BA (Hons) Contemporary Photo Arts Practice

Yr 3

Major Project Proposal Form

Katy Lewis


Date: 22/09/09

Due Date: 16/10/09

Title:  Soliloquy of Transference or Pulling Petals, or Quod. 

Area to be investigated:  The human tendency to try and make sense of rejection or abandonment by way of repetition and transference.  

Main questions to be explored:

Is it possible to emulate the experience of observing the obsessional state of mind and repetitive need for analysis (of situation and self) that human beings are capable of when relationships fail or become outside of their control? And if so is transference achieved?

Confusion and questioning (both of subject and viewer)

Reflection and entrapment (of oneself)

Introspection based on doubts about an unknown situation.

Method: primary and secondary research:

Primary – To obtain and re-work footage of the subject in question. Primary research will also include notes I’ve made around this theme and also my own experiences where I’ve exhibiting this particular kind of behaviour.

Secondary – Sophie Calle , The Exquisite Pain. Coming Apart, 1969. Sam Taylor–Wood, Breach’s Girl and Eunuch. Gillian Wearing, Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say. Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho. Pedro Almodovar, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  The use of the screen in installation. Bruce Nauman, Pierrick Sorin. Theory to include; Jaques Derrida and Michel Foucalt, Madness and Civilization.

Action plan: In the first instance to rework the footage I have already shot and possibly record a new set of interviews if the man in question sticks to his verbal agreement. This will not be the main crux of the piece though, just supporting research because I find him unreliable.

To record all research in my blog and to take my starting point from the installation I made last year. Assess which elements worked in my opinion and which did not. I have very clear ideas on what was achieved and what was missing or ineffective so I want it to evolve by starting to consider my presentational requirements from scratch. 


Anticipated equipment needs:

Own equipment –  Flat monitor screens (approx 15 inch) connected to 4 laptops, a pc with premier pro, HD camera with tripod.  External speakers x4

College equipment – None foreseen.

Anticipated material needs: Access to the wood workshop and considerable help with construction. 4 wood panels and some kind of stands, 4 mirrors, some chairs. Paint. 

Anticipated presentational requirements: A space that is a minimum of 6ft x 6ft with the necessary output nearby to power to 4 laptops

Form- 4 screen installation with mirrors

Space- Any that can be darkened but open space is best.

Materials- Probably more than I can anticipate at this point.

Equipment- It’s too early to say at this point.

Yesterday we presented our Minor project to the group. The crit was an assessment point and so it felt odd not to receive any feedback or comments from the tutors. I’m hoping the fact that they had no questions meant that the concepts within the work had been sufficiently explained. It was the first time that I had heard my videos playing simultaneously as intended and I liked the results. I like the murmuring of voices, far enough apart not to interfere with one another but audible in the middle of the room. Overall I am especially happy with this piece and think that it worked according to my original intentions. The technical side wasn’t easy as explained in my self assessment which I will upload here as the final page on the minor project workbook.

Self assessment, Katy Lewis

  Katy Lewis – CPAP3 – Minor Project

 Self Assessment     

Summery of idea

 Two video pieces to be played in the same space which look at the private vs. the public image we make and present of ourselves through the medium of the snapshot or “home mode” imagery.

 Based on the concept that our private images and archives are a blend of established conventions that seldom acknowledge what is going on under the surface.

 It’s about the “us” we want to present to others through our photographs, the selectivity of them and the fact that images by themselves, although out of context, may be recognisable to us in a universal sense. It has been said by Richard Chalfen in his book Snapshot Versions of Life that private snapshot images by themselves do not “speak” at all and it is the accompanying narrative that becomes important in our understanding of them when shown in the “home mode”. I wanted to play with this idea.


 Does the work fulfil the requirements of the assessment criteria?

 Yes. I feel that I’ve invested a lot into this project and that it runs concurrently with the research I’ve been undertaking for my dissertation topic which is based on the snapshot and how it has changed in the digital age, in terms of the technology we use, the way we photograph and also the way that we view our images. Whilst thinking about our private photography with an awareness of how I generally feel and how that is not represented by the image I present or the image others have of me in snapshot terms, I could see the obvious discord, and when looking at the found images I had begun to think about this in relation to other families and question why the images we make and keep for ourselves never venture “beyond the smile”. This is explored in my dissertation.


What new concepts/ideas/theories inform the work? 

 I’ve been considering the way that the aesthetics of our snapshots has changed from something more formal and rigid perhaps, to a more relaxed and “random aesthetic” and this is seen in the contrast between the images that form Karen’s story and those that form Will’s.   

