Category Archives: Assignment 3

Assignment 3

The brief

… you can approach your self-portraits however you see fit. You may choose to explore your identity or masquerade as someone else, or use empty locations or objects to speak of your experiences. However you choose to approach it, use yourself – directly or indirectly – as subject matter.

Introduction

I emigrated from South Africa to Canada twenty years ago with my husband and two sons. A lot of water has passed under bridge since then, but one was and still is constantly reminded that one is an immigrant, which is rather strange as Canada is land of immigrants. People are labeled as Indo-Canadians, African-Canadians, etc., and I suppose I’m a South African Canadian, even though I no longer have South African citizenship, having given that up when I became naturalized as a Canadian. I work at a university which caters primarily to the international student and have watched students struggling to get over the culture shock of coming to a new country. I decided to investigate the emotional aspects of immigration a little and posed a few questions to the SA Canada Facebook group to which I belong.

  1. When do you stop being an immigrant and become a “non-immigrant”? For this question I was after their conscious mental switch-over and not the legal route of becoming a Canadian citizen
  2. When do you begin to identify with your new place of residence?
  3. When does it become home?
  4. When do you feel you lose ties with your old homeland?

The responses I received were interesting and varied and I found that I had experienced most of these emotions myself.

Someone told me or I read it recently, unfortunately I cannot remember which, that the self-portrait is like a rite of passage for the photographer. It most certainly feels that way. After having photographed myself quite extensively in Assignment 2, which was also a self-portrait of sorts, I have chosen to go the self-absented portrait route, mixing found objects, body parts and shadows to create my project in order to portray the emotions of the quotations. I drew a lot of my inspiration from Cecil B whose work is quite varied, Maha Alasaker and Giacomo Brunelli.

Fig 01 As a new immigrant, the initial sense of dislocation is enormous
Fig 01 As a new immigrant, the initial sense of dislocation is enormous
Fig 02 There are many new things to learn and get used to – like driving in snow
Fig 02 There are many new things to learn and get used to – like driving in snow
Fig 03 Your accent and mannerisms will always set you that little bit apart (1)
Fig 03 Your accent and mannerisms will always set you that little bit apart (1)
Fig 04 We regret to inform you that, although your qualifications are superb, you lack the necessary Canadian experience …
Fig 04 We regret to inform you that, although your qualifications are superb, you lack the necessary Canadian experience …
Fig 05 No shared sense of humour. You put a big part of your South African-ness in a box and stash it away (2)
Fig 05 No shared sense of humour. You put a big part of your South African-ness in a box and stash it away (2)
Fig 06 No shared childhood, no shared memories of things that historically happened, no frame of reference to things people sometimes refer to or remember (3)
Fig 06 No shared childhood, no shared memories of things that historically happened, no frame of reference to things people sometimes refer to or remember (3)
Fig 07 Home is wherever Mom is (4)
Fig 07 Home is wherever Mom is (4)
Fig 08 You are reminded of differences every day and it is up to you as a person to fit in or f.. off to be blunt. The thing is Africa is in your soul and no matter how hard you try it will always be a part of who you are (5)
Fig 08 You are reminded of differences every day and it is up to you as a person to fit in or f.. off to be blunt. The thing is Africa is in your soul and no matter how hard you try it will always be a part of who you are (5)
Fig 09 You always have your memories. Remember those never-ending sand dunes and soft sand on the South African beaches …
Fig 09 You always have your memories. Remember those never-ending sand dunes and soft sand on the South African beaches …
Fig 10 As long as I have family back home I will always have ties to my homeland (6)
Fig 10 As long as I have family back home I will always have ties to my homeland (6)

As requested by my tutor, my contact sheets for my other images are below:

Contact Sheet 1
Contact Sheet 1
Contact Sheet 2
Contact Sheet 2
Contact Sheet 3
Contact Sheet 3
Contact Sheet 4
Contact Sheet 4

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

My equipment used for this assignment were my 18-140 mm lens together with my Nikon D7200, tripod and remote shutter release. I also used off and on camera flash in a couple of images. I know many photographers turn their shadow images into black and white, but after trying this effect on some of the images and finding the photos to be too washed out, I chose to keep my set of images in colour. I have tried to interpret the quotations metaphorically, while at the same time trying to leave the interpretations open so that immigrants from other countries can relate to them as well.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

I am quite happy with the outcome of these images, although I am definitely more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. However, by doing a self absented series, the process was a little easier. I had initially planned on doing an abstract theme but was advised by my tutor not to get too caught up with techniques. So I changed direction and adopted another approach to the assignment.  My planning pages can be viewed on these pages: Planning for Assignment 3, Planning for Assignment 3 Update,  and Assignment 3 Planning – Time for Peer Feedback. I put some test images up for peer review on the OCA Facebook Level 1 group, as well as getting some feedback from a photographer friend, a work colleague and the only other OCA student in Canada, who is studying textiles. I was pleased with the constructive suggestions and positive feedback which can be read here. I was happy to see that my images were speaking and creating emotional connections. I have taken some of the suggestions on board and applied some changes as suggested. I am finding the feedback on the OCA Facebook Level 1 group invaluable.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

