Assignment 2 – Barriers

 

A2 shorter brief

 

 

Introduction

A series of eight photographs depicting physically and metaphorically the positive and negative concept of barriers within today’s society, albeit from a decidedly Western perspective. The photos are intended to be linked by this common theme, but can also stand alone as independent photographs in their own right.

I decided to steer away from the three suggestions: headscrowds, and views in the brief for this assignment. I felt that too many students would have probably used those topics to death already. I wanted to challenge myself with something that was primarily inspired by research into Gianluca Cosci‘s work on, as he puts it: “lifeless environments” (including the concept of buildings as barriers), which has then developed into my own ideas below.

I chose square crops with this assignment as I prefer the discipline they demand; by doing so, I have forced myself to think in a certain way regarding framing, creating a sort of limitation. This creative restriction can be seen as a kind of positive creative barrier in which I have used the barrier’s own narrative visual voice to explain the multifaceted concept of itself. Barnbaum (2010, p343) also backs this up by suggestions that: “Rules constrict creativity. In fact, creativity thrives when rules are broken.
 

Technical considerations

The brief clearly states that I should use a combination of lens techniques, and I have tried to use a range of focal lengths and lenses, while also experimenting with shutter speeds too. I shot all of these photographs in manual mode so I could directly adjust any individual settings when necessary. I have tried out a few lighting techniques as well as just using the natural/ambient light available. I have left observations about these technical aspects as well as general comments below each photograph.

Equipment 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)


 

 

 


*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.

 

1 Entrapment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Blue Railings. 1/250 sec, at f/1,8, ISO 200, Olympus 50mm (Eq 100mm)

Comments
This shot (inspired by Gianluca Cosci’s views) which was taken of some railings while looking through their structure, gives me a strong feeling of abstraction (as well as entrapment) and a focus on form: a solid, almost impenetrable barrier. I have shot these railings in the past, but obviously never managed to get the same DoF with my old bridge camera as with the 50mm here on the E-M10, as well as not having seen them as a type of barrier either.

What works well
The colour – a gorgeous range of blues here (I added some blues and slight contrast in Lightroom – see contact sheets below for a before and after shot); the shallow depth of field and the 50mm lens choice; the composition with its almost central vanishing point and the way the blurred parts interact with it and with those brighter leading lines (as seen and tested with Ex 2.6); the ambiguity and abstraction reflecting the unseen and yet ubiquitous barriers that permeate society, and thus the photograph’s relevance at being included here.

What doesn’t work well
The slightly too abstract feel. Possibly too successful an abstract for this assignment? As opposed to my ‘ubiquitous’ reasoning above, we could argue that this is far too ambiguous and isolated to be appreciated as a barrier, or even as a railing for that matter; maybe too much blue: as can be seen from the contact sheets below, I tried to wait for something else to happen with this view (as well as numerous attempts at alternative framing) and after some time a lorry drove past and I caught its reddish glimpse. Although I felt that the overall effect and frame was not as clear and vibrant as this one;
Possibly my annoying dependency on my Olympus 50mm prime: it gives us a slightly cramped feeling to the frame.

Future improvements
I could possibly try the same shot with a wide-angle lens to capture more of the railing, to contextualize it? I could possibly shoot the railings from another view and not just from within the railing itself?; include more of the setting, instead of this cramped-in style as this shot could be considered to be (although I believe this shot works exactly because of this smothered feeling). As mentioned above, try to add some different colour elements to ‘dilute’ the almost overpowering blueness of the shot (although, once again, this is one of the reasons why the shot works for me).

 


2 Don’t

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Don’t.  1/2 sec at f/16, ISO 320, 14mm (28mm Eq), Olympus 14-42mm.

Comments
I stopped down on the 14mm and was then able to compensate for exposure and get a nice slow shutter speed to give me this shifting or sliding effect by violently twisting the camera during exposure. I did this simply because the first few attempts with a fast shutter speed and the F/3,5 aperture, I had found devoid of character and felt it needed something more than just the icons and text in the shot: the camera movement suggests the anger and frustration that we as photographers feel at these hazy (as well as unconvincing) rules regarding taking photographs in the public/private space. I adjusted some levels in Lightroom but nothing too drastic: exposure +0.36/contrast +60 (ok, that is quite drastic)/shadows -45/blacks -35.

