Week 8, Steph 1-2-1 & weekly forum Sarah 19.03.20
This afternoon I had a one to one with Steph, where we discussed the issues I feel like I am having in conveying the meaning or purpose of my project. I don’t know why, (I will be thinking more on this) but I feel like I can convey my meaning or intent really easily sometimes, but not others, and sometimes to some people and not others. I have been wondering about this as the last time it happened it was with Jesse, and I am wondering whether I (given my subject matter it wouldn’t be that hard to imagine !) have some kind of barrier when it comes to explaining work to people who are in educational roles, that ingrained feeling that even twenty years after leaving school, it still won’t be good enough, that you will not be understood . It reminds me of being at school a little too much maybe? Then again maybe I am just imagining that, trying to find an issue to explain it away with a reason, and it is really just my own worries , and apprehension I certainly don’t feel I have a problem with anything to do with the course, but our ingrained subconscious can come out in odd ways without us realising.
In the webinar Steph said that she thought that I didn’t seem like I was having issues in the face to face crit, but when asked whether if I asked her honestly she knew what my work was about Steph said she thought I have conflicts, Is it personal? Is it not? and that I have 3/4/5 ideas and that I am not fixed on one. I’m really glad that I was brave enough to ask this question, because it was hard, and I am really glad that she responded , as now I can address this. I think the most important thing I can do from this is go forward having learnt from it. It would be easy to be frustrated, but I can only accept responsibility for not being able to communicate my ideas properly myself , if anyone thinks I have reservations, or conflicts, then that is the impression that I have given, and something that I need to rectify. At the start of the module I was going to work in one given way, as the weeks went on, I read more, and worked more, the project evolved and I realised that way of working was not working for me, so I shifted my working strategy. I think I probably never conveyed that properly, and therefore it could look like I am conflicted. I am not. I tried something, it didn’t work, I did something else that did, I then tried the original idea again just to be absolutely sure, it still didn’t work so I continued on that second path. I believe this was a very important process, and part of LO1, and LO2 , to ‘demonstrate an awareness of a range of photographic and image making processes’ and then ‘Exercise discernment in the making’ and ‘ an ability to communicate ideas through creative visual strategies’ . The experimentation (LO1) led to the more refined process of LO2 . I definitely believe that by doing this experimentation I was able to show an in depth understanding of a range of photographic image-making processes (LO1), but ultimately (LO2) I was able to show sophistication in the making resolution and presentation of this as I was able to look at it objectively and know that it wasn’t working, learn from what I had done with constructed scenes and the contextual research I had done into that, and utilise that in my further body of work that came after that decision.
I decided that in order to rectify this, not just for Steph and Sarah for this module, but for my peers, other tutors going forward, and the wider public, I need to create a really solid, strong, statement of intent for this body of work. Therefore, I decided to look up some past students and have a look at their statements of intent, to see how they did theirs, and to see what a strong, well composed statement of intent reads like, as this is something I have never had to do before in my professional career as such, as the work was always able to speak for itself in that context, but I appreciate that this is different, and I need to focus on this now. I looked up Ashley Rose’s and found her statement of intent for her FMP, and then messaged Gem Toes-Crichton, and Teresa Williams on Instagram to ask if they would mind sharing the link for theirs as well, and they have both Kindly agreed to do so. I have also looked online at some of the practitioners I have been researching, who are relevant to my work, to see what their statements of intent look like as well.
On Clare Gallagher’s website, in relation to her body of work ‘The Second Shift’ she states
“The Second Shift is the term given to the hidden shift of housework and childcare primarily carried out by women on top of their paid employment. It is physical, mental and emotional labour which demands effort, skill and time but is unpaid, unaccounted for, unequally distributed and largely unrecognised.
Hidden in plain sight and veiled by familiarity and insignificance, the second shift is largely absent from photographs of home and family. This work is an attempt to recognise the complexity and value of this invisible work. It is a call for resistance to the capitalist, patriarchal and aesthetic systems which ignore it.” (Gallagher ; 2019)
Gallagher has in 102 words , provided a really informative, succinct, statement that tells you what the second shift is, why she is drawn to it, what it’s inherent problems & importance are for both the world at large, and also to the photographic art world. This is a really clear statement of intent, and has definitely shown me more about the editing process that I need to go through with mine.
