Len Grant set us a challenge to produce a piece of work that was good enough to win a commission titled ‘The Diversity of University Life’. My group consisted of Lucy Logan, Sara Lataiwesh and myself and we initially made a decision to focus on the different religious groups within the university. To begin the shooting process, we visited the Islamic prayer room next to Salford Crescent train station. It was extremely helpful to have Sara there to act as a mediator between Lucy and I and the girls that were praying. As Sara is a practicing Muslim, she knows the do’s and don’ts when entering a prayer room preventing Lucy or myself from causing any offence. For example, shoes have to be taken off before entering the prayer room, also we couldn’t directly stand in front of the girls as they were praying because that would put us in the way of Allah. Another factor that we did not consider was that males and females pray separately; the sexes cannot be mixed therefore because we did not have a male in our group, we could not enter the boys’ prayer room.
After completing the shoot and reviewing our photographs, we decided to research when other religious groups met and which had societies as part of the University. While searching through the different groups, we stumbled across LGBT society and changed our idea dramatically. Homosexuality and religion together is a hot topic recently as gay marriage was legalised in the UK on 28th March of this year which caused a stir with the Church. Also, because of growing up in a Christian family with a lot of gay friends, I have personally experienced the hate thrown from both sides. One apparently Christian group, The Westboro Baptist Church are known around the world for their extreme ideologies against gay people. Alongside this, many gay people have a very twisted and generalised view that the Church hate them, so they hate the Church. Since we had documented the Islamic faith already, I asked Sara if this was the same across all faiths and she agreed that there was definitely a boundary there that needed to be broken.
University makes it possible to knock down these boundaries and makes way for acceptance and equality. A student has very little control over who they will be put in student halls with, or who will be on their course so they are forced to get to know people from all walks of life. Seeing as we had very little time left and LGBT society were not meeting for another week or so, we decided to go out and find students who would act as same sex couples for the sake of this project. It was really difficult to build up the courage to ask people, especially boys, to hold hands and have their photograph taken. We were met with mixed reactions, some people willingly agreed, some people took a bit of persuading, some people laughed but declined and some people took offence. Eventually, we had enough photographs to fill the handmade book that we had planned on making.
A couple of days later we met to complete the project. We decided to title the book ‘ANONYMOUS’ as we thought that it didn’t matter who you were, if you came to university you would be accepted. We wanted our subjects to remain unidentified and our quotes to remain anonymous so viewers could make judgments before copying other peoples’. The first page of the book reflects the concept behind the photographs. The word ‘equality’ has been written in the ten most spoken languages from around the world to show that acceptance spreads across many different cultures and languages at university. Each photograph of a homosexual couple has been met with a photograph of a girl praying to Allah. The quotes used are from a range of sources and are there to provoke deeper thinking from the viewer as to why these people should be separated into categories. University is a tool that can be used to share opinions and beliefs that eventually build stronger characters for the future.
David Oates set us a challenge to create our own website which would have the potential to be developed into a professional portfolio. I had never used Tumblr before and only heard of it through friends who used it as an informal blogging platform. It was interesting to discover how to create new pages, change backgrounds and fonts and how to order and arrange images in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Our first week-long challenge was to take 12 street portraits of strangers in and around Manchester. When David was discussing his work, I found it interesting how much he’d thought about his backgrounds for each portrait; I’d never considered it to be such an important factor in a photograph before. Due to this discovery, I chose to take my portraits in the Northern Quarter of Manchester which is known for it’s colourful and quirky graffiti which I could use as my backgrounds and as an aid to theme my images. First, I searched for a striking background, then I waited for a young male to walk by with an atypical dress sense to tie in with the artsy theme.
S T R E E T P O R T R A I T S
Inspired by The Sartorialist and The Mancorialist, these photographs were taken in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Male subjects were used who had a personality and fashion sense that complemented the edgy location. I searched for backgrounds which were rich in colour and contrast and used natural lighting to create a realistic representation.
