Post-Photography Project Development

INITIAL DISCUSSIONS

As the lectures on the post-photographic module continued, I was increasing my knowledge on the idea of what a post-photographer could be, from a theoretical and a practical view. Paul Smith’s lectures showed visual examples of photographers through history producing photographs that challenged the boundaries of the current practice. Acknowledging the frame of the photograph and how this can both make and limit the practice of the photographer. From the most simple editing technique such as cropping, which can be done when taking the photograph and when editing afterwards, the photographer can have a dramatic impact on what the images says to the audience. In addition to this, the development of digital technology offers a huge range of different process to photographers, and has allowed them to create images that wouldn’t be possible in the analogue world.

In my previous studies I acknowledged that the photographer has such an important role when producing visual material, and this responsibility manifests itself in different ways. The Phonar (Photography and Narrative) module explored photographic practices where the process was more collaborative between photographer and subject. The subject felt powerful and free to have a say on how their story was told by the photographer, which is very different to practices such as traditional documentary, where the photographer had to make an informed decision on what photograph could represent a concept as large as a war. These images are what we often describe as iconic, because they attempt to describe so much in one frame. In contrast the collaborative projects often focus on the smallest details in order to tell a detailed story about the subject themselves. There is a tension between these two approaches, because each attempts to achieve what the other could not. There is no real way to tell which approach is ‘better’ because often these images have been produced for very different outcomes.

In the lectures from Spencer, we approached the practice of photography from a theoretical perspective, considering the flaws behind the the practice and how this could affect the work we make as photographers. To begin with, the ontology of photography as discussed by Andre Bazin stated that the human species has a such a strong desire to produce the most realistic and accurate representation of themselves possible. If they can achieve this realistic visual replication, then humans need no longer fear death. For death itself is split into two elements of disappearance, the physical body disappearing from the world, and the visual evidence of that body disappearing too. Bazin described the loss of this evidential, visual memory as the Second Spiritual Death. Bazin also worked to separate photography from the other arts, commenting that despite photography achieving the most accurate representation of man, that the presence of man in the process was missing. According to Bazin, the artist or craftsman is lost in the practice of photography, this view is very similar to the ideas of Walter Benjamin, who discussed the loss of aura and originality in the practice of photography, as it can produce multiple copies of the same material.

In addition to the ontology of photography, there is the idea of photography representing the truth, which is a concept I have explored previously in my photographic studies in relation to photojournalism and manipulation. However this discussion changes with a theoretical approach, with the introduction of the term naive realism, which describes the tendency of the viewer and even photographer to believe that photographs represent the truth. The photographer believes that they are capturing the truth of what they see and the viewer believes the representation that the photographer presents them with. The limitations of the single frame are discussed often in the context of photography, so why do we still put so much faith in the practice of photography to produce truth, when reality itself is so complicated? According to Plato, reality is split into the realm of physical forms and objects and the realm of spiritual forms, which are eternal and perfect. Physical objects are those we can identify as occupying the same physical space as us, like the sofa that I’m sitting on writing this blog post. Spiritual forms are the elements we can’t see, but that we believe that be in force in the world, such as love, hate and trust. We can’t prove what these forms are but they are universally accepted in the world, the most common evidence of this is the creation of words in each language to describe them. When you consider how complicated reality actually is, can photography hope to try and represent it visually in one frame?

These discussions can lead to a very pessimistic view of photography, however I would argue that if the photographer accepts these notions and reflects on them in their work, then photography can be a practice that comments on reality, rather than trying to represent it. The key idea the photographer absolutely HAS to accept, is that the images they produce are not likely to be received in the way that they intended. The meaning will differ depending on who is looking and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Different viewers can build and extend the original meaning of the images and perhaps link them to discussions the photographer never thought of. There is the danger of course, that the images will be read in a completely different way than the photographer intended, which could be potentially damaging, to the subject or the subject matter. Therefore we come back to the responsibility of the photographer, to have an understanding of their practice.

When considering all the lecture material in relation to my own practice, I feel that it embodies much of the ideas I have explored in previous projects. For example for the Phonar module, I attempted to create a post-photographic portrait by reverse assembling the metadata scattered across the Internet from one individual, in order to demonstrate how much information we willingly give to the Internet. For my degree show project, I attempted to challenge the representation, the Internet and the photographic portrait again but this time taking portraits of people and exhibiting them as binary code. This represents the fluidity of information on the Internet and the idea that people are being increasingly viewed as information and statistics, rather than real people. My work aims to comment on current issues, it aims to be the inspiration behind a discussion, an experiment to see how people react. This experimentation with the photographic practice could be combined with the notion of the post-photographer, to produce work that is interesting but also informed by cultural theory.

 

DECIDING SUBJECT MATTER

As my field of study has changed from my BA, from photography to communication, culture and media, it is likely that my projects will shift to engage with different ideas. There is an idea that I am becoming increasingly aware of due to both my own personal engagement and from an academic approach, which is the gaming industry and community, most specifically the genre of story games. There are more and more games being released yearly, that have captivated players with the stories that they tell.

