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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Jeffrey, I. (2000) The Photo Book. London: Phaidon
Bate, D. (2009) Photography the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury