YOP – Plan of Study

Posted on October 31, 2013

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I prepared an outline plan of study or Learning Contract for discussion with my tutor Sharon. We discussed this the other day and this post sets out my plan of action as agreed with Sharon.

Having recently completed the Advanced module that is in effect an open book my initial reaction to the course notes for YOP has been one of disappointment. The course (in my opinion) seems very fragmented and overly prescriptive. This concerns me greatly as my photographic practice has moved on to a stage where I am motivated by long term projects rather than short term exercises on photographic technique and the presentation of individual images.

In order to overcome these limitations I have come up with a revision to the course, which both covers the scope as documented but also allows me to pursue three significant projects whilst conducting the course. The course also calls for the preparation of a written Critical Review of a photographer or photographic theme. I mapped out my ideas with regards to the projects, my Critical Review and how they interact. I also presented a broad timetable for submission of the work. What I found during the Advanced course was that my ideas evolved throughout, so these proposals I am sure will be subject to change as my work unfolds.

Projects

Another Hawaii

This is a series of photographs of natural and urban landscapes of Hawaii. My aim is to document the area of Hawaii around the town of Waimea on the Big Island. The area is radically different from the cliché image of Hawaii as a place of sun drenched beaches, surfing and palm trees. Waimea is situated at an altitude of around 3000 ft and the surrounding countryside is hilly grassland formed by the almost extinct volcano Kohala.

My approach will be to make landscape and urban scenes at twilight and in interesting weather conditions with low cloud, storm clouds, raking light and such like. The tone is deliberately dark and the images low key to emphasise how different the place is from stereotypical representations.

Downtown Waimea, Hawaii ©Keith Greenough 2013

Downtown Waimea, Hawaii
©Keith Greenough 2013

The emphasis on light and the weather in these images recalls Joel Meyerowitz’s ‘Cape Light’, which is one of my favourite landscape photography books. The photographs of urban Waimea perhaps owe something to Stephen Shore’s classic work ‘Uncommon Places’ and the dark suburban scenes seem to echo Todd Hido’s ‘House Hunting’, whose work I find very intriguing. The way in which an ordinary place such as a suburban house can when pictured at night take on an air of mystery and be a vehicle for the invention of narrative is very striking. This idea is one, which may influence my East End work (see below).

I will include reviews of Meyerowitz, Shore and Hido on my blog and I will also review ‘The New Color Photography’ movement referred to in the course notes. I have already made one visit to Hawaii and will be returning at least one more time during the course.

This will be a relatively small body of work. In my recent trip to Hawaii I made a number of images with a view to exploring my understanding of Gestalt Theory as it relates to visual recognition (Project One in the course notes). The work also has relevance to Project Three Experiments in Key. Ultimately I may present a small body of work (6-8) images as part of my Assessment portfolio.

Women and Landscape

I am interested in furthering my exploration of portraiture (the key theme of my Advanced studies). One of the questions I am interested in is how associating a portrait with other images and text informs the reading of the portrait. ‘Women and Landscape’ is specifically explores this question. The project will be a series of portraits of Women landscape photographers – a form of typology.

Catherine, Horsell Common 5th July 2013

Catherine, Horsell Common 5th July 2013
©Keith Greenough 2013

Each photographer will be pictured at a location of her choice – a place with which they have a psychological connection and of significance to their photographic work. My intention would be to show the portrait of each photographer alongside some text and possibly other photographs of relevance to the subject. The connection between the portrait subject, location and the associated text/photographs would be made clear to the spectator so that this knowledge can inform their reading of the portrait.

Why women photographers? Well I developed this idea in discussion with Catherine, a fellow OCA photography student, and we both felt that historically women’s involvement in photography (particularly landscape/street photography) has been highly constrained. By selecting only women subjects I would draw attention to the role of women in photography adding another dimension to the work.

In making the portraits my aim would be to be as objective as possible, allowing the image(s)/text presented to speak for themselves. I plan to use a large format camera which slows down the making of the portrait and is much more collaborative process. My portraiture work is very influenced by August Sander, Walker Evans and contemporary photographers such as Rineke Dijkstra, whose work is referred to in the course notes as being part of the ‘post-modern new realism’. The juxtaposition of portraits and other text/images is also and approach which Taryn Simon has used. I will revisit these photographers and present updated reviews in my YOP blog.

I will also use the work on this project to explore the issues raised in Project Five An impartial view and Project Nine Change. For assessment I hope to be able to present 8-10 portraits each with supporting text/image(s).

ALWAYS FOLLOW UR DREAMS!! – Traces of Immigration in London’s East End

This project is about how immigration has shaped London’s East End. It will be my major project for YOP. I see the work as a series of colour photographs of urban landscapes, building facades, interiors and portraits. The title is inspired by a graffiti (now long since gone) I saw on a building in Stepney.

