Assignment Five Submission – Making It Up

The production of this still life image is a continuation on a theme from Assignment three where I created a visual diary depicting ‘a change of scenery’ meaning that a mothers role doesn’t pause for holidays.  The diary and this project are a response to a comment made to me by a woman torn between having time for her children or a full time job.  The comment made was “I’d love to potter around the house like you all day”.  She chose the full time job.

From this single comment I became interested in the way I was viewed by other women and the preconceptions they build about other women based on the pocket of time during an average week day known as ‘the school run’.

The chaos of the morning rush ensues around me with mums and dads desperate to hand over their children and race in their expensive cars to their 9am jobs. They look and feel very important compared to their children who are wearing yesterdays dinner stained jumper and screaming out for an ounce of attention.  If this is what success looks like, what do I look like with my calm exterior and pauses for my sons every whim?

I took inspiration from the ‘Same but Different‘ project by photographer Leonora Saunders which is a creative project from Business in the Community’s gender equality campaign, that celebrates and shines a light on the diversity of women in our workplaces.

The idea for this assignment shines a light on the diversity of women who ‘stay at home’ and in particular how they are perceived by others compared to the reality of their everyday lives.  My final image is the realistic response to another woman’s perception of me and what I do all day, every day of the week.

 

 

The Making of ‘Making It Up’

Once the decision was made to expand on assignment threes self portrait theme I needed to make a plan of how I would execute the project.  I carried out a mind map relevant to the subject as a starting point.

Who am I and what do I do?

Wife – Supporting husbands career – works away – covers all jobs in house – ensures he has everything he needs
Mother – Look after children – feed – clothe – nurture – organise – entertain – plan – taxi – clean
Photographer – organise clients – studio photoshoots – maintain website – edit photos
Jewellery Maker – maintain website – take orders – make jewellery – create new designs – research and development – update social media pages – dispatch
Student – study – carry out research – carry out exercises – update blog – refelection – forums – help other students
Book keeper – book keeping – VAT returns – PAYE – annual returns – accountant contact – record keeping
PTA Chairperson – organise events – raise funds – communicate to parents and teachers – attend functions
Crafter – knitting – clay making – painting – drawing – sewing – maker

Where do I spend most of my time?

I need to encompass all my roles into one room without using a literal approach.  If I use a series of photographs with all the different elements it won’t have the desired impact.  Which room can I use to obtain one image with all the elements in?  I’d like to use my favourite room which will add to the narrative which is my office.  It has the most light, its modern, mainly white and very clean and is the place I go to when I need some head space enabling me to better juggle all of my roles.

What do I consider the roles I want to highlight to appear more successful?

To ‘appear’ more successful to other people I would order my roles as the following:

Jewellery maker
Photographer
Book keeper
Student
PTA Chairperson
Mother
Wife
Crafter

Do I want to put an element of each role into the photograph?  

I think I need to in order to show how varied my roles are.  If I leave anything out I appear less busy.

Which props will I use?

Jewellery maker ~ Keyrings on a stand ~ hammer and stamps ~ jewellery magazine
Photographer ~ Camera ~ editing software on computer ~ Newborn prop
Book keeper ~ invoices ~ calculator
Student ~ Photography books ~ OCA folder
PTA Chairperson ~ fundraising poster ~ events print out on wall
Mother ~ photograph of family ~ egg timer set ~ karate certificate on wall
Wife ~ wedding photograph
Crafter ~ knitting pattern ~ arm knitted cowl on chair

The set-up

I’m using my office to setup my scene.  It currently has other peoples elements present so I need remove them and clear my desk.  The lighting will be better if I move my desk to another wall as the light coming in from the window will highlight the items on the desk.  Its a dull day so I can envisage some quite natural moody lighting which is consistent with my photography style and will add to the narrative.  If the light isn’t right at the time I will use studio lamp directing light in the opposite direction to the window.

I drew a sketch of how I want the scene to look and where I would place my signifiers:

scan-2017-8-30-12-08-08.jpg

I’ll attempt to physically recreate this scene. Firstly I needed to clear away the clutter that wasn’t relevant to the narrative.

Once the conflicting items had been removed I was left with a blank canvas to build my story on.

300817_0297

At this stage I only had natural light coming in from the window.  I planned to put my signifiers in place and set up the lighting.  I also need to decide on the correct lens to use as this wide angle lens is is distorting the image.

Scan 2017-8-30 15.39.00

With everything in place I shot around 40 photographs using different camera settings and moving items around slightly.  The final image was shot with a 4 second exposure to capture as much detail as possible.  As it was getting quite last in the day I needed to use a studio lamp and a diffused flash gun to bounce light from the ceiling.

the setupThe setup

N.B. I have decided to drop the PTA Chair role from my project as I plan to resign soon due to a heavy workload!

 

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

The props I chose to include in the narrative were items I use regularly and were easy to source.  The egg timer which symbolises my all too often race against the clock had to be purchased to replace the digital version I use on my mobile phone.  I couldn’t give a good visual representation of time ticking away using my mobile phone and thought a mechanical egg timer to be a not too literal but visual aid.  This doubles up as a tool used in cooking which I dedicate a lot of time into getting right.

