Reflection On A Question On Gender And Identity – Exercise 3.10

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.

cof

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.

On-Gender-and-Identity-5

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 DiptychsOn-Gender-and-Identity-1

On-Gender-and-Identity-4

On-Gender-and-Identity-3

On-Gender-and-Identity-2

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

Two Shoots In One Day – Part Three Nearly Complete – Busy Week Ahead Pufflings

I’m exhausted and I really should be in bed already. The busy week ahead is fun. Photography for enjoyment, slowing down, mindfulness and switching off. Fingers crossed that I see and photograph Pufflings – I’ve not made that up, baby puffins are indeed called Pufflings.

There hasn’t been the time to catch up with everyone’s blogs today as I have been making photos for part thee of Foundations in Photography, which is now almost complete. I have one more shoot to do, which is the compliment to one of today’s shoots. Then I have to develop and upload everything.

I have a large collection of crystals and minerals. and I’ve been photographing them in different environments over the past week, for exercise 3.12 (2014 manual), Photography as Research.

In collaboration with a friend I have the photos ready for 3.7 A Significant Object.

Today I have undertaken a part of exercise 3.10 – A Formal Portrait. I’ve blogged before about how I need to make this shoot different from the brief, so I’m taking the time to follow my tutors advice from the conclusion of assignment two. For this I’m going to create a body of work which questions identity, and today I’ve been exploring gender. I’m pleased with today’s results, and I look forward to making the photos for the contrasting set. Gender and gender identity have been featured on the news and in journals a lot recently. Gender is such a broad field that I have narrowed my view down to gender identity. What is gender? Male, female, transgender, gender non binary, gender queer, asexual, third gender. Self identification has become a hot topic and it’s now possible, in some countries, to have your gender altered on your birth certificate and passport, and in more enlightened Nations it’s possible to tick a box for Non-Binary gender. The following is just a test shot and doesn’t include the props or staging.

cof

A Staged Photo is one option for assignment three – A Narrative Photograph. At the start of part three I had an idea which I wanted to explore in relation to gambling. It’s been in the news a lot recently due to fixed odds betting terminals, and their impact upon individuals, families and communities. There has been some government intervention over the past couple of years, with the development of gambleaware.co.uk . On the one hand I think it’s a good idea to have a specific means of help for those who identify that they may have a gambling problem, but my main belief is that it’s a token gesture so the government looks like it’s tackling gambling addiction, when in reality it’s doing as little as it possibly can. The government has no intent on helping those with, nor preventing, gambling addiction. There’s far too much tax involved for the government to want to change the status quo.

My staged photo is an exploration of this. Here’s a taster from today’s shoot.

oznor

There isn’t going to be the chance to follow your blogs for around three days. Phone signal is poor where I’m going, so I’ll catch up on Thursday. Happy snapping.

Exercise 3.10 – A Formal Portrait – Planning – Self Portrait -Gender – Identity

Self-portrait-2

This is a scary one for me because I am going to need to make this a self-portrait. As you are aware I do not have anyone that I can work with on this, and although I had initially considered working with one or two people who I know who are homeless, my mental health currently leaves me unable to approach people.

I have anxiety about revealing myself, so I am going to build upon my tutors feedback with regard to assignment two. She suggested that I explore identity by making portraits of people and by using masks where possible.

The brief is quite specific about what a formal portrait is, and I am choosing to break away from it a little, otherwise I will not be able to complete the exercise. I hate my face right now, so I cannot create a formal portrait of myself in which my face is revealed, it wouldn’t help my mental health.

So I am going to create a multi layered approach that will include the use of masks, clothing, and current books and camera, to explore questions around gender identity along with practice representations of my current lifestyle. The use of masks will mean that I am breaking away from the brief and also respecting my needs with regard to keeping my mental wellbeing as well as I can.

The photos in this post are self portraits that I have taken in a manner that I can cope with sharing with others.

Richard Keys