brief – submission – blog – feedback
Tutor feedback received 6th September 2021
You have involved yourself with all aspects of this course through research and engagement with the prescribed exercises. The work generally has raised some interesting questions about place and there is no reason why these ideas cannot be explored further as you advance through your degree programme.
Feedback based on Learning Outcomes
This has been an interesting submission using a mixture of your own images and that of others to create the final work. There are many questions in relation to this kind of approach that need to be researched. As a starting point the question of authorship needs to be considered alongside the sources of the images . You have tapped into an archive and within this context have attempted to reconstructed meaning through your own interpretation of these images. In his essay Reading an Archive Alan Sekula refers to the idea of reimagining the archive – “Archives, then, constitute a “territory of images”: the unity of an archive is first and foremost that imposed by ownership (…) This “semantic availability” of pictures in archives exhibits the same abstract logic as that which characterizes goods in the marketplace.
In an archive, the possibility of meaning is “liberated” from the actual contingencies of use. But this liberation is also a loss, an “abstraction” from the complexity and richness of use, a loss of context. Thus, the specificity of “original” uses and meanings can be avoided and even made invisible, when photographs are selected from an archive and reproduced in a book. So new meanings come to supplant old ones, with the archive serving as a kind of “clearing house” of meaning.” 
Another point that arises from the use of historical/found images is that the nameless people portrayed can then become incidental figures in the history of photography, collectible and available for interpretation by the academic and creative. I would like to have seen some analysis of how and why such images are used particularly within the context of the transference of meaning. 
The question that first comes to mind is why did you make these images in the first place. In your submission you state that it nevertheless provides what I regard as an interesting, if parochial, perspective on urban development and some social changes of the past 100+ years. Yet before this you have placed yourself in a slightly negative position in relation to the work of other photographers that you have researched working along similar lines. As well as indicating that the approach has been used previously in a number of contexts. Indeed, it has been done so often that it has almost become a separate genre. The sense that I have about your approach is that as a second-choice idea you started on the backfoot and did not expand the idea as you have done in previous work. 
The visual coherence of the work is good in relation to place but without having an awareness of the specific locations the viewer may not be clear of the intent of the images. Some of the images give a general context for the theme and it might be argued that some explanatory text was required. You have demonstrated an ability to apply photographic techniques in an appropriate manner. The visual outcomes of the piece work well and I agree with your estimation of the bowling green image. The blending of the historical and contemporary images is good. The image of the young girl outside the Greyhound pub is literally haunting in your image and an unusual subject in the original. The B and Q picture is another favourite. 
You have researched the work of other photographers and have an awareness of the themes explored. I see that you looked at the work of Martina Lindqvist  a former student of mine who has followed consistent lines of enquiry of home and place throughout her work . You have reflected upon your work in a critical manner and have engaged in a learning curve identifying clearly that work does not always get resolved to one’s satisfaction but can still lay down ideas for future development.
How could the work be presented?  In book form, in a magazine, a gallery, an illustrated talk, a blog or as part of a public awareness campaign. In all of these areas the design and layout of the presentation needs to be considered to effectively communicate .
I think that the general idea of this project has a lot of potential but I would like to see an investigation into the principles of time and place. These images evidence the reality of recording place as a memory tool. The power of geographical spaces opens up many possibilities including interpretations across individual, social, cultural and political issues. The difficulty in looking at an image historical or contemporary is that we are often aware of the subsequent history of either the subject or the photographer. This will always affect our knowledge and interpretation of the image separated by memory, culture and context. So, in this work perhaps you are setting down a new layer of memory upon an existing one. Creating a future visual archaeological record and perhaps signposts to hidden histories. Also, it might be worth considering the appropriation of the memory/history of these places that can be used as a tool of propaganda and incitement. 
We might ask if the contrast between the historical and contemporary images contribute to an understanding of the environment that we live in? why did the photographer of the original images make them? Was it an accidental process or a deliberate intention?
Overall, there are complex ideas and themes in the work struggling to reach the surface. The overall theme needs to be clarified and the work informed by individual critical analysis and research in an attempt to resolve the issues .
Wells, L. (ed.) (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Abingdon: Routledge. Chapter 42. Reading an Archive. Alan Sekula
Before submitting work for formal assessment, I would suggest that you review the whole body of work. Check that the learning log is clearly indicating your learning curve, evidence of reflection and evaluation. Present the work in an appropriate manner and ensure that the assessor is able to see your development in the images and written work. Check that all the learning outcomes have been met. Do not forget that you can change the way you present the work for assessment. It does not have to be in the manner that you submitted for each project assignment. It is also possible for you to change content in relation to feedback received. Do indicate your own responses to feedback. Ensure that all quotes and reading are referenced using Harvard Referencing either in context or as part of a bibliography.