We were able to choose the subject for our second week-long assignment, again we were advised to shoot at least 12 images in order to be able to select 3-4 successful photographs for the blog. I have always admired Alexey Titarenko’s ‘City of Shadows’. The series has such at atmospheric and emotional feel to it which I wanted to reproduce. I chose to shoot in the centre of Manchester as it has always baffled me as to why the majority are in such a rush with empty expressions on their faces in big cities, leaving no time to enjoy their surroundings or to speak to others. I think in some ways that individuality is lost in the city; everyone just becomes another passer by – this is why I decided to name this series ‘Anonymous’.
A N O N Y M O U S
Alexey Titarenko’s ‘City of Shadows’ inspired me to take a series of long exposure portraits around Manchester City centre. These images are an observation of identity loss in the city environment. An adjustable, tinted filter was used in order to allow for exposures ranging from 1-2 seconds.
For our third week-long challenge we were asked to focus on collage. That week I visited an exhibition including work from Andy Warhol at The Photographers’ Gallery. I had seen a lot of Warhol’s work before but never really understood the intentions behind it. I was interested in his views towards consumerism, I also wanted to analyse my own buying habits. I got home and opened my cupboard to search for the products that I buy most frequently without even thinking about it. I used repetition show how our brains our flooded by brand recognition every single day. Different saturations and exposures were also experimented with to create a hypnotic effect; reflecting on our subconscious reactions to advertising.
I N T H E P A N T R Y
These photographs focus on the products I buy most frequently. Like Warhol, my images are mass-produced in an attempt to mimic their subjects. I experimented with altering colours and exposure and used repetition to say something about the monotony of routine. I believe that what you purchase has a huge influence on your character, which is worrying considering that we have become so desensitized to the power of advertising.
When Chris Harrison was a boy, growing up in Jarrow, he believed his Dad was a deep-sea diver who had adventures every day. In reality his Dad worked in a factory as a precision engineer. Every day he used a huge machine to bore complex shapes from cast metal to exacting specifications. The most challenging pieces were nicknamed Copper Horses, because ‘they fight you all the way’.
By the time Chris had grown up he realised his Dad wasn’t an adventurer. Instead, like many others, he worked hard to provide for his family in a difficult, skilled and often unappreciated job. Lately Chris has been thinking about his relationship with his Dad and how it has changed over the years. These photographs are the result.
On the surface, these photographs look slightly mundane, however looking deeper, Harrison’s idea was to break down the machine in order to understand his Dad a little better. He examined and documented the machine inside and out to explore how it made his Dad grumpy and sweaty in the evenings. Instead of interrogating his Dad, who always looked on the bright side, he documented the intricate processes that he performed on a daily basis. These photographs have been beautifully taken, their depth of tone and texture turn quite ordinary subjects into works of art. Harrison has been careful in his composition in order to keep this series consistent; placing the object in the centre of the frame and matching each surface edge.
Chris had vivid memories from when he was a boy and his Dad worked in a factory. Images of the machine his Dad worked on are arranged with others relating to the smells and stories his Dad conjured up to describe the daily grind of working life to his son.Above, Harrison has given a stage to a simple plate of vegetables. What we as the viewers do not realise, is the blood sweat and tears that his Dad experienced to provide his family with such high quality, fresh vegetables. This is a photograph of something that, as children, we do not appreciate; food on the table. Rich in colour and tone, Harrison’s image causes us to take a step back and realise how beautiful it is that hard working parents like his, spend hours grafting in order to give the best possible care to their children. This exhibition is a visual interpretation of good work ethics; you have to knuckle down to experience the good things in life.
“I told them I didn’t believe in art, that I believed in photography.”
Photography was a persuasive force for Andy Warhol. Almost every artwork made during his unparalleled career stemmed from a photographic source. He amassed an enormous picture collection of advertisements, news clippings and press photographs, and the photo-booth and Polaroid camera were important tools in the creation of his work.
Warhol began using a miniature Minox 35EL camera in 1976 at which point he shifted from making photographs primarily in the service of his canvases to producing them in their own right. Thereafter, he was rarely without a compact camera, shooting upwards of 36 frames of black and white film a day.
