Inspirations: Angus Fraser and the Photo Book Award

Fig 1. Bar Tur Photobook Award. 2015

This is a filmed interview with Photographer Angus Fraser who has created a photo book of portraits and installations based on spirituality and religion.  The project explores the Mexican spiritual culture in which Fraser captures its participants in bringing the culture into social spaces.  I found this was an interesting example of how photography can be used as tool to place a message into publicity through publishing.   This interview gives interesting insight into the process of documenting an event but also how it is brought to the public.  This is something which I intend to explore further.

Vimeo (2015) The Bar-Tur Photo book Award [Online] Available from https://vimeo.com/141396518 [Accessed 28/10/2015]

 

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Project 3 : Additional Project Part 2- Illustration Recreation

Park Photo Shoot

Following my previous shoot, I decided to take a different approach to the project by selecting particular activities represented in the illustrations that related to each other with the intention of creating images representing a similar concept.  As each of the the illustrations present an individual character with an individual activity, I have come to the conclusion that focusing one one setting and one interactive subject would be the best method of recreating the images.  Reviewing the illustrations again, I selected 5 relatable concepts; Reflecting, Looking, Engaging with the World, Risk Taking and Playing.

Relating Illustrations 

Fig. 1. Reflecting and Looking. 2014-2015

The act of reflecting can come across through the action of looking at something and vice versa, whether it be photographs or a view of a sunset.  This brings the way we store information to create memories and upon creating memories, once in a while, they are found again and reflected on.

Fig 2. Looking and Engaging with the World. 2014-2015

To engage with the world, we must look around and investigate our surroundings in order to understand aspects of the world in a meaningful way.  An example of this can be expressed though physical activities such as walking or drawing but this can also be done through commercial methods i.e. posters, papers and books.  Engaging with the world involves taking in information and in society, we are humanly drawn to visual presentation everyday.

Fig 3/4. Risk Taking and Playing. 2014-2015

Both of these concepts are relatable to one another as they both represent actions that may be rather daring.  Playing can involve experimenting and taking action when we are curious of something while Risk Taking implements investigation on a more serious and larger scale.

 

Inspirations

.Fig 5. Jeff Wall. 1993

Canadian photographer Jeff Wall is a practitioner who creates narrative scenes within his work.  Following his studies in art history in both Vancouver and London, Wall produced photographic art including the small brochure series ‘Landscape Manual’ in 1969.  Later on in his career, Wall began to produce transparent prints mounted onto light boxes.

One of his light box images includes the photograph ‘A Sudden gust of Wind’ produced in 1993.  The image is a recreation of a woodcut piece by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.  The image depicts the recreation of four characters caught in a freeze frame in which the ‘sudden gust of wind’ causes a slightly chaotic scene.  I find the image possesses a raw quality as it captures a scene that is staged however there is still a sense of ordinariness.  The scene appears both dull and interesting for the scene is set on an overcast day and the people are wearing formal, dark clothing but these elements are brought to life as the wind provokes an individual action from each person. Observing the people in the image,  one could almost imagine the characters were going about their ordinary errands/duties before the scene occurs. I find this is because when observing the image, the viewer is given the impression of a dull location with ordinary people, however, this event presents an occurrence that reveals personality.

I admire the way in which Wall uses the environments in this images as it gives an open perspective of things happening in the foreground but also allows the viewer to explore other elements within the surrounding environment.  Another image titled’ The Invisible Man’ (1946) gives a deeper insight to the character but still keeps interest of everything else.  This is an element in which I feel I could explore further when photographing people within environments to an extent where the viewer is given a main subject of focus but can also be given a variety of things to look at.

 

Fig 6. Richard Renaldi. 2006

Richard Renaldi is an American photographer who is well known for his broad perspectives of people and places.  Following his success at the New York University in 1990 in which he received a BFA, Renaldi has since exhibited globally across the United States and Europe.  Renaldi’s series ‘Figure and Ground’ which observes various characters in a a series of broad locations was published as a book in 2006.

It is this series in particular in which I take interest.  Taken over a time span of a few years, Renaldi presents a collection that introduces different, ordinary people within their everyday environments.  Renaldi gives a broad approach to the project, often exploring local shops and suburban streets but with  occasional close up portraits of some of the characters he comes across.  I admire how Renaldi presents a huge variety of characters and locations within the series as this makes it very diverse and I find there is a flowing navigation throughout the series.

