154MC: The Teacher’s Diary Film Review

The-Teachers-Diary-2014

The Teacher’s Diary is a heartfelt romantic comedy that was directed and written by Nithiwat Tharathorn, a director what is well known within the Thai film industry, particularly for this solo debut film Seasons Change. With a growing list of successful romantic comedy films, The Teacher’s Diary further is set to contribute to this legacy. The two characters lives break the typical romantic comedy motif of boy meets girl, fall in love only to break up and get back together at the end. A change that was very refreshing to watch. The two characters lives run parallel with one another and take a similar turn of events as they face the same difficulties as one another. However they never meet until the end. The eagerly anticipated meeting of the characters is one of the aspects that draws the audience in and leaves them wanting more and wanting to know if Ann and Song ever meet.

After being fired from her job at a school, Ann is given a second chance to move to a remote island and teach on a boathouse. Song, a PE teacher is confronted with a similar opportunity to teach on the island for one year. Tired of their old lives and looking for a change, Song and Ann both gave up everything they had to teach children on the remote boathouse. The island was devoid of all aspects of modern life and this proved particularly difficult for both characters, even Ann who is a very strong willed. With an ever-encroaching feeling of loneliness and isolation as well as the struggle of maintaining a long distance relationship, Ann turned to her diary as a place to vent her frustrations and experiences. With the feeling of hopelessness Song was close to leaving the island completely when the discovery of Ann’s illustrated journal changes is perception. Song begins to read the journal and he is able to relate to everything Ann has written, thus it changes his outlook of the situation. He admires Ann’s determination and dedication and in turn he begins to put more effort into the teaching and forms close relationships with the children. Not only does this help develop Song’s character it shows just how important the quality of education is and it serves as a metaphor for never giving up.

The continuous anti-climax of their failed meetings finally ceases at the end of the film, a point where the whole audience let out a sigh of relief. The two leading actors create realistic and loveable characters that the audience can relate to. Although the dialogue was tightly scripted there was no shortage of laughable moments. These moments ensured the film remained light-hearted and never too melancholy. Furthermore the setting of the film provided a cinematic view of the remote island and captured the essence of the film perfectly. The moody mornings to the faded golden light in the evening created a pathetic fallacy, an aspect that made the cinematography work extremely well.

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154MC: A Record of Sweet Murder Film Review

A Record of Sweet Murder is a lurid psychodrama and mockumentary film by controversial Japanese director Koji Shiraishi. This is a director whose name many western audiences may only recognise due to the controversy of his earlier film ‘Grotesque’. The film failed to be classified by the BBFC due to the harrowing and graphic depictions of sexual violence. Continuing within this horror sub-genre, Shiraishi creates a found footage style film that consists of one continuous 86-minuet take. The long take draws on parallels in Hitchcock’s films, as well as other found footage horror films such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. As the audience we are able to get an exclusive view of what would be an unseen situation.

The film begins with what appears to be an opportunity for an exclusive interview with an old friend. However, in true thriller style, it ends up being a life threatening and nauseating experience for journalist Soyeon. Childhood friend Sangjoon, who has recently escaped from a mental institution, has contacted Soyeon. Over the phone he explains that he has murdered 18 people and promises to reveal everything to her in an exclusive interview. However he wants the interview to be recorded and with one strict condition; the cameraman has to be Japanese. The recording aims to prove that he isn’t delusional, yet this very candid manner of documenting the event only highlights to the audience the extreme and cold-blooded nature of his actions.

The setting for the interview is a grimy apartment in a run down neighbourhood in Seoul. After arriving in the dilapidated apartment, Soyeon is confronted by a frantic and knife wielding Sangjoon. Immediately it is made clear that Sangjoon is not content with his previous murders. The audience begins to wonder why he is not content and why he has committed these abhorrent crimes, this understanding of why is what underpins the entirety of the film. Sangjoon wants to find salvation through pure love, this deep-rooted obsession started after the death of his childhood friend. Hysterically he tells Soyeon that a higher force has told him that in order to find this sacred pure love he must subject innocent people to violence and even death in order to prove that pure love exists.

