• Damien Williams

PHO702: Independent Reflection

Week 1

“why choose (why photograph) this object, this moment, rather than some other?” (Barthes, 2000:6)

Prior to reading The Social Photo and in reflection of my practice… I did a lot of reflecting whilst recovering from Knee surgery. I was inspired to look at my Instagram, which I have decided to use as a communication of my eventual practice, project by project. Pointing back to my website (which is in need of a brutal cull). I have not decided whether to ‘archive’ or ‘story’ past projects as new projects are started or even visually separate with blank squares to form ‘chapters’. It just made me angry. There was nothing of me there so I decided to cull.

“Delete, Archive or Keep”

This was the maxim of choice. That should be easy…right? Well yes it was. I deleted almost everything… in my mind I did. in the end I archived most but felt I had to have something only feed. So I selected by Genre. Street or Candid stayed. I then found the single images that I felt had some element of my vision in them. I have a total of 6 images. incidentally, two were taken minutes apart. I felt cleansed by the experience and left it there.

Then Matt Day, a photographer from Ohio that I follow on Youtube, Did the same thing and shared his thinking.


“I’m not posting hashtags with what camera I used… or captions or anything I am trying to approach individual photos very differently and how I share the work itself… but on Instagram I like the idea of putting the photo out there and letting people come up with their own analysis, their own interpretation of… letting the photo just be a photo”
(Day, 2021. Jan 18th)

This got me thinking about why I had chosen those six images. Why those moments out of all of the moments I had captured. Barthes quote (above) leads this reflection better. This should have been the selection criteria for the cull. Irrespective of the medium of exhibiting the work. My feed had a little of this idea of shooting for the moment and slowing down to consider WHY THIS MOMENT? WHY THIS OBJECT? But not enough. This is what I want to be able to communicate with my images now that I can shoot though choice. This will be the best way for me proceed in what I choose to take and then share. To link this to Nathan Jurgenson’s The Social Photo, does the profligate social photo essentially just form a lack of critical curating?


Does the function of sharing become the most important part of the process and override curation?

"All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players." (Shakespeare, 1623:96)

Jurgenson speaks about whether we are recording a moment…

the effect of the social photo conditions how we experience the world, how we recognise instances within it as significant or meaningful or funny or important or worthy(Jurgenson, 2019:28)

Jurgenson articulates a direct correlation between how we regard and use language and how we use photography…

I feel this is a dangerous way to contextualise photography as language is very individual to each user of the language. The comparison holds to a degree especially as language across the globe is in a state of flux but social media has changed how we use language so to say the social photo is the same as it’s cause/symptom simply does not make complete sense. Especially as imagery is central to the dissolution of how language communicates information. Memes are very interesting and visual. They are also a better fit for Jurgenson’s assertions in the text.

The camera provides us with an opportunity to capture a thought or moment, which can make things less boring to us and possibly to an audience, it gives something a purpose and reason. Jurgenson describes “This documentary consciousness gives one something to do, to turn every moment into one that is potentially productive, like a tourist of our own experience” (Jurgenson, 2019:37). This reminds me of Todd Hido reframing images through a car window. Is it not that we need to frame images and now real life with the multiple screens we use to alleviate having to be present in every moment? Watching gigs events and performances through our devices. [image]

I believe it is less about the use of photo as a medium or aide memoire than simply the gear and our willingness to maintain a persona. This discussion does not serve to further photography, rather is a self-validation of a media puppeteer to elevate and justify his cause by ‘attaching’ it to the writings of Sontag and others.

Jo Spence said it best when she discussed the family album being propaganda. Surely, Social Photo is an extension of this. Less misogynistic than Spence asserts but equally as exclusive of truth/reality. [Jo Spence quote]

Independent reflection task:

Where are you now?

