Tag Archives: Surrey

Assignment 5 Illustration and Narrative

Change in the Village is the story of two families who lived, at different times, in the same valley on the Surrey and Hampshire borders and the story of the village that grew up there. The narrative starts when an itinerant farm labourer and veteran of the Crimean War marries a local girl and settles in the valley and ends, over a hundred years later, when my childhood in the village finishes and I begin to attend the Grammar School in the nearest town.

It is an exploration of shared memories and common values, of lifestyles that have all but been forgotten, of how the Surrey peasant and rural working class lost their land and their dignity, and how the people that displaced them lost their innocence in war and found peace in this insignificant place. It is a journey through a shared landscape that can still be found and that has shaped the history of the valley and of the settlers who drifted here. For a thousand years this waste land, the common land upon which the village is built, held no value nor offered wealth to the the great landowners but in 1861 it was enclosed and everything changed in the village.

A full description of the development of this narrative can be found in the post Researching and Completing Assignment 5.

A selection of PDFs of the complete narrative are available to download:

Change in the Village 1 low res – Page by page PDF designed to be printed double sided

Change in the Village 1 spreads low res – The spreads

The photographs that make up this narrative can be found in Assignment 5 Images

The Spreads

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-1

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-2

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-3

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-4

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-5

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-6

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-7

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-8

Assignment 5 Images

The following photographs were used in assignment 5. I have not included the individual images that make up Shared Landscapes as these were conceived as a typology and not relevant as individual images.

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Fig. 01 The Village Green 1/125 at f/10, ISO 800

Fig. 01 The Village Green 1/125 at f/10, ISO 800

Fig. 02 Squatter's Cottage - 1/160 at f/9, ISO 200

Fig. 02 Squatter’s Cottage – 1/160 at f/9, ISO 200

Fig. 03 The Common - 1/200 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 03 The Common – 1/200 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 04 Dene Lane - 1/100 at f/8, ISO 160

Fig. 04 Dene Lane – 1/100 at f/8, ISO 160

Fig. 05 The Boathouse Frensham Little Pond - 1/125 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 05 The Boathouse Frensham Little Pond – 1/125 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 06 2 Old Frensham Road - 1/60 at f/20, ISO 1000

Fig. 06 2 Old Frensham Road – 1/60 at f/20, ISO 1000

Fig. 07 2 Old Frensham Road 1/400 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 07 2 Old Frensham Road 1/400 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 08 2 Old Frensham Road - 1/500 at f/6.3, ISO 200

Fig. 08 2 Old Frensham Road – 1/500 at f/6.3, ISO 200

Fig. 09 Fred Grover's Cottage - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1000

Fig. 09 Fred Grover’s Cottage – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1000

Fig. 10 Steam Lane - 1/60 at f/10, ISO 1100

Fig. 10 Steam Lane – 1/60 at f/10, ISO 1100

Fig. 11 The Clumps - 1/160 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 11 The Clumps – 1/160 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 12 The Enclosed Common - 1/60 at f/13, ISO 800

Fig. 12 The Enclosed Common – 1/60 at f/13, ISO 800

Fig. 13 Camps in the Woods - 1/60 at F5.6, ISO 800

Fig. 13 Camps in the Woods – 1/60 at F5.6, ISO 800

Fig. 14 Hops - 1/250 at f/2.8, ISO100

Fig. 14 Hops – 1/250 at f/2.8, ISO100

Fig. 15 Vine Cottage - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140

Fig. 15 Vine Cottage – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140

Fig. 16 The Bourne School - 1/60 at f/22, ISO 200

Fig. 16 The Bourne School – 1/60 at f/22, ISO 200

Fig. 17 The Bourne School Gates - 1/640 at f/3.2, ISO 200

Fig. 17 The Bourne School Gates – 1/640 at f/3.2, ISO 200

Fig. 18 Old Lawnmower in Graveyard - 1/80 at f/10, ISO 400

Fig. 18 Old Lawnmower in Graveyard – 1/80 at f/10, ISO 400

Fig. 19 Farnham Grammar School - 1/20 at f/3.6, ISO 800

Fig. 19 Farnham Grammar School – 1/20 at f/3.6, ISO 800

Fig. 20 The Bourne Graveyard - 1/60 at f/11, ISO 900

Fig. 20 The Bourne Graveyard – 1/60 at f/11, ISO 900

Fig. 21 The Family Grave - 1/30 at f/14, ISO 800

Fig. 21 The Family Grave – 1/30 at f/14, ISO 800

Fig. 22 The Bourne Graveyard - 1/100 at f/16, ISO 560

Fig. 22 The Bourne Graveyard – 1/100 at f/16, ISO 560

Fig. 23 Cattle on The Common - 1/160 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 23 Cattle on The Common – 1/160 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 24 Shared Landscape 1

Fig. 24 Shared Landscape 1

Fig. 25 Shared Landscape 2

Fig. 25 Shared Landscape 2

 

Researching and Completing Assignment 5

Fig. 01 Cattle on The Common - 1/60 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 01 Cattle on The Common – 1/60 at f/16, ISO 100

Introduction

Assignment 5 has a straight forward brief, the essence of which is to create a magazine story in the form of a picture essay and to design the cover of the magazine that will run the story. The final result should ideally incorporate both illustrative and narrative techniques.

As this assignment comes at the end of TAoP it is an opportunity to bring together elements of the whole course and it was always my intent to allocate a disproportionate amount of time to researching, planing and undertaking this assignment. TAoP naturally led me to researching a wide selection of established photographs, many of whom have very directly influenced my thinking even when their style or chosen field is not directly relevant to my own work but more than this influence they have collectively taught me a set of basic principles that I wanted to take forward into assignment 5 and beyond.

Working in a Series

The first principle, which is especially relevant to narrative, is that work is more effective when presented as part of a series. Nearly every photo book that I have studied and reviewed is greater, more powerful, than the sum of the individual photos within in. Sometimes this is because of the story line but often it is simply the effect of developing and building a conversation with the audience,  exponentially drawing the viewer deeper into a subject as each image is revealed.

See – Planning Assignment 3 with Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr

Quality of Research and Understanding

The second principle relates to the ethics of documentary photography. Respected photo journalists such as Stuart Freeman (1), and Phillip Jones Griffiths (2) both point out the importance of the photographer immersing themselves in their subject so that their work respects and honestly represents it. Freeman states that “storytelling in photography must be as vigorous in thought and research as it is beautiful in construction and execution” and this aide has directed my whole approach to assignment 5.

This ideal is best summarised by a quote from Tod Papageorge (13).

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough.”

See – Philip Jones Griffiths – An Engaged Observer

Contextualisation

The third principle flows from the second. Jones Griffiths points out that documentary images must be properly contextualised. His example is that a picture of a starving child is just that, it doesn’t mean anything. The photographer must provide the context, why is this child starving? what events led to this point? who is depriving him of food? Jones Griffiths believes that this can only be done by combining photographs with text, he argues that we live in a literal society so words are an essential element of photographic story telling.

