Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback

A2 Feedback

I received the feedback on Assignment 2 from my tutor.  I was encouraged that I had fulfilled the brief and I agreed with some of the comments on the content.

“I think the end series falls short of a really interesting set of images that would engage an objective audience but I have a feeling you are aware of this.”

I found this assignment very frustrating because I could not translate what I had in my mind into images on a page.  Eventually I settled for something that I felt was not what I wanted to submit but I had spent so much time chasing it, I needed to submit something and move on.  The end result was competent but not what I had wanted to achieve.  In fact, it was probably what I had achieved with the Fire Officer photos but with a slightly different emphasis.

He suggested looking at Celia’s Children Albert + George Clark, Los Angeles April 7th 1982 composite polaroid, 35 x 23 1/4 in by David Hockney as a comparison to see how the connection could be made between a photographer and the subjects.  I can see that the children are sitting awkwardly but there is a connection, and although they appear to be unwilling it is perhaps because of their age.  With Barney, there was a sense that he was humouring me and I found it difficult to draw out of him exactly what it was I wanted to portray.  I think that this is what my tutor is alluding to, that there is a distance between me as the photographer and Barney as a sitter.  Hockney was not the boys’ parent but still managed to capture something of their youth with a fondness.  Maybe that is where I failed in that Barney is my older son and that is the barrier to effectively direct him.

Portrait photography has never been  my strong point, maybe photography is not my strong point, and this assignment confirmed how difficult it is to produce works that have a connection.  Looking at the other idea of the ‘day in a life’ of a fire officer, I can see more of a connection between us but I think I was chasing something more illusive and hard to pin down.

Advertisements

Assignment 2 – Analysis

 

  1. Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

The photographs are evenly lit and have specific areas in focus as dictated by the location of the tattoo on the body.  The light source is mainly natural available light as the subject was outside in a shaded area.  The colours are mainly black and blue which gives a uniformity across the five images, with the blue background being the dominant one.  The framing is tight in order to isolate a specific area, and to make the subject the focus rather than the background being a distraction and taking attention away from the subject.  There is a uniformity across the series

 

  1. Quality of Outcome

The brief was to produce a set of five photographs that have a theme and make use of techniques covered in the chapter. These are five individual images that make up a whole, and concentrate on one person and his tattoos which are an integral part of him.  There is a symmetry with the use of left arm, left leg, right arm, right leg and whole body to bring them all together.  I was aiming for a montage approach but ended up with more of a trail from one side to the other. My inspiration had come from David Hockney and Nadav Kander, and this is an interpretation of what they produced.  This is not exactly what I had in mind but it was more difficult to portray than I thought, and this is the follow on from the exploration of the original idea.  The series has got a cohesion to it and gives an idea of him as a person but allows for more than one interpretation of what the tattoos mean.

 

  1. Demonstration of Creativity

I had an idea about trying to portray the light and dark sides of a person, what they show and what they hide.  Barney had agreed to be the model for the assignment and I did an initial trial where I took multiple photos in order to make a montage.  I found this really interesting and actually was closer to what I had thought I wanted to achieve, but moving on from the initial shoot was more difficult and the more photos I took, the further away I got from this idea.  The set works but maybe not as interestingly as the initial idea.  I was at a loss as to how to proceed and time was running away, therefore I followed the less imaginative path in order to complete the assignment and move on.

 

  1. Context

Portraits are harder than they appear and finding a theme to join them together is not straightforward. Barney was willing to sit for me, in a variety of setups from outdoors to studio in order for me to try to capture that illusive moment that I had seen in the initial trial.  The ‘Street and Studio’ suggested that there should be a mix of the two, but ‘studio’ always suggests something stiff and formal as well as difficult to achieve without the right equipment.  I tried doing both but erred on the side of caution and settled on natural light with one portrait.

 

  1. Overall

The set of photographs works within the context of the brief.  I was really interested in the montage idea but eventually found that the more I worked on it, the less it fulfilled what I had in mind.  I did not feel that I had time to keep on plugging away when the results were so illusive.  Part of the problem was that I had to keep asking Barney to do more of the same thing while not seeing that ‘something’ in the final images and maybe this was the reason that I felt that this was not the best assignment that I could have done. Again. Maybe I will return to this before assessment and redo it along the lines of the montage idea.  The initial set of my photos fired my imagination but ultimately I could not translate that into a finished product, which I find very frustrating.  However, the images that I produced were competent and that is what matters at the moment.

