Tag Archives: Narrative

Access to archive material

On considering if I have access to archive material that I could perhaps use for a later project?  the answer is yes.  I have my wife’s Aunt’s old photos, plus photos that my wife’s Uncle and Aunt took of themselves and my wife’s immediate family.  Plus photos from my own family.  I am sure I could obtain access to photos kept at local museums such as Chertsey, Weybridge, Brooklands, Hampton Court, etc.

I had an idea that I once thought of as a good idea for a novel.  A few years ago Brooklands recovered a crashed Hawker Hurricane that was built at the Brooklands factory and first flown by the American Eagle squadron during the Battle-of-Britain, 1940.  It was later shipped via the highly dangerous Russian convoys to Russia under lend-lease and flown against the Germans on the Eastern-front before being shot-down and crash landing.  The Russian pilot survived and the plane was abandoned and forgotten until re-discovered and returned to Brooklands.  Perhaps a narrative can be created in a series of photos of the people that this aircraft touched from family pictures of aircraft riggers and fitters, aircrew, sailors, allies to the enemy.

Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

Fascinating documentary following the work of Gregory Crewdsen as he prepares and takes the photos of his cinematic scale images using cinematic-lights a film-crew of up to 60, professional actors, cranes, assistance from police and fire departments, closure of streets exactly as a scene from a movie would be organized, staged and shot only instead of a cinematic movie camera Crewdson uses a large-format still camera.  He will then take the best examples and merge them together in Photoshop collage them in to one final perfect image.

Do I think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

yes, I find his images both beautiful and disturbing, as I believe, is his intention in order to create an interesting and engaging narrative.

Do I think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’?  What does this mean?

Yes, I do.  His pictures are almost dream like, the scenes are very surreal.  They encourage the audience to wonder what is happening? what has just happened? what is about to happen?  They are like that moment in a dream that is taking that turn in to the nightmare.  This touches on our own imagination, our own fears, our own anxieties.

What is your main goal when making pictures?  Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal?  Why or why not?

My main goal is to make interesting pictures, if the subject matter is beauty then that is what I want to create, if the subject matter is not then I want to make the image suitable for the subject with a choice of composition that holds the audience at least for a little while.  I do not think that there is anything wrong in making beautiful pictures; but it can become a little dull and boring if we can not vary the subject matter and produce images that offer some kind of narrative or symbiotic meaning that can engage, challenge and even entertain the audience in some way.

I like Crewdson’s pictures they may not be as subtle as Wall or DiCorcia but they are very well made and they can appeal to a public that doesn’t have to first have an acquired taste or understanding of art to appreciate the picture that they are viewing.

 

 

Reading Photographs – thoughts about Photos that are not intended for the means of expression or communication.

At the beginning of section 4, ‘Reading photographs’ for my course, ‘Context and Narrative’, I have been asked to try to think of any photos that may be produced that are not intended for expression or communication.

Assuming that the photo hasn’t been over of under exposed to a degree that the image is totally white or black then the short answer is no.  For surely all photos either express something or communicate something.

However, my first thought as to a possible contender would be a photo taken for say quality-control to record that something was made or fitted to a set standard or requirement.  components in a nuclear-power-station that once fitted can not easily be inspected or checked and therefor are photographed during installation.  But this still communicates a detail of information that may at a later date be referred to.

I can only suggest that a live picture from a CCTV that is both unrecorded and un-viewed comes close to this description, for as long as no one is watching the monitor screen then the images communicate nothing nor do they express any meaning.  There existence has little point.  Perhaps a philosopher can take this observation and apply it to any photograph arguing that for as long as no one is looking at a picture, the picture  communicates nothing and nor does it expresses anything  until there a pair of eyes to look upon it.  This argument may be stretched to argue that without cultural / or use of a humans recognized visual language then any photo may not make sense to the viewer.  For example as viewed through the eyes on an insect, domestic pet or a Martian.

 

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.

Reflections for Assignment Three

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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.

 

Working log-1 for Assignment Three – My father’s character assessment

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.

Dads Character Statement

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Art Photography Now

Art Photography Now

I have just finished reading Art Photography Now by Susan Bright.  Book cover image by Viviane Sassen.  Published by Thames & Hudson.

This book illustrates and discusses the work of the currently generation of established Artists in photography.  Bright has divided her book in to different photographic genres: Portrait, Landscape, Narrative, Object, Fashion, Documentary, City.  With examples of work from Artists who are particularly known for a specific genre for example: Martin Parr – Documentary, Corrine Day – Fashion, Gillian Wearing – Portraiture.

An interesting read and a book to keep on the shelf for reference.  Some styles I had not seen before which I liked for example: Katy Grannan – Portrait; Rochard Misrach Andreas Gursky Dan Holdsworth and Doug Aitken – Landscape; Hannah Starkey, Bill Hensen and Jeff Wall – Narrative; Camille Vivier, Jonathan Villiers – Fashion; Erwin Wurm, Allan Sekula – Document; Naoya Hatakeyama, Richard Wentworth, Paul Graham, Philip-Lorca Dicorcia, Rut Blees Luxemburg.

I like Vivian Sassen’s portraiture style, I like her photo used for the book cover, this photo has the added punctum of the golden hand.

Mythologies by Roland Barthes

Mythologies

I have just read this book ‘Mythologies’ by Roland Barthes, although it was not listed on my OCA book list for Context and Narrative, I am so glad I have read it.  I found it difficult to read, as I have to admit I struggled to understand the academic language even with a dictionary.  However, I think that I had understood the gist and Barthes ideas of mythology in combination with Semiology is giving me food for thought for subject matter for my next assignment.  The first section is a collection of essays about various subject matter that Barthes came across in day to day life that can be associated to modern day myths for example: The world of wrestling, Soap-Powder and Detergents Steak and Chips.  But it is the last section, titled Myths Today which is the gold-nugget of information to be read and if necessary re-read until understood. Hard work to read; but a must for all art students.

Photography The Key Concepts

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Davis Bate, Photography, The Key Concepts, (2009) London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney, Bloomsbury, ISBN:978-1-84520-667-3.

Divided into eight chapters / subjects: History, Photographic Theory, Documentary and Storytelling, Looking at Portraits, In the Landscape, The Rhetoric of Still Life, Art Photography, Global Photography.

This is a very good book to refer back to as it contains lots of  brief explanations to subjects that keep cropping up through out my degree course such as photographic theory such as aesthetics, representation, structuralism, semiotics, etc.

Each chapter / subject can be read separately depending on which photographic genre you are working with such as portrait or landscape and some subjects will complement them all such as History and Theory.

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.