'ALWAYS FOLLOW UR DREAM' © Keith Greenough 2012

‘ALWAYS FOLLOW UR DREAM’
© Keith Greenough 2012

The landscapes/facades/interiors will be of sites of significance in the history of immigration in the East End. The photographs of these places as they are today will bear little trace of what has taken place there. For the landscapes I plan to photograph in the early morning or late evening capturing each scene without people that will in a sense offer up an empty stage – a site for contemplation. For each photograph there will be an associated text. The text will refer to the history of the place and is intended as an autonomous piece of information to be read alongside the photograph. I want to avoid the text anchoring the image/text combination to a closed meaning. Rather I want the juxtaposition of text and image to open up new questions in the mind of the viewer.

For the portraits I would hope to find suitable subjects who can trace their ancestry to East End immigrants. In some cases this will be in the distant past and in others very recent. I plan to interview the subjects to find out more about where their family came from originally and how they came to in the UK. The text associated with each portrait would be constructed to provide information about the circumstances of the family’s emigration to the UK. My intention is that the portraits are read not just as representations of a present day people but also as representations of their families and others of their race who took the brave decision to emigrate to London’s East End.

Gaining access to building interiors to make photographs, for example the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid Mosque or 19 Princelet Street (the Museum of Immigration), is likely to prove problematic. So too will be finding subjects for the portrait series. So my thinking is that to begin with I will focus on the urban landscapes and building facades to test out the concept and to produce a portfolio of work. Once I am satisfied that I have work of quality I will then approach a number of organisations to try to gain their support. In particular the Museum of Immigration and Spitalfields Life could be useful allies, if I can demonstrate to them the quality and value of my work. This approach will I hope enable me to open doors.

I have yet to explore fully the photographic influences for this work. There are several contemporary documentary photographers whose work has certainly influenced my approach. These include Simon Norfolk, Richard Misrach and Tom Hunter. These photographers all revisit sites of historical significance to their particular documentary subject. Their landscapes are generally devoid of people and document the traces of history. I read their photographs as ‘sites for contemplation’ by the spectator (to use my own words). Only Hunter works with portraiture and each uses text in different ways to support their photography (something which I would like to explore in my Critical Review – see below).

I plan to present this work as my major project for YOP. In total I expect to present around 20 images with supporting texts. These will be a combination of urban landscapes, facades, interiors and portraits. I am unclear at the moment as to how I might present the work.

Critical Review

I plan to take the following as the subject for my Critical Review:

CONTEXT AND MEANING IN DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY – A Comparative Study

My aim is to  present an introduction which sets out a framework for talking about context and meaning in documentary based on critical theory. I am taking a wide view of the term context including the context of production, the context of presentation and the context of how the work is viewed. The main thrust of the work will be a comparative study of three photographic works drawing on this critical framework, my own ideas and analysis by other commentators/critical theorists. The works I have in mind are The Americans by Robert Frank, Fish Story by Alan Sekula and Afghanistan by Simon Norfolk. These works span a time period of more than 50 years and each represents different approaches ranging from the subjective personal documentary of Frank to the politicised anti-aesthetic work of Sekula to the politicised yet aesthetic work of Norfolk. Finally I will present a summary of what I have learned from this comparative study

My intention in choosing this subject is that it will inform the series of projects I am planning for the course.

Timetable for Submission 

I have studied the proposed timetable in the course notes and assessed how this fits with my work plan for the projects and the Critical Review. My thinking is that I would like to bring forward the timing for the Critical Review and submit this as part of assignment 2. This would not only allow more time for me to complete my ‘Women and Landscape’ portraits which I would submit as Assignment 3, but would also better inform my ‘Always follow ur dreams!!’ project work.

My outline plan presented for discussion is as follow:

Assignment Deliverables Target Date
One Proposal for Critical Review (500-1000) words;  Major Project Proposal (single sheet A4);   ‘Another Hawaii’  6 images used to explore Gestalt Theory (Project one Gestalt in composition) with supporting notes and artists statement Mid December 2013
Two Critical Review (3000 words);   ‘Always follow ur dreams!!’ 10-12 early landscape image/texts including exploration of influence of key on mood (Project three Experiments in key) with supporting notes and artist’s statement End April 2014
Three ‘Women and Landscape’ 8-10 images/texts fulfilling requirements of Project five an impartial view and Project nine change with supporting notes and artist’s statement End July 2014
Four ‘Always follow ur dreams!!’ 10- 15 images/texts additional landscapes and early interiors and portraits with supporting notes and updated artist’s statement End October 2014
Five ‘Always follow ur dreams!!’ final 20 images/texts including landscapes, interiors and portraits with supporting notes and updated artist’s statement End February 2015

This plan has been modified slightly following my discussions with Sharon. She emphasised that I should focus mainly on the major project and suggested that I start to think about how I might ultimately present (and hopefully show) the work. We discussed the subject of the Critical Review at length and eventually settled on the comparative study as explained above. My original idea was to take a fairly narrow view of how context is created looking simply at the juxtaposition of images and text/image combinations. I have now changed this to include a broader view which will also embrace the context of production, how/where the work is shown and its classification as documentary or art or both. Sharon suggested that I might look at Clouds of Glory  by Brian Magee which is about his childhood in Hoxton. She also suggested that David  Spero’s work Churches  might be of relevance to the East End work. I will follow up on both of these.

Now down to work…..

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