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“From the Outside Looking In”
At the very beginning of the Storytelling project, I thought I was in my element as I tend to use narrative in my work. This became much harder to do than I initially thought. With the short amount of time we had to create our visual project, my original ideas would not have worked. To begin with, I wanted to use a lake to tell the narrative of a fairytale, but because of the extreme snowy weather, this was proven hard to do and a risk to the people that would be involved. I decided to take a step back from trying to find an idea and instead wanted to wait until I found something that would inspire me, this proved to be stressful as I was panicking that I did not have a solid idea at the beginning of the project and that I would not have enough time to produce my work. Thankfully I stopped worrying about my idea so much and focused on researching ways to display my work in a physical form in the meantime. I looked at books on zines and the ways in which they can be constructed and found a vast range of different layouts that I never would have thought of otherwise. I decided to play around with handmaking a zine and the bookbinding workshop with Ollie helped extremely with this. I researched into bookbinding as I wanted to have this as a possible option for displaying my work as well as having the option of having it professionally made from blurb or by digitally printing it another way.
Whilst still waiting for inspiration for my idea, I went home for a weekend as that is where I usually find influence and I believed it may help. I began researching for my essay whilst at home and instantly knew that I wanted to discuss staged photography in some way or another. This is because I have always been drawn to constructing a scene as it has no limitations at all. The complete freedom to take an idea that is in your head and turn it into a reality captured in a photograph has always mesmerised me and it because of this I use this method of photography in near enough all of my work. After further brainstorming, I decided my essay was going to be about how staged photography can be used as a reliable resource for documenting truth just as much a factual photography. I wanted to show proof of ways in which staged documentary has helped share real-world issues to defuse the stigma that staged photography cannot be used as a reliable way to show the truth. This is a passionate subject for me that I enjoyed writing about.
The inspiration I had for my essay continued into my visual project, even though I still didn’t have an idea, I knew that I was going to use staged photography. Thankfully, I finally found inspiration for my visual project in the form of a conversation that I had with my 94-year-old Great-Nan. In the conversation, she spoke about the places she has lived throughout her life and explained the changes that she has seen in house decor and fashion over the years. She continued to say “I was born in 1924 and I have seen and experienced many things, both great and horrific, it’s like I have been staring through a window as everything has changed over the last 94 years, but I myself, and my home have not.” I was so inspired by her words I wanted to recreate some of her memories of the house decor and fashion she has been around to see. I was going to do this through staging scenes of people wearing garments of different eras in rooms decorated like it would of be back in that time and photographing them through windows, to keep an influence on my nan’s quote. I was so passionate about this idea I realised that I would want a much longer period of time to rightfully execute it. After a short period of time of getting stressed once again, I decided to use my influence of the conversation in a slightly different way.
My final idea began with the solid decision to photograph through windows, this was inspired by part of my Nan’s quote – “it’s like I have been staring through a window”. The idea of overlooking events as they unfold intrigues me. After committing to this idea I instantly knew what narrative I’d be capturing. Ever since I was a child, in car rides I would always look at out of the windows and watch everything go by, I would wonder what kind of people lived in the homes and what kind of lives they lead. I’d wonder what events took place in them, from birthdays to social gatherings and what they do in their spare time. I wanted to capture the narrative of what individuals get up to in their day-to-day lives. I knew the controversy that photographing through windows could bring, especially after researching into Michael Wolf’s photographic series Window Watching, where he faced legal trouble for photographing individuals without consent. I did not feel comfortable invading someones personal and intimate space without consent so I decided to photograph friends and family and let them know when I was doing so. I decided to photograph at night as I liked the vibe of the images that Merry Alpern’s series Dirty Windows gave. It made what was going on through the windows more intimate as you are instantly focused on what is going on through the windows without the distraction of the surroundings. This also helped in the way of my subjects being more relaxed as although they knew I was photographing them, they could not see me doing so. Once I had my all of my images it was time to decide how I was going to produce them physically, although I researched into handmaking my own zine, I decided to get it digitally printed instead. This was due to the number of pages I ended up having in my photobook. I found it extremely hard to bind all of the pages together in a way that I was proud of.
Overall, I am proud of the difficulties I have overcome in this project. I managed to keep myself calm when I thought nothing was going right and I managed my time well. I found inspiration for a future project that I am very keen on working on and am very happy with the influence it also had on this project. I wish I had come up with my idea sooner as I would have been able to submit my photobook to blurb with time for it to deliver before hand-in, even though I am happy with my images, I am not completely happy with the overall presentation of my photobook. I would have preferred a hardcover but I have come to terms with the fact that you cannot rush ideas and inspiration, this is something that has taken me a long time to realise and I am glad I finally have. If I was to change anything, it would be my research process. I would have researched more artists that have used windows in their work as it may have given me more ideas of how to capture what I wanted. The storytelling project gave me the chance to explore my passion for staged photography and gave me a platform to write about it in the form of an essay and I have realised I may like to discuss it more in my dissertation. Even with the ups and downs of this project, I am proud of the concept of my work, both the visual and writing side of it.