Assignment 5 – Tutor Report

Last Friday I had a Google Hangout with my tutor. Below is his report. I always find it very motivating to talk about my studies and assignments. It really helps in pushing myself to continue and take my work seriously. Besides that, our conversation was very helpful in knowing how to conclude this course and get ready for assessment. Below you will find the report in italics and my response in normal font.

Thanks Russell for your speedy reply and insightful comments!

Overall Comments

Your final submission, ‘The Tragic Demise of the Rulers of Oudh’, is very interesting, both in its personal connection and its historical context. Its topical interest is strong, as evidenced with the BBC news report on the Princes death. This submission has dramatically changed from your initial investigation into the child portraits and interviews; sometimes, making such a change in the development of a project can be a risk. However, through the document based investigation and your personal account, you have produced a very good assignment. As you are aware there are some design considerations to explore, which we discussed during the Hangout and can be found below.

That is good to hear. It was a big step to change the subject and I feel I need to do something with the material that I have of the children. Maybe I could continue with that project in a following course. I’ll work on the design issues we talked about and try to deliver a product that does justice to the intensity of the narrative.

Feedback:

You have invested a lot of time already into your initial investigation, which has been positive; the portraits you produced of the children are very good and the experimentation into the concept posters have been successful. Reading through your learning log, it is clear that you experienced a creative block; yet you have evidenced a positive and successful creative pathway. Your collage test, further supports this strong developmental approach.

I need to become aware of what I need to do to not get stuck or how to get out of the rut. Most of the time it’s my inner voice telling me that I will never be good enough and what am I thinking that I would become a photographer in the first place. This doesn’t help at all, so I need to work on how to change these negative feelings and thoughts into a positive move forward.

In a way, you have submitted two assignments, which both merit comment. The strength of your portraits are very good; the compositions are engaging and the connectivity to the sitters are positive, which evidence your interpersonal and thoughtful approach to this demographic. From the various shoots, the most successful portraits are as follows:

• Shiv playing at the piano with the religious icons above his head. • Somya standing with her legs crossed on the dirt track.
• Eva standing, smiling with her right shoulder angled forward.
• Lana standing with her right hand on her hip.
• Lana sitting on the grass looking away from the camera
• Sophie looking over her shoulder with the gentleman in the background

However, your actual Assignment 05 submission is the mixed media documentary of the last Rulers of Oudh. This is successful, you have explored historical documents, personal photographs and have pieced together an engaging document. As you are aware, there are some design considerations to address in terms of layout and the edit of the material. A main element that needs addressing, is the body of text. Your introduction is pivotal, this informs the reader of the connection you had with Prince Cyrus, so leave this in.

The other account written by Alex Ninian, is very interesting, but it is quite a bulk of text, which although adds context, perhaps overloads the reader. Consider omitting this text in favour of the interspersed narrative from the Princess’s writing; which supports the images and further contextualises them.

As we discussed, I will put these documents in an annex, so that the main focus will be on the Princess’ account, but the reader can access background information if it would wish to.

As discussed, it would be good to differentiate the found images and the shots you took; this can be done through photographing the original found images on a neutral background, or adding a very subtle drop-shadow. Although you can start to tell, which images are yours, the visual clue may work in strengthening the consideration of the text/image relationship. What you are aiming to achieve, is to elevate the found photographs from being two-dimensional records, to being artefacts that have an intrinsic physical value. Please see the comparative example below, where a subtle drop-shadow gives the photograph a three- dimensional value:

This technique is slightly evident within your layouts, where a couple of the letters/images have creases in them, which again alludes to them being a physical object. With the found images, the vertical triptych of Polaroids are the most successful; the placement of the matriarch at the top supports the account of her being strong and determined in her mission.

I think I should rephotograph the images anyway, when I photographed the ones that are in the book I didn’t use very good lighting. After that, I will add the drop shadow if it is not there yet. It does make a difference in showing what is my own work and what not, which will add value to the found photographs as historical objects.

 

As we discussed, in terms of layout, it is recommended as part of the rework to consider editing the following pages:
• 12, remove one of the interior shots and enlarge the other.
• 13, add one more similar image and arrange in a grid of four.
• 14, remove bottom right image and resize/align the exterior and dogs to match.
• 16, remove archway shot & top right text, resize/align the found images.

