I agree that these are essentially diptychs – so have redone them in this format using photoshop to add as a pair. I have also cut down the number of images so that the pairs all work together. I also have adjusted the colour of the light slightly in one of the pairs to match (as suggested in our conversation). I think the light colour was different because the two bedroom images were taken at different times of day.
Hido’s work as voyeurism
This is something I hadn’t really considered but I agree it is a significant difference in the feeling of the work. I was aiming for the difference between the imagined possibilities of looking from outside versus the real life, with all its scruffy detail inside.
Already resolved! However it was interesting that even without one , and with a modern camera that taking the images at ISO 64000 gave reasonable results.
When possible, I like to ask for permission to use other people’s images even though in this context – critiquing the images it is fair usage. My main concern is that others may copy the images on inappropriately. There is an interesting story in the book by Barratt already discussed in this post:
Shizuka Yomomizo is a Japanese photographer based in London who took a series of images where she asked, by means of a note, a group of strangers to allow her to photograph them standing in front of their window. She is being voyeuristic, but with the complicit knowledge of the people involved. There is a meeting of eyes, an awareness by both sides, mediated though two layers of glass, the window and the lens. They meet briefly and then part. There is a choice on both to engage or not.
The Brief: Take one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light and use it to create a set of between 6 – 10 images with a linking theme.
For this assignment I chose to use artificial light as this is not a field I have explored before and I felt it would be a good test of development of skills. I thought about several possibilities of exploring this.
Street scenes at night:
This gave me the options of more general shots, such as the lit town hall, or more specific ones like the exterior of the local pub.
This definitely was a possibility, as the light is very interesting, all of the above images are as shot on the same night without a change in the white balance.
Car lights at night (road shots with extended times).
Fireworks (wrong time of year).
However, I was walking home one evening and this was the view though my window.
I found this an interesting view and decided to explore the concept of looking through the window.
a. When I started thinking about the concept of lit windows I remembered a painting I had seen at the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art many years ago. Avril Paton is a Glasgow based artist who painted a series of images of Glasgow tenement flats from the outside, often with lit windows, looking in on the life inside. In these images the light is usually warm and intimate.
b. Rut Blees Luxemburg’s image of tower blocks give a similar feeling, and utilise similar colours, concentrating on golds and browns. Images can be seen in the Guardian article below. ‘Towering Inferno’ is an example of this, but although the colours are warm, the images are massive, and give an overview of the flats, not similar to the more intimate views I was looking for in my series.
c. Todd Hunter has explored the concept of home at length in several series of works, one of which ‘The Ghetto‘, is a 3D model of the street he lived in, with colour transparencies place within the doors and window, lit from within. You have to walk along the model to look into the rooms.
There is also a series of other images taken within the rooms of people who lived (and often still do) on that street. These images and the display had been taken in response to an article in a local newspaper which described the area as ‘a blot on the landscape‘ (Tomhunter.org, 2017).
d. Todd Hido has also utilised artificial light, taking both outdoor images of houses at night and inside images. Like Tom Hunter, these are not beautiful in the traditional sense, but tell you a lot about the lives of people living in modern America, however these rely on the rooms themselves to tell the story, not the people within the rooms. I felt this was more in line with my idea.
I took a long series of images at a cottage we were staying in in the country in Dumfries and Galloway. It was well away from any town, and the only light in the evening came from the lights in the cottage itself. I took some of the images handheld, with the ISO set to 6400, and the rest of the images using a tripod with the ISO at 800. I used a fully manual mode throughout. I have discovered that using manual settings slows me down and makes me think more about what I am focusing on and which bit of the image I want to have exposed in most.. It was not easy to use the tripod outside as the ground around the cottage is very uneven, and it was tricky to get a stable and straight image, so some of the ‘better’ shots were actually handheld, in spite of the high ISO. A more stable tripod would have helped here.
Images were taken from outside, looking at and through the windows, and inside. I did not ‘tidy up’ in advance of taking the images as I was looking to show the contrast between the outside images, where you could imagine almost anything, and the inside reality.
The images were processed in Lightroom CC, with minimal changes. I did not alter the white balance as it feels accurate for the lighting conditions and what I wanted to show.
Initial contact sheet for all the images:
Selected images marked with exposure, aperture and ISO:
I spent some time thinking about how, and which images to choose. I was not sure whether to stay with a given orientation or whether to mix between landscape and portrait. Most of them were portrait due to the nature of the windows so I chose to go with these, – but some of the individual images were more pleasing as landscape.
I also took some images that showed a person, and although they were interesting felt that this distracted from the overall idea of the set. The other possibility was pictures taken later in the evening, where the outside of the cottage was effectively black, and only the windows showed. This image combines both those ideas.
My idea here was to show the difference between what you see, and therefore can imagine, when looking from outside of a picturesque country cottage to what is actually happening inside the same rooms. Fantasy versus reality. I chose not to show any people in this set of images, leaving them quite stark and factual. Overall, I am fairly pleased with the set. In some of the images the inside light is very bright, and might benefit from more post processing – but the significant contrasts were there, and in this case, I did not wish to ‘play’ with the truth any more than minimally.
