First impressions of Part 5

It has been a while since I checked in with my thoughts on the course in general and how I feel I am learning and progressing throughout it. I have just submitted assignment 4 for tutor reviewing and have spent the morning reading through Part 5, the final part of Context and Narrative. I feel as though Context and Narrative (the second OCA course I have taken) is a definite step up from Expressing Your Vision in terms of difficulty and engagement or maybe this is because I have been officially assessed for EYV and realised I wanted to do better (57% felt a bit low) so I am now putting in the extra effort at every opportunity. I feel as though there has been more theory and written work to Context and Narrative but I don’t resent this as I quite enjoy learning the theory and debates surrounding photography too and I enjoy the written aspect as well as the practical.

Looking at Assignment 5 without having yet begun the exercises in Part 5 that come before it I am feeling quite overwhelmed by how much it is asking from me. I am also really excited and intrigued to find out where this Assignment will take me as it is a completely self-driven assignment without any direction other than an instruction to use props and to consider the light.

I don’t have any initial ideas on subject matter for the assignment or whether I want to do a series or just one image but I do want to take inspiration from every single section of Context and Narrative so far, drawing on all that I have learnt. I want to use text and perhaps music and moving images such as a slideshow and maybe some collage etc to compile something that sums up my progress on the course. I am also intrigued by my grannie’s old family photo archive, perhaps if she would allow me to view them I can incorporate aspects of this in to my final assignment submission also.

Looking back over the sections of my learning log I have decided I need to visit another exhibition before completing Context and Narrative and I also want to write up reviews on a couple of books and articles that I have read and that have helped me with this course.

And so I begin the last part of the Context and Narrative journey…

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Prep for Assignment 3 – 30 Day Diary

In preparation for Assignment 3 it was suggested in the course materials that I write a 30 day diary of my life to help me to find something to photograph about myself for Assignment. I enjoyed writing the diary as it was really hands on and creative – I added printed photographs in the style of Polaroids as illustration and to get myself thinking about the highlights and key points in the diary. I have included scans of the entire diary below.

It feels really strange and a little scary to be posting this diary even though I didn’t put anything too personal in there. It stills feels like I’m on show a little to anyone who reads or even skims it. I am pleased that I did it though as I think its good to push out of my comfort zone and it has allowed me to look at my present life over 30 days and see where my passion and inspirations lie. All of the photos were taken on a smartphone and sent to print as I don’t have a Polaroid camera but I wanted the same effect – they were all spontaneous snapshots taken in the moment and then added to the diary where they fitted best with the narrative.

Review of Kersten Howard Photography Exhibition, Hilton Court Gardens Pembrokeshire

When on holiday in the last week of June 2017 I visited a gallery called ‘Celtic Images’ at Hilton Court Gardens in Pembrokshire, Wales. The work of two local photographers was featured here -Kersten Howard and Lisa Gabrielle.

‘Celtic Images is about celebrating Pembrokeshire in photographic art. The gallery brings together work from a number of local photographers who express his or her vision of Pembrokeshire in a variety of different styles’ – Hilton Court Gardens

To reach Hilton Court Gardens you first must drive down a very long and stately gravel drive through hay bale strewn fields, overlooking a very rugged and very beautiful coastline. We parked in the small car park and walked through a little archway in to a cobbled courtyard, it was raining so I imagine on a dry day it would have been filled with the jostle of other visitors but on this day it was empty and slick with rain. To the left was a sign announcing ‘Celtic Images’ gallery and so we approached, and entered…

The room itself was fairly small, carpeted, bright with artificial light and smelled like an office. To the left a lady was working at a computer and apart from a small ‘hi’ didn’t offer any further conversation – this I actually prefer when looking at an exhibit as I like to first form my own opinion of the works before any persuasions or further information is offered/produced. The work of K. Howard seemed to form most of the exhibition. His work was hung on every wall and there were wooden racks full of large prints in cellophane with their price tags on -ready for sale. A small card display frame held the work of Lisa Gabrielle, just to the right of the door of which we entered.

We must have spent a good twenty minutes or more looking through Howards large prints -some were very tourist aimed and I therefore found these the least inspiring but every now and again, among them we came across some real gems..

