Preparing & Selecting my photos for Assignment 5
As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
C. P. Cavafy, Ithaca
While preparing this assignment I have many times felt lost, helpless and failed. Designing the covers, selecting the photos, choosing the right font style has been such a quest. The only way to proceed was to follow my own artistic preferences and also give myself room to learn, experiment and enjoy the process of.
The photographs below have not been incorporated into my Assignment 5. Now that I look at them again I know that my story could have been longer and I could have included more photos. But I thought that it is best to keep the suggested number of maximum 12 photos.
I have prepared various covers but in the end I have chosen the one with the boy (the second below) as I wanted to have the hidden message that the future is ahead of them.
These are the photos I have selected to present for my Assignment 5: For a Living (please open this pdf file to see the full version, For a living-full story, with text)
Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative
The objective of this final assignment is to imagine that I am about to illustrate a story for a magazine. There is a cover to illustrate and several pages (6-12 images), some captions are required to explain and link each picture.
For this assignment I have chosen to present a social documentary. My story is about a family in Greece, living on the island of Aegina (the place where I live). Some months ago the father has died suddenly from sudden cardiac arrest. He was only 43 and had two boys (11 and 12 years old). He was the main wage earner in his family and this brought changes to their finances. A simple greek tavern owned and run by these people is the only way to support themselves financially. I have documented this story presenting both some family members and the food they are preparing. I wanted to create some bright and some dark photos in order to balance the narrative’s emotions. There is the sad part of suffering and pain after a member’s loss and the other part of coping, adapting and eventually continuing to live.
Why I have chosen this concept:
- I wanted to “document” a face of the financial crisis in Greece (increased mortality rate, no social welfare, insecurity, poverty). “While a photograph may not be an objective depiction of reality, it can be a considered means of conveying what the photographer feels to be the spirit or essence of the idea, person, place or event. Social documentary photographs, while being rooted in the photographer’s experience of the subject and shaped by their conceptual approach, can offer a visual experience of a set of circumstances in order to initiate, share or convey an understanding that goes beyond words”.1
- I am deeply concerned of the old people who struggle to support their families and live on a very low income.
- Presenting a story from the place I live seemed a more personal approach to me for this final assignment.2
- This story has stirred my soul, because I have also lost a baby and I felt a connection with this mother. I had a sense of responsibility towards her and I have sensed her need to share her story with understanding and sympathy.
“As documents, such images are windows into a world otherwise lost and, to that extent, are significantly and appropriately documentary photographs.” 3
I believe in the alchemy created between my subject and my vision. I have established a connection with this family and I have witnessed and shared their grief. This has cultivated an instant trust and I was free to follow them with my lens.
A portrait is not only a photograph, it is a sacred desire to capture one’s soul. And the result is expressive photography, the perfect way to express myself. The narrative in these photos is revealed by the expression of my portraits. People tell us stories with their eyes, their gestures, their body language.
I have used natural lighting, some photos were taken just after the sun set and this has helped to capture the dark mood of my subject’s melancholy. On the contrary, the photos depicting the food are brighter with vivid colour.
“As a photographer, you are essentially ‘hunting’ for a photograph that meets
your own creative needs yet is drawn from a fluid, evolving set of events. […]
Some would argue that it is the ultimate in creative, expressive photography because it is a wonderful combination of the actuality of the world
and the protographer’s eye.” 4
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
My EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens from Canon was broken while travelling abroad. To repair it, it would take more than a month and I have therefore decided to buy a new lens (full frame Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM). I was accustomed to my wide angle lens and when I started taking pictures with the new lens I felt somehow restricted but at the same time it was as if I was looking at the world with a new eye. This was an advantage, taking portraits with this lens is pleasing but worked also as a disadvantage since I usually tend to take close ups of my subject and ignore the surroundings. When narrating a story it can be decisive to have some photos of the environment to get a better image of the subject’s surrounding and hence visualise its reality.
During this project I have felt more confident with exposure settings and light control. The photos selected needed minor digital enhancement and to me this always proves progress. Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “if you start cutting or cropping a good photograph, it means death to the geometrically correct interplay of proportions”5, and since I fully agree I feel proud that no cropping was needed for my final images.
Quality of outcome
For the past four weeks I have been experimenting. The subject decision has distressed me for quite sometime. I have been searching to show, as my tutor Sam has suggested in our communication, a piece of work that would reveal me as a photographer.
I have allowed myself time to make mistakes, improvements, judgements and start over again and again. Eventually I am satisfied with the outcome of this assignment.
I have ordered different prints and I have selected the Epson Enhanced Matte Paper. The prints I have made with the Fineart Hahnemuhle William Turner 310 Paper were delicate and as a result hard to handle.
Demonstration of creativity
I honestly don’t know if I have been creative or not. Having watched some videos from other coursemattes (Student Work Uncovered) and admired how easily they brake rules and assignment requirements, I believe that I haven’t thought out of the box.
It has been quite exhausting for me to prepare the cover and the page layouts. Except from the first page where my background is white, I have chosen to present all my other photos in a black background. My idea was to emphasize the mourning. Wearing black/dark clothes when mourning is still practiced in Greece especially by older women.
I have taken hundreds of decisions, thousands of changes were made in order to produce the result that met my aesthetics. I have almost dissolved any trace of creativity while forcing myself to write the text of my story.
I have extensively researched my personal archives and photo books for inspiration. I have watched several interviews (some of which were from Sebastian Salgado, Richard Avedon, Alison Wright & Stepanie Sinclair). These interviews have convinced me that the human face remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration. This research process has hugely influenced me.
I have bought and watched the dvd course of Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye. It has considerably helped me to see how an accomplished photographer works and the course of his decision making before and after shooting.
Updating my online learning log with the photos I have taken for the exercises is always a pressure, having always limited time.
This course has given me the chance to explore in depth the basics of photography. It has been easier for me to do this final assignment, because of the freedom I have felt choosing and presenting my subject.
My final impression is that it takes practice, research, inspiration but also sensitivity and responsibility to produce of body of work you can be proud of. I have now discovered that the conclusive evidence is the photographic print. The pictures on my computer screen cannot be compared with the print version. This has been one of the most important discoveries I have made.
- Maria Short, Context and Narrative, AVA Publishing SA, 2011, p. 14
- Maria Short, Context and Narrative, AVA Publishing SA, 2011, p. 24
- Graham Clarke, The Photograph, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 146
- Michael Freeman, The Photographer’s Eye, Ilex, 2007, p. 156
- Henri Cartier-Bresson, The mind’s eye, Aperture Foundation, 1999, p. 34
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6fRykp6nRQ (Sebastiao Salgado: The Photographer as Activist)
http://www.ted.com/talks/sebastiao_salgado_the_silent_drama_of_photography (Sebastiao Salgado:The silent drama of photography)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1f3egvLwVE (Richard Avedon- Darkness and Light)
Here is the pdf file with the above text: Assignment 5-Narrative my review