Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 3

Response to Tutor Comments for Assignment 3

08/09/17

Assignment Comments:

Tutor comments are  in blue (main points only copied here), my responses in black

Looking at your final series, I felt they all worked well together except for the final picture. I understand why you included it but the scale is quite different from the other pictures. The other pictures are about the photographer as subject, whereas this final picture is about how the camera frames the view, producing a rectilinear ‘slice’ of a ‘scene’ from the vantage point of the photographer.

On thinking about this further I agree that the final image is ‘out of kilter’ with the other images. I originally put it in because I liked it and I was pleased with the effect – but it is more about the camera than the people – while the rest of the images are definitely about the people. It needs to come out of the series for final presentation.

The prints were of sufficient quality for assessment. They appear a touch lighter than your screen images but this is probably due to the difference in viewing conditions. Backlit always looks a little different than paper. If you wanted to adjust this, I would start by looking at the brightness to which you calibrate your monitor.

I was aware they were a little lighter than the screen, but was not sure which was better, my screen brightness is difficult to adjust, and the room it is in gets a lot of light falling on the screen, so that maybe part of the issue. I do calibrate the screen vis a Spyder 3 – but possibly not often enough, so this is something to watch out for.

Despite your card backed and padded envelopes, the prints still arrived with a bent corner.

Something to watch out for – I previously used a clam shell box for final prints – so need to consider this again.

The research section appears to be going well on your blog. One thing I would suggest is to add dates to the posts as this makes it much easier for me to work out what is new and what isn’t.

Taken on board from now. This makes sense as easier to follow, and updates to a post can be separately dated.

It’s not completely clear from your exhibition write ups if you are attending these independently or as part of group study visits.

All my exhibition visits have been solo (or with family).  Need to look for more opportunities for group study visits, so far, by sheer bad luck, all the ones up North have been while I was either away, or at work. However, there is a study group that meets in Glasgow – so that may be a possibility.

A good next step might be to start writing a diary every time you go out and shoot, or whenever you think about photographs. Try to pick out from that what you find interesting and stick with it

Interestingly, I had already started doing this, as I was finding that I was not keeping track of what I was doing, thinking or reading. An extension of this would to add a brief weekly summary to my blog, with key points.

Suggested Reading/Viewing – Parr and Reas

 Martin Parr.

I was already aware of the work of Martin Parr and his exploration of Britain in images as well as other areas. I took this opportunity to have a further look at his extensive oeuvre via his website and came across three pieces of work that are particularly relevant to my assignment on the decisive moment.

  1. Milan Fashion Week; here Parr takes images of the crowd’s extensive use of devices, mainly mobile phones, while at the event. Sometimes it is clear that they are photographing the scene, other times taking selfies, other times they are just looking at their phone, maybe texting or using social media. In this group of images, few of the protagonists appear to be engaged with the event, which either says something about the event, or, more likely, about the perceived importance of social media and your engagement with it, and therefore how it often ‘takes over’ peoples time and thought processes.
  2. Too Much Photography: this article from Parr’s blog talks about the present use of photography by just about everyone, everywhere they go. He says, ‘Now mobile phone cameras and digital photography mean that the entire visit is documented. From the moment the tourist enters the site, everyone has to be photographed in front of every feature of note. Now it is almost impossible for me to shoot a photo where someone is NOT taking a picture or posing for one. ……. My theory is that the act of photographing ourselves at tourist sites becomes so important because it makes us feel reassured that we are a part of the recognisable world’ (Martinparr.com, 2012). I tend to agree with his thoughts here, but would extend it to saying that we feel that we are part of the world and that this fact must be recorded, but, as Parr asks – what happens to the images, and who looks at them. I am aware that personally I shoot thousands of ‘useless’ images that don’t contribute in any valued way to the world, or even to my remembrance of it. Less would definitely be more.
  3. The Selfie Stick: again from Parr’s blog, he talks about the ubiquity of the use and availability of selfie sticks to take images of yourself, or the family, in front of tourist attractions. This doesn’t seem to have taken off to the same degree in Scotland (possibly because we are more often holding umbrellas). I think I prefer this trend to the trend of just taking a selfie at arm’s length, which could be anywhere and talks only about ones own self.

