Evaluation of My Body of Work

Here is my evaluation for my Body of Work. It is quite lengthy at just under 2,000 words but describes quite thoroughly my journey through this module as well as looking forwards.

Looking Back

After completing Landscape and Documentary modules I started my current Body of Work and Contextual Studies modules. I feel I have incorporated what I learned on my previous two modules into my Body of Work as well as my Contextual Studies informing my practice.

Over the course I’ve combined genres in tableaux and landscape to form what I feel are a compelling set of images. I’ve refined the images through several stages of processing, experimentation and editing. I’ve learnt how to make a set of images and to place them within the broader context of not only my own practice but where they fit in the world of art.

I would say the main mistake I made in my body of work was not being transparent enough on my blog how I had arrived at the images for Assignment 2 from Assignment 1. In my reflection for Assignment 1 I only talked about either continuing with psychogeography but developing the concept or playing with photography and reality more (Photograph 17 – Assignment 1).

In the end I did a bit of both although neglected to write about the process. Through composites where people had been photographed at different times but in the same places, I was playing somewhat with photography and reality. I also wandered around Deptford taking photographs as I went but specifically looking for the old and the new of Deptford as a backdrop for the people. It would have been more useful to me and the viewer if I had described this process in more detail.

My influences in the process of making the images were Chris Dorley-Brown and Yan Preston. Chris Dorley-Brown uses a composite technique similar to mine with The Corners (2009-17). I appreciated how both people and place were important in his photographs. I have researched Chris Dorley-Brown’s The Corners (2009-17) in more depth here: WIP #4. for I had looked at Yan Preston’s Mother River (2010-14) and was inspired by the grand viewpoints of landscapes which allowed the viewer to create their own interpretations of the scenes. I have researched Yan Preston’s Mother River (2010-14) in more depth here: Yan Preston – ‘Mother River’ (2010-2014).

A low point was when I wasn’t documenting how I was making my work or the thought processes behind them. Since completing Assignment 2 I realised this and rectified this mistake by incorporating a Work in Progress element to my blog. This has allowed me to show how I was experimenting with my base and my thoughts behind refining the material.

A definite high point was the Showing Not Telling part of the course. I had previously thought to myself I would probably not get much from a part of the course that seemed to me to be an exercise in naming photographs. The opposite was true and I’m glad I put in a lot of effort into this part of the coursework. By the time I’d reached Showing Not Telling I had already attached coordinates to my images as a way of contextualizing them. I was quite adamant this was a succinct and satisfactory way to add meaning to my body of work. However, when I really began to investigate how text can work alongside image either through anchorage or relay, I decided to experiment with poetry acting as a diegesis with image.

Here, I used anthropomorphic poems to act as a relay between the images I’d produced and offering an insight into what I felt about the places they depicted. I realised the content of my work was more suited to an art context than a photojournalist one. Therefore poetry was an appropriate way of forming a diegesis for the viewer along with the images. This was opposed to the coordinates as anchorage which for me inferred a more objective tone.

Although my experimentation with diptychs/grids in Assignment 3 and up to Assignment 4 weren’t eventually needed, I learnt a lot from the process. I learnt to pay attention to detail in creating the images. When my tutor and I discussed whether the diptychs were working in the way I imagined I was quite keen to keep them because I had invested a lot of time experimenting with them. Ultimately though, I questioned whether the diptychs added much to the project and decided they were too similar for change to be conveyed across each half. Also I feel that in this case less is more and that actually the single images (and poems) are stronger. By letting go of the halves of the diptychs I felt were less strong as seen in my final selection for the upcoming Assignment 5, I was able to arrive at a compelling set of single images and poems. The anxieties I had in how the diptychs and overall meaning of the work came across were alleviated as I made this decision.

I have critically positioned myself within photography as an artist rather than a photojournalist through this body of work. I have made certain decisions that have led up to this distinction in my practice. Firstly, I have utilised a composite technique to making the images. Making composites, I have come to realise, is a highly selective process both in the shooting (choice of location and lighting) and with editing (choosing which people to include in the final composites). This is a contrasting approach to a photojournalist whose practice is much more concerned with capturing real scenes as they see it through the camera lens. The composites in comparison have allowed me to convey my feelings about Deptford and its relationship with people and place, while also commenting on and subverting notions of the decisive moment. Secondly, I used poems to act as a relay between the images and my feelings for Deptford. Both these decisions I feel have contributed to my position as an artist.

