Looking back, reflecting, on this course I see that all the work has been very personal both in terms of my response to the notion of the document and to the genre of ‘documentary’ and so it perhaps fitting that this final assignment should also be personal.
I have reflected many times about the nature of my own work, how what I have made has felt insubstantial, and maybe how I wanted to create images that were pretty and to some extent the fact that many have found their way to walls persuaded me to that conclusion – but I had no idea what or how I would transfer to making work that I felt had some depth. Actually I am quite happy with the work that I’ve produced for this course, the work with the Gross’ – here and here, the reflection with my mother in that they still have a resonance with me. My thoughts on the ‘industry’ of photo-journalism hasn’t been mitigated through study, perhaps the reverse. I suspect the pivotal point was to look at Jaar’s work in Arles and his use, by non-use, of imagery chimed very loudly with how I felt about the contract between commerce and pain, between capitalism and suffering. Bloomberg and Chanarin, perhaps Norfolk to some extent and others, are the sort of artists that have broadened and informed my initial naïve view of that world.
I started this course with a sense of excitement and that excitement has continued with me. I have explored things that I hadn’t expected to appear on my horizon, it has made me question many things about my attitudes toward a range of issues that had either lain dormant in me or were entirely new conversations. But it is to the expressly personal that I have found myself inexorably drawn, as I veer towards completion of this module I have taken some advice from my tutor to start making images that I enjoy! Well I have always enjoyed making images, but recently I have found that the images I have been making have a greater sense of me and less of a sense of replication in them. The images in assignment five are about me, by me, for me, and whilst I know that (a few) other people will regard them and reinterpret them, coloured by their own life experience, I am content with what they depict.
Listening to Jason Evans’ lecture in Westminster about ‘Nice’ pictures was another turning point, it was when I realized that I could place myself into the frame and not be overly concerned about how ‘deep’ the narrative might be. With assignment five I have tried to deliver imagery that provides a visual engagement, much as Tom Hunter said in his talk about how he uses ‘beauty’ to engage in order to provide the means by which the narrative might be delivered into a conversation with the viewer. I have used the text to try and ‘steer’ the viewer to consider what the combination of text and imagery might mean, and I hope/expect that the viewer might reinterpret using their own life experiences – ‘death of an author’ maybe – but intentionally so. I am also aware that I have contrived fictions from these images, much as Fontcuberta has used a much more radical fictive set of constructions in his Flora and Fauna to position them as factual, I wonder whether these images, anchored with text, will provide ‘new’ fictions and ask questions regarding the viewers history.
The pictures are real, they were there and made present for this assignment. The texts have been collected from my personal archives for this purpose and therefore this set of images are constructed as new fictive testaments and hopefully nice ones at that.
I want to add some words about words. That words are fickle, malleable and transcendent, there can of course be no doubt; however it is perhaps more usual by words that we have bound ourselves to people and places in our lives. The first word, the last word. The contract, the binding. The metaphor, the allusion. These are all cast by the intentional construct of letters. English is one of the densest of languages, with perhaps more words in its alphabet than most if not all other tongues. The depth of spelt lettering comes with it a burden of representation that is, prima facie, the responsibility of the author. The author launches the text in the general or specific direction of travel for the narrative benefit of the reader, for there can be no other reason for writing other than to be read, and in doing so removes the tie to it’s origin. Barthes and others have discussed the ‘Death of the Author’, that a work is cast adrift despite, or perhaps because of, the best intents of the author. The written text becomes interpreted; it can never be precisely what the author intended, for readers thereafter come bounded by their own bane of experience.
Whatever these found words once were, I have of course on reflection reinterpreted; what were specific motives have become other, sometimes less so than before some now more so. These words (that I have archived for their treasurous value) are attached to a point in time, most are in manuscript form – in pencil or ink, in ball point or nib – and they each have resonances because of that, they are inexorable connected to the person who constructed them and at the time of their creation. Transcribing these texts, those letters into a ‘font’ de-contextualizes them immediately, they become something else at once. And so these words which I have entered into a frame that also contains an image, become re-contextualized; the reader is presented with a conundrum that is devised by their own sense of self, not specifically any of my own divination. The words are set-free and, when encountered in a frame with an image, come to illuminate that image in a wholly new and fictive way.
The images though have had a different course to emerge on the page. They are, by most analyses, the product of the past. The framing of these photographs, these personal reflections to an instant in time mediated by the intrusion of light, is a construct of personal history, my history. The images are me, they are self-portraits informed by, amongst many other things, the letters that accompany them. The assembling of image and text that can only have been coupled by the sense of ‘I’ that constructs the frame. The images are more about me than the words perhaps?
The final edit. The images were printed – with the longest side set at 12.5cms and the text at 10pt (the screen representations only work if ‘clicked-on’), I used Canson Baryta, which whilst a beautiful paper also has a stiffness that helps with the viewing (I hope). The position (of the images) in the sequence, together with the ordering of the sequence came about after some lengthy deliberations with all of the images spread over the floor, and they are in the order as set out below. I wanted to suggest connections and then to break them; this is also the reason for the different placements of the text in the frame and the variance of landscape to portrait images, an effort to ask questions both of the viewer and the narrative elements in the images. I suppose the first and last images have a narrative sense that might appear to be obvious (?). I have presented them to my tutor as a sequence of images rather than fifteen individual images. I have attached the prints together and thereby forced ‘connections’ between images and forced, to some extent, the narrative journey of the images – though of course one may start to view the images in any place, but their relatives will always be the same. Whether it works for anyone else but me I’m not sure but I have enjoyed this process immensely and I’m hoping it has legs for the future.