This video was produced during week 10 of the Informing Contexts module. The idea was that this would help us to start to critically contextualise our practice and get some feedback form other members of the cohort.
Members of my cohort were very generous with their feedback. Things that were suggested for me to consider as I move forward are:
The use of self-portraits in my work. I do have a shoot planned for this on 11th April 2017
The exploration of the ethics of the photographer’s responsibility to the sitter situations where I am directing the subject
To look at the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, as he uses masks in a different context but a useful compare and contrast
Gallery displays of my work
To create a sort of gender bending, fairy tale visual narrative; a story of the ventures into Gloucestershire towns by stealth and surprise.
Showing some images that didn’t ‘work’ and an exploration of why.
Consideration of audience – a broad audience could provide me with deeper suggestions about how to further develop my project
Consider producing more outdoor portraiture.
Could I produce a series of images based on, say, songs as a theme? Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” springs readily to mind here. Or clients could be asked to choose an appropriate piece of literature as a basis for a theme?
To de-construct and critique my own images a little more
Consider work by Julia Margaret Cameron and Katy Grannan in order to contextualise my work further
Look at advertising and include semiotic analysis
Ensure all referencing is complete and correct
The exercise was really useful in being able to talk critically about my practice and to get the views from others. This is a good starting point for my critical review of practice.
REFERENCES FOR VIDEO
Barrie, J. M. 2015. Peter Pan (Word Cloud Classics). Reprint Edition. Canterbury Classics.
Barthes, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. 1st ed. London: Vintage.
The mini project task this week was ‘shape’. I deliberated for a while about what to submit as my image. I did not want to go with an obvious choice. Then I spotted this opportunity. Late afternoon I was watching the horses at the yard where my horse is. The sun cast this amazing shadow of me leaning on the fence.
Using my iPhone and the Hipstamatic app, I was able to capture this image. I particularly like how the sun is elongating my body and making my head look really small. It is this oddness that I really like about the image.
The colours that the Hipstamatic filter have created are rich and vibrant. The angled lines and my shadow make the composition really interesting and pleasing to look at. I am enjoying looking at the world around me with photographic eyes. I see images everywhere and I am using my iPhone to capture them when I have no other camera with me. In a way this is improving my photography as it is making me use what I have with me to create a unique and interesting image.
At the Photography Show in Birmingham 19th March 2017, I had the opportunity to take part in a shoot with Photoshoot Magazine (http://www.photoshootmagazine.co.uk). The aim of the session was to provide an overview of shooting a model for editorial purposes from both the model’s and the editor’s perspective. A studio was set up in a conference room and 6 photographers attended each session.
A professional editorial photographer, Mike Hardley, was on hand to offer help and advice, as well as the Editor in Chief of the magazine, Jane Kelly, who explained how images should be presented for publication.
The advice given when considering images for editorial publication was:-
Be aware of the style of the magazine. What do they normally publish?
Have a purpose for the shoot. Is the image for the cover or to illustrate a story in the magazine.
Make sure that there is sufficient space around the image for text.
Provide a mixture of images to the magazine so that they have something to choose from – present both cropped images and images with plenty of space around the model.
Consider the use of angles – step back and look at the space around the model.
If the magazine has a binding, bear that in mind when presenting images. Make sure the model is to one side of the other of your image – a staple and join in the middle of the face is not attractive.
Make sure you build up a rapport quickly with the model. Have some banter with them and make sure you are clear in your directions to them.
When taking shots, let the model know if you are taking full body, 3/4 body, 1/2 body or head and shoulder shots. They then know which parts of their body needs to be posed.
We were all invited to submit our best 5 images after the shoot, along with a short bio about ourselves. The images needed to be provided at minimum 300 dpi for print (no logo) and a 72 dpi for web (with our logo/name on the image). The images will be used in a special edition of the magazine and on their video and blog. One photographer will have their work published on the front cover of the magazine (fingers crossed).
The model, Chiara Elisabetta, was really easy and friendly to work with. As a professional model, she is very aware of her body and what works in front of the camera and what doesn’t. I quickly built up a rapport with her and we were able to get some great shots. In my allotted 10 minutes I was able to take 130 images of which all would be useable if I wanted. Chiara commented at the end of my time that I was really fun and easy to work with.
