EYV Assignment 4 response to tutor feedback

My tutor feedback, written and verbal (from our ‘Hangout’) was very positive.

Briefly:

Strengths:

  1. A strong visual response to the brief.
  2. ‘Strong and unique images on a single subject’.
  3. Exercise  4.3: ‘Fresh and experimental’.
  4. Thorough exploration of part 4 research points.

Areas for improvement:

  1. Image size (again).
  2. Would be good to show my imaginative thinking on my blog.
  3. Signpost to the work of Gregory Crewdson and Bill Henson.
  4. Some reorganisation of blog menus.

Technical issues first – This ought to be easy but I admit to something of a stumbling block. I do not understand why my tutor sees thumbnails on my blog. Everything looks ok at my end. I will research this further. However, I immediately addressed my tutor’s concerns about the menu structure on my blog. I have created a menu entitled ‘Learning Log’. I used the OCA template initially for setting up my blog, and this was previously labelled ‘Research and Reflection’. I have amended this and now use the new menu to include all research points undertaken as part of course work, together with any self-directed learning and reflection on the course. I have also included a post at the end of each part of the course entitled ‘self reflection at end of part 1’ etc, and I find this a useful way of evaluating my experience of that particular part of the course. I will include a final self assessment, measured against the course criteria, at the end of the course.

In response to my tutor’s comment about evidence of my imaginative thinking ‘finding its way into my blog’, I have tried to include more of my initial thoughts about my approach to assignment five and will make an effort to record and show more of my thought processes. I have used my hard copy log to record some of my thoughts and will continue to do so.

I was very pleased with my tutor’s feedback on this assignment. He felt that the strength of my work was the result of experimentation and research done in part 4. I found the consideration of natural, artificial and studio lighting in this part of the course quite demanding, yet I feel that I actually took more images as research for this section than for any of the others, and I think that this practical experience was extremely valuable.

In our Hangout, my tutor highlighted something that should have been obvious, yet it wasn’t. To me, my six assignment images were all of ‘ordinary’ things near home – a bus stop, phone box, scaffolding. What my tutor pointed out was that four of the six images were of ‘shelters’ of some kind. Because of this theme, he felt that the other two images (not of shelters) were ‘different’ to the rest. I had presented my images with the two ‘odd’ images as the final two images. My approach had been fairly random and this detail had not been significant to me. I will address this for assessment by presenting my images in a more considered order that makes the set more balanced.

I have had a brief look at some of the work of Gregory Crewdson (I must try to overcome my aversion to nudes!) and will return to him and look also at the work of Bill Henson shortly. I will document this on my blog.

Homage – Sally Mann

As part of the work on homage photography in part 5 of the course it was suggested that students refer back to their personal archives to consider images that celebrate the work of other artists.

Below is an image that I took as part of my research for exercise 4.2  on natural light. Inspired by the work of Sally Mann, I took this image in a soft foggy light to create a dreamy ‘other-worldly’ atmosphere.  I was actually a bit anxious in this quiet spot in the fog, and my image, taken off-level emhasises this sense of disorientation. I included a vignette, as Sally Mann did, with the intention of creating a narrowed viewpoint to exaggerate the feeling of unease. I hoped that it would suggest a hidden and therefore unsettling presence.

Please see my post on Sally Mann – Southern Landscapes and this image in particular:

Image 1

Sally Mann (1998) Southern Landscapes

and my image:

I am not sure if this is homage photography, though I clearly was influenced by Mann’s work and have not attempted to hide that fact.

List of illustrations

Mann, Sally (1998) Southern Landscapes (Photographs). At: http://sallymann.com/selected-works/southern-landscapes. (Accessed 22.1.17)

Reflection – Seascapes

I looked at Sugimoto’s Theatres series as part of my research for assignment 3 and this work led me to look at this photographer’s seascapes.

I commented, in my post Hiroshi Sugimoto:

‘How can images that should seem abstract have so much depth? I found myself entranced by them. This series of images are of the horizon between sea and sky, with the horizon in the centre. Despite no obvious technique to lead the eye into the image, the viewer is drawn into the picture’.

I was interested in Sugimoto’s motivation for this series being the desire to capture a view that has remained unchanged over centuries and that can be seen now as it was many many years ago. In considering homage photography in part 5 of the course, I wanted to attempt some seascapes of my own, both recognising Sugimoto’s work and as an experiment in taking a photograph that seems so simple yet so enthralling. I wanted to see if my own sea images could feel so meaningful.

