Assignment 3 - Tutor Report

I received feedback for my assignment and I'm very happy with it! Here's the feedback in italics and my respond in normal font:

 

 

Many thanks for submitting this third assignment Leonie. Once again, this was a successful assignment for you.  I think you have taken away plenty from this in terms of creating a body of work in response to issues of personal significance.

Thanks! I've really enjoyed this assignment. It has been the most personal up till now and I hope to continue exploring the concept of self portraiture.

Issues relating to previous reports

- Consider the chronological nature of your blog and how it might be advantageous to have a separate blog for each module, in terms of trying to address ease of navigation etc.

- Look at the work of Jason Evans.

- Don’t be afraid to use the imagery straight … and avoid the temptation to over manipulate through Photoshop !

Working on these points!

Feedback on Assignment

- I am really enjoying each of your assignment submissions Leonie !  We did discuss this one prior to submission and I think it has again worked really well for you. You seem to be choosing projects that you are personally interested in, which is half the battle with many students !  They have a tendency to choose projects that bore them very quickly and then get disappointed with the results they produce.  This is not the case for your work I have to say ! 

- As an idea, I liked this from the outset.  The fact that you had not read many of these personal thoughts for over 20 years, just adds to the interest.  I have done this myself recently, looking back when I was a student in the 90’s and have cringed with embarrassment !  Aging can be such a slow, almost ‘evolutionary’ process that you forget how far you have development both intellectually and emotionally over the space of a couple of decades !

- I liked the mixture of both literal and metaphoric interpretation within the submission and also the hand written captions at the bottom of the images that stamped your personal connection to them.  I do think I liked the more challenging metaphoric interpretations more though ! 

- Again, the images were all compositionally very strong.  I particularly liked the portrait reflected in the bathroom mirror for the ‘egocentric / stubborn / arrogant’ caption.  This was really nicely constructed and well executed.

- Each image had its own merits and added to the construction of the narrative. You didn’t feel compelled to try and stage a series of reconstructions in order to literally convey all your childhood thoughts.  A couple actually required quite some thought to try and decipher, which was a really nice touch.  Such as the second shot of the spiral staircase and the fourth shot of the birdcage.

- Again, I really liked this story … please keep up this high standard of work.  It’s a real pleasure looking through your assignment submissions !

I don't have a lot more to add, apart from that I'm happy that my work is being appreciated and that for me it is a pleasure to develop myself creatively and photographically. I find this course has a nice combination of challenging assignments and relevant research.

Coursework

- This is still progressing very well through the blog.

Research

- This is still progressing well and I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on Nigel Shafran’s project.  (I used to work with him at ID and Face magazine in the 1990’s !  He is a great photographer.)

- You are definitely looking in the right areas … such as Duane Michals / Sophie Calle … try to expand this further now if you can … and try to position your own work in relation to it through your writing.

I'm still struggling a bit with getting my thoughts and ideas on paper. It does help to read a lot to become familiar with the vocabulary, but still it is a challenge to really express the connections I make between my own work and that of the photographers I'm studying. I trust this will get better over time, especially if I read more. 

Learning Log

- Same as the last report - I think this could be better to be fair … as it still reads quite chronologically.  It really might be worth separating out the blogs for each module and having a different one for each module.  That way you can then include specific links to research / reading / assignments / practitioners / exhibitions / coursework for specific modules … rather than trying to show all four in one. Worth thinking about anyway … it will make summative assessment much easier for the assessors.

Suggested Viewing/Reading

- The work submitted for this assignment deals specifically with memory.  I like you to start reading more around this area for forthcoming assignments, perhaps even the next written assignment.  Don’t forget that a photograph is not a memory itself …. It can be considered a trigger for memory though. Memories are actually something that happen in the ‘present’ about something that has happened in the past.   Try to get hold of the following if possible:

Hirsch, M. 2012. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Post memory. Cambridge (Mass). Harvard University Press ISBN 13: 978 147000 7485

Gibbons, J. 2007. Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance.  New York. IB Tauris & Co Ltd.ISBN 13: 978 184511 6194

Bate, D. 2010. The Memory of Photography. In Photographies. Vol 3, No. 2, September 2010. Pp243-257. London. Taylor & Francis Ltd

Livingston, D. & Dyer, P. 2010. A View From The Window: Photography, Recording Family Memories. In Social Alternatives. Vol 29, No.3, 2010, Pp20-28. Queensland. University of Queensland Press

Pointers for the Next Assignment/Assessment

- The next assignment is a written piece requiring you to write 1000 words around an image of your choice.  Drop me an email to discuss who / what you are thinking about here and I should be able to construct a bespoke reading list to support your research.

- 1000 words isn’t very much once you get started, so think really carefully about what would be worth your intense interest and focus here.  For instance, John Berger wrote a really interesting chapter on how the ‘suit’ has been depicted within portraiture over the years, focusing mainly upon August Sander’s image of the ‘Three Young Farmers’, shot in Westerwald in1914.  Also … don’t forget Barthes wrote an entire book about a photograph of his mother, which is never shared with the reader ! (Camera Lucida)

I will start looking for an image as soon as possible and let you know. Thanks for the suggested reading part!

Assignment 2 - Tutor Report

I received feedback for Assignment 2. I'm very happy with it! Here's the report in italics and my respons in normal font:

 

Many thanks for submitting this second assignment Leonie. Again, this was a very interesting assignment submission dealing with photographing  the unseen, for which you created a series of images in and around the City of Djinns, in Delhi. I really, very much liked this body of work, which captured both my visual interest and imagination from the outset.  I have elaborated more specifically below.

Thanks for your feedback Keith! It is always a relief to hear that others are appreciating my work and getting what I was trying to portray.

Issues relating to previous report

- Try to submit a separate assignment submission in its entirety if possible.
- Look at the work of Kuzma / Wood / Klett / Bird & Flusser.
- Be sure to include academic references within your written work, including citations and a bibliography.
- Try to keep a close eye on both grammar and punctuation within your written work.
- Consider the navigation of your blog – it seemed a bit chronological and might benefit from more links and buttons to aid navigation.
- Try to get involved with any student forums that might be relevant to your image making and research.

I think I have worked on these issues, but there is still ample room for improvement. I especially find the referencing quite a challenge and realise I just should study the reference guide properly to feel more confident in using it. I have gotten more involved with student forums and it has been interesting and fun to look at other student's work and interpretations of the course material. I am working on my blog and still trying to figure out what works best. I would like to keep all courses on the same site, but with a reorganisation of categories and blogs it should become more user friendly.

Feedback on Assignment

- I was actually quite blown away by this body of work !  I found the whole project a real visual treat !  in addition to this, you had clearly conducted your research into the area being explored.  This was some of the best work I have seen at this level to date !

Thanks! I find that with doing this assignment I have sort of turned a corner in stretching myself creatively and trying to get more out of my images than just the interesting environment. 

- I think from the outset you have chosen to visually explore a place that is of significant interest and was a really imaginative response to photographing the unseen.  Given the history of the place and its religious and spiritual significance, images taken here already have a narrative behind them, which was excellent to see and just added to the weight of the story.

- You are very creative in terms of both your image making and presentation. I liked the use of the negative image here, given what you were trying to achieve and not used just for the sake of it.  Be careful not to take this image manipulation too far though !  Your images are strong enough without it.

As I am doing a Photoshop course now this might be an upcoming challenge. I would like to know how to make compositional images and maybe add effects, but I totally agree that the visual power should be in the photograph itself and too much Photoshop can actually decrease this. My aim is to be able to produce images that I have in my mind and I feel that if I know Photoshop better I will be able to express myself more creatively. 

- Some of the images were really strong and I especially liked the low light portrait of the smoke and incense / The birds ‘black magic’ / The backlit portrait of the one legged man on a stick.  Compositionally they were very strong.

- As a body of work, you have submitted a really strong series of images that all work well together and are attached through text found in relation to the space. 

- The shot of birds actually made me double take !  I found the original images via your contacts posted, as at first I thought this was totally made up through Photoshop trickery.  Some of the images here were so strong, I don’t even think they required any further manipulation.  Feel confident in what you shoot and don’t feel the need to add to what you already have.

