Tag Archives: narrative

Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative

The brief:

In this final assignment imagine that you are about to illustrate a story for a magazine. You have a cover to illustrate, and several pages inside (create between 6 and 12 images – you can choose). Even though there may be no text, you should write captions (of any length) to explain and link each picture.

The cover picture will need some of the techniques of illustration that you have been experimenting with. The picture essay will be more of a narrative. This means that, as you will be using several photographs to illustrate the main body of the story, you will have the opportunity to spread the load of the story telling among them. Different images can deal with different aspects of the subject, or you might choose to nsert a linked series of photographs that show something happening in sequence. Remember that some of these photographs will be seen together on the same pair of pages. You can use this to set one image off against another, sometimes the juxtaposition of two appropriate images can be telling.

Any theme which has a narrative element could be a suitable subject for this project. … Remember that a narrative will contain the element of time – hours, days, weeks or maybe even just seconds.

I have had the idea of photographing Finn Slough ever since my friend mentioned this unique place to me around the time I was busy with Assignment 2. I had never been to the place, had no idea what to expect and just put it on the backburner. While I was working towards Assignment 4 the idea of shooting in this location really started to percolate with me and I decided to do a bit of online research into the place.

Finn Slough is really off the beaten track, not a tourist destination at all and I was actually surprised to learn that many people who have lived their entire lives in this city have absolutely no idea that this place exists. The information I found on it was scant to say the least. Just a a historical write up on a couple of sites and one or two blogs I came across. I have included a map of the location as a reference, but this is not part of my narrative. It is simply there for a bit of context.

I have omitted EXIF data under the photographs as they do not form part of a narrative. However, the information is available here in a table for references purposes. For the same reason I have not provided a commentary on each image as I have done in the past. If it is necessary, then I’m happy to add it. I have included a PDF of the images below and have been cognizant of Clive’s remarks in the OCA fora that it is best to keep the layout simple. I am not a graphic designer, nor a layout expert, so I am taking that advice on board.

My post processing was mainly confined to highlight, shadow and contrast adjustments, a little bit of clarity and vibrance, setting of white and black points and lens corrections and of course sharpening.

Finn Slough

Finn Slough


 

Finn Slough

a memory of how things were

Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

In the 1890’s a group of Finnish immigrants came to the city of Richmond and settled at the junction of what is now called No. 4 Road and Finn Road. The immigrants initially worked as loggers and coal miners while they were saving up money to buy land that had access to the mighty Fraser River so that they could fulfill their goals of becoming fishermen.

Richmond is an island that is below sea level and at that time the dykes were all hand built. The land where the Finns initially settled was close to the Fraser River, but not situated next to it. However, houses had to be built on pilings due to the levels of the high tide where the levels of the river would rise and flood the farmlands.

The drawbridge at Finn Slough which provides access to Gilmour Island. During high tide residents going out in their fishing boats have to remove the vertical planks in the middle of the bridge to enable the boats to pass through to the other side in order to exit to the Fraser River.

The drawbridge at Finn Slough which provides access to Gilmour Island. During high tide residents going out in their fishing boats have to remove the vertical planks in the middle of the bridge to enable the boats to pass through to the other side in order to exit to the Fraser River.

The Finns eventually moved next to the river to what is now known as Finn Slough. The Finns needed places to store their gill nets and built net sheds next to their new houses on pilings.

By 1910 more Finns and Scandinavian immigrants had settled in Finn Slough. The second wave of immigrants was not as wealthy as the original settlers as they had fled the repressive regime of Russia in poverty stricken Finland. As a result they were not able to buy large parcels of land and many either slept on their boats or in the net sheds.

The settlement originally comprised of about 70 dwellings, but has dwindled to about 30 in present times.

Finn Slough is a swampland and has been designated as a wetland, with some of the dwellings being situated on the nearby Gilmour Island. The residences on Gilmour Island are accessed by a drawbridge and access to the houses is via a boardwalk that has been built over the swamps.

