A 5: Tutor’s comments, my responses and changes

A 5: Tutor’s comments, my responses and changes

1. Tutor’s comments

It is in support of, and in addition to, the verbal feedback that you received on 10 July 2017.

Assessment potential

Assignment 5

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.   

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Some feedback on a revised A4 here but included in similar A4 section.

Assignment 5.

Well done for making a book. It feels like the right thing for this project.

I’m going to start by attempting to situate your project within a critical framework, you may (or may not), find the following reflections useful. If nothing else, this will provide some research material in terms of the books/essays and photographic work cited.

I mentioned phototherapy to you. Stephen Bull, in his book Photography, writes:

‘Phototherapy’ is related to Linda Berman and Judy Weiser’s 1970s ‘PhotoTherapy’ practice, which is underpinned by the Freudian psychoanalytical technique of asking the subject under analysis to talk. Most notably, photo-therapies actively seek to address the partial – and by implication – unrepresented narratives as memories constructed in the family album. Phototherapy, put simply, allows the unrepresented to be presented. ‘The theory is that both photographs themselves and the ideas that the client projects into the images while discussing them allow access to their repressed unconscious anxieties and desires, aiding the therapeutic unconscious’. (Bull, 2010:94)

Phototherapy isn’t always centered on the discussion of existing images from the family album. In assignment 5 you have represented the unrepresented, thus creating a new kind of family album, or a new chapter within it. Arguably, this approach is of a Gestalt psychotherapeutic approach, that is, experimental, existential and in response to immediate needs (Perls,1969). Rosy Martin, in her series Getting Changed and Too Close to Home? creates new images to renegotiate herself, and her relationship with her mother, at a time of pre-bereavement.

Getting Changed (2008) makes use of re-enactment phototherapy techniques also known as ‘the theatre of the self’ (Spence and Martin 1995:180) Over the duration of 17 minutes Martin becomes her mother through a performative process of transformation. ‘The theatre of the self’ technique was first employed by Martin, when working in collaboration with Jo Spence, they ‘…used makeshift studios and a few props and outfits to restage moments from the subjects’ past that had gone unrecorded in snapshots made at that time. For these photographs the participants would play younger versions of themselves or other roles, such as that of their parents, in order to come to terms with anxieties and desires, as well as issues of health and morality’ (Bull, 2010:94)

Martin’s series Too Close to Home? is, at first glance, perhaps more subtle in terms of psychotherapeutic work. Her poetic imagery features objects and spaces loaded with personal referent. She describes the psychotherapeutic dimensions of this work as allowing her to photographically transform elements of the childhood home and then metaphorically discard them as ephemera of the past. (Martin, 2006)

Too Close to Home? is relative to what Annette Kuhn calls ‘memory work’, that is, how images make meaning and how we can make sense of ourselves through the narratives we create. In her book Family Secrets, Kuhn encourages the reader to acknowledge the nature of remembering and to generate new narratives about the past from their own memories (Kuhn, 1995). Martin photographed in her family home just prior to the clearing and sale of the house. Her images thus become a way of ‘…hold[ing] onto the moment, the place, the trace which [she] cannot stop, cannot keep, cannot hold.’ (Martin, 1999) This new chapter in her family album may sit visually outside of the usual snapshot vernacular; yet, the function of the photographs is still the same – performing precious memento cum memento mori. As Christian Metz asserts in his essay The Photograph as Fetish: ‘It is easy to observe – and the researches of the sociologists Pierre Bourdieu, among others, confirm it – that photography very often primarily means souvenir, keepsake.’ (Metz, 1985:82)

Susan Sontag is useful here, with her pronouncement that, ‘all photographs are memento mori, to take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.’ (Sontag, 1979:15) Sontag delivered this message in her influential book On Photography first published in 1977. Likewise, Roland Barthes, reaches similar conclusions in his 1980 posthumously published book entitled Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Barthes, unlike Sontag, undertakes a personal and painful route of discovery. He turned to photography at a time of his mother’s death.

In Camera Lucida Barthes conceptualises the notion of the ‘photographic referent’. Rosy Martin, in her series Too Close to Home?, explicitly draws upon this. That is, her photographs exist because something was there, and thus, the images replace the physicality of the childhood home, providing her with an indexical link to her past. As Barthes notes:

The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here, the duration of the transmission is insignificant … a sort of umbilical cord links the body of the photographed thing to my gaze: light, through impalpable, is here a carnal medium, a skin I share with anyone who has been photographed. (Barthes, R., 2000:81)

Barthes metaphor of the umbilical cord is particularly poignant here, in light of two children looking to reconnect with their mothers – Camera Lucida was written in response to Barthes own bereavement – he, like Rosie Martin, turned to photography at the time of his mother’s death. According to Marianne Hirsch, Barthes figure of speech ‘only confirms photography’s connection to the family, its inscription in family life and its perpetuation of familial ideology… family’s prime instrument of self-knowledge, by which the family memory can be perpetuated and maintained’. (Hirsch 1997:7-8) I absolutely recommend reading Hirsch’s Family Frames alongside of Camera Lucida – I will forward on a PDF.

