Here are a few rough ideas for my final images. The project has developed into a series of images, which display severed body parts. This takes inspiration from typical images of the illegal animal and bushmeat trades, which I aim to highlight in this series titled ‘If They Were Human’. You can see research images on this subject on my Pinterest moodboard.
The assignment brief required us to create a scene, which would be photographed twice using different lighting for each image. The challenge was to change the mood, and therefore, meaning conveyed purely with the use of lighting.
The image I chose to construct was that of a large knife on a kitchen table with a few spots of water on the blade – an image, which would offer vastly differing narratives dependent on the lighting used. Below you can see the first image – the well-lit, clean, commercial product shot.
I lit this using two diffused flashes with make-shift softboxes, one beneath camera and the other behind and to the right of the subject. You can see better how this was set-up in the diagram below.
As I have already mentioned, I feel that the result achieved is one akin to a typical still-life / product / stock image. The lighting is even and soft, giving pleasing shadows and good focus to the subject.
In its second form, the feel of the image is altered entirely. Instantly, the red colour and sinister lighting conveys a sense of evil, and in this particular image, murder.
This image was lit using one flash with a red gel and a long semi-opaque snoot to focus the light around the knife, whilst still allowing some ambient fill light.
By lighting the image in this way, the atmosphere shifts to convey a dark, sinister mood. Low-key lighting and long shadows (techniques we often see used in horror films) cast by the blade of the knife create a look we associate with wicked and evil circumstances, and this changes the tone of the scene entirely.
This assignment required us to create an art direction concept and a final constructed image. We did this by collating a set of images, which would act as a moodboard and help to inspire us in creating our concept. We then came up with an idea and storyboard, which set out exactly how the finished image would look, before finally creating and photographing the scene.
The initial idea I had come up with was simply ‘mouldy food’, but photographed in a way that is common in typical food photography, i.e. well-presented, clean, attractive, simple, subject-focused. My moodboard (below) features a selection of images portraying different food in this way. However, I have also included some images of mouldy food, including several by artist Klaus Pichler, whose work relates particularly well to my final image.
After researching statistics on food wastage in the UK, and finding that an astonishing 32% of all purchased bread is wasted, but before storyboarding my image, I played around with angles and lighting set-ups to figure out what was achievable, but would also provide the best results. From my findings, I finalised the image concept and sketched it out as the below storyboard.
Clearly the final image changed slightly due to what worked best in post-production. The final image is constructed from two images – one of very mouldy bread, and the other of the ideal bread shape. A lot of Photoshop work went in to achieving a seamless cohesion between the two, especially in the area of the ‘32%’, which appears on the right of the cut bread.
Today’s class was based around art direction, storyboarding and image creation. We looked at the differing styles of several photographers / artists, including Ian McKinnel, Anders & Low, Sam Faulkner and Franz Pagot. Of the artists we looked at, I was particularly taken by Sam Faulkner’s photographic project named Eagle Hunters, which is a series of wonderfully crisp portraits of Kazakh people from Nura, who hunt for sport with huge birds of prey. The photographer has clearly found an extraordinary subject to focus on, which presented a solid photographic project.
During the class we were set a new photo assignment, which tasks us with taking inspiration from our mood board, creating an art direction concept, visualising and storyboarding an image, and then photographing that image with any necessary props. I have decided to create a still life image inspired by Klaus Pichler’s One Third series, which highlights the problem of food waste in modern society. At this point in time I intend to create an image featuring mouldy food in a similar fashion, but with a human element involved, which will highlight the issue of poverty and starvation, as well as food waste. This human element may be presented simply in the form of a hand reaching for the food, as I do not want to draw attention away from the rotting food entirely. However, I will continue to add to my mood board and formulate a strong concept, which allows me to tackle the issue with clarity.
Following on from art direction, styling is a key component in what makes editorial photography tick. A stylist will take the brief, and any ideas or inspiration, which need to be incorporated into the desired final images and come up with a ‘look’ for models. A good stylist will have a keen eye for detail, exhaustive knowledge of the fashion industry and be at the forefront of what is new, unique and visually exciting.
