A2 Brief and preliminary ideas and thoughts

A2 brief 1A2 brief 2




Assignment 2 – Barriers

bar∙ri∙ers  /ˈbær·i·əz/ n  1 [C] any line
of boundary and separation, natural
or artificial, placed or serving as a
limitation or obstruction.


Overview (Introduction and statement of intent?)

A series of six shots depicting physically and metaphorically the concept of barriers within today’s society, albeit from a decidedly Western perspective. The photos are intended to be linked by the theme barriers but also to stand alone as independent photographs. They can, if need be, then be positioned in a certain way to form a collective whole; a dynamic interchanging composition mounted on a rotating cog giving the viewer the possibility to interact with the photos somewhat and removing the not always so obvious barrier that exists between the majority of mounted photographic works and the observer.

Pre task thoughts and prep
I wanted to steer away from the three suggestions of the brief for this assignment as I felt I wanted to challenge myself with something that was my own idea. I’m sure I could have developed my own ideas with the topics of Heads, Crowds and Views, although I felt that too many students would have probably used those topics to death already.

  • My preliminary ideas were based around the concept of archi-abstract shadows. Initially, I tried to develop the idea of shooting one particular view at different times of day to hopefully create a cohesive effect, and pointing out how the effect of light changes the aspect and mood of buildings and not just thanks to us effecting that mood with our choice of framing. But the more I thought about this, I realized that there isn’t that much difference between 11am to 3pm here, so the only real clear difference would be early morning with possibly a couple of shots, and the same for the late afternoon and evening. I should come back to that idea, as I bet there’s a lot more difference if I actually do get the shots at different times, but also different weather conditions, and of course night could add some more variety to the idea.
  • This lead me to think of using just night shots: three shots of three different subjects during the day and then three shots during the night of the same subjects. This would force me to use an interesting variety of different settings for the shots, I thought.
  • I then toyed with the idea of movement: trying to capture different things in motion with various shutter speeds and varying effects of blur.
  • I thought about using people and their shadows as another interesting idea with the added subtle element of adulation and being inseparable, dependency, connections, faithfulness, ties (with the intended ambiguities of meaning here, but my main idea was the inseparableness of the shadow and its dependency on light for existence).
  • I thought about using Layers as a theme, especially things seen through things: shots of mesh and bars and railings, windows reflecting windows reflecting views. This is possibly where I started to hone my final idea for this assignment with the barriers idea.
  • Different types of barriers, and the way in which we must respect and break them both figuratively and literally within society.



I’m going to go with this last one: barriers,  as it sparked a chord with me, not just as I live in the rigid law and bureaucratic madness of southern Italy (paradoxically, with the lawlessness of it all here too), but more the fact that I had really been intrigued by Gianluca Cosci’s ideas and opinions on society and culture while doing research for project 2: Deep vs Shallow.

Some pages from my notebook





Technical considerations

The brief clearly states that I should use a combination of lens techniques, and I would like to use a range of focal lengths and lenses, and try to experiment carefully with shutter speeds too. I am hoping to try out a few lighting techniques as well as just using the natural light available, possibly with a couple of night shots too.

I’d like to use square crops with this assignment as I like their discipline and, in a strange way, they force me to think in a certain way, creating a limitation (isn’t that a barrier?), if you like. The shots will then become barriers themselves between the viewer and the content as they only really depict meanings that the viewer gives and associates to them while their original meanings will be lost forever; their original meaning, not true meaning. Could we infer from that that they don’t necessarily need a true meaning but rather they just need a meaning, an accepted meaning?

Equipment to be used

Olympus OM-D E-M10 (MkI)
Olympus Zuiko 50mm F/1.8 (with OM-M4/3 adaptor; Eq 100m)
Olympus 14-42mm (28-85mm Eq) and 40-150mm zooms (80-300mm Eq)
Fujian 25mm F/1.4 with C-mount to M4/3 adaptor




Barriers – preliminary ideas and  some notes on first attempts


1 Differences/Skin deep
Skin colour seems like the most obvious barrier and one that is still undeniably present throughout the world. I’d like to get some different skin tones and colours all together in a collage of hands,  of heads, of intertwined arms, legs or feet. Maybe with lighting creating shadows as a way of underlining that the shadows show no prejudice and that there is no difference between the subjects? Can light be biased? Can a shadow?