The photograph needed to include a lot of signifiers to represent the various roles I undertake.  I decided to compose the image in a corner of my office rather than just the desk.  The reason for this is that I didn’t want a cluttered desk as I don’t live my life in clutter and this wouldn’t represent who I am.  I also wanted to produce a clean organised image and so composed it to reflect this.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The contents of the photograph were carefully placed in sections to create a separation between them all.  The viewer can clearly see the various elements in a coherent manner.  The knowledge gained in Parts Four and Five of the course were of particular use for this assignment.  I reflected on the sections on Deconstruction by Jaques Derrida and semiotics  by Roland Barthes.  In the construction of my final image I had to continually deconstruct it see if I had achieved the desired narrative.

Every item has been carefully constructed for a specific reason to signify a specific role.  Some items are obvious for example, the photography books on the shelf.  Why didn’t I place just one book as a signifier? Its because of what I want signified and my attempt at controlling the meaning.  Many books signify a vast interest and placed directly next to College folders go further to suggest the originators field of study.  The invoices and receipts on their own may seem to be a pile of household filing but with the addition of a calculator I’m demonstrating there is work to be done.

I’ve placed my personal craft items furthest away from the camera and slightly obscured as this role is something I rarely get time to do.  I’d like more time to be creative but there always seems to be something more important or urgent to do preventing me from fulfilling my passions.

The craft items are overshadowed by my ‘paid’ work of jewellery making and when orders come in, everything else is pushed to the side.  The jewellery making supplies are arranged to form a narrative in itself from the tools and process at the front with the stamps pointing towards the finished product.

 

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

There is a wedding photograph placed on the edge of the frame intentionally to give the viewer a sense of there being more to the story. This brings me to the car key on the desk and probably my most ambiguous item.  I’ve pointed it towards the wedding photograph and signifies that I’m the driving force behind my husbands success.  It also represents the amount of driving I do for the children.  I’m worried that the viewer won’t read the car key in the intended double meaning but we have been advised not to be too literal.  It is my way of being creative and inventive when adding to the narrative.

Another demonstration of invention is the child’s tree painting also on the edge of the frame.  There is much more to this part of my life and I’d like the viewer to speculate about it because it ties in with the original intention and idea for the project.  Next to the painting is a mug, the mug in itself represents my status as a mother by its facade but I’ve arranged the pencils to mimc the hand of the tree with the intention of connecting the two together.  This represents the craft side of my life and especially my work with the children in the field of drawing and painting.

The schedules on the wall above my computer are study schedules.  Even with the photograph blown up I think the details are too small to see.  The intention there was to show the status of my schedule with the current date highlighted on the calendar next to it.  If its visible to my viewer they will see that at the time of shooting the photograph for assignment five I was two and a half weeks behind hoping to signify how busy my life coupled with the egg timer ticking away in the various respects I have deadlines to meet.  This idea may not translate as the details are too small to be visible.

Deciding what to show on the computer screen was one of the most difficult aspects of the assignment.  I’m was trying to decide if the photograph of the scene inside the photograph was a bad idea or not.  My thinking was that the repetition of the photograph also represented the repetitive nature of my day to day tasks.  I also think it has aesthetic qualities and adds to the overall effect of the photograph.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

Although I place a heavy emphasis on deconstruction and semiotics for this assignment I feel that the original idea came from reflecting upon what I learnt in Part five of the course.  The idea in itself is as important as the compositional elements that make up the photograph.  I’ve been aware that my photograph can look too staged and not believable so I tried to arrange signifiers as if they were in their natural position.

The research undertaken in preparation for this assignment has been mainly of other photographers work and drawing inspiration from their ideas and also the photographic process.  What interested me was the realisation that you don’t have to take the actual resulting photograph yourself to say something in a visual medium.  Reflecting on research undertaken about the processes used by the elaborate artist, Gregory Crewdson, who has an entourage of professionals working for him from lighting engineers to camera operators helped me to understand the importance of the ‘idea’.  Crewdson doesn’t actually take the photographs himself but it’s his idea and his construction that creates the end result.

Earlier in the course I studied a section on self portraiture which was the real foundation for this assignment.  Seeing the diversity amongst artists when expressing themselves was eye opening.

I’ve created a narrative of my own self portraiture based on an idea that wouldn’t have occurred to me if wasn’t for people like Cindy Sherman, Nikki S. Lee and Nigel Shafran.  I was particularly moved by ‘the dad project’ carried out by Bryony Campbell of an incredibly intimate portrait of her fathers cancer journey and eventual death.

I have concerns over the size of the photograph I’m displaying in this assignment as it will need enlarging to see the different elements more clearly.  I will submit a large printed version for a clearer view at assessment.

Other concerns are whether the composition is pleasing enough to my viewers.  I did have restrictions due to the small size of the room but I made the decision to base the project in my favourite room as I though it would add to the narrative.  I’m sure my viewers won’t know this unless they read it in my comments.

Resources:

http://www.samedifferent.org.uk/exhibitions

http://www.leonorasaunders.co.uk/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be

 

Bibliography:

Short, R. (2011) Context and Narrative. Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Wells, L. (2015) Photography, A critical introduction. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Jeffrey, I. (2000) The Photo Book. London: Phaidon

Bate, D. (2009) Photography the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury

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Response to Tutor Feedback – Assignment Five

Overall Comments

Very complimentary overall comments from my tutor which gives me the confidence to take this image a little further.

