Critical Analysis and Review – Contributions – Mark Neville, Andy Sewell, Cristina Nuñez and Dinu Li

I have written to a wide range of professionals I have met over the past two years and am humbled by the generous responses I have received. Here are a selection

Mark Neville

‘“Mark Neville has re-imagined what documentary photography could be, should be. Instead of the bland ‘deconstructions’ that pass so lazily as ‘critical’ in contemporary art, he makes extraordinary pictures and finds extraordinary ways to get them back to those he has photographed.” David Campany’ (Neville)

Mark understands trauma as he suffered PTSD after his commission in Helmand Province about which he produced ‘Battle Against Stigma.’ Mark comments on my work..

‘I applaud your attempt to respond to this trauma. I do not know if I would be able to do it. I always think of my work as a very sublimated attempt to deal with trauma. But maybe I should learn something from your direct approach.’

Andy Sewell

‘“At seventy-five and with the world the way that it is, I sometimes come close to losing heart, but when I see work like this I’m back in the game. The Heath is a beautiful job. Honest about mixed evidence… open to both joy and sorrow. Robert Adams’ (Sewell)

‘Selected by Martin Parr as “a photographer likely to make his mark on the future of photography”’ (Sewell).

Andy’s work has been one of the biggest influences on me over the last two years as he has really changed the way I look at the world. (See CRJ Post 1 and Post2 on Andy Sewell).

Andy’s comments as follows and I am arranging a zoom for further specific input.

‘I’ve just taken a look at your work.  It’s a moving study of what must have been a devastating experience.  It’s taking me a while to find the right words, I think because each sentence I write sounds a bit like a cliche.  And I guess this is one of the problems we commonly face in trying to find words, or pictures, for grief and loss.  Part of your works success is that it manages to negotiate these cliches, it’s full of tenderness and sentiment, but avoids sentimentalism.   
The combination of self portraits with the details and still life is effective.  The sequence works well and there are some really strong pictures.  The work tells a specific story but also has plenty of space for me to bring my own experience to it, there is an openness and ambiguity that I value.  
If I was doing a full crit there are a couple of pictures I might question—would be interested to see what other frames you have around them—and I feel the end it not quite as strong as the rest of the work.  Have you considered hand writing the poem at the end and photographing it? Maybe in relation to the moleskin picture this could be a good way to begin the end sequence . . .  and after that finish maybe with another of those details of hands and bodies touching (I think these are really strong!).  Anyway happy to have a quick zoom chat if you are interested in talking about these kind of specifics.’

Cristina Nuñez

‘Nuñez has pursued a PhD by publications on the power of the self-portrait at the University of Derby UK. Her essay “Self-portrait as Self-Therapy” has been published on academic publications such as the European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, Routledge, London and “Autofocus” by Prof. Stefano Ferrari and Prof. Chiara Tartarini, of the University of Bologna.’ (Nuñez)

I participated in Crisitina’ Self Portrait Experience workshop from April to August this year with 8 other artists from New Zealand to the USA to Spain. It gave me great insight into the power of self portraits to express emotion and internal states.

Cristina comments on my work.

‘During the SPEX workshop, which happened in the months that followed the loss of his wife, Len produced a very powerful series of autobiographical images (self-portraits and landscapes) and brought them to dialogue with images he had taken of his wife and family in recent years. Despite the difficult times, Len managed to transform his emotional pain into a high number of beautiful and meaningful photographs which others have found extremely moving. Len lying naked and feeling lost on the empty bed. Len sitting helpless on a chair, suggesting the feeling of emptiness. Drops of blood in the sink. Len sits alone in the terrace while the cat places herself to his right, forming a perfect composition. A magnificent self-portrait looking angry and desperate, but strong and charismatic. Another close self-portrait weeping in his car. A blurred landscape picturing his blurred emotions. A dead bird. Her empty bed. Sunlight on the wall. The sea, in black and white. Finally Len lying on the grass with open arms, perhaps free to start a new life.

 Len triggered a profound creative process that brought him to completely transform his painful experiences and construct impactful images to compose a monumental artwork in honor of his beloved wife.

Len has a natural talent to constantly produce beautiful photographs!’

Dinu Li

‘Li is an interdisciplinary artist working with the moving image, photography, sculptural assemblages and performance. In his practice, Li examines the manifestation of culture in the everyday, finding new meaning to the familiar, making visible the seemingly invisible.’ (Li)

Dinu has been a guest reviewer of my portfolio throughout the final module of the MA. His insight and encouragement have been inspirational and I have learnt from his work with video and sound. Dinu’s comments are

‘Eclectic in approach, Williamson’s work is presented as an allegory haunted by thoughts of mortality. He interrogates the body as a landscape of disease, pain, loneliness and often appearing lost at sea. The use of metaphor in his photographs speaks about our existence and our midnight howls when realising our precious mates are gone forever. Light permeates across Williamson’s images, as if the soul remains close-by when the body returns to a distant landscape.’

References

NEVILLE, M. (2020). Mark Neville [online] Available at http://www.markneville.com/bio (Accessed: Nov 10th, 2020)

SEWELL, A. (2020). Andy Sewell [online] Available at http://www.andysewell.com/ . (Accessed: Nov 10th, 2020)

NUÑEZ, C. (2020). The Self Portrait Experience. [online]. Available at https://www.cristinanunez.com/the-self-portrait-experience1/ (Accessed: Nov 10th, 2020)

LI, D. (2020). Dinu Li [online] Available at https://www.dinuli.com/Info Accessed Nov 10th, 2020

Categories: Final Major Project, Project Development FMP

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.