Picbod Summary

Going back to the first weeks lecture on the self portrait and looking over the Phillip Gefter quote, about whether or not the portrait is in fact a self  portrait of the photographer, I am able to gain a new understanding as to what my project is about. I have been thinking of this project in a very structured way, in that I’ve been seeing the pictures i’ve taken of a certain person as portraits of that person, but in fact they are all portraits of myself and they actually tell you very little about the people within them. They are just documents of exterior shells that aren’t very revealing.

Creating the digital artefact was a very refreshing process as it added another layer to the project and gave me a new perspective on it. By adding in moving images and sound taken from these environments it gave another sense to the project and for me it completely changed the narrative of the series. Viewing the finished piece came as a bit of a shock as I realised I didn’t fully understand what I was creating until it had happened, as it was quite an organic process a fully thought through end product. I knew I wanted to incorporate video and sound with the images to show what my project had evolved out of but I get quite an eery sense from viewing the video, which wasn’t my intention but  quite like.

I started out by photographing my tribe, a theme that was defined by Nan Goldin, who also heavily influenced my project. Her work titled ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ has been something that I have referred to numerous times in the past and feel it has inevitably fed into the way I approached this project. Her work documents an intimate connection with the people closest to her and when viewing Goldin’s work it becomes very difficult to separate her from the people within the photographs, as she is so attached and has a strong relationship with them. I find when looking at the physical artefact of my project it is difficult to separate myself from the photographs as they are an autobiography.

Through the action of taking these photographs I was making a comment on myself, or trying to make sense of myself. Through developing my understanding of ‘The Tribe’  I was able to make these discoveries, as it enabled me to see the intimate connections and that I had a unique insight into my own life. Nothing any one has or can ever see. People may be able to relate to it, having had similar experiences but the unique aspect of the project is that nobody will view these spaces and these people with the same perspective I have. This is because I shape and bring about these moments, I control the response I get from my subjects, whether I am conscious of it or not.

 

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The Physical Artefact

 

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Now I have enough images for this series to be able to play around with I have managed to come up with a sequence I am happy with. A few images haven’t made the final edit as they didn’t fit in but I believe I have managed to create a sequence that communicates my ideas from this project effectively. As well as grouping the images that represent a certain person together I believe the differences in colours help to separate them as well, but I’ve thought carefully about how the images interact with the ones surrounding it so that they do not clash.

As for the physical artefact I see the whole set (displayed above) as being something that can’t really be replicated digitally. Although I have taken a picture of it and uploaded it into this post you can’t really interact with the images in the same way as in an exhibition space. I have left the images small so that the viewer has to step forward to view them individually, creating a closeness that is representational of the intimacy I share with the subjects, but also so that from a distance they can be viewed as a whole. Its as this full set I think you can see the progression I have taken from documenting my relationships with others that leads to an exploration of myself in a similar way.

 

 

Project Development

Following on from the last photographic session I did with Sarah I have now done one with my partner Edd. I wanted to take a similar approach looking at all aspects of the environment as well as the body to communicate the level of intimacy I share with the subject. These images are mixture of of portraits of Edd and ones that I consider to be more of a self reflection. I have approached looking at myself and my environment in a similar light.

I chose to use 35mm film for this project as the colour palette is going to be very important when It comes to sequencing the work and it is something I struggle to replicate digitally, as the film seems to capture a richer colour. When I start to consider the ordering of the photographs I want to create a clear distinction between each person, by having separate sections. That is why I have chosen to carry out the session I have done above at a different time of day to the ones I have done previously, so that I can use natural light giving me a different colour temperature. This is something I will consider when constructing the digital artefact as well, as I want each person to be seen as separate chapters in the series.

 

 

The Digital Artefact Ideas

When thinking of ideas for a digital artefact I thought of ways that could add another layer of meaning to the project I am producing. I also wanted something that could be easily shared and distributed to a wide audience, but also to create something that would improve the understanding of the works provenance. That is why I have chosen to create a photo film that will hopefully provide a clearer understanding of the work.

I thought originally that if I talked about the work whilst the images appeared in a slideshow that might add some clarity to the work, but I quickly went off the idea when I thought of the horizon theory. I want to present the work in a way that enhances my message but don’t want to be to literal about it as it may interfere with what the viewer could bring to the experience, and ultimately lead to another understanding of the work.

So I thought about documenting the origins of the photographs by filming the spaces they were taken in as well as taking audio recordings of the environment as well. I think it will be more of an abstract way of communicating my project but will give a sense of what the images have evolved out of. The rooms that I will film and take recordings from are the intimate spaces I interact with my subjects in. The process in which I work is very organic and I try not to pre-visualise and construct them, but let them be a document of the interactions I have with people in these environments.

The Artefact

If we look at Hans-Georg Gadamer’s theory on horizons then we have to seriously consider the presentation of the work, in order to clearly communicate the message. There is an artists vision of the work (the artists horizon) and a viewers perception of the work (the viewers horizon) and it is this merging of the horizons which should be aided by the presentation of both the physical and digital artefact.

If we look at the weight of objects then there are some very big differences between the physical and the digital. The physical object costs and takes time to produce, but the digital object does not have the same value as it can be replicated an infinite amount of times, making it less valuable. A physical object has many tactile functions such as weight and thickness. And in todays culture what does it mean to have something printed? It gives it permanence and some level of credibility as it has gained the worthiness of being taken from the digital world into the physical.

What the digital artefact does well is that its widely and easily accessible, the production of the object is much cheaper and the distribution is a lot faster and cheaper, it can even be done for you by others when they choose to share and like your work. But the full potential of the digital artefact is being held back by skeuomorphism. The digital world attempts to replicate the physical one by mimicking the real world. Such as phone books on a smartphone, bookshelves that store your digital books on and calendars, they all try to mimic reality with there appearance. But the digital world in fact has several advantages such as the ones mentioned earlier.

Bertil Nilsson

Bertil Nilsson’s work is a study of the human form, it’s physicality and movements. The subjects that feature in his work are either dancers or circus performers and his book “Undisclosed” is a series of nude portraits of circus performers, which he took over a 5 year period.

In his talk he gave at Coventry University he began telling us why he chooses to work with the nude form. He uses it as a way of taking away the props and back to the core basics of a performance, the body, which is very physically focused. The nudity also shows that the relationship between subject and photographer is different to a performer and audience member. They are just performing in a space and the nudity elevates it into a more intimate relationship. It also gives the viewer a clearer perception of the strain the body undergoes under a performance, such as the imprint of a rope (image below).

Bertil Nilsson

He also talked about the theme of movement, and the paradox you are faced with when trying to capture a movement with a medium that is based on the principle of freezing a still moment. By capturing and freezing a movement mid action, it transforms it into something sculptural but still has a sense of movement, a fleeting feeling to it.

Another theme in his work is the boundaries between the nude male and female forms. How do you represent the expected attributes of a masculine form, which is strong and as apposed to a feminine form, delicate and flexible. Because the bodies appear to have similarities and during the series at times is hard to distinguish between the two. In this body of work the female body can in fact be more muscular than the average body as it relies heavily on strength and expected masculine attributes.

The Empowered Portrait

Anthony Luvera is an artist whose work is related to this weeks task ‘The Empowered Portrait”. Luvera has been working with people who have experienced being homeless and rather than dictate how he wanted to portray these people he handed over the control to the subject. By giving them the technical knowhow of how to work the camera and providing them with the equipment he is giving them a chance to choose how they wanted to be represented. He builds a relationship up with the subjects and remains in contact with a lot of the people he has worked with, rather than take the approach other photographers may do. Which, may be to come in and photograph the same people from a distance bringing with them their preconceptions and agendas, leading to a mis-representation.

Through Luvera’s working method he questions the topic of authorship, and artist control. With the control of the representation being left up to the subject, where does the artists intentions lie and what are the issues with documenting someone else’s lives? Through the talk Anthony Luvera gave at our university he talked very strongly about the ethics of representing another persons life and the approach he takes to his subjects is very important to him. Through giving the people he worked with the opportunity to show what they wanted Luvera is comfortable with the ethics of the situation, as he isn’t bringing his own agendas to the way in which they are photographed.

Task 5 Below – 

“Through the first four workshops you have explored the power relationship between photographer and subject, starting with yourself before looking at someone close to you and a stranger. You should now apply your skills garnered through these and the technical workshops to assist either a stranger or someone you already know* to make their own portrait.

You should not take charge of the photographic conversation but should empower the ‘subject’ in being able to make their own pre-visualization and chosen representation, a reality.”