Many of the images he shows are quirky, full of humour and with a somewhat sideways take on modern society. The point he makes is enhanced by the use of series of images which clarify visually the trends shown.

Paul Reas.          

Paul Reas is a new name to me.  He is a social documentary photographer who uses colour images to show British culture and is considered to be in the same genre of British photographers as Martin Parr.  His book ‘I can Help’ documents the consumer culture, while ‘Flogging a Dead Horse’ (1993)’ presents a nationwide survey of the emergence of the ‘heritage industry’: museums and theme parks such as Beamish Open  Air Museum that offered a nostalgic and often commercialised version of the past in the wake of the collapse of heavy manufacturing and industry’ (Shutter Hub, 2013). The image ‘Flogging a Dead Horse, Man with a Movie Camera’ shows a man in a smart outfit looking intently though his camera. It would be interesting to know his thoughts, and whether he had ever worked in the type of industry he was photographing.  In an article about the series by The British Council – Visual Arts it is described as ‘The tourist of the nineties, with camcorder and auto-focus camera, expects a ‘hands-on’ experience. But the trouble with Heritage Culture is that the safe inconsequential history it markets doesn’t educate, it only sedates its audience. Heritage is meretricious history that never challenges the present. Consumerist history: history for a disposable income. Like a steam train, it takes you on a pleasant ride to nowhere, and then back to where you started.‘ (Visualarts.britshcouncil.org, 1994).

Man With Movie Camera  © Paul Reas

Man With Movie Camera © Paul Reas

Image posted with kind permission of Paul Reas

Reas’s images are gritty and do not feel as slick as those of Parr, they are not as ‘amusing’ but they do get under your skin in the same way, giving an ironic take on the culture we live in and how it is influenced by the need to seek out pleasures and record them, even if those recordings never reach the light of a photograph album.

References:

Martinparr.com. (2012). Too Much Photography | Martin Parr. [online] Available at: https://www.martinparr.com/2012/too-much-photography/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2017].

Shutter Hub. (2013). Paul Reas – Day Dreaming About The Good Times? on the Shutter Hub Blog. [online] Available at: https://shutterhub.org.uk/blog/paul-reas-day-dreaming-about-the-good-times [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

Visualarts.britishcouncil.org. (1994). BEAMISH OPEN AIR MUSEUM ‘THE NORTHERN EXPERIENCE’, Paul Reas | Portfolios | Collection | British Council – Visual Arts. [online] Available at: http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/collection/portfolios/flogging-a-dead-horse/object/beamish-open-air-museum-the-northern-experience-reas-1992-flogging-a-dead-horse-p6174/view/portfolio/initial/a/page/1 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

Self Critique on Assignment 3

Self assessment and criticism is an area I find particularly difficult. This is probably not because I am over confident, but because I tend to be very negative about my own work. This makes it difficult to write down the thoughts and also difficult to be objective.

Assessment criteria points

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational
skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. (40%)
I think I produced reasonable images for this assignment. I found it hard to keep to the topic, and, because it was a specific idea, some of the images , especially those that didn’t make the final cut, had major flaws, such as depth of field or focus. I was concentrating on what was happening and didn’t always remember to think about the practical issues such as the best camera settings. It would have been helpful to think in advance about the best way to show them, for example, would it be best to have the whole image in focus, or better to just focus on the person taking the image and have the background (their subject) out of focus. I made a considered decision to only have the person on the side of the image and to show the background as a large part as I felt it made the concept more ‘real’.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge , presentation of work in a
coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of
ideas. (20%)
Having got the spark of an idea for this I feel I thought it through, weighing up the possibilities, and logically explaining my thought processes. This was easier to present on-line with the additional images that showed the progression of thoughts. Next time it might be better to add these images into the printed explanatory essay as will as the final chosen images. I feel that I communicated my concept in both the descriptive essay and the images.

