Feedback on Assignment 4

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

You’ve identified a topical theme (plastic waste) and approached it in a consistent and methodical manner.

From the contact sheets I can see you’ve tried moving the image around in the frame and settled upon a central composition which firmly situates the object but leaves little room for the eye to move around the scene. Whilst this can be a strategy within your work, consider how changing the angle of view might have led to a different relationship to the object.

I’m thinking here of Andy Hughes’s images of waste from beaches around the world. In one image, a lighter is discarded and left upright in the sand, shot from ground level looking up towards the lighter it becomes a kind of monolith and has an impending sense of doom which echoes Hughes’ concerns as an environmental advocate.

The image of the dead bird is very striking as are some of the more abstract compositions of waste from the beach. It would have been good to change the set up a little and add some visual interest to the series by including some of these.

The dead bird was something I would have liked to use but I didn’t think it would fit in with the theme, especially with the number of images we were able to use. I had been contemplating using it as part of a series on dead wildlife/road kill. However, by changing the emphasis on the project to things that are abandoned means I could utilise the images of the bird as well as some of the images of feral cats that I took in Cyprus.  Contrasting things that have been abandoned by man with things that have been abandoned naturally through death, like the bird, or allowing things to get out of control, like the large number of feral cats.

Some of the images look a bit on the dark side and could benefit from some brightening – consider applying a curve and cleaning up some of the yellow/brown tones that spread across the set.

Curves are a really powerful tool for doing this in Photoshop. Have a look through some of Adobe’s online tutorials (beginner > advanced) and find one suitable. Start practicing the application of curves and keep track of before and after shots to see how much better your images becomes once you learn to use them.

The changes I make to images using the curves tool in Lightroom are quite basic so I really need to look at getting more proficient with using tools like this if I’m going to get the best from my photos.

Have you thought much about how you might present or showcase this work and what format would best suit it?

I’d not given thought to how to showcase this work. Contemplating how to showcase it I think I’d want to go down the exhibition route. At the moment I have two sets of images, one from Norfolk, the other from Cyprus. I think it would be good to have another couple of sets of images from other places, preferably countries in order to highlight the global scale of the issue. I also think that continuing with the link to bodies of water: the sea, lakes and rivers, would be a good way to link them together. Taking into account the suggestions above about changing perspective and composition there would be an obvious progression to the images produced.

I also intend to complete a PADI open water diving qualification over the summer and following on from there a 2 day Underwater Photography course, when it’s next run at the diving centre. Diving is something I’ve not done since I was at Polytechnic but it was fun and I enjoyed it. Combining that with my photography seems like a great way to take things forward and add a new element to my work.

Learning Logs

Context

It would be good to see reference to some contemporary examples of photographic work (see recommendations below) and your thoughts in response to it. Beware of reading too many technical/how-to style photography books. Whilst these are helpful in mastering technique, they rarely discuss the wider context of the work produced or the language of photography itself.

I’ve noticed that in recent months I’m picking up more books that highlight the work done by various photographers as well as giving some background to their lives.

I’m currently working my way through Diane Arbus – Revelations, which in addition to a chronology of her work based around her notebooks, letters and other writing, also includes essays concerning the relevance of her work and another on the techniques and methods that she used. This carries on from my earlier interest in Arbus and her work.

I’ve also  just finished reading Women War Photographers: From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus, something I picked up after coming across the work of Gerda Taro. I have books about Taro and her relationship with Robert Capa on my current reading list.

Also just added to my reading list is the exhibition catalogue for Mandy Barker’s Altered Ocean exhibition, which I didn’t manage to visit when it was on in Bristol. In September I’ll be visiting the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery as I have to be in London for a workshop related to my day job.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Andy Hughes – http://www.andyhughes.net/

Looking at Hughes website and the particularly the projects page (http://www.andyhughes.net/site/projects-2-2/) there are a number of images that leap out at me.

The first is the image of the figure that is surrounded by orange paint splodges. The splodges remind me of caterpillars or millipedes. Looking at this image it reminds me that no matter how great mankind thinks it is, even the smallest of creatures will overwhelm us eventually. We might be able to shape our world to suit us but we all face the prospect of being “worm food” eventually.

The second image that leapt out at me was of the discarded condom. Looking at it reminds me of Lampreys. The abandoned condom could be seen to symbolise how mankind attaches itself to the planet and feeds on it. If we are careful we won’t destroy our host, if we aren’t then we could kill it and then have to find another host to latch on to. Except in our case, we don’t have another host to move on to.

Like the lighter image mentioned in the feedback above, the image of the lightbulb (http://www.andyhughes.net/site/portfolio-2/uncategorized/italy-cities-cultural-heritage-digital-humanities/) shows how changing perspective alters how things appear. I love the way that the curved shape of the bulb mirrors the curved ceiling.

Finally I love the images where Hughes as placed an upside down bottle on a object, like a stick, giving the impression that something is pouring out of the bottle.

I think Hughes’ book Dominant Wave Theory will be something I add to my reading list.

Edward Burtynsky  – Anthropocene Project: https://www.edwardburtynsky.com/projects/the-anthropocene-project/

The trailer for Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is interesting and brings the effect that we are having on the world around us, and the creatures that inhabit it with us, home. The final show of the piles of elephant tusks being burned is particularly shocking. How many hundreds of elephants perished just so people could have the ivory from their tusks?

Mandy Barker – Altered Ocean: http://www.rps.org/exhibitions-and-competitions/mandy-barker

 I can’t really comment on Barker’s Altered Ocean exhibition. From the little I’ve seen of it, image-wise, it looks impressive. I’ve ordered the exhibition catalogue and am looking forward to viewing the work that she has produced that way.

Dead Bird

I had a bit of time to take another look at the images of the dead bird. In the end I decided that only one of the ones I’d originally used I still liked and two of the images that I’d rejected I preferred.

I’ve included these below.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7917

This is one of the original images I considered using but didn’t include in the final selection. I’ve adjusted the image so that you can see some of the markings.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7915

This image was one I rejected initially but on revisiting decided it was better than the full body image. I like this image because it has the whole of the birds head and you can just about make out some of the ants that were crawling on the dead body. Again I adjusted the image so that the white and black flecks are visible.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7916

If I was to select one of these images to use then it would be this one. Although it doesn’t have the full beak and one of the ants from the previous image has moved out of shot, you can still see other ants, particularly the ones that are crawling over the eye area. You might have to look closely to see them, black ants on black feathers don’t stand out massively.

Once again I adjusted the image so that the white flecks among the black are visible. I think the level of detail with the feathers and the inside of the beak are something I’m really happy with and if I was to display this as part of an exhibition then I’d want it to be at least A4 size in order to allow for some of the details to be seen clearly.

Ideas – a personal project

Right now I’m in the middle of part 3 of the course but as part 5 could easily be on me before I realise it, depending on progress with parts 3 and 4, I thought, and following the example of one of the other students, that I’d make a start thinking about the project.

I’ve broken this entry down along the lines in the course notes and as I think about things will fill each bit in. Hopefully as I think about this project things that I need to practice may come up and I’ll be able to make use of the exercises in the early parts of the course to learn and practice those skills.

Your personal project

Genre

Of all the different subjects and approaches you’ve worked on and read about during this course, which attracts you the most?

Which feels most natural to you?

Photography where I don’t need to direct people in how to behave, where people are behaving naturally.

Which feels the most challenging?

The thing I find most challenging is portrait photography, particularly more formal styles.

Idea

You’ll need a spark, an idea, subject matter, a place or some ‘lead’ to start you off.

  • Do you already have ideas you want to pursue?
    • When Rhys died in 2017 I had just submitted my first assignment for the course. In the course of preparing for his funeral I went back through all of the photographs that we’d taken of him over the years and got a friend to put together a photo montage that was played at the funeral. I also produced a separate montage using a much larger set of photos that was played at the wake.
      I also produced two folders with photos from the last 6 months of Rhys’ life, showing some of the things that we’d done.
    • Shortly after the funeral I decided that I wanted to turn some of those photos into a photobook that told what it was like to live with a terminal disease, and to show that it’s still possible to have a life, even when faced with death.
  • Can you clarify them by defining them?
    • The idea for the book developed from just a selection of photos into telling Rhys’ story in such a way that it was as if he was telling the story. Each image used was accompanied by some words that explained what was happening at that point in time.
    • Early on in the development of the book, I had the idea that I wanted friends who are artists to turn the photos into drawings. Although I had three artists lined up, I never went down that route in the end.
  • Could you ideas be best developed through visual or intellectual research?
  • Have any genres, subjects or areas of visual experimentation interested you more than others throughout the course so far?
  • Are there any skills you want to hone in your final assignment?
    • Book production.
  • Is there a theoretical notion connected to photography (e.g. an ideas-motivated series of pictures) you want to explore in more depth that could result in both written and practical work?
  • If you’re struggling, set up a brainstorming session with your family and friends to get the creative juices flowing.

 

Mulling it over

Talk about you ideas with friends, family and your OCA peers.

  • What is the possible visual outcome? Remember that your aim is to make photographs, so your ideas need to be visual or you need to find a way to visualise them.
    • The outcome of this project is the production of a photobook that gives a flavour of the last 6 months of Rhys’ life.

 

Research

  • Investigate photographers who have done work in a similar genre or with the same sort of subject. Or just investigate photographers and artists you want to learn from.
  • Research the subject itself. For example, if it’s a photo project about an elderly couple, you could do some research on the changes age makes to people’s lives. You may want to investigate the visual milieu of the elderly, the sorts of things they like to have around them, or the things they need to use because of frailty. Be observant; identify character traits and physical gestures – and the responses of young people to set up a contrast.

All of this should give you some ideas for photographs, e.g. an old lady in her high-backed chair surrounded by memorabilia from her life and photos of her grandchildren; an old man carefully getting into a car; an old lady in a mobility scooter in a crowd of teenagers. you may or may not be able to realise your ideas, but it gets the imagination running to think of them.

 

Preparing to shoot you assignment

Access and permissions

This is probably the No. 1 difference between amateur and professional photography: gaining access by asking for permission to make photographs frees you up to get on with the job of making pictures.

For example if you want to make a cutting-edge police documentary, you’ll need to ask the police for permission and investigate the legal requirements around photographing offenders who may or may not want themselves photographed.

Photography often gives the viewer a ‘privileged’ view of some event or phenomenon. Research Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar at tarynsimon.com/works_americanindex.php. A work like this can’t be made without extensive research and co-operation.

This means:

  • contacting people
  • explaining your circumstances as a photography student
  • explaining your project and requirements.

 

Presentation

Think about how you want the project to be presented.

  • Prints, slideshow sequence, postcards, book?
  • If prints, then how big? What shape?

The work will be seen on your blog this time, but think about other options:

  • Gallery, website, café, etc.

The project takes the form of a photobook.

Who will see it?

  • This time you’ll be showing your work to your tutor and to your peers. But you can think very specifically about this if you aim to make a work for a particular group, for instance the police or newspapers in the above example.
  • A lot of photography is produced for special interest groups, some is more commercial and some is aimed at gallery type spaces.

Think how you will present the work most effectively. Even if you’re making photos of your family on holiday, no-one will see them unless you consider how to make them available.

I produced the book using Microsoft Publisher and then converted it to PDF before uploading it the Blurb and then getting 20 copies of the book produced by them. Copies of the book have been given to family and friends as presents to say thank you for all  the support they provided Rhys and us over the years. I also gave a copy to St Margaret’s Hospice as a thank you for their support in those last weeks.

Equipment

What equipment will you need? Consider the kind of photographs you want to make and the circumstances you’ll be shooting in.

  • Will you need a tripod to keep the camera steady for long exposures?
  • Will you need a wide-angle lens for shooting cramped interiors?
  • Or should you test the results of using a small camera (like a mobile phone camera) for candid street photography?

Make a list of the ‘ideal’ equipment you’ll need for the assignment but be realistic about what you already have.

If you’re missing  vital piece of equipment, try to borrow it or hire it from a photographic supplier like Calumet.

I didn’t need any more equipment than the camera and lenses I already had. I used the standard kit lens for my Nikon as well as a 40mm fixed lens that allowed for macros shots.

None of the photos were taken using a tripod.

Skills and practice

Consider the skills you’ll need to make your final assignment:

  • Will you need to practise you’re fill-flash skills if you’re planning a reportage project? You can look up online tutorials on many technical practices and Photoshop skills.
  • Do you need to know how to make High Dynamic Range 32-bit images for a landscape series?
  • Are you confident you can find strong compositions of your subject? Do some research into other photographers who have covered the same topic and analyse how their compositions work.
  • Contact your tutor if you think there are skills you lack for the assignment and he or she will guide you to suitable resources.

Practise your skills!

Think of a pianist in the weeks before an important concert; he or she will practice that concerto that they’re confident they can perform on the night.

The majority of the skills I needed I already had from previous photographic experience. The new skills I worked on and developed were around producing a book.

These skills involved learning how to use Microsoft Publisher to create a book, add photos and images and manipulate these until I’d produced something I was happy with. I also developed editing skills as I proofread the text, spotting typos and correcting grammar, while trying to maintain the appearance that it was Rhys who was speaking.

Early on in the course I attended a book binding workshop run by the South West student group. From this I was able to produce the first drafts of my book which were hand bound using a stab binding technique.

Production

Post-production

Post-production is a film industry term that is now widely used in photography. It refers to everything you do after shooting the photos to arrive at the finished result. This may be very little other than basic editing, printing and mounting; on the other hand, it may involve composites or special processing to achieve a certain ‘look’.
Post your final assignment on your blog under the category: Assignment Five.

