Assignment One – “Encountering Culture”
A portfolio of photographic work supported by individual workbook. (75% of the final grade.)
One of the objectives of this module is for you to begin to locate your own work within the various and far-flung fields of photographic practice. This in itself is not a new idea; when the philosopher Plato (c.428-347 BC.) said “know thyself” he was in effect saying much the same; that we must locate ourselves within the world in order to validate our viewpoint of it.
To put that another way; we all see the world from an entirely socio/sexual/culturally-unique perspective, which will in turn dictate what and how we communicate as photographic artists. This assignment addresses the notion directly by asking;
“ Are you in harmony or in conflict within the social structure that you are a part of?”
Through a set of 10 photographic pieces1 you should examine the sources of pressures within society to conform or adjust our behavior and appearance. You may examine stereotypes, racial, gender, religious, class or age etc. You may use others to portray your views or you may explore the notion of the self-portrait. Your images can depict both the mundane nature and the theatricality of the everyday life.
You are expected to experiment with different approaches and challenge the boundaries of your previous modes of working.
Useful reference material might come in the form of images from newspaper cuttings, magazines, news footage, films, books, music, advertising in all it’s forms, the family photo album and/or other practitioners.
Your research (included within your workbook/sketchbook/blog) should detail the development of your ideas, and your practice as well as any shifts in direction of the project.
1 A “photographic piece” refers to either a single photographic image or collection thereof (in the form of a montage or diptych, triptych etc.). Final pieces must be analogue in nature, i.e. printed in the darkroom from negatives.
Work should be handed in to reception with a complete digital version on disk (including blog booker and any sketchbooks plus digital versions of any final “originals” submitted) on Friday 30th November 2012.
Encountering Culture Mind-Map:
Original Ideas and Feedback:
After I had completed both my “Encountering Culture” and “Relationship” mind-maps, I then mentally brain stormed some theoretical photo shoots that I could create.
This enabled me to come up with my two original ideas. My first idea was to photograph a person with a precious object and try to capture the relationship between the object, the person, and the narrative behind the potential memory. My second idea was to photograph a variety of different people using the portrait style of photography to capture different actions between them that can be used to represent their relationships. The people within this photo shoot would be photographed in the same place to show that the images are a part of a collection, and the subjects will also be holding signs, whilst these specific actions were taking place (this would let the viewer understand the relationship status between the subjects).
On Friday 2nd November 2012, I then had a reflective seminar on this particular assignment. In this seminar, I put my ideas across to Paul Smith where he then gave me helpful thoughts and contingencies. He suggested that I stuck with my second idea (the portraits), as this was the stronger of the two. Paul Smith then recommended that I should keep the same idea, but instead of having the subjects holding a sign, that I should look at Duane Michal’s work where he wrote over his images. He also advised that I created two shoots: one where all of the subjects were photographed in the same place, and the other where the subjects were photographed in the place that they met. Due to a shortage of time, I plan on putting both of these ideas together and photographing the subjects in the place that they met, and then get them to write over/around the image.
I will now construct a small amount of research into different portrait photographers and decided which of these I feel will influence this project the most.
Nick Waplington Biography:
Nick Waplington is a British photographer and artist that was born in Aden in 1970 and currently lives in New York. He travelled a lot with his family when he was younger as his father was a part of the scientific nuclear industry. He then studied art in three different places that included Worthing Art College, Trent Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art in London. Nick Waplington had a variety of different exhibitions and publications produced. A list of these are shown below:
- “Living Room”(Aperture Foundation) – 1984 for 15 years, photographed immediate surroundings in Nottingham including his friends and neighbours of his family
- “Weddings, Parties, Anything” (Aperture Foundation)
- “Other Eden’s” (Aperture, 1994) – focused on environmental concerns
- “Safety in Numbers” (Booth Clibborn Editions, 1997) – photographed and studied the E culture in the mid-1990’s
- “The Indecisive Memento” (Booth Clibborn Editions, 1999) – photographed his global road trip
- “Truth or Consequences” (Phaidon, 2001) – project based on the history of photography using the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico as a backdrop and using 1950’s television as an influential aspect
- “Learn how to die the easy way” (Trolley Books, 2002) – his involvement to a group exhibition in part of the Venice Biennale in 2001
- “You Love Life” (Trolley Books, 2005) – used photographs taken over a period of 20 years to create an autobiographical narrative
- “Terry Painter” – a graphic novel that was made in 2003 with Miguel Calderon
- “The Garden of Suburban Delights” – also included the help of Miguel Calderon and has been exhibited in Europe and the United States of America
- “Synethesia” – slide show of found internet photos
- “You Are Only What You See” – a series of 10 books of found imagery
- “Double Dactyl” – a separate catalog of original photographs
- “Surf Riot” (Little Big Man of New York City)
- “Lackadaisical” (self-published) – a piece work that changes with every 100 copies printed
Nick Waplington Collections:
Nick Waplington Photograph:
Nick Waplington Photograph Analysis:
F/number Suggestion = f/32
Shutter Speed Suggestion = 1/125 seconds
The focal point of this image is the boys face that is found in the top centre third of the photograph. The viewer begins by taking in the whole of the boy’s body. They navigate their way downward, noticing the rather large white rabbit and use this as a leading line. They then follow the highlight of the boys extended leg to the floor, take in the bent leg on the way, quickly notice his shadow, and move back up his body to his extended arm. The viewer then uses this as a leading line to the washing line before using the electrical wires on the houses as leading lines that enable the viewer to take in the rest of the background. One of the main things that the viewer notices is the fact that the boy is carrying a large white rabbit. The rabbit can be used to symbolize the faithfulness in love and good friendship and the colour white is often used to represent energy and vitality; all of which are seen within this image. Nick Waplington was known to use large format cameras in a non-intrusive way that has enabled him to capture this image in a natural and what seems to be a snap shot technique. This clearly shows that the image hasn’t been staged and that this boy is merely going about his day-to-day business. However, the direct mode of address that the boy is giving suggests that he is conscious of the camera taking a photo. This, twinned with the facial expression of the boy, allows the viewer to imagine the actions that took place after the shot: the boy stopped playing. This gives the viewer a sense of disheartened sadness as they feel that they are slightly responsible for the ending of his entertainment due to the angle that the photograph was taken from. Waplington was also known for photographing the type of background that he came from, but didn’t use his own family. If the viewer knew this fact, they would then start to ask questions; “Who is the boy?”, “What is their relation?”, “How has Waplington been able to take such a personal image?” , and so on. I plan on using Nick Waplington’s style of snap shot photography as inspiration and influence on how I capture my subjects and their relationships.