One issue I need to deal with:

‘You are right to mention the size and resolution of the image so, as well as a larger scale print, please make sure that there is a higher resolution version of the image on your blog that the assessor can zoom in to where necessary. ‘

Through the process of file types and uploads the image has become quite low resolution so I’ll add a link to the high resolution version and also look at having this image printed in a larger scale.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

When I look at this image, the first impression that I have is that this is a home office that belongs to a neat and organized person who is on top of the various elements of their life. Is this the general impression of ‘you’ that you are trying to convey?

  • Yes.  To me being busy doesn’t mean being messy and unorganised.  In fact to be neat and organised takes even more time and in fact makes me busier.

‘You talk about the misconceptions that other parents have about you based on the evidence that they have at the school drop off but does this image, as it stands, suggest the busy life that you lead?’

  • I think I need to alter my description here as I realise I may have suggested that the school drop off is erratic.  It isn’t.  My son is one of the rare children that is taken into school and collected by  myself every day.  He wears clean uniform every day, has everything he needs, his teeth are cleaned and his hair is brushed.  Other parents assume I don’t work as I’m able to do all these things.  Ultimately my organised self image gives the impression I have time on my hands and I need reword my essay to refute his.
  • Coming back to my tutors comment of ‘does this image suggest the busy life I lead’?  I put lots of key elements into the image to address this but I’m not going to portray being busy as erratic and disorganised because thats simply not who I am.

‘Does this mise en scène refute the ‘lazy’ comment that you refer to in your accompanying description of your process? Certainly the fact that you choose to show an office demonstrates that you do not just ‘sit around all day’ but does it suggest a busy and sometimes stretched wife, mother, photographer, jeweller, student….. etc.?’

  • I personally think the scene refutes the ‘lazy’ comment but of course it is open to interpretation by the viewer.  Barthes penned the term ‘intertextuality’ which basically means that the way we interpret things is dependant of our background and experiences.  As this image is a response to a comment from a mother it can be assumed it is aimed at her and her kind.  Their backgrounds are as parents and therefore will know that as a mother I can’t be lazy.  Especially when I’m so neat and organised.  Add in all the other elements/functions of the image and it reads as a person who has a lot to do.

‘You are right to think about the balance between being ambiguous and obvious in your work and this is certainly something that continually plagues creative people. This, in fact, can get worse as your creative process develops and your own knowledge and ability to evaluate images increases. I am really pleased to see you struggling with this, not because I enjoy witnessing people in turmoil but rather because this is a really important part of your learning process.’

  • This comment has had the biggest impact from all the feedback.  It has taught me that to continually question myself is helping to make me thing deeper about my ideas and how I progress with them.  To be challenged, as I often am, is essential to my learning.  It doesn’t mean I’m not good enough or I’ll never ‘get it’, it means my learning experience is richer.

‘You have included an egg timer to represent your ‘all too often race against the clock’ but most people would associate this object with cooking. Now, in the context of your project, this might not be the end of the world as it also suggests another element of a busy wife and mother’s work schedule, but this side of you is also not overtly suggested either. As your work develops continue to try to hone this ability to make appropriate selections of the elements of an image so that you are more in control of the readings that are made of them.’

  • I’m glad this was picked up on and again it may be better for me to alter my write up.  I mentioned earlier about how I struggled with the balance between giving it all away and ambiguity and it seems that this may be a bit too far on the connotaion side.  A big part of my life is cooking which is why I chose the egg timer to represent this side of my life and also my race against the clock.

‘It is good that you are acting on some of the things that you have learned from your readings of Barthes’ work about the way in which we create meaning from the pictorial elements that are placed in front of us. Have another think about the section in Camera Lucida that talks about the ‘studium’ and ‘punctum’. How would your image be read in these terms? My suggestion would be that you have managed to create a general reading, look or feel (studium) to the image but as it stands, it is the ‘puncum’ (the element that, ‘rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me’) that is perhaps missing.’

  • I agree with this comment and will give a lot of thought to howI’m going to introduce an element to puncture the scene.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

This looks ok.

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

This area of your blog needs much more work, try to clearly show the assessors the books that you have been reading in relation to your work as well as practitioners that you feel cross over (or who are at odds) with your work and ideas. We need to see much more evidence of research outside of your practical experiments.

Tutor Feedback – Assignment Five

Overall Comments

Well done for working hard on this unit Sam and I am sure that you will manage to get all of the necessary work done for your assessment even though it is clear that you have a million things to fit in to each day!

In terms of the work, you present an interesting image that certainly includes clues to all of your various areas of activity and through your description of the process it is clear that this set up took time to organize. I enjoyed hunting through the image like a detective to try to find which elements in the image were important and also what these objects might signify.

You are right to mention the size and resolution of the image so, as well as a larger scale print, please make sure that there is a higher resolution version of the image on your blog that the assessor can zoom in to where necessary.  You have included a lot of quite subtle elements and references in an attempt to guide the viewer in to building a picture of the ideas that you are trying to communicate and in its present form it is difficult to inspect the smaller details.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

When I look at this image, the first impression that I have is that this is a home office that belongs to a neat and organized person who is on top of the various elements of their life. Is this the general impression of ‘you’ that you are trying to convey? You talk about the misconceptions that other parents have about you based on the evidence that they have at the school drop off but does this image, as it stands, suggest the busy life that you lead? Does this mise en scène rufute the ‘lazy’ comment that you refer to in your accompanying description of your process? Certainly the fact that you choose to show an office demonstrates that you do not just ‘sit around all day’ but does it suggest a busy and sometimes stretched wife, mother, photographer, jeweller, student….. etc.?