I’m at a crossroads it’s a function and process of making my images. Although I am a capable producer of images I am spoils with an embarrassment of directions to go in. I have made images for other people for so long I don’t know what type of images I want to make or how and why I want to make them. I am happy with environments I planned to take my practice in from the end of the positions and practice module, but feel I moved away from that in the sustainable prospects module and not necessarily in a positive way for the final half of that module. Now I am confused more confused than ever before and only know that my most recent work was lacking truth which was replaced with false intellect.

The nature and intent of your practice

I wish to be narrative and thematically based. I do not wish to be dictated to by anyone with a less critical or storytelling I than myself. I want to make the decisions during the creative process rather than suiting someone else. I realise that this precludes commercial work, but this is where I believe having commercial as one half of my practice and personal as the overriding half is vital. I very much enjoy collaboration and love the process of working with other people. Therefore saying that I didn’t wish to suit somebody else is still my aim but to the meeting of minds is very much an aspiration.

What context could your work be consumed in

In the past it was web-based. I created for social media, primarily my website and sadly other people's marketing either personal or occupational.

Aspirationally and moving forwards...

This is the decision I no longer wish to commit to in a wholesale fashion. I wish to take the positive elements of my versatility and continue them (moving forward) in my practice. Very much photographer as author. However, I come from a music and film/video editing background and wish to utilise the whole of my creative faculties to produce my voice from my unique perspective. This would mean that the context, or should I say contexts, will be influenced by the work. As an educator I understand the importance of environment. I would hope that my work informs and therefore the audience would be, in-part at least, a learning community. So the decision on the context may be part of the work when required. It may also be the subject of the work when required.

Your practice in the context of other visual practices and critical ideas

I am yet to find my visual style. I use medium format film as a preference when documenting my family. My family currently are the only subjects that I have been happy documenting for myself. The council estate that I grew up on is also a place that I enjoy documenting, more specifically my children’s interaction with where I call home. My children have grown up in Asia and to see them interact in the place that I interacted as a child interests me, however I’m not sure specifically how. I am interested in biography, injustice, the human condition when placed in a situation of prejudice. Throughout this MA I have increasingly become aware of the colonisation of photography and the theme that I live in (which is being the outsider). The outsider has become the overwhelming theme in my intended work for my FMP. It did initially start with how and why people consider race an actual thing. My understanding of race is that it is an outmoded concept that no longer exists now that people travel freely and reproduce beyond their skin code. As a Black male teacher in an international context with mixed race children (who I just consider to be children) who has lost promotions and been demoted based on the visual incongruency of my Britishness, this life experience has become quite a powerful informer my life-long point of view and my view of the human condition. This conversation and existence is increasingly becoming a topic of my work.

My interest in thought processes will almost certainly be a driver in my work. The way that John Berger sees and thinks about seeing. The political clarity that Jo Spence possesses when she processes the world around her. The way that Roland Barthes feels and how Todd Hido relates things to previous experiences and allows for curiosity and interpretation. These are attributes that I would like to embed (more) into my practice.

The visual touchstones of my work would be: Todd Hido, Dan winters, Zack Arias, Cian Oba Smith, Francis Wolf, Irving Penn. The Documentary approach of David Alan-Harvey, Sophie Harris-Taylor, Robert Frank, Richard Avedon, W Eugene Smith and Alec Soth. But this is slightly disingenuous as I’m drawn to the stories. I’m drawn to film directors or rather auteurs . This may well be the identifier of my issue of coding my work. Throughout the course I have been drawn to the method of expression that Laia Abril has used. Sara Lando for her mixed media approach is a direction that interests me, as is the photo montage of Dora Maar. The use of texture that Laura Hynd and Sally Mann employs. The sense of geometry that Jess Bonham, Alvin Langdon Cockburn and John Gribben playfully experiment with alongside colour aesthetic that Luke Stephenson and John Keatley integrate into their practice.

Yes, this is a varied palette but depending on what I wish to express on what I have to say, I’m sure I will be influenced by them and many more.


Matt Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCNKqgQbaKI Site accessed: 26th January 2021

Barthes: Camera Lucida or Image music text

(SHAKESPEARE, W., & FURNESS, H. H. (1963). As you like it. New York, Dover Publications.) Jurgenson, N. the social photo

Sontag 'on photography'

Hido T.

