Monthly Archives: October 2016

Making it up as asked?

For assignment five, I have been given a fairly open brief, to create either a single image or a series of images to elaborate on the same theme.

I have chosen to create a single image.

“As the culminating assignment for the course you may wish to draw upon skills learned from Parts One to Four – issuing various forms of narrative, using yourself as subject matter, telling stories and reading images.  The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose.  Remember to create a story with a specific context like the artists you’ve looked at in Part Five.  This means you need to have an artistic intention, so a good place to start would be to write down some ideas.  This could then form the basis for a 300-word introduction to the piece.  You may find it helpful to draw storyboards to help you visualize your ideas.”

I have produced an image taken from a narrative that I found through my research, I then story-boarded to find the appropriate image and I chose this intended picture in order to link it to a metaphor for today’s society.  This image has been created in context of a short story that acts as my 300-word introduction to my work.

“The aim of this assignment is to use props, costume, models, location, lighting, etc. to contribute to the overall meaning of the image.”

I have used a ‘No Pets’ sign and a pet dog as my props,  I have used two models to act out the characters in my image, The female model was dressed as a business woman and the male model as a smartly dressed man in a country suit with walking stick and hat both suitable for a smart gentleman out for a stroll and a man dressed for his funeral.  I chose to use the location of my local church that I felt suited the image.  I used speedlights, light modifiers, coloured gels and manipulated the white balance controls to achieve my desired affects.

“If the narrative is to be set in a different era then the elements of the image must reflect this.  Also consider the symbolic meaning of objects and try not to be too literal in your approach.”

My choice of costume is modern, Graham’s country suit is of a classic style and still popular today.  Ann-Marie, was wearing her normal business suit that she wears for interviews and corporate meetings.  Ann-Marie represents ‘Lucifer’ and I naturally didn’t want her in a Devil costume, holding whips, or sporting a Satanic tail; so I thought that simply dressing her in a sharp business suit and some lighting can imply a hidden layer to her true identity.

I have included snap-shots of my location and lighting set-up with sketches and notes as to how I planned and carried out the assignment.  I have written a 1000 word piece including the 300-word narrative.

Going through the criteria for this assignment, I feel that I have done everything as asked; so I just hope my Tutor likes my final work.

 

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Assignment 5 – Making it up

Club Class

from an original story by: Earl Hamner Jr.

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A Traveller and his best friend were walking along a road they were both dead; and looking for somewhere to rest.

Eventually, they came to a high stone wall along one side of the road.  Set in to the wall was a tall arched open door.  Standing in the doorway was a smartly dressed, attractive, young lady.  The Traveller greeted her and asked her where they were.

“Why, this is Heaven!” She replied.

“Wow!” the man replied and they both proceeded to enter.

But the young lady stopped them and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept pets.  There is a place for your dog just up the road, leave him with me and I will take care of him.”

The Traveller thought for a moment and unable to leave his friend outside he decided to continue his journey along the road.  Further along they came to a gate that stood alone, with neither a wall nor fence attached; and it looked as if it had never been closed, he saw a man behind the gate, leaning against a tree, reading a book.

“Excuse me!” called the Traveller. “Do you have any water?”

“Yes, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”

“How about my friend here?”  (Gesturing to his dog).

“You should find a bowl by the pump.”

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was a hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveller filled the water bowl for his friend before taking a long drink for himself.

When they were finished, the Traveller asked the ‘Gateman’,

“What do you call this place?”

“This is Heaven,” he answered.

“I’m confused,” Protested the Traveller. “The young lady down the road said that that was Heaven, too.”

Shaking his head sadly the ‘Gateman’ replied, “Oh no!  That’s certainly not Heaven! That’s the gate to hell!”

“But can you not do something to stop her tricking people in to entering hell?”  Demanded the Traveller.

“No!  We’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”  He replied with a wry smile.

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So much for the contextual narrative!  What do we see?

