Assignment 3 REWORKED and tutor´s feedback

Overall, the feedback on Assignment 3 was very positive. I am happy and relieved to see I have managed to express my understanding of the Decisive Moment and that my work is seen as creative and innovative.

Here there is a link to my tutor´s feedback and the reworked images below:

SilviaRuizCamara516865-AS03

I have been asked to reshoot three of the images so the frame would not be so tight (Images 2, 4 and 5), also having both Henri Cartier-Bresson and Francesca Woodman in mind. Considering the space available for shooting this was an issue, as for two of the images I did not have enough room to move the camera back or the background would become distractive if shooting with a wider focal length. I also had concerns about how the final series would look if half of the images turned to be too different from the original photographs I tried to emulate and how this would be perceived by the viewer without access to the notes and process. My perception at this point was that my tutor wanted me to take this assignment a step forward and so I felt this was also necessary, specially if a new aesthetic approach was to be introduced.

Therefore, I resolved to reshoot all the images, opening the scene and thinking of the relationship between the subject and the frame as shown through Francesca Woodman´s work (as my tutor pointed out on verbal feedback). Still, my idea was to keep distinctive elements from the first submission on each image to provide not just a sense of continuity but also contributing to the overall composition. As in the first attempt, I kept an eye on geometry and the balance between black and white areas.

To start with, I thought of Woodman´s indoor photographs so partially emptied a room and used it as a stage for all the images. It is a very small room so creating a set of different images was an exciting challenge.

Generally, I enjoyed the freedom of creating my own photographs rather than reproducing others´in a literal way. I drew a quick sketch of how the new scenes could be approached and composed but I looked mainly at the original images for inspiration while shooting.

Escanear 55

Overall, I find the new set of images more successful as they don’t only reflect my thoughts on the Decisive Moment but also feel more like my own work. Reworking the assignment has also teach me to look further, even when an image can be considered done there is always room for development or at least to ask yourself the question “could have I done it differently?” and explore all possibilities.

These are the reworked images, compared with the ones submitted earlier, contact sheets and exif data:

Image 1

photo1 diptic

Although this was the easiest image to emulate at first, it has been the most difficult to reshoot. Initially, I wanted to keep the element of the book and the movement of the pages. This was the result:

Hoja de contacto-003

Somehow I thought the composition and approach were weak and it did not tell anything new that would justify a reshoot. Analyzing the elements on it I realized the book was not relevant; it didn’t add to the composition. The original title of Henri Cartier-Bresson “Martine´s legs” gave me the clue to change the focus onto the legs so my aim here was to find a way to create and interesting composition introducing movement in a different way. I played with the idea of taking my shoe off and realized long exposure allowed me to have one shoe on and off in the same frame, so I shot until I was happy with the effect and the position of the elements on the image. This is probably the image that most reminded me of Francesca Woodman. It is the last I shot and I feel I was very much involved with the creative process here, not thinking too much on the outcome but enjoying the process instead.

a3_photo1

ISO: 100, 8″, f/22, 17mm.

Hoja de contacto-001

[Image selected: 8157]

 

Image 2

photo2 diptic

This is one of the images that needed reshooting. I kept the element of the cup to help me come up with a movement that would feel natural and coherent. It was the first image to be reworked so I was not completely sure about what I wanted to achieve visually, so tried different poses taking the original pose as a starting point.

The elements on the background (armchair and light stand with soft-box) are accidental as that is the original place they have in that particular room. I wanted to maintain a homey feeling, thinking of Henri Cartier-Bresson´s wife relaxing on their coach. I chose that corner as the armchair is a small version of the coach I used on the original submission. The light added some interest and as Martine was a photographer herself, it is a nice element to keep in what pretends to represent a photograph taken at home.

The movement is fluid and so it is the general feel of the image. Again, the freedom of composing my own way helped me to achieve the shot and gave me also more confidence since I could explore different possibilities.

a3_photo2

ISO: 100, 4″, f/22, 29mm.

Hoja de contacto-001Hoja de contacto-002

[Image selected: 8056]

 

Image 3

photo3 diptic

Funeral of a Kabuki actor was one of the hardest images to emulate. For this second attempt, I thought of simplifying the scene to a minimum while keeping a fair amount of movement. The result seems a bit inconclusive and open to interpretation on what this moment is about.

The backdrop and stand have two purposes: firstly, I wanted a black background to match the original and secondly, both elements resemble the flag that divides the original image by Henri Cartier-Bresson, which was missing on my first approach. I looked for contrast so kept my clothes white, which remind me of the handkerchiefs on the left image and also helps introducing a bigger sense of movement.

a3_photo3

ISO: 100, 6″, f/22, 24mm

Hoja de contacto-001Hoja de contacto-002

[Image selected: 8117]

 

Image 4

photo4 diptic

This was my favourite image from the original submission so it hurt a bit when I knew I was to reshoot it.

I put the camera outside the room so the door frame and part of the wall and a table appear on the left side of the image. This locates the subject and adds some additional framing; I think it makes the image more interesting, as if someone would be spying from outside the scene. Initially, I shot on the same dark suit as on the picture of the left but I wanted to catch the light from the window to create lighter areas. The element of the box was discarded as again, it wasn’t relevant. I see this new image as the one that connects Image 1 and Image 6.

a3_photo4

ISO: 100, 6″, f/22, 21mm

Hoja de contacto-001

[Selected image: 8127]

 

Image 5

photo5 diptic

The only elements I kept from the first attempt here are the position of the arms and the look into the camera. This was another favourite that needed to be reshot. I still prefer the first version but not within the new series. However, I feel this image is more personal.

It is a very simple photograph but I believe effective. I looked for triangles in the composition to match the position of the arms and the lines of the wall and skirting board to direct the eyes into the subject. The idea of the Decisive Moment comes to me here as I image the scene as a portrait (rather than a self-portrait). I picture the photographer´s approach to his or her sitter: when to shoot? Which moment would represent better the subject? Is it about the pose or about the mood of the sitter? Or is it about the overall feeling of the image (composition, expression, contrast, theme…?).

a3_photo5

ISO: 100, 6″, f/32, 32mm.

Hoja de contacto-001

[Selected image: 8084]

 

Image 6

photo6 diptic.jpg

I did not know hot to reinterpret this photograph until I started shooting. Keeping the shapes created by the position of arms and legs was a must so I focused on that. To connect both before and after versions, I brought the two black chairs into the scene and experimented from there.

I see lots of elements of duality in this photograph. The two chairs, two people, two bits of curtain. The window slightly open, letting fresh air come in and the subject suffocating with the curtain around the head. It could be interesting to know what others think about this. It was not something intentional but I can see some concept there when looking at the image.

As a quirky detail, my phone sits on the window sill with the original images opened on the screen, as a little reference/secret. I see this image as a continuation of Image 5 on the series.

a3_photo6.jpg

ISO: 100, 10″, f/22, 17mm.