The images that stood out to me were ‘Preseli Pony’ and ‘Preseli Ponies 2’, ‘Farewell the Day – NewGale’, ‘Across the Bay – Tenby’ and ‘Catching the Light -Pwllygwaelod’. The images in the ‘Preseli Ponies’ series were unlike any images that I have come across before which made them the most intriguing to me. On his website, Howard explains that he used a long lens so as not to disturb the ponies in their natural habitat and he positions the subjects between him and the setting sun which created the ‘halo’ effect. The ponies become a dark silhouette with a golden or silver outline (depending on the format -colour or black and white) against a black backdrop. In Preseli Ponies 2, the mother touches noses with what is presumably her foal and all that is present in the picture is the silver outline of their figures – therefore no other information about the subjects or their location can be acquired – the image is purely an expression of the animals themselves and the touch of their noses shows a connection between them. In my opinion it is one of the purest animal behaviour photos I have ever come across, an affectionate moment between mother and baby without anything to detract from the scene. The silver glow makes it ¬†distinctly otherworldly and it encourages the viewer to feel the atmosphere and bask in the mood of the photo and not to seek further information from other parts of the frame (as they would not find anything but blackness).

I now want to briefly comment on the images which were not of much interest to me, as they formed the majority of the exhibit. Technically all of Howard’s photographs are good, great even, yet the majority of them didn’t move anything in me -they are so similar to what you will find in any good tourist shop in the form of postcards. Endless sunsets, long exposures showing milky seas and misty waterfalls, miles of untouched sand, the insides of abandoned ruins at sunrise etc. All of which make great tourist souvenirs but once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, in my opinion. The names of some of these photographs for reference are, ‘At the Tides Edge – Marloe Sands’, ‘Honeyed Bliss -Amroth’ and ‘Old Drying Hut – Freshwater East’. Even the majority of images containing stormy skies and seas lack drama, everything is soft and fluffy and easy to view with the exception of a few as I have mentioned above and will now explore further. Please see my Pinterest board here to see all of the photos mentioned in this review.

Another of my favourites was ‘Farewell the Day- NewGale’. I particularly enjoyed this image because of its moodiness and evocative nature. There was less emphasis on any particular subject and more of a general feeling¬†and it was nostalgia evoking for me personally. The image doesn’t seem over planned and the clue is in its name ‘Farewell the Day’ that Howard was very aware of the mood that he was capturing in this photo. I can imagine Howard standing in this dusky half-light, the calm shiny sea before him and the last light seeping through heavy cloud bringing a kind of peace, he forgets about his subject and just presses the shutter, absorbing the atmosphere around him.

This hasn’t been the first exhibition to show me that seeking the perfect, most professional looking, most aesthetically pleasing image is not always the way to go but it did give me a bit of a jolt. It is so easy to try to fit in to an idea of what a good photographer is and the type of imagery that is beautiful and perfect but in fact lots of this tourist orientated stuff is really boring. I don’t want to create work like this, Id rather my images were less popular but that they really meant something, that they were different and more interesting -I want to make people feel something and to express my own personal view of my surroundings and not the view that others collectively may have of a place/subject. For me, Howards Exhibition at the Celtic Images gallery was really useful – in some areas I found real inspiration and I was very moved and in other areas I learned that some work can be quite boring when technically it is very good and that I should follow my creative flow more so as not to fall in to this category.

 

Initial Ideas for Assignment 3

5th June 2017 1:34PM

A few days ago I first read the brief for Assignment 3 and yesterday I started a diary as suggested. I am very excited for this assignment as I have lots of ideas. My favourite idea is to write a diary entry every day for 30 days, writing about my days in general and adding feelings and events as I see fit and as I feel comfortable. I will leave gaps for Polaroid size photographs that I will crop myself from DSLR photographs that I have taken on each day. I won’t take a specific picture that illustrates what I have written that day, I will take responses to the way that I am feeling on that day. I will submit Polaroids which have been cropped by me and printed by a lab of my choice, the Polaroids will be stuck in the diary. I will send both the diary and full size landscape prints in addition, of the same images but without the crops. It will be really satisfying to complete this kind of project and have a physical log of my life in 30 days, including image responses to my feelings. My next move is to go and research this kind of approach in the work of other photographers. I remember seeing a Polaroids entry in to the Royal Photographic Print Society’s International Print Competition Exhibition at the Somerset Museum so I will start by looking at that again and go on from there. I hope to find inspiration and further ideas for this assignment by researching the work of others.