Assignment 4: Experimentations in still life

Theme for the assignment 4: “Power struggle”

CONTENT:

  1. General overview of assignment four and explanation
  2. Tutor feedback and comments
  3. Learning log for all exercises in part 4 and assignment
  4. Concluding comments
  5. Laura Letinsky Analysis:https://truevisionphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/laura-letinsky-photo-analysis/
  6. Bibliography and Illustrationshttp://wp.me/p5YgoM-lL

Research and analysis for assignment 4: Follow link:

https://truevisionphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/research-and-analysis-assignment-4/

1. General overview of assignment 4: Experimentation: still life

This assignment required us to explore and experiment with the variety of techniques and methods available at our disposal to produce exercises based on the theme of still life. The theme of still life was defined quite broadly and the end assignment task has been to show a full constructed image or scene depicting a constructed environment.

Assignment 4: “Power struggle” 

This assignment found me wondering into a whole range of ideas. I wanted to emphasise the word “struggle” and to pull out this aspect of human nature that can be based in competitiveness, greed or simply the sense of being oppressed somehow either in a personal, national or political sense. I used as it were a common language in the image and staged the photo in a studio that I am building bit by bit in my house. The two main points of reflection were the lighting and the composition in general. I wanted to use a particular form of lighting that was more specula and falling from above in order to enhance shadow and to give a sense of the composition shrouded in darkness. This is part of the symbolism of the image. The women wear black and the men white. There is no reference as such to men being purer or vis-versa but simply to give a sense of contrast. I placed a rope around the body and the neck of the protagonists in order to emphasis the struggle. It seems to be taking place between just the sexes here but in fact what I had in mind was to portray how struggle is happening on many levels of the human psyche always.

I shot a total of around 30 frames all at the same exposure with the exception of a few that I dropped half a stop of shutter speed. The images relied heavily for the lighting on the following arrangement: Silver reflector fixed to the ceiling and white 100% paper around the round reflector. I placed a honeycomb light modifier over the flash head which was pointed up so as to bounce light downwards and reduce any light splash around the room. I was particularly keen to keep the light falling mainly on the faces and to maintain substantial shadow on the lower part of the face and the torso of the actors. The idea behind the lighting was to create some drama and intensify the image somewhat. I find this particular method most useful for portraying these kinds of emotions. For me the image needed this darkness as it is revealing in a way a ‘shadow side’ to human nature.

Reflecting and learning from the project.

The efficacy of the image is lacking a little in the scene. The scene needed more elements. I thought that smoke could have been a useful addition to the image in order to blur out more some of the lines and to give a sense of intensity. I did consider hiring a smoke machine but the assignment was already taking me over budget. I would consider that I have come closer to what I had pre-visualised in this project compared to previous projects and assignment. This has been partly because I put more time into the preparation and testing of the image before shooting it on the day.

5. Assignment 4 image: “Power struggle

1.The first image I considered using

On further reflection the photo would have been better without the text as the text somewhat complicates the viewing of the photo. This first image (No.1) I did not use because a. the balance of the image was not right and b. the light was too strong on the faces. What I wanted was to produce strong shadow over the top part of the faces of the actors.

Assing4_choice_2_0721

2.The Image chosen but without the text added into the photo

resized_Assing_4_Primaryimage_0709

3.Chosen (below) image for the assignment

Lightdiagram_assinment4
Light diagram for assignment 4 explaining how I used the flash light in this set up

The fault of this image is that it is underexposed by a stop. On reflection I would go back and apply a dodge and burn layer to it to highlight some of the lower areas of the faces and further darken the upper regions of the far around the eyes and the forehead to give deeper shadow. Another factor fed back by my tutor was that the dark clothing disappears into the background so that one does not see. Personally I quite like the effect, but perhaps it has its shortcomings as a finished work.

