Transformation – The Final Images

From a very young age I was always fiercely independent. I didn’t know what I wanted or how I was going to get it but I knew I wanted to go much further than most of the women in my family.

 

As I watched the feminist movement gain momentum and women fight for equality I wanted to be part of it. I had no intention of living a life of domestic mediocrity or financial dependency. Oh no, not me!

Forward it a few years and there I was… fresh out of university, working for a multinational coorporation on the other side of the world where gender equality was respected and I could ‘fulfill my potential’. But guess what? The role of a 21st Century Woman is much more complex.

The feminist movement gave us, women, plenty of opportunities and the chance to be what ever we wanted to be … except that society wanted us to do it in addition to being what we were always meant to be.

We are mums, educators, house keepers, lovers. We are the main shoppers in the household and we are still the first point of contact at our children’s school.

Women nowadays often have a career, a family, pets that need looking after. Society also expects them to look be fit and look good, to cook well, to always be well groomed and kept… oh and our husbands expect us to be sex kittens too.. in short, in today’s world we are expected to almost have super hero qualities.

So I realised that, like super heros, we transform into different forms each day and according to the roles we are expected to perform.

That’s when I decided that since I, like countless women nowadays, am Super I might as well wear an outfit… ok, ok I just needed an excuse!

I discussed this topic with my husband, as always he had a totally different view from me. He pointed out that feminism also allowed the lines of gender role, traditional roles to blur and that men nowadays also ‘transform’. Some have become house-husbands, nannies.

Maybe, just maybe he is right and we all are a little bit ‘Super’

Paula, xx

 

Reference:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/under-pressure-photo-series-guia-besana_n_5433332.html
https://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/photo-series-on-societal-pressures-on-womens-body-image/#.whn5i8mxh
https://www.theodysseyonline.com/an-open-letter-to-society
http://cashkaro.com/blog/8-things-society-unfairly-expects-of-women/1437
https://mic.com/articles/124598/15-mindblowing-female-photographers-redefining-contemporary-femininity#.PXNV3wE50

 

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Time-Lapse in search of transformation

Time was ticking, my assignment deadline was approaching and I still couldn’t shake off the persistent idea of the modern day woman transforming on a daily basis… maybe the modern day men transform too?

I was still undecided when we had a lesson on time-lapse and, for those who know me well, it is no surprise I did a sunset time-lapse, a sunrise time-lapse (it didn’t work that well). This exercise allowed me to explore aspects of photography in a way i had never done before, including a whole new technical side to my camera I never knew!

Sure I enjoyed doing time-lapse but it was at this point I realised the ‘Transformation’ I wanted for my assignment was not quite of this kind.

Attempt 1:

At first I went to Isabella Plantation as I adore watching the various ducks, waterfowls returning to the water at first light. To my disappointment there were more tourists and dog walkers than ducks at the Still Pond on this particular Sunday… a total joy for People Watching!

Attempt 2:

Determined to let no one spoil my fun this time round, I left home just before dawn and went to Hampton Court Bridge. I parked by the Palace and waited for the sun to make an appearance. I never tire of watching the miracle that is the sunrise, something I have been doing since I was a very young child.

The first time I saw the sun rising was on a road trip with my father. He died shortly after and I guess seeing the sunrise brings me that little closer to him.

It turns out the weather wasn’t quite as clear as I had wanted but there was something moody about this time-lapse. I was quite surprised to see how much the boat moves. Love the clouds too!

Attempt 3:

For this time-lapse I did want people. I wanted to see how they enjoy Richmond Hill at the end of the day. I was also hoping to capture a beautiful sky, the motion of the river, the clouds and hopefully a boat or too.

In the end, I didn’t do too badly and was rather pleased BUT the little voice in my head still whispered ‘women, daily transformation, societal expectations’ and that is when I knew it was time to go back to my initial idea.

I’m ready to take on my final task.

Paula, x

 

I am

How many people are you?

“I am” is a series of photographs exploring the theme of transformation within my own search of becoming what I am.

In truth, I am many people.

I am me.
I am a mum.
I am a housewife.
I am an educator teaching my family right from wrong, how to cook, how to look after themselves, how to socialise, how to be a good friend and a good person.
I am an entrepreneur
I am a fighter

I am many people and I transform into each one of them on a daily basis. I’m sure you do to.

