Assignment 2. Collecting

Brief

I have been asked to create a series of six to ten images on one of the following subjects:

  • Things
  • Views
  • Heads

I have decided to do heads as I have really enjoyed experimenting with portrait photography in during project 2.

Research

After choosing heads, I went to look at some photographers who had done heads before and get a feel for what I could do. I looked into Marten Lange, who was born in Sweden in 1984 and works mainly in black and white. His work called ‘Citizen (2015)’ was inspiring but I decided I would focus on human heads.  Marten Lange ‘Citizen’ 

Marten Lange Interview

I also looked into Bettina Von Zewhl which I found to be very helpful, her approach to getting real emotions from her subject is what inspired me to look more into human emotions. I read about her approach in a book by Charlotte Cotton ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’ Published by Thames and Hudson world of art. It is the third edition and was published in 2014 and reprinted in 2018. I read about her approach on pages 31-32, it says that she would let her subjects sleep and then once awake would take a photo of their sleepy delirious states. The subjects will be genuinely sleepy and not try to act sleepy and I really like the truth behind this method. Born in Munich, 1971 Von Zwehl attended the London College of printing in 1994 and ascertained a BA (hons) in Photography, she then went on to the Royal College of Art in London in 1997 and got an MA in Fine Art Photography. She now lives and works in London. Bettina Von Zwehl

I kept wondering about human emotions and why we have them and why that when we take a photo of an emotion it can relate to the way we feel so I decided to do more research on it. I have always wondered why we smile, some say its part of a social construct others say its programmed into us since we are babies and Darwin thought that also in his 1872 book ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’. ‘It is considered a foundational text of smiling research, proposed that facial expressions are universal products of human evolution rather than unique lessons of one’s culture‘.  Psychological Study of Smiling

There are two muscle groups involved when smiling, the first pulls up the corners of your lips and is called the ‘Zygomatic Major muscle‘. The second muscle is called the ‘Occipitofrontalis (or just frontalis)’ which raises the eyebrows. What Are Facial Expressions

Our State of mind influences our expressions and our expressions also influence our state of mind. ‘turning that frown upside down’ can make you feel happier,‘ Gordon explains. “Research suggests that our brains receive feedback from our muscles (and other internal organs) to help discern how we feel.” Why We Smile

When we smile we release multiple chemicals that can help fight off stress and that boosts overall mood, it can also help us to relax. ‘Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face’ How Smiling Affects Your Brain

I found this so fascinating and after looking at why we smile I decided to go look for some photographers who take expressive portraits. I first thought of Peter Lindenberg, having looked at his work when doing my coursework I thought he would have been helpful to look at in more depth. Born in Lissa, Germany in 1944, he had worked as a department store window dresser and  then went on to enrol in the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960’s. After moving to Düsseldorf in 1971, he turned his attention to photography and worked for two years assisting German photographer Hans Lux, before opening his own studio in 1973. “If you take out the fashion and the artifice, you can then see the real person.” Lindbergh says’. Lindenberg always wants to see the real person when he is photographing someone, less is more. He changed drastically the standards of  fashion photography in times of excessive retouching considering that there is something else that makes a person interesting, beyond their age. He explains: “This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.”. I find this so inspiring and true to what I believe as many people strive to be perfect when taking photos and that is not what is natural to us. By looking into Lindenberg and his work it has reinforced to me that perfection is not necessary and that I would like my portrait photos to be natural. Peter Lindenberg Reference

The next photographer I looked into was Damon Baker. A young relatively unknown photographer whose work is mainly in black and white. Born in Birmingham, England, he has no website or much of any information online apart from his Instagram which is where I came across his work. His work is raw and emotive, he has worked with celebrities like Glen Close, Ian Mc Kellen and Cindy Crawford. He has done campaign shoots with L’Oréal Paris and has photographed Chief Vogue Editor, Edward Enniful. I found his work very inspiring an captivation, his use of the face and how to portray emotions is wonderful and I have decided to do my portraits in black and white. Damon Baker’s Instagram page

The next photographer I cam across who was inspiring was Richard Avedon. His work is mainly in black and white. His portrait of a very sad looking Marilyn Monroe is one of my favourites taken on May 6th 1957. Another one of my favourites is of Janis Joplin shot in Texas 28th of August 1969. The concepts behind some of the photos is so unique and they way he portrays each individual, you can tell he got to know them before he started shooting. The emotions he captures in his photos is so unique, I have found this very helpful as it has made me think on how I want my subject to come across, happy or melancholic. Richard Avedon Foundation

Lee Jefferies, a self-taught British photographer, has taken upon himself to tell the rest of us who the homeless really are. His work consists of portraits of homeless people both in colour and in black and white. ‘Dedicated to telling a story about the people living on the streets, Jeffries honors them by giving their likenesses a greater meaning.
As he explains, each image is the result of long discussions with each individual, a privileged moment that allows him to establish a connection that is particularly palpable in their gaze. In his striking, high-contrasted portraits, he goes beyond circumstances and celebrates the singular character of human emotion’. This work in particular is so fascinating, the photos themselves are up close and striking. The style of the photos is really what works in their favour. Looking into Jefferies has made me consider how I am going to frame my portraits, I think I will take them relatively further away but still quite close so details of the face can be seen because that is one of the things I like most about this work, the detail. Lee Jeffries webpage

