Assignment Three-Putting Yourself in the Photograph (Original Submission)

Click here for the shots that I considered, but didn’t use.

Initial Ideas

I already have a practice of keeping a journal, so I acutely knew the focus and wondered how I would translate that into images. If I look at the time since before this course started as well as the time during it, most of the entries and internal thoughts were quite negative.  Living in Turkey with a patriarchal autocrat and then seeing my own country go the same way, I was feeling  a lot of anxiety and anger that shrouded my thoughts in darkness and negativity. This was compounded by the series of terrorist attacks that have taken place in Istanbul, where I live.  I had been feeling really shut down. I was reluctant to start taking any  images because it just didn’t feel right. I kept getting a gnawing feeling in my stomach whenever I thought about how I could make the words I was writing manifest into photographic images. I did ponder it though and the images I imagined were similar to Woodward’s since her images, whilst dark, have a sense of beauty to them so I thought at least I could create something with some beauty or mystery within the darkness that I was feeling. But those were not meant to be.

Then I happened upon Marina Abromovic’s ‘The Artist is Present’ but the documentary of this work.  It moved me to tears and my interest in Abromovic became acute.  While her work (and the documentaries) are not photography, they are photographic because of the way she uses color, her body, and the framing of the camera when being filmed both in action and still shots.  So seeing her work on the screen was visually stunning– and moving.  It was after I watched her other documentary ‘The Space in Between’ that I realized what I wanted to do for Assignment 3.

In this documentary she focuses heavily on the idea of mindfulness and being present and takes us through “The Abromovic Method’ where she gets people to spend two hours dropping all of the outside world before seeing her work.  She wants people to be uber-present and ‘confront’ themselves by putting away watches, telephones, etc.  This really spoke to me, because I practice meditation, mindfulness, and yoga  but sadly, these practices had fallen to the wayside.  With so much negativity in the media and in people around me, I felt in a way that I had lost sight of things.  But after seeing this documentary, I was reminded of that part of me and I realized how much I had missed it and realized it was the answer to the negativity I had been going through.  So instead of giving into it and making a number of images that reflected the darkness that was showing up in my journal, I decided to re-create the Abromovic method as a way to re-connect with myself. I am happy to say it worked–but it is a work in process.

In the film, Abromovic has a space set up in the museum where people go through the method.  In that space she has them go though a couple of different steps that include:

Puting all devices away

Shaking out negative energy

Meditative walking

Meditation with crystals

Lying on wooden planks

Blocking out sound with ear phones

What I did was to interpret the method into something that reflected me so I chose to use nature as my backdrop because that truly is the place where I find refuge, especially living in a city with 14 million or more people. Ambomovic says that the key is to ‘focus intently and find the stillness and quiet that we are often missing’ (The Space in Between, 2015) so for me, nature is where I can find that. She says that ‘Doing nothing is the beginning of everything’ (The Space in Between, 2015) therefore my aim was to photograph the beginning of my re-emergence into a more positive and pro-active way of being as opposed to being affected by the rightward swinging pendulum. From her book Walk Through Walls Abromovic says that ‘an artist must make time for the long periods of solitude. Solitude is extremely important’ (Abromovic and Kaplan, 2016 ).  While I do not have the time for long periods of solitude, I am able to find some time and have made a commitment to doing so every day. These photographs document the beginning of my re-emergence into that way of life.

I chose to start with the “snow” image because it is a contrast to the last photograph “sun worship” but also because the coldness of the snow, my posture, and the supporting chair reflect the beginning of me turning in so that I could emerge.  The final image I am physically more free and turning towards energy of the sun.The other photographs I tried to sequence in a way that show a process of self-reflection, inward silence and the peaceful interaction with natural elements as I move from the first photograph to the last.

On Self-Photography

I think that the act of self-photography is a practice of reflection and mindfulness in it of itself.  One has to be very present and aware and in the moment to take self-images that aren’t ‘selfies.’  So while I was using a device (which is against the method) the mornings and evenings I spent out in nature were a journey into solitude and self-contemplation. In The Camera i, the authors state:

‘No longer is it just us viewing and reading the face of another, nor is it a simple case of one individual artist estimating the character of another human.  In self-portraiture, where the artist and subject are ostensibly the same person, the dynamics of reading, interpreting, analyzing, and representing involve by definition a cycle of self-regard, self-presentation, self-revelation and self-creation…and that comprehending the “I” in self-portraiture is truly comprehending an “other” (Sobieszek and Irmas, 1994).

