WIP

Informing Contexts: Final Thoughts & Future Moves

So this is it, the end of Informing Contexts and the beginning of the final stage of this Masters degree. I can’t believe how quickly we’ve arrived here. I’ve learnt loads, with many of the lessons still being absorbed as I try to understand how to relate the learning to my own practice. I approach the Final Major Project (FMP) with some nervousness, mainly just because I’m not sure what the format of the next few months will be, but I’m also excited by the prospect of hopefully being able to put everything together into a cohesive vision of this project.

A frustration of mine has been that the 12-week module rhythm, with the need to prepare for summative assessments at the end of each one, hasn’t always correlated with the speed at which I’m able to absorb and respond to the lessons I’ve been learning along the way. Often I’ve found myself having the biggest revelations and making the largest steps between the modules, as the absence of course demands gives me the time to reflect, let things sink in and embed into my thought process about what I want to do. Due to the demands of my job, I often feel like I’m just hanging on for dear life during the modules trying to keep up, rather than having space and time to truly assimilate the information and allow my practice to develop. This has been a particular problem during this module as I approach the end of my medical training and so have had the most important exams of my career to prepare for, alongside working and doing this MA. Those demands, as well as my struggle to see a way to move forward with the photography (‘the narrative conundrum’ I think I’m now going to call it!) has meant this has been the module I’ve found most difficult so far. 

As previously, I’m confident that the period immediately after assignment submission (which again coincides with another big work thing) will be a productive one, both in terms of the images I’ll be making as well as in terms of putting a clear plan in place to attack the FMP. It arrives too late to be absolutely reflected in the WIP for this module but, as I’ve written elsewhere, I have a much better sense of the images I want to make and how to hopefully create interesting photographs. I will also be bringing people (and possibly also myself) into the work in some way and have only just been able to start experimenting with this. 

Something else that I’m looking forward to exploring further is the internal environment and how this relates to our experiences of solitude. My work has almost exclusively focused on outdoor urban spaces to this point, but reflecting on how people experience solitude and isolation in many hidden or public indoor places (bedrooms, cars, pubs etc.) and inspired by the work of practitioners such as Lynne Cohen and Andrew Emond I am really keen to explore interior spaces and make this an important part of the work moving forward. This actually now feels like a big omission from the project to date, an oversight on my part, and I envisage interiors becoming increasingly integral to telling the story of urban solitude in my FMP.

The work of Andrew Emond, from his    Objects of Consequence    series 

The work of Andrew Emond, from his Objects of Consequence series 

Despite the misgivings I stated above I do feel I’ve made progress during this module. I’ve continued to write, with more book reviews published and in progress.

My most recent book review on   Shutter Hub

My most recent book review on Shutter Hub

I’m aiming to continue developing this area of my practice. I’m still trying to find a short writing course that I think will help me to develop my writing style and that is feasible for me to do over the next few months alongside all my other commitments. The ones I’ve been interested in so far are either too involved (essentially a writing MA) or too inconsequential to be worthwhile. I’m increasingly of the view that text will be a substantial part of the final work, and though this is not likely to be all my own writing, I do feel I’d benefit from having more competence and confidence in this area. Using practitioners such as David Campany and Lewis Bush as inspiration, I hope to make this a solid strand of my practice moving forward. 

I was happy to be selected as a ‘shortlisted artist’ for the Revolv Collective One Year Open Call which will involve some much welcome social media promotion via their channels and may open further opportunities in the future. I have also entered work into the Royal Photographic Society’s International Photography Exhibition 161, with the outcome of shortlisting currently awaited.

I’m looking forward to what I anticipate will be the most intensely rewarding period of the MA to come in the Final Major Project. I feel that my work is on the verge of blossoming into something different and hopefully more compelling. I’m excited about the possibilities ahead and have already begun to consider the future beyond the MA, where I know the work will continue (PhD?). I’m relishing the opportunity to spend more focused time researching, exploring and developing new ideas and creating new connections with the work I have planned (workshops, joint projects with key agencies already involved with issues surrounding loneliness and urban isolation etc.). 

