Re-Integration

Informing Contexts Week 9: Critical Review film

This week we were invited to upload a video of 10 minutes duration focussing on our work in the context of that of past and current photographers with links to the wider art world and other approaches and considerations such as philosophy and ethics. I had been building up to this exercise with some trepidation. It was an opportunity to give some time to the preparation of the Critical Review assignment due in on 30th April and to gain feedback from colleagues on the course as to the value of the piece as a draft for the written critical review. I knew it was not going to be an assessed piece and that apparently only those who submitted themselves could comment on the films of others. In the end I decided to complete the task although apprehensive about my slow internet upload speed (it took 3 days before the previous film was successfully uploaded!).

I used the draft of the critical review I had been working on which was still very rough but at least it was a start. Using Camtasia again I soon found out that my written voice is not the spoken voice needed for film! Several re scripts later I had the narrative and had started to have images and text slides in mind to accompany it. First attempt was over 14 minutes …oops! The final version was still just over 11.5 minutes but I was running out of time knowing that uploading could take days so decided that was it. I chose to only use my images despite referring to the work of others. Assuming that the Critical Review would be text only which I have now found out is not true (I am glad I realised from comments received on the film and then checked with staff). I usually put a reference list at the end of my films but as this was not an assessed piece and the film was already long decided not to. Thankfully uploading went smoothly although it took about 10 hours.

Despite the pressure of completing a task when assessed pieces needed attending to I am glad I managed to submit. It has been a great opportunity to learn about the work of others and how they have approached a reflective critical review. The exchanges we have had about each others project work as well as film content and presentation have been constructive, insightful, informative, supportive and helpful in thinking about the final critical review. I summarised the points made in relation to my film for discussion in the webinar where I received additional comments from the tutor and colleagues.
Re my photographs
Helicopter view of found items interesting
Add people as signifiers to the signs (i.e. rubbish)
Aesthetic or content focus or both?
Beautifully composed images
Conflict of my practice and my views on reality versus staged imagery
Show examples of the work of others
Do not use the title Re-Cycle for my second collection
Market locally near beaches
Market to commercial enterprises associated with waste management
Re my film as a precursor to my written critical review
Compliments received: research and linking topics of module to my work, systematic presentation of motivation, influences and progress
Suggestions made: needs more critical depth and lateral references, explain the work of those referenced (e.g. Squires and Burtynsky), contextualise, investigate still life and surrealism, consider how digital has facilitated manipulation more than analogue.

Overall I was pleased with the reception of my film despite my omissions and running over time. The comments are all being digested (I agree with the majority of points made) and hopefully the final written and illustrated piece will address these. Now to cut it down from 4,500 words to 2,500 to comply with the assignment criteria.

https://youtu.be/nZDGKkMtGOs

 

 

Re-Integration

I have thought long and hard about this title. This is for my second collection. It continues the theme of Beauty and the Beach… and is linked to the beach finds in the first collection Dis-Integration in so far as it illustrates what should happen to our waste.

I wanted a hyphenated title that suggested having another look and doing something about waste. My first working title for it was Re-View and then I replaced this with Re-Cycle. Neither worked for me and this judgement was reinforced by comments received from colleagues in response to my Critical Review film shared in week 9. I have played with other prefixes and second words wanting each to stand in their own right as well as have a combined meaning that could apply to my topic and suggest an alternative way as well as link and contrast with Dis-Integration (which I and others seem quite happy with).
Here are a few I thought about:

About-turn
Anti-waste
Be-ware
Co-operate
Dis-cover, -pair, -pute
En-code, -deavour, -lightenment, -rich, -vision,
Ex-ample, -it,
For-ward, e-warned, e-thought
Grate-ful
Help-ful, -less
In-controvertible, -disputable,
Light-source, -weight
Re-appraise, -assign, -cycle, -fuse, -integration, -petition,-place, -present, -process
Re-sign, -solution, -source, -turn, -visit, vision, -vue, -wind
Un-answerable, -deniable, -questionable

Titles and text used with an image can be vital for the viewer to be able to read and understand the intended meaning. Some photographers name images individually while having an overall title for the collection while other stick to numbers in a series. As explained in my post on Dis-Integration I wanted a way of naming and labelling my images that suggests the intended interpretation and in this way provides a ‘dominant’ reading (Frith and Cheng, 2006) and a strengthened meaning across the collection (Gestalt. I needed to avoid an oppositional interpretation. For example, in a worse case scenario I could inadvertently present the waste management images in a less favourable light and with a less enticing descriptor than the beach debris, which could encourage leaving debris anywhere rather than disposing of it appropriately.

