Contextual Research, Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Next Steps

Having resolved this body of work, I am off in a slightly different direction as the next module begins.

Picking up on comments made when I presented the naked portrait a few weeks ago, that I photographed the subject in the same way as a gay man would have done, I have decided to investigate this further.  What truly makes the image take with a gay gaze?  Will I feel like a voyeur in my work?  I have already booked in a female art nude shoot and several male art nude shoots.  I am not interested in body shape, size, age or ethnicity.  I am purely interested in how I photograph these images and whether the gaze of my work alters as I become more comfortable shooting the naked body.  I will be considering the work of female photographers of this genre -Vivienne Maricevic and Dianora Niccolini, as well as male photographers such as Rankin and Jeffery Silverthorne whose approaches will introduce new dimensions to my work.  I will also explore the work of Soraya Doolbaz, an Iranian-Canadian woman who describes herself  as a professional penis photographer.  Artists such as Duncan Grant will also feed into the contextualisation of this work.

I am also going to revisit the work of Mary Ellen Mark, Ward 81. I am planning to further explain mental health issues and treatment through staged portraits. The work of Julia Fullerton-Batten, amongst others, will form a starting point for my research into staged work.

My final area that I would like to explore further over the next few months builds on my current body of work.  I have been pleased that some of my images have an awkwardness and oddness about them.  Using contextual research on Justine Kurland, Diane Arbus and Ryan McGinley,  I aim to produce images that portray awkwardness and uncomfortable poses.

There are exciting times ahead and although this is my current thinking on the next steps, I am fully aware that things may change as I progress through my research and experimentation.

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Billboards and Bus Shelters

Throughout this module I have been considering where my work could be displayed.  I am been keen for my work to be seen by as many people as possible and have considered the use of billboards as a medium for display.

Félix González-Torres used 24 billboards (figure 1) around Manhattan in 1991 to showcase a monochrome image of an unmade double bed with rumpled sheets.  The billboards were in banal locations.  The bed had depressions of heads in the each of the pillows. He did not add words or explanation to his images.  The image of a bed is universal; everyone can relate to it, yet it is also perplexing in the method chosen to display it.

This art installation was called ‘Untitled’.  The work was a tribute to his partner, Ross Laycock, who died from AIDS. González-Torres himself died in 1996 from AIDS-related causes.  This private tribute displayed in a very public way challenged our understanding of the image and made the viewer question what the message was and why the image was there.

gonzalez-torres-billboards

Figure 1: Félix González-Torres. Various views of Untitled. 1991

Billboard 1

Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

Billboard 2
Figure 3: Sutherst 2017

 

Taking inspiration from González-Torres, I decided to see what some of my work would look like as a billboard or bus shelter display.  The images would be printed as large posters and placed inside the display window.

I used images I appropriated from the internet (references below detail sources) to insert my images onto in Photoshop.

Figure 2 could be an advertisement.  the image is correctly proportioned for this display and would catch the eye of passers-by.  There is space around the subject for any text to go.

This image works really well in this viewing context.

 

Figure 3 is also a successful display.  Again, there is sufficient space around the image to ensure any text could be easily placed and read.  The bright colours of the subject would catch the eye of passers-by.  Again the proportions of this image work well in the confines of the display space.

The white background of the image in figure 3 make the subject stand out.  Again, I have no trouble envisioning this as a suitable context in which to display this work.

Both of images could be part of the Cindy Sherman MAC Cosmetics Campaign (figure 4).  The styling and bright colours are along the same lines and my images would fit well with her images in that series.

mac-fw-2011-cindy-sherman-for-mac
Figure 4: Cindy Sherman. MAC Campaign. 2011.
Billboard 3
Figure 5: Sutherst 2017
Billboard big
Figure 6: Sutherst 2017

 

Figure 5 could be an advertisement for the Swindon Advertiser (the newspaper he is reading).  Whilst the image is on a black background, the character really stands out.  There is room around the subject to place text as needed.

Whilst I think this would work as an advertisement, I think is it not as successful as figures 2 and 3 due to the darker background and that the image is not quite the correct proportions for the space.

As a venue to display my work, this is successful.  The image is prominent and would certainly demand a second look from passers-by.

Figure 6 shows one of my images on a roadside billboard.  My image is not quite proportioned correctly for the shape of the billboard.  The image would certainly be eye-catching to passers-by.

I am not sure that this particular image and billboard combination works.  It is certainly not as successful as the bus shelter images.

 

As I move forwards with the project and try to determine the outcome of my final project. I will continue to explore outside spaces such as bus shelters for the display of my work.  I will need to be mindful in the construction and editing of these images of the dimensional requirements of the display frames.

 

 

REFERENCES

Figure 1: González-Torres, F. From Jones, A. (2017). Day-dreaming of sleep. [online] IMAGE OBJECT TEXT. Available at: https://imageobjecttext.com/2012/02/23/day-dreaming-of-sleep/ [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Figure 4: Sherman, C. MAC Campaign. 2011. From Art8amby’s Blog. (2017). Cindy Sherman for M.A.C Fall Winter 2011 Ad Campaign Preview. [online] Available at: https://art8amby.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/cindy-sherman-for-m-a-c-fall-winter-2011-ad-campaign-preview/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2017].