• 17, resize and align top of left image to match right.
• 18, remove small bottom right image and resize/align the before after shots.
• 20, remove right side text, align image of fridge.
• 21, add new page to only accommodate letter.

With the design and structure, it would be logical to include a ‘list of illustrations’ page, this would then clearly assign each image/letter to its respective owner.

All these changes will really help in strengthening the narrative of the the photo essay. I’ll work on it and then we can discuss the result before I have the book printed for assessment.

Learning Logs and or blogs:

You have evidenced your development well, however, the abrupt change of direction may be good to clarify in the opening introduction to your final assignment, when it is sent for formal assessment. Use an edited version of your ‘Change of Thought and Assignment’ blog post.

Good idea

You have reflected very well for this assignment; questioning whether or not to use the found material evidences good ethical judgment. Going by your account of your relationship with Cyrus coupled with how you have used the images, you have shown great respect; as long as the images are correctly documented and assigned, then ethically, their use is fair.

Suggested reading/viewing:

With regards to the layout/design of the book, it would benefit greatly from further design research into photography books. For example, the front page could look very dynamic if done in a similar style to the example in the top right of this picture: https://goo.gl/MYm2Ax

Pointers for the next assignment:

We discussed about the presentation of your assignments; Assignment 01 will be the online interactive map, Assignments 02 & 03 will be archival inkjet prints, remember to try out different inkjet papers and keep them all to the same size. Assignment 04 will be a standard document print, test a page with 1.5 & 2.0 line spacing and see which one reads best. With Assignment 05, a book will be very fitting; so, explore the new edit and layout, then we can chat more about it for your Assignment 06 feedback.

I am very eager to get the work done and move on to a next course. Thanks for your support Russell!

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Assignment 5 – The Tragic Demise of the Rulers of Oudh

Introduction

Last February on a walk through the Ridge Forest in Delhi a friend told me about the Prince and Princess of Oudh. They lived in a ruin in the same forest and their life story was by for the most extraordinary I have ever come across. I decided to pay them a visit and ended up meeting Prince Cyrus. His sister had past away a few months earlier. We developed an interesting friendship; I would visit him now and then and we would call each other very often.

Prince Cyrus was a difficult man to be friends with. His requests became harder and harder to answer, up to the point where he asked me to buy him a gun for his protection. I backed off a little bit and didn’t visit him for a while. Last week I discovered he had passed away a month ago. A natural death, but all alone in the remains of his royal past.

When he was still alive, Cyrus had asked me to photograph his home and had given me some photographs from himself and his family. Now that he had expired (as the Indians call it) I photographed what remained of his now ransacked home. I found more photographs and documents that I have saved and scanned.

This assignment brings together my images and the found material. I have tried to tell about the Royal Family of Oudh, their extraordinary lives and strange dynamics that made them the way they were and led to their tragic ends.

I realize that there is much more that can be done with the material. This book lifts the veil of their mysterious lives and aims to give an insight in the feelings and hardships of the prince and princesses.

The Tragic Demise of the Rulers of Oudh

Cyrus-1

 

Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

This focus of the end result of the assignment is not so much my photography, but the way my own images work together with existing materials to tell a story. I believe I managed to do that effectively, there is a distinct difference in the images that I took when Cyrus was still alive and afterwards, the added texts and old photographs. I think I managed well to let it all support the text of Princess Sakhina’s notes and lift the veil of their strange lives and feelings. I struggled with the design of the book, but it really helped to use a template. I would like to learn more about principles of design and especially take the time to find my own taste and style.

I think I have shown my observational and visual awareness skills through my photographs, but also through the way I have selected the images and documents and brought them together.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas

I am content with the outcome, although I realize that there is much more that could be done to tell the story and that this booklet doesn’t do any justice to what has happened to the Royal Family of Oudh. I had first chosen an other subject for this assignment and had found myself completely stuck at a certain point. I noticed that when I changed to this subject I found myself knowing much better what to do and how to approach the materials. Looking at the final product, I believe I have met the criteria, realizing that next assignment I might look for help sooner if I get stuck again.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

There is still a lot to be learnt in this area. I find that I still lack the technical skills to take the leap in becoming more creative and let the conceptual juices flow. But this being the last assignment of the course, I do see a difference in outcome compared to the first one. I have grown, but feel that there are so many areas in which I can develop more.

However, in the preparation of this assignment I have experimented a lot, struggled through finding my voice and concept amidst all the materials I had gathered (also in my first attempt). I feel I need to be a bit more methodical and hope that this will get stronger with practice and sheer persistence.

