Author Archives: Concentrik1

A Typology

There’s a little alleyway which passes the front of our house and most days we see a stream of people going by, on their way to the car park, high street, seafront or shops.  They are generally burdened to some extent with their purchases.  Some are regulars whom we recognise, others are holidaymakers or day visitors.  It’s a constant source of interest for people who are a bit nosy (guilty).  The ladies in these pictures have been to the shops and they are toting their acquisitions in shopping bags, the common theme of the photographs.  To expose the theme I chose to select only ladies and photograph them in the same location in very similar poses and positions and at the same time, more or less.  Lunchtime, in fact.

They were all happy to oblige and several chatted for a while.  The sun was bright to the left, placing their faces in shadow to the right so I had my Glamorous Assistant fill with a large white reflector.

In thinking about typologies I assumed there has to be a common thread, something the subjects share though it ‘shouldn’t be too obvious’ – or even visible?  Maybe something which is noticeable because it’s missing, a pic of something which is not there.  (definitely over-thinking now).

But as for not making the series ‘too literal or obvious’, surely that is one of the fundamental purposes of a typology – to reveal and expose the characteristics which underpin the work, rather than to leave it semi-hidden, vague and obscure.  Of all photographic endeavors perhaps a typology is the most literal.

Imagine a series of twenty-five photographs where the connection between them – the type part of the typology – is not obvious. Where the ‘systematic classification’ is not emphasised.  The connection is opaque.  A typology of 25 drummers for example, but without the visible accoutrements of the profession.  No sticks, toms or hi-hats, just 25 blokes who look a bit tired. How successful is that?  Or the Bechers deciding to make a typology of cranes, but through the medium of dance.  It’s only by making the connection thoroughly literal and obvious that the subtlety and character of the series emerges.  It’s like an averaging of similarities, whereby difference becomes apparent.

Assignment 1 – Five Unknowns

Edit:  Scroll down for the revised submission!

For my first assignment in this module I have included images made during a weekend workshop at the National Portrait Gallery.  I am aware that there may be objections to this approach, perhaps along the lines of it not being true ‘OCA’ work and that the subjects were not unknown or from my local area.

However I think it’s a valid submission.  Students are urged to make no distinction between ‘personal’ work and ‘OCA’ work, that they should be one and the same thing.  Central London is a local area to me along with East Devon as I have well established connections in both.  The sitters are indeed strangers and our interactions were just as tentative as any between the newly-met.

A Workshop with Rory Lewis

Rory was the workshop leader over the weekend.  He is fascinated by the paintings of Caravaggio and those other artists who make extensive use of chiaroscuro technique.  We made a number of forays into the gallery itself, studying the lighting effects produced by various painters and selecting elements thereof as inspiration for our own work.

All of the pictures were made with flash lighting and reflectors, mainly shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes.  The boxes were quite small, about 60cm but very close to the subjects, maybe a metre away.

 

 

After making the entry above I decided to stick to the brief a bit more closely by accosting some random people on the promenade and taking their picture.

I think one of the purposes of this assignment is to propel the student into the scary world of portraying people who are unfamiliar.  This has some resonance with me – for much of my early life I was terrified of this kind of encounter and probably walked away from as many opportunities as I embraced.  But advancing years have had a mellowing effect and I am no longer concerned that someone may declare “What, you? Photographer? Ha, you’re rubbish, you are!”.  I have also come to understand that this response is very unlikely to occur;  most people are quite pleased to be asked, others are slightly baffled but compliant and the few who refuse most likely have deep dark secrets they wish to conceal.

I have a little ready-made spiel I use when approaching people together with a gracious response should they decline to be photographed.  Explaining I’m a student is a help, presumably since all kinds of bizarre behavior is expected and generally tolerated.  Taking the photograph seems to take less than a minute but the chatting and reminiscing which follows can extend the exchange well into a quarter-hour.

All these people are dog-walkers, or rather people who are taking a dog or two for a walk.  I did the pictures in a couple of sessions over two days, using a rather ugly shelter as a pop-up studio.  I have used it once before for a previous exercise and I consider it my own.  The sun glares directly in as the shelter faces south and the white paint is quite reflective.  I wanted to get a little more modelling in the pictures because with that amount of face-on light the results are a bit flat.  I used a speedlight with a grid to camera right, 45° vertical and the same horizontal.  The exposure is about 50:50 ambient and flash.

Both dogs and owners were very well behaved and responded willingly to direction.  People love talking about their dogs and it was easy to establish some minor rapport.  The dogs who were on their way to the beach were slightly less patient than those coming back!