Yet, as Rosy Martin’s phototherapy practice shows us, memory–as-story – centered on photographs presented in the family album – is structured around absences. There are people absent from the representations, such as those making the photographs or those excluded from the photo-shoots, but also, there is a multitude of identities that have been edited out in favour of a single, elected, iconic image which uphold accepted family myths. Family snapshots should therefore be understood as slippery. They can misrepresent or partially represent us, consequently creating a kind of crisis in terms of how one understands oneself or wants to be understood by others.

Phototherapy is thus a means to explore the fictions about us, told to us, or even by us. Therapeutic techniques allow long-established histories to be retold, from one’s own point of view. It seems to me that your project your work fits within this context and extends it. I understand your work to be about bereavement and identity – reconciling who you are in the face of loss.

You have created an intimate portrait. There is something of the emotional wrestle in your varied approach. I feel this is appropriate for the work.

You may wish to consider more images and more pauses/silences within your book. We discussed the layout of Paul Graham’s Does Yellow Run Forever? (I think I gave it a new title during Skype) in relation to this.

I would like to encourage you to make and submit a handmade book. I love the personal, the craft and the indexical.

We discussed the realness, that is, the authenticity of using an actual NHS folder.  You may wish to omit your Drs name and phone number, however I rather enjoyed your name, DOB and the title on the cover, in the way you have presented it. You have to find a balance here – you don’t want to make this seem gimmicky. Your name and date of birth, gives us enough information. This is work about your identity. You build that picture with this and with the look of the book.

I agree with the suggested title change.

Whilst this is a serious project, there is an element of playfulness with your design, which is appropriate for both an artists book, and for you. You are wonderfully playful as an art photographer.

I recommend exploring Chicago screws as your bookbinding.

I suggest much smaller page numbers. Keep these incredibly discreet.

We discussed smaller image sizes – this may help the work feel more intimate. This maybe something you wish to explore, and roll with or discard.

You may wish to include more images.

I image of the tomato’s is strong. The book is affective. I recommend a pack of tissues for the assessment team!

I would love a copy of the final book. Thank you for offering to make one for me.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

All engaged with. Well done for using some of the projects to test out visuals for inclusion in your book. I love this kind of joined up thinking!

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

You are adding this to your blog.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Clear and navigable.

You evidence context, reflective think and critical analytical skills.

Do evidence all of your learning journey – initial thoughts, first workings out, reflections, research, edits, reshoots, and of course your developments after tutor feedback

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Here is a bibliography of the books mentioned in the feedback above:

Barthes, R., (2000) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London: Vintage Classics

Bull, S., (2010) Photography. Abingdon: Routledge

Campany, D., (2006) Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image. Brighton: Photoworks

Hirsch, M., (1997) Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory.  Harvard

Martin, R., (1999) Body, space and memory in ‘n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal’ vol.3. Jan  – -copyright Rosy Martin

Martin, R., (2001) The Performative Body: Phototherapy and re-enactment in Afterimage Nov – Dec

http://www.rosymartin.info/performative_body.html [accessed 23 April 2014]

2. My responses 

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

I’m going to start by attempting to situate your project within a critical framework, you may (or may not), find the following reflections useful. If nothing else, this will provide some research material in terms of the books/essays and photographic work cited.

These references were excellent. I was aware of that this work was therapeutic with elements of memento more. I researched the references and my reflections appear alongside my final submission and in the insert to the photo book: two books for the price of one! I have included ideas about the indexical and referent in images, phototherapy and tapping into the unconscious and editing and reconstructing family images. Roland Barthes and his mother, and death, are there too. I have a much better understanding of the concept of the indexical in photography.

You have created an intimate portrait. There is something of the emotional wrestle in your varied approach. I feel this is appropriate for the work. 

I have tried to be honest about this work, although I realise I creating a constructed story which edits out things that do not fit my thoughts and feelings at this time.

You may wish to consider more images and more pauses/silences within your book. We discussed the layout of Paul Graham’s Does Yellow Run Forever? (I think I gave it a new title during Skype) in relation to this.

I have included a few more images and one pause which is about death and absence.

