Research/Enquiry- Narratology – Theories and Concepts

Narratology is the structure in how we process and perceive knowledge through themes, symbols and conventional methods.  Traditional narratives usually consist of a beginning, a middle and an end and emphasises on characters that can be physiologically believable.

 

Narrartive as Theory- Gustav Freytag’s Triangle

German writer Gustav Freytag was a theorist in the structural elements of the progression of narrative.  Following his studies in Philology in germany, he began a career as a lecturer at the University of Breslau.  Freytag later moved on to focus on writing as he had great interest for the occurring revolutonary developments of the 17th century.  He gathered influence from the likes of Charles Dickens and other novelists with some of his most successful works such as ‘Soll and Haben’ (1855) becoming known throughout the world.

Freytag created a theory which determines what happens when one follows time and plot within a narrative:

Exposition- Freytag theorises how this part of narrative brings emphasis on background and information to introduce the audience to the setting.  For example, characters are introduced and prologues highlight details that will be returned to later.

Rising Action- Fretag theorises how soon after the exposition stage, a rising action is brought across to the story in which the audience begins to see the particular fields of interest that sets a goal or message that will eventually be revealed.

Climax- Freytag theorises how this stage reveals more active setting in which twists are plotted against the protagonist and the audience is drawn into an unfolding of events that requires elements of problem solving.

Falling Action- At this stage, Freytag theorises how there is a final unravelling of events which leads up to the final outcome.  At this stage, it is unknown what could happen and the audience is left in suspense.

Denouement- This final stage of the triangle reveals the result of the previous events, ending the story.  However, this can happen in various methods for some stories may end as a ‘happily ever afterno or other narrative methods use a cliffhanger to emphasise thought provoking theory and to potentially continue the story as an additional chapter for a later time.

Reflecting upon this theory, I find Freytag has made an even break down of what occurs during narrative presentation.  This theory is influential towards how I number my series of works which brings to mind how each image can convey a new development in my own narratives presented.  For example, my most recent further developed projects which explores the individuals journey through a collection of three piece series integrates changing of the space, positioning of the subject and a more subjective focus.

 

Narratological Experiences in Media

 

Games- Within the gaming world, narrative is a crucial element in support of the player to understand the objectives given in the medium.  Within games, these are often displayed as cutscenes and short movies upon beginnings and completion of the game which determines occurring events depending on the actions of the player.  One game which draws particularly well on narrative is the short horror game titled ‘The Path’ created by Tale of Tales in 2009.  This game brings an unusual approach to narrative in which the game gives reference to the classic fairytale story of Red Riding Hood.  The progress of the narrative element is dependent on the actions of the player where the player is given the choice of how the story develops.  From my own experience playing this game, I found it very stimulating as not only is the player able to effect developments in story, the player is also able to effect their functional avatar.

Movies- In the current movie world, previous narratives are often retold to new generations.  The recycling of classic stories brings new perspective to the audience in which they can bear witness to a different interpretation of the original.  The Walt Disney studios are one company franchise who have frequently brought this into play with recent releases including Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland in which Disney have reinterpreted the story aimed towards a contemporary audience.  I find films such as this introduce the new generation more possibilities in how they perceive the story and this gives the audience a chance to ‘rethink’ the narrative.

In conclusion,  I find Freytag’s theory of narratology and the revision of narrative to current audiences revitalises our perception of story and this brings chance of preserving previous narratives and reinventing them.

 

References 

Gustav Freytag. 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 01 January, 2016, from http://www.britannica.com/biography/Gustav-Freytag

Tale of Tales (2009) The Path- a short horror game by Tale of Tales [Online] Available from: http://www.tale-of-tales.com/ThePath

London on the Inside (2015) Alice in Wonderland Exhibition [Online] Available from: http://www.londontheinside.com (Accessed 20/12/2015)

Research/Enquiry- Fantasy Conceptual Journeys – Alicia Savage and Joel Robison

Alicia Savage

American fine art photographer Alicia Savage is a practitioner who explores identity through self portraiture in which she creates images with a fantasy like style.  Her work often places the individual (herself) within the space in which the landscape is deformed in some way that defies reality.  Savage explores the personal journey and interprets the space with how the individual sees it; hinting onwards concepts that focus on past and present.  Her on going series ‘Destinations’ explores how one travels alone and the subconscious mind during the experience.  Savage similarly does not reveal her identity as the leading role so as to bring open perception form the audience.  I admire how Savage does this as she allows the viewer to use their own imagination with how they see the individual; she often uses props or her own hair to hide her face or alternatively faces away from the viewer.  There is also use of very simple body language in how she poses herself and uses her surroundings to make tender gestures in an engaging way.