With developing technology, the games themselves have become sophisticated pieces of storytelling media, with which the user can engage and have a power over how the story progresses. This power can vary from game to game: with structured campaigns that require the player to move through the game in a specific linear way and open world games that allow the player to explore the environment at their own pace, choosing the engage with the main storyline when they wish to advance with the plot. Aside from story-based games there are games that pursue different objectives such as direct competition between players or encouraging them to build communities. The dynamic of the game does have an impact on what sort of experience the player will have: First Person Shooters (FPS) encourage the player to move through the environment, target and neutralise hostiles, whereas adventure video games encourage the player to engage with the characters and environment in order to find out more about the main storyline. Different game dynamics often share objectives, such as moving through the environment in order to find objects; in a FPS that object would be ammunition or a new gun whereas in adventure games the object is likely to be a piece of information that helps develop the detail of the storyline. The main purpose of the game however is to be enjoyable when played, to encourage the player to come back and play the game multiple times and perhaps then buy other games from a particular franchise or company. As games are situated in the entertainment industry they are made to appeal to the public, however there is no denying that games are becoming significantly more important in a cultural context.

In the module Open and Social media I am also considering gaming, examining how the game Fallout 4 encourages the player to engage with possible future cultural issues. The game features the invention of a synthetic human (synth) which is effectively an artificial human, made to replicate an organic human in every way possible. The most advanced synths appear to have a personality, their own sense of humour, their own likes and dislikes, therefore they appear to actually be human. Different factions within the game have differing opinions on the synthetic human, one believing them to be nothing but property, one believing all the synths should be destroyed and one believing the synths should be liberated and have a chance for an independent life. The player has to make a decision to ally with one of these factions, as there is conflict between all of them. This means the player must make their own decision on what they think synthetic humans actually are and whether they should be considered as property, dangerous/unethical technology or independent beings. However the fact that Fallout 4 is a FPS shooter is a problematic element as in the same time the player might be thinking about important cultural questions about civil rights, the game could spawn multiple enemies that the player has to kill, effectively reducing the other characters in the game (often human) to targets that need to be eliminating. When the player has to think about whether an artificial life could be considered as important as a human one, it seems incredibly counter-productive to dehumanise the existing humans in the game. As my definition of the post-photographer was built using the knowledge I had built up around the post-digital publication through the Open and Social Media module, I decided it could be interesting to produce a photographic response that would link to this module. This would also give me the opportunity to include photographic work in my response to the Open and Social Media module. However instead of concentrating on the synthetic human in my photographic project, I wanted to focus on the game experience itself, how my character moved through the Fallout 4 environment and created my own version of the story through my actions and decisions.

Just like photography in the gaming environment the player ‘sees’ through a frame, however in gaming the camera becomes the only way through which the player experiences the world. This virtual reality can only be seen through playing the game unlike reality, which the photographer sees before choosing to frame it. This conscious choice to frame the scene happens less in video games, as the player is often confronted with other choices such as where to go, when to shoot etc. There are games that do involve a conscious moment where the character frames the scene, one is called Fatal Frame an Indonesian horror game. The player has to take pictures of spirits to damage and destroy them, ‘framing’ the spirits is fatal to them.

Another game is Outlast where the protagonist is an investigative journalist. The character has a video camera, which the player can use to record important moments in the game as evidence, however the camera is also used in the scarier portions of the game where the night-mode of the camera is used to see in the dark.

In the game Fallout 4, which my project will be examining there is a choice to play in First Person Mode or Third Person Mode. First Person mode is as if you are seeing through the eyes of the character, whereas third person mode is effectively you following your character through the environment. For players used to playing shooter-type games, the First Person mode will be more natural to them as it is generally considered to be easier and more accurate to shoot. The third person mode would be better for people used to playing typical story-type games, or adventure games that include some elements of combat such as Tomb Raider.

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First Person Mode

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Third Person Mode

For the purpose of my project, I will experience the Fallout 4 environment through the First Person Mode as it makes what I see and what my character sees exactly the same. The distance between me and my character is reduced and I feel that it is my story as well as my character.

Overall I feel that choosing gaming for my post-photography project will allow me to explore themes I haven’t yet explored in my own photographic practice, whilst still engaging with similar themes that I have explored before. The use of the game Fallout 4 for my project could be considered as me using appropriated material, which is an approach I have often taken in my most recent projects. However whilst my two previous projects have used appropriated material to make a comment on how much information users give to the Internet, in this project I will be using appropriated material to comment on how virtual reality has become similar to actuality.

 

THE PROJECT

As explored in the previous section, I will be examining Fallout 4 and the experience of the player in creating and shaping their own unique story. This story is their journey from moving through the gaming environment, to progressing in the storyline, even to levelling up and getting stronger as a character. My project will be exploring the sophisticated storytelling capability of modern video games and how virtual reality is becoming ever closer to reality. Although there will be some obvious differences, like the fact that Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic future, the basic elements in the gaming experience are becoming closer to reality. Despite the addition of radiated beings, synthetic humans and robotic devices, the landscape and the buildings in the Fallout 4 environment are recognisable and similar to that of my reality. My response to the assignment will link to the idea of naive realism, where the viewer and the photographer believe that a photograph can represent the entirety of reality. Combining the idea of naive realism and the developing sophistication of virtual reality, my project will aim to try and fool the viewer into thinking that the virtual reality of Fallout 4 could actually be reality. The project will be built of of shots of the screen from when my character is moving through the Fallout 4 environment. These images will be made in the locations that are the most important in the game, where my character has had to make certain choices and complete questionable actions. My photographs will be a play on naive realism, because they will try and make virtual reality seem like reality, commenting on the idea that viewers often believe what they see. If I present these images in a manner that references traditional artistic photography, then these images could be perceived depicting reality.

