IAP submitted for assessment
It is with great releif that I have posted my assignment off for assessment in November!
I decided to use the concept of gravestones being the last piece of our identity we leave behind as the starting point for this assignment in the hopes of creating a series of portraits of people I dont know who are not in the image. (or are they?)
You can read the assignment here: Assignment 5
Below is the contact sheet for the edited selection the final selection was made from these images:
What we Leave behind
I had a bit of a brain storm about the idea of portraits without people and I occurred to me that when we are dead and gone (prompted by assignment 4) all we leave behind is our grave stone. This upset me a little as now both my parents are dead and they were both cremated and put in the garden of remembrance at the crematorium and there is no grave stone, just a number.
This led me to think about what the grave said about the people left behind and doing some research I came up with the following contextual facts:
EDIT: since writing up the assignment here is a link to the data that is easier to read: Context and Critical Analysis
I felt I was getting much closer to the final assignment.
Portraits without people
I found the work of Jessica Nonnenman, she did almost the same thing as I did in Exercise 5.1 taking images of peoples things and creating a portrait of a person without them being there.
It got me thinking that I would like to do portraits without people but that it needs to be different to this:
A5 Initial Thoughts
The fifth assignment is a free choice to do something of your own that is drawn from the work already done in the module:
I thought about all the parts so far and made a list and a brain storm of ideas:
From this I did another mind map looking at what had already been done in IAP to use as a kind of ideas board:
Next I used mind mapping again to expand what I thought Identity and Place had contained for me so far, trying to unpack the title into the essence of what I had done in the course and derive some ideas from that. I came up with the following:
Studying all of the parts I had written dowm I distilled the whole thing into the following groups of Ideas:
I now need to think and reflect on all of this to come up with some ideas, I enjoyed the exercise of portraits with no people taken on the photography table and I keep coming back to shooting portraits of people who are not in the image.
I spent some time getting set up for this exercise, I chose the route pictured above to use for this assignment, I initially drove the route and decided that it was really hard to find places to stop and take pictures, I could not shoot out of the window while driving as this would be difficult and illegal. My solution was to set up my tripod in the passenger seat of the car and to set the camera facing out of the open window. I attached an intervalometer to the camera and set it to take one image every minute.
I started in the drive way and set off the intavalometer, I then drove the route to the club. I turned around an let the camera take images of the opposite side of the road.
In the final edit I used a selection of images from the outbound and homeward bound trip to tell the story the locations of the images are marked on the map.
This was surprisingly successful, there were a lot of blurred and out of focus images but there were also enough good ones to complete the exercise in one trip and return.
The full results can be seen here: Exercise 5.3
Opening my big mouth
I was looking at the student forum and responded to a post about the structure of our blogs, I asked Clive and Peter what they thought of mine.
I was quite pleased with how tech mine was all buttons and set out like a filing cupboard, Imagine my shock when they both almost vomited at the thought of having to mark it and me with assessment approaching in November. I am going to have to re think this I want to make the main page for each module a rolling blog of my posts and thoughts and have seperate posts for each exercise and assignment. I will attempt to remove all menus not relating to the module being viewed and above all reduce the clicks.
This will have to be done after the assignment is in but hopefully you are now reading this in the new format as it must be done before assessment.
Oh dear so much more work, but I am grateful for Clive White’s words of wisdom as ever he helped me see the proper path.
Not sure where I am going with this exercise, I sat in the front bedroom window for an hour and wrote everything I saw down the write up is self explanitory
Read it here: Exercise 5.2
Critical Theory a Lecture
I have been a member of the Aldershot Farnham and Fleet Camera Club AFFCC for a number of years, and over the last couple have been invited to give a few talks about different subjects, I ran a series of intermediate lessons on Flash photography and studio work. I was asked on the Monday if I could fill in for a lecturer who had fallen ill so had 3 days to write a presentation, I put forward a number of ideas and they chose Critical Theory.
I have to say that threw me a little as it is not the sort of audience that normally study critical theory, so I would have to make it accessible to all levels of people.
I wrote and delivered the lecture and it was met with a great deal of enthusiasm. I have uploaded a video of the slides here to demonstrate what I did, this of course does not have the commentary from the night so some of it will loose its context. What I did find was the process of building the presentation and making each point as understandable as possible gave me a deeper understanding of the subject than I started with. I know I must have been crazy to say yes to doing this but the outcome was well worth the effort in the end. I post it here as evidence of my path of learning:
I really loved doing this exercise, it gave me a chance to try out the new photography table I built in my work shed.
I created portraits of people in my life without any people, namely my Mum, my Dad and my two daughters, it was extremely satisfying and gave the new table a good shake down.
I really like the idea of portraits without people and think I may extend this in some way to the last assignment.
The exercise can be found here: Exercise 5.1
Back to Cotton
Research point 1 made us re read Chapter 4 of the Charlotte Cotton Book The Photograph as Contemporary Art and answer some questions:
Here is my response: Research Point 1
Part 5 Reflection Point 1
This reflection point was for me to ponder the questions as asked.
You can read my responses here: Reflection Point 1
Feeling good, I submitted A4 quicker than anticipated and I can start A5 ahead of schedule, things are looking good for the deadline of 30th August. I am now getting on with A5 while I wait for a response from Keith’s tutor feedback. My biggest concern is that although Keith is aware of the deadlines, I have a feeling he will be going on holiday which may delay feedback, he has assured me that it will all be ok and I should press on.
Finishing Assignment 4
This has been an emotional roller coaster, I found 10 more places to photograph and I printed them out ready for the redaction by fire, this time I was going to think about my health:
Using a mask I burned holes in the other ten images, I lost control on a couple of occasions and ended up with more hole than image so I had to redo them but eventually I had Eleven images redacted by fire.