My journey is set to continue, to evolve and morph. I am looking forward to the final destination.

Paula, x

 

 

 

Transformation – Initial Research

There are many ways in which to depict Transformation in Photography. Some catalogue it as Time Lapse (see video below) whilst others use Photoshop to transform images and make some amazing digital pieces of art.

Bruno Metra and Laurence Jeanson choose to use mixed medium to create such transformations in their ID Series to highlight that ‘Real faces and Photoshop don’t mix’.

Their article got me thinking about how many of us often see ourselves in a very different way from how we are perceived by others. For those suffering with mental illnesses for example (anything from depression to bulimia to multiple personality disorder) this can be particularly true.

Given that last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week I decided to do my bit and look into how I can use my project to capture Mental Illnesses using Photography.  I haven’t decided on a concept yet but am considering using digital technology (Layers in Photoshop). The only problem with that is my limited knowledge of Photoshop.

Perhaps I should stick to Multiple Exposure instead! Here’s my first try.

Many Me1

 

Ref:

Consumed

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/10/bruno-metra-laurence-jeanson-id-photographs_n_3053816.html

 

Cruel and Tender… the final blog post

This assignment came at a rather delicate time for me as I had lost my beloved grandmother in the same month but I’m pleased to say it also helped me to deal with my own feelings of loss and sadness whilst always remembering the tender moments the ‘Queen Bee’ and I shared.

At first I tried to be impartial and stick to the brief then it became apparent to me that I wanted to explore death in pictures so I started calling local Funeral Directors, Crematoriums and Cemeteries around where I live.

Finding somewhere to visit, explore and photograph turned out to be more difficult than I had envisaged but Kingston Crematorium was kind enough to agree to my visiting so long as I was respectful of the place, its ‘residents’ and shared the photos with them.

The Research:

kingston-crematorium22

I began my research by looking into Semiotics, as suggested by Zig (see blog post here). It took me right back to when I worked in advertising. Everything had a meaning, it was meticulously thought through and placed in a certain way or in a certain colour because it had an quasi hidden meaning. Some advertising

It turns out that Semiotics itself (in my humble opinion) can be very open to interpretation. For example, it can relate to the visual language expressed in a painting, a secret message it is trying to convey in an advert or a series of codes that are completely vague to some but obvious to certain communities. Take a photo of an old woman holding a broom, for instance, we all know it is just an old woman with a broom right? But to some she might be a Witch or represent one! See how easy it can be do read something as Semiotics that may not even be there at all?

As I dug deeper into the connection between gravestones and symbolism I came across some very amusing facts, here are some of my favourite:

  • In Victorian times cemeteries were often used as picnic areas
  • Up until 18th century people were buried in their land and their grave was surrounded by iron bars to prevent them from escaping if they turned into zombies or vampires
  • Puritans often had that Skull and Crossbones put on their Headstones. It was a reminder that they had gone to Heaven but if you did not believe as they did you would go to hell. It was called a “Memento Mori” which is Latin for ‘Remember that you will die’.
  • Many gravestones face east so the deceased will raise with the sun on their rebirth day
  • It is believed that the use of tombstones started so ghosts could be weighed down.

The Test Shots – pls see here

img_8358

On my first visit I was made to feel welcome and was even blessed with the most gorgeous golden light. I spent a good couple of hours walking the grounds, taking pictures of the tombs and the flowers left by loved ones. There was something sad yet peaceful, beautiful about the place. Reading some of the inscriptions was particularly touching and I was, once again, facing my own demons that day.

 

I had lost my Nan the previous week and that same week also marked 3yrs since our lovely Hayley passed away shortly after giving birth to her 4th child. She was only 39 yrs old at the time of her passing. After 3 painful years since losing her she was finally laid to rest that same week. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you this… that was a tough week indeed.