This was a new experience for me. The studio was set up and I had no say over the positioning or intensity of the lights. There were 3 lights used in much the same way that I set up lighting (Figure 1). The backdrop used was grey as that was the theme the magazine had chosen. The side profile shots of the model were only to be shot from the side determined by the model. She took direction well and tried to please every photographer, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they were. The model’s clothing and props were predetermined, as was the aim of the shoot. The limited time really made me focus on the job at hand.
The experience made me appreciate what it would be like to work professionally in editorial or fashion photography. The challenge was great fun and I loved every short minute of it. I would really like to experience this again on a bigger scale. My biggest issue of the whole experience was choosing my best 5 images to send through. I edited the images based on the advice offered by Jane and I sent through the images I thought best fulfilled the brief.
Figures 2-4 are a sample of the images that I captured on the day. They are portraiture shots designed to support text in a magazine. The images are not intended to sell anything, they represent a lifestyle and tell a story. I tried to capture a different mood to the other photographers in my session. The model is very good at the sultry look that you can see in figures 2 and 4. I worked with her to create a more relaxed and informal, happy look as seen in figure 3. I was the only one in my session that did this, so I hope this makes my images stand out in a good way.
The lighting in the images I produced is very flattering to the model. The shadow adds depth to the model without adding hardness.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience and am pleased with the resulting images. In a future blog, I will publish the images I sent to the magazine for publication.
I look at the world in a theatrical way. I see ordinary things as a performance. I understand the world this way too. When I view photographs, this does affect how I understand and interpret the image in front of me. I look for the back story in the image and don’t always draw the obvious conclusion about the intended meaning.
In my practice, the female gaze is dominant. I am interested in the portrait as both a mirror and a masquerade. The imaginary and the mirror. My subjects include anyone whether or not they conform to accepted notions of female beauty standards in terms of age, size etc.
All Photographs above: Sutherst 2016 and 2017
My subjects go through a metamorphism in front of the camera. They wear a mask and through the mirror of my lens, see themselves in a different way. Very much like Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, they sometimes truly see themselves for the first time. They put on a show in front of the camera. The subject in the photograph below commented to me before the shoot that she hated having her picture taken. During the shoot, she told me that she was acting for the camera and afterward she messaged me to say that she felt empowered and full of confidence. She has finally seen herself in the mirror for who she is. But is the image a masquerade? Is she wearing a mask?
Doane (1982:81-82) states that “The masquerade, in flaunting femininity, holds it at a distance. Womanliness is a mask which can be worn or removed. The masquerade’s resistance to patriarchal positioning would therefore lie in its denial of the production of femininity as closeness, as presence-to-itself, as, precisely, imagistic. The transvestite adopts the sexuality of the other – the woman becomes a man in order to attain the necessary distance from the image. Masquerade, on the other hand, involves a realignment of femininity, the recovery, or more accurately, simulation, of the missing gap or distance. To masquerade is to manufacture a lack in the form of a certain distance between oneself and one’s image.”
I create a connection with my subjects that feels intimate and makes them feel comfortable and confident when the camera is pointed at them. There is a distinct collaboration between me and my subjects that allows me to capture the images I get. My photographs are very reflective of my personality and imagination and I obtain a closeness to my subjects. This is in stark contrast to the gaze of a voyeur. Angier (2015:79) commented:”…The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between the seer and seen…”
And to use Barthes (2000:10-11) words, perhaps we all masquerade in front of the lens: “But very often (too often, to my taste) I have been photographed and knew it. Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of “posing”. I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image. This transformation is an active one: I feel that the Photograph creates my body or mortifies it, according to its caprice (…).”
Angier, R. (2015). Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Required Reading Range). 2 Edition. Fairchild Books.
Barthes, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. Edition. Vintage
Doane, M. (1982). Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator. Screen, 23(3-4), pp.74-88.
In photography, both high key lighting and low key lighting make use of contrast, but in different ways. The choice of lighting impacts the mood and emotion portrayed in the image. This has been an area of great consideration for me.
The images above were shot with high key lighting. The images have a happy, upbeat and joyful feel to them and look very much like advertisements because of this. They are bright and have a range of light tones and white is the dominant colour. There are very few blacks or mid-tones in the images. The tone is even across the image and there is also a lack of shadows in the picture. The shadows cast by the subject have been minimised and suppressed by lighting setup used. The images look flatter as there is less contrast across the image and the lighting setup has thrown soft light across the subjects. The clothing colours worn by the models helps with the overall effect.