I find this inspiring towards my own work as Savage addresses the idea of approaching the subject as one’s self in which the viewer can envision themselves in the image.  I find this an interesting take on narrative as the audience can relate their own experiences to the visuals.

Joel Robison

Joel Robison is another practitioner who I find particularly unusual.  Robison also creates surreal imagery that is reflective of the individual’s self journey. Based in British Columbia, Robison gathers influence from iconic practitioners from the likes of Disney and other other fantasy related practitioners in which he brings interest in the emotional aspect of narrative in which he considers dreams, thoughts and experience as an input within his work.  Robison is quite ambiguous in how he portrays character and is experimental with proportions of the subject.  For example, in various works, Robison plays with size, creating the illusion of the individual appearing smaller when exploring the world as an enlarged version. On occasion, he also merges the individual with the surroundings which distinguishes further a sense of surrealism as a major element.

I admire how Robison brings an interactive element to his imagery and uses a variety of objects as supporting components to emphasise how the individual travels through their surroundings or even becomes a part of the environment.

I find both photographers possess qualities where they ‘think outside the box’ and portray realistic environments as ways of escaping and embracing one’s inner self.  This is something which I find intriguing as Robison applies illusional elements that almost tricks the audience into understanding what is real and what is not.

 

References

Joel Robison All rights Reserved (2015) Joel Robison Photography [Online] Available from: http://www.joelrobison.com, (Accessed 30/12/2015)

Alicia Savage (2015) Alicia Savage [Online] Available from: http://www.aliciasavage.com (Accessed 23/12/2015)

 

Research/Enquiry – John Berger – Reproduction of Art in Current Media

In his book ‘Ways of Seeing’, Berger discusses the subject of the reproduction of art within modern imagery.  Berger makes several points in which he identifies the evolvement process of images from the past (paintings) and how modern technology recreates it.

Firstly,  Berger makes a point that reproducing art gives an authority to the original image.  Here, Berger is saying that reproduced imagery in modern culture now continuously pays tribute to historical works and survive because of this. I find this highlights that however much the reproduction recreates a previous historical work, the original is changed to be seen in a different light for a current generation.  Berger continues to describe how art mediums such as painting remain unmoving to us as there is no filtering of information through the work as there is in computer generated media.  Berger also states how the meaning of traditional art is balanced against how we interpret it through modern technology, almost in a sense where the audience experiences deja vu but without realising it. Newer generations may not recognise that they see an interpretation of a traditional art piece straight away because the meaning of the artwork (painting) may well be used to bring across a different message.

A second point that Berger makes is how the reproduction of art in modern imagery is so consistent that it becomes stripped of its power to impress an audience independently without the means of display via mainstream media such as social media and literate sources in art books or online.  Berger recognises that reproduced imagery ultimately changes how we would expect to see it as there is always a rapid demand for information in a consumer like fashion where it is already recognised on a mass scale.  For example, in primary art culture, the viewer would need to visit a gallery in order to see an original piece but now as digital culture has developed, the audience is expanded to a point where anyone can view the work and this destroys the traditional way of viewing work.

Refletcing upon this subject, I find Berger gives an intriguing view on the consequences of the reproduction of images.  This essay has strongly revived my interest in recreating imagery as my own message and how people will perceive a concept differently. Berger also mentions how imagery is usually seen before text which further explores the subject of how featuring text with imagery can also change the perception of a reproduced artwork/photographic image.  This is another potential that I intend to experiment with in future projects as I find this may project more emphasis on my narrative concepts.

 

References

Berger. J (1972) Ways of Seeing, British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, London UK,  p 21-26

Research/Enquiry-Carrie Mae Weems

Fig 1. The Kitchen Table Series. Untitled.  1990

American photographer Carrie Mae Weems is well known for her evocative images usually depicting everyday life in African American culture.  Following her studies at the California Institute and the University of California, Weems has since become a major influence in the contemporary field of portraiture in which she explores tense subjects involving race, sexuality and identity.  Her success has brought her to exhibit across America and she has won various awards including the Macarthur Fellowship Award in 2013.

