Oral Presentation

Password: Falmouth17

References:

Billabong – retail website  https://eu.billabong.com/womens Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

BLANCHARD, T. 2016. Peter Lindbergh: ‘I don’t retouch anything’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/aug/07/peter-lindbergh-i-dont-retouch-anything-a-different-vision-on-fashion-photography Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

Cat Garcia http://www.catgarciaphoto.com/ Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

Government and Equalities Office and SWINSON, J. 2015. New research shows seven is heaven for girls and sports. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-research-shows-seven-is-heaven-for-girls-and-sports Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

RUSHTON, S. 2017. Interview: Photographer Peter Lindbergh. The Sunday Times. Available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/interview-photographer-peter-lindbergh-65f9rsp83 Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

Sport England – This Girl Can campaign https://www.sportengland.org/our-work/women/this-girl-can/ Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

Women in Sport https://www.womeninsport.org/ Last Accessed: 08Dec2017

Week 12

Following on from previous posts regarding natural light photographers, Sophie Harris-Taylor[i] is another photographer who works only with natural or available light when creating work. Her portraits have a beautiful soft quality to them, whilst at the same time offering a realistic view of what the subject looks like. I feel when I’m looking at her work that I’m looking at the actual person, not the lighting or editing. For example this photo from her series “Sisters”, when looking at the two women in this image you don’t look at think “they only look like that because of editing or stylists or studio lights” – the kind of thoughts you have when looking at glossy magazines. The simple composition and natural light make you believe that what you are seeing, who you are seeing, is more real than an studio photograph of a celebrity in a magazine or in an advert.

Anna & Kate from the series Sisters by Sophie Harris-Taylor http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/filter/Projects/Sisters

Anna & Kate from the series Sisters by Sophie Harris-Taylor

http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/filter/Projects/Sisters

Her work at times almost has a painterly feeling to it; LensCulture writes that she “draws inspiration from the Renaissance painters”[ii], and I do feel that you can see this in her work. The directional light, use of shadows, and subject arrangement, puts me in mind of some Renaissance paintings; in particular this image by Harris-Taylor and this painting of St Francis of Assisi by Caravaggio:

Joy, Bowy, & Bella from the series Sisters by Sophie Harris-Taylor http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/filter/Projects/Sisters

Joy, Bowy, & Bella from the series Sisters by Sophie Harris-Taylor

http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/filter/Projects/Sisters

St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy - Caravaggio Available at: http://www.themasterpiececards.com/famous-paintings-reviewed/bid/96797/Caravaggio-Paintings-St-Francis-of-Assisi-in-Ecstasy

St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy - Caravaggio

Available at: http://www.themasterpiececards.com/famous-paintings-reviewed/bid/96797/Caravaggio-Paintings-St-Francis-of-Assisi-in-Ecstasy

It’s so interesting that this style of photography can seem more realistic than non-naturally lit or studio lighting portraits, when it is also reminiscent of paintings hundreds of years old, of people that may or may not have existed. Even if they did exist, the paintings of them are creations from the artists mind, and so can be argued as completely not-real.

The way Harris-Taylor uses light and shadow in this way is fascinating, beautiful and something I will keep in mind for my work going forwards. It is also so interesting to see the way she is inspired by Renaissance paintings in her photography. It is a great reminder that stimuli can come from anywhere and I should not be afraid to look to other arts, or further afield, for inspiration.

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[i] http://www.sophieharristaylor.com/filter/Overview

[ii] LensCulture – Sophie Harris-Taylor Biography. Available at : https://www.lensculture.com/sophie-harris-taylor. Last Accessed: 13Dec2017

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017

I visited the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (TW) at London’s National Portrait Gallery[i] recently, and it was so interesting to see the different entries shortlisted and the winners in this year’s competition.

It was fascinating to me that not all photographs were in focus, or completely pin sharp (for example this entry below, by Nancy Newberry, in which the back wall is sharper than the two people) – despite being recently told that images should always be in focus…..this is a matter of personal preference perhaps?

The Sentinels, February 2016, from the series Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings by Nancy Newberry. Available at: https://nancynewberry.com/photographs/Smoke-Bombs-and-Border-Crossings/2

The Sentinels, February 2016, from the series Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings by Nancy Newberry. Available at:

https://nancynewberry.com/photographs/Smoke-Bombs-and-Border-Crossings/2

Photography is subjective anyway, and some of the photographs in the TW shortlist that I really loved weren’t placed, and some of the shortlist images didn’t really “grab me” at all. It makes me wonder whether these “rules” for photography are less important than we are led to believe, and what makes a great picture, or a great narrative, is what the photograph says to the viewer, what it communicates, and how (or what) it makes you feel – not how it was taken. At least, coming away from the TW exhibition today, this was my impression.

The photographs that resonated the most with me, were the ones that I felt really captured something about the subject, and that really made me want to keep looking at the image. Either there was something interesting about the composition of the subject in the image, or the expression on the sitter’s face, a look of something in their eyes, or their body language perhaps. I would like to try to bring more of these qualities into my images although exactly how seems as much to do with luck and timing as it does skill and knowledge.

I really enjoyed seeing the different interpretation’s of “portrait” as well – some quite traditional in style, some more environmental, some (like this year’s winning image) were closer crops of the subject’s face, some didn’t have a face in them at all - for example this entry below, by Georgie Wileman.

2014-2017, May 2017 from the series Endometriosis by Georgie Wileman https://www.georgiewileman.com/endo/

2014-2017, May 2017 from the series Endometriosis by Georgie Wileman

https://www.georgiewileman.com/endo/

It makes me consider my project and the photographs I have taken, whether or not I looked at them all as portraits, and how (or if) that matters. Some of the TW photographs seemed more staged than others. As I looked back through the accompanying exhibition book I found myself drawn to the images that seemed less staged, posed perhaps, but something about them still seeming natural. I suppose given my personal preference towards taking more natural rather than staged photos for my project this isn’t so surprising. But I suppose reassuring that what I am drawn to liking and what I am drawn to making are in alignment!