What is left of Finn Slough today is a memory of how things were1, but more importantly it is now an example of how a community can self regulate itself and co-exist with nature in harmony.

 

Western view of Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

Western view of Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

A Finn Slough resident tends to her pot plants on her deck in the early morning hour.

A Finn Slough resident tends to her pot plants on her deck in the early morning hour.

High tide and sunrise over Finn Slough, with the Cascade Mountain range in the distance.

High tide and sunrise over Finn Slough, with the Cascade Mountain range in the distance.

Virginia, one of the residents, decorates her house with found flotsam and jetsam items that come in on the tide. She recycles as much as she can, reusing wooden beams from houses that have fallen into disrepair.

Virginia, one of the residents, decorates her house with found flotsam and jetsam items that come in on the tide. She recycles as much as she can, reusing wooden beams from houses that have fallen into disrepair.

Residences east of the drawbridge. The brown building on the left is named “Sisu” which means “persistence” in Finnish.

Residences east of the drawbridge. The brown building on the left is named “Sisu” which means “persistence” in Finnish.

A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat makes an early morning voyage past Finn Slough to one of the harbours on the mighty Fraser River. The fishing boat, Eva, lies moored safely to its dock. Eva is 28 feet long and was built in 1937.

A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat makes an early morning voyage past Finn Slough to one of the harbours on the mighty Fraser River. The fishing boat, Eva, lies moored safely to its dock. Eva is 28 feet long and was built in 1937.

Sign on drawbridge: Enter at your own risk. Finn Slough was built as a working fishing village (1890) and was not designated as a tourist destination. Please beware (be aware) uneven walking surfaces and other potential dangers. www.finnslough.com

Sign on drawbridge: Enter at your own risk. Finn Slough was built as a working fishing village (1890) and was not designated as a tourist destination. Please beware (be aware) uneven walking surfaces and other potential dangers. www . finnslough.com

A couple sits on the deck in the afternoon spring sunshine. The gentleman is sharpening his axes, while his wife is enjoys a snack and reads the Sunday newspaper.

A couple sits on the deck in the afternoon spring sunshine. The gentleman is sharpening his axes, while his wife is enjoys a snack and reads the Sunday newspaper.

The Mermaid III fishing boat lies abandoned amongst other debris at high tide.

The Mermaid III fishing boat lies abandoned amongst other debris at high tide.

The fishing boat, Eva, lies stranded on the mud in front of the Dinner Plate Island School house at low tide.

f8, 1/250, 26mm, ISO 100
The fishing boat, Eva, lies stranded on the mud in front of the Dinner Plate Island School house at low tide.

The entrance and exit to Finn Slough and beyond the might Fraser River that provides a livelihood to thousands of people along its banks. At low tide no boats are able to exit the Slough. Since this is a tidal area, fishermen have to think ahead when the fishing season starts.

The entrance and exit to Finn Slough and beyond the mighty Fraser River that provides a livelihood to thousands of people along its banks. At low tide no boats are able to exit the Slough. Since this is a tidal area, fishermen have to think ahead when the fishing season starts.


The PDF version of this narrative can be seen here. The wide image (A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat …) is intended to be a double page spread.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

My equipment used for this assignment were my 18-55 mm, 55-200 mm and 70 – 300mm lenses and tripod. I have tried to use elements of all previous assignments in this assignment, from contrasts to elements of design, colour and lighting. I did not use any artificial lighting in this assignment, but relied on natural lighting. I was able to varying my exposure times as I was shot just prior to and during sunrise on one day, so used long exposure during these times. It was a bit nerve wracking standing and moving in the dark on an old narrow bridge with no railings, the boards of which were dotted with holes just the perfect size for a tripod leg to fall through.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

