Within the assessment statements this relates to development of analytical and creative thinking, using independent judgement and presenting a developing personal voice.
I tend to work from instinct when approaching new areas, rather than through inspiration. I find this allows me to apply my own imaginative ideas, rather than apply those of others. At the same time, in my head, I am being influenced in a passive way by artists that have struck a chord with me. In exploring studio photography for the first time I found myself initially wanting to create a similar candid look that my experience of street photography had drawn me to. This is why I directed the models to look away from the lens and to adopt naturalistic poses. Experience and research then taught me that this was not the best approach. I thought carefully about how to apply this to my final sitting. I wanted to create something with more drama, as well as developing a more intimate relationship between the model and the lens.
This was the biggest area for me to take on board for this project. I haven’t shot in a studio before, or used flash photography in a formal shoot. I did have to research technical requirements and took a while to set up the studio and equipment in my living space. Playing around with an onion in still life form initially helped me prepare in terms of settings etc. The first sitting with the three models taught me a lot about positioning of the model, avoiding shadows and finding the right focal point. In the second sitting with Zack we had a lot of fun playing with different props and outfits. It was also interesting to see the difference that the background colour/tone makes to the feel of the shot. I also found that being more direct with the model allowed me to experiment with different moods in the models facial expressions.
A difficult area to apply in terms of my approach. I did have to be quite inventive in terms of setting up a home studio and organising the space for the shoots. I also spent some time exploring props to use in the shots and looking at ways to add interesting dimensions to the images. These included using fairy wings, hats and a variety of musical instruments in the shots. I also played a little with having more than one model in the shots and they played off each other. These were fun to do but not as successful in terms of creating a satisfying image. This is an area for development as I would enjoy being more playful in setting up studio shots.
So am I developing a personal voice in my photography? I always shy away a little from becoming too involved in emulating other photographers as I want my creativity to come from within. If this project, and in fact this course, has taught me anything it is to be more open to considering the work of others. It was in studying others’ portraiture during this project that really helped me to develop my own style, whilst applying the skills of others. It also showed me how important it is to consider the connection between the lens and the subject matter, and this can be reliant on many things. It could be connected to the relationship between the model and photographer, it could be related to the photographer’s direction or perhaps the context and set up. But in all these areas there is always the element of chance that steps in.
In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’.
What is it about?
The answer to this question leads me again to the context and is also ever changing if I look at the journey I went through with this project. It took me a little while to select the subject matter for this final project. My other two possibilities were the Victorian Gardens close to my house, or selective images of my son. I settled on shooting Carlton Mansions in Brixton for several reasons. Partly because it is a building that I have been fascinated with purely on aesthetics alone, and I am a believer in ‘Shoot what you love.’ Also because I have been looking for an opportunity to find out more about the building’s history. The other main reason was to attempt to improve my skills in photographing architecture.
So in terms of Barratt’s contexts it is clear that my original shot of the whole building, and the images picking out the decorative aspects of the facade, have a very strong link to the ‘internal context’ (Terry Barrett – Photography and Context 1985). These images are very much about the information within the frame. In these instances it is the aesthetic aspects of the structure itself that initially appealed to my photographers eye.
There is a contextual shift within the set in the inclusion of information surrounding the picture ie ‘the external context’ where additions have been made to the building through the years. Here we see the purpose, or function, of the image change. The influence of the residents is clearer in their adornments, they have left their ‘stamp’ on the structure. This does become multi layered through research. There are simplistic affectations in terms of stencilling and spray can work, but the ripples of political passion have echoed through the years with the hugely iconic mural ‘Nuclear Dawn’ (Brian Barnes and Dale McCrea – 1981).
This inclusion of original context, information surrounding the picture, is also illuminated with the plaques on the wall – one of which captions the building with ‘Housing the Homeless and many cats’ – this is one of my trial shots and not in the final ten. My chosen plaque relates to the anniversary of the Nuclear Dawn mural – a more politically significant adornment.
