Assignment 5 : Response to Tutor Feedback Part Two
Creative influences underlying my approach towards the Assignment
I’ve described previously how the starting point of Tales with Valeria was a new Holga lens that I thought Id try out on a doll bought from a charity shop. In its own small way Tales with Valeria grew organically, with the first image nurtured by comments on my Flickr stream particularly from Clive White who also mentioned the magic words ‘fairy tales’ which captured me straight away!
In my assignment write-up I quoted the author Clarissa Pinkola Estes. My tutor commented on this in that her only criticism was for more – “perhaps discussing in greater depth the work of other photographers/artists/writers who employ similar feminist themes/strategies”.
Fox and Caruna (2012 ) state “All photographic series are harvested from research from scholarly investigations to catching an overheard conversation on a bus” (p.11) they then go on to provide a clear model for planning and developing your project. Looking at my personal learning cycle I know that I can easily get stuck in the thinking/planning stage. This can be good in terms of learning and assimilating but not for getting something done. Sometimes I can think about a project for so long that I lose interest so it was good for me to dive into taking photographs and allowing ideas to form more spontaneously.
I did do some planning. The doll was going to find the babes in the wood, there was going to be a wolf and the tables would be turned on him. Snow White and a mirror also featured. The Holga lens was good for creating more dreamy images that I hoped could also make the doll look more life-like and enable a combination of the man-made and natural. I had no intention of creating a femininist theme but soon realised that I had a notion of a girl who knew what she wanted and set out to get it. Why The Babes in the Wood, Red Riding Hood and Snow White? They are amongst the best known but, presumably, they have a particular significance for me. It’s only through reflection and re-reading that I’ve been able to clarify what this could be.
I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales, fantasy and fiction. Through reading I’ve learned that fairy tales may appear to be simple tales but they carry many underlying implications and messages which can be interpreted in so many different ways by listeners, readers and academics who ‘analyse’ them for their meanings. I’m referring to ‘fairy tales’ because that’s what they’re usually called although writers such as Jack Zipes do remind us that they are actually folk tales and fairies hardly ever appear.
In The Uses of Enchantment (1976) Bruno Bettelheim provides a psychoanalytic viewpoint on the purpose and meaning of fairy tales in terms of fostering children’s personality development ). He believed that children have to learn step by step to understand themselves and make sense of both a complex external world and the inner turmoil of their feelings and urges. People have to learn to develop their inner resources and fairy tales can get this across to children in a simple yet symbolic form. He suggests that, whilst myths give definite answers, fairy tales’ messages are suggestive and, “ leave to the child’s fantasizing whether and how to apply to himself what the story reveals about life and human nature (p.45). Characters are usually given general or descriptive rather than ‘proper’ name, “Fairies and witches, giants and godmothers remain equally unnamed, thus facilitating projections and identifications” (p. 40).
Bettelheim also reminds us that, to the child, there is no clear line separating objects from living things; or dead things or objects etc. Therefore it’s only natural that a child will believe that animals or objects can talk. He refers to the development of logical thinking from this ‘animistic’ thinking but it seems to me that magical thinking is always with us, although maybe more strongly in some than others. As science progresses and the world becomes more mechanistic our right-brain continues to seeks nurture hence the apparent rise in fantasy films and literature.
Whilst Bettelheim looks from a viewpoint of ego, id and oedipal fantasies etc Jack Zipes adopts a much wider view in looking at the history of folk tales/fairy tales in the context of the prevailing social and cultural context of the time. In Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (2006 [updated from the 1983] edition ) we are reminded that the genre’s origins lie within the tradition of oral storytelling. and almost all critics agree that “…educated writers purposely appropriated the oral folktale and converted it into a type of literary discourse about mores, values and manners so that children and adults would become civilized according to the social code of that time” (p. 3) which was a patriarchal one.
Zipes provides examples of how the oral folktales were converted in this way in relation to Beauty and the Beast. . The oral tales originated from a cultural pattern of matriarchy where the wild, predatory and undomesticated animal bridegroom had to be ‘saved’, clothed and domesticated by the woman . By the end of the C17th, “the original female bringer of salvation could find her own “true” salvation only by sacrificing herself to a man in his house or castle, symbolical of submission to patriarchal rule” (p.49). Zipes also compares three different version of The Frog Prince to illustrate how the original, more simple tale moves from being more explicitly sexual, with mutual sexual recognition and acceptance, towards the princess rejecting the sexual advances of the frog and being rewarded for this.
Zipes is highly critical of Walt Disney (2006 considering that, even though the cartoons feature young women as heroines, they are “ pale and pathetic compared with the more active and demonic characters in the film.” (p.205). Films continue to be about the domestication of women, Disney celebrates the ideal of the Protestant Ethic of hard work and desexualizes and orders the world into cleanliness. In later films in the genre such as “Shrek” and also the films of Miyazaki, handsome princes do not save virgin princesses and the ugly Shrek and Fiona choose to stay in their messy swamp.
Zipes describes the way in which some contemporary writers have transfigured the tales to show that, “..civilization and life are processes that can be shaped to fulfil basic needs off the readers” (p. 178). He refers to the ‘strident antisexist and antiauthoritarianI perspective of some of the contemporary writers which ‘question male domination and sexual stereotypes (p. 179) and refers to four women of the Merseyside Women’s Liberation Movement in Liverpool who rewrote several of the fairy tales, and Tomi Ungerer who rewrote Red Riding Hood to break the sexual taboos of the original story. It was always my intention that, in her search for love, Red Riding Hood was going to use various strategies to capture the virile ‘wolf’.
