Assignment 3 – Self assessment

Following completion of my third 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 images have all been completed to a reasonably good technical standard and that they reflect my initial intention in terms of composition, lighting and tonality. Some of the images posed interesting technical challenges, as a result of being the combination of various exposures or long exposures with strobes. In some cases, I had to find a compromise from the aesthetics perspective in order to achieve a working final image. The experience will help me plan better for any re-shoots when I revise this assignment for final submission.
Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. Generally speaking, I am satisfied with the outcome of the project and the way I presented it. I feel that the ideas that I showed in the series are somewhat linked to each other, although they were never intended to be part of a story, but rather to stand alone. I feel that the total number of pictures included in the end was on the low side of where I wanted to be, and perhaps with a bit more time I could have develop other ideas into images that would have enriched the final selection a bit more.
Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. For this series, my initial intention was to do something that was somewhat different from the types of shots I have tried in the first two assignment, which were essentially straight shots, mostly indoors. I experimented with various techniques I had explored briefly in previous parts of this course or even in previous courses, and I tried to do more outdoor shots. I also kept a specific, separate sketchbook for this project and this helped me intersect ideas with images I took specifically for this assignment or even before, in order to come up with new pictures. While taking the pictures, I was looking for the best way to achieve a particular result, but there is always the risk that focus on a technique detracts from the meaning of an image. I tried my best not to make my images look gimmicky, but unintentionally some of them may have ended up looking that way.
Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. For this assignment, I was partially inspired by some of the aesthetic values of Francesca Woodman’s photographs (research notes), particularly in the blurriness and extreme tonal values of some of her images, which sometimes add a layer of extra impact to the image; as well as the surreal undertones of some of Duane Michals’s series of images (see my notes here). Some individual images were inspired by shots taken by David Bailey (link)(1)(link)(2), while the final presentation was inspired by Anna Fox’s My Mother’s Cupboards and my Father’s Words (link)(3).

The main source of context for this assignment was the diary I kept for about three weeks. I stopped keeping the diary shortly after Christmas, thinking that I had sufficient material to find inspiration for the assignment, but at the end of the assignment I felt that I was slightly constrained by the parts of the diary I considered suitable as captions for the series. I wished that in the end the diary was longer just three weeks, to have more options from where to draw the texts accompanying the images, as well as richer source for more ideas about images.

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(1) DAVID BAILEY (b.1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . 2018. DAVID BAILEY (b.1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/david-bailey-b1938-the-kray-brothers-4983537-details.aspx. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

(2) David Bailey (b. 1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . 2018. David Bailey (b. 1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/david-bailey-b-1938-the-kray-brothers-5994137-details.aspx. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

(3) My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. 2018. My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/my-mothers-cupboards/. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

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Assignment 3 – Final selection and presentation

At first, my intention was to pair the photographs taken for this assignment with a single word describing the emotion or state of mind which inspired the image. In some cases, I felt that the connection between images and the caption was too indirect or that the ideas portrayed, when condensed into single words, resulted in captions that were too similar to each other. I concluded that a better idea would be to accompany the photographs with excerpts from the dairies, rather than single words or short titles; thus wrapping each image into a situation or story, potentially more complex and dimensional than just an abstract concept. The challenge with this approach is that I would have to decontextualise the captions in some way, as I did not want to include whole sections of my diary (for privacy considerations). This could result in extracts that are either too specific or too vague.

I approached this task by going through the diary and extracting parts of it that I considered the best fit to accompany the photographs. I did several passes of this, re-reading and extracting new parts as I re-visited the episodes jotted down. I then tabulated the extracted parts by date and noted the images I considered more appropriate to accompany each of them.  The final presentation (which can be seen here), was inspired by the way Anna Fox presented her series My Mother’s Cupboards and my Father’s Words (link)(1).

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(1) My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. 2018. My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/my-mothers-cupboards/. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

 

Assignment 3 – Technical considerations and shooting process.

