Further analysis of Windows

Photography students’ critical analysis of their own images traditionally occurs in written self-evaluations and ‘critiques’ where their photographs are viewed and discussed. Analysis is thus often understood to be a physically remote conceptual process that takes place in the realm of language, beyond the doing of photography.

Autographic Photographic, University of Brighton

Following my tutor’s feedback from assignment one I have been researching different approaches to evaluating and critiquing my own work, and the work of others. I have found a range of useful resources from using Bloom’s Taxonomy (familiar to me through my professional work) to semiotics. These all seemed helpful in different ways for creating a written analysis but while they were useful in developing an intellectual and conceptual response they felt lacking in some inexplicable way.

I then found Autographic Photographic and for me the elements I felt were missing emerged. This gave me a more embodied approach that involved working directly on and in the image, it also slowed down the process encouraging me to look and work deeper than I might have before. I used a number of techniques: Linear/Vector drawing (based on Whiteread laboured reflection), reproduction through physical copying/drawing, and different Photoshop filters (edges & mezzotint). Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to some of the printmaking methods suggested but felt the approaches I used gave me a similar sense of physically being in dialogue with an image.

I chose to work on the window image because I think it was one of the more problematic shots of the hospital set for assignment one, yet it also had something that kept drawing me back to it. It felt like it had more to offer that I hadn’t quite captured – Cotton’s notion of being an ‘itchy/scratchy’ image.

I had included it in the initial set because for me the windows signified something about ‘windows on the soul’, a metaphorical link to mental health and how it might be represented. I was struck by their reflective nature that meant you couldn’t actually see through the windows but could only imagine what might lie on the other side.

The mark making in particular highlighted the compositional deficiencies, it showed how central the window and its shadows were and an overall grid like, structure, which was less than interesting. Completing the linear/vector drawing was actually quite depressing as I really started to see the deficiencies and blandness of the image. I think it also reinforced my own sense of not being a natural street photographer. While I did take a considerable number of images for this assignment I know I took many of them quickly, such was my discomfort in being in other peoples’ spaces. It felt intrusive and I felt like an intruder.

Where I thought the shadows in the window were enough to create interest I could see that it was not enough to hold the image together compositionally. In looking at it more deeply in many ways it was obvious this was the case but in the heat of preparing for the assignment I hadn’t recognised it. This has shown me something about the need to slow down and live with the images over time, to work into them and explore their form and content further. In many ways the core of the image emerged as the reflections of the chapel in the window and all that signified in terms of the history and narrative of Brookwood Hospital. (Image: Window shadows)

Close up of reflections of a church in a window at an angle

Window shadows

References:

University of Brighton (2012), ‘Autographic Photographic: developing critical analysis through slow doing and embodied thinking’. Issue 16 [accessed: 4th May 2015] http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/projects/networks/issue-16-january-2012/autographic-photographic-developing-critical-analysis-through-slow-doing-and-embodied-thinking

Cotton, C The Itchy Scratchy Exhibition http://www.permanentgallery.com/wp/?page_id=171

Whiteread, R (2010) ‘The process of drawing is like writing a diary: it’s a nice way of thinking about time passing’ [accessed: 4th May 2015]
http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/process-drawing-writing-diary-its-nice-way-thinking-about-time-passing

The High Street

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Title: The High Street

Exercise: Find a street that particularly interests you. Shoot 30 colour and 30 black and white images in a street photography style. Reflect on your experience and work.

Approach: I thought about where I wanted to go for some time. I thought about somewhere very ordinary, a town high street that could be anywhere or an area that looks tired and neglected. So, did I go somewhere with obvious character or see how I might work with a place with a less obvious identity. Added to which street photography is not a field I have worked in other than covering some big public events. I was not particularly comfortable about taking my camera out in public and despite reading around the subject still felt unsure about what the ‘rules of the game’ both socially and legally were about photographing people as they go about their daily lives.

Reflections on ‘The High Street’

This was an exercise I enjoyed more than I imagined I would. It was not an area I visit regularly and when I do I tend to be driving through so it is not somewhere I have spent much time observing. I was not at all comfortable about stepping into the High Street with my camera, it felt obtrusive, particularly as most of the time I work with still life and food.

I had decided before I went I would try and avoid shooting people and focus on capturing the essence of the High Street. Inevitably, I did capture people but those shots were generally from behind. Once I got started I began to notice things I had never seen before. I was absorbed by my surroundings and while there were some longer shots that were interesting it was the points of details that increasingly caught my attention.

I did not have a specific plan in relation to shooting in both black and white and colour; in fact part of me thought I might shoot everything in colour and then change some in PS. However, once I got started I saw more and more in terms of colour or black and white, different aspects seemed to lend themselves to different treatment. I also became interested in the ‘traces’ that people leave; in ways to capture everyday life without necessarily having people in the frame. This has perhaps been influenced by looking at the work of the other photographers included in the course.

Colour leant itself to the more everyday, to aspects of action and daily life. The black and white seemed to add drama and emotion. It is not a case for me of whether I preferred one set or the other, they achieved different things. I am pleased with some of the results I got from both. It seems to be a matter of appropriateness – of context and narrative!