A little research into the recent history of the building also builds on this context. My first ‘google’ led me to a local newspaper article on the 2014 eviction of the ‘creative community’ that had set up home in the building (Brixton Blog – 2014). Brixton Blog on Carlton Mansions This gives an interesting insight into the community that helped to shape the more recent features of the building eg murals, colourful script, plaques etc. The article also demonstrates the political and social repercussions linked to new housing law reform of 2014.
I also enjoyed the insight given into the lives of those who lived in the building just prior to the eviction in another local newspaper article (Brixton Buzz – 2014). Living in Carlton Mansions
The final two images that I chose to include are a little more ambiguous. I like the presence of closed curtains, suggesting there is more to find out and how well that links to the slightly cryptic yet transparent ‘Brixton Bizness Centre’.
Another element that I enjoyed including within the frames was the foliage. This building is situated within a very urban environment, placed between the regenerated, hipster influenced Brixton Village and the highly residential social housing side of town. Seeing the weeds and overgrown flora creeping its way into the building in images introduces another level of contradiction in terms of energy and aesthetics.
In exploring my skills, and the purpose behind my choice of a ‘decaying’ building, I also found myself questioning what it is that draws photographers to such subject matters.
Looking at the work of Christian Richter there is an attraction to the contradiction between a grand piece of architectural design and the complexity of destruction that time effects upon it (dezeen – 2016). Christian Richter – Abandoned Empty Buildings
Architectural photography has many functions of course and for me it tends to be the image that represents a familiar scene in an unexpected way that is appealing. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to a genre that has been dubbed (The Guardian – 2016) ruin porn by the media. I do feel uncomfortable with photographs that depict the difficult situations and suffering that others go through. This can be images of poverty, post natural disaster, war torn environments etc. In capturing aspects of a decaying building it is the aesthetic qualities that both people, the elements and time have had in effecting change that appeals to me.
This particular building does now have another chapter in its life. The most current article talks about continuing the regeneration of the area and linking the art community history to future plans for the space to house local creative businesses (Future Brixton – 2016). The future for Carlton Mansions
Final Set – Post Production Edits
In presenting my final images I have reselected and edited in reference to tutorial feedback. Some images were over exposed and required post production work.
In analysing my own skill progress in working with architecture I did find it easier to work in my comfort zone of using the 85mm prime lens and picking out abstracted elements, rather than framing the whole building. There were problematic areas in shooting the whole building. It was in a narrow street with no access to a second storey as a vantage point for the photo. Hence the difficulty in fitting the building symmetrically and balanced within the shot. I tried to use this to my advantage in the hope that the building would ‘loom’ over the viewer, but geometry hasn’t quite worked.
I also explored the changing the contrast and framing of the main building picture. This was a difficult one to frame due to the height of the building and narrowness of the street.
Take a series of 10 photos of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject.
Carlton Mansions – Brixton
The Final Ten
This is a building I often find myself looking at. It is opposite Brixton Village where I meet up with friends for coffee frequently. Sitting in the gentrified finery of the now transformed market area, I was quite uninformed of the history related to this building. So my series begins with putting the building in it’s ‘original context’ of my regular viewpoint.
The weeds weaving in and out of various aspects of the external parts of the building add a level of untamed beauty to this decaying structure as well as offering an intriguing level of juxtaposition between the rural and the urban.
An element of aesthetics that always attracts is the mark of time on manmade structures. Here the rust, flaking paint and discarded litter are evidence of abandonment.
As I drew closer to the building my eye was drawn to the decorative script used above the front door and how this contrasts with the somewhat raw inscription painted on the glass to name the building.
The next area that my eye was drawn to were the adornments. The building has been decorated by street and graffiti artists. One whole wall has been used to create a piece of art work that now has iconic status within the area. I was pleased with how well the outstretched hand appeared to be linked to the leaves of a tree in the foreground. I also like how gradually the influence and character of the buildings residents is beginning to colour my view of the house.
I do enjoy the vibrancy of the street art in Brixton. The sudden flashes of colour against the drab, urban background draw the eye and add individuality.
