Tag Archives: Hitchcock

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

I learned about the existence of this essay from a text-book I read a few weeks ago (Reading Photographs by AVA Publications) whilst on holiday and thought it useful to get a copy and read it for myself.

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey has only recently been published as a book accompanied by an illustrated essay by  Rachel Rose.  This essay has apparently been very influential in the world of cinema since it’s first publication in ‘Screen’ 1975.  So I thought it important to read it.

The essay discusses a similar argument to John Berger in his famous ‘The Way of Seeing’ regarding how woman have been used in the arts and media as sexual voyeuristic objects. that employed and seen on the movie screen.  Mulvey goes on to argue that women on the cinema screen represent castration due to their lack of the male sexual organ and also objects of desire by way of their glamour.  Mulvey suggests that the audience is encouraged to become voyeurs by the the theater that puts them in the dark; so that they can feel that they can look in private.  She also goes on to consider the ideas of voyeurism that she believes has been explored by the great Hollywood Directors, Sternberg and Hitchcock, in their movies, Morocco and Dishonored by Sternberg and ‘Vertigo’, ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Marnie’.  Much of Mulvey’s essay is now regarded as out of date regarding how women are now portrayed in modern films (by Mulvey’s own admission as a footnote).

A small book of about only 30 readable pages, interesting and I am sure that if I didn’t read it now I would find myself reading it later in my degree course.

 

Working log for Assignment II – The Unseen

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For my second assignment, I have been given a choice between photographing the unseen or using props to create a narrative.  This is my learning log.

For this project I have decided to choose the first option, the unseen.  My reason, is that I feel that this is more challenging and it can help me become more familiar with the theory of semiotics and how to put it into practice in my future compositions.  The Unseen is another form of pictorial narrative; but this time I am going about it in another way.

Part of my brief is to make a list of at least seven ideas for the unseen.  Maybe my life is a little too ordinary and dull but seven ideas was tough and all I could manage.

MY PLANNING

I first made a note of the assignment criteria to help guide my thoughts.

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I then considered technical methods for image making that might inspire some ideas.

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I then continued to put my thoughts on paper as to what I could conceder as unseen.

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I then made a list of potential subjects.

From these general lists I fell upon the subject of depression and hope in the context of redundancy.

I then decided to write a narrative which I gave a working-title of ‘Redundant Reflections’ .  Now I had my first draft of my narrative, I could then start thinking about what pictures I wanted / needed and how they might look like.  Therefore, I broke it down in to sections in my mind, then made a list of the images that I believed would complement the text.  I initially listed eight images then later decided that seven was enough.

I sketched out some ideas for images. a couple I used and for other images that I later produced simply came out my head as worked with my camera.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

The first image that I made from my narrative represents the beginning of my recovery from my depression.  I wanted something to both represent my dog how she has contributed positively to my life. The lead refers both to a dog and walks / exercise, a toy representing fun and happiness / love and a dog biscuit that suggesting reward.

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D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @50mm, 1/80, f/4.5, ISO-320, ambient light, RAW.  Adjustments in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The second image I created is for the opening image to this project, representing my redundancy.  I thought of finding something that I used and is recognized as a familiar object that would be associated with work but now could also be considered redundant as a useful object.  A popular object from the recent past that is both no longer in fashion and redundant in popular use was my old Filo-Fax which has now been replaced by electronic diaries.  My first idea was to photograph it with other redundant objects such as a feather quill pen and bottled ink, old stamps and old redundant currency.  When I put it all together, I didn’t like it.  I then realized that I was looking for a strong metaphoric message for redundancy and that was simple.  Simply throw the Filo-Fax in the bin!   By chance the two pieces of paper that found themselves at the top of the bin couldn’t have been better placed.  An eye and a sales brochure with the words “Just You” as if to say, “We just got rid of you.”  In order to get a good exposure for the white paper and black Filo-Fax, I used my Sekonda hand-held lightmeter to take an incident reading.

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D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @120mm, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO-5000, ambient light, metered using hand-held incident lightmeter, RAW.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The next image I created was the second image for the first paragraph to represent my job hunting and the market conditions.  The idea for this image came strait off the page of my narrative.

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D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @31mm 1/80, f/8, ISO-4000, ambient light, metered using incident measurement from hand-held lightmeter.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

For the next image I worked on, my  initial idea was to play on the words ‘learning curve’ and using a stack of books to make a curve; but as you may see, I don’t think that this idea worked too well; so I stopped and read the book ‘This Means This, This Means That’ by Sean Hall, to get fresh inspiration.  The final composition was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, he has used this point of view in a couple of his films.  The red No Entry symbol on the front cover of the book, I thought, would look better returned to red. by colour popping.

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D-800e, 24-120mm f/4 @65mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO-4000, ambient lighting.  Adjusted in Lightroom and converted to greyscale in Photoshop.

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D-800e, 24-120mm f/4 @58mm, 1/80, f/9, ISO-4000, ambient lighting.  Adjusted in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale and colour-popped in Photoshop.

Alfred Hitchcock.

However, when I asked my student forum to comment on my work, the consistent opinion was to keep all the pictures in grey-scale except for the last image which they agreed worked in colour; so I changed this back to full grey-scale and made alterations to the text as also suggested.

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Camera settings unchanged from above.

I had an idea for the ending as something to suggest a new beginning and optimism for the future.  At the time of this project it was early spring with the buds just coming out and ideal for my last image.  I decided that although I have chosen to use grey-scale the last image must emphasise hope and I felt that a colour image dominated by green would suggest this.  Plus I feel that this change to colour also acts as a full-stop to the narrative.

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D800e, 105mm f/2.8, 1/80, f/8, ISO-125, ambient light only, adjustments made in Lightroom.

