Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback and Reflection

4.KarenAllen

The feedback for Assignment 4 was very encouraging and has given me plenty to think about as I approach the final part of Identity and Place.  The theme of the assignment was more interesting than previous ones as, to a certain extent, it was back on familiar territory from previous modules.  I have always responded positively to words and pictures, and am often inspired by music with songs and lyrics.  What was particularly encouraging was the he reacted positively to the way that I attempted to break out of the usual pattern of my assignments, and try something a little different.  He said that I “produced an assignment that feels like you have taken more ownership” and “pushed your conceptual input, which is a big step”.  For me, breaking away from straight up photographs is something that I have wanted to do but not been brave enough to have a go for an assignment. Here was my chance, and it was a good chance. I felt that I had actually pushed past something in me that had been holding back.  I did enjoy the assignment in the end, and it was a strong idea that stuck early on but the enhancement into something different is what I found satisfying and the fact that my tutor was positive about it too meant a lot to me.

His recommendations are very valid. He has suggested that I make more images to present, and incorporate the threads more into teach one. “This would also allow you to push the idea of the thread further, entwining it deeper into your photographs as you have with, The Sea 4. I really like the way that you have used the thread to work with the image, wrapping around the handrail, twisted wood on the beach and the woman. I feel that I would like to see more of this process, working with your other photographs, weaving in and out of the objects/seascapes, providing a link between each location and story. “  I think that this is something that I will pursue once I have finished as I would like to have a break from the intensity of this assignment to give me a bit of distance, and get on with the final one before returning to it later.  There is more work to be done on all of them, but distance in time works well for me and I can achieve some clarity.

Interestingly, not long after I had submitted my work, the Magnum newsletter came up and on it was an article on a photographer who used the Shopping Forecast to inspire his work. Mark Power :

https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/society-arts-culture/mark-power-the-shipping-forecast/

It tells how he was inspired over the course of four years to travel to each of the areas on the forecast to make images that reflect the sense of being a ‘landlubber’ rather than the sea going people.  The images are all black and white and have wide ranging themes, each is captioned by the shipping forecast for that area on that day. It is an interesting idea and project, and while he captures mainly people my feeling is that I would have approached the whole thing from the point of view of places. That is what makes us all different I suppose.

Overall, it feels as though I have taken a step forward to a different place of thinking about photography and while I was apprehensive in submitting the work that I had done, it is good to know that I am on the right track away from the norm for me.  I am planning to incorporate the changes that Chris Coekin has suggested and I look forward to doing that in due course.

Tutor Suggested Research:

1 Hiroshi Sugimoto

“Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing.”  Seascapes. 

This website has several of his work series, and what I found fascinating is the way that they are all very alike, in the way that they are presented.  He present three images from each series, black and white image, side by side and they are all broadly the same ie Seascapes  is a series of three black and white image where the sea takes up half of the frame and the sky the other half.  Being in black and white there are varying shades of grey in there and how bright they are: one is very bright, one is very dark and one is almost blurred.  Yet they all connect as a group.

https://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/seascapes-1 – I thought that it looked like the U2 cover No Line On The Horizon, and wondered if it had been done by him, or perhaps Inspired by him? Yes! It is a Sugimoto photograph that they used on the cover.  Although it cause controversy when another artist claimed that they ad taken their idea, and while Sugimoto had given them usage of the photograph for free and endorsed the band, U2 had just paid for it which devalues the original.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/jan/20/u2-album-cover-hiroshi-sugimoto

The other one that struck me was on architecture, even more relevant now that I am doing Part 5 and there is a section on buildings and architecture.  He deliberately blurs the buildings to see is they stand the test that it is possible to identify them even if they are just blurred outlines.

https://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/new-page-5  the Eiffel tower blurred, ‘erosion-testing’ the limit to which it can be blurred and still be recognisable.  He questions how many of our building today will be as identifiable in the future?

I thought his work was really interesting in its simplicity and straightforwardness.  There was no angle to it and while it is simple, there is a strong theme that ties them all together.  It is this that the exercises in Part 5 of I&P are aiming to address, to have uniformity in the work that is about the work rather than the person doing the work.

2. Julie Cockburn

She machine sews over the top of found photographs.  Again, this links back to another artist he suggested John Stezaker who used montage using old photographs and vintage postcards to subvert the meaning.  She can change the meaning by sewing intricate patterns over the faces of the sitters, sometimes obscuring them completely. I found it interesting, but preferred the ones that looked more like scribbles and less measured.  This image: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/28/embroidered-vintage-portrait-photography-julie-cockburn#img-7 reminded me of another album cover, this time Disclosure who’s album Settle and subsequent photos and covers feature a drawn image over the top of photographs of the band members and other animals.  Likened this to Disclosure: https://store.disclosureofficial.com/*/*/Settle-br-CD-Album/2J6J0000000.  I was interested to see that this idea had been fully explained by the design company https://www.studiomoross.com/casestudy/disclosure-art-direction/ but again there were claims of plagiarism by another artist at them using his idea.  Maybe nothing is unique anymore.

