Exercise 5.1 – Set up a blog has been covered since day 1 of the Foundations in Photography course as I needed to set up this blog as my learning log.
Exercise 5.2 and 5.3 have been done a number of times throughout the course as I’ve needed to re-size images, uploaded them and create blog posts for the exercises, assignments and research points.
To complete the Exercises in Part 5 of the course I’ve decided to create a series of posts that use the steps from exercises 5.2 and 5.3. This is the first of them.
The photos below were taken a number of years ago when we were attending Bristol Childrens’ Hospital while my son was undergoing a bone marrow transplant. These photos are some of the ones from the day of his transplant.
Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to
help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to
question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be
over-critical, just honest.
Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.)
Research – online research about artists and different styles of photography, reading books about different aspect of photography as well as biographies, writing up the results of my research on my learning log.
Technical skills e.g. use of flash, lighting
Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords.
Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic.
Make a note of these key elements.
Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.
Addario, Hicks and Mieth are all photojournalists. Addario and Hicks, like Robert Capa, have spent time photographing in areas affected by war and conflict. Mieth documented life in the Depression and post-Depression era United States of America. All of these photographers show in their work, things that I aspire to achieve in my own work one day.
While researching Capa Ilearned about Gerda Taro, his lesser known partner and collaborator. As a result of this I’ve started to read up about her and the work that she achieved in a short life, including inventing the person that would become known as Robert Capa.
McCullin is someone who has photographed a wide range of things. He is most well known as a war photographer. Since starting the Foundations in Photography course I’ve been building up my library and it now contains a number of books about Don McCullin and his work.
I’ve read Unreasonable Behaviour his autobiography, as well as well as the books Don McCullin and Don McCullin In England.
In the end the photographer I selected was none of the above. I decided that I was going to look at someone whose work would force me to experiment in order to achieve what I was aimging for. I chose Irving Penn. The research I did about Penn can be found in Exercise 4.11 along with the results of my experimenting.
Juxtaposition in photography can be as simple as placing two photographs side by side.
But juxtaposition can also be said to happen within the frame in still life when objects are purposely placed together. In photomontage rougher and often amusing juxtapositions result from sticking bits of pictures together. Have a look at the work of John Heartfield and Hannah Höch to prepare for this exercise. Heartfield’s photomontages are politically charged images designed to express social ills: www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/heartfield For more advanced contemporary examples, search for Beate Gutschow’s ‘S’ series.
1. Get a few old magazines or newspapers.
2. Decide on a background picture – for example a large view of space or any place.
3. Now add to it a figure or at least the head and shoulders of a person.
4. Now find some other images that you can substitute for the person’s head (for
example a cabbage) or their eyes (telescopes) or mouth (a pothole). Stick them on
5. Photograph the result.
As you can see, the process tends to result in bizarre combinations. But there is a deeper
meaning to this process. By cutting and pasting fragments of images, you’re choosing
how a picture should be made and offering an interpretation of the different subjects you choose. You’re also constructing an image in a way that would be impossible to construct in reality.
As research for this exercise I looked at some of the work of Heartfield and Höch as suggested.
Heartfield (2019) has a small selection of his work but the piece Rationalization Is On The March is an excellent example of how you can use different items to make a humanoid figure, with a slightly Steampunk feel to it.
The Art Story (2019) shows examples from Höch’s work that highlight how artists have commented on those in power. Heads ofState and Cut With the Kitchen Knife Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany are examples of how different techniques can be used to achieve a result. In the former images of the German president and his Minister of Defence are used with ink drawings to make a statement. In the latter, cuttings are used to the same effect.
MoMA (2019) provides links to a number of pieces of Höch’s work. One that leaped out at me was Postcard to the artist’s sister. Although this has been achieved purely by writing in ink a similar effect could be achieved with words cut from magazines and newspapers.
Azurebumble (2011) highlights the work of Beate Gütschow who is known for constructing landscape photographs by utilising fragments of other images using a computer. None of the images look particularly as if they have been constructed, at first glance, but when you look closer things begin to stand out.
In image S #2 there is a water pump that wouldn’t look out of place on a farm but not in the middle of an industrial area.
In image S #24 there is what appears to be a very large ant in a plastic container and the stairs on the building appear more like something that you would see in a swimming pool with diving boards hanging off them.
In the image above I started off by including some text cut from a magazine “The Problem with Anxiety”. I decided that the text detracted from the image and so removed it for the version I finally went with. The set of stairs could easily be replaced with something like clouds or some other means of implying that the child is escaping from things.
