The portrait element 1 Light and Space: Rationale + Initial Ideas

The Assignment Brief:

Explore the following subjects and produce 4 images from each:

- Portraits of an interior space

- Portraits of an external space

The Constraints:
  • This project will be shot digitally 
  • You will experiment with natural AND artificial light in your interior shoots using the flash equipment you have been inducted in. 
  • At least 2 different lenses will be used for each subject 
  • All images will be shot and saved in RAW. 
  • A maximum of 100 images will be shot per subject, to be edited down in tutorials and through peer input. 
  • You will need to provide concise caption information for each image, incorporating the 5 W’s, guidelines found in the captioning Powerpoint presentation posted in week 1 on the Learning Space 
  • All work will be brought in on a weekly basis to group tutorials 


Four our second project we have been tasked with producing two sets of four images of exteriors and interiors. I am definitely more excited about this brief however I do think that getting some good quality images from the potential subject matters may be more difficult. Especially as I need to learn how to use flash lighting. I am excited to try some new techniques though and taking photographs that I don't normally intend to go out and take. As you can see above I have made a quick brainstorm of ideas for different places that I could go and shoot, however I will be making sure to bring my camera out with me from now on whatever I am doing, in case I see something worth shooting or experimenting with. 

Some of my initial ideas include places I have already visited and think would be nice to photograph such as a grave yard and some interesting buildings at a nearby village. I am also thinking of walking to some nearby beaches to try some landscape images which hopefully I will be able to take at golden hour for better lighting. I would also like to try creating long exposures in these locations. 

For interiors I was thinking a lot about places I have been so far that are really unique such as a waiting room at the harbour in Flushing and also art galleries. A lot of the antique and vintage shops are really visually interesting as well so I may go and photograph some of those. 

To get myself started with this project I plan on shooting whenever I can and also researching photographers right away to look at different approaches I could take in capturing my subject matter.

Lewis Hine Child Factory Labour

Sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine is best known for the impact his work had on changing child labour laws in the US. In 1909 Hine became the photographer for the National Child Labour committee. Who assigned him as an investigative journalist to photograph the children forced to work in the dreadful, unsafe conditions of mills and factories in the US. 

People were shocked by Hine's images as the amount of child labour across the United States that he captured was hidden from so many. Seeing is truly believing, and the use of visual language in these devastating photographs of the children in factories is so potent, that at that time I imagine one could only have felt distressed as a response to viewing these.

In looking further at these images in the book Kids At Work by Russell Freedman, I have found that  there is something about the way Hine captured the children in these photographs that makes them so powerful and heartbreaking to view. Hine for example in his photographs would use vantage points and framing in order to make the children look smaller in comparison to these big machines. He would also have adults in the background to really emphasise that these children are no more than twelve or thirteen years of age. The leading lines created by the rows of machines in these images make for some incredibly strong compositions and frame the children in an isolated way, that conveys just how venerable they are.

In this photograph above where we see an adult working in the distance we really get a sense of the common abuse of power by adults at this time using child labour. That a child no older than thirteen would be left to operate a dangerous machine by themselves for shifts that would last most of the day. In this particular photograph I found it upsetting that this child is forced to look away from the daylight and instead at this huge machine. In the modern world it is the norm for children to be in education and playing often as they discover and learn about the world around them, and sadly the children in these photographs were unable to have that opportunity. 

Something that occurred to me when studying these photographs is that the focal points of the images are always directly at the children. Which makes sense but these dangerous machines which could be explored further with the children in the image are ignored to a certain extent. I think this is because the eyes of the children and their hands really say it all. Because we would never want to see our own children looking so exhausted and demoralised, as they are complete polar opposites of how we would normally regard children. Therefore in terms of the subject matter of child labour that Hine was assigned to capture, these photographs powerfully communicated all they needed to on the issue.

I also find these historical photographs distressing because the imagery reminds me of scenes from the film Metropolis. Which is a work of science fiction where poor people were working underneath a city, almost killing themselves having to operate unthinkably dangerous machines. So seeing images that could be compared with that kind of subject matter even slightly, really conveys to me personally the severity of the issue Hine was trying to fight with his photographs. 

