FMP, Project Development - Twickenham, Matt

Matt Goodwin, changing water on the alfalfa fields in Twickenham, an unincorporated community of ranches North of Mitchell. 

Matt is new to the area, and is working as a farm hand. I ran into him as I was driving through Twickenham with the aim of capturing some landscapes. He invited me to ride along with him as he worked on the fields. I think some of the images are quite successful and show an element of life in this area that I have yet to capture.  

FMP, Project Development - Mitchell, Piety Hill

I am now settling into Mitchell and finding a rhythm to my days here. I have found myself to be busier than I expected as I am helping at both the hostel and the brewery in the town. I initially took on these roles as I felt they would help me to connect with members of the community, but working here is also helping me to gain a greater understanding of everyday life in a small town. With a population of just 120 people, many residents take on multiple roles and work tirelessly everyday to keep the town functioning. 

Last night I took the opportunity to explore the residential area of Mitchell during the evening golden hour. Recently, I have found myself focused on portraits, so I wanted to photograph more details of my environment. The residential area is located high on a hill side just south of Mitchell’s Main Street. It is known to locals as ‘Piety Hill’ as it was here, in 1895, that the town’s first church was established. A church remains in this original location, along with many houses and the Mitchell K-12 school. 

I think the above image of the fire hydrant and store sign is particularly strong, the evening light offering an almost cinematic feel to this ramshackle arrangement of objects on a street corner.  

FMP, Project Development - Mitchell, Letty

Letty, age 5, photographed around her fathers house and on the Main Street in Mitchell. I spent about an hour with Letty, taking photos and playing with her. She chose all the places to take the photographs, and most of these were shot at Donny’s Rock Shop. Letty is a strong spirited, adventurous young person. Her father, Jake, takes pride in raising her and allows her a lot of free reign. I would like to photograph the the two of them together and document this positive father-daughter relationship. 

FMP, Project Development - Mitchell ‘Residency’

This week, I relocated to Mitchell (Pop. 120) in Eastern Oregon. I will spend the remaining 5 weeks creating work here before my FMP exhibition in London. It has been my plan to spend an extended period in one of the communities I have been photographing, and I am incredibly grateful to Pat (the town Mayor) and his wife Jallet who are hosting me here. They are accommodating me in a small travel trailer, and when not working on my project, I am assisting them at the church & hostel that they own in the town.

I am now 5 days into my stay here. I have already met many residents and I am gaining a much greater understanding of life in this remote town. It has always been my aim to ingrate into the communities I am documenting and I hope that my time here will allow me to better represent Mitchell’s residents through my work. 

In addition to this, I am already noticing the benefits of being here full time as it allows me to capture unique and interesting events as they occur. This past weekend, we experienced ‘heat lightning’. The sky turned pink and purple as I was out photographing a young resident named Letty. The photos from this event are quite striking and I doubt that I would have caught it if I were not living here. 

FMP, Contextual Research - The Documentary Impulse & ‘Intimacy over Actuality’

I recently finished reading The Documentary Impulse by Stuart Franklin. There were quite a few areas of the text which resonated with me and left me with food for thought regarding my own practice. Early in the book, Franklin notes that what drives him most as a photographer is curiosity, and I believe the same to be true of myself. It also seems that his viewpoints regarding both intimacy with the subject and ethical practices align with my own. I found The Documentary Impulse beneficial in that it expanded upon my own ideas regarding these factors of photography. 

The idea of ‘intimacy over actuality’ is a reoccurring theme throughout the text. One of the earliest works to have the term ‘documentary’ applied to it was Robert J. Flaherty’s 1922 feature-length film Nanook of the North. Scottish filmmaker John Grierson is stated to have been the first to use the term, referring to it as “a creative treatment of actuality” (Grierson in Franklin, 2016, p.6) Despite the fact that several scenes in Nanook of the North were staged, Grierson defended the work, asserting his belief that intimacy was more important than actuality: “Intimacy with the fact of the matter is therefore the distinguishing mark of documentary, and it is not greatly important how this is achieved.” (Grierson in Franklin. 2016 P.7).

It seems that staging has existed within documentary since its inception. I have long considered this as one of the key differences between ‘photojournalism’ and ‘documentary photography’ in that it is much more readily excepted in the latter. Creating my own work, I combine both approaches, sometimes photographing events and scenes as they naturally unfold before me, other times giving my subjects limited directions. These directions, such as where to sit or which way to look, are always given under the belief that they are not far from a scene that could happen without my involvement. For example, I would never ask a person to wear a particular outfit, or be photographed in a location that is foreign to them, primarily to meet my own agenda. Franklin notes that portraiture is an area of documentary photography where such staging has long been expected and understood. Franklin quotes Italian photographer Paolo Verzone: “The staging is part of the creative process, not only by the [photography] industry but because all portraits in the history of mankind have been staged”, and “It’s the beauty of the portrait to be staged. There’s so much to invent in the photographic portrait” (Verone in Franklin. P. 175) 

With regards to achieving intimacy with my subject matter, this has become an important factor of my practice over the past 2 years. This was initially driven by ethical concerns, believing that closeness with the communities I am photographing would better equip me to represent them in my work. As a by-product of this, I believe that the collaborative relationship that I have formed with those I am photographing has allowed me to make much more successful, compelling images. 

