Assignment 4 rework – getting crafty

My tutor’s feedback on this assignment suggested that I look at methods of presentation beyond a set of prints spread out on the table.

The remaining pictures are colourful but a little bland as single images. However looking at these and at your contacts I would suggest that there could be more impact made with the images if you considered the possibility of presenting them as a series of triptychs along the themes that you indicate in your submission shadows, puddles and so on. Another possibility would be to consider a single dominant colour for each triptych. The final outcome is of course down to you as in this project you have produced enough images to consider a range of presentation ideas and interpretation of the subject in a variety of ways.

Overall a good piece of work that may need to have the format for presentation reconsidered.

I was aware that some images held more interest than others. Presenting as triptychs would allow some of the weaker images to act as supporters rather than stand-alones.

I briefly considered presenting the images as a book but, with a limit on the number of images to present for assessment, I was unable to come up with a satisfactory book layout. I therefore reverted to the triptych idea, but resolved to include some book-crafting techniques in the final version. Of course, as I have never done any book-crafting before, this presented me with a learning curve.

One issue was the need to re-select images. Rather than looking for an all-landscape-format set, I now needed three strong landscape-format and six ‘supporting’ portrait-format. Here are my final selections.

triptychs

Car park markings

triptychs2

Blue/red

triptychs3

Fallen leaves

The original concept of triptychs was as decoration for folding altarpieces. I emulated these by mounting each set on folding boards, which close completely for protection. The set of three boards is contained in a slipcase. The colours, ‘twilight blue’ and black were chosen to recognise the project as a night-time shoot. I must confess to some hair-tearing and blasphemy during the crafting process (next time I will try with a starch paste rather than PVA adhesive) and there were a few false starts. However, I am pleased with the final version.

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Assignment 4 – Tutor feedback and initial responses

I have now had my tutor’s feedback on Assignment 4. The good news is that he seemed to like the images but suggests a rework to explore other ways of presenting them. As ever, there are some intriguing suggestions for further research.

Tutor’s substantive text set in bold. My initial responses in plain text.

Overall Comments

This is an interesting interpretation of the brief exploring light and colour. There are some strong images in the submission and you have included relevant contact sheets. Colour is used as a strong tool in composition and meaningful content. You have clearly observed and recorded colour in the work and created your own colour palette. In relation to this I would like to have seen further development with research into theory and symbolism in the use of colour.

This will mean dipping into the ‘technique’ books, which I had set aside in favour of ‘criticism’ books for the duration of the course. I know there is some useful material on colour theory in several books by Michael Freeman. I will have to explore further to find material on symbolism.

You have researched into the work of other practitioners using light/colour and some analysis of their approach to their work.

You make an intriguing statement in your submission that caught my attention – “I will not comment on ‘personal voice’ because I am not yet entirely sure what the phrase means” yet later on you remark that you have selected purely on subjective grounds. If you are questioning the concept of a personal voice in photography this is a valid line to enquire into as we may very well question the idea that it has any voice that can impart meaning.

I am not questioning the concept of ‘personal voice’, which I have heard expressed from several directions – course notes, forum postings and my RPS mentor. I’m just not convinced that I have found mine yet – or at least, I haven’t recognised it.

If a personal voice represents an expression of individualism perhaps we might consider “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism. However this self- aggrandizement now appears to dominate the media and culture to an extent that the concept of an individual voice may be in danger of disappearing. Yet Sartre contends “In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism. So can this portrait be the personal voice of the individual in reality or does this voice only reflect some grandiose claim for legitimizing the practice of photography as art? As the say on the exam paper – discuss.

A big topic and one for a future blog posting. To some extent it depends on your definition of ‘art’. I came into this course with a view that photography is essentially a craft activity and that ‘art’ is a supreme expression of a craft. Over the past few months, I have been exposed to some other views (apparently equating ‘art’ to some form of political statement) and I need to take time to assimilate that.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work

The work submitted for this assignment demonstrates knowledge of technical skills that are clearly evidenced in the learning log. On looking at your prints I was struck overall by the impact that was made by your use of colour. There is evidence of well observed details in the series and across the contact sheets as well as your control of lighting. A profitable evening’s walk enhanced by the effect of water. I particularly like as single images img6903, 7000 and 7014. The remaining pictures are colourful but a little bland as single images.

None were intended as single images, although a few are capable of standing by themselves.

