Research and Analysis of images: Assignment 2

Research and reflection on assignment 2

Bibliography and Illustrations: 

This them arose out of an interest to explore death and beauty. I wanted to portray something that would have a visual impact and work to produce an interesting visual effect.

To prepare for this assignment I explored two images, one a photo and the other a painting by Holbein.

Hans Holbein (1533)
Figure 2: The ambassadors, Hans Holbein (1533)
Figure 1:The anamorphic skull from Holbein’s The ambassadors, Hans Holbein (1533)

The research done for this project was varied. I started with an inspiration in the background of the Holbein painting The ambassadors The image represents the time of nobility. It depicts two main characters and a number of articles representing geology, the sciences and implements for universal measurement etc. Below we see interestingly a hymn book and other things. As if putting religion to the background and the sciences to the fore. In the foreground of the image there is an aspect that has always fascinated me but was not unusual as a feature in painting for the time which is that of a skull angled interestingly, giving the whole painting a very odd dimension. The skull seems to suggest the ever-present reality of time passing and impermanence. The reality as death perhaps as the greatest power in our lives and the inevitable outcome of life.


Figure 3: (1971) Tomoko bathed by her mother W. Eugene Smith.

I also explored the photograph by Eugene Smith (1971) Tomoko bathed by his mother, Minimata,  Japan. The image: A mother bathing her deformed son in a traditional Japanese bath in Minimata. The scene is dark and only light by day light coming through one window above the subject. The photographer has an intimate part to play in the photo. The effects of long-term mercury poising result in gross deformation of the boy’s body. The image is a strong composition, arranged tightly in the frame. The lighting is strongly low-key and one only sees the outline of the faces of the figure and some of the body and the environment. This image inspired the photos for this project above all others that I explored. The atmosphere of the image is stark and pronounced. The horizontal frame gives scope for the body of the boy laid out in the bath. The juxtaposition between the deformed boy and the mother attentive and caring offers an interesting mix of responses. In the project I was looking to present juxtaposed elements. The beauty of the woman and the ‘face of death’ in the form of the skull.

The painting by Holbein has a strongly featured skull in the lower section of the image providing one of the focal points. It is a reminder of the fact of impermanence and death and as such was device used by painters of the era. I have been strongly inspired by the image over the years. The skull is situated at an interesting angle and holds a key place in the painting amongst the focal points.

William Eugene Smith
(1971 or 1972) – Minamata, Japan. 
The picture but Tomoko is another source of inspiration for both the light and the angle of view. It is a simple and contemplative image based upon Tomoko being bathed by his mother in a Japanese public bath. It is both sad and poignant.

The image is strongly directionally lit from the right of the frame falling down diagonally across the faces of Tomoko and his mother. The image is largely in darkness. This feature of a directional light falling onto the face was one aspect of what inspired my assignment. The image has 4 or 5 main focal points all of which take place on a single plane within the frame. The faces, the hands of Tomoko, the chest and the legs to some extent. The image is photojournalism and and according to the source here:

 ‘This may well be the first environmental pollution photojournalism’

Analysis of my images

In the sequence of images that I produced for assignment two I have taken a simple composition in the form of two distinct points within each frame. The face and the skull are the main focus. The light is frontal and from the side. Each image has about the same amount of exposure.

The story line of the images is one of beauty, death and ephemerality. However, there is too much repetition in the sequence and perhaps the  work would of benefited from more variety of subject matter. I have already mentioned that it would of been good to of included more background and to have used the surrounding environment more. The tutors response was clear enough and I have commented on this is the relevant feedback section under the assignment.

Of the image that works least in my opinion it is the one of the woman on the bridge with the face veiled. Of the image that is most successful, it would be the one with the woman who has her eyes closed whilst the skull looks on at her. The failings in the sequence are mainly to do with lighting. The composition is basic, but allowable.



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