Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Work Evaluation – Mature Model Shoot

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2017
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Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

Whilst casting for models for performance shoots, this subject contacted me.  “I love your work. I’m very interested to see what you could do with a mature model. I love experimenting, so would like the opportunity to work with you”.

I booked the shoot and then the nerves kicked in.  The subject had set the bar quite high and I felt under pressure to get the styling and theme exactly right.  An incorrect decision and the shoot would be a disaster.

Before the subject arrived at the studio, I discussed a tribal war paint makeup with the makeup artist. I wanted to make the subject feel very powerful and strong.  The makeup artist had previously made the costume for another shoot and suggested that to would go with the makeup.  When the subject arrived, she told me that she suited blues and really wanted to do a shoot based on tribal warriors.  Thank goodness we were on the same page!

The shoot was lit for high key work on a white background.  This light is the most flattering to the subject and I wanted to produce images that were soft and flattering, and which didn’t draw attention to the lighting itself.  The lack of shadows and low contrast made this lighting perfect for the shoot.

Again, as in so many of my performance shoots, humour played a big part.  The subject easily got into character and was transformed in front of the camera.  The resultant images in figures 1 and 2 are playful and full of the character of the subject.  I gave her an open-ended brief as to the narrative of the shoot.  She was able to apply her own life experiences and knowledge to the character and she happily explored storylines.  These complemented the creativity of the makeup and styling I had designed along with the makeup artist.

“The photograph isn’t what was photographed, it’s something else. It’s about transformation”.

– Garry Winogrand


The lighting isn’t quite right on the backdrop as there are slightly darker areas.  I think though, that this adds to the images and makes them visually appealing.  A truly white background with no shadows could appear sterile and cold.  The shadows add a little interest.

The subject is stood on a fake fur coat which was used effectively to look like her latest kill.  During the shoot, many different props were used and this helped the subject to transform into the character.

Both of these images work compositionally with the visual weight of the images both leading to the subject.  She looks confident and happy in her performance.

The subject was pleased with the results.  She messaged me once I sent through the images to say “Yaa thanks, Jo they are amazing.  Please say thank you to everyone for yesterday. I had so much fun and you all made me feel very welcome.”



Winogrand, G. From Redeye. 2017. Photography is the most important visual art | Redeye. [online] Available at: important-visual-art. [Accessed 26 February 2017].

Contextual Research, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – Framing

“It’s funny how the beauty of art has so much more to do with the frame than with the artwork itself.”

– Chuck Palahniuk (2002: 47)
Frames should enhance an image and not detract from it or intrude on the viewer’s experience.  This is the challenge for photographers and curators alike.
But let’s be honest now.  Could you actually describe in detail the frame surrounding and supporting the last photograph or piece of artwork you viewed in a gallery?  Do you remember the colour, the width or whether it was ornate or plain? Did you even notice if there was frame?
When the collection catalogues are produced, the frames often fall victim to the crop of the editor.  So why then are frames so important in a gallery context?  Frames protect and support artwork.  The design and materials chosen reflect the intent of the artist or photographer (or in some cases, the curator) by enhancing and complementing the work without overpowering it.
Getting the framing right will be a challenge in my practice moving forwards.  I am currently considering presenting work without frames.  This way my work will interpreted for the content, not the context in which it is framed.
Palahniuk, C. 2002. Choke (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition). Turtleback School & Library ed. Edition. Turtleback Books.
Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Work Evaluation – Fashion Shoot

Figure 1 : Lighting Set Up

Subject was styled in extreme makeup with abstract shapes and bright colours.  The shoot was planned against a high key white / off white background.  The lighting was set up as shown in figure 1.

Subject is not a model and this was only her second time in front of the camera. The jeans and t-shirt were the subject’s own and the rest of the clothes were added.  The intent was for the subject to express herself and play in front of the camera through ‘dressing up’.

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Figure 2: Sutherst 2017



Figure 2 has a pleasing composition with  the arch of the back placed across the frame.  The subject’s hair hanging down adds interest to the image.  The hair would have been better if it were sleeked, glossy and completely smooth as this would have added more impact to the hair and made it more of a feature.

The makeup is striking against the rest of the image.  The white fur coat adds an element of mystery and expense to the shot.

The arm positions seem to work too; the body does not look too wide as the front arm is forwards on her body, not backwards.

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Figure 3: Sutherst 2017

Figure 3 looks more uncomfortable as a shot.  The pose is a bit contrived and the subject looks shorter than she is.  The is not enough tension in the subject’s body and this makes the image look amateurish and destined for a social media feed.

The brown fur coat is too big for the subject and hence is overpowering in the shot.  Her hair adds nothing to the image and could have been sleeked back for a cleaner look.

The shoes are amazing but draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject and this was certainly not the intent.

The subject’s face is a bit lost in this image even with the extreme bright makeup.

Her t-shirt is too brightly lit and again the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the wrong part of the image.


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Figure 4: Sutherst 2017

Figure 4 is a nicely composed image.  I like the shape the subject makes with her body.  It looks effortless and her hands are nicely relaxed. Again though, her hair doesn’t really add anything to the image.

