Diary of a Researcher: The Research Presentation of Ghost Images

Betsy Ghost Image Slide

Photo by Ashley Whitt,iPhone 7

Presenting a Paper, The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful

I am so late in making this post. I did my final research presentation back in October 2016 at the South Central Chapter Society of Photographic Education conference at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. I know many of you are probably terrified of making public presentations and possibly think or know you are not a great writer, so that makes you even more frightened to present a paper. I to an nervous before I begin. However, I survive every time. Here I will tell you about my paper and presentation and give you some tips to being successful at presenting your own paper.

The Research Paper

My paper is titled Ghost Images in an Archive: A Case Study of Dr. Walter Spink’s Ajanta Photographs. As I have mentioned in earlier posts I had the privilege of going to Ajanta on my first trip to India, so it was easy for me to become interested in these photographs. The thesis of the paper was to discover if the meaning of the photographs have changed over time based on their social life. An image may find itself used in a variety of ways, thus changing its meaning over time. Furthermore, I was interested if the inclusion of the images in an archive changed their identity once again. To consider this I had to look at the agency of the archive, who makes them and who curates them. Archives may be seen as dusty record holders but individuals or groups decide what is included and what is discarded, thus determining how an object or event is remembered.

The multifaceted nature of the paper required me to create seven sections within the paper. The paper included an Introduction, an Introduction to Dr. Walter Spink, an Introduction to Ajanta, The Digital South Asian Library (the archive where the images are located), The Social Biography of an image, The Future Possibilities of the Spink/Ajanta Archive and the conclusion. When writing a paper you must consider your audience. In my case, my audience was probably not going to know who Dr. Spink is or anything about the Ajanta caves, so I had to give them some background information. I also had to describe in detail the theories I was using to structure my research as it is not typical of art history research, it comes from cultural anthropology and other social science fields.

In the end, the final paper is 15.5 pages including footnotes. There is further research I could do into these photographs and perhaps I will in the future. I would like to go back to Ajanta and make my own photographs with this research in mind.

Betsy reading paper

Photo by Ashley Whitt,iPhone 7

The Presentation

I was the one of the first presenters on Friday morning. I was in Waco, staying with friends in a motel room. We all get up and get ready and I head out before them. I get to Baylor and realize I have left my paper back in the motel room. I rushed back to get the paper. I feared I would be late for my presentation but I made it on time. I got my Powerpoint set up and read through my paper. At this point I was nervous. No one ever wants to make a fool of themselves in public. However, I knew I knew more about the subject than anyone who would be in the audience. My main concern was that my interpretation of theory was sound. This was the first paper I had written since finishing Graduate School, so I was totally on my own.

The time came, I was introduced and I began. At the start it was obvious I was nervous but once I got going I became comfortable. I had a few jokes for the professors in attendance and they liked that. I think they could connect with the background of Dr. Spink as he is a retired educator. My own passion for photography and India kept me animated and kept my audience engaged. I try not to stand like a log even though I am reading from a paper. I walked over to the projection multiple times to point out specific elements in the photographs.

After the presentation there is a Q&A session and so I answered questions. One of my graduate advisors was there and she assured me my research was sound and asked for my bibliography (list of books and articles I used in the research). She also asked me if the research has had an influence on my artistic production. I told here I was working on creating an archive of my photographs and other objects from South Asia. She suggested I do this online, so that is a work in progress and will hopefully be live for your viewing pleasure soon. It will be a work in progress probably for the rest of my life. Good stuff. But it is fun to work on and look through all of my work and other objects.

Photo by Ashley Whitt,iPhone 7

Helpful Hints for your Presentation

  1. Always remember, you did the research so you are the expert! Have self-confidence and you will do fine.
  2. Read through your paper multiple times leading up your presentation. This will lessen your nerves and help you from stumbling over words while reading.
  3. Know your audience. If you know they have in-depth knowledge of something you are talking about, you do not have to explain in great detail. On the other hand, if you know your audience does not know a lot about what you are presenting go into more detail and give background information.
  4. If you are excited and dynamic your audience will have a positive response. If you love what you are doing others will too!
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By |2018-10-10T12:54:33+00:00February 20th, 2018|Diary of a Researcher|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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