Posted in Assignment 4 ~ Critical Review, Coursework

Critical Review Proposal

I’m still waiting to hear back from my tutor so can’t start this exercise until I’ve discussed my idea. Initially, I had been going to discuss Susan Sontag’s theory on Plato’s Cave in regards to photography yet reading the brief again I saw that this has to contextualise with what I have already studied or am planning to.

Throughout Landscape one element has shown up in my Assignment which is typography. In Assignment Two I included a poem with my assignment ‘Come Walk with Us’  On Skype reviewing the assignment my tutor discussed in depth the effect of using writing in photographic work. I hadn’t given it too much thought before this, I’d experimented with a few fonts and the colour of the background yet that had been the extent. Following this Assignment Three became focused on typography, I researched many typography artists and discovered my own love of using my own handwriting in my work something that will continue. Typography seems to have crept upon me and embedded itself in my heart and my work which will be reflected throughout the next assignments and I hope future modules. Therefore it seems the suitable topic to discover and explore with my critical review.

However, typography is too broad a topic. I need to whittle it down to something more specific yet at the moment I’m unsure. I’ll do some reading this week and by the time I discuss it with my tutor I’m sure I will have found an answer. I feel it should be analysing the effect typography has with photos, whether two elements can harmoniously blend. Or sometimes I look at a photo and trying to find a meaning feels like trying to solve a Rubix cube. Eventually, you just move on and look at something else. Yet with a caption your interpretation of the image instantly changes…perhaps I can bring Plato’s’ Cave into play here, does a caption show the photographers meaning and foregoes the viewers all-important interpretation.

I briefly explored this through Willie Doherty’s works writing the following here and below. I’d appreciate any thoughts.

“That is where I feel photography essays are made up of two important elements, possibly three if typography is a feature. One, the photo, two, the caption and three, the typography. Like two cogs, each is redundant without the other. The caption can still tell a story but the photo is needed to provide the emotion, or the double meanings, the story between the lines. Yet as I write this I feel constricted, two paths appear, do you need the caption or do we like to create our own stories? On one hand, with the caption, we are offered some more insight, a clue in a crime scene and we can make of it what we will. I read a review of Willie Doherty’s work and realised it was about the conflict of Ireland. Exploring the images is like being at a crime scene and finding several clues which will, in turn, lead you to deeper revelations.

Without the historical knowledge of the bombings of the bridge (of Doherty’s work), the viewer may interpret the image with their own imagery. They may relate the running to a situation in their own lives, running away from pain or fear…or running to a new future. The figure runs endlessly trapped in an infinite loop, someone who felt trapped in their lives would transpose their body into that of the figure so they were watching their own story playing out. Their feelings towards it may have nothing to do with the bombing of the bridge and the story Doherty is telling.

“Historically the only means of traversing the city’s two sides, the bridge was frequently bombed as a result of its strategic significance. A deceptively simple set-up, the camera catches the figure from the front as well as from the back in this double projection; even a cursory understanding of the site complicates the narrative”

Yet which is the strongest? Without the caption, a photo can seem like staring through the window into someone else’s lives. The window becomes evocative of a dolls house, you see the people, you see their characters and their surroundings and you create your own truths and stories out of that. Yet we can never know for sure whether the stories we are telling are the truth and that is where the beauty is, in the ambiguous. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, sometimes the power of the photo comes from our own understanding. A piece of paper with the starting sentence which we then take as our own. The viewer is as much responsible for the final destination in the mind as the photographer.

This reminds me of Bergin’s work which I wrote about earlier here, he was asked to create the series for UK76 yet added his own words thus changing the whole meaning of the piece, thus becoming a completely new creation. Without those captions how would they have been interpreted? There would have been no double meaning as we are only shown one image. Does that mean to have a double meaning there must be two layers to the image, a caption (pushing the meaning gleaned from the image in a new direction) and the photo itself?

This is something to be included in Assignment Four, writing a critical essay on a subject of which I’ve chosen Photography and Plato’s Cave, how the viewer’s interpretation will always be different to that of the photographer.