One particular and very popular image among the series observes an ordinary girl in a suburban street; the image captures her standing to a side with the wind to her back.  I find this image has a nice flow in colours between the background and the character and I also admire how Renaldi has captured a natural pose.  The time of a day also brings a nice calm quality to the image.  I also find how the character directly glances at the viewer brings a sense of ‘breaking the fourth wall’ as if the character is waiting for the viewer to catch up.

I am inspired by how Renaldi appreciates both elements and I feel his work appears very wholesome as the surroundings in which the characters are placed in reveal a storytelling quality of each individual.  Within each photograph there is an even balance between the environment and the character which is something that I would like to approach in my own portrait work.

 

Original Images: Park Series

I have chosen these 5 illustrated concepts to work from because I find they all relate strongly, particularly when set as individual pairs such as ‘Reflecting and Looking’.  Both activities require the other to support the action.  To represent these concepts in my own approach, I wanted to experiment with simple human actions and expressions to recreate the illustrations in an almost story telling format.  When shooting on location, I chose a local park to create a series of conceptual scenic portraits.  I chose to shoot in a park as I feel this is a common location where the individual would carry out all of the activities I have selected from the illustrative categories.

Upon shooting, I carried out my own investigations of the location using a variety of spots which I could work with.  For example, I worked within a swing area to recreate the concept/action of playing.

 

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Pre Development Stage: Editing Process

During the editing process, used the photoshop tool curves to adjust the lighting of the image as some shadows around the head area appeared slightly uneven.  I also adjusted the RGB channels to balance the colouring of the image as it appeared too warm.

I also used the tool spot healer to remove any clutter from the background, particularly in the lower part of the image.  I found this somewhat challenging as the clutter was within an area within the edges of a subject and it was also quite close together.  To accomplish this editing, I adjusted the size of the spot healer depending on area space.

 

Final Series: Park Series

For the final series, I have selected a total of six images.

 

Fig 7. Reflecting. 2015

I find this image best represents the activity ‘Reflecting’ as the subjects gaze is quite serene and distant which implies how she may be thinking of something/someone.  This is included as I found the central placement of the subject within her surroundings quite effective and relevant to my intentions.

 

 

Fig 8. Reflecting. 2015

I have selected this image also as once again, I feel there is an even central placement of the subject which sits well against the surrounding environment.  This image is more anonymous but despite this, there is still a sense of character in the image concerning the scene which the person is looking at and also the colours this person wears i.e. the red hat gives a nice characteristic contrast to the green trees in the background.

 

Fig 9. ‘Risk Taking’. 2015

This image is included as I find it presents quite a commercial,  positive feel to it with how the subject pose as there is a sense of openness and freedom.  I also find that having the bridge as a supporting aspect in the image brings about the idea of entering new destinations and reaching towards goals.  The bridge is a nice representative of this.

 

 

Fig 10. ‘Risk Taking’. 2015

This image is included as I find it conveys a lot of character despite having the subject anonymous.  There is a nice balance of the pose and the use of the props and environment has been well established. I find this image is quite circus like bringing about a sense of fun.

 

 

Fig 11. ‘Engaging with the World’. 2015

I have chosen this image as I find there is a direct connection between the person and the leaf that is being held.  I decided to pose the subject this way from a low perspective that would create a contrast against the background and I think this has worked well.

 

 

Fig 12 ‘Playing’. 2015

This image is included as a representation of ‘Playing’.  Using a swing as an element in the image brought about various different poses to experiment with. I feel this pose is the most effective and expressive of the activity.  This image has also been photographed from a low perspective encouraging contrast.  I find it could also possibly be slightly reflective with the pose as the person looks up at the sky.  There is a sense of freedom but I feel this is brought across in a soft way.

 

Conclusion

Reflecting upon this series and the project as a whole, I find I have better developed my understudying of observing people in documentary/inspirational photography.  I find the second portrait/park series of images better represents the character illustrations and I find each of the images work well together as a series.  Reviewing the six images,  I notice how one particular aspect that stands out in each photograph which is the red hat.  I find this piece of costuming has made an interesting prop when creating the series and I feel it has become a central focus in how it stages the character, particularly in the images where we cannot see the subjects face.

