Print Size Test

It’s almost assessment time and I have been thinking a while about the size of my A2 prints were I to have a choice on presentation. My experimentation has been limited to the size of paper that my Canon Pro-100 can take – that limit being A3+ (13 x 19 inches). So like my experiment for A1, I have taken one image to use as a sample and quartered it in Photoshop. I have then resampled and printed each quarter on A3+ paper, so technically I now have an image that is 26 x 38 inches.

I decided this time to tape the pieces to my bedroom wall and try and line up the segments and photograph the finished item. I found I had a slight overlap by one or two millimetres on one image, but for experimental purposes it conveys the idea, so I’m not going to worry too much about that. I took another image from A2 which I had printed off quite a while back on A3+ and placed that below the collaged image for scale purposes. I also included part of the door to the side of the images for added scale reference. Yes, I know my picture is slightly skew, but its rather difficult to straighten something that has tape on the back. It was also a little difficult to align the inside vertical edges as there was no border on those edges, so you can see the vertical line in places. Nevertheless, I think this experiment does convey the idea of size well enough. In a perfect world I think I would present them a little bigger – perhaps 4 or 5 feet wide. The details in the photograph are far more enhanced by the size and this allows the viewer to really look into the scene in greater depth.

Some Peer Feedback

I have done an edit from the photos I’ve taken for this assignment and came up with a final 12. I still need to pare this down to 8 images. Based on various feedback that I have received from the Documentary Hangouts and the Rest of the World hangouts, and my own gut instinct, I have decided to present the images in colour. I created a B&W image of each photograph that I was contemplating submitting, but apart from the landscape deforestation image, the colour images definitely have more impact and deliver a strong visual message. So colour it is.

I had emailed the Rest of World group and Anna from the Documentary group with my final set of 12 images and asked for some feedback. I hadn’t sequenced my images, nor did I present any context, as they were all familiar with my basic premise (from previous hangouts) but were not sure of the angle I would be taking. I purposely didn’t provide this information as I wanted their unbiased feedback.

Contacts 1

Contacts 2

Mark had to look up the meaning of Anthropocene on Wikipedia before he commented. He indicated that he was “looking for examples of recent (whatever that means) change to the rural landscape” and commented that I had achieved that.  He suggested a sequence and provided me with a narrative as he saw it: “Narrative is … man has degraded the natural landscape (I recall you may have said that forests such as those in images 1 – 4 are native in Canada) and then cleared and created a man-made landscape (5-6) before dumping the waste paraphernalia associated with that activity (7) and nature re-stablishes and covers the degradation again….”. He also made a connection between the photograph of a highway under construction and the car graveyard.

Anna mentioned that when she was looking at my images she started playing with the idea of archiving and cataloguing, which is what I am aiming for. I think she has just expressed it better and made me realise this is what I have been doing. Might have to reread my notes on Allan Sekula as she suggests.  She mentioned that my perspective is quite unique as I’m showing the details from a passerby’s perspective.

Alan suggested not defending ‘rural anthropocene’ (I wasn’t planning on doing so) and referred to Burtynsky’s work here stating that the anthropocene era was where humans are making the biggest or irreversible changes to the plant. He preferred the images that show definite scars on the environment, than piles of refuse as he felt that these sites could be remediated, and mentioned his favourite images in the set.

Many thanks to my Anna, Mark and Alan for providing some speedy feedback. Much appreciated guys!

Documentary Hangout – 18 July, 2019

Only Anna and myself made the hangout this time. We are both hoping that a few more students will sign up for documentary and join us after August as we both feel that having a course-specific hangout is very beneficial. I feel it tends to concentrate the thought processes a little more.