2 Sitting on the Fence
One of my favourite themes being shadows and strong lines could also be used here with this project. I  was looking at capturing some railings, windows, doorways – all clear barriers – with sunlight creating some kind of interplay with shadows and lines.

3 Prohibition

My first ideas were based around signs and restrictions in society, such as ‘Must be over 18’, ‘No pets’. I then came across a sign in a school telling students quite clearly to not use any electronic devices during exams (with the felicitous inclusion of a No Photography sign too). I think this will be an appropriate shot and captures my intended idea. I used the double exposure feature to just add to the overall rebellious camera movement that I opted for: I positively laugh in the face of those rules.

4 Bug’s Life
Had the idea to use chemical protection as a barrier. A serious part of my life here as the Asian Tiger mosquitoes really enjoy my skin apparently. I wanted to capture the spray as it comes out of a canister/bottle, thinking to freeze the spray, possibly  a 1/1000+ shutter speed?

5 Male and Female
The ever diminishing divide between the sexes, in terms of sexuality, not the far less diminishing divide between equality. Some blatant generalization here, (complaints to the usual address) such as chatterbox vs stoic, housewife – breadwinner; sensitive vs insensitive, shopping vs sport, handbags vs cars. It’s interesting to see how our expectations influence what we think we know. I always imagined judges to be men, but here in Italy (quite surprisingly with its slightly misogynistic tendencies) 50% of judges are women. A massively sensitive area, but I simply wanted to touch on the more obvious differences not the more debatable, contestable stereotypes and issues here with this topic

6 Language Barrier
Really like this idea.
Was thinking about creating a double exposure with some undeciphered script (like Indus) as the main elements with either the same picture, or another shot of some text about undeciphered scripts blended in. I also thought about inventing my own symbols for the undeciphered language but realized quickly that that was much harder than I had realized and so I quickly let that idea go.
Might be a nice idea to try out this theme with the focus on language use: the use of language to show off, demonstration of being learned (yeah, that’s not me), and the barrier it creates when used socially (also in media, documentaries, magazine/newspaper articles). I teach English as a second language, and students are often shocked to discover that I can’t understand a particular text so well. It’s a question of familiarity as well, I’m sure. I am not really an avid fan of economy, or politics so I get very little out of those type of texts, and encounter many new words or terms specific to those texts; any specialized language, lexis, or nomenclature, whatever you want to call it, is a barrier often making those texts inaccessible.

7 Status

Roles in society. Probably deserves its own project.
The invisible barriers that we create (and accept) in our social interactions could be a powerful and interesting theme. I’m finding it hard though to imagine how I could capture the subtle unspoken rules that interplay during social interactions. Here are a few ideas: Owner – employee; parent – sibling; Manager – client; attractive – ugly; adult – child; young – old; teacher – students. The obvious (not always a bad thing) shot would be of the two subjects talking. Possibly having an argument, or maybe not actually talking and just through using their body language which would heighten the tension of their respective roles, and underline the power of the invisible barriers. Might be a lot of hard work to set this up and then realistically capture that tension and roles? Not that a little bit of theatre would be such a bad thing.

8 Secular/religious
Maybe a shot of some sort of religious iconography. No denying the barriers here with this one. The strong Catholic influence in Italy would certainly give me a lot of beautiful shots to choose from: the local cathedral, churches, and shrines littered all over the city where I live, as well as the wealth of local festivals in this region too.
I recently came across a couple of posters advertising the traditional procession that they have here annually. I was trying to line up a shot of the door and window that I was next to, with some railings just outside, as luck would have it, I noticed the posters of the event behind or through the railings. So I took a few shots which I will probably use here with this topic.
The insidious barriers of religion aptly caged within the hard steel barriers of modernity; and all these layers and barriers trapping us within the confines of our ignorance and, undoubtedly creative, but rather superstitious storytelling.

