Today has seen me complete a composite photo which I have worked on over the past few months (sen here). It was a project that I had begun a while ago, and then exercise 3.4 of Foundations in Photography required us to create a series of photo’s to document change, which I completed according to the brief. However, I also felt that I could use my anorexia project to document change in one photo.
I created a draft of the project and then sought feedback from my peers (seen here), which was very helpful. I have taken this into consideration since the draft photo, but the most helpful feedback that I received was from a peer who sent me a personal e-mail, and this has had the biggest impact upon my re-working of the photo. Thankyou Sarah.
The photo has many layers which include differing sizes of clothing, which progressively become smaller, all of which were photographed individually, parts of the body and the headstone background.
Sarah suggested that I change the emphasis of the head so that eye was prominent, because of its haunted and piercing gaze. So I erased the other elements of the face, and following comments about different parts of the body I have re-shot them this week.
There were times during which I over complicated things in Photoshop especially with using the background eraser. Overtime I have learned that as I had shot each part separately, I could return to the original photo, layer from background, and use the eraser rather than background eraser. This ensured there were no half erased areas, which looked untidy on my working PSD (the clothing photo has evidence of some partially erased areas). The eraser was better than selection tool – delete, because the selection tool was leaving tatty edges in areas where the tone was similar with the background. Again I have improved this with the photo’s that I made this week by shooting the subject upon a white background. This meant the selection tool became an effective method of getting rid of the unwanted parts of the photo’s.
On of the most tricky aspects has been lining up limbs so that they fit into the shape of the clothing, but I feel that I have got this right today by making use of the transform – warp/perspective tools.
Overall I am pleased with the result of this photo. I have achieved what I set out to achieve, showing the downward spiral of anorexia and change in body shape, but also I have managed to capture some emotion within the eye, as well as sadness I detect some fear as well. With the figure floating upon the tombstone in an ethereal manner, and the fading of the limbs, sinking into the clothing, then moving towards death becomes apparent.
When I create photography such as this I like to carry a message of hope, which comes in the form of the text which is found underneath the photo. Help is available, recovery is possible.
The brief asked us to produce a series of photo’s that reflect a piece of written material, and I completed this with my own photography earlier in the coursework (seen here). Having previously read ‘Behind The Image: Research In Photography’ By Anna Fox and Natashe Caruana (2012) I had started to make a photo archive which includes my own photography, photo’s purchased from EBAY and second-hand shops, and photography and articles from newspapers and journals. Creating the archive reminded me of the montage produced by Gerhard Richter’s series Atlas (seen here), in which he makes use of newspaper photo’s and sometimes overlays text from those same papers.
Initially I was attracted to Richter’s overpainting, and my first response to Atlas was quite negative, it wasn’t something that I liked. However, over a period of time this has grown upon me, and exercise 3.5 gave me the perfect opportunity to try something different.
The process of selecting which photos and text to include required me to experiment with which worked together on each individual plate, and then create a layout that symbolises the line(s) from the poem (signifier). For example the presentation ‘what is this life if full of care’ (below) is about connections and networks that we create throughout our life and create value for each of us.
‘No time to stand beneath the boughs (below) is a reflection upon how precious life is, and that it will end in death – let us enjoy the life we have by slowing down to appreciate it.
Some of the photo’s and text were cut carefully, and others I tore from the newspaper, I wanted to see the effect of each – my structured mind has resistance to having torn edges, and layouts that are not aligned. The non-aligned layouts work, it creates a scrap-book style, and the torn edges are effective as a physical collage, but this comes out poorly in the photographs of the art.
My aim was to create light box style digital images from the pastiches, and although the process for doing so takes just a few steps – Lightroom, set white balance the same in each image, adjust clarity, contrast, vibrance and exposure to create brightness in the text and pictures, adjustment brush up to the edge of each text/photo – increase exposure to maximum (bright white background). This sounds simple, however auto-mask was tricky for images with a white border and without auto mask the process was time-consuming. The process wasn’t 100% accurately even when I followed up with the auto-masked erase brush. Consequently I was left with some digital artifacts around the edges. They have been removed or altered in some places by exporting to Photoshop and painted out.