They were two images composed together. Maybe I should try to reprocess them without the blends I used and see if it looks less trickery.

- The shot of the young girl facing the camera with her parents looking the other way was also very well observed. As you mention in your notes, she looks like the guardian of the family … which given the context of the story really fits in well and adds to the flow of the work submitted.

- In my opinion, the imagery was very strong … as mentioned, I’m not that convinced you need to start making that many adjustments through Photoshop and should perhaps just consider showing them straight.  The presentation of the final story works really well for me anyway …. So keep up this excellent work !

- Given that arguably you are based in an area of the world that really lends itself to interesting image making, you are still challenging yourself to find interesting aspects of this space to visually explore.  You should try to continue to dig out these fascinating areas, which you are currently in the position to access. 

Yes, I am very fortunate!

- If you wouldn’t mind I think I’d like to direct some of my additional students to this work, so as they can see how other students are working in relation to the assignment tasks.

Coursework

- Again, I have nothing more to add on this at this point in time as you are progressing through the exercises very well and producing some really strong imagery as you go. Keep up this level of enquiry please !

Research

- Everything I have suggested to you seems to be explored and read, which is great to see.  I have enjoyed reading your thoughts about the works on the blog and think you have a really intelligent insight into what you are currently looking at and what is currently informing your own practice.

- Did you manage to check out Mark Klett and Nicky Bird yet ?

Yes I did, but I should write a blog post about it. 

- Your bibliography mentions many texts in relation to the project … but I think you could also try to cite specific reference to this material now within your writing. Even add some quotes from the works being researched maybe.

See remark above.

Learning Log

- I think this could be better to be fair … as it still reads quite chronologically.  It really might be worth separating out the blogs for each module and having a different one for each module.  That way you can then include specific links to research / reading / assignments / practitioners / exhibitions / coursework for specific modules … rather than trying to show all four in one. 

- Again, I’d suggest getting involved in some of the student forums and making reference to this via your blog.  I think many of the students here will have some positive words to say about your work !

Suggested Viewing/Reading

- Take a look at the work by a photographer called Jason Evans.  Evans has worked within the music industry for many years … and has worked with many well-known artists.  He often using a double-exposure technique – but through the analogue process – deliberately exposing monochrome film twice through the camera. His recent Mack book entitled ‘NYLPT’ is worth a look. http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/47-NYLPT.html

- He also runs a website called http://www.thedailynice.com/ - Check out his other work at http://www.jasonevans.info/ it is very good and there’s something there for everyone !

Pointers for next Assignment/Assessment

- Already submitted …. Feedback is on its way for this.

Thanks for your positive feedback, it really helps to stay motivated and carry on with my studies!

Childhood memories and Photoshop experiments

Ever since I read this exercise I have been thinking of a particular memory that it is suitable. It needs to be visually executable, needs a strong emotional connection that I can translate into images and should be understandable.

A memory that keeps coming back of which I think I should try to photograph is when I was about 9 years old. I was playing in the school yard next to our house and somebody offered to swirl me around. It was a lot of fun, but my pants flew off. Most of all, I remember how incredibly embarrassed I was when I had to walk to the pants in my underwear and put them back on again. I don't particularly remember other children's faces, but I do remember laughter and just feeling very ashamed of myself.  

While going through my images I found one of my two sons covering their faces and looking very embarrassed. I would like to work with that, maybe make a collage with use of their faces. 

An other idea is the memory of me sitting on the sidewalk playing with leaves. This is my earliest memory of my life. We lived in Tasmania and I was three years old. I am not quite sure if it is connected, but my mother used to tell the story of when we were visiting somebody and my parents drove off without me because they had forgotten me. They drove back and found me sitting on the pavement. I have taken a few images of a blossoming tree, maybe it's an idea to use that one. I'm just going to fiddle a bit in Photoshop and show the results later.

I'm doing a Photoshop course on Lynda.com, which is focused on learning how to make compositions and masks with the use of channels. It's a 14 hour course and I've done 4 up till now. Really fun and interesting, but I feel I have to watch every video about 3 times to get it right. So I thought it would be nice to make a composition with some of the techniques I'm learning. I have taken a photo from a road in the forest and added images of children looking at me. This is not literally the memory I wanted to use, but it does symbolise the path you are on when growing up and how other children can influence you, scare you or make you feel insecure. I wouldn't say it is a typical theme for my own childhood, because I actually have a very positive impression when I think about mine and the friends I used to have. But maybe that's not really necessary, it could be anybody's and I like the creepy effect.

I can't say I find this image beautiful or very impressive, but it is fun to experiment. Below is an attempt to make a composition of different photos from the same tree. It took me a few hours to get it like this. I don't like the background and the effect is not exactly what I had in mind, but it is a start. 

 I want to come to the point that I can create the image that I have in mind, whether through composition in Photoshop, drawing, painting and the use of other media. So lots of work to be done!

Self Absented Portraiture - Nigel Shafran

I had a look at the series ‘Washing Up’ which is the only piece of the chapter that was created by a man and also had a look at other images on his website. My first impression is that he spends a lot of time at home, with a small child. This can make you quite isolated, but also focus on details that otherwise might seem pretty trivial. His images are mostly taken in his home and his village. It is quite impressive that he is able to pinpoint what makes the every day unique for every person.

I was not really surprised that the images were taken by a man, they are obviously taken by somebody who is at home a lot and in general it’s the women who do that, but I don’t find the images particularly feminine. 

It's a bit hard to say whether gender contributes to an image, I think it’s mostly a photographer’s personality that defines what the images look like, but gender has an impact on personality, experiences and opportunities in life and will therefor naturally impact images that are made. 

Sharon’s Washing Up shows that through portraying certain habits and rituals, you can get to know a lot about the people that are part of it, without seeing them. Because of the repetition, you discover which elements are returning, which ones change over time and this triggers questions and clues about character traits and family habits. 

I don’t find the images particularly interesting on their own, but in a series they work very well, because that’s when you start to read about the people behind the images and that’s when they start to convey more about the habits and etiquettes. 

Washing-up 2000 [2000]: Nigel Shafran (no date) Available at: http://nigelshafran.com/category/washing-up-2000-2000/ (Accessed: 29 March 2016)

Assignment 3 - Final Submission

When starting this project, I had first intended to use it for assignment 2, Photographing the Unseen. When I discovered that the idea and execution were exactly the same as what is asked in assignment 2, together with my tutor I decided to submit this work for part 3. 

Rationale and Approach

A few months ago I found a pile of diaries and letters from secondary school of which I thought I had lost. I was very relieved to be able to read them again, especially because I am a mother of teenagers and twins and I thought reading my own thoughts when I was their age would be a way to be more emphatic towards them. I thought I still knew what I had written and how I used to think, but was quite surprised to read my entries again 25 years later. 

First I made a list of lines that spoke out to me most. Some because I realised how much my way of thinking was formed by my religious views and upbringing, others because it showed the struggles I had to find my own individuality, purpose in life and self worth. It think it was good that I hadn't read my diaries in about 20 years, because now I could really reflect on myself from a more distant stance. About 5 years ago I stopped going to church and since then have started to let go of many 'truths' and dogmas I used to believe in. Reading my thoughts on God, sin and the future was quite confrontational and I realised even more how liberated I feel now compared to then. 

I decided to take multiple approaches in visually reflecting on the images. Some photographs are a literal translation of what is written, others symbolic. My daughters have posed for a few images, I have used a photo from when I was 16 years old and have made one self portrait. 

Mostly inspired by Duane Michals and Sophie Calle, I wanted my images to be as open as possible for different interpretations. The idea is that viewers reflect on their own responses to what I have written down instead of just making up their mind of what they think of me. In order to do that, I have kept the selection of entries quite universal, even though they still give enough information to be personally related to me. 

In the selection of images and also the order in which I have placed them in the document I have tried to show my struggles, but also the first signs of wanting freedom and really find myself. I hope this is the main idea that stays after looking at my work.