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[i] National Portrait Gallery – Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibitionhttps://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2017/exhibition/                                      Last Accessed: 09Dec2017

 

Week 11

Project Development

As it’s coming towards the end of the module I have been reviewing the work created these last few weeks and revising my work-in-progress (WIP) portfolio.

It’s so interesting to see how my work has changed and developed since the start of the module. Firstly the project completely changed from inland/costal work to going back to photographing female surfers in the UK. But also since the beginning of the change over the work has developed, going from wider shots to doing some closer up work, and more detailed shots as well. I think this is partly because I’ve become more comfortable with my project and as it’s gone on I’ve started to develop a clearer idea of the shape I want it to take.

I want my WIP portfolio to show the different women I’ve photographed in some different ways – some close ups / straight portrait shots of their faces, as well as including wider shots showing the environment; the beaches and the weather they surf in. I hope that by showing more than just one aspect of them, the portfolio will show a more balanced view, and a more dimensional look at who these women are.

Project Research/Contextualisation

In coming to the end of the module and starting to reflect on the past few weeks I have been thinking more about how I’ve conducted the shoots for my project, and how much I’ve enjoyed the portrait photo process because of the way I had kept the shoots so minimal. I didn’t want to involve lots of lights or staged studio sets, I don’t think it would suit the project or me. So I kept the shoots very low key, just the surfer and me, with a camera. No intricate lighting set ups etc. I had started to wonder whether this is a way of working that could transfer to commissioned work or whether without lighting set ups you wouldn’t be taken seriously. However after speaking with Cat Garcia during her Leica workshop the other week, and hearing how her personal and commissioned work is all done with natural/available light I felt inspired to push forward with this way of working.

Also inspiring regarding working in this way, are the photographs taken by Mario Sorrenti of Kate Moss, that he took in the 90’s for the Calvin Klein Obsession perfume campaign. Although taken decades ago, previously unused photographs from that series are being used now for perfume “Obsessed” – also by Calvin Klein. These photographs were taken by Sorrenti when he and Moss were alone, just the two of them, in the Virgin Islands. There was no production crew with them, no hair or make-up stylists or wardrobe department. There are no elaborate hairstyles or make-up trends, in fact I don’t think Moss had any make up on in the photographs. It was just them, and a camera. What I love about these images is how natural they look, and how striking the images are, as well as how timeless they look. Part of the beauty of these photographs is of course Kate Moss herself, but for me the beauty also comes from the simplicity of the images. How the clean lines not only ensure the focus is on her but also that there is nothing competing for the viewers attention in the images. This all helps the timeless quality of the images, as well as because the images are in black and white. Without colour there is less to identify the era or year the images were taken, they were taken in the 90’s but could just as easily been taken this year. The black & white helps the images to endure over time.

Kate Moss by Mario Sorrenti - shot in 1993 Calvin Klein advertising campaign for Obsessed perfume Available at: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/mario-sorrenti-kate-moss-obsessed-calvin-klein

Kate Moss by Mario Sorrenti - shot in 1993

Calvin Klein advertising campaign for Obsessed perfume

Available at: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/mario-sorrenti-kate-moss-obsessed-calvin-klein

For me these images are a great example of not needing a lot of production to create a great photograph, and not needing a lot of technology, to create a great portrait of someone. I also love how the images do just show her, not her make-up or clothes, just who she is. Which is also something I am trying to show in my project work – who the surfers are that I am photographing, they aren’t wearing make-up and didn’t have their hair styled any particular way and I hope to also convey their natural beauty in the same low-key, low-production aspect way.

These images are again making me wonder whether to re-visit black and white images for my project. I love how the black & white photographs seem softer, and focus the attention on the subject of the image and who that person is, rather than the surroundings in the photograph. However I don’t think this is something to explore at this point in time, but perhaps in the future.

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References:

ADORANTE, M. 2017. Why Everyone Is Obsessed with Nostalgia, According to Photographer Mario Sorrenti. W Magazine. Available at: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/mario-sorrenti-kate-moss-obsessed-calvin-klein Last Accessed: 09Dec2017

ALEXANDER, E. 2017. Kate Moss and Mario Sorrenti: Why and how we fell in love. Harpers Bazaar. Available at: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/fashion-news/a43691/kate-moss-and-mario-sorrenti-why-we-fell-in-love/ Last Accessed: 09Dec2017

Week 10

Project Development

I met another surfer this weekend – Kirsty, for a photography session in Cornwall. Meeting with her was particularly interesting as I had not found her, she found me and my project through the Instagram post of another surfer - Zoe, who I photographed a few weeks ago. Zoe had uploaded an image I took with some explanation regarding my project and had tagged me in the post. Kirsty then found me through that post and got in touch to ask if she could get involved. This is the first time someone has reached out to me and it is great to experience how social media can really benefit my project, and also how my project could spread and hopefully be of benefit to those who see it.

I really enjoyed meeting Kirsty and hearing her thoughts on the portrayal and representation of women in surfing. It was interesting how, like the other women I’ve met through my project, she also feels that female surfers are too often shown in overtly sexualised ways, and the female surfers used in advertising are all young, skinny, conventionally attractive, and usually wearing tiny swimwear. The kind of images that make other women not only feel insecure but also question their right to surf, or to call themselves surfers, as they don’t look like the women in magazines. Personally, as a woman, it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one who feels this way, and that everyone I spoken to thus far feels the same. It is disheartening that so many of us do feel this way though.

