The Need to Write (or A Reflection on the Past) Part 2

After the first post that I wrote (which can be found here) I have decided to run a series of blog posts covering each year of my time in University.  This post will be covering my first year undertaking my Photographic Art BA Hons) degree and all that happened in that year.

September 2011 was the year that I began my Photographic Art degree, a course that wasn’t my first choice of degree (more to come on this later in the series…)but one that I was looking forward to none the less.  I received a recommended reading list and an equipment list prior to the course starting and sourced all the necessary books.  I spent a long time sourcing all the equipment stated and stocked up on camera batteries and plenty of film ready for the course to start.

I remember the first day bundling my equipment together and heading off for the bus ride in (at that point I still hadn’t learned to drive!) and being so nervous I was nearly sick.  When I got to uni I met up with a few people who had been in my class for Foundation Art which settled me somewhat.  We all made our way to the assigned class room where we would meet all our other course mates.  That day passed in a bit of a blur of meetings and talks about the university and what we could expect from the course.  The course started pretty much the next day with our first assignment being handed to us not long after.

In the first year we got taught how to use an analogue camera (one that you load with film), how to process black and white film and also how to turn the negatives into prints.  We learned two different ways to create prints bit using the same method of paper exposure to transfer the negative image onto light reactive paper, one of these was a manual, wet room way where you mix the chemicals and process the print fully yourself and another “mechanical” way in which you expose the paper and then feed it into a machine that is filled with the correct levels of chemical and processes the paper for you, the image then being fed through the machine and out the other side once the process was complete.

We leaned to use a Medium Format camera which uses a larger film and can create beautifully detailed images.  I now own several different kinds of Medium Format cameras including 2 Box Brownies (one a higher spec than the other) a Holga and a Voightlander and I really do enjoy using them.  The class took a trip to  Gregynog Hall, a beautiful old mansion-house, where we undertook a project to produce “Film Noir” style images.  A few weeks before the trip we were split into groups and were given a piece of text to use as the basis for our images, the images needed to illustrate the text and act as a visual story.  The text my group was given to work from was Roald Dahl’s Lamb to The Slaughter.  Part of the work for this project focused on planning.  Our group had several meetings where we discussed the text and chose parts of the story to illustrate.  We then went on to discuss how we wanted the images to look and how were to be shot.  We spent a lot of time sourcing props that could be used in the final images to make them look authentic, spending time in many charity and antique shops.  Once we got to Gregynog we spent a day exploring all the rooms and deciding which would provide the most suitable backdrop for the images then setting the scenes up and sorting out where the cameras would be and how to light the images.  I really enjoyed that project, it taught me a lot about the technical side of image creating and that there is a lot more to consider than just the final image.

Other projects we were given to work on included using colour film, from taking images to processing the film through a specialist machine and then onto printing the images.  I found colour photography really interesting, however I really struggled with the printing of the images as there is so much that needs to be considered.  We worked on several different projects under the umbrella heading of colour photography, one of the projects that really sticks in my head was a diary that I worked on, inspired by Corrine Day’s “Diary” and work by Ori Gersht and Tracey Ferguson titled “Day by Day”.  I was set a project about Photography and Physiognomy (definition of Physiognomy here).  I started off looking at how important the face is in recognising someone, and how the image of our face is used on so many different things, from ID cards to passports and as our profile image on social media, but after looking at “Day by Day”, a series of images taken by Ori Gersht and Tracey Ferguson when they were in a relationship together and documenting the break up of that relationship and seeing the differences in the artist’s faces as that relationship failed I became interested in creating my own diary.  I took photographs each day, 3 x a day and noted my thoughts and feelings.  I had hoped that the images produced would convey my emotions at the time.  I was surprised to see, through the images, the small changes that took place in my appearance, from my hair getting longer, my face starting to thin out and how tired I looked in some of the images, and although the emotions I was feeling didn’t seem to come out in the images I felt that I had achieved something.

My favorite project was the final project of the year that I worked on.   I can’t really remember the project brief but I called this project “A Model Family”.  With this project I examined the bonds between family and friends, trust and friendship circles and the relationships between friends and family.  I also looked at how communication within these groups happened and the movement between friendship circles.  For example, having a close friend in work can change to a friendship that only takes place on social media or email and phone conversations when the job position changes, how friendships change due to other factors such as moving and relocation.  This project became less about photography and images and manifested itself into a series of models based on atoms.  The models that I created used different sized polystyrene balls and wooden skewers painted in different colours, each different sized ball represented a different friendship group or part of my family and differentiated in size depending on the size of the allocated group.  As I put these models together it became apparent that they looked like models used in chemistry to illustrate chemical structures.  There are 4 models in total, each having a “Chemical” like formula name assigned to them, the largest is called

M=F(1IF,1EF)+Bf(1SF,1AF)+Fr(1BF,1CF)+O(1UF,1WF,1CF,1SF) which equates to Me = Family (1 Immediate Family, 1 External family) + Boyfriend (1 Step Family, Adopted Family (Boyfriends Family) + Friends (1 Best Friend, 1 Close Friend) + Others (1 group of Uni friends, 1 group of work friends, 1 group of college friends, 1 group of school friends).

