Everyone pictured here hides behind a mask. They are people you could know and see every day. A mother. A daughter. A father. A son. A friend or a neighbour.
Like the participants in this project, I too wear a mask every day. The words ‘I’m fine’ are the walls that surround the real me, they are my escape route and the lie that defines my outward appearance. But how do you start to talk about the issues that make you hide? How do you tell someone else that you are struggling to face the world unmasked?
Stigma prevents conversation. But why are we all so focused on verbal conversation anyway? Billions of photographs are shared on line each day. The images communicate and connect instantly with us on a subconscious level. This happens before any stigma can affect the message. We do not need words. Photographs start the conversation when our voices fail us.
As Bradley et al (2001) said “the power of images to interpret events and emotions is a basic premise of art”
But photography is not just a form of art; it is also a means of expression and a way of communicating our deepest thoughts and emotions. A single photograph can tell a hundred different stories.
For this project, I have deliberately set out to re-frame my way of working. I am no longer satisfied to speak on behalf of my subjects without their voice being heard. I have moved away from being both the author and the creator. The voice of the project is democratic, with all participants becoming stakeholders in the outcome. The participants are as much the authors as I am. The project choices and direction have become our commonly shared goal.
The democratisation of the participants voices results in images that are authentic and true to real-life. Each image has been produced in the same way. They are not staged, but record moments of real emotion. This real-life aesthetic delivers the message sympathetically and authentically to the viewer. The consistent composition ensures that the image is not affected by the location the shot is taken. Reducing the portraits to just headshots removes any potential for distraction from the background. The consistency ensures that the viewer concentrates on the message. This visual language is synonymous with my goal of portraying everyone as normal and as equal.
The process is interactive and participatory through the words each person writes onto the masks. The words they write are personal to them; there is no hidden agenda; no scripting; what you read on each mask is the voice of the person. The visual message and the collaborative nature make this project socially engaging and adds an increased agency to the output.
The photographs facilitate an empowering experience for the participants who have suffered from a lack of acceptance. They are able to make eye contact with themselves, maybe for the first time in their lives. The photographs make it easier for them to show other people who they truly are behind the mask and how they are feeling. Words cannot always do this. We lose meaning in the translation and interpretation of the words that the visual nature of photographs does not.
In her book, PhotoTherapy Techniques, psychologist Judy Weiser suggests that photographs can be used as a therapeutic tool when working with self-portraits. Her clients are encouraged and supported to understand the images they make themselves. They can also see other perspectives of themselves when they examine photographs taken of them by others.
Weiser also suggests that we take photos of what is important in our lives, often at a subconscious level, and that in many ways all photographs we take are to some extent also self-portraits. They show what we care about. There is a little bit of us in each image; we are connected to the image; we feel the emotion we felt at when we took the photograph.
When Jo Spence produced, and showed work that concentrated on her battle with breast cancer, she created images that portrayed her emotional responses as well as her experiences with the treatment she underwent. Through this process, she suggested that the strength of the viewers’ responses to the images reinforces their validity as expressive objects. This is also true of the images in my current body of work whether the images are explicitly laden with emotion or whether they are more ambiguous in their portrayal. Spence’s work has been quite influential in the way that I have conducted this project. Her work has been described as intimate and honest and it is to this that I aspire this project to be. Spence herself commented “Through photo therapy, I was able to explore how I felt about my powerlessness as a patient, my relationship to doctors and nurses . . . whilst being managed and ‘processed’ within a state institution” – Jo Spence (Confronting, intimate, honest and uncomfortable 2014)
My practice draws parallels with Spence’s in that she “referred to herself as an educational photographer . . . her direct, often confrontational style was intended to be both pedagogic and emotive. For Spence, photography should be informative” (Jo Spence: Biography 2017). My current body of work embraces this concept and is intended to raise awareness and educate the viewer about the issues that cause many of us to hide. The emotion in the unmasked images is clear. The pain is real. By looking at the images, the viewer begins to experience how the participant feels.
