This week’s Critical Review of Practice is rather different to previous reflections.  Normally, I write about the process and outputs of my photographic practice and the learning points to take forward.  On this occasion, the practical work has been about describing, editing and presenting my work for a professional portfolio review.  I had originally planned to focus on this work alongside continuing with the second week of image making but decided that the exercise of preparing for portfolio review was just as important, if not more so, than the initial production of images.  After all, what is the point of producing work if it never makes it to presentation and review!

Reflecting on Choosing Collections

Since starting my PhD, I have worked on three collections – Autumn Impressions, Winter Impressions and Among Trees and my original intention was to put forward the corresponding sets of images and in the case of Autumn Impressions and Among Trees that is what I have done.  In the case of Winter Impressions, after putting together three possible portfolio layouts, I decided that I was not happy with the colour selection I had put together.

When I listened to the film on Format’s website featuring Camilla Brown she suggested that we put forward some completed work alongside work in progress.  On this basis, I decided to submit The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye, a black and white portfolio featuring work from the Final Major Project of my MA as well as some black and white conversions of images taken during my PhD.  The additional advantage of doing this, is that I can gain feedback about the production and presentation of my black and white work as well as the more recent colour collections.

Reflecting on the Image Editing and Selection Process 

My approach to selecting images was to put together a shortlist of images in a Lightroom Collection – this was a relatively easy process as I already had ongoing collections of these images along with a starring system of five stars for those images I think are ‘keepers’.  However, I did scan those images not making the five-star rating in case I had missed any strong contenders.  At this point, I was ready to put together the three portfolios.  I had decided on three portfolios of twelve images as being about the right number to present to the reviewers and this approach was consistent with the advice from Camilla Brown.  I had chosen twelve as the optimum number as there is an option of presenting 3 x 4 images or 4 x 3 images depending on whether I was presenting square images or landscape images.

In terms of putting the portfolios together, I always start by identifying four strong images for the corners of the portfolio – they need to be strong in composition, colour (where appropriate) and also provide a strong pointer into the rest of the panel.  This is something I normally determine by the composition, shapes and lines of the image.  Once I have the corner images, I move onto what I consider the strongest or impactful images for the centre of the portfolio layout – also ensuring that the colours work together too.  I then work on the edge images with left and right images also serving as a lead back into the portfolio.  Although this process sounds obvious, it is not easy and sometimes strong images have to be omitted because they just do not fit into the portfolio layout.  It is a process of trial and error and looking and living with various alternative layouts.  I find it best to print the layout in contact sheet format so I can view different options alongside each other.  In all cases I produced four different layouts for each of the Collections.

These are the final layouts of the submitted portfolios:

Autumn – the Season of Withdrawal – Alison Price – Format Final Portfolio Layout 2021

The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye – Alison Price – Format Final Portfolio Layout 2021

Among Trees – Alison Price – Format Final Portfolio Layout 2021

When I came to submit my portfolios to the Picter website there was no facility to produce images in a particular layout.  The images becoming a series rather than a coherent layout and collection.  This provided a useful indication to me that maybe professional reviewers are interested in individual images rather than the collection as a whole, but this is something I will learn as part of the review meetings.

Reflecting on the Production of an Artist’s Statement, Biography and Collection Statements

It was recommended that we produce Artist’s Statement, Biography and Collection Statements to accompany our images.  This was a useful exercise for me as I had not produced these written pieces since completing my MA and my work, intent and focus has developed considerably.  The advice was to think about the who, why, what and when of your work and explain this in a compelling way but be true to yourself.  So, whilst I might admire people who can write a deeply impactful, in your face description, this is not me, so I chose a thoughtful and contemplative style and voice that suits my work.  I produced a number of draft and received feedback from my supervisors.

This is the final written piece I produced and submitted:

Artist’s Statement 

Alison Price is a photographer searching for the ephemeral hiddenness of the Isle of Skye.  Seduced by its natural beauty, her love affair with the Island began twenty years ago, but as the years moved on, her work has sought to capture the ‘otherness’ of the Island.  Whilst most go in search of the sweeping landscape vistas, Alison seeks out the tiny aspects of nature that act as a metaphor for the Island more generally: its vulnerability, fragility, ever-changing moods and ultimately its triumph over adversity, its resilience and its longevity.  For her, this is the essence of Skye. 

