Why Is This Work Important?

Like many other individuals in the world today, I am becoming increasingly involved in the practice and the community of gaming. Fallout 4 is the first game that I have felt really connect me to the community, however when playing I felt extremely morally challenged by the questions being asked of my character and also me as a player. The entire story of Fallout 4 is complex and non-linear, due to the nature of the game, meaning every different player would experience the order of the story different and perhaps not experience parts of it at all. Whilst I appreciated I was playing a game, I also couldn’t avoid my emotional investment in the story towards my character and others. Suggesting that although the game is a fictional piece of entertainment, it could also be considered as a space in which to explore moral questions that might not, or couldn’t be asked in the context of material reality. There are on going discussions about video games being viewed as an art form, with sophisticated graphics that require a high level of computer literate artistry (Travinor 2009). A new emergent medium has been created through these video games, referencing photo-realism but building on it and creating a new stylistic world. The camera represents the device through which the game player both views and explores their world and more recently, through which the player can produce their own form of photographic-type artistry (Giddings 2013). It is this practice of videogame photography that I wish to produce, the images I intend to create will document the locations I associate with my play through of the story and therefore places I believe my character would most likely remember too. In addition to this I aim to capture the environment that my character travelled through in order to progress through the storyline, capturing these in-between places. My choice to engage with the concept of video games and video game art, is because I believe that gaming is becoming more and more important culturally. The industry is growing due to increased technology allowing for a higher calibre of games and because more individuals are becoming part of the gaming community, myself included.

As I have identified, the content in the games can also become an important part of culture as it prompts discussions about both current and futuristic issues, despite them happening in a fictional environment. Likewise, the practice of photography has been recognised as culturally important at engaging with current world issues. In the area of photojournalism and documentary photography especially, photography has served as the means to communicate where perhaps words couldn’t. There have been many iconic images that have stood out and served as the face of some of the most important stories, including but limited to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Kevin Carter’s image of a starving child and Nick Ut’s image of the girl fleeing a napalm attack. In many of these cases the photographer has been criticised for not intervening in the moment and helping the subject of the photograph, despite these images being the catalyst for social change. Whilst these iconic images may not have directly benefitted the subjects featured in them, in some cases they manage to incite cultural change, a great achievement for a singular image. However there are flaws in photography, past the photographer not always being able to directly help the subject they are photographing. Photojournalism and documentary photography have been the focus of much critical debate about the relationship between photography and truth. The practice of photography itself has historically been labelled as objective, with Walter Benjamin and Andre Bazin identifying the apparent lack of the human hand in the creation of the image, focusing on the mechanical production. However behind the apparently objective mechanics of the camera is an extremely subjective photographer, a human being that has been shaped by their own experience of life. A person that has their own opinion, design preference, style of photography and all of these are communicated through the image; whether the photographer wants them to be or not. Objective photography, in my subjective opinion, is impossible.

So what does a photograph represent if not the an objective truth? And if a photograph doesn’t or can’t represent the truth, then why do we still believe what is depicted in them? So, it would be foolish to suggest that all people believe what they see in photographs to be true. Audiences of images have become increasingly sceptical of the content following various editing scandals in popular media. The first identifiable cases of manipulation in the media can be traced back to the National Geographic Cover of the Pyramids, where the photograph taken was manipulated to bring the two pyramids closer, so that the image could work with the portrait orientation of the cover. The invention and increase of digital technology facilitated a wave new photographs that were altered, shaping certain genres of photography such as beauty; where it is culturally acknowledged that the photograph is probably altered. The theory supporting this scepticism is naive realism, which proposes that the reality we perceive in our own certain way, is definitely reality. In photography naive realism relates to a person looking at an image and believing the photograph to be able to represent the entirety of reality in one frame, despite there being many other elements to reality (such as movement and sound). Naive realism in reality, proposes that as humans we believe that our way of perceiving the world constitutes what reality is, that is because we can perceive colours we believe these colours are reality, despite other animals only being able to perceive shades of black and white.

In my work, I will be using the concept of naive realism, to create a visual experiment. The images that I am producing could be perceived as reality if the viewer doesn’t look closely to pick out the details, some of them are closer to the reality we experience as humans and some of them focus on details that are unrealistic to us (as the game is set in a post-nuclear war environment. These images will aim to serve as an eye-opener for those who believe everything they see in a photograph, whilst appearing to be a normal artistic piece documenting landscapes. However whilst one purpose of this piece is to be a visual experiment on the concept of naive realism, I also want it to explore the sophisticated narrative experience of contemporary gaming. Fallout 4 is a choice-based game, which means that each player of the game has the potential to create a different storyline; from the order in which the player experiences the main storyline, down to the choices that can be made during conversations between characters. This dynamic means that each different player creates their own version of the Fallout 4 story. My set of images document the version of the story that I created through the specific choices I made my gameplay. This work is important because it engages with two concepts that I believe are currently very important culturally: the world of video games and naive realism. Combing these two concepts has allowed me to create a really interesting piece of work that both follows my character’s unique story in the game Fallout 4 and plays on the idea of naive realism, by attempting to trick the viewer into believing that the landscapes in the images are of a real world.

 

List of References:

Giddings, S. (2013) ‘Drawing Without Light, Simulated photography in videogames’ in

Travinor, G. (2009) The Art of Video Games. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell

 

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New visualities and the digital wayfarer: Reconceptualizing camera phone photography and locative media

This is one of the first papers I looked at when working on my Sketching the Field essay, where I had to identify and establish an area to research on and research accordingly. This paper is by Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink, both of which are writers who are consistently producing new knowledge about the role of visual technology in culture. Both researchers are from the the RMIT University in Australia, so despite being to identify certain cultural similarities between the UK and Australia, I have to acknowledge that this article was made about locative media in the location of Australia. I was interested in this paper because it touches on Instagram and other photography-based apps and the role that this portable creative technology has on the subjects they researched. I have identified specific quotes and ideas in this paper that I believe will be important and relevant for my own research project.

 

On average, Barbara takes a picture via Instagram at least twice a day. She views the application as a succinct way to mark a place and time for both her own personal memory and also as a sign as part of her journey throughout life.