Context – reflection, research, critical thinking (learning logs, critical reviews and essays)

Without having done the exercises in the reader and the reading and looking at other artists’ work, I don’t think I would have ever gotten where I am today. I feel very inspired and pushed to go beyond my comfort zone. This assignment is the result of thinking about the function of spaces and objects, the value we add to them and how photography adds on to that. I feel that especially in the older photos a lot can be learnt from the gazes of the members of the family, it also shows that captions enforce images and make new connections and connotations with the subject matter.

I have struggled with the ethic of using this material that is not mine. I feel I let down Cyrus as a friend and not sure if I am the one to keep it and use it for my own studies. Am I treating the material with the respect Cyrus wished for? These are questions to think about and reflect on while using the material in other projects. I’ll go back to the ruins one more time to see if there are more documents that are worth saving.

Assignment 5 – The Rulers of Oudh – selection and layout

There is so much material to work with! To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning and didn’t know where to start. The initial idea was to make triptychs that showed the decay of the objects and how the connection with the Rulers of Oudh disintegrates over time. However, the more I read from Princes Sakina’s notes, I realized that I wanted to focus on the personalities and dynamics of the family members as well.

Through using the photos that had been given to me and that I had found in the ruin, I was able to construct much more of a narrative in which the visuals enforce the text and vise versa.

Below are my first trials of the triptychs. I soon realized that design is not my forte and bought a photo book template from http://www.envato.com. This gave me just the push that I needed to continue and be motivated.

Cyrus try outs-2

Cyrus try outs-1

Here is my first trial, I added a newspaper clipping in order to put everything in context. I decided to use exactly the same font, punctuation and capitalization as the princess used in her notes. It gives more insight in her confused mind and shows which elements of her story are stressed.

1st Book

After the first trial I realized that the story needed more context and smaller narratives to gain a greater understanding of what had happened. I added a newspaper article of which I find that it describes the lives of the prince and princess in the forest very well and explains about the death of their mother in a clear and engrossing way.

I also felt I needed to add the story of my own relationship with Cyrus and how I came to know in and got hold of all the material. I have not made it too personal, because I still feel that I should have visited him more in his final months. I don’t own this story, nor want to claim to have had a special relationship with him. I could have been a much better friend, and I still find it hard that he died all alone.

2n Book

I wanted to remove some of the visual noise and thought the titel of the book would be visible enough in the photograph itself. So this was the next result:

3th Book

I have added an extra newspaper article that talks more about how they ended up at the Railway Station, and their trials and tribulations there. I also moved around other images and decided to bring more variety in the photographs.

4th Book

Back to adding a title, because I realize the front image is not strong enough to let the words pop out as a title. I have also added a written note of the princes, because it gives an idea of what her handwriting looked like and her confused way of thinking.

So this is the result, I am sure I can make more changes, but I am eager to hear feedback from my tutor first.

Final Book

 

Final thoughts and questions:

  • Should I write captions with the photographs so that it is clear which are mine? I think that if you read the story it is all quite obvious, but still… Maybe I should add a part with captions only?
  • Does the layout do justice to the story and does it bring across the heaviness of it, the struggles of the people involved, but also the craziness of the whole situation? Can people actually draw the conclusion that the mother was really stubborn and sort of ruined her kids lives? On the other hand, shouldn’t I leave the interpretation to the readers?
  • Was it good to add so much text?

Assignment 5 – The Rulers of Oudh – preparations

As you have read in my former post, I have changed the subject of my assignment. I have a collections of photographs from the same place and objects over a period of time and will present them together in such a way that it tells and underlines the unique and sad life story of Cyrus and his family.

Because there is quite a lot of documentation of Cyrus; old photographs, newspaper articles and letters, I have a wealth of angles to work from. I want the narrative to be wider than just the family story. Through looking at the photographs I want the viewer to become aware of the passing of time, the importance and meaning we put on object and status and what remains.

Because there has been quite a lot of attention from the press, I want to add two stories that I found, one online, one among the papers, that give a good sense of the events that defined their lives. To add my own personal experience, I will focus more on the relationship I had with Cyrus and how I got all the material.

Especially after reading Cyrus’ sister’s notes, I feel that it is important to keep the memory alive. Not so much because I am stuck on royalty, but more because it is such a dramatic example of how status and property can ruin peoples life. How dreams and grudges can block reality and eventually undermine who you are.

