Following my previous findings, I have come to revisit the work of English photographer Angus Fraser, particularly his series of portraits in both interior and exterior environments. Following his studies in photography in Rochester, Fraser has gone on to exhibit his work in many galleries nationally and internationally and also works as a senior lecturer at the University West of England. Fraser brings a photojournalistic style within his work, documenting campaign events as well as landscape portraits and man made structures within broad landscape environments. Fraser is currently exploring the subject of Death is represented in photography. His recent landscape series ‘Krynui Kalnas (Hill of Crosses) presents hundreds of memorial crosses stood in the ground to create a fence like structure that stretches far across the land. The scene is set in winter as snow covers the ground and there no beings are present. I find this series very evocative as there is a sense of solemn tranquillity which has the viewer recognise that it is a special place and should not be touched. Fraser’s personal portrait works are also quite captivating in how he moves around within the space, creating an interesting sense of distance between the viewer and the subject. Fraser brings an effective balance of colour within his work as in several portraits he contrasts the surrounding environment with the clothing of the subject but he also utilizes colour in a way that can blend the scenery and the subject nicely as well in others. Other commercial work includes the condom campaign in which Fraser uses exterior urban spaces such as walls and under bridges to display the story of the subject through a written message in graffiti. I find this is an interesting way to use the character of the space as a canvas for the message where the viewer is able to read it but at the same time understand the emotional background this has on the subject. The graffiti art itself is used in a way that also interacts with the subject as Fraser places them in particular areas of the space so that the graffiti art appears to be making an physical effect on them on a personal level.
I find Fraser brings a nice variety of work where he explores both staged photography but also more casual genres as well such as street documentary and still life. I admire how Fraser is quite broad with his subjects; he does not just stick with one specific theme and this can vary from portraits to landscapes and studio based activity. From looking more into his involvement in commercial advertising and personal work, I find this directs how I can work from my research as he does and this will be very useful towards ideas development of my projects.
During my practice, I have recently been contemplating the themes within my work and how I portray a clear message to the audience. I find that I need to further practice this and initiate more of what I am trying to say to the viewer. Reviewing my practice so far, I have become interested in lone figures within environments. My style continues to remain still, quiet, almost in an introverted way; I still intend on maintaining my style of visualising a figure in a space, however I feel I am now at a point where I need to give something else in my imagery. This week, I have been looking at relevant elements of photography which particular practitioners are well known for.
Annie Lebovitz and the Emotional Connection
Fig 1. Annie Lebovitz. Les Mis Poster. 2013
Amercian portrait photographer Annie Lebovitz works within the advertising industry having worked with magazine companies including Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazine. Lebovitz is famously known for celebrity portraiture in which she has photographed world idols including the late Michael Jackson . She has published and exhibited her work in various galleries such as the Washington National Portrait Gallery and other press media internationally. Following her success in the 1980’s, she won the Clio Award for her campaign for the American Express card holder series.
Lebovitz derives a style of portraiture that is often dramatic and theatrical; Lebovitz brings an authentic atmosphere to her images in which she uses somewhat dark tones that may convey themes as almost gothic. For example, her portrait series of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth almost brings a sense of past time. As Her Majesty poses in luxurious dress complimenting the setting within Buckingham Palace, the scenes may almost be suggestive of revealing a darker side of Royal life. Lebovitz use of ambient light from the windows shines upon the Queen, however, other areas within the scene are in shadow. Lebovitz’s Disney portrait series creates a similar visionary as the innocence that is usually represented in the franchise is dramatically changed to something with deeper meaning. I strongly admire how Lebovitz does this and I find her work emphasises on affecting the viewer emotionally; some of her most recent work such as the advertised image for the 2013 film ‘Les Miserables’ is successful in having the viewer connect with characters and story and she displays both very well. From the film poster (see above) the viewer can see that Les Mis is a sad film, it involves a story of a child as well as others and also from the facial features (dirt on the face and hair) we are given the impression of a very serious subject (revolution, poverty). Lebovitz maintains this notion of creating very ‘real’ imagery that shows the audience something in a different perspective and this is what strikes a key element in conveying emotional reaction.