Brief: Use a combination of quality, contrast and direction of light to light an object to reveal its natural form.
I spent some time experimenting with this. I chose to use a simple and quite weathered shell, placed on a black piece of cloth. I used a variety of lighting:
overhead artificial light
a soft ring lamp
a hard point lamp
on camera flash
and tried these out in a variety of combinations. The camera was set on a tripod and I used a remote trigger to allow for the increased time. I focused manually, but saw when examining the images that the focus was not always on the most interesting area of the shell. This would be worth revisiting using a greater depth of field.
I ended up with 14 variants on my first trial:
Out of these the ones that I thought most interesting were the ones with the point light, they dis not show as much detail of the whole shell as those with a more intense light such as the natural light with added flash, but seemed to have the potential to give more sense of the shape of the shell – so I went and experimented further. I used mainly a single point light from various angles , and then added in a second softer light to cut down some of the shadow.
My overall favourite image is the top right of these using 2 lights with the inside of the shell lit up, and a slightly softer shadow.
It would be worth experimenting further with flash bounced off a reflector.
The brief: Search for Google images on a subject, then add your own images paying particular attention to the criteria for creativity. (imagination, invention, experimentation and development of a personal voice). Describe how your images are different from the ones in Google search.
I spent some time thinking about a subject for this exercise, looking at peppers (thinking of Weston), landscapes (Fay Godwin), shells (more Weston) and flowers (Carla van de Puttelaar). If you look at the Google screen shots of these 4 subjects they are all remarkably similar. They are pretty, in the case of the landscape sometimes beautiful). They are all colour images – this surprised me. Most of the individual images are on a white background, again this surprised me as it would rarely have been my choice. Everything looks ‘perfect’, no blemishes to be seen. All could be used in advertising pictures , although the advertisement might be very boring.
I eventually decided to go down a different route and took pictures of penguins at our local sea-life centre. This was a challenging exercise, partly because they were often moving very fast, partially underwater, and, like often in Scotland, the light was not great.
On looking on Google the images are generally similar in theme to those above. The images are in colour, they are attractive, show the penguins in their natural environment (where few of us will have the luck to see them) and they are resoundingly cute.
I felt that I wanted to show penguins in a different way. Yes, they do spend a lot of time in the snow, and yes they can look very cute, but here, when we most often see them, they are shut in a relatively small pen. Their main environment is water, and I thought it was important to try to show how they related to that.
I then changed the images to monochrome in Silver Efex 2, using a variety of processing changes to try and get the watery effect I was after, while still maintaining the essential nature of the penguins.
I was happier with these images as they seemed to show the penguins in their natural habitat, without distraction of colour.
The image I am most pleased with is this one as there is minimal distraction, they are clearly having fun and you can see the outline of the underwater penguin well:
most of the images on line are very similar, and concentrate on the ‘pretty’ and ‘cute’ aspects of photography
This exercise is about thinking and noting the difficulties in getting a ‘new’ vision of anything or anywhere.
This shows a Google screenshot of Mount Fuji – classic images, all very similar
and a Google screen shot of Fuji City – there isstill a focus on the mountain – little of either detail or originality
In the whole series of images by John Davies on Fuji City the mountain is either absent or only minimally present. There is no ‘traditional’ shot with blossom and snow in sight. These are not pretty, but striking and much more evocative of what Fuji City is likely to be like in modern day Japan (Fuji City, 2008). The series by Steele-Perkins on Fuji City is very different, more personal with people and close incidents, e.g. a person struggling to walk in the snow. Again, the mountain is relegated to the background (Steele-Perkins, 2002 ).
If you Google images of Dunfermline (my local town) there is the same effect, most of the images show the Abbey, which while attractive and a tourist destination, tells you very little about the town itself, or the lives of the people there.
So – how do you see something in a unique way? Do you spend a long time looking (as suggested by Haas and Bailey)? Do you let the camera see (Bill Brandt)? This is about developing one’s own style and way of thinking. If I look at most of the images in my collection, they probably do not say much about me and my personal thought process.
There is a further complication if you are looking at many images, such as when studying photography. There is an instinctive temptation to follow what has already been done. When thinking about still life – I automatically think of the peppers and shells photographed by Weston.
The brief: Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a sequence of shots. Use ambient light rather than flash. Describe the difference from the daylight light shots taken for exercise 4.2.
I found this exercise challenging as I rarely take images inside, either by artificial light or flash. The first set of images was taken using an iPhone in a cafe during an evening event. I had no control over the settings in these images, and have not altered the white balance in post-processing. Since taking these I have invested in a ‘pro-camera’ app for my iPhone and am experimenting with that to give me more flexibility in a similar situation in the future. Using the iPhone was needed as the event did not allow for the use of a ‘real’ camera, and trying to use one would have been intrusive, even though I was just taking shots of the ambience.
