End of course reflection

I have finally reached the end of my first level two OCA photography course. There have been times over the past two years when I have wondered why I was even putting myself through such stress when I already have enough of that in my life. However the sense of achievement along with the discovery of previously unknown artists makes it all worthwhile but the main benefit has been how the coursework has helped me slowly begin to develop my own voice (I hope so anyway) . I have found working at this level quite intense , there is far more reading and independent research needed than required for the level one courses. There have been long periods of time when I haven’t even picked a camera up. The course has taken me over 2 years to complete and I was very grateful to be granted an extra 4 weeks by the OCA to complete , my work will be assessed in November.

I have looked back at my initial thoughts and expectations I noted in June 2014:
Documentary photography is commonly understood as providing factual evidence and recording the truth. However the aim of any documentary photographer is to inform , to show something. Hence as a genre the subject matter seems almost limitless and this is what makes it such an exiting subject to study. I am rather apprehensive about the coursework , I much prefer to work with people I know and do not enjoy taking surreptitious photographs of strangers in the street. I hope I can combine my love of portraiture with the assignments.

I certainly never expected to be where I am now as regards my personal practice . Portraits were included in my first three assignments but my fifth assignment was quite different. I really can’t thank my tutor Keith enough for his input and encouragement , without his valuable experience and suggestions I would not be at this point now. My interest in postmemory , the use of reappropriated vernacular and family photography , and my research into time , ageing and loss are all things I hope I can continue to explore in my next course Digital Image and Culture .

Thanks to all those who have followed my blog . I shall post a link to my new blog when I have set it up and hope you will join me again.

Judy 😃

Assignment 5 : Tutor feedback 

I have had some fantastic feedback from Keith who comments “ I think you have just really tapped into something that you enjoy exploring” . Before submitting the assignment I was rather anxious about whether , as a set , they were visually consistent but Keith said ” the series of images worked so well together and were literally flowing with reference——-It is a very well informed work , which in my opinion is well grounded in research into contemporary practice

I have sent Keith A4 prints for all my assignment submissions which he said were “always very well / professionally presented –which is great to see!”

Following Keith’s support and advice I felt secure enough to use historic and contemporary images as well as newspaper extracts . He wrote ” I really liked the variety of imagery on offer here …some were very complex in terms of overlaying and others , really simple in terms of a single newspaper clipping detailing a specific narrative. It is bold to be able to submit a photographic project of this nature …you display confidence within what you are submitting” . Keith concluded ” a very important and valuable piece of work in my opinion. Very well done!

He suggests I look at :
Sherrie Levine ( After Walker Evans )
Michael Mandiberg….anything
Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel

He also recommends reading W.G Sebald’s Austerlitz , which I know I had an unread copy of but can’t find it anywhere ! . My library has a copy so I shall borrow it from them.

Keith notes my blog “is all in order–I can’t fault your log really in terms of content” .

The assignment  was one of the toughest I have worked on yet so I am exceptionally happy to have had such a positive response. At one point I honestly didn’t think I would even manage to complete the course on time , even though I had been granted a 4 week extension . But the hard work has been worth it and I can’t thank Keith enough for his invaluable suggestions and input which enabled me to reach this point.

Telephone conversation

I spoke to Keith last night who told me my assignment work does not need any amendments for assessment . I asked about printing the historical photographs used for my 3rd assignment as standalone images (the same as my 5th assignment ) but he felt they were fine as they were.

We discussed printing at A3 size which he said would be great, just to make sure they are the same quality as the A4 prints I have sent to him for each assignment .

Along with the prints I shall also submit photo books for my 2nd , 3rd and 5th assignments .

He felt that during the course I had discovered my photographic metier and used this successfully in my personal explorations of time , memory and loss. This is something I really want to continue with during my studies , and Keith’s help with this during the course has been invaluable.

I have applied for November assessment which gives me plenty of time to print and label my A3 prints as well as complete the Blurb photo books .

I shall be enrolling on my next course shortly and have decided on Digital Image and Culture.

Reading

G. Hughes . Game Face :Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture

Variable Piece # 101 by Douglas Huebler consists of 10 portraits of Bernd Becher , a German photographer , accompanied by a written statement.

Becher was required to portray the following persona in this order :

– A priest
– A criminal.
– A lover
– An old man
– A policeman
– An artist
– Bernard Becher
– A philosophiser
– A spy
– A nice guy

Huebler returned the images to Becher two months later but the photographs were sent out of sequence to the originals. Becher was then asked to remember and “make the ‘correct’ associations with the given verbal terms” (Hughes ,pp. 53) .