 

 

BLANK IMAGE SOURCES

Blank billboard image. Bertoni, S. Empty Spaces.  Unknown date. From Blogger.com. (2017). Blogger. [online] Available at: https://www.blogger.com/blogin.g?blogspotURL=http://susannaphotographer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/empty-space-billboard-2.html [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Blank bus shelter image from All-free-download.com. (2017). Highway blank billboards. [online] Available at: http://all-free-download.com/free-photos/download/highway-blank-billboards-hd-picture_170537.html [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Last Minute Changes

Reviewing my portfolio prior to submission, I realised that one of the images (Untitled #3) just didn’t seem to sit right.  Coffee and Debussy needed!

I swapped out the image for a couple of different ones to find what would work better.

Wall 1
Figure 1: Sutherst. Wall 1 version 1. 2017
Wall 1v3
Figure 2: Sutherst. Wall 1 version 2. 2017
Wall 1v4
Figure 3: Sutherst. Wall 1 version 3. 2017
Wall 1v2
Figure 4: Sutherst. Wall 1 version 4. 2017

 

I decided to check whether the sequence worked well for each image by presenting them on a gallery wall amongst some of the other images.

Figure 1 is the original sequence that I had.  The image in the centre is much larger than the others.  This was very noticeable in the portfolio pdf.

I decided to swap it out for the image in the centre in figure 2.  This image is a better fit in the sequence and does not stand out as much as the first choice.  I still felt that this was not the best choice of image.

I considered reducing images in the portfolio to 19, but my OCD tendencies could not deal with this!

I decided to try one of my Venice frame images in the sequence. Figure 3 shows what a mistake that was!  The image is really over powering and is drawing attention away from the remaining work.

This image has a bright dominant frame as part of the image.  It really stands out and not in a good way.  I feel the rest of the body of work has less impact when this image is in the sequence.

I then decided to try the image as shown in figure 4.  Hallelujah!  This image is strong and fits in well with the works around it.  It has an oddness about it due to the expression on the subject’s face and this fits in well with the rest of the work.

Time now for another coffee and finalise the portfolio ready for submission.

 

 

REFERENCES

Wall Image from Pinterest. 2017. White Wall Art Gallery | Free Gallery Wall by mkrukowski | Artistry | Pinterest | Wall art, Galleries and White walls. [ONLINE] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/347269821245313327/. [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Gallery Wall Layout

When determining my final sequence of images, I created a possible layout for a gallery exhibition.  I chose not to use frames for the images, based on my previous thoughts about interpretation.

Figures 1-4 show the gallery walls.

Wall 1v2
Figure 1: Sutherst. Wall 1. 2017
Wall 2
Figure 2: Sutherst. Wall 2. 2017
Wall 3
Figure 3: Sutherst. Wall 3. 2017
Wall 4
Figure 4: Sutherst. Wall 4. 2017

I chose white as the wall colour for the images as I felt it gave a particular intense quality to my work. The work is brightly lit so that it can be seen clearly.  A drab and dreary gallery will not allow the work to be appreciated. The grey labels do not distract from the images.  They would simply contain the title of the work and the year of creation.

All the images are the same height to create a sense of unity in the work.  The images would be printed as a photo print under an acrylic glass front.  The finish will be matte to reduce the amount of reflections from the lights.  The acrylic glass front will mean that the photographs would not need any additional support when being mounted on the wall.

I am pleased with how my portfolio would look in a gallery context.  The clean walls and uniform display make the work seem like a big performance. Reflecting on the sequence, I am happy that I now have it correct for the intent I set out with.

 

REFERENCES

Wall Image from Pinterest. 2017. White Wall Art Gallery | Free Gallery Wall by mkrukowski | Artistry | Pinterest | Wall art, Galleries and White walls. [ONLINE] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/347269821245313327/. [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Door Image from Arazzinni AZ-4H-9010-3080-CIH SmartPro 4H Polar White Modern Interior Door [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.decorplanet.com/products/arazzinni-az-4h-9010-3080-cih-smartpro-4h-polar-white-modern-interior-door/az-4h-9010-3080-cih.html. [Accessed 23 April 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Book Proof

In order to see whether my sequence of images works as a book, I created a proof on line (figures 1-12 in slideshow below).

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When considering the layout, I believe if I were to publish this work as a book, the sequence would need to be changed.  I have intended the images of the two Twisted Tinkerbells (‘Untitled #12’ and ‘Untitled #13’) to be viewed side by side.  In this book mock up they are back to back and are not seen together.  In this instance I would choose to swap over images ‘Untitled #12’ and ‘Untitled #14’ to make this happen.

For me, I do not think the photobook is the way forward.  Whilst the medium would make the images accessible to many, I really want my work to be seen on a large scale.  I think that some of the performance aspect will be lost in a book.  The smaller scale will make the images more intimate than they are intended to be.

Contextual Research, Informing Contexts

Informing Contexts – The Viewer

“Every viewer is going to get a different thing. That’s the thing about painting, photography, cinema.”

