Assignment Three : Self-Portrait

I wrote a diary over two weeks and it said nothing about me.  It was basically a list of chores I do every day in my role as a mother.  This gave me the idea to base my self portrait on a subject I’ve been battling for years and that is, ‘loosing my identity’.  Making the transition from having a great career into becoming a full time wife and mother has been an eye opening experience.  I used to be the face of an entire team of professionals but now I feel completely faceless.

Over time I have become unrecognisable.  Power dressing has been replaced with bleach ridden jeans and sweaters.  Nights out are too exhausting to organise.  Adult conversations have become few and far between.  I talk to the dog so much he always knows my next move.  Passion for music has diminished with the desire for peace and quiet.  Slowly but surely my identity as I knew it has slipped away and been replaced with fatigued robot.  My identity that had naturally evolved with me is becoming a distant memory, even my name has changed!

People see who I am now and not what I used to be.  I struggle with this because I’m an evolution, I’ve been educated, I’ve travelled, I’ve achieved, all these things make up who I am.

A close friend told me they were jealous that I got to ‘potter’ around the house all day as a housewife.  In reality I run the house, look after the children, look after my husbands business finances, run a photography studio, make handmade jewellery and study Photography.  However, I’m seen as pottering.

The faceless feeling is carried throughout my journal entitled ‘A change of scenery’.

I wrote this journal whilst on a family holiday as I wanted to show that it’s not just a normal day to day issue, it follows me around.  A holiday to me is no longer a holiday, full of relaxation, fun and frolics.  It’s just a change of scenery, hence the title.

The journal is made up of a written diary with accompanying photographs.  The photographs are either auto biographical or self absent but never with my face on display.  Omitting my face is my way of getting across the feeling of being faceless.  The individual photographs themselves are a reaction to a feelings I’m having relating to identity loss.  Each photograph is captioned to give a hint to the feeling that spurred its being.  Whilst doing this I’m giving clues to my true identity, the personality that resides inside.

‘A Change of Scenery’

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Tutor Feedback for Assignment 2

Overall Comments

This is an interesting and creative way to approach this brief Samantha, well done. Objects can have a powerful impact on a viewer if presented in an appropriate way and I like the way that you have attached, clearly personal, ideas to something as simple as the handkerchief. Technically, the images are looking pretty good and you have managed to communicate a clear narrative in a relatively small number of images.

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.    

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

If you continue to work in a similar way in the future, have a think about how you might achieve a staged aesthetic that moves beyond the illustration of a moment within a narrative and towards a reading that invites the viewer to consider your images in ways that still adhere to your narrative but also take them on other mini visual and conceptual journeys. For example, could you put together an image that is clearly staged but maintains a level of realism that draws the viewer in to thinking that this is an actual event – oddly this connection to reality can help to increase the staged nature of the moment and in doing so inviting the viewer to consider the status of photography as a truthful account of the everyday?

While talking about individual images, I will try to suggest ways that you might create this balance between real and staged.

Image 01

This is a good opener and in terms of the narrative, clearly introduces a ‘character’ and a ‘scene’.  This is good because in order for your audience to make the connection between an inanimate object and a real life difficult situation, your audience needs to have some kind of empathy towards your object.

The dappled sunlight works well and the nature of the light places the scene in the early morning or twilight – both evocative times of day. This lighting also creates an almost romantic or melancholic feel to the setup.

That said, I wonder if the handkerchief could have been much more dirty and downtrodden? This might help to increase the empathy towards it and also would act as a contrast to the final image – as they are, at present, very similar. If these two ‘book-ending’ images are slightly different, it would help to emphasise the idea that the handkerchief is about to embark on another adventure after this one. It would also mean that the picture would look less obviously staged allowing the narrative to build and the staged nature of the series to gradually evolve rather than be so clearly set out at the beginning.

Image 02

Technically, this image works well and the use of a shallow depth of field means that our focus is very much on the central character. The action that you have chosen to use within the image is powerful and suggestive of a violent act towards the object rather than a helpful one.

Another possibility for a second image might have been to introduce your second character rather than go back to the handkerchief immediately? Imagine the scene, a shady figure, perhaps seen from behind in near silhouette, walking down the sun-dappled road – perhaps looking like he is stalking somebody?

Image 03

This one, again, looks too staged. Could another approach be top photograph the machine in the middle of its washing cycle and perhaps form further away? A figure in the background?