Hoja de contacto-001

[Selected image: 8144]


 

As part of the changes suggested by my tutor, I had to come up with a title for the series that would define “the moment”. As I mentioned on my first impressions blog post, it was my intention to “fragment” the Decisive Moment, yet my tutor does not see the series as Fragmented or Indecisive Moments, but more like “Tentative Moments”.

I have been looking for a word that would define define my approach to the Decisive Moment. I considered how long exposures and movement have resulted in a series that record action by freezing every stage of it. Each of these images tells a story by offering a wider view of the moment: showing how it started, how it finished and what happened in between, even though the other of these stages is subjective. It is not possible to state how long the action lasted by only looking at the images. I therefore thought a good name for these photographs would be “Indefinite Moments“.

[Indefinite: lasting for an unknown length of time.]

I have also come up with the decision of changing the order of the images, taking into account the new connections I perceive between them. This would be the “Indefinite Moment” sequence:

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Assignment 4: Languages of light. Preparation for assignment.

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time. 
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you´ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your “process” (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you´ve developed the exercise in order to meet the description of the Creativity criteria. Write 500-1000 words.
  • Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor´s comments.

 

First impressions and introduction to the subject

I have chosen Exercise 4.2 (daylight) to be prepared for formal assignment. The reason for this is that after considering the three different exercises I found daylight the most revealing and complex, also the most difficult to control as it is in constant change.

After researching about photographers Sally Mann and Eugène Atget, I resolved to shoot some elements of nature (not necessarily landscape) as it is a subject that resonates with my practice. I have found inspiration on Atget´s botanical photographs to start with, as well as the atmospheric landscapes of Sally Mann. An element that came up from Exercise 4.2 was the reflection on the bottom of the frame, which I found interesting and something that could be introduced in the final images. I also wanted to connect the exercise and the assignment by choosing a similar subject.

First, I compared two images from Atget with two of a similar subject from my personal archive, and noted down the differences that I perceived make his images interesting as opposed as mine. This helped me see how the use of light in Atget´s photographs is not only enhancing the subject but also creating a layered background that contributes to a more dynamic image.

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Experimenting with refraction

I recently bought a set of defective optical glass prisms and a triangular prism to experiment with distortion and light refraction. I started exploring the different effects that could be achieved in camera by holding the prisms close to the lens and the results are quite interesting. The options are limitless, which appeals to me. This technique could introduce something new to the assignment in the way daylight can be manipulated, creating surreal images. I did some research on light refraction to understand how light travels and found the connection between the theory and Tacita Dean’s “green ray”, which I find it’s fascinating. In the sample images below, the reflection of the window on my sitter’s face evokes memories or thoughts, as if the camera would be reading into his mind and exposing the information.

 

Another curious fact about this is that the raw file shows the colours of the refracted light differently than the final images without manipulation. On screen preview of the RAW file, the light looks pink throughout and after opening the file and saving it as JPG there are different colours of the spectrum that can be seen. This still remains a mystery to me, as I haven’t found a reason for it. Below there are two screen grabs from images Flat prism 3 (on the right) and Flat prism 5. 

I am now looking at ways to integrate the effect of the prisms with my chosen subject (nature, trees, plants etc).

 

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Experimenting with daylight

  • Test images (part 1)

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To take my comparision on Atget´s photographs further, I took some snaps of interesting trees/bushes at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (which is probably my favourite place on Earth) to get my thoughts going. I was after some “portraits” of natural elements to observe what light conditions cold bring to the image in terms of the overall look of the subject within the scene. It is difficult to isolate a tree from a background of trees and I found that the direction and quality of the light is key here. The images above were shot at midday so the light was falling flat on the trees that were completely exposed to it and the resulting image was not interesting enough and the subject did not stand out. However, when shooting a shrub that was shadowed by taller trees, the filtered light coming from the top was helping in revealing its shape and also creating a layered composition.

  • Test images (part 2)

On a second visit, I explored light in a different way, drawing from what I had observed on the first time. I used a compact camera on aperture priority mode. I shot the trees and bushes by pointing with the camera slightly down, pressing the shutter half way to focus and hold the metering and then recomposing by including a part of the sky on the frame. By doing this, I wanted to trick the meter and overexpose the image to “burn” the sky and create a more atmospheric scene. I also experimented shooting against the light but trying not to get it right in camera. As a result, some images have a faded flare on them, like a blue- ish reflection, which appeared mainly when direct sun light was filtered through the top branches of the trees. This flare gives a very mystic effect that feels almost like a “presence”.

Looking at the sky on some of these images I think of Sugimoto´s “Theaters” series and the overexposed screens. I find it fascinating how I can appreciate something like an overexposed photograph in some way now. Before, I would have seen this as a mistake and discard the shot straight away, without thinking of a possible meaning or use.


I am still unsure about which direction my assignment will take, since I need to experiment further. I somehow feel the urge to include a human element in this assignment as I would like to tell a story that works as an allegory to light from both the visual and conceptual points of view. I would like to use a strong natural light in my images and due to bad weather this will be impossible for a while, so I am still developing the ideas I have gathered in this post and I am hoping to find the right moment to continue testing a bit further before I decide on how to approach the assignment.

IMG_20171014_215949_01

 

 

Assignment 3: Reflection.

Check your work against assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The work presented has a strong compositional drive and the approach taken on the brief has an implied interest in producing a visual response in the viewer. The technique used (low shutter speed) has been explored during Part 3 through research of other artists and on the exercises, and it is a crucial element for the production of the final images. Observation prior to shooting has been essential, as the work emulates Henri Cartier-Bresson´s images to decompose the Decisive Moment.

Quality of outcome

The final images and conclusion show a broad understanding on the theory of the Decisive Moment and I have worked my way towards exploring the term as I was creating more images, reflecting widely on the purpose of each of them and their aim within the assignment.

Overall, I am satisfied with the outcome and how it communicates my idea of the Decisive Moment.

Demonstration of creativity

Having to change the initial plan of shooting with a model and turning the project into a self-portraiture series has pushed me to find the way to communicate my ideas in a creative manner while dealing with many difficulties in achieving the shot I wanted. Somehow, I feel that these images are a continuation of what I started in Assignment 2 (experimenting with movement and portrait) which it´s something that really intrigues me and would like to continue exploring in different ways. I have perceived a big change in how I approach photography since I started working on research before and during projects while also shooting subjects that I like. My aim is to develop my own voice as I progress through the module by merging my interests, new knowledge and influences. I think these are early days still and I have a long way to go yet in finding my voice but I can already see all the benefits this course is bringing to my thinking process.

Context

Since I had the last tutor feedback chat and read through the brief of Assignment 3, the thought of producing a good set of images while reflecting on the Decisive Moment has obsessed me a little. The aim was to challenge the theory but how? I spent a lot of time asking myself about its meaning and wondering what would work and how it could be somehow “fragmented”.

After finishing my work I am still a little concerned about how my reflection on the Decisive Moment would be understood as my writing skills are not so good and the meaning can be easily misinterpreted because of my poor grammar. However, I know my concepts and thinking are clear and I have reflected widely on the matter, specially through observation.

