Assignment 5 – Making it up

This assignment calls for the construction of a stand-alone image of our choice. Alternatively, a series can be chosen, elaborating on the same theme.
The only stipulation is that the work must be controlled and directed by ourselves for a specific purpose.

Introduction
Last year the police received one call relating to domestic violence for every minute in the UK. That’s an estimated 1,300 calls a day or over 570,000 each year. Research also points to domestic abuse increasing sharply amongst newly married couples.

There were many considerations to work through on how best to portray such a sensitive subject, without being too clichéd. The ‘show and not tell‘ element was also uppermost in my mind.
It was when I began reading through a number of riddles written by primary school aged children, that the idea became more focused as to how the narrative could support the imagery. From this the idea of portraying the scene in a scrapbook style presentation, evolved.

It can be argued that the narrative or text accompanying an image is naturally assumed to link the two; there is an element of trust that some kind of relationship exists or is inferred, and is the intention in this assignment’s final image. Other factors such as signs and symbols are also clues to which the reader interprets. This is an attempt to fully understand the visual topic in its entirety.

Inference was therefore a key element in constructing the following image. Identifying just one key symbol to support it, was crucial to the final outcome, unless more than one was deemed necessary. It had to act as a fine balance between supporting the central image without overwhelming it. Text and the manner in which it was depicted, was also important, together with colour or the lack of it.

Considering all of these elements as a whole brought into question the style in which the image should be conveyed. The hard-hitting element of the subject needed to be carefully placed. Such considerations were; would colour be too overwhelming, how much of the overall image should be taken up with such a disturbing aspect, and in what proportion to this should the accompanying text be.

The resulting image is shown below;

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The central image in full colour, without the addition of any supporting elements came over as quite brutal; too brutal it was felt in the context of the intended outcome.
As a way of softening the impact of such an image, and diminishing the ‘apparent’ gravity of the situation, colour was removed, although the yellow strip remained; a diversion and natural break for the viewers gaze. It also had the effect of adding slightly more of a three-dimensional quality.

The subject’s gaze is down and away from the camera, in a non-confrontational manner, which was felt more in tandem with the perceived background situation that had resulted in the injury.
In keeping with the intended ‘scrapbook’ style, the decision was made to add a border to the central shot.

One consideration when adding the border was whether the overall impact of the shot had been diluted in some way. In essence it was ‘a photo of a photo’.
This in turn made the placing of the tiara more difficult. It was intended to denote the marital setting, but again to give the image more of a 3D effect, and to offset the isolation of the subject.

To offset the image, several symbolic items were trialled, firstly as a way of placing the subject in a marital setting, and secondly to add a juxtapositioning; each highlighting the other, as shown in the images below;
The wedding veil due to its small proportion in the frame, was too insignificant; and was open to too much interpretation. The tiara both contrasted and supported the image simultaneously.

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The next consideration was the accompanying text; the riddle was childlike but too simplistic against the image. The lines were altered from ‘I am’ to ‘He is’, with the intention of alluding to a male, and the word ‘compliant’ was added to give a glimpse of the subject’s behaviour.

This also impacted on the images’ orientation, and ratio to the subject. What was deemed more or as important to the central image?
Deciding that the two were equal then raised the question of how to align the two. The child’s writing created the right balance and enhanced the gravity of the image. Tearing the text from the page also aided in balancing the overall composition, and tied in with the violent theme.

The following image shows the final setup, using natural light, which reduced any possible flare spots from the glare of the paper;

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In post-production the main adjustments were done to contrast and brightness, to slightly separate the tiara from the background a little more, and to increase the density of text.

The final image as intended, conveys the aftermath of domestic violence in a marital setting, alluding to the male partner as the antagonist.
In truth the image simply portrays someone with a severe, but painless eye infection, set against a child’s riddle taken from a school project (albeit the riddle has been adjusted for the benefit of the assignment).

This project has highlighted how suggestion and the marrying of text and imagery, reinforces our perception of a situation that is not always as it seems.
Simply being presented with facts that allude to the image’s content, reinforces our beliefs and preconceptions surrounding it. Assumption and pre-determined beliefs further our resolve on what is fact and what is fiction.

It is slightly akin to having a jigsaw, with all pieces present, but not necessarily in the right order.
Imagery is very powerful, but an accompanying narrative steers the image towards an intended ending, and not always a happy or accurate one.
Manipulating the clues to achieve the desired outcome also highlights how each part of an image is intrinsically linked. Adding or removing a particular element can considerably lessen the intended outcome, or steer it in another direction entirely.

