The Art of Photography

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.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Notes to exercise - A narrative picture essay 2nd attempt

My first attempt at a photo essay wasn't great, I know that but couldn't put my finger on why. I asked my tutor for feedback. Other than the obvious way the sw has put a strange version on my blog with loads of blank spaces was the layout. Not in nice neat columns. One of his suggestions was to study magazines and newspapers. So I did.
I'm still working through the sw issue. I just have to learn more and find free sw that will work for me. Not a bad option.
Note to myself: Learn how to achieve what you are trying to do with the tools you have. By the time you can afford the expensive sw you will know exactly what you want to use it for.
I've spent hours browsing magazines and book covers in stores. Studying the layout and how the subject matter is treated. Keeping in mind the next exercises I need to complete before the final assignment. I have put together another photo essay (in the post below). I'm happier with the layout, I need to think more about the comments and how the photos link together. The story I'm hoping to tell for my assignment will be strong so I need to think a lot about the images I need to connect them all. I'm becoming increasingly aware of how strong images put together well stand out from those around them. Since doing this study I'm becoming more aware of everything around me.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Exhibitions - James Hyman Photography

A small selection of photographs from three very different photographers: Eugene Atget, Anna Fox and Lynne Cohen.  The works of Eugene Atget were difficult to look at properly as they were in the office of the gallery staff (bizarre really) they were having a meeting so a little awkward to stand in front of the images for very long. However it did make me do a google search to view more of his works. A couple of his staircase images in the gallery I particularly liked. The lines, shape and light all come together brilliantly.
Anna Fox was my favourite in this exhibition. The images were part of her project Resorts, a view of Butlins holiday camps.  Funny I had been thinking of a similar body of work, should have known this would have been done, (probably done lots).  I do love this style of work and have slowly been finding the photographers who work in this genre. Martin Parr, Peter Dench and now Anna Fox. What I especially love is that in some ways they have the initial appearance of a family snapshot but when you study them they are far from that. They give a real glimpse into real family lives, the colour is an important element of the images and often are big and bold. I wonder how they will be viewed in 100 years.  I can't help but feel they will be of more interest than the beautiful landscapes that are taken during the same period.
The third photographer was Lynne Cohen a Canadian photographer with a selection of her work that featured at the Venice Biennale. These images as stated in the publicity blurb "explore the mystery of unoccupied space and place". I am learning to see more in this genre of images but still they don't inspire me.  I get more out of images of people.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Workshop - The Picture Story

Did a one day workshop (organised through L.I.P.) with Martin Shakeshaft on the picture story.  With 15 of us on the workshop with varying skills and Martin attempting to show us everything from successful documentaries to putting together a punchy small film we weren't going to be able to get lots of detail.  Still we were encouraged to take a section of what we wanted and go with that.  I chose to try and photograph a picture essay incorporating the important elements we had discussed in the morning session. If doing an editorial feature it would typically be between 2-7 images. The most important shot is the establishing shot.  This image puts the story into perspective, places the story.  It may be the only image used so must tell the whole story in that one image. Typically wide angle shot.
Next pace. A variety of images shot from different perspectives, long shot, mid shot, wide shot, close-up, relationships. Avoid boredom by changing the rhythms of the photographs.
We regrouped at the end of the day to discuss what each of us had done.  I found the establishing shot extremely difficult.  Martin told us this is always the hardest shot even for those who have been doing it for years.
For me these are all elements I will need to incorporate into my photo essay.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Evidence of Action

For this exercise we are asked to take just one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened.  The reading suggests that this image should be powerful. Something that tells a story in just one image.
I have just such a photo that I took after the riots.

I went to Brixton after the riots.  I think this image is as powerful as many of those the media took of action shots at the time of the rioting. This image shows what happened. Even those caught up in the heat of the moment would have to reflect when seeing the results as shown here.  Shortly after I took this photo most of the shop windows were boarded up, which in many ways hid the problem.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Notes to exercise - A narrative picture essay

I had decided to use the Bloomsbury festival as my practice exercise as I work toward the Assignment 5. I tried to get a variety of pictures that would give the viewer a feel for the day, including a portrait, detail and the scene. The festival is mostly art and culture involving organisations and museums in the area.

The next part was to edit the photos down to between 5 and 15.  I found this difficult especially as some of the photos weren't technically very good. What do I do? just use technically good pictures or put in those that tell the best story?  I opted for the latter.

Now layout.  Geez, I've no idea how to layout.  I printed the pictures in various sizes and laid them out on the table trying to find groupings and sizes that worked best.

Next captions.  Now I'm way outside of comfort zone. Hence the brief captions.

How do I now get if from scraps on the table into some kind of document.  I finally went with MS publisher and saved as a pdf.
More hours on the Internet to find how I could get this into my blog journal.  I tried a couple of  sites where you upload your document then copy the code into blogger. First attempts had parts of pictures and loads of frustration. More research. Finally found  Scribd.
Seems to work reasonably well without too many problems.
Feeling more than a little concerned about the final assignment.

A Narrative Picture Essay

Blooms Bury Festival