Tutor Feedback - Assignment 5 - Narrative

The original feedback from my tutor can be found here.

I was quite pleased with this assignment submission particularly as it got me out of my comfort zone a little and yet, in terms of the photographs I took, I managed to achieve what I was aiming for. 

One of the things Keith was critical of in this assignment was the layout of the submission, which was meant to be in the form of a magazine with written text alongside the images. I was aware of this at the start and I created the original assignment using InDesign with the plan to submit it in a magazine format. In the end though I submitted it as a pdf which meant it lost it's magazine-style layout. The text/captions were added as 'comments' which I realise now wasn't the idea - I'm not actually sure why I did it that way to be honest! Similarly my learning log doesn't show it in a magazine format either so I may need to make some changes before I submit the assignment for assessment.

Another thing Keith mentioned which I need to bear in mind is that my reviews tend to be too descriptive and that I don't take enough of a critical stance. Thinking about it, this is a very valid criticism and probably stems from me still feeling like I'm learning and perhaps not experienced enough to be critical. I need to work on this - starting with my most recent study visit I think!

Other than that, Keith was very positive. It's now on to preparing for assessment!

Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative.

For this final assignment in The Art of Photography, I am to imagine I am illustrating a story for a magazine. Although there is no requirement for text in the article, I have added captions to the images to link the images together.

For this assignment, I have chosen to use the story of 'a commodity', tracing the process of the manufacture of a table light, manufactured by the company I work for. I have mocked up a front cover of a fictional magazine using Adobe's InDesign and it is my intention to use the program to create the document for electronic submission as well as for printing out in the form of a magazine. Whether I am able to acheive this or not is another matter!

It was important for me to try and balance the form with the content in the images so although most of the images are clearly staged, I have tried to keep a relaxed and impromptu feel, to mirror the way the process actually works. There were a number of images which I felt were quite strong but which didn't quite fit into the flow and so I had to exclude these in order to meet the brief. This was actually quite difficult to do but was an important lesson in editing.

The TG0062.BK.ES is unique - literally. There is only one in the world and it is currently in a box by my desk ready to be flown to Turkey. Over the past 2 years we have been in a constant dialogue with one of the world's leading interior designers regarding placing over 50 of these in a 5-Star hotel, part of one of the world's leading hotel chains. At the moment the project is still very hush-hush. Unfortunately making one of these hasn't been easy and it has taken a great deal of trial and error not to mention the to-ing and fro-ing of samples between London, Paris and Instanbul.

The TG0062, French Table Lamp, is normally made with brass fittings and with cranberry coloured glass. Our client however wished to have nickel fittings and black glass. This involved getting the brass components nickel plated and sent to Paris for approval. We also had to source a black glass sample after initially showing the client a random image from the internet as a starting point. Finally we managed to get a black glass sample that the client liked. We then asked our glass manufacturer to match it. The black glass parts finally arrived on my desk a few weeks later.

The nickel components, having been approved by the designer in Paris, were sent back to me to be used to build the black sample.

The black glass base

The black glass stem.

The nickel base, capital and lampholder.

Danny has been a Bench Wirer at Vaughan for nearly 20 years. It will be his role to build, wire and test the sample.

At the wiring stage, it is important that the client's specification is closely adhered to. In this case the client specified the flex colour, length and switch position as well as the plug type and lampholder. Knowing the country in which the luminaire will be used helps us ensure that the correct wiring configuration is used.

High voltage is used to test the wiring integrity as well as the robustness of the build.

Laurence - Quality Assurance

Prior to the TG0062.BK.ES progressing to Despatch it is thoroughly checked for obvious and not so obvious faults.

Geoff- Despatch

To ensure that the TG0062.BK.ES arrives in one piece after its journey of several thousand miles requires high quality packaging and many years of experience.

 

Before the luminaire (to use the correct terminology) was packed, there was time for one final shot. Once the sample is approved, which should hopefully now be a formality, we would then await the purchase order coming through from the purchasing company before starting manufacture for the roll-out.

Exercise: Rain

The intention in this exercise is to produce one strong attractive image which signified rain. The viewer should be in no doubt what the image is representing.  

I considered several options for this and took a number of pictures, some slightly abstract and some which contained indexical signs for rain. I chose this one because I felt it encapsulated what the exercise was asking for: there is no doubt that the subject of the photograph is rain; I believe it is an interesting image, in that the focus point is the water running from the awning even though the apparent subject is the umbrella, which is out of focus. The slow shutter speed meant that the falling rain leaves clear lines as it falls in various directions.

Bibliography:

Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.

 

Exercise: Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition means to position two things side by side usually for the act of comparison or contrast. In photography this can have many uses and is a technique which often adds an element of humour to a shot or can be used to imply a connection which the viewer may or may not see.

The course text suggested two options for me to demonstrate juxtaposing, neither of which I have used! The two suggested methods - a still life shot of linked objects to be used for a book cover or a shot of a person with or holding something they are connected with in some way - were interesting concepts and I may well come back to this later. However, a technique also suggested in the text was to use the apparent compressing effect of a long focal length lens to group two objects together when they may not ordinarily be seen this way. This is the technique I have used.


