This is about Research and Reflective practice. Learning outcomes developing from independent research. Consider research practices as a piece of work in their own right.
Important to become surprised by what you have done. It can be playful, fun, creative and inventive. Different ways of self observation. Why I make, What I make, Interview myself. Video myself working. all are ways in which I could tackle this project… Produce a summary of my findings, How I felt, what it meant etc….
ETHNOGRAPHY: is a study of culture, observing and writing about it.
Auto – ethnography: Self – culture – writing/documentation between Ethno and Auto. Telling stories of own lived experience, auto-ethno is an autobiographical genre of writing and research. Ethno = bringing back stories from unseen places.
Ways of working
Record every element of thinking and making. Interview yourself asking and answering questions. daily reflection. Documentation. Video diary every week. reflect on watching those videos back. recorded tutorials. Record conversations I have regarding art and future projects.
Below: Video Installation, M.E.A
I was on location in Blackburn, my home town doing a photoshoot. I hadn’t planned where I was going to go or what kind of photographs I was looking to get. As a street photographer, or, visual artist, I find it hard to write about my way of working. I just go out with my camera and take photographs of whatever I see.
I decided to make a short video on my mobile phone, whilst walking around taking pictures. I didn’t have to walk far to find something of interest to me. In the distance I saw some builders burning wood in an old metal barrel, container. In the video I state I have a fascination with fire! I quickly added I wouldn’t be about to start one, but I just think it looks beautiful, the flames, the burning embers etc…
Here are some in-camera photographs I took.
Above it shows the worker stoking the fire with a long piece of word with a spear-like end. This causes the fire to gush from the hole in the bottom of the metal container in a plume of red flames and ashes.
Here is the first time I am spotted walking towards them. He didn’t ask what I was doing or tell me to leave as I approached. I shouted out to him, “Hello”, and asked if it was ok for me to take some photographs. I told him I was from Blackburn University and he told me it was fine for me to carry on. I had a short conversation with them, asking them what it was going to be, (solicitors office) and could I make some portraits of them. they were happy to pose for me, intact, one of the builders was rather enthusiastic.
Being a street photographer, (visual artist) you have to be people friendly. I like to think I am able to get on with people, I am a people person which makes the job much easier.
The photographs above are edited in Lightroom. I added the in-camera photographs to show what the images look like before I edit them. I will take quite a lot of photo’s and that gives me plenty to choose from when I upload them onto my Lightroom catalogue. The more photographs you have the better. I take the photo’s in quick succession, as the subject moves constantly and each shot is different. This is my way of working, it is vital especially doing the kind of photography that I do. I might make for example ten photographs of one subject, I examine the images closely during the editing stage and I pick the best of the bunch.
Above, some are landscape, some are portrait, some I have cropped and some I have made black and white. Black and white sometimes takes the ‘busyness’ out of a photograph, for example when there is a lot going on in an image in the meaning of lots of colours, making it black and white enhances it.
Above I asked him if I could take his photo and he kindly posed for these photographs. I took quite a few of him, but I decided to only use these two. One I kept in colour and the other I made black and white. I guess I could have got a closer shot of him, but I wanted some of the background in, showing him in his working environment. I really wanted to go back with some prints for them but Sadly did not get around to doing it.
Above, ‘Stoking the fire’, M.E.A
I got plenty of shots of him stoking the fire which look quite dramatic, for me anyway. I was mesmerised and could have stayed there all day watching this alone. The first time he pushed the wood into the bottom of the container and fire shot out I asked him to please do it again so I could get some shots. He was happy to do this. When he pulls the wooden ‘poker’ out of the container, it is on fire which adds to the dramatisation.
From the set of photographs of course it is obvious the photographs were taken on a building site, however, I could edit them, crop them to make them look like something entirely different. This is the ‘Visual Artist’ side of me. Some of my photographs only need a minimum amount of editing. Some, I have something in mind as I am taking the photograph. For example, I might decide to make them completely abstract, which I do quite a lot with some of my work, depending on the image.
Because I work at quite a fast pace, my photographs can be prone to being either under or over exposed (too light or too dark). This is because I work in ‘manual’ setting as opposed to ‘auto’. It can be hit and miss. Sometimes I miss an opportunity because I wasn’t able to change my setting fast enough. But sometimes this can be of an advantage. Some of my best works have been overexposed or out of focus, if the image is good, too good to not use, I will work on it in Lightroom. adding one hundred percent clarity, reducing the blacks, increasing the whites, making it black and white, adding lots of grain, or maybe no grain depending on the image. I don’t make it a secret that I work on my photographs, but saying that, some only need just a little tweak. Just a slight bit of clarity and contrast and it’s done.
