Since creating this blog for my photography work I feel like it has become more of a digital copy of my sketchbook then anything. For me photography started as a hobby rather than being a subject choice, and for the past year I've been using my DSLR to record where I go and what I get up to, so I thought I would start sharing some of the photos I take day to day as well as work for college. Today we drove back from visiting my family in Lancashire, my Dad avoids using the motorway in favour of a more scenic route passing through Hebden Bridge, before we got there we decided to stop next to a reservoir and I couldn't resist taking some pictures.
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at street photography. This will involve looking at other photographer's work and techniques in order to produce my own street photography. I am looking forward to getting into this project as I like the idea and the challenge of creating images out of what can be seen as quite a dull subject matter.
Street photography is the photographing of public places which generally study and feature the human condition. Street in this sense looks more at time then the physicality of surroundings. Framing and timing are very important in street photography. A lot of street photographers use wide lenses to get more in their shot, and every detail in street photography tells a story of what is happening so it is important to consider and look at what you are capturing. This idea of timing and the decisive moment is also massively important in street photography, which is the moment you decide to press your shutter and capute your photo. It isn't like going into a studio and taking a portrait photo because with that you know what you're going to get, as planning and pre production are required. Street photography is spontaneous, you can't go looking for a photo or plan a photo to any great extent, you simply have to wait for your photo to come to you, and capture it when the moment is right. Therefore that is the decisive moment.
Street photography like portrait photography is an old genre of photography and has been practised for years, from the likes of Tony Ray Jones with a black and white film camera back in the 60's to people like Matt Stuart who today use digital photography to create captivating street photography, making use of colour and digital editing techniques.
I really liked having portraiture as the first project theme, I feel like it gave me a lot of structure to begin finding my photographic style which I was very unsure about to begin with. But having researched the photographers I’ve looked at and learning about photographic techniques, I feel like a have a lot more sense of my preferences and style in photography.
I enjoyed learning about film photography and developing my film photos which I found really interesting, but most of all I enjoyed arranging and doing my own little photo shoots which gave me a lot of independence and control, which I liked as it gave me a chance to experiment and get the feel of what it is like to be a professional photographer. The most I have experienced in terms of new techniques when doing this project is the use of artificial lighting through using flash in my photography and using, and developing film which I have never done before. I would like to develop both of these techniques in the future especially with how to use studio lighting and to get better and be more creative with film photography.
Throughout this project I have researched photographers and learnt a lot in terms of my preferences in photography and developed my own techniques through observing their work and the techniques they use in their photography. The main technique I took from a lot of the photographers I looked at was how to use natural lighting and make the most of it in my photographs. For example Alessio Albi used low naturally lit settings to add mood and atmosphere to his photos and Marta Bevacqua used the nature around her subjects to create shapes with sunlight. Other than the use of light the photographers I’ve researched have also influenced my photographs through composition, framing and the use of natural surroundings to compliment and add to the representation of the subject.
The parts of my project I feel were the most successful, was the photos I took inspired by Helen Van Meene and Marta Bevacqua. This is because I feel I took inspiration from them and inputted my own photographic style, but did not try to copy them directly, and I do think for photos I’ve produced very early on the course they look quite professional.
I didn’t encounter a great deal of problems during this project however I did struggle at first to create my test strips for my film photos, especially with my first one as I didn’t fully understand the technique at that point. I also struggled in my final images to find similar colours and natural surroundings to those in the paintings I referenced, and I do feel they are a little disconnected from the paintings and not as easy to make the links between like in Tom Hunter’s work. If given the chance to do this project again I would plan out my film photos more in terms of how I was going to set up my shot, and the expression, and position I wanted my subject to take. I would also do more work inspired by Rineke Dijkstra, as I wanted to improve the photos I took of strangers by setting up my camera on a tripod in one place, in my college and asking passing strangers to pose for a photo, like in Dijkstra’s beach series.
The work I have done in this project will influence my future work in terms of the skills and techniques I have learned and developed, for example I would like to do more film photography now that I have tried it because I like the effect it has on photos, and now that I can use a 35mm SLR camera and develop film, I can use it in my future work . Things like my photographic style that I have developed will influence my future work in terms of how I like to edit my photos and the compositions and lighting I will use.
Overall I have really enjoyed doing portraiture as my first project, and now feel more confident going on to do future work in this course as I feel I have a good understanding of basic photographic techniques, and have a feeling of my style as a photographer.
The first of my chosen photos from the shoot references this Mallais painting. For my interpretation I put a yellowy brown filter over the top in order to mimic the earthy tones used in the painting. I also had my subject in a similar position with a similar expression on her face. To me this photo represents the contrast between modern day fashion and beauty in comparison with that of victorian times, and that the subject still has this poetic expression and gaze despite the massive differences in society and social circumstances.
When searching for pre-Raphaelite art to reference I found this common theme of the female subject holding up a flower to her face. I decided to have my subject hold a plant in a similar way but because the expression of my subject and her proximity to the plant was different to the paintings, I made sure to flip the original photo so you can see this link I have made referencing the paintings.
