26 Nov: PhD Work Update

Following the helpful advice given to me in the Supervisors’ Meeting, I have been attending several Research Development Programme sessions which have been most helpful generally.  It has helped me to focus on areas that I personally feel need to be improved, such as my academic writing.  The problem comes when we are told not to be too ‘academic’, and for our written work to be able to be read by a diverse audience.  By the end of my undergraduate studies I felt as if I had established my own style of writing, and am sure that with some guidance I will reach the required standard – hopefully.

I have spent time since the meeting writing up the notes I had previously prepared for the initial PhD proposal and putting them on OneNote, which has been helpful as it also focussed on different related areas of investigation and in turn possible chapters for the final thesis; such as memory and gender.

Specific items Andrew suggested I addressed were the ‘timeline’ and ‘keywords’.  So using a Word template and adding the expected dates to be taken into account, I was able to plot a potential timeline for the future.  Once I have my next meeting with Karen and I can discuss this further I am sure there will be many adjustments made as time progresses.  However at this stage it will be a good starting point.  Andrew also suggested looking at my ‘Keywords’, so following on from this and a useful library RDP session, I set up RefWorks on the PC,  and to also receive automatic prompts so that when a new article is published in my subject area I am notified; so that hopefully I will stay up to date with current thinking.  During several visits to the library I also downloaded many articles which relate to my work which can now be filed into subject areas for close investigation at a later date.

I have also ordered several new books from Amazon covering such topics as Yasha Bacharova of the Women’s Death Battalion as this directly relates to my area of research and may throw up possible leads to be further investigated.  I also decided to reread ‘Nurse at the Russian Front‘ again and more closely with the Literature Review and my Final Proposal Approval in mind.  I also need to establish a regular working timetable at home, so that all books and articles can be read and notes made for future reference.

The RDP sessions have also been an opportunity to make some contacts with other members of the group, and fully engage with all the opportunities that the university has to offer. I did offer my services to help at one of the Open Days, but felt that this was something more for younger student representatives.  I was in turn contacted by Kate from the Alumni Department, and asked if I would be prepared to give them an interview as they were interested in knowing how I had arrived at doing a PhD at my stage in life. The worst aspect was having a photograph taken, which as a photographer is not easy being on the other side of the lens.  Hopefully the outcome will encourage older people to see the value of study in later life.

 

25 Oct: PhD Supervisors’ Meeting 1

My first Supervisors’ Meeting was held with Karen and Andrew and set the foundations for our future working relationship.

They agreed to my recording the meeting which I found immensely helpful, as I was able to concentrate solely on the proceedings at the time; and by replaying later able to pick up and digest the main points of interest.  It will also enable me to prepare minutes of the meeting as a record of the events to be forwarded to all members of the Supervisory Team.

It gave me the opportunity to give Karen and Andrew a progress report on the steps I have taken to date as regards organising initial items of interest for my research.  We also discussed aspects of the Research Development Programme and was advised that I need to allow time to digest everything so far, and the fact that as I am a part-time student have five years to complete my work!

Andrew had also obviously thought further about my proposal and suggested several related articles I may not have already seen which was most helpful.  We agreed on the date of the next meeting (1:1 with Karen) 7 December and we agreed on a couple of issues for me to address in time for that meeting.

I feel most fortunate to have the team that I had been allotted and also the fact that they feel that my research area is of value and worth pursuing.  I know this will be at times a bumpy ride, but things do not bother me the same at this in my stage life as perhaps they would have when I was younger.  I feel grateful that his opportunity has been given to me and hope that I will do their faith in me justice!!

 

24 Oct: CCCU PhD Research Development Programme

It was suggested that students sign up for the five recommended sessions as a starting point, and in addition I went through and chose another six to attend between now and the end of the year. These have covered a wide variety of topics amongst the following:

  • Literature search and review
  • What is expected of disciplined researchers
  • Developing good habits around your academic writing
  • Introduction to critical thinking and argument
  • The periodic reviews for research students

I would add that my initial impression of what help and assistance is available to new PhD students at the university is extremely impressive, although the undertaking is a little daunting and slightly overwhelming at the outset.

I envisage looking at the RDP sessions again later on as my studies progress to see which would be most beneficial but at the moment to let ‘the dust settle’.

 

4 – 21 Oct CCCU Post Grad Induction Days

With registration on 4 October, once the formalities had been undertaken, it was an opportunity to meet both MA and PhD students who had also registered.