The full work and breakdown of the assignment can be seen here along with the 500 word reflective commentary: Assignment 4: Image and Text
Loosing sight of the text
It struck me that I had lost sight of the fact that the assignment should be about image and text, plainly there is a sub text to these images but certainly not one for each image, although I have yet to work out the rest of them.
In thinking this through I remembered the work Sharon Boothroyd was doing when she was my TAOP tutor, she made a series of work which all sat under the title of “If you get Married again will you still love me”, each shot was a powerful image that echoed those words, which made me realize that the work needed a text but not necessarily a different text for each image.
I cast around doing hundreds of internet searches for texts by named individuals, I just kept drawing blanks for something that worked with the images I was planning, then I had one of those head slapping moments, Sharon did not find a famous quote either, she wrote her own words, and for me this all fell into place, it was an extension of the work within me to create my own words and in some way it was stronger because they would be part of that hollow pain I had felt inside, in some ways someone else’s words would depersonalise my experience, they needed to be my own too.
I sat down in in one fairly swift sitting wrote:
There are places that remind me of them, somehow there seems to be a void or vacuum in that place where their existence has ceased to be. It leaves a hollow place somewhere inside of me.
– Stephen Barney
This worked for me and I have decided to use it as an overall text for the assignment rather than making a text for every image.
The experience in the shed made me realise that there were all sorts of places and objects that generated a similar reaction, having lost both Mum and Dad the problem was multiplied, and I assume that the Nocturne project and my personal revelation, had bought it to the forefront of my mind. I kept thinking of this void or space and it made me think about redaction of letters during the war, I did some research and found that redaction also often left a void for the families as they would get letters and have no idea what was said as it had been redacted, this was worse when the soldier was the killed and the gaps never filled in. I saw one letter that had everything blacked out bar about two words. It would have made no sense at all and I wondered why anyone would send it after that, then reading another article I discovered the answer, even that heavily redacted letter was proof that the loved one was still alive, or had been when it was written.
Casting my thoughts back to the workshop I had an idea to create an image of the drill with my Dad redacted out:
It seemed better but I still wanted something else, it was then that the idea hit me, I had a burning void a painful place and nothing represents that better than a burning hole, so I took the image down the shed and burned a hole where the redaction should be:
I felt better doing that, its almost like an anger that is purged by the fire, very therapeutic, however if I am to do a whole series I need to take some precautions the smoke and noxious vapors made me really ill all of the next week.
Today I was doing some work in my work shed, I should elaborate, its my Dads workshop, he originally built it back in the early 80’s to run a small engineering business which he did very successfully for many years until he retired. Originally it was full of metalworking machinery, most of which he sold when he retired. After retiring he bought some woodwork machinery so that he could make stuff as a hobby, he was a very competent model maker having done it professionally for films as a younger man. This shed is now mine since he died and I do all sorts of things in there from woodwork to photography.
I was clearing out some of the rubbish to make room for a product photography table, this meant re arranging some of the machines. I was standing looking at my handy work when my gaze fell on his pillar drill, this had been in the shed since the original days of the engineering. I was suddenly taken down one of those memory trips remembering everything connected to the drill and Dads work in the workshop, me helping him set it up and working for him at weekends the things he had mad for me and my family of the creation of a set of bunk beds for my kids as they needed to be a specific size to fin in the house. everything flooded back and there was a hole in the shed where he no longer stoo, I sat there weeping and crying my eyes out thinking about it. Its making me cry again just writing this
If you have ever lost someone dear to you and it has driven you to tears, you will know what I mean when I say that once you stop crying you hurt physically inside, its an odd hollow pain, it gave me the image of a void, that there was a space that had something missing, and I feel like its going to be the basis for my next assignment.
Kirsty Mitchell Inspires again
Kirsty Mitchell has been an inspiration to me so many times now I was browsing her web site:
I own a first edition copy of Wonderland and have been somewhat obsessed with her work, I was looking at her previous work Nocturne, which is a darker work that really expresses her pain and anger at her Mothers illness and then the utter grief of her loss:
Having looked through the images I started to read the Story Behind Nocturne
I took a screen shot of the words they moved me so much:
The motivation for this project was pain and loss, it seemed to me to be very powerful and it resonates with my own life at the moment, having lost both my Mum and Dad so recently, I confess to spending a fair amount of time brooding over Nocturne and doing some of my own grieving, it was a rather physically painful process.
This has me thinking about using loss within Assignment 4 though at the moment I am not sure how.
Thinking about Assignment 4
My first thoughts were looking for a bit of text with which to base the assignment on, my daughter gave me a poem that My Mum had given her which it seems was the first poem Dad gave mum when they started dating:
She had written it in my daughters autograph book that she bought when moving up to senior school. I tried hard to find the author but I think it was some words in a greeting card, as Mum had always said how good Dad was at finding greetings cards with meaningful words. I am struggling to match this with a body of work for A5 and I am also aware that its only one bit of text, I feel like i need different aligned quotes for each picture. Though that may be wrong.
Working on Exercise 4.5
Text an images is the brief for the exercise, I looked for some text to play with and found a series of quotes from Abraham Lincoln, I really needed four and there were dozens of them so I printed them all out in strips and sorted through them brainstorming what sort of image the conjured up in my head:
I gradually edited down the selection of quotes to four and kept brainstorming ideas for images.
You can read the complete exercise here: Exercise 4.5
I had some fun picking out some news images and inventing captions that told a completely different story.
You can see this exercise here Exercise 4.4
For this exercise we were asked to create a story where the picture does not depend on the text and the text adds something to the story/
As someone who is not great at drawing I decided to create some “drawn Images” using some Photoshop tricks from a catalogue of images I took last year at Loxwood Joust, I thought these could tell an interesting story.
