Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Assignment 4

I took the images for this assignment while on holiday in Chicago. The "travel" brief didn't appeal to me that much to be honest. But, after the positive response from my tutor on the previous one, I now feel more confident about stretching the assignment brief. I wanted to make a selection of interior hotel room images depicting our visit mixed in with the more travel oriented ones to shake it up a bit.

My tutor recommended three photo-books to look at and they were all really interesting and I feel that I learnt something new in terms of composition, layout, themes, style from all three. I have reviewed them here:

The way I read the assignment brief was that I was to provide approximately twelve useable images to my tutor and from them choose my final six. I assume this would be so that my tutor could see how my editing and sequencing abilities were coming along. I'm still not entirely sure that is what is required but it's all written up and posted off now so no point worrying about it.

Here are my twelve images.  

Tutor Feedback:

My tutor liked the work that I did for this assignment. His feedback was on the whole positive with some improvements that could be made. The major points being that the work that I am now producing is moving me towards another level in my photography. This is good advice to hear as level two study is fast approaching!

I also need to continue with my pre-visualisation of my images in the planning stages. This is a method that works well for me as going into a situation with some idea of the kind of shots that I want to achieve can provide me with some strong images to select from.

He really liked a number of my images. Only one fell a bit short of the standard that I set myself. I had already noted this in my assignment notes and explained why the image didn't quite pull off what I had intended. I will probably remove it from the set and present a new one for assessment.

From an academic standpoint my tutor noted that, "I am also impressed with the way in which you are now referencing the texts suggested and positioning your work in relation to these practitioners." This aspect of analysing my work and placing it in context of other photographers is something that I can do in my head; but, actually putting these thoughts into words in an academic manner I find the most difficult - something I definitely need to keep working on.


For my submission I have replaced some of the images.

Image 4 was a nice idea but as I mentioned in the essay it didn't come out the way I had intended it. The image has now been replaced with this one.

Image 5 was a linking image from 4 and now that has been removed this is to go also. I have replaced it with this one.

I'm not entirely happy with the composition of image 10 so it has been replaced with this one.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Project 23 - selective processing and prominence

Here's an image I took in Chicago of people interacting with Anish Kapoor's "Cloudgate" sculpture. There are plenty of people watching and candid shots to be taken here as the subjects are so engrossed and just about everyone has their camera out too.

In this image the foreground figure is a little dark and blends into the image too much.

As well as increasing the overall exposure without burning out the sky I have selectively increased the brightness of the foreground figure to make him much more prominent. I did this with the selection tool and created a new levels layer. I then used a mask and went around the edges of the selection to soften it.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Rineke Dijkstra - The Art Institute of Chicago

On my recent trip to America I spent some time in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute has a wide ranging collection of contemporary painting, photography, sculpture and installation pieces. I was particularly taken with the work of photographer Rineke Dijkstra. I have read about her work in photography blogs and it was good to see many of her portraits together full size and in one large gallery space. The larger format work certainly helps the viewer to appreciate the detail that has been recorded using large format cameras. I have read that the ungainly poses of the young subjects taken at the beach mimic a 19th century method of portraiture - mainly that the slow shutter speeds used at that time required the sitter to be frozen, sometimes using clamps and head rests to achieve an unblurred image. Djikstras has taken this idea of an uncomfortable and frozen position and used it in her beach portraits. This is in an attempt to stop the sitter from projecting a false pose that we all tend to use whenever a camera is present. The photographer in her attempt to capture a true likeness is using this method to expose a hidden truth in the sitter. Djikstra's other work has involved subjects at a moment of heightened emotion such as matadors shortly after leaving a bullring.

I also spent some time inside the gallery practising my people shots for the course work. The hovering gallery attendants were particularly useful in this respect. In this Djikstra image I managed to get an interesting reflection as the attendant with his arms held to his side seems to be almost mirroring the awkward pose of the young woman.

The uncluttered gallery space is a good place to practise with balance between people and simple objects.

The people also are generally absorbed in the work they are viewing and can take up interesting and unconscious positions.

The hands on the hip thing is quite popular...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The British Landscape - John Davies

The British Landscape by John Davies
ISBN 095468947X

The landscapes in this book are beautifully photographed in black & white. It is also quite large and the detail can really be appreciated. The composition of the images are quite graphical and feature mainly towns and semi rural spaces. The choice to shoot in black and white has been made to provide a harmony to scenes that could be quite discordant.

