Exercise – Captions

This exercise looks at how text can enhance a story either by providing extra factual information or via ambiguous messages leading the reader to make their own judgement of the meaning behind the image.

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” (Twain)

I choose two pictures from a local newspaper while on holiday in Iceland. As I could not interpret any of the text there was nothing to influence or support my analysis.

P1120696

My captions
Relay:   “Mr Sigurdsson, aged 80, revisits his family farm”.
This text allows the reader some flexibility to build a bigger picture, add context through imagination and invent their own interpretation hence ‘The death of the author, the birth of the reader’ (Barthes).

Anchor: “Angry local resident  finds more rusting junk dumped on his land”
This caption gives out a strong, clear message and pushes the reader towards supporting the resident’s concerns. On reading this narrative one accepts the context, even though it remains unclear and unconfirmed.

“….the anchorage may be ideological and indeed this is its principal function; the text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image, causing him to avoid some and receive others; by means of an often subtle dispatching, It remote-controls him towards a meaning chosen in advance”. (Barthes, p.39)

Other potential captions
 Farmer supports clean up campaign. (anchor)
– Mr Sigurdsson elected to head up the design of the new concert hall. (anchor)
– “I’m not retiring just yet”, says local business man. (relay)
– Great Grandfather wins award. (relay)

P1120698

My captions
Relay:  Long, dry summer for the “Land of Fire and Ice”
The reader can study the picture and decide what impact the weather is having or will have on the different aspects within the scene and outside the frame.

Anchor: Historical landmark collapses.
This text goes straight for the main subject portrayed in the frame – honing in on the rusting jetty. The text accompanying the image has the power to encourage or entice the reading public into taking some sort of action.

Other potential captions
– Drought: water level hits all time low at vital reservoir. (anchor)
– Jetty left to rot. (anchor)
– Locals flock to bathe in surreal landscape (anchor)
– Award winning architects submit plans for new resort. (relay)

References
Barthes, R (1977). Rhetoric of the Image  Image Music Text. Fontana Press. London
Twain, M.  http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/807622 [accessed 7th July 2016].

Exercise – Three case studies

Peter Mansell

In this work Mansell has discovered how expressing one’s thoughts and feelings through photography is a therapeutic process.  He says, “…this form of expression often saw me through pain and anguish whilst the end product acted as a visual statement about my existence and that experience”.  Mansell realised over time that the best way to express his disability was not to talk about it and expect others to listen and understand, but to present images. This method provides a direct relationship with reality – anchoring the message and leaving little room for interpretation. His images clearly convey aspects of his life that others would not easily see or appreciate, e.g. the space his wheelchair occupies in the room.  In the interview Mansell talks about the importance of composition and format e.g. low angle to depict his view from the bed or wheelchair. In my opinion this work brings home the unseen impact of his impairment.

Dewald Botha

For me Botha’s images, tell of how he feels as an outsider living and working in the crowded, hectic environment of the city of Suzhou, China. In this body of work I see Botha’s work as portraying the Ring Road as a metaphor for boundaries – he looks beyond the ring road for a retreat, fresh air and peacefulness. What attracted me in particular was how, through his images, he was able to portray a sense of feeling trapped.  Then he writes of walking the entire ring road as though trying to escape and reconnect with the World as he knew it.

Jodie Taylor

Jodie’s work interests me most and is timely in that I am currently working on family history, memoirs and nostalgia. The images are poignant in that Taylor was able to revisit spaces (many unchanged) from her childhood and recall the play time she had with the local kids.  I had already watched the video posted on WeAreOCA  where Jesse Alexander talks about the way she has presented all her Assignments. This series is presented perfectly in a small plastic album of its time adding to the nostalgia.