 

 

Assessment Criteria

• Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational
skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Technically these photographs are competent.  Exposure is as intended and no adjustment to the RAW files was required.  They have not been sharpened, squashed, intensified or had the tonal values twisted. They have been cropped to a 1:1 format, a compositional decision made on the basis of personal preference and to establish as far as possible a cohesive shape to the contents of the frame.

• Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a
coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

This idea has been done plenty of times before – but not by me.  I think it’s a pleasing group of pictures but if I were to do more I think I’d have all the dogs as close to owner eye-level as possible.  This aspect emerged on its own – I think it would work better because it’s meant to be about the connection between the dog and owner, not about them and me.  Except it unavoidably is, of course.  There is plenty of room for development here should I choose to make more of it.  Dogs appear in many historical portraits in various guises and as both sign and symbol.  In earlier times it was only the wealthy who could afford to keep (feed) a dog so the presence of a pet dog indicated a well heeled sitter.  The dog was a symbol of fidelity and only the nobility were permitted to keep hunting dogs.  I like the idea of riffing on the 19th century portrait-with-dog in a modern sense, perhaps using the kinds of backgrounds and props the artists employed.

• Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention,
development of a personal voice.

As mentioned it’s not original but it is creative – I did it the way I wanted and in my terms.  The ‘personal voice’ aspect is certainly present, but it’s an echo.  I have wrestled with the PV before and concluded that if can hear it, that’s what counts.  Here it is mumbling slightly but to me it’s recognisable.

• Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs). 

My portrait research and learning has been aided by attending the aforementioned NPG course; for reflection, see above.

Archival Intervention

I amassed a considerable number of photographs whilst living aboard a boat and sailing from the UK to Mallorca.  The pictures span a period of around four years but not all of that time was spent travelling.  During the winter months when sea conditions are unfavorable, travelling yachts tend to hole up for several months in convivial marinas.

In looking through this archive I noticed that there are distinct classes – photographs taken from the boat, those taken of the boat and those taken ashore.  I have selected thirty or so which are of, and which all feature crew members at the wheel.

Throughout the trip we had amateur crew joining us for up to two weeks at a time.  They got to do most of the boaty things including steering (helming).  In most of the pictures they are aware of being photographed and are grinning from ear to ear.  I’m pretty sure this was an expression of enjoyment in helming ten tons of moving sailboat, but it presents a small but significant conundrum in the realm of portraiture – the smile.

Portraits made by portraitists, whether painters or photographers, tend to eschew the smile.  Anything more pronounced than a faint sneer is generally discouraged, perhaps because such expressions are associated with the family snapshot.  But the question prompted me to consider it further.

The Smile Problem

In Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39) the portrait painter Miss La Creevy ponders the difficulty:

…People are so dissatisfied and unreasonable, that, nine times out of ten, there’s no pleasure in painting them. Sometimes they say, “Oh, how very serious you have made me look, Miss La Creevy!” and at others, “La, Miss La Creevy, how very smirking!”… In fact, there are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk; and we always use the serious for professional people (except actors sometimes), and the smirk for private ladies and gentlemen who don’t care so much about looking clever.  Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

There are clear reasons why smiling was discouraged in historical renditions.  It was difficult to maintain a smile for long periods whilst being painted; for longer periods, the face in repose is easier to endure. In 17th century Europe It was considered vulgar to show teeth in everyday life, so it was unthinkable to smile broadly in a painting.  Often sitters wanted to maintain gravitas by appearing serious, even stern.

So why now?

Why this characteristic persists in ‘art photography portraits’ is unclear.  Possibly a smile undermines the seriousness of the photograph, levity interfering the photographer’s intent.  ‘Don’t smile, this is art’.  A smile is also an outward indication of the nature of the relationship which exists at the time of making between the sitter and the photographer.  If a smile is seen, we become aware that the two knew each other – it betrays  a connection an earlier conversation, – perhaps they had discussed the picture, chatted about the lighting – then prepared to make the photo – for the viewing of ‘US’.

A smile undermines the fiction that the sitter has been caught unawares, that somehow they have been persuaded, by trickery or deception, to allow us the viewer a secret insight into the true self, a glimpse of their true personality rather than a façade behind which they hide.   A smile says ‘I know you’re looking at me and I’m ready for it’.  The face in repose allows a degree of privileged access, the sitter is saying ‘ oh hello, I was just thinking about something else you caught me I was miles away’

The viewer is complicit in this fiction because it suits our purpose; we want to believe that we have the power to discern subtle clues to the subject’s character, enabling us to assemble a more comprehensive view of them.

