Thursday, 28 November 2013

Assignment 4 - Real or fake?

I have recently been reading a book by David Bate called 'Photography: The Key Concepts'. I haven't got far into it but already I have found it very thought-provoking and challenging. It has helped me to get lucid ideas about how a photograph is perceived by the viewer; mainly through the subject of semiotics.

   For instance I tried to use a principle in semiotics (connotations), with my choice of objects within the scene. The objects chosen would widely be seen as intrinsically related to the world of social networking. However, they would also be nondescript enough for the viewer to at first glance overlook them. Then the rhetoric of the scene would become clear and these objects would take on new meaning and become symbolic as a source of widely-accepted social networking material.

Photograph 1 - Before the Addition of a Person and the Title
   Bate (2009) argued: 'Different genres of photography tend to emphasise different combinations of codes'. I gathered from this that codes could influence the meaning of objects in a scene based on what genre of photography the objects were seen to be a part of. So, because my final photograph for the assignment was an environmental portrait/tableau photograph, the objects took on new meaning when seen as part of a photograph of these genres. This was provided the viewer could relate to the objects used (signifiers) and the genre of photograph to make a signified meaning.

   I felt having a rhetoric element for the photograph was important because if used as a magazine cover, the photograph would need to be persuasive once capturing the viewer's attention in order for it to be successful. So the consistent use of objects with social networking associations helped tie the photograph somewhat to the last exercise - the objects were the same. They included: a newspaper, magazine, smartphone and laptop. The headphones the model was wearing were also consistent. They were clearly visible from both this shot, where the headphones were viewed from behind and to the side, as well as the last exercise, which of course featured in this shot (on the computer screen). The headphones also supported the youth of the model and were a signifier that the photograph and model were in modern times.

   The reason as to why I chose to highlight this sort of issue: Is Social Networking Too Immersive? was because I was interested in how a lot of people now use social networking heavily in their lifestyle. A question I was asking myself consisted of: 'What purpose do Social Networking Sites serve?' My answer to this was: at the least they could act as a virtual mirror; reflecting back usually our ideal self. At the most they could help careers and lifestyle greatly. However, they could also be addictive and time-consuming. So I tried to reflect these issues, especially 'acting as a virtual mirror' in the photograph. In this regard I felt I was successful; the 'reflection' on the computer screen clearly acted as a mirror with the social networking sites' logos placed around the model's face making it apparent what was causing a virtual mirror.

   The logos for me were an important part of the final photograph and stood out clearly against the dark background and computer screen. This was due to two aspects of how they were displayed. Firstly, they were printed big and in high resolution. Secondly, they gained a '3D look' by attaching them to the computer screen with a cardboard mount so they stuck out visibly. I felt the logos played a bit with reality; they leapt out the viewer and looked obvious, while other parts - like the model's reflection in the computer screen were more subtle and in direct contrast.

   This introduced probably the most salient feature of the final photograph, which was the computer screen, or rather what featured composited inside it; namely the model's 'reflection'. This was in contrast to the '3D' logos because it was immersed in the computer screen rather than jumping out. Interestingly, I used the same image as for the last exercise but only part of the model; his face composited on the screen. By including part of an image from a photograph where a part of that image is later removed begged the question: is social networking so immersive that we disappear from one setting only to ‘live' inside another - a computer?

Photograph 1 - the Finished Photograph for Assignment 4 - Real or Fake?
   In order to merge the two images together successfully I copied the face from the last exercise onto the photograph that included the computer screen. Then I repositioned it using the 'Move' tool in Adobe Photoshop until the model's face was over the middle of the computer screen. Then I created a layer mask and using a soft brush painted away (on the layer mask) everything apart from the model's face and headphone's and a bit of his neck and shoulders until only they were visible. After that I painted away in more detail (by zooming in to 100%) the finer edges and gaps so it looked seamless. Finally, I reduced the opacity of the layer down to 78% so he appeared more 'immersed'.

   In terms of lighting I used two flashes. The first one was set to medium power with no diffusion. This was to light the table and the model's face from the right-hand side. The second was another flash set to medium power but this time with a 'Rogue Flashbender 3-in-1 Stacking Grid System' attached. This had the effect of creating a subtle spotlight, illuminating the contents of the table and the model's hands.

   The angles I thought were constructed well with the actual unprocessed shot consisting of the model looking (at a slight angle) towards the computer screen. This was then continued with the composited photograph from the last exercise blended into the computer screen itself so the model was 'mirrored back’ towards the viewer. It was deliberately a ploy to capture the viewer’s attention with the eye contact from the models’ reflection. It also raised the question whether the computer screen was acting as a mirror or the social networking sites were creating a pseudo mirror.

   As a final touch, I used the 'Horizontal Type Tool' in Photoshop to write: 'Is Social Networking Too Immersive?' and placed this text over the small laptop to the right of the computer. I then rotated this text and reduced the opacity of the layer to 72% so it blended in to the laptop and overall image a bit more. The fact that the laptop was facing the camera acted as an eye-catching device, which was important seeing as this would be the title of the magazine cover.

   I would say this image was on the borderline of what I found acceptable for me and what I would be comfortable for my prospective viewers to see. Everything looked real in my eyes apart from the social networking logos, which only looked unorthodox because I had intentionally made them stand out from the computer screen so much. Also the title message on the small laptop was very evident but this was purposeful also. Because the message on the laptop was also the title of the magazine, this made it fine to include in the final image. However, this was on the basis that the image would be used as a magazine cover. If that were not the case I would have made the message layer a lower opacity to make it blend in more or have done away with the message and simply turned the laptop on.