Unsettled

I have been spending the last week or so creating film stills. I have a large archive of film negatives, some thousands, I have never considered counting them, but I have considered using them.

I had intended to find a way to start my MA course with them, I had envisaged that they would become a way into further ideas about memory. I had always thought I had a good memory for most of the negatives I’ve made, where they made and why etc. However some are beginning to test my recollective capabilities. That is surely to do with my memory failing, the memory of the place/person/situation or that the negative has remained fixed whilst my memory has moved on. Both are possible.

This idea about cutting negatives has been in the background for more than a year, and I always new that to cross the line and dismember a frame was going to be hard. Initially I started with negatives that I thought I could do without under exposed, over exposed – although not out of focus as I have had in mind that they might be very useful. I soon decided that was shirking the purpose, I need to work on negatives that I could see were representative of a practice that comprehended process above all. Fully rendered frames, sharp in focus – probably F18 or F22, that would require little corrective effort in the dark room to make a ‘beautiful print’. I had to set about destroying the archive. The first one I did after that decision was a straight diagonal across the neg’, to see how it would look with an absence.

My next move was to use a scalpel and scissors and not in a straight line. Whilst the scissors made the process of cutting outline slightly more precise, the scalpel had greater significance, it slipped, it overran and presented an incision that I feel currently, more visceral.

Up until this point I had been cutting Medium Format negatives, but I wanted to start working with the ‘family archive’, that other large store of imagery from the family carrier bag of photographs. What I have worked on until now – contact sheets below – are mainly 6X6 monochrome cut neg’s and whole single frame 35mm colour neg’s. I have sliced one or two 35 mm neg’s but am mainly holding onto the full frame.

The process is to find a MF frame, cut it and pair it with a 35mm colour neg’ and scan the result. This means that I have to scan as a colour neg’ which places a colour cast on the MF neg’. I quite like that arbitrary cast, it is another variable to throw into the mix. I have tried to rework the scan to revert the monochrome negs, but I’m not overly connecting to that – it seems an unnecessary artifice.

In the background to all this is the knowledge that my father destroyed our family archive – and the destruction of the negative via cutting is still a purposeful act that seems to echo what my father did. This may pass.

I have hardly touched the surface of the MF archive, and haven’t started on the 35mm black and white archive at all – by far the largest by volume. The colour neg’s from the family archive represent a direct connection to my past, to my memory and it’s interesting to note that that memory is slipping and sliding. I currently using MF neg’s to provide a frame, from which to hang the familial image in/under/above.

My plan now is to regard these images – I am away for a couple of days and may have the opportunity to consider them – and then see if I can pull together a narrative thread. They are literally film stills, maybe there is a film there.

Contacts sheets below:

ContactSheet-001c2

ContactSheet-002c2

ContactSheet-003c2

ContactSheet-004c2

ContactSheet-005c2

Advertisements

Family Album

I’m not sure that this is the right place for this, however it is work that occupies me and is around the themes that concern me.

I have made a first attempt at a family album and intend to show the physical piece this week at a study visit to the Martin Parr Foundation to view David Hurn’s “Swaps”. The ‘Swaps’ show is a disparate set of photographs where the only common thread, seemingly, is that he (Hurn) like’s them. Hurn has collected these images from other photographers, mainly men, as Magnum has been, largely, an old boys club. So perhaps the idea of an album kind of sync’s with the notion of Hurn, in that it describes the author. Hurn collects images that describes himself – the accompanying video for the study visit explicitly provides that narrative – and this album is something that is descriptive as well.

More on this subject as and when I continue.

White

This came as an idea after attending a research seminar at the University of Coventry yesterday under the auspices of the Family Ties Network, with whom I now appear to be affiliated.

The notional framework for the event was “The Transnational Family” and much of the presentation from the various speakers was around “family albums”. I don’t plan to detail the various speakers works – nor my responses to them, as it was the ideas that sprang from discussions and chats at the seminar that have fuelled some inspirations, not least the video above.

The still image has been with me since I first collected it from a friend from their family album, my father destroyed our family album decades ago, and I am in the process of constructing a family album in the absence of any contemporaneous familial photographs. And of course they become fictive constructions clawed from my memory. If I am to take this an idea any further in this course I will have to find more ways to express any feelings about memory.

Doris video

I suppose it happens to most people on a course at some stage, the “what the heck am I doing this course for?” kind of moment. Perhaps more usually a significantly further distance travelled than I have achieved at this point.

I’m fairly sure at this stage that I’m not backing away from the course, more wondering how to make the course make sense for me. My tutor, on my first post-assignment tutorial, calibrated how I should approach the course, reminding me that I have already graduated and this is therefore, to some extent, a post graduate course and that, as agreed I should take much more control of the assignment briefs to develop my voice.  And so I made some decisions…

I decided to reign-in the technical frivolities in place of trying to get the formal technicalities – as much as I am in control of them at this stage – to serve what I hoped would be the narrative. I selected a text and re-wrote it to “embroider” the visual from a single actor, first person narrative on the notion of memory, to a “two-hander” reflective. The presentation would be largely a simple fixed camera position, deflecting the viewer’s attention away from the presentation (and it’s limitations) and more directly on the narrative. I didn’t seek to explain who the actors were, nor their relationship to each-other. I constructed my first film script after finding out what I imagine a lot of film scripts look like – a helpful set of course notes provided direction to that end. I planned the shots, planned the time of day, recruited the players, shot plenty of footage, safety footage and rehearsed the players. I made an edit and it did largely what I had hoped it would do.