I look forward to discovering where the work will evolve to and how it will broaden out to hopefully include people (of all ages), interiors, exteriors and maybe even some daylight! I am less daunted by the FMP simply because I understand now that my work on this issue will not stop there, and I have a sense of where I will be able to take this work forward in the post-MA world that will soon be a reality.

Let’s get it!

Positions and Practice: Week 12 Reflection

This week saw the submission of the two final assignments for this module, a project proposal and accompanying work in progress (WIP) portfolio. The production of this work has been quite a traumatic, but ultimately very enlightening process that will be formative for everything else that I produce moving forward on this course.
 
The difficulties approaching this work were largely due to a lack of structure in my thinking and in the approach to my own work. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve not really had any kind of ‘practice’ to speak of before starting this course, which should have probably been a clue that struggling through the ‘Positions and Practice’ module was a possibility! 

Project Proposal front page

Project Proposal front page

For a number of reasons I found the task of delineating a question for the proposal, explaining why it was important and proposing how my practice would be equipped to examine it unbelievably hard. Some of the reasons were bound up in my own perceptions of what a photographer is, some were a result of my sporadic practical work which in some ways inhibits creativity, while I also just felt ill-prepared for this sort of academic challenge having not previously had to write any such document.

s the deadline approached, it seemed to get harder and harder to narrow things down into a coherent idea and while all my time seemed to be taken up trying to do this, the production of practical work also suffered. My head was throbbing with pressure, and nobody ever produced anything interesting with a throbbing head! 

Speaking about the difficulties is kind of redundant now though, as the deadline passed and the work was submitted. What is useful, is to outline some of the lessons I’ve learnt from the process. 

Forgive me for introducing these in bullet-point format, it just seems kind of appropriate (nothing like a good bullet-point to make it seem like you’ve got something sensible to say!).

Proposal Lessons:

  • The act of writing a proposal is useful in itself, helping to shape up vague ideas and obliging you to flesh them out, structure them and consider how you can actually make them come to life.
  • If you can’t sell your idea, then no-one should be expected to buy it.
  • Being able to articulate what you want to get out of the work is not a bad thing. It’s not something to shy away from or be coy about.
  • Writing a proposal is a bit like a contract and a road map. In the case of these personal projects, it’s really a commitment to myself to continue working at this idea, and now I have the beginnings of a clear direction to take with the work and an idea of where I’d like to end up. None of these would have been present without writing the proposal and I have never approached making images in this way before.
  • Opening up one’s work and ideas to external scrutiny is incredibly valuable. It’s definitely daunting, but also a tool for genuine epiphanies and growth.
A draft image that didn't make the final WIP portfolio

A draft image that didn't make the final WIP portfolio

  • I have to give my work attention and the room it needs to develop. By that I mean I need to take my practice seriously. The clue really is in the name ‘practice’! I found that in the final week approaching the deadline, the act of getting out and making photographs really helped to explore and solidify some ideas, while also throwing up other ideas that I intend to explore now that the looming deadline is out of the way. I’ve spent a lot of time in this first module reading and researching, but one of the key lessons I will take away from module one is the need to put as much focus on visual research too. It really pushes the work forward. I also have to thank my classmates Chris Chucas and Rita Rodner for proving to be great examples of this in their own work throughout the last few weeks. Ultimately you need to ‘make the work and get it out there, because otherwise it’s just in your head and that’s not a good place for it to be’ as the esteemed Dr Wendy McMurdo herself would say. This is a massive lesson learned in the production of the proposal and WIP portfolio.
  • The possibilities for your work are almost limitless once you stop to really think about it. It’s important to be open to the work of other artists, to be willing to soak up ideas and to be open to collaborating with other practitioners.


Meeting the challenge of adapting to this course and the mindset required has been difficult but also great fun. I’m so glad that I decided to do this, and I’m keen to reflect on this module and put the lessons into practice.