Final Set & thoughts…

I decided that my final set should have some continuity in some form or other besides the element of detachment and it would be the key element in deciding which images made my final set. It occurred to me while I was deciding on which which images would be contenders for the final set (see previous post) that within the eight contending images, four were of solo subjects and four with multiple subjects. I decided then to separate them into two sets and it immediately became apparent that the four images with solo subjects, not only made more sense as a grouping but were the stronger four images, working better for the purpose of my brief. That’s not to say that other four images didn’t work well, they just weren’t as strong. I may expand the ideas I had here into a project at a later date for use in a book, I’d then have a least two sets for the project before I began.

So here is the final set. In no particular order – other than in a way that makes sense to me.

One of the earlier shots I took and one of my favourites, I think it was always going to make the final set as one of the two two images that really captures the essence of my brief, that of being ‘in the here and now’ yet completely elsewhere.

PF1 Final Set (2 of 4) - Click on Image for larger version

Although I am not entirely happy with this image (What photographer ever is?) It’s still very strong and works well for the purpose of the brief.

PF1 Final Set (3 of 4) - Click on Image for larger version

Another personal favourite and an image that I expected to make the final set. Happy that I managed to stay undetected long enough to capture the subject in deep thought.

PF1 Final Set (4 of 4) - Click on image for larger version.

My self consciousness when taking candid images was no more stronger than with this one. As a consequence, I almost didn’t get the shot as I thought I would be caught out or the subject would become aware of me and would return to the ‘here and now’  losing  what I was after. I was either lucky or skill-full in my surreptitiousness, whichever it was, I got the shot and it’s an image like the first, which I feel exemplifies the essence of my brief.

Final Thoughts…

“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” T.S Elliot

I am mostly happy with the final set and the brief, it was an interesting one. As in the earlier semesters work, it challenged me personally and professionally, I thought more about how I would need to approach not only my subjects in order to get what I wanted, overcoming my anxiety and self-consciousness when capturing images of people as much as the occasional technical hurdles. Furthermore, it challenged me to consider not only the work in this brief but my photographic work and practice in general, on how my work can be viewed and will be viewed dependant on the choices I make. Challenge is good, although rarely met with enthusiasm especially when you’re unsure of your worth and abilities. I’ll end this final post with another but very relevant quote from Mr. Eliot, a most astute man if ever there was…

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” – T.S Elliot

The contenders…

So after much comparing, a little cropping and pondering I have my final selection of images – eight in total. The module brief asks for four to eight images and while I could submit all eight, I would prefer my final images to work as a set of images with some form of visual continuity to them. So here are the eight images with some notes on their merits for the brief…

PF1contendersblog (1 of 8)

(1 of 8) One of my preferred images for the brief. I captured the subject with a ‘thousand-yard stare’ moments before they abruptly fled, after becoming aware of my presence. Thankfully, I got the shot before my clumsiness ruined her contemplation. I have few misgivings with this image,  a minor gripe here or there perhaps, but I think this one will be good enough to make the final selection.

PF1 Contenders (2 of 8)

(2 of 8) Another preferred image and one that was trickier to shoot because I couldn’t easily take the image without being seen and I needed the image to be as candid as possible. In this case I made use of making it look like I was having difficulty lining up a shot of the paintings seen in the background and I happened to wander into her field of vision. Thankfully, I didn’t interrupt her thoughts and I got a good shot despite my anxiety at being caught.

PF1 Contenders (3 of 8)

(3 of 8) This image was one of the easier images in terms of taking the shot, although the subject on the right was very self-conscious of her surroundings and the somewhat loud discussion she was having with her friend. I was aware that she knew I had a camera and had to wait for some time to pass to get this shot, so as to capture the candid feel and the nice contrast between all subjects.

(4 of 8) Another image where my presence had to have as little impact as possible. Fortunately, no mishaps with noise and as both subjects were in their own little world I could take my time choosing the angle etc. It is this element of time though that makes it feel somewhat different to others in this set. Maybe it’s because I know I had time to set up the shot that is feels more contrived than some of the others. As a consequence this may not make the final set.

