Part 5 - Assignment

People and Place on Assignment - Final images after tutor report

In my earlier posts I wrote about the reason to convert my images to black and white. My tutor understood the reasoning, but suggested I'd convert them into colour and have a look what worked best. So I worked a bit on these coloured images and do think these results are better. The atmosphere is not so uniform anymore, giving room to subtleties in the expressions in the children's faces and interior and more details in the shadows, so that there is more to see and think about. 

Besides that, the colours show the ugliness of the light at night, adding to the impersonal and empty atmosphere that can already be felt because of the composition and state of place and time. So colour it will be!

My tutor also suggested to add two images, the one in which Julian and Eva are fighting over a laptop and the one with the girls staring into the camera. I hadn't really thought about adding them, but looking at them from an other person's perspective, I see that they add an extra dimension to the set. These images show a lot of emotion. In the one where the kids are fighting, it shows frustration and action. In the image where the girls are looking straight in the camera, we see a lot of their emotions and thoughts. Especially compared to the images I took 7 years ago, there is a matureness to be seen and much more than the basic emotions of when they were little. I hadn't really thought about that, but now I do think they should be part of the set. It draws the viewer in the scene and makes it look beyond the emptiness of the room into the minds of these budding girls. 

My tutor had also suggested to call the series 'The Waiting Room', since the images represent a time in which we had just moved into a new place but were still waiting for our furniture to arrive. The children were new at school, I was still trying to find my way around and we were all sort of waiting for normal life to start. The interior of the home and the sense of boredom that the images breath are a good reflection of how we all felt. It did feel like we were living in a waiting room, eager to get something done or started. It is in these transitory moments that you can discover things about yourself and your relationship with others, read books and watch movies that you otherwise wouldn't. Looking back I consider this time to be quite positive and I think the images reflect that in a way.

I have put the images in a somewhat chronological order so that there is more consistency in the light and also to show the process of changes while waiting and to finish off with an image in which you can see the children leave the room. 

People and Place on Assignment - Tutor report

Yesterday I had a nice chat with my tutor and we were able to talk through my submission for Assignment 4 and the course as a whole. Even though I took a long time to finish the course and at times have felt a bit disconnected from it, I have always really appreciated and learnt a lot from Les' support and advice. 

Looking at my images and the selection I made, Les pointed at a few images I hadn't really noticed and it's great to look at work and discover things that I hadn't seen myself, maybe because I'm very familiar with the people and situations in the image, or I was looking at different criteria when selecting the images. An the suggestion is to convert the images back into colour and I have been working on that this morning. I have to say, that in general I prefer colour images anyway, but because these images were so grainy and in some the light so ugly, I thought I'd better give them a black and white and grainy bath. 

I still have to step out of the idea that images should always be technically perfect. If the narrative is strong, it is ok to be a bit forgiving, so that's what I'm going to be as well. But we continue with the tutor report! 

Overall Comments
You are going for assessment in March 2016. I feel you have challenged yourself. You have also read alongside shooting. The benefits are visible. I have enjoyed viewing and discussing your work with you. Good luck for the future!

I believe our conversations have added to my desire to challenge myself and show more of my work and develop myself instead of just finishing the course as quick as possible. I think the combination of talking on Skype and the report really works well. Thanks for your support!

Assessment potential (after Assignments 2 and 4)

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback. 

I'm really happy that I've been given more time to conclude this course and work on the details and make changes according to the advise that were given in the report. In general the feedback has been very constructive and eye opening. Studying the photographers that were suggested will help me expand my vision and ideas on photography and also the way I have been working in this course.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity In addition to, or complimentary to the feedback given during Skype tutorial – I feel you have satisfied your brief. There is the possibility of narrowing this brief down to reflect your reading of Angier, and your ideas of suspended narrative – this sits well with your much earlier Hopper-esque work. The results of your burst of sustained shooting are evident. There is more going on than first appears. I am glad that you chose to make new work. There is scope for future expansion, perhaps a sustained engagement with your new place.