You are right to think about the balance between being ambiguous and obvious in your work and this is certainly something that continually plagues creative people. This, in fact, can get worse as your creative process develops and your own knowledge and ability to evaluate images increases. I am really pleased to see you struggling with this, not because I enjoy witnessing people in turmoil but rather because this is a really important part of your learning process.

You have certainly worked hard to include a lot of different objects that are trying to ‘represent’ the sometimes erratic pieces of your life jigsaw but you need to be careful that the meaning that the objects signify to you are in line with the reading that the viewer might make. For example, you have included an egg timer to represent your ‘all too often race against the clock’ but most people would associate this object with cooking. Now, in the context of your project, this might not be the end of the world as it also suggests another element of a busy wife and mother’s work schedule, but this side of you is also not overtly suggested either. As your work develops continue to try to hone this ability to make appropriate selections of the elements of an image so that you are more in control of the readings that are made of them.

It is good that you are acting on some of the things that you have learned from your readings of Barthes’ work about the way in which we create meaning from the pictorial elements that are placed in front of us. Have another think about the section in Camera Lucida that talks about the ‘studium’ and ‘punctum’. How would your image be read in these terms? My suggestion would be that you have managed to create a general reading, look or feel (studium) to the image but as it stands, it is the ‘puncum’ (the element that, ‘rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me’) that is perhaps missing. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an obvious thing but I feel that this image needs something to guide the viewer in an more obvious direction that is then undermined by the other meanings associated with the other objects. Perhaps the image on the computer?

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

This looks ok.

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

This area of your blog needs much more work, try to clearly show the assessors the books that you have been reading in relation to your work as well as practitioners that you feel cross over (or who are at odds) with your work and ideas. We need to see much more evidence of research outside of your practical experiments.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

For the assessment, the assessor will want to access the elements of your work quickly and efficiently. Try to organize it so that when they click on the relevant assignment in the menu on the left, the first thing that arrives on screen is the actual assignment –  the work – followed by your reflection and feedback etc. I know that is often blogs are set up to show the most recent post at the top but I am pretty sure you can change this . As an assessor, I often find it irritating to have to scroll down a long list of posts to find the information I need – and you don’t want to irritate the assessor!

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

It would be good to see evidence of further research about the way in which women are depicted in society or even within photography. Start with looking at Martha Rosler and follow the literary references and writings that are associated with her practice – particularly ‘The Semiotics of the Kitchen’. Also look at Sian Bonnell particularly her early work based on absurd domestic settings.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • Have a think about how you would like this final image to be read. Could you suggest something a general sense of the image that is a bit darker, more difficult and less clinical, lighting? Anylise some of your images of your office as it was – the lighting in these pictures is much more evocative and might be a good place to start a rethink?
  • Think about the image on the computer, could this be an element that changes
  • Show more evidence of accompanying visual and literary research.

Assignment Five: Initial Ideas, the decision and plan.

Ideas:

  • Highlighting the complex diversity of the roles carried out by women in todays instant high demand society.
  • What would life be like if a life changing decision had been a different decision and how would it impact other people?
  • There are very photographs of me as a child, what would they look life if there were?
  • If I could choose lives for my sons, what would their life look like?  How would this differ from the life they have made for themselves?  Would my knowledge and wisdom be more valuable if it were to be put into a visual format of scenarios and outcomes?

Which one will work?

It has been a long term idea for me to recreate my own childhood in photographs through memories I have.  At birth my parents took one photograph of me, or at least they thought they did.  It was taken in our back garden being held by my mum and I assume my dad took the photo.  It was February, I was swaddled in blankets and there is no sight of my skin from any angle.  So, they are really photographs of my mum holding a baby wrapped in blankets.

This lack of documentation continued up to the age of eight or nine when my older sister was given a camera for her birthday.

This will be a huge project when I finally work it all out so I don’t think it would be appropriate for this assignment at this time.

The ideas about ‘a different decision’ and ‘photographing wisdom’ are ones that interest me but I don’t feel ready at this time to explore them.

‘The roles of women’ is something that I’m currently feeling the pressure about.  Even as I write I’m being asked questions by my children that their father can answer but they automatically come to me.  This isn’t a bad thing, I want my children to come to me and they should be my priority but I have an impending assignment deadline, holiday washing to get through, a dinner to cook, jewellery orders to fulfil and a VAT return to do.  All very different tasks which require entirely different head space but nonetheless they all require my attention.  This is a typical day for me and it’s no wonder I sometimes put the washing in the oven or write a blog that makes no sense.  A lot is expected of me and I work hard to achieve it so why do I still feel like I’m not successful?  How is society measuring successful women and how damaging can it be?

I started asking these questions of myself after a ‘friend’ made a comment to me that didn’t floor me at the time but its changed the way I maintain my self image.  My friend was looking for a new job and torn between working outdoors or in an office.  I was advising her to go with the job that would make her most happy and would give her family the best balance.  On the one hand she could go to a job that she would enjoy, working three days per week so more time for her children but it was a pro rata salary.  The other job was in an office, work she wouldn’t enjoy, full time but for more money.  She went for the job that would make her miserable, take her away from her children but her need to appear successful far outweighed the problems it would cause.  I asked her how do you measure success and she said by the amount of money she earns.  She didn’t ask me how I measure success probably because I don’t go to a place of work and I’m seen as ‘not working’.

