After the Google Hangout with my tutor and reading his report, I set out to work on making the changes he suggested and create a narrative in the style of the images he found most striking. Of all tutors, Russell has been most directive in what kind of changes I should make and what works and what doesn’t. I have to get used to this and find myself doubting if this is what I would have actually done myself. But I have to say I do feel really challenged to push myself, look for other possibilities and be more creative. I think this has worked in the images I have added to the narrative.
Again, it took sometime to get the tone and idea clear in the layout. I have decided on a very clean and simple layout, which has the effect I am looking for. The images are all a bit dark and reminded me of a person who is longing for something. So I looked up some quotes of which I think that they will enforce the narrative in the images and I think that it adds an extra layer of understanding to the story.
On the other hand, I might be taking away some of the personal interpretation of the viewer, but I always like to read captions and ideas that come with images, so I think this is okay.
Again, it took about three different versions before I was kind of happy with the result:
As you can see, I have changed a few photos in the process as well. This was because I think the image below adds to the variety of images and has a better quality. My tutor had suggested that I take the photo again, this time looking through the window, but I realise there actually are already quite a few where I am looking through a window, so decided to stay with this one.
In this assignment I have noticed myself wavering from focusing on ways to photograph myself to how people perceive themselves in general and back again. I am aware that my self portraits don’t really show deeper parts of my personality, but how I perceive myself, the meaning of my place in my environment, how I represent myself and in which ways I recognise who I am in what I see. When selecting and editing I did not necessarily have this in mind, but I did notice it when I was deciding on whether to add text or not to the photographs, and what kind of texts they should be. In the different layouts you will see these thoughts changing from text to no text and back to text again.
In selecting my photographs, I have tried to focus on a good balance of subject matter, colour and the use of different techniques. Some pages in the book contain more than one images, to show a concept instead of just one narrative in a single image.
Even though my work is not a narrative in a classical kind of way, in a sense I do find that the total work does have elements of a story. We see the same person from different angles, in different times and in a variety of places. The images together bring add the the notion of the main character, inward feelings as well as outward circumstances. This variety builds up a story, even though it’s open for many different interpretations.
The image on the front page was made with a clip-on macrolens on my iPhone. I was happily surprised with the blurred effect. It is hard to recognize myself in this image, so I thought it would be a good front page, it triggers the viewer to ask questions about the main character.
I want this image to set the tones and atmosphere for the book, even though they are all very different. In the following image I wanted to show myself in the kitchen, which stands for a place and an activity that I find myself in on a very regular basis, even though I don’t feel like that is a conscious decision, it is simply part of the things in life that have to be done. Even though I find cooking itself not the most exciting thing to do, I often come up with new ideas and plans. The monotonous tasks trigger a happy kind of daydreaming and loosing sense of time and place that I wanted to show in this image.
I took even more photos, but these are kind of representative of the different angles that I tried. My final decision was based on the balance of color and the fact that I am small, but still very visible in the image. It almost looks as if I am about to dive in the water, which is a nice reflection of the daydreaming and loosing oneself as I described.
The following images were all taken at night after a rare rain shower. I wanted to focus on the reflection in the water, but ended up liking the ones which show the building and lights most. However, after talking to other students, I realized that the image was too similar to an other one in the book, so I decided to swap it. What I like about the final image is that it has a very locked up feeling to it. The reflection of the bars on the pavement don’t give any space around the subject. I think it can stand for how we can often feel locked up in our own thoughts, character and situations and don’t feel there is a way out of who we are and the situation we’re in, even if we reflect on ourselves and really try to improve or get better.
In the original photo, the reflection was upside down, so I flipped it vertically. Now the person is looking down on the viewer, which gives it a very distancing, arrogant feel. I like this.
I got the idea for this photograph when I parked my car and realised that the lights on the trees would make for a good setting for an image. In order to contrast the green and white light, I decided to wear red and add a bit of a dramatic effect to the scene. The theme of this image is escapism, so I posed in order to look as if I was running away from something.