I am rather pleased with my set of images. Ideally, I wish that I could have submitted 15 images for the narrative, as I feel that certain key elements would have been more clearly interpreted. Finn Slough is a place that has a lot of story to tell and I did have to leave some good story telling images out. What I wanted to illustrate right from the start was the difference in appearance of this location during the tides. I have therefore, repeated an object, namely the Eva boat in high and low tide settings as the low tide image with the thick mud was what I most wanted to convey and this vantage point was the only one that really lent me that opportunity. I did find that with each visit to Finn Slough, new ideas popped up, not to mention new material to shoot. I chose not to apply a linear approach to this narrative as I think mixing up the low tide, high tide, sunrise and afternoon shots create more of an engaging dynamic to the narrative and lends a bit more mystery to the story. As mentioned above, I have been mindful of Clive’s comments in the OCA fora and his advice given on Flickr to keep the presentation simple. I am not a journalist or graphic designer so have chosen to follow his advice on this and have kept my narrative’s layout very simple. I think my narrative’s text and captions reads well and have tested it on a few colleagues to see if my idea was communicated.

I have come to enjoy my online learning blog and I think it has come along quite nicely. I am still struggling with the physical log, trying to remember to carry it with me, but I have mainly been using it for inspiration images that are copyrighted which I can’t replicate on the online blog along with study notes.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

I have tried to show the location in all its facets, at low tide with the muddy swamp land dotted with skunk cabbages and grass and at high tide when the waters of the Fraser River push new life into the Slough.

I feel that this set of images (as well as the other 370 odd images I took at this location) is probably one of my most cohesive assignments. I visited the location on four separate occasions at different times of the day and during different weather patterns so I was able to experiment with different natural lighting conditions.  I would have liked to shoot from some other positions along the river banks, but due to access restrictions and swamp shrubbery I was not able to do that. I did engage with one of the residents for quite a while and asked whether I could make a portrait of her outside her quirky house, but unfortunately she declined and did not want to be photographed.

Looking back over the course of this past year, I can see that my photography style has changed and is maturing. I have begun to insert myself into my work as can be seen in the narrative exercise at the beginning of Part 5.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I have touched briefly on my research into the subject of Finn Slough in my introduction and my research items are listed below in the bibliography. I also made sure to research the tide tables so that I had a clear idea of when high and low tides were on the days that I went to shoot. As it happens these tables also provided sunrise and sunset times, which was a very handy tool.

I was very pleased that I was able to attend more exhibitions during the time leading up to this assignment than in previous ones. The exhibitions that I attended were:

Due to the Capture Photography Festival there have been a few good documentaries on TV on photography which I have watched. I have only reviewed one thus far:

I did an online course on Narrative Photography which I found rather useful in that various workflows were explained in some detail:

The photographers that I researched for this assignment were:

I am extremely grateful to David Hlynsky and Alan Henriksen who both gave me permission to use some of their images for my reviews and also for their encouraging words to me.

Book Reviews:

I feel rather as if I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind during this assignment. I have been so busy going to galleries, taking trips out to the location, doing research and plodding through Sontag. I even usurped two walls in my office and put up my photographs so that I could “live” with them during the edit down process.  This actually proved to be quite useful as colleagues would stop by my office to look at the photographs and pass comments, some of which were quite helpful. It’s with mixed feelings that I come to the end of this course, The Art of Photography. Sad because it is the end of a long road that was both enjoyable and frustrating at times, yet happy and eager to move on to the next course and new discoveries.

References

1. Dorrington, David A Small History of Finn Slough [online] Finn Slough Heritage and Wetland Society http://www.finnslough.com/

Bibliography

2015 Tide Table for Steveston, British Columbia for fishing [online]. Available at http://www.tides4fishing.com/ca/british-columbia/steveston [Accessed 9 March, 2015]

Finn Slough. [online] Biodiversity of Richmond, British Columbia. Available from: http://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/richmond/city/finnslough.htm [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Finn Slough Heritage Area Online Heritage Inventory [online] City of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada http://www.richmond.ca/plandev/planning2/heritage/HeritageInv/details.aspx?ID=167 [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Ho, Megan (2013) Visit Historic Fishing Village Finn Slough [online] Inside Vancouver. http://www.insidevancouver.ca/2013/08/05/visit-historic-fishing-village-finn-slough/ [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Short, Maria (2011). Basics Creative Photography 02: Context and Narrative. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA.

