(1) All background images were found on Google Images.
Shown in the images are exhibition layouts I created using Photoshop, the quality isn’t great but I just wanted to show mock ups of how I would possibly present my series Flat 35 in an exhibition space.
For the mock ups I kept the original frames in the images, this doesn’t work so well for the smaller scaled framed prints shown in images 1, 2 and 3. If I were to present them in this way I would have square frames, or possibly without frames at all as shown in my previous post of how I presented the images for submission. However, if I had larger scaled prints as shown in image 4 then I would keep the frame as I think that this works well.
I played with the idea of not having all the images together, but having all the portraits of one wall and all the objects on another, spread out across a room. I think if the images were to be spread out, having the images larger would work better as viewers would be able to see all the photographs clearly all at once, whereas if they were smaller as shown in 1 and 2 they would have to be closer, looking at all the images individually. I think I like the idea of them being spread across a room, but at a large scale like image 4 shows, perhaps having the four portraits all on one wall, and then directly across from them would be the still like images. Opposite each portrait would be that persons object, connecting them. This would represent the separation between the moment I met them, and the moment I became comfortable with their presence in my daily life.
Shown in the image above is how I presented my work when submitting. I am happy with this order and the way the images look in a grid, I think the square format has worked well. I don’t think leaving the borders on would have given the same affect when shown in this way.
The image I copied was from Thomas Ruff’s Porträt series, in this series Ruff used even lighting and positioned his sitters as though it were a passport photograph. He was interested in photographing his subjects in this way as it showed how photography can only show the surface of things. My main focus was his work with this series after 1986 when Ruff decided to take away the choice of coloured background for his sitters and to blow the images up to 210 x 165 so literally every detail can be seen on the sitters face. With his work it seems ironic that you can see so much of the person he has photographed yet we can never know anything about them other than what they look like.
When thinking of this idea of a portrait only being able to show the exterior of someone’s identity I began to develop my idea for the series. I decided that I wanted to photograph my flat mates at university in this way to show our disconnection from each other as we were chosen to live together randomly. It felt odd to me that these once strangers have now become a big part of my daily life so along with the portraits showing our disconnection I also wanted to show our connection to one another and so decided to do still life portraits of objects out of their rooms, something that is personal to them.
When Ruff created his series he used a large format camera but due to the cost I decided to use a TLR (twin-lens Reflex) medium format camera with a 180mm lens. I decided to use medium format rather than 35mm as I wanted more detail to the images.
As further research into the history of portraiture I looked at Portraiture by Shearer West. In her book she talks about portraitures relation to time and how it only shows the appearance of the sitter in the fleeting moment it was produce in and nothing more. I felt this really related to Ruff’s thoughts on this subject. She also talked about the importance photography had on painting and vice versa; painters and photographers took inspiration from both. Painters would use photographs as reference so their subject didn’t have to be present when they painted them and photography (especially in the early days when exposures were very long) took on poses seen in paintings, and still do today. Shearer West’s book on portraiture helped me to further understand portraiture and the conventions that made it what it is today.
When thinking about how I was going to photograph the objects my flat mates gave me I researched Irving Penn as he is very well known for his still life work. I found myself submersed in his Cranium Architecture series where he photographed animal skulls. What I found inspiring about these images was the way Penn composed the skulls so that they all look the same size within the frame and used a plain white background to make the skulls the main focus of the image. I also thought his lighting worked well with the objects, using a hard light to create a slight shadow underneath the objects to give them depth so they do not appear to be floating. I didn’t want the lighting to be as harsh as this with my still life photographs as I wanted them to have the same soft lighting the portraits have but not quite as even giving them a bit of shadow.
For the series the main focus was the subject matter, and so I chose to center the sitters in the middle of the frame, and evenly lit. I wanted a grey background as I wanted the colour to be very neutral and white would have made the subjects stand out too much. This was the same with the still life images, although I wanted to give them more depth by only having one soft box on the left creating a shadow.
I decided to have the subjects expressionless in order to not give anything away about them other than their exterior to express my experience of meeting them for the first time when we moved in. The only thing they had a choice in with the images was the clothes that they wore and the objects they picked. These are the only hints to their identity beneath the surface. The title of my series is ‘Flat 35’ I decided on this as in our halls residency that is our flat number and the work is based around the people who live there with me so it seemed to fit well.
The genre of my series is portraiture, even though I have still life’s in my series the main focus of the theme is on the portraits of my flat mates and the images of their objects are to aid the viewer in discovering my connection to them.
