Richard and Action Man would like to wish you a happy and creative new year, and year ahead.
The photo-montage and photo video are my own work, and the music is provided by Dj’s From Mars. I am very grateful that they gave me permission to use their work. Thank you DJ’s From Mars.
You can check Dj’s From Mars on many platforms including:-
No Stigmas is a mental health organisation who has the aim of helping people to develop peer to peer communities, to provide mutual support to others with mental health difficulties. They also provide training so that you can support your self as a self-advocate, and be part of strong peer networks.
Anyone with mental health problems can join and registration is straightforward.
As well as a little intro that I put together they linked to a poem that I wrote last year about talking myself back from a suicide attempt to reaching out for support. It can be seen here.
We are not alone if we have the courage to reach out for support.
When The Fun Stops, Stop?
Gambling addiction is a serious problem in the UK and unless you live with, or are a close friend of a person with a gambling problem, then it is hidden from society. Substance misuse and problem drinking are far more apparent to the wider public, than gambling is. The harms associated with problem gambling may include debt, non-payment of bills/mortgage/rent, risk of eviction, domestic abuse, arguments, relationship break down, loss of employment and severe mental health issues, to name just a few (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2014).
The Gambling Commission reports that 430,000 people have a serious gambling addiction and a further 2 million people are at severe or moderate risk of developing a gambling addiction (gamblingcommision.gov.uk, 2017).
Although I am in favour of the work provided by charities such as begambleaware.org, GamCare and whenthefunstops, I feel very strongly that the Government could do more to address gambling and the harms that it causes to individuals, families and communities. However, the Government receives £1.5bn in revenue from the gambling industry (Parliament UK, 2009), and to make a real effort to address the problem would both cost money and reduce income. It has a vested interest in appearing to address the issue, but I believe it has no intent on doing so.
My own personal opinion is also that “when the fun stops” is ineffective. It may have a limited impact upon those with a moderate risk of developing a gambling problem, but I do not believe that it has an impact upon those who have a gambling addiction. The other side of the coin is that their advertising is targeted towards a male audience, who out-weigh women considerably when it comes to gambling addiction, and uses male celebrities who endorse responsible gambling. Which ever way I look at it though, it’s treating a gaping wound with a sticking plaster.
- Bankruptcy papers
- Cider Bottle
Point of view perspective from the person with the gambling addiction, highlighting how seriously gambling has affected their life, despite the seriousness of the consequences they still continue to gamble, drowning sorrows, help is available.
- Shadow of bottle points to “D-day for Buick”, and the horse – is itD-day for the gambler – carry on despite the consequences or stop?
- The pen dissects the “when the fun stops” advert from the racing form guide, and also points to “Lucky Beggar”. this is both ironic and potentially the motivating factor for the gambler to place another bet.
- Red and yellow “when the fun stops advert” is bright and draws the eye in, but is a small part of the overall picture, highlighting my belief that the visible pretense to tackle gambling addiction is a fraction of what is really going on.
- Insolvency papers at the foot of the photo, clear, crisp, and directly in the line of sight of the gambler – highlights a pressing issue, but the background highlights their cognitive dissonance.
I wanted to make this shoot outdoors and somewhere which was sunny, and I knew that for the point of view perspective I would need a close shot. I feel uncomfortable around people at the moment because of poor mental health, so shooting in public was not easy. I began to shoot using my OMD EM10 MK iii, but even with the Mzuiko 14-42 I couldn’t get the shot wide enough to cover all elements. I switched to using my Huawei P10 smart phone, which gives me a wider field of view, and its a good camera. It shoots in 20MP Raw and has dual Leica lens.
My initial plan was to also have the phone open on a gambling app and have that as a prop in the scene as well. However, I couldn’t get the screen bright enough for it to be a relevent prop, and the extra element in the scene didn’t work either. It became an element that was there for the sake of pushing an idea, rather than being effective staging.
The bankruptcy papers had an individual name, the court case number and the Court which heard the case, none of which are appropriate to publish. This meant that obtaining a balanced and successful composition was difficult to achieve, and it took several attempts to achieve my desired outcome.
I cannot include the PDF contact sheets because they include some of the above identifiers.
The idea and its exploration are strong and relevent, with problem gambling featuring in the news regularly in the UK. Because there was a period of time before the initial idea and the shoot, then the production technique and style developed over that time, so I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to produce, and I believe that the narrative which was important for me to explore comes across very well. The composition is something that particularly please me, and I feel that the use of props have created a balanced visual element which keeps my eye within the frame, and the pen and shadow have worked well for this.
What is also apparent to me is that I responded to the difficulties that I encountered, and worked around what was there.
