This last week presented me with the opportunity to present my draft oral presentation to our tutor and my peers.
In the run up to the session on Thursday, the task overwhelmed me. As a teacher, preparing and presenting my work didn’t bother me, but making sure that I pitched my work at the correct level did. Time for my perfectionist tendency to rear its ugly head!
I know where my practice has come from and how it has been shaped. I understand the development I have been through and where I am going. I am able to objectively critic my practice.
So why the concern over the presentation? The issue comes with letting others see what could be unfinished work! Crazy, I know. The whole point of the exercise is to get feedback so that it will be easier to finalise and record the oral presentation.
The cause of my perfectionism? I am very passionate about improving and giving my best to everything I do, particularly this course. I want to take the opportunities given to me and to do my absolute best with it, without compromise or excuse. Not a bad reason to be a perfectionist.
This week was good for me as whilst I ended up presenting a near finished version of my presentation, there were errors and a ‘missing link’. I knew this before I presented. In order to develop further and benefit more from the feedback of others, I am having to learn to work through my issues and try to dial down my perfectionist tendencies, particularly the negative aspects.
When I applied to the course, my initial project thoughts were…
I have become aware that the media is filled with stereotypical images of gender, race and sexual orientation. These stereotypes are being perpetuated by films and television programs and as we are a society dependent on many forms of visual media, these stereotypes are being reinforced. To keep our interest, the identities of characters must be established as quickly as possible and this is done using stereotypes. This is also reflected in some forms of print media. Society does not want to invest time in getting to know characters; we have become impatient.
In our society today, there is a huge amount of pressure from many angles to conform to a certain ideal of beauty. We are bombarded with images and other forms of media that tell us who we should be and how we should look. These pressures can become so overwhelming, that some people will go to drastic lengths to change something about themselves. Even when selecting models to work with, I have been surprised the number of times I have seen models who are a size 14 class themselves as plus size. Some of these models have told me that they struggle to find photographers to work with them and so they offer nude or fetish work to try to get booked. I find this quite sad.
At one time, it was believed that the camera never lied; that all photographic images were by definition a true reflection of reality. We now know that photos can and have been manipulated, even before the introduction of post processing techniques and software such as Photoshop. For example, the Cottingley Fairy photos (a series of 5 photos shot by two young girls just before the end of the First World War and endorsed by a number of establishment figures including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) have been shown to be false but only through the confession of Elsie Wright over 60 years after they were taken.
I was curious to know why and how the girls had managed to fool everyone. They are beautiful pictures and beauty can make people believe anything they want to.
The theme I would like to explore for my project is fantasy portraits with a twist. I would like to explore elements of digitally manipulated portraits, fine art photography, gender-bending images, androgyny and body size awareness.
Margarita Kareva is a particularly inspiring photographer. She is relatively new to the industry and she creates images that transform female subjects into princesses and witches. Her work has a distinctive fairy-tale feel through her use of props and costumes. She enhances this with digital manipulations that capture the essence of awe and wonder.
Whilst Margarita’s images are very beautiful and generally illicit a positive reaction, I would like my images to create a strong and definite emotion in the viewer – rather like a ‘Marmite’ reaction. I am not interested in ‘oh, that’s nice’ as a response to an image. I do not want to create mediocre ‘beige’ images. My images will aim to be visually striking with subjects that effect a marked distinction between the expected content and the actual image. I want to produce images that challenge the stereotypes all around us.
To achieve my objectives, my planned subjects include:-
A drag queen
Men in traditionally feminine costumes and poses
Possibly disabled models
I plan to incorporate my own backgrounds onto the portraits and intend these to be digitally manipulated into the images. These will be a combination of fine art style landscapes and the more traditional backgrounds seen in mythical images. I would also like to explore images that present as mixed media or sketches.
The project will build on previous work.
I intend to develop this project and build on my current practice by:
Fully research photographic practice regarding stereotypes and the portrayal of sexual orientation, gender and size within the media. This will enable me to visually develop the theme, experimenting with photographic techniques to develop my knowledge and skills. I intend to use different camera types throughout the project – both digital and film. I also intend to use digital manipulation of at least some of the outcomes.
The project will develop my understanding of the technical, commercial and professional contexts, relevant to portrait photography. This will enable me to explore and challenge the established parameters of current photographic practice through practical skills as well as the application of theory and knowledge to the process. I am very creative and innovative and believe this will stand me in good stead to achieve this. I also intend to explore how my theme fits in theory and current practice.
