So, this module has been about elements of design. What a challenge this was. I feel like my brother must have done after being presented with a full ‘Snap on’ tool kit when he started out as a mechanic having only had a couple of spanners to work with up until that point. I have so much more to play with now as my understanding of composition is growing. Now it is a case of applying that knowledge.
In my last assignment I wasn’t in a position to undertake much research but this time my learning log will demonstrate that I have used every opportunity to compare course project learning against images from ‘The Greats’ of photography.
As for the images, this is a high-risk set of images for me to submit. I have broken away from all that I feel safe with in my first attempt to move into a different sphere of photography. My tutor asked to see more creativity and here it is! However, at the back of my mind, there is the fact that my tutor didn’t ‘get’ the metaphor in the only conceptual image I put into the first assignment but, then again, it was out of context. Even with the context explicit in this assignment, it feels a high-risk strategy. I went to the John Burgin exhibition at the University of Westminster after finishing the body of this assignment. I didn’t ‘get’ much of his work wither but will strive to as I think this is a sphere I’d like to fully appreciate and apply in my work.
Through the course I was really struggling to translate some of the point and pattern concepts but the perseverance has paid off. The same with Gestalt. I will go into more detail of my studies within the self-assessment and links to my learning log will be found further on.
I am not sure I intended to take risks so early on in the course until I had found my feet and my confidence. However, the work I had produced over several outings started showing a theme that was running in my subconscious. Perhaps some photojournalism images viewed during my Magnum research alongside Armistice Day had triggered a response in me. I had intended to submit under the heading of ‘Street Detail’ but the images are not street detail as, perhaps, others might have interpreted it. It took a while for me to identify why I was drawn to some of the subject matter. When the penny dropped I realised it was a conceptual story telling I was yearning to tell. In part, my motivation for undertaking the whole degree programme is to find a way to express a raft of emotion stemming from a heap of life experiences that have left their mark. It has often been suggested that I write a book. I may not do that but I do want to develop the ability to confront people with challenging images that aren’t always explicit in interpretation but at the same time not so elitist that is it lost on a large percentage of the population.
Every image has been carefully considered and the dark circles under my eyes are testament to that. It would have been more desirable to have more time to research a little on the genre of conceptual photography but the theme evolved intuitively and late on in the module. However I have had my work cut out contemplating elements of design!
In addition to the basic aim of ‘elements of design’, a theme running through the images attempts to take you on a journey through the eyes of a probationer constable observing and responding to the issues surrounding military service, ultimate sacrifice and consequences of having survived wars – just to find a life long personal battle emerging. It is a fitting November project and coincidently, a theme that is to be found in one of this month’s ‘Big Issue’ magazines.
My knowledge base that qualifies me to undertake this theme is my own battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was triggered while still serving as a very young Police Officer in London. Prior to my injury it became abundantly clear that part of my probationer work was looking out for drunken veterans who were forgotten by society and had gone from pride and patriotism to finding themselves in psychological despair that was often self-medicated via addictions. The veterans often died very lonely deaths, in poverty and in housing that was barely fitting of the description of ‘home’. In the worst cases their passing went unnoticed for weeks/ months….. and it was a very sorry scene to deal with.
When viewing the images some might be more obvious to ‘read’ then others. i.e. CB/19. Diagonals: you might not see an immediate relevance but then realise this might be the night ‘dwelling’ for a homeless veteran or you might read it as a nightmare being suffered. Many nightmares involve long dark tunnels with voices. The ominous murals in this tunnel represent these voices. In fact the image might well be read as both.
In any case what should be clear is the downward spiral of events through the images.
I will hold my breath now and let you consider the images accepting that my intentions and the reality of success may be miles apart.
Because our ability to interpret an image is a somewhat complex issue and partly dependant on our own life experiences, values and culture (Clarke,G:1997:27,31) I have composed a poem to help guide a viewer through the images.
My dear Veteran
1996: I look down in despair
and ask, “Why are you sleeping in the underpass down there?”
Not long ago you were on parade
if a little war weary behind the façade.
So when did your nightmares get too much?
Is that bottle now your eternal crutch?
A lottery? With your last few coins gambled in vain?
Addictions will only numb your pain.
I ‘took you in’ against your will,
a warm cell and food really was better still.
Now a long time prisoner to your demons?
You pushed away those you could lean on?
Yesterday you considered taking your life.
You came down after you told of service strife.
The downward spiral will continue anon,
however much you to keep try to keep ‘a grip’ on.
Your home will be musty and bare.
And when I have to break in…” DAMN. Did nobody care?”
For you will have not been missed,
My senses reveal you have been lying here for months like this.
Knelt next to you there is nothing but a single tear
but comforted by the fact you now have nothing left to fear.
All past and present that suffered, I’ve not forgotten.
Remembrance day 2013. – Rest in peace my dear veteran.
I think it is fair to say that I made this module far harder for myself then it needed to have been but I so enjoyed the journey. The turmoil in deciding to include an overlapping theme was simply because the constraints of the assignment brief was going to make this much more difficult to achieve. Within that turmoil I decided that taking risks was a positive thing though and also staying true to needing to demonstrate a clear understanding of the design concepts. I don’t work well with abstract and, to be honest, there are very few abstract images that I do enjoy. I simply need a human element. However, I may explore abstract more in the next assignment. It may be now with this new understanding that I can go into the next module with confidence to try abstract ideas.
The aims of ‘ Elements of Design’ was to explore the design elements that need to be considered when we tackle a composition and as the exercises progressed I became more comfortable with all the concepts. Who knew there was so much more beyond the ‘rule of thirds’?
The Art of Photography overall aims are:
1) Introduce principles of composition.
2) Develop understanding of light and colour (n/a for elements of design).
3) Develop knowledge of the principle of graphic design.
4) Develop reflective skills.
I am happy that all my images demonstrate understanding of the necessary design elements and the explanations are evidence of this. The sketches will be available to assessors in a hard version. I am content the above relevant aims have been achieved and this is further evidenced in my learning log. I struggled with some aspects of the coursework but the perseverance paid off
My Learning log research and reflection have expanded considerably since the first assignment but there is still room for improvement with my research. There was a delay in a book I ordered (Prakel) and although I am now reading about psychology of photography I am not ready to reference it just yet. I have visited the John Burgin at The University of Westminster this last weekend and was hoping to write something about his approach but I would not be doing myself any justice to tackle this subject until I have had more time to reflect.
Now I have the necessary specialist software training under my belt, I will be able to expand even further in my next assignment and take on some heavier reading rather then depending on analysis of images alone.
From my first assignment feedback I have taken on several points made. I have simplified the image references, made sure my images are of publishable standards technically and, as I mentioned above, expanded my further research. These were issues that I had identified myself anyway. I was advised to start looking at other learning logs but up until this point I found that idea a little overwhelming. Now I am settling, finding my feet and identifying areas in my learning log that need strengthening I will spend a little time looking at how others approach their studies.
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Freeman.M(2007),The Photographer’s Eye, Lewes:Ilex.
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Seabourne,M & Sparham, A (2012). London Street Photography. 2nd ed. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.
Clarke, G (1997). The Photograph. New York: Oxford University Press Inc
Gettleman, J. (2013). The Price of Precious. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (0), 51 53. Photographs by: Marcus Bleasdale
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