The soft lighting can appear to make the subjects look younger as the contrast is reduced and any lines in the skin appear smoother. This type of lighting is usually seen in fashion photography as it is minimal and unnecessary details are not highlighted but are ‘hidden’ by the soft lighting. The resultant images are clean looking.
I particularly like using high key lighting for my work as my intent is about performance, fun and enjoyment. I want my images to have a clean, bright feel. These were both taken in a studio where I was able to control the lighting precisely (3 studio lights were used in each case).
The two images above are shot using low key lighting. These are more dramatic and convey atmosphere and tension. The tones in these images are darker and the dominant colour is black. There is much more contrast in these images than the high key ones. The wrinkles in the skin are more clearly seen and all details are highlighted by the contrast in the light.
These shots were taken in Venice at night. To shoot these images, I used a single light source of a flash fitted with a honeycomb grid. This allowed me to light my subject and not the background. The flash has given a hard light across the subjects and this emphasises the contrast and tonal range across them; true white through to black. The shadows are also more pronounced.
Whilst they are a good reminder and record of the scenes in front of me, I feel they are less successful in terms of my intent. The images have a darker mood and feel to them and that is not what I am currently working with. My current practice has a fashion and performance feel to it, which is better suited to high key lighting.
This week’s mini project was ‘Cats and Dogs’. I decided to take a close up shot of one of cat’s paws. This image was shot using Hipstamatic on an iPhone7.
I was really pleased with the level of detail that the iPhone was able to record. In fact one of the cohort commented that he thought I had used my DSLR and a macro lens to get this shot. I am excited about future images I will be able to capture with my iPhone now.
I find this image quite pleasing. At first glance, you cannot really tell that it is a cat’s paw and then you notice the claws. I think because my cat has different coloured pads on her feet, it throws the viewer off kilter a bit and leads them to be confused for a few moments.
Compositionally, the image is pleasing with the visual weight very clearly on the paw. The angle of the paw across the image adds to the visual pleasure. The colour tones are complementary, as is the Hipstamatic edit on the image. All in all, I am pleased with this image.
Intent of shoot – When searching for new subjects to photograph, a long time friend contacted me about taking part as being photographed in a studio was on her bucket list. Pre-shoot discussions covered potential ideas for the shoot. The subject suggested that “as it’s the year of the rooster and I’m an aquarian we could do something a bit quirky”. Both the subject and I then set our minds to work.
As a fan of Cindy Sherman’s 2016 Imitation of Life, I started to look for inspiration there.
What attracts me to this work of Sherman’s is that she portrays subjects that are styled with heavy makeup and that she explores an area that most photographers avoid – the glamour and beauty of more mature women.
My subject also produced a long list of ideas, including a water theme, ‘blue’ and birds, but was willing to have a go at any theme.
Aesthetic – The intended aesthetic was a high key image that is both punchy and bright, with an upbeat and humorous narrative. The styling planned was to incorporate the themes of Cindy Sherman’s glamour, water, blue and birds. Hardly the easiest of styling choices when all combined! Working with a makeup artist, Alley Stallard, a bold make up theme was chosen that included large feather false eyelashes (bird theme). The subject was styled as a mermaid in a costume that required double sided tape to hold the heavy seashell encrusted top in place.
My brief to the subject was to have fun in front of the camera and play with facial expressions. I asked her to look into the distance, play with different props that I had (crystal ball, doing, baseball bat etc), and at times I asked her to pull faces. This helped to relax the subject.
As the subject had never been in the studio before, the first 20-30 minutes were spent getting her to relax in front of the camera and to understand where the light would be falling on her face. I use humour as my main way to relax a subject. Showing her the images on the back of the camera helped to reassure her that she was looking fabulous in from of the camera.
“People feel good in front of the camera only when you learn to help them feel comfortable being there! It is about infusing them with your passion and educating them about the how much they will enjoy the process.”
– David Beckstead
Beckstead’s words are certainly true in this case. The subject really enjoyed the process, commenting afterward that “I enjoyed the day and would love to do it again”.
The lighting was set up as shown.
A large octagonal softbox was used as the main light – this was adjusted to give a soft and even light across the front of the subject’s face. I also set up 2 medium softboxes behind the subject which reduced shadows on the backdrop and added some depth to the subject.
