I have enjoyed my studying immensely and once I had immersed myself in the topic for the week was able to appreciate the relevance of most of them. I started the course and my Critical Research Journal with a controversial blog “In Defence of Salgado”. I love his work and his black and white images of many parts of the world that I too have been privileged to visit. The tonal range in his images, his ability to capture the decisive moment and the scale and detail of the terrains he is photographing is amazing. However, I am now aware of some of the criticisms of his work particularly in terms of the social disempowerment and exploitation of the people and tribes he photographed in geographically isolated parts of the world. I would prefer to see him as an observer and witness to lesser-known communities bringing their lives and isolation to the attention of the world. In Week 2 I was similarly able to consider the work of another of my photographic heroes, Frank Hurley, who travelled with Ernest Shackleton on the ill-fated Endurance Expedition. Weeks 4 and 6 saw us engaging in a collaborative project and an individual micro project. In both cases the outputs were a long way from my comfort zone. In particular, the micro project was to follow the aesthetic used by Thomas Ruff to produce a collage of dead-pan images. I enjoyed the challenge of taking photographs of people and attempting to emulate the work of a photographer from an entirely different genre to myself.
Finally, I have really enjoyed rising to the technical challenges of setting up a blog, revising my website and learning to use new tools such as Word Press, Keynote and Vimeo. Although I appreciate I have more work to do in this area, I am excited about how these new skills will enable me to present my photographic work in a more effective and exciting way. My learning to date will, I am sure, be extended in the next module – Surfaces and Strategies.
For me, the major challenge has been to try to understand where my current photographic practice sits within contemporary photography. My views, understanding, sense of direction and thus the direction of my Research Project has changed significantly since the start of the module and even from where I was at the point I submitted my Oral Presentation. Until the start of the course, my photography had been about an obsession with wildlife and the natural world, travelling to far flung parts of the world to capture it and enjoying the sense of peace and wellbeing that I experience when I have a camera in my hands. It is the only time I am able to savour the moment and immerse myself in the current experience. It is this aspect of photography that has driven my thinking about my Research Project and in the latter parts of the module my thoughts have come together, reflecting on my early career as a police photographer and the impact and effect that has had on my life and career, and whether this is one of the reasons I am drawn back to capture the Road to Elgol. Will this project bring my photographic journey full circle and finally allow some of the ghosts to rest?
The critical theory that will inform my journey focuses around phenomenology – the study of “phenomena” or the way we experience things. It is a study of how things appear to our consciousness and how we experience a minute of time. As Edmond Husserl explained it is a search for essences or features of experience. It takes us “back to things themselves”. It is an exploration of our life world. The philosophical thinking underpinning this world of phenomenology are Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty and before them Kant. In my research I will also draw upon the work of Rebecca Solnit who has an understanding of landscape photography that is derived from the sensation of being fully embodied, fully sensate, as much alive to the sounds and feeling of a place as the way it looks. Similarly, Cartier-Bresson who said:
“To take a photograph is to put the mind, the eye and the heart along the same line of sight”
Finally, as my thoughts turn to Surfaces and Strategies, I have become a compulsive blogger and the weeks between modules have found me suffering from withdrawal symptoms. The challenge of writing about various aspects of the course and my thoughts and feelings has been hugely invigorating for me and something I will continue to do well after the course finishes . . .
Durden M (2013) Fifty Key Writers on Photography, Routledge, Oxon
Husserl, E (1931) Ideas, Routledge, Oxon
Kaufer, S and Chemero, A (2015) Phenomenology An Introduction, Polity Press, Cambridge
Solnit, R, (2005) A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Canongate, Edinburgh