An additional error to be avoided is to be patronising, condescending and/or dictatorial. I find some health messages, while they have good intentions, make you turn away and ignore them either because of the way the subject of the image is presented or the accompanying text or both (Sischy, 1991). Just visiting a GP surgery can make me angry when already feeling unwell because of the blu tacked posters insisting on things I must do or not do ‘or else’ (Ludwig, 2015; Montes-Armenteros, 2015; Williams, 2009). Teach personal health and wellbeing care in schools and at home so that people grow up well versed in the messages and know what to do and what to avoid rather than trying to impose ways of behaving once people have reached adulthood by addressing them as if they were children.

Back to Re-Integration. I do not yet know what others think of this choice and look forward to comments. For me Re calls us to attention and alerts us to something to follow that will need us to focus. Integration means to become part of something, to fit in. With Dis-Integration my point is to show that the beach debris is becoming (and to a significant extent has become) part of the natural environment. So integration can mean something bad has or is occurring as well as good. With Re-Integration my thinking takes me to the concept of Gaia, specifically the Gaia Hypothesis or Theory as it is more recently referred to: a more positive understanding that reflects science and philosophy (Lovelock, 2015). However, now somewhat criticised the Gaia Hypothesis has been useful in our questioning and understanding of our planetary system. Earth is all we have. While Gaia suggests the interactions of inorganic and organic matter intertwine and recycle to sustain the planet it is clear that human behaviours in producing inorganic matter are resulting in declines in earth’s environments and climate (i.e. carbon and water cycle changes). Self-regulation is being interfered with by humans (Aitkenhead, 2016). Deforestation, air pollution and as in my project water pollution, are all upsetting the balance or homeostasis of the earth’s ecosystems.

Producing and using items that become waste is a major issue but to my mind having ways to manage it is less harmful than leaving it anywhere. So for me Re-Integration appears to link with a cycle of taking resources within the earth to make things, then returning them to the earth in one form or another, preferably one that does limited or no harm (Vinas, 2012). As research by NASA and the study of earth system science tells us this cannot go on forever as natural resources will run out.

My second choice is Re-Solution but for me solution suggests something final and complete (more so than Re-Integration) and we are far from that at this time and this may not be fully realisable anyway. So although my intention is to encourage appropriate waste disposal and management I remain despondent about the bigger picture, looking into the the future, when in the present we continue to fight amongst ourselves rather than taking the significant steps needed to modify or change behaviours as a world-wide community in order to maximise life on earth.

NASA: Ocean and Earth System

 

References

Aitkenhead, Decca. 30 September 2016. James Lovelock: ‘Before the end of this century, robots will have taken over’. Saturday Interview. The Guardian. Modified 14 February 2018. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/30/james-lovelock-interview-by-end-of-century-robots-will-have-taken-over. [accessed 16-04-2018].

Frith, Katherine T. & Cheng, Hong. 2006. Symbolic Meanings of Advertisements in China. In Hong Chen and Kara Chan (Eds.), Advertising and Chinese Society: Impacts and Issues. Copenhagen Business School Press: Copenhagen.

Lovelock, James. 2015. A Rough Ride to the Future. London: Penguin Random House.

Ludwig, Michael, J. 2015. The Cultural Politics of Prevention: Reading Anti-Drug Public Service Announcements. Chapter 8, pp151-174 in Katherine Toland Frith, Undressing The Ad: Reading Culture in Advertising. Peter Lang: New York.

Montes-Armenteros, Chemi. 2015. Ideology in Public Service Advertisements. Chapter 7, pp131-149, in Katherine Toland Frith, Undressing The Ad: Reading Culture in Advertising. Peter Lang: New York.

NASA. Ocean and Earth System. Science Beta, Programs, Research and Analysis. Available at: https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/ocean-earth-system. {accessed 15-04-2018}.

Sischy, Ingrid. 1991. Good Intentions. The New Yorker (9th September 1991).

Vinas, Maria-Jose. September 18 2012. Plastic Ocean. Available at: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/fromthefield/2012/09/18/plastic-ocean/. [accessed 16-04-2018].

Williams, Matt. April 24 2009. Close-up: Does shock advertising still work? Campaign. Available at: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/close-up-does-shock-advertising-work/900778. [accessed 17-03-2018].

