Category: 351MC PHONAR


Phonar started out as an opportunity for me to experiment with new media and narrative in a well documented space with useful feedback. I created my Sensory Mashup piece on a whim, to experiment with a different creative method and a new way to articulate a story and concept outside of my comfort zone of photography. https://emmasheaphotography.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/phonar-my-sensory-mashup/
I received a lot of positive feedback regarding the experimentation which kickstarted my confidence and desire to push myself further.
The Spoken Narrative task, half way through the module, was not something I expected to have such a drastic impact on me and my work. My decision was based on the, as previously mentioned, desire to experiment with the narrative forms, and research based on different ways to produce, display and interpret information. My research of word poems had a large affect on how my Spoken Narrative took shape, based on what I felt was effective in their delivery and combining those aspects with what I felt comfortable creating.
I pushed myself further than I ever had before with this, but the feedback I got and the way it has shaped my work, and confidence on a whole, has made that vulnerability and fear entirely worth it, and extremely liberating.
Sara Davidmann’s interview has largely affected my thought processes and development of work. I was inspired and moved by her projects, and have so much respect for how she works with the participants in her photography.
Her interview and the others we listened to made me critically analyse why I felt my work was important, how it impacted and affected others and what it meant for me to use it as a platform for my voice and potentially the voice of others.
The final piece I have created for Phonar has involved a lot of critical analysis of my ideas and my technical development throughout. I have analysed what I felt was effective and what I think failed. Doing so has made me confident that even if this work is not 100% what I want it to be right now, I have the ability and it has the potential to become something with the impact I want it to have. I also feel that any technical failings I have made in this work are less of a concern to me than the narrative I have created, and the fact I have given myself a platform and voice I never had before. Bleasdale said that what you put behind and in the photograph is primary, and the photograph is secondary, and for me personally that truly does apply here.
https://emmasheaphotography.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/post-photographic-portrait-video/

Overall, I am proud of what I have achieved during my Phonar module. I adore my Sensory Mash-up and Spoken Narrative tasks, as evidence of my ability to work with multiple different medias, on a range of subjects, to create something engaging.

If I could I would add more photographs to my Post Photographic Portrait creation, and I would include relevant statistics to create a more far reaching narrative with better context for the audience. With this in mind, I have the option to take this work forward to Final Exhibition, so that could be the perfect opportunity to critically analyse what worked and what didn’t to create something truly effective by the end of my final year.

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Here is my video for the Post Photographic Portrait task, mixing music, words and photos to create a Narrative to engage viewers and hopefully give them an insight into an aspect of being a victim of rape.

Sara Davidmann discussed in her interview using a combination of words written by the participants and photos to create a strong narrative. I used this idea to convey what I wanted to voice.

There was also inspiration from photographer Paul Gaffney and his work ‘We make the path by walking’. During a talk last Tuesday he discussed how he wanted there to be no information to the images at first, to let people create there own interpretations. Then, towards the end, he added a simple poem to give what level of context he wanted.

I couldn’t give up control over the narrative of this piece, I wanted control over how people perceived it and what they felt. It’s difficult to relinquish control and I still feel vulnerable even now having posted it. It’s something I think is necessary to feel if you as a photographer expect others to do so for you. Empathy is a powerful tool in this world.

I wanted it to convey that objects that appear unimportant to someone can have significant meaning to another, and try to translate that into a viewable experience. I am not entirely sure if this has been wholly effective in that regard.

I am happy with the images, and my personal words from the Spoken Narrative task are still incredibly important to me and convey a lot of things I have never before spoken about openly. I am also happy with my cut up of the music to convey the change in tone throughout the piece.

However, I don’t know if I perhaps gave to much information to the audience by placing the words next to the photographs. Also, I am concerned the music makes this seem childish, though I am confused as to what I could of done differently to change this for me.