– David Lynch

 

REFERENCE

Lynch, D. From BrainyQuote. (2017). Photography Quotes – BrainyQuote. [online] Available at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/photography.html [Accessed 24 April 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Portfolio Choices

The final choices and decisions made for my work in progress portfolio are presented below.

Slide01
Figure 1: Sutherst 2017

My portfolio (figure 1) has a clean layout designed to be very much like a box of prints that you would take to a gallery when you are trying to persuade them to exhibit your work. I decided it should have a white background, so it looks as though the images are displayed on the white walls of the gallery. I have used a sans serif font to improve the readability of the text in my portfolio.   The only text contained in my portfolio is the title of each image. I have used faded grey for the text instead of black so it does not distract away from the image.

The images are untitled to preserve some ambiguity in the interpretation of their narrative.  My inspiration for this was Cindy Sherman, who left many of her images untitled and open to the viewer’s interpretation. Performance means different things to different people, so this strategy works well in my body of work.

Slide02
Figure 2: Sutherst. Untitled #1. 2017

Untitled #1 (figure 2)

The first image in my portfolio is a self-portrait that underpins the intent of my practice which wishes to explore how people perform differently in front of the camera.  For me having this photograph taken was a big deal.  I am not somebody who will put myself in front of the camera willingly.  In fact, I’m usually the one hiding at the back of the group shots. My other defence against having my photograph taken is to act a fool in front of the camera. I do this rather than portray the real me.  I think it’s because people may judge me from this image; that people will think they know who I am from the 2-D representation of me that is shown in a photograph. But representation is not me; it is merely a snapshot captured in an instant. This is not the real me.   My intention is that through my body of work you will get to know the real me. You will get to know who I am and what is important to me.

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Figure 3: Sutherst. Untitled #2. 2017

Untitled #2 (figure 3)

They say that a picture tells a thousand words. The image was inspired by the work of Roger Ballen.  His images are compelling and provocative. He does not use captions, they are not needed. His powerful work speaks for itself. I am hoping that this image will speak for itself.  This image could have been quite ordinary, had it not been for the extreme styling. Here we have a young girl, she looks as though she’s beautiful but we can’t tell because she’s wearing a mask. She is wearing beautiful clothes and is styled impeccably. Her nails are beautifully manicured and are in stark contrast to the gun that she’s holding. So what am I trying to say with this image?

This image was influenced by Edward Weston’s photographs that he took of his wife reclining nude in her gas mask following the bombing of Pearl Harbour.  (See blog post of  8th March 2017.)  In today’s society, the narcissistic obsession of young people to constantly look their best in photographs and in particular in selfies is contrasted against the very real possibility of war. I’m questioning whether these young people will still be wearing their beautiful clothes and have beautifully manicured nails should they have to wear a gas mask to prevent themselves from being suffocated or have to use a gun to protect themselves. This image is visually striking and draws the viewer into the image as they try to understand the contradictions in the image in front of them and interpret it in a way that speaks to them.

JS WIP v6

Figure 4: Sutherst. Untitled #3. 2017

Untitled #3 (Figure 4)

This image almost did not make the final cut the portfolio. In fact, it was a late substitution for a previous image I had in my portfolio which just didn’t sit right in the sequence. I chose this image particularly because of the subject’s facial expression. The back story is that the subject had never modeled before; in fact, she never even considered modeling before. Her grandmother is a good friend of mine and arranged for the subject to come with me to the studio one day. The subject was not told where she was going or what she was doing. She was just instructed to meet me outside her local shop, as I was taking her out for the day. At this point, she did not know me, but she trusted her grandmother.  Once in the studio, the make-up artist and myself styled her based on the film Suicide Squad.

For this particular image, I asked the subject to portray how she felt about what her grandmother had done. As you can see from the image she looks quite cross. I chose this image to go into the portfolio because the eye contact that she makes with the camera is quite compelling.   There is an awkwardness to the pose which adds to the narrative.

Slide05

Figure 5: Sutherst. Untitled #4. 2017

Untitled #4 (figure 5)

This image was constructed in the studio. The subject is not a model, in fact, she is a dancer who is just turned 16.   She had never been in the studio before but really wanted to have the experience of being photographed. I have included this image in the portfolio because of the awkwardness in the angle and proportion of her limbs.   I shot this image from an angle which gave me this distortion. The image was shot with a single light fitted with an octogonal soft box and was shot against a black backdrop.  This may seem strange considering that she is wearing a black leotard and it is almost disappearing into the background. But this is the image I wanted to create.

The visual weight of the image is concentrated around the frame, head, shoulders, and legs of the subject.   Her limbs look disjointed, almost floating around on their own.  Only a closer look reassures you that she has a body.  The image looks off kilter and is intriguing to the viewer.   The position of her body and limbs do not appear to make sense, but at the same time they do. The monochrome effect and lack of additional colours make this a striking image within the sequence.