Perhaps I should work more on my Learning Log as I do research many artists that are not mentioned on the course materials, and find the time to include them on the blog. I have been considering scanning some pages of the many notebooks/sketchbooks where I normally write/reflect on. I do need paper and ink to organize my ideas but these notes are often messy, illegible and quite random so I feel a bit concerned about showing them. However, I think it could enhance my learning experience if I would compromise and include them on my log as this would encourage me to keep my annotations tidier.

This, together with finding someone to read proof my entries, could definitely help my work look more professional and better organized.


 

Strengths and weaknesses

Generally and reading through the first impressions on the brief I posted earlier, I have managed to overcome all foreseeable problems that I expected facing. The series works well and the prints follow a clear theme. I decided to keep the overall look neat by shooting black and white, horizontal images and focus in portraiture.

Despite this, I perceive a difference between the first three images and the three following. As I was progressing on the series and reflecting on the Decisive Moment, my approach was evolving. Like this, I feel the first three images are less meaningful to me while the concept was richer towards the end. This could be seen as something that did not work so well, however, I am happy I can identify it and judge my work in this way. It makes me aware that the deeper the understanding/experimentation on a subject, the better results can be obtained.

How could I develop this further in the future

It could be interesting observing the Decisive Moment through Street Photography. Trying to stage Henri Cartier-Bresson´s images was helpful for my practice even though I did not choose to replicate those photographs of him that are more immediately connected to the Decisive Moment. I consider Street Photography a difficult discipline as I like control and I tend to choose predictable subjects to work with so this would challenge me in many ways.

 

Assingment 3: The Decisive Moment. Final Images and Conclusion.

[Contact sheets and development of the assignment can be found here]

 


 

Here there are the six final images for Assignment 3 (with a little description of each shot) and a final conclusion about the project.

Image 1

foto1_web

Shutter speed: 3.2″ (just enough to catch an interesting movement on the book pages)

Aperture: f/29

ISO: 100

Focal length: 21mm


I chose to begin with this image of Martine Franck´s legs as I thought it would be the easiest to get started and achieve a successful composition. It is also an image where the concept of the Decisive Moment is clear in relation with the geometry and not so much with action, as it depicts a moment of relaxation where there is not much happening. The composition is not affected by the movement of the pages on the book as the main lines are drawn by the position of the legs and the shapes created on the background.

 

Image 2

foto2_web

Shutter speed: 3.2″

Aperture: f/10

ISO: 100

Focal length: 26mm


This image seems like the continuation of the previous one despite the years that separate the originals. It is another relaxed moment where body positioning and the horizontal lines of the background create a well balanced, informal portrait. I do feel more attracted to Cartier-Bresson´s portraits than to his street photography, and I have found many images that I did not see before while doing my research for the project, mainly of family and friends (most of them artists), and there is a great feeling of complicity, specially in the ones of his wife, Martine Franck.

In this image, I have tried to recreate the movement that I feel could have happened in that moment, so she drinks from her cup while staring at something, probably aware but not really concerned about the camera. Any of these little moments caught here with the long exposure would, in my opinion, have made a Decisive Moment. It gives me the impression that Cartier-Bresson saw the shot while observing his wife and felt the urge to frame it.

 

Image 3

foto3_web

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/11

ISO: 100

Focal length: 32mm


This photograph is composed from two different shots since it was very complicated to expose myself correctly in five different positions. I used a black backdrop and planed the movements to achieve a similar composition. I tried to focus on the white areas of the original image (faces, handkerchief, arms) and their proportions within the frame. Even though the white belt and the flag with the inscription are missing, I think the essence of the original image is there. With five (possibly more) people moving in front of him, there is no way Henri Cartier-Bresson could have predict how the final image would look like. He could only observe the scene and guess when to shoot.

I set my shutter speed to 6 seconds as the first part of the image required three movements and like this, I could count 2 seconds for each position and give enough exposure time to record myself neatly at each stage. As it can be noted on the contact sheets, there was a moment when the available light dropped and the camera calculated a lower aperture with a darker image as a result. I did not like the way the light turned out then, so I changed to manual mode and used the settings from the beginning and keeping the 6 seconds exposure. I kept the same settings for the second image to can merge both images without major adjustments.

 

Foto 4

tofo4_300_small

Shutter speed: 4″

Aperture: f/25

ISO: 100

Focal length: 24mm


I have chosen this image because I like Cartier-Bresson´s photographs where people are framed tightly. I tried to keep the lines and mood of the original, despite being shot indoors and from a slightly higher viewpoint. I could not use the shutter release cable so I set up a 10 seconds delay instead. It took a while to find the correct composition. Working on this image made me wonder what Cartier-Bresson captured here: wether the man was aware of his presence and covered his face to not be seen or if he was simply resting and protecting his eyes from the sun. It represents another moment where observation and body positioning created the Decisive Moment.

 

Image 5

foto5_web

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/18

ISO: 100

Focal length: 44mm


I had my doubts when selecting the final photograph from this sequence. There is another shot that I think replicates better the composition of the original image but I feel that the one above reflects better how I imagine that moment happened. I imagine Martine Franck looking at the camera at some point while enjoying a quiet moment at home. This was my approach in representing the movement (and hence the moment) here: I gave myself 6 seconds during which, using the position from the original image as a starting point, I would just act “normal”. So, I was experimenting with moving my eyes across the scene through the window on my right, turning my head to the camera and accommodating myself on the bed. I wanted to capture what I imagined she would have been doing.

The image I think has a better composition is the following:

IMG_7220_peke

I am still wondering if I should take the second option, as it seems to match better with the rest of the images on the serie. However, I find this shot feels more posed and less natural, which crashes with my idea of how the Decisive Moment is represented here. On the other hand, the first is maybe the one image of the project that will recreate an “Indecisive Moment” by showing how a slight change when composing an image (and therefore, a change in the overall shapes and geometry of the photograph) can potentially make the photographer “miss” that Decisive Moment.

At this point of the Assignment, I notice that the process of planning, creating and selecting the right image is getting more complex as I dig into the concepts and compare the different situations in which the original photographs were taken.

I have been wondering about the idea of what exactly makes the Decisive Moment. It seems to me that Henri Cartier-Bresson was exclusively thinking of the aesthetic aspect of the image and its composition. However, when looking at his portraits there seems to be something else. Does the subject or the relationship between the subject and the photographer matter in the Decisive Moment? As he mentions on the documentary L´amour tout court in 2001, part of his technique when photographing other artists in their environment is to talk about anything so they relax and forget about the shooting that is about to happen. Was he entertaining his subjects in a way they would become another element of the image allowing him to compose the shot without much interference? Till what extent was it important for him to capture the real self of the subject? Was it all about making them unaware of his camera to give that sense of relaxation and normality and how does this relate to the Decisive Moment within his body of work?

