It’s such a relief and joy to have spent more time with a camera in my hand recently. Since coming out of hospital my energy and physical health have lowered opportunity and motivation to take my cameras out with me. Canary Wharf was the first Photography trip, and I’ve been out recently as well.
I’m getting used to my camera, settings and operation again. However, I feel my “eye” is good.
Here’s a couple of recent photos, taken on my Olympus OMD EM10 MK III
Wow, what a performance Dancing City put on.
I hadn’t planned on seeing dancing City, I just wanted to take a trip to Canary Wharf with my camera and do some photography. It was a blessed relief to get out with my OMD EM 10 MK II and explore the docklands (these photos were taken on my Huawei P 20 Pro) . Dancing City were performing outside of the tube station so I stopped and had a look.
Got to be honest, I didn’t think this was for me, but I have a friend who is a contemporary dancer so I sat down on the floor and figured I’d try and work out what was going on. The performers were dancing with objects that have a resemblance to the human form, so I figured they represented people. The dancing appeared to be sexual, passionate and suggestive at times, which threw me. What the hell is that about. I could understand it with people but not objects. Other aspects of the dancing seemed to be free form and uncoreogeaphed.
I concerned relationship, specifically the kind of relationship where someone views the other as being something they are not. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve fallen in love with my partners potential, only seeing their best points, so I’m not in a relationship with the person who is really there, warts and all. Then I considered the dance portrayed psychosis and the interplay between heard voices, delusion and life.
It turns out that the performance was an exploration of modern day slavery.
The performance is worth considering in relation to my photography. Creating cognitive disonence, by including an object which is out of place, the viewer is left in a position where questions will arise. A viewer then becomes engaged with what they are gazing upon, and they may seek conciliation between the known and the abstract.
After drinking lots of water yesterday and sleeping during the day, I didn’t need much sleep last night. I woke Richard up at 4.30 and headed straight to the city, via St Paul’s Cathedral.
(I’m back to being the star today.)
From St Paul’s it’s just a short walk to the millennium bridge, which provided me with the opportunity for a few more poses. Richard hates being photographed but I love it.
(Millennium Bridge, River Thames, Tate Modern)
(River Thames, The Shard, a glimpse of Tower Bridge.)
Sometimes life just walks you into wonderful opportunities and experiences, and this morning has been serendipitous.
As well as the dancer being photographed, a newly married couple were having their wedding photos made before the chaos of the daily grind.
After a quick visit to Starbucks (I’m sticking to water), we meandered slowly to the Shard via Borough Market. I found it to be more appealing than the Old Spitalfields Market yesterday.
The Shard viewing platform doesn’t open until ten, but Richard is meeting his friend Jonathan (going to Tate Modern) who also studies photography with the Open College of the Arts. We’ll go to the viewing platform afterwards and then Richard wants to go to Hobby Craft.
Northern Ballet have produced Jayne Eyre (seen here), which I went to see at Leeds Grand last night.
The last time that I read Jayne Eyre was over twenty years ago, which meant that I had no recollection of the storyline. However, the ballet was so well choreographed and performed that it came back to me scene by scene.
I felt sad and cried, I felt angry, and I laughed. Such a moving and convincing performance.
My seat was in the upper balcony, slightly to the left of stage and that meant I had a good perspective for some technical analysis.
Choreography uses the same visual, placement and use of space that is used in photography.
Diagonals were often used, either with a group of dancers (front corner to opposing rear corner), or by two characters to create visual tension with my eyes moving back and forth between the two.
Foreground, mid-ground and background were used effectively. There were a couple of scenes in which there was a lot of movement across the whole of the available space, but not often. When the action took place in the background then there may have been one performer in the foreground. This gave a sense of space and perspective.
There were other occasions when the performance was taking place at the front of stage, and those dancers in the background barely moved. They provided a visual context to the rest of the action.
Use of scenery and props were relevent and limited to when there was a need to alert the viewer to a change of setting.
It was also clear that costume and colour was relevent to the social status/age/emplorment and personality of the character, as well as reflecting the change of social status for Jayne.
Make use of space by allowing it to be there.
Emotion is portrayed by body language, clothing, lighting and props.
Make use of background appropriately – if the action/subject is in the background then have a touch of visual contrast in the foreground and vice versa.
Distractions – does it need to be in the scene. If it doesn’t then remove it or change perspective if possible. There are some occasions where distractions can be deliberately used to create tension, confusion and movement.
Props can be used to create the setting, to demonstrate personality (portrait/fashion) and to divide available space so the eye is drawn in to one part of the photo.