Becher’s statement is as follows

– Bernard Becher
– Nice guy
– Spy
– Old man
– Artist
– Policeman
– Priest
– Philosopher
– Criminal
– Lover

Huebler

‘Words and image combine, one playing off the other ‘ (pp. 53) highlighting the difficulty of determining the truth of the relationship between the two.

Two widely circulated catalogues of the work were published :

1992-93 —a retrospective exhibition held in Limoges , France.
In the catalogue Becher’s selection appear to correlate with the numbers on the photographs and appear to be accurate and well reasoned representations of the various characters. ‘Word and image seem to dovetail neatly as photography captures its types’ (Hughes, pp.53) . However whilst both the original and Becher’s statements were included Huebler does not indicate which of the two lists corresponds to the images shown in the catalogue.

1995-96 Reconsidering the Object of Art , Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art
Whilst the images were numbered in the Limoges catalogue they were left unnumbered and ‘worse still , the first and third photograph in each of the series is different , appearing in one catalogue but not the other’ (pp. 54) . However whilst the statement was unchanged it was impossible to link words with image hence ‘two forms of information–text and photograph– confuse and conceal rather than affirm and disclose’ (pp.54).

Hughes describes Huebler’s Variable Piece # 101 as a ‘critique of two very different forms of photography’ ( pp. 55) — Becher’s typological studies of industrial buildings and structures to that of photographers such as Richard Avedon , Diane Arbus and Bruce Davidson. The 10 portraits of Becher are presented in a grid seen ‘as the representative figure and form of a rational , systematic approach to photography’ (pp. 55) whilst the contorted facial expressions ‘signal a form of photography that is the polar opposite of the Becher’s ‘ (pp. 55) . Both forms of photography ‘are voided in Huebler’s photographic portraits’ (pp.55). Huebler’s portraits mimic Becher’s objective style of photography , ‘these multiple images of Becher make evident the precise aspects of photographic portraiture negated by the Becher’s : the reliance on text as a means to determine identity’ (pp.63) .

Mixing the chronological order of viewing is something Huebler makes use of ” I have always scrambled my photographic representations so that ‘time’ would not be read through a series of sequential events ” (Hughes ,pp. 56) ‘Across the surface of Becher’s face we see the signs of his assumed character-types cleaved from their referents. Unable to match word to image, we see in Becher’s caricature the constitutive illiteracy of the physiognomic face’ ( pp.61) Hughes suggests a ‘photographic portrait functions in a manner exactly opposite to photography’s innate material function of fixing and preserving’ (pp. 61) .

‘Reflecting the Becher’s photographic technique back onto Becher himself , Huebler not only foregrounds the Bechers’ critique of physiognomic photography , he also makes explicit the Bechers’ polemic engagement with—-the “new objectivity” –of August Sander’s photographic portraiture’ (pp. 63) . Between 1910 and 1934 Sander travelled across Germany with the aim of chronicling modern German society through posed portraits of a broad spectrum of its citizens. ‘In its attempt to structure the social face of Weimar , Sander’s project neccesitated an archival will to truth , objectivity , and comprehensiveness through a suppression of individual style’ (pp. 66) .

Sander’s seven categories were intended to catalogue archetypical shared human characteristics

– The Farmer
– The Skilled Tradesman
– The Woman
– Classes and Professions
– The Artists
– The City
– The Last People.

Each of the seven categories included subjects with representative similarities. Within each category both the bricklayer and industrialists share the status of Skilled Tradesmen. The final group , The Last People included within its category the elderly, those with disabilities (physical and mental ) , the homeless , beggars etc , the most vulnerable section of society. Sander’s intention was for the portraits to objectively depict archetypical shared human characteristics.

Hughes notes ‘Becher sardonically performs for Huebler’s camera—Sander’s physiognomically based photographic portraiture’ (pp. 66)

Variable piece # 101 voids Sander’s typological categories as Becher makes faces for the camera –faces that can never be properly aligned with their descriptive type’ (pp. 66) . It additionally breaks down the tacit connection ‘between text and photograph opening an abyss between Becher’s identity and representation’ (pp. 68) . Furthermore Huebler never reveals the correct correlation between text and image hence without this information ‘like Becher we can only guess who is who , never knowing when we are right and when we are wrong’ (pp.69).

Bibliography / References

Hughes, G.. (2007). Game Face: Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture. Art Journal, Volume 66 , No 4 Winter , 2007, pp. 52–69.

Accessed 26/4/16

Review & rework

All my assignments have been printed at A4 size and seen by Keith but for assessment I am considering printing on A3 paper leaving a reasonable sized border all around for handling purposes . I shall present these in an archival portfolio box . I used a Silverprint archival portfolio box for my DPP submission and was impressed with the professional appearance it gave to my submission.

