Demonstration of technical and visual skills (35%) – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
Working across original, scan, printout and on-screen: the images for this section are diverse: the main body produced for this assignment consists of formally composed, fairly abstract photographs (partial self-portraiture) of my feet on a variety of grounds (variations of my bed, blanket, boxes), taken with different lenses (though primarily a short telelens) on Lumix G and digitally post-processed. Other images are found family album images (either from my own family or purchased online); these are rephotographed as objects or scanned.
The presentation of the material is, as per assignment laid out in a bookform, digitally, in doublespreads. The sequencing is unfolding across the book: opening out from a series of motion-blurred images to gain a focus on absent feet, a standing in of these feet, and a juxtaposition of family album images and response, before moving out of view again. The majority of images are full page single images, occasionally interspersed with a blank page. A few doublespreads are more complexly composed by repeating or creating a tension between past and present (source/response) images.
I was intent on creating a contemporary response to the family album image and wanted to do so with the digital camera and a rather considered and formal aesthetic layout and composition, dominated by colour fields, limited objects and clear lines within the image.
I worked with natural light and a reflector. I worked with an A mode on the images and autofocus and the former lead to different hues in the tones of the fabric surfaces, which wasn’t ideal and meant careful Lr adjustments of these in post-processing. With the composition being fairly coherent across the images, the autofocus mode was a good way of ensuring focus on my feet, for further shoots in this manner, I would set manual aperture/speed and work with auto-focus or a rope/stand-in to measure distance.
Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
This assignment took in a rather different form of research to A1: it was working with the course materials, exploring different approaches to curating and working with archives; notably taking inspiration from Joachim Schmid, a critical engagement of Kessels’ work and then also Trish Morrissey and Hans Eijkelboom: as providing a stand-in, a trickster figure appearing in the other families to pretend to be father or mother roles. This role of camouflage added some form of lightness to an otherwise potentially heavy way of dealing with being the granddaughter of NS officers and soldiers. The formal composition of my own self-portraiture in tone was however very different to both Morrissey and Eijkelboom’s work.
The statement for the project leads into a family narrative that positions myself as author within a web of familial relations and obligations; it is in nature story-like and confessional and is based on research into the working modes of Sophie Calle and also the writer Chris Kraus: working with personal material, subverting it, adding oblique angles and remaining primarily performative while seemingly confessing. As such, I have felt able to position the diverse material in a personal, biographical field while also creating a distance to my personal live. The statement also closes with the questions that remain for me – as for many of my generation and the previous one – as to the incomprehensibility of the NS and Holocaust (despite having read and discussed so much about it) in the context of having only known these men and women as (often very loving) grandparents.
Trish Morrissey’s work Front is discussed as her acting as an imposter but also as a trickster: of allowing to intervene both seriously and committed (e.g. by naming the women she stands in for in the title of her works) and playful (taking on different roles, guises in these images); I found a resonance with this work more so than possibly others around the family album: to be able to be light-hearted and with a heavy heart at the same time: to cut across different emotional registers with a body of work and I feel that I have managed to achieve this in this project.
Demonstration of creativity (25%) – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
With this series I had developed a brief and compositional sketches prior to taking the photos and proceeded to explore different formal setups. Each shoot was then processed and developed further in relation to the results and further insights the images yielded. Taking them off the picture plane and rephotographing them was one avenue I pursued: on the basis of the manual montages in A1, the found photos were rephotographed and included; the drawings over, angling and cutting out of the feet was explored but abandoned as it took me into a different reaction; I also pursued this with digital montages which I also did not include further.
I investigated carefully the setting and stage as to what its materiality (a wooden box on a soft mattress) was adding to the inquiry of ‘finding my footing or the ground that I am standing on’; this performative/ processural discovery fed in strongly into the further development (of shots that show me in unstable positions; and of the video for exercise 2.3).
For the book form, I selected and removed several additional layers to the work and focussed strongly on the interaction between past and present images and my own ‘standing in’.
I am content with the amount of discovery, analysis of early images and how these shaped the final project: while conceptually inspired, this concept arrived out of the observation of a simple photographic mistake: the omitting of feet on the picture plane which then became an investigation into the wider implications of being ‘footless’ or ‘ungrounded’ in these images and in their author’s (my granddad’s) relationship to myself, as a daughter of this family.
Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (learning logs, critical reviews and essays).
From the starting point of the project, this became a rather practice-led research: using the previous photographs to explore the next ones; during this time, I read the texts around this part of the course and reflected on their import in relation to my own family and part-invented (as in complemented with contemporary photographs and unknown found images) photographs. The coursebook’s focus on typologies filtered into the project in the form of Schmid’s work; the re-staging and intervening in family settings through Trish Morrissey’s work. None of these are explicit as such in the statement as I wanted the statement to work in some form of a private revealing of a family album (as thus to be performative in gesture while taking a confessional tone).