Assignment 4 – More Images

Having found myself uninspired and utterly demotivated when shooting around town, I elected to take some more shots at home.

While my previous home based shots were a mix of the ‘artificial light’ and ‘studio light’ exercises, I decided to try something similar, but to take them outside, into the garage and garden, as these offer some interesting views and subject matter.

I find I really like this kind of work… not exactly arranging the scene, though perhaps adjusting the occasional object… but managing the light for maximum effect.

 

Image #1

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I’ve shot these kaftans hanging on a line before, and they always seem to have this sharp/blurred effect on the patter… or maybe it’s my eyes. It just interests me. This won’t make the cut, I just felt like sharing it.

 

Now I get to the tricky stuff. Three sets of images, and I need to pick one of each. It’s not easy.

 

Image #2

 

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This is a very striking image, and I like it a lot. However, with the light source actually visible in the frame, it breaks with the method used in the rest of the set, so probably won’t make the cut.

 

Image #3

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It has less impact like this, but is probably the image I will opt for, to keep a consistent lighting method throughout the set.

 

Image #4

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I like the light on the chair, though it’s a bit too strong on the tree stump, and the leaves are too vibrant, standing out where I want them to be less of a feature.

 

Image #5

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I like the area under the chair, and the way the vase is lit, but overall, it’s rather flat and lifeless.

 

Image #6

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I like the way the light shines through the vase, and the overall effect is quite dramatic, but it’s also obviously staged, while lacking any purpose. The desk and chair (Image #3) is also a clearly staged scene, but it asks questions, and has a certain dreamlike quality. This is just a chair with a light behind it.

 

Image #7

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I like the light on the back of the chair, and the blurred green leaves in the foreground, obscuring part of the view (my wife doesn’t like this)… but I don’t care for the white light on the legs and vase. Overall, I guess it’s a bit messy and ill defined.

 

Image #8

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Two light sources. One tungsten(ish) and one purple. I’m unsure about this.

Actually, I’m unsure about the whole set. I may not select any of these chair ones in the end.

 

Image #9

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The blue hour, viewed from my garage. This works better with a landscape orientation, but I have to keep it as portrait, to fit with the rest of the set.

 

Image #10

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Bringing the clutter and ‘stuff’ on the sideboard more into view. The image isn’t about the car, or the house, it’s about looking at what’s outside, from the inside (and the qualities of light in the different areas) … so I wanted to show more of the inside.

 

Image #11

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A slight adjustment of the camera angle. There’s not much in it.

 

The thing with taking all of these outdoor shots, and I’ve found this whenever I take night shots in particularly low light; it’s really hard to frame the images correctly, and even harder to focus. For the most part, I couldn’t see anything at all either in the viewfinder, or on the screen.

Sometimes this can be fixed by shining a torch at the subject while composing the shot, but this isn’t always an option.

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Assignment 4 – Slow progress.

Illness has been a factor in the way this assignment is developing. Several weeks(!) with the flu (or some similar virus that fairly knocked me for 6) limited my ability to get out at night and take shots around town.

When I finally did get out, I found myself rushing, due to domestic circumstances that I won’t bother to detail, and a general unease at being out in the early hours on the weekend, when there was a significant presence of … lets call them ‘revellers’.

The results… nothing I’m remotely impressed by.

Image #1

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I actually like this one. It was a handheld shot, taken in ‘the blue hour’. The contrast between the gold (yellow) street light being reflected by the tree, with the deep blue/purple of the sky, and the chaotic feel created by the motion blur… it has a certain energy.

 

Image #2

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This looked better ‘in person’.

 

Image #3

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Another one where you had to be there. Almost certainly a lack of skill on my part, that I couldn’t capture what it was that made this a fascinating scene.

 

Image #4

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I like how the tree looks, but the overall composition is ‘meh’.

 

Image #5

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This one has something about it. Again, it’s one where a lack of skill on my part meant I couldn’t quite capture the atmosphere. Something about the contrasting qualities of light. Definitely needed a tighter aperture too. I thought a blurred out foreground would be a positive… but it isn’t.

 

Image #6

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Just ‘meh’.

 

My lack of inspiration, and general discomfort led me to try more shots at home, where I could control the light. More of that in my next post.

Assignment 4 – First shoot

For this assignment, I’m concentrating on artificial light.

I found myself loving the work of Rut Blees Luxemburg, and while I can’t mimic the concept behind her work, depicting the intended changes to a city, and it’s depiction, through corporate art, set in an urban location… I can at least try to emulate her use of light, to some degree. The golden effect of sodium street lighting is in plentiful supply around here, if not the more colourful neon advertising signs.

So my plan is to go out late at night, looking for interesting and gritty locations, where the detail is accentuated by the street lighting. Extremes of light and shade are always of interest to me.

However…

I have been ill for the past 3 weeks with what appears to be a virus, and have been largely housebound.

That being the case, rather than leave everything on hold, I combined the work I did in exercises 4.3 and 4.4, to produce a series of indoor shots, where I had controlled the light to produces some very pleasing images.

I placed the battery powered bulb I used previously into 3 coloured carrier bags (one yellow, one green, one blue) all at the same time, and found this produced a very pleasing quality of light. I then placed this within darkened rooms, having already selected subjects of interest and focused my camera on them.

On turning out the lights, I moved the bulb around until the light on my chosen subject achieved an interesting effect or feel.