 

Reflection on assessment criteria points

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

When it comes to the visual and technical skills I think my images meet the criteria. I'm happy with the diversity in the images, but that they still seem to form a coherent set. I have a variety of portraits, symbolic images that show different photographic and compositional techniques. I had difficulties putting everything together and making decisions on the final layout. Going from typed text to handwritten and back to typed texts. To be honest, I'm still not sure what is best. I have difficulties convincing myself that I have a valid point when I believe something works or doesn't. 

Quality of Outcome

I feel that the quality of outcome meets the criteria because I have noticed while doing research how my ideas on how to portray myself and translate feelings and writings into visual work developed and were founded in how I want to work and who I want to be as an artist. I think this shows throughout the final work in a consistent way. However, I'm not sure if the ideas I have on how I want the viewers to look at my work are actually executed in such a way that it will work. Maybe some images more than others.

Demonstration of Creativity

I notice that after having done the research of part 2 and 3, my creative juices have started to flow a bit more. As I noticed in other blog posts, because I live in a country that is pure candy for the eye, it is fairly easy to come up with visually nice images without having to be creative myself. I just go outside and wait for the wonders to take place before my camera. However, I do want to practice to conceptualise my work and photographs, to be able to produce work that shows meaning and triggers a reflection instead of only a reaction. I like how this course is showing and guiding me in ways on how to do that and I feel very inspired by it. I believe the outcome of this will meet the criteria. Besides that, I feel that this process is taking time and I can't force myself into producing differently than what I have been doing. I'm already trying very hard! When it comes to this assignment, I feel that the end result is adequate, but when I looked at other student's work I realised that I could have been more creative with the final product, like make prints and used different materials to bring extra dimensions to the work. Something to consider for the next assignment.

Context

First of all, there is always more research to be done. I feel that I have only touched on a slight area of photography and art and need to do a lot of catching up. I do think that I have implemented a lot of what I researched in my work and way of thinking, so in that sense I guess that I'm on the right track. I do have to become much more disciplined in reading and writing down my thoughts. 

Assignment 3 - Preparations

Initial Thoughts

I haven't heard back from my tutor, so I decided to go along with the option that was most personal, a reflection on my secondary school diaries. I felt very inspired after studying the Dad Project and Duane Michals and felt like I wanted to make a narrative that communicates very strong personal feelings, but also has a universal respons and feel to it, so that the work can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.

Also Sophie Calle's Take Care of Yourself helped me in reflecting on my own writings. How do I look at myself when I was a teenager now that I am older, a married woman and a mother, a teacher and a photographer? Which things could I still have written down today and what has changed because I've gotten older and a bit wiser? It has helped me to step back and look at what I thought and experienced between the age of 12 and 18 in a different way. 

In my photographs I have sometimes taken a literal approach to describing what I had written down, other times more symbolic. I have used my daughters as models and in one image I have taken a self portrait. The decision to photograph my children as part of myself is that I am often reminded of how I experienced my childhood and adolescence when I look at them and see them interact. Besides that, they are so much prettier than I am!

While reading my diaries I was confronted with the fact that I was very religious and  that I let my thoughts and struggles be ruled by what I thought a good Christian should be like. I have chosen a few quotes that reflect that and even more, show how absolutely ridiculous it was. The photos that I have taken with these quotes have a more critical response to the writings. 

In all, I would say that the work is my response to how I look at myself when I wrote the diaries. It's a work of recognition, but also a response that is critical and shows that things turned out quite differently as I had thought they would. 

The work itself

My first source of information are the diaries themselves. I have read through them and written down passages that I found quite typical of who I am, showed the way I used to think about myself and life, funny, or that stood out as a very clear memory. After that I have consciously visualised the passages and decided which ones were visually the most interesting and would make a good balance between my religious thinking, growing up, day to day hassle and my family life. 

After that, I realised that I could use some of the pictures that I have taken a few weeks ago in Udaipur of my family and a room with cages in a palace. I photographed all the other pictures in the past weeks, they were conceptually planned and executed, which is quite new for me!

Below you will find contact sheets of the final selections from which I chose my photos. I might make some last minute changes in which ones I'm going to use, but it gives an overview of what I have done.

An other image is a composition of a photo booth photo of myself that I took when I was 16 years old. I've used that image to draw all the professions on of which I decided that I wanted to become when I was older. At first I was thinking whether I should use a portrait of myself now, but I thought it more interesting to add a photo of myself when I was younger, just to stress the idea that when you're younger you feel like there are still so many possibilities of what you can do. I also like the fact that my eyes are closed in this image, which is a nice reflection of the state of dreaming you're in at that age (and later as well, but anyway) and that in order to dream, you have to close yourself off from reality.

I have copied the image a few times and traced the profession that I had written down in my diaries. Besides that, I have drawn the profession on top of the images. Since my drawing skills have not improved a whole lot since I was 14, this is what it would have looked like when I was that age as well.

While experimenting with the images, I also tried to add a Warhol effect. I don't think the photo lends itself very much to it and and I forgot to paint in the lips, but this will give you an idea what it would look like. Maybe an idea for a next assignment... It is really ugly though!

We continue with looking at each picture separately in my next blog post. 

Masquerades

After thinking about the autobiographical aspect of taking self portraits, this part looks at examples of photographers who immerse themselves in other lives and cultures in order to question and discover other worlds and their place in it and in which sense photography reflects reality. 

I looked at Nikki S. Lee's work and was really intrigued by her ability to adapt herself so well to completely different cultures and settings. The question is whether her work can be considered voyeuristic or exploitative. I don't really get this feeling when looking at her work and especially when I think about how much time she has spent with the culture she immerses herself in and the fact that she asks other members of the group to photograph her. Her images are not cynical or judgemental, like for example Martin Parr's photographs of tourists. On the contrary, because she seems to be a natural part of all groups, the focus is more on the details and elements that make you become part of it and makes me wonder what makes us included or excluded in a group and what is the role of one's own identity and uniqueness in a culture. 

I think I would agree to Morrissey's request to be photographed, mainly because it seems like a fun thing to do. I'm not sure my family would agree though! I think the impact is felt most when looking at the images together and seeing her in completely different settings all the times. It must be a bit strange to see a complete stranger become part of your intimate family life just like that. 

Her other self portrait projects are more autobiographical in the sense that they show moments of her own childhood, with her and her sister as the actors of themselves or their parents. It reminds me of the wish to be able to go back in time sometimes and relive childhood experiences. Besides that it is a physical reflection of how relationships used to be and it makes me question how they are now, or what kind of memories exist of the moments that were reconstructed. 

Museum of contemporary photography (2016) Available at: http://www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Lee%2C+Nikki+S.&record=1 (Accessed: 28 March 2016).

Trish Morrissey (no date) Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-sy/workpg-05.html (Accessed: 28 March 2016).

 

Assignment 3 - Images

In this post I'd like to show which images and formats I have used for my final work and why. I'd like to start with the overall presentation of the images. At first I was thinking of creating a pdf book that had the same style as my diaries, a notebook with yellowish paper and lines. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I want this work to have a reflective character with a focus on the ideas and emotions I went through as a child and not so much on the on the secretive, day to day writings in a diary. Besides that, I want the work to have a postmodernist effect in the sense that it opens up to different, personal interpretations of the visual and written information. Like the reader says that the images  'allow the reader to put themselves into the story, with their personal histories and memories playing an important role in how the narrative is read'. 

However, I did want to show that the lines and photographs are personal and represent me in a way. That's why instead of typing the text below the images, I have written it on my Wacom table. My handwriting is terrible anyway and with the added clumsiness that writing on a Wacom tablet brings, it looks almost exactly the same as when I was a teenager. Now the images still have the feeling of coming from a journal or personal notebook.

When looking at Duane Michals images I found that the handwritten notes add a very personal feel to the images. They felt more intimate than if they had been typed. I still wondered if what he wrote were actually his own experiences or whether he was interested in the concept that the writing reflected. That made the work very accessible and open for different interpretations. I would like to create the same kind of feeling in my images as well.