 

Dis-integration

I have created a collection (see Dis-integration Work in Progress). I have not used the descriptors series or typology (Mike Perry, 2018) as the images are not in an order of significance or of one type. They are, however, of the same genus, beach debris. I chose the title and simply numbered each one as they are linked by the descriptor genus. For me, combing the two parts with a hyphen shows that there are two processes at work as evidenced in my images.

In a world where integration and equality are important I see what we are making becoming one with what has naturally occurred regardless of what it is. Anthony Hernandez found traces of human habitation with his series Landscapes for the Homeless (Smithson, 2017). Mandy Barker has also shown found manmade items, as is, but from oceans and beaches across the world. She also photographed the finds transformed, in a way that appears to ‘integrate’ them with nature and be described as new found forms (Barker, 2017).

By adding ‘dis’ to integration I am making a statement about deterioration, not dismissal, and showing the stages that some items are going through naturally, over time. In contrast, Matt Collishaw (Jones, 2013) deliberately takes apart naturally occurring creatures and poisons living plants and photographs their disintegration. Jonathan Jones described Collishaw’s art as both ”….lovely and vile. It is an art of our time and it hits true, like a bullet in the head.”. (Jones, 26 April 2013). This view resonates with me as some of my images are items that induce disgust as well as guilt and embarrassment at belonging to the human race that discards such things. However, whereas his images are beautiful and need close inspection or accompanying descriptions to explain them, mine are more obvious from the beginning and seem to be more similar to images made by Keith Arnett, including in some cases, their colours (Goldschmidt, 2014; O’Hagan, 2015; Laing, 2016). His pictures from a rubbish tip were items placed on plastic with the camera focussed on the closest edge. I plan to try his techniques and in doing so make more of the reflected diffused natural light as he has done.

Pictures from a Rubbish Tip Keith Arnatt 1988
Dis-integration 1 Sarah Newton 2018

My titling this group of images has opened a way forward for me. Immediately I thought of the concept I was able to select images that fitted the theme, both seeming to be on a road to integration while showing evidence of disintegration. A secondary effect has been to focus my attention in taking new images, thus I have shifted from taking as many items as I see, and thinking about them afterwards, to concentrating on finding and taking those that fit the theme. Of course the downside of this concentrated effort will always be that I might have overlooked potential images that could take me to a better place with the project.

References

Barker, Mandy. 2017. Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals. Recent and Unique Species Discovered in the Cove of Cork. Overlapse: United Kingdom.

Goldschmidt, Michal. December 2014. Keith Arnatt: Pictures from a Rubbish Tip 1988-9. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-pictures-from-a-rubbish-tip-t13171. [accessed 30-08-2018].

Jones, Jonathan. 2013) Mat Collishaw: still sensational. Interview. The Guardian. Fri 26 Apr 2013. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/apr/26/mat-collishaw-still-sensational. [accessed 24-03-2018].

Laing, Olivia. 9 April 2016. Conceptual art: why a bag of rubbish is not just a load of old garbage. Avaulable at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/09/conceptual-art-tate-britain-olivia-laing. [accessed 30-03-2018].

O’Hagan, Sean. 27 August 2015. Keith Arnatt is proof that the art world doesn’t consider photography ‘real’ art. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/aug/27/keith-arnatt-photography-exhibition-spruth-magers-absence-of-the-artist. [accessed 30-03-2018].

Perry, Mike. 2018. Land/Sea Solo exhibition. Mostyn Gallery, Wales, 2 March-2 July 2018. Available at:http://www.m-perry.com. [accessed 30-03-2018].

Smithson, Aline. 26 September 2017.  Anthony Hernandez: Landscapes for the Homeless and Public Transit Areas. Available at: http://lenscratch.com/2017/09/anthony-hernandez/. [accessed 24-03-2018].

Dis-Integration

Week 8 Activity: Positioning Practice – Mandy Barker

This week we were asked to identify a practitioner who interests us and informs our practice. I chose Mandy Barker whose work I have been impressed by and also curious about for a few months.

Mandy Barker

There are several audio and film recordings of Mandy Barker available at various events  since her work on plastic pollution in our oceans caught the headlines with her work on ‘Soup’ from her time in Honk Kong and through to this year following the launch of her book ‘Beyond Drifting’ based on her time in residence in Cork, Ireland.