 

Image 6

foto6_web

 

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/32

ISO: 100

Focal length: 31mm


This is not an image I have planned to replicate from the beginning but it caught my attention while searching for inspiration. Both women seem to pose for the camera but still their posture is very loose and natural and reminds me of classic paintings. Their limbs create a composition that I feel attracted to and I also liked the way their shoulder touch and the positioning of their hands.  They don´t look impressed by the presence of the camera, which tells me that the photographer was not intimidating them or the women did not see him as an intruder. The composition achieved here by Cartier-Bresson is sublime, with both girls describing opposing triangles (did Cartier-Bresson staged this or did he “see” it happening and captured “the moment“?) and their bodies framed tighlty so all the attention falls on them and not even the busy background distracts from them.

I have tried many options to get this image done. Initially I thought of using a 10 seconds exposure so I would have time to move from one chair to another, but the image was a bit overexposed. The clear background did not help much with this issue, so I dimmed the light with a curtain and tried shooting with 6 and 8 seconds shutter speeds instead, which worked better. I particularly like the messy background: the backdrop visibly hanging from the stand, the edges of it poking on both sides. Even though these elements don´t appear in the original, I would like to keep them as a point of interest. The image quality of some areas on this photograph reminds me of film (the legs and arms of the figure on the left). Unfortunately, I could not replicate the direction of the lights from Cartier-Bresson´s image, as I had only one window on the left.


Conclusion

Exploring the Decisive Moment has made me reflect on what I learnt through the previous course materials: the constant changes in light, the importance of the viewpoint and perspective, the frame, the movement that can be perceived in a scene by close observation, the way our eye reads a photograph… All these factors are affecting the composition (shadows sharpen or disappear creating shapes or defining them, a new element appears in the frame, our attention can jump from one subject/area to another with the smallest change). While trying to emulate the Decisive Moment through Henri Cartier-Bresson´s photographs, I found these concepts played a big part in the planning and execution process. That makes me think of the Decisive Moment as the moment when all these key factors converge at once capturing a precise scene that is aesthetically  perfect yet, there is still something else to it that I can´t define. It is rather the subject or the particular instant that is caught on camera that makes every element work together. As Gerry Badger comments on the Decisive Moment, it can be better understood as “the moment when form and content come together to produce an image in which the formal, emotional, poetic and intellectual elements have substance” (G. Badger, 2007)

On the other hand, and specially looking at my final images, I would say that one same scenario could provide different moments that could be considered “decisive”: the only common element is that the main factors that make the photograph stay constant. Since time is recorded as movement and movement would potentially change the composition of the image, it can be said that the greatest the movement (or the length of time), the greatest the chance the Decisive Moment is missed if not shot as it happens.

In my opinion, the presence or absence of action affects the Decisive Moment from behind the camera. Since the only person who sees the shot from that specific point of view at that specific time is the photographer himself, the fact of missing the moment can only be attributed to the capacity of the photographer to observe and identify when to shoot. Failure in identifying “the moment” would not make him miss the shot as he never observed it so, did it ever happen? This makes me think of other two factors that are equally important in the Decisive Moment: the ability of the photographer to look and the luck of being in the right moment in the right place. Just as Henri Cartier-Bresson said, it is about learning how to look and being receptive.

I had the initial purpose of challenging the Decisive Moment through presenting lengthy exposures with subjects in movement, thinking that this could lead me to prove Cartier-Bresson´s vision wrong or at least not so true for every type of shot. It happens that the more I have been reflecting on the Decisive Moment, the more I believe that he was right. The difference here is that I can see now the concept with different eyes: now I understand it better. “I look, I look. It´s and obsession” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2001). He knew how much he could miss by not looking.

 

 


References

Badger, G. (2013). The genius of photography. London: Quadrille, p.104.

‘L’amour du court’ parts 1-5, 2001 YouTube video, added by Rangefindergeneral [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF(Accessed 08 September 2017).

Assingment 3: The Decisive Moment. Development and contact sheets.

[First impressions on the brief can be found here]


 

The aim on this series is to explore the idea of the Decisive Moment through Henri Cartier-Bresson´s photographs. I asked myself:

  • How long does a moment last?
  • Can the Decisive Moment be staged and still be as successful?
  • What chances a photographer has to capture the Decisive Moment?

 

How:

  1. Bringing movement into a selection of images taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson: recreating “the moment”.
  2. Looking to replicate what makes a photograph for Cartier-Bresson: geometry and careful composition.

On my previous assignment feedback, my tutor encourage me to try to emulate photographs that I feel attracted to so I am bringing this into my Decisive Moment project. It is something that has made me more aware of the importance of the viewpoint in terms of creating a better composition. It is amazing how an image can change only by changing the position of the camera slightly and this is something I might have overlooked in the past, focusing mainly on the frame when composing a shot.

 

Initial response to the brief and how my ideas developed

My original plan was finding a model who would like to pose for me and recreate HCB´s images in a very abstract way, giving all the attention to the composition and using long exposure to record movement. Since I could not find anyone willing to do this, I decided to shoot myself and emulate the photographs in a more literal way. I did not want to focus on “copying” every element from the originals. Instead, and taking into account that the final images would be converted to black and white, I focused on colour blocking. For this, I looked at the composition of each image and identified the main black, grey and white areas. I also looked at the position of the subjects and the lines created by their limbs and body, as well as background lines that would direct my eye through the image.

I printed some of the photographs I thought would work and identified the elements that, for me, make the Decisive Moment on each of them.

Later, I would discard some (I opted to keep all horizontal so the final series would look more cohesive and other images like “Mexico, 1934” was discarded as it already has movement on it). I have finally added other images as the project developed, as I was feeling there were other shots I would feel closer to my style/preference.

These are the scans of the initially planed images:

The decision of how to introduce movement on each image was taken individually. I would imagine the situation of each shot and guess how subjects would be doing at that moment, so the movement would be naturally integrated. In the images with more than one subject, the movement from one position to another tries to depict the sequence with the “chances” of capturing moving groups of people within the frame and pretend to reflect on the multiple possibilities one moment can represent for the photographer.

All images are taken indoors (mainly in my living room) using elements readily available. I have particularly enjoyed the process of planning which objects/garments would work best for each image as well as looking for the angles/areas of the room that would work best each time. I have also used available light overall.

Regardless of myself being the sitter for the series, I do not see the final images as self portraits. This is something I have been thinking about that reminds me of what Francesca Woodman said about her own work and the reason why she was using self-portraiture: she was available. I feel her images also influenced my series in this way and also with the use of movement, which is something I have been exploring recently in my photography and still see so much potential for experimentation there.

 

Technical approach

Each image been shot differently however, always prioritizing my need of slow shutter speed to record movement. Using shutter priority mode, I varied the length of the exposure according to the effect needed and the amount of time required to replicate the movement myself.

Rather than sticking to a 35mm focal length (which would have made sense while emulating Cartier-Bresson´s images), I varied it according to the space available for composing the image so this number it is not really relevant. There are a couple of images I noted to be shot with a wide angle but I finally did not select them for shooting.

I used my camera mounted on a tripod with a 17-50mm lens and shutter release cable for some of the images. Others are taken with a 2 or 10 seconds delay, depending on my pose/distance from the camera.

