Learning outcomes (end of part three; putting yourself in the picture)
I have benefited a great deal from this part of the course and have enjoyed learning about self portraiture whether autobiographical, masquerading or self absented. I never thought I would say this, but I was looking forward to saying something about myself in assignment three, which is a huge leap forward from my initial shyness at the beginning of my studies.
Creation of images that demonstrate a practical and conceptual understanding of the appropriate use of techniques
Practically, for assignment three, I made use of a makeshift studio in my dining room. This was my first ‘go’ at setting the scene for a shoot in this way. I borrowed a main light that I could use instead of my tungsten house lighting as I didn’t want a warm yellow light. I also borrowed a black backdrop that I sellotaped to the wall and draped over my table. I wanted the box to be positioned identically in each image so I set the box on the backdrop and never moved it throughout the whole shoot. I changed the contents of the box carefully so as not to disturb the positioning. I set the camera on the tripod so that it didn’t move and the result was positional continuity throughout the series. I used a remote control shutter release to avoid moving the camera as I pressed the shutter and so that I could move out of the way to avoid reflections.
Conceptually, I understood that the idea was to say something about myself without showing myself directly. Like Shafran and his series Washing up, I chose everyday objects to say something about myself and used the wooden box to articulate how I feel that my life is made up of very separate compartments that together make up the main areas of my life.
Demonstration of an emerging critical awareness and ability to translate ideas into imagery
The exercise on recreating a childhood memory made me think about my idea and how to present it through photography. My idea was around a child’s tea-set that I remember receiving as a very young girl. It has stayed in my memory always as being a happy time and a perfect gift. In thinking how to represent this I considered it firstly in its box, as a gift would be; then I considered whether I should be present in the image, what the positioning of the crockery should be like, the focus, the background and so on and I remember trying to visualise the feeling I had as a girl at the time. The translation of the feeling into the image was tenuous as though it was there in my mind’s eye one minute and gone the next, but the important thing, whether I captured the memory accurately or not, was that I saw the start of being able to visualise an image in response to an idea.
Regarding the assignment, my idea of separate compartments in my life translated to using a physical wooden box to house all the paraphernalia associated with each category. I felt that this translation of an idea into an image was more accurate and better executed that the childhood memories exercise as I engaged and recognised the idea from the finished photograph more readily.
Conduct research, development and production in response to the themes raised in this course
I have studied the whole of part three and have researched into some of the works of all the practitioners in this section. I feel that I have understood their approaches to portraiture under the categories of autobiographical, masquerades and self absented portraiture. I engaged with self absented portraiture for the assignment and, inspired by Shafran, used domestic items to say something about myself.
I am very aware now that photographs need to say something and I have learned by studying Elina Brotherus, Graham MacIndoe and Richard Billingham particularly, that autobiographies (Brotherus and MacIndoe) and biographies (Billingham) are not purely the domain of the bookshelf but can be, and are, successfully articulated in images rather than words, as I hope I have proved in my assignment.
Show a critical understanding of contemporary imagery in relation to historical practice and theory
Photography is ever evolving and is influenced by works of prior periods whether by incorporating or by rejecting previous ideas and styles; as Modernism rejected the thinking of the Enlightenment, and Realism was challenged by Abstraction. When trying to think of examples to illustrate how contemporary imagery has been influenced by historical theory I wonder if Francesca Woodman’s images can be likened to Expressionism’s distortion and sense of anxiety, with their surrealist approach that gives a sense of emotional distress.
I think I am getting braver and more inclined to take risks. With assignment three I have little idea of how it will be received but I know that I have submitted a series of images that i would never have thought about before and have eventually taken the risk that my EYV tutor encouraged last year.