What works well
I like how the prohibitive messages are clear which justifies the inclusion for this theme, even if there is a lot of (intended) camera shake; I think the darker icon next to the (wonderfully apt) ‘no cameras’ text works well and gives us our main subject; The central line of the three icons running through the frame from top to bottom (or bottom to top) also works for me; I used the available overhead neon for this shot and I think their diffused and non-invasive light create a calming effect that counterbalances and almost settles – but doesn’t destroy – the movement within the shot.
As mentioned above, this movement, representing the frustration in the face of these rules and the caution needed when we are out there taking photographs, captures these feelings of uncertainty towards what we can and can’t do regarding our rights when photographing or filming. Is that not the personification of the word barrier?

What doesn’t work well
I dislike the fold that runs through the frame (the poster was folded on a table), but it was the only poster of its type at hand so I had to go with it (not that it intrudes that much really, if anything, we could argue that it actually adds structure, stability and further dynamics to the ‘moving’ icons and text); the dull light: my exposure was good at the time of shooting (as was the histogram), but we could argue that the shot needs more light (this is why I pushed the contrast level up somewhat). I did try a shot with the camera’s in-built flash but that blew out most of the details that I needed so I just stuck to the overhead lighting: not too radical in terms of experimenting with lighting.

Future Improvements
Possibly experiment with some different lighting? Some side lighting instead of just overhead? There seems to be some slight chromatic aberrations which I could remove in post production next time, as well as remove some noise. It might be more official looking if I could photograph the whole poster? Although, I was aware of copyright infringement so I avoided any issues here with the choice of framing, I think.

 

 

3 Tribal Mentality

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Settimana Santa. 1/4000 sec, at F/5,6, ISO 200, Olympus 50mm

Comments
I was trying to line up a shot of the door and window that I was next to, with some railings (the same from shot 1) just outside the window. As luck (and vision?) would have it, I noticed the posters for a local religious event (called Settimana Santa) behind and through the railings. I stopped down the 50mm to F/5,6 to try and keep the details nice and crisp and kept the ISO at 200 for the same reason, and this explains the high 1/4000 shutter. The 50mm lens still gave me a nice blur on the window bars as well as the railings, and I tried to line them up with the poster boarding over the road. Only removed -17% contrast with this shot as I wanted to avoid any harsh graphics here.

What works well
Do The insidious barriers of religion aptly caged within the hard steel barriers of modernity, work well? Do all these layers and barriers trapping us within the confines of our ignorance and our undoubtedly creative, but rather superstitious, storytelling work for me? Absolutely. Sergey Bratkov encountered a religious barrier when making his Italian School series of photos, and according to Cotton (2009, p62), would only be allowed to take photos of the school children “…by agreeing that the project would include religious instruction.”, although I don’t see how most of the actual photographs he did for the project ‘religiously instruct’, to be honest, but the conditions he had to accept were barriers of a sort.
I particularly like how the two foreground blurred bars to the left, dissect perfectly through the two posters on the advertising board: a balanced and geometrically pleasing composition; I kind of like the rather flat and low-key tones too, adding a pinch of sobriety to the mood; I also think that the involuntary caging of Mary on the left-hand poster and the clearly less unobstructed Jesus to the right also has certain connotations regarding the role of men and women, not just within the clergy, but in society too (and possibly some unconscious Freudian issues I may have?).

What doesn’t work well
I’m not too keen on the slight blue tint of the poster, and with hindsight, would have probably removed that (even if it is natural); I dislike the car roof that is just invading the bottom right of the frame – visible thanks to the ridiculously high shutter speed, and my bad timing (although it doesn’t distract the eye too much and, if anything, maybe adds a certain geometry to the overall dynamics).

Future Improvements
I could perhaps remove the blue tint on the poster and possibly add a warmer colour or hue to the overall atmosphere of the shot. I would remove the car roof, or wait to get a shot without any traffic; I should be more patient, one of the many skills needed in photography no doubt (although, in fairness, I was in a busy school entrance with not much time to click away so had to make the most of the limited time I had available).

 

 

4 Language Barrier

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
First shot: Indus. 1/10 sec at F/16, ISO 640, 14mm, Olympus 14-42mm; Second shot: Language Barrier. 1/250 sec at F/2,8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm.

