Photobook

I have created a video of a page through of my photobook for Assignment 3. I struggled a bit with this as my tripod has a centrepost and pan-tilt head so I couldn’t obtain an accurate overhead position. There is also a little too much light on the pages, I think, which would probably be eliminated if I had a decent tripod, but I think the video does suffice to show the size (10″ x 8″) and materiality of the book. For a better online experience of this book, please access the Blurb link on the Assignment 3 (rework) page.

As I mentioned in a weekly check in post, I am very happy with the quality of the book. Blurb, apparently has a tendency to print on the dark side, but I think the tonal quality of this book is spot on. The book has a hardcover imagewrap with a matte finish and the paper is Blurb’s Premium paper with a lustre finish.

Secwepemctsín Research

Secwepemctsín is the language of the Secwépemc (Shuswap) First Nations.

  • Endangered language
  • Spoken in Central and Southern Interior of British Columbia between the Fraser River and the Rocky Mountains
  • Only about 200 speak the languages as mother tongue (mostly over the age of 65); with about 1, 190 that are classified as ‘semi-speakers’ (mainly students and those under 19 years of age)
  • Most northern Interior Salish language
  • Two dialects:
    • Eastern: Kinbasket (Kenpesq’t) and Shuswap Lake (Qw7ewt/Quaaout) (This is the dialect spoken in my area)
    • Western: Canim Lake (Tsq’escen), Chu Chua (Simpcw), Deadman’s Creek (Skitsestn/Skeetchestn)–Kamloops (Tk’emlups), Fraser River (Splatsin, Esk’et), and Pavilion (Tsk’weylecw)–Bonaparte (St’uxtews)
  • Language has many consonants from the Roman alphabet (43 consonants and 5 vowels)

  • All knowledge and aspects of the language are vitally linked to the land and this is passed down orally to future generations
    ‘For example, the Secwepemc receive messages from the animals and birds who tell them when it is time to harvest and gather certain foods and medicines. The cricket will tell the Secwepemc when it is time to catch the salmon’ (Secwepemctsin, Language of the Secwepemc, 2008).
  • The present writing system was developed by Kuipers in roughly 1979. Prior to that the language was an oral one.
  • As a result of colonialism, and forced assimilation the language has become endangdered.
Bibliography

Secwepemctsin, Language of the Secwepemc (2008) At: https://web.archive.org/web/20081105231203/http://landoftheshuswap.com/msite/lang.php (Accessed  08/12/2019).

Shuswap language (2019) In: Wikipedia. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shuswap_language&oldid=918222087 (Accessed  08/12/2019).

words | Halq’eméylem | FirstVoices (s.d.) At: https://www.firstvoices.com/explore/FV/sections/Data/Salish/Halkomelem/Halq’em%C3%A9ylem/learn/words/10/1 (Accessed  09/12/2019).

words | Secwepemc | FirstVoices (s.d.) At: https://www.firstvoices.com/explore/FV/sections/Data/Secwepemc/Secwepemctsin/Secwepemc/learn/words/10/2 (Accessed  09/12/2019).

Hangout with Fellow Student Anna

Anna and I have just had a really good hangout this morning. We connected to discuss my A3 and I really appreciate the time she has given out of her busy schedule to talk about my work. She had a lot of questions about my work and some of them have served to clarify some points that were a little nebulous for me at the moment. Most important was the question was what/how did I want the First Nations components to appear – as part of the landscape or as ghosts that stood apart from the landscape. I mentioned that I felt that by removing the colour it felt as if the present was being stripped away to merge with the past. I am more after a sense of wanting to create a discontinuity, an awareness that something is “off” in the image and have the viewer interrogate the work. I think the B&W versions removes this aspect, creating more a straight documentary approach. It was great to talk through these aspects in some length with Anna. She has an innate sense of understanding that I really appreciate.

She also confirmed that the text is essential to adding that extra layer of culture that is so latent. The book presentation, as rough as it was, tied all the elements together very coherently and the facing pages, she felt created the final connections between all the elements.

