Author Archives: Concentrik1

SO Part Five – Tutor Report and Response

Andy Webster - 516057 - Photography 2 The Self and the Other - Assignment 5

 

It’s a relief to be nudged away from a line of photographic enquiry which in truth I felt was going nowhere.  The West Bay idea really was an attempt to make the ‘right kind’ of work but whether it would have been right or not I had little enthusiasm for it.  I daresay I could have extracted something presentable in the end but however it was received elsewhere, in my head it would have been thin and meaningless.

In the report is a link to some work by a former student which I found interesting – here are a couple of pictures to talk about:

Nigel J Haworth Counting Seeds (n.d.)

Nigel J Haworth Counting Seeds (n.d.)

Haworth has used a simple, but pleasingly arranged and lit table-top approach to  “represent different aspects concerned with the day-to-day life of hoping to start a family while struggling against the winding down of the biological clock”  [https://www.nigeljhaworth.com/counting-seeds.html]

Juan Sánchez Cotán - Wikipedia

 

Juan Sanchez Cotan Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, 1602

Hanging comestibles up with string was a contemporary method of preservation.  The items were prevented from touching a surface which might lead to decomposition and the air was allowed to circulate all around.  Lots of foodstuffs were stored in this way, most notably cured meats, and chorizo is still produced with string attached today.

Haworth has alternated the quotidian with the emotionally charged in his photographs and there is an element of intrigue introduced by the origami birds.  Allegory, visual metaphor, symbol, analogy, all devices which might be usefully employed in the construction of a photograph with meaning.

As a result of this report and tutorial I will consider alternative approaches to Assignment Five and my process can be followed from around here 

Avedon and the White Background

I spent a bit of time looking into this, prompted by a link sent by my tutor which dealt with the approach taken by someone called Liam at The Photography Project.  He and an assistant used a 5×4 camera in a studio setting with a couple of flash units to imitate the Avedon technique.  Rather than using actual 5×4 film they decided to work with printing paper, developed in the normal way as a negative then scanned and printed by inkjet.

They used one flash for the background, to burn it out as white and the other to light the figure in Rembrandt-style, placed 45 degrees above and the same to the side to give the telltale patch of light under the lee-side eye.

The lighting approach is pretty straightforward but the effect has a bit more to it; Avedon’s subjects were starkly lit front-on and appeared without any context.  They were surrounded only by detail-less white.  Nothing to inform or distract the viewer, no suggestions about the place where the picture was taken or the circumstances which surrounded it.

That just leaves the subject, fully exposed for scrutiny and looking (for the most part) directly at the viewer.  These were the people Avedon encountered during the expedition he embarked upon in search of subjects for the commissioned work “In the American West”.  It took five years to do the photography and along with with a team of assistants he went through 17,000 sheets of 10×8 film.  That’s ten sheets a day, every single day, for five years.  I don’t know how many days he actually shot for but it’s still a lot of film.

I’ve worked out of a series of no’s. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no’s force me to the “yes.” I have a white background. I have the person I’m interested in and the thing that happens between us. – Richard Avedon 1994
Avedon at work, photographer unknown

 

ART UK

Art-UK, a charity which is concerned with the promotion and recording of artworks, were looking for volunteer photographers, so I joined up.  I was given a spreadsheet of 54 sculptures and monuments of artistic merit to photograph, located within a couple of hours drive of my home.

There were few technical challenges, mainly dealing with reflections on shiny surfaces and avoiding too much unwanted public presence in the background.  The weather was an issue, not just rain but bright sunlight, which made some pieces too contrasty – reflectors were a help here.  I never used any artificial light.

There were a variety of difficulties in actually making the pictures – getting a clear view without distracting backgrounds for example.  Here a limited depth of field was helpful and I used 58mm and 85mm lenses to achieve this, at apertures around 4.5 or 5.6

Sometimes the objects were quite far away from the nearest vantage point and a longer focal length was needed.  In the case of decorative embellishments on Torquay Pavilion I used a 200mm lens with a 2x converter.  These were legacy Olympus optics but they produced surprisingly good results.  The biggest problem was keeping the unwieldy combination steady enough to avoid vibration.

ArtUK needed detailed and accurate records to be kept in the worksheet they provided, along with folders of both RAW and JPG files all named according to their protocol.  I spent a lot of time in Adobe RAW’s renaming dialog and also a useful little utility which copied a batch of filenames and extensions for pasting in the worksheet.

Subsistence and expenses were covered so further records were required in order to reclaim the outlay.  Some forward planning and coordination was necessary in order to optimise the travel legs.

The coordinator Dr Anthony McIntosh was very pleased with my efforts and the work will be available on the Art UK website shortly.  I retain the rights but grant a limited licence to ArtUK, who undertake to credit any picture wherever it appears.

This was a useful charitable interaction; even though it was unpaid, it was a real job with client-style requirements and reasonable technical standards expected.

