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


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]

The Dad Project & Country Doctor

Black & white image of a single figure in a doctor's coat

w. Eugene Smith, Country Doctor, Life Magazine, 1948

Wow, that was a hard read. I had to take Briony Campbell’s photo essay in several bite size chunks. The Dad Project is extraordinarily intimate, touching on something so personal yet at the same time universal in theme. It also tackles a subject, which I think is still to a certain degree, taboo. Part of is power for me is its ability to resonate, it speaks to me as a daughter, now a stepdaughter and a photographer. I utterly relate to her thoughts around narcissism, and not putting yourself in the frame.

I think there are similarities with W. Eugene Smith’s “Country Doctor,” in terms of what I would define (as an ethnographic researcher) as ‘participant-observation’. They were both engaged in studying cultures, that of the work of the Doctor and of a family undergoing one of the most profound changes we have all have to face. They both appear to draw on humanist traditions and looking to speak of human experience and relationships. Both sets of images also pose questions about the human condition.

They also have their differences. While Eugene Smith’s works remain fresh and vital, for me they have an almost painterly quality. The fact that they are black and white highlights the tonal differences and the chiaroscuro effect. I am also conscious of the fact that while Eugene Smith built a rapport with Dr. Ceriani he only spent 23 days with him and his community. Briany Campbell’s work is about a lifelong relationship coming to an end in its physical form. She also puts herself in the frame as a means of acknowledging this relationship. Not all of her images are in sharp focus and I think their softness speaks of emotions, and the ambiguities and challenges she writes about struggling with. They have gentleness and like others my response to her words and images has been tears. Tears for the beauty and pain she has captured, and tears for my own family losses and grief.

When she speaks of it being an ‘ending without an ending’ I think she is referring to the story living on in her images and photo essay. I also think she is talking about her on-going relationship with her father even though his physical presence is no longer with her.