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Assignment 3

Initial Thoughts

I have struggled to kick off this assignment not through laziness or cannot be bothered with my studies but the sheer battle of my disease and the routines that I cannot escape. I am bound to my home, which has had a massive impact on my mental and physical health over the last few months.

To live with a life-long condition and all that entails is bad enough but when it is compounded with a world of isolation and routine, which relies on others to help you wash, get up out bed or do the simpliest of tasks is really depressing.

My road to being independance has taken almost 11 months of my life, that’s one fifth of my diagnosis waiting for a specially adapted wheelchair accessible vehicle. Motabilty awarded me with a £20,000 grant to not only help with my daily life but my BA Photography degree and studies. However, it has been a long, long road and something I could never of foreseen.

It is fair to say I lost my way with the course and Expressing Your Vision when it came to Assignment 3. The never ending battle to research and getting access to a library has been huge and this may sound like a moan but I have found through the journey of the course I am a book person. I do not absorb information from the internet. Perhaps, the fact that my brain is suffering because of my disease has something to do with it. Who knows? I am not a neurologist but merely living with it.

After a call and chat to the OCA office my imagination was sparked and with a new vigor I started work on Assignement 3. My life is mudane, boring and monotonous so why could this not be my ‘Decisive Moment’?

I began with a Mind Map and my thoughts, ideas and research and added to it as I progressed with the assignment.

Decisive Moment Mind Map

Research

Henri Cartier-Bresson and others

Henri-Cartier Bresson, was renowned for his Street Photography and the phrase of the ‘Decisive Moment’. So where has the phrase the Decisive Moment come from?

It (the Decisive Moment) is probably the most mentioned and discussed phrase in photography. His work shows glimpses of reality and in an geometric patterns. He was obsessed with form, composition and aesthetics of photography. He began in ernest to photograph seriously in the 1930s influenced by the Surrealists. Cartier-Bresson was also an accomplished painter. Cartier-Bresson’s book published in 1947 ‘The Decisive Moment’ the book is divided into two chronological and geographical sections. The first years 1932 to 1947 and comprises of photographs in the west; the second from 1947 to 1952 and mainly in the east.

In Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Brussels, 1932, using a small-format Leica created intrigue and air of mystery with two males facing a cloth barrier one of whom appears to be peeping through, while the other acts as a look out and he gazes uneasily. Why does there appear to be such a look of guilt? There seems to be a respect for authority. Isn’t it the case that whenever a police car follows you and although you have done nothing wrong and committed no offence you feel guily and you behaviour changes. Yet the police have no interest in your activity, unless you are doing something illegal. I wonder how the facial expressions would look like? Would it be the same as the two gents in 1932?

© Henri Cartier-Bresson

The decisive moment, which was at the core of photography for over a century, has been whittled away by technology. Now, on your DLSR you can roll video and (while editing) pluck out a perfectly good quality frame – this makes me push my work further.’ (Bonita Evans, 2016)

In essence Nick Brandt makes a statement that the decisive moment no longer exists because technology no longer allows that to take place. Surely a decisive moment still dictates when to capture that moment although editing removes that whereas with film you cannot simply delete and move on. Brandt says in his article that ‘There’s a part of me that wants to go through the stress, neurosis and paranoia of using film. You don’t have the luxury and temptation (or distraction) to check what you just shot with analogue, so you have to stay utterly focused and in the moment with your subject matter.’ (Bonita Evans, 2016)

Meyerowitz, began his photographic career in 1962 inspired by the work of Robert Frank. A street photographer, however, unlike Frank, Walker Evans and HCB he favoured colour prints. That’s not to say he did not produce black and white photographs.

I found a video on his website where he discusses his Leica and why he favoured this camera. Interesting that his early work was an 8×10 as he talks about how the viewfinder is offset as opposed to a DSLR, which means you still have one eye in the frame yet can still see the opportunities with the other that would otherwise be missed.