The three projects resonate with me in different ways. I found Mansell’s work intimate and moving, portraying his day to day existence and the barriers that stand in his way. Botha’s work gave me a sense of his life in a stifling environment, yet shows how close he is to nature and space. Taylor’s work resonates with me most, refreshing my own interest in my past and her presentation styles brought back many memories

Regarding the question about how I feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto my images. I can’t be protective if I allow others to access my images. I think it is inevitable, all art it is open to interpretation. My photographs will prompt a reaction, if that reaction resonates in different ways to different people and means something to them, then I guess my work is appreciated. Others views may not carry the same interpretation or intention as mine, but that’s OK. Why did I take the photographs in the first instance? My photography is developing, taking and making images that portray something more personal. If I wish to hold on to authorial control I can attempt to anchor my intention through the use of text and presentation.

Exercise – Interpreting a poem through photographs

The aim of this exercise (and Assignment Two) is to encourage me to develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than the obvious and literal ones, to give a sense of something rather than a record of it. I am aware that my photography in early modules leaned towards literal images, I am working hard to move away from this, so this project and assignment is great for inspiration.

I am to choose a poem that resonates with me and then interpret it through photographs, aiming to give a sense of the feeling of the poem rather than describe it.

I have selected a poem I discovered recently while rooting through my Mum’s “bits and pieces box”. A simple poem by Patience Strong, which by chance, fits well with the theme for Assignment two “Photographing the unseen”.

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More Than Meets The Eye
Stand still, look up and scan the sky
There is more than meets the eye
Beyond the clouds that come and go
Beyond the sunset’s golden glow
Beyond the starry tapestry
Beyond what human sight can see
or mighty telescope explore
Go far; there’s always something more
Man, dazed and dazzled can’t deny
There is more than meets the eye
Patience Strong

The easy option would be to accept that the poem refers to the sky and beyond into space. The vastness of the universe and what is beyond our vision (unaided and aided by mighty telescopes) and trying to comprehend what one cannot see or feel. It’s a feel-good poem.

For me the pivotal line is “Go far; there’s always something more”.  From a slightly literal perspective I see it as a motivational statement of encouragement to learn, challenge and explore. However on a more profound level its message speaks of wonder, the unexplained, the unseen, the mysteries of the world – what else is out there. On the surface the narrative is poetic in a romantic, sweet sense and refers to the wonders of nature. This makes for easy reading, but I choose to interpret at a deeper level. The brief suggests reading the poem a few times, I only had to read it once to stir my imagination. Below are images I have taken in response to the narrative and I have included some images from my existing library of photographs.

Encourage. Challenge. Motivate.

P1080376 - Copy   073 - Copy      P1060702 - CopyDSC_5134 - Copy

…There’s always something more

 DSC_4551 - Copy   2016-06-13 16.34.27 - Copy  Matapouri bay 1 - Copy  DSC_4141 - Copy

Mystery and wonder

  20 - Copy    DSC_3048 - Copy

   DSC_3116 - Copy   P1090256 - Copy

Unexplained

   DSC_3528 - Copy     P1050241 - Copy

  DSC_5526 - Copy   grey - Copy

To take this project further I would choose a cohesive series of photographs and add text by picking out lines from the poem. To make it more interesting for the viewer/reader I would re-order lines of the verse.

Research point – Duane Michals: “This Photograph is My Proof”.

Duane Michals is an influential American photographer who places text on top of, or close by, the photographs. The text is often hand written, giving a personal and intimate quality to the work.

This Photograph is my Proof (1974).
michals

This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!

If I were to study this image prior to researching the work of Michals, I would have several questions. For example the couple appear to be posing, otherwise why would they be sitting facing the wall and looking straight into the camera? Did Michals set up the shot or did someone else capture the couple unawares in an intimate moment? The author’s hand written text implies a need to prove to himself, or maybe convince others, that there was a time “when things were still good”.

Without the text, the photograph could easily carry many different interpretations. The text aids and informs, and then asks the viewer to believe what they see “Look see for yourself!” Yet still the story is open ended – it  speaks of the past, love and proof. Is the author experiencing emotions of insecurity or loss? Was it unrequited love?

