Reflection on Assignment 5

I decided to wait until I had received some feedback through blog comments before writing this Reflection as I wanted to see if I had met my stated intention:

I am much taken by the concept of the “uncanny” where we see a world that resembles ours yet appears to have been replaced by a substitute. With this photograph I aim to depict a moment in time in a domestic setting. Real people in a real place but constructed to convey something unseen. My hope is that there is enough of an ‘open’ narrative to interest the viewer and evoke a response’

I’ve been so pleased and encouraged by the comments I received indicating how the composition and various signs within it connoted a range of narratives.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I think my technical skills have improved during the past two months. Dealing with lighting and setting-up equipment always seemed a difficult task to me but I learned just to see them as tools during the Studio Photography day instead of foreign objects so I can now put everything together reasonably quickly. Additionally I now have a better idea of the steps I need to take to get the type of light I want at least to a reasonably competent level. Gels and green screens etc will have to wait awhile.

In terms of composition – I was clear that I wanted tight framing – as can be seen by the lighting set-up photograph I included that actually shows what was outside the frame. I left just enough in the frame though to draw attention – the cards at the end of the cabinet and the dog’s bone.

I chose the photograph I did despite the dog stepping into the scene – unknown to me because I was focussing inwards at the time. When I first looked at the image on the back screen I thought, “Oh! No!” but looked again and realised that she had introduced that random element – choosing her own decisive moment – as does life in general. This also created a disconnect from the ‘perfection’ of, say, a Jeff Wall or Gregory Crewdson scene which meant that I wasn’t ‘copying’ either of them.

Quality of Outcome

The comments I received did indicate that viewers read a variety of narrative into the scene and even those who know me were able to suspend disbelief. Indeed, some of them saw more than I had intended, e.g. the matching clothing indicating a couple who are confluent in some respects, despite appearing to be detached and withdrawn at times.

There were times when I was concerned that I was spending too much time reading and reflecting, allied to my anxiety at meeting the Module deadline, but it did work for me because I think all this was a strong foundation for what seemed at the time to be a spontaneous impulse to make a photograph. I wrote several blog posts leading up to the assignment expressing my thoughts on “uncanny’, and the frozen aspect of staged photographs, yet I also knew how this intrigued me and that I was drawn to the psychological undercurrents of Gregory Crewdson’s work. I knew there was something I was struggling with and then an apparently fleeting thought occurred to me.

It seemed to me that, whilst Crewdson might be creating photographs that were eerie, unsettling, difficult to understand on the surface of it, he was speaking about them in a way that pointed towards the existential anxieties that we feel as human beings and usually work to ignore/overcome. – the purpose of life, the push-pull of yearning to be free against the yearning to belong, the uncertainty of being alive and facing the knowledge that we all die one day.

I could well be wrong about Crewdson, but I think that my recognition of my own feelings, especially at that time of year, enabled me to express some of this in the photograph and for it to be seen by viewers. This was the first time I had written a more formal statement. I know this is expected at the next Level and that I need to refine and improve my skills in this respect.

Demonstration of Creativity

I took a risk in enacting a domestic scene and undercurrents in a relationship in my own home and with my own partner. However, he was very willing to collaborate, even though slightly puzzled as to what I was aiming for at times. I think the experiment worked and I was able to transmit something normally ‘unseen’ and not always talked about. I’ve written above about our dog, how she stepped into the scene and I’m pleased this happened because although I do plan photographs I think I do more creative work when I leave myself open to serendipity and her presence serves as a visual metaphor for that.

I’m also pleased that I have managed to encapsulate some of my learning through the Module in this final Assignment. When I look back at my original intentions, here  I see that I met several on the list. The photograph showed a relationship in time and place and conveyed something unseen through using signs, symbols and visual metaphors. I put myself well into the frame and this has been a gradual process since first declaiming that I did not like self-portraits. I think I achieved the “uncanny” in a constructed scene that evoked narrative interpretations in viewers without the use of a caption or textual descriptions. 

Context

 At the time, I know I was anxious about meeting the expectation of the brief and unsure what I might produce but now, looking back, I enjoyed the whole process.

All my reading, research and thinking has been documented along the way and I believe I have increased my understanding and use of constructed photographs within my own practice.

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