This is where research into the history of the building’s use began to intrigue me. On arriving home I began to investigate it’s past. This leads me to consider again the context of these images. On taking them I am discovering more about the aesthetic, historical and functional aspects of the structure purely within the original context. But following on from my research and selecting my ten chosen images, I find I an applying the external context to allow a logical sequence to take place.
The building is of historical artistic importance partly due to the significance of the Nuclear Dawn mural created by renowned local artists, as mentioned in the plaque.
The level of detail in the decor that has been added to the building fascinates me, so many affectations make it a very individual structure.
Although the building is currently empty and has been since 2014, there are still signs of human presence. Curtains at the windows, litter in the bins and cigarette butts on the ground. There are plans to redevelop the area and restore the building according to my research. There are also several articles reporting on the council evicting the final residents of the property.
This is my final shot as it gives me a good jump off point to further my research, and it is the one image that suggests a multitude of unknown functions. I have always enjoyed the borrowed initials from a famous corporation that the initiator of this design used. I have no idea what the Brixton Bizness Cafe was, but from the signage next to it I presume it was used for internet use for and a drop in centre. Perhaps more research will illuminate this.
For my assignment 4 focus I decided to use this as a new learning experience and return to my exploration of studio photography that I visited in exercise 4.4. Much of the photography I have approached over the last few years has been street or event photography – capturing moments that happen naturally. In contrast I wanted to take this opportunity to set up my own frames in the studio and learn a little more about controlling the light. This is an area new to me so I was aware that it would be quite a learning curve. My equipment was also quite limited so I purchased a screen and flash.
Basing my main approach on changing the position of the fill light and camera I began to explore how different angles and light positions created different moods in the frame.
I was also aware of the importance of how I wanted the models to interact with the lens.
I chose portraiture as with my passion for street and gig photography, there is something in the human form that attracts my photographer’s eye.
I began with a very informal session – using three friends as models – and I moved my camera and fill light through the same positions each time.
I further investigated other photographers images to explore possibilities of creating different ‘looks’. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jean Baptiste Huynh. The black background and close crop of his pieces accentuate the details of the human face. There is also something in the expression of his subjects that reveal a sense of irony or humour that he has managed to evoke.
Baptiste’s approach is to place a large softbox close to his subjects to create a soft ‘wrapping’ effect. ‘Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s thematic preoccupations include the human gaze, oneself image, the play of light, the sense of timelessness, and the attempt to capture infinity.’ (jeanbaptiste.com – biography)
It is his interest in the ‘human gaze’ and capturing infinity that create the individual style in his work. Not wanting to emulate another’s creativity, but at the same time wanting to develop my own personal creative style, I want to find a way of interacting with my subjects that enables me to control their look.
In my first three contacts I rarely asked them to look into the lens. Something I will address in the next session.
I feel compelled to include some of the work of Annie Leibovitz. This is something to aspire to. The sense of drama, artistry and intimacy is beautifully represented.
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005
Her composition, direction of the subject matter, lighting up the skin and ability to illuminate the character of her subject is impressive. These four images all use contrast to great effect with brightly lit faces and a dark/black framing.
Zack was my final model for this assignment. With my interest in the importance of skin awakened I tried to manipulate the use of light in playing with this medium. In the first two images I have used a white screen to create a dynamic contrast between the human figure and the background – an attempt to suggest the infinite frame.The first image is a little over blown, which unfortunately takes away some of the definition in the face. I went for a very close crop on all the other shots. This was in an attempt to create intimacy as well as focusing on the face. The 3rd and 5th shots both light up most of the face – but with a slight shadow suggesting diminishing light on one side. Images 4 and 6 work well in contrast with each other – the first lighting up the whole face and the second lighting up one side of the face. The biggest difference between these shots and my first three models is the subject is looking directly into the the lens – creating a less candid, but more intimate piece.
My Final Selection
I have chosen two images from each experiment. I selected these eight because the represent a range of the qualities that I wanted to achieve. The level of intimacy, the connection with the lens, the use of light to define different aspects of the human face and a certain amount of playfulness being exposed.