For Alison, the digital camera is an extension of herself.  She uses it like a paintbrush, at one with the instrument and in complete intuitive control of the technology at her fingertips.  She prefers to do her creative work in-camera, whether through slow shutter speeds (allowing nature to speak for itself and create its own shapes and patterns), multiple exposure, or intentional camera movement.  For Alison, the camera is a unique instrument. Using its power to reduce the dimensions of space and freeze time, she seeks to subvert conscious perception and open the essence of her subject to the awareness of the human heart.   

Her images seek to capture what the philosopher Jacques Derrida calls the “unnameable glimmer” and what Alison refers to as “being behind the veil of presence”.  Alison’s search is for the reality behind the veil no matter where it may be – whether through images of reeds, a lone silver birch tree on a rocky outcrop, the colours of Autumn or in the woodlands and forests of Skye.  In doing so, she tends towards a painterly aesthetic in a muted colour palette.  She intends to extend her portfolio through all four seasons of the year. 

With her camera, Alison opens herself to the ephemeral moment that eludes sensory perception. When that moment comes, she allows her intuition to guide her, and, in that moment, Skye’s reality is revealed. 

Artist’s Blog 

https://www.wildreflections.photography/blog 

Artist’s Biography 

Alison Price is a photographer based on the Isle of Skye, part of the Inner Hebrides, off the north-west coast of Scotland.  With a first degree in History and an MA in Photography with Distinction (2020) from Falmouth University she is now working towards a practice-based PhD at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. 

She was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 2005.  Her wildlife photography was recognised with a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society in 2011 and an Associate (Professional & Applied) in 2012. From 2007 to date, Alison has travelled the world capturing orang-utans, mountain gorillas, brown bears, polar bears, penguins, seals, whales and the plethora of mammals in Africa.  In 2011 she was granted a six-week sabbatical in order to work to undertake charity work in Africa, helping to educate local children about the animals on their doorstep through her photographic imagery. She was short-listed for the Outdoor Photographer of the Year and Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2011. 

More recently, Alison has turned her attentions to nature on the Isle of Skye.  Her Final Major Project for her MA was entitled The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye.  While working on her MA she had two solo exhibitions:  The Road to Elgol (2018), in Tetbury, Gloucestershire and The Essence of Skye (2019) at An Crubh on Skye.  She also submitted work to the Landings (2018) on-line Exhibition at Falmouth University and collaborated with a local artist on Skye in a joint exhibition held at Gallery An Talla Dearg in 2019. 

Collection Descriptions

Autumn – the season of withdrawal 

This collection seeks to capture the essence of the season with all it vibrance and colour but also providing a glimpse of its imminent withdrawal – a chance for nature to take a rest, rejuvenate and renew. 

The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye 

This collection focuses on reeds as a metaphor for the essence of the Isle of Skye – the ‘otherness’ of this beautiful Island.  It is a battle of survival as the fragile stems struggle against the dominance and power of nature but their resilience shines through as they rebuild and renew each year in readiness for Spring.  

Among Trees 

Among Trees is a collection focusing on being with trees and within forests and woodlands – providing a glimpse of interiority and connectedness.  Whether it be peeping through the lines of trees to what is beyond or looking up to the canopy of interconnected trunks and branches as they spin in the wind.

Reflecting on the Preparation for the Review Meetings 

I intend to treat the meetings with the four reviewers as an opportunity to receive feedback on my approach and photographic work.  Although initially I was concerned as to whether feedback so early in my PhD might be demotivating for me, I now feel that constructive comments will allow me to improve and develop my work.  I am planning to have questions worked out for each of the reviewers, depending upon their interests and expertise.  The meetings will be an opportunity to receive valuable critical context for my practice, ask questions of the reviewers, and tell my story.

 

References

Brown, C. “Online Review Guidance from Camilla Brown:  Photo Forum.” Retrieved 23/2/21, from https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=908269016346685&ref=watch_permalink.

 

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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