Project 3 – Learning From Other Photographers

Brief:- Research point – Self reflection – Requirement Most visual artists learn from one another. Both historic and contemporary photographers and visual artists can teach you new things and by learning from them you can bring something new to the subject. So how do you learn from other photographers? There’s a tradition of ‘after’ painting, where an artist copies a master’s work – but in his own style rather than theirs. Pablo Picasso often did this for inspiration. Édouard Manet’s Olympia is slightly different in that it’s a critical response to Alexandre Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus and other such romantic and idealised nudes. Cubism’s visual experimentation was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, who had a ‘blocky’ style of painting in daubs of paint. Hannah Starkey’s photographs are clearly influenced by Jeff Wall’s tableau pictures without ever being copies. So really you take from the artist anything that interests you: the arrangement of characters in a scene, the pose of a figure, the way light and dark interact, the type of subject matter, the mixing of media, the visual strategy, etc… Research point – Self reflection – Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be over-critical, just honest. Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.) Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords. Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic. Make a note of these key elements. Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

There’s one area which glaringly stands out for me to work on. Lighting. Making use of lights to create an atmosphere, using spots, using ambient lighting or controlling background light, I need to develop these techniques. My tutor has recommended observing light in indoor settings and then trying to recreate it at home.

Now that I have a speedlight I am making slow inroads into understanding flash photography, and that’s going to be an ongoing process.

cof

Mixed media art is also a growing interest. It’s something that’s been developing over the period that I’ve been studying. Exercise 3.5 Photography from text (here) was a good introduction. I’m part of an OCA collaboration group and have enjoyed collaborating with other artists. Toxic Shame (here) provided me with the opportunity to write and narrate prose as part of a collaborative project. People with Autism co-authored Autism: Out Of The Box (here) with me, a project in which I wrote the essay and encouraged the co-authors to produce accompanying photography or art for the essay.

A woman with autism is currently writing her story, and my role will be to support her to make photography which will accompany her writing. This is a role I wish to develop. The OCA collaboration group is on-going, and I have had initial contact with an artist in Australia who may wish to collaborate with me.

I’m very pleased to be studying Experimentation:- Still Life, which is part 4 of Foundations in Photography. This part of the course has opened up my creative potential. I made a sensory collage, just for fun, out of materials left over from the emulation exercise. Photomontage, collage and sensory collage all give me the opportunity to practice with lighting.

Lighting is the way forward. When I return from my travels I will look through my many books to find find photographers who inspire me, and who make creative use of lighting. I will then create some emulation based upon their work.

The piece I produced to emulate Laura Letinsky will be added next week when I return home.cof

Exercice 4.2 – Constructed Imagery

Brief:- Traditional still life presents a small-scale space to explore constructive photography. But still life doesn’t have to be bowls of fruit and vases of flowers. You can place any object or combination of objects in any setting. And both can be constructed. It may be useful to think of still life as having two key elements – object(s) and setting – and go wherever your imagination takes you with them. Setting/background Choose a space that you can work with over time. You don’t need the traditional wall and table yet, just a cleared space. What does your space present you with? A wall? A floor? A corner? Put your camera on a tripod and aim it at this empty space. Now add to this space one large flat object. It could be a sheet, a painting turned back to front, an up-turned table or a large piece of paper stuck to the wall. Don’t place anything in the middle of space to act as an ‘object’ but rather compose your setting with surfaces, colours and textures. Have a look in the viewfinder. Note every element in the frame: the way surfaces create angles, lines, shapes and planes the way planes create a dimensional ‘space’ the effect of different lighting on this setting. Take a photo. This should be an entirely artificial, constructed image that could even ‘defy gravity’. Objects Now choose a simple object and carefully place it into this composition. Avoid clichéd objects. Take a photo, then remove the object. Replace it with another object, something very different. Place this object in such a way that it’s not emphasised. (Did your first photo emphasise the object?) Take a photo. Now fill the space with a lot of different things (mattresses, furninture, crockery, books, plants, anything handy) and try to create an entirely constructed ‘environment’. It may be very messy, but it should depict a ‘place’ with an identity that only exists inside the frame of your camera.

I shall start with my favourite photo first.

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

I had planned to use my ceiling as the space, and hang objects from it with thread, and something I intend to try in the future. I don’t have the energy to attempt complicated right now, and I need to make some progress, so I have returned to earth.

The brief is self explanatory, so these photos demonstrate the progress through building a scene, and make use of gels with a speedlight to see how colour effects appearance and mood.

