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].

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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].