See – Captions and Other Words in Photo Narrative and Phillip Jones Griffiths and the Use of Captions, Cutlines and Other text in Vietnam Inc.

Respecting the Subject Through the Quality of the Image

For the final principle I will refer back to the second part of the Freedman quotation. Understanding the subject is not enough, we must use whatever skills we possess to bring beauty to the construction and execution of the photographs. Exhibit one to support the case for this principle can be found in the work of Josef Koudelka (4) who has championed isolated and suppressed communities for much of his career and who makes these marginalised people important, human and valuable by the art and technical excellence that he brings to every one of his pictures.

See – Josef Koudelka – Wall and The Role of Olive Trees in Koudelka’s Wall

The Concept

Choice of Subject

It was always going to be important to select a subject that I already, at least in part understood, I felt that my classmate, Adam Newsome, had been so successful with his assignment 4 on IEDs (Adam’s Assignment) (5) because he had based it on a subject with which he was already intimate. This intimacy allowed him to explore and document the subject in real depth and to offer the audience an unique viewpoint.

I chose to look at my own childhood and the village in which I grew up.

Parallel Timelines

Having looked at a wide range of narratives and photo stories I wanted to develop a story line that had multiple strands. I had connected with Julian Germain’s For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness (3) for many reasons but I especially responded to the idea of combining his “current” photographs with the subject’s own photographic memories, this gave the audience two timelines to follow and the opportunity for juxtaposing past and present. This worked well because Germain gave both sets of pictures equal prominence and therefore equal value, there was no suggestion that because the subject’s photos were amateur ‘snaps” that they should be treated with any less respect.

To enable me to introduce multiple timelines to my narrative I decided to base part of the story on the writings of George Sturt who lived in “my” village between 1891 and his death in 1927. Sturt was not a typical man of his times, a self confessed socialist who was also a business owner and employer and who saw his employees as people and friends. A number of his books are heralded as classics but his most moving works are a trilogy of books (6), (7), (8), based on conversations with his gardener whom he calls Bettesworth. Bettesworth, or Fred Grover, was an old man when Sturt first employed him and the stories of his life in a tiny Surrey hamlet tell the story of that village from the 1840s until his death in 1905. Sturt’s other book, Change in the Village (10) and his Journals continue to map the evolution of the area until Sturt’s own death.

The concept was to trace the spirit of Fred Grover and to document his path through this landscape and to overlay that with own childhood in the same place. I hoped to find places where Fred and I could meet and ideas upon which we might have agreed or even argued. I aslo wanted to draw on any similarities that I could find between my family history as it related the the village and Grover’s.

From the outset I wanted to use a small number of photographs from Grover’s time and from my family album. This would enable me to not only juxtapose past and present but to also provide visual variety.

Text and Captions

Whilst recognising and accepting that this assignment was about photography it was also clearly set as a magazine article and for that reason alone it needed text to complement the images. My study of the early photo stories had been informative but it was also obvious that this approach is now historic, Life and its competitors have long gone and the Sunday magazines, National Geographic and specialist magazines that are image heavy such as travel magazines have a high proportion of text to image. I am sure that there are examples of pure photo stories in magazines but I would more see this to be the province of the photo book or internet slide show.

More importantly I considered whose work had influenced me the most when researching narrative and quickly concluded it was Kodelka’s WallJones Griffiths’ Vientnam Inc and Lam’s Abandoned Futures. Each of these books are heavily reliant on the written word to contextualise the photographs.

It also seemed relevant that as I would be researching the subject matter in some depth part of the story would only be told effectively by combining words with the photographs. I made the decision to format the story as if it was to be published in a magazine but to adopt a text / picture mix similar to Jones Griffiths.

Appropriation

The use of old photographs would already introduce an element of appropriation to the project but I was also keen to try and link the modern photographs with the past by using quotes from George Sturt’s books as captions. This approach also linked this assignment back to assignment 3 and my research into Anna Fox and Victor Burgin.

Other Influences

Different photographers and writers influenced different parts of the assignment.

Joachim Brohm and the Bechers influenced the way I approached a double page spread typology of cottages and other buildings that I knew as a child and that Grover would have known.

I researched a number of different views on how a photo story should be created and took forward ideas from Harold Evans’ Pictures on Page (11) regarding layouts and the relationship between pots and text although there was, of course the need, to translate the ideas from broadsheet to a smaller format. His ideas on how to build a story are invaluable an, being a newspaper man, he likes words so further justified my essay writing. Equally useful was Derek Birdsall’s Notes on Book Design (12), his ideas on how to layout a page were inspiration even though I know that I fell way short of his high standards.

My general background research is summarised in my post Narrative andI endeavoured to carry forward that research into this assignment.

Overall my strongest influences were the photo journalists such as Jones Griffiths, who I have already mentioned, Stuart Freedman, Chris Steele-Perkins, and Eugene W. Smith (for Minamata rather than his work for Life Magazine). In each case these men talk about and follow the principles I have discussed above. Quite clearly they are usually documenting subjects of world importance and I had no such subject in leafy Surrey and their technical excellence is way beyond my limited skills but their real influence on me was to set a pace for the assignment that allowed me to become absorbed in my subject and think through the photographs I wanted and how I wanted to use them.

The Process

Developing the Concept

The concept was developed in parallel with the research described in Narrative but, even before I started with OCA, I was planning a project to look at the journeys of William Cobbett or the writings of George Sturt. Partly because they were both local men and partly because they wrote about the countryside  I love and rural issues which are important to me and that always take a back seat in our urban dominated political landscape. However, I realised that the scale of the research required to deal with Cobbett was inappropriate for a single assignment and I also wanted to bring a personal element to the work and that would have been harder to achieve with Cobbett.

I felt that I already had a number of personal connections with George Sturt. My father had collected his books and as another passionate socialist shared many of Sturt’s views about the treatment of the rural poor. I had walked past his house everyday on my way to school and knew all of the places he wrote about but, more to the point, I knew these places not as a visiting student but as someone who had grown up in the lanes, fields and commons that he describes. His countryside was my countryside and it was this shared landscape that I mots wanted to explore.

Research

The first step was to re-read Sturt’s books and as I did this I formed a strong affinity with Fred Grover who had lived in a tiny cottage a few hundred yards from where I grew up, moving there around a hundred years before I was born. Sturt’s conversations with his old gardener revealed a complex life hidden behind the simple and stereotypical facade of the Surrey labourer and my copious notes centred around the important moments in Gover’s and, his wife, Lucy’s lives. His war service in the Crimea,  the enclosure of the common, the birth and death of their children, Lucy’s decline as her epilepsy worsened, the shadow of the workhouse and destitution that was the end of the road for so many of the rural poor.