Comments
I remember myself as a language learner and how much of a barrier it was not knowing a language. I have always been curious about language, the history of writing and culture. I remember being blown away by something I read about the importance of the Rosetta Stone. So this gave me the idea of creating a shot with some as yet undeciphered language. I used an image of a script called Indus captured from my monitor, and wanted to superimpose it (using the double exposure mode in camera) with some text about undeciphered languages from a book I have (Robinson, 2009, p61). For the first ‘twisted’ shot of the Indus script I used the 14-42mm zoom lens at 1/10 of a sec to ensure the trails from the twisting action; for the second shot of the typed text, I used the 50mm at F/2.8 as it is probably the sharpest lens I have and I thought it would give me a nice contrast to the blurred first image. I wasn’t too concerned with shutter speed as I had the camera leaning on a table in front of the open page. I wanted the text to be readable but not too dominant over the swirling Indus script, so the use of blacks (-100), highlights (-62), and clarity (+67) in Lightroom brought these elements out as I wanted. There was only one level that I didn’t touch with this shot in Lightroom, and that was the whites bar.

What works well
The blending of the two images with the double exposure mode captures exactly what I had had in mind when planning this shot. The blurred Indus script (caused by twisting the camera again) is reasonably clear, but still undecipherable and gritty, and yet discernible enough to be identified as Indus symbols; whereas the text page from my book is clearer, (as you’d expect not being a photo taken from my monitor), but at the same time it keeps a certain mystery to it thanks to the effect of the extra exposure (pertinent, as English isn’t used by everyone on this planet even if it seems to be, and is certainly still a mystery for many people); I like the slight vignetting caused by the arguably excessive use of blacks in Lightroom, and the way the swirl and darker parts at the top guide us into the brighter part of the frame and towards the clearer symbols; this photo, which I believe captures the undecipherable and elusive nature of an ancient script and language, captures and portrays (within the context of this assignment) the frustrating barrier of not being able to transcribe or understand language. I feel that this is suggested clearly by the English text in the photo being almost understandable. I purposely tried to crop the second exposure in camera when framing (practising what I preach?) to create this quasi-comprehension, reiterating again the language barriers present here.

What doesn’t work well
I think that this shot may be a little too dark; perhaps too similar to shot 2 above as well; this photo probably could have been ‘cleaned up’ by removing chromatic aberrations (that purple hue?). The language barrier is something that anyone who has ever travelled abroad will know only too well, but I’m not sure this photo captures that actual feeling here all that successfully.

Future Improvements
As mentioned above, I would possibly remove the purple tint that the shot seems to have, and add some yellow tint to maybe reflect the age of the Indus script. I think this picture works well, and I don’t think that there needs to be any changes or improvements when considering the meaning that I intended. It might, however, benefit from some added grain and roughness to the edges in an attempt to mimic an old text itself? (See Reworkings below.)

 


5 Censorship

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Stop. 1/640 sec at F/5,6, ISO 200, Olympus 40-150mm at 150mm (300Eq)

Comments
With this photograph I was trying to pick up on Cosci’s clear distrust of the cityscape (amongst other things) which I had read about in his interviews section on his website (one of which is in English). I used the 40-150mm zoom lens here and this image was taken at its full focal length. I did this to try and flatten and include the elements, namely the signs and the flats behind them while trying to keep the focus on the nearer sign in the foreground (applying some of the principles tried out in Ex 2.6, although with far less blur).

What works well
The composition, the signs and how they line up ‘centrally’ within the frame; there was some cloud cover which nicely diffuses the light for this shot adding to the somewhat ominous mood. I like the oppressive nature of the message which was what I was looking for here with the barrier of the cityscape and its distancing from nature; the inclusion of quite a few details within this frame also adds a certain narrative to the implied situation going on outside of the frame, underlined by the blue sign which is in clear contrast to the double stop signs: it’s almost saying that you can continue this way, there is hope within this concrete jungle if you carry on and don’t actually stop.

What doesn’t work well
I’m not sure the vegetation within the shot adds anything to the photograph. A cleaner, more sterilized picture of the buildings may have been a better option here. Although saying that, could it be nature trying to reclaim the ground that has been so violently ripped away from it, so it has every right to be included?