After taking the images I was surprised that I didn’t recognize myself.  Almost embarrassed, I put some space between me and the photographs after each shoot because I found it rather difficult to look upon myself in such intimate, vulnerable situations. Hill states that ‘the inclusion of one’s self, physically and/or metaphorically, in your pictures can be embarrassing, but it is usually the most revealing thing you can do with a camera’ (Hill and Taylor, 2004). For some reason I am still not able to process what these images reveal about me but they have surely provided me with a significant amount of inward looking, which is enough.  In  Wells’ book, Martin writes, ‘scanning personal photographs has become part of the act of self-contemplation’ (Martin cited in Wells, 2015) and this project that I set out to do has fulfilled my plan to quiet and sit in a still part of myself in order to re-emerge with a fresh perspective.

Of course, being human, what often also accompanies self-contemplation is self-doubt.  Hill muses that ‘‘the craved for object may be just a figment of the photographer’s imagination and impossible to capture via photography’ (Hill, 2004).  I think what I set out to do is a difficult concept to capture in an image, but hopefully with my use of background and staged poses, the feeling of the Abromovic Method has come through.

 

Reflection

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

For this assignment, in comparison to the last, I was working with different light situations because of where I placed myself in relation to the trees, etc., that I was using as the background. One of the shots is in the bright morning sun, which I usually try not to do, but I wanted to incorporate the sunshine in a photo and I think I did OK with it.  The first shot I took was more blown out and hard but the final shot I was happy with.  Here is the first attempt:

sun worship 1
sun worship 1

As for the visuals of this image, I really like how the sun brought out the red in the plants behind me but there is too much sun on my face. Also, what I was wearing did not really ‘go’ with the image I was trying to make, so I re-shot it in all black, which I think works better visually.

Overall I was pleased with the visuals of this assignment because I put myself into different backgrounds, which I think adds texture and variety to the sequence.

As far as technical ability goes, I  had to work with different lighting situations as well as one shot with a slower shutter speed.  I feel that I achieved what I wanted to in terms of the technical aspect. However, in all of the areas this is where I need the most improvement so to remedy that, I have signed up for a four week technical course which I hope will be helpful.

Quality of Outcome

I think the concept I developed visually is represented well verbally.  When I presented it to the forum, they quickly understood what I was going for and were able to give feedback on how that idea manifested (or didn’t)  in the images. This was quite a personal project, so I did not necessarily try to pay an homage to any of the photographers we studied, though it is clearly an homage to Marina Abromovic.  However, I think the way I sequenced the photos as well as the variety of shots that I took was influenced by the course work.  In telling a narrative, there  needs to be different views seen so that the context provided can be better understood.

Demonstration of Creativity

I thought a lot about how to take my day journal and turn it into a photo series.  It was a struggle and I was uncomfortable with putting myself in the frame. I discuss this more in the assignment write-up. But I was really pleased in the end with the shots I got and I really enjoyed my time doing this.  As far as experimentation goes, I did quite a bit and since I only have a timer on my camera, there was a lot of running back and forth the get everything correct in the frame.  It definitely kept me in the present moment.  These shots were unique in that I haven’t seen anything like this from other classmates, but they were heavily inspired by Abromovic, so they aren’t groundbreaking.  I also struggle with being creative when given a structure.  Before starting the OCA, I took photographs when I was inspired, so I still struggle a little with having to fit work into an assignment’s frame.  However, I am really enjoying it and learning a lot.

Context

Even though I did my usual amount of reading, I incorporated less of a variety of research into this assignment because I focused mainly on Marina Abromovic’s work so most of the research is from her books and movies.  However, I was able to incorporate some research about the practice of self-photography, something I was quite timid to do myself and found out that this is a common feeling in relation to self-photography.This assignment was focused on reflection, so there was a lot of fruitful reflection going on.  I am not sure how much this comes across in the coursework or the assignment write-up because this assignment pushed me to be quite internal with my thoughts, so hopefully that comes across in the images and makes up for the lack of it in the writing.

 

Sources

Abramović, Marina and James Kaplan. (2016)  Walk Through Walls. 1st ed. London: Fig Tree. Print.

Hill, P. and Taylor, R. (2004) Approaching Photography. 2nd edn. United Kingdom: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications.

Marco Del Fiol. (2016). The Space in Between. [Online Video]. 12 September 2016. Available from: http://www.thespaceinbetweenfilm.com/. [Accessed: 13 January 2017].

Sobieszek, Robert A and Deborah Irmas. (1994) The Camera I. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of art. Print.

Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography. 1st ed. New York: Penguin-Putnam

Wells, L. (ed.) (2015) Photography: A Critical Introduction. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

 

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