Each strand opened up new avenues of research including:

  • Roger Fenton and his Crimean War photography, specifically searching on-line libraries for a photograph of the men of Grover’s regiment. I had looked at Fenton’s still life work during assignment 4 so it was interesting to look at a different aspect of his career.
  • Farnham Museum, who were most helpful with searching their photographic archives for pictures of the 19th century village, Sturt’s house, Grover’s cottage and, after much searching, a single photo of Fred Grover himself talked by George Sturt.
  • Simon Fairlie’s “A Short History of Enclosure in Britain” (15) was invaluable and provided much needed historic context and that helped explain Sturt’s thoughts on the matter.
  • I met and talked to Wendy Maddox, who co-incedentially had been taught by my Father at The Bourne School in the late 1940’s, and who is an amateur but dedicated historical researcher who has carried out extensive work on the history of the village and specifically on the old graveyard. She was part of the team who identified Fred and Lucy Grover’s unmarked graves. The results of some of this research can be found on The Bourne Conservation Society website (16)

Photography

It is not really appropriate to describe my photography trips as shoots. Over a period of nearly three months I kept visiting the village, walking through different areas, talking to the people I met and taking photographs that seemed to capture the village I remembered. My aim was to find Grover’s spirit or part of my own history so other than starting my walks from obvious landmarks such as his cottage, Sturt’s house, the houses where I had lived, the school or the pub I did not plan shoots.

Over time I began to find themes and that invested my work with a little more purpose. I began to form an idea of wanting an element of typology in the final piece and a lot of my walks were in search of cottages that had been the homes of the original squatters who inhabited the village.

A number of my walks were on, what had been the common land, and is now either part of Frensham Common which is managed by the National Trust or The Bourne Woods which are owned by the RSPB and has become quite well know for its staring role in films such as Gladiator and Robin Hood.

My photographic technique changed significantly during this time as a heavy DSLR and camera bag became too restrictive and, given I was often photographing people’s home from the lane in front of their house, it also felt too invasive. Instead I started carrying a mirror-less Fuji XT-1 and this liberated my approach and led to, what seemed, simpler and more appropriate compositions.

Sources

 Books

(3) Germain, Julian (2005) For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness. Gottingen: Steidl MACK (Reviewed o line via a combination of Julian Germain’s web site – http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/foreveryminute.php and the MACK web site – http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/16-For-every-minute-you-are-angry-you-lose-sixty-seconds-of-happiness.html

(4) Koudelka, Josef. (2013) Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes 2008 – 2012. New York: Aperture

(6) Sturt, George. (1902) The Bettesworth Book: 1978 Edition, a facsimile of the second edition published in 1902. Firle: Caliban Books.

(7) Sturt, George. (1907) Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer: 1978 Edition, a facsimile of the second edition published in 1907. Firle: Caliban Books.

(8) Sturt,George (1913) Lucy Bettesworth. London: Duckworth & Co. Sturt, George (1907) Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer. 1978 facsimile of the 1st Edition. Firle, Sussex: Caliban Books

(9) Sturt, George (1912) Change in the Village. 1955 edition. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

(10) Sturt, George (1923) The Wheelwright’s Shop. First paperback edition 1963. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(11) Evans, Harold. (1979) Pictures on a Page: Photo-journalism, Graphics and Picture Editing. London: Book Club Associates.

(12) Birdsall, Derek. (2004) Notes on Book Design. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Internet

(1) Freedman, Stuart. (2010) Ethics and Photojournalism – http://www.epuk.org/The-Curve/952/ethics-and-photojournalism

(2)  Photo Histories (August 2014) – Philip Jones Griffiths – http://www.photohistories.com/interviews/23/philip-jones-griffiths

(5) Newsome, Adam. (2014) IEDs – https://adamnewsome.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/level-1-art-of-photography-assignment-4/

(13) Foto8. Mark Durden Interview with Tod Papageorge – http://www.foto8.com/live/tod-papageorge-interview/

(14) Smith, W. Eugene and Smith, Aileen M (1971) Minamata vs. Chisso Corporation – Magnum Photography site – http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDDWZXTR

(15) Fairlie, Simon (2009) A Short History of Enclosure in Britain. First Published in The Land Magazine – http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain

(16) The Bourne Conservation Society – http://www.bourneconservation.org.uk/index.htm

Photography as Archeology

Fig. 01 The Old Dairy Weydon - 1/100 at F/18, ISO 1,000

Fig. 01 The Old Dairy Weydon – 1/100 at F/18, ISO 1,000

For 6,000 years we have built structures, places to live, to keep us safe, to work, to store the product of our labours, to preserve our ideas or to give structure to our beliefs, to remember our ancestors and commemorate our successes. For much of that time we have made durable things, weapons for hunting, attack or defence, tools to ease our labours, vehicles to transport goods and people, and for a myriad of other purposes. Since the first farmers stopped following the game herds and selected a place to settle in the landscape humans have changed that landscape by collecting raw materials, by farming, by building and by scattering the things we made.

The things we build start with clear structures and purposes but as civilisations evolve our creations lose their purpose and their structure. Nature is always waiting to reclaim every element of every thing we make. We might stave her off for a few years, a few generations or a millennium but eventually she degrades and degenerates everything. Some objects settle into the landscape over time and we come to terms with their demise to such an extent that, as ruins, they define or are thought to beautify the greater place in which they stand but others sit defiantly ugly, never able to gracefully decay, remaining as eyesores, a blot on the landscape. Some temporarily find new life but time will tell and the greatest of our achievements eventually become dust.

Archeologists seek out these abandoned structures and objects to document their existence and to study their context before nature removes their trace. We mostly associated this science with the distant past, the discovery of something that is lost, the process of putting flesh onto the bones of history but all around us there are structures and things in the early stages of their demise, the abandoned buildings and discarded objects of the recent past that might become the archeology of the future but more often are cleared to make way for the next great idea. The documentation of these recent relics can be as compelling as an episode of Time Team, in each building or discarded object there is the history of people, of failed dreams and social change, of seismic shifts in our politics, habits and desires.

Assignment 5 has taken me back to the houses, villages, heaths and woodlands of my childhood and in searching for the past I have found shadows of my generation and the generations that preceded me. I have captured some of these with my camera.

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Photographically these objects offer interesting subjects but I find myself torn between using the saturated colours that I love, black and white graphic representations that remove the distraction of colour or desaturated and muted colours that might offer the best of both worlds. I was mildly critical of Tong Lam’s Abandoned Futures because I felt there were too many inconsistencies in his style and that this made his narratives slightly disjointed and I envy the certainty of style that can been seen in the work of Stephen Shore or Josef Koudelka who, I assume, never question whether to change their colour palette or, in Koudelka’s case, lack of colour.

There are examples of colour and monochrome being used together in a single presentation, David Bailey worked in both mediums and his Stardust exhibition showed his colour and black and white work, if not side by side, at least in close proximity. Irving Penn’s Still life includes examples of both and there is the sense that he moved freely between them. Most recently I visited Russell Squires’ Landings Exhibition where panoramic landscape photos in colour alternate with square format, black and white, intimate landscapes. These examples don’t necessarily set any precedents and the reasons that each artist mixed media in this way might need to be more carefully considered at some later date. At this stage and for these photos from around Farnham, I am switching between desaturated colour and black and white based on the approach that best suited each specific subject. A few months ago I conducted a similar study in Turks and Caicos and selected saturated colour as the approach that best suited the subjects and the warm Caribbean light. I may subsequently review this work and criticise myself for the lack of a consistent style.