Historical perspective from a female viewpoint
Marina Warner (1995) also looks at the context in which the stories were told; who told them; the history of story telling and some of the roots of the folk tales in various literary cultures. Warner looks at the rivalry and hatred between women in some of the stories that often focus upon other women as agents of the heroine’s sufferings –ugly sisters, stepmothers etc. She tells us that the earliest extant version of Cinderella was written down in China around AD850-60 where there is the link with bound feet (p. 202). She asks why it is that women continue to narrate these stories where female characters are so cruel and mothers absent whilst reminding us that, in terms of the history of the fairy tale, the absent mother is literally that as so many women died in childbirth and men remarried and provided step-siblings so there would be competition for resources.
Frogs and animals as symbols
To begin with I chose the wolf and the frog. In “A Hero with a thousand faces” Joseph Campbell (1988) describes the frog in the Frog Prince as the ‘herald” and, in this fairy story, as signifying the coming of adolescence (p. 50). Bettelheim cites the frog as both the necessity for the child to move from a symbiotic relationship with his mother and also a symbol for sexual relations. (p.289) and the metamorphosis from ‘disgust’ at the cold clamminess of the frog, to pleasure when the frog turns into something very beautiful.
Marina Warner looks at ‘The Beast’ in terms of the bear, which survived as a beast of prey in many fairytales, despite actually becoming tamed and humbled in actuality including becoming a teddy bear. The bear, like the wolf, is a metaphor for the masculine appetite, wildness and lust, and Warner cites how Angela Carter “dared to look at women’s waywardness, and especially at their attraction to the Beast in the very midst of repulsion” (p. 308). when she reworked ten fairy tales in ‘The Bloody Chamber” (1979). Carter’s choice of fairy tales for the Virago collection (1990, 1992) also included women of all types, from the bawdy, to the clever, to the crafty to the crone.
Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992) uses the symbol of the wolf in a different way. She writes that the title of her book “Women who run with the wolves” (1992) came from the study of wolves, and that wolves and women
…share certain psychic characteristics: keen sensing, playful spirit, and a heightened capacity for devotion ….. Yet both have been hounded, harassed, and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors. (p2).
Dr Estes believes that women’s wild instinctual nature has been repressed and she offers the Wild Woman archetype as a way to understand this innate basic nature of women, illustrating this through recounting many absorbing stories from all over the world whilst integrating messages that encourage women to trust their intuition. She also refers to dolls as “talismans, reminders of what is felt but not seen, what is so, but is not immediately obvious”. (p.87)
Dolls in Fairy Tales
Bruno Bettelheim states that children use dolls and toy animals to ‘embody’ aspects of their personality, “which are too complex, unacceptable and contradictory for him to handle” (p. 55). For example, a doll can sublimate an Oedipal desire to have a baby with either mother or father. Well, to me, that’s rather a narrow view of the wonderful use of imagination that children show in playing with dolls, which I think are often serving as role-plays for many aspects of how children perceive their current and possible future lives. Dr Estes gives us a richer meaning of the doll (whose use in various forms and beliefs goes back to antiquity) – as a “symbolic homunculi, little life….… Superficially, it is just a doll. But it represents a little piece of soul that carries all the knowledge of the larger soul-Self” (p. 85).
My tutor had previously suggested that I look at the work of the photographer, Olivia Parker who has also used dolls as subjects. I was caught by Parker’s introduction to the Booklet on her series “Weighing the Planets” (1987). She writes, “For most of human history people have looked to the spirit world to explain what was going on. Animals floated in the night sky and each object had its own “Anima Motrix” its own moving spirit. Further on she writes “Fairy tales speak of strange tensions and balances: life, growth, and sex versus death and decay”. For me both those aspects infuse her photography. This leads me on to images as illustration and narrative.
Illustration and Photography
So far as “Tales with Valeria” is concerned I think I was mainly influenced by illustration in children’s books and the way in which simple sentences can convey so much more. I was very drawn to David Hockney’s illustrations for his book “Six Fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm” (2012) It’s hard to describe them but they are finely wrought black and white etchings with a look of stylized cartoons.
Olivia Parker has used dolls as subjects but not in portraying fairy tales so far as I know, and I have not yet found other photographers who do so in combination with use of the Holga lens.
There have certainly been many initiative by femininist photographers, such as Jo Spence (M.W. Marien, 2010, p462) to explore social and cultural aspects of womens’ role socialization. Cindy Sherman used protheses and mannequins in her Fairy Tales Series – 1985. I don’t recognize any fairy stories as such but the images are certainly reminiscent of goblins etc. Another photographer, Annie Leibovitz produced a series of photographs for Disney where Hollywood stars such as Jeff Bridges and Penelope Cruz were transformed into characters from fairytales. they are mainly glamorous and beautiful though and, for me, reinforce the notion that heroes and heroines should be too.
The photographers I have appreciated the most have been those such as Jamie Baldridge and Paolo Ventura who have created and illustrated their own fantasy tales. Jamie Baldridge created a fantastical journey entitled The Everywhere Chronicles (2001) and his images can be found here. Paolo Ventura created a work entitled ‘The Automaton” which is a photograpahic narrative centring on a Jewish watchmaker, living in the Venice ghetto in 1943.
I have to agree that the doll, Valeria, does embody much of my life experience, and knowledge/reading around fairy tales and myths over the years that I wasn’t aware of at the time. I was surprised how such a small piece of work can carry such an accumulation and I’ve enjoyed re-reading the books and doing further research. Being immersed in the reading took me back into my childhood, adolescence and the later years when I was working out what kind of a woman I wanted to be. If I’d actually been asked to produce a piece of work around fairy tales I don’t think the outcome would have been the same. I might have been more inclined to do something along the lines of interviewing children, young people and some adults on their favourite fairy story and what it means to them’ perhaps with photographs of them and extracts of their words. I’m pleased that, unusually for me, the narrative just emerged with a twitch of Valeria’s nose as it were. On the subject of names – I couldn’t complete Assignment 5 until I had a name for my doll. It wasn’t until then that she could become an entity in her own right, an agent of her own destiny, and the Assignment could come together.
