Developing the Theme
As required by the course text I began to keep a diary, an activity neither usual nor natural for me. Of course, I considered how I would approach the task, and what kind of thing I would document. I soon realised my diary was not going to change my lack of introspective reflection overnight. In the end I began to write about to events that were large and current in my life. One theme was medical and at the time of writing still ongoing, though not (and I hope will not become) significant. My second theme is my job. I have chosen to use this theme and extend it a little from Assignment 2.
My diary documents my state of mind, day by day (almost), as events have been progressing. An example page is shown below:
I have chosen to produce a narrative that attempts to describe an event in my life and how I am affected by it, not just physically, but emotionally. Therefore, I am using self-portraits to reference an event in my life. Further I have chosen to reference directly, not by absence nor by masquerade. This is a very personal choice, but I want the viewer to gaze on me and my narrative.
I made this choice after reviewing Susan Bright’s Autofocus (2010) and finding strongest parallels with Khemka, Goldin and Brotherus.
All images were taken with a Fujifilm X-T3 mounted on a tripod in my office. I used a self-timer to allow me to get in to position.
The images were planned to represent a state of mind. For example, one image portrays me as being “On Top” and is in style like that you might find in a glossy management magazine. The images showing me as defiant or apprehensive or were also staged. Because of that, I did not take any more images than were used and therefore do not show a contact strip.
One of my pieces is a composite. I took the individual pictures of me, in my office, and in post-processing, removed the background, producing seven different versions of me striding forward. I had originally intended to use a commercial building as the background, but finally I chose to use an image of a prison as a metaphor. I located the unattributed prison (Portlaoise Prison, Ireland) photograph online. I used this image of a prison because it was square to the viewer and free of people. I then produced a composite of the prison with 14 versions of me striding towards the prison entrance. I subsequently painted on shadows (though not as professionally as I’d like). After review by my tutor I reverted to using a commercial building.
Body of Work
To say that the process of integration with our sister company has been a roller-coaster of a ride would be an understatement. It started well; I was invited to Germany to participate in workshops to shape the structure and after two workshops I had contributed significant ideas and was influential in determining the outcome. I still reported to the CEO and it seemed that I would end up with a fair chunk of the pie. I felt “on top of the world”. Then, in the first bizarre twist of many, the CEO recruited a new SVP of Design and Development, between me and him, thereby not only demoting me and others by one position, but also undoing all the structural re-design we had achieved in the workshops. The workshops then stalled.
After some time, we started integration discussions again, slowly. On a positive note, I bonded well with my new boss and together we started to design a new structure; one that provided a satisfying role for each of the senior management team, and hopefully our teams. No redundancies, no further demotions, with a particularly interesting strategic role for me. After another period of waiting, anxiety and uncertainty, I once again feel good about the whole thing., but with a touch of apprehension remaining.
There is another long pause. My new boss is trying to get his new structure agreed with his colleagues but doesn’t, or isn’t able to, communicate with me during the process. I receive no news about the integration and I have nothing to communicate down; my team becomes restless.
Then one day my boss calls me to tell me he has resigned. He cannot get his vision approved and he does not want to work where he cannot achieve his goals. He lasted 100 days and it seems that lasting only 100 days is becoming a bit of a trend. I’m called over to Germany again, this time to meet my new, new boss, Ulf. He shows me his idea of new structure. I am demoted another two positions, but to give him some credit, he asks me if I would accept it. I tell him “no”. We redesign the structure and it is better, but not great and I am not sure whether I should accept it or not. We agree to continue to shape the structure without finalising roles and he comes to the UK to meet my team, inadvertently scaring them half to death in the process; they think they are being made redundant, and I have to put out that fire and rescue the meetings.
My team and I are left apprehensive for the future. On the one hand, I only see unacceptable roles, but on the other, I am invited to shape these unacceptable roles.
In parallel to our European integration, we are part of a global restructuring, which probably, though inadvertently, pushing me further down the food chain. We go through an intensive but short re-branding exercise. We have to re-programme ourselves.
This story is not complete, and I wait in limbo until the integration kickstarts again. I try to remain enthusiastic and open to the opportunities, but my path only seems to be going in one direction. How long should I give to the company? The easy thing is to stay; is the brave thing to stay? In these circumstances, it is easy to feel trapped.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
(Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)
I believe I have been reasonably proficient in my use of camera, tripod and post-processing techniques. The self-portraits show a degree of self-awareness and to the extent the images were planned, I have demonstrated a level of proficiency in design and composition.
