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.

Photography as visual research

Photography is often used as a tool to document the specificity of visual appearances. We’re all familiar with this use in passport photography, anthropological photography and crime photography. There’s no pretence at aesthetic quality: the photographer points the camera at the subject and tries to take a neutral ‘visual document’ which stands as visual evidence for what it represents.

This mode of making pictures can be useful to all photographers as a means to research their subject. Whether this results in ‘finished’ pictures or not doesn’t really matter; it’s a means to gain visual knowledge. Take a look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh – a collection of family portraits originally taken as visual research for a painting project

It’s important to make a distinction here between what we can know through experience
and verbal language and what is specifically visual. Thoughts aren’t visual and neither are emotions, although you can photograph the physical manifestations of these. Just look at Billingham’s telling pictures of his dad to see this at work. Political ideologies aren’t visual either but you can photograph people and events that illustrate them.

Rickard (2010) and Hodsdon (2014) show a selection of images from Richard Billingham’s “Ray’s a Laugh”. An image search using Google (other search engines are available) brings up a lot more.

At first glance the images look very much like the snapshots that we are all familiar with that our parents or grandparents might have taken in the days before digital cameras. If I was to open up any of the photo albums or go into some of the boxes of photos I have at home I’d be able to find any number of photographs that have a similar feel to them.

And I think that is an important point. Looking at the images, the decor of the home, the poses, they seem familiar, comforting in some ways but also unsettling in others.

Comforting in that they bring back memories of growing up.

Unsettling in that they are almost voyeuristic, allowing the viewer to peer into moments that are intimate, personal. While also giving a sense of being part of things.

They also provide that intimate feeling because the images are sharing events that a lot of us can relate to but also events that most people would not want to share with the world.

References

  1. Rickard, D (2010) Richard Billingham: “Ray’s a Laugh” (2000) [online] Available at: https://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/07/richard-billingham-rays-laugh.html [Accessed 3rd July 2018]
  2. Hodsdon, C (2014) “Ray’s a Laugh” [online] Available at: https://www.juxtapoz.com/news/photography/ray-s-a-laugh/ [Accessed 3rd july 2018]

Re-Photographing

The brief for this exercise was:

Portrait

  1. Take a photo of a person’s face.
  2. Make a print about life-size and ask your model to affect their portrait – the print. The purpose here is to allow the sitter’s personality to affect their appearance. They can do anything to the print from drawing the classic spectacles and missing tooth to writing on it or cutting and tearing.
  3. When they’re done, ask the model to hold the print up to their face, possibly so that the features match, and make another photograph of the model. Of course this will depend on what they’ve done with the print.
  4. Print out this photo. It’s the second remove from ‘reality’ and it represents two distinct times and two experiences. In this way, the resulting photograph contains a creative process.

Final Images

So using my readily available model, I took several shots of them which I adjusted in Lightroom, exported out to jpeg files and then printed off. These were then handed over for them to alter in whichever way they saw fit. Further photographs were then taken while they held up the photograph in front of their face, as per the brief.

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Conclusion

I’ve not included contact sheets for this exercise and only included a subset of the images taken for this exercise. Just enough to demostrate that I’ve fulfilled the brief. After I’ve received feedback on assignment 3 I’ll take this post down because Tracey is very sensitive to her appearance.

 

 

Documenting Change

“Everything changes, weathers, grows or otherwise shows signs of transformation.”

The brief for this exercise was to make a sequence of photographs that shows the same subject, but in different states.

Any subject can be chosen but it needs to be clearly identified and the conditions of change that are to be shown need to be noted.

The end result of the exercise is to produce at least three images in the sequence that show the subjects different states and communicates the changes you’ve identified.


This exercise came up just a few days and weeks to late for me to make full use of some changes that were going on near where I live. There has been a lot of roadworks going on recently which has resulted in some major amounts of change.

One of the changes was the removal of a large amount of trees and grass opposite the entrance to a local superstore. By the time I reached this exercise all of the trees and grass had been removed. However, the intention is for further work to be done and so even missing the start of the changes documenting the rest of the work is entirely possible.

Another major change that was going on was the addition of traffic lights at a roundabout near to where I work. The work has caused a lot of problems because of narrowed lanes reducing the flow of traffic. Again the work had already started by the time this exercise came up but documenting the rest of the changes was again possible.