Future Improvements
I use the auto WB on my camera and most of the time I find it to be pleasantly accurate. Maybe here, I could have switched it to the cloudy setting to see if it changed anything. Not that the picture appears to be wrong in that sense, but might have been interesting to have experimented with that. One thing I didn’t try out when I was trying to get this “stop” shot was a low angle view looking up: by doing that, I may have discovered another type of shot. By eliminating the trees and bushes and keeping the focus on fewer elements within the frame itself, a more distilled and colder image would possibly have emerged: that may have been more in line with Cosci’s views of the oppressive corporate reality of the cityscape, and more in line with the feeling(s) I was trying to get across with this photograph.

 


6 Painting over it

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Whitewash.  1/2500 sec at F/1.8, ISO 200, Olympus 50mm (100mm Eq)

Comments
This shot benefits from the shallow DoF of the 50mm, and I chose this lens on purpose to create that sliver of focus. I took the photo from quite close up to let the shallow DoF work well at fading out the texture of this old door. The shot was very grey (due to the age of the door presumably and the cloudy weather?) so I added some contrast and +1.19 exposure in Lightroom as I felt this would bring out the cracks running all over this door (as can be seen from the before and after screenshot below).

What works well
The shallow DoF and how the blur encases the focused area; I also like how the cracks run over the frame like slashes appearing to be purposefully placed and almost sliced into the paint, and not simply changes to the door’s surface through ageing; I think the mild orange/brown of the wood seeping through those cracks works very well with the faded white of the paint too. This shot seems like it could be skin, or even reptilian scales, hardened and weathered with the passing of time and numerous battles: the faded whitewashed and cracked barrier needing attention but left neglected. Or maybe just going through the cycle of decomposition before the new coat brings new life to the door which hides the decay hidden beneath the new sheen?

What doesn’t work well
Again, with the wide open prime, there is a lot of aberration that could be said to add some colour to the visual effect even if it is technically an error due to the lens quality; I think also that the greyish areas to the top of the frame are a little distracting. But overall, I think it works.

Future Improvements
I did take a couple of exposures of this door (although it’s not easy as in that part of the neighbourhood, people tend to get a bit angry with any sort of photography judging by my past attempts), although I did  manage to get a couple; possibly get a few angles of the door, and a nice wide-angle shot of the whole thing too.

 

 

7 Preferences

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Take Your Pick. 1/125 sec at F/7,1, ISO 200, 31mm, Olympus 14-42mm

Comments
I chanced upon these two solitary chairs and I liked the way they complemented each other while having a clear difference in shape and colour. Looking through my photos I never thought this shot would be used for anything in particular, although I now believe that it fits perfectly into the theme of barriers (if we consider the concepts of choice and preference as being a type of barrier). I used a simple short zoom to frame the chairs and avoided any severe post production effects wanting to keep the subtle tones as real as when I had seen them.

What works well
I like the slightly dirty orangey-red of the chair: it stands out but doesn’t dominate; the white chair appears to be sturdier adding weight to the shot and almost a silent challenge to the slimmer more colourful peer: both of them enticing a sitter with diverse tactics of equal attraction, depending on our preferences and characters. I quite like the offset position of the chair on the right – it is about 10cm closer to us than the white one. It reflects, for me, the spontaneity of the capture: a non-staged scene; and it suggests that the red chair is more popular as it has been used recently (hence the position). The ray of sunlight entering the frame from the right of the shot, adds an external element to the otherwise tight feel of the crop, and persuades us – or reminds us – that these isolated chairs are part of a bigger picture. I like the feel and sombre mood of this shot and – even though not quite ‘Germanic’ in that deadpan aesthetic sense – I think it works.

What doesn’t work well
I think I could have made this shot sharper by using a tripod, although this was not a pre planned shot (and I don’t usually carry a tripod to a barbecue as a rule); I could have possibly added more chairs, or more of the setting.