A copy of the book is linked to in the post The Final Journey.
• After posting the images, write about the process you’ve gone through to make this work, and summarise what you learned from the course that helped you with it.

The process I went through with this project has been described above.

The things I’ve learned during the course that helped with this project are how to compose an image, how to edit photographs with Lightroom, choosing the right camera settings for the photographs you are taking and patience; the need to take a number of photographs in order to get the one you want, and also pragmatism; knowing when to accept that you’ve got the shot and aren’t going to improve on it by trying to take it over and over.

• Now spend time looking at other student blogs, in particular their final assignment. Make comments on their blogs and invite comments on your work by giving them your blog address. Be sure to post links to your comments in the OCA student blogs section under Research & reflection.

 

 

Responding to a theme

Brief

In this assignment you’re going to work in response to a theme.
A theme is more nuanced and you can bring your own personal interpretation to it because you’ll have your own experiences, thoughts and feelings about it. Responding to a theme photographically will help you to elicit your own ideas and make them visual.
If you want to set yourself your own theme, that’s fine. Otherwise choose from this list:
• Domestic
• Power struggle
• Pause
• The unbearable lightness of being.
For this assignment create a series of 3-5 still-life photographs based on a theme.
To accompany your photograph, write approximately one-page of text explaining:
• your theme
• your choice of background, objects and subjects
• the visual and conceptual reasons behind these choices
• your choice of light and/or time of day
• how you think the objects interact to give the viewer the impression you want them to
have.
Send your final image(s) and your text to your tutor.

Research

When I  started thinking about how I was going to do this assignment I looked for some books and websites that would give me ideas. For me, still life is photographs or pictures of flowers, fruit and other arrangements of items. To do something like that I would need to gather a series of items together and arrange them. Those arrangements and the ensuing shots would have to be done outdoors rather than bringing the items back home and photographing them indoors.

Busselle (1998) was a useful book to find because it had a section on still life photography, and in particular a section on Found Still Lifes, which was what I was doing. In some ways the photographs could be taken as advertising shots, not very flattering ones admittedly, but Busselle’s book gave me the confidence to continue down the route I’d decided upon.

Summary

My choice of theme was man’s impact on the environment, particularly around beaches and the sea shore. When I was in Cyprus in March 2018, one of the things I noticed was the amount of cans and plastic bottles that had either been discarded by people or washed up by the sea.

With that in mind I decided that I would do a series of still life images based around items that I found on the sea shore. This ended up being mostly cans, bottles but also a few other items that I wouldn’t normally expect to find lying around on the sea shore.

The reason I chose the items I did was firstly because they stood out when I was looking for things to photograph. The second reason was that each of the items highlights how casually people discarded things they’ve finished using. None of these items are going to break down very quickly. Glass may be smashed into smaller and smaller pieces by the sea but if washed up on the beach could end up causing injury to people or animals. Plastics as we are all becoming more aware gets broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up being eaten by marine life, and in so many cases killing them or even ending up in the food chain, where eventually humans consume it.

The initial problem was how to remove the item from it’s background so that the focus was more on it than the background. The first idea was t use a sheet of card, positioned behind the object. In the end I decided that I’d take close up shots of the items or ensure that the background was as featureless as possible.

For the majority of the images I decided that I wanted to include just the minimum I could but in the case of the selected images I decided that I’d allow nature to have a bit of interaction with the Man’s discarded trash.

In the case of the aerosols I decided that I wanted to include more of what I could see. Just after I took the shot I’ve used a wave came in and moved it closer to the others. It was almost as if the sea was saying “Nope, I don’t want that. Take it back.”

Time of day was based on when I was able to go out to find items and was mid morning. This made some of the shots a bit more difficult because of the bright outdoor light.

Each of the objects stands alone. The toothbrush I hope will make the viewer wonder how and why such an object was abandoned where it was.

I’ve combined each of the individual images into a single image, which I hope will give the impression of the aftermath of someone enjoying themselves.

Final Images

Lunch by the sea #2 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #2 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #4 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #4 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Party In Paphos#4
Party In Paphos#4
Party In Paphos#6
Party In Paphos#6
Party In Paphos#5
Party In Paphos#5

References

  1. Busselle, M (1999). Better Picture Guide To Still Life & Close-up Photography. Switzerland: Rotovision
  2. Perweiler, G (1984) Secrets of Studio Still Life Photography. 1st edn. New York: Amphoto.