The intensity of the situation progresses throughout the film and as a viewer you are left feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the violence and morals behind Sangjoon’s actions. The shaking camera adds to the panic and hysteria, yet at some points the camera remains still. The cameraman appears to have become almost calm and unfased by the brutal realities in front of him. This inconsistency in filming is easily noticeable to the audience due to the one take approach.

While Record may make western audiences feel uncomfortable it still stands as a mellow and toned down version of this popular sub-genre within Japanese films. Due to this, I believe that we will not see films like Record in UK cinemas any time soon.

154MC: Artefact Informed by Extra Curricular Activity

The images below are a selection of those I was commissioned to take for a small-scale local flower business. The owner of the business is very passionate about growing British flowers and preserving the heritage of Britain’s flowers. They grow every flower by hand and produce the final arrangements themselves, using self sources quirky vases, jam jars and pottery. I found this process very unique in an industry which is heavily dominated by mass market, imported flowers that are prepackaged and sold in supermarkets. I wanted to ensure that I had the same vision as the client for the photo shoot so I discussed the types of images they wanted and put together a mood board with them. By finding out more about the business and it’s vision I was able to produce the style of images which they wanted and also the type of images that would appeal to their target audience.

A lot of the inspiration came from magazines such as Kinfolk and Country Living which showcase the natural and organic nature of the growing process and the flowers. The images have an analogue and rustic feel to them which makes them feel homely and show a relaxed lifestyle which is very family orientated. I wanted the images to create a narrative of the flowers being grown, put together by hand and showcase them in their final form. One of they key aspects I wanted to showcase was how the flowers are all grown by hand and that every aspect of the process is natural. Therefore the images were not staged or set up, I took the pictures when I saw an interesting moment.

I am also very interested in small craft businesses and artists who produce high quality artisan products and are passionate about what they do. In the future I want to be able to share these peoples stories and by using my photography I want to promote and showcase their skills. This is an area of photography I would like to develop further. After reading Kinfolk I noticed that alongside the images there is also an article about the artist and what their trade is. I found this very interesting because it allows the reader to gain a further insight into the artist and trade that they would not get simply from viewing the image. In my future work I want to try and include something like this to strengthen my images and reinforce the story telling aspect of my work.

Below are the images I took for the business.

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The images were then used to promote the business on social media, websites and on posters. One of the images was also used as a feature article about the business in Miss to Mrs magazine.

154MC: Letter to Self & Response

Hi future me! It’s past you here!

You’re currently writing this on the 3rd September in your bedroom. You said you’d get all the summer tasks done earlier but you haven’t. Plus you really don’t want your brother to move into your room when you leave. Your mum and dad promised to let you keep it when you move to uni but some how you know it’s going to get turned into an xbox/game room for your brother and his friends. The main reason you wanted to keep your room was because it was bigger and you really didn’t want your brother messing up your book shelves and alphabetically ordered DVD and album collection…in case you forgot. It’s little things like this which you seem to worry about.

Right now you’re feeling apprehensive yet excited to move on with a new chapter in your life and learn more about what you love and explore different types of photography and grow as an artist. You’re finally going on that course and following your passion and are one step closer to achieving your dream of being a photographer. Don’t let other people, especially family members, tell you that it’s ‘stupid’ because it’s a creative and not academic course…and that you could of gone onto do something academic and earn lots of money… Photography and art is what you love and what you’ve always wanted to do.

Right now, you are honestly feeling a bit overwhelmed by the initial first week…what will your flatmates be like? Will you enjoy it? Will you have enough money to actually live on? And will you make friends and find people with the same interests as you? You’re also feeling really sad and nostalgic about leaving behind your best friends which you’ve known for 7 years. Remember to keep in contact with them because they mean everything to you right now. Ask them how their day was and if they want to Facetime. Meet up with them in the holidays. Ask them if they want to go to the only decent place in town and get a coffee. Remember to call your mum and let her known how you’re doing, because although she says she’s okay about you leaving, deep down you know she’s not. Ask her if she’s doing okay and how the business is going. You’re ready to move out of the small town you’ve lived in the whole of your life and you want to explore new places and find new opportunities but at the same time you know you will miss living in a smaller town. You’ve always said you hated cities because there’s no nature …well I guess we’ll see if anything changes. You could always get a train you know.