 

 

 

 

Assignment 2 Vice Versa – Notes

Vice versa

K.Allen_402873_PH4IAP_A1

This was more difficult than I first thought and took some time to pin down exactly what I wanted to cover.  In my mind, I had the work of David Hockney and Nadav Kander who both did portraits using sections of people’s bodies: Hockney did polaroid montages, Kander did a grid type structure. To get a consistency in the images, I used the same subject throughout and as I took more and more photographs, I kept coming back to the simpler background and getting closer to the subject.  This meant that the focus was on the person and the background was inconsequential.  I also had in mind Robert Mapplethorpe who closely cropped portraits on occasions as well as simplifying portraits into black and white.

 

Originally, I was looking at the idea of what we show or hide when having our photograph taken.   Barthes said in Camera Lucida (1980) that we change to whatever the photographer is wanting us to be, and how there is some sort of subconscious reaction to being photographed, that we change ourselves:

“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”

 

Barney (2 of 5)
I focussed the camera on the tattoo on his arm,
he closed his eyes while he thought the lens was pointing elsewhere,
and finally I caught a glimpse of what I was looking for on his face when I loaded the images.

 

Barney (3 of 5)
There is a “How long is thing going on for?” look here.

 

Barney (4 of 5)
Much more exaggerated dark vs light.
This is why it doesn’t work, this is too literal.

 

I had been struck by how Barney was willing to sit for me but his expression gave nothing away at all which is where I started. The theme of dark and light did not work as I was unable to capture the differences in the way that I thought.  This morphed into more an exploration of what the tattoos suggest about the person, the culmination of the tattoos into the whole being.  They are specific to each individual and chosen for reasons that I am sure sometimes are not very clear.

These tattoos bring together the things that are important to Barney: his music, his inner strength, his belonging to a social group and with the leg tattoo, a nod to his favourite rugby team.  The individual parts make up the person that he is and form part of his identity and how he sees himself.  I am from another generation where tattoos were simply not seen and not highly thought of as though they defined a certain subculture. Now they are displayed with pride and can be intricate works of art tailored to the individual.  They are an expression of individualism, a way of setting you apart from everyone else but also a way of belonging to a type of club, a tribe.

I came back to the ‘body parts’ approach after lining up several different sets of images, and this approach has a symmetrical look at the artwork on his arms and legs with a left and right, arms and legs and then finally the whole person.  I did set up a studio of sorts with plain white background and did several variations of what I had shot before to compare the blue background to the white. My feeling was that the sets with the blue background worked better overall as there was a more casual, less ‘setup’ feel to them.  I keep on looking for the expressions hoping to catch them but I have realized that we all hide when there is a camera there, and are unwilling to show anything that might be misconstrued.

 

 

Books:

  1. DVD: Mapplethorpe – Look at the Pictures, Bailey,F & Barbato,R, Dogwoof Studio, 2016
  2. Barthes, Roland (1980) Camera Lucida. Translated by Richard Howard 1981. London:

Vintage 2000

  1. Eskildsen, U (edited), Street and Studio: An Urban History of Photography, 2008, Tate Publishing

 

Websites:

https://www.nadavkander.com/ (accessed 4.10.2017)

Looking again at portraits of people that he has done.

 

http://www.davidhockney.co/works/photos/composite-polaroids (accessed 4.10.2017)

Composites and montages of people to make up a portrait overall

 

http://www.derekridgers.com/gallery2/y0agitkrozyrsnxafqqfncdh08eo5i(accessed 4.10.2017)

Smiler, 1984

Tattoos and set up of portraits

 

http://www.derekridgers.com/ih3d6jdsec7knjsoohijw6dkm5uoq9 (accessed 4.10.2017)

Carpet Face, Soho 2015

Tattoos.  Seen at a local exhibition in Torquay.

 

http://www.mapplethorpe.org/portfolios/portraits/(accessed 4.10.2017)

In addition to the DVD and other books read concerning the work of Mapplethorpe.

 

https://www.nadavkander.com/portraits/grids-panels/single#11 (accessed 16.10.2017)

David Beckham, 16 Pictures, 2015

Looking at the use of sections of the body

 

 

Assignment 2 Contact Sheets

Barney sat for me, initially as an experiment to try out taking lots of shots to mock up a montage. Natural Light, outside, shade then direct sunlight. The aim was to get a lot of images of parts of him so that I could bring them into one image.