Nicholas Nixon Biography:
Nicholas Nixon was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1947 and is a portrait and documentary photographer. He is mostly know due to his work with large format cameras as he was one of the few photographers that didn’t swap to 35mm cameras during this photographic change. He was also greatly influenced by photographers Edward Weston and Walker Evans that also had an affect on which format camera he used.
In the year 1975, Nicholas Nixon began one his most famous project entitled “The Brown Sisters”. This collection consists of portraits of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters. Nixon took a photo of these four Brown sisters every year, in the same position and order for 36 years. This series is so well known that it has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the National Gallery of Art.
Nixon’s first solo exhibition was actually in 1976 at the Museum of Modern Art. In the previous year, however, his work was produced in what is seen as one of the most famous exhibitions of the decade, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” at the George Eastman House.
After this, Nicholas Nixon was awarded many awards and fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Arts Photography fellowship in 1976, 1980 and 1987 and the Guggenheim fellowships in 1977 and 1986.
Nixon is also well known for his work “People With AIDS” that he begun in 1987.
He has also published a variety of different books that have been listed below:
- Photographs From One Year – 1983
- Pictures of People – 1988
- People With AIDS (with Bebe Nixon) – 1991
- School – 1998
- The Brown Sisters – 2002
- Nicholas Nixon Photographs – 2003
- Home – 2005
- Live Love Look Last – 2009
Nicholas Nixon Collections:
Nicholas Nixon Photograph:
Nicholas Nixon Photograph Analysis:
F/number suggestion = f/26
Shutter speed suggestion = 1/125 seconds
The focal point of this photograph is the eyes of the woman wearing the white top (second in from the right). This is because the viewer is drawn to her face as she is eliciting a direct mode of address twinned with the fact that she is wearing the brightest top. The viewer then takes in all of this woman’s face before moving downwards to scrutinize what she is wearing. When the viewer reached the bottom of the image, they then move to the top of the woman on her left, move upwards to her necklace, before being attracted to this woman’s face. Once the viewer has analysed this woman’s face, they then move along to the sisters face on the far left. They take this similar face in before, again, moving down the woman’s body to her clothing. The viewer then finds that they make a loop back to the woman on the right following a parallel curve that is created by the woman’s heads due to their various heights. After the viewer has taken in the whole image, they then go back along the woman’s faces, from right to left, and notice that they are have very similar facial features which then leads them to assume that they are all sisters (if they didn’t already know this). The direct mode of address that is given off from all four sisters gives the viewer a sense of tension and almost competition. It is also used to show the formality of the photographs and can, in some cases, be used to show the sisters change in personality and emotion as they grow older. The series entitled “The Brown Sisters” was taken over a period of 36 years which is what gave it such an artistic edge as it could be used to represent a variety of different era’s and aspects that we changed throughout this time. It is very difficult to analyse only one image from this collection, as it is hard to explain the overall impact on the viewer. If I had time, I would be very interested in photographing the relationships that I plan to see developing over a similar timespan, but this simply cannot happen. Instead, I plan on using Nicholas Nixon’s work as inspiration for experimenting with the staged and natural look of my subjects and their relationships.
Duane Michals Biography:
Duane Michals, the American photographer,was born on 18th February 1932. Michals’ work often uses photo-sequences and text to emphasise the emotion and idea within the image.
At the age of 14, Michal’s interest in art began to reveal itself as he enrolled in watercolor classes at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. Michal’s then went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Denver in 1953 before joining the army for 2 years. In 1956, he began to study graphic design at the Parsons School of Design but did not finish his course. In 1958 Michal’s went on holiday in the USSR, which is where he found his interest in photography. His first exhibition was held in 1963 at the Underground Gallery in New York and consisted of the images that he took from this specific holiday.
Michals was not known to have his own studio so became famous for his use of natural backgrounds within his portraiture photography. This enabled him to become a commercial photographer for magazines such as Esquire, Mademoiselle and Vogue.
In 1968, Michals was hired to photograph the Summer Olympics by the government of Mexico and in 1970 his work from this event were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The portraits that Michals took between the years of 1958 and 1988 were later published into his book entitled, Album. He is also known for producing the album cover art for The Police, and Richard Barone.
Exhibitions and Awards:
- 2009, France: Presentation of his work at Les Rencontres d’Arles and Screening of his work at Théâtre Antique d’Arles
- 1991: Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society
- 1994: Gold medal for photography, National Arts Club
- 2000: Masters Series Award, School of Visual Arts
Duane Michals Collection:
Duane Michals Photograph:
Duane Michals Photograph Analysis:
F/number Suggestion = f/24
Shutter Speed Suggestion = 1/125 seconds
The focal point of this photograph is the highlight of the elder man’s face that is found in the top left and centre thirds. The viewer is lead to this focal point by quickly glancing at the boys face found in the foreground. They then use his direction of view as a leading line towards the elder man’s face standing in the background. The viewer then scrutinizes the man’s facial expression before being attracted to the lighter highlight of his shirt and arm. They then use this arm as a leading line towards the man’s body before moving across the body to the face of the woman that is found in the middle right third. At a first look, without having the text around the image to anchor the meaning of this particular photograph, the viewer feels as though the teenage boy within the photograph is being told of for getting up to the usual stereotypical antics that teenagers get up to. However, all the viewer needs to do is read the title of the writing that surrounds the image to know that this is not the case. “A Letter From My Father” is the five words that change the meaning of this image completely. The viewer does not need to read the two paragraphs of text to know that his grandparents have just told this poor teenage boy that his father has sent him a letter regarding some very bad and emotional news. The fact that the text is hand writing also gives the image a very individual feel, almost as if it was taken from the teenage boys diary, which gives the viewer a more expressive response. After attempting to read the full text, the viewer then goes back to the image and see’s the body language and facial expressions in a completely different light. To be able to change the meaning of an image just by incorporating text in to the final product is the skill that I plan on experimenting with for this particular project. I feel that this will give my images and collection a sophisticated yet personal feel to the images which will in turn allow the viewer to become more emotionally attached.
