A4: Not Familiar (image and text) – assessment submission

Images

These images are submitted as a printed book as part of the assessment pack.

Click to open as gallery

 

 

Artist’s statement

This work uses text as a direction for photographing the atmosphere of a place.  I worked in collaboration with a writer, who I asked to provide a passage of text that I might draw upon. I was not specific in the request and just explained that I would not be illustrating the text but using it to inspire a broader narrative. Details of the text are here. Over a period of days I reflected upon the text before deciding on the type of photographs I might make (see here) – I read the text as analogous to uncertainty or ambiguity through the transition between light and dark. The title, ‘Not Familiar’, is drawn from the text and reflects ambiguity and lack of clarity.

My initial inspiration for the mood of Northern English urban landscapes is from the monochrome work of both Bill Brandt and Martin Parr (The Non-conformists). More recently, I have engaged with the work of John Bulmer, who’s striking use of colour in this context has driven me to find colour in these apparently drab Northern towns and cities.

I worked on the shoot without reference to the words or thinking of the descriptions in the writing. I kept only the mood in mind. Contact sheets from some of the 170 shots are here. It has been a long process to get to the finished output: I initially decided to work the photos and text into a photo book, using the Lightroom book module,  where I made the book text-heavy to avoid the reader making a direct connection between image and text (see here). However, following feedback on my first edit, recorded here, I substantially reworked the photo book and the online presentation of the planned book for submission to my tutor. Following his feedback, which suggested simplification of layout and increasing ambiguity further, a further rework was completed to what is presented here and in the accompanying printed book. Closure on the work was present the book to the writer whose work inspired the photographs – he received the work enthusiastically and appreciated the interplay between the atmosphere conveyed in his words and the photographs; even though the words were dragged from their original context and not the same order of appearance as in the original piece of writing.

Through this process, I have come to appreciate the value in revisiting and reworking a piece before it is finally released into the world – work needs time to rest and brew before looking at it anew and refreshing it.

Submission to tutor and report

The original submission to my tutor along with introductory, process and concluding text is here. This was also presented as a book (mocked up through a video) but is a significantly different edit and layout to the work finally presented.

My tutor’s report and my response is here. Details of the rework are here. I learned a great deal about the process of making and editing photographs in book format through the work and the feedback received. The earlier version of the work was perhaps too intense and busy with insufficient time for the eye to rest a while and absorb the content. I also battled with the tools for assembling the book – finding Lightroom’s capabilities for layout inflexible; this has encouraged me to use Indesign for future work book works.

A4 rework for feedback

Following my tutor’s feedback (see here), I reworked the edit of the photos and the layout of the book. I think the updated version offers a more consistent edit, better representing the theme of ambiguity inspired by the passage of writing used as a basis for the work. The book layout is also simplified.

I put the rework out for critique on the OCA forum and the feedback was mixed, with some liking the edit of the book as initially submitted (here). I’ve taken some time to reflect on this and will submit the reworked version (as a printed book) for assessment – while I do not find the mixed layout of the original submission as objectionable as my tutor, I will follow his advice on this aspect. In terms of the re-edit and the consistency of images among themselves and with the theme, I think there is a clear improvement and I prefer it this way.

Click to open as gallery

 

A4: Tutor feedback

I had a telephone feedback session with my tutor on A4 (the work submitted is here) and received bulleted notes of points for reflection, which are attached for reference. On the positive side I found the telephone interaction far more useful to understanding than just receiving a written report and able to better understand the concerns about the submission as a result. On the less positive side, was the recommendation that I go back to the drawing board on the work, which I found a little disconcerting given the positive feedback I’d received on the OCA forum (including resident tutors). But, I believe the observations are valid and I will rework. Key areas to work on are:

  • Reflect on image selection again and stay true to the original concept of ambiguity
  • Layout of book is incoherent, with too many different page layouts. Simplify. Text needs to be smaller for a printed book.
  • Let the images speak for themselves (as visuals) and don’t over-work things. Do not crop sizes down.

In addition to recommendations on the assignment, the work of some photographers collaborating with writers was recommended:

Susan Lipper (Trip Book): http://www.susanlipper.com/trip.html
A J Wilkinson (Driving Blind Book): http://ajwilkinson27.com/galleries/driving-blind/
John Holden (Lots of Company Book) http://john- holden.net/lotsofcompany.html

The common theme I see in this is the priority given to the visuals above the text, including in Susan Lipper’s work where the text is fairly lengthy, but only revealed if  the view clicks an icon to reveal it.

Reference

Tutor’s bulleted report is attached: http://identity.fitzgibbonphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/A4-IAP.pdf

A4: Image and text (submission to tutor)

                              Video of page spreads from planned photo book.

Introduction

The brief for this assignment, Image and Text, was to ‘create a series of work (7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place looked at so far in this course, using the written word to play a part in its creation.’ (OCA IAP, p89).

I chose to work in collaboration with a writer, who I asked to provide a passage of text that I might draw upon for inspiration. I was not specific in the request and just explained that I would not be illustrating the text but using it to inspire a broader narrative. Details of the text are here. Over a period of days I reflected upon the text before deciding on the type of photographs I might make (see here) – I read the text as analogous to uncertainty or ambiguity through the transition between light and dark. The title, ‘Not Familiar’, is drawn from the text and reflects ambiguity and lack of clarity.