3. Thomas Joshua-Cooper

I looked at his work but was not as engaged with this as the other two artists suggested.  I found the images too pale and there was nothing that caught my attention when looking at them, apart from one.  http://www.inglebygallery.com/artists/thomas-joshua-cooper/

Twilight – Rapids on the River Ness, The Weir, Dochgarroch, Inverness, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 2002-2014.

This was more abstract as it was a reflection of light on water but took more looking at it to fully appreciate the patterns and the tones in the image.  As part of a series, it worked alright but I was not engaged with the whole series and moved on quite quickly.

Interesting as all this stemmed from me sewing three photographs together and my tutor suggested looking at these as alternative viewpoints on the sea and the practice of sewing photographs.

 

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Part 4 Exercise 4.3 Storyboard

It is a very basic storyboard as it is something that I haven’t really considered before as well as being lacking in the drawing skills department.  The story also is basic but it’s the point of the exercise that is important rather than the content.

 

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The main gist of the story comes across in the sequence so it is pretty obvious what is happening.  I did two sets of captions to see if the way I looked at the narrative changed, and whether I could change what the story was by changing the captions.  The first set was very basic and not really adding anything.  In fact they reinforce the narrative rather than add something different.  The story is: going out for a walk with the dogs; one disappears; then the other; nothing while all parties are looking for each other;  one appears; greeted with joy; other one appears; firmly on the lead to go home.

 

 

 

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The second set I tried to be more obscure and suggest a darker meaning.  It could be that the person is in a much darker place and going out with possible bad consequences.  In fact there are a couple of perspectives at work with one possible scenario being that the person goes out and tries to leave the animals behind but then thinks better of it.  The alternative is that the person goes out with the intention of losing themselves but the animals prevent them from harming themselves by looking for them and finding them.

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Adding captions was harder than I thought because I think this is one of the weaknesses that I have generally anyway.  Titles can be very literal or banal and I am always impressed by really good titles that can add something to the image.  This is something that I will need to work on, and I found it particularly tricky in Assignment 3 where I had a lot of images and not enough of an idea to caption them so that the titles added something to them.  This exercise, while not being particularly creative, made me think about how artists caption their work and how the caption along with an explanation creates the context in which to view it.  They do guide the viewer looking to understand work.  I was thinking this when looking at David Favrod’s work Hakiri, because my view of the image was enhanced by the explanation although not necessarily by the title.  Sometimes I find Untitled the most frustrating title as I am left wondering about meanings, but perhaps that is why they do it, to allow the viewer to make their own narrative for the image.

As an additional thing, I went out with the dogs and using my phone tried taking some images that would tell a similar story, not easy when it all has to be at arms length! It was interesting looking around and seeing how I could translate the storyboard into actual images. Here are the images for a set that varies a little from the drawn narrative:

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Exercise 4.2 A Day Out

Choose a day that you can spend out and about looking with no particular agenda. Be conscious of how images and texts are presented to you in the real world – on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and online, for example. Make notes in your learning log on some specific examples and reflect upon what impact the text has on how you read the overall message.

Consider: Does the text close the image down (i.e. inform or direct your reading) or open it up (i.e. allow for your personal interpretation to play a part in creating the final meaning)? What do you think was the intention of the creator in each instance?

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Tattoo Shop, Torbay Road

Adverts adverts everywhere.  We are bombarded by images and text, advertising everything, exhorting us to buy buy buy, spend spend spend.  Telling us what to do, what to think and what we should be achieving. Watch our health, beware of thieves and absolutely. Do. Not. Park. Here.  Street signs are there with restrictions rather than helpful information.  Newspapers are full of holidays, investment plans, away days and what we should be doing to our homes and gardens.

I wandered around the town of Paignton this afternoon and took time to look around me as I walked through the shopping area and the back streets by the church. A lot of the shops had signs outside to advertise offers or to show what they were selling, pictures and words. “Come in, we are open.”

Convenience stores had photographs of beautiful fruit and veg with smiling staff outside while inside the reality was not as portrayed: the colours of the fruit not so bright, the selection not so lush and the staff not so smiley on a damp Friday afternoon in the Easter holidays.  Meanwhile, there were signs that promised a regeneration of an old cinema and to be part of it while the hoarding was tattered and the building unchanged.