I also added in a small fill light with honeycomb grid fitted to the front. This was placed on the opposite side to the main octagonal light. This light was set at half the power of the others and was used when the shadows on the subject’s face were too harsh or dark. This has allowed me to fill in detail and allows more flexibility when moving the model around.
The images were shot in RAW on a Nikon d810 set at ISO64, 1/160 and f8. These settings allow me ultimate flexibility and allow more options for getting the most out of the images in Lightroom or Photoshop after the shoot. My intent was to get the shot in camera and not have to do too much post-processing to achieve the effect.
Personal evaluation of images – At the start of the shoot, the subject was self-conscious and needed direction and reassurance. However, as the shoot progressed her confidence grew.
The portrait head shots at the top of this post are very successful in that my subject became a confident person in front of the lens. The portraits of her are both a mirror and a masquerade. She has undergone a metamorphism in front of the camera and this is portrayed in the photographs, where she looks happy and confident.
The images have a Sherman feel to them. The fantasy female persona that my subject has become uses makeup and costume in a theatrical way to create an image that draws the viewer into the self-confident view.
The shots were taken in a studio with a plain white background. The subject was more comfortable in a safe, enclosed environment. The intention for these images was to allow the viewer no distractions away from the subject so that their eye has nowhere else to go. I wanted my subject to be saying to the viewer ‘focus entirely on me as there is nothing else to look at’. The downside to this is that the image can appear cold and sterile, but this is counteracted somewhat by the bolder colours in the styling of the subject.
“The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told.”
– Cindy Sherman
The narrative is not clearly laid out. Like Sherman, the viewer needs to get involved with my image and respond through the viewing and re-viewing the image. The images are obviously staged and considered. This is obvious to the viewer through the use of the extreme makeup, styling and over-exaggerated poses.
The most successful shots of the session were the headshots (as shown at the top of this post). The full length or sitting shots were less successful. The extreme styling and bright, bold colours detract the eye of the viewer. This is in stark contrast to my intent of the use of the plain background to draw the viewer’s focus to the subject. There is a lot going on with the costume. However, the performance is bigger in the wider angled shots.
Figures 6 and 7: Sutherst 2017
I have experimented inserting a background to an image to see what difference that made. This again is not a successful image. The background does add a different feel to the image, but it is obvious that this is a composite image. The styling is still dominating the image and again, as a viewer, I am not looking at the subject’s face. The intent behind the image is not clear to a viewer. The scene is still confusing to the eye. The lesson moving forwards for me is to simplify the styling down in shoots.
Another issue that I faced through the shoot is that one of the seashells on the bra top cast a misleading shadow. As shown in the detail image opposite, the shadow cast looks like a nipple. This is very evident in the images where the subject is sat down. At no point in the shoot were her nipples visible and this is an unfortunate result of the fill light. As a result, I have around a dozen images that are not suitable for use.
Subject’s view – After the shoot, the subject contacted me to say that she really liked the photographs and was pleased with most of them. She also commented that she cringed at some because she didn’t feel very photogenic. However, she enjoyed the experience and wanted to do it again. She also wanted to organise for two other friends to go through the same experience.
Beckstead, D. From ShootZilla. 2017. 100 inspirational photography quotes – ShootZilla. [online] Available at: http://www.shootzilla.com/100-inspirational-photography-quotes/. [Accessed 10 March 2017].
Sherman, C. From WAC: Andersen-Hopper: Cindy Sherman. 2017. WAC: Andersen-Hopper: Cindy Sherman. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.walkerart.org/archive/7/B3738119F903AE49616D.htm. [Accessed 10 March 2017]
Figure 3: Sherman Image from. AnOther. 2017. Lessons We Can Learn From Cindy Sherman | AnOther. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8610/lessons-we-can-learn-from-cindy-sherman. [Accessed 10 March 2017]
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
– Henry David Thoreau
A picture is worth a thousand words — but which words should we use to describe what we see? We are aware that photographs are a powerful medium and can communicate information to the viewer. But they can also misinform. This is especially true if we’re not careful how we read a photograph or if the photograph is placed in a viewing context that disrupts and alters the intended interpretation. A photographer makes decisions about a photograph when creating it. In the same way, the viewer makes decisions about how to read a photograph. In addition, a viewer has to also interpret the context in which the photograph is viewed. They will then make links to their own knowledge and experiences to determine an interpretation of the image before them.