This feedback for this project has been more critical than for the previous four. I acknowledge that there are shortcomings, but have some defences to offer.
1. Authorship and ownership were considered at length after Asg.2 in an essay that will probably submitted in the Final Assessment package. I reread the essay this morning as part of the FinAss refinement and selection process and have nothing to add to it.
In the context of this Assignment, I consider the usage to be ‘fair dealing’, as defined in Sections 29 and 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. My sources have not been the original photographers but mostly books of the Old Eltham genre and occasionally online sources. In every case, my secondary source is credited. None of my sources credit the original photographers, not a single instance.
Because there is a possibility of comeback on this point, I am submitting Assignments 1-3 for FinAss as 4 and 5 run this risk.
2. The Sekula essay (which incidentally appears in the Wells Photography Reader (2003), not the Critical Introduction) raises a number of questions regarding the use of archive material in addition to that raised in the feedback. The most relevant of his questions for this project is, I believe, “How is historical and social memory preserved, transformed, restricted and obliterated by photographs?”
There is an important distinction to be made between Sekula and my tutor’s more general analysis of archive usage and this project, because the characters and artefacts taken from the old photographs are re-superimposed precisely where they were situated in the initial image but the surroundings have been updated to show their current state. That provides a context not considered in the examples Sekula provides (there are variations on this theme because, for example, the Grafton factory has been knocked down and replaced by B&Q; St Barnabas has been moved, brick-by-brick from Woolwich Dockyards to Eltham, but the point remains valid).
Sekula (Wells p.446) states that the dilemma faced in organising with archives is that “One is torn between narration and categorization, between chronology and inventory”. This project, through the juxtaposition of old and new, to some extent cuts through these dichotomies.
3. I described the subject matter as “trivial when compared to some other uses of merged images, Soomin Ham’s profound personal involvement in Portraits and Windows, n.d. or the importance of RAKE’s political intervention (Police State, 2021)” (Asg.5 Reflection). I do not believe that demeans the project, it merely recognises that this visual device has a wide range of applications, from the personal to the national.
I also stated at the outset that this was not my first choice and that it only took off when I started merging the old and new images because there were no pedestrians where I wanted them to be outside (what used to be) Eltham Park Station (Asg.5 Introduction).
Regarding parochial, see #6.
4. This is the most positive paragraph in the feedback. I think that the bowling green and B&Q images are what makes the series worthwhile – see #6 for a continuation of this point.
On the girl with one leg outside the Greyhound, after Eltham Park Station sewed the seed, that is the image that convinced me that every picture should combine old and new. There is another one-legged girl image in Kennett (1991, p.51) see fig. A1. The background is the Eltham Brewery, which begat Outtrim’s (coal merchant), which begat Hinds (department store, new building), which begat Allder’s, which begat Lidl’s (new building). The approximate location is Lidl’s car park. Kennett does not date the image, but that of the Greyhound is 1905 – there is insufficient visual information in these reproductions to tell whether it might be the same girl although the extent of the amputation might differ.
5. Lindqvist appeared in the course material.
6. Presentation – The format of the assignment submission had two constraints. Firstly, the original images had to be included to establish what the project was doing. Secondly, the pairs had to be stacked vertically as the most efficient format given the OCA image size restraints.
As I state in the Introduction,
[in some cases] where the old black-and-white import dominates the contemporary colour image … this led me to visualise a physical display where only the new versions are shown, printed large enough to be viewed at some distance and presented in increasing order of intervention so that the viewer might not at first notice the additions and then, when they did, would return to the start to look for them. The titles would hint at the inclusions by specifying both the original and current dates.Introduction
Such a presentation would entail further restraints. Firstly, a public showing risks exceeding the bounds of ‘fair dealing’ and the project would have to be reworked using only images that I had permission to use.
Secondly, this could only work (in the sense of the viewers could only have a chance of understanding the context …) if it was shown locally, for example, Eltham Library or a pub church or other High Street venue. St Barnabas church would do – it appears in the series as the last-but-one image, and I have had dealings with the priest/vicar, Rev. Steve Cook, who appears in Asg.2. This is the context in which I described the project as parochial.
7. That is the way forward and a tempting prospect, but it will not be as part of I&P which is now winding down. Part of an expansion of the context and the subjects would be finding a satisfactory solution to presenting multiple changes of building and use such as McDonald’s Corner and Wetherspoons Corner.
Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.
Kennett, J. (1991) Eltham in old photographs. Stroud: Alan Sutton.
Wells, L. (2003) The photography reader. Abingdon: Routledge.