Demonstration of Creative and Visual Skills
One of my starting points for this assignment was to try to make a thing which could act as a close-up magic trick (as described in the introduction to Charlotte Cottons’ Photography is Magic) to be ‘performed’ for the delight of my peers, my tutor and – eventually – the OCA’s assessors. I think the videos and the book go some way at least towards fulfilling this intention.
Another starting point was to introduce an element of chance into my digital workflow. I feel that there are times when the ability to view, undo, review and redo (ad infinitum) can suck the life out of what might otherwise be a nice idea. So, using software to assist in the creative process, throwing up a number of juxtapositions (based on criteria I had decided upon) before I had to do the final selection of images to be included, first, as the captions and then as the finished book itself.
From the start, I realised that this piece of work would have a number of outputs and also that each output – the videos, the electronic book, accessed from my log and the physical book itself – would create different meanings for their respective audiences. I have tried to make each output work, but find myself preferring the effect of the physical book to the electronic scroll produced by Lightroom’s book module, while the flickering video is more about the experience of watching choices being made than its completed run of double pages.
Quality of Outcome
The photographs used in the book were taken in a hurry, on my phone in poor lighting. It shows. Many of them have been subjected to the filters available with the Hipstamatic app. They were taken as a sideline and – as such – were not part of what I considered to be my ‘serious’ photographic output.
However, I always meant to do something like this with them, but never quite managed to find the time to do so, before I had the idea of combining the editing process with the coding course at the Photographers’ Gallery, giving me something to provide a focus to my learning.
The text which frames the picture pages would benefit from more work; what is there stands as an MVP (minimal viable product, in agile software-development terms). My partner feels that there could be more explanation about what part the software played in the compilation of the output, and I am inclined to agree with her. Perhaps I could move the afterword to the front, and put a second short text, outlining how the book was put together.
Then, while it steps beyond what we are asked for in the assignment brief, I am pleased with the physical book compiled from cheap, A4 prints made (like my portrait of the artist as a man with access to a photocopier from exercise 2.3) on the copier/printer at work. It would be easy make a short print-run for distribution at public displays of my java application at work, providing some sort of physical take-away from an installation version.
Demonstration of Creativity
As a project, my work for this assignment has, I think, developed and grown from the original idea (to pair up simple pictures of people from around the world, turning them into ‘couples’) and become something that is capable of generating a much greater range of meanings. It is easy for me to imagine taking a different set of quotes and setting the code up according to produce the basis for another, different short print-run.
These could focus on specific events or themes – the great summer of sport; brexit; the complete collapse of everything, the next series of Masterchef – that are there floating suspended within the Zeitgeist. I wish I’d thought to gather quotes from the women’s (football) world cup, the cricket world cup, the netball world cup, Wimbledon etc to see what narratives could have been generated from them; I wish I had widened my net to capture quotes from other newspapers beside the Guardian.
The code I have used is called Processing; I feel I have established a repeatable process here, using it. Certainly, before assessment, I will try to gather another couple sets of contrasting ideas and possible narratives and focus a new version of the code upon them, generating new editions of It Takes All Sorts.
I think the sense of playfulness that hopefully comes through in the book and the other outputs of my work for this assignment is really important. It’s far too easy to be grimly po-faced (rather than po-mo?) about all this art stuff and – if I have taken one thing from looking at Joachim Schmid and Kepler Wessel’s practices and carried it into my own – I feel you stand a much greater chance of engaging an audience if you can make viewing an enjoyable – fun, even – experience.
Interactivity would be the next obvious step for development. Processing allows for the use of interface devices (a computer mouse, a particular key on a keyboard) to act as a trigger for events within the program. It would not be hard to allow a viewer to ‘pick’ a combination of pictures and words, producing an individual set of pages, until a full book of 22 picture pages had been generated.
After payment had been made (and any personalisation added – the person interacting with the program should be acknowledged in some way) the resulting book would be printed out and the application reset, ready for the next viewer/customer…
I finally got round to finishing Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics a few months ago. One of the things that has really stuck in my head is the way he describes the reader’s capacity for identification with a character becoming stronger, the more abstract the depiction of a character’s face becomes (it matches with our own inability to truly picture what we look like at any given moment, apparently). Using toilet door pictograms for the characters in a series of mini-dramas seems to fit with this. I hope that I have found an international cast of characters, to play with further.
I attended the OCA Study Event Workshop on Thinking Through Art in May, at the Tabernacle Centre in Notting Hill and shared my idea for this assignment. The tutor running the workshop – Emma Drye – suggested that I could widen my set of texts from my initial idea of using dating ads from the London Review of Books to include other things that were tied in to the international sourcing of my pictograms. Brexit was an obvious ‘thing’ to play with here. I took this as a prompt to widen my range of quoted text, an activity which will be ongoing as I develop new versions of the code and new editions of the resulting book.
Among many texts discussed by the Photography Reading Group (organised by Emma, on OCA-Discuss, thanks Emma!) I have found the introduction to Charlotte Cotton’s book Photography is Magic – discussed above – most useful when conceptualising this assignment as a form of conjuring trick with the editing being carried out in the presence of the audience, here on my blog and – particularly – on the associated videos on Vimeo. Likewise, comments on my use of java coding made in the Critiques section of the forums helped me put flesh on to what started off as a quite vague set of ideas as well as helping crystalise some of my thoughts about photography and music.
- Cotton, C. (2015) Photography is magic. New York, Aperture Foundation
- McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding comics. New York, Harper Perennial