Two sides of the story
This assignment is designed to give your tutor a feel for your work and won’t count towards your final grade if you decide to have your work assessed. However, the assessors may wish to see it so that they can gauge your progress across the course.
Create at least two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story. The aim of the assignment is to help you explore the convincing nature of documentary, even though what the viewer thinks they see may not in fact be true.Try to make both sets equally convincing so that it’s impossible to tell which version of the images is ‘true’.
It might be interesting to consider the project as evidence for a court case. What conflicting stories can you make your images convincingly tell? Would it stand up in court?
Choose a theme and aim for 5–7 images for each set, depending on your idea. Discuss this with your tutor.
Here are a few ideas:
• You could interpret this brief by showing the same scenario from two different angles. Does this alter how we read the situation?
• You may wish to create an alter ego by using snapshots of yourself or a friend. This could involve photographing them in two very different and potentially conflicting personas.
• You could make a parody of a dating website profile picture. Create different versions of the same person looking completely different in each one. Which one represents them best and how can we know?
Or you may prefer to use your own take on the theme. However you choose to interpret the brief, ensure the images are candid and ‘taken from real life’. Be experimental and take some risks. Perhaps you could make a list of ideas and choose the most challenging or absurd option to stretch yourself.
Send your sets of images to your tutor by the method you’ve agreed. Include an introduction of 300 words outlining what you set out to do and how you went about it. Also send to your tutor the relevant pages of your learning log or your blog url.
It’s good to get in the habit of printing your work so try to send prints to your tutor where possible. This is not obligatory but will help when it comes to assessment. Developing your prints in order to achieve the best results is a long process so it’s best to start now.
In order to simplify the brief, I’ve extracted and bullet pointed the key requirements below with some thoughts:
- 2 sets of photo’s – telling different versions of the same story.
- A true and false?
- To be convincing.
- Would it stand up in court?
- 5-7 images per set (10-14 total).
- Fewer stronger images is better than more weak images.
- Images to be candid and taken from real life.
- No staging.
- Include an intro of 300 words.
- No waffle then!
- Include prints in the submission
- Not obligatory, but good to get the practice in.
I read the assignment brief before starting Part One in the hope that I’d find inspiration during those first few weeks. I was initially quite taken with the idea of photographing a couple, showing a loving/romantic side, and then a waring “at each others throats” side. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the brief properly, because on reading it again, it states that the images are to be candid and taken from real life. My idea hinged strongly on staging/posing, but on reflection, this would not have been true to “documentary” and would have been more akin to a photo essay/narrative.
The ideas listed in the brief are a good starting point, and there may be something in the idea of a “dating website parody”. Taking it a stage further, I recently read a classmates (Emma Pocock) research post¹ which toyed with the idea of presenting the images for this assignment within Social Media. Although she points out the reasons why she chose not to, I like the idea of exploring the way we use images to document our lives/personas on Social Media, and how we present our own version of the “truth” to our “friends”. Perhaps 2 conflicting Facebook profiles for the same person may be a starting point?
As well as the subject, there are still a lot of other unknowns at the moment. In my previous posts², I’ve looked at the role of Citizen Journalism, and documentary photographs coming from video stills, and mobile phone cameras. Given the different mediums in use in contemporary documentary photography, this is an area that needs to be given some considerable thought. In order to create a believable set of documentary images, the medium must be aligned to the subject, so that it denotes/connotes realism and truth to the viewer.
Having gathered my thoughts, I need to structure my approach to this assignment. This will involve some detailed research into documentary photography, its practitioners and contemporary methods. I will also look at the use of images on Social Media, and see if this idea is worth developing further, or whether I should switch fire, and seek inspiration elsewhere. No doubt some brainstorming will help, and then a Research Proposal will cement the ideas before shooting begins.
¹ https://emmapocockphotography.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/constructing-personas-social-media/ – accessed 15 Dec 14