I find narrowing down my choice of illustrative activities helped me in creating the images as a wholesome series rather than attempting to create an excessive amount of different interpretations. I find this may have complicated the primary focus as I wanted to use the sources which I found the most relevant to the location I was using.

I feel the lighting in the images could be somewhat improved, however I also wonder if this may have taken away the natural looking element of the images.  I also feel the autumn colour theme fitted nicely with the atmosphere I intended to bring across and I find this presents a nice authentic vibrance to the series.  As a printed format, I have decided to present them as a card collection making them the same size as the illustrative cards as well as full size prints.  I feel this series also works nicely as a monochrome series so I have proceeded with this idea for the collection.  Overall I am satisfied with the series and I find I have a better outlook on urban photography.

 

References

Projects-Figure and Ground (2015) Richard Renaldi, [Online] Available from: http://www.renaldi.com/projects [Accessed on 19/10/2015]

Tate Members and supported partners of the Guardian (2005-2006) [Online] Available from http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall [Accessed on 17/10/2015]

References:

University of Hertfordshire (2014-2015) Education Map, Lecture by Ian Willcock

 

Project 3: Additional Project Part 1- Illustration Recreation

For this week’s project, I am experimenting with recreating imagery from illustrations and non photographic artwork.  The purpose of this project is to bring to life different elements of an educational illustration.  For this, I was to choose a selection of individual images that I felt I could recreate using my practice.  I feel this concept follows on from previous projects in which I have investigated into what photography is as a medium and how it distributes art/ hand made imagery as a reproduced product.

The visuals I selected were simple card illustrations of cartoon characters demonstrating an educational activity.  As these images used characters and the setting for the image was in a public location , I decided to approach the idea through street/documentative photography.  I felt this would be the best way to interpret the concept as each visual involves a person and a location.

 

Fig 1. Educational Map Illustrations. 2015

A selection of original Images photographed:

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Post Production

Following the shoot, I edited my final chosen images using Photoshop to make some minor adjustments such as contrast and the improvement of tonal effects.  As the images appear quite busy, I transferred the colour scheme to monochrome using the grayscale tool; I found the colours in the backgrounds distract from the main subject. I also used the crop tool to straighten the images and remove any unnecessary content.

By using the selection tools, I selected particular areas of the background of the image and used the curves tool to enhance further contrast between the subject and the surroundings to increase the intensity of the silhouette.

 

Final Street Images

Fig 2. Drums: ‘Playing/Engaging with the World’. 2015

I selected this image as part of my final series as I find this person brings about a sense of tranquility and honesty with what he is doing.  I feel this image reflects the activity ‘Playing’ and also ‘Engaging with the world’  as he is performing through his interaction with the drum and he is creating an atmosphere within the environment.

 

Fig 3. Cross: ‘Risk Taking’. 2015

I also selected this image as I find it an interesting perspective of an action that is about to take place (walking across the road) and I find there is a sense of individuality in the way the anonymous person’s foot is lifted in the air.  I find this image could reflect the activity ‘Risk Taking’ as it presents an action where one must tread quickly and carefully.

 

Fig 4. March: ‘Reflecting/Engaging with the World’. 2015

This image of a peaceful marching protest depicts a perspective that I find quite solemn and respectful.  This image is included as I find there is a presence of mourning  and individual reflection with the way the man looks over his shoulder.  I find this may relate to the activity of ‘Reflecting’ as the band pay their respects.  I also think it could possibly relate to the activity ‘Engaging with the World’ as the band demonstrates their march to nearby onlookers.

 

Fig 5. Proud: ‘Agent of Transformation’. 2015

This image is included as I feel it represents someone that is completely representative of individual culture and I feel the subject is very expressive through his body language.  I find this image mirrors the ‘Agent of Transformation’ illustration as this person is acting as a flamboyant character which encourages passers by within the environment.

 

 

Fig 6. Look, Listen: ‘Looking’.

This image is included as I find it presents a nice expression of the simple activity of ‘Looking’.  You can see in the person’s face how there is a concentration and awareness of surroundings.