Relationship to current photographic trends
There is a lot of talk in relation to how the digitization of photography and the excellent cameras in smart phones, along with social media, have created a situation in which photographs are taken with ease, shared almost instantly and then deleted or never seen again, and only printed on very rare occasions.. The reaction by many professional and academic photographers has been to focus upon the materiality of photography by printing, creating photobooks and making use of scrapbooks and albums to store and present photography. I am in agreement with the argument and have begun to print my own photos, make photo-books and use appropriated images.
However, I don’t think the argument is as simple as it appears. The digitization of photography has meant that old and damaged photos have been saved by uploading them and digitally removing scratches and marks, adding colour, and creating archives or new print’s. There is a saying ‘What goes on the net, stays on the net’. What this means is that if I or you publish a photo on the world wide web, there is always the possibility that it remains as a record that could be permanent even if I delete it. As soon as a photo is published on-line it can be copied, downloaded for individual or collective use, re-posted in a positive manner, or used to troll and embarrass. Deleting my original post in no way guarantees that it has been removed from the web. My creative process has been a representation of this, and a rejection of the view that physical photos are the only ones with intrinsic value.
Although I created the collages as a physical piece of art, once I had created and photographed them I removed them from the white card and returned them to my archive. Yes I can recreate the physical object as a permanent record because I have kept the photo’s and text, but right now, none of these plates exist in the material form. The only places that these exist are on my hard drive and online. The digitization has provided me with a permanent record of the art I have created.
As mentioned previously, the use of the adjustment brush, which was necessary in order to achieve my objective, has left digital artifacts. You can’t see them unless you zoom in very close, but I can, I know where they exist. The use of WordPress slide show is the correct presentation for this sequence, however it isn’t possible to adjust the caption text colour on a free site. This meant that white text on a white background left the text unreadable. I have had to return to Photoshop and include a layer the length and position of the caption on the slide show, dark in colour, with reduced transparency, so that the text can be read. It works, but it is not how I want the presentation to be.
What an enjoyable and interesting project this has been for me. I love photography, so much I cannot express it enough in words. Becoming more involved with photography has increased my creative drive, and this has freed me up to let go of some of my rigid thinking so that I can explore and express myself with other media. Despite the challenges of the adjustment brush, technically this has been straight forward, creatively it has felt powerful and dynamic, but again very simple.
This has been my first attempt at working with these materials and this genre, and there is room for improvement. The photo’s in each plate work well with each other, but tI haven’t created a consistent sequence photographically, and wouldn’t be effective without the captions. Leisure is my favourite poem, and the words create a strong narrative, in future I can strengthen this by using photographs which connect from one plate to the next.
You know what – despite the imperfection (my perfectionism may be easing? Or that inner critical voice may be becoming a touch kinder?), I am pleased and excited about what I have produced.
I’m so pleased that I am now going out into the sun, walking to the cliff’s and I am going to stand and stare.
Fox, A and Caruana, N; 2012; Behind the image: Research in photography; Switzerland; AVA Publishing SA
The brief for exercise 3.10 can be found at the bottom of the page.
Gender and identity are important to me, and are significant around the world at the moment. People are being able to explore and express their identity, and statues, laws and policies are being changed to recognise that gender is not a male female polarisation. we all know that our chromosones and genitalia define whether we are legally a man or woman, but gender is not as simple as this.
What the bloody hell is gender I aks myself? Truth is I realy do not know. We are socialised into behaving in certain ways according to whether we are a man or woman/boy or girl. But if we are socialised into this behaviour then surely we cannot say that this is a true reflection on gender. Socialisation means that gender roles can be different depending upon culture, class, ethnicity and religion. Gender roles have also changed over the centuries. So is gender defined by what we wear and the unequal division of unpaid labour within the home, then to me, this is not gender, it’s culture. There is far more that I could explore here, becaue it’s a theme that matters to me, but I’ll leave that for another day.
When I read the brief for this exercise I knew that I would not be able to complete it. My anxiety is high at the moment, so I could not make a formal portrait of another person. But I did not want to avoid the exercise. After assignment two my tutor and I discussed how I could develop a body of work which explores identity, where I use masks and props with a variety of people, in a manner that they feel represents an aspect of their personality. I figured that I could do this with self-portrait for this exercise.
This has been one of the most fun photo shoots that I have made. It’s not perfect and there are some points of learning for me. This series will need to be re-worked in order to be added added to the Identity body of work (which will not be about gender per se).
