In the second semester of our MFA program, I feel a lot of the students (and myself) coming into their own. We have been given the tools, the encouragement, and the inspiration to pursue creative, new bodies of work with a mind towards the contemporary photographic contexts these works will be situated within. I am genuinely excited about my own work, as well as the work of my classmates. A large part of this process has been learning from great photographers directly. Not only viewing their work but also hearing the explanation of the process and thinking that goes into creating a final body of work. It is a blessing to have two reknowned photographers teaching on the course – Paul Seawright and Donovan Wylie – who have spoken openly abou their work, their inspiration and challenges, and allowed us to pose questions and delve into deeper discussions.
In the beginning of this semester, Wylie gave us an in-depth look at the process behind creating his recent work Outposts.
It was enlightening to understand the process from thought to completion that goes into creating a body of work such as this. He showed us clips from his journal from the day he first came up with the idea, as well as his large collection of images gathered during research for the work. Some of the most interesting aspects to me were the stories from his actual time spent photographing in Afghanistan.
Donovan Wylie while photographing Outposts in Afghanistan.
Last semester, we were also blessed to receive insight into the work of Paul Seawright. Seawright walked us through his past work and concluded with his most recent. His publication Volunteer was shot in the United States, so it was a bit surreal for me, the only American student on the course, to be sitting in a Northern Irish classroom listening to and looking at a photographer’s perspective of my country.
It was incredible, however, to begin to understand the methodical and diligent way in which Seawright approaches his projects. I was also humbled to be learning from a photographer who is often mentioned and lauded in books I pick up: “In Valley, Seawright uses the twisting hill road littered with artillery shells in a compositional manner reminiscent of the earliest photographs of conflict zones by British photographer Robert Fenton…” (The Photograph as Contemporary Art, 171).
So as the semester continues on, I feel excited to continue to learn from these fantastic photographers as well as the other talented students on my course. Their insights and photographic prowess are awe inspiring and I feel so fortunate to be apart of it.
In closing, I will just share one of the audio pieces I am working on in relation to my own project. It is an audio recording I took while visiting a group home for the elderly with dementia in Japan. Audio and singing are aspects that I am continuing to explore in pairings with my visual work.