 

Additional Images:

 

Fig 7. ‘Breaking Boundaries’. 2015

This is an additional image in which I intentionally created an activity for my subject as an experiment.  I feel this image could relate to the activity ‘Breaking Boundaries’ as the subject appears to be floating in the air (which is obviously something that cannot be done).  To create this illusion, I had my subject jump slightly in which I caught the action while the subject was still off the ground.  I find this image presents an almost fantasy atmosphere with the subjects pose and how the lighting contrasts against one area of the environment which I think makes it appear quite intense.

 

Conclusion

Reflecting on the images I have produced for this project, I find that the series is weak in reflecting each specific activity represented in the illustration I have been working from.  I think this is because I have created this series in a more spontaneous fashion and I do not think the images relate to each other very well as they present different aspects of what we see on the street rather than similar ones.  The images express various different characteristics of their own agenda which makes it difficult to piece together images that closely connect to the theme.  For instance, the image of the marching band strongly differs from the image of the ‘British’ man.  Firstly the marching band represents something very solemn while the other represents pride; however representing countries is what these two images do have in common but they still do not sit well together as a collaborative piece.  Concepts such as risk taking and reflecting are somewhat visible in slight ways in some of my images, however I feel each image represents a theme of their own.

Reviewing my progress with this project, my plan is to make another attempt at representing the individual activities found in the illustration without relying on spontaneity.

References:

 University of Hertfordshire (2015) Education Map, Lecture by Ian Willcock

Project 2: Making Sense of Photography

What is Photography?

This week I am investigating into the practice of photography itself and digital media related to this practice. Photography is a medium that has been used for over 100 years with the earliest photograph, ‘View from a Window’, being taken in 1826/1827 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce.  Photography made a vast development throughout the 19th and 20th century with the introduction of the darkroom process, otherwise referred to as ‘Camera Obscura’ which was developed by Louis Daguerre in the 19th century.

Over time, photography has developed immensely. It appears everywhere whether it be through advertising, reading or the internet.  Now, it can be found in almost any form of digital media as technology has consistently progressed and society has adapted to a digital lifestyle.  As photography has come a long way, I intend to document it’s origins through my own series.  My idea is to create a series of images that represent different areas within the photographic field i.e. dark room or studio.

Ideas Development

My first idea is to create a still life mood board series in which I will gather objects relating to a type of photographic practice for each image.  I feel this idea can bring across the concept in a commercial way as I literally lay down on the table what is used when it comes to taking a photograph.  I do intend to make each image collectively form a different perspective on using the photographic medium to show variety, for example, one image could present found objects which would have been used in earlier periods in which photography was used.

Collage Experiment

This is a quick draft experiment of my idea of the image content.  I feel this experiment is a good first attempt, however, I feel there is too much going on in the image making the concept too obvious.  I would like to simplify the content, perhaps use only one object that relates to the subject in a more straight forward still life.

For my second idea, I wanted to bring across the message as simply as possible so I decided to brainstorm exactly what the photographic medium involves.

Photography Brainstorming Diagram

From this activity , I have broken the photographic medium down into key elements/words that represent the needs when using it;

Light

Making sense of photography involves making sense of light.  Light is perhaps the most essential element that is controlled when taking a photograph in order to fulfil a correct exposure or a particular exposure to create the effect desired.  A photograph simply cannot be created without this source.

Focus

The medium also involves focus: this is where technology comes in.  To achieve the desired view range of a subject,  the adjustment of shutter speed, aperture and lens focus are all participants in this.

Memory

Taking a photograph is creating a memory of something and is commonly used as a way of recording information which brings meaning to the image as it is a creation of history.

Following this activity, I have come to the conclusion that the particular aspect ‘Light’ is a crucial element of photography and that using light itself would be the best method of representing the medium through my practice.  I have decided to do this through the experimentation of light trail photography.

Photographic Artist Research

-Janne Parviainen

Janne Parvianinen is a Finnish light trail artist who creates installations featuring using both performers and the environment as the platform of displaying light. As well as a light painter, he is also a musical performer and a teacher in Helsinki.  Parvianinen is popularly known for using light extension materials to completely cover a figure as well as the environment to create a brilliantly lit displays.   His typography works such as his image ‘Days of our Lives’ (see above) are very bold with lighting and completely change the environment into a setting that appears very futuristic.  This image gives a rather ghostly aura with the colouring of the HD lights and the placement of the figure on the floor.

