Asssignment 5 : Narrative and Illustration
Final version : Tales with Valeria
I know I’ve been full of indecision regarding the subject theme – veering backwards and forwards between the Common and the Holga images. I’ve really appreciated my tutor’s pre-assignment comments and support. In the end though I just knew I had to do something more definite with the Holga set. It was like the thought fox in Ted Hughes’ poem, http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/ted-hughes/the-thought-fox/ nosing its way into my early waking moments and nudging me throughout the day.
I had some very encouraging comments when I placed the first four images on Flickr, including from Clive one of the tutors which gave me a boost and spurred me on to continue with something which is very new for me.
There is something about the doll that intrigued me from the start – a slight oddness. Flaxen plaits; pretty dress; retrousse nose and downcast eyes but I could imagine a whole lot of other thoughts below the surface – something wilful. She reminded me of those two rhymes , “What are little girls made of’ and ‘There was a little girl who had a little curl ….”. There’s a book I’ve had for many years – “Women who run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes , who is a Jungian psychoanalyst as well as being a cantadora, a keeper of old stories. The book concerns the inner life of women and the theme that runs through it is that there is within every woman a Wild Woman that has been repressed.
“We grew our hair long and used it to hide our feelings. But the shadow of Wild Woman still lurks behind us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed” (Foreword, 1992)
The book is filled with Dr. Estes’ own written versions of tales and poems which have been handed down in the oral tradition in different versions for generations. One of her versions is of the Russian Vasalisa tale – a dying mother hands her little daughter a doll, telling her that if she ever loses her way or needs help, she should ask the doll what to do. The doll guides her and there are adventures along the way, including a meeting with the fearsome crone, Baba Yaga, who gave her a skull with fiery eyes.
In my previous post, ‘Holga Lens – working with light in a different way’ (under Reflections) I described how I liked its soft and slightly surreal effect. It can seem to make inanimate objects look almost human and living creatures almost inhuman. Reality is blurred and I think it is an ideal medium to use for photographic images in fairy stories. ( I have also experimented with processing photographs to give a more ‘painterly’ effect as well). I began to think of ideas for scenarios and bought some more ‘props’ cheaply through eBay– a book on wolves; 2 old versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1933) (which is another story!); red riding hood clothes for a patch doll; a decorative ‘birdcage’; two magnetic, retro, french dolls, and a Snow White doll. I wanted Red Riding Hood to turn the table on the wolf and go out hunting him. My idea was to use pictures from the films ‘Wolverine’ and the Twilight series but then I had a better idea with less issues re copyright. I bought an image from iStock – a handsome, muscular young man in a wolf-type pose.
I didn’t have any difficult problems regarding sequencing or captions, it was placing different format images on the page which was (is) the challenge. What’s the best page format when you use landscape, portrait and square images and want to have one on a page rather than several in magazine style? I still haven’t worked that out.
I think that the images actually suit a smallish book and the 7×7 one which Blurb do seemed ideal. In fact I’ve already started a prototype using their software. For the Assignment though I decided to start from scratch, using a Blurb template plug-in in InDesign so that I could utilise some of my learning. I also decided here to use a standard portrait format which is larger. I did this thinking about the prints for assessment but there is a disadvantage here because I think that photographs from a Holga lens can look good on a monitor but, printed, are better smaller because the larger they get the more blurry they can look. Anyway, I’ll wait for feedback and take it from there
It took me a while to think of a name for the doll. I went through the alphabet and made a long list. In fact, at one point I even decided to maybe have a competition on Flickr. I decided to call her Valeria and here she is:-
(Open it in preview mode and then view as two page display).
Working through Part 5 took me even longer than Part 4 and I really struggled with it but I did enjoy working with the Holga lens and doll. It brought me back into touch with that part of me that likes myth, legend and fairy story and wants to understand the lessons that these are trying to impart. I discovered a different way of telling a story through images and seeing it through a different lens.The camera can’t be controlled in the same way with the Holga lens and you have to see where the light falls through that pinhole and search for the image.
My tutor gave some positive feedback on an initial look at my first four images and also some research references. She suggested I have a look at Olivia Parker’s work http://oliviaparker.com/, and particularly Weighing the Planets http://www.edelmangallery.com/parker-planets.htm. The images certainly appeal to me and I immediately thought of something I could do if I acquired an old wooden, puppet!
My tutor also suggested to read some of the books by Marina Warner and Angela Carter. I have already read some of Angela Carter’s work but have now bought Marina Warner’s ‘From the Beast to the Blond’. This is a comprehensive, well-researched and literary review on storytelling, and its practitioners and images through the ages. Her book is basically in two parts – the Tellers and the Tales and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
This is just a beginning really…….
