On Reflection: Week 7, Module Two

Last week words failed me. This week, technology fails me … …

Least said.

On the plus side, I now have an (enforced) opportunity to start writing the Critical Review of Practice for the forthcoming assignments (deadline 1 May – as I write that’s seven and a half weeks away, the amount of work seems daunting and the available time feels tangibly like seven and half seconds …).

As it happens, I have a plan.

I found the work of German photographer Daniel Gustav Cramer very intriguing this week, images from the “Trilogy” exhibition portrayed a certain ambiguity which draws the viewer into them. I keep coming back to that, ambiguity – something to search for – makes for a better viewing experience, something the viewer wants to prolong.

Interviewed in 2010 by Klat Magazine, Cramer indicates the importance of recognising the “concept” underpinning each of his projects and how he views that concept as a roadmap, outlining the journey each project will undertake as it evolves – perhaps, then, “roadmap” is not the best analogy, more, perhaps, a “map of roads”?

Preparation for a forthcoming discussion on exhibitions has posed some interesting questions. It’s also precipitated me looking at contexts and audiences from (yet) another perspective.

What makes a good exhibition? What are the challenges in setting up an exhibition? What challenges are common to exhibitions irrespective of the media? And what challenges are unique to an exhibition of photographic work?

Is there a “rule of thumb” guiding the number of images for an exhibition? What determines this?

I found it very interesting to watch a video of a photographer preparing for an exhibition, and suggesting that a level of care is taken over the naming of images that are for sale at an exhibition. The value of using a simple name in order to direct the thoughts of potential buyers into thinking positively about the image, and to draw enthusiasm for the image, was firmly reinforced. In other words, avoid politically or socially loaded titles, or titles which make potential buyers think of mental images that they would rather their minds didn’t dwell upon.

It was also interesting to note that background neutrality was strongly emphasised, the gallery featured had neutral grey walls.

In terms of curating the images, psychological responses were alluded to, and it was discussed that viewers “typically enter an image through the lightest point near the frame”, their eyes then search around for a focal point which is typically the area of highest contrast, where the brightest whites meet the darkest blacks. Images are best arranged so that if anything leads a viewer’s eye out of the image, it does so by leading it into the next image.

All fascinating stuff and, of course, basic knowledge for photographer – but it’s always good to go back and revisit the basic periodically, just to keep the knowledge fresh in the memory and give a certain “grounding”. I think this separates how we read an image into two discrete areas: the first is how we respond to photographs in philosophical terms, and the second is our psychological response to images.

In relative terms, few people are aware of Barthes, Sontag and the whole bus load of other theorists. So, when the majority of images are viewed they are not looked at in terms of “icons”, “symbols”, “the signifier and the signified” and “surface, intended and cultural meanings”. Knowledge of these concepts is rather restricted to those who have been trained to think critically. What is common, however, to both those with and without training in critical thought, is a psychological response to the images they view.

This is something I really need to research in greater depth. Back to how some level of ambiguity, some level of us having been told something, but only just enough to pique our interest and leaving us to finish the story, makes for a more appealing image.

So, there we have it. A trifle earlier this week than normal, but I really am mindful of the deadlines for the forthcoming assignments and want to press on accordingly.

Wonder what next week will bring?

Hopefully, I’ll be in a much better position in terms of my Critical Review of Practice … …

(Did I tell you I have a plan … …?)

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