I think that doing some researching among members of the SACanada forum was crucial to the interpretation of my images.  I have played with the sequencing of the images and hopefully have achieved a rhythm as advised by my tutor in my last assignment. Even though most of the quotations for the images were made by other people, I feel the sentiments expressed are mine as well, as I have had these emotional experiences that these fairly new immigrants are experiencing. I’m finding that the more personal a project is, the more difficult it is, but it is also the most satisfying, once it is completed.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

In preparation for my assignment I looked at the following photographers (my details remarks can be found on their pages):

  • Ruth Kaplan – a Canadian photographer, who did a series entitled Status Pending which shows locations and found objects for refugee immigrants.
  • Cecil B – a Belgian photographer who works mainly in self-portraiture. Her work is very varied, and is clearly influenced by Francesca Woodman.
  • Maha Alasaker – a Kuwaiti photographer who uses ambiguity and layers to comply with social norms.
  • Vitor Schietti – a Brazilian photographer who uses long exposure to render his subjects slightly invisible.
  • Pedro Meyer – I had looked at Meyer during the period leading up to Assignment 2 in connection with the exercise we did on Briony Campbell’s The Dad Project, so have not done another write up on him. However, Pedro Meyer also has a section on his website where he has done a variety of self-portraits, which are presented thematically. I really like the way he presents his work in a video format accompanied by music.

I managed to get to more exhibitions this time, happily my knee is recovering from the surgery quite nicely. Sadly only one was a photographic exhibition and I periodically find myself envying my fellow students in the UK when they arrange meetups to go to this or that photographic exhibition. They really are spoiled for choice. I pretty much has to attend every photographic exhibition I can lay my hands on. C’est la vie – one would think in Jeff Wall’s hometown there would be a plethora of exhibitions to choose from.  My detailed notes are on the relevant exhibition pages linked below.

My camera club put on a workshop on long exposure by Marc Koegel which I attended. Marc Koegel is a fine-art photographer who specialises in long exposure photography and his work is really amazing.

I started to get to grips with Semiotics and Structuralism, having come across an interesting video from Yale University. On my reading list now is Daniel Chandler’s book Semiotics for Beginners. I’m also hoping to catch up with some more journal reading as well.

I also did an online course through Coursera on Modern Art & Society in order to broaden my general art knowledge.

Once I got over the experimental stage of this assignment, I found myself enjoying it. As a future project I may try to expand it by branching out into different themes.

Reference List

Quotations from SACanada Facebook Group:

(1) Kondos, Petros (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 19 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(2) Pretorius, Ilana (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(3) Pretorius, Ilana (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(4) Naidoo, Sessie (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 21 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(5) Lee, Angela (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(6) Lazarus, Leonie  (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

Bibliography

Bate, D. (2009) Photography: The Key Concepts. New York: Berg

Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. London: Thames & Hudson

Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback

Overall I’m really satisfied with my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 3.  Some good constructive advice was also given regarding my research. Her comments are below. My reflections are in italics.

Overall Comments

A well-researched project that incorporates many points of view. You have chosen a complex subject matter that demands attention, producing an interesting set of images exploring multiple aspects of immigration and what ‘home’ means in different settings.

Thank you! The whole process of immigration is quite emotional even if one immigrates as a skilled worker.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:

Now that we’ve reached assignment 3, I feel I have a good sense of your work and I’m confident in saying that the technical side of things is not an area that causes me any concern in your work.

From what I have seen in previous assignments it seems to me that once an idea is formed in your mind, the ‘how to’ of the technique and materials is not an issue for you. You are competent in your use of the camera; images are well composed, you are able to narrow and define your area of interest/subject matter and apply appropriate techniques to make what images you want to make, happen!

As such I’m going to keep my feedback in this section short for this report as I feel my feedback could me more helpful in other areas…

Good to know.

Quality of Outcome:

What I really enjoy about the work in this project is your approach in terms of research and conceptualization of imagery to accompany quotes from the research group. The multi-layer narratives offer a layer of complexity to the images, which viewing the images alone would not suggest.

The overall emotion of the work is sad and reflective and I wonder was this something you intended or were particularly attuned too? There is a sense of loss throughout the set, I wonder if you found in your research any positive experiences from your subjects regarding this part of their identity?

I had suspected that the overall emotion would be one of sadness and I really did want to emphasis this in my work as non-immigrants are blissfully unaware of the subtle nuances that a person has to go through/experience in order to ‘become accepted’ in one’s new country. Of course there were positive experiences expressed as well, but I only concentrated on the responses that were more applicable to the set of questions that I had raised within the group.

