Assignment four – critical essay, reflections on tutor response and moving on

assignment-4-essay1-modified.pdf

I found essay this harder than I expected, but for reasons other than those expectations. I relished the thought of reflecting what I thought of war documentary photography, knowing that by doing so I might draw a curtain between it and me; I have been immersed in it for some time now and feel the need to move on. I felt/still feel that if I was to continue on with this subject I might have difficulties withdrawing and tackling other subjects closer to me, to what I feel I want to be working on, though the specifics of where I am to move to aren’t at all clear currently. I have spoken about fiction before, how I feel that narrative, of important and difficult subjects, are perhaps better dealt with under the umbrella of fiction. The investigations that I did in filling the frame with an interpreted response – here and here – helped me to better comprehend how I thought about the fictiveness of the photograph. My few attempts at presenting the work have met with mixed responses, but whilst I instinctively feel that the concept has a sound foundation – though not yet a firm outcome – my early thoughts about assignment five, the personal project, which centered around having blank images supported with an audio narrative will be put on hold – at least as far as college work is concerned. This gives me a problem in that I now need to replace a germinated idea with something else that hasn’t begun as an idea as yet, so I’ll probably need to have a good think and maybe do some exercises, take some pictures, fill the void inside the frame….

My tutor was very supportive of the idea to use the absence of an image as the image and to address the narrative issues perhaps with an audio file, but my excursions for this project, albeit in it’s infancy, were so mixed that to present it as a final project, even in a mature state for assessment, seemed to be a high risk strategy and would need a great deal of contextualizing work as well as an engagement with assessors who might not have the time, or possibly the inclination, to invest in my work. And my only concern with the amount of work involved is that I might be further sucked into a subject that I am still feeling somewhat wary of. I presented the images (with no image) three times: the Thames Valley Group, a study day review in Bristol and locally with non-students. The worst reception by far was the Bristol event, probably due to how I presented the material; the audience seemed struck dumb and astonished with two or three handling the prints as if they were contaminated – mea culpa. It emphasized to me the need to contextualize the work, however poor the work is, to ensure the viewer(s) have a chance to comprehend and/or engage with what it is that I am trying to explore with the work.

I am toying with the idea of ‘re-photographing’ some of the war photographs, using landscapes nearby, perhaps local people to re-envisage or re-interpret images of war that I find resonate with me on an emotional level, though I am concerned that by doing so I may miss other images to investigate because I am not being objective enough in my selection.

I have some suggestions follow up from my tutor: What would be my proposal, rather then just a polemical piece of what is wrong, what would I suggest – something I think I need to consider for a while. And to do a short practical assignment to offer a way forward to help me stop thinking about photographs that give me grief and start to take photographs that make me happy. Well in answer to the last point I do take pictures that make me happy, this course is one aspect of me as a photographer – an important part, but nevertheless only a part. I will do the short assignment, but maybe not necessarily on war photography. Thanks go to my tutor for her support on this.

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