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.
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.
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.
The end of module 1 sees us facing a blank abyss of teaching-free time, time that I’d secretly hoped to fill with back to back Mad Men episodes.
Don Draper thinking about lying down on his sofa in Mad Men
Now this was possibly just because I’d forgotten how appealing it was to imagine a world where I could spend the majority of my working day lying down on a sofa, but it was mainly because I’d found the process of preparing the end of module assignments really gruelling. So I was looking forward to the mental break.
The week 13 work was mercifully light, with a teaser for module 2 and an introduction to the photographic work of Ed Ruscha, an artist I’ve been inspired by since visiting his retrospective at the Hayward Gallery back in 2009.
But I remember seeing some big prints of his aerial car park images at the Constructing Worlds exhibition a few years back and being really astonished by the beauty and visual interest he’d managed to extract from such an apparently mundane subject. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’m totally buying his total nonchalance about photography, but whatever the case I was looking forward to getting into this activity.
I debated a few different ideas, initially planning to shoot car parks (I’ve always been interested in them), then thought about shooting old cars.
I’d already decided I was going to be shooting exclusively during the day as a departure from my usual practice. In response to Ruscha’s work I wanted to shoot in a nimble, ‘artless’ manner. This also seemed appropriate for the subject matter. So all images would be made using my phone.
I’d been wanting to experiment with making a book and had in fact included this in my project proposal. I’d only recently realised I could make books via Lightroom, so decided this would be a good chance to get my head around that as well. So the brief was set, I was going to shoot rubbish on the streets with my phone and create a book using Lightroom.
This process was really interesting and enjoyable. I enjoyed just walking round my local area, something I never usually do, and my wandering took me to places I’ve not seen before. I enjoyed the process of just being observant during the daytime, really taking in my environment. Maybe everything interesting doesn’t happen at night after all!
Contrary to my usual practice, I walked around listening to music, casually snapping away whenever I came across something that was interesting. I was much less concerned with line, light or composition and just made photos in each case and moved on. I found this quite liberating too, with less ‘riding’ on each shot.
In keeping with the subject matter, final image selection was not especially discerning and the edits in Lightroom were minimal (again, in contrast to my usual practice) and then I moved on to putting the book together. One of the unavoidable conclusions from walking around shooting was that we’ve got too much stuff. There’s so much stuff just discarded, unceremoniously chucked out, its fate unknown – nobody seems to care that we’re polluting our own neighbourhoods just to get rid of the things we don’t want any more. It’s nuts!
This conclusion influenced the way I approached the book. I’d taken these simple iPhone photographs of rubbish. It seemed nonsensical to produce a glossy archival hardback book of these photos. Equally, I can’t ignore the fact that whatever I produce is likely to end up contributing to the pile of crap on the pavement at some point in the future, so I felt that a small simple book with images on basic paper, with soft cover, would be the way forward.
Falmouth university ma photography critical research journal