Major project: Synopsis

Ultimately, my goal with this project is to emphasise the importance of mediating our attention, of immersing and forgetting ourselves (our ego), and of connecting with the ‘infinite’. It is in these moments; of forgetting ourselves, of play, of awe, of wonder, that paradoxically, we are reminded of ourselves. And when we are reminded of the nonsense* of it all, we allow ourselves to become involved in it much more incautiously, to throw ourselves at the mercy of the going-ons. And so, you see, that in our acts of conscious ‘play’, we are awoken to the ‘play’ we’d been partaking in all along, but had forgotten so and taken it all far too seriously. You realise at the end of it all, when all is said and done, all of life is but a play, this as much nonsense as that and as much valid (or invalid)… and you allow yourself a transformation. It is no different from meditation, for it is a process of self-centering through absolute, unadulterated introspection. The creation of these images will perform such a function, and thus they will be my personal way of achieving that. Through the immersion of performance as the subject of the images, through the stories and narratives they play host, through stepping outside of my comfort zone and challenging what I held true. And in an age in which attention is the new currency, in which those who think they do not suffer from ADD, probably aren’t paying attention… In this age of attention crisis, of epidemics in neuroticism; depression and anxiety, and of unprecedented global suicide rates, we have quite clearly lost our way. The stories of old are failing us and our problem is, we are not replacing them and this is a grave problem to have. As author, Leo Tolstoy once said, ‘Man’s inability to live without a way to bridge the finite with the infinite is severely under threat’, and we are now beginning to see the implications of such. In our secularism, we need to find new ‘bridges’, new ways to connect to the ‘infinite’. Creativity is one of such bridges, though the importance of its role within our lives is criminally understated and under-appreciated. Through building this bridge myself, through refocusing myself, leading by example if you will, and as I begun, I wish to emphasise the importance of such, of immersion through creativity.
*To clarify, I use the word ‘nonsense’ not to diminish the majesty of life, rather the opposite, in an empowering and liberating context if you will, to de-mythologise it and experience it with a greater sense of veracity.

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Major project: Area of investigation

Summertime blues 3 - Movie still*To be completed*

Performance is an act of self-abandonment, the dissolution of the ego, of ‘I’, of ‘self’. But it is rather imperfectly so, for we are never able to fully realise the character we seek to portray. Rather, we find ourselves in a moment of liminality, of transition. A moment in which we are neither ‘I’ or ‘them’, but instead a mixture of the two. And in such a state, of liminality, the ego becomes malleable and we stand at a threshold between ourselves, or ‘I’, and the very character we attempt to portray, ‘them’. And it is in this state of malleability we peer through the looking glass if you will, we awaken to a world of nonsense, of fantasy, and I speak not only of the one we’ve fantasised. In this way, we allow ourselves a transformation. And in this sense, performance is very similar to what the ancient Greeks referred to as, ‘ekstasis’, to be outside of oneself, a removal to elsewhere. And so there is certainly an ecstasy to performance, in submitting and surrendering ourselves (the ego) to the moment. For months, I struggled to piece together the puzzle, unsure of what it was I was trying to articulate to others through my self-portraiture, it wasn’t clear to me what process they were facilitating and of what worth it had. At a fundamental level, I knew the portraits, characters, ideas and stories I created where manifestations of my neuroticism, of my ‘quaking mess’, as Alan Watts once said. And as anthropologist Ernest Becker said, and I am paraphrasing him here, the images were the product of me, ‘chewing it over (it being my neuroticism) in an objectified way, as an external, active, work project’. But there was something more to the process, for Becker’s description doesn’t strictly imply a process of transformation, rather a process of understanding, of working or sorting through. The process of creating self-portraits, characters, ideas and stories, for me wasn’t just a means of understanding my neuroticism. It was very much a process of transformation, of awakening, and I had failed to fully realise this until I happened across a video regarding something described as the, ‘Mystical experience’. Mystical experiences are experiences with the numinous, the transcendental, that are only achievable through the submission and surrendering of the ego. They are characterised by, among other things, a feeling of cosmic unity, of having seen and experienced something of a deeper veracity something of ultimate truth, the profound and lasting positive change of he/she whom experienced it, by paradoxicality, where contradictions are reconciled, their ineffability (god help me)… It finally clicked, the self-portraits were facilitating a similar kind of act, with similar characteristics, it is very much a spiritual process. Fundamentally they are acts of transformation, through the submission and surrendering of the ego, which is to paraphrase psychedelic researcher Diana Slattering, ‘a prerequisite for any kind of inner-personal, educational, or transformational experience to transpire’. And thus they are encounters with the infinite, the numinous. In my attempts to portray the characters I have created, I am outside of myself, I become absorbed in the moment, I can feel the weight of it, and I allow it and the character to bring about lasting positive change. For me, that is mostly an opening-up, an act of being involved. Years of depression and anxiety have driven me further inside of my own head, and further away from the external world and the people around me, I’m afraid of involvement. But for just a moment, when I submit my ego to the character and to the moment, when I peer through the looking glass and see it for the nonsense it really is, I become involved, I come alive, I awake. The incessant ruminating chatter is silenced, and step by step, frame by frame, in this liminal state, the doors of perception are cleansed. And as such I shall end on a quote from William Blake’s, ‘The marriage of heaven and hell’:

