Part 2 – Exercise 2.3 – Same model, different backgrounds

The Brief: Consider the work of both Callahan and Germain, then select a subject for a
series of five portraits, varying the locations and backgrounds. The one
consistent picture element must be the subject you have chosen, who must
appear in all five images. Think carefully about where you choose to photograph
them, either using a pose that offers a returned gaze to the camera, or simply
captures them going about their daily business. The objective once again is to
visually link the images together in some way.

The Head, St Romeros

Image 1 of 5

This exercise came out of a request to photograph a school, who had recently changed their name and therefore, needed new images for their prospectus and website. https://stromeros.co.uk/

The model in these images is Mr Byrne, the Head Teacher at the school, taken during two separate sessions at the school, capturing the day to day life of the school.

There are a mixture of formal posed images and some when he is not aware of the camera. Having remembered my conversation with my tutor about authentic smiles / expressions, I took my time taking the shots once the scene had been set up, to give the people chance to relax.

Although this was an opportunistic chance to capture these images, I did think about the exercises already completed in the course and employed some of the principles. I tried to engender a feeling of capturing candid moments in the life of school and head teacher, even though all of the images except one were actually staged.

I very much a enjoyed this exercise

Part 2 – Exercise 2.4 Same background, different model

Exercise 2.4 – Same background, different model

Together again

This exercise was opposite to the last one (Exercise 2.3) in that it asked for some consistency in the theme, but this time it is the background that needed to remain the same, whilst the model changed.

We are now in a time where ‘Lockdown’ has been relaxed enough to allow us family visits in our gardens, whilst still remaining socially distanced. i.e. 2 metres apart. Therefore, this series comments on that requirement, by placing 3 chairs close together in the garden, representing a time when we might have sat that close to each other chatting. Each model was asked to sit in a different chair and asked to act as if they might have been talking to the people in the other chairs.

Finally the compilation image shows how they might have looked had they actually been sitting together.

The camera was on a tripod, at least 2 mtrs away from the models adding the context of social distance from the photographer as well as each other. The same settings were used for each image with the exception of the focus being reset onto the person’s face.

Unlike Irving Penn and Clare Strand the background is real, it is my garden, I did not want to isolate the subjects from reality but fix them in it, as this is a moment in time, which we may never experience again in our lifetimes. I did consider using a bench in a park for a more aesthetically pleasing background, but that would have detracted from the comment being made. The background and chairs do tie the images together and the model in the image and those not in it are equally important.

Reflection

I actually am really pleased with this concept and feel that I did it justice for this exercise. Perhaps if I had more time, I could have arranged the garden a bit differently and made the images more aesthetically interesting. I was lucky with the the way the models were dressed, as the colours they were wearing did tie them together nicely.

Part 2 – Exercise 2.2 – Covert

Exercise 2.2 – Covert

Approach this exercise with care and a diligent awareness of health and safety both for yourself and others. Closely consider the work of the practitioners discussed above, then try to shoot a series of five portraits of subjects who are unaware of the fact they are being photographed. As you’ve seen, there are many ways in which you can go about this, but we can’t stress enough that the objective here is not to offend your subjects or deliberately invade anyone’s privacy. If you don’t have permission to shoot in a privately-owned space, then you should only attempt this work in a public space, where permission to shoot is not necessarily required.

This is a very interesting challenge, which some students will find incredibly difficult. Remember that the creative outcome of the practitioners discussed above has come about through a sustained approach, which is then heavily edited for presentation. You’ll need to shoot many images in order to be able to present five final images that work together as a set.

Think everything through carefully before attempting this exercise as the
responsibility for the outcome of the portraits rests entirely with you. If during the course of this exercise you are challenged in any way, be prepared to delete what you have shot. If you can see that you are annoying someone, or making them feel uncomfortable, stop shooting immediately. You’ll be required to operate with a degree of common sense here and not take unnecessary risks.

There are ways of completing this exercise without incurring risk, such as
shooting the work at a party you’ve been invited to, where all the guests have been invited for a particular celebration.

The reflection about your methodology (your approach to how you have
achieved the images in relation to why you chose what you have chosen), will be as important as the final five images, so be prepared to write about how you found the experience (around 500 words) and present your findings via your learning log or blog.

Methodology

I enjoyed this exercise a lot. Having done some street photography before, I realised that most people pay you no attention, when you’re taking photos in the street, especially where I live in a seaside town.

I decided therefore, to use my Nikon D810 with a 70-200 mm zoom lens. Although this is a big piece of kit, most people just ignored me taking photos, even when directly pointing the lens towards them. I chose this because I was able to stay quite away back from the person I wanted to take a photo of, often with them completely oblivious to me taking the image. I also used a fairly shallow depth of field (f/4) in order to help me pick out the subject I wanted to highlight.

In Evans’ Subway Series, he was aiming to take ‘truly unposed portraits’ because the subjects were unaware, and although I found during this exercise that this was the case, it still remains that as the photographer, I did compose the image and placed the subject in the frame where I wanted them. Of course, I didn’t hide my camera and in fact did completely the opposite and made my camera very obvious.

Deadpan Photography

Research

I have seen in many other students blogs and assigments conversation about ‘Deadpan’ photography, but haven’t really come across it in the course, except in relation to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s ‘water towers’. Therefore, I thought I’d do a bit of research into this style of photography.

The most popular definition of this genre is that a deadpan photograph is devoid of emotion.

I have already come across a few photographers, such Rineke Dijkstra, August Sander and the Bechers who are famous for this kind of work. However, a few others have cropped up in research such as Alec Soth, Stephen Shore and Jitka Hanzlova.

There are some rules to making ‘deadpan’ images:

  • the subject should be in the middle of the photo,
  • the subject is not posed and should be straight on to the camera
  • the subject is looking directly at the camera
  • the photographer is not showing an connection with the image
  • shoot in flat light
  • the image is often desaturated.

“It’s a detached art, where the photographer merely captures something as it is, flat and almost uninteresting at first glance” (Depositphotos).

I actually quite like this aesthetic and can see it’s use to record social history and people in their places, but in my own photography, I have always strove to capture emotion and connectedness, which is the complete opposite of this style. Having said that, I would like to include it in my repertoire as it fits well with conceptual art to tie concept to outcomes.

I realise from researching this that my first assignment although based on Sander’s images, are actually not deadpan at all and offer a greater depth of connection between myself and the subject.

Works Cited

“Alec Soth.” Alecsoth.Com, 2020, alecsoth.com/photography/. Accessed 8 July 2020.

Depositphotos. “Deadpan Photography Trend In 2018 – Depositphotos – Medium.” Medium, Medium, 13 Mar. 2018, medium.com/@Depositphotos/deadpan-photography-trend-in-2018-73a26d802cc1. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“Jitka Hanzlová.” Jitkahanzlova.Com, 2020, www.jitkahanzlova.com/menue.htm. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“So What Exactly Is Deadpan Photography?” Student Resources, 29 Aug. 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/what-is-deadpan-photography/#:~:text=Deadpan%20portraits%20show%20people%20in,colors%20tend%20to%20be%20muted. Accessed 8 July 2020.

“Stephen Shore.” Stephenshore.Net, 2020, stephenshore.net/photographs/uncommon/index.php?page=13&menu=photographs. Accessed 8 July 2020.

stevemiddlehurst. “The Deadpan Aesthetic.” Steve Middlehurst Context and Narrative, Steve Middlehurst Context and Narrative, 24 Feb. 2015, stevemiddlehurstcontextandnarrative.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/the-deadpan-aesthetic/. Accessed 8 July 2020.

Part 2 – Exercise 2.1

Individual Spaces

Keshia – Felpham Beach

Keshia grew up in Felpham, West Sussex, the beach was practically on her door step. She spent a lot of her youth there. As a young mum of two small boys, she now loves to go there with them, but also sometimes on her own to enjoy a walk, sit and read a book or even take her sewing.

Kelly, Grandad's garden

Kelly, Grandparent’s Garden

Kelly remembers lots of family get-togethers in her grandparents’ garden when she was growing up. Her mum owns it now and Kelly and her own family are still regular visitors. It remains a place where she feels happy and relaxed.

Helen in her garden

Helen in her garden

Helen’s garden is a playground for her son and a place of relaxation for her. She loves to sit in this seat with a cuppa. The trees and garden ornaments create little pockets of privacy and quiet.


Approach and Implementation

The exercise brief (outlined below) calls for three images of three different subjects, taken in specific locations which have significance the them. With COVID-19 Social Distancing still in place, it also meant having to limit those locations to out door places where the 2 metre distance rules could be maintained.

FB model call post

Model Call: In order to complete this exercise, I created a FaceBook post on my personal page, explaining my requirements and asking for volunteers. Unlike the first assignment, I thought it would be good to do this exercise with people I know.

