The broad aim of this module is for students to be informed of photographic critical and creative practice at a time when the ubiquitous nature of photography makes it difficult to clearly discern its effect on the world.
One of the objectives of this module is for you to begin to locate your own work within the various and far-flung fields of photographic practice. This in itself is not a new idea; when the philosopher Plato (c.428-347 BC.) said “know thyself” he was in effect saying much the same; that we must locate ourselves within the world in order to validate our viewpoint of it.
We all see the world from an entirely socio/sexual/geographic/culturally-unique perspective that will in turn dictate what and how we communicate as photographic artists. This assignment addresses the advent of the post-photographic moment and how this can be reconciled within emergent digital platforms and environments.
Through a set of 5-10 photographic pieces* you should examine the sources of pressures within society to conform or adjust our behavior and appearance. You may examine stereotypes, racial, gender, religious, class or age etc. You may use others to portray your views or you may explore the notion of the self- portrait. Your images can depict both the mundane nature and the theatricality of the everyday life.
To put that another way;
Photography’s highest function has never been the telling of unmediated truths, but rather its engagement in a dialectic with human beings. A photograph can suggest that we look harder at the realities surrounding and permeating us because they are insufficiently grasped. (Ritchin 1999)
You are expected to experiment with different approaches and challenge the boundaries of visual photographic expression.
Initially I was a little bit confused about whether the project was meant to be on the self, or exploring another person’s identity in relation to their own pressures. However when Paul Smith explained the brief in the session it became much more clear that the project, as it’s title suggests, is about turning the camera and analysis on you as a person. The photographs themselves could be taken as a self portrait or you could project your views outwardly and construct a scene which would portray them effectively with other people. The self is a concept many photographers have chosen to explore, however I have really only done successful projects where I remain somewhat detached from the subject material: for example I used found imagery for my Final Major Project and used digital processes to change the appearance to make a new statement. Therefore this project would be a completely different approach for me, and one I would probably find quite uncomfortable, as there is a real vulnerability about using yourself as a subject. However I reasoned that when it comes to having a photograph taken of me, I am comfortable as long as I am control; this is probably the reason why the selfie has become so popular in digital culture, because the subject has the power over their own appearance.
I began by noting down what pressures I feel I am under, this included:
- Body image and health – there is a mass digital trend where the ideal body image at the moment is to be toned
- Career – as a graduate there is an expectation that you will be accepted into full time work in a short amount of time, however I haven’t yet identified what my ideal job would be
- Being different – sources such as TV, film and the Internet promote it is okay to be different, however in real life there are still some people that don’t understand why I like what I like
- Being a woman – I still find feminism really confusing, obviously the aim if for equality, but there are differences in the way it is being interpreted and instigated, I have my own interpretation but sometimes I feel it doesn’t fit in with others
- Censorship/freedom of speech – there is a lot of pressure not to say ‘the wrong thing’ in society now, however I believe that some things to need to be said, despite the risk of causing offence
- Individuality – is this really a thing? Does capitalism and consumerism actually allow originality, or are my likes and dislikes a product of the images I have been fed by the industry
I then began analysing the strengths and weaknesses with these ideas in terms of making them into a critical photographic project.
- Photographing the body is an empowering practice
- The project could be a therapeutic exercise in removing the pressure I feel
- Having sat in on the PicBod lectures last year I have research avenues I can pursue
- Done well, this could be a really good project and expand my practice
- Because there are many artists and photographers choosing the body and body image as a subject I would have to really create something different to stand out
- There is a real danger in creating cliche or flawed imagery that appear only to try and make the body seem appealing to the viewer
- Photographing myself as a female, or photographing other women, I would have to be very careful about my approach and the ethics behind the images
- Perhaps in really addressing this subject, I would be able to begin identifying a career which I would really enjoy
- It’s a different subject matter, with this idea it would perhaps be more effective to use other people to convey my views in relation to their own careers
- Could take inspiration from Paul Smith with his ‘artists rifles’ series, and use myself in the images to make a statement about a particular career
- It could be really hard to translate by photographing myself, I don’t want to make pictures of me taking pictures
- I don’t want to end up presenting a piece of work that is interpreted as a portfolio, as this would be too shallow
- Who I am is a combination of my environment and the people I’m surrounded by, this shapes what I like, which will make my photographs different from anyone else who has tackled this concept
- Could take inspiration from the work Disciples by James Mollinson, I could try to find like-minded people and absorb myself in them
- You can portray this from a positive or a negative angle, either it’s good to be different or I feel isolated because of it
- It’s hard to portray personality in any other manner than metaphorically
BEING A WOMAN
- Feminism is a concept that is being addressed a lot at the moment and my interpretation could help other women who are unsure to find their own meaning
- As I am photographing myself, I can make sure that I don’t appear vulnerable and therefore avoid exploitation
- I could be criticised heavily by other people if they don’t appreciate the way I have approach my images
- Therefore my work could become topical/known for the wrong reasons
CENSORSHIP/FREEDOM OF SPEECH
- Being a creative, when doing a project you have a certain artistic license, which means I could make a statement through my work I probably couldn’t in casual conversation
- The idea of liberation is probably something other people share, I could include other people in my work and project my views through them
- It is a subject which ca be linked to social media ad digital media, which is my current area of research and practice
- I will still need to consider how ‘far’ I could go when making controversial statements, producing the images in a tasteful yet challenging way
- I really don’t like offending people, so I would need to make sure I could stand up for what I was doing
- This is something that could be portrayed in different ways, like through the items I own or metaphorically to depict my personality
- I can take inspiration from lots of different photographers that have considered the self as they would have focused on what was different about them
- Could link in with some of the same theoretical ideas I am exploring for my dissertation
- I have to be sure to avoid cliche ‘Instagram’ images, unless the point is I am referencing an image trend like that
- Other people might not be able to interpret this project effectively if I am making it about myself because they might not be able to relate
On evaluation I was really drawn to the idea of exploring identity, individuality and originality, linking it to ideas like social media imagery, consumerism and capitalism. As although I think I’m really individual, I’m sure that capitalism and consumerism has heavily influenced what I thought were uninformed, spontaneous purchases. There is a trend for every sort of product that can be bought and people generally tend to follow a trend so they can identify and create a specific ‘image’ of themselves. I can also draw in elements of the other ideas into my project, such as photographing myself in a way that doesn’t appear to be un-feminist, and making a controversial statement. The role of the self portrait in my work will be interesting, I plan on challenging the different notions of portraiture and how you can express identity through images; whether the depiction of the body and the face is a mandatory element.