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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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.