Contact Sheets

In addition to the images captured in Cyprus there were several that were taken in the UK, in Norfolk, which just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you go, people will carelessly throw things away. Although there were a distinct lack of crisp packets and chocolate wrappers in Cyprus compared to Norfolk.

When it comes to humans it’s a bit like my father used to say “We have to go everywhere twice, the second time to apologise for the first.” Except there isn’t going to be a second time for us to come to Earth in order to apologise for the mess we’ve made of it this time.

Assignment 4-1Assignment 4-2Assignment 4-3Assignment 4-4Assignment 4-5Assignment 4-6

The Final Journey

Shortly after Rhys passed away in 2017 I begun a project with the intention to tell the story of his last months, through pictures and words. The words being written as if Rhys was telling his own story.

Although most of the photos I wanted to use existed there were a couple that I didn’t have.

One photo I wanted was of a CT scanner or a MRI, it was to accompany the part of the story where we found out about the tumours in Rhys brain. The ones that would signal the end of active treatment and the beginning of palliative.

I was never able to get that photo and so one day I decided to use a photo I’ve used here, the one of the white toy bear staring out a window.

The other photo I wanted to get was of one of one of the a local ambulances. I finally managed to do that yesterday. With some minor editing I included that in the document I’d put together in Publisher.

The end result of the project can be found in the PDF below. Apologies for the size it’s about 30Mb.

the final journey

Part 3 Feedback

I’ve had a chat with my tutor about assignment 3 and the work I did during the thrid part of the course. As the chat was online I’ve got the written feedback in bullet form which I’ve included below.

Assignment 3

  • Improvement in Photoshop skills, well suited to the idea you are exploring. The merge function has worked well and to good effect.
  • Overall images lack ‘punch’ this could be addressed through increasing contrast or some saturation. Consider what it it you are trying to convey – what is the relationship between the 2 figures.
  • It’s a strong idea but what is the dialogue/conversation between the 2?
  • How might you better direct the models to communicate your ideas. Were there any barriers in directing them more?
  • Both images are staged against very busy backgrounds which appear out of context/
    incongruous with the activity. Consider how you might overcome this whilst remaining true to your original vision.
  • Sequencing of images could be important in helping you develop and communicate your idea/concept.

As I’ve progressed through the course I’ve used the techniques that have been highlighted in the course notes and exercises. Some I’ve found useful, others not so much. Some techniques I use regularly, others very infrequently.

Recently I’ve been making use of other techniques to improve the quality of my images, spot removal for instance.

One of the suggestions for the next assignment is to make use of the tone curve in order to improve the tonality and contrast in my images. I’ve started doing that with some photographs I took of seals while staying in Norfolk. I also looked at adjusting the saturation and vibrance in a couple of images, which I think make them better.

With regards to the assignment I had considered a number of techniques that would allow me to overlay the images. However, being of the keep it simple school of thought, decided to go with what I felt was the easiest.

The concept behind the series of images is one that I will try and explore further, with other subjects as well as the two that I’ve already used. However, before I undertake further shoots I need to refine the brief and also come up with a bit more of a narrative.

I think the point about directing the models better is a fair one. Although there wasn’t any probems communicating what I wanted, I gave a very high level of instruction and let them do what they wanted. Having a better idea of what I want to achieve I hope will allow better direction.

In general I think I hadn’t given enough thought about what I was trying to convey and the story I wanted to get across. I had a subject for the photographs (performers) and an idea of what I wanted to do (have the same person performing and viewing themselves) but hadn’t gone beyond that. Something I need to work at in the next section of the course.

Projects/ Exercises

Part 1. Series and sequence: good attempt at maintaining the crop – not easy in a
public space. Seasonal change is a well known example to explore. Returning
to previous ideas and exploring them in projects/exercises is beneficial. Good
to shoot a range of options – good that you reflected on that advice! Images
lack contrast, add slight a curve?

Part 2. Difficult as your sitter is sensitive to appearance, what did you feel about this
exercise, might you have chosen a different sitter?

Part 3. Couldn’t be accessed.

With Part 2, using another sitter would have meant arranging a time convenient to both of us when they could have dropped in and we could have taken the photos. The brief requiring us to take photos, and then allow the person being photographed to doctor the images in whatever way they saw fit required access to a printer or some other means of producing a print. Without ready access to this, the exercise involves a lot of scheduling of time and availability of everyone involved.

Part 3 just wasn’t there. When reading through the course notes I missed the part about researching Richard Billingham’s photos. I’ve remedied that now.