I wanted to take some portrait shots of Kirsty, as I do love taking portrait photos and trying to find ways to capture who someone is – as well as wanting to record the different faces of female surfers. I also wanted to again capture some of the surroundings/environment she surfs in; the beach, the cold water, the wind etc. So I also took some images to show the environment in the background, and also some closer in shots - for example of her feet in the water as she was wearing thick wetsuit boots (below), and her hands as through them you can see that it was cold.

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These kind of images (hands and feet) are also not the normal kind of images you see of female surfers – bum and boob shots being much more expected. So I hope in choosing to include some different focuses for the shots like this, it could highlight that the images you would normally see, are stereotypically unnecessarily sexualised.

Project Research/Contextual Research

I’ve been looking further into the way women are used in advertisements for surf brands and thinking about how this affects the viewers. By only using young thin attractive women to advertise surf wear, brands are telling people that surfing = these women, therefore in order to surf you need to be that woman. If you don’t happen to look like that woman in the advert, you infer that you can’t be a surfer, or you can’t surf. These adverts equate the activity of surfing with being young and wearing bikinis. For women that are older, want to surf, or do already surf, but don’t look like women in the adverts or don’t want to wear a bikini to surf in, or can’t for practical reasons – i.e. cold water surfers, they infer from these adverts that they are not surfers. These adverts, I believe, sell product as people buy into this message – that if they buy those clothes they will be that woman in the advert. This kind of message in advertising is damaging to women as it tells them if they look different or wear different things they cannot identify with surfing By showing that not all female surfers surf in bikinis or are young and look like models, I hope my project will show another side to female surfers, to provide a more balanced view of women that surf and what they look like.

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References:

WILLIAMSON, J. 2005. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Great Britain and the United States: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd

Cat Garcia Workshop

I was recently able to take part in a natural light photography workshop with Cat Garcia[i], in conjunction with Leica Akademie[ii] in London. Cat Garcia’s personal and commercial work involves using only natural, or available, light to shoot her subjects in, rather than involving lighting set ups or lots of equipment.

Jeremy King by Cat Garcia, for Mr Porter advertising campaign                                        Available at: http://www.catgarciaphoto.com/work/mr-porter/mr-porter-jeremy-king-01/ 

Jeremy King by Cat Garcia, for Mr Porter advertising campaign                                        Available at: http://www.catgarciaphoto.com/work/mr-porter/mr-porter-jeremy-king-01/ 

I was particularly interested in this workshop as for my project work I am taking all photographs outdoors using only the natural light available at the time. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly I want to photograph the surfers in the surf environment – outdoors, on the beach, in the elements that, as a surfer in the UK, you have to deal with. I want to show them in the locations they go surfing as this is a part of who they are, and the identity of being a UK surfer. Secondly I don’t want to use artificial lighting set ups for this project, it’s not something I am particularly interested in doing at this point in time, I want my shoots to be done more naturally rather than studio-type staged, and to minimise the production necessities for the shoots. I want them to be just the surfer, me, and a camera. One of the reasons so many surfers I have spoken to through this project don’t identify with the images they see in magazines is because they don’t look “real” – so I want to keep my project “real”, in the sense of as little artifice to create the images as possible.  

Cat’s portraits also emphasize this way of working. She doesn’t have a huge production team for her shoots, usually just her, the subject, and maybe an assistant. She doesn’t use lots of lights to create her work, just what is available on the day. She explained how she makes use of other objects nearby to add reflected light on to the subject or in the background. Cat also discussed how she works with the available or directional light to find the best way to have the subject facing or looking in order to bring life to the image, and add interest and narrative. These are definitely tools that I can bring to my project work. There’s not often directional light outdoors on the beach, in the way that there is through a window in a building for example, but there are ways that I could better use the light, through cloud cover perhaps, to add more depth to my images.

I love the simplicity Cat has to her work, nothing overly complicated but her work has a depth to it that draws you in. During the workshop she also discussed ways of framing the subject to keep the intensity and focus on them. As I am trying to show the environment as well as the surfer I think I sometimes get too concerned with showing the environment, and having that a large focus of the image. However by ensuring the person I am photographing is the main interest, that doesn’t mean the environment aspect is completely negated, but that the image will be better structured. It was a really interesting workshop and hopefully will carry through into my project work.

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[i] Cat Garcia http://www.catgarciaphoto.com/                                                                        Last Accessed: 09Dec2017

[ii] Leica Akademie https://uk.leica-camera.com/Leica-Akademie/About-the-Leica-Akademie  Last Accessed: 09Dec2017

Week 9

Project Development

I have e-mailed the participants of my project some follow-up questions to our discussions to try to get their views in writing to potentially include them in my project. So far I haven’t had any responses so I may not include this as part of my project, depending on whether I receive any responses over the next couple of weeks.

I may also have some more shoots the next couple of weekends so I might look at recording the conversations there and then, as a way to record what was said. This will depend on whether the participant is open to this approach and I won’t do it if it makes them uncomfortable.

I’ve felt recently that my portraits don’t quite have the feel or exact look that I’ve been hoping for in my project. So I took part in a photography portrait workshop in London this week to further develop portrait skills/technique using only natural or available light. This was quite a useful workshop and I think will benefit my project work - which only uses natural/available light. We discussed a lot making the most of the light that is available, and finding ways to use the direction of light, or reflections of light, to bring life and soul to an image. I was quite pleased with the images I took that day so I hope these techniques will also carry through into my project work.

I also spent some time during the workshop experimenting with black and white portraits, which isn’t something I normally do. However, I loved seeing the way the black & white portraits quietened the image. The background/surroundings became less prominent, and the focus really fell on the subject of the photographs, on their features, and to me really highlighted their innate individuality. Something deeper than having different skin, hair, or eye, colour, but something that you can feel on a deeper level. I might experiment with a combination of black & white, and colour photographs in my work (which was something I had started looking at last module but for environmental or still life images rather than portraiture), to see the effect this has on the overall feel and look of the project. I previously wrote about wanting to keep all the images for the project in colour but I think it is worth exploring having some in black and white, as balancing that out with images in colour I think will still show the work is from now and not photographs from decades past.

