Welcome to Assessors

Assessors,

Here is my completed Learning Log for the Context & Narrative module of Photography 1.

Full name: Sophie Letchford
Student Number: 514921

Artist Statement: Across this course, my concept of creating narrative has concluded in a strong and emotive image for my final assignment. Working through the course has allowed me to develop a sense of self and ‘putting myself in the picture’ has proven to be both my favourite and most successful part of the module. 

I hope that you can easily find your way around my Blog with the drop down menus at the top of the page.

All posts have linking tags attached to them for easy navigation.

Many thanks

Sophie

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Assignment 4 – Rework

Following my tutor feedback, below is my reworked Assignment 4;

 

Assignment 4 – ‘A picture is worth 1000 words’

In this essay, I will look at the photo taken by Annie Leibowitz of Queen Elizabeth II and her grandchildren as part of her 90th birthday celebration that was published in May 2016’s edition of Vanity Fair. I will look at the whole context of the image; including the photographer and the image’s background, as well as including my own interpretation of it.

As previously mentioned, for the Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday celebration, Annie Leibovitz was asked to take a series of photographs to mark the occasion. The Queen herself had the ideas for the shoot that she wanted, and being very enthralled with her family wanted a photograph with her youngest grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This reflects upon many working class family photographs whereby the matriarch of the family is often surrounded by the youngest members of her family. By doing this, the narrative is suggesting that the Queen and her family are much the same as her subjects.

The photograph was taken in the green drawing room at Windsor in April 2016. The Queen seated in the regal looking room surrounded by the young children, including Princess Charlotte on her lap and Mia Tindall proudly holding her handbag by her side. It is clear that Leibovitz used her charm of making people feel wholly comfortable and natural and previous research into how to photograph the Queen and her family to ensure the “perfect” image. Although this photograph was a part of a series released for the celebration, this (and the others), could all work well as a standalone image.

The Queen is not unused to having her photograph taken in this way. Cecil Beaton was the royal photographer for the Queen’s coronation, and when her children were born. The curator of these photos at the V&A museum that have never been displayed before, Susanna Brown, says “She’s there just being mum and doing what comes naturally and because she’s known him since she was a teenager, she trusts him and feels comfortable. But the more “modern” image of the Royal Family is also key – the idea of them having very important public duties but also being a family perhaps not all that different to our own families, day-to-day. That is the message these photos project.” (Nikkhah, 2012).

This image by Leibovitz shows just that. An almost endearing side of the Queen, not the all-powerful monarch that we as a nation look up to, but making her look just like a regular grandmother, surrounded by the youngest members of her family. The irony within this, and within the photograph, is the setting of it; taken in a room filled with gold plated mirrors, lamps and sofas, definitely not like a “normal” living room. Having this as a setting creates a distance between the viewer and the family within it, we do not feel any kind of empathy towards the subjects as they are in a situation that we cannot fully understand.

Group portrait sittings of the royals are not a new concept. Queen Victoria would often sit for paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter with her children surrounding her; the Queen was not only depicted as royal but also a doting mother. They were often represented with the Queen herself seated in the middle and her children playing in the area around her, they would always be wearing regal clothing, and have a background that didn’t fit the relaxed nature of the sitters. A write up on the royal collection website says “The scene is one of domestic harmony, peace and happiness, albeit with many allusions to royal status: grandeur in the form of jewels and furniture, tradition and the continuation of the royal lineage” (1805-73), F. AND 1846, T.

Similarly, the clothing within the Leibovitz photo is interesting in that they are not of a modern style. Agreeably, they are not in formal regal clothing, the queen is not wearing her crown (much unlike Leibovitz’ previous photographs of the queen for her Jubilee year), as the studium would suggest they should be, none of them are dressed in what one would call a 21st century style. This adds to the suggestion of although it may feel like a traditional family portrait, it certainly separates the royal family from an ordinary family.

Personally, I as a viewer find it difficult to fully appreciate this as a natural family photograph, which is what I feel they were trying to achieve by including the children. Obviously the image has been staged, all the children are fully aware of the photographer (and probably an assistant – as some of them are looking slightly off camera), all of them are standing in the same way, and have been posed in a way that we as an audience are clearly able to see them all. I think their poses are rigid and the smiles and faces do not feel completely natural. To some extent the photograph looks like it could be made of a number of different images, there is no interaction between the children and their grandmother, apart from Charlotte being on the Queen’s lap. The person that really draws me into the image is Mia Tindall. The way she is holding the bag, and looking very proud of herself, gives a sense of normality to the image, as this could be something that a grandchild would do with her grandmother’s handbag. Other viewers may disagree with me and find it an endearing photograph, and may relate to it with the feeling of a matriarch of the family with her young relatives.

