My tutor was very prompt in returning his feedback on my submission for Assignment Two. I, on the hand have been slow in officially reflecting upon that feedback. It was probably a little premature of me to tackle self-portraiture as part of the second assignment, when the next section of the course covers the genre in detail. The reason I waited so long to write this reflection is because I was really enjoying Part Three of the course, Putting Yourself in the Picture, and I felt that the photographers I was learning about were helping me to reassess Assignment Two.
In the introduction to the assignment, I used a definition that I found in the The Guardian newspaper. ‘Boredom is an emotion of mild disgust encouraged by temporarily unavoidable and predictable circumstances.’ While my tutor found it to be a good definition, he questioned whether my images express the emotion referred to. ‘Although your images have clarity and occasional intensity, do they express this emotion?’ Expressing the emotion of mild disgust seems central to the success or failure of my series. Having reassessed my series, I would have to say that I failed to convey this emotion. The portrait image is where this emotion should have been communicated, but the one I used doesn’t succeed. I included the camera in the image, feeling that it was the right thing to do since the morning routine had changed slightly with it’s introduction. Whether or not the camera was included doesn’t seem as important now. In the photograph, the subject is focusing too much to the camera, and so the emotional delivery is lost.
Another issue my tutor mentioned is again related to the selection of the portrait image. I had described how I had experimented with various ways of putting myself in the picture. My tutor suggested that including one or two unedited and annotated contact sheets would be interesting and would demonstrate how I selected my images. I use to do this during the Art of Photography module but, for some reason I stopped doing it. Since receiving the assignment feedback, I printed out several contact sheets and rediscovered that physically marking them allowed the editing process to be conducted with increased ease and clarity. Editing and image selection using the computer screen seems inferior by comparison.
Below I’ve included a number of contact sheets which I annotated digitally for the purpose of presentation, although I do prefer to work with hard-copies when carrying out the actual edit.
By carrying out the hard copy edit, I have identified a better portrait image which I feel works to convey the emotion that had previously been absent. I don’t particularly like to put images of myself out in the public domain, and this would seem to explain why I gravitated towards an image where my identity was concealed for the original submission. In the shortlist contact sheet below, The Better Option, as I have named it below seems to be just that. In this image, the eyes have intensity and engage with the viewer. The shaving foam covered face reveals a subtle weariness which continues the idea of routine. The casual handling of the camera, which although prominent, remains passive, hinting to the regularity and commonness of the event. I also feel that the skewed framing of the mirror edge at the top and right of the image aides the haphazard vibe of the event.
Keeping the captions straight forward and descriptive was a way of building tension across the series. Adding the lighthearted element to my captions only served to impede any chance of building tension or emotional communication. My tutor suggested that it is ‘generally better not to be too jokey or lighthearted with captions because they so easily remind us of snapshots or the family album’. He feels that the simple descriptive part of my ”captions, such as ‘520 showers per year’ does the job well enough”.
Overall I’m very happy with my tutor’s feedback. I found great benefit in holding off on this feedback until I had made a little headway in Part 3. In doing this, I approached the feedback with an increased understanding of the auto-biographic and slightly fresher eyes. In hindsight I’ve realised that there are many different ways I could have tackled as challenging a subject as boredom and the mundane. I wish I had seen Nigel Shafran series, Washing-up 2000, before I had carried out assignment two. Shafran’s images often only revealed subtle changes from one image to the next which I feel could have been very effective when working on a subject such as boredom. Shafran’s captions were simple, descriptive and very effective in building up a picture of his life and routines. There were elements from Anna Paola Guerra’s mundane still-life images that I found interesting and appealing. The self-portraits of Elina Brotherus, particularly from her series, Annunciation, are charged full of emotion and one could definitely learn from her composition.
I’m guilty sometimes of taking shortcuts. However, I’m trying to change that. In trying to improve my note taking, and general information analyse and organisation, I’ve enlisted the help of mind mapping. I used a mind map to organise and link elements from my tutor’s feedback, which in turn helped me to structure this post. I’ve used spider diagrams before but, I find the colour, images and symbols used in Mind Maps allow for a free flow of ideas with very clear hierarchy and easier links between thoughts. I also find that as they are visually driven, Mind Maps activate the creative side, and my creative side definitely requires a serious kick-start. I’ve included a photograph of the mind map I used below.
Updated Assignment Two
Below is the updated Assignment Two following analysis and tutor feedback.
Nine to Five
60-80 rolls per year
520 showers per year
250 shaves per year
1 of 5
365 cod liver oil capsules, orange juice and porridge
Alternative: 365 cod liver oil capsules, juice and muesli
Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: the Self Portrait in Contemporary Photography, London: Thames and Hudson.
Boothroyd, S. (2015) ‘Still Life with Nigel Shafran’, WeAreOCA, 7 May, available: http://weareoca.com/photography/still-life-with-nigel-shafran/ [accessed 6 Nov 2015].
Brotherus, E. (2015) Elina Brotherus [online], available: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/news/ [accessed: 6 Nov 2015].
Brotherus, E. (2013) ‘Elina Brotherus – Annunciation’, Slash/Paris [online], available: http://slash-paris.com/en/evenements/elina-brotherus-annonciation [accessed 6 Nov 2015].
Paola Guerra, A. (2015) Anna Paola Guerra [online], available: http://annapaolaguerra.com/ [accessed 6 Nov 2015].
Philips, S. (2010) ‘Photographer Nigel Shafran’s best shot’, The Guardian, 21 Apr, available: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/apr/21/photography-nigel-shafran-best-shot [accessed 6 Nov 2015].
Shafran, N. (2015) Nigel Shafran [online], available: http://nigelshafran.com/ [accessed 6 Nov 2015].