From the viewers perspective, the setting brings across a sense of trespassing as if the viewer is stumbling across the aftermath of an event.  I notice how not all objects are covered with lighting; Parviainen allows certain objects used within his imagery to stay as they should.  I find this could make the viewer feel needy to search for ‘normal’ things you would find in a ‘normal’ house setting.  I admire Parviainen’s use of strong lighting sources as this makes his images appear more effective for his subject matter.  This is something which I also intend to do within my own practice in which the lighting acts as a core representative of the subject.

My practice

Following my findings of this type of image processing, I have chosen to create my series by simply writing the key terms ‘Light’, ‘Memory’ and ‘Focus’ as individual messages using a light source.  I find creating this imagery in a literate way will engage the viewer in an interactive sense as I am performing and creating the words for the viewer myself.

This collection of images displays a variety of experiments carried out during the shoot.  I intended to create as much contrast as possible for the final images (with additional further development through the image editing process) so that the message would be displayed clearly to the viewer.

All Original Images

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On some occasions, I found it difficult to balance the light correctly in within the background and the area in which I was writing my message.  For example, this image reveals too much light on the backdrop withdrawing focus from the main subject.

Another experiment I chose to do was to draw photography equipment in which I attempted to draw the camera.  However, I found this too complex to achieve and I feel this drew away from the main concept of my series.

For each of the key words I wrote, I outlined them with a circle as one would draw a circle around text to acknowledge its importance i.e. brainstorms or diagrams.

Image Editing Process

From the collection of images I have produced, I have continued to further develop my chosen final three images for the series using the Photoshop editing software.  For each photograph, my main focus was to increase contrast and reduce glare in the background so that the image would only show the writing of the light,; almost in a photogram like fashion.

I firstly resized and cropped each image before manually contrasting the visuals.  To do this, I used the curves and brightness/contrast tool.

I then used the colour balance tool to create a cool temperature for the text.  As some background/additional lighting was intervening around the written messages, I chose to give the text a very light blue hue; I find this compliments the simple colour scheme nicely.

 

Final Images: ‘Light, Memory, Focus’

 

I find my three final images for this project are successful in conveying the core aspects of the photographic medium and I am satisfied with the visual results.  Some parts of the visuals where I have circled the message are cut out of the imagery which is something I think could have been presented better as this does give some flaw to the light visuals.  I think this flaw was due to working in darkness and within a small space a I found it difficult to measure out the area in which I would write the message from right to left.  I think that experimenting on a larger scale would have assisted in avoiding this issue and I also feel using the background as a supporting aspect in the visuals would have made the images stronger;  I find the images suitable for the project, however they are almost too visually simple for the viewer.  As a future experiment, I would be eager to try creating literate light trail photography within an environment relating to the text written.  I also think I could be more experimental with lighting by using additional studio light sources to reveal more of the background rather than to hide it.  Nevertheless,  I feel that my approach to this project has resulted in outlining the important factors of what photography is as a medium which is what I intended to do.

References:

Janne Parviainen (2014) Janne Parviainen Light Art photography and Painting, [online] Available from http://jannepaint.wix.com/jannepaint-2#!about/c10fk, [Accessed 13/10/2015]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2000-2015), Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, [Online[ Available from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dagu/hd_dagu.htm, [Accessed on 13/10/2015]