DRAWING AS A RESEARCH TOOL
As a photographer, I thought about drawing with light. This is done using a slow shutter speed of Thirty Seconds. Ideally in a dark place as light or light sources will affect the outcome.
“Photography has no sound. Yet the sound is deafening. Like a high pitched voice. Like the sound of the radio. Metronome. Repeating. STOP. Synchronous in time”.
“Photography has no sound. But sound waves. Staccato. Catatonic. Deafening the viewer”.
Below: Berlin, M.E.A
This is the original photograph of the ‘Distortion’ photograph above. On my Mac computer, I ‘pulled’ the original photograph into ‘Preview’ and there, I was able to resize it. I basically compressed the photograph, ‘squashing’ the image. This made the figures taller whilst compressing the width. The idea was for it to look like ‘sound waves’, which I suppose didn’t quite work.
“Photography has no sound”…
As I was thinking about the ‘drawing with light’ (above) I thought what if I could make my photography look like sound waves?. I guess the Visual Artist in me came to the surface. I shall research more into this, including ‘Staccato and Catatonia’, and how I am able to relate this back to the viewer.
Deafening Sound. Through photography I want the viewer to be able to feel it. To feel what I feel, to see what I see, hear the cacophony.
“Photography has no sound. But sound waves. Pressing. De – pressing. Heavy”
“Photography has no sound. but distorted sound. Chaotic sounds. But harmonious. Disordered and deafening. roaring at FULL VOLUME”.
“Photography has no sound…”
With this black and white photograph above I thought about projecting the image onto a frame with Polyamide and painting it using Black Dispersion Paint.
The idea is for it to look like “Sound Waves”. In between the people are white spaces, and my idea would be to paint strips of different colours maybe using acrylic paint as I have it available, or I might buy matt paint tester pots in different bright colours in keeping with the Black Dispersion Paint. This is something I shall decide further down the line. I was thinking that this would be my final piece for brief two.
Above: ‘Untitled’, Black dispersion and Acrylic on Polyamide’, M.E.A
I did paint the painting however I decided it wouldn’t be the final piece. The last paragraph above was written four months ago and a lot changed since I posted it.
I went to New York with university on a four day trip and whilst I was there, on the second day, I received information from home the my mum had cancer. The information I was getting was vague and I had little information other than what my sister was messaging me. There was talk of her having operation, and various other things. I wasn’t sure whether she would still be there when I returned home. I eventually managed to get through to the hospital and speak to a nurse, but she gave me little information. As I only had a few days remaining of the trip I decided to stay, as I wouldn’t have got home any quicker had I tried to get a flight back. Upon my return to the UK I got a taxi straight to the hospital from Manchester Airport and went straight to my mum.
She had ovarian cancer. It stemmed from thirty six years ago when she went into hospital to have cancerous cells removed, but some were missed and here we are now, thirty six years later. The cancer had spread to her liver and there was nothing they could do for her. My mum died three weeks later.
At some point I came into the studio in our fine art department and I painted the painting above. I dedicated it to my mum.
Below: ‘DISTORTION’, Video Installation, music by Einstürzende Neubauten (halber Mensch 1985)  Armenia, Photographs by Michelle Elaine Ayers. In collaboration with Emma Smith.
I got the idea for this Video Installation during a lecture with tutor Jo Neil. During the lecture we were shown a video where a group of people were listening to some very hard hitting music which was difficult to listen to and went through you quite honestly. Whilst the music was playing, the people were drawing waves onto a piece of paper which reminded me of wavelengths be it music, or electrical, scientific etc…
It reminded me of a series of photographs I had taken some time earlier, some were more recent than others.
Above: ‘Distortion’, M.E.A
The series of photographs were taken at a fairground. They were done using a longer exposure than usual to create the waves and different shapes which you cannot get otherwise. I decided I would make a video using a wide collection of photographs and I would have to find a piece of music to go with them.
Because some of the abstract photographs were ‘louder’ than others, I had to find a piece of music which was difficult to listen to, but which had different staccato throughout. In this, I mean fast and loud and slow and mellow etc…
The photographs above for example would come under the fast and loud category. The photographs below would come under the slow and mellow category.
