Update on assignment 2, and other stuff

I haven’t posted anything here for a little while and freely admit that gloom and despondency have been the order of the day. After my first four shoots for assignment 2, I am now unsure about whether my idea will work or not. The plan had been to create a space around each of the subjects which reflected their attitude to their role, i.e. detail people would have close-up images and strategists would have plenty of space around them. However, although this works for each person individually, I am not sure that it give coherence to the set as a whole, and I am wondering whether to go back to the drawing board. My preferred images of the four people I have photographed so far are shown below, and I’d love some feedback about what fellow students think.

Additionally, I have been talking to the people at the office about framing some of them and putting them up around the office, so they need to work for that too, and I am not sure about how people would react to some of them. They are not the sort of images most people are used to seeing.

I still plan to photograph another two or possibly three people for the series, but really want to keep a version of image 1 in the set, as this person is an important member of the team. Part of my issue is around going back and asking people if I can photograph them again, although none of them were at all negative about the idea and they all seemed keen to help.

However, despite this hiatus, I have been busy elsewhere. On a more positive note, I had an epiphany with regard to White Balance and went off to my local country park to photograph the autumn trees this weekend. (Until now, I have essentially only been using Auto White Balance). I was much happier with the colour balance in the images I produced, and am glad I have added this to my list of photography skills. Also, while I was standing there taking photographs, I started talking to various people, and one lady kindly allowed me to photograph her little girl, in exchange for a copy of the images. I sent her the images and was delighted, but a little flummoxed, to be asked by her if I was a commercial photographer, as she liked them so much.

Below, I have put a couple of the images I took, including one of the little girl.

My mentor, Stephen Bray, subsequently contacted me about the trees image, which I had posted on Facebook, and suggested that it might be better without the people lurking in the background. I responded saying that I had wondered that, and was considering whether another one might be better, featuring some people more prominently. His response is quoted below in full, and I need to think it over in more detail. I have versions with and without people as well as the one above, and look forward to a fairly detailed appraisal of the messages sent by each version.

My preference would be plain without the people, but that’s just personal taste. Your image might work well in a collection – where the other photographs also show people obscured by nature. That would be enigmatic and cause people to stop and think, because the people’s inclusion would obviously be deliberate.

Finally, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to organise my Lightroom Catalog, Keywords and Collections in a more sensible way, to free up computer space. Last week, doing a search on my Catalog with Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder, I discovered that almost half of my images are duplicates, which might explain why my computer is slowly grinding to a halt. It’s a slow process but should ultimately be worthwhile. As part of this, I have opened a new WordPress.org blog to shadow this one, while I learn how to use it – the processes seem to be very different from WordPress.com. The purpose of this was to allow me to export images directly from Lightroom to WordPress, but so far I haven’t found a way to do it successfully, so the whole thing might have been a waste of time and money. Ho hum!

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10 thoughts on “Update on assignment 2, and other stuff

  1. Catherine

    Difficult one that. The first two make a good connection with the person’s topic of interest whereas the second two don’t. However, the fourth one is intriguing because it makes me wonder what’s going on in that area. I think as well that people seeing images they’re not used to seeing would be a good thing and provide a conversation/discussion point in a different way, using a different part of one’s brain.
    Re your epiphany with white balance, did you set using a white balance card or use one of the camera settings?
    Interesting point re people in the landscape – we had a discussion around that in my work review group in Brighton and Amano wrote a follow-up blog on this. Could be an interesting discussion point for TV group next time you’re able to come.
    Best of luck with the Lightroom problem.

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  2. anomiepete

    My only suggestion about the problem of the group of images working as a set is to either using a similar motif – eg the contextual images all including a sign or something hinting at what the people do or processing so that the colour palette brings them together.

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    1. Holly Woodward Post author

      Thanks for the suggestions, Pete. I think some judicious colour processing might help, as they are all fairly similar already. Hadn’t thought about the signs idea – there’s some potential images I could do around that.

