Sunday, 3 March 2013

How do I present my portfolio for assessment?

This is beginning to bother me. I’ve been developing the images for the four seasons section in line with some of the seasonal words (kigo) that feature in tradition haiku as seasonal signifiers, but unless you know this then they could possible appear as a series of unconnected images.

I think there are a couple of options open to me:

  • I could provide some supporting text – easy but not particularly creative, and potentially turns the series into a text-book;
  • I could add some appropriate Japanese calligraphy – technically easy but I don’t have access to a source for the calligraphy, and again it may need explanation;
  • I could, as suggested by one of the tutors on the Newcastle study visit I mentioned this to, make them more physically Japanese. Obvious suggestions might be printing on Japanese paper – technically more difficult but perhaps useful for the panoramics, I could present them on a scroll of some description.

Any combination of the above might also work – might even be necessary - but I am attracted to the last idea. There are a number of things that I need to look at and think about in more detail though.

  • Technical issues – Japanese paper is generally expensive and more importantly absorbent – so I will need to trial some prints, and may have to choose images with specific properties to pull this off. I have bought a pad of sumi-e paper, and a pad of Japanese ink painting paper from the Heaton Cooper Studios in Grasmere for some experiments which I’ll report here when I‘ve finished. Scroll making is something I’ve not really begun to think about – but there seem to be two options – print on paper and mount to a fabric scroll, or print to a transfer film of some kind and use the scroll as the image base. Again some experimenting may be in order.
  • Artistic issues – Is this simply rather shallow pictorialism? This is more difficult. As with western photography, there was a fairly strong strand of pictorialism in Japanese photography which persisted well into the 1930s (ref: The History of Japanese Photography, Yale University Press, 2003 pp144 et seq) which relied in its early stages on techniques such as gum bichromate and bromoil printing, and traditional subject matter. This technique centred approach was rejected by later practitioners and as in the west pictorialism was eventually overtaken my more modernist agendas.
  • Japonisme – swallowing Japanese ideas into art is hardly new – it certainly exercised the minds of the impressionists, and art has moved on considerably since then, so the idea could potentially be considered backward looking – although I’m not attempting to replicate a painting, nor copy Japanese images. I would see the approach as a further reference to the Japanese heritage I’m referencing in the images
  • In addition to this thought there is the tendency, discussed by Grundberg in an essay in Crisis of the Real, for photographs to be more frequently seen as objects – hence the scale of works by the likes of Wall and Gursky. In a Japanese context I’ve already discussed Sugimoto’s inclusion of images into glass stupas to draw attention to the philosophical intent of his photos.

The upshot of all this is that I’m going to experiment with some different presentation methods to see what the outcome is.

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