#Phonar – A Post Photographic Portrait.

The culmination of this module will be the production of a “post-photographic portrait” of Jill Jarman‘s piece for Cello performed by Laura Ritchie, any problems with the embed below please go directly to Archive.org Your decisions throughout this process should build upon and further develop the work we’ve begun in creative workshop and throughout the lecture series. This process should be evidenced explicitly and succinctly on your blog as well  (a 500 word reflective summary would do the trick).

Boom ! Easy-peasy.

:)

Julián Péter @JuloPeter
@Jonathan_Worth Hi! Bit confused on the latest task. Do we create a “new” post-photographic portrait, or do we transform our previous work?

JW >> Here’s a slightly longer answer than the 140 characters twitter allows: Perhaps see the task as a license (should one be needed) to “break out of the frame”. To break out of stills, to use sound, explore multi-point perspective and grapple with non-linear narratives. It’s the chance to make a bigger and more ambitious project than the weekly tasks and now that you’ve established a weekly turnaround of work you should find it easier to build something substantial. Revisit the lectures and interviews, look over your task outputs and then think of something you feel passionate about (love or hate) and craft us a narrative.


I was glad to see that @JuloPeter asked for a bit more information of the task as when it was first introduced, I was a bit confused as to where to take this task and what I could do with the cello piece. However I did know I had to create something that was inspired from the talks we have listened to, #phonar themes and also possibly extend one of the tasks I have already done. I decided the best place to begin would be listening to the cello piece all the way through to get a feel for it before listening again and noting down some sections which caught my attention.

  • 00:00 – 00:34 slow building of suspense, very gentle.
  • 00:34 – 00:55 quite emotional, moving, musical.
  • 00:57 – 01:32 sounds distressing, like a struggle.
  • 1:33 – 1:41 very jumpy and abrupt, dramatic.
  • 1:44 – 2:08 gentle, emotive, sad.
  • 2:11 – 3:17 still sad and emotional but contains higher notes which come across harsher.
  • 3:31 – 4:30 very fast, builds suspense, kind of scary.
  • 5:11 – 5:35 quite catchy tempo, more upbeat, like an adventure.
  • 6:30 – 6:45 & 7:01 – 7:10 both give a sense of running away, danger, fast pace.

As from a young age I have learnt a few musical instruments, although not string, I hoped I would be able to connect with the piece however I actually find it quite hard to understand what it was about, what it was trying to say. The second time I listened to pick out some main points, I decided not to look at it in this way but literally listen to the changes in notes and tempo. I still found it hard to pick out certain sections because I could enjoy a few seconds then suddenly it would jump to something else. Once I have thought more about my idea I will revisit the cello piece and see whether any of the sections I picked out will fit the idea I have.

Next, I decided to go over the tasks which we have done through #phonar and consider which ones stood out to me. I enjoyed the transformative storytelling task as it allowed me to re-visit family albums and past memories in order to create a new narrative. I also really enjoyed the spoken narrative task and on reflection felt I would like to revisit in the future and tell something more personal. A photographer has so much power telling somebody else’s story and I think it’s really exciting to be able to turn this around on yourself and tell something of your own. By combining these two together along with the cello piece I think this will work well together to create a post-photographic piece.

I have decided for my spoken narrative I am going to talk about my battle with anxiety for the last 3 and a half years. This is really personal and although a few people close to me know, a lot of people do not. I have always been quite a shy person and by putting this out there is quite scary but I think it could work well enough to be really powerful. For the visuals of my video, I am going to use pictures stored on my macbook photo albums and Facebook photo albums that have been taken throughout my battle to show the front I have had to put on when really I’ve always had this secret.

How does this relate to the talks and themes from #phonar?