I noticed that a handrail in my local park was a similar shape to the goal posts in the distance. However, they were quite some distance apart and normal human vision didn't really make the connection between the two. However, from previous experience I was aware that a long focal length lens can make distant objects appear to loom larger in the shot. So with this in mind I took the photograph below at an efl of around 200mm. This has seemingly brought the goalposts much closer to the handrail and made the juxtaposition much clearer.

35mm equivalent focal length of 200mm

The image below, taken the following day, shows the shot taken at 35mm (efl of 55mm) and with me standing much closer to the subject. The juxtaposing effect, although still there, is certainly lessened by the smaller and apparently more distant goalposts.

35mm equivalent focal length of 55mm


Exercise: Symbols

Symbols are often used in photography to illustrate a concept or idea, sometimes an idea which is difficult or impossible to photograph directly. For example, you can't directly photograph a smell but you can use signs to suggest a bad (or good) smell; this is often used by the cosmetics industry to sell their perfumes and aftershaves. The area of study which covers how we read these signs is called semiotics and it is is used by all of us everyday, whether we are aware of it or not. In this exercise I have been given a list of five words for which I am to suggest symbols which could be photographed to represent the word or concept.

Growth: A young fern uncurling; a building under construction; a line on a graph gradually going upwards.

Excess: Too much food on a plate; obesity; a huge house. A 4x4 off-road SUV on a small residential side street.

Crime: Police on the beat; a broken window; a group of hoodie wearing youths.

Silence: Someone with tape across their mouth; a blank foggy landscape; a graveyard

Poverty; a starving, undernourished child , someone begging on the streets; a run down tower block.

As I wrote these I realised that there are several clichés. The picture of the police, or police related paraphernalia to illustrate crime is one which is used on a daily basis. You only have to look at the BBC News website to find one.

Bibliography:

Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.

Exercise: Evidence of Action

For this exercise I am to produce one image which shows 'evidence of action' that is where something has happened but which is only shown in the image by way of signs. The course text suggests an image where something has been broken or emptied. In the example below I came across a spilled can of paint. I almost ignored it, but having taught myself not to miss opportunities I back-tracked and took a few shots. William Egglestone would only have taken one shot and now I understand why! It took a while to decide on the best photograph. In the image it seems clear that someone has dropped a can of paint and then someone, maybe a passer-by, has righted it, allowing the paint to run down the side of the can. The lid is in amongst the spilled paint which has trapped blown leaves. There is nothing to explain why it happened but the are a couple of DIY shops close by so it's possible a shopper dropped it. Outside the shot, there are footprints left by someone who got paint on their shoes. these are indexical signs to the paint spillage. The position and arrangement of the spillage suggests an accident - there is nothing to suggest it was deliberately poured onto the pavement. Although the image denotes spilled paint, one might also read frustration in the image - this would be a connotation.  

Spilled paint.

Bibliography:

Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.

Exercise: A Narrative Picture Essay. "The Dog Walk."

For this exercise I decided to try to photographically record a dog walk. This isn't the most exciting of events but it was one I had relatively easy access to! I had thought it was going to be easy - it wasn't - dogs don't always do what you want them to. It was good practice though and it gave me the opportunity to consider the 'story-board' approach. Everyone who walks dogs regularly will know there are certain things which are part and parcel of the dog walk and I have tried to capture some of these in these images. In almost every shot, the subject is key and composition and form have a lesser importance.

It's that time of day. The dogs know from various triggers that we are about to go out for a walk. Once the ball is rolling, there's no going back!

A quick rummage around for the lead, or perhaps a tennis ball.

In Richmond Park - and relief at last! Not perhaps the most tasteful image but certain relevant to the narrative.

Keep Britain Tidy! (for the purposes of this exercise, this is actually a bag of leaves!)

Time to play.

Lots of fun now chasing and fighting over the ball. This action shot was taken at 1/250 sec with the pop-up flash.

Total recall!

Easy!

Meeting with old friends ...

A chance for me to enjoy the scenery.

Back on the lead for the walk home - and a treat of course.

I had to hide the tennis ball (surely to be found by the next dog) before we set off back.

Home - and more importantly, it's almost dinner time!

The purpose of this exercise was to use a number of photographs to tell a story. In this case it's the story of a walk with the dogs. Although it was my intention to make the images as attractive as possible, the major aim was to incorporate certain scenes into the narrative. I thought through the routine and aimed to get shots of the things that dog-walkers the world over are familiar with. Although I had a 'script' so to speak, getting the dogs to pose wasn't easy and this is where I needed to have the flexibility of having numerous opportunities to convey the story I was trying to tell. Additionally, trying to take the photographs whilst actually carrying out the various duties wasn't easy, but I think it makes for reasonably entertaining viewing.
 

Tutor Feedback: Assignment 4 - Light

The original feedback from my tutor Keith Roberts can be found here.

