Exercise 3.8 Re-photographing

Brief

Sometimes re-photographing a photograph or collection of images can help different
elements in a composition to gel into the same visual ‘space’.

Portrait
1. Take a photo of a person’s face.
2. Make a print about life-size and ask your model to affect their portrait – the print. The
purpose here is to allow the sitter’s personality to affect their appearance. They can
do anything to the print from drawing the classic spectacles and missing tooth to
writing on it or cutting and tearing.
3. When they’re done, ask the model to hold the print up to their face, possibly so that
the features match, and make another photograph of the model. Of course this will
depend on what they’ve done with the print.
4. Print out this photo. It’s the second remove from ‘reality’ and it represents two distinct
times and two experiences. In this way, the resulting photograph contains a creative
process.

Execution of brief

I enlisted the help of the neighbours for this one and after a little trepidation they both said that they found the exercise enjoyable and kept the images.

I used a flash in the hot shoe of the camera and set it to TTL mode.  I don’t usually use TTL but as this was an exercise that I wanted to just quickly take the pictures using an even light that I could reproduce at the second time of taking the portraits, I thought this would be the best option.

I had the flash head pointing to the ceiling and also had a white reflector attached behind the flash head so that light would be reflected forward as well as from the ceiling.  The images aren’t shadow-less but are reasonable.

JohnJoy

Reflection

I am very pleased with the way these images have turned out, looking at the images again and knowing the sitters very well it really is interesting to see how their alteration of their portrait is influenced by their personality.  Very interesting!

 

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Portraits from and of a beach

A visit to the USA

During a “Hangout” session with my tutor we discussed the repeated use of the the same model for many of my portrait exercises.

This was something that I was already aware of and had a plan of sorts to remedy it, however, we did discuss the difficulty in finding suitable and willing models to photograph.

As a possible solution my tutor suggested that I could always make some “implied” portraits if I couldn’t find a sitter, when I asked for clarification she said that a classic example of an implied portrait would be a footprint in the sand, but that there were many ways to imply a portrait.

I gave this some thought and knowing that I was going to be in Florida the following week I decided there may be opportunities to take some implied portraits there.  I also thought I could produce a kind of “portrait” of the beach.

The area where we stayed is in northern Florida, a place called St Augustine Beach, this is just outside the old city of St Augustine.  The city itself is rather unusual in that it is quite old and has a fort, it was founded in 1565, by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it came under British control in the 1700’s then returned to Spain and finally ended up under USA rule.

It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America and really is a charming place to visit and most visitors tend to be American.

The beach

My wife and I like to walk, so every morning we were on the beach at around 7:30 am before it got too hot and to do our 5 miles before breakfast.

The beach has a great sense of space and at that time in the morning there are not many people. Being very flat it is quite featureless, however, this does draw your attention to things other than scenery.

It is  quite a wealthy area as can be seen by some of the holiday homes, I understand that these cost in excess of  $1,000,000.

They allow cars on the beach and I took some evidential photographs of their activity as a kind of implied portrait, there were also runners, walkers, fishermen and cyclists.

I have included the classic footprints in the sand together with empty chairs, tyre marks and an abandoned bicycle  as implied portraits.

The images below are clickable if you are interested in seeing them larger.

 

Exercise 3.7 A significant object

Brief

You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you.

Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Consider the framing, viewpoint, background, placement, light and composition.

Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself ? Is there a difference?

Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series.

Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together.

Research

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931 and 1934 – 2007 and 2015)– were German married couple of conceptual artists, for 40 years they photographed industrial structures including water towers, coal bunkers, gas tanks and factories around Europe and North America. All images were taken in monochrome and did not include people, it was of a documentary style.Pitheads 1974 by Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher 1931-2007, 1934-2015

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher
Pitheads 1974
Tate © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

As can be seen from the example above, there is a common theme to their photographic series, backgrounds, content and lighting are all very similar, this similarity brings the series together.

Execution of brief

For my significant object I chose a crucifix that was my fathers and that I wear daily. I am not a religious person and I am not sure if my father was either, but he did go to church and he did wear this crucifix.

I chose it because it is really the only thing I have from my father following his death, my mother wanted me to have it which is why I wear it. I never really got to know him as deeply as I did my mother, but I became closer to him as I got older and particularly when, because of work, I moved my family away from my parents.

I do regret not being closer to Dad earlier in my life and this crucifix brings my thoughts to him every day, consequently it is very special to me.

I have photographed this with a picture of Dad behind it and out of focus to indicate that time has passed. He is sitting in front of his books, he was a prolific reader and really was a bit of an intellectual.

