ASSIGNMENT 1 – TWO SIDES OF A STORY

Developing the Theme

In developing the theme for this assignment, I considered re-contextualising images, either by altering the storyline, where it is used, or by altering the image itself. Consider the case of the ‘Molotov Man’:

‘…our very habit of the use of language “naturalizes” the relation to objects around us. It is in this sense that the world is what we make it in language, and that is why language itself is so often the site of ideological struggle. Is a picture of someone throwing a bomb a picture of a “terrorist” or a “freedom fighter”? The same visual signifier can have a different … meaning, depending on the viewers and their viewpoints.’ (Bate, 2009, p20).

This can be illustrated by Meisela’s image of Pablo ‘Bareta’ Arauz, that later morphed into the “Molotov Man”.

Susan Meisela, Pablo ‘Bareta’ Arauz, 1979

The Sandinistas considered themselves freedom fighters; the sitting government considered them terrorists. This picture could reinforce either viewpoint. Apart from altering the context (but not the image), the image can be recontextualized through alteration. Consider Garnetts’ painting of the Molotov Man:

Molotov Man, Joy Garnett, 2003

Short notes (Short, 2011) that the painting above represents the subject as a random rioter expressing anger not a freedom fighter fighting for justice.

With this theme in mind, I have taken the opportunity of the Trump visit, taking photographs of supporters of Trump or those protesting Trump. Where possible I have used the same image to illustrate both sides of the story.

Technical Approach

Camera settings: ISO 800, aperture priority, auto focus

No technique was used for taking photographs. Change in context was achieved by adjusting crop, adjusting exposure, contrast etc, and by altering the wording in captions.

Body of Work

The anti-Trump series is shown below:

  • Demonstrator displays a demonic looking Trump on his clothing
  • US drone strikes in Yemen is a major cause for concern
  • Protesters out against Trump’s fake tweets
  • American population beginning to doubt Trump
  • An empty Mall welcomes Trump, who then claims a warm welcome
  • Protestors accuse Trump of racism. Police stand by protestors
  • Trump sells his soul and the environment to gain votes in the rust belt
  • Taxpayers bill for large police presence to protect Trump
  • Protest against interference in British sovereignty

The pro Trump series is shown below:

  • Christians out in support of Trump
  • Trump garners support for continued support in Iraq
  • Gentle British humour welcomes Trump
  • American expats out to welcome the sun and their President
  • Even the Londoners are out to witness Trump’s arrival for the State banquet
  • The sun has come out for Trump. Peaceful welcome, not the large protest expected
  • Trump has been lauded for his radical approach to improving the domestic economy
  • Calm ahead of Trump’s arrival
  • A special relationship endures

Reflection

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

(Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

The techniques involved are undemanding, but regardless I feel that the resulting images demonstrate technical skill.

I was consciously composing the image, even though sometimes fast reactions were required. I am comfortable with the resulting composition and the images I hope show that I have been visually aware.

Quality of Outcome

(Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment)

I have attempted to demonstrate that the context of the photograph is affected by composition, by where it is displayed (in this case by being displayed in the anti or pro Trump section), by subtle post-production lighting changes (to be perceived as high or low spirit) or by the text accompanying the images. This approach appears to be successful.

Demonstration of Creativity

(Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice)

This would appear to be a reasonably creative approach to the brief. I had alternative approaches that involved creating scenes, but they would not have been from real life as required and would have been extremely time consuming to set up. This response is taken from a real life and current situation.

I haven’t developed a personal voice yet, but irony and humour is something I would like to be carried forward in my street or documentary photography.

Context

(Reflection & Research)

I have tried to use the same images, with the same visual signifiers, to convey different meaning as Bates’ notes (Bates, 2009). That each viewer will see the same image differently, I have limited the flexibility of the viewer to do this, by explicitly classifying the images for the viewer. In one sense this may be liberating for the viewer but in another the viewer may experience discomfort if they subconsciously disagree with the classification – they will find it ‘jars’.

Does the viewer feel they have been manipulated or are they content to be led down the path I am taking them down? I am satisfied that the image sets can be seen in the context I intended, but I will leave each viewer to judge for themselves.

Tutor Feedback

My notes of the constructive criticism provided by my tutor during my tutorial and more subsequent reflection are as follows:

  • I should add a note explaining why I used captions in the images in the way that I did, e.g. why at the bottom, why the particular font etc. You noted that the aesthetics govern how people see the image.

I added the captions in WordPress and was restricted by the theme default accordingly. I could have added the text in or below the image as a layer in the subsequent jpeg, resulting in much greater editorial control. This is something I corrected in Assignment 2.

  • I should reference the captions (Look for references that you can cite as references, for example Victor Burgin’s UK76 and US77)

I realised after further reflection, that I am not trying to mimic others that use text within or below the image (as a relay), but rather mimicking how press use straplines as an anchor. It would therefore have made more sense to lay out the text and image as if it were in a press article.

  • I should describe my reasoning behind why I presented the images in the way that I did and think about how else it could be done. (Note here the influence of news media, what feels ‘natural’ or ‘obvious’ are always choices that have been informed by cultural influences that need to be examined – a number of Level 2 courses are concerned with these.)

I set out to illustrate that an image can be used to support or negate a view, in this specific case, can be used as pro or anti-Trump. I took each photograph with a wide enough frame to allow me enough room to crop, using crop as my main post-edit image tool to alter how the image would be perceived. I believe that the approach has been reasonably successful and would not look for an alternative way. My main area for improvement is how I would use text, as covered in the previous point.

  • Correct Bates to Bates’ in Context section.
  • Consider adding a contact strip. (Wherever you can show us contact sheets, to help your learning you need to evidence the steps on the way to successful images.)

I will do this moving forward.

Bibliography

Bate, D, (2009). Photography: The Key Concepts. London: Berg.

Short, M, (2011). Creative PhotographyContext and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA

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