The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

A1: Interim feedback

The photo shoots were taking longer than expected to complete – mainly due to some volunteers dropping out and me having to go back around a loop. Therefore, I put some preliminary work (shown below line) up on OCA Discuss for feedback to ask for input on the direction of the work and also to discuss areas I was finding problematic.

Main points:

  • I was struggling with consistency across the set of environmental portraits (in different locations with different people), which I suppose is inevitable as the sitters are linked by an intangible love of music, rather than through a common place. In retrospect, one way around this would have been to make portraits of one person in one place – but I would have lost the experience of engaging in the process of recruiting several volunteers and needing to adapt to different locations on showing up cold. One suggestion was to simplify the images by keeping the backgrounds consistent and including a token or symbol from the environment. In this case, it would be the musical instrument – I think this is a line worth pursuing and perhaps moves the project towards a less literal interpretation.
  • I’d begun to question myself whether there was something in my approach that was putting volunteers off, or something I could do to make things more straightforward. I’d made it clear from the outset the shoot was in connection with degree work and also that I might use images in connection with promoting a photography business or in photography competitions – it could be that some got cold feet on reflection. On checking, what was not initially clear was that I would be asking for 1 1/2 hours of time (including setting up lighting) to make 3 types of portrait – environmental, with instrument, and headshot. One piece of feedback was that this was asking too much and ‘creating an unequal relationship’. I suppose unequal relationships have been a deliberate strategy by some photographers (Avedon’s portraits for example), but it is certainly not what I was seeking in this project.

As I move forward with the work, I’ve decided to simplify the approach and use the instruments as a symbol of the sitter’s environment against a black backdrop to keep consistency in the series.

I invite you to look into the places where I found kindred spirits.

The work would be disseminated as large prints on walls with small postcard-sized cards of the decontextualised portraits and text below the prints.



click to decontextualise

Henry is a musician, artist and school boy. This is the favourite room in his home. Around it are signs of his interests, some of which he asked to be placed.





click to decontextualise

Lisa is a Baptist minister, flutist and mother. I was planning to make a photograph in her office, but this is where the real work is done. Her actions to care for the less fortunate in the community cannot be seen here.

Lisa’s image with her flute is on the home page of this blog.





click to decontextualise

Emi is a singer, DJ and mother. She has recently set up in business after her daughter started full-time school. The photo does not tell the story of the singing lessons and choir group that happen in this place, nor of the occasional neighbourly complaints!

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