A total of 314 photographs were taken for this assignment (link to annotated contact sheets), of which 23 were shortlisted and 9 made it to the pre-final selection (see below). Some are straight, one-shot images without significant manipulations (other than for adjusting lighting and converting to black and white) but many of the photographs were created in post-processing by combining various exposures, using techniques similar to those I already explored for part one of this course (link). Some of those images that were captured directly in camera make use of sequential strobes over a single long exposure shot to capture multiple impressions of myself, a technique first popularised by Harold Edgerton (link)(1) and which I had explored in a previous OCA course (link). Another set was done by capturing body movement over a long exposure, this time by taking advantage of ambient light only.

All images were cropped to a 2:3 aspect ratio and shown in landscape, to maintain uniformity of presentation. Every image features me or parts of me only. The final selection of images is shown below with some commentary on the how the images came about

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Image 1: 35mm lens – 1/320s at f8. ISO 50. This image, initially devised to convey fear, particularly of being harmed, was taken during a field trip to the Sussex coast in which I was experimenting with long shadows under strong, lateral sunlight. Both the shadow and hand shown are mine, but the image play on the idea of being attached by a stranger. The image is essentially a straight shot but the shadow was manipulated in post-processing to enhance impact. The building, a beach hut, had a bright yellow front wall (left hand side of the frame). I decided to convert this to black and white to eliminate this as a distraction.
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Image 2: 35mm lens – 13s at f22. ISO 50. GN 43 Flash fired three times during exposure at 1/8th power. This image, taken to convey a state of frenzy, is a single long exposure where ambient light was reduced to the minimum level and a strobe was fired repeatedly to freeze my movement.
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Image 3: 28mm lens – 15m at f8. ISO 200. This image, taken in total darkness, is part of a series meant to capture my movement while sleeping. It was achieved in a single exposure and there was not manipulation other than to adjust lighting, crop and convert to black and white.
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Image 4: 90mm lens – 1/60s at f8. ISO 4000. Initially part of a study on subject placement and negative space, this image evolved to become an exploration of self-inflicted anguish. The image is the result of combining three exposures in post-processing.
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Image 5: 41mm lens – 1/30s at f4 – ISO 2500. This image was taken with a relatively slow shutter speed to intensify its tension. Both the face and the punch are mine, but I used a shirt on top of another one to create the illusion that somebody else is trying to punch me. This was all captured in a single shot without manipulation in post-processing (other than to adjust lighting, crop and convert to black and white).
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Image 6: 41mm lens – 1/20s at f4. ISO 200. This image, derived from a similar still I captured of my cat escaping through our flap door, was intended to illustrate an entry on my diary about fate. A slow shutter speed was selected to emphasize the movement of the legs. The image was created by combining two exposures in post-processing.
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Image 7: 34mm lens. 1/8000s at f13. ISO 6400. This image, which tries to comment on the quest for happiness, is the re-imagining of a picture taken before I started this assignment. The final image is the result of combining two exposures taken in different places under the same lighting and exposure conditions.
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Image 8: 90mm lens – 1/60s at f8. ISO 800. This image, which is a commentary on obsessiveness, is the result of combining 9 images as layers in post processing.
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Image 9: 42mm lens – 1/60s at f8. ISO 1600. This image, which was taken to illustrate feelings of paranoia, was in part inspired by the portraits taken by David Bailey of the Kray brothers in the 1960s (link)(2)(link)(3), as well as by an article from The Guardian explaining how lower relative height can increase the feeling of vulnerability and paranoia (link)(4). The final image is the result of combining three exposures in post-processing.

All images shown above were used in the final presentation except numbers 4 and 8. In the case of image 4, I decided to leave it out because I felt there was another image that fitted better the text I wanted to use as caption. In the case of image 8, I felt that the connection between the concept I wanted to illustrate (obsessiveness) and the image itself was too vague, and the diary excerpt I had for this idea was not sufficiently related to the image itself.