The shoots took place over two weekends, and at slightly different times and lighting conditions, which is where the issues lay for me. The first weekend I shot the ‘female’ clothing with the male mask, and the following weekend the ‘male’ clothing and the ‘female’ mask. The props include the books on the sofa, which and in my hands (which are photography related), the photos above me in the seated photos, the book case, the crystals, two masks, different outfits of clothing.
In the diptychs that I have presented as a seperate post (see here) I have tried to match composition and tonal range, and in Lightroom have set the white balance the same through out the eight photos. Because I shot over two weekends then thematching composition is ok, but will be better with a re-work of the series. I have tried to demonstrate what may be defined as male body language where I am wearing the make clothing, and female poses in the female outfits. The clothing, body language and masks are a relay between the photos and the title ‘A question on gender and identity’. I felt that the title gives the viewer space for contemplation, without requiring further introductory text. People can make of it as they will.
In order for a successful re-work I need to
Invest in some lighting equipment
Have a technician to take the photos
Buy a new mask for when I am wearing the male clothing
Use a cream foundation as a base and then the powder on top
Re-touch lipstick frequently and use a slighlty brighter colour
Take all of the seated shots at the same time with all sets of clothing
Take all of the standing shots at the same time with all sets of clothing
More male clothing outfits
I made several hundred photos for this shoot so evaluation and selection has not been easy at all. It involved going through a process of adding picks and labels in Lightroom and going through the “cut” process in which i delete photos, on five occasions, and finally I printed contacts in black and white so that I could make the final selection by matching tonal range and composition, without the element of colour to disteract me.
Leaving out photos that I like, but that did not fit in with the series was hard. There were thre that I particularly liked, but as I am developing as a photographer I am learning to avoid attatchment and personal involvement where I can, so that I can have a more objective approach. This is very much a learning process and work in progress for me. The following are tow of those favourites.
Over all I am pleased with the diptychs that I have produced. They refelct aspects of my personality, the staging and composition are ok, but with room for improvement, and the masks and props work well.
The Final Four Diptychs
Brief:-How would you make a formal portrait of someone, that tells the viewer about that persons charachter, life and interests but remains subtle and restrained? Making a ‘formal’ portrait is a ‘real world’ scenario for most photographer. It’s generally a full-length portrait of a person whowing their whole figure deliberately posed to be the main subject of the composition. It wont include exessive display of emotion or activity. A formal portrait demands great care over the composition and the lighting. You will need to make many exposures to capture a meaningful portrait from your subject. Wait for your subject to relax. Be alert to their nuances of facial expression and gesture and try to find a ‘real’ face, not a self-conscious or smiling or ‘this is how I want ro be seen’ sort of face. By juxtaposing significant elements (props, setting, clothes) in the frame, you’re setting up a kind of ‘dialogue’ between them, in which a resonance should occur, but try to remain subtle. Before you start, research the photographs of Rineke Djkstra and look at Thomas Struth’s portraits on the Tate website:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks?aid=2339&ws=date&wv=grid
Brief:-You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you. Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Consider the framing, viewpoint, background, placement, light and composition. Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself ? Is there a difference? Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series. Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together.
This does not work for me at all. It is a series that I need to re shoot, or change to an alternate significant object, one in which I can recreate a significant object alongside similar objects. All three photos represent spirituality and an altar, but the backgrounds, positioning within the frame and composition are too far apart for this to work. With the Becher’s photos, the neutrality made their subjects stand out, but with my triptych there is no neutrality to give the object/subject definition.
It may work better if all of the alters were composed in an identical manner, and hight within the frame, but the third photo would need to have a similar coloured background. If I could arrange this then maybe the backgrounds with their own busyness would not matter as much. To be honest I think that I would prefer that to the bland neutrality of Becher. Although I do understand the point of the exercise. Similar objects which are framed and composed in a similar manner, enhances the definition of the subjects.
I would like to re-shoot this exercise, but right now I am not going to. I would like to complete this part of the course work, and I am six weeks beyond the agreed deadline. I have one more exercise to shoot, and then to evaluate and select my stage photo for assignment three.
The comment below by Jenna has been incredibly helpful for me. Not seeing where the second photo, my significant object, fitted in with the other two – has given me the opportunity to consider why.