Slide06

Figure 6: Sutherst. Untitled #5. 2017

Untitled #5 (figure 5)

This is another image inspired by Roger Ballen.  The use of the mask obscures the face of the subject. The viewer is not aware of how the person is feeling. The positioning of the hands and the tilt of the head lead you to believe he is suffering from anguish, but you are guessing here. There is oddness in this image again; the mask is too small for the subject’s face and so it makes the proportions look strange. Because of the lighting used, you get the impression that the head and hands are almost detached from the rest of the body and floating in the air. Again, taking a closer look you can see that is not the case.

This image fits well with the intent of my practice which is to make the viewer really look at and engage with an image to determine their own interpretation of the message.

Slide07

Figure 7: Sutherst. Untitled #6. 2017

Untitled #6 (figure 7)

Influenced heavily by Cindy Sherman’s MAC campaign images, this photograph was created using extreme styling, high key lighting and the use of gels to light the white back drop. The resultant image is full of performance.   This is the kind of image that I would envisage seeing on a billboard as part of an advertising campaign. In another blog post, I have constructed an image that shows this being used on an advertising board on the side of a bus shelter.   The subject has plenty of room around her for text to be added as part of an advertising campaign.

Slide08

Figure 8: Sutherst. Untitled #7. 2017

Untitled #7 (figure 8)

This image is another one full of contradictions. The pretty pink bow in the subject’s hair is in contrast to the seductive mask that she is wearing. The image is a little confusing; on first glance, you do not know exactly what you are looking at. There’s frame within the frame of the image, yet there is interest outside the frame that you take notice of. The manicured nails and the hand of the subject are outside the frame and make you consider what’s going on outside of the image.  Who is the girl in the picture? Why does she look bored? And why is she wearing a mask? What does she have to hide?

When Claude and Gilpin were on their travels around the Lake District and the Isle of Wight in the 18th century, they took a frame to look through when taking their photographs. As a photographer, I am using the frame to focus the gaze of the viewer.

Slide09

Figure 9: Sutherst. Untitled #8. 2017

Untitled #8 (figure 9)

This image shows a true performance. The subject has a bored look on her face and her body language is that of someone who is fed up with having her picture taken. She is interacting with the frame that she’s holding. The frame ensures the viewer’s gaze is directly on her. This image again is full of contradictions. The viewer will question why is pretty model is sat in a beautiful chair wearing a gorgeous dress and yet on her head is a helmet. The goggles from the helmet are hanging on the corner of a frame, adding to both the confusion and the composition.

The viewer is meant to question why she is styled the way she is.  The narrative is that young girl has just come in to have her photograph taken and is running late so has not had time to change out of her beautiful dress or even to take off the helmet from where she was riding a scooter. So the photograph is taken as she is.  Again, the narcissistic obsession of young people to constantly look their best in photographs and in particular in selfies is being challenged with this image.

Slide10

Figure 10: Sutherst. Untitled #9. 2017

Untitled #9 (figure 10)

Initially, this shoot based on the work of Wangechi Mutu was intended to generate images that I could embroider and texturise.  Mutu produced illustrations of hybrid like women with multi-coloured bodies.  As I began to edit the images, I realised their potential to sit comfortably within this body of work.

This was a full body paint shoot. The model is a good friend of mine and she was not concerned about being naked in front of the camera (although she was completely covered in body paint). The make-up artist spent over six hours applying the paint exactly as I had requested. Initially, this image was to be embroidered upon and then she would have had spines or spikes running down her back. But there’s something about this image in the raw state that I really like.

There is an oddness about the image when you look at it. Her ear is very distinct, it is not body painted and it stands out against her painted face and body. Her hair has been left spiky and has had no additional colour added to it. There is evidence on the floor of body paint. This shows that there have been some contortions and some movement during the shoot to create different shapes.

When editing for my portfolio, this image stood out as it could have easily been part of Cindy Sherman’s Mac advertising campaign. There is space around the subject in which text could be placed for the advertisement. Like Untitled #6, this image is part of another blog post which shows it on the side of a bus shelter, displayed like an advertisement.

Slide11

Figure 11: Sutherst. Untitled #10. 2017

Untitled #10 (figure 11)

For this image, I wanted to portray the subject as someone who was bored with the whole shoot idea and was almost falling asleep. The subject was styled in a large petticoat (designed to go underneath a prom or wedding dress).   Over the top, she wore a red summer dress.   She wore a Viennese mask. From her posture, styling and body language, you get the impression that she has come back from a ball or party and now just wants to go to sleep and not be bothered with having her picture taken.

Slide12

Figure 12: Sutherst. Untitled #11. 2017

Untitled #11 (figure 12)

This image is well lit against a black backdrop. The green-gold colour of the frame is beautifully highlighted by the light.  This pose was serendipitously captured; it was not an intentional pose.  The subject had planned a completely different pose but slightly lost her balance at this point. I took a chance and took the image. The result is a  really pleasing image.  Even when she lost her balance, the gracefulness that comes from ballet really shone through.  The position of her hands and her feet make the composition interesting and draw the viewer in. The frame is resting on her shoulder; the angle of the frame is intriguing.  She looks totally effortless in this pose.