Again I am pleased overall with Keith's feedback in that he felt that it was a successful submission. It has taken me a long time to get this assignment in; I had been accumulating images for several months in order to complete the various exercises but for a number of personal reasons I have been very late getting the work in. To meet the submission date (which had already been extended) I was rushing a little to get the assignment done and I think this showed in what I ended up producing (choosing too simple a subject). Consequently, there were a few issues which I was aware of, where I didn't feel I'd succeeded or had properly covered, and Keith picked up on these.

One area in which I am aware I have been weak, is reponding specifically to suggested reading, or the reviewing of specific work by photographers Keith has recommended. Although I have often looked at the work or read texts along similar lines to those suggested by Keith, I haven't written this up, so there isn't necessarily any indication that I have done the research. I need to concentrate more on this when entering work on my learning log so I am clearly demonstrating my acknowledgment of these recommendations. Admittedly I haven't always researched Keith's specific suggestions in depth, but I do feel that I have spent sufficient time covering the technical and/or aethesthetic aspects of the examples Keith has suggested. I am keeping a record of these recommendations though and will ensure I gradually work my way through them as I continue my studies. 

Another issue Keith mentioned, which I was concious of,  was the amount of written work I am producing. I think it is connected to the previous issue of not recording everything I'm doing. I know myself that I am spending a lot of time reading about photography and indeed taking photographs and experimenting, but I think I do need to start actively recording this on a more regular basis. I have been consciously not cluttering up my learning log with musings, but I think I've perhaps I need to readdress this and pehaps separate them out from my actual coursework by categorising them differently. I have started doing this very recently will now endeavour to do this more.

Keith suggested I try and become more involved in on-line forums and discussion groups. this is something I have let slip over the past few months and will try and get back on track with it now. I have really enjoyed the interaction with other students and tutors at the study visits I've attended. It is always very useful to hear the thoughts of others and to pick up tips and advice form those more experienced, or indeed at the same level as me. And of course, seeing the displayed work of other photographers and having chance to discuss this work with others, is very enlightening.

I really enjoyed the experimentation in working towards this assignment, particularly with regard to artificial lighting/slow shutter speeds. It is an area I have become very interested in and will try and incorporate more of it into my work whenever it's appropriate. Keith gave me some very positive comments about how I am progressing in terms of research, creativity and experimentation and although I am slightly disappointed with this submisison I look forward to incorporating the necessary improvements suggested by Keith in my future work.

 

Reflection on Assignment 4: Light

This assignment involved the use of natural and artificial light to illuminate a subject in such a way as to display certain elements, namely: shape, form, texture and colour.

I wrote this reflection having already read Keith's very prompt feedback, so although I've tried to put this out of my mind, I have naturally taken this on board as I reconsidered my submission.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Technically I think I handled this aspect of the assignment pretty well. I had enjoyed experimenting with lighting set-ups and I have managed to get a decent grasp on how to adjust lighting to achieve the look I was after. I was pleased with how I have progressed with learning to use remote flash, reflectors and diffusers. Although it took some experimentation (and numerous failures) it was rewarding and useful to do.

Quality of Outcome

This was debateable. I rushed the submission to get it done on time and having chosen a simple subject, the submission seemed a little half-hearted. I was pleased with some of the images - particularly the artificially lit one - but the ones shot in natural light weren't great.

Demonstration of Creativity

Although the outcome wasn't ideal, I was pleased with some areas of my creative approach. I sourced various items from art shops to help me try different lighting techniques and experimented a little with colour theory. Even though the final outcome overall wasn't as I'd wished, I was happy that by experimenting and trying new things I have improved my technical skills and shown myself that exploring new ideas can really lead to interesting ideas for future work.

Part 5: Narrative & Illustration

This final part of the course is about how to tell a story with a single image or with a series of images. To be able to do this successfully there are several techniques which need to be learned and applied. These techniques will be covered as we progress through this part of the course.

Putting the subject first.

So far on this course the main focus has been on the elements that make up the photograph, and not so much the subject. This part of the course redresses the balance and looks a little more at the subject with the other details taking a back seat, so to speak. 

Many of us will recognise the cyclist in the centre of the image below as multiple Olympic medallist and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins. I took this photograph as he raced through Kingston earlier this year. For me at the time, all I was concerned about was that I had a decent photo of him. I had a couple of seconds to do it and no other opportunity. So in the end I was delighted to get this. I had to crop it down, he is slightly out of focus and a little blurred, but it is clearly him. At a professional level, this is not a very good photograph but if it was the only picture available it would do. The subject in this case was clearly the priority above all else.

In the image below of grass growing through snow, the subject itself is less important but how it is handled is. Getting the lighting, contrast and composition right was the priority. Had I not spent time trying to get these things right, the photograph would have looked much less interesting and attractive. This does go to show that a mundane subject, such as this grass, given the right treatment, can be turned into an interesting subject. This concept is something which I'm sure is very much on the minds of advertising executives or promoters keen to have their product seen in the best possible light.