The exercise can be found here: Exercise 4.3
Rhetoric of the image
A paper by Roland Barthes, we were asked to read this and comment on some questions this can be found here Research point 1
In this exercise we were asked to go out and photograph advertising to look at how text was used. I found that some of the advertising was impossible to photograph. I.e. I could not park or there was nowhere to stand, some I shot through the window of the car at traffic lights, but this was dangerous and I did not want to get stopped by the police, so I took not of the remaining adds and went to the web to find them, this was much more successful.
Read the results here Exercise 4.2
I had a bit of a moment studying Erwitt, when I came across this:
I have heard many stories of the segregation of Blacks and Whites, I grew up i an era that was inherently racist, I found myself having to throw off the indoctrinated ideas I was fed as a child, especially as I made good friends with people of all races. I think of myself as someone who has risen above those nasty ideas. Seeing this image shocked me in a way none of the dogma and stories ever did. I look at this image and am staggered that someone went to all the trouble of installing a second sink of a marked lower quality so that White and Colored would not use the same sink. When I contemplate this the only reason for doing this is to insult and degrade people of colour, I find it utterly distasteful, however I find the image has had such a marked effect on me that I cannot say anything bad about it, if an image can have an effect on someone like this it must have hit the spot.
Its strange because the image is not technically that great its not straight and in terms of composition cuts off most of the chap using the sink. However it has a punch that hits well above its weight technically. It brings to me the writing of Bathes who could not understand why everyone else was not getting excited by the picture of Napoleons brother, who’s eyes had gazed on the emperor. This is for me a strong pointer towards the meaning of a punctum.
Some images teach you far more than they would first appear to be able to, this strange simple shot is now one of my favorite as an explanation of what makes you like an image, in this image if you have never been told about the Black white segregation the image may just confuse or leave you wondering what its been taken for.
Read my comments on Dawns post about the Lurpack advert.
Goals in Sight
I have spoken to the office at the OCA and contacted Keith, I have now set the time line for the last two assignments. I have been told that Assignment 5 must be sent to Keith for feedback by 30th of August, the email will trigger the successful completion of the module. I will then book assessment in November and send all of the materials off by the specified dates in September. As soon as the 5th assignment is sent I will be allowed to register for Landscape Level 2.
I have also applied for student finance so all of my Ducks are now in a row and I have some hard work to do.
Tutor Feedback Assignment 3
Received my feedback from Keith today
Over all I am happy with the feedback, the assignment was sent to me directly from hell to punish me for being naughty as a child so the fact it worked in the end and Keith’s comments are positive I will take that to the bank. In all honesty I felt I just had to complete this assignment and move on an in the end I am happy its fit for purpose, I would not hold it up as my best work but it fulfills the requirement. so I am going to pack it up and move on.
A3 Complete at last
Finally I have completed assignment 3 I visited teh yard one more time and have managed to edit the sequence down to the required 15 shots, which I do feel now reflect the life at the stable yard. I had to edit out a lot of the horse portraits because they did not add much to the story. I have tied to keep the body to images that depict the work and life at the yard, though there is still one portrait of the horse that was so good at being bathed I felt I had to leave him in.
The assignment can be viewed here: Assignment 3: Mirrors and Windows
A3 Visit 2 and 3
Since my last post I have visited two more times to the yard and taken some very specific shots for the series, I now have lots more images than I need but I am still going to visit one more time to ensure I get all the images I want. The people have been wonderful and are so willing. It has mad this most difficult assignment rush by once I had a mission.
I will do my last visit and then write up the results
A3 First visit to the stables
My first trip to the stables went well I was able to sit and talk to everyone, share tea and doughnuts (great way to anyone’s heart bring doughnuts). The yard is populated by a group of really nice and helpful women who were only too happy to share what they do with me and allow me to take pictures of them doing it.
On looking at the images I have too many horse portraits and riding pictures, next time I want to get some images of work on the yard, though I got some nice images of bath time for one of the horses.
I have arranged to visit again next Saturday, the only down side is the lack of any toilets on the yard.
The Train is back on the tracks
I have wasted so much time on this assignment, I have now got to push on, I spoke to Annukka and she has organised for me to go to her stables on Saturday to meet people and take some pictures. My plan is to do this look at the results and visit again several more times to get the images I want for the series. Hopefully I can talk to everyone and get to know them and what they do.
Still De Railed
I have not posted in some time I am still floored by this and am finding it so hard to get my self moving on this. I have already some while ago had to extend my deadline I how have to finish by 30 August 2017, which means I have one less year in the bag for HE5, if I don’t finish IAP by then I will have to re start.
I tried the camera club again and that was awful the images were so bad I can’t use them. I am thinking about going to my Friend Annukka’s stable yard if that can be arranged.
The third assignment is starting to give me nightmares, I have found it to be the most difficult one to do so far and I am stumped as to what to do. Add to this I am now working in Swindon my creative juice is drying up.
The last exercise is a rather reflective piece about how under represented people or groups could be badly or unhelpfully portrayed.
I have written a piece that reflects on my experience in part 1 with the Nepalese Community.
You can read it here: Exercise 3.3
I got stuck on this exercise trying to decide what to write, its incredibly hard to write down the characteristics of your own personality.
I think in a way I cheated but the result was deeper than I would have done on my own, I decided to take an online Meyers Briggs test and use the results from that.
I found that the results echoed well with what I know about myself so I was happy to use this as the output of this exercise.
Read the full exercise here: Exercise 3.2
The first exercise in part three was to understand the meaning of mirrors and windows in this context, we were asked to pick 10 images from our back catalogue and decide if they reflected a mirror or a window. we then had to comment on why we had catagorised them this way.
I found that some images were quite obvious, some could be argued both ways and some were really difficult, the final result was based solely on my opinion at the time and I would be happy to debate the choices and be proven wrong.
