Response to Letter to Self

Now I am approaching the end of my first year I have allowed myself to consider the past years events and what how I have progressed. I look over the letter I wrote to myself a year ago and contemplate the points I set out for myself and whether I have achieved them. Reading what I wrote many months ago is like reading a strangers thoughts. I had admitted I was being narrow minded on where I stand within the realm of photography, but having broadened my interests vastly in comparison to my old self I realise that to have called myself narrow minded is an understatement.

I wanted to expand my knowledge and possibilities I could venture into, determined not to be stuck in my old mind frame of becoming a portrait photographer. Now I am not even sure how to define what it was I meant by ‘portrait photographer’. I think now that it was a cover up for not knowing what I wanted to do and that still may be the case but I have explored so much this past year, realised my interests and where I could go.

There have been several pivotal moments at my time in university that have changed my understanding of photography. Matt Mahurin’s hauntingly unique vision of the world taught me that I need to start harnessing the unique vision I have of the world and how I choose to represent it. Danny Lyon’s book ‘The Bikeriders’ opened my eyes to the world of photography books and the importance of seeing a body of work in its entirety, taking one of his photographs of The Bikeriders out of context looses its power in the story he is telling. More recently this idea of a photographer as a storyteller has really hit home after a guest talk from magnum photographer Olivia Arthur spoke on the topic and shared her stories as she traveled along the borders of Europe and Asia.

At the moment I both surprise myself and am slightly disappointed with myself at the same time. I am surprised at how much I have widened my interests and skills within photography, yet I am disappointed at the lack of experience in the field I have. I feel my knowledge has increased yet my career is not progressing at all and maybe I am being hard on myself as I am only in my first year but I need to be hard on myself to motivate me. I feel that in terms of work experience I could be doing so much more as at the moment it is not so much different than a year ago.

I am happy with how far I have progressed at the moment but like I said last year I would be terrified to realise I could not advance any more, but I am comfortable knowing there is so much more to explore and advance into.


The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake – Review

Although I managed to understand the plot of this film I did find it a struggle to keep up with, due to my lack of interest in it. I believe the theme running throughout the film, on female oppression in China, is one that could have been delivered more successfully.

As I began to watch the film I was immediately unsure if I were going to enjoy it, starting with quite ominous cliche techniques. The introductory music, opening scene of a woman crying in the rain and the colours were all dull, but not done to the same effect as the depressing washed out colours in “Confessions”, which added drama to the story.

What I did enjoy was the fact that there were a mixture of conventions from the martial arts films as well as having dramatised scenes. If it were not for the occasional action scene I would have found the film to drag out and move at a slower pace as I do not think the scenes in between were strong enough to carry the film alone. Also the plot was interesting, a woman who expressed strong feministic views from an early age being raised in a oppressive environment, giving her the motivation to help lead a revolution.

I did enjoy the main character of the film Qiu Jin, who was quite a strong character and I thought the actress delivered a good performance. She was able to pull off a character with a strong presence that was highly determined, I also thought the choice of clothing she was in towards the end of the film (a trousered suit) was clever as it seemed to represent that equality towards man. It also did not blend into the culture, meaning she stood out and was like she had rejected her cultural background.

The choice of weaponry they used in the film is something that slightly baffles me. There was a mixture of swords and guns being used on both sides of the revolution, which I am sure there is a valid reason as to why that is but I can only guess as to the reason. From my experiences of martial arts films guns are not a usual weapon to appear, not that I class this film as martial arts but it does have that feel to it at times. Perhaps its a metaphor, there is a slight advancement in the weaponry they have with the guns but are still being held back by the old fashioned sword, just like their society is being held back by their old traditions and values of a womans position in their culture. I think it was hinted at that the societies progress is being stunted by the government by the comparison with the Japanese culture, which treat there woman as equals by giving them an education.

Overall I can appreciate the issues and themes raised in this film but feel like it had been poorly delivered in places.

Olivia Arthur Talk

Today I attended a very inspiring talk by Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur. It was fascinating to hear her talk about the development of her career, as well has the style and craft she uses in her photographic practice. We were taken on a journey from her earlier work she has done illustrating stories that others had written, to the stories she has done herself photographing women along the border of Asia and Europe.