This paper conducted a series of interviews with 10 participants who acknowledged the use of photo-sharing apps such as Instagram in their lives. Obviously this quotation is a result of the data collection, the writers are able to make statements about user activity, because the user themselves have allowed the researchers to analyse them. These interviews and the data the researchers have collected are constantly drawn upon in the research paper in order to support the theory that they have engaged with, in order to produce new forms of knowledge about the subject. It is this data collection, that provides the evidence and support behind the notions the researcher tries to make. Without this data, the researcher can only make assumptions about what could be happening culturally; the data allows the researcher to make a statement and say that a cultural activity is definitely happening.

 

Talking about where you are provides an excuse to talk and share with your absent copresent (Gergson 2002) friends.

Echoing the sentiment of the postcard, sharing camera phone images says, “I’m here and I want to share it with you” (Hjorth 2005)

I have made comparisons the the travel imagery on Instagram and the dynamic of the postcard, however now I have a quotation in writing to be able to support this. I will be looking up this citation in the list of references for this paper and reading Hjorth’s piece of text in which this quote originates. Often when writers use a quote and cite it, they are pointing the reader to go and explore another piece of text, that despite it being relevant to the project, it probably couldn’t be included because it might take the paper off in a different direction. There are quite a few of these quotes that Pink and Hjorth have embedded in this research paper, that most likely points to another research project of theirs, which would provide really good theoretical support for the discussions in this paper. The other works of these authors would no doubt support my own research idea, therefore it would be beneficial for me to read them.

 

 

Through sharing playful pictures of places as part of everyday movements, camera phone practices provide new ways of mapping place beyond just the geographic: they partake in adding social, emotional, psychological, and aesthetic dimensions to a sense of place.

In-between places like trains, busses or the walk between one building to another are no longer contexts for just “killing time”. These wayfarer spaces, as an embedded part of everyday life, have now become key moments where new forms of visuality (Ingold 2007), and sociality are generated, through camera phone photography and the digital copresence associated with locative media.

Hjorth and Pink transform the notion of place and movement in this paper, in relation to the use of locative, portable media devices. These quotations identify the transformation of the concept of place, to not just consider the physical location of the subject, the photograph or the content of the photograph. Physical presence is not the most important element of social media, the concept of copresence is perhaps more important, as the viewers of the image and the content are together in the same virtual location. Place could also refer to the subject/photographer’s emotional location in the world, the culture and communities that they associate themselves with, how they place themselves in relation to other people in the environment. The notion of place also becomes interesting when you introduce the fact that many people make images when they are moving geographically. Which place becomes more important, the place at which they choose to use their cameraphone to post a photograph, or the location in the image they are posting? How can you identify where a social media user is, when they are posting on a vehicle that is moving like a bus or train? The portability of media technology provides new discussions around the term place, which I will certainly draw upon in my research project.

 

The two moments in everyday mobile media practice we have opened this article with are examples of the millions of intimate media vignettes across the world that are at once photographic, social, locative and mobile. 

Here the authors discuss how the material produced and the activity of these Instagram users can be considered as photographic, social, locative and mobile. They are photographic because of the actuality that camera phone photography has become embedded in culture. They are social because they encourage interaction, even if it is just from copresent friends. They are locative because this activity can be geographically placed, due to many photo-sharing apps allowing the user to tag their location. They are mobile, as the images are most commonly made when the subjects are moving through different environments, both geographically and culturally.

 

By movement we refer to the idea spatially as well as temporally, with many camera phone filters romanticizing the now into analogue-looking genres.

By movement we refer to the idea that we refer to the idea that we inhabit and at the same time are creating a world in movement, an ongoingness, that we contribute to through our own mobility and that of which mobile media play an increasingly inevitable part.

Ingold in fact contrasts wayfaring to what he calls transport.

Place, therefore as conceptualized here follows Massey’s notion of place as “open” a “constellation of processes” forever in movement, changing and unfinished (2005).

This means a departure from the dominant “network”paradigms in visual/media culture and Internet studies, towards a focus on “emplacement” whereby people, images and technologies are always situated, in movement, and part of and constitutive of place (Pink & Hjorth, 2012).

These quotations all relate to the concept of movement and how, like the concept of place, this paper talks about movement in a different manner. Movement in this paper does not necessarily exclusively refer to the physical transportation of the user/subject, but broadens to consider an more abstract notion of movement. This abstract concept of movement includes and refers to the environments the users themselves make by using Instagram, moving through their own creativity, their identity and their place culturally. Movement does sometimes refer to the fact that the user/subject is travelling, and that photographs were made whilst the subject was travelling, however movement should not always be considered to mean physical travel. Hjorth and Pink propose a shift from considering environments to be made up of networks, to considering the theory of emplacement, which is made up of these abstract notions of place and movement and how the subject is situated in them.

 

As Pink has argued, photographs are not simply about what is represented in them, but they are emergent from what was above, below, in front, and behind. They stand for not just the thing or person that they depict, but the trace made through the world by the photographer who has produced them (Pink 2012).

Pink’s take on photography and representation in this section is really interesting and I definitely want to find in which text she discusses this further by tracing the citation to the references section. This quotation acknowledges that the photograph is not just a static, fixed moment in time that is contextless. A photograph is shaped by the photographer who made it, the content that is being photographed and the device that is being used to make the image. The photographer themselves are shaped by their own life experience and the environment they are photographing is shaped by their presence. In this case Pink is referring to the subjective influence these photographers have on their images, from tracing the various routes they take in their lives, to evidence of their design preferences when editing the image. The viewer of the image can also trace the voice of the photographer in the accompanying caption by their use of language.

 

Here it is important to recognize that all forms of presence (including face-to-face) and intimacy are mediated: if not by technology then by language, gestures, and memories (Hjorth, 2005; Mantovani & Riva, 1998).

Despite some proposing that the communication through social media is heavily mediated, the writers here remind the reader that all forms of communication are mediated. The speaker and the listener, even in physical face-to-face communication are still presenting themselves in a certain type of way and choosing the manner through which to communicate to each other. However the mediation appears to become more complex on social media, particularly Instagram because of the communication being split between visual, textual and sometimes through sound in the case of a video. I want to extend this concept of mediation and communication and relate it to discussions in the photography world about the image and truth. Representation and mediation are two concepts that collide on social media such as Instagram and I believe it is important to investigate that.

 

Through the narrative of the trajectory of the photograph the story brings together the affective, material, social, and temporal elements of the routines and rhythms of everyday life.