Exercise 32 Cloudy Weather and Rain

This is a multi part exercise. In part one we are asked to look at how exposure changes between sunlight and shadow caused by cloud. the following series of photographs show this change in a landscape.

Fig 01 Clouded Over - 1/125 at f14, - .67 stops, ISO 100

Fig 01 Cloud – 1/125 at f14, – .67 stops, ISO 100

Fig.02 Sun Breaking Through - 1/160 at f/14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig.02 Sun Breaking Through – 1/160 at f/14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Sun - 1/200 at f14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Sun – 1/200 at f14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Shade 5 hours later - 1/60 at f/16, -.67 stops, ISO 110

Fig. 04 Shade 5 hours later – 1/60 at f/16, -.67 stops, ISO 110

This part of the exercise shows that cloud cover, even on a sunny day, significantly impacts exposure. There is a 2 stop difference between the same scene lit with full sun and when the sun is covered by cloud. There is a further 3 stop difference between shade at 11 am and shade at 5 pm. The dark marks in the sky in fig. 04 are swallows.

The third part of the exercise asks us to take photographs in the rain.

DSC_7627

Fig. 06 Rain in the Distance  1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

DSC_7636

Fig. 07 Rain in the Distance 1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 100

Fig. 08 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Fig. 08 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 4000

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 4000

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 900

Fig. 10 Raining 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 900

Fig. 05 1/125 at f/8, ISO 720

Fig. 11 Puddles After Rain 1/125 at f/8, ISO 720

Fig. 05 1/125 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 12 Puddles After Rain 1/125 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 13 Umbrellas 1/125 at f/9, ISO 450

Fig. 13 Umbrellas 1/125 at f/9, ISO 450

The second part of the exercise is pending a dull day.

 

Exercise 31(b) Variety with a Low Sun

Continuing with exercise 31, variety with a  low sun, this post concentrates on back lighting and edge lighting.

Over a few evenings in slightly different locations I was able to find a variety of backlit landscape subjects.

Fig. 01 1/180 at f6.7 less 1/2 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 01 1/180 at f6.7 less 1/2 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 02 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 stop, ISO 560

Fig. 02 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 stop, ISO 560

Both fig. 1 and fig 2 are variations on back lighting. Fig 1 is nearly directly into the sun whereas fig. 2 has the sun on the right hand side and just above the frame so the lighting changes across the picture. They are quite different in terms of atmosphere with the first picture being about shapes and tones whereas, in the second picture I am trying to capture the peaceful warm light of a summer’s evening.

1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 a stop, ISO 250

Fig. 03 – 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 a stop, ISO 250

1/60 at f/13 less 1/5 stop, ISO 160

Fig. 04 – 1/60 at f/13 less 1/5 stop, ISO 160

1/180 at f 6.7 less 1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 05 – 1/180 at f 6.7 less 1/5 stop, ISO 100

Figs. 3,4 and 5 are in search of the elusive edge lighting which is undoubtably the hardest to find in a landscape. I think that fig. 3 comes nearest.

 

Exercise 31(a) Variety with a Low Sun

Most of the exercises in this part of the course are a challenge, not because of the subject matter or the exercise but because of the vagaries of the British weather and having the right conditions coinciding with the time available to undertake the exercise. It doesn’t help trying to undertake them in mid-June when dawn and dusk are so far apart and at pretty unsociable times of the day.

This exercise is designed to show the advantages of shooting when the sun is low. We are asked to collect a set of pictures that exhibit front, side, back and edge lighting.

I am dividing my results across two posts. This post focusses on back, front and side lit subjects in a single landscape, Waverley Abbey in Surrey.

The title of the exercise includes the word “variety” so I have taken a number of field trips on different evenings and experimented with different subjects. I am keeping my options open on assignment 4 and might work with natural light so I want to use this exercise to try out techniques.

Fig. 01 Pond at Waverley - HDR processed using HDR Efex Pro 2 from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 01 Pond at Waverley – HDR processed using HDR Efex Pro 2 from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 01 is a HDR image. I have been reading Michael Freeman’s helpful book, Capturing Light *(1) and have also read his blog posts on the subject of HDR. (For some reason Safari cannot find The Freeman View blog today but I found an article by Freeman on the Manfrotto site here)* (2).  I subscribe to his view that this is a technique that should not be ignored solely on the grounds that it is often seen in its most extreme forms. I am quite relaxed about using HDR when working with an image that contains a very wide tonal range but, before reading Freeman’s advice I either used HDR Efex Pro 2 which is the software I used for Fig . 01 or processed PSD files in Photoshop Merge to HDR Pro.

Fig. 02 Pond at Waverley - HDR processed using Merge to HDR pro and ACR from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 02 Pond at Waverley – HDR processed using Merge to HDR pro and ACR from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Freeman, in Capturing light recommends a different approach which can be summarised as using TIFF files, merged using HDR Pro, converted to 32bit and then post processed in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I have tried this approach in Fig. 02. In both images the intent is to avoid the “HDR look” which Freeman calls an “illustration” and to maintain a more photographic look.

I think Freeman’s technique gave me slightly more control over the contrast and I was able to recover more vibrant shadows. As part of understanding light I have been collecting books of impressionist paintings from our local charity shops. Within pretending be to be an art connoisseur it appears to me that the impressionists had a particular way of introducing highlights into their paintings that glister and shimmer. I was originally considering basing assignment 4 on this idea and so have some of these paintings in my mind. In fig 2 the way the light is reflecting off the pond and the water lilies reminds me of some of Pissarro’s paintings and is an effect I would like to explore more deeply.

Fig. 01 and 02 are one approach to dealing with the challenges of backlit subjects. the sun is behind the trees in the background to the right.

The next set included below are of the same subject, a tree in the same location.

Fig. 01 Front Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Front Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 02  Front Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Front Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 3 and 4 are both front lit. The sun is approximately behind me. I have under exposed by 1/2 a stop to increase the saturation and made minor adjustments to the contrast with a slight “S” curve in photoshop. The light works well in both these images and fig. 4 is helped by the dark clouds that had begun to build.

Fig. 03 Side Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 05 Side Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Side Lit - 1/60 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 110

Fig. 06 Side Lit – 1/60 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 110

Figs 5 and 6 are both side lit but from slightly different angles. Like 3 & 4 they are 1/2 stop underexposed and with a slight “S” curve applied in Photoshop.

The back lit images of the lone tree were failures.

I had set out to find a lone tree and recalling this one at Waverley thought it might make a good subject. However, I was working too early in the evening to get a soft evening light for the backlit versions and as the sun started to get into the right position there was too much cloud. I need to try this again on another evening.

Whilst researching something quite unrelated I came across a series of photos taken by Simon Norfolk *(3) who is better known for his work in war zones. On his website there is a small set of photos taken at Blenheim Palace of oaks in the park.