Also just letting you know that a packet of crisps and coco pops does not count as lunch …you need to make sure you look after yourself and try to cook healthy meals. Use those 10 billion Jamie Oliver recipe books your mum gave you! and make sure you actually use that free gym membership. Those two running sessions with Dad in the summer did not count as your years worth of exercise. You want to try new things and you’re looking forward to joining societies and getting involved. You said to yourself you’d join a sports society and be more active. You also really want to join a geography society because you love geography. Please please please keep reading and going to museums and galleries and learning. Don’t forget to do things that make you happy. It’s okay to marathon those David Attenborough and Brian Cox documentaries and read in your room but make sure you actually have some sort of social life.

You’re starting to do that thing you do when you are venturing into the unknown and that is to panic and doubt yourself. You’re even worried that the colander you bought on that big trip to Ikea is in fact not suitable for draining rice even though dad said it was. Did you ever buy a new one? also did you end up buying a tin opener?? Right now at this moment in time you’re not very confident and that does hold you back and can stop you from talking to people and trying new things. I hope by next year this improves and you’re able to do all the things you wanted to do.

Right now some basic things are a challenge to you. Such as going to the doctors by yourself, booking a hair dressers appointment and even taking the bus or train. Dad can’t give you a lift back from Coventry forever you know. Just keep practicing it will get easier.

You want that First in photography, continue to work hard and don’t ever give in. Don’t get distracted by others and stop trying to please everyone and help them with everything, you have to learn to put yourself first sometimes. Be who you are, whoever that may be. You’re still trying to figure that out. Continue to write in your journal and don’t stop writing your blog, you really like doing that.

One last thing! This is probably the most important …Maybe try to stop talking about geography at parties or social situations and telling awful jokes which you found in Christmas crackers like 4 years ago. If you ever play the ‘ring of fire’ drinking game please don’t mention that that is where tectonic activity and earthquakes and volcanoes are found…

I hope you’re one step closer to achieving your goal of developing as a photographer and being more confident in yourself. I hope that you have found good people and friends that are supportive and you can be yourself around.

From past you!


Response to Self

Dear past Charlotte,

A lot has changed since you wrote that letter and moved to university to start your course. Things weren’t as bad as you though. You’ve had your ups and downs and gone through the homesick phase but you’ve got through it now. In fact in the holidays you want to go back after about a week, you want to get your independence back. The first two weeks really tested you and there was moments when you thought it wasn’t for you and you had no idea what was going on. You kept feeling really anxious and feeling panicky but now you’re into a good routine and have learnt how to handle things much better. Living on your own and managing your work isn’t as difficult as you thought. You know your limits but you’ve tried so many new things. In September you’d never of been able to take four trains home or even thought you’d be able to keep on top of the work. Before you came to university you said you felt like you hadn’t made the right decision, lots of your friends and family had told you it was a waste of your time but the truth is you did what was right for you. You followed your instincts and your heart and now you’re doing something you love and are surrounded by great friends!

By doing something you love and surrounding yourself around likeminded people you’ve definitely become more confident in yourself and are having fun while learning. Just think if you chose to study business at university like your A Level teacher told you to do. I don’t think you would of been happy or excited about your future or feel inspired at all. In your letter you mentioned how you wanted to do your best and I think you have. This year you’ve put yourself out of your comfort zone and tried lots of new things within photography and personally. Before you’d never have dreamed you’d be able to present in front of a class or have been able to print in a darkroom.