However looking at these and at your contacts I would suggest that there could be more impact made with the images if you considered the possibility of presenting them as a series of triptychs along the themes that you indicate in your submission shadows, puddles and so on. Another possibility would be to consider a single dominant colour for each triptych. The final outcome is of course down to you as in this project you have produced enough images to consider a range of presentation ideas and interpretation of the subject in a variety of ways.

To be honest, I had not considered the physical form of the submission beyond a collection of prints spread out on my kitchen table. I had a hint of problems when trying to arrange them in a 4×2 grid for a blog posting; I’m not entirely happy with the result.

Presenting as triptychs, two or three of them, will allow me to reconsider using portrait format images as the ‘outers’ to support landscape format central images. I will need to think through linking themes. ‘Colours’ is intriguing – gold and red/blue can be done with my existing material but I will have to revisit some traffic lights to find enough greens.

For physical form, I could either print three images onto a single A3 sheet, or produce some sort of folding mount to emulate the traditional altarpiece that is part of the dictionary definition.

Overall a good piece of work that may need to have the format for presentation reconsidered.

Thank you.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Good references to the work of other photographers but do spend a little time outlining how their work has influenced your approach. This could be underlined by your analysis informed by critical reading.

An important point, but one that I am going to have to work at. Unless I am creating an homage (assignment 2) I do not consciously recognise my influences. That does not mean that I am not influenced by other’s work (which would be an appallingly arrogant thing to say), just that everything merges into my subconscious, from which I dredge up ideas. I recall CS Forrester making a similar point (using a metaphor of barnacles) in ‘The Hornblower Companion’ [ISBN-13: 978-1557503473]

As mentioned I would like to have seen some research into colour particularly as symbol. I have included a brief extract from The Art of Colour and also a link to the full Sartre essay that may be of interest to you.

There will be a blog posting or two about colour before the end of Part five.

The Barthes essay linked in the previous feedback will also have a relevance to the idea of a personal voice.

I have reviewed ‘The Death of the Author’ previously. It was not a happy read and I doubt that I will gain much by repeating the experience this soon.

Remember when you consider submitting work for formal assessment the assessors will be looking to see evidence of reading, reflection and meeting all criteria. At this stage prior to formal assessment it is possible to rework and reshoot assignments based upon feedback given and your own analysis of the work at this point. Before any submission carry out a review of all work and consider any changes that may need to be made.

Suggested reading/viewing

Dark City www.williameckersley.com/

Existentialism is a Humanism   https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm

Assignment 4 – submission and reflection

These images are my final selects and response to assignment 4 – Languages of Light.

Contact sheets. Red-outlined images are my shortlist of 24. Final pics have a second, green outline.

Assignment notes are here

Reflection – assessment criteria

Technical and visual skills: I am fairly satisfied under this heading. The nagging doubt is that I encountered ‘out of gamut’ warnings when printing some of the images with very strong red and blue tones.

Quality of outcome: I have finished with a set of images that I am pleased with, and that work well together. My thought process has been described, almost at a stream-of-consciousness level, in blog postings and outlined in the assignment notes.

Creativity: I believe I have applied imagination, invention and experimentation to produce a set of images from something that most people would walk past, or over, with consciously noticing. Whether there is evidence of ‘personal voice’ is a matter for the reader.

Context: This is a set produced in response to a particular brief, to explore the beauty of artificial light, and I believe it answers the brief well.

 

Assignment 4 – whittling them down

The brief calls for 6-10 final prints. I shot 318 frames; here are the contact sheets:

Whittling-down proceeds by stages. First, eliminating the frames with irretrievable technical issues, mainly focusing or camera movement reduced the count to 228.

Next, having made the decision to concentrate on close-up reflections in wet pavements I can reduce the count to 100 frames. It is this set of 100 that I will be submitting with the assignment.

The ‘first cut’ on subjective criteria gave me a long-list of 36 images. At this stage I decided that, for consistency, I would present only landscape-format images, which eliminates another 12.

The next stage will be to work them all up, with a 3×2 crop (best fit on A4 with 25mm margins) and basic Lightroom adjustments then print out laser proofs for final selection.

Assignment 4 – rainy evening in Maidstone

These images come from an early-evening walk through Maidstone. There had been rain earlier in the day (and there was a shower while I was out on this exercise) so everything was wet and producing reflections.