One thing to consider when doing work in this way is to consider the way in which you frame your research questions, and to acknowledge any bias you may be injecting or guiding the work in the direction of. There is nothing wrong with this of course, we are all biased in many ways, but it’s good practice to acknowledge this and to consider ways of approaching a subject that might yield alternative readings so as to give a balanced view.

Understood, but as I had posted the questions that I had asked the research group to respond to in my introduction, I would have thought that that would provide/support the direction I was taking. I really wasn’t aiming to get a balanced view of immigration because I wanted to highlight the subtleties that the majority of non-immigrants are not conscious of.

Some of the most successful images in terms of conceptualistion of thought and the communication of your ideas as I understand them, were figs 5 and 7. The harsh shadow cast by the African carving in Fig. 5, can be read in multiple ways. The carving acts as a mask, but also another identity; the shadow could also be a metaphor for another identity in this respect. The juxtaposition of its placement on a domestic mantle piece, immediately seems at odds with its surroundings, again the object acts as a metaphor for you/the other part of your history, a sense of belonging/longing.

Fig. 7, a picture of a couple, your parents I presume, again you employ a multi-layered narrative that simultaneously explores something of your own past, but also something of the shared experience of all people who move away or have to leave their loved ones in another country for a variety of reasons. This images works well and communicates on different levels.

Thank you. The picture is not of my parents, but my in-laws. Sadly, I do not have a photograph of my parents on their wedding day. Those photos remain in South Africa.

I feel there are too many shadow portraits within the set, which detracts from their power as a set and I would encourage you to re-visit some of the quotes and experiment in ways that do not include so many shadow variants. For example, the use of objects as metaphors works very well in some of the images, the cross section of the tree trunk is interesting, not only in terms of a subject matter full of texture and line, but in terms of the rings and years of lived experience it can represent. The pairing of text for this image (fig. 5) of Africa being in your soul, communicates clearly through the concentric rings of the tree stump, the multiple layers that build our identity, that stay with us always.

I will try and take out a few of the shadow images and replace them with something else.

Demonstration of Creativity:

Throughout the assignments you have developed your creativity and I commend your choice in subject matter, as it is often complex, personal and difficult. You do not shy away from pushing yourself or your creativity, which I can see is really starting to bloom.

I’m so happy to hear that my creativity is starting to bloom, although it really doesn’t feel like it. I think it helps when tackling a difficult subject.

I appreciate you emailed me asking advice prior to submission of this assignment, but I think perhaps some of the advice was taken too literally, I now regret perhaps shutting you down from some of the experiments I note in your learning log. The double exposure was especially interesting in this respect and perhaps there is still space to include it in the final set?

I was wondering if it would work within the set, but I really wasn’t sure, which is why I left it out. Some of the feedback that I received from my peers was that I should go either with shadows, or without and I didn’t want to muddy the waters by throwing in a double exposure, as I did mix the shadows and objects in the end. I will try and include another double exposure in the rework and see how the set looks.

Thank you for including some contact sheets, this is very insightful. My only comment would be to include any further images from the pre-shoot experimental stage and your reflections on them… more on this below.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context

You reference a variety of sources and investigate the work of many practitioners. I would encourage you to focus in on one or two of them in greater detail. You might include an image that you have responded to and offer some analysis of your response. The reflections you make on Schietti, demonstrate a criticality to your thinking that we are looking for at this stage, here you move beyond the descriptive qualities of the images and engage with some of connoted meanings.

I have been hesitant to include images of other photographers where I do not have permission to use their images in my blog, hence the use of hyperlinks.

I also note you are reading around semiotics and structuralism, again, try to bring some of this reading to your reflections where possible. It is better to write less/refer to less practitioners, and to increase the quality of your analysis. I referred you to Jim Goldberg, Open See, and you note that you read it, but there was no critical response as such, I would have liked to have heard your response.

I think I have been a little hesitant to bring semiotics and structuralism into my analyses, as I’m still trying to get to grips with the concepts. I did read Jim Goldberg’s Open See, and it must have been an oversight on my part not to write a response to it. I’m going to put this down to being horribly overworked at work that I’ve barely been able to think straight these last 4 months. I have now completed a review on Jim Goldberg’s Open See and it be seen here.

You make excellent use of the student Facebook forum and it’s great to hear you find it so supportive. Having read the student comments on your work I would be keen to know what your response was. It seems a bit one-sided, Do you agree/disagree with what was said? Keeping a record of your thoughts and responses will help us as tutors and assessors see you develop and respond, becoming more reflective in your work, which is what learning is all about!

