- Devise a themed assignment on a topic that interests me and in a field of photography with which I feel comfortable.
- Use what I’ve learned so far to construct an effective workflow, all the way through to the final displayed image.
- List all the steps in my workflow, writing a short commentary against each.
- Explain how I think my workflow may differ from others’ and what adaptations I made to suit the way I take and process photographs.
- Review how I think I’ve done against the assessment criteria
It hasn’t been a very good year for me so far, with a very slow start on DPP. What was happening in the rest of my life meant I was unable to focus on active photography. I did keep reading and thinking about it though and it was a boost when I was referred to on WeAreOCA again for work done on People & Place because it reminded me that I am capable of producing good work. Times are slightly less anxious at present and so I’ve slowly begun to produce some work. I had thought that I might be able to develop The Shed further but something else captured my attention and helped to get me back to taking photographs.
Fiona Yaron-Field’s series The Cabinet intrigued me. Of course, she wouldn’t say how she achieved those images but the ‘other-wordly’ sense of them appealed to me and I thought of something that happened to me some time ago.
Many years ago I met with some like-minded people for a weekend together. Around the circle we shared stories, myths and legends with a wise leader and before our leaving we each travelled on an inner journey which remained private.
I descended down steep rock, rough beneath my fingers, whilst only the occasional bright gem or creature sparkled through the darkness. Then I heard the sound in the distance. A deep, low rumble called me onward past people I could only glimpse – trapped as they were in the darkness. I could not stay until I found him. The beast was so large and full of pain that I knew the journey back towards the light would be long and slow.The memory of the journey haunted me and I wrote a poem to capture it.
Descend and meet me.
I am nothing and everything.
Created in all images of pain.
Probing raw spaces; empty places inside your brain.
Deep despair invites me down the dark
Labyrinths of your soul’s searching
Urging me onward, prowling your dreams,
Howling down the corridors below.
Plummeting dark depths,
Shrivelled into the smallness of your being
I feed upon the darkness in your soul.
Your fear will nourish me until I grow
And shatter your delusions of normality.
And then you will feel me
And know me.
Our eyes will meet and
You will see the pain in me.
I am your beast and you created me.
To illustrate the poem somehow. I had used a doll, with holga lens, for Assignment 5 of Art Of Photography in 2012 and had intended to do more along those lines, even acquiring some more dolls and dolls parts. I just didn’t feel inspired that way during the People & Place module though – it seemed to root me more in the real, physical world particularly as I struggled with people photography .
I didn’t want to use real people as subjects for the poem though, preferring a different kind of representation. My plan was to use some doll parts, together with a small model of a bison and that was as far as it went to begin with – a case of let’s see what happens! Here’s how it all developed, including 5 separate photography sessions (indoors and outdoors).
On the Common with 60D, zoom lens, doll’s head; body and model bison. I used trees as background and also a rusted old engine crankshaft that someone had abandoned years ago.
53 RAW images. 11 chosen for closer look. For some of them, I experimented with PS Distort filters – twirl and spherisize filters. I wanted achieve a more dreamlike effect. The bison image didn’t really seem to work as it was too obviously a model even though I I’d distorted it. A b+w version seemed to work better. I continued to ponder on the effect and decided to try out a new holga pinhole lens I’d bought several months ago but never used.
Indoors. Tripod needed. Live View didn’t work as the lens doesn’t ‘talk’ to my Canon 60D, so I had to experiment with various shutter speeds.
59 RAW images and I chose 5 to process. The images are soft and have the dreamlike effect I wanted. The b+w versions seem to work better although I liked the colour effect. However, b+w also offered some consistency with the earlier images where I’d used a normal, zoom-lens. To offer further consistency I also decided to process all the images using the Perfect Effects Holga b+w filter, but without its vignette effect as the pinhole lens already provided this. I also used the Nik Viveza filter (sparingly).