I chose the one in which I am looking back at the car, because it reflects the moment of escape; when look back and away.
After taking this photograph, I walked towards the house and noticed the pretty light at the back. I experimented a bit more and decided to use my daughter’s mermaid fin as a prop. I read the story ‘The Little Mermaid’ when I was younger and always remember the cost that the mermaid had to pay for her to be human, live in the world and find love. I think that everybody is faced with choices that define who they are and how they live. Almost all choices come with a loss and a price. This photograph represents that moment of choice.
To be honest, I thought of this meaning after taking the photo and reading the story of The Little Mermaid again. In order to point out what I am trying to say, I have added the part of the text that is central to the idea of choices and consequences, how they define who you are and how you live your life.
I took the following image with a small macro lens that I can attach to my phone. I wanted to focus in on my eye, showing what it was seeing while I took the photograph. I took some figuring out to find the right angle, but I was happy with the result.
This photograph was inspired by the concept that our self image is very different from what we actually look like. With taking this image I focus on the tool with which we see, and showing what the eye is actually seeing at the same time. Of course, this image is distorted and very different from what I was seeing at the same time, but I like how the act of seeing is stressed through portraying myself like this.
In the following images I wanted to stress the idea of the ability to change environments. We constantly move around, go from one place to the other and are somehow able to adjust and adapt to all the different circumstances we find ourselves in. It is fascinating that we pass different people with different lives, stories and ideas every day without being of who they are. Living abroad makes me even more aware. Most of the time I have no clue about the lives of the people that I pass every day. In a way this makes me feel isolated and maybe more focused on myself. I wonder if it has changed the way I perceive myself, especially compared to people who have not moved around as much as I have.
As you will see in the different designs I made, I had planned on using all six images on one page in order to show the multitude of scenes one passes while on the move. However, after having showed my work to fellow students, I decided to only use the three with the most striking colors. The idea of mobility still comes across, but the colors contrast much better than with all the images together.
During my night photography adventures, I thought it would be nice to photograph myself and a starry night to emphasize the meaning of life and our place as an individual in time and space. I still think it is a nice idea, but I was not happy with the quality of the images. They take down the overall quality of the book, so I decided to replace it with an other type of photograph, which you can see below. But in order to give you an idea of my thought processes, I will add the contact sheets anyway.
The photo I had originally chosen to add to the book was this one:
However, I think it is not sharp enough and the lighting is a bit oversaturated and grainy. I will try to make a better photograph some time, because I like the concept.
However, with air pollution and full moon, I haven’t had a clear night these days, so it will have to wait till I’m in The Netherlands. Here is the set of images from which I chose a replacement:
This idea was inspired by Escher and Vivian Maier, who have made self portraits in a similar way. I thought about changing the background or setting in which you could see the lamp. but I actually like the contrast between the single item on an empty background and the busy scene that is reflected in the lamp.
To add some variety I took a few self portraits while I was in Nizamuddin, an area in New Delhi that is famous for its small alleys, mosques and perfume shops.
I tried to take a photograph in which my image was sort of immersed in the environment. That’s why I chose the image in which you can see my eyes in between bottles with eyes on it. Again, it focuses on the act of seeing, in this case, strange eyes are looking at me and I am looking at myself.
I am quite intrigued by the idea that what we see is not just an impression of the information that our eyes give to the brain, but that our brain is wired to look at people, and also ourselves in that sense, in a certain way. Even though the images below our quite standard images that people use to show how our brain perceives visual information, I wanted to add them to my assignment to emphasize the multiple ways we perceive ourselves and the perceiving itself.
Concerning the design and captioning of the the pdf file, I have spent a lot of time trying out different styles, combinations of photographs and page sizes. I had never done this before and enjoyed the process quite a bit. I realize that it is helpful to look at a lot of other work to see different options, notice which styles communicate which messages and feelings. I’m not sure if the final layout is communicating exactly what I want, but to be very honest, I am not quite sure about that anyway. The final design is what feels best to me and shows the narrative as complete as possible. Below you will find a few of the 10 different versions with the latest on the bottom.