‘The thinking around is different [today]… Photography is creating new narratives, ones less focused on the craft of making good photographs, more on telling stories that are meaningful.’ (Rubio in Franklin, 2016, p.176)

When I first began my project in Central Oregon, my work rightly received comparisons to road trip photography. At that time, akin to Stephen Shore’s work ‘American Surfaces’, I was well aware that I was just documenting surface impressions of the places I was visiting. In The Documentary Impulse, Franklin draws attention to Lee Friedlander’s recent work: 

“Lee Friedlander’s photobook America By Car (2010) is a road trip through the United States with every image shot through car windows, the people and landscape viewed as they are customarily seen, as objects spotted whilst driving. Across two pages in the book we see a heard of cattle in Nebraska through one window, a small black bird in Death Valley, California through another. The landscape in both images appears the same: miniaturized, contained and framed within a discourse about car use.” (Franklin, 2016, p. 132)

The longer I spend with rural communities in the US, the more passionate I feel about creating images that are intimate and meaningful. I reject the notion that these areas are primarily to be driven through and to be viewed only through car windows. In Sara Smarsh’s Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, the author speaks of the negative repercussions of using vocabulary such as ‘flyover country’ to describe the rural Midwestern states such as Kansas and Nebraska. It is my aim to represent working class communities in Oregon in a more complex way, and I will continue to build on the relationships I have formed here in order to gain greater intimacy with my subject matter. 

Franklin, S. 2016. The Documentary Impulse. London: Phaidon. 

Smarsh, S. 2018. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. New York: Scribner

FMP, Project Development - Exhibition Plans

After much deliberation, I have decided to host my FMP exhibit in London in August of this year. The show will take place at Four Corners gallery from August 13 - 19th. I have learnt that my work has more appeal to British viewers, and displaying my work in London will allow me to reach a wide audience.  

The space is larger than I originally envisioned, so I have begun thinking of creative ways to use the space. I do not have the financial means to frame all my work, but when speaking with Stella, she recommended that I frame some pieces. I definitely think there should be variation in the size and positioning of prints on the walls and have been looking for examples of exhibitions which I think are particularly successful in this approach (see below).

I have already been making small prints of all my images to help guide my editing process, but now I will begin making larger prints. I am able to make my own prints up to A3+ size, from these I will decide which images to send to a professional print studio to print at a larger size. I will also begin playing with potential layouts using the gallery floor plan I have received.

FMP, Project Development - Intro Zine

A selection of images from my work in progress was recently published by MAYN Creative. Their quarterly zine, ‘Intro’ features the work of a single photography student at Falmouth University. I felt honored to be selected by the team at MAYN, and it was a pleasure to work with their editorial team. I believe that the writer assigned to the project, Harry Lawlor, did a good job of translating my motives for creating the work into words. I’m glad that more people have access to my work and look forward to sharing this with the people who are featured in the images. 

FMP, Contextual Research - Amanda Lucier’s Female Ranchers

In relation to my previous post, I recently discovered the work of Amanda Lucier through her series Women Ranchers published by the New York Times. I was very interested to learn about the changing demographics in ranch ownership in the US, and Amanda’s images are incredibly successful in showcasing the demanding work that these women do. Amanda also has an ongoing project documenting 4-H Fairs. 4-H is a youth organization that operates across the United States but is most prevalent in agricultural regions. Each year, young 4-H members care for livestock such as pigs, goats, and sheep, in anticipation for the summer fairs, at which the animals are judged. Many of the young people I have met whilst creating my work also participate in this program. As the population of young people living in rural areas continues to decrease, I believe that it is important to document this increasing uncommon childhood experience.

I contacted Amanda to express my appreciation of my work, and discovered that she also lives in Portland. I was fortunate to meet her in person and we discussed her work as a photojournalist. As I feel my work is moving in an editorial direction, I greatly appreciated her sharing her knowledge of this photographic field, and am grateful to have her as a local contact.

