A 5: Original submission to tutor: ‘No, it’s not alright’
Brief: Look back at the themes we’ve examined relating to place and our presence within it. What areas inspired you most?
The culmination of this course is a self-directed assignment where you have free rein to choose a subject that relates to any of the material discussed in the course. You may have gathered skills and insights through the projects that you want to revisit or you may have been inspired by other ideas.
The only stipulation is that the final outcome must represent a notion of identity and place that you are personally inspired by. Make sure that your work is visually consistent, relevant to the subject matter you choose and holds together well as a set, both visually and conceptually.
Think carefully about your editing decisions.
- Which images need to be there?
- Which ones repeat other images?
- Are you holding on to a favourite that is no longer required?
Do you need to re-shoot anything?
Aim for a coherent set of no more than 15 pictures, accompanied by a reflective commentary of no more than 500 words.
There are four items;
- What I think could go into a photobook: ‘Book 3’ – for ease of presentation this is Lightroom PDF book
- A darker more minimal photobook: ‘Book Darker’ – for ease of presentation this is Lightroom PDF book
- An example of text and images for a ‘pull out’ section in a final photobook
- A video showing a mock-up of a hand-made photobook
1. 1 Photobook ‘Book 3’ PDF
1.2 Photobook ‘ Book Darker’
(For completeness a trial of inserting diary text with images is enclosed here
I do not think this integration of text works)
1.3 Examples of text and images for a ‘pull out section’ in a final photobook
‘IT’S NOT ALRIGHT’ PHOTOBOOK INSERT
This book is about me and my daughter. My daughter Rosie was diagnosed with a lymphoma cancer in July 2015. She died on 15th December 2017.
Initially I thought she might be cured as did she but she relapsed in July 2016. I started to take photographs in July 2016, and keep a diary of my feelings about me and her, when she was having ‘salvage’ chemotherapy. I also started to grieve then – five months before she died.
She was happy for me to take pictures but stipulated that she should not appear in them.
Guide to photographs
Note 1 (Pages 2,3)
I wake on a bright and sunny day, and that’s the first though that comes into my mind, it’s going to be a good day. The there is another darker thought, like a malevolent presence, that says ‘No, it’s not alright that Rosie has cancer’ and that stays. The sunny disposition lasts a second or two but the dark thought evaporates the sunshine.
That’s been the pattern the three times when we have heard the bad news, on diagnosis, when treatment had failed and when salvage treatment had failed. It’s very intense in the first few weeks after bad news and that dark colour of thought is dark grey but it becomes lighter and eventually that second thought is not there. Is this adaptation? Is the the ‘new normal’ that you need to keep going?
NOTE: I wrote *’Photograph’ in my diary entry in September 2016 as an idea for a photograph which I took much later on as 86 interval images taken every 10 minutes while I was sleeping.
Note 2 (Pages 4,5,6)
Up and down the motorway. Up and down. Sometimes with worry, fatigue, hope, tears and sandwiches. It’s winter-time and the windows of the walkway are lined with condensations because it’s cold outside. There is a ‘foggy’ view of the cars and parking. I am not sure what tomorrow or next week with bring for me or us. I feel flat and low and burst into tears if I really thought about a future that lies around the corner.
NOTE: We travelled between Gateshead and Birmingham every week for 4 months. The images were taken on the walkway of the Woodhall Services on the M1.
Note 3 (Pages 8,9)
10 AUGUST ‘Happy’
Thomas’s birthday was 3 weeks ago but the balloons and ‘Happy’ sign remain. There are always moments of happiness and joy in this ‘Cancer Marathon.’ Rosie has been in hospital for 6 weeks now with some nights at home every week recently before her wave 2 of chemo.
The ‘Happy’ sign reminds me of those moments that been, Thomas’s birthday, isolation in hospital in hospital. When I look at it from the reverse side it still show Happy but you have to work at it.
NOTE: The image of the unfurled sunshade was the first photograph I took for my series in June or July when I thought ‘This is the end of summer’ and ‘Will we have a barbecue in her garden this year?
1.4 Video explaining the mock-up of hand-made photobook
This is password protected and the code will come with my email.
