Revisiting Assignment 2 : Photographing the Unseen
In my post “Preparation and Planning” here I described beginning thoughts on themes to explore. However, a photograph taken at the Brighton Festival in November 2014 – at night and blurred – had stayed in my mind. I decided to create a project around the theme “I thought I saw you the other day”. My idea was to write about the ending of a relationship, with the young man involved not ready to accept this was so. I named him “Paul Dumont” devised a biography for him so that I could enter more into how he was thinking and created a fictional blog that incorporated photographs ‘taken’ by him (but by me) , videos he enjoyed watching where he could record his thoughts and a poem “Laura” had written for him (written by me). He also has an email account. The blog was private at first whilst I explored how it would develop but I then asked for feedback from two fellow students who encouraged me to continue. I named his ex-girlfriend “Laura McKinley” .
When I emailed my tutor about this concept he responded that this sounded very interesting but was concerned such a piece of work might take time to develop fully and merited dealing with at a more advanced level. However, as I was so caught by the concept, we agreed that I would explore it at this stage. After sharing my idea at an OCA Thames Valley Group meeting, where I was again encouraged to continue. I made the blog public, although without a comments box because, despite knowing other artists, such as Sophie Calle, had created fictional lives, I was wary as a student of ‘fooling’ other people by entering into a fictitious dialogue with them. Fellow students have commented on my own blog though to give me feedback on how realistic (or not) it is.
My post on “Context, Influences and Research” for the assignment is here – describing the family name connection, film/video, music, novels, and photographer influences, including still-life/created images. Amongst reference material my physical Assignment Preparation folder contains:-
- The original photograph providing the inspiration
- The biography
- Diary pages I kept to keep notes of ideas etc
- A letter from “Laura”
- Printed email from “Paul” to “Laura”
- Two postcards from “Paul’s” boss, a Professor
- The poem How does he feel? written by me
- Printed lyrics to Frank Sinatra and Ed Sheeran songs referred to in “Paul’s blog.
- 2 prints of the two sets of images in square format (see below)
I found I was getting drawn into “Paul’s” story, even becoming quite melancholic and so I devised a supportive strategy where I played different types of music according to whether I was being “Paul”, or a follower of his blog and this worked. My intention was that, apart from photographs taken for “Paul’s” blog, I would create further images as a response to that blog – as its reader. Those photographs were intended to portray his continuing obsession with, and searching for, “Laura”. As I began this I realised that a second process was occurring because I was wanting to evoke images of “Laura” as an ‘object’ – fragile, beautiful, offering her ‘letter’ of goodbye but in a delicate non-assertive way. I realised that I was, in a sense, going back to Assignment 1 and two sides of a story. I was conceptualising thoughts about relationships and how the search for an ideal relationship can miss the reality of the actual person who becomes the object of adoration, so that relationships and communication become skewed and a soft “No” is heard as “Yes, maybe …”.
My response to my tutor’s feedback is here . I adjusted two photographs on “Paul’s Blog” and still-life image 2 as suggested. I had commented on the problem of putting the two sets of images together – one being in landscape and the other in portrait format and with differing subject matter. My tutor suggested I make them all square and I have experimented with this. However, square format doesn’t fit either of the sets as they both look very compressed. I have therefore not included them in my Assessment portfolio box, but they are in my physical Assignment Preparation folder.
It occurred to me that having two sets of images that are so separate is actually mirroring the incompatible relationship between “Paul” and “Laura”. I talked about this at the meeting of the OCA Thames Valley Group on 21st May and how I remember that my mother sometimes had a habit of cutting-up photographs to exclude people she no longer wished to see. To me the tearing of a photograph Is more tactile than using scissors. It still signifies the ending of a relationship but is somehow less brutal than cutting. In his feedback my tutor had suggested I create another set of still life photographs, including perhaps a ripped photograph. Instead, I have represented this in a more physical way and the result will be included in my Assessment portfolio box.
Some fellow students have asked why I haven’t continued writing Paul’s blog because they enjoyed reading it. I had decided that I wouldn’t continue because I thought I would lose the spontaneity of ‘being’ him and become more measured, maybe narrate his continuing search for love. Having decided that, though, I’m aware that the relationship theme followed me through into Assignment 5 so I’m wondering if reflections on relationships might continue in my photography.