My friend knows how busy I am, she knows the 2.5 businesses I run but she still sees me as not working.  The big blow came when discussing her job choices and she said ‘I wish I could just potter around the all day like you do’.  Suddenly it clicked!  Thats why people say to me ‘you can take that meeting you have more time’ or ‘can you pick up my kid from school as I’m running late, I know you’ll be there’.  Its true I am always there for my children and I am flexible with meeting times but only because my eight hour working day can be any eight hours of the day so I’m ‘available’.  It may mean I have to work from 10pm until 2am to catchup but they don’t see that.

I now make sure I’m seen to be unavailable to stop other people thinking they are more important that me or that their jobs are more important than my job.  I decided a long time ago to put the most importance on my children and husband and everything else I do when I can.  In reality this is how I measure my success by my ability to be a great wife and mother and run a successful business.

This is what I want to show.

The Decision

Highlighting the complex diversity of the roles carried out by women in todays instant high demand society in response to a single comment made by a friend.

What am I and what do I do?

Wife – Supporting husbands career – works away – covers all jobs in house – ensures he has everything he needs
Mother – Look after children – feed – clothe – nurture – organise – entertain – plan – taxi – clean
Photographer – organise clients – studio photoshoots – maintain website – edit photos
Jewellery Maker – maintain website – take orders – make jewellery – create new designs – research and development – update social media pages – dispatch
Student – study – carry out research – carry out exercises – update blog – refelection – forums – help other students
Book keeper – book keeping – VAT returns – PAYE – annual returns – accountant contact – record keeping
PTA Chairperson – organise events – raise funds – communicate to parents and teachers – attend functions
Crafter – knitting – clay making – painting – drawing – sewing – maker

Where do I spend most of my time?

Kitchen
Office
Studio
Workshop
School

If I use a series of photographs with all the different elements it won’t have the desired impact.  I need to encompass all my roles into one room without using a literal approach.  Which room can I use to obtain one image with all the elements in?  I’d like to use my favourite room which will add to the narrative.

The room I love to spend time in is my office.  It has the most light, its modern, mainly white and very clean and is the place I go to when I need some head space enabling me to better juggle all of my roles.

What do I consider the roles I want to highlight to appear more successful?

To ‘appear’ more successful to other people I would order my roles as the following:

Jewellery maker
Photographer
Book keeper
Student
PTA Chairperson
Mother
Wife
Crafter

Do I want to put an element of each role into the photograph?  

I think I need to in order to show how varied my roles are.  If I leave anything out I appear less busy.

What props will I use?

Jewellery maker ~ Keyrings on a stand ~ hammer and stamps ~ jewellery magazine
Photographer ~ Camera ~ editing software on computer ~ Newborn prop
Book keeper ~ invoices ~ calculator
Student ~ Photography books ~ OCA folder
PTA Chairperson ~ fundraising poster ~ events print out on wall
Mother ~ photograph of family ~ egg timer set ~ karate certificate on wall
Wife ~ wedding photograph
Crafter ~ knitting pattern ~ arm knitted cowl on chair

The set-up

I’m using my office to setup my scene.  It currently has other peoples elements present so I need remove them and clear my desk.  The lighting will be better if I move my desk to another wall as the light coming in from the window will highlight the items on the desk.  Its a dull day so I can envisage some quite natural moody lighting which is consistent with my photography style and will add to the narrative.  If the light isn’t right at the time I will use studio lamp directing light in the opposite direction to the window.

I drew a sketch of how I want the scene to look and where I would place my signifiers:

scan-2017-8-30-12-08-08.jpg

I’ll attempt to physically recreate this scene. Firstly I needed to clear away the clutter that wasn’t relevant to the narrative.

Once the conflicting items had been removed I was left with a blank canvas to build my story on.

300817_0297

At this stage I only have natural light coming in from the window.  I plan to put my signifiers in place and set up the lighting.  I also need to decide on the correct lens to use as this wide angle lens is is distorting the image.

Scan 2017-8-30 15.39.00

I now have everything I need to carry out the project.

N.B. I have decided to drop the PTA Chair role from my project as I plan to resign soon due to a heavy workload!

 

Assignment Five First Draft – Making It Up

Assignment 5 First Draft

The production of this still life image is a continuation on a theme from Assignment three where I created a visual diary depicting ‘a change of scenery’ meaning that a mothers role doesn’t pause for holidays.  The diary and this project are a response to a comment made to me by a woman torn between having time for her children or a full time job.  The comment made was “I’d love to potter around the house like you all day”.  She chose the full time job.

From this single comment I became interested in the way I was viewed by other women and the preconceptions they build about other women based on the pocket of time during an average week day known as ‘the school run’.

The chaos of the morning rush ensues around me with mums and dads desperate to hand over their children and race in their expensive cars to their 9am jobs. They look and feel very important compared to their children who are wearing yesterdays dinner stained jumper and screaming out for an ounce of attention.  If this is what success looks like, what do I look like with my calm exterior and pauses for my sons every whim?

I took inspiration from the ‘Same but Different‘ project by photographer Leonora Saunders which is a creative project from Business in the Community’s gender equality campaign, that celebrates and shines a light on the diversity of women in our workplaces.

The idea for this assignment shines a light on the diversity of women who ‘stay at home’ and in particular how they are perceived by others compared to the reality of their everyday lives.  My final image is the realistic response to another woman’s perception of me and what I do all day, every day of the week.

