Assignment 4 – Languages of Light (Reworked)

The Brief

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or controlled light from Part Four (Ex 4.1, Ex 4.2 or Ex 4.3) and develop it into a formal assignment submission. The submission requirement for this assignment is a set of between six and ten high-quality photographic prints.

There are many ways to edit and the most valuable one is probably to show your work to friends, family and your OCA peers for feedback – you are guaranteed to discover something new in your work. Another tip is to pin the work up on the wall and live with a for a few days. ‘A Quick Guide to Editing Your Photo Series using Stickies’ on the IPO (Invisible Photographer Asia) website, but bear in mind that this is not a narrative assignment – you’re not required to produce a story.

EDITING 101 – A Quick Guide to Editing Your Photo Series using Stickies

Assessment of photography in any context is an assessment of images and accompanying words so please Include a written analysis of your work outlining:

• how you have developed the assignment from the original exercise in Part 4

• which practitioners you’ve looked at for inspiration and how their work has influenced you

• your technical approach and any particular techniques you incorporated

• the strengths and weaknesses of particular photographs and your project as a whole (selfassessment)

Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.

Response

It was clear from the outset that I wanted to explore exercise 4.3 Egg or Stone further as I thought this would help me advance some of my other work such as assignment 2 which I plan to revisit shortly. Aside from using DTP setups and largescale camera machines when I worked in publishing, I had not carried out any serious studio photography, except for some flower photography I had done a few years ago. So in order to prepare further for this assignment I carried out another studio exercise with my partner Debra which you can find here.

Research

I decided that I would like to revisit my previous fascination with flower photography and as such look for practitioners whom had worked in a similar field or capacity. In revisiting this assignment I wanted to answer the question, why flowers? On the one hand this is a subject that has been extensively covered by photographers, artists and philosophers alike over the centuries. From my own point of view aside from the fact I have a keen interest in horticulture, though still very much a beginner, flowers to me are quite delicate, very beautiful and vibrant with colour, Some can survive quite hot and humid environments whilst others endure cold and wet seasons.  It was while I was sat  reflecting on the feedback I had received from my tutor, I was also reflecting on my own life and experiences, being ever aware of my own mortality as time passes by. In front of me by the fireplace lay a vase of flowers, wilted having seen much better days, yet the was still an echo of beauty that lay within them, an appreciation of that which was once was. So I started thinking about life and death and the symbolism that flowers play within that. Flowers are often used to celebrate events from weddings, funerals, remembrance, celebrating life or an expression of love. Further to that I started looking at the symbolic nature flowers played in relation to life and death as I started to think about these two states that I would eventually document in revising my approach to this body of work. It was interesting to find that flower symbolism exists in just about every culture in the world in Asian culture the Lotus flower is said to represent the seat of Buddha, whilst Ancient Egyptians used the Lotus to adorn the mummified remains and was said to represent the new life the dead souls had entered. The Chinese use flowers devoid of colour to adorn wreaths of white iris in traditional funeral arrangements often containing white envelopes with money to help cover funeral costs. Anemones crop up in Greek mythology as a flower of death as a result of the flower that grew from the blood Adonis spilled as he lay dying from a mortal wound in a hunting accident. In Christianity the same red flower is said to represent the blood spilled by Christ as he was dying on the cross. For the Romans it would be red roses that would symbolise death and would often be seen planted on the graves of loved ones. Christians on the other hand saw it as a symbol for Mary, the mother of Christ and in modern times roses seem to symbolise love and are often the flower of choice on valentines day. To the Indians of Mexico carnations are considered to be flowers of the dead, which may explain why this flower often adorns costumes and headwear in the Day of the Dead celebrations. The Poppy is considered a flower of remembrance and commemorates the fallen in World War One, where poppies grew on the graves of the dead of the fallen at Flanders.

In looking at other practitioners, I came across the botanical works of Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) a world renowned photographer who was interested in nudes and botanical forms amongst other things and became a founding member of the F.64 Group along with Ansel Adams. I took a look at a library of her botanical works which were very striking, sharp, making great use of the fauna and natural light of California. This image below serves as a great example of one of her photographs of Callas in natural light. In addition I am captivated by black and white photography, it always seems to add an extra level of definition to a subject when photographed.

Imogen Cunningham – Callas

From bold statements of light and shadow shown in her images of succulents to the delicate and sharp focus of Callas, which I had only seen previously at the Eden Project several years ago. You can view some of Imogen Cunninghams botanical work here

“The formula for doing a good job in photography is to think like a poet.”