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David Hlynsky

I seem to be developing an affinity for “Eastern Bloc” photographers and photography. Lately in looking at the many electronic newsletters that hit my inbox, I find myself looking in greater detail at those photographs and I haven’t been able to figure out why yet. Possibly because there seems to be a sense of “rawness” to them. The subjects and landscape are not refined as in the West. Perhaps it is the emergence of truth that I’m sensing that is coming out after years of being suppressed behind the Iron Curtain.

David Hlynsky is a photographer from the American Midwest and has taken over 8,000 photographs of shop fronts throughout the Eastern Bloc countries. The photographs depict the scarcity of products and produce. The few products that are available are very simply displayed in the window. There are no name brands adorning the shop windows either.

© David Hlynsky. Camping supplies, Prague, 1988 Reproduced with permission

© David Hlynsky. Camping supplies, Prague, 1988
Image reproduced with permission

There are a couple of Hlynsky’s images that I particularly like from this article. The one is a window display of camping supplies in Prague. The shop window’s border is painted orange and there are an assortment of camping paraphernalia (also orange in hue) displayed: a fold-up chair, sleeping bag, rucksak and duffel bag. All very 1960’s style. These contrast with two identical large photographic prints of a forest of trees against a blue sky and displayed in front of them are blue sleeping bags, and portable gas burner. What really intrigues me the most is the presence of a vacuum cleaner or carpet sweeper alongside the rucksack and sleeping bags. Do the people take vacuums/sweepers along when they go camping to clean their campsite? Or is it just a stray product that happened to come into the store owner’s hands?

The other image which intrigues me is one of a vase containing a huge display of lilies with one pair of shoes in front of it. The rest of the window is empty. The interior dark and uninviting. The long, tall, brown vase and shoes are so placed that they look as if they could be one item. At first I thought it was a florist shop, and couldn’t figure out why there was a pair of shoes in the window. But on seeing the reflection of a man in the window I figured that it must be a shoe shop. Its a very sad and lonely image.

Says Hlynsky in an interview with American Photo:

However, if we read the windows only on the surface, we risk missing the depth of their meaning. These shop windows revealed nowhere near what they obscured about the Socialist economy, so much of which operated in the shadows and alleyways through unauthorized hard currency exchanges. In reality, the best commodities ended up in the back rooms rather than the storefronts in anticipation of shortages. Advertising was replaced by rumor and gossip; currency supplanted by favors.

As a youngster I had heard the stories about people queuing up outside a shop, the line sometimes going around the block, without knowing what they were lining up for, but for the sake of being able to purchase the item that they might possibly need, like a loaf of bread. It is pretty hard to imagine a life like that.

Like the novel, Animal Farm, Hlynsky’s images tell two stories. The first story is the superficial one that we see straight away when viewing his photos – the hardship that the people in the Eastern Bloc countries had to endure with lack of products and produce. The second story is a story of capitalism. The very absence of it in the images is extremely telling. We in the West can look at these images and wonder if all the hype of advertising and branding that we are exposed to on a daily basis are really worth it. Is advertising not just geared to make one buy something that you don’t really need in the first place?

It is a bit of a double edged sword really. I know that I can definitely do without the constant bombardment of mindless ads, especially on the television, but at the same time I do value the freedom of being able to choose which brand I might prefer, preferably without someone fighting to insist that their brand is the one I should buy.

