REFLECTION ON PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN – RELATIONSHIPS
Having completed Assignment 2 of the Context & Narrative course I am now taking time to reflect on the work I have created and the processes I used in its creation. I will use the OCA’s formal Assessment Criteria Points as a framework for this reflection and review. I, of course, had these points in mind when planning and executing the work for the Assignment, but I will now attempt to assess how successfully or otherwise I have adhered to them and some of the challenges that I encountered. Whilst I have attempted to be objective in my critical review some subjectivity is inevitable and I welcome the observations of others in order to gain a more balanced picture.
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Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
This series of images were shot in colour on a hand held Canon 7D body with both a standard and a telephoto lens. I chose to find the subjects for the Assignment out in the field rather than attempt to create compositions in a studio environment because this is my preferred method of working. When looking for subjects to represent the concept of relationships I found examples jumping out at me wherever I looked. Some I disregarded as being too stereotypical or obvious and others I rejected as being too vague and obscure. The experience yet again opened my eyes to the ability of the photographic process to open the eyes to almost unlimited possibilities if one has some empathy for and connection with the subject and then one gives the imagination free rein. I believe that both the images I have selected, and those that I subsequently rejected, demonstrate a good degree of visual awareness and observational skill. No doubt there are those who would have found different subjects and different methods of operating.
Whilst I attempted to be aware of accepted composition and design criteria whilst taking the photographs some were later discarded as being inappropriate or otherwise flawed and others were cropped and amended in Lightroom to improve their composition and impact. For example, an image of a gravestone, which I otherwise liked, had to be rejected as the original shot had slightly cropped the edge of the text and an image of a split boulder was rejected because its composition lacked impact. In my opinion, the images selected have good composition and have visual appeal and impact as well as successfully portraying elements of relationships that I wanted to show. This visual appeal and impact has been enhanced in all the images by post-production manipulation in Lightroom, a process in which I am gaining in skill and confidence, as may be evidenced by the before and after images below.
BEFORE POST-PRODUCTION WORK AFTER POST-PRODUCTION WORK
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Quality of Outcome
I believe that the final series of images works well as a depiction of some aspects of relationships. I have no doubt that the series could be extended and refined in order to give a more detailed and complete representation of the subject in all its complexity and nuances, but time does not allow that at present. It is something that I would be keen to explore at another time and might be the subject of an exhibition that I am planning for next year.
As a result of feedback received from a fellow student after initially posting the Assignment on my Blog I have now replaced one of the images of a pair of teddy bears sitting in a chair with another of two limpets on a rock (see below).
I felt slightly uncomfortable before publication that the image of the bears was not coherent with the other images but I justified it on the basis that relationships are not coherent and I wanted to portray the softer, more connected side of relationships in order to offset any criticism of negativity and coldness in the series. I now recognise that that decision was flawed despite the fact that the image of the two battered and time worn bears seated together does have some interesting and powerful resonance with the relationship theme for me . If I had selected a broader range of subjects in order to portray a broader range of the elements of relationships then the inclusion of the bears would have been justified, but the discipline imposed by the requirement for coherence precludes their inclusion in the present series. Similarly, I have been careful about the inclusion of people as subjects in order not to detract from the rather impersonal and unemotional nature of the series.
This throws up a rather strange anomaly for me that I had only just become aware of when thinking about this review. I have used images and subjects that are, on the face of it, without emotional content and in a style chosen to emphasise this my attempt to portray aspects of a subject – relationships – which is often highly charged with emotion. I will leave it to others to judge whether the emotion implied by allusion still comes through the images. I believe that it does if the viewer allows their mind to go beyond the immediate.
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Demonstration of Creativity
The successful depiction of something unseen through visual images requires a large element of imagination and invention and I believe that I have brought both skills to this work. No doubt there are others who would have tackled the Assignment very differently, through, for instance, the use of human subjects to act out scenarios or through the creation of stage sets or the use of props in a controlled environment but this does not appeal to me. For me the creativity lies in establishing an empathic understanding of the theme to be depicted and then finding subjects in the real world that allow the transference of one’s personal imaginings on the subject to an image which will also speak to others and create a connection. That is what I have tried to achieve with this series. It probably reflects my desire to work in a more direct and documentary style rather than the more artistic style of others.
In order to explore the concept of relationships and arrive at some ideas for possible subjects I revisited some of my old personal development notebooks and also noted some of the feelings and emotions that I have been experiencing recently. These research areas opened up some clear imagery and thought processes which directed the locations and shots that I chose when carrying out the photo shoots for the project. A sense of isolation even when close to and engaged with another was a recurring theme, as was the sense of entrapment and rigidity, and the effort required to attempt to make progress and bridge gaps. These emotional responses were similar whether the relationship under consideration was one with another person or one with a work or responsibility commitment such as the OCA course.
In order to attempt to gain ideas and inspiration I searched other students’ blogs to see how they handled this Assignment but found very little that was relevant. It surprises me that so few OCA students allow access to their learning blogs / websites which is regrettable and a wasted opportunity for students to share and learn from each other. Those few that I did manage to access, whilst showing great inventiveness and industry and demonstrating the wide range of possibilities for meeting the requirements of the Assignment , were not what I was looking for in my creative process. On turning to other sources of information such as the internet and my library of photography books, I found nothing that would help despite spending a considerable amount of time on the quest. I would be intrigued to know what I have missed as there must be something out there on the subject.
As has been demonstrated above, my critical thinking about the choice of images for the Assignment was initially flawed. In my own defence, I would say that there were a great many images that I considered for inclusion but rejected because they didn’t ‘feel’ right in the context of this specific project although they might work in the portrayal of relationships in a different context. Two examples are given below.
I was very conscious of the 12 image limit placed on the Assignment and I rejected a considerable number of possible images in order to keep within this limit and also to maintain the integrity of the series. I hope that this has been successful.
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