ASSIGNMENT 5: PHOTOGRAPHY IS SIMPLE

Niki South    Student number: 514516

REFLECTIONS ON FORMATIVE FEEDBACK

My Tutor’s feedback has gave me encouragement, confidence and further food for thought.

Strengths highlighted:

  • Organisation, research (critical awareness and use of value judgements) and presentation of this through mind maps.
  • My plan to present as a “slow reveal” as a devise to construct my narrative around. I did reorder the images after taking out my weakest one and following used my tutor’s suggestion of scale to present the images to “tighten up” my slow reveal presentation.
  • Awareness of viewer and how to engage them.
  • My passion and knowledge of the subject. I am glad that this came across even though it was not one of my favorite assignments in this course.
  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – I was especially pleased with this as I knew it was a technically subject and could have shied away from it but took up the challenge and risk, and felt that I learnt a lot from it. I also know that I couldn’t have tackled this at the beginning of the course.
  • Compositional skills which sustain interest and create intimacy with the subject.
  • Creative use of “scale, proximity and dynamic compositions”. I can see the progression here in particular since my 1st assignment.

 Areas for development:

  • Critical editing: My Tutor suggested I that swap 2 images for others almost identical to them, and on reflection he was absolutely right I had not originally chosen the best of them; I need to look really critically at similar images. Although he praised my “quirky” idea to include a static version of the boat to show it in its entirety, on reflection I agree with him that my original porta cabin image was “flat” in comparison the other images, and decided to drop it from the final submission. I learnt from this not to hold on to what might seem a clever idea if the image isn’t strong enough.
  • To continue to read and research widely.

My Learning points:

  • As with my previous assignment to continue to trust my instinct and remain flexible throughout an assignment. I am glad that I had the confidence to change my subject when a unique opportunity arose and to proceed with this.
  • To look critically at images chosen in series or exhibition to learn more about the rationale behind how other photographers make their choices.
  • To read along the lines of my tutors suggestion (Dialogue with Photography, Hill & Thomas 2014) to discover more about what goes on in photographer’s minds.

 Link to work submitted to tutor: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a5-work-submitted-to-tutor/

Link to learning log: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a5-learning-log/

These mind maps summarise the narrative of my preparations, post-shooting thoughts and editing notes contained in the learning log:

Preparations

mind map planning

 Shooting

mindmap shooting

 Editing

mind map editing

Analysis grid of the information contained in images

analysis grid final

 

 

 

 

 

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RESEARCH

Follow up research to Assignment 4 The language of Light

Uta Barth born 1958

My tutor suggested I look at her work following my Language of Light assignment; he commented that the way that she uses light as a subject matter rather than something concrete, helps to “develop your seeing eye so that finding photographs becomes freer and less dominated by subject matter”.(Trillo 2016).

Her photographs are both abstract and evocative, she “intentionally depicts mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception” (Anon 2012). She examines how the eye and the camera see differently and is most interested in what you can see when looking through a lens.

Ground and Field the work that gave her international attention, were “photographic blurs caused by focusing the camera on an unoccupied foreground; these lushly colored images tested connections between the descriptive clarity of photography and the haze of memory” (Anon 2011). Here as in much of her work, objects that would normally be in the background of a photograph are at the centre.

Ground_12

 Ground 12 (Barth, 2014)

In “…and to draw a bright white line with light” (2001) she manipulated the curtains in her home creating lines and curves of light that expand from a sliver to a wide ribbon across a sequence of large-scale, dramatically cropped images, that emphasis the pleasure of seeing.

Uta Barth white line

White Line. Installation view (The Art Institute of Chicago Photography, 2011)

Barth continues to explore the theme of perception in new and inventive ways, encouraging viewers like me to reconsider the traditional functions of the photographic image. Firstly I love her work, all of it that I’ve explored, but secondly I agree that her process is very freeing; taking a photograph of the act of seeing by removing a subject from the photograph in a setting that is both anonymous and familiar and eliminating all but the most universally abstract elements from the frame. I concur with Fallis (nd) that as photography is totally dependent on the visual, this is a good process for exploring the act of seeing and “by focusing on where the subject would be in a conventional photograph and by overtly calling the viewer’s attention to the absence of the subject Marth is, in effect, turning the viewer into the subject” (Fallis nd). Fascinating!