FMP, Contextual Research - Women Photographers Reclaim the American West

In her recent article,  ‘Three Women Photographers Reclaim the American Landscape’ writer Rebecca Bengal brings together a number of female  photographers who, to use her words, are ‘deconstructing the mythology of the Wild West’. The article opens with a mention of Debora Bright’s ’Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’, an essay that we read during the Informing Contexts Unit. In this essay Bengal notes. “Deborah Bright called for women artists to “recoup landscape photography for themselves in response to its long-time character as an exclusive white male preserve.” The cherished ideal of the Wild West, metaphoric repository of the American dream, seemed particularly hunted and besieged”. (Bengal, 2019)

Whilst I understand that a disproportionate amount imagery of the American West continues to be made by, or depict, white males, it has not been the the focus of my own work to challenge this. However, gender plays a more prominent role in the work of photographers such as Susan Lipper. Lipper’s book Grapevine made an impactful impression in the early stages of my current work. The intimacy between Lipper and her subjects is clear in her images, and it drove me to foster deeper relationships with those I am photographing. Revisiting the work now, I see that her images strongly emphasize the polarized roles of men and women in rural communities. Her photographs which, to an extent, are staged or dramatized, depict males brandishing guns, drinking beer, making fires, whilst females care for children, fix their hair or expose their breasts to the camera.    

Lipper’s following series Trip, played on the idea of an archetypical American Road trip - a pastime traditionally dominated by males. Lipper stopped at small towns along I-10 in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, combining staged scenes and found objects to encourage the viewer to manufacture a fictional narrative for a road trip that didn’t really happen.

Her most recent work Domesticated Land, which focuses on the Californian Desert, is the last in this trilogy of monographs. Again, her role as a female photographer is present in the work - 

‘Her expedition was anchored in a dual search for ‘true’ America and her own territory: a personal, female perspective of a male-driven land, and a new fictional account of a well-trodden narrative’ (Bright, 2019)

In addition to prompting me to revisit the work of Susan Lipper, Bright’s article also introduced me to the work of Kristine Potter. I am particularly interested in her recent series Manifest. Created whilst working in remote areas of Western Colorado, this work explores the archetypal character of the American Cowboy. Bright writes -

‘Potter encounters men who sparingly dot the terrain, seemingly both tethered to, and in divergence with, the myth that precedes them. Manifest does not act as a documentary, but rather as a re-coding of the western myth, the territory and its men, it is both fantasy and reality. Weaving body and landscape, the book lays open the seduction of the West, the opportunities it promises, the disorientation of altitude, and the confrontation of persistent danger.’ (Bright, 2019)

Bright’s article, and the work of Lipper and Potter, have reminded me of the dominant position that white, christian males take in traditional depictions of the American West. It has prompted me to look at my own images and analyze the way that I represent both women and men within the western landscape. Appraising my own work, one image stood out to me (below). The image, taken in Shaniko, depicts Shaniko resident Hugh teaching his granddaughter how to shoot a black gunpowder pistol. Whilst I photographed an archetypal male cowboy character, I chose to captured a tender moment. It is the young female holding the gun, the older male playing a nurturing role.   

FMP, Project Development - Spray & Mitchell

I travelled again to Wheeler county last weekend, the snow has now mostly melted making both traveling and shooting far easier. My first stop was in Spray, where I had scheduled to photograph a young resident named Emily. I had met Emily earlier in the year when she was cheerleading at a Spray school basketball game. Her mother Megan, who also coaches the cheer team, has been incredibly welcoming and very open to the idea of me photographing her daughter for this project. Emily lives with her family on the outskirts of Spray which has a population of 160. Emily tells me that she is one of only 6 students in her 5th grade class, with 62 students in the entire Spray School district. Last year, there was a graduating class of three, with Emily’s elder brother Robbie as the valedictorian. On the high school level, the school, like several others in rural Oregon, augments its budget by enrolling out-of-state and international students who are housed in a dormitory. Emily is a cheerleader for her school’s basketball team, the Mitchell-Spray Eagle-Loggers. Mitchell and Spray school districts combine players to make up the numbers for a full team.

On the day of the shoot, the weather was still somewhat adverse, I had scheduled the shoot for late in the afternoon, hoping for good natural light, but unfortunately it remained quite flat. Emily is also still getting to know me, you can see that we are not yet fully comfortable with one another in the images, which are quite staged or posed.  Although I’m not sure if any of these images will make the final edit, it was wonderful to spend more time with Emily, I continue to be impressed by the character of the young people who live in this region. I believe that her family are growing more comfortable with me and hope to continue to collaborate with them. I plan to return to Spray soon and take some environmental portraits of Emily, and the rest of her cheerleading team in their uniforms.