The second set of images was taken in a holiday cottage on my main camera. In this case I used manual made throughout, and altered the white balance to try to replicate the light as I was seeing it. I initially hand-held the camera and then went back and retook some with a tripod. I found that, in spite of the light appearing reasonably bright to my eye, the images needed either a significantly raised ISO (6400 versus my normal 200) or a very long exposure. This set of images is part of a much larger set, as I am considering using them for assignment 4. The first set of 3 images were taken during the day, although as the light was not good (overcast) the internal lights were on.
The next set was taken at night with full artificial light.
The colours between the 3 sets are noticeably different. In the first set, taken with the iPhone the internal software has done a good job of compensating for both the low light levels and the colour of the light, clearly going for a ‘neutral’ effect, but does not replicate the feel of the evening well. The actual light in the room was much warmer. I have attempted to replicate it below in Lightroom, the image on the right is the altered one.
The images in the cottage all have an orange or yellow colour cast, which is accurate for the relatively dim lighting conditions. The exception is the bedroom shot, where the lights were more modern fluorescent lights which gave a blue cast.
Overall, the images are very different from those taken by daylight outside. This might be less noticeable if they were changed to monochrome, and I think the colour gives a good ‘feel’ for the time of day, and the type of place.
be aware of the lighting situation and the colour cast given
iPhone cameras tend to balance colour towards daylight (which may not be either accurate or what is wanted
an apparently ‘bright’ indoor room has much less light than outside, and needs a much longer exposure, or a markedly increased ISO setting.
Images taken by artificial light have a different quality from those taken by natural light, however, that does not mean that they are all similar or that the colour palates or feelings invoked by those images are limited. The four photographers discussed below show a range of images taken at night or in the evening without the use of flash. Google searches of the images give an overview of the colours and contrasts between them.
Rut Blees Luxemburg (born 1967) has taken images at night with a medium format camera. These are very considered images. She says she will wander the streets and only take a few images a month. In the series ‘Leibesleid’ the images are intimate, of small, rarely considered areas, the edge of a street, a corner with writing on a wall, steps going down into water. She says, in an interview with Campany ‘space that allows for a moment of repose…… the quieter things are the more significant the sound’ (Campany, 2006). The images are presented in a book along with writings by Alexander Garcia Düittmann which while not describing the them, rather talk to them as in a conversation with a lover. Luxemburg has also done a further series of images on a much grander scale, also at night, of the city and the tower blocks. An example is the image ‘Towering Inferno’ – a tower block at night looking straight into the windows from another tower. The colour palate of both series is very limited, golden yellows with browns, never quite absolute blacks. They are full of life, even though the people are not present, they have just stepped out of sight. A recent interview for Photoworks says ‘One can also think about the city as a ‘character’ in these photograph, one that’s alluring, open, glowing even… yet also ambiguously wet, slippery and dark.’ (Photoworks, 2017).
A simple google search for her images produced this, showing the limited colour palate and the coherence of her images:
There is a shocking contrast here between the alluring golds and the harsh red and black that was seen in the recent images of the Grenfell Tower fire. Life versus death pointed up by the colours without even the need for the stories.
Brassaï (1899 – 1984) was fascinated by night scenes and some of his most famous work is shown in ‘Paris de Nuit’. These are very different, often spacious scenes, not intimate even though they often show people as well as the places. The light is harsh and clean.
He is quoted as being influenced by the painter Georges de la Tour (1593 – 1652), who painted many pictures of people by candlelight. Interestingly de la Tour also mainly used a golden/brown warm colour palate. It would be interesting to know what colours the Brassaï images would have been if he had had the opportunity of using colour rather than black and white.
Sato Shintaro’s (born 1980) images of Tokyo ‘Night Life’ are startling in their intensity, using highly saturated colour to show the neon signs and the vibrancy possible in artificial light. All colours are present. The images are fascinating, the city is shown as a place that is busy, alive and challenging but confusing. However, he has also taken a series of images ‘Tokyo Twilight Zone’ with more limited colour palates, red/green, blue/white. These are much softer, calmer, less confusing. It is hard to visualise that they are the same place as the other images.
Todd Hido (born 1968) is another photographer who has utilised artificial light in his night images of houses, shown in his book ‘House Hunting’. He describes finding one of the houses ‘I couldn’t even see across the street. I remember coming out of the flatlands and hitting this fog and it was just the most surreal and creepy neighborhood I’d ever seen. It had all the right combinations. I remember seeing that for the first time and just being blown away by it all … that sort of changed everything’ (Berton, 2006). The images of these houses at night have muted colours, greys and browns, mysterious, lacking in detail. They could be anyone’s house and are only identified by numbers not place names, often in a single colour palate. They are not dissimilar to his daytime images shown in ‘A Road Divided’, which are misty, often partially defocused evocative images. His style remains recognisable at all times of day.