  • Sara Davidmann – Sara spoke of how family albums are key ways in how family histories are told but they do not tell everything. We only take photos of happy events, not things deemed unacceptable. By using photos where I look happy and am enjoying myself, this reflects exactly how my battle with anxiety has been excluded from the ‘album’.
  • Loss of the physical artefact and family albums – following the idea suggested by Davidmann, we spoke in class about how we have stopped using or making family albums because everything has become stored digitally, also reflecting this paradigm shift. I considered using photos from the family albums like in the transformative story telling task however I am really young in these pictures and they don’t show the actual time I have been suffering with anxiety therefore I decided to use recent photos.
  • Lisa Potts – in class we considered how Lisa was able to detach herself from telling such a  heart breaking story and it is important for me to be able to do the same with mine. I don’t think you look for sympathy in telling a story and if emotion is involved, although it can be gripping it does make people sympathise. Whereas if you are able to detach from this it is more like telling the story as an event and how it happened in a detailed way which makes it better for the viewer to understand.
  • Marcus Bleasdale – Marcus said “you have to be passionate, engaged and involved on a personal level to produce work that impacts change”. As I am talking about my own experience and my own struggle, I am involved personally and fully engaged in what I am trying to share. I also am very passionate about it because there is so much stigma behind mental health about people who lie or how they should just get over it, how the illness is not as serious as something physical. By being involved on a personal level, I can truly speak from my heart for how terrible this is for people. I can share my passion for how important it is for people to understand and have patience. This will be the forefront for creating something that will hopefully implement change.

What is the problem?

An anxiety disorder is a mental illness which many people are suffering from. Although everyone can experience anxiety, an anxiety disorder is enough to take over your life. They can become so severe it makes the most simple of day to day tasks unbearable. Worst of all, so many people are unaware of this. So many are unaware of just how hard living with an anxiety disorder can be. For some, if they don’t understand they can end up not believing, making things even harder for the sufferers, isolating them. It is so important for people who are suffering and struggling with an anxiety disorder to seek help rather than letting it get worse and escalate into something unimaginable. The problem is that not enough people understand how hard and life changing the disorder can be.

What is the solution?

I am going to create a visual piece along with my own spoken narrative telling my experience of my battle with anxiety. By doing this, I can give the viewers an insight of the struggles I have had which are will be similar to people also suffering with an anxiety disorder. The more people that speak out about it, the more other people can understand. The more people understand, the less stigma and disbelief there will be surrounding anxiety disorders and the easier it will become for those who are suffering.

What will happen if I don’t do this?

If I don’t do this, people’s attitudes towards anxiety disorders won’t change. My voice will be small, but it will be heard. If I don’t speak out, that it one less step towards the change. I won’t be able to help somebody else.


To begin, I decided to find just a couple of statistics in relation to anxiety disorders. I feel there isn’t much need to go into depth with this as I think my own story and the feelings and experiences of others are much more important here. The following statistics were copied from the Mental Health Foundation website.

  • While 2.6% of the population experience depression and 4.7% have anxiety problems, as many as 9.7% suffer mixed depression and anxiety, making it the most prevalent mental health problem in the population as a whole.
  • About 1.2% of the UK population experience panic disorders, rising to 1.7% for those experiencing it with or without agoraphobia.
  • Around 1.9% of British adults experience a phobia of some description, and women are twice as likely to be affected by this problem as men.
  • Agoraphobia affects between 1.5% and 3.5% of the general population in its fully developed form; in a less severe form, up to one in eight people experience this.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects 2.6% of men and 3.3% of women.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) affect around 2–3% of the population.
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder affects between 2–5% of the population, yet accounts for as much as 30% of the mental health problems seen by GPs.

I don’t find these statistics particularly useful for my piece as they become quite specific, particular ones related to agoraphobia however it does raise awareness of the different types of anxiety disorders there are and the links you can find between different mental health problems.

