One of the biggest challenges I have faced throughout this course (as I begin to look at the professional presentational aspects of photography more seriously) has been accuracy in printing colours and tones. It has been an absolute minefield, although I have taken steps to try and get the best results that I can with the equipment that I have.
My tutor gave me some excellent feedback on my last assignment, to point me in the right direction (which I have taken ‘on board’), but I decided to take it a step further, in order to ensure my prints were of a quality and standard that I would be happy with for my final exhibition (and final assignment submission).
I use an iMac (or MacBook) computer, attached to a HP B9180 Pro printer for all my prints. I have recently calibrated the monitor using a Spyder 3 Pro. The paper that I normally use is ‘Lyson Archival Quality Pro Photo Gloss’ (265 gsm), which was chosen some time ago after some experimentation using a variety of different papers from different manufacturers (Canon, Kodak and some lesser known makes). This has always given me good results, with the exception (as has been pointed out by my tutor) that there is a slight lack of ‘deep’ black (although this has often been overcome by tweaking the ‘blacks’ slider in my Camera Raw software).
As I am using a HP printer, I thought it might be beneficial to use HP paper, especially with the inbuilt printer/paper profiles available with the B9180 Pro. I therefore took a single photograph and printed it using the following papers (which I obtained in small index sheets from the Photo Plus Show at the NEC last year) (some of which were specialist papers, for the sake of experimentation):
HP Professional Semi-Gloss Contract Proofing Paper (235 gsm)
HP Hahmemuhle Watercolour Paper (210 gsm)
HP Aquarella Art Paper (240 gsm)
HP Artist Matte Canvas (380 gsm)
HP Premium Semi-Gloss Proofing Paper (240 gsm)
HP Everyday Pigment Ink Gloss Photo Paper (235 gsm)
HP Professional High-Gloss Contract Proofing Paper (200 gsm)
HP Hahnemuhle Smooth Fine Art Paper (265 gsm)
HP Professional Matte Canvas (430 gsm)
HP Universal Instant-Dry Gloss Photo Paper (190 gsm)
HP Advanced Glossy Photo Paper (250 gsm)
HP Premium Plus Gloss Photo Paper (286 gsm)
HP RC Matte Photo Paper (200 gsm)
HP Professional Satin Photo Paper (300 gsm)
HP Premium Instant-Dry Gloss Photo Paper (260 gsm)
HP Premium Matte Photo Paper (210 gsm)
HP Premium Vivid Colour Backlit Film (285 gsm)
I also experimented with another manufacturer’s paper, printing on the same paper but using two different printer profiles:
Ilford Premium Satin Inkjet Photo Paper (250 gsm) – printed using (1) HP Premium Satin Profile, and (2) using Other Inkjet Paper Profile.What struck me was the incredible variation in both print quality and tonal range. I was very disappointed with all the Matte papers, the colours and tones within which I felt were very subdued. The speciality papers I also found very disappointing, although the HP Artist Matte Canvas gave quite an interesting finish (although unsuitable for the intentions of this project). Despite the wide variation in brightness and contrast, I felt that the best results came from the Satin and Gloss papers, with the Ilford Premium Satin (printed using the Satin profile) giving me the most satisfactory results.
I received my feedback for Assignment 4 a few days back, and am (once again) really pleased with the feedback. It’s extremely useful getting constructive criticism in order to propel me into new ways of thinking (or simply to encourage me to pursue avenues that I have only ‘dipped my toe’ into). I have been working hard to try and ‘define’ what my project is about, and through experimentation and tutorial guidance, I have honed it into something that I now feel passionate about.
Despite my deep interest in photojournalism, I have become more and more absorbed in the ‘fine art’ side of photography (not least of which because of the theoretical studies that I have done on the course), and this has really focused my final project. What started out as a very generic idea – ‘Workers’ – which was to be done in a photojournalistic style, has been modified and changed into an artistic ‘idea’ of marrying poetry (in a written sense, through the means of the haiku) with a ‘syllabic’ photographic interpretation of the poem. Through this method, I am hoping to portray the ambiguous nature of warfare, with its multitude of meanings and feelings for those involved (both directly and indirectly) by photographing those whose work will (and has) brought them into contact with it. The uniform they wear (camouflage material, known as DPM: Disrupted Pattern Material) is symbolic of warfare, but this in itself is ambiguous; the very nature of camouflage is to make it appear as something different. I have tried to display both the ‘blending’ (and almost ‘dreamlike’) nature of camouflage, but also the strangeness that camouflage can bring to a scene, when worn within a manufactured environment.
My photographs are therefore meant to provoke discussion, and encourage interpretation of meaning within the viewer, whatever that may be. My tutor has (throughout the course) encouraged me to let my images tell their own story, rather than me forcing the point to the viewer, and I hope I have managed to achieve this in my final selection of work. All images are captured moments, but I have included both sharp, intimate detail, interspersed with ghostlike patterns strewn across the frame by the use of long exposures and movement.
The ‘Haiku’ is a poetic form (originated in Japan) that has 17 syllables (5, 7, 5 over 3 lines). The images for my final ‘exhibition’ were therefore chosen to represent a single syllable (the metric as opposed to the actual word) within the poem (and would therefore be hung with 5 images in the top row, 7 in the middle, and 5 images on the bottom row). The poem is written below:
In our dreams we wade
Through a sea of camouflage
Slipping and sliding
I have recently come back from a trip to Cuba, which was a truly fascinating experience. Havana especially was remarkable, but I have to confess that I didn't feel quite the way I had expected about it. Friends who had been there were hugely complementary of the atmosphere and the culture, but my experiences of the city were quite different. I spent 4 days photographing various elements of the city, including the people, the buildings, the cars (very cliched, I know) and for a while I couldn't quite put a finger on why I felt a certain negativity, until I happened upon a scene outside an old cinema that had the title 'Elegy' written on the hoarding, with a man sweeping up below it. That was it! The city felt like an elegy; a lament for the dead. It seemed to me as though Havana was in mourning; the buildings crumbling, the cars coughing and spluttering and the people repressed and desperate for air, for life. I may be wrong, and as a tourist it is so difficult to see beneath the surface, but Havana felt like its soul had been taken and it was waiting (longing) for happiness to arrive.
