Critical Research Journal

Week 6 Peer to Peer Tutorial…..

Reflecting on peer and tutor feedback, I have taken a literal step back from my subjects, I thought intimacy and revelation came from proximity, but getting more narrative in the frame, especially where more signifiers are needed for viewers with less shared refence points,(eg military) requires stepping back.  I have a connection with most of my subjects, whether family, friend or the unspoken shared military link. Tish Murtha and Nan Goldin had explicit personal connections with their photographic subjects, where in effect they were inviting the photographer, (ergo perhaps the viewer?), to participate in their private lives.  Curious to see what is losst by no direct gaze too.

Stepping back…..

No Direct Gaze..anything lost?

Discussion on the relationship between subject and viewer has also got me thinking how does a female photographer optimise capturing ostensibly male subjects (for 21st Century Veterans).  Likewise, taking portraits of female subjects I have always tended to shoot from flattering angle slightly above. But is that behaviour driven by aesthetics or on a more deep-seated idiosyncrasy that women ‘appear’ for the male gaze.  I tested this with images of AJ and shot upwards for an imperial, regal look.  I loved the result (I hold her in high regard), but she didn’t, feeling uncomfortable with implied authority.

Regal AJ and no-less-regal Tatum

I want to use text either in or with an images.  Barthes views that text constitutes a parasitic message designed to connote the image.  But, to quicken the understanding is not necessarily as pejorative as it sounds. In a time-pressed world, and where shared cultural beliefs may be less evident that nudge might be needed. More research needed on the best intertextual references and if/how to incorporate text.  Barbara Kruger style of text overlay? Coupled with a Stezaker-style collage effect?

What speaks louder?

I had been inspired by the militaristic indexicality of Stacy Pearsall and Charisse Isis.  This is a great start point, but research is leading me to photographers with less military but equally relatable images eg Sandwell (Michelle Sank), and Of Men: Strength and Vulnerability (Zoe Zimmerman). It also behoves me to look at previous veteran photography, to consider modern reprising.  Eg hands holding Welsh Guard photo is clearly aged and treasured, but maybe today there are many who can hold similar images, of millennial equivalents.

Welsh Guard from interwar years and a well stepped back veteran shot.

More to follow….!! 🙂

Week 4 tutorial…..

Taking a holistic look at Pro Patria – 21st Century Veterans (PP) and Celebrating Breast Cancer Survivors (BC)  as the body of work this semester will be *something* portraiture.

With both PP and BC I am staging images, which I know for PP specifically are constructed around individual narratives.  I want to think they are a jumping off point (mis-quote GASKELL) but I am not convinced that there are enough signs that viewers can decode? (And that’s before looking at the specificity of the intended audiences).  For PP, the military viewer and civilian viewer will likely find very little correlation of connotation, even with polysemous views, I cannot see vast areas of overlap as the cultural and linguistic division between military communities is indeed part of the issue I am trying to explore!  There are little by way of any shared cultural references. Indeed week 3 tutorial – Georgia and I were poles apart in our interpretation of Athena Division… own reference points were clear (and blinkered!) in seeing those images one way; my ‘military-expediency’ perhaps was part of the problem as I found 2 images very similar to represent the whole oeuvre, of which they are not representative!  But (I am assuming) with no personal mil service or experience of military, let alone US Armed Forces, strong contemporary warriors reprising heroic mythical figures of power and fortitude may not have been her first thought.

In BC I am overtly using Intertextual references – pink ribbon, common signifier, after many years of breast cancer awareness association, but 10m of pink voile out of context (timing is the context ie BC month of October or world cancer awareness day in Feb) – is perhaps just signifying women in pink material.  Maybe exposing cancer scars unless it is in context becomes nakedness, or nudity. On that note, reading Berger’s ways of seeing with interest, clearly careful vestimentary consideration is needed so as not to misproduce nudity out of nakedness.

In PP, the heavyweight semiology is by way of stereotyping, as that is a pivotal element of the project. I want to refute the misheld perceptions of veteran stereotypes but almost need to exploit the stereotype to make the point.  Using middle-aged males to convey the powerful messaging showing implicit vulnerability, but not sure how sustainable that strategy is. More to follow as I work with more veterans.

Stereotypes and using Tatum and AJ: brunette (Tatum) and maturity (AJ) have specific female stereotypical signifiers.  However, what am I trying to convey in BC – is it authentic survival? is it cognisance of BC awareness, and indeed what is the demographic I am wanting to reach?  Is it direct to women in the BC age group? Younger women? Or maybe partners/friends/family?

+++ Are there sufficient semiotics in both PP and BC for the viewer to decode, and therefore connote the significance I am trying to convey? +++ Context consider timing +++.Consider AUDIENCE! +++

Technical Codes

Composition – Salience – interesting commentary on positioning of subject vis a vis relative subliminal messaging….exploration needed….particularly to test with the voile left and right positioning imperatives.