I decided to use Storify to put together the thoughts and feelings of others who are struggling with the disorder. I mainly used Twitter as this was where I was able to get opinions rather than facts and articles. There were a lot of mixed tweets, bringing different things to my attention. Many who spoke of suffering with an anxiety disorder spoke of suffering with depression, an eating disorder or bipolar. A lot of these mental illnesses can stem off each other and I think it’s important for people to realise this. There is so much more to people suffering than we know. Many people commented on the difference between the emotion anxiety and actually having an anxiety disorder – it’s necessary to recognise the difference between something anyone can experience in a number of different situations in contrast to something that takes over somebodies life. It also stood out to me how many people tweeted about people ‘faking’ that they suffer from depression and anxiety, or how you cannot claim you suffer with a mental illness just by diagnosing yourself on the Internet. This is something that has  been a problem for me because it can be hurtful when people can ‘overdramatise’ that feeling of anxiety such as before an exam and think it is the end of the world when they don’t understand how it feels to suffer that every single day. However I always believe we should NEVER doubt or judge what anybody is feeling, we never know what somebody could be going through and have no right to say whether or not they know the true suffering of a mental disorder.

Take a look at my Storify here.

What really helped me by doing this for one was knowing I’m not alone. I’ve always known this has been the case but to know you’re not the only one struggling is a sort of comfort (obviously in the least mean way possible!) It also highlights the importance of doing this piece because it could help somebody else feel that comfort. There were a few points from the Storify which really stood out to me. Image found through link from google images.

download

We all recognise this friendly name tag, but seeing someone consider introducing themselves as ‘anxiety’ is not acceptable. An anxiety disorder can rule your life so much that you feel everything becomes based upon that. I have certainly been in that place. It can become the centre of your world and stop you from doing those basic things you once enjoyed. Anxiety begins to define your personality and define who you are, no matter how much you don’t want it to. I could be interested in using this image to begin my video as it acts as a suitable introduction – it tells the viewer what the piece is going to be about and essentially introduces ‘myself’.

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This image was tweeted by @DoodleChronicle highlighting the point I suggested earlier about how we never know what a person is going through because it can be hidden so easily. Just because somebody appears fine and ‘normal’ on the outside doesn’t mean their suffering a personal battle on the inside. I know a number of people who have met me would never know I suffer with an anxiety disorder until they literally see me having a panic attack or it comes to a point where I have to tell them. I have reached a point where I am a lot more open of who I am able to tell I suffer with anxiety, regardless of how much that will matter to them or not. Sadly in some social situations, I feel I have to tell people in order for them to understand my resistance to want to do certain things whereas most of the time I will ‘hide behind the smile’ just like many other people. Therefore I have decided this is something I want to include in terms of my visuals for my project.

“Having an anxiety disorder is like that moment where your chair almost tips or you miss a step going down the stairs but it never stops.”

I saw this quote numerous times while looking through my tweets about social anxiety and I found it quite powerful. It allows you to make that analogy of being a young child in school leaning back on just the two legs of the chair and that petrifying jolt you feel as you almost lose the balance and grab the table to steady yourself. Same with when you miss a step, your heart skips a beat. Imagine suffering this all day, with anything you do. I think this allows someone who hasn’t experienced this to image that feeling of fear constantly. I will consider including this in my piece somewhere.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 22.24.59

This is something that really took my attention because I know exactly how it feels. You can wake up one day feeling okay, go out and it hits you like a tonne of bricks. There is no control, there is no structure. It can come from no where or triggered by something so small. Being too hot, being too crowded, something somebody says. Even if I wake up in the morning feeling okay, I know anxiety can catch me at any point. In the past, this has drove me to extreme measures of not even wanting to leave the house and this is something I definitely want to draw upon in my piece.

“The thing about an anxiety disorder is that you know it is stupid. You know with all your heart that it wasn’t a big deal and that it should roll off of you. But that is where the disorder kicks in; Suddenly the small thing is very big and it keeps growing in your head, flooding your chest, and trying to escape from under your skin. You know with all of your heart that you’re being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it. The fact that many people don’t recognise or have patience for your illness only makes everything worse.” – Ten Years of Experience.

