Phonar – Task One
The build up to ‘Photography and Narrative’ has taken forever, but it is finally upon me. Within this module, I will be given tasks that come from The Photographers Playbook. I knew of this book before this module, so I’m bursting out of my seat with excitement to get started.
The first task that I was given was created by Greta Pratt, however, running up to completing Greta’s task, I need to complete various subtasks to allow me to get to know my artist.
- Read your Playbook assignment very thoroughly. Think about how you could summarise it to someone who hasn’t read it (it may be helpful to think about how you would explain it to another photographer). Then tweet a synopsis of the assignment that focuses on the key elements that are guiding the assignment.Think about how your interpretation could allow that person who hasn’t read it to understand it, and even complete it! Be creative with your words, and keep your synopsis under three tweets.
I need to summaries my task in no more than three tweets. This was relatively easy, reading my assignment and getting to know my artist allowed me to understand what I needed to do and how I would approach such task.
The tweets above say what my assignment is asking me to do, however, this doesn’t allow other phonar participants to understand who my artist is. Therefore I knew it would be beneficial for me and other participants to get to know my artist and what she is about. This will give me an understanding and better knowledge about Greta Pratt as well as my viewing audience.
Before doing so, I needed to research into who Greta Pratt is and what she does in the photography world. I wanted to briefly research her, to allow me to initially see what she does. I watched a lecture she had given in the Atlanta Contemporary Art Centre. In this lecture she discusses her interest in historic iconography in America, in particular her monumental work Nineteen Lincolns. I have tweeted quotes from this lecture which I found most interesting.
Lecture is in the video below.
- Conduct an investigation into the author of your task. Be thorough. Immerse yourself in learning as much as you can about their life and career. This investigation will be realised with an Instagram post that shares a visual portrait of the author, with some key statements that will enable a reading audience to get some sense of who they are, and what you have discovered about them.
To put it simpler, I need to research into my artist and immerse myself with as much information as I can. This will be represented through an Instagram post which shares a portrait of Greta Pratt. Enabling my viewer to have a sense of who the artist is.
I am going to conduct more research into my photographer to allow myself to highlight her career and allow me to create an appropriate portrait.
To start of this investigation, I decided to email Greta Pratt, I want to get to know her from mouth to mouth and not just from what I read about her online which other people have written. The photo below shows the email which I sent her.
I have yet to receive a reply, but if I do, I will insert here..
Initial points on Greta Pratt:
- American Photographer
- Interests lie in American identity, history and myth.
- Author of three books of photographs, Using History, In Search of the Corn Queen and The Wavers
- Documents stages of history
- BFA in photography from the University of Minnesota and her MFA in from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
- “Who writes history? Why do we choose to celebrate and glorify particular events and other events are forgotten”
- Works to highlight and prepresent culture in the current times.
- Documentary Photography
- ‘I am fascinated by the way the past is relived on contemporary landscapes and how the story changes with time.
I decided to take this image to represent aspects of Greta’s life. She highlights in her work that travelling helped her engage with her subject. So I included a flight plan book to represent to the audience that she likes to travel. I also included a book which I felt fitted her photography. I especially went to the page explain ‘Straight Photography’ as Greta does work in no effect and no alterations.
3. Conduct a critical analysis of the author’s work––focus on attaining a sense of how their work may relate to the assignment they have contributed to The Photographer’s Playbook. This critical analysis will be presented in a second Instagram post, with an image you have made in the author’s “style,” that may help illustrate the key points you are making about the work.
I found this task quite simple at first. I knew as much about Greta Pratt as I could, so I was confident in making an image that was in the style of Pratt. Then when I went out with my camera I found it quite hard. Greta Pratt has traveled across America in places where her subject can be found. However, I feel rather limited with this section of the task. Therefore, I thought to find one area of Pratts projects which I found rather interesting. Her series of images from her project, ‘Nineteen Lincolns’. The portrait series are members of The Association of Lincoln Presenters. The images highlights the traits associated with the history of Abraham Lincoln. Greta Pratt believes that Lincoln was the trend setter in wartime to wear top hats accompanied by a beard. As still to this day, this trend is still apparent as top hats and old fashioned fashion is still in fashion.