Upon completing the edit I showed it to a couple of people and asked for critique. And it was that feedback which has made me consider what I am doing, or perhaps what I am not doing that I should consider doing in a different way.

I found plenty of justifications for my decision making, perhaps largely because the decisions I made were for certain reasons and the video seems to have largely justified those decisions. That’s not to say that the formal qualities of the video are anything but still rather stilted – clearly there is a long way to go before my skill set with video can be described as competent. However that’s not really my concern at this stage – if it were I would not be concerned.

The feedback from one student brought me rather abruptly to recognize that, just as my tutor described, I have an opportunity to develop my practice, experiment with my voice and I am, despite some improving technical and formal qualities, not doing so.

Fellow student Sarah-Jane Field suggested I look at Maya Deren’s work and looking at it I can see much of what I think my work might develop to (into). There is a lot, of course, I need to develop in core skills, the formalities of the medium, but I also need to try and free myself from self-imposed limitations – whether they are psychologically imposed or otherwise – to create work that better describes how I can describe how I feel about what it is I want to make work about.

This latest video therefore will not be developed any further, it has served as a milestone from a very short journey so far, and hopefully it will signpost more clearly the way to go.

Please contact me if you would like to view the video and I will send you a password.

Doris prep’

H1sc2

H2sc2

K1sc2

K2sc2

The time taken to consider work undertaken, make more work and then plan is a culture shock in this course. As a photography student, as an artist, as an enthusiast for the medium I could pick up my camera and add to the work. Maybe this was a limitation, this seeming casualness for making work; maybe it was core component of the medium that allowed it to be so, nevertheless the structural difference is one that I need to come to terms with. The availability of people who are prepared to give their time to my projects has to be the limiting factor as, conceptually, their absence in a work about memory is not something that I can construct a narrative around just yet – although seeds around that notion are beginning to grow.

I have made an agreement to start videoing in a couple of days. The three players involved and I met yesterday to discuss the script and ‘run-through’ the lines – motivations etc. – are still keen to make this happen. I did a couple of test shots, worked out how I think I will frame the scenes, angles etc. I am trying to follow my script at this stage, although recognizing that on the day I may need to improvise. Costumes were discussed and agreed as well as props. I have had to ask for a model release for one of the characters – the other two have already signed on for me in the past.

I now need to think about shooting sequences in a practical sense, continuity issues. The location has been chosen such that the afternoon there is no direct sunlight on the scene. The light therefore (hopefully) should be quite soft, it certainly was when I made the test shots, and should remain consistent for a couple of hours. I only have one scene (non-speaking contextual) outside, so I am hopeful.

On the copyright issue, I have contacted the original work’s author – still awaiting a response – but if nothing is forthcoming I may have to make the video ‘private’, which I am loathe to do as I think the wider the audience the more likely I am to receive a response, so I much prefer to be as public as possible.

 

 

 

 

Doris

As a photographer, it now appears, the process of making work is far simpler, even when considering the use of people within the frame. Research is a given requirement of course in both genres, but making a video/film/moving image is structurally far more involved. I have become somewhat frustrated at my lack of progress. My first assignment was delayed by the cast of characters deciding to go away for two of the potential shooting days! And now I am in a similar situation.

For my next video – which might count as Assignment Two, depending on how things pan out, I want to use two characters – one of whom has accepted the other doesn’t even know I would like to use her – she’s away and I don’t know when she will be back and she’s not answering email! I will need props, maybe additional lighting, sound recording and some form of storyboarding that provides a grounding for the work (even if it evolves through the shooting and post production).

I have decided to adapt the final soliloquy from Charlotte Keatley’s work “My Mother Said I Never Should” which I now find out is the most performed work by an English speaking woman! I saw the play in 1997 performed by the Oxford Stage Company and it is another discourse on memory. My adaptation centres around the reflection of a character called Doris who is remembering when she was – we presume – proposed to by a certain young man called Jack (Jack only appears by name) and Doris’s mother who is also only referred to. The strategy I have adopted is to use two actors to play the same character – one young – Doris, one old – Doris2.

I have decided to start using a screenplay generator and my first attempt is attached. The screenplay includes dialogue, scene changes, shot descriptors – short, wide, profile, to camera etc, light (though there is only one light setting) and sound effects. I have added a couple of short sequences which include the notion of the young man as an older version, both of which I hope to use sound as an auxiliary character.

The screenplay is the container for all the aspects of film making, much more comprehensive than a play script and I wonder if that is to do with perspective. I have long remembered directing a production of “Bedroom Farce” by Alan Ayckbourn which has a single set of three double bedrooms, each occupied at various stages by a couple. At any stage all three couples could be on stage and I decided to use light as a director and was always pleased to note, from the back of the auditorium, how the viewer’s heads swung in the direction of the lit part of the stage. Clearly the notion of light/no light amplified the words being spoken, but I had a clear sense that my perspective was what was being considered. Similarly the camera lens on single and moving image is the directed perspective of the cameraman/director. Everything in the frame is there by purpose, the primary edit is the framing, perhaps much more so than the proscenium arch or the ’round’.

This first cut of the screenplay is likely to be viewed as naive, but it was a good exercise in informing me of the need to include as much as possible, because the narrative – which is what it is all about – is defined/affected by what is presented within the frame.

I have contacted Charlotte Keatley – author of the play “My Mother Said I Never Should” and hope to gain  her approval for what I’m planning on doing.

Doris script One