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(1) Michael Hoppen Gallery. 2018. Dr Harold Edgerton | Michael Hoppen Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artists/54-dr-harold-edgerton/overview/. [Accessed 06 February 2018].

(2) DAVID BAILEY (b.1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . 2018. DAVID BAILEY (b.1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/david-bailey-b1938-the-kray-brothers-4983537-details.aspx. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

(3) David Bailey (b. 1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . 2018. David Bailey (b. 1938) , The Kray Brothers, 1965 | Christie’s . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/david-bailey-b-1938-the-kray-brothers-5994137-details.aspx. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

(4) The Guardian. 2018. Height perception and paranoia | Science | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/29/height-perception-paranoia. [Accessed 08 February 2018].

Assignment 3 – Research and sketching

Having identified what I wanted to reflect upon in the series, I started the research process by combing through the diary again and trying to identify the specific state of mind that I was going through. I kept notes of my secondary thoughts on this on a sketchbook, and started to come up with some rudimentary graphic ideas and preliminary images. Having identified some of the emotions that I experienced, I then decided to explore further these concepts by building mind maps around them, which helped me isolate the ones that I wanted to focus on – which eventually included paranoia, obsessiveness, happiness, euphoria/restlessness, fear, negativity, fatalism, procrastination and violence.

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One of the several mindmaps I completed for this assignment (extract from sketchbook)
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Drawings and comments from my sketchbook for this assignment
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Initial explorations for one of the images included in this assignment (extract from sketchbook)

Following this identification, I started to do both visual and contextual research in some of the topics. The visual research came from experimenting with images taken at various settings, to find the ones that better fitted into the emotions I wanted to portray. In some cases, the association was too indirect to work effectively, and the images were discarded for a particular concept. However, the intersection between some of these discarded images, and some of the techniques I used for this assignment, led to new images that fitted well some of the other ideas I wanted to convey. The contextual research primarily centered around looking into some of the states of mind that I wanted to illustrate and trying to both look at photos available online linked to these ideas, as well as any theoretical background information related to these emotions that could serve as inspiration.

Coming into this assignment, I was partially inspired by some of the aesthetic values of Francesca Woodman’s photographs (research notes), particularly in the blurriness and extreme tonal values of some of her images, which sometimes add a layer of extra impact to the image; as well as the surreal undertones of some of Duane Michals’s series of images (see my notes here). From very early in the process I decided that the images for this series were all going to be black and white. The primary reason was that I did not want the viewer to be distracted by the bright colours in some of the original exterior sequences that I photographed (see further comments here), but additionally I felt that in subtracting colour from the equation I was able to focus more on action within the frame and less on technical aspects of illumination and colour balance, particularly for the indoor shots.

 

 

Assignment 3 – Preliminary ideas

In preparation for this assignment, I kept a diary between 4th of December until 26th of December 2017 (23 days in total). During this time I jotted down an assortment of work episodes, dreams and general thoughts. The diary was later reviewed by my wife, who pointed out the parts that she considered interesting. Besides my thoughts, I also recorded commentary on third parties that may be sensitive. As a result of this, I have decided not to post the diary in my blog or to use it fully as part of the submission.

The commentary from my wife was made in two parts. She initially reviewed the first week, and then suggested me to make some changes to the way I was recording my thoughts. She suggested that I was being a bit too superficial and ornate in my writing and that I should go more in-depth into what was going through my mind. She also suggested that I extract an overall theme from the diary and built a series around it – a single concept emerging from the various entries. As she reviewed the remaining two weeks of entries and highlighted the bits that she liked, it started to become clear to me that I wanted to do a series about the various states of mind that I went through during the period that I kept the diary. I believe many of these states are frequently recurring for me, and I thought that trying to find representations for these in photographic terms would be, if not therapeutic, at least another way of bringing them into my consciousness.