Genres provide useful signposts – a kind of shorthand – to help a viewer understand what kind of content to expect. Great for buying a paperback at a train station but in photography, this can lead to unhelpful pigeonholing and stale or cliched imagery. Landscape photographer Paul Hill goes as far as saying that genre can engender prejudice, creating ambiguous and vacuous compartments. 
In conversation Gregory Eddi Jones earlier this year, Charlotte Cotton refers to some genres being ‘not overly useful’… “especially if they intentionally or inadvertently perpetuate the idea that the motivations and meanings that underpin contemporary practices are pretty much “business as usual” for photography.” 
I realise I have fallen into this trap immediately. I always shuddered at the idea of landscape as a genre, believing it to be comprised of endless images of mountains and rivers. And I felt rather nervous as I approached the idea of documenting the Nomadic Comunity Gardens and creating a portrait of a place having not studied the OCA Landscape or Documentary modules.
Bate tells us that genres “are not fixed: they are mutable sets of conventions, whose processes and forms evolve and develop or transmute into different hybrids.” 
Probably the most widely known and well-defined genres are in cinema but here too, experts exercise caution. In Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti writes, “Andre Bazin once referred to the western as ‘a form in search of a content’. The same could be said of all genre films. A genre is a loose set of expectations, then, not a divine injunction. That is, each example of a given story type is related to its predecessors, but not in ironclad bondage. Some genre films are good; others are terrible. It’s not the genre that determines artistic excellence, but how well the artist exploits the conventions of its form.” 
Giannetti goes on to say, “Certain genres enjoy more cultural prestige because they have attracted the most gifted artists.” I don’t believe this assertion is true in photography, surely the most democratic of all the arts.
Irit Rogoff writes in Terra Infirma, “ Images do not stay within discrete disciplinary fields such as ‘documentary film’ or ‘Renaissance painting’, since neither the eye nor the psyche operate along or recognize such divisions.” 
So I shall think of genre as a strategy or as a tool – to be used to achieve a certain outcome or to be left in the box – depending on what is needed at the time. It has been useful to consider the genres (or narrative structures) detailed in the course notes as it has helped me to distil my thoughts on where my practice sits. I feared this may feel restrictive but it has actually been quite liberating and empowering.
I instinctively dismissed this as being much too elaborate in terms of staging but I am drawn to tableaux photography, especially with the visual connection to film stills, and find it be very satisfying when it works well. Some of the images I was most pleased with from Gesture & Meaning were tableaux vivants and this is an area I want to continue to explore in my work.
I am sometimes overwhelmed and deterred by the logistics. Crewdson’s images are incredible but I have no desire, at this point in the development of my practice, to go to those extremes with special effects, lighting, equipment and crew. His images are intriguing and atmospheric but they also feel over-worked at times, like airbrushed advertising images. The production values compete with the narrative. For my own work, I prefer to allow space for chance as sometimes, things I could not have envisaged or predicted result in some interesting images.
There is some potential to bring a blend of documentary and tableaux into my BoW project but this would need careful handling so as not to skew or misrepresent the community. There is however an interesting fit with the focus on carnival and Selim’s theatre within the gardens and I would like cinematic influences to be evident in the aesthetic. The merging of fact and fiction also really appeals to me. I was very inspired by Phenomena by Tobias Selnaes Markussen, Sara Galbiati, and Peter Helles Eriksen which I saw in Arles in 2016. 
The photographers mixed fiction with fact to draw the viewer into a more critical analysis of the information presented. This ties in well with the ever-changing facades of the gardens, the impermanence and the psychogeographical aspect.
