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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://cphmag.com/winship-jackson/
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.
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.
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.
This week were were asked to think about different careers within the photography industry, other than being a photographer. Having studied photography at undergrad, and then spent time assisting after university, I was familiar with the potential paths one can take.
For me, I have found teaching photography to be my passion. I love sharing my knowledge of photography with others, and find it infinitely rewarding to inspire and educate others in my field. I recently interviewed for a position as a photo retoucher at a prestigious commercial studio in Portland - In addition to the fact that my editing skills were not at the level required for the position, I was further reassured that this kind of job was not for me. As a teacher, I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and particularly enjoy working with young people. Perhaps the most fulfilling position I ever held was as an Instructor and director for a photography camp for teenagers in Chicago.
My initial motivation for obtaining my MA was to offer myself access to more teaching positions and I am excited at the prospect of potentially teaching at college level one day. In the meantime, I will continue to instruct at alternative art education programs and gain more experience as both a photographer, and an educator.
The book Framing Community: Magnum Photos, 1947-Present edited by Maria Pelizzari Antonella has been an interesting read highlighting the work of a number of photographers with an emphasis on the different communities that they have documented through their work. Recently, as I have engaged more with residents in Central Oregon, it has become clear that the ties of community are extremely strong in these remote, rural towns - Having never live in such a small town myself, it has been arresting to witness the camaraderie between neighbors - particularly evident in manner in which people fought to protect each other’s land against the recent wildfires.
Framing Community, is broken down in to the subsections - Longing for Community, Shifting Community, Contested Territories and Displaced communities - Each has content that could relate to my current project. Artists discussed include Alec Soth, Jim Goldberg, and Peter Van Agtmael - All of whom had already influenced my practice. The photographer Bieke Depoorter was new to me however, and I feel her approach to creating work - From sleeping in her subject’s homes, to having strangers share their thoughts by writing on her on her images, is highly likely to influence my methodologies moving forward.
On a recommendation, I have also been reading Kathleen Stewart’s Ordinary Affects - an anthropological study of everyday life in America, primarily told through a series of anecdotal vignettes. This is not something I would usually read, but I have been enjoying this different approach to documenting contemporary American culture. Many of the short poetic anecdotes resonate with me - Particularly her reference to ‘Still Lifes’ - a static, charged scene which punctuates ordinary life, as I would hope to capture a similar energy in my images.
Last weekend I revisited the town of Dufur, which was recently affected by large scale wildfires. A local resident, Josh, took us to view some of the damage. Having grown a great affection for this area and it’s people, it was incredibly sad to see the devastation caused. Earlier this year, Josh had taken me to see Charles E. Nelson house, a well known abandoned property on the outskirts of Dufur. This month, we revisited this location, the house having been destroyed in the ‘Substation Fire’ which covered 36,000 acres of land. Placing the photos side by side is incredibly impactful, and reminds me of the importance to revisiting locations and working on this project over an extended time period.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph Shaniko, a small town with less than 30 residents in central Oregon. I had visited Shaniko on two occasions previously, and begun to make acquaintances there. Unlike many of the other locations that I have been visiting, there is a preservation society in the town who aim to share and preserve the history of the area. I made my most recent trip to Shaniko to document their yearly event ’Shaniko Days’, a festival with traditional music, food, a parade, and black powder gunfights. It was a pleasure to meet people who celebrate the culture and history of this area and to speak with people who enjoy this local tradition. Visiting special events is a effective way for me to connect with new communities, and is something that I should aim to do more over the coming warm weather months.
I believe that these images are successful, showing a greater level of intimacy with my subjects than is evident in much of my other work. As I have done previously, I aim to print these images and return to Shaniko to share my work with those who live there. I hope to photograph this community again, greatly appreciating their welcoming nature, hospitality, and willingness to share their lives with me.
I have been considering hosting workshops as a method to connect with new residents in central Oregon towns, as well as involve my subjects more in my image making process. This summer I had the opportunity to trial different workshop ideas with some of my teen photography students, I wanted to see what projects were successful as stand alone activities with new students. I also wanted to see what I might be able to facilitate in any location, with equipment I could provide myself.
I feel very fortunate to work as an art educator, and particularly enjoy teaching teenagers. As mentioned previously, I am interested to learn about the experience of living in rural towns from the perspective of young residents - reaching out to youth groups and offering to host workshops might be would be a good way for me to engage with this demographic. Many of the techniques I taught, such as multiplicity, light painting or cyanotypes are not methods that I use in my own work, but I know that they are popular with younger students and facilitating these types of activities might simply be a way to give something back to these communities and connect with new groups of people.
My work is currently on display as part of a group show at One River School of Art and Design in Lake Oswego. I selected six images from Witness Marks to display, mounted and framed as discussed in my previous post. I chose the hanging formation based on the space available to me, and although I would have preferred to hang the frames in a straight line, I do not think this formation detracted too much from the work itself. It has been beneficial to share my work with new audiences, particularly the students which I teach at the school. Displaying my work and receiving feedback has boosted my confidence in the project and it’s ability to appeal to a wide audience. It has also been reassuring to learn that I can print these images to a high standard.
Should you include just photographs?
As I consider possible forms that a publication of my work may take, I am excited at the prospect of combining the vast variety of materials I have been collecting within the pages of a book. Other than my own photographs, I also plan to include hand written text from my subjects, polaroids, found family snapshots, pages from books and images of discarded objects - all collected from the rural areas that I have been documenting. In doing this, I hope to present a more multifaceted depiction of this area, whilst also sharing the experience of discovering these hidden communities with my viewers.
I have been researching artists who create publications using similar means, and learning from their approaches. Jim Goldberg, who I have referenced in previous posts, is an obvious example - his seminal work ‘Rich and Poor’ (1985) included handwritten comments from subjects and he continues to create work with similar methods today. For his recent series ‘Candy’, Goldberg photographed his birth place of New Haven, Connecticut - intertwining his documentation of current residents with his own personal memories. Goldberg notes ‘There are a mixture of styles and mediums including: photographs, collage, stills from home movies, hand-written text… My intention is get all of these different elements to work together, and make coherent an assemblage of memories.’ (Goldberg in Durant, 2015)
I am also very interested in photobooks being produced by the Reminders Photography Stronghold in Tokyo. Looking at Hiroshi Okamoto’s publications We do not need you, here./ If I could only fly and Recruit as well as Miki Hasegawa’s Internal Notebook, I am inspired to acquire the skills to bind my own book.
Durant, M. (2015) Jim Goldberg. [Online]. [Accessed 15 July 2018]. Available From: https://saint-lucy.com/conversations/jim-goldberg/
For the exhibition element of this module, I will be displaying my work in a gallery space located in One River School of Art + Design in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The space is a somewhat traditional gallery, adhering to O’Doherty’s description of the ‘white cube’ - “Unshadowed, white, clean, artificial- the space is devoted to the technology of esthetics.” (O’Dohery, 1999. P.15).
However, it does have the distinction of being part of a school building, acting not just as a gallery, but also as a waiting area for students. I am fortunate that my work will not need to fight for attention in a cluttered environment, but am aware that it may still struggle to grab the interest of those who have not entered the space solely for the purpose of viewing my work. I will also be exhibiting alongside other artists, two painters will also be showing in the space at this time. As their work is larger, I have concerns that my photographs may be overshadowed. Hopefully I will be able to discuss a floor plan with them that suits all of our needs.
I have chosen to display my work in a conventional fashion with framed, mounted photographs. I had considered alternative methods of display, but I do not think that would suit this environment, nor the audience I am likely to receive there. In this week’s presentation, Gary noted that we do not want to alienate our audience or create a situation where a large proportion of our viewers don’t ‘get’ our message. I have decided to ‘play it safe’ with my mode of display here, in the hope that the photographs alone will be strong enough to interest viewers. However, I would like to use the publication form of this work to be more experimental, and aim to take a less conventional approach with that activity.
I am looking forward to this exhibition opportunity, and feel that I will benefit from showing my work in an educational environment. I teach photography and art classes at this location, and therefore know that there is a open dialogue about art taking place between the faculty, students and gallery visitors. I appreciate other’s opinions of my work, and hope that showing here will lead to useful discussions about my work.
O’Doherty, B. 1999. Inside the white cube: the ideology of the gallery space. Berkeley: University of California Press
Although it has been sometime since I formally exhibited my photography, whilst living in Japan I frequently hosted exhibitions of my own, and other artist’s, work. In 2004, I collaborated with photographer Atsuko Tanaka to form Parades Gallery in Matsumoto - an independent art gallery and event space. This was an incredibly rewarding experience, allowing me to show not only my own photographs, but (more frequently), to curate exhibitions of both local and international artists’ work. When opening, Parades Gallery prided itself on being ‘DIY’ and ‘Not-for-Profit’, and we strived to create an open, inviting space for local artists -something lacking from the town until that time. Whilst being a somewhat traditional ‘white cube’ space, we were often creative with the manner in which we hung our work, as well as being incredibly open to the type of work we would display. Parades Gallery continues to operate today, under the expert direction of Atsuko. My aim is to return to Matsumoto next year to exhibit my MA final major project work. Whilst I miss the creative freedom that Parades allowed me, I know that I must now use the experience I gained there to host exhibits of my work here in the US.
Last week, I returned to the town of Dufur to meet with local residents and discuss my ongoing project. As planed, I brought a sketchbook of photos previously taken in the area, and asked for people to contribute to the book. Although I am unsure of how these handwritten notes will be used moving forward, this exercise instigated some interesting conversations with my subjects, and strengthened my relationships with both them, and the project itself.
With the announcement that we will be required to undertake a number of larger projects in the upcoming weeks - create a publication, host an exhibition, and facilitate a workshop, I wanted to share the work of practitioners that I am currently interested in, and may influence my own practice moving forward.
For the series Trona, Tobias Zielony photographed the small, isolated town of Trona in San Bernardino County, California. Once a settlement for employees working in the chemical industry, today the area is known for it’s crystal meth labs. As with many of his other series, Zielony focuses on the youth who live in this desolate area, painting a seemingly bleak future for them and the town as a whole. Looking at this work further encourages me to engage more with young people in my areas of interest, and attempt to better understand their experience of living in isolated, rural locations.
In the publication of the series, Trona: Armpit of America, Zielony includes text quoted in it’s entirety from a damning blog about Trona. When exhibiting the work it is also included, with pages of text pinned to the gallery wall. Presenting his work with words which are not his own could be considered a ‘hands off’ approach, like those discussed in last week’s lectures. This text could also be seen as a more authentic representation of the town, as it is not one not simply penned by the photographer. As I meet and photograph people in rural areas, I am often invited to connect with them on social media - I am interested in the manner that they represent themselves and express their opinions on these platforms, and wonder if I could, with their permission, incorporate this into my project somehow.
In the hope that I might offer more opportunities for my subjects to contribute to the creative process, I have also been looking at the work of Jim Goldberg, in which he invites his subjects to write their thoughts over his photographs. Speaking about his early use of this approach, Goldberg notes. ‘At the time, a lot of documentary and photojournalism was from the outside looking in. And I was interested in something else – letting people describe experiences in their own words, from the inside, with pictures that sometimes supported, and sometimes perhaps undercut, what they were saying’. (Goldberg in Jones, 2016). Having concerns about myself as ‘an outsider looking in’, I am interested in experimenting with Goldberg’s approach, and will invite my subjects to add writing to their images on my next shoot.
Goldberg’s Raised by Wolves is also providing me with ideas for the publication that I will make. Although his subject matter differs greatly from my own, I am interested in his method of compiling photographs, video stills, found documents, and handwritten texts to create a narrative and document the lives of his subjects.
Jones, S. 2016. In my own words: Jim Goldberg, photo storyteller. [Online]. [Accessed 05 July 2018].