Far from banal, a-contextualized images, these pictures deploy the newest of filters and photographic tricks to give a sense of the poetic and unique and are then overlaid electronically onto places.

These two quotes describe the photography of the Instagram user, not dismissing the fact that they record their everyday rituals, but rather acknowledging that this practice of photography is central to the lives of many. The photographs are an important part of the subject’s creative expression and therefore become important for the researcher. The seemingly uncreative photograph of an everyday task or journey, is actually an important moment of creativity for a subject that perhaps would not engage with photography if they didn’t have a cameraphone or an app like Instagram. As a researcher I’d like to focus on the important role of Instagram as one of the photo-sharing apps available in facilitating and encouraging creativity from people that wouldn’t perhaps self-identify as artists.

 

This paper has been incredibly useful, in both supporting the other research I have done and giving me new ideas and concepts to research next. I have identified that Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink are influential writers who have written a number of texts on subjects that are extremely relevant to my research. Therefore I will be seeking other work from these two authors in order to build on the research I have already done and to see if there is anything that is discussed in the other papers that I might have missed in this one.

 

 

Mother

Mother is a individual contribution of the volume The Person and Power, which collectively forms part of the post-digital publication:

The Social Netcessity

The Person and Power is a volume of the post-digital publication, which aims to explore and examine ideas around what it means to be a person in the world and their position according to their individual power. The individual elements of this volume engage with concepts such as moral exploration through fan fiction, creative expression through artwork and photography, the empowerment of the everyday parent, power dynamics gone wrong and the power of the humans through technology. Each individual contribution to the volume explores concepts in a different manner, from textual analysis to a series of visual artwork. This volume embodies the post-digital through the content and the presentation, as our works will be presented as a set of creative artefacts.

The other individual contributions can be viewed by clicking the links below:

After the Great Debate

Amber Alert

Domestic Violence Against Women

Two Faces

I was responsible for the creation of the publication known as Mother, which is a zine featuring Fallout 4 inspired fan fiction and video game photography.

 

Like many other individuals in the world today, I am becoming increasingly involved in the practice and the community of gaming. Fallout 4 is the first game that I have felt really connect me to the community, however when playing I felt extremely morally challenged by the questions being asked of my character and also me as a player. The entire story of Fallout 4 is complex and non-linear, due to the nature of the game, meaning every different player would experience the order of the story different and perhaps not experience parts of it at all. In essence, the game asks whether the creations called synthetic humans (or synths) should have a right to life, life independent from their creators. Whether the synths can, have or should have the same opportunities as the non-artificial humans of the world in Fallout 4. In my play through of the game, I opted to rebel against the creators of the synthetic humans and liberate the synthetic humans who wanted a chance at freedom, but at the cost of many other human and synth lives. Whilst I appreciated I was playing a game, I also couldn’t avoid my emotional investment in the story towards my character and others. Suggesting that although the game is just that, it could also be considered as a space in which to explore moral questions that might not, or couldn’t be asked in the context of material reality. There aren’t any synthetic humans as defined in the Fallout 4 universe yet; therefore in order to be able to engage with the concept of synthetic rights, the individual needs to be immersed in a world where this concept is a reality.

My position in relation to Fallout 4 is identifiable as a fan; I play the game, I watch YouTube videos of other people playing the game, Fallout 4 is my phone background and also features in my collection of laptop stickers. However in studying fan culture when self-identifying as a fan, it is important to acknowledge the need for critical distance, the need to be able to critique despite any emotional investment. Much like the researcher, the fan is also in constant conflict trying to decide what material is authentic fan produced material and what content aims to be received by fans as passive consumers (Lewis 2009: 52). Fans also approach the material itself differently, with some considering it to be an art form, others identifying it as an expression of their personal experience (Lewis 2009: 52). What has been noted however, is that fans take an affective approach in engaging with the content, an emotional investment in the medium or concept that inspires them to appropriate and create (Lewis 2009: 56). There are on going discussions about video games being viewed as an art form, with sophisticated graphics that require a high level of computer literate artistry (Travinor 2009). A new emergent medium has been created through these video games, referencing photo-realism but building on it and creating a new stylistic world. The camera represents the device through which the game player both views and explores their world and more recently, through which the player can produce their own form of photographic-type artistry (Giddings 2013). It is this practice of videogame photography that I wish to employ in my response to the post-digital publication, building on the moral questioning of the game Fallout 4. The images I intend to publish will document the locations I associate with my play through of the story and therefore places I believe my character would most likely remember too.

The immersive experience of video games, whilst adept in creating the notion of a virtual reality, means that the often graphic content of games seem much more life like (Travinor 2009: 8). The reality of the Fallout 4 game is that it is a first person shooter (FPS), which means that a large portion of gameplay involves the killing of other beings, from mutated animals, to other non-artificial human beings. In some cases, the deaths are extremely graphic featuring slow motion shots of heads exploding. Although the premise of the game and the ideology it engages with is extremely interesting and potentially relevant to the future of artificial intelligence, the countless acts of seemingly mindless killing is potentially damaging, not only to the story but also to the emotionally invested player. The idea of fiction providing the opportunity for moral exploration is being engaged with in Fallout 4, but the entertainment value of the game as a FPS stands in the way. In addition to the concept of videogames as art, the idea of the gamer is also being researched. The idea of playable technology can be translated across various different media practices, where the user can engage, remediate and adapt their identity presentations (Roig, Conrelio, Ardevoi, Alsina, Pages 2009). Combining the idea of fictional exploration and playable identities, I wish to explore the moral questions raised in Fallout 4 through the writing of fan fiction, specific to my character and my play through of the game. By bringing the moral debates away from the FPS dynamic I aim to explore the Fallout 4 world through my character and her position in it. After the liberation of the synthetic humans and the destruction of the organisation that created them, my character discovers and saves a synth that appears to believe he is her human son (who was kidnapped as a one-year old at the beginning of the game). The in-game reality however is that her son Shaun was kidnapped and eventually became the director of the organisation that created the synths, he perished when the organisation was destroyed. The synthetic version of Shaun appears to represent my character’s lost chance at being a Mother, as due to a period of cryogenic freezing, the human Shaun (or Father as he was also known) grew to be sixty years older than my character. The fan fiction I will be publishing will explore the post-post-war period in which my character negotiates the possibility of a life in the Fallout 4 world with her synthetic son.