Berger Cataract

Spence J


Week 2

Truth vs Authenticity: Conceptually I have a healthy dose of cynicism towards both. As a Theory of Knowledge teacher the shortened version of that curriculum is that Truth both exists and is unobtainable because of subjectivity. As an ex-Film teacher, my preference is fiction rather than as I find a higher sort of truth, one that reflects human experience more clearly (although this may also reflect my Epistemological cynicism of questioning: what is truth? Is Objective truth possible or even a commendable aim? Is everything a political statement of some sort). And yet in my photographic context (primarily portrait, travel and documentary) I am conflicted between zero/minimal manipulation of an image and creating a completely free subjective expression of my conscious gaze.

Authenticity: What is real? What is original?

In the sense that, chronologically, we are constantly living new, never to be repeated moments on a linear continuum, aren’t all photographs original?

John Berger spoke of a photograph being ‘a slice of time and space’, I paraphrase, but essentially a moment worthy of elevating above others to record and relive.

So isn’t authenticity very much a luxury. A luxury of commentators, media readers and historians/social scientists? Which raises the question why are we concerned with truths, credibility and validity of moments past that can never be void of human biases?

Truth, reality (or rather realness), non-objectified intervention all leads down the path of candid/documentary/vernacular photography. Having tried my hand at street photography, truth in my opinion is an obtainable because, well I am 5‘10“ which influences the power/narrative in my images. As an ex-film teacher very early on in cinematography we taught the camera angles part of mise en scène. Which teaches us how to manipulate have a subject is seen in order to serve the narrative. Which means that audiences are either willing or on willing participants in this language. With the advent of social media, this language is even more widespread. Just look at house selfies are taken, with the subject using the tools (both hardware and software) to present their best representations of themselves.

In short, authenticity is in short supply. Unless you widen the definition to subjective and constructive truths. And you view the photograph in the way that John Berger does in understanding a photograph where he talks of the paradox of the photograph.

“The photograph is an automatic record through the mediation of light of a given event: yet it uses the given event to explain its recording. Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious” (Berger, 2013:19)

Which in short means that photography as a medium celebrates the authors rights and selection of what is recorded, however I feel all art is a reflection of a reaction to life depicted using reality or surreality. Indexical representation maybe, to a degree but the choice of what and how to include Mise-en-scene is an artificial decision. Decisions made based on narrative or message the photographer/photo editor wishes to convey. Which is at the mercy of their cognitive and subconscious biases as much as poetic and artistic license. Then there is the question of audience. I made most of my images for a narrative that I didn’t control. Vernacular photography that was used for advertising. Editing by selection and omission.

The partnership of words and images are a powerful and confusing force, usually parasitic for one side of that partnership. As I learned last module.

All of these factors can influence authenticity and truth. Before, during and after the act of making the images. We haven’t even discussed propaganda, echo-chambers and filter bubbles contextualising images in a different way than intended.


Berger J. understanding a photograph

Week 3

To make a photograph…

“Practitioners of staged and constructed photography invent their motifs, freely combining the real and the invented, photography and painting, photography and stage design, weaving historical and mythological references into their works, and do not hesitate for a moment to manipulate reality. They do not behave destructively, however, but investigatively and analytically. The question is not what reality is, but what modes of representing it are available.” (Köhler 1995:8)

or to take a photograph…

“Photographs, it is argued, are fictionally incompetent because they are incapable of depicting unreal or imaginary subject matter or can merely achieve these through derivative means” (Scrutton 2009:589)

Here are two very opposing views. Is it simply vernacular versus succesionist ideals or as suggested in both a question of verification and the human need to know truth from fiction?

