The Last up-date

In a few blog posts I have talked about the development of my dissertation project work, as a way to making sense of what I’m doing through writing about it. I also thought it would be interesting to share with you how I go about creating my art. On Sunday 9th I finally finished taking all the photos I had planned, and after 4 months I can finally announce this project as officially done…well with just the editing left to do but let’s go along with the delusion that I’m completely done.

Being the first time that I have a created a whole body of work in just digital photography, it  has allowed me to learn quite a bit about how to use my camera efficiently, as well as learning more about my own identity as a photographer. Along with several realisations, I have also learned a few lessons, such as never have just one battery when going out for a long photoshoot,  how lighting is able to transform ambiance and don’t be such a control freak, it’s ok to let things flow once in a while.

To recap, in a previous blog I have discussed how I had to start from scratch after admitting to myself that the house I was using simply wasn’t harmonizing with the detached ambiance I wanted to create.  As it was a highly decorated house, it was creating a type of identity, hence a feeling of attachment to the place. Luckily for me, one of the other models offered his apartment, which happened to be more minimalistic with plain furnishing, that created nice sharp geometric shapes. This by itself helped me to better establish a cold disconnected mood which I was aiming for, making me feel more comfortable in the direction I had taken. I kept using the house along with direct light, the direct light aided to emphasise that I’m not documenting life but rather staging it, in a theatrical or rather cinematographic manner.

Progressing with the series, I kept three rules in my head; think in shapes, don’t over stage scenarios and use a light source. The first rule revolved around creating a composition in terms of shapes, I tried to integrate as many geometric elements to that to also unify the images all together. The second one… which maybe is the most important, was not to over direct the models, most of the time I got better Images when they started feeling comfortable in the scenes and adding their own character in them, while the third is for the reason mentioned above.  The last step is now to edit them, title them, print them, frame them, and then upload the series onto my Instagram for everyone to see. Until then, here is another sneak peak of what is to come, so stay tuned.

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Did society make men afraid of touch?

Zoë Zimmerman is an American Photographer, with a Mexican background, skill in raging antique photographic processes such as platinum prints and albumen prints.  Smithson, the author of the article regarding the artist states, that in her series titled “Of Men” the artists analyses “touch and platonic intimacy” between males, that their boundaries and how these parameters have been established by society itself. Zimmerman believes that American society, has acquired a negative view of “platonic male affection” making touch between males only acceptable if it’s in an aggressive context and not in a nurturing context. With this series the artist is trying to question why this happens, questioning if it’s due to the idea that the male touch is considered as “inheritably sexual” therefore implying homosexual behaviour, and is it restricted due to homophobia? (Smithson, 2014)

The author Aline Smithson, states that Zoë Zimmerman challenges our perception of where such physical contact between men is socially allowed. In the first group of photos, Zimmerman takes inspiration from a 1930s Red Cross First Aid Manual in which it displays men aiding men in situations of physical vulnerability, but in her series, even though there is physical contact between the two males, the facial expression and body language that is not indicating any level of intimacy. This group is basically representing the type of physical contact that is allowed by society between males, to touch but keep isolated (Smithson, 2014).

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 1. [Photography].

In the second group of photographs, Zimmerman re-enacts photos from vintage medical texts with the difference that they are more focused on a more direct and intimate type of touch. The two images are now taken out of the context of medical examination, allowing the viewer to focus more on the act of touch between the two males. The aim of this group was to portray intimacy, without referring to any type of eroticism but just as a nurturing behaviour. It reflects on the modern fear that men have developed regarding physical intimacy when it doesn’t even relate to homosexuality or any form of sexual interaction. The images serve more as an idea of example of how men could act between themselves once overcoming such irrational fears (Smithson, 2014).

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 2. [Photography].

In the third group of the series, the artist shifts her focus onto society itself, the viewers included, and the preconceived judgment we have regarding fraternal physical intimacy. A simple act of two men holding each other’s hand which may cause a sense of awkwardness and in some individuals even irritation and disgust. With a simple but effective visual message, Zimmerman is pushing the viewers to question why that might be. The models themselves exhibit, such as the two teenage boys in sports gear, a form of struggle that might be caused by the same preconceived that dictates that such physical contact is unacceptable but the images, even if the models seem uncomfortable, still draws your attention to them. With this group of photographs the artist is not trying to create a fantasy that allows males to be comfortable physically, but rather question why males are uncomfortable displaying physical intimacy in the first place.

Zoë Zimmerman, 2014, Group 3. [Photography].

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Gregory Crewdson, beneath the roses and ambiguity

Through my journey of researching the theme of ambiguity in Historical and Contemporary Art, Gregory Crewdson has been a very fundamental contemporary artist and shaped the way my work is currently visually developing.

“Beneath the roses” is a series of 36 photographs by the Artist Gregory Crewdson, completed after four productions, some on location in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, others in a soundstage specially constructed. Crewdson’s method of photography is quite unique, often resembling a movie set with a crew, composed of around 40 people from production designers, personnel in charge of lighting and even a director (Amy Larocca, 2008). As a matter of fact many film production techniques and technologies are used, for example lights are held up by cranes, fog is produced from fog machines, rainmaking machines to create a downfall and even shutting down main streets to be used for a location (Kenneth R. Fletcher, 2008).

loooGregory Crewdson, 2006 (image Online). Untitled (Sunday Roast) from the series ‘Beneath the Roses. [Photography].

huiGregory Crewdson, 2006 (image Online) Untitled (Shane) from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’. [Photography].

