Concluding my project, I find my final outcome has been a successful piece that brings an intriguing, psychological story. I found Duane Michaels and Ingrid Pollard strongly influenced my theme for the narrative concepts involving identity and revealing true form. My intention was to navigate a concept where objects are not what they seem and the individual becomes changed or corrupted in some way.
I found selecting the images for the series quite challenging as I had chosen to use a large number where I am capturing various different movements with the same subject matter. I find the series does bring a variety of perspectives with close up portraiture and still life featured in a way where the audience can perceive the subject matter with a different tone. For example, in some images, we see the character appearing hopeful while in others, we see the character becoming weak and gradually corrupted by the box object.
Psychological photography is a subject that I have found interesting to explore and I find this subject has allowed me to be more daring when bringing across elements of fragility. I find having the series as a black and white collection empowers the message effectively; the imagery may have been weaker if it was presented in colour format. I find my choice of object for the still life subject matter worked well in the series as the box represents something where things can be hidden or placed away for safe keeping. I feel the box object was strongly suitable for the theme and worked well as a visually interactive object.
Following my findings of illustrative book examples, I took some influence from this in terms of how I could address the narrative otherwise by featuring subtitles, however, this was an idea that I found would have made the series visually complex as this may have brought confusion of where the text fits in visually in co-ordination with the images. I found introducing the series was a better approach to informing the viewer of the story rather than inserting random titles in-between images. This may have worked if I chose to place a message as a continuous message alongside every picture, however, I find this approach may still take away focus from the visuals.
Referring back to Strauss and his approach towards reality and photography in ‘Words not spent today, buy smaller images tomorrow'(Strauss. 2014), this has influenced my initiative to evoke the psychological experience as a ritual in the series as I want the audience to believe that the box is more than just a box. The ‘magical possibilities’ seen in ‘Black Box’ is intended to interpret the object where we believe its presence and effect on the individual. I find I have successfully developed this aspect in the series as there is a ritual cycle evidenced where we see the character continuously change his mind on revealing the box contents.
I also find the series takes constructive influence from my findings in the text ‘Rethinking Photography’ (Smith and Lefley 2015) as it analyses how the viewer can become involved and immersed into the character’s experience. The box object in the series is represented not only as a bonded item with the character but it also acknowledges the audience as a personal item they might also own. The box is a character itself as the individual is directly linked to it and I find this aspect also brings a spiritual element to the photo essay.
Overall, I am satisfied with the series content and I find the story addresses psychological issues in culture. I feel this subject is important in terms of recognising when someone is mentally struggling. This is a message present in the series that I find I have accomplished well in which I intend to give insight into what individuals do when they find themselves faced with a problem. I want my audience to also understand that even though some can only find answers themselves, we must not forget to support them. As there are over 30 images featured, I find this series would also be appropriate as a book and this is something I intend to create at a later stage. I find this series expresses the affects of mental challenges that we must all makes ourselves more aware of.
Francesca Woodman was a photographer who explored subjects of representation and poignant symbolism in which her work refers to personal issues such as identity and gender. Following her studies in Italy, Woodman began to use performance in her creative practice in which she was influenced from photographer Max Klinger. Woodman experiments with objects and portraiture and often uses herself as part of the subject matter in which she creates slow exposures capturing herself as a blurred subject to form a ghostly appearance. Woodman sadly took her own life at the tender age of just 22 years old but left behind a vast collection of works set in abandoned spaces.
Woodman explores the psychological aspects of self evaluation as she places herself in confined spaces evoking a sense of entrapment which may make one feel they are intruding in her seclusion. Woodman makes her presence vague among the surroundings as she lurks in discreet corners or moves frantically enough that we can only make her out as a trace in the background. One particular image of her lying underneath a door in the open space of a room evokes a sense of weakness and intense self torment.
I find Woodman creates a powerful atmosphere within her imagery as she exposes herself very intimately and this brings a pureness to her psychological narratives. Woodman creates an effective impact in how she uses objects almost threateningly towards her own body where this brings a dominant presence in the objects as active instruments. I admire her composition and I personally find she reflects herself strongly as a human individual. This has influenced my own creative practice in terms of how I could purposely make the audience feel uncomfortable as this approach may bring across the reality of psychological struggle to a greater degree.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei works in a variety of media including photography, film, sculpture and audio in which he explores subjects of irony and activism. Weiwei has featured in various documentaries which follows his exploration of international issues which contributes as a progressive aspect of his work. Weiwei has exhibited internationally and has participated in activist activities that has also made him to be known as a controversial artist.