I have to say that although you occasionally have coco pops for lunch you are eating really well. You don’t even buy any snacks like crisps! When you go shopping you spend more money on vegetables than anything else and you actually enjoy cooking for yourself now. Although you’ve only been to the gym twice you shouldn’t feel bad though, I mean you do walk everywhere! At the time it was important to you to join all these societies but right now it’s quite an insignificant thing. You’ve had lots of other opportunities with people on your course and at the time it seemed like a big thing because that seemed like the only way to meet new people and friends.

If you were to see yourself now you’d feel really proud of what you’ve achieved so far. Just keep on doing what you’re doing and continue to work hard and it will all be worth it. Try and take up as many new opportunities as possible and try and get more involved with the photography world!

From,

Your future self

154MC: Walking the High Line by Joel Sternfeld – An Extended Critical Reflection

walking the high line

Sternfeld trekked through the untamed wilderness of the New York High Line with a large format 8 by 10 inch Matthew Brady style camera for one year. He documented and captured the beauty of the High Line throughout the seasons in an attempt to help Friends of the High Line’s campaign to save the elevated tracks from being demolished. The images are deeply concerned with the degrading and capricious landscape of an urban relic and provide documentation and a social commentary on the state of the once grand but now degenerate High Line that ran above the Lower West Side of Manhattan.

The tenuous balance of nature and culture in Sternfeld’s work is very apparent in this body of work; however the roles have reversed. In Sternfeld’s previous work he highlights how humans have impacted the natural environment, yet in Walking the High Line, Sternfeld presents to the viewer an alternative and unseen view of New York. A world where nature has reclaimed an urban environment. The images reveal a hybrid landscape of flora and fauna that was untouched by humans for over two decades, a rare spectacle in a city where nearly every square inch has been taken over by real estate and development.

The images in Walking the High Line bear a similar relation to that of his earlier colour work, such as American Prospects and On this Site. Sternfeld’s attention to detail and colour palettes are just some of the factors which make his images so distinctive. Colour functions as a tool as well as an art form that connects the different elements in his images together and resonates profoundly with the viewer. In essence, colour to Sternfeld is what the decisive moment was to Henry Cartier-Bresson. In today’s image flood it is difficult to escape over saturated and heavily edited images however, Sternfeld’s work is refreshing. Incorporating his own extensive knowledge of colour theory into each of his images, the pastel and slightly under saturated palettes have become deeply rooted within his work and play an integral part in conveying narrative. In addition, the Bauhaus concept of balancing colour has greatly underpinned his portraits and landscapes.

A less sensitive observer would see weeds and ruin yet Sternfeld was able to see the hidden beauty in the changing light and colours. The full bleed double sided images in the book allow the viewer to seamlessly transition from one season to the next and allow the viewer to see the High Line through the eyes of Sternfeld. The large images in the book allow the viewer to get up close to the High Line and pick out details of the changing landscape. From the rich rustic browns and oranges of the Autumn time which embody the tones of the surrounding factories, right through to the lush and vibrant green meadows Sternfeld has managed to take the viewer to another world. At first glance it appears that Sternfeld has superimposed these landscapes to create a surreal dream world in the sky that runs through New York. However it was this beauty of the changing seasons on the High Line that first captured Sternfeld’s attention. The images embody his admiration for the ever-changing landscape and pay homage to how nature and the urban environment can coexist, even if there is a struggle to begin with.

The composition of the images centers on the path that Sternfeld walked. As a viewer we are able to see that in some areas of the track it was so dense with foliage that what lay beyond the path was unclear. This in itself can be seen as an allegory for the fractured social history of the surrounding landscape and also the once uncertain future of the High Line. The effect the images had on the public was comparable to the impact William Henry Jackson’s first images of Yellowstone had over 100 years a go. The book captured the public’s attention and the unseen world of the High Line resonated with them deeply.

Sternfeld’s book Walking the High Line played a fundamental role in saving the High Line and gaining support for the preservation of such a unique and monumental piece of engineering. The images were widely reproduced and acted as a catalyst and focal point for the campaign to save the High Line and turn it into a public park. The images sparked debate and got people talking about the High Line again.