I’m reluctant to explain my intentions behind the images and simple words because I would prefer for the viewer to make their own interpretation based on their own experience. However, here are some of the personal experiences which seem to fit the various analyses offered by the writers I’ve mentioned. Personal Experience in relation to the meaning of Fairy Tales
I have a file of all the work I’ve done towards the assignment. This particular piece fits some of the categories provided by Fox & Caruna (2012) in their Photography Project Self-Evaluation Form (p. 101).
There seem to be so many directions in which I can go with all the information I have to hand. My husband thinks I should ‘finish the story’. I’m less sure because the one drawback concerning this particular doll is that she doesn’t have movable parts and her nose will always be pointed in the air. I have now acquired other, older and movable dolls so could do something with those.
I’m attracted towards Olivia Parker’s work in general and intend to explore her approach more deeply. I also like her notion of each object having its own “Anima Motrix” and would like to do more work along those lines. I’ve rediscovered a liking for telling stories and so work such as that done by Jamie Baldridge and Paolo Ventura also interests me.
The major challenge for me is how I’m going to align that with my new OCA module which is People & Place which doesn’t seem to fit at all. Whatever I do I think it might have to be a concurrent personal project.
30th June 2012
Baldridge, J The Everywhere Chronicles, (2001) (Thesis) submitted towards degree of Master of Fine Arts
Bettelheim, B. (1978) The Uses of Enchantment, Peregrine Books
Campbell, J. (1988) The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Paladin, UK
Carter, A. The Bloody Chamber and other stories (2012) Vintage Classics
Carter, A (ed) Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales (2005), Virago Press, London
Estes, C.P., (2008) Women who run with the Wolves, Rider,
Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, (1933) George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London
Fox.A and Caruana, N (2012) Behind the Image, AVA Publishing SA, Switzerland
Grimms Fairy Tales (1930s?), Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd., London and Melbourne
Hockney, D (197) Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Royal academy of Arts, London (2012)
Marien, M.W, Photography: A Cultural History (2010 (3rd Ed), Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London.
Parker, O. (1987) Weighing the Planets, The friends of Photography, Carmel.
Warner, M. (1995) From the Beast to the Blond, Vintage, London
Zipes, J, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (1983) rev 2006) Routledge, Abingdon
Assignment 5 : Response to Tutor Feedback Part One
I’ve mentioned before how heartened I was by my tutor’s preliminary feedback on and support to take the leap and submit Tales with Valeria for Assignment 5. She also commented that my draft of Village Voice was a strong contender as well and she hoped I would draw attention to this when I send my work for final assessment. What I have done is to place all the draft work for the latter in my paper learning log.
In addition to the positive feedback there were three suggested areas for further work/reflection so far as Valeria is concerned:
- The varying degrees of sharpness/blur in the prints
- Suggestion that I discuss in greater depth the works of other photographers/artists/writers who employ similar feminist themes/strategies
- Encouragement to produce a Blurb book
For this post I’ll concentrate on the prints and the book.
My intention from the start had been to have a small, square book as a final product for myself if not for actual assessment. For the Assignment itself, though, I had created larger pages in InDesign using the Blurb plug-in for a small portrait book (approx 8” x 10”). I had done this because I thought that my tutor (and Assessors) would want to see larger prints and my tutor agreed with this assumption.
My tutor was concerned that the first three images of Valeria were perhaps a little too blurred compared with the images with her sister, the tree trunk, the frog, the children and the birdcage. She also commented that the last two images were quite blurry again but didn’t seem to fit the narrative. Her suggestion was to work on the sharpness a little or perhaps just increase the contrast slightly. She thought she agreed with my point about printing the images smaller. Additionally, she commented that she found the completely sharp woodland path a visual jolt and, for her, it didn’t fit the sequence in its present form.
I had had some problems in managing the colour in InDesign, despite using the same profiles for all the Adobe software, and this had driven me quite distracted in trying to produce a print that matched my calibrated monitor. This was particularly so with the wolf. My tutor’s other concern was with, ‘She wanted them’ where, in the print, Valeria is slightly darker and it’s easy to overlook her presence. Suggestions there were to experiment by using the dodging tool very carefully or using magnetic lasso/Select/Modify/Feather.
1. The cover
I made the blue background larger which makes the image itself smaller and sharper. I also increased the contrast on the image, which makes it stand out more against the background. The blue is a paler colour but I think it works well now that the image has more contrast.
2. The Woodland Path
I discussed this on the telephone with my tutor. She said she was less familiar with the Helga lens but was surprised that this too had been produced from it.
At the time I’d been pleased that I’d obtained such a bright, clear image from the lens but I do accept the point about the visual jolt.
I’ve added some Gaussian blur, which is probably more obvious on the print I’ll be submitting than here on my blog.
I have also re-printed the wolf so that he looms more out of the darkness in the wood and ‘the babes in the wood’ so that Valeria’s face is more noticeable. The soft-proofing function in Lightroom 4 really helped with that. I’ve also re-sized the image on the page where Valeria is looking at the Wolf man so that, again, it looks less blurred and all the re-worked prints will be submitted with the Assessment material. I’ll write more about the Wolf man in Part 2.
For the assignment itself I submitted a booklet I’d put together which showed the layout and wording, together with approx 8” x 10” prints of each individual page. As mentioned above though my intention eventually was to have a small square book. I think what was in my mind was a similar book I’d been given by my headteacher at infants school when I’d passed my first piano exam (which turned out to be my last as well!). The book was Cinderella and it’s a shame that I no longer have it.
The idea of a small, square book was reinforced when I bought a lovely small book Andre Kertesz : The Early Year (2005)s. This book is only 5” x 5”. It has a lovely navy blue, linen cover with a small (2 x 1 ½ `’) sepia image of three little boys reading a book (A link with Kertesz’s series On Reading which I also love). The Early Years contains some unknown early photographs created in Hungary between 1912 and 1925 and the book accompanied an exhibition. The book has a an Introduction by Bruce Silverstein and a beginning Essay by Robert Gurbo, curator of the Andre Kertesz estate, which details the reclaiming of the long-lost negatives and prints in 1963. The photographs in the book are quite tiny – most of them 2 x 1 ½ “ and you almost need a magnifying glass to see them, and I knew that really would be too small for Valeria. (In any case, at present Blurb’s smallest book is the 7×7”).