Future Improvements
I would rearrange the chairs slightly better: I would put the reddish chair back closer to the wall a bit, to align it with the white one to create a more rigid and harmonious composition. But as I said above, I do like the askew position to be honest, and not everything is orderly: this can be a simple case of entropy keeping the universe stable or something, in fact, that’s exactly what it is. Next time I could possibly think about taking a tripod with me? Or even ask a model to sit on one of the chairs while eyeing the other? Or have the person stand  in front of them with his or her back to the camera unsure of which one to choose? A hand on hip, and other one scratching their head to indicate indecision? What about a custom-made handwritten sign with a message above the chairs with something like “After You…”, or “OCD corner” written on it? Or perhaps something along the lines of Gillian Wearings‘ work from the early 90s.

 

 

8 Skin Deep

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
X4. 1/640 sec at F/5,6, ISO 200, 150mm (300Eq) Olympus 40-150mm.

Comments
I had originally wanted to get a close up of different skin colours with this idea, although I saw this situation and went with it. Begging has become quite common where I live in southern Italy, and lots of migrants pass through here, some stay. This young man, outside a local supermarket, is from Africa and, however absurd this may seem to anyone from the developed parts of the world, Africans here never get any further than begging. At best, if they are very lucky (and can speak a rudimentary Italian), they can find some general manual labour. A very different reality from the richer north or central parts of Italy where things are slightly better in terms of integration. Slightly.
If this isn’t clear evidence of prejudice and racism as a barrier, then I really don’t know what is. Just look at the way the boy has one of those plastic gloves on (from the fruit section in the supermarket) when giving this beggar some coins. And the mother’s face? Still, they did give him some coins as did many people while I waited for an interesting shot (for about 35 mins), so it’s not as tragic as I may have implied here.
The theme for this type of barrier is clearly prejudice, however, I have decided to call it Skin Deep, hoping that the irony and simple wordplay is evident. The photo itself I have decided to call x4 simply because of the four barriers (we could add many more) that I can immediately see with this scene: the young boy’s protective barrier;  the barrier of the metal structure; the barrier of skin colour; and the sad, inferred barrier of the woman’s, dare I say it, prejudice towards the skin colour (or to begging). But isn’t my inferring yet another form of prejudice? Isn’t the viewer’s always, if not prejudice, then possibly presumption? Or, at the very least, expectation?

What works well
I think the framing works well here with the three figures: the woman on the left looking cautiously towards the beggar who naturally looks towards the young boy who is giving him money; the eye lines pulling our attention to the central position and  towards the main subject in the shot which I believe is the act of giving the money. This was the only shot out of the series where I used the x2 digital tele-converter, something I steer clear of as a rule due to the reduction in image quality. In this case, it works well at capturing the key elements within the frame. I quite like the red sign too, although it by no means contributes anything substantial to the photo. I changed the WB setting on this photo from Auto to sunny and the shot become a tad warmer. I think that works well (I also added +29 temperature in Lightroom to accentuate that warmer orange hue).

What doesn’t work well
Well, apart from the obviously flawed society in which we live, I dislike the cluttered frame here: the post running through the image and the  trolley shelter structure filling up the bottom of the frame with weight and not much else. I find it unfortunate that the beggar has his hood on, as it would have been nicer to have seen his face (but the covered face revealing just a suggestion of his profile has its reasons too).

Future Improvements
The first thing to observe here is why didn’t I take a better shot from another viewpoint? Well, I did, and I believe I found a much better view of this scene (see contact sheets below). I zoomed out to place the begging scene within the context of the supermarket car park. However, I wasn’t lucky with the actual narration or events within the frame from that viewpoint (nothing happened that was untoward, or unusual) people were just giving him money and moving on; whereas, with the above shot, the gloves, the hooded face, the woman’s apparent mistrust all come together in the act of giving the coins to him (what Cartier-Bresson would probably call geometry, and possibly even call it the decisive moment, or at least, a decisive moment), and for this richer, more eventful narrative, the selection from my photos of this scene was easy, and obvious. It might be a good idea to experiment a little more with the digital tele-converter function, after all, thanks to that, I got the shot I was looking for.
And definitely cheaper than a longer focal length zoom.

 


 

 

 

 

Evaluation 

I think the overall effect of the photographs as a cohesive whole works well: they are all clearly barriers of one type or another. The themes selected for inclusion could arguably be developed and expanded much more as each one of them has profound meaning and consequences not just regarding photography, but within many other facets and areas of today’s contemporary reality. Possibly, I could be punching above my weight here with these vast, sensitive and often unnerving themes, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it!
The option to restrict myself to using just a square crop, creates a visual homogeneity (as seen with the semi-successful composite image below in the Reworkings section) and, I believe, also intertwines and validates the concept of barriers even deeper into the assignment. Although, in all honesty, the same could be said if I had stuck with a vertical or a horizontal format.

