Book cover. (Screen shot)

 

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The book will be sent to tutor for feedback and for assessment.

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Chapter: Digging for Clay

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“Sunrise at Hollyford Pottery.”

This image was a planned image of sunrise that I knew would be situated somewhere around where it is. The image is to signal the start of a new day and give the location to the days events. Graphically, I composed the image to use the lead lines to take us past the pottery and to the sunrise. I used auto white balance throughout the day as I was moving from various light sources the whole time and the chances of forgetting to alter the white balance setting were high. The ‘coldness’ of the light casts blues across the frame that complements the oranges in the sunrise.

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“It all starts with digging for clay.”

Moving in closer to the pottery – the full significance of this image becomes clearer over the next few images. The spade used to dig the clay and the basket it is carried in are in juxtaposition with the completed pots inside the pottery door. Depth of field was chosen to point to the fact that the spade and basket are the main subjects.

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“Douglas and his partner, Hannah McAndrew, who is also a potter set off to neighbouring woodland.”

Here I start to introduce the characters Douglas Fitch and Hannah McAndrew who are both well known and respected potters. They have recently embarked on a new relationship that is exciting for the pottery community – many collaborative pieces of work are to come on the market soon. This image firmly puts the pair as a couple and confirms any speculation as they set of to dig clay together in the woodland near the pottery. Douglas is carrying the spade from the previous image. Compositionally I have positioned them almost as a point image to give a sense of ‘being alone’ in the expanse of trees and the morning light. The colour of Hannah’s hair reinforces the connection that they both have with their environment. The lens focal length has condensed the distance between them and the woods.

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“Stopping to consider the beauty of the woodland stream in the morning light.”

Now in the woodland, they stop to consider the beauty of the stream and the quality of the clay after such a wet winter. The landscape is a major inspiration for Douglas and is reflected in much of his work. Technically there isn’t much to this image but the light is especially pretty and casts a hint of rim light around Hannah.

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“Douglas takes a break!”

Having seen Douglas from the back and side it was time for Douglas to engage with the camera and the opportunity came as he took a break from digging. I had aimed to get an image of the actually digging but the images were second rate. I have been unable to reshoot as Douglas is now in Scotland for a few weeks. If the book was to go to a publication then I would definitely wait for his return. I am being particularly picky but the shadow from his glasses has caused an odd effect to his eye.

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“The clay inspection reveals orange and grey hues.”

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“They return to the pottery to prepare the clay.”

Returning to Hollyford Pottery with the name of the pottery clearly visible on the door and Hannah is looking towards it. Her shadow is in the window under the sign that is symbolic of her new place here. I am not Photoshop literate but I have started to make use of the clone stamp. There was a car behind them and I am thrilled that I managed to take it out convincingly. I decided to leave the shadow from the car because anything could have cast the shadow just out of frame. I think it’s better to know when to ‘quit while you’re ahead’ with these things sometimes.

Chapter: Preparation and Throwing.

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Preparing clay. This is where my job starts to get painfully difficult. The pottery is dark with mixed light sources. It is also cramped and somewhat cluttered.   The opportunity to use any additional photographic lighting is scarce and I am about to start on my continued battle with balancing ISO, shutter speed and f stop to maintain enough DOF to have enough in focus, while making sure I don’t blur things out of recognition with a slow shutter speed. A wide-angled lens is often the only choice I have but whilst people who undertake portraiture might scoff at that, I think is enhances many of the images…. unless distortion is a personal bug-bear of yours of course! I have used the distorted lines of shelving to frame Douglas in this image and his desk light as an additional light source.

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“Twigs and leaves are removed before kneading the clay. Once blended, the clay ready for throwing.”

One of the rare times I had turned on some continuous light to bring out the texture of the clay. I remembered, whilst looking at assignment 4 reading in the book ‘Light Science and Magic’, that placing a light at approx. 45 degrees would bring out texture by enhancing shadow. Its not ideal as there are unfortunate shadows cast elsewhere but this is the nature of the beast. I am working in quick time here and there is no real time for stopping to consider the best lighting techniques. There isn’t room for reflectors.

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“After weighing, the clay is patted into shape. ”

Now the clay is ready to be thrown. There is darkness in the intensity of Douglas when he throws the clay and it’s why I have chosen to convert to black and white to help capture this. The ambient light from a window on camera right provides wonderful chiaroscuro. It’s a lighting technique that I love and have been influenced by Dutch oil painting portraiture such as any Rembrandt and also ‘A woman seated sewing’ by Johannes van der Aack over the years.It’s probably why I love the ‘noise’ from high ISO. I have discovered many artists love graininess in images and I think it come from their love of texture and materials.

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“Once placed on the wheelhead the intensity of concentration required is evident.”

Having said that I am okay with the high ISO above, it is the first time that I have been this brave with ISO but discovering a respectable DOF and shutter speed at this ISO did mean that I could expect to have both Douglas and the clay in focus with a little bit of luck. Using a DOF of less than that does mean that I have to make tough decisions. In the book a double page layout provides one mono conversion and 2 colour images (worth stating here as that element can’t be appreciated on this blog).

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There is only one chance with these images but when you get them right they look great. Keeping the hands tacks sharp and the motion in the spinning throws up some wonderful effect. Although a tripod is ideal, I find that I lose balance and trip over it so I go with ‘hand held’ approach for the most part. I’m quite certain this isn’t the best composition but, as I say, there is only one chance. I would have liked to have taken this image from the side and used his arm as a lead line but there just wasn’t the space.