On reflection
Although I was satisfied with the eventual outcome, I feel the build-up to making a decision as to which topic to use, was too long-winded. This is a recurring theme, and is usually a result of trying to produce an Oscar-winning piece but without the budget of Gregory Crewdson.
I need to scale down my aspirations and possible list of subject material earlier in the decision-making process.

Making a more large-scale production would have been an ideal, but it was decided to just try and work within the time and subject material which was more readily available.
By taking a ‘photo of a photo’, I was also working slightly outside of my comfort zone by concentrating more on concepts that technical issues with the reduced lack of quality in the resulting image.

One area which is also an ongoing learning process includes documenting a projecting as it evolves. My brain does not tend to think in a step-by-step, ordered method. It is more a scattergun approach as ideas evolve and overlap each other. At times, stopping to capture or document the process gets in the way, and stop the flow of ideas, although when writing up the assignment, I am exasperated at not recording more of the process.

Feedback from my previous assignment mentioned that my introduction was not as strong the main body, so I have researched more the nuts-and-bolts of essay writing and tried to structure it in a more coherent manner, with a better flow.

The main impediment to doing this for both this and the previous assignment, is the strict word limit. It is very difficult to expand on any theory in just 1000 words. At best a subject can be touched upon, but there is very little scope to expand it.
The end result is an erratic piece of writing as words are felled to try and keep within the limit, but whilst still trying to at least allude to a particular topic, although I understand the intention in setting such a limit, and try to cover all pertinent aspects within the constraints.

In this assignment I have not included artists whose work I have viewed, simply due to the word count limit, and have instead tried keeping to the letter of the brief.
In this instance I don’t feel that the assignment is lacking, but would prefer to include these elements in future work.

Exhibition: ‘We are not Numbers’.

This exhibition was shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. ‘We are not Numbers’ was part of the  ‘How much do I owe you’ exhibition which was shown in New York, and dedicated to money and debt. 

It is not something which particularly held any interest for me, which seemed a good reason to visit in the first place. I was interested in seeing if my views would change, particularly after researching the background to how the images came about.

They were in response to a request to Caixa Catalunya bank, asking for a number of customer’s mortgage debts to be cancelled.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the institution, and passers-by wrote messages of support on the back of the images.
These were stuck on the front doors of the bank, and giant posters were also made and posted on onto prime positions.

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The background information placed the images in context; viewing them against the wooden industrial looking background also reinforced their history.

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The viewer is given an insight into these people’s lives, their expressions hinting at the impact that debt had upon their lives.

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The portraits are simple in composition, which suits the narrative; each one taken in the same style which helps to convey their visual cohesion.

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This was a powerful body of work, displayed in a simple but very effective way. The mix of image, text style, and display method, combined to perfectly convey the intended message.

Exercise 17: Nicky Bird’s ‘Question for Seller’.

Nicky Bird’s body of work titled ‘Question for Seller‘ includes unwanted family photos bought on eBay, which she has recreated to form her own archive of portraits. The sellers were approached with one question “How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them?‘ Their responses, she claimed, were as important as the photographs they were selling.

This exercise asks us the following questions;

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
If we take ‘elevated’ to mean having a high rank or social standing, it could be argued that the images have moved in this direction, but to what degree, is fairly subjective.
Simply by giving them an audience, and therefore a voice, their status is immediately altered. Whether this could be described as elevated is more tenuous.

The gallery wall is just one facet in the equation which alters their status. How popular the images then become because of this, and how long their presence remains in the public conscience, is another aspect.

How we measure status also affects the argument. One person bought the images initially from eBay, so in this regard, they could already be seen as having an elevated status. Once on the gallery walls, they were given a wider audience. Does this elevate them further or simply widen the net?

The next question asked; “Where does their meaning come from?
We already know that the images have been re-situated. The answer comes in trying to decipher whether they would have worked on a gallery wall without the seller’s response to Bird’s posed questions.

It is difficult to see how they would have gained any presence without the new dialogue giving them a meaningful narrative.
This also makes them more cohesive, in that although the photographs have come from different sellers, all were asked the same question. This unites them in the narrative, making a new and closely bonded family from the initially dislocated images.

Although on occasions the seller is unable to provide any details, those that do, help to link the remainder who stay unknown.
The fact still remains though that Bird has revealed that the images are only connoted as unwanted. It is unclear if some are simply lost imagery from family albums, or similar.

The meaning also comes from the way in which Bird has phrased the questions. Having questions at all directs the seller to respond in a certain way; the response must be written, and only allude to the content framed within the question.
This keeps the dialogue to a strictly contained format. There are no surprises, as the viewer knows what to expect from the outset.

The final question asks; “When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they are now ‘art’?
The process of re-situating them, and bringing them into the 21st century via a digital, and artistic media, would seem to have added to their value, if by value we define it in relation to monetary terms.