This first photograph is a comment on consumerism; the world has become flooded with advertising and there is too much choice so we get into habits of buying the same products, week in, week out. It is interesting to see the change in item design trends from then to now, although there is not much change in the more popular products, for example Hellmann’s mayonnaise, in order to aid brand recognition. The way that these images have been stitched together makes them look disjointed which compliments the unorganised products in the pantry.The collection of images above have been put together as a grid to form something quite abstract. The subject is only just identifiable as a vehicle, this reading is helped by its personal identification number; its number plate. The use of repetition here is quite hypnotic, the diagonal lines in the photograph contradict the straight horizontal and vertical lines of the frame. My personal interpretation of this grid is a portrayal of a traffic jam.Similar to the previous grid, the subject in these photographs barely resembles a van; the focus is on the branding plastered all over it. It is interesting to explore the movement of the food trade from ice-cream vans and market stalls to superstores, the convenience is not always healthy. Purchasing an ice-cream from a van is much more exciting than choosing one in the supermarket.I like how this grid layout imitates test strip; it is intriguing to see how underexposed and overexposed shots can have different effects on their audience. I prefer the mysterious, second brightest photograph which shows what appears to be an attractive model without revealing the face.
Below, Warhol has captured the perfect moment in a shot that any usual photographer and subject would prefer to avoid. This series captures something really personal about the human race; how and what we eat. This piece has inspired me to do a project documenting the way people eat across different cultures. I think Warhol has used repetition here to say something about the greed of our nation.The idea of ‘artist as machine’ was at the core of Warhol’s artistic process, and the increased auto-function of the new ‘point and shoot’ technology suited his detached approach to image making. Although Warhol also referred to these later photographs as his ‘visual diary’, with subjects including everyday details; people and crowds; street scenes; events; interiors; buildings and signage.
From the singular images, Warhol also created a series of ‘stitched photographs’, commissioning a seamstress to machine-sew multiple copies of photographs into grids of varying sizes. These works emphasise both photography’s inherent reproducibility, but also draw our attention to its material nature.
The works included in this exhibition form part of Warhol’s obsessive recording habit that also included tape recording, diary dictating and the making of time capsules. They also show emerging tendencies and patterns that reveal photography as a persistent influence the artist’s thinking, looking and making.
Jeremy Deller’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is an art show that is currently being exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery. It looks at the roots that link pop music and contemporary culture with Britain’s industrial past. Ben Robert’s ‘Amazon Unpacked’ illustrated the parallels between past working arrangements and what seems to be happening in certain sectors now, and rather chillingly what may happen in the future.
The three pieces by Roberts’ included in the exhibition are large format documentary photographs of workers insider one of Amazon’s nine UK fulfilment centres. The curation gave the images, which were initially published in the Financial Times, a new energy, linking the subtle, abstract negatives of contemporary working conditions to the more immediate hardships that characterised the workhouses of the industrial revolution.
This first large format shot successfully conveys the scale of the warehouse and the operations inside, it exposes the unstimulating, bland working environment in all its glory. The endless ordered shelves blur into a hypnotic pattern drawing the viewer’s eye to the left side of the frame. The patterns formed in this image are similar to those found in Andreas Gursky’s large format architecture and landscape photographs, although ironically, Gursky uses photo manipulation to create such large scale, repeated patterns.
The Financial Times’ article opens with “the online giant is creating thousands of UK jobs, so why are some employees less than happy?” As Roberts’ was not allowed to photograph any real life employees, he compromised by capturing the surreal life-size portraits of Adam Hoccon and Bev Horton extolling the virtues of working for Amazon. One of the speech bubbles reads; “this is the best job I have ever had!” Are these quotes real? Is the best job really pushing a trolley around a space the size of nine football pitches, glancing down at the screen of a handheld satnav computer for directions on where to walk next and what to pick up on arrival? Before any employee is allowed to go home at the end of their eight-hour shift, or go to the canteen for their 30-minute break, they must walk through a set of airport-style security scanners to prove they are not stealing anything. These photographs show how robotic and mundane some modern day jobs have become.“Earlier in my career as a photographer (before I had even started studying) I had lofty dreams and ambitions that my work could ‘make a difference’. Over time I came to look back on these goals as naive. I’m not so vain as to believe that my photographs are so brilliant that they can instantly move people, but the way in which my Amazon photographs have been re-appropiated since their initial publication in the FT Magazine has helped me to understand that in the right hands, photographs have the power to at the very least open a dialogue and engage an audience in new ways.”