Image 04

You have done well technically with this photograph. Sunlight on a white object is difficult to capture while maintaining good contrast and not blowing out the lighter areas.

Image 05

This is a nice moment to introduce, this is the height of the elevation of the status of the object – it can’t get any better than this, white, washed, pressed and on display. Are there ways that you could emphasise this moment even further? Could the character be at an important event? Could it be shown being admired by somebody else?

Image 06

Again a little too stage. A simple way to counteract might be to introduce a slower shutter speed to highlight the movement of the cleaning action or as a last resort adding motion blur in post-production?

Image 07

I like the fact that the object is about to be returned to the same place as it was found and even more so as it appears that it is an accidental return. When you are photographing somebody who is supposed to be walking, it is better to get them to actually walk rather than attempt to hold a mid-walk pose. Could you have made the object slightly less of a significant part of the frame?

Image 08

It was a good idea to change the look of this final image but I wonder if it could be a little more different to the first picture (as I have suggested earlier). Perhaps a slightly different angle?

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Our coursework is going well, keep it up.

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

You need to work on this aspect of your work. The assessors will want to see plenty of evidence that you are looking at (in the flesh if possible) and reading lots of other material. They will also be looking for your own thoughts on these things and how they relate to you own work – this is a really important part of your learning.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Have a look at the ‘Research and Reflection’ section in relation to the comments about your research above.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Have a look at the incredibly well made photographs of Gregory Crewdson in relation to the staging of photographs. I know that the production values that he achieves are out of reach for most of us but he manages to create an obviously staged image that still manages to draw us in and at times take us to another imaginative space.

Seamus Nicholson restages moments from memory and manages to achieve a very natural and ‘real’ feel. His use of flash lighting is also incredible.

I made a piece of video work some years ago that has at its heart the notion of –re-staging. It is called, The Argument and you can see it here – https://vimeo.com/44122022

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • More research of all types of photographs
  • Broaden your understanding of contemporary photography by lots of further reading of key texts – Camera Lucida, On Photogrpahy, Photography: Key Concepts etc. These should also be reflected on in your learning log.

Assignment Two – Photographing the unseen using props

I have chosen to use a white handkerchief as a metaphorical representation of the lifecycle of continual bad relationships.

This Linear sequence as a whole tells the story of being lost and found, cared for and given hope to once again being let down; ending up more broken than before.

The narrative starts with an abandoned or lost handkerchief looking very vulnerable in the gutter, cold, wet and lonely.  Using natural lighting and muted shadows I gave the inanimate object a portrayal of human emotions by setting the tone of the first photograph in the sequence as being quite sombre.

Photograph Two shows the handkerchief being found with immediate care and attention lavished upon it followed by photograph Three where a higher level of care is given.  Photograph Four gives a feeling of hope as the handkerchief is seeing the light in an otherwise dark environment.

Photograph Five moves beyond care, the handkerchief, as in photograph four has emotional needs met once the physical needs are dealt with.  Now the handkerchief is feeling complete until suddenly in Photograph six the handkerchief is feeling used.  By photograph seven the handkerchief is treated with careless abandon until eventually coming full circle and ending up lost once more.

The final photograph has been stripped of any colour to emphasise the the damaging effects of negative repetitive patterns in bad relationships, concluding in an even darker place to be.

Other than the ‘repair’ photographs, the dark and sombre theme continues as a representation of the scars worn from relationships past.

The balance of this set is evened out into four pairs, lost and found, caring and hope, objectified and used and finally, carelessness and abandonment.

The ‘other’ person in this story had been depersonalised by not showing the expressions on the face as the viewer could form an opinion regarding a persons persona that isn’t in line with the story.

The images are kept tight to focus on the handkerchief although anything that adds to the narrative has been included.  I mainly used a narrow depth of field to reiterate this fact.

1Abandoned#Lost

2found
#Found

3Repaired
#caredfor

4Seeingthelight
#Seeingthelight

5ProudlyDisplayed
#proud

6Used
#used

7Careless
#careless

8ABitMoreBruised
#lostagain

Self Evaluation against Assessment Criteria

• Demonstration of technical and visual skills
– Particular attention has been paid to the main point of focus in each image based on tutors comments on the previous assignment. The composition of these images has been quite challenging as I’ve tried to make each individual image pleasing to the eye.  Composing #careless was particularly challenging due to obstructions outside of the frame but I feel it’s successful in continuing the narrative.  The concern I have is that the close cropping of the frame in most of the images can restrict the narrative but it’s meant to give a sense of isolation and I’m not sure it comes across this way.