On the second day of my trip, I returned to Mitchell. This has become my ’home base’ in Wheeler County and my aim is to spend an extended period of time here making work there in the summer of this year. I was able to get some strong portraits of some of the town’s residents on this trip, as I become more familiar to people there. One photo which I believe to be particularly successful is of Glenn Raber, shown above. With such small populations, residents in towns like Mitchell are often required to take on many, often voluntary, roles in order for the town to function. Glenn is no exception, I caught him on his Sunday morning rounds as a garbage collector, but he is also the town’s Internet installer, computer repairman, handyman, city councilman and fire chief. 

FMP, Project Development - Snow Season

In the February of this year, it snowed heavily in Central and Eastern Oregon. It made it difficult for me to continue my work as usual. Many locations became inaccessible and the weather conditions  were difficult to shoot in. However, I was able to travel out on two occasions, on the first trip I went to Mitchell in Wheeler County, (Pop. 120). I didn’t produce much work on this visit, but I did strengthen my relationships with the community there. I don’t know if any of the images I took on this trip will appear in my final series, as the snow makes them very different aesthetically from the rest of my work. I have made prints of what I consider to the stronger images, and I will place them alongside my other images to see if they might work together. 

On my second excursion, I traveled to Dufur, the town in which I have a strong connection with a number of residents. Two of my previous subjects offered to show me their firearms, and I had my first experience of shooting a gun. The prominence of guns and gun supporters in Central and eastern Oregon has become very apparent over the course of this project, and I do want to better understand gun culture. On the day that we took these photos, I was made to feel safe, and I know that I was in the company of responsible gun owners. Coming from England, firearms are still a foreign concept for me. I have conflicted feelings regarding them, as I whilst I understand the dangers, I have also learnt what a huge importance they have to many rural communities. Due to this, I think it is important to represent them in my work, and I will continue to learn more about them as my work progresses.

FMP, Project Development - Falmouth Face to Face

Last week I travelled to the UK for the Face to Face Event and Symposium hosted at Falmouth University. It was a great experience, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet the faculty and my classmates in person after 18 months studying remotely.

I participated in a number of workshops. I was interested in experimenting with digital medium format over the coming months, and the session led by Stella gave me a much better understanding of the cameras. I had been considering using digital medium format to make some fine, close up portraits of community members in central Oregon, to compliment the images I have already made. Jesse recently introduced me to the work of Paul Kranzler, who uses this style with great affect in his series The Drake Equation. However, getting hands on experience with the Mamiya Leaf system made me realize that this wouldn’t be the correct tool for me - As Stella noted, these cameras really work best in the studio environment, it would be hard to work in the field with this camera. I’m going to attempt to get some close up portraits with my current camera and see if they are successful, before experimenting with smaller digital medium format systems such as the mirrorless Fuji GFX.

I participated in two analog workshops - machine film processing and color darkroom printing. Both were enjoyable and reminded me of both the pros and cons of analog processes! Whilst I aim to continue working with digital for the time being, I recognize the strong technical foundation I gained learning with film in college and on my BA. It was a a good refresher to analyze prints coming out of the color darkroom for casts and understand what adjustments needed to be made. My final workshop, ‘Prep for Digital Print’, was particularly useful at this stage of the MA. It was great to sharpen up my  skills in this area as I begin making plans to publish my work.

The most beneficial experience of the week was the day of critiques. It was incredibly emboldening to receive positive feedback on the work from many new viewers. I agreed with the overall consensus the Witness Marks has the potential to be a successful book, and that I must keep working with same enthusiasm I have for the project to make this a reality. The positive reaction my images received whilst in the UK made me consider the best audience for my work, and I have begin considering hosting my FMP exhibition in England where there seems to be a keen interest in the series. 

Although I was unable to stay for the entire symposium, I was very grateful to hear Michelle Sank speak about her work with youth, including the series My.Self, in which she photographed young people from the Black County in their bedrooms. I find myself increasingly interested in the experience of children and teenagers living in central Oregon communities, and I plan to contact Michelle to talk about this aspect of my work. 

FMP, Project Development - Wheeler County

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Wheeler County, the region of Oregon I plan to focus on over the coming months. Although I already have quite a strong body of imagery to carry into my Final Major Project, I definitely intend to continue shooting and building upon my work, taking a long form, immersive approach to creating this project.

I am eager to spend more time in Wheeler County, as it is the least populated region of Oregon. The majority of people live in three small towns; Fossil (Pop. 446), Spray (Pop. 160) and Mitchell (Pop. 120) each located around 30 miles from the next. I continue to learn more about the life of young people in these areas. I am particularly interested in the boarding programs at the schools, without which, they would not have enough students to operate. Even with these boarding programs in place, graduating classes average around 5 students, or less. 

On this trip, my intention was to learn more about the area and introduce myself to local residents. I visited a high school basketball match in Spray and was able to speak with the cheerleading team. Despite the poor lighting conditions in the gym, I was happy to capture some images that I could share with them. I would like to photograph this group again, having been inspired by Alice Mann’s series Drummies.

