Reviewing Progress so far: A few thoughts/Ideas
I’ve written before about my efforts to find the right photographic approach to Silent Pool. I’d also been jotting down ideas for presentation, including the use of text – something I’ve written about previously, here and here . Joel Colberg wrote an interesting piece about the role of text alongside photography in January 2018. His view was that one has to look at what the two do together, but this approach didn’t seem to him to be very common in photography. “Here, photographs are almost always taken as being in the driver’s seat, with text riding shotgun (at best).” He also refers to captions in photojournalism and documentary photography incorporating, “[… ] often very elaborate pieces of text that, however, often are produced by a different author and that usually almost lead a life of their own.” This contrasts with fine-art photography where images might not even have titles. Colberg queries this, wondering why omit text when it could elevate the work beyond what the pictures are able to do. To me that’s a very interesting question because I sometimes think along the reverse – at what point do the photographs become mere illustrations to a narrative? For me, this is compounded by the fact that, in this student world, we’re expected to write a fair amount ‘about’ our photography plus we have a lot of discussion about captions and placement of text. Having looked at different ways in which some photographers use text Colberg recognises that there isn’t a single model of how pictures and text work together so this has to be figured out in each particular case – how will one inform the other?
This came home to me at a recent visit to Moving The Image, an Exhibition at Camberwell Space, London. When we walked into the Exhibition space it struck me as light and spacious but sparse – really minimal. I then realised that there were no captions or titles, no pieces of information informing me about the photographer or the work. This meant I had to spend quite some time looking at the work and trying to comprehend what it was all about in some cases; which was a good thing. It turned out there was actually a list of works handout , with a diagram as to where they were – numbered in such a way that you didn’t follow an organic flow with it. There was also a printed pamphlet containing a quite lengthy essay by the curator, Duncan Wooldridge, with references to the pieces of work and photographs of some of them. I felt pleased I hadn’t known about them to begin with because the lack provided some additional learning and realisation.
My anxiety about my Silent Pool photographs and thoughts on text and image came to a head when I was in bed, unable to sleep, the night before the OCA Thames Valley Group meeting. What if I could do a mini experiment to test out my work; how would I go about it? Eventually I worked out a possible process in my head. I could present some of the photographs without any explanation other than they were part of the Assignment, give group members a card each and ask them to write words or a brief sentence on anything that came to mind when looking. It would be the images themselves that spoke rather than explanatory text. Next I would tell them about Silent Pool, its history, the story by Martin Tupper and the Distillery and ask if there was any point at which each of them became more interested in the photographs. I did manage to get some sleep after that but got up early and printed off some of the photographs at A4 size. I used Permajet Titanium Lustre paper for most of them as I thought this would be appropriate for photographs of water as it has a slight texture and metallic sheen. Otherwise I used Epson traditional photo-paper which is quite a heavy paper and with a slight satin sheen. I included a photograph of tree roots – kind of like a wild card but it reminded me of hanging on, clinging to the roots of something, existing over time – and also a composite image of the pool and a girl leaning over it. The girl was from a copyright- free Victorian painting but I had distorted her figure slightly so that she leaned over further and also added a reflection.
Thames Valley Group Meeting – 18th May 2019
There were seven of us, slightly less than usual but good too as it meant we each had more time for presentation. I presented the Silent Pool images and went through the process of my mini experiment as planned. These are the images I chose:-
After cards were written, I narrated all the events and story of the Pool then, during the following discussion, I also showed some small fabric prints. I had been thinking about the work of Noemie Goudal, and her installation of a fabric waterfall and played with the idea of something similar as a small installation. I used Contrado for the printing as I had used them previously for the mini-project I collaborated on with Dawn. I chose satin for one and crushed velvet for the other:
Dawn kindly made notes for me on points that arose during the discussion, which was so helpful because it enabled me to listen and concentrate on what people were saying.
- Looked at images individually and then interested when they were all together – before the Pool (history etc?)
- Thought of word ‘silent’ then it looks like Silent Pool
- Myth – a story of warning people
- Reminds me of another story where a girl goes in a pool, goes round and round and drowns – Mill on the Floss?
- Looks like a peaceful and romantic place. Interesting how all the layers of story-telling have built on top.
- Permanence and fluidity. When told story I felt it was not true. I’m just too cynical. Like the monasteries who invented relics to get people to visit.
- Like King Arthur – nobody know who or where he was.
- From romantic landscape to commercial merchandise
- You could take the water into your own bottles and photograph them. Produce your own
- To me it’s wondrous; the pure pool
- Had different histories. I thought of above and below.
- There’s something about woodland pools that are very attractive; innately attractive.
- These images could have been evidence from a court case; they could be forensic evidence.
- All these elements building around the same place
- Addition of the figure (manipulated composite image) turns it into a Victorian landscape. Conceptually I’d like to see the outline of the painting to highlight the concept.
This was all such helpful feedback for me. I was pleased that the images did mainly seem to evoke the sense of place I’d been trying to achieve. Interesting as well about the comments regarding from romantic landscape to commercial merchandise which is very much about how we harness, own and make money from them. This led to comments re the fabric prints, including that I could make tea towels as well as bottling some of the water in a bottle I designed. Those are also useful in thinking about eventual presentation.
Many thanks to Dawn, Miriam, Richard, Kevin, Gerry and Michael for their feedback.