Category Archives: Research

Further Research following Tutor Feedback to Assignment four…

Following my Tutor’s feedback and my reflection post, here is my further research on relevant photographers for part four and Assignment four of the course.  The basis of the research is around story telling visually, using both photography and narrative (visual or oral):

Graham Rawle (born 1955):

A UK writer and collage artist whose visual work incorporates illustration, design, photography and installation.

I’d like to thank my tutor for sending me the link to Graham Rawle’s Wizard of Oz book project (2008).  This was recommended as it tells a story with inanimate objects.  On watching the trailer for the book I found it touched me a number of different ways:

Firstly it amused me, the characters I think show the photographer’s age (I could be wrong) but I can’t imagine many children of today having those kinds of dolls with their brittle plastic bodies, some of which clearly have been broken in places, and fluttering eyes. In particular the dolls remind me of the ones you used to get abroad wearing the national dress costume, which were bought as a collector’s item and/or something to remind you of the holiday.  How do I know?  I still have some myself but not for playing with (of course).

Secondly, I found it all a little disturbing.  It’s certainly not your usual child friendly looking fair tale story book.  The items in the created ‘sets’ throw together a lot of different unrelated elements which jars a bit but works.  Characters created out of bits of other things, all adds to the non-conformist aesthetic of beauty which is applied today.  Also the use of real people’s heads on the bodies of dolls.

Thirdly, it made me feel nostalgic about time gone by when children’s toys were more primitive (a knitted lion) and certainly wouldn’t have conformed to today’s health and safety regulations.  I like the compositing of different characters/animals to make up the baddies.

A truly creative project by Graham Rawle bringing together quirky still life photography with artistic backgrounds/scenes to tell a well-loved story which has stood the test of time (much like some of the characters used – just!)

Andersen M Studio:

“Andersen M is a creative studio. A partnership between siblings Martin Andersen (MA, RCA) and Line Andersen (MA, CSM).

We work in the areas of art direction, graphic design, photography, animation and film.”  www.andersenm.com

My tutor recommended the Going West animation by Anderson M Studio because of its creative use of stop motion photography and an engaging voice over narrative to create an exciting 2 minute 26 second animated advert for the book Going West by Maurice Gee.

The short was commissioned by the New Zealand Book Council to promote books with the campaign strap line of Where Books Come to Life and in this animation the book certainly does that.

The animation is set within the pages of the book itself and starts very casually with a calm voice over reading whilst the book’s pages are flicked through.  Then the pages stop flicking and settle on a single page and it is then that the extraordinary begins…

Out of the page is crafted raised sections which slowly build up to a 3D picture of a train track, which fits in with the story’s narrative, and it is from there that your journey starts.  You are on a papery train journey through the pages of the book. All the time the reader / narrator conveys the atmospheric nuances of the story line by adjusting the pitch, rhythm and level of his voice which really adds extra dimension.

It must have taken a very long time to produce this animation let alone the story-boarding of it.  The artist/s meticulously cut/s into the pages of the book to create intricate papery landscapes as the story takes you through the countryside with trees, bushes and grass all cut from the pages of the book.  The planning of from which direction each page should be viewed and lit would have had to be very careful through for every shot taken.

You then go into a tunnel and it is from there that the lighting comes into its own and produces an incredible atmosphere which, together with the narration, takes the reader on an exciting trip literally into the story.  At one point a ghostly shaped cut-out appears in the tunnel and is set alight to at the point where the narrator says “and the smell of sulphur”, which I thought was a clever idea.  It was the something unexpected / surprising which links back to the Martin Parr video my tutor also provided in my Assignment four feedback.

The next moment you are in a train station with lots of tall cut-out paper structures and the narrator’s voice echos to suggest a large open space surrounded by construction.

I really enjoyed the creative journey but felt overwhelmed thinking about how much time and probably production cost it took to create the 2 minutes 26 second animation.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis:

The link provided by my tutor was for a review in the Guardian:

“Kafka’s tale of a man who wakes to find he has changed into a giant insect still has the power to shock and delight a century after it was first published. Many regard it as the greatest short story in all literary fiction”  The Guardian

“…first published in 1915. It has been called one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is studied in colleges and universities across the Western world.”  Wikipedia

My tutor also suggested in my feedback that I should draw on other artistic/creative genres for inspiration and ideas.  This suggestion is a literary source, which I have not yet read but appears to be something worth putting on my reading list.