Cyrus, his mother and sister died lonely and poor. I really believe Cyrus could have been so much happier if his mother hadn’t been such a stubborn lady and hadn’t molded them into believing their status was the only thing to live for.

These are the kind of ideas I want to show through my own photographs and in the way I order them in the book. In the next post I will show the different steps I took and my though process along the way.

 

In the meantime

My photographs have been published on the BBC website! Quite exciting to see my name under the photographs, the stories themselves are also very interesting 🙂

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-41861843

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41510293

I notice how much I enjoy photo journalist projects. It’s a matter of getting a good picture in a really short amount of time, get it to the journalist in an even shorter amount of time and being able to let the image stand out compared to the ones taken on the iphone!

Assignment 1 – Rework

My tutor made a few suggestions in his report that I have been working with.

You have submitted a set of images that are technically good; they evidence a competent design and visual awareness, coupled with an overall successful compositional approach. A couple of your images may benefit from postproduction cropping; however I would recommend to experiment with other aspect ratios. For example, with DSLR’s, the default aspect ratio that is outputted, is 3:2, which is based upon traditional 135 film size of 24mm x 36mm. As an experiment, I would suggest trying a 1:1 square ratio; I’ll admit that I have a tendency to suggest this ratio quite often, as it is based upon older camera formats by photographers* I admire. Anyway, through performing such postproduction cropping and documenting it, you will be providing further evidence for the ‘experimentation’ aspect of the ‘Demonstration of Creativity’ assessment criterion. As an example in investigating possible composition values, I have taken two of your images and cropped them square. Please see the next page…

Out of your entire set, one of the weaker images in terms of composition, is the one titled, ‘Guard’; the subject is quite distance and is not as visually connective as the other situational portraits you have produced.

 

I had a go at cropping the images and editing them in a polaroid style. I think I went a bit overboard with the colours and I don’t like the final results too much. I changed the image of the guard for the one Russell suggested.

I can see why this crop works better, however, I felt I needed to put the images a bit more in context and realized that I needed a way to let them work together a bit more. So I created a personalized map in Google with pins on the places where I took the photographs. This connects the people together more, but also shows how completely different lives everybody lives, even though we are in the same place most of the time.

You can find the map through this link:

Map

 

Change of Thought and Assignment

This week’s events have made me change my mind completely regarding this assignment. My acquaintance Cyrus died and I want to dedicate this assignment to him. The thing is, Cyrus had the most interesting and sad life stories I’ve ever come across. He grew up in a royal Moghul family, with two brothers and a sister. His mother was a very strong headed and stubborn person who was battling against the confiscation of the royal family’s palaces and belongings. When their house burnt down in 1975 and no other accommodation was provided by the government, she went into protest by living in the first class waiting room for 10 years with her children, servants and dogs.

In 1985 the princess and her mother was granted the ruins of a hunting lodge in the forest of New Delhi. She accepted it and moved in with her two children and dogs. The ruins did not have any doors or windows, there was no water or electricity, but they managed to move in and establish themselves. The princess was very unhappy and committed suicide in 1993 by crushing her diamonds and drinking them. Cyrus and Sakina, her children, were devastated and lay besides her for days.

They continued to live in the legacy of their mother in extreme poverty, but never let go of their titles and traditions.

I met Cyrus last year and we become friends. I would visit him in the hunting lodge and he would call me in the evenings. He wanted to know everything about my children and husband and mainly talked about his misfortunes and unhappiness. His sister had passed away a few months earlier and he was still very upset about it.

At a certain point I felt that I couldn’t meet all his requests of buying things for him and arranging other issues. I distanced myself a little bit and didn’t visit him for a few months. Last week I heard he passed away. I went back to the lodge and photographed his belongings, took a few papers and photographs and started reading letters and a book his sister wrote. I believe there is so much to discover about the way they thought and lived, and learn about how status and loyalty can ruin people’s lives. It’s a sad story, but fascinating.

My idea is to go through the archives and find photos with objects that I have photographed when Cyrus was still alive and now that he has passed away. It will tell sad the story of the downfall of a royalty,  the story of loyalty, sacrifice and human decay.

Here is a first selection of the material that I want to use:

 

I’m thinking about ways on how to put everything together, and will write more about it in my next post.