Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
This project called for competency in three technical areas.
Design & Composition – To design and compose a staged photograph on paper in advance of a shoot was a new experience and I was pleased to be able to carry the design and composition through to the final piece without significant deviation. I am satisfied with the composition but there are some obvious flaws. For example, the bones in the foreground are potentially too obvious and as a result the space to the front left is not used effectively. The positioning and lighting of the authority figure in relation to the dark tree line could have been improved upon during the shoot.
Photography & Lighting – I chose to use a 14mm lens which inevitably led to some distortion at the edges of the frame. This is particularly obvious in the final scene. I frequently use this lens and have learnt to embrace the distortion which often adds to the composition but in this instance I would have liked less. I did test other lenses but the narrative and the setting called for the wide vista.
After consultation with my tutor I pulled forward the shoot time to start at 14:00 rather than working in twilight. This was the right decision in practical terms as the models were already very cold even finishing at 16:00 and the shoot night have become very rushed if we had been working as light faded. However, I did not think this through in terms of the impact of daylight on the lighting and had to abandon the use of diffusers; I also failed to balance the light correctly in the final scene when the models were backlit. It would be easy to argue that using flashguns was always going to be a compromise but that would be a weak excuse; I should have carried out a test shoot without models on another afternoon to ensure I had the lights properly balanced.
Post Processing – The concept of this shoot was to merge three images into a final photograph. The lighting issues noted above made this a little harder than I had anticipated as I needed to use a separate image for the ceiling instead of it being part of scene 2 or 3. I have reasonable photoshop skills and whilst I think the merge is imperfect in one or two isolated spots I am confident that this image would print at least A3+ scale without the “joins” being apparent.
Separate from the technical elements and in terms of visual awareness and observational skills, I am happy with my choice of location which worked as a theatrical set and offered a wide range of symbolism that could be built into the project.
Quality of Outcome
Normally on these assignments I start with one concept and end with another but in this instance I had a clear concept from the outset and this helped me focus and direct my conceptualisation. Having researched Crewdson , Wall and Tabrizan in particular I wanted to use gesture and pose to carry the narrative and I am satisfied that this worked reasonably effectively. I believe that, even if the story is simple, it has been communicated effectively and for this type of work there was the additional challenge of communicating my ideas to the models in a way that allowed them to a adopt the poses and gestures the narrative needed. By using storyboards based on the shoot plan described here I believe this communication was effective.
Perhaps in terms of discernment the narrative might have needed to be more subtle but it struck me that much of work of the recognised cinematographic photographers is not especially subtle because the popular narrative form of cinema they have appropriated is often equally unsubtle.
I believe that my thought processes have been coherently presented but, as ever with my research approach, it runs the risk of being somewhat overwhelming, perhaps higher in quantity than quality. As I move forward this is a weakness that might need to be addressed.
Demonstration of Creativity
As mentioned above the narrative could have been more subtle so it could be argued that this piece is neither very imaginative nor inventive. However, I believe that I developed an initial idea, selected a location, designed a narrative and directed a “cast” in an imaginative way.
For me , the whole idea of using staged photography was experimental and every aspect was new territory including the conceptualisation, set-up, outdoor lighting, acting as a director and combining multiple shots into a final photograph. The first time I felt confident the idea was going to work was two hours into post processing when I produced a first “quick” edit that merged three separately edited images.
I believe that the final photograph has a strong historical, contemporary and artistic context. There are always more practitioners that could be researched and each selected practitioner can always be researched to a greater depth but I am satisfied that I looked at a reasonable cross section of tableaux and staged photography artists and distilled something from each that could be carried forward into this project.
Studying the writings of Jeff Wall in particular leaves a student feeling rather inadequate as the contextualisation of his work is highly complex but I believe that I understood each of the artists I studied well enough to make reasoned and thoughtful critical appraisals.