I will explore this idea more and change the brief accordingly. It's a good idea to narrow it down and really focus on this aspect, because it was something I had in mind when photographing and I became much more aware of my role as outsider/mother/photographer, which I would like to explore more. 

I think a book would be appropriate as a final resolution. You want to demonstrate your progression through the assignments. It is a good idea to make this easy for assessors by highlighting what you feel you have achieved on People and Place, such as, aligning your research with your practice, finding a voice, gaining confidence, finding new areas that interest you, and discovering new influences.

Yes, and it's good that I have enough time now to make one and use the printer facilities that I have trust in. I still need to figure out how to incorporate the blog in the book, but I think I'll keep the book as clean and visual as possible, and leave the words and research to my blog. I also want to add a few images from the exercises that I'm especially happy with and reflect my learning curve throughout the course as well.

Looking at the images -
Subtlety, lots going on, ambiguity, you're right, there is a 'lot to see'! If you're impressed by Train your Gaze then use this as much as possible, measure your edit against its ideas. We discussed Bertholdt Brecht's ideas of staging, especially the use of emptiness. Also ideas of the children performing and being 'in-between'. I really like the idea of the home as a waiting room, a good title for this series could 'The Waiting Room'.

Again Sally Mann would be a good reference, but also see Wendy McMurdo, Tina Barney, Collier Schorr, Annelies Strba. I'm ok with black and white, also happy with with your justifications, do feel that the sickliness of artificial light works with waiting room idea so would prefer to see them in their original colour, don't obsess with 'harmonising' the colours, we appreciate the changing of the lights reflecting the transition of time.

I'll look into these artists and reflect on them in new blogs, together with the artists that you have suggested in earlier reports.

Consider these additional photos - Photo 61 in the first selection. The power of the two girls staring back, think about John Berger's comments on the male gaze in Ways of Seeing, think about how powerful and shocking it was to Victorians in Manet's Olympia to see a woman staring back, it still has power now.

Interesting that I thought the image didn't really fit in the set  because the girls are looking at me. You're right, it is very powerful and a sort of break in the flow of being an outsider in the scene. I'll definitely add the image to the set.

Photo 89where it looks like there's a tug of war over the laptop. Sharpness may not be as important as composition here. If you're having them printed check that images are sharp enough for the print size. Less post-production usually means less of a shock when the prints come back! Give yourself plenty of time to review prints.

I have added the image in the set and I think it should work, even though it is not particularly sharp. I'm not printing them in a huge format, so I think that in the size that I'm printing, it should be ok.

Add additional work as research in support of each assignment. Demonstrate why you have made the choices you have made.

I will and thanks again for the opportunity to have more time to work on it and really dive back into my studies. I'm very motivated!

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context
Your blog has some very good reflections on work seen and books read. Tie together your thoughts with the images made in response.

Suggested reading/viewing Context
You wanted to add some reviews of the books I'd previously suggested in feedbacks 1-4. 

 Pointers for the next assignment
We discussed moving on to EYV or restarting Digital Film.

Yes, I'm still thinking about that as well and will contact the head office for some advice.

People and Places - Selection process part 4

In the following images you see some of the boredom that my children are experiencing in our empty house without their toys and familiar things. They are just sort of hanging in their chairs, chatting and watching Youtube videos all the time. To be honest, I find it a bit frustrating that they can't seem to entertain themselves better, on the other hand I understand that they just don't feel like doing anything else. It feels like we're in a constant waiting room, and I find that the following pictures bring about that sense as well.

At first I wanted to show some of the interaction between the two brothers, but when I think about the waiting aspect that I'd like to convey in this image, my preference goes to the final one. Besides that, I like the shapes Julian is making with his arms and feet and how the two empty chairs and open doors make you wonder even more what he's doing there and that it's not a typical living room setting. I find it in black and white even better, in the post processing, I tried to focus even more on Julian's toes and the chairs.

These images were taken from the hallway. I wanted to show the emptiness of the house and how the children seem to be ignoring this fact, being focused on their screen and books. I liked the angle from which the image is taken. The viewer is looking into something from the dark and is an outsider from the scene. 