(http://punkasspoets.tumblr.com/post/98842324515/the-thing-about-an-anxiety-disorder-is-that-you)

Reading this is so powerful because it describes in a number of sentences exactly how I feel about my anxiety disorder and probably a lot of others do. None of us want to feel this way, none of us want to be in this constant battle. You feel like such a fool yet you have no control out of it. It doesn’t just affect you mentally, it affects you physically. Your heart pounds, your palms sweat, your breath shortens. In a simple moment you lose complete control until you can make yourself calm down. If people cannot empathise with you, they can think you’re overreacting or brush off how much you are suffering. I have had people doubt me, or wonder what on earth I’m getting so worked up about. I think this is such an important struggle for those who suffer with an anxiety disorder I want to include it somehow, possibly through talking about my own experience in my piece. I would also really like to include this quote somewhere because I think it is so powerful. It makes it easy for anybody to understand how hard it can be.

As I was making my Storify, I saw a few people tweet about Trevor Moran who had spoken out about his trouble with anxiety. I decided to watch it so I could understand what he had been through as well as pick out main points he spoke of and see whether I could use them as a starting point for putting together my spoken narrative piece.

  • “I remember the day it started officially” – this made me think of the first day I ever felt my anxiety affect me. Surprisingly I can remember the day really clearly, about 3 and a half years ago and sadly I haven’t been the same since. I think this would be a powerful way to begin my talk as it that simple sentence is quite gripping. It can also immediately make the viewer question what it could be that had started without giving it away straight away.
  • “Didn’t know who I was?” – I didn’t feel like I’d lost who I was with my anxiety but it lead me to ask questions with what had happened to me. Why had it happened to me? Why me? I think these are powerful questions every person who has struggled with the disorder can ask. It can be so cruel and crippling, you wonder you have been ‘cursed’ with it.
  • Too afraid to go to the toilet because of having a panic attack – this is shocking. Whilst my anxiety hasn’t literally stopped me from doing something so simple, while having a panic attack I have felt myself unable to move, unable to do anything. For a period of time made me too scared to leave my house. There are quite a few terrible memories I can account that my anxiety have caused and I think these are crucial to include in my spoken narrative because it shows how truly shocking it can be. I don’t want to tell it literally, I want to be able to speak about it in a more poetic way.
  • “Am I going to be like this for the rest of my life?” – this is something I have asked myself many times. How do we know this will never go away?
  • “You’re not alone” – I think no matter how much people say it, it’s vital that anyone who suffers with any mental illness knows it. There is nothing worse than suffering alone and the sooner you are able to share it with someone, the easier each day will become. I think this would be a good point to use at the end of my piece.

After watching Trevor’s video and picking out points that would help me develop my piece, I decided to search for more videos on youtube with people talking about their own experiences and struggles with anxiety. I found this by Lisa telling her story in a similar way to Trevor however I found her video very encouraging in terms of going and seeking help if you’re suffering with this problem and if one day you want to sit and do nothing, then sit and do nothing! During the video you see Lisa getting quite teary and this is such raw emotion, you can feel the struggle she has been through. Yet in seconds, she was laughing and joking again. I think just from watching this 5 minute video I could see what a strong, positive person she is. It shows even the most confident of people can be battling something behind closed doors.

  • “You are not alone!” – Like I noticed in Trevor’s video, she repeated numerous times that you are not alone. This is just so important for people to understand.
  • “Cancelled my plans tonight because I just need a night for myself… and that’s okay.” – Something it has taken me a while to realise is that you don’t have to be okay all the time. You don’t have to spend each day pleasing somebody else if it is putting you out and making you uncomfortable. Taking time out for yourself because the struggle is too much one day is perfectly okay and she highlights the importance of this through her video.
  • “Allowing yourself to live in that moment and not be so hard on yourself” – One of the worst things people who are already suffering with a mental health issue is punish themselves further for letting it take over their life. This just results in a vicious cycle and possibly making the issue worse. Living in the moment allows you to take every day as it comes and deal with the problems of today rather than overwhelming ourselves with the worry of the future. I think this is another really important message for people to understand.
  • “I laugh through all my pain” – I found this really sad to hear, but literally seeing Lisa say it in her video seemed okay. She seemed okay to use laughing as a mechanism to handle her anxiety and struggles. I took a quick look at her YouTube channel and saw she has created a number of amusing videos with her boyfriend and friends. It shows the huge difference it makes having a supporting group of people behind you and having something to channel your mind into.

