AD7000 – Major Project Initial Proposal

Initial Draft Proposal

The place of photography: memory, time and mortality.

Why do we cherish family photos, why do we feverishly archive; collating and dating old black and white prints in to bound albums, storing iphone photos onto Instagram accounts? These questions I have explored over the last 2 years, drawing on my personal experience, but also investigating and researching the experience of my peers. My research has so far been a journey that has taken me off on several paths, but along the way I realised my interest is honed to the issues which fundamentally flow form these questions: the influence of images on memory, why memories change and why we interpret images differently in time.

From the discussions in the 70’s raised by Susan Sontag in her work ‘On Photography’(1977) of the power of photography in shaping society and Barthes’ photographic inquiry’s in ‘Camera Lucida’ (1980), we have come to understand the significance to personal and social histories of the photographic image. The position of self within personal relationships, within family and in society is often understood within of the conventions of the photographic image. Annette Kuhn, professor in Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London, has provided the work, ‘Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination’, which is an excellent example of the concerns of visual communication, cultural and personal histories. This work is very poignant for the research into childhood memories and is preceded by the influential research on this matter by Marianne Hirsch. In her work ‘Family Frames’, (1997) Hirsch, a leading academic in the research of memories and the transmission of memory writes about the important considerations of photographic representation and the construction of family relationships. Hirsch looks at how photographs can have the duality to represent for us a sense of cultural social security, and at the same time mask social failure and dysfunctions.

Such important questions of the relationship between photography and memory, yet there is another important consideration to make which David Bate raised in his paper ‘The Memory of Photography’ (2010); the manner and capacity one has to remember and recall. Bates asks us to consider this quote from Sigmund Freud:

‘If I distrust my memory – neurotics, as we know, do so to a remarkable extent, but normal people have every reason for doing so as well – I am able to supplement and guarantee its working by making a note in writing. In that case the surface upon which this note is preserved, the pocket-book or sheet of paper, is as it were a materialized portion of my mnemic apparatus, which I otherwise carry about with me invisibly. I have only to bear in mind the place where this “memory” has been deposited and I can then “reproduce” it at any time I like, with the certainty that it will have remained unaltered and so have escaped the possible distortions to which it might have been subjected in my actual memory. (“The ‘Mystic Writing-pad’” 429)

And yet with all the acknowledgements of false and changing interpretations of images of the past we are certain of the place of photography and as an “aide-memoire”, a tool to explore and extract

ideas and beliefs from our subconscious minds. To explore the use of photography in this way; a process more aligned to a psychotherapy is not new. Photo-Therapy was a term coined by Jo Spence in her work with Rosy Martin on the relationship of photography and subject. Adopting techniques from co-counselling, the subject was able to act out narrative and claim ownership of their own representation. Many current collaborative projects using photography to promote self-advocacy have their legacy with the work of Spence and Martin.

My latest body of work (exhibited June/July 2018) was driven from a series of formal interviews with project participants, discussing personal memories linked to photographs and objects. The final pieces were developed as mixed media objects (assorted vintage mirrors framing a collage of old photographs).

‘These mirror framed collages were conceptual representations manifested from a participatory research project concerned with memories.’

This project united for me several themes which that have run throughout the history of photography and into much contemporary practice – our desire to hold onto moments that recede into the past, and to visit experiences as a way of coming to terms with our histories and the present. This will continue be the focus of my practical work going forward.

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AD7000 Objects/Memories- Ideas Development

Creating memories into objects

Creating a montage of photographs designed with ‘forget-me-nots’ form collected and found vintage frames.

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BOOKS & ALBUMS

In order to contextualise some of the images that I had selected from the albums the family albums of K  E and S. I have scanned them and produced a small book (layout below). Turning pages and being confronted with images after one another allows a journey of thoughts and creates a narrative. As the viewer we conjure stories and relationships between the characters; like detectives we look at the settings, the scene –  was it a holiday, a family occasion, a birthday or a formal portrait family? We marry together scenarios of our experience with the images we are viewing.

