Assignment 5 – Stuck

So I have photographed a few 12 year olds, interviewed them and now I don’t know what to do anymore! I feel that just showing their images and a quote doesn’t really do justice to all the things that they have told me and the time they live in. On the other hand, I feel that I have to find a common theme in the interviews and explore that.

The words in the reader that bother me most are ‘methodical approach’. This because I am not a very methodical person, actually, I cannot think of a single thing that I do exactly the same every time, except for how I do the dishes maybe. But in this assignment I know I should have a plan, an idea and a methodical way of executing it and this is where I get stuck.

Because to be honest, I also just want to finish this course and get on with the next. So the temptation is there to just submit the images, add a sound clip and that’s it. But there is more I could do with this content, I know.

My son has art classes in school and I am a little bit jealous. He gets to use all these fantastic materials and experiment with to his heart’s desire, he went to the Biennale in Venice and what makes me most envious, he just sits down and produces really cool stuff. In all honesty, I am actually very jealous with his notebook! It looks fantastic and he just writes in it as if it’s the easiest thing ever.

He also made these cyanotypes and glued them on cans, of which I wish I had made them. Such a terrible, jealous mom 🙂

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But enough whining and bragging, what should I do with assignment 5??

Besides being very artsy, my son is also quite helpful, although in a very blunt way. He showed me work of a Serbian artist that he really liked, Vlad Scepanovic. I was quite blown away by his artist statement and realized that in order to get out of the rut of wanting to produce art but ending up with quick fixes, I do have to invest time in my skills; drawing, photography and painting. I do have to be willing to let the creative juices flow and not reap from the fact that I live in exotic places and can photograph about a 100 ‘what the heck’ moments every day.

So deeper I will dive and try to actually produce something meaningful, work in a notebook and do proper methodical research.

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Is it good enough?

I looked at the video that was posted on the OCA website about Dorota Kazmierak’s work and was really impressed. Her quality and voice are striking. She has put so much thought and time in her work which shows in the outcome and quality of the photographs.

Most of the times when I see work that I’m really impressed with I get inspired and want to try harder to come to a point in which I feel that I am doing a good job, but other times I am afraid that my own practice and work will never be good enough. Thoughts come up about not having the right gear, not being creative enough, never taking the time to work on the fine details, not being in the right place, having 4 kids, never finishing anything anyway, having too many other distractions and not being part of an art scene.

I know this is just the negative mind frame that I lock myself up in. Of course there is always room for improvement and there will always be people who do a better job than I do. And that is absolutely fine, very healthy actually. Besides that, shouldn’t creating art be about finding my own style and self? Shouldn’t the time in which I am studying not be a period in which there is room for failure, experimenting and learning?

I do know that I often just happen to photograph in a certain way without really thinking about it beforehand and that my style is going from here to there. I want to spend time to think about the work and styles that I like and admire and strive to create that. It all has to do with taking the time, challenging myself, while staying positive and striving for the highest quality possible.

Doing an art’s degree is so different than any other study: It’s not just working towards an other exam or paper, but about building a skill, developing a voice, having an opinion and create work that evokes. It’s a lot to ask for and not as straightforward as just working through the exercises.

I battle with it, tell myself not to get bogged down and just keep on going. So I’ll pour myself an other cup of coffee, give myself a compliment about having written an other post and carry on!

Words Spent Today buy Smaller Images Tomorrow – Interview with David Levi Strauss

I’m reading Words not Spent Today buy Smaller Images Tomorrow, by David Levi Strauss. It’s a very good read, touching on a lot of the subjects that are discussed in the course. I found an interview in which he talks more about his book. Here are a few quotes that I found particularly interesting:

 There was a critique of documentary photography that happened in the ’70s and ’80s that made it nearly impossible to talk about representations of suffering because it was an “aestheticization of suffering.” At the time, I wondered why the aesthetic was seen to be such a toxic thing. This book is an update of that, where I ask if such critiques are valid any more, and come to the conclusion that they aren’t. The extension of that critique is that you cannot represent other people and their suffering, and I don’t want to live in a world where that is not happening. One of the things that photography has always been able to do is to register a relationship between the person behind and in front of the camera. Even though that is not a straight line to empathy, solidarity, and political change, for a long time in photography it was part of that, and that didn’t just go away. 

