Self-reflection for Assignment 5 – Documentary

I felt I showed good technical skill in producing the diptychs because it required patience and practise to get enough tourists taking pictures/selfies in front of the camera at the hotspots. Likewise I felt I showed more patience and paid attention to detail in order to get the framing and poses right for the self-portrait part of each diptych. Lastly making the composites in Photoshop required further patience.

The quality of outcome was good in my opinion. At first the project started out with me just trying out the composite technique as can be seen in the post: Photographs Inspired by Chris Dorley-Brown and Peter Funch but with tourists taking pictures as integral parts to the composites. Then after some correspondence with my fellow student Bryn, it developed into the idea of myself interacting with the tourists retrospectively through pictures. This was then embellished when I realised that I could take similar photographs to that which they had taken from those same spots, further affirming my relationship through pictures. I put this last part together in a scrapbook style which for me resembled the of the kind of scrapbook a typical tourist coming home from holiday would make.

In my opinion the creative aspect of the project was good and I learnt how valuable conceptualisation through shooting photographs and experimenting can be. However, certain aspects of the creativity in terms of creating the composites did initially bother me. I did at times question the ethics of my project in terms of depicting a true-to-life rendition of reality. This was especially true while ‘cutting out’ the tourists from one image and layering them into the composites using layer masks. I used a tablet with virtual pen to make more precise selections while painting in the layer masks. On occasions I had to look closely at the computer screen during this process which made me aware just how much I was making the camera lie and deceiving what was once an indexical relationship. However, I kept coming back to Umberto Eco’s assertion that: ‘the photograph reproduces the conditions of optical perception, but only some of them.’ – (Eco In. Burgin, 1982). Here I was just reducing another of those conditions of optical perception; that of juxtapositions within the frame and it could be argued I was doing so to highlight the perceived uncertainty over the nature of photographic realism nowadays. As Peter Funch (whose technique is very similar, and was a big influence for Assignment 5) puts it in an interview with Gregory Jones while talking about Babel Tales (2006): ‘Everything depicted in Babel Tales is true to life, however, the elements that construct the photographs were taken at different times.’ – (Jones and Funch, 2013). He previously says in the interview: ‘I present them [the pictures in Babel Tales] as documents that aren’t necessarily true. It is for the viewer to decide was is real and what is unreal – it’s not my prerogative.’ – (Jones and Funch, 2013). These comments by Eco and Funch alleviated my preexisting notions that a photograph ‘has’ to appear real. I began to think instead the viewer’s gaze was not predetermined by the nature of the photograph and they could make up their own mind.

I thought it was a documentary project in the sense that it documented parts of life – even though the composites were not indexical to the life the photographs had been made up from. In this manner it was more a topical commentary on tourism and consumer culture where pictures are a commodity which are more and more disconnected from reality. It was less a traditional documentary project where the photographs are an authentic document but it could be argued it still conveyed a message as clearly as traditional photojournalism.

References:

Eco, U. In. Burgin, V. (1982) Thinking About Photography. London: MacMillan.

Jones, G. and Funch, P. (2013). Peter Funch and the Constructed Moment ⋆ In the In-Between. [online] In the In-Between. Available at: https://www.inthein-between.com/peter-funch-and-the-constructed-moment/ [Accessed 10 May 2018].

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Self-reflection for Assignment 3 Documentary

I was asked for Assignment 3 to produce 10 images of varying viewpoints and compositions while still maintaining a consistent visual style. I feel I managed to maintain a consistent visual style of landscape documentary while employing different focal lengths and compositions. I tried to keep an open mind as to the intent of each photograph while taking them; instead editing the photos accordingly to tell my story later. At the same time, I remained aware while walking around Deptford for any mini-stories to play out which might help with conveying the general theme. However, I was more concerned with photographing and looking for signs of gentrification in the area, whether obvious or not than these ‘mini-stories’. Focusing on post-conceptualisation differed from what I have tended towards in the past, which made the shooting and editing process more liberating. I did find I had to put more thought into how to edit and sequence the photographs afterwards. This was because of the increased number of photos to edit down from compared to previous assignments and also because I had then to decide which photographs best fit the story and where.

I found the project came together to tell a convincing story of gentrification ongoing in the Deptford area. The requested PDF book form allowed me to lay out the photographs and select the order of the selected images until I was relatively happy with the layout. The content reflected my observations of Deptford although it was somewhat fictional for the reason that Deptford appeared a lot less bleak in half the photos. This was intentional however, as the story juxtaposed gentrified areas with the high street. The introduction to the PDF book contained clear and concise information regarding the project which in my opinion worked as an anchor to the book.

Creativity was one aspect I was worried about before the project started but by using post-conceptualisation I eventually started taking photographs. Then I could observe elements of Deptford where my creativity could be applied. I identified the billboards by roads as a possible source of interest. Using Inception (2010) and my own Assignment 2 Documentary as inspiration, I managed to create an image which I felt reflected gentrification in Deptford from a subjective point of view. Inception (2010) inspired me with the concept of ‘a dream within a dream’ or even ‘a dream within a dream within a dream’! I experimented with creating ‘a dream within a dream’ which could possibly reflect parts of society nowadays, though mostly unsuccessfully. Eventually I was inspired by ‘The Photograph Manipulated’ chapter in Graham Clarke’s: The Photograph (1997) to use image manipulation as well as picture-in picture techniques to produce Image 10 for Assignment 3.

In my opinion my learning log could improve by quantity of reading around documentary but in terms of the assignment I thought critically about my assignment with my Study Hangout group and in the post Imaginary Documents and I researched gentrification in Deptford.

References:

Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.187-205.

