The feedback from my tutor on the third assignment was both positive and encouraging, “A succinct and rather profound response for Assignment 3. Good stuff”.
My aim for the assignment had been to link four generations of my family, from my great-grandfather, Jack Murphy, down to me, using photographs. My problem was that a photographic link between my great-grandfather and my grandmother didn’t exist, and so I made an intervention using Photoshop (see photograph below). There is no escaping the fact that my photo-shopped intervention appears crude, or as my tutor described it, a “cut and paste” effort. My tutor suggests that the intervention (i.e. a framed photograph which floats within the image), along with the ”fantastic” wallpaper, the rose and my grandmother’s expression render the photograph quite surreal.
The series, as it stands, pivots and fails on my intervention. The one photograph where the intervention was made, forces the viewer to consider whether it appears by accident or design.
During part 3 of the course I researched a number of photographers who use their work to question the reliability of photography as a means of truthfully providing records. Duane Michals, Trish Morrissey, Nikki S. Lee and Gillian Wearing, all put themselves in their own photography, and challenge our notion of what is real. I find it interesting that I have somehow landed myself in a position where my series of family photographs, through the Photoshop intervention, raises questions about the authenticity of the ancestry within the images.
I believe the way forward for this series is to perhaps embrace the “cut and paste” surrealism of the intervention and continue it across the series. With this in mind, I have been researching surrealism and photographers who’s work falls within the genre. “Surrealism was premised on challenging philosophical distinctions between interior experience and exterior realities” (Wells 2009 p.282). In practice this involved “greater contact with the inner world of the imagination” (Warner Marien 2010 p.253) producing work which utilized double exposure, chemical manipulation and montage techniques. In his book, Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images, Terry Barrett describes a category called ‘Interpretive Photographs’, which are personal and subjective, more like poetry, and include a whole plethora of photographers from Man Ray and Jerry Uelsmann, to Duane Michals, Sally Mann and Eugene Meatyard (Barrett 2000 p.70).
I’m a little unsure exactly how to proceed with the series. So far, I’m inclined to lean towards a continuation of the current image manipulation through the last two images (i.e. my father and I). More research, and perhaps a little trial and error may yield satisfactory results.
In his feedback report, my tutor also made reference to a number of other exercises and posts which needed some attention. I have since added to the blog post on Roland Barthes’ The Death of the Author, which I had left a little up in the air. I have also tied Roland Barthes’ work into the exercise on Recreating a Family Memory.
As suggested, I’ve been reading Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida. It is a fascinating read. I found Barthes analysis of the Winter Garden photograph of his mother particularly interesting, and it certainly ties into my assignment. I never knew my great-grandfather, but through my research I do feel that the photographs of him became considerably more than “ordinary objects” to which Barthes refers (Barthes 2000 p.70). In the photograph of my grandmother, she is very much how I remember her. While her photograph for me is not quite my version of the Winter Garden photograph, I can relate to and understand quite vividly, how the photograph of Barthes’ mother was “utopically, the impossible science of the unique being” (Barthes 2000 p.71).
Updated 13th September 2016
I finally decided how to proceed with this assignment. Researching surrealist photographers, I was drawn to the work of Jerry Uelsmann. Much of his work features floating elements, and since the image of my great-grandfather was photo-shopped onto the image of my grandmother in a very “cut and paste” kind of way, I decided to continue this across the series, and so I photo-shopping each photograph in the series onto the next in line.
While viewing, Untitled II 1980, by Jerry Uelsmann, it occurred to me that I should use a photo cube to present my work. Rather than simply adding the photographs to the photo cube, I thought is a good idea to use the surreal elements from by grandmothers living room. Lining the photo cube with a sample from her wallpaper, in some way I turned the cube into an inside-out room. Placing each of my images into a frame, I was then able to hang each framed photograph on the walls of the cube. The images seem to pop from the walls and although they appear to be obviously photo-shopped, this perhaps raises questions about the authenticity of the ancestry within the images. I included the original photograph of my grandmother, as well a close up of the rose from that same picture in order to further highlight the manipulated and surrealist elements. The images below give the general idea, but presented in a 3 inch cube, the submission takes on a more interesting, novel and kitsch form.
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