Part of the final brief is to complete an overall evaluation of the course as part of a self assessment.
Despite personal ups and downs I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the Photography 2: Documentary course. Having completed all the assignment amendments for submission, had my final assignment tutor feedback and a few signing off emails, my final task is to check all links work on my blog, ensure nothing is missing and then print and post the final submission.
My initial response would be to say that this course is definitely more research orientated than others, but as Liz Wells tells us ‘theory informs practice.’ (1997, p.3) Initially, with A1, I was not completely making direct links between theory into practice, but this is a skill that gradually improved. Each section assists in developing an understanding of the Documentary genre; where it came from, how it changed, how different academics/practitioners feel about the change in direction, and why it is where it is today. Attending recent Magnum talks, and completing the critical review for assignment four, further underlined that photography is ever evolving, and documentary itself has many sub-genres.
One of my failings is suffering a great deal from self doubt with regards to my photographic ability, and therefore I revelled in the academic/research side, which I feel is my forte. I believe my photography can be impaired by my time management and lack of confidence. I would rather spend 4 weeks reading and writing about things than photographing them, allowing less time to reflect on the work prior to initial submission. Having said this, I do think assignment two is probably one of my strongest assignments, as despite the images coming from one photo-shoot, I allowed a lot of time for experimentation and exploration with post-production, for my imagination to come into play, and to explore the more surreal side of documentary, allowing me to show creative versatility, which I really enjoyed.
The course as a whole also made me self-reflect even more; what was I striving to capture, how was I going to do this, had it been done before, who was my audience? Semiotics now came to the fore; everything in the frame should count, did it meet my own personal goals as well as the course guidelines? For every assignment I had to consider and demonstrate: technical and visual skills, a variety of materials and techniques, observational skills, visual awareness and a flair for design and composition. With tutor guidance and peer review I pushed myself to explore complex options, revising and reworking until I was happy with the final results. Another skill I developed was to recognise when an idea was not working and to move on.
I learnt to look at other artists using different media and feel that through detailed research I gained a wider appreciation for the medium of photography, and other art in general.
I had to ensure a high quality of outcome – evaluating the content of my final bodies of work, the application of knowledge, and were themes and ideas clearly communicated? Creativity had to be evident as well as experimentation and invention, everything produced had to be contextualised. Did it fit the documentary genre, historically follow on from another practitioner, but add something new?
Research was critical to each assignment even though areas of personal knowledge or interest were selected. In order to do justice to the story I wanted to tell it was essential to fully understand the backstory of the subjects. This I felt was especially important to A3 and A5.
Creativity and detailed research are both skills that I feel I excel in. Assignment one contains some strong graphic images taken with a range of angles and shot sizes, A2 employed photomontage, a variety of post-production techniques using a variety of mixed media.
In order to meet these exacting guidelines I pushed my personal boundaries, visually, creatively and technically, and did not shy away from new challenges; making surreal constructed imagery, taking inspiration from artists that I had previously discarded – Daido Moriyama and his interpretation of Wabi-Sabi – making something imperfect beautiful. Choosing difficult/sensitive topics such as mental health, taking myself out of my comfort zone with A5, in approaching business owners for permission to photograph inside their premises and asking pertinent questions with regard to their businesses, to learning new presentation techniques in the form of a video.
One underlying theme throughout this course was authorship and the artist’s voice, something I had not previously considered in much detail. Aware of the bias in the press it was interesting to note that photography too, reflected the personal opinion/background of the practitioner – nothing is truly objective no matter how we try. Looking closely at the work of Joel Sternfeld and Donna Wan, in preparation for A3, seemed to be the breakthrough moment as far as seeing a photographer’s subjectivity, reflexivity and authorial control; how they want to portray a subject using a certain style to create a mood or interpret a narrative.
Although I think I have as yet to recognise my own photographic ‘voice’ I do believe I can maintain a visual style and aesthetic throughout a given body of work.
Going forward I need to be more aware of time constraints, dedicate more time to photographing my chosen subject, be more spontaneous with photo-shoots and focus on how I can sustain my practice. Some of the contacts made during assignment 5 have indicated they wish me to take images for websites and new premises, e.g. Bartlett’s florist would like me to photograph some bridal bouquets whilst Seafoods of Welling would like me to complete some food images, once they have moved later on this year. I have approached the local library with regards to a small exhibition as they occasionally do host them. As the communication was very recent I have as yet to hear back. I will update my blog if they respond before the submission cut-off date.
gulp….they said “yes”