The buyers are buying into the whole process and experience in the project, not just the images themselves. As described by one journalist from the Scotsman newspaper, the images return to the ‘digital merry-go-round‘.
Their value could also be linked to the narrative that unites the images, in particular, the albums which were sold afterwards. It completes the story; we are not just viewing a solitary image, which although interesting, is more fleeting than the whole set or dialogue.

 

Research point: Gregory Crewdson

Gregory Crewdson is an American photographer famed for his elaborately styled images depicting scenes of small-town American life.
In this exercise we are asked to view a video of Crewdson’s work and consider the questions below;

Do you think there is more to his work than aesthetic beauty?
Having viewed both the video and a number of his images, the aesthetics of each are undoubtedly a large part of their allure.
Conversely, admiring them for this quality alone, would be rather shallow, and be doing the photographer a great disservice.

Aesthetics combine with many other layers including lighting, framing, props, and colour, to name just a few, with each supporting the other. It is difficult to separate the layers.
Crewdson has stated that he aims for perfection in just one image; he is not interested in the before or after, and has no wish to form a relationship with any of the actors, or ‘subjects’ as he refers to them. It is just the finished result that drives him on.

Aesthetics is the glue which join these elements together, and shape their success. It is the hallmark of the artist but not solely what he is remembered for.
If all other aspects of the image were not so compelling, aesthetics would not be in the debating arena.

Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
Psychological is defined as ‘of, affecting, or arising in the mind: relating to the mental and emotional state of a person.’ The interweaving of reality and fiction connote the sense of being staged, so the viewer has a starting point in which to decipher the image.

The dream-like quality, and highly stylised images leave the viewer with a sense of drama. The tension and feeling of dread inherent in much of his work conveys an almost horror- film suspense. Only the viewer can imagine what has just happened or is about to happen. Many of his images are also untitled, again passing the control back to the viewer. Imagination is left to fill in the gaps.

Crewdson was interviewed as saying that his aim is ‘to draw the viewer in’ and for his work to have  ‘a visceral impact’ (who and when).
The props within his scenes are all chosen and placed to enhance the narrative, and for us to place our interpretation upon it.

What is the main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?
The overall goal in the process of ‘making pictures’ is largely dependant on the aim of the individual concerned. Different genres have their own styles, and genres themselves can be interwoven, making the process more complex.

With this in mind, there is nothing wrong with aiming for beauty as the main criterion, if the images are placed in context.
Beauty is generally expected by viewers in more mainstream imagery such as landscapes, advertising, and portraiture, to name just a few. Tradition and a continual commercial demand for such genres, is also a factor.

Areas where this may be seen in ‘poor taste’ are those which invariably evoke a strong emotional response such as war photography, or child centred imagery. Sally Mann caused a great deal of controversy when taking images of her children, who were often pictured nude. These are areas often seen as taboo, and inflame public opinion.

Whether this is right or wrong is again subjective, as is the viewers perception of what is aesthetically pleasing. Do we only want images that soothe, or more visually challenging representations? Our perceptions are again subjective, dependant and built upon our own experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/31438076/gregcrew-libre.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1427977439&Signature=mnjVXiQPRMDUUNZwLFpm0mBM%2FxY%3D

Exercise 16: Scene from Goodfellas

Part of the course syllabus includes ‘Setting the scene’, or how photographs can be constructed in order to tell stories or at least hint at narratives.
This exercise asks us to watch a famous scene, directed by Martin Scorsese in the film Goodfellas‘.

We are asked initially to note what the scene tells us about the main character.
From the opening shot we are given the impression that he is well-known, and held in high regard or feared – perhaps a mix of the two.

He has the confident air of someone who’s used to getting what he wants, and is outwardly friendly to everyone he meets, regardless of social standing.
There is also the sense that he will bypass social etiquette to get ahead.

Doors seems to open for him both metaphorically and literally. We are a given a sense of his status and power.

Secondly, we are asked to list the ‘clues’ within the scene which relays this information.

  • Expensive car.
  • Extravagant tips to doormen, waiters, and general service staff.
  • Jumps to front of queue for nightclub, and enters with ease.
  • Enters club through side door, and knows layout intimately.
  • Table is produced, with ringside seat made available, ahead of other customers waiting.
  • Maitre-d goes out of his way to organise a table.
  • Other customer with similar status sends over expensive Champagne.
  • The entertainer personally acknowledges the main character’s date for the evening.
  • Music designed to add to allure, and also indication of narrative’s path.
  • Fast pace and angle of filming – doors open wherever he goes.

