Response to feedback on Assignment 3
My tutor’s feedback was mainly positive, encouraging and challenging. As usual I will concentrate on comments that struck chords with me, including those that unsettled me in some respects.
My intention in producing the work had been to find a way to put myself into the frame, mainly facing the camera, whilst not entirely merging with the views or obstructing the viewer’s gaze’ My tutor’s view though was that, although the set is good, overall “there are a few different visual discourses forming which contributes to a mixed reading”. The scenes with myself in them “come across compositionally distant and disconnected” through my use of wide-angle focal lengths. Also some of the scenes are cluttered with no obvious focal points to ‘really entice the viewer into the scene’ . I think that what was happening with the latter was that my wider aim had been to share the route of my daily walk and what I see as a part of “Putting myself into the picture”.
He also reminded of Trangmar’s work where her model “is visually connecting with the scene through their gaze and proximity to the camera”. To be honest I realise now that I had let go of that as my major experiment there had been with my other possibility for a series “My Incomplete Self” and this image . and I had forgotten to refer to Trangmar in my write-up.
I got the impression that he was disappointed to some extent as he wrote that although my supporting material/research was “[….] evolving into a strong artefact “[……] it does waiver towards the end of the project where perhaps some further research may have been helpful in shaping the final set’. I was relieved that he thought the video was good in creating a stronger narrative and elevated the work, “With a few subtle tweaks this video will be a very good piece that will add to your arsenal of visual mediums”.
It was these sentences that began to unsettle me:-
“Your personal voice is developing but perhaps it is not focused on straight landscape photography, but something else. With this assignment, I can see emerging a performance and methodical approach in creating. This is encouraged in which it would be good to start researching this possible pathway.
My tutor is seeing in me something I don’t see and this developed further with his suggestions for a re-shoot and edit.
Re-shoot & Edit
With the video; my only suggestion for now, is to explore alternative audio for the backing track. As opposed to the piano piece, how about making your own sound recordings of the woodland area, by approaching it in a more natural and organic way. It could just be the sound of you walking through the scenes, with the leaves rustling and twigs breaking under your feet.
Your overall approach to the woodland comes across as being explorative; I see three distinct patterns forming, observing, interaction and documentation. What I recommend is that you make three sets of triptychs going by the headings above. You already have the observing scenes, I advise using images #7406 and #7436 from your finals and then #7686 from your edits, that’s the first triptych.
Here is where it diverges into a quasi performance piece. Go back to the woodland and start to create some small-scale Andy Goldsworthy style pieces with the woodlands natural resources. Whilst doing this, have your camera set-up and take self-portraits during the process of making, this will be the interaction. Once finished, document the constructs you have created; they would represent the documentation element; this process will provide you with the other two triptychs.
Now for the edit; crop all of the images to a square 1:1 ratio and place them in a grid of 3×3; experiment with the layout from being linear to a sporadic order, where the narratives are intermingled. I envision that this process will provide you with an alternative approach and methodology to creating and forming narratives.
Contemplation of the Feedback
I have always considered myself as not being an artist in the sense of drawing, painting, creating objects with my hands and it’s hard to describe the almost physical feeling I experienced reading the suggestions – a kind of inner resistance, feeling boxed-in and struggling to escape. I had felt very challenged in producing self-portraits and now something else was being suggested in addition. I was on holiday at the time I read the feedback and so I had a few days to allow all this to settle and to calm myself with reminders of the positive comments I had received . There was also considerable scope in such a re-shoot and the concept itself was very interesting. It was just the idea that I would be the one that would be doing the creating!
An exchange of emails ensued once I was back home (copies will be available in my paper log for Assessors to read). By this time I had looked at the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy . Andy Goldsworthy only photographs his pieces once after each is made. I find it interesting that something which is temporary and transient is made permanent by the photograph. He finds inspiration from the landscape around him and creates art from what he finds there. Richard Long is a sculptor and land artist sometimes basing his art around walks he has made and using photography, text and maps of the area where he has walked. His famous piece of art A Line Made By Walking – a photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass – was made in 1967 whilst he was a student. There is an OCA Study Visit to a Solo Exhibition in Bristol on the 3rd October. I was sorry I couldn’t attend this but will look forward to reading reviews.
I also followed the links provided by my tutor that show different examples of mini narratives formed with triptychs and also. I liked the neatness and smallness of the triptychs I’d seen with the sense of containment about them drawing me in. Somehow reminded me of the Japanese figurines I had photographed in Assignment 2.
