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Assignment 5 – Making it up

Club Class

from an original story by: Earl Hamner Jr.

club-class

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.

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Reading Photographs, An Introduction to the Theory and Meaning of Images.

Reading Photographs

I have been reading this book whilst on holiday, in preparation for my next assignment, Reading Photographs, An Introduction to the Theory and Meaning of Images, by Richard Salkeld, published by Bloomsbury.  This is part of a set of about x10 text-books that are very good and this appears to be last last one of the series for photography that I hadn’t read.

This book  is divided in to 6 chapters covering the following topics:

  1. What is a Photograph – Briefly covers the history from invention and marriage of chemistry and optics, through to the evolution of photography and its practice. Case-study.
  2. Reading the signs – Briefly covers the theory of meaning, language, semiotics, ideology in an easy to understand way.  Case-study.
  3. Truth and Lies – Considers images reflecting truth in what is real, representation and reality, facts and fiction.  Case-study.
  4. Identity – Covers people and portraits, signifying identity, looking,the body.  Case-study.
  5. Big-Brother – The modern world, the bad, the mad and the other, surveillance society: and Panopticon (originally a 19th century idea to watch prisoners in a specially designed prison). Who is looking at whom? Public spaces – private lives.  Case-study.
  6. Aesthetics – Is it Art? What is art? Photography as art the history of an idea, into postmodernism.  Case-study.

This is a very good and useful book to read, in fact I read it twice.  An easy read and very well illustrated with profiles on key authors for further reading such as Roland Barthes and John Berger to name just a couple.  I would strongly recommend this book and I am surprised that it is not listed as either recommended or essential reading for my OCA course covering Context and Narrative.

Working Log for Assignment One – Two sides of the story

The Report

The Statement

For this assignment I was tasked to create two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story to explore the convincing nature of documentary photography.

The aim of this assignment was to demonstrate that images and ideas about truth have problematic relationships.

Planning

Key_Points_Learning_Aims

I began this project by first scribbling down some ideas on note paper, considering the key points and learning aims before brainstorming for some ideas. I then made lists headed ‘Context’ and ‘Narrative’ and began to formulate ideas with a mind-mapping / tree graphs that helped filter ideas which led me to the idea of witnessing an incident that can be interpreted either as an attack or a rescue.

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To try to make these two sets of images look authentic, I decided that a camera-phone was the best and most appropriate choice of camera for this particular narrative. Therefore, I hope that by using this method of recording the ‘incident’, I will have created both an implied appearance of truth for a citizen-journalistic story and an evidence style narrative.

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I then considered the photographs that I required to tell the two versions of the same story by making a list and then sketching out some ideas as a storyboard. I then approached my friends and parents with my idea and obtained their helpful co-operation.

Next I reconnoitred the proposed location taking notes of light, traffic, and the bus time table and made some test shots.

Putting the plan into action.

I first wrote my two narratives one I headed “The Statement” and the other I headed “The Report” and briefed my models and driver of the car using it.

Due to the bright sun I chose to photograph from the opposite side the road from my original test shots and the Church helped with the background. Normally this road is very quiet but (typically) was busy which reduced the time I had to make the pictures and limited the opportunities to re-shoot. I found the camera-phone’s response time to be slow and difficult to review properly a further complication was my father didn’t understand that I needed him to stop the car almost on the zebra-crossing for a more dramatic picture and the busy traffic prevented me from being able to either re-position the car or I before a queue began to form. Therefore, I was only partially successful with obtaining all the photos that I was happy with. As I could not re-shoot, I had to use Photoshop to manipulate two images to make them more dramatic. I have re-used three images in both narratives as they work for both, one I have cropped out the bus to emphasise the assailants escape.  I then hand wrote labels for each photo that I attached and downloaded a Met Police witness statement that I had wrote for ‘The Statement’ and typed ‘The Report’ as a covering letter to a newspaper to help support the ‘context’ for both stories.  I used an online printing service for my photos but on receiving them and physically examining them, I made a couple of editing decisions by removing a couple of chosen pictures from the original choice and ordering two additional duplicates. Finally before sending, I made one final editorial decision requiring getting a single photo from the photo lab at Tesco’s, hence why one image ‘the escaping attacker’ is of a different size and crop.  Clearly this is the downside of not having your own printing facilities.

Merged photos – left image, lady looking the wrong way for the narrative to work but good pose of running man, right image lady looking the right way but not good pose for the running man, both images merged using Photoshop.

Merged photos – left good poses but car too far away, right car taken from this image and merged with left picture using Photoshop.

Three printed images edited from the final selection.   Reason – I did not consider them necessary to the narrative.

Images duplicated as they suited both narratives and the bus image re-used but cropped for ‘The Statement’ narrative to imply that the attacker was escaping.

Summing up

Key points –

  • Two sets of images 5-7 each total 10-14.
  • Suggest two alternative points of view.
  • Must tell a story.
  • Look convincing.  This is subjective but I feel I made fairly convincing.
  • Candid style.

Learning aims –

  • I believe that I met my learning aims exploring the nature of documentary photography by producing two contrasting points of view of the same incident.
  • I understood the power of imagery for both inside and outside the frame as demonstrated by my choice of framing / cropping, positioning for the view and editorial of the prints.
  • I understood context and putting it in to practice with my choice of images and use of text for the captions for each photo and the addition of the letter and police statement.