Assignment Four: image and text
Brief: Create a series of work (aim for 7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place that you’ve looked at so far in this course. Use the written word to play a part in its creation.
Be wary of illustrating your text with pictures and vice versa. Allow for the viewers’ interpretation to be opened up rather than shut down by the pairings. You may decide not to include the actual words in the final production; that’s fine, as long as they have in some way informed the research and development of the concepts and have pushed the imagery further as a result.
Write a short reflective commentary (around 500 words) describing how your chosen ‘words’ have informed your series of images and make this available to your tutor alongside your image
1. Initial thoughts
A few years ago a friend of mine had a near death experience with a heart attack and also a premonition dream. This is highly unusual and even as a doctor I have not heard many of these experiences. I have listened to his story and his interpretation of its meaning and there are issues here about identity (alive, dead and in limbo) and place (here and now and other state). I think that this is a strong idea that I can illustrate from images made at his home. It all seems simple at the moment and maybe it will turn out be that or a struggle to tell that story.
2. Window of opportunity
I have been thinking about this ideas for 2 months now (Sept 18th today) and found out yesterday that my friend is willing to be interviewed next week after which he will be abroad for several months. I have to take my opportunity now – I might even finish this before A2 and A3, but that is fine as I will jump ahead to the exercises in A4 as I am doing those in the A3 section. The pressure is on!
Normally I would be doing some theory or research, perhaps ideas from psychoanalysis with be relevant here but I decided to do some image research.
3. Picture research
The thing that sprung to mind first was to use blur or take images behind ground glass to to show the ‘other state.’ It could be a reflective piece perhaps.
Photographers that spring to mind are Jim Goldberg and his most famous work ‘Raised by Wolves’ http://www.jimgoldberg.com which “combines ten years of original photographs, text, and other illustrative elements (home movie stills, snapshots, drawings, diary entries, and images of discarded belongings) to document the lives of runaway teenagers in San Francisco and Los Angeles” (Goldberg, 1992). The other influence is, now that I have decided to do my first multimedia presentation, is ‘Firestorm’ which is a contemporary mixed media presentation (Henley, 2013). Another visual reference is “Solitude of Ravens,’ which I saw in New York, largely because it is stripped back and has mood, context and narrative; I think it is very moving. (Gallery, 2016). I have also been thinking about my images of ‘On hearing bad news’ that I did for my ‘Square Miles’ in this module where the my face is not clear; they referenced the work of Claudio Matzko on page 136 of Face: the new photographic portrait (Ewing, 2006). I like the quote “In focus, known: out of focus, unknown” in the book which is attributed to Richard Avedon; I am exploring something unknown but experienced and partially understood.
The facade of my person is important – maybe it is a clear shot with other stills but it may include video and audio (I bought a new mike for my D810 which gives great audio).
Goldberg, J. (1992). “Raised by Wolves. http://jimgoldberg.com.” Retrieved 18th September, 2016.
John Henley, L. T. (2013). Firestorm, , The Guardian on line. http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/may/26/firestorm-bushfire-dunalley-holmes-family.
Gallery., M. H. (2016). “Masahisa Fukase. ‘Solitude of Ravens.’ http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/exhibitions/127/overview/#/artworks_standalone/10108.” Retrieved 8th April, 2016, from http://
William Ewing. (2006). Face: The New Photographic Portrait. London, Thames and Hudson.
4.1 The story
This will be an interview which I will record because I may use speech as well as words on the screen in a slide show. I have done a lot of this interviewing as a social science researcher and will edit the story so that I can illustrate it.
At the person’s home, but the context of the interview may suggest images. For example, I have heard the dream story before which is about a huge wave coming over him. Maybe images of agitated water or water in the plug-hole spinning down could suggest panic and anxiety. The blackout after the heart attack might be simple to show as an empty frame. I am certainly not clear what to do but the story, which is very strong, is the driver for ideas about illustrations.
I may use black and white backdrops or strobes with diffusers when I take photographs at his home, although I think that the natural light in the kitchen area is very good and even better in the living room.
I am not sure about taking a black or white backdrop or non – experience tells me take it all and choose on the day. I will be using prime lenses which cover the range 24-200mm on my Nikon D810. I have already experimented with doing an interview at home and a 50mm head and upper body works well.