A man stands in the foreground holding a dog on a lead, whilst gripping a walking stick with the other hand.  He’s looking at the dog that’s looking back, he’s dressed in a suit with a Yorkshire cap; both he and his dog are drained of any warm colours with a distinct cold blue hue tone as is most of the image.  In the background we see a sign indicating no dogs on a wall by an open door, inside the doorway we see a smartly dressed young woman, she appears to be pointing or wagging her finger, her mannerism implies a negative signal and her legs crossed emphasizes this negative message.   She appears to be illuminated by very warm amber light and a red halo rims around her head.

My intention for this image is to create a division between the outside world of the Traveller and his dog with the world beyond the door in which the women stands.  To achieve this I used the white balance settings of my camera, gelled speedlights and made additional enhancements in Lightroom.  The Traveller is between worlds, it is cold.  He and his dog are both dead and I wanted their shades to reflect this.  The young lady on the other hand is standing somewhere that is very warm and I wanted to convey this; I also wanted to hint at danger using rim lighting.

There is another message in this picture, one of temptation.  The young lady represents the fetish pleasures of capitalism; her sexuality is to tempt the man away from his moral values.  The price for this implied promise of luxury and pleasure is that he must be selfish and turn away from anything that could hold him back.  His dog represents his values and socialistic principles of loyalty, trust, responsibility and selflessness.

I didn’t want to create an obvious ‘Lucifer’ therefore I thought that a sharp dressed business woman would act as a suitably modern metaphor for him/her.

When creating this image, I tried to keep in mind Barthes idea of studium and punctum.  The Traveller and dog is part of the studium of the picture punctuated by the warm coloured image of the attractive women (the punctum).  I wanted to carefully construct a single image to project my intended narrative.

This was a particularly tricky picture to make when depending on the unreliability of a dog and using non-professional models.  Further complication was that my chosen doorway was unavailable to me due to a lost key.  The location I chose happened to be my local church which had the ideal doors.  I obtained permission from the Vicar however, on the appointed day the Vicar had taken his wife away for her Birthday and not informed anyone of our arrangement.  No one had the key to my chosen Choir Vestry door; so I had to use a fire escape door instead.  This side door was exposed to the wind and also needed to be wedged open and in the process of the shoot I dropped an expensive speedlight that bounced and although remained serviceable may now need to be serviced by Nikon.  I was unable to get the perfect shot as either the speedlights failed to fire at the perfect time or the dog kept moving around and directing my models is still a new experience.  I ended the afternoon feeling low as I thought that I had failed to get a suitable image.  I gave myself a couple of days space and looked again and I was pleased to find some images that I could collage together to make one suitable picture in Photoshop.

I enjoyed making this image and although it may not have a great wow factor, I am pleased that I was able to achieve my vision.  I would like to make more images based on a narrative theme in the future, perhaps using novels biblical stories, sagas, legends and songs.

Creating Assignment 5

I arranged with our Vicar to take the photos on Sunday, October 17, which was also a convenient day for my two models.  After the last service the church would be free and I would not be in anyone’s way or be interfering with church services.  I made sure all batteries were fully charged, and I made up the light-boxes in preparation for a quick set-up.  I always take photos in RAW and having experimented at home with both lighting and white balance I decided to manually set the white balance on my camera to the lowest colour temperature for maximum effect (2500K).

The equipment for the shoot consisted of:  Nikon D800e, 24-120mm f/4 zoom lens, Tripod, Sekonda lightmeter, Pocket Wizard TT1 and AC3 controller mounted to the camera, 3 x Nikon speedlights controlled by 3 x TT5 Pocket Wizards, 1 x amber gel, 1 x red gel, 1 x dish reflector, 1 x 120 x 40 long rectangular soft-box, 1 x large square soft-box, 3 light stands with tilting brackets, 1 x large black flag / reflector.

Props:  ‘No Pets’ sign (sticker mounted on a white board and stuck to the wall by the door using double sided sticky pads.  My pet dog Honey on her lead, walking stick to imply their journey.