 

Assignment 4: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Robert Capa photographed wars between 1936 and 1954, before being killed by a land mine on one of the last assignments of his career. Although the majority of his images were directly of war, some of his greatest were taken from events on the periphery.

This particular image bears the description ‘a French woman, who conceived a child by a German soldier, being marched home after the punishment of having her head shaved.’
It was taken in Chartres, France on August 18th, 1944.

The black and white image denotes a crowded street filled with adults and children of both sexes. Their eyes are mainly directed towards the young woman, whose head is shaved. In her arms is a baby, and to her left, an older woman, similarly shorn – the ‘tondues’.
The young woman looks to be accompanied by a policeman, and one other male, who is more formally dressed compared to the rest of the crowd.

In Alex Kershaw’s biography of Capa (2002), he describes how the image was conceived.
Capa came upon this scene in the cathedral city of Chartres, and was alerted by ‘the angry shouts of a French crowd: “Salope! Salope! (Whore! Whore!)
Alleged collaborators were lined up against a wall, before the ritual head shaving began.
It is reported that glasses of wine were being sold, connoting a gallows style spectacle, or celebration.

To place the image in its historical context, it was taken literally hours after the liberation of the city, and feelings may well have been running high because of this. It may also explain the large number of people present, who witnessed the event as it played out.

On the literary scene, Ernest Hemingway, Capa’s close friend and ally, had just published the acclaimed ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (1940). In the fictional text, a central character ‘Maria’ is also subjected to having her head shaved for collaborating with the enemy, a theme which has been prominent since biblical times.

It is difficult to apportion the crowd’s apparent consensus for the ‘tondue’s’ treatment versus the background of the liberation. The duality within the image may well explain its enduring longevity throughout history.

To capture the shot, Capa walked backwards, photographing the woman several times, as is denoted by the additional images within the public arena.
It may be this method, coupled with the relatively wide-angle of view that produced the opening in the foreground of the image, reinforcing the arrow shaped space, which directs our gaze to the central character amongst the crowd, and the baby, who at this moment in time must be oblivious to his mother’s situation.

The perceived stride-length denotes that the crowd were moving fairly fast; the caption confirms that she was ‘marched.’ The connotation hints at the urgency of the woman to end her humiliation, and/or that the crowd were propelling her forward.
Their animated expressions point to that of elation; conveying an almost carnival atmosphere, which assists in confirming the truth of the narrative as we know from the accompanying description. This is in direct contrast to the face of the central character, believed to be that of Simone Touseau, although Capa failed to use her name within the description.

Whether this was to enhance the visual narrative by dehumanising the subject, or conversely, to protect her from further humiliation, is unknown.
Even without a name it could be argued that Capa reasoned such an image would ‘satisfy the West’s desperate need to believe in the actuality of invasion.’ Morris, J (1998).

Several other images portraying Touseau as part of a wider group of ’tondues’, were also published, but this particular one has become the most widely depicted. This could be due in part to the voyeuristic nature of the scene, which we as viewers perpetuate by our complicity, as debated by Sontag (2003). The juxtaposition of the woman’s features, devoid of expression, gain prominence against the throng of those involved in the spectacle.

Barthes ‘punctum’ (1993) has been widely debated with regards to this image; some saying that it points towards the baby, and the woman’s perceived lack of emotion towards it. In the circumstances, she may well have realised that any display of emotion towards the child, could have elicited further retribution.

My interest is initially more piqued by the male figure directly in front of the main subject. His expression matches her own, and the downward glance bears the same feeling of alienation as the subject. He appears both physically and emotionally removed. Further research revealed that the male figure is her father, and directly behind him, another shaved head – her mother.

Her mother is barely perceptible, but once noted becomes difficult to avoid. Her part, if any in the alleged collaboration is unknown. Bias at this stage seems heavily weighted towards the female element.

Images portraying the ‘tondues’ generally highlighted the victim, not the perpetrators. Their crime at once confirmed without trial, their right to reply, an anathema.
Capa’s own description clearly outlines the reason for the woman’s social exclusion; the presence of the baby, affirming her plight.
In light of Capa’s worldwide success following his D-Day landing images, the pressure to produce a similarly arresting shot, would not unreasonably have been uppermost in his mind.

Capa’s image captures a perfect ‘snapshot’ in time of the subject’s perceived crime against a Nation, the jubilation of the recent liberation, and the impact of the situation on her family.
A video describing the effect of Touseau’s actions, from those who lived in the same village, point to the loss of life of several villagers, purely because of her collaboration.

This narrative, although unknown to the viewer, has the effect of changing how the image is then read. Our perspective shifts, and the result can be a re-visiting of the image to look for further visual clues, which may allude to the new information.
Whether Capa would have elicited this information is unknown. Working for Life Magazine, would have come with editorial demands, and events surrounding the shot may not have been a concern. How it was received by the public, and no doubt, how many copies it sold.

