The One Where We All Realised How Precious Time Is

Friends: The Reunion – HBO, 2021

Last night, millions around the world watched Friends: The Reunion as it was aired on HBO & Sky. What does it have to do with photography? I hear you ask. Not a lot, at first glance. But it was a program that unearthed all sorts of emotions and feelings of nostalgia and had me reminiscing about a simpler time. A recurring theme throughout my photographic practice.

It was an emotional hour and a half as I watched it late last night whilst sat in bed. Did the loneliness of the night have something to do with my emotions as I watched? Perhaps. I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the return of the comedic sextet, particularly as they re-read old scripts and reflected on best bits from old episodes. But, as it ended, I felt more emotion than I remember feeling when the six friends placed their keys on the table and left their New York apartment for the final time.

It’s only the next day, but I’m still trying to figure out these emotions. For me, the one that really hit home, was in a moment of realisation of the unstoppable marching of time and suddenly feeling, and experiencing, age.

I begin to question, is this why the theme of nostalgia is so prominent at the current time in my career as a photographic practitioner? Have I hit some sort of inevitable checkpoint in life where this epiphany, right on cue, occurs in us as human beings?

I will need to ponder on these thoughts and emotions over the coming days or weeks perhaps, but I felt it important to note down this shift in thinking in this moment.

Stay tuned…

Informing my Practice; a Research Bibliography

Barthes, R. and Howard, R., 1980. Camera lucida. Reissue, London: Penguin Vintage Classics, 2020.

Barthes, R., 1964. Image – music – text: The rhetoric of the image. Reissue, London: Fontana, 1977

Batchen, G., 2004. Forget me not: photography and remembrance. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Princeton Architectural Press & Van Gogh Museum.

Belk, R., 1988. Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, [online] 15(2), pp.139-168. Available at: <https://doi.org/ 10.1086/209154> [Online source accessed 2 May 2021].

Berger, J., 1972. Ways of seeing. Reissue, London: Penguin, 2008

Doisneau, R., Deroudille, C. and Wythe, S., 2018. Music. 1st ed. Paris: Flammarion.

Forsyth, J, 2002. Out of One Eye. Tyne Bridge Publishing

Hirsch, M., 1997. Family frames. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Hirst, W, et al., 2011. A ten-year follow-up of a study of memory for the attack of September 11, 2001: Flashbulb memories and memories for flashbulb events.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 144(3), Jun 2015, 604-623
https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/144/3/604.html?uid=2015-09755-001
[Online source accessed 12 March 2021]

Kuhn, A., 2002. Family secrets. 1st ed. London: Verso.

Lester, P., 1995. Visual communication. 1st ed. Belmont [u.a.]: Wadsworth.

McCullers, C., 1940. Look homeward, Americans. Vogue, [online] (19401201), pp.74, 75. Available at: <https://archive.vogue.com/issue/19401201&gt; [Online source accessed 8 May 2021]

Miller, D., 2008. The comfort of things. 1st ed. Polity Press.

Niemeyer, K., 2014. Media and nostalgia. 1st ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sontag, S., 1977. On Photography. Reissue, Penguin Modern Classics, 2008

Exploring The Concept of Nostalgia

nostalgia

/nɒˈstaldʒə/
noun
noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias

  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
    “I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days at university”
    • something done or presented in order to evoke feelings of nostalgia.
      “an evening of TV nostalgia”
fig. word origin accessed via Google 2021, published by Oxford Languages https://ssl.gstatic.com/onebox/dictionary/etymology/en/desktop/20c6a37a211074318db1186d10452fad4d0aa9a1d179fa4794f150a4d9d485b6.png

I’d like to explore the concept of nostalgia, and how the way we experience the past now – through photos and video (and also other means such as sound recordings) – contributes towards the “magic” we associate with it, or even the disassociated experience we have in the present day.