During our email exchanges my tutor reassured me that my work was good with some very good themes evolving where he wanted to push me further. He thought the performative aspect was something evident in my work and commentaries and just the act of walking and describing is a performance in itself. He also reassured me that anything I created didn’t have to be a masterpiece (thank goodness!) it was the act of creating itself that was important so long as I documented the act of making and the finished piece. He agreed with my comment that I didn’t want to treat this as just an exercise and should approach it as a new method in thinking and working within photography. I queried ‘square’ as opposed to ‘landscape’ and the suggestion was to experiment with both.
My enthusiasm was also strengthened by a comment on my blog from Gill Golding an ex OCA student who has recently completed an MA at Goldsmiths College, London see here and here . She referred to my work as ‘embodied practice’ and suggested some books around this and a phenomenological approach. This further helped me to assimilate this new concept of myself and I realised that for a while now I have been searching for new ways to engage with landscape photography. Way back in June this year I had subscribed to the newsletter of ‘The Walking Artists Network” after seeing a reference to it in some work I viewed at the Farnham UCA Graduate exhibition. It’s an international network and I get regular emails informing of ‘events’ all over the world. So far there hasn’t been one within a good travelling distance for me but I find it stimulating to know of all the different ways in which people can walk together and create art of all kinds. I have also looked at the work of Hamish Fulton I found his website rather inaccessible but, again, walking is the basis of his practice that” focuses on an engagement with the environment and the self through the experience of walking” see here
The process of the re-shoot
Feeling enthused rather than rebellious I went back to the Copse concentrating on observing, interacting and documenting over several days during a period of sunny, dry weather. It isn’t easy to take a photograph of oneself whilst involved in an activity – something with movement and fluidity becomes frozen and almost artificial, particularly when the activity involves bending over or crouching. My preference would be to have someone else taking the photographs as I interacted with the environment as this would be much more natural than having to set up the camera and then, somehow, re-enact something. I guess I’m too attached to the idea of being as authentic as possible! In fact, my husband had agreed to come with me and press the shutter once I had set everything up but I ended up going on my own. In retrospect, a video might have been preferable (maybe next time).!
Creating the ‘art’ felt uncomfortable at first but seemed more natural on my subsequent visits.. Another dog walker stopped and talked to me at one point whilst I was setting up the camera and said what a good idea it seemed. One morning I spotted a particular piece of bark that had detached from a fallen tree. It had holes that made me think of a mask and when I fitted it to my face I could smell the damp and earthiness of the woodland. I enjoyed looking around me in a different way.
Current progress with Re-shoot and Edit
I have created a new version of the video using ambient sound. It isn’t as good as I would have wanted it to be even bearing in mind that I am very much an amateur. I discovered that the recorder I bought at some expense isn’t as good as the recorder on my iPhone so went back to using that, discarding several sound recordings along the way.
I used a different layout here, with Observation along the top, Interaction in the middle and Documentation at the bottom. I also used 3 different images.
I again used the magnetic board to display small prints cut from contact sheets (contact sheets will be in my paper log) and that helped me with choices. I used the format suggested by my tutor with the Landscape grid then changed it around with the Square grid. but have thought that another way of presenting would be to have the images as loose cards in an appropriate box and the viewer could arrange triptychs themselves. This idea was also viewed as a good one when I took the small prints to the OCA Thames valley Group on the 19th September. I also mentioned my fleeting idea of creating an impromptu, very temporary, exhibition for myself in the Copse – fastening prints to trees. More courage needed!
Additionally I now have Susan Trangmar’s book “A Play In Time” – her study of a park in Hove – that contains photographs in various formats (some I think stills from the film) accompanied by a DVD of the film. I do want to experiment more with size and format of images and have decided to create a book dummy. My thinking is probably too literal at present because, to me, it seems more logical that images should be in decreasing sizes from landscape, through creating, then the creation itself.
I also want to continue with my video experiments and would like to do a Workshop on this if I can find an appropriate one as Local Adult education courses seem to concentrate solely on photography. Part 4 of C&N awaits me with its focus on analysing photographs so I need to organise my time more efficiently now so that I can do the reading and still take photographs and play around with videos.
I’ve begun reading Wanderlust. It’s a book I know I will read and re-read slowly to absorb all the many paths it explores. I found Rebecca Solnit’s comments on landscape and photography interesting and they fitted in with my experience of creating self portraits in the Copse. “Artists, of course have walked. […..] but once they found their view they stopped traipsing around, and more importantly, their images stopped the view forever” (p. 267) She sees writing and walking resembling each other more than art and walking, because writing and art are both temporal, they cannot be seen all at once because they unfold in time. A lot to ponder upon.
30th September 2015
Solnit, R (2002) Wanderlust, Granta Publications, London (2014)