Tag Archives: ordinary

Exercise – ‘Question for Sellers’ by Nicky Bird.

http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/

Nicky Bird purchased old unwanted photographs on Ebay, first waiting to see if anyone bid for them and if no-one did he purchased them himself and asked the seller, how they came to own the pictures and what they knew about them?

This is an interesting subject as I had never imagined that family photographs would ever become unwanted / redundant.  Their meaning lost, their memories forgotten.  That is until a recent event in my own life touched on this very subject.  My wife’s Aunt died without issue in 2011, her husband had died the year before and she left her whole estate to her four nieces.  When we were going through her things (which was a big task as she left a six bedroom house to be liquidated) I came across two old leather suitcases full of old family photos mainly of my wife’s Aunts family taken in the 30’s and 40’s.  No one was interested as Sarah’s Uncle was the family link and if I hadn’t have taken these cases myself they would have been lost for ever.  At the time I took them I had no thoughts of photography; but I felt a certain sense of responsibility that these lives should be remembered and these images should be kept.  I can’t explain why, I just thought it was the right thing to do.  Perhaps it is simply was that we all feel important and deep down wish to be remembered.  Photography gives us this chance, even if the name and the memory is lost the image can still tell future generations that we existed, what we looked like, how we dressed, and how we posed, even what the world around us looked like.  Photos are more important in this respect than say a painted portraits of a Victorian, for example. The photograph gives a better likeness, it captures the confidence or awkwardness of the subject; thus hinting at his or her character.  The camera captures background that can tell a little about that moment in time and perhaps history that the artist may leave out or re-interpret.  Sadly many family pictures will disappear over time and the surviving images will become more and more important.  Imagine if photography had been around at the time of the first Roman Republic, even if only all that survived was a few family photos of only ordinary citizens our historians would have a field day!

In this exercise I am asked if Bird’s second-hand pictures displayed on a gallery wall elevate their status?

I guess the answer has to be yes, for now they are now the focus of attention and anyone or anything that becomes the focus of attention must by default become elevated in status.

Where does their meaning derive from?

Their meaning derives only from the context of their use if they have lost their original identity.  An unwanted family photo of an unknown person, taken under unknown circumstances, perhaps even the location is unknown, then only the meaning that is attached to the picture from the exhibition exists.

When they are re-sold is their increased value because they are now art?

This is a commercial question and one that can not be simply answered with a yes or no.  If the exhibition is successful, if the pictures can attract a contemporary historians eye, if the pictures can capture the imagination of art collectors, there is a lot of ifs, if the seller can market these images correctly / cleverly to the right market.  Art is very subjective.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Research point -Kaylyn Deveney, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings

thZKTIBUL4 Photograph by Kaylynn Deveney.

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=kaylynn+deveney&view=detailv2&&id=F09663C9697BE7CF957465C053E9D4E5E031D1A9&selectedIndex=0&ccid=VSJLX6U0&simid=608053287080035439&thid=OIP.M55224b5fa534123d0bd481c4048f7a6ao0&ajaxhist=0

The project, The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings by Kaylynn Deveney is a good example of Postmodernist art. Deveney has taken the idea of making the ordinary, banal moments in her neighbour’s life as the subject of her project.  Deveney is looking at her neighbours habits and routines in a fresh respective and by asking Mr Hastings to add his own captions to her photographs of him and his home new meanings are added to the pictures that give it a more intimate / personal, insider, style than if she had simply added her own.  This I think was a cleaver way to add more layers to this work.  This project is similar to ‘Objects in the Field’ in so much as the author (Deveney) writes about her experience working with Hastings and her personal observations.  However, in this instance I believe the artist was more successful in building a good relationship with her subject and was able to share a mutual vision. The reason for this I believe was that they had more in common with each other and the photographer did not have to make as much of an effort to find common ground. Mr Hastings wrote poetry and his love of flora and fauna suggests a man more open to artistic and visual ideas and arts that proved both useful and helpful as Mr. Hastings helped Deveney develop her ideas with his helpful comments and clearly a good partnership developed that appears to have been missing from Rickett’s relationship.

 

The Photographers Eye

The Photographers Eye by John Szarkowski is an illustrated book compiled from photographs collected for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1964 and the theme of this book is based upon the theme of the exhibition.

Szarkowski introduces his book by explaining that it’s theme, ‘is an investigation of what photographs look like and why they look that way. It is concerned with photographic style and with photographic tradition: with the sense of possibilities that a photographer today takes to his work.’  Szarkowski looks at how the art of photography has evolved through the period of 125 years from the earliest surviving pictures to the 1960’s.  Szarkowski looks at how photography has created and taught us new ways of seeing; how photography could make it’s own rules independent of the established art world partly through ignorance and from the practicality dictated by the camera and its view and enthusiastic experimentation.  Szarkowshi has selected a range of photographs to illustrate how photographers from different backgrounds all came to share the same photographic vision that was not taught but learned through years of practice and considers the history of this medium, ‘in terms of photographers progressive awareness of characteristics and problems that have seemed inherent in the medium.’