What am I planning to do for this photo shoot?
After long consideration and thought about my idea, and after researching the three photographers, I came up with the idea that I would photograph people that I have different relationships with. Within each photograph I will only include one person and I will photograph them in either the place that I met them, or the place in which we spend most of our time. I will attempt to change my style of photography to enhance the relationship that I have with each individual person. I plan on photographing them in a natural situation so that the image doesn’t look staged, as this will enable the subject to elicit clues about our relationship in a more realistic way. I will then get the subject to write a short paragraph on our relationship that can include anything personal and it can be as formal or colloquial as they wish to enrich their view and personality. I will then use this paragraph to experiment with forms of writing that will be used either on or around the photograph in some way.
What will I need?
- Mamiya 7
- 120mm film
- Light meter
- Film developer
- Dark room
Willing subjects and specific places
- Grace – Bedroom (Monday 12th November)
- Oli – Communal Area (Monday 12th November)
- Jaz – Park (Sunday 11th November)
- Scott – Outside Gym (Sunday 11th November)
- Jenny – Ellen Terry (Computers) (Monday 12th November)
- Aaron – Ellen Terry (Study Area) (Monday 12th November)
- Shelbi – Town (Sunday 11th November)
- Sam – Gym (Sunday 11th November)
- Josh – Hub (Tuesday 13th November 2012)
- Lucy – Ellen Terry (Study Area) (Monday 12th November)
- Olly – Ellen Terry (Lecture Room) (Tuesday 13th November)
- Emilie – Ellen Terry (Film Developer) (Monday 12th November)
- Mum – Lounge (Saturday 17th November)
- Alaynah – Bedroom (Saturday 17th November)
- Pen and Paper
- Photo Paper
- Transparent Acetate
What technical skills will I need to use?
As I will be using the Mamiya 7 120mm film camera I will need to use a light meter to determine the shutter speed and aperture depending on the ISO that I use for the film within the camera. I will also need to use my film development skills along with my dark room practice to enable me to receive the photographs that I have taken.
Problems with My Test Shoot:
Admittedly, after running into a lot of problems with my first shoot, I decided that this would be classified as my test shoot to allow me to improve on my technical skills for the final photo shoot. I was extremely excited when being given this analogue assignment but was also incredibly nervous, as I have not shot, properly, with film cameras before. As I was one of the few people to have not used film as a technique before, I did not know some of the basic facts and techniques of analogue photography that led me to make a couple of mistakes.
The first, and rather large, mistake that I made was setting the ISO on the camera incorrectly. I didn’t know that each roll of film had their own ISO setting and so set the ISO of the camera to 800 rather than the 400 that the film roll needed. This obviously created darker and less contrast within my images, which then lead me to have further difficulties within the darkroom.
The second, smaller, mistake that I made was the focusing on the Mamiya 7 camera. I have used the Mamiya 7 before and found it relatively easy to focus, however, when wanting to shoot relatively close and intimate portraits of my friends, I found that it would not focus at the level of intimacy that I wanted, therefore only allowing me to photograph my subjects at a certain distance.
The third unfortunate mishap that occurred was when it came to printing my contact sheets. I didn’t realize until after I had developed my prints that there were smudges and fingerprints on the glass panel that was used to hold the negatives into place, thus creating marks on my contact sheet prints.
The fourth, and thankfully the final, fault that arose was the focusing of my photographs through the use of the enlarger. I struggled over a period of 5 hours to properly focus my images and ended up having to print slightly out of focus photos. I didn’t mind this as, by this time, I had decided that it was merely a test shoot to improve my capabilities using the camera and the darkroom, but I later found out that the enlarger had a lens for 35mm negatives rather than 120mm negatives and was simply labeled incorrectly.
Now that, as the old proverb says, I have learnt from my mistakes, I will now go back and re-shoot this assignment, taking in all of the new aspects and techniques that I have learnt.
