Documentary Projects

Finally we are asked to look at some documentary projects of OCA photography students and/or recent graduates.

Penny Watson (OCA) Not Our Time

Penny’s project has a universal appeal and I am reminded so much of my own mother who spent her last years in a nursing home as well. The work is poignant and very personal, reminding the viewer of the precious time we have/had with our loved ones.

Beth Aston (OCA) Behind the Scenes

Beth’s project involved a biographical account of herself during various stages of an illness, which was extremely brave in and of itself. She presents her work in an abstract format, never completely revealing her face, so maintaining anonymity. The black and white format emphasizes the abstraction, allowing the viewer to focus on form and shape, while providing his/her own narrative.

Harry Pearce (OCA) A Dozen Eggs

Harry Pearce’s work, A Dozen Eggs was presented in the form of a book, again a very personal body of work. It is really a form of homage to his mother who went to live in a nursing home and the work revolves around his siblings. The captions seem to be hand written by each sibling and offer a rather humourous insight into the life of such a large family. According to the course manual a series of essays were incorporated into the book, but there is no evidence of them on Pearce’s website.

Omar Camilleri (OCA) Feet

In contrast with the other project above, Camilleri’s project was part of a collaborative event between painter-artist, Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci and Omar Camilleri who were brought together by Josephine Vassallo. Camilleri’s photos were displayed across Merchant Street in Valletta. The main thrust of the exhibition being all about the path between death-rebirth-birth. Camilleri’s work is in black & white which contributes to the poetic effect of the cycle of life that runs through his photos.

Briony Campbell (Photographer) The Dad Project

I have looked at Campbell’s The Dad Project during the Context and Narrative module, so I will confine my comments to some of her other work which I have not seen. Campbell’s Love in Translation project is also quite personal to her, originating from her feelings for a Zanzibari boy while on a teaching assignment in Zanzibar. Her work focuses on African-British couples living in East Africa and questions whether mixed race relationships “offer a short cut to assimilation” (Campbell, 2017), while also bringing up issues such as otherness, cultural expectations, and colonial heritage. Over the course of two years she photographed couples and their families in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Jess & Addisu’s first roadtrip. Lake Langano, Ethiopia by Briony Campbell

Campbell has made a video of her work – the intro is available at: https://loveintranslation.net/videointro. In the intro the viewer is introduced to all the couples in the greater body of work. Each couple has their own section with a blurb that documents how they met, some have video snippets where the couples very honestly present some of the problems that they encounter in mixed race relationships. Campbell has tackled this project with a great deal of sensitivity. One can tell she has spent a lot of time with the couples and their families to gain their trust.

Tanya Ahmed (OCA) 100th Street

Ahmed’s project is also personal. 100th Street is where she lived. It is also where Bruce Davidson photographed so she approaches her project as a “rephotography project”. All the people she photographed were her neighbours and she collaborated with them as to where and how they wanted to be photographed. One gets the sense that this work is definintely from an insider’s perspective. Her assessment work was supplemented by a series of postcards sent to the assessment team with further photos. A very strong presentation. I do have to wonder though if she ever worried whether her postcards would go astray in the mail?

There is an overriding theme that I’m picking up on with all these photographers and that is that there is always some personal element to their work. I think this is something to be aware of when doing future projects, but I do think sometimes that the personal element is subconsciously present and we only become aware of it later.