I had already been experimenting with making composites in a similar way for Assignment 5 – Documentary but I feel I have developed this further in the Body of Work module. I decided to use consistent overcast lighting and grand viewpoints. For me these two elements make the composite technique stand out. As people are the main feature that change within the composites, they become the focal points of the scene with the landscape behind them acting as a backdrop. If the viewpoints were tighter or the lighting was more varied, this could act as a distraction to the people and their backdrop of Deptford. Therefore I feel I have developed my personal voice since Assignment 5 – Documentary. As well as this I think there is more room to explore with composites going forwards. I could see myself using the technique in different contexts or experimenting with the technique further. There is also the possibility that moving forwards I could continue using a composite technique as well as experimenting with different techniques like I did with WiP#10 to highlight what I feel about the changing town of Deptford. In other words carrying on with the project but expanding upon it is something I would consider doing for myself. I would say therefore that this course has helped me to become more self-motivated and pursue things that really interest me not just in photography but in wider contexts.

Using the composite technique made me much more selective in scenes I decided to photograph. I had to assess whether they showed old and new Deptford (the backdrop) and if they were suitable for composites. In doing so I think my project is not reflective of all aspects of Deptford. For instance there is no depiction of Deptford’s estates. I chose not to focus on the estates because there wasn’t so much variation of old and new in the estates. While this is not a true representation of Deptford, it does show my subjective impression of the place as one of change, from a highly selective viewpoint. Furthermore, I had another stage of selectivity when choosing which people to include in the composites.

The editing process was a bit different from editing processes in other projects I’d created for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I had to make decisions on which people to include in the composites and consider how they fit together in the final image. Secondly, I had made the decision to experiment with repeat photography for Assignments 3 and 4. Therefore I ended up with 2 sets of images which were very similar in terms of framing and content. When I chose to include only one image from each scene I had to compare the similar images to see which ones I favoured for selection. I learnt it was valuable to print the images and ask family and friends which ones they preferred after I had given them a quick briefing on the context of the images. Listening to why they chose one similar image over another helped inform my final edit.

I would say my artistic intentions changed considerably through the module. At first I was unsure which direction I was heading which can be seen in the differentiation in style from Photograph 17 of Assignment 1 and the rest of the photographs produced for that assignment. By Assignment 2 and through to Assignment 3 I was focusing on a documentary style project of Deptford, which was reflected in the way of naming the composites with coordinates. However, I realised the project was more subjective, with the use of composites implicating people with place and so I have reflected this in the anthropomorphic poetry accompanying the images. In the end I have been true to my artistic intentions even though this has come about in a meandering way.

The main lessons I have learnt on this course are to let my theory and practice work together, to document my work as I go along, that editing is a key process in producing a cohesive body of work and the way images and their contexts interact is an important consideration.

Looking Forward

My images are intended to be seen with the accompanying poems, as together they offer an insight into how I see Deptford. Although the two are not attached, i.e. the images could still function as standalone, I think they are more convincing when viewed in tandem with the poems and this is how I’d like the work to be experienced.

The body of work is not attached to a physical form so could either appear in a photo book or an exhibition. However, I have discussed this with my tutor and a photo book is a tangible way of experiencing the work, while also providing a format that I could show around to various places including art galleries. I would like to make a photo book myself using a stab binding process in order to play with different arrangements for the images and poems. Subsequently I would design the photo book using digital software based on my handmade book’s layout and upload the design to an online book publisher.

My portfolio is quite malleable in that the composite images are made up from many photographs meaning I could rearrange the composites to include different people. Therefore it is quite alluring to go back and change the arrangement to potentially make my body of work stronger. In fact I have already done this reprocessing of the composites a few times already (see this post and this post). I do feel though that my portfolio has been considered during the editing stage so now is a good time to stop editing my body of work. If I see reason to change any of the composites during the Sustaining Your Practice module, then the files are digital and this could be a possibility. For now I have presented my work (both images and poems) as a project on my website for online viewing. I feel displaying my images on a website is a good way of interacting with the work for now during these extraordinary times.

References:

Dorley-Brown, C. (2009-17) The Corners. At: https://modrex.com/photoworks#/the-corners/ (Accessed 22/10/2020).

Preston, Y. (2010-2014) Mother River. At: https://www.yanwangpreston.com/projects/images (Accessed 22/10/2020).

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