Critical Analysis and Review – Contribution – Sabrina Mandanici

I wrote to the photography critic Sabrina Mandanici to ask if she would be willing to critically review my work. Cemre Yesil gave me the introduction. This post works well with the other critical analysis and review contributions post .

Work in Progress Portfolio

Sabrina analysis and review November 13th, 2020

Dear Len,
You’ve made a touching body of work. It is intimate and personal, and I believe it will speak to many people. I admire your strength in confronting these images and I cannot
fathom the pain you have gone through.

I think, to make this wonderful project even better, is a matter of precision (by which I do not mean clarity, or spelling things out),
and focus.
Going through both your texts and images several times, I found myself asking the following questions:
Where do you place me (the viewer) when I look at these images?Am I looking at your experience of losing her, and watch her suffering, of the things she left behind, things difficult to face? Most of your images seem to suggest that. However, there are a few images that, to me, suggest something else, which, for a lack of better words, I would describe as capsules of a process of recovery and coping. For me, this latter body of images (the “capsules”) doesn’t work as well as the former.
Not because they are bad images, but because they pull me out and away from the mood
that the body of the main images evoke (to me).
Here are the latter images (page numbers), I am referring to: 12; 13 (maybe); 16; 20.


12
13
16
20

The other question I have (which somehow also relates to the images mentioned above), is a question about place vs. space – meaning place as something specific, while space is
rather abstract. The way your images and their sequence are coming together right now suggests something between the two. And I feel the overall impact of this series could be
stronger if you decided to move further into one or the other (for instance, does the house give us the frame for details we see within?) or, as an opposite movement, further into space (such as an emotional one). I think you can go either way, but either way should be a bit more decisive than it is now.
Given that I am not a photographer, but a writer and critic who writes about photography, of course I also read your texts – the introduction, as well as the poem – carefully and repeatedly. I love their rawness, and the fact that they are both personal
and easy to relate to. And I think you could make this even stronger with some editing.
As an example, I feel at times, a sentence and its impact can be stronger if it was shortened, for instance:
Original: “They are presented here as part of my process of trying to remember and to forget. It is a process we all face at some time in our lives.”
Suggestion: “Here, they present part of my process, of trying to remember and to forget.
A process we all face at some time in our lives.”
Finally, I also keep thinking about your project’s title – its meaning in relation to the image of the dead bird, and to the rest of the photographs. I have to admit that the meaning remains a mystery – which I like very much. However, I wonder if you could play with that mystery a bit more? For instance, if this project comes together as a book, would you consider splitting the title in two? Meaning, that opening the book, one would
read “Every Bird I See . . .” on the cover and title page and then at the verso end-paper and verso cover “. . . Will Be Part of You”.
Thank you for your trust of sharing this beautiful work with me. I hope my thoughts are
helpful.
Warm wishes,
Sabrina

My response to Sabrina on November 14th, 2020.

Dear Sabrina,
First of all a big thank you for comprehensive, helpful and insightful observation.  Everything you say makes sense and will help us with the final resolution for the MA portfolio.  I think all of your responses to the images are the quality of question I would like a viewer to ask.  Specifically I can say
Where do I place the viewer…..my target viewer is people who are going through what I went through and am going through.  I am successful if they see the rawness of my own experience in theirs and that that is helpful for them.  I felt very alone at many times on my journey.
Capsules of process of recovery…..I like that phrase and it makes sense…..the MA experience has been a mixture of producing art and part of a therapeutic process.  Cemre has been amazing taking me to boundaries I did not want to cross and making me feel safe as I crossed them.  I can agree the balance is still resolving as time passes and there is work to do.
Space v place…..when I started the project my intent was to explore my emotional space.  I wanted to show to the world….and possibly myself…what was going on inside me.  As it progressed place became relevant and part of my work.  The house for me is an example of both.  At the time I took the image, the night before Karen died, this was an incredibly emotional moment and the image is intended to be a representation of that.  However, the place is also relevant.  You give me something useful to think about as I can understand moving more to one or the other could clarify the work.
Text….yes I agree…more work to do to get it right.
Title….what a brilliant idea.  I will work with that.
Thank you again for taking the time and providing such generous input.
Best Regards

Len

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.