The cultural prominence and importance of the videogame industry is increasing and many researchers are recognising this. I wish to acknowledge their theoretical work in my individual contribution to the post-digital publication in my creative response, titled ‘Mother’. Through self-created fan fiction and a series of videogame photographic images, I wish to explore the concept of the synthetic human in the Fallout 4 world and how I explore these moral questions through my emotional investment to the character. The fan faction will delve into the possible thoughts and feelings of my character when confronted with the prospect of life as a mother to a synthetic boy, whilst the images display a visual story where my character was faced with certain moral questions as a result of the game play. Both responses will aim to provide accessibility to the reader of the post-digital publication, whilst the content of the overall volume will contribute to their understanding of my section. Titled ‘The Person and Power’, the collective volume will aim to examine the meaning of what it is to be human and the associated power struggles. Whilst my contribution relates to the futuristic concept of artificial life, other parts of the volume engage with humanistic, current and essentially real cultural issues that are occurring. I acknowledge that to some readers, my work will not translate well, because not everyone is interesting in the videogame industry, however with the support of the surrounding contributions in the volume, I believe my contribution will accessible to those who are unfamiliar with gaming.

 

List of References:

Giddings, S. (2013) ‘Drawing Without Light, Simulated photography in videogames’ in

The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. Lister, M. Florence: Routledge, 41-54

Grossberg, L. (2002) ‘Is there a Fan in the House?: The Affective Sensibility of Fandom’. in The Adoring Audience by Lewis, L. Florence: Routledge, 50-65

Roig, A. Cornelia, G. Ardevoi, E, Alsina, P., and Pages, R. (2009) ‘Videogame as Media Practice: An Exploration of the Intersection Between Play and Audiovisual Culture’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 15 (1), 89-103

Travinor, G. (2009) The Art of Video Games. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell

Research – Art and Text

When I identified that I wanted to use textual support in the form of captions and/or an artist statement, it was suggested I research further into the use of text in art as this could impact the method I would choose  to include text. I had to decide whether the captions would be considered as part of the image, or whether they would just be the titles of the images, in which case they could exist as captions. The book Art and Text constructed by Aimee Selby provides an insight into the way text is used in art through a series of essays, a background into text and many different examples of text as art.

 

Mel Bochner produced work called ‘Language Is Not Transparent’ in 1970 which was made using chalk paint on the wall. The concept behind the work was to investigate the spatial properties of text, how it’s presence can exist as signage and reality, the relationship between the suggested and the real is constantly fluctuating. The black paint dripping would suggest this piece is a act of graffiti and vandalism, however the white chalk written on the black paint references the way in which text is used in schools to teach. This piece demonstrates that text has many roles and uses in society, sometimes it’s physical presence is the statement, whereas in other cases it is the meaning from the language that is the statement. This is a really interesting introduction into the way text and language can be used in many different ways, and it is just as much about thinking of the way it physically interacts with the environment as well as the content.

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Catherine Street’s work ‘I see nothing in your plan but risks, terrible risks’ is a demonstration of how a title can be incorporated into the work in the form of a caption. The piece is collage and oil paint onto a magazine page, with the background depicting this magical, fantasy-like environment whilst the caption is layered on top, resembling a physical extract from a book. The likeness to a page of a book creates the tone that this work is fictional, story-like and poetic in nature, not mean to make a statement about reality but instead exploring the notion of imagination and hope. This is indicated by the impression the viewer has that they are looking up at the night’s sky, suggesting that the concept is dreams and the consequent inevitability of them ever coming true. I can take inspiration from this work in relation to my own project, considering how a caption can still look like an extract but yet still look really effective and stay true to the concept.

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Artist John Baldessari produced an interesting piece of work called ‘I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art’ in 1971 which was a commission from the Nova Scotia College of Art. The piece itself was meant to make a statement about modern art and discussions over the quality of the piece against the concept behind it. The idea that value is assigned by the craft behind the medium rather than if it makes an interesting statement or inspires discussions. The most interesting aspect of this commission piece for me is the use of the artist’s own handwriting in the work, an option which is open for me to use in my project. Handwriting is a form of identity, through signatures and letters we create our own identity through the way that we write. As my project is about identity it would be an interesting element to consider in relation to how my captions are produced. Previously I was of the opinion the captions would be typed and printed however I could potentially use handwriting to reference the images of colonial photography I have come across in research. The captions were handwritten alongside the printed photographs by either the photographer or the printer, to describe the subject content. I could replicate this approach and handwrite my own captions in my project. Upon reflection however this idea is flawed because I am trying to make a statement about identity becoming information and computer technology taking an observing role over humanity, therefore my using my own handwriting I would be reintroducing a human aspect of identity. If the computer collects the different forms of information, it would also be computer technology that titles the images for the benefit of being able to file it away, my original idea of having typed captions was tested however it remains to be the most appropriate choice for my project.

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I came across two pieces of work by Stefan Bruggeman named ‘Sometimes I Think Sometimes I Don’t’ and ‘I Can’t Explain And I Won’t Even Try’  both exhibited in 2001. The pieces are physical installations of text using vinyl lettering which is an adhesive, securing to the wall with minimal protrusion, giving the impression that the piece is simply part of the wall. This simplistic yet modern approach could be suitable for my project and would give it a contemporary feel which could compliment the content of my project. The drawbacks with this idea is the distinct difference between this flat installation and the way my prints are being exhibition, as they come away from the wall to give the impression they are floating on the wall. Having the captions flat on the wall as vinyl stickers could conflict with this notion, the fact that vinyl lettering in itself is a quite a modern statement could take away from the prints and encourage the viewer to look at the captions as a separate piece of work. In addition to this, the university would be featuring vinyl lettering on the wall with the Collective Vision logo and additional text to give details about the exhibition, if I also used vinyl lettering it would give the impression that this is a installation the university has made as opposed to being part of my concept. Although vinyl lettering is a really interesting and modern way of exhibiting text, it is not appropriate for my project because it would exist to make a statement apart from my prints.