5. Initial intention
Title: ‘The Wave’
Subtitle: One man’s experience of a near death experience preceded by a warning dream
Short summary: Multimedia presentation of photographic stills, audio and text about one mans experience of a dream and near death experience.
Topic or theme – why? What does ‘near death’ say about how we live now? Few of us have this experience which fascinates me and others
Intention: To show one man’s experience. To tap into ideas about fear, life, death and resurrection
Audience: OCA and a photo competition
Approach and methods – technical, experiments, collaboration, management: I heard this story before and thought that I could illustrate it
Access, consent, confidentiality, legal: The participant has agreed to my presentation being public on the internet
Presentation, publicity, social media: I may set up a Facebook page for this project, Twitter feed, participants, OCA tutor, future competition.
What is the images purpose? To help people to question the nature of death and what is life
Photographic influences: Not sure
6. A little more research
I am feeling unprepared in the day before the shoot and have asked my OCA buddies if they have done something like this before. Lynda Kuit sent me her assignment.
There were a couple of images from her contacts that stood out for me. They are all composites which I am thinking about making using a local texture and scene . I noticed that her’s were done in camera: I can do this but there is more control combining two or more separate images in Photoshop.
I liked the following work – this blog page was damaged and the text and attributions vanished. If I can find them in the future I will include them.
The latter images are about illustrating the ‘other’.
7. First Shooting
Again the text for this was deleted but I like the composite image which was done quite hurriedly when I visited to do the audiotape. I am using an Olympus recorder which I have used many times in previous research projects.
8. Taking stock again
I have just transcribed my interview. Here is some of it. I will come back to it later on to devise a framework for my story.
The dream happened at two or three o’clock in the morning, something like that. Totally out of the blue, just getting on with my life. I do have significant dreams in my life from time to time and this was a big one, up there. If I look back on my life it is in the top three. There are three dreams that have really influenced me and this was number three. So in the dream I was swimming in quite a rough sea, rougher than I would ever go out in as I am not a strong swimmer. Big waves, but it’s not like a crazily rough sea and when I am looking around swimming I can see some black heads of other people swimming around as well, but I can’t see who they are and I don’t know their names but there are other people there and in the dream that gave me a bit of confidence that, “OK it feels a bit rough, rougher than…I’m not comfortable with it’ but it’s not too dangerous as there are other people here. I’m looking out to the shore and I can see what appears to be a concrete sea way and what appears to be a curved wall, the waves hit it and it throws the waves back on itself. It kind of reminded me of the seawall at Seahouses (in Northumberland ) although I have not been there. I have been there since the dream and noticed its that kind of thing, but I haven’t been to Seahouses for years before then…On the wall there’s something attached to the wall, some kind of wooden structure, bolted onto the wall, it’s quite secure, and I think in the dream I was ‘There looking at this and hanging onto it, I could hang onto this structure if I felt that the sea was too rough for me, but most of the time I was just swimming. It feels al little uncomfortable and then I look over my shoulder and I see an absolutely massive massive coming straight for me. It’s like a tsunami scare wave it just towers above me. This dream I still have in my head, I can still see it. I can still see whats coming. When I see the wave I know I can’t swim through it but tis just too powerful and I know that even if I get across to that wooden structure and hold on to it I’ll be under the water too long. I know that I only have minutes to live. That’s the kind of thought I have. I have minutes to live. And then I woke up absolutely band. Like one minute I am in the middle of the dream and the next I wide awake sitting up in bed. Phutt. I’m awake. ….I got out of bed wrote it down in detail in my office I wrote it out…typed it up. I sent it to half a dozen people and said I have had this extraordinary dream but I don’t think it’s for me. My take on it was that it was for someone who is swimming in very difficult circumstances…or quite testing circumstances, challenging circumstances I don’t think that’s me….I interpreted the dream as get out of the water before the wave hits. That’s my interpretation. So I sent it to six people.
