Slowly slowly I’m feeling more comfortable about my major project. Ironically, after a wobble this week when I attended a tutorial with the brilliant Peter Fraser and completely failed to articulate what I’m doing and why – his response in turn not giving me the encouraging alternative perspective I was hoping for – I am actually feeling better than I was before. As so often is the case, the disappointment of not finding the answers I was looking for in Peter’s session led me to find them independently in the end. Perhaps that is what a good university tutor actually does. After feeling slightly crestfallen and confused for one evening, I turned to the photo theory, sociology and anthropology books I’ve borrowed from a friend and spent the rest of the week ploughing through them. Happily, once I found some chapters I could actually understand, this initial research started to give me a new angle on this project, while at the same time giving me some concrete ideas. So today I started to incorporate some ethnographic techniques into this ‘fieldwork’ stage, to ensure that as far as possible it really will have some elements of genuine collaboration with my subjects…more of which later.
So this week represents a modest breakthrough for me in the way I am thinking about this project, and today I experienced a small parallel breakthrough (or a ‘paradigm shift’ as some of the aforementioned sociology books would have it) with the family of Lida, the young Czech woman I am working with, because I felt that she – and they – finally started to relax with me and my camera. That’s not to say it’s been that fruitful in photographic terms, but it certainly feels like a start. Lida and I also booked flights today for a visit together to the Czech Republic in October. And in seven days’ time I’ll be on my way to Romania with Ramona. Being me and needing something to stress about all the time, my worry has now gone from fear of not getting access to the communities or families I wanted, which I was feeling a few months ago, to worrying how the hell I’m going to shoe-horn all of this into one final project. It’s hardly something I’m going to lose sleep over though – I’m just going to go with the flow.