I found that the strength of my copy was the composition, I feel that this mostly resembled that of the original image and also the lighting. However, the lighting was also a weakness as I should have used two soft boxes that were the same size. When shooting my series, I realised the lighting in the portraits was a lot closer to Thomas Ruff’s portrait than my copy. I also think if I were more capable with Photoshop I could have changed the shape of the features of my model to make them closer to the original, especially to make the hair thicker as I really struggled with this when styling.
The strength with my series I felt was the lighting and composition. An issue I did come across with the composition however was due to using a TLR camera for close up work there is a parallax error. The error mainly affected the still life images; this I was really disappointed with as I wanted them to be centered, but because I framed them all the same when shooting they all came out similar. I also had trouble with the backgrounds, as I shot one of my sitters and the objects on a different day and in a different studio the grey was quite different.
If I had more time with the projects I would re-shoot them. For the copy I would have changed the lighting and with the series I would have made sure that I shot them all on the same day and lighting conditions.
When mounting I found it easy to stick the images to the card, but once they were on there it was really difficult to cut to begin with. This resulted in me cutting my first image into a square rather than keeping the frame as I found it easier; but once I got the hang on it I tried again with the frame in the image. The result is shown above.
When looking at them next to each other I now prefer the square mounted images instead, as when thinking of how I’m going to present them I think that squares will look better when they are in a grid, as shown in a previous post showing my final images.
Overall I’m pleased with how mounting is going, I found it a lot easier to hot press than I thought it would be, especially after getting over the nerves when doing the first one.
Shown above are my final images for my series titled ‘Flat 35’. The quality of the images aren’t that great because I scanned the printed photographs to show how they look as due to the 7×7 frame they look like big polaroids which is an interesting quality.
I’m very pleased with how my images have come out for the series. I have not yet decided how to display them yet, but I quite like the order they’re in shown above. I definitely want the portraits to be above the objects and they will be put underneath the person it belongs to. I like that I have a variety of different objects, having a slipper and a show actually works quite well, and also how they’re not perfect, they’re worn and very real.
I have come across Hannah Starkey’s work without even realising it, but recently read an article which included an article of her talking about her work in Broadly, written by Olivia Parkes March 25th 2016.
Starkey mainly photographs women, in the interview she states that this is because of events that had been happening in Belfast, Northern Ireland where she grew up. For 40 years there was a religious conflict known as the Troubles. During this time when she was a child she could feel the amount of strength women had, and what they could achieve if only their voice was heard “They spoke against the violence with compassion, reason, and intelligence.” (Starkey, H. 2016). In her images she wants to evoke the strength she sees in the women around her as this is dismissed too often in mainstream visual culture.
Looking through Starkey’s photographs I have found her work very inspiring, especially the way she represents women in her images. She has a very distinctive style, in most of her images she includes a window or mirror within the composition, this is because they add a fourth dimension to the photograph and are a metaphor for reflection of the self. She also states that outside of lens-based media mirrors are the only way we can see ourselves in our environment, and sees why people are so captivated with the boom of the selfie; it can be empowering if done in the right way.
I found the interview very interesting to read, to hear her talk about her work made me understand it a lot more and know what she is trying to achieve. You can see this in the images, but because photography is mainly opinion based (this is true for any art form) it was good to be able to hear it from the creator of the work. I always enjoy reading interviews with photographers as they all have such different ideas and ways of working its like a back stage viewing of their work.
Today I visited Imperial War Museum to see the exhibition Lee Miller: A Woman’s War. I had previously heard of Lee Miller and seen some of her war photography but had never experienced her work as seen in this exhibit.
The exhibition was very big and included lots of photographs by Lee Miller; but also of paintings of herself created by Pablo Picasso, Roland Penrose and a cast made by Paul Hamann of Millers torso, objects of hers such as her cameras, equipment, clothing and letters.
The photographs were presented in black frames in different sizes, some of her images were shown digitally using a projector and their was also a video of people talking about her work and a recording of Lee Miller herself in an interview about her work.
The whole exhibition was like a timeline of her photography career; it was amazing to see the amount she had been through. Lee Miller began her career in 1927 and was originally a model for Vogue magazine but ended up being one of their leading photographers. She started of doing fashion photography but gradually became more of a documentary photographer as she captured women’s lives in uniform and even later in her career was a war photographer. She is most well known for her war photography and is one of the most important in the twentieth century due her images taken during the Second World War showing the lasting effects on women in Britain and Europe.
