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

The agony of feedback

I tend to judge my success in an assignment by how the feedback makes me feel.  Always read with one eye open and one eye closed as if I can’t wait to find out but I don’t want to know.  If I’ve done a bad job then I have to deal with the bad feelings associated with the criticism albeit constructive and essential to my growth as a photographer.  If I’ve done a good job then my confidence will grow.

I get lots of praise for my portrait photography but it’s not difficult as the photographs look pretty and the children are cute and their parents are in love with them.  What makes me sit up and listen is feedback from someone who has all the knowledge I crave and can give me assured knowledgeable advice.

So tutor feedback, as painful as it is for me, is the valuable part of distance learning as its a base for making improvements to my knowledge and skills and ultimately my work.

 

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

 

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.