All blog posts rom part three Communication: Narrative can be seen here.
If you think that you may have a problem with gambling be aware that help is available and recovery is possible.
Daily Hansard; 2009; Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con); Online AT: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm091105/debtext/91105-0021.htm (accessed on 21/06/2018)
Dr’s Boden, H and Sanju, G; 2014; Problem Gambling; Online AT: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/problemgambling.aspx (accessed on 21/06/2018)
Gambling Commision; 2017; Strategy 2018 – 2021 Making Gambling Fairer and Safer; Online AT: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/Strategy-2018-2021.pdf (accessed on 21/06/2018)
Other Viewed Material
https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/08/uks-gambling-habits-whats-really-happening (accessed on 21/06/2018)
https://www.ft.com/content/c9da45f0-ee5f-11e4-88e3-00144feab7de (accessed on 21/06/2018)
http://www.whenthefunstops.co.uk/ (accessed on 21/06/18)
https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/ (accessed on 21/06/2018)
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
Just because I don’t live in the US doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t nurture myself.
Everyday provides the opportunity to do something that demonstrates kindness and compassion towards myself. How easy it is to demonstrate those qualities towards others, and how challenging to practice self care.
I brought some flowers yesterday as a prop for a photography exercise. They were good enough for the photo shoot as they were laying flat, but they were too limp for a vase.
When I meditated this morning I decided to buy myself a bunch of flowers, however why buy one bunch when you can treat yourself to two.
Neither bunch had the right colour balance on their own, and that’s the reason for getting them both.
When I write my gratitude list tonight it will include – I am grateful that I treated myself kindly today.
Relief, joy and pride at completing this project, which I have been working on since January 2017. I can’t believe that I have finished it, and I am very pleased with the result. A photomontage that includes almost 500 photos of graffiti, tags and street art.
Idea Development:- Walking around with my camera I noticed writing on the wall, not tags, not street art, just writing. My assumption was that if people are excluded from some participation in society, if their voice is ignored, then they will find a way to express themselves. Self expression is a vital part of the development of self-identity and involvement in culture, community and society. The working title for this project was “Making my mark”. At this stage I had no idea of where I was going to go with this, just that I wanted to take as many photos as I could so that I could develop this at some point in the future. Street art often looks wonderful, and so do tags, and they both stem from the same roots, but I felt that it was just as important to include things that people had scrawled on the wall in marker pen. The writing may be plain but I felt that it strongly fitted with the sociological theme that I wished to explore and express.
Watching Anti-Social (Reg Travis; 2015) helped me to consider how these forms of expression are part of a youth counter-culture that is often anti-establishment in nature, but is only so because they are excluded from politics and society on some level, from policies that discriminate against young adults, a lack of engagement from the political elite (who ignore young adults as they have been seen as non-voters) and social and financial inequality.
I have read a couple of interesting snippets from books which I found links too on Google Scholar (an amzing site to discover reputable sources and peer reviewed research). These explained how graffiti developed as a means of personal and political expression by those who have been both under and misrepresented, and whom have also been heavily disadvantaged within their societies (Rhan; 2002; Lupton and Power; 2002; 118).
What pulled the project together though was a comedy clip that I viewed on YouTube at the end of last year (Russell Howard’s Good News Extra; Series 7, Episode 11; 2012). Towards the end of the clip Nathan Caton discuss his brother and his friends and how they use the word “standard”, which I then looked up as a colloquialism to find out that one of its definitions means “it goes without saying” (Urban Dictionary; 2018). The penny dropped at this point about how I could make a montage of many photos with the word “standard” as the backdrop, and “When you take away my voice” as the title.
The basic part of the technique was to go out with my camera and take the photos. When I saw exercise 3.2 Series, typology, I figured that I could make use of this project for the exercise. My intent is to make the kind of photography that matters to me as a theme for the exercises on the course whenever it is possible to do so. This meant that I had to get a wriggle on with taking the photos, which I managed to do on a holiday in Cork, and the final push was a planned two-day visit to Leeds just to make photos for this project.
Thank god for my computer. I have 16GB ram and 4GB dedicated NVIDIA graphics card, which was needed for the amount of layers that I used in Photoshop. At the end of the project the working PSB was 10.2GB, and although for the first 200 of layers my equipment could keep up, during the later stages lag was a significant problem. My computer is not connected to a monitor but a 48inch 4K TV. This was also a necessity for a project of this size (240cm by 135cm, 16:9 format).
The first process was to develop and save the photos so that they were all 1080p, create a background in Photoshop, and find the font for the word “Standard”. Next I opened up 10 photos at a time, and began by copying one photo at a time onto the board as a new layer, and placed the darker tones and more vivid colour photos onto the writing, and the lighter colours into the background.
