Part Two – Narrative
Project 1 Telling a Story
How Does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor? What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?
In 1948 W. Eugene Smith photographed the Country Doctor for life magazine. Smith visited Kremmling, which is a town in Colorado and spent just over three weeks documenting the life of the local doctor a Dr. Ernest Ceriani. According to the article that accompanied the photographs, “The town of Kremmling Colorado, 115 miles west of Denver, contains 1,00 people. The surrounding area of some 400 square miles, filled with ranches, which extend high into the Rocky Mountains, contains 1,000 more. Those 2,00 souls are constantly falling ill, recovering or dying, having children, being kicked by horses and cutting themselves on broken bottles. A single country doctor, known in the profession as a “g.p.”, or general practitioner, takes care off them all. His name is Ernest Guy Ceriani”. Smith tried to capture the details of Ceriani’s day-to-day responsibilities. He photographed the doctor and the people he was treating for various illnesses.
In 2009, Bryony Campbell created The Dad Project. This project was centered on her father who had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. She stated, “This is my attempt to say goodbye to my dad. At first, the idea of introducing a camera into this un-resoluble equations seemed unwise, but eventually I think it become the solution. During the last eight months of his life, we recorded our relationship through photography and film. At the instant of Dad’s death my dual role felt absolutely concrete. There was no longer a separation. I wanted all the details recorded and revealed. This was the big unknown moment, one we will all have, one that nobody can envisage but everybody wonders about” (Campbell, 2009).
Comparing these two works was easier than I thought. Both have a medical element to them, in which both of them have a narrative and tells a story. One of the main differences is the point of view. In Smiths work, he took the photographs as an outsider, the narrative of his work is about the doctor. Whereas in Campbell’s work, she took the photographs as an insider. The photographs and subject was personal to her. Her narrative was herself and her father, so the relationship between the subject and the photographer is different. The other main difference was that Smith’s work was in black and white, but at the time when he photographed them there was no choice. But Campbell’s work was in colour, meaning she choose to keep her photographs in colour. Which left me wondering slightly why had she choose colour over black and white. Smith uses a photojournalistic documentary style to his work. Whereas Campbell uses the chance to document which turns into art.
Campbell stated “an ending without an ending”. I feel this refers to the end of her father’s life but not the end of his memories, as these will continue to live one through her and through her work.
Magnum Photos. Portfolio – USA. 1948. Country Doctor W. Eugene Smith. [Online]. Available from: www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3-SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDDWML5P [Accessed: 25th January 2016].
Oodee. Briony Campbell The Dad Project (A year on). [Online]. Available from: oodee.net/books/briony-campbell-dad-project [Accessed: 28th January 2016].
Time. Life – W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Portrait: ‘Country Doctor’. Time Magazine. [Online]. Available from: time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor [Accessed: 30th January 2016].
Project 2 – Image and Text
In this exercise, I looked at newspaper articles and how headlines are used in relation to the images. Text can change the meaning of an image dramatically. Without knowing the true context of the image, we tend to take the text on face value. I have created some examples below.
For example, the image below, a headline could be “Hottest day of the year so far”, or even “UK records hottest day in December ever”. But the actual headline is “River swimming: why don’t Australians take the plunge?”.
The next image could have a headline of “Record number of tourists flock to Scarborough” or “Britain’s happiest place to live: Scarborough”. The headline that accompanies this image is: “Earthquake strikes off North Yorkshire coast”.
This image could be, “Strikes to effect Camden Town station”, or “Train prices at record high”. But the actual headline is, “Talks on mobile coverage for Tube stall over costs”.
“Archaeologists celebrate a rare find”. This could be the headline for the above image. It could also be “Man excavates garden, finds nothing”. The correct headline is: “Man who used life savings to buy a field discovers ruins of an entire lost city under the ground”.
Text can take an image out of context, as it is possible to create a new narrative for the image, and completely change the meaning. Text is important to an image, if it provides the correct information, because if it doesn’t it can become very misleading.
Amati, M & S McPhee. (2016). River swimming: why don’t Australians take the plunge? The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/30/river-swimming-why-dont-australians-take-the-plunge> [Accessed: 4th January 2017].
Halliday, J. (2017). Earthquake strikes off North Yorkshire coast. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/04/largest-earthquake-to-hit-uk-in-decade-felt-off-scarborough-north-yorkshire-coast> [Accessed: 4th January 2017].
Willgress, L. (2017). Man who used life savings to buy a field discovers ruins of an entire lost city under the ground. The Telegraph, [Online]. Available at: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/03/man-used-life-savings-buy-field-discovers-ruins-entire-lost/> [Accessed: 4th January 2017].
Williams, C. (2016). Talks on mobile coverage for Tube stall over costs. The Telegraph, [Online]. Available at: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/31/talks-mobile-coverage-tube-stall-costs/> [Accessed: 4th of January 2017].
Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field. How do these two piece of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative? Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to included interviews or audio.
Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself was inspired by her own emotional turmoil when her boyfriend dumped her by email. She got the title of her work from the last line in the email from him, Take care of yourself. Calle came up with the idea two days after being dumped. She stated “The idea came to me to develop an investigation through various women’s professional vocabulary” (Calle). She decided to show the email to 107 women and photograph and record their reactions and comments. She chose women from different walks of life and different professions. There was a chess player, a forensic psychiatrist, a markswoman, a crossword setter and even an actress. Each woman had her own view and opinion, which is why this work is so varied. But also their own responses may reflect their own emotional turmoil.
The problem I found was finding the work online. It was impossible to get a full view of all the photographs online. I believe if it were available online it would make it more accessible and more popular.
According to an interview in the Guardian newspaper, Calle stated that this project for her started as therapy that then turned into art. When I first saw this work I immediately thought it was revenge, In order to humiliate her ex-boyfriend publically, but Calle states that this was not the case. She didn’t name him at all, but people who knew them both would know who he is. Calle has produced project similar to this in the past, not to do with her boyfriend dumping her, but the work has been provocative. I also feel that this work has a feminist quality to it. All the people Calle asked to assess the email were women, she could have asked both men and women but she choose to only ask women what they thought. The outcome of the project probably would have had more varied responses if she would have asked both men and women. In general the images that I could find I liked. I found that as a viewer I could relate and understand.
Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field was inspired by her time spent as an Associate artist at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. Her aim was to explore ‘how light and darkness define and articulate out relationship to space’. She used research, which has now been proved to be obsolete from the 1980s to create a contractive narrative. She got the name for her project as the objects are stars according to astromeners and the field is the sky and space. All of her images relate to her interactions with Dr Roderick Willstrop, who was an astronomer physicist.
Unlike Calle’s work I was able to find this project online. The problem I found was that I didn’t feel like it engaged the viewer. Whilst I like some of the individual images I found the project as a whole a bit dull. I feel that the accompanying text helped the images massively as if they didn’t have it then it would have just been a collection of astrology pictures. I found some of the images interesting but others confusing.
Neither of these works have a conventional pattern. There are not linear, and do not have a beginning, a middle or an end. Therefore both are examples of a post-modern narrative. Calle’s work engages the viewer. The whole point of this work is that it is based on input from people who are not the photographer. Rickett’s work also requires viewer interaction but unlike Calle’s it doesn’t draw attention. Viewer interaction is postmodern techniques to photography. Both of these works attempt to include the viewer. In both work the text are essential and help compliment whilst explaining a lot. The viewers must draw their own conclusion form these projects as neither have an ending.
The inclusion of text and audio in a photography-based project is a way to get the viewer and other people involved. The New York Times created a project call One in 8 million. The project is about the people who live in New York. They use audio clips and texts to accompany the images. I like this project and I feel the accompanying audio and text really adds to the project.
Grimaldi. Sophy Rickett Objects in the Field. [Online]. Available from: www.grimaldigavin.com/article/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field [Accessed: 17th January 2016].
NY Times. One in 8 Million. New York Times. [Online]. www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/# [Accessed: 20th January 2016].
The Guardian. He Loves me not. The Guardian. [Online]. Available from: www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art [Accessed: 16th January 2016].
Choose a poem that resonates with you then interpret it through photographs.
For this exercise I thought about several poems. The first that came to mind was TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. But I found it quite difficult to represent it through photography. For example, the line: ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’, would be difficult to show in an image. One of my favourite poems is William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence. I decided to represent the first verse through photography. I wanted to try something different, so I brought a glass ball, as in the poem it talks about seeing a world through a grain of sand. I wanted to use the glass ball to represent the grain of sand. At first it was tricky to get used to photographing through the glass but after a while I got used to it and I like the effect it produced. I had to rotate the images in post-production as the image in the ball is upside down. I enjoyed using it in this exercise and would definitely use it again. The poem goes as follows.
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
I am happy with the images I produced for this exercise. I do not think the images are repetitive and I do not think I could take any out as it would loose the structure of the verse. I believe each image represents the line in the verse quite well. For example for the first line about sand, I photograph a beach, the line about a wild flower, I photographer a wildflower. I feel that the images work well together. They all have the consistency of using the glass ball. I do not think another image would help as I feel these four images work well and represent the poem correctly.
Project 3 – Photographing the unseen
Peter Mansell. Dewald Botha. Jodie Taylor.
Which of these projects resonates most with you, and why?
How do you fell about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto the images you’ve created?
Peter Mansell was left with a spinal cord injury as a result of an accident when he was younger. He photographed images that portrayed traces of his injury and it’s impact.
Dewald Botha used his own experience of feeling like an outside living in China. He was originally from South Africa. His project, Ring Road shows a search for beauty in a place of difficulty for him.
Jodie Taylor’s work Memories of Childhood shows places were she spent her childhood, hitch she photographed places were she has memories of.
These three projects are all very personal. I find that Peter Mansell work resonates with me more than the others. As I am a carer for my mother who is disabled, I can see what he is trying achieve through his photographs. I can see how he is trying to show the impact of his disability and I find I can relate to that because of my mother’s disability. I feel that it is good for the viewer to project their own experiences and emotions onto my images, as it gives a chance for the photographer and the viewers to relate.