Slide13

Figure 13: Sutherst. Untitled #12. 2017

Untitled #12 (figure 13)

Twisted Tinkerbell number one. The styling of this subject has been influenced by the work of Heather Lickliter Larkin ‘Hairyography’ (as discussed in my blog post of 12th April).  The subject is a photographer friend of mine who approached me about taking part in a twisted Tinkerbell project I was working on. He had never been in front of the camera before and was willing for myself and the make-up artist to style him however we wanted.  What a responsibility. As my previous blog post on this demonstrates, he was keen to try something new.

As a photographer, it was a useful experience for him to be able to appreciate what models feel like in front of the camera. He was really easy to shoot because as a photographer he knows the best positions to capture the light.  He understands where to place his face and body to get the best lighting effect. This was a truly collaborative shoot. I would present him with different props and suggestions of how he portrays the character and he did the rest.

Slide14

Figure 14: Sutherst. Untitled #13. 2017

Untitled #13 (figure 14)

Twisted Tinkerbell number two. In collaboration with the subject, it was decided that she would be styled as a Goth fairy. I wanted to make sure that in portraying her as a fairy she was not objectified in the way that J.M. Barrie had objectified fairies in Peter Pan. As discussed in my previous blog post of the 12 April 2017, the subject’s extreme makeup was inspired by that worn by David Bowie in Brian Duffy’s photograph of him.

This photograph clearly demonstrates her rebellious side. The subject is biting the artificial sunflowers and isn’t posing in a way that would objectify her.  This makes the image engaging to look at.

Slide15

Figure 15: Sutherst. Untitled #14. 2017

Untitled #14 (figure 15)

This image is actually another self-portrait. However, this time my face is completely obscured by a gas mask. Taking inspiration from Edward Weston and his gas mask images, for a while now I’ve wanted to explore the use of a gas mask within a portrait shot.  Having obtained the gas mask, I decided that it looked like a very unpleasant thing to wear and that I should do the shoot to see how it was, rather than ask somebody else to do it. The experience was not at all pleasant. The mask felt tight against my face and I couldn’t breathe in it.  I’m not sure if that was a psychological reaction or not.

I didn’t want to take an image that was scary or of a fetish nature.  If you look closely at the image you can make out my eyes behind the gas mask lens. I look almost panicked, which isn’t too far from the truth when you can’t breathe.  This gives the image a haunting look.  My face looks almost insect-like and there is absolutely no way that you are able to tell that this is me.  I’m really performing in this image, probably because there is no possibility of being identified as the subject. To improve the aesthetics of the image, I added and red wig and wore a red tutu around my neck. This helped to frame the gas mask.  The position of my hands enhance the insect-like look.

Amongst the strangeness, there is a foot in reality within this image, with the watch I am wearing.  The bands on my wrist could have been removed before the shoot.  They were deliberately left on.  If you look closely at the read band it will tell you that I am steroid dependent (due to Addison’s Disease).  This is part of who I am and who I wanted to portray in this image.  The bands are left so that the viewer has more visual clues about me, as they try to interpret the image.  This may just add to their confusion, but to me it was an important aspect of the image.

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Figure 16: Sutherst. Untitled #15. 2017

Untitled #15 (figure 16)

The pose in this image is really strong.  The body shape that the subject is able to make and the direct eye contact encourages the viewer to engage with the image. Composition is strong because of the body shape and the position of her hair. The tonal range of the image works well.  It has an almost monochrome feel, except for the make-up around the eyes.    Her gaze is intense and engaging. I cannot take my eyes off her and I feel that she is watching me wherever I go.  Whilst she does not have a physical mask on, the intense eye make-up acts as a mask.  This engages the viewer to ask why she is styled that way and what does the make-up mean.

Slide17

Figure 17: Sutherst. Untitled #16. 2017

Untitled #16 (figure 17)

The fetish mask and frame used in this image are particularly interesting to the viewer.   I have juxtaposed the delicate female with the heavy sadomasochist mask.  Whilst this may be considered as a rather tired trope and a bit cliché, I believe that this image brings fresh life to the styling. The female subject is not objectified in the image.  The almost monochrome image, beautifully lit by a single light, is delicate.   Her facial expression adds to this feeling.  The hardness of the mask is counterbalanced by the soft flowing lines of her dress.

Slide18

Figure 18: Sutherst. Untitled #17. 2017

Untitled #17 (figure 18)

On first glance, this looks like quite a traditional pose. It is only when you realise that the dancer is wearing trainers and is still managing to pose stood on her toes, that you are drawn in the oddness of the image. The dress that ballerina is wearing tones beautifully with the frame. The shape that she is able to make with her body make this portrait engaging.  She is lit by a single light which enhances the detail in her dress.  Why trainers and not ballet shoes?  Like so many of my other images, I wanted to create an off-kilter and unexpected twist to this image.

Slide19

Figure 19: Sutherst. Untitled #18. 2017

Untitled #18 (figure 19)

In much the same way as Untitled #11, this was a serendipitously captured moment.  When the subject was given the knife to use as a prop, she was fascinated (as you can see) with the fact that it was real and not plastic.  The moment that she realised how it moved in a cyclic motion when she supported the point with her finger is when I shot this image. I have other versions, but this is the only one with a tilted head, which adds to the awe and wonder of the image.