Mandy Barker Beyond Drifting, 2017

“The motivation for her work is to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans while highlighting its harmful affect on marine life and ultimately ourselves.” (Lensculture)

Mandy Barker’s images are creations made from plastic found across the world. Some are photographed using old cameras, out of date film, deliberately creating movement and using slow shutter speeds. The resultant effect is of new types of plankton, named in a latin style often with letters of the word plastic embedded within them. Each one is presented in a sphere against a black background as if a biological specimen. For example:

“OPHELIA MEDUSTICA
Specimen collected from Glounthaune shoreline, Cove of Cork, Ireland
(Pram wheel)”. (Photoworks, 2017).

Her inspiration links back to John Vaughan Thompson (1779-1847) who amongst his many discoveries identified planktons and realised their importance in the food chain. Her book Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals (published by Overlapse in 2017) is presented in a Victorian style echoing the publications of John Vaughan Thompson other scientific researchers from the past.

Mandy Barker Echiplantus etinucs, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Mandy Barker Beyond Drifting, 2017

In addition to her book Mandy has exhibited large scale installations depicting collections of themed items (such as lighters shown as a pod of dolphins and fishing debris as birds nests against black backgrounds) in public spaces outdoors as well as in galleries (e.g. San Fransisco Airport in 2017). What comes across in her interviews is a passion and commitment to use her talents to raise awareness and inspire others in order to make a difference.

Mandy Barker Penalty-Photographs of nearly a thousand soccer balls found at the beach

I am certainly inspired, but in awe of her creative abilities that at this stage seem beyond my capabilities. I would like to try out the ways she has created apparent living creatures out of inanimate plastics, not to directly copy her approach for my project but rather to extend my experiences and hopefully skill set. In addition, I collect images of all sorts of debris on beaches not just plastics and am including research on waste recycling and processing so there are fundamental differences between us. Her dedication to research, not only relating to her finds and their locations, details of which she kept meticulously in notebooks, but also to the way in which the book has been imagined, collated and presented is unique, intriguing, beautiful and impactful.

Andre, Laura M. 7 June 2017. Available at: http://blog.photoeye.com/2017/06/book-review-beyond-drifting-imperfectly.html. [accessed 19-03-2018].

Barker, Mandy. 2017. Soup. Terminal 1 San Fransisco Airport Commission. 29 August 2017- 5 December 2017. Available at: https://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/mandy-barker-soup. [accessed 20-03-2018].

Lensculture. 2018. About Mandy Barker. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/mandy-barker. [accessed 19-03-2018].

Overlapse. 19 June 2017. Interviews + Reviews for Beyond Drifting by Mandy Barker. Available at: https://www.overlapse.com/catalog/beyond-drifting/. [accessed 19-03-2018].

Photoworks. 3 May 2017. Interview: Mandy Barker. Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-mandy-barker/#close-no. [accessed 19-03-2018].

Week 7 Activity: Aesthetic or Anaesthetic?

To represent is to aestheticise, that is, to transform. It involves a vast field of choices but it does not include not to transform, not to change or alter whatever is being represented’ (Levi Strauss, 2003: 9).
Task:
• Research and share on this forum, a particular body of work / exhibition / advertising campaign / coverage of a news event etc. which aims to convey a particular message. Ideally, this should be relevant to your own practice.
• Identify the message the work aims to promote and who you think its intended audience might be.
• Post to this forum a short critical outline of your own response to the relative success of this work in achieving its intent.
• Consider, highlight and respond to any key ideas raised by Sischy (1991) that you particularly agreed or disagreed with.
• Define and evaluate how these practitioners achieve this? (or not?)

“It is work that is sloppy with symbolism….it feels as if the artist’s work is being worshipped instead of examined.” (Sischy, 1991, p90).

In speaking about the intentions of photojournalists Sischy (1991, p91) notes how few have succeeded in calling people to action “Others have simply been naive-even deluded-about what they were doing. Still others are complicated mixtures of high aspirations and presumptions. It seems to me that Salgado is one of these.” I think I am one of the former with my project work.

Referring to Salgado’s quest for beauty and respect in his image composition Sischy (1991, p92) notes “And this beautification of tragedy results in pictures that ultimately reinforce our passivity toward the experience they reveal. To aestheticize tragedy is the fastest way to anaestheitize the feelings of those who are witnessing it. Beauty is a call to admiration, not to action.”.