 

Selection of images to replicate in movement

After lots of changes, these are the final images I picked from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

Image 1: Martine´s legs, 1967

Image 2: Martine Franck, 1975

Image 3: Funeral of a kabuki actor, Tokyo, 1965

Image 4: Spain, 1933

Image 5: Martine Franck, 1985

Image 6: Prostitutes, Alicante, Spain, 1933

 

First images: The contact sheets

This has happened to be quite a long project since my initial plan was to shoot all 6 images in one day and it has turned to be a weeks worth of work. Some of the shots were easy but most were tiring and hard to get right. These are the contact sheets:

Image 1 (Selected image IMG_7041)

Hoja de contacto-001

 

Image 2 (Selected image IMG_7052)

Hoja de contacto-001

Image 3 (Selected image IMG_7092+IMG_7099)

Image 4 (Selected image IMG_7144)

Image 5 (Selected image IMG_ 7205 or IMG_7220)

 

Image 6 (Selected image IMG_7247)

 

 


Resources

Cartier-Bresson, H. and Brenson, M. (2006). Henri Cartier-Bresson. London: Thames & Hudson.

Magnum Photos. (2017). Henri Cartier-Bresson • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/henri-cartier-bresson/ [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

 

Assignment 3: The Decisive Moment. First impressions.

Brief:

1. Prints

Send a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the “decisive moment” to your tutor. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a “peak” visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the “decisive moment”; or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn´t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it´s a location, an event or a particular period of time. 

2. Assignment notes

Submit assignment notes of between 500 and 1000 words with your series. Introduce your subject and describe your “process” – your way of working. Then briefly state how you think each image relates to the concept of the decisive moment. This will be a personal response as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course. You´ll find it useful to explore the photographers and works referenced in Project 3, if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget to use Harvard referencing.

Post your prints, no larger than A4 to your tutor with your assignment notes.

 

Reflection

Check your work against assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion.


 

First impressions

From the moment I had the feedback for Assignment 2 with my tutor I was already convinced that my plan for this third assignment would be playing with the idea of the “Indecisive moment“. However, I have been worrying about finding my own interpretation of the brief so much (which has been changing as my research and reading progressed along Part 3) that I came across multiple ideas that would provide a good response and rebate the “Decisive Moment“.

Initially, I thought of working with long exposures and composing images that would be geometrically attractive without being able to preview what the outcome would be till the shoot was taken. I thought of asking permission to use a tripod in the hall of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which would provide a modern architectural setting with great ambient light and lots of people passing by. I though of composing each shot according to the direction of the lines on walls, floors and ceilings, set a low shutter speed and let the visitors give me the rest. This way, I would not be able to predict the results, and also the “Decisive Moment” Henri Cartier-Bresson refers to would be compose not only from one moment but from dozens of moments (the ones from people passing and their trail recorder on camera). At the same time, I thought this would emulate somehow Cartier-Bresson´s “Sifnos, Greece, 1961” photograph, as he explains in this video about the “Decisive Moment” that he composed the image first and then “waited for someone to pass” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, n.d.). This is something that shocked me when researching his theory on the decisive moment, as it contradicts what he says later in the documentary of L´amour du court, 2001 about the relationship between the elements on a picture being “a matter of chance” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2001). He recognizes staging this shot, even though he could not foresee who would pass but it leaves a door open in terms of how decisive a moment is if it can be either pre-calculated or staged, as I think many street photography images are taken nowadays which try to emulate Cartier- Bresson´s aesthetics.

These thoughts took me to the next idea, which was mounting my camera on a tripod in a quiet location and wait for a single person to pass. I would record a sequence of shots and analyze which one if any could be considered as “decisive”. I did not find this idea very exciting though.

The third idea came from the statement “What matters is to look”, so I asked myself “what if I don’t look?” Is it possible to achieve an aesthetically pleasing image without even looking while shooting?”. I had to options here:

  • go out and shoot from the hip.
  • find a subject that would be so unpredictable that I could not know how or in which direction it would move.

During the exercises on Part 3 while exploring shutter speeds, I also asked myself “how long is a moment in time?” I though of empty, abandoned places, where nothing happens, where time stretches and one moment is the same as the next. I thought of nature, where I always find inspiration and where changes occurred over long periods of time. Natural rock erosion that it can not be perceived unless working with really long exposures that I wonder if even Michael Wesely could capture.

I also tried other routes that would not try to show indecisive moments but would represent that that moment is gone. There has been an incident at work when a car crashed with a wall in the carpark and the site is cordoned off. A fence is guarding the whole with the fallen bricks and I thought this could be a great interpretation of a decisive moment that was missed. A nearby block of flats caught fire before that happened and the damage is still visible, so that would have been my second image but I abandoned the idea as I did not want the assignment to be based in negative events.

While doing my research on the artists mentioned on Part 3, I found the work of Fréderic Fontenoy and his series “Metamorphosis” (1988) by pure accident. It is a series of self-portraits in which the artist, nude and out in the wild, plays with low shutter speeds and body distortion.

I found this series beautiful in many ways. It made me question how long the photographer tried to get the right image in this case. Did he tried to move faster first, then slower? Did he tried different combinations of body movement or sticked to one and change the settings? Was it all improvised or was there a particular connection between the movement and the environment? I could also see the resemblance to the indecisive moment I wanted to portray but, at the same time, it represents a moment itself: the moment when the photographer danced in front of his camera. And it is recorder from the beginning till the end, just as Hiroshi Sugimoto records the movies in his series “Theatres”.

I took the decision of exploring Fontenoy´s technique and to question the decisiveness of a moment, the length of it and the degree of control the photographer can have in capturing it. I would do this through staged representations of a number of “Decisive Moments” (Henri Cartier Bresson´s selected images) where the subject emulating the composition will need to be in constant but controlled/timed movement in order to achieve the results. The final images should recreate the originals in the way of giving a sense of movement and passing of time. It will also explore the chances a photographer has to find a decisive moment within a timed sequence and the relationship of the subject and the frame during that particular shot.

Problems I may encounter:

  • finding a model/subject to perform as required.
  • Achieving the adequate resemblance to the original images without being too obvious or too far from the concept and composition.
  • Controlling time of exposure and movement of the subject to achieve satisfactory results.
  • Deciding whether or not the selection of the original images should follow certain theme or characteristic (all horizontal or vertical; all portraits or a mix of different disciplines)
  • Achieving enough clarity on the movement that not only represents the desired scene but also will make a good printed image that works individually and in the context of the series.

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson´s images I am considering working with

 


Resources

Cartier-Bresson, H. and Brenson, M. (2006). Henri Cartier-Bresson. London: Thames & Hudson.

Fredericfontenoy.com. (2017). Metamorphose. [online] Available at: http://www.fredericfontenoy.com/metamorphosis.html [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

Magnum Photos. (2017). Henri Cartier-Bresson • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/henri-cartier-bresson/ [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). HENRI CARTIER BRESSON – The Decisive Moment 1973_2007. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14ih3WgeOLs [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].

 

Assignment 2: Feedback.