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Figure 5: Sutherst 2017

Figure 5 is interesting.  The subject’s eyes are mesmerising and the angle of her head with the position of her hand make the portrait successful.  However, the head appears out of proportion to the rest of her torso.  The way that the subject is leaning forward has distorted the view and she appears to have no neck.  Her hair again is not adding to the impact of the image.  This image would benefit from exploring crops in Lightroom.  The images below in figures 6-9 are just a few examples (both successful and not) of crops that could be considered.

Figures 6 – 9: Sutherst 2017

With a tighter crop, the lightness of her forearm becomes more apparent and draws the viewer’s eye.

What I really liked about this shoot was that the makeup translated well into the image and that the subject was able to become comfortable in herself and was able to perform in front of the camera.


Contextual Research, Coursework, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – Viewers Make Meaning

Figure 1: Sutherst 2017

Their of this exercise was to post an image without comment or title to see how someone viewing it would interpret it.

Comments from my peers and friends on Facebook, included that the image was about “strong self-expression”. The viewers picked up correctly that there was a strong rapport between the model and myself (we have worked together on numerous occasions and have become good friends).  However, there was some confusion about what the image represented.  Thoughts on the subject ranged from an alien creature caged in a white room behind a sheet of glass, to a lively sprite, mythical creature, troll, fairy or elf.  One suggested that the shoot was to portray a subject that was “gender neutral”.  If you refer to the blog post of 27th January, you will see that the intent was to portray strong women.

Blog Post of 27th January

The comments below and misunderstanding about the intent, are indicative of an image that is not completed; the intention was always to add to the image in the way that my inspiration for the shoot, Mutu, does.  I do like that the comments are not all positive and that there is confusion.  I want the viewer to study my images and really interpret them in their own way.


“I am confused – is he representing good or is there some other dark force at work.”

“It makes me feel as though something is waiting to happen.”

“She looks trapped or in hiding/dazzled in a sphere or box. I think she looks defensive not playful. The knee is covering the major organs as protection and the back is arched like a cat becomes when confronted. This could be interpreted as a warning, like animals to warn off their prey.”

“She looks at us with the same wonder we look at her. Is that malice or fear we see?”


My peers also commented that the gaze was self-confident and direct to lens.

The gaze of the subject was considered a form of communication and the pose considered odd with “a strangely semaphore quality.”

They commented that the shoot looked fun and the image made them smile.  One commented that they liked that “the marks on the floor of the back drop indicate movement and perhaps the contortions that have been exercised to achieve this pose”.

Other comments were “It is most obviously a staged image – designed not to represent truth but a wondrous fantasy. Being a studio shot with careful controlled lighting it has a distinct theatricality to it and the gaze of the model invites us in to join the fun.”

The choice of a white backdrop was described as drawing the viewer in and that the subject was saying ” Focus entirely on me as there is nothing else to look at.”

In both the university forum and on Facebook, it was thought that the white paint on top of the other paint was influenced by the aboriginal Australians

Comments were made on the composition and styling. These included comments such as “well-posed example of fantasy photography’;  “lovely colours and great use of space”; “very colourful and vibrant tones.”


I thank my peers, tutor, and friends on Facebook for their comments. I am sure that if this had been presented as a finished image in a set, then the meaning would have been cleared.  It is really useful to hear what others see in your work.  Sometimes we are too close to it that we do not see all the meanings.

Contextual Research, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – Instructions for Idleness – Erwin Wurm, 2001

I have looked at this series by Erwin Wurm whilst looking at artists who use photography as a stage to perform on.  For this series, Wurm performs various acts of idleness, often banal and uninteresting.  He adds text in a patronising way that tells you what is happening in the photograph. He offers no explanation why it is happening. Wurm’s sense of self-importance is evident in the work and I really like the visual way he expresses himself.

Wurm’s performance in front of the camera for this series and for other works, is part of the attraction of the work to me.  We cannot get a true sense of who he is from these photographs.  We just see who he wants us to see; who he was in the split second that the image was captured.  I can use some of his ideas for performance in my own work.

Figure 1: Wurm, E. Express Yourself Through Yawning. 2001
Figure 2: Wurm, E. Stay in Your Pyjamas All Day. 2001
Figure 3: Wurm, E. Be Indifferent of Everything. 2001



Figure 1: Wurm, E. Express Yourself Through Yawning. 2001.  From (2017). Erwin Wurm: Artworks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2017].

Figure 2: Wurm, E. Stay in Your Pyjamas All Day. 2001.  From (2017). Erwin Wurm: Artworks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2017].

Figure 3: Wurm, E. Be Indifferent of Everything. 2001.  From (2017). Erwin Wurm: Artworks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2017].

Contextual Research, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – Ansel Adams Quote

“In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.”