With all of these considerations, it still comes across as a very powerful image. The composition manages to convey the sense of the subject being literally and figuratively enclosed on all sides.
Her part in the event, and wider implications are absent from the image, but the consequences and negative emotion aimed directly at her, is clearly represented.
The use of black and white imagery and its connotations of ‘truth’ have aided in sealing her fate within and beyond the realms of the frame.

References
barthes, r, 2000. camera lucida. London: vintage books.

kershaw, j, 2003. blood and champagne: the life and times of robert capa. 1st Edition. Thomas Dunne Books.

short, m, 2011. context and narrative. London: Thames and Hudson.

sontag, s 2004. Regarding the Pain of Others. Penguin Books, Limited (UK).

Bibliography
barrett, t,  2005. criticizing photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. 4 Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

ON REFLECTION
When initially considering whether to use one of my own images, or that of a well-known photographer, I had to question why the words ‘well known’ were important.
Would an image by a complete unknown have anything less to say that someone already in the public eye.

The decision was taken to use an image by a well-known photographer, but unknown to me. This way I could optimise the time to research an artist who has been widely documented. Robert Capa’s work is also not a genre that I would normally be drawn to, so was another reason to explore his images.

This particular image caught my attention. It was a mixture of intrigue and compassion surrounding the central ‘character’. This labelling of Simone Touseau became an issue throughout the assignment, and I found it difficult to refer to her as any one particular noun.

Trying to understand why this was, revealed several possible answers. Firstly the image was taken over 70 years ago, and the scene showed an event completely alien to me. Being in black and white also slightly removed it from an era I was familiar with.
Finally, the retribution she received was also something unbeknown to me.

I spent a long time looking at the image, before conducting any research, with the view to try and understand it, or read it from my own perspectives before seeing what others had concluded.
Once research had been carried out, it became increasingly difficult to re-visit the image with the same objective views.

As I read Capa’s autobiography, and a picture of his character, this also resulted in a shifting of views. Again, listening to the video and hearing the unfolding story of Touseau’s treatment, also changed my perspective.
It is difficult to fully read an image without knowing all the facts. In this instance all the facts were never made known, so it was a case of literally reading what was held within the frame, coupled with the descriptive text.

It still felt slightly like I’d just read half a book, and would never know the end.
Without having read someone elses account of the image, I’m not sure I would have noticed Touseau’s mother, having undergone the same treatment as her daughter.

Researching the photographer was more useful than I had anticipated. It gave a greater understanding as to why he took the images he did.
It also reinforced that for every great shot, there are many more which never make it. Something which is easy to forget when you are continually confronted with award-winning imagery.

It was very useful in listening to the video surrounding this image, and highlighted how many different forms of media and communication can help in building a picture of just one shot.
The image contained within the frame continues to manifest itself in many forms across the decades.

 

 

 

 

Exercise 15: Deconstructing an advertising image

The advertisement below was taken from the Sunday Times supplement.
The exercise asks us to comment on the ad, what it is, what is says about the product, and why we think it’s there.

Written information is also transcribed below the advert for ease of reading.

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Red could indicate danger, or simply highlight the product’s purpose. Conversely, red also raises blood pressure.

The play on words ‘oat to know’, is a lighthearted intervention to offset the serious nature of the product’s intended aim.

Use of white space allows room for product info to stand out. White also signifies purity.

The red pepper, and background foods reinforce the healthy aspect of the potential customer base.

Colour of the background tablecloth, also green, mirrors the colour of nature – another healthy link.

The newspaper again hints at the target market. We can build a picture of how the intended customer base is perceived.

The play on words surrounding ‘oat to know’ also clarifies what the product contains.

Large text highlights the key benefits.

Swedish stereotypes target ‘safety’ and healthy lifestyles.

Key points are given bullet point emphasis, to reinforce the benefits.

Scientific links tie in to our belief system – science hints at safety, testing and respectability.

Different stance to ‘Swedish’, but use of ‘Nordic’ again reinforces ‘outdoor’, ‘healthy’ aspect and lifestyle.

Print size reduced at base of advert, as info hints at product needing additional measures for product to be successful.

Reviewers pictured, project feelings of happiness which we may feel is a state we’d like to achieve.

Speech marks and punctuation convey a sense that we are being spoken to directly. Direct eye contact reinforces this. The first review reiterates the word ‘natural’.

The products is aimed at both sexes, conveyed by using photos of the two reviewers. Both state that the product has already worked. ‘Natural element’ theme continues ‘without medication’.