I have gone and added my comments to the feedback document. My comments are prefaced with the initials “LK” and highlighted in yellow.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

I feel you are looking at plenty of practitioners, and would like to see a more detailed analysis of some of these before moving onto more. I note not many of the reading list suggestions were included or reflected upon – was there a reason for this? (perhaps I missed a link!)

I have done a re-write on the following photographers (the re-worked version is directly below the initial text): Ruth Kaplan and Maha Alasaker.

I’m slightly confused by the second part of this remark. I had referenced Bate and Bright in my Bibliography for Assignment 3. However, if you are referring to the suggestions you made in Assignment 2 feedback i.e. Grombich’s The Story of Art and Art in Theory series, I can report that I have purchased The Story of Art and am slowly working through that as extra-curricular reading. If you are referring to the OCA Reading List for Context and Narrative, this reading list changed a few months ago (after I began this module) and there are now only eight texts under Essential Reading and seven listed under Recommended and various websites listed.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • In the learning log, you might like to include images of the photographer’s work you refer to, rather than weblinks. It would be good to hear your analysis.

Again I must mention that I am hesitant abut using any photographers’ images in my blog without permission due to copyright issues. However, I will try it out, according all rights to the photographer, but if I pick up problems along the way, I will revert to using hyperlinks again.

  • Include any reflections/re-workings/re-edits of the work into the assignment so the assessors can see your response and our dialogue.

As mentioned above, I will put my re-edits/re-workings of my analyses directly below the initial analysis for ease of comparison.

  • It’s great to see your creativity coming through, this is an insightful project, you have produced some worthy images, keep up the creative curiosity!

Thank you.

On the whole, I am very satisfied with this feedback. I find it constructive and extremely helpful to know which areas I should concentrate on for improvement. Now to get to grips with semiotics …

Assignment 3 – Revisited

In her tutor feedback for Assignment 3 my tutor mentioned that she thought I had too many shadow images in my series and suggested changing out some using found objects.

I really had to wrack my brain to come up with some found object that was South African as we had emigrated with suitcases full of clothes, a few precious books and all our photographs and not much else. Today I came across an Afrikaans Bible belonging to my husband which I thought would convey the accent and mannerisms image (fig. 03) quite well. Attending Sunday School and church on Sundays is very much part of the fabric of society in South Africa. I have chosen only to replace one of the shadow images so that there is now an equal balance of found and shadow images. I also chose not to include the double exposure image as I don’t think it will fit in the series due to the abstract nature. I will, however, explore that line sometime in the future. Maybe I will get the opportunity in the next module.

This is my final set of images for Assignment 3:

Fig 01 As a new immigrant, the initial sense of dislocation is enormous (1)
Fig 01 As a new immigrant, the initial sense of dislocation is enormous (1)
Fig 02 There are many new things to learn and get used to – like driving in snow
Fig 02 There are many new things to learn and get used to – like driving in snow
Fig 03 Your accent and mannerisms will always set you that little bit apart (1)
Fig 03 Your accent and mannerisms will always set you that little bit apart (1)
Fig 04 We regret to inform you that, although your qualifications are superb, you lack the necessary Canadian experience …
Fig 04 We regret to inform you that, although your qualifications are superb, you lack the necessary Canadian experience …
Fig 05 No shared sense of humour. You put a big part of your South African-ness in a box and stash it away (3)
Fig 05 No shared sense of humour. You put a big part of your South African-ness in a box and stash it away (3)
Fig 06 No shared childhood, no shared memories of things that historically happened, no frame of reference to things people sometimes refer to or remember (4)
Fig 06 No shared childhood, no shared memories of things that historically happened, no frame of reference to things people sometimes refer to or remember (4)
Fig 07 home is wherever Mom is (4)
Fig 07 Home is wherever Mom is (4)
Fig 08 You are reminded of differences every day and it is up to you as a person to fit in or f.. off to be blunt. The thing is Africa is in your soul and no matter how hard you try it will always be a part of who you are (5)
Fig 08 You are reminded of differences every day and it is up to you as a person to fit in or f.. off to be blunt. The thing is Africa is in your soul and no matter how hard you try it will always be a part of who you are (5)
Fig 09 You always have your memories. Remember those never-ending sand dunes and soft sand on the South African beaches …
Fig 09 You always have your memories. Remember those never-ending sand dunes and soft sand on the South African beaches …
Fig 10 As long as I have family back home I will always have ties to my homeland (7)
Fig 10 As long as I have family back home I will always have ties to my homeland (7)
Reference List

Quotations from SACanada Facebook Group:

(1) Kondos, Petros (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 19 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(2) Pretorius, Ilana (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(3) Pretorius, Ilana (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(4) Naidoo, Sessie (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 21 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(5) Lee, Angela (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]

(6) Lazarus, Leonie  (2015). SACanada Group. [Facebook] 20 November. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sacanada/ [Accessed 21 November, 2015]