Contextual Research

Looking through a surf magazine aimed at women is quite telling regarding the type of photographs of female surfers commissioned by surf brands, and used in the surf industry. For example this issue of Surf Girl magazine, from earlier this year, has a photograph by surf brand O’Neill on the cover, showing a woman in a bikini looking seductively at the camera, you then open the cover to be faced with yet another photograph of a woman in a bikini, this time head tilted upwards, back arched, with perfectly tousled hair – this time from surf brand Rip Curl, next to a photograph of 3 barely covered bums.

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IMG_5008.JPG

I would be surprised if any woman looking at these images doesn’t feel even a little negatively affected by them – let alone young girls/teenagers. These images say that “this is a what a female surfer looks like”, this is what we as women, as surfers, are expected to look like, expected to wear. This is how we’re expected to act and how we’re expected to be on a beach. Women I have spoken to about this project have also commented about the way female surfers are represented and the way women are shown in a beach or surfing context. Whilst the images are technically well done and beautiful, and I presume must sell product or judged to be successful by the commissioning brands, they don’t represent a reality for many female surfers.

To look at these images and not be able to identify with what you see makes you question whether you are or should be a surfer. To younger girls, like one I photographed last week, it makes them worry about their appearance than focus on their surf ability. I want my project to be able to show an alternative, to show other women that you might not be skinny and spend your days in a bikini but that doesn’t make you less of a surfer. However when the major surf brands continue to show and commission the status quo, and when it is those brands that have the money and reach to distribute these images themselves and via magazines when paying for advertising space, then I don’t know how to show an alternative to the people I’m making it for. I think my first method for this needs to be social media – someone has contacted me via Instagram because they want to get involved with the project so I think perseverance with this first and foremost will help to spread the word.

Week 8

Project Development

This week I went to south Wales to do some shoots with some more female surfers. I wanted to try to get some different shots this weekend and not just portraits. I did do some portrait shots as well, because I do want to include photographs of the different faces of female surfers in the UK. But I also wanted to get some more of the environments and surroundings UK surfers surf in. I want to show that the tropical fantasy of surfing is not the everyday reality for UK surfers, but they still surf.

The weather this weekend was certainly typical UK autumn weather so most definitely not sunny with perfect waves. In fact on the Saturday in Aberavon there was nothing surfable at all, it was cold, raining, and windy. However, as this is the reality for UK female surfers in a way it seemed fortuitous that I was going to be able to do some shots of these not perfect conditions!

We did some portrait shots, and some environmental portraits as well. I think are quite a good start in terms of showing the environment and conditions for female surfers in the UK. There’s a couple that I think could be a great addition to my project to show the varying weather and location conditions for UK surfers. The rain did hamper the shoot a bit so either this module or next I’d like to go back to get some other shots in Aberavon of the surf there, and of my participant (Debbie) actually surfing!

20171118_Debbie_Aberavon_4.jpg

During my 1-2-1 with Paul we discussed including quotes/text from the women I photograph regarding their experience of and opinions on the representation of female surfers in advertising and media. I feel this would elevate the project from being only photographs of the women but by also including their words would provide another dimension to the work. The project would, I think, become more inclusive for the subjects of the work, and become more about them than me. Even though the project began from my own experiences of being a female surfer, it is not an autobiographical project. I want the project to be inclusive of other female surfers in the UK, to show a broader view of who they are.  

I have found it hard to remember the exact words they use when we discuss the project etc. during the shoots. I also don’t want to record the discussions and turn them into interviews with some photographs as illustration to an interview. However if I do include some text as part of the project I don’t want to misquote what the participants say. So I have thought about asking them to complete a short questionnaire after the session. This would just be a few questions on their experiences and opinions of representation and images of female surfers in the media/advertising.

Contextual Research

I feel that quite a lot of photography of female surfers portrays them in quite an overtly sexualised way. This seems to have become the norm for women in surfing and female surfers are not judged or discussed only on their surfing ability, but on how they look. Surf-wear brands in advertising, for example, heavily contribute to this in the photographs of women they use. Earlier this year surf-brand Billabong came under fire for the pictures they had on the entry page to their website. The left hand side, to click through to the men’s store/blog/event news, featured a photograph of a male surfer, surfing, and doing an incredible air off the wave. The right hand side however, to click through to the women’s store/blog/event news, contained a photograph of a bikini-clad woman lying seductively on the sand – not surfing. There was a lot of media/social-media response to this and from what I can tell the majority of commentary came about after the publication of an article by Karen Knowlton, for the website Women 2.0 (https://you.women2.com/); “F*ck you Billabong. Seriously, f*ck you”[i]. Knowlton quite correctly called Billabong out on its blatant sexism and the effects this has on the women and girls that visit their site – that men are there to do sports, and women are there to look good. This was from a surf-brand that creates apparel and technical surf wear for both men and women, and not only for adults but for children and teenagers as well, and sponsors professional male and female surfers. So this particularly surprising that they would approve such misogynistic photographs on their website, especially in 2017.

It is this kind of photography within the surf world that I want to show is not the only way for women in surfing to be represented. As a surfer that is not who I am, it is not who I see out surfing, and it is not who others see either. The women I am photographing for my project do not have that unrealistic body type and do not sit around on the beach whilst men surf. They are of all different shapes and sizes, they are out there surfing, and they deserve to be out there just as much men do. Seeing surf brands promoting women in that sexist way makes it hard to identify with female surfers, and hard to believe that women can, or should, surf – even if you yourself are a female surfer. It makes it hard to believe that you can be surfer if you do not look like a supermodel and don’t live somewhere where surfing is done in a bikini and in tropical weather. I want to show that female surfers don’t always look like that, and show others – men and women, surfers and non-surfers, that just because someone doesn’t look like that, doesn’t mean they aren’t a surfer. I want to create photographs to show who female surfers actually are, in the “real world” – and hopefully, provide images for “real” people to identify with, and to maybe provide a photographs for us “real” surfers to relate to.