You can see what I chose, how I catagorised it and why here: Exercise 3.1
Assignment 2: Visa Versa
The assignment was quite open, it wanted us to take what had worked in this part and expand on it to make a themed body of work.
I have been the photographer in residence at the chapel studio for most of the summer and have had almost unrestricted access to the space, I have a large lighting set up and have been indulging in a lot of studio practice so I felt that this assignment needed to be in the studio.
I was thinking about Douglas Huebler’s experiment with Bernd Beecher called variable piece 101, which made me contemplate the idea that you could express emotion using facial expression and body language.
I was looking at the model of emotion by Robert Plutchik which defined the following emotions:
I was fortunate to be doing a shoot with the lovely Megan who is working on her muscles for a pure elite competition and wanted some images for her portfolio, so at the end I hijacked her and got her to act each of those emotions.
Spurred on by the success of this I decided I wanted to find 8 different models (different model same background) to act each emotion and thus also incorporate another aspect of the module so far.
I found my subjects and got each one to pul;l all eight emotions, I then took the whole body of images and edited them down so I had the best of each emotion, I then had to decide where there the same person was best which to keep and what to replace the rejected image with. I finally ended up with all 8 emotions each one played by a different model. The final edit was tough and some great images were rejected but the final selection worked as a body.
You can see the assignment here: Assignment 2 Visa Versa
Using a Light Meter
I occurred to me that I am supposed to record the things I learned when doing this module, well this is something I refreshed rather than learned but it is a very important part of the technical side of studio photography.
In the past I have like many people relied on the wonder of digital photography’s ability to use trial and error, however it seemed to me that we did not do that in the days of film and that I was loosing something of the skill of a photographer by doing this.
What I am talking about is bracketing the exposure and tweaking the lights and keep re-shooting until the lighting is perfect, what set me off on this quest was watching a video of Andre Serrano working in Cuba with his trusty Hasselblad medium format film camera. He was spending a lot of time with a light meter doing calculations then taking a polaroid the measuring again and tweaking the settings until he was happy before exposing the film.
I had been taught to set up my desired exposure often 125/sec at somewhere about f16 (I later discovered the was because the studio I learned in had 1200W flash heads I have 300W Flash heads) then to adjust the lighting until the right balance was had to paint the light where it was desired. Then take an image and adjust the aperture until the result was perfect.
This does work and many photographers do it this way, I however am doing a degree which is meant to be about learning so I decided to refresh my knowledge and use a light meter. I am very lucky to have a rather nice Sekonic light meter which is also a spot meter, I bought this for black and white film work to help me use the zone system.
So this is what I learned:
First my set up:
The setup consists of the lights to be metered and my light meter mounted on a stand where the model should be. Here is a 3D render of that, please excuse the use of a speed-light to represent the light meter but there is no light meter on a stand in the tool box in Set A Light:
The light meter was set to take a reading when it detected a flash, I started with the key light and switched off the fill light, stet the power of the key light to about 50% and took a reading.
Lets assume it read f5.6 at 125/second, I now have to decide what ratio I am aiming for, lets say we want a 4:1 ratio so we get quite a difference. From the chart I posted earlier I would need a 2 stop difference between the lights to acheive this, so the fill light would need to give a reading of f11.
I switched off the key light switched on the fill light and again tested the flash, if the reading is not f11 the power must be adjusted up or down to bring the reading to f11.
Sometimes the light can be switched down to minimum power and it is still too bright to get a reading of f11, in this case you must either increase the key light so that it is 2 stops brighter than the eventual reading of the fill light or you can move the fill light back and rely on the inverse square law to make the light fall off quickly enough to make the desired f11 reading. Be careful of this last method as it can change the look and feel of your lighting set up.
Once you have the setup correct you set your camera to the reading from the key light, it is important to remember that the correct reading renders the light to an 18% grey level in the image so you may have to increase or decrease the aperture to get the desired contrast range. This is something that the zone system takes care of if creating black and white.
Exercise 2.4: Same background different model
The last exercise in this part is a reversal of the previous, it requires the same background and different models, since I had access to the Chapel studio I decided that this was a perfect time to head back into the studio and have some fun with lights. I set up a cloudy background and some lights and had a blast taking portraits in the studio.
I decided to go for the isolated head and shoulder shot as it is one of my favorite ways to photograph people and it has roots in the isolation of Irving Penn and the stark pictures of August Sander. All of these images were taken using a ratio set up with two lights Key and fill and a rim light behind.
The full exercise can be read here: Exercise 2.4 Same background different model
Loop Lighting is similar to Rembrandt lighting however the shadow from the nose does not meet the shadow on the side of the face.
This is a single light setup where the key light is set about 45 degrees to the face and a little higher than in Rembrandt lighting, you will find you have to adjust the angles and height to get the right shaped shadow, a modeling light helps a lot here. the true angle will not be 45 degrees but will vary according to the shape and length of the models nose.
Loop lighting did not seem to need the flag or blocker used in the Rembrandt setup as the reflected light helped with the illumination of the dark side of the face, which should be filled with more light than the Rembrandt setup.This setup can work for men and women as it is a little more flattering, it was often used alongside the butterfly lighting for some of those classic Hollywood posters.
Rembrandt Lighting takes its name from the style of painting by Rembrandt, no surprises there. Apparently Rembrandt worked in a studio with a skylight which would cast a light on one side of the models face, the style was characterized by the triangular pool of light cast under the eye on the dark side of the portrait, this was caused by the shadow of the nose on one side and the side of the face falling away from the light source.
The key light should be level with or slightly above the line of the nose and approximately at 45 degrees to the model. It takes a bit of trial and error to get it exactly right when doing this in a studio so experiment with the height and position of the light until the effect is achieved.
