Reflective Summary – Research and Enquiry

Reflecting upon my findings,  I feel I have developed a stronger understanding of what my work represents and how I establish this during production.  Beginning my experiments in staged photography, I found it challenging to address clear narrative in which my early experimental projects are based on more recreational concepts.

My strongest influences throughout my development include Alicia Savage, Carrie Mae Weems and Gregory Crewdson.  I found Savage particularly influential as her work brings a unique style that possesses a surreal quality consisting of ethereal visuals.  The element of ‘unknowing’ in her work makes it all the more mysterious and this is an aspect that I am intrigued to explore further in future practices.  Crewdson applies this element to his practice in a similar sense where the audience is given the impression of encountering a moment in limbo.  I admire this concept of not knowing whether something has occurred or not in Crewdson’s imagery as this leaves the viewer in suspense and potentially invites us to solve the story of the image.  Carrie Mae Weems also captures figure and space with harmonious perception in which she recognises places by the people who we find there, sharing a comfortable relationship between viewer and subject.  I find these photographers have broadly influenced my approach to narrative in how I can bring background to the figure and space.

Methodologies I have found particularly useful towards my creative practices include Narratology, ethnographic and theatrical photography as I find these are crucial factors that encompass elements such as acting into a representational story.  I have found reviewing work from both traditional and current generations an effective way of developing my conceptual ideas.  For example, observing traditional painting has influenced me to address scenic values more deeply when engaging the subject with the space.  I have also found reviewing photographic works from 20th century photographers such as Cindy Sherman enlightening in terms of how a subject is stereotyped in relation to their surroundings.  I find I can relate my own practice to other practitioners as I have explored methods that others have used to accomplish their outcomes.   For example, by observing the work of Gregory Crewdson, I have further extended my knowledge of how I can shape light more efficiently with additional lighting tools.  I find my final image from my fifth project ‘Return’ echoes Crewdson’s style in which I attempted to present a haunting sci-fi atmosphere in a similar sense.  I have also learned to be more specific in detail with regards to the staging of the production such as costuming.   I find my creative work draws to a close when I am able to make a critical judgement as to how it responds to my findings upon viewing the work.

In conclusion,  my findings have brought my practice to a climax and I feel I have developed more structure in narrative representation. I present my final further developed projects that explores the theme of ‘Sanctuary’ and the concept of finding inner peace and comfort in visiting the sentimental space.  I intend to explore deeper into why we visit places on a more personal and symbolic level.  Overall,  I find my supportive research has given me greater understanding of engaging narrative presence in staged photography.

 

References

Moma All rights Reserved (2015) Cindy Sherman [Online] Available from: http://www.moma.org (Accessed 20/12/2015)

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

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

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

Artist I White Cube (2015) Gregory Crewdson [Online] Available from: http://whitecube.com/artists/gregory_crewdson/ [Accessed 28/11/2015]

Research/Enquiry- Typography with Images and Sequence Photography

I have recently been observing concepts that construct imagery as a one piece series where the viewer sees a collection of several photographs as one image as a way to tell a narrative story.  Featuring text within imagery is also another contributing factor in support of storyboard sequences.

Duane Michals

American photographer Duane Michals uses text and sequences photographs within his work and has become a leading practitioner from the 1960’s.  Following his studies at the University of Denver, Michals began his career as a graphic designer before focusing more on photography during the 1950s.  Michals exhibited internationally in which he has featured work at the Museum of Modern Art in the UK among many other solo and collaborative shows across the world.  Michals has also won various awards including the ‘International Centre of photography Infinity Award’ in 1989.

Michals work consists of ambiguous storytelling which are presented as black and white frame by frame sequences in which the title text featured is hand written.  Michals’ conceptual imagery presents queer moments that in some instances appear surreal and distorted.  Michals is experimental with his subjects as he creates unworldly narratives that at times refers to paranormal phenomena, possessing an eerie atmosphere that leaves the audience in question of developing events.  In many of Michals works, there is use of image layering in which he creates the illusion of figures as ghosts in which we see a mix of dark shadows and transparency representing the individual subject.  Michals also brings a symbolic quality in how he uses objects to reflect the characters portrayed.  For example, the series Magic Mirror of Uncertainty’ distorts the reflection of the subject as she peers into a round mirror.  This example highlights  how Michael balances between reality and surrealism as there is an unknowing aspect that leaves the viewer at a crossroads as to how an individual is truly seen.

I find Michal is very specific with detail in elements involving objects and the merging of images to create quite uncanny story images.  I admire how Michal keeps a raw feel to the images as if they have been taken directly from a film reel which brings more essence of cinema to the sequences.  I also find the way he has annotated the imagery gives the images a documentative perspective.  I find Michal influential in terms of physical technique by using image manipulation and a different method of presenting the narrative.

 

Wendy Ewald

Wendy Ewald is another practitioner who is experimental with the presentation of photographic imagery.  Following her photographic studies, Ewald has since interpreted projects involving children through a collection of portraits featuring text and primary visual imagery.  Ewald was intrigued by how her child subjects viewed their surroundings in comparison to how Ewald viewed them as an adult.  Ewald has travelled across various parts of the world pursuing documentary projects of the world seen from a young person’s perspective. Her themes often explore community, self representation and occupational insight.

One series which is particularly compelling sees a series of intimate portraits of children and adults which features a written message that travels around the subject (usually as a curve) that reveals the true background of the child’s point of view on their lives.  The series presents a powerful message that uses text as way of revealing the person more so than the visual content itself.  Ewald also photographs the individual from behind, and is playful in featuring text within the shape of their head or on a different part of their body.  Ewald is very candid with how she captures her subjects and the use of text brings a bold moral to her documentary narratives.

I find Ewald is very creative with her use of text and the portraits are well established as an advertising scheme.  I find the images speak (somewhat literally) to the audience that addresses attitude and as an overall collection, there is a unity in how the viewer can relate or sympathise with the individual.  For future projects, I am intrigued to experiment with typography and sequencing imagery as I find this will bring a more physical connexion with the audience.

 

References

D C Moore Gallery (2016) Duane Michals [Online] Available from: http://www.dcmooregallery.com (Accessed 03/01/2016)

In this Playground Copyright (2016) Wendy Ewald: Photoplay [Online] Available from: www.inthisplayground.com (Accesed 03/01/2016)

Encyclopedia.com Copyright (2016) Ewald. Wendy. (b. 1951) [Online] Available from: http://www.encyclopedia.com (Accessed 03/01/2016)

W. Ewald (2012) Photography Changes What We Expect ‘Reality’ Will Look Like In: Heiferman, M. et. al. Photography Changes Everything, New York, Aperture Foundation and Smithsonian Institution, p124-126

Research/Enquiry- Peter Henry Emerson

Fig 1. P. Emerson. Gathering Water Lilies… 1886

Emerson was a British pioneer of documentary photography during the 19th and 20th century.  He began photographing the fisherman culture and soon came to the realisation that photography could be used in an artistic sense.  Emerson was accustomed to photographing reality as it was, capturing simplistic images of the English rural culture.  Emerson also published various books including ‘Pictures of East Anglian Life’ in 1888 which featured his collection of works.

The image ‘Gathering Water Lilies’ is one photograph in particular that I find rather touching. The photograph presents a tranquil scene of two men rowing a boat in a calm lake as one of the men reaches down to pick a waterlily from floating among the surface.  I find the scene gives an enchanting atmosphere and it gives a strong tribute to traditional ways.  I strongly admire the composition for this photograph and the stillness of the scene (including elements such as the water) brings a tone that is relaxed and refreshing.  Emerson brings a welcoming honesty to his photographs that reveal the true country life in which the audience is given insight into the everyday routines of the individual subject.  Emerson presents distinct tonal contrast in the lighting of his imagery and usually captures moments of people carrying out work activities.  I feel what is special about this particular image (Fig 1) is that Emerson has captured a moment that may not necessarily involve work which suggests to the viewer how the place is meaningful to the individual.

