Category Archives: Introduction

My Square Mile

A few weeks ago, I went to see my father in Scotland, and took a few hours to revisit my childhood home. I have a plan for a project which involves taking images of the places there that have a particular resonance to me and each of my four siblings. Although my father now lives about 10 miles away, one of my sisters, S, has moved back to the place, and my brother and his wife spend several months each year in a rented cottage there too. I briefly discussed the idea with S, and we made a list of some of the places that were meaningful to her. Some were the same as mine, but not all. This project is just beginning, but a short sample of locations are shown below. I was privileged to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, for which I am very grateful.

 

I cannot spend the time needed to really get into the project at present, so my work for this exercise will be around the place where I live right now, which is a village in Wiltshire. These days, my interest is more in the minutiae of my locations rather than the big picture. I am trying to practise Mindful Photography, and the type of thing that catches my attention tends to be fleeting and small.I am trying to capture some of the semi-abstract impressions of sight, sound and texture that I feel, which can be seen I particularly in nos. 4,5 6 and 9. They represent some of what I see on my daily dog walks around the village, and all were taken on a single afternoon. If I was going to do this project as a proper assignment, my plan would be to link all these images by a piece of string, and I would accompany it with a piece of soundscape of my footsteps, birdsong and water trickling down the stream.

Reflection

These images all make me feel happy, which is a somewhat surprising reaction. I had not expected them to speak to me so clearly. I had set off with the idea of picking only semi-abstract subjects, but then realised that a) it would be impossible to get 12 images of this type from a single outing and b) my experience of the village is at all levels of scale, and this should be incorporated into the exercise. The order of the images correctly follows the path I took and begins and ends with my own garden. (No. 11 is not my house, by the way.) I like the limited palette of colours – mostly greens with flashes of red and white. It would be interesting to do the same exercise at different times of year to see how the colours changed.

My social media profile portrait

For this reflection point, we are asked to write a paragraph about our social media profile portrait and to consider which aspects of ourselves remain hidden. We are also asked to produce a more honest portrait, which I will do as an addendum to this post. (I need to think through what is missing first)

I found this to be an interesting exercise. Looking at my Facebook profile, I seem to have put up 50+ self portraits in the 9 years I have belonged to the site. There are flowers, holidays and special events there, but also a lot of close-up images of me, usually smiling in a slightly jokey situation. Other people who feature include my parents, my husband and one or two friends. In three, I am drinking wine, and several are old images of myself from my younger days. The Me they show looks sociable and fun –  a person who enjoys life. In only one, do I look serious (the one with the single eye) but even then I am not giving much away. Together, the images probably don’t give an honest representation of who I am, truth be told. They are probably more representative of who I would like to be.

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I then watched the first of Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 documentaries on making portraits of people, linked here , which made me reconsider what Identity might actually mean. Perry interviews four different people at length, all of whom are going through a period of great personal change, and tries to pick out some of their unique, individual qualities. It was fascinating to watch, and the end results were beautiful. In three cases, he made objects that the sitter felt expressed them clearly. In one, he admitted that he found it impossible to crack through the carapace the person had constructed around themselves, but nonetheless produced a very fine piece of work to represent the difficulties he had. I’ll say no more about it in case others want to watch the programme themselves. I will write a separate post about my thoughts on the programme’s messages.

A fellow student has suggested I read Goffmann’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, so that has been added to my reading list, but my initial thoughts are that one’s public persona probably has little to do with a) who we think we are, and b) how others perceive us to be.

Edited to add, after a few days contemplation:

I did think about putting up the image of my desk as a self portrait, but felt it was a bit of a cop-out in the end. Instead, I took the image below, which is from a series  of experiments I am doing for the OCA project What does a student look like? I think it shows a more honest version of me – the serious person I usually am when I am not smiling for the camera, and also wearing the glasses I find myself using more and more these days.

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Is this the person other people see though, or how I perceive myself as being seen by them?

References

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? Episode 1 [television programme online] Pres. Perry. Channel 4 (2014) 48 mins. At: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grayson-perry-who-are-you/on-demand/55337-001 (Accessed on 20 May 2016)

 

 

Grayson Perry’s Who Are You?

The two most interesting things I took from this programme were:

  • your home often says more about you than you realise , and
  • that a portrait is a caricature of yourself, and emphasises some traits over others.

I was fascinated to see the homes of the various people he interviewed. They revealed a great deal about the subjects. Chris Huhne’s home was traditionally and beautifully furnished, but there was no sense in it of who he was. Subsequent interviews with him took place outside his home, making it appear that he didn’t feel comfortable revealing himself there. Jazz, the transgender sitter, was mainly shown outside his home in various social situations, and it was clear that his mother felt unhappy about his choices, meaning that he did not feel “at home” there. Perry said himself that the possessions we surround ourselves with are symbols for where we sit, culturally, and symbolise who we are. Each person’s possessions tell a story about them, which may or may not be what they show the outside world. (I am reminded of photos of, for example, the Camerons at home, and what could be gleaned from the bookshelves behind them. Did their image-makers decide what was in those shelves, or were they not considered until after the images went public and people started commenting. And how tidy is that room? Especially as the Camerons have three children.

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Michelle Obama & Samantha Cameron at home

Below is an image of my work desk, taken 10 minutes ago. It could not be more different from the image shown above, but it is entirely realistic, and a fair representation of how my desk usually looks. I spend a considerable amount of time each day sitting at it, so there are all sorts of elements of myself there, should one care to look.

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For an understanding of the pressure points in my significant relationship, and for fun, here is a picture of my husband’s desk at the other end of the same room. We both work from home. Enough said!

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References

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? Episode 1 [television programme online] Pres. Perry. Channel 4 (2014) 48 mins. At: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grayson-perry-who-are-you/on-demand/55337-001 (Accessed on 20 May 2016)

Identity: a fluid idea?

The first reflection point of this module invites us to consider the concept of identity, and how it may cause clashes or change over time. This is not a new idea to me, as my own external identity has changed on numerous occasions over my life. Examples of personas I have occupied include Expat Wife, Business Manager, Student (in various guises), Smallholder, Librarian… the list goes on. I admit to enjoying changing who I am and how I am perceived every few years.

I don’t believe identity is fixed. It morphs with experience, and occasionally changes abruptly in response to sudden life changes. Who we are also depends on who we are with. It’s a common perception of the British that we hate giving parties because all our friends would meet up, and then everyone would find out who we really are. There’s more than a grain of truth in this, in my own case and I tend to keep different parts of my identity  separate from one another.

What is identity though? Is it the external perception that other people see, or something internal that makes you who you are? The two may be quite different, but which has more validity? These are some of the questions I hope to answer during this module.

New beginnings

After a few hiccups, my course package finally arrived on Saturday, and is now sitting by my desk, begging me to get started. However, I still have some tidying up to do on my C&N module, and that takes precedence. However, I have had a quick flick through the course material, and started to think about some of the exercises in part 1. I’m looking forward to testing out some of my ideas over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here is an image I made at Photo London last week, as a starting point.

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© Holly Woodward, 2016