Available From: http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/flipping-gaze-photos-jim-goldberg-documentary-storyteller/
This week, we were asked to reconsider our relationship to our preferred apparatus by creating five images using a method not familiar to us. When initially assigned this task, I was drawn to the the work of Doug Rickard, who use images from Google Street View, and screen grabs from Youtube videos, to create a insight into American culture. This led me to ‘virtually’ explore the locations that I have been photographing on Google Street View. I did find some quiet striking imagery though doing this - and it led me to question my own practice and it’s value. Apart from the quality of the images, some of the images taken automatically by the google street view camera are not that different from photographs that I have taken myself. This realization is further fueling my decision that I need to be approaching my practice in different ways and exploring new means of creating work.
Not wanting to simply emulate the methods of other practitioners before me, who have sourced remarkable Google Street View imagery, I also looked to more traditional methods of image making and ‘camera less’ photography. I have been collecting discarded objects in the towns I have been visiting, and wondered if I could somehow incorporate these into this activity. I decided that I would be interesting to use these objects, in particular paper items - such as pages from found books, in a cyanotype process or by painting them with liquid light emulsion. I wondered if perhaps I could create photograms of foliage from my shooting locations, or print my own images onto them from transparencies. Unfortunately, due to the short time frame, I was not able to actualize these ideas this week, so instead I decided to work with digital means to create a similar effect. These images were all made by printing my own images on pages from found books using an inkjet printer.
The results were quite interesting and the printed pages have a tactile quality usually absent from my work created though digital means. Printing upon objects found in the towns that the images were taken in does create a physical connection between the locations, and the resulting work. I am definitely interested in experimenting with liquid light, and have ordered the necessary materials. Also, if I am able to host a workshop with communities in central Oregon, perhaps this would be an interesting activity to facilitate.
Recently, I have been considering ways that I could collaborate more with the communities that I am photographing, so I greatly welcomed this week’s presentations, which explored ideas relating to collaboration and participation. I understand that my practice is inherently collaborative - I rely on the participation of my subjects to create my work. However, for some time, I have felt uncomfortable attempting to represent communities which are not my own, and the lack of opportunities I provide for my subjects to contribute to the work. These thoughts have led me to contemplate ways in which I could facilitate greater participation from my subjects, and involve them more in the image making process.
With the work of Wendy Ewald in mind, I had thought of providing young residents within the towns with cameras so that they can record their own daily experiences. On this method, Ewald notes - “It came to me that the kids were taking more powerful and more intimate pictures than I could. They knew their surroundings and had uninhibited access to private family situations” (Allen, 2016). The towns that I photograph usually have aging populations, as younger generations now choose to relocate to urban areas. I believe that young people are likely to have interesting perspectives on living in these isolated, rural areas, and I would be curious to hear their views.
I have also considered interviewing residents, and presenting this as either text, or audio, with my images. In the series King School Portrait Project, Gemma-Rose Turnbull and her collaborators combine handwritten text with images in an seemingly organic, freeform manner that appears to accurately portray the personalities and views of those depicted. I believe that the success of this project was reliant on the collaborative manner in which it was created, and If I wish to work with young people in a similar way, I too will need to allow my subjects to have creative control. Allowing others to dictate which images can or cannot be used, and how the are presented, is likely to be a challenge for me, but I understand that it would be beneficial for me to attempt a different approach to creating work.
I have also been considering the audience for my work, and believe that there are ethical implications of displaying this series in an environment that my subjects are unlikely to be patrons. Wendy Ewald’s collaborative projects often culminate with the resulting images being displayed on large banners and installed in public places. I am interested in such methods of display, which appear to be more democratic, and plan to explore the possibility of showing my work on abandoned properties in the towns that I am photographing.
I believe that there is potential in these ideas, but now I must take practical steps to decipher weather they are feasible. As a teacher, I am comfortable working with children and teenagers, and my status as both a educator, and an MA photography student may help me to form relationships with schools or youth groups in Central Oregon. My first steps will be discussing these ideas with a faculty member, and deciding if I should take my work in this direction.