(5 of 8) I almost missed this shot due to the location being set back away from the main walk-through of the museum. I also had very small windows of opportunity to take the shot as it was busy and people kept walking past. Fortunately, my subject was very engrossed and was unaware of his capture and turned out to be one of the best shots.

(6 of 8) This was one of the few images that I took in a familiar location, with people I knew well , even though they were taken candidly I was still reluctant to use these images because of my involvement and familiarity with the location, it seemed too ‘easy’. However there is something about this composition I like and the sense of being elsewhere upon close inspection, is very prevalent on the subject on the left. The use of the mirror is also a means of illustrating and reinforcing the idea of being elsewhere, detached,

(7 of 8) A similar problem occurred with this image as with the previous one, one of familiarity and not being removed enough from the subjects and location. However the composition and feeling I was looking for, was strong enough for this image to be a serious consideration for the final set.

(8 of 8) This is another preferred image. The solo subject, the location, the unusual angle and the light lend itself well for the purpose of my brief. Any difficulties getting the candid shot were offset by the final image being better than I expected,

The task at hand now, was to decide how many of these eight images would make it to my final set. I think I know which ones are definite, the task is to make a set that works well together and makes sense.

Aesthetic and other considerations

Forty or so images now needed whittling down to a manageable dozen or so. My brief was to have a set of 4 to 8 images that reflect or discern the sense of distraction or of being elsewhere and for me to get closer to this figure I needed a method to help me do this. I decided the best way for me to do this was to begin editing a few key images and converting to black & white and comparing them to how they looked in colour, to see if I could glean a better sense of what I was looking for and which aesthetic offered that. It was a good decision and I eventually used this method on all 40 or so images, it’s one that helped me make my mind up about which images I wanted to use but also about the overall aesthetic of my set.

Some specific examples…

1a)

Although I like the image in colour and still serves me well for the intention of my brief. however the colour distracts the eye too easily and emphasises elements I’d rather be background detail. I want the subject and their thoughts to be the focus of the image, rather than any extraneous detail pulling the eye away.

The lack of colour to distract the eye promotes what I am looking for – an emphasis on the person and what was being experienced.

2b)

I like this image a lot, not least because I caught the subject staring off into space without them becoming aware of me. (Ninja skills,were really working that day) The colour works too, although my eye  is drawn away from he subjects gaze to some elements of detail on the subjects torso,  also to the architecture in the background.

With the image converted, I  felt it gained a greater impact visually for my purposes. The focus is on the subjects face and  once the eye has wandered to the backlit window, is once again drawn back to the subjects face.  I feel the image in this form lends itself  to wondering at what the subject is thinking about and where they ‘are’ at that moment.

3c)

This was one of those images that was going to be difficult mostly because of the context – 4 people people, two talking (one unseen) and two wanting to be very much elsewhere. The key with this image is not whether colour works better or not but whether the image shows my two foreground subjects being ‘elsewhere’…or just wanting to be.

Seeing the image black & white doesn’t seem to change the uncertainty, in fact I think emphasis is moved away from the foreground subjects to the orator. I mulled long over this image but eventually I think the image won’t make the final set because of this uncertainty, as much as I like the image

Of course there were other considerations such as cropping and where I wanted the focal point of an image to be. However, I don’t like editing an image too much, especially to the point of contrivance but a little cropping here and there helps to balance an image. I had carefully chosen images that I had framed well in the initial shoot in any case, so there was little to be done in this regard as it turned out, minor tweaks rather than major edits.

Although time-consuming, the exercise of comparing each image was incredibly useful in helping me decide on the aesthetic but also in deciding which would make the cut as some images felt much stronger than others as a consequence, something that I will discuss further in the next post…

Colouring in…or not?

I now needed to get my 40 or so images down further and one of the things I decided to do at this point was to compare each image in colour and then Black & white. I am better able to interpret an image when dealing in black and white more so than colour, there’s something about stripping away colour that lets me ‘feel’ the nuances of an image. As a consequence, black & white is usually what I choose to work in. There is no one reason for this and I am still unsure why exactly I prefer using high contrast Black and white in this way. Though perhaps my love of certain films of a particular era and my love of all things noir ….