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The next piece of work I came across was ‘Photograph of a book (Art Is To Enjoy)’ by Matthew Higgs which comes from a series of book covers framed and presented as an artefact. The reason I was so interested in this work wasn’t as such the use of the book cover, but the way the text was the important part of the image and the methodology behind the mounting and framing used by Higgs to make this artefact. The mount and thin frame is comparable to Jason Scott Tilley’s work in his project ‘People Of India’ where the careful construction of the artefact mirrored the careful and considerate approach to photographing the portraits that were exhibited. I had decided on aluminium prints as I assessed with the help of Emma Critchley that my prints would be better without a frame as it would encourage the viewer to rely entirely on the information. However there was another route I could take with these images and present them in a manner which heavily referenced that of a portrait, in this case I could potentially include the captions in the actual print, would then, when framed, make the captions part of the actual artefact. If I changed my process to reference that of Higgs and Tilley, I could really pursue the avenue of making my images look like portraits, which would encourage the viewer to engage with them as portraits and try to relate to them. This is an interesting approach I needed to consider against the notion of just presenting the audience with a simplistic, clean presentation method with the captions existing externally from the print. I was torn between these two options as both of which would be a really interesting way of exhibiting the prints, however I assessed that the unframed print would be more true to my concept, as although I am attempting to make a statement about identity, it is more about the individual being represented entirely through information than it is about referencing portraiture.

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Reflection:

This research was extremely eye-opening and made me realise how diverse text can be in the creative process, how the physical presence and materials are just as important as the content. However it may be that the physical presence of the work is the statement behind the project, or in some cases it is the content of the language which reflects the concept. I have seen many different uses of text which have challenged my current wishes for my project in a very positive way, in most cases I have assessed that these methods are not appropriate for my work however I have been able to really focus down and identify the reasoning behind these choices whereas previously I was relying on intuition. I was very close to changing the direction of my project altogether to use text and presentation methods to reference portraiture more however upon reflection I realised that my original methodology would be more true to the idea I wanted to convey at the moment. If I wanted to rework this concept and exhibit it in a different manner I would definitely pursue the portraiture avenue as I think this would be really interesting. Overall it has been really useful to my creative process to research this book, as well as an abundance of new ideas that I will no doubt be visiting in relation to future projects, it has strengthened the choices I made in my creative process by challenging their legitimacy in comparison to other methodology.

Introduction and Initial Proposal

352mc – Professional Photographic Practice is the largest and most important module of the third year in that it accounts for a large proportion of the final mark. It consists of two assignments, a project proposal and a professional body of work which would go forward to be exhibited in our degree show at the end of May. In addition to this we would be marketing our our pieces and work towards creating another aspect such as a catalogue however this process would go towards the 354mc Professional Practice Portfolio.

In the beginning lecture of the module we covered the assessment requirements and were introduced to the assignment brief for each assessment. At the end of the lecture we were set the task of writing a sample proposal for the following week, this would help our course tutors identify which external practitioners to bring in to give us tutorials. It would also help for us to start focusing our ideas early and presenting them to the tutors; this is an area that we are weak on as a class.

I went away and made a list of all the areas I am interested in that I could pursue further in my final major project:

  • Photographic Truth – taking inspiration from Ritchin & the National Geographic Image
  • Photojournalism and Representation – following the Phonar sessions on collaborative negotiation
  • Catfish – inspired by a documentary which explores romance trickery on the Internet
  • Trolling – abusive behaviour in the online world which is encouraged by the lack of responsibility
  • Digital communication – how online communication differs from face to face and how that may impact the individual
  • The digital world – the difference between representation and identity
  • Other issues involved in the digital age and how this is impacting society
  • Artificial Intelligence and the possible threat to humanity

After researching and exploring around all the possible concepts, I narrowed it down to two key concepts which I was particularly interested in: digital/online communication and artificial intelligence. Having researched around all of the concepts I also identified that some of them would perhaps merge together or interlink with each other, for example Catfishing is a form of online communication formed around romance, and representation is a form of communication, especially when through social media platforms.

Artificial intelligence is a topic which is being widely discussed with individuals such as Stephen Hawking giving their opinions and forecasting what could potentially happen. Hawking explained that his system which helps him speak often suggests words for him to use based on the content and dynamic of the sentence being formed; however this made him feel a bit like his speech was being adapted, like the computer was steadily taking control. Hawking is forecasting a society where humans teach the artificial intelligence to be so clever that eventually the technology will take control and the humans will be phased out. This idea has been explored in popular culture, with the iconic Matrix films exploring a world where the computers harvest the humans using technology, and the recent Ex Machina which creates a modern-day Turing Test, in which the protagonist has to confront what real ‘life’ actually is. In many cases, artificial intelligence has been mistaken for actual consciousness, this idea emerged with the Turing Test, where the individual takes on the challenge of identifying if they are talking to a real human being or a computer. My initial research revealed that artificial intelligence hasn’t been taken on by many, if any photographers, suggesting it is either a tricky subject area to tackle, or that it is still recent enough to be untouched. This concept lends itself to much discussion however I’m not completely sure on the potential for a creative project, especially as I am not very good with coding and I feel this project may take a web-based route.

Online communication is a more lucrative subject which has been widely explored in predominately in video and documentary. Just recently Channel Four showed their drama ‘Cyber Bully’ which explored the issues surrounding abusive behaviour online, the possible consequences and the morals of the online space. This drama challenges the viewer by presenting them with a main character who has cyber bullied, who in turn is attacked by a hacker, continually the viewer must decide whether the actions are right or wrong and which character to feel sympathy for. The concept of online communication and the issues surrounding identity has been explored in the film and now TV series ‘Catfish’. The film and TV series explore the act of ‘catfishing’, a term that was created in this process of the initial film. Catfishing is where an individual online takes the pictures and details from a different online user to mask their identity and create a new one, with the view of attracting romantic attention. Quite often the catfish chooses images from an attractive online user to boost their likelihood of gaining initial interest however the general intention is to try and establish a relationship, however there have been some cases where the catfish is simply trying to get revenge or create havoc. The dynamic of the film and the documentary is kept the same each time, and the end point is to try and expose the catfish to see whether they are the person they claim to be, in most cases the person is completely different however in some instances it has been the truth. The ease of manipulation and masking identity online has created an environment where it is extremely hard to trust each individual you come across, as there is a strong likelihood they are changing some element of themselves. This can be as simple as photographing themselves from a particular angle each time for a profile picture however this might not be indicative of their actual physical appearance. In addition to the term ‘catfish’ there has also been the emergence of the term ‘trolling’ which describes abusive behaviour, predominately on platforms which offer the chance to comment and reply to content that has been posted. Trolling is perhaps more common where the user can withhold their identity, acting anonymously or under a false name. The lack of association has meant that the user doesn’t have to take responsibility for what they say, the worst that can happen is the platform suspends or closes down their account. This suppression of emotions also occurs on a smaller scale, it is a well-known occurrence for most users of social networking sites to observe debates between individuals where the tone can become progressively negative.

