Friday, 26 March 2010

Confirmed APEL... social documentary here I come!!

No more watching the letterbox in anticipation (well, for a little while anyway) as last week I got my confirmation letter that my APEL had been accepted (you can see it here).  I, by return post, then signed up to Social Documentary.  And today an exciting parcel arrived duly enclosing a very appealing red wrapped parcel of goodies.  It is when I reflected on the photography that had inspired me over the past few months that I decided that Social Documentary was what I wanted to study - several of those photographers are mentioned below.   I feel the Social Documentary course will push me the furthest, in a direction I know least about  and will therefore have most to learn from. 

I'm not sure how I will take to this particular genre of photography but I guess the following provides a list of the sort of things I am hoping to explore.  Although I know as soon I start studying I may go off in an altogether other direction!!
  • I am hoping to experiment more with 'landscape portraiture', there probably is a proper name for it but I don't know what it is.  But what I am meaning is the relationship people have with and in their environment.  For example Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Missisippi Project where the photograph is part social documentary but also landscape is a significant contributing factor to the interpretation of the portfolio. 
  • Conversely, I would also like to experiment with 'landscape-less' portraiture which seems to be ever-present in contemporary photography at the moment. For example Rineke Dijkstra's Beach Project where the landscape is purposefully 'absent' in so much as it offers little to distract or add meaning to the photograph. Another quite harrowing portfolio by Izabella Damavlys of victims of acid attacks takes this confrontational approach (read this interview on eyeteeth with her). Another example is Kathryn Obermaier's Ashray School where she purposefully omits any background. She speaks of her approach on this website:
I choose to focus mainly on their faces eliminating distraction, or clues to their surroundings, leaving only the details of their faces to tell their stories.
  • Another approach I have enjoyed viewing is less objective, but nevertheless has had extraordinary results.  Two examples are Richard Renaldi's Touching Strangers and Manjari Sharma's In The Shower.  Both photographers created the environment in which their subject's posed, in quite unusual situations.  I love the awkwardness and surprising results from these projects.  I would like to explore 'awkwardness' further.
  • I want to pick up on something my tutor said in the past about a piece of work. I am not quite sure what or how I can achieve this but will be giving this further thought:

. . . I think you could make much more from a close, personal reportage assignment where this kind of subject was handled objectively.
  • I would like to explore my local environment and its inhabitants and try to find the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.
  • I would like to gain confidence in photographing in public and be comfortable to ask subjects to 'sit' for me.
  • I would like to explore 'more objective' photography than I have tried in the past.  See previous post for more info on this.
  • Eventually, when I lay my hands on a large format camera I would like to experiment with contemplative portraiture.  See this previous post for more info on this. Many of the photographers I have highlighted above use a 5x4 large format camera.
I'm not going to get much chance to peruse the box until after the weekend, but now I'm itching to have a look.


  1. Congrats on the APEL confirmation, you must be pleased. Hope you enjoy the Soc Doc course, as ever I will look forward to seeing your images.

  2. Thanks Duncan. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in to a course again - although a little apprehensive too!



  3. Penny, really well done for getting the APEL - I knew you would! Good luck with your next steps; I'm interested in many of the ideas you've written about and look forward to seeing your progress with these.

  4. Penny, really well done for getting the APEL - I knew you would! I'm interested in many of your ideas and look forward to seeing your progress with these. Good luck with it all,

  5. Penny - sorry for the doubling up, I thought my first comment hadn't gone through :-) Don't you just hate computers.

  6. Thanks Gilly, that's really kind. No worries about doubling up - I tried to leave comments on your last post about 'seeing is forgetting the name' - but I don't think it was accepted and I couldn't bring myself to retype it all!!!