I had uploaded a few images for Assignment 2 which is very much a WIP at the moment and I just wanted some initial feedback regarding colour and B&W presentation. Anna promised to look at the images later in the week and she then provided me with some written feedback which I sincerely appreciate. Thanks Anna! She encouraged me to go ahead with my idea as the images made her want to find out more about this place that I had photographed (in reality it was about 4 places that I had photographed, but the majority of the images I had uploaded came from the one place). Her feedback from a viewer’s point of view was that colour was the way to go as there was more information she could extract from the images in this way than the B&W set and that ties in with my gut instinct too. She suggested looking at Edward Burtynsky’s work (check), and also Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines. My tutor had also suggested Crewdson’s work when I first mentioned this idea to her and I’m beginning to think that it must be the uncannyness of the setting that is chiming with Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines, so I’ll definitely have another look at that. The work of Mitch Epstein, Jonas Bendiksen and Edith Roux also triggered a connection in Anna’s mind when looking at my work and with regards to the B&W images the landscapes of Toshio Shibata. So plenty to research for me.

Anna chatted about her move to level 3 and possible tutor choices and the process around this. She will have a better idea once she has had a chat with the programme coordinator. Apart from that she is busy wrapping up her work for the next assessment.

I will send out a blanket email to all documentary students in mid August and hopefully we can interest any newcomers to join our hangout sessions. Next session to be in September, date still to be confirmed.

Some More Experimenting with B&W

I am quite enjoying experimenting with B&W conversion and have watched a few more videos on the subject. They all follow pretty much the same technique with a few slight variations. Some convert to B&W first and then begin the processing, others process the colour image completely and then convert to B&W and process further, and others advise applying an HDR effect with highlights and shadows and then setting white and black points. So I’ll experiment with these techniques and see which works, but I have a suspicion that the technique will probably depend on the actual image itself as to which technique lends itself to a more successful conversion.

A few more images that I’m playing with are below.

Discarded mattresses awaiting transport to landfill

I like the B&W of the mattress image. The mattresses form structural elements which works well in B&W and the corrugated shed also echoes these elements. The dark sky with the white clouds also adds an interesting element to the image. I should probably experiment a little more to see how far I can darken the skin.

Collection of fluorescent lighting tubes

Both the colour and B&W work for the fluorescent lighting tubes. The B&W emphasises the form of the tubes and seems to concentrate the viewer’s gaze on the tubes as there is no distracting colour elements to pull the gaze away from the subject.

Plastic PVC plumbing pipes

I’m a little ambivalent about which version works best. I think I’m leaning more towards the colour on this one. There doesn’t seem to be enough contrasting elements in the B&W version. Although the lighting tubes and the plumbing pipes might make an interesting juxtaposition with their dark/light elements. I’ll leave that decision to when I make my final edits.

Oil drums

There are enough contrasting as well as structural elements to work in favour of the B&W image. Like the lighting tube image above the lack of colour focuses the viewer’s gaze onto the oil drums. I have to say that I find it deplorable that people just dump these drums on the edge of the forest.

Tyres

The colour image works better for me here. There isn’t a huge tonal range in the B&W.

Abandoned trucks and cars

Same for this image. The darker vehicles seem to blend too much with the forest. I think it would have been more interesting if I had been able to include more sky in the image.

Propane tanks

I prefer the colour image personally, but I think the B&W also works as the distracting red and blue elements are gone and the focus is on the propane tanks.

I need to get out and see if I can find more images on the highway construction and the deforestation themes. Hopefully I can find a few more strange “collections”.

Research point: Semiotics

We are asked to do our own research into semiotics and how it can be applied to the reading of photographic images. We are to start by reading Ch 4 (Narrative) and 5 (signs and Symbols) in Short, M. (2011) Creative Photography: Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA Publishing.

Short’s Narrative chapter deals with the various methods of delivering a narrative. Traditionally a narrative has a beginning, middle and conclusion, as we are all taught when learning how to write a composition in school. But a photographic narrative does not necessarily have to follow this format. It does not have to be linear, but can be cyclical, or contained within a single image or it can create cross references when brought into the context of other images. The linear narrative allows the photographer to use the images as a visual metaphor and allows for a broad interpretation. Examples of these are seen in Picture Post and Life’s photo essays.

