Research · Assignment 1
- introduction exploring the general theme of documentary photography
- looking at the work of various documentary photographers: Jocelyn Bain Hogg and Philip Griffiths Jones
- main research theme exploration: Two creatives at work
- test photos for assignment 1. a day in the studio with Tina Mcallan (painter)
- test photos for assignment 1. a day in the studio is Ansai Mas masia (theatre and dance)
1. introduction to theme
Project: Working to produce a series of photos that hang together as a series essay exploring a community of artists that I am part of in Valencia.
Theme: Exploration of the creative process, documenting the creative process of two working artists within my community
Statement of intent: To explore the artistic process of the lives of two community artist in the context of their preparation and exhibiting and performing in their respective disciplines. The idea here is to show different elements in an experimental way of the process of concentration, skill, awareness, emotion and performance of these two artists.
2. Looking at documentary photographers
Setting out and looking at photojournalism I came across Foto8 and their selection of photo essays. In particular I looked at the work of Jocelyn Bain Hogg in a set of photos in an essay that he made documenting the British and their ways of ‘entertaining themselves’. By and large I found his series on the British a good example of photojournalism with a sense of irony and humour which seemed to fit in quite well with the theme and help contextualise it given that the British have the reputation of exhibiting such qualities overseas. In general I was looking for a sign of some of the common modalities of documentary photography such as: a sense of medium, close and detailed images to build up a narrative, a ‘lynch pin character’ that ties the series together and what David Campbell talks about as drama and moments of climax within the series.
In Bain Hogg’s case each image is an ironic climax in itself and though the series ties together, really we see individual moments and events taking place within a connected theme. Whilst he uses a combination of close shots and wider angle shots for context he seems to favour more the wide angle shots for context as far as I can see.
Thomas Pink’s Jonathan Heilbron states in the introduction:
“We wanted a visual history of those occasions that show the British off so well and which tell insiders and onlookers alike so much about who we are today. Heroic stamina, an ability to disappear behind a camera and an innate understanding of our tribal habits were required to fulfil our dream. Photographer Jocelyn Bain Hogg seemed a natural fit for the task.” http://www.foto8.com/live/a-british-entertainment/
If we take the isolated example of one of Bain Hogg’s images from ‘Cambridge May week’ in isolation the image reveals two men lying on the grass and photographed from a more or less standing position looking over the men. Shot with flash it brings to life a sense of being caught out, not quite ready to be shot. The toe to tale and diagonal arrangements gives a certain dynamism to the picture that if shot horizontally would have appeared visually more banal. However, does it in any way give a narrative about britishness or the folly of the race?
As Berger point out: “a photograph is a meeting place where the interests of the photographer, the photographed, the viewer and those who are using the photograph are often contradictory”. (Berger and Mohr, 1989.)
Berger talks often about the photographs being ambiguous and perhaps the individual photo even more so from a certain perspective. In the photo above there is minimal contextual meaning to assign the image and only the barest of signifiers to go by. What I am left with is the connotational impulse towards interpreting what I think the image means. Out of context (no title and no explanation or series) the photo could literally mean anything. So despite the claims by Foto8 that it shows outsiders “so well” what the brits are like in the current age I’d have to say I don’t fully agree. There isn’t here a full representation within the series as to pass times and folly of the British people, given that in a sense there is little representation of the Irish or the Scottish. I merely use the first part of my enquiry and research here to establish the reality that the photo does not hold an inherent universal narrative and that often strong contextualisation is essential to the work being understood..
Exploring the work of Philip Jones Griffiths
If ever I could say that I have a hero of photography, it is this man. Not only is he a wonderful photographer but also a man who stands principled as an anti-war photographer and a genuine and sympathetic observer.
I have looked over the course of the day once again at some of Griffiths work to examine his approach and to see if this classical methodology might influence my project in some way. Griffith, like other photojournalist of his time such as cummings and Stoddart, wanted to shift public perception of events going on in the world. They were as it were compasion driven as opposed to sensationalist photographers just trying to get the front page picture.
I’ll not enter further into the debate here of the politic of photojournalism but suffice to say I draw on the example of Jones Griffith as a way of clarifying to some extent my working style for this assignment.