As mentioned in the notes under each photo, I feel that there were many positives and negatives individually speaking with each photo, and some of those concerns also apply to the overall effect too. For example, the similarity between shot 2 and shot 4 could have been avoided (and would have been if I had gone with the different hue idea for shot 4).
But I believe that my attempts at using different techniques: the camera settings, lens choice, different framing, and the experimentation with different effects: the double exposure, deliberate camera movement, macro and zooming in, have all combined to help produce satisfactory, varied, and successful results which remain relevant to the assignment, and do not, thematically speaking, deviate from the brief.

Regarding how the series could be improved, I think that possibly using just one type of lens technique, such as close-ups, slow shutter speeds, or flattened full focal length shots instead of a combination of these techniques would create a more solid visual cohesion to the set. Perhaps converting the images to B/W or sepia would give a monochromatic aspect to the set creating a much more harmonious, and balanced effect (as can be seen in the Reworkings section below).

The sheer breadth and depth of the selected theme of Barriers has allowed me to push myself in terms of creative thinking and possibly to justify the inclusion of more – at first – seemingly tenuous topics (Preferences, for example). The more I thought about barriers the more I saw (and felt) them everywhere. My selection of eight is a much reduced amount compared to my notes and research for this assignment. But it had to be that way, or this already lengthy project would possibly never end and become a limitless, boundless barrier in itself.

 


 

How well does this assignment meet the assessment criteria?

I feel that I have touched on all the criteria and developed and experimented within each criterion.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills
By using a wide range of camera settings, from varying shutter speeds, lens choices and focal lengths, to camera angles, DoF, and contrasting compositional work, I believe that I have met the criterion here. Also, by being aware of different elements aligning within the frame (often fortuitously at first), there is a clear demonstration of compositional knowledge as well as experimentation of that knowledge, and a visual awareness being applied.

Quality of outcome
The final result appears to be coherent and uncomplicated. There is clear signposting to my thought processes and development of ideas through an extensive and thorough accompanying text to each theme and photo, which is clearly divided into subsections using headings. The texts, at times admittedly long and although hopefully not too contorted or tenuous, remain relevant to the individual theme of each photo as well as the main unifying theme itself. I believe that a non-expert reader of photography (but with some basic grounding) would still be able to grasp the meanings and follow the texts. Also, I would hope that they would be able to see the connections between the images, visually as well as intellectually, and would probably be able to determine the main theme quite quickly even if, for example, they started reading halfway through.

Demonstration of creativity
Giving myself the freedom to choose the camera settings may have not created the most homogeneously slick set of images, but has, in my opinion, demonstrated my intent, focus and creativity towards each photograph. As seen with the Settimana Santa image above, by observing my surroundings – in this case the all important background – I discovered and then purposely included the poster within the shot. This inclusion, apart from making a much better and relevant photo in respect to the theme, shows a creative quick thinking and adaptability visually and mentally, I would say (apart from being something that feels incredibly elusive and a very automatic and intuitive reaction to visual stimuli). Also, the ability to apply the concept of barriers to my  everyday surroundings shows creative adaptability as well as imaginative endeavour and relevant manipulation of the assignment theme.

Context
I believe that I had demonstrated some critical thinking regarding the theme of barriers through the reflection process I used in the comments under each photograph. Being objective about my own work is something I have never done before and have found it quite awkward to do. Whether this is due to the almost impossible act of really being objective while actually being subjective – as Barnbaum (2010, p342) puts it when referring to this: “…an extremely difficult transition from subjective response to objective analysis.” – or whether it is due to the reflection process of my photographs being a new skill that needs developing, I am none too sure yet; a combination of both no doubt, I would guess.
Reading up on Gianluca Cosci for Research point 2: Project 2 gave me an insight into an interesting artist (and who I have recently interviewed about his work), and from whom I gathered my initial idea of barriers within society. This approach demonstrates both research and reflection culminating in a creative final product.
Also, by using various techniques regarding lens choice, focal range and framing, there is evidence of applying acquired knowledge garnered through the course exercises as well as my own past experiences with photography as a hobby.
Shot 9, The Great Darkness, (which I chose not to include in the main set and only as an addendum below) shows how one of my original ideas for a barrier, ‘darkness’, quickly became something more. This was through the creative process of using research and linking and developing that research to my own ideas.