(Over the next couple of pages are the test strips and trial prints that I developed from my test shoot with the enlarger setting that I experimented with)
Test Shoot Contact Sheets:
Oli Test Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
The focal point of this photograph is Oli’s eyes that are found almost in the dead centre of the image. The viewer then closely scrutinizes his face, using his nose as a main leading line downwards (being assisted by other leading lines such as his hair) towards the mouth. They then follow his shoulders downwards to take in his body and t-shirt, before using his gaze as a leading line out of the image. To improve this image, I would do a variety of things. These include:
- Focusing the camera and enlarger correctly
- Using the correct ISO setting on the camera
- Placing Oli towards the right hand side so that he isn’t dead centre in the image
- Cut down on the amount of wall that is seen and show more of his body
- Experiment with having the image as a portrait layout
- Have less negative space within the image
Oli Test Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis 2:
The focal point of this image is again, Oli’s eyes and face as this is accentuated by the highlights created by the natural light. The viewer then follows his facial features downwards to his top before following his gaze out of the image which is assisted by the horizontal line created by the back of the sofa. I feel that the lighting within this photo is easily the strongest out of all of my test prints and I hope that I will be able to capture this again. However, with this being said, I would still improve this image in similar ways to the previous photo, which included:
- Focusing the camera and enlarger correctly
- Using the correct ISO setting on the camera
- Placing Oli towards the left hand side so that he isn’t dead centre in the image
- Cut down on the amount of wall that is seen and show more of his body
- Experiment with having the image as a portrait layout
- Have less negative space within the image
- Remove or try not to acquire scratches and smudges on the print
Grace Test Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
The focal point for this photograph is Grace’s eyes that are found in the top of the middle centre third. The viewer then uses the direction of her eyes as a leading aspect downwards, assisted by the sweep of her hair. They then take in her face, before reaching the horizontal line of her floral top. This is then used as another leading line towards the right of the photograph where the viewer then takes in the detail that is found in the background. This photograph also includes more background detail, which makes the image a lot more aesthetically pleasing rather than eerie and edgy. I feel that the overall atmosphere that is emitted from this photograph is the sensation that I wish all of my photographs to achieve as I feel that this puts a personal twist on the image, which can then be anchored with the text that I want to incorporate. However, I would still improve this image in similar ways to the previous photos, which included:
- Focusing the camera and enlarger correctly
- Using the correct ISO setting on the camera
- Placing Grace towards one of the sides so that she isn’t dead centre in the image
- Experiment with having the image as a portrait layout
Jenny Test Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
The focal point of this photograph is, again, Jenny’s eyes that are found towards the right of the top centre third. The viewer then follows the direction of Jenny’s eyes towards the right of the image, taking in the blurred computers in the background. They then move round to the checked shirt, take in her body, before moving up her neck to scrutinize the face in more depth. This photograph was a part of the five photos that I took with the correct ISO, which can easily be seen by comparing the contrast and detail of the previous images. This is the correct ISO setting that I will be using for my actual photo shoot. However, as I have stated many times before, there are some improvements that I would make which include:
- Placing Jenny towards one side so that she isn’t dead centre in the image
- Experiment with having the image as a portrait layout
- Remove or try not to acquire scratches and smudges on the print
Emilie Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
Whilst looking at this image on the contact sheet that I created in the darkroom, I decided that I would have to crop out the distraction in the bottom right third and burn the background of the image as to eliminate more distracting features. When I ended up printing this photograph onto a 5×7 satin darkroom paper, I first found out that to focus the image, it had to be cropped quite closely by using the enlarger which enabled me to crop out the distracting machine in the bottom right third. I also found that this paper finish meant that the aspects in the background actually became less distracting as the light doesn’t reflect off of this paper, attracting the viewer to these specific characteristics. If the viewer looks closely at this print, they can also notice that there is a small scratch in the bottom right third, but as this is just a test to note down the technicalities of this print, it isn’t very important.
Aaron Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
When I looked at this specific negative on the contact sheet, I thought that I would need to burn the background to lessen the slightly over-exposed and distracting wall. As I had never used a darkroom before, let alone burned an image using darkroom techniques, I had to ask for a small tutorial from a fellow first year photographer. She told me that I needed to start by finding the correct exposure time for the face of the boy, which was 8 seconds long. I then had to experiment with different exposure times for the background whilst moving my hand over the boy to stop that part getting exposed. It was soon decided, after about five different attempts, that the print had to be exposed for 8 seconds and the background should be exposed for a further 8 seconds. As you can see from the print, the body of the boy did get slightly more exposed making it darker with less contrast within this aspect. However, again, as it is only a test print for technical settings, it isn’t that significant.
Olly Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
Whilst looking at this image on the contact sheet, I decided that I would need to either burn the background, or dodge the subject to change the attention of the viewer onto the person within the image. Again, with printing on this specific satin finish, the distracting and slightly over-exposed background became less of a problem, as the light cannot reflect off of this paper, changing the viewer’s gaze. I also found that I didn’t need to lighten the boys face as this darkened area, twinned with the boys facial expression adds to the serenity and pure nature of the print. I also had to crop the negative quite closely to enable the image to be in focus, which added to the personal feel of the print.
Josh Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
When I examined this specific negative on the contact sheet that I created within the darkroom, I actually thought that I didn’t need to do a lot with this print. I obviously ended up having to crop it quite closely, just to make the image in focus. I personally feel that this image is one of my strongest raw images, as it didn’t need a lot of darkroom techniques to create the best quality.
Oli Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
When looking at this particular image on the contact sheet, I knew that I needed to crop the top thirds and dodge the subject and the sofa to highlight the detail on what was supposed to be the focal point of the image. To create the dodging effect that I was looking for, I had to start dodging as soon as the exposure of the print started. This enabled more detail to be seen in the darkened area of the image. However, as you can see from this particular test print, there was too much dodging in one space, which meant that this part of the photograph was a lot brighter and can be seen as a distraction. On the other hand, the placement of the focal point within this image is a lot more effective and aesthetically pleasing.
Grace Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
When I had a look at this particular image on the contact sheet, I thought that I should crop the top thirds slightly as I felt that there was too much negative space in the top half of the image. As you can see from this print, I, again, had to crop in quite closely to the image in order to focus the actual image. This does however add to the private atmosphere that is elicited from this shot. The viewer can also see that in the left middle third there is a mark from either the development or the fixer, but once again, as this is only a test print for finding out the technical settings, it isn’t very significant.
Jaz Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
During my look at this image on the contact sheet, I said that I would slightly crop the top thirds to make the subject of the image more prominent as I would be removing some of the negative space found within the image. For the print to be in focus, I had to enlarge the picture by quite a way, which meant that I also cropped out some of the distracting features within the image. I feel that this image is one of the best for eliciting a personal and individual atmosphere that the viewer can relate to. However, unfortunately, the actual shot was slightly out of focus that could not be corrected with darkroom techniques.