• Quality of outcome
– The story is balanced evenly through eight photographs so as not to give to much emphasis to one emotion.  The sequence flows in a coherent manner that the viewer can understand.  The addition of hashtags gives a short and to the point idea of the emotion being portrayed.  Narrow depth of field was used through most of the images to focus on the main subject.  I think that #caredfor is the weakest photograph in the sequence in terms of a pleasing image.  I tried to make the composition as interesting as possible within the constraints of the room.  However, it is critical to the story and I decided it had more value being in the sequence than taken out.

• Demonstration of creativity
– I feel that the emotional states come across by humanising the handkerchief and dehumanising the person in the photographs.  This is done by not showing the persons face or facial expressions, in effect, depersonalising; and focussing on the inanimate object.  Individually I have experimented with lighting to assist in the narrative, in particular the contrast between light and dark.  This has resulted sometimes in extending the narrative to the dark feelings one can experience despite #seeingthelight.

• Context
Reflection
Research and Planning
Preperation
Prior to carrying out this assignment, I revisited part two, Narrative,  to reflect on what I’d learnt.  I found Briony Campbell’s ‘the dad project’ and her accompanying text to be incredibly useful in understanding which photographs are pinnacle to a narrative.  Also, I learned the importance of not duplicating images in a story and to keep the narrative tight and precise.  I began to think of the emotional impact of a photograph rather than putting so much importance on how it comes across aesthetically.  Sequencing is something I’d thought about before but hadn’t placed too much emphasis on, I now understand that this is imperative to the viewer despite the fact they can look at a narrative in any order they choose.  I need to start demonstrating the research I do into other photographers and theories, and in particular quoting references from the books that I read.

Bibliography

Short, R. (2011) Context and Narrative. Switzerland: AVA Publishing

Wells, L. (2015) Photography, A critical introduction. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Oxfordshire: Routledge

Jeffrey, I. (2000) The Photo Book. London: Phaidon

Bate, D. (2009) Photography the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury

Websites

https://tracesofthereal.com/2009/12/21/the-rhetoric-of-the-image-roland-barthes-1977/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_the_Authorhttp://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/
http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/the-dad-project/
http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/latest/photo-news/magnum-photographer-david-hurn-reveals-secret-success-good-pair-shoes-73044
https://www.lensculture.com/articles/duane-michals-storyteller-the-photographs-of-duane-michals-2https://kaylynndeveney.com/bert-grid
http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/

Assignment 2 – Preparation

To prepare for the undertaking of this assignment I had to ensure that the props I needed had been obtained and the people I was using were available.

As I chosen to use a prop, in this instance, a white handkerchief, I set about sourcing one through family or friends.  To my surprise I couldn’t find anyone who owned a white handkerchief.  My father who sadly passed three years ago always had a white handkerchief in his pocket.  It’s odd the things you miss about a person!  I then tried purchasing white handkerchiefs from the shops in town but it proved fruitless.  Eventually I succumbed to the mass domination of Amazon Prime and the next day, I had my prop ready and waiting.

In the mean time I scheduled a visit from a male family member who would act as my model for some of the photographs in the series.

The one thing I couldn’t plan for was the weather!  Three of my planned images needed a good downpour of rain as a backdrop and an important part of setting the mood.  Looking at the weather forecast, not only were we forecast no rain for the coming week, we were to experience a heat wave for the weekend.

I decided to stick to the date I had arranged for my model to be available in the hope that the weather forecast was wrong.

Unfortunately, it was absolutely spot on.

As my shoot location was close to my house I was able to extend the water hose out to the road and spray it as far as I could reach, giving the effect of rain.  Also, as I live in a valley I knew that as long as I carried out the rain photographs in the morning, there would be lots of dull shadows stretched elongated across the road and pavement with muted ambient light.

My model was instructed to be wearing a suit which was required for three of the photographs.  He was also wearing a wedding ring that he had never taken off in the ten years he’d been married so I had to direct the hand shots to keep this out of sight given the narrative.

With everything in place I spent most of the day at different times (in the interest of appropriate lighting) shooting the set.