In Set A Light I found I needed a flag or light blocker on the opposite side of the model to stop the bounced light filling the dark side of the face, and true to form the same proved to be true in real life, demonstrating the accuracy of this modeling tool. In real life I hve a set of stand mounted reflectors that are rectangular and I made black covers for them which work really well for this.
Here is the basic setup which mirrors almost exactly what I had to do in the studio:
And again into the studio to put it all into practice, Its worth noting that Rembrandt Lighting is more suited to a male model as it is quite a harsh lighting scheme and not designed to flatter the way some of the other schemes do, thus it is a rugged lighting that suits the persona of a man:
The key light delivers the most light except when using a ratio of 1:1 which is a rather flat and unattractive set up. The idea is to add more light to one side of the face and less light to the other to create a difference in shadow as can be seen in the image to the left. The bigger the difference in the power of the two flashes the darker the fill side will be.
The ratio is worked out by the number of stops between the output of the Key light and the output of the fill light, so:
1:1 Ratio – Same output
2:1 Ratio – 1 stop Difference
4:1 Ratio – 2 stop Difference
8:1 Ratio – 3 stop Difference
|Key Light at f5.6 and Fill light at f5.6 is a 1:1 ratio
Key Light at f5.6 and Fill light at f8 is a 2:1 ratio
Key Light at f4 and Fill light at f8 is a 4:1 ratio
Key Light at f8 and Fill light at f22 is a 8:1 ratio
The ratio is the difference between the meter reading from each light fired on its own.
The basic setup looks like this:
Butterfly lighting also known as Paramount or Dietrich lighting after Marlena Dietrich, who refused to have her picture taken with any other set up. It takes the name butterfly from the small shadow that is cast by the nose from the main light which is set at about 45 degrees above the subject.
The setup requires a main light mounted on a boom which should be above the model at about 45 degrees to their face. This is all that is mandatory for this setup but it is also convention to add two rear lights to define the shape of the model, and this makes a much more pleasing image.
The camera is set directly in front of the model and shoots under the main light. in most cases the main light is fitted with a beauty dish to give a smooth light that flattens the imperfections in the skin, a soft box can also be used, if shooting a young person with good skin the beauty dish can be used on its own or with a honeycomb to straighten the light, for older people and people with less perfect skin it is a good idea to cover the dish with a difuser or to use a soft box instead. A beauty dish with a difuser acts very much like a soft box.
This is the basic set up:
In this diagram the key light is the Beauty dish set above the model, the two back lights are not essential but they create a rim light around the model that removes her from the background. One of the nice features of Set A Light is the ability to move around the 3D studio and produce a picture to remind you when you get to the real studio. One thing to mention about Set A Light is that there are no booms in the equipment list, the way they suggest adding a boom is to turn off the stand so that the light looks like it is hovering and place it where the end of the boom would be. This makes sense when building a set up in Set A Light as it stops all the stands getting in the way:
I have been very lucky to be given the position of photographer in residence at the Chapel in Ash Vale which is giving me a lot of opportunity to test and lean all I can about studio photography. All that was left was to go to the studio and try this out, Here is a quick iPhone grab of the set up:
And the result:
Set A Light
I recently bought a copy of Set a Light software to enable me to test and model lighting setups before going to the studio. I have found it to be an amazing bit of software allowing you to move lights around attach different modifiers, play with power settings and rotate around the studio in 3D to see what is going on. When you are happy it will output a vast range of information in multiple formats including a test photo, set up diagrams to which you can add dimensions. There are a selection of models which you can change attire and pose, some even have an auto pose in which they move through a sequence of poses.
Exercise 2.3: Same model different background
For this exercise the object was to take my model to different locations and shoot her against different backgrounds. For this I chose to use my daughter Claire as she is a willing guinea pig and she has a lot of attributes to her character.
The premise was to shoot her against different backgrounds each a highlight of a different aspect of her character or personality. For this I chose book worm, christian, out doors person, scholar, and archeologist.
I located a set of appropriate locations and we went on a road trip to make the images.
The results can be seen here: Exercise 2.3 Same model different background
Exercise 2.2 Covert Photography
We were asked to take the camera and go out and take people who were unaware of us. As discussed I took my truck to Farnham Park and set up a tripod and seat in the flat bed fitted a long lens and prepared to shoot images of people who were unaware. This was an unmitigated disaster, I found the only people I could focus on over the hedge into the park was a group of new mum’s and their babies in some sort of mother and baby group. I felt like some sort of peeping Tom it really did not sit at6 all well so I abandoned my position.
My backup plan was to hide in plain sight just like the Private eye website had recommended, so I set up in the long tunnel of trees in the park as though doing a landscape image and secretly photographed people as the walked along the path. By using a long lens I was able to shoot people at some distance while they were unaware of me. I then pantomimed moving awy from the camera as the walked closer as though I was waiting for them to leave the shot.
It all went well and the results can be seen Here: Exercise 2.2 Covert
I started looking into different types of clandestine photography, having thought about bird hides as a way of taking images without frightening off the subject I also came across the whole shady world of covert photography in the form of private investigation, strangely there was a lot of advice that related to my next exercise.
They recommend long lenses and taking cover in your car, I thought about this and was reminded of Ansel Adams shooting from a plat5form on his station wagon
I looked at Walker Evans in previous modules he was an interesting photographer who was most famous for his work with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) for who he took a series of images depicting the effects of the depression on the farming community.
This time however I looked more at the work he did with a hidden camera on the Subway of New York, Evans was really the father of this sort of clandestine photography and has been much imitated, not many of the people who followed him managed to do anything new in my opinion and I would rather look at these black and white images than say Martin Parr’s foreheads in the Japanese Subway.
