Guest Lecture: Laura Nissinen

Guest lecture: Laura Nissinen

Tuesday 24 July 2018, 1200hrs

Laura Nissinen is a Helsinki based photographer and photography researcher. She specialises in abstract Finnish art photography.

Transcription (selected points) of guest lecture:

‘Also, do remember, there are no wrong words. Even in masters level, you have, or PhD, you should have your theoretical frame and history and so on and you have to know how to locate yourself and know the other people doing your stuff but you should also have your own voice. And that own voice can be very unorthodox. It can be the work of dreams, or play, your fantasy, it doesn’t have to be, er, you know, Monday morning reality.’

‘Maybe just to everyone who is struggling with photography. I just want to say that I’ve always been struggling with photograph.

In the beginning I wasn’t technical enough, then I wasn’t something else, and in the third I was something else. You just find your own path, you know. It’s there, and photography is such a wide medium, there is something for everyone there, believe me. Just do your own stuff and go to the direction that interests you.’

‘I’ve always been drawn to things I don’t understand. And I think abstraction is one of those things you can never fully understand and of course this goes into art, er, anyway. Art is very, you’ll never get bored with it.

It is OK to be secretive and we all have our own way of working. And I like mysterious things. I mean, that sounds quite interesting, (having) a secretive and serious life as well.

Just follow your own path and don’t let, er, do what you like without harming anyone. Don’t let them tell you which is right and which is wrong because, er, that’s not true.’

‘I understand you when you say it is difficult to take the lead.

But it’s worth it. It’s not going to break you, nothing bad is going to happen so just go for it.

It will come but it takes work. You have to read, you have to write, you have to see thousands, and thousands, and thousands of images of all sorts. You have to sort of, er, put yourself out there. And then, I’m sure something will happen. But it will not happen if you try to lock yourself in a room and be alone because I don’t think that’s how people’s brains work in that way. First you have to fill it up, overload it and then something (undistinguishable).

That’s my way of working anyway.

If I’m stuck, I go to an exhibition, I start reading. It doesn’t matter what I read, whether it’s photography, history, philosophy, er, science fiction or, you know, science magazine – it doesn’t matter. As long as it sparks something within me. And finding answers is difficult, but they are there. And don’t be insecure, just go for it.’

Note: the above transcriptions are excerpts from a lecture lasting 1 hr 10 minutes. These particular excerpts have been chosen because I feel they are the lecture content most relevant to my practice and its development.

Reference

Nissinen, Laura (2018). Untitled [Lecture to Photography Course Hub, Falmouth]. 24 July.

Jo-Ana & Social Media

Ana_Food-finals-2_22May2018-021

Morris, 2018. 29.07.13 from Jo-Ana

As an online exhibition, Jo-Ana has an advantage which is denied to its physical counterparts.

Whilst physical exhibitions can be advertised and subsequently read about on social media, they still require a journey to go and see the works of art. In Jo-Ana’s case, however, one click and you are immediately transported to the exhibition as the images appear on the screen within seconds.

Not all social media channels are appropriate for all causes. The three social media channels which were chosen to market Jo-Ana were Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

There are issues to be overcome in getting images from a laptop into an Instagram account. However, once images are posted to Facebook it is an easy task to share them externally on other social media platforms, Instagram included.

Facebook generated the least interest – this was predicted (this accuracy is viewed positively as it demonstrates an understanding of the target audience and its behaviour). Instagram generated the most, with Twitter coming second. Again, this was expected. The Instagram account was established in October 2017 and had a small following, but a following nevertheless and one that is loyal. The Twitter account, on the other hand was set up immediately before the launch of the Jo-Ana exhibition and has only attracted a small number of followers which, again, appear to be loyal.

Hashtags were researched, looking at posts made by recovering anorexics to see which hashtags had the highest frequency of use – using these in the advertising posts for Jo-Ana would help give maximum reach

The campaign has been successful, there has been a definite response. The response appears to show a split result.

The first target group, friends, family and colleagues of anorexics arrive at Jo-Ana through direct referral.

The second target group, anorexics (both those recovering and those not) arrive at Jo-Ana through social media channels. This group also responds to adverts for Jo-Ana on social media channels – this response taking the form of likes, comments, shares, or retweets.

Detailed analysis of all social media response over an initial data capturing period of 6 days can be seen below.