My tutor had encouraged me to go the self-publishing route and so I re-sized Valeria into the separate Blurb software rather than in InDesign. This was because I was concerned about the colour management problems that I still haven’t been able to resolve. My tutor had a look at the ‘proof’ on the Blurb website, pointed out a typographical error, which I corrected, and made a couple of suggestions on possible minor tweaks in the placement of the wolf and the pacing of the last two pages. The book was re-uploaded and here it is
It’s just a small and simple book but it’s very satisfying to follow the whole process through to a proper completion. It won’t arrive in time for me to send it with my material for Assessment but I am including the link here so that the Assessors can see another outcome of my work.
I still want to produce a more personalized book though especially after buying another book from the bookshop at The Whitechapel Gallery the other week. This is Six Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: With Illustrations by David Hockney. It’s a small portrait size (8 ¼ x 5 ¾ “) hardback, with a blue-green coarse linen feel cover which has a small inset etching of Rapunzel. The book is illustrated with black and white etchings drawn onto plates by David Hockney and information on the back cover states:
Although inspired by earlier illustrations of the tales by such artists as Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, Hockney’s extraordinary etchings re-imagine these strange and supernatural stories for a modern audience …”
The Fairy Tales are the lesser-known ones, apart from Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltkin and it’s delightful book to hold and read.
I’m not going to promise myself that I’ll do it for Valeria but I do intend to talk with Otter Bindery where I did a Workshop on Bookmaking some time ago. They offer a Photobook printing service with software you can use for arranging photos and inserting text etc plus bespoke bindings in addition to standard ones. I really do like the idea of linen bound covers with inset images.
8th June 2012
Hockney, D, Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, (2012) Royal academy Publications
Silverstein, B & Gurbo, R , Andre Kertesz : The Early Years, (2005), W. W. Norton & Co., New York, London.
The Art of Photography
Assignment 4: Response to Tutor Feedback
This was an Assignment that I struggled with due to technical issues of dealing with the lighting whilst wanting to stay connected with my subject. I was relieved to get positive feedback overall. My tutor also noted how I had struggled in one or two cases with the shiny surface of the cup and suggested that bouncing light from white reflectors rather than silver might have overcome this. She also suggested that I could try the Clone or Healing tool in Photoshop and experiment with various Opacity and Flow settings. Well – I did attempt this on No. 9 where you can see how the light fell at each side of the cup.
I spent some time experimenting with both tools but, unfortunately neither of them worked well enough. I think this was because there were striations of colour which couldn’t be duplicated accurately enough at least at my stage of technical know-how of Photoshop.
Suggested reading for the next Assignment – ( 5 : Narrative and Illustration)
I was guided towards the works of Olivia Parker, Josef Koudelka and Chris Steele Perkins and I wrote about the latter two here
I’ll write more about Olivia Parker in my response to feedback on Assignment 5.
7th June 2012
When I looked again at my Assignment prints I decided that although No. 9 definitely had too many striations of light/colour for me to improve on (at my stage of expertise) I should look again at the others. I thought I should at least try to rise to the challenge! I therefore looked again at 2, 5, 7 and 8 and used the clone and/or healing brush tool to see what I could do about the ‘imperfect’ effect of the light. The originals are at the top and re-done images are on the bottom.
No. 2 : Form
I think I have improved on the shine that shows between the middle berry and the blue.
No. 5 : Texture
There was some shine which showed on the top right of the cup; However, the re-worked version looks somewhat duller somehow so not an improvement.
No. 7 : Shape
I removed the shine over the man in red’s head and I think it is an improvement.
No. 8 : Shape
I know I wasn’t happy at all about the shine in the middle of the cup. I have removed it but, to me, it doesn’t improve the image as now it just looks dull.
I’m pleased that I did persevere even though I don’t think that some of the work was an improvement. I will submit prints of No. 2 and No. 7 with my assessment material.
8th June 2012
The Art of Photography
Assignment 3: Response to Feedback
I had overall very positive feedback on this Assignment: –
“Your presentation and printing are excellent. Your work shows your confident technical control, your willingness to experiment with new ways of working, a sharp ‘eye’ and the development of a mature approach to image making…………
You have a good ‘eye’ and as in the previous assignment, this is particularly evident in your people/ documentary photographs. When composing, you are becoming much freer with composition, using the whole ‘frame’ and not always placing the subject bang in the centre of the image.”
I felt very encouraged by this, together with the fact that no changes were suggested to any of the images.
However, my tutor commented that she did find my blog a little hard to navigate (as at 4th September 2011) and that it would be helpful to have any experimentation, research, and reflections relevant to a particular assignment grouped together in one folder. I took the point and, for Part 4: Light, did include a Summary of Learning at the end of the Exercise Section – She also asked for a little more information on my assignment photos such as decision making, camera settings etc and my evaluation which, again, I included in the next Assignment (Assignment 4).
I’m aware that I still haven’t written-up all the work I did following my looking up of Robert Mapplethorpe which then led me on to John Blakemore and his tulips. My set on tulips is on my Flickr site and, if there is sufficient time before Assessment, I will endeavour to complete the promised write-up as it would be a shame to lose a written record of my learning.
30th May 2012
The Art of Photography
Feedback and changes to Assignment 2 : Elements of Design
No. 2 – Two points
My tutor commented that this was the only image as such that she had a slight problem and I agree with her as it’s the one I had difficulty with at the time. She had agreed with me that 4b) Verticals and Horizontals did fit the brief for Two Points also but thought it fitted better in Verticals/Horizontals. My tutor reminded me of an eye image which I had put on my blog in one of the exercise write-ups. These are my dog’s eyes where I can see two me’s.
