Today was another successful meeting of the group. As usual, students showed work before lunch and there was a discussion about portraiture after lunch.
The first to show work was John. He explained that his was a different idea that he was still working on – he wanted our reactions.
His images were single blocks of colour with a written description of an image (his words) with a caption of the image as it was published. John read his description, and then handed out the prints for us to look at and to read the original caption.
After completing all of the readings, John showed us the book of war images from which he had taken his descriptions.
I think John had printed the block of colour that was brought to mind by his description but apart from the first one he read which matched the predominant colour of the print (orange soil) I didn’t relate the colour to the description. John’s reading in a flat monotonous matter of fact tone and the manner in which he cast the prints onto the table after reading each one, to me reflected compassion fatigue. Having discussed this in relation to documentary photography at the last meeting, I think this may have been his intention. The images he chose were horrific and I thought this was an interesting way of presenting a project and look forward to seeing how it develops.
Eddy is working on Gesture and Meaning and he showed 22 prints that he had taken for an exercise in which he had to go to a place he didn’t know and take a series of linked pictures on a walk through the place. He had chosen Hungerford and we saw images of buildings and streets in the town but not much evidence of links between them. Mention was made of the shootings but Eddy said he was not prepared to do anything that sensitive or controversial. Sharon suggested some edits that he could use, e.g including only those images which contained part of the road or that which did not. There were some with direct references to the Hungerford’s past, the Bear Inn and a courtyard which was part of the stabling for the teams of coach horses that used the London Road in the 18th century (A4). Perhaps he could have made more use of signs and fingerposts to link the various areas of the town. Again, it will be interesting to see he concludes this exercise.
Steven presented an edited version of his stained glass windows project for the colour assignment of TAoP. He had learned about personal iconography since the last meeting and had produced some printed cards explaining his personal connections with the images. Further suggestions on how to present the images with the supporting text were discussed. Ideas included using a post card format with the image one side and a hand written explanation on the other.
Steven also showed the images for the start of the Light assignment. He had made a wooden cross and a barbed wire crown and was experimenting with the different lighting effects required for the assignment. His compound image of his cross against the background of the Coliseum in Rome was interesting.
I presented my idea for the third assignment of DPP which needs to be in black and white. In August I had a Scot’s Pine tree removed from my garden and thought that as a memorial to the tree (which must have been over 100 years old) I would record and present the photos in black and white for the assignment. I had made seven prints containing nine images (two diptychs were made containing related images) The sequence started the day before the work was carried out and I photographed the tree in situ and showing its location. The following day was wet but I documented the tree surgeons work and made more images of the pieces of the 80 foot tree as they were stacked in the garden.
The idea seemed to go down well and I received some good suggestions about presenting the assignment and which images should be included and /or left out. I will also try to print the assignment myself as the lab prints did not have the required quality to do justice to the photographs.
I have to finish the final three exercises and I will then re-edit the assignment images bearing in mind the comments from the group.
Catherine showed a print on Titanium paper and Sharon updated us on her current Wish Prayers project.
Group discussion: Looking at Portraits from Photography – Key concepts
Sharon started the discussion by asking the question; do we see the real person in the image? The discussion continued with the idea that we are aware of how important it is to us how we look to our friends and family especially at formal social events. Is that really us or do we present a version of ourselves as we would wish to be seen? Also, how do our prejudices, stereotypes and history colour our perceptions of the portraits that we see?
Sharon presented three portraits and told us the one of these three was a philanthropist, another a criminal and the third would become famous. We were asked to write down some key words which came to mind for each of the portraits with a view to deciding which was which.
- Older man; benign, confident, characterful countenance; avuncular
- Young woman; confident air, attractive, unrepentant, disbelief
- Young man; shy, disturbed
Having thought about the portraits, we were told that there was no correct answer and these were random characterisations. The point was that we looked for these particular characteristics, re-enforcing our own prejudices and perceived stereotypes.
The next exercise was to make three portraits of one of the group, Dave volunteered and was photographed as he was, a lie (something he evidently wasn’t) and as he wanted to be portrayed. The photos were taken with Sharon’s camera and I’m not sure if we will have access to copies but in case we don’t, we took a picture of Dave as he appeared to us, good humoured, genial and smiling, another of him looking aggressive and another of him peering through foliage (he is a keen birdwatcher). This exercise raised the question; can the sitter influence the photographer or even control the photographer? The discussion continued on this theme until the end of the session.
The text for this discussion was the chapter “4 Looking at Portraits” from Photography – Key Concepts.