The album like the framing and the border around the photograph becomes like a border around our lives at different times.

POTENTIAL BOOK LAY OUT 7cm x7cm

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AD7904 – Professional Development

A report to examine the current contemporary position of a potential participatory action research project that will inform the use of photographic imagery for explorations of memory and transmitted memories to overcome emotional trauma and loss. The project will involve aspects of participatory art; specifically, creative narrative-based activities, image capture and performance.

Participatory action research is a current and very relevant process of enquiry conducted by and for participants of the project. Photography has established itself as important tool for activities facilitating and aiding to self-advocacy. I am interested in gathering research which will support my work on post-memory and inform my understanding of the potential of art/photo-therapy to support positive mental health and wellbeing. In order to do this, I will be considering work which has been previously published, I will look at national and local creative support networks, access current information on socially engaged practice, establish a sound research strategy with consideration to ethical issues and look to the possibilities for funding.

From the discussions in the 70’s raised by Susan Sontag in her work ‘On Photography’(1977) of the power of photography in shaping society and Barthes’ photographic inquiry’s in ‘Camera Lucida’ (1980), we have come to understand the significance to personal and social histories of the photographic image. The position of self within personal relationships, within family and in society is often understood within of the conventions of the photographic image. Annette Kuhn, professor in Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London, has provided the work, ‘Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination’, which is an excellent example of the concerns of visual communication, cultural and personal histories. This work is very poignant for the research into childhood memories and is preceded by the influential research on this matter by Marianne Hirsch. In her work ‘Family Frames’, (1997) Hirsch, a leading academic in the research of memories and the transmission of memory writes about the important considerations of photographic representation and the construction of family relationships. Hirsch looks at how photographs can have the duality to represent for us a sense of cultural social security, and at the same time mask social failure and dysfunctions.

Such important questions of the relationship between photography and memory, yet there is another important consideration to make which David Bate raised in his paper ‘The Memory of Photography’ (2010); the manner and capacity one has to remember and recall. Bates asks us to consider this quote from Sigmund Freud:

‘If I distrust my memory – neurotics, as we know, do so to a remarkable extent, but normal people have every reason for doing so as well – I am able to supplement and guarantee its working by making a note in writing. In that case the surface upon which this note is preserved, the pocket-book or sheet of paper, is as it were a materialized portion of my mnemic apparatus, which I otherwise carry about with me invisibly. I have only to bear in mind the place where this “memory” has been deposited and I can then “reproduce” it at any time I like, with the certainty that it will have remained unaltered and so have escaped the possible distortions to which it might have been subjected in my actual memory. (“The ‘Mystic Writing-pad’” 429)

And yet with all the acknowledgements of false and changing interpretations of images of the past we are certain of the place of photography and as an “aide-memoire”, a tool to explore and extract ideas and beliefs from our subconscious minds. To explore the use of photography in this way; a process more aligned to a psychotherapy is not new. Photo-Therapy was a term coined by Jo Spence in her work with Rosy Martin on the relationship of photography and subject. Adopting techniques from co-counselling, the subject was able to act out narrative and claim ownership of their own representation. Many current collaborative projects using photography to promote self-advocacy have their legacy with the work of Spence and Martin.

PhotoVoice is a current charity that has been set up to work in conjunction with national and international community-based organisations to promote the use of participation photography in the use of storytelling and promotion of self-advocacy to socially excluded groups. Their mission statement reads, ‘to promote the ethical use of photography for positive social change, through delivering innovative participatory photography projects’. Their vision ‘is for a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story’.

A significant case study for an action research project; In 2015 PhotoVoice worked with Corma a UK based charity set up to support Vulnerable and young people. This Project was in conjunction with the ‘Adoptables’ organisation which helps to facilitate understanding and expression of experience for young people affected by adoption. As with all PhotoVoice projects there is considerable emphasis on advocacy. Digital workshops for 15 yr olds with adoption experience were held providing them with the tools and skills to explore and share their experiences in relation to the adoption and support network. The work produced from these participation workshops gave information and was insightful to professionals as to how to better support young people through the adoption process and the activity itself was empowering for the young people that participated. An exhibition of captioned images was produced from the images produced, which highlighted issues around adoption, informing many of the agencies that are involved in the process.