Described as a horror with a comedic element this is a story of a man who wakes up to find he is no-longer a human but a huge insect like creature, and it the story of how he adapts to the new life.  It sounds like there could be some parallels to someone who finds themselves in some way incapacitated and the mixture of responses produced by the person and those around them who try to accommodate the new circumstances they find themselves in.

I have seen parts of the film The Fly which seems like a similar premise, man becomes insect, but I cannot analyse any similarities or differences until I have experienced them both fully.

References:

Graham Rawle, Available at: http://www.grahamrawle.com/index.html (Accessed: May 2017).

Wikipedia (13 March 2017) Graham Rawle, Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Rawle (Accessed: May 2017).

Andersen M Studio, Available at: http://www.andersenm.com/about (Accessed: May 2017).

(2009) Andersen M Studio – Going West, Available at: http://www.andersenm.com/animations/going-west (Accessed: May 2017).

The Guardian (18 July 2015) Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/18/franz-kafka-metamorphosis-100-thoughts-100-years (Accessed: May 2017).

Wikipedia (25 May 2017) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis (Accessed: May 2017).

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Photograph Like a Thief…

Today I watched a YouTube live stream by photographer Glyn Dewis, who I had seen partly present at this year’s Photography Show as the Birmingham NEC.  Primarily it was a plug for his book “Photograph Like a Thief…” but it was also a very interesting insight into how another photographer views his own work and those of other photographers whilst looking at, in particular, lighting techniques.  This was an area of interest for me in Part four, The Language of Light where I chose studio lighting for my Assignment 4 project “Languages of Light”.

There were a number of take-aways from a research perspective,  it provided:

  • an insight into lighting techniques,
  • ideas for photography projects,
  • a challenge to go out and learn a technical set-up in-side-out,
  • signposts to other photographer’s work, and
  • a discount on his book Photograph Like a Thief…

Glyn mentioned a number of photographers who influenced or provided him with inspiration (a list of some of them is below with links) and said that to start out you need to know what you like in an image.  Once you know this naturally you will want to figure out how you can replicate the ‘look’ and/or ‘feel’ of an image as part of your development as a photographer.  Copying in photography is frowned upon and granted if you plagiarise work that is not acceptable but using elements of another image and applying it your own ideas is developmental.

The main thing is that you practice, practice, practice and try to create the kind of images that inspire you to experiment further.  He talked about how to reverse engineer the lighting and to take a guess from the clues in the image how the lighting might have been set up to achieve the look you are after and to just give it a go.

The images that Glyn produces do have a style now but he said when he started out people would ask him what was his ‘style’.  He said he looked at his portfolio back then and there were all sorts of images where he had experimented in lots of different ways with different lighting and techniques so clearly there wasn’t a style but people expected him as a photographer to have one immediately.  Style comes with finding what works for you and what interests you as a person, it is derived from your experiences and opportunities and cannot be replicated as everyone is different.  As a result even if you did try to copy someone else’s lighting to create an identical work you actually couldn’t because you are not that person.

The other thing Glyn does is use Pinterest for inspiration and suggested this was one way, and a good one, of gathering together inspiration to refer to.  It might be for a current project or a future one but anything that inspires you should be kept.  It can also give clients an idea of what you are trying to aim for in an image visually rather than trying to verbalise the idea.

I thought all the points he raised were interesting and relevant, especially as I come to the end of Expressing Your vision and thinking about where I thought I would be at the end of the course at the start of the course.  I thought by the end I would have a ‘style’ when in fact this is not the case.  I am still unsure where my photography will personally take me, the main thing is that I’m still really enjoying the journey, learning a massive amount about photography, myself and the world around me, so the search (if you can call it that) is still on.

As promised here is a list of some of the photographers Glyn referred to in his live stream:

Glenn Meling
Joe McNally
Mark Seliger
Annie Leibovitz

LensCulture 2017 Portrait Awards

I have been taking a greater interest personally in portrait photography more than any other genre of photography since I have started the course, in particular A2 ‘Collecting‘ of Expressing Your Vision, so I have pursued this aspect further in my own time and dedicated a fair bit of resource to it and am posting this as a partial ‘reworking’ opportunity for A2.