Fig. 07 Blenheim Palace by Simon Norfolk

Fig. 07 Blenheim Palace by Simon Norfolk

These appear to be taken at dawn rather than dusk as there is mist in the background; he has obviously used artificial light on the trees.

I am not sure what type of lighting he would have used but I am very taken by these images and want to attempt this technique.

The only equipment that I can use are two hot-shoe soft boxes along with 3 flash guns and it will be interesting to see whether they cast enough light. I will have to use trial and error to get the exposure right as he may have stopped down the exposure and boosted up the lights to get this effect. Joe McNally *(4) uses this technique a lot for outdoor portraits.

It is possible that I might need to try the technique with smaller trees but this would be a great technique to master and used for still life and portraits as well as landscape.

Sources

Books

(1) Freeman, Michael (2013) Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography. Lewes: Ilex.

(4) McNally, Joe. (2009) The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes. Berkeley: New Riders.

Internet

(2) Manfrotto School of Excellence. Michael Freeman article on HDR processing. http://www.manfrottoschoolofxcellence.com/2011/06/michael-freeman-night-time-hdr-and-definitely-a-tripod/#.U6MYVhbv5Gw

(3) Norfolk, Simon. Official Website http://www.simonnorfolk.com

Assignment 3 Self Assessment

Fig. 01 Pescara - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 720

Fig. 01 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 720

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

The choice of subject created a number of technical challenges. Firstly, the project became an exercise in low light photography; it was essential to have as deep DoF as possible to have both the mannequins and the reflections of the street in focus but because I was photographing from the street into shop interiors and through glass covered with reflections, light levels were usually low.

In any situation where low light is an issue there is the option of using a tripod and longer exposures but this has to be weighed against loss of spontaneity and introducing movement blur. Movement blur would not have been a problem in this instance but it was not practical to use a tripod on, often crowded, pavements and spontaneity was essential.

The end result is that a lot of the photographs were taken with a high ISO. I am not particularly concerned about this, many of the set are quite moody and melancholy and any noticeable noise has only added to that.

In summary, at a technical level I feel that I generally rose to these challenges with a few of the images having the desired mix of saturated colours and acceptable noise levels.

The second challenge was compositional. There was a limited choice in viewpoints that enabled me to frame the mannequins, capture reflections and avoid including myself in the frame. This meant that I ran the risk of capturing 16 similar images. There are too many right to left shots and, in this regard, a lack of variety.

Since looking at William Eggelston I have been focussed on improving my observational skills and I believe that a number of these images are based on having seen and captured small details that strengthen the photographs. There is clearly a lot more work needed to refine those skills but I believe assignment 3 is a step forward in this area.

Quality of Outcome

This submission was the end result of, what felt like, a long process. I started looking at the change in the high street being brought about by the opening of large indoor shopping centres resulting in the high street of many towns comprising of small, often immigrant, businesses, charity shops and betting shops. However, when I moved from Basingstoke and Aldershot to look at Guildford the model didn’t hold up because the town is comparatively wealthy and the high street is still full of mainstream fashion names. In effect Guildford High Street is more akin to a large shopping centre than to a high street. This started me thinking about mannequins and how they are created as body shape role models and about fashion in general with its endless new lines that promote cheap “disposable” clothing and waste.

I found the compositional opportunities of the mannequins and reflections and the multiple layers of light visually exciting but wanted a way to set these, hopefully attractive, images against the excesses of a hedonistic and self obsessed industry. Anna Fox’s idea of using relevant quotations from the industry she was critiquing to put her photos in context in Workstations was the perfect answer so, quite late in the day, I adopted that approach.

It is for others to judge whether this has come together to achieve the assessment criteria points but I feel that it has for most of the images. There are still one or two that I am not convinced about and I may yet make some changes. I was interested in Anna Fox’s point that one has to allow enough time between capture, edit and presentation but on the other hand every time I look at the set there is another image that I am not convinced about but I need to move on from this project. She also made a strong point about the role of the curator and I can see how having an independent but skilled review by another person would improve selection.

Demonstration of Creativity

This is the hardest area to self access, I’m not even sure what creativity really is and certainly find it hard to measure. I know that I have had to think deeply on how to complete this assignment, I had to work through several processes and the project demanded experimentation, testing, re-evaluation and re-positioning several times. I believe that it is a step forward for me and a move away from anything I have tried before. My main concern is that a lot of images rely on other people’s creativity such as mannequin artists, photographers and window dressers so how much of me is in there is hard to judge.

Context

The research and reflection required by this course is one of its great benefits. I have enjoyed looking for inspiration, reading to gain understanding, following leads and cross references and writing up my thoughts. Having spent many years in my commercial career writing for specific audiences it is satisfying to be writing for myself both in terms of the pleasure of writing and in building  a record of my thoughts.

 

 

Assignment 3 The Reality and Illusion of Mannequins

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Background and Influences

The aim of Assignment 3 is to show a command of colour in photography. To show this command we are asked to take a series of pictures that exhibit:

  • harmony through complimentary colours;
  • harmony through similar colours;
  • colour contrast;
  • colour accent.

In addition to this brief I wanted to build a series of pictures that challenged me at a creative and technical level and that felt progressional. It is nearly five months since I finished assignment 2 and, in that time, the main focus has been to start studying the evolution of colour photography from William Eggleston in the USA through to Martin Parr in Britain. I have discussed these influences in a separate post (here) and each of the studied artists is separately discussed elsewhere in this blog. (EgglestonShoreParr – Ray-Jones and Parr). I also researched a group of Magnum photographers to understand how they dealt with reflections and, in some cases mannequins (here).

The study of contemporary colour photography is ongoing with many other paths to explore but I have established a simple list of attributes that stand out for me in the work of Eggleston, Shore, Vergara, Parr, Fox and others and that I want to bring to my work:

  • photography is communication, say something;
  • explore strong, saturated colours;
  • have the freedom to use colour in a bold & uninhibited way;
  • work in sets or series and don’t chase single spectacular images;
  • recognise the photographic potential in the banal and in everyday life;
  • remember that every part of the frame has a part to play in composition;
  • create layers of detail that ask the viewer to pause and look more closely;
  • use depth of field to fill the frame in terms of depth as well as vertically and horizontally.

Beyond these general points I am interested in the specific technique of daylight flash or artificial lighting that are notable features of Martin Parr’s and Anna Fox’s work. It brings an additional layer of depth to an image by creating a distinction of light between foreground and background. My choice of subject matter in assignment 3 did not lend itself to this idea so I am exploring it as a personal project (here) with the view to devleoping it in a later assignment.

Tutor feedback on assignment 2 suggested that I could have focussed on developing the theme of abandonment and decay and I have noted several tutor’s comments on the OCA forum about using assignments to create cohesive sets of photographs. In assignment 2 I put achieving the list of design elements ahead of developing a cohesive series of images and feel the submission was weakened by that decision. In this assignment I have come nearer to putting the images and the cohesion of the set first.