Keld Helmer-Peterson (1920 – 2013)

He was a pioneer of Danish modernist photography, photographed structures, patterns and details in cities, industrial areas and nature and his work became increasingly abstract. “Unlike documentary photographers, including Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange who infused their images with specific markers of time and place, Helmer-Petersen stripped his images of context, giving them an abstract, untethered feel”.(Hiatt 2014). He photographed in colour, most unusual for that time and aimed to illustrate “nothing whatever beyond the fact that we are surrounded by many beautiful and exciting things” (Anon, 2013).

Kled holmer peterson.jpg

Helmer- Peterson (Hiatt 2014)

Some of his subjects could seem to be picturesque clichés now, though they are always well composed in form and colour often where ordinary objects juxtapose and appear eerie  and mysterious.  His pictures “are remarkable not for what they depict but for what they are” (LIFE Magazine 1949).

I find his work a satisfying colour experience and another of enhancing the act of seeing in a very different way to Uta Barth.

References:

Trillo, D (2016) Formative feedback assignment 4 Languages of Light.

 Anon (2012). Uta Barth Conceptual Photographer https://www.macfound.org/fellows/859/ (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Anon (2011) Uta Barth May 14, 2011–August 16, 2011, Galleries 188–189, Art Institute Chicago http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/utabarth  (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Fallis, G (nd) Sunday Salon with Greg Fallis http://www.utata.org/sundaysalon/uta-barth/ (Accessed 14.6.16). 

The Art Institute of Chicago Photography (2011) The Art Institute of Chicago.http://utabarth.net/work/and-to-draw-a-bright-white-line-with-light/#image-2 (Accessed 14.6.16).

Barth, U (2014). The official Website. Ground 12 1992-93. http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Ground_12.jpg (Accessed 14.6.16).

LIFE Magazine (1949) cited in Hiatt (2014) The Unknown Master of Color Photography. Timeless images from one of the earliest.  https://newrepublic.com/article/118484/keld-helmer-petersen-unknown-master-color-photography. (Accessed 14.6.16).

Poynor, R (2013) Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color.The design Observer Group. http://designobserver.com/article.php?id=38030. (Accessed 14.6.16).

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 4: LANGUAGES OF LIGHT

Niki South Student number: 514516

REFLECTIONS ON FORMATIVE FEEDBACK

My Tutors feedback has gave me encouragement, confidence and further food for thought.

Strengths highlighted:

  • The way that I explored and used various possibilities of light.
  • That the planning, notes and research support the images and explain the rational and methods.
  • I was particularly pleased that my Tutor commented on the sharpness and good exposures of the images as this was the first time that I had consistently shot in full manual mode and this had been a challenge for me in the harsh midday lighting conditions. I also noted this as a development point for myself after the last assignment.
  • The successful forming of a series. This I was relieved about as the series had evolved as I shot and subsequently edited, and was concerned that I may have strayed too far or misinterpreted the brief as it was unlike any other work I had seen for this assignment.
  • My creative concept combined with my choice of light. It seems that from my exercises and development work I was able to correctly assess the best light conditions for my subject.
  • Following on since assignment 2, when I lost my confidence to edit my images, it seems in the last two assignments, that my more fluid process and thinking is working well. 

Areas for development:

  • To ensure that I “kill any babies” during editing. I completely agree that the first image (29) does not fit as well as the others in the series and have dropped it from my final submission. This was definitely a case where I held onto the image for too long in the editing process because it was one the earliest images which I “liked”.
  • To take a step away from subject matter and develop my seeing eye, as in the work of Uta Barth whose photography “ isn’t about what is seen in the photograph; it’s about the very act of seeing”. (Fallis, nd).

 My Learning points:

  • To continue to trust my instinct, remain flexible throughout an assignment and have more confidence in my photography.
  • To continue to research widely and follow up on the photographers suggested by my Tutor. I particularly like the work of Uta Barth who “has made visual perception the subject of her work” (Anon, nd) and will explore further the work of Keld Helmer-Peterson.
  • To continue to learn how to voice the rationale behind my images; although my tutor commented that my explanations supported my images well, his comments seem to describe my rationale in both a more artistic and interesting language.

 References:

Anon (nd) Uta Barth Biography.  http://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/artists/uta-barth/series-photography

Fallis G (nd) Uta Barth. http://www.utata.org/sundaysalon/uta-barth/

 Link to work submitted to tutor: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-work-submitted-to-tutor/

Link to learning log: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-learning-log/

The following mind maps summarise the narrative of my preparations, post-shooting thoughts and editing notes contained in the learning log.