Four people initially responded, Keshia, Kelly and two others. With all four, I messaged them back privately and conducted conversations with them, asking if they had an outdoor space they liked to go or was significant to them. One person didn’t get back to me, but I had conversations about where was significant to them.

As these are people I know, and have photographed before, I found it easy to strike up a conversation about what I needed to achieve and they were more than happy to help me out. For most of them though, I don’t think they were used to be asked where they would like to go. Mostly, the photographers suggest places, and they are not professional models.

Keshia wanted to go to the local beach in Felpham, where she had spent a lots of her childhood and now goes there to relax. This was a place I also know, as I had lived there for many years whilst my own children were growing up. So it was easy to agree the best place and time to take her portraits.

Kelly another childhood friend of my daughter, is currently suffering from a bad back and is staying at her mum / grandparent’s bungalow to avoid using the stairs at home. Therefore, she was a bit limited as to where she could go, but suggested, either the church where she got married or her grandad’s garden. We agreed that the garden was probably the best option bearing in mind her current mobility.

Helen, my sister, stepped in at the last minute as my third subject had to cancel due to other commitments. (I would still like to take Grace’s portrait as she wanted to visit her childhood village which I think would be an interesting shoot). Helen volunteered herself to help me fulfil this brief and invited us to a socially distanced BBQ. Which seemed like a great offer and a chance to take her portrait in her own garden, which of course has significance to her. For her portrait, I liked the idea of shooting through the trees to achieve this ‘secret garden’ feel. I also took some her in her garden studio, which I really liked, but felt this one worked better with the set.

Technical Approach

Although all of these images were taken in very different places, I decided to use the same set up, using a Nikon D810 and a Tamron 85 mm 1.8 fx prime lens. I often use this lens for portraiture as I like the quality of the outcome. All of the images were taken in late afternoon, early evening, which meant that the sun was slightly lower in the sky hoping for better light on the subject faces.

At each location, I tried a number of different poses, angles and heights, as well as shooting through things and asking the subjects to interact with the place.

As the locations had a significance to the subject, I wanted to try to portray that in the image, therefore it was necessary to include some of the background in the image, I also wanted them to definitely be within the locations. For example by placing Keshia’s hands on the railing and have it lead into the image, it shows her connection within the landscape. With Kelly’s image, I shot through the iron work of the bench she was sitting on. The criss-cross shadows and the vertical lines place her in the space and Helen is also sitting on her bench, but this time I shot through the foliage to create foreground and background, which placed her in the location.

All of the images were editing using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and cropped to 5:4 format, which I like to use for portraits.

Outcomes

Keshia and Helen’s images have a lovely light quality to them as they were taken around 7:30 / 8:00 pm, whereas with Kelly’s the shadows were a bit harsher having been taken a couple of hours earlier. The softer light works well for portraits.

Even if you know a location, it can take a few minutes just to work out what might look good and where you can shoot from to get a good angle. So I was conscious not to rush. As I know all of the subjects, it was fairly easy to keep talking throughout the shoot, and let them just relax before taking the shots. I remembered my tutors comments about fake smiles so worked very hard not to get ‘cheesy’ grins.


The Brief

With this in mind, Part Two asks you to consider what notions of identity you wish to reveal and to make decisions about the methods you’ll employ to secure a successful resolution. In addition to exploring the unaware / aware dichotomy, the exercises that follow pose questions about the interrelationship between portraits made in the studio (inside) and portraits made using a specific location (outside). You’ll get an opportunity to test both and, in the assignment, an opportunity to shift between them.

Exercise 1: Individual spaces

In this exercise, you’ll build on your ‘Background as context’ exercise in Part One by taking the relationship between your subject and their surroundings a step further. The objective here is to try to create a link between the two components of your image, i.e. the subject and their surroundings.

  • Make three different portraits using three different subjects. Prior to shooting your portraits, engage with your subjects and agree three different specific locations which have some relevance or significance to them individually. You’ve already tried to give a particular context to a portrait by considering how the background might link to the subject positioned in the foreground, but now you must go one step further and negotiate a specific physical location where you’ll photograph your subject. This can either be inside or on location, but the key to this portrait is the interaction you’ve had with your subject in identifying a place that has specific meaning for them.
  • Each portrait should be accompanied by a very short piece of text explaining the choice of location or venue. Don’t be tempted to create a work of complete fiction here; it might make life easier for you, but you’d be missing an opportunity to really engage with your subject and collaborate with them in the image-making process. You have complete freedom to work this out as you feel appropriate; for example, you may choose to theme the narrative behind all three portraits. Think carefully about how these images could work together as a set. For instance, if you plan to shoot outside, try to make sure the lighting conditions/ time of day/weather conditions all work coherently.