 

 

The Making of ‘Making It Up’

Once the decision was made to expand on assignment threes self portrait theme I needed to make a plan of how I would execute the project.  I carried out a mind map relevant to the subject as a starting point.

Who am I and what do I do?

Wife – Supporting husbands career – works away – covers all jobs in house – ensures he has everything he needs
Mother – Look after children – feed – clothe – nurture – organise – entertain – plan – taxi – clean
Photographer – organise clients – studio photoshoots – maintain website – edit photos
Jewellery Maker – maintain website – take orders – make jewellery – create new designs – research and development – update social media pages – dispatch
Student – study – carry out research – carry out exercises – update blog – refelection – forums – help other students
Book keeper – book keeping – VAT returns – PAYE – annual returns – accountant contact – record keeping
PTA Chairperson – organise events – raise funds – communicate to parents and teachers – attend functions
Crafter – knitting – clay making – painting – drawing – sewing – maker

Where do I spend most of my time?

I need to encompass all my roles into one room without using a literal approach.  If I use a series of photographs with all the different elements it won’t have the desired impact.  Which room can I use to obtain one image with all the elements in?  I’d like to use my favourite room which will add to the narrative which is my office.  It has the most light, its modern, mainly white and very clean and is the place I go to when I need some head space enabling me to better juggle all of my roles.

What do I consider the roles I want to highlight to appear more successful?

To ‘appear’ more successful to other people I would order my roles as the following:

Jewellery maker
Photographer
Book keeper
Student
PTA Chairperson
Mother
Wife
Crafter

Do I want to put an element of each role into the photograph?  

I think I need to in order to show how varied my roles are.  If I leave anything out I appear less busy.

What props will I use?

Jewellery maker ~ Keyrings on a stand ~ hammer and stamps ~ jewellery magazine
Photographer ~ Camera ~ editing software on computer ~ Newborn prop
Book keeper ~ invoices ~ calculator
Student ~ Photography books ~ OCA folder
PTA Chairperson ~ fundraising poster ~ events print out on wall
Mother ~ photograph of family ~ egg timer set ~ karate certificate on wall
Wife ~ wedding photograph
Crafter ~ knitting pattern ~ arm knitted cowl on chair

The set-up

I’m using my office to setup my scene.  It currently has other peoples elements present so I need remove them and clear my desk.  The lighting will be better if I move my desk to another wall as the light coming in from the window will highlight the items on the desk.  Its a dull day so I can envisage some quite natural moody lighting which is consistent with my photography style and will add to the narrative.  If the light isn’t right at the time I will use studio lamp directing light in the opposite direction to the window.

I drew a sketch of how I want the scene to look and where I would place my signifiers:

scan-2017-8-30-12-08-08.jpg

I’ll attempt to physically recreate this scene. Firstly I needed to clear away the clutter that wasn’t relevant to the narrative.

Once the conflicting items had been removed I was left with a blank canvas to build my story on.

300817_0297

At this stage I only had natural light coming in from the window.  I planned to put my signifiers in place and set up the lighting.  I also need to decide on the correct lens to use as this wide angle lens is is distorting the image.

Scan 2017-8-30 15.39.00

With everything in place I shot around 40 photographs using different camera settings and moving items around slightly.  The final image was shot with a 4 second exposure to capture as much detail as possible.  As it was getting quite last in the day I needed to use a studio lamp and a diffused flash gun to bounce light from the ceiling.

the setupThe setup

N.B. I have decided to drop the PTA Chair role from my project as I plan to resign soon due to a heavy workload!

 

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

The props I chose to include in the narrative were items I use regularly and were easy to source.  The egg timer which symbolises my all too often race against the clock had to be purchased to replace the digital version I use on my mobile phone.  I couldn’t give a good visual representation of time ticking away using my mobile phone and thought a mechanical egg timer to be a not too literal but visual aid.

The photograph needed to include a lot of signifiers to represent the various roles I undertake.  I decided to compose the image in a corner of my office rather than just the desk.  The reason for this is that I didn’t want a cluttered desk as I don’t live my life in clutter and this wouldn’t represent who I am.  I also wanted to produce a clean organised image and so composed it to reflect this.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The contents of the photograph were carefully placed in sections to create a separation between them all.  The viewer can clearly see the various elements in a coherent manner.  The knowledge gained in Parts Four and Five of the course were of particular use for this assignment.  I reflected on the sections on Deconstruction by Jaques Derrida and semiotics  by Roland Barthes.  In the construction of my final image I had to continually deconstruct it see if I had achieved the desired narrative.

Every item has been carefully constructed for a specific reason to signify a specific role.  Some items are obvious for example, the photography books on the shelf.  Why didn’t I place just one book as a signifier? Its because of what I want signified and my attempt at controlling the meaning.  Many books signify a vast interest and placed directly next to College folders go further to suggest the originators field of study.  The invoices and receipts on their own may seem to be a pile of household filing but with the addition of a calculator I’m demonstrating there is work to be done.

I’ve placed my personal craft items furthest away from the camera and slightly obscured as this role is something I rarely get time to do.  I’d like more time to be creative but there always seems to be something more important or urgent to do preventing me from fulfilling my passions.

The craft items are overshadowed by my ‘paid’ work of jewellery making and when orders come in, everything else is pushed to the side.  The jewellery making supplies are arranged to form a narrative in itself from the tools and process at the front with the stamps pointing towards the finished product.