The town of Mitchell was my base for two nights. I met a number of local residents who warmly welcomed me and were happy to share their knowledge of the town. I see great possibilities for creating work here, and am interested to learn more about the life in this extremely remote location. 

On this trip, I also stopped in Dufur for one night, where I have been working closely with one family. The series ‘The White House on Main Street’, which I began last module, documents the life of Meliney and her experiences growing up in small town America. I initially intended for these photographs to be included in Witness Marks, but I feel it has become its own body of work. Although I am now placing this work on a back burner, I will continue to slowly add to it over time. The connection I have formed with the family will hopefully allow me to capture Meliney at different stages of her childhood and maybe even into her teenage years.

Sustainable Prospects, Contextual Research - ‘The American Front Porch’

Reviewing my recent images, I realized how many of my photographs were taken on, or around, the front porch of the house that I have been photographing in Dufur. I enjoyed reading this well referenced website created by a student at University of Virginia detailing the history and cultural significance of the American front porch. I wonder if I could use the front porch as anchor when exploring life in small town America on a winder scale. Front porches are largely an architectural feature of the past, rarely seen in urban areas, but they are still utilized in many rural communities and small towns. The porch, as an outdoor space which brings a family’s home life into a public realm, reflects the sense of trust and connection between neighbors, as well as the sense of community that exists in these areas. 

Sustainable Prospects - Funding Opportunities

This module has encouraged me to consider sustainable solutions for creating and distributing my work, and prompted me to apply for grants and prizes that might help fund my work moving forward.  Sharing my work on social media and with my tutors and peers, I am receiving good feedback, and it has bolstered my confidence in my work and its ability to appeal to a wide audience. I believe that I can make a strong case for my project on youth in Wheeler county being worthy of funding, and I am building a solid portfolio of images that hopefully demonstrates that I have the ability to follow through with this work. I have begun researching awards and residencies that are most applicable to the work that I make and the area that I live in. I see that many of the residencies encourage outreach work with youth during an artists stay, something which would be ideal for me. Many of the grant cycles are closed for this year, but I have highlighted a few which I hope to apply for when they open in 2019. Winter break will allow me some time to begin writing proposals, and I would like to review these with my tutors before applying for any opportunities.

Applications due early 2019 - 

John Day Fossil Beds Artist in Residence

Wheeler County National Park Artist in Residency Program 

Oregon. Length / time for residency determined on a case by case basis. 2019 program dates ‘TBD’. Based on Previous years, It may open in January.  

Lucie Foundation Scholarship Program

PHOTO TAKEN: This scholarship will be given to an individual to create or continue a project focused on telling an existing story through a documentary or photojournalism approach.

EMERGING ARTIST SCHOLARSHIP: This scholarship is open to all genres of photographic work and will be given to an individual to create or continue work on a specific dynamic project.’

Worldwide. Opens Feb 4 2019.

Caldera Arts Artist In Residency

‘Every winter from January through March, creative individuals, collaborations, and performing ensembles are awarded the gift of time and space at our beautiful Arts Center in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains near Sisters, Oregon. Supporting community-engaged work and teaching artists: Caldera prioritizes supporting artists who wish to engage with our youth and broader community through teaching or other activities.’

Oregon. Apply early 2019 for 2020 season.

The Documentary Project Fund 

‘Focused on Supporting photographers and the community-based projects they are passionate about.’

World Wide. Awarded 2 times a year, next call in Spring 2019 

Sustainable Prospects, Coursework - Networking

I recently connected with a local journalist, Tim Trainor, regarding a story he is writing about law enforcement in Wheeler County, Oregon. Wheeler is the poorest, least populated, and fastest shrinking county in Oregon, with  just 1,100 residents spread across 1,700 square miles. Due to a lack of funding, understaffing and the difficulties of the position, Wheeler County’s Sheriff is resigning from his position, along with the three deputies who work under him. On their departure, there has been a question as to whether they will be replaced. I initially contacted Tim as I believe that an interesting photo essay could arise from this story, particularly due to the notorious, lawless ‘Wild West’ which once existed in this part of the country.

Whilst I still have interest in creating accompanying images for this story, Tim also shared an article that he wrote earlier this year entitled Graduating Class of Three - A story about high school students in Wheeler county. This story really resonated with me due to my interest in young residents in rural regions of central Oregon. Tim’s article notes the disadvantages that students attending rural schools face, and also states that most who graduate and move onto college, do not return.  Wheeler High School, which has just 35 students across all its grades is based in Fossil, (Pop. 446). The town is most well known for its public fossil beds, which are actually located on the high school grounds.