Here you can find a PDF with my tutor’s feedback on Assignment 2:

SilviaRuizCamara516865-AS02

I am very happy with the feedback received, specially after my initial concerns with the direction my Assignment 2 was taking towards meeting the brief. I was quite aware that my ideas and approach were risky or at least not a very straightforward answer to the brief and I feared a negative feedback would make me have doubts about trying different routes than the obvious on following assignments.

My tutor seems to like my ideas and creative process and I appreciate his encouragement   to continue on this line. As I started presenting one idea but ended up sending a different one for formal assessment, the feedback is directed to both, the initial and final work. As a response to the feedback, I am following the advice given and developing some concepts.

First, I am continuing with the initial project (which I called “Innominate”) by producing new images of the strangers that reply to my advert. All new work is published here. In addition, I am also working on the suggestion from my tutor about integrating the text from the titles on the photographs. I have not come to a final decision on which technique or aesthetics I want for the project yet, so I am still experimenting. I have tried scanning my handwriting, blending it on the image by playing with layering options. I like the result but I am not happy with the image quality of the text itself, so I am looking forward to try a drawing pad to see if I can gain some more definition of the handwriting.

writingsample
One of the images where I am testing how to integrate text on.

The other option I am looking into came from a memory I have from an old photo my auntie gave me when I was about 8 years old. It was a picture of her in Egypt, with the pyramids behind her in the middle of the desert. It had some handwritten text on the back of it (my brother did it) so the photo had bumps at the front with the text appearing back to front. This annoyed me a great deal on that time but I think it could add a lot of personality to my images. Since the titles are secrets, the idea of writing them on the back of the photograph, almost as it would be hidden from the viewer, runs parallel to the whole concept that inspired the project. I found an old picture and wrote my name on the back of it, using a soft surface for support in order to get a greater relief. It did not work quite well, but I think it does depend on the colours/pattern at the front of the image where the text shows. So, the next step is getting the images printed and testing where the text would be more noticeable from the front. If it works, I will then scan the images and re-print them to see how the final result looks.

oldphotowritingsample
Old photo with writing on the back.

 

Secondly, different ways of continuing the submitted project (which I called “Almost 36”) were discussed during the verbal feedback with my tutor. He introduced me to artists such as Karl Baden and Tehching Hsieh, who committed to their self-portrait pieces in a way I could not have imagined before. Both, (Baden with his daily self portrait for a period of 30 years and Hsieh with what it is known as the “time-clock piece”, where he took a picture of himself every hour for a whole year) show not only an extraordinary tenacity but also a common interest in recording the passing of time. Hsieh´s work is quite amusing, as he spent a whole year inside a cage without talking, writing, reading or listening to the radio/tv before committing to the time clock piece for another year, in 1981. Still, after this one project was finished, he spent the following year living outdoors, without being able to go into any building, vehicle or tent.

I am not planing to modify the submitted series but I would like to use these ideas and the inspiration from Baden and Hsieh in future work. It has been a good experience for me and only now I can see how it would worth taking it to another level. I  have been thinking a lot recently about memories and time and I am currently gathering information for future development of the idea of time and how it reflects on people and places. I am also thinking more about presentation of my work. My tutor gave me good examples during our verbal feedback and I realize that should be something I want to develop for future projects.

On the pointers for the next assignment, I am definitely going with the idea of “the indecisive moment”. After going through the exercises in Part Three and researching some of the artists suggested plus some others that I have encountered on the way, I have a clear idea of what I want to create. I really liked the work photographer Bettina Von Zwehl produced in her series “Alina” and the whole concept, which somehow freezes a moment where nothing seems to happen at the time that creates a perfectly valid piece. She could have triggered the flash in many other moments and the results would not have been better or worse, maybe not even different. Neither the sitters or Bettina herself could know how the image would look like. Is there such a thing as the decisive moment then?

 


Resources

– Bettina von Zwehl. (2017). Bettina von Zwehl. [online] Available at: http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

– YouTube. (2017). Wasting Time – Tehching Hsieh. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfwDKJUlldU [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

– YouTube. (2017). Tehching Hsieh: One Year Performance 1980-1981. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvebnkjwTeU&t=210s [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

 

Assignment 2: Collecting (Part II) Final images and reflexion on the results.

Re-approach of the brief and new assignment idea.

(Part I can be found here)

For my headshot series I wanted to follow the same line as on the initial idea, research wise. I wanted to communicate something personal and integrate image and written word, so decided to document a day and a half of my life through headshots.

I work as a nursing assistant and often do night shifts. Normally, I would not go to bed after my shift and will try to keep myself awake till the following night. My diet goes off the window and at the end of the day (and a half) I do not even feel like a person. I thought I could come up with an interesting set of images that would show the changes on my face together with some brief notes of what I have done and eaten, and the time the images were taken.

I set up a light and the tripod in one of the rooms and kept it closed so nobody would interfere and the distance between me, the camera and the light source would remain as stable as possible throughout the process:

IMG_20170806_092125

 

As I did not have space for a second light or a reflector, I tried to place the single light as parallel and close to the camera as possible, to get my face features illuminated in order to appreciate the changes from one photograph to another. I did not have a remote shutter release so the biggest challenge here was getting my face in focus. Other problem was finding the right spot to get my face framed properly and in a similar position for all the shots.

Technical approach and planning

After mounting the camera on the tripod at a hight suitable to take a self portrait while standing, I chose my camera settings. When working with external flash I would normally choose the settings (aperture between 6-8, ISO 100, white balance set to “flash” and shutter speed between 125 and 250), take a test shot and bring the power of the flash up or down (or using flash compensation on camera, again depending on the kind of light I am looking for and the power of the flash unit I am using) till I get an exposure that I am happy with. So I started with:

f/6.3

ISO: 100

Shutter speed: 1/160

Focal length 42mm

I used these settings till IMG_6226, where I closed the aperture till f/9, in order to ease the process of getting my eyes in focus. I adjusted the power of the flash from there and once I got the exposure right, I took some more shots until I figured out what position I needed to be in and also experimenting with my facial expression. I resolved to stay away from smiling too much and remain as neutral as posible so the effects of poor diet and sleep could be seen in a clear way and not conditioned by my expression. I planned in advance at what times I was taking the shoots (after certain activities) and documented my food and beverage intake and the main facts occurring in between the shots.

The technique I used to get my face in focus without a remote shutter release was as follows:

  • using the self-timer of the camera (10s) and selecting an AF point that would fall on the lines of my eyes, I place one hand on the spot were my face was meant to be while pressing the shutter down half way.
  • when the light on the camera indicated that focus was found, I was pressing the shutter fully and positioning myself on the same spot where my hand was, working better when standing slightly ahead of that spot.

Here are the contact sheets of the whole shoot (with the final nine images marked in red):

Selection of images and notes

I noticed that, as the day was progressing, it took less time for me to get the shot right. This was partly because learning the exact way to focus and position myself improved with practice but also because the more tired I was getting, the less picky I was about the way the image looked and I was happy with a focused centered photograph.