Jenny Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
Whilst looking at this photograph on the contact sheet, I stated that I would definitely need to lighten the image through either changing the exposure time or dodging, and that I would need to crop the top thirds slightly to, yet again, remove unnecessary negative space. I feel that this image is one of my weakest images when it comes to technicality such as depth of field and lighting, but it is one of the more emotive and unusual prints when it comes to the subject’s facial expression and body language. This enables the viewer to truly question the image. I also found that printing on this satin finish paper actually meant that the image showed up slightly lighter which was also aided by the shorter exposure time.
Jan Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
When I looked at this image on the contact sheet that I made within the darkroom, I thought that it didn’t need any form of manipulation using darkroom techniques. As I have stated several times before, however, I did have to crop down the image quite close to enable the print to be in focus. This heightens the pure, personal emotion that the subject matter is eliciting from this particular shot. I believe that this print is one of, if not, the best prints within this collection as it is strong in both technicality and emotions. This is due to one main aspect that helps to create this strong image: the lighting.
Alaynah Actual Photo Shoot – Test Strips and Photo Analysis:
During the time period in which I looked at this specific photo on the contact sheet, I realized that I didn’t need to make any technical changes to the image within the darkroom as I thought that it was one of the strongest raw images that I took over the course of this assignment. Once again, I did crop the image due to focusing reasons, but this just added to the intensity of the emotion that the subject is portraying as it enabled the viewer to get closer to the “action”. Unfortunately, the actual shot that I took with the camera was slightly out of focus, which, again, could not be corrected in post-production.
Writing Around the Image Experiments – Oli and Grace:
For the first experiment that incorporates text into my images, I investigated what the print would look like if the subject within the image wrote their specific paragraph around the image. On the first attempt of this idea, Oli wrote his paragraph both above and below the image, which truly shows my influence of Duane Michals. This particular experimental example allows the viewer to take in the image as a whole and then the text. Once the viewer has done this, they then use the text to anchor the meaning of the image by comparing and contrasting these two main aspects of this precise piece. There are, however, a few mistakes that can be found on this experiment. This includes: smudging of the permanent marker, scratches on the image, marks made by the developer or fixer, and so on. Nevertheless, as this was just a creative experiment, it can be used to inform me of what I need to improve in the future if I were to chose this experiment as a final piece.
For my second “writing around the image” experiment, I got Grace (the subject within the image) to write her name above the image and write her paragraph below. This showed slightly more influence of Duane Michals as he tends on giving each of his textual photographs a title at the top of his prints in order to give the viewer an enigma code as to what this piece is trying to portray. By putting the subjects name at the top of the piece, it automatically makes the viewer feel more personally involved with the subject within the image rather than them feeling that they are merely looking at a complete stranger. This will, in turn, make the viewer more interested in the image and the text itself as they have subconsciously become more aware and attached to the subject’s situation. Out of these two “writing around the image experiments”, I think that this one is more effective and actually aids the image rather than taking away from it.
Writing On the Image (Permanent Marker) Experiments – Oli and Grace:
For the second experiment that enabled me to include text in my images, I got the subject to write their “relationship” paragraph over the image, using a black permanent marker. This worked well in the sense that there was no bright white paper surrounding the image that could be used as a distraction and that the dark colour of the marker pen wasn’t seen as too much of a distraction from the image. However, as the permanent marker is black, it did become less visible in the darker zones of the image (Ansel Adams Zone Theory), but if I were to use a brighter colour marker pen, it would be completely distracting to the viewer which will take them away from the image and make them focus on the text. With this particular “write on the image” experiment, I actually find that, because there is so much text, the viewer reads the text first, then analyses the image. Personally, I want the viewer to try and analyse the image first then use the text as an anchoring mechanism for the meaning of the image, otherwise the mystery of the story behind the print disappears.
For my second “writing on the image” experiment, I once again got Grace (the girl within the photograph) to write on the image in black permanent marker. As there is a lot less text within this specific paragraph, the viewer automatically begins to take in the image first before they even contemplate what the text is trying to convey. However, once again, because of the dark colour of the marker pen, the text does become less visible in different zones within the image, which can distract the viewer from the photograph as they are trying to concentrate on what the text is saying. The viewer can also see slight mistakes within this experiment, for example, the white splotch in the middle of Grace’s forehead where a piece of fluff was placed during the exposure of this print. Out of this “writing on the image” experiment and the “writing around the image experiment”, I personally feel that the previous experiment was slightly more affective but that neither of them are as good as I had hoped to portray.
Transparent Acetate Experiments – Oli and Grace:
For the third and final textual experiment, I got the subject within the image to write their paragraph onto a piece of transparent acetate which I then used during my darkroom practice where I laid it over the piece of darkroom paper before exposing it. This then, obviously, enabled all of the paper to be exposed apart from where the text was which meant that the text remained the natural white colour of the photo paper. This technique is a lot more prominent to the viewer and is definitely more aesthetically pleasing as it enables the viewer to take in both the photo and the text as individual aspects before combining the two to create a different narrative. The whiteness of the text also adds a more ghostly feel to the image, which enables the viewer to respond more strongly and personally to this particular piece. This white text also means that it is a lot easier for the viewer to read as it is in complete contrast to the zones within the image, which is also one of the characteristics that add to the aesthetic appeal.
For my second “transparent acetate” experiment, I got the subject within the image to write on a piece of transparent acetate, which I then used in the same way as the previous type of this experiment. The visual notes that I made from the previous same experiment are very similar to that of this print. However, there is a slight imperfection to this experiment, which has been highlighted by the red marker pen; the edge of the transparent acetate was over the image whilst it was being exposed which has left a very slight white mark, which distracts the viewer from the illusion and questions as to how I conducted this experiment. This “transparent acetate” experiment, personally, is the strongest out of the three different types of experiment that I underwent. Even though I feel this, however, I will question some of my fellow course mates and possibly get the feedback of a tutor before I decide on which experiment to choose. However, if I were to choose this experiment, I will now know where to improve.
