Assignment Five – Photography is Simple

Brief

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.

Assignment notes

In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’ Write about 300 words. Your response to the question doesn’t have to be complicated; it might be quite simple (but if you can answer in one word then you will have to imaginatively interpret your photographs for the remaining 299!)

Make sure you word process and spellcheck your notes as they’re an important part of the assignment.

For this assignment it is important that you send a link (or scanned pages) to the contextual exercise (Exercise 5.2) for your tutor to comment on within their report.

What is it About? 

I have titled this series “My Broken Heart”.

I chose to explore this subject from a place of my own experience and the process of grief I felt in relation to this.

When we have been hurt, we hold onto our emotions tightly as if it were the only thing keeping us afloat. We have an abundance of different emotions within our grasp that blend into one big mess, leaving us with a gaping hole that seemingly cannot be filled. The only reality is the pain and it can be hard to let go. The unknown future we did not plan for and find hard to accept feels frightening and unreal. Can we ever possibly be happy again? It doesn’t necessarily seem so.

However, with the passing of time, those emotions that we feel begin to flow, we experience the pain and begin to lose our tight grip, we cry and the emotions ebb and flow like a tide. Slowly, as we release our emotion, the world begins to appear lighter, brighter and weigh a lot less, we rid ourselves of the overwhelm and things begin to get easier.

“My Broken Heart” is probably quite self explanatory for anyone who has been through it themselves, I am sure there aren’t very many people in the world, who could not resonate one way or another with the feeling. But I chose to interpret this subject in a series of simple shots, without overcomplicating the frame by adding too much information. This series is a visual representation of my internal emotions, symbolising how I experienced them. For me, there is a sense of quietness and aloneness in the experience of grief, it is just you and your feelings that can wash over you, explode, engulf you or overwhelm you. The rest of the world slips away.

Contact Sheets:

My Selects:

I took my time when choosing my 10 selects and the order in which I put them in. I began by narrowing down my selection, which took me a while but was relatively easy when I had sorted the photographs into similar looking shots. I then, selected my favourite one which I felt represented the topic the best. 77 selects became 16 and then the final 10. 

I chose to put my series in this order to represent the wave of emotion as it takes hold and to represent the overwhelm building as you feel like you’re drowning in it. Before you finally submit to the feeling of hopelessness and despair. 

 

Technical Information and Process:

I place the camera on a tripod and set an automatic timer which would begin to shoot after 5 seconds (allowing me to get in place) and then continue to shoot 9 shots with a second interval inbetween each one. I used one studio light but covered it with a sheet so as to allow for the slower shutter speed, enabling me to create a sense of movement within the shots. 

The background was simply a white, creased sheet and I shot the photographs at night, indoors to keep the lighting as low as possible. 

I used heart shaped confetti and sat on a stool in front of the camera. I experimented with different movements, throwing the confetti in the air and moving around the frame slightly to create slightly different angles and give me more choice to select from. 

Research and Reflection:

When I began thinking about this assignment and it’s title “Photography is simple” and the description that followed,  I wanted to delve within and explore some of the feelings I had been experiencing recently. My question when I decided on the subject, was how I could interpret a feeling and form it into something physical that could be understood by a viewer without it being too obvious, but at the same time, sticking to the idea that “photography is simple”? I decided that the expression of emotion within a frame, need not be elaborate or over promoted. Feelings are fleeting and temporary and exist in a moment, which makes them a good subject for “simple” photography. I believe when choosing myself as the subject, it certainly says something about me and I feel comfortable in exploring what lies beneath when it comes to my own emotions. 

Inspired by Francesca Woodman and her fascination with movement in a still frame, I was motivated to try and experiment with my own “movements” and create something abstract and move away from a more traditional portrait shoot. 

I also thought about Gustave Le Gray whose idea “Theory of Sacrifices” which I had read about and seen in the book “The genius of Photography”. He said that in order to gain a more artistic effect, photographer should be prepared to lose overall sharpness which, at the time, was an attempt to move photography away from simply being an instrument to record details and events and into a form of art. Whilst I don’t believe this is definitively true, it’s an interesting point to explore.  