In The New Yorker in 2001, Adam Gopnik published an article and praised Sternfeld as the “poet keeper of the High Line” [Gopnik 2001: 48] and in the back of the book it features one of his essays about the making of Sternfeld’s work. Gopnik’s essay gives the reader more context about the making of the images and why they were so influential, as well as further information about what the High Line has been turned into. However the first essay by John Stilgoe approaches the High Line in a more historical manner, discussing past explorers and the history of the railroad. Although Stilgoe’s essay adds historical context and highlights the importance of the railroad in history, in places it can often drag, causing the meaning behind his words can become lost and fragmented. As a result the reader may lose interest in an essay that could potentially be very poignant.

Without Sternfeld’s images and the Walking the High Line book, the campaign may not have had the support it had. Subsequently the High Line would cease to exist today. Sternfeld sought every way to gain more exposure for his work in order to raise awareness of the High Line. As well as working with the German art publisher to create his book he also coordinated a show at the Pace/McGill Gallery. As a result, Sternfeld has managed to create a quintessential book that documented an important chapter in the city’s history.

References

1000 Words Magazine (2015) Photo Book Essays and Interviews [online] available from http://www.1000wordsmag.com/interviews/ [8 April 2015] Bauhaus Online (2015) Paul Klee Colour Theory [online] available from http://bauhaus-online.de/en/atlas/das-bauhaus/lehre/unterricht-paul-klee [9 April 2015] Bunyan, M. (2012) Joel Sternfeld: Colour Photography since 1970 [online] available from http://artblart.com/2012/10/03/exhibition-joel-sternfeld-colour-photographs-since-1970-at-albertina-vienna/ [9 April 2015] Friends of the High Line (2002) New York Voices: Joel Sternfeld. [online] available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNzr7g8FQgk [9 April 2015] Friends of the High Line (2015) Information about the High Line [online] available from http://www.thehighline.org/ [8 April 2015] Frieze Magazine (2003) Joel Sternfeld’s Work [online] available from http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/joel_sternfeld/ [9 April 2015] Lekach, M. (2015) Bauhaus Colour Movement. [online] available from http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/08/15/know-your-design-history-the-bauhaus-movement/ [9 April 2015] Sternfeld, J., Stilgoe., Gopnik, A. (2001) Joel Sternfeld: Walking the High Line. Germany: Steidl, Göttingen Sundance Channel (2012) High Line Stories: Joel Sternfeld [online] available from https://vimeo.com/25597979 [9 April 2015]

154MC: Summer Task: Final Visual Diary and Reflection

My final visual diary consists of a collages of images which I have taken using the camera on my phone. At the beginning of this task I found it difficult to find one thing which I wanted to show throughout my diary, I wanted to be able to encompass perhaps the mundane aspects of my days but also the places and moments in time which I found interesting and inspiring. I wanted to document a long period of time and be able to reflect back upon these images at a later date and remember what I was doing then. After the group feedback it was clear that I had to narrow down my style and theme for my visual diary to ensure it was consistent and coherent.s

I keep a journal where I stick pictures of any inspiration, moments and places I want to remember and I also collect items such as tickets and information guides of where I have been. Accompanying these items is often a written entry of my thoughts and feelings. For me this is a way of keeping everything in one place and having a physical recollection of events. I began to realise that I use my phone in a similar way. I use the camera on it to document a moment quickly and easily, I don’t particularly have to think about composing the shot it is just how I want to capture it. I personally feel that it gives me more freedom in choosing the decisive moment and it is more out of instinct on when to take the picture.

If I was to use a DSLR camera for this I do not believe it would feel and look as natural, I feel like I would have subconsciously been aware of the lighting, the composition of the shot and I would have been restricted in some cases of what I could fit into the frame or where I could use my camera. If I was to bring my camera with me it felt as if I was constantly looking out for something special and significant to photograph, however with my phone it felt more instantaneous and in the moment.