The process has shown me that it is possible to create a “set” as it would be called on stage or in film, and that a set is limited to our imagination. One of the main points of the exercise is to help us to see that any objects can be used as setting or object for still life photography. The learning point that I will be taking from this exercise is to think outside of the box. Laura Lentisky’s use of magazine photos which she has cut out, and my initial idea of using are alternate objects and settings. Perhaps it’s about going with the flow, trying something and allowing it to succeed or fail.

Having been put off of still life, based upon what I had learned at seen at school, I’m surprised to have made use of flowers and a vase for my more creative exploration. They were, they were available. But hey – I got to play, create, explore and make photos, and right now that’s just what I need.

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Making use of a speedlight is new to me, and it will take a while to get used to. I haven’t found it to be especially useful here, although I quite like the second-last photo above. The directional lighting, which I had covered with a gel, has created the drama that I had hoped for. The way that coloured light impacts upon a scene and objects within it is quite obvious from the above photos. However, I’m still drawn to the red tinged photo above.

Review – Jeff Wall

Brief:- In preparation for Assignment Three, we need to say a few words about staged photography. In advertising and cinema you find a highly artificial, constructed form of photography. Often multiple elements are layered in a final composite. Great care is taken with the arrangement of elements to guide the interpretation of the photograph. The term mise-en-scène, simply means ‘putting in the scene’ and refers to the placement of objects in space. Imagine a totally blank, empty studio. You want to create a scene in the studio depicting a small ancient dwelling inhabited by a hermit in the Sinai desert. You’ll need a lot of light to represent the sun. You’ll need a sky backdrop and plenty of sand and sandstone to create the dwellings. You’ll also need to research and find ancient artefacts that would have been used by an ascetic person. You’ll also need a hermit (actor). This is the way a movie is made, but it’s common to advertising and art photography too and is called ‘staged’ or ‘constructed’ photography. Key practitioners are Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Jeff Wall goes to great lengths to create what sometimes appear to be ‘documentary’ street scenes that reflect a telling human situation. Cindy Sherman consciously played with the identity representations of women in movies by photographing herself in different female roles. Her later work makes use of prosthetic make-up, costume, props and sets to emphasise the ways women were represented in historic paintings. Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

Jeff Wall (b 1946)

Wall,-J;-1984;-Milk;-ATFig. 1. Milk (1984)

Description of visual elements

Window with stairwell inside, bricks which make a wall, green bush. pavement sloping to the left, light from upper left of the screen, shadow cast where brickwork juts out from the main wall, the photo frame is slightly smaller than the man if he were to be standing, man sitting on floor, no socks, shoe has no laces, looks dejected, sitting slightly hunched with one knee bent under, body leaning into second knee which is upright, forearm rest on knee milk is moving out from a carton to the mans left, spilt milk flying through the air, leather jacket, hair looks greasy but tidy, shadow cast over most of his face so that his expression is not easily seen, clothes look in good condition as do the shoes, one sleeve is rolled up and hand on that arm is in a fist.

My interpretation:- There are two visual discrepancies that highlight that this is a staged photo – the tidiness of the crop and the condition of the clothes and the shoes. These are just too crisp.

The staging suggests that the man is homeless and is sitting in a good, relatively affluent area. The partial view of the building on the left of the image, with the bush outside hints at the area being an office based area rather than commercial or retail. The building becomes a prop, as does the very clean wall behind the man on the floor. The lighting has been used to hide his face so that his expression is hard to read, and the mans greasy hair is also a prop, it’s used to create a narrative. It’s meant to do so in conjunction with the mans clothing (which doesn’t work for me), and the uncovered arm, with the hand clenched into the fist is building upon the narrative to show that he is angry. The flying milk may suggest that the guy is angry at having his photo taken and has shaken his arm in protest. Maybe he will get up and attack the photographer, or it could be that the fist and the sudden jerk of the hand, which has led to the milk being spilled, are a warning of aggression which is relaying “stay the fuck away from me”.

 

Wall, J; 2015; Listener; ATFig. 2. Listener (2015)

Description of visual elements

Six men surround a man who is kneeling on the floor, one is in full frame and is leaning over the man, dominating him with his height, very close crop with little background, other than the top left of the corner, where there is a quarter circle shaped blue wall. There are six men around the edge of the frame, only partially visible. Despite being on the edge of the frame they are in very close proximity with the guy on the floor. They are wearing  jeans, t-shirt, trackies and one is wearing chinos, the guy on the floor is wearing brown trousers and no top. The ground is barren, dry, dusty, and the guy on the floor has bits of straw on his trousers. He is wearing sandals and the others are wearing plimsoles, trainers and workman’s boots. The man on the lower left of the photo is looking towards the camera, his arms are folded over his chest. The other guys have their arms and hands in quite open and relaxed manner. The sun is almost directly overhead and the shadows are short.