At first I had made a photograph of all my diaries and written letters and wanted to use that as a front page. However, I was not happy with the photograph itself and for the same reason of not using a diary layout, I think it didn't fit very well with the other photographs. The main reason for that is that the image is visually too descriptive and doesn't stir to think beyond what is seen, nor is it triggering an own interpretation.

I also find that I keep on going from one image to the other and one quote from my diaries to the other. This process of selecting and discarding helps me in defining what it is that I really want to show and what kind of visual process I would like the viewer to go through. Even after selecting all the images, I found an other one that I had accidentally taken when I was walking on the streets early in the morning and found it suitable to add to the set. For a moment I doubted whether I should leave in the image with the bed and the quote about sex, because it might be a bit too personal, but when I look back I do think it is quite funny that I used to believe that if you were sexually active as a teenager your sex life as an adult would totally suck. It also shows the kind of fears and myopic beliefs that I used to have. 

I have also changed a few quotes that, looking at them now, are too specific for the viewer to really understand and put most of the focus on my religious ideas back then. I prefer the set to be more about the struggle every teenager somehow goes through. Thinking about it, everybody at that age can have pretty skewed ideas, although some a bit more than the other. So below you will see my initial thoughts and final ideas:

The first two images tell about the doubts that I used to have about my faith and the need for space to grow. These were my initial quotes:

But when I looked at them again, I realised that for a person who has never been to church or has been in a church community, these quotes will only give responses of estrangement and won't invite to interpret them in a personal way. That's why I have chosen an other quote and swapped the other.

The photo below does have a quote that touches on my religious views, but also on how easily influenced I used to be in my search for meaning and a purpose in life. The question that the photo of an empty church triggers in regards to the quote is whether my effort to help in a revival failed or whether I just gave up on the idea of church itself. The baptismal font stands for an obvious choice to dedicate yourself or your child to God. I like the fact that there is nobody there. Now I believe that choices with regards to faith or religion should be made on a personal level, without the manipulation of others, me included.

However, when I looked at the images again after a while, I realised that the next quote is more personal and typical for the kind of fears that used to drive me. It might also be more understandable for somebody who has never been in a church setting before.

What spoke to me a lot in Duane Michal's work was that he was able to tell a story in a very strong and clear way. Sometimes through sequences, other times through hand written notes beneath the photo. I added this quote and story because I wanted to establish the same effect of making connotations between what you see and what the image is really about through captions. I have purposely taken the photo in an environment that looks a bit sterile, to accentuate the mess that you might get in your mind after reading the story. 

When I read this line in my diaries I immediately knew I wanted to take this photograph. Growing up is a bit like jumping and coming down again, sometimes very hard. I vividly remember those moments of discovering new things in life and feeling instantly mature and happy. Only to come down again and feel like you have to start all over again and make another jump. 

My initial idea was to make a self portrait with this quote, but I soon realised that in order to keep the main focus on how you feel in the adolescence years I should photograph my daughter instead. I wonder about the part in which I question if wearing make up is biblical. Is that going to distract the viewer from the main idea of the image, which is the questions I had about becoming a woman and what to do about it myself. On the other hand, those thoughts really did keep me from paying a lot of attention to how I looked and added to the sense of insecurity that I have felt for a long time.

There were so many professions that I wanted to become and I still hope reincarnation is real and I get to try a few more professions. As a teenager though, I found it very confusing and difficult to make such a profound decision. It also had an impact on my studies because I just could not choose what I wanted to do and ended up quitting every course or degree that I started. I feel that this insecurities are strongly related to a sense of self worth and it seems that now I'm in my forties I finally have the determination to actually not be distracted and finish something! 

As a teenager you can have such a love/hate relationship with your parents and so had I. However, I have always been able to have great conversations with my father and I have always felt a very strong connection with him. This photo is about how you discover things about yourself that are part of your family genes. Sometimes that can be very confrontational and you realise that there are certain traits that you will probably have to deal with the rest of your life. When it comes to my father though, seeing resemblances in him used to make me feel really good about myself and it still does.

I grew up with a strong sense that we are alive to serve others. In a way this sounds very nice, on the other hand looking back I am quite taken aback with the influence this has on your position in relationships with others. I realise now that I don't always have to be the one at other's service, I can say no and most important, I have to take care of myself and think more about what and who makes me happy! I did get married and think my husband is pretty happy with me, but now I realise this is not the point. First of all, happiness cannot be pursued, it ensues (Frankl). Second you can't ask from others to make you happy or feel that you're the soul provider of happiness for those around you. It's you're own responsibility to find meaning and fulfilment in life. Besides that, there's technology.

In this image and quote to show how some quite extreme thoughts steered me when I was growing up and how it made me worry about ridiculous things.  I have looked up a few of these books again and realise even more how stifling the theologies I held on to were. In the image I think that the sort of ghost like appearance of me in the mirror is quite a good reflection of how you was loosing my own identity through fear and skewed ideas. 

Of all quotes this one made me laugh most. I can still be very convinced of something and find out that it's not true! I guess that being aware of it is a good antidote though and I think that this realisation early in life has helped me stay tolerant and away from even more extreme thoughts. When I saw these stairs it reminded me of how you can be sure of finding something up there, go up, only to realise that it is very different and than go down again. This spiral case is a symbol of checking your ideas and coming back to exactly the same space where you came from, but with new knowledge and changed ideas, or staying up and enjoying a better view.

Outsiders often look at identical twins as being a unity and will only ask about differences and commonalities. When I was a teenager I really struggled with developing my own, separate identity beside somebody who looks exactly like you, but seems to be the better, smarter-decision-making version. I sometimes see similar struggles with my own girls and this photograph is a good example of it. I have been thinking whether I should put up an image that shows them happily playing together, because they actually get along really well, but this one is a much better reflection of the feelings that I had written down in my diary.

Autobiographical Self Portraiture

I looked up the artists that are mentioned in the course and ended up spending quite some time looking at their images, reading articles and watching related YouTube movies. It's quite fascinating to see in which ways the artists open themselves up, some in a very controversial and somewhat shocking way, like Terney Gearon and Elinor Carucci, other artists, especially Richard Billingham and Gillian Wearing have made very conscious decisions on how far they go with showing their private lives. 

The reader says that the photographers 'who use self portraiture as a means of self exploration tend to be unafraid of expressing who they are through the medium. The camera allows them to focus on themselves and their situations in a detached and almost observational manner.' This is what stuck with me most and my thoughts with looking at the imagery were constantly if I would dare to take the same images? Would I portray my parents and children in such a way? What would my husband think of it? Would it be interesting enough in the first place? etc. 

Because I had already finished the assignment for this part before starting it, I recognize these questions when I was working on my diary project as well. In some cases I am a bit ashamed of how I used to think and therefor left out a few quotes that were actually quite typical for who I used to be. Now I am rethinking this and wondering if it is necessary to really want to show it all in order to be a good artist?

I actually don't think so. Thinking again about Francesca Wood's parents, Gillian Wearing and Richard Billingham, who focused mainly on the form and function of the art. Even though for others it might still be perceived as very personal and open, they deliberately made choices in what they showed in their work and what they chose to exhibit and what not. 

So on to the questions in the reader!

About the artists and narcissism
I find Brotherus' images a little bit boring and bland. They don't really trigger a lot of excitement. I looked up her images on her website and they all seem to be about herself, how she sees herself, looks at herself, how others look at her and how she looks at others. The story of her failed IVF is very sad of course, and reading the text and captions does bring about empathy and understanding of feeling such a loss, but I do find the images very unappealing and not stirring a lot of emotions. The same with her being a stranger in an other country and how she responds to her new environment. My main sense while looking at her work was 'get over yourself'. Not very nice, sorry. 

About nakedness
I'm still wondering about the significance of nakedness in the work of all the artists that I just studied. There seems to be a difference between Brotherus' on one side and Carucci and Gearon on the other. Brotherus is showing her body only, unrelated to other people and focuses on the way she looks and feels. There's also a notion of the display of the beauty of her body and how that is looked at and percieved. In Carucci and Gearon's work on the other hand, their nakedness is related to a certain concept, like how far intimacy can go with familly members and when does it start to feel threatening (Gearon)? How is it that there are certain parts of our body that we try to hide (hair around nipples and in armpits) and why do they evoke such strong feelings of disgust? Even though some of this kind of work might be shocking, it certainly evokes feelings and questions. There is an element of beauty in the images, but it doesn't seem to have been added there on purpose.

