assignment 2 – making the photographs

The objective of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the themes covered in Part Two with regard to the use of both studio and location for the creation of portraits.

This assignment is about taking what has worked from the above exercises and then trying to develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio). You need to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work. Pay close attention to the look and feel of each image and think how they will work together as a series. The theme is up to you to choose; you could take a series of images of a single subject or a series of subjects in a themed environment. There is no right answer, so experiment.

 – IaP Coursebook (p.55)

For a themed environment, I had worked out that I was going to take the photographs for this assignment while I was on holiday in Orkney at the beginning of August. At the time we – my partner, our daughter and me- set out from London on our way north (my son from an earlier relationship would meet us in Edinburgh) I had only completed the unaware exercise for Project 1. So, the pictures I would take on holiday would need to complete the exercise material as well as provide a basis for this assignment.

As well as the ‘themes’ I identified around lighting, rendering the natural unnatural (and vice versa), seeding pictures with signifiers to allow them to be read, defeating the pose and around the balance between location and person pictured (described more fully in the previous post) I had a rough idea that I could take pictures of people using wireless devices to connect back to their normal, ‘citified’ lives, surrounded by glorious countryside, their faces lit – like the girl in the Kyiv metro (fig.3 in my Project 1 post) – by the light of their screens.

In the end, no one was really trying to use a device outside for anything more involved than sending a quick text, and I wasn’t going to set it up, however pictorial the result. But where people did switch off and log on was back at the house in the evening.


I started off though, taking ‘unaware’ type pictures on the journey. Perhaps this would provide a strand for the assignment. If I could draw on some of the categories of subject used by Kuzma (‘pointers’ et al) so much the better.

 


Also on the journey north, I began to experiment with trying to catch people at the time of day when my camera’s flash would begin to make a difference to the way the pictures looked. The result was one of fill (and helped eradicate the cast from the yellow helicopter target on the deck, when the subject was close enough), rather than fully blown lighting in the style of Dicorcia or Macleod, but the effect was pleasing nonetheless.

Also the sheer blusteriness on the boat distracted my subjects, making them less conscious of taking part in a photograph. To an extent, the surroundings helped me in my attempts to take pictures of people posing, but not posing…


One of the things looked at in Bate (p.79) is the way cinema alternates between close-up (concentrating on the face) and wide shot (locating the character within space). In the two exercises dealing with subjects and backgrounds (and also the introductory exercise to the section, which I also shot while in Orkney) I had been conscious of pulling back from the person pictured in order to get in enough of their surroundings for them to be readable (at least in general terms). I started to play with close and far, thinking in terms of possible sequences of photographs for some of the assignment.

And I also began to think in terms of using a form of  ‘field – reverse’ juxtaposition  (the editing cinematic mechanism of cutting from a picture of someone looking to a second picture of what they are ‘looking at’) to make links between things which are not necessarily proximate.

(The picture of me was taken by my daughter; not bad for a four year-old!)

This would potentially allow big close ups with not enough background information to place them in space to be used, coupled with their reverse, possibly as a series of diptychs. However, this probably fits better, later in the course, so I did not develop it further here.


The clothespeople are wearing (or not wearing) and the way the weather conditions either amplify or contrast with them also can help create an idea of what type of experience the subjects of the photographs are having. Blue skies and contrasty light can work with tee-shirts and swimming costumes to give one sort of holiday experience; layers, huddled postures under grey skies with little or no contrast gives another. Conditions change quickly in Orkney.

Blue water can look inviting or it can be read as cold and icy. The effect can be comic or affecting. Props can enhance the effect.


Over the two weeks we were away from home, I amassed a large number of pictures. Some of them have been fed into the exercises, but by the time I was back in London I had a good number of pictures from which to choose the final five. The next post will look at the process of editing them down from a short list of around twenty to the final submission.


Full digital contact sheets of the 2017 holiday pictures considered now follow:

Outings #1 – James and me alone (source for the same-person-different-background exercise)

Outings #2 – everyone out in the West Mainland

same-background-different-subject pictures and others

journeying north + early holiday

evenings in at my sister’s house (unaware)

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