Preparations:

mind map preparations

 

Shooting:

mind map shooting

 

Editing:

mind map editing

 

 

 

 

 

LEARNING LOG: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

Assignment Four

REFLECTIONS AGAINST ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

  • I believe I used my observation skills honed in the last assignment to good effect, seeking out the interesting.
  • As usual I composed in camera and occasionally returned and reshot to improve.
  • I predominantly shot in full manual mode which was new to me to this extent and this gave me greater control especially in the challenging midday sunlight.

Quality of outcome:

  • I think a flexible mind set at the outset of editing enabled me to be more objective when choosing images.
  • I looked for coherence by choosing the images that were “a mystery and support for our imagination” as some of Michael Schmidt’s photographs have been described (Delahaye, 2014) with abstract, distorted and or partial reflections.
  • I thought carefully when presenting them as a series using colour tones alternatively to break the viewer’s rhythm.
  • I hope that I have communicated these ideas clearly in my analysis.

Demonstration of creativity

  • I believe that the images are imaginative and varied in the viewpoints that they present (in a conceptual rather than physical sense).
  • I experimented by testing different types of daylight before settling on midday sunlight.
  • I feel as if I am beginning to develop a personal voice, knowing that I most enjoy working with and using colour to advantage rather than black and white.
  • I think that I took creative risks as I interpreted the brief in an individual way.

Context:

  • I reflected throughout the exercises and assignment and have recorded this.
  • I have researched as suggested and in a wider sense.
  • I applied my learning from the exercises when choosing the context for the assignment images.

References:

 Delahaye, L. Cited in: O’Hagan, S (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. Guardian online. 28 May 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

RESEARCH FOR ASSIGNMENT 4

THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT – DAYLIGHT

Michael Schmidt  ( 1945 – 2014)   A documentary photographer based in Berlin. He captured images of the city, its residents and its concrete landscapes in stark black and white images (BBC 2014). He preferred black and white photography as it neutralises images so that the viewer “is able to form an objective opinion about the image from a neutral standpoint independent of his subjective colour perception. He is thus not emotionally distracted.” (Schmidt, 1979). Over five decades he shot a series of projects, all in varying degrees of grey, believing that “Photography was invented to enable us to portray reality with complete precision to the last detail” (Schmidt, 1979).

One of other ways that he achieved neutrality was photographing in the flat midday sun, preferring to work without shadows so that the viewer allows” the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects’.  (Schmidt, 1979).

The French photographer Luc Delahaye said of Schmidt’s work: “His pictures look simple at first glance, and their anti-sentimentality, their refusal of all the tricks of the usual seduction, their concision and their clarity, give them great efficiency. They show what they show but they manage to retain an opacity, a mystery, and they become a support for our imagination”,  (O’Hagan 2014).

 

schmidt 1    schmidt

                                        (Nordenhake, n.d)

Eugène Atget (1857-1927)   His early work was of Paris streets mostly shot at midday with light that is factual, unemotional with minimal shadows: “light is external and illuminates its subject with an even clarity” (Borcoman, n.d). He sought as a documentarian would, to convey information objectively.

atget a   (Anon 1, n.d)

His later photographs used more subjective light with deep shadows, reflecting mood. These were often shot early in the morning, they use “light and shadow to create a mood rather than to describe a place”, (Anon 2, n.d). When photographing the parks and gardens in and around Paris, “these late photographs have a qualitatively different sensibility: formally bold and synthetic, they are also atmospheric, mysterious, and resonant” (Anon 2, n.d).

atget 2  (Anon 3, n.d.)

(Anon 3, n.d)In this image he uses light and space to describe the subject, and by shooting into the sun, the tree and its canopy is in silhouette in the foreground whilst the trees in the distance have been flattened to a narrow band.

atget 3  (Anon 3, n.d)

Golden (2013, p26) suggests that “the simplicity and limitations of his technique, which led him to photograph in the early morning…gave a certain empty and surreal charm to his cityscapes”. His work is also characterised by the rapid foreshortening caused by wide angled lenses and “frequent truncating of the nominal subject in exchange for a more intimate vantage point”, (Szarkowski, n.d). 

