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Assignment 5 – Making it up

Club Class

from an original story by: Earl Hamner Jr.

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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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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.

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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.

Exercise – Project 1 – Autobiographical self-portaiture

 

I have been looking at the images by artist such as Francesca Woodman, Elina Brotherus, Sally Mann, Elinor Carucci, Richard Billingham, Tierney Gearon and Gillian Waering.

Francesca Woodman


Photo by Francesca Woodman. This lined image is available to view on line: http://bibliotecaiie.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/francescawoodman.jpg

Francesca Woodman’s images I find both a little erotic and disturbing.  Woodman clearly a lot of pent up sexual-tension with an artistic voice wanting to be heard.  If I was to say that there was an element of narcissism in Woodman’s photos I think I would be wrong.  I think that she was probably insecure about herself and her looks, yes she was very self-indulgent which may sadly have lead her to her death.  I believe there are indications of her moods of depression in her images.  We all sometime feel that we could just disappear and I think that Woodman acts out some of these wished imaginings in her photos.  I personally, think that Woodman’s images don’t need accompanying text for the images to be appreciated.  However, they communicate best as set.

Woodman clearly had mental-health issues and I wonder that perhaps the wider issue here is the stigma attached to this form of health-issue and the lack of understanding and help available for sufferers.  Many artist suffer from depression as many artists by there nature are bipolar in some degree and perhaps educational institutions such as schools and colleges / universities should also watch for this and offer counselling and support.  Woodman committed suicide in 1981 and over 30 years later we are still loosing talent through our lack of understanding of how to help.

Elina Brotherus

Photo by Elina Brotherus. This linked image is available to view online on her website: http://www.elinabrotherus.com

Brotherus has used her naked body to put ‘a spotlight’ on herself.  I think that her nakedness not only reflects her sense of vulnerability but also her lock of power and sense of naked honesty.  She uses nakedness to grab the attention of the audience / viewer in order to pass on her intended message.

For me Brotherus images instil mixed feelings of sympathy and admiration for both her struggle and sadness and her honesty and dignified strength.

Some may interpret Brotherus’s work as a little self-indulgent; but I would disagree.  Brotherus has used herself as a subject to bring to peoples attention issues that are often hidden.  These issues she has experienced for herself and therefore can tell the story from the inside.  By using herself as the model and subject she enforces the truth and her own honesty.

I don’t believe that this style of images can be imitated purely for image sake by ‘outsiders’.  These images come from the heart and therefore if mimicked would lack the context that these images were created to represent.  These images have been made to represent the artist own feelings and emotions and whilst the images can be replicated the emotional message the originals carry can not without some honest intent from the new artist.  In this way only another artist going through similar experiences can produce similar work and would then have his or her own style and signature.  Anything else would be a false facsimile.

As mentioned above, I believe that the motivation of these artist are to raise awareness of issues, that are often hidden from public-sight.  Naturally these issues have to be close and personal to the artist in order for the artist to be able to be an insider and produce honest and truthful images.

Tierney Gearon


Photo by Tierney Gearon. This linked image is available to view online: http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0041/9522/files/TIERNEY_GEARON_5.jpg?9982

Tierney Gearon has used her family as subjects for her art.  I particularly like the multi-image montages that she has created.  Her career path is similar to Corinne Day in so much as she began as a fashion model and moved in to photography.


Photo by Tierney Gearon. This linked image is available to view online: http://cubeme.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/exposure-exhibition-photographs-tierney-gearon11.jpg


Photo by Tierney Gearon. This linked image is available to view online: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/65/5b/cd/655bcde8fe23c91a2b436a43323b8eab.jpg

Richard Billingham


Photo by Richard Billingham. This linked image is available to view online: https://creatingdigitalmedia.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/richard_billingham_3.jpg

Richard Billingham as a young student artist Billingham lived with his alcoholic father, frustrated that he could not get his father to sit still for his model he started taking photos to paint from.  He and his father later moved back with his mother continuing to use his camera for his art-work, as a result he has made some very interesting candid images that would not normally be photographed seen or seen.  These images that were not originally intended for use in themselves launched Billingham as an photographer and artist and were published in a successful book ‘Rays a laugh’.

Elina Brotherus


Photo by Elina Brotherus. This linked image is available to view on line at: http://www.paris-art.com

Elina Brotherus has used self-portraiture in some interesting and creative ways, I like this image of her reflection in the mirror held in front of the face of the model.  Brotherus has a good website illustrating a lot of her work.  Brotherus has also studied ideas of self-portraiture in connection with landscape and her environment and how they relate.