Gregory Crewdson and Narrative
Fig 2. Gregory Crewdson. Ophelia. 2013
Contemporary photographer Gregory Crewdson is known for his cinematic style in which he produces staged scenes within unique suburban locations. Following his inspiration from viewing the works of Diane Arbus, Crewdson has followed in the footsteps of other visionaries who create surreal imagery such as William Eccleston. Crewdson has featured work across the world and has featured in galleries including the Guggenheim and the V&A museums in Europe.
Crewdson builds narrative in his work that brings storytelling to a new level in which he often shoots in twilight hours. Crewdson’s work gives potential references to sci-fi cinema; there is an ethereal vibe brought across that shows neither an event or complete stillness. The audience is stuck in an in-between moment where we do not know if something has happened yet or if an event has already passed in the image. There is a slight sense of ambiguity where the viewer is made to analyse the imagery in detail which may lead the audience to finding elements that is suggestive of an occurrence but it is not clear what it is. Crewdson uses light within his imagery in a delicate way as the scenes often appear quite soft with minor application of direct lights such as lampposts and car lights. Crewdson creates a sense of drama in his images that is compelling as he explores into areas of privacy, often focusing on fragile relationships between people and also of people being alone with themselves. The way he uses narrative keeps the viewer guessing as nothing is completely revealed or hidden away, giving us a cinematic quality where there is no beginning or ending but only a middle. I find Crewdson’s work possesses an alien feel and may echo futuristic cinema from the 1980’s as his work appears neither too modern which could suggest his influences from late 20th century film.
Thomas Demand and Relationships with Space
Fig 3. Thomas Demand. Office. 1995
Thomas Demand is a contemporary photographer who is known for working with paper materials to construct scenes which appears to show recent human activity within the space. Gathering his influences and sources from various media, Demand explores the reproduction of temporary environments in which the spaces are destroyed completely after the photograph has been taken. Following his studies in Germany, Demand has gone on to exhibit large works Europe and the US with shows featured in galleries such as the Venice Biennale.
Demand is clever in how he literally makes his own environments and plays with the idea of creating presence that is not revealed but still providing evidence of it within the space. Demand does not feature people and focuses on still life and interior/exterior landscapes. There is an emptiness in his work which can make one feel like they are trespassing and the viewer could even guess the time of day as the lighting gives us awareness that this place is no longer in use at the current moment. However, Demand still lets us investigate almost in a nosy way. For example, his imagery of the White House presents the central office from various angles and he also uses the frame within a frame technique where it appears we are peering into an area of the room at an unusual perspective. His still life images also create this sense of exploring corners of the space as well as the entirety of it in which he views random objects from striking angles. Demand is experimental with space and places his own stamp on an environment by manipulating it to his visionary creating a relationship between him and and the space as well as the audience. When considering target audience, I find Demand almost gives the impression that we are location scouting for a space to be used and this draws upon the idea of space that is only used on occasion.
From my findings, I have come to realise new insight into how I can bring elements such as emotion and story more strongly within my work. Gregory Crewdson is a photographer who I take particular influence from as he is very particular with how he sets up a scene in order to bring across a message or narrative in his photographs. I am intrigued to experiment myself with the placement of objects or scenery as well as posing the subject and I intend to play with the environment more rather than only use what is already there at a location. I think this is relevant towards my activities as using these methods during the shooting process will assist in creating a background behind the reasoning of the message or theme. Concluding this reflection, my next step in my upcoming projects is to initiate further input into setting up a scene such as lighting, set styling and props; furthermore I intend to revisit the exterior environment where I can use a vast amount of space as this will give me more to play with. Also in review of my own work, I am currently directing my practice in a sense that explores environments that are not often occupied and act as a space that is ‘In Limbo’. For example, spaces such as room cupboards and attics which are needed for storage use; these spaces are only used to get something out or put something else in but these are not spaces where you will find people on a regular basis. I am currently attracted to the idea of placing people in spaces where you would not normally explore as in everyday society, we all congregate in the same typical environments such as shops, schools and work offices. I am interested in exploring the unordinary act of being present within unoccupied spaces, whether it be walking into the middle of a field or standing inside a very small, unoccupied cloakroom. Spaces exist for a reason and I intend to investigate how there can be other reasons to use these spaces such as for thinking, being alone or provoking memories.