The reason I hadn’t submitted it at the time was because it didn’t fit into my theme, which was London. I’ve been back to London several times since then but still haven’t found ‘two points’ which fit my brief i.e. two singular subjects which are small in the whole composition but catch the viewer’s attention.
4a: Combination of Vertical and Horizontal lines
It was pointed out to me that the sky top left weakens the image and needed ‘pulling in’. Using the ‘burning in’ tool didn’t work quite as well as selecting that part of the sky in Nik Viveza. It’s now improved, has been reprinted and will be included in my Assessment submission.
Although commenting that this was an original way of interpreting the brief, my tutor also pointed out that the window is paper white. She suggested either tweaking Levels, Highlights or using a slightly tighter crop. The highlights have now been tweaked and the reprint will be included in my submission:
Learning log/critical essays
Comment made that it would be useful to have a link to images I decided to reject, print or contact sheet. From then onwards I did include such prints in my submission where appropriate.
30th May 2012
Asssignment 5 : Narrative and Illustration
Final version : Tales with Valeria
I know I’ve been full of indecision regarding the subject theme – veering backwards and forwards between the Common and the Holga images. I’ve really appreciated my tutor’s pre-assignment comments and support. In the end though I just knew I had to do something more definite with the Holga set. It was like the thought fox in Ted Hughes’ poem, http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/ted-hughes/the-thought-fox/ nosing its way into my early waking moments and nudging me throughout the day.
I had some very encouraging comments when I placed the first four images on Flickr, including from Clive one of the tutors which gave me a boost and spurred me on to continue with something which is very new for me.
There is something about the doll that intrigued me from the start – a slight oddness. Flaxen plaits; pretty dress; retrousse nose and downcast eyes but I could imagine a whole lot of other thoughts below the surface – something wilful. She reminded me of those two rhymes , “What are little girls made of’ and ‘There was a little girl who had a little curl ….”. There’s a book I’ve had for many years – “Women who run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes , who is a Jungian psychoanalyst as well as being a cantadora, a keeper of old stories. The book concerns the inner life of women and the theme that runs through it is that there is within every woman a Wild Woman that has been repressed.
“We grew our hair long and used it to hide our feelings. But the shadow of Wild Woman still lurks behind us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed” (Foreword, 1992)
The book is filled with Dr. Estes’ own written versions of tales and poems which have been handed down in the oral tradition in different versions for generations. One of her versions is of the Russian Vasalisa tale – a dying mother hands her little daughter a doll, telling her that if she ever loses her way or needs help, she should ask the doll what to do. The doll guides her and there are adventures along the way, including a meeting with the fearsome crone, Baba Yaga, who gave her a skull with fiery eyes.
In my previous post, ‘Holga Lens – working with light in a different way’ (under Reflections) I described how I liked its soft and slightly surreal effect. It can seem to make inanimate objects look almost human and living creatures almost inhuman. Reality is blurred and I think it is an ideal medium to use for photographic images in fairy stories. ( I have also experimented with processing photographs to give a more ‘painterly’ effect as well). I began to think of ideas for scenarios and bought some more ‘props’ cheaply through eBay– a book on wolves; 2 old versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1933) (which is another story!); red riding hood clothes for a patch doll; a decorative ‘birdcage’; two magnetic, retro, french dolls, and a Snow White doll. I wanted Red Riding Hood to turn the table on the wolf and go out hunting him. My idea was to use pictures from the films ‘Wolverine’ and the Twilight series but then I had a better idea with less issues re copyright. I bought an image from iStock – a handsome, muscular young man in a wolf-type pose.
I didn’t have any difficult problems regarding sequencing or captions, it was placing different format images on the page which was (is) the challenge. What’s the best page format when you use landscape, portrait and square images and want to have one on a page rather than several in magazine style? I still haven’t worked that out.
I think that the images actually suit a smallish book and the 7×7 one which Blurb do seemed ideal. In fact I’ve already started a prototype using their software. For the Assignment though I decided to start from scratch, using a Blurb template plug-in in InDesign so that I could utilise some of my learning. I also decided here to use a standard portrait format which is larger. I did this thinking about the prints for assessment but there is a disadvantage here because I think that photographs from a Holga lens can look good on a monitor but, printed, are better smaller because the larger they get the more blurry they can look. Anyway, I’ll wait for feedback and take it from there
It took me a while to think of a name for the doll. I went through the alphabet and made a long list. In fact, at one point I even decided to maybe have a competition on Flickr. I decided to call her Valeria and here she is:-
(Open it in preview mode and then view as two page display).
Working through Part 5 took me even longer than Part 4 and I really struggled with it but I did enjoy working with the Holga lens and doll. It brought me back into touch with that part of me that likes myth, legend and fairy story and wants to understand the lessons that these are trying to impart. I discovered a different way of telling a story through images and seeing it through a different lens.The camera can’t be controlled in the same way with the Holga lens and you have to see where the light falls through that pinhole and search for the image.
My tutor gave some positive feedback on an initial look at my first four images and also some research references. She suggested I have a look at Olivia Parker’s work http://oliviaparker.com/, and particularly Weighing the Planets http://www.edelmangallery.com/parker-planets.htm. The images certainly appeal to me and I immediately thought of something I could do if I acquired an old wooden, puppet!
My tutor also suggested to read some of the books by Marina Warner and Angela Carter. I have already read some of Angela Carter’s work but have now bought Marina Warner’s ‘From the Beast to the Blond’. This is a comprehensive, well-researched and literary review on storytelling, and its practitioners and images through the ages. Her book is basically in two parts – the Tellers and the Tales and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
This is just a beginning really…….