Constructed realities… the idea doesn’t offend me in the slightest. I see it as an extension of filmmaking. Essentially film stills, in a way that Dziga Vertov constructed the realities in Man with a movie camera… not shot as Kino Pravda (as the physical style of the movie would suggest) but finding, staging and constructing a narrative from footage thus creating an art documentary. The obvious appeal to me is the use of montage and Kuleshov effect. My entry point however, was the music and how the movie interacts with multiple scores generated across the best part of a century, and still maintains it’s integrity as a work of Art.

What appeals to me most about Vertov’s work is its energetic narrative – ostensibly a street photography project and travel documentary rolled into one. Which was revolutionary in its time (and a reaction to propaganda) in its minimal use of text. It is dependant on the viewer accessing more information (Barthes semiotic assertion of the link between a weak signifier and a strong signified isn’t lost on me) to discover that this is in-fact a constructed reality from multiple days and locations. However, whatever narrative we initially absorb from the work, there is undoubtedly meta-commentary on the artificial nature of art (and in this case Soviet/Communist existence) in general and cine/photography in particular.

I feel by posing a cognitively dissonant question, exploiting this weak link between signifier and signified (posing the connotative rather than presenting the denotative as documentary) is a not only my intention for this particular project, but also pivotal to the success of the project. I hope to subtly combine a couple of images (maybe by use of diptych) where the signifier is stronger (maybe by repetition, title or inversion) with others where the signifier is much weaker, hoping that the juxtaposition will allow the viewer a partial contextualisation in order to lead them into a cognitive environment that will allow them to introspect and construct their meaning from their own reality.

As humans we learn and even communicate difficult realities through play and simulation. Why should photography be excluded from that as a means of mass (and intimate) communication.


Maybe the Scrutton's quote above refers to narrative-making as derivative, or the act of recreation/reproduction. With life as the source material. Which sounds less damming as a commentary on the type of work that Gregory Crewsdon does. Surely, his big sets and high production values are just a logical progression from the 8x10 tintype portraits from the turn of the 20th century. Can you argue that those portraits, the family album as a propaganda tool or the abhorrent anthropological propaganda from earlier than that, (I’m thinking of the Racist, colonial photography of Cesare Lombroso profiling and predicting criminality 'Criminal Man' in the name of science...pseudoscience) are not from the same constructive or reproduced DNA?







Dziga Vertov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGYZ5847FiI

Website: https://www.history.com/news/born-criminal-theory-criminology


Week 4

The intent to my photographic practice has definitely changed. Largely due to embarking on this MA, but also due to a lack of artistic and creative satisfaction in my work which led me to start this. Visually I am still looking for a set of consistent characteristics that my work should embody. I somehow don’t believe that I will find a narrow set of characteristics. In life I try to be three of the constraints of being categorised in a very simple way, and technically I am not faithful to a camera brand or type or format. I much prefer to work on a project by project basis. The lack of ability to do this is what led me to not wanting to work for advertising or marketing on a local level. I am also a video editor and I am used to trying to establish meaning with all of the visual media in front of me. Building in the edit as they say. Conceptually I wish to experiment on this module and break many rules in order to find myself or voice. This module I aim to be less obvious and challenge the eye of the viewer. This may be interpreted as challenging the gaze of the viewer or creating work that the gaze is the subject.

Photographic ambiguity is definitely an intent in its own right. In order to truly understand what I mean by this you need to know that I see photographic ambiguity as a product rather than a technique. In my last module I was asked to be more evocative and less descriptive in my work. The story is largely done before the image is taken. The image in portrait is to show the person and not to tell the story in itself. When I get back to portraits next module (possibly) then this will be my intent. As it stands now the ambiguity that I wish to explore is that of silhouettes and abstract stilled life.

The levels of success or not where I want to be so I would say largely unsuccessful. However I firmly believe that each failure is an opportunity to experiment and sometimes you have to keep following that path until the correct path appears. My last module I consider was a module of 2 halves. I didn’t experiment enough in the second half and failed to produce work that fulfilled my gaze or understanding as a practitioner. I’m a firm believer that as animals we learn through play and this is what I intend to do more of now.

