Assignment 5 – Self assessment

Following completion of my fifth assignment for this course, I have made some notes about how I feel the outcome matches the course assessment criteria

Criteria Self-assessment
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. I believe the final photograph was completed to a reasonably good technical standard and that it reflects my initial intention in terms of composition, contrast and illumination. The setting was quite complex, particularly from the lighting perspective, and I needed to make various takes with different lighting options over several days, as I could only achieve the required darkness around mid-night every day. The final image required some post-processing work as it was the combination of two photographs taken with different focal points to increase depth of field and I believe the end result was quite seamless.
Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. This was perhaps the most challenging part of the assignment, as I decided to focus my attention on a single photograph, whereas in previous assignments I was working with a series. It is often easier to build up a concept over a series of images, and therefore, I was sometimes unsure if I could convey the anguish and uncertainty that the two characters developed for this assignment were supposed to be feeling at the moment the image was captured. I tried several points of view and poses and decided that in the end the way the characters were portrayed in the final image comes closest to what I wanted to convey, noting that in the future, I would like to explore how the same scene would look using a more narrow angle of view that could bring the characters closer, and a different point of view (other than the two explored), and how this could change the interpretation of the stories (in this attempt, I deliberately tried to use a wide-angle lens to increase the distance between characters).
Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. Most of the experimenting done for this photograph was primarily in lighting and point of view. Having determined the location for the photograph, I tried different points of view (from upstairs, from inside the car) to find out which one worked better aesthetically but also from the story-telling point of view. For each of these alternatives, I tried different light settings, and the final shot includes a combination of available light (from a street lamp) supplemented by different controlled light sources (tablets, LED panels, continuous light under soft boxes) that were gradually added, and in some cases removed from the scene, until it was lit in a way that was satisfactory.

Once the final point of view for the image was selected, the other technical challenge I had to overcome was the awkward location for the camera, and how to stabilize it sufficiently so as to be able to take two shots of the same scene with a relatively slow shutter speed (to keep ISO as low as possible). This was achieved by designing a flat plank with a moveable rail (made up using an old flash bracket) that allowed the camera to be repositioned on location to achieve the ideal vantage point.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. For this part of the course I looked into a number of artists that have used the photographic tableaux throughout their career, including Jeff Wall, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Hannah Starkey, Gregory Crewdson and Cindy Sherman. While my inspiration for this image came while looking at a work that is not a tableaux (Nicky Bird’s “Question for Seller”), I was mostly inspired aesthetically by Cindy Sherman’s work, particularly by some of her pictures from the Untitled Film Still series. The way she looks away from some of her pictures (see for instance, Untitled Film Still # 10 (1)) not only heightens tension, but also enriches the narrative by pushing the viewer to think about what is going on outside the frame. I tried to achieve a similar effect in my photograph by having the main character looking away, seemingly concerned.

(1) MoMA. 2018. Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #10. 1978 | MoMA. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/56555. [Accessed 01 July 2018].

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