I’ve almost certainly made all the images that I’m going to for the Portraits Project (need a title!) and so thoughts begin to turn to presentation. There was an opportunity to try something out over the weekend, when I attended a ‘gathering’ of 14 current and prospective Level Three students (with two tutors) from OCA. ‘Crit sessions’ were very much part of the agenda and I took along some prints of the portraits plus, more significantly, a print of a mock ‘red-top’ tabloid newspaper called ‘The Stan’. I’m not going to document the design and print process here (it’s written up in a notebook at the moment), but the photograph above shows the principle and there is a large PDF version of all four pages here – ‘The Stan’. This was an experimental way of bringing all the images into one place, together with either the full ‘back story’ or an allusion to it. My questions for the group were, essentially, ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is the print quality acceptable?’. The latter question arose because this particular newsprint version is certainly not of high aesthetic quality – but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue for those who saw it. ‘Cheap and nasty’ works as a tabloid aesthetic, I think.
More significant, though, is the question of whether it works as a culmination – perhaps the culmination – for the project. Views inevitably varied, with there being at least one suggestion that one may need nothing else – just the newspaper as the final outcome presentation. Another view, though, was that the project critiques a wide range of image styles and contexts, so perhaps the ‘tabloid’ wasn’t appropriate for an overarching presentation. The project seeks to explore the way photographic images create fictions in the ‘real’ world, so maybe something (or more than one ‘thing’) is needed to bring my own fictions into the ‘real’. It’s a valid point, but not an easy one to resolve. It did lead me to reflect, in the ‘crit’ that perhaps one approach would be to drop this project as having gone as far as it can without some major piece of work that would be difficult to do this late in the course. I haven’t resolved that question yet – rightly and understandably. In my own mind, this project has been slightly ‘second string’ to the ‘Textbook’ project for a while; so that might be basis enough for making a decision between the two. But on the other hand, the Portraits always produce a reaction in others; always make people think; certainly have an ‘audience’, which might be important at a later stage; and, as the person who was questioning the tabloid said, ‘have legs’ (literally!). Although this project makes people laugh (a ‘good thing’; nothing wrong with humour in art, surely), it has a very serious side and enough depth of context and interpretation to stand on its own, if I chose to make it do so.
So I’m faced with further reflection about this, as I head towards submission of Assignment Four. The project will definitely form part of that submission, whatever the final outcome. The discussion at the weekend has led me to look back at a couple of other angles into this piece of work. Firstly, I have been taking another look at the website I put together at the end of last year – www.wherenothingisreal.com. I’m sure there are aspects that could be improved but, coming back to it after several months, I feel that it doesn’t work badly as a presentation of the project – though not as a way of bringing the images into the ‘real’. Another angle that I’ve referred to a few times is the concept of a Google Search for an old school friend. This is the first page of a search for ‘Stan Dickinson’, done yesterday afternoon:
There are five of my Portraits in there – part of the ‘real’ world then, perhaps? I tried a search for ‘Dick Stanley’ and, most appropriately, my own ‘Dick’ appears on page three:
Maybe, as I say, these images are already out there in the ‘real’?
Much to reflect on further, after the weekend discussions, but the project will stay on its ‘legs’ for the time being.