Reflective Report.

The body of work for my final major project has really challenged my photographic practice and critical analysis. There have been both strengths and weaknesses throughout the process to create my body of work, which has helped develop my professional independence.

The context my piece was created for was to contribute to challenging the stigma surrounding mental health we encounter through society and media representation, as well as raise awareness of its need for acknowledgement as much as any physical illness. In terms of relating my body of work to contemporary photographic practice, I have built upon how current mental health issues are photographed through researching various artists’ techniques and making my own project personal through self-portraits and representation of emotion through still life and landscape. This is similar to one of the artists I researched, John William Keedy, who also led me to consider the importance of suitability for the audience. Inspired by this, I have made my project approachable by a wide audience by featuring relatable still life, representing recognisable emotions. My project has worked effectively by allowing me to represent my anxiety disorder how I wish rather than being influenced by society’s prejudice, an acknowledged issue about the misconceptions of mental health. It is extremely personal account and although it has only made a small contribution to changing social perceptions, it shows others what it is like. The more people who learn about anxiety and more people share their experiences, the more the stigma will reduce and my photographic practice has contributed to this contemporary issue.

For my final exhibition piece, I created two diptychs printed at A4 size in 12 x 16 inch frames so they were subtle and intriguing, inviting the viewer to absorb the message being shared and encourage them to engage with the accompanying book featuring my complete set of images. I created a book to be personal and intimate for the viewer as well as understanding the full narrative of how photography and nature have played a huge part in coping with my anxiety. The sequencing of images builds up the feelings and struggle with anxiety, followed by the release of coping mechanisms and images filled with hope for the future. Unfortunately, my book did not print at the desired quality due to fault of my own. This was a problem I could not overcome due to money and time constraints and I had to reconsider whether I wanted to still exhibit it. However, I really felt it was vital to the narrative and understanding of my project as the framed prints invites the viewer but the book tells my story in more detail.

There has been a great change from where my final major project began to where it has ended. Before the module began, I decided to photograph the seasons and this later developed into using these images to represent the stories of those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful as I was extremely unhappy with my project and felt like I was trying to force these images to fit my brief as well as other various reasons. Although it was a big decision, I overcame this problem by changing my project about my own personal battle about anxiety. I am so glad I made this decision, as I was confident with my idea and passionate about what I wanted to achieve from it. This way, it resolved issues with correctly representing mental illness as it was my own honest story as well as the problem with trying to fit the images I had previously taken into the new brief as photographing elements of nature has been a coping mechanism for dealing with my anxiety.

With this new idea, I also wanted to incorporate self-portraits for more depth and enhance the viewer’s understanding. By combining these with my still lives and landscapes, I think it creates a strong pairing by picking up similarities in the two images to portray emotion and feeling. Some images have worked well by themselves, making the pace of the book coherent and calm giving the reader time to view and reflect. However, I also think it could work negatively if the viewer were not able to draw the message I am trying to represent but this doesn’t make it unsuccessful. It means the book is not too literal and restricted; it’s open to the viewer’s interpretation, which makes it plausible and enjoyable for a wider audience. With a brief use of descriptive text in my book, it aids the viewer’s understanding by its placement in the sequence, which helps signify the change of the improvement of my anxiety.

Although I don’t feel the project is my best body of work, it has helped me develop professionally by improving my studio lighting skills, creativity with composition and sequencing a narrative to share an important message. I do think there is room for improvement as if I had more time, I would have been more experimental and had more depth to my narrative. This may be something I expand upon in the future with my photographic practice but for now my project has made a small contribution to challenging the stigma surrounding mental health.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on May 19, 2015.

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