Every photograph is situated in a context in which it will be interpreted (intentionally or unintentionally). Museums and art galleries attract a particular type of person. Not everyone will go to visit a gallery to look at photographs. In a gallery, the photograph is usually viewed along with the addition of text. It is easy to alter the meaning of the photograph with the text that accompanies it. We are also forced to interpret the image alongside the aesthetics in which it is presented. The aesthetic of the gallery and associated labeling can both facilitate and hinder the viewer’s interpretation of the image. In the gallery context, the viewer is more likely to be someone who likes artworks. Photographs appear more interesting when placed in a frame on the wall and we are more likely to spend more time viewing and studying the image than we would if we saw it on the internet.
Photobooks offer a different context for us to consider. They represent a more intimate space in which to view and interpret the intent of the photographer. This is in stark contrast to images presented in an online gallery, where they are subjected to a fleeting glance and potential misrepresentation / misinterpretation from many different viewers.
So, where to present my work? I have been giving a lot of thought to this over the last couple of weeks of the module. My work in progress images are bright and playful and the viewing context needs to represent that. A gallery exhibition sounds like a dream, however, I am concerned that the forced aesthetic will impact on the reception and interpretation of the work. The demographics of viewers will be limited. I want my work to be seen by many, not just a few.
I am considering the possibility of a billboard type display, out in the open for all to see. This resolves the issue of a limited demographic spread of viewers and will allow me to remain playful with my images. This context would enable me to add some clarity to the communication in terms of my intent and concept. This could be enhanced through the use of text to support the image. The text would not need to be a label but could be part of the image, much like the text in an advert.
I am also considering the publication of my images in a magazine. This would add to the fashion feel of some of my constructed work. Again the audience will be limited to the readership of the work but would allow the intended interpretation to be clear. I would be able to be specific with text to help ensure this. I am currently developing and nurturing contacts in this area.
Large installations and structures displaying my work are also under consideration. A member of my cohort suggested a suspended cube containing images might be a possibility. This would add drama and uniqueness to my diverse portfolio. I am currently exploring this theme further.
Whatever way forward I choose, I am aware that a good photograph is a good photograph. However, presenting my work in the wrong context or inappropriate form could lead to misinterpretation of the work and will end up being a huge disappointment to me.
A trip to the Photography Show today with another member of my cohort, resulted in me considering a way of how I can plan out displays of my work.
Amongst the many manufacturers and photographic suppliers, the Disabled Photographers Society stand offers many second hand bargains. Displayed on a small table at the side was a miniature gallery layout (figures 1 and 2).
This idea is one that I would like to use in the future for planning out potential gallery layouts of my work. It will be easy enough to construct. The ‘walls’ of the gallery are made from foam board that slots together and ‘frames’ are made from strips of card.
Definitely an editing and planning process for the future.
“If you want the people to understand you, invite them to your life and let them see the world from your window!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
Since its evolution, photography has been making an impact on the world. It has changed our perception of the world. We better understand what the world looks like outside of our own borders. We are exposed to a wider view of the world than before the medium was developed.
In 1976, Stanley J. Forman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a haunting image of a woman and child falling after a fire escape collapsed caused controversy and debate after the Boston Herald published it. The newspaper was criticised for publishing such a horrific picture. However, the photograph prompted many to check their fire escapes and a law was passed that ensured that the building owners were responsible for the maintenance of fire escapes. Thousands of other lives have probably been saved because of this image and the changes it brought about.
Since then we have been exposed to many similar images. Have any had the same impact that this image did? Are we now immune to effect these images have on us? These images have raised awareness and informed us of disasters and the loss of human life, but they have not changed things.
Today we live in a visual world. Often we need to see things to believe them. It is the age of viral news media and a great many images are viewed around the world via the internet and especially. People are more likely moved by photographs than by reading news stories.
We can view these images and feel empathy or horror at what we see, but the images we view today do not really bring about change. I believe that people are now just too desensitised to shocking images. What seems to be a powerful image has lost the ability to shock, motivate, or inspire us. We are informed by the images and they highlight issues to us. When we view images of disasters and suffering around the world, we might contribute to collections for the charities, but then go on with our own lives. These images appear so many times, that we become immune to their impact.
What photography might change is our perception of a situation. Will it change the situation and stop it happening? As much as I would like it to, I don’t think so.