Thames Valley Group Meeting : Saturday 11th October 2014

Thames Valley Group Meeting : Saturday 11th October 2014

Sharon was unable to join us this time as she was unwell but eight of us decided we would still meet. The discussion topic had been “Strategies and Presentation” and we agreed we would weave this theme around work review instead of having a separate discussion. It worked well and here I will attempt to pull out relevant strands for myself.

We’ve been able to follow John’s developmental thinking on how to create “open” work along the lines of Umberto Eco’s thinking– his strategies. My understanding is that this begins from knowing what you want to say but leaving the work ‘open’ for people to read their own story within it. My concern is that, if the artists knows what they want to say but leaves people to impute/infer a meaning, then this could be termed as playing mind-games. There needs to be some ‘clues’ not to lead a viewer/reader but to provide some ‘anchoring’. The theme of his images was “Marks and Traces”.  beautiful to the eye with much that could be described as marks and traces. In the second set, John added words in his own handwriting (themselves marks), asking how they fitted. He had also paired the images so we could investigate how they fitted together and with the words. To me the words didn’t always fit and yet that didn’t seem to matter as the handwriting together with the images provided such an intimate feel, drawing me in closer to the images. The word interrogate keeps coming in to mind – I’ve heard this said before in relation to analysing photographs – but to my mind it’s more like a dialogue; questioning and teasing out meaning from the object which is a photograph. Being able to hold and touch; that materiality of being, adds so much more; invites one, in whereas a digital image withholds some of itself behind the screen. I am beginning to wonder whether an open work in a photographic sense does require the presence of physical prints and will keep this in mind.

Keith continues his quest to find the right way of combining image with text in his East London work  and contextualising it also in relation to Eco. He talked further of Eco and also Roland Barthes and the use of text as either anchoring an image or opening up a discourse. We looked at some of his prints and how he is using the text in relation to these dramatic images where people are present through their absence, and ‘actors’ from our imagination can slot into them.

We further discussed Stephen and Martin’s efforts to make assignments interesting and Richard’s work to produce single images that each tell a story whilst being linked within a theme.

I shared efforts I am making to get myself out of my ‘stuck’ phase by doing some writing around my fascination with the woods. I’ve written separately about this here . It was such a helpful session for me and I do feel more enthusiastic which is a relief.

More on Strategies and Presentation

I have found the two books Context and Narrative (M. Short 2011) and Behind the Image (A. Fox & N. Caruana, 2012) very illuminating. I haven’t found many other books by photographers where they outline their strategies, although Peter Marlow’s The English Cathedral (2012)was enlightening in this respect as he includes a Technical Note at the end describing how he set about making the photographs..

Listening to other students talk about their work and following their blogs brings the process of creating a project very much alive for me. Step by step experimentation; re-doing something; changing direction slightly; searching for the ‘right’ way to achieve a result. There’s also the amount of research – background information, history, Art, how other photographers have approached subjects. I know this can seem overwhelming at times and almost undoable, but I also find the process itself exciting and invigorating.



Fox, A & Caruana, N (2012) Behind the Image, Ava Publishing, SA
Marlow, P. (2012) The English Cathedral, Merrell Publishers Ltd, London
Short, M. (2011) Context and Narrative, Ava Publishing, SA.