A stylist is another important set of creative eyes, who can add a lot to the process of creating a quality editorial photograph. Depending on the requirements of my project, I will be looking at implementing the creative input of a stylist or some of the techniques a stylist would use. I will do this by researching relevant fashion trends.
Joel-Peter Witkin is an American photographer whose images conjure feelings of unease due to their graphic nature. They often contain scenes of nudity, torture, death, disfiguration and other unsettling scenes – basically, weird shit, like the pictures below.
…..he also seems to be a big fan of bestiality by the look of things.
There’s almost a reasonable explanation for Joel-Peter’s distinctive style, too. Here, he describes a shocking series of events, which took place when he was just a small child:
“It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother’s hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it — but before I could touch it someone carried me away”
An incident such as this would warp the mind of anybody. Obviously the sight of a sheared skull stuck with Joel-Peter, inspiring his artistic direction. He also spent time as a war photographer in Vietnam, which would undoubtedly have had influenced his raw, almost emotionless, gruesome creations.
I feel the art direction in Joel-Peter’s images is heavily inspired by the early Daguerreotype and Ambrotype image-creating techniques. A first-time viewer could easily mistake any of the artist’s images as something straight out of the late 1800s / early 1900s, with his style being very similar to portraits from that era, particularly the ‘Storyville’ prostitue photos of E.J. Bellocq (below).
Considering the technology and fashion during Bellocq’s time, as well as the obvious wear on remaining glass negatives, we can understand why his images would look like the one above. We can assume, however, that Witkin sets out with the aim of creating this look and feel even down to the scratches and damage (as below).
Working solely in the contrast-heavy world of black and white presents Witkin with a certain set of boundaries, which he clearly revels in. Contrasting dark backgrounds with pale white flesh helps his strange characters jump out of their images far more than if they were to be displayed in colour or against lighter backgrounds. This adds a certain subtle shock value to his images as our eye is immediately drawn to the uneasy centralised figure.
For me, Joel-Peter Witkin’s art direction is all about the beautiful 1800s freak show. By tackling modern taboos with a classic atmosphere he challenges the viewer and himself in each and every image. No matter how obscure the subject, it is undeniable that he has created a unique concept and narrative which runs throughout all of his images. The more you delve into his images, the more they draw you in as a fascinated spectator – much like those at the freak shows I feel he is aiming to celebrate.
Art direction was the topic of today’s class, and we began by examining what exactly the term means. Art direction, in the context of photography, is how a creative concept or idea is applied and communicated visually in an image.
I feel that art direction and concept can be a difficult thing to get right. The meaning and ideas an image can conjure are often open to the viewers interpretation. Items of clothing, make-up styles, props and settings can trigger different feelings and emotions for different people and so a strong sense of art direction is important, especially if the concept creator wishes for their point of view to be seen as it was intended to be.
We looked at Cindy Sherman’s ‘untitled film stills’ as well as interviews with Paolo Roversi (about his particular style and series ‘Nudi‘) and Gregory Crewdson, who constructs elaborate melancholic scenes of American suburbia, like in his series ‘Beneath the Roses‘. I’m a big fan of Gregory Crewdson’s work and find the fact that he often creates an entire scene, much like a film set, particularly impressive. His use of lighting is often key to his art direction and is crucial to the eerie ambiance apparent in his images. Another photographer who uses light to create similar suburban scenes is Philip Lorca diCorcia – a photographer who I am looking at in respect to my final project for this module.
Today was the first Editorial Photography session of the year, so we were given a brief overview of the module and what we will be covering – constructed vs observational photography, art concepts, styling and post production. The main emphasis in the module appears to be photography image construction and the theory needed. I am looking forward to being able to create some unique and interesting images, with which I’ll be able to challenge myself.
The lesson focused on the differences between observational and constructed images – a subject which I feel is difficult to define absolutely, as it seems the distinction between the two is easily confused when scrutinised. We agreed as a group that the characteristics of a stills camera (cropped frame, soundless, still image) would always act as limiting factors in portraying the complete truth. An observational image will only ever be a snippet of what could have been experienced by the photographer, so it is only really their vision which we are able to experience. Despite this, I understand the differences between the two definitions. I believe the intent to create is key, so learning about artistic concepts and direction during next week’s class should bring more to the argument.