Rework done

The overall message was “less is more”.  It is, however, difficult to undo research or undo thinking. Nevertheless, the message makes sense. I often write too much, research too deep or wide, and doubt too often. Just do and be effective. The text is shortened, not the research itself, of course. Additional thinking and suggested reading on “narrative” and try not to guide the viewer into my thoughts and narrative too much. Rethink and mention the narrating method and provide additional explanation of context, original as internal. Describe better the technical approach and its effect on the images and motivate its usage.

To be not dying

Seeing the harsh life on the Valenciana region’s islands, south-east Spain, the thought and execution became clearer in my plans. The ubiquitous draught and heat are threatening every life, always. Stray dogs do not die of hunger but heat and thirst.  Always on the edge of living and dying. It’s beyond survival; it’s not an activity; it’s an imperturbability in being or not.

Everything crushed by the sun. Bleached, crumbled, desperately in search of moisture. Animals take huge risk finding water, old dwellings seem to powderise in the sun towards their end but holding on in solitude, small cantinas seem to balance on the edge of existence for decades, never knowing and hardly noticeable if and when it is over. It is that typical phase on edge; it’s not the dying nor the living; it’s almost a form of resignation in between. Impossible to live, unwilling to die. An orchard in neglect, abandoned, left to die. Most of the pomegranate-trees gave up years ago. Some hold on with the utmost effort and persistence, a few green leaves result from all their effort without the promised and desperately needed the support of human water irrigation care of the land.

More then anything, I sense the scenes from the images of Robert Capa of the Spanish Civil war (Magnum Photos). The earth and vegetation breathe that history—the dry gravel ground, the faded colours, even in monochrome. History becomes weirdly touchable in this ever hard-fought land, so easily neglected again, to die once more.

Image series

Series brief: Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 photographs.

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Reflection (reworked after first feedback)

Feedback from my tutor indicated some voids in my reflection, thinking and logging. I tried to combine and correct all here below.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills
Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I searched for a more extended time, perhaps too long, for a cohesive set of images that could depict the chosen idea of an almost undefinable phase between life and death. Not the dying itself nor the living either. The phase of acceptance.  I found it challenging to create a set of over seven visually consistent images. It’s a search driven by imaginations and by what’s available within reasonable reach. Because for this exercise, the ideas needed to be there first, it sometimes became only a physical tour in search of more concrete visual inspiration. Driving and walking through the Valenciana inlands of Spain, near Elda, where, how appropriate, the civil war ended or at least was decided (Delvinalopoalexilio.com, 2018). The images shifted slightly over time, from merely dead or starving, to a more pleasing scenery and depiction. During this evolution in the assignment, some awareness and historic presence of the Spanish Civil war grew. The images seem typical to the Spanish inland soil: the vegetation, the rocks, the gravel, the stone walls of houses, and shelters. A comparison seemed obvious, an additional theme well suitable, I tried to enhance these thoughts and my further enhancement in the images. Support by images from Robert Capa, Margaret Michaelis, Kati Horna, and numerous other, mostly anonymous photographers.

The narrative is not connected to a specific story or sequence of events. (Colberg, 2016) Therefore, the series narrates a particular feeling of calm acceptance of a non-visible phase, an emotion almost. The viewer intends to associate with this feeling and perhaps historical reference only by the images that do not carry a story. It’s a narrative without a story. (Sundberg, 2011).

In creating these intentional images of deliberately searched-for scenes, Mitch Epstein’s work (Epstein, 2018), suggested by my previous tutor and reviewed during the Expressing your Vision Course (Bertvandenberg.nl, 2020), was very supportive and inspiring.  In one of his interviews, Epstein comes very close to my feelings during this assignment: “A project usually starts with some experience I have that moves or unnerves me, which leads me to an idea, which I set out to investigate photographically. But I use this method more as a starting point, and then I relax my intentions and respond to the situations I find myself in.”(Schwabsky, 2020). He describes the intention in one photograph and how they interact into a broader meaning and enhances the narrative in totality: “In every project, each picture is first and foremost a single, autonomous work with a full and complex meaning of its own. Simultaneously, once you have multiple images, these images have a dialogue with each other. It’s possible to build dispersed meaning by how you sequence and juxtapose individual photographs in a book.”(Schwabsky, 2020).

Finally, I managed using more or less the same area, the same light, however, still maintaining variation in the subject of viewpoint. I tried the late afternoon sun for more drama and used high apertures for sufficient depth, the foreground, and more specifically, the dry ground was essential. I used various apertures depending on the needed depth (van den Berg, 2019). My Leica in manual mode is presently my prime tool. The 1.7 Summilux is incredible in all ranges of depth; the 28mm results in a large hyperfocal range. The 47 megapixels provide sufficient room to manoeuvre with either digital zoom or post crop when needed. For the close-ups, I dial the aperture ring to the left until it reaches the end at 1.7. Beautiful bokeh is assured with lovely depth. I usually do not bother with shutter speed during the daytime. The integrated body stabilisation works lovely and makes hand shots possible up to as slow as half a second. Despite the ISO on the Leica can go to ISO50, I tend to let it default to ISO100, to give me slightly better stability and workable aperture range when using auto-shutter speeds and stay in the preferred “mechanical” shutter range up to the 1/2000. Not every day was suitable to create consistency in the images; several shooting days were needed. In the end, I think the set is visually cohesive, a nice variation of subject and variation in the use of depth. Colours are well balanced throughout the series and needed little editing.

Quality of Outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment

My log, jpegs, and accompanying text are the variations in an all-digital assignment. I tried to maximise the quality within the limits given in a cohesive style and non-default weblog, visuals returning in the text file letter type, and layout.  As suggested to me, I tried to minimise the text and stay within limits on numerous occasions.

Demonstration of Creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice

I developed seven ideas, explored a few of them. I got stuck, not least because of the corona restrictions and consequent demotivation. Lack of freedom caused more problems than I would have guessed initially. Just pushing through was the only way forward, do. After an idea, I tried to be lead by local situations as I picked them in advance. I started the assignment with more shocking images of animals either dead or barely living, but the quality did not make it at the end. The dying orchard series feel very close to me, away from my usual city/Amsterdam style of subjects. A lack of people worked almost therapeutically in these abandoned areas. Overall, not stunningly groundbreaking, lack of freedom and doubts got in the way, but visually pleased with the cohesion and consistency which caused most of my problems during this assignment.

Context
Reflection, research (learning logs)

Most research was done in the previous adjacent course project (van den Berg, 2020). I try to write less and read more. I have some difficulties in researching after a personal idea. Usually, I let myself lead by external inspiration, but in this assignment, the ideas developed more or less autonomous. I had to research backwards almost. At that point, I found myself lacking the knowledge to “know” where to look for reference in “homage” or inspirational work; hence the inspiration was mostly intrinsic. During my work on this assignment, I tried to emphasise the drama of the land itself and how timeless it seems to be, and how it can be connected to an endless stage of not living and not dead either. Images by Robert Capa, Kati Horna, or Gerda Taro are images shot with a completely different context and style. Still, the land is so unmistakably; I had to emphasise it in this series.

 

Bibliography

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Barrett, T. (2000). Criticizing photographs : an introduction to understanding images. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Pub. Co.

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