11th April 2012
Estes, C.P., Women who run with the Wolves, 1992, Ebury Publishing, The Random House Group Ltd
Warner, M , From the Beast to the Blond, 1995, Chatto & Windus Ltd, London.
Assignment 5 : Narrative and Illustration
The ‘nearly’ Assignment 5
From the beginning of Part 5 I’ve wanted to focus on the Common that plays a large part in my life. I played around with the idea of Geocaching for a brief time and, indeed, eventually managed to combine it with the Common. During the Part 5 Exercises I produced two sets of images – one using the Holga lens with 500D and the other using my smaller G12, but processing with artistic filters.
I went back to just the Common though and one particular event which happened at the beginning of the year. I realise now what a challenge I set to myself and how anything I did for this particular Assignment could only be a brief snapshot of the ebb and flow of its Seasons; changing moods; environments; animals and people. It is bounded by major roads and largely hidden from view by trees, with only two car parks to its major area. We live close by, so I walk over there daily with our two dogs through a tree-shadowed, path and, usually, up to the Sandpit. I decided that this Sandpit was going to set the scene for my Assignment. Mist can hang around in the mornings (something I hadn’t portrayed in any previous exercises or Assignments) and I wanted to include this as well.
This is how it was shaping up as a booklet:
The mist that can hang around in the morning
The events that can emerge
End of the day
I’ve run into some difficulties though which have been highlighted by a further telephone conversation with my tutor yesterday. She also emphasized some aspects of presentation.
The Cover page
This is in portrait format, but the rest of the pages are in landscape format. Now I had actually realised that, panicked, and tried to shuffle the other images around on portrait format – but they didn’t work. I then had a look at some other Assignment 5’s that did appear sometimes to show a similar format. I reassured myself then that it would be okay, and carried on merrily. My tutor, quite rightly I think, was not in agreement with this. She thinks I do have some strong images and also pointed out that one of the mist images could actually make a good cover. If I do this it will alter my pagination and how images are being put together.
I was charmed by the cross country event that emerged (and the dog spectators). One of the areas that I think had been making me dawdle about this subject though was that it involves children. The original discussion with my tutor reinforced this ethical issue. I can submit for an assignment but it would not be appropriate to post them on my blog. I spoke with Lee at OCA office, and discussed further. Another possibility might be to post the assignment on the protected student site but, if in continuing doubt, my tutor or myself could get in touch with someone from the management team about this. I discussed this again with my tutor yesterday and she doesn’t think the OCA site would be suitable either.
Two of the images juxtaposed together don’t look right due to their relative sizes and position on the page (the small dog covered in sand and the large dog) . They were ones I was already uncertain about . My tutor commented on presentation in a wider sense. I already knew that emailing PDFs or putting them on a disc was not a good thing to do because of the amount of time it takes to download them. I had thought that it would be faster to place a reduced size PDF on a Dropbox folder but my tutor said it isn’t. It is therefore not a good idea at all to submit a PDF by any method for an assignment or formal assessment.
I went for a walk with my husband and the dogs shortly after my discussion with my tutor. On the Common a rather large, friendly, young Labrador came bounding up to say hello to our dogs. He was quite heavy and wiggly. Somehow or other he knocked into me, just behind my knees, and as he moved away I lost my own momentum and was poleaxed! My husband said he saw it all in slow motion – the top of my back hit the ground first, followed quickly by my head. No bones are broken and I’m not having any symptoms of concussion, but I certainly feel very stiff around my shoulders, neck and lower skull. It brought back to me a comment made by John on my previous post in terms of him hoping that my holga ‘wolf’ didn’t lose its legs. How prophetic John!
A briefer discussion yesterday with my tutor concerned the holga images in fact. In previous email feedback she had been very positive about these and given me several references to follow re photographers and authors. Her concern was about the amount of time, effort and challenges I’d already worked through with the Common images and what would be the effect on me of changing the subject theme at this stage. Her viewpoint also was that the holga images had the potential to form a much larger body of work, at a more advanced stage than an Assignment at Level 1. Level 3 seems light years away to me though and, in between, there doesn’t seem to be a Module which fits that type of work. It certainly wouldn’t seem to fit in People & Place which I’m doing next.
I woke up very early this morning with thoughts churning around in my head and feeling a really strong urge to ditch the Common images for the assignment and do some intense work on the Holga images, which have now increased in number.
There are changes that obviously need to be made so far as the Common images are concerned. The portrait format cover image was, in fact, originally a landscape one which I cropped so I can still use it. Having looked again at the first page ‘editorial’ I realise it doesn’t look right to my eye at all. Some of the type is overset and it all seems wrongly placed on the page. Maybe two columns would be better than three. The image of the sandpit is too small really so it all looks out of proportion. I think it might be better to leave it out all together.
Quite a lot of thinking and work to be done today
5th April 2012
The Art of Photography
Assignment 4: Light
During the time I was doing the exercises for Part 4 I also became interested in other things. I spent a few days in the Peak District to reconnect with my childhood and took many photographs with the intention of doing a personal photography project. Hopefully I can get back to this once this Assignment is complete and I have a little spare time before I start on Part 5.
I began drawing classes, which will continue and also decided to learn how to use Adobe In-Design with the intention of making my own book. My interest in this came from going on a bookbinding one day workshop. I bought a Pentax film camera and then a fellow student very kindly gave me an Olympus OM1-N. My experiences with these will be appearing in another post. My tutor had suggested I look at Edward Weston’s ‘Pepper’ and Robert Mapplethorpe’s ‘Flowers’. I attempted a pepper shot, which turned into a pineapple one and then fell in love with Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. More blog posts with images to follow.
I also attended a Study visit to the Post-Modernism Exhibition and went I went into the separate photography Exhibition I realised I understood the intentions of the photographers. This gave me quite a boost.