HCB also talks about framing, composition and geometry but I cannot agree with Meyerowitz entirely in his statement that you are somehow missing part of the story with a DLSR because the other eye is covered by the body.

If I rotate the body to portrait rather than landscape orientation I still have 50% of my view left. While it’s not ideal and restricts my use of a DSLR this tactic could be used in Street Photography.

Provincetown, USA, struck me as a colour version of Evans work but would not have had the same impact if it were not in colour. The vivid hues of the sunset and the clouds lit up by the sunset and the half-light left on the front of the building still able to illuminate the signage. Time here is captured so well with the visual clues and the change in light as the bright fluorescent tubes light up yet we can read clearly the words DAIRY LAND and FOOD in black lettering against the weather boards. That fleeting moment captured.

© Joel Meyerowitz

Eddie Adams, photojournalist photographed the Siagon Chief of Police mercilessly shoot in the head a suspected Vietcong. At that precise moment the trigger was pulled he pressed the shutter. This one act was recorded on camera and was a perfect example of the decisive moment. Adam’s photograph froze a micro-second and monumentalized it, turning it instantly into an iconic moment of great import. (Badger, 2013)

© Eddie Adams

Adams, was in the right place at the right time a moment either way and the scene would have looked different; equally if the framing had changed and it was halfed we would have been

As I searched the internet for other photographers’ who have documented their own lives rather than the conventional Street photography I found an article about Graham MacIndoe. Graham a Scottish photographer living in New York pursuing a professional career but with the pressure of work his life spiralled out of control. He started to use drugs and ended up doing a spell behind bars. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibition/graham-macindoe-coming-clean

What I found most interesting that he began to photograph what was happening to him. In his interview he said, I looked at myself and thought ‘Wow – this is how bad I look’. I realised that photographing myself was more relevant than photographing other people. (Fraser, 2017). I have often caught myself looking at my body in the mirror, sitting in a chair or laying in bed and thinking I don’t recognise myself.

Approach

In part my inspiration for this assignment came from Neil Platt’s story and blog ‘Plattitude’.

Neil Platt, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in his early thirties when he began to lose the use of his legs. This once professional architect was being reduced to nothing more than a withered body and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it. Motor Neurone Disease was depriving him of his life, his son, his wife. I similarly have watched my life, career and family be devoured by this disease.

In Neil Platt’s documentary, “I am breathing”, which is heartbreaking to watch, but I can relate to. Almost at the beginning it starts with Neil’s Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) breathing machine sounding and the day begins with his wife opening the curtains as it does it mine! I would encourage anyone to watch “I am Breathing” to gain an understanding of what life is really like with MND.

Today in the news Neil Conway, who also has Motor Neurone Disease is challenging the right to die. Of course this issue is a contentious one and I have my own thoughts on this particularly living with a variant of MND. I watched the BBC interview and I thought how it may come across that Neil’s life is challenging he seemed to cope all be it with his wife caring for him. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40615778

It doesn’t show the low points or the as I call it ‘Sod’s Law Sunday’, when it always goes wrong on a Sunday and all the medical professionals you can call in the week are off work.

Unable to do the conventional Street Photography project or any other traditional decisive moments. I decided that to record my day; and at crucial points that are repeated each day but with a change in the light, scenery and time of day from one of my semi-permanent places during the day e.g. my riser recliner armchair, office desk or bed.

I have approached this with a week’s worth of photography and photograph one significant part of my day.

Hopefully, my assignment will explore this and give a glimpse of my daily life.

I look at the same view everyday but the weather changes, the seasons change but still I am looking at the the same view and position each morning, afternoon and evening. I will need to add to the blog as the week progresses so it will be both narrative and pictorial review of my thoughts, feelings and reflect my mood.

 

My veil to a world beyond.