Costume: Business suit for Ann-Marie, County suit for Graham.

The lights were configured as follows:

In side the church I set up a speedlight with a TT5, gelled red and a reflector dish attached then mounted this assembly to light stand and positioned behind my female model (Ann-Marie) at head height in order to create the red rim-lighting.  I then used a speedlight with a TT5 and an amber gel with the 120 x 40 soft-box to illuminate the whole body length of Ann-Marie.

As the weather was overcast, I needed to use the large soft-box un-gelled to illuminate my second model (Graham) with my dog (Honey).  This was fitted to a light stand and stood to the left of the camera above the height of Graham and angled down.

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This test shot illustrated my lighting and you can just see the edge of the rectangular soft-box top right corner of the door above and behind Ann-Marie.

However, the shoot didn’t start as planned.  The Vicar was not around as I later discovered that he had gone away with his wife as it was her Birthday and he hadn’t mentioned my photo shoot to anyone.  I was able to arrange for a volunteer to return to the church after lunch to open it up for me for my photography; but the next problem was when I returned at the appointed time and the church was opened for me we could not find a key to the Choir Vestry (the door I had chosen for the shoot) so I had to use an alternative door that was accessible which was a fire-door on the side of the church.  This presented two new problems firstly I was exposed to the wind which was a little gusty and behind this door which was close to the alter an large stage was set up for the 11am services with musical instruments.  The door wouldn’t stay open and we had to find something to wedge it open that I later had to remove in Photoshop.  The door itself was a fire-door and again these handles would have to be erased and the background behind Ann-Marie would also need altering in Photoshop.

On setting up the lighting I managed to drop an expensive Nikon speedlight on to the stone floor, luckily it still worked but something appears to be loose inside; so I will no doubt have to send it off to Nikon for servicing.  My wife had to hold the large soft-box to stop it from being blown over and Honey was naturally restless.  The other problem was that the speedlights needed lite to recycle; so didn’t always fire with each shot taken.  This is where more expensive studio lights prove superior but at this moment in time I can not justify the investment.

I directed Ann-Marie to stand just inside the church door with the rectangular soft-box directly opposite her and the red gelled light hidden behind her head and holding up her hand to indicate the signal to stop and then to waggle her finger to convey the same message.  I also directed Graham to for two types of pose the first look thoughtfully at the dog and the second to be looking towards Ann-Marie for comparison.  I had to make various adjustments to positioning of the two soft-boxes and power output which eat into the time. We were only able to work for two hours before the weather threatened rain and we had to stop and I was feeling a little frustrated and low as I felt that I hadn’t been able to find the picture.

On returning home I transferred the photos to my computer but then left it for a couple of days before properly looking through them in Lightroom.  When I returned to my work I found that I had taken 290 photos and after spending some time comparing the images I was able to select a six images that I felt that I could merge together to make one suitable picture.

I then selected which images would be suitable for Graham and Honey and which would be suitable for Ann-Marie, I then made the appropriate adjustments in Lightroom to enhance the cold or warmth make any-other fine adjustments before exporting to Photoshop.  In Photoshop I then had to remove the unwanted artifacts from the pictures such as the item used to wedge the door open the fire-door handles and the staging behind Ann-Marie.  When the images were sufficiently ‘cleaned-up’ I merged the two to create my final picture.  As it happened only one image of Graham with only one image of Ann-Marie worked as suitable matches, due to the positioning of Graham and where Ann-Marie was looking; but I had what I was originally looking for which was a moment of decision from the Traveller as the doorman is advising him that he must enter alone.  I was pleased that this image also provided a great expression from Honey as she looks back at Graham.

 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/125, f/5, ISO 125, WB 2500K.  Adjusted in Lightroom.

24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/125, f/5, ISO 125, WB 2500K.  Adjusted in Lightroom.

From these six images only two worked together.

