Work In Progress

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. 

Positions and Practice: Week 11 Reflection

The work during week 11 sharpened the focus on the forthcoming project proposal. The webinar was an opportunity for a group therapy session where we all expressed our growing anxiety and uncertainty about the assignment. Gary, our tutor, challenged us to consider who the audience is for the work we’re proposing to create in the weeks and months ahead.
Now, I haven’t previously given much thought to the identity and needs of the audience (I know that’s not the first time you’ve heard me say that during this module!) and there were certainly some heated discussions amongst the group, with some arguing that they’d rather create work to satisfy themselves rather than aiming to serve an audience at all. I was of the same view to begin with, but having considered things further I have to concede the importance of considering who my audience might be, and how best to reach them with my work. To ignore the audience entirely seems disingenuous, engaged as we are in this effort to create photographic work of a high standard, which none of us are intending to keep solely to ourselves. So, we must therefore concede something to the audience. After putting great effort into creating the work it seems logical to try and expose this it to as many people as possible in the way that it can be received in its best possible light. Only once you’ve accepted the need to acknowledge the audience can you identify it and position your work accordingly. 

A draft image for the 'work in progress' portfolio

A draft image for the 'work in progress' portfolio

Gary reassured us that not being able to identify the audience at this early stage is ok, as long as we keep this in mind as a target for the medium to long term, and certainly by the time we come to plan our final projects at the end of this MA. For me, thinking about audience is all part of the necessary change in mindset that I’ve been challenged to make since starting this course. Till now I’ve just taken photographs, with no real intention to speak of. For sure there have been themes that I’ve tended to return to, and I have found fragments of audience here and there, but this has happened without any forethought or strategy. I am starting to look at the process of putting this proposal together as a really important exercise in structuring and sharpening up my thoughts on my work and it’s really forcing me to take a critical approach to my own practice. This can only be beneficial, and once you view the proposal in this light it suddenly seems like a great opportunity rather than an incredibly daunting task that I’m not equipped to complete.
As I start to set down draft thoughts for the proposal, I’m finding that the best way to approach things is to try to answer specific questions rather than trying to shape these vast themes into a coherent argument. How on earth do you neatly summarise ‘urban solitude’? It’s basically impossible! Questions like ‘what am I trying to say?’, ‘what do I want the outcomes to be?’ help me to drill down to the crux of the topic and make things more manageable. I now feel more certain that I’ll be able to articulate my thoughts, at least in a preliminary way, in time to submit the proposal and can then build on it moving forward. I’m sure shooting more will also help to refine my ideas, and that’s something I must place more emphasis on as this module fades into the next.