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Figure 20: Sutherst. Untitled #19. 2017

Untitled #19 (figure 20)

This image is beautifully lit and composed.  By using a Venetian Plague Doctor mask to hide the face of the subject, i have been able to maintain the ambiguity of this image.  I am allowing the viewer to interpret the visual clues in the image in their own way.  Her body language, especially the positioning her hands and her head, and the colouring of the image makes this a really delicate yet strong photograph.

I had wanted to show that sometimes an image is more powerful through what it doesn’t tell you. The viewer is left to question what the message in this image is. Why did that particular mask get chosen?  Who is the girl in the mask?  Why is she hiding?

This image sums up my intent in maintaining ambiguity in the interpretation of the narrative and sits proudly and strongly in my portfolio.

 

Slide21

Figure 21: Sutherst. Untitled #20. 2017

Untitled #20 (figure 21)

Inspired by both Roger Ballen and the film ‘The Bunnyman Massacre’, I wanted to create a humorous image of someone wearing a bunny mask.  I had tried it as a self-portrait but didn’t quite get the image I was looking for.  The subject here was very keen to wear the mask and we collaborated on how the shot could look.  The pose was shot as both a full body photograph and the version above.  The one chosen is a much stronger image as the impact of the mask and newspaper are lost a little in the full body pose.

During this shoot, I was reminded of a line from the John Reisman book, The Mad Bunny (2001: 219) “Finally, an important contribution could be made to the quality of life if a rabbit mask were invented which would enable you to blow your nose while wearing it.”

The mask conceals the subject from view.  We do not know if he is awake even.  This mask could be used to frighten or amuse.  I have used it in a comical way.  For this photograph, in particular, having the title of ‘Untitled #20’, it could be anybody underneath the mask.  We have no sense of his identity and he has been non-personalised as a person.

CONCLUSION

I am pleased with the body of work that I am presenting at this time.  The work is resolved into a coherent series.  I have learned a few things whilst carrying out the work.  In this digital age, where millions of selfies are posted online each day, self-expression and performance for the camera are vital.  How you portray yourself to the world can be important.  My portfolio challenges the accepted norm of portraiture and allows the subjects to have fun and become someone else in front of the camera.

I hope you enjoy viewing and interpreting my portfolio as much as I (and my subjects) enjoyed making it.

 

REFERENCES

Reisman, J.M.  2001. The Mad Bunny (Jacob Rubin Mysteries). Edition. Xlibris Corporation.

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Salon des Refusés

So, what didn’t make the cut?

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2017

The numbering used in the table below refers to the Lightroom number which can be seen behind each image.

Image Reason for rejection
1 Alternative image from the shoot chosen.  This edit does not fit with the rest of the portfolio.  A lighter edit was chosen for image ‘Untitled #3’. The body position doesn’t work in this version either.
2 I decided that this was too literal an image to fit in the portfolio.
3 This was removed after version 3 of the portfolio.  Initially I had included it as it fitted with the Cindy Sherman inspired image ‘Untitled #6’.  Reviewing the sequence of images, I realised that this image was just did not sit well alongside the others.  In fact it became distracting in the sequence due to the brightness of the image.
4 This image did not make the any of the versions.  It was considered during the layout work on the wardrobe.  When compared to the rest of the sequence, the image stood out for the wrong reasons.  It looks too contrived within this body of work.
5 The subject in this image is too comfortable in the pose.  He is actually trained in Samurai arts and this comes across in the image.  It is more of a true likeness than a performance when compared to the rest of the body of work.
6 This image comes across as contrived and so did not make the final version.
7 – 12 These 6 images were not included as they are now the starting point for a new body of work inspired by Mary Ellen Mark’s Ward 81 book.  They are strong images, but are exploring a dark topic which does not fit with the joviality of the remaining images.  For this images, it is not a total rejection, more of a ‘come back later’.
13 This image has no real spark for me within the context of this body of work.  The pose is interesting, but the styling (apart from makeup) comes across as bland when laid out against the rest of the images.
14 This image nearly made the cut. On reflection I did feel that it was quite an obvious construction.  The use of the guitar is great fun, but not that surprising, hence the cut.
15 In my very early versions, this image was the final one in the sequence and was used to balance the rawness of the first image in the sequence (self portrait).  As I tried different sequences and sought the opinions of others, it became apparent that this image did not fit in the portfolio. With the exception of the self portrait, all the other images show more of the body of the subject.  This is purely a portrait and so does not work for me.
16 I love this image! But it just does not sit harmoniously in the sequence.  It looks more stage-managed than the others and I was able to replace this with ‘Untitled #15’ of the same subject, but is a much stronger image visually.
17 I had to make a choice between this image and ‘Untitled #12’.  I do think that this is a strong image, but it would have been the only black and white image in the portfolio, which made me think that it would not fit well and would stand out for all the wrong reasons.
18 This was rejected because although there is an oddness about the image (she is wearing one ballet shoe and one trainer), the image does not include the subject’s face.  This makes it hard to view her performance, which after all is the intent of the work.
19 When taking portraits of yourself, you cannot always see what the camera sees.  Here my t-shirt print really distracts from the image.  The concept is good, but the execution is poor on my part.
20 Again, another image I love. I really had to detach myself from this image.  It is a good image, well executed, but it is so obvious in the composition.  This image has a place in my practice, just not in this portfolio.
21 A great fun, odd image.  It just did not work in my sequence. Again, like image 16, I was able to replace this with ‘Untitled #15’ of the same subject, but is a much stronger image visually.
22 This image received mixed reviews and comments from the people that were involved in reviewing my images.  One person felt that it would be stronger if he was climbing out of the frame, rather than having climbed through it.  Another voiced that they were unsure about the image.  For these reasons, it was rejected.
23 Like image 2, this image comes across as too literal and expected to fit in the portfolio.
24 Like images 2 and 23, this image comes across as too literal and expected to fit in the portfolio.

