypical male view of an ideal relationship but the ‘feminine’ stepped into the picture. I gave myself the opportunity to explore layers of narrative with influences from a range of sources and using mixed genres of photography. I value the leaps of spontaneity, beginning to make photographs, seeing what arises, but recognise that I do need to become more focussed in my ideas and so, In the future, I intend to both extend and refine this approach. Reviewing this Module I have reminded myself that photographs can be layered in many different ways intrinsically and also visually/physically. They can form punctuation and chapters in creating a narrative.
At times I tussled with the question as to whether it is possible to tell a story in a single image and how text and image interact. The reading on analysing photography/visual art and then analysing one image for Assignment 4 made me realise that, yes, one image can tell a story and there are many ways in which this can be achieved. I think what happened during preparation for and completion of that assignment was a more integrated consolidation of learning from the earlier parts of the Module. Creating work about a relationship; becoming more confident in self-portraits and looking at the ways in which images can be constructed led me towards the staged image for Assignment 5 where I was able to tell a story in one photograph without the use of text.
Looking to the future
I have now begun the new Level 2 Module Digital Image and Culture which I know will give me the opportunity and stronger incentive to get to work with my personal archive and also other photographs I have collected. There was a lot of encouragement during Context and Narrative to play around with ideas and I know that the same is true of Digital Image and Culture. I’m looking forward to it.