Following on from my tutor’s feedback I have reworked some of the images used in the assignment. The tones in my initial experiments were a little warm, so I have adjusted these to create a more realistic palette.
Post production has helped to cool down the tones in the images a little, but with hindsight this is an area to address in future when setting up the shot. This was a very useful learning experience for myself to explore studio photography. Partly to investigate the technical and creative aspects of setting up each shot, but also with the added challenge of directing models. This is where a big difference can be seen between my first photo shoot with the girls, and the final session with Zack. I also found the research I addressed between these two really helped with my approach. My tutor suggested that due to my progress between the two shoots, my final selection of six shots should be from this second collection. With this in mind I have changed my final six images. It was also suggested that I chose either colour or black and white to ensure consistency within the collection.
‘Just be receptive and it happens’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001)
In attempting to understand or define the essence of ‘The decisive moment’ I initially got lost in my own literal translation of the term. This greatly limited both my appreciation and understanding of the potential involved in exploring this concept.
It was watching the movie ‘L’amour tout Court’ that helped me to view this form of photography in a more investigative way. The quote from Henri above became my mantra as I hit the streets of Brixton.
The architecture in Brixton offers some diverse contexts in framing the human element. My final shot was just randomly taken because I like the way the light affects the structure of these arches. I took a few shots here, but this was the only one including people. I like the way the arches have framed the two adults and two children. The similarity between the two halves of the shots is also satisfying. There is a feeling of determination in the step of the two children and the two adults on the left of the image – this is only broken by the one adult turning to his child. This communication within the scene captures a single moment for me.
So in attempting to ‘be receptive and see what happens’ have I addressed and understood the philosophy behind The Decisive Moment?
I think it is worth examining the relevance of this philosophy with today’s photography. Zouhair Ghazzal suggests that despite the substance and endurance of the work of Cartier Bresson, the Decisive moment has become to some extent a cliché. Zouhair discusses the anecdotal element conveyed through Cartier Bresson’s wotk through the gestures and interplay of his subject matter.
‘An image does not narrate: it rather creates an unbridgeable abyss between itself-as-frame and the rest of the unframed world—comparable to Sartre’s “existential hole,” which is only conscious of the absurdity of its own existence, or, more commonly, to a one-night-stand, as something that is given, but with no connection to anything else—in time and space, which pushes a hapless and confused imagination for a narrative. In sum, in that endless time-space flux, the decisive moment operates an all too sudden cut that is the most meaningful of all.’ (2004 zouhair ghazzal)
For me there should be an element of anecdote communicated through the image. But the art in the image should leave many levels of interpretation to the viewer.
Brief – Create a series of between six and ten photographs on the theme of crowds
On approaching this task I chose the theme of crowds as I have always been drawn to street photography – and living in London the subject matter is readily available. Within this theme I explored varying viewpoints, changing focal points, static and moving subject matters and playing with technical approaches to guide the eye. With reference to the earlier exercises and research I found one of the most useful tools here was to change the f-stop to allow a single focus to be enhanced, or to incorporate all of the action within the shot. For my final collection I chose to focus in on one aspect of the crowd. To do this I worked with a larger aperture setting f-stop 1.8 and used the 85mm focal length. The only adjustments required for each shot were then the shutter speed and iso.
On approaching my ‘Crowds’ collection for assignment 2, I explored the possibility of two different directions. My first train of thought was to use the influence of such artists as Salgado and Burtynsky and attempt to create an expansive set of images where all aspects of the ‘action’ were in focus and accessible. I like the idea of all the details of a crowd seen offering the suggestion of a myriad of individuals’ stories in just one picture. I explored using a very low aperture and various viewpoints to create this effect. I found that the image became too ‘flattened’ and rather than encouraging the eye to scan all of the details within each image, the aesthetics became less enhancing through an overcrowded space.
