Figure 1: Example of pages from the working journal
I have informally summarised how the artistic and visual concept developed from initial inspirations through to final output to illustrate how my working practices are developing.
Earlier in this course my interests were broadly around my own place in modern culture and society with assignment 3 specifically drawing inspiration from the Frankfurt School and their critiques of the modern capitalist society.
This fundamental interest continued but began to develop on into photographic and visual mediums with early inspiration being drawn first from the visit to the UCA Graduates Black Blossoms exhibition and then the Feminist Avant Garde exhibition; both heightened my awareness of how mainstream culture and conventions views different social groups and the resultant inequalities that ensue.
Development of artistic concept
Focusing on identity, roles and stereotypes I initially considered several ideas around self-portraits, masquerades, and the deconstruction of male stereotypes (office, masculinity, misogyny) but ultimately I did not establish the right connection with the concept.
One of the original ideas was around identity and was for a self-portrait where I would masquerade as a 1970s footballer in recognition of the influence that the traditional working class game had in developing my own personal identity.
Significantly, I felt that this idea would not work visually in the way that I was envisaging – I felt that I would look too Chinese and would not create the convincing representation of the stereotype that I was visualising and so instinctively I decided to explore feeling this further.
At this point I recognised how little influence my Chinese heritage had made on my personal identity and how this aspect had been diluted and in effect silenced so again I decided that I would explore this further.
I realised that once I entered mainstream culture and society I found no British Chinese role models, I had no contact with other Chinese or part Chinese people, and found little positive reinforcement, knowledge or references about Hong Kong, China or South East Asia and so by necessity in order to progress and get on I would need to be in essence English.
I started to search for wider sources around cultural and racial marginalisation (see research for assignment 5) and I began to feel that I was getting closer to a significant concept that would explore a more personal story that carried significant universal themes.
Finding the artistic spark
Intuitively googling ‘Chinese footballers who played in England’ the search results yielded just one contender, Frank Soo a former Stoke City and England international. As I learned about his achievements I started to re-imagine his life and felt both inspiration and excitement at the thought that a British born Chinese had played top-flight professional football in England’s history.
This unexpected find progressed quickly into a full working project spurred on by my own detailed experience and understanding of the football vernacular.
My idea; I create a masquerade of Frank Soo and re-imagine a moment that was lost, hidden or forgotten where he might have considered his thoughts and feelings whilst reflecting upon his life and achievements.
Focusing on visual language
As I began to exhaust the research phase I made a conscious effort to switch the basis of my thinking from the written text (books and articles) to a purely visual language. Visiting recent exhibitions had impressed upon myself the importance of producing high quality visual work as the core objective and final output.
I consider that one of my personality traits is to be inquisitive and so I tend to find that I have no shortage of ideas that I am more than happy to develop by further reading and through written text.
However as a relatively inexperienced photographer one of the core objectives that I set for for this second OCA course was to develop my technical skills to ensure that I could strive to articulate in a more sophisticated visual sense the ideas that I might have. Thinking back to my assignment 5 submission for Expressing Your Vision I felt that the concept and written brief were much more mature and sophisticated then my final visual representation.
How this was achieved
This section will come as no surprise to the reader when I say that I have spent less time reading and writing and more time – literally hours and hours and more hours – practising with my equipment: camera – every control and function button, lens – focal length, aperture and depth of field, shutter speeds, ISO. I bought a good studio flash head and developed a decent basic understanding of light and that has been the most fantastic experience! Lots of practise shoots in my pop up studio with my mannequin as companion. There was no other way to achieve this other than putting in the hard yards on the training ground. Maybe I should have taken the OCA (FiP) Foundation in Photography course first!
Focusing on the assignment
I tried to develop a physical journal which I believe has helped but switching from different books, websites, ideas became quite over whelming and I did not quite manage to create those fantastic story books that we see from the OCA student work videos. I managed some coherent pages but not quite enough.
I will persevere with this however as I feel that I am beginning to cross that line where I begin to process ideas in a visual sense at a much earlier stage. On this assignment 5 we were briefed to focus on the construction of an image and as a result I have started to understand what exactly an image is actually made up of and that has been a fantastic perspective and discipline to learn. As this development continues I am beginning to see how physical working journals can become very central and important to my way of working.
I cannot believe how much thinking I have devoted to the visual aspect of the assignment and I now reflect upon the in-balance of my approach to previous work but I take this all as part of the learning process.
Delivering the final image
By the time of the final photo shoot I was able to run in automatic mode as I set up my arrangement in the pre-chosen location. I had my model suitably attired in the costume with props with the off camera lighting set up on stands at a pre-practised 45 degree angle. Then the wind began to pick up and blew the light stand over and the pressure was on.
I regained my poise, and finished the session despite the increasing cross-field winds and hopefully I finally got the shot that I wanted; but under the one component that I could not practice, that of performing under real-time pressure. I had mean’t to take some additional pictures with my camera phone of the lighting / model set-up but in the heat of the moment this thought was lost.
Again I have spent considerable time in developing my understanding and skills in colour management and post-editing in general.
There were a number of post edit considerations such as cropping and background information with the image which came as a result of the OCA forum feedback that I received which was a very important part of my reflection.
For the printing I used my usual photographic print lab.
Ultimately I have made my artistic and conceptual decisions and I will now look forward to receiving the feedback from my tutor.
This assignment has been a huge learning curve but also a fantastic experience and the most enjoyable photography project that I have been involved in.
My skills, confidence and all-round competence have developed but so have my personal standards and expectations and I can now see how far I have to go to get to the levels of competence and performance that I would eventually like to achieve.