 

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

There is a wedding photograph placed on the edge of the frame intentionally to give the viewer a sense of there being more to the story. This brings me to the car key on the desk and probably my most ambiguous item.  I’ve pointed it towards the wedding photograph and signifies that I’m the driving force behind my husbands success.  It also represents the amount of driving I do for the children.  I’m worried that the viewer won’t read the car key in the intended double meaning but we have been advised not to be too literal.  It is my way of being creative and inventive when adding to the narrative.

Another demonstration of invention is the child’s tree painting also on the edge of the frame.  There is much more to this part of my life and I’d like the viewer to speculate about it because it ties in with the original intention and idea for the project.  Next to the painting is a mug, the mug in itself represents my status as a mother by its facade but I’ve arranged the pencils to mimc the hand of the tree with the intention of connecting the two together.  This represents the craft side of my life and especially my work with the children in the field of drawing and painting.

The schedules on the wall above my computer are study schedules.  Even with the photograph blown up I think the details are too small to see.  The intention there was to show the status of my schedule with the current date highlighted on the calendar next to it.  If its visible to my viewer they will see that at the time of shooting the photograph for assignment five I was two and a half weeks behind hoping to signify how busy my life coupled with the egg timer ticking away in the various respects I have deadlines to meet.  This idea may not translate as the details are too small to be visible.

Deciding what to show on the computer screen was one of the most difficult aspects of the assignment.  I’m was trying to decide if the photograph of the scene inside the photograph was a bad idea or not.  My thinking was that the repetition of the photograph also represented the repetitive nature of my day to day tasks.  I also think it has aesthetic qualities and adds to the overall effect of the photograph.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

Although I place a heavy emphasis on deconstruction and semiotics for this assignment I feel that the original idea came from reflecting upon what I learnt in Part five of the course.  The idea in itself is as important as the compositional elements that make up the photograph.  I’ve been aware that my photograph can look too staged and not believable so I tried to arrange signifiers as if they were in their natural position.

The research undertaken in preparation for this assignment has been mainly of other photographers work and drawing inspiration from their ideas and also the photographic process.  What interested me was the realisation that you don’t have to take the actual resulting photograph yourself to say something in a visual medium.  Reflecting on research undertaken about the processes used by the elaborate artist, Gregory Crewdson, who has an entourage of professionals working for him from lighting engineers to camera operators helped me to understand the importance of the ‘idea’.  Crewdson doesn’t actually take the photographs himself but it’s his idea and his construction that creates the end result.

Earlier in the course I studied a section on self portraiture which was the real foundation for this assignment.  Seeing the diversity amongst artists when expressing themselves was eye opening.

I’ve created a narrative of my own self portraiture based on an idea that wouldn’t have occurred to me if wasn’t for people like Cindy Sherman, Nikki S. Lee and Nigel Shafran.  I was particularly moved by ‘the dad project’ carried out by Bryony Campbell of an incredibly intimate portrait of her fathers cancer journey and eventual death.

I have concerns over the size of the photograph I’m displaying in this assignment as it will need enlarging to see the different elements more clearly.  I will submit a large printed version for a clearer view at assessment.

Other concerns are whether the composition is pleasing enough to my viewers.  I did have restrictions due to the small size of the room but I made the decision to base the project in my favourite room as I though it would add to the narrative.  I’m sure my viewers won’t know this unless they read it in my comments.

Resources:

http://www.samedifferent.org.uk/exhibitions

http://www.leonorasaunders.co.uk/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be

 

Bibliography:

Short, R. (2011) Context and Narrative. Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Wells, L. (2015) Photography, A critical introduction. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Jeffrey, I. (2000) The Photo Book. London: Phaidon

Bate, D. (2009) Photography the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury

Assignment Four Submission – A picture is worth a thousand words

August SanderFig 1. Young Farmers (1914)

Todays world is saturated with countless images in many media formats meaning we have a tendency to skim over them missing the finer points.  However, this cannot be said for the first time I happened across ‘Young Farmers’ a striking photograph taken by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) which has had me mesmerised by the elements within it.

A heavy concentration on social classes formed the apotheosis of Sanders life work.  This photograph is from his series entitled, ‘The Farmer’.  Other series of his work includes, The Artists, The skilled Tradesmen and classes and professions.  In these works, Sander draws attention to the subjects social classes which is in contrast to what other photographs of the time were doing.  Many portraits were composed to hide the subjects class, very often by dressing up in finer clothing than they could afford and being placed in a setting they could only dream of.  This type of portrait photography allowed people to escape from their trappings if only for a moment and ingrained in time by the finished product.  Sanders did the opposite, his photographs were very carefully composed to include all the information a viewer would need to expose their social class.  With such a big emphasis on social class Sanders never referred to his subjects class status, instead they were referred to by their occupation and therefore extending the information offered to the viewer.  In this instance Sanders has given the title, ‘Young Farmers’ so we already know two things about them, they are young and farmers.  This in consistent throughout his work.

We can see three young men, all dressed similar, in fact they probably all look the same from the rear view.  They are all holding canes, walking along a dirt track in what appears to be a vast background of fields which is consistent with what we know about them via their title.  Their heads are sitting just above the horizon line, I’m not sure if this is intentional and symbolic of their lives; keeping their heads above water?   Most of Sanders portraits look posed however these young farmers look like they’ve been stopped in their tracks.  They still have one foot pointing towards their destination as if they are eager to get there.  I’m wondering where have they come from?  Are they farm owners or labourers?  How far have they walked?  Do they have wives at home or moms and dads?  Are they going out to seek wives and begin their adult journey?