Although Arthur enjoyed her earlier work she became frustrated by the process of the writing coming first followed by the images that had to be taken to fit along side the text, motivating her to tell her own story. When she started her work on the Asian/European borders she described it as having an ‘amazing amount of freedom’. From what I understand of this project she has photographed the women in these countries where the eastern culture meets the western culture, creating a large body of portraits that capture the varying cultures she encountered on her journeys. She talked about the way the series has been structured, not wanting to put the photographs in a chronological order, to avoid sectioning off women from different cultures. There are vast differences between the women shown in this body of work and for me by mixing the cultures up Arthur has created a topography of this region, and there is this strong distinction between each woman created by this constant flicking from one culture to the next.

Whilst she was talking about her exhibition she mentioned an interesting technique that I saw at the Dana Popa exhibition I visited recently, which was each person was accompanied with a booklet of text explaining the photographs on the wall. She felt strongly about the photographs being accompanied by text and thought that by providing the viewers of the exhibition with something physical to hold they would be more likely to read the text, than if it were on the wall. I thought this was an interesting technique that would completely alter the viewing of the images.

Arthur has recently published a book titled ‘Jeddah Diary’, which features women she photographed in Saudi Arabia. Hearing her talk about this project was quite intriguing as she was at times discouraged from taking photographs, it was strange to see the photographs of a place that did not want to photographed. From what I have read of online interviews she admits its a very confusing society and that “the more you understand, the more you realise you just don’t understand it at all.” It is interesting to see that the women in these portraits had a say in how they were portrayed, saying that they wanted there face to be blurred somehow. Arthur decided to do this by printing the photographs out and re-photographing it so that the flash glared on the face, completely distorting it making them unrecognisable. There was a great contradiction though in how they wanted to be seen, they did not want there face to visible yet wanted there eyes to be shown off to show their beauty.

Although there are many aspects of this talk I will take away with me there was something Arthur said about creating stories with your work, which was “you have to care about it”. Having heard her talk about her own career and the great success with the projects she has felt passionately about I can see how important this is.

Dana Popa – After the New Man

Foto8 currently has an exhibition on at their gallery by Dana Popa titled ‘After the New Man’. Dana Popa is Romanian herself and this exhibition is looking at the generation born just after the fall of the communist regime. Popa describes the generation she has photographed as a ‘generation that has no memories of communism’, as a result of not being part of this communist history this generation seem to be misplaced in a landscape that still holds the memories of the communist regime.

The exhibition space was fairly typical, with it’s open space and white walls. Each photograph was numbered but no description of the work on the walls, instead the descriptions were on an A4 piece of paper, which you collected at the door. The photographs numbers matched up with a description on the paper. I quite enjoyed the way they were numbered, by numbering the photographs there was a clear order to view them, in which I felt I must stick to. By having this order the exhibition became reminiscent of viewing a book, in that you became compelled to see the work the way and in the order the photographer intends. I had the odd issue when viewing the work as each photograph was behind glass, causing a glare on some of the images ruining the experience a little. The positioning of some of them made it slightly awkward to view as they were mounted behind the receptionists desk, making the work seem cramped in this space.

Moving on from the physical layout of the exhibition I thought that the concept of Dana Popa’s work was very clear. From the background research I did before visiting the exhibition I found out that she aimed to photograph the everyday youth, to capture the moment when they reveal themselves and aren’t reacting to her presence.

What I enjoyed about ‘After the New Man’ is that although Popa was photographing the generation born after the communist regime, she did not restrict herself to a series of portraits. The body of work looks at the landscape and still lives within Romania, which I found refreshing as I went around the exhibition, as they were integrated throughout the portraits of this generation. It also helped to communicate a wider overview of the Romanian culture at the present time to the viewer. For me the series painted quite a depressive atmosphere about the country at this time and the descriptions to accompany the photographs only aided me to come to this conclusion. Now there is no communism they are free to travel and leave their home, many do not feel they belong and  want to travel.

“Now I can see better the blocks of flats we live in, like cages, one on top of another.” – One of the descriptions about a photograph in the series.

Dana Popa gives an vivid description of Romania at this present time, whether it is accurate I am not sure as I do not know much about the Romanian culture. But her background and experience of coming from there have helped her in creating a powerful body of work on this generation.

Confessions (Kokuhaku – Original Title) Review

Having not seen any of Tetsuya Nakashima’s (Director) work, or many Asian films before, I had no idea what to expect when it came time to view this film. I knew the film used the sounds of Radiohead and The XX so could try to predict the styling of this movie before seeing it, moody and quite dreamlike. And as I predicted the film definitely had the same melancholic atmosphere to it as Radioheads music does. Saying that this is the only thing I could predict for the film, it was very cleverly done with several shocking pivotal moments, after a while I stopped trying to guess what would happen next and just enjoy the twisted plot that followed.

