PHO704: On to My Final Major Project

This is an outline of where I am now with my research project and where I intend to go over the next few months.

My research project began a year ago as a walk through my hometown of Oxford after dark, when the uncanny world of the night comes out to play. It was a largely documentary exercise, almost classic street photography. Researching it has taken me from Steichen, Brandt, Brassaï and classic noir and into the work of William Klein and Robert Frank, and then on to some equally classic work from the 1960s to the 1980s by William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Robert Adams. More recently I have researched contemporary voices such as Thomas Struth, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Todd Hido, Gregory Halpern, Alex Soth, Gerry Johansson, Krass Clement and Ken Schles, with a very important detour into film (Tarkovsky, Lynch). I have looked at such topics as surrealism, the sublime, the uncanny, the eerie and the weird.

Over this module, however, the project has morphed into something completely different. My project is ostensibly still a walk through my hometown, but now it is really a journey into my own unconscious through the portals of where I happen to live. So what I am showing is no longer a famous place called Oxford but a Tarkovskian ‘zone’ of my own imagining. As Calvino’s postmodern novel Invisible Cities made clear, there is no fixed, objective Venice, Oxford, London or Paris out there (Calvino 1997). We each make our own, and we make them anew each time we visit them. Roland Barthes pointed out in The Death of the Author that the idea of an all-powerful creator imposing a canonical version of anything is a fantasy (Barthes 1977). We write our own book, tell our own story, out of the ingredients we find before us.

I intend to continue with this research project. I think its foundations are strong enough and I am finding my own visual language. It has stood up under research, resisted lockdowns and is in a long tradition of photography after dark. I have assembled a reasonable number of images and over winter and spring 2021 I plan to continue photographing this ‘zone’. I will also re-photograph some locations I visited in earlier modules.

My aim is to have 50-70 good, cohesive images to present as a body of work. I will offer these as a conventional photobook, but in addition I will look at other ways of presenting my body of work such as in exhibitions, on websites, through sales of prints and zines and on Instagram. In the longer term combining my work with an audio score, and therefore creating an audio-visual experience, is something I would love to do but that may well lie outside the scope of this degree.

References

BARTHES, Roland. 1977. ‘The Death of the Author’. In Roland BARTHES and Stephen HEATH. 1977. Image Music Text. London: Fontana, 142-148.

CALVINO, Italo. 1997. Invisible Cities. London: Vintage.