About accompanying text
Certain artists have a very narrative way of photographing. For example, I found Carucci's images very open for interpretation and was drawn into the image without needing extra information. However, it is always interesting to read the ideas behind images and sometimes discover that I had come up with very different ideas. However, I find that Brotherus images only became interesting after reading her captions. Concluding, I think most depends on the visual clues in an image and how provoking they are in order to decide whether it needs captions. 

About wider issues
It's interesting to see how some artists can portray a very personal feeling or history and still be able to open it up for very different interpretations or bring in a universal theme that speaks to many. Maybe autobiographical self-portraits might me one of the most effective ways to address wider issues, like infertility, family relations, self worth, etc. You always feel most connected and drawn into a subject when there is a real person expressing it with a personal story behind the image.

I really like doing these kind of exercises and find it very enriching and stimulating to look up and read about other artists.

Elina Brotherus (no date) Available at: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/news/ (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Cavendish, L. (2013) Elinor Carucci: The mother of all photographers. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/10350481/Elinor-Carucci-the-mother-of-all-photographers.html (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Tierney Gearon photography - home - creator of the alphabet book (no date) Available at: http://www.tierneygearon.com/ (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Skidmore, M. and AnOther (2015) The many selves of Gillian wearing. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7906/the-many-selves-of-gillian-wearing (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

 

Weekend away in Varanasi

While working on the course, I've also been out and about in India. Two weeks ago I went to Varanasi with a friend with the sole purpose of photography. It was so much fun and I took about 3000 images, of which I accidentally deleted 900. It was terrible and the images I that I took are starting to get better and better in my memory, which doesn't make it less frustrating!

I found that photographing a place that is such candy for the eye brings on quite a lot of pressure because you feel this is the time and place to make some of your best photos. It works a bit stifling. I found it especially difficult to photograph large amounts of people, bring in some composition and focus on what I found interesting. The images that I like best are not even typically Varanasi, but just a fortunate get together of colours and lines. Here are a few that I'm quite happy with.

 What I take away most from these kind of experiences and the post processing afterwards is that it is very important to take time when walking around. I often had to push myself to just wait when I saw an opportunity, and not just shoot away, which I also did a lot. With so many images to work through, the editing part takes up just too much time and is also quite demotivating because there is a lot of junk there as well.

Photographing in India is a pleasure because in general, people don't mind at all to be photographed and actually ask you to take there photograph. Such a difference with Senegal! I noticed that I really like the images I took of boys that are about 11 years old. They have such an innocent, open look but already show their character and the experiences they have had in life. Since they love to be photographed, I thought it would be interesting to start a little project doing that.

An other thing that I notice, is that I struggle with getting the white balance right in post processing, especially after having changed the exposure and the highlights. More to work on!

Richard Billingham - Art as Coping Strategy?

I had never heard of Richard Billingham before and watched an artist talk in which he talks about his work and how he became a photographer. Billingham started taking photos of his father in order to have material to turn into paintings. From there on he photographed his family and the life they lived. Billingham's father was an alcoholic, unemployed and in a complicated relationship with his mother. The images give a very intimate insight in Billingham's parents, the way they lived and their relationship. After these projects Billingham went on photographing landscapes, his home town and animals in the zoo. 

What struck me most about the way Billingham talks about his work, is the distant, formal and non judgemental approach he has towards his own family. I kept on wondering how it was possible to speak in such a matter of factly way about an obvious troubling childhood, full of problems and struggles. Billingham talks about art being a way to escape his life. How he would go to the library as a child and look at paintings all the time. Even when he is photographing and filming his own family, he focuses on 'thinking formally, always trying to make a picture'

In the beginning of the talk, Billingham mentions that the concept of prison was appealing to him in the sense that in his parents' home, everybody could always just walk in and out without questioning. I think that this is reflected in the subjects that he photographs as well, like his father who stayed in a room, the behaviour of animals in prison and even the landscapes at night. 

Billingham's non-judgemental and formal approach to his work makes him almost seem indifferent to his own emotions and experiences of the situations that he photographs. I feel that besides his work being a narrative about his family, the quality and formality of working also show that the making of the work itself was a way for him to rise above his upbringing and childhood. 

In answering the question whether in his work he breaches the privacy of his family and whether it effects him personally, he answered that he hopes that 'the subject matter is protected by the quality of art'. In other words, you can rise above your emotions and personal attachments by creating good art. He said that 'he does get sad when he looks at the images that were not published and displayed'. When the form and quality of the images are not there, the guard of art falls away and he starts to feel his inner emotions and pain. 

Chobi Mela VIII (2013) Richard Billingham: Artist Talk@ Chobimela VII. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu8XLg0Zskc (Accessed: 21 March 2016).

Francesca Woodman

I looked into the life and work of Francesca Woodman and watched the documentary "The Woodmans', in which her parents talk about their daughter's life, how they look at her work now and how Francesca's life and death has influenced themselves and as artists. 

In a way Wood's images remind me of the photography of Arno Minkinen. His work is a collection of self-portraits, but are not so much auto biographical. The images show how the human body and forms communicate and fit within our natural environment. Even though in most of the images we see Arno's body, they don't tell a lot about who he is. In Francesca's images, you can see how she is positioning herself in relationship to her environment, experimenting with how her being impacts the surroundings. She situates herself in such a way that the boundaries between things and living beings become vaguer. 

As I listened to Francesca's friends and parents explaining her work, I could notice that they predominantly don't see it as a reflection of her state of mind, like Bright states (Bright, 2010, pg 25), but as a journey of experimenting with forms and texture and how art expresses itself. Her father says: 'The idea that art expresses yourself, that it's yourself what it's all about, was really distant for us, and when we look at someone else's art, we don't think, what does it tell us about the person, but what does the work say, forget the artist' - George Woodman

And her friend:
'Francesca Woodman was not trying to disappear as a representation of her state of mind when she was hiding behind a scrap of wallpaper. It was her making a parallel. how would it be to be that peeling paint or wallpaper? How does the human form relate to it?' and 'Her pictures are photos of a healthy person looking at a fragile interior' - Friend

I don't think one idea has to exclude the other. In a way art is always autobiographical, it is a reflection of what interests the artist visually, ideas and skills. You cannot see a work of art without getting to know aspects of the artist's personality, even though they may not be at all what they seem to be. I also think that for Francesca's parents it might be hard to even try to see her work as autobiographical, because it might be too painful and even confrontational if the evidence of Francesca's state of mind had been visible for years and they had not acknowledged the severity of her depression. 

Going back to comparing Woodman's images with Minkinen's work I notice that they are similar in the concept of how and where human fits in its environment, but that Minkinen's photographs don't show any expression of the person (or mostly body parts) in the photographs. You could say that his work is only autobiographical in the sense that the total of his work shows a great interest in nature, balance and a tranquil state of mind. Looking at the pictures made in the beginning of his career and later on, there is no change in that, proving that the autobiographical aspect and development are only a very thin layer of what the images convey. 

Woodman's work on the other hand, does show deeper layers of expressions, through body language, facial emotions, different use of space and material  and different narratives in her images. There is a clear development and change throughout her work, showing more of how she changed as an artist, but also as a person. Therefor I think Bright's analysis might have some truth in it, but it is very easy to find meaning in a narrative if you already know the end. I also find that Bright's statement is selling Woodman's creativity and ingenuity short. There is also a danger in explaining creativity and expressions in terms of mental stability. As if her art was a result of a mental illness and not of all the hours of hard work and dedication to art that she had since childhood. 

In any case, it's very interesting to think this concept and wonder about in what sense my own personality shines through what I do. Right now I feel I am mostly driven by work of other photographers and artists. When I see something that reminds me of a painting of photograph I have seen before, I try to copy it, or I will try to practice a technique or style that is being used. Even though I'm stealing of other people's ideas, I do think that my work at least shows who I am in what kind of art I like and discover. 