 The conventions we read as belonging to the snapshot that form our understanding of the “Kodak moment” were perhaps in part dictated by the limitations of early equipment, and manuals that told us how to take a better photograph defined these standards hence the interchangeable nature of  the images we see within our family albums. We learned what and not to photograph. The compacting of the technology and the introduction of digital which didn’t cost pence per frame has allowed us to keep our camera with us all the time (the camera phone) and this is, in a way, towards a more professional practice if we are to assume that the definition of professional means keeping your camera with you.

 More photographs have seen a relaxing of the conventions and “bad” photography is forgiven. It is interesting though that we are still presenting ourselves as we’d like to be seen. Holidays and parties are still included and we show ourselves having a good time. In this way the role of the snapshot remains about social acceptance and status. 


What new techniques were used and why?

 The first video was made entirely in Adobe Premier Pro, which I have used before. The vocals were recorded into Free Audio Editor. This was unproblematic because the slides were scanned with my Microtec Artixscan 4000t and then imported quite easily.

 I had untold problems with the second video though as I wanted to take screenshots of the images playing through windows picture viewer and when I imported these into Premier Pro the resolution was terrible. I asked Stuart for help in the FLA but he was unsure what I meant and so I downloaded a free trial of Abobe Captivate which is a piece of PC training software. It allowed me to record the piece in real time. However when I played this back it didn’t match my mock-up edit in Premier Pro. Although it may not seem like it, the changing of the images in Will’s piece is very carefully timed to emulate a supposed real viewing experience. This took weeks to resolve and in the end I found that the two programs weren’t running the footage at the same speed and so I had to reduce each “slide” by 10% to match Adobe Premier’s running time. This was incredibly tricky. It can now only be viewed on a system that has Captivate installed and so I would use my own laptop if it were shown in our exhibition.

 I’d like to add that I haven’t worked with found imagery for a while and I really enjoyed acknowledging the value of those discarded images.


 Does the finished work meet the original intentions?

 Hearing both videos playing simultaneously in the crit, I have to say that the work really does meet my original intentions. I liked everything about it, the murmuring of the two voices when I stood in the middle of the room and the interactivity of the audience. I’ve looked at Gillian Wearing’s work Family History which seems to be in the same realms as my piece and found that she first exhibited in a domestic setting then transferred it to a gallery space when it came to London. She set up rows of seats etc. I would like the recreate lounge and kitchen spaces if I had the budget and the space. Otherwise having one on a projector screen or a television set and Will’s story on a laptop computer, about as far apart as I showed them in class would be just fine because to me it works as intended.


What have you learned from this?

That I am a naturally stressed person, but with time and patience I can get there!

Please click above to enlarge

Above are excerpts ftom “Mass Observation” by Gillian Wearing and are concerned with the sound of the narrative voice. Wearing uses sound in her installations to alienate the possibility of “truth” and often mis matches visual and audio. This is somethnig I have not attempted in an extreme form in my piece but I do feel as though her comments are relevant as they speak about the inner voice. The voice that  I am suggesting is concealed by our family imagery and the narrative voice that gives this work an element of the auto biographical.

“I CAN NEVER FORGET THAT I AM ALWAYS “OUTSIDE”  the inner experience of another person. Wearing adds to this knowledge of the less obvious observation that talking about such experiences-communicating them to each other-also places the other person outside of his or her own experience, introducing an irreducible inner difference or nonidentity. we hare our self-estrangement by giving voice to it. Cold comfort.” 

 pg 38 – Mass Observation, Gillian Wearing



“Snapshot collections, like home movies, reveal most photographer’s reluctance to create visual stories or visual narratives. The narrative  remains in the heads of the picturemakers and on-camera participants for verbal telling and re-telling during exhibition events. Significant details remain as part of the context; the story does not appear in the album or on the screen; it is not “told” by the images. In this sense a picture may be “worth a 1000 words,”…words that are stimulated by and accompany the showing of a snapshot. Home mode imagery provides an example of how pictures don’t literally “say” anything – people do the talking.

Kodak’s slogan “America’s Storyteller” provided an interesting stimulus to reformulate the notion of “story” into the context of an individual lifetime. Snapshot photographs document key moments in an individual’s life, a life story.”

Chalfen. R.  pg. 70

“An Exhibition Event consists of any action(s) which occurs after shooting, in which photographic, filmic, or video imagery is shown and viewed in a public contect. For purposes of studying the home mode, we will call “public” any audience that consists of more than the picture taker or the editor (if editing was done at all). We must be prepared to include one-or-two member audiences-as when an individual or two children want to look at an album or a tray of slides without the rest of the family.