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  3. Holly Woodward Post author

    Thanks, Catherine. That makes me wonder whether captions might be helpful, or whether they would be too obvious? I could either give a short precis of each person’s field of enthusiasm, or simply a word or two, e.g. Planning, New Housing, Library Closure, etc. Something else to think about.

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  4. morrisg

    Holly. The latter three images reminded me of ‘Sternfeld, J. (2001). Strangers Passing. Germany, Melcher Media/ Bullfinch Press.’ with the person as part of their environment where the cues in the background speak of the characters. For consistency they would be better the same size and place in the frame, maybe as large as the largest. The first image, which is closer to your heart, does not fit within the observed framework. You could frame all the images as image no 1 or make them all variable in presentation which is a consistency in itself. The same applies to the gazes – no 1 is internal and the other three are to us. Good images and good idea. My favourite is 2 as it is active like 1.

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    1. Holly Woodward Post author

      Thank you, Morris. This is very helpful. Sternfeld has been informing the series (I have most of a post about his work almost ready to post), and I am pleased that the idea of the environment adding to an understanding of the character is working. You have nailed the reasons why No 1 is obviously different from the others, both in terms of the composition and the gaze, and I may have to go back and re-do that one. The concept of stillness versus activity is something else I need to think about too. Many thanks again.

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  5. stevemiddlehurst

    I’ve taken a while to reach a conclusion and I feel like I am missing something that will help to unlock this series. Image 2 (the library) was the only image that felt complete both in terms of its aesthetics and communicating the relationship between your subject and their subject. I found image 1 and 3 very flat in terms of lighting and this detracted from the content of 1 (which does link the subject to their interest) but with image 3 I couldn’t find any meaning in the picture, even in the context of the other 3 it is a lady in a nondescript landscape. I like the aesthetics of 4 but again I struggled to find your intent and you are totally detached from your subject. I am finding it difficult to see the relationship between the four images, they don’t feel like a series and part of that might lie in the radical changes in framing, you have ranged from intimate to very detached – this might be your intent but I’m thinking of series like Joel Sternfeld’s A Stranger Passing which is also of diverse subjects but is held together by fairly constant framing that usually provides the context you are seeking but consistently focusses the viewer’s attention on his subject. Sorry, Holly, this all sounds very negative but I suspect from the way that you phrased the question on FB that you aren’t satisfied with the images. I found assignment 2 difficult as the brief is very open and my first submission was negatively received by my tutor – I think at the heart of his response was a feeling that too many of the images showed neither an obvious photographic strategy nor expressed my feelings about the subjects. He never gave me feedback on my rework but I felt that my second attempt got much nearer to describing my response to the subjects and were more “interesting” in terms of composition, lighting etc. Personally I would suggest you build on image 2 where your aim of positioning your subject within the context of their interest really works but where it is very clear that she is the main subject. I hope that your find my comments constructive, I think image 2 is a very strong image and 4 or 6 like that would be a great series.

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    1. Holly Woodward Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to respond so comprehensively, Steve. It is much appreciated, and I am not worried about negativity – learning what is not working is just as important as what is successful. Obviously, I haven’t put much explanation of the reasoning behind the series in this post so you see the images standing on their own, which give a different perspective on them. As I said to Morris just now, Sternfeld has been informing my work on this, so it is good that you see the connection. I too think no 2 works best, but there is something about no 3 that draws me to it and I need to unpick that. We have the same tutor, so I read your feedback on the same assignment with interest. To me, the re-work is a response to the life of the farmers, while the original is a more straightforward narrative. That’s a distinction worth me thinking about too.

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  6. stevemiddlehurst

    I didn’t realise that we were “sharing” Chris. I can understand why you are drawn to number 3, I quite like her pose which is a sort of uncomfortable relaxed – again something we see in A Stranger Passing but I find the space around her too great, a lot less would tell the same story, increase her significance and linked you more closely to the subject. Anyway, good luck.

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