While researching the concept and practice of self portraits, I stumbled upon a very interesting panel discussion of the National Portrait Gallery. In this discussion, different specialists, a philosopher, neuro scientist, phototherapist and lecturer in photographic theory, discusses their ideas and studies about the self, our own perception of self, how this is translated and transformed in a self portrait and the implications of showing it in social media. I found it incredibly interesting and will point out a few ideas on which I can base my assignment and photograph myself.
James Kilner, a neuro scientist, explained the processes that take in our brain when we look at people. We understand each other in not verbal communication through mimicking the facial gestures the observed person is making. Our brain reads the movements of the muscles and through that we have an expectation of what a face should look like, which from there determines the way we see. In short, everything is determined of our idea of what we should see.
However, we don’t have proper visual knowledge of what we look like ourselves and base those ideas mainly on the actual feelings of what we feel when we are mimicking others. Because of that it it is difficult to recognize ourselves in our own selfies and do we not always recognize others in their own selfies. We have a poor visual representation of what we look like and are biased. ‘We all think that we are slightly younger and better looking than we actually are’.
With technology we are able to keep taking a photograph till the point we look like we think we look. With digital photography we have a platform to maintain our reputation and build up an image of ourselves that is based on our own perception and not on how other people perceive us.
1. take a series of photographs and choose the one of which I think I look like most, and then ask others to choose the one of which they think it represents me.
2. try to mimick how I look when I am sad or happy and find photographs in which I am really sad or happy. (or any other emotion)
3. take a few self portraits and create visual allusions that show how are minds are programmed to look at faces in a particular way.
4. ask a friend to help me dress and put make up on in a way that I would never do myself and photograph myself. So create a self portrait that is contrary to how I feel I look. (idea comes from an other video of a drag queen who explains the process of change of identity he goes through when dressing up)
5. take a self portrait in a politically charged environment and only show interest in myself, emphasizing the criticism of the act of taking selfies being narcissistic and a distraction from political action and indeed, poor taste, also associated with excess
6. take a self portrait with Indians who ask me if I want to take a self portrait with them.
7. produce a ‘perfect’ selfie.
8. produce a self portrait in a reflection in a puddle, mirror, shopping window or something like that.
The trickiest part of each assignment is getting a good idea to work with. I have had a few options in mind that are of documentary character, but my tutor suggested to focus on something completely different:
With Assignment Three, there is not much of a shift, in terms of documenting your surroundings, only that it is to be in colour, which you have been doing very well. Even though the assignment asks for you convey a narrative at a local level, like you did for assignment one, I would aim to make it very distinct.
Really push the boundaries with this midway assignment, experiment further and explore other options, perhaps it could be on a compositional level or you could explore alternative shooting methodologies. I noticed that you studied Vivien Maier, maybe as part of your documentary approach, you could explore the notion of ‘putting yourself in the frame’ through shadow play and reflections. One of the main elements of this assignment is about constructing a mock book/PDF document. The function of this is for you to consider how layout governs the narrative, which in turn informs and controls the viewer.
From what I read he challenges me to go beyond my typical way of photographing, which is quite straightforward when it comes to composition and framing. There are a few photographers that really stand out to me when it comes to putting yourself in the frame, Vivian Maier, Lee Friedlander and Rafael Minkinnen. Of course, there are other examples of photographers adapting to the social community they are photographing and taking photos of themselves in this community, but I don’t really feel like I’m up for that and don’t have enough time to integrate myself. Friedlander and Maier have quite a similar way of photographing themselves, mainly seeing random opportunities while they are photographing in the street or during their daily lives. I actually wonder if Maier was quite deliberate in getting the same kind of effects as Friedlander in his images, since some are very similar and almost seem to have been photographed on the spot. Minkinnen however, is very deliberate in choosing his location and stretches all the possibilities of immersing himself in the environment, becoming one with the lines and elements of the landscape he is photographing.