For my final and favourite photograph from my final shoot for portraiture I referenced two paintings, the first of which being by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale where we can see the subject’s torso and head appearing from a flower bush. The second is by John William Waterhouse and shows the subject laying in a field. Initially I set out to find a similar flower bush to situate my subject within, only making reference to the Brickdale painting. However we came across some rocks and my subject suggested we try using them instead which I really liked the idea of, however when positioning my subject I thought that having more of a similar pose to the subject in the Waterhouse painting would better show this tragic and empty expression, that the majority of the pre-Raphaelite subjects have. Personally I like how you can make a connection with the two paintings and that I have changed the framing and used my own style. The only thing I would have done differently is to have my subject’s face pointing towards the camera as you can’t really see the expression on her face, although the fact you can see her gazing away does still create this sense of distress that she feels.
For my final shoot I experimented with lots of different ideas and compositions to attempt to reference pre-Raphaelite paintings I’d seen, because of this I took over 300 photographs on my DSLR and created some contact sheets in order to choose my favourite photos.
For my shoot I purposely picked a subject who didn’t have red hair as to add my own style to my photos rather than directly trying to copy paintings of people like Elizabeth Siddal. I really wanted to make the most of using autumnal foliage with my subject so ventured around my local area like Tom Hunter to find interesting plants and landscapes to have my subject interact with.
I had saved images of the paintings on my phone to help communicate with my subject, to get exactly what I wanted from her, in particular with her gaze and head position in the photographs, which for me were very important in getting my subject to represent this metaphor of the tragic heroine. I took the photos on a low aperture in order to keep my subject more in focus, as in the paintings I have looked at the backgrounds often have less detail in them and are quite dark, drawing more focus to the brighter and more detailed subject. In comparison to my Hellen Van Meene inspired shoot I was a lot more aware of the position and expression of my subject and how to make the most out of the natural light. I also used a clear UV filter on my lens to take away harsh highlights created by the sunlight to create more of these mid tones that are very dominant in pre-Raphaelite paintings.
In the photo on the left Tom Hunter has referenced Millais’ Ophelia painting
Before doing my own pre-Raphaelite interpretations I decided to look at photographer Tom Hunter’s work, who references paintings for modern day representations in his photographs. Tom’s work is really interesting as he takes all his pictures around Hackney and uses them to depict social issues and news headlines, as well as referencing paintings.
The way he makes the photos his own, as well as making a clear link between paintings shows such skill in terms of the composition of his photographs and editing to make the colours as vivid as in the paintings he references. Personally I think Hunter’s intentions with his photography is to challenge this contrast between what we consider the olden days and modern society by putting the two together in this way. It really makes you question whether people can still be represented in poetic and romantic ways like in pre-Raphaelite art where we see themes of Shakespearean tragedy.
I really love Hunter’s interpretations of the pre-Raphaelite paintings and the other themes he brings into his work. For my photos I really want to make a link with the paintings but also make the photographs my own in terms of style and composition.
After taking my Hellen Van Meene photos and making the connection between them and pre-Raphaelite art I have done some research into pre-Raphaelite art in order to influence the next photos I take which I want to be influenced by the brotherhood’s paintings.
The Pre-Raphalite brotherhood formed in 1948 and included artists such as Rosetti and Millais, the group was formed as a revolt against the art establishment of that time. Influenced by Victorian painters such as John Ruskin, the group’s paintings took influences from Shakespeare and myths and legends, using vivid colours to create these romantic pieces of art.
A common subject used in paintings such as Hamlet’s “Ophelia” by Millais was Elizabeth Siddal. She and many others in pre-Raphaelite paintings represented the tragic heroine, often looking away into the distance looking distressed and poetic. For me pre-Raphaelite art is so expressive and such a romantic representation of the subject, and I’d love to be able to convey these themes in my photography and this idea of life imitating art.
The other day I got the opportunity to take some portrait's of my friend's family. It was getting later on in the day so we decided to venture to a local park to get some better lighting for some more natural shots. As I know the family it was easier to make the shoot more relaxed to get these more natural shots of the family together. Looking back I wish I'd communicated better with them in terms of how to get the best photos and poses to make, but overall I think I have managed to get some nice representative shots of the family.
As more of an experiment than anything I took on the challenge of finding strangers to take portraits of to work with this idea of representing someone in a photograph. Inspired by Rineke Dijkstra's beach series I took photos of people working around the college adopting a more quick point and shoot technique of capturing these people's responses to having their portrait taken. Doing this really helped me learn how to communicate with my subject when taking a photograph, I feel like you can tell what these people are like through these photos despite not being able to see much of their surroundings.
Next time I take photographs like this I would like to use the same minimal background, and keep my camera in the same place on a tripod, because as a series of portraits you do notice the difference in backgrounds as well as the different subjects which I'd like to take away to keep more consistency with my pictures and keep the focus on the subjects more.
As our project title is portraiture it only seems right that I attempt at least one self portrait. The interesting thing I found doing this self portrait is that I had control of how to pose and position myself whereas with taking photos of other people you need to have that communication to get the shot you want which can be difficult. Also with taking a photo of yourself you have the control over how you come across. For my photo I was unsure at first how I could fully represent myself, so I decided to keep it very casual and I just set up my tripod in my living room in front of a window for the best natural lighting.
Personally I think this is a good representation of me as a person, I made my face the focus of my portrait and didn't smile massively or present myself too confidently as I am a very reserved person. Through doing this I've learnt more about representing the subject in a portrait photograph and in my next photos will be taking the extra effort to communicate with my subjects and ask them what their favourite pictures of them are and how they would prefer to be presented.