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Planning my assignment 5

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When researching for my last assignment I read ‘One Way Street’ a selection of essays by Walter Benjamin and I read an essay about Franz Kafka, an author I had not come across before and I made a mental note to lookout for his work.  My Tutor picked-up on my comments in my blog and recommended that I read some of his works a.  Therefore I decided to read his works looking for ideas for my next assignment.  To get myself started I made notes on the oxford dictionaries meaning for ‘context’ ‘narrative’ and the suggested rules.  As I read his works, I took notes in order to help me find some mental visions that might be turned in to physical pictures.  admittance-to-the-law

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I have read through from cover to cover ‘The Essential Kafa’ and I have been inspired by a parable type story in the novel ‘The Trial’.   This short story is about a country gentleman who seeks access to the law, but the man is told by the doorman that he can not grant him access.  The country gentleman decides to wait until the doorman is given permission to grant him access, he waits all his life only to learn at the moment of death that the door was exclusively for him.  However, this story led me to another similar story that I thought might make a stronger narrative in one picture.

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A man and his dog  a-man-and-his-dog-were-walking-along-a-road

This story was used in a T.V. episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Hunt’,  first broadcast: January 26, 1962, Created by Rod Serling.  I am unable to find a reliable source that can confirm the original author of this story.  Some internet sources suggest that it is an old religious tale by an unknown however, Earl Hamner Jr.  an American television writer and producer is credited for the story of ‘The Hunt’ in The Twilight Zone therefore I assume that the story is his.  The gist of the story is that a man is on a road to Heaven and he is accompanied by his best friend which is his dog.  Along the way he comes to a gate with a man standing by it, the Traveller asks the man where they are and the ‘Gateman’ informs him he is at the gates of Heaven; but when the man tries to enter with his dog he is told that dogs are not allowed and the Traveller is forced to decide between entering the gates or staying with his best friend.

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I believe that this story has a stronger narrative to produce as a single photo.  My idea is an image of the Traveller looking down at his dog as the Doorman or Gatekeeper tells him no dogs.  Also I can use this scene as a metaphor to modern society and how our capitalist life style sometimes tests our moral metal.  The Traveller is faced with a dilemma, should he be selfish and enter the gates alone for the imagined paradise beyond or stay outside keeping company with his best friend and putting his friend first.  I believe that we are currently living in a very selfish world and that this test is being applied in one way or another every day; so I think this story is very relevant to our current life-styles.

For the location, I think that my local Anglican Church is perfect.

My first thought were the gates to the church but this would present problems of traffic, pedestrians and a difficult background; so a doorway is a better choice and the arched style ideal for the implied idea of a Holly entrance.  Choosing a doorway eliminates the problems of traffic, pedestrians background and allows me to move my camera further away if required.  I shall mount the camera to a tripod for better composition control and if I need to resort to Photoshop i can easily merge more images together.

My ideal location is the Choir Vestry doorway, my wife sings in the choir and I have spoken to the Vicar who is happy to allow me to use it as my location.  I have a Labrador dog and a friend who has modeled for me before who can play the Traveller and a friend of my wife’s is happy to model as ‘Lucifer’.  My thoughts for the Devil is a very pretty smartly dressed young lady, to represent the metaphor for temptation.  She will be lit by a speedlight with an amber gel in a soft-box to give her warmth and another speedlight located directly behind her with a red gel in a large reflector dish to create a red rim-lighting / halo to suggest the source of the heat and a hint of danger.  The traveller and dog will be lit by either natural day light or another speedlite (un-gelled) for daylight white balance.  The camera will be set to tungsten or similar to trick the camera to create a cold look to the Traveller and dog.  The Traveller and dog are between worlds and this region of space I imagine to be cold. Hell on the other hand is hot and should reflect this by using the corrective gel to alter the white balance for my Devil.  By taking advantage of the white balance I can create a division between the worlds outside the door and that of inside and this warm contrast to the overall cold image will act as my punctum to the picture.

