Sunday, 10 November 2013

How do I use research?

Good research is essential for your A-Level/Level 3 work as it incorporates many of the elements that you're assessed against...

Your ability to record relevant data/information
  "                "    summarise information
  "                "    synthesise information
  "                "   make observations relevant to your intentions

It's also a skill you'll need to take forwards into employment and university, so, if you can come to grips with it now and develop the basic skills at this level it'll set you up for the future. The university point is especially relevant because when you go for your interview at Uni with your portfolio, they'll be looking at your work to see if you've engaged with this aspect of the course. Your research will be reflected in the kind of final outcomes you produce, so if you've accessed diverse and good quality research material and your work is obviously inspired by a range of different approaches and not simply Flickr, it will demonstrate a deeper understanding of what photography is and its potential. It'll allow the interview panel to ask questions such as 'Who is this work inspired by'? And you'll be able to come up with a coherent answer that'll show them your time on your A-Level was spent studying.

Using research...

The most obvious way of using research is by direct association with the theme. Again using the idea your project is about dogs as an example, you should search through journals and books constantly always keeping an eye out for images or articles on dogs for possible use in conjunction with your work. If that's not an option or you've done that and drawn a blank, you might then search my list of photographers and found a few photographers that use dogs as a theme within their work. That's a direct approach and for the most part that should give you enough info to work with, but there is another way that might be useful, especially if you're photographing a theme that is obscure.

Indirect association research...

Keeping with the dog theme... you might have found some direct research either from my list or better still from a journal that you've decided to use. But, because you were using journals you also accessed so much more photography by the process or perusing the magazines and journals and in between looking for the dogs a number of other photographers caught your eye simply because of the way their images looked. For instance you may have seen the work of Don McCullin...
 Whilst this has nothing to do with the dogs project directly, it still may be worthy of a place amongst your research. You may have stopped at this image in the magazine simply because of the starkness and the mood evoked by a number of visual language elements within the image? Having looked at some of the specific dog research material, you may have got lots of ideas and were able to analyse the work of the photographers. But, you can do the same with indirect subject matter such as McCullins image here...
"Looking through the BJP's for dog photographers, I came across the work of Don McCullin. Whilst it doesn't feature dogs, I love the way that he produces these images and the stark effect he produces in his prints and it might be something I could consider incorporating into my own dog images? My dog project to some extent might explore the more menacing aspects of dog ownership and the relationships people have with their dogs and therefore this approach here that McCullin uses might offer a way in which I can evoke more negative connotations through the use of visual language".
As a student you could then (as advised) produce a high quality image of McCullins and then go through the process of deconstructing it and analysing it using the prompts on the Visual Language Analysis page add a few more smaller images to support your observations relevant to your intentions. Have a look at the interviews on Youtube, listen to what he says about his photography, look at the transcriptions of any interviews that are published on the internet (Search Google using "Don McCullin + Interview"), he's virtually guaranteed to say something about why he takes pictures that has some resonance with what you're doing - use some of this as quotes within your research ensuring you record the source in your bibliography.
Then towards the end, when you've identified that you've established as much info as you need to on McCullin, bring it back to your dogs (Or your theme) and reiterate the connection and how you're going to use aspects of McCullins practice in conjunction with your own work.
Other aspects that might drive your work forwards towards that A-Grade is the fact that through your research you might identify that for the most part his work is recognised for his war photography. You might discover that he uses a particular type of film... That then might lead you to conclude...
"Having looked at McCullins work in more depth, I understand that it's all shot on 35mm cameras much like the Pentax K1000's we use here at college. I've been inspired by this work and it's made me want to try and shoot my project in this way using film. Having spoken to our lecturers they say one of the most popular choices of film for this kind of approach is Kodak Tri-X Pan, so I'm going to try that out and see if I can get this affect..."
Which means your research (As intended) now gets you to start experimenting with new and exciting approaches to producing images - picking up on increasing amounts of learning outcomes as you go!

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