Locally, Art Shape are a charity established in 1993 that run countywide art programmes with a focus on disability and social inclusion. Art shape are a founding member of Create Gloucestershire, a ‘collaborative laboratory for change’. Create Gloucestershire offer a platform for organisations and individuals to develop arts strategies for and by practitioners. Research, ideas and thinking are encouraged by Create Gloucestershire to promote arts in Gloucestershire by the network of artists, organisations and strategic partner across different sectors. Typical opportunities for participation by the vast network of members are the current ‘Photography with Mindfulness’ workshops’ run by Ruth Davey as part of her ‘Look Again’ projects. ‘Look Again’ promotes the use of photography and mindfulness as tools to see life and the world differently. Ruth Davey collaborates with, health practitioners and specialist coaches.

Access to relevant current and contemporary professional development opportunities and networking for collaboration are presented at festivals and symposiums. An important up and coming event to attend this June in Plymouth is ‘Social Making: Socially Engaged Practice Now and Next’. Access to such events allows for the exposure ot he most current debates and expertise. Feeling Images: Photography’s Relationship with Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing Symposium, was one such recent event with specific relevance. Patrick Graham talked about using photography to explore his relationship with his estranged father and coming to terms with his sense of self. Sian Davey spoke about her photographic practice in relation to photography, health and wellbeing, and how it was informed by her background as a trained Psychotherapist. And Rosey Martin, discussed her re-enactment photography through the aforementioned landmark collaboration with Jo Spence.

Participatory action research requires strategy and ultimately funding. National funding; Arts Council England invest public money via grants and bursaries. Arts Council England  also support other agencies that offer funding. A-N, the artist information company provide bursaries for research, Nesta support a small number of ideas that meet their aims, through grant funding, direct investment or challenge prizes. Currently Nesta offer a ‘Good Help Award’, an award for organisations or individuals that demonstrate they are helping people transform their lives by helping them develop their sense of purpose and confidence to take action. Visual Arts South West is typical in its regional approach to supporting arts initiatives, as well as offering valuable information to support access funding. Last month VASW organised a fundraising work shop; ‘Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy for small organisations & artists’. This was an insightful event presented by Amanda Rigali from Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy at Spike Island, Bristol.

As with funding applications, research projects need strategy. In the early 1990’s Caroline Wang and Mary Ann Burris created the action research strategy; Photovoice methodology. Over the last 20 years it has become increasingly used in photographic participatory project design namely in the fields of education, public health, disability and mental health. Using ‘ethnographic techniques that combine photography, critical dialogue, and experiential knowledge, participants reflect on and communicate their communities’ concerns to represent their culture to expose social problems and to ignite social change’ (Burris, M., and C. Wang. 1997)

Ethical issues will arise as part of participatory work, particularly within the field of photography and image making particularly the resulting imagery may be used publicly. There are a range of issues that will potentially arise with different projects. If these issues are not given consideration, before and during the project, there is the potential for the project to do more harm than good to the participants. It will be imperative to make an assessment of risk, establishing ground rules, giving participant choices, operating with caution, (particularly around emotional and mental health) ensuring confidentiality, and anonymity where appropriate.

Participation and collaboration are the key elements to the research project, having suitable participants, expert support, appropriate space and extra personal to facilitate will be vital to a successful outcome. Information about the project and appropriate promotion can ensure the most appropriate individuals are selected for participation and supporting roles Promotion may take the form of a precursor event, exhibition of previous work, ideas in progress, discussion groups and guess talks. Warwickshire Open Studios is an organisation helping visual artists across the Warwickshire area connect with art-lovers who enjoy, buy, commission and participate in their work. As a member exhibitioner, show casing my proposed research project, with current work in progress at this summer’s open studio event in June will be an ideal opportunity to enlist interested participants.

