Week Seven Reflections – Webinar with Michelle

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In the critical reviews at the F2F, Michelle made several comments on the work I presented.

On the colour work, she noticed some potential typologies – for example, the central ‘placement’ of the lake in the Killing Fields image. We also discussed the ‘right’ lighting, to draw out the paradox of such a classically beautiful spot actually being ‘hidden’ mass graves – blue skies, desaturated, evening etc. The header gives a couple of quick examples.

The meaning of my images changes depending on one’s understanding of what it represents, as I noted in my week six reflections on the F2F & Symposium. In today’s webinar, Michele reminded me of Paul Seawright’s work, Sectarian Murder, where he used very short but ‘punchy’ captions to add meaning to the photograph.

Paul Seawright. 1988. Friday 25th May 1973, from Sectarian Murder.

Steve Middlehurst commented:

‘Sectarian Murder acts as a counterpoint to the photojournalism that was prevalent in the coverage of Northern Ireland and Hidden avoids showing Afganistan as a place of picturesque ruins. … The end result is a series of photographs of ordinary places but not ordinary photographs … Seawright believes in the importance of drawing in the audience and recognises that this is best done by presenting visually interesting pictures. The captions create a juxtaposition’.

When I started this project, and indeed looking at my archives, most of my photographs are very ‘direct’, in the sense of being literal. I moved away in S&S WIP, with the more metaphorical series ‘I Missed my Mother‘. And I experimented yet further by using negatives for SP WIP, ‘A Prayer From Hell‘. The intent in both was to challenge the audience to ponder and revisit what happened, as a backdrop for the personal ‘Unfinished Stories’ which are central to my project.

I am visiting the hidden Killing Fields, spread across the country, as these reflect the personal stories, rather than focus solely on the over-photographed places around Cheoung Ek, made famous by the movie.

I am also experimenting with infrared, to establish its possibilities and limitations. Some of the images work better than others, and my intent for IC WIP is to consider a selection of these photographs, possibly mixed with ‘normal’ black and white or even colour. In Michelle’s view, with which I agree, those photographs of a more allegorical, metaphorical nature were the most intriguing, with a sense of suggestion and indeed of timelessness.

The images could connect past events with what we still sadly see in the world.

In this context, Michelle mentioned Jem Southam, and in particular his work The Moth. Southam is triggered by a single image – a black-and-white picture he took about 1983 of a solitary man in St Ives, Cornwall. The Moth revisits that area, with a series of colour photographs without people – a mixture of traces, stories, memories.

Jem Southam. 2018. The Moth.

Much food for thought and experimentation, here.


MIDDLEHURST, Steve. Journalism and Art in Conflict Photography. Available at: https://stevemiddlehurstcontextandnarrative.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/paul-seawright-journalism-and-art-in-conflict-photography/ (accessed 13/03/2017).

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