Besides that, I feel inspired by the articles and images that I researched on constructed documentary photography. I would like to experiment with photographing in the style of Hannah Starkey or Jeff Wall, that show a narrative in the photograph and use rich colours.
I love experimenting with light and different angles and think it is going to be a lot of fun working on this. My only issue here is that after I have listened to Campbell’s talk on the elements and research of narrative photography, I’m not really sure how to get these narrative elements in my work. However, Campbell already mentioned that he focused on the elements of a classic narrative, I assume that in less traditional narratives there are other ways of telling a story, which I will have to explore.
I want my end result to be very diverse in imagery and I really want to stretch myself to make it look different than any other work I have done up till now, especially regarding the presentation and layout of the PDF. I have been thinking for a long time that I should explore other techniques and be more creative, so this is a good opportunity to do that.
So, here is my way to go ahead:
March 23 – 29
Do initial research on Maier, Friedlander, Minkinnen and other photographers I find interesting in relation to this subject
Read about the ideas of self portraiture, notion of self, self image, self and environment and the impact of seeing oneself in relation to others
Read and watch videos on book design and think of ways on how to add a sense of self in the design itself
Photograph in the street and try to make self portraits in a street photography style
Photograph at home in order to explore the possibilities in my living environment
Photograph in the park, or other natural area to explore possibilities a la Minkinnen
What a great lecture! I had already started thinking about what to do for this assignment, but have to say that Campbell’s ideas on narratives and the impact of photography have given me more inspiration and ideas to go ahead.
Campbell starts by quoting Tod Papageorge: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough’, which stresses the necessity to understand the issues and context of a subject before it is being recorded.
By researching the context of a certain subject you become aware of the context in which the narrative takes place, you locate ‘particular moments and places in relation to other moments and places’. In order to make a connection between time, the issue and the story, it is of utmost importance to ask fundamental questions of the context of the issues that the photographer is trying to portray.
Campbell makes a clear distinction between what happens and the event that is narrated about it afterwards. Because this narrative is always dependent on and understood through narration, one always has to question the nature of reality, truth and objectivity. Important parts of a event always come are always defined after it has happened by the narration of the event.
‘Narration is a set of practices of mediation that make events and issues appear to us, because it locates them into stories’ As documentary photographers, we are involved in constructing these stories, so it is of vital importance that we do proper research, since there will be massive differences in perspectives and clashes of information. It is impossible to produce a fully informed narrative, so we have to be aware of the choices that are made in who is giving the information, in which context does the issue or event take place and how will this be interpreted by the audience. Campbell quotes Hayden White: ‘When you have a particular narrative, applied to something, there are limits in how to tell it and you find out what those challenges are.’
Even though there is no such thing as an objective, complete narrative, it does carry power, because narratives ‘offer a sense of coherence and purpose, even though life itself doesn’t have that’. We are aware of the simplification of the issues that we address, the ability to reduce complicated matters into understandable, visual stories feeds our desire of comprehension and understanding.
So, fully aware of its limits, we have to make sure our narratives are put in a context that we understand, since the narrative is linked to other things in time and space, themes, assumptions etc. The inclusion and exclusion of these elements is obvious and has to be done as considerate as possible.
Campbell continues with a brief description of the classic narrative.
Sense of time, linear or non-linear with recollections, time shifts
It has characters who drive the story
Arch, an event or issue
Sense of space (referral, suggestions)
Sense of drama
Moments of personification
A narrative shows traces and the embodiment of the overarching event or issue in people, places, location and other aspects. The theme is not what you come across and see. In the narration you place the individual in its context.
Every narrative has a particular structure
moments of revelation
moments of conflict
resolution or not
The key moves to highlight this structure is to introduce a location, a face, an individual story, context and challenge the way on how to deliver the story. Focus on what you really want to tell and know this beforehand!
From this Campbell touches the idea of the power of a photography and responsibility of the photographer. He claims that the use of images in stories have established its power, questioning the actual influence of the photograph on the event itself. Photographs don’t change the world. However, Campbell does mention the work of Bleasdale and Watriss and the way their work and work ethics did influence the subject matter.