East London Project – on to Assignment Four

Posted on September 29, 2014


Following the feedback for Assignment three (see my previous post here), I decided to take stock of where I had reached with my East End work. I had two questions to consider:

  1. Would the project work better by simply using the images without text? Sharon suggested that I look at the images themselves to see what they might be saying to me and to examine how well a series based on images alone would work.
  2. Is it possible to reframe the image text pairings to enliven the work which appeared somewhat dry and to more readily enable to viewer/reader to connect image and text? In this regard, Sharon suggested that I look for texts which contain a specific narrative element which would engage the viewer and to try to ensure that that there is some resonance between images and texts. She also suggested that I think through how the viewer/reader’s participation is needed to complete the work.

In subsequent posts here and here, I addressed both of these issues. During my holiday (I have been away for about a month), I have had time to reflect on these options.

My view is that the image only option would work well. The work would essentially be about how a new East London is emerging from the shadows of the past. This is demonstrated by a move away from the industrial past of East London, based on the docks, shipbuilding, sweated trades and manufacture to East London as an elegant place to live, a destination for entertainment,tourism and the arts and a site for the new post-industrial economy. The photographs show evidence of significant redevelopment with road widening, the DLR, Boris bikes, new housing and offices and increasing levels of mobility demonstrated by the investment in transport infrastructure. The changing fortunes from one area to the next are also apparent with former elegance interspersed with the garish popular culture. This project would be about transience and the quotation on the Brick Lane Mosque ‘We are Shadows’ once again comes to mind. The chiaroscuro aesthetic reinforces this metaphor with the shadow areas of the images referencing the ‘dark’ past and the highlighted areas a ‘bright’ new future. I would anticipate calling this project ‘Out of the Shadows’.

However, I also feel that I have been able to reshape the image/text version (‘Lifting the Curtain’) so that it too works much better. I have eliminated pairings which were too dry or where the connection between image and text is too vague. I have introduced new texts and new images. All the pairings now refer to social relations and social conditions, which makes the series much more cohesive. I am also much clearer about how I see the viewer/reader’s participation in completing the work. The written text and the image are each offered up as as ‘facts to be observed’ (to quote Eco in respect of Brecht), which require the viewer/reader’s participation to create meaning. The social conditions/relations to be considered are directed by the subject matter of each image/text pairing. By juxtaposing historic texts with an images from today I represent East London as a place of change and invite comparison of the past with the present. I do not present ‘solutions’ by which I mean that I do not explain what has changed (or indeed remained the same) and what the implications flow from this. This is left to the viewer/reader to consider and to come to their own conclusions.

On balance I have decided that I want to continue with ‘Lifting the Curtain’. ‘Out of the Shadows’ would probably be a safer option, but as a consequence is also less of a learning opportunity. I have reviewed this decision with Sharon and she agrees that ‘Lifting the Curtain’ is now in much better shape. Indeed she felt that the work is close to being ready to re-submit as Assignment Four. (In fact I have invested a great deal of time and effort in reshaping the work since the Assignment Three submission).

I agreed with Sharon that for Assignment Four I will submit the following work:

  1. A near final set of the image/text panels for ‘Lifting the Curtain’. This will comprise of 18 image/text pairings. I have one image yet to make (Punderson’s Gardens) and I would like to revisit one or two others to see if I can make a better image.
  2. A paper setting out the contextual framework for ‘Lifting the Curtain’. Here I plan a series of posts to this blog on different influences, which I will combine into a single paper for this assignment. These will discuss Barthes’ comments on image and text from Image, Music,Text; Eco’s ideas about ‘openness’ in a work of art as set out in The Open Work; the work of photographers who have influenced the conceptual basis for my project – Anna Fox (Work Stations), Karen Knorr (Gentlemen, Ladies, Belgravia), David Gillanders (uncivilised) and Angela Kelly (Catharsis); and the work of photographers who have influenced my aesthetic approach to making the images – Simon Norfolk (Burke and Norfolk), Robert Adams (Summer Nights), and Todd Hido (House Hunting). 
  3. A plan for the work to be undertaken in assignment five which will be concerned with presentation options for the work and planning for an exhibition.

I will also continue to pursue my ‘Portraits in Context’ project as a personal project with a view to submitting these images (and possibly associated texts) as part of my portfolio for assessment. This project was the foundation for two of the YOP projects I submitted in Assignment Three.