Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Assignment One - Assessment Submission (from 'Tied')

The second major topic of discussion with Jesse was the nature of my assessment submission for Assignment One.  My impression is that he would be perfectly happy with me submitting some mildly revised and re-edited versions of the images I sent to him back in May 2012; but I shared what I had been doing with the 'Tied' project, and he agreed that the work is 'interesting' and that I will submit a set of prints from this series, as a 're-submission' - "Entirely by your own choice".  I think the latter phrase was more an indication that I was voluntarily doing more work rather than a hint that I might be wise to leave well alone!  He did, quite rightly, encourage me to 'contextualise' this new submission in writing (coming up below); also to think about the sequencing (also coming up below); and to go with the simple 'deletions' on their own rather than the diptychs and triptychs.

My last post on this subject did do some contextualisation, but here is a more considered attempt to set out where these images come from and what they are about.

·     They do originate in a documentary-style interest in the phenomenon of the knotted strings, ropes and wires that adorn and fix almost every field gate in the neighbourhood - and indeed beyond this neighbourhood, as I have subsequently observed.  That idea alone had, and still has, potential for an interesting and visually effective set of images, which also have potential for broader, metaphorical readings - as hinted at by my title 'Tied'.

·     Working on that project and considering its presentation, I found myself thinking more about the 'craft' and 'process' of the image-making, and more about how others might read my presentation than about the subject and my intentions.  I spent time, for example, pondering what form of light would work best for these images - not untypical for this form of documentary/landscape work.

·     In parallel, though, I was researching and reading for my Assignment Four essay on contemporary still life image-making - the work of Lucas Blalock, for example; his use of post-processing and manipulation but also, coincidentally, the presence in his work of loops of tubing and other materials.  And I had also seen, for the second time, Mishka Henner's Less Americains, in which he has digitally removed parts of the Robert Frank images 'Les Americains'.  As Henner says in this interview, he was "... questioning the nature of photography and the nature of documentary photography".  He also says "I realized I was actually creating something new".

·     That led me to think about alternative ways of moving forward with my 'Tied' project.  Instead of the 'traditional' approach of getting the lighting and other 'craft' aspects right, were there deeper questions to be explored by, for example, taking Henner's lead and, in my case, deleting the very subject I had set out to photograph.  (Perhaps also worth adding that I began the process of selecting the string in one of the images as preparation for some other form of processing, but the idea of deletion partly grew from that.)

·     The six images presented all involve the deletion of the string or rope that was 'tied' to gates, fences or whatever in my original photograph.  In one case, the deletion has even gone a stage further, 'revealing' something that was not present in the original. The outcome is certainly something different from the original.  There are clear echoes of what was there before, but the images are now, potentially, also reflecting on the photographic process - the layers of influence of the photographer, the issues about truth and reality, for example.  Some of them open up new 'formal' ideas - the deleted subject seeming to come forward in the composition, as though it was a paper cut-out.  But there could be scope for new meanings and metaphorical readings.  Does the series raise questions about 'absence'?  Might there be reference to the gaps in life, missing aspects that we long to fill?  Chiefly, I have been interested by the ways in which this processing and manipulation (which has required considerable time and care!) has 'rewards' in evoking new and potentially more complex images than the original 'documentary' project might have revealed.

So then to the question of sequencing; how best to lay out the set of six images that I have selected for submission?  I have actually laid out two different sequences below - with quite different intentions.

The first format might be described as my Formal Sequence, ordering the images in a manner that seeks some formal progression of shapes, composition, framing, etc.  Here it is:

The second sequence could be referred to as a Narrative Sequence, and picks up on my idea that altering the images as I have opens up the possibility of more complex readings.  Without commenting specifically on any particular narrative, I present the following option.


This is quite an interesting comparison, for me, and it takes me right back to some issues in my own mind at the very start of this module, which have been partially but not entirely resolved.  I have, I would say, become very interested in what I might term the 'intellectual' exploration of photography, maybe at the expense of its 'emotional' potential.  That dilemma was troubling me, to an extent, as I started out on PwDP, but the 'intellectual' choice seems to have suited me well as the module has progressed.  It is, I would say, where I headed with Assignments Four and Five, and where this 're-make' of Assignment One has led me - until I look at the second sequence!  That could very well be read at an emotional and personal level.  I will make a choice between these two before sending in my submission - but I note that the dilemma is still not entirely resolved as I contemplate Level Three!



  1. Interesting Stan, and more so with your contextualisation. My readings aren't about absence, they are, you'll be unsurprised to hear :) about the politicisation of the land. Rather than absence I see, by the use of a bright white, the foregrounding of the ties that form boundaries, keeping me out of where I don't belong. Gates and doors have always held allegorical status in imagery and the only image without a gate is one that has a noose.
    I think your work to try and understand what it was you felt about the images allowed me to reflect on the acts of enclosure and how the land was pillaged by and for the aristocracy..... don't get me started!

    1. Thanks for sharing your reading of the series, John, which also has resonance for me; especially since I just recently read 'The Making of the English Landscape' by W. G. Hoskins. You may already know the book - written in 1955 - and a new edition was just published this year, with an introduction by William Boyd. It has certainly opened my eyes on a few matters relating to the world I see around me.