My first images are in colour:

My first comment is that these images were surprisingly not straight forward. I used my shortest lens, 16mm, and a horizontal framing because I wanted as wide a view as possible. I did not want to use a telephoto lens to zoom in. In some ways this would have been a lot easier since the wide angle needed a significant expanse of uninterrupted horizon. The view from Filey Bay was not wide enough – my images would have contained the Brig to the left, and the cliffs of Reighton Bay to the right. However, just north of the Brig, there is a wider expanse of horizon, with Scarborough to the left, and it was from the cliff tops there that I decided I would take my images. I hadn’t considered the distance that the bottom of the cliff extended into the sea, which made it quite difficult to avoid it in the foreground of my pictures. It was a very windy day too, and I was mindful of the dangers of getting too close to the edge. Also, I had taken only a monopod, and the strength of the wind was too much for me to use a slow shutter speed. My best images were taken with the camera handheld close to the ground. I had hoped that I could use a long exposure to further blur the distinction between sky and sea, but this was not possible. I experimented instead with larger apertures to try to create a blurring effect that way.

However, the results showed me that my images had that same feeling of being drawn into the picture, as Sugimoto’s did, and I really liked the effect.

I tried my images in mono, to more closely reflect Sugimoto’s images:

I think these images work well in mono. The second image, because of the positioning of the clouds, encourages a feeling of depth in the image. It would be interesting to see the effect of a cloudless day, and perhaps a calmer sea, and whether this would create a more abstract result.

Reflection – Cloudscapes

In part 1 of the course, we looked at Alfred Stieglitz’s cloudscapes, The Equivalents in terms of composition and framing. The course notes say, of his photographs, ‘they don’t appear to be composed at all; instead they are ‘equivalent’ in that any section of the sky would seem to do as well as any other. Because there is no sense of composition our eye is drawn to the edges’. (p27) The images are cropped rather than composed.

I recall reading that on being asked if his images were of the sky, Stieglitz asked why it matters at all what they were of (I am unable now to reference this). I understand his intention to create an abstract image in its own right, not a reflection of reality.

I attempted some cloudscapes myself, to observe my process of identifying which part of the sky to photograph and to consider whether I felt that that my images had anything to do with the reality of the view I captured.

I chose this part of the sky for the heaviness of the clouds, in an attempt to create a very abstract image. It is clearly sky. However, in a second image, converted to mono, this is less obvious.

My experience of the sky, while taking these images was of being drawn in to the view and of appreciating the beauty of the whole sky because, with a movement of my head and eyes, I could see it all. My view was not constrained by a frame or an edge, except for the horizon, and this sense of space is clearly absent from my photographs. They are a poor record of the reality of the scene, and interesting for that fact.

I took the following image in an experiment to include a sense of depth to my cloudscape:

I took this image while standing rather than laying down. It has made a difference though it is difficult to say exactly how. The clouds in this patch of sky were more linear and as such, there appears to be a sense of viewing from the side rather than from below.

My conclusion is that these images are not representative of my viewing the sky in reality. They are segments of a whole and I could have pointed my camera at any patch of sky that day, with the same result.

 

EYV Assignment 5 Written Analysis

What is my assignment about?

This assignment is about the accessibility to the public of the E.ON Power station in Sheffield. It is my response to a personal desire to see it up close and to an image sourced on the internet that showed the site as a public green space. I wanted to explore just how accessible my subject was and to show the reality of its position within the city and its relationship with the community in terms of its proximity to the public.

First, I captured it as remote – at this distance, it seems almost as if you could just take a long walk and arrive on the doorstep. From a distance it is part of a wider natural and industrial landscape, accessible, but remote from the general public. I include three images from this perspective.

The following four images are intended to show a much closer relationship with the public. I did not want to present the power station as ‘incidental’ as Davies does in his images of Mount Fuji, but rather as a significant part of the everyday landscape. I have deliberately emphasised the colour of the orange part of the building to ensure that it has priority place, despite its varying physical size in my pictures.

My final three images are perhaps the most interesting to me. In direct contrast to the internet image that fuelled the idea for this project, what I saw as I got closer to the buildings, were barriers – fences, walls, barbed wire.

Inspiration

I frequently drive past this site and have admired it for some time. I have driven as close as I can, and considered how I might go about actually getting consent to look around inside. My initial inspiration to use this as a subject for my assignment was my personal interest in this site because of my perception of the buildings as quite beautiful.

I took an image of the power station for my work on exercise 1.3 – line:

My tutor commented that this image reminded him of the industrial images of John Davies. This was my second inspiration and it motivated me to develop a project from an image that could be considered an homage to Davies’ work.

For exercise 4.5: creativity, I found the idea of responding to an internet search very interesting. This assignment was therefore also inspired by a search for images about the power station.