Present all three images together as a series and reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog. Write around 500 words.

Assignment 1 – Post Feedback Reflection

Feedback notes from my tutor – click here

Following submission of my 1st assignment, I had a ‘Hangout’ tutorial with my tutor (22.06.20). He had sent me the note in advance of the chat, so I had an idea of his thoughts about the assignment, but that didn’t stop me feeling nervous.

I was pleasantly surprised by his feedback, as he felt that I produced a ‘mature’ piece of work, which he qualified by meaning: confident, technically proficient and subjects well placed.

He felt that the influence of August Sander and Rineke Dijkstra could be seen in the presentation of the work and he liked the fact that I’d added, terms like ‘furloughed’ and ‘shielding’ to the captions, which helped fix the subjects in time.

We discussed the fact that the work is not that original, but I reflected that, I had realised that, but it was a choice between doing something original or progressing the course. In this time of COVID-19, it’s difficult to explore things, I might have chosen otherwise. My tutor did say that had I asked him beforehand if this was a good subject, he would have said yes.

We had a discussion about what I want to say as a photographer and my preference for genres. I know that I have started to explore much more of my own ideas, and that I prefer to photograph people, but I’m still working on what it is I want to say to the world through my photography, or what it is I want to find in people.

We also discussed reducing the resolution of the images I post on my blog, as they may take longer to load. He suggested a size of 1500 px longest edge and a dpi of 150. I agreed to experiment with what still looks ok on my blog.

Top Take Aways:

  • Work is mature, confident, technically proficient
  • Keep exploring conronavirus as a subject during this time as this in an opportunity to exploit a time that won’t happen again (hopefully)
  • Explore photographing people in their own environments.
  • Consider what it is I want to say about people.

Exercise 4 – Archival intervention

“Memories evoked by a photograph do not simply spring out of the
image itself, but are generated in a network, an intertext, of discourses
that shift between past and present, spectator and image, and
between all these and cultural contexts, historical moments”
Kuhn, A. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (2002) London: Verso. Pg 09.

Look through your own family archive and try to discover a series of portraits (four or five) that have existed within this archive, but have never been placed together before. The portraits can contain individuals or even couples; they may span generations, or just be of the same person throughout the years (chronotype). Whichever way you wish to tackle this exercise, there must be a reason or justification for your choices. What message are you trying to get across about these portraits?

Through doing this exercise, you are physically bringing together portraits that have never been viewed as a series prior to your intervention. Therefore, you need to think really clearly about what your choices are and who you decide to select. Alan Fletcher (2018), OCA Image Library

You can either make physical copies of the originals and work with these in your learning log, or re-photograph them digitally (or scan) and post them on your blog. Either way, your thoughts about these portraits will be the key to this exercise. Try to articulate what is happening when you bring these images together for the first time. Apart from the obvious – the subject, perhaps – is there anything else that links the imagery together? The location? Dates? Activities?

Moving back to Annette Kuhn again here, think about any inscriptions that might be made on the imagery, detailing whom these inscriptions might have been for, in terms of perhaps owning the memory evoked by the image. In relation to one of her own family portraits, Kuhn describes a caption written by her mother, stating:

“This power-play was an attempt by her mother to force other memories into line with her own. Her mother was pinning the moment the photograph was taken of her daughter to an event that had happened in her own life. Her mother thus literally ‘writes’ herself into the picture (although not being present in it literally), by trying to claim the right to define the memories evoked by it, she is thus attempting to dictate the memory to the viewer.”

Kuhn, A. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (2002) London: Verso. Pg 17-18.

Write 500–800 words reflecting on this exercise and include it in your learning log or blog.

Helen and I

Helen is my younger sister. There’s just us two, she is now the person who have known the longest in my life, as both of our parents have died. I chose to bring together these images as I haven’t really thought about the special relationship we have before and how that has been recorded through our lives.

I have noticed that I have a lot of images from our early childhood, these were in the most part inherited from my mother after she passed away. These had been digitalised and so easy to find. I am sure that I do have images from our 20’s and 30’s as physical copies but I would have to dig them out. Therefore, there are very few in this collection that show her and I during the time I was bringing up my own children. This is coupled with the fact that we lived in separate parts of the country during that time and didn’t see a lot of each other.