Analysis of the image:

The photo has seven main focal points which are the faces of each of the characters and later the hands. Then the eyes is drawn to the rope entangling the subjects. There is neither background or foreground in the photo which was intentional. The image has an active to feel to rather than passive and is drawing attention to the theme of struggle (although lacks power-“power struggle”) This was another comment from my tutor. I think that perhaps one could interpret the photo to be a struggle between men and woman, although this was by no means the intention. The women seem more distressed in a certain kind of way and the men looking on. This was an interesting discovery as also it was not intentional.

with_text_resized_0709-Edit

Assignment 4: “Power struggle” by Steve Young – foundation year. An explanation of the image.

This assignment found me wondering into a whole range of ideas. I wanted to emphasise the word “struggle” and to pull out this aspect of human nature that can be based in competitiveness, greed or simply the sense of being oppressed somehow either in a personal, national or political sense.

I used as it were a common language in the image and staged the photo in a studio that I am building bit by bit in my house. The two main points of reflection were the lighting and the composition in general. I wanted to use a particular form of lighting that was more specula and falling from above in order to enhance shadow and to give a sense of the composition shrouded in darkness. This is part of the symbolism of the image. The lighting used for the image is entirely on board speed light produced, but modified in various ways as explained bellow.

The women wear black and the men white. There is no reference as such to men being purer or viz-versa but to give a sense of contrast or difference which is the ground for struggle. I placed a rope around the body and the neck of the protagonists in order to emphasis the struggle. It seems to be taking place between just the sexes here but in fact what I had in mind was to portray how struggle is happening on many levels of the human psyche always. The elements in the frame interact through the people displaying struggle within the relations to one another. The primary elements are the people and their gestures and the props I have used to augment this.

I shot a total of around 30 frames all at the same exposure with the exception of a few that I dropped half a stop of shutter speed. The images relied heavily for the lighting on the following arrangement: Silver reflector fixed to the ceiling and white 100% paper around the round reflector. I placed a honeycomb light modifier over the flash head which was pointed up so as to bounce light downwards and reduce any light splash around the room. I was particularly keen to keep the light falling mainly on the faces and to maintain substantial shadow on the lower part of the face and the torso of the actors. The idea behind the lighting was to create some drama and intensify in the image. I find this particular method most useful for portraying these kinds of emotions. For me the image needed this darkness as it is revealing in a way a ‘shadow side’ to human nature.

Overall I chose to do the image in a studio setting because I wanted full control of the lighting and to produce this kind of image I needed to use a black backdrop.

I added the text: “we struggle to come into the world…” as a way of seeing if it added anything to the image overall. At first I was reluctant to do this as in general I have a mixed response to overstating photography and the writing certainly does present the image as staged. On the other hand I felt that it allowed something in the image to come out that did not before. Therefore I stuck with the text.

Overall Comments

“You have certainly fulfilled the brief in that you have produced a good interpretation of the theme ‘Power Struggle’.

It’s a simple construct using few elements – the dark background eliminating potential complexities associated with this element; the protagonists posing well to represent the concept of struggle and the rope adding the nuance to the theme. In this it allows the viewer a fairly straightforward interpretation. I’m ambivalent about the text. In some respects it provides a layer of subtlety about the theme; it also very firmly directs viewers’ interpretation to your meaning.

So yes it succeeds but its simplicity can also be its criticism – its lack of depth in terms of opportunity – or lack of – for variety in interpretation by the viewer. I’ll expand on this in my comments below.

Understood that a simple theme may have been a way of playing it safe. I had other ideas for the project such as people struggling with a rope, two groups pulling against each other. As I researched I realised that it was a massive cliché. In a way, it was a lesson in how we think as it seemed to be a common idea, and in a way too explicit and literal. I feel that what I wanted to portray was something of the tensions in the human psych rather than literal power struggle of an external kind. But I agree that perhaps the image is simplistic.

The impression of simplicity of the image combines with that gained from looking at your work on the exercises leading up to the assignment: a feeling of work that is perhaps hurried in that it lacks sufficient depth of investigation and consideration. Your notes accompanying the work are quite brief and you only present the final image with no accompanying preceding tests. For example in Exercise 4.1 Fragments you produce an interesting and competent final image but no evidence of the 20 images that consider aspects of texture, colour, how light and shadow can create an impression of form and shape.”