Anna mentioned the work of Lauri Novak to me, but the only image that I can see of her work that relates to my work is the one on this page: https://lauri-novak.pixels.com/featured/bastogne-perspective-lauri-novak.html. It is similar to the cover image of Stephen Shore’s book The Nature of Photographs in that someone is holding an old image (in this case an old war photo taken in the same location) in front of a modern scene of the same location. This is a fairly well used trope which always creates some interest, but unfortunately the images that I have used for collages in my project were not really identifiable regards the place. I was just lucky enough to find images that were in the correct territorial area. Working within the scanty resources I had available to me, I really wanted to stay as authentic to the Secwépemc territory as far as I could.

We also discussed the options I was considering regarding the book layout – with possibly using an index of the symbols and their meanings at the back in order to stimulate viewer interaction, or to keep the symbols and meanings on the facing page, with or without the folklore legend. My problem with the folklore legends is that I might not be able to find narratives for each specific symbol. I’m also thinking that the addition of the stories might cause an information overload situation and create an extra tangent into an unknown trajectory on the viewer’s part. While I definitely don’t want to control the viewer’s responses or questions, I also don’t want to befuddle them totally. On the other hand it does emphasis the documentary/fiction overlay.

Anna, once again, thank you so much for this hangout! You’re a rock star!!

David Campbell – Narrative, Power & Responsibility

In preparation for A3 we are asked to listen to David Campbell’s lecture on Narrative, Power & Responsibility. Campbell begins his lecture by referencing Tod Papageorge who is a well known academic who claims amongst others Gregory Crewdson as one of his pupils. I have read some of Papageorge’s work and have found his writings on the whole easy to understand. Countering Robert Capa’s famous phrase If your pictures aren’t good enough, then you aren’t close enough, Papageorge offers another alternative: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough. Campbell explains that reading is necessary to understand the issues and provides context before a photograph is made. It is essential for this to happen prior to any clicking of the shutter button as this directs the attention to the idea of the narrative.

The workflow is as follows:

Reading = research/developing & understand -> locating particular moments and places in relationship to other moments & places -> larger stories.

Expanding on the topic of the Narrative, Campbell provides a quote by Alan Feldman (Formations of Violence) “The event is not what happens, the event is that being narrated”. [This is at the heart of narration]. This was a bit of an eye opener for me. I think I’ve always regarded an event as something that happens, like a festival, protest march and so on. Campbell explains that we don’t encounter events in the world in isolation. Something becomes an event through the narration. Using the French Revolution as an example Campbell demonstrated that the French people did not understand that they were in “The French Revolution”, that idea emerged later when history was narrated years later. Narration occurs via participants, or observers or a combination of the two. The relationship between the story and event/place/person is not automatic, its the photographer’s job to make it.

Certain genres offer limitations in how a story can be told. The process of constructing the narrative is determining a set of events which might have been included but were left out. No narrative can include everything. One has to understand where the limitations are, understand what has been included, and what has been excluded. Reflection on the process of construction and narration is an important part of the story.

The idea of power in a narrative is imaginary. The value lies in the idea that the events are real, that there is a fullness: beginning, middle and end. There are traditional forms of the narrative and the example that Campbell provides is not to be taken as a template because the narrative will vary according to the story/genre that is told.

  • Time -> usually linear (but not always). No matter what the narrative there is always a sense of temporality.
  • Characters. The story may have an arc.
  • Account of connected events
  • Space
  • Drama
  • Causality. Accounts how they came about/reasons.
  • Personification = the identification of the people involved.

All of this has to connect to context. Crucial is the relationship between individuals and context. Not every story will necessarily have a resolution.

In determining the story/project, one has to have a sense of the story one wants to tell before embarking on the actual shooting process. The story will most likely change based on the reading/research that takes place. Questions to be answered:

  • What is the issue?
  • What will be the events/moments?
  • Who are the characters in the story?
  • What is the context? Will only know this if you have done research.

 

Bibliography

David Campbell – Narrative, Power and Responsibility | Free Listening on SoundCloud (s.d.) Directed by Johnston, M. At: https://soundcloud.com/mattjohnston/david-campbell (Accessed  08/12/2019).

Tying up some loose ends

I’m just tying up some loose experimental ends that were suggested to me during the Documentary hangout. Bob had suggested superimposing the group of First Nations over the little church and although I felt rather skeptical of this idea, I was willing to try it out. I tried it out on both versions of photos that I have of the church – middle distance and far distance.

I’ll be honest – I don’t like it at all. I’ve used a 61% opacity on the First Nations group, any less and they just fade away making it not really worth the effort of putting them in the frame, any darker and they obliterate the church completely. Maybe this was what Bob had in mind, I’m not sure. I feel by moving the overlay over the building, especially with a large group like this, detracts from the actual building which is also part of the subject, not just the First Nations latency. It just feels messy to me. Well, that’s one less thing to consider at least.

Thoughts & More Experiments – 30 November 2019

I think my perceptions about constructed documentary are slowly changing. I realise that my A3 involves a degree of construction, but nothing to the extent of the Essop brothers. I feel that although I am constructing my images, there is an underlying element of truth in all the components making up the images – call it a “layered realism” if you like. I have used my own photographs documenting the historical buildings and other found documentary photographs of the First Nations. Two questions that popped out at me while I was doing background reading for the Seeing is Believing exercise have given me some reason to pause: “what matters in a document – the intention that originated it or the effect it elicits? What is important – its aesthetic status as evidence or the social function that is assigned to it? (Meyer, 1995:8). There probably is no right answer to these two questions, but its something that I will be thinking about a little more going forward. I have a feeling at the moment that the intention/effect and aesthetic status/social function are intertwined.

Well, I was all set to watch an interesting video last night on Finding Your Personal Project on the B&H Event Space which fellow student Mark had blogged about. As it was getting on for midnight I paused the video intending to finish watching it the next morning, but it is no longer available. Talk about frustration! I’ll try later on to see if I can track it down again, but luckily Mark did a really great write up and covered all the important points so I have the general idea of what was spoken about.

Experiments

I’ve been doing a bit more PS processing of my heritage buildings – more experimenting. I have switched out the figures in my photo of the Nils Sjodin residence from a group of Interior Chiefs to a woman carrying a baby. I think the single figure works better than the group of Interior Chiefs. She’s also not as obvious which is what I’m trying to aim for. For some or other reason the chiefs just don’t seem “comfortable” in the image.

Colour version:

Black & White version:

After standing back for a week from the images, I’m feeling rather ambivalent as to which version I prefer – colour vs B&W, but I think the scale may be tipping to B&W.

I’ve also experimented with using Salishan text on the images instead of the symbol to add another ambiguous layer to my work (see here and here). Now with the text overlay on the images I’m preferring the colour versions.

I’ve also been playing around with a few page mock-ups for the book. Mark had suggested that I try using the symbols on the verso pages instead of overlaying them on the images. I’ve a few options that I am considering – either using keywords to explain the symbols, or a short paragraph. Do I include a myth/legend about the symbol as well as that would provide relay text for the latent history/culture that I’m trying to convey? This text would give a weightier tipping of the scales towards the culture of the First Nations, than the accompanying caption at the bottom of the page about the historical building. I could also just use the symbol only on the verso page with only the caption at the bottom, and add an index page at the back of the book which would create a certain amount of interactivity from the reader’s point of view.

I’ll upload a good selection of images and book page options for the upcoming ROW hangout on December 8 and hopefully I’ll be able to get direction from my peers.

So to summarise my options before I forget, they are:

  • Colour with First Nations OR B&W with First Nations
  • Colour with symbol  OR B&W with symbol
  • Colour with First Nations & symbol OR B&W with First Nations & symbol
  • Colour with First Nations & text OR B&W with First Nations & text
  • Colour with symbol & text OR B&W with symbol & text

I still have a few more sites that I want to photograph but will need to wait for a day where the weather conditions match the images that I have already taken (its snowing right now). So I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the weather clears this week and the snow melts.

Bibliography

Meyer, P. (1995) Truths & Fictions | a journey from documentary to digital photography. New York: Aperture Foundation.

Index and More Experimenting

After having two sets of feedbacks (one from the ROW group and one from the Documentary group) it struck me that those individuals who have had more exposure to native art and symbols were more open to the use of the First Nations symbols in my work, while those who had not encountered such icons before were more resistant to the idea.

As we have to produce a book for this assignment, I had the idea this morning to put an index showing the symbols and their connotations at the back of the book, with a write up about the unceded territory, history and my concept at the front. I think that will generate viewer interaction with the images.

Now as to text overlay and captions as discussed in this post, I’m still not sure which way to go. I really like the idea of overlaying the name of the symbol in the Secwepemc language as this adds another layer of ambiguity to the work. If I do this, I don’t think there will be any need for captions, unless I just reference the historical building in the photo …. need to think about this a bit more.

I tried combining the collage of the First Nations people and symbols first in colour and then I converted to B&W. My tutor had advised me that if I thought this assignment would work better in B&W then I should not hesitate to go down that route. Click on the galleries below to enlarge the images.

I reworked the position and size of the group of chiefs in Fig 1 and finetuned the transparency of the owl. I had made too much of the owl transparent and the outline of his face wasn’t showing clearly. I think that is fixed now.

I’ve chosen to use the middle distance photo of this church to create an immediacy with the viewer and I think these proportions work better with the church.

I took the advice of Bob and changed the position of the symbol in Fig 5 as he said it looked a little like a copyright stamp in the lower left corner. I decided to remove the crow symbol that I had previously used and substituted the hawk. I also decided to change the chief’s position and have him more integrated with the house.

So far I am quite liking the B&W versions. The B&W conversion has removed the “separateness” of the First Nations from the land and the distracting elements of the sometimes rather bright symbols. The B&W set feels more cohesive somehow. I’ll plod along working the different scenarios and get some more feedback in a couple of weeks time.

Some more experimenting

So having found a severe shortage of archival images of the historical buildings that I want to photograph, I’m working on a couple of the suggestions made in a recent ROW hangout whereby I’m trying to incorporate some aspects of the unceded territory of the Secwepemc People into my work. Some quotes below will help establish some context and which I will later incorporate into my assignment. Just placing them here for easy reference later. I have been incredibly frustrated though, with the lack of website maintenance on most of the websites that I have researched regarding background/historical or even current information on the Secwepemc Nation. Just when Google throws up a link that looks like it has what I’m looking for it turns out to be a 404. Arghhh!

Historical Background
  • British Columbia is unique in Canada in that most of the province (an area that’s about *95 per cent of the land base, or nearly 900,000 square kilometres) is unceded, non-surrendered First Nation territories.

(Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., 2014)

  • That unique status – a province mostly built on territories that were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender by the original inhabitants – goes back more than 150 years. As a result, uncertainty has dogged economic development in the province, while the courts have been increasingly firm that the Crown in B.C. does not have clear title to the land and its resources.In the rush to establish the colony of British Columbia, governor James Douglas skipped over the stage of negotiating treaties. In 1859, he issued a proclamation that declared all the lands and resources in British Columbia belong to the Crown. At that time, the colony had about 1,000 Europeans and an estimated 30,000 Indigenous people.

(Hunter, 2017)

Reconciliation
  • “A territorial or land acknowledgement is an act of reconciliation that involves making a statement recognizing the traditional territory of the Indigenous people who called the land home before the arrival of settlers, and in many cases still do call it home.”

(Chapman, 2018)

  • School districts, unions, universities, municipalities all take time at the beginning of meetings or gatherings to acknowledge the traditional territory of the local nations where the meeting is taking place. Regardless of whether or not Indigenous Peoples are attending the event, this acknowledgement is important for reconciliation and reframing how we think about land as Canada tries to repair the damage of our colonial past.”

(Chapman, 2018)

  • We acknowledge and give honour to the Secwepemc — the ancestral peoples who have lived here for thousands of years — upon whose traditional and unceded land Thompson Rivers University is located. The Secwepemc maintain a spiritual and practical relationship to the land, water, air, animals, plants and all things needed for life on Mother Earth. It is with that in mind that we owe this debt of gratitude.

(Indigenous TRU | Thompson Rivers University, s.d.)

  • The Board of Education acknowledges that it is situated on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people.

(School District 83)


So I’ve been working on two alternative options simultaneously, and I like certain aspects of both on certain photos. I don’t think I can combine the alternatives in one set though. (Please click on images to enlarge).

Fig 1 and 2 – I actually like both versions. I have tried to size the people in the images proportionally. I like the way I have managed to incorporate the Raven symbol into the tree in Fig 2. I know the way of viewing the images will probably be different in both sets. The viewer will have to search a bit for the symbols in the right hand set of images and I know non-Canadians/Americans might have some problem knowing what to look for so those images would definitely need some type of caption that relates to the symbol. (Thought: Raven = symbol of knowledge – might be better to use a school. Planning on shooting one during my next photoshoot).

I’m not sure about Fig 3 and 4. While I used the door of the house as a guide to resize the group of Interior Chiefs, the group still looks out of proportion and just plain uncomfortable – not sure why. The owl in Fig 4 is a little difficult to discern properly even though the red colour does pop out at one. The First Nations art work is mainly done in red, black and white so I don’t want to lose that authenticity. Maybe I should look at another bird or animal for this image?

I think Fig 5 is one of my favourites so far. The Chief looks like a ghostly character and reminds me a little of Shimon Attie’s Writing on the Wall project. I’m trying to use the symbols in a natural setting as far as possible. I haven’t managed to find the symbolic meaning of the crow in the local lore yet, so I may end up substituting it for another.

Although I resized the woman according to the door size, I’m not sure if she is large enough. It was rather fortuitous that the house has this frame situated next to it that I could use to situate the women in. I think it works … I do rather like the beaver image on the side of the house. I had to skew it slightly to maintain the same perspective as the windows.

Another of my favourite sets so far. I think the Siwash woman and child going up the hill to the little church integrate well. I have tried to place the Eagle symbol over the centre of the church roof to connote the prayers going up to the Creator and I think this translates well. As I mentioned before, all the right hand images will depend heavily on a relay text.

A couple of thoughts have just occurred to me. What will the set of images look like in B&W? How would a combination of the people and symbols work?

I will get some feedback on the images from the Documentary hangout later today.

 

Bibliography

Board in brief – School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) (s.d.) At: https://sd83.bc.ca/2018/10/17/board-in-brief/ (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Chapman, D. (2018) June 2018: Acknowledging an unceded territory – R.J. Haney Heritage Museum. At: https://www.salmonarmmuseum.org/blog/acknowledgement.htm (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Hunter, J. (2017) ‘Horgan’s acknowledgment of unceded Indigenous territory a milestone for B.C.’ 22/10/2017 At: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/horgans-acknowledgment-of-bcs-unceded-territory-part-of-a-path-forward/article36686705/ (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (2014) Why you should avoid using “Crown Lands” in First Nation consultation. At: https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/why-you-should-avoid-using-crown-lands-in-first-nation-consultation (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Indigenous TRU | Thompson Rivers University (s.d.) At: https://www.tru.ca/indigenous.html (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Suggested viewing/reading

During my A2 feedback my tutor suggested that I take a look at three of her Digital Image and Culture students’ work on combining images and how they presented them.

The first suggested was Sarah-Jane’s A2 – available here: https://sjfdiculture.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/a2-polar-inertia-the-depletion-of-time-the-negation-of-space-assesment-submission/. SJ has presented her archive as a set of projections that is viewed over three screens. She has combined still images, moving images, collages and colour screens and of course has incorporated music into her work.  The sound track actually reminded me of Carol Sawyer’s The Rehearsal in character, tone and pacing. SJ’s work is sinister and chilling and extremely well executed. I definitely don’t have those kind of video editing skills (in fact I have zero in that department), but this is not quite what I had in mind for my A3.

The second suggested was Georgina’s A2 – available here: https://georginasocalearninglogdigitalimageandculture.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/assignment-images-original-submission-2/.  Georgina’s work resonated with me as this was something along the lines that I was thinking of doing. She has taken a series of images of cooling towers at various locations and then erases the cooling towers from the landscape. She then presented this in a slideshow, showing the landscape first with the cooling towers, then without. She also presented this in a book format. This is more in line with what I was envisioning myself, the only difference being that I would be adding to the landscape instead of removing something.

The final suggestion was Nuala’s A2 – available here: https://diandc.home.blog/category/assignments/assignment-2-the-archive/. Nuala, using various researched materials, found photographs, architectural drawings and collages, created a visual history of her great grandmother who was a dressmaker. She states that she has no photographs of her great grandmother and she has done a wonderful job pulling different resources together to build this “image” of her great grandmother. She presented this as an online flipbook. I’ll definitely bear this work in mind going forward, but don’t think I will be basing my A3 on any of the methods here.

 

Bibliography

Field, SJ (2019) A2: Polar Inertia; the depletion of time, the negation of space – Assessment submission. Available at: https://sjfdiculture.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/a2-polar-inertia-the-depletion-of-time-the-negation-of-space-assesment-submission/ (Accessed 15 November, 2019)

Stewart, G (2017) Assignment Two: The Archive. Available at: https://georginasocalearninglogdigitalimageandculture.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/assignment-images-original-submission-2/ (Accessed 15 November, 2019)

Mahon, N (2019) Assignment Two: The Archive | Letitia, The Dressmaker’s Story. Available at: https://diandc.home.blog/category/assignments/assignment-2-the-archive/ (Accessed 15 November, 2019)

Some Experimenting with Photoshop

While I’m researching my buildings to go and photograph for A3, I thought I’d try out some ideas that came to me after the ROW hangout last week. A suggestion was made to see if I could incorporate something about colonialism or the First Nations people into the images – something to show that we occupy unceded territory. (My initial idea of incorporating old photographs of my chosen buildings is not really working out as there doesn’t seem to be historical records of most of the ones that I’m interested in). So I started playing around with a couple of older images I have of buildings that I plan to reshoot for this assignment.

I started toying with the idea of finding photos of First Nations people and collaging them into the photos, similarly to what was done here (link provided by Mark in NZ): https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/05/london-during-the-blitz-then-and-now-photographs/481851/. So this is just some very rough work to get the creative juices flowing and to help inform the direction I should go.

Fig 1 – Cutout overlay

Fig 2 – Cutout filled with white 78% opacity

I quite like the overlay in #1 and must remember when I do get out to shoot to leave enough room for my collaged image to fit in. Re #2 – I thought that I might try a white cutout to represent the group of First Nations, but I thought the total white to be too distracting, so I changed the opacity to 78% to allow some shadows/outlines to bleed through. Not really sure if I’m liking this though.

Fig 3 – Symbol

I then thought about including First Nations signifiers in the images instead of collaged photographs (Fig 3 & 4).

Fig 4 – Symbol

I then took this a step further and added the name of the symbol in First Nations’ language to the photograph and explained the representation in the caption (Fig 5).

Fig 5 – Name of symbol (Text) & Representation caption

Continuing on with the idea of using the First Nations language I then used a sentence on the photograph and put its translation as the caption (Fig 6).

Fig 6 – Text and caption as translation

I personally think that the long text on the photo is too busy, and makes the image look too cluttered, so I reverted to using the name of the symbol and using the translated text of Fig 6 as a relay anchor in the caption.

Fig 7 – Name of symbol (text) with relay caption

Of course I could leave out all captions and just include the name of the symbol. I do think if I go the symbolic route, then I do need to include at the very least the name of the symbol on the photograph. I’m leaning towards either that option or going the route of Fig 7 IF I can find enough First Nations text to use. I’m trying to find the text in the language that is spoken in my area and that is no mean feat at the moment!

 

Bibliography

Taylor, A. (2016) London During the Blitz: Then and Now Photographs – The Atlantic. At: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/05/london-during-the-blitz-then-and-now-photographs/481851/ (Accessed  11/11/2019).