– Ansel Adams



Adams, A. From  BrainyQuote 2017  [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Lighting Experiments – Moody, Dark and Dramatic

“It’s not about what you light, it’s about what you don’t light.”- Cinematographer John Alton


I am drawn to the low key lighting used in the Film Noir Hollywood crime dramas of the 1940s onwards .  Amongst others, The Third Man film from 1949 has influenced how I interpret and produce work to portray a range of images that appear as though they could be stills from a movie. By adding dramatic lighting, shadows and smoke to an image, tension, danger and mystery are embedded in the images.

The shots were lit from the side instead of the front of the subject. This makes the subject less flat and gives a sense of true size or depth in relation to the setting. I was able to vary the intensity of the light across the subject to get the effect I wanted. I made sure that there was little ambient light and closed all curtains to remove unwanted light sources. Flash was not used for these shots, just studio lights.

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The interrogation shots were influenced by shots that go right back to the early Film Noir films. The subject is lit more directly as well as the light being used to cast shadows.

Figure 8: Art Kavali
Figure 9: Sutherst 2017

Even though there is low light in the shots, I used a low ISO (100) and shot at f8, 1/250 for most of the images. This allowed me to have a high contrast between dark and light, keeping shadows and dark corners to enhance the feeling of suspense. The low ISO ensured that I reduced the level of noise in the images. I do however, need to increase the contrast and increase the amount of white in the images as they look too grey at the moment.

I have created images in both colour and black and white. Black and white pays tribute to the classic Film Noir genre, whilst colour adds a depth to the mood I am portraying.

Figures 10 and 11: Sutherst 2017

Figures 12 and 13: Sutherst 2017

The results of this experiment achieved the results that I was aiming for.  There is very little post production in Photoshop (in most cases there is none at all).  The images are characteristic of the Film Noir genre and could easily have been stills from a film.  I am pleased with the results so far.

I have more work to do with lighting experiments to arrive at a style that will portray the correct mood in my images.  I will be using different sources of inspiration to help me along this process.



Alton, J. From Screenhead. 2017. The cinematography of Film Noir. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2017].

Figure 8: From Art Kavali. 2017. Art Kavali. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2017].


Contextual Research, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – Considering Other Photographers – David LaChapelle

During the module we have been looking at constructed images.  These images are fictional in that they are telling us a story – but they still portray real people. In my opinion, they are only fictional in the narrative of the image.

For example, David LaChapelle’s image “the Rape of Venus” is very obviously constructed to deliver a particular message.  I chose this image from LaChapelle’s many works as the symbolism in the image and the use of a constructed narrative interest me and is an area I am considering in my project.  And like LaChapelle, I am very influenced by paintings when creating my images.

Figure 1: David LaChapelle. The Rape of Africa. 2009

LaChapelle’s image is a modern re-creation of Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars.

Figure 2: Botticelli. Venus and Mars


LaChapelle’s image represents the effects of western culture and values on Africa.  He uses a black model to represent Africa and a white model to represent the western world.  His image depicts the conquest of Africa (represented by Naomi Campbell as Venus) and the mining of diamonds and gold. Mars is sleeping on his riches and in LaChapelle’s image this represents the greed and unethical practices of the western world.  He replaced the meadow of the Botticelli work with the diggers destroying the landscape.  One of the children carries a gun.

In his interview for The Guardian with Karin Andreasson (201), LaChapelle explains “The photograph, called The Rape of Africa, is a critique of consumerism, of a global society fuelled by greed and power. I made it right after the financial collapse, when we were being advised to invest in gold and gold production spiked tenfold. The irony is that by putting your money into a safer security like gold, you are ensuring more devastation, more climate change, more destruction in Mother Africa, where our species began.”.  LaChapelle is not trying to deceive us with his image, but is using it to highlight issues around the world and send a message to those responsible for the plundering of assets in Africa.  The image is fiction only in it’s narrative.  The photograph is a representation of the scene in the studio.  LaChapelle explains in the same interview “People who see my work often become obsessed with the process. They assume it’s all done in post-production, but you can’t do this on Photoshop. I now document everything I work on, to show that everything is real and was there on the set. When you see this picture large, you can see every pore on Naomi’s skin. The mine was a model and photographed separately, so it could be in focus at the same time as the foreground – but it was all there.”.  The image is not a lie – everything in it is real, it is just fictional in its meaning.

The image itself is somewhat gaudy in appearance.  The models look flawless.  The image is glamorous, but the message still gets through.  The narrative of this and his other works, are telling us stories and communicating with us on a visual level.  The visual language used by LaChapelle is as strong, in my opinion, as the written word.  I am left in no doubt about the political statement LaChapelle is making.

Whether you like the work or not is irrelevant.  LaChapelle’s clever use of imagery will draw you in regardless.

The Guardian. 2014. David LaChapelle’s best shot: Naomi Campbell and the rape of Africa | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 February 2017].
Figure 1: LaChapelle, D. The Rape of Africa. 2009. From The Guardian. 2014. David LaChapelle’s best shot: Naomi Campbell and the rape of Africa | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 February 2017].
Figure 2: Botticelli. Venus and Mars. From Italian Renaissance 2017. Venus and Mars and playful satyrs. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 February 2017].