I investigated various possibilities, but it seems that my idea settled on using a simple rather than complex composition. I see that my notes are brief.

Technical and Visual Skills

“The main technical issue with the image is that it is underexposed. There is a difference between low light scene that is well exposed (so that the highlights reach a proper value and seen as highlights) and a scene that is underexposed

where the highlights are seen as mid tones. Below is your original image and next to it is a corrected image to show you the difference”

“I do like the lighting that you have used. It succeeds in your aim to use quite harsh directional light. The dark and very apparent shadows help to convey an atmosphere in keeping with ‘struggle’. You have done well to adapt and use limited equipment to achieve your ends – well done! Some advice – to help assessors quickly and correctly understand your set up you may want to consider including a lighting diagram.

If nothing else, I put quite bait of thought into researching how I would light the scene. I saw a number of tutorials on lighting using speed light flash and decided to work with this. Actually there is a lot of scope for creativity just using a single flash, if one knows where to reflect and bounce light and control it. I think, apart from the under exposure which I think was a glitch that I did not pick on, because I was sure that it was correctly exposed initially, the lighting is successful

You have done well with directing the participants – Your decision to ‘dress’ the men in white and women in black is interesting but the pose and lighting combine to lessen this aspect – the top lighting and dark background has meant that the black outfits merge with the background black. An alternative would have been to give these a tone or two above ‘jet black’.

It’s interesting to see the poses of the participants – the men are intent on looking at a specific object – either the camera or another protagonist; the women have their gaze directed at nothing in particular. The result – at least to my mind – is a feeling that the men have a very directed focus of their struggle whereas the women’s struggle is more amorphous. It would be interesting to see your own reflections on this and other deeper aspects of struggle in your notes.”

I this scene the way the actors unfolded, so to speak was quite organic. I gave them all the remit of what I wanted to see, and then I let them play with the role. I gave them time to find it through various gestures and positions. In the end I felt that this was the best arrangement. It could have been enhanced had I emphasised more the component of “POWER” and for example made it more explicit that the struggle was between the sexes. The outcome of the image was picked up on here that the men are facing into the camera and the women showing obvious amorphous signs of struggle is curios as this was not part of the remit. But, maybe, subconsciously I wanted this aspect to come out.

Quality of outcome
“I’ve mentioned my concerns about exposure; my other issue is with the accompanying text in the image. You also seem a little ambivalent about this. Again it would be good to see something of your thoughts – both for and against including this together with referencing other examples of work that includes text.

As I mentioned in a previous assignment I am ambivalent about the use of text with images. I think that if it is to work well it needs to have the correct type of setting. I’ve quoted Duane Michals as an example of someone who uses this genre of photography very well. Maybe because in a way, Duane was perhaps the main initial instigator of this form of work. However, I think it can be powerful, if there is a definite word picture match. Marketing propaganda often employs this method. One notices that sometimes it is extremely successful and at other times in lands badly whereby it does not make sense. I ambivalence in the its positing within a context rather than its use per se.

For me while it conveys information about your own thoughts, in so doing it does very firmly direct a viewers interpretation and thoughts about ‘power struggle’ and in so doing has a tendency of closing off their own thoughts and ideas. Often a work has greater impact if it leaves unanswered questions.

Another issue is the actual placement and design of the text – you have wrapped it around the figures and within the image. What alternatives did you consider? – again this could form part of your discussion notes and reflect your research into images with accompanying text.”

I considered putting the text more traditionally to one side. I considered  also using the text in a more minimalist way. I wrote the text, it was not borrowed. However, I took a chance or a risk as we say, but incorporating it into the image.

Creativity
“I think you have done well with this – I have mentioned some of my reservations. You have been creative with your lighting and your posing of the participants. If anything I think that your image concentrates more on struggle than power. The later seems to have been somewhat unexplored. However this may be a fault of mine.

Not sure what was being said by ‘a fault of mine’ I don’t believe that the remit was ambiguous.

A way of improving the work would be to show your various interpretations and explorations of the theme both with imagery and research as [art of the lead up to this final image. You mention you took 30 images as part of the shoot – were they all in the same vein of interpretation?”

Below is a selection of the images that I shot as a basis for the assignment. The chosen image is the largest at the bottom of the sheet. Yes the images that I shot before were more or less in the same vein. I was by this time following through with the idea that I had and did not think to change tack.

Samples from the shots I made for this assignment

Lightroom (IMG_0733.dng and 16 others)

 

“Having commented earlier on the improvement in the blog I’m concerned that it is too brief and superficial relating to the bare bones of you imagery. I have indicated in several places where I think it could be improved.”

Notes have been fleshed out more in the research analysis section for assignment 4.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context
For images with text have a look at Jim Goldberg’ s work – Rich and Poor, Raised by Wolves. Also Wendy Ewald’s work – towards a promised land.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Use the next assignment to get used to the idea of thinking about displaying your work – it will be a series of images so how do these work together to tell aspects of your ideas.
  • Make sure that part of your preparation is to look at other work – how you interpret the ideas and elements used and note your thoughts and how this influences your ideas.
  • Use you blog/notes to record your thoughts and ideas – good and bad ones .”

3. Learning log based on the exercises:

Exercise 4.1: Fragments

I find this curiously challenging as an exercise. I decided to use the material of paper and glue and scissors rather than photo shop in order to contrast the heavy use of the computer for photo editing and to develop some manual skills in the process of doing the practice by hand. This proved interesting and engaging. The exercise taught me about symmetry within a picture and to see elements within the picture as harmonising.

Exercise 4.2: Constructed imagery

Again the exercise presented challenges at first. I found myself staring at the space not quite knowing where to go with the exercise. As time went on I gained confidence in experimenting with the space and using props and objects to create scenes. This proved enjoyably and good for the development of the imagination. As I continued exploring I started to get a more intuitive feel for the use and design of space. Initially a sort of writer’s block occurred but later, once the ideas started flowing I realised I could go anywhere that I wanted with the work. !

Exercise 4.3: Assembly

Taking photographs of empty spaces for me is a pleasurable experience. I like to imagine what the space is like in its raw state. So having said that I found that I had a preference for the empty space and then the filled space with the objects felt somewhat cluttered and less pleasing visually or aesthetically. The space seems defined by the objects rather than the other way around, at least in this case. The arrangement of the objects obviously makes a big difference as to how the space is defined and what I think that I am learning here is the importance of the that from a design and visual awareness perspective. That the pleasing arrangement of objects gives rise to a particular interpretation of the space whereas the random or ambiguous arrangement of objects can give rise to a confused or reactive response to the space.

Exercise 4.5/4.6: Layers

This exercise consisted in taking various photos firstly of shadow, exposing for strong light and later a reflection taken against contrasting inner and outer light to produce reflection upon the ! inner surface of a window. Then, with the images combined in layers via post editing to give rise to interesting combinations of layered textured photos. With this I found it difficult to gauge the composition as essentially what was being produced was a mixture of different images taken with different exposures and different compositional backgrounds.

Exercise 4.7: Juxtaposition

Here the work went back once again to paper, scissors and visual design. It was fun to produce a piece and what I have noticed is that these images have more of an effect over time. The more I look at the image the more I get a sense of the unreality of our world and situation. This image came more alive as a sort of parody of existence. The pretence of modern man and advertising, always promising the next high experience to counteract the inner emptiness that many of us live with. The inner voice needs to be filled but not from without. Instead we have an image that although humorous and sort of comical also throws for me an interesting light on how we perceive the world that we live in. I would think that with a bit more careful consideration one could compose some interesting and vocal images that would provoke some interesting thought. The artist that comes to mind in this respect is Barbara Kruger. Her work, although using slogans, seems to hit on the topic of making us see how conditioned we are by the society we happen to be born into thus conditioning views and expectations. What I learnt from this execs was similar to the first exercise in this current module. I paid a bit more attention to how to compose the image looking for balance and symmetry. Although the image is initially non-sensical and surreal it does have a curious effect on the mind. This in itself was a learning point as till now I had not taken such interest in the surreal quality that can be invoked in this kind of way.