All images were made with a Pentax K-1 and 24-70 f/2.8 standard zoom, apertures between f/4 and f/8, and mostly at the long end of the zoom range. Exposure was in aperture-priority mode with -1EV compensation. However, when processing the PEF raw files, I found that I was increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. White balance is set to ‘daylight’ (5500K) because that is what the eye/brain defines as white or neutral and it allows the true colour of the artificial light to be seen. Sensitivity is ISO12800.

I shot lot of images (318!) although, I would like to think, not indiscriminately. With the creativity criterion in mind, particularly experimentation, I was looking for as many ‘different’ ideas as possible in the hope of developing one into a series for assessment.

General views did not work for me. Maidstone is not particularly beautiful and most of its lighting is utilitarian, rather than for display. I had hoped for some floodlit night working in the road works, similar to some of Zachmann’s China Nights images, but no luck. There is a possibility of making some traffic-trail images if  I revisit with a tripod.

Here are some more specific ideas. The railway stations are well-lit but, I suspect the resulting images would be short on creativity. The road markings in the car park have some appeal (and I spent time here) and have scope for a series. The public-art illuminated pylon and the light fitting with cobwebs are strictly one-offs.

Shop windows are tempting, particularly unlit windows reflecting the illuminated signs of the shop opposite. However, most displays and lighting have been ‘designed’, so photographing them is really riding on somebody else’s creativity.

This is an idea that I am seriously considering: examining the effect of street lighting on foliage, particularly where the tree has been allowed to engulf the light fitting. Some care is needed to find the right tree and the right viewpoint. I also found that, in a well-lit area, the effect is lost.

Finally, the type of image that I set out to shoot, artificial light sources reflected and showing off the various paving textures in the town. I am influenced by Rut Blees Luxemburg’s Liebeslied series of intimate cityscape details. Her images are very long exposures on large-format film, while mine are typically 1/25s on a digital full-frame sensor, but we do share a preference for showing the true colour of the light. I am not sure that using a tripod and long exposure would make much difference (other than allowing me to use a lower sensitivity and reduce noise levels) except where puddles are deep enough to have ripples.

In shooting this last set of images, I particularly enjoyed the details on the ironwork (gullies and manhole covers etc.) which also act as ‘symmetry breakers’ in the paving patterns.

My final choice will be between street-lit foliage and ironwork in reflective pavings. This will require a second expedition on another rainy night, but this time more focussed.

References

Campany, D. (1999) A conversation between Rut Blees Luxemburg and David Campany 1999 [online] at: http://www.union-gallery.com/content.php?page_id=653 [accessed 18/8/16]

Magnum (2104) China Nights 2005 – Patrick Zachmann [online] at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com [search string omitted for clarity]

Assignment 4 – initial thoughts

We are told to revisit one of exercises 4.2, 4.3 or 4.4 and prepare it for formal assignment submission, with particular reference to meeting the Creativity criteria for assessment.

I have chosen to revisit exercise 4.3, discovering and expressing the beauty of ambient artificial light because I think that is the one most likely to inspire some imagination and invention (and possibly a glimmer of personal voice). Exercise 4.2 leads to some rather ‘samey’ images and is at the mercy of the weather as it develops on the chosen day. Exercise 4.4, studio lighting, is completely under the photographer’s control so there is little scope for an element of surprise leading me in an unexpected direction.

Looking back at my London images (all 160 of them) having completed exercise 4.5,  I realise that they fall short on creativity. All are records of what was in front of the camera from an eye-level pedestrian viewpoint. I will, therefore be making a new set of images.

The new images will be of Maidstone town centre at night. Being only 10 minutes walk from home, it allows me to go out on impulse or to keep an eye on the weather.

Maidstone presents its own challenges, however. I will have to ‘find’ beauty in some rather utilitarian lighting. There is little of the gaudy display lighting that Shintaro has photographed, but I may be able to use working light for a civil engineering project currently in progress around the bridges, emulating Zachmann.

My intention, on my first exploration, will be to combine Luxemburg‘s close-up views with Brassaï‘s reflections in wet pavements. I will be shooting hand-held, for flexibility, exploiting the high ISO sensitivity of the K-1, looking for details of reflections in surfaces and puddles. Once I have located some interesting subjects, I may return with a tripod for long exposures. It will be interesting to see whether I can emulate Luxemburg’s ‘kind of alchemy’.