With only a small amount of research completed on each concept, it was clear to see that online communication interests me more and offers a greater capacity for my Final Major Project. Although artificial intelligence also interests me, I don’t think the area was appropriate for me to explore photographically. I made the decision to explore online communication for my final project and used the brief research I had completed already to fill in my first proposal using the given template. I paid specific attention to the schedule and made the effort to plan out what I wanted to achieve each week. Although I couldn’t plan what content I would produce when, I set out some milestones to try and stick to in order to keep my project on track. My initial proposal can be seen below:

 

 

352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_1 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_2 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_3 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_4 352MC Project Proposal VERSION ONE_Page_5

Tutorials with Caroline Malloy

TUTORIAL ONE

Having not had any contact time with Caroline in the first module of third year, this initial tutorial was a good chance to reconnect. We started by discussing what my plans might be after university, talking about theory based MA courses as this nature of course would probably suit me better. I enjoy reading, researching and writing and this is a process I could extend with a theory-based MA. Universities that offer this type of course are Leicester and De Montford and Southbank University offer a digital photography course.

In relation to my Final Major Project I gave Caroline my proposal and she gave me the following avenues to consider:

  •  The Disruptive Media Learning Lab – Jonathan Worth
  • Janaka – did a symposium
  • Photographer’s gallery talk – about the Digital Wall run by Katrina Sluice
  • Jonathan Shaw’s book New Fotoscapes contains a chapter from Katrina Slucie
  • In terms of considering web design, the IMES are the support for overseas students, MA Computer Science student could be a collaborative partner (contact Chris Knight)
  • Gary Hall, has associations with the DMLL
  • Open Education: Critical Condition
  • Goldsmiths University – there is a department of Digital Media that looks at the Future of Digital Photography – looking at facial recognition software and photos that indicate personality or appearance
  • Research Sarah Kember, Professor of New Tech and Communications, read her publications (Life After New Media)
  • TASK – explore and research, email Jonathan Shaw and Chris Knight

In response to this tutorial I created draft emails to both Jonathan Shaw and the relevant department for the IMES so that I could email them when I was ready. I took Jonathan Shaw’s book ‘New Fotoscapes’ out of the library to read his section before contacting him for a meeting and for further research in relation to Katrina Sluice.

I felt extremely positive after this tutorial about proceeding with research as I feel like this tutorial and my previous tutorial with Anthony has confirmed the validity of my concept. I am going to go away and research the MA courses specified as I am very interested in an MA as a possible next step after university, a research avenue that relates to the upcoming module 354mc – Professional Practice Portfolio.

 

TUTORIAL TWO

My last tutorial at university was with Caroline and I wanted to make sure that my project proposal was reading well and that my presentation strategy for the work was appropriate and still acceptable for the gallery space. I didn’t think I needed much from Caroline but I entered into a discussion with her about my captions for the degree show and whether or not I should put my artist statement up on the wall as well. In the tutorial time I also showed Caroline my proposal to see whether I was writing it in the right tone and how the quality of my writing was. She gave me a few points to reconsider when making another draft which I took on board to be able to progress. Whilst reading through my tutorial she also gave me some additional research avenues which would supplement and strengthen the work I had already done, for example she suggested I looked at some artist who predated the ones I had picked out. The notes can be seen below:

  • Doug Rickard, working with appropriated material (predates Mishka Henner)
  • Nancy Berson, challenging notions of a portrait, her project ‘Mankind’
  • Reflective essay: think about where your project should be displayed next, for mine it would be the Photographer’s gallery on the Digital Wall curated by Katrina Sluis
  • Alfredo Jaar – appropriation of Time Magazine Covers
  • Proposal: work strengthening the proposal, where the are mostly strong reasoning there are a few weaker statements that could be interpreted as hearsay

 

Reflection:

It had been mentioned previously in a degree meeting that the artist statements were generally not recommended as it would be slightly too didactic and it would be good for the viewer to question what they were viewing, the catalogue we are producing would also feature the artist statement so people could read about the work there if they wanted to know more. In addition to this my artist statement can also be read on the website, I will be writing a blog post detailing the process behind my work and creating a piece on my website which will also feature the work and the concept which inspired it. Following this discussion I attempted and succeeded in making a new order for the full captions, however it did come at an extra cost. I also followed up the additional research ideas which really benefitted the conceptual reasoning behind my project and gave me ideas to consider in the future.

 

Definitive Blog Post: Presentation and Evaluation

On the 24th and 25th of February, I presented my research paper Photojournalism Now: roles and responsibilities at the Herbert Gallery in Coventry. The paper I presented and a recording of me presenting it can be seen below with an evaluation of the experience.

Photojournalism Now: roles and responsibilities

Photojournalism in the digital age is subject to many complexities and the role of the photojournalist continues to develop. Current debates and discussions surrounding the practice of photojournalism include but are not limited to: responsible representation, manipulation, citizen contribution and the evolution of digital technology. With photojournalism expanding and diversifying there appears to be less control over the nature and the authors of the content produced. In addition to this, the parameters of the professional photojournalist are in a continuing state of flux: a concept predating digital, but amplified by it (Ritchin 2014: 13).

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It can be argued that photojournalism formed the understanding of photography as evidence, as it placed a demand on the photographer to create visual representations of the event or issue being investigated (Rosler 2004a: 264). The photograph assumed this demanded role of truth teller despite the apparent limitations to representation posed by the singular framed moment. In addition, despite manipulation always being present in photographic history, speculations about photographic ‘truth’ appeared to gain more prominence (Sontag 1978: 52). The launch of Photoshop Version 1 in 1990 meant that the process of manipulation was accessible to anyone, not just the industry (Adobe n.d.). The resulting ease of manipulation provoked a redefinition of photographic meaning in photojournalism. It now appeared to resemble a visual metaphor instead of the original, evidential form desired. It is thought that digital technology has increased the potential of the image to narrate. However it also appears to have cracked the credibility that the photograph used to possess (Rosler 2004b: 188).