In contrast Walker Evans photojournalism is “straight” and “naked” as noted by Lincoln Kirstein and quoted by Sischy (1991, p93). Perhaps like my in situ images, showing the subject as it is in its raw found state. Whereas my more creative compositions and manipulations in front of the camera and in the digital darkroom are possibly more in the style of Salgado. One example which illustrates this split approach is to be found in an image I took of a dead seagull. Either I could post this as is and perhaps upset some on instagram or I could make it into a creative image that retains the curious sight of the viewer for longer and is less likely to garner upset or angry comments from those who found the alternative distasteful. However as I do not know how it died and whether it was natural causes it may not be appropriate to post it on a site focussed on the damage to creatures from our waste.

Speaking of the challenges of using photographs to draw attention to suffering in the world Kimmelman noted:

“Photographers deal with this problem differently, but above all by struggling to make beautiful pictures: what causes any image to stick in the mind, aside from shock content, whose impact tends to be brief, are qualities like pictorial integrity and compositional originality, which are fancy terms for beauty. If your subject happens to be the dislocation of people and their suffering, then those people and that suffering become your compositional devices.” (Kimmelman, 2001).

I would suggest that both Salgado and Brandt have similarities in approach in that they take beautiful images, both with haunting qualities that remain in your consciousness, both in black and white, both to do with making the earth a better place to live on for all future generations. The differ, however, in how the images were composed and contextualised with Salgado’s images suggesting ‘this is how it was found’ and Brandt openly making available how he constructed his images and decided on the locations for them. He photographs animals whose habitats have been disappearing through the actions of mankind, transports and positions them in the transformed landscapes, to be taken as a final image for his collection Inherit the Dust.

My emotional responses to the images of both Salgado and Brandt differ when thinking about their impact in raising awareness which both photographers are reported to have intended with Genesis and Inherit the Dust. Maybe that has something to do with the plight of the subjects in the images: people (Salgado) versus animals (Brandt). Maybe is is to do with time, Salgado’s images come at a time when we are subjected to many images and films of people in very poor health in far off places and we may have become anaesthetised to such images.

Road to factory with Zebra, 2014 Nick Brandt

I think Brandt’s images are more powerful for me because they directly confront the changes that we have made to environments, many of which will have dreadful consequences for life on earth unless action is taken. While Brandt’s images are to be applauded for their compositional arrangements (e.g. such as the giraffes being juxtaposed against a background of cranes, the zebras being confronted by a train with stripes on the front and the hills lined up with those in the original images) there are interpretations possible that he might not have intended. Most, if not all, the images repeat the story of lives in poverty, possibly ad hoc/chaotic industrial and domestic building and an inability to manage waste. Thus Brandt seems to be delivering several messages which could place his venture at risk of overwhelming the viewers as there is so much to accomplish or because his ‘point’ or ‘purpose’ is missed and viewers are not tempted to ask why the work has been presented in this way.

In discussing environmental activism through photography has made me reflect not only on my work to raise awareness of debris in the sea and on beaches but also that of others who have made films about the waste problem we have across the world. Lay (2016) presents an easy to understand film about the Pacific Garbage Gyre and mentions Boyan Slat (2017) at the end as the person to clean up for us. For me this suggests that this is the only solution to the complex problem. While Slat and his Dutch company will be starting work on one gyre this year, there is much more to be done than collecting waste that has already been inappropriately discarded. Unless I have missed some information, The National Geographic 2016 film on the same topic also stops short suggesting that good farming practice is an answer to improving health and the environment. Both A Plastic Ocean and Plastic Ocean have more ‘punch’ in that they are at times shocking, films but also clearly present facts as well as potential solutions. The former being made by Plastic Oceans Foundation and endorsed by David Attenborough (Heaver, 2016). and the latter produced by the United Nations.

A Plastic Ocean, Plastic Ocean Foundation, 2016
Plastic Ocean, United Nations, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What have I learned with this brief sojourn into aesthetics and impact in relation to addressing environmental issues? I am agreeing with Sischy (1991, p92). Beautiful images depicting concerns and plights have a place and can go so far with raising awareness but greater impact may be achieved with showing ‘it’ as it is and adding a visual narrative such a the contrast of background and subject in Brandt’s images and the two Plastic Ocean films. The use of text and speech in these films is more effective than either gentle or abrasive music which either minimises the problems or confronts the viewer head on in a challenging and potentially alienating way.

In relation to my work I will need to think about impact, not just for the course but also for the cause. Taking Brandt’s idea I wonder what response I would get placing huge billboards of my images of rubbish found on beaches on the beaches…?