After completing my initial experiments with the two different photographs, I then decided to ask a couple of my course mates for their opinion on which experiment was the most effective and aesthetically pleasing. After asking five different people, they all responded saying that the transparent acetate was the best. I then thought that it would be in my best academic interest to as the opinion and feedback of lecturer Jonathan Worth. He, too, suggested that he preferred the experiment with the transparent acetate and informed me that this was most effective of the three. He then suggested that I had a brief look at photographer, Jim Goldberg, as he was greatly known for writing on his images, whereas photographer Duane Michlas wrote around his images. Below is the very quick research that I conducted about Jim Goldberg.
- Born 1953
- American photographer
- Best known for his photographic books, multi-media exhibits and video installations
- Part of the social aims movement in photography
- He is a Professor of Photography and Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts
- He has been a full Magnum member since 2006
- Recent, famous work includes “Raised by Wolves”
Final Scanned Prints and Their Analysis:
The focal point of this piece is the girls nose that is found towards the left of the middle-centre third as it is the most highlighted section of the image. The viewer then find themselves quickly scanning over the face of the girl, from top to bottom, before using the girls nose and her gaze as leading lines downwards towards her jacket. The viewer then follows the curve in the girl’s hair as a leading aspect towards the left of the image where they then follow the back of the girl’s hair upwards towards the beginning of the text. The viewer then begins to read the paragraph, which is subconsciously used as a leading line for the viewer to take in the blurred background. This photographic piece shows an example of how the text is seen as ironic in comparison to the photograph. What I mean by this is that the girl within the photo is eliciting a very saddened, and almost remembering, expression, whereas the text comes across as very cheerful and delighted due to the use of language and punctuation. This then makes the viewer wonder as to what the narrative of this piece is which is when they skip to the conclusion that the girl in the photograph and the alleged “Holly” may have had some form of teenage argument. Some viewer’s may even take this further and adopt the role of a panicking parent where they may suggest a radical idea such as the fact that “Holly” might have been in a terrible accident or engaged in some form of dangerous, stereotypical teenage behaviour.
The focal point of this image is, once again, the boys nose that is found towards the right of the middle-centre third, as this has been enhanced by a small flash of light. The viewer then takes in the boy’s eyes, the left one then the right, before skipping down to his mouth and taking in his jacket. The viewer then glances up to the beginning of the paragraph where they start to decipher what the text is actually saying. This again allows the viewer to take in the blurred background subconsciously. This photographic piece is probably one of my weakest in the collection as the background has been overexposed which masks some of the text, and the subject has been underexposed which loses detail in the face. I did attempt to burn the background with the transparent acetate, but this normal darkroom technique wouldn’t work with the use of this material. However, once the viewer has taken in the image and managed to interpret the text within the paragraph, they also find this an ironic piece. The boy within the photo is portraying what seems to be an annoyed expression as to say that he is not amused with the situation, whereas the text is saying that his response to this person is that she is “a very happy, outgoing person who isn’t afraid to speak her mind”. The viewer then compares these two main aspects of this photographic piece and decides that the person that the subject is talking about has indeed spoken her mind, which has offended him in a great way.
The focal point of this image is, yet again, the boys nose that is situated at the bottom of the middle-centre third as this is the most highlighted feature of the boys face. Once the viewer has been drawn to this facial characteristic, they then take in both of the eyes before using the boy’s nose and the gaze of his eyes as leading lines down towards his mouth and what he is wearing. The viewer then jumps to the computer screen found in the background of the image that is situated in the middle-left third, before then jumping up to the beginning of the textual paragraph and reading through it. Once again, the viewer uses the text subconsciously as leading lines to take in the blurred background of the image. This photographic piece is different to the first two as the text actually anchors the meaning and emotion that is portrayed from this image. The boy within the photograph is showing what looks to be like an embarrassed expression where he is looking down to the ground to try and hide his flush. When the viewer reads the text, they automatically visualize the boy telling the person how he views their relationship, which has been perfectly captured on a personal level. The viewer also relates to the boy in the image, as they know how hard it is for a teenager, let alone a teenage boy, to show their true feelings without being judged and criticised.
The focal point of this photo is once again the boys nose that is found in the bottom-centre third of the image as, when there is a person within a photograph, the viewer is automatically drawn towards the face of this person. The viewer then takes in the whole of the boys face by scrutinizing each individual feature before using the boy’s right side of the boys hand and his gaze as a leading line down towards his striped shirt. The viewer then uses the slightly diagonal stripes on the boys shirt as leading lines towards the left of the arm where they, in turn, follow this upwards towards the back of the boys head and to the start of the text. This is when the viewer begins to read the paragraph that this specific subject has written. Once the viewer has completed the paragraph they then scrutinize the general body language that the boy is portraying which is where they find out that this paragraph is another ironic textual reference to something that has perhaps happened in the past. The viewer creates a simple narrative of how this boy was writing about a girl that was quite close to his heart, either as a friend or more, but that after writing this, something happened to this particular girl; either they stopped talking or split up, or maybe something more radical, like she moved or died.
The focal point of this photographic piece is the boys eye that is found on the divide for the left and middle top thirds as this is one of the lightest parts of the image that can be found between the lines in the text. The viewer then uses the boy’s nose and hair as a leading line downwards to his mouth before looking at the boy’s neck. They then use the horizontal line of the sofa as a leading line to the right of the image, which is assisted by the boys’ gaze, before turning back on themselves to see the sofa in the left thirds of the image. The viewer then skips up to the beginning of the text where they start reading the paragraph and subconsciously take in the rest of the negative space. This particular piece is one of the serious members of the collection, where the text actually anchors the meaning and narrative behind the photograph. The boy within the image is portraying what seems to be a very naturalistic reminiscing expression, which can be seen through his facial expression, body language, and the mise-en-scene of the photograph. The viewer can also tell, just from the image, that he is a well-spoken young man, which is also added by the language that he uses within his paragraph. When looking at both the photograph and the piece of text, the viewer can easily imagine the boy thinking this paragraph through in his head, showing that he means every word. Personally, I feel that there is too much text on this image, which can be seen as a slight distraction, but it can also tell the viewer that this “Holly” person is very important to him and that the boy struggles to condense his feelings.