David Oates set us the challenge to present a collection of photographs that we had taken in front of the rest of the group. I chose to show a collection of photographs I had taken of paint on speakers, inspired by Sue Venables’ book ‘Photocrafty’. On page 104, there is a chapter called ‘Good Vibrations’ which sets out clear instructions on how to capture the dancing paint.
For this project, my kit included:
- Canon SLR 500D
- Macro lens
- Flash unit with connecting cable
- Cling film
- Acrylic paint
- Music (Justin Timberlake – Cry Me a River)
Photocrafty advises to remove an old speaker from its outer casing and wrap it in cling film or the latex from a rubber glove. As I did not own any old speakers, I had to borrow my flatmate’s £180 speakers so I kept them in their casing and just covered the surface with cling film. I placed the speaker against a white wall in my kitchen to imitate a studio background.I bought three bottles of acrylic paint; red, yellow and blue so that it was possible to make any colour that I needed. It was necessary to mix the paint with quite a bit of water to create a consistency that would be able to bounce when the music was turned on.It proved quite hard to keep all the paint in focus, these three photographs were the ones where I felt that the focusing was accurate and effective. Also, in these images, the viewer is unable to see the texture of the cling film which proved distracting in some of the others. It was a challenge to capture the movement at the right moment – in these, I was lucky enough to have the paint bounce enough to fill the frame. These photographs successfully fulfilled my aim; to show a visual interpretation of sound.
This photograph is part of a much larger project – The Sochi Project, which tells the story of the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic games. This particular photograph was taken in 2009, the subject is a retired shipbuilder called Viktor Alexeyevich who claims that Sochi “used to be much prettier”.
The point of emphasis in this image is Alexeyevich. Hornstra has used the perspective of the railings to draw to viewer’s eye towards the centre of the image where the subject stands. The photograph does not seem to follow the rule of thirds in its composition and the only thing which disrupts the balance of the frame is the lifebuoy. A large depth of field has been used, the railing is what separates the foreground from the background. Hornstra has made sure that the horizon line is straight so that it is a not a distraction from the foreground.
This photograph is subjective; it has obviously been composed in a certain way for a desired outcome. Hornstra has taken the image straight on but from a lower position than his Alexeyevich, giving his subject a sense of power and status which is reinforced by his hat. It looks as though extra lighting has been used on location to illuminate the subject and his garish swimwear.
Content and Meaning
Denotation – What’s in the image?
Connotation – What does the content suggest is happening?
Denotation is generally the subject matter being photographed and connotation is how it is being photographed (Parsa, 2004). Connotation is ideological and emotional. It is dependent on the background of the interpreter, different genders, ages and cultures can create different interpretations. Denotation may be agreed on many people from a similar background, while connotation is subjective unless it is an obvious part of a culture (Chandler, 2002).
Two dimensionality and the Effect of Depth
What is the point of emphasis in the image?
Discuss foreground and background – how are the two separated by the photographer, is the background important to the reading of the image?
What is its significance?
Figure-Ground relations – has the photographer composed the background as well as the foreground?
Is the foreground separated by a shallow depth of field? Are the fore and backgrounds compressed by large depth of field and use of a telephoto lens?
Is perspective used in the image? How do lines of perspective draw the eye through the image? Is there content of the image that is highlighted by lines of perspective?
How has the photographer used framing
Rule of Thirds – is there a use of the rule of thirds in the composition? How does it improve (or otherwise) the effect of the picture?
Classical balance – is the subject centered in the frame? What are the effects of the background elements?
Discuss horizontal and vertical lines, how are they arranged, how do they affect the composition?
Diagonals give a sense of instability and dynamism, are they present? What is their effect?
Do the lines and shapes form a point of emphasis? Where is it (or are there several)? Pictorially, what is seen at the point of emphasis?
Where is the camera in relation to the subject? How does this affect the image?
Does the image create an objective or subjective effect? How?
Is external or natural lighting used? How is it used? What is its effect?
Discuss the uses of: colour, texture, shape, rhythm and repetition.
How do these affect the reading of the image?
Concept or Idea
Does the image convey an idea? What is it?
Consider this image the starting point of a series. How would you approach making images that would fit seamlessly alongside this one?