 

Contextual Research, Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Self Portrait

Why do I run for cover when someone wants to take my photo?  Why do I hide at the back in a group shot? Or pull faces and act the fool if a camera is thrust in my face?

Yet, I have taken selfies and posted pictures online (just not very often).  There is so much deliberation before I publish a picture that it hardly seems worth the effort.  I am generally acting the fool (or dressed up at school) in these pictures. Figure 1 below shows the extent of images I have posted online since 2014.

Figure 1: Sutherst 2014 – 2017

 

“It’s of me, but it’s not me. Portraiture can be interpreted as a kind of betrayal,but in fact it’s fiction.”

– Katy Grannan (Griffin, 2016)

 

As part of my exploration of the performance of subjects in front of the camera, I decided it would be a good move to photograph myself.  In preparation for the shoot, I shot quite a few selfies with my iPhone.  Each one I critique and dislike. At Format 2017, I forced myself to upload one to Facebook and Twitter (figure 2). Even this image I cropped to see less of me and more of the chair I was sat in!

 

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Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

On the day of the studio shoot, my stomach was leaping on the way.  A crazy response and totally irrational.  Thinking about it I realised there was a fear of the unknown.  I have not stepped in front of the camera in the studio for a shoot before.  Sure I’ve had my photograph taken, but this was different.  I allowed the makeup artist to put a base layer on my face to reduce shine in front of the camera. No other makeup was applied or required due to my plan to wear various of the masks I have.

My stomach was still leaping around.  I had told a few people I was having the shoot done and was completely aware that it would be embarrassing to me to have to show (and publish) an unflattering photograph of myself.  I am a very confident person but know that my impression of myself is not matched by the way I look in a photograph.  I don’t need to see images that show my double chin or chubby cheeks.  I know I have those, years of taking replacement steroids for Addison’s Disease have made sure of that.

But of course, the photograph would not tell the whole story of me.  It is a mere snapshot in time.  It would be nothing more than a 2D flat image of me, and just a representation of me at that.  You cannot determine my personality completely from the image.

With help of the makeup artist / studio owner, Alley Stallard, I began the process of capturing a self-portrait that would be used in my portfolio.  I wanted to create a strong, intense image that captured my vulnerability and how uncomfortable I felt in front of the lens.  The image I chose to include from the shoot is below in figure 3.

 

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Figure 3: Sutherst / Stallard 2017

 

There is an honesty and rawness about this image that I like.  Surprising eh?  I can view the image objectively in terms of my body of work.  Doesn’t mean I have to like what I see.  The lighting is deliberate to create a 3-dimensional view of myself.  I don’t have much of an expression; I am thinking about how much I am disliking the process.  I am also concentrating on how my mouth will look in the picture.  I am keeping it slightly open to relax my face.  I am conscious of keeping my eyes open for the shot.  It is these distractions and the distraction of the mask I am wearing that make it easier for me to get through the shoot.

This image sums up and underpins what my body of work is about.  Being in front of the camera is a performance.  I was having to perform for the camera in order to get the shot.  I was totally aware that I needed this shot for my portfolio. This image expresses my intent and is an objective representation of the subjective me.  I can see myself as others might see me.

My self-portrait is engaging and shows just one side of me.  Technically the image is strong; the choice of the mask for the prop, the plain t-shirt, and dark backdrop ensure that the visual weight of the image is on the subject.  I don’t need to like the image to appreciate the place it has in my practice.

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Figure 4: Jo Spence and Rosy Martin. Photo Therapy. 1984

The portrait itself has elements of Jo Spence’s work through the honesty in my eyes (figure 4). The image of Spence portrays uncertainty and fear.  It a re-staging of her mental state before her operation for breast cancer. Her image is very powerful and full of honesty and sincerity.

Spence’s work is very open and she was an incredibly brave photographer who documented her battle with cancer and leukemia. Her work included a lot of role play and narrative to portray her message.  I have the utmost respect for her work and can hope that I can become more open in future self-portraiture work.

Moving forwards, I will keep taking images of myself and I will keep using them in my bodies of work.

….