After all the reading I have been doing of late, I have been reflecting upon the focus of my Major Project for my OCA course. At the start of my course, when I first introduced the idea of doing my project on 'Workers', my tutor said that I may need to refine it, and he was undoubtedly right. This has been reiterated in the advice I received during my portfolio review, and was a major theme coming out of David Hurn's book - the need to be specific, with strong subject matter.
- On selecting a subject ask yourself:
- Is it visual?
- Is it practical?
- Do I know enough about it?
- Is it interesting to others?
- I need to put my own visual stamp on my work (although without thought of self - let the subject speak freely and style will develop).
- The subject needs to be continually accessible.
- The subject needs to be as specific as possible.
- Subject matter is everything - don't need visual 'pyrotechnics' with a great subject.
- Decide on position and timing, and analyse contact sheets for the way you work.
- Keep focusing in on the subject with subtle changes.
- Always reach for your goal (the perfect image), even if it is rarely achieved.
- When composing a picture, keep an eye on the main element, and then choose 2 or 3 sub-elements by position and timing.
- KNOW what you are looking for; don't leave it to guesswork.
- Good design is essential when its purpose is the clear projection of the subject matter. Design is secondary; the first priority must be to reveal the subject.
- There is no such thing as a picture being 'too good' - the photographer's aim is to create beautiful pictures, of any and all subject matter.
- The making of a perfect contact sheet is essential. One of the best learning methods is to ruthlessly examine contact sheets and analyse the reasons why shots were taken.
- Photography demands a lot of work before and after shooting.
- Photography is learned by continuous and dedicated (DIRECTED) practice.
- On shooting a picture essay:
- Visit and absorb without a camera (or use purely for reference shots).
- Write down images you need to complete the project (what are your impressions?).
- Go back and attempt to shoot the images (once you have captured the image you want, tick it off and don't continue to waste time photographing it).
- Don't be afraid of tackling difficult subjects.
- Shoot outside the list if things come up, but then return to the list.
- Know when you have finished.
- A 7-picture essay equals (for David Hurn) about 720-1000 shots taken.
- 1 exhibition-quality image will be taken per 3600 shots (100 films).
- It is important to have the right equipment for the purpose at hand and for the personality of the photographer.
- All the technical decisions in photography should be so thoughtless that the act of shooting pictures is solely concentrated on the image in the viewfinder.
- Truth is like a photograph in which thousands of different shades from black to white, and including both extremes, were necessary for full revelation.
- Web displays need to have purpose, ideas, linking themes and cohesion.
I went to one of the most enlightening evenings of my life today; a presentation of the work of Reza, who was at the Frontline Club to discuss his book ‘War and Peace’. After having had an excellent Portfolio Review at the foto8 offices this afternoon, it topped off a pretty fabulous day.
Reza’s work spans some of the most poignant moments of the 20th (and, indeed, the 21st) Century and is remarkable in both its breadth and quality; not surprising from a man whom National Geographic celebrated on film as one of the men in the world today capable of changing the way that lives are led. Of all his work, I find his images of children and the dignity and hope he portrays within their faces the most satisfying. Reza commented that within children he sees the possibility of change, and in some small way this is the same reason that I have taken many images of children throughout my own work around the world. I love their interest, fascination and the lack of social ‘fear’ that is often so ever-present within adults. Their minds are still free of restraint and open to the possibility of change, and you can see it their eyes.
Reza’s work with AINA is to be admired and is a lesson for us all in raising awareness for those who cannot do it by themselves. He has changed people’s lives in a way that most individuals cannot ever hope to replicate. And he does this with intense modesty. He is truly one of the most inspirational characters I have ever met.
When asked what advice he would give to aspiring photojournalists, Reza answered that one must be passionate, true and to ‘never sell your soul to the devil’. In all the successful people I have met, whatever their line of work, these qualities are present; passion above all. This message came through to me throughout my Portfolio Review as well, about ‘having heart and vision’, and is a real message for the future.
It really has been a life-changing day!
The exhibition gave me a fascinating insight into the Constructivist movement and because it spanned the whole range of Rodchenko's work (as well as Liubov Popova and others, such as Varvara Stepanova (Rodchenko's wife)) it allowed me to place his photography into greater context; showing how his photographic ideas grew out of his experiments with painting/drawing, and his ideas on art, politics and the societal movements that were happening around him. I found his 'mechanical' ideals of artistic construction fascinating, allowing me to compare these constructions to some of the Gestalt theories of image construction/composition that I had studied within my first assignment for this course. Over the past few months I have found myself venturing into more creative, thought-provoking artistic pieces to explore ideas and concepts - mixing photographic media with drawing and other mixed media. This is an area that I will be exploring further; I have a documentary project in mind that will explore parental relationships with their children, which will be developed through photography, drawing, sound and poetry.
All in all, the exhibition allowed me to put an added dimension to the ideas that I had explored through the American Modernist photographers and has inspired me to challenge myself yet further into new areas of project development.