16 Oct: Research

THINKING ABOUT INDEPENDENT ART

As a 3rd year student there is almost a reassuring feel to view the work again of someone whom you have looked at earlier in the course.  Even so there is always something new to discover about them.

My initial thoughts about this module were that it was an opportunity to experiment, but as I have realised that although I would like to pursue such things as double exposure, pixelating parts of images, converting images to drawings etc. I need to be thinking in a more directed way.

We looked initially at the work of Chris Killip who I found particularly interesting.   His black and white work was featured in a recent article in the December issue 2014  of Black & White Photography magazine. Lewis Bush describes him as a major figure in British photographer who ” documented the dramatic economic change and social turmoil of the 1980s.”

The following images are taken from the article:

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These images were taken from ‘Pirelli Work’ 1989-90 which despite it being a commission the article refers to it as being a criticism by Killip of “the ‘enforced ritual’ of modern labour”.

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This image is entitled ‘Simon being taken to sea for the first time since his father drowned , 1983.’

Killip spent much time documenting the hardship of life for those living and working in north East England.  The images shown are of those who “laboured to dig coal from the stormy seas to sell for a living.”

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Killip is also quoted as saying that his stated aim was to show “the sublime in the everyday.”  This is something which has developed in my own work.  To try to depict things that the viewing public may not have seen or been aware of and to perhaps generate a more sympathetic viewpoint.

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I am also interested in images of elderly people who possess a beauty and wisdom and character in the lines on their faces.  The following image by Killip depicts ‘Man at Glenmaye, 1970-73′.

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Photographs of elderly people are still of interest to me, not merely because I am no longer a teenager, but the fact that as a viewing public we are so used to seeing pictures of the young and beautiful.  Yet those elderly people are more interesting to me.  They are the ones with the lines on their faces, with stories to tell and are often overlooked explaining that they feel almost invisible..

If I continue with this concept, it links in with my Mixed Media project entitled ‘The Others’ and also links with the portraiture work I did earlier in the year with Catching Lives and their homeless clients for my Major Practical Project.  The hardships they had endured were shown in their faces.  Paul for example looked far older than his 50 years and he had been living rough since he was 14.

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5 April: Final Statement & Evaluation of MPP Project – Living on the Edge

Final Statement

Whenever I am asked what I like to take pictures of, I hesitate.  To be out taking images wherever I happen to be is a most exhilarating experience.  Initially my work with the Catching Lives Open Day Centre in Canterbury started as a documentary of their activities, but has since developed into looking at the lives of some of the clients who are helped there.  Through photography, I have heard their stories, learned about some of the challenges they face, together with their aspirations for the future.

The images were mainly taken during three ‘Photo Days’ held at the Centre and were an opportunity to interact and develop my relationships with people I might not otherwise have come into contact with; even if at times this contact was brief.  They are mainly taken using ambient light inside the building, although the interior fluorescent lighting itself presented a great challenge at times.  However to be with and photograph people is the most challenging but the most rewarding experience,  as can be seen particularly by the images taken during the portraits ‘Photo Day’.  I have also endeavoured to tell their stories factually and without sentiment, but also to treat them sympathetically.

It has also felt a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into their lives, and in turn experience the enjoyment they felt at seeing the work they had helped to produce emerge as a final print.  It has also allowed my photographs to bring attention to things that people often overlook.

Evaluation of the project

Looking back over the past six months since the project began in earnest, I have learned a great deal  and my reflective thoughts are as follows:

  • I chose to continue my work with Catching Lives as I had built up a good working relationship over the 18 months and they were receptive to my carrying out the project with them.  It was also an opportunity to develop this link and find out more about a subject which is of interest to me.
  • I learnt more about my strengths and weaknesses through a period of extended study and investigations.  This helped me to focus on what I needed to do to succeed and in turn to question as to whether or not I was achieving the results I had hoped for. If I had gone off at a tangent was it worthwhile to explore further or did I need to rethink about how the project was progressing?
  • It was vital to never place any limitations on time that was needed to be put in and to be prepared to drop everything at a moments notice if the project required me to do so.
  • Although the project was my first priority I also felt that I was in return contributing something back for the benefit of both the clients and Catching Lives.
  • It was a valuable experience as regards developing further my visual communication skills and to speak photographically to the viewer.
  • Although documenting the lives of the homeless has been tacked by many others, I have also endeavoured to produce something that had not been done before at Catching Lives. Initial planning to ascertain if the project was feasible and any financial constraints involved needed to be taken into consideration.
  • One important outcome of the project was developing contact with the clients, finding out about their stories and some of the challenges that they are facing. This in turn was helped by my own interpersonal skills and experience.

The main pages in the blog:

These show the developing project, the successes and set backs as follows:

15 October: Initial thoughts

16 October: Further thoughts

6 November: Meeting at Catching Lives

18 December: Catching Lives ‘Photo Day 1’

13 January: Pre ‘Photo Day 2’ visit to Catching Lives  

12 February: ‘Photo Day 2’ at Catching Lives

14 February: Follow up at Catching Lives

28 February: Thinking about the project so far

11 March: Update on the project

19 March: ‘Photo Day 3’ & Bishop Trevor

20/21 March: Follow up visits

The images that were chosen: 

As the project developed in differing directions following on from my ‘Photo Days’, it seemed a logical progression to put the images together into a photo book which consists of 38 images in total.  I have also submitted the five main portraits as separate prints to accompany the book.  These were amongst those taken on the first ‘Photo Day’ and appear in the ‘Portraits’ section of my book Living On The Edge. These images are as follows:

Ben 1- Portrait

 

Courtney 1

Frank 1

James 1

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The following images are taken from each of the main sections in the photo book:

CLIENTS & STAFF:

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POSSESSIONS:

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THOUGHTS:

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OWN WORK by KEVIN:

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My photo book entitled ‘Living On The Edge’ can be seen by clicking the title or go direct to my Book Page.