Imogen Cunningham

The next photographer I looked at was Harold Feinstein (1931-2015) who started his career at the age of 15 and became a member of the photo league at 17, which was essentially a co-operative of New York based photographers working together on a range of social and creative causes. In addition Harold was involved in the early New York City street photography scene and has since built a career around a range of subjects. What drew me to Harolds work was his use of scanography, a technique of using a digital scanner as a camera, which is illustrated in the works he created in producing the book 100 Flowers. Initially I was drawn in thinking this was some very cleverly crafted studio shots. That said he produced a beautiful collection, which has since been added to with 3 further books on flowers covering Orchids, Tulips and Roses.

Technical Approach

So for this exercise I setup a studio back using our kitchen and/or conservatory space to produce a number of shots using a single light source, in this case a Neewer 60cm x 60cm softbox fitted with an 85 watt 5500k tri-phosphor bulb. This light was positioned primarily from the left and altered accordingly to provide a variation in the amount of light dropping onto the subject.  The camera was set to manual using a Canon 6D with Canon 24mm-70mm Lens mounted on a tripod. The shoot took place in two sittings approximately a week apart to illustrate the two states I wanted to illustrate for the brief. I had also decided to use lightroom to balance the shots and present the finished images as diptychs, showing both states side by side.

Contact Sheets

The number of images in this reworked submission was reduced owing to the

Final Selection

So the final selection I have chosen to present as a series of diptychs showing each of the subjects in the peak of full bloom and vibrancy and in the latter stages of decay. The most challenging of these proved to be the roses and the lily. The roses became very delicate in the latter stages and had to be taped together at the stems to get the result I wanted from them. The lily on the other hand just seems to fall apart when out of bloom which meant have to reconstruct a deconstructed flower, which proved to be interesting but enjoyable nonetheless.


 

Reflection

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to have another go at this given the time constraints I have been working with. I am much more satisfied with the outcome of this body of work, largely thanks to the feedback from my tutor which forced me to question my approach to this assignment. I think it has also helped that I am beginning to see the benefits of researching, even though there is still much to learn in this area, as it is where my work is at its weakest. Overall I am very happy that this satisfies all the creative and technical requirements of the brief.

I sought feedback in both attempts, I found the second attempt more beneficial as I just presented this as a concept with a single diptych rather than overloading my peers with a load of images that diluted the message I was trying to convey. Social media feedback is interesting but as pointed out by my tutor without understanding the context the message can often be lost. I originally stated that using another lens might have been more beneficial, but in the final approach I ended up taken, this is no longer the case. Based on the work of Imogen Cunningham I did go back and shoot some natural light shots from the third batch of flowers, not included in this assignment which you can find here.

It would be nice to have a larger space to work with in future so that I can experiment more with this medium of studio photography, perhaps even look for places where I can use a space to practice this more.

References

Harold Feinstein, Portfolio, Flowers. [online]. Available at: https://www.haroldfeinstein.com/portfolio/flowers/ [Accessed 16th May 2020]

Imogen Cunningham, Image Library.[online]. Available at: https://www.imogencunningham.com/image-library/plants/ [Accessed 16th May 2020]

Wikipedia, Imogen Cunningham. [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imogen_Cunningham [Accessed 16th May 2020]

Azquotes, Imogen Cunningham. [online]. Available at: https://www.azquotes.com/author/19890-Imogen_Cunninghams [Accessed 16th May 2020]

Wikipedia, Photo League. [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_League [Accessed 16th May 2020]

encyclopeda.com, Flower Mythology. [online]. Available at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/flowers-mythology [Accessed 12 August 2020]

dptips, Imogen Cunningham. [online]. Available at: https://www.dptips-central.com/imogen-cunningham.html [Accessed 12 August 2020]

Wikipedia, Language of Flowers. [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_flowers [Accessed 12 August 2020]

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Preparing for Submission

11 August 2020

I thought this be therapeutic for me to just consolidate some of my work and thoughts as I prepare to get this small body of work ready before requesting submission. Having been granted a small extension as requested, it gives me the opportunity to add the scribbles, ideas and unfinished bits of research to my learning log. Yesterday so the submission of my final assignment for this unit and I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to those that have given me feedback along the way and my tutor for his support and valuable wisdom.

The biggest weakness lies in my learning log and not for the lack of research or anything, but just because most of what I have read and watched is just that apart from some ideas I have latched onto along the way. So now that work begins and by far the simplest place to start will be to putting my response to the feedback I have to date from my tutor along with the supporting reworking of some of the assignments. From there and in between I shall be adding supporting pieces of research and books that have captured my imagination along the way. In addition there are 3 further pieces of work in progress projects that I’d like to complete.