Since this was a form of self-portraiture and something I had explored before and felt very at home with,  I looked at some of the photographers in the book “Auto Focus – The Self Portrait in Contemporary Photography” to understand some of the ways in which other photographers had worked with this and I found it interesting in how diverse self portraiture could be. Sometimes, it was kept very simple like Kimiko Yoshida’s Bridal Shots and other times the scenes were elaborate and made use of today’s digital manipulation post-production like Sam Taylor-Wood in “Suspended” and Li Wei’s photographs. Some photographers choose to shot in a studio and others out in the world. Some adopt a persona whereas others explore themselves. The possibilities are seemingly endless and diverse with many different approaches. 

Sam Taylor-Wood “Suspended”


Li Wei

Another pro to using yourself as the model, for me, lies in the fact, that I know what I want and can achieve it without having to direct somebody else. There is no need for explanation and if it turns out in a way I had not imagined it, then I only have myself to blame. However, I recognise that there are times, many in fact, when having an extra person will bring to light some ideas that you hadn’t thought of initially. The photo and the idea can evolve as you watch your scene through the viewfinder, subtle differences are more likely to be noticed at the time when you only concentrate on being the photographer and you can capture moments as they happen. When you are the model, sometimes these moments are an afterthought which you may try to recreate. 

I noticed that with this particular assignment, I shot many more photographs than I had done previously. I believe this was partly due to an attempt of “getting it right” as I was working with slower shutter speeds which allowed things to be less rigid in the outcome and I was also enjoying this project, I found myself deeply immersed in this over a few hours as it evolved with different ideas as I worked. 

After obtaining the physical prints in assignment 3 and how it had an impact on the way I viewed those photographs and ultimately changed the way I presented my final shots, I chose to get cheap copies printed this time too. I felt I could better prepare the series of shots in the correct sequence when I had them all physically laid out in front of me. I discovered that I worked quicker and could make changes to the sequence with more ease, than when trying to put them in order on a computer. I will use this technique each time in the future from now on. 

Having previously really enjoyed working in black and white. I really appreciate the use of colour in this assignment. Not only does it make the confetti stand out and become the focus of the photo but the red also represents the colour of blood and the white pieces like bone and at times, looks like it is flowing from my hands as if I were physically injured. I have been reading “Understanding Color in Photography” which gave me a better technical knowledge of using colour in my own photographic work. While the examples in this book offer the use of colour in more extreme and contrasting ways and mostly being ther main  focus of the photographs which are depicted it offered me a useful insight which has helped broaden my work and my use of colour. I believe I have evolved as a photographer and appreciate colour more now than I did at the start of my studies. 

Overall, I was very happy with my result in this assignment. It was by far my favourite as I felt it spoke quite intimately about my inner thought process and offered a reflection of my true feelings at the time of shooting, which I believe can be sometimes hard to achieve fully. Whilst the scene was staged, the emotion behind it was not. Therefore, the work felt quite pure and raw to me.

I believe that a successful photograph is one in which the photographer is satisfied within themselves that they have achieved what they set out to achieve. In spite of how positively or negatively it is received by others. Self-satisfaction is the key to success in my opinion. A photograph, after all, is a depiction of within, no matter what you are photographing. It is evident in the way you decide to approach it as a photographer, so it is important to be primarily happy with the results yourself before opening it up to the sea of opinions that others will have on your work. 

Exercise 5.2 Link: http://foxleyphotodegree.co.uk/2019/04/18/exercise-5-2/

Tutor Report

Reflection following my tutorial

I began thinking about the reasons behind this piece of work and who it was for. I believe it was both for me as a way of helping me understand and contextualise my feelings at the time, but also for an audience. I wanted the viewer to relate to the images and keeping them out of focus and slightly ambiguous, I felt that it allowed the viewer to put their own feelings to the series as a whole. 

I explored the photographer’s that my tutor had suggested and will continue to explore this particular field of photography a little more. 

References: 

  • Bright, S. (2006). Auto Focus – The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. Thames & Hudson
  • Badger, G. (2007). The Genius of Photography – How photography has changed our lives. Quadrille Publishing Limited. 
  • Peterson, B. (2017) Understanding Color in Photography Watson-Guptill Publications