I have reprinted all my photos using the adopted lilac Hue style suggested by my Tutor as I like the result and further to his comments, I also re-took the photo of image 5 standing on the soap-box for a better composition and made some Photoshop improvements to some of the other images for example image 3 (please refer to my earlier blogs) . Included in the folder is my Tutor’s report, Shaun Mullins – 512659 – Photography 1 Context & Narrative – Assignment 3 (1) My 300 word introduction labeled 1 of 16 300-word-introduction The character descriptions from my friends and family and a printout of the associated anchoring text marked 6 of 16 a-self-portrait-as-regarded-by-others
Photo by William Eggleston.
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.
I am happy and confident that I have met the criteria for this third assignment which was to put in to practice what I had learned through my research in order to create a self-portraiture project. I believe that I have been able to create all the submitted images to both include me and to be about me, in context to the narrative, as provided by my friends and family.
I have found this project extremely challenging, the hardest part was finding the ideas for suitable images that could metaphorically represent my chosen subjects as clearly as possible. However, I also found it very enjoyable as well as a little stressful. The planning took a great deal longer than I had originally imagined.
Trying to take a photo whilst not being behind the camera was also fraught with difficulties. I invested in a piece software by Nikon (Camera Control Pro 2, available on a free 30 day trial from the Nikon website) in order to operate the camera remotely through a tethered lap-top but even with this added aid the task was still trick trying to keep the subject in focus.
I feel reasonably happy with my final presented work and I hope that my Tutor likes it.
For this assignment, I am tasked to create a photo or photos that are of a self-portraiture nature. The brief is fairly loose; but I have had an idea that I first checked with my Tutor to be sure that it would be acceptable.
My idea is to explore the question of my identity, how is my identity seen from other peoples perspective?
I have asked a couple of close friends and family to write a frank and honest assessment of my character and from these assessments I will extract ideas for creating images that represent Shaun Mullins as regarded by others.
My first assessment is from my father, Barrie Mullins.
Having been given my character assessment from my father, I started to jot down some thoughts and ideas. Having read it through several times I divided the text into subject matter to develop.
With these thoughts I narrowed it down to three subjects to use from my father’s assessment and began to think about what each can represent.
And looked again at the text and how my chosen subjects are used in context to my fathers narrative.
‘High ability’ (“when he wishes to exercise it.”)
‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’
‘A man that one would trust’
I now began to sketch and jot down ideas.
I made the decision to work in black-and-white for this assignment and as these are ‘self-portraits, I felt that it was more appropriate and perhaps stronger for the composition if the are all framed in a portrait format.
My first attempt was for ‘High ability’ with an idea that immediately came to me and I quickly made it without bothering to sketch it first.
However, I felt that it didn’t link to my father’s text, nor was it strong enough symbolically. I also decided that I want to make self-portrait styled pictures that only imply my presence with at most say only a hand, a shadow or just a part of my body, etc.
This was my next attempt; but I still felt that it didn’t convey the message of ‘High ability’. Moreover, perhaps even my father’s face was not necessary either. I moved on to another shot I had properly planned with a sketch.
This shot is for the last image, ‘A man that one would trust’. My father is 87 and I thought about how this suggestion of trust could be manifested in an image linking my father and it occurred to me that giving my father a helping hand might work and this is the image I had in mind and I think it works.
My next image that I took was another attempt at ‘High ability’
However, I felt that this image still wasn’t strong enough and my wife didn’t like it either although she felt that the image of Sir Edmond Hillary conquering Everest was a strong symbol; so I had to organize a re-shoot with my father. Unfortunately, despite his keenness to help, his patience is very short and due to his age he tires very easily and quickly; so he was quit challenging to work with, particularly when some of the shots I needed were challenging to make particularly as I had restricted myself to a portrait format.
During this same shoot, I also attempted to get an image for ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’. But again I felt that this just didn’t work.
On our next session together I had re-planned and the results for the two needed images I believe are now much stronger and meet the requirements that I was looking for.
This image is to represent ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’ and I felt I needed to contrast praise with denial / refusal and I had the idea of simply my father clapping and with myself holding out my hands asking him to stop. I really only wanted the hands to symbolism the sentiment, this proved more tricky that first thought and when I tried to sketch my mental idea I struggled. I turned to my camera and fitting it to my tripod and tethering to a computer to see what the camera was seeing I tried different ways of composing the image. In the end I decided to lay the camera of the ground looking up whilst still tethered to my lap-top in order to see and compose and take the picture. With my father this still took over an hour to do and in the end I had to merge two photos together in Photoshop to get the desired combined poses in one image. My kitchen skylight worked to provide a nice blank background with a faint cross which is the frame of the pyramid skylight that also is a nice subtle addition to the image. Also, my fathers hands in the act of applauding with my own hands out stretched to ask him to stop appears to mimic the faint cross in the skylight.
By the time I had made some useful images for ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’ my father was very tired; but my last image was fairly straightforward and easy to make as I could hold the camera in my hand and take the shot over my father’s shoulder for this image of my father holding a photo of Sir Edmond Hillary with my British and American Private Pilot’s Licences that he refers to in his assessment.
I now believe that I have three images that now work and link effectively to my fathers text creating a visual narrative. One or two of my images may be considered strong enough to stand alone; but they all clearly gain strength as a visual narrative when seen together and are linked to the text.
I have decided to only use the second and third images in my final presentation.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.