The three piece series ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn‘ (1995) is one piece where Weiwei brings about a controversial message in which we witness the artist in three ‘freeze frame’ photographs of him dropping a historical Chinese artefact to the floor, destroying it in the process. Weiwei keeps an emotionless expression as we witness these actions, conveying further disturbance. The images act as a preservation for the object and a figment of a two dimensional subject as now it is only present in these images. Weiwei produces an intensity, especially in the second image as the artist brings across the notion that time has stopped as the artefact has not yet hit the ground. Weiwei brings a sense of past, present and future as in the first image, the artefact still exists, the second shows the active process of dropping it and the final image shows the result of its destruction.
I find Weiwei brings an effective symbolic approach to his works and goes beyond the boundaries to convey a message that could be rather daring and surprising in almost a stubborn way. I do find the way he communicates his motives is controversial, however he succeeds in establishing a reaction. This type of active practice Weiwei executes influences my developmental process of my own narratives where I could experiment with interaction with objects in a way how you wouldn’t normally use them.
Exploring other psychological examples of work has given me insight into how I could further challenge the audience through means of setting a specific task for the individual within the subject matter. I find the way both Woodman and Weiwei execute their own visual roles in their work makes the content even more personal; we see the artist themselves fulfilling the actions seen where they are acknowledging the audience directly.
The Photographer’s Gallery features a section where the viewer is invited to view a piece of work on a wall more closely, write down what they see and then place it inside a box. During my visit, the changing display project by Touchstone titled ‘What Do You See?‘ featured work by drawing artist and photographer Thomas Zummer. For the work titled ‘Study for a Portrait of Simon Ironing‘ (2005), I wrote down my thoughts on how the drawing may refer to futuristic possibilities.
I found the experience very thought provoking and I find this type of installation an effective way of interacting with the audience directly. The installation makes the viewer think deeper into what something could mean generally or to them personally.
Visit to Tate modern: ‘Performing for the Camera’ (PFTC)
‘Performing for the camera’, a show currently running at the Tate Modern gallery presents a wide range collection of photography with over 500 photos from a variety of well known artists and photographers. The show explores the art of performance and photography in which image content includes portraiture, fine art and still life.
American artist Jimmy Desanna features a series of images which depict ambiguous portraits capturing the human body and objects. Desanna was a leading artist in the 1980’s and 1990’s and is known for his experimental ‘anti art’ style where he poses individuals in awkward positions. Desanna has featured in many galleries including the Pat Hearn gallery and the Wilkinson gallery.
The series uses a variety of subjects in which Desanna uses objects to deform or place the human subject in bizarre situations. For example, the image ‘Marker Cones‘ sees a man on all fours with his hands and feet balanced inside 4 individual cones upon a green backdrop. Desanna creates a circus like atmosphere and keeps his subjects anonymous.
I find Desanna’s works a unique contribution to the show and I admire how Desanna has re-interpreted the human body as a functional asset for objects.
British photographer Martin Parr features a vast selection of images in which all of them feature …well.. himself. Parr is a leading documentary photographer who captures subjects of life referring to propaganda and international reality in which he allows us to be entertained by quirky re-interpretations of popular visual subject matter such as famous monuments. Parr creates humour by placing subject matter in places where they shouldn’t be, evoking a new perspective of life where one might look twice.
The series ‘Auto-Portraits‘ is an on going series that began in 1996 that captures the photographer using play role and green screen technology to make himself appear in various places as various people. Parr uses this as a way of providing fake evidence to the audience that he has visited ‘this place’ and is ‘this person’. Despite the fact that we know this is not to be true, Parr brings a comedic relationship between objects and space by using it to his initiative as a method of creating a life story display.
I find Parr brings charisma and is open minded about the subjects he chooses and I admire this in how he is creating a profile that is not real and yet he keeps the viewer interested through the use of referencing real iconic subject matter in world culture.
Hicham Benohaud began his career as a teacher in art education as well as taking his own educational occupations in Strasberg. Benohaud works in a variety of other media as well as photography and exhibits internationally in which he has featured in many shows including the Aperture Foundation in New York.
The series featured in ‘Performing for the Camera’ which is titled ‘The Classroom‘ (1968) Benohaud asked his students to spontaneously stop their work in class to pose for a photo where they were given the activity to use materials around them. This six piece series brings an evocative concept that breaks the rules by capturing a subject in a controlled environment; Benohaud does this during a school session where other children are to continue with their school work.
I find this series is cleverly executed in how Benohaud takes advantage of space and materials in an environment where there is a specified routine and Benohaud puts this routine on pause using one individual at a time.