Research and planning for Assignment Two – Photographing the unseen

I began my thought process by revisiting everything I covered in Part two of this course to reflect on what I’d learnt and hopefully construct it all into a cohesive understanding.

Guidance notes from Part Two (Narrative) in preparation for Assignment Two

When looking at Part Two as a whole I could see that a lot of guidance was given in terms so of how to tell a story in images which left enough scope to develop my own ideas.  Its important to note that a story can be successful not just by what you choose to include but also by what you choose to omit.

I then engaged with other students via the forums, reading about what other people were doing or how stuck for ideas they were.  I got thinking about my own ideas and wrote a list of emotions to portray:

Sadness – what makes us sad?
Happiness – what makes us happy?
loneliness – a day in the life of a lonely figure
Despair – Portrayal of a tortured soul
Anger – Beginning to end

All quite boring and predictable!  I went back to the drawing board
When I’m trying to think of ideas for a theme, the thinking takes place at every opportunity, walking to school, shopping, editing photos, talking to other people, it’s incredibly consuming.  My inspiration came from a conversation with a long term friend who struggles to maintain relationships and we were discussing at which part in the process she feels it goes wrong.  We then discussed the process relationships go through and the associated feelings and so I thought to myself I can make a story out of that idea. I then needed to think how I would go about it and by using the student forums I noticed that the option of using a white handkerchief was highly disregarded so I put the two together and drew up a story board.

Assignment Two story board

I need a rainy day and sunny day to complete this set of images so it may take time to complete.  In addition I’ll need to enlist the help of a man to use as a model in carrying out four of the scenarios.

I’m trying to decide whether to add text to images and have a loose idea of using hashtags.  The reason for this is that relationships are very often played out on social media and people make use of hashtags to demonstrate how they’re feeling.  I need to think carefully as to how damaging this could be in terms of telling the story rather than suggesting one. As I’m favouring a postmodern approach, I  want the viewer to think about what the handkerchief has been through and maybe consider it’s feelings despite it being an inanimate object.

Feedback – Assignment One

Formative feedback

Student name Samantha Bennett Student number 509036
Course/Unit Photography 1: Context & Narrative Assignment number 1
Type of tutorial Written

Overall Comments

This is a good start Sam, well done. You have presented an interesting idea around a subject that is clearly close to your heart. Sometimes it is easy to become overly sentimental when working with material that is very close to home but you have avoided this and managed to produce work that manages to hold on to a good level of objectivity.

Assessment potential

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

As you move through this photographic learning journey, we will be encouraging you to think about your output as series’ of images rather than individual ones. Although there are some notable exceptions, in contemporary photographic practice this is the norm. I will be making comments about the formal qualities of individual images; their technical skill as well as the ideas that they communicate but try to get used to the thinking about the concepts that you are conveying by the series as a whole, this means that you can have a visually consistent set of pictures that each add something to the overall reading of the project.

You have begun to do this in this set of pictures and the ‘story’ that you tell makes sense but think about how you could push this further, for example, could you have changed the lighting in the second set to start to convey a more difficult set of circumstances? Could your framing be tighter in the second set to make the emotion the most important part of the picture?

In terms of the individual images, I hope the following helps:

Image 01

This is a good image to begin with and it sets the scene nicely. The relatively shallow depth of field draws us to his face – it may be the relatively low resolution of the image but this face looks a little bit soft, if you are being this selective with your focus, make sure that that portion of the picture is pin sharp. If you have the option, use the ‘live view’ zoom function while setting up the picture to ensure this.

Image 02

I like the introduction of another character here (four if you include the soft toys!), the placement of your main protagonist, as well as his slightly moody attitude, implies that something is about to happen. I know it is difficult when trying to capture specific moments like this but watch your exposure – the boy’s face is a little blown out – and again check your focus.

Image 03

In terms of the series as a narrative, this one would be better placed between images 01 and 02. This would be a better way to introduce the second character and a cosy relationship before hitting us with image 02 and the suggesting of something that is about to happen. Again, focus and exposure. Are you shooting in RAW? Although it is better to get these details right during the shoot, you may be able to reduce some of the over exposure in post-production.

Image 04

A shift of location that works well, this shows that the main character has relationships with other (presumably) members of the family and compositionally this one works well. Although you have used the classic (perhaps clichéd?) path disappearing in to the distance at centre frame, the attitude and stance of both characters is mimicking each other. This tells me that this is a father and son doing the things that they do. The long stick also helps with the composition by echoing your path line.