I walked around where I lived, with no space of direction. I wanted to search for traits in which come from important areas of history. I wanted to photograph what I saw in my town which I thought represented past events. When walking around I saw a hat on a gate which I thought was a great attachment to ‘Nineteen Lincolns’. Its something that comes back to Greta’s work and intentions of the project.
Final Image Here:
4. Complete the assignment. In some instances, this will require adaptation or interpretation, which will need to be clearly articulated in your critical rationale. The result of the task needs to be posted to your blog with the critical rationale (Step 5)
For this assignment, I took inspiration from Greta Pratt and thought about why should would set this assignment. Her work is manly based around Identity, Culture, and Relationships. This got me thinking about what I do that can relate to these key themes, and how I can represent it in a picture. I thought ‘what am I a part of that I can photograph instantly?’ I wrote down my initial ideas which helped me a lot, to narrow down this broad assignment.
While looking at a range of things I’m apart of, I narrowed it down to gender. In this society, girls and boys are very different. This stems back to our history and it is still apparent today. Although this was my initial idea, I wanted something more personal and meaningful to me. Even gender is too broad… so I need to think of a more specific group whom I belong to which I can share with everyone in one picture. I thought about how gender in my town can effect how people view me and how I view myself.
From Greta Pratt’s response to my email, it made me realise a bit more what her photography is about. She suggests to me to keep an eye open for people and things that use symbols of my nation and history. What is it about my town that people know about, and how can I show this in a photo. This got me thinking about my home outside my university town. As I have only lived in Coventry for just over a year and a half now, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to think about the rituals and symbols with coventry’s history, as I don’t think of myself a ‘Coventry local’. I then began to think about my home, Essex. The main thing about Essex that everyone knows about, its reputation of style. This is mainly down to the television series ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ which stimulates this stereotype even more. The Only Way Is Essex, known as TOWIE, is a television soap opera based in my own town in Essex. I have lived in Essex my whole life, so I have been brought up as an innocent child from Essex, being introduced into the Essex nightlife and fashion style. By many people, TOWIE has been criticised for its stereo type it puts on the people of Essex. “Some Essex residents felt it was not a true representation of the area and the people who live there”. I believe this in a nutshell. Being a woman from Essex, I have the means to mock this representation and highlight as a photographer, that this is not the case for the majority of Essex residence.
The leading presentation that is consistent throughout different media platforms is how woman are shown in reality TV programmes. Women on TV and even in the real world, often feel as if they need to look nice. It is often in television that the camera shots at an angle that makes them look ‘sexy’, which is definitely shown on The Only Way Is Essex. Women on the programme almost act dumb to help themselves get male attention, which makes Essex have a bad reputation. ‘Women of Essex’ are common to have Botox at a young age to make them look aesthetically pleasing for their audience. This devalues women in a sense that they have the need to please the world as they are not happy with themselves, making people have the view of women of Essex to be ‘plastic’. This is a theory by Laura Mulvey called The Male Gaze Theory, as males are the ones we need to please. Also on such TV shows, women are made to look vulnerable. Reality TV shows that women are in the ideological status, as males cheat on their girlfriends, and women are shown in a way that they need a man in their life and that men are powerful compared to women.
In relation to this, women have a sense of style on how they act and dress. The Only Way Is Essex stimulates this stereo type and allows it to become apparent. Greta Pratt highlights in her photography that she is very interested in national identity and how history makes its mark on its town. As a nineteen year old girl from Essex I often feel embarrassed to say that I am from Essex, as this stereotype has got nationwide. Here are a list of things that come to my head straight away of what people from outside the stereo type of Essex females.
- Orange Fake tan
- Mini skirts
- Stripper heels
- Big Sunglasses
- fake eyelashes
- pink cars / convertible
- Big Boobs / cleavage
- Pouting lips
- Big Hair / Hair extensions
- Botox / fake lips / boobs / bum / push up bras
- Tight dresses
- White Teeth
Looking back on the brief of the assignment set by Greta Pratt, I thought to myself how can I show this way of thinking by photographs. I see a view of females from Essex very differently to what an outsider may believe, which was the main point of this task. With the theme I’ve chosen, I believe that the view from an outsider of Essex is more important to an insider of Essex. I need to make sure my images are making fun of the view of Essex females, to make my audience feel as if its funny that the view on put upon. I feel like I need to mock the view and make it extreme. I need to make it extreme in order to make my point across.