I like the vertical image the most, because it accentuates the diagonal line from the bags to the chairs and children and shows a frame within the frame with the doorpost. Thinking about the post processing, I think this one works fine in colour as well, but to keep the consistency,  I've converted this one in black and white as well, with the same grainy look.

These photos were taken later at night, when the younger children were already in bed and Aaron stayed up to talk to his friends online. I didn't want to disturb him and quite liked how the lines in the door work with the composition and place Aaron in a more isolated spot, also because of the reflections on the windows. Aaron seems much more involved with the world online and the world that used to be his home than the place in which he is now. 

In choosing the image from this set, I just look at which one focuses best on Aaron. I find that the first image is best, also because of the prominent place of the curtain in the front. It emphasises the voyeuristic viewpoint and places Aaron as if he's on stage, although he is totally not aware of it. In the post processing, I've cropped the image more to make the curtain look even more as if it could close the scene any moment. It's a nice addition to the 'suspended narrative'!

This final image was taken right before the kids were off to school. There's only one, but I still like it very much. First of all, it is a true reflection of how things go in the morning. Eva is reading a book, not bothering about the fact that she has to get ready, Aaron is almost out of the door, because he'd rather die than be late at school and Michelle is looking at me to make sure that I kiss her goodbye. This image shows different fases of attention, pace and levels of stress. It is also the only image in which I seem to play a part in the image, I'm looked at and something is expected from me. In the post processing I have lighted Michelle's face a bit, so that we can see her expression. At first, I had cropped the image, but when I compared it with the original one, I like it better without. The image seems a bit more balanced.

People and Place on Assignment - Selection process part 3

We continue with the following images of Michelle. She started off posing for me, but then did something with her hair. Michelle has been a bit sad at times about moving to an other country and quite tired as well in the evenings because of all the changes at school and the work she needs to do. I find with this sequence you can really see the difference between the smile she is putting on and the expression in her face when she is not conscious about it. Therefor the last image is the one that I'd like to submit. Her expression shows some of the pain she's felt in the past months. Also this gesture is one that she almost does unconsciously and is part of something that is brief and not interesting, combing her hair with her fingers. But it is in these moments that a story can be told from somebody's expressions and you start to wonder what else is there. I think it's a nice example of a 'suspended narrative'

In the post processing the conversion to black and white really helps in separating her face from the background and makes the eye focus on the expression in Michelle's face. I have sharpened the facial features a bit and cloned out the blue light in the back, because it's a bit distracting. Again, this image is grainy and gives the feeling as if it was shot on an analogue camera. 

I think that with this entire set the conversion to black and white takes away some of the recentness of the image, it takes them  out of a present context and therefor lets the concept of time and momentum float freely through the images.

In the next images we see Eva doing a cartwheel, which she would not have been able to do if our furniture had been there. This is really something they do when there a bit bored, when it's about time to go to bed or they have to wait for something. 

From these images I choose the 2nd one, mainly because i like the movement, light and how the shape of her legs comes back in the way the light shines on the wall behind her and the fan on the ceiling, even though it's hardly visible. The other ones show more interaction, but I like the empty feel that the second image gives, especially when in black and white. And again, this is a literal transitional moment and a lot of movement in a sterile place.

People and Place on Assignment - Selection process part 2

We continue with describing the decisions I made in choosing the photographs for the set, first of all the ones that were taken at the dinner table. There is always a moment at the end of dinner when the energy kicks in and the kids want to leave the table and I tell them to eat a bit more. I think these images portray this transition pretty well. I was sitting opposite of the Eva and Michelle and at first they started posing, making weird faces and joking around. I waited till they wind down and picked up their books again.

I choose the final image, because this portrays the moment in which the girls are not aware of themselves anymore. Michelle (on the left) is all absorbed in her book, while Eva has just laid it down and is staring ahead and looks as she could do something else any moment and is waiting for her sister's initiative..