My interpretation:- There is an air of menace and aggression in this scene. The guy on the floor is being towered over, dominated by the man next to him, oppressed by the overhead heat, and surrounded by the other men in a very close space. The straw on his trousers says that he has been on the floor in other positions and he may have tried to crawl away from his assailants at some point. He is being shouted at or spoken to very aggressively, although the man to his right doesn’t have closed fists. The open relaxed posture of the other men is a relay which says that they are relaxed and comfortable with violence. This relay keeps the oppressive aggression within the frame. The context of a dry barren wasteland is the stage that says the guy has been taken to this place so that the confrontation cannot be stopped by others, there is a purpose and intent to the confrontation. Is the guy going to be assaulted? is he going to be left there? Is he going to be killed? I don’t think he is going to be killed. The close proximity of the camera, which is being allowed to photograph, tells me that this assault is a warning to others not to cross this gang. That they know the guy on the floor will not be reporting the assualt. The man on the floor looks uncomfortable but I also think that he looks very relaxed, he doesn’t look afraid, and this is a visual discrepancy to me. The clothing of the men looks clean and relatively new. They are involved in some form of organised crime which gives them a good income, but they remain dressed in the manner of their peers, in their neighbourhood. They operate in the area that they live and probably grew up. Small time organised crime.

 

I find myself left with the impression that it is very difficult to show emotion in staged photography, and even with people as skilled as Wall there are visual discrepencies which can be noticed.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Wall, J; 1984; Milk [Silver dye bleach transparency; aluminum light box]; AT: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/picture-galleries/2010/march/30/the-world-of-jeff-wall/ (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Figure 2 Wall, J; 2015; Listener [inkjet print]; AT https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Exercise 3.4 – Documenting Change

Brief:- Everything changes, weathers, grows or otherwise shows signs of transformation. Changes in the weather can create a drastic change in the appearance of a place. Cooking something changes it. People tend to look sprightly in the morning and worn out at night. Make a sequence of photographs that shows the same subject, from the same position, but in different states. You can choose any subject you like, but clearly identify it and note down the conditions of change you want to show. Produce at least three images in a sequence – a triptych – that shows the three states of the subject and communicates the change you’ve identified.

This is my first attempt at this exercise, but I have another conceptual piece that I aim to finish over the next two or three days.

Note down the conditions of change you want to show! ummm, no. My reason for this is that I didn’t want to show anything, I wanted to explore how different weather and shooting at different times during would impact the subject. It was an experiment. There are times that I can go out and shoot, and then re shoot at a later date, and times when this is not possible for me. There are times of day that I don’t go out. So for me to explore lighting and conditions was the goal. Having read this section before beggining any of the exercise meant that I took these photos over a longer period of time.

Grid-No-Layers

Now I must explain that I went back to sort of the same spot, many many times, but never quite knew where that spot was, and didnt record the focal length, so these are a bit higgledy piggledy (love that saying). The changes are lighting and the weather. The subject is meant to be the post and the weed/twig, and to explore how these have been affected. In the first photo I like the clarity of the weedy thing, and notice how the water has spread the strand apart and frozen them into place. The second photo has mid morning winter sunlight that defines the edge of the post, makes the ice clearer so that you can see the grass below, and adds colour to the twig. The thirs has diffused lighting, and with the exposure for the snow the post and weedy twig are almost silhouttes. I can only say yuch about the fourth photo. Its horrid. So why have I included it? Because it fits in with my aim of exploration. It was taken at 2.30 in the afternoon, one month ago. Without water, ice or snow, the grass hides the colour of the sticks and this suggests to me diffused lighting on an overcast day – but I didnt record what the weather was like.

The learning for me to take away from is to explore how light and weather affects a subject, but take a pad with me to record the position, time of day and lighting conditions.

Documenting Change

Documenting Change

Documenting Change

Documenting Change

Re-WorkedAssignment Two

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

This is a re-worked version of assignment two following feedback from my tutor. She asked me to consider how I would display this series on a gallery wall? What text would I have as an accompaniment? Words which touch upon the meaning of the photos without being so explicit that the viewer cannot question or interpret the photos as they see fit.

