YOP Assignment One – Submission to tutor

Posted on December 5, 2013


As agreed in my work plan my submission for Assignment One included the following:

  1. project one on Gestalt in composition,
  2. an artists statement and a few photographs for the Another Hawaii project (I have used images from this work for the Gestalt in composition project)
  3. my proposal for a Critical Review,
  4. my major project proposal

Project one Gestalt in composition and Artist’s Statement/Photographs for ‘Another Hawaii’

I have outlined my submission for project one on Gestalt in composition in a previous post here. Along with this I presented the following draft artist’s statement and photographs:

“Another Hawaii – Draft Artist’s Statement 

The aim of ‘Another Hawaii’ is to document the area around the small town of Waimea in the North of the Big Island of Hawaii. Waimea is situated at an altitude of around 3000 ft and the surrounding countryside is hilly grassland formed by the almost extinct volcano Kohala. It is very different from the cliché image of Hawaii as a place of sun drenched beaches, surfing and palm trees. 

The work is a series of landscape and urban scenes. The tone is deliberately dark and the images low key to emphasise how different the place is from stereotypical representations. Most of the photographs were made during twilight and/or at times when weather conditions were interesting. Low clouds, stormy weather and raking light are everyday occurrences in Waimea. 

The emphasis on light and the weather recalls Joel Meyerowitz’s ‘Cape Light’, which is one of my favourite landscape photography books. The photographs of urban Waimea also owe something to Stephen Shore’s classic work ‘Uncommon Places’ and the dark suburban scenes seem to echo Todd Hido’s ‘House Hunting’. An ordinary place such as a suburban house when pictured at night takes on an air of mystery and becomes a vehicle for the invention of narrative in the mind of the viewer. 

‘Another Hawaii’ is a relatively small body of work with the photographs being made during three trips to Hawaii between 2013 and 2014. The photographs are in colour and were shot with a digital camera. 

The images are presented as a series of 24 x16 inch prints.”

Burger King, Waimea ©Keith Greenough 2013

Burger King, Waimea
©Keith Greenough 2013

Deserted farm building, Kohala ©Keith Greenough 2013

Deserted farm building, Kohala
©Keith Greenough 2013

Kohala Coast, Hawaii ©Keith Greenough 2013

Kohala Coast, Hawaii
©Keith Greenough 2013

Rain, Waimea ©Keith Greenough 2013

Rain, Waimea
©Keith Greenough 2013

Waimea, Hawaii ©Keith Greenough 2013

Waimea, Hawaii
©Keith Greenough 2013

Towards Hualalai from the Kohala Mountain Road ©Keith Greenough 2013

Towards Hualalai from the Kohala Mountain Road
©Keith Greenough 2013

Proposal for Critical Review

The title for my Critical Review is  ‘CONTEXT AND MEANING IN DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY – A Comparative Study’. My idea is to conduct detailed studies of three significant works of documentary photography and to present the outcome of these in a form of comparative study. Each work will be considered with respect to the interplay between context and meaning. I hope to identify common threads, where they differ and the consequences of these differences. My aim is not to decide which approach is right and which is wrong. Rather it is to expand my knowledge of the genre, to identify alternative approaches and by so doing to inform my own photographic practice.  The works I have in mind are The Americans by Robert Frank, Fish Story by Alan Sekula and Bleed by Simon Norfolk. A pdf file of the full proposal I submitted to Sharon, my tutor can be seen by clicking the link below:

YOP Critical Studies Proposal

Major Project Proposal

I have discussed my East End work on this blog as my thinking has progressed. The proposal I submitted is set out below:


Aims of the project 

My aim is to explore the history of immigration in London’s East End. I plan to do this through a series of photographs of places and people as they are today and associated texts providing historical context. Each image/text combination will in effect form a chronotope – a term that Mikhail Bakhtin used to describe the manner in which literature  (or in my case an image/text combination) represents time and space. 

The photographs will be a mixture of urban landscapes, building facades, interiors and portraits. I want viewers to be psychologically engaged. I want them to imagine what it would have been like to be there at the time referred to in the text, how as an immigrant they would have felt and to think about the social issues involved. The images and texts will be constructed to create an open dialogue. Two examples of image/text combinations are provided along with this proposal. 

Aesthetic Considerations 

I am planning to shoot the landscapes in the early morning and at night when there are no people around. My sense is that if there were people in the frame, they would draw the attention of the viewer away from the subject of the photograph, which is the place itself. Shooting in low light will also result in a dramatic and expressive style, which might better invoke a sense of the past. There is an inscription on the sundial of the Jamme Masjid Mosque in Spitalfields, which reads ‘Umbra Sumus’. It is a quotation from Horace and means ‘We are shadows’. It refers to the transient nature of human existence. Perhaps the shadows in my low-key images will be read as metaphors for people from the past. 

I have yet to finally decide on how I might present the portraits. To a great extent this will depend on the style which proves successful for the landscapes as I would want there to be a consistency throughout the series. My thoughts at the moment are that I will continue to use a low key aesthetic (as per the landscapes). I will also aim to avoid drawing attention to present day clothing, accessories and backgrounds. I want the faces of the portrait subjects to operate as a window into the history of their families. With this in mind it is likely that the portraits will be tightly framed (head-shots or head and shoulders) against a dark background.  

Critical Context 

The work explores the idea of the photograph as a memorial of the past. Barthes, Sonntag and others have all written on this concept. It also raises questions about the whether we can really know the truth of what lies beneath the surface of a photograph? Can a picture of a landscape, for example, reveal the history of what happened in that particular place? My contention is that without the associated text it cannot. 

There are several contemporary documentary photographers whose work is relevant to my project. These include Simon Norfolk, David Gillanders, Richard Misrach and Joel Sternfeld. For the portraits Broomberg and Chanarin’s ‘Mr. Mkhize’s Portrait’ and ‘Ghetto’ will also be useful points of reference with their use of intertwining images and text. I also plan to look again at Zarina Bhimji’s work. She does not use text but adeptly combines sound and images to convey a sense of the past. 

My Critical Review, ‘CONTEXT AND MEANING IN DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY – A Comparative Study’, is also highly relevant to this project and will provide insight into the work of other documentary photographers. 

Presentation of the Work 

In total I expect to present around 20-30 images with supporting texts. I am unclear at the moment how I will show the work. Options range from large-scale gallery prints to a slideshow that controls the sequencing of image/text or a combination of these. The key will be to find a way to ensure that when a viewer looks at the photographs they already have the historical context fixed in their minds. The risk of using large prints is that these would divert the attention of the viewer away from the associated text. Conversely, I want each photograph to a site for contemplation, which implies that the viewer should be able look at the photographs in their own time. In a video/slideshow the artist controls the sequencing and timing. The trick will be to strike a balance between these two considerations. “