 


 

 

References and sources

*The new international Webster’s comprehensive dictionary of the English language. (1996). Naples, Fl.: Trident Press International. (p116)

Introduction

Barnbaum, B. (2010). The art of photography. Santa Barbara, CA: Rocky Nook, p343

Gianlucacosci.com. (2016). Gianluca Cosci – Barriers. [online] Available at: http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page5.htm [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Kev Byrne 1971. (2016). Research point 2: project 2 Lens work – Deep vs Shallow (Bokeh and the Landscape). [online] Available at: https://kevinbyrne1971.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/research-point-2-poject-2-lens-work-deep-vs-shallow-bokeh-and-the-landscape/ [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].


Shot 1 – Entrapment
Flickr – Photo Sharing!. (2016). Flickr – Photo Sharing!. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinbyrne1971/8444257543/ [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Gianlucacosci.com. (2016). Gianluca Cosci – Interviews. [online] Available at: http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page17.htm [Accessed 11 Apr. 2016].


Shot 2 – Don’t

PHNAT. (2016). Security call filmmaker ‘lunatic’ for defying nonsense photo ban. [online] Available at: https://phnat.org/2016/02/26/security-call-filmmaker-lunatic-for-defying-nonsense-photo-ban/#more-363 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

LensCulture, D. (2016). Faceless: An Ode To Privacy Laws – Photographs and text by Diego Bardone | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/diego-bardone-faceless-an-ode-to-privacy-laws [Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Photography and the law. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

Shot 3 – Settimana Santa
Cotton, C. (2004). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson. (pp62-3)

Muhka.be. (2016). M HKA collectie Italian School. [online] Available at: http://www.muhka.be/fr/collectie/work/1075/Italian-School [Accessed 13 Apr. 2016].

It.wikipedia.org. (2016). Settimana santa di Taranto. [online] Available at: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Settimana_santa_di_Taranto [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

Shot 4 – Language Barrier
Robinson, A. (2009). Writing and script. Oxford: Oxford University Press (p61).

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2015). epigraphy – The use of inscriptions | historiography. [online] Available at: http://www.britannica.com/topic/epigraphy/The-use-of-inscriptions#toc58800 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Indus script. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_script#Decipherability_question
[Accessed 12 Apr. 2016].

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

Shot 5 – Censorship
Kev Byrne 1971. (2016). Project 1: The distorting lens – Ex 2.6. [online] Available at: https://kevinbyrne1971.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/project-1-the-distorting-lens-ex-2-6/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].

Gianlucacosci.com. (2016). Gianluca Cosci – Interviews. [online] Available at: http://www.gianlucacosci.com/page17.htm
[Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].

Shot 7 – Preferences
Tate. (2016). Gillian Wearing OBE, ‘‘I’m desperate’’ 1992-3. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/gillian-wearing-obe-2648
[Accessed 14 Apr. 2016].

Cotton, C. (2009). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson, pp30-31, and pp82-83.

Evaluation
Barnbaum, B. (2010). The art of photography. Santa Barbara, CA: Rocky Nook. P342



References for addendum
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].



Contact sheets

A2 4-1
Preferences (plus Curtains and gate – not used)

I chose not to use the curtain/gate shots here: they just didn’t feel like barriers; although the curtain as a ‘barrier between neighbours’, or as a ‘spying tool’ could have been included. However, I thought it was a tad too tenuous as the radiator behind the curtain was/is clearly a dominating feature; so much more so than the ‘spying’ aspect that isn’t really evident – actually non existent? – with these shots; so, no inclusion here today. Not saying that these shots cannot be adapted: I really like the reflection on the table and believe that this shot (or subject) can be approached again soon.

