A 4: Image and text
Brief: Create a series of work (aim for 7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place that you’ve looked at so far in this course. Use the written word to play a part in its creation.
Be wary of illustrating your text with pictures and vice versa. Allow for the viewers’ interpretation to be opened up rather than shut down by the pairings. You may decide not to include the actual words in the final production; that’s fine, as long as they have in some way informed the research and development of the concepts and have pushed the imagery further as a result.
Write a short reflective commentary (around 500 words) describing how your chosen ‘words’ have informed your series of images and make this available to your tutor alongside your image
My submission is a slide-show with audio tracks.
2. My reflective commentary
‘I had a dream’ (Finn, 1993)
My starting point was a story that I heard from a friend, called Adrian, a few years ago. It was about a near death experience prefigured by a ‘warning’ dream. An edited version of an audiotape of my interview with him was the framework for image taking and the slide show.
Research and theory
I wanted to produce a slide show to illustrate my work as the audio story was powerful; I though that it would marry well with the right images, and I had not done this before. Influential sources were ‘Firestorm,’ ‘Factory Records,’ and ‘June Street,’ (Henley, 2013; Meadows, 2016; Meadows, 2013). The first is striking because of the sophistication of story construction from a single memorable image, and the colour and range of material included. The two slide shows by David Meadows are anchored in recorded memories and there are strong parallels with my work.
The theoretical framework for my work lies in the relationship between moving and still images. Several authors in ‘Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving image’ and a review of this book by Guy Lane are helpful (Green and Lowry Ed, 2006; Lane, 2007). Laura Mulvey observes that the “still image is the bearer of ‘pastness’ and by extension death.” This recalls Barthes viewing of his mother’s image (which we do not see) which induces thoughts and feelings about his own future death (Barthes, 1982). Hirsch referring to Barthes, in another source, points out that this is “the mother’s death and the son’s mourning, his anticipation of his own death…” (Hirsch, 1997). These ideas resonate in my work which is about death, it’s anticipation and resurrection. Christian Metz, in ‘Stillness and time’ makes a useful comment about moving images which he says suggest ” a sense of ‘presentness’ as opposed to a still image which suggests the past (Green and Lowry Ed, 2006).
There is also an indexical element in the halted image within the slide show. This is Laura Muley, again referring to Barthes, “The halted frame, the arrest…allows the time for contemplation that takes us back to the brief instant that recorded ‘the real thing’ (Green and Lowry Ed, 2006, page 153). Halting the frame also has the benefit of giving the image prominence “the performance of stardom” rather than being ‘swept away and denied'” as might happen with moving images (Green and Lowry Ed, 2006, page 153).
When reading ‘Autofocus’ by Susan Bright I was drawn to the work of Thomas Florschuetz which I researched (Gallery, 2016; Bright, 2010; Gisbourne, 2004). I used a similar style of image taking and presentation for my first submission to my tutor. My images are without the bleakness of Florschuetz’s ‘Early body figures 1989-90’ (Gisbourne, 2004); I used colour to show coldness and contrasting warmth.
Preliminary shoot and trial partial slide show for OCA colleagues
I decided to photograph my own body parts in my home studio to create a 90 second trial slide show which I shared with my OCA peers and another tutor. I had already decided on several intentional elements;
- The background – I was looking for something suggestive of a swimming pool but not obvious waves or bubbles. I took some photographs of stones and flags in my garden to create a texture.
- Colour of the background – I chose a cool ‘swimming bath’s’ blue which also referenced the ‘clinical cool’ blue of the hospital where Adrian is admitted.
- Black framing to the body parts – These isolated the body parts. The black also referenced death or threat.
- Body parts – This work is about the dissolution and resurrection of the body. I was clear that I could move these around.
- Placement of body parts – The placement and fracturing of the body was essential to my story.
- Bounding frame – I had a white bounding frame in the trial video (for prints) but eliminated that as “it looks like a Power Point presentation.”
- The text in the frame – Originally there was a lot of text in the frame but this duplicated the audio and was distracting.
- I included one black and white frame – no one liked that!
I did not intend to change much apart from keeping coloured images and taking as many ‘body’ shots as I could.
