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).

Assignment 1 – Context

When photographing my own community I want to focus on the details that I noticed when I had just moved to New Delhi last year. We live on an embassy compound and I feel like I’ve fallen in a way of living that is colonial and quite exploitative. We have help for everything, live in a beautiful, well kept place, in a diplomatic area right in the middle of a city where the majority of its inhabitants live on or below poverty line.

For every task there seems to be a person to do the job. I feel obliged to hire their services, because otherwise, there wouldn’t be a job for them. In the meantime, we expats live as in a holiday resort, having all the time to do what we enjoy. I don’t feel guilty for living the life that I live, but I do realise how surreal it is and how it deep down clashes with my beliefs of equal opportunities for all, etc.

I’ve been thinking on how to reflect these elements in my photographs. First of all, I want to show some of the people who work on our premises, other partners of people who work at the embassy and activities that take place, to give an overall view of what it looks like and how we spend our days.

In order to emphasise my engagement, I have decided to write the names of the people I know in the caption, if I don’t know their names, just a description of what they do and what I do know about them. In this way, it shows my connection with them and emphasises the sort of ‘downstairs – upstairs’ dynamic that is taking place.

I also like to show the differences in how they respond to me and the invisible wall of politeness and humbleness that I feel. I hope to show the layers of understanding, the huge gap between the circumstances we live under, my empathy or maybe indifference, or both.

Assignment 1 – Research Nan Goldin

Nan Golding had a difficult childhood. Besides all the arguments between her parents and siblings, her sister Barbara, who was her example and to whom she looked up to, was placed in a mental institution and committed suicide at the age of 19. Nan was only 11 years old. At the age of 13, Nan was kicked out of school and left home to live in a drag community, which she started photographed. From there her journey as a photographer started. ‘I don’t ever want to lose the real memory of anyone again’.

In a snapshot style Nan recorded her life and that of her friends. She believed in the ‘narrative of the self, the private and public exhibition we call being’. Her images show much of her community and give an intense insight in the dynamics between the people, their emotions and struggles. Nan called the drag community she lived in ‘her chosen family’. Her images reflect a life whose intimacy comes as close as a family life may be, showing a longing for what she had missed in her own childhood.

As personal and up and close Goldin’s work may be, the overall effect of her work gives you a more general, almost anthropological view on the communities she photographed and even her own life. As Arbus put it: ‘The more specific you are, the more general it will be’. It’s the details that accentuate the overall effect, showing that you can bring across a bigger story than just a snapshot of your own daily life.

 

Assignment 1 – Brief

Here’s a list of my first response and ideas to the brief, referring to the steps that were given in Short’s Creative Photography: Context and Narrative