Following this three Induction Days were held on 12th, 21st and 22nd October.  They were very informative and endeavoured to cover all aspects of starting research together with an opportunity to see and speak to the main lecturers in various disciplines.

Some sessions were more informative than others such as academic writing and writing for research and the capabilities of the library system.  The round table discussions were scheduled at the end of the day. I personally found them not so useful as I released I was out of the habit of sitting concentrating for long periods.  However I am sure that I will soon become acclimatised back into student life.

1 Aug – 3 Oct PhD Preparation

STEPS TAKEN SO FAR:


Research

  1. My initial readings have shown up links with events in history at the time e.g. The Suffragette Movement.  In turn I requested copies of papers held in the Archives & Local History Department at Manchester Central Library.  The Fawcett Papers contains articles by Millicent Garrett Fawcett (President of The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies)  including one entitled ‘Women’s Work at the front’ (10.03.1915).  They also suggested that The Women’s Library at LSE could provide access to copy microfilms, so this will be investigated.   Through this I also discovered that her daughter Phillippa had made a great contribution to education at that time, and had given her name to the College of Education I attended from 1966-69.
  2. I have read and taken notes on all books produced by Florence Farmbrough and obtained copies of the original documents held by the Royal Geographical Society, following her being invited to become a member.  These also provided a family address which is a valuable contact for further in-depth information.

Preparatory Skills

  • I began by looking at various study guides which were helpful as background to what is involved and steps that will need to be taken from start to finish.
  • I reread ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ as I realised that I especially needed to improve my note-taking, so as to work more efficiently and effectively.
  • I obtained and read two self-help books in connection with public speaking as this is one area I also need to improve.

Next Steps

  • I now need to introduce an efficient filing system for information both physically and online, to enable ease of retrieval.  The study guides suggested various referencing systems which will now be investigated.
  • Once these have been instigated I need to take out membership of the Imperial War Museum and investigate (with visits) relevant information which is held in their archives.
  • Contact Florence Farmborough‘s family for background information particularly in connection with her photography work.
  • Renew contact with Dawn Cole in connection with Clarice Spratling to arrange, if possible to see the diary and find out about any photography connections.
  • Once all the initial induction sessions have taken place at Christ Church University I will be better placed to start my work as I will know who to see or contact for what and where to go.  The library (and the main campus)  I envisage to be extremely useful particularly as it is close to home, so I can make good use of all available facilities.

14 April: Final Thoughts and Influences.

VIDEO SUBMISSION

Having had the experience of making the initial proposal I found this a most helpful and informative exercise and it enabled me in turn to investigate changes which needed to be made for the final submission.  After spending time looking closely at the films of a very diverse range of filmmakers from Jean Cocteau, through to Terence Davies, Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji, it made me analyse and focus more closely on exactly what I wanted to achieve through my own video.

I found scenes that did not involve any human presence particularly thought-provoking and created for me personally a greater involvement with the chosen subject. However, I soon realised that it would be virtually impossible to avoid a human presence due to the subject matter I had chosen. As the video concentrates on people begging and living on the streets, a human presence is in fact pivotal to my video.  So my challenge was to try to find a common ground, to relate what I wanted to show and not merely depict people and scenes in a purely documentary way.  I also wanted to use other influences to guide my own practice but still use my own voice.  So the work particularly of Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji influenced the  way I had previously thought about the importance of the speed, and the flow of one scene to another; the mix of incremental sound and audio and to create a general pace for the work as a whole .

As a first attempt at making a video it brought the need for technical expertise into play and also emphasised the importance of smooth panning shots, and the ability to create different levels of focus, through such things as zooming in on a subject.  The ability to be able to use my Canon 5D MKII to do the filming was a great asset, although I soon realised that the audio capabilities of the camera were somewhat limited, so in turn I used a Zoom H1 hand-held  recorder when I was undertaking the interviews. This also made it easier in the editing process when I wanted to treat the audio aspects separately from the visual recordings.

As a photographer such things as composition become almost automatic over time and filming itself was an exciting experience.  The general public seemed almost to disregard me and seemed less suspicious than if I was out taking pictures with my camera. It also highlighted the need for the necessary equipment, such as filming on a tripod or monopod and the ability to film on the move whilst holding a heavy camera.  This is something that I need to prefect with the acquisition of the correct equipment.