I have always liked the work of Walker Evans and really enjoyed studying these images, I was intrigued by some of the expressions of people who appear to be staring right at the lens of the camera, which was concealed under his coat, I wonder how many people knew they were being photographed.
Having studied the work of Walker Evans, who really started the secret camera in the subway trend and looked at photographers like Martin Parr who essentially copied the idea in the Japanese Subway. I have noted that many photographers have tried this idea of the concealed camera. The person who for me has a really fresh take on this kind of photography is Philip-Lorca diCorcia the link will take to to my pinterest board of his work.
diCorcia set up his camera and a flash in scaffolding and used a trigger to fire the camera as people walked by, the use of flash to fill give the images a bit of a night time feel and produced some interesting results.
One of the outcomes of this series was that diCorcia was sued by a Jewish gentleman who claimed that diCorcia had no right to take his photograph and profit from it, the judge ruled against him and diCorcia was vindicated adding more legislation to the public photography argument.
Out of all the covert images I have seen diCorcia’s work moves me most, it has a haunting quality that seems to pick the subject and lift it from the crowd.
Exercise 2.1: Individual Spaces
Based on the ideas put forward in the previous post I decided to take three portraits of people in an environment that meant something to them, I also tried to set each one in a different type of semiosphere.
To this end the Public semiosphere involved taking a portrait of a Vicar in front of an alter, which seemed to me to be the closest thing I could find to public semiotics, I shot a guitarist in his studio for group which should be understandable to anyone who is involved in music, and for Personal I took my friend doing some work for a book he is writing that no one really understands but him, that is until he publishes the book.
This makes an interesting point as personal when shared becomes group so the whole thing is ever changing.
These were the results:
You can read the whole thing here: Exercise 2.1 Individual Spaces
I have done a lot of reading over the last four years about Semiotics and Iconography and have commented about this in previous modules, the study I have been doing recently uncovered the subject of semiospheres which has really stuck with me. The idea that everyone has their own set of experience and that these are sometimes personal, sometimes shared as a group or sometimes part of the wider public experience of the world. I have become fascinated by the way our own experience can influence our work sometimes to the extent that only we can understand it.
I have before postulated that as a photographer we need to include the viewer in the relevant semiosphere or they will either not understand the wok or they will assign it a meaning of their own. This could be a good thing or not depending what you are trying to acheive with your work.
This ideology has significan impact on the first exercise in Part 2 for me. for a full discussion see my contextualization and critical analysis for the exercise
Assignment 1 Feedback
The Tutor feedback is here: Tutor Feedback
My reflection on the feedback is here: Reflection
I was very pleased with the feedback and I was especially please that Keith identified with the idea of photographing the Nepalese Community. It was also somewhat gratifying that he liked the idea I abandoned, recommending that I go back one day and complete this project, whilst I would like to, I am not sure I can while I still have so much to do for my degree, time will tell if this becomes something I end up pursuing further.
Over all everything was positive, I have noted that I need to be more serious and use less humor, and I am a victim of my Achilles heal, which is the small typos, will be getting someone to proof read for me before assessment.
I also mad an error in writing my opinion about the writings of someone else, I have removed this and am duly admonished.
On to Part 2 now
Today I went to Aldershot for the start of the Sunday Market, I parked my car on the outskirts and walked across to the market, I found a group outside the Library, after taking some real time plucking up the courage a went up to a group of men on the benches outside the Library. Their first reaction was one of suspicion, I had not realised the effect that the rise in racism and anti Nepalese sentiment had had on them. They were worried that I was trying to show how crowded Aldershot is with immigrants. Once I explained that I was doing a degree and I wanted to take nice images of them, their attitude changed, they were the most lovely people I have ever met and could not have been more helpful. I spent all morning walking about asking people if I could take their picture, to which almost everyone responded positively, one old lady demanded that I take hers, she was so sweet.
I was thinking about the August Sander work at this point and decided that I would take very similar images of each individual, doing a street portrait rather than Street photography. In each case I isolated their head and shoulders against the background in a style similar to the ideas of Irving Penn.
I was so happy with the final results I edited them down to nine images and presented them as a typography:
The final results can be seen here: Assignment 1 the Non Unfamiliar
The story of the development of the assignment is here
I have discovered that the Nepalese Community like to visit the Market on a Sunday in Aldershot, I am therefore going to have another go at this assignment on Sunday, fingers crossed.
The Nepalese Community
I decided to go out and try to shoot some images of the Nepalese community in Aldershot, I have driven all over Aldershot and not spotted a single Nepalese person, which is strange because normally they seem to be everywhere. I went to the Buddhist Temple by Aldershot football ground but there appeared to be no one there and I could not get in. I thought I would drive to Manor Park and photograph them walking around there as there is nearly always Nepalese there. Again there were non to be found.
I repeated this on several days and have so far drawn a blank.
A1 Searching for Ideas
I have been chewing over different Ideas for my first assignment having rejected the Vicar Project I have looked at the Salvation Army and found a similar problem with scheduling so it looks like its not viable either. I took some images at the camera club but, I can’t work up a reason for them they simply don’t fit the brief especially as they are people I know. I am considering the idea of photographing the Nepalese community in Aldershot.
Throwing out the Vicars
After much soul searching I have decided that the Vicar Project is not a viable option, I think it has a lot of merit and as a project in its own right would be a very interesting study. However the process of organising 9 or ten Vicars in different locations to be available some who will only be around on a Sunday which is their busiest day, is completely non viable in my time frame, at the very best it would take 9 weeks just to shoot 9 Vicars assuming you could organise one every week.
It is with a heavy heart that I will abandon this project for now and look at something else, my wife suggested the Salvation Army I am not sure about that yet.