We grew up like this

There is a profound evolutionary imperative involved here.  The ability to read important information from facial and to a degree postural cues, is an important survival characteristic for many species, but particularly for humans.  Considerable mental resources are dedicated to noticing and interpreting facial microgestures and this facility is implemented in an extensive brain architecture dedicated almost entirely to the purpose.  In a societal animal there is considerable value in being able to understand and react appropriately to non-verbal cues.

Photos and paintings

By the time we reach our early twenties we have gathered vast experience of decoding the meanings in people’s faces.  We can tell broadly whether someone is likely to be telling the truth, whether they like us or not, what the chances are of them clobbering us.  Little wonder that the brain, when presented with a photographic rendition of a face, begins its customary assessment procedure, searching for the clues, signs and expressions, drawing the conclusions on which we have learned to rely.

But the photograph is a static object and much of the information we normally read from pose and expression is in dynamic form; crucial detail is to be found in the transitions.  Once having made the preliminary assumptions from the obvious, gross factors, the brain is free to begin riffing on the possibilities – it seeks meaning  from a picture which is unable to provide it.  From this point our personal experience plays a more important role as we rely on what we’ve learned over the years about faces and how they work, learning which is culturally specific.

Here are some photographs which are linked through a number of factors – a boat, a journey, a period of time and new friendships. All of the subjects are at the wheel:

 

 

 

 

Here’s the unedited group:

A more honest profile picture?

 

My current profile picture is a tight crop of a family photograph taken on the beach at West Bay, Dorset. It’s cropped to exclude the other four people in the original picture. It wasn’t taken by me so I had little to do with the composition or other technical aspects but I had some control over the way I presented myself.

I am engaged with the process; I look directly at the camera and participate with the rest of the group. I allow myself to be portrayed in a relatively uncontrived way – I’m wearing the same things as I was when I left the house, at which time I was not consciously contemplating the possibility of being photographed.

I’m wearing a hat, a ‘baseball cap’. I have no affinity with baseball, it’s just the name of the hat. I’ve been a wearer of such hats for about twenty years and I can’t recall what started it. Possibly a personal re-invention, this aspect of which has endured. Over the years I have come to value the protection it affords – having spent a lot of time sailing I value the eye-shade. I have very little hair left so it also acts as a skin protector. I’m aware that I am ‘known’ for this style of titfer and it has become part of my outward presentation. I often forget I’m wearing it and need prompting to remove it when it’s considered inappropriate to the occasion (to my mind these are far fewer than other people think).

I am hidden by the hat and by facial hair, somewhat unkempt. This apparent concealment probably has much to do with a general disregard for the importance of male grooming but would probably reward more detailed psychological scrutiny.

Practically every ‘aspect’ of me – the me I consider to be the constituents of my personality – is absent. Nothing unusual about this particular picture, none of the pictures which show me reveal anything other than that which is clear from the elements themselves.

Working on the theory that there needs to be more blunt clues to personality I’ve made a new profile picture, one which may offer more accessible information to the viewer. I’m put in mind of the portrait painters of the 16th and 17th centuries who made liberal use of significant objects included in their work. The symbols may be literal, such as an artist with paintbrushes, or metaphoric such as the globe for colonial aspirations. Portrait paintings were mainly the preserve of the wealthy and ennobled, and this group were generally well acquainted with iconographic significance.

The hat stays.  It has a relevance to the other visual cues.  I am not looking at the camera, rather to the items on the table.  My eyes are not visible and I’m not inviting any gaze to myself, more encouraging mutual contemplation.

 

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Background Context

 

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GERICHTSVOLLZIEHER, UM 1930 [BAILIFF, C. 1930], Camera image to left, final image to right

“August Sander – People of the 20th Century.” augustsander.org, http://augustsander.org/md20jh/motives/view/562. Accessed Feb 3, 2018.

Sander’s Chutzpah

One of Sander’s categories of the “People of the 20th Century” project was ‘People Who Came To My Door’. The gentleman depicted above is named as ‘Bailiff’ and I greatly admire Sander’s commitment to the work – having dispensed with the tedious matter of distraint being levied on his goods and chattels, Sander coerces the unwelcome visitor to pose for him. I like to imagine that Sander viewed this as a little victory, a silent riposte to the injustices of usury.