These are, in my opinion, the most interesting images I achieved. ( My wife is horrified that I’m sharing them, but does see the visual interest)

Image #1

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Image #2

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Image #3

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Image #4

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Image #5

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Image #6

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Image #7

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Image #8

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Image #9

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Image #10

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Image #11

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All of these images are, to me, interesting, not only in the representation of the quality and effect of artificial light, but in the sometimes unusual nature of the subject matter being shown.

They show the sometimes random, jumbled, or even chaotic nature of a domestic life. Things get placed in locations that, to the casual observer, make no sense at all.

To the person/people placing those objects, there’s a perfectly good reason for them being where they are (though sometimes something is just put down momentarily and forgotten)… but the effect, to the casual viewer, can be surreal.

Sometimes it’s just about the effect of the light, coming from an unlikely angle, in a mundane setting. Why is there light coming up from inside the bathtub?

 

So… these images are my fallback position, in case I’m unable to get out at night to take photos of the surrounding area… or if I fail to take any that are interesting or achieve my aims.

Hendrik Kerstens

At my tutor’s suggestion, I am looking at the work of Hendrik Kerstens, with a focus on his creation of a coherent series of images.

I can see immediately why my tutor suggested I look at his work, as the images of Kerstens’ daughter, emulating the works of great Dutch masters have a unique and coherent style and feel.

The orientation of the frame, the plain (often black) background forces the viewer to concentrate the entirety of their attention on the model. Lighting and facial expression are consistent throughout.

On a purely logical level, I see the value of these images as an example of a way to create a coherent set. If a photographer takes multiple images of a single subject in the same setting, with consistent lighting, altering only the clothing and perhaps the posture… they are guaranteed to hang together as a set.

The difficulty arises when taking images from different angles, perhaps from different locations, in differing weather or lighting conditions.  This is not intended to in any way denigrate Kerstens’ work… merely to observe that when working outside of a fixed setting, it’s value as an example is limited.

 

Thomas Ruff – Portraits

Again, suggested by my tutor as an example of a collection of images that create a cohesive series.

Ruff’s portraits, at first glance, strike me as like looking at passport photographs. They are stark, expressionless, facing directly towards the camera, with plain backgrounds. With this in mind, it didn’t surprise me to learn that Ruff had studied with Bernd and Hilla Becher, famous for their stark industrial typologies.

Printed out in very large format, I can imagine how, with the lack of any displayed personal character, or visual context, the viewer would be forced to examine the details and colours present in the image.

That all of the images adhere strictly to this format, a typology of faces, if you like, you are left in no doubt that you are looking at a coherent collection, and not simply a group of random photos of faces.

I do feel that the size of these images is important, and is what differentiates the series from merely a bunch of pretend passport photos. At passport image size, you wouldn’t give them a second glance. In a very large format, they have impact, and demand you look at them.

This makes me ponder quite where the art is. Is it in the forcing of the viewer to look at the details of the ‘object’ in the image…. as  an attempt has been made to remove any aspect of ‘person’? Or is it in the taking of an unremarkable image, and making it very large?

This reminds of of the experience of attending live music venues. I have listened to some unremarkable bands whose recorded albums are, at best, mediocre, but when performed live, over an impressive sound system, create an energy that is exciting.

So am I excited by the band…. or the volume?

Same thing here?

Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Stills

In feedback from my tutor: “Look at Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills project and think about how coherent the series is and how each image adds more to the series.”

 

I’ve been coming across Cindy Sherman’s work quite a lot recently, in various books I’ve been reading, and documentary series’ I’ve been watching, and have grown to appreciate her work a good deal more than the first time I saw it.

I like her attitude, which strikes me as unpretentious.  Referring to her early work, she said ‘I don’t theorize when I work. I would read theoretical stuff about my work and think, “What? Where did they get that?” The work was so intuitive for me, I didn’t know where it was coming from.’ (Sherman, cited in Bright, 2005:25)

Looking at the Untitled Film Stills series itself, there are some obvious consistencies that help the images hang together as a single body of work.

While the image dimensions may not always be exactly the same, the general format is consistent… landscape orientation, mimicking a still from a movie. They are (almost) all in black and white, with a very specific quality, like that of old B movies from the 50s. While the grey tones may not be exactly the same each time, that is logical, as not all movies would have the same tones… just as they would have varying qualities of film grain.  The inconsistencies are consistent.

A thing that is most striking, as a consistent feature, is Sherman herself. Apart from the obvious fact that she features in all of the images,  it’s her ‘performance’ that works so well. She is playing different characters, and so appears different each time, but there are these inscrutable facial expressions… you know there is something happening, something that is provoking a reaction, but you can’t quite work out what it is.

So while the locations may be different, the depicted characters are different, and the stories are different, you always know you’re looking at a moment in time, within a certain type of story, set in a certain era, with a certain mood.  You never know the specifics, but you know what kind of world Sherman is showing you.

 

Reference

Bright, S. (2005) Art Photography Now. London: Thames and Hudson

Reflection following Exercise 4.5

Not so much a learning process, as a re-examination of things I already believed.

The verticals don’t have to be vertical. The subject doesn’t have to be in focus, or even the main focal point of the image. You don’t have to fit everything in… often, it’s better if you don’t.  The subject/object can be viewed in a non-typical context. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Details matter… or don’t… and imperfections can be perfect.

Sometimes it’s as much about what it feels like as what it looks like.

Looks horrible, but you still like it? Sounds good to me.