However, the impact and interpretation of the images will depend on the viewer’s personal experiences too. Documentary photographer, Eugene Smith (Loewenthal 2013), expressed that a “photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.”
In the project, each mask is presented on its own before the wearer is revealed. The viewer is required to engage with the images and the words to determine who they think is behind the mask. By not seeing the person’s hair, gender, clothing etc., the viewer wonders about and will make assumptions about the person behind the mask. They have to decide, from their own life experiences, what the person will look like. The reveal leaves the viewer challenged in their perception of what people are hiding. This makes the project more powerful and makes the viewer realise that ‘ordinary’ people suffer too.
During this module, I have been actively networking via my online presence. As a result, I have developed and updated profiles on social media sites, as well as a dedicated website for the project. My photography website has also been updated. Disseminating my work via social media platform and the internet ensures that the project will be seen by many, including those who are reclusive due to their issues. This offers a vital way of engaging with many people through their preferred technology and raises awareness of issues with them.
The demographics of the Project Facebook page are astonishing. In just under 2 months, the page has over 2600 followers and an astounding 80% of those followers are aged 13-17.
The interest of the younger generation in the project has led me to contact the charity MQ about working with them. At this moment in time they do not have the resources to work with arts projects and fully vet them to ensure that the work is delivering right message. This is totally understandable as the wrong exposure could prove damaging for them and the work they are doing. However, some of their employees have offered to take part in the project as they believe it is a really strong concept.
To develop local connections, in 2018 I will be running ‘behind the mask’ photography sessions at Viney Hall Physiotherapy. They have invited me to run the sessions to further the project. This is a great opportunity to roll out the project to a wider audience and get more people to participate.
The project also has an Instagram page where images are posted daily to raise awareness of the project. The page currently has 136 followers. All images are tagged with #behindthemaskwewear.
To encourage wider conversation about the issues surrounding the masks that we wear, I have created a website for the project. The promotes the project, and provides a means for those who do not live close to me to be involved. There is a page about how to submit images from anywhere in the world. This project is about raising awareness and acceptance wherever people are located.
I am thrilled to announce that one of the images in this project has been shortlisted in the portrait category of the Picfair Women Behind the Lens competition. The image is part of an exhibition that has been installed and is open to the public at the Guardian News and Media Gallery in London until 11th January. The category and overall winners will be announced at an event at the end of the exhibition. I am honoured and very proud that the image has been shortlisted. It allows the message to be shared to a much wider audience. Off the back of this, I have been using the news to promote the project and my practice further through social media and other media outlets including local newspapers and radio channels.
I continue to be inspired by these courageous people to pick up my camera to help them tell their story, I am in awe of how beautiful yet vulnerable the participants appear. Viewing themselves through a different lens to see the suffering hidden by the persona they present to the world is enlightening to them.
One of the participants of the project said, please take the time to talk to each other.
Thank you for listening
Bradley, F., Brown, K. and Nairne, A. 2001. Trauma. London: Hayward Gallery.
Confronting, intimate, honest and uncomfortable. 2014. Dazed [online]. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/article/22149/1/confronting-intimate-honest-and-uncomfortable [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].
Jo Spence: Biography. 2017. Jospence.org [online]. Available at: http://www.jospence.org/biography.html [Accessed 1 Nov. 2017].
Loewenthal, Del. 2013. Phototherapy and therapeutic photography in a digital age. London: Routledge.
Weiser, J. (1993). Phototherapy techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Website updated in response to course content. I have reduced the number of images on each portfolio page. I have also added an artist bio on the about me page.
Sample images of the updated website are below.