Above: ‘Distortion’, M.E.A
So the photographs above come under the slow and mellow category. Next, I had to work out how to put it all together into a video.
Above: ‘Distortion’, M.E.A
The above three slideshows are the photographs I used for the video. Because I had never made a video with photographs before, I asked for help from fellow student Emma Smith who is in the same year as me on the fine arts course.
She brought her laptop in the next day and I sent her the piece of music I wanted to use and the photographs I wanted to use also. On her laptop she showed me how to create the video step by step. She sent me the links I needed and I felt confident I would be able to do it from my computer at home. However, it wasn’t as easy as I had thought and I had to message Emma for help. She very kindly sent me very short video clips I needed to follow step by step. I didn’t think I would get there, but I managed it in the end.
Below: Screenshots of the step by step conversation I had with Emma
Earlier I mentioned about ‘Drawing with Light’, with the camera using a slow shutter speed of 30 seconds. For the photographs I used in the Video Installation I had no need to use the 30 second exposure as these (some) were taken at night at the fairground. The rides are really fast, so using such a slow shutter speed wasn’t necessary. I have included some photographs below where I have used a slow shutter speed of 30 seconds.
Above: ‘Untitled’, M.E.A
The photograph above is known as ‘Painting with Light’. This was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds, the light source was my mobile phone!.
Below: ‘Self Portrait’, M.E.A
This is an example of how I created the image above. You can see I have the mobile phone in my hand and the Swirl of colour from my mobile phone. All I did in the image above was waved the mobile phone around in front of the camera lens to get this affect.
Below: ‘Self Portraits’, M.E.A
Here is a selection of photographs I took using the slow shutter speed of 30 seconds. the camera is mounted on a tripod and is set to 30 second exposure. You have to keep still for about seven seconds, then move and keep still for another seven seconds and so on until the 30 seconds have finished, this is how you create the ‘multiple exposure’ look, except it is only one exposure.
This brief made me think about something I had not previously thought about before.
‘Incorporating Drawing as part of my Photography Practise’
Of course, we have the usual drawing with light and the use of light sources used within photography as seen above.
But seeing the video that our tutor Jo had put on, I began to think about Photography as ‘Sound waves’. This was something completely new to me, I had never before thought as photography as a ‘piece of music’. Since I already had quite an extensive photography ‘library’ or ‘portfolio’, so to speak, I just needed to find the photographs that would be suitable. I suppose I had to research my work which involved going through thousands of photographs I have stored on my hard drive. Then, once I found what I needed, I had to think about the music the would accompany it. The music needed to be hard to listen to, with a mix of loud and soft tones or pitches.
Below: Einsturzende Neubauten, Armenia
The band is a West German band, the instruments they used are made out of scrap metal which makes them unique.
* The band made its first appearance at The Moon Club in West Berlin on 1st April 1980 … and from then until present, some members have left and other’s have joined, but the band is still going strong today.
So once I found the band, I had the photographs, I needed to put it all together. I must admit, I rather enjoyed the experience from start to finish. Once I had began the process of making the video, exporting the music and the photographs, it became quite easy after that.
I downloaded iMovie onto my Mac computer, I also used an Online video converter which I added the link of the video I wanted to use into, this was then transferred to iMovies. I had never used this before and I found it quite a valuable tool and to be quite honest I was a little bit in awe of it. My video I suppose was very basic, but with practise I could probably do more with it and create something more professional. This video was my first attempt and I was immensely proud of it. Especially being able to use my own photographs in the video.
I would never have dreamt I would make a Video Installation, it is something I would like to try again. I have always had in mind of using my photography work in other different forms of art. I have also used it in paintings; but this whole process has inspired me into making another video using my photographs.
A friend of mine, Ron Vorpahl is a musician who lives in Hamburg. I sent him the video via Messenger and asked his opinion on it. He replied back that he liked the video and the music, and he suggested doing some music for me using my photographs which is something I would be very interested in.
Below: Conversation Between Ron and I
Above, Ron messaged me saying he had just seen the message and that he would watch it and get back to me.
Above: Ron replies saying “Great Photo’s. The music is cool too. One day I’ll send you music and you/your night maybe pictures to it…
He then asked if he could show the pictures to ‘his boys’, which I was really happy about. As a musician of more than Forty Years, his opinion mattered to me, so the fact he was happy to show the photographs and video to his boys was a compliment. I shall be taking him up on his offer at some point in the future although I don’t know when this will be.