Lee Friedlander At Work: MIT Computer Workers Boston Massachusetts 1985-86

In one of our theory lectures titled A History of Photography via the Worker, we were taken through a 
number of images from a vast range of photographers who had all captured people at work. One image that really caught my interest was a photograph taken from a six part series by Lee Friedlander titled At Work. Friedlander is well known for being a prolific photographer who has chronicled the American social landscape. His images focus on the way our modern society looks, particularly in the US where he was based and he explored this idea of a 'cultural landscape' through photographs of workers, city life, store fronts and much more. Friedlander's images are particularly special I feel because of the way he is able to take in all of this visual information from these urban environments, and interpret and present it in a very formal and simplistic way with his photography. 

Although the At Work series consists of six individual projects, here I am referring to At Work but just focusing on the MIT computer workers images in Boston, as they are the ones that particularly stood out to me and are my personal favourites that I have come across in this series by Friedlander. They are the photographs I would like to talk about in more detail as the subject matter across At Work is quite varied, and I would rather focus more specifically on this very uniform series of photographs in presenting its subject matter. 

As I was looking briefly into the At Work series I found myself becoming more and more interested in the way these photographs came to be. As the more you look at them especially as a series, the more sinister they become as the social observation that Friedlander has made and visualised for us as an audience, reveals something very eye opening and concerning for our modern society in general, even today. 

Friedlander's approach to his subject matter in At Work is very alternative in how he is showing us workers in ways we aren't used to seeing them. I think it is particularly interesting with the MIT computer workers photographs, as compositionally the workers are presented very formally to us, however their expressions are incredibly lacklustre as they gaze into their computer screens, and some of the workers look barely conscious. I do think these photographs are very powerful and the way humour is used to confound an audience really catches you off guard as a viewer.

These photographs in my opinion are incredibly thoughtful especially as the subject matter is ordinarily seen as something more mundane and uninteresting. However these images are so revealing in showing how our work moulds us and is a part of who we are. So many people's jobs require them to look at computer screens for long periods of time and this series really forces the audience to confront the possible wider implications of this having become conventional in our modern society. It also begs us to ask questions about the relationships we have with objects in general, and coming across this series in 2016 really makes me think about how serious it is that so many of us are constantly carry a mobile phone around with us, and rely on technology not just for work but also in our free time.

Boston, 1985
In terms of what I can take from this series in relation to my Person at Work images, I think that observing the formal visual qualities of this work and also analysing the perspective Friedlander has taken on his subject matter, gives me a lot to think about in terms of how I can more creatively and thoughtfully capture people at work. The image above for example of a woman sat in front of her computer is brilliantly composed, and these leading lines created by the lights above her draw our eyes also to the wider context of this image, in where this woman is working as well as the concerning vacant look on her face. 

The use of anonymity in curating his images is quite interesting I think as not naming the person he photographed takes away the photographs being about individuals and instead they become about a group of people, especially in how he puts them all together in the photo book as a series rather than isolating singular images. This I feel goes back to this idea of capturing the cultural landscape, and in this case it shows the relationships between those in modern culture and their computers that they predominantly work with. In terms of my work for this brief which is intended to be works of photojournalism it would be inappropriate to not name my subjects but I do think looking at this more fine art, uniform series of images has given me a lot to think about in terms of approaching subject matter and how creative I could be in future projects. 


Feedback on Lucie Photographs

In a one to one with lecturer Mal Stone I showed him some of photographs of Lucie that I had considered replacing the Riyah ones with. I also converted them to black and white which he thought was a good decision and said that the first shot would be suitable as the portrait photograph. 

I am still not sure whether to use the Riyah photographs or these as I really like the establishing shot of Riyah and the detail shot of Lucie holding the branch.

Crit Notes: 17th of October

On the 17th and 18th we had our first crit to review work in progress so far for the Person at Work Project. I decided to bring in A4 prints of photographs that I was struggling to edit down for three of my Eden workers. They were Riyah Snow, Mike Greer and Carl Homan as I feel I have the best variety of shots for these subjects. I brought around 30 images combined of all these workers and asked the group and lecturers for feedback on my photographs and what would work best for each worker as a set of three. 

