Hello! I am still here. Life is rushy rushy at the moment, and full of ups and downs. I suspect I’ve forgotten more blog posts than I’ve written lately. I’ve been particularly busy over the last few days, and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down.
I photographed the BHA’s Daniel Dennett lecture. I helped them set up the hall, then quietly flitted in and out of fire exits during the talk itself. I also got to meet the Professor and a few other intellectual icons who were hanging around, which was excellent. I had my Professional Photographer hat on for the evening – not that I am in any way a Professional Photographer; this was just the attitude I was trying to adopt – but inside I was poking my brain to make sure it was really happening. The lecture photos have yet to be processed as I literally haven’t stopped since that evening, but I’ll link to them when they’re online. I’m also currently photographing as many humanists as possible for a uni documentary project, and I managed to get a few shots for that too. I was a happy person on Thursday night! I’m having a ball doing this kind of work, even if I can’t quite believe it.
I was at university, which was normal, but had a fairly exciting public contretemps with the head of my course, which wasn’t. My class was having a critical assessment, where everybody lays out their work-in-progress around the room. We then form groups, each of which is assigned a few projects to analyse and feed back on in front of the class. My group looked at one project about abandoned toys, and we noticed that of the four images, three had the toys a similar size, while the fourth was a bit larger. We mentioned this in our analysis, and it started to niggle at me. Just because there’s a pattern doesn’t mean it needs to be maintained, after all. Then another group made a similar comment on a project involving photos of a park – of the five images, two sets of two had some formal similarities, and the fifth ‘didn’t fit in’. I didn’t think this was all that important – documentary images are surely more about the topic than the aesthetics – although I didn’t say anything.
Then came time for feedback on my project. My ‘happy humanist’ pictures are mostly headshots, but two images stand out as being quite different: a couple of people posed in a happy way, and are full body shots. The group mentioned this – not as a criticism, just a comment – and when I had a chance to speak I remarked on it. The conversation is eroded through overaccess, but – with the aforementioned pattern-critiques in my head – I must have said something like ‘yep, those two are different, but I don’t care much about that as the concept is more important’. My teacher leapt on me: “you should care”. I can’t remember the details, but it degraded from there. She was clearly very bothered about my ‘not caring’, and in hindsight I suspect she thought it was a premise, rather than a conclusion – that I was just dismissing the criticism, rather than considering it. But at the time I was a bit lost. I questioned why it mattered that two images were different, given my overall concept, and was told it mattered because of ‘consistency’ and ‘if I want people to take me seriously’. I did not react well to this last comment (it’s a conclusion, not a reason, and not a very good conclusion). Then I, not wanting to say ‘I don’t care’ again, must have said ‘I’m not bothered about…’ which went down even worse. I was being told off for the first time in years, wasn’t entirely sure why, but I was bloody well not going down without a fight. It’s just a shame it wasn’t over something actually important. My classmates did their best to pull me out of the fire, but it was pretty awkward for a while, and it’s not something I can remember happening before.
I apologised afterwards in case she’d thought I was being rude or deliberately antagonistic1, but we certainly didn’t resolve anything. I think it’s great she cares that I don’t care, but it’s a shame she couldn’t see that I do! I was pretty bothered about it for a few hours, mostly because I felt I’d embarrassed myself in front of everyone. A few very nice emails from classmates have reassured me, though – I’m not sure they necessarily agree with my point (hell, I’m not sure I necessarily agree with my point) but they could see what I meant, and didn’t think it warranted the attack it got. So that’s good.
It’s a weird event. I don’t argue with people much, let alone authority figures, in public. I might ask awkward questions, but I’ll back off pretty quickly if I’m not completely sure of myself. I must be getting more confident about that kind of thing.
Tonight I ran the music at a dance evening. I’ve done it before, and that time I spent a week worrying. This time I was much more relaxed: I knew it had been fine last time, so after a few hours setting up an iTunes playlist I didn’t give it much thought. The evening went ok, but I got a bit grumpy at my inability to use a microphone. I have to announce which dance the next song conforms to, and I just could not do it: no matter what I did, I couldn’t make my announcements understood. I tried raising the volume, speaking across the mic, different tones of voice – everything I could think of, and I still got a steady stream of confused looks whenever I said anything. Maybe my voice just isn’t suited to amplification – who knows – but this felt like a total failure at the time, and I wasn’t Mr Happy Chappy McGurk at the end of the evening. I’m a bit better now, but it’s still annoying. Next time I’ll just buy a scrolling LED sign.
- I wasn’t either – I felt like I’d made myself look silly, but I wasn’t worried I’d gone too far [↩]