Documenting the lives of youth in this region, particularly those attending Wheeler High School seems to be a promising story that would align with the interests I already have in this part of Oregon. I have visited Fossil on one of my shooting excursions, but have not spend much time there. My next steps will be contacting the school to see if they are open to me taking photos, or if they are able to connect with with families who might be willing to collaborate with me. 

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development - Thanksgiving

Over the past two months, I have focused on documenting one household in Dufur, Oregon (Pop. 604). I have been working closely with one family in the hope that it will enable me to gain greater insight into life in small town America. I have become very close with the family since I met them around one year ago, and was honored to be invited to share Thanksgiving with them this year. The above images were taken across the two days that I spent with them, their extended family, and friends. 

My approach this term has been quite different to the way that I have worked previously. Rather than photographing many places and people, I have worked more intimately with one small group. I know that this has been successful with regards to building trust and understanding with residents in the areas that I am photographing, but it may not immediately result in an improvement in the images that I am able to create. I hope that my Work in Progress Portfolio will demonstrate that my efforts this term have been primarily focused on strengthening my relationships with the community I am photographing, and it will be assessed with this in mind. 

Sustainable Prospects, Coursework - Website & Social Media

This week, we were promoted to make improvements to our website. My site (on which this blog is hosted), was relatively up to date, but there were some changes I had been intending to make for sometime. This was a great reminder to follow through with these plans. I use Format to build my site, it is a little restrictive with regards to modifications, but I am relatively happy with the layout and design options provided.

Previously, I was using a horizontal scrolling layout for my website, which displayed images beside one another - this was the first element that I changed this week. My website (when viewed on a computer) now displays images one at a time, and the viewer is required to click ‘next’ or ‘previous’ to navigate through the series. I hope that this will encourage the viewer to focus on each individual image. I have also added a thumbnail viewing option, as an alternative way to view all the images in a collection. 

Another change that was more pressing, was creating a site that was more adaptive to different devices, as my previous layout did not display well on tablets and smartphones. I had found that it was not intuitive for the user to navigate, and I was not happy with the appearance of certain elements, such as image captions and menus. I think my new layout is a vast improvement, as it is much more user friendly and my work is better presented. I have tested my site on a few different devices, all of which were successful, so I feel more confident sharing it with others.

 I am now in the process of strengthening my content. I believe that I need to edit down the number of images in my series Witness Marks, and also think more about sequencing, in order to strengthen this body of work. 

I have been spending more time promoting my work through social media, the current module has encouraged me to post to instagram more regularly, and it has been reassuring to receive positive feedback on my work, particularly from new audiences. I have been making an effort to connect with other photographers via instagram, and also submitted my work to an online exhibition by The Documentary Department. I know that I still need to improve my social media presence however, and I wonder if adding more video content could help - I always take interesting journeys to my shooting destinations, but never share videos or photographs of my working process - something that I believe my followers might like to see. 

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development / Contextual Research

I have decided, for the remaining few weeks of this module, to focus on one location, and one household to document. I have made this decision as I feel it will give me a better sense of the kind of work I can create when a family has grown comfortable with me, and my presence with a camera does not cause a too drastic change in behavior. If this approach is successful, I would like to work with three or four families from different small towns in Central Oregon to document for my FMP. 

When I began photographing in this region, I certainly felt like an outsider, which led to concerns about the ethical implications of the work, and a fear that I might represent these communities inaccurately, or in a way that they wouldn’t appreciate. By working closely with specific families, I feel a greater sense of collaboration with my subjects, and it is easy to engage in consistent, open dialogue with them regarding the images and how they are being used.  I do think I need to be cautious that my images do not get too sentimental however, as I become closer with the family.

As I aim to create a stand alone body of work to submit for this module, I would like to add more shots of Dufur itself, the landscape surrounding the town, and details from the inside the house. I will be spending Thanksgiving with the family, and think this will be a great opportunity to build on the images I have already taken.

Contextual References

Before revisiting Seth and Sam’s house in Dufur last weekend, I looked at Nick Waplington’s early series Living Room. On the back cover of the book is a quote which remained with me as I went on to create my own work, reminding me of what can be achieved when close bonds are formed between a photographer and their subjects. 

“Through living with his subjects, with who he becomes a kind of accomplice. Nick Waplington is able to offer us various shades of fondness for the quotidian. Far from the falsely compassionate conventions of social “reportage” He draws us in. Close enough to almost share in the human dignity of these difficult conditions. Finally, he offers us a key that enables us to read society without caricaturing it.” - Christian Caujolle, Director of L’Agence VU. Paris.