9 Time
I’m thinking a clock face, or long hand. Or even a faceless clock to emphasize the elusiveness of time itself?
Using a clock might give me some nice opportunities for some macros . Could go into the local watchmaker and ask to take some shots of their clocks/watches?

10 Sea/Water
I love reflections and this could give me a great chance to add this style into the selection. However much we love the sea, there’s no getting away from the fact that is a very alien and hostile environment: a real and indisputable barrier.

11 Censorship
I think this one really adheres to Cosci’s views on the corporate world of dead cityscapes. My idea here is to take his fragments idea and include it with some shots of towering office blocks. I could use the flattening zoom effect as he did, and as we saw with Ex 1.3 (2). I have also already shot a couple of shots with a prime lens of some road signs (a red STOP sign) in front of a tower block. I think this might work with the dual message of the prohibiting stop sign and the looming oppressive tower block(s) in the background. I blurred the tower blocks in the background by choosing a F/1.8 aperture with the intention of keeping the sign more prominent. I like this idea, however, it does kind of just reiterate what I am trying to do with the Prohibition idea above. How can I distinguish the two? Or could I blend them into one? Should I get rid of one of them?

12 Preferences
Having a preference could be interpreted as being a barrier, I believe.  When we say, ‘I don’t like that one!’, or ‘I can’t stand that!’, and ‘Oh, I hate that!’ is that not a barrier of sorts?  Although we might say that is a limitation, a defect even. I think this could probably take the form of a future theme or project.

13 The Great Darkness
I like the idea of taking a photograph of total darkness; what better way than that to throw light [pun intended] on the power that the extreme barrier of not being able to see actually possesses? Bearing in mind, that nothing always means something, as with silence and how it always communicates something. And can we be sure that it is totally black? Will the camera add some artefacts?
Seems pointless at first, but thinking it over I think it could be a great statement. And, not as if blocks of monochrome or nothingness haven’t been used to express feelings and ideas or make a statement before.
And then I got lost in Malevich‘s black square(s) of ‘nothing’…
And then Robert Fludd dropped in for a dark chat about nothing too, and I went to bed late.

I will choose 6, 8 or 10 final shots for the assignment from the above possibilities.


Notebook scribbles

No, I didn’t feel like cropping that…
You really want the EXIF for this?




References and sources so far

Yule, G. (1996). Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (pp12-13)

Timeforequality.org. (2016). Women and Judiciary in Italy – an example of a “glass ceiling” that proves hard to break | Time for Equality. [online] Available at: http://timeforequality.org/news/women-and-judiciary-in-italy-an-example-of-a-glass-ceiling-that-proves-hard-to-break/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].

Contra Spem Spero… Et Rideo. (2013). A Short History Of BLACK CANVAS — Square And Otherwise. [online] Available at: https://valentinagurarie.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/a-short-history-of-black-canvas-square-and-otherwise/https://valentinagurarie.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/a-short-history-of-black-canvas-square-and-otherwise/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].

The Kompass. (2016). The hidden meanings of Malevich’s Black Square. [online] Available at: http://thekompass.rbth.co.uk/article/43 [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].

Holtham, S. and Moran, F. (2014). Five ways to look at Malevich’s Black Square. [online] Tate.org.uk. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/five-ways-look-Malevich-Black-Square [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Ad Reinhardt. Abstract Painting. 1963 | MoMA. [online] Available at: http://www.moma.org/collection/works/78976 [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].

The new international Webster’s comprehensive dictionary of the English language. (1996). Naples, Fl.: Trident Press International.

Wikipedia. (2016). Indus script. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_script [Accessed 9 Apr. 2016].

Robinson, A. (2009). Writing and script. Oxford: Oxford University Press (p61).

Crystalinks.com. (2016). Indus Script – Crystalinks. [online] Available at: http://www.crystalinks.com/indus.html [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].


4 thoughts on “A2 Brief and preliminary ideas and thoughts

  1. Amazing. I love your ideas! You have a really creative mind and you write your thoughts down so well, I enjoyed your entire thought process for this project. Love it. Can’t wait to see more!


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