Day 1

Today, I started this assignment with my morning bathroom routine. I am sure that millions of us do this activity everday and without thought or regard and move onto to the next task. However, for me this is a reminder that I am not quite right and I catch a glimpse, a fleeting moment that my muscles are wasting.

My intial thoughts were how would I overcome being on my own and photograph myself doing a sequence of routine and mudane tasks. The answer was quite simple and use time lapse photography. I was able to record each part of my routine.

I pre-focused the lens at the mirror and mounted the camera to a tripod. I used the natural light from the window to illumate the scene. In Lightroom I edited the images converting them to black and white and increasing the contrast.

I have included the contact sheet at the end of the assignment.

Day 2

Today, I am totally shattered a night of pain. The impact is a lethargic body and mind that feels full of brain fog. The easiest tasks are becoming so hard it’s like I am climbing Mount Everest and I haven’t even left base camp.

The bin men came today. Thank god for assisted collections. I heard them, the dogs barked as usual and the gate slammed I know my bins are empty. The same cycle of washing, dressing and eating have all taken place.

Breakfast followed the same as yesterday scrammbled egg for breakfast, lunch swiftly followed pasta again and then I came down with a bump!

The result I MUST stop and rest after lunch and go back to using my NIV. I am now part man, part machine. I’m all topped up with the mornings medication and feel a bit like a drug addict dependent on a cocktail of drugs to get me through another 24 hours.

Day 3

One size fits all?

We are supposed to live an age where disability rights and access have no barriers. Well the reality is somewhat different where access can be a real headache. I have to think to myself before I head out and ask myself a set of questions; Where are the toilets? Does the building have ramped access? Can I park?

My own home is not entirely wheelchair friendly even though I spent a whopping £48,000 on my disabled living extension. The original set of double doors into the rear of my home and not wide enough for a wheelchair. Ramps are essential to getting in and out along with fingerless cycling gloves. I found very quickly that using a wheelchair is can be unforgiving on your knuckles!

Today, I ventured out of my home a rare occurrence these days to visit the GP’s. A simple task for most but my GP’s surgery has only two disabled spaces for the entire surgery and 99% of the time they are occupied by those who are to lazy to walk the extra 10 yards to the front doors or the commuters into London making parking nigh on impossible. Mentally, I asked myself a million and one questions before leaving home as I do each time I leave to go anywhere.

During my research I discovered David Hevey. Hevey, himself suffered from Epilepsy as a child. He is a successful photographer and directed three films for the BBC documentary series Modern Times. The Disabled Century was directed and produced by Hevey.

I watched the three series including an episode ‘Suicidal’. The powerful and moving stories told showed how society perceived disability after post-world war I. The most shocking episode personally was the final and third listening to disabled rights activists, who chained themselves to buses and delayed trains but were challenged by members of the public who asked them why they couldn’t get the bus! Thankfully such behaviour is not tolerated today but I can empathise with the plight. I still have to request assisted travel on trains and notify 24 hours in advance of my travel into London. http://davidhevey.com/viewing/

We held the Para-Olympics in London yet you cannot access South Kensington, High Street Kensington, London Bridge, Stockwell tube stations’ to name but a few using a wheelchair. No step-free access.

We haven’t moved that far on in my opinion and have a long way to go to remove all the barriers.

http://content.tfl.gov.uk/avoiding-stairs-tube-guide.pdf

Day 4

It feels like a scene out of Oliver and the phrase “Can I have more please?”. The start of another day and with little difference to any other morning this week. Breakfast is always the same with a smoothie but I have to drink it through a straw. This makes me feel like a child.

I cannot tip my head back otherwise it will cause a laryngospasm; this can be quite unsettling when it first happens. It has the sensation of dry drowning; waking from a deep sleep and gasping for air tends to send you into blind panic. When I had my first attack my neurologist didn’t belive me and told me that it was too early in my diagnosis. He was wrong and later conceded that I was suffering from dry drowing.

