Assignment 3 – Putting yourself in the picture – reflection

I started this assignment feeling very disenchanted after receivng feedback for assignment two and so I did not really engage with the diary keeping element at the start of the exercise. After an initial attempt which lasted a week and a half I stopped mainly because I realised that I was not keeping a diary, more just writing a list of things that happened during the day. For my second attempt I tried being more forthcoming but I was still not comfortable about putting down in writing how I felt and over the course of the two weeks the entries became more perfunctory. This unwillingness to open myself up was the idea that I wanted to explore in the assignment.

Quite early on in the assignment I decided I wanted to the images to be ‘proper’ self-portraits. Working through the exercises and research points I was underwhelmed by the work of Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing and although the idea of absented self-portraiture might have worked well for the theme I wanted to explore, I wanted to challenge myself to literally put myself in the picture and I thought that trying to produce portraits using artifical light would photographically be more stimulating as it is not something I had attempted before.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

  • Materials – I have not printed any of the images but will do when I am further into the course and thinking about what images I will put forward for assessment.

Techniques

  • One of my main objectives for this assignment was to use lighting in a controlled environment. The Shade and Screen images were shot using an off-camera flash and modifiers. For the Shade image I researched using a single speed light on You Tube and decided to try split lighting to produce an image with half my face in light and the rest in shade. I use a speed light and soft box placed at 90 degrees to my face and use a black reflector on the opposite side to prevent light bouncing back from a pale wall. For the Screen image I tried two different approaches; first I placed a large diffuser behind me and a piece of cloth in front on me. Initially the fabric I used was too thick so I use a piece of net curtain instead, however, in an ideal situation I would have used something with an even finer weave. This approach gave a clear silhouette but no facial detail so I then switched to using a soft box placed in between me and the camera. This produced a different effect with some facial features just visible. For the Silhouette I sat in front of a flash shot into a large relective umbrella with a diffuser. After some experimentation with the power setting I achieve a silhouette, however, I realise after taking the images that I should have used a black reflector to stop light spilling onto my face as some detail was just about visible. However, I was able to correct this using curves.

Observational skills, visual awareness, design & compositional skills –

  • The indoor shots I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted the final images to look like and they have turned out pretty much as I had envisioned. When I asked for feedback from fellow students one of them suggested that they would have like the screen image to be a close up, similar to Light & Shade and Silhouette. Personally I like the image submitted as it is different and I did not want to have a series of five near identical images, however, it would have been better to have taken some close-ups at the time so that I had this as an option. For the Reflection image I tried three or four different approaches and the image I have submitted is the best of the ones that I took, however, because I found it difficult to get the focusing correct I realise that I was concentrating on this and did not think sufficiently about composition.
  • Since posting my images for this assignment I have had an out of office email from my tutor so I am planning to re-shoot the Reflection and Shadow images as I think there is an opportunity for me to improve the design and composition of these shots. (Unfortunately the shop window that I used for the reflection shots has been changed and the shots I took were too busy and so were not an improvement on my original.)

Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation, discernment, conceptualisation, communication of ideas –

  • I found studying the photographers in this unit interesting as I was unaware of most of them and although much of their work did not resonate with me I found it interesting to look at how they have used self-portraiture to look at wider issues. Despite my ambivalence towards her work, I still intend to visit the Cindy Sherman exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery as I think that seeing full sized prints rather that images on a screenmight change how I view her work. The photographer whose work did engage me was Vivian Maier, this is partly because of its asthetic qualities and historical context, but mainly because I was intrigued about the paradox of this secretive photographer who took many self-portraits, but also beause of the way she chose to represent herself in her images, mainly reflections or shadows but rarely a direct image. I think my decision to put myself in the picture was also influenced by some of the books that I read, principally The Self-Portrait a cultural history by James Hall and 500 Self-portraits published by Phaidon.

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation & invention –

  • The main area of experimentation for me was using a speedlight with modifers. I am pleased with the results and I think that the process has made me think more about lighting. This point was reinforced when trying to shoot the image containing my shadow. My inital image was a grab shot of my shadow in strong light against a pavement and a brick wall. I wasn’t particularly pleased with the image and when I saw some perforated cladding on a building thought that it might work with the overall theme of the assignment. When I went to take some pictures I was constrained by the direction and quality of light and so the idea was not a success. However, nearby there were some hoardings around a construction site and becuause of their position I was able to capture an image of my shadow that I think is ambiguous and could be just part of the hoarding, so not revealing too much.

Sources

Hall, J., 2014. The Self-Portrait a cultural history. 1st ed. London: Thames and Hudson

Press, P., 2003. 500 Self-Portraits. Phaidon Press, Incorporated

youtube. 2019. Shooting portraits with one speedlight. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuoc53wcnbc&t=932s. [Accessed 16 July 2019].

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