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[i] KNOWLTON, K. 2017. F*ck you Billabong. Seriously, f*ck you. Women 2.0. Available at: https://you.women2.com/f-ck-you-billabong-seriously-f-ck-you-84995f3d7946. Accessed on 18-Nov-2017

Week 7

Project Development

This week I met with a surfer in Cornwall to shoot some portrait photos for my project. She was one for the ladies I connected with via my Facebook post. Leading up to the day we discussed the logistics of when and where to meet, as well as what would be required, via Messenger so all communication was online. I only asked that we meet somewhere she normally surfed, that she sign a model release before we started, and confirmed that she just needed to turn up as she would normally for a surf, i.e. normal wetsuit etc. and normal board.

On the day I explained more about what I was wanting to do/show through my project and we discussed a little how women surfers are portrayed in media and advertising, and how that image does differ to our own experiences of being a female surfer, and how it differs from our own observations of what we see in the water when we’re out. It was reassuring to have confirmation that another person shares the same views and experiences of the subject, and it was also great to be able to discuss it in a fairly relaxed, and non-photography course context. Even though I was there to photograph her, our conservation was more focussed on female surfers, surfing in the UK, and generally surfing as an activity.

I took some portrait photographs of her on the beach before she went in, I also tried to get some of her actually surfing but weather and waves were not on our side so those images weren’t as successful (this is where I think in-water surf photography could come into play – as if I’d been in the water as well I could have potentially got some shots of her paddling/in the line-up etc.), and I also took some of her after the session on the beach.

I was attempting to capture her in quite a natural state. I was hoping to show her natural spirit and show the resilience and strength (both inner and physical), she has that helps her to take part in what is still a fairly male dominated sport, and to do it in cold water and often less than perfect conditions. I didn’t ask her to pose in any particular way, a couple of times I asked her to look at the camera but mostly I photographed her as she prepared to get in, and as we talked.

For the first of these sessions I am pretty pleased with how some of these images turned out. There are some that upon reflection I maybe would have done differently technically, different composition or exposure, for example this one I would have liked to have captured her more to the left of the frame.

20171105_Zoe_Towan_6-0358.jpg

But there are some that turned out as I hoped they would. They are quite simple in terms of set up/composition, but I think do show her in quite a real way, without being overly staged. I think they show a real surfer, in a real environment, whilst showing her natural beauty, strength, and spirit – this one, below, for example:

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Contextual Research

 A prominent photographer in the area of surf photography portraits is Joni Sternbach. She creates tintype images of surfers in various locations throughout the world and has been featured by various publications such as World Photo Org[i], Huck Magazine[ii], The Guardian[iii], The New York Times[iv], and I’m sure many others, and won second place in the 2016 Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography Prize for one of her tintype images. I came across her work a few months ago during research for this course (well technically I first came across her work when I visited the 2016 Taylor Wessing exhibition in London and saw the tintype image on display but that was before I had decided on a surf/surfer photography project so I wasn’t looking at it in the same frame of mind as I am now!). I did and still do love her work, I think her images are beautiful and the technique is fascinating. However the more I think about and plan my project the more I see Sternbach’s images as quite romantic portrayals of surfers, both men and women, and in a way quite timeless. The colourless nature of the images helps the details in the images to be less of a focus, more a secondary factor of the images. Because of this looking at these images one could easily imagine that they were taken 50, 60, 100 years ag – not necessarily within the last year or two. Whilst the images are lovely to me they don’t “say” much about current surf culture or the environment of the sport.

Conversely what I am trying to do with my project is keep my images firmly in the present. I want viewers to be able to see that they were taken recently because I want to show who female surfers are now, in this day and age. I want to show that they are more varied than a cursory glance at surf photography media and advertising would have you believe. To do this I am using modern photography techniques, shooting and editing the images in colour, and also keeping in details such as wetsuit/board logos and stickers etc. I want it to be clear that the photographs and the subjects in the photographs are of the here and now.    

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 [i] OXLEY, M. Surfland by Joni Sternbach. World Photography Organisation. Available at: https://www.worldphoto.org/blogs/14-12-16/surfland-joni-sternbach [accessed on 13Nov2017]

[ii] SAVAGE, N. 2016. Joni Sternbach’s Primordial Portraits Capture Surfing’s Lost Tribe. Huck Magazine. Available at : http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/joni-sternbach/ [accessed on 13Nov2017]

[iii] The Guardian. 2016. Female Surfers Photographed Using Century-old Technique  - in Pictures. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2016/sep/01/women-surfers-photography-old-technique [accessed on 13Nov2017]

[iv] CARDWELL, D. 2015. Capturing the Stillness of Surfers in Portraits. The New York Times. Available at: https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/20/finding-stillness-in-surfer-portraits/ [accessed on 13Nov2017]

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Week 6

So further to the reflections I’ve done over the last couple of weeks I have decided to change my project back to one of my original ideas; to document and reflect female UK surfers, to compare with  the media stereotype of what a female surfer looks like.

I have thought long and hard about this, and debated a lot whether to continue with inland/coast or revert to female UK surfers. But ultimately I felt that I needed to go with my gut instinct, as it were, and try to do a project I felt had more of a future.

I reached out via a Facebook group of female UK surfers to find participants for my project. Initial response was good, a lot of people seemed to be interested and have volunteered to take part. I arranged to meet some this weekend in Cornwall, and also in the next few weeks in Devon and Wales too. I think a cross section of locations in the UK will help to give a wider view of female surfers rather than just looking at one location.

