That about sums up how I was feeling about this assignment until yesterday! I’ve been struggling with motivation, inspiration and ideas for this assignment for some time now, and I’ve felt a lot of self induced pressure to push forward given that I’ve stalled slightly. But now I think I’m getting somewhere….
The pressure comes from a number of directions. First, given that it’s been a long time since I submitted Assignment 1, I’ve almost forgotten how to do research and plan an assignment! Second, the feedback I received from Assessment stated that I needed to demonstrate more “directed” research, but without any ideas for a subject, what can I possibly research? Third, the course material for Part 2 puts a lot of emphasis on work being “personally driven”, and uses some really compelling case studies that set the bar extremely high. Fourth, I’ve seen a lot of work recently from fellow students who have completed this assignment, and it is excellent. How do I follow that? And Fifth, we are presented with 2 possible options for this assignment which poses its own problems.
When I first looked at this assignment (see First Thoughts and Brief), I had pretty much made my mind up to undertake the Using Props option. That was before reading into Part 2, and understanding the effect of personally driven work. Scouring the OCA website and other student blogs, I cannot find any examples of students taking the props option. Although I think I have a sound idea for a narrative using a white shirt, I can’t help but feel that it would be the easier option, and as we students keep being told, we need to “take more risks”! So, with that in mind, I’ve kind of had my mind made up for me, and will be attempting Photographing the Unseen.
Over a protracted period, I have had several ideas for subjects. The problem tends to be that the ideas are too grand, or turn out to be unoriginal.
- A State of Mind – This could actually be a range of subjects but essentially, the idea would be to convey a state of mind. The idea arises from recent advertising campaigns which have brought Mental Illness to our attention, particularly Depression. More and more we hear about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two things put me off: I have no personal experience of mental illness and therfore am not personally driven in this area, and a fellow student has used PTSD as her subject recently, creating a quality set of images.
- Aftermath/After effects – Often we do not see something occur, but we get a sense of what happened from the aftermath. Portraying the impact of the event through its after effects would essentially capture the unseen. The first thing that springs to mind is illness. This year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease she is now thankfully recovering from. At the same time, my uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer and sadly he lost his battle with it this weekend. Although, my family is now technically free of this disease, its effects will be felt for a long time. In terms of subject matter, I can claim to be personally driven, but I am at the other side of the country from my family and would-be subjects.
- Emotion – Again, this could be a very broad subject. Sometimes, the only clue to a persons emotion is their facial expression, but there are many things that can invoke an emotion, colour being a good example. Portraying a range of emotions through photography is again not very original, but there is a lot of scope for creativity.
So there I was, sat in front of the computer yesterday. Completely stuck for an original idea, feeling my self induced pressure, with the prospect of moving house at Christmas, 2 months working away from home between now and then, missed deadlines on my OCA assignments, deadlines to meet at work, a very needy 2 year old at home, a car that keeps breaking down, etc etc etc….. And I’m looking through the work of Duane Michals. Since starting part 5 of the Art of Photography, Michals has been one of my favourite photographers thanks to his narrative ability and his playful, elegantly simple, yet poignant photo-series’. All of a sudden I came across a single image of his –
– and I find myself staring at it for a prolonged period and feeling a sense of understanding/relation to the image. Then it dawned on me; the mirror is representative of the self. The hand breaking the mirror tells a story of self destruction, with the prospect of breaking free of something, whilst the action, the clenched fist, spells out aggression or frustration. It is almost helpless. It is STRESS! and man was I feeling stressed!
In this single image, I’d found inspiration and a subject with which I can personally connect. Hoo bloody ray! As it turns out, the image is part of a set, another of Michals narrative mini-sequences called Alice’s Mirror, but more on that in my next post.
So there it is, my Unseen subject will be Stress. I haven’t yet made any decisions on how I will portray or depict my subject, but for the time being, I’m just happy to have a focus. In order to make my research more directed, I intend to look further in to the work of Michals, with a a particular view to identify what he wanted to communicate in his narratives, and how he went about photographing his subjects from a technical and creative perspective.
Now that I have a subject in mind, I need to have a think about how I will depict my subject photographically. This will involve some brainstorming, and basic research in the subject of stress. From there I will look to formulate a research proposal before conducting in-depth research, which will be followed by story-boarding and test shots.
Here we go…..