11th April 2012
Estes, C.P., Women who run with the Wolves, 1992, Ebury Publishing, The Random House Group Ltd
Warner, M , From the Beast to the Blond, 1995, Chatto & Windus Ltd, London.
Assignment 5 : Narrative and Illustration
The ‘nearly’ Assignment 5
From the beginning of Part 5 I’ve wanted to focus on the Common that plays a large part in my life. I played around with the idea of Geocaching for a brief time and, indeed, eventually managed to combine it with the Common. During the Part 5 Exercises I produced two sets of images – one using the Holga lens with 500D and the other using my smaller G12, but processing with artistic filters.
I went back to just the Common though and one particular event which happened at the beginning of the year. I realise now what a challenge I set to myself and how anything I did for this particular Assignment could only be a brief snapshot of the ebb and flow of its Seasons; changing moods; environments; animals and people. It is bounded by major roads and largely hidden from view by trees, with only two car parks to its major area. We live close by, so I walk over there daily with our two dogs through a tree-shadowed, path and, usually, up to the Sandpit. I decided that this Sandpit was going to set the scene for my Assignment. Mist can hang around in the mornings (something I hadn’t portrayed in any previous exercises or Assignments) and I wanted to include this as well.
This is how it was shaping up as a booklet:
The mist that can hang around in the morning
The events that can emerge
End of the day
I’ve run into some difficulties though which have been highlighted by a further telephone conversation with my tutor yesterday. She also emphasized some aspects of presentation.
The Cover page
This is in portrait format, but the rest of the pages are in landscape format. Now I had actually realised that, panicked, and tried to shuffle the other images around on portrait format – but they didn’t work. I then had a look at some other Assignment 5’s that did appear sometimes to show a similar format. I reassured myself then that it would be okay, and carried on merrily. My tutor, quite rightly I think, was not in agreement with this. She thinks I do have some strong images and also pointed out that one of the mist images could actually make a good cover. If I do this it will alter my pagination and how images are being put together.
I was charmed by the cross country event that emerged (and the dog spectators). One of the areas that I think had been making me dawdle about this subject though was that it involves children. The original discussion with my tutor reinforced this ethical issue. I can submit for an assignment but it would not be appropriate to post them on my blog. I spoke with Lee at OCA office, and discussed further. Another possibility might be to post the assignment on the protected student site but, if in continuing doubt, my tutor or myself could get in touch with someone from the management team about this. I discussed this again with my tutor yesterday and she doesn’t think the OCA site would be suitable either.
Two of the images juxtaposed together don’t look right due to their relative sizes and position on the page (the small dog covered in sand and the large dog) . They were ones I was already uncertain about . My tutor commented on presentation in a wider sense. I already knew that emailing PDFs or putting them on a disc was not a good thing to do because of the amount of time it takes to download them. I had thought that it would be faster to place a reduced size PDF on a Dropbox folder but my tutor said it isn’t. It is therefore not a good idea at all to submit a PDF by any method for an assignment or formal assessment.
I went for a walk with my husband and the dogs shortly after my discussion with my tutor. On the Common a rather large, friendly, young Labrador came bounding up to say hello to our dogs. He was quite heavy and wiggly. Somehow or other he knocked into me, just behind my knees, and as he moved away I lost my own momentum and was poleaxed! My husband said he saw it all in slow motion – the top of my back hit the ground first, followed quickly by my head. No bones are broken and I’m not having any symptoms of concussion, but I certainly feel very stiff around my shoulders, neck and lower skull. It brought back to me a comment made by John on my previous post in terms of him hoping that my holga ‘wolf’ didn’t lose its legs. How prophetic John!
A briefer discussion yesterday with my tutor concerned the holga images in fact. In previous email feedback she had been very positive about these and given me several references to follow re photographers and authors. Her concern was about the amount of time, effort and challenges I’d already worked through with the Common images and what would be the effect on me of changing the subject theme at this stage. Her viewpoint also was that the holga images had the potential to form a much larger body of work, at a more advanced stage than an Assignment at Level 1. Level 3 seems light years away to me though and, in between, there doesn’t seem to be a Module which fits that type of work. It certainly wouldn’t seem to fit in People & Place which I’m doing next.
I woke up very early this morning with thoughts churning around in my head and feeling a really strong urge to ditch the Common images for the assignment and do some intense work on the Holga images, which have now increased in number.
There are changes that obviously need to be made so far as the Common images are concerned. The portrait format cover image was, in fact, originally a landscape one which I cropped so I can still use it. Having looked again at the first page ‘editorial’ I realise it doesn’t look right to my eye at all. Some of the type is overset and it all seems wrongly placed on the page. Maybe two columns would be better than three. The image of the sandpit is too small really so it all looks out of proportion. I think it might be better to leave it out all together.
Quite a lot of thinking and work to be done today
5th April 2012