I posted one of the images on the OCA Flickr Photostream and got some very positive comments, including from one of the tutors “A very interesting progression from the fairy tale, it’s working and a righteous use of the effects”.
The model bison wasn’t working. I’d tried enlarging it and then layering it onto landscape images but it still looked false. I downloaded a free Clip Art bison and then layered it onto a Photomorphis old manuscript texture. It looked quite good but it was still too obviously a painting and not a photographic image as such.
I realised that I was being too literal in re-enacting my visualisation. It was the atmospheric effect I needed to convey.
Indoors with flowers in pot and small frog ornament. 16 RAW images. None used.
In the garden, photographing a small frog ornament against the bark of a tree (using blu tack) and on a stone.
16 RAW, One image chosen which looked okay in colour but less so in b+w.
On the Common with 60D, pinhole lens and tripod. I aimed to produce some images of stagnant water, to provide a layer for ‘beast emerging from water’ and interesting trees/bark as backdrop for ‘being followed’. I also photographed a sarsen marker stone.
35 RAW. One chosen of the stone.
In the garden. Had imagined a figure disappearing behind a statue/pedestal. I used the doll body wearing a red velvet dress and long black wig.
16 RAW images with one chosen. The colour image looked reasonable but the doll’s dress disappeared into the background.
Still struggling with ‘the beast’ and how to represent it. I have some photographs of horses taken a while ago and used 6 of them – cropped to emphasis the eyes. Layered one against another image taken on the Common. Developed a series at decreasing opacities so that ‘the beast’ emerges.
I’d bought some ‘faded’ parchment paper and experimented with printing my poem on that. Wanted to use it for layering instead of using the Photomorphis manuscript texture. Aiming to be more authentic.
Returned to the Common with 60D, pinhole lens and tripod aiming to rephotograph the doll’s head in the engine crankshaft. However, it had rained so much that the crankshaft was full of dirty water. It had also been moved slightly so that a sapling was right in front of it. Goodness knows how whoever it was managed to do that as it’s extremely heavy.
Still not completely satisfied re ‘the beast’. Searched Wikimedia Creative Commons images and discovered an image of a hippopotamus eye https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/3847094793/ linked via Flickr . I contacted the photographer, Rennett Stowe, via Flickr message and he agreed I could use the image . I layered using two other layers – rough bark and words from the poem.On balance, I think the colour version works better than the b+w.
Summary of Workflow Process
It worked for me because I was clear that I wanted to ‘illustrate’ the poem but needed time to experiment and refine.
My tutor will have access to contact sheets of all the RAW images via Dropbox. In total I produced 195 RAW images from which I chose 20 to process. Here are contact sheets that also include jpegs of the layered images of horse and hippopotamus eye.
I therefore have a choice from 28 images.
Difficult because some of the images work better in colour – e.g. 6067, 6111, 6161 and 6176. The bison model images definitely don’t work and look the most amateur. I think the layered Clip art of the bison is quite effective but is still obviously a ‘painting’ . I printed the contact sheet and cut it into separate images – rearranging them with the words of the poem in my head. I’ve changed my choice and ordering several times after ‘sleeping on it’ but here are the final 7.
As I wrote above, my immediate influence was the Cabinet series. However there were others in the wider background, including literature.I’m sure the myths of the Minotaur and the Sumerian Bull of Heaven were in my subconscious at the time I had the actual visualisation. As an aside I’ve found an interesting site regarding storytelling and my poem certainly seems to fit with the stages of the “hero” story!
So far as photography is concerned I have long admired Olivia Parker and her series Weighing the Planets . I have Keith Carter’s book A Certain Alchemy (2008) and his work also draws from folklore and the animal world as here. Duane Michals produces narrative sequences. The introduction to Duane Michals states “His oeuvre reflects a haunting obsessions with life and death, fantasy and reality – thematic opposites expressed through his technical use of double exposures, superimposed images, props, mirrors and the ambiguous notations that often appear on the margins of photographs”. I recently discovered Richard Bailey and his image of the Arawapa Goat got me thinking around animals and anthromorphism.