Then came the referrals to other clinical outpatient appointments to the SLT (Speech and Language Therapist), Dietician and lots of others. The appointments are relentless each week I can attend up to six in a week others I have one or two. It all takes my energy and I am exhausted or in pain, hence up and awake again at some ungodly hour typing my blog. Oramorph is my friend.

This morning my personal assistant Tara made a magnificent breakfast from the MNDA (Motor Neurone Disease Association) cook book. The smoothie was quickly followed by a cup of tea with added thickener and scrammbled egg and salmon. No toast, no cornflakes, weetabix or anything really, really tasty as long as it resembles baby food I can eat it almost. I never feel like saying, “Can I have more please?” Unless it’s me and the camera for a few hours where I can lose myself in another world.

The post arrives and I sink in the chair as I recognise the postmark and style of typeface as yet another NHS letter. I wasn’t surprised when I opened it; another Outpatient Appointment to see my Speech Therapist. This makes the 5th appointment in 3 days. My heart really does sink when will this ever stop!

 

Day 5

Saturday is usually one of the busiest days of the week. Today was no exception and my good friend Rod came around to help with the weekly bee inspections and his weekly tuition in Beekeeping.

I would be totally lost without his help and had to give up beekeeping a couple of years ago. My friend and I marvel at the growth of the hives; although in my case the lack of Queen in one of the hives has mean it has descended into chaos!

I find beekeeping such a relaxing hobby and distraction from the normality of daily life. I look forward to seeing how my hives have progressed, what has changed, what is to change and how they will fair from one season to the next.

The orchards are rich and full of apples and pears and a heavy crop to come. The hedgerows are full of blackberries and the seasons seem to be ahead. The bees are storing like mad a sure sign that winter will come early. Nature is far better at predicting the future than we are! Shame that medical science is not as good at prediction.

For reasons of safety I used my iphone to take the photographs of the bees.

Day 6 

Awake half the night in pain not great to almost see every hour from 11pm to 4am. Exhausted I feel asleep after two large doses of Oramorph and I look forward to my appointment on Tuesday for a steroid injection into my hip (bursitis).

The rest of the day is a very quite day with little energy to do anything. I welcome going back to bed at 10pm.

Day 7 

I wake to bright morning and as I open the bedroom patio doors the breeze gently wafts the voile. I glimpse on the world and what could be the next chapter in my life.

The long awaited day has arrived. After months of wrangling from one consultant to another and one hospital to another I am off to discuss a feeding tube or PEG as it is referred to. This will be a decisive moment in my journey and a pivotal turning point. It will release me from the risk of choking and daily grind of eating and drinking orally unless I desire to.

Post Processing

I used Lightroom CC to edit my workflow making slight global adjustments to exposure, contrast, noise reduction etc., I rated each image from one to five and then coloured the final selection of images.

My screen is calibrated using a ColourMunki Photo, which I also produce ICC profiles for my Canon Pro10 for each photo paper. For the final seven printed photographs I used Permajet Oyster A4, which is lustre paper and I feel suited the final images. That is not say that I would not use one should I need to on other assignments.

I have not considered using an external printing company e.g. DS Colour Labs because I previously worked in the Printing Industry as a pre-press originator and have sufficient knowledge to produce high quality prints.

If I were to display this assignment I would have preferred this to be displayed in book format.

Final Images 

Contact Sheets

Biblography 

Badger, G. (2013) The genius of photography: how photography has changed our lives. London: Quadrille.
Bonita Evans, A. (2016) ‘Hearing Nature’s Cry’, Black+White Photography, September 2016, p. 96.
Fraser, G. (2017) ‘Photographer Graham MacIndoe captures his life on drugs’, BBC News, 7 April. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-39531545 (Accessed: 16 July 2017).

Joel Meyerowitz | Contemporary Color Photography | Author of Cape Light (no date) Joel Meyerowitz Photography. Available at: http://www.joelmeyerowitz.com/ (Accessed: 4 July 2017).

 

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