A few years ago Helen moved from London to live only half an hours drive away. I think since then our relationship has strengthened. Living in an area I wasn’t brought up in and having few relatives left, Helen provides me with that shared history and memory that I find really grounding. She has been part of my life through so many ups and downs and I don’t have explain anything to her. It’s comforting.

Reflecting on my selection, I wondered of Helen was picking the images, would she pick any of the same ones. Before showing her my selection, I sent her the file of images I had amassed,to see which 6 she would pick. She picked three of the same images that I did, which was actually surprised me more than I expected. This engendered a long conversation between us.

I think anyone else looking at the images without text, would probably understand that we are sisters.

I also printed them out and moved them around, to see if the order makes a difference to the understanding, but actually liked them as a set that you can move around and touch and look at each one in more depth.

Artist Talk with Anna Fox

Anna Fox

Anna Fox is a British photographer and a professor of photography at UCA, Farnham. On May 16th she gave a talk on zoom to the OCA students.  

Anna Fox (b.1961) is one of the most acclaimed British photographers of the last thirty years and is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts. Working in colour, Fox first gained attention for Work Stations: Office Life in London (1988), a study of office culture in Thatcher’s Britain. She is best known for Zwarte Piet (1993-8), a series of portraits taken over a five-year period that explore Dutch black-face’ folk traditions associated with Christmas. Her collaborative projects Country Girls (1996 – 2001) and Pictures of Linda (1983 – 2015) challenge our views about rural life in England while her more intimate works My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (1999) and Cockroach Diary (1996 – 99) expose the dysfunctional relationships at work in the family home in a raw and often surprising manner. Anna Fox Photographs 1983 – 2007, was published by Photoworks in 2007. Fox’s solo shows have been seen at Photographer’s Gallery, London, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago amongst others and her work has been included in international group shows including Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde at Tate Liverpool and How We Are: Photographing Britain at Tate Britain. She was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. Fox is currently working on the research project Fast Forward; women in photography for which she has been awarded a Leverhulme International Networks Grant.

from the post invitation to watch the webinar by Johnathan 515050

Originally recorded on 15.5.20, I watched the recording of this talk. It as 3.5 hours long, so was a good way to watch it, as it gave the opportunity to stop and start it and look up some of the work she mentioned as it went along. The recording was made with strict instructions it was for the use of OCA students only and therefore, there is no link to share.

The talk was about the idea that Fiction influences photography and helps us understand how to construct a story both within individual images and series.

Anna was very engaging and easy to listen to and the subject matter and photographers she presented have given me plenty to research.

The first section of the talk, concentrated on Anna’s work with Fast Forward: women in photography. Which is a project promoting the work of women photographers and challenging the history of photography and putting women back into it where they have been left out.

A discussion about why women don’t network as well as men was interesting. Anna felt that men are just better at promoting each other and consequently help each other to become prominent together. Because women are dealing with inner doubt, they tend to protect themselves from others rather than work with them. There is not scientific research to back up this theory as yet, but it would be good to see if it’s true.

Photographers to research:

  • Neeta Madahar – the Flora series
  • Hannah Starkey
  • Tom Hunter
  • Sophie Cow
  • Sophie Ristelhueber – Every One
  • Philip-Lorca diCorcia (b.1951 – American)
  • Allison Goldfrapp – country girls

Top Take Aways:

  • shouldn’t be text added to an image or an image added to text, it’s one work
  • what you fictionalise is part of the story
  • there’s a level of fiction in every story
  • understand the process behind making work, wherever you can.
  • you are the author of the story
  • Read fiction to help you understand the structure of stories.
  • collect text at the same time as as taking the pictures, but don’t collect it to fit images.
  • you can use text to create a story with unrelated images,

References:

“About | Fast Forward.” Fastforward.Photography, 2015, fastforward.photography/about/. Accessed 16 June 2020.

‌“Anna Fox.” Annafox.Co.Uk, 2020, annafox.co.uk/. Accessed 16 June 2020.

Assignment 1 – The Non-familiar

Lockdown 2020

Buttermere Way, Littlehampton, West Sussex, BN17

Introduction

Littlehampton is a small coastal town on the south coast of England. Buttermere Way is a cul-de-sac in the middle of an estate built around 1989. the houses are numbered consecutively from 1 – 52.  I have lived at No 19, with my husband for the past 7½ years.