One thing is clear, response is proportional to the number of followers an account has, irrespective of hashtags.

Next steps are to analyse other contemporary practitioners and peers in order to establish what they do that is different and leads to success in terms of organic growth of followers.

Google Analytics is being used to monitor traffic to the website. At the time of writing (22 July 2018) the exhibition has received 123 views since being launched on 29 June.

Jo-Ana_Media-analysis-1Jo-Ana – Analysis of Social Media Responses 1, July 2018

Jo-Ana_Media-analysis-2

Jo-Ana – Analysis of Social Media Responses 2, July 2018

Power Play

‘If artists can pick their own shows, they will reserve for themselves some of the power to determine the way history is written, because exhibitions help define and shape that history; in showing the artists that they feel are important, they will partially deflect the power of critics and curators who have traditionally told artists what is good and not good.’

– Kay Larson (in Read, 2014, p. 28)

Reference

Read, Shirley (2014). Exhibiting Photography: A Practical Guide to Displaying Your Work. Oxon: Focal Press

Beyond Whitewalls …

‘Politicians are now more prescriptive about gallery and museum exhibition policies than ever before and this limits the artist’s options. Now more than ever artists should be setting up their own exhibition spaces and nowadays there are more exhibition options than just the gallery.’

– John Gill, Director, Brighton Photo Biennial (in Read, 2014, p. 28)

 

Reference

Read, Shirley (2014). Exhibiting Photography: A Practical Guide to Displaying Your Work. Oxon: Focal Press

Participant’s Voice

‘This problem is discussed by Lomax (2015) in relation to her work with children creating participatory videos where the children themselves acted as editors to select the content for a presentation of the film. Lomax (2015) had envisaged a short but impactful segment of film, cinematically capturing the importance of arts and community projects: however, the children in the study had other ideas, insisting that the sequence be included in its original unedited form to recognise their individual contributions, as artists and narrators. The editing process was guided by the participants and prioritised the individual children’s voices. However, this participatory undertaking was antithetical to the dialogue that the researcher was attempting to disseminate’ (Mannay, 2016).

I find the above extract from Mannay (2016) extremely interesting and highly relevant to my FMP.

Ana_Text finals 5_12Jun2018-004

Morris, 2018. 29.01.13 from Jo-Ana

Jo-Ana is based on diary entries made by an anorexic during the period of her illness.

From the beginning of the project, the subject was clear about two things.

Firstly, that she wanted to be part of the project.

Secondly, she wanted her ‘voice’ to be heard. Elucidating on this, she specified that she wanted her personality to be represented by the photography, rather than the photography focusing on her illness.

This was a particular concern for her because, she relates, there have been so many cases where the treatment of her anorexia became about the illness, dismissing her as a person.

Being based on key diary extracts, the project images needed to focus on two things: food, and text extracts.

The food element was relatively easy to pre-visualise as a series of still life images.

Incorporating text into the body of work, however, was more problematic.

Several mock-ups were tested but the most successful, the most aesthetically pleasing, were those that depicted diary extracts alongside the subject’s personal effects.

Raising awareness of anorexia was a primary objective for the project. And I felt that this was best achieved by giving the audience images that were both visually attractive and interesting to look at. The project was not an exercise of academic research, which might lend itself to a formal presentation. A ‘staid’ presentation would do nothing to entice an audience.

But what of the participant’s voice? Again, a formal presentation would only serve to strip away any element of person or personality from the images. It was essential, in order to capture the participant’s character, that some of her personal possessions were included alongside the extracts of text and that these were captured together as still life images.

In this way, both objectives could be met.

Throughout the development stage, it was these images that were preferred. Although there was some criticism of this presentation of text, the majority were in favour.

At the time of writing (Monday 02 July 2018) feedback from both the target and wider audiences confirms that this was the correct method of incorporating the diary extracts into the project, with audience members stating that the personal effects bring important context to the text, and that they enhance the images rather than distract from the main subject – the diary entries.

This is clearly a contradiction to Lomax’s situation. In the case of Jo-Ana, prioritising the participant’s voice has facilitated a series of images which are both interesting and informative, allowing the two of the primary objectives for the project to be achieved.

 

Reference

Mannay, Dawn (2016), Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods: Application, Reflection and Ethics. Oxon: Routledge

Outlaw – Danny Lyon

‘Self-taught, and driven by his twin passions for social change and the medium of photography, the power of Lyon’s work has often derived from his willingness [to] immerse himself entirely in the cultures and communities he documents’ (houkgallery.com, 2018).