Learning Log/Blog

You continue to maintain a well populated learning log that features detailed notes and
thoughts on a range of exhibitions and visits. Interesting to read your reflections on Arbus – what do you think on her approach to her ‘subjects’, to those on the outskirts of the society of which she was a part. Do you find the work voyeuristic or do you think she had empathy with them? She is a much discussed/cited photographer, often much is made of the manner of her death but how much has this shaped our discourse around her?

Consider some of these issues when looking at the work and try to get less bogged down in the detail around her wider life story (husband, children, work etc.). This is important to some degree, but it is background information. What we are discussing here is the work on its own terms – what do you understand/feel when you look at her work – what response do you have to it?

Arbus was an interesting person, reading the biography showed that. What I didn’t do was move beyond the biodgraphy and explore her work in enough detail, critiquing some of her images. I’ll look to do that in another post, and also remember to do something similar with other photographers whose biographies I read. Although understanding who they are or were is important, exploring their work is the way to develop ourselves as photographers, looking at what it is appeals or intrigues us, draws us to them.

In response to the questions posed:

I don’t feel that her work is voyeuristic. I believe that she was drawn to the people that she chose to photograph because she had a certain empathy with them. They weren’t part of mainstream society, and she herself didn’t fit how society might have dictated she should behave. By photographing “freaks” and people who were different she was highlighting how diverse society is. Although her photos could be seen as voyeuristic I don’t think that she would have been able to capture the images she did without instilling trust in the people she photographed. No matter how good a photographer you might be, without your subject trusting you, you’ll never truly personal and intimate images.

I think the manner of her death will colour any discussion of her work. If you know something about a person, how they lived and even died then it will have an influence on how you see their work. If you know the circumstances around a photograph they’ve taken, you begin to see it differently.

For instance if you were to see an image of someone in the street and they appeared angry then you’d wonder what has caused them to be angry. If that person was part of a crowd at a demonstration then that anger could be directed at the target of the demonstration, police or armed forces that were policing the demonstration, people who were protesting against the demonstration. You could not be sure but could come up with multiple reasons. However, if you were then told that moments after the photograph was taken they ripped the camera away from the photographer you see the image differently and an entirely different set of reasons for their anger opens up.

If Arbus had died of old age, illness or in an accident then her work would be seen in a different light. Arbus taking her own life, colours how we see her work because it becomes the product of someone who struggled throughout her life, who didn’t always have control over the work she produced but did have control over the way her life ended. It also lends a degree of tragedy to her work and leave the question of how successful a photographer would she have become if she’d not committed suicide.

Suggested reading/viewing

You might enjoy the film on Diane Arbus ‘Fur’
A recent show in London at The Barbican ‘Photography on the Margins, more here: https://www.barbican.org.uk/our-story/press-room/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins
Do some more research around the show, read some reviews (it has since closed)
investigate some the practitioners listed further.
For the next assignment – have a look at the work of OCA tutor, Andy Hughes here:
http://www.andyhughes.net/

I’ll be looking at ‘Fur’ when the opportunity presents itself. An initial look at the trailer and reviews show a film that is a very artistic spin on Arbus; although based in part on fact, is focussed on a short period of her life, and which doesn’t touch upon her eventual suicide in any way.

For assignment 4 I want to try and build on some of the photos I took in Cyprus that reflect man’s impact on the environment. Although the assignment relates to still life I look to take this outside the confines of a studio/home and instead capture images in situ, but in a way that leaves the subject matter isolated from the environment and so making it unclear as to whether it is natural or constructed.

The biggest challenge being finding locations and creating the still life, do I capture objects as is or build something from them.

A Staged Photograph (Submission)

Brief

The brief for the assignment was to produce either:-

  • A staged photograph
  • Or to make a narrative sequence

Research

When I started thinking about this assignment I happened to be reading through Photography: The Whole Story and decided to see if it had anything about staged photography. It did. A lot.

One part had a photograph by Jeff Wall called Double Self-Portrait, MoMa (2007). Seeing this sparked the idea of doing something similar, using the simplest technique I could to produce the image.

Gregory Crewdson

The course notes suggested looking at Crewdson’s work found at http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/gregory-crewson/

Gregory Crewdsons work is “is meticulously planned and staged, in particular the lighting. In some instances, extra lighting and special effects such as artificial rain or dry ice are used to enhance a natural moment of twilight. In others, the effect of twilight is entirely artificially created.”

The link to Crewdson’s work relates to his work Twilight and contains a number of examples of the images he produced for that project. When looking at some of these images it is easy to imagine that some of them were caught at the exact right moment, in some of the others it is obvious that the scene is staged. For instance in his image of a car in the middle of a junction with a door wide open. There is no reason for the door being open, which leaves you wondering what is happening, has someone got out of the car, is the door open ready for someone to get in?