Barney - Contact Sheet 1
Initial Shoot, August 2017, Outside, Natural Light

 

Contact Sheet 2-1

Contact Sheet 2-2
Shoot 2 September 2017, Inside, Natural Light

 

Contact Sheet 3-1

Contact Sheet 3-2
Shoot 3, September 2017, Inside, Continuous Lighting
Contact Sheet 4
Shoots 4 & 5, October 2017, Outside, Natural Light 

These contact sheets show a selection of the images taken for the make up of the Assignment.

Assignment 1 – Criteria of Success

Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

I am pretty confident in using my camera so I made sure I had the settings sorted out before I approached each subject.  I did have trouble with my Fuji focussing system while taking photos of the guy selling the Big Issue, which was a bit offputting.  However I just ploughed on as the moment could have passed if I messed about with them.  The backgrounds were not the best as I tended to make a decision about who to ask and then look at where we were.  Most of the time, it was in the place that we stopped to talk except for The Biker who I directed to stand against the huts.  The images are generally focussed and clear, with even lighting and no great differences in tones.  All were shot outside using natural light and without flash, and of those two were in bright sunny conditions. They required a little balancing in Lightroom but nothing major.

Quality of Outcome

I am pleased that I managed to get the five people as outlined in the brief.  However, I admit that I didn’t have a clear plan in mind and I think that this has shown in the randomness of the people.  There is a good spread of male and female, and most are young which wasn’t intentional at the time.  Given the chance to do it all again, I would like to make more use of the area around me to find suitable events to instil a common theme.  Generally, the subjects are happy and smiling, and willing participants which is something that pleased me and gave me some confidence to carry on.

Demonstration of Creativity

Creatively, I had little impact and it shows that there was no main plan or theme.  Given that I am a natural introvert, approaching people was not an easy task but I got out there and did it.  I think that I was better at doing this than I give myself credit for, being a bit of a ‘grab and go’ person, and they are successful in that I managed to get a decent portrait of each subject.  I do believe that there is a visible connection with most of the subjects with the one exception being the young man in the black glasses who was a bit wary even though he was willing to help me.  I am not sure whether the images tell me any more about the people posing; if anything it tells me more about me as a photographer and how I approach difficult tasks. I may not have enjoyed doing it but the results of pushing myself are a decent first attempt, and I am sure that I will go on to complete this assignment again with better thinking attached.

Context

Approaching unknown people is something that can be difficult for both sides as we live in a world where we shut people out on a face to face level while being totally connected in a virtual sense all the time.  I have spent time in London recently and took  time watching people as they go about their daily lives, travelling on the tube, walking to and from work, shopping and sightseeing.  I live in Devon and we are more used to speaking to each other whether while ordering a coffee, out with the dog, in a supermarket or just acknowledging another person’s presence.  In London, most seemed shocked if I thanked them, smiled or made eye contact.  Maybe that’s what this assignment has really taught me, that we still need that human interaction and to make connections with each other.  To take a photograph of someone is about having a connection however brief and whether that connection comes across in the resulting image.  The context is that in a busy world of phones and chatter, there is a need to find people and look them in the eye and catch something about them even if it is only that they were standing still for five minutes and talking to me.

Overall

Graham Clarke quoted Garry Winogrand in his book The Photograph and it chimed with me: “For me, the true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film…if, later, the reality means something to someone else, then so much the better.”  I think that’s what I was doing, capturing a bit of reality for that moment of that person.  It was not an easy assignment from the point of view of planning and executing, and I think that I could have done more thinking about it beforehand.  I would like to have another go now that I have got a bit more confidence and I will be thinking up ways to do that.  Technically the photographs were bright and in focus and I did not make any glaring mistakes that meant I could not use the images.  It was successful in some respects but more work is required to make it better.

 

Assignment 1 – The Non-Familiar

I have finished the assignment and although it is done, I am aware that i am not totally happy with it and I am sure that i will be revisiting it later on as I progress through the course.  Here are my notes to accompany the images that I made.

