3.4 The gaze

Exercise 3.4 The gaze

Brief: The picture serves as a trap for our gaze. This exercise gives you the opportunity to explore the image as a window with which to trigger memory.

The objective here is to produce a series of five portraits that use some of the types of gaze defined above. The specifics of how you achieve this are down to you; you choose which types of gaze you wish to address and who your subject might be in relation to this decision. What you’re trying to achieve through these portraits is a sense of implied narrative, which you can explain through a short supporting statement. Don’t try and be too literal here; the viewer must be able to interact with the portraits and begin to make their own connection to the work, aided by the type of gaze you’ve employed.

Write down any thoughts or reflections you might have regarding this exercise and include this in your learning log or blog.

1. Planning and approach

I was invited to take some images of my GP practice ‘team building’ afternoon learning how to make cocktails at a bar in Newcastle upon Tyne. I was going to be away so it was on the day that this opportunity came. I reviewed the exercise and this one seemed to be a good opportunity to photograph internal, direct, bystander and audience gaze, as well as documenting the group’s activities (and learning).

I looked at the learning in the module, thought a bit about gaze types and copied pages 67 and 70 from the manual onto my phone to remind me about the brief. I decided to take my Nikon D810 with a 24mm and 70-200m lens with an SB900 strobe. I knew that the bar would be dark inside and it would give me more control if there was a lot of backlight.
The group is 30 doctors, nurses, admin and managers from a team of 40 pe0ple working in a GP surgery in South Tyneside. We are learning to make cocktails and having a meal afterwards. It was a fun day.

2. The shoot

The light was very variable and I increased my iso to accommodate that. The most challenging condition was from the customer side of the bar photographing behind the bar and against a wall of glass and light. I used a flash to light the people for all these images.

I started with an ISO of 800 but needed to increase that up and down to 1600 to ensure enough exposure. My depth of focus varied from 1.4to 8 and was mainly around 5.6; I was keen to isolate portraits but also at times take in other details with a greater depth of field.

My SB900 ran out of batteries – just replaced them, so had to use the pop up flash but this worked well.

I know all of these people and they know of my work. I did tell some people that I was looking at gaze but not every one knew that. People find it difficult to not pose for the camera but I think they got used to that as I took over 200 images most of which I deleted. The problem is that people have their eyes closed, they are not in focus (I left it in manual for 30 shots before I realised and these were mostly wasted shots). My rough selections are in the contacts below. I could have taken more images.

I was approached by a ‘hen party’ to take photographs in the bar and did so but there were none to illustrate my theme which is why they are not included.

3. Contacts

3.1 Processing

This was a colour setting so I set my Kelvin at 5560 and did not adjust it in LR or PS. The images against the wall of glass to the exterior all had a sharp reduction in the highlights to bring out the detail. I needed to increase exposure in some of the images and made some noise reduction on some images with a high ISO.

3.2 Contacts



4. Final images with narrative


Gaze: ‘Bystander’

I like the construction of this in the frame. The bar worker was leaning across to show the woman how to make a cocktail. I liked this with the large triangle where the woman is and the balancing smaller one below the mans arm. The direction of gazes and the arm add dynamism to the image.


Gaze: ‘Direct address’

This is an intense gaze with someone at the edge of the frame observing. I have left them in the frame to make it a more interesting photograph.


Gaze: ‘Internal gaze’

This is an excellent image of one of the nurses ‘freshening up’ observed by one of the secretarial staff. It is the look of the observer in the frame that suggests a narrative – does she approve or disapprove or something else?

Gaze: ‘Spectator’

 Everybody is looking and this is the photographer’s gaze too.

Gaze: ‘verted’

 There is an image of this nurse with averted gaze but I liked this quick look to me to see that I was taking an image rather than relating to the other nurses in this frame.

Gaze: Audience gaze’

There are quite a few audience images in my images but I like this one as it is active and suggests that I am talking to someone out of frame. I am showing one of my staff how to take pictures of three of us about to make a rum Baba cocktail. I took the camera from her focussed it on her with on her with a wide depth of field, changed it to manual and handed to back to her to press the button. This images still works.