I was particularly interested to think of the photograph as a tool to convey a particular message or mood, for use as a political or marketing strategy or to convey a particular standpoint in terms of the purpose and meaning of photography.
Ansel Adams was part of the F64 group who felt that photography should be about creating images that were realistic and therefore sharply focused from front to back with no stylised editing. A narrow aperture was used to make the point and to challenge early artistic styles.
Other photographers have used deep depth of field to make different statements or to convey a particular political message. Faye Godwin challenged the laws around access to countryside spaces with her images of public restrictions to outdoors areas.
I was interested in how deep depth of field can be used to create a sense of unease.
I looked at the images of Guy Bourdin who uses deep depth of field to capture everyday scenes with a sense of psychological tension (course notes p51). However, I felt that his fashion images , though they caused a feeling of unease, could not be related to any of my images in terms of subject matter for this exercise.
In Stephen Shore’s book The Nature of Photographs, I noticed the photograph ‘Car by Roadside’ (Anonymous, date unknown)(Shore 2010 p14).The deep depth of field in this image encourages a feeling of unease and anticipation. The dark area to the bottom left and the second car in the distance seems to suggest a threat to the driver of the car in the foreground. Whether this image was intended to create this effect, I do not know.
I looked back at some of the photographs I have taken recently, and I re-imagined the following image in the light of my understanding of how depth of field can create psychological tension.
I was surprised at the similarities between my photograph and the ‘Car by roadside’ image. I took my picture as part of exercise 2.7 exploring deep depth of field and had not intended it to create an atmosphere of tension. However, the viewer of this image is encouraged to follow my subject’s gaze, and although there is no corresponding vehicle in the distance, there is a sense of her waiting for one to appear. The dark shadow and viewpoint from behind my subject (positioned similarly to the car within the frame) suggests that my subject herself is being watched or that there is another threat of some kind that the viewer is unaware of.
This tension would not have been possible without the use of a deep depth of field. Conversely, a shallow depth of field is often used to create a happier mood and a separation of the subject from the background. It is the connection of the subject with the background in images with deep depth of field, that is, in part, responsible for the creation of the tension experienced by the viewer.
Guybourdin.net. (2017). The Fashion Photographs of Guy Bourdin. [online] Available at: http://www.guybourdin.net/ [Accessed 19 Mar. 2017].
Shore, S (2010) The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. London, Phaiden Press.