What seemed to be the majority of the film was set in one location, a classroom, with cutaways aiding the events the teacher was explaining to her (what turn out to be very disturbed) class. The teacher set out for revenge on the two children in her class that murdered her daughter. The death of her daughter had already been settled as an accident, but the mother later discovered that it was no accident. Rather than reopen the case she planned out an ingenious, yet very disturbing, way to seek revenge on the the two children that murdered her daughter.

The film was beautifully shot throughout, the classroom reminiscent of a hospital ward with its cool colours and bare walls lacking classroom displays you would expect to find. Whether this is a typical representation of a Japanese school I do not know, but it definitely gives off a cold and clinical tone that alienates me from any classroom I would expect to find. I am not sure if it was intended by the director but because of this I do not see these children as innocent or even recognise them as children, they seem as alien to me as the classroom itself. This style is not contained within the classroom but the whole world outside seem to match, even the rose bush outside the teachers house seemed to be drained of colour and vibrancy. Overall creating a very depressive and ominous sensation within the viewer.

Although the film in its entirety is very powerful, there are several moments that remain with you after it is finished. A school child breaking down in a shop, covering everything in his blood. The mass of slaughtered children in the school hall and even those moments that are less controversial but still powerful like the mother breaking down in the street, crippled by her pain. Up until this point she had remained a cool, strong character. This allowed me to see her as more human and relatable, just about the only character in the movie that could be related to. These shots are highlighted moments that I will always refer to when thinking of this film, as a whole creating a very enjoyable and powerful film.



Summer Task

These are the images from a summer task I was set before my course started. We were to record a visual diary that was as intimate and honest as we could make it. At the time I was reading the chapter ‘Intimate Life’ from Charlotte Cottons ‘the photograph as contemporary art’, so was very much influenced by the works mentioned in this book. Even though my set of images are no where near as intimate or controversial as the work of Nan Goldin and Larry Sultan, they had definitely opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on my life and the world around me.

I began to document the aspects of life that other people may over look, the life and environment of my family and capture this new way of seeing that these photographers had lead me to see.

This diary documents the people in my life, their environments and traces of people that I do not even know, but I still noticed there presence they had left behind and chose to capture it. Whether that be the marks splattered across the decking, the possessions observed through a window or the trash discarded on the streets.

Having not seen these images or reflected upon them for several months now there are still those few that seem as if I photographed them yesterday. They evoke memories of a particular location, event or person and I believe that other people, when viewing the images, will bring with them their own memories and experiences. I am sure many people can relate to moments in these photographs such as observing the people on the other side of the platform at the train station or the belongings of someone they know carelessly laid out on their bed.

Although I am sure if I were given this task now (having my first years experiences at university) I could create a stronger project, I would still include a select few of these images into that project. After what I have learnt on my course so far I do not believe that these images work as a series, they are a mis-match of conflicting ideas. They look at the people in my immediate life and the strangers I encounter in day to day life. Perhaps there are a few different projects that could be expanded from this set but as a set there is not a consistent flow to them.

I have to say that I was dreading looking back at this work, I thought I would look back at them and feel a distance with them as if a stranger had taken them but I am pleased with some of them. There are some I would quickly discard but what I have not noticed is that I have been unknowingly carrying on with this project.

Letter to self

Before starting on my course at Coventry university I was set a number of tasks, one of which was to write a letter to ourselves in a years time that outlined everything we would like to achieve. Now I am ending my first year it has come the time where I must reflect on this letter and respond to it. My response will come shortly but here is the letter I wrote at the start.


Hello, future me, sorry to bother you but I would like to outline a few things that I hope you have focused on in the previous year. It does not matter if these goals have not been fully achieved, just as long as you are on your way to fulfilling them and that you have been keeping yourself busy doing something other than drinking to much. Well to be honest with you I am not 100% sure what I want to achieve later in life, but is that not normal? Well anyway I best had give you something to work with in the short term or else we may never know where we would like to be in future years and as you probably know we will change our mind several times along the way, as we usually do.

I have always been a tad clueless when it comes to where to take my photography next, so hopefully this course will point me in the right direction and help me to define my style. Maybe one of the many photographers we will study will give me inspiration as to where to point my camera. I already know I have a passion for portrait photography, but maybe in this first year of university I will have gained a clearer understanding as to how to photograph a person and represent them exactly as they are. I hope to take the initiative to explore this area of photography and discover why it is I am so drawn to it. At the moment I am being very narrow minded in what I am researching into in photography, so I want to allow this first year to broaden my interests.