References

Hlynsky, David. David Hlynsky Photographs [online]. Available from: http://www.davidhlynsky.com/ [Accessed 18 March, 2015]

Reznick, Eugene (2015). Go Window-Shopping Through the Iron Curtain: Communism meet Consumerism. [online]. American Photo. Available from: http://www.americanphotomag.com/go-window-shopping-through-iron-curtain [Accessed 18 March, 2015]

Vanessa Püntener

After running a few ideas past my tutor for Assignment 5, he suggested I take a look at Vanessa Püntener’s work, specifically her work on the Alpine farmers in Austria, as there were some similarities to what I was planning. Her work shows the people working and living on the mountains, which is fast becoming a thing of the past. Their way of life is at risk of disappearing altogether. A very similar situation to my project.

I first looked at Püntener’s Alp series. The first image in the series immediately provides the context for the narrative – the mountain. She then follows this with a portrait of a young boy in the cowshed who looks like he is sitting on the rump of a cow, surely a sign of the relationship between man and beast. We are then taken into the little kitchen with its two stoves with firewood piled high next to them, makeshift shelving  around the walls and colourful wall and ceiling decorations, made of a variety of materials, such as plastic and wall paper. I would imagine these have been put up to stop any drafts getting into the house. Even though the kitchen is almost like a patchwork quilt, one can see the farmer’s wife pride – her pots are spotless and gleaming as is the rest of her kitchen. One gets the sense that everything has its proper place.

The next image is vertical wide angle shot of the family herding the cattle back up the mountain. The mountain is shrouded in a mist but the farmhouse is faintly visible in the distance. One gets the impression that this a task in which the whole family takes part regularly. A portrait of one of the children and the dog are next in sequence, followed by a view of the rugged terrain of the alps. A beautiful chiaroscuro image of a cow resting in its stall follows. The muted brown shades of the cow blend into the surrounding walls while the light coming in through the stable door illuminates her face and the straw on the ground in front of her. This is followed by another photograph of the alps with the clouds coming in over their peaks.

The remains of simple meal consisting of cold meats, bread and cheese provide the details of the family’s simple way of life. The table is economically laid on a wooden table with only the platters, knives mugs and jugs visible. No crockery except for the mugs are visible. This leaves the impression that it is a quick meal, eaten on the run, so to speak. The image of the farmer’s built in bed reminds me so much of the beds found in the old Dutch village of Marken, where these were built into the walls, bunk-style to maximize space in these little one room houses. Layers of muslin cloth hang over the side of the bed. One wonders if they are there for privacy reasons, or just a convenient space to hang the cheesecloths that are used for making cheese?

The last few images in the series show us evidence of some “mod-cons” that have reached the Alpine community. An old fashioned wall telephone hangs proudly next to family and wedding photos. A plug’s cord cuts diagonally across the one wedding photo providing evidence of electricity on site. Püntener finishes the online series with two photos of the community in the throes of a severe winter. One of the farmers poses for his portrait outside his farmhouse, while the snow sits at least 3 foot high on his roof. The final image is a shot of the farming community/village taken from a fair distance down the mountainside. Only the brick red and grey walls of their houses poke out of the snow, reminding us of the isolation and hardships this little community has to endure.

For the most part Püntener uses muted colours for her images in this series (I can only speak for the online images because according to my tutor she made a book on this subject). One might regard the images where there green grass of the alps is visible as bright, but I don’t think so. While the colour saturation might be more intense than in the other images, the atmosphere of the images remains muted. One gets the sense of the mist descending to wash out any available colour.

In her Sbrinz series, Püntener  documents the life of a single family. She begins the online series with a couple of very endearing images of two little girls and their donkey. My favourite image has to be the one where there little girl is inspecting the donkey’s teeth and the donkey is standing oh so patiently. We then see the little girls at play outdoors, and in the evening dressed up in fancy dress clothes posing for the camera.

