It seems likely that my mental patterns during my first MFA residency followed that of other incoming students: initial excitement tinged with fear, quickly turning to a feeling of awe and inadequacy, and eventually being overcome by an onslaught of thought-provoking stimulation and input. The total experience created a clash of daunting and inspiring ideas whirring about inside my head, and sent me spinning back to Maine like a top.
The critiques that never seemed to end were amazing. I am surprised that everyone seemed to bring something new to the table. Some things said about my work spoke to me, others really made me think, and a few resonated in a place outside of my self. Here is the list of things said during my critiques as well as the artist talks that I found interesting. I have combined speakers’ comments that I feel create a conversation with one another in order to make a more cohesive discourse. Personally this melding helps me to logically process the many voices I heard over the ten-day residency.
‘Photograph’ is a verb now, no longer a physical object. Images today exist only in digital form.
“Words don’t live in the dictionary. How do they exist in the mind” Virginia Woolf
There is a lack of faith to have photographs tell us something real.
How does someone combine old words in new ways to create beauty and convey meaning? This process could be the same with visual arts.
What does the camera want to see as opposed to what we want to see? We want to see identifications of our desires, but the camera is so superficial, it doesn’t see what is behind.
I should write about how photographers use reflections. And I should follow what I admire about photography.
Why am I making film photographs that look like they are created in Photoshop? Why am I not creating my images in Photoshop? Write down why I am not creating my images digitally. And perhaps I should explore melding my photography with Photoshop elements.
The Look of the photograph is the Meaning of the photograph.
“One can never get to the end of meaning. Over time words shift” Virginia Woolf
Have the photograph tell the story that is outside the photograph.
I need to put myself inside the critical discourse.
Photographers need to be aware.
I should decide what is most important in an image and make the editorial decisions before I click the shutter.
My images show that I am concerned with formal qualities.
I need to concentrate the image without the form.
There are millions of photographs of shop windows. I need to find a different way of making and doing. What if my images were more voyeuristic of domestic spaces? How about investigating a community through both reflections and more straightforward imagery?
I need something more provocative in my work. They are just reflections. But because the reflection is on the surface of glass, the image stops there, at the glass.
The word Window comes from the words ‘wind’ and ‘eye.’ Consider the entomology of the word.
Once you start looking into a window you have to be really careful.
Why am I poking into other people’s
windows? What is compelling me to take these pictures? And why do I not want to be seen?
I must critically investigate why I am drawn to nature and take critical responsibility.
Because I said in my introduction talk that “I feel like Alice stepping through the looking glass”, do I think I will explore fantasy in my work?
My images entreat entering a new world to be surrounded by magic.
Real dreams are never hazy; they are crystal clear, and more ‘real’ than reality.
How deeply can I explore the concepts of inside and outside from inside of myself. The concept of inside/outside is Everything – it’s communication.
It is never enough to discover something beautiful that you wish to share with someone. How do I make my images really about a place and not about beauty?
My work is easy to go into, and yet it needs more depth.
How much am I giving, and how much am I keeping in?
How much of my work is about the process, and how much is about the content?
I need intention of clarity in exhibiting my ideas. How can I take charge of my realm?
I should not focus on taking pictures of what I think will look like art. Instead I should focus on what I want to take pictures of.
There is a dichotomy in my work between ordered geometric space and organic space that leads to all kinds of content issues.
I should resolve all the issues in my images before the viewer sees them. I should not raise questions in my work, because then my ideas will get pulled apart instead of being understood.
The reflections actually obscure reality. Having glass is a layer removed from reality. The reflection is another layer removed. I have removed myself from the image. What does this say about how I see the world? Am I saying ‘I don’t really want to see these things on their own?’ Or am I really making a narrative about myself?
My work is about chance relationships that I am purposefully singling out. I am making intersections with things that are not necessarily related. Why am I trying to create relationships with disparity?
What is the chance factor in my work? And how important is the journey to find these images?
Sometimes one doesn’t set up enough distance from oneself to be able to reach the heart of a project.
List seven words to describe your work – this allows you to understand it.
The seven words I would use to describe my work at this time are: beautiful, subtle, reflective, discovered magical captured moments.
I honestly can only take pictures of things that deep down inside I want to take pictures of. But there is a lot of depth the question “How much am I giving, and how much am I keeping in?” These are words I need to listen to and answer. Outside: I am a keen observer, very aware of the world outside. My ‘reflective’ photographs speak to my external observation. Inside: I like to travel the world unseen unless I want to be heard. I don’t know why I found it so shocking for someone to ask, “why do you not want to be seen?” It was like I was found out, hiding in the tall grass on a summer’s day, lost in some world I made up all on my own, or shared with just my sister. But I guess this is the problem with my work; it is my secret lovely world, and I’m not letting people in. I guess this is the crucial communication part of the inside/ outside concepts.
My work is very much about the process and the journey. For me that is one of the things I love about photography; it takes me out of the studio to explore. And I enjoy and value work, craft, and process. I like the manual film camera, and used to enjoy the darkroom. I learned Photoshop before I took my first photography class. I took a photography class in order to assist my work in Photoshop. But then I discovered I enjoyed the quest of discovering images that exist within the world, and the only technical alteration is the framing and transfer to film. But this semester I am going to investigate several processes and see what best fits my self, my content, and the direction of my work.
I know I need to address the public sentiment that “there is a lack of faith to have photographs tell us something real.” But I don’t believe it. I think the camera reveals a side of reality that humans, through hubris, choose to ignore. But then I also believe in beauty, in art, and the goodness within the human spirit. And I believe in magic. When I get up in the morning and take a breath, for me it’s magic; for some it’s just biology. I need to define my beliefs within both a critical discourse and within my work.
The big question I need to answer for myself is “What is compelling me to take these pictures?”
This semester I really need to investigate this question within my self and my art making process. In one of my critiques it was suggested that I tape small prints of my work into a journal and periodically write down what exactly I like about these images. I will try to do this through the course of the semester. And hopefully this will lead me to create more substantive and provocative work.