I then set about trying to create an image to suggest shock, I couldn’t find any examples on the internet other than foolish images of people looking wide eyed and open mouthed.  I considered a broken cup or spilt tea / coffee but I wasn’t sure that that would suggest anything other than a broken cup or a spillage.  I then had the idea of filling a cup with tea and photographing it as I banged it on a table to capture the shock wave like ripples. But as you can see, I don’t think that the image is powerful enough to convey what I was after.  In the end I decided that this image was not needed for the narrative anyway.

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D800e, 105mm f/2.8, 1/250, f/3, ISO-800, remote shutter control with remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

I decided to move on to produce an image conveying the business travel and my choice of image with the pillow can also be associated with the sack.  I am particularly pleased with this image, it’s simple but I think to the point.  (I hope you agree.)

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D800e, 24-120mm f/4, @58mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO-800, ambient light only.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The last image I made for the set was to convey an impression of depression and poor health.  This came surprisingly easily, as I recalled that Hollywood movies often uses the symbolism of a tub of ice-cream when the heroin is depressed or sad; so why not use the same idea?  My first attempt was okay; but I didn’t think was strong enough in it’s message; so I reshot using a hamburger that really represented bad diet and unhealthy living.  This image I believe best represents the result of my redundancy which I think is far better than trying to create something to just symbolize shock.

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D800e, 24-120mm f/4, @78mm, 1/125, f/8, ISO-125, remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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D800e, 24-120mm f/4 @86mm, 1/125, f/4, ISO-125, remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

Have I met the assignment criteria?

  • Consider how to use the image and text together to create my chosen narrative.

Yes, I believe I achieved this.

  • Look at how images can be used to tell us about things we can’t see, to convey a feeling or suggestion.

Yes, I believe that my images meet this aim.

  • Try to keep to things that I have a personal interest in or curious about.

Yes, I believe that I have kept within this field.

  • Produce 7 – 10 tightly edited and visually consistent.

Yes, x 7 key images consistent with the narrative.

  • Write a 300 word Introduction.

Yes, A 300 word complementing narrative.

Based upon the feedback from my fellow students from my forum, particularly the very helpful and I thought good advice from Steve Middlehurst, who suggested adding the stills as well as the slideshow for the assessors to be able to clearly scrutinize each image.  With this in mind I decided to put the slideshow at the very top just beneath the title and as each image represents the unseen I feel it works well and added the large stills beneath the text for closer examination.

I sent away for my images to be printed by a third-party printing company, when they came back I found that the crop they had used was not the same as I had expected and seen on my screen then ordering through their online website.  I had waited a week for the photos to arrive and decided that it was too risky to try and get a better print from this same company; so I visited my local Tesco that has a photo-lab but they could not offer a service that included a border forcing me to try and coble one up in Photoshop. Moreover, they could not offer a matching matt-paper, silk being their nearest option.  I emailed my Tutor who insisted that  my presentation should be consistent.  At first I was annoyed and turned to my student forum for advice.  They were all great, I got a little from some reminding me that I should be printing my own work anyway if I want to be a professional photographer which I needed to hear even if I didn’t at first like it.  A fellow student suggested a Canon printer that he uses and I ordered one on Amazon Canon PI7250 for £50, plus paper and spare inks.  Thursday, mid-morning I took delivery of my new printer and after unpacking and setting up spent the rest of the day figuring out the mysteries of printer profiles and colour profiles.  Fortunately, I have been in the practice of calibrating my screen using a Colour Spyder4 and by late Thursday evening I printing out my assignment photos for my Tutor.  I can truly say this assignment has taught me lots.

 

 

 

 

 

Hitchcocks, The Lodger.

Ivor Novello

The trailer to ‘The Lodger’.

Last week I watched an interesting documentary at the cinema about the interview and resulting friendship between Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock.  The documentary was about Hitchcock’s genius as a film director, which until Truffaut sang his praises was largely being ignored and undermined.

After watching the documentary, I purchased, ‘The Lodger‘ which is Hitchcock’s first film with his recognisable style. (he had made several others films before this one; but this is the first movie that was all his own.)

This was made in 1926 and is silent.  Hitchcock, keeps the text to a minimum, using clever composition and symbols to carry the narrative.  This is film making at it’s purist and at the height of it’s craft.  Although I am a still photographer, I look for ideas from the film makers who were inventing ideas that still photographers are today discussing and adopting.

In this image taken from the film, the lodger who is suspected as a serial killer looks out from his window and Hitchcock has cleverly cast a shadow of a crucifix on his face.

The film begins with this image, a girl is drowning, a victim of ‘The Avenger’.  Hitchcock set the camera facing up under a plate of glass and got the girl to lay facing down over the glass a lens.

In this scene the lodger, Ivor Novello, is pacing up and down in his room disturbing the others in the house.  Hitchcock, used a glass floor for Novello to walk on and super-imposed that image with the chandelier rocking by his heavy steps.

This was a cleaver idea, but Hitchcock didn’t think that it worked too well, he wanted the van to look like a face with the heads of the driver and mate as the eyes, the newspaper sign for a nose and the cars chrome bumper as the mouth.

As a story, perhaps a little naïve for today’s standards but enjoyable all the same.  If you are interested in film making it has to be one to watch.  Hitchcock couldn’t understand why with the advent of sound so much visual film making skills were quickly forgotten to be replaced with too much un-necessary dialogue.  He was always the believer that if you could tell it in pictures why explain it with dialogue.  It has been said that with a Hitchcock film, even his later ones, the story can still be followed with the sound turned down.  Now that is an artist in my book!

 

Truffaut Hitchcock

Truffaut Hitchcock

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

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

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

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