 

Bibliography

Burris, M., and C. Wang. 1997. “Application of Photovoice to Participatory Needs Assessment.” Health Education & Behaviour 24: 369–387

Freud, Sigmund. 1984. “The ‘Mystic Writing-pad.’”. In On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis, Edited by: Freud, Pelican. Vol. 11, 427–433. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1925

Hirsch, Marianne (1997) Family Frames, Harvard University Press: Cambridge,Massachusetts and London England.

King. N. (2000) Memory, Narrative, Identity: Remembering the Self (Tendencies: Identities, Texts, Cultures) Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh UK

Kuhn, Annette (2002) Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, Verso: London,England

https://www.creategloucestershire.co.uk

https://artshape.co.uk

https://photovoice.org

https://www.warwickshireopenstudios.org

AD7802 – Research and Context

Practice description – Film and photography practice investigating personal and cultural ideas of memory and loss using still and moving image methodologies to construct narrative and portraiture.

Photography practice FILM ESSAY – RED TREAD

 

Research Bibliography

Practice description – Film and photography practice investigating personal and cultural ideas of memory and loss using still and moving image methodologies to construct narrative and portraiture.

Barthes, Roland, (1978) ‘Diderot Brecht Eisenstien’ in, Barthes, Roland, Image Music Text, Fontana Press: London, England

A professor at the College de France until his death is 1980; Roland Barthes devoted much of his career to the research in lexicology and sociology. Image Music Text, a collection of essays is regarded as some of his finest work on Film and Photography. Within this body of work are 2 of his the most academically acclaimed pieces; ‘Introduction to the structural Analysis of Narrative ‘ and ‘Death of the Author’. ‘Diderot Brecht Eisenstien’ a rather technical and didactic piece, it’s relevance here is important for the references to personal and perceived meaning, and construction of tableau.

Cathedral of the Pines (2017) [Exhibition of Photographs by Gregory Crewdson,] Photographers Gallery, London, 23rd June – 8th October 2017.

Gregory Crewdson is an American photographer renowned for his cinematically constructed photographs. Acclaimed for previous bodies of work including Beneath the Roses, Crewdson builds film-scene- like sets that construct a tableau. This exhibition is the first time Crewdson has show in the UK and it is the first time the Photographers Gallery has given over all of it’s exhibiting floors to one artist. For the shooting of ‘Cathedral of the Pines’, Crewdson returns to a place of his childhood and produces his typical images of haunting scenes. The subjects (he uses family and friends not actors) appear disconnected and void of emotion. The complex narratives are there for our interpretation, but seem heavily influenced by Crewdson’s sense of self in relation to his place in society and his past. The documentary interview, which was part of the exhibition, revealed Crewdson’s interest in the subtle use of familiar every day objects in his images. Amongst other things, pill bottles on side-tables, dowdy blankets and dressing mirrors are a contestant within the images. For Crewdson and for us, these objects are signifiers that can transport us back to times and places within our own memories.

Eisenstien, Sergei (1986) ‘Colour and Meaning’ in Eisenstien, Sergei, The Film Sense, Faber and Faber: London, pp 92-122

Sergei Eisenstien, born in 1898 was a filmmaker and film theoretician. With early significant black and white film productions such as Strike and Battleship Potemkin, he became acclaimed for his film production techniques that would appeal to all senses not just intellect and emotion. His work The Film Sense discusses the mechanisms of montages to construct film art. The chapter ‘Colour and Meaning’, as with the other sections, has not dated in it’s relevance to the construction of message by the film maker of today. The considerations of yellow may seem somewhat labored and there are many ancient colour theories references. However, the point Eisenstein makes is that the ideas that colour prompt towards understanding of meaning are not limited to the discipline of film, but seem more generally applicable to the creative to look beyond the surface to a deeper appreciation of the work.

Hirsch, Marianne (1997) Family Frames, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.

