Week Twenty Four Reflections

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The opening paragraphs of my Critical Review of Practice noted:

In most of my photographic career, I have recorded what was in front of me, usually using colour. In the MA I have moved to constructing narrative through metaphorical landscapes in black & white. My practice has also become research-led in exploring documentary, better understanding Cambodia and evaluating the social context of Genocide.

For twenty years my wife and I have worked in partnership with many Cambodian groups – government, NGO and private. That spirit is now being translated into a broader socially engaged  photographic practice.

Looking back, it is quite extraordinary how quickly almost two years has gone by. I am proud of the outcome, and as I have written elsewhere, I see this moment as a fairly significant punctuation point in a long Cambodian story. More accurately, perhaps, this is a two year narrative inside a 25 year long story, with more to come.

I am pleased that I decided to do the MA, having learnt a great deal about photography, and feeling quite energised about learning more. It has provided a good intersection between my practical and academic interests. That said, whilst the result of my FMP work is quite different in character to any of my previous photography, I think that the jury will remain out for a while as to how much my day-to-day photography has systemically changed.

I am not going to go through all of the events and modules of the program – suffice to say some sections were more energising and instructive than others – but I do want to thank the tutors and staff for all they have brought to the program and to my practice.

Perhaps my main reflection, though, is the power and importance of the Cromarty cohort. From the very beginning, at the February 2018 face-2-face, it seemed that we were collectively onto something special. The group is from all kinds of backgrounds, and has varying levels of photographic experience. A few have dropped out for different reasons, some very sad. But all shared three things.

First, a real passion and talent for photography.

Second, an equal passion to learn. There has been large measures of encouragement, advice and challenge. We have all learnt a great deal from each other’s projects, too.

And third, perhaps most importantly, deep senses of equality and of caring for each other. There have been many highs in the past two years, and at least as many lows. It is no exaggeration to say that there were moments that only Cromarty kept me on the program. I feel gratitude, but even more, I feel friendship.

I hope that will continue into 2020 and beyond.

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Header: Mick Yates. 2018. Danny’s Deardorff. Falmouth Face-2-Face.

Critical Review of Practice

mickyates Cambodia, ContextualResearch, Critical Research Journal, FinalMajorProject, FMPWeek24, Photography, Practice, Project Development, Unfinished Stories Leave a Comment

Here is a link to my FMP Critical Review of Practice.

FMP Critical Review of Practice Final Compressed

The concluding statement is perhaps worth noting here.

‘The MA has significantly shifted my practice. First, it has led to new creative approaches. Second, whilst collaboration has always been embedded in our social development work, these engaged processes will figure more overtly in my documentary photography. Third, the MA has generated a desire to further research both the ethics of photography and the Sublime. 

And, finally, the MA has opened up the discourse with our Cambodian friends in great depth. The photography and the book have provided punctuation points for both them and me in their previously Unfinished Stories, but the journey is far from over.

We often look at pictures and dissect them, rather than considering them as a whole. The Western tradition is reductionist, with perhaps Barthes’ Punctum being its ultimate manifestation. Eastern traditions encourage us to consider totality, exemplified in this verse from the Dàodé Jīng: 

The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore, the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
(Feng, 1996: Twelve)

I hope that my work invites people to feel, think and not just look’. 

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FENG, Gia-Fu & ENGLISH, Jane. 1972. Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching. New York: Vintage Books