Proximity – I have tended towards closer portraits to engender an intimacy.  Successive peer review is correct in asserting that it might add to the narrative if a little further out (my love of the 85mm!)  Owen Harvey ‘Young Fathers’ resonates with its colour, contexts and portraiture that is still intimate, but contextualised, but maybe a little more distance, Michelle Sank’s ‘Sandwell’ youth project maybe the appropriate distance between photog and subject, so as NOT to wholly intrude but to still offer an insight into the sitter’s character.  And Jenny Lewis 100 years, AGAIN, (have the book there is soooo much inspiration!) Or totally different Alys Tomlinson ‘Gli Isolani’ full length portraiture, black and white immortalisations seem timeless.

Use of colour for reflecting mood – sorrow, happiness, excitement? I need colour for BC so need to think about how to use colour to result in viewers connoting the meaning I am trying to impart.  For PP I have used B&W more often, subconsciously, for its truth value but is that a false flag, can I impose a ‘truth’ on a constructed image?

Camera angle – I often shoot from slightly above as I thought it gave a more flattering result….but in reading Bergers commentary on male and female representation in art I wonder if I am succumbing to unconscious bias and social conditioning in thinking that subjects – mainly women tbf – look better *for the viewer* from above, where the viewer is ostensibly male.  Looking back to the images of Mik and Tatum – Mik was shot from slightly oblique but level angle and the outliers were the ones shot from above and below.  For BC a variety of camera angles used; a regal result from looking up at a regal AJ, which I like the result of, as I do hold her in high regard/respect/authority but she did not like so much, I daresay as a result of looking too imperial perhaps.

In sum……

Some ideas…..

26 Jan 23 – See this….!!

Boudoir’ing…… got me thinking about whether this term to focus on ‘other portraits’……

(a pink-ribbon/camouflage project……musing!)

Gallery for DYCP Grant.odp useful repository!!

Aspects and Ratios – things i have learned about photog exhibitions…. 17 Jan 23

I spent an informative hour watching an RPS video on YouTube about sizing your images for exhibition. Couldnt believe my eyes when i saw the run time was an hour+…i mean…HOW?!? But, one of the best explanations of photo processing tech ever. And, put into good practice today with a submission for LRPS assessment by the RPS and an entry into the V&A Parasol photog competition, (its the inaugural year, if there are only 5 entries, including mine, then i should be a winner!!). Here are the images as presented:

ALl set at 4 x 3.5 for presentation on 4 x 3.5 wall.

This has been a great lesson learned, learnt early and can become second nature well before the FMP starts pressing….!

New Blogging Year resolution. 29 Dec 22

It’s been long enough in the pipeline, but one term into my MA, with ideas for my Final Major Project (FMP) percolating, I need to start using this CRJ and/or website blog space, for making notes, for sanity checking and for venting (I imagine!) given the delicious pace and unpredictability of life at the moment.

I had no idea 12 months ago that I would be a student again, that I would eschew corporate life to develop my photography credentials.  Not even sure I knew Falmouth University even existed.  So I am delighted, incredulous, and simultaneously shitting bricks, that I have completed 1/6 of the course.  What I had not anticipated is just how much I would enjoy it (might be speaking too soon!) to the extent that assignments get started – and finished – early.  Have I learned nothing in from my military career about wasted effort and optimising time up to deadlines?  I also need to manage my expectations as this is a marathon not a sprint and stop confusing enthusiasm for actual energy.

So, a summary for my own sanity perhaps; where am I at with my FMP ideas as we leave 2022.

Tacit green light for Pro Patria – 21st century veterans – before Christmas – tick, very happy.

….reality check…….fuuuuuucckkkkkk! Time for the ‘No Duff’:

  • Researching veterans organisations I have an affiliation with eg RAFA. RAF BF, SSAFA, RBL, Falklands Veterans Foundation, BLESMA, Combat Stress, The Not Forgotten, Felix Fund, see spreadsheet for details, (nb UPDATE spreadsheet with details)
  • Drafted a generic email that can be tailored to suit the association.
  • Sent to RAFBF, FVF and Combat Stress – 28 Dec 22.

What, though, do I want from them?

  • I want to tap into their veterans networks, I need subjects!  Interesting subjects! I need either direct recommendations and referrals from the organisations, who can then in turn recommend their friends and boom- it takes off. 
  • Or I need volunteers who have seen the project or read about it, or just want to get involved. 
  • Therefore, I need 150 word short and snappy article (note to self!) that can be provided as content for websites, or newletters, (maybe I need to set up a provisional gallery on my website that is Pro-Patria-in-Progress??).
  • I also want some explicit publicity to sustain the project,
  • And some implicit support in dealing with this contemporary diasporo.  I have been out of regular service 10 years, and whilst still wear a reserve officer’s uniform from time to time, the nature of military service, like everything else in life, is dynamic.

I also need to think about:

  • Formal approach to my veteran friends – list.
    • and a method of referral and growing the diaspora
  • Instagram ‘rinse and repeat’ mechanism for posting PP images and trailing the project.
  • Contexts……without pre-empting the next semester but where/how to contextualise….ideas ideas ideas…burbling now…….gin time….

Alternative options for FMP :

Fix My Priorities

Find More People

Five Million Portraits

F***! MORE PHOTS????!!!

Documents Reference/under development

  • Assignment 2 finished article
  • Public mis-perceptions (labelled annex A but clearly NOT nd Annex!)
  • Conflicts since 1945 (with UK involvement) on same spready see initial contacts