“Loads of us would love to experience the past first hand, but in what capacity do we want to experience it? Do we want to experience it as time travel, as going back and visiting it as though it were a foreign country? Or do we want to experience it as though we were living at the time? Because, obviously, those are very different things… …For us, what we’re living through is so completely mundane, that it never occurs to us that it might be extremely interesting to somebody in the future.” (Roper, 2021)


How has commercial marketing influenced the way we produce and consume photographic imagery?

frame from the end of a Kodak TV advertisement – Eastman Kodak, August 2002

By no means do I deny that the emotional connection between photography and nostalgia existed prior to the mass marketing of camera and film manufacturers in the 1970’s and beyond, but it’s important to question the effect that this style of marketing towards the mass consumer market had on the way we, the consumers, used and thought about photography – at hobbyist, amateur and professional levels.

The “Kodak Moment” became a popular tagline, identifying (and cleverly tethering the household Kodak brand with) the act of taking a photograph as having a nostalgic motive – consciously or not.

YouTube: Simon Roper – How We View The Past (2021)


The Power of Nostalgia

It’s not just in the marketing of photography and consumer goods where the emotion of nostalgia is exploited. Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) 2015 election campaign is a perfect example of just how powerful and influential nostalgia can be.

It’s highly debatable whether America was ever great, and if it was, how so? But the use of this slogan in 2015, regardless, evoked enough emotion and belief from a majority US electorate for Trump to defy the expectations of many and win the presidential election.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 11: (AFP OUT) Rapper Kanye West speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras – Pool/Getty Images)

How do the characteristics of old photography contribute to the experience of nostalgia when looking back?

ie. film, grain, lens flare


Photography as “The Puzzle Pieces”

Memories from early adulthood

Photographs can be kept and used for both nostalgic and documentary purposes. Rewinding back to c2008 as a young adult and undergrad student at university, some of the best times (or at least considered so when these times were the present moment) were those we didn’t remember. Naturally, it was a time of celebration, of freedom and liberation. My friends and I didn’t take photographs for the purpose of reflecting back in decades to come, but almost to “prove” the existence of a good time.

There was always a “designated photographer” in the group on each night out. The word “selfie” was yet to be invented, instead we’d occasionally pass around the camera for group photos as we over-indulged, danced on sticky floors and lost ourselves in the shower of lights and music. It became the task of the “designated photographer” to process the photos from the previous night to piece together what had happened and share with the others, so that we could remember and relive (sometimes with horror!) the events of the night before.

It was a fascinating time to come of age. It was an era in which the birth of social media and mobile 3G internet happened, and as a result, the increased social activity of sharing images digitally within circles. As digital point-and-shoot cameras such as Canon’s Powershot series dropped in price and became more accessible, suddenly, our newly established social media profiles became flooded with albums documenting such adventures.

Blessed Things

I’ve been contemplating for some time now what it is that really captures me in a good portrait photograph. Whilst I have no doubt about my fascination for people and the stories that each and every one of us keep, and which make up such a huge part of who we are, I’ve begun to appreciate the use of material “things” as signifiers that can really bring a narrative to light.

In his book The Comfort of Things, a study of people, things and how their character can be read by the things they own and keep in their homes, Social Anthropologist Daniel Miller concludes; “You can ask people about themselves, but the results are often much less informative than one would like”. (Miller, 2008)

Instead, with observation and in my case, with photography and the effective use of appropriate signifiers, we can build a much more accurate picture of a person. Taking on this semiotic analysis approach, it’s allowed me to “get to know” the ancestors I sadly never got to meet, as I work on my family archive collection.

