A 'Reflective Practitioner'- How being one can better your work
The Three Questions:
When in the process of making a body of work, there are three vital questions to ask yourself.
1.) What is it?
2.) How does it make me feel?
3.) What next?
Being a reflective practitioner is so much deeper than simply flicking through a Photographer's Instagram or images on Google to inspire your next personal project, it entails looking at objects (especially those that have served a particular function in your life), or reflecting on certain memories, events or even past projects, and using it, to now serve as the foundation or the focus of a new visual story.
The process is quite a long in-depth one and is developed over a period of time. It consists of you taking that object, memory, past event or previous project, and asking yourself, ‘what is it?’ This can be answered in a very basic direct way (no need to go abstract or conceptual with it). For example, if it is a print photograph of you and a sibling then state so. The next thing to ask yourself is, ‘how does this make me feel?’ Going back to our example of the print photograph with a sibling, what feelings are evoked from looking at it? What are the memories that come to mind? After that, ask yourself, ‘what next?’ What is the next step? Where will you take these feelings and memories that have been generated simply by looking at a photograph of you and your sibling? Will this push you to then have conversations with friends, asking them about their own relationships with their siblings? Will this encourage you to do some research and look at data stating the percentage of couples that have decided to have one child, or no child at all? Or maybe you will consider speaking to people who have lost a sibling. What are the next actions that you will take as a response to what you have seen and the questions that you have asked yourself? These reflections will lead you on a path to creating a project that truly resonates with you (because you have a personal connection to it).
Get Yourself a Sketchbook!
Sketchbooks have been mentioned in one of our previous articles and we are mentioning it again, if you don’t have one then get one! It does not have to be fancy, it can be as simple as a blank notebook that you have not used, whatever it is use it! Sketchbooks are imperative to capturing your thoughts and seeing the progress of your project! The process of asking questions, of evaluation and reflection needs to be captured and there is no better way than a good old pen and paper to note down your thoughts, ideas and responses to your reflections. If you have access to a printer then make use of it by printing out your research, data, photographs for inspiration and anything else which can help to further your project. Stick them in your sketchbook, make notes and analysis around it, and allow this process to take you on an exploration of ideas leading to more ideas which will eventually lead to the start of an amazing body of work. Use the sketchbook as a sort of timeline showing your planning stages, your experimental stages and then the more solid stages of your project. The most fulfilling part of this, is looking back and seeing how far you have come!
Take your time.
The last thing to mention is to take your time, there is no rush! Allow the process of reflection to guide you on a journey of intense and deep work-making, that simply flicking through someones images will not give you. Try out new ideas, experiment with different methods of Photography, try out different approaches to making work, whether it be through participatory Photography or social experimental Photography and finally, enjoy the ride, it could be a long one but will definitely be worth while!