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.

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

Narrative

Telling a Story

Linear story lines – telling a story chronologically from an insiders point of view.
W.Eugene Smith – Country Doctor
Photo Essay – Briony Campbell, The Dad Project
Contextualising photographs with accompanying text or other media

Using Pictures to Tell a Story

Differences between picture essay and picture story
Picture Essay – A group of images in which each picture is supporting and strengthening all the others.
– A guide from beginning to end point.
Sequencing gives order to the unfolding of the narrative.
– Unlike written stories, the viewer has control over the order in which they view the images.
– Viewers see parts of a picture in different ways and at different speeds, sometimes overlooking the main focus.
– Picture narrative a lot looser than a literary one.

Points to Consider

  • Do the pictures have a consistent theme?
  • What elements back up my central theme?
  • What disrupts it?
  • Are there good reasons for the disruption?
  • Do the images have a visual consistency that holds them together as a recognisable set?

Postmodern Narrative

Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’ – separating a literary work from its creator in order to liberate the text from interpretive tyranny.

Image and Text

Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ – This essay is a classic semiotic text where Roland Barthes analyses an advertising image and uses it as a means of teasing out how different messages are conveyed by a system of signs.

  1. Anchorage – images are prone to multiple meanings and interpretations. Anchorage occurs when text is used to focus on one of these meanings, or at least to direct the viewer through the maze of possible meanings in some way
  2. Relay – the text adds meaning and both text and image work together to convey intended meaning e.g. a comic strip.

Selecting a subject

David Hurn, the difference between a photographer and someone who is interested in photography.  The person who becomes a photographer is not interested in photography as an end result but used photography to pursue an intense interest in something else.

Photographing the unseen

Case studies:

Peter Mansell https://clanmansell.wordpress.com/
Dewald Botha http://www.dewaldbotha.net/ring-road.html
Jodie Taylor https://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/

‘photography is a tool for expression’

Remember

– The best work is personally driven.
– Course assignment guidelines are not prescriptive.  Instead serve as a catalyst to build my own interests.
– Develop my contextualisation and research and look at photography that inspires me, so I can gradually discover how to choose the right subjects for me.
– Move away from showing, not telling.  Shift from literal scope to more evocative into the realm of the arts.
– Think about what interested in as a person rather than a photographer.

 Research

Internet

https://tracesofthereal.com/2009/12/21/the-rhetoric-of-the-image-roland-barthes-1977/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_the_Author

http://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-2

https://kaylynndeveney.com/bert-grid

http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/

Books

Context and Narrative – Marie Short

Photography, A critical introduction – Liz Wells

Art Photography Now – Susan Bright

Photography – Stephen Bull

The Photo Book – Phaidon

Photographing the unseen – Case studies

I’ve read through the three case studies of Peter Mansell, Dewald Botha and Jodie Taylor of which I find them all to be inspiring in individual ways.

Peter Mansell

Peter Mansell, paraplegic form the age of 20, talks about how he came about photographing his injuries and subsequent change of life through visual metaphorical perspectives.

This makes me think back to Bryony Campbell’s, The Dad Project where part of her work in that series had an air of reflection rather than reaction.  There are evidential photographs within that series that shaped the narrative but the feelings came through in the more metaphorical images.  One such image on first glance appears to be blood splatter on a hospital floor:

BrionyCampbell milkshakeBryony Campbell, The Dad Project

However, after reading Campbell’s accompanying essay on The Dad Project, it becomes apparent that her dad in his ailing body had dropped his milkshake on the kitchen floor when she was looking after him.  This is a very reflective photograph as she couldn’t bring herself to photograph it straight away and instead quite naturally reacted as a daughter first and picked up the glass and paused to reflect before picking up her camera.

Coming back to Peter Mansell, His work seems to consist of his story but with a large amount of viewer interpretation.  The photo above has the same complication, like a puzzle that needs to be solved.

I’m left wondering how do I get it right?  How do I tell a story that can evoke similar feelings to what these people are producing?

It seems to me that there has to be a background story.  In the case of Peter Mansell, If I didn’t know about his accident before viewing the photographs I wouldn’t have been able to interpret them in the correct context.  So, are they too metaphorical?  How do they strike a balance?  Some photographs form a narrative and others put emotions into the series.  There needs to be a complimentary balance between the two.

I felt inspired by Peter Mansell and how he came to rely on photography as a form of expression which helped him deal with suppressed feelings.  It made me realise that a feeling, especially of the visceral kind can become a narrative if you let it.

Dewald Botha – Ring Road

Unfortunately I felt bored with how baffling this narrative comes across and that may be because I haven’t experienced the same feelings.  I think the photographs are beautiful and I can see how I’m drawn in by the symmetry and uniformity but in tern is preventing me from appreciating the narrative in this series.

Jodie Taylor – Memories of Childhood

This particular case study has my interest immediately.  It’s something I’ve thought of doing many times as the culture in my home town is very different to where I live now.  I find it fascinating that in a short distance life can be so very different so through time into the mix and I’m getting excited.