This book has a contemplative feel to it. The accompanying text provides insight into what has happened to the landscape before and after the images were taken. For instance power stations have been decommissioned and knocked down. This gives a sense of change to the images. The large scale of some of the buildings make them look like permanent fixtures in the landscape and the text makes the viewer ponder the nature of the ever changing British landscape.

Compelling compositions are made using strong diagonals and leading lines. Height is also used to gain an elevated viewpoint and the viewer feels almost like a bird floating just above the trees.

This book is a big contrast to the other two that were recommended for my assignment 4. There are no intimate details - all the shots are wide vistas. I have a feeling I will definitely be returning to this book for my Level 2 landscape course.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Red River by Jem Southam

The Red River by Jem Southam
ISBN 0948797258

This book also uses text and poems  in a collaborative form to bring alive the images. The feeling I get is of a dank, dark, cloudy and overcast environment where everyday there is drizzle and the smell of wet leaves and oozing mud. The images were interesting because the area around the Red River is in sharp contrast to the Cornwall that I know of sunny days and rugged coastline.

The book is themed with seven sections representing interpretations of myths on creation, the primordial forest, industrialisation, post industrial leisure among others.

The way the book was put together like this was intriguing and showed me just how different an approach can be when choosing themes and narratives. The images themselves again loosely following a river like the Alec Soth book and showed us misty scenes with stone houses covered in ivy; an aviary shot close and filling the frame; an underground mining tunnel the muddy redness oozing from the walls and a hole in the ground with a discarded fridge dumped inside. The images were recognisably British and evocative of parts of our landscape.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Project 21 - Making figures anonymous

This is an image that I took when I was working on assignment 2. It wasn't suitable to use in the sequence for that set as it is so different from the rest of my people shots. I was quite pleased to catch the butcher just as he leant forward and appeared to meld with the pig's head. I liked it so much I saved it for one of these exercises and it illustrates quite well how to obscure someone's face in an image.

This was taken in Antwerp and shows how to add interest by using a figure in a shot while at the same time making them anonymous by having them facing away from the camera.

Antwerp station again. Most of these images were taken with assignment 4 in mind but then I abandoned the idea before using my Chicago trip instead. I'm starting to think I like them more! This image illustrates a figure in silhouette.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sleeping By the Mississippi - Alec Soth

Sleeping By the Mississippi
ISBN 3865217532

This book was a joy to read. It starts with a written essay by Patricia Hampl recounting a Sunday drive as a young child with her father to see the local flood damaged area by the Mississippi river in 1956. Neighbourhoods are gone and even before the first picture I could smell the rotten wood and picture bits of furniture floating down the street. "Think of the pianos!" is a wonderful line spoken by the girls mother in the text.

The images in the book lead the viewer along a meandering path close to the river - through towns, showing us people, places and things. There are many themes that can be picked out in the images -  religion being one prominent feature in many of the portraits and landscapes. But there is also a deeper subtext. We see a number of beds in use and abandoned. A grubby mattress part submerged in swampy water and surrounded by leafless winter trees. The supporting text at the end of tells us that beds and peoples dreams are a motif throughout the book. The cover image is of a grubby yellow wall with empty picture hooks where once plates and trinkets were hung. A postcard of a river flowing towards a mountain bathed in a red sunset has been left behind. An amazing image. Peoples hopes, dreams, aspirations are all set out in this one photograph.

Some of the portraits in the book were fascinating also.

Crystal, Easter, New Orleans, Missouri, is one that comes to mind. I think the reason we can read these images so well (even when they at first appear so far removed from our own lives) is because we are all part of a hyper-connected modern experience that we all share. Even if some of the glimpses we have are moderated through films, television, photography, we have far more in common with a cross dressing (trans-genderd?) person sitting on a Disney bedspread in New Orleans than an exquisite image of 19th century Paris by Atget.


To show that my photography has developed since reading this book and to place my own work in context with other photographers I have included some images from later assignments below. These particular images can be directly attributed to the influence of analysing and reflecting on the work of Alec Soth. I made a conscious decision to highlight the mundane environment and to juxtapose it against street portraits for this assignment.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Project 19 - A Single Figure Small

I hung around the main train station in Antwerp for these exercises to show a single figure small. I've had them written up for a while but not had a chance to post them.  The station has a lot of interesting architectural features and I chose a suitable place and then waited for a figure to appear in the correct spot to photograph them. This takes quite a bit of practice as a busy crowd can make it hard to isolate a more interesting figure. This figure is just slightly off-centre as I was too slow with my trigger finger.

There was more time to place this figure as he walked down the long ramp.

This guy taking a snooze caught my attention. I had to do some dodging and burning on this image to pick out elements of the track and platform.