1. Photographing the unseen
Start by doing some reflecting in your learning log. What kinds of subjects might be seen as unphotographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? List a few examples of things you’re experiencing now or have recently been thinking about. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth or revealing, but it can be if you want. Equally, it might be something as apparently trivial as how you’re going to fit everything into your busy day. At first you may come up with literal examples, but the more you think about them the more those ideas will develop into specific and more original ones. Make a list of at least seven ideas. Try and keep to things you have a personal interest in or curiosity about.
Keep a notebook with you at all times and make notes when ideas strike you as interesting. (This is good practice for all stages of the degree and beyond. Ideas books are something to be revisited time and again for ideas and hints for the photographer you’re becoming.)
Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 photographs.
‘Photographing the unseen’ is my chosen assignment for this part of the unit. the idea came around after speaking with my tutor in the assignment one feedback session about how I had been thinking about the images I have hung on my walls and how they remind me of certain emotions. This linked with the issues of lack of motivation during the Covid-19 lockdown period came together to form a theme of photographing the ‘unseen’ experience of living alone in isolation and the effects that can have on people.
I live alone and have for about 5 years now, in itself it is not an issue, I have several different interests and social groups to engage with during the week but, having to be cooped up indoors during the lockdown has meant I have missed out on most of those avenues of distraction. The monotony of each day without deadlines, appointments or distractions has been hard to manage. I’ve found myself whiling away the time watching tv, YouTube and gaming without much regard for the future as it always seems as if the world is on hold whilst we get the outbreak under control. I feel as this would be different for those who live with family as there would be more ‘normality’ surrounding them.
For the images I really wanted to capture everyday scenes but with a sense of the surreal nature of the experience. Using ideas from past assignments such as ‘Languages of Light’ and taking inspiration for other photo artists such as Jeff Wall, I aimed to create scenes that are natural but also strategic in their execution. Each scene is a moment I have lived but not necessarily an accurate representation of each. I aim to show the extremes but through a journey from the mundane as captured by the lighting and photographic techniques used in each frame.
For my research you can access detailed notes through my learning log with links listed in the bibliography.
Primarily my inspiration came from the information gathered regarding social isolation and the link to increased rates of loneliness, depression and physical health decline including lower average lifetimes. These are prevalent within the younger generations and low income demographics, with little difference in the amount of people living together but a slight lean towards males being more affected.
Further to this research into the specifics are the effects of loneliness and those affected, the tutor suggested reading of ‘Everyday Life and Cultural Theory – An Introduction’ (Ben Highmore 2002) has developed my understanding of capturing the ideas in photographic ways. The idea of surreal ness was already embedded in my mind from the way I personally felt about the experience of lockdown but this is further enforced by the ideas presented in this book. Surrealism as described is the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the extra-ordinary in order to create an engaging artwork. The idea of recording the everyday adopted this method in an attempt to communicate the feeling of the everyday, a complex process which I will discus further in another blog post. Using this ideas supported my original concept to capture everyday scenes of lockdown whilst challenging the perception by introducing different lighting, objects and compositions to emphasise the emotional side of what is presented.
For the compositional work Jeff Wall was my main inspiration drawing on his large format, staged compositions in which we see an apparently random moment in time but has been excruciatingly prepared to present exactly the ideas Wall strove to achieve. I enjoy the reinterpretation of the ‘decisive moment’ in which the artist looks to communicate beyond the aesthetics of the image and yet present it as a ‘decisive moment’ in its naturalness and familiarity.
I also found inspiration in the works of Francesca Woodman, not necessarily the content, aesthetics or composition of each frame, but in the description of self and the the communication of ideas. Woodman’s work is often said to communicate her impending suicide but as written in my blog post on the subject I feel her work was more her way of communicating her ideas of the world and self and that it is only in retrospect that we attach the idea of a ‘cry for help’. Her images also present surreal ideas in the way we see objects of mysticism and death juxtaposed with her sexuality, alongside her images of friendships, humour and family relationships.
A collection of images intended to capture the ‘unseen’ effects of isolation on the ‘unseen’ individual living alone. The use of conflicting and un-natural colour tones, lighting styles, inclusion of technological props and influences are a reflection of the state of mind during long periods without human interaction in a ‘real-life’ social interaction. The societal standards, deadlines and constant barrage stimulus that normally surrounds us is replaced with unending banality. Social media and online networking becoming our only contact with the outside world compounding the need to play for the camera whilst being our only source of socialisation, distraction, entertainment and information. As someone who lives alone, the period of lockdown has become a period of short attention spans and lack of drive. A never ending long weekend where every little job becomes an excuse for a rest as there is no deadline for completion and no accountability to others, friends or family. The only constant being my dog, my dependant, her walks and feeding times the only remnant of routine. The sporadic nature of emotion is reflected in the variety of images presented, some days are relatively normal whilst others, despite being filled with stimulus, stir little in the way of interest or joy. Occasionally, there can be a special moment that brings a smile and others when it feels as if no one would notice you were gone. I call the collection ‘Self Isolated – 1 Day in Lockdown’ so to gather the set into a time frame which signifies the constant shifting of mood and emphasising the longevity of the restrictions.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
This assignment has been the one where I spent more time planning shots than in any previous assignment, this seems counter to the idea of capturing the everyday but with a basis in real experiences in all of the images I feel that the planning has helped with the execution. Sketching out the compositions, framing and lighting first enabled me to then concentrate on ensuring that each image has compositional balance. Working in low light situations and in potentially risky scenarios was made easier after lots of practice in these techniques and the use of remote viewing software to use my phone as a trigger and image checker.
Quality of Outcome
I haven’t printed these images and in the short term don’t intend to purely from a cost perspective, currently my expenditure has to be focused on bills and rent and after spending several £100’s on the first unit for printing to then not be able to submit them has meant I will wait on printing until funds become available. The images themselves I have reviewed at 200% full size to inspect for distractions, dust and focus issues and overall I am very happy with the quality and would feel confident in printing in my usual size of 13″ x 19″. The only images I feel may have issue are ‘Night Light’ and Meeting’ as the lighting was very challenging and there is potential for break down in the blacks from black crush due to exposing to the left to preserve dynamic range for the highlights.
Demonstration of Creativity
Overall I am happy with the creative output. I believe I have taken aspects from other photographers work and style and brought them together in a way which is inline with my own vision and voice. I do however feel that the images are a little static and potentially there would have been room to ‘loosen’ the feel of some images by relaxing on the overall ‘sharpness’ of the images or by introducing some frames which contained more movement. However I do also feel that the static ness does play into the idea of a sedentary environment and when considering the images, two I decided not to include were of a more loose style which didn’t seem to feel right within the group.
I find it hard to pass judgement on the set of images as a whole, I feel that being so close to the subject both figuratively and literally, that I am naturally inclined to conclude that the images are well executed. In photographing the everyday there will, I feel, always been a sense of incompleteness. Here I think that the set is 90% what I set out to achieve but lacking some of the more etherealness, extra-ordinariness and drama that I originally set out to create. However in working through creative process I have also created tones and views that I wouldn’t have discovered had I stuck vehemently to my initial concept. The disjointedness of the images is something that bothers me as I feel that they are a great set of individual images but necessarily a coherent series in its base intent. However as I shot each image individually over a period of weeks I feel they reflect the emotion of that moment in time and together the disjointedness becomes part of the narrative, one of wavering commitment and engagement and a fluctuating sense of loneliness and depression.
Learning Log References
Learning log (s.d.) At: https://harleybainbridgecontextnarrative.wordpress.com/category/learning-log/ (Accessed 28/06/2020).
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