Fig 1. Mill Hill Observatory. The Radcliffe. November 2015
This week, I visited two local observatories located in Hampstead and Edgware. This was an interesting and surprising experience as I came to find how telescopes can work in a similar fashion as cameras. At the first observatory in Hampstead, I was introduced to a 6 inch Cooke Refractor telescope and at Edgware, I learned of a variety of other telescopes including an 8 inch refractor telescope named ‘The Fry’ (built in 1862)and the 18/24inch telescope named ‘The Radcliffe’ (built in 1901).
Refracting and Reflecting Telescopes
Refracting- A refracting telescope is able to collect light with the use of an optical lens. Originally, this type of technology was and still is used for astronomy, however this can also be useful in cameras with a longer focus lens. By dividing the focal length by the telescopes eyepiece, this can adapt the magnification of the lens.
Reflecting- A reflecting telescope uses built in mirrors to reflect light into the optical lens to create a visual image. The time of its invention coincided with the refractor telescopes during the 17th century and is known to be an optical technology that is more commonly used in astronomy.
This visit gave me further insight into a form of technology that is able to somewhat relate to my creative field. I found it enjoyable to learn of the similarities between the technical appliances such as lens and reflecting light with the use of mirrors in astronomical machinery. I find I can apply what I have learnt to my own creative practice technically, especially as I am currently experimenting with artificial lighting in interior environments. This trip has also reminded me how using reflectors and mirros can be useful in bouncing light off objects and onto a subject to create a more efficient exposure.
References: UCL Observatory (UCLO), UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy, [Online], Available from http://www.ulo.ucl.ac.uk [Accessed 25/11/2015]
To further explore staged photography, I decided to experiment with lighting and flash within an interior environment. Once again, the objective is to create a sense of story telling within the imagery and to emphasise on cinematic qualities within a scene. For this project, I set the location in my attic in which I used a TTL flashgun, tripod and other props to bring supporting light to the scene. My vision of the scene focuses on the loft entrance in which I have used myself as the model as I intend to experiment further with placing myself in the picture. I used the TTL flashgun to sync off camera and placed it nearest to the right side corner of the area near the entrance. This was so that I could bring light to my face as well as lighten the surrounding area so that it would not appear too dark. I also chose to use the flashgun this way as I found it would be an interesting way to bring a fantasy element to the scene; as I peak over the attic entrance, I have directed myself to look closely toward a particular object near the flash so that it appears I may be looking at a mysterious light. The flash settings for this were F with the shutter speed at. With this scene, I particularly intended on balancing the lighting, using both warm and cold light.
Post Production Development: Editing
I firstly lightened the image slightly using curves to bring further exposure to the image. Further contrast was not necessary as the image appeared quite balanced in exposure and had the effect I had intended.
I also adjusted the RGB channel using the curves tool to experiment with colouring within the scene. The image gives a tone of both cold and warm lighting and so I adjusted the blue channel to bring more emphasis on the cold, darkness of the attic against the warm light of the lower floor.
However, I did not want the image to hold too much colour and so further adjustments I made included the adjusting the red channel in curves, sot healing to remove unwanted marks and slight saturation so that the image appeared neutral but still keeping the right amount of colour hues in the lighting.
Fig 1. ‘Return’.