Gregory Crewdson often tackles the idea of ambiguity in his photographic series. As he states himself “There are two possible interpretations, one is the possibility of impossibility and two is the impossibility of possibility. I know there’s a sadness in my pictures. There’s this want to connect to something larger, and then the impossibility of doing so” (Amy Larocca, 2008). If one takes “Untitled (Sunday Roast)”, it is quite evident that there is a sense of sadness from the characters facial expressions but the reasons why are ambiguous. Maybe is the father late again? Maybe he passed away? The guests didn’t turn up or maybe it’s a single mother who just had an argument with her son. This makes the image part of a larger narrative but the photograph limits you from finding it, thus making it impossible to have a clear conclusion. The ambiguity grows when looking at the whole serious which provoke more questions rather than answers. Just from comparing the two photographs above, which are from the same series, makes you question if the two images are even connected, making part of a larger narrative. If they are, is there a timeline where each image falls? Are the characters indifferent to each other or not?  Is the child in “Untitled (Shane)” part of the family in “Untitled (Sunday Roast)”?

The fact that many questions arise from an individual photograph, as well as from the whole series, creates ambiguity on different levels and scales. Just from comparing two images from 36, the sense of narrative already grows and so does the ambiguity in each photograph and the entire series.

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My take on digital photography: Hints, advice and information

A DSLR digital camera can be confusing at times, but it’s not in any way difficult to learn its rules and functions. I started properly experimenting with photography around two years ago during a summer of extensive travels and in that time I have picked up a few basics of digital photography that I thought of sharing.

ISO, Aperture and shutter speed:

Or as I like to call it…the holy trinity of digital photography, but joking aside knowing the function of these three can make your life a whole lot easier. Below I have attached a very useful image which you can follow in order to understand better what I’m about to explain. It’s very easy to understand as it’s a literal visual translation of what each feature of the camera does.

ISO is basically the Cameras sensitivity to light which I tend to ideally keep at 100 ISO and maximum 400 ISO as I like my images to be crisp. Increasing the ISO, because perhaps you are shooting in poor light conditions without a tripod,  will increase what is called “Noise” which makes your photographs hazy and gain a “Granulated” aesthetic as well as making your image darker. Aperture controls what you want in focus in relation to how much light you want to enter the camera and is measured in F-Stops, hence why the numbers have an F before them. Let’s assume that you would like to take a portrait with a blurry background, in that case you would need to lower you aperture from around F8 down to F1, as you can see from the image below. On the other hand as I said before aperture controls how much light enters your digital camera, so if you are shooting in good lighting conditions, but would like your image to look “darker” you can control this by playing with the aperture settings, just don’t forget that it also puts the background out of focus or in focus with the foreground. Last but not least is the shutter speed, while the aperture controls how much light enters the camera, the shutter speed controls for how long. If you are taking a photo of an object in motion then you will need to set it on a high shutter speed, example 1/500, like the two above, shutter speed will also change how dark or light your image is. Basically the higher the shutter speed, the more time is allowed for the light to enter the cameras, hence making your image light, while the lower the shutter speed the complete opposite occurs. As it is stated at the very end of the image, ISO, aperture and shutter speed can be used in a combination to achieve a wide range of effect. As I have mentioned before, I’m a visual learner so if this didn’t help to makes things a bit more clear, please check out the YouTube video titled, “Photography Tutorial: ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed” that I have attached below the image.

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Yprum, 2015 (image Online). Effects of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO On Images. [Digital Image].

Photography Tutorial: ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed:

Light meter:

The light meter, which in DSLR’s is in built, is going to be your best friend as it lets you know if your image is underexposed or overexposed. Below is an image of how the light meter usually looks, of course this can slightly change in appearance according to the make and model of you DSLR. What this meter indicates, is in simple terms how “dark” or “light” your image will look. If you decide to underexpose like I usually do, your photo will start to get darker, while if you over expose, your photo will become lighter. The exposure can be changed by playing around with the ISO, aperture and shutter speed.


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Kunal Malhotra, 2015 (image Online). Untitled. [Digital Image].

Photoshop and Lightroom:

Like most, I learned how to edit my photographs on Photoshop and still do, but for editing digital photographs there is an even more powerful software and that is Lightroom . You are still going to need Photoshop to fix certain mistakes as Lightroom only allows you to crop and realign. What makes Lightroom so great is the various options and tools you can use to edit you image aesthetically to the last detail. For example if you have a preference for black and white photography, Lightroom gives a huge list of various ready-made options to choose from, which allows you to further build upon by using the other tools, such as how white you want your white areas and how black you want your black areas. Give it a shot! You can also try it for free by downloading the free trial.


Tripod:

I seriously suggest buying a tripod, especially if, like me, you tend to have shaky hands, as using a tripod will drastically decrease the chance of getting blurry images and instead getting that crystal clear photo. In my opinion, unless you want to venture into street photography, owning a tripod is a must as it can give many more possibilities, such as shooting at a steady angle, shooting from various heights, shooting with timers, getting a sharp image in low light settings, achieving crisp images of objects in motion and many more.


Two Batteries, Two SD cards:

I learned this lesson recently; I basically had an important shoot which was around 6 hours long, and as I was not aware of how much shooting RAW (a type of format) quickly drains you battery, I had to terminate the shoot early. The minute I got home I order another battery, to save myself from embarrassment. The same goes for the SD card, you’ll be surprised how many times you’ll forget to put the SD card back in your camera after uploading your images to your computer only to realise it the moment you turn your camera on in the street.


Invest in a Camera bag:

A camera bag is essential, as it will allow you to carry extra lenses, batteries, SD cards and even you battery charger all together wherever you go….oh and don’t forget a cloth to clean you lens with ;).


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