Category Archives: Exercises part 1

Exercise: the real and the digital

Does digital technology change how we see photography as truth?

What is the truth exactly? Would a home fan see the same game as an away fan? Would a wife have the same version of the truth as her husband in a divorce case? Everyone sees the truth differently; just like the ‘truth’ in a photograph is only one version of any given situation.

Yes

There is no doubt that photo editing software has changed how we produce images.  As Liz Wells states we have the ‘ability to create, manipulate and edit images’ (Wells, 2009, p73). and as a result we question what is ‘real’. How many hundreds of times have we heard someone say ‘it’s been photoshopped’? I was so convinced that the term would be an accepted new verb that I looked it up in the dictionary; but, no not yet. The ease by which images can be altered has resulted in a sense of mistrust. Subjects are shown in places they have never been to, with people they have never met, in situations they have never been in. Their heads are put on someone else’s body and they are airbrushed out. In photojournalism we expect the truth but cases of deceit have been evident even within that ‘more real’ genre. So, why would photography ever be reliably seen as the ‘truth’ when there is the ability, and the results that prove to us that images can be purely constructs.

No

A photograph, just by virtue of being a two dimensional image, can only ever be a representation of the truth and cannot capture the whole story. It is a viewpoint dependent on who took the image and why, when it was taken and what was happening outside the frame. In that respect film photography, prior to digital, was subject to the same sort of subjectivity so it is not necessarily digital technology that changes how we see photography as truth.

There have always been manipulated photographs so digital is no different to film, all that has happened is that manipulation has become quicker and easier and available to more people. Often there is an assumption by the viewer when looking as say, magazine articles, billboards, adverts and so on, that the image has been altered so if we are not expecting the truth then how we see photography as truth just lives up to our (low) expectations.

It depends

When I see fashion and model images I expect them to have been manipulated so no, it doesn’t effect how I see the truth, largely because I am not expecting the truth in the first place. As Wells says ‘it is clear that images with all the appearance of ‘real’ photographs may have been created from scratch on a computer’ (Wells, 2019)

However, when I see a newspaper image of a current event then I do not expect lies to the same extent. I expect some resemblance to the truth and for the image to be ‘more real that other kinds of images’ (Wells, 2009). However,  I am aware that most images will have at least some minor tweaks.

 

I had a few thought surrounding this topic

  • As practice, I took an image of the ruins of a castle recently. Do you think that after a full day at work I could be bothered to go out at sunset to take this image or did I just alter it in Photoshop? Well, both. I did go out at sunset but the sky wasn’t as colourful as I had hoped so yes, I did warm it up a little afterwards.

 

  • I  started to consider the Moon landing in 1969. It had to be true as there are photographs to prove it, but . . .  really?

Image in the public domain

 

  • There have been recent images of Donald Trump signing an abortion related order in the Oval Office, surrounded by men with the awful implication that men are making decisions about women’s bodies. They probably are, but can we be sure? There is plenty of space in the images for women to have been airbrushed out. Who knows?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/donald-trump-abortion-rights-executive-order_uk_58863bbfe4b0208540990e96

Bibliography

Wells, L.(2009). Photography: A Critical introduction (4th ed.) Abingdon: Routledge

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Exercise: composite image

I have learned a great deal about making a composite image. It has been a steep learning curve and, coming to this exercise with NO previous experience, I am pleased to have actually produced something.

I understand that the exercise is to produce an image that looks ‘real’ but cannot be, in order to illustrate how manipulated images can distort the ‘truth’ and provide misinformation. I am embarrassed at the lack of sophistication here but pleased with what it has taught me – that in expert hands there is no limit to what can be made to look real and how the images that we see are not always to be trusted to reflect reality.

The link is to an image of Tony Blair ‘constructed’ by Peter Kennard. Obviously the situation is not real but it does bring to light the opportunities available for manipulating images with unpredictable and perhaps dangerous consequences, Tony Blair selfie

For this exercise I used an image from my work in EYV as the background image. I then searched for public domain images of aeroplanes. My choice of planes was largely because I thought they would be quite easy to ‘cut out’ as a layer in Photoshop Elements. I didn’t want any tricky shapes or intricate curves to work around!