Concluding this project, I find my experimentations with lighting a staged scene have been successful and the final image gives a satisfactory sense of performance and theatrical value. My original intention of creating a series based in this location has been dismissed as I find the image presents itself nicely as a single piece in how it gives the viewer a wide range of things to absorb such as lighting and discreet objects. The process of creating this image used a longer amount of time as I was working completely with artificial lighting and balancing this was crucial to achieve the effect I intended. I am satisfied with the simplicity of the pose in the scene; I held a blank facial expression as I intended to give a sense of expectancy which may suggest a supernatural, alien presence to the viewer where the subject (in this case myself) is aware that something is about to happen. I feel the lighting could have been slightly better, for instance, the back of my head is not fully lit and blends into the darkness of the room. This is something that could have been improved using an additional reflector to create at least a slight separating outline of my head. Overall however, I find the image presents a good cinematic quality and gives an eerie sense of drama that may echo elements seen in paranormal film and imagery. I titled the image ‘Return because I also find it could reflect a nostalgic element with how the location itself relates to exploring and reminiscing the past i.e. photo albums, childhood toys etc. Also, working within an interior space was a refreshing activity to pursue as this made me act more carefully about aspects such as lighting set up and posing. This is something which I intend to experiment with further perhaps within a studio where I can put lighting a scene into a more extensive practice.
Tom Hunter is a contemporary photographer who often depicts people in urban environments. Hunter has exhibited work internationally and is also a professor of Photography Research at the London College of Communication. Following his studies at the London College of Printing in 1994, Hunter has since published four books and won various awards including the Photography Prize in 1996. His series ‘Ghetto’ and ‘Life and Death in Hackney’ series are both famous works of Hunter with both being exhibited in London galleries.
Hunter produces work that highlights cultural issues bringing a focus on suburban homes and on the streets. Hunter is investigative and explores situations as well as story. I admire this and how Hunter gives the impression of ‘what you see is what you get’. His work appears half staged and half documentary as he integrates both in a way that relates the viewer
Italian photographer Massimo Vitali came to London to study photography at the London College of Printing. Following his studies, he became involved in the photojournalist industry during the sixties and in the eighties, worked within the cinematographic field. As changes came about in Italy, Vitali began to interpret culture in a more artistic perspective, practising in projects of observation and so in 1995, Vitali created an on going beach series which captured citizens in one large area.
His images present a very light, clean quality and gives us insight into intriguing groups of people as well as other individuals. With some of his work capturing a vast amount of space, Vitali emphasises on this by spreading his imagery across more than one canvas. Often depicting holiday makers by pools and beaches, Vitali looks at Italian life as a wholesome stereotype. I find there is a continuous sequence where Vitali’s work is almost map like as the viewer is drawn into the image at different distances. The work enables to pick out particular characters of interest and with so many people in one image, we can spy on what different people are doing, accessing all areas (almost like the ‘Where’s Wally’ game). There is a never ending to what the viewer can seek and this makes Vitali’s work somewhat interactive. I find Vitali’s work inspirational as he takes advantage of the spaces he observes and gives his audience something interesting to look at in a huge spoonful. By doing this, Vitali keeps the viewer interested; we can look at one small part of his imagery and go away for a while but there will still be other parts of the image that we may not have noticed before. This creates a diverse relationship between the viewer and the image.
Overall, Vitali is a practitioner who observes lots of people in large environments and although I am currently practicing almost the opposite, I can still relate my own ideas in a similar way. I admire the way Vitali keeps an attention within his work where there does not necessarily need a deep message but just an observation of life as it is. This is something that can also be just as engaging as looking as a portrait of a single person.
Other Pics of the Week: Sydney Tsunami Cloud
This is a recent image of a storm cloud at a beach in Sydney, Australia. I find this shot is very striking and coincidently echoes the work of Massimo Vitali (even though this was perhaps not intentional). I find it uncanny how we see people enjoying their time at the beach while this monstrous looking storm creeps up behind them. There is an effective variety of blue colour in the image as the aqua hue of the sea contrasts with the sky. I admire the sense of space in this image with the long distance display between the foreground and background. I have picked out this particular image as it comes from photojournalist sources and often images in the photojournalist area frequently appear alongside documentary and world photography.