The criteria for choosing the final images was:

  • 1 image per period of time documented.
  • in focus.
  • as centered as possible.
  • similar position to the previous shots to keep the continuity of the series.

[I called the series “Almost 36” because that is the gap between the first and the last image (35 hours and 43 minutes) and also because I will be 36 next month and I thought it was a brilliant coincidence for a self portrait project.]

These are the images selected and their annotations:

 

“Almost 36”

6/08/2017

Wake up time: 6:40 a.m

Left the bed at 7:15 a.m

 

 

 

 

Strengths and weaknesses

I was positively impressed with the final result as I think it reflects clearly the ups and downs of the day(s) documented, exactly as I felt they happened. While taking the photographs, my impression was that the project was worthless as I thought I was looking exactly the same in every image. However, when I reviewed the photographs at the end of the experience, I could see how much my face and expression was affected by the lack of sleep and uncontrolled intake and how the tiredness builds up along the way, which was the main thing I wanted to communicate with the series.

As weaknesses, I would point out the lack of light bounced on the right side of the face, with would have made the portraits more flattering.

Overall I am pleased with what I am presenting. It has been also a good exercise for me as I am quite self-conscious and I was totally out of my confort zone. I reflected about publishing the images, whether or not I would regret it, what would people think about me… only till I saw the series as a whole and instantly loved it and left all these questions aside. I feel I have succeed only because I have put a little bit of truth out there (the truth about how hard it is to be a nurse and have a family life, the truth about how terrible someone can look after sleeping…and after not sleeping) and because I have found the courage to publish a picture of myself in such states.

 

How could I develop this further in the future.

It could be developed in many ways and I feel that more personal work like “Almost 36” will come. As I mentioned above, I do feel somehow liberated and willing to experiment a bit further by documenting little happenings in life through photography and trying to make it interesting.

Perhaps a more exhaustive approach to the specific times when the photographs were taken (every hour, every two hours…) would have helped and, although impossible in my current situation, it might be something that could be applied to future projects of similar nature.

Another idea that came to mind and that would be interesting to come back to is taking a similar series exclusively with available light, so the time of the day would be reflected also on the image and it could be guessed by the quality of the light and not only by the footer of the photograph.

 

Reflexion.

Looking at the overall work on Assignment 2, I consider I have fulfilled the Assessment criteria. I have documented all the process, taking notes of the mistakes and finding alternatives for both meeting the brief and solving technical challenges.

I think I have shown a good level of technical skills and that I know my camera and understand the concepts reviewed during Part I and II. I do tend to explore different options in order to achieve the results I expect.

In the end, the requirements of the brief are met. I have presented a series of nine headshots, created by showing a degree of technical skills and although my first approach to the assignment could not progress in the way I wanted, I have managed to come up with an interesting set of images that are also working as a whole, communicating an idea and showing continuity.

I was concerned about the feedback I would get from my tutor if I would have followed my initial idea but I am now more confident as I perceived the final work submitted has a good professional feel to it.

Overall, I have enjoyed greatly working on this Assignment and I am looking forward for feedback and new challenges in Assignment 3.

Hoja de contacto-FINAL

Assignment 2: Collecting (Part I)

Brief

Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing:

  • Crowds
  • Views 
  • Heads

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.


 

First impressions and initial response to the brief.

During my A1 feedback session with my tutor, it was suggested working on “Views” on Assignment 2 and approach it from a different viewpoint, perhaps looking down. While completing the exercises in Part Two I decided not to take this option for various reasons:

  • I found it very limiting, since there are not many bridges or buildings I could take pictures from and the views were far from exiting, which did not motivate me to follow this route.
  • I frequently find myself shooting while looking after my two year old son and since it hasn’t stopped raining for about three weeks and I have to push a buggy around together with the camera, I found this not adequate and again, very limiting.

I do not like crowds so I decided to go for Heads instead.

I have spent too much time thinking on this assignment. I had to change the plan half way through and I am still unsure if the final outcome will meet the brief as it is suppose to. This might be a quite lengthy reflection on the assignment as I have made multiple annotations but I would like to resume them all here for future reference. 

Inspiration, research and how my ideas developed.

Initially, I had an idea for a project that I have been developing as I was going through the exercises in Part Two. The idea came to me when I found a rather intriguing ad on Gumtree on the 25th of July 2017:

“Date posted 13/07/2017

We are currently needing to get back at someone for a prank they pulled on us, so looking for someone to help us with our payback prank will only be 10-15 mins worth of your time to lay the ground work will pay 25 for your time needed in the St. Andrews area.

Brett”

I thought is was hilarious but I was also trying to guess myself what these people´s revenge plan was. What happened to them? How will all resolve? Is it a friendly prank or something else? I normally find these things fascinating and soon after I read this ad, I came across Sophie Calle and I knew I had to take my finding further and take a series of images, taking some inspiration from Sophie Calle´s work (in this case, photographing strangers and integrating written word and images).

I found a reference to Sophie Calle´s project “The Hotel” (1981) in “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton. I loved the concept. Having worked in a hotel myself, I have experienced the feeling of walking  into a guest´s room and noticing how the room itself and the belongings are somehow disconnected: one day the owners leave and other people´s belongings take over the space, which never changes and it is incredibly impersonal. I found the act of photographing guest´s belongings fascinating and her particular approach (taking notes, creating portraits of the owners and suggesting stories). There is a special connection along her work between the subject and herself, even when the subject is not there.  On “The Address Book” (1983), she created a portrait of a man by visiting the contacts from his lost address book and asking questions about him. Previously, on “The Sleepers” (1979), she invited 24 people to sleep in her bed for periods of 8 hours, so her bed was constantly occupied for over a week. Calle interviewed the volunteers and documented the experience, taking pictures regularly, even while they slept (again, the absence of the subject). She also followed a man she barely knew (called Henri B.) to Venice and shadowed for thirteen days on “Suite Venitienne ” (1980). Calle tried to photograph Henri B., who was a photographer himself, in his own photographic style. She did not seem to find out much about the man after all, as she wrote at the end of her notes “Henri B. did nothing. I discovered nothing. A banal ending to this banal story” (Sophie Calle, 1980). 

For my series, I wanted to contact strangers and take their photographs and also integrate some degree of interaction between them. I wanted people to participate. The first idea I wrote on my notes is:

“Ask people I know to tell me a secret, which could be real or fake.

I will then take pictures of anonymous people and randomly assigned them a secret [so this would be the title of the image].

It could be interesting if they pick their own secret from a list. Or even take it out from a bag containing the secrets.”

The first approach I thought of was asking the subjects to pose and take their image from the back, so their face would not show. I wanted to keep them “unknown”.

By assigning each of them a secret, I wanted to create the illusion that both subject and secret are connected, so the viewer would assume knowing something about the subject. I wanted to experiment with perception and assumptions and also give the viewer the possibility to connect with someone who´s identity is hidden.

So, this was the kind of image I was planning at the beginning:

innominate_test

 

I thought of using a focal length between 24-35mm to give the scene a more realistic feeling and help the viewer create a story of their own.

