Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Assignment One - Assessment Submission (from 'Tied')

The second major topic of discussion with Jesse was the nature of my assessment submission for Assignment One.  My impression is that he would be perfectly happy with me submitting some mildly revised and re-edited versions of the images I sent to him back in May 2012; but I shared what I had been doing with the 'Tied' project, and he agreed that the work is 'interesting' and that I will submit a set of prints from this series, as a 're-submission' - "Entirely by your own choice".  I think the latter phrase was more an indication that I was voluntarily doing more work rather than a hint that I might be wise to leave well alone!  He did, quite rightly, encourage me to 'contextualise' this new submission in writing (coming up below); also to think about the sequencing (also coming up below); and to go with the simple 'deletions' on their own rather than the diptychs and triptychs.

My last post on this subject did do some contextualisation, but here is a more considered attempt to set out where these images come from and what they are about.

·     They do originate in a documentary-style interest in the phenomenon of the knotted strings, ropes and wires that adorn and fix almost every field gate in the neighbourhood - and indeed beyond this neighbourhood, as I have subsequently observed.  That idea alone had, and still has, potential for an interesting and visually effective set of images, which also have potential for broader, metaphorical readings - as hinted at by my title 'Tied'.

·     Working on that project and considering its presentation, I found myself thinking more about the 'craft' and 'process' of the image-making, and more about how others might read my presentation than about the subject and my intentions.  I spent time, for example, pondering what form of light would work best for these images - not untypical for this form of documentary/landscape work.

·     In parallel, though, I was researching and reading for my Assignment Four essay on contemporary still life image-making - the work of Lucas Blalock, for example; his use of post-processing and manipulation but also, coincidentally, the presence in his work of loops of tubing and other materials.  And I had also seen, for the second time, Mishka Henner's Less Americains, in which he has digitally removed parts of the Robert Frank images 'Les Americains'.  As Henner says in this interview, he was "... questioning the nature of photography and the nature of documentary photography".  He also says "I realized I was actually creating something new".

·     That led me to think about alternative ways of moving forward with my 'Tied' project.  Instead of the 'traditional' approach of getting the lighting and other 'craft' aspects right, were there deeper questions to be explored by, for example, taking Henner's lead and, in my case, deleting the very subject I had set out to photograph.  (Perhaps also worth adding that I began the process of selecting the string in one of the images as preparation for some other form of processing, but the idea of deletion partly grew from that.)

·     The six images presented all involve the deletion of the string or rope that was 'tied' to gates, fences or whatever in my original photograph.  In one case, the deletion has even gone a stage further, 'revealing' something that was not present in the original. The outcome is certainly something different from the original.  There are clear echoes of what was there before, but the images are now, potentially, also reflecting on the photographic process - the layers of influence of the photographer, the issues about truth and reality, for example.  Some of them open up new 'formal' ideas - the deleted subject seeming to come forward in the composition, as though it was a paper cut-out.  But there could be scope for new meanings and metaphorical readings.  Does the series raise questions about 'absence'?  Might there be reference to the gaps in life, missing aspects that we long to fill?  Chiefly, I have been interested by the ways in which this processing and manipulation (which has required considerable time and care!) has 'rewards' in evoking new and potentially more complex images than the original 'documentary' project might have revealed.

So then to the question of sequencing; how best to lay out the set of six images that I have selected for submission?  I have actually laid out two different sequences below - with quite different intentions.

The first format might be described as my Formal Sequence, ordering the images in a manner that seeks some formal progression of shapes, composition, framing, etc.  Here it is:

The second sequence could be referred to as a Narrative Sequence, and picks up on my idea that altering the images as I have opens up the possibility of more complex readings.  Without commenting specifically on any particular narrative, I present the following option.


This is quite an interesting comparison, for me, and it takes me right back to some issues in my own mind at the very start of this module, which have been partially but not entirely resolved.  I have, I would say, become very interested in what I might term the 'intellectual' exploration of photography, maybe at the expense of its 'emotional' potential.  That dilemma was troubling me, to an extent, as I started out on PwDP, but the 'intellectual' choice seems to have suited me well as the module has progressed.  It is, I would say, where I headed with Assignments Four and Five, and where this 're-make' of Assignment One has led me - until I look at the second sequence!  That could very well be read at an emotional and personal level.  I will make a choice between these two before sending in my submission - but I note that the dilemma is still not entirely resolved as I contemplate Level Three!


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Assignment Five - Printing for Assessment

Amongst other matters that will come up later on here, my telephone tutorial session on 15th November included discussion about the form of my submission for Assignment Five.  Since the last post on here, I have:

·     Had a trial professional print made of image 5, Sydney Cricket Ground (chosen because it had the most 'challenging' shades of white in the background), done by Peak Imaging, a C-print, at 393mm by 588mm, on Fuji Matt, mounted on 2mm card.

·     Compared that with my own inkjet prints, made on the Epson R2880, with its Ultrachrome pigment inks, using Epson Professional Matte paper, at A3 plus.  Beautifully printed and finished as the big C-print might be, I conclude that the inkjets are marginally better for this assignment:

§  Better contrast, giving very sharp edges and a greater sense of 'physicality' in the 'assemblies'.