On Sally Mann’s website it links to Aperture who releases her immediate family book, the write up that goes with that book is as follows
” Taken against the Arcadian backdrop of her woodland summer home in Virginia, Sally Mann’s extraordinary, intimate photographs of her children reveal truths that embody the individuality of her own family yet ultimately take on a universal quality. With sublime dignity, acute wit, and feral grace, Mann’s pictures explore the eternal struggle between the child’s simultaneous dependence and quest for autonomy—the holding on and the breaking away. This is the stuff of which Greek dramas are made: impatience, terror, self-discovery, self-doubt, pain, vulnerability, role-playing, and a sense of immortality, all of which converge in these astonishing photographs .” (Aperture , 2020)
Whilst this statement does indeed describe the body of work ‘Immediate family’ I personally feel it is less strong than Gallagher’s statement. I had started typing that I thought the most important reason for this was the length of Mann’s statement in comparison to Gallagher’s, however when I rechecked Gallager’s is actually the longer by 6 words, so why is it that Mann’s feels so much longer and less digestible? I think the fact that it is in one long paragraph is part of it, and also the style of language Mann’s uses . Gallagher’s seems factual, and to the point, without ‘pomp’ , like the work, it is the world, or the book as it is, whereas Mann’s is full of descriptive, emotional language, much like her images. Therefor maybe, the key is to have language that is fitting to your work , both metaphorically and visually. I do feel though if I knew nothing about either artist , or their work, and was at the bookshop, I would based purely on their statements pick Gallagher’s over Mann’s because I connect to Gallagher’s words more, the message resonates with me, whereas Mann’s use of the terms, Arcadian, sublime dignity, acute wit, and all those descriptive words at the end, make it feel unattainable and disconnected for me, in a way that Gallaghers feels more real and relatable. Therefor I think I need to focus on who is my audience for this body of work? I need to think about who that is, and what language will work best for them. I need to convey the meaning of my work, but in a way that others can connect to, this also needs to take into account my tutors and peers as well as others in the alternative education community.
Looking At Sian Davey’s work , she used much longer texts to introduce her work on her website, and I could find no short ‘statement of intent’ , I really like this, and personally feel it works really really well with her imagery, but ultimately it won’t work for this MA and what is needed of me.
The second thing Steph & I discussed was my WIP . I as it shows in my last CRJ, had decided that my WIP was complete. I had listened to the feedback from the tutors and my peers at the crits, decided to reshoot 3/4 of the images which I did, and decided on the direction the WIP would take and why. Yesterday we also found out that due to Coronavirus the GCSE’s and A-Levels for the year have been cancelled, therefore my boys will not be working in the same way that they were, indeed, they will not be working at all, and it will be impossible for me to continue photographing the project I was ‘ to share the juxtaposition of educating different aged children, utilising different educational philosophies’ as two of the four would no longer be being educated in that way. If I were to continue shooting it would be a body of work, on my family life, not on home education, or educational philosophies, as is my intent. Steph’s feedback was that she thought that this was an incorrect thing to do , four weeks before hand in, that it wouldn’t be a good idea, or appropriate. I did feel, that again, I wasn’t able to communicate properly what I was trying to say, or the realities of what has happened. I have photographed nearly everyday , and if you put that into hours, or images, or time, I know that I will of photographed more in the first 8 weeks than some people will of done in the whole of this module. Some hadn’t produced final images a week ago, therefore they will only have 5 weeks left to shoot. This is the perfect example of where I needed to be able to effectively communicate, and couldn’t. We are faced with this pandemic, I need to be spending time with my children who are struggling in isolation due to my health issues, I still need to print, sequence, stitch and put together the album, work on my critical review of practice and do all my further research and reading that I have listed that I still want to do. I did however say that I would take onboard her advice and I will continue shooting, like I would of in normal everyday life (I just never anticipated this to be part of my WIP) just to see where it goes. Steph said that she thought that would be better as it could just be a missed opportunity to not continue , and that the work is really interesting so it would be a shame to not have that additional element, even if I don’t end up using any of it.
Steph also thought if I was going to take photographs of books I should photograph the inside of the books so that people can learn from them. I totally see the reasoning in this and will relook at my edit as there are three pictures that contain books in them, conveying different meanings. It may be I need to reshoot, or it may be that I choose to edit down further to remove these.