He has divided his book into five sections examining five issues that he believes are characteristics inherent and problematic in photographs and understanding these five sections will help in the understand of the language for the ‘reading’ of a photograph.

The thing itself.

Outside of the studio the photograph, unlike a painting, is captured not created therefor the photographer has fewer choices in composition, he can only choose what to and what not to include in the frame.  However, instead of limiting what photographers would choose to make pictures of the camera’s ability to capture anything in an instant making a permanent record of it opened up opportunities to create images of the ordinary and bland subjects that artist would not have drawn or painted and make them interesting .  However, black and white images would leave out certain details and exaggerate others and yet the final image would still be accepted as a true representative of the subject.  Holgrove wrote, “The nineteenth century began by believing that what was reasonable was true and it would end up by believing that what it saw a photograph of was true.”  The almost lifelike reproduction of the black and white image helped raise the naïve notion that the camera doesn’t lie for which many photographers  were happy not to discourage.  George Bernard Shaw wrote that this was a double edged sword, “There is a terrible truthfulness about photography. The ordinary academician gets hold of a pretty model, paints her as well as he can, calls her Juliet, and puts a nice verse from Shakespeare underneath, and the picture is admired beyond measure.  The photographer finds the same pretty girl, he dresses her up and photographs her, and calls her Juliet, but somehow it is no good – it will still be Miss Wilkins, the model. It is too true to be Juliet.”

The detail

“If your pictures aren’t good, you’re not close enough.” Robert Capa.  Outside of the studio, unlike drawings and paintings, photographs can only record what is actually in from of them and in the real world of photography it is usually impossible to alter the position and distance of various subjects to simply improve the composition of the picture.  Therefore often a photographer can only position himself in a place that will only capture a part of the image.  Unlike drawings and paintings photography is unable to produce a story type narrative, as successful painting will often combine several events that have occurred over a period of time and the artist has combined them into one scene that can tell the whole story.  Photography can only capture one scene at a time and when a selection of images are put together to tell the story these images still require text in order to explain the connection to each picture and the event itself.  However, it was soon realised that the photograph could use symbols instead to represent the intended narrative, therefore photographers focused on detail some that may have seemed to ordinary and trivial or dull to the painter but when photographed could symbolise the scene / event / for the narrative that the photographer could not otherwise be so easily produce.  An example of this is a photograph of cannon balls scattered across a road symbolising the recent ferocious battle and bombardment.  The chosen detail is the spent and discarded ammunition on a deserted road symbolic of the recent action.  In this style of imagery few words are needed, the photographer is taking advantage of the viewers own imagination to complete the story for the picture.

The Frame

Where as in drawing and painting the frame is conceived, in photography it can only be selected forcing the photographer to choose what to include or not to include.  In this way what ever the photographer includes in to the frame will now have a relationship with one another that they may not of done in real life for example, two strangers photographed standing together on a platform waiting for a train can now appear to be companions simply because both were selected to be in the frame.  The painter begins with a blank canvas, the draftsman from the centre of his sheet the photographer from the frame.  The photographer must learn how to edit the real world, to isolate and juxtapose when unexpected elements come together within his frame.  The frame contains, what is inside the frame is subjected to close scrutiny but a photograph can also imply beyond the frame.

Time

A photograph is a moment of time captured by the camera this moment can be 1/1000’s of a second in length or up to several minutes or more.  A photograph captures this moment and freezes it in to an image describing a parcel of time which may allude to the past or future can only ever be viewed in the present.  This can mean that an image’s meaning can change or be re-interpreted by future generations of viewers.  Early photography required longer lengths of exposure time for the slower chemicals, often resulting in images never before seen, dogs with two heads babies with two faces transparent or elongated people as they moved during the exposure period.  Often theses early images have been regarded as photographic failures which ironically as film and cameras have improved and become faster modern photographers are now being deliberately replicating the affects for modern artistic styled pictures.  As the exposure time became faster images could be captured never before seen by the human eye, how the horse gallops, a bullet in flight, droplets of water thrown out from a splash as a stone hits the water, and many more sights invisible to the human eye due to the speed of the moment.  Cartier-Bresson defined the expression “The decisive moment” a visual climax a moment when the camera has captured a moment when all the elements came together to capture that image at the right moment.  Thanks to modern cameras with fast shutter speeds and fast continues shooting these decisive moments can be more easily captured providing of course you are prepared for them.  For example, sports photographers positioned to see and focused on the spot he or she will predict the moment will occur.

Vantage point

Unlike a drawing or a painting the photographer has limited choices when choosing a vantage point and so the photographer has sometimes been forced to use unusual view points such as very low level worm eye views, views from backstage seeing only the backs of the actors, birds eye views looking down, distorted and strange views created by lens distortion or patterns of light.  Through the necessity of moving his camera to see his subject clearly or to see it at all the photographer learned that the appearance of the world was a lot richer and less simple than he would have first guessed.  He also discovered, ‘that his pictures could not only reveal the clarity buy also the obscurity of things, and these mysterious and evasive images could also, in their own terms, seem ordered and meaningful.’