Website

Final Major Project: ROITD Website Outcome

Early on in the planning of the potential outputs for this project I envisaged a website as a significant, and possibly the most important, outcome of the FMP. As the FMP period continued and the chances of staging an exhibition appeared to recede, I further concentrated my focus on producing a website to display the work and which could serve as a hub from which the project would continue to grow and deepen post-MA.

I had purchased a suitable domain some time back in preparation for building the website, but only began outlining how I wanted the site to develop in the last month or so as the project and the planned triptych format started to take shape. 

The aim was to produce a visually interesting and informative website, that would be able to provide a deeper experience than available at the exhibition. In keeping with the breadth of responses to the themes of this project, I was keen to present information in a range of formats – 

·      factual information and links

·      contextual information about the issue of urban solitude/loneliness

·      interview excerpts from those who’d collaborated in the project 

·      creative writing from collaborators and myself

·      songs that respond to the theme

Due to the multi-format nature of this information I was confident that a website would be a perfect platform for presenting the work. The challenge was to do so in a way that was engaging without being overly dry, or that took the emphasis away from the images.

Example of a page from Raphaël Dallaporta’s work  Domestic Slavery    from artist’s website

Example of a page from Raphaël Dallaporta’s work Domestic Slavery from artist’s website

Useful references for this work included Domestic Slavery by Raphaël Dallaporta and Imperial Courts by Dana Lixenberg. These two examples showed that communication of the themes and message of a project could be enhanced and its impact amplified, by accompanying text (Domestic Slavery) and that a multimedia presentation can result in a richness and depth of coverage of a theme that isn’t possible using still images alone (Imperial Courts). 

These projects, particularly Imperial Courts, were exemplars of the sort of treatment I was aiming for with my own website. I have always felt that this project will not have been fully explored without film, more creative and investigative writing and potentially full interview transcripts also being presented alongside the photographs. This deep exploration of a theme really appeals to me, as it allows me to continue my enquiries following completion of the MA and also because the scope of this topic is so broad as to almost demand more than the 6 month treatment available during the FMP.  

As the image-making started to come together, so the potential website layout also became clearer. I was thus able to start building the website at the beginning of November, using placeholder images to give a sense of what the eventual layout would look like and how the text would relate to the pictures in the final presentation. 

I was fortunate to be able to draw on some rich textual material from my contributors and the beginning of the website build coincided with further written submissions. I’d also been working on some writing of my own which continued alongside the website draft. November was thus a busy month of more shooting, website planning and building, writing and exhibition planning and I was pleased with the progress I was able to make in a short time.

Once the date of the exhibition was decided, I aimed to have the website ready to publish on the day prior the exhibition. This was to act as a primer and public introduction to the topic and would also be available to support the physical exhibition (e.g. I was able to refer exhibition visitors to the website for more information and images when meeting them at the gallery).

Text presented alongside images on the project website

Text presented alongside images on the project website

At time of launch, the website consisted of 36 images in 12 triptychs. Each triptych is presented with an accompanying text excerpt. The text being of varying length and type (interview transcript excerpts, creative prose or poetry) and in some instances chosen to seemingly reinforce the putative theme of the triptych and in others to challenge it. 

The website also includes information and statistics about the issues of solitude and loneliness and the emotional and psychological impact it has. In addition, the website includes contact information for agencies that are somehow related to this issue. 

Information about solitude and explaining the project in more detail on project website

Information about solitude and explaining the project in more detail on project website

The reaction from people who’ve visited the website has been very positive. I have received comments on the images, the impact of their presentation alongside text, the usefulness of the information that adds context to the topic and the value of including contacts to helpful organisations. 

I’ve been gratified to hear from a number of people that the work on the website has moved them emotionally, including a couple of visitors who have been moved to tears by the work. This was pleasing to hear from the point of view of confirming the success of a key project aim, that of engaging with the viewer’s emotions and producing work that carried an emotional weight. Again, I feel this was more successfully achieved by combining text and images than would have been achieved simply by images alone.

Links to relevant organisations on project website

Links to relevant organisations on project website

The website has also acted as a starting point for dialogue with people who are themselves interested in investigating this issue and with agencies who are already doing so. I have been able to refer them to the website for a quick appraisal of where I am with the work so far and what my standpoint is, and this has been a great platform from which to discuss potential collaborations or to launch ongoing dialogue about the issues involved. 

Overall then, I would say the website has been the most successful aspect of the project, because of its permanence and the fact it will allow the work to be visible and accessible in a way that suits the viewer. Based on the responses I received during the exhibition, there’s also likely to be a benefit from the ability to engage with the work online anonymously and at one’s own pace, my suspicion being that people are more comfortable engaging with and reflecting on this work when they feel under no pressure to react to it for an external observer or where they are not in danger of having a potentially emotional response noted by someone else.