As a result of the initial proposal it was also it was also necessary to reduce the amount of content as the resulting work would have been too long, so this in turn made me look more closely as what was important to include and in turn what to remove.  For example,  I did not finally include any of the interviews I had recorded with members of the public but merely included those taken with people who had experience of begging and living on the streets.

The editing process, whilst time-consuming I found was personally challenging, exciting and  a very creative process.  It highlighted the importance of audio as an instrument to create atmosphere to the visual element of the film.  Initially I had intended to  include music appropriate to the subject matter, such as Tom Jones’ ‘I want to go home’, but realised that it is preferable to have instrumental tracks only, so as not to create any influence on the viewer, whether intentional or otherwise.  I was also interesting in being able to mix in different layers of audio and in turn fine tune such things as when sound fades in and out on a scene, and to lead in to the next scene.

WRITTEN ELEMENT

The word count limit for the written element of the submission meant that whilst initially I had intended to compare a film by Zineb Sedira with one by Zarina Bhimji, I could realistically only focus on one film.  So I chose Yellow Patch  by Zarian Bhimji, which had made a lasting impression on me having first seen her work in December 2012.    The written element of this submission can be seen via the following link:

 http://wp.me/p463VC-pe

Personally I have greatly enjoyed discovering the work of people I may have come into contact with before but not looked at so closely.  As a result I now find that I particularly view film footage in a different way after having made the video.  With everything that one does we become more critical of our own work, or find ways that it could be improved if we were repeating the exercise.  In this respect learning in turn enables one to gain expertise and together with it the confidence to progress in the future.

Mixed Media Project – Written Element

MIXED MEDIA PROJECT

WRITTEN ELEMENT

An investigation into the influence of bias on the photographic and moving image

As viewers we regard unfavourably those photographic images that have been overtly manipulated, in instances such as to change the physical appearance of celebrities or public opinion for political gain; such as the image of O.J. Simpson on the cover of Time Magazine in 1994.  On considering bias, it is to be questioned as to whether or not bias is a less overt form of manipulation, and whether it is ever possible to produce work which is completely devoid of bias on behalf of the photographer or filmmaker.  This essay will look at the film ‘Yellow Patch’ (2011) by Zarina Bhimji, a 35 mm film shot in India; to determine if her work provides evidence of personal preferences and inclinations.  She is a mixed media artist who has worked with installation, photography and video.

Bhimji was born in Uganda in 1963 to Asian parents, who were later expelled to the UK by the Idi Amin Regime in 1974.  This appears to have led to a search for her own sense of a personal and national identity through her work, having returned to her ancestral country to investigate how things currently exist.  The film follows a documentary format which Tagg (1988, p.12) refers to as having, “transformed the flat rhetoric of evidence into an emotional experience of drama.”  It is also more realistic than what Howells and Negreiros (2014, pp. 207, 208) refer to as, “photography’s ‘frozen’ reality (which) … frees the viewer from the constraints of time and space.”  Prosser (2006, p.72) also adds that film in turn provides the ‘fourth dimension’, an extension of that moment in time which photography captures. The exhibition by Bhimji at the Whitechapel Gallery (2012) provided a collaboration of both still and moving images, where images related to the supplementary film to form a cohesive whole.  These in turn enabled the viewer to engage with the subject matter on a much deeper level.

“The dominant tradition in film”, according to Sontag (2009, p.244) “has centered upon the more or less novelistic unfolding of plot and idea”.   However films particularly within the gallery setting, go beyond the mere narrative towards the ideological, and a view that it is not necessary to present work through more conventional means. Sontag (1979, p.143) also stated that the nature of photography (and in turn film) is such that, “one is not obliged to choose; and that preferences are … merely reactive.”  Bhimji (2012, pp.18, 19) states that “it is important … to remain allegorical if (she touches on) … the subject of politics” but she is interested in creating an emotional response to the material; that which Walter Benjamin (cited in Sontag, 1979, p.76) described as, “to see a new beauty in what is vanishing”.  The viewer concentrates on the evidence they are presented with, and history continues to resonate through to the present bringing new meanings and outlooks towards our increasingly diverse and multicultural environment.  Bhimji states on her website, that she is interested in the “location of light”, and in turn that stillness has the ability to almost create “a suspension of everyday life”.