So today I have added the remaining feedback reflection and drawn up a to do list for some rework I plan for assignments 2, 3 and 4. assignment 2 I am reshooting, but I have a clear idea of what I want and how I am going to set this up. Assignment 3 is mainly filling in the gaps in the research I had down to provide a clearer context and then provide more research as part of my learning log to look at abstract photography and DM in more detail. Assignment 4 has been reshot and I will add stronger context and supporting research to this assignment.

The Learning Log has been broken down into sections covering research projects, photographers and books. Some of this will be relatively straightforward and the remainder I have a pretty clear idea on what I want to do.

12 August

Today I decided upon my final approach to reworking assignments. Assignment 2 I have wanted to reshoot for the longest and whilst I was quite happy with the feedback, I was not happy with the quality of the shots, especially as I tried sticking to a low ISO. At this point there is now the opportunity to redo this and improve the quality of the shots without losing the essence of the message.

Assignment 3 we’ve already covered and assignment 4 I have decided to reshoot purely because I want to create a more cohesive set for the reworking of that assignment. However I will be retaining those images which will be used as part of the building block for the rework I have planned.

I have also started pulling together additional reference material for photographers and books that I have come across from the course.

14 August

A number of updates today, working through notes and reference points for my scanography exercise. I think the challenge will be to keep this quite concise as I could quite easily get carried away with all the technical aspects of it. I have also purchased some new reading materials today On photography by Susan Sontag, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron and On Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude by Todd Hido as I am finding the benefits of exposing myself to other viewpoints, which has clearly had an impact on my approach to my studies.

19 August

I finished reshooting my approach to assignment 4 again with the focus on life and death (using flowers) and posted one of the useable images as a diptych to the group to gauge feedback. I was not expecting a response as responses are scarce when posting for peer feedback. In this instance I received a response, which was fairly positive for the direction I wanted to take with the assignment. I should hopefully get this finished next week so that I can get this assignment finished. Still got quite a lot to do before the end of the month and I’m having to go back over research I had done previously with scribbles making less sense than they did before. It could be as a result of all the other work I’m doing making me re-evaluate my thoughts and approach to the subject. Still have to stay focused.

23rd August

Just notes, notes, notes last few days, finished work this morning and the day hasn’t stopped. Just prepping for the final shoot of assignment 4 tomorrow and a new idea for the heads concept on assignment 2, which should be easier to shoot, I just need to get everybody together to reshoot on Wednesday. It’s late so I need to sleep.

24th August

Today has been all about reshooting the final images for the diptychs that form the new approach for assignment 4, the lilies were a little worse for wear, which made the shoot a little more challenging, but I think the outcome looks good, we shall see.

25th August

Just picked up a missed mail from my tutor, seems I have my feedback on Thursday (Deep Breath), Just finished typing up my small piece of research on Scanography. Now need to finish the rework on assignment 3 (research and photo editing)and 4 with the slightly different approach, with 2 to complete by the weekend models or subjects (family) permitting.

3rd September

Just got my email informing me the request for submission has been received and I have been going through the assessment guidelines, so I am going to go away and mull over how I want to approach this.

4th September

All the reworked assignments are uploaded and I’ve messaged my tutor this evening to inform him and that includes assignment 5 where I have swapped out a few of the images to remove some of the artefacts present. Next steps is awaiting invitation to submit, but there is a no small measure of work I need to do in the meantime.

11th September

Received my

20th September

Started to make some headway on my approach to assessment and have setup an assessment link on my Learning Log to consolidate all my work. I haven’t decided on my best work yet or the final set of images I want use of even the evidence. I have some ideas but just too tired to look at it today.

21st September

After firing off an email to my tutor about whether I should use reworked assignments, I have been able to decide on a way forward, so I will consolidate my evidence into learning outcome entries on my learning log and these will be filed together in a PDF document for each outcome which will include all the appropriate links.

22nd September

Managed to get quite a bit done today with the documents for Outcomes 1-4 setup and I almost two thirds of the way through in completing them. In the meantime I have chosen 5 images from assignment 5 to use as my body of work. I’ve also selected 11 images to use for my presentation and I will have these printed on fine art paper and film the workflow and handling to give some sense of scale to it. I got some ideas for my essay and will start to make inroads on that this evening before work.

 

 

 

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Research – JPEG’s Project

Early in my working life, I had to the opportunity of spending 10 years working in the production department for a local newspaper group. It was a job I thoroughly enjoyed because of the different roles I would adopt over that period. When I first joined the paper we were in a state of semi-digital transformation

 

  • Aperture: ƒ/3.5
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 22 April, 2012
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/13s
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