References

A Plastic Ocean Official Trailer. 2 February 2016. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zrn4-FfbXw. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Brandt, Nick. Inherit the Dust. Available at: http://www.nickbrandt.com. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Brandt, Nick. 2016. Dust to dust: Animals lost in an African apocalypse – in pictures. The Guardian (5th April 2016). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2016/apr/05/nick-brandt-inherit-the-dust-africa. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Heaver, Stuart. 27 November 2016. Plastic Ocean: it’s a must-watch for Attenborough. Available at: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/short-reads/article/2048924/plastic-ocean-its-must-watch-attenborough. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Jordan, Chris. (2017). Albatross. Available at : http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/albatross-trailer/#trailer. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Kimmelman, Michael. July 13 2001. Photography Review; Can Suffering bBe Too Beautiful? Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/13/arts/photography-review-can-suffering-be-too-beautiful.html. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Lay, Peter. 3 April 2016. Pacific Garbage Gyre. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6kw96LjTzY. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Levi Strauss, David. 2003. Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics. New York: Aperture.

National Geographic. 16 September 2016. How We Can Keep Plastics Out of Our Oceans. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQTUWK7CM-Y. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Plastic Oceans. Available at: http://plasticoceans.org/about-film/. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Sebastiao Salgado. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastião_Salgado. [accessed 17-03-2018].

Sischy, Ingrid. 1991. Good Intentions. The New Yorker (9th September 1991).

Slat, Boyan. 14 May 2017. Boyan Slat: How we will rid the oceans of plastic (May 2017). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du5d5PUrH0I. [accessed 17-03-2018].

United Nations. 24 May 2017. Plastic Ocean. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju_2NuK5O-E. [accessed 17-03-2018].

 

Week 7 Forum: An agent for change?

‘So accustomed to being addressed by these images, we scarcely notice their impact’ (Berger, 1972: 130). Are we really so desensitised? If so, as Ritchin (2013: 74) asks, ‘How can we, in the best circumstance, strive to make images that might even help to diminish, or avoid, a conflict in the making?’

Task:
With your peers, you should now discuss the following questions:
• Can photography provoke change?
• How might it achieve this?
• Should we censor shocking subject material?
• What is the role of aesthetics?
• Are we desensitised today?
Illustrate your discussion with visual examples to justify your points.

Aberfan disaster 1966, photographer unknown

A colleague responded to this task remembering the disaster in Aberfan when a colliery spoil tip engulfed the school killing 116 children and 28adults on 21st October 1966. I too remember Aberfan and wondering what would it be like if it happened at my school with my younger siblings there with me and being horrified at the thought. I am always concerned about things being precarious and maybe slipping such as cliff edges and although these concerns may not have been a direct consequence of my upset that this had happened to children like me and my siblings and friends, I think it did raise my awareness of being mindful of potential dangers and taught me how fragile life can be.

Another event that is etched in my mind was the massacre of children and a teacher at Dunblane on 13 March 1996. Again at a school and involving children, but this time raising my concerns for my own children when they were out of my care at school. Unfortunately not only has gun crime involving children and young adults featured with regularity in our world news since then, survivors have had to live with chasing by the media and the publication of untruths at risk of damaging them and the memories of that event (Luft, 2009). I think we are becoming anaesthetised to such events because of their frequency and our seeming inability or unwillingness to take preventative courses of action even if this upsets the political gun cart.

Yesterday’s news included a moving speech by a young person at the school in Florida where his friends have been massacred recently, rallying other young people in the world to take control and sort it out as the adults do not seem to be able to. Families from Dunblane have reached out with support to them (Ochagavia, 2018). As long as there is a willingness and a strength in joining together we can come round from the anaesthetic to bring about change. In order to be awakened we do need to see and hear the truth about what happened in order to make the right decisions.

The walk out protests on Wednesday this week by schools and colleges across the USA are showing the world as well as their government that change must come in relation to gun laws. As well as professional news footage there is a plethora of amateur footage by students and families that is being used to show how powerful this lobby has become and that it cannot be ignored any longer (Yee and Blinder, 2018). With young people highly versed in modern day technology they have found a photographic and cinematic voice to show their concerns and state their demands.

In relation to my work on my project Beauty and the Beach… I am finding through Instagram (@sarahnewtonphotography) that images I post of potentially distasteful finds on beaches (depending on your sensibilities) are not as well liked as more aesthetically pleasing images. In turn some more abstract presentations of rubbish are even more popular.