  1. Context of the final output
    This assignment is done as part of my course and the final output is primarily made for my tutors and assessors in order for them to get an idea of the quality of my work and way of thinking about photography. Besides that, the work is going to be looked at by other students and probably the subjects in the photographs.
  2. Relevant information regarding conceptual approach
    The brief
    – produce 10 images
    Technical requirements
    – Taken with same camera and focal length
    Concepts:
    – Demonstration of my engagement with the lives, experiences and history of my local community and people
    – Single theme, topic or activity
  3. Learning Aims
    – Become aware of how my embedding in the situation and position in the spaces that I photograph are reflected in my work.
    – Produce images that have a strong visual language, but where the idea is the strongest element in the photograph.
    – Be able to look at my own community from a photographer’s perspective and learn how to visually translate my perspective into images that show my insider’s view.
    – Work in an organized, well planned manner.
    – Push myself to only be satisfied with the best I can do.
  4. Time Schedule
    – Research and contacting community: 2 – 3 days
    – Experimenting: 1 day
    – Processing, taking the actual photographs: 3 – 5 days
    – Post Processing and writing short commentary: 1 – 2 days
    – Printing: 1 day
    – Final Presentation: 1 day
  5. Ideas verbalized
    – Community: Parents of the international school my children go to in New Delhi. Anders from Sweden, Alan from the United States, Fifi from Congo, Jin from Korea and Carla from Germany. This would focus more on the diversity of the community and expat life itself.
    – Activity: Diwali celebration or Fall Fiesta at school, photograph the parents and children to get in the position of showing how they respond to me being part of the community and my role in it. Besides that, it will show how people interact with each other and how local holidays are celebrated by expats and the upper class (the parties are always quite over the top!) After having the images printed, I could ask the people in the images to write something about themselves and what they feel about being part of this community.
    – Coffee at the Tiger’s Den. Every morning parents and teachers of the International School have coffee in a cafe on the school ground. It’s here where you can hear about 10 different languages within 10 minutes and see people from all nationalities talking to each other. I would like to photograph the interaction between them, but also the interaction with the staff of the cafe.
    – Photographs from my compound. I live on a compound that belongs to The Netherlands Embassy, together with 4 other families. We live in beautiful homes, with lush, big gardens, a swimming pool and a gym. In total there are about 30 people working on the compound to cook for us, clean, maintain the homes and garden and drive us. This is my 7th post as a diplomat’s wife, but I have never lived in such a colonial setting before. It would be interesting to photograph the people who live and work here, and show the ambiguity of our strange life.

In my former posts I already mentioned that I want to research Jim Goldberg and Nan Golding, but I feel that I should find some more photographers who have photographed in their own communities to get some more ideas. I’ve read some other students’ post on a William Eggleston exhibition, called Eggleston’s portraits that have been very inspiring.

Assignment 1 – Initial Ideas

I want to use this post to blob down any ideas in bullet points that come up while thinking about Assignment 1. So it doesn’t particularly make sense, but it is a bit better identifiable than the terrible handwriting in my note book.

August 19, 2016

  • My Community: Who is my community? Not my family, but the first circle of people I spend most time with. Those are parents of the school my kids go to. The thing that binds us are our children, but also the fact that we are all strangers living in Delhi for a relatively short period of time. Who do we identify with? What is it that I want to show? Do I want to focus on our differences, or the elements that unite us?
  • First idea: Environmental portraits taken with my 50 mm lens. That lens captures light and character beautifully and is the sharpest of the ones I own.
  • Which environment? At school? Maybe? After looking at Robbie Coopers work maybe I can do two, like a diptych. One in their house and one where they feel at home. This might be the same for some.
  • Maybe film or interview?
  • Focus on identity, nationality and place?
  • Give a lot of choice concerning setting, clothing etc to the subjects.
  • Do I want to photograph B and W, or colour? Use of flash or natural light? Or do whatever the situation asks for?

August 23, 2016

  • Photographers to research: Nan Golding, Jim Goldberg!

September, 15, 2016

  • Starting to think of other ways to photograph the community, maybe take pictures of a school event? Or the cafe where everybody meets in the morning?
  • How do I show my personal involvement? Through captions? Do I let them write their own captions?

October 4, 2016

  • Photographed at a school event, but the images don’t give me the kind of interaction that I want to show. Starting to think about photographing my life on a compound, since it’s actually a very strange way of living.
  • Want to stress differences between expats and local staff, interdependency and the distance between them.
  • Because I have to show my interaction with my community, I want to write my own captions and give my own interpretation to the images I am taking.

October 12, 2016

  • Took my first photographs. Some posed immediately, even though I hadn’t really given any instructions. With others I asked if I could photograph them and they just continued with what they were doing. I think I have a nice balance of posed and unposed.
  • Should I add the images of the Russian compound? They do stress the anonymity of the lives expats live and the fact that only in my street there are 5 different communities with other cultures and backgrounds, that I don’t know anything about.

October 18, 2016

  • Posted a question on the student forum and got some great feedback and ideas. Have been looking at the work of Tom Hunter, David Hurn and some photographers on Lensculture. Very inspiring!