Phonar: Task 3 – Email to Amy Elkins

For this task I also had to make a communication with the author of my assignment and pick the most appropriate method of communication. For Amy Elkins I felt that this was email as she is active on social media and has kept a blog for many years about her work and research and therefore it would be most appropriate to send an email with links to my own blog. Below is the email I wrote to her:

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The text in the email reads as following:

Dear Amy,

I am writing to you to inform you that I have recently completed the assignment that you set in the Photographer’s Playbook entitled Two Challenges. My name is Charlotte Pattinson and I am currently a second year BA (Hons) photography student at Coventry University whose own practice mainly focuses on the landscape and the natural environment however since completing your assignment along with many others from the Playbook it has changed my way of working and made me more open to experimentation and styles of photography that are out of my comfort zone. 

In the introduction to the assignment you said that you got given these tasks in your early stages of study they terrified you or nearly drove you to the edge of madness. This is also how I felt when I got set the assignments especially the one assigned by William Hendricks where I had to stay in one place and get 12 strangers to “sit for the camera” so I could take their portrait. For me this was the most challenging as I have always struggled with not only taking portraits but talking to people I am not familiar with and especially approaching strangers. When trying to complete the task I had many self doubts that I could not do it. I became very anxious about not only approaching a stranger to take their portrait but the act of doing this in a public space scared me. In order to get around this I chose to set myself up in one place at 1940’s event where people were dressed up for the event and it was very busy with constant streams of people. I felt that at this type of event it would be less daunting as they would be more willing to have their portrait taken as they were in character. Although I still felt nervous and anxious about asking them it was more manageable and this allowed me to relax more when taking the portraits and I am happy with the outcome. Due to this experience I have learnt more about myself as a photographer and as person and have gained confidence in taking peoples portraits. It will still take more attempts for me to feel more confident in doing it again however I feel that I am able to overcome this in the future. 

In addition to this, the other part of your assignment that was assigned by Silvio Wolf challenged me in different ways. It took me a while to get my head around what ‘nothing’ was and how I could translate this into a visual piece when often nothing is a feeling of absence. After researching into Wolf’s work and experimenting with accidental images and the visual language surrounding the darkness and light this led me to make an image that explored absence in an image. The image was an accidental mistake made during the developing process when developing my roll of film. An area of blackness took over the image and only part of the original scene from the image remained which makes you intrigued as to what the rest of the scene would look like without the black mark. Overall I really enjoyed this part of the assignment as it gave me an opportunity to experiment conceptually as well as with different mediums. 

If you are interested in viewing the images I have taken from your assignment I have blogged about it and you can find my research, experimentation and final images here: https://charlottepattinson.wordpress.com/tag/task-3/ 

Kind Regards,

Charlotte 

Phonar: Task 3 – Step 4 & 5 (Final Images + Critical Rationale)

The assignment I was given was split in to two parts. Part one was assigned by Silvio Wolf where I had to photograph nothing and part two was assigned by William Hendricks and I had to get 12 strangers to sit for the camera. Due to the nature of the assignment I have produced different styles of images however they have both been informed by my research into the artists who set the tasks.

Part 1

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Critical Rationale:

I found this part of my assignment equally as challenging as taking portraits of strangers. At first I began trying to rationalise what ‘nothing’ was and how this can be translated into a visual form. My starting point was to look into the work of Silvio Wolf, the author of my assignment, and try to gain an understanding of why he set the assignment and how in turn this related to his own practice. In Wolf’s work he explores the threshold between light and dark and the relationship between the present and the absent.

I was greatly influenced by his series entitled ‘Horizons’ where Wolf used a chance-based darkroom process to create images of abstract fields of colour. It was this use of black and colour which inspired me to experiment with film photography and the developing process. The final image I have produced draws on themes of absence and presence within an image and how the black area indicates absence and makes the viewer question what the rest of the image would look like if the darkness was not there. The black area of the image was accidental and I did not originally intend for the image to turn out like this while shooting the film as I had no control over it. However drawing on the experimental methodology of Wolf I decided to keep the images that did not turn out how I expected in order to represent how ‘nothing’ can simply be the unknown.

Part 2

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This assignment proved to be the most challenging that I have been set so far as I am most comfortable photographing landscapes rather than people. The assignment called for me to go to a place with a decent foot traffic and once set up I was not allowed to move from that spot until I had taken a minimum of 12 portraits. I wanted to go to a place that people were more willing to have their portrait taken and somewhere that had a cultural backdrop and setting rather than just in the street as this would mean the portraits would be more diverse and I would gain confidence in taking peoples portraits.

I went to a 1940’s war weekend event and positioned myself near the stalls and displays however I adapted the brief and instead of staying put in one place I moved up and down the row of stalls and set myself this small area to take the images in. I also approached people to take their portrait rather than waiting for them to come to me. I found this method more successful than simply staying in one place as it allowed me to interact with the participant more and capture them in a more relaxed manner as I was able to introduce myself and explain why I wanted to take their portrait. I originally shot the images in colour so I had the option of keeping them in colour or black and white. However once reviewing the images I decided to change them to black and white as I found the background of the images in colour were distracting and in black and white the details of the portrait stand out more which is what I wanted the focus of the image to be. The black and white also matches the photographs that would of been taken in this time period and I feel that it works more with the cultural context of the images. In addition to this the brief called for a minimum of 10 prints to be shown to a class however instead of printing these images in a physical way and sharing them with people in person I felt it was appropriate to present the images in digital form on my blog and on my Instagram as they will be shared with a wider audience.

