I’ve been in something of a lull in my Body of Work practice for a few months, with my OCA time being directed on my extended written project for Contextual Studies (I am more of a serial mono-tasker than a multi-tasker).
Aside from this I am spending time getting a photography business off the ground and confess I sometimes find it difficult to switch ‘mode’ from the craft of commercial photography to the art of creative photography – it’s not so much that I can’t compartmentalise the two strands, more that it’s just easier to spend time on the more practical challenges of photography business and craft than it is to carve out equivalent time for creative thinking and experimentation. I think there’s been a certain amount of procrastination going on.
A period of reflection will, I think, be good for the work to be produced. I have been thinking about Body of Work a lot over the last few months though; it’s never very far from my mind; I just haven’t been committing my thoughts and ideas down in writing or photography over this period. I’ll come back to this.
Where I left it
In August I submitted Assignment 3 and was pleased with positive feedback from Wendy, my tutor. After a couple of false starts with different ideas it feels very much like I have found a direction for the remainder of this work.
The basic premise (photos of single gloves seen in public as a metaphor for forgetfulness) is sound, and pairing the images with text fragments about my own memory lapses is a key aspect of the work.
What we agreed as the key next step was that this Assignment 3 set should be treated more as a ‘proof of concept’ than a finished project and that I should capture a new set of images taken with the intent of the overall project more clearly in mind.
Bluntly, I need to take better photographs of lost gloves. The current set is the accumulation of a few years’ worth of (mostly phone) photos that predates my understanding of what I was ever going to do with them. It’s currently kind of a ‘snapshot typology’.
I now need to take a more purposeful approach to the concept. I need to use better quality equipment, take some off-camera lighting around with me on a daily basis for a while, spend more time and thought on lighting and composition. A comment from a fellow student Jane has stuck with me: I need to take many more photos of each glove, working different vantage points and framings. My current thinking is: if the subject is as simple as a lost item on the ground, the image needs to be visually appealing.
On a practical note, at the time of the feedback we were enjoying a lovely summer and there were no lost gloves on the ground. It’s now November and they are starting to appear. This is why I need to get cracking again now.
The major strand of visual research is what I call ‘found still life’ – objects photographed in the wild. Wendy pointed me in the direction of a couple of iconic examples such as William Eggleston.
In addition, there are some contemporary (in some cases ongoing) series that fit this description, such as Chloe Juno’s Someone’s Rubbish (2014–).
This kind of subject matter is fascinating as it depicts traces of human activity but without featuring humans; a kind of absented portrait of a person or section of society. The added layer of signification in my proposed work is something that I haven’t seen in many other projects though; I need to keep in mind how to elevate my work above the ‘traces of humanity’ trope.
I need to do a LOT more research on this.
Lessons from other creative disciplines
Yesterday I attended an OCA North student group meeting in Halifax. It was a pleasingly eclectic, cross-discipline group this time (the previous one I attended was mostly photographers). This time there was a mix of students of photography, drawing, painting and textiles.
The show-and-tell / crit segment was a massive eye-opener for me! The amount of experimentation these other disciplines demonstrated made me feel incredibly lazy!
One textiles student had done an entire research project with dozens of sketches and scrapbooked ideas on deconstructing what you can do with the image of a ladybird. A second had filled three sketchbooks with ideas around a single limited colour palette. A drawing student showed us multiple versions of the same still life scene using a huge variety of papers, inks, paints and techniques.
All of these three had a very narrow subject focus but had gone deep and wide with creative executions of it.
I feel like a lot of the ‘experimentation’ I do is contained in my head – I mull over ideas, I visualise concepts, I do a lot of filtering before I take many photographs.
This is, I realise, problematic on a couple of fronts. First, I have no actual record of much of my thought process, if I consider and discard ideas before they are materialised (looking at this from a ruthlessly academic point of view – it’s hard for me to prove to assessors much of my thought process); second, I am sometimes discarding ideas based on how I imagine they might turn out, rather than actually giving them a shot (pun intended).
So my huge lesson from the group was – experiment more! I have the subject parameters nailed down, I now need to work the ideas on how you bring the concept to the photographic frame. I realise now that there’s a lot to be gained from thinking through making.
Thanks to Helen, Rebecca, Julie, Nikki, Andy, Thea, Katie and Michael for a very inspiring afternoon. It was a much-needed kick up the proverbial.