Website address: www.josutherstphotography.co.uk
Brief from Amy Simmons, MCSaatchi
“This is for a European department store who is trying to break into the UK market, so that’s the client that you need to have in mind. The target market is UK shoppers, any gender aged 20 – 30. The brief itself is a campaign about how people have intimate and personal relationships with inanimate objects. You should focus on an item of your choosing within the treatment. It can be clothing, a book, a piece of art, food, electronic item, basically, anything that someone might purchase in a department store. You can do this in any way that you choose, this is a very open brief. It’s your interpretation of that, We do get briefs like this sometimes, where the art director doesn’t come up with a visual and they really leave it down to the photographer. You can take this in any direction that you so choose in terms of treatment and lighting. You could just do a simple still life or you could do something with cast or on location, as long as there’s a sense of affection that can be illustrated for that object. You really need to feel that someone loves that object, however you choose to interpret that.
This is a bit of a practical element to the brief: where is the copy going to sit on the image? It’s going to sit in the top left-hand corner and will read ‘This – insert object here – is mine’, obviously that would be the name of whatever object you would choose. The copy will be in white, so you should have a darker space in the top left for legibility. The logo of the company will be in the bottom right. Those are some considerations you should talk about, how you would compose the shot and how you would keep those areas clean to ensure that both of those things are legible.
Treatment and lighting, as I mentioned. This company are commissioning a variety of different photographers who have totally different styles, so it is very much your take on the brief. Do it in your style, with visual references that inspire you.
Cast: if you think that you do want to use cast, obviously include some references of the sorts of people you are thinking of. They must look like they might genuinely own that object or item. If depicting multiple people, they should be a mix of ethnicities and the same age range as the target market.
If you are thinking about shooting on location, the location should be UK based but also this could be shot in a studio, it really depends on how you want to interpret the brief. I think one of the key factors will be making this object feel like the hero of the shot in some way.
Formats: this is a key point. The brief is just for one asset, so one shot, but it will be for a social media post. As I talked about earlier, please be aware in your treatment and maybe discuss how this image is going to work for the square crop for Instagram, the portrait crop for Snapchat, and the landscape crop for Facebook. Will you capture everything in one shot or would you compose the three different formats differently?
It’s quite a short brief, it’s quite open, so take into account the things that I mentioned to include in the treatment stage, and I will be really excited to see what you pull together. I will be back in Week 12 for a bit of a Q&A and to see the work that you have done.”
– (Flex.falmouth.ac.uk, 2017)
Facebook – 1200 x 900 pixels – SOURCE: Sprout Social, 2017
Instagram – 1080 x 1080 pixels – SOURCE: Sprout Social, 2017
Snapchat – 1080 x 1920 pixels – SOURCE: Wallaroo Media, 2017
My Treatment Proposal
Feedback from Webinar with Amy Simmons from MCSaatchi (Wednesday 6 December 2017)
After presenting my treatment to Amy, I received the following feedback:
- Amy advised that I pare back the treatment styling. Whilst the colourful pages do refelct my personality, there could be a situation where the reader could be distracted by this away from the content. Amy suggested that I use just one colour on the backgrounds and just stick to a splash of colour at the bottom of each page. This is a really useful point for improvement. As this was the first time I had completed a treatment, I was a little unsure of how each page should look.
- Amy said that the overall impression was fantastic and that the content was really thorough. I had included everything that she had asked for in the document.
- Amy said that I should have more confidence in my own opinions. During my presentation I had mentioned that I have noticed that blue and yellow feature a lot in Instagram adverts, yet I have presented 7 different colour options in the document. Amy advised that I should just present the 1 colour that I believe is the best and explain why i think it will work best for the campaign. Then I could add that other colours could be chosen should the client wish something different.
- My image stamps are very detailed. Amy felt that although they really showed the vision, the stamps could have been pared back. She suggested that a simple sketch rather than a full mock-up would suffice. In addition, having such a detailed mock-up could tie me in to something that isn’t feasible on the shoot day. Amy suggested that it would be better to present various options of pose and backgrounds and let the client decide what works best for them. This would allow more flexibility on the day of the shoot.
- Be less specific in the visualisation of the proposed campaign and more specific in what I want.
- Overall, Amy said it was a fantastic effort. I am really pleased with this.
