As mentioned in an earlier blog post, in advance of submitting my Assignment 1 I had the opportunity of a couple of online portfolio reviews that certain photographic organisations were offering during the pandemic lockdown. The second of these was organised by Zealous, a creative submission management platform, in the form of a competition. I was one of four people that got through to the last round to have portfolio reviews with Jayne Lloyd, Project Director of Shutter Hub.

Summary feedback

Jayne gave me lots of useful feedback, some of which chimed with what Alexander Mourant had said in my last portfolio review and some comments coming from different angles that hadn’t come up before (or, in some cases, even occurred to me).

Main comments bulleted below with my own responses where applicable:

  • Enjoyed the work
    • Always a good start
  • The theme/concept worked for her
  • She thinks the work is ready to put forward for relevant publication opportunities
  • Found the connections between image and text to be “clever” – some more obvious than others but overall a good balance between ambiguity and puzzle
    • Interestingly she used as an example a connection I hadn’t even thought of myself, namely that the red glove in the picture paired with “HSBC PIN” referenced the fact that red is one of the colours of the HSBC logo
  • In terms of visual style she said the images were appealing: well lit, strong colour palettes, well framed and composed
  • In terms of mood she described it as containing both humour and a little sadness, there was an element of pathos in there
    • Good, this is the kind of response I wanted to evoke
  • Presentation: she suggested I might need to amend how the text is juxtaposed with images, as for some purposes (group exhibitions etc) there might be an overall aesthetic that needs to be respected, e.g. no borders, no text
    • Shutter Hubs exhibitions tend to have exactly this look – borderless straight photography
  • She encouraged me to think about how the images stand alone as photographs, without the text and as individual pictures, floating free of the overarching concept/context
    • And to enter a few of them into the current Shutter Hub open call, Everyday Delight
    • I have done so, see below
  • She also made a throwaway comment that without the memory-based text, the images could in fact be seen as being about the current lockdown situation, with its sense of uncanniness, abandonment, stillness
    • Sparked by this (although I must point out that Jayne did not specifically suggest this) I made an experimental alternative version of the work, using the same images but reframing the context as being a response to lockdown
    • I should add that I’m not seriously considering changing the underlying concept, I just wanted to see what it would look like if I did…
  • I asked about sequence and edit, and her only comment was – like Alexander’s had been – whether the last image fit with the rest, or jarred too much
    • My original response to this was that it was a deliberate decision to provide a ‘full stop’ at the end of the series
    • But two reviewers have made the same comment now
    • So maybe I will play around with either a different edit, or change the text fragment on the last image tone that is more of a piece with the preceding images

Reflecting on the experience

It was similar-but-different to the Revolv review. Similar in a positive way, as in both reviewers had a similar response to my intent, i.e. they both ‘got it’. Jayne talked more about the images as images, not to say that the text was superfluous but rather than the images could work independently of the text if necessary.

This is encouraging: even though I’ve long considered the text to be an integral part of the intent, I am now looking at the images with a fresh pair of eyes and can see how they could:

  • Work with a different textual framework
    • per my experimental ‘remix’ mentioned
  • Stand alone as single images or small clusters, without the text

This is a bit of a lightbulb moment about polysemy, on a couple of levels:

  • I understood the concept of ‘reader as author’ in theoretical terms but now I see it happening to my own work, it becomes more real
  • I am realising that I can myself see different interpretations (or significations) in my own work

The latter point is slightly mind-bending, but in a good way.

Separating out single images

Prompted by Jayne, I have entered five of the series into the Shutter Hub Everyday Delight open call, with the border and text fragments removed.

I think these images can be seen as having a life of their own, outside of the Remembering Forgetting sequence and concept; they can float free of an underpinning conceptual framework and just look interesting as images in their own right.

To use a daft analogy, I’m thinking it as ‘releasing singles off the album’…!