The main ways I believe you can improve yourself is to try new things, open yourself up to critique and to challenge yourself to perfection.  As a result I decided to enter a portrait competition with LensCulture

There are so many competitions out there for photographers, I now realise, so you need to be selective with which you enter otherwise you could be throwing money down the drain.  A lot of the competitions you have to pay for entry so you need to be sure that what you are entering is worth your time.  I specifically chose the student 5+ single image package so I could get critique on my images.  I was using the submission more as a learning opportunity than a chance to win a competition.  I paid $35 USD (£29.67 GBP) to enter.

I had been receiving emails from LensCulture which were very informative and seemed to cover a wide range of photography related issues, so I decided I would enter my images to this global competition.

The images I entered are below:

LensCulture Feedback

Needless to say I didn’t win (the winners can be found here) but all the communications I received from LensCulture have been professional, encouraging and supportive.  I didn’t feel I had ‘lost’ more that there were just better entries on the day.  I was surprised as I thought it would be more dog-eat-dog.  For this approach to their communications I give total respect to Lens Culture.

And it didn’t stop there the critique I received yesterday was in the same vein and is pasted verbatim below.  I am really pleased with the encouragement given to me to improve, which will drive me on, together with links to further reading and other photographers to research.  If you are thinking of entering a competition then I would highly recommend Lens Culture for sure.

Additional Recommendations

Recommended Books & Photographers

Photo Competitions

Portfolio Reviews & Festivals

Recommendations for Gaining Exposure

Other Resources

Relevant Quotes from Past Jurors

  • “Editing is essential and good sequencing certainly helps with my selection. My mantra is less is more. Include only your best pictures — anything else will weaken the submission.” — Elisabeth Biondi, Visuals Editor, Indepedent Curator, New York City, USA
  • “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” – Marcel Duchamp
  • “When I judge a contest I look for photographs that make me feel something. Anything. I also look for stories that are original. I see thousands of stories a year and most are sadly quite similar. So a story that I haven’t seen before, or a unique approach to a story that I have seen before goes very, very far. Take chances!” — James Estrin, Co-Editor, New York Times Lens Blog, New York City, USA

References:

(2017) LensCulture, Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/ (Accessed: 01/05/2017).

(2017) LensCulture 2017 Portrait Awards Winners and Finalists, Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/2017-lensculture-portrait-award-winners (Accessed: 01/05/2017).

(2017) A2 Collecting, Expressing Your Vision, Available at: https://liz515728.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/assignment-two-collecting-the-end/ (Accessed: 01/05/2017).

30 March 2017 – Architecture by Night

I decided I needed to brush up on my night photography so I decided to go on a session run by Open City Tours called Photography Tour – Architecture by Night This was held in London and cost £35.50.

These sessions run periodically by Open City Tours in the Autumn/Winter months when it gets dark earlier.  In the summer months you could be waiting until very late for the light to be just right for this type of photography.  I was on the last one of the 2016/2017 seasons tours and due to the time change we met at 7:30pm and the session then ran until 9:30pm.

The tour covered:
– Illumination of the City’s buildings and how to photograph them
– Using long shutter speeds to render light trails
– Optimum time to take night photographs
– Selection of aperture, shutter and ISO to produce best results
– Your rights to photograph in public

We met our tour leader / professional architectural photographer Grant Smith at the post boxes, opposite Lloyd’s of London, One Lime Street EC3M 7HA and this is where our tour and learning opportunity began.

It was a fair-sized group but not too big so everyone received some individual coaching by Grant, which was great.

The best time for taking night photography is just before it gets dark.  I know this sounds a bit strange but the art to night photography is to capture the lights in the building but also a blue sky silhouette around the buildings, so these two things have to be managed together. Grant said if you squint your eyes shut a bit, so you can just see the lights from the buildings that’s the best time to take the photos.

We started on settings of ISO 100, f/8.0 at 2 sec. and then as the light faded we had to lower the shutter speed.  This meant that you could not do this type of photography without a tripod!  Also I only had a 50mm lens at that point, which isn’t ideal, you should shoot with a lens somewhere between 18mm and 28mm but then have another lens for details shots.  That said I didn’t do too badly with my 50mm.

The other important information given was around rights to take photographs of buildings from the street.  It is allowable to take photos of buildings from public land. These photos cannot be seized by police/security and no-one has the right to ask you to delete any of your images that have been taken from a public highway or byway.

