I’ve spent most of this last week trying to wrestle the subject area of my critical review (in short: overcoming the limitations of the still photograph for narrative) into some kind of shape, as it is potentially a little sprawling. I needed to get my thoughts down in the form of a mind map and then start honing it down into a line of argument.
I’ve been using mind mapping for assignments for a few months now, and I’m definitely a fan. They help to capture the breadth and depth of a subject, and help me to identify connections, overlaps and gaps. To some degree they help with the essay structure, although that’s maybe more a function of the essay plan (to follow).
I usually do my mind mapping straight into an iPad app, but for the first time the subject area felt so vast that I started on an A3 pad:
Line of argument
There are a few different ways I could structure this essay, and to be honest right now I’m not completely sure which way to go. It will depend on the hypothesis I choose: what angle I’m taking, the point I want to make – this will help me to determine the ‘backbone’ of the essay. The sequence of arguments and the introduction/conclusion bookends will fall into place from this backbone. My approach here is influenced by the fact that my last essay, for Documentary, went through a complete re-write when I conceded that my first draft did not have a strong core hypothesis. I am trying to avoid repeating that mistake.
The basic ‘bookends’ of hypothesis I have in mind is something like:
- Introduction: (phrased as a question) Can a photograph tell a story?
- Alternative phrasing: start an appropriate quote and interrogate it
- — [middle bit] —
- Conclusion: no, a single photograph cannot tell a story in and of itself
- But there are clever ways of working around it
It’s the middle bit, the line of argument, that can be organised in a couple of different ways…
- Address the subject from a point of view of a fundamental genre split
- Fact (documentary)
- Fiction (art, advertising)
- Discuss approaches that are appropriate to each genre based on their inherent characteristics
- Address the subject from a point of view of the different types of approaches employed
- Internal i.e. within the frame
- Mental modelling
- Address the subject from the point of view of characteristics of narrative
- Apply each to single image photography and discuss techniques for working around them
- Narrow it down to one major limitation to address: temporality
- Examine techniques employed to lend a sense of time to the still image
- Look at it from either genre-first or approach-first point of view, per options above
- Make a decision on the central line of argument
- Write up an essay plan
- Send to my tutor for comment