FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 16.
I thought it was time to reflect a little on my approach to making work across the FMP. Lately, it has been a redefined one, though with some common factors across this period of the M.A.
1 MEETING CONTRIBUTORS.
This has been a very organic part of the process. Some contributors are friends. Some are people I have met by chance. I’ve approached community groups and worked with people from them. Some people approached me having heard about the work. And so on. The only condition I had in terms of contributors was that they needed to be of mixed heritage, or of migrant experience, either direct or generational.
Interestingly, most of the people who expressed an interest in working with me on the project have been a younger demographic in their 20s or early 30s and, with one or two exceptions, predominantly female. In fact I found it harder to find male participants prepared to commit to the whole process. I’m not sure why this is, and it might be something to reflect on elsewhere.
At this stage, there was always a brief introductory discussion about the project. If they then felt they wanted to contribute in some way then we would move to a separate, in-depth discussion. Only after that would any photography come into consideration.
For me, it is imperative to generate trust and to get to know someone in advance of any actual photography. The more time with them, the better. Hence instigating a lengthier discussion with each potential contributor. This was a chance for people to get to know me as well and decide whether they could trust me as a person/photographer.
With permission gained, I chose to make audio recordings of these meetings. We discussed heritage, experiences of belonging, cultural references, and memories. But, above all, it was a way to discuss the foods that connect people to that heritage/history in some way. Be that as memories triggered sensually, or as items that symbolise their journey or provide a sense of belonging in the here and now. I thought these recordings would be for reference only, but I am hoping to use excerpts in my final project presentation.
3 FOOD ETC.
From each discussion I sourced food items mentioned. Fruits figured much more than I anticipated. Inevitably some were exotic and harder to source than others. Through this part of the process I was reminded of the evocative power of food. It’s abundant sensuality and fascination. The inherent pleasure in it. And also it’s connection to wider geographies, the environment and its place in the landscape. This was hugely informative in my thinking/feeling around the project development.
This part of the process showed the biggest change for me. Especially once I realized my project wasn’t working in its earlier manifestation. The first three steps outlined above informed the shooting process, for sure. But my crisis of confidence led me to throw out a lot of my previous ideas and planning. Instead, once each contributor had made their food choice and was committed to the photography, I made instinctive decisions about locations and additional props. Anxiety led me to be less cautious and more playful. I was improvising and allowing that improvisatory energy to propel me and the work forward. To keep creating. In turn, I made new discoveries. Fresher ones. At times this part of the process felt fuelled by its own internal energy. The work and the making of the work took the lead.
I knew I wanted the contributors to ‘speak’ authentically through the photography so I allowed them to chose how they would present themselves – clothing etc. What became important through the shooting process was their physicality in response to the food and to the location. How did these things make them feel in their bodies? That plasticity of movement, the prehensile aspects of play, the nervous system in response, almost childlike at times, became key elements to encourage and explore in the shooting process. At the same time I became increasingly aware of the environment, the land, and it’s own inherent abundance and feeling of a playground almost. A free space of expression, diversity and provision.
It’s also worth noting that I used the same medium format camera with the on-camera flash set-up throughout. And I switched between the use of a semi-wide angle lens and a longer portrait lens.
At the time of writing, this is ongoing. But I note that I am deliberately taking longer to make decisions about what is or is not working. And I’m even more interested in the dialogue between images. Allowing the conversation the work is having with me to unfold before I make choices.
I know that the work wants to be as enticing and sensual as the experiences they show. To be intimate too, if possible. These are my current ‘guidelines’ for my editing and sequencing as I move forward.