Information on how exhibition events work in the context of Kodak culture has been clarified by asking the following kinds of questions: What kinds of behaviour characterize the exhibition and viewing of a collection of snapshots or home movies? How are exhibition events socially organized? Who initiates, promotes or restricts this activity? Where do these events take place? What other kinds of behaviour of social activity are likely to accompany the showing of pictures? What are the social relationships between the people who plan the image, people who take them or appear in them, and the people who subsequently show or see the pictures?

The most commonly ridiculed example of home mode exhibition involves the showing of travel photographs to relatives and friends who did not make the trip. A short satirical description of this phenomenon appeared in a popular magazine article entitles “How to Stop Them-after they’ve photographed Paris”:

Let’s be honest – is there anything worse than spending an evening at a friend’s home looking at slides of his trip to Europe last summer? I say there’s nothing worse…Ususally, there are four or five couples called together on a Saturday evening for this ritual. I always hope that nobody will ask to see the photos, but that has never happened. Somehow the photos have some strange sense of  inevitability about them. From the moment I walk in the door. I know it’s only a matter of minutes until the familiar question is raised.

“Mona, we’re all dying to see your photographs of London. Will we get a chance to look at them tonight?” – Leonard S. Bernstein, “How to Stop Them After They’ve Photographed Paris,” House Beautiful, October 1972, pp. 171-172. “

To me this highlights the importance of the conventions of the viewing of amateur imagery and for the purposes of the minor project crit we have little scope to create a viewing space specifically taylored to the work. So I have to think that theoretically if this piece was to be shown in a gallery context then would I even attemt a re-creation of the home viewing space? The artist Gillian Wearing exhibited some of the work for her Family History project off site, in residential settings. Then brought it to the gallery in London.

ML: And how about the difference between screening it in Birmingham and Reading to now that it’s coming to London?

GW: Thinking about installation, just trying to build an installation that, now that it’s in a gallery – obviously, when it’s in an apartment you can bring that idea of the television coming into your home, but this is obviously not an apartment. But I have thought about building a wall. So we’re going to have a wall built with seats that are going to kind of echo the sort of seats that you get in a studio. These kind of half-circular seats, just a row of two, it’s not going to be like a big arena because there’s not the space.

With a significant budget and if I had a gallery space allocated I could attempt to recreate the home viewing space for Karen’s story because I feel that this would be appropriate to the viewing of it. Ideas include the darkened carpeted room with sofa chairs and nibbles. 

I feel for Will’s story that the setting would be more like a kitchen. With a metal stool, laptop on a breakfast bar, that kind of thing.  A light space with contemporary fittings.   

But for now the differences in the two display mediums i.e, Television and laptop computer, and the suggested differences in the viewing method that have been incorporated into the piece such as the projector noise vs. the mouse click, and the blank black back screen vs windows picture viewer, will have to allude to my presentational ideas of grandeur unless I can secure an arts council grant or have my final exhibition not at uni.

Will’s facebook page is looking ready for the screenshots but I noticed that having not tagged any of the photographs it doesn’t look quite as we’d expect. I’m wondering whether to tag the people with made up names or whether to keep them nameless implying universiality. I defiantely didn’t want to caption any of the photographs as I felt this would distract from the audio. The thing about this facebook idea is that the images are directly now related to the character of Will in the story and this was something I didn’t do with Karen’s story. I’m wondering then is actually showing them in the context of the social networking site too overt? I liked the connection between the audio and the image in Karen’s film because it wasn’t commenting directly on Karen’s memories, just the difference between private and public demonstrated by the snapshot, and how there are conventions to what we expect. Now I feel as though I’ve distorted this with the facebook idea by directly linking these images to the character in the story and suddenly that feels wrong.

I’m wondering if it is better to show the images I’ve chosen in the same format as Karen’s images, with a black background, and keep continuity and concept in tact. It’s my gut feeling that the presentational method and the images themselves will speak enough about the way the snapshot has changed (as has the means by which we view them) for the viewer of the work to make this connection independantly.

I think doing it this way would invite comparison between the style of photography in both pieces which is totally right. In the context of the social networking site there are numerous distractions such as attention grabbing adverts down the side and applications of the site. Both good devices to mask the audio, as was the original point, and thinking about the context in which we view our images once we put them on social networking sites in terms of things like advertising is certainly valid and interesting but I don’t feel like the work needs or would benefit from this extra layer at this stage because it would be attempting to address too much, and I think as a result, the point of the work would get lost in the many issues the social network page itself presents.