Reflecting on Part two – Imaginative Spaces and Assignment two…

As with my previous post “Reflecting on Part one…”, this post summarises what I have learnt from part two and Assignment two of the course, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • check images by laying them out upside down; this will highlight any light spots,
  • focus on the eyes in a portrait and ensure the focus is pin sharp,
  • take care with the details and consider what to clone out,
  • experiment with different printing papers,
  • use the course exercises and research to inform the final work,
  • include information on key influencers: photographers, artists etc, and
  • explain the context and theoretical meaning behind the work more.

Looking back at this part of the course, I can see in particular my Assignment Two – Collecting was hampered by focusing and ‘possible’ attention to detail (depending on the intention and interpretation) issues.  With the aim of improving technique I have been carrying out studio portrait sessions and some of the images from these sessions I have entered into the 2017 LensCulture portrait competition.  I posted a blog on my entry and subsequent feedback received which can be found here.

With regards to research on “Selfies” and smiling for the camera, I attended an exhibition as part of an OCA Study Visit called Performing for the Camera which had a lot of interesting commentaries on this subject in particular about the online selfie generation (being Insta-famous i.e. famous on Instagram).  I also watched a documentary on the history of photography which covered Kodak’s advertising campaign in the early 1900s.  Kodak were trying to get their Brownie camera’s, which aimed at bringing the snapshot to the masses, in to the homes of families to record their ‘special’ moments and smiling for the camera was born.  Amazing that such a campaign still influences us today 100+ years on.

On the subject of selfies and instantly sharing yourself online with the world, I decided to open an Instagram account in October last year (2016) as this seems to be the new forum for sharing visual updates of one’s life and loves, and for a photographer the visual medium is key.  That said, I am using the site primarily to document my life as opposed to my photography.  I always worry with any online sharing platform about the rights to images once they have been posted online and whether I am inadvertently signing the rights to my work away when posting.

I had a situation a while back where one of my images was changed and re-posted online by a friend of a friend (quite innocently) without any comment on the source.  Since then I have been a bit wary about sharing my work online.  I don’t mind if my images are used and credited but most people outside of visual media do not think twice about sharing images that they find online.  It doesn’t occur to them that there may be subject to copyright or that the images are owned by someone.   This then leads you as a photographer to consider whether you watermark everything that goes on the internet to ensure the images are credited if shared, although this doesn’t stop them from being altered in Photoshop or with Instagram filters of course.

So images online are free? There are always debates on forums and in the photography community about whether photographers should provide their work for ‘free’ (or for mates rates), watermarked or not, at reduced quality to prevent the selling of prints etc.  I am in two minds about this whole subject and it probably needs another blog post to properly discuss and debate these aspects of the sharing of this creative medium I now find myself part of.

Also as part of my tutor feedback I was provided with a link to the Inside Out project set up by the photographer JR:

On March 2, 2011, JR won the TED prize at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and called for the creation of a global participatory art project with the potential to change the world. This project is called INSIDE OUT.

Put simply:

It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.

The project encourages the submission of images which reflect personal identity and/or a cause for Group Action.  These images are printed on a very large-scale and then distributed and displayed to raise awareness.

I guess my question to this is, can a large-scale global art project really result in change?

JR is a fan of large-scale imagery and has had a number of projects where large scale images have been used to cover buildings and rooftops, which in some cases can only be seen by an aerial view.

I particularly like his Wrinkles of the City project which in 2011 he brought to Los Angeles.  In South Californian beauty is now part of its cultural identity and where plastic surgery is now a lifestyle, rather than a luxury, and socially accepted.  This is a juxtaposition to the older generations whose wrinkles of old age represent their life / their life story, a bit like the rings of a tree. The visible marks and wrinkles on their skin act as a record of their good times and their bad times etc., with both internal and external influences affecting their outward appearance.

There was one particular quote which resonated with me:

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”

The Wrinkles of the City/Los Angeles/2011 video – time 4m:50s

As photographers we capture an image of a subject but how we portray that subject is impacted greatly by who we are inside; our influences, our experiences, our values etc.

An interesting project for me as when I take portrait photos my aim is to bring out a person’s beauty.  Sometimes that is not ‘beauty’ in the most common interpretation. It’s to capture the true essence of that person, their true nature from within, the inside projected externally.

This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part two/Assignment two.

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