The packaging colours mirror the advert itself, reinforcing brand awareness. Text and white space is also similarly placed.

The heart logo, a key sign, indicates the product’s main area of purpose, in what is a mainly text based deign.

The scientific look, again reinforces its safety aspect, and air of respectability.

The majority of companies who endorse the product, are in the same field as Betavivo. This signifies that the same customers are also likely to endorse the product.

The angle of the product itself creates an invisible line between it and the advert, drawing the eye from one to the other.

The use of orange text is used extensively in sports advertising, representing activity, life, and motivation.

Exercise 14: Reading a photograph – Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

Elliott Erwitt is ‘an advertising and documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings— a master of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”.’

This exercise asks us to look carefully at Erwitt’s image titled ‘Felix, Gladys and Rover’, and make notes regarding how the subject matter is placed within the frame, how he’s structured the image, what we think the image is saying, and how the structure contributes to this meaning.

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Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

The subject area is fairly centrally positioned within the frame, with each separate element holding an even amount of space, between the foreground, central subject and background.

The dog’s lead acts as an arrow, emphasising the main character, and allowing the eye to link the dog to the presumed owner. Again this is an assumption, as anything out of view could simply be props.

With a shallow depth of field, the three characters again take prominence, and are separated only by tonal variations, and even spacing around them.
Shadows beneath the feet of the two characters on the left, help to add weight and grounding to the image. Light reflected from the boots also add a three-dimensional element.

The high contrast scene helps to visually separate the subjects, and leaves no room for ambiguity as to who is central stage.
There is just enough focus in the background to convey that the scene is of a park or similar outdoor area. Again this is an assumption, and could easily be a studio with carefully controlled lighting.

From our points of reference, namely the boots, fallen leaves, winter coat, and the dogs own clothing, we have a sense of a cold winters day. It is also the dog’s coat which adds to his almost human qualities.
They imbue him with a personality. His ears and hat being the key focus against the lighter tonal areas.

By cropping out the majority of the larger dog, and person, the smaller dog has our full attention; the slightly different angle to the other two, adding to his presence.
The aged face also conveys frailty, and similarly, a ‘cuteness’.
The close crop also allows the dog’s lead to be easily seen. We are given a sense that he belongs to someone, and is possibly spoilt as identified by the coat and hat. He is not just a dog, but a pampered pet.

The angle of view, and camera position is perhaps the key to the image’s success. It is as though we are at eye level with the subject, rather than looking down. We are taken down into his world, not towering above. The fact that the image is cropped, also emphasises the height of the larger dog, and the miniature status of the smallest.

The image also gives us a sense of the photographer’s liking for dogs, or perhaps just for witty depictions in general.

Research point: Images – literal depiction

The majority of photographs are used to as a means of expression or communication.
In this instance, we are asked to research types of images which are not used for this purpose.

Examples come under the literal depiction of appearance, and include product shots, passport photos, medical records, and scenes of crime.
In each of the examples, image content is recorded to serve as confirmation of what we are presenting in reality, such as the passport photo.

Similarly they can correlate written statements and backup supporting dialogue, such as in the case of crime records.
In both cases, truth and reality are paramount. no element of the image can be fabricated, and accuracy is crucial. The camera must not ‘lie’.

In areas such as crime scenes, the level of technical ability required to ensure a detailed, and perfectly exposed image, is crucial. Any blurring of detail, or tonal discrepancy could in effect render the image as unusable.
Only truth, and perfect visual representation is required.

 

Assignment 3: Putting yourself in the Picture – ‘Just bricks and mortar’.

Introduction
In this section of the course the assignment asks us to draw upon examples in Part three, and our own research to produce images which use ourselves, either directly or indirectly as subject matter.

A diary had to be kept for a set period of time, detailing our actions/thoughts. The idea was to act as an open brief. The most interesting parts of the diary were to be interpreted into the photographic project.

Initial thoughts
This particular assignment proved to be the most challenging to date.  Many of my initial ideas simply ran off at a tangent, becoming a narrative which could have related to anyone.
I had planned on using the contents of my cupboards as a theme, but then came across Anna Fox’s body of work titled ‘My mother’s cupboards and my father’s words’. It then became difficult to visualise without the fear of copying, however inadvertently, once the images were viewed.

The next biggest area of indecision was whether to include myself, or go the more ‘fictional autobiographical’ route. In the end, a mixture of the two prevailed.

After several more false starts, and a new diary spanning a two-week period, the main theme which became the focus, related to a possible house move, or more precisely, the considerations surrounding a possible house move.
I don’t usually give my assignments titles, but an off-the-cuff remark from my husband regarding such a move seemed apt, so ‘Just Bricks and Mortar’ became the theme.

