In my week 9 reflection I spoke a little about the process that led to me trying to put together a small zine. This was an interesting activity that I certainly intend to develop further, as there is a lot of potential for variations in content and layout, as well as technical aspects such as paper choice and printing process to explore (geeky, but I love that stuff!!).
Having had access to a double-sided printer this week, I was able to create slicker editions of the zine that reproduced the photographs in a much more pleasing manner than my home printer had done.
Zine printed on a better printer than my Canon all-in-one!
Following on from the zine, and reflecting my desire to produce something that is as instantly accessible as possible, I developed a couple of leaflets to see how far this idea would go.
They were very easy to put together, with the main challenge being the need to be economical with space and limit any unnecessary content (I am prone to ramble, so that wasn’t as easy as you might think!). I’m really happy with how these turned out, because they feel so practical and simple, reflecting the approach I want the project to take.
In my fantasy world, the ideal outcome would be to follow the journey of a leaflet left on the tube and see where it ended up and who it connected with. But I will have to come back to GPS geo-tracking printing methods in a future module!
One of the unexpected discoveries of this module has been the role that text has come to play in the production of the images.
For the first time, it has felt apposite to introduce text into the photograph, in a way that I could not have anticipated when I first sought to elicit the reflections of others on their experiences of urban solitude.
As the responses started coming in, and the tender nature of some of the reflections was noted, it seemed to me that there was a strand of emotion and information that would be potentially underused if words were not given a more prominent role in the communication of the ideas of the project.
How to do that of course is the challenge…
Words: Audrey Reglioni, Image: Justin Carey
I had originally imagined that words would be an important part of the project but had envisaged this being more in the sense of including my own musings on the subject. During this module, I have been writing sporadically to support the creation of images, but what quickly became clear was that nothing that I wrote, particularly of a fictional nature, could in any way match the honesty and simplicity of the words spoken by those who were kind enough to contribute to the project. Again, this shift in outlook reflects a more general broadening of perspective that has occurred during this last twelve weeks, where I have felt able to loosen my grip on the authorial reins and allow the perspectives of others to be more directly represented.
To me, using the words of my collaborators has required me to ‘get out of the way’ to let them communicate more directly with the audience. This has actually been easier than I thought, I have had little trouble stepping back and allowing people to speak for themselves. More surprising has been how liberating it has been and how the work seems to have taken on a different air, wider and clearer, without losing anything of the essence I feared might be diluted if I did not maintain my sole authorship role.
I can’t say that I know for sure how to fit the words into the work, or whether they will always be part of it. I can say though, that introducing them at this stage has certainly moved things forward and opened up another vista for further exploration.
So far, I have used direct quotes from collaborators in images, in project materials and the Searching for Meaning website. I have also used snippets of lyrics from songs that have inspired the work or have been suggested by respondents. This is another explicit statement of the influences that previously had been less visible (but always present).
This link between photography and writing has long been established and is frequently analysed (Beckman and Weissberg, 2013). While I am a latecomer to this discourse, I hope to continue researching this link and developing a greater understanding of how it relates to my own practice.
Beckman, K. and Weissberg, L. (ed.) (2013) On Writing with Photography, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
The end of the module seems to be hurtling towards me. It’s always a bad sign when the weekly seminars and activities die down, indicating that we should be entirely consumed with final preparation for assignment submissions. I don’t seem to have anywhere near enough time to submit the work on time, so I’ve been distracting myself with cutting up pieces of paper and firing off a stapler for the first time in years…I’ve been making a zine!
Everything about my work seems provisional at the moment. The project I originally envisioned has been subconsciously evolving and growing throughout this module. This may not yet be entirely evident in the output I’ve produced so far in this module but the ideas continue to bubble up, with material changes to my methodology slowly resolving themselves in my mind as I keep moving forward.
An example of this is in the creation of the zine. When I set out on this project, I envisaged a photobook submission as a key outcome of the project. The type of books produced by Hoxton Mini Press, for example, felt like the sort of direction I should be aiming for with my project. Where the work is at present, with so much in flux and an anticipation that there will be further significant changes in my methods and output in the coming months, producing a photobook with the attendant suggestion of a completed piece of work seemed inappropriate.
In addition to this, as the project has become increasingly inclusive and the emphasis has shifted slightly - being less introspective and towards more of a dialogue between contributors, the use of the photobook, which often denotes and propounds a determinedly monocular perspective just doesn’t quite fit for me at this stage.
Contacts page - signposting resources and organisations that are relevant to the project
I wanted the tangible product of the work to this point to feel accessible and without pretension to high art - rather a provider of information than an exposition of my personal view. I wanted it to feel like a class companion rather than the course lecturer, something to be discovered and that hopefully stimulates further inquiry, but which doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.
I’m aiming for three one-off zines at this point, with a variation of content, layout and paper type. Putting the first one together was in some ways more complicated than predicted, while in other ways it was quite an intuitive and rewarding process.
