Category Archives: Project 2 Image and text

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor.

Not Waving But Drowning

by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971

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NOBODY heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

“I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.”

 

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Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

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“Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

“I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.”

Research point – Duane Michals

This image by Duane Michals cleverly uses hand written text to suggest a personal relationship between the author of the caption and man in the image.  The black and white print eliminates any distracting colours to concentrate the emotional feeling of love.  However, is the picture a genuine snap shot of the artist and his ex? or is it a composed image?  Who took the photograph? Why was he of she in the bedroom with them?

I would suggest that this is a posed photograph and the hand written text intentionally alters the context to suggest a personal memory a reflection on a past relationship; but fiction all the same.  Below is another image which we can see is posed and the hand written message adds humour to the context.

Research point – Karen Knorr, Gentlemen

Photograph by Karen Knorr

An interesting project by Karen Knorr with privileged access to London’s Gentlemen clubs of St. James’ in London.  Knorr photographs in black and white appear to be taken of a medium format camera and are very sharp and well composed.  She has cleverly added texts constructed out of Parliamentary speeches and news she has added new contexts and meanings to these images to put across her ideas of British politics and democracy and the status of women in an entertaining way.

To me, this is a little like the idea of Sophie Calle’s, ‘Take Care of Yourself’.  Knorr has taken other peoples text and linked it with carefully composed pictures with a feminist point of view.  However, the similarities stop there as Knorr is clearly an outsider and has little in common with her subject; so she has had to use speeches that members of clubs like this have said in Parliament or have been quoted on the news to create a narrative that puts across her documentary message in an entertaining way.  Calle on the other hand was an insider as she shared a common experience with fellow women.

Research point -Kaylyn Deveney, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings

thZKTIBUL4 Photograph by Kaylynn Deveney.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=kaylynn+deveney&view=detailv2&&id=F09663C9697BE7CF957465C053E9D4E5E031D1A9&selectedIndex=0&ccid=VSJLX6U0&simid=608053287080035439&thid=OIP.M55224b5fa534123d0bd481c4048f7a6ao0&ajaxhist=0

The project, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings by Kaylynn Deveney is a good example of Postmodernist art. Deveney has taken the idea of making the ordinary, banal moments in her neighbour’s life as the subject of her project.  Deveney is looking at her neighbours habits and routines in a fresh respective and by asking Mr Hastings to add his own captions to her photographs of him and his home new meanings are added to the pictures that give it a more intimate / personal, insider, style than if she had simply added her own.  This I think was a cleaver way to add more layers to this work.  This project is similar to ‘Objects in the Field’ in so much as the author (Deveney) writes about her experience working with Hastings and her personal observations.  However, in this instance I believe the artist was more successful in building a good relationship with her subject and was able to share a mutual vision. The reason for this I believe was that they had more in common with each other and the photographer did not have to make as much of an effort to find common ground. Mr Hastings wrote poetry and his love of flora and fauna suggests a man more open to artistic and visual ideas and arts that proved both useful and helpful as Mr. Hastings helped Deveney develop her ideas with his helpful comments and clearly a good partnership developed that appears to have been missing from Rickett’s relationship.

 

Research point – Sophy Rickett’s, Objects in the Field

th  Re-produced print by Sophy Rickett, ‘Obbjects in the Field’

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sophy+rickett+photography&view=detailv2&qpvt=sophy+rickett+photography&id=6FF769463DBEFD016BACBBA5E6FC0A503676280C&selectedIndex=1&ccid=DbBb3aB7&simid=608009787647919593&thid=OIP.M0db05bdda07bd3750c69bd7556c5a7c6o0&ajaxhist=0

In 2013, Sophy Rickett, held the post of Associate Artist at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University, were she met Dr. Roderick Willstrop, who invented a three mirrored telescope and his work inspires Rickett’s project, Objects in the Field and displayed at The Museum of the History of Science and reviewed on the Photomonitor website.

Rickett, interviewed D. Willstrop and with his permission printed some black and white negatives of photographs made by his three mirrored telescope that he built at the University. Rickett, using digital technology for wider tonal print and aesthetic qualities she exhibited these photos with some of her own with examples of scientific instruments and linking a video and text.  Rickett’s text consists of a narrative of her experiences working with Dr. Willstrop and juxtaposing this with childhood anecdotal experiences that complemented her story.

This postmodernist documentary approach is based upon a professional relationship that Rickett developed with Dr. Willstrop in order to understand his work and create and artistic project from it.  Using the insider technique of meeting and getting to know Dr. Willstrop, Rickett hoped to find ways of aligning her artistic practices with Dr. Willsrops scientific practices, hoping that she could find away through their commonly shared interests.  She however feels that she failed to achieve this and although she was able to put together a good exhibition she still doesn’t know if Dr. Willstrop liked it or not.  The exhibition appears to have been fairly successful and interesting; but reading between the lines, I wonder if the three mirrored telescope project was a painful memories for Dr. Willstrop that Rickett was racking up.

 

Research point – Sophie Calle’s, Take Care of Yourself

take_carePhoto by Sophie Calle.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&view=detailv2&qpvt=sophie+calle+take+care+of+yourself&id=146C84BEE2771A29D7531289D3A155D79E5A8818&selectedindex=10&ccid=fgwGNZo8&simid=608002889935160216&thid=OIP.M7e0c06359a3c5e83367c18fc2bed29afo0&mode=overlay&first=1

Sophie Calle is a French photographer living and working in Paris.  Her project ‘Take Care of Yourself’ was inspired by a text message from her boyfriend who was dumping her by text.  The idea for the title was from how he signed off his text, “Prenez soins de vois” (Take care of yourself).  Calle writes that the idea came to her just a couple of days later after she had shown the message to friends and asked for there comments, she maintains that her agenda was never for revenge but was simply an inspired idea for an artistic project.  She makes no mention of the ex-lovers name and although she knows he was unhappy with the project, he decided (perhaps sensibly) not to interfere.

Once she decided to use her text as the subject for her project she spent two years showing around her text to a 107 professional women, photographed them reading it and invited them to analyse it according to their job: The text’s grammar and syntax was torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant, his lines pored over by a Talmudic scholar, his text re-ordered by a crossword setter, evaluated by a Judge, shot up by a markswomen, second guessed by a chess player, performed by actress, Jeanne Moreau, a psychiatrist called the author of the text “A twisted manipulator”  Taken from an interview with The Guardian, ‘He loves me not’ and a Guardian article about her exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery also see Review to the Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition.

I found this to be a very funny, cleaver and entertaining idea of addressing a very personal and upsetting experience.  On one level in is a way she is getting even, on another level she is rising above it and by turning it on it’s head she is making art out of it.  On yet another level she is empowering other people who perhaps have experienced something very similar in their own lives.  I like the way she has creatively produced different images of the text, a ballet dancer reading it as she conducts stretching exercises on the bar, a lady reading the text with the text overlaid on the whole image, another turned in to a greeting card for example.

This project is a very interesting example of postmodern work it makes us consider our modern life styles and methods of communication and how this impacts on us as individuals and as human beings.  This insider position is also a reflection of modern women and their growing empowerment.