I found her images very fascinating, especially with having the context alongside them on where Miller was in her career and during her life. I also thought having her equipment in the exhibition was very interesting to see what she used during that time period. I am also glad that at the end of the exhibition they showed what she began doing after her career in photography had ended, she began learning to cook and had some of her surrealist recipes shown on Vogue. It actually turned out that Miller’s son had no idea about her career in photography and all the things she had done, and didn’t find out until after her death when he found the photograph in the basement of the family home. This just showed how much of an impact it had on her life, she had completely left that part of her life behind.
Overall I found Lee Miller: A Woman’s War very inspiring and I also liked how the exhibition was laid out, it made it visually interesting and worked well for the viewer to be able to walk around it. I would recommend going to see this exhibition before in closes in April.
Shown above is my final edit for the Copy. I’m very pleased with the outcome, although if I had more time I think I would perhaps have re-shot it. I’ve never really liked editing images but I have a better understanding of Photoshop after completing this project.
The image below is the image I copied, some of the aspects of the original sitters face I could not have changed with my knowledge and ability of Photoshop; such as the thickness of the sitters hair or the shape of their eyes, nose and mouth. I did have a go at liquify but I didn’t have enough time to perfect using it so I decided it would be best to leave them as they were.
The images shown are the beginning of my series titled ‘Flat 35’. These images were all taken in the same sitting one after another, I kept the film in and was hoping to fit the last two sitters on this roll of film but there was an error and they didn’t come out. I’m hoping that I will get the lighting the same again for when I re-shoot as when colour printing it was quite easy to print these as they had the same colour tones and was able to print all three on the same settings Y50 M53 C0 f/16 exposed for 10s for the two girls (Philippa and Katherine) and Alby was at 12s. This meant that I was able to produce the prints very quickly starting at the same settings and working from their once I had my first print (Alby) correct.
One of my main problems when colour printing was getting all the grey backgrounds the same shade of grey, I had to ask peers to have a look at them for me as after staring at them for so long I could no longer tell. This was really helpful, so before moving on with prints I may ask someones opinion so I don’t have to back-track. I also noticed when printing that the images are a bit soft, I’m not sure whether this was my error when focussing the camera or perhaps me knocking the camera slightly when taking the image as one of the pictures of Alby came out blurry. This isn’t a major issue though as when you look at them from further away they look in focus, it’s only up close you are able to see this.
Overall I am really pleased with how my series is going to far, I’m glad that I started early so I have plenty of time to concentrate on printing, I’m hoping that my final shoot of my sitters and the objects will go well as having to re-shoot would put me behind schedule.
My further research into portraiture and it’s history led me to Portraiture by Shearer West. In the book West talks about portraitures relationship with time and how “…a portrait calls attention to the process of its production – to the appearance of an individual in the fugitive moment in which it was produced.” (West, 2004, pg. 43) The moment in which the photograph is taken is how it will always be, they will then be stuck in that moment; this deciphers how people will see them.
Along with portrait photography came the ‘Cartes-de-visite’, they were used to circulate photographs of famous actors, musicians and writers. Theatre managers would also use them for promotional purposes for their popular actors (West, 2004, pg. 190).
West also talked about the effect photography had on portraiture painting and how it had a major impact on how portraiture was looked at. Although when photography was first invented it was used for many things and not just portraiture is was by far the most popular field for professional photographers of the time. This was mainly because “…photography appeared to provide a foolproof means of conveying likeness.” (West, 2004, pg. 189) before photography, other than the most skilled painter there was no way of showing a person or object the way photography can. It completely changed how we look at documentation.
The ‘Carte-de-visite’ was used by professional photographers as a way to quickly and cheaply produce portraits for customers. They were produced as calling cards which included their name and address along with their photograph. These became means of “social exchange among the increasingly prevalent bourgeoisie in the mid-nineteenth-century Western Europe and America.” (West, 2004, pg. 189) they were portable so people could keep them in their pocket, much like business cards we have today.
With early photography came long exposures so the sitter had to sit very still for several minutes, but still no where near as long as a sitter would have to be still for a painting. West comments on how “…even once these technical problems were overcome, photographs appeared no more spontaneous than painted portraits, and indeed often seemed to be governed by the same conventions.” (West, 2004, pg. 189) this I feel is very true, portraiture hasn’t really changed throughout it’s history, it still holds the same keys elements. As we have been using large format cameras for our project ‘the Copy’ I think everyone has realised how hard it is to stay so still for a long period of time; but even though now the shutter speed can be a lot quicker and so is setting up we’re still using the same poses.
I found this book very helpful for my studies; it was interesting reading about how painting and photography have worked with each other in portraiture and how they have influents portraiture as a genre.