An early morning view of the moutains seen between the house and the cowshed follows. Püntener then turns her attention to the farming story in essence following the journey of the milk through the manufacturing process and opens with an action shot of a farmer pouring fresh milk into milkcans starts the day off. A close-up shot of the farmer sitting on his milking stool provides some variety in the narration. This is followed by a detail shot of the milking apparatus that is used.  Separating the curds from the whey provides the context that this is a cheese manufacturing farmer. I’m really intrigued by the image with the upside down milkcans standing on a bench outside a little hut. I seen more milkcans just to the left of the hut’s door, so must assume that this is some kind of collection or drop-off venue for empty milkcans. The red bench and jacket on the bike provide a wonderful punch to the muted tones of the scene.

The next detail shot is one of two wedges of cheese. The texture of the roughly cut cheese is visible lit by the light coming through the door. Possibly the hut in the previous image is where the rounds of cheese are left to age. Püntener comes full circle and for her penultimate photo does a group portrait of the family standing outside the milking shed. The final photo is one of the mudroom in their home, where the family’s jackets, boots and outdoor shoes are left together with the broom to sweep up the mud. The end of another day, signified by the closed door.

As in the Alp series, Püntener has again used fairly muted tones in this series. She has paced her narrative well, introducing the audience to the characters (children) slowly and then launched into the busyness of the daily tasks of dairy farming and gearing back on the pace once we see the finished product. Only then does she reveal the whole family to the audience.

I feel that the Sbrinz series reads better as a narrative essay than the Alp series. Perhaps that is only due to the limited selection of images that Püntener has on her website, but I felt that there were bits missing from the Alp series that I would have like to see more of. Nonetheless, I think I have some good ideas on how to proceed with my Assignment 5 and will try and incorporate some of Püntener’s ideas.

References

Vanessa Püntener [online]. Available from http://www.vanessapuentener.ch/index.php?section=2 [Accessed 14 March, 2015]

Claude Savona

I came across Claude Savona’s work on the FeatureShoot website while scrolling through the documentary category while doing some research in preparation for the Narrative and Illustration assignment. Savona’s work is listed under the documentary category and I found the title of the article rather poignant: “A Look at London’s Elderly Population Through Images of Their Kitchen Sinks”. I was immediately intrigued by this title and without reading the article or looking past the first photo, quickly scrolled down to see who the artist was, googled his website and went there to view the whole series.

Savona has made a series of photographs of kitchen sinks in various homes. On his website the series is only entitled “The Kitchen Sink Series” and there are no captions or clues – unlike the telling heading in the FeatureShoot article. The images are framed tightly around the sink and its immediate surroundings. What do we see from our kitchen sink? In most cases there is a window placed over the sink to look out of while one is doing the dishes, and memories of childhood come flooding back to me. Images spring to mind of my mother standing at the kitchen sink watching me while I played in the garden. One has to wonder what stories the kitchen sink could tell if that was possible.

 Knick-knacks and potted plants stand in the window sills or on the side of most of the sinks indicative of memories of past places visited or gifts given. All objects with sentimental value or received in love. We all tend to put something that we hold dear to us close to this living space. I have objects that my children, both adults now, made when they were at school – their artwork, which I find endearing. Even the most run down, dilapidated kitchen in the series has a little mirror on the wall, reflecting the yellow shrubbery from outside the window.

Some of the newer kitchens don’t have a window over the sink – just bare tiled walls. No little pleasures will ever be viewed from in front of these sinks. They have one purpose only and that is to do the dishes without distraction. They are sterile in appearance and this is indicative to me of a singular, lonely existence. Perhaps these are the kitchens of the elderly who have been downsized out of their homes and put into assisted living quarters. Or it is society’s way of breaking down our creativity.