My project will hopefully link with the ongoing debate over whether video games can be considered as art. As I will explore in my project, the environment created by game designers are often so close to reality that the eye could potentially be fooled. There is so much detail put into tricky aspects such as water, clouds, wind and elements like the character interacting with the environment. The talent and craftsmanship of these game designers have been praised by many, and some artists have used games as a basis for producing their own imagery, just as photographers use reality to create their own work. However aside from the graphics and game design, the actual games themselves and the stories that they tell are also being debated over. Games such as Life is Strange and The Last of Us have created and told such detailed and emotional stories, that have been likened to the cinematic art. In the latest game Quantum Break, there are 25 minute cut scenes where live action is used to portray the shifting storyline, before the game play begins again. The live action characters are the same ones that are in the gameplay, allowing the player to engage with an incredibly advanced story, that when viewed can be seen as a movie-type experience. Then there are the people who make art from video games, more and more artists are using the game environment to make their own pictures, often through screen shots of the game when they are playing. However when someone has created the environment you are photographing, there could be issues with the ownership of that art, as the game designer could easily claim that the content within the image was theirs because they created the environment in the first place. This is the approach I want to take when creating my images, because it allows me to make a personalised series of images that relate directly to my character and my story. I will also be bringing the conscious framing from photography into my gameplay experience, when deciding which moments to take pictures of.

 

MAKING THE IMAGES

As I play games on my Xbox One, I don’t have the same advantage that PC Users have to be able to take a screenshot. I attempted to take a screenshot on the Xbox One of Fallout 4, but it only captured a picture of the menu screen, because the game interpreted my action as a reason to pause the game. I quickly realised I needed to either adopt a PC set up and replay the game to get to the point I was at, or find a new way of capturing images from the gameplay using my Xbox. Replaying the game on PC wasn’t really an option for me, as I wouldn’t be able to afford a whole new gaming set up and I wouldn’t be able to remember the order in which I discovered the Fallout 4 world, what I said in each conversation, what perks I chose first etc. There would be no way I could follow exactly the same journey, therefore I had to find another way to produce imagery. I decided that because I was bringing the nature of photography into the gaming environment, that it could be a really interesting idea to actually use my camera and take photographs of the screen. I would be interacting with the virtual reality just like I would be if I was photographing reality. However as I would if I was photographing reality I needed to make sure that I adjusted my camera settings to suit the content that I was photographing. I needed a shutter speed that was slightly slower than I would use normally, to make sure that my images wouldn’t show the frame rate of the game, which produces a distorted image. I also needed to make sure I was photographing the screen from straight on, not above or below, which would also change the appearance. I found that a particular spot on the sofa in the living room would provide me with this good angle, so I always shot and played from there in order to keep my images looking consistent. I also had to think about the lighting conditions in the living room when I was photographing, making sure that no sunlight was on the screen. If I was photographing in the evening, the artificial lighting would make the images have a slightly yellow hue, and often it meant the images would be too dark or grainy. I therefore tried to shoot all the images in periods of daylight, between sunrise and sunset, to try and replicate the same lighting for each image. Therefore the only variation in the lighting conditions of the images, would be when the times of day and the weather changed in the virtual reality of the game.

So I started taking photographs of the screen when playing, and uploaded them to my computer. Immediately I was met with my first design decision, my character observes the environment like I would observe reality through a set of eyes, however because I am playing a game that involves shooting, travelling to different locations, keeping track of my health – there were various different icons on the screen. I had to decide whether to keep them in the image, or whether to crop the whole image smaller so that they weren’t there. There is also a pointer in the middle of the screen, with which the player can interact with the environment, if you put the pointer over an item you can pick it up, when you are shooting that pointer becomes your aim. I needed to decide whether to keep the pointer in the image as well, or whether to take steps and Photoshop this element out.

The two images below show the two different options I had available to me, the first one features all the elements of the gameplay including the compass and health points whereas the second one is cropped to remove those elements and Photoshopped in order to remove the green pointer.

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After considering both of the images, I decided that the second version would suit the ideology behind my project. If I am trying to replicate and reference reality in my images in order to try and fool my audience, I should make sure that the images don’t have these obvious gameplay elements, as this would give it away immediately. Although I am expecting the audience to realise that these images aren’t actually of reality, that there are some details that are slightly different, I don’t want them to realise straightaway. I want the audience to look carefully at the images to be able to pick out the details that don’t compare to their reality, in order to see that these images are of a virtual reality. If the audience don’t look carefully and just glance at the images, I want there to be a possibility that they could believe that the images are of reality.