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern’.

Photographic Futures: Work experience evaluation

Going into my work experience, I was justly apprehensive and concerned, as most of us would be. I have a lot of problems with self-doubt and have thrown away many an opportunity as a result of this, and in seeing the requirement for the completion of 10 days work experience within the unit brief, I was again filled with self-doubt and anxiety. I know how much my anxiety in these sorts of situations affects my performance and ability (a lot), and in knowing this, I instinctively shy away from anything of the sort. Ironically, my solution to a fear of failure is just to fail outright from the beginning and thus feel I had ultimate control on the matter and in a sense, it wasn’t failure, I just didn’t want to partake – I could’ve done it if I wanted to. Unless I wanted to fail the unit, no such defeatism could occur, and thus this work experience was the much needed kick. I attended an impromptu meeting with the employer, and to my shock, managed to act and articulate like a somewhat normal human being – I wasn’t a puppet to my anxiety. I went out and shot the locations, spoke to locals along the way and shot in crowded public spaces, all mostly anxiety-free. These ‘achievements’ may sound and seem insignificant to most, but I am genuinely proud of them.

I went into the work, expecting it to be a lot freer than it was, it wasn’t oppressively restrictive but enough so that I wasn’t able to take the shots I would have liked to on a lot of occasions. As explained within diary entries, the images needed to be mostly utilitarian; simply images of the location as it is, with little room and regard for creativity and aesthetics. I did slip in some and of course, I tried to make the locations look beautiful if possible (sorry poundstretcher). I would have liked to try out some street-esque photography, but it just wasn’t compatible with what the employer wanted. I’ve learnt that I need to be more organised; have a clear-set time-frame of where and when I’m going to be somewhere and how I’m going to get there. I spent a lot of time simply walking from location to location and often times, by virtue of not knowing the area well enough, found myself doubling back and wasting time. The process also reinforced the fact that I need to learn to drive, which I plan to start this summer.

The type of photography I was required to produce also reminded me that the average person likes images that photographers will likely not. It was very difficult to get out of the ‘photographer’s mindset’ and try and capture the sort of images the average Joe wants to see. I very much enjoyed most of the work I undertook and would happily undertake it again in the future as paid work. Though, the lack of creative freedom was difficult and brought to my realisation that the type of work I’d ideally like to be doing would be artistic rather than commercial and that I’d have to try and find a balance between the two.

Photographic Futures: Work experience – Day 10

28/05/2017

For my final day of work experience, I made my way to Meopham, as outlined within my last research post. Meopham was, like Gravesend, a rather difficult location to shoot by virtue of its size (it is the longest village in England). I therefore again, had to prioritise what subjects I shot. The windmill and cricket green are easily Meopham’s most illustrious locations and thus, this is where I began. The windmill was particularly difficult to photograph, as with quite a few of the locations I’ve photographed for this work experience, it was a large building situated within tight and crowded confines and I simply couldn’t get far enough away to get a fully bodied shot. The green was also a little trying, as without any cricketers, it wasn’t possible to convey what made the green unique – which is it’s peculiar location, completely surrounded by busy roads and houses, with no netting to catch stray balls. I did the best I could with what was on offer. The Cricketers pub, as well as the Kings arms are both situated around the cricket green, so I shoot these next. I then made my way onto a trail that led off the back-end of the green and out into the surrounding countryside as I wanted to show off some of what the village is perhaps lesser-known for. Lastly, I headed to St. John’s church and the village sign, unfortunately there was a wedding taking place in the church, so I wasn’t able to shoot that. I did however capture images of the sign. All in all, I spent around 4 hours walking and taking images. I spent a further 3 sorting and editing said images, some of which can be found below.