My significant object is my altar. I don’t see it as being a fireplace, because it’s not, it’s my altar, the spiritual centre of my home. This includes the crystals at the base, next to gohonzon, and the pictures either side and above. They all have spiritual significance to me. A Nichiren Buddhist would recognize the gohonzon and know this is my altar, but nobody else would.
Because I only see this as my altar then I didn’t even consider that others would not recognise it as being so, and there is some very useful learning here. If I am going to display something of importance to me, then I need to consider whether a non involved/non knowing person would see what I do. What will they see? If I think they couldn’t have the same ‘knowing’ of my significant object that I do, then how can I present it in a context that makes this more accessible.
I’m no longer feeling dejected. Nothing had changed with the series, it still doesn’t work, but learning is remarkably empowering.
The third photo in the triptych is by Raina from the moon, of which she retains the copyright. Thankyou Raina.
Brief:-Choose a specific and defined context. It could involve a group of people with a particular interest, like beekeeping or amateur dramatics. It could be about a workplace, a church or a hobby. Amass a body of investigatory images about this subject over several days or weeks. Express a thorough visual knowledge of the subject: particular features, people, places, properties or characteristics. Ask questions of the subject and write these down. If it’s a hobby like fishing, what happens? Where does it happen? Who’s involved? What do they look like and what is their behaviour? A politician will behave very differently in a political discussion than if he’s out trekking in the mountains. Answer each of your questions through photographs. This involves ‘showing’ these things. You’ll probably need to ask permission from the people involved. Tell them you’re a photography student and are making a visual research project about them. Instead of one or two or even a series of ‘finished’ images, produce a series of contact sheets that contain many photographs capturing the essence of this defined context of activity.
Although I have completed an investigatory body of images, as per the brief, it has not included people, as per my anxiety around people.
My original career training was as a holistic therapist and I am trained in massage, aromoatherapy, reflexology and Indian head massage. I am also a Reiki master and a qualified crystal therapist, having undertaken a two year professional diploma in crystaland vibrational energy healing. Crystals are an important part of my life and I always several of them in my pocket, on the sofa next to me or in my hand. I have no jewellery but I have seen a beautiful pink moonstone necklace, and I would love to buy that when I get the cash-back from my new lenses. The photo’s include two pieces of blue moonstone and they are the first in the tumbled section. Moonstone is an oligoclase feldspar with two mineral structures (orthoclase and albite) that don’t combine properly when they have cooled (volcanic minerals). This means that the light diffracts and only reflects back different colours depending upon where the fractures between the two minerals are, and the depth to which they penetrate in the surrounding ignious rock.
Photographing crystals gave me the opportunity to explore them in their rough, natural, polished, cut and faceted forms, and this presents a narrative in its own right. It’s a shame that I have no access to a mine so that I could have photographed them in all of their environments.
I have included a few of my favourite photos individually, along with the PDF’s of the crystals which I photographed. Only my favourites have been developed a touch in Lightroom (exposure, tone curve, clarity), and they are shown presented below. The PDF’s have been left as shot.
Brief:-Make four photographs that document the place where you’re reading this and the act of reading it. Be as neutral, as dispassionate as possible. This is visual evidence. Space usually means a wide photographic description. Act may require a series of ‘shots’ as a movie does: ‘1I am 2reading this 3text in this 4place.’
Other than the image “I am” I have only used the auto tone in Lightroom, and re-size during the export procedure, so that I could follow the brief as closely as posible. My home is lived in. I utilise all available space, so although my floor appears messy, it is a working space which is for the things that I make most use of, and whatever I am currently working on – I am feeling embarrased to post these.
Text in this
When considering this exercise in relation to the brief relating Richard Billingham’s Rays A Laugh (seen here), I still cannot see that collecting visual evidence is an exercise that can be neutral. Maybe if a photographer was making scientific eveidence, a record of artifacts, medical and crime scene photography, then yes. But we as humans are designed to respond to other people and their lives. I bet that you do not look at the four photos above without having some kind of response. Again its clear that your response may not be the same as my own, but you will have a reponse. These photos have been made purely to collect visual evidence for a brief, for one of the exercises in my studies. They have been made over a very very brief instance of time, and yet I, and you, have either an emotional or cognitive analytical response. When people are involved in general life, there is no neutrality.