I am indebted to a fellow student Stan for the following clear and simple articulation of the continuum of how artists can intentionally make their work ‘accessible’ (or not, as the case may be):

I suppose there’s a kind of continuum from obscurity, through ambiguity, via puzzle and on towards a guided tour.
(Dickinson 2019)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since my Assignment 4 feedback and the decision to revisit subject matter in Assignment 5. In particular I’ve been looking at this continuum from the standpoint of my realisation that I am a (n over-) Thinker. My recent reflection led to me the conclusion that I have been putting thinking before making a little too much – I’ve been very idea-led. This is perhaps an overly analytical approach for what should be a more creative endeavour.

Taking the continuum above:

Obscurity – Ambiguity – Puzzle – Guided Tour

… I believe I inadvertently lean towards seeing my work as a Puzzle – something for the viewer to ‘work out’. My initial response to anyone who hasn’t engaged with my work reasonably quickly is along the lines of “Hmm, maybe I need to make it more obvious“… which isn’t necessarily the right response.

(as an aside – like my previously noted ‘episodic attention span‘ I can relate this behaviour to an aspect of my non-photographic life… one of my hobbies is writing pub quizzes!)

What follows is a short description of how I’m working on moving up the continuum, away from Puzzle and more towards Ambiguity.

Reversing the workflow

Looking back over all my BoW assignments, even the ones before I hit upon this particular concept, I’ve been searching for visual metaphors for forgetting. My search tended to be sequenced as:

  1. Have idea on potential metaphor
  2. Find and photograph subject matter that matches this idea

As recently as a couple of weeks ago I was still looking at it this way: organising my visual metaphor ideas and presenting examples per category.

So I decided I needed to switch up my approach. Every time I’ve gone out with my camera in the last week or so, I’ve set out with a conscious intent of not having a conscious intent – if that makes sense! I’ve decided to just photograph what I think looks interesting, what catches my eye, what ‘speaks to me’. Then I’ve been reviewing the day’s images and seeing what stands out.

So I’ve flipped my approach to:

  1. Find and photograph subject matter I find visually interesting
  2. Select which ones might fit in this project

This might well be what I should have done several months ago, and what many other students do naturally! But it’s actually quite an alien way of working for me…

Mood over metaphor?

One really useful insight that came out is that shooting this way helped to loosen up my clingy grip to metaphor! Rather than treating images as puzzles to solve, with a ‘right answer’, I’m becoming more open to selecting images that have a looser connection to my overarching intent.

In many cases I am currently shortlisting images that don’t necessarily have an obvious visual metaphor in them, but are more about capturing the kind of mood I wish to evoke. My selection criteria is less ‘Is this a valid metaphor for forgetting?‘ and more ‘Does looking at this evoke a feeling of forgetting in me?‘.

I’m worrying a little less about whether the viewer will experience the same reaction, and I’m prioritising my own reaction – which I hope will make the image selection more authentically personal.

Sample images

The images below are not necessarily candidates for inclusion in the final project but represent the broadening of subject matter that this shoot-first-think-later approach has encouraged.

One thing to note is that almost all of these have been taken relatively close to home. In some instances I like the overall image but feel that there might be a better version to be had, in terms of framing, lighting etc. So some of these scenes could be reshot if necessary.

Next steps

Keep taking photos for a bit!