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As you can see, I made sketches and drew a couple of storyboards to help me with ideas.

The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics

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As part of my preparation for my final assignment, I decided to read the works of Franz Kafka in order to try and find some visual ideas for an image that was rich in metaphor.

Much of Kafka’s work was never published in his lifetime and thanks to his friend who saved his work from destruction against Kafka’s dying wishes we are able to read these stories today.

The Trial

Joseph K is a Senior Bank-Clark who one day awakens to find two men in his room to arrest him.  He does not discover for what crime he is accused of; but that his crime is serious and his guilt is assumed.  However, he is freed and informed that his case is under investigation and that he can continue to go about his normal business but he must present himself when required and he must build a defense.   Throughout the book we never discover what the crime he is accused of is, nor who accuses him or why.  He discovers that the Courts are all hidden in attics and all the Court personnel are only identified by a gold button sown to their jackets.

The whole story implies a form of neurosis of the mind.  Is K really a victim of a secret Justice system  or is he having some-kind of nervous-breakdown?  This story is full of metaphors.  I believe Leni to represent K’s idea of Justice, she is flirtatious, she is attracted to all of the Advocates clients; but she wants to help and she wants to be wanted.  The Advocate is K’s idea of a typical lawyer who does his best to string out the work as far as he can for profit.  I suspect that K meets the Judge in the Cathedral, he is the Priest and he gives K advise in the form of a story of a man who waits in vein to be admitted to the law only to discover on his death that the door he had waited at for so long was exclusively his.

I have been reading this novel as a result of my research for this course.  I learned of this novel through a essay written by Walter Benjamin and I am considering a couple of passages from this story to use as an idea to inspire an image for my last assignment.

The ideas are:

From the book The Essential Kafka, published by Wordsworth Classics.

The Trial:

First idea:  A portrait of a man sitting in a chair looking important, distinguished, implying authority, implying a Judge.  He is posed to suggest that at any-moment he is about to leap from his chair.  One hand grips the arm-rest the other holds a paper marker ‘Petition’ .  Behind his a blind-folded, pretty woman stands holding scales in her left hand and a sword in her right.  The idea is that she represents Justice; but her pose must also suggest the Greek female Goddess of hunting.  She should be dressed classically one breast exposed like that from the famous French revolutionary picture of Liberty charging forward.  (Chapter 6, The Uncle – Leni, page 81, lines 23-35 and page 109, Chapter 7, The Advocate – the Manufacturer – the Painter, line 32 to page 110 to line 11).

Second idea:  An open door, above the door is a sign that reads ‘THE LAW’ on the door a smaller sign reads ‘Restricted’.  A Doorman stands guard by the door and a Country Gentleman sits on stool looking dejected.  Behind the Doorman light appears to be streaming out from the doorway.  The Doorman must appear to look like he is on guard but is not appearing to be attempting to bar access.  (Chapter 9, In The Cathedral, page 161 – 162).

The Castle,

The hero of this story is just known as ‘K’ and is a Surveyor who arrives at the village below the castle looking for lodgings before reporting to the castle to begin work.  He discovers that he is not expected and is treated as an undesirable outsider by the villagers.  The Castle then confirms that he has been appointed and advises that he must wait for further instructions.  The castle appears to be inaccessible without permission and he is unable to find anyone who can grant him an audience with anyone in the castle.  This story is a nightmare vision of bureaucracy gone mad with tear upon tear of management that makes anything practically impossible to get done and all the servants that are the management of the castle are aloof from the villagers can only be communicated through unreliable messengers.  I believe that Kafka is describing metaphorically difficulties he had with his father and perhaps difficulties that he may have experienced as a Jew in post Austrian Hungarian Europe.  The story ends in mid-sentence as Kafka never finished the novel.

