This OCASA organised study visit was held at Thatcham in the OCA TV study group venue. This was a very full session where Fiona shared work ranging from her student days up to her current project. As there was far too much to write up (I have over two and a half hours of recorded material) I have summarised the parts I found useful and written about which project of hers that interested me the most. The audio files are stored on my PC for future access. I’m sure I will find them useful.
The link to Fiona’s website is here: http://www.fionayaronfield.co.uk/
Fiona's work was just a starting point - the real value of the session was the interaction with the audience. That is what I got the most from.
Early in the discussion, Fiona described her working practice , that her most successful work is born out of her own imagination, from deep within. Interestingly she remarked that ideas that deep are often universal and resonate with the viewer, in most cases. But, not all viewers will get it. She finds that working with an audience in mind distracts her and the viewer is only considered at a later stage in the work, i.e. during the edit. I thought it was good to hear this. My recent project for DPP started in one way and finished up pushed into another direction. It evolved as I went along. I too, found it revealing (in a way) as it evolved into a series which included aspects of ageing and retirement which seem to have surfaced without me being aware of it.
http://rjdown-dpp-assignments.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/assignment-five-personal-project.html Editing - informed by the progress on a project so far. Editing is part of the work and narrative. Interpretation of images is always subjective. Open images work best. If they're too closed - too literal then they only have one interpretation - you stop looking. I now understand why my tutor thought my assignment 4 image was too literal.
As already mentioned, Fiona presented a very wide range of work, a lot of which can be seen on her website (link above) Her main body of work is very personal – about her daughter Ophir who was born with Down’s syndrome which started off purely as a family photo album and journal and evolved into an exhibition, a book and subsequent projects, Becoming, Up Close, Shifting Perspective, Safe Haven. All of which raise awareness of the condition and show how life is for individuals and families affected .
Standing apart from this is her project Beyond the Wall which she claims is her most organised and planned project so far. I chose to write about this simply because it it so different from her main body of work. Before the meeting, I watched the videos in which Fiona discusses the project, on YouTube:
During her talk, Fiona reiterated much of what was in the video interview. To summarise, the project was made in 2008 just before the last war in Gaza. It shows 11 portraits of men in a vulnerable position with their backs to a wall. These men are Palestinians and Israelis although there is no way of identifying each from the other. What the series shows is that these men are more alike than different once the dehumanising differences are removed or forgotten.
Fiona made an interesting observation during the time that she was shooting this project. She identified herself as an English woman photographer to the men and also used a ‘fixer’ to make contact with the men and arrange to take photographs. She observed that when she took the men aside, away from their fellows or family members, to a place to be photographed their personality changed, they became less macho and almost feminine which she attributed partly to their vulnerable position and to the fact that she had taken charge of the situation and was telling them what to do. She also observed that they were compliant to her requests for photographs because they were asked by her fixer and would have lost face with him had they refused. For exhibition, the portraits were hung in a room facing each other, reinforcing the ‘more alike than different’ proposition although she observed that in fact the men appeared to be looking at the viewer rather than each other.
I found this project powerful in its simplicity. If there is any hope for these seemingly intractable situations throughout the world, constant re-enforcement of the idea that we are indeed more alike than different, makes an essential first step in conflict resolution.
Fiona Yaron Field is also a co founder of “Uncertain States” which is described as “an artist-led project that publishes and distributes a free quarterly broadsheet newspaper showing lens based art” She distributed copies of Uncertain States 16 to the group. I shall read it with interest.