Another image that suggests it is staged is set outside a supermarket. The figure and car at the front of the scene suggest someone putting groceries in their car but the figures stance appears unnatural, almost mannequin like.

Loh. A, Vescovi. A, (2015) has an example of the image that stood out for me. It is of a woman stood alongside a car, with a bag of groceries on the bonnet and a second bag, spilled on the ground. A girl sits in the passenger seat while another girl stands in front of the car with her head down, only wearing underwear.

The woman by the car has a disappointed, disapproving look on her face.

The girl in front of the car has marks across her back.

What makes this image stand out for me is the figure of the girl. She has short hair, her arms are positioned in such a way that they hide parts of her body. It is a very androgynous look which leaves the possibility that this is not quite as it seems, is the figure actually a girl?

Untitled from Twilight - Gregory Crewdon - VAM.AC.UK
Untitled from Twilight – Gregory Crewdon – VAM.AC.UK

Hannah Starkey

Tate (un-dated) shows an example of Hannah Starkey’s work from 1999. The image is of two women in a bathroom/changing room. The arm of one of the women is partially in the shot but what you see of them is mainly their reflections, and the reflections of their reflections. Starkey has cleverly positioned the camera so that the woman closest to the mirror is visible between the first reflection of the second woman and her reflection in the mirror she is looking into. Almost as if the first woman is coming between the second woman and her reflection.

Starkey’s work involves staged scenes and the use of actors, Saatchi Gallery (2018). Her work explores “everyday experiences and observations of inner city life from a female perspective”, Wikipedia (2018) .

Starkey’s work also involves the use of mirrors, reflections and smoke. In an interview with Diarmuid Costello, The Telegraph (2011), Hannah Starkey about the use of mirrors in her work acts as an escape route in the image.

Starkey’s images are also very static with no obvious movement and no sense that the participants are conversing with each other. This is her way of ensuring that the images aren’t a mass of contradictions.

Final Images

Watching the Performers

For this assignment I roped in my friends Batty and Redd as models.

Each set of photos uses a single model who is both performing as well as watching the performance. To achieve the results the camera was set up on a tripod and a set of photos taken with the model performing. A second set of photos was then taken with them acting as audience. These photos were cropped using Photoshop and then using the Photomerge option, available from Adobe Bridge were merged together to create a single new image.

Fire Bat

Fire Bat - 01Fire Bat - 02Fire Bat - 03

Fire Bat - 04

Redd Wyne

Redd Wynn - 03Redd Wynn - 02Redd Wynn - 01

Reflection

This assignment allowed me to use a number of different skills and technique. Joining two images together wasn’t something I’d done a lot of before. It allowed me to explore the capabilities of Lightroom, Photoshop and Bridge.

I allowed the models to do their own thing with regards to movement and position, just as long as they stayed in the appropriate side of the shot.

I’m happy with both sets of images and feel both tell a story. Although I would like to revisit the second shoot but to take a bit more time over it.

This assignment reinforced the fact that I enjoy taking photos of people performing.

Contact Sheets

 

 

References

  1. Tate (un-dated) Hannah Starkey born 1971 Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/hannah-starkey-2683 [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  2. Saatchi Gallery (2018) Hannah Starkey: Selected works by Hannah Starkeey Available at:   https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/hannah_starkey.htm [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  3. Wikipedia (2018) Hanna Starkey Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Starkey [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  4. Artnet (2018) Hanna Starkey Available at:  http://www.artnet.com/artists/hannah-starkey/ [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  5. The Telegraph (2011) Hanna Starkey: In Conversation Available at:  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/8283609/Hannah-Starkey-In-Conversation.html [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  6. Loh. A, Vescovi. A, (2015) Interview with the Photographer Available at: http://theamericanreader.com/interview-with-photographer-gregory-crewdson/ [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  7. MoMA (2007) Jeff Wall – In His Own Words. Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/ [Accessed 5 June 2018]

 

A Staged Photograph (Assignment 3 – in progress)

Brief

The brief for the assignment was to produce either:-

  • A staged photograph
  • Or to make a narrative sequence

Research

When I started thinking about this assignment I happened to be reading through Photography: The Whole Story and decided to see if it had anything about staged photography. It did. A lot.

One part had a photograph by Jeff Wall called Double Self-Portrait, MoMa (2007). Seeing this sparked the idea of doing something similar, using the simplest technique I could to produce the image.

