p.249 Alison Nordstörm and Christina Doyle

Task 5

The Emigrants


Step 1 – Synopsis of assignment


Step 2 – Portrait

‘I think we have changed the nature of how we make photographs, which has caused us to change the nature of how we keep photographs. But I don’t think that has yet changed the way we think about photographs. And even the way we make photographs—it’s changed technically, but not culturally. And that’s not surprising’ (Nordstörm 2016).


Step 3 – Style 


Step 4 – Completed Task 

The Emigrants is a 1992 collection of narratives by the German writer W.G. Sebald. Sebald’s book writes about his involvement with and the life stories of four different characters, all of whom are German emigrants. The book includes many black and white photographs and moves away from normal forms of plot and narrative.

For my first part of my task, I scanned pages from the original book and then took photographs from head newspaper headlines to manipulate the story. I scanned these images, made them into black and white, and then placed them in photoshop to replace the original image. The use of black and white allows for the images to look like the original ones, but when you look at the details that the images depict you can tell that they are not the original photos.

Part 1 – Pages replaced with newspaper images…

Part 2 – Book replaced with my images…


I did the same process but with my photographs replacing the original images. I used a selection of photographs that I had taken in America as the emigrants from the book either went to the UK or America to find a better life.


Part 3 – Images alongside the poem – I felt a Funeral, in my Brain by Emily Dickinson…

This is my response to the final part of the task, taking photographs and placing them into a poem by Emily Dickinson. I decided that by reading the poem before exploring into its true meaning, that the poem was about death. I went to a graveyard in which my family and friends are buried and took photographs which I felt represented the poem. I then took each paragraph and placed the text on top of my chosen photographs. The final photograph shows a dead leaf, emphasising death.

Additional – Video response…


I also decided to use Premiere Pro to compose a short 1-minute video with a recorded voice reading the poem. This was an additional project I added to my task. I feel the video helps emphasise the emotion behind the poem with the slow movements of nature fading in and out of focus.


Series of photographs displayed on a wall without text…

Critical Rationale 

In Susan Sontag’s On Photography she states “Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it” (1973:157).

This task was a long one. Having to do many parts to the assignment before it was completed makes it time-consuming. As my last individual task, I thoroughly enjoyed it. From reading the book to manipulating it, I found it difficult to then change the photographs that W.G Sebald had chosen. Trying to move away from the original images proved difficult and took me a vast amount of time before finding appropriate images from newspapers. So I decided to take the main headlines of the week (which was the terror attacks) which could be found in many of the large newspapers.

Thinking that changing the images into my own photographs would be easier than part one proved wrong. Now that the aesthetics of the book had been changed twice, it made it harder to then change them for the third time. I decided to focus on the America side of the book, as this was the location emigrants at the time travelled too. I wanted to demonstrate the exile and loss, so I placed lonely isolated images into the book from an American ranch. The only photograph to contradict this idea is the photograph of the lady smiling. This photo replaced another photograph of a young woman as I didn’t want to change the photographs completely so they keep the same content.

For the third part of the task, I had to repeat the exercise by adding found and self-made photographs to any story from Jorge Borges’s Labyrinths or any poem by Emily Dickinson. I decided to use a poem as this is something I enjoy reading because of the rhythm and emotion embedded. Dickinson is considered to be one of the most significant of all American poets. I photographed scenes from a graveyard which closely represented the literal meaning of a ‘funeral’. Using the metaphor of a funeral to demonstrate loss of her sanity, the video flashes and goes black which emphasises the true meaning of the poem – that she is ‘losing’ her mind. Having a recorded voice read out the poem allows for more emotion and pace, which works well alongside the edited film.





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