This was not intended as a completely polished piece of work, and the chance to experiment has given me a better idea for how to possibly continue with this narrative in the future. I think it would work better as a book than as a video, but the opportunity to work in collaboration with somebody else’s creation was not an opportunity I wanted to miss.
If I could change one thing about this work, I would of added to the range of photographs. There are a number of other objects I could still capture for this, and I will definitely track them down to continue this work. It would of made for a more interesting narrative for more objects and images, it would of also meant there was less of a reliance on words to shape the narrative I want.
I focused on my own personal narrative for this piece, but I do believe that it would of possibly been more effective, and placed my work in a more understandable frame of reference for the viewer, to have included statistics on sexual assaults. This is definitely something to consider and work on if I take this forward.

I think I have succeeded in giving myself as the subject a voice, but I don’t think I have succeeded in creating something with as much impact as I would like. It feels confusing in a way I don’t like, but that is possibly just down to my own personal attachment to the piece and the difficulty in conveying emotions that are incredibly complex and span nearly seven years of my life.

https://archive.org/details/ResonanceLRitchie16bit

This is the Cello piece created by Jill Jarman and performed by Laura Ritchie.

It has such an amazing culmination of notes that I really wanted to draw on the emotions that can be elicited from a listener with different sounds. I wanted a combination of jarring and uncomfortable noises with calming tones that draw the viewer into an almost false sense of security.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 02.50.32
After increasing the volume of the piece Adobe Audition, I began picking parts that I thought would be effective at different point in the video, and connecting them to the images I was creating. Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 02.50.38
phonar words beginning
I quickly added a beginning ‘page’ to my video, with simply the name of the task and #Phonar.

For the Images, I had always intended to have a mixture of words and photographs, and considering how well received my Spoken Narrative had been, I thought it was appropriate to quote that piece for this one.

phonar final1 phonar final2 phonar final3 phonar final4

I went for a minimalist addition of words, as I wanted to keep things simple and not draw away attention from one thing specifically. It’s a difficult balance to maintain but I think I succeeded.

These images appear in the video to a much harsher part of the musical piece, after a more soothing part with the photographs not accompanied by words.
My intention is for the viewer to see the images as aesthetically pleasing, without knowledge of what they refer to. I then repeat the images with the additional information, to much more aggressive, jarring notes.

I was only able to create four images, so I decided to continue the video with words only after this point. The music begins to soothe here as well, bringing the viewers out the other side to a ‘happy ending’ of sorts.

Phonar final words1

I wanted the positive elements I had added to my Spoken Narrative to be here in the Post Photographic Portrait. It’s a truthful representation of my personal narrative through the past seven years.

After this moment, I have included the Spoken Narrative and the creation of this work into my personal story, to give people an impression the impact this work has had on my personally by giving my a voice.

Phonar final words2 phonarmusicnames
The below quote is from my blog post regarding my Spoken Narrative, and was quoted by Jonathan Worth in his post regarding it.
I think it creates a full stop to the Narrative while making it clear that this is not a completely done and dusted event. It will be with me all my life, and countless others go through the same. But this doesn’t make this a unhappy ending, it’s just a realistic one, with hope of using a bad experience to make change instead of allowing it to continue.

We have to be active, not reactive photographers. I want to do that with this. I am reacting to an experience, but I am acting in the hope of stopping others feeling the similar emotions I felt of isolation and blame, while also informing viewers in a way that hopefully creates a chance for them to understand a small amount of the complex and wide reaching effects this kind of trauma has on someone.
phonarquote phonarlinks

I have included a link to the Phonar website, my blog and my Spoken Narrative for reference. I think it’s appropriate to give people the ability to research further if they wish to, and I wouldn’t be creating this if it wasn’t for the Phonar module.

These are the photographs I have edited for the Post Photographic Portrait task.

I decided to crop them to a square image as I thought that created a more interesting image than the usual portrait or landscape rectangles. This also means I have a bit more freedom with sizes to add text to the photos for the video I wish to create.

Once again, I have drawn over the images to map out my thought process and help me progress in my decision making.