One particular series which I find captivating is ‘The Kitchen Table’ series produced in 1990.  This series sees a series of images that follows the relationships of a black woman in which the scene is set in the small space of a low lit kitchen.  We firstly see several images where the woman develops an engaging relationship with a lover and within these first few frames, the woman possesses a seducing character as she reveals her confidence through her body language and gives the audience the impression that she is in control.  However, one frame following these images almost certainly confirms the end of this first relationship as she sits at the table alone, cradling herself and hiding her face.  Particular frames such as this intrude throughout the series as Weems intends to show a more fragile side of this character.  Following this first relationship, we then see her relationships with friends in which the images appear more casual.  I feel this part of the series sees a mixture of emotions as in some images, she appears happy and relaxed while in others she once again appears quite sorrowful. Later in the series, we also see a intense images of her and her children in which she appears to have difficult relationships and then towards the end of the series, we see the woman on her own.

Throughout this series, there appears various aspects that contribute strongly within the narrative.  The objects are one thing that is a noticeable change as in the beginning of the series, we see objects including a mirror, smoking cigarettes and drink.  These objects bring emphasis on the care free life that the woman experiences with her first relationship, however as this part of the series draws to a close, the central object presented is a newspaper which may suggest the male dominance of her partner as the relationship ends.  Later in the series, the mirror returns but we also see books and pieces of paper in which the leading woman brings a more concentrated character as we see her discipline her daughter. In the last few frames of the series, there are no objects until the very last image in which we see the leading character at her most vulnerable.  This series presents a variety of narratives in one story and this engages the audience to consider the various possibilities that come about in social situations.  The low key lighting gives a brooding atmosphere that suggests how damaged the family is.  The appearance and reappearance of objects brings an unusual twist in the series as this leads us to notice the direction in which the family is taking potentially in financial terms.  For example, when the lover disappears, there is a change of furniture; the birdcage is gone (although this returns later in the series) and the images on the wall also change, hinting at the time period the series is set (a Martin Luther King image is seen at the beginning of the series).

Reflecting on this work, I find it very gripping and intense as it plays out quite a dramatic turn on events where the audience is not given the complete story straight as Weems intends for us to follow it through to see what happens similarly to a soap opera. I find this very influential towards my work as it brings a strong example of how narrative can be given in small doses as a way to create a build up for the story.  Weems does this very well and I am keen to explore this aspect further in my own practice.

 

References

Jack Shainman Gallery (2015) Carrie Mae Weems [Online] Available from: http://www.jackshainman.com (Accessed 29/12/2015)

Carrie Mae Weems (2015) The Kitchen Table Series [Online] Available from: www.carriemaeweems.net (Accessed 29/12/2015)

I. Pauli. L et. al (2006) Acting the Part – Photography as Theatre,  Ottawa, Ontario, Merrell Publishers, p. 79

Project 7: Self Portrait in a ‘Self Space’

This week, I have practiced a project experiment in which I have returned to self portraiture.  Having observed the work of Ingrid Pollard, I have chosen to explore further in the private space and identity.  Similarly to Pollard, I intend to bring myself into the picture once again as I am keen to investigate further into how one’s own identity can be revealed on a personal basis.  To do this, I have chosen to photograph myself in a bedroom because this is a very personal space and this type of environment is also strongly representative of the person living in the space.  I have intended for the lighting of this staged portrait to be quite low key to create a balanced but effective tonal contrast in the space.  My concept for this self portrait continues the theme of ‘Sanctuary’ where my interpretation of this looks at the interior space and particularly addresses how we can make a space our own and how the space can reflect the individual personality.

All Photos 

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Post production Development

During the post production editing stage, I made minor adjustments to the frame and the lighting of the images.  I firstly cropped the image to bring core focus onto the window area.  I have photographed the scene from a position that reveals parts of the furniture in the space and cropping the images slightly is intended to reduce unnecessary subjects as I only intend to have the window, myself and surrounding furniture.  This is to reduce clutter within the image and emphasise more on recognising the space for its main features i.e. a bed and wardrobe are central necessities for a bedroom.