Throughout the project, I will be critical and reflective so that I can improve my practice. This will include analysis and evaluation of my work, and that of others.
As an organised individual, I am very good at researching and applying the findings to my work. I am good at problem solving and have good idea development skills.
My theme needs to be handled sympathetically due to the subjects proposed. My project will consider this in terms of ethical and sustainable practices.
Whilst the intended outcome is a photobook, I would like to explore the possibility of having an exhibition.
I am very excited to see where this project will end up.
This initial proposal has now been developed and modified. Updates to follow.
This week gave use the opportunity to talk through our proposed oral presentations with 2 of our peers. I was fortunate enough to work with Philip and Kevin again.
It really helped being able to discuss the direction of my work and my reasoning behind this. The conversation afterwards with the others was very helpful in clarifying my thoughts as to the direction of my oral presentation.
We discussed at length the learning objectives we need to cover in the presentation and clarified to each other where we thought we had each met these. This was really useful in each of us making sure that we had considered each aspect of the presentation. Just need to draft out the final version now.
I just hope I was as helpful to Philip and Kevin as they were to me.
The topic of ethical use of photographs has really got me thinking this week. We all know the age-old saying ‘a photo is worth a thousand words’. This week has shown me that in a world where news images shape our understanding of the world, we are now unable to trust the images we see before us. We have been and are exposed to manipulated and misrepresented images.
Reading around the subject lead me to Steve McCurry. Steve McCurry is one of the most iconic photographers in the world. He is best known for the photograph of the Afghan Girl, which was featured on the cover of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue. He started his career around 40 years ago as a photojournalist, working in an environment where image manipulation or alteration is a career ender. However, more recently he has been accused of photoshopping and manipulating some of his images. Over the past few months since the accusations came to light, McCurry’s work has been analysed and scrutinised. With the discovery of images that have been manipulated beyond the standard colour processing, McCurry has been forced to redefine himself. He told TIME magazine in May 2016 “I’ve always let my pictures do the talking, but now I understand that people want me to describe the category into which I would put myself, and so I would say that today I am a visual storyteller. The years of covering conflict zones are in the distant past.”
By distancing himself from the photojournalism photography of his past, Steve McCurry is working hard to justify his use of digital manipulation to tell his story.
When this news first came onto my radar, I was shocked. I had always believed that McCurry had produced beautiful, unaltered ethical images. I began to realise that even the most respected photojournalists could have, at some time, manipulated any of their images. This has been quite a revelation to me. I always knew that the media used images to tell the story they wanted us to hear, but I hadn’t associated any alterations of images with some of the very people we are asked to trust.
Do I manipulate my images? Yes, but I do not claim to portray real life situations in those images. I produce fantasy images that are presented as art, not reality.
This week has taught me to look beneath the surface at the images I am being presented with. I will be certainly taking less things on face value now.
 Laurent, Olivier (2016) Steve McCurry: I’m a Visual Storyteller Not a Photojournalist. [online] Tampa, Florida: TIME. Available from http://Time.com/4351725/steve-mccurry-not-photojournalist/ [Accessed 22 October 2016]
Figure 1: McCurry, S. From Anon 2016 [online] Available at: http://do66bvi7upr8e.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Steve-McCurry-01.jpg. [Accessed 22 October 2016]
After reading the above article about how an image taken by photojournalist Jeff Mitchell of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in October 2015 was used controversially by UKIP during the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the European Union, my thoughts are…
Jeff Mitchell took a legitimate image of the crisis faced by refugees fleeing conflict in their own countries. As it was taken on behalf of Getty Images, he could not be held responsible for how it was ultimately used. If he hadn’t taken this image, we would be unaware of the scale of the problem.
Getty Images should have asked how UKIP were intending to use the image before issuing a licence. After all UKIP is a political party and so Getty Images could have determined that the image may be misrepresented to suit political arguments.
When it comes to UKIP, they were totally unethical in how they used this image. They presented the image as being on the UK borders; there was no geographical context given to the image. UKIP used this in a way that would incite racial hatred. The mainly male refugees appear to be non-white individuals. I have compared the original image and the UKIP use of it. In the original image there is a prominent white male (bottom right hand side) who has been placed behind one of the text boxes on the UKIP poster. This is not a coincidence. This is, in my opinion, a deliberate act to further support UKIP’s message.
