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How you see it?

I have just finished speaking to a student as part of a telephone tutorial. He is at that mid point in a project and the conversation was about taking the next steps forward.
There were a few points that he made in his discussion that made me confident that he had achieved clarity and a sense of direction on the project that he was working on.
“It is how I see it” was his comment to me. This was a definite statement, not a proposition, not a question. “It is how I see it” – here was a moment of realisation at the point he is it currently at.
This got me thinking about the process of making work. The point of realisation when the work starts to become your own. That point where your personal voice starts to take over and mold and shape the images.
“It’s only after looking at lots of books and exhibitions that this happened” he went onto explain.
For students on any course, this process of research and reflecting on the work of others is pivotal to finding your own way forward. Art of any kind is not created in a vacuum but in response to a constant dialogue with the world at large.
If you are struggling with finding your own way with a topic, immerse yourself in research. Don’t get hung up on the biography of the artists but instead think about how you respond to the work. Ask yourself – why does this work have this effect on me?
Sketchbook Scan
This is the time to be specific, maybe only discuss one or two images. Avoid the sweeping generalisations about a style of working and really get into the detail of what has attracted (or conversely what you really don’t like) about an image. Sometimes this is easier to do by annotating an image: use arrows, bullet points, overlays as shortcuts to get yourself interacting with the work of others. Don’t be a passive observer but be active in your response.
This active engagement can feed directly into your creative process.
Too often we get hung up on the technicalities of image taking. Our decision making process is taken up with the equipment needed to shoot and then more decisions on technology needed for the post-processing. The creative process can easily be lost sight of. Again this is a time to get active in your reflection on your own work.
To get a project going we often have to shoot a lot of images. Then we need to reflect and edit our images. Take the time to sift through those early shoot images. Our brains need to distill them in terms of ideas and subjects as part of our creative thinking.
To aid this process, it is a really good idea to have small prints of your images. Lay them out and play around with the sequencing of the photographs and see how images relate to each other. Using annotation to record this process and include it as part of your learning log. If it is easier to work on paper, and you have an online learning log, simply photograph your notes to include them.
From these juxtapositions, connections can be made and this is when the leap forward can happen and you can experience your own “how I see it” moment.
Now think back to your research into the work of others and make links to the research and any planning that you have done. Your work may well have gone off on a tangent but that is not what this process is about. It is all about the journey, one connection leading to another, however disjointed.
This is the process that allowed my student to develop his personal voice – what has worked for you?

Posted by author: Andrea Norrington
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