I used the curves tool to enhance the lighting further as the images are slightly underexposed.  I also used the shadow and highlights adjustment tool to bring more tone to the view of the exterior space. I did this by selecting areas of the window glass as this area appeared appeared quite overexposed in comparison to the interior space.  The use of flash could have been used in this photo shoot, however, my main intention was to capture ambient light coming through the window.  I feel using flash would have brought a different effect and would not succeed in bringing the warm, natural tone to the image.

 

Final Images

This three piece series reveals myself within my own personal space in which I have performed three different poses in association with the window where I am looking into the outside world.

Fig 1. Untitled. 2015

I find this image is perhaps the strongest of the three as I stand in a position that is not too far or too close to the camera. I also think the lighting is well established and the body language of the pose itself reflects clearly how I may be feeling.  From this image, I feel there is a sense of anxiety and fear as I hold my hands close to my chest as if I am trying to protect myself.  I find this image potentially draws upon subjects of social issues and perhaps feeling lonely.  My intention was to show how we one can worry in their space and what we do when we are placed within this state of mind.  For example, pacing back and forth displays a show of worry whereas in this image, staring out of the window displays a show of hopelessness.  I have not completely revealed my face in this image but there is still a clear understanding of my sexuality and ethnicity.

Fig 2. Untitled. 2015

This image sees myself sitting ion the window ledge.  I find the pose for this is somewhat more emotionally connecting as there is more emphasis on a sense of ‘personal longing’ with my facial expression.   I do find this image is slightly weaker as I am placing myself in a cramped space that sits closer to the exterior environment which is distancing my character from the audience slightly.  However, there is a tenderness in the atmosphere that brings a cinematic quality to the scene; I may be a person who is waiting for news or simply reflecting only life and so there still is a continuation of story element in this, perhaps in a more darker tone than my other final images.

Fig 3. Untitled. 2015

This image takes an approach that sees myself peering closer out of the window and leaning on the table. Here I find my character is braver and more curious in this as if I want to know what is happening in the outside world.  Once again, I do find there is a distancing between the individual and the viewer as I shut myself in my own world, however this was the intention in the first place. Like the other images, the story element is clear and I am intrigued by this relationship between the individual and the space,  particularly with the window as this is element is used in a prop like sense.  The window is an active element as it links between the interior and exterior world; the image also refers to wanting to adapt to different environments and the window is the one thing that stands in the individuals way.  There is a continuous acknowledgement towards the space outside the window which is suggestive of its importance.

 

In conclusion to this project, I find I have become more comfortable with self portraiture.  Working within a small space has made me consider more of how to frame a picture and using the space to direct a particular point of view.  I found acting out the part for these images made me consider the importance of freeze frames when photographing; this is something I intend to explore further in staged photography.  I am satisfied with the final images and I find there is definitely strength in narrative.  The lighting works well within these images as there is a soft but also striking appearance between the shadows of the room and the glow of light from outside.  Once again, I had to be careful with costuming and reorganising the space; I intended for the room appear very plain so any objects within the interior were removed and I also chose a light top to balance this against my dark complexion.  I chose to shoot the scene during the ‘golden hour’ as this is when the daytime light is at its strongest and warmest. I found it challenging to achieve the poses correctly as I was using a slower shutter speed, I had to be completely still.  Overall, I find this series plays the ‘Sanctuary’ theme well and brings a compelling sense of drama.

Research/Enquiry-The figure and Landscape in Other Creative Practices: Casper David Friedrich

19th Century German painter Casper David Friedrich was an artist who was well known for his captivating works in the romantic art movement.  Following his studies at the Copenhagen Academy, Friedrich practiced with various art materials including etching and sculpture before developing his practice in oil paint in which his first painting ‘Landscape with Temple Ruins’ brought him into a new artistic phase.  Friedrich continued this style of work throughout his career in mostly using vast landscapes and ruins with the occasional figure as a primal setting within his work.

Friedrich shows us landscape as if it were a fantasy as he establishes soft atmospheres throughout all of his works.  The way he uses light and colour in his paintings is one aspect that strongly defines his style of painting as in various works he creates soft glows of light (usually as a sunset or dusk setting) that almost suggests a timid presence in revealing the scene.  His paintings depicting ruins and graveyards may refer to Friedrich’s dark experiences from childhood and this brings a haunting element in the atmospheres of his work.  One of Friedrich’s most famous works ‘Abbey In The Oakwood’ (1809-1810) possesses a dark, lonely ambience that suggests a sense of loss as it refers to a place associating with death.