Interview with Lee Jeffries

Philippe Halsman, born May 2nd 1906 in Riga, Latvia. In 1928 he spent 2 years in prison for the murder of his father which he did not commit, his sister Liouba drew international attention to his case. Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud and many other important intellectuals and scientists endorsed his innocence. In the autumn of 1930, Liouba brokered an agreement between Paul Painleve’, the Prime Minister of France, and Johann Schober, the Chancellor of Austria, and finally won Philippe’s release. From 1930 – 1940 onwards he worked as a photographer in Paris his work appears in Vogue and is gaining recognition. In 1936 he designs a 9 x 12 cm twin-lens reflex camera and has it built by a cabinetmaker whose grandfather (Alphonse Giroux) built the first camera for Daguerre. He died in New York City June 25th 1979, he had a colourful life full of so many achievements. Some of my favourite work by Halsman is his work with Salvador Dali and his series called ‘The Frenchman’, this work in particular has given me my concept as I have decided to take multiple people and focus on their expressions, I do not want them posed I want genuine expressions. My portraits will be in black and white just like ‘The Frenchman ‘ series as I found it very effective and pleasing to the eye I find that it would only work in a set and that is what I have been asked to do. Philippe Halsman Reference

Planning, Execution and Concept

I have decided to do a series of images looking at genuine emotions from three difference subjects of three different ages. The set will be in black and white. I will have a chair and white background and this will not change throughout the set. Focal length, Aperture and viewpoint will not change and the main concept is too look at our expressions. I have chosen three people one aged 21, another 47 and finally a 75 year old. I am hoping to get 3 photos of each individual therefore meaning I will have a set of 9 final photographs.

I will take these photos over a number of weeks in order to make sure I am happy with the results, some of my subjects have never been photographed in this way so I want to make sure they have time to feel comfortable. My aim is to get each individual to laugh genuinely and to photograph any other expression that happens during the shoot.

The shoot– I set up my tripod and soft box in my dining room and placed a chair against the wall, I lined up and tested my settings. I had previously asked my subjects to wear either a black or navy top as to create contrast against the white wall. Once happy I got my subject in and did a few test shots, I also played around with the lighting as I didn’t want it too bright. I then began to take my photos I started off getting each individual to look dead centre into the lens and not smile, I then got them to turn left and right and from then on I started with the jokes.

In order to get a genuine reaction I had to make my subjects actually laugh. I started with what my mother used to do when I was a child she used to say ‘don’t smile’ and no matter how much you try, you will smile! So that worked a few times, broke the ice a bit and then I told the subjects to pull faces and mess around and from that I got genuine laughter. I also asked my subjects for some stern looks and I played around with props too although in my opinion they didn’t turn out as well as the other ones did. I did not change any settings or positions of the set up, I choose my dining room specifically because I knew it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way the set up wouldn’t get knocked over.

Over all I feel the shoot went better than expected and I was very happy with the results, the subjects were all very easy to work with and listened to my instructions. If I were to so the shoot again I would  get a background screen so the bubbly wallpaper isn’t in the background and I would have played music while actually shooting to liven up the mood.

The following are my set of 9 portraits looking at Human Expressions…

dsc_093521 Year Old.

dsc_098621 Year Old.

dsc_107621 Year Old.

dsc_087447 Year Old.

dsc_088647 Year Old.

DSC_0904.JPG47 Year Old.

dsc_009875 Year Old.

dsc_013275 Year Old.

dsc_013475 Year Old.

I have grouped the photos by age starting from youngest to oldest. In the entire set I think it was essential to have the contrast of the black top with the white wall, it adds depth and gives more colour to the photos. The tripod was another thing I felt was vital to doing this shoot, in some of the photos we can see the subject moving which I find effective, it shows that it really is genuine laughter, the tripod also helped with framing the subjects as I knew it hadn’t moved out of place. The lighting in this set stayed consistent throughout this series the only problem I had was with the last subject as her white hair changed the way the image was looking so I had to make the lighting slightly darker so her hair would show up well and in detail. Each set has detail, overall smoothness of the skin and each photo is the same set up but with a different expression.

What I found out by doing this was that each individual expression is there own and that one smile is not universal we all smile differently, some with our mouths open other with them closed. We all frown differently and we all laugh differently. Each expression of the individual is their own and it is unique to them. People smile all the time and we frown a lot too, I don’t think we take the time to look properly at them or how one differs or if a mother and son smile the same, we take it for granted. I know the next time someone smiles at me I will take a second look.

Overall I am happy with how the photos turned out I feel they are consistent but with slight variations that make them interesting. As a set I feel they work well they are not too boring or repetitive. Doing the portraits in black and white was hugely beneficial to me as it gave a moody-feel to the photos and gave them more depth in my opinion. If they had of been in colour they would have been a bit boring, to me the black and white connects to a deeper meaning especially when viewing them as a set. I am happy with my concept overall and I think that human expression could become a much bigger project, I had lots of options and ideas regarding it. I feel the research was the most beneficial part of this whole assignment as I learnt more about portraits and what I liked in a portrait by looking at others, I was then able to apply that to my own photos. If I was to do this whole assignment again I would not of done much different, I would maybe do something more related to my interests like fashion, makeup etc.

Reflection

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – I feel I have demonstrated technical skills widely throughout this assignment, I looked and made note of other technical skills used in the photographers work that I research I then went and applied them to my own work. I made use of tripod and lighting set up, I used my compositional skills when lining up and making sure everything was in frame and dead centre.

Quality of outcome (20%) – I have a good concept and have presented my work in a coherent manner. My photos are of a good quality, I have applied knowledge from my research and have communicated my ideas.

Demonstration of creativity (20%) – I feel that I have not met this criterion as well as I could of.

Context (20%) – I have loads of research and reflection within this assignment I maybe could of done with more critical thinking.

 

 

 

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