In Yellow Patch there is a marked absence of the human presence but it makes the viewer stop, contemplate what they are presented with and in turn be still for a while; what Barthes (2000, p.27) refers to as ‘Punctum … that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).”  However Barthes (2000, p.38) also proceeds to state that, “the object speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think (and that) …no meaning at all is safer.”  Bhimji is not merely playing safe but depicts her personal interpretation of what she has seen and the need she has felt to share this with the viewer.  It does however also show the constraints and decisions she has made in turn as to what not to depict in her work.

The film has an almost ethereal effect with a virtually monochrome palette of colour interspersed with a brief patch of yellow on the trim of the sari as shown in Fig.1, the cobalt blue of the breast of the peacock, and the red and yellow in a stained glass window. We are not told as to what the yellow patch refers, so it possibly may be a metaphor for the vibrant saffron colours of India, the trim on the sari or the quality of changing light.

ZB scan0001 Fig. 1

Bhimji has used three layers of audio within the film, music by Abida Paveen, ambient sounds and radio recordings.  Together these provide strong clues for the viewer together with the slow contemplation on the images. The repetition of the ambient sounds and radio recordings create an almost ghost like environment, as if the former employees were still working in the buildings, with historical evidence suggesting abandonment from events that had previously occurred.

ZB

Fig.2

The absence of any voice-over commentary further emphasises what is referred to as, “the fact that strong emotional events often resist linguistic expression” (Bhimji, 2012, p.23).  She uses very slow panning shots and her photographic influence can be seen in the chosen composition and subjects on which she focuses; old files dusty and decaying in the Colonial Office (Fig.2), cobwebs, peeling paint and deep cracks in walls (fig.3) with traces left behind of former human habitation.

ZB 23009

Fig.3

Nature appears to be slowing taking over buildings long abandoned such as the Haveli Palace (Fig 4).

ZB 2 untitled

Fig.4

 Within the buildings aspects left behind allude to a former time of prosperity, now long gone since the fall of colonialism and the end of the Raj (Fig.5).

ZB 86121_may25_bern_img

 

 Fig.5

There is a slow panning shot of a statue of Queen Victoria (Fig.6), mutilated either by design or the ravages of time; the bicycle to the right showing a modern trace of a human presence.

ZB ilr167

Fig.6

The final part of the film moves to the working port of Mumbai Harbour (Fig.7) and symbolises the fact that life has continued but the affluence of former times has long gone and life is still a struggle.

ZB 18794194241_BVTM7

Fig.7

As one grows older for many there is nostalgia in looking back at the past and an affinity for places known as a child.   For Bhimji, her decision to visit India and her ability to gain access to the sites enabled her to understand the lasting effects of a dispersed population, and the life her parents had been forced to leave behind.  The decisions she made as to what to document, how to go about it and what she hoped to achieve by so doing, is evidence of her own personal bias.  This is also evidenced by the editing process in making the video, what she decided to include or leave out reflects her views and beliefs as to what she felt was important.  It is also problematic to envisage being able to produce a piece of work which can ever be completely devoid of any personal bias in its formation.

                                                                                                                  Word  Count 1158

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Azoulay, A. (2014) The Civil Contract of Photograph. New York: Zone Books.

Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography, How Photography has changed    

                              our lives. London: Quadrille.

Badger, G. (2010) The Pleasures of Good Photographs. New York: Aperture.

Barrett, T. (2006) Criticizing Photographs, An Introduction to Understanding

                             Images.  New York: McGraw Hill. 

Barthes, R. (2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Berger, J. (2008) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.

Bourdieu, P. (2003) Photography A Middle-brow Art. Oxford: Polity Press.

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

Campany, D. (2010) Photography and Cinema.  London: Reaction Books.

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, J, jnr & Collier, M. (1986) Visual Anthropology, Photography as a

                                Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph As Contemporary Art.

                                London: Thames & Hudson.

Flusser, V. (2007) Towards A Philosophy Of Photography.

London: Reaktion Books.

Fried, M. (2012) Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before.

London: Yale University Press.

Gidal, P. (1979)  “The Anti-Narrative”, in Screen Vol.20, No.2

Gray, C. & Malins, J. (2004) Visualising Research. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Hall, S. (1993) “Encoding, decoding”, in During, S. The Cultural Studies Reader.

                           London: Routledge, pp. 91-103.