DSCF8138

For my next object of a similar type I chose a necklace that belonged to my mother-in-law.  It is significant because it was a wedding gift that her husband bought her and was worn on her wedding day.  My wife also wore this on our wedding day.  It passed to my wife following my mother-in-law’s death.

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For the final peice I chose a gold chain and a shark’s tooth. This was a gift from my brother to my daughter when she was born.

It came at a significant time in our life, it was the birth of our first child, my brother at that time had an electronics factory in Haiti and I was 28 years old. I visited him to view his business to decide whether I should join him with my family and run the factory for him whilst he went on sales trips back to the US.  In the end I stayed in the UK.

DSCF8142

Series of three, clickable images.

 

Reflection

I like the series and although not required each of the items I have chosen do have a  significance for me.

To photograph them I tried to keep the arrangement all the same which did prove a little fiddly.

I placed pictures relating to the items behind them and used a wide aperture on the lens of f2.8 to make them out of focus to symbolise the passage of time, each item was placed to the left of the backing photograph.  I also chose landscape style backing images to keep the aspect ratios the same and included a little of the black background to surround the image.

I used a fast shutter speed of 1/500 sec so that I could eliminate all ambient light, I then used two off camera speedlights.

One was positioned camera left in front of the item, it was just a bare flash, the other was behind the item and camera right with a snoot to restrict the light and to give the item some rim lighting to try to isolate it from the background.

I used flash to try and have the same lighting, white balance etc. for each image.

I am reasonably pleased with the way the images have turned out.  If I could have set the rim light flash more directly behind the item or maybe have used a faster shutter speed to kill more ambient light I could have made the items stand out more.  However, I did want to have the background images reasonably well lit, so in the end  it was a compromise.

References

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-718/who-are-bechers

Exercise 3.6 Mixing genres

Brief

How could you mix genres together in one photograph?

Lets keep it simple and stick to the three easiest genres: landscape, portrait and still life (though you are free to use which ever genre you want.)

Choose a subject you’d like to photograph. It can be anything at all, a place, a person, an object or a story. Take your subject and add to it elements of the other genres.

This isn’t about chucking together random subjects – what you’re looking for is an effective, telling mix. For example, you could place a friend outside the house where she was born holding the wedding ring of her mother. Can you understand how each of these elements resonates with each other?

Execution of brief

Part three of this course is making me think a lot more, which is a good thing and what I wanted from the course, but it is taking me a while to get inspiration, hopefully this will become easier as time goes on!

The inspiration for this exercise came one evening whilst I was eating an apple and thinking about the course and what inspires people and sparks a thought pattern.  I associated the apple with the apple tree and the apple tree with Sir Isaac Newton and this became my inspiration for the photograph.

Newton was a great scientist and mathematician who helped to advance physics and astronomy, he is probably best known for his work on gravity and the three laws of motion.

It is popularly believed that an apple falling from a tree was Newtons inspiration for his work on gravity.

I decided to use the theme of an apple and an apple tree for this exercise.

I thought that the tree could be the landscape part of the image, the apple the still life.  I wanted to add another element to the picture, partly to present the apple as the still life.  The idea for this was an unclothed arm coming in from one side of the image, presenting the apple in front of the tree and linking the apple to the apple tree.

The apple tree that I chose was at Woolsthorpe Manor Farm which is owned by the National Trust and was Newton’s home, details here https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolsthorpe-manor.

Newton’s original apple tree blew down in 1820 but a new tree grew up from the roots, and the one in my images is that tree.

For the first image, the original plan as mentioned was to use an unclothed arm to present the apple which I have tried to do but because space was a bit limited I found it difficult to get myself into a position where this was possible whilst still retaining the full image of the tree, which is what I had wanted.

The second image I tried was with the apple resting on the wicker fence which protects the tree from visitors, this allowed me to get a little of the manor in the background and the full form of the tree.

In the third image I have placed my assistant in the middle of the tree with her back towards me as I didn’t want a face in the picture as I thought this would distract from the apple and the tree, however, it does add a portrait element to the image, she is holding the apple in front of the tree.  I have managed to retain the full tree and a little of the manor house on the right.

DSCF8025-Edit

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Contact sheets can be seen here. Contacts Woolsthorpe Ex 3-6

Reflection

I think I have achieved what I set out to do.  I did have a clear picture in my minds eye but what I couldn’t consider until I arrived at Woolsthorpe was room and space around the tree etc.  However, saying that I am reasonably pleased with the results, I think there is a clear and obvious connection between the apple and the tree and with this text also Newton, also there is a mix of genres.