Emerson immerses us into the scene in which he depicts ordinary life simply as it is.  Furthermore to this, Emerson is not afraid to reveal what people really do in their environment and this gives more background as to what certain lifestyles were like during this time period.  I find Emerson’s work fascinating in a historical sense and are also preserving as the audience is able to learn of an older culture.

I find this influential towards my working practice as I find Emerson presents worthy examples that represent real life.  Although my practice currently focuses on staged photography, I am also intrigued by documentary storytelling and I would like to experiment more in documentary practices.  It would also be interesting to approach narrative in a way that reveals more about culture in relation to places and the individual as I feel this is another aspect that reveals why the individual is intimately connected with their  surroundings.

References

Museum of Modern Art (2016) Peter Henry Emerson [Online] Available from: http://www.moma.org (Accessed 03/01/2016)

Research/Enquiry- Julian Stallabrass – Ethnographic Photography

In his essay ‘What’s in a Face? Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography’, Stallabrass describes the relationship between the photographer and the subject, highlighting how the individual subject is represented in  ethnographic photography.

In an early section of the essay, Stallabrass describes how the contemporary portrait is usually set in a certain way that addresses the audience where factors such as standing still and looking straight ahead at the camera are all too familiar in a semi staged setting.  Stallabrass argues that the identity of the individual represented in a picture is not necessarily too different in character than the viewer.  Here Stallabrass points out how the audience relates to the picture in different ways depending on the demeanour of the subject.  This brings into consideration as to whether the subject is aware of the audience or whether there is a purpose to build a rapor with the viewer.  Stallabrass also describes how the connection felt from the individual varies from which the viewer can either see the subject in connection with themselves (in the moment) or in connection with the audience (acknowledging us as viewers).  I find Stallabrass makes an interesting argument as he uses language that makes the viewer think differently about the reasons why portraits are photographed in a certain way.  He also refers to expels of work and photographers  including Nan Goldin who are known for how they compose their images in an unusual sense.  Stallabrass describes this contributing factors behind ethnographic photography as a ‘puzzle’ and from the tone he speaks, he is slightly judgemental towards including photographic methods within art related practices.

I can sympathise with Stallabrass’ argument as he gives an example image of a boy standing on a beach, photographed by Rineke Dijkstra.  The black and white image featured in the essay has the subject looking directly at the audience with the sea behind him.  What Stallabrass is trying to persuade to us is that this style of portraiture that gives no facial expression and no particular movement is questioning in how the viewer can derive something from it.

Stallabrass then movies on to make another point that highlights how the audience is able to stereotype the subject from reading the characteristics of the individual.  Here, Stallabrass refers to fashion photography in the editorial industry in which he continues to describe how character can focus purely on the body language of the individual and this can be just as effective as using an emotional expression.  Here, Stallabrass asks the question ‘What kind of identification is had here?’ (Stallabrass. J. 2007. p. 85) which shows how Stallabrass is doubtful and almost sarcastic towards the concept stereotyping characters when they have been posed in a certain way.  He also mentions how images can create the illusion of portraying a character but in actuality, the audience does not really know the individual but are tricked into thinking they do nevertheless.

In conclusion, I find Stallabrass is very open about his ideas towards portraying individualistic subjects in ethnographic photography and this has influenced my understanding of identifying character in portraiture by using particular direction with the model subject.

 

 

 

References

Stallabrass. J (2007) What’s in a Face? Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography [Online] Cambridge, MIT Press, p. 71-85

Research/Enquiry- Mark Power

Following his studies in art and painting, Power began a colourful career in which he worked within Western cultures including Australia.  Power was intrigued by the camera and began an editorial career in the 1980’s and it was during this time that Power became recognised through his commissions.  Power has exhibited internationally and has also published books in which his work features.  Power is currently based in the south east where he works as a professor at the University of Brighton.

