In which I start to feel a bit of panic as I try and clarify my problems with assignment 1.
It’s been a busy few weeks. It’s a few days before my first assignment is due in and my ideas still haven’t coalesced yet. I’m not panicking, but I know if I don’t get the work done very soon now then I will.
I have a problem: I realise that what I usually do with photography is see an image and capture it. I know that I see images that other people don’t notice; I’ve had many people comment on my composition skills and the fact that I see things they don’t. My problem is that for this assignment, I can’t do that. I can’t just go and look for pretty pictures. If I had to do that locally, I’d have no problem. But I have to find or create images that communicate a complex idea and set of feelings, and I’ve never done that before. I have considered staged images and have sketched out rough ideas of the images I could create that I hope would communicate some of my ideas, but it would take too long for this first quick assignment, and also I think I’d have to be in some of them. I could set up my camera on a tripod, use one of my children to stand in for me so I can sort out the technical aspects of the shot, and then I could use the remote control on my phone to take the images with me in them. But I can’t do it in this time period, so although it’s something I could work on long term, it’s not a viable option at the moment. I’m not sure if staged images ‘count’ either. And although I have quite a clear idea of what the images would look like, I would have to expose more of myself physically and emotionally than I feel comfortable with at the moment.
I have always felt very uncomfortable in front of a camera. I don’t like people taking photos of me, and not many exist. In fact, it’s only really been in the past year that I’ve pointed a camera at myself and I still find it incredibly unsettling. The idea of being in front of a camera is very difficult. Looking at myself is very hard, although I’m trying to push myself a little by putting ‘selfies’ on Instagram, even if they are usually pictures where I am effectively hidden behind my camera, or reflected in a window or mirror.
When I look at some of the ideas I’ve sketched out, I think I am picking up ideas from an exhibition in the Tate Modern I saw before I started the course. I don’t remember the name of the artist. When I first saw her work I didn’t like it and I thought it was irrelevant, but for some reason some of her ideas come to mind when I think about my feelings of disconnect and how I could represent them. I have tried to find out who she is, but I think I will have to find out when I next visit.
On 26th July 2017 I took my children to The Tate Modern and I saw some images by Daido Moriyama. By the time I’d reached them one of my children was sick to death of it all so I didn’t get time to really pause and look, but I plan to go back and spend time looking at his work very soon as it really stood out to me.
I have always wanted a polaroid or instant camera, and I could never really justify buying one, but when thinking about this assignment it suddenly felt very important so I have gone ahead and bought a Lomo’ Instant Wide camera. I took some images – just four at the moment, but for some reason knowing there were only 10 shots on the film gave me an immediate feeling for 10 shots I’d take locally. It was a really exciting feeling, even though I thought the first one had gone wrong as the image took much longer than I thought it would to appear. There is something about the immediate physicality of it, holding the print, waiting for it to develop that makes each image seem really special even if it’s not perfectly focused, exposed or generally as planned (and for me right now, it’s not).
The idea of the images being unpredictable and imperfect is important to me, and I think it’s because part of my issues of disconnect locally are around the idea of life being entirely predictable, the people, animals and crops around me are a monoculture. I feel frustrated that nature is being wrapped up and commodified by The National Trust so it is safe and saleable. I feel more alive in cities, where things are less predictable and safe. My digital camera and iPhone seem to be too predictable.
I haven’t been well since the end of July and I haven’t been taking photographs that I need to take. I won’t make not feeling well an excuse; my friend Steven Ford was very sick and in a wheelchair yet he managed to take his camera everywhere. I really can’t say a bad cold dragging out for 3 weeks stopped me; I will think of him and know it’s an excuse.
At the beginning of August I realised that I was having a serious issue as I seemed incapable of taking a single image of my local area except through a window – of my house, my car or one of the local cafes. So I got my digital camera and went out into my back garden and decided I would take at least 100 photographs. I took about 160 in the garden and in the house. I just took photographs without any thought given to anything other than representing what was there in stark terms. In fact, I think I was almost pleased when I found ugliness and decay as that seemed a sign of my disconnected feelings. It shows I have ceased to care for my immediate environment. Perhaps in some images I think I can see an underlying beauty coming through from a time when I felt connected and planned a future here, but I look at the chaos and colour in my immediate environment and wonder if I am subconsciously creating my own sense of unpredictability and fun to make up for the hurt I feel about being different, and being different not being okay here? However, on reflection it was no different to sitting in my car or looking out of my window and taking photographs. In fact, it was worse because it was literally ‘in my own backyard’.
The main thing that makes me different here is the mezuzah that belongs on my front door post. It’s no longer on the door post, but the holes from where it went are still there. I belonged here until I put that up, and when I put it up people worked out that I didn’t belong here at all. So maybe that needs to be part of my assignment. Maybe it needs to be what Blandford thinks about me as much as what I think about Blandford. The final nail in the coffin for me was Brexit and the local response to it. That’s the day that my belief that people were actually not as racist and isolationist as they seemed evaporated into a firm knowledge that I’m living in a place where many residents really don’t want anyone different here.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daidō_Moriyama on 1/8/17.