Week 5

My gaze is voyeuristic and inescapably political – I walk around different cities, countries, and photograph what seems to be, from the perspective of a White, middle-class, British male, worthy of seeing/sharing – implicitly commenting on what I find to be ‘other’ or ‘relatable’. Herein lies the issue, I am all of those things except white! My perception and my gaze is inextricably linked to my social environment. Having grown up in the UK as a black male, my gaze is politically defensive of my colour and The view from being other. Where as my university education, classical musical background, and being an expat international school teacher in Asia please all informed bye being other and not being white. The drive to assimilate into this society that I have been living in for the past 20 years, is at odds with my upbringing. I would hope that my photography does not indicate my skin type or colour. However, the more that I am aware of my responsibilities as a photographer the more I feel my ethnic background should inform my gaze.

Jacques Lacan’s research into the formation of identity, particularly the ‘ Mirror stage' is prescient for me. I genuinely have no true idea of my appearance. I rarely see images of myself as I am behind the camera. I rarely look in the mirror, often getting dressed in the dark, as you would be able to tell if you saw me. This is not deliberate but does cause a surprise to me sometimes as to what my face expressions actually look like which is different from how I visualise them when I make them. Maybe my inner residual appearance actually does differ from my outer appearance. I do wonder if this shows in my photography.

I do not assert control over my subject matter. I have spent too long photographing for other people in order to be able to answer this question fully. However, the expat audience that I serve through conversations and social media definitely steers how I see, but I am still at the stage of trying to get things right rather than to be poetic about my inner views.

Ostensibly I am a portrait photography who is most proud of the environmental portraiture that I do. I am currently looking at photomontage, this would allow me to assert greater control over the subject matter that I tackle and the method with which I do it. The aim is to make commentary rather than simply take an image. Actually being a portrait photographer and having access to the variety of skin and stories in a society that is very private has presented a huge narrative issue. During this current restricted period I aim to use found materials, and utilising my basic Photoshop skills, moving towards the abstract imagery as an idea that I would like to pursue. Possibly following the thematic idea of the interplay of 'space and time'. John Berger also comments on this being what photography can do. Making the link between the similarity of music and images and how they are both 'composed' in a way that oil painting isn't. So the idea of montage especially, as I have a film editing background along with the use of sound (potentially), is an idea a new interdisciplinary practice that I would like to experiment with and/or employ.

The current idea is to investigate the phenomenon of Memes and the people who have gained fame and infamy or even notoriety as the subject of this viral movement. There is a musician called Brandon Etheridge who creates musicals from every day speech on Youtube. Essentially as (almost) interdisciplinary responses. This is an obstruction and essentially a meme meme where the subject is an aware of the level of fame and not in control of it. This present them as being an outsider in their own fame fame. This being an outsider is a recurrent theme in what will be my photographic practice. My challenge is to harness and control my own history and pain with being the outsider. This situation is where my gaze could be both an asset and a detriment.


Berger J:

Figures: [citations and Brandon Ethridge image]

Week 6

This week is the week preparing for the presentation and most interestingly the 1:1 and portfolio review.

Week 1 (Project Development) revision

"I am resolved to not using anything I have used in the past because I have grown as an artist and wish to enter this phase with no baggage."

After the past 2-3 weeks of reading and learning I realise that it is all about the baggage I was attempting to avoid. My gaze is a result how I see the world and how sees me. Any and every way that I depict or represent the world is essentially an objectification of me and my interaction with identity. A representation of whatever I am photographing: geographical, social, political biographical, topological... all representative of time, space and the association between the two. after all I have spent most of my life as a musician.

Back to Week 6 proper... 1. How do you critically articulate the intent of your photographic practice verbally or in writing?