Bibliography

Camilleri, O. (2010) Feet- Photographic Exhibition. At: https://omarcamilleri.com/2010/09/23/feet-photographic-exhibition/ (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Campbell, B. (2017) Love in Translation. At: http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/love-in-translation/?overview (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Campbell, B. (2017) video intro — Love in Translation. At: https://loveintranslation.net/videointro (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Kuit, L. (2015) Exercise: The Dad Project vs Country Doctor. At: https://lyndakuitphotographycn.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/exercise-the-dad-project-vs-country-doctor/ (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Pearce, H. (2012) A Dozen Eggs. At: https://www.harrypearce.co.uk/photo_9905227.html#photos_id=9905227 (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Student Work Uncovered – Penny Watson (2012) Directed by Open College of the Arts. At: https://vimeo.com/35847432 (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Student Work Uncovered – Tanya Ahmed (2012) Directed by Arts, O.C. of the. At: https://vimeo.com/42467929 (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Tanya Ahmed: Living on 100th Street (2012) Directed by Open College of the Arts. At: https://vimeo.com/43594038 (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Watson, P. (2012) The Marmalade Cafe: Not Our Time. At: http://marmalade-cafe.blogspot.com/2012/02/not-our-time.html (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Research Point: Crowd Funding

I’ve always been rather skeptical about crowd funding, thinking that its an easy way to get money, but I suppose that, like all things, it rather depends on the scenario. After reading the Light Stalking article, it is clear that there is a lot of work that goes into funding a KickStarter project.

A lot of the marketing advice is straight forward and common sense – create your personal video (this is your main selling point), have realistic expectations regarding the financial goals, like any project plan have quantifiable goals throughout the project, target specific networks (or create them if you don’t have any), be creative with the rewards for the pledgees so that you don’t blow the budget, keep the momentum going by maintaining contact with all pledgees and networks.

The OCA article made mention of Pete Brook’s Prison Photography KickStarter campaign and it is obvious that he has made use of his vast photographic network in order to generate his rewards.

I’m not sure that I will use crowd funding in my work, but it is good to know it is there should the need arise.

Bibliography

Maentz, J. (2012) The 7 Essentials of Crowd-Funding Your Next Photography Project (and How We Funded Ours) | Light Stalking. At: https://www.lightstalking.com/crowd-fund-photography/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Open College of the Arts (2011) Crowd Funding | The Open College of the Arts. At: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/photography/crowd-funding/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

 

Exercise: Kingsmead Eyes

Visit the web pages of the Kingsmead Eyes project (http://gideonmendel.com/kingsmead-eyes/) or http://www.kingsmeadeyesspeak.org/). Investigate the original 2009 project and the latest Kingsmead Eyes Speak project.

Write notes in your learning log about how the work is presented on the website, in particular the use of mixed media – stills, video and audio.

(Open College of the Arts, 2014:107)

Gideon Mendel’s collaborative body of work made with the pupils of Kingsmead Community School in Hackney. The pupils represent a very diverse group and the aim of the project was to reflect the cultural diversity. Looking at Mendel’s website, I was immediately drawn in as I had some a similar project at the university where I used to work back in 2010 for a Peace Day event. I’d photographed eyes, mouths and left side/right side of students faces and a collage was made afterwards.

FDU Mouths by Lynda Kuit, 2010

The initial Kingsmead Eyes project in 2009 presented in video format begins with Mendel’s headshots of all the Class 5 students roaring by at breakneck speed to the sound of African drums in the background, building momentum (and sound) and then stops on a composite of all the photographs, moves on to the title, scrolls by a few more students and stops at an individual student who then proceeds to present his story, and photographs and then scrolls by more students stopping for the next story. Apart from the students narrating their stories, various other ‘school-type’ sound effects can also be heard in the background as well as students incorporating poetry into their narrations. (This is something that I need to investigate for my A5 – whether I’ll be able to have more than one effect running at the same time).  The video is about 15 min in length.

The subsequent project Kingsmead Eyes Speak (2011) follows a similar format beginning with composites of the children’s mouths, eyes and portraits fading away into the background. Each student again narrates his/her own story, but some video has been incorporated into each segment and I’m thinking that some of this was done by Mendel as the student features in the videos actually using the camera. The project website features the headshots of all the students, where one can click through to their individual pictures and their poems. I found it extremely interesting to read some of the captions. The photographer’s intent clearly stated in many of the captions. There is also a poetry book that can be downloaded, which features the poems which the students narrated during the video. The website also features a link to the parents workshop and their photographs, all centred around diversity as well, as well as a link to the 2009 project. The whole process is also documented on the website (Mendel, 2011a) from the photography lessons the children had from Mendel and his partner, to their field trips and their take-home projects in Week 1, to their editing process in Week 2, as well as the poetry initiative.