…Another person Andy Braham he read the text and said this is about Adrian’s death. He is a prophetic guy but he did not email me back and say that he just kept that to himself, So that was the dream that was on the Monday., on Wednesday I had a choice as to what to do, I am feeling fine. A few weeks before that I had cycled 50 miles, from Blanchland to Hexham I think, over all the hill down the valley and I had no symptoms at all. On the Wednesday that day I had a choice, I though I ‘m going to go out cycling today but the weather forecast was better for the day after and I had a piece of work to do at the house we rent out in Morpeth, a bit of fencing that needed repairing in the garden it’s been hanging around for ages…Im going to do the job in Morpeth and go cycling tomorrow. Jus as I had been finishing that work, I had been banging in some poles with a pick…not particularly hard work…I finished the fence and …it was about 3.15 in the afternoon, like from nowhere I just got this intense pain in my chest. It was just the classic stuff like people say like a strap, ab belt round your chest and someone is tightening it, incredible pain down both my arms. I came out in a cold sweat, I could hardly breathe, I was struggling to breathe. I thought I was going to pass out – within a couple of minutes, I thought this is a heart attack. I thought this can’t be a heart attack as the doctors told me I am low risk for heart attack – I am fit. It cant be a heart attack. I was sitting in the garden and stopped at that point, I could not do anything. My tenant had gone out, she wasn’t in the house there was not one I could talk to. So I rang immediately for an ambulance, Northumberland ambulance service, spoke to them and described my symptoms. They said that there’s an ambulance on the way immediately. Its coming She talked to me for quite a bit longer until she rang off. She was so sad that she rang off. I was desperately alone and someone walked down the street and I should have stopped that person and said look this has happened to me – will you just sit with me while this happens. I didn’t do that. I sat in the car and waited for the ambulance, I don’t know if the symptoms got any worse but they did not get any better. I was just fighting to keep conscious virtually the whole time…the ambulance arrived really quickly, I don’t know how….9.50 …I could walk from the car to the ambulance… they wired me up…I was straight into the Freeman the emergency suite. I remember there was some guy doing research who asked my to sign up for some research while I was waiting…I was just desperate to It was only at that point they rang Nicky to tell them I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t going to ring her. They rang her as I was just about to go in and I spoke to her
10.40. So into the hospital, into the theatre. There was a little bit of a wait while they got things ready for me but not very long. Now at that stage they had been pumping me full of drugs to take the pain away – the pain had gone down a bit but it was still desperately painful and it’s like half your body has been switched off or something. I don’t know how I would describe it. 11.04
11.04 I remember going into theatre and putting things in my arms – both arms – going in through my wrist and then I blacked out, I passed out 11.16
…11.19 What I remember is one minute I was in desperate pain waiting for them to get it fixed and the next minute I was somewhere totally peaceful and it was ..I can only describe it as. I could not see any edges or dimensions because it wasn’t as if I was in a room or space or anything. I was just surrounded by beautiful afternoon light, creamy, late afternoon, beautiful light surrounding. I was just in a place 11.55 where I was surrounded by this light
- I have tinnitus right, so I always have noise in my head, there was no noise. It was the only time for the last 30 years that I’ve experiences silence – it was totally silent – Peaceful silent nothing. And it felt really really good and I was happy to be there. I felt relaxed at peace, there was no pain – no pain whatsoever. No noise just beautiful peaceful surrounded by this wonderful light
12.31 I don’t know how long I was there for – The surgeon said not very long. I passed out. They said afterwards that that I had had a cardiac arrest. My heart went fast – crazy crazy fast. They obviously whipped out the defibrillator. The first time it did not bring me back
The second time it did The second time 12.51 The Humph I was back 12.51 with a bang. I didn’t know where I was and was totally disoriented. I’d been in this really nice place and suddenly had all these people saying you’re all right. You’re going to be all right. Lights and people rushing around and then they obviously got on with what they were doing having brought me back. They got the balloon in 13.20 to take out the blockage and I suddenly came back to life 13.23. The pain eased off they put the stent in and I felt absolutely run over by six buses. Suddenly I/m back I felt ok….
