Week 1 project development – 31.01.20

Week 1 project development – 31st January 2020

During the break between last term and this I came to the conclusion that I would shuffle around my order of how I wanted to capture the ‘spheres’ of my project.

I had originally aimed this module, to photograph democratic schools, home ed co-ops, forest schools, alternative schools, home education social and learning groups, and similar, to document and illustrate what alternative education can look like in an ‘alternative to traditional school’ setting.  

However, after having been so ill last term, and given that I am still recovering, I decided that I would instead, spend this term focussing on my own families journey of alternative education.

This served a number of benefits, amongst them were that I could continue recovering my health, I could focus more time at home with my eldest two boys who are in the final run up of study for their A-levels and GCSE’s, and also that the weather would be improved by the next module to be photographing all the outdoor learning opportunities (whilst I have no desire to ‘beautify’ this outdoor learning, I hate the cold and rain and have no desire to be outside shooting in it if I can help it)

I had originally assumed I would run an almost diaristic photographic view of this module. Capturing my families daily routines, groups, and in turn , our educational philosophy and journey. Based on this , I started capturing just simple iPhone photographs , trying to look at the sorts of images I could look at producing, some of these are below.

Once the new module started however, I started to think about experimenting with this formula of capturing my images. I had been considering with the idea of trying to create tableaux scenes depicting alternative education . Perhaps, depicting how I see it in my head, to how it ultimately looks in really life, a play on the ‘expectation versus reality’ so popular on social media at the moment. Or perhaps, I could create tableaux scenes of ‘real things’, real events that happen regularly, or have happened in our family’s educational journey, but staged, to allow me to construct the scene, to show the information I want it too, in both an informative and aesthetically pleasing way. I found this notion interesting, as my feedback over the last two modules was that I was over aesthicising my images, and my first foray out of documentary is to essentially, do this to the ultimate extreme. This would however allow to me to construct exactly what I want to tell the viewer about alternative education. I do not have to be telling this ‘story’ from an unbiased, neutral point of view if I work in tableaux. If I work primarily with documentary I feel that I need to be true to the transparency of the style, and try not to alter things where at all possible, consequently, there are many things within my images that do not need to be there, that draw attention away from the main point I am trying to show or represent, distractions if you will.  I do not see using specific lighting techniques in my images as being overly aesthetic , and, as we heard from Szarkowski and Shore in this weeks videos all photographers make choices, my want, and ability to light my images in certain ways, is imbedded in me as an artist from years of photographing births in everything from a pitch black room lit with a single candle, to the penetrating glare of theatre lights during a c-section . I know this has been questioned by the tutors, but I do not feel I need to excuse this, I , as an artist, appreciate dramatic lighting. Images with flat lighting *do* nothing for me, personally. So, why would I choose to produce something that I am not visually excited by? I can however explain it, as I did in the last module, I see alternative education as something beautiful, something dramatic, something that commands a presence, therefore I light the way I do, to illustrate that. My lighting from past modules shows both the beauty and drama I see in what we do, but it also allows me to illustrate the hard times, the stresses and strains of it, by utilising light and shadow. In the video ‘photography, photographies’ that was uploaded this week, it described the tools that photographers use to convey their sense of the world, to me this use of light, is just me showing the viewer, how I see alternative education …. as something beautiful. Tableaux would allow me to utilise this strength to the best of my advantage. It would also allow me to experiment with a new genre of photography I have not really worked in before , or at least, not in a methodical and knowing way. I really like the idea of trying something new, something I may not find easy and pushing myself a bit.

Based on this I have started looking at the work of a few photographers who work in tableau ,

Gregory Crewdson, https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2008/gregory-crewdson/

Alex Prager, https://www.alexprager.com/part-iii-view/fl0mc9v26g2old9z7d6lghim8y4vfk

Julie Blackmon, https://www.julieblackmon.com/portfolio.cfm?nK=6953&nS=0&pn=0#image-12

Natalie Lennard https://www.birthundisturbed.com/the-series

I especially like the idea of shooting through windows like in Crewdsons work, as a way of ‘looking in’ to the world of alternative education. I am also very much interested in exploring these ideas with video as well as with images, as I think it would add that extra dynamic, and add to the theatrical nature of the project. I have always loved the work of Wes Anderson, Tarrantino, Joe Wright to name a few, and I have just watched the new David copperfield film by Lannucci, and the elements included in that, mirror some of those used by Anderson and Wright, and could be inspiration for a number of different avenues I could go down, if I utilised film.

Mostly , these ideas all allow me to go off on a new tangent, whilst sticking to my idea of depicting alternative education, which I very much wish to do. It allows me to experiment visually, and creatively, and put new skills and knowledge into action, which I believe ultimately, the MA has to be about.

Tonight I took a couple of test shots from outside of my house looking in. There is work being done in this room at the moment and so it is all in pieces, but it allowed me to see what kind of effect shooting at night-time into the house would look like. This set up would allow me use very dramatic and effectual lighting, focusing on a certain area of the room and subject, whilst simultaneously allowing for the portrayal of ‘looking into’ a scene that would otherwise be private and not accessible to someone outside of that domestic setting. I do wonder whether this is just ‘too’ obvious though?

***EDITED TO ADDD – I addressed this idea of shooting through doors and windows in the week 3 forum from Crewdson’s point of view, and his film I recently watched HERE

Week 1 project development

Figure 1, Week 1 project development Graham, Rebecca. 

Figure 2, Week 1 project development Graham, Rebecca.

Figure 2, Week 1 project development Graham, Rebecca.



Figure 1& Figure 2 , iPhone images, Week 1 project development Graham, Rebecca.


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