The subject became all-encompassing, and infiltrated both waking and sleeping times. The resulting images are a selection from a large accumulation of such thoughts. Having experimented with projected imagery, I wanted to continue to explore this area, but with slightly more modern technology; the previous piece of equipment being a vintage style slide projector.

A new projector was therefore purchased, which allowed for sharper images and greater digital control, although the power from the light output proved to be a major stumbling block.
My camera, or more accurately the lens, struggled with the intensity of light, and finally resulted in the lens dying in fairly spectacular fashion. It was a 24 to 105mm, and my main workhorse.

This initiated  a re-think as my only other lens was a 50mm prime. Further research into the colour banding issues that projected images can produce, enabled me to adapt the planned images to ‘almost’ similar shots of the initial planning stages.

The following images are not intended to be viewed in any particular order, and the final set were presented in an old-style cube frame to facilitate this.

This section of the course has highlighted how final presentation helps to reinforce the set of images that make up a body of work, and also to have a little more control or direction as to how the viewer approaches them.

IMAGE 1
The first image surrounds the build-up to getting our home valued, and the realisation that complete strangers are ultimately going to be traipsing through it, critiquing, assessing and no doubt judging, based only on its four walls and contents.

It all seemed so one-dimensional, which is where the idea of using a doll’s house came from. The view from my kitchen window would no doubt be glimpsed but not fully appreciated. You can’t convey the changing of the seasons in one viewing. By day three of the diary entries, all I could see was paintwork that needed refreshing, curtains which should have been condemned, and a 70s bathroom that simply couldn’t be hidden in a cupboard.

I wanted the image to convey this one-dimensional feeling, but also one which contained an element of depth.
The initial shot comprised the whole house, but as the final image would be portrayed at a fairly small-scale, the projected element would have been lost.

Joel Meyerowitz‘ views on what is included in and out of the frame helped to clarify the challenge presented when trying to give an image added depth. It wasn’t just about elements to the left and right of the subject, but also what was going on from front to rear. The far distance in this particular case.

The whole process of getting the house up to scratch before the valuation, seemed to consist of endlessly shoving things into cupboards, viewing each room as a self-contained box, and then viewing the whole house as a box.
It was a very precise process, and felt like a never-ending tick-list, which is how the more cropped shot evolved, to emphasise the rigidity of the sorting and cleaning process; all self-imposed nevertheless.
You want the potential house buyer to see the possibilities, not the nuts and bolts.

DollsHouseCropView3399

IMAGE 2
The second image again uses projected imagery, this time directly onto the doll’s house.
I wanted to continue with the slightly surreal feeling concerning strangers viewing your home, and the impersonal element linked to the experience.

It felt as though every corner of the house would be inspected, marked and awarded points accordingly.

Keeping colour throughout the image felt too frenetic, so the decision was made to adjust settings to allow for black and white areas. This balanced the composition and colour, which had jarred initially. This also worked around the problem of the projector’s intense light.
I was similarly conscious of trying to improve on keeping a visual rhythm throughout the set, which my tutor mentioned in the previous assignment.

This image also allowed me to directly place myself in the frame, and ‘appease’ my slight reticence about not doing so in some way.
Throughout the assignment I have also tried to remain slightly impartial, and see the images from the viewer’s perspective. In this way it is easier to see if the clues held within the frame are enough to convey the ideas around it.

Again the image has been taken purposefully to exclude any background scenery, so that the doll’s house itself may be seen out of context. It’s size, and therefore its sense of scale is not so easily placed against reality.

EyesDollsHouse0521

IMAGE 3
My diary entries moved way from the concerns and envisaged disruption of house viewings, to the things that would be left behind. Illogical memories of sunrise and sunset shots, with could easily be alluded to elsewhere but not replicated, came to the fore.

It’s difficult to detach the view from your home, from your living quarters. You can’t live in a view, but neither  can you imagine living without one.
Trying to rationalise that you’d be under the same sky, and the same sun just didn’t add up.
Ultimately the memory held is not of the captured photo but more of an overlaid image, intertwined with the home.

My area of concern in this image, is whether the visual rhythm is disturbed due to the amount of space that the subject fills as compared to the remaining images, and whether this change jars within the set.

Sunset3410

IMAGE 4
Many of the diary entries once re-read, were linked to periods of nostalgia, the definition of which is ‘a wistful or excessively sentimental, sometimes abnormal yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition‘.
In this instance the colour of the memory overrode the actual detail, and was simply the old BBC test card which appeared when no programmes were being aired.

Initially I was concerned that anyone viewing the image, would need prior knowledge of the card in order to understand the relevance. This was then dismissed, as I feel the colours, and style link it to a much earlier era which is easily identifiable, albeit in a particular geographical region of the UK. It would also place me in an age bracket linked to the memory.