Method

I’ve included both pictures above, the contact print and the final rendition, to show something of the photographer’s cropping and manipulation decisions. When the above picture was made, Sander had already been working on the project for nineteen years, so he had a pretty good idea of how he wanted the photographs to look. Here he has chosen to stand his subject up against an interior wall which we understand from the sub-title to be in his own house. A plain background with natural light arriving from the right and reflected back by the surface on the left; a soft light, evenly illuminating his subjects. Later the negative has been cropped in printing to exclude evidence of the location and adjusted to darken the overall tone.

Props and background

The articles denoting the bailiff’s occupation are included; the portmanteau containing his ledger, official notices and thumbtacks to attach to the doors of unfortunate debtors. I expect the bailiff arrived with this, along with his pipe, overcoat, scarf, hat and well heeled shoes. Sander wouldn’t have to do much here, just a ‘please stand over there and stay quite still’. Probably not a prolonged sitting and no beverage offered.

In his other work the background and props were more in evidence:

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Schreinermeister, 1938 [Master Joiner, 1938]

“August Sander – People of the 20th Century.” augustsander.org, http://augustsander.org/md20jh/motives/view/125. Accessed Feb 3, 2018.

In this photograph the subject has been carefully contextualised with respect to his occupation. Not only are the tools of his trade clearly shown, his is posed actually using them. Sander is sending a clear message here – the picture communicates the preconceptions he himself has about joiners, and more specifically master joiners. The joiner looks squarely to the camera and therefore to the viewer. His expression suggests an invitation to survey, to appreciate the craftsmanship, a willingness to be examined. He works in wood, making the material smooth and square. He measures and marks with precision using the instruments in his top pocket. The shavings curl obediently from the blade at the bidding of his skilled hands. He wears a wristwatch – he is a modern master joiner.

Background

The background, predictably, is wood; it’s a woodwork shop and there is plenty of it around. But looking closely at the alignment of bench and background an anomaly arises – they meet at an acute angle, rendering practical use of the bench difficult. Sander has placed the wood sheet behind the subject to isolate him from the rest of the setting, presumably because he felt it distracted from the simple purity of the foreground composition. There is further context here in the nature of the sheet which appears to be plywood, at the time a relatively modern innovation.

Composition

The subject placement and camera position combine to produce a dynamic arrangement. It’s easy to imagine the travel of the smoothing plane from the middle of the picture to the far bottom corner. The workpiece and plane, in combination, lead the eye to the centre of the man’s body and via the line of the shirt buttons directly to his eyes. He leans slightly forward to meet the viewer as he propels the plane over the wood; a craftsman indeed.

This is…

Rich and he has a gallery/studio in the small seaside town where I live. I didn’t really know him because we only became acquainted through an appeal for sitters for another assignment. But by the time he came to be photographed I did know him, so he fits the bill.

Ideas

Rich had one or two of his own and after talking them through we settled on an homage to the photograph of Basquiat by Lizzie Himmel, made for the New York Times in 1985. Basquiat had a brief but intense artistic career, producing paintings in his NYC studio before his death aged just 27. This picture shows Basquiat among his own work, holding brush and paint tube, wearing paint spattered suit but without socks. The photographer had needed to dress the somewhat worse-for-wear artist, managed the suit and tie but gave up before footwear could be located.

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Lizzie Himmel. 1985

Props and background

Like Basquiat, Rich is in his own studio, sans socks, surrounded by canvasses and the accoutrements of the artist. He wears paint spattered trousers and grasps a pair of paintbrushes but unlike Basquiat his gaze is clear and unfuddled. His pose has the feel of the Himmel photograph but hers is pretty obscure, and not particularly well known so the casual observer is unlikely to recognise any similarities. I haven’t yet worked out whether or why this might matter; does the viewer’s experience (‘I’ve seen that before’) diminish the novel photograph?

The setup

It was almost dark by three o’clock so no real daylight to use. The gallery has no specialist lighting yet, so the only practical lighting was overhead fluorescents.  I discounted these as they provided no atmosphere at all.  I started with a softbox to the right about 2m from the subject – soft but not too much so.  The flash head promptly refused to fire even on test so I had to use a shoot-through white umbrella.  There was a lot of spill to the background to I flagged it with the dark side of a reflector.  I added another light in the back room to light the easels and canvasses, this to further establish the place as a working environment.  Rich was a bit underlit so I added a further unit with a snoot to the left.  This had the rather pleasing but entirely unplanned effect of throwing his shadow into a silhouette, right in the empty frame behind.  I couldn’t have planned it.  I had been watching a very interesting video by Harry Borden, photographer, who explained that he felt his best ideas seemed to arise unbidden from his subconscious.  So perhaps that was partly the reason.

