About the work
When one glove is missing, both are lost
– Roger McGough
Losing a glove is, in a small way, a peculiarly disorienting experience. You lose something that leaves behind its mirror image to remind you of the loss.
Everybody loses something every day, though often just a memory, and it’s usually unimportant. Usually. Evidence of other people’s lapses of attention or memory reassures me that I’m not alone in my forgetfulness; at the same time, it triggers an oddly symmetrical train of thought about remembering forgetting.
I’m interested in how the human memory works, or doesn’t. Not so much the contents of a memory system, but the system itself. I like to use photography to visualise memory processes and problems.
This is because I have a terrible memory.
With these images I want to capture a middle-aged sense of realising that you’ve forgotten something: a fleeting moment of panic followed by the nagging sense that this might be symptomatic of slowly losing your faculties.
The physical presentation format is a book dummy, a copy of which has been sent to my tutor.
There are two online presentations here: first a video of the book, followed by a gallery of images on this page. The latter is viewable as a slideshow by clicking the first image.
We all lose something every day
I will start by saying that of all the work I have produced at Level 3, this is the series I am most satisfied with. I wasn’t wholly confident about the preceding assignments as it didn’t feel like I had really hit my stride with those projects; I am much happier that this set of images achieves my intention of visually depicting memory processes and problems.
In the (very) long gap between submitting Assignments 3 and 4, I realised that I was not satisfied with a ‘straight photography’ approach as it too closely resembled a simple typology and didn’t achieve what I had set out to do, namely to give the viewer a sense of seeing someone’s memories rather than scenes.
Aside from shooting new source material for the bulk of this submission, the two key developments upon which this work is built were:
- Creating a ‘layer of abstraction’ by rephotographing projected versions of the source photographs
- Moving the text away from individual images, to an introduction
Looking at this assignment with regard to the course criteria:
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Observation skills and visual awareness continued to figure strongly in the gathering of subject matter for this project – I took many more images for this assignment than the previous one, and multiple versions of each scene. Design and compositional skills were evident at two distinct levels in this iteration of the project: firstly in the original shots of the source material scenes, and subsequently in the arrangement of the projections.
The use of materials came more to the fore in this assignment, as in a subset of the images I actually manipulated or placed the glove into the scene. At the other end of the process, the materiality of the book format – in particular the window in the front cover – form part of my communication intent, so the physicality of the outcome is increasingly important to the work.
In terms of techniques, as noted above the key new approach added at this stage was to work with projected images, subsequently digitally manipulated. This particular set of techniques really helped to support my intended message and transformed the visual aspect of the series.
Quality of outcome
I’m happy with the overall quality of the outcome as it closely matches my intent and expectations. I believe that the content of the series is both visually and intellectually engaging. Over the development of this idea I have sought sufficient feedback from fellow students to be satisfied that it is now presented in a coherent manner, particularly in the book format.
I am confident that I have achieved a robust conceptualisation of thoughts and communication of ideas, particularly in the latter stage of development when I introduced the projection technique. The use of rhetorical devices such as metaphor became a core part of the presentation by the end of this assignment.
In terms of discernment, this really came to the fore in the editing and sequencing process throughout the assignment’s progress.
Demonstration of creativity
I consider this iteration of the work to demonstrate a greater level of imagination, experimentation and invention – both conceptually and visually – than the Assignment 3 version. I have been able to incorporate more visually distinctive aspects to the work, which in its earlier incarnation was very much ‘straight’ photography, aesthetically-speaking.
Regarding the development of a personal voice, I consider this to be a return to the more experimental visual path that I had begun to follow on Assignments 1 and 2, combined with the concept of Assignment 3. I had said in my self-evaluation of Assignment 3, “I have ideas on how to further develop this concept for subsequent assignments in a more visually creative way, to better communicate my intended message.” – and I now believe that I have achieved this aim.
I spent quite some time since the last assignment on personal reflection, working through what my intent was with this body of work and how I might be able to achieve that intent. I also took time to examine my own working processes and spend some more time both experimenting and documenting that experimentation.
There are a lot of photographic artists and bodies of work that I have looked at and taken inspiration from over the last several months, some more and some less obvious than others. Keith Arnatt’s Notes from Jo (1995) remains a touchstone for this work and so it bears mentioning again for its power in evoking a sense of unreliable memory. I also returned to Sara Davidmann’s Ken. To be destroyed (2016), which on the face of it might not have much in common with my own work, but I found it inspirational in terms of using constructed images to evoke a sense of a memory, even one that never actually happened.
More recently I have added other sources of influence and inspiration. I discovered a new fondness for the work of William Eggleston, in particular The Democratic Forest. There’s an ‘uncanny simplicity’ to his scenes that I aspire to as it comes across as dreamlike, or perhaps even memory-like. I had a similar reaction to the works of Franco Fontana and the painter Pierre Bonnard. The combination of simplicity of design and allusions to memory in all these works really resonated with me.
A secondary aspect of my research was the work of practitioners who concentrate on everyday objects as subjects: in particular I found a lot to admire in the work of Peter Fraser and the sculptor Richard Wentworth. Both seem to be able to imbue very ordinary objects with a kind of transcendental beauty.
I intermittently worked on this assignment in parallel with planning my extended written essay for Contextual Studies, which is a wider look at the changing relationship between photography and memory in the digital era. A lot of the critical thinking I have been exposed to as part of the essay research has informed my own practice over this period, for example the relationship between attention, visual stimuli and short- and long-term memory.
I have come to realise that my own slightly wobbly memory is, at least in part, due to the increasing visual saturation via the photographic image, a phenomenon that I acknowledge I am part of as both creator and consumer. This visual saturation brings to mind Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1992), and part of my rationale for using projection as a technique is a response to this image overload.
Additional sources of inspiration and critical context are included in the list below.
Cotton, C. (2015) Photography is Magic. New York: Aperture.
Davidmann, S. (2016) Ken. To be destroyed. Amsterdam: Schilt
Debord, G. (1992) The Society of the Spectacle. London: Rebel Press.
Fraser, P. (2013) Peter Fraser. London: Tate Publishing
Eggleston W. (2016) The Democratic Forest: Selected Works. Gottingen: Steidl
Shore, S. (2010) The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. 2nd ed. New York: Phaidon Press.
Warner, M. (1993) Richard Wentworth. London: Thames & Hudson