Phonar: Task 3 – Step 3 (Amy Elkins)

For step 3 of task 3 I had to create an image in the style of my author Amy Elkins. The image that I created can be seen below with the accompanying text and on Instagram here.

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Inspired by Amy Elkins work in ‘Whilst I am Drawing Breath’ I have created a collage of photos that are taken on a disposable camera whilst on my travels. Just like in Elkins series the images are by no means technically perfect and have personal marks such as the smug on the lens and the slightly off angle. For me they are snapshots of my travels. While Elkins used a camera on her phone to take the images in her series and I opted for a disposable camera as I was still able to make spontaneous images and I could not be edit or deleted them after shooting. The low quality of the images in both of our images reinforces the idea of taking the photo in the moment and creating a visual diary that is more concerned with using the image as a memory like a diary entry rather than taking a technically good photograph

Phonar: Task 3 – Step 2 (Amy Elkins)

I originally planned to research into all three of the authors of my assignment however when researching online and in the library there was nothing on William Hendricks therefore I was unable to get an idea of his work or as a person. As a result I have only created visual portraits and photos in the style of for two of my authors however I felt this was suffice in getting to know why they set the assignments they did and has made me experiment with styles and methods of working I would not normally do.

Below is my response to step 2 for Amy Elkins and shows my visual portrait of her and accompanying text. The post can also be found on Instagram here.

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For task 3 I had to create a visual portrait of Amy Elkins and the image above shows my visual representation of her. Elkins has received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and her work primary focuses on intimate formal portraits primarily of men through which she explores vulnerability, the nuances of identity, and transitional states. However in Elkins most personal work ‘Whilst I am Drawing Breath’ she has created a body of work containing images that were taken while on her two year artist residency in Germany. In my opinion this work shows Elkins personal experiences, her identity, transitory states in her life and the vulnerability that comes along with this. The title “Whilst I am Drawing Breath” also suggests the importance of the current moment; her life the way she sees it at this moment in time and everything that comes with being alive and breathing.

Phonar: Task 3 – Artist Research (Amy Elkins)

Focused primarily on men, photographer Amy Elkins makes intimate formal portraits through which she explores vulnerability, the nuances of identity, and transitional states. Working in series she has captured college rugby players immediately after a game who are shown to be marked by bruises and cuts in her series “Elegant Violence.

 

Elkins describes the images in the series as “an extension of my ongoing exploration into masculine identity. In this particular project I am fascinated with rugby, a brutal contact sport rich in tradition, dating back to the 1800’s. I’m interested in the balance between athleticism, modes of violence or aggression and varying degrees of vulnerability within a sport where brutal body contact is fundamental to the game. I am also interested in the history of the game and how it has long been described as both traditional and barbaric, elegant and violent…..Throughout art and photography history, the male gaze is used to explore and portray female sensuality, sexuality, beauty and vulnerability. This portrayal suggests to the audience that women should be seen this way. I am not trying to reverse the role of power that has been assumed by the male gaze. I am simply turning the gaze around a little and exploring the notion that females aren’t the only gender susceptible to fragility.”

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The above image is from Elkins series ‘Whilst I am Drawing Breath’. Although there was no artist statement about this series apart from a sentence explaining how it was made whilst on an artist residency in Germany I have interpreted the images in my own way. In my opinion the work shows Elkins personal experiences, her identity, transitory states in her life and the vulnerability that comes along with this. The title “Whilst I am Drawing Breath” also suggests the importance of the current moment; her life the way she sees it at this moment in time and everything that comes with being alive and breathing. The images are very varied and show her travels but also that she has constant thoughts of wanting to be somewhere else, or maybe even be someone else. Even so, she chooses to make images of her life the way it is and about her feelings the way they are. The rest of the series is very dream-like and gives me the feeling of sitting around, staring out a window into nothingness.

Phonar: Task 3 – Step 1 (Initial Brief)

For task 3 I was given the assignment in the Photographer’s Playbook entitled Two Challenges by Amy Elkin. However the two assignments underneath her introduction were written and assigned by two different photographers. I have simplified the assignment as seen below in my tweet which can also be found here.

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My initial thoughts when beginning research was to begin researching into each of the different photographers that set the assignments – Amy Elkins, Silvio Wolf and William Hendricks. As the introduction to the assignment is given by Amy Elkins and the two parts of the assignment are assigned by different photographers by researching into their work it will enable to me gain a further understanding as to why they set the assignment and how it relates to their practice. In turn, this will also give me inspiration and ideas as to how to approach the separate assignments.

My initial thoughts of these assignments are that they are both challenging in their own right and both will require different approaches; one will require more conceptual work and thinking while the other will require on the spot thinking. I believe the assignment that will challenge me the most is part 2 where I will have to not only ask strangers to take their portrait but take the portrait itself. Portrait and street photography is an area within photography that I lack confidence in and I have always struggled with taking peoples portraits, whether this be friends or family as well as strangers. Therefore this task will push me not only technically but as a person.