Sunday, 17 August 2014

Making slow progress

I continue to struggle with this course – and I’m not sure why. In an attempt to kick start my engagement (again) I thought I’d run a quick summary of what I’ve done and where I am.
  • Assignments – I’ve completed two of these. The first was about my feelings on the impact of my work on some parts my life, the second was about exploring the vanishing legacy of the steel industry in Workington. The next assignment is about story-telling and I also have to decide on a critical review and a personal project.
    My tutor has suggested that I should consider including more people shots in my assignments – which directly conflicts with my ideas about documentary through objects – so that is a circle I have to square. I also need to consider how I follow up on the work I have done to date in this and the landscape course and establish any links I might see/find. Just how do my nascent interests in time, change and interface translate into documentary work?
  • Background research and exercises – Going slowly. There is MUCH more reading in this course and I am struggling to find time to do that and the personal reading I feel I need to ensure that I develop my own understanding of what is going on. An example of the latter is the book on Dada and Surrealism that I am currently reading – as it was clear to me that my understanding of surrealism in particular was insufficient to make sense of the exercises. Another issue is that I find so much of social documentary photography (which appears to be the current focus of the course work) to be vapid poverty-porn. Much of it is highly tendentious and seldom tells a full story, and on this basis I struggle to understand how it justifies the term documentary. What can we actually believe? For example – both Danziger’s “The British” and the Survival Programme photographers appear to me to set up a dialectical argument between the haves and the have-nots which misses out the middle classes – surely a major influence on both parties. The high contrast, grainy black and white images frequently preferred in this kind of material seems to ignore any opportunity for shades of grey or nuance – rather like the arguments themselves. There is an opportunity here – if I could but work out how – to develop some work which captures or explores this critique. One such opportunity is “mockumentary” – either a completely manufactured social documentary project that encourages credulity, or a genuine subject done in a high-contrast black and white soc-doc style which has no such content
  • Personal work – I am continually drawn back to the beach and the coast. I have made a start on documenting the flotsam and jetsam I have found there, and can see several ways of categorising it but I continually come up against a perceptual barrier – this material is entirely different to the material the course is driving me to research and explore – another circle I’m struggling to square. A quick skip to later course material suggests that more opportunity opens up for this later in the course – but in the mean time I have to get there by a route that makes some kind of sense to me. All this has an impact on my choice of subject for a critical review but I continue to gravitate towards a discussion on the role of objects in documentary photography.
Possible linking Themes
Coastline – possible options include using the flotsam and jetsam to illustrate the history of the area, or as a timeline of some kind illustrating the slow changes that occur in this waste material. There are also opportunities for a mockumentary on beachcombing, or a stylised “middle class” holiday
Legacy – building on the “iron beach” work that I found so fascinating in Southam’s “Clouds Descending”
Uses of the beach/coastal area – a number of opportunities here from candid photos of beach users to more formal Sander-esque documentation of users (assuming they can be persuaded to co-operate)
Short term targets
I need to write up some of the reading I have been doing to demonstrate that I have engaged with this part of the course, and then move to the parts which have the potential to fully interest me.

1 comment:

  1. Role of object sounds interesting and open in the possibility for metaphor. I like the idea of the 'mockumentary'.