Category Archives: 02 Aware

Exercise 2.4 Same background, different model

The brief:

This exercise is essentially the same as the previous one, but instead of taking photographs of the same person, here you must make portraits of three different subjects, but keep the background to the image consistent… You could either select an interesting backdrop to use inside (studio) or perhaps select an interesting backdrop on location (street). Whichever you choose, try to be as creative as you can and be prepared to justify your decisions through your supporting notes. Again, present all three images together as a series and, in around 500 words, reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog.

I decided to shoot this exercise at work using some of my ever so patient colleagues as models. Thank you ladies! I really would be quite lost without your willingness to pose for me.

The location that I chose to shoot in has west facing windows, so was pleasantly lit with the afternoon sun. We have an old warehouse door that is hung on one wall facing the window as decoration and the door is lit by three spotlights that cast interesting shades on the old battered door. I chose to use the door as my background because of its visual interest and texture. I chose to shoot the door in such a way that the hinges and part of the wall would be present in order to provide the context that this is now a wall decoration. Because there was so much mixed lighting (natural, tungsten, fluorescent daylight and flash) I used an X-rite ColorChecker to ensure correct colour rendition and white balance.

I decided to use my flash for this exercise as I haven’t really used it since doing TAOP and am sorely in need of some practice. I found I had to use it to add more light to the scene anyway as the light was a little low, even with the spotlights and available window light. I had the flash off camera, willingly held by a voice-activated light stand (one of the models). I found that the lighting was a little hit and miss, sometimes half the image was bathed in shadow, the next perfectly lit. I’m not sure if this was due to the assistant moving slightly and changing the direction of the light or possibly batteries in the triggers being a little old and not firing quick enough.

I had the stances that Clare Strand’s subjects used in her Gone Astray portraits in mind for this shoot. I had each model try the same variety of poses: full frontal facing the camera; slight turn to the left and right with the head turned toward the camera; facing the door and looking back at the camera over their shoulders. I found that all the ladies adopted a fashion model type pose with the last mentioned pose so I eliminated those poses from my selection. I provided little direction apart from asking them to turn in a particular direction and not to smile. I think I probably directed the person holding the flash more.

All three of the ladies are dressed for our Canadian autumn weather. The rich red tones in the first lady’s tunic top contrasts well with the cool tones of the tin warehouse door in the background. She has an expression on her face that speaks of determination and sass. The second lady’s blue coat and pink scarf pick up on the bluish-gray tones of the door providing a very cool overall palette. She has a slightly unreadable expression on her face – sad/disappointed/tired maybe. The third lady’s face is radiant and glowing. One only has to look at her protective arm gesture to see why. The tones of her clothing bring about a certain neutrality to the image.

On the whole I am rather satisfied with the way the lighting worked. There are some hard shadows on the floor which I would have preferred to be softer, but I can live with that for now. In hindsight I should probably have remembered to take my reflector along and fire the flash through that instead. Next time I will remember. I think its time I hauled out my mannequin’s head and have a little flash practice session.

Advertisements

Exercise 2.3 Same model, different background

The brief:

Consider the work of both Callahan and Germain, then select a subject for a series of five portraits, varying the locations and backgrounds. The one consistent picture element must be the subject you have chosen, who must appear in all five images. Think carefully about where you choose to photograph them, either using a pose that offers a returned gaze to the camera, or simply captures them going about their daily business. The objective once again is to visually link the images together in some way…

Present your five images as a series and write around 500 words reflecting on the decisions you made. Include both of these in your learning log or blog.

I’ve been procrastinating too long on this exercise so am using some photos taken of my father on my recent trip back to South Africa. I did photograph him with the intention of using some of the images for my exercises, but thought I could reshoot the exercise when I returned home. That hasn’t happened so I’m moving on and using what I had previously shot.

My father has just turned 91 years old which is a ripe old age and this visit back to South Africa was most likely the last time I would see him alive, so I decided to photograph him and little aspects of his daily life. He is wheelchair bound on his good days, otherwise he spends his time in bed. Suffering from macular degeneration, his eyesight is hazy at best and he has difficulty focusing on people and objects. As a result his only form of entertainment in his daily life is listening to his transistor radio which accompanies him through out the day. He also loves his hats and on a winter’s day he will sit indoors next to a sunny window wearing his hat on his head to keep it warm.

The two images below that do not feature my father physically are indexical as their links to my father can be inferred, as are many of Julian Germain’s photographs in his work For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness. I chose to preserve my father’s privacy and dignity and not make photographs of him while he was in his bed or being attended to.

A portrait is always of something (and usually of someone). It draws its authority from the real and unique historical presence of the subject whose image it depicts, and at the same time reflects on and affects that presence.

The Chicago School of Media Theory

I feel this set of images are accurate representations of my dad who  once was a vibrant, active and strong man. They pretty much describe his daily life on a good day. I realise that I have one photograph that is portrait format while the rest of the images are landscape format, but in this set I think it can work as it serves as a central anchoring point for the rest of the set.

 

_dsc3007
Figure 1
_dsc3769
Figure 2
_dsc3773
Figure 3
_dsc3318
Figure 4
_dsc3772
Figure 5
_dsc3766
Figure 6
Reference List

The Chicago School of Media Theory (n.d.) Portrait [online] Available at: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/portrait/ [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

Bibliography

Chandler, Daniel Semiotics for Beginners [online] Available at: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/ [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

Germain, Julian (2005) For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness [online]. Available at: http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/foreveryminute.php [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

Save

Save

Save

Clare Strand

Our course manual directs us to read an interview that Clare Strand did with Ana Finel Honigman but unfortunately the link is no longer available.

Strand’s method of working is first to find a subject and to research it from all angles to see what sticks. All her work is about the nature of photography and she is drawn to binary oppositions: extraordinary vs. ordinary, humerous vs. serious, etc. She seems to work mainly in black and white as colour makes her “feel claustrophobic” (Mullen, 2008).

She got her idea for the Gone Astray Portraits while she was doing a fellowship at the London College of Printing. She was researching historical aspects of the city of London when she came across a story written by Charles Dickens of a time when he got lost in the city. She was further inspired by Henry Mayhew’s writings on photographers using painted circus tents for photographic backdrops. Strand was also curious to explore the relationship between town and country in this oevre. Each character in the series is thoughtfully constructed. They are performers, especially chosen for their generic looks.

Photograph by Clare Strand
Photograph by Clare Strand

She uses an antique Victorian looking background – the same scene for all the subjects. The subjects are dressed in modern clothing. Here we have the first of Strand’s binary oppositions (Victorian vs modern). There is no confrontation with the viewer. All the subjects avert their gaze or stand with closed eyes. There is an overall sense of the surreal lurking in these images. Upon closer inspection, one can see that each and every subject is “broken” in some way. One woman carrying a shopping bag stands with her eyes closed, arms hanging by her sides. Her one eye looks as if it has sustained a beating, which seems to be borne out by her defeated stance. Another subject props himself up with a crutch under one arm, looking off into the distance. He too has a pained expression on his face. A pre-teen schoolgirl, sporting a backpack and wearing high heels stares down at the ground. She has a band-aid on her knee. Another woman smartly dressed has a massive run in her pantihose.

The works gain a certain poise and weight from their historical associations but also an indeterminacy: they are difficult to place and to date, situating themselves at odd angles to photography’s grand narrative while gently pulling at the threads that might unravel it.

David Chandler

At first glance the figures look as if they are emerging from a foggy, rather ominous glade, but then one looks at the ground on which the subjects are standing and reality sets in that all is not as it seems to be. The folds and creases in the ground cloth give away the fact that these are studio portraits. Again one of Strand’s binary oppositions – real vs fiction.  We examine and question each image, wondering what the individual’s story is. There no clues except for their dress and their specific brokeness. The subject ignore the onlooker caught up in their own little world. Is it real or not? The images can be seen on her website at: http://www.clarestrand.co.uk/works/?id=100 .

Reference List

Chandler, David (n.d.) Vanity Fair Text [online]. Available at: http://clarestrand.tumblr.com/post/142841300931/vanity-fair-text-by-david-chandler [Accessed 14 October, 2016]

Mullen, Chris (2008) Clare Strand A PhotoWorks Monograph [online] Chris Mullen Enterprises 2007/8. Available at: http://www.fulltable.com/VTS/mullen/june/b.htm [Accessed 14 October, 2016]

Save

Save

Save

Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows series June Street was made in 1972 together with fellow student, Martin Parr.  June Street, Salford was originally the street where soap opera Coronation Street was filmed. The street was earmarked for demolition and Meadows and Parr were curious about the inhabitants of the actual houses vs the inhabitants of those in the soap opera.

The images feature the families living in June Street at that time.  I found a familiar nostalgia while watching the video below and also looking at the images online (and I’m not British). Certain elements in the photographs were familiar to me and brought back recollections of my youth: the reproduction portrait of a beautiful Latin-looking femme fatale (we had a similar one in our house – I remember my father loved the picture so much that he even named the woman Tina);  the old oil heaters; the prints of the big-eyed sad children on the verge of tears; straggly rubber plants; the octagonal mirror; and of course the garish wall paper, not to mention the style of furniture and carpets. In some of the images evidence of laundry can be seen hanging to dry in the sitting room. My favourite image has to be the one with the pair of pantihose hanging next to the fire place held in place by a statuette on the mantel. The pantihose are the punctum to this otherwise rather formal portrait.

