Thinking about narrative

Assignment three has the notion to produce a set of ten images that, as a set, tells a story and conveys a narrative in colour.

To say that I’ve been feeling down about the course as a whole which, together with the other tangential issues of studying with the OCA, would, to put it mildly, be understating things. The trip to Arles was perhaps too inspiring, too rich in ideas, too full of work and ideas that I had a reaction to it that suggested a futility in continuing, knowing that I would never match up, nor approach, nor even veer near the artistry of what was on show. I had thought of requesting time off to consider my options. I may still do so. I now recognise the distance to travel and it seems unlikely, at this distance, that I will achieve that goal. I had a brief chat with my tutor who suggested a couple of things to try and thankfully, didn’t pressurise me to work towards the next assignment.

Coming away from Arles I have become more and more aware of text. It has clear purposes, it directs and informs, it positions and denotes more easily that imagery. But with that authority it can also mislead, misdirect and misinform; sometimes wilfully and sometimes without malice aforethought. I am becoming more and more attracted to the significance of the word as part of where I think I may head to, whether I’ll reach that particular end is another matter, but no matter – I am told it’s just about the journey!

I’ve been away again; post Arles, we decided to go away. Nothing to do with the course, just about being away. A few days in Cornwall, some peace and quiet (even in August) to walk and talk. It was suggested that I took my camera both by my wife and by my tutor, I wasn’t going to. Why? What for? I did and was happy that I had. A couple of years ago I would have packed a big case with at least two cameras, plenty of film, some lenses and a tripod; we would have walked miles, trekked up and down hills/mountains, across woods and forests and around lakes and seas. Looking for and finding pictures that provided a singular look at a subject. I call them thin pictures, Jesse Alexander has them as ‘Easel Art’ and he is much kinder than I  “‘Contemporary Photography’ also stands up to ‘Pictorial Photography’, which is really about vision on a much simpler level. In my article I quote Paul Hill describing the tradition in pictorialism, for ..’easel art’, which implies two things: firstly, that the thing might need to be appealing to look at (which much contemporary photography – in itself – is not) and secondly; that the thing is meant to stand alone, without the company of other photographs.” I won’t link to it here, but his original article is here and his recent reference to it can be found on his blog site – I absolutely don’t want to ride on his coat tails. So going away without a camera would have been a first in about a quarter of a century, and I had intended/expected to come back without an image.

What I found that sparked some contemplation was text. At the Eden project they have an installation whereby people make wishes on paper butterflies and pin them to a (very) large net. I would hazard a guess at around ten thousand wishes so far; most are in a heap on the floor as the net gets lowered for more access. But the wishes are still pinned to the net, the hopes and dreams of those impelled to express their desires, were continuing their journey of hope or desire. I was immediately struck by the possibility of generating a narrative from the material that connected, for me, anonymous individuals to a ‘wish’. I decided to try and also take some pictures that I felt connected me to those wishes, to appropriate the texts, as if they were mine, to contextualise an ‘other’s’ emotions with my experience. And so I took a lot of other, non ‘wish’ images, with a very singular purpose which was to look for images that, from a personal perspective had a strong sense of symbolism that I could associate the imagery to the text. Knowing what the words had said, what sort of emotions they were expressing and what the words meant to me would, I hoped, inspire the images that came through that process.

Whether I’ll use the images for the next assignment or not isn’t yet an option. I have to live with them for while and see what they say. I have done a first pass edit and have come up with a few images. I decided to couple the text to my image, to couple the appropriated narrative pinned to the netting with an image, which whilst it will never denote the context of the text, goes someway to express my associated thoughts about the text. What I mean to say is that I had the text in my mind whilst I took all the images that I have freely associated with the butterfly wishes.

Images are diptychs – a text coupled with an image. A first pass, but at least I am thinking about what the course is requesting………………. The composite images are in no particular order. I feel that I should be able to develop a narrative with these texts and images – whether it will have strength to get through the assignment is another matter entirely.

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3 thoughts on “Thinking about narrative

  1. I know this is your selection but it fascinates me how even something like this becomes almost a shrine. You’ve put the butterflies together with your images in such a gentle way and yet the images reinforce the message. I’ve been pondering on how you would present them if you do use them for your project. Hope you’ll bring them with you on Saturday.

    • Presentation isn’t the highest priority at the moment – though I have been thinking about it a bit. Not sure whether I’ll have a sensible narrative to speak about on Saturday – builders in today and tomorrow! But I plan to bring whatever I’ve done to the session on Saturday.

  2. Pingback: Thames Valley meeting August 18th 2013. | John Umney - Documentary

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