Brief Encounter (David Lean – 1945) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Il8B6E9FzSE

A still from the David Lean film Brief Encounter

All about Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz – 1950) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYKobTbqizw

Still from the1950 film - All About eve

And other such films, which rely more on the emotive communication of it’s actors, highly appealing style & aesthetic to get their story and feeling across. In this regard these films say that colour just isn’t necessary.  Video games too – something I’ve played extensively over the past twenty years have played their part, though admittedly very few until recently sported a Black and Palette the most notable of these being…

LImbo (Playdead – 2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jJpcTgw5Vs

Limbo

Screen shot from the 2012 Playdead Video game Limbo.

Though others have allowed for a mode to be played with a black and white filter notably the excellent…

L.A Noir (Rockstar 2012) which looks and plays like a film noir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxqGv-tI_v4

LA-Noire_screenshotBW

Screen shot from the Rockstar 2012 game – L.A Noire

Not that I don’t like colour work ofc. in fact I am keen to experiment in replicating the look and feel of Technicolor when a suitable project presents itself. There is something wonderfully evocative and appealing about films such as…

The Red Shoes (Michael Powell, Emmeric Pressburger – 1948) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n4CKeHHbU0

Still from Powell & Pressburger’s – The Red Shoes

and…

The Black narcissus (Powell & Pressburger -1947) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZRzcLK1Ar0

Still from the Powell & Pressburger film The Black Narcissus

and…

The Wizard of OZ (Fleming, Vidor and LeRoy – 1939)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IErqIMLwtQ A film I loved to watch every Christmas on TV as a child.

wizard-of-oz behind the curtain

Still from the Victor Fleming film – The Wizard of OZ

As I have said previously in earlier blogs, I struggle with using colour in my work as I tend to err towards the fantastical as in the Technicolor approach or I leach it out to make images tinged with an air of creepiness or dread. Neither of which would suit my purposes for this assignment  So, I think I had already made an unconscious decision to use black and white in this assignment, as it served my intentions better. However, even with that unsaid decision in mind, I wanted to experiment first, before conclusively deciding…

Images, thoughts and eliminations…

So onto the assignment… my plan was to use two occasions to take the bulk of my images – the impending visit of my partner, Héctor and a subsequent visit home to the folks over the Easter break. I felt there would be sufficient opportunities to take more than a few candid shots both of those I know and love but also those I am unknown to and would better serve me in terms of being challenged. If you’ve read my prior blogs on this module you’ll know why this is relevant, to say I am shy of taking pictures of others when they are aware of me is an understatement. Not least because you lose the naturalness of the persona being captured and too soon replaced by the inevitable ‘camera face’ that everyone puts on. Besides, if I am caught out I feel painfully guilty, as though I have been caught in the act of stealing something, my instinct is to run and all opportunity for a candid image is lost.  With that in mind, Deception was my best friend in this regard, so the challenge would be to be as ‘ninja’ and surreptitious as possible when taking these shots. using the cameras rear screen to make it look I was changing my settings when I fact I was taking a shot. The risk of doing this was that I might not get the shot in focus, but the greater need was to capture people in the process of being elsewhere, there but not there; Some experimentation with my approach and technique was required to pull this off.

The shots, were mostly taken in art galleries or museums, with some taken in familiar or familial settings, I thought perhaps it might be easier to capture this sense of distraction or being elsewhere in such places. However this wasn’t necessarily the case as there is a  visual difference between being intensely interested in something and being distracted or elsewhere.

Here’s a few contact sheets with some of the original shots, some would become contenders for my final set and some, for reasons you will see, others would not…

Unedited initial colour shots on various days and locations In March and April 2013 – Natural History Museum London, Manchester Gallery, Nantwich, Manchester.

Unedited initial colour shots on various days and locations in March and April 2013  – Natural History Museum London, Manchester Gallery, Nantwich, Manchester.

Contact sheets colour-3

Unedited initial colour shots on various days and locations in March and April 2013 – Natural History Museum London, Manchester Gallery, Nantwich, Manchester.

Unedited initial colour shots on various days and locations in March and April 2013 – Natural History Museum London, Manchester Gallery, Nantwich, Manchester.

