Picasso – ‘A light that sets off every object’ (1)
Why I chose to develop the exercise on artificial light
I enjoyed all the exercises in part four of the course leading up to the assignment but was drawn particularly to artificial lights at night and, since I have had little opportunity for this kind of work, I chose to develop my artificial light exercises in order to further my technical skills and my personal interest. I hope that my interpretation of the brief shows how artificial light is ‘a light that sets off every object’ in my attempt to make something interesting out of the everyday. I decided to focus on taking images of ordinary, even ugly things, locally, attempting to show how artificial light at night makes them more noticeable, even beautiful.
Process / technical
I started my thinking about artificial light by observing the artificial light within my home . I took images of reflections in the windows and took advantage of my neighbours’ outdoor Christmas lights.
Influenced then by Rut Blees Luxemburg, I revisited my thinking about artificial light by capturing some local outdoor images of ordinary things in the streets near home. I was looking for the way in which artificial light can turn mundane things, that would normally go unnoticed in daylight, into quite striking objects. I noticed how the light at night, without the sky as a bright part of the image, made me focus on ordinary things quite differently, whether the object was part of the light source itself (my bus stop image and phone-box image for example), or whether it was highlighted only because of a nearby light source (Graffiti, Aldi).
I went further afield in my consideration of artificial light, to take city images of Leeds, where I felt there would be more opportunity. Inspired again by Rut Blees Luxemburg’s city images, I was pleased with two images in particular but rejected them as inconsistent with my final chosen set. I discuss this further in my self-assessment submission .
My night time images were initially taken with a very slow exposure (up to 30 seconds). I wanted to keep the ISO as low as possible (100) to avoid noise, which can be exaggerated in night time photography, and I wanted to experiment with a very small aperture (f22) because I liked the crisp result that seemed to add a sense of stillness to some of my images. I will reflect on this choice and the pitfalls, in my self-assessment.
In the end, my experimentation did not work as I had hoped, and I re-took some of my images numerous times because of a problem with lens flare. I found, contrary to my initial intention that a wider aperture and consequent faster exposure generally improved my images.
Although I quite like the effect of light trails, from cars for example, and ‘starburst’ effects from bright lights, I did not want to over-do these in my images for this assignment. Car trails were actually quite difficult to avoid since some of my images were taken on fairly busy roads. With long exposures, I needed to make several attempts.
I was disappointed that with some of my images, I relied more on editing software than have for previous assignments. I had to increase the exposure in some of my images, and bring out the shadows. I will reflect further on this in my self analysis.
In terms of white balance, I set my camera to auto and I feel that my images were fairly accurate in terms of what I actually saw. I used manual exposure mode throughout and this now feels the natural way for me to take photographs. I used a tripod, and in some of my images I improvised with an ill-fitting lens hood to help to reduce lens flare.
Practitioners who influenced my work
Rut Blees Luxemburg was my main inspiration for this submission. I was interested in her focus on everyday things, turning the ordinary into something special. I feel that her approach encouraged me to re-look at ordinary things and to notice how the artificial light at night brought them to life. Although I considered using images captured in the city, I found that with a new appreciation of light and an interest in observing artificial light, there were plenty of opportunities nearer to home. I have included some of my city images in a separate post.
Personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise to meet the descriptors of the creativity criteria
The exercise brief was to ‘capture the beauty of artificial light’.
Beauty is subjective, and my first thoughts were more conventional than my final outcome, interpreting beauty in a more usual sense. I wanted to expand my comfort zone and so I chose to focus on things that I know that I would previously not have considered as potential subjects for photography.
In terms of the course creativity criteria – imagination, experimentation, invention, and development of personal voice, I feel that, although my approach is far from unique, I have created a different view of the world to the one I normally notice. I have experimented with different subjects and with different camera techniques and have re-imagined my local landscape. In some ways, my focus on my local area reminded me of my Square Mile submission, and, in comparing my approach then to my approach for this assignment, I am pleased with how my observational skills and creative thinking have developed. I feel that my set works as a much more imaginative study of the local area.
I include here, a link to exercise 4.5 , which I hope also demonstrates my development in creativity.
1 Picasso (quoted in Brassai, 1999, p311) – course notes p84