…13.58 The surgeon said afterward Quote ‘That one was out to kill you’ That s what he said. He said that one was out to kill you phew and he told me that the main artery what serves the left ventricle – is that the main pumping chamber was totally blocked – a 100% blocked and they found later that one of the other arteries was about 75%V blocked 14.23…
If I’d gone cycling that day and it had been somewhere remove when it happened 14.59
15.46 Well. I think a massive impact really in lots of different ways but let me just tell you what happened a year later…It was a slow recovery esp the first few weeks It was funny because you immediately feel your are back 16.08 …A year on it was such a significant thing that I wanted to mark the first anniversary but that time i was back on the biked and doing some walking …I want back to a church that I go on retreats St Michael’s church in Felton.. stained glass window usual seat – god has spoken to me there
I went there and I wanted to spend two hours there – 2 hours right from the start to being fixed. I was tired that day –
During that time I had a sense of Jesus. I was asking what that was all about – previously What was the dream about why did you send me a dream 17.26 I was asking that question. Why did I have a dream when there wasn’t enough information in the dream to actually do anything about it 17.56 The dream was to let me know that God knew this was happening but he did not stop it happening. He knew it was happening and he was with me in it.
I was in 18.23 in the right place at the right time…
19.22 Back to St Michael’s – I have the sense of Jesus saying to me I knew it was coming and when the wave hit you – the dream and experience seem to parallel each other 19.37 and swept me away and I could not do anything about it
20.5 – wave swept – on beach together – we beached together.
…Why did you ring me back Because I want
2053 So reflecting on how its change me. I have a much enhanced perception of my mortality …still got things to do…
I am not free from the worries about death…It feels a bit like I ‘ve looked at the last page of the book and then gone back 22.17 and theirs a chapter to go and I’m still in that last changer[ ….I extra time – >> I ve been and seen the end of the pages then come back again
I need to do more research on how to illustrate some of these events and ideas.
9 More research
9.1 Uta Barth
My tutor pointed me to the work of Uta Barth which was wonderful. I was struck by how much she could say with very little. There is also a power and intensity of her work which I like. Many of her images are open to interpretation and the viewer brings their own ideas and history to viewing the image.
Barth, U. (2016). “Uta Barth: artists website.” Retrieved 9th January, 2016, from Utabarth.com.The abstract
Stolz, G. (2012). “Uta Barth interviewed by George Stolz. May 2012.”. Retrieved December 7th, 2016, from http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012-george-stoltz-interview-2012-galeria-elvira-gonzalez-website.pdf.
9.2 Falling – Anthony Gormley and others
When I was at the National Portrait Gallery in London, I came across a new work by Anthony Gormley called ‘Falling.’ There is also his statue suspended over the ticket area. Maybe abstract images of the body falling or moving will be part of my image making.
Images of falling resonate with me. I chose this image of a falling person as a leaving present from a company I started. ‘We all fall, but we all rise too,’ is what I think when I see this image in my downstairs toilet. This is true of Adrian’s story too.
I have been thinking about stylised images. I am a fan of the work of Saul Bass who famously designed the Alfred Hitchcock poster for “Vertigo.’
9.3 Researching abstract images
I am not sure that a storm or images of water are the right metaphor for this story. I did wonder about photographing a moving sea with a beachball carried out to sea as a metaphor for helplessness and loss.
With Professor Google’s help I came across this video which has audio and is getting closer in style to what I want.
I having been looking at photographers who photograph the void. Daniel T Braun pushes the limits with his experimental photography, for example in photographing through a cows lens attached to a camera body. The outputs challenge what is an image but result in surreal and ambiguous images. Can I fabricate what I want?
I think that it is difficult to conceive new ways of imaging abstract ideas. After reviewing my interview transcript I decided to look at photographic representations of the body.
9.4 Representing ‘The body’
When I was thinking about how to illustrate my story I starting using my hands and body to do it; the wave of my raised hand illustrated the ‘tsunami’ and the clenched fist was the crushing pain of a heart attack. This reminded me of Susan Bright’s book ‘Autofocus: The self-portrait in contemporary photography,’ and some images on Pages 66 and 67 by Thomas Florschuetz (Bright, 201).
Early Bodyfigures” (1980-1990)
I see the dislocation of images and the body reformed in juxtapositions that are unsettling and interesting. This would suit my subject very well. If I used a four or six section grid I could make the body appear and disappear or disintegrate and be reformed – in black and white or colour. I have decided to do a trial of this myself.