In conclusion, Annie Leibovitz clearly researched previous photographs that both her and other photographers had taken of the Queen and her family, and created an image that was familiar for people to look at. By including the children, people will be instantly drawn to the photograph as the viewer is able to empathise with it better than if it was just a photograph of the Queen on her own looking regal. No matter how staged or un-natural this photograph may feel to the viewer, it is an image of the Queen and her family that is not one that we see on a regular basis. The royal family are a successful institution, and the public will always buy into them, and what they produce without question.

 

References:

https://sophieemmacandn.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/a687c-cecil-beatonroyalqueenchildren.jpg

Nikkhah, R. (2012) How Cecil Beaton helped save the queen. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/8994528/How-Cecil-Beaton-helped-save-the-Queen.html

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ae/Queen_Victoria,_Prince_Albert,_and_children_by_Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter.jpg/766px-Queen_Victoria,_Prince_Albert,_and_children_by_Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter.jpg

(1805-73), F. and 1846, T. (2017). Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73) – The Royal Family in 1846. [online] Royalcollection.org.uk. Available at: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/405413/the-royal-family-in-1846 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].

Assignment 5 – Final Rework

Based on my tutor feedback, below is the rework for my write up and reworked final image.

 

Assignment 5 – Making it up

For this assignment, we were asked to create a standalone image of our choice. To draw upon the skills we have learnt so far, including various forms of narrative, putting you in the picture and telling stories and reading images. The only stipulation is to produce work hat is controlled and directed by one.

For this assignment, we need to control the props, lighting, models, location etc. to contribute to the overall meaning of the image.

My first thoughts on this brief were to recreate famous movie scenes with action figures but I felt in order to develop this further, I wouldn’t be able to make significant imagery and narrative to make it successful. On further thoughts, I decided to use the idea from an earlier assignment of ‘putting myself in the picture’. I enjoyed developing this creativity that was used in the self-portrait for Assignment 3, and felt that I could put a lot of emotion into this piece of work.

I have struggled with my weight and body image for as long as I can remember and felt that it would be successful if I could put some personal emotions into this brief. Body image is something that is widely talked about both within media and most social circles and is something that most people can relate to in some way.

On further research of photographers; Cindy Sherman, Jen Davis and Felicia Webb who all use their self-image in the photography in powerful and emotive ways, I felt that using myself and a prevalent subject that I would be able to create a compelling and poignant piece of work.

For the image I wanted to create, I needed enough space where I had access to a full length mirror and room to set up a tripod for a camera to get the self-portrait I needed. I would also need to ensure that there was a minimal amount of distraction so that all focus could be on the subject itself. In the area that I was going to take the shot, there was not a large amount of available light, and so I would need to attach a flash on top of my camera.

Once I had the placing of the camera and the settings correct, it was a matter of getting my posture and emotion right to convey this to the audience. I wanted to ensure they could see the sadness on my face, and have an expression that reached beyond the deadpan. I also wanted to have myself just in my underwear, so that I could make the image as stripped back and less distracting as possible, and make it easier for the post production process.

Once I looked at the selection of images on the back of the camera, and felt like I had captured what I needed to, I began the post production process. Taking into account the above, I narrowed it down to my final image. I used the cloning tool on Photoshop to edit out the door on the right hand side of the image, the shelf on the left, the photograph on the right and to do general tidying of the image. I then began the process of editing out the reflection; slimming down of the belly area, the arm, the legs, and adding a curvature to my back. I added extra shadowing on the reflection to make parts look slimmer, and shadowing to the ‘real’ me to make certain areas look bigger. Finally, I made the image into black and white to again strip the image right back and make it feel as raw as possible.

For the final presentation of this assignment, I printed the image in 12”x8” with a full frame cropping. This was in order for all the emotion, reflection and post editing work to be able to be seen clearly. The print is fully presented in a cardboard mount to allow for nicer presentation than just a loose print.

Although the idea and the set up for the final photograph were simple, I think it has been successful in conveying the imagery I was trying to achieve. The feeling of wanting to be skinnier, and not being happy with the skin you are in. I feel that people will be able to relate to this image. I feel that the simplicity of this image allows for the emotion to speak for itself without any distractions. The final image is minimal and reflects on the narrative.

Assignment 5 – Printing process

Following on from my tutor feedback with the recommendation to print this assignment, I decided to print the final image in a 12×8 size. I decided to print it this size so that it was large enough to be able to clearly see the emotion in my face, the reflection clearly, and the photoshopping that I had done in order to achieve the final image.

Rather than having a loose print to present, I decided to place the print in a mount to allow for a nicer presentation.

Assignment 5 – Cindy Sherman research

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer best known for her conceptual portraits involving self portraiture and ideas about feminism.

Her work generally relates to the feminine form and they way society and the media portray and view women.

The two images below come from a set of images that depict a variety of women in different emotional states from terrified to heartbroken. These pictures are both seductive but quite uncomfortable to look at, like a private moment is unfolding.

I think that the pictures show a raw emotion, and have a sense of unease for the viewer as they are  not sure what moment has unfolded just before the photo has been taken to give the subject that facial expression.