I was hesitant in my decision to exaggerate the orange colour of the building since I felt it might be very amateurish. However, I thought more and more about colour after looking at how  Rinko Kawauchi used colour and the absence of colour in her work and this gave me the confidence to enhance this already bright part of my images. In terms of ‘information’, my images are very different to her illuminance image – I have used deep depth of field, and regular exposure to provide as much information as I can in my image. However, she made me think about colour in general, and from that, I thought about enhancing just a single part of my image to add additional information.

Technical

I tried to use  a consistent focal length, mostly 16mm (cropped), to ensure a sense of depth. This was not possible for my furthest distance shots since the wide angle would have rendered my subject too small in the image. I have not used a focal length above 50mm, and this in only two of my images.

I made two silly mistakes. First, I forgot to re-set my camera to capture raw after a previous shoot. My images have had only slight edits in photoshop but I would have preferred to start with a raw image rather than a jpeg.

Second, I also forgot to re-set the ISO and consequently my shoot was made at 500. I used aperture priority to ensure the depth of field that I wanted. It was a bright day and the shutter was fast enough even for the images taken from the viaduct where camera movement due to heavy traffic could have been a concern. However, I am pleased with my camera’s performance at higher ISOs and, in hindsight, feel that any effect of my mistake is minimal. However, lessons learned.

Quality of outcome

I found the selection and presentation of 10 images as a cohesive set  quite problematic. I found that I wished it had been 9, or 6, to enable me to present my three-stage progression more uniformly. However, I chose to identify the results of my exploration into the accessibility of my subject by the public as falling into three categories:

‘Remote’ (3 images), ‘Public’ (4 images), and ‘Barriers’ (3 images). I chose not to use captions or text since I didn’t want to interrupt the intended ‘flow’ or sense of movement from distance to close up, and I hoped that my intention was clear without text.

Link to exercise 5.2

Please also see my posts –

Assignment 5 – initial thoughts

Assignment 5 – contact sheets

Assignment 5 – images

Assignment 5 self-assessment

Part 5 – evaluation

I recall my first reading through of the course notes, about a year ago, and my liking the sound of assignment 5. I was looking forward to this assignment and thought about it a lot during the course. My chosen subject at this early stage was Emley Moor Transmitting Station. I had an interest in the ‘mast’ and felt that it would perfectly fit the brief. I started thinking about the images I would take. Emley Moor mast became symbolic of my finishing the course.

Assignment 5 in the end was not about Emley Moor. I chose this as a subject for an exercise in part 4 instead. Interesting.

Part five of Expressing your Vision has been another interesting journey.

Exercise 5.2 involved taking an image in homage to the work of another photographer. I enjoyed this concept and I was inspired by a book of Walker Evans’ images. My homage to Walker Evans involved taking an image of a local railway bridge in response to his ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ image.

As asked, as part of the exercise, I reflected on whether my image demonstrated ‘beauty’, ‘creativity’, or ‘a perfect memento’.

My response is here:

The course notes ask that I consider the possibility of my camera having shooting modes that ensure perfect images in the categories of ‘beauty’, ‘creativity’, or ‘memento’ and asks which mode was used in this exercise. This is an interesting thought. I think that the unusual point of view and short focal length highlights this neglected and unnoticed bridge. Also, I think that although the straight line of the shadow on the wall emphasises the angles of the iron structure, the bridge as a whole is softened by the sunlight. I hope it also shows, through the cars and the steps leading to nearby houses, that the bridge is an important part of a local community. I think that my image therefore shows creativity rather than beauty or a perfect memento.

From exercise 5.2

I have identified a personal weakness in that I have to work really hard to be creative. It is, therefore, with some sense of achievement that I end part five of the course able to identify creativity in my work.

EYV Exercise 5.3 – Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare

Image 1

Henri Cartier-Bresson Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare 1932

We looked at ‘point’ earlier in the course, in exercise 1.2. I understood then how a tiny point in an image can draw the eye to a particular part, and how the eye then travels around the picture. In part 3 of the course, I spent some time looking at Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, in terms of the ‘decisive moment’, and I made a mind map of my thoughts about it in my sketch book. It is interesting to return to this photograph in terms of the information it contains, and the story that is created.

I was interested in Vilem Flusser’s distinction between photography and writing in his assertion that ‘when you read a sentence you read it from beginning to end in a linear way – you don’t re-read particular words again and again… but when you look at a photograph, your eye returns to certain elements … almost as if to re-experience them (Flusser 2000 in course notes p110)

I do sometimes re-read words in my favourite writings simply to re-enjoy the beauty of a particular choice of word or phrase, but never do I routinely read backwards, or read words in a random way since this would make no sense of the story. However, I agree that generally, reading is linear. With a picture, reading it in different ways, looking at the image again and again, is certainly possible, and new things can be noticed each time.

