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

 

Save

Advertisements

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:

Changing the way we look at things…

… will change the things we see

 

Take Georgia O’Keefe Flower Paintings for example, what do you see, flowers or the female reproductive organ? If you are anything like me I’d say you can’t help but see a bit of both.

When I saw Georgia O’Keefe’s exhibition at Tate Modern November last year I was totally taken by her work, I couldn’t stop staring at her paintings.

The way she captured every little detail with her paint brush was, to me at least, nothing short of mesmerising. I was in awe. Her use of light was not as impressive as Cezanne’s, Rembrant’s or Van Gogh’s yet her delicate work was striking.

Now that spring is nearly here I visited Covent Garden Flower Market in Vauxhall and picked up a handful of flowers of my own to try and challenge the way we see them. Here’s a glimpse of what I shot last night as practice for my Studio Session tomorrow.

It is fairly easy to identify the Tulip. Can you guess what the other bud is? No? I couldn’d either and I was shocked to find out it was a Poppy! Yes, Poppy buds!!! The flower market seller assured me they will open up in a couple of days and fill my vase with amazing Giant Italian Poppies.

I can hardly wait to see them 🙂

Paula, x

For we all have our mists and abysses

But I know not of such a beautiful mist as the mist that descends in the Autumn at Richmond Park and this past Sunday was no exception. Whilst the sun decided to hide for most of the day, the mist stayed giving the park the perfect backdrop to the Halloween Running Race that was taking place that morning.

After scouting for intriguing landscape angles to shoot, I had a lucky break and spotted a young female kestrel I had been trying to photograph for months. It turns out that the mist and lack of wind meant the kestrel needed to stay closer to the ground to hunt, I was delighted to be able to watch her.

A local photographer and wildlife aficcionado told me this particular female kestrel is used to being photographed so we got close and took quite a few nice shots. It was just such shame the sky was so grey.

But kestrels wasn’t the only wildlife around last Sunday. There were plenty of squirrels burying their nuts for the winter, I love watching them!

This once,  the mist and abyss that this tumour brings into my life left me and I felt free. Funny it should happen on a misty morning.

Thanks for reading.

P, x