Image 05

This one works well, I like their body positions and your site line is not obviously central.

Image 06

This picture represents an abrupt and appropriate shift in mood. The motion blur of his right arm and the look on his face immediately tells us he is angry. Think about your framing, how important is it that the picture on the edge of the left of frame is just in shot? Could you have used a lower camera angle to bring your angry subject closer to the Jurassic Park poster – could you suggest a relationship between him and the ‘angry’ dinosaurs that we all know are in this film?).

Image 07

This is technically a better photograph, the exposure is much more balanced and the subjects are sharp. I know that you are following a set of rules here by echoing the locations and moments in the first set of pictures but could you introduce more interest by using a different location?

Image 08

You have portrayed the emotion well in this picture, he looks really spiteful and she looks suitably scared. Watch your horizontals, the dado rail in the background is neither straight or ‘dutch angled’. Could a more exaggerated camera angle help to create tension or emotion?

Image 09

This is one of my favourite pictures in the context of this series. I like the differing emotions that are communicated by their differing body positions (particularly when set along-side the corresponding image in the first set). Also the positioning of the stick so that it is metaphorically decapitating the father figure works well. This picture also looks staged – in this instance it is not a criticism but make sure that you are communicating exactly what you intend.

Image 10

A good image to finish. The composition is lore interesting and I like the fact that the boy’s arm is alomost in line with the railway track.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Please make sure that your coursework is uploaded to your blog, I (and the assessors in due course) need to see evidence of this

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Again, you need to show examples of the things that you are looking at outside of the course material and upload them to your blog.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Please create subheadings for the different components of your blog, for example, Coursework, Assignments, Research, Learning Log. There is no hard and fast rule about the layout of your blog but please make sure that all of the components are there and easily accessible.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Start to widen your knowledge of contemporary photography. Here are some examples to get you started –

Susan Bright: Art Photography Now– A good overview of the different kinds of photographic genres and practices.

Charlotte Cotton: The Photograph as Representation– This is a great book which will expand the way you think about photography.

Roland Barthes: Camera Lucida – A must for any photography student!

The British Journal of Photography: http://www.bjp-online.com/

Source Photographic Review: http://www.source.ie

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • Work on your learning log and upload all of your learning materials
  • Continue to expand you knowledge of contemporary art and most importantly write down your reflections about the things you see.
  • Work on your own critical analysis of your work and upload it to the learning pog section of your blog.

 

Please inform me of how you would like your feedback for the next assignment: written or video/audio.

 

Tutor name Matt White
Date 1st March 2017
Next assignment due 10th April 2017

 

Two sides of the story – as1

Around the subject of documentary photography, this assignment challenges the true meaning of it’s content. With varying genres within the documentary scope such as, photojournalism, citizen journalism, reportage and street photography there is a myriad of opportunity to document anything and everything.  How do we know if we’re seeing a true representation of the facts?

To explore this further, I have produced two sets of photographs, both on the same subject but with two different meanings.  My first challenge was to find a subject that was firstly relevant and secondly achievable within the available resources. I had several ideas but decided that I would document a subject close to my heart, child behaviour.

We live in an age where behavioural problems are on the increase and it’s not uncommon for a child to be labelled with a specific issue e.g. autism, ADHD and aspergers syndrome.  The symptoms of such conditions aren’t always visible or go undiagnosed and children can be seen misbehaving with intent.

The two sides of the story I chose to photograph are of a boy who in one set of photographs appears to be relaxed, friendly and at ease or well behaved you might say.  The other set of photographs represent the other side of the story where the boy is aggressive, agitated or as it often appears to the outside world ‘badly behaved’.

With this brief in mind I planned to shoot the events over a series of three days during half term week to maximise the opportunity for each behaviour set to represent itself.  I kept my camera close by to capture scenes as I saw them unfold, often with the configuration preset in order to act quickly.

No Problems – ‘Well behaved’

1a32a13a1-copy4a15a1

With problems – ‘Badly behaved’

1b12b23b-copy4b15b2

To accentuate some of these actions I have incorporated motion blur during shooting as it more accurately represents the drama.

The final two images are the same scene taken from two different angels which gives you two very different stories.

6a1-copy6b1-copy

Loving the dog or hurting the dog?

Which set of photographs is the true story?