Monthly Archives: March 2016

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut, published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

This Easter weekend, I indulged in a little guilty pleasure.  Taking a break from my photography studies, I read a great book by Francois Truffaut, a famous French film Director and film critic.  He got to know and became friends with Alfred Hitchcock and spent a couple of weeks with Hitchcock in Hollywood interviewing the great man, which he published in this fascinating book.

I blog this in to my Context and Narrative working-log as I believe that as a photographer there is a lot that can be learned from Hitchcock.  For example, as a young British film-maker in the 1920’s, he noticed how the Americans always back-lit their actors; so that they appeared separate from the back ground, this was not practiced by other British film-makers at that time.  He understood the power of composition and had ‘the way of seeing’ as a photographer.  Some of his tricks can be replicated with a still-camera and therefor makes his creativity interesting to me, as I may be able to apply some of it from time to time in my own work.

Still photographer or movie-maker this is a good book to read, for a movie-maker I would suggest an important book to read.  Tomorrow, I am going to see a film about this interview between Truffaut and Hitchcock and I have found this extract of Truffaut’s recorded interview with Hitchcock as they discuss the making of Psycho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV6NwhGp7VU on YouTube.

Photography by Stephen Bull

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Photography, by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.

I have just finished reading this book as part of the required reading for my course and I found it inspirational for my current exercise Image and text as part of project 2, Part Two – Narrative.  It has also provided me with ideas for my next Assignment.  This book helps to tell the history of photography, explaining what and how modernity, modernism and postmodernism is and influenced photography.  It helps explain for photography can and has been used to communicate ideas and how photography has developed in both the professional world and in the hands of the non-professional amateur / general-public with snap-shot photography which has gone full circle with snap-shop style photography adopted by the professionals.

A good book and with a useful guide to further reading in the back.

Postmodernism: The Artist as Photographer and ‘The Death of the Author’ by Stephen Bull     (Bull, 2010, pp.137-141).

A Synopsis in Quotations.

It is possible to identify major cultural changes happening from the 1960s onwards where ideas associated with modernity such as progression and fixed individual identity are turned on their head. For example, instead of progressive new ideas, in postmodernity old ideas are constantly revived and the concept of a fluid, fragmented self that is performed replaces that of a single unified identity. Postmodernism, as the representation of postmodernity, constantly recycles recognisable (or figurative) imagery from mass culture rather than the abstract expression of an artist’s mind. (pp. 137).

Following the legacy of Pop Art’s return to the figurative and art’s reengagement with society through Conceptualism, Krauss introduced the semiotic term ‘indexicality’ to the analysis of visual art to argue that many of the new artists were making work that had direct links to the real world via the use go photographs and other media….Solomon-Godeau identified a return in the early 1980s to what she refers to as ‘pseudo-expressionist’ painting during an era of burgeoning capitalism – and so promoted the postmodernist as an alternative to this, both in their techniques and in what she interpreted as their critique of capitalist ideology….Many of these writers were inspired by the Situationist Guy Debard’s idea of the ‘society of the spectacle’ developed a decade earlier. Debard argued that contemporary society was dominated by spectacular images of entertainment and capitalist products (on billboards, magazine pages, and cinema and television screens). These distracted people from the real world, transforming them into numbed consumers. One reaction to this was to use Debord’s technique of ‘detournement’, where mass reproduction images that are part of the spectacle (and which might otherwise be hardly looked at) are appropriated in order for their meanings to be playfully and subversively redirected by artist: a move the Solomon-Gadeau characterises as shifting photographic practice ‘from production to reproduction’. An engagement with culture and social issues, the use of a range of media, and the appropriation of existing popular imagery from what Campany calls ‘the domains in which values, opinions and identities are formed’ was detected by postmodernist critics in the work of artists including Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine. (pp.138).