Once I had the right aesthetic and design to my images, I began a series of shoots in the Fallout 4 virtual environment. These shoots varied in nature, in one session of gameplay I would aim to retrace the steps my character made, beginning from Vault 111 and following what the main storyline was for my version, but in other sessions of gameplay I simply roamed the environment freely, capturing the moments of that gameplay session that I felt was important to my character. I steadily built up a catalogue of images that depicted both important locations in the game in relation to the story and important moments that I experienced in relation to my discussions of Fallout 4 in my Open and Social module. Interestingly enough, most of the images, if not all of them depict a scene where I would have just killed a human, super mutant, synth or wasteland creature, making each image depict a sort of virtual graveyard. Despite the beauty of this virtual environment and the important moral questions the game asks the player, the fact that this game is still a FPS could perhaps detract from the moral gameplay experience. Contact sheets of all the images I created after a series of shoots can be seen below.

ContactSheet-001 ContactSheet-002 ContactSheet-003 ContactSheet-004 ContactSheet-005 ContactSheet-006 ContactSheet-007 ContactSheet-008 ContactSheet-009

Because this project has generated so many images, I had in mind that I wanted to create a photobook or zine type publication, as I didn’t want to have to narrow all of these images down to a number below ten (which is what I might have to do if I was presenting these images as a series of prints). These images are made in a consistent manner and would suit being presented in a consistent style as well, meaning a photobook would suit the project as these images could be presented in a linear consistent manner. However I identified that this number of images would most likely be too much and I had already acknowledged that some of the images weren’t as strong as the others. With this in mind, I started to identify which images were the most important in the series, in relation to the moments in the story they referenced. These images depict the vault, my character’s old house, the Red Rocket, the museum of freedom, Diamond City, The Castle, The Railroad HQ, Virgil’s cave, the teleporter I built in Sanctuary, Bunker Hill, the site of the Institute (after it is destroyed) and the destroyed Prydwen, which was the HQ of the Brotherhood of Steel. These locations mark important moments in the storyline where my I had direction of my character to make certain decisions as to where the storyline progresses. These moments happened in a particular order, which would most likely be different when compared to another player, therefore I had to remember and establish that order in which I completed the storyline and position the photographs accordingly.

THIS NEXT SECTION CONTAINS FALLOUT 4 SPOILERS!!!

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Vault 111 – where my character took refuge when the bombs fell, joined by her husband Nate and her baby Shaun. However the inhabitants of this Vault were actually tricked into an experiment in cryogenic freezing. My character and her family were frozen for around 100 years before the vault was manually overridden, allowing a group of people to open the chamber with my character’s husband and baby. The group stole the baby Shaun and shot the husband Nate, before refreezing my character for a period of time. My character awakes when the cryogenic chamber stops working, to discover the dead bodies of everyone else in the Vault. My character escapes the vault and begins the adventure to try and find where Shaun has been taken to.

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Sanctuary – the images depicts where my character’s old house was, my character returns to find the household robot Codsworth trying to keep up his cleaning duties. Codsworth seems affected by the radiation, but informs my character that 210 years have passed since the nuclear attack on America. Codsworth tells my character to start the search for Shaun in the nearest town Concorde, but warns that there are people who did survive the nuclear attack who could be potentially dangerous.

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The Red Rocket – this truck stop is on the way to Sanctuary, it is here that our character meets the first companion of the game, a dog named Dogmeat. The Red Rocket also provides our character with a potential base, as there are various work benches that allow the opportunity for weapon/armour development and the ability to cook food for health points. Dogmeat now accompanies my character through the game and helps defend against enemies, as well as being able to hold items.

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The Museum of Freedom – in the city of Concord, our character meets the first faction of the game known as the Minute Men. Our character saves the last known Minute Man and the group of people he his protecting from radars and a Deathclaw. The last Minute Men, Preston Garvey tells our character about the faction which has nearly died out, their ethos is to help anyone and everyone that needs help, with the hope that they can build a huge support network. It is through Preston Garvey and the other members in the group that our character finds out Diamond City would be the best place to visit next in order to find Shaun.

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Diamond City – this is a developed settlement, made up of humans (there are no synths, ghouls or super mutants allowed here). Here my character meets Piper, the editor of a newspaper that comments on the many disappearances of people. Piper explains that an organisation known as the Institute is rumoured to be kidnapping people before replacing them with artificial copies. After Piper my character meets Nick Valentine, an early model synthetic human, which the residents accepted into their community after he saved the Mayor’s daughter. Valentine is a detective and begins to help with the search to find Shaun, directing my character to go after one of the kidnappers who they are able to identify as Kellogg.

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The Castle – My character builds a strong tie with the faction known as the Minute Men, with Preston Garvey suggesting that my character becomes the new General and leader. In order to fully re-establish the Minute Men in the Fallout 4 world, Preston recommends that my character helps retake the old HQ of the Minute Men, known as the Castle. This was one of the most important moments in my play through of the game as I worked really hard to defeat a really strong enemy, the Mirelurk Queen. I didn’t have very good weapons and my armour wasn’t very good so I needed many tries to defeat the Mirelurk Queen. Once I finally did, I got a real sense of achievement, although my character didn’t really benefit from this win, as a player I felt accomplished.