The focal point of this image is the girl’s eyes that are found on the divide of the left and middle centre thirds as these are darkened due to shadows, which draws the viewer into the image. The viewer then uses the nose as a leading line down towards the mouth, enabling them to take in the whole face, before using the tilt of the head as a leading aspect towards the girl’s right shoulder. The viewer then follows the curvature of the shoulder downwards so that they are lead to the edge of the image, before skipping to the girl’s highlighted hand that is found in the bottom and middle left thirds. The viewer then follows this upwards where they then jump to the beginning of the text. After taking in the photograph, the viewer, once again, reads the paragraph. After realizing that this paragraph is very sweet and is obviously written about someone that is close to the girls heart, they then go back to the image and view the girls body language as a whole rather than scrutinizing the individual aspects. This is where they see that the girl is showing what seems to be an embarrassed expression, which is when the viewer creates the narrative in their mind. They see that the girl is clearly uncomfortable and agree that the person in whom the paragraph is about is actually in the room with her and she is telling them exactly how she feels. As the viewer can see that this has been photographed in her bedroom they know that this is a likely story as this is one of the main locations where people are most comfortable to share their secret.
The focal point of this image is the girls eyes that are found to the right of the middle centre third as this is where the largest change in contrast is throughout the photo and it is one of the only facial features that can be found between the lines of text. The viewer then follows the girl’s nose downwards to the mouth before quickly taking in the clothes that she is wearing. The viewer then glances back up to the girls face and uses her gaze as a leading line towards the left of the image where they then jump up to the beginning of the text. Once again, whilst the viewer is reading the text, they subconsciously take in the negative space of the background, which is later used to help them decide upon a narrative for this particular situation. This is one of the photographic pieces where the text actually anchors the meaning behind the image as both the text and the expression of the girl can be seen as complementing features. After the viewer has taken in the individual aspects of the image and have read the paragraph, they then look at this piece as a visual whole. They agree on the fact that this photograph was taken in the park where this girl and the person she is writing about tends to socialize. They then decided that the girl isn’t actually saying this to the person, as she isn’t showing any form of embarrassment, but that she is merely reminiscing on their friendship and trying to understand how they have become so close in such a short period of time.
The focal point of this photograph is the girl’s eyes that are found in the top-right third as the viewer is automatically drawn to the face of a person within the image, and this is the only facial characteristic that can be found between the lines of text. The viewer then quickly uses the girl’s nose as a leading line downwards, which enables them to scrutinize the girls face before moving down to see what she is wearing. The viewer then glances back up to the girls face in order to use her gaze as a leading aspect towards the computer in the background. They then use the top of the computer screen as a horizontal leading line towards the left of the image until the reach the vertical line on the wall. This is when the viewer uses this line as a leading feature up to the beginning of the text where they start to read the textual paragraph. After reading the paragraph the viewer then decided that this is another ironic photographic piece as the text is in complete contrast to the actual image. The viewer then returns back to the image to scrutinize the girl body language and facial expression, keeping into account the text that they have just read. This is when they decide that this girl is thinking about the first time that she met the so-called “Hol Pol” and how well they got along, but through the maturing of their friendship and the general growing up that may have occurred, the friend has changed into someone that is different to the first impression that made them so close.
The focal point of this photograph is the woman’s right eye that is found in the middle centre third as this is, as I stated before, one of the main features of the face that the viewer is automatically drawn to, not to mention the fact that it is the most highlighted aspect within the image. After being attracted to this eye, the viewer then moves across to the other before using the woman’s gaze and nose as a leading line downwards to take in the rest of the facial features. The viewer then swoops round to the beginning of the back of the chair that is found in the bottom-left third, before mimicking this curved shape upwards to the beginning of the text. Once again, the viewer then reads the paragraph that has been used to remove some of the image before looking at the photographic piece as a whole. This is when the viewer begins to imagine different narratives that lead the photographer to create this image. After looking at the rest of the collection, the viewer makes an assumption that the other photographic subjects are different types of students and that this woman is talking about her daughter that has been taken from the safe and structured home environment and thrown into the wild and crazy student life. This idea of a narrative is easily shown through the pure sadness and distress on the woman’s face, along with the affectionate and motherly paragraph that this woman has indeed written.
The focal point of this photograph is the girls eyes that are found on the divide for the left and middle centre thirds as, once again, this is the facial feature that everyone unknowingly notices first, and it is also framed perfectly by two lines of text. The viewer then quickly follows the nose downwards to the girl’s mouth before taking in the rest of her body. They then use the girl’s gaze as a leading aspect to take in the blurred bed in the background before using the diagonal line of the bed as a leading line upwards towards the start of the text. Yet again, after the viewer has read the text they then start to understand the image as a whole to create that much needed narrative in order for the viewer to empathise with the photograph. After finally understanding that the rest of the collection was related to university and its relationships, the viewer then becomes fully aware that this girl and the person she is talking about were indeed best friends. They then scrutinize the girls expression and body language, keeping this university idea within there mind, which is when they have a sudden realization that this girl is also at university, but at a different university to her best friend. They see that this girl misses her a great deal and they begin to empathise with her and in some cases take on a parenting role in the sense that they wish to comfort her and tell her that they too have lost friends through their maturing.
Experimenting with Framing, Layouts, and Sizing:
For all of these experiments, I have merely found images of different formats from the Internet and have used the Adobe Photoshop CS6 software to try and communicate what each type of format what look like visually. Being a student, I obviously, unfortunately, do not have the funds to frame each of my individual prints, but I wanted to be able to show the viewer the design possibilities I could use with a greater budget.