Personal journeys and fictional autobiography
This genre is very appealing to me, although it has not been part of my practice so far. It overlaps in some ways with documentary in long term projects. As Mathieu Pernot found with Les Gorgan, subjects become friends and ‘family’. His images of the Roma family track the passage of time – growth, ageing and death – and his approach to the project changes over the years. There is an element of a personal journey for me with the NCG. It has a Tom’s Midnight Garden aspect in my mind: a parallel, almost unreal, existence where I’m able to imagine I don’t have an office job and can make art all day. In reality, when I go there, I meet friends of my husband who are very much ‘wrong side of the tracks’. This involves me overcoming some neuroses, relinquishing control. It will also require me to find some Scythian courage to ask if I can make their portraits. Ironically the gardens are literally on the other side of the train tracks from our home.
Responding to the Archive
Again this is an appealing genre but one that I have not explored in detail yet. This is a potential thread for the NCG project, not least as there are over 9,000 images hashtagged on Instagram.
Unfortunately, most of these images are simply of the graffiti art or tourist portraits. I would like to locate and use old images of the local area at stages in history to be able to convey the palimpsest idea and connect the current community activity with the previous use of the land. I am following ‘East London Days Gone By’ on Facebook to locate some images of the area and I have sourced some Ordnance Survey maps from 1872, 1893 and 1914.
This was defined by Guy Debord in 1955 as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”. 
This is definitely relevant to my work in general and very specifically for this project. Everyone visiting the gardens actively engages with the physical space and I am now in the process of developing an artistic response. The whole concept of ‘meanwhile spaces’ has a political element and for some will seem to be anti-capitalist. A key part of the NCG ethos is to support a sense of community and reverse the alienation exacerbated by living in a post-digital world. Too early to say how this will develop – a phrenological approach or topographical. But is it really psychogeographical if there is no dérive ?
Will Self sees psychogeography as a way of unpicking a conundrum: ‘the manner in which the contemporary world warps the relationship between psyche and place”.  And he goes on: “The City of London is a bit of a nightmare for the psychogeographer; two thousand years of human interaction have worked over this tiny allotment of earth with savage intensity, digging into it, raising it up and covering over the very watercourses. Now as one of the three global financial centres, the poisoned air of the place ultrasonically whines with the electronic transmission of trillions, while sweaty-shirted clerks suck filter tips beneath the hard haunches of its institutions.”
My city is ever-changing, very fragmented and there are ‘traces’ (more like dents) of its inhabitants everywhere. It is palimpsest but how best to capture that with a lens?
I generally consider conceptual photography to be a reference to some work produced in the 70s and 80s as a reaction to modernism. Often there is performance involved and the idea seems to subsume the actual images. But it is hard to know where to draw a line with that kind of thinking. The photography cannot always speak for itself. Rich storytelling often needs more. David Fathi’s The Last Road of the Immortal Woman is a powerful example of this. Ambiguous images are generally encouraged by critics (and tutors) and working out an obscure puzzle can be very rewarding for the viewer. And, as irritating and flippant as they sometimes appear, stunts (and even apparent silliness or arrogance) can open up a debate and push people to think differently. I am firmly anti-censorship of any kind and I think it is a good thing that there are people like Broomberg and Chanarin who believe in their own ideas  and are willing to antagonise influential commentators to execute on those ideas.  I would hope that all my work is conceptual to an extent but I am not sure I will ever be the new Keith Arnatt.
It will be interesting to revisit this analysis of where my work is situated when I have further developed my BoW and had time to carry more research as part of Contextual Studies.
- https://www.inthein-between.com/charlotte-cotton/ (accessed 26.5.19)
- Bate, D. (2016). Photography: the key concepts. London, UK New York, NY, USA: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
- Giannetti, L. (2005). Understanding movies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
- Rogoff, I. (2000). Terra infirma: geography’s visual culture. London New York: Routledge.
- https://www.andrefrereditions.com/en/books/photography/phenomena/ (accessed 14.7.19)
- http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display/2 (accessed 14.7.19)
- Self, W. & Steadman, R. (2016). Psychogeography. London: Bloomsbury.
- http://www.broombergchanarin.com/the-day-nobody-died-1-1 (accessed 14.7.19)
- http://www.source.ie/feature/what_is_conceptual.php (accessed 14.7.19)