1+2

Phonar Photo Edits-1

3+4

Phonar Photo Edits-2
5+6
Phonar Photo Edits-3
7+8
Phonar Photo Edits-4
9+10
Phonar Photo Edits-5
Overall, I think the second, third, fifth and eighth are the best photographs to take forward for the set.
Though aesthetically I prefer some of the other images for the angles or colours, those images work well ‘together’, while the others work better as individual photographs.
I want them as part of a set in a video, so some consistency of composition and aesthetic is, for me personally, necessary to create a flowing narrative.

There are some technical problems for me, relating to the quality of some these photographs, but overall I am happy with them and am happy to take them forward in the editing process to create a video using the cello piece.

These are the photographs I have taken for the Post Photographic Portrait task, the final task for Phonar.
It took a while to locate a high vis jacket, but I was quite set on having that as one of the photographs.

The objects were chosen based on different things they remind me of the situation, thought it was necessary for the narrative to choose things that seem so simple and ordinary to others, but have a much more significant meaning to me personally. In doing so, I hope to lead people into a false sense of security, and then add the informing element that will hopefully shock and make them feel a level of empathy and understanding for the situation:

High Vis Jacket – He always wore one, I once saw somebody in one with mildly similar hair and I panicked because I instantly thought it was him.

Cigarette – pretty basic, he always smoked, stole money from me once to buy tobacco. Certain smells used to remind me of him and give me flash backs.

Rosary Beads – he stole them from me, it took me so long to get them back. He would mock me about him having them.

Butterfly Necklace – Nathan’s first year anniversary present to me, I am never not wearing it. It’s the best thing to represent things improving for me.

I could not find all the objects I wanted to work with, but I can choose to take it forward for my final exhibition if I want, at which point I can locate the objects necessary to make this idea the best I think I could be.

I have written on my contact sheet to help me decide what images to move forward with.

Phonar Photos-1 Phonar Photos-2

Having worked on a few of the weekly tasks, I think it is fair to say that my Spoken Narrative has been the strongest piece I have created, and I would like to carry this further through PHONAR (and perhaps even to Final Exhibition?).

I want to create something visual with a Narrative that documents what I spoke about in the task. I have discussed with Jonathan different ideas, and have considered how taking something so personal forward can relate to the interviews we have listened to during our lessons.

  • Fred Ritchin’s comments that the narrative you create is more important than taking the photograph makes me believe that it is more important for me to create an interesting narrative that informs people and makes them interested in the subject that worrying that the photographs are the most aesthetically amazing photographs I have ever created.
  • I can work on this project for my final exhibition, for now perfecting the narrative is more important to me.
  • Ritchin and Bleasdale seem to share similar opinions to the importance of narrative over the photograph.
  • Campbell talks about how narrative creates coherence and order in a world where that doesn’t naturally exist. We are desperate to understand and fit what we see into how the world works.
  • If I apply this to my work, creating a narrative that informs people on something that is not physically easy to represent is what is important here. If I keep the timeline I created in my Spoken Narrative and apply it to my photography, I can hopefully take viewers on a journey through the narrative that creates understanding on both an emotional level that helps me, and informs about the larger societal issues this situation is related to.
  • I want to include words in my work to give myself a level of control of how the viewer interprets the narrative. As the subject I lose a level of control by opening it up to the public eye, but I can regain some of that control by using different mediums.
  • This is something else that applies to Bleasdale and Davidmann’s interview along with Campbell’s talk.

 

Current Ideas

When we were asked to listen to Jill Jarman’s and Laura Ritchie’s Chello piece, I instantly thought I could create something with it.

http://phonar.org/2014/11/a-post-photographic-portrait/

The combination of sharp and soft chords makes me consider how I could develop a narrative using photographs, words and sounds. 

Softer notes draw people into a relaxed state, while sharp chords can be jarring and uncomfortable and make people focus.

If I applied this to a narrative, I could create something that drew people into a false sense of security, then add a level of understanding that makes them realise that the aesthetics are not the important thing here, the meaning behind it is.