Bright, S. (2010). Autofocus: The self-portrait in contemporary photography. London, Thames and Hudson.
Florschuetz, T. (2010). Photographer Thomas Florschuetz | euromaxx. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L0zytDjicE. youtube, youtube.com.
10. Trial of shooting
I decided to shoot some trial shots of myself and my body parts against a black background but keeping colour, mainly.
I like the unusual juxtaposition of the arm and hand with the head. I don’t like the black background because it dominates the picture; I want to experiment with the body on white, but as this is about death and life maybe that is OK.
I have been thinking about final images as a slide show or video and prints for final assessment. I think A+ size would work well for prints but video is a more complex and am not sure about formats and other technical issues. Perhaps I am making things to difficult for myself as I have never done a film or slide show before. I can see parts of the body popping in and out in the slide show or video to represent loss of consciousness and recovery and resurrection of the body from death.
11. An overview of the project and future plans
11.1 Thinking about presentation
One of the things my tutor mentioned in the last assignment was to think about final output. I have taken this on board and will be producing
A. A1 (841 x 594cm) sized poster images for assessment submission
B. A video presentation built using Premier Pro with accompanying music.
This video is about the suffocation of depression which is illustrated using the metaphor of being submerged in rough water. I realise that this is professional but it is something to aspire to.
C. I have decided to have text on the screen with still images but I am not sure where on the screen and with what font – the video will have audio music which will be modern and avant-garde; the literal noise of waves crashing may not be right for this. Here is a good example of what might work for the video.
D. I am not sure about colour or black and white images, or even blue in the background. I am moving to black and white at the moment, but that might change.
11.1 Structuring the story and selecting text
I constructed a story board from key texts in the story. Here is my selected text and then my story boards; they are messy but they have helped me to think about what content to include and how many images to have in the frame.
12. Trial shooting No 2
This was a trial of photographing the body ahead of the session with my model Adrian the story-teller. The contacts from that session are below.
These are the images that I chose to photograph to include in the first frame of my slide show, “I was swimming.” There are three experiments in colour for the background.
13. Main shoot with selection and early processing
13.1 Conducting the shoot
This was 3 days after my second trial at home. I took my studio to his home and took the images. I used a Nikon D810 with a 50mm 1.4 lens which was hand-held. Matrix metering works best for portrait photography; that is my experience and also that of the Nikon users group. The lighting set up was;
There was light shining through my white screen from a window behind which helped illuminate it. There were down lights above but these provided uneven light and were switched off. The flashes were on full power.
Managing the model was easy although they became cold with purple hands as we were shooting on the 3rd of March, 2017. I had already rehearsed some of the body shapes that I wanted and repeated these and helped him to create new ones. The leg shapes turned out to be easier to do by lying on his back and not standing on one leg!
Changes in external light is this lounge/kitchen of an old house were difficult to cope with as was finding focus with autofocus when the light fell and before the flashes fired. Later in the shoot I moved to sit in one place, use Live-View to focus on a leg, for example, then take the images.
I started with an ISO of 560 then had to move to 1100 to give an image with a highlight three-quarters to the right on my histogram; I find the final exposure compensation is best done in Lightroom. My depth of field was 9 as this allowed some leeway in focus sharpness, but sometimes when a limb was thrust forward I had to choose a focus point as the depth of field of the objects in the frame exceeded that of the camera and lens.
One of the most difficult things to do is was to eliminate the soft box shape on spectacles. I could not get my lights high or wide enough to do this and decided that my model would not wear spectacles for most of the shoot. I need him to be ‘Everyman’ and not ‘Spectacle- wearing man,’ so the less specifics the better.
I was happy to photograph someone slightly older than me with few clothes on. I don’t think they felt exposed, just cold. It might have been a different feeling if I did not know them and they were of a different gender.
13.2 Contact selections
I have not included the 155 images taken which are of body parts but here is a selection of the best of them.
During preliminary editing and selection I was struck by how interesting the body is stripped of clothes and out of its normal context. It reminded me of my days as a medical student dissecting dead bodies; fascinating but distant and objectified. Here is an image I took which reflects my feelings at this point about this photographing the human body.