Kitchens have for centuries been regarded as the heart of the home and this is evident from the signs of life in the various kitchens. A forgotten lipstick and compact next to the sink, dishwashing powder in the window sill, clocks and smiley mugs, dishes in the sink, kitchen utensils, milk jugs, fresh garlic hanging next to a window are just a few of the items that reflect on their owners. Some of the owners value their privacy and hang lace curtains over the windows. Others are concerned for the safety and have security bars in front of the windows. Another group embraces the world outside and leaves their windows unadorned so that they can see outside without any hindrances, thus incorporating the outdoors as part of their daily living space.

On the FeatureShoot article Savona makes this statement: “The kitchen window,” he says, “represents a perfect space for daydreaming, as one stood in his mundane space whilst looking out into a more beautiful world which he could aspire to.” This is so true and I can relate so well to this. How many times have I stood at a kitchen sink, doing the mundane task of washing pots and pans and daydreaming of warm skies and far away places – too numerous to even think about.

This series is quite poignant for me and I really like Savona’s work. If I were to ignore the FeatureShoot article title, this series could very well be a metaphor of life. The new kitchen, the first image in the series, with the finishes not quite done is representative of one’s start in life (let’s limit it to adult life). Gradually the kitchens acquire things, knick-knacks and clutter representing our middle age years. The older we get the more memories we acquire and finally the image of the dilapidated kitchen represents our final years, the state of the kitchen reflecting the state of our old bodies, worn and used up.

References

Claude Savona [online]. Available from http://claudesavona.com/ [Accessed 11 March, 2015]

Kieran, Kat (2015). A Look at London’s Elderly Population Through Images of Their Kitchen Sinks [online]. Available from http://www.featureshoot.com/2015/01/a-look-at-londons-elderly-population-through-images-of-their-kitchen-sinks/ [Accessed 11 March, 2015]

Exercise: A narrative picture essay

The brief:

This project requires you to set yourself an assignment and then photograph it. Based on what you have learnt so far, tell a story of any kind, in a set of pictures numbering between 5 and 15. You could photograph an event that you have researched, or you could choose something closer to home and more accessible or controllable. It could even be something as simple as the preparation of some food….

The way in which you lay out the final selection of photographs is very important. In dealing with a number of photographs, it is not simply a matter of deciding on the shape and size of a single image. The whole reason for shooting a variety of images is so that, when seen together, they work together as a set….

Write a short caption under each picture, describing what it shows.

Ever since I was working towards Assignment 4, I have become so cognizant of shadows and the play of light that I have taken to photographing things I would not normally have bothered with before. Which I think is a good thing. I think Kumi Yamashita made more of an impact on me than I realised.

This past month has been rather traumatic for me for personal family reasons which I won’t go into here, but my life has been through some dark patches during this time.  I’ve chosen to do this photo narrative in an abstract form (really stepping out of my comfort zone here) to reflect this period of my life as a means of catharsis. I’m calling it “Shadow Diary of My Day”.

 

the day begins ...

the day begins …
f5.6. 1/500, 35mm, ISO 100

Kitchen Shadows

and so does the daily routine
f5.6, 1/500, 35mm, ISO 100

and the worries

… and the worries
f5.6, 1/250, 55mm, ISO 100

morning perspective ...

morning perspective …
f5.6, 1/640, 55mm, ISO 100

a pause - one last look back ...

a pause – one last look back …
f8, 1/200, 50mm, ISO 100

... off to the hospital

… off to the hospital
f8, 1/320, 42mm, ISO 100

an uphill battle ...

an uphill battle …
f8, 1/250, 65mm, ISO 100

afternoon perspective ...

afternoon perspective …
f8, 1/250, 110mm, ISO 100

Home at last

home at last
f8, 1/250, 145mm, ISO 100

It was my birthday last week

… it was my birthday last week …
f8, 1/60, 80mm, ISO 200

and now we wait ...

and now we wait …
f8, 1/200, 26mm, ISO 100

... the day draws to an end

… the day draws to an end
f8, 1/60, 50mm, ISO 100

I have also created a PDF book for the photo essay (Ex 41 Narrative and Illustration Shadow Diary book reduced). Its nothing fancy, but I just wanted to convey the linear flow a little better.