Finally I like the idea that Anna Fox used in Workstations of collecting text and images about a single subject and (only) bringing them together in the final edit. Workstations is a collection of photographs taken in offices in the post industrial era of the Margret Thatcher premiership. Fox is quite clear that the photos are a critique of the Thatcher-influenced society but by using quotations from various sources she simultaneously underlines the message of the picture and adds an element of satire and humour. I have chosen to use this idea in assignment 3 and, without any specific pictures in mind, have collected quotations about fashion and by fashionistas which I have only paired with the photos as I placed them into the final presentation.

Mannequins

The mannequin, in its modern form,  started to appear on the high streets of Paris, London and New York in the 1870s and quickly became an essential part of any window display. They have always been much more than an elaborate coat hanger parading the fashionable clothes of the day, but also mimicking the fashionable body shape of their era and appearing in displays that reflect the en-trend topics of the times.

In their day they have been modelled on royalty, film stars, musicians and fashion models; they have been the target of the same campaigners who helped push the American Government into passing the alcohol prohibition laws; there are museums dedicated to them; they star in novels and films; they are an ever present feature of every high street and shopping centre in the developed world.

The Ultimate Role Model

I became intrigued by mannequins when working on my first test shots for assignment 3; shop windows present us with an illusion based on idealised human forms standing behind distorted reflections of the real world so the reality and illusion become interwoven in complex patterns.

From the street we see layer upon layer with varying intensities of lightthe interior of the shop, the mannequins in the window display, the reflections of the street, the shop fronts opposite, and in this mix of interior and exterior, of reflection and reality, of mannequins and people we have the sharp end of a fashion world that uses fibre glass role models to sell clothing designed for super models.

The high street is the public face of an industry employing nearly 1 million people in Britain and contributing more than £21 billion a year to the UK economy and, at the other end of the supply chain, a trade that represents 80% of Bangladesh’s exports? But, behind beautiful mask there is an ugliness.

  • It is an industry built on waste with this season’s lines inevitably destined for next year’s landfill; sustainability and durability are its enemies; fad, whim, self indulgence and disposability its allies.
  • Fast fashion, the rush to bring cheap copies of catwalk designs to the high street, generates a scramble for ever more cost effective supply chains so the rich buying world exploits the poor supply world driving down costs and consuming depleted resources.
  • Sweat shops abound from Asia to the Americas; children, prized for their nibble needlework, make up a substantial part of a workforce housed in unhealthy, dangerous and often deadly factories.
  • Wages in many parts of the world are so low NGOs talk of slave labour.
  • Badly managed farms, being paid the bare minimum for their crop, consume 2,000 litres of water to produce enough cotton to make one t-shirt. A t-shirt that quite probably will be dyed in a factory that blends toxic chemicals with scarce water supplies before discharging poisonous waste, untreated, and often running denim blue, into rivers and oceans.

Closer to home young people are offered abnormal body shapes as desirable, perhaps even essential, so they pursue the “thigh gaps” and “concave stomachs” of unhealthy fashion models who themselves can be suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia or from substance abuse and alcoholism.

This is the background to my short study of mannequins. In layers of direct and reflected light I set out to capture the cocktail of illusion, fantasy, reality, truth and untruth found in shop windows in every high street. Mannequins mindlessly promote a self obsessed, egotistical and hedonistic industry in denial; a global industry under increasing pressure to address fundamental issues of environment, sustainability, ethics and fair trade on one side of the equation and the physical and mental health of consumers on the other.

The Photographs

Layers are the common thread that link the mannequin series . These can be seen as layers of space or layers of light. For example in fig. 01 there is a “real” layer that includes the mannequins and the shop’s lighting, a two dimensional layer comprised of the photograph of the two models and a reflected layer which appears to be behind the photograph but is, in fact, the nearest layer to the camera. The three layers are presented as a photograph “flattened” into a single two dimensional image.

The three spacial layers often have differing intensities of light within them so there are more layers of light than of space and the relationships and interplay between the layers becomes more complex with similar levels of brightness or tone linking across the spacial layers. The reflections often appear as a backdrop as we sub-consciously decode the layers and place them in logical positions; the mannequins and the photograph are placed in front of the building.

The shop window display presents a world that we know to be an illusion but by consistently associating particular brands or styles with a specific fantasy the fashion industry adds data to, what Walter Benjamin called, our “optical unconscious”. We learn these links between brands and social categories so we know that Ralph Lauren represents the polo set, that gentleman farmers wear brown and green checked shirts, that “Twickenham man” wears a Barbour jacket. Having learnt this code we can dress to tell people how we want them to see us and we can de-code the way a stranger dresses so we know how they wish to be viewed. We don’t assume a person in a Ralph Lauren shirt plays polo with Prince William but we know they want us to see them as a person of style and taste who aspires to drink Pimms at Cowdray Park.

These photographs try to express the complex relationship between society and fashion and between reality and illusion by exploring the layers of space and light in shop windows.

"body attitudes bespeak a visual language that is an integral part of visual merchandising" Marsha Bentley Hale Fig. 1 Pescara - 1/125 @ f/11, ISO 1,600

“body attitudes bespeak a visual language that is an integral part of visual merchandising”
Marsha Bentley Hale

Fig. 01 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 1,600 – Colour Accent 

Headless mannequins are often combined with photographs of models to deliver the marketing message. The classic Italian architecture acts as a projection screen for the models and the yellow jacket stands out as an accent in the foreground. The models and the mannequins form a tight central group whose lack of faces allows the ethereal faces of he models to dominate. The tattoo on his right hand looks suspiciously like Margret Thatcher who would be an unlikely, but intriguing, role model for an Italian model.

"we try to use organic fabrics and low impact dyes but we won't do so unless we can achieve a high quality product" Stella McCartney
“we try to use organic fabrics and low impact dyes but we won’t do so unless we can achieve a high quality product”
Stella McCartney

Fig 02 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 220 – Colour Accent

The faceless mannequins and the plaques on the wall of the white shop front create wide-mouthed silent screams while the the crossed highlights suggest a more angelic interpretation.  The beams of light are the accent. The seemingly broken mirror might offer a punctum. This is one example of a number of this series where I have looked for very subtle tonal variations rather than dramatic, bright colour variations.

"the shop mannequin sees endless activity that passes for human existence" British Film Council
“the shop mannequin sees endless activity that passes for human existence”
British Film Council

Fig. 03 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 10,000 – Colour Accent

A summer clad mannequin watches shoppers huddled under a bright umbrella to escape the rain. The translucent turquoise blouse adds to the mysterious layers in this low light photograph. The bright shop’s lights contrast with the darkening street which is lifted by the splash of colour accent from the umbrella.

"there is a sense of movement, a feeling that someone is there" Tanya Ragir - Mannequin Artist
“there is a sense of movement, a feeling that someone is there”
Tanya Ragir – Mannequin Artist

Fig 04 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 450 – Colour Accent

All of the photographs are about mixing reality and fashion but it was difficult to capture real people in a way that worked with the shop displays. In this picture the two photographs and the young women are neatly positioned so each face looks towards the camera. The photographs provide a ghostly presence over the women. The till to the right might be a punctum.