I originally had the idea to create a video to the music, with self portraits showing pressure on my skin, with flashes of objects that reminded me of the moments in the moments I spoke about in my Spoken Narrative piece. However, after discussions with lecturers and peers, I decided that I didn’t have to ‘give them all the answers’, and could create something far calmer with instead a narrative undertone that draws the viewer in.

Working off the idea of having objects that relate to moments in the timeline, I thought of the idea of taking attractive, bright photographs of these objects, to make the viewer look at them and merely appreciate the aesthetic quality of the photographs. Then, towards the end of the piece (I still want this to be a video of sorts, with the music over the top) I would add in the words, to add my voice to the pictures, to explain what this relates to. I want to change the music at this point to the harsher cello sounds, though that is open for experimentations.

I am considering what words to have. I have a few options:

  1. Words from my spoken narrative, next to the image that relates to them
  2. Words that describe how these images relate to the moments and situations
  3. Statistics of sexual assault/ rape.
  4. A mixture.

A mixture of the Spoken Narrative and Statistics is appealing to me currently, as it gives me a voice about what I went through, while also adding a much needed voice to the wider reaching implications of my experience. I think that combination would be the most effective in potentially reaching out to other victims as well, and giving them a voice through this work.
I can’t claim to be the best person to be a voice for others in this situation however, hopefully, if I speak, others might have the courage to speak as well, or they might at least not feel alone with something that can completely cripple you, make you believe you are along, and make you feel like you don’t deserve a voice.

Phonar Ideas

Marcus Bleasdale Interview

Marcus Bleasdale made an interesting point on how we have to consider our audience when choosing a medium to portray our work.
If something is posted in the Guardian newspaper, it will be read by people who buy the Guardian so a predisposed to agree with its contents. If you want to reach a new audience and create a discussion, that information would have a more far reaching impact on a billboard in the city.
Bleasdale’s decision to turn his work into a new media outlet translated the information into a language that will connect better with a younger audience. His desire to engage them in the important issues, that they will invariably have a level of impact on as they become consumers, was translated effectively into a new medium. It didn’t lessen his work, it merely made it available to a new demographic.
If a graphic novel or a video game can be created to inform people on important information, what other types of media can be used? Gifs and Vines are such an intrinsic part of internet society, perhaps that could be an interesting engagement tool?

I entirely agree and connect with Bleasdale’s comments on how photography is better the more you understand. His belief that the emotion behind a piece of work is primary and the image is secondary is an interesting dynamic that reflects our desire as photographers to create a narrative that engages people, rather than just being aesthetically pleasing and then fading into the background of an over-saturated society of image consumption.

https://storify.com/emma_shea/marcus-bleasdale-interview

Sara Davidmann Interview

Sara Davidmann successfully represented a minority group of people without taking advantage, or falsely representing them, to fit with her own personal narrative. She made a strong distinction between the idea of a subject and a participant, with her focus being very much on letting the participants in her photographs decide how they are perceived through the work. Davidmann’s work with transgender people is a collaborative effort between photographer and participant, creating a safe space for the participants where they can be sure they will not be misrepresented or put in potential danger, which is a genuine and very real concern for people in the transgender community, within this society. There were sacrifices that Davidmann had to make, not being able to always capture the photograph she wanted, but this was a sacrifice she willingly made to allow her participants the freedom and safety they required.

It is a wonderful narrative that is created in her work, not just by correcting the mistakes of the media that so often portray transgender people as tragic, isolated deviants, but also by creating a noticeable dialogue between her and them that draws attention to how important body image is to the transgender community and lets them be proud of the body that is shown in her photographs. She has become a part of their narrative without taking away focus or their voice.

I find Davidmann’s work with her family an interesting comment on the dynamic of a photo album, and a fascinating look into how her work has created a personal narrative for Davidmann herself.
The truths about Ken that were revealed to her because of her work, to me, show that by representing people in an informative and conscientious fashion you allow for better understanding and more revealing dialogue to be created.
It’s easy to take a photograph showing what you want it to show and then leaving without giving the subject a choice in their own representation, but by making them a participant and letting them have a voice, through your work, you allow for truths that are unsullied by your personal interpretations to surface and give people a chance to connect, feel raised up and become strengthened through your work. Photography is a powerful tool that can reveal truths and be used as a platform for informing people about things they would otherwise be misinformed about through the media and/ or societies prejudices.