Power’s series ‘The City of Six Towns’ explores post industrialised towns in Stoke on Trent which explores how each town has transformed from its past.  The series was exhibited in Hanley, February 2015.  The collection brings a wide range of subjects to observe, some close up and others from a distance but all the while, Power gives the viewer a broadened perspective of the everyday life that has built the towns to what they are now.  Power often observes people who contribute to the community services such as police, builders as well as the general passer by going about everyday routines.  Power brings a sense of familiarity and homeliness that refers to general business that the audience may also relate to or recognise with.  Powers presents his portraits in a very sincere way that reveals an honesty in the identity of the individual characters seen from the regular supermarket customer to the sports fan.  Power emphasises on this effectively and also features still life imagery throughout the collection.  Some images possess a curious atmosphere; one image (Fig 1) which sees a figure looking down a humble country road is both intense but casual as we do not see the figures face.  However, the viewer is still able to learn some characteristics from the figures clothing demeanour.  What is he thinking?  Would we want to be walking down the same path that he is if we were in the place with him? Power derives an instinctive perspective towards the subject in a way that allows us to judge for ourselves.

I find it interesting how Power refers to spaces as a reminder that they exist for some images display elements that show how the space has potential for use in the public environment. I also admire how Power delves into the culture and highlights common factors that represent the location.  This is influential towards my own understanding of using elements to symbolise a place that the audience can associate with.

 

References

Mark Power (2016) The City of Six Towns [Online] Available from: www.markpower.co.uk (Accessed 03/01/2016)

Research/Enquiry- Jamie Hawksworth

Fig 1. Hawkesworth. J. Preston Bus Station. Untitled. 2014

London based photographer Jamie Hawkesworth practices photography depicting everyday life.  Following his studies at the Preston University, Hawkesworth now creates his collections from his travels across the British Region in which he presents portraits of ordinary people he has encountered.

His series ‘ Preston Bus Station’ is one collection which interestingly explores environment as well as the people within it as Hawkesworth also presents still life imagery of small corners and left objects alongside his portraits.  Hawkesworth is laid back about his subjects and bring a sense of spontaneity, however at the same time, he captures simple moments of people having a moment to themselves or with others. Hawkesworth’s images are quiet and subtle in which he creates depth in composition and contrast bringing a warm, toned down atmosphere.  The individual characters he photographs are varied as some reveal their identity while others are captured from behind anonymously.  This leaves question as to whether the individual is aware of the photographer/viewer.  Hawkesworth photographs some of his subjects discreetly as for some characters, there is no acknowledgement of the viewer’s presence and appears as if they have been followed.  The way in which Hawkesworth captures objects also derives ideas of how long these objects have been there.  For example, an image of a cleaning trolley left on a walkway could suggest that the cleaner has not long left and will return to his duties shortly.  Also, much of the lighting in these images are low key which reveals the setting has been photographed during a quiet period.

In other works, Hawkesworth gives a similar atmosphere in which he explores places with down to earth characters that have a relationship with their surroundings.   I admire how Hawkesworth brings the ‘feeling’ of a place within his work and gives a variety of portraits and supporting still life and landscape imagery that I find quite modest.  I find this a strong influence towards my practice as Hawkesworth uses the environment to give some background to the place and he also brings a sense of vacancy in the scenes.  The audience is made to feel as if we are also waiting for something to happen or appear in a way that suggests we are only give half the story.

Hawkesworth also presented a short film of the ‘Preston Bus Station’ series as a way to commemorate the last days of the station before its closing. The film features a High School Brass band playing as they walk though the station.

