I requested feedback off my fellow students doing my module and other artists as well. I got some responses and have recorded them below along with my thoughts on each student/artists feedback. Doing this has allowed me to pause and reflect on where my project is going. It has also allowed me to see what others see when they’re looking with fresh eyes and from another perspective at the diptychs.
Firstly I asked Sarah-Jane (a fellow student on the Photography pathway) about my work with regards to text and image. She responded:
‘The various ways we respond to text and/or image have interested me for some time while doing this degree (maybe almost since TAOP). For instance, I find it fascinating that people use #’s under their images on social media – ostensibly to connect to the network and to be seen, but it’s also a strange tautological habit, I think. I try not to repeat what is in the image – but rather give value to both forms and then ask them to work together and see what happens (sometimes not very much!) I’m glad you wanted to talk about the developing work on your blog though. I hope you find your way with the map co-coordinates. I wonder how the text might feel for you if you tried writing something more personal, linking to the passing of time, rather than trying to link to the images. I think sometimes the connections will find you anyway.’
I responded to Sarah-Jane:
‘Thanks for the detailed feedback. I agree about #’s, they are in one way necessary for promotion and as a way to get the work recognised. On the other hand they tend to just describe the image as words, with a # in front of it. I’m still undecided about using the map co-ordinates, I think I will know better when I make a blog post using them as titles. Your last comment about writing something personal about the passing of time is very useful. I do have certain impressions about the passing of time, especially in Deptford, although I haven’t tried using them in prose or poetry for this project yet. If I were to do that, I am already wondering whether I would present this as a kind of introduction to the work or strung out amongst the diptychs/grids? Lots to think about!’
I have since completed as blog post called Showing Not Telling – Text and Image to Form Diegesis. In this post I discovered that text and image can go hand in hand especially when the text is conveying something more than just anchoring the image to text. Using text as relay in the form of poetry was something I had discussed with Sarah-Jane (see above) but reading the essay Beyond “This-Caused-That”: The Temporal Complexities of Before-and-After Photographs (2017) by Kris Belden-Adams made me think further about using poetry. Here however, poetry would be used in the form of personification of the buildings and places I’d photographed to show something of my feelings towards these places. I wrote one poem and intend to write some more for the remaining diptychs.
Next, I asked Fitz (a fellow student on the Photography pathway) for feedback and he responded:
‘I had a proper look at the project and have a few thoughts: Do you think the photos offer enough visual interest? Is there enough tension to draw the viewer in? For me there is something of general urban scenes in the images, with small changes from diptych to diptych; perhaps not enough for me to find them compelling. Could the juxtaposition of the old and the new be framed differently to make it a stark contrast? What about telephoto to compress the perspective? I wonder whether the concept translates into strong visuals done in this way. One my former tutors said of straight photography (much of mine is also straight) – you have to ask whether it passes the iPhone test; could it have been taken by anyone casually using an iPhone.’
I responded to Fitz:
‘I have been wondering similar things to the points you’ve raised. It is interesting to hear from someone with an outside perspective; I have been staring at the images while editing them – maybe too closely! – and you bring up some good points I didn’t think of. Maybe the diptychs don’t offer enough visual interest – one reason I wanted to hear peer feedback was to understand whether others felt the same when viewing them. I can see how the changes are only minimal or subtle. In some ways it is a shame I didn’t start the project a few years back when there seemed to be more regeneration visible in Deptford. Now the regeneration only occurs in some places which means less suitable subject matter. Your suggestion of using a telephoto lens to compress the perspective would certainly add contrast between old and new and might even open up further opportunities for subject matter that wouldn’t be possible/as effective with a wider lens. I feel the diptychs draw the viewer in more when they are viewed large. I haven’t managed to get this across in my blog and I am hoping in an exhibition or large book, the diptychs would have more impact. I agree there wouldn’t be much to separate the work from those taken on a smartphone if viewed relatively small; it’s whether large scale of print would give the diptychs enough impact.’