"at each of the six stages to make a garment the negative impacts on the environment are as numerous as they are varied" Bangalore University
“at each of the six stages to make a garment the negative impacts on the environment are as numerous as they are varied”
Bangalore University

Fig.05 Godalming – 1/125 at f/13, ISO 640 – Colour Contrast

Colour contrast between the blue sky, signs and dresses with the red brick buildings on a perfect spring day, in a perfect Surrey dormitory town where the mannequins and models project the classic Surrey “yummy mummy” look onto the quaint, old, town centre shop fronts. The target market for these type of clothes are almost certainly blissfully oblivious of how cotton dresses are produced. As a photograph this is one of a few where the angles, lines and perspective create a sense of movement so we could be passing Godalming on a train. The small figure top right seems to be perched on a window sill looking down on us.

"black is modest and arrogant at the same time, it says I don't bother you - don't bother me" Yohiji Yamamoto
“black is modest and arrogant at the same time, it says I don’t bother you – don’t bother me”
Yohiji Yamamoto

Fig. 06 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 6,400 – Colour Contrast

Contrast is between the muted greys, greens and blacks with the bright strip of yellow light from the shop’s interior on a wet day in Pescara. Warm colours dominate the centre and contrast with the many cool colours and tones in the rest of the image. . The perfect mannequins dressed with elegant style in summer dresses contrast the woman wrapped up against the unseasonal spring rain. In addition to the contrasts there is a strong sense of left to right movement created by the perspective and the lines and the women’s direction of travel.

"you know she has been touched by human hand and interpreted by human feelings" Cyril Peck - Mannequin Artist
“you know she has been touched by human hand and interpreted by human feelings”
Cyril Peck – Mannequin Artist

Fig. 07 Guildford – 1/125 at f/8, ISO 1,100 – Colour Contrast

One of the simplest pictures with only a hint of reflection. Blue, pick and yellows are all strongly contrasting. The psychology  of window displays is complex and could be a study in its own right. There are complete mannequins, headless mannequins limbless mannequins, mannequins set in the context of photographs of models, faces with personality, featureless faces and everything in between. Most designers seem to be de-personlising their models yet every now and again there are “human” touches like these two mannequins holding each other’s stylised hands.

"a cosmos of heavenly bodies set in a complex orbit" Prada
“a cosmos of heavenly bodies set in a complex orbit”
Prada

Fig . 08 Citta S’Angelo – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 560 – Colour Contrast

The very bright sunlight has helped create an ethereal scene where it is difficult to distinguish between mannequins and humans and to de-cipher the various layers. The main contrast is between blue and orange but the violet/purple is so strong it creates tension with all the other colours. I think this adds to the other-world feeling. The punctum for me is the silhouette of the boy on his scooter under the eye of the taller silhouette who might be human or mannequin.

"only in an imaginary world can the unexpected and irrational intertwine with spontaneity and naturalness" Dolce and Gabbana
“only in an imaginary world can the unexpected and irrational intertwine with spontaneity and naturalness”
Dolce and Gabbana

Fig. 09 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 800 – Complimentary Colours

The greens to the left blend into the reds on the right in a gentle way so the combination of the elderly couple, the empty road, the angle of the photographed model and the two mannequins create a relaxed, Sunday morning (it wasn’t) feel to the composition. This particular shop had large plate glass windows providing sharp reflections and I picked this one partly because of the human couple and partly because everything seems to fit so perfectly together. A “comfort food” sort of photograph.

"avoid the masculinity problem by producing mannequins that are abstract or even completely headless" The Mannequin Mystique
“avoid the masculinity problem by producing mannequins that are abstract or even completely headless”
The Mannequin Mystique

Fig. 10 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 10,000 – Complimentary Colours

It was important to me to explore less obvious colours and this is one of a small number of my selected images that are predominantly monochrome. I was looking for tonal relationships away from yellow/blue or green/red and this shot is about these subtleties. The harmony is between the greys and brown/oranges. The composition has a lot of the features I was seeking; the bicycle, the people with umbrellas and the suited mannequin are all in stark contrast with the seemingly incongruous matching bag and shoes.

"they must convey idealised images of ourselves, what we aspire to rather than what we are" Fashion Institute of Technology
“they must convey idealised images of ourselves, what we aspire to rather than what we are”
Fashion Institute of Technology

Fig. 11 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 450 – Complimentary Colours

For many years the fashion industry has identified minority sports that few shoppers can or even want to engage in but the private school exclusivity of polo, sailing, rugby and rowing make them attractive as statements of good taste or breeding or manliness. The pale greens and pinks work well together and the interior and exterior combine to create lines of movement from the background into the foreground which seems to work especially well with the sporting theme. The punctum for me is “oars 21% off” – who wants oars and, if they did why would they buy them from a fashion boutique? why 21% not 20% ?.

"able to claim a unique duality in its brand positioning pairing modernity and heritage" Gucci
“able to claim a unique duality in its brand positioning pairing modernity and heritage”
Gucci

Fig. 12 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 500 – Complimentary Colours

One of my favourites. with the Modigliani head positioned between the gold clock and the Body Shop sign staring, with no little attitude, into the far distance. The complimentary colours are the red/orange bricks and the blue sky but they are really just a background to the white model in the black dress which are equally complimentary. After all the headless mannequins and the ones with featureless faces this one is creatively sculptured. As often is the case there is also a sense of movement created by the camera angle and the receding perspective.

"androgyny and ethnic diversity rule the creative landscape" Rootstien - Mannequin Manufacturer
“androgyny and ethnic diversity rule the creative landscape”
Rootstien – Mannequin Manufacturer

Fig. 13 Guildford –  1/125 at f/11, ISO 1,100 – Similar Colours

This photographs is in yellow to brown tones and is representative of a common window display where the monochrome and severe lines of thin mannequin are softened by the warm colours of the photographed models. The yellow tape on the scaffolding creates interesting highlights.

"unique mix of innovative audacity and legendary Italian quailty" Gucci
“unique mix of innovative audacity and legendary Italian quailty”
Gucci

Fig. 14 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 450 – Similar Colours

I used shop mirrors in a lot of photographs but this was the one that worked the best. The reflection of the piazza is mysterious to the right and left but with window-like clarity in the mirror which also increases our view of the mannequin. The position of the head, just on the skyline, was important to allow her lips to become a focal point. I like the way the street lamp on the right seems large enough to be a large tower. I find a lot of the interest in many of these images is the way in which the reflections can distort scale and shapes which helps my objective of asking viewers to linger and study the image.

"available in male, female or child sizes and any skin colour" Red Beau Mannequins
“available in male, female or child sizes and any skin colour”
Red Beau Mannequins

Fig. 15 Guildford – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 320 – Similar Colours

All the colours are from the quadrant of pink through to yellow and are therefore harmonious. I wanted the photo of the child to tower over the two mannequins which might have been selected to offer ethnic diversity. The old houses opposite create a neutral backdrop.

