Exercise 7: Visual research and visual phenomena

Brief: Carry out some visual research by developing the ideas gathered in previous exercises, using either a stills or video camera to make images of a significant place, person or activity.

In preparation for this exercise, I looked at Paul Graham’s Television Portraits, Jonas Mekas’ As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty – Paradise and extracts from films by Nina Menkes. They offer three very different approaches to using still and moving images to visualise a person, place, situation or journey within their work.

 

Television Portraits (1986-90)

The images in Paul Graham’s Television Portraits (1986-90) depict children and young people watching TV. Photographed over a five year period, each image focuses on a single person, either sitting or lying down. In each portrait, the subject is in profile looking from left to right within the frame. As a whole, the short series of seven photographs can be seen as a subtle study in behaviour.

Paul Graham’s approach, within the context of visual research, shows how artists gather material on a theme over a period of time, before assembling it into a final piece of work. In this case a series of photographic portraits that visualise a group of individual people taking part in the daily activity of watching television.

Fig. 1 Paul Graham (1986)

 

As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000)

Jonas Mekas’ film As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) offers a very different approach to the use of source material within an art work. In this case, the moving images themselves were the starting point for a five hour experimental documentary film in which the filmmaker re-constructs the previous 30 years of his life from home movie footage. Mekas’ voice-over in the film provides a commentary on and insights into what the viewer is seeing.

Fig. 2 Jonas Mekas (2000)

 

Nine images

Using photography as a way of visualising a significant place, I gathered a series of images showing the human and the natural along the bank of a nearby river. Having attempted this exercise, I can see the value in gathering visual data in the early stages of working on an idea.

         

See Fig. 3

However, although the images could be used as the starting point for an idea, I’m not entirely satisfied with the results. While the images record some of the things I saw while walking along the river, I don’t feel they engage sufficiently with the idea of the everyday having a natural narrative; with the ‘poetry of the everyday’ I found in Jonas Mekas’ film  As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000)The next step might be to use the still images as the starting point in generating story ideas relating to character and place. Alternatively, the next step might be to return to the river with a video camera to gather some footage that could be used in a moving image.

 


References

Television Portaits (1986-90) Graham, Paul. At: http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/television.html (Accessed on: 1 April 2017)

As I was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty – Paradise (2000) Menkas, Jonas. At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOwescpyMqQ (Accessed on: 1 April 2017)

 

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Graham, Paul (1986) Television Portraits At: http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/television.html (Accessed on: 1 April 2017)

Figure 2. Mekas, Jonas (2000) As I was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty – Paradise At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOwescpyMqQ (Accessed on: 1 April 2017)

Figure 3. Salisbury, P (2017) Nine images of the Owendoher river [Photographs] In possession of: The author: Dublin