The Heutagogical Home

Earlier today I joined the peer to peer crit with ilya , robert and Becky . We discussed the crits from the symposium last week , as well as where our projects were at .

Yesterday and today before the crit, I made a start on shortlisting the images of my own family for the sphere of the project ‘The Heutagogical Home’ . I had got them down to 163 from over 10,000 at the peer to peer.

But something happened when I printed them all as contact sheets on A4 and looked at them all together as one story.

I didn’t want to show them to anyone anymore.

This wasn’t just photographs of our family, it was the most private parts of our relationships and family dynamics, the “things” that make us us. Yes it was about education, but suddenly there was more, it was like a diary of two years of our life, the most private unseen emotionally vulnerable parts of our lives. Two years that were emotionally far beyond taxing, with the boys doing gcse’s and alevels, covid, exam cancellations, and then my eldest going off to university.

This was potentially a huge problem.

I left the meeting and thought about this and why I felt like it. I realised straight away a huge portion of it was there were far too many, I was giving away too much of us. I went back through the images and narrowed it down again. This time I separated the images into yes, no and maybe folders. I ended up with 86 items in my yes file, 21 items were deleted straight away, and a further 58 images remained in the ‘maybe’ file.

What I came to realise as I was looking through them, and when I was talking in the peer-to-peer crit, was that it isn’t that I don’t want to show my images of my own family, but it’s that I don’t think I’m comfortable with having so many images of our family, over such a long period of time (the whole two years of the MA) as it’s a huge portion of your children’s lives to put out to everybody else in the open domain.

When I went back through the images, and when I was talking about them in the crit, I realised I didn’t have any problem with having the images in an exhibition for example, where they are there for a week or a month and then they’re taken down, the problem was to do with the online presence of the work, but also the passage of time. I have to ask myself, why I am happy to show other families work, but want to ‘protect’ my own. The answer is time, the passage of time we went through during the MA, is private and personal, and nothing to do with education, yet I can’t show what I wish too, without showing that. It is also the bredth and depth of the work, it is like nothing I did with the 18 families, it’s two years of our lives, our youngest going from the ‘baby’ of the family to a young boy, my sons turning into men, my daughter maturing, and my eldest going off to university. It is a whole lifetime.

So, I think what I’m decided on, is for my hand in I’m going to have the page for the heutagogical home password protected, so that only people that I give the password to can actually access the work. This could be for when I do my hand in for the MA OR for if somebody contacts me about wanting to cover a specific story in the media for example, and I think that this would be a helpful story to show. But it won’t be open to the public for everyone to view.

Interestingly For the last few months I thought once I started working with audio and video that my family sphere of work would end up being a film piece that was essentially a slideshow with snippets of video in, with the whole thing narrated by me over the top; talking about home education what it is to me, how we came to it, what it means to the family, how it affects the children and the brutal honesty of all of it, without having to worry about what I’m saying, as many of the other families in my project may do.

I then met with Amy and Ilya at 11 pm this evening and going through, and showing them the photos, and getting their feedback, looking at it from a non-home educating point of view , I think I realise that this part of the project is predominantly photography based. Although I would still like to do some audio of me discussing home education, I’m not sure that it needs to be with this section of the project. It could stand alone.

I definitely see that this work would work wonderfully as either a book and or an exhibition that is completely focused on the photography, with maybe each title of the image, being just a sentence about home education and what is happening in the image, with reference to learning, Without lengthy texts and definitely no research involved in it, because you can’t research what is your own personal life experience, the photographs ARE the research at the end of the day.

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This blog is written as part of my studies on the Falmouth University photography ma, an accredited educational programme.