That said, it’s how you approach any challenge that will determine how things go.  Just retreat (apologise if you feel it appropriate to diffuse any tensions) and move on, there are plenty of opportunities to take photos in the City and it maybe that you just move to a position further away to get a slightly wider shot of the same building but from where you won’t be challenged.

It is not allowable without permission to take photos on private land.  But how do you know what is public and what is private land in London?  The general rule is that all the roads and the pavements beside the roads are public, most riverside pathways are public byways.  Courtyards and paved areas outside of this, however, are likely to be private property owned by the building/landowner/s situated there.

For this particular evenings tour we had been given special permission to photograph from the courtyard which is private land and below images 1, 2, 4 and 5 were taken from the courtyard in question.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of photography with like-minded people which I would totally recommend.  It also gives you an insight into a London you might not be aware exists and the courage to go and explore to search out new photo opportunities.

Here are some of my images from the tour:

However, I think my favourite from the evening has to be the one of the Thames Rockets boat moored just down from Tower Bridge (to the left of this shot) opposite More London.  Even though there was a bit of movement on the water that evening and the boat moved causing blurring I love the colours and the feeling of life in the image.

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This concludes this Blog post and I hope it gives anyone reading this some inspiration to go out and try some night photography.

Part four ‘The Language of light’ – Introduction

For this part of the course we are going to look at light; daylight, artificial and studio light.

To be a good photographer you must have some concept of how light works (behaves). 

Thankfully we already know a lot about light instinctively (even if we don’t realise it).  How it behaves is part of the world around us and we learn from a very early age about life with and without light i.e. light and dark. 

[At this point I would like to apologise to any blind photographers out there, and there are some, who will not have experienced light in the same way as I am about to reflect upon.] 

For example, we know from a very young age that when the sun is out it casts shadows and one of my earliest memories of this is chasing my own shadow trying desperately to stamp on it. Of course as soon as you lift your foot up the shadow moves away from you and you never ever get close enough to stamp on it.  It is then that you realise that if you hold your arm or body in a particular position, contort your body, leg and foot round a bit then you can stamp on the shadow of another part of your body – I know you are dying to try this out now eh? 

The other main experience where I learnt about light was as a child when we had to get the candles out in a power cut or when our generator went down.  We lived down an unmade road in the country (without mains water in the earlier days) so losing the electric was a ‘thing’ and in the storm of 1987 we were without pretty much any power for nearly a week and candles were a staple in our household, them and matches. Most people where we lived were prepared for this so had calor gas cookers and wood burners for heat.   That said when only one room was being heated the cold bucket of water that was the shower was not much fun!   I look back now at those days with whimsy.

Anyway, back on track…. candle light, a small light source which can cast harsh shadows on an object… Also, in the middle of a wood a lone candle could create quite a spooky atmosphere.  So I also learnt that light could create a feeling.

When I went to secondary school I had aspirations of being a lighting technician for the school’s amateur dramatic productions.  It was then that I realised how lighting could be used as a tool to direct the eye of the audience to a particular place on stage (and could ruin a performance if it wasn’t done right).

All that said, when I started photography I felt like I had to learn about light again but from a more technical perspective rather than an intuitive one.  Things like the ‘inverse square law’, reflective and refractive materials, angles of incidence… definitely more science than art, although get the lighting right and your image art can come to life.

There is a quote in the course notes that I will share with you…

“Amateurs worry about sharpness, pros worry about money, photographers worry about light.” [anon]

I think I sit somewhere between amateur and photographer at the moment but I get the point and I do find myself increasingly wanting to experiment more with light rather than my camera.

Prelim chatty bit over, now it’s time to get on with the course exercise – Project 1: Exposure.

UK Skateboarding and Photographers

Although I have not yet posted my response to Assignment 3 ‘The decisive moment’ online yet, I wanted to post some research linked to my subject/theme by way of support to my assignment.

I chose to do my assignment on skateboarding for a few reasons but mainly because I had no idea about this activity/sport and thought it would be a good challenge not only on a photographic level but also from a personal development perspective i.e. education on alternative cultures.

To start with I looked on YouTube and found a really great video by Josh Katz – Skateboarding Photography For Beginners, which covers 10 simple steps to getting started in skate photography.  If you are going to give this a go I would definitely recommend this video.