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Virgil’s Cave – when my character finds Kellogg we manage to find out that he does know about Shaun and that Shaun is indeed with the Institute. However before we can find out more, Kellogg turns hostile and my character has to kill him, to avoid being killed. We salvage important parts from Kellogg’s body, finding that he has synthetic technology in his body, which has allowed him to live longer. In Goodneigher we analyse this hardware that was embedded in his brain to find out more about the Institute, my character learns that a scientist named Brian Virgil actually left the Institute. My character travels into the Glowing Sea (an area full of radiation where the nuclear bomb was dropped) in order to find him. When my character finds Virgil we discover that he is a Super Mutant, which allows him to live safely in the glowing sea. Virgil is sympathetic when he hears about the kidnapping of Shaun and gives my character a schematic to make a teleporter, which is the only way into the Institute.

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The Rail Road – between finding out about the teleporter and making the teleporter, my character comes across the faction known as the Rail Road, after following the Freedom Trail to find an old church. The Rail Road HQ is down in the basement, after a mission with Rail Road member Deacon, we are accepted into joining them. My character learns that the Institute is responsible for the invention and creation of synthetic humans, however they only view them as their property. The Rail Road believe that because synthetic humans have been created to be so close to real humans, that they do have independent feelings and personalities and therefore they have a chance at living life away from the Institute. In addition to this, the perception of the Institute as the synths being their property, is very similar to that of slavery. The Rail Road seeks our help in liberating the synthetic humans that want freedom within the Institute, asking my character to make contact with their inside man in the Institute if my character manages to make it in.

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The Teleporter in Sanctuary – as a player, you can choose where you build the teleporter and which faction you choose to help you. I didn’t want to pledge allegiance to either the Rail Road or the Brotherhood of Steel, which have very different ideologies. I decided to go back to my home town Sanctuary and ask Sturges (a member of the Minute Men) to help me get into the Institute. I do manage to get into the Institute, where I find a synthetic version of Shaun. The real Shaun is actually 60 years old, my character was frozen for longer than we realised. The real Shaun is known within the Institute as Father and he is director of the Institute, as well as being the subject DNA of all the synthetic humans. It was his DNA, safe within the Vault and free from radiation, which was why he was kidnapped. Father asks my character to align with the ideology of the Institute, to try and see that they are improving mankind by making a new version.

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The battle of Bunker Hill – this was the moment where I had to decide which faction I was going to ally with, Father sent me to try and recapture some escaped synthetic humans from Bunker Hill. However the Brotherhood of Steel also learned about the escaped synths and had the aim of destroying them all, the Rail Road were responsible for the escape of the synths in the first place and wanted to protect them from both the Institute and the Brotherhood. I decided to protect the synthetic humans from the Brotherhood of Steel, which made me enemies with them. I was still allied with the Institute,  in order to to help my main allies ,the Rail Road who were attempting put together a plan to liberate all of the synthetic humans in one go.

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The Destroyed Prydwen – Following Bunker Hill, my character became enemies with the Brotherhood of Steel, who attempted to eliminate the Rail Road by attacking their HQ. This prompts the Rail Road to want to destroy the Brotherhood, the Institute also want the Brotherhood removed because of their interference with the Institute’s technology. Although I didn’t really want a violent solution, it seemed that the story had escalated too far to not remove the Brotherhood, as they continue to attack my character and the other factions. The two images above depict the wreck of the airship known as the Prydwen, which is where the Brotherhood were based. My character placed explosives in the airship before escaping and detonating them, the ruin of the Prydwen remains explorable in the site where it crashed. Although I interacted with the Brotherhood of Steel before this moment in the storyline, I felt that the ruins of the Prydwen really represent the hard choices I had to make as a player.

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The ruins of the Institute – following the removal of the Brotherhood,my character continues to do tasks for the Institute while the Rail Road puts their plan into place. One of these tasks involves fixing and restarting a nuclear generator, which would help the Institute power their research in new ways and new scales. The Rail Road’s plan is to target this nuclear reactor and to blow the Institute up, after rescuing all of the humans and synths that want evacuation. This plan is put into action, the Rail Road is teleported into the Institute and they begin evacuating synths and other humans. My character goes to find Shaun, but he is on his deathbed because of a terminal cancer, Shaun is disappointed in my character but explains how my character can disable the synthetic humans that are attacking anyone who is trying to escape. My character then comes across a synthetic boy who looks like a 10-year-old Shaun, who believes that he is my character’s human son. As a player, I chose to take this synthetic version of Shaun and all of the Rail Road leave the Institute. My character is teleported to a rooftop overlooking the site where the Institute is underground and presented with a button to detonate the Institute. The image above is part of the crater where the Institute used to be, a site filled with radiation that is similar to that of the Glowing Sea, where the original nuclear bombs were dropped. It is here that you realise this play through of the game, simply replicates the war that created this post-apocalyptic environment in the first place – as the title sequence states ‘War Never Changes’.

These images resemble the main moments in the storyline, these are fixed and will appear in the order that can be seen above. The rest of the images I sorted and sequenced to fit around these main points in the story, the other images represent free play and travelling between the important locations. The sequence of the images can be seen below.

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OUTPUT

With the images and the sequence decided upon, I needed to decide on the output. I had already identified that I wanted to create a photo book because of the number of important photographs that make up this series of images. Although the total of images exceeds the 10-15 specified by the brief, I feel it would be detrimental to the narrative of the project, if I didn’t include all of the images. This journey is a complex and detailed account, which is specific to my play-through of the game Fallout 4. In order to establish my complete investment in the game and the storyline, I feel I have to feature the entire visual story. I chose to make a digital photo-book online with the creator Blurb. I recorded a preview of the book and downloaded a PDF for people to be able to view offline at their leisure.