I have also decided to submit photo-books for my 2nd and 5th assignments along with the one I have already received from Blurb for assignment 3, in addition to the A3 prints. I have kept the design very simple and to the same format , a small softcover landscape book , printed on Pro-line Pearl paper , with a white cover. Each small book shares the same themes of time , memory and loss and I think it is important for them to be seen together in this format as a small body of work, and something to be kept by my family.
Assignment 1
A3 prints
+ I shall also submit the 2015 calendar that was produced because one of my images was included (November ) . I was really pleased about this because my role that day was as a ‘behind the scenes ‘ photographer .
November calendar 2015
Nov calendar credits
Assignment 2
A3 prints
+ photo-book
Assignment 3
A3 prints
+ photo-book
I am going to ask Keith’s advice as I am wondering whether to print the historical images on their own , as done for my 5th assignment , or leave as diptych’s .
+ photo-book —which I have now received & am very pleased with.
I was rather worried about the colour re-production but this is fine.
Assignment 4 
This has been very slightly altered as per Keith’s recommendations , and the unforgivable spelling mistake corrected !
Assignment 5
A3 prints
+ photo-book
I have used a couple of double page spreads but for some reason the pdf does not show this , they are seen as two separate pages , unlike how they will appear in the book.
Version 1 (I need to alter it slightly)
Version 2

Assignment 5: Reflection

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have used a variety of focal lengths and techniques . Encouraged by my tutor Keith I have additionally used historic photographs to support my narrative as standalone images. For both my 2nd and 3rd assignment I used a plain black background , something I decided not to do throughout this series , but I was rather concerned about creating a visually consistent set and had doubts as to whether this was a good idea. However it forced me out of my comfort zone and once I made my final choices and put the work together I was pleased with the outcome.

Quality of outcome

Choosing the images , both historic and new , and how to present them , was quite a task. Completing the assignment has taken me far longer than I initially anticipated. I feel they successfully convey a narrative but also believe they do need to be seen with the written component in order to be understood in context . I have added a gallery to my blog that allows both image and text to be viewed together that I think works well.

I have printed and posted all the images to Keith at A4 size on my favourite paper , Permajet fibre Base Royal 325 , which unfortunately has now been discontinued. The historic images have been scanned and printed on the same size paper but at a smaller scale . Prints will always form a part of any work I produce and send for assessment.

I am going to work on an initial pdf version using Blurb to sent to Keith over the weekend , and intend to order a book that can be sent for assessment alongside the prints . I am very pleased with the book I have recently received from Blurb of my assignment 3 work. I need to spend some time in the future looking at various photo-books and how they are laid out , but I shall keep it simple for the time being. I would love to make a home-made photo book but am totally unsure of how best to do this , it is something I will attempt at a later date.

Fellow student Stephanie’s post about designing books here  is really informative and interesting.

https://stephaniedhlearninglog4.wordpress.co

I wavered between presenting the work in b&w or colour , finally deciding on the latter. As the course has progressed , and having to produce the 3rd assignment in colour , I have come to really enjoy processing my work in colour rather than b&w , it is perhaps more contemporary.

Demonstration of creativity

The documentary course has enabled me to use photography as a means of exploring subjective and personal emotions that over three assignments have evolved into a small body of work about time , memory and loss . I feel quite confident that the work shows elements of creativity and as in assignment 3 I have used some double exposures , a triple exposure (Evacuation) , along with diptych and triptych’s as a method of conveying personal thoughts and ideas.

Despite having used historical photographs before , and including them in either a diptych or double exposure , using them as standalone images is not something I have attempted for previous assignments . (Following Keith’s advice I amended my assignment 3 book dummy so that the historical images were each on their own page ) .

Context

I have really struggled to keep up with the coursework owing to personal commitments and a nasty chest infection earlier in the year that put me back by a few weeks. However my blog is now nearly up to date , I have just a few exercises for the final section that need to be written up . I have researched some very interesting artists as suggested by Keith–* see list below–and found a few more when searching the internet too.
Their practice really influenced my approach to this final assignment. I have not visited any galleries recently nor managed to attend a student study day , which is something I really want (and need) to participate in but logistically it is not always possible . I am in touch with a few other student via their blogs and find this an invaluable source of support .

*
Researched / read as suggested by Keith
Joachim Schmidt
Tacita Dean
Erik Kessels
Joan Fontcuberta
Snapshots.Geoffrey Batchen.Published online 18 Sept 2008.
+ I am currently reading G. Hughes . Game Face :Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture , write up to follow.