For me, Davidmann’s photographs mean a lot to me and what I wish to do with my PHONAR work. Davidmann created a narrative and dialogue that was a truthful representation without taking advantage of the subject. I want to do the same with my photographs, working off of my Spoken Narrative task.
I am considering how I can appropriately represent people without pushing my own narrative onto them, and at the moment I don’t think I can. I am only just telling my own story and am not comfortable with the idea of relinquishing control over my work yet. Because of this, I will focus of creating my own personal narrative, drawing inspiration from Davidmann’s work and the other photographers we have listened to in Phonar to create something that is informative and a truthful representation of something that is a difficult subject, but a subject that needs to be revealed.

I spoke about in my Spoken Narrative task post shouting loudly enough for myself and for victims/ survivors who do not have their voice/ cannot speak for their own safety. I think that definitely still applies, and I will try to keep that concept in mind while I take my work forward.

https://storify.com/emma_shea/sara-david

Phonar: Spoken Narrative Task

This task was single-handedly the hardest thing I have chosen to put myself through for the sake of my work. If I thought photographing my Skin for #Picbod was going to be the hardest thing I would do, I am obviously entirely unaware how much of a masochist I really can be.

However, like I realised with my #Picbod project, this was such a large step for me in a fantastic way. It was actually very therapeutic to expose myself, to become so vulnerable. The support I got from doing so shattered my feelings of fear and shame. I am fully aware that this will never leave me, but I am in a position of power as an image maker, so I can use it to my advantage, to heal myself and give myself the chance to maybe help others.

At 14 I had my voice taken away from me. It has taken me 7 years to get it back. Sometimes I stutter, it’s inevitable. But now that I have taken back my voice, I will make sure I use it. Some people still don’t have their voices, it can take so long, some never get it back. For them, and for me, I can try to make sure I shout loud enough for the both of us. 


Research

Lisa Potts

For this task, I started by listening to Lisa Potts Interview regarding the machete attack she went through while working at a nursery. I thought the way she told the story gave hints to how many times she had told it to others, and had it go through her head. The addition of specific details helped paint a picture of the event, while at the same time highlighting the moments that have become permanent in her memory. Her story and the way she tells it, for me, is a reminder of how traumatic events have long lasting connotations for the victim beyond the physical. You don’t just forget it and move on, you can’t.

For my personal story, I didn’t have as long as Potts, and I wanted to create something that spoke about the span of 7 years. I thought the best way to do this while still keeping it engaging for the audience was to speak with an almost poetic structure. With that in mind, I researched ‘Word Poems’ and ‘Poetry Slams’

‘Word Poems’

These two specifically have always been so brutally inspiring to me. They speak of the issue with the force necessary for people to listen, but without losing the emotion that is inevitable with something traumatic. I didn’t have a group to speak with, and I am not a forceful person, but I wanted to incorporate the word poems that inspired me into my words. I tried to punctuate certain moments with the anger and force I felt necessary while other parts became slower and quieter. I wanted the way I said the words to be as telling as the words themselves.

How to speak/ tell a story

I refuse to speak about this with the same detachment I have in the past, merely speaking about the technical parts of the event and not how it made me feel. Because when I speak with that detachment it’s a protection from how terrifying and upsetting it is, but at the same time I feel like I am restricting people from truly understanding how it feels and why it is important. Taking that protection away from my words also made me feel like I was giving a more truthful explanation of the 7 years that would engage people and actually make them feel invested and emotional.


