I’ve spent a little bit of time on this process over the last 2 or 3 weeks – looking at the original brief, the images I submitted (and those I didn’t), the notes I prepared and the feedback from my tutor. I’m confident that my submission for assignment was, at least, a personal portfolio of images. I took photographs that I wanted to take, with subjects, framing, etc that were of interest to me. In the notes submitted I refer to quite a range of concepts/themes – stone, dilapidation, history, ruggedness, absurdity, survival, adaptation – and all of those are present in the submitted images. What I didn’t do, looking back now, was narrow that down to a common theme/concept and explore that through the images I prepared and chose.
The feedback was broadly good – a strong collection of images, a critical investigation of the area, good observation and commitment, conveys the atmosphere, good editing – and so on. But there was a comment that my tutor ‘would have liked to see more focus on one of the strands’, followed up in a subsequent exchange by ‘articulate the motivations behind your images a bit more ...’. So, once again, it seems to be a case of trying to get more focus and direction.
Thinking about it, there could have been two ways of doing that – 1) essentially have taken the same images but then edit with a strong focus/intent; 2) do more research and thinking up front, choose a theme, then go out and take photos that reflect it. Seems to me that either could be acceptable. The first is along the lines of Anish Kapoor – letting the ‘spiritual’ speak through the artist in the creative process & then the ‘reader’ reconnects. In fact, these are not mutually exclusive. My ‘personal portfolio’ for Assignment One was, probably, more akin to the first, but reflecting on the assignment now presents an opportunity to use that process as the ‘research’. What concepts and themes do I see now, when I review the longer set of images from which I made my choice? What appeals to me and seems to speak about the local area in a voice to which I best relate? What, in fact, do I want to say about the area? And what sort of edit does that produce? What new images does it make me want to capture that further the theme.
I’ve spent some time doing just such a review. There were 35 images in my long list, from which I selected 15 (probably too many) for the submission. I already had some prints of the submitted ones, but I’ve printed off the others and been shuffling them around, re-selecting and, I guess, re-reading. It seems to me that what I want to say about life in this corner of the Holme Valley (and I always intended to focus the assignment into a very narrow geography – bit like painter George Shaw in my earlier posts & his images from within a couple of hundred metres of where he grew up) was/is:
· Life is tough;
· Life is absurd;
· Life is rarely pretty;
· But we can make something of it.
And, of course, those are ideas that apply to life in general, not just the Holme Valley; universal concepts that are as much about man and his struggle to survive as they are about me creating images that evoke the neighbourhood where I live. And the ‘making something of it’ is as much about my images being the ‘making’ as it is about documenting what others have ‘made’. Bringing the techniques of the sublime landscape image to a shot of a pig farm is, in itself, a metaphor for man making the best of his lot.
So, where does that leave me in reviewing my images for Assignment One? It informs my edit of the images that I’ve already taken and it provides direction for me to continue to create images that will add to the portfolio. It provides me with a focus, when I’m out with the camera, locally; and I can continue to add/develop, so that by the time I submit for assessment I have a more focused, more clearly directed set of images for this assignment. It’s something I can continue to work on over the months to that stage – and beyond, of course.