Other points that came out in the discussion and questions are:
- Due to client expectations, Amy would tend to book someone who has evidence of commercial work in their portfolio. This can be hard when starting out. The reason is that the client is pending a lot of money and needs to feel confident that the chosen photographer can deliver. Amy did say that this could include work for businesses and charities where you have responded to a brief. This encouraged me as I have previously completed work to briefs for Clic Sargent Cancer Charity and Clare Poole Show Team. I need to ensure that I include this in my portfolio.
- An indication of budget is usually given to the photographer before the treatment is prepared. A full quotation will be asked for when the treatment is approved and the photographer is chosen, It is not something that you would include in a treatment document.
- Once a treatment has been submitted, it is normal to call the following day to check that the treatment has been received and to ask whether there is anything that needs to added or amended. Also, you should ask when the client meeting is due to take place. This will give you an indication of when a decision is likely to be made.
- To get noticed, you should link to art directors on instagram in the hope that they may link back to you and see your work appear on their timeline. Also send postcards to art directors that have your name and a link to your website on the back of the card.
The feedback webinar with Amy was really interesting and useful to understand the treatment process.
Flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (2017). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/84/pages/week-9-presentation-amy-simmons?module_item_id=6579 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].
Sprout Social. (2017). Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes. [online] Available at: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-image-sizes-guide/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Wallaroo Media (2017). Snapchat Ad Dimensions, Formats, and Specifications – Wallaroo Media. [online] Wallaroo Media. Available at: https://wallaroomedia.com/snapchat-ad-dimensions-formats-and-specifications/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Blue Background: Megapixl.com. (2017). Mottled Blue Background Stock Photo 3316700 – Megapixl. [online] Available at: https://www.megapixl.com/mottled-blue-background-stock-photo-3316700 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Foot: secondskifija.com. (2017). -SKIFIJA- Feet 2+2 Lady Night pumps (Pink Silk). [online] Available at: http://secondskifija.com/?page_id=712 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Green Background: Getty Images. (2017). Distressed Grunge Textured Green Pattern Backdrop.. [online] Available at: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/photo/green-abstract-background-royalty-free-image/168367507 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Orange Background: Getty Images. (2017). An abstract painting created with watercolors and inks. The prominent…. [online] Available at: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/photo/mottled-background-with-shades-of-orange-royalty-free-image/594016438 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Pink Background: glass, s., glass, r., uroboros lemon yellow, g. and Uroboros Lemon Yellow, G. (2017). Uroboros Lemon Yellow, Golden Yellow and White Mottled. [online] DelphiGlass. Available at: https://www.delphiglass.com/returning-uroboros-glass/mottles/uroboros-lemon-yellow-golden-yellow-and-white-mottled [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Purple Background: Photos-public-domain.com. (2017). Frost on Glass Close Up Texture Colorized Purple Picture | Free Photograph | Photos Public Domain. [online] Available at: http://www.photos-public-domain.com/2014/11/25/frost-on-glass-close-up-texture-colorized-purple/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Red Background: Getty Images (2017). Mottled background in soft red and orange colors.See all of my…. [online] Getty Images. Available at: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/photo/bright-red-mottled-background-royalty-free-image/172187321 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Watch: MVMT. (2017). Rose Gold/Black Leather. [online] Available at: https://www.mvmtwatches.com/products/rose-gold-black-leather-1 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
MOOD BOARD IMAGE SOURCES
Baker, S. (2017). CLOCK FASHION (ANKLE WATCH). [online] Dearjackiecollins.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://dearjackiecollins.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/clock-fashion-ankle-watch.html [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Bossmodelmanagement.co.uk. (2017). Hands & Feet – Lifestyle – Models – Boss Model Management. [online] Available at: http://www.bossmodelmanagement.co.uk/models/lifestyle/hands-feet.htm [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
REM – Ruini e Mariotti. (2017). Valentino – Terry Richardson. [online] Available at: http://www.ruiniemariotti.com/valentino-terry-richardson/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
Savilerow-style.com. (2017). Savile Row : Style Magazine. [online] Available at: http://savilerow-style.com/archive/issue008/watches.htm [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
In an attempt to open up markets for my work, I have registered with picfair.com
The site allows you to set a price which allows publishers to license your images via Picfair. Picfair add 20% to the price that I set, which is their cut.