Inception. (2010). [DVD] Directed by C. Nolan. UK, USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Self-evaluation of Assignment 2 – Documentary

For me experimenting with another medium other than digital – in this case Instax film – was quite refreshing but the problem was how to take the basic Instax picture and use it to get my point across that the image nowadays is predominantly ephemeral. It took me a while to get used to the Instax film and camera for several reasons. Firstly the film itself used quite a high ISO exclusively (800 to be exact) which was good for lower light but in daylight often struggled to achieve a correctly exposed image. Therefore I found I had to wait for cloud cover or else accept part of the image would be overexposed. Secondly the dynamic range of the film was quite low so the lighting had to be quite even or otherwise the parted of the image would be underexposed while others would be overexposed. In the end I didn’t mind these traits as I felt they added some character to the images and the main subjects were still visible on the photographs. Thirdly, the camera always let out a flash burst, presumably for people shots in dark places where the camera was anticipated to be used. I had to be aware of getting to close to the subject or else the flash would overexpose it. Lastly the film was instant so I only had one shot for certain changing scenes as the film took roughly two minutes to develop before I judge whether the exposure setting had been correct. Once I had gotten accustomed to using the Instax camera I found this last point quite liberating as I was experienced with taking lots of shots from different angles of the same scene in quick succession.

I got my point across that the image nowadays is predominantly ephemeral by making the Instax photographs appear inside an encompassing photograph taken with my DSLR. I chose to use a DSLR for the high image quality and to isolate effectively the Instax photograph from the rest of the encompassing photograph. The effect of this was that while the Instax photograph was undeniably indexical to the scene it reappeared in, things had since changed and so the viewer had to question the meaning of such changes on the overall photograph. I feel I used well people’s natural curiosity to see what the Instax photograph contained by mostly placing it in the middle of the encompassing photograph to draw the eye into the photograph. This is how I would suggest my images worked best at telling a narrative as the encompassing photograph had obviously changed since the Instax photograph was taken so the narrative was clear. In this way the 8 images worked as single-image narratives but also as a whole when put together. I felt technically I could have used a smaller aperture setting on some of the encompassing photograph shots as it wasn’t immediately clear what had since changed.

I was particularly pleased with the way that I managed to present the images when put together in a visually striking manner. Although the brief had simply advised the work to be presented on a blog, I elaborated on this aspect of the brief well and it made the project more coherent. As well as this the Instagram style grid inside an empty picture frame pointed back to the ephemeral manner of the images. I thought the concept of ephemerality of the image was quite complexly visualised in my photographs and so therefore it was important to have a clear rationale and in the blog post with the images, which I felt I achieved. This was further expanded on in the post: Rationale for Assignment 2 – Documentary – Ephemerality of the Image. I thought the images on the whole worked better in black and white because it separated form from content so it was clearer to the viewer what the focus of the photographs were. Also the black and white medium for me reinforced the ‘truth’ factor behind the images as black and white photographs have been accepted as fact for a long time compared to colour.

I would say the project was creative but the picture-in-picture idea was perhaps an obvious and overly direct way of representing my abstract concept. Having said this I felt it was well implemented, especially as I was influenced by the Droste effect in my presentation of my work as a whole. A big plus was the development of my idea – from experimenting with fleeting encounters in ‘Containment’, to the beginnings of taking an instant photo of people who then hold the instant photo and are rephotographed. This culminated with the development of this idea by adapting it to the instant photo showing an altered scene compared to the encompassing photograph.

In terms of context I would suggest I could have researched more concerning similar artists who used pictures-in-picutres as I tended to rely on my assertions derived from Maartje van den Heuvel (2005)’s ‘Mirror of Visual Culture’ essay. Also if I had managed to complete more exercises leading up to the assignment I might have been better prepared for it; so wouldn’t have had to experiment and alter the project quite so much. However, the work I did complete, particularly van den Heuvel’s essay helped me get to a project I was eventually quite satisfied with.

References:

Van Den Heuvel (2005). Mirror of Visual Culture. Documentary Now! [online] Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/key-resources/res-files/heuvel_discussingdocumentary.pdf [Accessed 3/3/2017].

Summary of My Thoughts Regarding Assignment 1 – Documentary

I felt I responded to the brief well throughout the photo essay in terms of the project being a coherent body of work documenting the brewery and its people and my engagement with them. A strong area for me was the sense of progression from one photograph to another, which could serve to pull the viewer in to the project. I saw the research into Lewis Hine and Henri Cartier-Bresson beforehand as being very helpful in establishing a strategy for photographing the brewery and its people. I concentrated particularly on creating quite decisive moments in the brewery and its surrounding vicinity. This enabled me to show better my interpretation of the scene. Combining this with eye contact in a couple of photographs to further show my engagement but in a different (more direct) way.

 

In terms of creativity, I could see a few photographs where I was clever with composition but two photographs which stood out creatively as a pair were Photographs 4 and 5. They helped to give the viewer as much better idea of my engagement with the brewery worker during the project when viewed simultaneously. I thought the execution of the idea was quite good because the action of the brewery worker was captured on both cameras at pretty similar moments in time so the viewer could associate the two photographs in tandem.

 

By titling the photographs, I felt I gave them extra context which I had increasingly come to realise was important for the viewer to gain insight into a project. This was because it allowed them to make up their minds more readily. I thought most parts of the project could be inferred from photographs when seen as a series but the titling helped with the flow of the photo essay. My communication of ideas after titling the photographs gave extra context in what I saw as quite a clear concise manner.

 

I would say a few of the photographs could have been taken better in regards to technical skill, for example Photograph 2 where the sun flare was quite distracting and some of the highlights were blown. Overall though the photographs in my opinion gave a realistic depiction of the brewery at particular decisive moments in time in relation to its people and my engagement with them. This was what I had set out to document and I was pleased it showed the brewery from more than one dimension.