Narrative – Project 2: Image and text – Exercise 2

Exercise

The aim of this exercise (and Assignment Two) is to encourage you to develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones, to give a sense of something rather than a record of it.

Choose a poem that resonates with you then interpret it through photographs. Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.

Start by reading the poem a few times (perhaps aloud) and making a note of the feelings and ideas it promotes, how you respond to it, what it means to you and the mental images it raises in your mind. Next, think about how you’re going to interpret this visually and note down your ideas in your learning log.

You may choose to develop this idea into creating a short series of images reflecting your personal response to the poem (or another poem). Write some reflective notes about how you would move the above exercise on.

The number of pictures you choose to produce for the exercises and assignments in this course, including this one, is up to you. Try to keep in mind the following tips for knowing when you have done enough/not done enough:

• Are the images repeating themselves? Are there three versions of the same picture for example? Can you take two out?

• Does each image give a different point of view or emphasise a point you want to make?

• Do the images sit well together visually?

• Have you given the viewer enough information? Would another picture help?

I began looking at this exercise just over a month ago, and dreaded the thought of it. I’m not a poetic person. I have no fondness for poetry and know nothing about it. Whilst searching for inspiration I became aware that Anzac day was fast approaching, and that we were only a month away from VE day.  This got me thinking about the act of remembrance, and almost instantly, the Kohima Epitaph came to mind. That’s not surprising given that it’s been recited at every remembrance parade I’ve attended over the past 17 years of military service. Although not an actual poem, it is verse, and it got me thinking…..

Epitaph: A short text honouring the deceased that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque. It may be in poem verse¹.

The Kohima Epitaph is attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds² who created a collection of epitaphs for WW1. Four of these were published in The Times newspaper on 6 Feb 1918, on page 7 in an article entitled Four Epitaphs³.

Although each of the four epitaphs are different, and they were essentially written for death in different battles/scenarios, they evoke some generic emotions and feelings.  These are feelings of sadness and loss. Bittersweet contrasts of victory despite an ultimate sacrifice. Peace in the knowledge of victory, and no more pain and suffering in war. Gratitude and a need to remember the sacrifices. Patriotism, and death far from home all spring to mind. Although generic across the four verses, each epitaph also generates it own response, and it was for this reason, that I decided to create a single image for each, accompanied by the text in a bold, engraved style.

For a general grave on Vimy Ridge:

20150501-_MG_2978

On some who died early on the eve of battle:

20150501-_MG_2948

On those who died at the Battle of Jutland:

20150501-_MG_3011-Edit

For a village war-memorial:

20150501-_MG_3001

If I were to move this idea on and create a series of images, I would probably look to take it in a slightly different direction. Rather than looking back at the sacrifices made, I would look to the present day in an attempt to marry the epitaphs with the “things” that the sacrifices were made for. Freedom and Preservation of the English way of life. Perhaps a look at where sacrifices were made in vain could be an option too, for example, marrying the epitaph “You come from England; is she England still? Yes, thanks to you that died upon this hill” with an image of inner city London, emphasising the unemployment, crime and multi-culturalism.

References

¹http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaph [accessed 22/05/15]

²http://www.burmastar.org.uk/epitaph.htm [accessed 22/05/15]

³ http://militaryhonors.sid-hill.us/honors/kohima.htm [accessed 22/05/15]

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