My intent is to inform. Simply to reflect a little heard voice. The voice from the inside of 'other'. I realise that being an artist in an expat community that the sense of 'other' and looking at life is a complex and usually quite a narrow view. This is not necessarily a negative thing, but I view it as an opportunity to speak from a more unique angle. This is an opportunity to challenge my 'Whiteness', which is odd considering I am Black. My intended series examines the interplay between White and Black. The in-congruency of the shadows, the shades of grey. I aimed to print it and exhibit it in an exclusive artistic environment. Essentially the gallery where representation is notoriously narrow or featured in a way that reinforces the differences and presents things as novelty (with the sense of other). The way that I see it the only way to counter this is by challenging the novelty and finding a community of other black artists that will show their work. Just making the environment a less hostile one.

2. How was your photographic practice critically, visually and contextually and thought?

The feedback that I received was to look at the "Light of autobiography", to think bigger than images and move towards an installation of Light and potentially sound... due to my musical background. Which leads me towards my practice being thought of as inter-disciplinary. The use of non-traditional portrait was appreciated and, I fell, defines me as cerebral and conceptual or even post-modern in my approach. Definitely non-traditional of unorthodox. Not sure how I feel about that as that has an air of exclusivity that is the opposite of how I want to interact with my audience. Another strand to me practice that was part of the feedback was my use of simplicity. Especially in context with the musical (abstract) expressionism of the (20th Century 2nd Viennese school). Happily also, 'artistic value linked to broader visual cultures'. That would be the versatility that I have shown throughout my practice which is something I battle with, both positively and negatively.

3. How do you reflect on your photographic practice (e.g. editing/research et cetera) in order to progress it (consider successful and less successful work)?

Currently my journey is philosophical. I started the course as a camera operator. In search of meaning. Intention is now critical to my practice, which Which it wasn’t before. But progressing from good intentions to meaning is going to be the biggest challenge. What does my intention actually look like?The way visualise this in order to create what I want to create rather than create something and justify afterwards.

4. In what professional/viewing context should your work be seen in. Why?

This abstract work should be viewed in an art gallery. Preferably lots of white space in between the images which have a predominantly black background. The reason for this is the gallery is a hostile environment that supports A class divide. Either upper to middle or middle to work in class.. This is inevitably going to be part of my practice, even if it is just the chip on my shoulder that motivates be to break through the invisible wall. It also supports a colonial disparity that even unintentionally distorts the gaze of the viewer away from the intended message from the artist as other. This is usually interpreted as not being art or pity.

Fig 1. [citation]

Week 3 revision:

Looking back at what I wrote in week three, the idea of constructive approach is now much more important to my self portrait series. I’m now looking at how the size of the image will affect the meaning. More importantly how the size of the image will make the kind of statement about the community that I’m trying to reach out to. After having a conversation with Colin and the portrait review with Arpita Shah, I now believe that making my self-portrait an object is a much more powerful statement. Initially I was looking to create a series of abstract images that lived in exhibition sized form and were strictly black and white images. Now constructing the approach of making something that renders as a vinyl object, and to be explored at night time lit dramatically is much more freeing. However, it ceases to be simply a self-portrait and now becomes a presentation/representation of self within a modernist view.


Light of Autobiography show. Guardian newspaper

Figures: Fig 1. Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama exhibition 2017

Week 7

Moholy-Nash famously stated, “it is not the person ignorant of writing, but ignorant of photography, as somebody said, who will be the illiterate of the future”.

But, mustn’t the photographer, us, who is unable to read his own pictures, be no less deemed an illiterate?

In thinking about this, how do you interrogate your images, and what strategies do you use to reflect on them?

Essentially, I invest in my intuition until I don't trust it. Paul Clements advised us to trust our intuition or at least aim to get to the point where you can. I think it is important to have this trust as, it is important to make art for you. I am also aware that there needs to be a process in which to ensure you are not simply swayed by mood or environment.

I have probably already decided that there is something worth looking for in the image... whether I like it or not or if I respect it or not.

Beyond that...

For my faults, I still start with the technical. Exposure, composition, light (direction and shadow), perspective and communicated meaning, mood, colour and luminescence.

I am looking to see if I have favourably represented the message/subject/participant/organisation.

I look for anything that will be criticised negatively by trolls. This is an important part of the process as I would like to build a reputation.