Assignment 1

The Non-Familiar

Step out of your comfort zone.  I am sure that this worries most people, and I am no exception.  I put off the moment when I would have to get out there, and while sometimes I was sure that I could do it, at others it was the most daunting thing on my mind.  To say that I had a firm idea of what I was looking to achieve in this assignment would be stretching the truth.  I wanted to use natural light so that meant outside, and I wanted to use the area around where I live so that naturally lead to the assumption that the images would be five individual photos rather than a series on a single theme.  The main aim was to go out with my camera and see what transpired, and the seafront was one location that I had in mind.  It is the start of the summer season for us and all the businesses are open now along with an influx of visitors so the possibilities are different to what would be available in the winter.

Overall I am quite pleased with the outcome as I managed to get people to engage with me and the camera as well as overcoming a natural introvertedness that can be a barrier.  The main stumbling block was getting started and talking to people, and I found that the people that I asked were happy to go along with having their photograph taken.  Time was a factor in that I did not want to outstay my welcome and so only took a few shots each time in order to let them go and get on.  In the café bar, I took some of the Barista at work so that he didn’t feel as though I was making something out of nothing.  I liked this one but wasn’t sure whether this constituted a ‘portrait’ as I was photographing him while he worked.  There is an old fashioned quality about it due to the background – dated wallpaper, mirrors and lights all give a feeling of age rather than modernity so in some ways juxtaposes a modern thing of a coffee machine against the backdrop of 1940s styling.

Non Familiar contact-1 The Barista (Version II)

I was interested to see that most of the people smiled for the camera and were comfortable with being photographed.  Young people are more accustomed to the constant documenting of their lives through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and so on.  The big smiles of the two girls reminded me of the photos that you see on social media of people out, having a good time and showing themselves as happy, and they were comfortable about being photographed by a stranger. However, the young man with the sunglasses was not as engaged with the camera although he allowed me to take his photograph.

Non Familiar 2nd choice-3   The Biker (Version II)

 This alternative portrait had him looking out to sea but without seeing the helmet, there is more ambiguity and a question of what he is doing there, why is he looking so wistful?  There is a distance in him, preventing me from capturing more than a surface version of him. Graham Clarke on talking about Sander in The Photograph (1997) said that Sander’s portraits “reassert and reaffirm the extent to which we show rather than reveal a face in any public context.”  This young man shows his face but reveals nothing about himself, he is just another person leaning against the beach-huts.  The girls were willing to engage but the sunglasses and smiles puts a natural barrier between them and the camera rather than a conscious one. His glasses prevented me from making a connection with him and that shows in the image.

“Perhaps photographers are drawn to faces because photographs and faces share something in common: although both are instantly engaging, first appearances can be misleading.” William A. Ewing from the introduction to Chapter 2 in ‘Face, the New Photographic Portrait’ (Thames and Hudson, London, 2006).  I managed to get five photographs of people that were not familiar to me, but I still know relatively little about them and the photographs do not immediately elaborate, but then will they ever unless I get to know them further? What did I find out about these people? I made judgements about who to approach based on how they looked – did they look as though they would be willing to be photographed, would they flatout refuse and be offended, or be too chatty? I found out a little about each of them – the Barista sounded Australian and worked in a bar; the girls were from Devon and Spain, and one worked for Rowcroft Hospice;  the ice-cream seller was having a quiet afternoon because the weather was blustery and changeable so people were more likely to have tea than ice-cream.  I found out nothing about the young man, but he sounded possibly Eastern European from his accent. The Big Issue Seller was the most engaging and I spent a little time talking to him about his dog, how selling the Big Issue works, his safety, how he became homeless and how he might get back on his feet.  I was drawn to talk to him because he had an openness about his face and he talked to me easily once I bent down and talked to him.  He was very keen to get his dog into the frame and spent time trying to get the dog’s attention.  This alternative photograph is interesting because of the big poster behind him advertising glasses, and sunglasses for a holiday that this man will not be taking.

 A1-_  The Big Issue Seller (Version II)

It was an interesting exercise in getting out there and trying to engage with people but I am not sure that this is what I want to do all the time.  Knowledge of how my camera works seems to disappear when I am under pressure to take a photo and I get flustered.  The subjects appear to engage with me behind the camera, and I felt that the rudimentary posing that I did with them worked sufficiently.  It is something that I will work on and return to as the course progresses.

Reading:

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph.  London: Oxford University Press

Jeffrey, I. (1981, Reprinted 2003) Photography: A Concise History.  London: Thames & Hudson

Ewing, W.A. (2006) Face: The New Photographic Portrait. London: Thames & Hudson

Images of the Non-Familiar:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.