One of the last decisions for the project was the title. I had a few ideas, which can be seen below:

  • Lily
  • Charmer
  • Lily of the Commonwealth
  • Charmer of the Commonwealth
  • Commonwealth Lily
  • Commonwealth Charmer
  • Commonwealth

Lily was the name I chose my character from the beginning of the game, when I also chose what I gender I was going to play as, what she was going to look like and what strengths she had. From the beginning I chose to work on the elements such as charisma and luck, which would make sure that my character can persuade other characters she meets to bend to her will. This choice to go for charisma informed the decision behind the second title: Charmer, which was the code name I selected when joining the Railroad. I decided to use the reference to my game strategy when choosing the name Charmer, as my character was charming her way through the game environment. The fictional world that the Fallout 4 game is set in, in the former State of Massachusetts, however it is known only in the game as the Commonwealth. Therefore I started playing around with combinations of the character names and the name of the game world to try and make a good title.

My final decision was to choose ‘Commonwealth’, as it refers specifically to the environment that is depicted in the landscapes. I was able to get a really good image of a flower in the wasteland, I might have included the name Lily and used it to refer to my character in the wasteland. However this implies that my character is much better than the other characters, my character is definitely not perfect and is effectively a mass murderer, so I felt trying to liken her to a perfect flower would be false advertising. The title ‘Commonwealth’ was short, succinct, effective and relevant and worked really well for the minimalistic appearance I wanted to achieve, in order to try and convince the viewer that the landscapes are actually real.

Lastly, I decided to make the cover for the photo book a blue that references what is known as ‘Vault-Tech Blue’. Vault-Tech is the company that made the Vault in which my character was protected from the nuclear bombs and is the first place my character sees when beginning her journey through the post-apocalyptic environment. Therefore I felt that featuring this specific colour of blue would help frame the journey from start to finish. In addition to this, the colour palette in many of the images appears to be blue, therefore the cover sets the tone and there is a consistent colour theme throughout the images.

A summary of the project, the video and the PDF can be viewed HERE

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Phonar Task: Spoken Narrative

This task was a completely new one, with no pictures or images. The brief was as follows:

“Record a personal story to share with the group.

You should speak your story in person and it’s telling should last approx. 2 minutes (if you prefer to record and publish in advance, that’s fine, otherwise it’s delivered live in session and stays within the closed group).

You should especially consider your choice of story/subject, your audience and your verbal delivery – in terms of your script, language, pace and intonation. No accompanying soundscape.

No pictures. Just a story.”

I found it extremely hard to find a story to tell, I couldn’t immediately think of anything that had happened to me that I wanted to reveal to the class. There are a few people who know a lot of things about me but it was hard to tell them some of the stories even though I know them really well so I wasn’t comfortable about sharing these to the class. In addition to this, some of the stories I know and affected me aren’t mine to tell therefore I didn’t want to tell something that didn’t belong to me. Instead I settled on a more comedic example and decided to try and use my creative writing skills from my English A Level to try and narrate the story effectively. I picked one of my many ‘blonde moments’ that have helped me learn the hard way, this was the time when I accidentally stapled my thumbs together whilst trying to fix the stapler. With the story decided I then needed to figure out how I was going to tell it. I eventually decided on an over dramatic style to try and make the story a bit more humorous because of the obvious contrast between the writing style and the content. I wrote out the story and then sent it to a Coventry University English student to have it proof read after which I considered and made the changes that she suggested.

The final version of the story can be seen below:

Time was running out. In five minutes dinner would be ready. If I didn’t finish this Geography homework I would get my first ever detention. I was racing the hands of time. My fingers started cramping. I pushed through the pain, this had to be done. I had entered a zone where nothing could distract me. My hand sped across the page leaving trails of spiralled ink that would eventually form my essay. Three minutes left, two minutes left, one minute left… and ‘beep beep’. Dinner was Ready! I had done it. There was only one task left to complete; stapling the pages of my essay together. I reached for the stapler and pressed it down. Nothing happened. Panicked, I tried again. Still nothing. I could hear the clank of cutlery being laid on the table. Desperately I pulled the stapler back to examine the top moving my thumbs up the cold metal bar and pressed upwards to see if the stapler was working. It clicked and I felt a stab of pain in my thumbs. Dropping the stapler I gasped and look down. In my haste to test the stapler I had managed to staple my thumbs together, each pin of the staple neatly impaled in both thumbs. Crying out in shock I fled downstairs searching for the one person on Earth to get me out of this predicament; my mum. Torn between frowning and smiling she learnt forward, grasped the staple with a thumb and finger and pulled. With another yelp of pain I was free. But with two bloody holes to remind me of the dangers of staplers.

I was pleased with my story; although I am mainly interested in photography I did enjoy studying English and creative writing so it was a good chance to really engage with this written-based task. I felt confident bringing this piece of work to the Phonar session to read as I enjoyed the experience writing it so I felt I would enjoy the experience of sharing it.