Hall, S. (ed.) (2010) Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying

                               Practices. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications.

Howells, R. & Negreiros, J. (2014) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ingledew, J. (2005) Photography. London: Laurence King Publishing

Jaeger, A-C. (2010) Image Makers, Image Takers. London: Thames & Hudson.

La Grange, A. (2008) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers.

Oxford: Focal Press.

Marien, M. W. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King.

Prosser, J. (ed.) (2006) Image-Based Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rose, G. (2014) Visual Methodologies. London: Sage Publications.

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Sontag, S. (2009) Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin

Books.

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Abingdon: Routledge.

Shore, R. (2014) Post-Photography, The Artist with a Camera.

London: Laurence King.

Tagg, J. (1993) The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and

                         Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press  

Traub, C., Heller, S. & Bell, A. (eds.) (2006) The Education of a Photographer.

New York: Allworth Press.

Van Alpen, E. (2005) Art in Mind, How Contemporary Images Shape Thought.  

                        London: University of Chicago Press.

Walden, S. (ed.) (2010) Photography And Philosophy, Essays On The Pencil Of

                          Nature.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wells, L. (2009/a) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

(2009/b) Photography, A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wheeler, T. (2010) Phototruth or Photofiction? London: Routledge

Whitechapel Gallery. (2012) Zarina Bhimji. London: Ridinghouse.

Woods, T. (2009) Beginning Postmodernism.

                              Manchester: Manchester University Press

 

Website: http://www.zarinabhimji.com/

http://www.zarinabhimji.com/video_yellowpatch_part1.htm (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Azoulay, A. (2014) The Civil Contract of Photograph. New York: Zone Books.

Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography, How Photography has changed    

                   our lives. London: Quadrille.

Badger, G. (2010) The Pleasures of Good Photographs. New York: Aperture.

Barrett, T. (2006) Criticizing Photographs, An Introduction to Understanding

                   Images.  New York: McGraw Hill. 

Barthes, R. (2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Berger, J. (2008) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.

Bourdieu, P. (2003) Photography A Middle-brow Art. Oxford: Polity Press.

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

Campany, D. (2010) Photography and Cinema.  London: Reaction Books.

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, J, jnr & Collier, M. (1986) Visual Anthropology, Photography as a

                        Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph As Contemporary Art.

                        London: Thames & Hudson.

Flusser, V. (2007) Towards A Philosophy Of Photography.

London: Reaktion Books.

Fried, M. (2012) Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before.

London: Yale University Press.

Gidal, P. (1979) “The Anti-Narrative”, in Screen Vol.20, No.2

Gray, C. & Malins, J. (2004) Visualising Research. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

 

 

Hall, S. (1993) “Encoding, decoding”, in During, S. The Cultural Studies Reader.

                           London: Routledge, pp. 91-103.

Hall, S. (ed.) (2010) Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying

Practices. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications.

Howells, R. & Negreiros, J. (2014) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ingledew, J. (2005) Photography. London: Laurence King Publishing

Jaeger, A-C. (2010) Image Makers, Image Takers. London: Thames & Hudson.

La Grange, A. (2008) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers.

Oxford: Focal Press.

Marien, M. W. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King.

Prosser, J. (ed.) (2006) Image-Based Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rose, G. (2014) Visual Methodologies. London: Sage Publications.

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Sontag, S. (2009) Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin

Books.

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Abingdon: Routledge.

Shore, R. (2014) Post-Photography, The Artist with a Camera.

London: Laurence King.

Tagg, J. (1993) The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and

                         Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press  

Traub, C., Heller, S. & Bell, A. (eds.) (2006) The Education of a Photographer.

New York: Allworth Press.

Van Alpen, E. (2005) Art in Mind, How Contemporary Images Shape Thought.  

                        London: University of Chicago Press.

 

 

Walden, S. (ed.) (2010) Photography And Philosophy, Essays On The Pencil Of

                        Nature.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wells, L. (2009/a) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

(2009/b) Photography, A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wheeler, T. (2010) Phototruth or Photofiction? London: Routledge

Whitechapel Gallery. (2012) Zarina Bhimji. London: Ridinghouse.

Woods, T. (2009) Beginning Postmodernism.

                              Manchester: Manchester University Press

 

Website: http://www.zarinabhimji.com/

http://www.zarinabhimji.com/video_yellowpatch_part1.htm (2011)