It is amazing how similar the houses are in contents and decor.  The point of view is very similar in all the photographs. Most of the photographs feature the focal point of the room, i.e. the oil heater or fire place with the family posed next to it. The poses are rather formal as if they were taken in a photographic studio, but the inclusion of the weekly wash, pets and budgies belies that fact.

Daniel Meadows explains the whole project in the video below. Please click on the image to access the video.

Click on image above to play video
Click on image above to play video
Reference List

DEVELOP Tube (2013).  June Street – by Daniel Meadows [user-generated content online] Creat. Daniel Meadows. 13 January, 2013.  5 min 13 sec Available at: https://vimeo.com/57256051 (Accessed 25 September, 2016)

Magnum Photos (1972) Martin Parr – GB. ENGLAND. June Street. 1972 [online]. Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/Catalogue/Martin-Parr/1972/GB-ENGLAND-June-Street-1972-NN162445.html [Accessed 30 September, 2016]

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Julian Germain

It is abundantly clear in Julian Germain’s oevre For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness that the photographer has spent vast amounts of time with his subject. In fact the series spans 8 years, but interestingly Germain “didn’t see [his] photos of Charlie as a project – it didn’t have a deadline and there was no grand plan for it” (Malone, 2013). Germain met Snelling by chance on the way to a football match and struck up a friendship with him. Snelling’s brightly coloured house (orange and yellow) is what first attracted Germain. He would visit Snelling periodically, sometimes just for tea and a chat and not to photograph at all. Snelling surrounded himself with photographs, mainly of his wife.

For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain
For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain

Charles Snelling, the subject is very comfortable with the presence of Germain. He is photographed going about his daily life, drinking his coffee, talking a walk in the woods, eating ice cream on the beach and preparing his meals. Some of the actions and settings come across as rather intimate. For me the most intimate images are the photographs of Snelling’s photo album, the photographs of him and his wife who passed away. These images are pivotal to the series as we can see on Germain’s website that the album pages were enlarged larger than life for his exhibition, spanning almost the entire height of the gallery’s wall and dominating the rest of the images which are much smaller.

For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain
For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain

My favourite image in the series is the one above, where Snelling is preparing his meal. According to Germain’s interview with The Guardian (Malone 2013), Snelling is stirring his gravy. The shallow depth of field creates a sense of intrigue and mystery. The viewer has just enough information to glean what is happening. The colours and tones (teal and oranges) lend a very cinematic feel to the image. The golden tones in the foreground of the placemat, crockery, mustard jar and orange juice create a complementary contrast to the teal tones of the kitchen wall and other blue tones from Charles’ jacket, and the tupperware on the far side of the table. The rising steam from the cut potatoes in the foreground completes the narrative, enticing the viewer to catch a whiff of the aroma.

… he showed me that the most important things in life are free. To me, he kind of symbolized a less complicated world that may possibly have existed once – that didn’t offer so many choices and contradictions.

Germain (2010)

Germain’s images ooze humility, simplicity and colour. The main take-away that I have from looking at Germain’s project is one should always take the time to build a rapport with the subject and keep returning for follow up sessions, if at all possible. Germain had the luxury of being able to shoot this series over a long period of time and was not under any pressure to make anything of the photographs he took of Snelling. He only decided to put them together in a body of work after Snelling’s death.

The complete set of images in this work can be seen in this short video clip.

Click on image above to access video
Click on image above to access video
Reference List

Malone, Theresa (2013) Julian Germain’s best photograph: Charlie in his kitchen stirring the gravy [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/02/julian-germain-best-photograph [Accessed 18 September, 2016]

PhotoBookStore.co.uk (2012) Julian Germain – For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness Creat. PhotoBookStore.co.uk 12 March 2012. 37 secs. Available at: https://vimeo.com/37733259 (Accessed 18 September, 2016)

The ASX Team (2010) In Conversation with Julian Germain and Penny Skerrett [online] Archive Magazine, National Media Museum, Bradford, 2005. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/09/interview-in-conversation-with-julian.html [Accessed 18 September, 2016]

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Harry Callahan

Eleanor and Barbara n.d. By Harry Callahan
Eleanor and Barbara n.d. By Harry Callahan

Our course manual refers us to the work of Harry Callahan with special emphasis to his projects where he photographed his wife and daughter in the streets of Chicago. As I recently viewed the Harry Callahan | The Street exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I am not going to do a further write up here, but will link back to my gallery write up as my write up covered quite a few aspects of his works.

Reference List

Harry Callahan | The Street [online] Lynda Kuit Photography Identity & Place. Available at: https://lyndakuitphotographyiap.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/harry-callahan-the-street/ [Accessed 18 September, 2016]

Save

Save