All in all, given all these different preoccupations, it’s taken me quite some time to get to this Assignment. I particularly found the use of photographic lighting and accessories to be quite challenging when I did the relevant exercises. I used those available to me and wrote up the results but didn’t feel comfortable with them. This is due to three main factors I think. I’m not a naturally technical person and had to get used to quite a lot of exposure alterations to allow for remote flash. Flash didn’t seem to be a good medium to use for some of the subjects I chose (e.g. an alabaster statuette and an ivory figurine). I found I was focusing more on getting the flash lighting right than connecting with my subject.
I used several subjects for the exercises, in anticipation that one of them might be a good subject for this assignment. These were an alabaster statuette, three ivory figurines and a roman bust. I thought some of the images were good but I found it difficult to find eight images of each which fit the criteria. I eventually decided I would use a small Japanese porcelain cup which is both delicate and colourful. I have allocated a specific description to each image as per the criteria although, of course more than one criteria has been met. Here it is:-
No. 1: Form
In the garden and lit from the back by sunlight. Depth is shown by the angle which captures the back of the cup and the placement of the berries within and without. The light is harder and shows the blueness in the porcelain. It looks as if it might feel cold when I hold it. Landscape view because I wanted to include some of the texture of the tree bark.
No. 2: Form
Taken indoors and showing the other side of the cup. I used a light tent (with black base) with curtains drawn and a small photographic lamp angled 45 degrees overhead from the left. . A black reflector was used on top to control the light, and placed so that the light would fall down the front of the cup. You can particularly see the form and shape of the handle and the berry and, of course, the colour of the berry. The shadows around the bottom of the cup also delineate the shape of its base. This has a softer look than no. 1. – as if it would be warm against my mouth. In terms of form, the cup looks more insubstantial than No. 1 so I think it is less successful. I decided this would look best in square format.
No. 3 – Colour and texture
In the greenhouse which has a N/E light. Again (as No. 1) this is a harder but clear light (although more diffused through the greenhouse windows). It shows up the colour of the cup pattern. The shape of the left side/bottom shows clearly against the plant pot in the background and the different, rougher texture of the wooden shelf.
No. 4 – Colour
Sunlight from the front provides a clear light which brings out the colour of the pattern. Form is highlighted by the angle of the shot and the shadows at the bottom of the cup delineate its roundness.
No. 5 – Texture
Similar lighting to No. 2. The light falling on the handle and left of the cup brings out the texture of the pale-blue paint on the cup and also the shape and form of the handle.
No. 6 – Texture and colour
Daylight outdoors. Composed so that the light falls from the side upon the red berries and highlights the shine and colour of them against the muted colours of the cup in the background.
No. 7 – Shape
Indoors, with the cup against a black background which shows shape of cup and berries. I held a dark blue card over the top of the tent but this wasn’t quite enough to remove the shine from the cup.
No. 8 – Shape
Shape shown by backlighting from a small Lightbox. If I did this again I would make more effort to control the light falling on the front of the cup. It certainly provides edge-lighting on the handle but I would prefer not to have shine on the front of the cup.
No. 9 – Something different
I had been experimenting along the lines of Mapplethorpe’s flowers and decided I wanted to do something similar with the cup. This was taken in natural light. I placed the cup on green felt on the windowsill and drew the curtains almost shut. There was a black card at the back and I used silver reflectors on the lower left (tilted slightly upwards) and on the right side to reflect the light on the petals. In processing I used just a touch of high-pass filter in Photoshop and low-key filter in Nik Color Efex. There is some shine on the cup and I can see the green of the felt reflected on the bottom of the cup. However, I still like it and want to do more of this type of work. I became very absorbed in placing the reflectors and working out where the light fell – much more so than with flash/artificial lighting.
I’m pleased to have actually completed this Assignment as I was getting worried this would never happen. It’s very different having to do eight compositions of the same object to bring out its various qualities satisfactorily and whatever I did I wasn’t satisfied which is why there is a No. 9. I thought I’d completed but was still waking up in the night with yet another idea. I most enjoyed making use of natural light in different ways but know that I do have to become more competent and confident in using artificial lighting.
8th December 2011
The Art of Photography
Feedback and changes to Assignment 1: Contrasts
I started on Part 2 of TAOP as soon as I had sent off Assignment 1 to my tutor. Completing all the exercises and Assignment for Part 2, followed by the work on exercises and Assignment for Part 3, has meant that I haven’t given as much attention as I wanted to making any additions/changes.
I was pleased that the specific feedback was generally positive in terms of images produced; how they met the brief; print quality/layout and also my blog.
Some suggestions for improvement were made though:-
“You’ve taken a lot of trouble with this image but as you say, it was difficult to get the angles you needed. This might have been a case of going for a different, simpler more abstract image. You had one on your blog!”
It is rounded of course and it was taken after I had submitted Assignment 1.
This is the top of the arch
I decided that I still wanted to have something even rounder which would, somehow, represent a contrast to the hard diagonals of the Gherkin. There are two possibilities so far:-
A terracotta, celtic cross surmounted a gravestone in Watts cemetery which is a small peaceful place in Compton, Surrey .
The London Eye which is not only round but very large.
“…it’s a very interesting image which communicates powerfully. Very well observed”. However, the suggestion was made that the image might have worked even better framed more tightly and, of course, it’s much better to do this in camera rather than cropping afterwards.
I did further cropping to this:-
Obviously I could have cropped to just the girl but I still wanted to see some kind of context for her.
Still/Moving/Both in one picture
It was pointed out that I had “fallen into the trap of assuming that the viewer will associate that the people walking are ‘moving’, when in fact the camera has frozen their movement”. I’ve had another go at this and the lady with the pram actually stood still whilst I took the picture.
Thought to work quite well but including other distracting elements in the frame. My tutor thought that another image in one of my blog posts (of an air balloon in Egypt) communicated both large and small. I’m still thinking around this one and keeping it in mind when I’m out photographing but haven’t found what I think is a good one as yet. The London Eye is certainly large but it isn’t contrasted against anything small.