The smaller models started off as just me, then my family and worked its way up in groups to become the largest model.  I really enjoyed this project the most and it changed so much from the beginning where I couldn’t really think of anything I could do into something that I am still super proud of today!

I learned quite a lot in my first year of my degree but there were some points where I questioned myself on what I was doing and whether the course would be worth it.  At the beginning of this part of my “Uni Life” I mentioned getting the equipment list and buying everything as I thought I would need it all.  I did feel a bit misled by the list as it turned out that some of the equipment I bought never got used, and wasn’t needed which had an impact on my finances because of the belief that if a list was sent out to us then we would need all the items on the list.  I think if I was to do it all again then I wouldn’t just go out and buy everything on the list but get the very basics and build up my kit as I needed things.  I also struggled as I’d never used Photoshop before starting this course, which nearly all the other students had experience of, that for me was a sharp learning curve especially as training sessions with my tutor fell through and I had to teach myself the basics.  I purchased the best book ever, one that I continue to use regularly called CS3 for Dummies, which helped me get to grips with all the things that I wanted to do.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert by any means and am continually learning new tricks and ways to do things in Photoshop.

So, in a nutshell, that was my first year of my Photographic Art Degree.  I hope you enjoyed it!   Stay tuned, or even subscribe if you so wish(!!!) for further stories from my degree!!!!


Insta-Rips and Anti-Social Media (Part 2)

I started to look at the “social media” aspect of #selfie images and how a lot of the images are taken in bedrooms or other places in the house, often away from any “friends” and then uploaded onto the internet for “friends” to look at, like and comment on which seemed to me a bit anti-social.  I then started looking at how we use social media and found a lot of people update their statuses and interact with people on-line when they are alone, either at home or travelling, either way, not really interacting with any human beings in the real world.  This struck me as such an odd thing to do, speak to people on-line via texting or typing messages back and fore, rather than communicating in a more natural way, like speaking face to face.  Conversing over the internet leaves out a whole lot of other communication skills that we have developed over-time and have began to use without even thinking about it, for example, reading body language.  We can tell when someone is approachable, happy, angry, sad, friendly within seconds, just by our ability to analyse how that person stands, how their arms are positioned, how they lean against something which we loose when using social media.  We also can not establish that persons voice tone, typing makes it harder to convey a sense of feeling and with that, meaning, its harder to decipher a text written in a certain way than someones tone of voice.  We also loose other expressions like those minuscule movements of a persons face which give away boredom or hope.  And then the hands, we use our hands to communicate so much, whether its waving to say “hi” or hold someones hand in a show of sympathy or care, or even when waving them around, gesticulating when we speak, that is lost too.  But then we are still using our hands to communicate to a degree, we are using them to hold our phones, grasp them tightly, hold them high to take #selfies, and to type messages out to our “friends” which then becomes a gesture, we use them more as tools to convey the idea that we are being “social” by using these sites.

I started to look at how we hold our phones and the similarities in hand gestures and realized that they were not so far apart.  I have begun to move away from the Insta-Rips and am now concentrating on taking photos of peoples hands, in the poses we see people holding them in when taking #selfies specially, but without the phone present to see what they would look like.

Below is the first edit I have done.  I have used my friend Alex as a model for me, and have been playing around with crops and whether to include a background or not, so far the white background is my favorite, the black being my second.  I like the uncluttered-ness of the background and the way the focus is all about the hand and nothing else, and I like that the hand is also seeming to “reach-out” from no-where to make contact, much like how social media enables us to reach out and grasp other’s friendship when we are alone.

Project Underway, Surprise Findings

Today I have been working on this new project brief which is supposed to be about family and values and so far I have come up with a ‘sort-of-family tree/diagram’ showing my friends and family and how everything is inter-linked and how friends seem to ‘travel’ up and down the scale of friendship from acquaintance to friend and also the other way too, how work friends can become close friends and how the velocity of friends changes depending on how close you are to me.  I found it interesting, when creating this diagram, that family members seemed to remain static throughout, although I suppose I have been conditioned by society and family beliefs and teachings, that family is family and you have to accept that which would explain why they don’t move about like my friends do. 

I have fewer people in close circles of friends and far greater numbers of friends the further out you move toward the acquaintances field.  These are things I am really interested in with regard to this project, I want to understand my own values of friendship and the meaning of family within this along with the reasons for ‘friend-migration’ within these groups and how what we do/how we develop effects and ignites these changes in friendship groups.  Maybe I am going to be looking a bit too hard at these, often fragile, relationships which could make me question them, it could make me re-evaluate what I hold important in a friend or family member?  I don’t know but I think I am prepared to look at this and see where it takes me.