Oral Presentation

My first assignment for my MA was an oral presentation talking about my practice to date, my inspirations and influences, my current working practice and the journey I want to take my work on in the coming future. 

Words & Pictures

In this weeks topic we were encouraged to think about the use and relationship between text within, and alongside imagery. 

Text typography and style have a lot to do with how we read and analyse text, it also signifies a lot about what it is trying to say. Text is a language that we automatically decipher meaning from without much thought, just the same as we do from imagery although occasionally this can be more complicated. When placed together they inform one another and may alter our understanding then if they were kept separate. 

Gillian Wearing’s project ‘Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say’ uses handwritten text from her subjects to inform and add to her photographs. She stopped people in the street in London, simply asking them to write something they wanted to say on some paper and then photograph them holding it. The point was for them to express what they truly, honestly wanted to say - their inner truth battling their outside public persona. Seeing the subjects own handwriting makes it even more personal, yet the text is juxtaposed with the simplistic and occasionally even awkward portraits. A man in a suit, presumably a business man, with a slight, uncomfortable smile holding a sign that he has written himself - “I’m desperate”. 

It is a poignant image suggesting there is always more than meets the eye. The project as a whole is a brilliant example of how text and imagery together can build a completely different narrative to what we first expect. 

Metadata and alt text are also interesting points where text and image blend together, as a photographer I ensure my photos have the correct metadata saved so my images can be traced back to me. 

Alt text is where descriptive text is used to explain and list the contents of the image, this may be used when the image may not be shown or for those with sight impairments. Our technology has advanced so that our computers can now read an image and suggest the alt text. When I input an image into microsoft word, it suggests what the image is showing. 

Hashtags are also a very modern way in which we use text alongside our images. On instagram, on almost every post, we see words and phrases tagged beneath, a way of sharing our image in a sea of others all connected by these same hashtagged words. 

Here is one of my own instagram posts, an example of the hashtags I have used. We use them to not only share our work, but to suggest themes in the work - #shielding #lonely #covid. I have actively pushed those themes on to my viewer, whether that is how they viewed the image initially or not they now will connect those words to my image. 

In this same way, the way we title our images imparts certain things on the viewer. A lone image means the viewer has no context or any preconception to the work, but I do think sometimes that context is necessary. 

Henry Iddon’s project ‘A place to go’ at first seems like a project of beautiful landscapes. Without the accompanying text, that is what they are. The titles for each are to the point and factual, the location and date. However the following section is copied text from newspapers, journals or reports covering walking accidents and tragedies that have happened at those places. It gives a sombre feeling to these initially calming and peaceful landscapes. The project aims to express the sheer power and scale of the natural wilderness that clearly “dwarfes” humanity. This work becomes two very different projects when you add or remove the text, which shows the power words have alongside imagery. 

I always feel a little lost when I am titling my work, I never know how to approach it. I don’t want to sound pretentious by being vague or on the other hand spelling it out too much. 

On my instagram I have used simple title, usually place names and dates and then writing any further text for context. I occasionally use ‘Untitled’, this is useful when titling images within a series - the project name accompasses all of the work and so titling each individual image seems unnecessary. I can see however how this use can be seen as a little pretentious, by titling it ‘untitled’ it suggests you have to be smart enough to work out the meaning as it is not explained. 

In my work to date, text hasn’t been a major part of my practice, only really as far as titles and captions. However when I collaborated with one of my subjects I used her hand written text alongside her archive images, which showed more about her and who she was, which was a great touch in a project that was about her. I love this idea and hope to use this again in my future work. 

When I look back at some of the titles I have used for my photos I think I have definitely over done it, and therefore undermined and intimidated the work itself. By over explaining what is in the image in the title it takes away that fun from the viewer. I haven’t had to worry too much about titling my work much beyond instagram too much, I have had work in exhibitions however which is where it is more important. I prefer to keep it minimal and then caption with further context if needed. 

  • Artsy (2021) Gillian Wearing | Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say. I’M DESPERATE (1992-1993). Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/gillian-wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-wants-you-to-say-im-desperate#:~:text=Follow-,Signs%20that%20say%20what%20you%20want%20them%20to%20say%20and,’M%20DESPERATE%2C%201992%2D1993&text=Turner%20Prize%2Dwinner%20Gillian%20Wearing,society%2C%20and%20truth%20and%20fiction (Accessed: 11th March 2021).
  • Exton, G. (2019) ‘📍Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat’ [Instagram] 13th October. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/B3kLiWwhYtC/ (Accessed: 11th March 2021)
  • Exton, G. (2020) ‘April 2020’ [Instagram] 10th April. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-z-QyejFxq/ (Accessed: 11th March 2021)
  • Exton, G. (2020) ‘Visiting Nan’ [Instagram] 21st June. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBtL0daDDzb/ (Accessed: 11th March 2021)
  • Henry Iddon (2021) A Place to Go. Available at: https://www.henryiddon.com/A-Place-to-Go (Accessed: 11th March 2021).
  • Tate (2021) Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say’ Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-66092/4 (Accessed: 11th March 2021).

Mark Power

Mark Power’s project ‘26 Different Endings’ explores the unkept, and isolated looking areas that fall off the edge of the A-Z London Street Atlas. 

“The coverage of the map changes with each new edition. Someone somewhere decides, year by year, where it should end; which parts of the periphery of London should be included, and which should not. This project is about the unfortunate places that fall just off the edge.” 

The content of the images is banal, un-extraordinarily everyday, things we wouldn’t normally blink an eye at. Yet it is the context that brings the images together and creates a poignant project about the idea of place, both physically and mentally. 

These areas have been left out, pushed away from society and not included in one of the most used maps in the UK, falling away into “nothingness” (Photobook, 2021). The series of images showing grey mundane scenes, all in various states of ruin and indistinction, simply exist in a condition of grey-ness and may reflect the condition of life in these places. These places don’t exist on a certain map, yet they still physically exist and they are inhabited by everyday people who call them home. 

The work plays on memory, scenes we all recognise or maybe relate to, but in some way have become lost in transition and stuck in a lifeless cycle in which we all try to escape. These images may reflect the past, memories of slowly decaying estates in which we grew up on, still existing in the same way today but with new inhabitants living the same cycle. 

When I was first thinking about my borders project, this work by Power quickly came to mind. I briefly studied the work in my first year of university, I became interested with the themes of the mundane and banal because it is interesting how these everyday elements, when put together in new contexts become art. They become thinking points for a bigger picture, and make us question and think further about things we tend to overlook. These scenes photographed by Power, reflect run down, isolated areas and we start to think about the people living there - are they poor, rich? happy? healthy? supported? accepted by society? Sometimes the simplest of images can reflect a lot more than first thought. 

The project has inspired me through the use of maps. I have been looking over maps to see literally where the border is in my local areas, and whilst doing this I can pin point exact areas of interest I can visit where the border crosses, where Wales falls into England.. 

  • Photo-eye Bookstore (2021) 26 Different Endings by Mark Power . Available at: https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=zd324&i=&i2= (Accessed: 22 February 2021).
  • Photoworks (2021). 26 Different Endings Mark Power . Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/shop/26-different-endings-mark-power/ (Accessed: 22 February 2021).
  • Power, M. (2021). 26 DIFFERENT ENDINGS. Available at: https://www.markpower.co.uk/projects/26-different-endings (Accessed: 22 February 2021).

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