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Future Challenges

This is a project that still feels almost as if it is in its infancy.  One challenge will be to find innovative ideas for future Photo Days which will involve minimal financial outlay, as the days are self funded and to date I have purchased 40 disposable cameras with only two having been returned to be developed.

They also need to be low-key, so that the clients do not feel under any pressure to take part; and they will feel that they have achieved something through the experience. Perhaps macro photography is something that could be looked at.  It also needs to be something that can be carried out within the safety of the Centre environment.

2 April: Assignment for Catching Lives

This training day was held to provide information about drugs and alcohol abuse and my involvement was to document the session.  I had already attended one of the previous sessions in November last year, so the actual content was familiar to me and it also meant that I could concentrate solely on taking pictures.

There was a good mix of ages within the group of participants and I had previously met some already, so there was no one who was not happy with my taking the pictures. These are some of the images I took on the day:

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1 April: Catch up visit to Catching Lives

I called in today to talk to Robert and return his camera.  He had asked if I would check it over and had found that all that was needed was to reformat the memory card.  So I bought him some replacement batteries and a small case to keep it in and he is now all set now to go out and take some pictures.

I have also been asked if I would take some pictures for Catching Lives on 2 April to go with a funding bid they are putting together.  So I needed to check exactly what is needed so that I can have everything ready beforehand. I also felt that it is good experience of working outside of my ‘project mode’.

I have also been asked by Emily from the Diocese if I would resend two of the images I took of Bishop Trevor’s visit, as the ones I sent to her previously were low resolution. So this was another learning experience about preparing images in high-resolution that will be used by another party, with my permission.

20/21 March: Follow up visits

I returned on 20th to see Robert and had just set up when I was told that he would not be there as he was back at the job centre!  C’est la vie!  So I had a coffee and prepared to return the next day.

21 March:

I used this visit to take some images of the clients feet.  I soon discovered however, that most had fairly good footwear (mainly trainers) and that if their shoes became too battered they were given replacements by the Centre.

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This time Robert was there and had obviously been giving much thought as to what he wanted to do beforehand.  I left him to his own devices and was surprised at the result. I also felt as if he had gained a great deal from the experience.

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Kevin also returned one of the disposable cameras I had given out so it is to be hoped that this time there will be some of the images that can be developed on the film.

To return to 5 April: Final Statement & Evaluation – CLICK HERE 

19 March: ‘Photo Day 3’ & Bishop Trevor

I guess it was one of those days! After arriving and setting up, I realised that I had forgotten the cable to link the laptop to my camera, so that I could do tethered shooting but it did not prevent my taking any images. It just proves how well prepared one needs to be beforehand and perhaps to triple check everything is ready.

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I set up in the same area as last time, as it is away from any other activities that may be going on and there is good ambient light from the window to the left.  I set up two areas so as there was a choice for the clients and used a softbox attachment for my speedlite and a reflector.  In the end as it was a bright day I did not use the speedlite as it made the images over exposed.

It was a very quiet day with very few clients coming in, as opposed to the last one although there were plenty of volunteers in the Centre.  It just shows that you can never anticipate how things will go, but despite this I did have five participants; but the results were not the most inspiring I have ever taken.

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This image however has set me to thinking that as I have now taken portraits and images of their possessions, perhaps next time I will take pictures of their feet; as living on the streets perhaps  they do more walking than most.

Robert also asked me if I was going to be there the next day as he wanted to take part but had an appointment at the job centre, so I told him I would return then.

I was also asked if I would take some pictures of the Bishop of Dover as he was visiting that day as well.  He is a patron of the charity, so they were anxious to have some images to add to their website.  This is one that I took during his visit.

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I later contacted his PA to see if they would like any copies, and said that I would be happy for them to use any provided that I was accredited with having taken them; but have not had a reply so far.

To return to 5 April: Final Statement & Evaluation – CLICK HERE

18 March: Research and photo book work

Rob suggested that I look at the work of Wendy Ewald who I was not familiar with and found her work most interesting and inspiring.  She has worked with a group of children during which they developed their own photographic images and added text.  Through these they explored their perceptions of self, community and home.Wendy Ewald 2

She also produced 29 large scale photographic banners which were then placed in 12 outdoor locations.

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This would make a powerful focus point for the general public particularly bringing the work into the public domain.  I have also inserted a video on my video page where Wendy Ewald talks about her work in detail.

17 March: Visit to Catching Lives

I received an email from Terry the Centre Manager as they need more photographic evidence of the work they do to assist with such things as funding.  This can range from pictures of volunteers, social interaction, recreational activities and clients working with staff and students etc.  So in turn I went through all the images I have taken since I first made contact with the Centre last year, and sent them over to Terry to see if there are any he may wish to use.  The only stipulation I placed on them was that I am given accreditation if they are used.

The following are some that I sent over:

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I also visited this morning to arrange with James to arrive at 8.30 on Wednesday which gives me time to set up before the door opens to the clients.  I also talked to him about the Photo Book I am making as part of my project submission, and he agreed to write the foreword for me.

He also asked me if I would take some pictures on Wednesday as their Patron, the Bishop of Dover is also visiting at lunchtime.  I said that I would be happy to do this so it should be a busy, yet productive day.