The Art of Photography

Friday, 3 February 2012

All sent for assessment

Today I posted my work off for assessment. What a wonderful feeling handing that parcel over the counter at Royal Mail. Now I wait for the results.
I can now focus on my portraits paper.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Notes to Picture Essay 2

I made a few adjustments to my presentation of my photo essay after feedback from my tutor. I've added a few captions and put a wider border around the printed photos. It does look better.  I'm still not certain about the last two photos.  I have changed the order of those two several times. My first layout (on the table ) I put the beer can last.  When I finally put it together I put the portrait of the man who had been attacked last to leave the viewer with a strong emotion at the end. I have now reverted back to the can last. I still can't decide which is better.  However I feel that I do have a strong body of work and that this is a minor issue.
My first captions I put the names of everyone except for the last person. Mainly it was I didn't have his name so I put a comment as to why he had been beaten up.  My tutor thought a name better than the caption I had put.  He didn't know I didn't know it.  I thought about and agreed it was letting the work down.  So I spent another week on the streets until I got his name.  It was worth it.
Overall I am quite pleased with the final version.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Photo Essay Version 2

Friday, 23 December 2011

Assignment Five - Notes

At last the final assignment for this paper has come together. The brief is applying the techniques of illustration and narrative as if a story for a magazine. including a cover followed by several pages telling the story.
The work I am presenting is the result of several months work.  It is by no means finished but the beginning of a body of work I intend to continue with it for some time. Photographing the lives of those on the street is not the sort of work you can plan to just pop out one afternoon and shoot.  I have spent months getting to know the people who live on the edges of society's expectations.  All of them are fighting addiction of some sort.  Alcohol, drugs and mental health issues.  I have learnt a lot about friendship and trust. I am often astounded by the actions of so called ordinary members of the public. Why is it necessary to physically attack someone who asks for a few coins. Isn't "no" sufficient?

I began this work taking lovely snaps. The deal was I took their photo and gave a print in exchange.  The problem with these pictures was they looked like they belonged in a family album.  I still take these pictures as there is a need for this family album. Now though I am permitted to take pictures that reflect more of life as it is. I am learning their individual stories.  My next step is to record their stories. First I want the story of how they arrived here. Then I want to follow where they go. 
Mickey, for example told me how after 19 months in the hostel and coming off his drug habit had moved into his own apartment two days earlier. ( His partner wasn't so lucky, she died.)  However he now feels isolated and lonely. I've heard this story several times now. Coming back to the street for companionship.

In presenting this narrative for my assignment using all of the skills I have obtained over the past year, the hardest was editing.  I have become so close to my work it is incredibly hard to be objective.  I sought the opinions of several other photographers (and my tutor) to help me be objective.  I still can't believe I have been as ruthless as I have.  This final selection does NOT include my best portraits! Leaving them out initially felt like cutting off my hand. What I had to do was become more aware of the viewer. They don't know the people or where it is.  I worked with prints on a large table shuffling images around to get a flow.  I went back through my notes over the past year and considered each of the techniques I had studied. Contrasts, elements of design, colour, lighting techniques, narrative and story telling. Earlier mistakes have not been deleted from my learning log. I find it useful to look at my learning process.  Going back through the years work I am pleased with my progress.  For example even my most recent errors such as my first attempt to put an essay together. The layout is dreadful.

My selection is now of images all the same orientation. I found on a previous assignment it is very difficult to jump from portrait to landscape and back again.  All the pictures are taken outside only using ambient light.  This changes so I have selected only those where the colour of the light is similar. The final selection have a dull day, grey/blue feel to them.  I reshot the environment pictures to reflect this as well. I have chosen those with similar colours. I rejected a fabulous portrait as the colours were orange tones making the image stop the flow of the narrative.  I have used a variety of wide shots and close ups to help me tell the story.

Putting the narrative together I selected one of the images to be the cover, my lead photo to draw the reader in. I begin the story with the local store where high alcohol beer is sold very cheaply. I've included group and individual images. The sign on the edge of the square prohibiting drinking on the street. Just across the road from a pub. They don't drink at the pub it is too expensive. Most pubs will have people gathered on the street outside drinking.  A person from the street caught drinking on the street will be issued with an ASBO.   My closing image shows the abuse often received as a result of asking for money. This is the image I want the reader to go away with. Hopefully to question their own attitudes and actions.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Assignment Five - Illustration and Narrative

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Our brief for this exercise was to produce a strong image on rain. This image is one I took previously, juggling an umbrella and my camera with a long lens.  Not easy! In addition I have fast activity.
Rain is difficult to photograph so you need to have an image that shows the effects of rain. Lots of umbrellas is the easiest image to show rain. When I took this image I was after something that would show how unpleasant the conditions on the day were. His rain coat is sticking to him, his glasses have rain drops on them and his face shows he is not exactly happy.

I have had ideas to create a newer image but I haven't had the rain I was after and so far haven't found a willing model.  I have a vision of someone caught in the rain absolutely drenched with their hair clinging to their face and raindrops falling off their nose.  I'll continue to try and get that image (I can post in my next paper).