The poem that I have written by way of introduction raises questions in a way that I wasn’t sure that I could achieve if I had composed a statement.

The concept of a gallery presentation and accompanying text is new to me so I would greatly appreciate any ideas or suggestions which will help me to improve upon this.

Although I have received verbal feedback from my tutor, I am going to leave going into full detail, and my response until after I have received the written feedback, so that I can attach it to the post.

Exercise 2.7 People in Light

Brief: Take a series of photos of the same person in different kinds of light. Do this over a few days or so, certainly on more than one occasion. Aim to make at least nine photographs and mount them in a grid.

Grid

It has taken me a while to complete this exercise as I needed to wait until I was visiting friends. The majority of the photos were taken on the same day, Although the PDF’s have other photos that were taken on different days.

Having explored the effects of lighting as earlier research, and preparing for painting with light, I decided to focus on different coloured lighting. I prefer the results where I have under exposed the shot because the light highlights the face. When reviewing the PDF’s it is apparent that blue does bring out texture and therefore adds some character to the individual. Red and orange can make the skin look burned, although the very pale orange (immediately before the yellow, does provide a soft finish.

Could I use this type of lighting in the future? If I were completing some events photography with an amateur dramatics group, or with gothics at Whitby Abbey, or if I was creating a model portfolio where character and drama were important requirements.

I would very much like to complete this exercise again at Whitby Abbey, although I would need to work on my set up.

My equipment involved a tripod, remote shutter release, coloured shot glasses, gels, two torches, and black paper to create small snoots. Holding the gels to the torch was difficult and the snoots did not create the laser type light that I wanted. They provided a general coverage of light rather than direct and specific. I do not know how to improve upon this at the moment and any ideas would be gratefully welcomed. I experienced difficulty with holding the torch and snoot, whilst trying to activate the shutter. Previous elements of the course helped me to make use of shutter speed, ISO and aperture so that I could work towards the more focused light that I was looking for.

The mobile phone shot, photo two, is good. The light is very focused, and suggests that a small, rectangular light source, gels and diffuser, close to the model, could well be a way forward on improving this technique.

Exercise 2.8 – Fill Flash

This exercise is about understanding when and how to use fill flash, and understanding how to manipulate lighting in doing so. The brief says “You can see many examples of fill-flash in Martin Parr’s photographs at http://www.martinparr.com”

How do you spot when a photographer has used fill flash? To be honest I think this is something that will come with time, and I do not feel very competent with this at the moment. I have given it a go, but I feel that the most important thing right now for me is to practice. I have spent a couple of days reading about and practicing using the flash on my camera, and I now need to get outside and find some people to practice with.

Here are three attempts at seeing how Parr has used fill flash.

PAM2017001G02288Fig.1. Gift shop in the Museum of the Revolution (2017)

1 – The mans upper arm is slightly shiny, although there is a shadow upon his shirt below the arm, there is no shadow falling on the table at all. This suggest the whole scene is has diffused lighting, and the shadow has been cast by the flash.

2 – It appears as though there is a narrow light source, the flash, reflected in the mans glasses.

3 – Good natural day light from the rear. This does not mean that there is not another light source, but what ever other source there is is not creating shadows.

PAM2017008G00840 Fig.2. Moschino. Milan Fashion Week. Italy (2017)

1 – Reflection from the flash.

2 – Light drop off, suggesting that the room was dark, and the aperture was small.

PAM2014012G12595 Fig.3. Lincoln College Ball (2016)

1 – The strong purple light suggests that the ball is dimly lit.

2 – The faces of the couple have good lighting and skin tone, with some reflection on the womans arm.

3 – The shadow shows that the mans arm is lit from the flash on the camera.

Illustrations

Figure 1; Parr, M; 2017; Gift shop in the Museum of the Revolution; At: https://www.martinparr.com/recent-work/ (accessed on 22/11/2017)

Figure 2; Parr, M; 2017; Moschino. Milan Fashion Week. Italy; At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/fashion/martin-parr-people-watching-in-milan/ (accessed on 22/11/2017)

Figure 3; Parr, M; Lincoln College Ball; At: https://www.martinparr.com/recent-work/ (accessed on 22/11/2017)

Exploration Of Lighting, Skin Tone, Skin Colour, Make Up And Costume

All of these photos are taken of the TV screen from my mobile.