Similarly, when looking at Edward Hopper’s painting The Office at Night and Victor Burgin’s homage photographs of it, I noticed new things each time. For example, I didn’t initially notice the significance of the blowing curtains until I made further research.

There is a lot to look at in Bresson’s image, a lot of information. However, the pivotal point, for me,  in this image is the point at which the man’s foot almost touches the floor. This is the ‘gap’ that creates the suspense and leaves the story ‘open’. Like The Office at Night, we wonder what happens next – will the secretary bend and pick up the paper? will our man get wet?

From the point, my eye then travels around the image. I take in the spectator, leaning in the same direction as the main subject as if shouting ‘hurry, you’ll be late’, the multiple reflections and mirroring that provided balance in the image by making the background every bit as interesting as the main event. The symmetry of the reflections of the fence, the dancer in the background ‘fleeing’ in the opposite direction, the double reflections of the Railowski sign, static and permanent, all seem to emphasise the chaos and anxiety that we see in the leaping figure. He is positioned at the right of centre, and he is almost out of the image. I covered him up with my hand and confirmed that without him, this is a very orderly scene.

In terms of photography as story, I am interested in how a photograph ‘is more than just information – it can contain a story. And the photographer is … a storyteller’ (course notes p110)

When I look at Bresson’s image I think about the story, in terms of the moments before and after the image was captured. Why is this man in such a rush? Where is he going? is he late to meet someone, or is he simply late for work. Taken before we all carried phones, this image makes me start to picture someone waiting for him, worried? angry? The boss looking at his watch? There is a lot of information in the pivotal point, it leads to an imaginative interpretation of a story created by the image. I want to know more about this man and his life, why was this moment in time so important to him? Would it matter if he were late? Does it matter now?

Rinko Kawauch’s Illuminance, conveys information in a very different way to Bresson. See my post photography as information for my thoughts on how an absence of information can tell its own story.

List of Illustrations

Image 1:

Cartier Bresson, Henri (1932) Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare. Photograph. At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=behind+the+gare+saint-lazare&qft=+filterui:licenseType-Any&FORM=R5IR40. accessed 11 April 2017

References

Flusser, V. (2000). Towards a philosophy of photography. 1st ed. London: Reaktion.

 

EYV Assignment 5 Self Assessment

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I gave a lot of thought to how I would capture such a large building from very far away and very close. A wide angle renders it invisible at my furthest distances, and yet with my widest 16mm I had some difficulty getting it all in at closer distances. However, I felt that I did not want a wide variation in focal lengths, and to aid consistency of information all my images were taken using my 16 – 55 mm lens. I made stupid mistakes: I had just done an indoor shoot of a school event, and I completely forgot to re-set my camera’s ISO and raw settings. I regret this but I decided not to reshoot since I was satisfied that my images were not significantly affected.

I looked at this building from many different points of view. However, this assignment was not intended to show unusual viewpoints (like Walker Evans’ bridge for example), and I think that to attempt an abstract approach or use a telephoto lens would have been incongruous. I did not want to hide that these were images of a power station, and I felt that the eye-level views matched my intention to show it how it is seen by the people who live nearby. I think my images have a consistency in terms of space and depth and I have made use of compositional techniques to draw the eye into the images. My set is perhaps not very imaginative technically but I think that it is appropriate to the final outcome.

Quality of outcome

I found the brief for ten images quite problematic. I considered presenting my images as 5 sets of two rather than 3,  4 and  3 but felt that three more distinct categories worked better than five more fluid ones. I think the three categories are quite easy for the viewer to interpret and so rejected the idea of using text to explain my intention.

I feel that I have used my personal interest, the work of other photographers, and internet inspiration to produce a study that has filled the brief and achieved what I intended it to. I can’t be certain about how my ideas will be perceived by the viewer but I am satisfied that there is a clear sense of exploration of the subject and analysis of it from different viewpoints.

Demonstration of creativity

I think I have attempted a fairly imaginative concept in response to a clear personal interest and idea. I have tried to be experimental in attempting a social comment about this new addition to the Sheffield landscape and about the incorporation of significant industrial buildings into an area of high population.

Context

I have tried to incorporate my overall learning into this assignment. I hope that the outcome shows that I have considered the learning I have done in part 5 in terms of homage photography, photography as information and storytelling and presenting alternative viewpoints, and that I have used the techniques learned from earlier in the course. I have drawn on the works of other photographers and my images 1 and 3 show that John Davies (Fuji City 2008) was a particular inspiration. I have used my understanding of saying something through photography in my attempt to present a unique view of my chosen subject.