Below are some of the notes I took based on feedback that I received myself and other members of the group received:

  • Need to step back and establish space in images to give viewer context of where we are

  • Try photographs in black and white, think Salgados detail shots full of texture. Images should be either all black and white or colour as a mixture of the two rarely works well together

  • Lights distracting in Mike Greer portraits

  • Series of three images should not all be one orientation and should ideally contain 3 types of photographs...

  • Wider Shot (showing context/environment of worker) - 

    Portrait (showing the person themselves ) - 

    Detail (close up shot of what the person does, usually showing their hands)

  • Window facing north will produce good light in portraits (random note but important to consider when photographing someone who works inside with less light)

  • Above are the three images that I have managed to narrow down of Riyah the gardener. A lot of the group felt that some of my closer shots of the wheel barrow and Riyah planting the coreopsis were too similar, so I have chosen three photographs where I was stood in different places, capturing three completely different angles. With the help of the group I decided on the third wide shot early on as it is one of the only shots that shows Riyah's front and her whole face and it also shows more of the environment. Which would not have been as obvious to the viewer without this image, as it shows the side of the biome behind her and the section she works in. 

    I chose the first image as it shows quite of lot of Riyah and it also shows her with the coreopsis, also behind her we can see where she is going to be planting it. This image is more effective visually then some of the shots of her actually planting the coreopsis, as I feel it is harder to see what exactly she is doing in those photographs and I didn't get round her as well as I could have to show more of how she is working with the plant.

    The detail shot I have gone with ended up being this wheel barrow which a lot of people seemed to prefer because it shows a lot of the tools she works with and we can also see Riyah in the top of the image interacting with the tools and plants she needs.

    I was really considering using this photograph as my detail shot but after discussing it with the group, the out of focus arm in the foreground was too distracting. I do think this image would have have been perfect for my detail shot if her left arm had not been in the photograph. 

    In deciding on the images of Mike that I should use in my final three, as a room we came to the conclusion that non of the portraits of Mike featuring the row of bright lights should be used as they are too distracting for a viewer, as it makes it easier to focus on the room behind Mike rather than what he is doing. Which is of course the most important part of the photograph. So in the end with the help of the group and lecturers I decided to use this first photograph of Mike kneading pizza dough as my portrait photograph. Although Mike is slightly cropped by the frame I do agree that this is a good portrait of him showing his environment behind him and also one of his roles as a sous chef there. 

    For my detail shot we agreed on this image of Mike serving some paella onto a dish. The lighting isn't great in this photograph however a lot of what Mike does is serving and dressing dishes, so this is a good example of tasks he does all the time and I like that we can see this shrimp pointing upwards as well. 

    My final image in my set of three that I have decided on is this portrait photograph of Mike handing plates of food onto the counter for one of the waitresses to collect. I like this photograph as the third shot as the three photographs together show food preparation, plating up and then serving, which I think is a nice narrative to have as I have photographed inside a restaurant, and the images together also showcase the variety of dishes Mike oversees as the sous chef. I also like that this photograph illustrates the view the chefs have whilst cooking as it is quite unique how the restaurant is placed in Eden's Mediterranean Biome. 

      As discussed previously, for my three photographs of Carl I was definitely going to keep the detail photograph of the antipasti in middle, as I feel it is a really strong image showing one of the larger platters that Carl prepares all the time. My classmates also expressed that they felt this way which confirmed for me that this image should be my detail shot.

      I didn't manage to get any photographs that showed all of Carl's face fully, however we all agreed that this first photograph is fine for my portrait image as it does show most of Carl from the front focusing on his task. Also nothing in the background is particularly distracting and I have managed to work around the grey tubs mostly, without needing them to be cropped out of the photograph, which of course I cannot do in this brief. Therefore this image does show Carl well and I am quite happy with it. 

      For my final photograph I am stuck between two photographs showing Carl placing these peppers onto the platter. In this photograph on the far right that I have shown we can see what Carl is doing really clearly however another chef is next to his hands in the image which is quite distracting. I do have another shot without the other chef in the frame however Carl's hands are hiding a lot of what he is doing so I am still quite torn about this and will have to look back through my contacts to see what other photographs I could possibly use instead. 