I chose to darken the sides of the frame a bit extra in order to keep the focus on the diagonal lines from the front of the frame to the mid back. Now the eye starts on the girls, goes to the front and then to the back of the room. I have lightened up the faces of the girls and darkened the food in the front in order to keep the focus on their facial expressions. I have kept it subtle though because it's ok for the eye to get stuck and think and then wonder around a bit more. In those micro seconds when the eye comes to a hold on, you start to see the story that's taking place in front of you.

In the next set you can see that the children have left the table and wanted to create a good photo opportunity with a fan involved and flying hair. Again, I let it pass and caught the last moment when Julian showed up playing with his patafix while at the same time Michelle redid her hair. These kind of things are gestures that seemingly don't mean anything, but they actually do a lot. Julian has problems concentrating at times and patafix is a great stress reliever, while Michelle is always busy to keep her hair free of knots and in a braid. From the angle I took the image together the children are making the same kind of rectangular shapes that are reflected in the window, bringer extra dynamics in the image. Again, this is a moment that is not there to stay and transitioning in a next activity or move, but still very familiar and therefor meaningful.

In the post processing, I stick to the black and white, grainy feel and think that especially in this image, the image becomes much stronger because of it. I have darkened the text on Julian's shirt and lightened up his face a little bit. What I like especially about this image is that Julian is about to walk away and that even though they are both engaged in something, it is done unconsciously, or on the move. 

The next set of images are taken from outside. I wanted the children to be less aware of me taking photographs and I took the voyeuristic approach. In this set you can see the girls looking at something, they were actually looking at Julian who was trying to hide from the camera. 

My idea is to show what's going in the living room from an outsider's view, so automatically, the decision has to be made between the first and second photo. Because I think there is a multiway communication, between Eva and Michelle, who is looking at Julian, although we can't see him, I prefer the first image. Because we can't see what or who Michelle is looking at, again there are elements that make the viewer curious and gives a sense that the moment is transitional.

As you can see, I have cropped the image quite a bit, first of all so that the children are  better visible and well balanced within the frame, second, not showing the ceiling opens up the top part of the image, giving it a wider feel and makes the viewer more curious about the placate girls are in. There's just a little part of the chair to be seen, which I think adds to the suspense, not showing who is sitting there and therefor not showing with who the girls are interacting.

People and Place on Assignment - selection process part 1

With building a set of photographs, the selection process is almost as important as taking the photographing and post editing itself. In this set, I want to focus on the brief that I have in mind, but also try to create the idea of a suspended narrative, of which I wrote in a former post. In this concept composition plays a big role, as it guides the eye through the image to only conclude that there is an open-endedness or mystery in the story it shows. Apart from that, I want the image to not look staged and that really shows the atmosphere that has been in our house ever since we moved in. It's our home, but we don't feel at home yet, because we have temporary furniture and miss our personal belongings. I want the pictures to show a bit of the escapism my family finds in reading books, being on the computer and interacting with each other. 

The first set of images are of my daughters reading a book together. They often do this and I really like the way they can be engaged in an individual activity at the same time. They don't talk, they just read. Choosing from this set, I have doubted between the 3rd and 4th one. I like both of them, because their faces seem closest to each other and show the tension on their faces. I choose the final one, because this image has the best balance, with a little space between Eva and Michelle's faces and you can see a little part of the book they're reading, which says: "Why didn't you say she would be poisoned, how do we find a cure?", explaining the tension on the girls' faces and at the same time adding suspense to this image as well. Here is the original one and the post processed one.

I have decided to put all the images in black and white for a few reasons. First of all, the light in the room was absolutely awful and had really messed up the colours. It would be difficult to maintain a similar look in all the images, because there are different lights in every corner of the room. Secondly, I want to focus mostly on the composition and expression in the children's faces. With black and white the compositional features stand out stronger and I am able to dodge and burn at the places I want, without making the faces of the the children wash out or look strange. I have cropped the image as well, to keep the background the same everywhere, so that the focus is more on the eyes of the girl. Besides that, I have lightened and sharpened the page on the book where you can read the line about the poisoning. I have added grain and left the image quite dark, because I want to get the images the feel of taken on a analog camera and give it a bit of a dirtier look.