Below is my response to this weeks task. I chose to photograph the person I have used in one of the previous tasks ‘Nude and Naked’ as I thought it would be interesting to hand the power over to someone who has previously been the subject of one of my projects. I chose to use a film camera for this task as I didn’t want for her to be able to see the results during the session. I wanted to force her to consider the construction of the photograph more than she may have done with the knowledge of being able to see the photograph immediately after taking it. What I didn’t anticipate to happen is this caused a great deal of anxiety as she became even more conscious of how she would be presented, as she wouldn’t get any validation as to whether she’d be happy or not with the result. I chose this one from several that she took as the others appeared uncomfortable and as if she was putting on a fake persona rather than to just be natural.

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About a week ago I started to photograph an idea I was formulating for the #Picbod exhibition. I hadnt fully thought through a specific outcome of what I was shooting, but as we are gaining closer to the deadline for the exhibition I felt it would be best to run with any initial ideas and experiment.

To start with I was reflecting on themes brought up during the tribe task, looking at the intimate connections between photographer and subject displayed in works by Nan Goldin and Elinor Carucci. I started working within this intimate style to create documentations of relationships with people in my own tribe. Below are a few images mainly looking at my relationship with one person, but rather than just focus on the body as a way of communicating intimacy I have been influenced by Alec Soth to look at the environments to gain a broader understanding of the person and begin telling a narrative of them.

Through discussions with other people on the images I have produced so far I have ideas of how to develop the project. I am editing these down to a few that will make up a set on this particular person and will move on to making a similar set of my partner, with the hopes of creating a series that will convey a stronger, more intimate relationship. Hopefully this will become clear once I can compare the two sets.

I’ve also been considering how I responded to the self portrait task. I discussed the idea that I discover myself by looking at the people that surround me and I feel that I am using this current process of documenting my relationships also as a process of self exploration. As well as documenting other relationships in my life I intend to take the same approach I am currently taking with others onto myself and focussing on my own surroundings.

 

 

Negotiation

The negotiation task was given after a talk by Jonathan Worth, discussing his own practice and the processes he undergoes during a photographic session. The photographer has the power to tell the story of the person being photographed and it is up to the photographer to converse with the subject to understand that story that needs telling, before considering the environment as a means of articulating what they have discussed with the subject.

Task Brief – “You should precipitate a live encounter with a stranger and make a series of images with that subject. During this process you should both depict the subject in the environment and at some point venture into the subjectʼs personal space, you should do this and come away with at least one personal story from them.”

I have been looking at the photographer Alec Soth for this task. Several of his bodies of work depict his journeys on the road and his portraits are created out of interactions with strangers that he finds along his way. He describes in an interview that it is a bizarre thing to do, to encounter a stranger and spend time with them, especially in our culture. But each of his portraits seem to make it look effortless and you can see the chemistry that he creates with these people he’s only just met moments before taking their portrait.

Alec Soth

Soth uses an 8 by 10 camera, which separates and creates some distance between him and his subjects. By throwing the cloth on the back of the 8 by 10 camera over his head he almost becomes invisible to the person being photographed and they don’t freeze up as they may do with an ordinary camera being used to photograph them. Soth gets to look up close in their eyes with out them being aware of it, which gives him a great advantage as he gets to look up close on his subjects without them feeling awkward or vulnerable.

Below is my response to this task.

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I had spotted this woman along the canal in coventry as she was hanging some bird feeders up on a tree, and so I approached her to ask if she wouldn’t mind having a conversation about what she was doing. I had explained to her my intentions, that I was a student and looking for someone with a story to photograph and she began to tell me about how she comes to feed the birds each winter. After we had been talking for a while she then began to tell me about her daughter who lives and works in Iraq. She had been living there during the Gulf War and due to strict security restrictions during the war she was unable to leave the country, to visit back home, as they would not allow her back into the country.

After she had shared her story with me I was faced with the challenge of having to photograph this story, but had to remind myself that we were only by the canal and so the environment didn’t really lend itself to the story. All I could do was to document this encounter with this stranger who had shared her story with me. I didn’t want the subject to look extremely uncomfortable but the equipment I had was a digital camera and a tripod, so I didn’t have the same advantage as Soth did with being able to distance myself under a cloth. Instead I chose to take my time and let the subject get used to the situation and I had an advantage with the tripod as I could set the camera up but was not restricted to remain hidden behind the camera, I could step to the side and let the subject see my face so the camera didn’t act so much like a barrier between us.

Overall I am satisfied with the result as the subject doesn’t appear to uncomfortable, although I think it is telling that this is a stranger to me, I feel that I managed the situation well enough to get this result.