Friday, 20 September 2013

Preparation for Assignment 3: Monochrome

Having a good plan before actually taking photographs was something I'd come to appreciate recently as I've found it helps me to make apparent a strong theme between photographs. By researching well for this assignment I could hopefully concentrate on the creative side; an area I (and my tutor) felt there was more room for improvement.

   I had been reading 'Behind the Image' by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana. As well as coming away with lots of useful information about researching, I also stumbled upon a few ideas, which ironically sourced from the relatively few example photographs in the book. This was ironic because the book itself recommended it being 'wise to investigate all the places where photographs appear in the world' - Caruana and Fox (2012). This was primarily a book based around how to go about finding inspiration; not providing it!

   The most prominent influence I came across while reading 'Behind the Image' was a photograph by John Goto called 'Dreamers, from 'High Summer'' (2001). It made me recall a loosely-connected idea I'd conceived concerning the use of objects within a scene that were brought in externally to add meaning to the resultant photograph but at the same time were camouflaged within the scene because of their similarities with the rest of the scene.

   While my vision revolved around the 'camouflaged object' being camouflaged because it fitted in well with the black-and-white medium the photograph was shot in, Goto cleverly merged the natural setting chosen with similar subject matter, which was from a totally different scene so that the two looked as one. Goto's work was also produced at a much larger (landscape) scale than my intentions (people in interiors). Something his work had in common with my intended work crucially though, was there was a connection between the camouflaged/merged object and the rest of the image, resulting in the illusion of a seemingly at-one scene.

   The type of photography that I found myself veering towards was environmental portraits. My particular inspirations were the photographs: 'Insomnia' and 'Woman Reading a Possession Order' by Jeff Wall and Tom Hunter respectively. I came across 'Woman Reading a Possession Order' on Tom Hunter's website: http://www.tomhunter.org/persons-unknown/ [accessed on 10th September 2013] and 'Insomnia' in C. Cotton's book: 'the photograph as contemporary art, New Edition' (2009). With both photographs, they include large amounts of detail, without the photographs feeling cluttered. Also the detail brings meaning to the environmental portraits; revealing information as the viewer looks closer.


   Something else I picked up on when reading 'Behind the Image' was a quote: 'Knowledge gained through the research process will contribute to forming a photographer's approach to making work' - 'Behind the Image', Pg. 52 - Fox and Caruana (2012). This immediately made me think back to my tutor's feedback that my three portraits could have been influenced by Tom Hunter or Johannes Vermeer. Admittedly I hadn't associated Vermeer's work with any ideas for those portraits beforehand. With Tom Hunter however, I had, partly taken cues from some of his work - especially the amount of detail in the settings for most of his portraits I had seen. This I could associate with 'the choice of props or surroundings' - 'Behind the Image', Pg 52, in my own work (the three portraits of the women (3 different people, 3 different windows - Assignment 2 (Part 3 of 5)) and with many of Tom Hunter's portraits. This was also true of Vermeer's portraits. Ironically, even though I hadn't purposefully meant to be influenced by Vermeer's work, in my opinion there were more similarities with my portraits and Vermeer's than with Tom Hunter's. These similarities included the eye contact in some of his paintings and the framing/use of props - for example 'A Lady Writing' - Vermeer (c. 1665) and 'The Milkmaid' - Vermeer (c. 1658) respectively. If I could utilise at least one of Vermeer's paintings in my own work I felt there would be a strong connection between the black-and-white medium I was shooting in and the 'graphic qualities of line, shape, form and texture' that black-and-white possesses, which in a way 'recapitulates the Renaissance view of art' - Freeman (2008).


   For me personally, environmental portraits offered a lot of scope for creativity, while still leaving room for intimacy because of the presence of the human subject. I particularly liked detail in such a photograph (environmental) because of the information that came part and parcel with the detail. I thought this potentially crowded style could be offset by shooting in the black-and-white medium. This was because  it helped concentrate the viewer's attention to the 'important' bits (for instance where the light fell), where the extra detail present could act effectively as another component to the portrait.

   However, I was aware of the need for the black-and-white medium to be used well; so that the set of photographs were made stronger as a whole. I intended to accomplish this by using considered lighting and post-processing. Lighting I had found was particularly important in black-and-white photography because it highlighted certain parts of the image and so drew the viewer's attention.