In a partial continuation of the Conceptualist use of the camera to record performances,  Sherman’s series of Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980) where she acts out characters from a range of cinematic genres from earlier decades (familiar to audiences from watching old films on television) were seen as a critique of female stereotypes in the media, a feminist celebration of the different roles a women can have and even as an act of art criticism itself. Kruger’s addition of words to 1940’s and 1950’s image bank photographs in photo-text pieces such as You Are Not Yourself (1981) were interpreted as subverting the address to the consumer found in advertising. Prince’s series where cowboys were directly cropped from Marlboro cigarette advertisements were regarded as exposing the macho myths of Ronald Reagan-era America….Levin simply re-photographed pictures by canonised modernist photographers, such as Evans’ image of a farmhouse interior taken in Hale County, Alabama in 1936…In her 1981 essay ‘The Originality of the Avant-Garde‘, Krauss not only suggested that the avant-garde idea of art moving forward through creation of new work was at an end, but also that originality in modernism itself was being simultaneously exposed as a myth…The practice of these artists also seems to visualise ideas put forward in Roland Barthes’ ‘Death of the Author‘, a founding essay of postmodern theory written in 1968. Although Barthes focusses on writing in this essay, his ideas can be applied to work made in any media. However,Barthes uses the word ‘text’ instead of ‘work’. A work, he argues in another essay, is seen as something fixed in meaning and created by a single author, while a ‘text’ is never fixed in its meaning – its content relating to other texts through ‘intertextuality’. For example, a photograph analysed as a text (by examining the elements within it through techniques such as semiotics) can be seen as intertextually connected to other texts such as films, painting, other photographs, etc….This goes against the idea of authorship associated with modernism – where a work is isolated as original and unique, with all its influences deriving from the life of the creator. Barthes contends that authority of the text’s meaning does not lie with the its creator (the ‘author-God’) and their life. Instead, a text is ‘a tissue of quotations’ from cultural context in which it is created, where ‘a variety of writings, none of them original blend and clash’. The single meaning of a piece of work cannot therefore be discovered and fixed by examining the biographical details of the person that made it. Rather, the meaning of the text remain polysemous and depend on its interpretation by the viewer. …’The death of the Author’, Barthes argues leads to ‘the birth of the reader’. Although, as Carol Mavor has argued, Barthes’ use of a capital ‘A’ for the ‘dead’ Author suggests that the author’s own interpretation has not disappeared, but is a voice among many others. Prince seemed to sum up the adoption of this idea by postmodern artists that appropriated photographs with his remark, ‘I think the audience has always been the author of an artis’s work. What’s different now is that the artist can become the author of someone else’s work. (pp.138-140).

Behind the Image

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Behind the Image by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana, published by AVA.

I have just read through this book for a second time.  The first time was in Spain when I began the Art of Photography course and at that time I was concentrating on more technical aspects of photography such as lighting, composition, design, colour and exposure.  Returning to this book for a second time the information now seems more relevant to me; and although some of the practices preached in this book I am now already using, there is a great deal more for me to try to put in to regular practice and make part of my working routine.  Moreover, there are useful websites for photo-book suppliers and examples of other Artist blogs to look and compare.  I am glad that I re-visited this book at this time.

Bending the Frame by Fred Ritchin

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I have just finished reading this book which is a critical look at the current challenges facing photojournalism and documentary photography.  Ritchin looks at how the rise of the digital media through the internet is threatening and changing photojournalism and traditional documentary photography.  He points out that less funding is available to documentary photographers from the traditional sources and that the day of the front page is coming to an end with a predicted total disappearance of the printed newspaper by 2040, beginning with the USA by 2017.  Ritchen suggests that the news media is going through a transition and new ways to grab and hold the readers attention has to be found.  This he acknowledges will be difficult as news images now have to compete right next to an attention grabbing advertising image, something that just was not done in print.  Moreover, with digital webpages images are constantly being replaced or slide-showed in order to maximise display space whilst the viewers attention spans diminish faster than the slide shows.  In a shrinking market for newspaper and magazine publishers Ritchin observes that it is tougher for new photographers to get their work published as publishers / editors are more interested in the fame of the photographer than the work he produces, suggesting that modern editors are more influenced and controlled by capitalistic ideas of celebrating the celebrity in order to sell.