Another piece ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ (1818) is one painting which I find particularly compelling.  The scene is set within a misty mountain environment in which we see a lone figure standing on the peak of a cliff as he looks out across the landscape.  This painting beautifully orchestrates the emotional element as the viewer is placed in the same position  as the individual; we see what the individual sees.  The man in the painting is anonymous to the audience, however Friedrich still brings across a connection as we are invited to witness a magnificent landscape in a way that shares the experience of the individual in the image.  I admire the simplistic construction of this painting and it reminds me of a recent project in which the individual’s identity is hidden form us.  Reflecting on this painting and my own recent practice conveying a similar intention, I believe that identity can definitely change the perception of an image.  When we see the individual’s face, there is a sense of honesty however when this ‘face’ is taken away, the audience is even more curious about the character and this is an aspect that I find intriguing.

Friedrich does not feature individuals in all of his paintings, however he still materialises character from the place itself in an admirable way that gives us an incentive to explore and enjoy the landscape environment.  I admire how Friedrich presents landscapes in a way that is realistic but also bringing forth surreal elements.  Upon observation of paintings featuring discreet figures, Friedrich displays some indication of story, however these remain very ambiguous as mostly, these figures are not completely revealed to us.  In conclusion, Friedrich presents expressive concepts within his paintings that is both subtle and powerful.  This is influential towards my own practice as Friedrich influences the concept of observing landscape in a more traditional way where we can appreciate its beauty and geographical features as well as understanding backstory of the place.

References

Casper David Freidrich.org Copyright (2015) Casper David Friedrich [Online] Available from; www.caspardavidfriedrich.org (Accessed 10/12/2015)

Artble (2015) Casper David Friedrich Biography [Online] Available from: www.artble.com (Accessed 10/12/2015)

Research/Enquiry – Acting The Part: Photography as Theatre by Lori Pauli

Fig 1. Gregory Crewdson. Untitled. 2001

Theatre in Staged Photography

In her essay ‘The Artful Disposition: Theatricality, Cinema and Social Contemporary Context, Karen Henry describes how theatricality has been brought across in photography practices since its origins in the late 20th century.  Henry describes how staged photography requires aspects of theatre in order for the audience to absorb a narrative representation and also how theatre creates an effect that materialises an image as artificial.  The audience is able to understand when there is an existence of narrative in photography, however  despite this, a played out scene can still address the viewer indirectly.  I find Henry is making an interesting point on how representations of narrative can still reflect reality through a social approach.  For example, freeze frames in photography are used as a method of capturing relevant still moments of a live performance; Henry recognises how despite that the viewer knows the scene is ‘fake’, it still brings a truth of social experiences.

Henry then continues her essay comparing theatricality in art and photography in which she explains its contribution in the art movement Modernism in painting.  Henry describes to us how the developments of technology in association with photography and cinema have expanded how we represent narrative not only on a fictional level but also in a new documentary perspective that can show truth in culture. In ancient times, one would stand still for a painting in order for the artist to capture the exact definitions of the subject and this would be classed as tableaux.  However, now with revolving camera technology, staging has become used in a different sense where it can almost be seen as casual.

Henry gives strong emphasis on this and the characteristics of staged photography within this section ‘While painting could at one time indulge the idea of absorption in a coherent, cultural space, photography never could.  Photography was always partial and always included an audience..’ (L. Pauli. Acting the Part. p134 2006)

Here Henry is states that a photograph acts more as an interactive medium towards its audience more so than that of a painting.  As a traditional medium, painting is representative of subjects in a sense that the audience observes the scene where the viewer can tell the time period of which painting may have been produced.  However, with photography brings a perception to an audience that is timeless as the audience is given the opportunity to perceive the narrative in various alternatives.

I find Henry creates a flexible understanding of how narrative is brought across and performed in both traditional and modern mediums and reflecting upon this writing, I find this has influenced my conceptual understanding of how to address narrative in photography by including the audience as a participating factor.

 

References

I. Pauli. L et. al (2006) The Artful Disposition: Theatricality, Cinema and Social Contemporary Context In: Acting the Part – Photography as Theatre,  Ottawa, Ontario, Merrell Publishers, p. 133-138