During my Skype tutor feedback on my assignment, my tutor briefly mentioned that a couple of my images were a little too literal (namely Fig 2 and 3) and suggested that I replace them with photographs that are more ambiguous, leaving room for the viewer to input their own interpretation. So I decided to take a look at this while I’m waiting for her report to come through. I’m a little undecided about this at the moment so I’m posting a contact sheet of a few more images I have, some where the subject is not looking at the camera directly and will wait for some student feedback.
Simon: 4480 gives a real sense of someone being folded into and crushed by an external force (the frame here, but it could be taken metaphorically); 4436 has could be read as a direct appeal to the camera with your model’s expression giving a sense of unease or possibly of being discovered in the act of something; if you don’t like the direct eye contact, 4423 leaves you wondering what exactly it is that she is looking at and what is the emotion that it is producing in her.
Andrew: The gaze in 30 and 80 are more complex to me. 30 looking out of the frame creates a sense of ambiguity as we are missing part of the story. 80 as it looks like we are witnessing a moment of private struggle – close to a stranger’s personal space.
Fergus: 4427 & 4430 To be honest these are my favourite two and the most ambiguous.
Holly: I see what your tutor means about nos 2 & 3. They direct the viewer to your subject matter in quite a clear way. I’d go for number 4480, which hints at mental health issues without being obvious, and also the one from your first set of contacts where she is sitting hunched up on the sofa. That one speaks of emotion being held in, and her excluding the outside world. They are a lovely and very sad set of images, Lynda.
Morris: Your first row of images are definitely ambiguous as they suggest several interpretations, at least to me.
I myself was a little torn between deciding between 4427 and 4430, but in considering the comments from my fellow students I can see that 4430 has more ambiguity than 4427. The gaze looking past the viewer in 4430 is a little perturbing and does raise more questions that the downward gaze of 4427. I find myself trying to will the subject to look at me, not past me. Simon and Andrew’s comments regarding 4480 really resonated with me as I do believe this close up version does convey more ambiguity, personal struggle and introversion than the pull back version (4478).
I have taken my tutor’s advice and redone assignment 1. I started off grumbling about having to redo it, but now I’m glad I’ve taken the time to hit the streets in search of my subjects. I decided to go for a totally different theme than the hotel workers that I had initially done. Mainly because reshooting in Vancouver hotels would have been rather tricky. I struggled a bit to come up with a good workable concept, but had a bit of a brain wave at work the other day when receiving fire warden training for our building. The fireman providing the training insisted that we all wear high-visibility clothing when doing fire drills and emergency evacuations and I thought to myself – why not that?
As luck would have it a hydro crew (hydro in North America is electricity) were pulling cables from the main substation through to the street where I work and I had noticed quite a few workers dressed in high-visibility gear. There was also a Supergirl moving being shot a block away with the film crew dressed in hi-vis as well. I also approached a few builders standing on the pavement next to their worksite – a new highrise. Everyone I approached, with the exception of one lady, agreed to have their photo taken and one lady requested a copy which I have sent to her. I basically just explained who and what I was doing and asked for their help. I’ve found that if I preface my explanation with “I wonder if you can help me …” I usually get a positive response. We didn’t have much conversation as all the people were on duty, but I definitely got the feeling that the construction guys especially, were quite chuffed at being asked for their portrait.
I used a shallow depth of field for all portraits. All the subjects were photographed in their work surroundings and I think there is sufficient detail in the backgrounds to provide context to the portraits. The backgrounds help to unify the portrait. Apart from the expressions on the subjects faces or lack thereof, all the subjects are “in costume”. They are wearing a type of uniform and this “certifies [their] citizenship in a specific community” (Angier p. 99, 2015).
I posted eight images for peer feedback and on the whole the feedback was very positive. Some of the comments can be read on the comments section on the peer feedback page. Catherine Banks remarked that two of the images were a bit bright and I have brought the exposure down on those, while Andrew Fitzgibbon alerted me to the fact that a couple of the images were not sharp enough. I have taken on some of his advice, but wanted to keep the bookend of the two girls in the series, so am prepared to forgo a little imperfection for that reason.
I felt the need to include both portraits of the female crew workers to emphasis the genderless aspect of road crews and construction workers. It is very common today to see female traffic crew around construction sites. This kind of work no longer belongs in the male realm. The lass in Fig 1 bears witness to the type of work required in some instances – setting out and collecting traffic cones – all very physical.
I feel both Fig 2 and 3 work well with the two construction workers. Both images were taken during my lunch hour so the light was quite strong, but I feel that this helps to portrait them as they would normally be out in all sorts of weather, rain and harsh sunlight and this light accentuates their craggy features and bears witness to the difficult climates they have to work in.
The young man in Fig 4 was wearing a pair of extremely fashionable sunglasses when I met him. I asked him to remove his shades for the portrait. At first I thought that I had photographed him in dappled light, and was quite puzzled as the sun was hitting him more from behind and very slightly to the camera right side. Only after uploading the image to the computer did I see that he has quite the sunglasses tan on his face. So he really has a double mask – the deadpan gaze he offers to the viewer as well as the pale racoon-like marks around his eyes which offer up the evidence of the structural mask (the sunglasses) he wears daily. The filtered light through his hard hat’s brim casts a strange neon light down his nose and across his forehead accentuating the mask-effect.
I particularly like the young gal’s stance in Fig 5. She has a slight tilt to her head with a very direct gaze that seems to dare the viewer to make a comment. Attitude just oozes from her.
My contact sheets can be seen below.
Angier, R. (2015) Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Tehoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography. Fairchild Books: London