Week 3 - Collaboration

Week 3 is all about collaboration, and includes a task in which we need to work together for a micro-project.

Honestly this is quite daunting….having to work with someone else when I’m not sure what my own work is yet and all in under a week. However, this could be a good opportunity to learn something new!

The guidelines for the micro-project are vague…..we need to “agree on a theme or strategy for a collaborative micro project. You are completely free in terms of the content and creative direction of the project. But you should aim to create a small, but resolved piece of work in its own right, which has been formed in collaboration.”

With no starting point or restrictions for content or creative style this seems like a huge task to accomplish in a few days.

From watching this weeks video (interview with Brown & Bri) I feel an important point they bought up regarding collaborative work is to have a point of focus and a shared agenda. Their work and projects seem to be quite varied and differ from project to project but they always have an aim or perhaps an end goal for the project. Rather than working with other photographers they collaborate with people across creative disciplines and practical trades.

I think prior to this week my assumptions regarding collaborative work in a photographic sense were more about physically working on the setup of a photo with someone else, e.g. fashion photography shoots, or literally blending more than one image together to create a new piece of work – as in the work developed by Echosight http://echosight.me/

I think a challenge about this task is going to be the physical distance between us – although the digital world may make it easy to communicate I think the distance may provide some dictations on the types of collaborative work we will be able to do.

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This week’s forum post asked us to upload a picture or some text that could be a starting point for the project. Gemma and I teamed up as our quotes had a similar theme of perspective.

Gemma picked:

"A painter constructs, a photographer discloses" Susan Sontag, On Photography

 And I picked:

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World we Live in[i]

 Over a Group forum we discussed how it seemed as though Gemma’s choice seemed to be from the perspective of the photographer and how photographs reveal something, and how my quote choice could be seen as being from the perspective of the viewer, and how a someone looking at an image may just see what they want to see, instead of what is necessarily being showed to them.

I choose this quote for a couple of reasons. The first being that the source was non-photography based. John Lubbock was a 19thC “banker, Liberal politician, philanthropist, scientist and polymath”, who made “significant contributions in archaeologyethnography, and several branches of biology. He helped establish archaeology as a scientific discipline, and was also influential in nineteenth-century debates concerning evolutionary theory.”[ii] From the Week 2 work regarding interdisciplinary approaches I wanted to continue thinking about how other disciplines can inspire and influence my photography work.

The second reason was because for a long time I’d only considered the message I was trying to convey through my photos, or what I thought my images were saying. I hadn’t thought about how viewers would interpret them, or how individual’s experiences would influence their interpretations of photographs. I felt that this quote reflected how viewers may only see what they want to see, or perhaps what their experiences allow them to see.

In order to create a piece of work using both of our quotes, I wondered whether Gemma and I could have one of us could take a photo with some kind of message/meaning/emotion in mind, i.e trying to disclose something, and then the other one of us uses that photo as inspiration to make another picture - and then we either present the two images side by side, or layer them in photoshop, to make a new image.

I had read about a collaborative project called Echosight, where people from different places blended images of different cities (http://echosight.me), and was thinking about doing something similar but in terms of perspective rather than physical location as a starting point.

Gemma posited using a documentary style of photography and using our home towns as the basis for our images.

We decided Gemma would make an image of the view she sees in the coffee shop where she does some of her photography editing work. Then I would use that to make a responsive image. The image she took gave me real feeling of being warm and cosy inside when it's cold outside. I liked the focus on the objects inside and how tightly they're framed together and in contrast there was nothing outside the window, just the empty street - I felt like it emphasized the warmth vs the empty cold, especially with the moisture on the window pane.

Gemma suggested I could make a response image of somewhere from the outside looking in so this is what I am going to try to do, to show from an alternate perspective the cold of being outside against the warmth of being inside.

Some difficulties we have both felt so far are to do with the time to complete this project as we only have a few days, and for a first collaboration it seemed like quite a lot to do in a short amount of time. We also felt like we were struggling trying to think of ways we could make a collaborative image from different geographical locations.

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This is our final image – a layered image of Gemma’s coffee shop view and the response image I took of looking inside a coffee shop from the outside. (Layering of the images together was done by Gemma).

Collaboration Image - Feb 2017, S. Bradley & G. Willis

Collaboration Image - Feb 2017, S. Bradley & G. Willis

I’m proud of the final image and I really like how it doesn’t conform to “traditional” composition rules. Some comments from this week’s webinar were that the picture makes you work to look at it, and comes across as being quite raw and edgy. This is something I thought as well when I first saw the final image and what I love about it. It struck me that perhaps in this instance the production of the image and the collaborative aspect was more relevant than the end product. It makes me wonder about the possibilities of photography being used as a therapeutic tool to promote/develop teamwork and even empathy in people.

I was really intrigued with the collaborative image created by Rita and Kate. They created a combined still life image featuring their own objects but composed/arranged together. I’ve not really explored still life photography but their piece did make me think about how I could incorporate still life into my work. I thought their final image was quite beautiful and I loved how they’d taken inspiration from a non-photographic source (the style of still life paintings from Flemish artists), and as they showed us the separate components it was interesting to see how they’d been put together.

I was initially quite reserved about the idea of collaborative work, and I didn’t know whether anything would be able to be made in such a short time. I do tend to feel that my photography is quite a solitary practice and I feel it is something I do alone. But I actually found the experience refreshing, inspiring, and much more fun than I was expecting! I loved being able to bounce ideas of someone, to see and hear someone else’s ideas and points of view, and being able to discuss the process with someone, as well as sharing concerns about how we were feeling. I really enjoyed being able to share this week’s task with someone. I definitely enjoyed working with someone on a project much more than I thought I would, and it’s really opened my eyes to the possibilities of collaborative work – both in planning work, carrying out the work, and creating a final image. It has definitely made me want to think about other ways I could incorporate collaborative work into my practice and how this could be used in my research project.

[i] https://archive.org/details/beautiesnaturea02lubbgoog[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lubbock,_1st_Baron_Avebury