Quality of Outcome
(Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment)
I am reasonably content with how the body of work as turned out. I consider the result to be consistent with the level of quality and sophistication, that one would expect for a level 1 module, and I feel the outcome demonstrates knowledge obtained through my studies.
Demonstration of Creativity
(Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice)
I found this assignment to be difficult, as Assignment 2 was. By extending my approach I have continued to develop my personal voice a little perhaps, though I am not yet convinced that I am bringing anything new or unique yet.
My imagination is clearly not as “large” as those artists selected in Bright’s Autofocus. I found this assignment stretched me yet again, to convert my diarised thoughts into a narrative, and to a specific series of images.
As for invention, I think I have been moderately inventive. In particular I would like to think that the composite is inventive, though it is possible it is built on other images I might have seen over the years absorbed in to my subconscious, but not readily recalled, for example LP covers from the 70s or 80s.
Experimentation is a little harder to reflect on. In the scientific world (which I’m from) has two forms of experimentation: physical experimentation and thought exercises. I imagine I am supposed to demonstrate my physical experimentation, but I cannot, because as already mentioned, I planned the images. I generally have a preference for thought exercises, which involves me using my imagination to rough out and refine my plan. The downside of this approach is that it doesn’t leave a physical trace other than the final outcome. I could try and combine the two approaches in future.
(Reflection & Research)
My diary did not start until part way through the integration, but my first entries in relation to work are full of the frustration that developed during the period before; even before Assignment 2. I wanted to show how this situation, in effect the environment I am in, shapes the way I am feeling. This motivation is similar to that, that drives the work of Anita Khemka’s (Bright, 2010, p48). Although Bright only uses examples of Khemka amongst others, Khemka’s portraits did provide an example to me of style, as seen below:
The picture above seems to portray Khemka as self-confident, in control and content with life, and this provided me a context for my portrait below:
I also took inspiration from Nan Goldin’s work, especially of the image below, which shows Goldin proud and defiant (Bright, 2010, p50) against the odds.
My beating is internal:
As is the case for Sam Taylor-Wood (Bright 2010, 38), my photos can be seen as markers for this period of transitions. Although I share the motivation for creating the image, I couldn’t find any of her work that provided inspiration for artistic direction.
Somewhat more obliquely I have used Brotherus’ image Divorce Portrait, below, where as Bright (2010, p 54) noted one can sense the isolation, as a metaphor for being trapped. I have interpreted it a different way and more obviously perhaps.
I have chosen to do produce a short photo essay, to be a relay to the images, as seems to be commonly used. I felt that there was as much to say in words as in images.
As my tutor noted, I “have an overarching conceptual approach and have attempted to convey mixed feelings of anxiety, and existential stress”. It would be easy for me to say that I have succeeded in conveying my anxiety and existential stress, but that would only be true if the viewer can take the leap from the third image and the fifth. And that potentially is the problem; this indicates that the fourth picture is potentially out of place in the sequence, even if it isn’t in terms of the timeline. In some ways, I have been more considerate of the meaning conveyed by my text, than that of my images, at least the gap between my images.
Tutor Feedback and My Response
The following six important points were raised during my tutor’s critique:
- The series is disrupted by the big jump between image 5 and the previous images. This jump makes it difficult for the viewer to follow the narrative.
- Changes to image 5 that would close the gap could be changing to colour, replacing the image of the prison by an image of a corporate building and making the figures less distinct, as in image 4.
- Image 4 could be adjusted by reducing saturation, following the adjustment made in image 3.
- Adding a contact strip would be helpful for the review process.
- Look at the work of Christopher Stewart, David Moore, Cold War Steve and John Goto
- Try and find a reference for image 5
I have amended my assignment as follows:
- I agreed with point 3 above and have amended image 4 by reducing the saturation in line with image 3. The first image below was the original, while the second image is the replacement.
I replaced the prison with a commercial building (Harmans Road, US, sourced from the internet and unattributed) and changed to desaturated colour in line with the other images. The original collage with the prison is below.
My contact strip is below:
Further references to my work are as follows:
I can see that my use of my office is an example of tableau photography as used by Christopher Stewart’s (Cotton, 2014, p70).
I can see some parallels of my montage with Cold War Steve’s collages, for example Steve’s Fish Bar and John Goto’s Morton in Moscow.
Bright, S, (2010). Autofocus. London: Thames & Hudson.
Cotton, C, (2014). The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson.