Tag Archives: Assignment 4

Assignment 4

The Brief:

Create a series of work (aim for 7 to 10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place that you’ve looked at so far in this course. Use the written word to play a part in its creation…

Be wary of illustrating your text with pictures and vice versa. Allow for the viewers’ interpretation to be opened up rather than shut down by the pairings. You may decide not to include the actual words in the final production … as long as they have in some way informed the research and development of the concepts and have pushed the imagery further as a result.

Write a short reflective commentary (around 500 words) describing how your chosen ‘words’ have informed your series of images and make this available to your tutor alongside your images.


Working in a university, which caterers mainly to international students coming from all corners of the globe, is always challenging and presents many cultural challenges to staff and faculty. The way students learn in their home countries is very often different to the way education is offered here in North America. Students have to adapt not only to new ways of learning, but also learning in a language which isn’t their mother tongue. Then there is life outside the university – the scenery, ways of doing simple everyday tasks, and the culture is also different.

So with the new intake of students in our Summer semester I decided to tackle the theme of “culture shock” for this assignment. Culture shock is the experience a person undergoes when moving from one’s home country to another foreign country. In this sense I am not referring to the tourists, but to people who have moved for extended periods of times for reasons such as immigration, study, or work. If one is moving from a culture that is very different to the new one, there is usually a sense of disorientation, unfamiliarity and certain transitions that one feels.

“Culture shock” is a term used to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves from a familiar culture to an entirely different cultural or social environment. Familiar sights, sounds and smells are no longer around and small things can easily upset a person and feel out of proportion.

Culture shock for international students

At first everything is new and exciting. This is called the honeymoon phase – a period of romanticism and fascination with the locals. Memories of home and family are still fresh in the mind. Then reality slowly settles in and one becomes aware of the differences between the cultures. One can experience homesickness, difficulties with the language, general frustration and depression often set in at this stage (negotiation phase).

After a while one becomes accustomed to the new culture, has made friends and formed a social group – probably with people in the same situation and one begins to find a sense of equilibrium again. One begins to develop a more balanced point of view with regards to the new culture (adjustment phase). Once a person is completely comfortable in the host country that person will start participating in local communities. The person is more relaxed and confident and better able to cope with life and tend to develop a sense of belonging (adaption phase).

Prior to doing any research on culture shock, I thought that I could just target the new incoming students for their initial impressions, but the statements that I received were along the lines of:

  • “I feel good over here/I enjoyed being here/I love people and their gestures”
  • “I feel very good over here/I like the signals for crossing the roads/I love people as they helping anytime”
  • ”Smiling faces in a lovely city – Vancouver/Close to Heaven “Vancity”/Friendly people/Multicultural diversity”
  • “Welcoming, friendly people. Accepting towards international students/Vancouver is a beautiful city”

I then started targeting a cross-section of the student population ranging from brand new students to students who had just graduated and the responses were much more interesting.

 

Deepak from India (Honeymoon phase)
Nuttanit from Thailand (Honeymoon phase)
Flavio from Brazil (Honeymoon phase)
Anh from Vietnam (Negotiation phase)
Dayana from Kazakhstan (Negotiation phase)
Henrique from Brazil (Negotiation phase)
Huong from Vietnam (Negotiation phase)
Cesar from El Salvador (Adjustment phase)
Kamonpat from Thailand (Adjustment phase)
Joao from Brazil (Adjustment phase)
Maria from The Philippines (Adaption phase)
Akiko from Japan (Adaption phase)

My edited down contact sheets, largely straight out of camera, for the shoot, can be seen below.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I mainly used my 50mm prime lens to shoot this assignment. I was having a bit of trouble with my 18-140mm and not getting very sharp images. There was a distinct improvement when I switched to the 50mm. I have tried as far as I can to apply equal foot and head space to each photograph as this helps cement the coherence of the set of images. As I mentioned in my planning post and in my post for initial feedback I shot the series on the sidewalk outside the university’s building. Initially I had considered shooting in the alley next to the building as well, but as a result of the feedback, which I concurred with, I dropped that idea as the wall didn’t provide much background context.

I have tried to maintain a fairly even colour balance, but as I was shooting at different times of the day (whenever my models were available) and during a wide range of weather ranging from sunny, cloudy, semi-overcast to torrential downpour (and no I didn’t have my model standing in the rain – he was under an awning and I was in the rain) I know that one image is a little off from rest. I did consider changing the white balance and tested it out, but it really didn’t change too much except rendering the subject too orange, so I have left the balance set to daylight on that one.