ONS data from the 2011 Census (“Custom Report – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics”) says that the average age of people living in this area is 39, with 47% being aged between 30 and 59. The population identified as 96% white British. The majority of dwellings are classified as detached, semi-detach or terraced houses, with only 10% of residents living in flats. There were no shared dwellings. 72% of residents were in employment and 13% are retired.

On 23rd March 2020, the UK Government imposed a ‘Lockdown’ on the whole population in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This meant that the majority of people were asked to stay at home, and could only go out, to go to work in a key worker role, get essential shopping such as food and medicine and for medical issues or collect prescriptions. We lived with the phrase: “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” ringing in our ears.

Many people like myself were able to work at home, but others who could not, were furloughed. People who were particularly vulnerable to the disease were asked to ‘shield’ themselves by not leaving their homes for 12 weeks. Anyone who had Coronavirus symptoms was asked to self-isolate with their families for 14 days.  A movement was started which encouraged people to come out on to their doorsteps on a Thursday night at 8:00 pm to clap for keyworkers, carers and NHS staff as a mark of thanks for their hard work saving lives and keeping us fed.

We stood on our doorsteps clapping for 10 consecutive weeks, smiling and waving at our neighbours, up and down the street. I had often smiled and said hello to passers by as I went to my car to go work, or thank someone who had taken a parcel in for me, but I didn’t really know anything about them as people at all.  Who are they? What do they do? How long have they lived in the same road as me? How have they been affected by this pandemic? What are similarities and differences from me. This series will document this moment in history. The people who lived in Buttermere Way during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.

In making this series, I have had the opportunity to meet and discover the interesting people, who live close to me. Due to confidentiality, it is not the intention of this study to note individual responses, although that data has been kept. It does aim to give a pictorial record of one member of the household.

To maintain a consistent theme, the portraits have been taken in a ‘documentary‘ format, showing the person looking at the camera, in front of their home. Where there is one, the house number has been included and people were asked to leave their doors open to engender a feeling of openess and welcome. Unlike August Sander‘s very formal poses of people with blank faces, images were taken during conversation so that they were relaxed and standing naturally. The camera (Nikon D810 with Tamron 24/70 mm 2.8 lens) was set on a tripod, at the same height for all of the images. The same depth of field and ISO were used throughout with speed and focal length adjusted depending on light conditions and distance. All images were taken in 5:4 format and social distancing rules were applied. By having them posed in this way, it shows that they are willing participants and not images just taken without their knowledge.

The outcome of this project, is a series of images documenting the residents of Buttermere Way during the Lockdown of 2020. This has been a voyage of discovery and a real pleasure to meet and find out about my neighbours. One lady even went to school with my sister-in-law! There are 52 houses in the street, therefore the project will be continued to capture as many of the residents as possible.

For the purposes of this Assignment, portraits of the first five residents I met have been included. However, this project is continuing with a view to documenting as many of the residents of Buttermere Way as possible. Click the button below to see the full series:


Brief

Your first assignment is to make five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you

Photography 1: Identity and Place, p53

Research

Research for this Assignment has taken me to a variety of photographers, such as August Sander, Martin Schoeller, Rineke Dijkstra and Clare Richardson. I chose to follow a documentary style of portrait as the person’s environment is important to the story, I want to convey.

Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage.

(Tate, 2017)

understanding the concept of Conceptual Art coupled with the documentary style steered my approach to the images I wanted to make.

To add context to the series, I accessed Office of National Statistics (ONS) report covering the characteristics of people and households in E00160147. This added an extra level of understanding to people living and working in my street and help me describe the area in the Introduction.

Process

Image Brief: fulfils the definition of a portrait (What is the definition of portrait photography) i.e. it Captures the personality or essence of a subject, it is staged and it is made for a purpose. Image staged as: one person from a household, to be directed to stand / sit outside of their home without posing. The number of the house to be visible, door left open. Enough of the property and / or front garden to tell the viewer something about the homeowner. All images to be taken in 5:4 ratio format to allow composition to capture enough of the background to frame the person in their environment. It also appears to be a common format for portraiture.

Approach: Contact my neighbours, arrange to visit them outside of their homes and talk to them. My primary aim was to get to know my neighbours and secondly to document their residence in Buttermere Way and find out how they have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic Lockdown.

Technical: Nikon D810 camera with a 24/70mm 2.8 lens, to allow a wide enough angle to get the front of the house in at fairly close distance. Needed to be close enough to talk easily with the person, but also adhere to social distancing rules, i.e. >2 metres apart. The camera was mounted on a tripod, at slightly lower than head height for all images to give a consistent composition to the images. All images taken at f/4, ISO 200 with variable speed and focal point depending on lighting conditions and distance from subject.