Johnny Savage     An Irish photographer whose new body of work Fallout explores modern landscapes in Ireland through a series of sixteen surreal and haunting images of modern day ruins. These buildings were built during the economic boom but have never been occupied. I came across his work when researching photographers working with urban space and reflections. Savage (n.d) describes fallout as a series of photographs that considers the modern Irish landscape; a landscape where empty buildings stand like ruins, reminders of another time or place in history”. 

I like the way he uses reflections to create layers in the images, creating a mood of “disillusionment and loss, a haunted empty landscape” (Savage, n.d)

savage 1   savage 2

(Anon 4, n.d)

 

I was also inspired by Rut Blees Luxemburg, see research for exercise 4.3 link: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/exercise-4-3/ 

References:

Anon 1. (n.d)Art of Old Paris. National gallery of Art Washingtom. http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/works_art.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16)

Anon 2 (n.d). The Art of Documentary Photography. National gallery of Art Washington http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/bio.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

Anon3 (n.d) Parks and Gardens. National gallery of Art Washington. http://www.nga.gov/feature/atget/works_park.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16)

Anon 4 (n,d) https://www.lensculture.com/articles/johnny-savage-fallout (Accessed 28.4.16).

 

BBC (2014). Michael Schmidt: German photographer dies aged 68. 25.05.2014.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27567306 (accessed 27.3.16).

 

Borcoman, J ( n.d) Eugene Atget, 1857-1927

http://masters-of-photography.com/A/atget/atget_articles3.html (Accessed 27.3.16).

 

Golden, R (2013) Masters of photography. (Third edition). London. Goodman books.

 

Nordenhake (n.d) http://www.nordenhake.com/php/artist.php?RefID=70 (accessed 27.3.16)

 

O’Hagan, S (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. Guardian online. 28 May 2014:  

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. (Accessed 27.3.16)

 

Savage, (n.d).http://www.domusweb.it/en/photo-essays/2014/09/23/johnny_savage_fallout.html (Accessed 29.4.16)

 

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

NOTES FROM BOOK:

Prakel, D (2007) LIGHTING. New York. AVA Publishing SA.

I made these notes to support my understanding whilst working through the exercises in The Language of Light and in preparation for shooting assignment 4.

“A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere. They are often momentary, chance-sent thing…sometimes they are a matter of luck… Sometimes they are a matter of patience” Bill Brandt cited in Prakel (p57).

Daylight “is a combination of direct light from the sun, from the sky, and light reflected by the clouds” (p58).

Colour temperature is bluer when the light falling in shadows of an image are illuminated by skylight alone.

Morning light: Soft and diffuse. Before sunlight red to violet blue, immediately before pinker, at daybreak yellow.

Noon light: Though harsh does give saturated colours. Winter noon light is higher and has a warmer colour balance than photographic daylight.

Evening light: Strong, low angled light casting long shadows leading to crisper images. Sunsets are rich red and gold,

Night light: Gives an inky black or softly coloured backdrop.

Seasons: The winter is a lower colour temperature and the summer higher.

Location: Mountain top direct light is unforgiving and bluer. Coasts are giant reflectors as is sea spray. City light and tall buildings block all but overhead light. Vertical surfaces reflecting light. Pollution shows in a telephoto lens as yellowing or browning.

Fluorescent light: Is not a continuous spectrum of colours but a combination of green and orange and magenta light.

Street lighting: Is usually mercury or sodium vapour – giving violet/blue and yellow light respectively.

Neon light: Comprised of gases in a tube used to create colours.

Colour filters and film: Daylight and electronic flash (5500K)    Tungsten (3200K)

Exposure:  when contrasty lighting increase by 2 stops.

RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

BOOK REVIEW

Freeman, M. (2013) Capturing the light – the heart of photography. Sussex.  The Ilex press Itd.

I first read this book when preparing for assignment 2 and have revisited as it is especially relevant to assignment 4 The Language of light. It explains in some detail various qualities of light in photographic terms, but in a non-technical way, showing different ways to work with natural light. The book is divided into 3 parts, waiting, chasing and helping the light.

1) Waiting for light He describes the lighting conditions for which you need to understand, plan intelligently and have reasonable expectations for (especially a feel for contrast and shadows). These kinds of light (22 are explored) range from grey light, raking light, snow light and includes the magic hour. I found it useful that he gives the key points of a light, for instance wet grey light: sheen local contrast and atmosphere; then describes subjects and environments that are suited to the light and the effects that it gives, for wet grey light: glistening reflections and higher local contrast.