In addition to this, some of the pictures I take on my phone I post to my Instagram. For me this is a way of putting the images in one place and having a record of them. I am able to see the date when I posted it as well as the caption. Therefore it makes it an electronic and solely visual diary. It is also a way for me to share with other people what I find interesting, what inspires me and what I am doing in my day. As humans I feel we have a need to share stories and experiences with other people and this is why the idea of a more candid documentary style of photograph appealed to me above the more stylised images I began shooting for this task.

Following on from this idea, I wanted to present my images in a way which replicates a similar style to that of Instagram. The images on Instagram are presented in a grid format which shows square thumbnail like images. This layout allows the viewer to view the images in chronological order and also view a series of events all at once. My images are also presented in this manner. The images read from right to left and as the collage progresses downwards a different time is shown. The most recent images being at the top and the oldest images at the bottom. I arranged the images into chronological order as this is how I would present it if it was in a journal.

The main sources of inspiration for this visual diary were bloggers, other Instagram users and many amateur photographers on Flickr who share images of their everyday lives. However as I began to look more into these images it made me realise how these digital images are in many ways mimicking the Polaroid. A medium which many people used to capture moments instantly and were accepting of its imperfections and it was these imperfections which made the photograph more personal and memorable. Some of the polaroids I found particularly interesting are those made by Ansel Adams, who is more known for his large-scale black and white images.

Furthermore my visual diary is very personal and I would not expect a wide audience to view it beyond myself and friends. However if I was to present this to a large audience I would include text alongside the image as I feel it would give more context to the images and give the audience a further insight into why I took the image and how I was feeling. The images would be presented in a journal like book and the accompanying text would be hand written as I believe this makes the image and text look more authentic and organic. A photographer whose work is similar to this style of presentation is Duane Michals and for me the image and handwritten text work very well together.

154MC: Summer Task: Visual Diary (Initial Ideas and Images)

Before starting the course in September, one of the tasks we had to complete in the summer was to produce a visual diary. The brief stated that it should be as intimate and honest as we are able to be and to make images from the first time we open our eyes in the morning all the way through to when we go to sleep. We were given books to use as inspiration such as ‘Closer’ by Elinor Carucci, ‘I’ll be your Mirror’ by Nan Goldin and ‘Hide That Can’ by Deirdre O’Callaghan. However the body of work which inspired me the most was Hide That Can. The images are honest and very personal and the use of bold colours and natural lighting in the images is something I found particularly interesting. Unlike Goldin and Carucci who’s images can be described as audacious and candor, O’Callaghan’s images are easier to view yet still have an impact. I think one of the reasons why they impacted on me more is because I was interested in the lives and stories of the people that were photographed.

At first I found it difficult to narrow down a theme I wanted to show within my images to make the diary flow better. I began photographing the morning light in my bedroom and the rain trickling down my windows, the morning light on my bed sheets. The little things which determined my mood.

However I felt these images had a melancholy feel to them and although I was in some ways apprehensive to start university and leave my friends behind, I also explored many new places and had a great time in summer. When exploring new places or things I am doing in my day I mainly using the camera on my phone. For me it is a quick way of documenting a place/event, I don’t have to think about setting the camera up or framing the shot so it is perfect. For me this crates a visual journal of all the places i’ve been and what I found interesting there. I continued taking images in this style and I felt like this was more natural for me.

I often upload these images to my Instagram as a way of keeping all my images in one place. The images are taken from my Instagram which is why they are cropped as a square however like how uniform this makes all the images and how the images are laid out in a grid format on Instagram. Another reason I like the square format of the images is that it replicates a polaroid. One of the things I love about Polaroid images is that they are instant and provide a snapshot of a moment. The size of them allows you to put them in a journal or diary.

At the beginning of the first term we had to share our visual diaries with our group and tutor. I received feedback from the group which said that they thought the first images were strong and reminded them of Todd Hido’s work because of the soft colours and lighting. However many people seemed to like the Instagram style images more as they liked how personal they were and how when put together they acted as a visual journal.

One of the pieces of feedback which I agreed with is that the style and aesthetic of the images need to be the same. I need to decide if I am going to shoot with my DSLR camera in the style of the first images or continue to document my life using my phone camera.