I think these initiatives are really a creative way to encourage ethical photography and a wonderful way to bring about social awareness into various issues that happen in communities.

 

Bibliography

Mendel, G. (2009) Kingsmead Eyes 2009 | Kingsmead Eyes Speak. At: http://www.kingsmeadeyesspeak.org/kingsmeadeyes/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Mendel, G. (2011a) About | Kingsmead Eyes Speak. At: http://www.kingsmeadeyesspeak.org/about/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Mendel, G. (2011b) Kingsmead Eyes Speak. At: http://www.kingsmeadeyesspeak.org/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

Open College of the Arts (2014) Documentary – Fact & Fiction | Photography 2 Course Manual. (PH5DFF120419) Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

 

Research Point: Photovoice

We are asked to research the current activities of Photovoice, check out some of their archival projects, such as New Londoners: Reflections on home.

Photovoice’s mission statement is “… to promote the ethical use of photography for positive social change, through delivering innovative participatory photography projects. By working in partnership with organisations, communities, and individuals worldwide, we will build the skills and capacity of underrepresented or at-risk communities, creating new tools of self-advocacy and communication” (About PhotoVoice – Ethical photography for social change | PhotoVoice, s.d.).

Photovoice works internationally and the main thrust to to enable local communities to represent themselves and to tell their own stories. Working with various charities, NGOs and community organisations, Photovoice helps design projects specific to the individual community’s needs or issues, and helps that community promote the project. Taking the community’s feedback into consideration this then provides organisations to provide new resources, training or workshops in order to address the issues.

The New Londoners: Reflections on Home project was done in 2006 – 2008. In this participatory project PhotoVoice worked with 15 young refugees aged 16 – 23 with the aim of helping them to assimilate, to see themselves as “new Londoners” and not as refugees. The participants were mentored by Adam Broomberg, Oliver Charain, Gayle Chong Kwan, Suki Dhanda, Jillian Edelstein, Jenny Matthews, Sarah Moon and Othello De’Souza Hartley. They were given the brief of documenting what it was like to be a “new Londoner”.  The project was presented in book format at the Tate Modern.

CAFOD Wash Project, Zimbabwe 2013-2015 by PhotoVoice

Each PhotoVoice project has specific aims and outcomes. In the CAFOD Wash Project (Zimbabwe) was a project designed to teach people correct water sanitation methods and how to avoid water-borne diseases. The aims were to a) inform progress – examining and evaluating the community’s current practices, b) chart progress – build a body of work that documents the changes in the community’s practices, c) increase beneficiary engagement – an educational opportunity to better inform the communities and to get more direct involvement from them, d) supporter engagement – to create a body of work that shows the problems and successes of the WASH programme in order to promote it among other communities. The project outputs revealed some previously thought obsolete practices taking place among the community. The thrust of the campaign was aimed at the women in the community as they are regarded as the educators.

We are also asked to comment on the documentary value and visual qualities of the work. I think that the documentary quality of the work is quite high. It comes across as honest and definitely from an insider’s perspective. There is an air of innocence about the work and I get the feeling that the participant is trying to be very factual about what he/she is recording, not trying to skew the story by selective framing. I found that the visual quality in some of the photos were rather good. Clearly there had been some instruction as to visual composition, but even the few that I did see that were blurry, or not tack sharp did not detract from the overall message. If anything, I think those “mistakes” probably enhance the projects.

Bibliography

About PhotoVoice – Ethical photography for social change | PhotoVoice (s.d.) At: https://photovoice.org/about-us/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

PhotoVoice (2006) New Londoners – Ethical photography for social change. At: https://photovoice.org/new-londoners/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).

PhotoVoice (2015) CAFOD Wash Project – Ethical photography for social change. At: https://photovoice.org/cafod-wash-project/ (Accessed  08/03/2020).