An interesting and useful book for anyone looking to work in  photojournalism / editorial world.

I purchased it and read it as I thought that it might have relevant information for my course on Context and Narrative; but although it was an interesting read providing background to this industry I am not sure how useful I will find it in the future.  I will keep it on my shelf in case I need to refer back at a later date.

Robert Wyatt

 


Photo by Robert Wyatt. This linked image is available to view on line: http://www.robertwyatt.net

Whilst reading Behind the Image, )Creative Photography 03, Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana, Published by AVA) I learned of an interesting photographer called Robert Wyatt and have been looking at examples of his work.  http://www.robertwyatt.net/  I like his style.

Reflections for Assignment I

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Shaun Mullins – 512659 – Photography 1 Context & Narrative – Assignment 1

I am pleased to blog that I received a good report for my first assignment for this course ‘Context and Narrative’.

This assignment was very similar to my last assignment for ‘The Art of Photography’ course which covered the subject illustration and narrative.  For that assignment I had to find or invent a story / narrative that I could produce photos for both as a book / magazine cover and to illustrate the story itself.  Having already researched a method of best practice to both prepare and carryout the work effectively, I put the same methods in to practice with this assignment – Namely, my brain-storming and storyboarding.

I took a risk when I decided to just used a mobile-phone as my only method of recording the images; but I felt I could create a better sense of authenticity for my particular story.  I found Clive’s comment that I had created a character for myself very interesting.  It hadn’t occurred to me.  Nor had I ever considered creating a character for myself.  Moreover, I would not have expected that by even having such an idea it would have made any positive contribute to the work.  However, this is a new dynamic for me and something I will consider further.

Coursework

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Clive’s comment on my coursework, is valid.  The exercise for street-photography didn’t go too well for me as I feel very uncomfortable just taking pictures in public like that.  Clive’s comment, “kaleidoscopic presentation of the street-photography and the dizzying angles.” is a fare comment as it was the result of my desperation to try and get some images of interest whilst working in an uncomfortable environment.  Maybe, in a capital-city or historical-town full of tourists it is much easier to work with a DSLR; but in small provincial-towns and villages you get a lot of negative reaction from people that borders on aggression.  To be honest this is not a field of photography that rocks my boat; but I will probably try again, I may book a street-photography course with Nikon and if working on my own I will prefer a more discreet camera such as that on a mobile-phone.

I am very grateful to Clive’s useful feedback and tips; I shall take them all on board.

Overall this assignment and this first section has been a very positive experience.

Putting trust in my light-meter

Yesterday, I did my first model photo-shoot and before my model arrived I set up my equipment and carefully made sure of the setting for camera were correct.

The first thing I discovered was that the idea of using a soft-box for this shoot was impractical as I wasn’t able to be able to position it as I wanted it and it took up too much space and was difficult to move around; so I decided to use an umbrella instead.  This was in fact the first time I have used my umbrella and I was pleased with myself that I had both invested in it and had clearly learned enough out of all the books on lighting that I should have instantly turned to it as an alternative solution.

Having set up my light, I then did some light readings with my Sekonic Incident Lightmeter.  This suggested a slow shutter speed of only 1/10sec providing 30% flash to ambient combination.  My first reaction was too slow what am I doing wrong?  It the occurred to me that the reading is taking account that the flash is 1000s of a second and this will freeze the image.  To test this I made some photos to satisfy myself, happy with the result I spent the rest of the day working with my camera set to manual and taking reading only from my Sekonic meter.  The results were great, all taken at 1/10sec hand held using 24-120mm zoom lens at various focal-lengths.  All my images are pin-sharp and the exposures perfect with text-book Histograms.