Regarding the pictures my preference is for picture one as this was my original idea, however I like the balance in pictures two and three.

Sadly it wasn’t one of Newton’s apples, it came from the local Co-op near Woolsthorpe,  I forgot to bring the one that I had prepared at home and used for practise under our apple tree!

 

Exercise 3.5 Photographs from text

Brief

History painting was a specific genre of painting that depicted scenes from religious, historical or mythological texts. Choose a text that has meaning for you. It can be anything from a poem to a newspaper report, a biblical passage or a scene in a novel. It can be a long text, but it would probably be best if it was reasonably short, even a few lines. You’ll need to know your text, so read it repeatedly.

Try to generate visual ideas that communicate something about the text. Discuss the text with other people and find out what images spring to mind for them. Write down any ideas you get from the text. They can be visual ideas or thoughts about the subject.

How would you turn that text into a photograph or a series of photographs?

• Begin by thinking of a literal translation from the text, like a movie or a biblical painting.
• Next, try to think in more metaphorical and symbolic ways. Text can be didactic, but you don’t have to illustrate the text; you can use it as a starting point for your picture- making or you can create a broad interpretation based on the intuitive or emotional meaning the text has for you. For example, the Resurrection may cause joy and this joy could be metaphorically expressed in an explosion of colour, as in the work of Polly Apfelbaum.

As further research on the relationship between image and text, look at Barbara Kruger’s montages of photography and text, plus Gillian Wearing’s Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say.

If you’re stuck, have a look at the short texts below.

‘Genuine peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice’. (Martin Luther King Jr)

‘Silence is like a place outside the world’. (Søren Kierkegaard)

‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endles immensity of the sea’. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

When you’ve finished your work, place the photograph or photographs you’ve made with the text, side-by-side.

 

Execution of brief

I chose the Martin Luther King quote below although I thought it should read “True peace…”

‘Genuine peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice’.

To begin with I started thinking about the words tensions,  justice and also the author of the quote, here are some of the associations offered:

Tension

  • Race relations
  • Religion
  • War
  • Family
  • Protests
  • Animals
  • Neighbours
  • Financial

Justice

  • Summary justice
  • Courts
  • Jury
  • Police
  • Parents
  • Fairness
  • Jail
  • Impartiality
  • Fair play

When I thought about the words and Martin Luther King I thought about a series of photographs I had taken in St Augustine Florida whilst visiting my brother in May.
I had intended to use these photographs to write a blog about guns. However, when I thought about Dr King’s association with St Augustine I thought this could be a good connection between the picture and the quotation.

St Augustine is located in north east Florida, the old slave market used to be on the site of what is now a public market and in the 1960s the KKK operated there.

Dr King was arrested on June 11th 1964 on the steps of a hotel in St Augustine for trying to eat in a whites-only restaurant.

During the 1960s there was a lot of racial tension and civil disobedience, today it is a historical holiday destination primarily for Americans.

Subject of the photograph

Whilst I was there I spent some time with Lynda.

Lynda is a professional lady with a business degree who works for the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, basically when a bank looks like failing or does fail Lynda goes in to take control of the assets, usually ending up in closing the bank down.
She works in Dallas where she lives most of the time but also has an apartment in St Augustine where her parents are.

Lynda lives alone.

During my research into guns Lynda declared that she had a gun in both her Dallas and in St Augustine homes, she felt as a single woman living by herself she absolutely needed these guns for her protection and peace of mind.

She agreed that I could photograph her in her home with the gun.

The photograph

I took a few images in her bedroom, she is a smiley person, but I wanted to catch her not smiling, this photograph was the only one and has her glancing out of the window, looking slightly apprehensive.  The gun is on the bedside table and the bedroom door is closed.

I think there is a tension in her demeanour, her hands are clasped and held between her legs,  the bedroom door closed, almost like she is waiting for somebody to come in.

The gun which was loaded, is on the table. This also provides tension for me as I am not used to being around guns.

However, for Lynda this was her re-assurance that allowed her to sleep peacefully, the gun would be used to deliver justice, albeit summary justice,  should the need arise, and I have no doubt she would do this.

The picture was taken in quite a dark room using light from the window, ISO 4000, aperture f5.0,  shutter speed 1/100 sec.  The camera was in manual mode using centre weighted metering.

Lynda 1000px
‘Genuine peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice’. (Martin Luther King Jr)

 

Reflection

This perhaps isn’t quite the metaphor that I was looking for but I am pleased with the photograph and I think it fits the brief, maybe it is a little too literal, but that is me!