After listening to David Oates’ presentation on what inspired him, I then decided to keep a diary of things that I found particularly creative:
Selfies by Paul Zizka
Zizka has combined incredible landscape shots with self portraiture and the result is incredible. Attaching a torch light to his head has enabled him to remain an important part of the shot during long exposures, the torch also gives the photographs a futuristic feel.
Self portraits by Kyle Thompson
Kyle Thompson became interested in photography at college but unfortunately, his anxiety prevented him from talking to people. This forced him to opt for self-portraiture:He would spend hours, even days, walking alone through forests and exploring abandoned houses.These two mystical self portraits were created using flour.Those are not headlights. Kyle clamped two desk lights to a chair and used a fog machine.His photographs were captured with a Canon 60D, a 50mm 1.8 lens, a tripod, and a timer.After taking hundreds of photos, he posted some of his best to Reddit, they got over 4 million views. Kyle has now quit his job delivering pizzas and has dedicated his life to photography.
Over the last couple years, an increasingly popular trend online has been to create and share colourised photos from history. Artists such as Jordan Lloyd, Dana Keller and Sanna Dullaway take intriguing old black and white photographs and bring them to life making them relatable to a modern audience.Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation happened in 1963 and was part of a protest demanding that the Diem government fulfill its its promises of religious equality. The colour in this photograph makes a dramatic difference due to the impact that a roaring, orange fire has on its audience.
This photograph shows British troops boarding their train for the Front in 1939. Due to the realistic added colour, the viewer is able to compare these young lads to close friends or relatives who could have been or could be in the future on their way to the front line.Albert Einstein is the epitome of all geniuses; when we think of Einstein we think of a superhuman. This colour photograph destroys that illusion and reminds the viewer that Einstein was just a ‘normal’ man who wore ‘normal’ clothes and enjoyed ‘normal’ activities like visiting the coast. It also acts as an inspiration for ‘normal’ people who wish to achieve something great.
The Battle We Didn’t Choose by Angelo Merendino
Just five months into married life, Merendino’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. This began a challenging four-year journey of remission and relapse, an emotional roller coaster which completely changed their lives. In an effort to cope with the reality of the disease and show others what it’s like to struggle day to day, Merendino documented his wife’s battle with cancer and the effect she had on others.
I Turn Myself Inside Out by Luke Evans and Joshua Lake
In an unusual attempt to explore their own digestive tracts, student artists Luke Evans and Joshua Lake swallowed single frames of 35mm film, folding each piece in a brightly coloured capsule that allowed for the acids and bodily fluids to process the film with minimal risk of colon damage. Once excreted, the negatives were recovered, cleaned, and studied in detail by an electron microscope; ultimately, they were printed into giant black and white works.
A an introduction to Professional Frameworks, David Eaton and David Oates gave presentations on what photography meant to them. David Eaton began by explaining how photography was about telling a story; he showed us work from Frans Lanting, William Albert Allard and Steve McCurry who all produce images for the National Geographic.
David also included work from a selection of photographers who captured the Vietnam War:
For this style of work, photography is all about observation, timing and taking risks.
I enjoyed how David exposed us to Salgado’s work as it is full of controversy; is it ethical to charge £50 for a book that documents poverty?
This is my favourite image from Salgado, I think it represents the government and the desperation for control; everybody is trampling on one another to get to the top. The skyscrapers in the background set the context for the rat race in the city, babies are used to shock the viewer and show how our mindset and priorities change over time.
Michael Christopher Brown spent six months documenting the Libyan revolution; he explored ethical distance and the iconography of warfare. David told us how Brown only used a camera phone for this project and still managed to earn affiliation with Magnum Photos. Because of the size of his phone, Brown was able to become a lot more familiar with his subjects as they were not intimidated by any photographic equipment. I found this encouraging as it shows money is not a necessity in order to be a successful photographer.
David Oates made a blog on Tumblr for his presentation:
I found it interesting how David was so inspired by those who photographed the everyday. His blog gave me a whole new perspective on how to view the world and what actually makes a ‘good’ photograph.
To me, photography is all about exploration and exposure. I believe that it is important to travel, to tell a story, to inspire and to make a change. However, I think that it is not always necessary to have a dramatic subject matter to say something meaningful and there is a lot that we see everyday that can be explored in different ways.