Making it up, self assessment
This assignment was to construct a stand alone image of my choice. The aim of the assignment was to use props, costumes, models, location and lighting to contribute to the overall meaning of the image. Overall, I am very pleased to have ‘transformed’ this image, taken at my chosen location,
to this …
Demonstration of visual and technical skills
I never thought that I would be confident enough to do this. Twelve months ago I flicked through to the end of the Context and Narrative course binder to check out the final assignment and thought that there was no way I would be able to stage a photograph; and here I am, I have done it.
Once I had decided on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot as my inspiration there was no way I could get it out of my mind. I forced myself to think down other paths but every single time I returned to the image below from a scene in Beckett’s play.
I had a good idea of what I wanted my image to look like before I started the final shoot. I had taken inspiration from literature, specifically an image from a production of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, and wanted to interpret this by taking the image at night and by highlighting a leafless tree; the main prop in the play.
Below: a reminder of the image that inspired me.
Waiting for Godot (Itzkoff, 2018)
Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Ian McKellen as Estragon in Waiting for Godot
Visual: I have used the black sky and the highlighted branches to link visually to the original image. The visual connection allows my image to ‘borrow’ the themes of the play. Visually I placed the branches in the foreground where they both frame the subjects and keep the viewer’s eyes on the models. I considered whether the right hand side of the image could be criticised for having too much negative space but the lights from the nearby bridge help to move the eye along the road and the space ensures that the scene is seen to be deserted as in the image of the play. I hoped it would portray a lonely road.
The positioning of the tree created leading lines to initially draw the eye upwards to acknowledge the bus stop sign where hopefully the association with ‘waiting’ would be formed. The viewer is then led downwards via the vertical post to rest on the subjects before being pulled towards the dot of light at the far right edge of the image and back to the subjects but along the road this time.
Throughout the shoot I used my wide angle lens (16-55mm), a manual setting and set an ISO of 400. I zoomed until my characters were a significant size in the composition but there was still sufficient space around them to suggest a deserted country road with no other activity taking place and no other people. I wanted to keep the context of the road and the background and using a longer focal length would have given less context.
A tripod was essential in low light to avoid movement during exposure. To help combat movement I also set my camera on a two second delay so that pressing the shutter would not add to the movement. My subjects were warned not to move from when I called out to them. I focused throughout on my subjects’ faces and an aperture of 5.6 in most cases ensured a deep enough depth of field where the whole image was in acceptable focus.
Usually I am hesitant in increasing ISO above 100 but in this instance I wanted to have a higher ISO to offset the shutter speed somewhat. The longer the exposure the more chance I would have of seeing movement from my models who could only keep perfectly still for a short time. Aperture was f/5.6 to ensure that enough of the scene was in focus behind and in front of my subjects while still giving me a fast enough exposure to avoid movement blur. The depth of field ensures the models are the main focus but that the flowers in the background and the branches in the foreground are clear enough. A smaller aperture would have give a deeper depth of field but the risk was unwanted evidence of movement.
Props: I used props inspired by the play; the tree, two characters, hat and boots. The mobile phones had a dual purpose; to highlight my models’ faces and to show how people are so engrossed in virtual lives that they miss out on real life. The earphones were to further show a lack of interest in real communication. I took advantage of the daffodils to show how preoccupied my subjects are in their phones that they are content to turn their backs on natural beauty.
Costumes: All I asked was that my models were dressed casually and in dark clothing. The only specifics I asked for were for the man to wear a dark beany hat and some heavy shoes as these are important items that recur again and again in the play.
Models: I wanted two models and considered whether to have two men (like the play has) or a man and a woman. Because I wanted a viewer to immediately recognise a ‘couple’ I chose male and female. The fact that there is a female there, who would probably not be there alone, gave a more certain ‘couple’ interpretation.
Location: The location had to be a bus stop to signify ‘waiting’. It had to have a leafless tree and had to be along a country road. All these mirror the play to help add the play’s meanings to the image. There were a few cars that passed by and some of my contact sheets images have captured light trails but I waited for them to pass and then retook the image. Light trails were not an option as I wanted to infer a deserted area.
Lighting: I set myself a challenge with a night time image but was pleased with the way I managed to source the portable lighting, highlight the tree, use mobile phones as specific lighting for the faces and use ambient street lighting to add warmth and a staged appearance.
Quality of outcome
I am pleased with my final image, not only because I feel that I have produced an interesting image inspired by another art form but that the message of the meaningless of life, that is evident on Beckett’s play has been interpreted using a topic that is relevant to a modern audience and is current topic of discussion, that of how social media can sabotage real communication.
Interestingly, in the news recently, Weatherspoon’s has decided to close its social media accounts. Wetherspoon’s Chairman, Tim Martin, has ‘told the BBC that society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use’ (BBC News, 2018).
Demonstration of creativity
I have approached something very new in this assignment by staging something specifically to photograph. I feel that I have created something original and something that makes a comment on modern life. I was pleased with how I ‘directed’ the scene. I seemed to confidently tell my subjects how I wanted them to stand; lifting and lowering their mobile phones until I captured the lighting that I wanted on their faces. I rearranged the lighting in the tree until I achieved the level of dark and light branches that I thought looked best.
I spent considerable time on choosing the right location assessing different bus stops in my local area and ensuring that the final image portrayed the unpopulated and lonely place that the play infers.
Regarding the overall creativity of the final image, I think it provides a unique interpretation of the play whilst keeping true to its main motifs and themes. I believe a viewer will wonder about it and be interested enough to try to interpret it. I feel that it is engaging and raises questions. Who are they? Where are they? Why? How long have they been there? Is there really a bus due during the night in the middle of nowhere? What are they looking at? What is so interesting? Have they nothing to talk about? How pointless is it all?
I see my image in the context of practitioners who have been inspired by other art forms and in particular by literature.
Jeff Wall was inspired by Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man and produced an image After invisible Man to make a previously hidden character visible. Hannah Starkey, inspired by Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott comments on the real world and the access of women to it. Tom Hunter has used paintings as inspiration to comment on real life situations. I hope that I have also used another form of art to inspire my comment on the often absurd meaning of life.
BBC News. (2018). Wetherspoon pub chain quits social media. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43781281 [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].
Itzkoff, D. (2018). The Right Way to Say ‘Godot’. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/theater/the-right-way-to-say-godot.html?action=click&contentCollection=Theater%20Reviews&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article [Accessed 10 Apr. 2018].