This video is quite different to the other two I looked at, with a really creative narrative allowing us to put ourselves in the shoes of those suffering with a social anxiety disorder. Although the anxiety I suffer is different to this, there were also a few things in the video I could empathise with meaning I felt emotional watching it.

  • Distorted conversations between people, heavy breathing and heart pounding – after distinguishing that sound effects was something I wanted to include in my piece it was really good to see how effectively they had been used here. Hearing the distortion of other people’s conversations shows how you become lost in reality, distant, almost as if you are not there and cannot understand what is going on around you. Shortness of breath and pounding heart are some of the key side effects of anxiety or having a panic attack and I think actually hearing this allows the viewer to imagine themselves experiencing these symptoms.
  • Poetic speaking – the video is being narrated by a number of people, mostly spoke in the first person. However rather than hearing it ‘spoken from the mind’, this script has obviously been planned so it becomes more poetic but still feels like somebody is talking to you, telling you a story. This is exactly how I want to tell my spoken narrative
  • Thoughts of those in the video – the video shows some of the participants trying to interact with others however that voice in the back of their head is telling them that aren’t necessarily true, such as no-one is interested or they will be thinking how weird you are. Suffering with anxiety can give you so much self doubt that you begin to think things of others that aren’t always true. You brand yourself with so many negative labels how could anyone possibly want to be around you? It’s almost as if anxiety is a poison, how do we target that?
  • “It’s ironic, that it’s almost too easy for you to disappear, because of a disorder that will never leave you alone.” – This spoke volumes to me. As it is talking of social anxiety, this stops you from interacting people for the fear of how they will react, how they will treat you and more so eventually, ‘you disappear’. It’s so hard to condone someone feeling that they have disappeared when they are surrounded by so many people but their anxiety doesn’t leave them alone. While they are so distant in reality, that voice in their head never leaves them alone. This is something no one should have to suffer and highlights that importance of people being aware of mental health.

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This was another very different video to the previous ones I have watched. There are no spoken words here, just soft music playing in the background to Zack holding up cards that he has written telling his story of his battle with extreme anxiety. Even though he does not speak, you can see the emotion in his face and progresses through different sections of the story. It comes across quite powerful because even though he may not have the confidence to speak he still wants to share his story.

  • Zack’s story is very detailed and I think this works well because you are able to learn about what has caused him to suffer with such a trauma. However, while this works for his narrative I would like to keep mine more brief as there are things that have made my anxiety worse which I would not like to speak of. I also think it’ll make it easier for me to talk about it as I am not so emotionally connected.
  • Panic attacks making him feel like he was going to die – something I’m pretty sure anyone who has experienced an anxiety attack can empathise with. I think it’s hard to realise truly how awful a panic attack can be until you experience it yourself. In some cases, people do not even know what is happening to them, no sense of control, when is it going to end?
  • Even though Zack said it got him into trouble, he said how he used laughter as a coping mechanism like Lisa. Whilst it is crucial to understand how hard it is to suffer with mental health issues, I also think it is good to consider the things that help people deal with it no matter how big or small.

By looking at these 4 different kinds of videos it has helped me consider how I can tell my story. Each person has such a different story to tell even though they are all suffering from the same thing – anxiety. Next, I wanted to consider how anxiety has affected my life.

Physical

  • Shaking.
  • Sweaty palms.
  • Raised temperature.
  • Pounding heart.
  • Short of breath.
  • Lightheaded.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Headaches.
  • Chest pains.
  • Nausea.

Mentally.