Reflections:

When in the Phonar session it became apparent to me that the experience wasn’t really going to be as I expected, I suddenly felt really nervous and unintentionally volunteered myself to go second. I rushed my story and spoke too fast to let the concept and perhaps the comedic value to be noticed, if I had delivered this story with great confidence then perhaps I would have received some response from the audience but perhaps not as they all seemed to be too nervous to laugh. After reading my story I was able to vanquish the nerves and really listen to the other stories delivered by the class, some of which were absolutely amazing. To see a reflection on what I considered to be the most effective story please click here. There were a number of stories delivered, some read from a script, some delivered from memory and some pre-recorded and played back. Something I noticed was that I really engaged and related to the stories that came straight from the person where it was clear they had no script they were speaking from memory because I felt there was more truth behind them; the other deliverances although effective perhaps didn’t have that element of raw truth there was also an aspect of performance. This relates to the ideas from David Campbell on power, narrative and responsibility as we all made certain choices over how we were going to deliver this narrative. Perhaps a pre-recorded, scripted response allowed the teller to have more control over the narrative and make those exclusions and inclusions whereas simply speaking from memory delivered a more fragmented form of narrative which could be considered less effective. In addition to this I started reflecting on my own narrative which is a highly dramatised version of the event that happened, my narrative could be considered as completely untruthful as the style was fabricated to produce a response. I had the responsibility as a storyteller and I didn’t tell an entirely truthful account of the event that happened because in retrospect I can’t remember the precise details. These details can be considered the context of the event and without all of the information I couldn’t produce an response which was entirely accurate.

Whilst I was considering this it also dawned on me that while some of the stories were comic, most of them exposed a story that was extremely precious to them and made them feel vulnerable. This causes us to identify with how the subjects we engage with might feel when we ask them to give their story to us to tell for them. However in addition to this I realised that I found it extremely hard to share even a comical story about myself because of the feeling of exposure, so how hard would I find it to expose something extremely personal about myself? I decided to set myself a further task to try and write down something about myself that I would find hard to share. It would then be up to me to share this story, the results of this further task can be seen below:

“I found, and still find university hard. I was always uncertain about going to university to the point that I might not have ever made it; my parents did question whether it was something I really wanted to do because I was feeling daunted by the whole prospect. But I visited universities and engaged with Coventry so I chose that to be my first option. I already had it in my head that I would only ever go to Coventry however I put a second option down just for the sake of it.

I got my grades, was really pleased with them and started preparing. I had feelings of excitement but these were soon drowned by feelings of anxiety and sadness as I felt like I would be leaving all that I was living for behind. One of the hardest things to do was to say goodbye to my boyfriend for the very first time, even though I knew exactly when I was going to see him again. I cried a lot and the feelings of excitement vanished.

On the day of moving into university I was feeling detached from the situation, getting ready just felt like going through the motions of a normal day, it hadn’t really hit me that I would be moving out for the foreseeable future. The moving in process was a complete blur as my parents had a limited time to park, although I remember mum took the time to make my bed for me, probably to try and make this experience that little bit easier for me to manage. In hindsight I knew they were probably expecting me to have a stressful time as they had already had experience with my older sister. It was only when they were on the way home that I realised I was alone. I reconnected my situation immediately and it felt like I was literally hit by the anxiety. I had no family, no boyfriend, no friends, no food and most importantly: no routine. I had literally no idea what to do.

This feeling of complete helplessness continued through the freshers week and although I made friends with the best set of people I found it extremely hard to settle into my environment. I would make the choice to go out, buy clothes and be ready then a few minutes later the prospect would make me sick and I would return the clothes and retreat inside myself. The one person who I felt I could be myself with wasn’t there anymore and I was completely unsure of how to act and who to be. In the next few weeks I completely relied on my boyfriend, my family and eventually a councillor to get me to a good place again. I still feel like I need to apologise for my weakness and commend them for their strength in helping me. It has taken over two years for me to feel comfortable at university. Here in this house, with great support from everyone, with modules that I find interesting and engaging and ultimately with some self-belief and confidence, I finally feel okay.

I have gone through a big process of self-evaluation and I’m still working at it. I have identified that I love routines and feeling comfortable so when I need to feel safe I construct a plan of what I’m going to do in a day and when I’m feeling confident I let go and experience life. I feel like university has allowed me to both find myself and look at myself critically and it has benefitted me. However this experience hasn’t yet ended and I am looking at embarking on another huge journey of change when it does. But I am looking at my future with feelings of excitement that are slowly enveloping and reducing the feelings of anxiety.”

The process for writing this story was extremely simple, I simply sat at my laptop and typed. It was important to me that it came from memory and that I didn’t rely on other people to help me produce this, therefore I didn’t get it proof read, I just read through it quickly and corrected any spelling mistakes. In reflection this experience was quite easy to write as it felt very much like I was just talking to myself. I know that if I was to read this out loud in an environment like the Phonar class I would feel vulnerable. However I think I would approach this with a positive attitude having evaluated my original response and identifying that my first narrative couldn’t be considered completely truthful. This story is completely truthful and although I have made some certain exclusions for the sake of length I feel that I can present this as a truthful piece of narrative. Consequently if anyone did want to know more about my experience I feel like this piece is a good entry point, referencing the ideas from Fred Ritchin. My story is acting as the front page image and if the reader wanted to know more they only have to seek me out to receive more details.