Contacting People: Initial contact was made through the Buttermere Way FaceBook page; inviting people to help me with the project, adding a couple of example images to let people know what I was looking for. This generated 2/3 responses from neighbours in the top end of the street, i.e. numbers 2 – 10. Striking while the iron was hot, I went and took the first images the next day. Whilst visiting the neighbours who had contacted me, I was lucky enough to capture a couple of others who came out to talk whilst I was there.

Following this, I created a flyer and posted it through all the doors of half of the street. (I chose only half as I wanted to gauge the response). A copy of the leaflet can be seen here. This generated a few more contacts, which I followed up and took images of a few days later when the weather was better.

I found that setting up the camera and then engaging in conversation with my neighbours helped them relax, I held a handheld trigger in my hand whilst talking to them, and occasionally took an image during the conversation. This seemed to work well and actually I really enjoyed the conversations. I got better at asking questions the more I did.

Post Production: images were taken in RAW and processed using Adobe LightRoom. Adjustments made were:

  • lens correction
  • detail sharpening and noise reduction
  • Camera profile set to ‘Camera Standard’
  • some highlight and shadows adjustments
  • cropping if necesssary

Images were reviewed and the final images selected. These were then converted to JPGs and saved. Contact Sheets are posted below.

Presentation: I have used a gallery to display the images and have ordered them in numerical order of the houses with the intention of offering a logical progression and connectedness to the images either side of it. The images are all labelled with the number of the house, the first name of person and their ‘Lockdown’ status, i.e. ‘working from home’, furloughed etc.

Reflection

I was really excited by this project, It has stretched me to reach out to people and go and talk to them. I have sought the help of others for previous assignments, but have usually relied on people I know. I think the fact that after 7 1/2 years, the reason I don’t know people I live near is because I am inherently introverted. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to know them and this assignment and the Lockdown has come together to offer this opportunity. I did employ the use of social media rather than just walking up to them and asking, but it’s getting easier.

I have been very encouraged by the engagement I have had so far with this project and am keen to continue it and get to know more of my neighbours. My concern is that having made all this effort, I won’t be able to keep up the contact I have now made. I have also collected a lot of data about the people in order to answer my initial questions, I am unsure what to do with it or whether to include some of it in my editorial. As a social history project this may be of interest in the future, but I am conscious of people’s privacy. Furthermore, until I have concluded this project, I don’t think the data is complete.

As mentioned above, I intend to continue with this series of images to create a more complete record of the people living in this street during Lockdown. For the purposes of this assignment, I have kept it to one person per household, however, for the complete series, I am considering including couples or families.

I have created a collection in my personal website in order to keep posting new images as they are collected. This has been linked to this assignment, but I will discuss with my tutor about including the full series here. Ultimately, I would like to exhibit this series, locally, so I am bearing that in mind as I take the images.

Assessment Criteria

Context

Having decided on the theme of getting to know my neighbours to answer this brief, I have researched documentary and typology photographers, as well as portrait photographers. these images are taken in the context of the Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020 and therefore, the portraits are of people in their environment. The only typology used has been the sorting of the images by house number, although a bigger body of work, could compare the different impact of the Lockdown on individuals, such as, furloughed, working from home etc.

Demonstration of Creativity

This series, shows that I have been able to create the work, in spite of the pandemic, I have managed to get to know people and take images within the social distancing rules that currently persist. I defined my aims and used a consistent process to create a unified series of images.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I have demonstrated that I have used my technical knowledge to:

  • create these images, by selecting the right lens to create the images I wanted,
  • using a tripod at the same height for all of the images, to ensure parity across the series of images.
  • standing behind the camera to ensure the subjects are looking directly into it.
  • using my knowledge of Adobe Lightroom, to ensure composition, colour tones, highlights and shadows to create a cohesive set of images.

Quality of Outcome

The quality of outcome is shown by the realisation of the vision. Having conceived this idea based on the constraints of the current Lockdown, engaging with people previously unknown to me and the production of a series of coherent and composed images that tell the story, I had envisioned.

Works Cited / References

“Custom Report – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics.” Nomisweb.Co.Uk, 2011, www.nomisweb.co.uk/reports/localarea?compare=E00160147. Accessed 12 June 2020.

“Harlemville – Clare Richardson.” Clare Richardson, 2019, www.clarerichardson.com/books/book-harlemville/. Accessed 13 June 2020.

