Exercise 4.5: Presenting words
Brief: Find words that have been written or spoken by someone else. You can gather these words from a variety of means – interviews, journals, archives, eavesdropping. Your subject may be a friend, stranger, alive or dead. Select your five favourite examples and create five images that do justice to the essence of those words.
You may choose to present your images with or without the original words. Either way, make sure that the images are working hard to tell a story. If you decide to include the words, ensure that they add to the meaning rather than describing the image or shutting it down. Try to keep your image-and-text combinations consistent – perhaps they are all overheard conversations on a bus or all come from an old newspaper report. Keep them part of a story.
Consider different ways of presenting the words. Audio or video might lend itself well to this kind of work, or a projection of images using voice-over. Experiment.
1. Five example and five images
These five words were chosen with care 4 weeks ago but most of them were developed today and all the images were taken within an hour.
1.1 ‘Leaving denial behind’
I belong to a 12-step recovery programme called ‘Celebrate Recovery. Six weeks ago the teacher said something profound. She was talking about moving on from ‘Denial’ which is Step 3 of the programme, and said “Once you step out of denial you cannot unlearn, unsee, unknown, unrealise what has happened.” I think that this is true about issues in life; once you face a truth about yourself then it is hard to go back to denial, and, of course, it is a stepping stone for change and healing. This may be a tricky thing to image.
I think that this image works well and the outstretched hand and arm says rebuttal and contrast with the loose hand on the other arm. The arm and hand could have been more aggressive and thrust back. Th focus is also on the person and not the hand which I regret as it is all about the hand. I changed this to black and white as the colour of the greenery intruded.
1.2 ‘Trump does it again’
This image is of text from the BBC News website. There was an image alongside it of Trump signing his executive order in the Oval Office. I notice I have already made a statement in my subheading.
My immediate ideas are about content or freedom, but the only way to answer Trump is in his medium, Twitter.
This is a photograph of a screen image on my computer and not a screen save. It is my image because I have taken it and presented it like this. I could have used a screen save but is this really a photograph? He is being lampooned here in the ancillary ironic text which show the power of words to illustrate images.
1.3 “In two ticks”
This is a saying my wife uses almost every day; “I’ll get that done in ‘two ticks’.” It means, ‘in minute or a moment’ and has a sense of urgency about it. It is a trivial saying but let’s see where we go with the visual image.
‘Two ticks’ is an abstract concept to illustrate. My wife, who uses this saying, often has her legs outstretched and a few weeks ago I thought that this would work but it would need the anchorage of this label to suggest the meaning. I have sued black and white to exclude the distracting colour of the mats; this was the best isolation I could achieve easily.
1.4 Henri Nouwen – ‘Identity’
This is someone whose writings have helped me a lot in the last 5 years: he has a lot to say about being loved, embracing death and gratitude (which now has an academic basis). The best place to start is with some audio which I might use of him speaking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED04lAnWv3o but as this is long I will cut to a sentence from his book on page 29 “You are not what you do, or what others say about you, or what you possess. “You are God’s Beloved.”” (Noun, 2011) This statement references the words in Luke chapter 3 versus 21 and 22; “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased,” when the Holy Spirits descends on Jesus (like a dove) at his baptism (THB, 1991). It is marking the identity of Jesus as loved by God. I identify with these words as I have found that the other things do not satisfy.
Identity is a complex concept. It is related as much to our biology and genealogy as it is to our feelings, behaviour and beliefs. As I grow older I spend more time in reading, prayer and meditation to develop my spiritual life. This image is the space where I sit for 30 minutes each morning to read, reflect and pray. The books are an outward sign of what I value which speaks of my identity in God. I don’t think this works very well and this is the image I am least happy with.
This is a big word. It is spring now and the days are laden with the promise of new fresh expressions of life.
I did shoot magnolia buds which are more directly related to ideas of ‘the new’ and promise but this close image was chosen because it homes in on the blooming of the flower. I am not sure about this illustrating my word.
Nouwen, H. (2011). Spiritual Direction. London, Ashford Colour Press.
THB (1991). The Holy Bible – Luke Chapter 3 verses 21-22. London, Hodder and Stoughton.
I could have done video here but I am spending a lot of time producing an 8 minute slide show for A4 which is where my effort is today.
I have already reflected on the images above but I want to summarise what I think I have learnt;
- The anchorage or relay of the text is an important part of presenting the image. If the image is oblique the viewer may need more information or clues in the text.
- ‘Denial’ is my best image because there is a good marriage of image and text. Having a person as the subject also helps to suggest a personal attribute and the body language of gesture suggest rejection of someone or the past.
- I had two shots at taking this picture. The first was of this persons back which did not convey my meaning but when I re-shot using gestures this was much better. I had set myself one hour to make these images but nowadays I would shoot two or three times to develop my ideas and images.
- One of the thing that struck me from looking at all of Les Monaghan’s work published on his site was ‘isolation’ of the subject without too many distractions. ‘Two ticks’ may or may not illustrate the idea but the legs is isolation resemble ticks.
- I virtually never use black and white but today it was a good way to eliminate the very green colours in my garden. I kept these for the blooming flower where ‘hope’ is an uplifting and optimistic idea.