I had a good meeting with my supervisor this week and we went through my work in progress.
It is clear that the key to my current work lies in expressing a coherent relationship between the two layers in it: the historical layer of the Bartholomew Steer story, and the contemporary layer of the use and ownership of land today. It is this layered approach that will make my work more than just a sequence of images. During my portfolio reviews in Weeks 6–7, John Angerson was adamant that bodies of work today need layers and stories (see here). What might have worked a generation ago – a book of fine arts photographs with minimal captions and perhaps a preface – is just not enough today. The audience wants something more involving and sophisticated.
I am not there yet but I do feel that I am on the way.
My supervisor suggested I look at the work of Lewis Bush (‘Trading Zones’) and Donovan Wylie (in connection with landscape and conflict). A quick look already suggests there is plenty there for me to learn (Bush 2021, Wylie 2021). She also suggested that I look at the practice of John Duncan, particularly ‘Bonfires’ (Duncan 2008). The issue here is a long-standing problem in my work: I tend to get too close to the subject. Standing back opens everything up. This provides context, comment and room for the viewer to find their own way around the image. Duncan’s ‘Bonfires’ is a good example of keeping one’s distance in order to produce a more attentive and expressive image.
A day later, I also showed my work in progress at the monthly group critique. This too was very helpful because input from one’s peers is important. The setting is relaxed and there is no hierarchy or authority structure to get in the way. More useful suggestions came up. These include ‘Shot at Dawn’ by Chloe Dewe Mathews, Andrew Lichtenstein on how landscapes are invested with power, and ‘Vale’ by Robert Darch (Mathews 2014, Lichentstein 2021, Darch 2021). Interestingly, my peers also felt that my images are better when taken at more of a distance. The images closer-in are not so expressive.
I presented my work in progress as a provisional book dummy. I chose this method because I needed to clear my head and get things down on paper. Even if this does not bear much resemblance to what will be the final result, doing things this way starts the process of curation, design, storytelling and coherent analysis. I feel much better for having done it.
Two sample spreads are below. For anyone who is interested, the full pdf version of some 36 pages is here: Crean-280421-reduced.
BUSH, Lewis. 2021. ‘Trading Zones’. Lewis Bush [online]. Available at: https://www.lewisbush.com/trading-zones/ [accessed 30 April 2021].
DARCH, Robert. 2021. ‘Vale’. Robert Darch [online]. Available at: https://www.robertdarch.com/vale-1 [accessed 30 April 2021].
DUNCAN, John. 2008. ‘Bonfires’. John Duncan [online]. Available at: http://www.johnduncan.info/work/bonfir/bonfir00.html [accessed 30 April 2021].
LICHTENSTEIN, Andrew. 2021. ‘Andrew Lichtenstein’. Andrew Lichtenstein [online]. Available at: https://www.lichtensteinphoto.com/ [accessed 30 April 2021].
MATHEWS, Chloe Dewe. 2014. ‘Shot at Dawn’. Chloe Dewe Mathews [online]. Available at: http://shotatdawn.photography [accessed 30 April 2021].
WYLIE, Donovan. 2021. ‘Donovan Wylie’. Donovan Wylie [online]. Available at: http://donovanwylie.studio/index.php?page=home [accessed 30 April 2021].
Figure 1. Mark CREAN. 2021. ‘Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress’. From: Mark Crean. 2021. Entropias. Collection of the author.
Figure 2. Mark CREAN. 2021. ‘Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress’. From: Mark Crean. 2021. Entropias. Collection of the author.