 Although there is still quite a lot of formality to many of my images, I do see my work moving more towards the aesthetic obtained by photographers who embed themselves within a group, such as Waplington. This is very different from the ‘dead pan’ look of artists such as Stephen Shore or Alec Soth, who I have always considered as key influences on my work in the past. I am now in a place where I am trying to find a comfortable position between the two styles, and I wonder if I can combine both approaches. In my tutorial with Sophie this week, she introduced me to the work of Anastasia Taylor Lind - an artist I see complimenting reportage style images, with slower, more formally posed portraits. 

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development - Dufur

I visited Dufur, Oregon last weekend, and had the pleasure of spending the weekend with a family I have come to know there. I am incredibly grateful to Samantha and Seth for welcoming me into their home and trusting me to photograph their family. As I aim to deepen my understanding of youth living in rural towns, spending this extended time with my subjects is increasingly important to me. 

The majority of these images are of Meliney, one of the children I am interested in documenting over the coming months. Meliney is 5 years old, and attends Dufur school. There are around 15 children in her year group, some of whom travel in from rural areas nearby. Meliney will stay at the same school, with almost all the same classmates, until she graduates at 18. Her father Seth also attended the school as a child, as did the parents of many of Meliney’s classmates.

These images have a more intimate feel than many of my previous shots, which were shot in a more spontaneous way, often with strangers. Playing with Meliney, speaking with her parents, and sleeping at their house overnight, all played an important role in the image making process. Strengthening my relationship with them will also benefit me in the future, when I return to photograph them again.  As these photographs have a different look and feel from work I have created before, I am keen to receive feedback from my peers and tutors. Moving forward, I would like to work closely with my subjects in this manner, and hope that in doing this, my work will more accurately reflect the lives of my subjects.  

I will visit Meliney and her family again soon. I also have leads for other children and teenagers that I can photograph in Dufur. Dufur, with a population of 604, it is much larger than other towns in Central Oregon such as Shaniko or Antelope, which each have less than 50 residents. I feel there would be more interest in documenting these even smaller towns, so I must reach out to my contacts in these areas to inquire about youth in their communities.

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development

I have been working on my current project about rural communities in central Oregon for almost a year now, and at this point, I feel a need to hone down my focus to a more specific aspect of this region - especially looking forward to my final major project. I had a helpful tutorial with Jesse last week, in which we discussed different possible directions for this work. One idea, which I have been considering for sometime, is to focus on the young residents in these areas. My motivation for this is to gain a better understanding of the future for these towns. These small communities generally have a declining, aging population, and I wonder if young people will stay here as they grow older. At the same time, I would also like to learn about the day to day lifestyle of children and teens in these areas. With the majority of the U.S (and global) population now living in urban areas, I am interested in documenting this alternative way of life.

Amongst the work I have already made, I believe that some of the strongest images are of children or teens. I enjoy being around young people, and through my work as a teacher, I have gained plenty of experience working and collaborating with them. Having spent twelve months on this project, I know that I am passionate about the culture, people and landscape of this part of Oregon, and I believe that I am equally interested documenting the lives of the young Americans who live there. I have begun connecting with people in central Oregon with young family members, and I plan to shoot in the town of Dufur next weekend.

As I contemplate this idea, I look to other photographers who document youth in their work. Four practitioners initially come to mind - Maria Stern, Tobias Zieloni, Vanessa Winship and Isadora Kosofsky. I will be exploring each in greater detail moving forward, but I wanted to share a segment of a review on Winship’s series She Dances on Jackson which particularly stood out to me. 

‘In this rather desolate land we encounter people. Winship is a magnificent portrait photographer. In She Dances on Jackson she continues working with young people, creating a stunning number of utterly arresting photographs. A little more than halfway into the book, we encounter one of the key portraits in the book, a young couple. The young man (still more a boy than a man really) and woman are holding hands, and her left hand rests on his chest, with a crease of his t-shirt in between the index and middle finger. The young man appears quite a bit more fragile than his girlfriend, who seems to put a claim on him. Even though their eyes meet the viewer’s it is hard to guess what might be going on in their minds; it’s tempting to see worry, a bit of uncertainty and a hint of defiance (isn’t that the signature of youth, that you still defy the world?).

This hints at what makes the portraits so strong and this book so convincing. It would have been tempting to produce a sad-sack tour of the troubled land, with jobs gone and people struggling to get by. But there always is that hope or that defiance that you have when you’re young. You don’t really know what is going to happen, but it’s going to be alright. You’ll make do, one way or the other.’ (Colberg, J. 2013)

Colberg, J. Vanessa Winship: She Dances on Jackson. 2013.  [Online]. [Accessed 17 September  2018]. Available From:

Sustainable Prospects, Coursework - New Digital Posibilities

It has been helpful to think about digital modes of dissemination this week, as I don’t believe I take full advantage of the tools now available to photographers. I am interested in adding more interactive elements to my work, but would only do so if I felt it significantly added to the work. A example that I think is particularly successful is an interactive map created by Photographer Lucas Foglia to accompany his series Front County. A link provided on Foglia’s website leads to a google map which plots the location of each of the photographs from the series. You can navigate by either selecting an image title, or a specific pinpoint on the map. You can also see a fullscreen version of each image. I am interested in American geography, and rely on google maps to reach my own shooting destinations, so I really enjoyed exploring his work using this interface. I also like that it is in addition to his more traditional modes of dissemination - book, website etc. The map would have been quite simply to create, and is intuitive for viewers to use, but I feel like it allows us to better understand the project and the photographer’s working method. 