My inspiration for this image came from a magazine of creative photography projects as I very much liked an image that had in excess of one hundred planes flying close together. I cannot include the image to show you, because of copyright.

My attempts

My original image is my favourite. It is of three planes flying very close to city rooftops and I was pleased with it but then I was suddenly horrified that it may be reminiscent of the 9/11 terror attack that I thought it inappropriate to include it. However, here is a snippet so you get the idea.

So, I changed the background to a city square.

Planes over Millennium Square

I am pleased with the extent of my learning today, though mastering Photoshop is perhaps not really the crux of the learning!

Exercise: Sarah Pickering (Public Order)

Sarah Pickering’s image Flicks Night Club 2004 made me feel the same as I did when I visited Poundberry, Dorset  a short while ago. It was quiet, there were no people around. I commented to my friends that it felt like a film set.  The streets had an eerie feel, deserted and lifeless. Almost as if they were too perfect to be lived in. I suspect Poundbury isn’t always so lifeless though and we perhaps just picked a bad time.

Photograph of Middlemarsh Street, Poundbury by Marilyn Peddle

Sarah Pickering’s series Public Order can be seen here. I thought of Poundbury straight away, as a residential area that was too quiet to be real. Pickering’s  images show no signs of life and we are left to question how that can be and why. In her image Flick’s Night Club, the road bends to the left and, as there is an unsettling feel to the image, we are left wondering what is round the corner? On closer inspection of the image we notice that the windows are boarded up. Why? The viewer then starts to try to make sense of it? Has there been a bomb scare? or another reason for a mass exodus? I even started to think of the opening scene in John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids:

But this morning was different! Disturbingly because mysteriously different. No wheels rumbled, no buses roared, no sound of a car of any kind, in fact, was to be heard. No brakes, no horns, …. not, as there should be at such an hour, the composite tramp of work-bound feet.

(Wyndham, J, 1954 p 9)

Then we learn that it is a police training ground. We immediately feel better as we learn the reason for the street being deserted. However, Sharon Boothroyd points out that then we start to think again ‘why do these places exist?’ and ‘what else don’t we know about?’ (Boothroyd, 2014).

Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?

Pickering’s images evoke an emotion in the viewer. Initially a sense of unease and anxiety that something is not quite right; something has happened. So, our attention has been piqued sufficiently to engage interest in the image. If Pickering wanted to draw attention to the wider picture of police training and what we rely on our police officers to deal with then it offers a documentary on this in an indirect way. This leaves the viewer to think for his or herself of the wider implications of police activity and danger in the World.

Is it misleading? No. It has made me think of many things that had been pushed to the back of my mind. The unseen work of the police force and the many things that go on in the World to which the general public is blissfully unaware.

Bibliography

Boothroyd, S. (2014) Introduction: Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts.

Wyndham, J, (1954). The Day of the Triffids. London: Penguin

 

Exercise: colour and black and white

This exercise asks for thirty colour images and thirty black and white images, taken in a street photography style. I chose Park Square, Leeds for my shoot for several reasons. One, there would be quite a few people about, two, the park itself would provide opportunities for colour images to work well and three, the Georgian architecture was potential for successful black and white images. A bonus was that it was a sunny day and I thought the shadows could help my project.

I walked round the square for an hour taking images in colour, looking for colours that complimented or opposed each other, or where the colour was the main event. I looked for colours that would enhance my subject, where it would lose something if taken in black and white. As this was a summer day and people were sitting in the park, colour would enhance the mood of the day.

Then I set my camera to black and white so I could view monochrome as I walked around the square again. I took images that I thought would work well without colour; those areas of high contrast particularly, or scenes with a high tonal range to avoid my images looking flat. I was drawn to buildings, textures, fences and railings and geometric shapes generally, when working in this format.