annotated Rich

 

The picture

This is what we ended up with:

 

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Evaluation

I am fairly satisfied with the picture.  For the sitter there are a number of references included, none of which are accessible to the casual viewer.  The room light behind is a bit hot and could have benefitted from a grid rather than a snoot.  The area to the left, foreground is rather empty but perhaps that balances the shirt.  I have vowed to spend less time faffing and more time shooting so this photograph has had minimal (for me) editing.  Each time I see it I like it a bit more and I don’t even remember what I was thinking I’d left unmanipulated when I saved it.  The basic configuration echoes the Himmel photograph but without the original to compare you wouldn’t know.

Historic Portrait

 

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Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait; Alfred Stieglitz 1918. Palladium print

From <http://www.mfa.org/collections/photography/tour/alfred-stieglitz>

Alfred Stieglitz made this portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe in 1918. It’s a palladium print from what would today be considered a ‘large format’ negative; for Stieglitz it was just a normal sized negative, one single sheet of film exposed and processed individually.

The picture is made against a plain background, light in tone but somewhat darker than the clothing worn by O’Keeffe. It appears posed, and carefully so. The lower corners seem to have been held back in printing, allowing them to almost bleed into the unexposed paper.

What we have, then, is a picture of a woman in her early thirties, fully aware of the photographer and collaborating in the pose he wishes her to make. She looks directly at the camera with slightly drooping eyelids; her hair is loose and she holds her arms quite closely to her, palms inwards and fingers slightly spread. The hands occupy at least as much space as her face. She wears what appears to be a loose fitting, wide sleeved garment of uncertain purpose, unbuttoned or untied to a point below her hands. These are the facts.

What can be made of the photograph, what ‘interpretation’ can be assigned? Possibly the most obvious is that she has recently woken; her eyes speak of a reluctant compliance, she would rather have been allowed an extra hour in bed. But no, Alfred is at it again so she might as well just go along with it. Supporting this scenario is her hair – loose, bed-head hair, slightly tangled and unbrushed. She appears without any obvious make-up, though she may not be inclined to wear it at any time. She’s wearing what might well be a bath robe, loose fitting fairly shapeless.

Her lips are slightly parted and appear relaxed as if she has recently spoken or is about to enquire how long this is going to take – she seems to be leaning slightly to her left – against a bed footboard? Her hands give the appearance of having been artfully directed. The thumb of her left hand slips between the fabric and her skin and her fingers are loosely splayed. All of this combines to imply that this is a portrait made in close collaboration – O’Keefe certainly looks at ease with the process.

It’s a gentle portrait, soft in the lighting and in the formal content – skin, hair, eyes and fabric all combine to convey a sense of intimacy. Which isn’t surprising, given the nature of the burgeoning relationship between photographer and sitter. I hesitate to refer to O’Keefe as a model because of the modern connotations. Stieglitz photographed O’Keefe almost obsessively throughout their association and their relationship was intense and complex – like most are, but through correspondence and photography they left an enduring and eloquent account of their time together.

It would be easy, with the knowledge of their involvement, to look at this picture and see evidence of the intimacy between subject and maker. I’m not convinced that this would be a tenable assertion – perhaps my view will change. In this course, I too am a work in progress.

Who Are We?

 

Backgrounds

This is about the influence of surroundings so I will take ‘backgrounds’ to mean the location we find ourselves in at any given moment, rather than factors of family and upbringing.

How we choose to situate ourselves is a compromise between preference and predicament. Mostly our choice is hampered by lack of resources, sometimes by interpersonal commitments. If we are lucky, we may reach an accommodation with ourselves having achieved the best outcome within our limited means.

In considering how ‘our backgrounds say a lot about who we are’ I did a little thought experiment, visualising snapshots of me, since this morning, in the settings I’ve inhabited today. Presented with this series of pictures, the average viewer would be able to form a pretty well informed opinion of my circumstances.

He’d see me at home and in a car. As supervisor to a learner driver*. Using a computer. Taking medication and so on. These snapshots would inform the viewer’s opinion of my identity and based on their own experience of people in similar settings they may draw personal conclusions from the material available to them. They arrive at these conclusions based on how they interpret the effects of the setting.

That’s how a viewer may see me. How I see myself is rather different because only I (and people who know me) can be aware of the extent to which I am a product of circumstance and how much is down to intent.