 I took around 100 shots in total and after a simple process of elimination to disregard any that didn’t fit the brief I honed this down to around 66 or so workable images, far too many for this assignment which required 4 to 8 images. No choice had been made yet as to whether I was to use colour or Black & white as my palette, my main priority was seeking the best images for the brief.

To get this figure down to a more reasonable level, I had to be more discerning when selecting images that would define and represent what I wanted to achieve with this assignment as a consequence I rejected some good images. For instance…

My subjects gaze is held by some disturbance rather than being ‘elsewhere’

The above image, demonstrates that some hard choices need to be made even at this stage of the editing, as much as I like this image it really doesn’t capture the essence of the brief. Sure, there is a sense of a distraction, because of where my subject gazes but the image lacks a look of distraction or of being elsewhere so I felt I could not use this image as a consequence.

Intently interested…and yet, there’s almost a sense they are elsewhere.

The image here, above is another example of an image that nearly captured what I was looking for. However in this case I’ve caught my subject  this time my mother, listening raptly to a conversation she isn’t taking part in. There is almost a sense that she is thinking about what is being said, but the fact her expression shows empathy for the situation being described rather than one of far away thought, so unfortunately, I could not use it.

It was this process of elimination that eventually got my selection down to 40 and it was at this point I decided a choice needed to be made about whether I was going to stay with colour for my images or convert and edit them to Black & White. I had started to play with this already, as you see in the images above, it helped me see if the images evoked what I was looking for. More on this process in my next post.

Gallery Visit and considerations for the Assignment.

As part of furthering the understanding of my work and reflective practice,  I participated in a group visit to Manchester Gallery to view the  photographic gallery there. The idea being that we use the visit to reflect on how our work might be viewed once it’s let go into the wider world and what we might employ in the work that might further i being understood and enjoyed.

The gallery was small and bright with mostly large pieces on show – though there were some medium and small works on show and initially, this was one of the things that struck me first, the issue of size, something I’d not consciously considered when considering a project although obviously this aspect is very important in a gallery situation – as opposed to a book where size is less of a consideration, relatively speaking. In a gallery space, a large piece shows more detail but also may require you to move away from the piece to appreciate the whole picture, conversely a small piece requires the viewer to move in closer to inspect the detail or discern the idea better.  As the work from this module isn’t likely to appear in a gallery, size isn’t something I need to think about but it is relevant and needs to be considered in future work.

How a large piece (Richard Billingham – Untitled) seen on the left, demands your attention and detail can been easily discerned, while the smaller work to the left requires much closer inspection to see the image or idea.

One thing that struck me was the way some people in the gallery looked at the notes and description for each piece before looking at the work, where others like myself looked at the work and then considered the notes. From a purely personal point-of-view, I prefer to see before I read and even then I am loathe to read anything other than the artist, title and medium used. I shy away from wanting to know what the image is about until I have had a chance to view it and take in any possible meaning or concept. The whole notion of giving a definitive description of what the work is about seems…incorrect. Words can mislead or push a viewer down a path that perhaps wasn’t intended, let the image speak and the words be those of the viewer. As John Berger described in Ways of seeing…

“Seeing comes before words, a child sees and recognises before it can speak”

A case in point for me was ‘Turning Hallway’ by James Casebere…

Turning Hallway - James Casebere

Does this image need a description telling us what’s going on or how to feel?

The image above by James Casebere, I love, not least because of it’s monochromatic beauty but that the image resonates profoundly and intrigues me no end. The dark, slightly foreboding foreground leads the eye to the stairway and ups the anticipation of the unknown and unseen beyond. It’s a strong, powerful image and evokes many things for me, so after spending a goodly while being lost in the image I was dismayed to read in the description notes that the cold foreboding stairs were to be feared as much as what might be around the corner beyond. Something i did not feel, quite the opposite in fact. So, with such a powerful image, was it necessary to have such a description, one meant to lead the viewer by the hand in what to expect and to feel? Personally I think not. unless the idea was to mislead or make you wonder if the description is wrong.  Either way, for me, words in this context add little and take away from what is viewed or felt. A description should be informative but not definitive.