This is my Spoken Narrative

This is the website for Crasac (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre) who I spoke about in my Spoken Narrative and are the reason I am at the point I am where I can talk about it so openly -> http://www.crasac.org.uk/

It does so not matter if you did not report it or how long ago it happened, they will treat you as an individual and not judge. (Keep in mind there is a long waiting list for the one of one counselling, because there is such a high demand for the service)

Also, here is a link for Victim Support, they help victims of all manners of crimes, regardless of when it happened or whether it was reported -> https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/


David Campbell’s talk on ‘Narrative Power and Responsibility’ has made me consider how the power dynamic of a photograph can drastically affect a photograph when you are focusing on something traumatic.We have spoken about how the subject always has the least power in a photograph, and with a subject like rape that can lead to something dangerous. Rape is not just about sexual gratification, it’s more so about domination, humiliation and control. If you take a photograph of a victim, you are taking control and have the power to interpret that photograph as you please. This could end up being another form of assault, taking away there voice and power over something they possibly already feel entirely powerless with.

Anthony Luvera’s assisted self portraits combat this potential issue by giving the homeless people he was photographing the power in what they photographed about their life and then, instead of taking their portraits, helped them take their own. If photographing victims of rape was a potential subject, I think the only way to do it without adding to the trauma would be to give them as much control as they wanted to take in the situation, because otherwise you are doing nothing but using them for the personal gain of your wanted photographs, which could easily turn into nothing more but another trauma for them.

http://www.luvera.com/old/

One thing that I have begun to think about more, after this task, is how can I reliably tell someone else’s story, when I have only just begun telling my own? It’s a difficult situation where I want to give myself a voice, because I can be in control of my story, but if I ask to tell someone else’s story, I am asking them to relinquish a level of control, which with something traumatic like what I have spoken about, that would be the last thing I would want to do.

http://phonar.org/2014/10/professor-david-campbell-on-narrative-power-and-responsibilty/

https://storify.com/emma_shea/phonar-david-campbell

What have I taken away from this?

Our narrative is a culmination of other peoples experiences, interpreted by ourself. Our interpretation is affected by our own experiences. Two people could experience the same event and come away with two different opinions and concepts of what happened. We as humanity crave understanding in a world that isn’t linear, there isn’t a beginning, middle and end, but when a moment is told in such a way, we feel like we understand the world a bit more and make sense/ order out of the chaos of reality.

When you narrate something, it is just as important to consider what to exclude and to include. It is impossible to include everything. That exclusion can change the whole concept of a narrative. So, as storytellers, is it our purpose to figure out what to include to create a narrative as close to the truth as possible? Are we in fact just enforcing our personal opinions and takes of a situation onto people through narrative? If this is the case, how can we reliably interpret a subjects story without taking advantage and narrating it in a way that responds more to us and our opinions that to theirs?

Also,you can’t control how the Audience interprets the narrative. The subject really is the least powerful in the relationship. But at least the development of technology has given them a voice to defend themselves if they are so woefully misinterpreted that they feel the narrative is damaging to their image.

David Campbell’s interview was absolutely fantastic and really grabbed my attention. Narrative, Power and Responsibility are three things that have been brought up time and time again in our degree as things to consider, and Campbell really helped to put it into perspective.
He discussed how photograph can influence situations, but aren’t necessarily capable of single handedly changing the world. People do attribute change to photographs however, so they definitely offer a focal point for communities to rally around for a cause. Narrative in photographs is something I am personally very interested in, as I constantly attempt to create a narrative in my work based on issues of the world or giving a voice to undervalued concepts. Campbell discusses how narrative is central to photography even though the term is commonly attributed to literature and other forms of story telling. The reality is that photography is merely another form of storytelling with a visual narrative.
One thing I truly appreciate from Campbells interview, is his explanation that research, understanding and context are critical to have before creating an image. A piece of work that understands it’s own context and can inform itself is the work that sustains itself over years. As a photographer, we have drastic power in narrating events. It is impossible to include every detail, but leaving out information changes the narrative. What is important is knowing what to include to create the most truthful narratvie possible. A positive strength of digital media today is that a narrative can be created from multiple perspectives of observers and participants. In the end ‘What we take to be as important parts of our history today only came to be through the narration of participants or observers’. Narrative is important because it offers a sense of purpose and coherence in a world that doesn’t have any.
The world is chaotic but narrative creates order, which is something we crave.