There were a handful of photography principles I tried to follow during this shoot, there were:

  • Leading Lines – the cemetery grounds was full of paths and narrow lanes making it ideal for capturing leading lines. It also kept with the theme of ‘departure’

 

kingston-crematorium8

 

  • Follow the light – although I am always keen to shoot against the light (I love starbursts, sunbursts and shadows) the beautiful light bathed KCC in the most gorgeous colour. I felt compelled to follow the light and perpetuate that beautify, serene, early morning scene.
  • Make the Most Of The Strong Shadows – with the advantage of such great early morning light I was able to photograph images with great shadows. Shooting against the sun was particularly effective when capturing sunburst breaking through the tree branches.
  • Close Ups – once inside the chapel I tried to take a few close ups of some objects of great meaning to the setting. For example, the prayer books, the place where the coffins rest during the ceremony and even the discreet button that prompts the curtains to close around the coffin and send the coffin to the level below ready to be placed in the furnace. I also took some close up of the flowers left at the graveyard, they felt so emotional, some had already started to die and it was very much in tune with the place.

kingston-crematorium24

 

  • Candid Shots – these were taken by chance when I spotted a hurst arriving for the service. These felt very personal and I did not include them in the final images submitted for the project.

The Evaluation:

Cruel and Tender 8I was happy with my final images and have learned a fair amount about capturing emotions, solitude and sorrow.

This project helped me learn to shoot in conditions I would not shoot otherwise, take candid photos I had never thought of. I practiced both Manual shooting as well as using Aperture Priority (the sun was rising after all and the light was changing rapidly). Preparing the photos for printing was also interesting. I got it wrong a couple of times but recognized where I was going wrong – it was my light-bulb moment!

In terms of Health & Safety it is becoming ‘almost’ second nature to watch out for slippery grounds, make sure plugs, leads, wires are all out of the way. Funnily enough, footwear is also a vital part of Health & Safety, as I found out when shooting on icy roads!

The Submitted Images:

Overall I am pleased with the outcome of this project and will look back fondly on the morning I spent wandering around a cemetery!

Thanks for reading,

Paula

 

P1, P2, P3, P4, D1, D2, D3, M1, M2, M3

 

A Studio Portrait Inspired by a Classical Painting – The Final Blog

Portrait and Studio Photography does not come easy to me. I am much more comfortable shooting animals, landscapes, flowers, pets (I adore shooting pets!), sports and taking candid shots. That is perhaps the reason why it took me so long to tackle it.

mona-attempt1

My initial attempts to write about Classical Portraits and Semiotics was published a while back and can be read here. These initial posts were exploratory. I was dipping my little toes in a whole new side of photography that was pretty new to me.

For sometime I wanted to do a studio retake of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Monalisa. Da Vinci has long fascinated me, I’m convinced (and have no evidence whatsoever) that he must have been bipolar! He was just so clever, a painter, an engineer, an inventor, a mathematician, a scientist, the list goes on.

I tried my own version of Mona Lisa at home (read my post here) and had much fun BUT I felt I could  and should do more. I could do better. I wanted to do better.

I carried on researching and loved the link between Rembrandt Lighting and Hollywood Portraits that was particularly fashionable during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Again, I had to remind myself that the brief we were given was for a classical inspired studio photo and not a Hollywood shot. I decided to save that for another day.

The Rembrandt Light: the one thing Mona Lisa does not have

To achieve the ‘Rembrandt Look’ one half of the models face needs to be in full illumination whilst the other half (usually the side furthest away from the camera) is in partial shadow, with a very distinct illuminated triangle under the eye on the shadowed side.  Rembrandt lighting was “coined” after the master himself, Rembrandt, the famous 17th century Dutch Painter, who used this lighting technique to such great effect in his works of art.

There are plenty of amazing examples of Rembrandt’s work, in fact all one has to do is type ‘Chiaroscuro’ and stunning images by Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci and Caravaggio are sure to fill the screen.

Etienne AdolphThat said, I wanted something a little different for my portrait and as I researched for the ‘perfect painting’ for me I came across ‘The Femme Dans Un Manteau’ by Etienne Adolph Piot a French painter who became famous in Paris during the mid/late 1800s for painting wealthy, young and beautiful debutantes.

Contrary to the original painting, my model was a little older and I wanted a portrait that would enhance that. I also liked the idea of her wearing a spot of colour and sheen in her hood.

Having had a chance to help with the set up of other people’s project I was quite confident in setting up my own lighting this time, but I must confess when offered help I was also glad to receive it!

At first, I tried to follow the classical Rembrandt Lighting set up as shown below then adjusted it to give me the ‘look’ I was after.

