Jensen created a series of photographs titled ‘Allusions of Home’ which caught my eye (as did her other work). In this series she photographs women in what I assume to be their bedrooms. It is in fact a very simple looking project, as the women are all just sitting there and it appears that she uses whatever light is available so it varies from image to image. But there is something to the work that drew me in. Possibly it is the intimacy of the bedroom that drew me in combined with the sullen look on the women’s faces. One wonders what their lives are like and tries to extrapolate what they are like from their surroundings.
I wasn’t sure about the title. It in fact leads to an analysis that these women are actually not at home and she has photographed them in place where they have set up personal belongings and it is likely they won’t be there for long. Either interpretation is interesting and both lead the viewer to surmise who these women are and why they are there.
Jensen said in an interview with Foam Magazine that ‘representation of the real is photography’s burden.’ (Foam 2007). She also said that she tries to construct real looking images that are as close to a real space as possible. Applying this to her work, it could be assessed that she has constructed the images to look real, but aren’t really of the women’s sleeping space. It would seem if it were their own spaces there would have been a write-up about it as the stories there would have been an interesting focus. The ambiguity makes the work quite interesting as the viewer has things to ponder over.
I have already taken a shot of me in my bedroom, but I wonder if it is too literal as has been tutor and peer feedback for other work. So I will try a shot similar to these and see what happens.
After watching the documentary on Gregory Crewdson where he talks about being influenced by Edward Hopper paintings, I decided to take a look at some of his work and see if I could find inspiration there.
Hopper’s work is deeply entrenched in what Crewdson called “The American Vernacular” so it isn’t imagery I am after with his work, it is more the use of light and the way people are positioned in the paintings.
Two works in particular stood out to me. One is titled ‘Morning Sun’ and the other is ‘The Woman in the Sun.’ While I don’t plan to re-create these images, I like the melancholy nature of both of them as this is what I am going to try and capture in my project “Postcards Home.” In my attempt to re-shoot assignment 3, my tutor gave some feedback that has made me think about how I will convey my message, and that was that the image shouldn’t ‘shut down’ the meaning, i.e., if it tells it directly, it isn’t as interesting a photo. So I have been thinking about this for A5 and I think starting with Hopper’s work is a good place to start because they depict everyday life yet they have a certain ambiguity that makes them interesting and timeless.
The other work I looked at is Vermeer. His use of side lighting has always been a favorite of mine, so in one of the images I have already taken there is side lighting coming in and it hits my face. I am not sure if I will include this image though.
The other idea I have is an Orientalist painting titled ‘Enjoying Coffee’ by the French School from the first half of the 18th century. It is actually on display here in Turkey at The Pera Museum and it is a beautiful Orientalist painting. I was thinking I could use it as inspiration and copy the delicate hand gesture of the woman as she drinks coffee and instead of a servant, have one of my sons doing something. I am not sure how I will create this but I have some ideas and will give it a go this weekend.
I took a series of shots when we were on vacation. I was going for a different type of family portrait than the ones I see on Christmas cards and on social media. While I think they are good images, they don’t really fit the brief for A5 and I agree with what my classmates have said on the forum. On to the next idea…
Elsewhere in the course we were guided to look at the work on Elina Brotherus and in doing so I was moved by her photographs.
My idea for A5 is ‘post-cards home.’ Since I live in a place that is considered exotic to many people back where I am from they think my life is really amazing when it is anything but. I have a full time job as a teacher and a family, so that means my life is just like any other person’s life with these conditions, I just happen to be in Istanbul. People are so often disappointed by that.
Springing off of A3, I decided to create a series of post cards that would document the mundane or melancholic parts of my life. Thinking about truth in photography, I think a lot of expats tend to glamorize their own lives by sending home or posting to social media the cool parts of expat life. I myself am guilty of that because there are some parts of my life abroad that are really quite amazing but for this I wanted to capture something that is more ‘real’ or at least portray a side of my life that many people don’t imagine or think about.
Brotherus’ photos, the ones I am focusing on, have a sense of melancholy and vulnerability that I am trying to capture in my photos. Below are a few that inspired me:
I love the this last one and would really like to re-create it with one of my cats maybe, but I fear maybe it would be to literal an interpretation of her work. But I think it is a brilliant photo and I love the sentiment behind it (my dog is cuter than your children). Brilliant. I also have members of my family that did and do cause me a lot of stress–one of the reasons that cause melancholy in me that isn’t from normal day to day life and I would love to send a photo like to this two of them.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 beautiful melancholy 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.
My tutor gave me positive feedback on this assignment, except for the last two nature shots; she thought they were too cold. Therefore I re-shot them. I re-shot the stream image earlier in the evening to capture the warm glow that is present in the other nature images. With the red berries, I had to shoot something else since the season has changed. However, I think I have found a good replacement that fits in with the feel of the images.
Click here for the original images (please note only the last two images of the nature images have been changed and I took out one of the pine cones on the ground and added an image of grape hyacinth).
The written submission is the same and can be found under the original submission link on the blog navigation.