Time and Vicars
The project to photograph Vicars and their churches has hit a road bump, the problem is that Vicars are really busy people and whilst most of them are keen to help their time availability is proving to make this an impossibility in the time I have available to me. I think I may have to take a long hard look at this and do some soul searching as I don’t believe I can complete this project in a time frame suitable for this module. I have a deadline of August 2016 to finish HE4, I could borrow a year from HE5 but I would lie to avoid this and the timing of this assignment will not help me stay on track.
I will think long and hard and make some hard decisions.
A1 Some Initial thoughts
The assignment is looking to us to go out and find people we don’t know and engage with them to produce a series of portraits.
My first though is to find a series of vicars and photograph them in the churches, probably in the same way. My initial idea was based on the fact that the Bishop of Guildford has just changed and I thought it would be an incredible gift to give him a book of all the churches and vicars in his diocese, some research into this made me realise that this was a huge undertaking that I may not be able to finish.
Taming my ideas a little I thought it would be good to get in touch with a number of the Vicars and produce this as a small subset, to this end I obtained a directory of members of the Guildford Diocese from a friend who works for them. I identified a super set of vicars and am busily contacting them and trying to arrange times and locations.
Exercise 1.4: Archival intervention
I have completes Exercise 1.4, I went through the family archive and decided to use a series of images depicting me and my ancestors going back to my great grandfather.
You can Find the full write up here: Exercise 1.4 Archival intervention
Edward Chambré Hardman – The Double Negative
I got to look at the work my Tutor Keith Roberts is doing on the Edward Chambré Hardman collection, as research for the next exercise. The work Keith is doing with this archive is of immense help preparing for the exercise on the archive. Keith took the Hardman collection and produce a digital searchable database.
Hardman took lots of portraits as part of his work, but had a passion for landscape photography. The portraits were of course meant only for the customers that ordered them and existed in the collection as a series of glass negatives stored in metal biscuit tins.
Hardman took images of clients and often took the same person at different points in their life, the records document things about the person giving a wonderful and rich set of data with which to explore.
One of the things that strikes me about this wok is that it has for the first time put Hardmans portrait work on display, known for his landscapes we can see the brilliance of the man in his portraits.
Huebler captured my attention because of his work Variable Piece #101 in which he photographed well known Typographer Bernd Beecher. In the session he gave Beecher a series of characters to portray, the list contained: Bernd Beecher, Wise Guy, Spy, old man. artist, policemen, priest, philosopher, criminal and lover.
He shot Beecher as he pulled faces to convey the character he had been given, Huebler went away and produced prints which he did not show to Beecher for a month, when he asked him to identify the faces he had pulled. It seems that the project was only displayed in the order that Beecher subsequently identified them, I have not been able to find a clue to the original order which I think may have been and interesting clue.
Was Huebler poking fun at the idea that identity could be conveyed by facial expression or was this a serious experiment, I suspect the former however I cant find any reference to confirm or deny this.
While studying August Sander I started looking at Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe’s work is somewhat edgy, looking at the human form and in some cases having the homoerotic feel to them. Non the less his work has a powerful edge to it that is rooted in the work of Sander and others.
One of his most haunting images is the one he took of himself some time after being diagnosed with HIV, he pictures himself against a black background holding a skull cane, the black shirt he is wearing blends into the background making Mapplethorpe’s head appear to float alongside the deaths head of his cane, I wonder if he is deliberately pulling so many death metaphors together in one image, even his own visage looks a bit like a death mask, gaunt as it is from his illness. It is almost paying tribute to the fate he knew awaited him at the time of this photograph.
Saying this the black dark key style was common to Mapplethorpe’s work and does not always seem to convey the same level of doom, for instance the male nudes he shot seem to revere the male form from their low key background and because many are of well muscled and athletic individuals they seem to convey heath rather than death. To this end I think that the sick face of Mapplethorpe in the former image is responsible for the felling that the image seems to convey.
I collected a number of images from Robert Mapplethorpe here on Pinterest
Exercise 1.2 Background as a context
I have been studying August Sander and some of the people who were inspired by him like Diane Arbus, Douglas Huebler, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jason Evans. I may be guilty of drilling too deeply into the idea that the character of a person will be reflected in and image, I think Sanders idea that the character can be conveyed by expression, clothing and background is true however it is equally possible to make someone into something they are not using the same technique, I am almost certain that the identity of the person in the picture is a creation of the photographer. If the photographer decides to shoot a picture to convey a persons real character then it probably will but equally if the photographer decides that his image will show a fictional character then it also probably will. the degree to which this is effective is down to the skill of the photographer.
The 1980 movie the shining starring Jack Nicholson is famed for this Iconic image
In this image we see a crazy man who has just broken through the door with an axe, that is not the personality or character of Jack Nicholson, it is the personality of the character he plays, here the background facial expression and hair all add to the illusion created by Nicholson of the character he is playing. This is an image that was set up by the photographer to convey the character not the actor
In the image I took for this exercise the profession of Dog Walker is made obvious by the attire and the pack of dogs set in the woods. You can decide for yourself by looking at the Exercise here: Exercise 1.2 Background as a context
I was pondering the research into August Sander and his thoughts on expression, dress/props and background. I noticed that he took a series of images of Political Prisoners, and when you look at his work it seems possible to pick out them out from the group. I started to wonder why this was, most of them were head and shoulder portraits. Was I seeing proof that the images did in some way convey the personality or was there some trick of the photographer.
These are the Sander Political Prisoners images: August Sander – Political Prisoners
I decided to take it one step further, I collected a set of images of serial killers portraits found on the internet in pinterest which can ve viewed here: Portraits of killers I showed these to my wife and asked her what she thought without telling her what they were, her response was “They look like a bunch of killers”. Not the most scientific experiment but everyone I showed them too had a similar response. I suspect we have been conditioned to react this way to this type of image and that there is something about the way the picture is taken that leads us to feel this way.