But maybe, if tragedy would strike, or if I became very depressed or mentally ill, it would change. I'm actually sure it would. 

List of References

Cooke, R. (2014) Searching for the real Francesca Woodman. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/31/searching-for-the-real-francesca-woodman (Accessed: 17 March 2016).

Jordana Lee (2015) The Woodmans [2010] Legendado PT-BR. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zqNUdtCwkU (Accessed: 17 March 2016).

Steinhauer, J. (2012) Finding Francesca Woodman. Available at: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2012/05/23/finding-francesca-woodman/ (Accessed: 17 March 2016).

Assignment 2 - Photographing the Unseen

This part of the course has made quite an impact on my photography, how I work and think about it. Looking at the conceptual narratives, thinking about the impact of captions with images, pondering on the freedom that I have as an artist to give a visual interpretation of the subjects I photograph and the world as I see and experience it, is truly triggering a creative streak in me. I find it exciting to realise that I can have an influence on how the viewers of my work interpret what I've made and who I am, but on the other hand that this influence can work in different ways. I can leave much open for own interpretation, or build in enough visual clues to steer the interpretation in the way I would like it to go. 

Initially, I had a lot of different ideas for this assignment, but chose to photograph the City of Djinns, a place in Delhi where  djinns are believed to reside. Hundreds of people come to visit and worship them every Thursday. Through my images I want to show the emotions and stories behind the people who come there, but also the magic and mystery that this place holds. I would like the viewers to look at the images and let their imagination run free, be triggered by mystery and faith and feel the same connection to the pilgrims of the City of Djinns that I felt when I was there.

Click on the images below to see them full screen.

Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills
I hope to think that my work meets the criteria in this part. Taking the photographs was quite tricky, because I had to deal with a lot of contrasting light and pitch dark places. I think I was able to get the best out of the situations and am especially happy with the portraits of the children. I have stretched myself in Photoshop for this assignment and I am planning to learn more, so that I will be able to produce my ideas and not be stopped by lack of skills and knowledge when it comes to drawing and Photoshop. 

Quality of outcome
After my first attempt, I was not happy at all with the result. I thought the set of images looked a bit boring and they didn't convey the feelings and experience that I wanted to show. I'm glad I gave myself some time to work on the layout and post process other images. I think that there is a better balance in portraits, the mystery of the place and what is happening in the city of Djinns. I was glad to have found the text on the internet, because that gave me something to hold on to when organising the images. Besides that, it tells exactly what I wanted to tell and invites the imagination to run freely while looking at the images. 

Demonstration of creativity
It feels that with this assignment I have turned a corner and feel that I am ready to open up and give myself the freedom to experiment with my photos, use different media and work more conceptually. I believe that this assignment is the beginning of this. At least, that is what it feels like!

Context
This assignment was a result of the research and reading that is required in the course. I don't think I would have been able to work the way I did if not for the examples in the reader and the books I'm reading at the moment. Sometimes I'm afraid that I'm taking everything a bit out of context, but I guess that always happens when you're walking on unexplored territory and learning new things every step of the way. I trust that the knowledge will connect at a certain point and also infuse my own work, hopefully. 

Bibliography

Arora, K. (2016) On Thursdays, Kotla turns Aladdin’s lamp. Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/On-Thursdays-Kotla-turns-Aladdins-lamp/articleshow/12214806.cms (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Asif Khandehlvi (2015) An Evening with Djinns of Delhi at FirozShah Kotla. Available at: http://delhikaravan.com/2015/12/10/an-evening-with-djinns-of-delhi-at-firozshah-kotla-3/ (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Sethi, A. (2014) On the real tragedy of secular modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja. Available at: http://kafila.org/2014/10/07/on-the-real-tragedy-of-secular-modernity-anand-vivek-taneja/ (Accessed: 14 March 2016).

Kalia, P. (2012) The Djinns at Kotla Feroz shah, Delhi. Available at: http://www.speakingtree.in/article/the-djinns-at-kotla-feroz-shah-delhi (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Routray, O. (2014) Feroz shah Kotla fort – letters to the djinns and other tales. Available at: http://theyoungbigmouth.com/2014/03/31/feroz-shah-kotla-fort-letter-to-the-djinns-and-other-tales/ (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Assignment 2 - Layout

In order to get the right atmosphere breathing through my images, I have been moving around quite a bit with images. Here's a quick summary of different ideas I had in the process, there were actually more steps, but it's too much to show without boring you! Sometimes I just don't know what is best, but find that if I keep on trying at a certain point I am sort of content.

Assignment 2 - Additional Information to the Images

Thank goodness this doesn't happen very often! I had just finished the entire blogpost when the internet crashed and I lost my work. Anyway, although not so inspired anymore, in this post I will give some extra information about the images that I'm using. Some are still in their old layout, but in the final submission you will see how I have put them all together.

We start with an image of a lovely little girl:

I took this one in one of the little caves where supposedly the Djinns live. The girl is actually posing for a friend, but I loved the innocent, open look on her face. She asked us if we could photograph her, wanting her image to be captured and remembered. Even though in this case not directed to Djinns, I do think her expressions are a good representation of how the people open themselves towards Djinns. Their longing to be listened to, looked at and recognised. I decided to photograph her from the side because I was inspired by an exercise in the book 'Train Your Gaze'. Based on the photography of .... (need to look this up), you are asked to photograph people meditating or contemplating, without showing the source of meditation. 

I added this image because it is believed that the darker the place, the more djinns reside there. It was difficult to photograph this cave. It was really dark and I wanted to show the contour of the man praying, the candle lights and letters on the wall, without the getting too grainy. In postprocessing I was able to get have an acceptable amount of noise. I like how the candles and letters bring depth to the image. 

This man didn't seem very unhappy at all, but I really like the threatening, scary feel that this image has, because of the contours of his leg, wooden leg and stick. Actually, we had a nice talk with the man, he has been coming to the City of Djinns for years and is believed to have special powers to communicate with them. He gives a lot of council to the visitors and was very kind to us as well. 

Rumour has it that Djinns travel on the wings of these black birds and that it is very important to keep them well fed and happy. That's why these men are throwing chunks of meat to the birds. I couldn't capture all the birds in one image, so for my final image I have composited two. When seeing the birds, I immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds', which gives it a very creepy feel. I want the image to show the fear, creepiness and awe when I saw them.

This family was friendly enough to let us join their ceremony of lighting candles and hanging letters to the wall. The girl turned around and was very curious. At first she was smiling a lot, but turned more and more serious as the ceremony continued. I like how she looks as if she is guarding her family, what they are doing and what they believe. 

Muslims are a minority in India and there is a growing tension between the Hindu and Muslim community. Even though the City of Djinns is a place where both come to worship and the boundaries of religions fade, in general threats towards the muslim community increase and the number of violent incidents have increased ever since Modi has come into power. For me, this image represents the fear that is starting to become more and more tangible in the Muslim community. I like how the faces of the mother and child are almost merged and how they both look in a different direction.

This photograph was quite hard to make, because the cave was really dark and I didn't want to disturb the prayers. I was able to remove most of the noise and lighen up the darker parts so that the letters and candles in the back are visible. I like how this creates more depth in the image. It is believed that the darker the cave, the more Djinns reside. This must have been a very busy one!

In this room a spiritual leader was performing all kinds of rituals, anointing people, mixing rose petals and rice and lighting candles while chanting prayers. Even though there were about ten people in the room, I chose to use this picture because of the expectant posture of the couple and the concentrated look on the leader's face. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to photograph him with his face completely visible. I should have stayed longer and waited till I got the image I wanted. But because my camera is quite a noisy clicker, I felt uncomfortable and didn't want to annoy them. Next time I will wait and photograph a bit more though!

