For assignment 5, I have chosen to do a project titled “Postcards Home.” This idea springs from assignment 3 where I chose to create self-portraits in idyllic situations as a reaction to the negativity I was feeling in my environment and inner self. For this assignment I decided to focus on the mundane or negative feelings. Because I live in a country that is considered exotic to family members and is also a tourist destination, some of my friends and family have a perception of my life that borders on Orientalism. While being an expat in this country is interesting, because I have my own family and a career here, life is the same as it would be anywhere under those conditions in my particular socio-economic level. Additionally, sometimes I feel that people at home don’t give me the space to express the various negative human emotions because they have an image of how amazing my life must be because they perceive that it is so different from their own. Therefore I created a series of photos that would be sent as postcards home that depict the those particular aspects of my life.
For one of the coursework tasks in a previous unit we had to photograph a poem and I chose one by Mary Oliver (click here to see the poem and images). In one of the images I photographed myself lying curled up on a discarded mattress. This final project stems from that image as I was trying to portray my vulnerability through that image. As I progressed through the coursework, I was drawn to the work of Elina Brotherus’ self-portraits and her use of natural lighting and domestic settings which together create a melancholic and realistic atmosphere. Gregory Crewdson also was in influence in the sense that he photographed typical life images but more in the sense of his discussion on Edward Hopper’s influence on him. Hopper painted what Crewdson called the ‘American Vernacular’ of typical scenes that could be seen anywhere in the US. I was particularly influenced by the paintings ‘Morning a City’ as well as ‘Morning Sun’ because of the use of natural light coming through the window but also because of the non-specific backgrounds. Keeping these influences in mind, in order to respond photographically to people back home, I chose to photograph myself in spaces I frequent on a daily basis. Some of the poses I try to capture a sense of vulnerability and melancholy and the others capture a sense of boredom or being overwhelmed. Inspired by the use of light in the paintings and photographs that I researched, I chose to use natural light as it comes through windows in order to give the images a realistic, contemplative mood.
When I look back at assignment one I see that I was trying to capture a sense of nature in juxtaposition with man made objects. In a sense this final assignment completes the circle because if you look at in in correlation to assignment 3 it is a foil to the natural, serene atmosphere I tried to create with those self-portraits.I followed the same process as I did for the assignment 3 re-shoot which is to take all of the images myself using a remote and tripod. I also tried to keep the ‘set’ as realistic looking as possible even though many of the props were placed to give it that feel. I decided to use the domestic and work environments in order to fully convey a sense of everyday life. So many expats share on social media images of them in the exotic locations here in Turkey and I was trying to do the opposite of that because those beautiful, unique locations do not reflect the reality that serves as a backdrop to my daily life. However, these images that I have constructed also do not necessarily convey a reality. Like anyone else, my life is complex and multifaceted and similar to what is portrayed in assignment 3, this is only a part of my experience.The images together also serve as a narrative in a sense into some of the things that I struggle with that reflect the human condition, those states being depression, vulnerability, loneliness, boredom, etc.
Another aspect I was trying to focus on was from tutor feedback to be more ambiguous in the images and not give the message in a straightforward way. For inspiration, I looked through other photographers online and I came across the work of Astrid Kruse Jensen. In an interview, she addresses the issue of ambiguity in her images saying ‘sometimes a direct confrontation says less about them than a suggestion does. That seeing a person from behind or a reflection of a person creates a tension and underlines the feeling that I don’t have to explain what this person or figure is doing. I make a suggestion or present a fragment and it is up to the viewer to complete the story’ (Astrid Kruse Jensen: Beauty Will Always Be Disturbed). While my images are nothing close to the ambiguity present in her work, I did try to create a greater sense of ambiguity in the images for this assignment.
Astrid Kruse Jensen: Beauty Will Always Be Disturbed. 2013. TV.
Shapiro, B. (2012). Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters. Available at: http://amazon.com [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].
Demonstration of Technical Skills
I feel like I have made progress in this category over the course of this class. While I still have progress to make, I feel that I was able to make images that were sharper and less leading as well as having a better sense of composition as the class progressed.
Quality of Outcome
I still find making photography fit within a concept a good challenge, but I think I am able to convey a sense of cohesion in what I write for the course. For this course I think I was able to make good use of the course content and incorporate it into my own projects.
Demonstration of Creativity
I still have a lot of work to do in this area, but I thought a lot about what it means to make a creative image. My focus for this course was to be more ambiguous in the images and not give too much of the message away. While I wasn’t successful with all of them, I do feel that I produced a couple of photographs that do not have an obvious meaning. However, after tutor feedback, I decided to re-shoot most of the images and in doing so I think I lost some of the ambiguity. The ambiguity in some of the the original photographs lacked in cohesion when put together therefore I tried to make a more cohesive work for the re-submission. However, while I think they fit together better, it does lack somewhat in the ambiguity that I was aiming for. However, as always, the process of re-working as assignment is a valuable process and I feel overall that this course has helped to prepare me better for level 2.
I feel this is a strength that I have because I enjoy the academic side of this degree program and I enjoy looking at the work of other photographers and reading theory. The Sally Mann essay was a good challenge and I learned a lot from doing it. One thing I struggle with is to be more interpretative of the work that I research. Sometimes I struggle with thinking outside of the box when I see work of others that I really like so while I like the research aspect, I need to work more on using it as a springboard and be careful not to lose my emerging voice as a photographer.