We can interpret what we see in the photograph and draw certain assumptions from it’s context.  The man on the left is emulating many signs of being a labourer or peasant with his unkept hair peeking through the rim of his hat and the cigarette casually resting on his lips.  His gaze communicates with a no nonsense attitude almost as if his difficult life is worn on his face.  His cane, which is far too big for him, sits aslant  in comparison to the other two men who have more of a perpendicular stance.  Could the man on the left of the photograph have borrowed his cane from someone far taller.  Is he too poor to buy his own?  Then how can he afford a suit?  The answer lies in the point in history when suits became prêt-à-porter and affordable to all.  In the early 1900’s Suits ceased to be exclusive to the higher earning professionals who wore tailored clothing.  Throughout the 1800’s and prior, clothing was a clear indicator for the separation of the classes.  However with the introduction of ready to wear garments segregation became less obvious.  Wearing an ‘off the peg’ suit would say as much about a person as not wearing one at all.  Look at the shorter man on the left; his trousers are far too long for him; if this suit was made by a tailor the hem of the trouser would fall neatly on his shoe.  This is replicated on his friends suggesting they are all in the same class.  Another class give away is the mere fact that they’re walking to the dance and not driving.  There weren’t any restrictions on drink driving back then so if they owned a car, they would have driven the car to the dance.

In relation to their suits being suggestive of caste, they are also a clue as to where the men are heading.  We may assume they are heading to church but there are certain important signifiers within the photograph that tell us otherwise.  Wearing their best clothing, suited and booted, their classic catalogue pose is reciprocal of the advertisements in magazines and newspapers for such garments of the time and indicative of how special they are feeling too.  In the era the photograph was taken they would have been heading for a county dance meeting local people for drinking, dancing and socialising although I could see the man on the left getting into mischief by judgement of his demeanour.  The man in the middle looks far more relaxed and even starts to break a smile, perhaps he just wants to look his absolute best for the photograph.  Imagine if they had known how famous their photograph would be.  The man on the right looks more anxious almost as if he objects to being stopped and photographed.  He could however be uncomfortable as a suit isn’t his usual attire?  Why are we so sure the evidence in this photograph tells us these men were poor?

In his essay  ‘The suit and the photograph’, John Berger talks about how there is a lot of descriptive information in this photograph to identify many facts about the three young men however, he only wants to consider one thing: their suits.

‘The fundamental reason why the suits, far from disguising the social class of those who wore them, underlined and emphasised it.  Their suits deform them.  Wearing them, they look as though they are physically misshapen’  (Berger, 1980:30)

The photograph doesn’t give much insight into the quality of the suits but it can tell us that the farmers were part of a class that didn’t know how to wear them.

Bibliography:

Fig 1. Sander, A. (1914) Young Farmers. At http://augustsander.org/md20jh/motives/view/15 (accessed 03/08/17)

Berger, J. 1990. About Looking. Paperback Edition. London: Bloomsbury

Clarke, G. 1997. The Photograph. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wells L. 2015. Photography A Critical Introduction. 5th ed. Oxon: Routledge.

https://www.artsy.net/artist/august-sander

The Art of Photograhy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3RnfgRf2ec

http://the-space-in-between.com/category/short-writing-about-singular-images/

http://augustsander.org/md20jh/portfolios/view/2

Self Evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Not applicable as the assignment is a critique of someone else’s photograph.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

What I learnt about Deconstruction and semiotics through carrying out the coursework was essential to the production of this essay.  I applied the tools for deconstruction to this photograph and uncovered most of the clues although sometimes I’ve made assumptions and maybe interpreted differently to others.  The communication of my ideas is backed up with facts from history to appear more convincing to my viewers.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

This essay has a lot to do with connotation and the imagination has been stretched to uncover parts of the narrative.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.

I researched Roland Barthes, Semiotics theory to uncover the narrative in the photograph.  To write the essay in an academic style I studied various guides from the OCA student portal.  Having said that, I need to undertake further research in essay writing and improve my style.

 

 

Response to Tutor Feedback – Assignment Four

Overall Comments

The overall comments from my tutor for this assignment were very good.  He states that I managed to identify the most important elements of the chosen image.

Feedback on Assignment

Initial comments are regarding my writing style and that it needs to be more academic.  I agree with this statement and will place more importance on researching this subject.  I found a useful guide on the OCA student website called ‘Academic Essay Writing’ and having read it, my tutors comments fall perfectly into place.

There is a section on structuring essays and it suggests thinking of essays in three sections, introduction, middle section and conclusion.  This is very helpful in keeping thoughts within a specified section so as not to digress into others.  My sentence structure needs the most work as I tend to flit between writing as the first person and the third person all in the same essay.  It is suggested in the guide to write academic essays as the third person and I will reword my original essay to reflect this.

As the majority of the feedback is regarding the structure of my essay and not the actual content I will improve upon the writing whilst creating the necessary structures to make it more legible for assessment.

Tutors suggestions

  • Improve the amount and quality of your own reflection
  • As you research for assignment five, make sure that you include all of your pertinent research leading up to your final submission

I still have more work to do in this area.  The speed at which I’ve had to surge through the course has left little time for reflection but I intend to make sure these additions are in place before the assessment deadline.