“How To/Techniques: The Documentary Portrait – Insights.” Arts.Ac.Uk, 2020, insights.arts.ac.uk/how_to/documentary-portrait-no-1/. Accessed 13 June 2020.

“Labour Market Profile – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics.” Nomisweb.Co.Uk, 2011, www.nomisweb.co.uk/reports/lmp/ward2011/1140856679/report.aspx. Accessed 12 June 2020.

Tate. “Documentary Photography – Art Term | Tate.” Tate, 2017, www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/documentary-photography. Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “Documentary Photography – Art Term | Tate.” Tate, 2017, www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/documentary-photography#:~:text=Documentary%20photography%20is%20a%20style,on%20the%20bed%2C%20NYC%201982. Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “‘Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994’, Rineke Dijkstra, 1994 | Tate.” Tate, 2010, www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dijkstra-julie-den-haag-netherlands-february-29-1994-p78097. Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “Rineke Dijkstra Born 1959 | Tate.” Tate, 2017, www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/rineke-dijkstra-2666. Accessed 6 June 2020.

Victoria. “Contemporary Documentary Photographers – Victoria and Albert Museum.” Vam.Ac.Uk, 2016, www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/contemporary-documentary-photographers/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgJiOu7z_6QIVGO3tCh01PQItEAAYASAAEgL6_PD_BwE. Accessed 13 June 2020.

Contact Sheets:

Exercise 3: Portraiture typology

Portrait Typology

This work attempts to capture the changes in a subject’s facial expression on hearing words associated with emotion. The words were drawn at random from a pack of 40 flashcards. The first image was a control ‘blank’ image, the remainder are displayed in the order in which they were taken.

Brief: In response to the work of the artists you’ve read about so far, try to create a photographic portraiture typology which attempts to bring together a collection of types. Think carefully about how you wish to classify these images; don’t make the series too literal and obvious.

Once complete, post these portraits on your blog or in your learning log, with a written statement contextualising the work

Great article: “Can the photographic typology be defined?” suggests defining typology by:

  • Subject
  • Environment
  • Process
  • Presentation

As I don’t have access to many people during Lockdown, I think I will have to consider a typology around a single subject.

Subject: Considering the work of Martin Schoeller , I like the idea of photographing the portraits in a consistent manner especially in close up. I could combine this with different facial expressions, much like Heubler‘s work. Therefore, my typology would be more about comparison / difference than similarity.

Environment: A neutral background, close up, shallow depth of field

Process: Schoeller’s idea of a consistency will be used to light the subject, who will be framed close-up in the frame, flat lighting to illuminate all parts of the face. This is in contrast to Yousef Karsh’s lighting which used light and shadow to create depth and mood. A word will be read to the subject and take one image, per word, asking the subject to react however they wish to the word. In his video about identical twins, Schoeller’s technical set up is shown, I will try and do something similar.

Martin Schoeller – portrait photographer

Presentation: the images will be presented as a gallery together so that the view can compare the different images together.

I started with a set of 40 flashcards which I found on the internet with the words: star struck, sleepy, surprised, suspicious, unhappy, woozy, worried, ok, grumpy, cold, sad, hungry, embarrased, puzzled, happy, content, scared, in love, excited, rich, hot, cool, shocked, in tears, exhausted, injured, feeling down, angelic, meh, fine, angry, nauseous, furious, annoyed and sick.

These are all emotions with stereotypical faces / reactions attached to them, it would be interesting to see if the subject pulls the faces similar to those drawn on the cards? I feel it would be good to ask a few of these, but also to add some more topical words that new to our vocabulary, such as ‘Brexit’, ‘black lives matter’ etc

Reflection:

I was mostly happy with the technical results of images. I attempted to recreate Schoeller’s framing and lighting, but found that although the camera was set up on a tripod, and wasn’t moved during the session, the orignal focus which was on the eyes, became out of focus as the subject moved in response to prompts. If I did this again, not only would I take less images, but I would attempt to reset the subject back to their blank expression prior to delivering the next prompt.

I would also use strobe lights on a trigger rather than the constant static lighting and this would increase the speed and reduce blurring around the eyes.

Set up taking these images, also had black reflectors by side of subject’s head and blinds were drawn

I’m not sure that this project really fulfils the brief, because of the use of only one subject. When I am able to access more sitters, it would be good to recreate with further subjects to see if their expressions are similar when prompted by the same words. Testing the theory that expressions are learned behaviour rather than natural reactions.