§  More vivid colours, which also suits these images, I believe;

§  A wholly non-reflective surface.

Comparison of the surfaces - Epson Matte left & Fuji Matt right

2mm card mounting works well & provides a highly professional finish 
The combined effect is that the inkjets get closer to the sense that this is an actual collage, rather than an image of a collage.
·     Discussed this conclusion with my tutor, who can understand the reasoning and who has discouraged me from agonising too much about the issue and about the size of the prints, at this level of submission.
·     We also discussed the idea of doing my own mounting and maybe experimenting with dry-mounting, using an iron!  Having watched some videos (admittedly not professionally presented) on You-tube, I have some doubts, but will come back to that.
·     Considered professional inkjet printing & had a sample pack of papers from Printspace.  Interestingly, only two papers from the pack caught my eye.  One was the Fuji Matt that the Peak trial was done on - with the issues above - and the other was Hahnemuhle Photorag, for its wholly matte surface.  The Hahnemulle is beautiful paper, but it also has a cream look, compared to the strong white colour of my Epson Professional Matte.  The Hahnemulle sample print is a mono, and I can see how it performs superbly for that purpose, but I am concerned that it will not be so good for the vivid colours in my own images. 
So, all-in-all, I end up back with my own prints, but with the need to try doing my own mounting - perhaps.  I do not want the result to look amateurish, obviously, but I plan to do some experimentation.  I also have some spray mount, so might give that a try, too.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Assignment Five - feedback

I received my feedback on Assignment Five at the end of last week, and I'm pleased to say that it was good.  Some of the highlights were - "... a really original and challenging take on the brief ..."; "... feels thoughtfully executed but is also irreverent and fun ..."; "... solid content and ... sound analysis ..."; and "... only criticism ... might have tried too hard ... (some images) ... have a few too many elements ...".  The latter point was accompanied by two qualifications - that he wasn't entirely convinced that it was an issue but it's a possible criticism some might see, and the clear advice that I certainly shouldn't do any more work on it.  Actually, I do agree with the comment.  Having never done anything like this before I was, even after looking at others' work, learning as I went along.  Some of the busiest pieces were amongst the first.  This was the very first, for example.

As the assignment progressed, I began to see that simpler and cleaner compositions worked best.  The one below is probably my personal favourite - and that is partly down to its simplicity.  Stezaker's collage work usually involves the juxtaposition of no more than two photographs - but it still leaves plenty of scope for 'reading' - and, whilst I wouldn't compare the image below to the quality of what he has produced, it does share the simplicity and it does still have plenty to say.
Interestingly, Jesse selected the one below as his favourite of the set.  In some ways, it is quite a busy and complex image, with lots of elements.  But the difference, I suspect, is in its 'cleanness'.  There is a lot of white space; the composition is more careful and structured; and it has more of an abstract look.  This one - although very different in subject matter and content - is closer, in a formal sense, to the recent Laura Letinsky work that partly inspired me.  That too combines lots of clean white space with intense patches of colour.

Feedback on my prints is also encouraging.  The "... quality is good ..." with the inkjet "... providing ... crisp resolution and vivid colour ...".  That's pleasing; I wanted to get a crispness into them.  My idea is that a casual viewer should be drawn by the visual attractiveness but also, initially, slightly unsure as to whether they are 'real' physical collages rather than photographs.  He has a very good suggestion to make - that they should be printed to the edge of the paper, with no borders.  I have already re-done them in that way - and it works well.  We are, of course, encouraged to leave small borders on prints for assessment submission, to aid handling.  But these images are different, with plenty of 'white' space around them that can easily be handled.  I hadn't really managed to work it out for myself - perhaps because I was locked into the need for border - but the multiple frame effect that results from there being white bordered images within the frame of the overall composition resulted in some unnecessary confusion for the eye.  Printed large with no borders, they look much better. 
The other suggestions on prints are - that I should at least experiment with lab printing, and that having them dry mounted on card would be good for assessment submission.  Again - agreed on both counts; unless the print feedback had been 'these are amazingly good, don't bother any further', I had all along felt that I should try the professional print approach.  And the dry mounting certainly makes good sense.  So - one image has gone off to Peak Imaging to be printed at around A2 size and card-mounted.  I've chosen one that has some very subtle shades of off-white in the background and some vivid colour as well, so it should be a good opportunity to make a comparison.  I don't mind the cost of going down the professional approach and I like the idea of a further 'push' in size, but I don't want to lose the crispness I referred to above. 
There was an issues with the background of one image.  One of the early ones, it had been assembled on ivory card rather than the white paper I used for all the others.  It is this one.

I don't mind the ivory, but I did mention its difference in my notes, and Jesse comments on it too.  So, I have used a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom adjustments to get it to look as follows.  I needed to retain contrast in the background, though, partly to keep the shadow effect and also because there are faint (and deliberate) traces of the tape that fixed some of the images to the board, which would have been lost had I brightened it too much.

Another small factor that arose from printing to the edge of the paper was the realisation that I had used two slightly different size ratios.  I've now amended those so that all six match - particularly important if I do get them all professionally printed and mounted. 

And finally, I've arranged to have a telephone tutorial next week, to discuss my assessment submission and to also discuss my move on to Level Three.