My second approach was to use a very wide aperture and attempt to focus in on just one element of a crowd scene, using the action around to contextualise and/or enhance he individual ‘story’. To capture a single moment of action in the style of Bresson, but with the frame filled with life around it. This is an area that I have investigated before and am definitely drawn to. I worked with an 85mm focal length and 1.8 f-stop. This produced the shallow depth of field that I wanted to lead the eye to the main subject matter. I then played with a selection of viewpoints. I played with the idea of placing a tilted camera at ground level, but in order to bring individual’s faces in as the main focal point I found eye level worked best. I placed the main focal point in the centre of the picture for images 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then the final two images have a slightly different composition – with the relationship between some of the crowd members being more apparent.
In image 1, the single direction of the walkers around the couple taking a selfie under an umbrella has helped to mark them out. My biggest disappointment in the image is the male’s face being partially covered by his hand. The contradiction in their happy countenance, compared to the rain splattered determined walking crowd also singles them out for the viewer.
Image 2 has echoed this approach slightly in the crowd around the central figure appears to mostly on the move, while he is static and cut off from those around him while his attention is focused on his phone.
Within the ‘shopping’ context the next two images contradict each other with first the vendor being the focus, then the next having the produce as the focal point with the shoppers less apparent but still crucial in creating the energy within the frame..
I think image 5 is my favourite of the series. Again placing the main subject centre frame, his stillness has been enhanced with the blurring of the moving traffic behind him. Be able to use a slower shutter speed due to his inactivity created this enhanced feeling of movement around him. This has led to him being slightly less than sharp.
The final two images, more by chance than design, have brought more individuals into focus. This was because of their parallel positions within the frame. Through the shallow depth of field both frames ensure that the eye is drawn to the crowd members closer to the camera. In the first of the two pictures this has resulted in enhancing the separation between the individuals and this captured moment in their lives. The second image suggests a reaction from two individual’s either side of the kissers are reacting to this moment of intimacy.
The use of the wide aperture and short focal length worked well in honing in on a small aspect of a busy frame in each case. I think perhaps a slightly narrower focal length, but retaining the wide aperture could enhance this even more by allowing better coverage of the ‘crowd’ action within the frame. Another consideration that might enhance the images generally, and give a closer identity as a set, would be to be more uniform in where I placed things within the frame. Although images 1, 2, 3 and 5 appear to have more in common in this instance, there is still variation in distance from the lens. The final two images sit slightly apart in their composition as they bring the narrative of more individuals to the fore. However the image that sits least comfortably for me is number 4 due to the lack of human content centre stage.
In preparation for the final assessment I found myself drawn back to this assignment. Partly because I was not happy with the level of exploration that appears in the blog in terms of the actual photographs, and partly because I lost some of the final images when my hard drive crashed. I also took some more time to read through my tutor’s feedback on this assignment. There were some areas that needed addressing. One of these was on the technical side. Using just the two prime lenses that I owned at the time limited my ability to focus clearly on crowds. There were also questions raised in relation to the ‘orange stall’ and ‘shop interior’ image in terms of creativity and composition.
I now have a new lens, and decided to hit the streets again and attempt to expand on my selection of images for this project. The new images played more with the idea of ‘crowds’ as an body, rather than picking out specific individuals.
As my final selection I have therefore decided to replace the two previously mentioned images and add the escalator, reflected crowd and graffiti tunnel silhouetted figures.
A crowd shot at Brixton Tube. I am pleased with the symmetry of the composition, with the opposing direction of the figure adding a different dimension. Sharper focus on the faces would improve the image.
The graffiti tunnel on Lower Marsh offers interesting possibilities in terms of colour and vibrancy. I wanted to focus on the crowds drawn here rather than the art work. In exploring different exposures I enjoyed the way the silhouette suggested that the crowd was one joined being.
I wanted to capture the distorted reflections of the crowds walking towards The Southbank. The difficult aspect was incorporating non-reflected figures in the foreground without blocking out the mirrors. The best result was to have a single figure at the edge of the frame. Unfortunately ensuring the reflected figures were sharp led to fuzziness on the foreground figure.
I have three proposals for my first assignment. The first is to explore an area that’s close to my heart and my home in this first assignment. I am also want to explore an area that is familiar to me but from a new point of view in the hope that it will allow me to build on my technical skills whilst keeping the actual context familiar.