Using the free transform, perspective and warp tools I altered the shapes of the photos so that they would create smooth edges over “standard” and joined the edges. It wasn’t easy to decide which part of each photo should be hidden under other layers and which should remain visible, aesthetics were highly important to me to get the result that I wanted. After I had created “standard” with photos I then developed a lighter outline, and finally mixed lighter and darker photos into the background.
At first glance the project looked successful, and I only re-arranged or replaced a few photos that did not fit with their surrounding. However I realised that with a final project over two meters on the long side, I would need to ensure the edges were perfectly aligned. I didn’t want to make a white background that would hide where the edges were not aligned. It would have been the easier, softer and weakere option. This is a huge and significant project for me and I wanted the outcome to be complete and to a professional standard.
Aligning the edges
Thank god that’s over. The process was intense, time-consuming and left me exhausted. The first step was to create a new layer, place it above my background and use the paint bucket tool so that it was bright orange, which would show through the gaps. The next step was to zoom right into each edge – 500 photos, 2000 edges, 2000 corners, all which needed to align perfectly and have no gaps, and with lag between each zoom and shift around the page. Aligning the edges wasn’t as straight forward as it may appear. As I had previously imported each photo and moved them around the board to position them where I wanted them to be. This meant that four photos next to each other would not be on adjacent layers. Often when trying to align one edge, it would reveal part of the photo next to it that had been hidden. This was due to the fact that most of the photos had been warped so the image had a sense of movement and flow. Consequently, working out which layer was above or below, and which would be better to adjust the edges of was a challenge, and there were several occasions where the easiest option was to import a new photo as the top layer and warp that to fit in with the others. The reason that I had to do this was that with the original warped photos there were times when it was not possible to un-warp them to make the suitable adjustments.
I spent several 8 and 10 hour days putting this project together to get a final result that I am happy with.
The story doesn’t end here. I have been collecting photos of street signs and health and safety notices, which I consider to be a blight. These signs should be criminalised rather than graffiti in my opinion. The aim is to create a second project with the title “The voice of control” using the same process as above. I am relieved to say that I have a long way to go with making these photos, so the laborious task of creating the result can be delayed and allow my brain to recuperate. Yay. My aim is tha tthese two completed projects will gain some exhibition space, which I believe that they are worth.
When I enrolled on Foundations in Photography my aim was to develop my creative ability. Anybody that wants to technically improve their photography can do so if they are willing to put the effort in. But how do you become creative? I am fortunate that my mind generates many ideas, too many infact, and I am learning to filter out those that are a distraction and not worth persuing at this moment in time.
Creativity is a process that cannot be rushed and takes time to ferment. I am quite happy to have an initial idea, to pick that up and reflect upon it, then leave it alone and allow life to inspire the development, and this is what happened with “When You Take Away My Voice”.
Watching Anti-Social because it looked good, listening to Nathan Caton because he’s funny, finding graffiti on my travels, research into the modern history of graffiti, having knowledge of Leeds and where to find the best street art there and going on holiday to Cork, all allowed this project to develop and be ompeted in its own time
The idea developed with little help from me, an initial idea and faith that life would reveal itself in the process. The major part for me was, having been inspired by Caton, to visualise how I could tie the project up into a work of art, and then creating that in Photoshop.
My process is my process and we all have our own creative workflow. I am discovering and developing a technique that works for me, and for this I am truly grateful.
I have produced a work of art that I am very pleased and impressed with, and proud to have created. Art that explores and expresses sociological themes, and this is the kind of photography that I want to make. I am so grateful to the Open College of the Arts, and look forward to my continued development.
Lupton, R and Power, A; 2002; Social Exclusion and Neighbourhoods, In; Agulnik et al; Understanding Social Exclusion; Oxford; Oxford University Press; pp.118-140; Can be viewed online here (accessed on 04/04/2018)
Rhan, J; 2002; Painting Without Permission – Hip Hop Graffiti Subculture; Westport; Begin and Garvey; Can be viewed online here (accessed on 04/04/2018)
Russell Howards Good News Extra, Series 7, Episode 11[Television Programme and YouTube clip online] Pres. Howard. Perf. Caton. BBC UK (2012) 14 mins AT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQmn-nJIM1U (accessed on 04/04/2018)
Travis, R; 2015; Anti Social; london/Hungary; RST Pictures, JRSM Films, Origo Film Group; Online AT: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3475596/ (accessed on 04/04/2018)
Urban Dictionary; 2018; Standard; Online AT: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=standard (accessed on 04/04/2018)