By broadening my interests and knowledge within the realm of photography I hope to explore other avenues I have not previously explored. For example I have recently been looking into the work of Nan Goldin, someone who’s work I have not studied or been particularly interested in before, yet now I find myself captivated by the intimacy of her work and intrigued to explore this style of photography myself. Had it not been for this course I would not have looked as in depth as I have at Goldins work and so in that respect I am in anticipation as to what I will discover throughout this next year.

I find myself limited at the moment, limited by my technical knowledge and knowledge of the theory of photography. I am always looking forward to how much better I can be at something and how to improve. It would terrify me to ever be at a stage where I do not feel I could advance. So I know I will never stop learning but I hope to gain the most from this course so that it gives me a boost in my career as a photographer.

Head Shots

These are some portraits I took to practice using the portable studio lighting kit. I just used two studio lights, as I did not have a white backdrop I pointed one of the lights on the wall behind to completely white it out. I let the light behind the subject spill over onto the left side of his face so that it brought out the contour his face. The other light I positioned on his right with a soft box so that the light was softer.

I was motivated to take these head-shots after the subject had recently been to have some head-shots done for his acting portfolio. He had gone to get shots of himself that represented his natural persona but also needed character shots, which I offered to do.

Blue Velvet Review

Blue Velvet has to be one of the oddest sensations I have encountered whilst viewing a film. It’s controversial and disturbing characters are something I have experienced before in numerous Tarantino films, but when combined with David Lynch’s (Director) surrealist style I found it hard to prepare myself for the story that followed. Although I found the plot ridiculous and hard to follow at times I felt drawn in and compelled to carrying on viewing by the fascinating characters.

It was clear from the offset of the movie that it was going to be a bizarre two hours ahead. The opening set the tone of the film with a montage of a peaceful depiction of suburban life in America, which was crudely interrupted by the collapsing of an elderly man watering his lawn, later to be realised as the lead character Jeffrey’s (Kyle MacLaclan) father. Although it remains unclear to me what this incidents relevance was to the rest of the film, it made one thing clear that this film was not going to paint the picture of an idealised suburban lifestyle. Instead we are taken on a journey, a mystery, by Jeffrey who seems to be as unclear to the world around him and the happenings that follow as we are. As Jeffrey guided me through this twisted storyline of a woman, trapped and suffocated by a sadistic man, I felt engaged with the plot as I discovered the unravelling of this mystery with him.

After Jeffrey comes across a severed ear, grotesquely covered with ants, he feels obliged to tackle the mystery himself even though he had handed this evidence into the police. His motives to tackle this case himself are not made clear (or at least weren’t clear to me), maybe the fact he suspected some darker events were taking place in his usually perfect suburban settings fed his curiosity. He also involves a girl in solving this mystery, Laura Dern (Sandy Williams), who’s entrance to the film is a piece of cinematography that will stick with me. Picture a tree darkly lit beneath and from the shadows emerge this girl who steps into the lit foreground of the frame, accompanied by some stereotypical romantic music. Some may class this as cheesy or outdated, and I would agree, but I believe it was a brilliant entrance to the film and this cheesy, corny style remained consistent throughout the film with the odd zooming shot and dramatic music to go along side them.

Overall I came out of the end of the film confused and unsure as to whether or not I actually liked it. It drew me in and no matter how much weirder the storyline got I found I could not tear myself away, so I guess I could be found guilty for enjoying the ridiculous scenarios and strange characters.

Disability in the Media

Our lecture about how disabilities are shown in the media was a real eye opener to how they can be misrepresented and it became our task to create a photographic montage that tackles this issue.

There are several stereotypes within the media, many of which are quite negative. The ones that I found most unfair were the ones that show people with a disability as pitiful or unable to participate in daily life. I believe that for someone with a disability it may be disrespectful to represent them in these stereotypes, so part of my challenge is to avoid falling into one of these stereotypical categories.

Most of the times when people with disabilities appear in the media it is because of their disability and there is to much of a focus on it, the clip below gives an example of this and falls into the stereotype of not being able to participate in daily life.

So for the montage I created (below), I have tried to represent a person with a disability, not a disabled person. It shows the normal daily routine of someone with an indication towards a disability, being the medication, which could represent a variety of disabilities. I purposely left the disability ambiguous so that it did not focus to much upon it and mixed the action, of holding the medication, amongst other actions that can be related to, such as having a wash at the sink. I believe this image displays a positive representation of a disability as it does not exclude people with disabilities from society, its instead an image people will hopefully be able to relate to.