Author Archives: shauncn512659

About shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is: shaun512659@oca.ac.uk

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.

graham-and-honey

ann-marie-1

 

 

 

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.

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn

I learned of this artist through a fellow student  on Facebook.  Cockburn appears to specialize in ‘found photographs’ that she embellishes with embroidery, etc. often to disguise or obliterate the face / identity of the person in the picture.  She has exhibited and sells her picture for large sums http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/juliecockburn.  Like the lady in the picture, I can say no more about this artist.

As artist we are a funny breed! I was recently told by an artist that most artists are Socialists and I often hear them talk about the evils of Capitalism and then I go and find that artist will find someone else’s old photos and scribble, scratch, embroider or simply add a title to alter their meaning and put them up for sale for large sums of money.  Seems to me without the evil Capitalist world we would be starving or more likely simply not doing art!

Salvador Dali was kicked out of the Surrealist movement for supporting Franco, perhaps his real crime was that he just couldn’t be hypercritical enough for his fellow contemporaries.

 

Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien

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Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien, published by Laurence King Publishing, ISBN:978-1-7806-332-5.

A good book that tells a good comprehensive history of photography from conception to present day.   This book explains the influences from art, politics and national cultures that has shaped photographic practices throughout the world from the 1830’s to present day with details on photographers / artist with examples of their work that have been of influence.  The book is made up of six parts with sections called Focus that looks at specific subjects in photography such as race and slavery of the 19th century or making an icon of revolution in the 20th century (Che Guevara) and Portraits about the works of famous photographers that influenced photography and the artistic practices from the 19th century through to the 21st.

Certainly a must read book for any photography student and I do now have a better understanding of Surrealism, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc. than I did before.

The last Tycoon

Photo by William Eggleston.

Yesterday, Saturday, my wife and I visited London to see the William Eggleston Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery and then go on to see a play.

The weather was warm but wet however, this didn’t dampen our day.  On arrival to Trafalgar square, I mistakenly went in to The National Gallery and after a quick scout around asked a member of staff where the William Eggleston exhibition was.  The young lady gave me a look that one would have expected to get from the head waiter at Simpsons when asked for a Big Mac and fries.  She politely and a little condescendingly informed me that I was in the wrong gallery and directed me around the corner for The National Portrait Gallery.

As I walked around the corner and entered The National Portrait Gallery, I noted that it is all part of the same building but separated and given a side entrance.  Unconsciously perhaps placing portraiture in it’s considered place in the hierarchy of Art.

Photo by William Eggleston, this eligant but prim woman sits legs crossed next to a post wrapped in chain and pad-locked.  The post appears to act like a metaphor you can look bot can’t touch!

Anyhow, having found the exhibition we enjoyed Eggleston’s mixture of black-and-white and colour photos of mostly friends and family.  Some of the pictures on display were seen for the very first time as they had come from his private collection.  Also there was a display of some of Eggleston’s video work that he had made in the early 70’s a genre that I was unaware that he has worked in.  His pictures and video was of his life in Mississippi and it was clear from his images that he is a very good observer a talent that I have always had myself but only now with this photography degree course can I see a real use for it and have a reason to develop it further.  This exhibition was about his portraiture based work and had interesting details about his subjects, such as the dentist who had lost his practice through his use of drugs and later died in suspicious circumstances; his road trip with Dennis Hopper; his friends and neighbors, etc.

Photo by William Eggleston.

This image Eggleston describes as his first attempt  with colour and pleased with it’s success that he felt worked continued.  I agree the low sun from the sun-set or sunrise gives this young man’s skin tomes a very warm hue.  I like the shadow that repeats, yet with what is probably Eggleston’s shadow it also suggests another narrative.  The lady in the corner also works for a triangular formed composition.

My personal favorite photo was of a girl he photographed in black-and-white in a local night club who was clearly had at least one too many.  (Didigiat image unavailable)

Eggleston’s Grand-father with his man-servant at a funeral, photographed by William Eggleston.

I note that many photographers that are recognized in the art world are from privileged or fairly affluent backgrounds, naturally photography is not a cheap past time and for it helps to mix in the right circles in order to get interesting pictures in sometimes exotic locations.  Eggleston is no exception, from a wealthy family background he has been fortunate enough to have the support and subject matter to tap in to.

Following on from this exhibition we ended the day enjoying a good play about a 30’s film producer, called ‘The Last Tycoon’ The play reminded me of my exhibition and the title reminded me of the photo of Eggleston’s Grand-father with his man-servant who is unconsciously mimicking his boss’ pose.

Working log for assignment 5, my initial thoughts.

9/9/16 – I am beginning my planning by going back to the start of this C&N course and re-reading the introduction and reviewing what I have learned in order to help me focus on what I need to achieve.

Up to now my assignments have been successful and my Tutor is very keen that I produce something that can top my achievements with this final assignment. So I want to produce something that is good and sophisticated enough to work well but at the same time try not to over complicate the work and try to keep the idea simple.  Well that’s the plan.  As I work out the project we will see if I can keep to this.

Keeping in mind my essay for my last assignment – I must be sure that every single element in my picture has a reason to be there and they must in some way contribute to the narrative.  The frame / choice of composition must suggest a greater context.  Lighting has also been mentioned and I am comfortable with using speedlights soft-boxes, flags etc.  I relish the opportunity to create a professional type set-up.  I thank my TAOP course and the section on lighting that I had spent extra time working on, I learned so much about both the basics and advanced photography skills on that course.

My plan is to produce one single photo; but it must suggest that it is part of a story.  All stories have a beginning, middle and end and my picture must suggest a previous moment that is leading to the next.  The picture must be readable and must have both a studium and punctum element on order for this image to really stand-out.  All the elements inside this picture must assist this process or they should not be there.  If I can meet these goals I am at least half-way there.

But the first half of the journey is to find the subject.  I intend to use my past brain-storming techniques and I have yet to do the last exercise of section five which is an interview and perhaps an idea may germinate from this.

Clive, my Tutor has recommended an author Kafka that I came across whilst reading Walter Benjamin and perhaps an idea may present itself from one of Kafka’s short-stories.

This last assignment is both exciting and a little scary; but life without a little fear is like a meal without a little herbs and seasoning, plain and dull.

Tutors report for assignment 4

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I have just received my report from Clive for assignment 4 and I am very pleased to learn that my essay was a total success!

Interestingly, Clive recommends that I read, ‘The Trial’ by Kafka, an author that by coincidence I have just learned of through my reading of Walter Benjamin’s 1934 essay observing the tenth anniversary of Kafka death.

Clive’s final comment is some advise for my next assignment and he quotes:

“…..this is the one you’re going to be remembered by as the final assignment the assessors will see for this module so you want to make it the pinnacle of the work. Bringing everything you’ve learned from the other assignments to bear.

Use your ‘voice’ to express a sophisticated idea in a sophisticated way. Think of the thought that went into making the scene you chose for this assignment. I think you’ve got the skills and awareness to make something really good that will leave the assessors with a very strong impression of your abilities.”

No Pressure then!