I also have a surf photography workshop booked in December as I might include surf images rather than only portraits in the project.

I also may look at comparing images I take with images from media of the “stereotypical” surfer, as well as researching more on how women are represented in surfing, from magazines as well as in advertising. I saw a photograph recently posted by Stephanie Gilmore, a professional surfer, on her Instagram in which she has a cut on her leg from a surf session, I then saw the same image on her sponsor’s Instagram page in which they’ve photoshopped out the cut – another way in which advertising is trying to push the image of the “perfect” “beautiful” surfer – below.

Original image from Stephanie Gilmore’s Instagram page[i] (with cut on shin):

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Edited Roxy image from Roxy Instagram page[ii] (minus cut on shin):

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Week 5

Project Development

Thinking about connecting with people as part of a marketing plan made me question not only how to do this but also how I would feel about trying to “sell” my work, both actually sell for money and also sell as a concept/idea. I have been struggling lately with my project, as it has moved away from my original ideas, and I’ve noticed recently that I’ve not only been having trouble making work for it but also explaining it to other non-course people. I had lost enthusiasm for the project I felt like I didn’t really know what the point was anymore and that I was trying to convince myself about it to have to keep doing it.

Whilst thinking about networking I thought about working with others / what I want to show others through my work / who I could work with / how I could work with them. This in turn again made me think about how my project had moved away from working with others and how that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. All of this lead to me questioning whether my inland/coast project was what I really wanted to do. Previously one of my ideas for my project was for it to consist of photographs of female surfers in the UK, to show that the media stereotype of who female surfers are is not necessarily who female surfers are. A lot of the ideas in this week’s forum post regarding networking I felt for me would need to be done in two ways; one way/one side of photography for the course, and another for my actual photographic interests. Perhaps I should combine these?

Coursework/Research

Being ill this week put some limitations on physical networking; visiting galleries etc. However I did try to reach out to some photographers via e-mail and social media, as well as continuing to share work daily on Instagram. I haven’t had much luck with responses via e-mail, so this week I have also been looking more closely at any comments/likes I get to photos I upload. I have noticed that I rarely get likes from followers, a lot of likes that come in are from non-followers, occasionally this leads to new followers but not always, and if they do follow they then don’t often like another photo and I think unfollow after a few days, so I would presume they are just following to get me to follow them back. Which I’ll be honest is quite disheartening. There also seems to be some correlation between the nature of the photos I upload and number of likes, photos of the UK don’t seem to get as many as photos of other countries, but photos with tags related to surf seem to do better than others. There does seem to be a way to play the Instagram game that I’m not yet completely au fait with - more research/practice needed.

Week 4

Contextual Research

I’ve been looking at the social media presence of Lucia Griggi this week, as I particularly like her work - I love the way her images are quite clean in composition but also evocative - like the one below.

Lucia Griggi image - http://www.luciagriggi.com/adventure/mdtfx0wi0g1muhh4zpcouapyw28tjz

Lucia Griggi image - http://www.luciagriggi.com/adventure/mdtfx0wi0g1muhh4zpcouapyw28tjz

 

I’ve been trying to think about it in the context of points raised in the interview with Max Barnett. The interview discussed using social media, e.g. Instagram, as a platform to share your work but also as a way to share your reality with your viewers, to give them a glimpse into who you are, and into your life. I’ve mostly been using my Instagram account as a way to show finished pieces of work but I wonder whether it would be beneficial to also show more “snap shots” of my reality/my life. Griggi’s Instagram account[i] appears to mostly show “finished” work, e.g. work that is also on her website[ii], but does also occasionally have what appear to be snap shots of other things she is doing.

To me this perhaps does seem to make her presence more authentic, less constructed, and perhaps makes her come across more real – showing the person rather than just a collection of works. I wonder whether this approach works, perhaps it depends on whether you want to sell work or sell your services as a photographer. Perhaps giving insights into who you are makes you more relatable, prospective clients/customers maybe feel like they already know you and want to work with you. If this is the case then I think what one shares is still carefully edited to project the right kind of image, to continually push the brand of who you are and what you do. Which then makes me question – how authentic are these images? Are they snap shots of her life or are they planned and refined images? I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing if they are, and I’m not at all being negative about it, after all everyone has to play the game in some way or another. It does just make me think that I need to think more about what I’m sharing, and to what end, and to consider more about the message that I’m sending out with the images I upload.

Project Development

Having to think about what first made me want to photograph/be a photographer made me realise how far my project has gone from my original intentions. My original interest was in travel photography, documenting and capturing moments that show glimpses into other worlds, other cultures. It was something that continually interested me and that I found exciting. My project, whilst it is interesting, does not have the same kind of draw for me. However outside of this course I feel like my photography does still follow that interest. I need to find a way for the photography that I do for my course project and outside of the course, to harmonise, to find my photographic style. It was interesting to note from this week’s forum that I’m not the only person with this problem, and that someone else is also struggling to keep the excitement that we first felt with photography. I don’t know what the answer to this is but perhaps for me it could be photographing areas in the UK that I don’t normally go to. I think this is something to try and see whether it does have an effect.

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[i] https://www.instagram.com/luciagriggi/

[ii] http://www.luciagriggi.com/

Week 3

Contextual Research

Following on from last week I’ve continued to read “How Photographs are Sold”[i]. The various different methods used by the photographers in the book are each of them best used for the different aims of the photographer. Some want to sell locally but without too much work in the selling aspect on their part, in which case they sell through a local gallery, another sells through their own private studio allowing them to sell on their own terms, but without overheads of running a gallery. There are drawbacks to both, as there are for probably any option. Selling through a gallery means the gallery owner taking a cut, selling on your own requires more leg work to sell and prepare product for selling and possibly shipping. So in order to narrow down ways of selling I first need to narrow down what it is I would want to sell, and how much direct involvement I would want, or could feasibly have.  

