M2 Wk1: Strategies of Looking

Week 1: Independent Reflection

In keeping with much of Module 2, my ability to follow the prescribed path will be determined by my work commitments during the second half of the busiest term of the year in a boarding school.  It is almost certain that I will be unable to carry out any photographic work specific to my project until early-mid July.  However, I will be carrying out assorted other photographic tasks relating to my work, which as likely to be the focus of these initial blogs.  Thus I will maintain my CRJ and carry out weekly Independent Reflections, but they may not tick all of the anticipated boxes.

In the academic world of prep. school education, we have come to exam week for all but those who have succeeded in passing into their future schools by way of scholarship entrance.  For that lucky group, the majority of the week was spent in the Somme Battlefields, learning of the lives and deaths of Old Boys from the school who fought in The Great War.

My part was, as always, to recorded images of the sites visited for the school’s social media, its archives, and also for a post-visit project being put together by the boys.  In addition, I provided the technical background to the weapons; the intricacies of warfare, and advice on identifying the various artefacts found on the field trip.

Sadly GDPR precludes the inclusion of some rather poignant images, but below are some that are rather more generic…

IMG_5046 (low res)IMG_5060 (low res)

My current practice:  For this week it has been predominantly one of reportage photography.  This is probably my preferred discipline or at least, the discipline with which I feel most at home.

What did I do / feedback received / response to feedback:  Throughout the week, my photographs were tailored to different audiences.  The school required something akin to picture postcards of the trip for social media purposes.  The image gallery for the boys’ projects necessitated views of each site visited; images of any significant artefacts and images of any war graves of our Old Boys (something also required by the Archives).  Beyond this, I am always keen to improve the composition of pre-existing archive images (I have visited and documented battlefield sites across the globe on some 20+ school trips) and also bolster my own portfolio.  The feedback was entirely positive largely because I have a good long-term understanding of the needs of the various target audiences.  However, from my own point of view, I am still hunting that ‘perfect’, if clichéd, image of poppies in a field – typically thwarted by the time constraints of supervising children.

My methodology:  This is something to which I rarely give a moment’s thought.  So much of photography has to be instinctive and as such, the methodologies of my work are inclined to be almost subconscious.   At least I think that is true of my methodologies, but to ensure that I can tackle this requisite appropriately, I have just Googled ‘photographic methodology’ which produced the following pretentious drivel…

Photography-led research demands a methodology that embraces the implicit in order to generate results that inform practice by making unconscious mental constructs explicit: i.e. a methodology that is able to support an objective theory utilising a subjective medium.

Notwithstanding, I will take a retrospective stab at the methodologies I have used – throughout I hold tight to the importance of composition, with the rule of thirds being a significant consideration whenever possible.  I am always conscious that any faces seen in images for school use should look appropriately for the situation: two children laughing while in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery would not make a usable image, for example.  Because almost all of my work is candid, the wastage is not insignificant – children are never predictable, and where composition is concerned, they are rarely where you want them to be.  So often I miss the ‘perfect’ shot, because as a school master first, I am dealing with a child, rather than looking through a viewfinder.

The forms my project / photographs could take moving forward:  For this week’s work, I am unable to relate the comments directly to my project.  However, thinking of the images I have taken, I know that some will feature in a new gallery that I am creating along a corridor within the school.  For ease of updating and to ensure a reasonable level of child-proofing, the picture frames will be permanently mounted clip-frames typically associated with commercial point-of-sale applications.

Reflection on Week 1 Forum: Looking Back

I much enjoyed this mini-project – it gave a pleasing, holistic glimpse at two aspects of my work that coincide so well.  The post was well received by the small number of colleagues who commented, but feedback was unable to prompt any response from me besides a warm internal glow.

Reflection on Week 1 Activity: Place Over Time

Another enjoyable, if frantic mini-project.  With a tiny window of availability for this work, I had to think quickly and clearly on what I could achieve in a matter of hours.  The results were pleasingly true to Ann Sungseok’s composition, although I took my work to a third level of image which may have been superfluous – the largest image was certainly the most challenging!  I am very happy with the outcome and the idiosyncrasies of the lenses used happened to play to my favour.

It was useful to receive feedback relating to the need for more technical information – rather a foolish oversight on my part.  Such information I duly added and I now take much more care in commenting upon this important aspect of my work.

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