Lastly we discussed again the intent of my work, and Steph thought that if I wanted my work to be personal I should just say it is, and own that more. I do think, that this confusion over my project is of my own doing as discussed at length above . My work this module IS personal. I think I sent a mixed message when at the start of the module I discussed doing tableaux work, staged photographs, and my wider body of work for the MA being all interconnected and about the umbrella of alternative education. I think I should really not talk about how I see my work all fitting together until I get to the FMP, and only discuss the current modules work, as then I won’t misrepresent myself, my intent, or my work. Also getting this written statement of intent is going to help lots with this going forward.
WEBINAR Sarah, Ilya, Amy, James, Becca, Robert.
In the evening I joined Sarah and some of my peers (above) for our webinar for the week. It was really interesting seeing how everyones work had developed since I last caught up with everyone and to see where everyone was now. I discussed my WIP and where I was at with that , showed the book that I was going to be stitching the images into and discussed William Blakes songs of innocence and experience, and why I was using that book.
I then discussed the conversation I had with Steph about continuing work, and everyone was in agreement that it was right to continue with the body of work but how to go forward with that. We discussed photographing now, what it was like with the kids NOT doing any work, as I had explained what life is like usually after exams and the boys have 6 months of the year off from revision. I can’t remember to be fair whether it was someone else who suggested the idea of doing two separate bodies of work, or whether that was me, I have an idea it was someone else, but it ended with me asking what they thought of splitting the module in two, the ‘prior’ to coronavirus which is the WIP I have at the moment will be in one book of William Blake’s songs of experience, and I will then create the second body of work (buy a second copy of the book) and present that in the songs of innocence book. I really liked the idea of this, and so it seems did everyone else, utilising Blakes message of how the ‘innocence’ marks the state of childhood and the unfallen, whilst Experience talks of the ‘fallen’ and how essentially, the world corrupts our pure souls with experience. The linking between this & my commentary on the ‘fight’ that happens emotionally in our house between autonomous education, and structured curriculum learning seems to compliment and heighten each other really well. I feel much better at ease working to a goal if I continue shooting, and this seems to be it. What I didn’t want to do was just continue shooting, to show our family during coronavirus times, as my project is about education, and not about family dynamics as such, so whilst adaptable to how I portray my subject, it is important to me that I do retain that connection of education, and through talking through those ideas more, it was something I was able to be excited about and see the potential in.
I also discussed how I am concerned that my ‘intent’ is not coming across and I am not articulating myself well enough, or my work isn’t. Sarah said she would leave that up to the others, as obviously she knows what my work is about so it would be good to hear form the others, Amy and Ilya also ducked out as they know lots about my work as I do theirs as well. James however had some really astute and extremely helpful comments , that really helped me see my work and communication a bit more clearly. I will bullet point them so to keep them clear and concise to reference back to -
- he is surprised I was told to leave the children out of it as he would of seen it with more of them in
- the work is good, and clear in general, but he feels there is maybe just one image missing, that would tie it all together, he isn’t sure what but it’s a feeling
- he thinks this ‘tied together’ could infact come from text or title
- we then discussed the title of “THE HEUTAGOGICAL HOME”
- I then explained the difference between pedagogy and heutagogy , and it was then agreed (I think by everyone?) that this explanation of these terms coupled with the title could indeed be that ‘missing link’ that tied it all together.
I found all these comments and insights really really helpful into my work. It could be an idea to maybe go to a different group with different people in next week and see what their opinions are of the work having never seen it before , that could be really intriguing, and could shine light on things in ways I haven’t throught of yet.
So the current plan after todays conversations is , keep this WIP as it is, carry on shooting, and see whether the two bodies of work fit together as one body of work, two books, or I just go for one or the other later in the module. To make sure that that title and those definitions are presented to people so that they understand the body of work as clearly as possible.
Gallagher, Clare. 2019. The second shift. Available at https://www.claregallagher.co.uk/the-second-shift (Accessed 19.03.20)
Aperture. 2020. Sally Mann immediate family. Available at https://aperture.org/shop/books/sally-mann-immediate-family-book (Accessed 19.03.20)
Fig 1, Davey, Sian. 2018. Martha. Available at http://www.siandavey.com/portraiture (Accessed 19.03.20)
Fig 2. Davey, Sian. 2018. Looking for Alice. Available at http://www.siandavey.com/humannature (Accessed 19.03.20)