1: Demonstration of technical and visual skills
This assignment exists in two forms: online in the post that precedes this one and physically as five A4 prints + a printed sheet with the artist’s statement from the post. While most people reading this won’t ever see these prints, I consider them to be the primary endpoint of the assignment with the log version acting more as supporting material.
I am happy with the all five of the final pictures (and indeed there are others that I like as well, but that did not make the final cut). The composition works for me and the relationship between my subjects and the camera seems appropriate for the situation. Colour, contrast and overall balance of lighting likewise seems right. The light from James’ laptop and Alice’s iPad in the two interior pictures is possibly a bit too blue, too bright, but will pass (or be fairly easily rebalanced for assessment).
I have got to the point where I am acceptably comfortable working in Lightroom. I use it both as my main editor and, probably more importantly, as an organisational tool. For more complex retouching and for compositing, I use Photoshop (Elements – I’m a tightwad), but haven’t really had to here. The final piece of the workflow jigsaw has been getting the printing module to output files that come back from Loxley successfully translated into C-type prints (ie as old-fashioned photographic prints, rather than inkjet).
The prints that should now be with my tutor (and let’s wait til he comments, before I make any definitive pronouncements on them, myself) seem to have worked well. In the past, colour has generally worked as exected, but I’ve had issues with the way with the overall lightness of my prints – they tend to be much darker than the images appear on screen. This time both the small prints I make with the machines in Boots (see the header for this post) and the final submission prints seem consistent with what I’m seeing on screen. One of the differences between professional, restaurant food and the food you eat at your (or someone else’s) home is supposed to be that if you have the same meal several times at a restaurant, it will be the same each time; a home cook will not maintain that level of consistency…
I have been musing about the way the size of a print (or the size a picture displays on screen) affects the way that it is read) a lot recently, too. The bigger something is printed, the less likely it is to come across as a vernacular snapshot. Part of the job of moving the assignment pictures away from being viewed as ‘holiday snaps’ has been achieved simply through printing them on a bigger scale than would easily fit into an album; a comment on one of my earlier posts by my fellow-student Holly Woodward commenting that she wondered how they would look as A3 also set me thinking. For the assessment maybe?
As well as making them seem more considered and worthy of serious consideration, size also of course, exposes technical imperfections like noise and poor focus. The prints seem generally fine technically; I’m less sure about them once they have gone through WordPress’ compression and resizing engines. Another reason for preferring the physical version of the assignment.
2: Quality of outcome
In the posts leading up to this assignment, I have focused a lot on the creation of images that can be read by people who do not know the circumstances of their making. So, how well have do I think I managed this?
The pictures on the ferry north, are sufficiently ‘boaty’ with the tilted horizon and windblown look of the people combining to provide a simple and clear portrayal of people in a particular space. Also, everyone looks happy enough (with me, with each other, with the general blusteriness) for a general ‘off on holiday mood’ to be conjured up. However, I realise that my personal reactions to the site-specific backgrounds (the inside of Laura’s and Dave’s kitchen; the beach at the third barrier, with Fiona and the sand castles) will not come across to others. So, do they succeed in signifying enough to work? The answer (obviously to such a rhetorical question) is that I think they do.
The pictures of James and Alice looking at screens clearly come across as people who are not fully present in the environment where they are pictured. Their relationship is with somewhere far away on the other side of their screen. Certainly there are not in the same space as I am, although I am physically present in both of the pictures: my camera bag is one of the two foreground objects in the picture of Alice; more subtly, my unlit knees are just apparent in the bottom corners of the picture of James. Also, they are still among all the busy-ness of the room around them. They are on holiday from being on holiday but there is a lot that can be read off the walls to give a sense of my relatives who are sharing their house with us.
And finally, as Fiona sits on the beach, she definitely exudes a sense of relaxation and away from it all, from all the child-friendly activity like building sand castles, from other people, from the city. She has managed to achieve solitude, and in a nice looking location.
The statement accompanying the pictures (I hope) expands their possible meaning rather than simply explaining it (in Barthes’ terms the paragraphs should act as ‘relays’ rather than ‘anchors’). I wonder whether it should be split into chunks and interspersed with the pictures, rather than presented in a single – separate – ‘thing’. Before I find out what my tutor thinks, I feel that a useful approach to reworking the assignment might be to play around with the sequencing of text and image, but that may all change!
3: Demonstration of creativity
As I worked through the edit for this I was quite surprised at how much overlap there was with parts of the course introduction. There is a distinct (and unplanned) connection back to both my Square Mile Exercise and to the work that is beginning to done with examining/interrogating my (family’s) photographic archive.
I suppose this is inevitable when I have made a lot of use of my family to make pictures in circumstances – on holiday – where people traditionally make the bulk of their pictures and at a location where I have a load of history to work with (Orkney). As such this assignment can be viewed as a snapshot of a larger body of work made within a much greater time frame.
I can see glimmerings of a lot of things that might move all this further on, both here and in later courses. This, I suspect is part of the cumulative ‘developing a voice’ aspect of the courses. Stuff to put away for a bit to let it develop further in the dark recesses of my head.
Through this section of the course, I have experimented with the way I have presented my pictures in the posts on my blog. For TAoP and C&N, I mainly used WordPress’ gallery and slideshow options with the pictures shown medium size (about 300px on the longest edge, or about half the normal WP column width) and centred, which is fine but a bit limiting. Here I used both smaller and larger sides and tried to integrate them into the writing more. I have also begun to play with the HTML markup for the blog a bit rather than just accepting what the WYSIWYG editor gives me.
I have barely scratched the surface of this aspect of presenting my work and my studies, and will probably not take it significantly further during this module. When I move onto level two at the end of IaP, I’ll start a new blog. This would be the time to investigate moving to a premium (and so not free) version of WordPress, which hopefully will allow more tinkering with layout and appearance.
Most people (though not of course the OCA’s assessors) only see my work online; many professional photographers’ sites (including some of the people we are pointed to by the courses) have terrible, clunky websites; it would be good to develop something that can act as a proper installation or even just an adequate representation of work completed.
I think the exercises for this part of the course as presented here on my log still work well though. I am less sure that working on them at the same time as I was taking the pictures that make up the assignment was necessarily the best way to go about this, though. However, while a more sequential – research to exercise to assignment – approach might have been better, the time-bound nature of doing much of the work over the course of a holiday when I had ready access to people who could act of subjects ruled this out.
I have used this method once before – for part three of TAoP where I created a great mass of colour-related pictures and only later sorted out ‘the good ones’ for the assignment and used the others to illustrate the exercise posts. The effect then was to slow my progress down and to allow me to continually look for something ‘better’. Here I was not able to go on adding more and more pictures to the pot and so, I think, that as a working method it worked better here.
Part three will, I hope, be treated to a more linear approach…