I compared a local newspaper and a national newspaper to see what was going on in there too.  The national paper was a weekend edition with a magazine supplement.  In there, there was an featured home of a designer with a double page spread of photographs of the interior.  The interior was expensive and full of things that most people could not afford but I suppose that that is the point – this is something to aspire to, to give ideas of what things you could have to brighten your home.  I look at these houses and wonder if anyone actually lives in this perfection as my home is untidy and needs cleaning and tidying just to break the surface let alone look like this!

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Hang a Hockney 

The local newspaper had a lot of images of local events and then adverts.  This page was about food to eat at easter.  The thing that struck me was that it is very busy with layers of images and text, and a couple of font styles. Bottles of wine are layered over food, but the main picture is of a meal that is centred around wine.  It’s all about eating and drinking.

 

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Feast for Easter
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Ships, dogs and Eggs

I was interested in this page.  The photograph at the top of the page is of a beautiful ship in Torbay and that echoes the heritage of the area which has a busy fishing port and had a ship building industry on the River Dart round the corner. Below that is a huge headline about the ban that affects the beaches of the bay that means dogs are not allowed on the beaches during the summer months.  There is always controversy about the early start to the ban as beaches are empty in the evenings and could be put to better use. The headline dominates everything on the page, screaming to be heard on what is really a banal subject. Followed by an advert for cheap eggs.  From dogs needing to run free on the beach to advertising for a product that possibly come from hens kept confined.  Freedom versus confinement, but I do not know.  It’s just a thought.

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Police Action

The next one had two stories about the less populist aspect of life with two stories about police attendance at incidents.  It just made me laugh out loud that the face had been obscured with a smiley face – totally at odds with the fact he was smashing down someone’s front door.  It trivialises what they were doing which was raiding houses of suspected drug dealers in Torquay.  Why a smiley face, was he supposed to be enjoying himself?

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Lose Weight, Drop a Dress Size, Fade Away

And of course, with summer approaching it is time to get into the gym and slim down and tone up ready for the beach or the wedding or a special event.  It seems that doing it just because it might be a good thing to do on a more long term basis is not on the agenda.  Short term fixes are the name of the game.  I also looked at this from the point of view that if you slim down and get fit then you might end up getting married as a result.

It was an exercise in looking around me and I did that, although I do tend to wander along looking at signs and images, often with a cynical eye.  Adverts are designed to make you buy something, change something or comply with something. Notices and signs and images are everywhere, we use pictures to put the message across then bolster it with words.   My overall impression is that most are directing you to think in a certain way rather than leave it open for interpretation.  This is certainly true of advertising. Newspapers are full of adverts, the magazines of beautiful photographs of houses, food and clothing.  Generally they are designed to sell products or services, depending on the situation of the ad or article.  In music magazines for example, the photographs are there to illustrate the writing, to underline the subject matter. From a personal point of view, I often look closely at the image and disconnect it from the rest of the writing in order to study it, see how they managed to get that look, effect or feeling.  Sometimes they inspire me to try something different in my photography.

 

 

Exercise 4.1 Looking at Adverts

I looked at Number 15 in the series of Looking at Adverts, on cosmetics for men and the masculinity of products.  Adverts for men are full of images of men who are depicted as rugged, athletic, groomed.  In particular, it made me think of adverts for perfume and aftershave.  The female versions are of beautiful women in situations that suggest mystery or that they are childlike in a wonderland.  Some depict women running away in dressed in beautiful dresses.  It seems that the female will get her man if she uses this perfume.  The male equivalents are full of suited males, looking important and busy or athletic and outdoors lovers with diving off cliffs or coming out of the waves.  The epitome of this is the advert for Invictus aftershave by Paco Rabanne where the Hero is a god who conquers all including the women.  It is a bit tongue on cheek but still attaches the Hero status to what is basically a cosmetic grooming product.

Dawn Wooley says that “The Clinique for Men adverts seem simple; the commodities are not cosmetic products but tools for men. They facilitate ‘work’ and perform some sort of labour.”  I have noticed this too, from the packaging for men’s products.  Most of it is in strong dark colours such as navy blue, dark green or grey.  The packaging is functional without any other pictures or wording – clean lines on dark packaging.  I agree that it  appears “the product is made to signify a scientific process, an investment and a form of labour”.   Why should this be?  From the female perspective I find that cosmetics for women are now colour coded as being fun, flirty, a bit naughty to indulge yourself but it doesn’t matter because we are worth it. This is the opposite of men – females are allowed to indulge themselves and are expected to do so; for males it is functional rather than desirable.  So maybe they do become tools.