I have spent a lot of my time between modules reflecting on the feedback for my Research Project and struggling to reconcile my wish to be authentic and true to myself, in terms of my photography and my project objectives, as opposed to what I think my tutors seem to value and want to see. I described my project in my proposal as follows:
“In this Research Project I will develop my photographic practice through a personal journey that involved death, darkness, hope and the emergence into light. I will reflect the silence that is always present at the scene of violent crime – the traces of humanity, intensely vulnerable and rendered insignificant by the events and forces around them. I appreciate that my photography here does not fit a neat genre – the way I choose to describe it is ‘phenomenological photography’, where what matters is not the object of my experience but my experience of the object.”
This quotation refers to my time as a police photographer, the long period after this experience where I did not pick up a camera, my return to photography (in the digital era) through nature and wildlife and my on-going obsession with the road from Broadford to Elgol in a quiet corner of the Isle of Skye. In recording my experiences of this road through my photographic imagery I hope to provide an antidote to my early work and experience and better understand myself and the pivotal role photography plays in my life.
In researching my project I have found similarities in the landscape work of Don McCullin who used the Somerset vistas as an opportunity to find solace and reconciliation from the horrors of war and conflict that he photographed for so many years.
I am being pointed by my tutors to a number of references about the phenomenology of photography and authentic imagery but what I am trying to achieve is about the process that I go through to produce the image and the authenticity of my work in monochrome. Thus, being authentic in this context is related to the image and my intent, as distinct from the image and what it portrays. Many images are taken of Skye that have representational authenticity but my journey is about the experiential authenticity of my image making through the translation of my intent into the image I produce. The big question for me is how do I translate my intent and experience into an image in a way that is clear to the viewer? Feedback from our first Webinar for Surfaces and Strategies suggest that I may be achieving this with comments such as “cinematic”, “thrilleresque”, “Hitchcock like” and “impending drama”.
Reviewing my feedback, tutors have identified the following images as being stronger but these are the ones that I have taken to try to satisfy the direction I am being led.
I would have chosen some of the other images of my portfolio below as the ones that best reflect my experience of the Road:
I have just returned from my first visit to Skye working on my Surfaces and Strategies Work in Progress Portfolio where I very clearly felt a tension in my photography.
I spent what I felt was an unproductive day photographing the activity in the tiny port of Elgol. I took large numbers of what I would consider to be “grab shot” images showing the invasion of tourists and the consequent chaos imposed on the local population, trying to pursue their daily lives, amongst the inconsiderate parking and general intrusion of their space. I find this type of work unrewarding compared with spending more reflective time drinking in the landscape and the ever-changing light on Skye. Having said that, maybe there is an interesting counterpoint between the dark landscape and the dark side of mass tourism.
The images I am most pleased with are those where I am choosing to take an image to convey my experience of clouds spilling over the Cuillin in a cascade resembling a waterfall or the remnants of Borreraig – one of the clearance villages.
Next Steps: I need to go through my images from my recent shoot more carefully bearing in mind what my tutors have said and also review relevant work of others. I have also been asked to produce some colour images for next week’s Webinar.