Allen, E. 2016. Wendy Ewald with Esther Allen. [Online]. [Accessed 26 April 2018]. Available From: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/wendy-ewald/
Surfaces and Strategies Teaser Trailer for current project, Witness Marks.
Archive Video Footage, in order of appearance -
Oregon Trail II - https://archive.org/details/012177
New Oregon Trail (Castle Films) - https://archive.org/details/0902_New_Oregon_Trail_02_00_03_05
Gold Rush Daze (Merrie Melodies/Warner Brothers) -https://archive.org/details/GoldRushDaze
American Look (Perlinger Archives) - https://archive.org/details/6391_American_Look_M04199_01_15_18_17
Marlboro Commercials (Legacy Tobacco Documents Library) -https://archive.org/details/tobacco_yyp23e00
Bill Callahan - America!
Ry Cooder - Paris, Texas
Making a ‘trailer’ was an incredibly fun activity, it took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore an alternative form of story telling. As I am interested in combining different mediums into my current work, I enjoyed experimenting with film this week and feel encouraged to use it again.
Inspired by the idea of the ‘remix’, I decided to use archive footage to open my trailer. I selected videos which presented a glorified view of the American West, with a voice over which described the adventure, adversity and rewards of the westward expansion. The latter half of my trailer was comprised of my own footage - shot with the aim of presenting the contrasting view of Oregon, as it is today.
As a expatriate living in the U.S. I am interested in the representations of America which I grew up with, and the reality of ‘middle America’ today. I hope that my trailer communicated some of these ideas in a enjoyable, and somewhat humorous way. I truly enjoyed the activity and I am intrigued to receive feedback from my peers and tutors.
In the Surfaces and Strategies module, I plan to continue developing my current project which I have been working on over the previous two modules. Witness Marks, is an in-depth photographic exploration of rural communities in Central Oregon. The original impetus for this series was to photograph the town of Antelope, a secluded, unincorporated community located in the Oregon high desert. Today, Antelope consists of mostly derelict, uninhabitable buildings, and has a population of less than fifty, however, in the 1980’s it became the center of national attention when it was overrun with an influx of residents from a nearby cult commune. As the project has progressed, I have begun to photograph many other remote towns in this part of Oregon, each with their own unique and unusual histories to share. Whilst uncovering the past, I have become equally captivated by those who continue to reside in these areas today. With their declining populations and limited resources, I am intrigued by those who continue to live in these small, isolated towns.
The working title for this project, Witness Marks, refers to a term used in carpentry and construction. It describes a notch, groove or scratch which indicates where a fixture has previously been, leaving an indentation which can be used as a guide for future assembly. As I visit the remnants of once thriving towns, I too search for marks which remain upon the landscapes and communities to piece together stories from their past.
As I move forward with this work, I hope to pursue avenues other than traditional documentary style imagery to investigate my areas of interest, so I was interested in this week’s focus on Rephotography, and Repeat Photography. I enjoyed seeing the multitude of approaches that artists have used to revisit the past through photography, and have been considering ways that I could integrate similar methods into my own practice. In response to this week’s activity brief, I decided to return to a site that I had previous visited and photographed. Around 4 months ago, I took photos of an abandoned property, nearby which, I later found a discarded family album (see more about this trip here). Since shooting at this location, I had wondered if the images within the album had been taken at that particular house, and if they had been, wondered if any of the rooms shown in the snapshots would be recognizable today.
Upon revisiting the house and comparing the vacated rooms with those depicted within the found album, it became clear that these photos were not actually taken there. This was disappointing, but I decided to photograph areas within and around the house that could potentially resemble scenes from the photo album. I hoped that I would still be able experiment with some of the methods we had been shown in this week’s lectures. I attempted to digitally combine some of the photographs from the found album with my own shots of the house today, but the resulting images were not successful. This is not in a style I would ever be likely to use myself, and perhaps due to the frequency of such images being created and shared, I found them to be quite cliched, the effect too heavy handed. Aligning two photos side by side was more successful, and if I were to find a location that truly depicted a property which had fallen into such a state of disrepair, I believe that this would be a preferable approach to take.