In the week 9 reading, an interview with Daido Moriyama (2009) I was struck by his flexibility when approaching the physical output of his own work, taking varying degrees of direct ownership of the processes of collating, sequencing and printing his images at different stages of his career and as the particular project dictated at the time. He certainly hasn’t been wedded to one particular form of production and has a great awareness of the role the physical production of the work has on the way the images are received. Moriyama states:
“An actual photographic print creates one type of world that is totally different from the world that comes about from printed matter. That difference is something I really like. Sure enough, I still think the same thing. The photograph comes to life through the printing. My photographs are made complete on the printed page. Even if the same photograph appears in different magazines, and differs based on the printing method of the particular media, the way in which the photograph is seen also changes. That transformation is something that I find really interesting. That is why the same photograph can have a different look based on the media that it passes through. It takes on a different meaning. It has a different way of coming to life.”
Kaneko et al (2009:27)
Having produced the first zine, I understand what he means and can see this exemplified in my own work. Putting together the zine has given me a different view of the work and how it might best be presented. Holding something in my hands has also triggered various thoughts about paper type, page size, printing method etc that all cumulatively contribute to the effect of the work as a whole. Having produced a book via Blurb in an earlier mini-project, I can’t help but be more interested in being more hands-on in future printing of my work when comparing the Blurb book with my homemade zine, which though a shambolic amateur affair still seems to have more to say than the glossy professionally printed Blurb effort.
As always, much to reflect on, and hopefully I’ll aim to experiment more with papers, and printing techniques in the upcoming module break.
Kaneko, R., Vartanian, I., Moriyama, D., Martin, LA. and Wada, K. (2009) Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and '70s, New York: Aperture.
This module has been incredibly challenging on many levels, not all of them photographic. Reflecting on this week’s content I can’t help thinking that it’s yet another week when I’ve been sharply confronted with an eye-openingly alternative perspective demanding that I reconsider how I am going to go about my project and my practice in general.
This week the focus was on workshops and how they might draw on the project or our practice in general. I had always envisaged a workshop being part of my output from this project, although looking back now my proposal seems to have been unsatisfactorily vague about what the workshop format might actually be. it’s clear now that this was born out of a dizzy naivety, as well as just a lack of appreciation of the potential implications that a workshop for my project might entail. I have previously delivered photography talks and also run loose workshops of sorts in the form of my night photography group in London. This partly informed my intention to produce a workshop for this project. There’s also the additional fact that I do sincerely believe that the subject in question lends itself to a format where open, and hopefully informative, discussion can be facilitated that benefits all participants.
As the first few responses have come in from my project collaborators I’ve had no reason to believe that a workshop would not be a good way to further explore the issue of urban solitude. I’ve been honoured so far that my respondents have felt able to be quite open with me about their experiences and this has provided a rich seam for further exploration as the project moves forward.
Today though, for the first time, I realised that I’ve so far overlooked a key responsibility I have while I’m eliciting this sort of information. That of holding safe those who are prepared to makes themselves vulnerable to respond to my project.
This week’s reading introduced the concept of Phototherapy, using creation or review of images in a therapeutic way, often addressing very traumatic or suppressed emotions. Martin (2001) writes eloquently about the experiences of some of her previous collaborators and clients with phototherapy. A recurrent theme is her sense of responsibility for providing a place of safety and support for those who were undergoing therapy with her, as they grapple with difficult emotions. This forced me to consider how, in the context of my workshop, I would ensure that anyone who took part and who might potentially be encouraged to confront uncomfortable emotions, would be suitably supported and whether it is even appropriate for me to put myself in the role of workshop leader if I’m not suitably qualified and confident that I could expertly provide this support and create this place of safety. This is an ethical consideration that I hadn’t previously contemplated but which weighs heavily once you realise it’s there.
"Since I have been in the client role I am well aware of the intensity and power of this way of working and so I am prepared for the possibility of very deep personal revelations occurring within a session. I have also learned by reflecting on mistakes. For example, I remember a time we had to end a session abruptly and I did not consequently have the time to de-role. I went home, on the bus, still dressed as my father. This was strange and potentially emotionally unsettling. I always now ensure that my clients have de-roled completely before they leave the therapeutic space."
It’s clear from this excerpt that there’s a risk of unearthing unsettling emotions and not paying enough attention to how these emotions are sensitively acknowledged and de-escalated.
Moving forward I must review how I conduct my workshop: how the subject is introduced, how the reflections of the respondents are elicited and how any revelations that occur are handled to ensure there is no adverse emotional outcome for the participants. I am going to consult my brother, a qualified counsellor, in the first instance for advice on how to address this concern.
Martin, R. (2001) ‘The performative body: Phototherapy and re-enactment’, Afterimage, vol. 29, no.3, Nov/Dec, pp. 17-20.
Week 7 focused on challenging us to consider how we would put together a publication to accompany the project exhibition. This task follows on closely from the mini-project we were set between module one and two, which ended up with me putting together a rubbish little book.