Apart from the weather challenges, the other challenge I had was shooting around a lot of homeless people taking shelter under the awnings. We have a homeless shelter right next door to the university and I had to bin a few images because of their background presence in the images.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

Ideally I think I would like to present this work in book format with the photos on the  recto side and the caption on the accompanying verso side. I have done a mockup using the Book feature in LightRoom for the first time – cover front and back and pages inside can be seen on by clicking on the links provided. I haven’t managed to figure out why LightRoom split the covers and book content into two separate files, but I will figure this out in time for assessment. This is a project that I can easily expand on as I feel that I haven’t exhausted all the nationalities that step through the doors of the university. I purposely did not want to photograph my subjects in front of any tourist spot, preferring rather to leave the location in the images identifiably similar but at the same time rather ambiguous allowing the viewer to puzzle over the identity of the actual city.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

Although my subjects have written their statements from their own experiences in their own handwriting, they all without fail (and without knowing it) have revealed emotions and experiences that I have had as an immigrant more than twenty years ago. I think my project is a bit of an amalgamation of Les Monahan’s Desire Project (although mine was shot in natural light) and Gillian Wearing’s Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say. I have followed Monahan’s format of positioning the subjects, but have used Wearing’s method of using signs to convey the thoughts and concerns of the subjects. I feel that this way the experiences become more embedded in the image. The accompanying captions’ purpose is mainly to identify the country and the culture shock phase.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

In preparation for this assignment I looked at the following photographers (my details remarks can be found on their pages):

  • Les Monaghan and Gillian Wearing – public vs private personae of the subjects and different use of text
  • John Kippin – use of text within the landscape genre
  • Helen Maurene Cooper – use of multicoloured text as well as vertical orientated text in margins
  • Karen Knorr – different relationships between image and text. Her presentations are more formal than the other photographers I research
  • Bill Owens – humourous, refreshing way of working with text

Some of the videos and multimedia I have watched between Assignment 3 and Assignment 4 are listed below. The in-depth write ups are on the pages linked below.

I attended the North Shore Photographic Society’s workshop/lecture presented by Russel and Wendy Kwan, detailed notes accessible from the link below:

I did reviews on the following books and journal article, detailed notes are on the pages linked below:

I managed to get to quite a few of the Capture Photography Festival exhibitions that were on in Vancouver. My detailed notes  on the relevant exhibitions that I  attended are on the pages linked below:

Reference List

Counselling Service (n.d.) Culture shock for international students [online] Warwick University. Available at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/tutors/counselling/informationpages/culture_shock/ [Accessed May 30, 2017]

Bibliography

Student Services (n.d.) Adjust to a New Culture | Stages and symptoms of culture shock [online] Simon Fraser University. Available at https://www.sfu.ca/students/exchange/current/new-culture/stages-and-symptoms.html [Accessed 30 May, 2017]

Save

Save

Save

Save

Assignment 4 Feedback

So I posted a few initial images for initial peer review on the Level 1 Photography Facebook group, the Canadian OCA Students Facebook group as well as on the OCA Critique forum for the first time and was very pleasantly surprised with the depth of the feedback I received on the forum. As stated in my original posting, I had been having trouble getting a sharp resolution with my zoom lens for some or other reason, so I switch to my 50mm prime and the result was so much better. This was also confirmed in some of the feedback I received.

Some interesting points that were made (the in-depth discussion can be viewed at https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/initial-feedback-for-assignment-4-identity-place/4859/16):