My first fashion style photo-shoot

1000 Poses

Yesterday I had my first pre-arranged photo-shoot using a model from ‘Model Mayhem’  This was the first time that I have done a photo shoot that wasn’t involving friends or family and wasn’t run through a third party such as the Nikon School.

about a year ago I signed up to Model Mayhem a social website for models, photographers, stylists, etc. to interact.  However, only more recently have I felt confident enough to try to arrange a photo shoot with strangers.

The experience was very good and positive.  I came across a young lady who had signed up as a model looking for photographers who would be happy to work with no financial reward or cost but trading modelling for photos.  After initially getting in touch with her through the Model Mayhems own mailing system and the follow up correspondence I discovered that she was looking for a photographer who could produce corporate style images for her website as a Nutritionist.   The arrangement is perfect, I have a model who can help me build my portfolio and confidence without the pressure of monetary value and I am also providing her with valuable images to promote her business.

She informed me that she ideally needed a kitchen for the location and so I offered the use of my own kitchen which is large and traditionally appointed.  Moreover, not having met her nor her having met me I suggested a Saturday when my wife was around who could also help with makeup etc.

This appealed to her and we exchanged photographic ideas and arranged the date, I also suggested that she leaves putting on makeup until arrival to allow flexibility and avoid over doing it.

Last year I purchased a book on model poses, Photographing Models: 1000 Poses, by Eliot Siegel, published by Bloomsbury, that I am now starting to use as reference material. The first chapter covers preparation including camera angels, creative cropping, lighting, styling, putting your subject at ease. Basic stuff but useful and  nicely to the point.  Two best tips for me was on the best camera angels for this project and best lighting position to use.

My wife helped her with the makeup and was able to help with costume and also provided some costume jewellery that complimented the clothes. We spent most of the day shooting and I have sent her low-res images to select that I will then work on for making good for her website.

Now we have worked together and now know each other I look forward to more photo-shoots both here at home and abroad in locations locally and maybe even further afield.

Langford’s Basic Photography, 10th Edition.

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I first read this book when I was a teenager studying photography for an O-level.  I have been reading through it again and although much in the book I already know, it does no harm to re-cap on previously learned knowledge to both freshen up my memory and  discover additional information that that I previously didn’t take in at the time.  This edition was published in 2015 and refers to new features in Photoshop, Photoshop Cloud and Lightroom.

More importantly for me, this new edition has two very good chapters for digital workflow and Photoshop which I found very useful and helpful and good referral material for the future.  One very valuable piece of advice was to set up the colour spacing in Adobe RAW and Lightroom; so that all future photos that are imported are correctly set for the appropriate colour spacing for print and can then be later down graded for screen use if necessary.  This insures that valuable information on the original RAW file is not automatically thrown away before you even get started and can future proof your images.  Although the chapter on Photoshop is not a training manual in itself, it covers enough to get you started.

This book also covers working with and developing film and I may refer back to those chapters at a later date.  I still have much of my old darkroom equipment although I haven’t used it in over 30 years.

There is also a very useful chapter at the back on presentation of your final work, which I am sure will be valuable referral resource later in my degree course when I am required to produce work for assessment to exhibition standard.

No matter how experienced you think you are, I would always recommend that you have this book on your book-shelf anyway.

Reflections of part one

I began this course not ever having thought much of what documentary photography was, in fact if asked I would have guessed and suggested that it was a form of photojournalism and probably a title given to a number of images pertaining to a news of magazine story.  I now understand that documentary photography has a much broader meaning and is very much linked to the Art photographer as describing their project work and I look forward to my next section.

I also learned that street photography / photojournalism is not that easy or straightforward, as I learned when I went out and about with my DSLR to take street style photographs.  Planning is always essential even if it is just arming yourself with some compositional ideas to find and photograph.