Since I had made the work for WiP #10, I also asked him:
‘Before the pandemic I photographed the scene in the image attached which I aim to go back to when the area behind the hoarding is more built up. I wonder if you think this adds to the project, having my own images digitally inserted on the hoarding in this way?’
He kindly responded:
‘I like the hoarding idea – the hoarding as a cinema of memories perhaps, or even perverse advertising of the landscape pre ‘improvement’. Maybe try experimenting with the blending mode and layer opacity to see what it looks like when the projection doesn’t perfectly cover the hoarding? Or even masking small parts of the image so the hoarding shows through. It would perhaps create more uncertainty over whether digitally added in or bill posters? Have you seen Les Monaghan’s billboards – https://johnhallbodyofwork.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/90aab-aspirations2bhoardings2binstall.jpg. These are actual billboards, but interestingly they contrast so sharply with the landscape that they could be mistaken for an elaborate digital insert.’
I found Fitz’s feedback valuable; without being overly critical, he voiced opinions about my project I had thought about myself. He also showed me the work of Les Monaghan which was featured on some hoardings in Doncaster. These were real photographs Monaghan had taken which had been printed and put up on the hoardings. This was different to my digital insertion of the images onto the hoardings. Idealistically it would be nice if my images were printed and put on hoardings but it isn’t realistic because of money and perhaps because of the content of the images (depicting a dystopian future of developments). However, having the images printed that large anywhere could be something to aspire towards in the long run.
Then I asked Bryn (a fellow student on the Photography pathway) for feedback and he responded:
‘I had a look at your site. Your WiP are really well executed technically, I can’t sense any composite signs but enjoy the slightly unreal feeling of the people in full stride. I also like the choice of angles and lighting, it is very everyday. I’d also say that the composite use can be a very provocative tool. One thing that sticks out to me in your most recent comments about how are you representing gentrification in your area. My question is what is your feeling about what is going on and if your opinion is what you want the photos to say. If I think of your final project in Documentary 2, you were much more clearly opinionated and communicated that in putting yourself in the image. It was tongue-in-cheek, satirical, critical all in-one. I feel at the moment the people are well arranged but not speaking out for/against gentrification. Have you thought about employing an approach such as getting someone/people to walk through these scenes so they become a comment on gentrification. It can create a link between each image almost as if you recognise the characters. Like the Gronsky work you showed in CS. I enjoyed a film recently on Netflix called Live Twice Love Once. It is a Spanish film about a man with dementia, but there are several sequences of him running his daily routine. The camera angles and characters route are consistent over time (like your diptych so far) but the mood and time changes are quite well done. It is a good way that the environment changes in response to the characters deteriorating mental health. You could also check out Selina Wallace’s work. I think she just completed L3 but she also was performing her message in the image.
I don’t mean to suggest that you should change your work by any means, but you may get something out of those ideas above in reflection to your questions. I think you’ve got your scenes, visual style and technique all figured out. Now just a more authoritative view on the subject such as through character.’
I responded to Bryn:
‘This feedback is very thorough and helpful. I think I can handle your constructive criticism and I’m glad you made it, rather than say it’s all good! My opinion on regeneration in my area is that it is generally bad but also sometimes necessary, although people aren’t consulted on the developments enough when it goes ahead. I don’t like the idea of people being displaced because of poverty while others move into the new apartments who are wealthier. I think this is a difficult enough subject to visualise anyway, let alone in the landscape genre. I am interested in the idea you suggested of a person appearing through the images! Kind of like what I hear about Dickens or Stephen King novels where characters make appearances between novels. It could show that regeneration is an issue through edgy composition (positioning the character in certain ways in the frame). The character could be me. However, I have until January 2021 to finish these modules so time is an issue. I like the idea of adding myself as a character to the composites. I am unsure how to do this though as I’m not certain I’ll have time to reshoot all the locations again. One alternative is to wait for similar weather and photograph myself in these locations and Photoshop myself into existing composites. I do wonder if I follow this methodology that it will appear obvious I’ve put myself into the photographs.. I have also been working on another, slightly different composite that incorporates my images digitally inserted on hoarding, I’ve attached that and I feel it gives a better idea of where I stand on regeneration. I plan to go back and shoot this composite again to make another diptych. I will be sure to check out the film you suggested and I’ve already checked out Selina Wallace’s work, I see what you mean about performance.’
