Sunday, 16 September 2012

Assignment Two – Exploring the idea

Taking forward the idea that I discussed at the end of my last post, I initially sketched it out on paper.  I cannot draw!  Repeat – I cannot draw!  So, whilst that exercise might have helped me clarify things a little bit in my own mind, it certainly wouldn’t have successfully communicated anything to anyone else!  I stuck the drawing into a rough notebook that I keep, so somewhere down the line, an assessor will see it.  Heaven forbid!

In pursuit of something more meaningful and useful, I have subsequently had a go at mocking something up in Photoshop, using existing images.  This was the first effort.  It’s the full wrap-round cover, front, spine and back.

This incorporates the sea and the ‘looking’.  I printed it on plain paper and wrapped it round my paperback version of the book and, amazingly, it didn’t look too bad.  The colours work OK, I think, with the rather warm skin tones in the forehead being reminiscent of sand or sun.  In a final version, I would want to have the sun reflecting off the sea, too; so there would need to be a specific image made at a seaside location, when the sun is at its height.  I would also want to incorporate some other elements from the book – but not too many, I feel, having now produced this initial ‘sketch’.  Too much information is likely to confuse the outcome.  Immediate thoughts included – perspiration on the brow, to add to the sense of heat; maybe a barred window, alluding to Meursault’s imprisonment and looking through the window at the sky; possible flies, which do crop up at least once in the book.

I’d need to find a location for the barred window & can’t immediately think of one, but to test the idea for my ‘sketch’, I created an image through some railings.  That led to the following version.

I tried to do something clever with vignetting, which didn’t quite work, but the principle is there.  Fired up with enthusiasm, I have then had a shot at creating the ‘perspiration’.  Working with an assistant, a bowl of water, and a lot of trial and error (though little actual perspiration!), I got to this.

I’m not sure this version of the ‘bars’ works as well as the previous – perhaps the square crop in the previous is more indicative of a small prison window?  I wonder whether it would work best to spread the bars across more of the image, too – something else to explore. Getting the perspiration right is going to be a tough one, too – but could be done.  No flies, unfortunately, and that might be a step too far.

I’m posting these experiments to my learning log as an alternative to drawing out the idea.  I feel more comfortable manipulating and experimenting in Photoshop than I do trying to sketch out my thoughts.  But – creating something real and visual is essential.  It’s all very well having ideas in the mind but they need to be visualised.  Taking that approach one step further, this is what my experimental version would look like as a front cover.

Needs more work, but it could be suitably eye-catching – the stare!


  1. A fascinating project. I read L'Etranger for A-level French and the story has stayed with me ever since. Like you, the philosophy of the Absurd was very meaningful for me when I came across it in my teens, and it continues to be so now.

    I think the cover idea is excellent. Personally I wouldn't add any extra detail as it takes away from the sense of stark isolation in the first picture. The risk is that it becomes more of an illustration than an evocation and the opening image is very evocative.

    If I was making any changes I'd consider softening how the eye blends into the sea - the final image with the slightly raised eye line is better in that respect than the first. A warmer sea scape would be good as heat is so important to the book (why not but something from iStockphoto if you can't find one in real). I'd be tempted also to subtly darken your skin and brows so the face looks a little more like a French Algerian - or again maybe buy a suitable microstock image.

  2. Interesting and helpful comments, Eileen; especially as I'm worrying that I'm making the assignment too easy by assembling some relatively straightforward images rather that setting up some difficult photography for myself! I had considered using some 'found' images - Streetview hasn't made it to Algiers unfortunately, so that wasn't possible - but it would have been an excellent approach. If I was a designer, of course, I wouldn't hesitate to assemble some suitable stock photos - but I kind of feel that the 'spirit' of the assignment is for me do do at least some 'shooting'. Might end up with a combination.