Process

I worked on the shoot without reference to the words or thinking of the descriptions in the writing. I kept only the mood in mind. Contact sheets from some of the 170 shots are here. It has been a long process to get to the finished output: I decided to work the photos and text into a photo book and my initial thoughts are recorded here, where I decided to make the book text-heavy to avoid the reader making a direct connection between image and text. However, following feedback on my first edit, recorded here, I substantially reworked the photo book and the online presentation of the planned book.

The final output submitted is considerably different from the first edit, both in terms of the book’s content and its digital presentation on the blog (video above). It has increased ambiguity and, I hope, allow the viewer time to take in the images and words and bring their own interpretation. To complement the video are still slides of the page spreads here.

Conclusion

Against the OCA assessment criteria, I conclude:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational – skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Developed a photo book layout (to be printed) for this project in Lightroom and used Photoshop to format the output for digital viewing; the double-page jpgs and video with soundtrack. Successfully combined text and photos in the book.

Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. 

Extended the meaning of the text and photographs to create an ambiguity that allows the viewer to bring their own interpretation. Developed more effective methods of presenting images digitally for web-viewing.

Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Used low-light photography to develop ambiguity and light and shade in shots, while using colour photography. Blur was also used to add a sense of mystery. Used the text as a point of access to a creative pathway and presented in the output effectively for both digital and analogue platforms (book to be printed, following tutor feedback).

Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs).

Extensive research reflected in learning log and preparation for this assignment linked in this post.

A4: Edit for tutor submission

The images below show the page spreads for what will ultimately be printed as a book. Click on an image to view as a slideshow. This supplements the movie included in the assignment submission.

A4: Feedback on 1st edit

I requested feedback from the OCA community on my first edit flipbook (here). The feedback offered many aspects to consider and I note the main points here, along with thoughts on how I will use the feedback to shape the next iteration of the book:

  1. Textual content – general feeling that there was too much text and it distracted / confused the impression of the photographs. Suggestion that two versions of the book could be prepared – one in which the text was just hinted at, and other in which the text would be shown clearly, without being over-laid on an image.  I’ll focus on the photo-orientated version and discuss a text-focussed version with my collaborator.
  2. Commented that sidebar on WordPress site was a distraction (taking up too much real estate). Addressed by changing to full width theme.
  3. Too hectic a pace in the book – should be slowed down (eg blank pages) and allowed to unfold like a ‘Scandy drama’.
  4. Some comments lead me to realise I was diluting the output by trying to make the work serve two purposes (paper and screen) – a printed book, but also something that could be displayed online in this blog – and compromising both output forms. I will re-work with the focus on a paper book and then think how to give an impression of that book on the blog. Noted that there would be production difficulties attempting to reproduce the dark screen background in a paper output. One commentator mentioned how it is surprising how much the analogue format of books is used for online replication when there are other options available that suit digital better and make better use of the possibilities of the medium.

So overall, it is back to the drawing board with the creation of the photo book. On the plus side, the images were generally well received.

A4: Photobook for feedback

Below is the first edit of the photo book, which will put the form of output for assignment 4, Image and Text. It is provided here for the purposes of gathering feedback from the OCA discussion forum and elsewhere (page numbering is shown for reference purposes only).

Please leave comments in the forum or, if you do not use the forum, feedback is also welcomed below.

Click or use cursor keys to turn pages

 

 

A4: Approach to shoot and photo book creation

I approached the shoot with just the mood of the text in mind, rather than the details of the narrative – this was to avoid the temptation to directly represent the descriptive writing with photos. The contact sheets are here.

The creation of the photo book was somewhat tortuous. As well as the overcoming the technical challenges of producing a book for online viewing (‘flipbook’) in LR’s book module (see here), the selection process to combine image with text felt twice as perplexing as coming up with an edit of images alone.

After initially using snippets of text to go alongside the photos, I found that this not only destroyed the narrative in the writing, but also created a direct connection between the photos and text, suggesting they were meant to be illustrative of the text; even forcing me to make some kind of direct connection. Therefore, I eventually decided to include the full text, which has created a layer of ambiguity, rather than discord. An alternative would have been to exclude the text completely, but then there would have been no intercontextual ambiguity.

In Lightroom, I experimented with various layout options and making of background colours to the darker colours in the images create confusion between the boundaries of image and page. The text pages are over-layed on an opaque water shot, which also features as a stand-alone image. I’ve also included small abstracts of images on the text pages, designed to confuse.

Below are the pages from the first edit of the photo book, as standalone jpeg files.

 

A4: contact sheets

Having reflected for a while on the text chosen for this assignment and my reading of that text (see here), I decided to base the shoot in a historical / atmospheric place and chose the home town of the Brontës, Haworth, which is a drive across the moors from my home (the moors of Wuthering Heights).

Below are contacts for the photos I considered in my selection. In total, I took around 170 shots.

A4: Image and text – analysis of text and theme

In this post, I reflect on the text I will be using (see here) and how it might be interpreted as a piece of visual art.

I read the text as analogous to uncertainty or ambiguity through the transition between light and dark. The language used is descriptive and full of visual details, but it seems to be mood that is more important than the phenomenal. There is the boy familiar at first, but then dismissed. The boys sees dumped items from a past era and a sofa that is the narrator’s own. The boy is an echo of the narrator’s own past perhaps? More uncertainty. A shift in time, as the light ‘changes to monochrome’, as well as a shift between light and dark.

 

And so, I will explore images that create ambiguity, between light and the dark, certainty and doubt, past and present.