Images:

Meopham - WindmillSally and holly tails field - compressedMeopham - Countryside and trailMeopham - Village signMeopham - Cricketers and windmill from cricket green

Photographic Futures: Work experience – Day 9

27/05/2017

I’d been dreading this one for a while. Gravesend.

Busy, hot, noisy, hot, hot and hot. It was hot. Going into Gravesend, I will admit I was biased (and still am). I’m not a huge fan of the place, and I dreaded the prospect of trying to take a decent picture of some of the subjects; The Woodville Hall is a giant pebble-dashed rectangle, for example. With a lot of past locations, I was able to take images that found a good balance between function and form, with Gravesend, it was almost all function. See, this type of photography doesn’t allow much room for creativity or care much for aesthetic beauty, it is all very utilitarian. Some locations are inherently beautiful and thus bypass this, but a Poundstretcher is uhm.. pardon the pun, stretching it. There’s no trying to find a nice angle, light, story etc. it is simply, a picture of poundstretcher. My ego barely allowed some of the shots existence, but I knew I had to take them, and so to my disgust, they now sit on my computer. Some locations managed to slip in a little beauty, the Heritage center and New Tavern Fort, but other than that, I didn’t enjoy myself greatly. I spent around 4 hours in Gravesend taking images, walking between locations took me quite a while so I had to decide which locations to omit. I decided the fort and promenade where arguably the two areas of greatest interest and importance, so headed there instead of Windmill hill gardens and Woodland parks. It was quite a difficult day, with it being the hottest day of the year, there were a lot of people around. A lot of whom had big, now bright red, bellies on show, which sadly probably isn’t quite how the council wish Gravesend to be seen. The Woodville Halls was swamped with families and children playing in the fountains, so I felt uncomfortable shooting the area, instead opting to shoot inside the building. The Fort was easily my favourite location to shoot, the heritage centre also resided within its walls and thus, I tried to sneak a little of the fort in the foreground to show that. All in all, I think I was fairly successful. I nearly left in frustration and despair at one point, but didn’t, so that’s something. I spent 3 or so hours sorting and editing the final images, some of which can be seen below.

Hopefully one day that Poundstretcher picture will kick-start my career.

Images:

Chantry Heritage center - compressedNew tavern fort interior - compressedGravesend - Gordon gardens memorialGravesend - Clock towerGravesend - shopping centre

Photographic Futures: Day 8 (half day)

25/05/2017

As aforementioned in my previous diary entry, I have been researching the two final locations I will be photographing as part of my work experience; Meopham and Gravesend.

Both of these locations are rather large, easily the two biggest so far. So, it will be of much help to fully research and plan my visits, as to maximise efficiency. To help narrow my list of subjects (especially in Gravesend), I shall be focusing on the sights that the employer’s sight lists themselves. These are, handily, layed out on a Google maps widget on the site (www.visitgravesend.co.uk/things-to-do/attractions/), and are as follows:

  • The Woodville ‘The Woodville Theatre is one of the larger, versatile arts and entertainment venues in North Kent providing a regular programme of music, comedy and exhibitions and annual pantomime’.
  • Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara ‘The magnificent Sri Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara is the new place of worship for the sizeable Sikh community who live in Gravesend, but it is sure to draw interest and visitors from much further afield’.
  • Woodland Parks ‘Large expanse of greenery just outside the heart of Gravesend. Perfect place for a family picnic, a game of football, mini-golf or just a sit in the sun outside the cafe.
  • Windmill Hill Gardens ‘Windmill Hill is located on the highest ground near Gravesend town centre and provides an interesting vantage point from which to view the surrounding areas and the river activity’.
  • Gordon Gardens ‘The Gordon Gardens area has a splendid display of flowers, mature plants and trees, with paths leading around the small lake, The pleasant riverside gardens offer visitors a restful environment and a great playground area for children’.
  • Old Town Hall and Borough Market ‘The Town Hall dates from 1836 and is built on the site of the previous Town Hall. The newly refurbished market now offers a full six days a week Indoor Market which is open Tuesday – Sunday’.
  • Town Pier ‘Take a stroll on the Pier out over the river or gently unwind with a leisurely meal or drink. You can also sail up and down the River Thames from the newly installed pontoon, on board barges or paddle steamers’.
  • New Tavern Fort  ‘The Fort is the remains of an 18th century fort situated within the Fort Gardens and built in the 1780s to defend the Thames against the threat of a naval attack from France and extensively rebuilt by General Gordon between 1865 and 1879’.
  • The Thames and Medway Canal  ‘For walkers the Thames & Medway Canal towpath forms a gentle and level section of circular walks linked to the Saxon Shore Way. It is also part of Route 1 of the National Cycle Network from Dover to John o’ Groats’.
  • Chantry Heritage Centre ‘This architectural gem is the oldest building in the borough (1189) and offers a fascinating insight into Gravesham’s heritage with the aid of high quality displays, contemporary artefacts, and brand new audio tour’.