First model shoot and first full slide show to tutor
This was at the model’s home using my portable studio. My main difficulty was negotiating the lack of clothing as it was a cool room! I had a list of body shapes to take and experiment with.
I selected body part images for my slide show which was eight minutes long. Sometimes they worked well and at other times they were awkward or did not work. Many of the frames had several small images of body parts which lost the impact of a single image filling the frame. My tutor was critical of this slide show for two main reasons; she could not see where it could be placed in the photographic ‘canon,’ and the images were too small in the frame. I also realised that there was not enough variety in the images to tell the story. I could also reduce the story length now that I was proficient at editing audio in Adobe Premier Pro.
Second model shoot and final slide show
I edited the audio story from 8 to 4 minutes and made many new images to illustrate the latter two-thirds of the presentation. These new images were more nuanced and acted as a counterpoint rather than an illustration of the audio story.
Making these new images was much easier than my first shoot as I had divided the story and image taking into four parts: ‘Swimming,’ here I kept most of the images from my trial slide-show; ‘Heart attack,’ with new images taken in the model’s car and garden; ‘Hospital,’ with new images taken in a medical centres or from earlier exercises in this module; ‘Resolution,’ where images were taken of my model in their home. Examples of my approach would be the image of the car aerial to illustrate isolation and communication, or the image of the bucket of ashes next to the flowering climber suggesting ‘life and death.’ I was surprised at how quickly I could do this but my thinking, research and work on A5 on illustrating the ‘unseen’ subject of grief really informed my mindset for this shoot. I also shot a lot of images to give me enough choice for my slide show – I did not take enough on the first shoot.
I had thought about many of my final selections in preparation and while shooting. My tutor commented on this second version of my slide show. She suggested removing an image of my model on the phone as it was “too obvious” – it had slipped through my ‘poetic ambiguity’ net! I used only four words of text in the ‘blackout’ phase of the story, but reduced this to two words for a longer duration to let them linger in the viewers mind. I also reduced the amount to wave music in the presentation as sometimes it obscured the audio story.
Finn, T. (1993). Protected. Before and After. http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/Tim_Finn:Protected, Lyrically.
Henley, Topham. (2013). Firestorm, , The Guardian on-line. http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/may/26/firestorm-bushfire-dunalley-holmes-family. Accessed 12th August, 2016
Meadows, D. (2016). My photography stories, no. 14: Factory Records by Daniel Meadows https://vimeo.com/157846989?from=outro-embed. Vimeo, Vimeo.com.
Meadows, D. (2013). June Street https://vimeo.com/57256051. Vimeo, Vimeo.com.
Green and Lowry Eds (2006). Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving image. London, Photoworks/Photoforum.
Lane, G. (2007). “Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image (Review) https://www.academia.edu/5697845/STILLNESS_AND_TIME_PHOTOGRAPHY_AND_THE_MOVING_IMAGE_EDITED_BY_DAVID_GREEN_AND_JOANNA_LOWRY_DESIGNED_BY_LOUP.” The Art Book 14(3).
Barthes, R. (1982). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London, Jonathan Cape.
Hirsch, M., (1997) Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. Harvard
Bright, S. (2010). Autofocus: The self-portrait in contemporary photography. London, Thames and Hudson.
Gisbourne, M. (2004). “Thomas Florschuetz: Korperbilder.” Artists. Retrieved March 6th, 2017, from http://www.m-bochum.com/artist_info2_en.php?SID=2CaHgcq3rogy&aid=61&aifid=141
Florschuetz, T. (2010). Photographer Thomas Florschuetz | euromaxx. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L0zytDjicE. youtube, youtube.com.
Angier, R. (2015). Train your gaze: A practical and theoretical introduction to portrait photography. London, Bloomsbury Publishing.
Interview with Adrian Smith; Recorded 30th September 2016 by Morris Gallagher.
Wave music; ‘Summer waves at Charmouth beach in Dorset’ https://www.freesound.org/people/konakaboom/sounds/203156/download/203156__konakaboom__summer-waves-at-charmouth-beach-in-dorset.wav. Accessed 2nd April, 2017
ECG sounds; https://www.freesound.org/people/FreqMan/sounds/32329/download/32329__freqman__heartmonitor-ekg.wav, https://www.freesound.org/people/FreqMan/sounds/32329/ Accessed 2nd April, 2017