Exercise 4.8: Photomontage
Again following a similar vein to that above we have the opportunity to place objects in relation to each other in an unlikely combination that have a curious effect. One friend commented to me that it reminded him of a monty python film. For me the compositional element of a montage is secondary to the effect that it can elicit when stayed with for a time. In this exercise I composed a friend meditating and then a car with two women (both the same woman) seated side by side. Myself in the immediate foreground.

Exercise 4.9: Repetition

The effects of this exercise are curious. Looking at the same object a number of times lends itself to a sort of hypnotic effect from the objects. It has a kind of rhythm that sets the mind seeking more the overall pattern rather than one image within the series. I think that I see how repeating an image can slowly intensify the effect on the viewer and lead perhaps to impact quite forcefully the viewer. This would depend on the content of the image to a large degree. However, the qualities that can come from some an arrangement of photos has again shown me what is possible within a simple process such as this.
PROJECT 2: Combining images, objects and concepts
This project I found stimulating. At first I made the assumption that this was pretty much identical to the exercise on sequences and series from assignment 3. Then, getting further into the material I see that it is distinct and has its own language. With the removal of the distant and near image and replacement with a person I felt the image was more complete. The human presence seemed to give the set of images a different feel and texture…less impersonal. I found that I enjoyed looking more at the ‘patchwork’ with a human presence than without. The interpretation of the image is then more personal and less abstract compared to the first series of photos prior to removal of the distant and near object. The presence of a person juxtaposes the other more abstract elements in the frame.

Exercise 4.11: Emulation

And the other has some erotic undertone, at least that it how seems.My feeling is that I have succeeded quite well to capture the elements that I wanted for the photo. The picture that I have taken does have something of the feel of his work. Given that I used lighting that was on the whole very improvised, I managed to achieve something of the lighting effect. However, I intentionally shot the image using the lighting from beneath and not level with the face of the actor. Reason being was that I wanted to illuminate the whole body aspect from the ground up in an even manner.

Technique for emulation project 4.11

In this photo I worked with two lighting elements. Firstly a 1000w constant focal light. These things are dangerous and I nearly burnt down the kitchen. I used a standard photography reflector with the gold side and put the light against it and closed it down considerably to have a sense of focusing the light onto the subject. The final image has been edited throughout, changing the colour tones and saturation through a layer and curves and levels to highlight the body. I also used the burn tool to remove some unwanted glare from the light which as threatening to distract the viewer from the woman and her glance out of the window.

With the work of di corcia there are several things that stand out and hold appeal. Firstly, the way that light is used for the images in the sense of spot lighting the characters so that they stand out from the crowd. He uses posed figures and I believe normally works out the scene and then puts the characters in it. The colours he uses, the tonal ranges seem often saturated and therefore accentuating the figures more.

Experiments:
Whilst I had the idea firmly in mind of what I wanted to produce, I found myself adapting the photo as I was taking the shots. I shot 50 frames during which time moved from the original conception to a rather more simplified version. For me in the end the image that present is one that I am happy with in a way than with my original mental image of the what the outcome would be like.

Concluding notes for learning for the exploring still life section

I would consider that there has been a number of key learning points for this module of the course. Firstly, the way in which we as photographers relate to space and the dimensionality of space. Secondly how we relate to objects and the way in which objects change or modify the space. Then, design and composition within the space. I have developed some new skills in post editing such as the film processing technique and layering images from multiple photographs being applied together. I have strengthened my analysis skills a bit and also taken my time to pre-visualise and practice shoot the scene before actually doing it. Having some of the right gear and equipment that you need for the shoot helps a great deal. For this assignment I invested in a few items that help! me work with light more effectively. In the build up to the degree course and beyond these things will serve me well in my career.

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