Last term, I produced an ebook as my work in progress portfolio. (Fire Season Link Here) I feel this was quite successful, and it seemed to be a more substantial submission than simply adding images to my online gallery. I enjoyed designing a cover and layout for the book and reacquainting myself with Adobe InDesign. I welcomed feedback on the layout, which reminded me to think more carefully about the images I select to present on facing pages within a digital publication. The pages are not as defined as a traditional book, as they do not dip in at the spine. When delivering a series of work online, I feel the ebook is an effective option to better dictate the way in which the images are viewed. Next time, I would also be interested in adding an interactive element to the publication - Perhaps adding a links to a map, additional text or even video content. 

The only social media platform I use to share my work is Instagram, and I am a relatively new adopter. I know that it is beneficial for me to share my work regularly, as it does give me a better understanding of which of my images are popular with a broader audience. Thinking about how I could improve my posts, and a gain a wider following, I looked at the accounts of photographers who I believe have consistently engaging content. Isadora Kosofsky, a long-form documentary photographer, often chooses to add lengthy, detailed captions to her images. I feel this was traditionally discouraged on instagram, but I welcome this addition to the platform. For her work, the context is often extremely important, and I feel it encourages engagement from the viewer. Moving forward, I aim to add more detail to the captions on my own posts. 

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development - Antelope, Spray, Fossil

Last module, the feedback I received on my CRJ noted that I should share more of my working process with my readers. With this in mind, I wanted to provide more information on the practicalities of most recent shooting excursion in Central Oregon. One of the key elements to my work is the act of driving - I spend hours journeying through Oregon to visit remote towns. In doing this, I emulate the act of so many iconic photographers before me - Walker Evens, Robert Frank, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth - to name but a few. I am relatively new to America, and I still find the vast, expansive stretches of road alluring. The way in which the landscape changes as I drive east of my home in Portland, and the dramatic shift in culture and the people I encounter motivates my work. Although the act of driving does not make an appearance in my images (I do not photograph gas stations or compose shots through my car window, for example), I do hope to share the act of exploration with my viewer, as I offer them windows into these unseen places. Driving 100mi to 300mi to reach my destinations, I usually camp out in the area. I have a trusty car which I converted by hand into a camper. I has a stove, ample storage and a full bed. Second to my camera, my car is my most important piece of equipment. Without it, my work wouldn’t be possible. 

The map above shows the route I took across a three day period. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain, I was unable to shoot on the first day in Shaniko. The weather did offer some interesting skies in Antelope on the morning of day two however, when I photographed Richard Harleman with his horses, and the interior of his horse trailer. I’m deciding on the success of these images - I recognize that they are quite different to much of my other work. This could be seen as positive, in that they offer diversity to my series, but I wonder if they might seem out of place alongside other images. They also pose questions about the direction of my work. Initially, I was intrigued by this part of Oregon as it contradicted my preconceived ideas of the West as a place of abundance and strength. However these images align with the ‘Marlboro Man’ image of the west, and I wonder if they are a little clichéd. 

I decided to visit the towns of Fossil and Spray on my third day as I hadn’t yet explored these areas. Traveling north through the Ochoco National Forest, I was offered some stunning views of the landscape and reminded just how much of the land is undeveloped. I would like to revisit Spray, pop. 160 in the spring, when they hold their annual rodeo, and hopefully meet some local residents.

Sustainable Prospects, Project Development - Tygh Valley & Maupin

Last weekend, I went to a bluegrass festival in central Oregon in the hope of photographing a different element of life in Central Oregon. Overall, this trip was not very successful, I soon realized that most of those attending the festival were visiting from different parts of the country, and therefore it didn’t seem to offer me any more insight into the small towns of the region. Also, Aesthetically, the festival didn’t offer me what I was looking for. I have learnt to accept these situations and know that I still gain experience and greater understanding of this area, and my practice, each time I venture out. 

I did meet some interesting people however, and captured a couple of portraits in the morning. I also stopped in the town of Maupin, a community I had yet to explore. Maupin is particularly picturesque and with a population of around 400, it is more populated than other areas in the region offering me more chance to make acquaintances with those who live there. 

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