The Telegraph (2015) Cloud Tsunami: Powerful Storms sweep across Sydney, Australia, in pictures [Online] Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/11979257/Cloud-Tsunami-Powerful-storms-sweep-across-Sydney-Australia-in-pictures.html [Accessed on 12/11/2015]
‘I’ll Show You’ Music Video, Directed by Rory Kramer, Song written by Justin Bieber
The most recent music video for the song ‘I’ll Show You’ by Singer/Songwriter Justin Bieber presents a simplistic perspective of the figure and the landscape in which the video simply follows Bieber around an attractive landscape in Iceland.
I strongly admire the production of this video as it brings a very good example of using a wide space and placing a single subject as support within it. The shots presented in this video explores the vast beauties of the landscape on a wide angle scale. This makes the viewer feel as if they are there with how the camera places the audience in the subject’s point of view. It also makes the viewer want to experience the location for themselves as there is an emphasis on viewing the space from various angles; the camera brings a sense of height and distance to the scenery which makes the video visually dramatic. I feel I can use this as an influence towards my own practice as I find it represents how a broad sense of space can compliment a subject when used in the right way.
‘Running (Love It All)’ Music Video directed by Charlie Robins, Song written by Naughty Boy, Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin
Another music video I have recently viewed is the music video for the song ‘Running’ by Naughty Boy ft. Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin. I find this is another strong example that makes the most of the space given and I particularly admire the lighting and visual effects within the visual sequence. The video presents a performance underwater between two people on a seabed. The video uses the physical actions of their performance such as underwater running and floating upside down as a way of re-imagining the seascape. At one point in the film, the camera converts the scene upside down so it appears that the woman floating upside down with her feet to the water’s surface is running on the surface. I find this is a clever method of using the surroundings as a way of interacting with the subject.
Although these works represent moving images, I find they relate closely to my intentions within my own practice as both videos display ways of creating a personal relationship between the space and a figure alone.
For my project this week, I am exploring the culture and history of my town in which I shall use colour film to present a series of images that relate to the local community. To do this, I have experimented with colour film to develop my practice in creating enlarged images from a small negative size.
Following my recent explorations of photographers Ellen Kooi and Richard Renaldi, I have decided to create a series that focuses purely on people and place in a similar fashion. The series presents a collection of local spots in my town presenting the ordinary ‘small town girl’ as the featured subject matter. I chose to photograph locations that I am personally familiar with because I intend to show the viewer the town that I have come to know from my own experience living here. The town itself has a rather negative reputation and this has influenced my idea in how I can show the viewer the town in a way that gives a more truthful outlook that is neither positive or negative. Every town has its bad and good areas and my goal is to express how this is common in any place in any country. The places I have chosen relate to my own upbringing but are also places that many of Luton’s townspeople know of; the primary school, the cricket field and the ordinary suburban street are all familiar places featured. Upon revisiting some of these places, I feel the series takes a ‘trip down memory lane’ approach as there is a definite sense of familiarity between the subject and the place.
I chose to have the subject remain anonymous to the viewer because I intend for the viewer to question who the person is. Luton is one of many towns where everyone knows each other and I find by not revealing the subjects face, this allows the viewer to create an idea of the towns people without having to identify a face. By looking at the images, I have kept the same pose throughout where the subject wears ordinary clothing; the viewer can see that the subject is english, middle class and female. By having the subject directly facing away from the viewer and towards her surroundings, the image allows us to see what the subject is seeing. I find there is a narrow depth in the images as ahead of the subject, there is a distant view of the place which is another intentional aspect when making the series.
Final Images Development:
Photo Contact Sheet
I firstly scanned my negatives directly to Photoshop and from then made various adjustments to the images. I firstly cropped each image as a panoramic; I decided to do this as I wanted to emphasise on the broad space of each image and I have found this has created even more depth when considering the distance of the given location.