For my first format experiment, I edited one of my final images to have a black frame around it as if it were to be shown in an exhibition. I chose the colour black as I felt that this would really accentuate the zones within the image and the simple black and white tonal colour theme. Having my image framed has added a formality to the photograph, which automatically gives the image an exhibition-like style that makes the viewer subconsciously enhance the importance of this particular image. This particular type of frame also adds a personal touch to the image by enhancing the narrative and suggesting to the viewer that this photo would be part of a family scrapbook or part of a collection of photos on a bookshelf. I personally prefer this type of framing compared to the mount board experiment (found on the next page), simply due to the increase in formality and professionalism.
For my second format experiment, which included the representation of black mount board, I simply copied and paste my photograph onto the internet-found image. Again, I decided on the colour black as I felt that this would enhance the zones theory within this image (Ansel Adams Zone Theory). Also, as I stated before, I much prefer the actual photo frame around these images as I feel that the use of mount board routinely decreases the importance of the image as the viewer automatically assumes that this photograph was taken by an amateur photographer. With this being said, I have still tried to keep to the key style of mount board that is on trend at the moment, which is to have a slightly larger border at the bottom of the image. I also feel that the mount board offers too much of a border which can be seen as ‘suffocating’ the image, whereas the photo frame actually accentuates the photographs importance.
For my third format experiment, I thought I would create a visual artifact that represents my photographs being published in a professional photo book. For this, I used an open book image, with blank pages, and carefully decided how I would lay out this specific chapter of the photo book (it would have to be a small chapter rather than the whole book as there is nowhere near enough images to fill a full book). I decided on having my photographs placed slightly above the centre of the page, as this has been known to be more aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. I also decided on writing the names of the subject underneath the photograph, near the right corner, in the Apple Chancery font as:
- This specific font adds to the personal feel of all of the images
- The use of their names enables the viewer to become more emotionally attached to the subject within the image and the narrative that they have envisaged.
I feel that if I had a larger budget, not to mention a lot more time, I would chose this as one of the main format routes that I would go down as I feel that this particular collection is enhanced by the formality of the photo book.
For my fourth and final format experiment, I decided I would try and see what my images would look like in a photo zine. In a recent lecture, we were told that a photo zine is the new ‘buzzword’ within photography and that many photographers are using these to keep on trend in the photographic industry. My view on this, however, is that the small size, twinned with the paper material makes it look more like a leaflet rather than something that should be cherished. Nonetheless, I experimented with this format and, with my opinions placed to one side, actually found that this specific format didn’t suit these images within this collection. This was due to the fact that, because these are portrait images, it is well known that they need to be larger to emphasise the detail within each photograph (the sizing is discussed more in three pages time).
After I had looked at the four different styles of formatting my images, I then thought that I should look at how to sequence my images and then at the layout of the images as if they were to be shown in a gallery. I first decided on the sequencing of my images and decided that the order of my subjects should be: Emilie Taylor, Jaz Devereux, Joshua Hughes, Jenny Stonely, Oli Dowling, Aaron Twin, Grace Child, Olly Wood, Alaynah Marshment, and Jan Constantine. I decided this sequence through experimenting with the horizontal layout of the photographs and found that this particular arrangement meant that the images went from a darker tone to a lighter tone. Also, because I had four images of boys and six images of girls, I wanted to make a symmetrical pattern of the gender. What I mean by this is that, if you drew a line between the fifth and sixth photograph, the photographs are arranged in a gender symmetrical style (girl, girl, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, boy, girl, girl). I also found that within this horizontal layout, that all of the subjects within the images seemed to be looking at the one next to it. This would mean that the viewer would have another ‘clue’ to tell them that these photographs belong together in a collection.
I then thought that it would be a good idea to experiment with a vertical layout to see if this was more aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. I kept the photographs in the same order as before, as I honestly feel that this is the strongest sequence. It again, also means that the images go from a darker tonal range to a lighter tonal range. I, personally, do not like this specific layout as I feel that it doesn’t resemble a traditional exhibition style, which I think suit this particular collection that I have created. I also feel that putting this specific collection in a vertical layout can be used to represent a hierarchy of the people within each of the photographs. What I mean by this is that the viewer will automatically assume that the person at the top of the order will be more important to the photographer than the person at the bottom. This is another reason why I prefer the horizontal layout as the viewer routinely decides that each of the photographic subjects is an equal.
This page is merely a way of me expressing my opinions on the sizing of the photographic pieces. Personally, I think that this typical 5×7 size is the smallest that the photographs should be printed, simply due to the fact that if they were any smaller, it would make it hard for the viewer to pick out the detail within the image and read the textual aspects. I think that these photographs would be much more effective and aesthetically pleasing if they were at a much larger, exhibition size of 18×24. This will allow the viewer to see the full detail of the portrait without being too empowered by it, and it will also make it easier for the viewer to read the initial paragraphs, thus enabling them to create the correct narrative without any hesitation and confusion.
Final Formatting, Layout, and Sizing:
One of my final ideas, if I were to have a much larger budget and a lot more time, would be to present my final images at a size of 18×24 in a black frame and the ordered horizontal layout in a very stereotypical exhibition space (i.e. white walls, wooden flooring). This is because I feel that this particular collection, especially in the horizontal layout, is most suited for exhibition viewing as it is an unusual theme and idea that would be greatly responded to in the photographic industry and in the public eye. Not to mention that this exhibition could be used for commercial reasons which would enable me to gain a small profit, but also allow me to become slightly more recognized as a photographer. This could obviously allow me to ‘get my foot in the door’, as they say, with having a larger budget for my next collection and getting my name out into the world. Everyone has to start somewhere.
For my second final piece, I would, after the exhibition, attempt to publish a book where this particular collection would have a dedicated chapter. I plan on keeping the same sequencing of images, as I still believe that this is the most aesthetically pleasing order. The fact that two photos will be on a double page will also enhance the fact that the subjects within the images seem to be looking at each other. I would like to create this photo book, not only because of the comments I made earlier about the photo book, but also, again, because it would enable me to become recognized as a professional photographer and would allow my next project to be slightly larger due to the increase in budget.