To answer my questions I looked closer at Michals work. He explained in 2007, “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like.… My reality has entered a realm beyond observation…. Most photographers are always looking at life, they’re looking at surfaces … but unless a photographer transcends appearances … then it’s always going to just be mere description.”  I understand more as I read about his childhood; “My father drank and smoked a lot, and if I asked him a question, he would always say, ‘Go look it up.’ This led to Michals’ love of reading and the written word. Art, he says, should be vulnerable. Hand written text adds another dimension to his images, the interaction of words and images provides a sensitive and moving narrative. It is clever because one assumes the message must be true because it is so personal and transparent – or is it?

References
http://www.1000wordsmag.com/duane-michals [Accessed 12th July 2016]

Research point – Examples of relay: Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett

Sophie Calle: Take Care of Yourself 

Calle 1    Calle 2

This piece of work was created in response to an email Calle received from her lover breaking off their relationship. This is a good example of relay in that she asked over 100 women (plus a parrot!), to analyse the email according to their professional interest. It made me think about how modern day communication methods can give out the wrong message; for example texting. Many times I have misread (and sent) messages that have caused upset or concern. I tend to over-analyse the written elements of the OCA course modules, also I read and re-read tutor feedback to ensure I have processed the correct message. All narrative is of course subjective and therefore open to interpretation. So I can only imagine the angst of trying to read between the lines of a letter from someone important, especially in a relationship. Calle says At first it was therapy; then art took over. After I month I felt better. There was no suffering. It worked. The project had replaced the man.” She feared he might come back seeking a reconciliation, which would have ruined the whole thing. This final comment implies a cold, calculating response, although she claims it was not revenge? I certainly agree that it reflects postmodern approaches to narrative. The work, mixing image and text (the email),  exhibitions and the book publication has triggered a social response thus demonstrating how open to interpretation a piece of narrative can be. In a way Calle is no longer the author, the piece of work has a life of its own.

Sophy Rickett: Objects in the Field 

 

“…Back at home I put on my new glasses and for the first time I can see clearly beyond the middle distance. The tree I am looking at is alive, each and every leaf a separate, distinct entity. A movement of wind causes boughs to bend. They move and shake separately and also as one. It is all connected, one organism, but made up of a million shades of colour, inflections of movement.”

Rickett 1

“..He talked me through its internal mechanisms, hesitantly at first, as if the details, its idiosyncrasies were coming back to him as he spoke, remembering with his hands. I hadn’t been sure what I was looking at. I’d felt confused, bereft of knowledge, with a sense that my understanding only seemed to converge with his on the subject of photography, and also I realized later, optics.”   (Taken from Objects in the Field (text), 2013. Pamphlet distributed freely to visitors of the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, 2013)

This work connects precision and accuracy with a more relaxed artistic approach. However for me the photographs alone do not appeal. It is the meeting and working relationship between the photographer and the scientist,  the measured, then poetic dialogue that accompanies the work which intrigues and captures my imagination. Rickett worked closely with the scientist, Dr Roderick Willstrop, a retired astronomer who, in 1980, designed and built the Three Mirror Telescope – a camera telescope in the grounds of the Institute of Astronomy. When Rickett and Dr Willstrop met he was preparing to have the negatives archived and Rickett started making her own large scale prints of them. The written text of her time with Dr Willstrop includes memories triggered from childhood; “…to do with using lenses to extend the limits of our vision, which in turn took me back to memories having my eyes tested in a hospital corridor when I was young, and all the language around that.”  It is the narrative describing the conflicting closeness and distance that Rickett encountered with Willstrop, the random recording of moments in time as the project developed that for me makes a visually and emotionally stronger piece of work than the series of individual images.  She uses the project to explore ideas around how meaning and interpretation can be fluid and subjective. “..he went to great lengths to try to make me understand the science.  Some of the time I’d find it really hard going, and would feel quite lost and confused.  I wanted to evoke a sense of that in the finished work; a sense that in some way we don’t completely fit together, that we are not occupying the same ground, and that there is a kind of resistance between us and the work that we do.  

References
Rickett, Sophy. Objects in the field. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art  [Accessed 10th July 2016]
Boothroyd, Sharon. Sophy Rickett. Photoparley. Available from: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/sophy-rickett/ [Accessed 10th July 2016]

Project 2: Image and text

This exercise looks at how text can enhance a story either by providing extra factual information or via ambiguous messages leading the reader to make their own judgement of the meaning behind the image.