In conclusion I feel like I have engaged with the morals behind this task, examining the feelings of vulnerability that a participant may be subjected to and the important of constructing the narrative in an honest and genuine fashion, informed by a foundation of context. When moving forward I will build on the ideas from David Campbell about power and responsibility in relation to narrative, Fred Ritchin in terms of engaging with the reader and trying to provoke and response, and finally from Wasma Mansour as she identified the importance of the subject and their feelings of intellectual and physical safety.

 

Journey To School

As part of our Summer preparing for third year we were told to ‘bring me a story of your journey to school’, and that was all the direction we were given. I’m assuming this is to preapare us for the format of Phonar where we will be given weekly tasks to complete and the brief could be as loose as this one. It was good to engage with a brief again to try and define what it would mean to me.

I live in a small village and my mum used to walk me to and from school every day, I can remember the route so clearly as visual markers in my head. As most young children do I had an overactive imagination and it was sparked by different stages in the route. With this in mind I wanted to create a set of photos that would match with the memories  that I have of my journey to school.

At first I started thinking I could use Google Maps to take these photographs and I played around with taking screenshots from Google Maps and using some HDR editing however after editing some of the images I felt that this wasn’t suitable for my idea. I knew that to connect with the images and memories I would have to take the photographs myself and relive those memories walking to school. I set out the next day and took my camera with me to try and capture the images I would want to use.

I made a conscious effort to shoot from a lower vantage point, either bending down a bit or holding the camera in line with my waist to try and replicate the view point that I would have seen the journey from as a child. I also included some close up photographs to try and emphasise how vivid but scattered some of the memories are to me; some are complete scenes whereas some of them are just fragments.

I then went home and uploaded the photographs to my laptop to start looking and editing them down to a final number, I settled on ten in the end because it’s a good rounded number and my story would be succinct but still with a sufficient amount of photographs to create the idea of a story. The next step was choosing how to edit them into finished pieces to go in the series; to associate the photographs with the idea of memories I chose to crop them into squares and created a stylised border to replicate that of a polaroid print. Polaroid prints in today’s culture are associated with the idea of memories, perhaps most commonly linked to holidays and parties. In addition to this at the time where the Polaroid camera was first introduced it was  one of the means to capture the memories of the average family.  In addition to this editing I also use some HDR toning to try and manipulate and bring out the detail in these images; I believe that by changing the images slightly they become more like a memory, matching the idea of what we have in our mind rather than reality.

With the images created and edited I then had to match them with memories in my head, and think of a way to put them together in visual form. I decided to use some simple text on the bottom of the images in the bigger part of the border to define the images and link them to each memory in my head. I wouldn’t explain the memory fully however the phrase would instantly remind me of the part of the journey it referred to. Sequencing the images was not hard at all, it simply went in chronological order of when I took the photographs as this was the only way to portray the journey to school properly.

The full set of images can be seen in the gallery however I wanted to provide a bit of incite behind each photograph to read if anyone wanted to know further details; if these photographs were up in an exhibition I would detail the following descriptions on a card with my artist statement. This can be seen below the images:

1. Outside my house there is a pattern of bricks, the ordered layout always made me think of soldiers marching together in harmony and each brick was a footprint.

2. On a green round the corner there grew patches of clovers, I used to scan the ground every day to try and find that lucky four leaf clover, I’m still searching.

3. I’m a superstitious girl and I don’t like treading on any crack or line in the pavement, in this case I used to imagine these cracks were canyons I could fall down.

4. On a short cut there is sandy ground and there were always marks left there for me to track, pretending they were endangered animals that I could save.

5. Not all memories are pleasant, I was once given the fright of my life when I was walking on a low garden wall and the owner of the house shouted out the window, every time I walk past I can still picture her face in the window.

6. There were some walls I could walk on, and I used to pretend I was walking over this great chasm with only a rope to tread on.

7. The pink house always stands out in my mind as a marker to cross the road, perhaps one of the only times I looked up and ahead in the journey before falling back into daydreams.

8. One of my favourite memories was when I used to pretend I was a horse taking each step as a show jump, my mum used to tell me off for running however I had the perfect excuse.

9. There was always one part of the journey I didn’t like and that was walking past the scary alley, something about the shadows made me feel uneasy.

10. The journey would end and the school day begins, I always remembered to meet my mum near the steps to complete the journey.

 

Reflection:

Having almost completed the Phonar module now I felt it was essential to go back and reflect on the first task I completed without knowledge on what the module would be about. My approach and ideology was really quite interesting looking back, I unknowingly referenced Stephen Mayes and the developing experiential form of photography through the concept of the Polaroid. In today’s society Snapchat could be considered as the digital replacement of the Polaroid, facilitated through the instantaneous nature of digital photography. The relationship between the image and memory is something that is really interesting and is a concept we explored when we discussed the nature and narrative of photo albums. Photography fulfils the individual’s need for representation and the preservation of memories however does the ease of photography encourage a certain disregard for capturing and remembering the memories that really matter? In analogue photography the individual would have to prioritise each moment in their life in accordance to importance as there were only a limited number of shots available i a roll of film. In digital photography we have been liberated from this limitation, however has this dismantled the concept of preserving memory in photography? Can the experiential medium of photography still be considered as capturing and keeping memories?