The final thing that I’m considering for this exercise is to photograph one of the trees outside the church I attend. Last year I took some photos of the tree when it was full of blossoms. Documenting the change that the tree goes through, from bare branches, through it full of blossoms until it is full of leaves would be an interesting activity.

All of the options above reflect growth and transformation.

By documenting all four I’m fulfilling one of the pieces of feedback I received for assignment 2, to shoot a range of options for each project and exercise.

One of the things that this exercise has highlighted for me, is the need to be aware of what is going on in the area you live and any changes that may be happening, because you never know when taking you camera out and photographing what is happening might be useful.

Final Images

The photos I decided upon for the final set of images were taken across the road from the church. The focus of the images is one of the trees whose branches were bare at the time I started the exercise. Over time buds appeared on the branches which were then followed by blossoms.

Exercise 3.4 - St James Church-6108Exercise 3.4 - St James Church-6842Exercise 3.4 - St James Church-7157

I’ve also included some close ups of the tree showing the changes is has undergone.

 

 

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Contact Sheets

 

 

Mixing Genres

The brief for this exercise was:

How could you mix genres together in one photograph?
Lets keep it simple and stick to the three easiest genres: landscape, portrait and still life (though you are free to use which ever genre you want.)
Choose a subject you’d like to photograph. It can be anything at all, a place, a person, an object or a story. Take your subject and add to it elements of the other genres.
This isn’t about chucking together random subjects – what you’re looking for is an effective, telling mix. For example, you could place a friend outside the house where she was born holding the wedding ring of her mother. Can you understand how each of theses elements resonates with each other?

Subject

The easiest genre for me to photograph is landscape. Where I live I have easy access to the countryside. The country park a few miles from Yeovil has views out over lowland areas.

To add a second genre to this I thought about still life. To achieve this I thought about adding something which obviously didn’t belong in the image. This brought me to the idea of using stuffed animals.

In addition to that I used made use of a large boulder and shot some figures from the film Aliens.

Final Images

Wolfie

Snowy and Friend

Dragon’s over Somerset

Exercise 3.6-7600

Alien Standoff

Reflection

Combining two different genres was interesting. The toy wolf is a lot more subtle, particular in the shot where it is in amongst the grass. I think it would be easy to confuse it for a real animal if you didn’t look closely. When it’s on the rock it is a lot more obvious that it isn’t real.

With the toy panda and bear I particularly liked the shot where the lcamera lens has produced a rainbow effect which draw the attention to the panda.

The dragon was just a bit of fun.

With the Ripley and Alien photos I was trying to reproduce something I’ve seen others do where they use small figures and place them amongst normal size plants, which then seem gigantic in comparison. The close up shot, made up mostly of the rock, makes the figures almost appear as if they are in an alien landscape.

Trying to merge landscape and small objects was a challenge. I think if I was to merge landscape with some form of still life in future I’d opt for much larger objects.

Contact Sheets

A Significant Place

The brief for this exercise was:

Think of a place that holds meaning for you. Note down the reasons why it matters. (For reasons of practicality, choose somewhere accessible.)
Think about how you could photograph that place in a way and in a light that reflects its meaning to you. Is there a particular viewpoint in your mind’s eye? A particular time of day? Make a photograph exactly as you have pre-visualised it and try to convey its special meaning to you in the photograph.
Does the photo reflect your memory at all? Do the colours seem right? If not, change them – and anything else that would help the photo resonate more powerfully.

A Significant Place

There are a number of places that have a significance to me. My parents’ home, where I grew up, the church we go to, the crematorium where my son’s ashes rest. Trying to decide on one place led me to consider Blenheim Palace, although it didn’t hurt that I was going to be racing a triathlon there. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to take as many photos as I would have liked but I did manage to capture some.

Final Images

Registration 2

Registration

Blenhim Palace 3

Blenhim Palace 2

The last two photos above don’t do the scale of the event justice. There were about 3000 triathletes of all abilities racing on the Saturday, with a similar number racing on the Sunday.

Just to show that I do occasionally get the other side of the camera here are some my partner took, before and after my race.

Blenheim Pre race (by Tracey)

Before, waiting for my swim wave to be called for the race briefing.

Blenheim post race (by Tracey)

Post race re-hydration. Honestly that is an isotonic drink (Erdinger 0.5% by volume)