Susan Burnstine has written about how “the past remains with us, if only in shadows”. Her images are created with hand-made film cameras, and their unpredictability and blurred edges certainly evoke a sense of memory for me. Lady into Hut is a series by Laura Hynd, relating to memories of her grandfather (hers and his) and these misty images speak very much to me of past recalled. They are also special because, at some point, I want to return to my own memories of spending weekends in two family holiday huts.
I recently discovered Stefano Bernardoni and the photographer Kim Shaw who uses holga and pinhole lens cameras. It seems strange to me that I appreciate clear images much of the time and yet, occasionally feel very much drawn towards the misty, mystical approaches in photography, most of which are film. It’s a case of making the right choice for each project.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills:
This has been my first excursion into creating a series in black and white. I’ve realised that it works better if I convert in Photoshop so that I can play with the colour sliders to get the tones right before using other filters.
Because I was experimenting I amassed several different versions of the photographs. I kept written notes, but labelling them in Photoshop got quite complicated. I know that many photographers use Lightroom and this has been recommended, but I did give up on it because it seemed so unwieldly . It wasn’t so simple to move folders around as I find it with Photoshop, where all I have to do is grab with folder with my cursor. I will give Lightroom another try now that I’ve at least completed the first assignment.
I’m less satisfied than I am normally with the prints. I’ve used Epson premium semi-gloss mainly during the OCA modules but I don’t think it quite suits black and white. I tried Epson matte but that didn’t seem right either. Suggestions needed from my tutor.
I think my choice of the holga pinhole lens was right for the outcome I had in mind, although I paid the price in consistency. Some of the images look better in colour but colour didn’t fit the concept. I know I need much more practice in using composites and layers but at least I’ve set a benchmark for learning.
I’ve been thinking about presentation beyond prints. A slideshow/video could be effective because then I could alter the pace according to the atmosphere I want to convey. This is where my images (at different opacities) of ‘the beast emerging” could work. I’ve thought about sound – environmental sound, music or someone speaking the words of the poem. So far as the prints are concerned I also considered text, apart from the background words of the last image. I decided that maybe, on this occasion, I would be leading the viewer’s perception too strongly. That’s also why I’ve separated the poem itself from the images in this post.
Quality of Outcome:
Prints referred to above. I’m pleased that I was able to carry the concept through especially during what’s been a difficult time for me. On the other hand, allowing myself to become absorbed in the project and enter into my imagination has been quite healing. In this sense, the project acted as effective “phototherapy”. Choice of b+w and holga lens and filters added coherence to the images. The images are different between themselves and I have some concerns regarding mixing too many visual metaphors, but this does fit with visualisations and how they can seem like “snapshots”.
Demonstration of Creativity:
I’ve enjoyed creating something different and unusual. The description “weird” has been mentioned, but that is another aspect of me that only occasionally peeps through and I’ve welcomed her presence, especially since looking at the origins of the word. The poem was my own creation and, in using it, I am developing/extending my personal voice. As mentioned above, I haven’t used dolls in still-life for a long time. Dolls seem to lend themselves so much to photography with their almost human faces that can be blankly beautiful or surreal. One aspect I haven’t checked is whether male photographers use dolls also.
My blog for DPP is growing very slowly, unlike my previous blogs, but I have started to write-down thoughts and analyses of other photographers. I read a lot; follow many blogs via WordPress Reader or Bloglovin, and keep Pinterest boards to have a more visual memory.
This particular assignment has been a very personal and reflective experience for me and I hope that comes through. I’m still pondering over Anna Fox’s words “documentary is a story about truth” and ‘truth’. My story here is a true story. It happened to me, even though it was all in my head. I saw, felt, touched the rough rock; the coarse hairs on the head of the beast. He was real to me. It’s said that photography captures fleeting moments in time but it can also capture a process over time with many layers of meaning.
17th May 2014