I think facial expressions are important in portraiture as it is what the viewers eyes tend to go to first, and it can easily change the emotion behind the photograph.

                   

Assignment 5 – Tutor Feedback

Below is my tutor feedback for my final assignment with my thoughts on the comments;

Assignment 5 – Tutor Feedback

Telephone tutorial and feedback provided on 08/05/17

Great to chat earlier. Please refer to the notes that you took during our telephone feedback session, below are some points regarding our discussion. On the whole the assignment is sound and demonstrates your engagement and work. There is a clear context that you have applied and you have shown a conceptual development throughout the course. Make sure that you reflect upon this at the time of assignment and take the opportunity to reflect on this point within your work and your progression. Technically the final image needs a little refining with your Photoshop skills to make the image more convincing. Add more relevant research to your learning log, look at artists around the notion of personal inquiry, feminism and the self-portrait.

Consider how you present your work for assessment as we discussed and make sure that you reflect upon the assessment criteria. Produce an artist statement that reflects upon how your visual strategy and conceptual concerns have developed over the course and may have differed to previous work.

Good luck with assessment and your future work.

Feedback on assignment

• The assignment has depth and is topical
• It demonstrates a more personal and reflective narrative
• This personal approach has evolved through the course
• It’s an interesting and engaging way of working
• Highlight this strategy to the assessment team
• Demonstrate your conceptual approach and progress to assessment. This is something that I can develop upon in the rework of the write up
• Self-reflection and self-portraiture is a common and worthy approach
• Evidence further research into the area – update your learning log. I will research further the subject matter with the suggested reading below
• The final image is minimal and helps to reflect the narrative
• The idea is sound based on good research
• Use of lighting and framing is appropriate
• Good that you were thinking about your facial expression
• Expression is not too overdone or needy – reaches beyond the deadpan too
• Re-look at the technical aspects but great that you have challenged yourself
• Use of Photoshop tools ok but re-do the look and feel to make more authentic
• Refine the Photoshop around the waist, needs tweaking. This is something can be easily reworked
• Great that you considered posture and the emotion of work
• Reflect further on the viewer – female, male – gaze?  I will try to get some peer feedback and work that into my write up

Coursework

• Good input into coursework
• Continued approach throughout
• Complete any coursework still to do

Research

• Make sure that you update your research
• Evidence this on learning log
• Add more research related to assignment 5
• Consider writing overview of your learning process for assessment
• Highlight your conceptual concerns as discussed
• Take to the time to review and reflect upon your contextual and conceptual concerns

Suggested reading/viewing

Have a look at these artists in relation to personal issues and the self-portrait:
Jo Spence: http://www.jospence.org
Gillian Wearing & Claude Cahun: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/wearingcahun/home/
Cindy Sherman: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/#/0/
The British Journal of Photography (The Female Gaze): http://www.bjponline.com

Assignment 3 – Rework

Below is my re-written evaluation accompanied with the original photographs sent to my tutor:

Assignment 3 – Putting yourself in the picture

This assignment required one to keep a diary for a set period of time (approx two weeks). When I first read this, I was quite worried, as I haven’t kept a diary for a very long time, and also I find it quite difficult to put my feelings and emotions into words.

After a few days of writing, there were three main themes that stood out to me; nostalgia, love and anger/arguing. Being in a new relationship, we are still trying to get to know each other and sometimes this can cause arguments, but we still care a great deal about each other. I decided to incorporate the two feelings into one set of photographs, showing the good and bad side of a relationship in one photograph.

After having previously looked at Francesca Woodman’s and Benjamin Heller’s work, I like the ghost like effect to the images, making the viewer wonder if hat they were seeing was ‘real’ or not.

For my final images, I tried to create a set to show the imminent break down of a relationship. The first photo A Peaceful Resolution is what the title suggests and portrays a couple in a situation whereby they need to work on their relationship. The second photo A Breakdown shows the couple in a heated argument, in a clearly unhappy situation. And third and final photograph Walking Away shows the final breakdown of the relationship, and the man walking away from the situation. All of the images also have the couple in a happy embrace, making the viewer feel confused as to what is the real side of the couple that they should believe.

All of the photographs were taken using a tripod and a self-timer app on my phone directly connected to the camera. We took the loved up photos first as they needed less setting up, followed by the contrasting argument shots. The interior shot was taken in a spare room at my house, and the exterior shots – one in the woods, and another at a park, both near to where we live. The locations had no significant affects to the photographs, other than that they would be locations that both sides of the story could take place.

The ‘ghost like effect’ was achieved in post- production, using layers and lowering the opacity of the selected layer and erasing any excess parts of the image. I chose to make the photographs black and white so as to strip right back to the rawness of the emotion behind them.

Overall, the project I have created is very thought provoking and allows the viewer to relate these images to their own life and the relationships within them.