Assignment 3-Final Submission

My tutor made the suggestions that I cut the word count of the write-up since it was well over a 1000 words as well as re-shooting some of the photographs.  I re-shot all of the final images and this time I was more careful of the camera settings as well as dressing all in black in order to maintain a continuity in the images but also to focus more on the setting and poses as opposed to the clothing.

For my initial ideas and some background on this assignment please click here.

To read about my research trip to Stockholm to experience Marina Abramovic’s The Cleaner (and see her in person) click here.

Assignment 3:  Putting Yourself in the Picture–The Abramovic Method

Reflecting on my daily journal practice, I decided to do assignment 3 as an interpretation of The Abramovic Method using nature as my backdrop and muse.  Abramovic 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, natural settings are 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 present in my home and adopted countries (The US and Turkey). From her book Walk Through Walls Abramovic says that ‘an artist must make time for the long periods of solitude. Solitude is extremely important’ (Abramovic and Kaplan, 2016 ).  While I do not have the time for long periods of solitude with a busy home and work life, I am able to find some time each day and have made a commitment to keep this spiritual practice in my life. These images document and reflect this.

On Self-Photography

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 Abramovic 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.  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. However, I cut it for the revised submission since my face was out of focus.  Here is the first attempt:

 

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.

As far as technical ability goes, my tutor noticed that the settings on the camera were way off.  I hadn’t noticed that the settings were like that so when I re-shot the images I was careful to set them as I wanted them in correlation with the different light situations.  Also, he commented that some of the images were out of focus.  I tried my best to be sure my face was in focus in the re-shoots and I think I was mostly quite accurate in this aspect.

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 Abramovic.  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 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 shot this the first time I have acquired a remote for my camera which made a difference as I was able to take more shots and get images that I was satisfied with. When I look at the original submission and the final, I think I was able to create more interesting images– one because I went to some different locations and two I wore all black which helped to create some continuity in the images and focus on the setting and figure as opposed to the different outfits I was wearing. I think seeing Abramovic in person (I saw her after the first submission of this assignment) and experiencing one of her performances also helped me to create images that were more dramatic.

The other thing I worked on after feedback from my tutor was to try and not ‘shut down’ the images and create something more ambiguous.  In the shot on the beach, I originally had me in mountain pose which goes with the Abramovic Method, but the tutor (and forum) were right in saying that it wasn’t ambiguous enough.  I think the final image is more ambiguous and therefore the better shot.  The cave shot is also strong because it doesn’t directly tell something and leaves it up to the viewer to decide what is happening.   The other two I realize are less open ended, however, they fit into the narrative I was trying to create so I kept them (they too are re-shoots).

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 Abramovic’s work so most of the research is from her books and movies, and of course the trip to Stockholm to participate in one of her exhibitions. 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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The Cleaner: Marina Abramovic

I didn’t snap one photo other than one of the line to get in and one of me freezing with a hour so or more to go in the 0 degree weather at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Cameras, phones, shoes, jackets, watches–all forbidden in the performance space. But my philosophy is that photography isn’t always about taking images.  It is also about the art of seeing and experiencing, and in this case, being in the present moment. This weekend provided me with little jewels of inspiration that I will always carry with me.

Upon seeing that Marina would be in Stockholm giving a performance–as well as the museum hosting her first retrospective exhibition–I booked a flight and two weeks later was on my way.

Engagement in the performance started earlier in the week.  Me sat in my office getting updates about wait times, and reminders to dress warmly, and people gushing about how amazing it was. Looking back on it now, I wonder if this was intentional on Marina’s part.

When I finally arrived in Sweden, I was ready to embrace the cold weather.  The doors to the Eric Ericssen hall opened at 2, so I thought I would wander over to the museum at 11:30 just to suss out the situation.  It was a stroke of luck because people were already lining up.  Even though I hadn’t gotten a snack or used the loo, I immediately jumped in line. There were probably about 100 people before me.