I also wanted the background on focus, integrating the subject with the environment.

As a second thought, and with the purpose of giving the viewer some more information on the subject, I resolved placing the subject performing a simple action (carrying shopping bags while walking towards a door, so it will help with the assumption that that person just arrived home from shopping) but I soon realized it was taking the attention away from the main idea. I also discarded the idea of asking the models to choose a false name that would go on the title together with the secret, as it was distractive. I wanted to keep the images really straightforward and also give scope to the viewer to generate their own preconceptions with minimal intervention.

At this point I was still unsure on how to meet the brief, as I was going with the Heads option that I took generally as portraits rather than specifically headshots. I needed to bring the subject tighter on the frame but a head seen from the back is not very exciting and I didn’t think it would communicate anything so I integrated the idea of using a small aperture with the subject moving, facing the camera. I realized giving less importance to the background and turning my subject towards the camera was working far better while going a step closer to the brief. I still wanted to keep the background different between subjects and keeping it in focus was important too, because:

  1. gives some stability to the scene, as subject will move.
  2. gives the subject a sense of belonging, while keeping them different from each other.

It was important for me to “keep it real” and get the final images on camera (rather than faking the movement by merging different shots in post processing) as the whole concept of the series held enough complexity about what is real or not, so the technical challenges were some.

Technical approach and Planning.

My choices for focal lengths are not big. I only own a 50mm and a 17-50mm zoom at present so I opted for what works best, the prime.

Although I am shooting portraits, I have chosen to use an horizontal frame through the series. I want to create scenes rather than isolating the model and also give the final image a more cinematographic feel, in the line of me telling a story to an audience who will be building up a character from the information presented to them.

The steps/preparation that I followed is:

  1. Contact volunteers through an ad on Gumtree. I wanted to link the payback ad to my series. I also requested from the subjects a specific amount of their time, 30 minutes in my case.
  2. Set up a time and date with each of the volunteers. The only instructions for clothing were to avoid pure black or pure white, to keep the image interesting and make exposure easier.
  3. Ask my friends and relatives to tell me a secret. It was suggested that the secret did not have to be real, but I should not know whether they told me the truth or not.
  4. During the shoot (which is done outdoors with natural light and no reflector) the model is asked to stand in front of the camera at certain distance and move their head right to left and back, at different speeds. I instructed the model to try keeping the body still in the meantime, which is quite challenging.
  5. After the shoot, the model is presented with the list of secrets and asked to choose the one that will give the title to their image.

 

So far, the general settings for the series is:

– Focal length: 50mm

– Mode: Aperture priority.

– Aperture: f/22

– ISO: 100

– Camera mounted on tripod, as images will be taken at the lowest speed possible with daylight.

Before taking the first image for the assignment, I thought of setting the camera in BULB mode an try to get as much movement as possible from the subject. In fact, I tried this option but there was far too much light around and taking the image without blowing up the background was not possible. I did some reading on this and resolved that it would not be possible to achieve unless moving the shoot indoors or using an ND filter that would lower down the exposure certain stops. Hence, I sticked to the idea of using aperture priority which was also the mode we experimented with during Part Two.

Here is a sample of the images taken with the first volunteer:

 

I have censured the images where the face of the subject can be seen, as the shutter speed was too fast for the speed of his head moving. I could have solve this in part by selecting shutter priority mode but I did not wanted my ISO to go higher (I find the noise in my camera is very noticeable when bringing ISO up). As it can be seen, I was playing with BULB mode on the first images where the scene is well overexposed. Then I switched to aperture priority as explained. The last set of contact sheets is a trial of how would it have looked if I would have followed my initial idea, which I did not find very interesting. From all the shots, I preferred the ones where there is more background included in the frame with the subject looking into the camera. This is the image that I selected to be the first of the series:

innominate1
“I left without paying”, 2017

I love the fact that the graffiti on the black door has faces on it and specially that the last one is covered. It gives another dimension to the image so I started to look for these little details on the following shoots.

The second shoot was more straight forward, as I knew my camera settings so it was more about the interaction with the subject and finding a place to set up within the first five minutes of the shoot. I have been finding the experience very fulfilling and exciting. It is difficult to believe that there are people out there who actually contact me and let me photograph them but I also see from my part how enjoyable it can be, even if it takes only 15 minutes to take the shot, the simple action of meeting with a complete stranger and do this together brings something very rewarding in the end.

This is the contact sheet for the second shoot:

Hoja de contacto-005

And this is the final image I selected for the assignment:

innominate2_1500
“I once dressed up as a woman in a contest” 2017

 

Again, this was a bit of luck, finding a background that I like that also shows some symbolism in it. I chose it initially because of the plants, as they look kind of blurred behind the window but did not notice the two faces drawn on the purple leaflet which are looking right into the camera. I like it, it is almost ironic that the person photographed does not show his identity but there are two little imaginary individuals interested in being portrayed.

I was happy with the results and how the idea developed. However, the difficulties of finding a date and time that would suit everyone made me think of other alternatives. I wanted to continue with the course materials and this was holding me back. I also thought that, as I was not showing headshots, the assignment would end up not meeting the brief description, so I sadly abandoned the idea (only for assignment purposes as I am continuing with the project for myslef) and prepared a series of headshots instead.

[Continues on the next post]

 


References:

– Baudrillard, J. (2009). Sophie Calle: The reader. 1st ed. London [England]: Whitechapel Gallery.

– Cotton, C. (2014). The photograph as contemporary art. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

– Tate. (2017). Sophie Calle born 1953 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/sophie-calle-2692 [Accessed 5 Aug. 2017].

– The complete guide to night & low-light photography. (2002). Devon: David & Charles.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)

Born in Hungary in 1895, this polifacetic artist became an important figure of the German art school Bauhaus, where he was a professor. Moholy explored a number of art disciplines (including Architecture, Graphic design, Painting, Filmmaking, Sculpture, Photography and Writing) from a very innovative perspective, integrating new technologies and experimenting with materials with the aim of creating “useful art”.

He claimed Photography as the medium of the future and experimented with the various ways images can be perceived, evolving hand by hand with new techniques. Like this, he worked with light sensitive paper to create images following the principles of Photography but omitting the use of the camera itself. These “photograms” are intriguing. The way common objects are rendered against the photosensitive paper creates silhouettes that remind me of radiographies, however projecting the outside form rather than the inside of the object.

His graphic design style has a remarkable influence from Constructivism and Cubism, showing geometric and abstract work also characteristic of his school. This interest in shapes and lines reflects also in his photographs. In them, Moholy plays with unusual view points and cropping. He presents lines and shapes as an integrated part of our surroundings and creates interesting compositions with a clever use of empty space and shadows. As a result, I find his images are strong, aesthetically pleasant and have a very modern approach.

I personally like the way he integrated typography in his designs and how his bold graphic pieces relate to his photographic work. Also the architectural references throughout his Photography and use of perspective and lines are a great source of inspiration for my Assignment 2.

 


 

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