When I see women completely covered, I sometimes find it difficult to not generalise them. I like how this image shows that although the women are dressed alike, they do have their own prayers, styles and needs. It's a bit difficult to see, but the people behind the bar are hindu, showing the diversity and openness of the City of Djinns. The caption with this image is 'experiences', because I want the viewer to look beyond their prejudices that they might have, or the inclination to see all of the women as the same and realize that they all go through different experiences in life and that those experiences bind us together.

This is one of the images I have inverted and manipulated in Photoshop. However, I wanted to show the original shapes and forms, because even though Djinns are invisible, it is the shape of the smoke that shows they are around. I have to say, we did see some weird, mysterious shapes!

An other one that I manipulated in Photoshop. The image shows the kind of shrines you will find in the City of Djinns. Letters, flower petals and a lot of oil lamps. I like how with the inversion of the image, the photos of the people on the letter have become much more obvious, raising questions about why they are all mentioned in the same letter and what is the story behind the fact that prayers are asked for them.

At first, I just wanted to take a picture from the gate and the little ribbons on them. These ribbons are put there as a sign or remembrance of prayers that have been answered. Every one of them represents a story that is unknown, but were important enough to be remembered. I like how the shadow on the wall adds to the mysterious atmosphere of the City of Djinns. 

Overall, I think the images form a nice collection. In the next blog I will post the final work.

Assignment 2 - Changes of Thoughts and Layout

Okay, so I had done all my post processing, added the captions and was quite content with the final result:

I was about to send my tutor a happy message to tell him that I was done, when I looked at the pictures again and realised that the end product was actually pretty boring, nice as the images may be. I realised that if I want to grow as an artist, I need to start thinking about how I want to present my work and dare myself to make it different and better. Judging my own work I felt that there was much more potential in the subject matter and that in order to convey the message of mystery and the human emotions that are at play in the City of Djinns, I had to change my layout and increase the depth of visual experience when looking at the work. 

An other welcome revelation was that in this course I can make my images look exactly the way I want them to. I don't have to adhere to any rules or ideologies, this work is my interpretation of what I have experienced and seen. The background information and research informs me, but does not have to dictate the way I represent my thoughts. At the same time I'm reading 'Towards a Philosophy of Photography', by Vilém (love that name) Flusser) which discusses the idea that:

'Basically, therefore, photographers wish to produce state of things that have never existed before; they pursue these states, not out there in the world, since for them the world is only a pretext for the states of things that are to be produced, but amongst the possibilities contained within the camera's program.' (Flusser, pg 37)

With digital photography this idea is exponentially more valid and it triggered me into thinking beyond just adjusting the raw files to make them visually more attractive, but work on the pixels in such a way that the subject would present an other state. 

Going back to the subject of my project, I think this line of thought is a parallel to the way the people in my photographs think about djinns and mysticism in general. They believe Djinns come in all shapes and forms and can travel through the dimensions of time. Instead of having a camera and computer to make this visible, the system of beliefs of the people make this unseen phenomena a reality.

On the next page, Flusser talks about the 'phenomenological doubt' that photographers experience, because photography makes it possible to show an innumerable viewpoints of phenomena, making the 'photographer's practice hostile to ideology'.

'Ideology is the insistence on a single viewpoint thought to be perfect. Photographers act in a post-ideological way even when they think they are serving an ideology.' (Flusser, pg 38)

The worship of Djinns has always been under much debate in the muslim community and now that I think about it, this may also have to do with the fact that the ideas that beings in all different shapes and dimensions have divine powers is a stray from a monotheistic ideology in itself. 

I like how I can read books that at first seem quite incomprehensible, even a bit weird, and then realise that they describe experiences and thoughts that are actually applicable to different circumstances and come to the core of why we do things, where we find meaning and maybe also why I enjoy photography so much. It may just give the same magical sensation as burning incense to Djinns or feeling a connection with times and people in the past. 

But back to what happened next. I decided I wanted to change the layout of the images and make it look like the spreads in a book. So I googled books Djinns layout and came across this page:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/billayton/sets/72157624536454109/

I really like how the book breaths a certain atmosphere, but actually uses a lot of different ways of drawing, paintings and photography. I'm still very uncomfortable drawing, but I wished I could add drawings to my work. Thank goodness for Photoshop! I started manipulating the images of the shrines, smoke and artefacts that people leave in the caves and came up with some interesting results:

After manipulating the images I tried a few different ways of incorporating them with the images and also made some changes in which images to use. I realised that in my initial set there were too many photographs of children and that the first image of the fort is really not very interesting and doesn't fit well with the overall narrative that I want to show. Here are a few of my trials:

In my next blog I'll write some additional information about the images themselves.

Flusser, V. (2000) Towards a philosophy of photography. London: Reaktion Books.

City of Djinns - Captions

After reading a lot of articles and looking for clues on why people go to pray to Djinns I still find myself doubting on what kind of questions to use. Is it ethical to make put captions of people that belong to others below an image of an other person? Do I want to focus on the personal spiritual journeys people follow when they are there, or do I want to keep it more general and provide information on the prayers to Djinns in general?

The thing is, I haven't personally asked the people I photographed why they are there, but have read enough to know the kind of prayers that are being said and letters that are being written. Is it appropriate to add this to information to images of others?

Maybe I should think of writing my own captions and ideas why somebody would visit the place, or write captions in such a way that it triggers the viewer to envision the stories behind the prayers that are being offered. 

I found this text in an advertisement for a tour at Kotlah, I quite like the words and think they would go well with the images.

"Let's gather amidst the smoke of incense which envelops this magical place. Talk about things rarely discussed, hidden fears, black magic, existence of unknown, incidents, experiences, the unhappy spirits, the beliefs." 

Although by only using this part of text and not giving more information about the images, I narrow down the depth of what is happening there, I think it will resonate more and give a better experience with the viewer. After all, what I want is trigger a curiosity and recognition of what is going on.

Asif Khandehlvi (2015) An Evening with Djinns of Delhi at FirozShah Kotla. Available at: http://delhikaravan.com/2015/12/10/an-evening-with-djinns-of-delhi-at-firozshah-kotla-3/ (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

 

Assignment 2 - City of Djinns, preparations

When coming up with ideas for photographing the unseen at first I wanted to stick to something conceptual because the main chunk of my photography is of documentary character. For me photographing the unseen implies giving the viewer enough information to create his or her own narrative derived from the subject when looking at the images. In order to not make it into a documentary sequence I should really stick to something very personal. However, since Assignment 3 is already going to be a self portrait, I thought I'd give myself the freedom to bring some documentary elements in this assignment after all. I live in a too exciting place to not do that anyway!

Nowadays Kotla Feroz Shah, the ruins of a 14th century city in the Center of Delhi is more known for the government of Djinns that is supposed to reside there than its monumental value. Djinns are formless spirits that according to the Quran, were created together with men:

“And we certainly created man out of clay from an altered black mud. And the Jinn, we created before, from scorching fire”  ( The Quran 15:26 & 15:27)

Djinns live longer than men and are able to travel fast from one location to the other and also through time. They can be either good or evil, especially when they possess men, but are mostly known as friendly fairies who can help people in their troubles, forgive sins and fulfil wishes. Djinns have a governmental structure and allows people to bring their wishes and prayers to be offered in the form of writings. These letters are very formal and copied, often with a passphoto and identification number. 

Every Thursday hundreds of people go to Kotla Feroz Shah to bring their requests or thanks in the form of candles, incense and flower petals. Spiritual advisors give blessings and speak on behalf of the Djinns. At the end of the evening, after everybody is gone, the Djinns come out to read the letters and listen to the requests and meet to solve problems.

I read an article by a Phd student who studies this phenomenon. According to him the ritual has become more popular after times in which the Muslim community was repressed, after the partition, the emergency and the first uprising in 1847. According to him it seems that when people cannot find acknowledgment in the institutions that are present, they look for help elsewhere. So not only is the city of Djinns a place to bring your worries and joys, it is also a place to feel acknowledged and recognised. 

Personally I don't believe in Djinns, but I am fascinated with the people who come here every week, the stories they have, their requests and miracles they have experienced. Most people are Muslim, but also Sikhs and Hindus come to offer to the Djinns. My idea for this assignment is to show a Thursday afternoon in Kotla Feroz Shah through images and use texts that I have found in articles about wishes that have been granted, the problems that people come with and the history of the djinns in this place as relaying captions.