 

LO5 evidencing

LO5 increasing autonomy and a developing personal voice, and exercise your communication skills confidently and interact effectively within a learning group

 

Evidence LO5A  Interacting within a learning group.  I regularly visit the OCA Photography forum although I am more of a lurker than a contributor.  Checking my stats from the ‘user data download’ facility I note that I have spent 635 minutes perusing the forums since November 2019 or just over ten and a half hours.  I haven’t made a blog entry about this as it is just stats but there is a page to look at here

Evidence LO5B  I was a volunteer photographer for ArtUK, recording over fifty sculptures in the southwest for their website.  It was an interaction with a charity, unpaid but rewarding in other ways as it required communication skills and effective interactions  see here

LO4 evidencing

LO4 manage learning resources, conduct self-directed contextual and visual research, and be able to appraise your progress with increasing confidence

 

This page presents information about and links to the evidence.  To see the actual evidence, please click on the underlined links in blue.  Your browser back button will bring you back to this page.

 

Evidence LO4A These days the learning resources are almost all online and although I do enjoy the big print I find that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic aren’t too restricting. I am content to view on screen. Sometimes it’s difficult to control. as I explained there, but overall the availability of research material is a big benefit.

Evidence LO4B  is a coursework exercise where I settled on a particular photograph to analyse

 

LO3 evidencing

LO3 explore and realise a range of ideas and creative starting points, and exercise judgement in the production of visual material

 

This page presents information about and links to the evidence.  To see the actual evidence, please click on the underlined links in blue.  Your browser back button will bring you back to this page.

Evidence LO3A  In Exercise 1.1 I wrote about the internal discussion I had over doing stranger portraits and  I note a number of possible starting points   (read from the red text onwards).  The decision wasn’t really made beforehand – it arose as a result of my responses to the people at the race, so it evolved during the exercise.

Evidence LO3B  is a set of exercises completed through coursework.  In each case I have written about how I have considered and refined different visual approaches to produce a piece of finished work.

Here

Here

And here

I would claim that every exercise which ended up as a set of pictures required a good deal of contemplation and judgement.  Things often didn’t end up as I intended, but at least they did end.

 

 

LO2 evidencing

LO2 demonstrate an awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts that surround the representation of cultures and identity, and be able to discuss relevant ethical perspectives in relation to your own practice

 

This page presents information about and links to the evidence.  To see the actual evidence, please click on the underlined links in blue.  Your browser back button will bring you back to this page.

Evidence LO2A    here I look at the ethical stance taken by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa in reviewing the book New Ways of Photographing the New Masai by Jan Hoek.   Stanley is comprehensively disparaging, suggesting that this book is an example of how NOT to work ethically.  

He clearly has strong views on the matter so I emailed him to ask if he could point me at an example of sound ethical practice and he obliged me with a link to Dana Lixenberg’s book Imperial Courts (2015).  I discuss Stanley’s  views in detail along with the work of Lixenberg

 

Evidence LO2B In Assignment One I made an ethical decision about whether to secure ‘model’ releases for the Anglican Bishops and came to a personal conclusion

 

Evidence LO2C can be found in Assignment Two as I negotiate an appropriate way to represent  a social theme with an ethical practice

 

Evidence LO2D for this criteria is a long-ish read at Hidden Groups where I examined some aspects of depicting those sectors of society who can easily remain hidden to photography and how an awareness of this might inform an ethical stance.

 

LO1 evidencing

LO1 demonstrate detailed knowledge of visual and conceptual strategies in the representation of people and cultures and be able to explore your own critical photographic projects

 

This page presents information about and links to the evidence.  To see the actual evidence, please click on the underlined links in blue.  Your browser back button will bring you back to this page.

Evidence LO1A   Assignment One  Anglican Bishops

Because I wanted to represent the subjects in as coherent a fashion as possible I needed to settle on a visual and conceptual strategy at the outset.  This could not be a try-out.  I couldn’t simply rely on the idea developing as individuals were photographed because this would probably lead to a noticeable variation in appearance which would detract from the overall feel.

As a visual strategy I wanted the subjects to appear self-contained – I did not want them to engage with the camera nor by extension, the viewer.  I wanted a contemplative feel and in contrast with much of the portraiture of clergy I found online, the eyeline had to be off camera.  Some of my notes from this project are seen below (click to enbiggen).

ass 1 notes

 

 

The choice of visual concept was affected by the constraints of time.  I had a limited window with each subject, self-imposed but I felt that by minimising the time needed I would be more likely to gain agreement.

The locations would determine the visual approach to a degree – I was unable to recce most of the settings, so I needed to keep things simple.  There might be the opportunity to work outside, but I couldn’t rely on it, so some lighting was needed.  I chose fairly simple battery flash in smaller modifiers.

The concept was likewise simple – the bishops would present a visual dichotomy, manifesting their elevated position alongside their normal humanity. I wanted to be able to see one symbol of the office – the ring.  I had asked them not to wear purple but some did – not too many to make it boring, I hope.

Evidence LO1B  Tutor led Zoom meeting on the Politics of Portraiture

Which led to some further research and writing on issues arising during the session along with observations on the work of some of the photographers.

Evidence LO1C   Eva O’Leary Exhibition    I examine some of the factors surrounding O’Leary’s representation of teenage girls; the technique she adopts; how the approach might influence the pictures.

Evidence LO1D  In a piece about Rineke Dijkstra I discuss her own visual strategy in her work with teenagers

Evidence LO1E A piece about the strategies adopted by Diane Arbus where I discuss both her own ethical orientation and some reactions to her work.