Lighting can be used to create mood, to alter emotion engagement, to highlight, to obscure, and can be used in an abstract manner to provide a hint to the viewer without being directive.
Planning. Having a photographic eye is no different from choreography in visual or performance arts. There are times when performance is ad lib as in photography, but often having a plan, even if it’s just a vision in the mind can ensure that a photograph is taken just at the right moment.
As I begin to move into making the political/social themed photography that I want to make, I am gaining more of an understanding about the necessity of planning. Test photos, beginning a project then realising it isn’t right, going out with my camera and taking photos for fun – these are as important as mind maps and written exploration of ideas. These ways of planning are a photographers dress rehearsal.
My first experience of ballet was mesmerising. Viewing the world through the eyes of a photographer is becoming more natural.
Fig. 1. The Conversation (2006)
Write a visual description of the photograph above using short phrases and descriptive keywords. The four key elements you should describe are: facial expression, posture and gesture, clothing, location. What do you associate the women’s dress with? Are you making any other associations? You may be confused by this photograph because it throws up visual signs that appear to be ‘in the wrong place’. Can you pare down this photograph to a series of signs? For example, where do the women look like they originate from? What does their costume, jewellery and make-up say? What about the building in the background? Does it look ancient or contemporary? Does this photograph seem posed to you? Perhaps it is reminiscent of images by nineteenth-century photographers like Henry Peach Robinson or of painters like Raphael. The photograph is from a series called Constructing the Exotic. How does this title resonate with the photograph? Do the women look contemporary? What do you make of their poses? Have a look at the whole series at www.michaelbuhlerrose.com. How does viewing the whole series affect your reading of this particular image?
Four women sitting on the grass appearing to be engrossed in a conversation. Three other women sitting or standing around some wooden stairs leading from a prefab building. The women are in bright coloured clothing, which appears to be from south-east Asia. The clothing could be described as traditional or national dress. The women in the foreground create a leading line towards the centre of the photo, this then draws the eye up to the three women on the stairs. There are trees and shrubbery in front of the building and trees behind it. Although the background is quite messy, the bright clothing that the women are wearing keeps the focus upon them. The three women in the background do not appear to be involved with each other, the one on the step is scowling, the one standing in front of the door is gazing towards the camera, and the third is facing her with her hands on her hips. I have not spent a lot of time travelling south east Asia, but the trees do not look native. I would hazard a guess that the photograph was taken in the UK.
The four women at the front of frame appear to be quite natural in the expression and conversation, but the three at the back look staged because of their posture. Six of the women are caucasian, the other is brown and possible from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia??? This would suggest that the photo is staged and the women are not wearing clothes that are their own national dress. However, the world is a multicultural place, I know of many white English people who were born and grew up in Asia.
I am going to say that the photo is staged. With the conflict between different postures, the apparent location, the national dress and skin colour, and the fact that the photo is from a series called “Constructing the Exotic”.
I have just had a look at Buhler-rose website and he says “In these images western women who were raised either within the Indian subcontinent itself or simply born into its socio-religious heritage become, in one sense, the ‘other’.”
Here are a couple of photos that I have looked at as comparisons with regard to the traditional dress.
Fig.2. Asmarandana Dancers (2017)
These dancers are wearing Indonesian dress. The clothing is similar to the Indian dress in The Conversation, more important for me is the posture. Their hands specifically are held in a pose that would come from traditional dance moves. The Indian women from The Conversation are not.
Fig. 3. Bharatanatyam Classical Dance (Eshita Picture)
There are many forms of traditional Indian Dance, and Bharanatyam is possibly the most traditional of all. The clothing that the woman is wearing is similar to that of The Conversation, but she has a more authentic feel, and the bracelets, the henna on her fingers and the henna tattoo on her feet leave me with that impression.
Buhler-Rose may have photographed women who were either born or raised in the Indian continent and culture, but they have a westernised feel despite their traditional dress. They may be having a break from dance lessons, and would therefore be relaxed, their hands would not be held in a mudra, but I am left with a feeling that they are not as immersed in the Indian culture as Buhler-Rose suggests.
Figure 1; Buhler-Rose, M; 2006; The Conversation; At: https://news.syr.edu/2014/03/new-geographics-features-photography-of-michael-buhler-rose-56929/ (accessed on 23/11/2017)
Figure 2; Adreas, A; 2017; Amarandana Dancers; At: https://andiandreas.hk/2017/11/07/asmarandana-dancers/ (accessed on 23/11/2017)
Figure 3; Bharatanatyam Classical Dance (Eshita Picture); At: http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-dance/classical/bharatnatyam.html (accessed on 23/11/2017)