Critical Review of Practice

The time feels right to gather together my critical review of my practice. I hate the phrase ‘it has been done before’ but I understand the point. Other practitioners have tried out every method, explored every type of context, conceptualised subject matter and developed styles and techniques along the way. Where does my work fit within what has gone before.

Inspired by Practitioners that have gone before

A starting point of where I want my work to be is to consider the four books at the top of my current list of favourites. They are David Heath’s Dialogues with Solitudes, Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi, Sally Mann’s One Thousand Crossings and Ivor Prickett’s End of the Caliphate.

What appeals about David Heath’s images is his ability to ‘make sense of the increasing sense of isolation and vulnerability that typified the age’ (TPG, 2019). Alec Soth’s ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi is more about the spirit of wandering and peoples’ dreams than the river itself.’ (BJP, 2017) In Sally Mann’s work I appreciate ‘her obsession with place, family, the past, her love of Southern light, and her willingness to experiment with levels of romance beyond what most late-20th-century artists could tolerate.’ (New York Times, 2018). Ivor Prickett ‘pictures legitimately and compellingly record the experience of being “caught in the crossfire,” whether as a soldier or noncombatant.’ (EoP, 2019).

How can I situate my work amongst these megastars of photography? My body of work for my Masters takes as its subject my personal experiences over the two years 2019 and 2020. My wife, Karen, was chronically ill with Multiple Sclerosis in 2019 and in July took a decision to seek an assisted suicide in January 2020. She died in January. She was the love of my life, my soulmate and was in terrible suffering. I have lived through this period and used my camera to capture a narrative around the experience.

I have often returned to Heath’s images as a way to represent my own isolation and vulnerability. I so often found it difficult in self portraits to represent my inner turmoil. Heath does this so well and I kept asking ‘what has he done?’ Alec Soth enquiry in to dreams with his images relates to the better world of dreams I wanted to create for my ‘princess.’ Sally Mann’s very personal work inspires me as I attempt in this current module to show the experience of my wife’s death in a touching and intimate way. Ivor Prickett relates so much as I equate my own battle of living through my wife’s MS being akin to warfare. In my experience of it no matter what I did it still got worse.

WIP Current Module

In the current wip portfolio there are no images of me or my wife as there is a conscious effort to explore a trace of experience. This was partly inspired by Roland Barthes’ search for a photograph of his mother. He found one of when she was seven with her brother but we never see the photograph. (Barthes, 1993). The absence of the photograph he is referring to is tantalising. In earlier modules there were images of me in the narrative I was seeking to create. For my FMP decisions still need to be made in the choice of trace versus face.

Final WIP Sustainable Prospects

There are so many other photographers that have caught my attention and inspired my work. They include Jo Spence, Rosie Martin, Elina Brotherus and Cristina Nuñez who all created work in very different ways in the self portrait space. Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, Philip Lorca di Corcia, Sam Taylor Wood, Tom Hunter and Sharon Lockhart have caught my eye for their tableau narrative and performative work. As can be seen in my WIP for Sustainable Prospects above i translated some of my emotional state in to performative works. Work by David Jimenez in Madrid at PhotoEspaña and Philippe Chancel in Arles really moved me and it was hard not to include them in my top four. The visual impact of Mohau Modisakeng in Amsterdam at Unseen and the associated narrative is breathtaking and has made me think deeply about staging. I own and continually look at photobooks by Jimenez, Chancel and Modisakeng.

A Category for my Practice

There are many decisions still to be made before I can finally place my work within a category for my FMP. In the current body of work my intent is to create a visual narrative of me within the context of living with a chronically ill wife over a long period who then sought and went through with an assisted suicide. I am doing this to seek to achieve personal stability into the future through the therapeutic effect of the photographic enquiry in to self. I am also doing it to help others understand my experience. In particular those who may be going through something similar.

The categories of photography touched on by my work so far are narrative, psychological, self portrait, documentary, memoir and emotional. If I could only choose one it would be ‘narrative’.

Afterword

That was a really interesting process. More to come and this has prompted me to enquire further in to the category my work fits in and further enquire in to my intent.

References 

TPG https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibition/dave-heath-dialogues-solitudes accessed March 9th, 2020.

BJP https://www.bjp-online.com/2017/11/alec-soth-mississippi/ accessed March 9th, 2020.

New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/arts/design/sally-mann-a-thousand-crossings-review-national-gallery.html accessed March 9th, 2020.

The Eye of Photography https://loeildelaphotographie.com/en/ivor-prickett-end-of-the-caliphate/ accessed March 9th, 2020

Barthes, R. Camera Lucid. Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (15 July 1993).

Cotton, C. The Photograph as Contemporary Art. Thames & Hudson Third Edition.

Categories: Contextual Research IC, Coursework IC, Informing Contexts

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.