Assignment Four – Languages of Light


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 in to your own work. 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.Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor’s comments.


Why I chose this particular exercise, my thought process:

I spent a while thinking about my subject. The beautiful artificial lights at the Christmas Markets in Berlin made me eager to possibly explore this avenue. But what would my angle be? I mean, yes, I could take some beautiful pictures and capture the essence of the markets in all their Christmassy glory in a similar vein to that of Brassai and his images of Paris but I wanted to delve into something else.

My previous work has centred on reflections and evolved into the reflected self. I have spent some time thinking about this subject and came to the conclusion that all of one’s own work is a reflection of oneself in one way or another. We wouldn’t be happy with our work if we didn’t see the vision that we had imagined prior, come to life in our photographs. This vision is a reflection of something we hold inside, something that drives us to create photographs in the first place.

In day to day life, I am becoming more aware of the smaller details in the world around me and find this increasing exponentially when I look through my viewfinder.

However, the one thing that I cannot study so freely, is myself. Of course, I could stand in front of a mirror and stare at myself for a little while. But I would only focus on a part of my face at any given time. I cannot read thoroughly my expression as a whole. So, I decided that this time, my subject would be me. I wanted to put myself in front of the lens for a change and use the light to highlight the different parts of my face.

I also wanted to explore the way in which we choose for the world to see us. Social media has this topic very much at the forefront of our day to day lives. We post a half truth on facebook, in which we live a seemingly perfect life all framed with the perfect photographic filter. All in the hope of seeking approval and that it will make people like us more. We hide the uglier parts of our personalities. We are ultimately in control of the way the world would sees us and we convince ourselves that what we put out there, is the real thing, that it is our real self.

This project would not only be about the light, it would be about exploring oneself and the mask that we hide behind, whilst focusing in on particular details of my own face.

We all hide behind a mask one way or another and for varying reasons in varying settings. Sometimes a mask is a necessity, a way of putting our best foot forward. Sometimes it is used to fool others and sometimes it is used to fool ourselves. However, the more time that is spent with someone, the harder it is to keep any masks intact and ultimately the veil gets lifted and our true selves get exposed, up close and personal. We can no longer hide as people become more aware of our finer details. I feel that the use of light in this assignment is a good way of portraying this theory through my photographs.

I wanted to have my finished images in black and white. My vision was a dramatic one and I felt the contrast would be stronger and more focused in black and white images. However, I chose to begin with colour, just in case I changed my mind when I viewed the final images.

Technical Information:

I used a single, bright, construction light. I chose a black background. I set the camera on a tripod with a remote attached and flipped my live view camera screen around so I could view it from the front. I could position myself in the view with ease using one hand to move and hold the light in various positions whilst using the other hand to press the remote.

I darkened my eye area with black eyeshadow, to create my “mask” or my “character” and placed ivy in my hair. This was not only a throwback to the previous exercise of 4.4 where we were encouraged to use natural objects but I also used this particular prop to portray the way we can use our surroundings or position in the world to hide behind, which allows us to maintain some control over the way in which we are viewed. These aspects gave my photos a slightly fantastical feel to them.

Contact Sheets:








Initial Reflection:

I had taken many more photos than I had done previously for my assignments. Perhaps this was due to the fact I was photographing myself? Was I on a subconscious quest to ensure I achieved a “good” photograph of myself and was I striving for some kind of perfection? Being an unrelenting perfectionist, I already know the answer to this question..It’s natural that, when I am both the subject and the director, there is going to be double the work produced when I am playing two different parts in one project. It didn’t really come as a surprise.

I quite enjoyed the colour images, the colours had turned out beautiful under the artificial light, but I eventually chose to remain with my original decision since, in this occasion, I felt the colours became too much of a distraction. I wanted the final images to be kept simple, to focus only on the contrast between light and dark.

I could see similarities between my lightning technique and that of Irving Penn, especially the photo of Sophia Loren. He often had his subjects at an angle to the camera and not straight on. The majority of my final set were at an angle or, with part of my face obscured in the shadow. However, I likened my work more towards that of Annie Leibovitz, the black background she often used with the focus on the face of her subjects and the strong contrast in black and white had similarities with mine. There were similarities with Cindy Sherman in some ways, she often played a part in front of the camera and in this project, so did I to an extent. I don’t think I gave away a lot about my own character here, but chose to hide behind a mask or character.

In the spirit of Cindy Sherman and her untitled film stills, I chose to give nothing away in the title and simply give each one a number.

Following on from my tutorial:

After my tutorial, it became apparent that I needed to think harder, not only when making my selections but also when sequencing them. Subsequently I removed two of them entirely as I could see it did not fit comfortably with the rest and I reworked my sequence in order to create more of a flow to the images and the way in which they are viewed.

My initial sequence was as follows:









I decided that #5 and #7 were to be removed entirely and the order was reworked to depict an emergence of light throughout the series and as such the emergence of one’s character, the longer we examine that person. I feel that my final selection and their order achieves my goal.