Erwin Wurm is an Austrian artist who uses a range of media to provoke queer and humorous engagement between people and objects. Featuring two instalments in the ‘PFTC’ show, Erwin explores the everyday, although placing his subjects in unordinary situations. The ‘Claudia Schiffer‘ series (Untitled) depicts portraits of a young woman setting various poses where she uses her body to balance objects in odd places. For example, one image of Schiffer balancing a plate on her head as she leans on the table may put one on edge. What if the food got in her hair? Wurm puts the audience on the edge of their seat as he gives the impression that the pose will fall apart any second. The second series titled ‘One Minute Sculptures‘ presents a similar occupation where Wurm depicts his subjects against a white background, bringing pure focus to the subject matter through the execution of close up portraits. These portraits bring more contrast between space and subject matter. As well as photographic display, Wurm invites the audience to try experimenting with objects themselves in a similar fashion seen in the work.
I find Wurm brings a fun element to this piece where the individual is placed under pressure to maintain the given poses. I find this is influential towards my ideas of how objects can also be interactively challenging as well as visually thought provoking.
Japanese artist Keiji Uematsu conceptually explores objects and space in which he provokes barriers that could either bring elements together harmoniously or destroy them completely. Following his studies in Japan at the Kobe University, Uematsu travelled to Germany as a member of the formed artists group Moha-ha where he gradually developed his own platform for performance photography. Uematsu has featured at various festivals including the Performance Art festival in Brussels.
Uematsu’s work often consists of a mixture of black and white and colour photography creating illusion and unexplainable subject matter by using active techniques performed by the individual. The show features his work’s ‘Wave Motion IV‘ (1973) and ‘Stone/Rope/Man II‘ (1974). Within these monochrome images, Uematsu establishes wonder in how he brings the illusion that the man is holding onto an attached stone floating in the air.
Uematsu brings a sense of trickery into environments that appear quite ordinary and uses subject matter to the point where in the image, anything is possible. I find this series brings the viewer to want to know more about how Uematsu created the performance as the images leave us questioning the reason behind the pose.
Visiting the show ‘Performing For the Camera’ was beneficial towards my ideas of photographic installation when considering how I would bring across my narrative further to my target audience in a public space. I find the most valuable lesson I learned from this show was the variety of ways in which photographs could be installed on a wall when presented in a non interactive setting. For example, Martin Parr’s ‘Auto-Portraits‘ present a loose style of hanging pictures in which the images consist of different sizes, shapes and frames while other artists have featured their work as a long trail sequence to follow or by covering the wall completely.
This show has also inspired me to consider more ideas of how I could approach performance elements in my own work where I could create a complete twist on the subject matter by making the individual more active toward objects to capture unexpected moments.
The story for my narrative brings focus on two subjects: a single individual and a box. The story follows the developments of the individual’s keeping of the object in which the individual tries to resist temptation to open it. Revealed inside is the identity they desire. This sequence has been photographed capturing the subjects movements frame by frame in which I have selected key actions of the individual as he takes the steps to retrieve his longing for truth. This sequence was photographed using ambient lighting and I have chosen to use a male lead.
Contact Sheets-All Images
I have chosen to feature the images as a black and white series as I intend to avoid having elements in the background causing distraction in the content. During the editing process in Photoshop, I firstly cropped the images and used the saturation tool to take away colour completely. I also used the spot healer tool to diminish any unwanted marks on the subject matter.
I then used the curves, brightness and contrast tool to enhance the lighting and exposure of the subject matter. This was to bring more depth in the shadows particularly as the setting is intended to be quite intense and edgy.
I also made other adjustments where I made slight enhancement of clarity to refine detail. For one of the images which depicts the ring object inside the box, I used the smudge tool to create a blurred illusion effect. My intention of this was to add a visually uncanny presense to the object.
Black Box Narrative Storyboard (32 Images):
Other still life images of the box will be featured throughout the series to give balance within the visual content in which the viewer sees both subjects together and then transcends to a viewing of the box alone. These images refer to all objects present in the scene and establishes the dark character to the box object through use of intense lighting.
I found shooting this sequence quite challenging as I was working within a confined space with only two subjects to focus the narrative on. However, I am confident that this series brings across the theme and this has developed my skills in taking the initiative to delve deep into creating a narrative when involving subjects of a small number.
If I were to feature the series as a gallery installment, I would use the two images of the preceding objects found inside the box to encourage the viewer to participate in a physical activity. The viewer would be asked to choose one of the objects that the character in the series should take and so cards will be provided for the viewer to note down their choice and place this inside the actual thing. The box would be featured within the viewing space as an additional installment relating to this aspect of the series. The viewer would be asked which one they choose and why they chose it? This activity would be intended to give the audience the opportunity to consider what they would do if they were placed in the same position as the leading character in the narrative. This would bring more immersive quality to the series as an interactive piece as well as a visual one.