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” (Twain)

I choose two pictures from a local newspaper while on holiday in Iceland. As I could not interpret any of the text there was nothing to influence or support my analysis.

P1120696

My captions
Relay:   “Mr Sigurdsson, aged 80, revisits his family farm”.
This text allows the reader some flexibility to build a bigger picture, add context through imagination and invent their own interpretation hence ‘The death of the author, the birth of the reader’ (Barthes).

Anchor: “Angry local resident  finds more rusting junk dumped on his land”
This caption gives out a strong, clear message and pushes the reader towards supporting the resident’s concerns. On reading this narrative one accepts the context, even though it remains unclear and unconfirmed.

“….the anchorage may be ideological and indeed this is its principal function; the text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image, causing him to avoid some and receive others; by means of an often subtle dispatching, It remote-controls him towards a meaning chosen in advance”. (Barthes, p.39)

Other potential captions
 Farmer supports clean up campaign. (anchor)
– Mr Sigurdsson elected to head up the design of the new concert hall. (anchor)
– “I’m not retiring just yet”, says local business man. (relay)
– Great Grandfather wins award. (relay)

 

P1120698

My captions
Relay:  Long, dry summer for the “Land of Fire and Ice”
The reader can study the picture and decide what impact the weather is having or will have on the different aspects within the scene and outside the frame.

Anchor: Historical landmark collapses.
This text goes straight for the main subject portrayed in the frame – honing in on the rusting jetty. The text accompanying the image has the power to encourage or entice the reading public into taking some sort of action.

Other potential captions
– Drought: water level hits all time low at vital reservoir. (anchor)
– Jetty left to rot. (anchor)
– Locals flock to bathe in surreal landscape (anchor)
– Award winning architects submit plans for new resort. (relay)

References
Barthes, R (1977). Rhetoric of the Image  Image Music Text. Fontana Press. London
Twain, M.  http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/807622 [accessed 7th July 2016].

Exercise – Bryony Campbell: “The Dad Project”

This exercise asks how two linear photo essays – Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project and W Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor, compare.

I found the two articles very different. Firstly,  the linear essay, The Dad project – which moved me deeply having lost my own Dad to cancer, is intensely personal and involved. It presents how Father and Daughter collaborate closely to work through a very difficult and emotional period of time. The narrative leading the reader through from diagnosis to death is strong and clear, and while the captions add to the poignancy the story would be just as strong in their absence. The series is shot with simplicity and honesty. Miss Campbell is on one hand able to photograph the unseen (love, hope, angst, grief and death) with subtlety and creativity whilst on the other hand hitting us hard with the cruel reality of the situation. The seesaw effect of uncertainty and optimism is very powerful. 

Bryony 2  bryony 3

 

Country Doctor may portray the varied work the doctor on a day-to-day basis, but is not truly linear. The images make for a cohesive piece of narrative but could just as easily work as stand alone. They are matter-of-fact and lack the intimacy and emotion of The Dad Project. Perhaps this is because his patients are strangers and the photographer was detached from the subject matter. The composition is considered throughout giving the project a staged appearance. It is a documentary narrative that suggests true events but the reader will make their own mind up.

country doctor   country doc 2

 

What do I think Bryony Campbell means by “an ending without an ending”? 

The photographs will provide a permanent record of the precious time with her Dad. I also feel the project’s ongoing interest and discussions with the public will allow Bryony to keep her Dad in the present. She is continually recognising fresh and different aspects within the images and thus as the story continues it revives her memories. When one loses someone close through illness it is an ending, but a relief, however the love never dies, therefore there is no ending.

References
Smith, W.E. (1948) Country Doctor. Life Magazine [online] available at http://life.time.com/history/life-classic-eugene-smiths-country-doctor/#1 [accessed 27th June 2016]

Campbell, B. (2011) The Dad Project [online] available at http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf [accessed 27th June 2016]