Monday, 5 December 2011


The option I have chosen to use to illustrate juxtaposition is to use the still life approach  creating a book cover.  I have opted for very strong subject matter using symbols to suggest a relationship. The relationship being the mutilation of a young girl and men's sexual power over women. The sole reason that young girls are subjected to this cruelty is for men's pleasure and their power over them.
I recently read an article in the newspaper that 3.500 young girls in London are subjected to genital mutilation each year. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could create a visual image that would connect the abuse of young girls to the sexual politics of men over women.  A barbie doll seemed to me to cover the later. After reading that girls are generally violated with razor blades, scissors or even glass I decided on the symbols of a girls panties with a razor blade to represent  the abuse.

I have used several tools to illustrate juxtaposition.  Viewpoint, symbols, lighting and colour.  I've used a wide aperture to create a soft focus that aids the sense of the doll being an image of a woman.  I have place the razor blade just below the print of a fairy on the panties to create the sense of lost childhood and chosen red as the background colour to represent the amount of bleeding that will occur. I've used lighting to have lots of shadow and black edges to imply that this is something hidden, not spoken openly about, yet the communities in which it happens all know about it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Find symbols for a number of concepts describe how you might use them in a photograph.
Our subjects are:
growth, excess, crime, silence and poverty.

I have found this challenge very interesting.  I've carried a notebook around with me for several weeks while I thought about this. I was trying to think of symbols that are different not a cliche. Well that is extremely difficult.  I've spent hours in the bookstores looking at book covers to see what ideas have already been used.  For example crime novels tend to have either a dagger, drops of blood, a murder victim or graphics on the cover.
I also thought long and hard about how the photo might be used. I was reminded of the HSBC ads where they use an image and show it can mean the opposite depending on the culture. I thought of where this could happen within my subject range.  An example is a photo of a child's hand in an adults hand.  This could indicate growth on the cover of a political manifesto.  Equally it could imply crime in a police poster.
I thought of various symbols for each subject.  I then went through my photos to see if I could find images that might be able to be used.  I came up with the following:


The industrial bee is often used as a symbol of hard work so I felt a good symbol for growth.  I thought of many other symbols that are often used to represent growth. Plants, money modern skyscrapers.  These are all positive symbols of growth.  I then thought about growth as a negative and thought of cancer, over population, a different symbol would need to be used for these subjects.


The first thing that came to mind was Versailles. A photo of the mirror hall makes one think of excess. A table groaning with food. A fat stomach overflowing out of pants with shirt buttons bursting.


When I thought about symbols for crime I came up with a list of objects like padlock, barbed wire, security cameras, all things that hint at protecting oneself or defending oneself.  Then I thought of objects like a knife or gun, things that hurt one. Most images relating to crime do so in a violent way. I then thought about a business man dressed nicely carrying a briefcase to symbolise what is termed white collar crime. Most symbols used do so by working on fear. So I used the picture above, with two symbols often used to demonstrate crime.  The look of fear in the little girls face and the way she is clutching her handbag, a symbol of possessions. Is she afraid for her possessions or her personal safety.

I immediately thought of a church for silence. A place where one contemplates.  I also thought of a graveyard.  I have combined the two in the above image and have by use of a slow shutter speed added the figure of a man so that he appears as a ghost.
Other symbols that came to mind were a finger to ones lips, a person signing (the silence of the deaf). I also thought of a butterfly, a white room with a single white chair in it.


This is perhaps a little too obvious as an image for poverty. A bit of a cliche. But probably most of my ideas for this subject do come into that category.  I thought of a darned sock, a shoe with the sole coming apart. Discarded furniture, a broken pushchair.  I then thought of a dinner plate with baked beans and a fried egg on it.

Overall though this exercise has been really good for making me think about how I am going to get a picture to say what I want it to. It's no good my knowing what was happening if my image doesn't say it to the viewer who wasn't there.  All the exercises in this module have made me think a lot about what pictures I need to take for the final narrative. Actually they are making me think in general about my pictures.  What do I want to say, how am I going to get it really display those messages/emotions.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lens - Sharpness

I've been struggling for a wee while now trying to understand why my images have not been sharp. I've changed to TV to ensure I keep my shutter speed high to avoid camera shake. Tried different ways of focusing. Still wasn't ok. Finally decided to get my lens checked. Eureka! Problem with my lens. Canon have replaced power diaphragm unit, image stabiliser unit, rear lens unit, adjusted optical unit set to standard.  No excuse now for unsharp images.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Exhibition - Amazon

Amazon on at Somerset House is truly inspiring work. Photographers Sebatiao Salgado and Per-Anders Pettersson commissioned by Sky and WWF spent 3 years creating this work which aims to help save part of the forest in North-West Brazil. The photos are huge, stunning landscapes and powerful portraits of indigenous tribes. Although this project took three years these two photographers have been taking images in the area for a lot longer. The more I see these truly powerful exhibitions i realise that the best work comes out of projects that take years and years.  The magazine that accompanies this exhibition (unbelievably is free!) I am studying for presentation.