This week, which continues building towards the end of module exhibition, explored the way images can be displayed and experienced by the viewer. The interview with Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale of the Caravan Gallery covered their own journey developing and using a non-traditional exhibition space to promote dialogue with communities and inspire photographic activities around the world. Their enthusiasm for what they do and their willingness to simply have a go and not allow themselves to be limited in the pursuit of their artistic objectives is an inspiration. Also, their willingness to collaborate and their flexibility of vision in even deciding that a small caravan could be used for their purposes are big lessons.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might, at this late stage, try and mount an exhibition for this module. The gallery space seems less and less appealing, as well as feeling less appropriate for the work at this stage of its development. I’m unsure whether the gallery space might ultimately be the best place for this work to be shown, but certainly in its current inchoate state it doesn’t seem to merit the elevation that being placed in a gallery space almost inevitably confers.
I think photographs unavoidably respond to the space in which they are displayed. This effect can occur independently of the artist if the space is chosen without consideration to the intentions of the work and whether the space/light/ambience are conducive to, or congruent with, that intention. Where possible then, it is important for the artist to consider where their images are best placed and seek to influence this if possible. One must accept that the message the viewer receives from your work is somewhat out of your control, and may be at variance from that intended, but it remains important to control as many variables as possible to give the work the best chance to communicate clearly and the space where it is displayed and the audience who might be exposed to it are such variables.
Of course, one of the key aspects of my project is the concept of being alone and considering how people are affected by that state. It could be argued then that considering the images in neutrally coloured spaces where a single photograph occupies a single wall might give the images the space required to be considered clearly, but I’m not sure this is quite what the work needs. For sure, my original ideal for this project has gradually shifted to become one that is less clear cut, more accommodating to blurred definitions and uncomfortable contradictions. These feelings don’t seem best suited to the gallery space at the moment. I am sure as the work develops the ideal location for it will become clearer. As I continue working towards the end of this particular module I hope to be able to make a coherent provisional choice.
One of the techniques I’ve wanted to experiment with is repeat photography, to see if there’s a role for this practice in articulating and exploring the themes of my project. In an effort to break out of a creative and motivational lull I figured I’d start at home and give this process a try.
One of the things I’ve considered is how to use an image to change the character of a scene and/or to help tell the story of solitude or absence in a space. I’ve also become interested in how I might use light to enhance or alter how a scene reads. This image is my first attempt at some of the above, using a previously taken image as the basis for this shot, but translocating it elsewhere to see how this changes the meaning of the image. There was also a smidgen of light painting going on in this photo, something I have never tried before but would possibly like to experiment with again in future. Using light creatively is something I’m always concerned with and hope to be using projected images shortly as well.
Overall, I feel that rephotography can be a useful tool to tell the story in my project and will hope to develop this idea further.
This week we were introduced to the task that will take up most of our efforts for the rest of the module, that of preparing for an exhibition, publication and workshop to be presented in August. There is great potential to see the work develop and find new direction in this process. I’m interested that we are being asked to mount a workshop, as this formed a key part of my project proposal in the last module. I feel however that the greatest possibility for development for me lies in the exhibition and publication aspects of the task.
One of the key lessons for me in this module has been that there is so much space for my work to develop into. Up till now I’ve only ever considered the peak output of my images in terms of a single photograph, hopefully as well-constructed as possible, presented in a frame on a wall. The inescapable realisation is that the medium of photography is so much more robust and versatile than this. It can withstand pressure from ambitious and audacious practitioners and be stretched and pulled into various forms that are born from the camera but don’t necessarily end up in a standard or easily recognisable format. The simplest example of this is probably the fact that images are now consumed largely in virtual screen-based formats, so already the traditional medium of the physical photograph has been subverted. Once this constraint has been escaped, the question becomes ‘what next?’… the answers are potentially endless.
The role of the curator has been introduced this week with some of our cohort taking these roles in our own forthcoming exhibition. I remember the words of Lynn Smith, who said to me some time ago that developing relationships with curators was one of the most important things a photographer could do to move their career forward.
Reading interviews with curators from prominent institutions around the world I was struck by their common challenges, their knowledge and their protective love for the medium of photography, while they simultaneously acknowledged the changing landscape in which they are working. As an individual practitioner it’s easy to be so preoccupied with one’s own work and perspective that you’re unable to appreciate the rolling waves engulfing you, the tide of which is changing the context in which your work exists without you even knowing. So curators can be a vital resource to the practitioner, helping to contextualise the work and present it to an audience that the practitioner themselves may not be able to access. I believe the individual practitioner must maintain a clear sense of their own direction and their own motivation for producing the work, but be open to the additional ‘big picture’ perspective that a curator can provide and be prepared to be challenged by, and respond to, their objective expert view.
The more I consider how I envisage my project developing with broader parameters in mind, the more exciting the possibilities seem. I’m not sure if I will have all the time and resources necessary to explore everything but I want to try some things and see where I end up.
Falmouth university ma photography critical research journal