Creativity — Imagination, experimentation, invention. (20%)
I experimented with several possibilities for this assignment before settling in the final one. I also experimented with colour versus monochrome. It’s is difficult to see how imagination comes into this – unless it is about imagining the concept in the first place. This was a ‘sideways’ take on the concept of the decisive moment – thinking about other peoples moment and trying to put myself into their place. It has made me think of several other pieces of work that would be interesting to do as a follow up including the work on selfies and possibly asking other people why they were interested in that place/photography at that time (also – what they did with their images ?post them on line,?print them or what. This would open up the possibility of contrasting their thoughts with mine.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. (20%)
My research on this assignment was too limited. It was about the concept of selfies and how they were used – but then I moved away from this as an idea. I am sure there have been other studies on my eventual idea but I am not aware of them, and not sure how/where to access them.

 

Assignment 3

Brief: A series of 6 – 8 photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’, which may support the tradition or question the concept.

Thought Process.

After thinking about the decisive moment at length, watching the film on Henri Cartier-Bresson and reading around the subject I spent some considerable time trying to decide how to approach this assignment.

https://scottishzoe.blog/2017/07/27/lamore-de-court-just-plain-love

https://scottishzoe.blog/2017/08/05/the-decisive-moment-or-not

I initially thought about following the concept directly and trying some ‘traditional’ street photography but decided against this, partly because I felt that I risked simply ‘copying’ many of the images already out in this domain, and partly because I felt that I would struggle to find a linking concept. I then thought about taking a series of images of animals and birds when they were at a ‘decisive ‘point, and did start to follow this idea with some fairly interesting (or at least amusing) images of animals in the park.

untitled-74

Pigeons Arguing

While taking these, I took an image, and realised that it was more about the person taking the photograph of the peacock than of the peacock itself, especially as it was not obliging by showing its fan. I felt this was an interesting idea as what I was doing was looking at what other people were finding to photograph – their ‘decisive moment’.

untitled-73

The Man or the Peacock?

Research.

There has been a considerable of interest in people taking photographs recently, but this has been mainly about the incredible incidence of ‘selfies’ taken and posted on social media.  A recent statistic quoted in Amateur Photographer suggested that 48% of all photographs taken by 18 to 30-year olds now are selfies (Amateur Photographer, 2017). I am not sure how that statistic was derived, but certainly, if you are watching people on the street self -portraiture appears to be the main subject, and there are clearly an enormous number of such images posted to social media.

In 2013 the Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘selfie’ as their Word of the Year. Oxford University Press then gathered a variety of scholarly reflections on this (OUP blog, 2013). In this article Lynn Schofield Clark from the University of Denver said, ‘Selfies like this are about awareness of our own self-awareness’, Karen Dill-Shackleford said A recent trip to Stonehenge had me cringing as I watched visitors to the site posing for selfies in self-absorbed abandon beside the ancient monument. Did they feel that the intriguing thing about Stonehenge was their own presence there?’ and Robert Arkin said, ‘The selfie (an arm’s length close-up self-portrait) photograph is a way to control others’ images of us, to get out in front of their judgments, to put an image in their heads with purpose and spunk. Others’ judgments are no longer just their own creation, the selfie objectifies the self, influences others’ thoughts. And, since the selfie is one’s own creation, it also affords plausible deniability; it isn’t me, it’s just one ‘me’ that I created for you’.

Cindy Sherman has recently unlocked her Instagram account and shared several ‘selfies’ although these have a particular Sherman twist in that they are distorted. (Sherman, 2017) Farago comments ‘they also point to the gap between Ms. Sherman’s vital, unsettling practice of sideways self-portraiture and the narcissistic practice of selfie snapping’ (Farago, 2017). Clearly the whole field of taking selfies, while it has much in common with all self-portraiture, could be explored at length, both academically and practically, using a combination of my own ‘selfies’ and pictures of others taking images of themselves.