I think Lynda was a little self-conscious about having her picture taken,  which was understandable but I am pleased with the expression that I managed to capture in this image.

I think it is a little sad that she feels she has to sleep with a loaded gun at her side but unfortunately I don’t think that this is that unusual in the USA.

 

References

 

https://www.oldcity.com/martin-luther-king-jr-st-augustine/

https://www.fdic.gov/

Picture analysis Zelt (Tent)

Zelt (Tent)

Brief

Swiss artist Roman Signer uses photography, film and video to document performances, events or ‘akts’ he creates. Zelt comprises a sequence of images showing a man running from a tent, which then explodes. A passage of time and movement is depicted in each successive frame. The sequence relates a kind of ‘sculpture’ of changing forms that include the location of grass and trees, the tent, the man, the burst of flame and smoke. Characteristic of Signer’s oeuvre, the event itself is both comic and mysterious. There is a sense of finality and transformation.

Often there is nothing left but the photographic record, so it’s vital the record itself is as expressive of the event as possible. You could say that ‘earth artists’ like Andy Goldsworthy use photography in the same way, to document ephemera.

  • Would this work have been as effective if the camera’s viewpoint had changed with each shot?
  • What encapsulates this sequence, makes it seems like a finished piece?
  • What do you think are the influences that led to this work?
  • Do you think these influences affect the way we interpret it?

 

Analysis

I have looked at these images several times whilst flicking through the course material and each time I really didn’t know what to make of them.

The sequence is a series of stills taken from a film at various decisive moments. It shows a passage of time from the tent door opening to the man running away from the tent, an explosion and finally the man walking towards the camera with a plume of smoke from the explosion behind him.

The text in the brief refers to it being a kind of sculpture which I really didn’t get initially being a literal person. To me it was just a photographic record of an event, of course the various actors in the images change throughout the sequence but this is true of any sequence that contains movement.

Questions:

Would this work have been as effective if the camera’s viewpoint had changed with each shot?

No, it would not have been as effective, the camera’s unmoving position gives several clear points of reference so the eye and brain can make comparisons from frame to frame of the position of the man, the progression of the explosion etc.  It makes a clear sequence or progression.

What encapsulates this sequence, makes it seems like a finished piece?

In the first image there is just a tent, then the sequence of events takes place, a sense of urgency, the man running, the explosion and finally the large plume of smoke with the man walking towards the camera – urgency over – sequence complete, event finished.  The tent has been transformed from an object into a cloud of smoke.

What do you think are the influences that led to this work?

I did a little research on Signer and according to Widewalls “he was an architect’s draughtsman, a radio engineer apprentice, and even worked in a pressure cooker factory” maybe in his last position he was exposed to explosions from testing the pressure cookers and this sparked an interest.

He is interested in the narrative of destruction, his work intends to show the transformation of material through time.

There also appears to be a sense of comedy in this sequence and also a sense of danger and mystery, will the man escape the explosion?  Why is he blowing up a tent?  So maybe comedy and danger also influence his work.

Do you think these influences affect the way we interpret it?

I found it difficult to interpret this work.  However, yes, I think inevitably what has influenced him will influence how we interpret his work. How he visualises, executes and presents his work to us is a result of what has influenced him and this will produce a narrative for us which we may or may not read as intended.

References

https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/roman-signer/

Exercise 3.4 Documenting change

Brief

Everything changes, weathers, grows or otherwise shows signs of transformation. Changes in the weather can create a drastic change in the appearance of a place. Cooking something changes it. People tend to look sprightly in the morning and worn out at night.

Make a sequence of photographs that shows the same subject, but in different states i.e. changing. You can choose any subject you like, but clearly identify it and note down the conditions of change you want to show.

Produce at least three images in the sequence – that shows the different states of the subject and communicates the change you’ve identified.

Execution of brief

For this exercise I took advantage of an unplanned visit to Cornwall that I had to make.

I decided to take a picture of an old concrete landing pier which is locally called “The Cheese” to document changes in the sky and the state of the tide.

For each picture I tried to get the same field of view to get enough sky and beach in, I used the tree covered background as a reference point.

I have made minimal adjustments to the pictures.

Documenting change

Contact sheets Contact sheet documenting change

Reflection

They are not great pictures but I was only in Cornwall for a week so weather changes were a bit hit and miss,  I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures because I didn’t think it necessary.

Regarding the sky I had the following:  blue sky, over cast and also a little hazy.

The tide is of course predictable and although there were quite small tides whilst we there I think the pictures have documented the changes in state from low to high.