  • Fear.
  • Embarrassment.
  • Constantly ‘on edge’.
  • Overwhelmed.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Useless.
  • Loss of control.
  • Restlessness.

Along with these physical and mental symptoms of anxiety I can experience on a day to day basis, I also have accounts of times I have experienced my worst panic attacks and thoughts I have related to my anxiety that I would like to include in my narrative. I also think it would work well to round up the piece by talking about where I am now and how I am coping and the important message of not being alone.


After recording my spoken narrative, I decided to pick the photographs I wanted to use in my piece. As I said earlier, I considered using photos from the family albums similar to the transformative story telling task but all the photographs we have printed are from when I was younger. I think these would be more visually pleasing as I love the physical artefact over a digital image however they do not represent the time I have been suffering with anxiety therefore I am picking images from my macbook or those uploaded to Facebook. This also represents how we have lost that tradition of family albums through the paradigm shift as we choose to keep everything digital – through our computers, our smart phones, even online websites or applications like The Cloud or Dropbox. The selection of images are taken from over the 3 and a half years I have been suffering with anxiety with those who have helped me deal with it, friends and family. In my spoken narrative piece, I decided to include “behind the smile is a girl…” which helps explain why I have used photos of me looking happy as I am hiding my anxiety with my smile. I also refer to “friends. family” to identify that the people in the pictures are the ones that have helped me through it. A small detail in the photos is how my hairstyle changes – although I know this isn’t particularly important I think it helps aid the narrative because it shows how it has changed over time and represents how long I have actually been suffering with my disorder.


Finally, following completing the transformative storytelling task I felt that whilst using music worked okay I think sound effects would really help enhance a piece. I decided to think about the symptoms you experience with anxiety or when you have a panic attack and ones I could use as a sound effect – shortness of breath and heart palpitations. I decided to do as I did before with my transformative storytelling and search for royalty free sound effects, however a few of the websites I took a quick glance at you had to sign up in order to use the sounds. Instead I went over to youtube and searched for fast heart beat sound effects and came up with various options. It took me a while to find the kind of beat that I wanted but I was happy with this that I found through Audio Productions.

I also searched to find heavy breathing however all the things I were finding was not the sort I wanted. Some was just normal breathing, other’s were through the nose, some was scared breathing but I didn’t think any were suitable to represent the fight to try and regain normal breathing through an anxiety attack. Because of this, I decided to record my own breathing with how I try to calm myself down during an attack. By doing this, I was able to achieve the exact sound I wanted to share through my video and also made myself very lightheaded! I will be incorporating this in my audio for my piece.

To complete the audio for my piece, I wanted to select a section of the cello piece to include. I also needed to consider whether I would like that separate or try and work it together with the other sound effects. I also needed to think about at what point I would have my spoken narrative and wether I would combine this with the cello piece or sound effects however I think this would be best to end the video with.

From the cello piece, I picked out 00:00 – 00:55 and 1:44 – 3:17 as these were the bits I found more musical and emotive. This also meant I would have the cello piece running through my whole video. As I listened to the beginning, I also recognised that the heart beat would fit really well and by combining the two, it gave you an immediate insight to the feeling of anxiety. I also decided to put in my own breathing recording to enhance this feeling. Following this, I quietened down the cello piece to then play my spoken narrative. This finishes with a little bit of the cello piece that fades out. While I struggled to put together what bit of the cello piece I wanted to use and how I was going to incorporate my sound effects and narrative, I think it all fits together really well to create a powerful piece.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on December 2, 2014.

2 Responses to “#Phonar – A Post Photographic Portrait.”

  1. Your video was really interesting as it made you think how even though you know someone as being a set way of happy. They still have deal with things that you wouldn’t think they do due to the perception given from this. So makes you wonder what is there that people are overcoming or battling with that you don’t know about.

  2. The juxtaposition between the audio and visual is really effective in terms of making me question further what is behind the facade when it comes to other people. it is a great way of bringing up the subject and educating your audience 🙂

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