As the images appeared incorrect in colour from the scan, I used curves on a separate layer to balance the RGB channel. The images appeared cold upon the first look in photoshop and so I mainly adjusted the red and green channel to make them appear warmer and fuller in colour.
I also used the shadow/highlights tool to adjust the light areas of some of the images as some parts appeared overexposed.
Final Images ‘Look, Listen’
Fig 1: School. 2015
This image presents a view of the subject standing in front of my old primary school. The pathway leading to the distance gives a strong sense of depth and gives clues as to what lies ahead in the distance. I find this image works well in particular as there is a strong contrast in colour between the subjects and the surroundings. I chose to experiment by having the subject wear something bright in colour as aspects of the surroundings such as the pavement appear quite dull. I find the vibrant hue of the subjects jumper really makes the subject more dominant and this gives a nice balance to the image.
Fig 2: Bradgers Hill. 2015
This image presents the subject standing upon a short woodland pathway leading towards a part of Luton on higher ground. I chose this location as this path has been walked by high school students probably for some generations and this is a path that I myself have walked. I feel the colours may clash slightly in this image as the surroundings are very green and there is not as much contrast in colour between this and the subject, however I feel the theme still works well.
Fig 3: Bushmead. 2015
This image presents the subject standing in a suburban street close to where I live. I chose this location as it is reflects the genuine, local area of luton where I live which is in the Bushmead. This image appears more vibrant in colour, however I still wanted to maintain the dull background vs bright subject idea in this image. When editing in Photoshop, I used the curves tool to adjust the amount of red (RGB) in the image so that it did not appear too warm.
Fig 4: Popes Meadow. 2015
This image places the subject in an open field that is known as Popes Meadow. I chose this location as it is a location where leisurely events often take place annually such as fireworks displays and occasional concerts; it is a very community based location. Once again, there is a clash of green and blue colours so this needed adjusting using the curves (RGB) tool, however I find it brings a nice contrast between the subject and the background and the wider view of the location brings a nice balance against the other images in the series.
Fig 5: Iron Fence. 2015
This image places the subject standing in front of an iron gate in a more quiet location in the local area. I find this image is particularly unique compared to the other images of the series as there is a sense of curiosity and ambiguity. We are halted with the subject as the path ahead is blocked and this may have the viewer feel limited as to what they can learn of the location. This is another warmer image due to the surroundings and so this was adjusted slightly using the curves tool.
Fig 6: Cricket Field. 2015
This final image presents a cricket field location with the subject standing at a raised height above lower ground. This image gives slight fault as the subject appears slightly too close to us which does not sit well with the other images. Despite this, it presents another open view of the location and the height gives the viewer a wider perspective.
To conclude this project, I find the final series presents an interesting variety of locations in my town and I think the concept of just focusing on a figure and their surroundings was the most simple and strong method of showing the area of Luton as well as giving an idea of the towns people too. I find the series gives a very clear basis of my childhood home and reflects my experiences in a way where the subject is somewhat ‘standing in’ for me. I did consider using myself as the subject, however, I feel this may have worked out very differently. My intention was to use someone who is of English heritage with a middle class background and I think if I used myself, this would have changed the cultural purpose of the series that I am intending to show.
I believe the images are quite wholesome, raw and there is also a genuine honesty that speaks to the viewer where ‘what you see is what you get’. I do feel there is some neglection towards the audience as the subject is not fully revealed as a person but the series is devoid from this aspect anyway as the purpose is to reveal the town, not the subject.
I did find the process of scanning the images straight into Photoshop a new challenge for me and this process has revealed to me more options when using film and it has also made me more aware of the tools available to me in Photoshop upon adjusting certain elements in an image. For example, when scanning the images, they appeared an offset tone and so I adjusted this using the offset tool in adjustments tool section.
From this project, I feel I have mostly learned more about my town by actually exploring it, however, I have found the project has opened new alternatives as to how I can photograph in public. In this case, I have focused on a single subject set within a wide, panoramic frame and I have enjoyed using this method of photographing a place and a person in a simple but broad way.