Project Development

I have been working further on creating images for urban/nature pairings, as well as continuing to consider having the urban images in black and white. I wasn’t able to get the coast recently so instead explored country areas nearer to home. I shot some images there and also shot some in the town centre. I chose these two to pair as I like the similar lines in each picture, as well as how the urban image is quite busy, full of buildings and people, and the country image has no people – only trees. I also thought it was interesting that the focus point of the country photo lead to more trees, and in the urban photo the lines lead not to more buildings but to a tree. Interesting also that despite building so many buildings and filling the area with so much brick and concrete, that there are still trees present in urban environments. I created a version with the urban image in black & white, and one in colour. I’m still unsure which I prefer, however in this week’s webinar others commented that the comparison between the two is greater when they are both in colour, when the contrast between the colours of the nature and the urban environment are visible. Additionally the urban environment in colour helps the image to show it is current, whereas in black & white the image could be current but could also be much older, which makes the viewer question the message of the images. As my work last module consisted of black & white and colour pairings, I will explore having both images in colour for the time being, to see what effect this has with more pairings like this.

 

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Coursework

The increase in prevalence of social media has changed the face of photography. So many photographers now use platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to share their work, as well as to advertise and find work. I think this can be useful, and also a fun way to easily and quickly share work with a wide variety of people. But it does also mean that the amount of images being created and shared is greater than ever before, perhaps making it harder to stand out. There are now a variety of tips and advice on how to use platforms like Instagram to get more followers, to get more likes, ways to use Instagram to grow one’s photography business. For example PetaPixel give 10 tips on how to use Instagram to network and use it to the benefit your practice[ii]. Their tips include how to hastag, what and when to post images, and the kind of captions to use. Both Wix[iii] and Digital Photography School[iv] have published the same kind of articles – as probably have many others.

I have wondered whether these tips do work and have started to try them out. In particular trying to post images more regularly, share more information about the image in the caption, and by adding location information to the image to give my posting and perhaps me as well more personality and to give the viewers more of an idea about who I am. It’s quite hard to do as I am naturally not much of a sharer and am quite an introverted person so it is taking some getting used to. It’s early days but so far I feel like using the caption to share more information about the image, and trying to make it a bit more relaxed, does make people more responsive to the images. I’m looking forward to seeing whether this is a fluke or whether this continues, as well as seeing what effect posting more regularly has.

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[i] BRIOT, Alain. 2014. How Photographs Are Sold. California: Rocky Nook

[ii] https://petapixel.com/2016/10/24/10-instagram-tips-photographers/

[iii] https://www.wix.com/blog/photography/2017/01/30/instagram-tips-for-photographers/

[iv] https://digital-photography-school.com/12-steps-to-successly-promote-your-photography-on-instagram/

Week 2

Contextual Research

Wanting to know more about how photographers sell their own work I have been reading “How Photographs are Sold” (Briot, 2014[i]).  In this Briot gives examples from his own career as a fine art landscape photographer of his process, and what has/hasn’t worked for him regarding selling and marketing his work, as well as from other fine art photographers. From what I have read so far, I can see there are various methods of selling one’s own work, and what works for one photographer may not work for another due to factors such has target audience, location, product being offered etc. For many establishing the right method for them (for example via a gallery, or a private studio, online, or through a photo agency) seems have been a process of trial and error. This has given me some ideas for options to explore/investigate, and possibly try out. It has also given me some more ideas for how and what to include in my project. Briot states in his book, “people purchase photographs for emotional reasons” (pg26). They don’t buy a photo because of the camera it was taken on they buy it because they respond to it emotionally. In this same way I want viewers to respond to my project because of what it makes them feel, what it says to them, not because of how it was produced. I want and need to find ways for my photos, both subject matter and in editing, to elicit an emotional response in the viewer.

Project Development

After last week’s exercise in taking a photo a day, and noticing how important time outdoors is to me, and how the time outdoors makes me feel, I went out the other day to try to capture that feeling in an image. This is one of the images I took that day.

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It was at sunset in some woods near my home. My husband and I and hiked up this hill to see if we could get a good view of the sunset, and hoping that that clouds would clear a bit so we could see the sun. We were so lucky, as we got right to the top the clouds parted slightly and we were treated to this glorious sunset, with the fields below us bathed in orange light. In the foreground is my husband, resting on the roots of a tree and soaking in the view.

For me this image does capture that feeling of being outside in nature, with no cars or other people and just enjoying a moment of peaceful quiet contemplation. It would be interesting to see if someone who wasn’t there that day gets the same feeling from it, and I’m going to try to take a contrast image as well to see how that affects the message or interpretations of the image.

Coursework

Copyright law and surrounding ethics seems to be such a contentious area in photography. Looking at the case of Prince v Cariou[ii] was interesting as whilst the law appeared to be on the side of Prince, and found him free of any claim of copyright infringement bought by Cariou, I personally feel that what Prince did was ethically wrong. And to be honest I don’t really understand how the law was on his side but then perhaps I need to know more about law to work that out.

I strongly feel that using someone else’s work without their prior permission is ethically and morally wrong – especially when not even acknowledging that the original work was by someone else. The works were altered, or appropriated to create something slightly different, but the basis was still someone else’s work.

It may all be a part of the photography world today, but I believe that people, amateurs and professionals alike, should be able to share photographs or art without the fear that it is going to be hijacked and appropriated by someone else – without permission.