Dead Seagull Sarah Newton 2018 20 likes
Alien white plastic on the seashore Sarah Newton 2018 30 likes

 

Fishing lure and hooks Sarah Newton 2018 24 likes

What does this tell me? I am not sure as I do not know exactly who has been looking and liking or ignoring the images, but I am getting a sense of trend. People may access instagram for pleasure, to while away the time, to search for things of interest and perhaps do not want to be reminded of unpleasant things and thereby consciously avoid the call to action and feelings of guilt. Perhaps they are anaesthecised to such images as there are thousands available now  the awareness of the problem is reaching governments and legislative stages? Perhaps they think it is all going to be dealt with now those in power have to make decisions about our waste on land and in the sea? Maybe it is the labels that I give the images and not the images themselves that influences likes. I think I will continue to post a range of more unpleasant to abstract images as looking at the latter people may also note the former and take the concerns for the environment and ourselves on board almost subliminally.

 

References

Luft, Oliver. 16 March 2009. PCC targets Sunday Express over Dunblane allegations. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/mar/16/pcc-targets-sunday-express-over-dunblane-claims. [accessed 16-03-2018].

Ekaterina Ochagavia. 13 March 2018. A message from Dunblane to Florida school shooting survivors – video. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2018/mar/13/message-from-dunblane-to-parkland-florida-school-shooting-video. [accessed 16-03-2018].

Yee, Vivian and Blinder, Alan. 14 March 20218. National School Walkout: Thousands protest against Gun Violence Across the US. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/us/school-walkout.html. [accessed 16-03-2018].

Week 6 Forum: Are You Drowning Yet?

 

Susan Sontag (1977: 174) gave the following description of photography: ‘Photography does not just simply reproduce the real, it recycles it, a key procedure of a modern society. In the form of photographic images, things and events are put to new uses, assigned new meanings’.
Task:
• Reflect on the contexts which are open to disseminate photographs today, eg, print portfolio, book, magazine, Internet, zine and gallery.
• Provide specific examples to support your comments.
• Evaluate their success or failure.
• Outline how each context might ‘assign new meanings’ to the work.
• Identify and reflect on ways in which this might inform the optimal context for viewing your own practice.

The list of possibilities for presenting photographs is endless. In addition to galleries and printed reading materials the internet has many ways of communicating including via social media. Then there are consumer products and publicity on public transport of all kinds including, on occasion, colourful advertising logos and messages in sky trails.

The history of war posters provides examples of enduring messages that are well known today. Eric Field was commissioned in 1913 to design a poster to encourage signing up to the armed forces. This was published on 5th August 1914 the day after Britain declared war on the German Empire. Lord Kitchener in his capacity as Secretary of State for War was in charge of recruitment of soldiers to fight Germany. He noticed Field’s advert and a group of ‘ad men’ were pulled together to come up with recruitment publicity. Ultimately it was Alfred Leete an illustrator with the firm Caxton who adapted Field’s concept and designed (following several versions) the more familiar Lord Kitchener wants you poster.

Alfred Leete 1914
Eric Field 1913
Committee of ‘ad men’ 2014

Copied in recruitment advertisements by many countries Leete’s design is thought not to have been the most widely used or effective during the war. Rather the one designed by the committee of ‘ad men’ is considered to have been more effective. However it remains Leete’s design that has inspired a plethora of imitations for a multitude of purposes.

A somewhat similar story seems to have occurred with designs for posters during the second world war. They were intended to boost morale and one in particular was saved to issue in the event that Germany invaded the UK. This was the well known Keep Calm and Carry On poster designed by the Ministry of Information. As Germany did not invade, thousands of copies of this poster were pulped and any remaining copies are now considered collectors items (BBC News, 2010).

Ministry of Information 1939

The Keep Calm and Carry On official and licensed store (one of many selling associated products) has many products based on the original poster from posters to iPhone cases, soft furnishings and mugs. You keep the Keep Calm text but can tailor the rest of the wording and the colours in the poster to suit yourself. So although not used in the war it has become very popular since. It’s use in more recent years appears to have coincided with the increased recognition of mental ill health and the need for people to receive wellbeing, moral boosting and empowering messages in daily life. Interestingly this resounds full circle with the original intention of this and other posters!