Figure 2: Mitchell, J. From Google.co.uk. (2016). Redirect Notice. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjX_Ort27vTAhXBbxQKHTMgDvQQjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fe-know.info%2F82297-economic-security-symbol.acw&psig=AFQjCNEOuF7eK_lA6dR4ic_k9IGTRBhSGQ&ust=1493076047739498 [Accessed 20 October 2016].
I am an image-maker. I am passionate about what I do. On shoots I am spontaneous, adaptive and creative. I narrate a story, choosing the moment and only pressing the shutter when the scene in front of the camera moves me. I collaborate with other creatives to provide an experience and emotion. I will take you to somewhere you have never been before and show you things you did not know existed. I will lie in mud or knee deep in water to get the shot. I will create permanent visual images that can change your world. I will stay true to my creative vision and will show you another side of yourself – a beautiful, unseen side. How I conduct myself will have a positive impact on how other photographers are perceived. I will strive to ensure the integrity of those who publish my images. I am a photographer.
This week I came across the term ‘photo-artist’ for the first time when a fellow student used the term in one of our discussions. But what is a photo-artist? In my opinion this is a photographer that uses photographic equipment and their vision/aesthetic to produce a photograph that is considered artwork.
I consider myself a photo-artist as well as a photographer. I don’t produce photographs that show the viewer the events of the world. I produce images that are unique and creative. I like to experiment and see how far I can push a creative idea. My work is intended to be viewed as art, and not as simply a record of an event. I have my own voice and I like using it.
These days I have a wide range of tools and equipment at my disposal which enable me to create my images. I currently use a Holga, a 35mm Nikon F3 film camera, a Mamiyaflex C2 TLR, a mirrorless Sony camera, my iPhone as well as several Nikon DSLRs. Any of these can produce a beautiful piece of artwork. Each has a place. And not forgetting that there is the option to post-process with Photoshop (among others).
My practice has been developing along the artwork route in recent months. I am constantly looking for ideas as to how I can embellish or manipulate an image to create something unique. Does this make me less of a photographer? Of course not. It just means I have a different viewpoint to more traditional photographers.
As Damon Winter explains to Steve Myers in the interview about his award winning photographic series ‘A Grunt’s Life’, “We are storytellers. We observe, we chose moments, we frame little slices of our world with our viewfinders”. This is exactly what the images Winter took did. They tell the story of the soldiers, framed in a way that would speak to the viewer.
Since the dawn of the photographic process, photographers have been able to frame a photograph to tell the story that they want to tell and they have been able to develop the photograph exactly as they want. In the days of analogue photograph, dodging and burning an image in the darkroom was common place. In today’s digital world, a few clicks on Photoshop allow us to manipulate the image. Hipstamatic offers everyday users of iPhones the chance to add filters to give their photograph a different aesthetic to the actual scene in front of them. We have always been able to manipulate images; iPhone apps just make this quicker for us and this has to be a good thing if used in the correct way.
Reading around the subject it has become clear to me that society’s current fascination with nostalgia and retro has led to a rise in the popularity of the use of these types of apps. In my opinion, Hipstamatic is often used to try and make boring and poorly composed images appear more interesting. But underneath the filters there is still a boring and poorly composed image. Adding the filter layers makes the photograph appear old and that somehow translates into a more interesting image for some people. This is a misconception that I find hard to understand; after all a poor image will always be a poor image whether a filter is applied or not. Composition and framing are key elements of a good photograph. They are fundamental to an image’s success or failure. These elements are unconnected to the equipment you use, whether it is an iPhone or a DSLR.
The content of the image does not change in Hipstamatic; nothing is added and nothing is removed. So why the controversy and fuss over Winter’s images being shot using Hipstamatic? Winter did not add or remove any content from his images. Through Hipstamatic he applied a filter that gave the images an aged aesthetic. Did this change the message of the image? No, of course not. He was able to take informal and candid photographs of the soldiers he was with. The use of a phone is less intimidating than a large camera. After all, everyone takes selfies and photographs on their phones these days. He would never have been able to get close enough with his SLR to get the shots. Without his iPhone, we would never have seen these images. Even purists must surely accept that this is a positive use of the iPhone camera.
Is the fuss because the Hipstamatic app is perceived to do all do the work for the photographer? Or is there an element of snobbishness amongst ‘traditional’ photojournalists against news stories being captured on an iPhone? In my opinion, purists feel threatened by the technological advances in smartphone cameras. The ease of use and discreet nature of the phone make it an attractive proposition to reporters; they can take their own photographs of events. Traditional photographers fear that they are no longer required when each reporter could have a mobile phone. My mobile is always in my pocket to capture images when I do not have a camera to hand.