My tutor suggested that I have a look at the work of Lee Friedlander and the way in which he fragments the world in his photography through various means. She linked this with a comment I’d made on my blog in quoting from an article by Dziga Vertov, a Soviet film director. Vertov compares the effect of perspective in drawings and paintings (which proposed that the spectator was the unique centre of the world) against that of the camera, particularly the movie camera, which ‘demonstrated that there was no centre’. Do I feel that Friedlander’s work might fit this theory? This is a difficult one because I think that Friedlander’s work is so very different. The feeling I get when viewing his images is of being alongside him, looking from inside out. His perceived world, as seen through his camera, is right in front of my eyes. I don’t just see straight ahead. It’s as if I’m turning my head to take in a multiplicity of viewpoints. I think he’s got quite stuck in my head because, recently, I was experimenting with b+w conversion and posted this on my Flickr stream.
Some comments likened this to a British version of Friedlander’s ‘America by car”. A pale imitation, but I’m realising that I do feel drawn towards juxtaposed images, reflections and frames within frames and this is slowly creeping into my photography.
15th August 2011
Additional Thoughts 28th May 2012
I am going to go with the Celtic cross which contrasts in many ways with the Gherkin. Both are ‘man-made’ but the one is by hand and the other by both men and machine.
I will leave this as it stands. Tighter framing is still something that I’m working on.
I’m not happy with the one above as there isn’t enough stillness there. Wondered if this might be a better one:-
You can see by the blur that the people in the chairs are definitely moving whilst other people are standing there.
I still haven’t really come across a situation with such a juxtaposition which really appeals to me. It was this type of scene I was thinking of
This shows the immensity of the lower facade and entrance to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous basilica in Barcelona. This is an old photograph from a compact camera so I wouldn’t submit this, but it gives an idea of what I’ve been looking for.
When I began this part of Art of Photography I spent quite a while trying to understand and explore all the different aspectsof colour and have documented this in my write-ups on the exercises. I became interested in the way that colour-blind photographers approach their work; started to appreciate the impact of de-saturated colours and also discovered that I enjoyed converting to black and white. I visited “Figures and Fictions’, an Exhibition of Contemporary South Arican Photography on a recent OCA Study Day and also took the opportunity for a solo visit to ‘The Cult’ of Beauty’ Exhibition and the work of the Aesthetic Movement. There were wonderful colours there in the paintings.
It’s summertime now and I love the colours of all the flowers but have tried to resist just concentrating on these and produce some variety.
Colour harmony through complementary colours
1. Red and Green
The ratios is meant to be 1:1. There are more green hues in fact, but the red of the jackets is a strong red, particularly the expanse of the jacket on the young man in the forground. To me this does give a balance.
2. Violet and Yellow
Ratio 1:3. A still-life flower arrangement where I carefully counted out the number of flowers in each colour, allowing for the fact that the yellow flowers are larger.
3. Blue and Orange
4. Red and Green
This is against the backdrop of the pale blue sea, shrouded mountains and sky. The green tower of the buoy is taller than the red base is wide but it has less density so I think the 1:1 ratio is just about maintained.
Colour harmony through similar colours
5. In the warm range of the colour circle
I saw these sheds on a recent walk around a local Garden Safari and was immediately drawn to both their lines and also the faded colours.
6. In the warm range of the colour circle
There is quite a lot of orange here but there is also the pink of the banner and the bouncy castle in the far background, (white added to red).
7. In the warm range of the colour circle
This was a chance shot whilst I was at Canterbury Cathedral. It was fairly gloomy in the cloister with the bright sun outside and the red gowns caught my eye. This young couple were so obviously enjoying themselves as they looked around. At first I was undecided as to whether the red of their gowns constituted an accent colour but the red takes up almost a quarter of the composition and harmonises with the warm, yellowy tone of the old stone walls.
8. In the warm range of the colour circle
A pub by the Monument in the City of London. Bright light outside and cool and dim inside. The young man was wearing a yellow jacket which haronises with the yellow menus. His pale red drink looked so refreshing (if you zoom in you can see that it’s strawberry cider). After a while he put on his yellow headphones and switched on his laptop – lost in his own world whilst busy London passed by.
Colour contrast through contrasting colours
9. Orange, bright blue and pink
In one of our local Charity shops. I first saw the amazing boots with the bright blue laces. I commented what a wonderful colour they were and the helper agreed, saying that she thought they went really well with her rights. What an exuberant mix of colours! I had to get a photograph of them and, thankfully, she agreed to pose. The blue of the carpet sets it all off very nicely. I wish I had the courage to mix and colours in that way.
10. Red, green and blue
Psychedelic lighting in an underpass near to Waterloo Station.
11. Many colours, with orange as a contrast
The window display in this shop shouted out at me as I walked past. I think it’s the large amount of orange, which contrasts with the other colours and provides an opposing ratio with the blue.
12. Peppers in a blue box
A small area of colour against a much larger background of another colour.
13. Sky mirror
Now installed in the heart of the City of London (across the road from the Gherkin). As we crossed the road it was the yellow on the hoardings that caught my eye first. The yellow is an accent within the frame of the mirror. It could be said that the yellow on the hoardings is too much to constitute an accent with the whole image though. If the young man’s tee shirt had been a brighter blue that could also have constituted an accent.
14. Lady in blue
A startling blue (and outfit) especially on a Sunday amongst the old, yellow-beige walls of Split.
15. Blue balloon in the rain
It began to pour with rain during the garden safari and I had to retreat to my car. The blue balloon (announcing a garden) looked bright, albeit somewhat forlorn.
One blooming on its own.
I’ve enjoyed this Assignment the most up to now and the time of year has helped considerably with such a richness of choice. I feel much more comfortable with colours in photography. I’ve also decided that it’s time I had another attempt at learning to draw so that I can use pastels and watercolours as well and so I’ve enrolled on a Course to start at the end of September.
4th August 2011