It was in a way like descending into Dante’s levels of hell, though with cold slowly seeping in as minutes turned into hours. Armed with layers of clothing, I donned the gloves and hat and woolen scarf I had tucked away in my bag and whiled away the time by reading Marina’s latest memoir.  But soon my hands, while gloved, began to stiffen from the creeping in of the cold.  So with one hand warming at a time, I continued on reading.  Soon though, the cold had taken over and all I could do was stand there, watching the crowds of people heading into the regular museum looking at us like we were mad while I shifted from foot to foot–a feeble attempt to keep my blood moving.

Speculation started in the line about numbers of people being let in.  We were told finally that 250 people would get in at first, then it was a one in one out situation.  We chortled and finally admitted how bloody cold we all were.  The end was in sight.

Then at 5 minutes to 2 another museum worker came by and said we probably had another hour. I swear my toes froze up even more and I thought I wouldn’t make it.  But then the line started to move and slowly slowly, 10 people by 1o people were admitted into the hall. What happened after that is nothing but magical and actually, difficult to describe.

We entered the room one by one.  The excitement of finally getting in to the building–as well as the warm environment–channeled my high energy forward into the center of the room, but this was quickly interrupted by the grasping of a soft, gentle, but firm hand that literally appeared by my side.  This movement directed my energy back into myself, and into the hand of the man who slowly guided me to my spot in the room.  Walking in meditative steps, I was brought to one of the designated areas where people were just there, being in the moment. Some people were sitting in chairs, some standing as I was, and some laying on the floor.  All the while, singers sang songs that transcended any genre, but what it did do was to create this womb like experience that I will never forget.

After standing for about 30 minutes, Marina walked in.  It was clear this was not the time to crank my head around trying to catch a glimpse of her so I just followed her with my eyes–feeling very stalkerish– until she left my sight.  When she did, I closed my eyes with everybody else and just basked in the amazing, warm, nourishing environment that she had created using only energy, humans, and song.  It was amazing.

Eventually I was moved to the area on the floor where I laid in a savasana like trance, thinking I could stay there all day.  But alas, I recalled that people were only being let in as someone went out, so I decided to soak in the good vibes as much as possible in those final moments and slowly made my way out.  When I finally had my earthly possessions back in hand, I noticed that I had been in there for 2.5 hours.  What an experience.

As I said, when I was waiting in line I was reading her memoir and she was explicit in saying that her mother’s treatment of her is a significant part of the art she makes.  After seeing the retrospective in the museum, it seems to me that her earlier work was in a way exorcising the demons out of her and now, in her 70’s she is recreating that loving feeling that she says she constantly searches for as a result of never having felt love from her mother.

I can say first hand that The Cleaner was a success.  Never have I felt so loved, embraced, and nurtured amidst a room full of strangers.

I also got some ideas for the Assignment 3 re-shoot.  The image below is actually a film still from one of her performances.  I love the grand beauty of the Banyan tree and Abramovic’s vulnerable presence in front of it.

 

Feedback and Reflection on Assignment 3

Back to the drawing board!  Well, not entirely, but I do need to go back and re-shoot some shots.

The two main things I need to work on are making the shots more crisp by being in more control of the camera.  I am not sure why the ISO was so high on the ‘Lost’ shot, so I will need to go back and figure that out.  Also, on my favorite shot, “sun worship” my face is out of focus, so I need to re-shoot that one as well.

The leaf image did not fit according to my tutor, so I have scheduled to Skype with him for some further clarification, but essentially I think that because the write-up was too long my rationale for doing what I did was lost.

Also, I will need to re-shoot without so many different outfits.  I though at first it would be better to have different clothing–not sure why I thought that, but I think what I will do is shoot in all black and barefooted.

Also, I think I will take some shots when I am down on the coast this spring as that location would be ideal.  But then my guess is the mixture of woodland and beach will be an issue.  =)

For assignment 2, I am going to try and take some images this weekend of MUNDP since it will be white shirts galore.

The last one that I need to focus on is trying to shoot each day.  This causes me some anxiety because my days are pretty full.  But I figure if I just start taking pictures at school each day, it won’t cut into my time at home with my family and myself.  I will get started today on this, because I know that “I’ll start tomorrow” is a slippery slope.  Upwards and onwards!