 

A2 4-2
Indus

I liked the zooming in effect (not done by the actual zoom but rather me, curiously, thrusting the camera towards or away from the monitor). Although, I disliked the focus on just one of the symbols and I thought that the swastika shape didn’t need to be in the shot just to avoid any accusations or ambiguity regarding it later on. That seems over the top, but I’ll stick to that way of thinking for this assignment. I chose the penultimate photo (bottom row second from right) for the exact opposite reasons: no clear dominating symbol; nicely blurred non distracting (or dominating) swastika; and as mentioned above – the subtle curved lines work better for me as they feel less violent/drastic, so I went with that one.

A2 4-3
Indus and Don’t
A2 4-4
Don’t

My selection was from the top row – the second shot from the top left; whereas the double exposure shots (from 5th shot onwards) were not used: I felt that the added white lines (being sunlight through curtains) didn’t give anything extra to the icons and so I didn’t go with them for this one.

 

A2 CS 1
Skin deep
A2 CS 2.jpg-1
Censorship

My selection is the 11th shot reading left to right from the top. I was also in two minds whether to choose the 12th shot too – I liked the stark bold red against the frame covering canvass of the beige block behind the road sign. What swung it for me was the alignment of the other signs behind the large stop sign, the interplay of messages, and its layered structure. And as mentioned above under the photo, I quite like the sombre tones too.

 

A2 CS 2.jpg-2
Censorship
A2 CS 3.jpg-1
Text plus double exposures

Railings CS

Entrapment contact sheet. The different blues that can clearly be seen here are due to me taking pictures of the railings from different parts of the building: in some we can see they are brighter thanks to being in the sun; whereas the darker blue is in the shade (or there was cloud cover).

 



 

Before and after shots, reworkings, and additional ideas

 

9 The Great Darkness (Addendum to A2: Barriers)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Full of Nothing. 1/4000 at F/22, ISO 200, Olympus 40-150 at 40mm (80mm).

Comments
While I was looking into Cosci’s work, I came across the name Reinhardt and his Black Square which then led me to Kazimir Malevic and his work, and finally to discover Robert Fludd, who came before them all apparently. The question of what constitutes art is not something I would like to discuss just yet – I don’t understand enough about it (or what it is not) to be able to comment. That being said, I do find this concept fascinating and truly thought-provoking and it has inspired me to include it here almost as an afterthought, an addendum.
By removing all light from the frame, has this above photograph become pointless, and without meaning? Is it even a photograph? I stopped down to the maximum F/22 and set the shutter to 1/4000 with an ISO of 200 to guarantee total blackness.

What works well
A total absence of subject feels terrifyingly fresh and liberating (but also quite silly?). The absence of light and our inability to see anything without it most definitely fits the bill as a kind of barrier – probably one of the most wonderful, absolute, and clear barriers that we have seen so far. There can be no denying its existence: nothing exists, and yet paradoxically, it is clearly something by being nothing. And if we were to dissect this JPEG, then wouldn’t that nothing be composed of something? I zoomed in to take a look in Lightroom to see if there were any artefacts, forms or anything: there is nothing. I saved a copy at the lowest quality possible (Ruff inspired) and then took a look to see any effects: still nothing.
I think the sheer weight of the black in the square works well: suggesting mass and integrity within this society of the ever more ephemeral, the superficial, the disposable contrasting these things with its tangibility, its power (as well as the already well documented question it raises regarding its own validity from Fludd through to Malevic).

What doesn’t work well
The lack of details; the unclear focus (of meaning not of the lens), etc; the relevance to the theme of Barriers – is this really a barrier or just the lack of one? Yet, when you look at this photo, you could argue that there is nothing wrong with it.
Or everything wrong with it.

Future Improvements
I was thinking that I could include just the slightest glimmer of a form or light within the black frame. I think that would force us to question whether or not it really was just a black square or is there actually something there, or reflected on it, instead of that eerie black doubt that seems to bleed out of it.



References for this addendum

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].

 

 

Reworkings

A2 cohesive.2jpg

Barrier shots together (with the inclusion of shot 9).
I would have positioned these shots in a different order with this composite but I couldn’t get Lightroom to do that. I accept my limits.

A2 BW set 1
Desaturated set

 

A2 Sepia set
Sepia preset from Lightroom

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reworking idea of Shot – 4  Language Barrier with added grain and temperature.
I really like this one.


Before and after

The above screen shots have been included here to demonstrate how little or how much post production has been done with this assignment.


Some pages from my notebook

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Assignment 2 – Barriers

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