With the images above, this was my my first set of images I produced. I filled up the whole page with the text and images. Looking back on it the next day… I feel as if the images didn’t respond well to what Greta Prat was asking me to do. By just looking at the images, without knowing Greta Pratt’s assignment, the audience wouldn’t know what this piece of work is representing. I included text on the pictures to give the body of work more narrative. I feel like having the whole page filled, is too cluttered, and you don’t see the text. So I think now I need to experiment a bit more with my positioning of the text and images.
Things to improve on:
- Layout – how can my audience understand each picture to its potential.
- Make the text stand out more – The text is probably the most important aspect of the picture. It sets the scene and allows the audience to know more context.
- Do not make the page look too cluttered. – allow negative space to make the images cleaner.
- Text to tell the narrative
- Expanding on a stereotype, (made up)
- Showing Essex in a bad way
- Using Objects in replacement for other objects
- Offensive to some people to live in Essex
Who is my audience:
- People who live outside Essex
- People who live in Essex
- Everyone and anyone
- Could be put in a teen magazine
What do I want my audience to know:
- How Essex respond to this stereotype
- How silly and over dramatic the stereotype of Essex people is
- How Essex girls are portrayed by the media and people who live outside this county.
What do I want my audience to feel:
- Feeling sorry for Essex girls
- Think differently towards the stereotype
- Make the audience laugh
I made three images which challenge the view on an outsider from Essex, merging them together to make one image. These images were made with many different layers to make a single picture. It is obvious to say that I did not make every single layered picture myself, which makes me question who owns authorship of these pictures, and the ideal of copyright made me think who is the author. The way that people stereotype women of Essex to look a certain way, so I over exaggerated the way this view is talked about. By using almost naked women and props to enable these women to look like the way people perceived them really interests me. I used cut outs from websites that mainly men would visit, which is what my piece is all about. Admittedly I believe, young women do dress in a certain way to please men, so male magazines and websites is where their inspiration comes from.
With my work I almost felt anxious and guilty for mocking young women from Essex, as I could potentially offend people. However, this was aim for this work. Being from Essex myself, I didn’t want my view to affect the way my images turn out. Therefore, I used Urban Dictionary to find out what an ‘Essex Girl’ means on a global scale. Most of the results came up as, obsessed with sex, supposedly stupid, sleeps around and being overdressed in cheap accessories. I wanted to use this text into my work. I used a sentence on each photograph to give narrative to each image. This image is known to be an Essex stereotype from many different tabloids and magazines. The Only Way Is Essex has made the media create an extreme conception of Essex, therefore this is why I chose to use a newspaper way of presentation.
Also with this assignment I needed to photograph my point of view on Essex. I believe that even though, I know this is a false representation of Essex women, Essex is becoming more and more into its stereotype. The views from the people who live outside of Essex has taken over the way young women live and act, allowing this representation to become true. This concept challenged me as I was not sure myself what I thought about Essex. Although being a part of Essex, I do have this point of view. It’s amazing how the media has made an impact on different cultures to make them change their way of life. This is something I am very interested in and I can continue to show in my work in the future. I included text to highlight how other people view Essex girls, then the imagery above the text is how Essex girls are viewed and feel.
This project can be continued in many different ways in which I would love to explore in the future. I hadn’t used collaging and multiple layering before in my pictures but now I know I have a strong interest in it. I think exploring social issues and highlighting parts of history is very important. In Greta Pratt’s photography, she uses symbols and little hints in her work to show a big statement. This is where I got my inspiration from and I can definitely use Greta’s work to look back on.
My Letter to Greta Pratt:
I decided to put my communication layout in the style of a postcard as I felt this was the most appropriate. Greta travels a lot as an artist, so I knew that she would appreciate a postcard. As Greta Pratt is currently a lecture, I feel as if a postcard format would be most appropriate as it is a quick and easy way of reading.