Assignment 2–Response to the tutor report

Because I chose to photograph my students (who are now gone from school) I am unable to re-shoot assignment 2, however, my tutor suggested that I try to take some more shots that respond to the brief.  I tried to different projects and went with the first option, which was to shoot the unseen. I chose two ‘unseen’ concepts.  One is ‘community’ and the other is ‘stress.’

The first set of images is ‘community.’

The second set I took of my husband who has a stressful job and lost both parents in a short amount of time recently. I was attempting to capture ‘stress.’

Assignment 5 Final

Post-Cards Home

 

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.

Sources:

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].

 

Reflection

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.

Context

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.

 

Assignment 4 First Draft

I sent this very rough draft to my tutor and after a video call, I filled in and re-wrote the essay according to his suggestions.

Sally Mann became notorious in the US as a result of the photographs of her children at play—sometimes without clothing– on their sprawling farm in Virginia.  A self-proclaimed feral child herself, it is no surprise that Mann’s photographs capture the free, happy, and sometimes wild childhood of her children.  Understanding the context that surrounds Mann’s is paramount to understanding what the work is about.  The issue that arose from the naked shots of her children was a problem of misunderstanding the context of production and relying solely of the context of perception. While many people saw the images as sexual in nature and exploitative, understanding Mann and her work makes one realize that it is anything but.

Sally Mann grew up also in Virginia and describes her child self as feral.  However, while it seems she had a carefree childhood, in her ((memoir Hold Still)) she mentions on numerous occasions that her father was distant.  In the film  xxx in talking with her mother she says that as children they were “terrified” of their father.  Not because he was violent, but because he was vastly distant.  In understanding this context, one can extrapolate that Mann aimed to raise her children in a way that was like her own childhood—free—but she tried to fill that void of her father by creating a bond between her children and herself.  This can be seen explicitly in her photographs of the children; it takes a close relationship with her kids to capture the images that she did. Susan Sontag commented on Diane Arbus’ photographs saying that in photographing ‘freaks’ Arbus was expressing ‘a desire to violate her own innocence, to undermine her sense of being privileged’ (find resource).  In a similar vein, Mann seems to be using the photographs as a way to ‘see’ her children and as Barthes says to ‘authenticate the existence of a certain being’ (Barthes, 1981).  It seems a direct response to the fact that she did not feel ‘seen’ by her own father.

Additionally, it is important to understand the context in which Mann photographs, and that is that she believes good art can be made within your immediate surroundings. (add notes here about Mann’s process and personal beliefs on photography—from the film).

I chose a photograph from Mann’s controversial series XXXXX, though I chose an image that was not one of a naked child but one that carries significant duality. Looking at the image from a denotative point of view, the eye first notices the child in white.  Even though the eyes scans from left to right, the whiteness of the child’s dress, skin, and hair immediately draws the eye to it since it is in a sea of black.  Quickly the eye darts down to the white hair of the deer and the dead black eye surrounded in white hair.  Later the eye realizes they are positioned at the back of a pick-up truck and lastly, but importantly, the eye lands on the large slit in the deer’s neck. It is difficult to look at this image and think only of the denotation because it is such a striking and odd duo in the image.

Barthes says that ‘the photograph is violent: not because it shows violent things, but because on each occasion it fills the sight by force’ (Barthes, 1981). The dual nature of this photograph is both in its violence in Barthes’ terms but also in the fact that there was an act of violence in killing the deer.  This violent act when juxtaposed with the little girl in the white tutu is striking. The punctum of this juxtaposition is further compounded when the eye falls on the bucket of blood. One can guess that that bucket was, maybe only minutes before, placed under the deer in order to capture the blood as it oozed from the very large slit in the deer’s neck.   It is an unlikely pairing to see next to a small, innocent looking child. Nor would you imagine a little girl interested in such frilly costumes to be anywhere near such a grizzly scene. Marvin Heiferman said about photographs that ‘for a moment you can stop something and look at it in a way that you normally wouldn’t see’ (xxxx). In this image it feels as if we are glimpsing a very brief encounter between child and deer.  We can imagine that when the truck drove up with the deer, or the deer was brought to the truck, this little girl, lost somewhere in play land ran up and Mann, with sharp eyes that always scan for an image, took the shot.  She may have even told the child to wait while she got the shot (add some quotes from the film about her getting ‘that look’ and getting her kids to wait. The stadium of this photograph, a dead dear and a small child is in it of itself punctum in nature because of the unlikely contrast between the violence of the dead animal and the innocence of the child, not to mention the proximity of the child to the animal; it suggests a familiarity with the practice of killing animals.  Living in rural Virginia, the children were immersed rural ways of living, which would have included death.

The iconic tutu a symbol of childhood that conjures images of unstructured play time.

The connotation of the truck and the slit in the deer’s neck conjures another possibility other that on the way home from a dance recital the family hit a dear and in order to put it out of its suffering, they slit the deer’s neck.  Upon getting out of the truck, the little girl who face could also connote uncomfortableness, was placed there by Mann to get the photograph.  Mann talks about her process in photographing that she often first sees the shot then goes back to take it (find the source here…from the film)

To deconstruct the image…

Sources to formalize:

Coursera video of Heiferman

Camera Lucida

Sontag’s book

Mann’s memoir

Mann’s film

A5 Post-feedback reflection

I think it is important to say that regardless of tutor feedback, I feel that I have grown as a result of this course and that is really important when learning something that is new.

I was pleased that my tutor though I had done a good job.  It was especially good to hear this considering the first feedback indicated that I had a ways to go. However, the feedback given I interpreted that I needed to re-think most of the images, which I have taken on board.  I essentially ‘killed my darlings’ for this final assignment.

The feedback this time was less in terms of technical work and more in terms of coherence and meaning.  I see now that the images I put together did not necessarily go together and made the final assignment somewhat disjointed. I have already looked through the shots I took and didn’t use as well as taken a few more shots. I also plan to add some with artificial directed light at night but I am not sure how they will fit in the final series, but it is worth a try as my homage to Crewdson.

There were also some suggestions for tightening up the blog, which I have done.

But as I said in the beginning, I have really learned a lot thus far and this has been the most important thing for me.

First Submission: Post-Cards Home: Assignment 5

(For assessment, I will print these images as actual post cards).

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.  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 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.

Sources:

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].

Reflection

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.

Context

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.

Final Plea: A3 re-shoot

My FB forum group has been really great.  I was stuck about tutor feedback and they helped me to see the way, thankfully.  I am also glad that I took multiple shots on the beach as I can’t get back there before the assessment deadlines, so I had a number of pieces to look at again.  After this final round of feedback, I decided to go with the image where I am looking away from the camera and while I still like the first one, I see how the final image works better. It is funny, I had dismissed this one and almost deleted it.