BBC Three’s recent psychological drama ‘Thirteen‘ follows the story of a girl who has escaped her kidnapper and returned home in which this leading character re-adjusts to ordinary life. However, developments concerning her case provoke further events to occur.
The scenes in this drama provoke an intense observation of how life threatening events has affected the character’s mental well being in which the drama gives a deep analysis of the character’s relationships with others. We also see how the character retraces her steps upon her return in terms of her relationship with her own belongings in which we witness the character’s anxiety when recognising these items.
As well as developing characters, I find this drama also highlights how one reacts to objects of important meaning and this influences my concept ideas of realising an objects significance. For example, one scene which presents another character creating a visual drawing for the detective establishes the crucial element of possibility in which another piece solves the puzzle. I intend to bring this element across in my own practice toward my visual essay as I find this will develop further conceptual development when concerning the ‘object’ subject matter. As a part of my own concept, I intend to represent the object as an equal character (in its own way) where the individual is provoked to interact with it as if it is a living thing.
This drama has strongly influenced my conceptual ideas of setting the scene in which I find the suburban setting a fitting environment for conflictive, realistic drama.
ARR BBC (2016) ‘Media Centre-Thirteen’ [Online Article] Available from: www.bbc.co.uk (19/02/2016)
BBC IPlayer (2016) ‘Thirteen-Homepage’ [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk (Accessed 27/03/2016)
Tom Philips is an artist who works with a rich variety of materials including textiles, painting, sculpture and collage. Following his studies in renaissance art and theatre, Phillips began his career with great success; he currently works as a critic, curator and teacher and also holds the role of Committee Chairman of the Royal Academy. His works have featured in many galleries across the UK including the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate modern. He is currently represented by the Flowers gallery based in London.
Phillip’s collage works are particularly influential in generating various methods of displaying text and images in a book format. Various works in this category feature printed imagery in which Phillips paints directly onto book pages, often using vibrant colour but also other materials for black and white imagery. Phillips singles out particular pieces of text or single words from the pages, highlighting them in bubble like forms that cast a continuous flow throughout the page. He also links words together that appear on different lines and also uses other paper materials for further experimentation with texture, usually with oil paint. Phillips is playful with narrative using typographical methods where he re-structures text within imagery and uses this as a guide to exploring hidden messages.
I find Phillips creatively transforms the book as a sequence of text displayed within colourful, abstract subject forms that presents new ways of reading a text by rearranging the visual typography altogether. This is influential towards my creative practice toward my ideas of narrative sequence as this brings further conceptual developments of visual presentation that could potentially merge images and words as one visual display.
Laurence Sterne was an English novelist who is famously known for his works in poetry and narrative comics. Following his scholarship, Sterne took the role as a Vicar and began his first writings in politics for a newspaper run by a relative. In 1759, Sterne published one of his most famous writings ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman‘ which gained him high recognition in the city of London.
In this book publishment, Sterne is experimental with text where the content features markings in support of Sterne’s written essays. One various pages, Sterne visually represents his narratives through visual forms such as line diagrams and also uses letters to mark and express his then current thinking. Sterne cleverly gives the reader something to visually read as well as using a scripted text format and this changes the readers approach towards reading. Sterne almost presents a visual diary to us that allows us to re-interpret text as a guide.
I find this type of book art expresses well of the various ways text can be used in showing one’s state of mind. This is influential towards my practice as it demonstrates another style of typography that integrates other text forms to translate an understanding of a narrative.
My intentions for this project involve exploring the individual on a profound level and initiating a bonding relationship with their surroundings. Following my findings of practitioners who use sequential photography, I have come to further consider how my sequential series shall be presented in which I have decided to present my series as a photo essay. I have chosen to do this as I find this an efficient method of displaying my images consecutively and will give a basic and fluent structure where the viewer can follow the narrative with ease. This also allows me to archive the imagery to a greater extent as part of my narrative as opposed to selecting images of a fewer number.
As well as exploring the theme of ‘Sanctuary’ within the sequenced narrative, I also intend to bring across a recognition of identity concerning the individual. I find this is an important factor as the theme can also potentially relate to how a ‘Sanctuary’ can affect a person emotionally and perhaps physically. Ways I would like to represent this within the series may include featuring text alongside the images, potentially as a single worded subtitle.
My practice will observe aspects of the surroundings in which I intend to bring focus on one particular object as a subject in relation to the individual. My concept idea will focus on how the object presents the answer to the identity of the individual and throughout the series, I intend to show the development of this encounter as the object takes an affect on the individual. For example, this could potentially draw attention to the cause of the environmental change in relation to the individual.
I have decided to set the scene in an interior space in a household environment that personally relates to the lead character; this may be a bedroom or I may also use other rooms to convey other narrative developments.