Planning.

I thought about taking photographs of people taking ‘selfies’ and experimented with this, but decided not to explore this further for this assignment as it is possibly a study on the ‘indecisive’ moment rather than the decisive one when the number of selfies taken by any one person is considered. However, this would be an interesting concept to follow up in the future.

untitled-75

Who am I?

My next idea was to take relatively close-up images of the people taking photographs and pair them with images I took of the same subject immediately afterwards. I discarded this approach as the limited number of images asked for in this case would only have allowed for a maximum of four pairs, again this is an idea that it would be worth looking at in the future.

What was done.

For this series of images, I concentrated on photographs of people taking photographs, not of themselves, but of the world around them. There is a wide variety of situations shown as, although I had enough images in various locations to have concentrated on one of these, such as Kew Botanic Gardens or the Yorkshire Military Experience, I felt the overall theme was better served by diversity, although, the simple fact that I was also there, in that place and at that time, has limited the range to situations that I was also interested in.

All images were taken outside, in daylight and by natural light. I did not use a tripod or any fill flash as I did not want the subject to be aware of any intrusion into their world and none of the images were staged. There were several occasions when the person put their camera or phone down or moved away at the critical moment. I considered limiting the selection to either images taken when the other person was using a camera or when using a phone, but decided against this. The final series of images was taken over several weeks during my summer holidays. As several of these were taken in Scotland, the weather, and therefore the quality of the light, was very variable. The images were in both portrait and landscape format, but I limited the selection to all landscape to support the idea of a series.

The next question to be resolved was how to show the images. I thought about both colour and monochrome and ended up converting all the images to monochrome for comparison, and printing some of each. The monochrome conversion was performed in Silver Efex Pro2, and, unlike my normal monochrome pictures, I used a relatively high key conversion using the same settings for all the images to maintain coherence.

untitled-76

A Wet Day in the Mountains

I eventually decided on keeping to the original colour images as I felt it is likely that the ‘original’ photographs I was basing my images on would be viewed in colour, and therefore colour was truer to the concept of recording the other photographers interests and themes. Clarke says about colour images ‘Colour photographs remain problematic. They are central to the snapshot, but are still invariably rejected by the professional and art photographer who will use colour only in a deliberate and self-conscious way: either to draw attention to the medium, or to imply a statement about the subject’. (Clarke, 1997). In this case I am using colour in the latter sense. The actual image selection was also influenced by the choice of colour as the most effective images in colour were not the same as the most effective ones in monochrome.

The photographs were printed on Perma Jet Oyster paper via a Canon printer.

Final Images:

s

untitled-78

Kew Botanic Gardens – Photographing Flowers

untitled-77

Kew Botanic Gardens – Two photographers at the Lake

untitled-80

Yorkshire Military Experience – Photographing vehicles

untitled-81

Yorkshire Military Experience – Photographing the Campground

untitled-82

Fort William – Photographing Loch Linnhe in the Rain

untitled-83

Fort William – Photographing the Mountains

untitled-79

Carlisle – Hadrian’s Cavalry Charge

I was particularly pleased with the last image as I was standing very close to the photographer in front of me and, by sheer luck, managed to get the horses showing on their camera’s screen just as they were charging towards us.

Contact Sheets.

References

Amateur Photographer (2017). Amateur Photographer, (12 August 2017), p.5.

Clarke, G. (1997). The photograph. Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press.

Farago, J. (2017). Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instagram. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/arts/design/cindy-sherman-instagram.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2017].

OUPblog. (2013). Scholarly reflections on the ‘selfie’ OUPblog. [online] Available at: https://blog.oup.com/2013/11/scholarly-reflections-on-the-selfie-woty-2013/ [Accessed 18 Aug. 2017].

Sherman, C. (2017). cindy sherman (@_cindysherman_) ˖ Instagram photos and videos. [online] Instagram.com. Available at: http://instagram.com/_cindysherman_ [Accessed 18 Aug. 2017].