I would like to encourage you to make and submit a handmade book. I love the personal, the craft and the indexical. 

I am anxious about constructing a book as I do not think I am good with my hands, but maybe that is not the case. I am going to try.

We discussed the realness, that is, the authenticity of using an actual NHS folder.  You may wish to omit your Drs name and phone number, however I rather enjoyed your name, DOB and the title on the cover, in the way you have presented it. You have to find a balance here – you don’t want to make this seem gimmicky. Your name and date of birth, gives us enough information. This is work about your identity. You build that picture with this and with the look of the book.

I like the NHS folder design, although there are technical issues with how the papers are secured – too loosely. I am going to fabricate the whole folder and increase the binding points. The inner folds creates a gutter which is causing a headache with my printer.

I agree with the suggested title change.

I had already arrived at ‘It’s not alright’ removing the ‘No.’

Whilst this is a serious project, there is an element of playfulness with your design, which is appropriate for both an artists book, and for you. You are wonderfully playful as an art photographer.

The playfulness is an aspect of my personality and I think it prevents the book of images being morbid or unremittingly sad.

I recommend exploring Chicago screws as your bookbinding.

I will use these although I am not sure how.

I suggest much smaller page numbers. Keep these incredibly discreet.

Yes, but I am thinking of writing these in myself as an indexical touch – to me the person, as the front cover is now fabricated, even the hand written bits.

We discussed smaller image sizes – this may help the work feel more intimate. This maybe something you wish to explore, and roll with or discard.

I have made many of the images smaller but particularly those in the terminal period which are more personal, so size alters with content, although I have kept the archive images as large because those images are strong and while they are less counterbalance the ‘difficult’ images.

You may wish to include more images.

Editing and ordering is endless, but I did include several more images. I decided to remove an image of a scrapyard as it was too literal and replace it with a diary entry of a comment made by Rosie.

The image of the tomato’s is strong. The book is affective. I recommend a pack of tissues for the assessment team!

I still find the book moving. The book triggers personal memories and associations, but I have had to distance myself from these emotions a little to construct a visual narrative that I think will resonate with other people.

3. Changes made

I have detailed several of the changes made in the previous section. The biggest change was to re-think (and write down) a theoretical framework for my work; my tutor’s comments and sources were very helpful.

Once I had the main book images, cover and inner liner at the printers I focussed on the book insert which contains a commentary, more images, diary extracts, and the essay for A5.

Summary of changes

The new essay about my work is on the next tab (exam submission) and is also in the small explanatory book inside my large folder/photo book.

Quality – cover: I decided that my hand-made mock-up written on a real copy of an NHS record (pre-computer) was ‘shabby’ and not of ‘good enough’ quality for submission. I decided to scan in or create in Photoshop all the elements needed to re-construct an NHS like folder. The hand-writing comes from friends, although the title is in my own hand. These were all converted to vectors. There are a few ‘ jokes’ on the cover which reflect my playful character (I think) and which act as a counterpoint to the title and book subject. I like the indexical nature of my writing and including real and fabricated details about myself. The cover was sent to a printer to print double-sided but as there were limitations on paper size for this printer I have had to print the front and inside separately and glue together. I visited a BJP workshop on photo books which made me realise that the standard for photo books  is very high! And they cost.

Quality – main images: The main complication of using a folder, which I the design of which I have amended, is that there is a gutter on the inside of all of the pages where the crease and screws go. This was complex but I found a printer who could create this for me. I await the images as we speak. I have ordered Chicago screws for the binding.

Content – main images: I added a double page pause, after my daughter’s death, which seemed appropriate and a few more images. I removed an image of a salvage yard as it was too literal. The book content has changed little from the version I sent to my tutor but I have been constructing the contents in my head well before pulling it together.

The inside ‘note’ book: I have decided to print and construct this myself. My essay will go there. I am unclear how this will sit in the folder. There are diary entries, new images, reflections and other things, so the content is different to the photo book. It has ‘my style’ or approach! I am about to sew it together and then bind it with a printed lining etc. There is a separate post in this learning log about constructing books. I found these quite difficult.

I suspect that my writing appears objective and detached from what has happened, but the truth is that this has been a very emotional journey as I have selected and edited images and remembered good and bad times. I agree with Rosy Martin when she says of ‘Too close to home?’, “I am making this work because I must. I am compelled to do it:”  it has been therapeutic (healing) doing this work but I am too close to the event to pin down everything that I feel and want to say (Martin, 1999).

References

Martin, R. (1999) ‘Too close to home? Tracing a familiar place. http://www.rosymartin.co.uk/tooclose_essay.html.