Lyon_crossing

Lyon, 1966. Crossing the Ohio River

The Bikeriders is a series of texts interwoven with images made by Lyon’s during his time with the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club from 1963 to 1967.

A variety of texts are incorporated into the body of work, ranging from transcribed statements made by members of the Outlaws, to newspaper cuttings collected into scrapbooks also belonging to the motorcyclists.

Lyon’s photography, which is outstanding, speaks for itself. And yet the textual elements provide an additional layer of context, helping the viewer understand more about the particular circumstances which relate to this specific group of subjects.

It is the use of text, and the manner of its use, which is a feature shared by Lyon’s work and my own photographic practice.

Jo-Ana is a series of images which visually describe the diaries of an anorexic. Still life images of food and text combine as a body of work to provide a narrative of an individual becoming ill, of acceptance, and recovery.

Whilst the series of images alone tell the story, statements made by the diarist and the photographer help provide further context.

It is the supplementation of image with text that allow the viewer a deeper insight to a more nuanced narrative.

Every anorexia sufferer’s story is unique. Jo’s Statement helps bring out the uniqueness of this particular individual’s story whilst an Artist’s Statement helps provide context regarding the project’s creation.

It is this uniqueness and context that is important if we are to focus on the people and not just the illness.

 

References

Houkgallery.com, 2018. ‘Danny Lyon’. Edwin Houk Gallery [online]. Available at: http://www.houkgallery.com/artists/danny-lyon (accessed Thursday 28 June 2018)

Reflecting on Weeks 16 to 20, FMP

KayLynn Deveney’s The day-to-day life of Albert Hastings is a skilful combination of image and text. It has been highly influential in the development of the images for Jo-Ana.

A significant issue, and subject of some debate, has been whether to include some of Jo’s personal effects in the text images in order to provide context in the same way that they do in the food images.

Deveney’s work is significant because it demonstrates, very clearly, the collaboration between the subject and the photographer – Deveney taking the photographs, Albert providing the text.

Jo-Ana is a collaboration. One of it’s aims being to help individuals recognise the signs and symptoms of anorexia so that, should someone they know succumb to the disease, there can be early clinical intervention. Another aim, though, is to allow a member of a group that is quite often marginalised and stigmatised to offer their candid personal account.

There were, then, two options for presenting the text extracts from Jo’s diaries. To present them formally, square on to the camera, evenly lit and without any of Jo’s personal effects, Alternatively, to present them as a still life composition and include some of Jo’s possessions in order to provide context.

I am pleased that I chose the latter option, placing some personal effects alongside the diary extracts. I knew very early on in the project how I wanted the final edit of images to look, I had a very definite vision for the finished work. Nevertheless, it was important to keep an open mind and experiment. Having prepared many sets of test images, the issue was still given very careful consideration. Test images were also shown to a group of colleagues in order to canvas their thoughts. All opinions favoured the inclusion of personal effects alongside the text extracts for the context that they brought to the images.

Initial feedback from family, friends (who had not seen the images before the exhibition launch) and members of the public confirms that the context brought to the images by the inclusion of some of Jo’s possessions is an important factor in making the images accessible.

This has been proof of the value of clearly defining a vision for the finished body of work early in the project, understanding that alternatives are available, experimenting in order to confirm the initial vision as being correct as much as disproving all alternatives wrong, and being able to robustly justify your decision.

Developing a descriptor for the FMP has been a prominent task of the past few weeks. It has gone hand in hand with the development of key texts to supplement the online gallery including statements about the project, the subject and the artist.

22 June and the website was made available for previews, 29 June and the website launched officially.

The launch went without hitch. That is not to say there weren’t any problems, because there were. But these were identified during pre-launch testing. The audiovisual presentation, for example, could not be played in some web browsers, and this needed to be resolved by adding lines of code to the websites htaccess files. There were also issues with colours not being seen uniformly across a range of browsers, devices and social media channels – this was resolved by experimentation with a range of colour samples. I am extremely grateful to those who assisted in resolving this issue by providing valuable feedback with regard to how text colours appeared on their device, and in different browsers.

Launching the online exhibition has been a huge relief, and has brought a huge sense of achievement.