Dan Chung used his iPhone to shoot images at the London Olympics for the Guardian newspaper. The images show his skill and experience as a photographer and are not a statement of the equipment he used. When viewing the images I do not find myself thinking that they were taken with an iPhone, instead I enjoy them for the content . Reflecting on his use of the iPhone at the Olympics, Chung said “I found shooting on the iPhone quite enjoyable and quite liberating. Surely, part of photography is also about that: Did the photographer have a good time, or not? And actually, I did.”  Chung explains further on that the iPhone does not produce images of the same quality as the DSLR, but allow us to explore our creativity. Chung was able to provide us with a different perspective on the Olympics that we would not have otherwise seen. Traditional photojournalists seem to have forgotten that photography is about telling the story in the way that they, the photographer, sees fit. Photography is about having fun. Maybe if the purists embrace this, they will see iPhones for the useful tool they are.
 Myers, S. (2011) Damon Winter explains process, philosophy behind award-winning Hipstamatic photos. [online] St. Petersburg, Florida: The Poynter Institute. Available from http://www.poynter.org/2011/damon-winter-explains-process-philosophy-behind-award-winning-hipstamatic-photos/119117/ [Accessed 09 October 2016]
 Lodi, Erin (2012) Photojournalist Dan Chung reflects on shooting the Olympics with an iPhone. [online] Seattle: Digital Photography Review. Available for https://www.dpreview.com/articles/6618756953/photojournalist-dan-chung-reflects-shooting-olympics-with-iphone [Accessed 09 October 2016]
Figure 1: From Expert Photography. 2016. Instagram, Hipstamatic and Reasons Photography Is Starting To Suck » Expert Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: https://expertphotography.com/photography-is-starting-to-suck/. [Accessed 09 October 2016].
“When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.”
When photographing events and portraits, I have come across several groups of non-photographers. The first type always look at the images I have taken and then say ‘oh, you must have a good camera’. As if having a good camera is the only thing that is going to enable anyone to take the best pictures. They assume that the equipment will somehow turn a mediocre image into a masterpiece. It always makes me think of the quote by Peter Adams at these moments.
“Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gismos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn’t make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel.”
– Peter Adams – Sydney 1978
Another type of non-photographers are those who believe that you are over-charging for jobs because ‘anyone could do that’. Everybody wants something for nothing, or as close to it as they can get. Unfortunately, in a society where anyone can market themselves as a photographer and then offer their services for a fraction of the costs I quote to clients, there will always be the occasion where I will be questioned over my ‘over-pricing’. What the client fails to realise is that in my prices there is an element of post-processing involved in all images. They don’t see the hours that go into that side of the work. Clients do not realise that the hobbyist photographer who happens to take a few wedding photographs, may not have the skills to capture the day as they wanted. They may have the gear, but no idea.
There are also the non-photographers who believe that they can screenshot your copyrighted images and share them all over social media. These people would never go into a shop and take whatever they wanted without paying, but feel that because you took a picture of them, then they have ‘rights’ to the image.
The final group I have come across is the non-photographer who wants to learn how to take photos. They believe that you know everything about photography and different cameras. They feel that by following your tips and advice that they will be able to do exactly what you do and get the same results. Whenever I train anyone, I first get them to look at a scene and explain what they see and what they want to see. I challenge them to explain the impact of the scene in front of them and to break down the elements in what they are looking at. I get them to note down the emotion they are feeling at that point. A key point of my training is getting non-photographers to understand that they need to make sure that they portray the same emotion in the photograph as they were feeling at the time the photograph was taken. Only once they understand this, can I go on to teach them how to take the photograph. After all, as Ansel Adams said
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
Adams, A. From Ansel Adams Quotes (Author of The Camera) . 2016. Ansel Adams Quotes (Author of The Camera) . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/12115.Ansel_Adams. [Accessed 10 October 2016].
Adams, P. From Hakon Agustsson – hakon@PhotoQuotes.com – http://www.PhotoQuotes.com – info@PhotoQuotes.com. 2016. Photography Quotes by Peter Adams . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.photoquotes.com/showquotes.aspx?id=456. [Accessed 10 October 2016].
Anonymous From PetaPixel. 2016. 70 Inspirational Quotes for Photographers. [ONLINE] Available at: http://petapixel.com/2014/05/29/70-inspirational-quotes-photographers/. [Accessed 10 October 2016].