For this assignment I became particularly interested in hard light (used by Eugene Atget in his early works and Michael Schmidt). He describes this light as mostly unloved, as it casts dense shadows with hard edges and high contrast. Whilst this may not be flattering if trying to photograph people, it can pick out details and textures and add abstraction which may be desirable for angular objects. He suggests that hard light is particularly suited to producing strong images in black and white photography, concentrating on tonality and shape, suggesting tones can be pushed to extremes more acceptably in black and white. He also proposes that as lighting helps to “evoke the physical sensation of a time and place” (hard light) it is conducive to creating stark city-scapes. High raking light (from the side) reveals texture and adds the shapes of the shadows to show more of what the subject is about. I wondered could I use this to advantage in my exercises and assignment. I will also be interested in observing the difference in the hard light at high altitudes when I am trekking in North Vietnam shortly (he calls this high altitude blue). Apparently the contrast is particularly high and the open shade is noticeably blue at high altitudes due to the very high UV content of the light. Freeman suggests using a polariser (which work the strongest at high altitudes) to exaggerate the deep blue sky, I intend to try this.

The golden hour was also of particular interest to me, (following research into Aget’s later photographs). I knew it was warm sympathetic sending out long bands of light and shade, but what else could I learn to exploit it better? I probably knew that this light gives a 3 point shooting choice (sun behind, at the side or in front of the camera) but had not realised how elements such as clear air would accentuate the blur of shadow edges or the proximity of an object affects the sharpness of a shadow edge and will watch out for this.

I reread with particular interest the chapter on reflection light once I decided to shoot images of reflective buildings and reflections of buildings for assignment 4. He refers to reflection as capturing reflections of light, rather than using reflected light to bounce up onto a subject. I learnt that the lower the camera to the surface the sharper the angle and the stronger and brighter the reflections, and that the refection would probably be darker (about 1 stop) than the actual, would I see this in my images? This will be affected by other elements; haze which softens the contrast, focal length where a shorter length is more likely to keep the reflected light evenly bright across the frame, silhouette and elevation (the higher the sunlight in the sky the higher the camera needs to be?).

I was also keen to learn more about skylight blue shade. Apparently on a cloudless day 85% of the light comes from the sun but some from the rest of the sky reflecting only in blue wavelengths. I had thought that many of the buildings that I’d shot reflections in were blue, but were they really blue or accentuated by “diffuse sky radiation” (where blue wavelengths, which are normal atmospheric particles predominate, as they are shorter than the wavelengths of sunlight). This means that anywhere shaded from the sun is lit by blue light, some which bounces up from the ground or walls – can I now see that in my images?

For the exercise on artificial light I re read the chapters on city light-street lights and display lights. I learnt that street lighting may be long-spectrum orange (old fashioned tungsten – now rare, with a rounded appearance), narrow spectrum yellow-orange (from sodium, sharp cut narrow and monochromatic), blue-green from fluorescent, blue white from mercury vapour and similar blue-tinted light from metal halide. Can I distinguish these different types of artificial lights in my images? Apparently if a photo contains at least a couple of these different sources then the neutral setting will show these colour difference. As far as display lights go neon is becoming rarer but do tolerate a wide variation in exposure.

2) Chasing light Freeman distinguishes these lighting conditions as when you have to be opportunistic, as they are unpredictable and a photographer has to work quickly to catch the light at its best. This also includes the golden hour and other lighting such as light shafts, foggy light, and reflected light. It was Chiaroscuro light that particularly caught my interest as I have read of several photographers who use it. It is sunlight that bounces off different ground surfaces rather than direct light, often out of frame; it’s not intense, though is still the main source of lighting. It usually gives light from the side and a subtle range of mid to dark shadows making them a warm brown.

3) Helping light   This he calls mastering professionals techniques for manipulating light. Here he covers lighting from filled light, to filtered light, to processed light, amongst others. This I will return to when most relevant to me.

The learning that I will take away:

  • It has encouraged me to find the positive aspects of photographing in less popular daylight conditions such as flat grey skies, he explains that “most kinds of light are good for something, if only you think and work hard enough” (introduction).
  •  It has also caused me to stop and really notice then reflect on the best use of any given lighting situation (outdoors for now).
  • I will certainly use the book as reference when shooting in the future.