Colour images

Image one

I chose colour for this image to display the primary colours of red and blue. In  monochrome the red of the door would look the same as the blue of the sign and the man’s shirt would just be paler against the red of the door he is standing in front of.

Image two

The yellow in this image is the subject itself so in black and white the purpose of the photograph would be lost. The reflection of the white and mint wedding dresses works well within the yellow frame created by the window.

Image three

The blue and green of the reflection of sky and trees in the window  make this window frame almost like a picture frame.

Image four

In black and white the deckchairs would be similar in tone to the grass. It is the vivid blue and green that is the subject of the photograph.

Image five

In this image the colours of the park reflected in the glass draw the eye into the office and create a depth beyond the chairs.

Image six

The only colour in this photograph is the red of the bottles and glass. In black and white this image would have no point of interest. However, in colour, the bottles in their monochrome setting become the focal point.

 

Black & white images

Image one

The white window frames and the black railings provide a pleasing contrast in black and white. The lack of colour adds to the feeling of abandonment of this below ground apartment.

Image two

Strong contrasts and geometric shapes are emphasised in black and white.

Image three

In this low view image, the road markings appear white like the wedding dresses at the end of the road and they lead the eye to the shop window display of gowns.

Image four

An image with contrasts and detail works well in black and white emphasising the shapes and shadows of the ornate railings.

Image five

Black and white photography has an elegance about it which suits the display of wedding gowns in this shop window display.

Image six

The different textures of the glass, stone and brick are emphasised in black and white format; the grouting against the bricks and the horizontal shadows against the stone.

 

Colour or Black & white?

With the image below I thought that both colour and black & white worked well but which won?

Here is the colour version:

And the black and white version:

I am considering why both work well. It is because there is contrast to provide interest in the monochrome image and the difference in shadow and sunlight down the steps adds a sunny mood.  In the colour image the green provides interest and the bottom of the wall in white is pleasing against the red brick. However, I am finding the blue of the boundary railings a bit too much information. I have the feeling that I don’t really want to know what colour the railings are painted. In this case, I prefer the black and white.

Which set do I prefer?

Neither. I think there is a place for colour and there is a place for black and white.

Contact Sheets

Contact sheets (black & white and colour)

Exercise: objectivity

If something is objective it is not distorted by personal feelings or bias.

The opposite is subjective; biased, personal and emotional.

 

I found the narrative below on ‘our pastimes’ website and thought it presented a very easy to understand explanation of the difference between objective and subjective photography. It made me wonder then if ALL ‘snapshots’ were objective?

‘Photographers can just point and shoot to create objective pictures, or they can change a picture’s properties to make it more subjective. The difference between these two styles is that objective photography tries to show the world as it really is, while subjective photography tries to show the world as the photographer herself sees it. Specific aspects of a picture that can make it objective or subjective are angle, tone, color and intent’ (Ourpastimes.com, 2017)

Objective image

I thought I would have a go at taking an objective, then a subjective image. I chose my desk. Firstly, I wanted to show you my desk. Just an image of my desk as it really is, that’s all, so, here is my objective image.

I used ordinary ceiling lighting and I hope you just look at my desk and think oh, that is a desk. I used aperture f/9 to ensure everything was in focus and used a tripod due to the 3.2 seconds shutter speed.

Subjective image

Then I changed the lighting. I made the scene look a little busier and changed the clock to around midnight. I wanted to evoke feelings of working until the small hours and a cosy study space. Here is my subjective image.

The lighting is warmer which adds to the cosy feel. The clock has been changed to give a nighttime impression and I used a larger aperture of f/1.8 to blur the background a little so that your eyes are kept closer to the front of the image and are not distracted by my husband’s keyboard at the back, like you are in image 1. I think that in this image you are more inclined to linger over the things on my desk whereas in the top image the eye seems drawn out of the image in the middle of the right hand side.

Bibliography

Ourpastimes.com. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://ourpastimes.com/difference-between-objective-subjective-photography-12053394.html [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].