Metamorphosis – The Transformation of Gregor Samsa

Was this the dark foresight of a German speaking Czech Jew of the 1920’s?   Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find that he has become an giant beetle, he can no longer be understood by his family and his new physique repulses them and he is forced to live imprisoned in his bedroom with only his younger sister brave enough to show enough compassion to feed him and clean his room.  Kafka uses a dark sense of humor in his writing and provides no happy ending but suggests that as one thing comes to an end there is always the beauty of a brighter tomorrow.

The judgement

We are first told that the hero of this story is a successful business man living and working in partnership with his father and is writing to his friend in St. Peters-burg about his impending marriage.  These facts are all thrown in to doubt when he discusses his letter and engagement with his ailing father.

Letter To My Father

This is a letter that Kafka wrote to his father but never gave to him.  Addressing his feeling towards his father and venting his frustrations and anger to a man he has grown up to fear and resent.  In this letter we learn a little of what has influenced Kafka’s writings and imagination.  There is a very useful visual metaphor in this text.  Page 590, line 26.

The idea

To the left a man stands facing a sheer cliff-face that he is trying to climb; to his right a flight of stairs is being climbed by another.  there is a barrier between the two men; so preventing the man on the left from using the same path to ascend.

The Genius of Photography by Gerry Badger

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‘The Genius of Photography, How Photography Has Changed Our Lives’ by Gerry Badger, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

This book was on my recommended reading list for ‘The Art of Photography’ course but I feel that much of the reading list for that course did not echo the syllabus and I did not choose to read it at the time, preferring more relevant books that could assist me in the exercises, subject matter and assignments.  However, for this current course and for future courses this book has been more relevant and made more sense to me.

This book looks at the history of photography from a critical point-of-view as to it’s impact and development as an artistic practice.  How it has been influenced and influenced the art movements of the 19th, 20th and now the 21st century up to 2007.  Focusing on Photographers and examples of their work that have influenced the photographic art movement in their day from Daguerre to the unknown photographers using mobile-phone cameras for images that both informs and shocks the 21st century public.

Although much of the topics in this book have been covered in other books that I have already read, re-reading them will only re-enforce them to my memory and helps to plant ideas for future image making in to my sub-conscious.

Photography a Critical Introduction, Edited by Liz Wells

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Photography a Critical Introduction, edited by Liz Wells, published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

The image on the front cover of this book was very appropriate for my experience when first reading this book: ‘Babel’ from Cockaign, by Gayle Chong Kwan.

The last listed book in my recommended reading list for the ‘Context and Narrative’ course to be read which completes my reading for both essential and recommended for the course. Phew!

I originally purchased and began reading this book for my ‘Art of Photography’ (AOP) course but I didn’t understand the relevance to my course and I also found it to be too heavy reading for me at that time and I only got half way through chapter one before putting it down.  I was keen to read books themed closer to the topics covered in the syllabus and additional technical books on composition, lighting, exposure, etc to bring me up to speed with my basic photography skills.  I felt that this book should have been listed in the essential reading list for my AOP course as none of the syllabus touched on critical theory and therefore wasn’t even appropriate for recommended reading.  However, this book was listed as recommended reading for this current coarse of Context and Narrative and in my opinion this should in fact be listed as essential reading.

This book is definitely worth reading once the critical theory of art in photography needs to be explored and understood.  There was much that linked to my current studying and I could see likely future links to my next courses, particularly chapter 4, ‘The subject as object: photography and the human body’ which discussed various forms of fetishism in art and explained what this word means in the art world.  Not just sex and deviant behavior but also desire and even a form of addiction which can be exploited by advertising, etc.

I still found it a heavy book and it took almost three weeks for me to read, but thanks to all the other reading that I have now done and the clear link it had to my current studying I was able to relate to the subject matter.  I am pleased that I have finally read this book and I realize that I made the right decision  two years ago to put the book down as I would not have understood a word and the messages that are now useful would have been missed.  I probably would not have thought to read it again; so missing a second chance to learn something from this book.