To tell a story, you have to slow everything down.

There was a part of me that was angry at George for showing them to me and for having made them, so it got inside that question of representing cruelty for me, uncovering again these questions I thought I had answered for myself. Those images are seared into my brain now, and took me all the way back to being a child just old enough to read when I found a file of images from the Nazi death camps—bodies being moved around with bulldozers. I didn’t know what it represented, quite, because I didn’t know that history yet, but I knew they were important documents of human cruelty. It changed me. Something shifted. There is a deep human need to make a connection. I was not in Rwanda, I did not see that, but I need to know about it and there is a way you can only know about it by seeing it, at least seeing images of it. Seeing is believing. There is no shortage of subject matter for looking at human cruelty, it’s going on all over the world and continues, and we’ve lived through some signal examples of it. George was acting as a witness and he takes that job and role very seriously, and so I had to look again at my responses. Again, I don’t want to live in a world where these kinds of images are not being made, as long as these things are happening in the world.

 The historical record shows clearly that if you try to suppress images, they will come back to haunt you. This is the history of iconoclasm—it really doesn’t work. There are things that people will not accept and will not believe unless they see an image of it. That is so deeply embedded in the human response to the visible world and the world of appearances and the world inside our heads that this is not going to change. The trouble is that these responses are often unconscious, way below the surface, and beyond what is easily accessed, which is what makes images so powerful and so able to control us.

 

Smith, S. (2011) DAVID LEVI STRAUSS with Jarrett earnest. Available at: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2014/07/art/david-levi-strauss-with-jarrett-earnest (Accessed: 13 November 2016).

Research through Drawings and Mind Maps

My tutor report mentioned that I should elaborate more on the research I have done for my assignment, and also be more creative in how to present my work. I have been thinking about that. The thing is that I’m not sure if it is helpful to write a complete blogpost about an artist that I have looked at or have thoughts about, just for the sake to show what I am doing. I will often already write notes when looking at their work, reading essays, etc. and then don’t follow up on blogging about out it, resulting in not showing all of the research that I have done.

Therefor it was very refreshing to watch the OCA video of Sue Jones’ work. She has a very visual way of taking notes and mind mapping that shows her research and makes it very clear in a concise, visual way. I found it reassuring that it didn’t have a lot of drawings, because I am really bad at drawing and that is what often keeps me from having a notebook on paper. It doesn’t have to look as perfect as other note books I have seen, as long as it shows my way of thinking.

So, I’m going to get my notebook out again and start writing more things down, show my visual ideas and give myself the freedom to experiment. Thanks Sue!

Morris, A. (no date) Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/weareoca/photography/sue-jones (Accessed: 8 November 2016).

Welcome!

Happy to start this course and excited of all the things I’m going to learn and places I’ll go! Welcome to my learning blog Documentary, a course that is part of a Bachelor degree in photography at the OCA. I hope that you will enjoy following my learning process and work that I’ll be publishing here in the coming months.

After having finished my first level courses I am eager to continue learning more about photography and its art and improving my technical and observational skills. I realize I need to go more in depth in my analysis of photographs and photographers and work on developing my own style and opinion. Even though I wish to work on this course at a good pace, I want to make an effort in taking the time to think things through, reflect and practice so that I will end up a more refined and knowledgeable photographer and student.

I live in New Delhi, India and there are so many interesting stories to document that it is going to be hard to select the ones that speak most to me and go beyond the beauty or exoticness of the place. I’m looking forward to the interaction with my tutor and other documentary students to reflect and bounce off ideas.