Project 1: Identity – Representing the photographer within the work

 Sam Taylor Johnson – Photography/Artist Research

Fig 1. Sam Taylor Johnson. Self Portrait Suspended. 2004

This week I have been looking at artists and photographers who use themselves in their work.  Sam Taylor Johnson is one example in which she uses herself as a performer for her conceptual work.  Johnson works in photography and film and is known for her interpretations of exploring the self.  Her most recent directly film works include the blockbuster feature ‘Fifty Shades of grey’ released in 2015 following the phenomenon of the book publications by E.L. James.  Her success in the visual film and photographic industry is globally recognised and she has exhibited across the world.  In 1998, Johnson was nominated for the Turner Prize for ‘Most Promising Young Artist’.  A particular selection of photography which I find inspiring for my project is her series ‘Self Portrait Suspended (2004) and ‘Bram Stoker’s Chair’ (2005).  Both series are very similar with the photographer as the subject performing various elegant poses while being suspended in the air.  Set in an ambient lit windowed room, ‘Self Portrait Suspended’ focuses on the performer alone.  Johnson’s movements are very free and brings a sense of reflection in how she changes her posture throughout the photographs as if she is experiencing a personal cycle.  Her images from ‘Bram Stoker’s Chair’ is also very poetic, however in this series, she uses an object as something to support her poses.  Johnson also involves her own shadow in the images, creating an interactive connection that is somewhat more playful.  This particular image ‘Chair XII’ reminds me of the Peter Pan story as it almost expresses a sense of fantasy with how her pose and how she is looking directly at her shadow almost brings across a sense of curiosity.

Fig 2. Sam Taylor Johnson. Bram Stoker’s Chair. 2005

I feel this impacts the way I am thinking for my own project as it produces a similar idea where the photographer is reflecting on themselves and reveals their identity to the audience.  I feel Johnson’s identity is actually almost hidden in both series of works as her face is never fully revealed to the viewer.  I find this interesting because the viewer can see her physically but the viewer cannot see her as a character which more or less makes her anonymous.

My Project:

My first project this week involves looking at how identity is expressed in photographic imagery and for this, I am investigating how I can represent self identity.  I have decided to focus on myself as the subject of interest through an experimentation with self portraiture.  The way in which I have done this is by creating multiple portraits that show different expressions or actions and layering the portraits within further portrait; creating a image within a image.  I have chosen to experiment with this technique as I intend to show different sides of human personality to the viewer. For example, one image can represent my shyness and meanwhile this can feature within another portrait (the outer layer) where I show my happy go lucky side.

When preparing the order in which the portraits will be placed within the images to create the final image, I have decided to layer them in two different ways.  One way is which the final image representing my identity on the ‘outside’ can show positive character while the portraits held within the image (which I hold myself) will show more sensitive/negative character traits revealing my ‘inside’ character.

All Original Images

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Post Production

 

During post production, I used Photoshop tools including hue/saturation and curves to adjust the exposure of the final image and to remove colour.

 

During the editing process, I found it difficult to balance the exposure between the picture held in the image against the image itself as these props had previously been edited.  However, I do find this attracts the eye to the image held considering that my intention is to recognise both images equally.

 

As I am creating a complex final image for this experiment, I have decided to use a simple plain background with a monochrome colour scheme.  As the layers of images expand within the whole final image itself, I reveal more of myself.

Fig 3. Happy. 2015

This image (see above) portrays my ‘happy go lucky’ character.  I feel this is one of the stronger character portraits as the expression appears very alive with how my eyes are focused on a certain point.  I wanted to make this ‘inner layer’ portrait appear as if I were interacting with myself on the outer layer portrait to establish the personal connection a human being has with themselves.

Fig4. Sad. 2015

This second image portrays my ‘sensitive’ character.  I feel the pose in this is nice, however, there is not a lot of expressive aspects so I feel this is weaker than my other ‘inner layer’ portraits.

Fig 5. Fear. 2015

I feel this portrait is the most playful of all my ‘inner portrait’ selections.  Here I decided to do a hidden pose where I am partially covering my face.  I wanted to try bringing across a character that is somewhere in-between sensitive and confident; as if I am coming out of my shell. I would consider this image as an in-between layer if I were to do a three way image layer series so to show development of the character from inside to outside and vice versa.

Fig 6. Self Identity-Picture within a picture. 2015

This is the final image I have completed for this short project.  I found the image would appear simpler as a two way ‘portrait within a portrait’ as I think further layers may have over complicated the purpose of representing the differences between different human characters.  I settled on having the positive portrait as the ‘inner layer’ image and the sensitive portrait as the ‘outer layer’ portrait; I feel the ‘outer layer’ portrait of myself holding my ‘inner character’ portrait presents a fragile personality that brings an emotional touch to the image.  I think the final image works better this way than if the layers were to be placed in the opposite order because I feel the personal aspect of the idea is brought across more strongly.

References:

Sam Taylor Johnson (2013) Sam Taylor-Johnson, [Online] Available from http://www.samtaylorjohnson.com/photography/art/ [Accessed on 08/10/2015]