With a deadline of June 15th (extended from the 18th May) for the assignment, my initial thought for a staged photograph was to draft in the girls from the burlesque troupe and to use one of our dress rehearsals, of our routines, for Home Farm Festival for the assignment. Continuing with the theme of showing two, or more, aspects to something (the Janus image from assignment 2 and the sequence for exercise 3.3) I thought having the girls in a photo out of costume, while looking at themselves, in costume, in the same image, would be an interesting thing to try.

To achieve something believable would mean controlling all aspects of the environment but particular lighting.

As part of the preparation for the assignment I took several photos at the dance studio we use. In one of the photographs there is a chair on the left hand side of the image, in the other there is a chair on the right hand side. Both photos were cropped so that they contained just over half the photograph, with just enough overlap for Photoshop to stitch the two photos together into a single image. Doing this proved that my aim for the project was possible.

Gregory Crewdson

The course notes suggested looking at Crewdson’s work found at http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/gregory-crewson/

Gregory Crewdsons work is “is meticulously planned and staged, in particular the lighting. In some instances, extra lighting and special effects such as artificial rain or dry ice are used to enhance a natural moment of twilight. In others, the effect of twilight is entirely artificially created.”

The link to Crewdson’s work relates to his work Twilight and contains a number of examples of the images he produced for that project. When looking at some of these images it is easy to imagine that some of them were caught at the exact right moment, in some of the others it is obvious that the scene is staged. For instance in his image of a car in the middle of a junction with a door wide open. There is no reason for the door being open, which leaves you wondering what is happening, has someone got out of the car, is the door open ready for someone to get in?

Another image that suggests it is staged is set outside a supermarket. The figure and car at the front of the scene suggest someone putting groceries in their car but the figures stance appears unnatural, almost mannequin like.

Loh. A, Vescovi. A, (2015) has an example of the image that stood out for me. It is of a woman stood alongside a car, with a bag of groceries on the bonnet and a second bag, spilled on the ground. A girl sits in the passenger seat while another girl stands in front of the car with her head down, only wearing underwear.

The woman by the car has a disappointed, disapproving look on her face.

The girl in front of the car has marks across her back.

What makes this image stand out for me is the figure of the girl. She has short hair, her arms are positioned in such a way that they hide parts of her body. It is a very androgynous look which leaves the possibility that this is not quite as it seems, is the figure actually a girl?

Untitled from Twilight - Gregory Crewdon - VAM.AC.UK
Untitled from Twilight – Gregory Crewdon – VAM.AC.UK

Hannah Starkey

Tate (un-dated) shows an example of Hannah Starkey’s work from 1999. The image is of two women in a bathroom/changing room. The arm of one of the women is partially in the shot but what you see of them is mainly their reflections, and the reflections of their reflections. Starkey has cleverly positioned the camera so that the woman closest to the mirror is visible between the first reflection of the second woman and her reflection in the mirror she is looking into. Almost as if the first woman is coming between the second woman and her reflection.

Starkey’s work involves staged scenes and the use of actors, Saatchi Gallery (2018). Her work explores “everyday experiences and observations of inner city life from a female perspective”, Wikipedia (2018) .

Starkey’s work also involves the use of mirrors, reflections and smoke. In an interview with Diarmuid Costello, The Telegraph (2011), Hannah Starkey about the use of mirrors in her work acts as an escape route in the image.

Starkey’s images are also very static with no obvious movement and no sense that the participants are conversing with each other. This is her way of ensuring that the images aren’t a mass of contradictions.

Final Images

Watching the Performers

Fire Bat

Fire Bat 01 - 72dpi 1024 pixelFire Bat 03 - 72dpi 1024 pixelFire Bat 04 - 72dpi 1024 pixelFire Bat 02 - 72dpi 1024 pixel

 

Reflection

 

Contact Sheets

 

References

  1. Tate (un-dated) Hannah Starkey born 1971 Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/hannah-starkey-2683 [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  2. Saatchi Gallery (2018) Hannah Starkey: Selected works by Hannah Starkeey Available at:   https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/hannah_starkey.htm [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  3. Wikipedia (2018) Hanna Starkey Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Starkey [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  4. Artnet (2018) Hanna Starkey Available at:  http://www.artnet.com/artists/hannah-starkey/ [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  5. The Telegraph (2011) Hanna Starkey: In Conversation Available at:  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/8283609/Hannah-Starkey-In-Conversation.html [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  6. Loh. A, Vescovi. A, (2015) Interview with the Photographer Available at: http://theamericanreader.com/interview-with-photographer-gregory-crewdson/ [Accessed 28 May 2018]
  7. MoMA (2007) Jeff Wall – In His Own Words. Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/ [Accessed 5 June 2018]