Well done for challenging yourself. You ask,
‘What is ‘The Sublime’? To me, it is the personal perception of what the mind considers ‘beautiful’. [Here you must back this up with research – what are you basing your opinion on? Later you use a dictionary definition of “beautiful”, you then need one for “sublime&”. You could also discuss the connection between the two, use every photography and art textbook to get a feeling for what critics define as beautiful and sublime. Start from there.]
“I hope to use this assignment to explore the distinction between beauty and ‘The Sublime’- to me, ‘things’ (views, objects, places) can be objectified as beautiful regardless of context.” [This is an interesting idea, expand, where does it come from?] For example, a ‘beautiful’ sunset can be admired in person, in video or still image. ‘The Sublime’ is far less tangible; a strong emotional response to an experience.” [where did you get this definition from?]
‘I began by considering the definition of beauty:
noun plural -ties
1 the combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind (1)’
Arguably, beauty is subjective. For me, beauty is found in darkness. The concentration needed to find detail, the hidden quantities of space within shadows- it is the unknown quality of the night that pleases my mind.’ [really interesting, take us on this journey]
Ask yourself why, ‘Beauty for me has always existed outside of the classic ‘rolling hills’ vistas, and instead focused on the abandoned places and things that humans have left behind.’? [What is it about the trace of people that you find ‘beautiful’?]
You then should apply some of this rigour to the sublime if you are looking at both. The consensus is that there are ‘strong emotional responses’ and an experiential element to the sublime. You also need to discuss how and why the cold, flat, deadness of photography could empty out this experience for a viewer.
What about scale? What about danger? What about fear?
Lewis Coyne’s quote leads us to expect something mindblowing – a difficult task, which you allude to by quoting Elkins. However, it feels as though being aware that you were not going to capture the sublime you didn’t push so hard, and thus proved through this assignment that its not possible. What if you’d taken yourself and your camera to the limits? That process could have led to experiences you couldn’t predict, accidents (hopefully happy ones) may have occurred, new knowledge would be gained. Terrible photos may have been taken but the challenge might have led you to a new place.
Having said that, your playful attempt has produced some interesting images. You need to be referencing Friedrich, as he’s likely to be the first thing that pops into most people’s minds. Then Friedlander. Compile a supporting list of artists and photographers who’ve including themselves in the picture. Then ask why…
The images are well composed, the lighting is really interesting due to the time you shot at. The star filter unfortunately gives a couple of them an amateur photography feel. The inclusion of yourself does give them an edge. Image 3a works compositionally but is ‘overcooked’ visually. The more muted ‘6’ works better.
Ultimately you seem to conclude that a photograph cannot be a substitute for ‘being there’, and of course it isn’t, yet a photograph is satisfactory evidence for many, and for others the photograph does other things, so what are they? Steve Edwards and Geoff Dyer are interesting on this.
You were probably correct to leave a socio-politically driven project till later but this submission shows how many factors you will need to consider, from the basic shooting work to audience expectations and research. Your challenge is now to attempt to ‘truly capture all of that context’ which you find in the world, and to figure out how to resolve ‘expressing my innermost self through my photography, I wonder if it’s possible to ever do more than document my experience, rather than truly share them with others.’
I think there are photographers who connect with us, sometimes they connect us to their subjects, and admittedly more rarely they might connect us to them, but perhaps the best we can hope for is to find shared spaces, Paul Graham does this for me.
Take confidence from challenging yourself. There a number of good points that you can build on.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the feedback I’ve received from Les. As a starting point, it’s given me pointers about where to head with my writing and research.
In the future, I will attempt to begin with a much more defined question that can steer my work in a particular direction. A stronger core idea should let me challenge myself more than I was able to here. I’ll also try to develop a better, more involved discussion about differing voices and thoughts about said idea.
At the same time, I did feel quite limited in my ability to explore the themes due to the very constricted word count, and yet I still managed to write more than double what I should have.
I have bought a book titled ‘Photography: Basic Critical Theory’. I shall be reading sections of it each week and talking about my thoughts and reactions in my learning log.
I have done further research and continued my thoughts in ‘Assignment 1: Additional Work‘.