“Perhaps you are an introvert. What does this mean about how you move through physical places?”

Well I went to bed last night with this question in mind and it kept me awake for a while as I tried to work out what it meant. I awoke seven hours later but no wiser. I accept that yes, I am a bit of an introvert but I have no idea how that influences my movement through physical places. What other kinds of places are there? It may influence my progress in non-physical places – (‘what’s he on about now? How can you move through nonphysical places?) – by which I mean Dreams and Imaginings! (‘Oh yeah, right’). But since I have no basis for comparison I really couldn’t say.

Much of the confusion I am experiencing here relates to uncertain definitions, which hopefully will resolve as I progress through the course. Let’s take one of them:

Identity – English. Father. 61. White. Male. Primary/secondary educated. Brother.

Are these components of identity or simply identifiers? They are verifiable factual matters, so they are certainly influential in both how they have formed me and how I am perceived by others.

Identity – Quiet. Shy. Reckless. Cautious. Impulsive. Prudent. Yes all of those things at different times and under different circumstances. These are aspects of personality rather than identity.

The spaces between buildings are resolutely mute on the matter of identity, as they are on every other subject, but perhaps they suggest inferences which may be made if taken with the presence of an individual.

This idea of ‘The Self’ has been the subject of extensive philosophical and psychological discourse over many centuries so an attempt to squeeze in a succinct summary for the purposes of a course in photography is unlikely to be beneficial. With this in mind, I’ll simply accept that some superficial notions of ‘self’ can usefully embellish our interpretation of pictures and use this as a working assumption in the months to come.

A NOTE ABOUT ME:

Sometimes I talk myself into a position or opinion, and then right out of it in the space of a few paragraphs. Even within the same sentence! This is my process – all of this coursework is provisional – but I obviously do my best to buckle down when it comes to proper essay writing.

*I am not a driving instructor or examiner

Identity Clash

Can you think of some examples from your own experience, or of someone you know, where there was a clash of identity? What happened and can you see how fluctuating notions of identity are still potentially problematic? What does it mean, for you, to be yourself?

 

Here’s an example of an identity clash.  I lived and traveled on a sailing boat for a few years and often had people join me for a week or two at a time.  No charge, except for food, it was just done on a mutual enjoyment basis.

 

Now I am not a naturally gregarious individual so this could have put me a long way outside my comfort zone. Even a 40ft yacht is a small confined vessel and it’s not easy to give or take the space you might normally expect, but as it turned out I thoroughly enjoyed the shared experience and I know these transient crewmembers did too.

 

Although the younger voyagers were always easy to get on with – mostly experienced travellers – the occasional older companion proved problematic.  As you can probably imagine, when underway there can be only one skipper and I’d pretty much decided that was to be me.  Whilst I am, for the most part, reluctant to impose my judgement on others, the sea is a hostile environment and I was responsible for the safety of boat and crew, both morally and legally.

 

There were only three occasions in four years when ‘identity’ clashes occurred but in each case the problem centred on a misunderstanding over who was who.  For example, crew were not supposed to leave the cockpit when underway without agreeing it with me first and certainly never without being clipped on (with a safety line).  As skipper I was acutely aware of the risk of people falling overboard but sometimes this danger was not well understood by crew.  Once in the water the chances of being rescued lessen dramatically especially at night.

 

So I had to exert an authority I was uncomfortable with and older crew had to comply when they thought they knew best.  It became a matter of managing expectations.  I now no longer have a boat so my skippering days are probably over, but the lessons learned remain with me.

 

There is an element of identity collision here, but as with most such instances it’s also about understanding roles.  Although my role was certainly being undermined, it was only the extent to which I allowed this which affected my internally constructed identity.

 

This question has been the subject of philosophical debate for as long as discussion has taken place and I expect I will return to it frequently through this module.

Part One – reflection

This part of the module has challenged me to think carefully about the way that I approach assignments and to an extent coursework.  In everyday life I tend to approach ‘rules’ with skepticism, which is not to say a disregard.  Instead I prefer to look around, behind and under edicts – it is surprising what can be found.  Why, then, when it comes to directions and guidance for assignments, do I expect to have to follow them to the letter?  I think at this stage I am wary of straying from what I imagine to be the ‘true path’ and being marked down or otherwise penalised for so doing.

There is also some safety in sticking tightly to the brief.  It can offer a reassuring framework where expression is contained and channeled, thereby leading to a comfortably predictable outcome.

I think it would benefit me to take some side roads and see where they go.  Even if they lead nowhere at least I will have been somewhere else.