As a result of this MA I have added a stage. Which is... context. How it relates to the work I am either currently doing, (I am starting to think in series of work rather than individual shots. This will prevent me from sharing even if I continue to work on it), or the work I wish to be know for (either by style or subject matter).

At this point, I should probably think about location and context of the work, but to be honest, this either happens or doesn't dependent on if I'm asked or not.

After this I rely on peer feedback. Usually a family member or friend.. dependant on what I wish to communicate. I will utilise a range of people in order to see a range of responses that have a variety of connections to what I am making.

Then I will allow my intuition to make the final decision based on all I have heard and previously thought.

And, how do you want them to be read?

My ego says dominant and beyond that I don't care, my fragile ego is pleased if the few people that see it have an opinion and will happily accept positive negotiated readings. The pessimist in me really doesn't care as long as people respect either the technique or the message.

Do you play on any existing ideas, and are any contexts particularly important to you?

Nothing is original and everything is contextual, especially the 'reading' of the work. So everything is an idea that exists even if it is something that is little spoken of, or frameworked in a different or unusual context. Paul Clements (again) said that just because something has already been done doesn't mean that you can't talk about it. So it is 'presentation' or 're-presentation' that is important to me.

Do you recycle any cultural myths, and if you do, for what reason?

Yes, because at this stage that is called learning. to learn to present the aspects of culture, either mythological or 'true' ("There is no truth only perceptions" - Elias Daudrill) is the usual way for me to understand and then adapt.

In a sea of images today, can we be original anymore?

Yes! Originality is dependant on a lack of exposure to what is being presented. The judgement on whether someone's art is deemed original depends on the interactions with Art the viewer has already had. Which allows for both originality and not within that scope.


Film Courage Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVNxKCDBZhc

Week 8

In order to help in the process of creating my Audio presentation I thought I would reflect on one of the images that inspired my WiPP, by answering:

10 Critical questions to ask myself

(Initially I did this about one of my own images as well... which was interesting as an exercise)

Somnyama Ngonyama: 2015

1) What are you looking at?

Firstly, This image is striking! Defiant, still, peaceful and controlled. A Black and white image that is a self-portrait. Where the dynamic range has been adapted to excentuate the 'Blackness' of the subject as a celebration of their identity. An evenly lit film shot and darkroom printed image. Zanele Muholi has appropriated traditional dress and artefacts to fulfil their intent. If I'm not mistaken it was taken on an RZ67, shooting 6x7 format. Which is a departure from their usual digital imagery. The context/intended location is a gallery.

(Think about colour, composition, lighting, perspective, subject matter, equipment used, format, film used, location, context etc)

2) What do you know for certain about this image?

Firstly, This image is striking! Defiant, still, peaceful and controlled. It was released into the world in 2015 as part of the Somnyama Ngonyama series. Somnyama Ngonyama translates to "Hail the Dark Lioness" from isiZulu. It was part of a world tour starting in 2016 and was curtailed by Covid-19 in 2020. It was one of 80 portraits taken and exhibited in the series.

Muholi playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography, and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics. Each black and white self-portrait asks critical questions about social (in)justice, human rights, and contested representations of the Black body. (Mussai 2020)

Muholi uses their skin colour as a canvas (which as one of my original chapters for my RP was Skin: as canvas), this was my interest piqued and matched my intent. Implicit in the image is the strong binary nature of the Black and the White in the high contrast painterly image. Which, without shades of grey was the type of dramatic and yet layered statement I am drawn to. Is this something that I would read that others wouldn't? Yes, and that is something I would like to replicate in my practice. However, without my biases and prior experience it is simply a beautiful, powerful and striking image.

(Think about the time and place, subject matter etc. What else was happening in the medium at this time? What do you know for certain and why do you know this? Is it implicit within the image or are you bringing your own knowledge and experiences to it? Is this knowledge shared by other people, if so who? Or is it more personal to you? How does your research relate to your understanding of the image?)