Hirsch, a leading academic in the research of memories and the transmission of memory wrote this important book on the considerations of photographic representation and the construction of family relationships. Hirsch looks at how photographs can have the duality to represent for us a sense of cultural social security, and at the same time mask social failure and dysfunctions. Hirsch’s observations on the salvaged photographs of the Holocaust and the transmission of memory through to generations who can not remember any atrocity, is a powerful example of the way in which collective history and private memory are linked. Hirsch recounts her own instance of this as immigrant Jew settling as a child with her parents in America. Their neighbors were Auschwitz survivors and in their home she remembers seeing photographs of their families that had been killed in the camp. Memories of these images and others photographs that presented death with links in her own history of relatives lost to the Holocaust have prompted Hirsch to coin the phrase ‘post-memory’. This she describes as a memory “memory shot through with holes”, that is a fragmented and second-generation transmission of memory.

Kuhn, Annette (2002) Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, Verso: London, England

At the time of the publication of this book, Annette Kuhn was the professor of film studies at Lancaster University and the editor of the film journal Screen. This book provides a great example of Kuhn’s authoritative writing on the concerns of visual communication, cultural and personal histories. This work is very poignant for research into childhood memories and filmic representations of the past. Her autobiographical referencing is both very brave and moving.

Lowry, Joanna (2006) ‘Portraits, Still Video Portraits and the Account of the Soul’ in: Lowry, Joanna and Green, David, eds. Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image. Photoworks/Photoforum, Brighton, England, pp. 65-78.

This essay forms part of a significant collection of work; Stillness and Time, edited by Lowry and Green which has become a ‘go to’ for anyone interested in the relationship of the still and moving image. Among many of the contributing authoritative theorists, Joanna Lowry, an academic at the University of Brighton, contributes an essay concentrating on the questions surrounding the still video portrait. This is a poignant piece of work to consider when looking at the way in which we react as an audience to the moving portrait. A stimulating essay which helps one reflect on the impact of performance on the perception of the audience. There is an extremely relevant reference within this writing to the work of Fiona Tan and her exploration of memory and identity.

Nostalghia , 1983, Directed by Andrei TARKOSKY, [DVD] , Curzon Artificial Eye: London.

‘Nostalghia’ is a film produced by the late Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky. It is a film of beautiful cinematography, which is typical of the film productions by the acclaimed Tarkovsky. The film was the second to last movie Tarkovsky made, but the first of all of his movies to be made outside of Russian, so there are interesting influences from the new landscape (Italy) and issues around the liberation from his home regime. The film skilfully uses colour and pace to evoke ideas of memory, isolation and disconnection. The film switches from colour to sepia footage throughout, the monochrome poignantly signifying the protagonist’s memories of his home country. The film requires one to patiently concentrate on the nuances of sequenced frames and the slowness of pace. Tarkovsky uses this to construct a charged atmosphere, leading one to pressing questions of the narrative. To this end the viewer may feel frustrated, as Tarkovsky clearly saw his films, less conventionally, as works of art than as movies to entertainment.

Turkle, Sherry (2011) Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.

The author of this collection has skilfully managed to present a body of work, which is both complex and absorbing. For each of the thirty-four essays she has carefully married a significant passage of text from philosophy, literature and theory. These connections, especially in the chapter, Objects of Mourning and Memory, provide thought provoking contrast and comparison. A passage from Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ leads us into a very personal account by Stefan Helmreich of his Grandfather and the SX-70 instant Polaroid camera and how the association of family/kinship and object (Polaroid photograph) can evoke memories of perceived relationships. Equally as contrasting is the text by Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How we Experience Intimate Places and the essay by Glorianna Davenport, Salvaged Photographs. The first reminding us how we are transported by family snaps to a motionless time in the past, which we project onto our ‘store of dreams’ building not a reliable history of memories but a poetic translation of lost expectations and dreams. And on to Davenports essay which starts with the account of a carefully archived box of family photos being destroyed in a fire. This incident, which many of us can relate to, looks at how with the loss of our keepsakes, old personal objects and photographs from our past we loose the connections to our current future interests and activities. The many accounts in the book of recollections from childhood that are hauled from our subconscious by the unexpected encounter with an every day object are fascinating, the personal connections with objects that lay in our subconscious and all at once spring to our minds with nostalgia and a complex poignancy.