REFERENCES

Griffin, J. (2016). View from the edge: Katy Grannan’s photographs at Somerset House, London. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/7ed7800a-1185-11e6-839f-2922947098f0 [Accessed 22 April 2017].

Figure 4: Spence, J. and Martin,R. Photo Therapy. 1984. From Uncertainstates.com. (2017). Uncertain States / 08. [online] Available at: http://www.uncertainstates.com/broadsheet/uncertain-states-08/ [Accessed 22 April 2017].

Informing Contexts, Project Development

Informing Contexts – Editing!

I have just completed the process of compiling my latest work in progress portfolio submission.  As anyone who has ever had to select photographs to print will know, it can be quite a drawn out and emotional experience.

In order to make the process more streamlined, my process has several steps.

STEP 1: ORGANISATION!

My first step is one that I keep on top of all the time.  I have a master folder on my hard drive.  I call my folder “Portfolio Possibles”.  Inside this folder is a series of folder from each shoot.  I reference these by date and then by the name of the subject.

I back up these files to my Amazon drive (cloud based) AND my Dropbox.  I keep RAW and edited files there in case of a drive disaster (I’ve had a few over the past few years).  After every shoot, I make sure that the files are correctly referenced and filed in the appropriate place.  This makes the editing process much easier.

 

STEP 2: THE INITIAL EDIT

This step requires copious amounts of coffee!!! I tend to lock myself away with my iMac and the impressionist music of Debussy, Faure and Ravel.  This music is quite free-flowing and I have found it helps me to be more more creative and objective when editing images.

I go back to the unedited RAW files and copy the images I am considering for the portfolio into a folder named “Initial Edits”.  At this stage, I go through ALL the RAW images from each shoot (hence the need for coffee).  I carry out this process once a week so that it does not become an onerous task carried out before each submission due date.  If I leave this step for a few weeks, I find I become image blind and cannot make objective choices between images.

 

STEP 3: THE CULL

Even more coffee is needed here.  This is one of the most painful stages.  It is like going to the animal shelter and deciding which of the gorgeous cats you are going to take home and which you are going to discard and leave there.  It is also the stage that find my self doubt and anxiety over the quality of my images is the most prominent.  I become attached to images and find it hard to discard them.

One by one, I pull the images up on the screen in Lightroom and give them a rating (1-5 stars) based on the intent of the body of work.  Typically, this will reduce the images to 2 or 3 shots from each shoot of 250 shots.  This does mean that I cannot let my emotions about an image get in the way.  I need to look at it objectively.  This is where Ravel and Faure particularly help.  They allow me to think with clarity and make sound choices.  I then copy these images into a folder called “Edits After Cull”.

 

STEP 4: DECK OF CARDS

Now it is time to get them off the iMac and printed as small images (typically 9 to a page of A4).  I don’t print these on photographic paper, I just use a standard Brother ink jet printer.  I then cut up the images and get ready to shuffle the deck to see what works the best.

I like to stick them on the wardrobe doors and try to sequence them. Figure 1 shows the start of this process.

Figure 1: Sutherst 2017

I then start to sequence images. This takes patience and a lot of head scratching!  In this work in progress portfolio, I had narrowed down the images to 23 and needed to reduce this down to 20 for the final submission.

In some cases, I have had to choose between 2 images.  Like Noah, I view these two by two!  Figure 2 shows one of the pairings I have had to make a choice between.

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Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

When these decisions are made, I place the images in a sequence (figure 3) and take a break.  More coffee usually works well at this point.

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Figure 3: Sutherst 2017

Standing back from the images I can see what works and what doesn’t.  I always take a photograph of the sequence as it is. At this point, I ask for the opinions of others.  My husband usually looks at the sequences and tells me what he thinks. He also shuffles them round like a deck of cards to produce a sequence that works for him.

I leave these images in place for a few days (or as long as the cats will allow them to stay in place – figure 4).  This allows me to look at the sequence with fresh eyes several times and make changes as I see them.

IMG_0940
Figure 4: Sutherst 2017

 

STEP 5: VERSION WAR

Once I have 20 images in a sequence, I copy them into a folder called “WIP Edits V1”.  I then place them into a PowerPoint document so that I can see them on the iMac screen.  Version wars begin!  For this submission, I created 5 on-screen versions.  This is the best way for me to look at the images in the same way they will be assessed.  I view them as slide views, with versions sided by side (figure 5).

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 10.41.18
Figure 5: Sutherst 2017

I am also able to digitally send these images to others for their opinion, as well as have copies on my iPhone to show people.  All opinions matter.  In version 3, I had 2 images that 5 separate people did not think worked in the body of work.  One image split opinions.  In these cases, it forced me to go back to step 3 and revisit a few images I had previously culled.  The result was that of the 7 resurrected images, 3 worked really well in the body of work.

The final stage of this step is to copy the final choices of images into a folder called “WIP edits final”.

 

STEP 6: JUST DO IT

The final stage is to go with it and submit the portfolio.  I could torment myself further and keep rearranging the images, but once I have a sequence that I think works, I need to put on my brave pants, finalise the layout and submit it.

 

Then the process of shooting and collating images starts again.