Image result for rembrandt lighting setup diagram

The beauty dish was set up in the right direction and one of my helpers was holding the snoot just at the right position for me to capture the ‘chiaroscuro’ effect on Anna, my model. The light catching on her hood also made the colour pop (I was worried because chiaroscuro can be unforgiving with colours!) but I was pleased with set up.

Having taken ‘the shot’ we tried to experiment a little with colour gels but quickly dropped that idea.

With Health & Safety adhered to, the shoot went very well. I really enjoyed the session and was pleased with the result.

AnnaD2

 

 

I would like to point out at this stage that my choice of model and pose were inspired  by the classical painting and in any way made to be an exact copy. I made amendments on my set up on purpose so it would be my own take on the painting and not a copy of someone else’s work.

Personally, I rather like how it turned out.

Thanks for reading this far!

Paula, x

 

 

P1, P2, P3, P4, M1, M2, M3

References for Classical Portrait Assignment in Studio:

Still Life – The Final Blog Post

A Set Up Inspired by a Classical Painting

Further to my last post on Still Life (see here) I wanted to write one last post on this subject before I moving on just to remind me how far I have come on this project, what I have learned and how I can use this experience in future shoots of a similar nature.

The Research:

It took me pretty much the entire term to explore this theme and find a Classical Painting of Still Life that inspired me. At first I considered Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, then thought of Cezanne’s Apples but nothing was grabbing me.

Having seen Georgia O’Keefee’s work at the Tate Modern I kept thinking about doing my own shoot based on her incredible work and decided to attempt a photographic interpretation of it at home to see whether or not it would work.

With that in mind, and having done a fair amount of research online, I visited New Covent Garden Flower Marked looking for fresh flowers that resembled the female reproductive organ. Although there was plenty of choice I decided to buy Giant Italian Poppies, Orchids, Parrot Tulips and Single Tulips to carry out my test shoot at home.

Armed with a Small Portable Home Studio and 2 lights I set up the scene of my first attempt. It certainly took a fair few shots for me to figure out the best way to illuminate my subject and dramatise certain elements of the shoot i.e. the fine hairs on the petals, the way the light cast on the petals creating curves and shadows in between the petals.

At first the light was too harsh so I adjusted the strength of my flash and eventually got rid of it altogether, choosing instead a longer exposure. To avoid any possible camera shake I used a tripod and timer.

I was very pleased indeed with the result BUT realised that whilst the shoot had been a success it didn’t adhere to the assignment and it was not a true Still Life Shoot. It was time to reconsider my thinking and refocus on the assignment brief.

Time was certainly flying by and Easter was fast approaching. That’s when I decided to look into still life that included images of eggs and found there was plenty to use as inspiration.

The Technical and Practical Aspects of the Assignment:

I set the scene at college with a range of eggs in different colours and sizes. I also got fresh pasta, a pasta-making machine and a few props. My set up was meant to be soft, simple, classical and without too many distractions. I wanted to work with materials that would not cause reflection. I also wanted to include texture and muted tones in my photos.

For studio light I used a large soft box, turned the light down and asked help in partially blocking it to make it look like my set up was by a window.

Health and Safety was also paramount in this exercise as there was hazard everywhere i.e. wires, hot bulbs, trip hazards, etc. All was tucked away and kept safe during all shoots. In class Health & Safety is always a concerned with so many of us working in what can be almost pitch black. Before turning the main lights of the studio off we always make sure any potential hazard is dealt with swiftly and accordingly.

Louise the Photographer in Chief1

As far as self-evaluation is concerned, I had to print my photos a couple of times but eventually I was very pleased with the result and my college mates decided which photo I should submit as my final image.

I certainly came to understand studio lighting a little more and actually took to helping my fellow students with their own lighting and set up. Standing back from shooting to help others with their work was actually great experience for me as I could focus on the set up and not in taking photos.

It is pretty clear that no matter how much research I do or how many photography books I read, nothing beats getting ‘my hands dirty’ regardless of whether or not I am taking my own photos or helping others take theirs. All experience is great experience not matter now mundane it seems.

There is something new to learn every day, with every shoot and I still have plenty to learn.

Thank for reading,

Paula, x

P1, P2, P3, P4, M1, M2, M3

 

References: