Learning Outcome 3 – Blog Extracts in Support of A5

I have collated the following extracts from my learning log posts that relate to my journey for Assignment 5 so that they are in one place for easy reference. I am presenting it in a diary format. Links to the original posts are on the dates.

14 December 2019

I have come up with a couple of ideas for A5 – some brainstorming is still required:

  • The Japanese-Canadian families who exiled themselves into the valleys between Chase and Tappen for the duration of the Second World War. I’m not sure if any of their houses still stand or even if I will be able to track down descendants of that generation.
  • The Residential schools in this vicinity. I know of at least two – part of one has been incorporated into a museum so access will not be a problem. I need to do more research about the other as it is in another city. Hopefully I could find someone to interview with either of these options.

15 January 2020Documentary Hangout

… I presented my idea for A5 – the Kamloops Residential School to Neil and Jack, mentioning that I may have some problem obtaining permission to shoot inside the building. I think I have some work-arounds to that though. Neil thought the project sounded more like a level 3 piece, which it could very well be, but I don’t want to go too deep down that road for a whole year. I might find it too depressing. Neil mentioned that it all depended on the approach I took to the narrative – from the school’s perspective or from the students’ perspective. I think I’m thinking more along the lines of exposing a hidden history but I’ll see what my research material serves me. I have gathered rather a lot of factual evidence already.

7 March 2020

Just had a bit of a revelation about something that has been lurking in my mind about my A5 project and want to make a note of it here before I forget about it. As I am technically the Other in the narrative that I want to depict, I was worried about seeming intrusive, but I’ve just read a statement in Gevers’ essay where Rosler in her work, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974 – 1975) depicted the alcoholics in that neighbourhood without actually photographing them and thus not “satisfying the viewer’s lurking voyeurism” (Gevers, 2005:88). I think this has subconsciously been where/what I was feeling too, but now that has been clarified for me and this will help me fine tune my shooting list.

OK … I’m very happy! I’m not going to need any fancy video making software for my slideshow. I’ve been testing PowerPoint’s capabilities and I’ve created a quick and dirty prototype test slideshow with a few random images, videos and recorded files from my archive (not for public viewing – I’ll make a more suitable test show later on). I’m able to insert a video that already has its own sound, add different sound files to different pages and I can also add multiple sound files to one page and fade the sound in and out accordingly. I’m also able to record an audio file directly onto the slide. I think this pretty much will cover anything that I’m planning to incorporate, so now I can just concentrate on getting all the bits and pieces together.

8 March 2020 (Please click to access full blog post for this entry – PowerPoint Tests)

21 March 2020

I also plan to do a lot of background reading and watching video footage of the Truth and Reconciliation panels.

I am currently working my way through an extremely interesting journal article about intimate colonialisms in BC’s residential schools. The subject is quite fascinating revolving around the idea of ‘place’ and the concept of intimate place in the form of the bodies of the First Nations’ children. I remember Clive explaining the concept of place/space in a Live Forum hangout more than a year ago and he mentioned that the concept of place was not only a physical one but also a psychological one and I never could quite understand that statement until I started reading this journal article. So very enlightening!

Journal article has been read – really a fascinating read. Would be applicable to studies on mental health issues too. Notes are here. Back to working my way through Behind Closed Doors. Its the type of book that is very emotional and needs to be taken in small doses.

Today kicked off with the Canadian PM announcing that all our borders will now be closed to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen/permanent resident, the exception being US citizens. There is already a meme out there about this announcement – just amazing how quickly these are created and circulated.

Anyone crossing our borders has to self-isolate for 14 days now. I have to wonder how that is going to be enforced though. I imagine its next to impossible. I’m just thankful I’m out in the rural areas and not in the city at this moment in time. Social distancing is much easier here as we have more space and less population to contend with. But it has put a kibosh on museum and gallery visits for me as my husband is in a high risk category, which means I am going to have to be super-creative in my approach to A5. I may have to rely mostly on appropriated imagery for the bulk of my assignment. A few hours later and I’ve just learned that the museums in Kamloops are closed until further notice. Bang goes my hope of photographing inside the residential school …

Well, its now official today. Every museum and gallery in Canada is pretty much closed until further notice. As the PM announced under the Parks & Recreation closures that constitutes everything with a door! …

I made a good start my slideshow yesterday. I have shared the WIP to the ROW group for feedback in our hangout on Sunday.

Test – slide show (Please click to access full blog post for this entry)

22 March 2020Rest of the World Hangout

… We started off by looking at the beginnings of my slideshow for A5. Everyone was on board with the concept. Obviously, I have some fine tuning to do with the timing of some of the slides and I am nowhere near finalising it. Alan made an interesting observation in that I should consider the critical distance from where I’m standing. Am I telling the story from my perspective (as an immigrant/outsider/female Canadian/Westerner) or am I trying to tell the story from the First Nations perspective? I’m aware of the fine line that I’m treading here and am very conscious that I’m trying to be very ethical with this project as it is extremely sensitive. The curation of the project makes it my narrative, that I do understand, but at the same time I am also aware of the danger of sensationalizing a subject and that is not something I want to do.  At the moment I am letting the project organically lead me. I’m picking out quotations and audio clips that allow the survivors’ voices to come to the fore. I do know that this project could become huge if I was to present both the government’s side/actions/reasoning – call it what you will – as well, so I’m focusing on allowing the voices that have been silent for too long to speak for themselves, if that makes any sense. Lots to think about.

26 March 2020Documentary Hangout

I presented an updated version of my WIP slideshow for A5 and it was very well received. Jack said it had moved him almost to tears and conveyed the story very well. Bob pointed out that the volume on one of the videos was a little soft and I agree. I’ll see if I can crank that up, else I’ll have to reshoot it and crank my speakers up to get the appropriate level of sound. He also mentioned that the time on the slide containing the letter from Father O’Grady could be a little longer as he couldn’t quite finish reading it. Bob mentioned that the  slideshow had made him curious and that he had tons of questions and actually made him do a little research and I think this is a great reaction to my work. I was very pleased to get that reaction. Steven, in turn interrogated me as to how I felt about the work, what worked and didn’t – also a good exercise to verbalize, and also felt that the multimedia components worked well with the variety. Everyone seemed to like the drums and chant (it’s actually a healing song connected to the residential schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission). It seemed to tie everything together which was my intention. So overall I’m very satisfied with the critique I received – Jack mentioning that it was interesting that my work had evolved over the course of this module, gradually linking the different assignments together and he feels that all the previous assignments have led up to this one. There has definitely been a thread that has emerged in my work, especially with the bridge between A3 and A5. Both assignments convey the latent history of the First Nations.

28 March 2020

… I spent the afternoon going through some more TRC sharing panel videos. For my assignment, I’m trying to isolate and use only testimonies of people who attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School, so it is a little slow going as I click on through the video to try and identify those people. Some of the videos are over 5 hours long, although I’m not listening to all the stories – it’s too emotional, and it seems some residential schools were worse than others, so I do want to try as far as possible portray a truthful account. Thankfully some of the survivors have little snippets of humourous stories to tell too and I may think about incorporating those too … although it might change the tone of the narrative.

… I also made some headway with my slideshow for A5. I encountered a problem running an audio file and movie on the same slide (I already had a looped audio running in the background as well – so I’m not sure if there is a limitation in PowerPoint). If the one worked, the other didn’t so I’ll have to do a bit of research around that point. For the moment, I’ve inserted a separate slide to accommodate the movie, which is silent, which is why I wanted the audio to run while that was playing. But on the whole, I’m quite pleased with how it has turned out so far. I’m presenting it at the Documentary hangout tomorrow so hopefully there will be some helpful feedback.

Just found my answer – apparently I need to go to the Animations tab and select “Start with Previous”. So, I’ve tried that and it works — so hurrah!

I’ve completed my reflections on the latest Documentary hangout and I’ve fine-tuned my A5 slide show where I think I can now submit to my tutor. Just busy doing the write up and self-assessment section. Due to Vimeo’s upload restrictions I will have to wait a week before I can upload my finalized version. There was a problem when I uploaded my Test slide show and I got the message to re-try, but of course that ate up my upload quota – very unfair as it turned out that there was no problem after all and I ended up having two uploads. Its probably a ploy to make you sign up for the paid option methinks!

3 April 2020

I’ve finalised my slide show now and hopefully will not get any error messages when I upload to Vimeo. Its over 400MB in size so that will use up my whole week’s upload allocation. If it doesn’t work, I’ll upload to my Google Drive and share it that way with my tutor. Well – it worked thank goodness. A5 submitted to tutor.

27 April 2020 (Please click to access full blog post for this entry – Compassion Fatigue or Memory)

Compassion Fatigue or Memory?

My tutor suggested during the A5 feedback that I jot down some words on the emotional aspect of creating this project. It would be fair to say that this has been an incredibly emotional topic to research. Reading survivors’ accounts in their own words of what happened to them in the residential school and hearing it verbalised in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and seeing the pain and anguish on their faces was heartbreaking and I frequently found myself reaching for the tissue box.

The biggest challenge with this work was to present it in a way that it didn’t become ‘a  spectacle’, yet at the same time I did want the viewer to tap into his/her emotions while viewing the work as this is a history that is seldom acknowledged.  I feel that by incorporating the audio tracks and videos of the actual survivors encourages the viewer to bear witness to the atrocities committed in the residential school because we are not relying solely on our visual senses for illustrative impact and thus the viewing experience is intensified. We need to know, we need to remember.

As Marianne Hirsch states “memory is necessarily an act not only of recall, but also of mourning” and it is right and proper than we mourn the loss of innocence,  childhood, parental and familial love alongside these children.

 

Bibliography

Hirsch, M. (1996) ‘Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile’ In: Poetics Today 17 (4) pp.659–686.

Test – slide show

This is my first “draft” of assignment 5, which I presented to the Rest of the World group on Sunday.  I’ve uploaded it to Vimeo.

 

This has been a huge learning curve so far and a rather emotional task extracting the information, listening to testimonies and so on. The timing is off for quite a few slides here, which have been corrected in the next version and of course more images have also been added. At the moment this is a test to see if my concept and ideas are going to come together. I’ll probably have to wait a week before I can upload my next version to Vimeo – due to their upload restrictions.

PowerPoint Tests

As I mentioned in my weekly check in post of 7 March, I have decided to go the PowerPoint route for my slideshow. I created a very basic test slideshow with some random family photos, a video that I created from my Landscape module, a few audio files and started to play with the transitions. I’d used PowerPoint back in my working life so I’m very familiar with it, needless to say the latest version has a few extra bells and whistles to explore. Once I played with the transitioning I then wanted to see if I could include two audio files on the same slide so I recorded to test files directly onto my first slide, guessed at the time delay and then played it. So happy it worked – my guessimate was spot on – so now I can fade one audio into another on the same slide which is great. Today while I was watching the Kingsmead Eyes videos for coursework, I began to wonder if I could include a sound file that would run in the background throughout the whole or selected portion of the slideshow, as well as the selected audio files. I inserted my background audio file under the Transitions menu on the first file and this worked through my first two slides, as the first slide had 2 embedded audio files, the second was a video – already with sound, but I’d also used the Transition menu for the sound effects on the 3rd and 4th slides, so the background sound from the first slide cut out when it got to the 3rd slide. Something to remember when I create my slideshow. But it does work which is great!

Proposal for A5

Topic: Kamloops Indian Residential School (working title)

Brief: To explore collective memories of the Secwépemc nation of the forced removal of children aged 4 – 15 from their families and their placement in residential schools in order to assimilate them into Western culture. What damage occurred to the Secwépemc way of life?

Possible title: Returning to the Coyote (coyote = signifier for First Nations people).

Methodology: contact museum for shooting permission, see if they know of anyone to interview

  • Shoot outside of building & orchard, Indian artefacts e.g. totem poles. Develop other strategy if not permitted to shoot indoors (stand in images signifying aspect of stories told by survivors)
  • Source archival images for use in project
  • YouTube videos of TRC participants and other
  • TRC documentation & books about experiences (sections: coping, resistance, survival, healing)

Political: History of residential schools, History from First Nation’s perspective; Canada’s stance & apology

Social implications of effects of being in residential school

Environmental – are there any?

Research

  • Behind Closed Doors | Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School edited by Agnes Jack
  • The Kamloops Residential School: Indigenous Perspectives and Revising Canada‟s History (Thesis by Jenna K. Foster)
  • They Came for the Children | Canada, Aboriginal Peoples and Residential Schools [Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada]
  • What We Have Learned | Principles of Truth and Reconciliation [Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada]
  • Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future | Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
  • Relevant journal articles

Influences

  • Jack Latham (Sugar Paper Theories and Parliament of Owls)

 

Presentation method: Plan is to present a slideshow with sound bytes. Will have to research appropriate software to use.

Artist’s statement

Planning and Developing Ideas Through Research

In preparation for Assignment 5 we are to read Chapters 1 and 2 in Fox, A. and Caruana, N. (2012) Creative Photography: Behind the Image – Research in Photography. Lausanne: AVA Publishing.

Chapter 1 deals with the planning phase of research. Some highlights to remember:

  • Research frames, informs & focuses the final images
  • Important to look at what brought you to this place
  • Where did the initial idea originate?
  • Trace back to the origins of the idea and use as kick-off point to start developing the research
  • Do not self-censor or dismiss any sources at this stage – something I’m very inclined to do.
  • A draft research plan provides a vision for the project.
  • New knowledge obtained in the research process could lead to a change in direction.
  • Important to update this research plan regularly.
  • Have a working title and sub-title. This will help to clarify the direction of the work.
  • Draft up 2 – 3 paragraphs with key details of the topic/theme of the project.
  • Consider the audience. This will determine how the work is going to be presented.
  • Document your working approach, i.e. equipment, technical issues to be considered, ways to conduct research, any collaboration
  • Gaining access to locations: important to describe subject and context to institution/person seeking permission from.
  • Make a list of potential references as this helps to understand the scope of the project
  • A few other tips were given on how to broaden the scope of information, refining the results, most of which I already do in my practice.
  • The importance of keeping a way of recording ideas was stressed. This can vary from using a notebook, mobile phone, dictaphone, and email.
  • It is also helpful to make mind maps as this frees up the thinking a little so that it is less linear and forces one to look at things differently and possibly make different connections.

Chapter 2 deals with the development of ideas, providing information on where to do background research:

  • Libraries (various histories, interviews, podcasts and lectures)
  • Specialist libraries, e.g. the Women’s Library
  • Museums
  • Newspapers
  • Galleries
  • Internet (sourcing photo equipment, new techniques, online tutorials)
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Archives (personal, museum, corporate institutions, newspapers, photographers)

Other forms of research involve:

  • Vernacular photography (can be used for references or investigation purposes)
  • Lectures
  • Interviews. When conducting interviews it is good to:
    • Formulate questions ahead of time after having done research into the topic
    • Allow the interviewee relate what is relevant in his/her mind
    • Choose a convenient and comfortable venue to do the interview
    • If requested, forward questions to interviewee ahead of time so he/she can prepare.
    • If no objections from interviewee, record the interview
    • Make sure recording equipment is working and have plenty of writing equipment handy as standby
    • Transcribe notes as soon as possible while still fresh in the mind (I have no problem with this having been verbatim minute taker in government/union negotiations for many years)
    • Allow interviewee time to respond to questions & to think
    • Prepare for possible follow up questions
  • Reading – can lead to discovery of good quotes, historical facts/figures, and even potential collaboration opportunities
  • Listening – when requesting feedback on ideas
    • Listening is an active task
    • Listen to people’s reactions and the words they use to describe your work. Does the work speak for itself or require explanation?
    • If necessary, ask for clarification
    • Take note of any references to other artists that are mentioned during the feedback
    • Write up the feedback as soon as possible
  • Reviewing – an ongoing process
    • Peer reviews
    • Institution/organisation advice-led review sessions – which are also good networking opportunities. The Kamloops Art Gallery hosts a free “Harsh Crit” session once a month and I need to psyche myself up to attend these as I think it might be very beneficial to get other artists’ (not necessarily photographers) feedback
    • Certain institutions provide 1 on 1 review sessions. Not sure if there is anything available close to where I live, but definitely worth finding out.
    • Important to remember that a review process can be subjective and prone to bias and I don’t have to necessarily agree with the reviewer
  • The new knowledge one gains when researching can contribute to the way one works in that one can develop new ways of seeing/thinking about society or the topic
  • The research should always be archived because it won’t necessarily be explicit from the work that is done.
  • Research framework – often one can develop proven methodology for future projects.
Bibliography

Fox, A. and Caruana, N. (2012a) ‘Developing Ideas Through Research’ In: Creative Photography: Behind the Image – Research in Photography. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA. pp.30–59.

Fox, A. and Caruana, N. (2012b) ‘Planning’ In: Creative Photography: Behind the Image – Research in Photography. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA. pp.11–29.

Email to The Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park

I’ve sent out an email to the Secwépemc  Museum and Heritage Park folks today with a request for information about the Kamloops Residential School and also requesting permission to photograph inside the building. I’m planning on visiting the Museum within the next two weeks so that I can start building up information and because it is about an hour’s drive from where I live, I like to use that same opportunity to photograph if possible. Hopefully, I’ll get a reply back soon.

Aerial view of The Secwépemc  Museum and Heritage Park and Kamloops Residential School, Kamloops via Google Earth