 

Exercise: citizen journalism

Citizen journalism, what is it?

Basically, it refers to information (in the form of images, text, audio and video) that is communicated by members of the public as opposed to by professional journalists. This is all possible as more and more ordinary people have access to instant phone cameras, and social network platforms, which allow their images and narrative to be sent across the world in seconds.

With regard to the brief that requests that we find examples of news stories where citizen journalism has exposed or highlighted abuses of power I started to think of recent (and not so recent) news items.

First thoughts

My first thoughts were political in relation to past expenses scandals and so on. Then I thought about abuses against children and women by people in trusted positions; surgeons who provide unnecessary and life damaging operations; abuse and neglect in care homes; poor service and high costs of monopoly utility companies; first in my mind though was the horror of Grenfell Tower.

The scandal that innocent lives were lost as a result of companies and councils trying to save money is a terrifying abuse of power (my blog page here is becoming an example of citizen journalism). I have looked for images relating to this catastrophe and came across this here (the one with the banner saying ‘we need justice’. It is impossible to know who took this image; a professional or a member of the public. However, even if the image is not an example of citizen journalism it is certainly representing a public reaction to the tragedy.

The image highlights the anger felt by the population at the way ordinary lives have been disrespected. The wording ‘WE NEED’ shows a unity and a demand. NEED, instead of  ‘want’ signifies  that there is a lack of some basic requirement and not just a desire for answers.  The smaller wording ‘of the many’ suggests a huge uprising of ordinary people against those in power. The lady in the centre has an expression that suggests she is shouting and passionate about what she is saying.

We don’t need to see the full banner to know that the last word is JUSTICE and the fact that we mentally fill this word in shows how people have an intrinsic knowledge of the demands of the people.

Second thoughts

My first thought about Grenfell Tower may highlight abuse of power, but I am not sure if it is actually citizen journalism so I had another think about it and came up with Donald Trump and the recently distributed  undercover video of him using sexist and insulting language in relation to women.

The video can be seen here and though the conversation was recorded by a TV programme, it was undercover and ‘unpolished’. There could be an argument that it was deliberately filmed by professionals to give an amateur impression; to compliment the undercover nature of it. This really does raise questions about citizen journalism – is this professional journalism pretending to be citizen journalism?

The zooming in and out, the flickering and the panning the length of the bus all give a feel that it is a member of the public who has taken the opportunity to record the conversation. It doesn’t look pre-planned or choreographed in any way.

Trumps comments that he can behave in a certain way if you are famous clearly illustrates how power is being abused.

Is this picture objective?

Yes?

The video appears as though it is just recording everything ‘as it happened’ and showing the event as it is rather than as being controlled by the photographer in any way.

The camera is unsteady and zooms in and out, chopping peoples heads off and flitting quickly from person to person giving the impression that this is not professional journalism; making the video appear objective. The subjects of the video are not ‘arranged’ by the photographer and they are seemingly unaware of the camera at times  which also adds to the video’s objectivity.

No?

Obviously we just have a snapshot of this moment in time. We don’t know what happened before it or after it though I struggle to think of anything that could mitigate its horror. Actually, that said, Trump does go on to apologise (eleven years later) when his potential  presidency was topical in 2016. Does his apology change how we see the conversation from a decade previously.

At first there seems few subjective photography techniques, but on reflection, the framing of Trump, in the bus window, the zooming in on him and how often he is placed central to the image all help to portray him as powerful.

 

Bibliography

360, T., Politics, U., York, N., Documentaries, T., Magazine, T., Estate, R. and Women, D. (2017). Donald Trump’s Lewd Comments About Women. [online] NYTimes.com – Video. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004698018/donald-trumps-lewd-comments-about-women.html [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

BBC News. (2017). Grenfell Tower fire: No prosecutions for subletting of flats, government promises – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40471554 [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].

ThoughtCo. (2017). What Exactly is Citizen Journalism?. [online] Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-citizen-journalism-2073663 [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].