  • This is a really interesting theme and I think continues the interest in cultural differences / mixing from some of your other work. I think the assignment briefs are best shaped to something in which we have a personal interest, as work then feels genuine, made with care – I already feel this in your planning. … Personally, I feel you photos that show the environmental context are more interesting (even the moving cars) as it adds to the sense of place; which is partially what you are conveying, people in new places and their response. (Andrew)
  • I like the project and all this people stuff! The white card consistent throughout is a definite I think, different colours is a unnecessary distraction and takes away that sense of uniformity. The variety can come in the location and obviously the subject. … As for background information I think it ultimately comes down to personal judgement – but I think it works say the last 2 with none and the one with a stationary car blurred out – fine, for me they all would still work together. … But an interesting topic and heading in the right direction! (Alan)
  • One last thing from me; it’s going to be a good series but so far some of them are a bit ‘moody’ as Alan says. There’s a lot you can do these days to fix things like that, investigate soft masking and the Shadows/Highlights control in PS. [Example shown – thanks for that Clive! That was a great help]. (Clive)
  • The girl “it’s common to say YES to SEX”……”never” on her top, says a lot. (Alan)
  • Fascinating project though challenging I guess. Personally having spend most of my life in foreign countries and cultures I can truly relate to the topic and the ‘change process’, something quite typical for all changes that one is facing in life. And the adaption process is truly a personal thing as it tells more about oneself. … The visuals are impressive, the surrounding space has something to say (includes clothing, gesture, mimic, and posture). Personally I try to look into the face of the person, what they are saying (like the text boards, quite social media distribution proof) and how it relates to content. (Stefan)
  • I think this is a great idea for a project, surprised none’s mentioned this project by Gillian Wearing: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/mar/04/gillian-wearing-signs-in-pictures2. Of course as a photography student the aesthetic is important and so demonstrating either competence (more than demonstrated here) or awareness (which you discuss) on a project which is prone to different conditions as a by product will, I’m sure, be acknowledged by your tutor. Nice one! (John)
  • A really interesting project Lynda and I am reminded of the Humans of New York approach. I found the text allowed me to engage further. Photographs #3 & #4 worked best for me as no distracting elements in the background. Perhaps a more shallow depth of field would work in this situation? (Nicola)
  • Yes of course Wearing but what about Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” film (I am not sure it was video back in ’65!)? Use that as a reference as well and think why in both cases. Is it a lack of voice? Is and an emphasis of voice? Don’t just think of the visuals, it isn’t just a way of carrying text in still image but much more. This is worth looking at for some insight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY4HtQ-XJQE (Peter). I have had a look at this video twice and am still chewing over Peter’s questions as this now introduces sound into the equation.
  • Some comments/suggestions from other Canadian students were to place my subjects at identifiable tourist attractions in Vancouver. I felt that this would restrict my project too much as I specifically want it to be rather generic in tone, and I also wanted to use the university location as part of the background.
  • Other comments can be seen at https://lyndakuitphotographyiap.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/assignment-4-planning-1st-feedback-request/#comments

I have taken on board quite a few of the suggestions: trying to eliminate people passing by the subject – although it is a very busy sidewalk where I’m shooting so I’m trying to restrict passersby to the background as far as possible. I’ve also had the students switch to white legal size paper to write their messages and have requested that they only write one thought instead of a few bullet points. This is more legible and they actually seem to think more about their message when they have only one thought to record.

I’m hoping to get an even mix of male and female students with a fairly equal distribution among the different culture shock phases, although I have no way of knowing how long the student has been in the country until we actually do the shoot. Its a question of getting the volunteers and then asking the questions. I’m also trying to get as diverse student representation as possible. At the moment I’m trying to round up some of the first students that I photographed for retakes – but that is a process rather like herding cats at the moment.

Overall I feel that this project is progressing along nicely. I’m feeling more confident about this assignment and am fairly confident that I will make the deadline this time.

Assignment 4 – Planning

After tossing a few ideas around – again centred around the university where I work, I came up with a short list of options. As it is the start of a new semester I thought that it might be viable to photograph new incoming students – our student population is mainly international – and see what their aspirations for the future were.  My other option was to do something with light projection and have text projected onto the students’ faces, but the more I thought about it I realised that some of the text might not be legible as it wraps over the facial planes. On the first day of the semester I came up with the idea, after watching the new students, of doing something related to culture shock – having the students comment  on differences that they experience in Canada from their home country.

I’ve done a few test shots and put this up for discussion in the Canadian Students Google Hangout this past Saturday and it was quite well received. One of the other students also confirmed my misgivings about light projecting text onto the students’ faces, but I’m keeping this idea in the background as I may be able to do something with it in Assignment 5, although I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

For consistency I plan on shooting the students in three locations only – well two really – depending on the light and time of day. The one location will be right outside the university on the pavement – and depending on the light, they will either face north or south – so essentially two slightly different backgrounds, and the other will be in the alley at the side of the university.

One of the Canadian students suggested photographing the students at local tourist spots, but I feel that this would tie the project down to the actual city too much, instead of being more generic and ambiguous. Once I have taken more images I’ll post a selection for peer feedback.