Bryn also responded to this with:
‘You’re welcome and glad you didn’t see anything in a negative light. Some things you said are really important and use them to your advantage. On top of that as I said previous you’ve got a really good base to work from. It’s worth keeping your deadline in mind and work your way back from that. Give yourself a cutoff for completing your BoW so you can see what is realistic and what to park. I like your alternative option it is more provocative. Especially as those hoardings are usually promoting “a better future”. It might also be a good idea for SYP if seen as a digital-only submission. Using it as an alternative reality where you advertise pre-gentrification could be quite contrarian. Ideas can be parked and reused later. My interventions work went on the shelf from May to January because I couldn’t get out or have the equipment to print. But rather than give up on the idea I transferred the purpose of the publication to the process and could spend my time researching and making a brief for the video. Keep talking if it helps. Although I’m near the end of the course I’d be happy to share feedback when I can. SYP is all about getting input and feedback as you have seen with my publication. It’s just a balance between sticking to your vision and bringing it to life.’
I found this dialogue very useful in getting a grasp on where my project was going. I don’t think it is feasible to incorporate myself as a character going in and out of the diptychs/grids at this point because of time constraints as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, both Bryn and Fitz seemed to agree that the hoarding idea added another aspect to my project so I’m hoping I will be able to shoot the second part of diptych for that at least.
Update – 10.04.2020: I received the following additional feedback from another peer:
Finally I asked Bev, a fellow student studying fine art for feedback. I was pleased Bev responded to my project with her feedback because my tutor had encouraged me to acquire feedback from artists practising different disciplines. She responded with:
‘My overall impression is that the body of work is concerned with people and place, with the juxtaposition of old and new. There is a sense of history and the passing of time embedded in the work because of the changing architecture within each image and because of the different people ‘passing through’ the same diptych scenes. I think the diptychs do add to the project. They add to the idea that the place itself is significant. They also add to the sense of passing of time. They introduce an element of repetition, of people’s daily lives repeating each other. They also imply that, although we are separate and disconnected beings, it is the place itself which connects us to each other.’
I responded to Bev:
‘This feedback is very helpful! Your words very closely mirror the intentions I have behind my project. Therefore it is quite rewarding that you’ve been able to infer that from the diptychs.’
This kind of feedback, especially from an artist practising another discipline, I found to be both insightful (it was articulated clearly and helped me see how my work is perceived by others) and affirming.
Overall I feel asking for feedback from my peers as encouraged by my tutor was invaluable. I learnt a lot from the process which should be discernible from my responses to the feedback outlined above.
Fig. 1 Monaghan, L. (2015) Installation of Aspirations Doncaster, Waterdale. [Photograph] At: https://johnhallbodyofwork.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/90aab-aspirations2bhoardings2binstall.jpg (Accessed 07/04/2020).
Belden-Adams, K. (2017) ‘Beyond “This-Caused-That”: The Temporal Complexities of Before-and-After Photographs’ In: Bear, J and Palmer Albers, K. (eds.) Before-and-After Photography. London: Bloomsbury Academic. At: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Before-After-Photography-Histories-Contexts-ebook/dp/B072N4NL3W/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=beforeandafter+photography&qid=1584457167&sr=8-1 (Accessed 07/04/2020). pp.177-192.
Monaghan, L. (2015) Aspirations Doncaster. At: http://aspirationsdoncaster.blogspot.com/(Accessed 07/04/2020).
Wallace, S. (2020) Perfectly Imperfect. At: https://selinawallace.com/portfolio/perfectly-imperfect-2/ (Accessed 07/04/2020).