When considering how to structure a photographic narrative one must consider if one wants to maintain control over how the images are viewed, i.e. the order, prominence, is there an identified sequence. Size and shape of the image also play an important role in creating a visual punctuation. This is something that I tried in Assignment 1 with the placement of my vertical images among the horizontal images. I found that a fairly equidistant placement provided a certain rhyme and flow to that narrative. Producing work in triptych or diptych sets or juxtapositioning images, and the position of the camera can also help to create tension or provide an argument to the work.

When we look at the narrative within a single image, we look at all the parts of that image from the framing, composition, negative space, subject placement and then deconstruct the image in order to find the what, how and why of the narrative within the frame. It is important to be aware of narrative devices and to be clear about one’s intentions. Short states: ‘the aim of narrative technique is to provide or anchor meaning and coherence for the image and its audience’ (Short, 2011: 109). Single images, especially in photojournalism, are often extracted from a larger body of work, as seen below the aftermath of a Japanese attack at South Station in Shanghai in 1937. Wong’s photograph was instrumental in persuading the USA, Britain and France to protest against Japan’s actions and helped to change Western sentiments in favour of taking part in WWII.

Bloody Sunday, 1937 by H.S. Wong

Such images can also ‘convey the absolute essence of the intention behind the picture by capturing the vital aspects of the moment, person, event or idea’ (Short, 2011: 110). In this way single photojournalism images have entered the art world.

A quick summary of the semiotics that Short mentions in chapter 5 of her book are:

  • (Saussurean concepts – a dyadic model)
    • a signifier – the form which the sign takes
    • the signified – the concept it represents
  • (Peirce’s triadic model)
    • the representamen – the form that the sign takes
    • an interpretant – the sense made of the sign
    • an object – to which the sign refers
  • (Barthesan concepts)
    • studium – a general understanding of the photographer’s intentions and general interest the viewer takes of the photograph
    • punctum – something in the photograph that arrests one’s attention, something that causes one to do a double take

The signifier can take on different forms, according to Peirce:

  • symbol – the signifier is something quite arbitrary and does not resemble the signified. The relationship between signifier and signified must be learned, e.g. languages, national flags, morse code, alphabet.
  • icon – the signifier is perceived as resembling the signified, e.g. a portrait, cartoon, metaphors.
  • index – the signifier is directly linked to the signified in some way (physically or causally) and can be discerned either by observation or inference, e.g. foot impressions in the sand indicates footsteps, smoke is indicative of heat or fire, a rash on someone’s face is indicative of illness.

It is important to be aware of potential symbols or icons when taking an image or curating one’s work as we should be cognizant of the function of the semiotics within our work and whether the audience need to have special knowledge to interpret our work.

During the Context and Narrative, Identity and Place and Landscape modules I did quite a bit of research into semiotics:

 

Bibliography

Chandler, D. (s.d.) Semiotics for Beginners. At: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/ (Accessed on 24 June 2019)

Short, M. (2011) ‘Narrative’ In: Creative Photography: Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA Publishing.  pp.96–119.

Short, M. (2011b) ‘Signs and Symbols’ In: Creative Photography: Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA Publishing.  pp.120–141.

Image

Wong, H.S. (1937) Bloody Saturday | 100 Photographs | The Most Influential Images of All Time. At: http://100photos.time.com/photos/hs-wong-bloody-saturday (Accessed on 24 June 2019)

