Tag Archives: relay

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.

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Research point – One in 8 Million, The New York Times

One in 8 Million is an interesting online photo project in which a diverse range of people living in New York city talk about themselves with a slide show of still and black and white photographs that play-out in time with the audio narration.  The pictures have been photographed to compliment the transcript and are a good example of how the theory of relay and on occasion anchoring is used with the audio.  A very interesting social documentary on the diversity of New Yorkers.  The interviews reflect what the individuals personality and identity from a woman into sexual bondage to a reformed drugs dealer, An immigrant from Nepal who is a baggage handler at JFK to a Blue Chip Broker and everyone in between a total of 54 different subjects all with there own story and collection of photos, that runs for two and a half minutes each.  Very interesting and entertaining.  Martin Parr, comments that in order to make interesting social documentaries he makes the entertaining to disguise the intended social message.

Project 2 – Image and text

I have cut out three pictures from a daily news paper and added my own captions to the photos to alter their contextual meaning.

There are two types of messages that can be linked to a photograph, one is called an anchor and the other is called a relay.

Anchor is a message that controls the meaning of the picture.

Relay is a message that can complement an image.  If you select songs to listen to on You-Tube they are sometimes accompanied by photographs that link certain passages of the song to the image and the relay method appears to work well here.

Examples below.

Anchors – The Clooney’s meet Angela Merkel

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  • The Clooney’s negotiate for celebrity asylum in Germany.
  • George Clooney offers Angela Merkel a part in his next movie.
  • Angela Merkel asks the stars of Hollywood if they have a spare room for an asylum seeker or two…
  • Angela Merkel is coached by George Clooney before her speech to the European Parliament.
  • George Clooney complaints to the management that it just isn’t Nescafé!
  • Friends of the Clooney’s are airing concerns for George and Amal’s marriage, stating that Amal often privately complains that she feels ignored and marginalised in public by George.
  • With the support of his wife George Clooney publicly denies sending a lewd and explicit Valentines card to Angela Merkel.

I have thought of seven new messages that anchor this in a new context and I am sure many more could be invented.

Relay – The Clooney’s meet Angela Merkel

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  • Hey you with the sad face, why don’t you come back to our place and live it up.
  • “I’m sorry, I thought I saw a bureaucrat!”
  • “Ein Nescafé bitte”
  • A carrier in marriage counselling, it’s more than just a job.
  • “The Lynx affect – LYNX deodorant.
  • “Dr. Amal and I have been examining your test results and……..”
  • “He looks much older than he does in the movies.”

Again I was able to come up with seven relay messages for this photo.

George Osborn poses in front of No 11 before he takes his Budget speech to Parliament.

Anchors:

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  • George Osborne in a public show of expense cutting reveals he takes to work a packed lunches.
  • George Osborn warns the British economy is still in the red.
  • George Osborn returns from the European conference with a written guarantee from the German Chancellor.
  • George Osborn, is seen sporting the new Armani man-bag.
  • Prime-minister demotes George Osborn to head of No 10’s post room.
  • Osborn returns the queens favourite handbag, “I was able to rescue it before security blew it up.” He later reported.

I was able to produce six alternative anchors for this photo.

Relay:

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  • “I’m putting your taxes up for a start!”
  • “Allah is Great!”
  • “Swop?”
  • Is he holding the future to your pension?
  • The economy
  • Good budgeting tips.

I was able to produce six relays for this picture.

English Rugby team

Anchors:

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  • British Rugby team learn of the death of a rising star player.
  • The ball just misses the posts and England looses the match.
  • English Rugby players are asked to sing the national anthem from memory.
  • Mako Vunipola is ordered off the pitch for an illegal tackle.
  • The moment the terrorist blew himself up.
  • Hackers share shocking selfies of Mako Vunipola on stadium’s big screens.

I managed to produce six anchors for this image.

Relay:

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  • Tense nervous headache?
  • “I can’t look!”
  • Have you bought your lottery ticket?
  • “Hold my hand lest I fall…” (Jim Reeves, Take My Hand Precious Lord)

On this occasion I could only think of four relays for this picture.

I can see from these new anchor messages that an image can be turned from serious to comical or used for advertising / Political or socially concerning messages.  Similarly a relay message can do similar things including linking to literature such as poetry or lyrics to a song.

Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes

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In Barthes essay, ‘Rhetoric of the image’ he uses photographs used for advertisements as an example of his argument.  Referring to an advert for Italian ‘Panzani’ pasta and salsas he describes the image as having a language that can be read, he suggest that by analysing the picture, three messages can be deduced: a linguistic message, a coded iconic message, and a non-coded iconic message.

Coded and non-coded iconic messages can be mixed together and they are visual queues often learned through cultural experiences.

A linguistic message is a message in text that accompanies the picture and this takes two forms ‘anchor’ and ‘relay’.

Anchoring is the most common and is commonly used for both advertising and press photography.  This is a form of text that anchors the meaning of the image to a written message of the advertisement or the news story.

Relay, is not so commonly used, it is often used for complementary relationships between fragments of text and images.  For example an appropriately complementing photograph to a section of text from a poem.  This type of message allows the picture and text to interact with each other. A picture of a green field dotted here and there with red poppies and a short section of a war poem suggests that the image reflects the text and the text reflects the image.  The image already has connotations of war and remembrance as does the chosen passage from a poem.

The denoted image.  Barthes writes that the denoted image for a photograph is a message without a code, the photograph is able to transmit the literal information but a drawing must first follow rules which even when denoted is still a coded message.  A drawing requires a certain amount of training thus introducing style as a second cultural coded message.  The photograph simply denoting the relationship of nature and a single culture coded message from the image itself.

Rhetoric of the image.  In an image rhetoric is the message based on cultural and educational experiences that communicate to the viewer at different levels based on education and life’s experiences this is done at an unconscious level. Objects that can be recognised as symbols for example the net bag holding the Penzani pasta products suggesting to some connotations of a fishing net or harvesting together a meal, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, connotations of the Italian flag, fresh healthy meal, etc.