London, and indeed the UK, has a number of skateboard parks open to all, in fact more than I had appreciated, not being into that scene. I chose to focus on the Southbank Skate Park for my assignment as it is easily accessible and the Southbank area is usually buzzing with people most of the time so I wouldn’t feel isolated, which for a lone photographer out of her comfort zone was/is an important consideration.

So with the location chosen I thought I would also carry out some research on UK skateboard photographers.

There are plenty of American photographers covering this genre, so I was ready for the challenge of finding some UK based skateboard photographers thinking that skateboarding didn’t appear to be as popular in the UK as it appears to be in America so the task might have been more difficult.  I think I was wrong…

I found a few UK photographers covering this space, as follows:

Leo sharp : http://www.leosharp.uk/

Leo is based in Cornwall and is an internationally published action sports photographer. Taken directly from his website “His career in skate photography spans well over two decades, with a good proportion of this spent working as full time Photo Editor at the UK’s leading skate magazine: Sidewalk. His work has also been published in many other magazines throughout the world including Thrasher, Skateboarder, Kingpin, Color, Concrete, Manual, Slam, The Skateboarders Journal, The Journal, Sugar, Grey, Monster, North and many more.”

Leo definitely has a commercial look and feel to his images, capturing frozen motion, using a fish eye lens, skateboarders suspended in mid air and by the looks of some of his images, he uses flash use to achieve greater depth of field and sharp focus to his images.

Sam Ashley : http://www.samashley.com/

Sam is a London based commercial photographer who has been published in magasines Sidewalk and Kingpin, which feature skateboarding culture.  Sam’s photographs definitely look commercial in nature.  There is more use of blank space and the environment as opposed to close up shot of the skateboarders.

Jake Seal : http://www.jakeseal.co.uk/about.html

Jake is a freelance photographer based in Leeds and although he primarily covers studio photography he has an interest in skateboarding photography.  His shots are honest and not excessively processed or stylised which I like.  I also like his use of shadows and low vantage points to get a different view of the skateboarders. I was not as adventurous in my images but I did manage to get some shadows in and capture some frozen motion jumps.

I also found an online skateboarding photo magazine: http://skateboardingphoto.co.uk/

Looking at the these photographers work, my images are very different in style, however, the same motifs have been used notably the skateboarder suspended in mid-air, skateboarder sliding along poles or walls and the use of shadows within the composition.

Part three – Project 3 – Research Point : Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s documentary ‘L’amour tout court’ (‘Just plain love’ 2001)

Note: There is no sound available to parts 4 and 5, so the response below has only considered the subtitles from these parts.

Cartier-Bresson (b: 1908 – d: 2004) was a French photographer who pioneered street photography and is most famous for being the originator of the phrase the ‘decisive moment’.

He was from a privileged background and although he had a catholic upbringing he was very open-minded.  He played the flute as a child but soon realised that he was better at looking than listening. Later in life he put down his camera and turned to drawing but was still looking / observing.

He believed it was important to be receptive to your surroundings and situations and that, for him, form always came first; the geometry and physical rhythm of a place or subject was the priority, before lighting or anything else.  All moments are passing so it’s all about the framing and the geometry.  It is then for the photographer to decide when to press the shutter button.

His most famous photograph ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932’ was a result of accessibility and chance.  He did not know what he was capturing through the planks which had a gap just big enough to fit his camera lens through and couldn’t see through the viewfinder.   Cartier-Bresson believed it was luck, “It’s always luck.  It’s luck that matters.” [i].

Cartier-Bresson looked up to Giacometti and talked about him warmly, he recalls he called portraits shots ‘doing a head’ which he found amusing, which also gives an insight into his sense of humour.

I think he believed that the feelings of the photographer as expressed through a photograph should be shared by many to be successful and that trust between the photographer and the subject was important.

I’m glad I watched this documentary as it has provided life and colour to Cartier-Bresson which up to now for me has just been about the decisive moment and a number of revered black and white photographs.  I now understand more about his process, what he looks for when capturing his images and the personality behind the photography which is as important.

References

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court Part1 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6l09YEeEpI&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part3 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea3E_8otCME&index=3&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part4 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBDV26UvaNA&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=4. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part5 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-rHc2–Mv8&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=5. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Cartier-Bresson. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Footnotes:

[i] Timestamp 0:56 : YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].