I have long been a fan of David Bailey, I first became aware of him when I was quite young, and he started appearing on a lot of Olympus adds on the TV with the rouge character of Arthur Daley taking the rise out of him for using an Olympus Trip, The Iconic phrase “David who?” did a lot to bring his already popular name to the forefront in the 70’s. I was quite obsessed with photography since I was about 8, and in those days we did not have the luxury of the internet to find out who was doing what so triggers like this advert was the main way of finding out who was who. I was a bit young to travel to London and visit exhibitions then, I also remember seeing a documentary on Patrick Litchfield, so for a long time these were the only two photographers I knew much about.
Later studying photography, the work of David Bailey was something I looked further into and I found a style that was hard hitting and edgy. His use of high key backgrounds and single source lighting gives his work a voice that we as students can dream of. It is certain that when displayed work by David Bailey stands out as his. He developed a reputation in the 60’s such that famous people were desperate to be his model and it became a kind of status symbol.
His exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was something not to be missed, entitled Stardust I thought it was magnificent the image of Michael Caine was printed large and hung high which gave it a more dominating presence. Each room had a theme like his work with the rolling stones or his fashion work, in total there were two rooms of fashion and beauty work showing some of the icons that have modeled for him.
In the Wolfson Gallery I actually got to see the box of pinups I had read so much about. It is inspiring to be among these images as I have admired the man for so many years and there was something far more breath taking to see the real thing than to browse them on the internet. A feeling I did not get with the images of Andy Warhol at the photographers gallery.
Just finished Exercise 1.1 looking at a historic portrait, I chose David Baileys picture of Michael Caine which I consider to be one of the most iconic pictures by David Bailey.
You can read the full exercise here: Exercise 1.1
I have been researching August Sander and have come to the conclusion that he is one of the most key figures in the development of portrait photography. His method was based around the idea that he could depict the character and identity of a person via the facial expression, clothing and props and the background in which they are set.
Douglas Huebler took a rather tongue in cheek look at this with his variable piece 101, in which he got Bernd Beecher to pose as different characters, he got him to look at the results some months later and published them as Bernd Beecher remembered them rather than as they were first shot.
From my research and reading I suspect that the truth is that it is the photographer that creates an identity for the sitter, which may be carefully constructed to reflect the reality of the person or constructed in such a way as to reflect a desired image like a picture of an actor displaying them as the character rather than themselves. I suspect this theme will be a big part of the rest of this course.
For this module I have changed the way I do research I summarized the method in my notebook like this:
For each topic I have created a page in my one note with all the sound bytes and related items and tagged them for their relevance, this allows me to draw on the most important elements when building the contextualization and reference them in my critical analysis. I can then draw all the ideas I find around a subject before pulling them into the exercise or assignment. I have found this a very productive process which as helped a lot in moving my work forward. While some may find this a bit mechanical, I need to remember that underneath everything I am still and engineer and as much as I want to move towards the artist there is still much that can be used and leveraged from my engineering training and a logical approach.
The Story So Far
The question at this point is where are we in the study of Identity and Place? At the moment I feel like I have been drawn to look at what a portrait is and what we mean by place or space, at this point most of the work has been quite introvert, looking at myself and my place in the world, both in terms of my image using social media as a platform for projecting a picture of myself and how I want the world to see me, and in terms of the space I live in.
While doing the square Mile I did find myself reminiscing on events that have happened over the last fifty odd years, in relation to the area around my house. I also realised that the image I project via my social media profile picture is a mask, it hides all the crack’s and glosses over my weight issues. If I am honest its more a portrait of a Bronica than of me but it does convey one part of my identity as someone obsessed by photography.
Exercise The Square Mile
This being the first of the new modules I have studied I have not done the Square Mile exercise before so I set out to complete it.
I made a map from google maps to see where the square mile ended and quickly decided that much of it was inaccessible and the edges were too far for my poor legs to walk, I am still recovering from a knee problem.
I took the camera and did the walk as best as I could, actually I was rather pleased with myself as I managed to stay upright for far longer than expected although I could hardly stand when I got home. The exercise was far too vernacular for me and the results did not work as amazing photographs to me though I think they serve their purpose.
You can read the full exercise and see the images here: Exercise: The square mile
Reflection Point 2
Had something of a blast doing this I have a very abstract profile image:
I would have liked to shoot this in the studio, but expense and availibilty prevented me from doing this, so I set up mu lighting in the freshly cleared out garage for this shoot.
I set up a pair of strobes at roughly 45 degrees and set up a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio between the key light and the fill light, I wanted some variation to convey form but not deep shadows as I wanted to move away from the abstract image above.
The hardest part of taking images of yourself is getting to be in the right part of the frame and pulling the right expression while you are doing it, suffice to say there are lots of images from that shoot that will never see the light of day.I did end up with an image that I liked:
As you can see the key light is on the right of the picture and the fill to the left, taken against a black background for that low key effect, I cropped the image square as this fits better with the social media purpose of this image.
While I like the new image I still prefere my abstract one looking through my Bronica.
You can read the full write up here: Reflection Point 2
I find it interesting how these new modules have been written they seem to be so much better than the old one’s, having read through the first part and done the first reflection point I feel that these exercises will help a lot with guiding the course of my study. In previous modules I felt a bit like a ship without a rudder, this module is at least giving me a brief to work from.
While this does not stop me from branching out and widening my study it does help me to stay on the overall journey much more effectively than before. I am really excited for this module and hope to learn a lot from it.
I have completed reflection point one and the explanation can be found here: Reflection Point 1
A New Module
Excited to start this new module I am looking forward to more people photography, I have been working in a studio and I think this will become really useful in this module cant wait to get going