Very little post processing has been done. It was mainly confined to adding and/or removing a little contrast and adding some clarity. On the two images containing grass (“a pause – one last look back …” and “… the day draws to an end”) I have reduced the vibrance and desaturated the images slightly to better fit in with the muted shades of rest of the set.

Bibliography

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo Essays with Mike Hill

Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo EssaysA while ago I came across an online course on narrative photography on the Craftsy website. It is a short course with 6 lessons about narrative photography and it was offered at a special rate, so I purchased it. Mike Hill, the photographer, teaching the course steps you through two different photoshoots, explaining how he does certain things, and why –  basically stepping through his workflow. The first shoot was done indoors where he was able to use mainly ambient lighting while the second shoot was done outdoors in fairly harsh sunlight. Hill emphasizes the importance of getting those close up detail shots which add context to the narrative. He also explained the importance of having the subjects step him through the process of what they do before beginning the shoot. In this way he is able to build a rapport with his subjects prior to the shoot and this helps to relax them more.

He offers very little direction to his subjects, but lets them work as they normally would. Occasionally he gives slight direction by asking them to repeat a particular action or to shift position slightly to expose more of their materials they are using.

After the completion of both photoshoots, Hill steps the viewer through his workflow using Lightroom –  how he edits down his images to a manageable number, the basic retouching he performs, creating collections and then the final edit and export process.

It was a handy, informative little course to do and has helped refine the narrative process in my mind.

References

Hill, Mike. Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo Essays. [webcast, online]. Craftsy Online Classes. Colorado. 1 hour 56 min 7 secs. Available from:  http://www.craftsy.com/classes/photography?currentPage=2&filterMap={} [Accessed 28 February, 2015]

The Photographer’s Story: Michael Freeman

The Photographer's Story: Michael Freeman

The Photographer’s Story: Michael Freeman

In preparation for Assignment 5, I decided to read Freeman’s The Photographer’s Story. It is a book all about the art of the visual narrative.  He begins by giving a background to the photo essay and explains the classic narrative formula in depth, the importance of establishing a rhythm of both an emotional and visual variety, to the pacing of the story, and how captions help photographs.

The classic example used for a photo essay is W. Eugene Smith’s The Country Doctor, which was featured in Life Magazine in 1948 and Freeman spends a lot of time covering the theme, agenda, preparation and planning of this shoot, then moves on to the layout and discusses the key shots. Figuring out the rhythm, pacing and opening and closer shots are key ingredients to a successful photo essay and probably the most difficult for a photographer who is his/her own editor as well.

The Country Doctor Layout

The Country Doctor Layout

Freeman then covers the different kinds of stories that occur and how best to treat each category. While some of the criteria are the same for each category, there are criteria that do obviously differ depending on the subject.  There are people stories, location stories, stories about how things are made, commodity stories, stories about activities, collection stories, institution and concept stories.

The final sections of the book are devoted to the picture script which is a visual plan of the shoot covering items such as location, setup, expected activities to shoot, arrangements with people regarding permissions, lighting, interviews and so on.

After making the images, one has to naturally edit the shoot. Freeman discusses the various methods, linking back to the classic example given earlier in the book and then covers the layouts. Progressing on from this he talks about the big photo books and how to work with those and break them down into logical chapters.

Finally he covers the new media methods of presenting a photo essay by using a slideshow. He goes into a lot of detail on how to rework the story for the internet, as the sequencing of the story on the web is linear and thus has to be treated differently to that of a printed essay.

This book is definitely going to serve as my handbook for Assignment 5. Well worth a few rereads as well for all the nuggets of valuable information in it.

References

Cosgrove, Ben (2012). W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Portrait: ‘Country Doctor’ [online].  Life (Life Photo Essay). Available from: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ [Acessed 21 February, 2015]

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.