Lucy Rudge (1853-1928) My 2nd Great Grandaunt wearing a Victorian Mourning Brooch of an unknown soldier.
‘Brett Kilroe’ by Dan Winters
https://danwintersphoto.com/PEOPLE/MUSICIANS/7/thumbs-caption

Pandora’s Box

Grandma’s Scarf

Oral Presentation

PHO710 Positions & Practice


List of Figures:

fig. 1: ZUZANNA PA (2017) The Photographer
fig. 2: Henri Matisse (1910) The Dance
fig. 3: CHRISTOPHER MELVILLE ORMSTON. (1997) En Vacances
fig. 4: Patrick Witty (2001) 9/11
fig. 5: JAMIE ORMSTON (2020) Stow-Away
fig. 6: JAMIE ORMSTON (2020) Süddeutsche Zeitung: REISE , 197, p.32
fig. 7: SIRKKA-LIISA KONTTINEN (1971) Carville Road at Night (Byker)
fig. 8: SIRKKA-LIISA KONTTINEN (1975) Mrs. Potter in Mason Street (Byker)
fig. 9: Family Archive Collection
fig. 10: Family Archive Collection
fig. 11: Carville Road, Byker. 1911 Census, Pubic Record Office RG 13/4790, National Archives, Great Britain
fig. 12: Robert Burns (1930) Family Archive Collection
fig. 13: Tish Murtha (1981) Youth Unemployment.
fig. 14: Henry Melville Richardson (1939) Family Archive Collection
fig. 15: Family Archive Collection
fig. 16: Family Archive Collection
fig. 17: Family Archive Collection
fig. 18: ROBERT DOISNEAU (1950) Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville
fig. 19: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Kiss by The County Hall
fig. 20: JAMIE ORMSTON (2020) Most Faithful Mirror
fig. 21: DIANE ARBUS (1962) Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC
fig. 22: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 23: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 24: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 25: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 26: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 27: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 28: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Blessed Things
fig. 29: JAMIE ORMSTON (2021) Westminster

References:

Barthes, R (1980) Camera Lucida (p.53)
Penguin Random House UK 2020
ISBN978-1-784-87601-2

Barthes, R (1964) Image – Music – Text: Rhetoric of The Image (p.44)
Fontana Press 1977
ISBN: 0-00-686135-0

Forsyth, J (2002) Out of One Eye
Tyne Bridge Publishing 2002
ISBN: 1-857951-56-5

Hirst, W (2011) A ten-year follow-up of a study of memory for the attack of September 11, 2001: Flashbulb memories and memories for flashbulb events.
By Hirst, William,Phelps, Elizabeth A.,Meksin, Robert,Vaidya, Chandan J.,Johnson, Marcia K.,Mitchell, Karen J.,Buckner, Randy L.,Budson, Andrew E.,Gabrieli, John D. E.,Lustig, Cindy,Mather, Mara,Ochsner, Kevin N.,Schacter, Daniel,Simons, Jon S.,Lyle, Keith B.,Cuc, Alexandru F.,Olsson, Andreas
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 144(3), Jun 2015, 604-623
https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/144/3/604.html?uid=2015-09755-001
(Online source accessed 12/03/2021 20:47)

Miller, D (2008) The Comfort of Things (p.10)
Polity Press 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-5536-9

Sontag, S (1977) On Photography (p.121)
Penguin Modern Classics 2008
ISBN: 9780141035789

Topic 4: AUTHORSHIP and COLLABORATION

This week has been a time for reflection on the matter of “authorship” and how this is interpreted, particularly when it comes to collaborative work in imaging.
Upon realising similar interests and photographic style, I teamed up with Tony Woolliscroft to explore how we could create a collaborative piece of work.


As news of growing unemployment figures accompany the daily pandemic coronavirus updates, hunger and poverty rates continue to snowball at an alarming rate.

Everning Standard – above image by Jeremy Selwyn

Many town centres throughout the UK had already been suffering prior to 2020. Economic decline and the rise and rise of online shopping via the likes of Amazon had our high streets on their knees.
BHS, Woolworths, Debenhams, Mothercare had already fell victim. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country, it has become what may be the final nail in the High Street coffin.

The BBC reports “UK unemployment is likely to reach 2.6 million in the middle of 2021” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52660591)

Today, in February 2021 as we only go out for essential work or shopping, the town centres have become a place of desperation, despair and nostalgic longing. Below is an image taken by Tony last week as he walked through his local town centre in Staffordshire.

Above: Original image ‘Queuing at The Pawnbrokers’ by Tony Woolliscroft (Feb. 2021)
Above: Al Capone Soup Kitchen – Getty Images
https://www.history.com/.image/t_share/MTYzMTU2MjQzNzU2NjIzMzYw/great-depression-al-capone-soup-kitchen-gettyimages-515513312.jpg

Below is the final image we produced, ‘Groundhog’. It highlights the current situation whilst ethereal characters of years past contribute to the idea that such recessions and troubled times come around like clockwork; history repeats itself.

Groundhog Day – A collaboration by Jamie Ormston & Tony Woolliscroft

Robert Doisneau

I’m continuously inspired by the work of French photographer Robert Doisneau. He is most famous for his image Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville’ but I feel like this image is but a scratch on the surface of a huge body of work he produced in his lifetime. As a humanist photographer, Doisneau liked to capture candid moments in Paris (and in-fact far around the world!) that told a story or contributed to the story and character of the city. What I particularly admire about his portfolio of work, is his ability to use people and use of location to tell such a story. ‘Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville’ paints a picture of romantic Paris and contributes to its nickname “city of romance” that still holds true to this day.

All this considered and when you look at a lot of Doisneau’s work, it may come as a surprise to many that the majority of his work is in-fact staged. According to a paper put together by his Granddaughter Clementine Deroudille “Doisneau had always readily admitted that his models posed for him. Besides, he was tired of confronting his opponents who lamented over the lost magic of the iconic picture and reproached him for cheating with reality. But did they mean by ‘’reality’’?” (1. Deroudille, Clementine n.d. (Links to an external site.)

Doisneau would often see an image he wanted to take, sketch it and come back to the same spot at a later date with actors and direct the actors to re-enact the scene he held in his memory. Inspired by the emerging world of cinema in the early 20th century, Doisneau also frequently used his love for cinema as reason to use movie sets, where possible, to capture his images.

Week 1: Mirrors & Windows

As a photographer, my passions and interests identify much closer with the ‘window’ analogy. My curiosity to learn and constantly question things, meanings and purpose certainly aids this alignment.

I feel like almost every photograph can be categorised into either the ‘window’ or ‘mirror’ metaphor. In almost every occasion, the image being taken or observed is either a reflection of one’s self or one’s own experience, or it is a window into another school of thought, documenting a world far removed from our own. It can be expressed as a window into discovery as we see in archeological and scientific photography. Therefore, the meaning of ‘mirrors and windows’ can be considered metaphorical, or indeed can be taken quite literally – even the first photograph ever taken featuring people (see below) was a Parisian street scene with a building and its windows in the foreground. Metaphorically this image also became “a window” into that particular moment in that particular place for anyone who came to view it after its publication.

1838 – Daguerre, Louis


There are many reasons as to why I wish to develop my photography practice. Whilst the majority of my work thus-far has been within the genre of portraiture, I’d like to use this passion for working with and understanding people (at a personal level but also sociologically and anthropologically) to explore new creative concepts and methods whilst effectively challenging the way we see people and found new theories.

A Brave New World

Welcome to my Critical Research Journal. Here I’ll be starting my first blog and recording my research, critical thoughts and learnings throughout my Falmouth University MA Photography studies and beyond.

Developing…


Welcome to my Critical Research Journal. Here I’ll be starting my first blog and recording my research, critical thoughts and learnings throughout my Falmouth University MA Photography studies and beyond.

“The world can be seen from many different angles. Each of us is born seeing the world in a different way, and each moment we have shapes our eyes ad hearts differently.”
(G. Keyes, n.d.)