Picfair’s images are available under two licences. The standard single-use licence and an editorial and personal licence. The explanation of each is below:-
A single-use licence that covers all personal & editorial (including business editorial) usage, marketing use & website collateral. Includes unlimited distributions, placement, full perpetuity (no time limits), and corresponding online & social media usage. See a full breakdown here.
A single-use licence that covers all personal & editorial (including business editorial) usage. Includes unlimited distributions, placement, full perpetuity (no time limits), and corresponding online & social media usage. See a full breakdown here.
Picfair images cannot currently be used for paid-for advertising slots or merchandising.”
Source: (Picfair, 2017)
So far I have uploaded several images. They have been approved and most of them have been starred by the Picfair Team as being images that are liked by the team. I will now wait to see what (if anything) happens. My profile page is https://www.picfair.com/users/JoSutherst. I have model releases and permission in place for each person who features in my images.
Picfair. (2017). What licences are Picfair images sold with?. [online] Available at: https://support.picfair.com/hc/en-us/articles/207572875-What-licences-are-Picfair-images-sold-with- [Accessed 27 Nov. 2017].
As part of this module, I have reviewed and rewritten my business terms and conditions.
The first document is the terms and conditions I use for all events and private bookings. I have used this document in various forms since 2015 and have recently updated it to the version attached here. This is written in consumer-friendly language.
The second document is a general terms and conditions document, created and adapted from the Association of Photographers website (The-aop.org, 2017). This is the document that I intend to attach to all estimates and treatments for commercial and editorial work.
The-aop.org. (2017). Legal & Business Forms. [online] Available at: https://www.the-aop.org/information/downloads/legal-business-forms [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].
My second newsletter was emailed to subscribers on 23/11/17. The distribution list was 185 emails.
Screenshots of the newsletter are below:-
I have photographed Nikki several times after she applied for a fairy shoot casting over a year ago. Over this time, mutual trust and good friendship have developed. Nikki even trusted me with a shoot for my body part project, even though she does not normally shoot implied nude with photographers.
So I was really surprised to learn of Nikki’s mask and the things she has written on it. Nikki has always appeared to me to be confident in both herself and her appearance. So to read that she has autism and suffers from body confidence issues made me realise how strong and effective her mask is.
Autism is something that as a teacher I have been exposed to many times. My nephew has also got autism. I was very surprised to learn that Nikki also has it.
“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.”
– (Autism.org.uk, 2017)
Nikki appears to interact and communicate with ease. It is remarkable how powerful and strong her mask is.
As a child, Nikki did not seem to have as many friends as other people. It never bothered her. It is only in adulthood that she has learned she has the condition. She finds it hard to trust people and often misinterprets what people say, taking the literal meaning without picking up on the nuances of language.
Listening to Nikki speak about her experiences with autism has made me realise that many of the things I do and the way I react to things could potentially be down to some form of autism (something my mother has thought for years). A point for further exploration at a later point.
Nikki is one of the nicest and kindest people I know. She works really hard to make sure that everyone is taken care of and included. Every day she takes herself out of her comfort zone to interact and communicate with people. Her positive and happy outlook on life is contagious when you are with her. A joy to be around, I thank Nikki for her participation and look forward to photographing her again many times in the future.
To find resources to help deal with autism please visit the National Autistic Society website.
To help fund additional help and services, click DONATE.
Autism.org.uk. (2017). What is autism? – NAS. [online] Available at: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is.aspx [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].
We were set a challenge to create an estimate; task details below:
“A small communications agency contacts you and would like you to give them an estimate. They are re-branding Broadgate, an area in London, and need 25 images to use for printed materials, social media, web, tube ads and potentially billboards. The license term is five years. They think you can do the shoot in two days.” (Flex.falmouth.ac.uk, 2017)
Before starting the task, I researched about the area to get a feel for the task ahead.