"models are there to look like mannequins not real people" Grace Jones
“models are there to look like mannequins not real people”
Grace Jones

Fig. 16 Pescara – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 11,000 – Similar Colours

This nearly monochrome image works very well for me. If it is possible to have multiple punctums  there could be two here with the group sitting at the street cafe to the left and the ice cream tricycle to the right and the way that both are framed by the model. I very consciously framed the model to exclude her face as I wanted to reduce her human presence to reflect the idea that a large black and white photograph is probably the cheapest mannequin you can buy so her role is as a mannequin not a woman.

Photography Notes

The subject matter and my approach posed a number of technical challenges. It was essential to use deep DoF to bring out the detail in all the available layers and typically I was photographing from a light place into a dark place through glass and reflections. On the rare occasions when there was a little more light, I under-exposed by 1/3 of a stop to help saturate the colours. The combined result was an exercise in low light photography and I was regularly using high ISOs to get the result I wanted. This doesn’t over-concern me as the images still work at 10 x 8 and whilst a few are grainy this might increase the mystery of the layers. I have post processed to maximise contrast and saturation either by using curves in Photoshop or pro-contrast in Color Efex Pro 4, but I didn’t want the images to look “over-processed” and hope my changes were within the realms of a “light touch”.

I looked at photos of reflections taken by Magnum photographers (here) and this taught me a lot about angles and on how to photograph through glass. I had no wish to include myself in any pictures so straight on (90 degrees) was usually a poor option, 45 degrees or less worked well but very few shots were successful when the “real” street as opposed to the “reflected” street came into the frame. Framing was often quite time consuming as I had to train my eyes to see all the layers at once and frame to combine the shop interiors and the exteriors effectively.

The best results were on days when it was bright enough to have a reasonable difference in the strength of light between the sunnier and shadier sides of the street. The best reflections were obviously achieved looking at the reflections of the sunny side in windows of the shady side. However, on one shoot in Italy the sun was so bright the contrast became too great and very few of the pictures worked (fig. 08 above is one of the few that I think did). Some of best layering effects came when the day was dull and the shop lights started to play a role. I undertook one shoot in an indoor shopping centre in Pescara Nord but there tended to be brighter lights in the shop windows than in the aisles and the reflections were minimal.

I have strayed some distance from the brief both in terms of not varying the subject matter, not creating movement diagrams and not using filters. In my opinion none of these ideas would have added value to what I was trying to achieve but I look forward to hearing my tutor’s views on the matter.

Links to Blog Posts for the Development of Assignment 3

Planning Assignment 3 with Tony Ray-Jones & Martin Parr

Developing Assignment 3

Evolving Assignment 3 – Mannequins

Researching Assignment 3 – Practitioners

Test Shots and More Thoughts for Assignment 3

Steal Like an Artist

Assignment 3 Contact Sheets

Sources

Photographer sources are detailed under each of the blog posts listed above. The following are a list of internet sources that I researched to provide background to the text.

Academia.edu – Fashion Industry and Media Today: The Negative Impact on Society by Ali Malik Al-Azzawi – www.academia.edu/1172572/Fashion_Industry_and_Media_Today_The_Negative_Impact_on_Society

The Daily Record – Damaging effect catwalk models are having on young women – www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion-beauty/damaging-effect-catwalk-models-having-1729385

Greenpeace International – Dirty Laundry: Unravelling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China – www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/dirty-laundry/

Ecologist – Fashion’s Impact on the Earth by Safia Minney – www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/clothing/1055961/safia_minney_fashions_impact_on_the_earth.html

Mannequin Madness – The Mannequin Mystique by Emily and Per Ola dAulaire – mannequinmadness.wordpress.com/the-history-of-mannequin/

Not Just a Label – The Slow Fashion Movement: reversing environmental damage by Maureen Dickson, Carlotta Cataldi & Crystal Grover – www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/the_slow_fashion_movement

The Guardian – Britain’s rag trade revival – www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/feb/15/britains-rag-trade-revival-marks-and-spencer

The Guardian – Britain’s fashion industry now worth nearly £21bn a year, report reveals by Imogen Fox – www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/15/british-fashion-industry-report-business

The Guardian – To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the World? by Lucy Siegle – book review – www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jun/12/to-die-for-lucy-siegle-review

Unicef – Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse – www.unicef.org/protection/57929_55452.html

Experimenting with Truth and Stitching

 

Fig. 1 Austin Reed Stitched - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 360. 24 to 70mm lens at 62mm

Fig. 1 Austin Reed Stitched – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 360. 24 to 70mm lens at 62mm

Anna Fox * (1) shared a number of her techniques with the OCA students who attended the Audience with Anna Fox last week. I was interested in the idea of stitching together a number of pictures of the same place to create what Anna called a “memory of a place over time”. She is using this technique in a current project about a town in France and I came away from the talk keen to experiment with it.

The technique is to use a static camera and lighting set up to capture a series of photos over a period of time in exactly the same place and in the same lighting conditions. She then selects parts of individual pictures and stitches them together to form a single image. This technique enables the photographer to select a number of cameos that, when fitted together, describe events that occurred over time in the chosen location.

Whilst working on editing pictures for my assignment 3 about mannequins I recognised that I had a sequence of photos that might be interesting to experiment with. I was not using a tripod and was not controlling the lighting conditions so this is not the idea set to work with but I was standing in the same place for a few minutes taking a series of pictures of people walling in front of Austin Reed in Guildford.

Emboldened by Steal Like an Artist * (2) I created Fig. 1 from four images of three individuals and one pair who walked past the shop at different times. None of the pictures were interesting in their own right but taking the five people and putting them together creates a balanced composition of what happened in the course of about 2 minutes. A sort of single shot elapsed time photograph. I like the way this technique enabled me to fill the spaces with subject matter. It would obviously be better to work over a longer period of time to have more variety in the subject matter.

The other major difference here, apart from the skill of the photographer, is that I spent an hour putting this together, Anna’s team can take up to week to create a single stitched image.

Fig. 1 is not the perfect example of the technique and I want to repeat the exercise using a tripod in a place where I can control the lighting and in a location where people naturally do different things. 

There was a debate at Anna Fox’s talk about where the line fell between truth and untruth in documentary photography. Her view was that all photographs are untruths because of the selective nature of composition but that documentary photography is still based on truth. The idea of capturing multiple moments in time from one place and combining them to form a single image could be argued as moving further from the truth because the combined picture represents something that never happened. On the other hand it could be argued that it brings us nearer to the truth because the photograph is not limited to an isolated moment that mis-represents the time the photographer was present and is therefore nearer to being what the photographer experienced.

It is true that these five people walked passed Austin Reed between 13:07 and 13:09 on May 5th, I saw them and photographed them and haven’t airbrushed any of their normal human imperfections or cleaned up the pavement. Being there is true; being there together is not but I’m telling the truth that they weren’t.

The four unedited originals:

NK1_0135 NK1_0132 NK1_0129 NK1_0128

 

Sources

Books

* (2) Kleon, Austin. (2012) Steal Like an Artist. New York: Workman Publishing Inc.

Internet

* (1) Fox, Anna. Anna Fox Website (First accessed 2014) www.annafox.co.uk