In the overview of the images I took, you can find quite a number of images taken in this corner of the room where the girls are reading and Julian on his computer. To keep some diversity, I decided to continue with this scene. As you can see in these images, my son did everything to hide himself for the camera. I doubted whether I should continue to photograph him, but then I thought that the way he was hiding was very typical for who he is, making it a bit funny and weird. Actually, he could have taken on this pose even if I hadn't been taking photographs, being the little Houdini he is. 

As you can see, as I was photographing, I was walking around and changing my position till I had the angle and distance I liked best. At first I wanted to incorporate the drinks and table, but soon realised that the chair and table and computer make a clean composition in itself. I want the viewer to see the toe sticking out and wondering what it is. This is the final image and post processed version:

As you can see, I've kept the same black and white, grainy look. the image didn't need a lot of cropping and I have only retouched a little thread on the chair because I found it distracting. I added some clarity to the vase, to emphasise the contrast between the shape and pattern of the lamp and square, grey computer. I added overall clarity to emphasise the round shapes and lines, just so that Julian's hands and little toe would stand out even more. In general, I think this image does make you look and wonder and it accumulates enough curiosity to look for more clues, but on the other hand has kept the sterile and empty feel of the room.

People and Place on Assignment - First Selection Family Life

Photographing my own children for this assignment was a bit challenging, especially because I didn't want to stage the children and wanted to show the every day dynamics of our family. I took the images after school, during dinner, at night and in the morning and decided to only take the images in the same room. In all my other assignments I've looked for diversity of places and tried to find the excitement in what's going on in front of the camera. In this case, I really wanted to not guide at all what was going on and focus on what the children initiated, how they interacted with each other and me, just to make it as authentic as possible. We have not received our own furniture yet and I find that the emptiness of the room and the furniture that looks a bit out of place brings an extra effect to the images and makes me even more focused on the children themselves.

As you can see from the images that I took, the light is really ugly and the ones that I took in the morning when they were out on their way were not well lit at all. I'll not include those and in the others, I'll try to work it out in the post processing, probably by making them black and white. Here's the overview of the images that I took, I have already excluded the ones that were not well lit and where the kids were making really strange faces or where blinking.

Looking at the overall collection, I think there is enough material to make a selection of 8 to 12 images. More on that in the next post.

People and Place on Assignment - Alternative Brief

After talking to my tutor about Assignment 5 and the subject I worked on, I started thinking whether it's a good idea to use material that I took over a year ago. According to Les, my tutor, it's important to either show the development in your work over the course or give a very thorough account of the reasons for choosing your work and selection process. Even though I'm very pleased with the work I did for the wrestling match, I do agree with that. I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I've been photographing a lot of exotic subjects, which has been quite easy for me, living in exotic countries. Even though the exoticness is much more familiar for me than for viewers who have never visited these countries, I do feel that I should challenge myself and try to photograph something that I know well and still be able to show my view and my own style through it. 

I have just moved again and it's going to be difficult to photograph something very familiar outside of my family life. So I have decided that that is exactly what I am going to photograph. The house we live in is still very empty, because we have not received our shipment yet and I think that is an even better setting to show the dynamics of my family without any distractions, although of course our interior is also a reflection of who we are. A few years ago, I have photographed our family during dinner time and I would like to add these as part of the assignment, to show how we have developed, but also have stayed the same. To show how I looked at my family and how I do that now, the fun we have and how I enjoy my children being around. The challenge will be to first of all, let me photograph them and second, take a perspective that is a bit of the outsider's, but still involved. 

My new brief is as follows:

Create a cohesive set of photographs that reflect your family life. The emphasis should be on the dynamics between the siblings and parents and the atmosphere of the family at a given time. The idea is that the photographs are honest, not staged and reflect the mood of the moment and how different every part of the family responds to that. The interactions between family members should be stressed and other peculiarities of family members highlighted.