“Broadgate is at the centre of one of the most exciting and vibrant parts of London: a neighbourhood that connects the creative communities of Spitalfields and Shoreditch with the City and is adjacent to Liverpool Street Station. Set across 32 acres, Broadgate includes four landscaped squares and places to shop, dine, and unwind. An estimated 65 million people visit Broadgate each year, which is set to increase with the opening of Crossrail in December 2018.”
– (Broadgate, 2017)
Over the last few years, the growth in social media platforms and the use of digital media to market products etc, the demand for corporate images is great. Advances in camera technology has made it easier for photographers to capture high-quality images and has made the clients more demanding and has opened the market up to photographers of different skill levels.
I used the http://www.londonfreelance.org/ website to get reference values for the day rates for photographers. The site was really useful to someone who really did not have a clue about how much would be acceptable to quote.
My estimate includes an assistant cost. The assistant would be used to help set up lighting, direct any people in the shot, and help carry the equipment around the location.
When working on this estimate, I was very mindful of the factors that could affect the overall quotation. I believe that these are my time, the usage of the images, my level of competence and expertise, and who my competitors could be.
The amount of time that would be needed has been estimated by the agency as 2 days. The proposed job is not a small one, and the proposed use of the images on billboards means that the lighting, depth of field and need for images without distracting objects or people will make this a tough assignment. The images captured would show the area at all times of day and how residents and visitors could and would use the facilities. The day rate that I have used in my estimate reflects the need to work long days in order to ensure the shots are obtained.
Also, there appears to be a trend at the current time for a very competitive market where photographers undercut other photographers to get work. I make this generalisation from my own observations of quotations offered in response to queries for prices for event photography, especially weddings. I wanted to make sure that my quotation would not promote this, but would also reflect the professionalism that I would bring to the job. I wholeheartedly believe that you get what you pay for.
The client intends the images to appear on billboards and tube ads means that the quality needs to be of the highest level and this places the job towards the top end of the spectrum. This is further reinforced by the profile of the area being on the increase.
The prestigious use of the images and their high level of visibility adds to the value of the overall quotation. The images are only licensed to the agency and not sold to them. A picture used on a billboard is worth more than that same picture when used in a newsletter, so I decided to set the initial usage fee to £1,000.
I would send the estimate to the client with a covering letter which would include terms and conditions outlining the usage rights of the license, the terms of the contract I would be offering them (including turn around time) and the costs of any additional usage the client may need. I would follow this up with a phone call to the agency a week or so after the quotation was sent.
|ITEM||QUANTITY||UNIT COST||TOTAL AMOUNT|
|Pre-shoot consultation meeting and site visit||1||£200.00||£200.00|
|Photographer fee per day||2||£1,500.00||£3,000.00|
|Assistant fee per day||2||£250.00||£500.00|
|Travel to and from Gloucestershire||2||£300.00||£600.00|
|Accommodation (Betty Langley’s Hotel)||2||£230.00||£460.00|
|Sustenance allowance per day||2||£50.00||£100.00|
|Permit costs (estimated)||2||£100.00||£200.00|
|Usage fees (per 25 high resolution image) 5 years||1||£1,000.00||£1,000.00|
|VAT at 20%||£1,632.00|
This task was quite difficult to complete as I have never completed a quotation for this level of work before. As a first go, I am pleased with the overall structure of the quote.
Broadgate. (2017). About | Broadgate. [online] Available at: http://www.broadgate.co.uk/about#ZGIwZqEkmx2Le2Vy.97 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017].
Flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (2017). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/84/discussion_topics/2837 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017].
Londonfreelance.org. (2017). Freelance Fees Guide: Photography. [online] Available at: http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?§ion=Photography [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017].
Figure 1: Londonfreelance.org. (2017). Freelance Fees Guide: Photography / Corporate work. [online] Available at: http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?§ion=Photography&subsect=Corporate+work&subsubs=All [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017].