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Analogue photography in photojournalism originated around the framing of a moment, which then became heavily associated with ‘straight’ or evidential photography (Rosler 2004a: 264). These singular images were integrated into the current format of news, acting as an entry point for the viewer. However when forming a narrative in photography, usually a sequence of images is needed. It could be seen that the singular analogue photograph is limited in capacity, bound by the frame (Rosler 2004b: 189 and 190).

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In contrast the digital image is a coded entity, considered as fluid and able to exist in both the latent and manifest state almost simultaneously (Fontcuberta 2014: 37). Although still bound by the edges of the frame digital photography appears to have the capacity to change the current forms of narration.

Ritchin likened digital imagery to that of ‘quantum physics’ (Worth 2013b) where the more we try and investigate and examine, the more the data fluctuates. We can extend this metaphor and describe analogue photography as chemistry in both a literal and conceptual sense. Although there are many possibilities, each one can be explained by a series of chemical reactions, constructed and carried out by the practitioner. It has been stated that the purpose of photography is to be ‘useful in the world’ and the capacity of digital technology could take photojournalism further however it needs the practitioner to become ‘proactive’ and take on the responsibility (Worth 2013b). Perhaps the fluid nature of the digital image will encourage new explorations in this field.

 

Photojournalism itself emerged with the industrialisation of news and the surge of mass markets, both contributing to the creation of the illustrated magazine, or photo essay (Warner Marien 2002: 8). The evolution of digital technology has allowed photojournalists and photo editors to explore new methods of narrating an event. Where the photo essay was product of industrialisation, digital technology provides the photojournalist with an escape into new forms of media (Worth 2013b). Time Magazine has certainly embraced this liberation by producing dynamic new features like ‘Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek’ (Ritchin 2013: 59)

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‘Faces of The Dead’ (Ritchin 2013: 94)

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and ‘Watching Syria’s War’ (Ritchin 2013: 92).

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The use of moving image, sound, interactivity and creative data visualisation in these features support the explorations into new, effective narrative forms, which perhaps could not be achieved through the single photograph (Rosler 2004b: 189-190). In a recent interview, Stephen Mayes described digital, online photojournalism as rolling, a continuous stream of information (Worth 2013b). This environment is perhaps suited to a more creative, contextualised and comprehensive narrative moving away from the safety of the photo essay format.

The digital native culture has fully accepted the new form of photographic image; the instantaneous nature along with the developing communication infrastructure has helped shape the current mass image culture. This dynamic conflicts with the ideology of Walter Benjamin who discussed the loss of aura through reproduction and proximity. (Benjamin 1992: 225). The tools of this mass image culture can be integrated into photojournalism as demonstrated by Benjamin Lowy, who used a combination of smartphone photography and the application Hipstamatic to produce his images (Ritchin 2013: 68).

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However they were met with negativity, head of a photojournalist festival Jean-Francois Leroy stated that using an app reduced the control over the photograph and actually worked to ‘standardise photography’ (Ritchin 2013: 69). Lowy’s images are accessible and familiar, with the aesthetic and format referencing social media such as Instagram. This technique allows the audience to relate and consume the content easily. However the danger of producing this comfortable imagery is that the content doesn’t work to challenge or provoke the viewer, referencing the current trend of main-stream media producing content the audience want to see not what they need to know (TED 2011). The mass image culture has generated an archive of safe, consumable imagery that works to promote, not provoke.

 

Current photojournalism can be perceived as ‘Networked’ (Beckett 2008: 2) with citizens and professionals contributing content. The millennium saw an increase of citizen journalism in media with the 911 attacks acting as the catalyst. Imagery from camera phones became more commonplace in photojournalism as the holder of a smartphone can become an instantaneous producer and publisher. This was particularly evident in the coverage of the 2001 Twin Towers attack and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, which comprised of still image and moving image content.

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The raw aesthetic of citizen camera content often convinces the viewer that fabrication is less likely. Reduced naivety to manipulation has even provoked the public to question aesthetically perfect images, despite any status of legitimacy. The proximity of the citizen to their environment could also improve their representation. This insider status coupled with a greater awareness generates new questions (La Grange 2005: 125). With no belief in the image, and more citizens taking up a camera, is there actually a demand for the professional photojournalist anymore?

 

Manipulation is a process that was present in analogue photojournalism, however it has gained more awareness in the digital age. Both Ritchin and Rosler addressed the February 1982 National Geographic cover in reference to photographic truth (Ritchin 1990: 26, Rosler 2004a: 271). The distance between the pyramids was digitally altered, potentially destroying their historic association to ‘immutability’ (Rosler 2004a: 270).

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The parameters of manipulation in photojournalism have never been defined which has perhaps allowed instances in which images are changed to achieve ‘conceptual accuracy’ and ‘aesthetic pleasure’. (Rosler: 2004a: 276). Ethical guidelines in relation to the practise of manipulation must be defined in the context of photojournalism (and distanced from conceptualism) to avoid the exploitation of the audience through naivety (Bersak 2006).

 

A photojournalist’s role can be to construct a representation of victimisation and suffering. There is a responsibility on their part to photograph in a manner that avoids exploitation and misrepresentation, far from Barthes’ original dynamic of operator and target (Barthes 1993: 9). Abigail Solomon Godeau in her ‘Inside/Out’ essay examined the stance taken by photographers in representation of vulnerable subjects, which is especially complex when the photographer isn’t native to the culture and environment. In Kevin Carter’s well-known image, his ‘outsider’ approach could be viewed as imperialistic as there is no personal involvement or connection (La Grange 2005: 125).

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The distance created in the image reduces the relationship between the photographer and subject to an observing eye (Ritchin 2014: 36). However this is the stance photojournalism desires to achieve objectivity. It has produced iconic imagery Barthes would define, as punctum, drawing an emotional response, but is that enough to help the victim? (Barthes 1993: 26-27). A comprehensive understanding of the subject’s situation might establish continuing support from the audience. Perhaps the future structure of photojournalism should begin with an objective ‘outsider’ image to capture audience attention, which then leads to the larger, more informed body of work producing using the ‘insider’ approach (La Grange 2005: 125). This could work to solve the notion of subject exploitation and misrepresentation.