Thinking of the images as a set, rather than stand-alone shots, I’ve tried to keep a similar style throughout. The projected imagery slightly dictated the high contrast elements, and use of colour mixed with black and white.

NoughtsAndCrosses3426

IMAGE 5
The next shot evolved after a diary entry relating to the logistical problem of moving house with pets, in this case, a semi-ferral cat who also enjoyed staring into the ether.
The whole process snowballed out of all proportion, as worries tend to late at night, when perspective also goes out the window.

Windows became a recurring element throughout the images. Perhaps by staring out of them, my brain had a chance to churn over the options of whether to move house or not. It was not so much staring out as staring inwards.
The result is a fairly dark image, without much detail, which is how the feelings surrounding the issue appeared.

The shot was taken through one of the windows of the doll’s house, and was a spur-of-the-moment ‘snap’. It was switched to a negative curve in post processing to reinforce the tone of the image.

CatNegative3437

IMAGE 6
The final image comes back to the title of ‘just bricks and mortar’. Having swung full circle on only seeing the house from a stranger’s perspective, family, pets, and my own, my diary entries finally reverted back to simply trying to see a house for what it is – bricks and mortar. I didn’t succeed but it was interesting to run the full gamet of emotions when trying to weigh up the all the options on such a major decision.

The cross-processed look of the shot was done in post processing, as it suited my view of the house when writing the diary entry. It was all a bit surreal. I was either picturing past events  with a rose-tinted hue since living in the house, or picturing life without it, and had already moved out of it in my mind. It was like orbiting a problem, and trying to work out exactly where to land.

I like the way that reflected elements give a glimpse of what’s outside and inside the house, without really revealing anything concrete.
It also links to the box like framing of each shot, in line with compartmentalising the thought process throughout the diary writing, and pondered house move.

House3402

Final presentation of images in a cube frame, below.

Cube3448

On reflection
The initial research into this assignment was very broad, almost too much input. It became difficult to unravel concrete ideas which could be developed.

The initial problems with lens and projection slightly de-railed things for a while, but were overcome in part.

As the images evolved, I wished that I were more detailed in how each one came into being. There was so much involved in each one, that it was difficult to pinpoint which idea/artist had inspired or inadvertently planted the seed for inspiration.

It is difficult to log everything of note, and it has hampered the process when I’ve tried to add more detail.
The ‘Photographer’s Sketchbooks’ proved quite insightful, as it presented a number of ways in which photographers/artists record their working methods and more interestingly, thought processes as they take images.
It was quite thought-provoking and helped in reviewing my own record taking methods., particularly when trying to store information relating to artists who strike a chord.

One thing I need to re-visit, is a way of pinning a subject down, and not attempting to throw everything that comes to mind at a project. It is this constant need to cover everything learnt in one chapter that is hampering the final result.

Reading Jodie Taylor’s ‘Memories of Childhood’, I was interested to see how she had presented her work to reinforce the context of the project. images had been presented in 6 x 4 sizing in the sort of flimsy plastic family album, reminiscent of the era they depicted.
I found this quite eye-opening, and a refreshing change from simply presenting everything via a one-dimensional blog.

CONCLUSION
From researching a wide variation of artists for this assignment, my usual style of producing a linear narrative, moving from A through to Z has altered, and I feel more confident about changing sequence and style within a series of images.
Although I still struggle with contextualising my work against that of others, I do feel a stirring of at least trying to incorporate it more within my work.

My one big area of doubt in this particular instance is whether I have successfully  incorporated the diary entries into the piece, without physically using excerpts from it.
Although I could fully understand how others had done this, I could not find a way to intertwine the two without being too obvious. Bearing in mind the ‘show, not tell’ style of imaging, I decided therefore to leave certain parts of the entries out.

There were one or two issues with images from the previous assignment, relating to underexposed areas, so I’ve calibrated the screen prior to starting the project, and made more of a conscious effort to carefully examine each shot before committing it to print.
Leaving the write-up for a day after it’s finished has also proved useful, as approaching it with fresh eyes unveils areas which can be missed when engrossed.

Refs and Bibliography

http://www.annafox.co.uk 9th March 2015

http://www.richardsaltoun.com/artists/182-john-hilliard/overview/ 8th March 2015

Auto Focus, Bright, S. Thames and Hudson. London 2010

Behind the image. Fox, A. Ava publishing. Switzerland 2010.

Photographer’s Sketchbooks. McLaren S, Formhals, B. Thames and Hudson. London. 2014

The Source. Photographic review. Summer 2014 Issue 79. Photo works North.