I was over the moon when I received my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 4. His comments are below and my responses are in italics.
You’ve found a very interesting object to photograph and it certainly lifts these photographs, adding to the feeling – often darkly surreal – which the light enhances. You’ve experimented with different artificial light (flash, torch, diffused light, a tent!), used backgrounds well and found ways to express the four themes effectively. Well done!
There is very little to criticize here. perhaps you could have done something with sunlight or just changed the setting more to create variety.
[Thank you so much for these words of encouragement. It was a frustrating, yet very rewarding assignment to do. I agree with the comment about the sunlight, but unfortunately it was raining buckets the entire time I was working on the assignment and the few times that the sun did come out was during work hours where I was otherwise occupied].
Your first photo of the mannequin bust is a beautiful silhouette with a fiery red background. You’ve counteracted the obvious dark against white by making the background very dark too, but allowed just enough light to bring out the outline of the shape.
The bust is both strange and beautiful; strange because it is bald and decapitated yet with fair features. It is an interesting combination to play with – something which Hans Belmer did in his early photographs.
The second photo is nicely set up to repeat the mannequin’s profile outline in the shadow. But here the ruffled sheet and the mould line on the neck are distracting. [My tutor provided an example of how he had fixed the photo in Photoshop, by using the Healing brush and making a white vignette around the image].
[I totally agree about the ruffled background cloth. I’ve come to the conclusion that cloth backdrops are not great. I encountered this problem with one of the exercises as well and resorted to all sorts of tricks to try to get the cloth smooth enough for the camera. To the naked eye it was flat. I think an investment in paper backdrops will be on my list for any future infinity curve setups that have to be done. I also agree about the seam line. Totally missed that in post processing].
Your “form” photos are both similar, but vary in the degree of accentuation of form. You’re right to try to minimize form in what is a mock portrait, because emphasizing it too much can be overly dramatic and self-conscious.
You’ve had to add texture with hair and woolly hat, which is fine, and you’ve used sharp focus to emphasize the eye lashes, lips and other textures.
Texture stands out with raking light – that is from the side. You can increase it artificially in Photoshop by increasing contrast and sharpness. But you’ve done well here to be subtle.
Your first colour portrait of the bust is really strong. The features of the mannequin’s face emerge from the dark in fiery red hues. She looks like a lost teenager! The texture of the hair is strange here but manages to work well. It’s eerie because it’s almost real. I also like the way you’ve composed this with the head on the far left leaving a dark, looming space behind her. Good use of the frame for drama.
Your second picture is interesting because you’ve used colour to divide the face and it gives the portrait a divided, schizophrenic quality with that dark line down the centre of her face.
Learning Logs/Critical Essays
Your research has been useful, into both technical know-how and artistic expressions with light. I’m glad you are finding inspiration from other photographers and learning from them. That is part of artistic education of course.
Creativity is largely about entering a process of play and experimentation with your photo-making. You also need to figure out what interests you both visually and philosophically so these can be kneaded into your work.
Your writing is orderly and extensive. It’s vital to put your thoughts about the work of other photographers down on paper – these idiosyncratic opinions and reactions will also form part of your personal artistic voice.
[I’m still struggling with expressing my inner feelings about other photographers’ work, but I will work on that].
Sontag is not easy, so maybe have a look at David Bate’s lucid and accessible “Photography: Key Concepts”. He’s also an interesting photographer.
Pointers for the next assignment
AS5 is all about the SUBJECT, so it is vital that you understand the subject and seek to inform your viewers through the photographs you make. You will use composition, lighting and design, but they are only a means to express the subject. It is a big assignment and perhaps your most challenging to date. But it can be also the most rewarding. Choose a subject that you can focus on over a long period of time; something that interests you and has a visual manifestation. It is vital to think of how the subject can best be visualized, made expressive and informative.
[All good comments which I will take on board. I am determined not to let Sontag get the better of me though, so I will forge on with that book, but will also see if I can obtain a copy of Bates’ book. Once again, thank you for the encouraging feedback].