Some of these locations have accompanying imagery, but unfortunately the links to such seem to be broken. I have managed to save two of the images:

Pictured: New Tavern Fort (left) and Windmill Hill Gardens (right)

As you can see, these are very much ‘snapshots’ of the locations. A lot of the sights had no accompanying images at all.

Meopham

St. Mildred’s church ‘The church in its present form,with walls of oblong flints, and the nearby Nurstead Court are the only surviving parts of the Manor as it existed in 1349. Records and drawings of the church can be found in the British Museum. The large East window is of particular interest showing St. Mildred with her stag, St. George, Christ, St. Anselm and St. Alban’.

Image (taken from: http://www.meopham.org/gallery/st-mildreds-church):

Landmarks_6_stmildreds

Hook and green village sign – ‘The Meopham Village Sign designed by a local artist Mr Eric Bugg and erected on Hook Green in May 1998 by The Meopham Historical Society. It incorporates a bishop’s mitre representing one of the earliest of Meopham’s famous residents, Simon de Meopham, who was born in the parish in 1272 and died in Mayfield in Sussex in 1332. He became in 1327, after a distinguished ecclesiastical career, Archbishop of Canterbury and it was during his incumbency that the church was first built. It also includes a sprig of tradescantia virginica as a tribute to a Meopham family, the Tradescants, remembered for its contribution to horticulture. The elder John Tradescant became gardener to Charles I’s Queen, Henrietta Maria in 1629 and by that time had brought to England specimens of new trees, plants, birds and stones from Algiers and Russia. His son, who succeeded him as the Queens gardener, brought specimens from Virginia and it was after him that tradescantia virginica was named. The cricket stumps and bat show the long history of cricket in the Parish dating back to 1776 and the Parish’s two most prominent buildings, the Windmill built in 1801 by the Killick brothers and the St. John’s Church dating back to 1325’.

Image (taken from www.meopham.org/gallery/hook-green-village-sign):

DSC_5867 Hook Green

St. John’s church ‘The Parish Church of Meopham. Originally founded in Saxon times, the present building dates in part from 1325′.

Image (taken from http://www.meopham.org/gallery/st-johns-church):

churchlarge

The Meopham Windmill – ‘The Meopham Windmill was built in 1801 by the three Killick brothers reputedly from old ships timbers purchased from Chatham Dockyard. It was built to a ‘Smock’ design similar to the brothers’ other mill at Strood; the name derives from the similarity to the garment worn by agricultural workers in earlier times. The basic principle of a Smock Mill is that the body of the mill in which the machinery is housed is static and only the ‘cap’ and sails turn to face the wind.

The mill remained in the Killick family for nearly 90 years when it was sold to John Norton in 1889 and operated under that name until it was closed down in 1965. The mill was driven by the sails until 1927 when the Norton family purchased a 15 h.p. engine from a mill at Boughton. Power from the oil engine was taken into the mill by a drive belt to the first floor.

The cap (and therefore sails) of the mill is turned toward the wind by a series of gearwheels and a wormgear driven by the the ‘fantail’ situated at the rear of the cap. The sails themselves followed a design by William Cobbett by which the effective area of the sail is automatically adjusted for any wind strength.

In order to preserve this important landmark the Council decided to proceed with restoration and the Mill now serves as the headquarters of the parish council’.

Image (taken from www.meopham.org/content/meopham-windmill):

MeophamWindmill

There also quite a large number of pubs within the village, some of which I shall photograph, as well as the peculiarly situated cricket green.