As I’ve intimated in entries about other aspects of the work, I feel like my ideas about any publication arising from this project will evolve as the work does. My ideas about the project and the work I want to produce have already shifted significantly since the beginning of this module and my views about publication have developed accordingly. Prior to commencing this module I had pictured a bound hardback photobook as the pinnacle of my ambitions. I had visions of a selection of my images being presented, along with some writing by myself and possibly a selection of quotes from my interview subjects. This would have been a very monovisual book, with only my perspective presented. This no longer seems like an appropriate way to present the work that I aim to produce during this project, mainly because I’ve accepted and increasingly encourage the input of others into the creation of the work. As such, I hope to present more of their work alongside mine, either unfiltered or in some way composited with my work or that of other project participants.
One of the other questions posed this week is whether the publication will contain non-photographic content. As stated, I always envisaged my publication containing text, and have already started experimenting with how this might work best.
Having bought a selection of blank books of different sizes to try putting together a mock up, as the submissions came in from my contributors I changed tack. At this stage of the project, particularly considering the provisional nature of the ‘Searching for Meaning’ exhibition, I am working on a small, almost disposable zine format. The emphasis at the moment needs to be more on the essence of the project to this point, with a significant component of work from the contributors as well as a sample of the charity and organisational contacts that are pertinent to the project. One of the key aspects of this project for me is that it offers some way to open a dialogue on the issues covered and also hopefully provides some clues to where support might be available. The format has to be such that the content provided by my contributors has sufficient prominence alongside my own work, to demonstrate that the idea of solitude can be subverted by a more collegiate attitude. Something that, again, is developing in my own practice as I proceed with this project.
This week’s reading, from Parr and Badger (2006) emphasised that the photobook has a long and illustrious history. I also couldn’t help thinking that to contribute to this heritage one should strive to produce something that is not a generic repetition of what has gone before, but is rather a sincere object that faithfully represents the individuality of the project it accompanies. Ideally too, the book adds something to the other strands of the output of the work and I can only hope to eventually arrive at this destination in my case.
Parr, M. and Badger, G. (2006) The Photobook: A History, Volume II. London: Phaidon.
How do you describe or evoke an emotion in music? This question has of course occupied musicians around the world for hundreds of years. My images have always been heavily influenced by music, largely because I’m always listening to it and so most of my thinking and feeling occurs to some sort of soundtrack. In widening my efforts to engage with others and their own experiences of solitude, I chose to invite respondents to suggest songs that they felt were relevant to the theme for whatever reason.
I’ve been really touched so far by how willing people have been to provide what is in some ways a more personal insight into their own emotional world than just responding to a questionnaire. The variety in responses, some of which are included on this page, has been a real eye-opener and again validates the decision to elicit responses to the theme in as varied a manner as possible.
It’s also been incredible how multiple respondents have chosen the same songs in some cases, confirming how powerful music can be both in short-circuiting and universalizing our emotional responses. The insight and resultant inspiration and moods that the songs have triggered exceeds what could have been expected by conducting interviews alone and for that I’m so grateful.
Having attended an exhibition earlier this year where the work of the late Malick Sadibé was accompanied by a curated soundtrack evoking joyous parties in backstreet Bamako bars, I thought that I’d one day love to be able to present my own work in some way augmented or accompanied by music. This seems like a natural consequence of a practice that is already so heavily dependent on music for its fuel and its energy.
For the forthcoming work in progress exhibition ‘Searching for Meaning’ I've compiled an exhibition playlist comprised of songs submitted by my kind respondents as well as songs that have directly influenced my own images. This playlist will be accessible from the exhibition webpage and will continue to evolve with the project moving forward.
A key aspect of my project proposal was identifying and interviewing people about their personal experiences and perspectives of urban solitude. Quite early in this module however, I was challenged to review the way I’d proposed to engage others with my project to avoid unduly influencing subject’s responses and so narrowing the potential scope of the responses I might receive. Initially I planned to use my own images and set questions to provoke dialogue about the topic, aiming then to feed the interview responses back into the ongoing work. It didn’t take long to realise this approach would be too directive and could hinder freedom of response to the theme. I was keen to ensure that the interviews didn’t simply end up as my own views being reflected back to me via someone else and so I needed to loosen my approach.
My own response to the submitted images has been interesting too, both in terms of an instinctive reaction to dismissing images that don’t immediately resonate with my own perception of the theme but also how, in reacting in this way, I’ve validated the absolute importance of having sought out perspectives that diverge from my own and how I'm obliged to honour those perspectives and not allow my own individual bias to dominate, as this would ultimately be to the detriment of the project’s aims.
Image by Leanne McMahon
When all is said and done, I of course retain a curatorial role and I’ve chosen to represent the submitted images in different ways, guided by no particularly criteria. Some images have been used to accompany text or quotes from the respondents, others have been used as projected images to be re-photographed while others have been composited to create entirely new images (allowing me to improve my processing skills too).
Composite of two images by Leanne McMahon
When deciding to ask for images I hadn’t thought about what I would do with them or how they might be useful to the work. I suppose I imagined them being inspiration in some way to the ongoing creation of my work, simply feeding into my own vision. I did not envisage that they might ‘become’ the work themselves. This has been an unexpected but very welcome discovery in the project so far. As I collect more images there’s much scope for developing this further.
Falmouth university ma photography critical research journal