Jodie Taylor’s ‘Memories of Childhood’ is how I imagined my project to be.  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I read that she presenting her series in on of those old fashioned photo albums with the sticky plastic coverings.  I have a few of those on my shelf full of photographs I took from the age of 10.  Taylor’s work has evoked a huge feeling of nostalgia in me.

I watched OCA assessor Jesse Alexander’s video critique of Taylor’s work and it becomes apparent that this theme runs throughout all of her work in different formats.  It helps to see what other people are doing and step out of the comfort zone of whats been asked of you.

I’m particularly impressed with the different types of media used to present her work.  It’s very imaginative and relevant which further extends the narrative.

 

This makes me think back to Bryony Campbell’s, The Dad Project where part of her work in that series had an air of reflection rather than reaction.  There are evidential photographs within that series that shaped the narrative but the feelings came through in the more metaphorical images.  One such image on first glance appears to be blood splatter on a hospital floor:

BrionyCampbell milkshakeBryony Campbell, The Dad Project

However, after reading Campbell’s accompanying essay on The Dad Project, it becomes apparent that her dad in his ailing body had dropped his milkshake on the kitchen floor when she was looking after him.  This is a very reflective photograph as she couldn’t bring herself to photograph it straight away and instead quite naturally reacted as a daughter first and picked up the glass and paused to reflect before picking up her camera.

Coming back to Peter Mansell, His work seems to consist of his story but with a large amount of viewer interpretation.  The photo above has the same complication, like a puzzle that needs to be solved.

I’m left wondering how do I get it right?  How do I tell a story that can evoke similar feelings to what these people are producing?

It seems to me that there has to be a background story.  In the case of Peter Mansell, If I didn’t know about his accident before viewing the photographs I wouldn’t have been able to interpret them in the correct context.  So, are they too metaphorical?  How do they strike a balance?  Some photographs form a narrative and others put emotions into the series.  There needs to be a complimentary balance between the two.

I felt inspired by Peter Mansell and how he came to rely on photography as a form of expression which helped him deal with suppressed feelings.  It made me realise that a feeling, especially of the visceral kind can become a narrative if you let it.

Dewald Botha – Ring Road

Unfortunately I felt bored with how baffling this narrative comes across and that may be because I haven’t experienced the same feelings.  I think the photographs are beautiful and I can see how I’m drawn in by the symmetry and uniformity but in tern is preventing me from appreciating the narrative in this series.

Jodie Taylor – Memories of Childhood

This particular case study has my interest immediately.  It’s something I’ve thought of doing many times as the culture in my home town is very different to where I live now.  I find it fascinating that in a short distance life can be so very different so through time into the mix and I’m getting excited.

Jodie Taylor’s ‘Memories of Childhood’ is how I imagined my project to be.  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I read that she presenting her series in on of those old fashioned photo albums with the sticky plastic coverings.  I have a few of those on my shelf full of photographs I took from the age of 10.  Taylor’s work has evoked a huge feeling of nostalgia in me.

I watched OCA assessor Jesse Alexander’s video critique of Taylor’s work and it becomes apparent that this theme runs throughout all of her work in different formats.  It helps to see what other people are doing and step out of the comfort zone of whats been asked of you.

I’m particularly impressed with the different types of media used to present her work.  It’s very imaginative and relevant which further extends the narrative.

 

Image and Text

My brief was to look for photographs in the newspaper and add text to them with the aim of re-contextualising them.

Photograph 1

hallelula 1 copy

This ladies pose and the huge cross around her neck made me think of worship assembly where preachers cure their congregation members.  By adding the text I’ve given other viewers the same opinion without directly saying where she is.  This is an example of relay.  The lady in the photograph has in reality just found out she’s won tickets to Adele’s concert however this isn’t at all clear without the text.  This photograph can be interpreted in many ways, ‘she lost ten pounds this week!’, ‘winner of singing competition shocked by results’ etc.

Photograph 2

naval officer

Although this seems like a cruel take on the stereotype of naval workers the caption has re-contextualised the image.  Its actually a report on ‘daddy’s home for christmas’ but the interpretation can be controlled via the text.  Another example of Relay.

Photograph 3

 

motorbike copy

This final photograph has been contextualised with the added text.  The photograph is from an advert so keeping in the same topic.  This is an example of anchor, where the text is firmly telling you this is a fast bike and its a Triumph.  Theres no room for ambiguity.  I originally changed the context of this photograph by making it appear to be a getaway vehicle from a crime but instead decided to use it demonstrate an anchor type of narrative.

Duane Michals

An American photographer who makes good use of postmodern narrative by using text in close relation to his photographs.

duanemichals01This Photograph is my proof

In this photograph, Michals has used a postmodern relay narrative and added text underneath.  The addition of the text give more depth into the meaning of the photograph.  The text isn’t very legible in this example however it reads:

This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!

The addition of the text tells us more of the story even beyond the photograph.  This photograph has also been given a title which goes some way to giving it narrative but the additional text tells the story further than a moment in time.