In the near future I aim to add a short movie to the website, as well as more transcripts from recent interviews that were conducted just prior to the website being published. I will also continue to add images as the project continues in the weeks and months ahead.

Sustainable Prospects: Week 3 Reflection

This week, the focus has been on the challenges and opportunities afforded by the ever-increasing importance of digital image capture and image distribution platforms. We were set the task of devising a targeted social media strategy to increase our Instagram following by 30 or more followers over the week. This challenge felt particularly uncomfortable for me, as it requires me to explicitly acknowledge the fact that I have a desire and obligation to engage with my audience and thus to strategise the best way to achieve this. This feels instinctively inauthentic and contrived, which is not how I ever envisaged my photographic practice and not how I would wish to view myself. 

My Instagram homepage

My Instagram homepage

Since the start of this module I have been wrestling with this idea of professionalism and what that actually means, in practical and tangible terms. What does it mean for me to call myself a ‘professional photographer’? What behaviours and qualities do I have to demonstrate to be worthy of that title and to be able to meet the expectations of others who might engage me on a professional basis?

A lot of this conflict comes, I think, from a self-image that possibly doesn’t allow me to properly accept that I might be good at something or that I might wish to become good at it. It seems almost too boastful to call myself a ‘professional photographer’ and somewhat presumptuous to conduct myself as if I were one. There’s an inherent contradiction of course in that last statement, in that I am in the middle of an MA in photography so have already attained a certain level of competence and to progress from where I am now requires, actually probably demands, that I embrace the idea of professional practice and decide how best to operate within this new unfamiliar world. There is also the contradiction of shying away from the idea of professional or outward-facing practice while maintaining a website and social media presence that essentially only makes sense in the context of engaging with others and providing me a means to show my work to the world. Lauren Cornell’s (2015) words certainly cut right to the heart of this conflict:

“But social media, in its omnipresence and ubiquitous use, has become a main site for the contestation of identity and the self—a new arena that repeats and extends previous eras’ questions of visibility and self-definition, and begs for artistic challenge.

Hardy said she took the portraits only for herself without caring who might see them. “Only for me” now seems an outmoded or rare sentiment in a culture in which personal archives accumulate in public, not in bedrooms or on dusty hard drives.

When we take photographs today, we always care about who, besides us, might see them.”

Lauren Cornell, 2015

The final sentence there really hit home. It seemed almost impossible to run from this fact, that we always care about who might see our photos. This being the case, it then seems ridiculous to avoid an honest and thoughtful look at how we connect with our audience and who we believe, or would like, our audience to be. The next step from there is, inevitably, to decide on a strategy to achieve this audience connection in the best way possible.

So I’m back where I started.

Having accepted this reality but not yet being comfortable with it, I decided to instead update my website. This is something I have been meaning to do for some time, but had been avoiding for various reasons. 

Old website homepage

Old website homepage

I set about drafting an outline of what I wanted my new website to look like and searched around for an appropriate template that would fit my requirements. Once I started down this route, I faced a number of other technical and philosophical questions about website provider, domain names, how much I felt it was worth investing in getting a website that looked good and functioned well and what I was really trying to achieve with my website – did I just want a nice looking portfolio, did I want to represent myself in a professional manner to potential paying clients etc.

While it’s not necessary to articulate those decisions here, the act of thinking these things through has helped me understand what I’m trying to achieve with my work, what I thus need to try and get out of my MA studies and where I might want to go next. I have also accepted that I need to generate at least a rudimentary social media strategy and will thus get on to this as my next task now that the website is complete. 

New website homepage

New website homepage

For me, the key thing to reconcile is the desire to take photographs simply for my own pleasure, which is what drove me initially, with the present need to progress through my MA and to position myself for a post-MA world in which I hope to be able to practice as a photographer in some way or another.

“Once the world has been photographed it is never again the same. (This is where Eve and the Apple come in.)

Once the images begin to replace the world, photography loses much of its reason for being.

Into the vortex, then, comes the digital.”

Fred Ritchin, 2010, p23

I don’t want to lose sight of the world with all its complexity, nuance and beauty in the rush to create a well-strategised digital façade, however I concede that I must engage honestly with the digital world and its possibilities and will aim to do this in a more thoughtfully structured manner going forward.

References:

  • CORNELL, Lauren. 2015. ‘Self-Portraiture in the First-Person Age’. Aperture, Winter 2015, Issue 221, p34-41.
  • RITCHIN, Fred. 2010. After Photography. London, New York: W. W. Norton.