I will discuss the ideas and influences behind assignment 5 elsewhere but with the shoot only a week away it is time to collect the shoot plan together in one place. I have already discussed the selection of the shoot location (here) settling on using the ruins of Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian Abbey in Britain and the inspiration for Walter Scott’s novel of the same name.
The intent is to create a single tableaux image using models, costumes, props and a staged location. The narrative will be highly dependent on pose and gesture but to allow a narrative to flow through the image I intend to use the same models or actresses three times and to create the final picture by combining at least three original photographs.
As shown in fig. 01 the stage will be the interior of the most complete structure left on the site. This has the very practical advantage of being one of only two surviving roofed spaces in the Abbey which will allow us to work regardless of weather conditions.
Quite simple flow from back left to front right crossing the dividing line created by the pillar:
- Stage 1 – the two actress / models will be entering the space – gesture and expression will be one of trepidation.
- Stage 2 – one actress / model standing and one kneeling and looking towards the hooded person to the right of the pillar – gesture and expression to be asking, pleading, petitioning, supplication.
- Stage 3 – the hooded figure – monk-like – arms / hands should probably be towards the supplicants
- Stage 4 – the two actress / models seated in conversation – relaxed, relieved, saved.
Both actress / models will wear a simple scarf to cover most of their hair for all of the three groupings.
This is intended to give a sense of “otherness” without becoming a racial or religious stereotype. (see fig 03)
There needs to be a change in costume between group 1 and group 3.
Fig 02 – the left hand women shows the ideal type of costume for stage 1 and 2 – simple head scarf, long dress and some sort of long shawl. This should not be exaggerated as especially middle Eastern or muslim.
By the time we reach stage 4 there will be a distinct shift in clothing style to being more obviously “Western”. The head scarf is retained as a symbol of inherited identity but the rest of the dress needs to be be more generically young British women. (see fig. 08)
Stage 1 – the women climbing in through / outside the window
Fig.03 shows the general pose, there must be a sense of “breaking in”, entering a prohibited space, the facial expression must be worried, questioning; the body language tense.
For the second women in this group there are two options.
My preferred choice is a face at the second window in the mode of the Steve McCurry photograph at fig. 04 above but I am concerned this might be lost in the scale on the photograph.
The alternative would be for the second woman to be already through the window and on the floor – a cat like pose is an option (as long as it is in no way sexy) or to be crouched in fear as per fig. 05.
The actress / model will be wearing a long dress at this stage so it night be possible to adopt a cat like pose without any cat women connotations.
Moving on to Stage 2 – one actress / model standing and one kneeling as per fig. 06.
The standing women needs to be looking at the hooded man. Two hands outstretched will probably be too much but one hand outstretched might work.
The kneeling women should be looking down – I want a sense of her eyes being averted – a position of submission to symbolise the need for a migrant to demean themselves to gain entry.
The hooded person must be faceless. there must be no light falling on the face – a black void under the hood.
They must represent a “faceless” authority figure. A monk like bureaucrat.
In stage 4 there must be a distant change in gesture and costume. Throughout the research I have had Fig 08 in mind. Nearly everything is right about this painting. the type of dresses, demure but modern and shapely, the shoes open toed but without over-high heels, the dress low cut but not revealing and in bright pastel colours.
There needs to be a sense of the women having changed their outward appearance but not rejected their original identity. The pose is close to right – I am looking for sad / happy – they have left a life behind, maybe left relatives and friends but now they feel safe.
- Candles – to symbolise both the brevity of life and the church-like setting
- An closed bird cage near or in the hands of a women in stage 1 to symbolise entrapment
- An open bird cage on the floor near stage 4 to symbolise freedom
- A skull/s on the floor near the stage 1 starting point to symbolise death / not all migrants arrive safely – this might work well if we use the crouching woman
- White sheets (table cloths) to place under actress / models in stage 4
- Speed lights, soft boxes and grids
- Ideally the interior will be fairly dark as the plan is to work in late afternoon to early evening
- Strong contrast between lit subjects and dark backgrounds
- Each of the 4 subjects groups will be lit independently as they are photographed but I want to keep the lights outside of the frame to make the process of merging the images easier.
- Stage 1 – Trepidation – 1 x light from window to the left and 1 x light outside
- Stage 2 – Supplication – 1 x light from front
- Stage 3 – The hooded person – this needs to be tested on site. Front lighting might give this person too much definition – they need to be a shadowy and ambiguous figure so I want to test back lighting from the window or from above. It is possible that “he” is not lit at all.
- Stage 4 -Salvation – 1 x light from 45 degrees and the possibility of another light from outside – this back lighting might better symbolise the end of a journey, being in a better place.
- If I include the fire place it needs to be lit either by an unexplained light or candles.
This is going to include a lot of trial and error ! My opening thoughts are:
- Set out props
- Position camera and tripod
- Rehearse each stage and set lights in best positions to light each one
- Photograph the set without any actress / models with and without lights so I have an empty set-only original of each extreme
- Test whether it is feasible to light the right hand side of the pillar more strongly than the left.
- Test whether to back light or front light the hooded man
- Test whether it is practical to have a speed light with a grid (to make it directional) coming down through the hole in the roof – if it is, then this might be the best way to light the monk
- Move actress / models through each stage photographing them in turn
- Repeat the process two or three times as the light outside fades
- Take photographs of each stage of the process with a separate hand-held camera