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[i] BRIOT, Alain. 2014. How Photographs Are Sold. California: Rocky Nook

[ii] http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/landmark-copyright-lawsuit-cariou-v-prince-is-settled/

-          Last accessed 08Oct2017

 

Week 1

Project development

It’s been quite interesting thinking back to the end of the last module, the break between then and now, and then having to summarise my work/project in this week’s forum.

I had fallen quite out of love with my project and photography for a while there. I found last module was so busy and there was so much to do that I couldn’t take any time to actually think about and process what I was doing, or where I wanted my project to go. I needed to take some time to actually process it, get some perspective, and get away for some ocean time – which always helps me to think and process. I also wanted to just try and take some photos again, without over analysing what they were for or whether they were going to fit with the project, or whether it was even worth taking them. So I took some much needed time to do this in Sri Lanka – spent some time exploring somewhere new, taking photos just because, and surfing and being in the ocean. And whilst doing all of that I found myself naturally thinking about how much better I feel in nature rather than surrounded by buildings all the time, and how that is still what I want I want to show through my project – perhaps more so than focusing specifically on a sport.

I do think I still want to have comparison images of inland and nature/costal, to compare/contrast these two worlds that humans have/have developed, and to ask the viewers to question the two environments, and to think about how we live and interact with our surroundings.

Contextual Research

Reading through other people’s posts about their projects, especially those I hadn’t heard about before, is fascinating as they are all so different, and everyone does seem to be approaching their work in different ways. It did also make me wonder about what other people are planning to do after the course as this week has started to touch on the different areas within the photography industry – and where my project and interests would fit in. The interview with Will Hartley whilst interesting, did highlight the amount of work he went through to get to where he is now, a lot of which I feel is only feasible at a certain time of life. When approaching these areas slightly later on in life there are so many other things to have to consider and for me I feel I would need to find an alternate route into the industry.

Discussions about different roles and jobs within photography this week has made me question what it is I’m looking for after this course. Being told, from our tutor’s first-hand perspective, about how commercial photography shoots are set up and the different factors involved has made me hesitant to pursue that world. I should note that this was of course only one person’s perspective, and comes from a world of luxury high-end product commercial photography, and therefore other experiences, other areas of commercial photography, may be different. However, for me the overwhelming takeaway was that, (perhaps unsurprisingly), it is all so money driven. The planning and set-up and ultimate aim for the shoot is about money; where to get it from, how it will be spent, how much the resulting advertisement or feature will generate in revenue - just trying to sell to get people to buy. I can’t pretend I’m not a part of this consumer culture of modern society, and I don’t pretend to be judging it from the outside. But to have so much emphasis placed on product and money seems so sad to me, and so limiting for what living can really be about. I am aware that to generate income from photography does require aspects of this world; thinking about and planning for costs/expenses and how to generate profit. But to do so solely for such commercial reasons is not something I think I would want to do.

I have been reading “Setting Up a Successful Photography Business” (Pritchard, 2016) this week. Which as well as providing a lot of useful information and tips for doing just that, it also provided me with an insight into the world of running a commercial photography business and dealing with clients and staff, writing contracts, dealing with the legal aspects of photography as a business, etc. There are so many aspects to photography as a business that I wonder does it become more about the money rather than the art or the content of a photograph? Is one of the hardest parts of photography as a business just trying to find the balance between the two? From reading the book and starting to develop an understanding of some of those aspects, I have found myself questioning whether that world is for me. Questioning whether running a commercial photography business and creating work to a client’s brief is something I would be happy doing, rather than trying to generate income from creating work of my choosing, work that I want to create. I think I need to look further into how photographers sell their own work and whether that is something I would want to try to do. If I do then there are still parts of “Setting Up a Successful Photography Business” that would be useful, including pricing work and writing terms & conditions of sale etc.

Coursework

This week we were tasked with taking one photo a day, for a week. To only take a photograph of what is necessary, what would be 7 photos that define your week and define you. Well to be quite honest I only managed 5 days as life got in the way and I forgot to take a photo the last two days of the exercise. Is that telling, perhaps, of how this week was for me….that so much was going on two days of my life are just unrecorded?

These are the five photos I took that define my week/me:

- My cat

- My dinner

- Autumn leaves

- Blue skies

- Coffee on the train

Weekly Pics_week1.JPG

I wanted to do the task as “naturally” as I could, without overthinking what I was taking a photo of, without planning them in advance, just wanting to capture a moment of my day where I felt a particularly strong emotion. Looking back at these images now, it is clear that my strongest feelings are when I’m at home, or outside – with the exception of the last picture, taken on my delayed train to work; I was frustrated and angry but grateful for the coffee and a window seat! I feel my home, pet, and being able to feed myself are quite simple pleasures and necessities but important to me nonetheless, and much more so than the hours I spend in an office. Likewise it is clear that the time outdoors that I do have, again time away from the office, matter to me. And just a few moments to enjoy the autumn leaves and the sunshine are always happy moments, and the moment of day I want to savour and record. The picture of my coffee I think nicely represents my coffee addiction! As one of those people that struggles to get through the day without coffee it seems fitting that it made an appearance in this task!

I did at times find it difficult to only take one photo each day. Living with the commonality of smart phones and having a camera constantly at my fingertips and then not being able to take photos of everything made me think that I sometimes take too many photos. The subject matter of my photos, and the importance of what I take photos of is dilated by the constant ability to take as many photos as I want, of whatever I want, without really considering what I am capturing. Without the limit of the number of frames on a roll of film, or the cost implication of that, taking photos is now so easy and frequent that I much more lean towards quantity of photo over quality. I think translating this to my project, I feel that I need to consider a lot more what I want to say with my photographs. What exactly is it that I want to capture and record? I do feel my project would be more effective if I think more about what I want to say with the subject I am taking a photo of, before taking the photo.

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PRITCHARD, Lisa. 2016. Setting Up a Successful Photography Business. London & New York: Bloomsbury