BA Phot

C&N Part 2: Narrative

- Page 3 - Project 3

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Project 1 Telling a story - Project 2 - Image and text - Exc. 2.1 - Exc. 2.2 - Exc. 2.3 - Project 3 - Photographing the unseen - Exc. 2.4 - Upsum

Dewald Botha - Sophie Calle - Bryony Campbell - Kaylynn Deveney - David Hurn - Karen Knorr - Peter Mansell - Duane Michals - Sophy Rickett - W. Eugene Smith - Jodie Taylor - Postmodern narrative - Selecting a subject - Conclusion

See the blog, 1st December for consideration of the referencing used on this page.
And further comments on local referencing here.

Project 3 - Photographing the unseen

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[19Feb20, [2, p.61]] The title is meant in the postmodern sense of 'show don't tell', although one of my suggested projects for Asg.2 is a more literal interpretation.

We are introduced to the work of three OCA students to lead by example.

Peter Mansell

Peter Mansell [2, p.61] who we first met in EyV.

The information provided is similar to that in EyV: an RTA in his 20s resulted in a spinal cord injury and paraplegia. At first Mansell's goals in OCA were 'visual spectacle .… and technical proficiency then an assignment provided the impetus to document his life -and that was cathartic, giving emotional relief.

Although it is not shown in the cmat, my image of choice from his book, Paralysis Unseen is fig. A1 below, a deceptively simple shot showing the damage done to a doorframe by repeated wheelchair scrapes.

Mansell Jodi Taylor
Box A
1. Peter Mansell, from Paralysis Unseen
2. Dewald Botha, from Ring Road
3. Jodie Taylor, from Memories of Childhood
© named artists
Dewald Botha
web site

Dewald Botha [2, p.65] is new to me, at least. A South African, working in China, he felt himself to be an 'outsider' in the 'fast-paced' city of Sizhou. Botha documented two city ring roads that he gradually traversed on foot, looking for oases of calm. In doing so, Botha's knowledge of a particular aspect of the city came to exceed that of the locals and this might have helped given him a sense of recuperative superiority. Fig. A2 is from the series.

Jodie Taylor

Jodie Taylor [2, p.67] again, appeared early in EyV in the introduction to Asg.1, Square Mile. Once again there is no new information on Taylor's work which deals with the environment of her youth and was presented 'as 6×4’s … in a cheap and flimsy black album' appropriate to that time. The images themselves are prosaic and nondescript without an explanation of their background and purpose, see fig. A3. As I stated in my EyV response, '[t]hey could be evidence in a neighbours' dispute, or slipped equally easily into a "real" old album, or (with a change in image size) exhibitions by Egglestone [or] Paul Seawright'.


Exercise 2.4

Two questions are posed on the work of Mansell, Botha and Taylor,
Which project resonates and why
Discuss loss of authorial control

I am sympathetic towards Mansell over the effects of his disability on his daily life which is far more severe and enduring than mine and to Botha seeking a means of dealing with his loneliness , but it is Taylor's work which I find the most engaging because she has depicted a life experience to which I can personally relate in a series of ambiguous images and also thought creatively about how this should be presented, Taylor's project is more complete and (I imagine, in the original) more immersive than the others.

Regarding loss of authorial control, I am beginning to embrace this notion, enthused by Sontag's observation that

photographs do not seem strongly bound by the intention of the photographer Sontag, On Photography, quoted in La Grange, Basic critical theory for photographers, [3, p.37]

One of the approaches available to the photographer (and the one that I am coming to adopt) is to complete an image, or series, and release it to the world to make of it what it may. Attempts to anchor imagery to the artist's intention is, perhaps, understandable (particularly when it was created with the intention of promoting a particular point of view or publicising an event or an circumstance) but this is, to my mind, an authoritarian approach that is unlikely to succeed,
Writing on this subject in Photography Decoded, Bright and van Erp [9, p.59] observe that (to quote at length),

In photography, narratives are built by both photographers and viewers, because a narrative is inextricably linked with context on the one hand and interpretation on the other. If the maker / photographer provides no context - for example through captions - the interpretation of a photograph will inevitably be steered by the viewer's own experiences, background and education. As a result, without at least some context already in place, concepts such as fact and truth (as conceived by the maker) immediately lose their value. On the other hand, where context is abundantly provided, as in a multimedia piece, the opinion of the maker may be foregrounded, leaving the viewer with less room for personal interpretation. So a good use of narrative might seek to provide room for and balance both authorial intention and the viewer's interpretation. Bright and van Erp [9, p.59]

It is difficult to disagree with Bright and van Erp in their description of authorial narrative intention, but their value judgment on 'good use' is simply a matter of opinion: my personal approach (since the course material has asked '[h]ow do you feel') is that I am quite content for viewers to interpret my images however their minds dictate.

Conclusion and Summing up

Part 2 Project 1 concerned the move away from a linear narrative approach and observational storytelling, as produced by W. Eugene Smith. Project 2 covered the inclusion of text with imagery and the increasing occurrence of biographical rather than third-party subjects. Project 3 looked at how this development continued with what might be termed depersonalised biography where the subject does not appear in the photographs but the images depict aspects of their lives.

Within the genres explored in this section of the course, authorial control is at its greatest in an illustrated article, such as used to be published in LIFE magazine, or, for that matter, the in Times Magazine. As photo series have become more directly biographical and then more impressionistic, text has been used in an attempt (amongst other things) to retain this control and this with varying degrees of success. It is the writer’s view that authorial control should be neither desired nor sought.

It was noted that the material on Peter Mansell and Jodie Taylor was a repeat of EyV.


No local references


Page created 18-Feb-2020 | Page updated 23-Sep-2020