In my own practice I am at times torn between observing and photographing animate and inanimate things when seen and constructing situations or scenes when taking and/or processing images. I wonder which approach will serve me best. I think the former is for my personal memories to be kept to myself or shared with a few close relatives and friends and the latter is where I feel I am being encouraged to go for at least six reasons. Firstly, the MA Photography course is spurring me onto openness through experimentation. Secondly, I want to see how far my abilities in the creative sphere can go. Thirdly, I want to becomes more technically competent both in the taking and processing of images. Fourthly, I am now aware of the thousands of others who post photographs on social media of a very similar nature and style to myself. Fifthly, I would like to be able to show my work more publicly and to do this need be able to put together a collection that is worthy of such airing. Sixthly, although I may be making a small contribution through Instagram to the campaigns to clean our rivers, seas and beaches I need to see if there is a more impactful way I could contribute.

I have already experimented with having products made adorned with my images of beach debris and/or seascapes. These include jute bags, flip flops, jig-saws, cushions and canvases for the wall. So far given as gifts, I do need to see if I can source more sustainable materials and diversify the product range before moving onto marketing. One opportunity may arise later this year with a suggestion that in the next module we will be encouraged to exhibit. My exhibition could include these products as well as framed images and possibly a pamphlet or small book. What I am not necessarily seeking nor likely to get is a name for myself as a photographer with my chosen project Beauty and the Beach… (there are so many images available in this area and I feel mine are not unique). However, as with the war photographers whose names do not appear on all the products from their original designs I would be pleased if some of my images were to be used in furtherance of ‘the cause’.

Sarah Newton 2018

“What makes something interesting is that it can be seen to be like, or analogous to, something else. There is an art and there are fashions of seeing things in order to make them interesting; and to supply this art, these fashions, there is a steady recycling of the artefacts and tastes of the past.” (Sontag, 1977, p175)

BBC News. (23 March 2010). Rare WWII propaganda posters fetch £15,000 at auction. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/8583618.stm. [accessed 11-03-2018].

Keep Calm and Carry On. The Only Official and Licensed Store. Available at: http://www.keepcalmandcarryon.com/history/. [accessed 11-03-2018].

Lord Kitchener Wants You. Available at: https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Lord_Kitchener_Wants_You. [accessed 11-03-2018].

Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Wikipedia. 2018. Keep Calm and Carry On. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On. [accessed 11-03-2018].

Informing Contexts Week 1 Photography: The Shape-shifter

Through my planned research project my name has become associated with rubbish over the past two modules, specifically debris found on beaches and other waterside locations. With Blue Planet II and government policies across the world highlighting the concerns and advocating remediating action now I find I am riding an ever-growing tsunami of photographic images and films. On the one hand there is, unfortunately, no end to subject matter to photograph while on the other it seems increasingly challenging to find a way to present my images that would merit a unique selling point.

I am delighted with the creatives talents evident in others depictions of rubbish and although I may have had similar ideas, I have not yet been able to or had the means to execute them. Mandy Barker http://mandy-barker.com and Andy Hughes http://www.andyhughes.net are two such artists who have made a great impression on me. I mean to continue with this project encouraged by the responses I am getting to my posts on Instagram and the places it is leading me to. I have already visited an incinerator and also plan to visit and photograph recycling at centres locally.

I am experimenting with ways of taking and presenting my images. Getting down low and making the piece of debris large against a landscape/seascape is my attempt to try out a viewpoint used by Andy Hughes. However I have not quite mastered the technique or visited a local electrical shop to purchase a battery operated lighting system (a step up from my torch I hope).

As some will know I was also in a little bit of a dilemma last module wondering whether to focus more on sea and landscapes, that is the settings in which debris is found. I feel that I am at an early stage in this area but hope that my portrayals are improving as I move through the course and develop greater confidence to experiment.

Whether Instagram responders and likes are in any way indicators of reasonable photography work I have found it interesting to see that two images in this category have apparently gained more ‘votes’ and comments than any of myrubbish ones! The first was of a sunset and while I like the clean lines and relative simplicity of the image I would have thought others would have dismissed it as another sunset/sunrise postcard image.

The second was a first outing to the beach with my new crystal ball. I had seen some images on line posted by others and wanted to try it out with rubbish but tried its with a moving seascape first. Taken on my iPhone I had not noted the breeze or predicted the shakiness of my hands holding it while being ready to jump to rescue the crystal if it rolled off its perch! Hence the strange effect of moving rock. See @sarahnewtonphotography on Instagram for version with movement and sound.

Production of tangible goods relating to both beach debris and seascapes resulted in a series of cushions, jute bags and flip flops bearing my images. Well received as gifts I have yet to see whether they are marketable. I hope to source more recyclable materials and investigate adding images to them, if possible, without the use of plastics.