 

In photographic representation, context is the defining concept, however it is equally important to establish the right context for the final outcome (Rosler 2004a: 263, Johnston: 2011). The photojournalist’s responsibility extends past the action of taking a photograph; the imagery must be circulated to the right channels. Marcus Bleasdale has avoided ‘preaching to the already converted’, (Worth 2013a), choosing to adapt his body of work ‘Rape Of A Nation’ (Bleasdale 2008) into different forms to engage with alternative audiences.

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In contrast to this, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin created the body of work named ‘The Day That Nobody Died’ to comment on the practise of photojournalism (Broomberg and Chanarin 2008).

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The work was pieces of photographic paper exposed to the sun over the course of a day and has been exhibited in the contemporary art community most recently at the Shanghai Biennale. The significance of this work was the conceptual nature, which means it would be most effective in an environment where it would be perceived as art. Although the work is associated with photojournalism, to publish it in the environment of this genre would be taking it out of context and reducing the capacity to communicate effectively. Conceptual photography is a separate genre and needs distancing from the informative imagery normally associated with photojournalism (Rosler 2004a: 259).

 

It would be accurate to state that the digital age has changed the field of photojournalism, however it would be more perceptive to suggest that it has amplified some of the existing issues. The photograph as evidence has had an unstable history perhaps due to the limitations of the single-image approach (Renaldi 2014). The nature of the digital image and the techniques made available through digital technology has facilitated a new mode of delivery, which is more contextualised (Johnston 2011). Though with the format of print journalism and objective imagery remaining ever present, it appears that a balance of reactionary and proactive, insider and outsider photojournalism is approaching (Worth 2013, La Grange 2005: 125).

However there are considerations that must be addressed such as truthful representation, manipulation, contextual information, circulation to appropriate channels and photographic responsibility (Rosler 2004a: 271, Ritchin 2009: 26, Johnston 2011, Bleasdale 2008). In addition, the parameters of the professional in the current state of photojournalism still need establishing in order to maintain quality in the field (Ritchin 2014: 13). After investigating it would appear that when confronted with complexity, the photojournalist (professional or citizen) must produce an effective, innovative narrative with the tools available, which depicts a responsible, informed representation of the subject. It should challenge and provoke a response from the right audience and be viewed in the appropriate environment (Johnston 2011).

 

Evaluation

Having delivered a small presentation in first year and written an academic essay in second year I felt I was equipped to tackle the requirements of this module. However the desire to write a quality paper and the pressure of presenting to an external audience made the experience more worrying. Choosing to examine the current state of photojournalism as a whole was an ambitious idea, and it meant that I had to complete detailed research for each concept I wanted to include, it also meant I had to make compromises on the content of the paper. I believe I negotiated this issue effectively by choosing themes that would flow well in the structure of my paper and completing further blog posts to address the themes that I had to exclude. This means that the release of my research paper will be accompanied by a set of independent  pieces of writing which demonstrates my extended research into other important aspects.

In terms of the research itself, it was challenging to read the amount of material I wanted to read in order to inform my writing, this meant I had to organise and limit my research and really consider which sources were going to be beneficial enough to read all the way through or whether it was a case of selecting the most appropriate and relevant chapters. If I was to attempt this type of project again I would make an effort to read more key, historical photographic texts first before progressing down to the specific subject matter as I believe this would make my investigation and the writing of my paper a more chronological and linear experience. One aspect I found challenging was my introduction and I believe this adapted approach would have enabled me to write a more coherent introduction from the start. In addition I would have liked to research more theoretical photographer texts in order to inform and support my understanding of the medium itself, be able to apply my own ideology and relate this to visual examples in the paper. However I appreciate that while perhaps not all of the texts I would want to have read would have been possible in the time frame, I definitely think that if I was slightly more organised and put in a greater work effort at the beginning, I would have been able to complete more research.

The presentation itself was an accelerating experience I had expected some stumbles however they weren’t the ones I made in the previous practise run which demonstrates that no matter how much you practise, there is always the possibility of nerves to affect you. However I feel that I did present to the best of my ability, making a conscious effort to look up and out at the audience and inserted pauses for images to be considered and between each paragraph break. I also made the conscious attempt to slow my speech down as in the previous practise run I had been faster than practised individual  read-throughs. All these efforts meant that I felt my paper was delivered effectively, despite a few nervous mistakes.

In the questions it was addressed that I had been optimistic in my attempts to compares one genre of photography into a ten minute presentation and paper. I was expecting this question and I was able to answer it by referring to the series of independent blog posts I have written to address that I appreciate there is more to the medium than that which is in my paper. Another question was asking whether the single image approach can ever be effective in photojournalism. To which I responded that as Fred Ritchin stated, the single image can act as an entry point to the viewer and I appreciated that in some contexts it is not possible to view a comprehensive, contextualised body of work. So the singular photograph could possibly still act as this entry point however as addressed in my paper it needs to be followed by the larger, more informed body of work. The next question addressed my comparison of analogue and digital photographer and asked whether I had a preference for either one in relation to photojournalism. I responded by discussing that is was actually a case of ability and capacity. I referred to further research by explaining analogue was always criticised for being too slow to keep up with the war and it is digital technology that will keep up with the demands of the continuous 24 hour news cycle. However I went on to discuss that it digital photography appears to be trapped in the form of analogue so to be able to progress in digital photojournalism, the practitioner needs to break the existing boundaries. The thought of answering questions prior to the presentation as very nerve-wracking as it isn’t possible to prepare completely, there is still an element of unknown. However the experience was actually quite enjoyable, because I had the research I was able to talk openly and easily about the subject.

In terms of my professional practice I think that this module and the experience of the symposium has made me aware of my aptitude and preference for writing over the actual process of taking the image. I had previously considered completing a Masters course but I wouldn’t know what photographic work I would want to produce, however with this experience I could now go on to do a theoretical MA which requires the completion of a thesis instead. In addition to this it is made me want to investigate the digital age further with the ideas I explored in Phonar about constructed identity. I will also continue the research methods established in the module and apply it specifically to my Final Major Project but also for any photographic project in the future as I believe this will help me produce conceptually informed pieces of work.

The experience of this symposium module has been extremely beneficial in terms of strengthening my research methods, informing my upcoming photographic practice and deciding where I might want to go in the future after university. Overall I have immensely enjoyed the experience as it has been stimulating and challenging but incredibly rewarding.