His work can be seen here: http://philipjonesgriffiths.org/photography/timeline/
3. This then takes me on to looking at the main theme of research for the assignment.
The creative process in art making
I’ve taken this particular angle and theme for my involvement in photographing a community of artists because I think the subject warrants attention and that to me personally it is of key interest at the moment. Wether this process turns out to be visual enough to document with a camera still remains to be seen. However, as artists are primarily involved in production of art works I find it interesting to have a clear sense of what that means at different stages.
Sangharakshita, a prominent buddhist teacher (1925-2018) wrote extensively about the ‘creative mind’ stating that all creative processes begin with the mind as starting point. The mind has the capacity to act rather than re-act. This capacity to be creative first of all manifests as the ability to be free of negative and destructive mental states and develop constructive and non-reactive responses to situations. The creative mind has the characteristics of spontaneity, sensitivity, awareness and the possibility of self-reflection (Sangharkshita, 1971.) This would seem to be then an ideal starting point for the creative production of art works. However, it seems that some artists talk about producing their best work when not is states that are expansive, positive and necessarily concentrated. “Sometimes you will need to perform when not in the mood” says Kieth Bond (Bond, 2013.) The creative process and one’s state of mind then are more linked together than perhaps had been considered.
The creative process is seen to consist of a succession of thoughts and actions leading to appropriate productions (Lubart, 2001; Lubart et al., 2015 in what are the stages of the creative process? What visual art students are saying, 2018.) As such Lubart et al. identifies a number of stages to be recognised along the way. Although this particular piece of writing is aimed at the visual arts student still with some adaptions we can recognise the thrust of the creative process as being ‘alive’ in any situation where there is genuine thought and original thinking going on.
An outline of a model produces by to show how the creative process evolves has obviously much to do with what we talk about as reflective thinking and problem solving in western educational environments.
- Orientation Selection (coming up with the ideas)
- Preparation (note taking, scribbles, research in general; investigating the theme)
- Analysis (investigating the idea, looking into the process more closely)
- Incubation (reflection, relaxation and thinking)
- Ideation Transformation (putting the idea into action)
- Synthesis (Bringing together all elements of production)
- Evaluation (evaluation the overall project or piece to see if it has met the desired outcome)
I would say that in some art forms this is viable and probably follows more or less this kind of pattern. However also some artist that I know just simply get into the studio and start with a vague idea and work more experientially and somewhat intuitively such as the case of Tina, in this assignment.
Zoe from OCA marketing talks about asking more questions and doodling as a productive way to explore the creative process. Theses are very general ideas. What I am interested to witness from my photo series is if the ‘spirit’ of creatively can be shown in any effective way that engages the viewer following a personal progression of recognisable steps.
Tina Mcallan is a well established artist who trained at the Royal academy and now works part time as a painter. She exhibits extensively and has a theme that she generally works with know as re-creations. This process involves community involvement. She draws a classical painting and then has people paint squares, with her guiding. The re-creative process is interesting to see. In this set of images, I went to her studio and worked with her during a couple of sessions to see if I could visually document some of the process. The problem with her approach is that she is spontaneous and does not plan. Her main idea is to explore the actual materials themselves and the process of ‘mark making’.
As I have to produce a series of 10 images and I have two people to work with I cannot afford to devote too much space to either person. Trying to leave some room for supplementary images that feed into the theme that do not directly relate to the people in the shots, will be a challenge.
Im using a 35mm camera to shoot with and and aiming for a combination of close, medium range images. The story (essay) that I am telling here is related to the creative process of two community artists.
Bond, K. Fine art review, ‘I’m not in the mood’ (2013) [online] https://fineartviews.com/blog/62833/im-not-in-the-mood [accessed October 2019]
Berger, J. Mohr, J. Another way of Telling (1989:7) Grant Books, UK. Webpage of Philip Jones Griffiths [online]
Botella, M., Zenasni, M., and Lubart, T. What are the stages of the creative process? What visual arts students are saying (2018) Front. Psychol. 9:2266. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02266 [online]
Foto8, [online] http://www.foto8.com/live/a-british-entertainment/ [accessed October 2019]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02266/full [accessed October 2019]
Gritthith Jones, P. http://philipjonesgriffiths.org/photography/timeline/ [accessed October 2019]
Sangharakshita, Mind reactive Mind creative (1971), Windhorse Publications, based on a lecture given on March 1967 originally given at reading university Buddhist society