Some initial thoughts after first shoot

I went out on my first shoot for Assignment 2 on Friday. I have a few ideas playing around in my head regarding the track I want to take to represent rural anthropocene. I’m planning on focusing on the way man is changing the landscape (but not in a good way). I first came across my one location in the forest last year when I was shooting for Landscape’s assignment 3. It’s a dirt road leading into the forest which just a dead end as I discovered. But at the end of the dead end is a car graveyard – at least that is what it was last year. There were approximately 20 – 30 cars lining the sides of the road obviously been disposed of there and they had been there for quite some time. When I returned to this location on Friday I was amazed to find that this graveyard had increased drastically in size and not only cars were dumped there but hospital equipment, building supplies, oil drums, lighting … pretty much anything you can think of was there. My tutor had mentioned to me to see what collections I could find and there were quite a few on had at this location. I’m still processing my photos, but want to put up a few images for comparison purposes as I’m not sure whether I will present this set of images in B&W or colour.

Car graveyard establishing shot

I am rather ambivalent about which of these images works best. There is something I like about each version. The pops of colour among all the greenery tends to lead one’s eye criss-crossing along the road, while the B&W emphasises the compositional elements of line and leads the eye straight down the middle of the road. I think I have managed to create different tonal values for all the greenery in the B&W version

Highway construction

Another theme of the anthropocene that I’m exploring is the highway expansion project. The Trans-Canada Highway which runs from the west coast all the way to the east coast across the country is under expansion and there are plans in British Columbia to expand the size of this highway to four lanes all the way to the next province, Alberta. The photo above is of this expansion, where they are creating a new bridge into Salmon Arm as part of the project. I took this photo while driving past (I was the passenger) and while it does convey the huge swath of vegetation that has been removed to make way for the new road, I’m too far away from the construction action for any impact. I’ll see if I can actually find a place to stop on the side of the highway and get a better angle next time I’m in town. Neither of these images are working for me right now.

Deforestation 1

Another theme of the anthropocene that I wanted to explore was deforestation and I was sad to see that the forest near to the car graveyard has been clearcut recently. It seems that it has been selectively clearcut leaving mainly birch trees in place, but it is still quite a devastating sight to behold as it used to be a very lush area. I think the B&W deforestation images definitely work better as B&W as they convey more drama and there is an uncanny, surreal feel to them. The remaining trees stand like sentry spectres guarding the remains of their fellow arboreal brothers. There is greater tonal value in these images and the sky has lots of detail making it an interesting backdrop. I still need to play around with darkening the sky – not sure how far down to take it yet, but I do like the lighter sky in the image below as the trees stand out better against it.

Deforestation 2

What I have realised is that the post-processing process for B&W is more intensive and quite different to processing colour images. Definitely more labour intensive, but I suppose that once I get the hang of it, it will probably become easier and quicker. For some reason I keep thinking about Sebastião Salgado’s work and Don McCullin’s landscapes when looking at my deforestation images. I have a certain image in my head that I think belongs to one of them, but for the life of me I can’t find it. It may be an image I saw on a documentary. Either way both those photographers will be good references if I take this project down that route.

So I have a few more themes/directions to play with and I’ll leave the project open to see which way it takes me as I work through what I have photographed so far and any new work I make.

Bibliography

Präkel, D. (2009) Basics Photography: Working in Black and White. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.

Initial idea for Assignment 2

We are advised to think about a concept instead of a theme or activity for this assignment and after some thought I may tackle the concept of abandonment. I can foresee that semiotics will play a role in this choice of subject as I will be approaching it from a metaphorical basis. This topic will probably work well in B&W, but I shall check with my tutor.

Untitled (c) 2017 Lynda Kuit

I will come back to this post if I have any other ideas.

Update (12 June, 2019)

After some more thought about Assignment 2, I am leaning more towards doing a project about the Anthropocene, specifically in the rural areas. I think there is more scope and material to achieve strong stand alone images in such a project. There are a host of different scenarios that I can draw from e.g. landfills, logging, road construction to name just a few. Unfortunately I don’t have a drone so will not be able to do any Edward Burtynsky-type aerial views, but I don’t think that is necessary to convey the idea of the human-altered landscape and the age of humans. I’ll run this idea by my tutor when I have my next video chat with her.