      Overall I found the crit really useful and it has given me plenty more to think about in terms of how I can put together a series of photographs of this nature and also how I can make my photographs more informative and visually interesting. Seeing some of my class mate's photographs has made me think about the photographs I took of Lucie Oldale and how some of those would work together, and also if maybe they would be better than my three photographs of Riyah. Because of this I have decided to print some of my photographs of her and take them to my next tutorial to get some feedback from my lecturers and classmates. 

      Person at Work Shoot 5: Carl Homan

      I did photograph quite a few of the chefs in the Medittarean Biome on my last day at the Eden project but my other favourite photographs are of antipasti chef Carl Homan, and these are the other photographs I will be bringing to the crit as I think these are my most successful so far in terms of the variety of shots I was able to capture. I really liked that because he is the antipasti chef I was able to capture him creating the different kinds of platters he makes but focusing on his particular task and area of the kitchen. 

      I think I will definitely be using the first image as my detail shot, as I think it really shows well the process and product that Carl is responsible for in a very aesthetically pleasing way with all the colours and focus on the actual antipasti board. Rather than his hands which we can still see in the background deciding on the placement of the cured meat. As for my two other images I am really not so sure and have a lot more to choose from. Therefore I will use the crit to decide on my other photographs. 

      The main issue I have found in this shoot however was trying to work around a lot of the grey tubs that all the antipasti ingredients are stored in. As I was unable to move them and struggled to capture what Carl was doing on the worktop without getting these grey tubs in the shots. However as I used a low f/stop they aren't particularly in focus, however in postproduction I did find that when I zoomed out on my images they do catch the eye quite a lot as a darker shape. But then again you could argue that they add more context to the images in terms of informing the viewer even more about the work environment that Carl works in. 

      Person at Work Shoot 4: Mike Greer

      On my final day at Eden I decided to go and speak to some of the chefs in the Mediterranean biome before the public had come into the biomes properly to ask if I could photograph them. The sous chef Mike Greer who is the subject of my first set of chosen images shown above said I should come back at lunch time when there would be more happening but he gave me a few things to photograph in the morning as well such as cutting up bread. 

      I really enjoyed this shoot because there was lots of different things for me to photograph Mike doing, as he is in charge of lots of different things there and I also got to try lots of different angles. Food photography is also something that really interests me so getting to photograph chefs for the first time was pretty special. 

      Overall I am quite happy with these photographs and although some of the lights are distracting in some of my more environmental portraits of Mike I definitely have one or two I could use. I also think I have a couple of decent detail and action shots I can use so am looking forward to bringing these photographs to our crit to help me put three together, as at this stage I am still unsure of what would work best together.

      I like that in these shots I managed to get Mike in my frame fully and step back a bit more than I have in my previous shoots, however in these images showing the ceiling these lights above I have noticed are very distracting as they are so bright. 

      Person at Work 3: Lucie Odale

      For my third shoot which I did on our third day at the Eden Project, I photographed a Skilled Horticulturalist that works in the South American section of the rainforest biome. I found her and a number of other gardeners in the section cutting back old growth, but as Lucie appeared to be in charge of the operation I decided to interact with her, and photograph her at work cutting back Swiss Cheese plants. 

      Once again I really struggled with framing with my fixed 35mm lens as it was the only one I brought with me, and with it being so zoomed in and the fact I couldn't stand very far back it was very difficult to get Lucie in the entire frame. I also struggled to capture her facing me as I didn't want to force her to. As these photographs shouldn't be set up portraits I really tried to move around her and capture as much of her as possible. I also tried to get more detail shots inspired by the ones by Mike Lattanzi that I looked at, so I would have more of a variety of images when trying to put some together. 

      I definitely think these were my most successful photographs so far especially in terms of the detail shots I produced. I really tried to show more of the environment in my images even though they are still very close up because of my lens. I think I need to move around more next time in terms of the height I take my photographs at as I am noticing they do look very similar because of this.