2. Reflective commentary
My work is about me and my reactions to my daughter’s illness and death. It is also about grief and memory. It explores external places and objects and my internal spaces between July 2016 and June 2107. Some of my photographs describe or “authenticate” my experiences and environment, but other’s suggest “something beyond resemblance” (Barthes, 1982, Page 109). Barthes calls this “something” ‘air’ where “air is an expression of truth, a supplement of identity that expresses the subject” (La Grange, 2007. Barthes also sees ‘air’ as the soul of a person; perhaps mine is evident here?
My work lies within the personal, diarist and documentary tradition of photography. It is personal in that I expose my feelings of grief and loss, and include images from my family archive. It is diarist in that it is based on my diary of this time but also conveys one story of ‘what happened’ to me and my daughter. It is also a journey into past and recent memories and associated feelings.
Sophie Calle’s work ,’Take Care of Yourself’ and ‘Rachel. Monique..,’ are influences in combining family images, written memorabilia and text (Calle, 2009; Calle, 2012). ‘Redhead Peckerwood’ also plays and re-presents archived material, “mixing fact and fiction, past and present, myth and reality” (Patterson, 2011; Patterson, 2012); I found that choosing family achieve images added contrast and depth to my series. I also realised that it was legitimate for me to fabricate images to convey my experience, something I would not have done at the start of my project. Uta Barth was another influence in showing me that a little could say a lot; previously many of my images were cluttered with objects that distracted from the story (Barth, 2016). Increasingly I photographed or selected ambiguous images that conveyed ideas and feelings that I thought other could relate to.
The three volumes on photobooks by Parr and Badger helped me to see that I could express my work as a photobook (Parr, Badger, 2004; 2006; 2014). I used their criteria in forming my selection of images and additions; their criteria include ‘ambiguity,’ ‘nuance,’ creating a ‘concise world’ and not necessarily as an ‘objective reality’ – (quotes from John Gossage in Parr and Badger, 2014). Parr and Badger also insist that ‘the design (of the photobook) should complement what is being dealt with, that it is ‘layered,’ and is ‘about something.’
The most difficult task was selecting the series. I wanted to create ambiguity about who was ill early on in the series, indeed hospital scenes and my daughter (in part) do not appear until several pages into the book. My early images raise a question and the feeling associated with ‘bad news.’ I like the simple ambiguous images such as the motorway walkway and window, the barbed wire, ‘Monkey’ sitting on his own and the garden images. I think people can relate to these suggestions of pain, decay and loss and they benefit from lack of specificity in the frame content.
I had the idea of creating a ‘grief record’ within a set of NHS hospital records with additions to allow people to explore the images. I researched old copies of medical records and made a physical mock-up. This was a worthwhile exercise. I also produced a film, with the aid of a film student, talking about my mockup. Both of these activities were rewarding.
I liked the order in my mock-up, although this will change. The images of childhood and growth and the immunisation records add contrast to the ‘medical’ images. I thought that the A4 size images were too large in that file and that more white space would help some of them to stand out. The folds of the pages also hid many images. The inside folder area is big enough for additional ‘Note’s which I think will be on cards in a coloured envelope.
After construction I was unsettled by the contrast between the format and content; it is a subversion the medical notes format and content I am familiar with in medical records (I have been a doctor for 38 years). I will produce at film of my final book at the end because this was easy to do and will be a powerful way to display it.
There are still lots of issues about constructing a final book, but I now need a view from my tutor.
Barthes, R. (1982). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London, Jonathan Cape.
Grange, A. l. (2007). Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. Oxford, Focal Press.
Calle, S. (2009). Take Care of Yourself. https://www.paulacoopergallery.com/exhibitions/sophie-calle-take-care-of-yourself/installation-views, Paul Cooper Gallery.
Calle, S. (2012). Rachel. Monique… Paris, Xavier Barral.
Patterson, C. (2011). Redheaded Peckerwood. https://www.lensculture.com/articles/christian-patterson-redheaded-peckerwood#slideshow.
Patterson, C. (2012). Redheaded Peckerwood. London, MACK.
Barth, U. (2016). “Uta Barth: artists website.” Retrieved 9th January, 2016, from Utabarth.net.
Parr, M, Badger G (2004). The Photobook: A History Volume I. London, Phaidon.
Parr, M, Badger G (2006). The Photobook: A History Volume II. London, Phaidon.
Parr, M, Badger G (2014). The Photobook: A History Volume III. . London, Phaidon.