Assignment 1: The non-familiar: ‘A tax on illness?’
Brief: Your first assignment is to make five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you.
This is my draft for my OCA peers to comment on.
The main issue for me is the use of text and presentation. I have used diptychs before but and am searching for a different way to present my work. Please ignore all typos etc as I do this only on my final edit.
Title: ‘A tax on illness.’
Subtitle: Environmental portraits of people with cancer, or their carers, who have views about car parking fees at NHS hospitals in England.
Short summary: Car parking fees for people with cancer, and their families, has been branded as a “tax on the sick.” The cancer charity MacMillan have a campaign for NHS parking to be free or reduced, as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These portraits and stories show and voice their and their families experiences and feelings about this issue.
Topic or theme – why? My daughter has cancer and has been in hospital for a few months; we pay a lot of hospital parking fees. This has sensitised me to this issue. Is this just?
Intention: To produce a series of portraits of ‘strangers’ with or affected by someone they love who has cancer that illustrate their views about hospital parking.
Audience: OCA, personal and local social media, McMillan charity.
Approach and methods– technical, experiments, collaboration, management: Recruitment was through local and national social media (Facebook, Twitter, personal databases) and email via my personal photographic website morris-gallagher.format.com which carried an advert for this project. I negotiated the interview and shoot by phone or email. Most people were happy to be seen at home but one person elected to meet in a local cafe. I interviewed the person or people and took images using natural light. The constant signifier used in the images were money related; notes, silver coins, an empty purse, a money bag. I sent each participant a copy of the interview text and preliminary diptychs which I used to present text and image and they were all happy with what I had produced (respondent validation).
I used diptychs as I though that the voices of the people were as important as the portraits and wanted to give image and text equal weight.
Access, consent, confidentiality, legal: All participants consented to their stories and images being put into the public domain.
Presentation, publicity, social media piece: OCA, Low Fell Local Facebook page, Twitter feed, participants, McMillan charity.
What is the images purpose? To give patients with cancer and their carers a voice about hospital car parking fees in England. I share their sense of unfairness about this issue.
Theoretical underpinnings: My Christian beliefs about social justice and Marxist theory is applicable here where the monetisation of the illness experience feeds into the means of production and controlling ideologies of health (D’Alleva, 2013).
Photographic influences: My approach is related to that on Martin Parr and Eric Kim (Parr, 2016; Kim, 2016). My presentation is influenced by the work of Martha Rosler and others using text and images (Rosler, M. 1974-75; Slemmons, R. 2014).
Macmillan (2012). Out of order: the hidden cost of hospital parking. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/documents/getinvolved/campaigns/hospitalcarparking/hospital-parking-charges-reportb-2013.pdf.
BBC (2012). “NHS hospital parking fee rises criticised. .” Retrieved 1st August, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17394126.
Massey, R. (2016). NHS’s £350 parking goldmine: Trusts collect average of £950,000 each in the past three years which receiving £2.8m in fines. Daily Mail. Mail Online, dailymail.co.uk. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3653594/NHS-s-350m-parking-goldmine-Trusts-collect-average-950-000-past-three-years-receiving-2-8m-fines.html.
Parr, M. (2016). “The Rhubarb Triangle.” Martin Parr. Retrieved Ist August, 2016, from http://www.martinparr.com/recent-work/recent-work-2/.
Kim, E. (2016). Street Photography 102. http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2016/04/04/street-photography-102/. Eric Kim Photography.
D’Alleva, A. (2013). Methods and Theories of Art History. London, Laurence King Publishing.
Rosler, M. (1974-75). “Tthe Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems.” from http://collection.whitney.org/object/8304.
Slemmons, R. (2004). Conversations: Text and Image. Columbia College of Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Photography. Retrieved from http://www.mocp.org/exhibitions/2004/02/conversations-text-and-image.php
2. Commentary and reflections
Much of my time on the shoots was spent having cups of coffee, listening to people with and asking my single and supplementary questions. I had heard similar stories before but I am always impressed by the variety and intensity of responses to serious illness.
I used a Nikon D810 with a 50mm lens with natural light and settled on a depth of field of f8-10 to ensure that enough of the background was in focus to provide context – their chosen environment. After talking, with me making contemporaneous notes (verbatim quotes) in my diary, we started to take photographs. The precise expression of the ‘money’ signifier which was a planned signifier came from our discussions. These included the open purse, the parking ticket and pass, the money bag, the £100 of notes. It did not seem appropriate to use this for someone who disagreed with my premise that this was an issue of social injustice. On one of these occasions I used a location outside the home, a car and this seemed very appropriate. These differential locations provide some variability with the money and issue being the constant item in most of the images.
Most of the time the natural light was effective and experimented with fill flash . I could have experimented with using fill in flash, especially with Maureen (Stranger 4), where there was a very bright background. This would have given me more choice of images although adjusting the images for differential exposure in Photoshop was not difficult.
I think the text talks more about the emotional cost of this illness. I decided early on that the text was very important to the project. The issue was how much to use and how much to use it relate to the image in the diptychs which I had decided to use. I could have just had a quotation under the image but I like the fact that there is text that amplifies the content of the image. I suspect most people will look at the image first then move to the text to try to understand the context.
I know that the first portrait is not about someone with cancer and I am thinking about shooting another person.
Please ignore the different colours and inconsistency of picture placement.