one of two crits of my assignment images around In an office at night involved the following discussion about
a. the spaces where I work and what constitutes my work
b. how to work with others in the context of a not-quite-private/ not-quite-public office space.
– I am posting these notes here as I’m currently thinking of looking at digital selves in relation to negotiating the blurring of public/private spaces as the subject for my critical essay (Part 3: we are all photographers now).
a. Where do I work and what constitutes my work:
The manual montages of In an office at night give a sense of where my workspace is: it is wherever I open my notebook. This act of opening the notebook becomes a symbol for something much bigger: a door open, the making of a space in which I work.
What is image and what is practice in this short series?
Taking the print outs to an academic setting, e.g., the office where they were originally shot is going to suggest that I will reflect on them: I reposition them to then re-engage with them. The act of having picked up the printouts on the way to the coffee shop to then look at them is a different one: possibly emergent, spontaneous. From this act then a reflection, development ensues, but it is less premeditated than if I had fixed another appointment within that office space.
In the coffee shop a sequence developed of:
taking a look, annotating, taking another look, then taking a picture, writing a note. Then: to return the next day to develop this process further. It’s about myself, my working practice, taking notes, taking images… its a work process rather than a planned performance.
If I had taken the same set of prints to the university, it would have not just been about notes and annotation but about the how the context influenced how I would take notes in the notebook: the institutional frame would have been more extensive, stable and possibly also controlling (though it would be interesting to examine where it could be enabling also): this act would have been the performance of a planned idea; an intervention in a wider institutional context.
b. present/absent others in the blurred public/private space of an office
When meeting my colleague in her shared office, one of her office mates was out, the other one, A., was present. She offered to leave, a part of me would have liked that but it didn’t seem my place to suggest, or rather: I had asked for a time when H.’s colleagues would be out and if that was possible to arrange; so any of this negotiation I left to my colleague as it was her space and her colleagues; A. told us fairly quickly that she had noise-cancelling headphones on. So: as my colleague had said, her office is never empty. And I was interested in finding out what that publicness would do to my plan of a conversation with photos.
So, the office at night is not a private space but has always a publicness to it: you do not know who may walk in the door; in fact, the door was open throughout my time there. Similarly: the way to and from the office was also public, though I did not meet anyone at that time.
I was conscious of the presence of a third person in our conversation; or: possibly not so much in the conversation but in the approach towards taking photos. I had taken my slr and tripod but quickly decided that performing the photographer for considered stills was not something to do without privacy (this was clearly my edge, my uncertainty, amplified by a third presence; it may well have been not possible just with H. and myself on our own either). I had considered this possibility before and had good reasons for just using the handheld cameras (iphone, Minox) and was happy with that procedure as the image production was in that way more closely folded into the conversation itself.
During the discussion of my first images, this acknowledgement of how that public/private will manifest itself in practice and in situ was really helpful: to bring it to the fore and to make it part of the investigation – be it for future Office conversation, any possible reworking of the assignment set, or in fact for a topic for the critical essay.