Because of the captions, I hope to bring the place, rituals and especially the people alive and help installing a connection between the subject in the image and its viewer. When I was there, I didn't find it scary or creepy at all, mostly because I understood that the people coming there were just like me, struggling and rejoicing with life, looking for answers and having dreams. In the end, we all struggle with the same issued in life and find ways to deal with them. It made me feel the magic, even though I really don't believe in Djinns. 

With this assignment I hope to be able to establish this experience of wonder, magic and understanding through my images and words. 

Below is an overview of my initial selection of images I want to choose from. In my next postings I will write about my selection process and captions.

 

Assignment 2 - Ideas

Already since the beginning of this part I have been thinking about the idea of photographing the unseen. It's interesting to notice how my ideas have shifted from a documentary point of view to a more personal, a result of looking at all the work of the photographers I have studied in this part, especially the work of Duane Michels and Briony made an impact. At first I would think of  un-photographable things and came up with everything that can be sensed with other senses than sight, but the more I thought about it I would come up with ideas that could portray those. The same counts for feelings, looking at certain subjects will make connotations with feelings like pain or happiness and will make you feel them. Just like you can feel a shiver down your spine when you see somebody falling on concrete or something like that. So, even though certain seemingly un-photographable subjects might be very difficult to portray, in the end you can photograph subjects that evoke the unseen, especially when you add text to the images.

Here are a few examples I have been thinking about: 

1. Morse code or secret language.
Morse code itself is already a translation of something written into sounds. I would like to experiment with shutter speed and moving objects to create a certain text in code that is visualized through showing images taken with fast and slow shutter speeds. When thinking about Morse, I mostly relate it to emergency situations and I would like to photograph a subject that asks for an immediate response. As a subject I have been thinking about the air pollution in Delhi, that is the worst in the world. On a more personal level, I am also considering photographing a person who is almost drowning. An other related idea is to take photos of things that represent a letter and form words or phrases with the images. The images can already reflect the final word that is portrayed, or be something very opposite to get the Magritte's 'This is not a Pipe' effect. 

2. Dinner tables. 
A meal conveys a lot of meanings. Photographing tables right after a meal can show the atmosphere in which the meal was taken, social setting and ideas of health, etiquette and traditions. Sometimes it might even show the conversations that were talked about, whether people were in a hurry, if they knew the others at the table, etc. I would like to go to different settings, like work spaces, family homes, school canteens, etc. 

3. Music
Even though we cannot hear the music in an image. By showing the musicians or dancers and their settings and costumes, you can get an idea of which kind of music is listened to. I could go to concerts, cafes, schools and places in Delhi to show Bollywood dancers. Also in temples and churches you will hear different types of music that can already be guessed by its setting and the people in it. The result should be image in which people can hear the specific types of music, just through looking at the photographs.

4. Unemployment
I want to show what people do when they are unemployed, so what they do instead of working. Even though the photographs might not directly show that the subject has no job, through captions I think I can portray the inner feelings and frustrations about not having a job. I would like to photograph a wide range of people from different social classes and show the similarities and differences in the struggles they face.

5. Haunted places
I read an article about the most haunted places in Delhi and there are quite a few of them! I'd go there and take images of the places and at the same time interview the people who believe the places are haunted and in what ways they experience it. Some of these places are holy places that people visit for the purpose of communicating with a spirit, others are houses where people have been murdered.

6. Deserted houses
During the partition of India in 1947 there was a mass movement of Muslims going to Pakistan and Hindus coming to India. In about 1 year 2 million people died and a terrible polarisation between religions came about. I talked to a friend who visited a village outside of Delhi where there are deserted homes of Muslim families in which nobody wants to live anymore because there used to be Muslim families there and they think the houses are unclean. I would like to photograph these places and maybe interview some villagers who might know what happened to these families and how they now look at these houses and their former inhabitants.

7. Diary
When I was in high school I kept a diary. When reading it 25 years later I realise how much I made myself completely dependent on God and how much this influenced the decisions I made, my self esteem and preparedness for the future. I would like to take out quotes from the diaries and visualise them. Maybe give a new interpretation of what I used to think or show how certain ideas became true or the opposite and how my upbringing and way of thinking has influenced in how I am today as a person and a mother of teenagers.

8. Twins
Being one of twins and having twins myself I would like to photograph the specific bond that exist between twins. Again, I'd use quotes from my diary and take photographs of my children that reflect the same feelings and frustrations that I experienced myself. 

I'm still doubting which one to choose. I do notice that I have been taking a lot of documentary style photographs, especially because I've lived in such photogenic places over the past years. In order to practice a more conceptual way of photographing, I think I will challenge myself more with the more personal options. Although I am eager to do all projects! I'll send this list to my tutor and see what he thinks.

 

Exercise - Personal work

Just spent the last two hours reading through the projects of the students in the reader and from there following all sort of links that were put on the OCA students' website. I noticed that these projects are all examples of the types of narratives that were discussed earlier in this part. With the text and underlying information much of the emotions and meanings come to light and make the visuals very intimate and contemplative. I recognize the feelings that are portrayed in the projects and even though they are very universal, they are elevated out of the ordinary and make me feel privileged to get insight and be part of these personal stories. If not given the background information the photos themselves could be viewed as very unanimous and impersonal and the examples show the power of the combination of text and image.

Dewald Botha's Ring Road resonates most with me. I have lived in places that were unknown and looked really ugly and desolated. I remember walking around in these cities, looking for beauty in order to make me feel better and less alienated. I lived in Warsaw and Luanda in the late 90s, places that were grim and breathing war and suffering. The thing that kept me going was finding nature and beauty in unexpected places and being really happy when seeing grass or proper paved roads. I find the link that Dewald makes with freedom and limitations very interesting. When you are in a new place you feel a certain freedom to explore it, but because of the unknown and unfamiliarity you somehow feel isolated and trapped as well. This being limited to a certain area is very much reflected in his images. They are all taken from and around the ring road, looking out to a world that is not his own. But by keeping the Ring Road as his vantage point, he finds the freedom to explore. I was very impressed by the way Dewald describes this:

Ring Road questions and explores exactly that which allows us our freedom, or what we believe the definition of freedom is, but which we turn into our won invisible limitations and boundaries. Do we create these limitations out of a need of knowing where limitations lie in today's unlimited and undefined world? Are we experiencing a sense of being lost or displacement, and attempting to rectify or stabilise our sense of self through redefining the parameters, which we have in some way become disconnected from?

Botha, D. (no date) Ring road. Available at: http://www.dewaldbotha.net/ring-road.html (Accessed: 11 February 2016)

After that I have been looking at the work of Latoya Ruby Frazier, especially her The Notion of Family project. In her statement she explains how she has been documenting her family and their life in an industrial town Braddock. Her images reflect the effects the rise and decline of the steel industry and the environmental hazards that accompanied it on three generations of women, her grandmother, mother and herself. As she states: 'There is an intergenerational transference of our identities existing in the history of Braddock Pennsylvania.'

Ruby Frazier, L. (no date) Statement. Available at: http://www.latoyarubyfrazier.com/statement/ (Accessed: 11 February 2016).

Again, I feel drawn into a family and their history through the combination of stunning images and the story told through her writings and in her videos. On the other hand, because the relationship between her and her mother and grandmother are visualized so strongly, I start to wonder about the relationship I have with my own mother, how the environment I lived in influenced us or not and if I feel as strongly connected with her or my grandmother as shown in the pictures. 

Regarding the question about how I feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto the images I've created, I believe that it is something inherent to photography in the first place. In showing your work to others, or even in the decision to capture a certain scene in a certain time you loose control over how it will be interpreted by others who see it out of the context. I do think that certain images are more controlling than others and that you can influence the viewer by what you show. On the whole, I am excited when viewers see things in my work that I hadn't noticed myself, it also teaches myself about how I look at things and that what I think I see might actually mean something else or be something else.