13.3 Processing plan
The next step for these images, which are all in focus (important as my final print size for the story images is 594 by 420mm) is consistency of processing so that they are all of the same visible exposure, sharpening and contrast. I am happy with the Kelvin of my Nikon 810 automatic which is at 6,250 White Balance; this is hard to beat even using a grey card. I am not looking for a cold grotesque image as produced by Thomas Flurschuetz but colours of flesh to illustrate the human. One of my most challenging decisions will be what degree of contrast to apply as this affects the desaturated look of the images.
I have found that flipping the image or rotating a body part you can make it look quite different from the original. This could be applied to illustrate discordant body parts when the ‘tsunami’ wave hits my person. I may alter the opacity of some of the images as my subject dies during his story.
13.4 Manipulation of images
Back to Photoshop to experiment with my processed images.
There are a number of intentional elements to these;
- The background – I was looking for something suggestive of a swimming pool but not obvious waves or bubbles. I took some photographs of stones and flags in my garden which suggest bubble but are not – maybe they look too much like laminate flooring (cf OCA tutor comment on review of draft). Maybe white tiles might work too but maybe this clutters the background.
- Colour of the background – I experimented with a few blue colours but I am familiar with that cool swimming baths blue which is referenced, but it also references the clinical cool blue of the hospital where Adrian ends up in the second part of the story.
- Black framing to the body parts – I like this as it clearly separates the content of the frame. It adds to the dark tone of this work. (cf OCA tutor comment on review of draft – Clive White suggested that this connoted ‘death’ which seems obvious now).
- Body parts – This work is about the dissolution and resurrection of the body – we will see the latter in my future images.
- Placement of body parts – I have chosen these frames to allow my body parts to go from the left hand side to the right to illustrate the journey in the story, and to fall to the bottom and then rise up again. The placement and fracturing of the body is essential to my story. I may distort the body even more to unsettle the viewer.
- Bounding frame – The white is for handling on the A2 prints but the black line inside it is clinical – maybe a fracture edge might be better.
- The text in the frame – I want it to be visible in the frame but am uncertain as to whether it works – maybe there is too much.
I still have many uncertainties. My previous photographs were too small in my photo frame. I am also wondering if I should make it square and sacrifice space for text as in the final video slide show as the audio will be there too. I will produce something for my OCA buddies for feedback.
I produced 5 images with different pictures in the frame. I am torn about the presentation of the images. I loaded the audio narrative, some music and the trial images into Adobe Premiere Pro to create a presentation to share on the main OCA site. I don’t think it is a good ideas to do the whole thing because it will create too much work to re-do.
My trial on the OCA site is on my next tab as is the learning from that exercise.
14. The learning from OCA peers and tutor
My peers were concerned about;
- The quality of the work which is low resolution – I will improve that.
- The choice and use of music – at times it was too loud. I have thought about recording music but will reflect on this, I don’t want obvious wave sounds or do I?
- The presentation looks like a PowerPoint presentation – Ouch! I think that this is correct and am going to take away the white frame for the video.
- They did not like the trial of black and white – I agree
- The juxtaposition of images is crucial to telling the story and I will create more animation once I have mastered a clear quick workflow from Lightroom to Photoshop to PremierPro.
- This presentation needs to be cool and slick so I will learn fading in and out of images and sources as I have seen in other work.
I have been looking at more presentation slide shows by David Meadows which I really like (Meadows, 2103; 2016). As in my story the audio story drives the images, but the marriage of story and images is very good; I am beginning to wonder if my images are too few and inadequate to tell this long story.
Meadows, D. (2016). My photography stories, no. 14: Factory Records by Daniel Meadows https://vimeo.com/157846989?from=outro-embed. Vimeo, Vimeo.com.
Meadows, D. (2013). June Street https://vimeo.com/57256051. Vimeo, Vimeo.com.
This is my last entry here as changes in response to my tutor’s comments and any re-shooting will appear on the following tab.
Unusually, there are also comments and responses to a 2nd lot of feedback about the revised version of A4 which my tutor also reviewed. This on the next tab.