In the context of this module for the work I will show later, I will reflect on how and why I chose the images I did and why I discarded others. I will not, however title my images nor suggest what the viewer should think or feel, I feel there should be enough to go on from the image and the context of the work.

An ideal example of a title and description plate? Context, background and information are present without any description that leads the viewer by the hand on what should be taken from the image.

Of course, in relation to what I have talked about above, these are my interpretations and feelings but the visit helped clarify my thoughts and feelings  on  the things I need to consider with my work. Context, explanation, references, medium, sizing, space, audience, sound and more will have an effect on how my work is viewed to varying degrees, depending on the project. Time management and scope of work are further issues that I am already dealing with, albeit on a smaller scale but nonetheless relevant when preparing and completing an assignment such as this.

Pro Frameworks 1 (Semester 2)

The Assignment:

Building on the work you did in semester 1, this part of the module requires students to further their
own personal photographic practice and to develop their ability to reflect on their work in relation to
contemporary and/or professional photographic contexts.
You are asked to define a theme or remit for your personal work over the duration of the module
which will result in a body of work to include new visual photographic work (an edit of 4 to 8 images),
reflection, research and evaluation. You will be asked to discuss and present your proposed theme in
a small group in week 3.

Your theme or remit could be something new in your work, or a development of themes and concerns
already present in your work. It could be a short self-contained project which will start and finish during
the time-frame of the module, or it may be a development of an ongoing body of work. Either way you
are expected to clarify the intentions, motivations and boundaries of the work, and investigate
relationships with professional and contemporary practice and discourse.

My response – Rationale

Overview:

After consideration, I would like to further the existing concept I explored in the previous part of this module for ‘In the City’ (http://professionalframeworks1warrenfournier.wordpress.com/) one of detachment. However, where I previously focused on areas of Manchester’s urban spaces, ones that reflected this sense of detachment, this time I want to explore the idea further by capturing detachment through people rather than locations; although the location might still be pertinent to this idea. What do I mean by this, I mean those moments where one is lost in thought, gaze fixed upon an unseen horizon or when we are participating but not directly, when interacting on a computer, smartphone or playing a game. Most of my life I have felt moments of detachment, of differentness or of being elsewhere, so it is an intriguing furtherance of this initial idea to see if I can illustrate it using other people as the vehicle  this time. How then might I explore this idea via other people…? I was recently struck by how ‘far away’ and detached most people are when they are interacting with a piece of technology that is connected to other people, software or a created world. It’s these involvements that intrigue me, even my own where sometimes, like now, I am writing about something, actively involved but detached or even oblivious to the rest of the world around me. It might even be by deliberate means, because one might want to detach, to escape to another place but still being involved in the now…just not the here; Playing video-games are like that, an escape of sorts and a way of detaching oneself. How am I to achieve this sense of detachment then? In my work to date I’ve always preferred to leave people out of my work, they are too complex at times especially when they are aware of the camera, the camera becomes an object to appease, please or to shy away from and this ‘awareness’ bestows on the image a directness I don’t like. Therefore, I want to capture as much as possible the sense of detachment that is only apparent when the subject is unaware of their current environment, of me and the camera.

In addition to exploring this idea I will also consider how location, light, use of colour or lack thereof, time of day, and my own emotional state will play a part in the images I take and whether they will succeed in helping illustrate my intentions. I will also need to consider how the images I choose for my final set might look or be perceived in different size formats.

Aims:

  • To explore further the original ideas I had from the prior assignment
  • To illustrate through four to six images the feeling or sense of detachment.
  • To use people as opposed to locations as my primary vehicle to achieve the above.
  • To experiment with colour, Black & white, format etc., to see how this effects the scale and scope of my intentions
  • To adhere to my own gut instinct when taking the shots and not rely too much on influences that may interfere with my own process. I want this work to be mine rather than an attempt to emulate someone else’s

Objectives:

  • To seek out suitable situations and locations that would facilitate the execution of my aims
  • To research where necessary and explain via my work blog the processes I have taken and why, explaining reflectively the journey taken to my final set..
  • To challenge myself as I demonstrated previously by engaging in areas I would have otherwise shied away from with regard to my work – people, public locations and colour.
  • To fulfil the brief to the best of my abilities