The above image simply came from trying to combine different bits to make something that looked vaguely like a person. I was a bit disappointed with the positioning of the boot on the leg, need to take more care next time.
Not much to say about the above image, other than I could have been a bit neater with cutting out the camera lens.
1. Create a series of photographs that include deep shadow in much of the frame. You
could achieve this by using a black backdrop or by exposing in high contrast light as
in Part One Project 2 (Shadows).
2. Choose about four final images.
3. In Photoshop, place the images on top of one another and change the Blend Mode
to Screen (removes the black from the image) of the images above the lowest image.
Experiment with Luminosity and Colour blending modes. You may also want to reduce the Opacity of each image. Move them around with consideration for the sense of depth the image represents and try to create a final composite.
The image below was made by making a double exposure with a film camera. But you can do the same thing by using Layers in Photoshop. Russell Squires and Craig Hull, Doppelgängerism
The series of images below combine 3 photos taken at the Space Centre in Leicester. Two of the photos are of a Soyuz capsule but from different angles. Changing the blend mode resulted in very different effects. The opacity of the images that were used for layers 2 and 3 I found were limited in what I could do. Too high an opacity percentage and they obliterated the other layers, too low and you lost all detail. Getting something that allowed all three images to be seen was a bit of a balancing act.
The blend mode for each image has been added in brackets to the caption. In all cases the same mode was used for layer 2 and layer 3. Using combinations of modes would have led to even more possibilities.
Below are the three photos that were combined in the images above.
What We Worship
In March I visited Cyprus again and for a few days stayed in Ayia Napa. One of the days I paid a visit to the monastery located in the centre of the town and took a series of photos. For the series of images below I used shots taken through an archway of the church in the main part of the monastery.
I then used a photo of a rocket, obtained at the Space Centre, and overlaid the monastery image with this. In set of images #1 I had only part of the arch showing. In iamges #2 I had the full arch. When I overlaid the rocket itwas slightly to one side of the image and so I moved it slightly to the right so the top of the rocket connected with the centre of the arch.
The idea to mix the images of the monastery and rocket was inspired by one of the original Planet of the Apes movies where a group of humans were worshipping a nuclear missile.
Combining the images juxtiposes traditional worship of God/Gods/Goddesses with more modern worship of technology and power.
In both sets of images I particularly like the Hard Mix and Difference blends as they make the rocket stand out more while not overwhelming the image of the church.
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:
• Power struggle
• 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
Send your final image(s) and your text to your tutor.
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.
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.
Busselle, M (1999). Better Picture Guide To Still Life & Close-up Photography. Switzerland: Rotovision
Perweiler, G (1984) Secrets of Studio Still Life Photography. 1st edn. New York: Amphoto.
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.
Last summer I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the 4th assignment in the course. The theme was man’s impact on the environment and with that in mind I took some photos while out walking near the sea while we were in Norfolk.
I don’t think that the photos meet the brief for a still life, however, they did give help me refine some ideas around what I wanted to do.
Although my original intention to collect some of the things that people leave on a beach and use them to make a still life didn’t happen, it’s amazing how clean beaches can be at the end of the season, during a recent run in the countryside I noticed so much rubbish that people just abandon. Looking at some of the items it’s not people accidentally dropping things, it’s people deliberately throwing them from vehicles.
So the next time I go out that way for a run will be with a rucsack and some gloves to collect the more interesting items that I can then use to make some still lifes from.
When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.
Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express
something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis.
• Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things
around without getting into trouble!
• Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you.
• Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.
• Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another
photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be
anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a
particular tree in a landscape.
• Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool
or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has
been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.
• Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the
image below, it may not need it.
At New Year we were in the Cotswolds visiting my in-laws. While we were there some squirrels had been playing in the trees in the garden. I popped out with my camera to take some photos of one of them high in the trees. While I was doing that my gaze wandered around the garden. It is somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time when we’ve stayed with my sister-in-law, playing with the children or just chilling out.
Looking around I saw many of the things that the kids and I had played with over the years. I found myself thinking that these were great examples of presence and absence. The swings and slides, the abandoned football, the trampoline covered with branches, placed in front of the goal. The bikes leaning against the house.
All things that were once used by the kids when they were little but now abandoned, never to be used again.
I know that this doesn’t exactly fit the exercise brief but I do feel that it highlights presence and absence.