White Balance

One of the things that I am most interested in is how lighting effects different skin colours. As a photographer, unless I am using lighting for a specific effect then I want the results of a photograph to match the skin colour of my model. Lighting affects different skin colours differently, and make up works differently as well. In the examples below, the first photo is the closets representation of the mans skin colour. For the others I have changed the white balance and have included incandescent, flourescent, cloudy, daylight and auto.

 

Facial Up-lighting

An interesting effect for a surreal/scary look, and also for highlighting certain features if the lighting is directed towards the features that you wish to highlight.

 

Coloured Lighting and Skin

Green is my least favorite lighting colour. I think that it makes skin look unhealthy, although the highlight upon Tess Daley is used to good effect for a Halloween theme. The highlights are better than general green lighting that affects the whole face as in Craig Revel Horwood. I like how red lighting affects the skin, but when it’s too bright it can create a sunburned affect, such as Sam Black below. In the examples below the blue brings out the features of Nicole Scherzinger, which it doesn’t on Spencer Sutherland, however I do like the mixed lighting of the blue and pink, and I intend to use mixed lighting for my assignment. Blue Lighting can make hair look greasy, whereas white can destroy details and tone. Diffuse blue lighting can bring out texture and detail if it is used appropriately, and this can be seen by viewing the coursework of fellow Foundations in Photography student Archna Singh. Something else that I am aware of is how the lighting is positioned, head on, below, side and behind. Front on coloured lighting produces a blanket of diffused lighting that flattens the face and hides texture, side lighting and lighting from below highlights facial features and exaggerates them. Lighting from behind can be good for highlighting skin and hair, but can also cause a halo.

 

Theatrical Makeup

This is something that I wish to make use of for the Painting with Light assignment. These examples are an exploration. I particularly like beads and glitter when they are used around the eye. It’s also possible to use them to create contour, so that in a dark rook and with a black background, lighting can then pick out skin or clothing contours.

Natural Skin, Skin With Make Up and Good Lighting

Good examples of natural looking make up, that is enhanced by the lighting, on black and brown skin. Minimal foundation on Debbie McGee, Aston Merrigold and Martin Brundle. Good make up and lighting on the next five, but over use of the wrong colour foundation on the final two photos. Foundation is the key for good make up that enhances the natural colour of an individuals skin. The wrong colour, and on top of a fake tan tends to be a male showbiz thing, although in saying that, Jack from Jack and Joel does look good with the make up that he wears.

Foundation is also used to soften the glare of lighting on the skin, it acts as an absorber of light rather than a reflector. It is also used to  make the skin appear smoother and in doing so it removes the detail.

 

Costume, Lighting Effects

A brief look at lighting effects in general, and lighting upon costume.

 

References

Singh, A; 2017; Exercise 2.7 People in light; Online at: https://archnasingh.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/exercise-2-7-people-in-light/ (accessed on 31/10/2017)

Sing: Ultimate A Cappella; 2017; Series 1, Episode 4; Sky One; 27/10/2017

X Factor; 2017; Series 14, Episodes 17 and 18; ITV; 28+29/10/2017

Strictly Come Dancing; 2017; Series 15; Episodes 9, 10, 11 and 12; BBC 1; 21,22, 28+29/10/2017

Formula 1, Mexican Grand Prix; 2017; 29/10/2017; 6pm

 

Initial Thoughts For Painting With Light – The Marriage Of The Mikado Phantom

Painting with light is an opportunity to explore lighting, and I’m considering doing this in a theatrical style.

I’m considering using two models to create a marriage between Phantom of the Opera and The Mikado.

I will sketch my plans over the coming week.

Two people, facing each other, ballroom hold, suit, cravat, pocket hanky, top hat, wedding dress, umbrella, beads to reflect lighting on wedding face, phantom mask painted out so outline and highlights are left white. Facing each other with faces close.

Shoot profile and can then create one face out of the two faces.

Standing forward of a black backdrop, lighting behind. Torches placed in a blackout box. Holes in boxes in shape of confetti, each hole covered with different colour gel cut outs. Lighting behind couple and facing the wall.

Front lighting – 6 lights, gels, triangulate on each face, black muslin in front of gels to soften and diffuse light.

Match light to enhance skin tone, make up, beads and possibly glitter.

Have purchased lighting, next step is to experiment with gels and different coloured fabrics.

Have been exploring lighting, make up, skin tone and costume this week thanks to tv and I’ll upload that to my sketchbook this week.