References

Jamie Hawkesworth (2016) Preston Bus Station [Online] Availbale from: www.jamiehawkesworth.com (Accessed 03/01/2016)

Dobedo All rights Reserved (2014) Preston Bus Station By Jamie Hawkesworth [Online] Available from: http://www.dobedo.co.uk (Accessed 10/09/2013)

Further Developed Projects: ‘Sanctuary’ Revisited

For my further developed projects I have chosen to continue from my sixth and seventh project in which both explore themes of ‘Sanctuary’.  I choose these two projects because I find they represent staged/narrative aspects on a more advanced level in comparison to other works.  I find the theme also fits well my style of shooting and it is also flexible with where and what I am working with as a sanctuary can be in any location.  To develop this concept further, I have intended to photograph a place that strongly associates with the theme and the location I have chosen for this is a church.  I find this type of location is very suitable as the church is a place of peace and refuge for the individual.  I have also decided to photograph a male for this shoot along with a more fragile prop; the white lily.   Other materials and equipment used for this shoot included a TTL flashgun.

The symbolic meaning of the White Lily

The White Lily is a flower of six petals.  In history, the White Lily is representative of purity and innocence and has strong association with Christianity.  The lily is symbolic of the Virgin Mary in the Christian religion and also relates to Greek Mythology.

All Images

Series 1

Series 2

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Post Production

To develop the images for series 1, my main adjustment was hue in colour.  The original image appears quite warm so by using the curves tool, I decreased the Red channel to have the images appear more cold. I also used the spot healing tool to remove unwanted clutter in the images.

With all images, I used the crop tool to further define the framing.  I also adjusted the straightness of some images.

Other adjustments made include using curves to adjust the brightness and shadows of the images.

 

Final Images Series 1

For my first final series of this development project, I have produced a set of three images that look down the aisle of the church interior with the individual and the lily in the centre.  The idea for this concept was to create a solemn atmosphere in which we see a man alone in the church in search of solace and the lily accompanies him as a symbolic gesture meant for the loss of a loved one.  This first series sees the individual in the entirety of the space as he holds the lily in respect. However the first image (fig 1) sees the lily lying on the floor as the man draws a distant gaze;  I find this pose the most dramatic as both the individual and the lily stand independently in the scene.  I also find this image the most emotionally connected of this series as the expression and posture of the individual is more evocative.  However, the other images also bring interesting character to the scene in a more simplistic sense.  I find the tonal value in these images are very strong and the atmosphere is stirring an engaging narrative.  I do find improvements for these images would be more defined costuming but nevertheless, the images pose an effective message.

Final Images Series 2

For my second series of final images, I photographed within a lighter setting that presents portraits of the individual.  This series sees the individual within the alter of the church with the lily flower.  For this series, I wanted to experiment with bringing the subject closer to the audience and I intended to portray more intimacy here.  I think this scene presents a stronger contrast between the subject and the space in comparison to Series 1 and this emphasises the relationship between black and white.  This potentially represents how the individual may be in a dark place but his surroundings are actually brighter than he is, including the white lily. The expression, although somewhat blank conveys quite a powerful sentiment and further initiates a bonding moment.  I do find the scenes appear as if they were a still from a film and the composition of objects in the background contributes nicely by filling blank areas of the images.  I find there is strong intensity in these images and also more ‘acting’ as we see the individual perform more with flower (particularly in Fig 2).  The contrasting colours of objects in the background gives character to the surroundings despite the bleak mood of the images.

Other Images

In this image, I am experimenting more with contrast in lighting.  My intention to have the individual hold the lily close to the chest was to resonate more fragility to the character and I find this comes across strongly.

Here, we see the individual without the flower as he prays alone; I do find this image looks particularly sad and somewhat darker.

This image sees the individual holding the lily flower.  I think the exposure in this is very clean and crisp.  I also find the composition is strong and the expression of the individual is striking.

 

In conclusion to this project, I find I have reached a peak in my experimentations with staged photography.  This project was very successful as the final outcomes express a lot of depth and connectivity with the audience.  I find this project also presents a nice variety of interpretations that builds a relationship between subject and prop.  I also find the location and the prop used for this series compliments the theme in many ways.  I did find it challenging to balance the lighting from the flash for these images when shooting, however I am more confident with using flash to photograph a scene at an expanded distance.