Category Archives: Part Two

Project 3, Exercise.

In this last project of this section, I have looked at the concept of creating images that convey a sense of the unseen, for example feelings and emotions.  I have already started to think about this form of art with my last exercise of creating images for a  poem and this project is moving this theory forward in to use of every day life and personal experiences.

I have been introduced to three different projects by photography students as examples of creating images out of the unseen.  The first is by Peter Mansell (My Space) who has taken photos of objects and even of empty spaces that represent his disability and his life.  I very much like these simple but well thought out and composed images.  I got a very real sense of his visits to the hospital and Peter’s life at home.

The second project is by Dewald Botha (Ring Road) I liked the interesting perspective and sense of being on the outside.  The timing of the photos suggest early morning with a cold mist and overcast looking skies this could of course just be smog but it evokes a sense of cold and the unusual locations of not belonging almost like trespassing.

The third project is by Jodie Taylor (Memories of Childhood) the link for this only illustrates three photos but I was able to understand the sentiment and sense of nostalgia as we see these places of her childhood.  I think that all of the photos from all three projects are cleverly conceived and nicely composed.  The project that resonates most with me was Dewald Botha’s, ‘Ring Road’.  I have been in sales for much of my life and I was a Territory Sales Rep. I was working from home; so I was always a little bit of an outsider even with my own company as I would only visit their offices for sales meetings and training days.  I have often found that we set boundaries for ourselves in both our professional and personal life and boundaries is the subject that Botha explores.  I often used the M25 to travel to all compass points of my sales territory and his choice of subject matter struck a cord.

Authorial Control

This concept of loss of authorial control doesn’t mean a lot to me.  The point of creating an image, sculpture, music or literature is to express your ideas in to something of substance; but how other people choose to interpret the work is up to them.  Hopefully if you have done a good job the meaning of that idea is obvious and will be experienced as you intended it to be.  (Unless the idea was to be deliberately ambiguous and to enjoy watching others make interesting interpretations.)  A photograph can be easily re-used re-labelled and re-contextualized and perhaps as students and later as photographers we will do this to other peoples work and one day others will do it with ours.  That’s life.  Moreover, if a photographer is employed by a magazine then that employer must have rights over the editorial decisions.  A wedding photographer on the other hand has more control; but at the end of the day the Bride and Groom can always re-frame the pictures and add their own captions etc.  In my opinion it’s not worth loosing our hair over this idea of authorial control.

 

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Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor.

Not Waving But Drowning

by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971

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NOBODY heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

“I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.”

 

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Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

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“Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

“I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.”

Research point – Duane Michals

This image by Duane Michals cleverly uses hand written text to suggest a personal relationship between the author of the caption and man in the image.  The black and white print eliminates any distracting colours to concentrate the emotional feeling of love.  However, is the picture a genuine snap shot of the artist and his ex? or is it a composed image?  Who took the photograph? Why was he of she in the bedroom with them?

I would suggest that this is a posed photograph and the hand written text intentionally alters the context to suggest a personal memory a reflection on a past relationship; but fiction all the same.  Below is another image which we can see is posed and the hand written message adds humour to the context.

Research point – Karen Knorr, Gentlemen

Photograph by Karen Knorr

An interesting project by Karen Knorr with privileged access to London’s Gentlemen clubs of St. James’ in London.  Knorr photographs in black and white appear to be taken of a medium format camera and are very sharp and well composed.  She has cleverly added texts constructed out of Parliamentary speeches and news she has added new contexts and meanings to these images to put across her ideas of British politics and democracy and the status of women in an entertaining way.

To me, this is a little like the idea of Sophie Calle’s, ‘Take Care of Yourself’.  Knorr has taken other peoples text and linked it with carefully composed pictures with a feminist point of view.  However, the similarities stop there as Knorr is clearly an outsider and has little in common with her subject; so she has had to use speeches that members of clubs like this have said in Parliament or have been quoted on the news to create a narrative that puts across her documentary message in an entertaining way.  Calle on the other hand was an insider as she shared a common experience with fellow women.

Research point -Kaylyn Deveney, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings

thZKTIBUL4 Photograph by Kaylynn Deveney.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=kaylynn+deveney&view=detailv2&&id=F09663C9697BE7CF957465C053E9D4E5E031D1A9&selectedIndex=0&ccid=VSJLX6U0&simid=608053287080035439&thid=OIP.M55224b5fa534123d0bd481c4048f7a6ao0&ajaxhist=0

The project, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings by Kaylynn Deveney is a good example of Postmodernist art. Deveney has taken the idea of making the ordinary, banal moments in her neighbour’s life as the subject of her project.  Deveney is looking at her neighbours habits and routines in a fresh respective and by asking Mr Hastings to add his own captions to her photographs of him and his home new meanings are added to the pictures that give it a more intimate / personal, insider, style than if she had simply added her own.  This I think was a cleaver way to add more layers to this work.  This project is similar to ‘Objects in the Field’ in so much as the author (Deveney) writes about her experience working with Hastings and her personal observations.  However, in this instance I believe the artist was more successful in building a good relationship with her subject and was able to share a mutual vision. The reason for this I believe was that they had more in common with each other and the photographer did not have to make as much of an effort to find common ground. Mr Hastings wrote poetry and his love of flora and fauna suggests a man more open to artistic and visual ideas and arts that proved both useful and helpful as Mr. Hastings helped Deveney develop her ideas with his helpful comments and clearly a good partnership developed that appears to have been missing from Rickett’s relationship.

 

Research point – One in 8 Million, The New York Times

One in 8 Million is an interesting online photo project in which a diverse range of people living in New York city talk about themselves with a slide show of still and black and white photographs that play-out in time with the audio narration.  The pictures have been photographed to compliment the transcript and are a good example of how the theory of relay and on occasion anchoring is used with the audio.  A very interesting social documentary on the diversity of New Yorkers.  The interviews reflect what the individuals personality and identity from a woman into sexual bondage to a reformed drugs dealer, An immigrant from Nepal who is a baggage handler at JFK to a Blue Chip Broker and everyone in between a total of 54 different subjects all with there own story and collection of photos, that runs for two and a half minutes each.  Very interesting and entertaining.  Martin Parr, comments that in order to make interesting social documentaries he makes the entertaining to disguise the intended social message.