With this is mind my proposal is to use Brixton’s eclectic music scene as a spring board for this project. I am very familiar with most of Brixton’s music venues, having been a gig photographer for a few years, and currently involved as an arts writer for the Brixton Blog. This also means that I have a little inside knowledge about aspects of the interior and key elements that give these venues their particular character.
I am also interested in the people that help to form the character of these buildings and events. It is after the human factor that brings the life and energy not only to places but also to images.
I can see my project going in a few possible directions as it develops and this is the exciting, non-predictable element.
I would initially like to contrive some shots in each venue. For example using the beautiful Chesterfield sofa in Brixton Jam and ask some of the Bar Staff to pose on said sofa. The same could be done with other venues, choosing a key aspect of the place and key people posing creatively.
I would also like to explore taking more candid shots while the public and performers and staff during the everyday running of an event.
Technically speaking I want to explore the use of light within each shot to emphasise the mood of the setting at the same time as involving my own sense of design in contriving specific shots.
Creatively speaking, as well as setting up a certain amount of irony within posed shots, I endeavour to continue to explore my love of capturing the accidental perfect image.
My second proposal will keep me closer to home. The London environment and lifestyle links public transport inextricably to our day to day lives. Just within 15 minutes walk of my doorstep are three train stations. There are also several bus stops within minutes away. As well as the the architectural diversity within public transport settings, and the myriad of possibilities in composition when incorporating rail tracks, the various levels and pov incorporating stairwells and bridges etc, and the shelters and offices within each ‘place’. I would also like to build on my technical and creative skills through exploring light and shutter speed to create the feeling of movement in the images.
The final, and very important aspect to include in the project, is the human element. Passengers, staff and the interaction (or lack of it) that I can capture within these contexts.
My third proposal will be an investigation into the growing gentrification within my local area. I live at the bottom of Streatham High Road (claiming to be the longest High Street in Britain) I have lived here for three years now and within that time have seen an increasing number of large chain stores appear. However it has been gratifying to see more and more independently owned stores open and thrive. My project would involve a journey along the high road. The images would explore the contrast in businesses and the people who use the shops/cafes/restaurants etc , the business owners and staff, and the buildings themselves.
Of the three proposals I think this will be the hardest to give meaning to. Creatively speaking I imagine scenes of staff behind their wares posing for the camera, but would also like to incorporate more candid shots of people using the establishments during their day to day running.
I would also like to convey the personality of Streatham High Road and how the mood changes dependent on the time of day and area within its two mile stretch.
Gentrification on Streatham Hill
As this theme is close to my heart and home I chose it as my focus for the 1 Square Mile assignment. I am also keen to explore the topical, political and social aspect as well as experiment with the aesthetics of business fronts. It is also going to be a project that will take me out of my technical and creative comfort zone.
My starting point will be the journey. Taking the walk through streatham and choosing my subject matter.
My first collection is directed at established and recently closed local businesses.
Contact Sheet 1 – Old Shop Fronts
My second collection consists of new business and upgraded established venues.
Contact Sheet 2 – New Shop Fronts
My third collection is taken from the diverse signage along Europe’s longest high street – from hand written instructions, to the local council banners.
Contact Sheet 3 – Signs of the Times
Contact Sheet 4 – More Signage
The hardest part of my assignment so far. People are naturally camera shy.
This blog is now structured with the essential categories required for you to post Assignments and Projects in for your learning log entries. It is intended to just help you get started with your OCA Learning log, and you may wish to customise it to suit your particular course.
Although we have provided the essential categories needed for your learning log, you will still need to set up your ‘Main’ menu through the Appearance section of the Dashboard, under the Menus section. Just select the menu you want to edit (Main) and then under the Categories ‘All’ menu, tick each category that you would like to be viewable through your blog’s menus and click the ‘Add to menu’ button. You can then drag and drop each item into hierarchies of menus and sub menus, as below in the ‘Menu Structure’ pane:
When making new posts, you just need to add a tick next to each category that the post relates to. The categories options can be found in the right-hand column whenever you create or edit a post.
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