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“With careful manipulation, the pot begins to emerge.”

Again, I am disappointed with the composition but the effect of the clay and the spinning I am pleased with.

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“Extra moisture is often required.”

Another problem with working alongside potter is that they never sit still and their limbs are always contorted and moving in and out of frame.

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“The shape of the piece is now forming.”

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“Douglas often uses a gas burner to speed up the process of drying.”

Both CB/66 & CB/67 shows another example of an awkwardly posed potter. However we can see the pot taking shape beautifully.

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“As the steam rises Douglas inspects the piece for any imperfections.”

With the steam rising into Douglas’s face and the callipers leading into the frame, this is one of my favourite from the set.

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Now that the pot is completed I have left it in the shot to introduce the lid being made. I have decided to drop the ISO as I can use a shallower depth of field to concentrate on the lid and hands.

 

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“The lid is made and callipers are used to ensure a good fit.”

The contrast in materials and texture coupled with repetition of curves makes for a pleasing image.

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Douglas is now just engaging with his surroundings again after an intense half an hour – a simple portrait.

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This image I am particularly pleased with. It is well balanced and everything is sharp whilst the wheel is in motion. I was able to ask Douglas to move his hand slightly to take the shadow away that was falling onto the tool.

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Also this image couldn’t have gone better. I managed to take the photograph at the point of ignition and the sparks are pushed forward and evident in the flame.

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I am thrilled to bits with this. Some might not appreciate the detached hand but the completed pot has the lid placed on top while it is still steaming. I applied an ambient silhouette light technique that I had explored briefly in assignment 4.

 

Chapter: Slip and Glaze

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“Liquid clay called slip is poured over the pot.”

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“A design is drawn through the slip to reveal the contrasting clay beneath.”

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“After the first ‘biscuit ’ firing the pot is hard enough and pourous for Douglas to pour glaze over the surface.”

The above glazing images CB/ 75,76,77,78 and 79 are what they are. I am evidently tiring at this point and struggling to be creative but they demonstrate this phase of the process adequately and capture the elements that are important to Douglas and the viewer.

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“Ready for firing.”

Now the process is completed, ready for firing. Again I have tried to apply a new lighting skill learnt in the last assignment.   I have a desk lamp high and pointing down and slightly forward to give ‘fall off’ and form to the pot.

Chapter : Wood Fired Kiln

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“The brick built kiln is packed with many other items that are ready for firing.”

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“Wood is fed in to the kiln, underneath the pots, for 20 hours until the temperature reaches 1100c. The glaze will then melt sufficiently over the surface of the pot. This is a labour intensive process.”

CB/ 81 and CB/82 were taken back in October in anticipation that I might attempt this narrative. I placed this image within research for assignment 4. Wood firing only happens twice a year and is an extremely time consuming business that requires at least 24 hours worth of attention and considerable man power from other knowledgeable people. The light cast from the kiln is beautiful but it is a potentially very hazardous hobby and there is no opportunity for additional lighting. I have used this image in the research section of assignment 4 but not as an assignment image before. I would have like to have added one more image here of the full kiln in operation but I don’t have one that was taken within the time frame allowed. In the real world I would go back through my library or wait until the next firing night.

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“After a two day anxious wait, the kiln is opened and the finished work is ready to be admired.”

Sadly the clay from the original pot was too wet to survive firing in an electric kiln. This, in true Blue Peter style, is a replica that was made a few days earlier to ensure I had a competent complete lidded jar to photograph. I thought it only appropriate that the jar should be photographed in an environment that it originated from in the evening light. The light was ideal and a relief as taking photographs of glaze isn’t a favourite pass time of mine.

Rahul Talukder – Bangladesh Sangbad 71

Rahul Talukder
P.29 The British Journal of photography.

The images can be viewed here:

http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/rahul-talukder

As I progress through this module I am realising that whilst I certainly appreciate the singular journalistic image that ‘speaks a thousand words’, I am also realising that bodies of work that tell a fuller story is my personal preferred style of presentation. A journalistic body of work of a international news line transcends language and literacy and provides a much fuller awareness of ‘the bigger picture’

I think this is probably the analyst in me coming out. I always did want to know what else was going on outside of a frame. I like to know that I am being given the chance to understand the bigger picture as it were.

In the March edition of BJP there is an article about World Press Photo Awards and on page 29 there is a body of 8 photographs taken by Rahul Talukder.
The images take us through 8 separate aspects to the Bangladesh factory collapse. I wondered why the images were presented in black and white but it didn’t take me long to realise that the addition of colour would possibly mean that the body of work wouldn’t sit so well together with too many distracting elements. Apart from the appalling scenes that I’ll come back to, the photographer has still managed to produce images that have an element of graphic design and poignancy.

The fist image gives us an elevated view of the entire scene and puts the story in context The broad street scene shows a line of buildings with the collapsed building punctuating the scene. A sea of people in the hundreds are gathered watching and waiting and the crane situated in the sea of people attempts to lift debris. Culturally this is a critical incident scene that we would not see in a developed world. The area would be cordoned and tightly controlled with emergency vehicles gathered, and family would be taken care of in a ‘holding centre’. Notably there isn’t one emergency vehicle to be seen.

Image 2, this  image takes us right into the collapsed building where rescue workers are ill equipped for the job at hand. The photographer who is himself working in extremely dangerous conditions has still managed to compose the image of the rescue workers whilst hanging over a deep shaft. The angle of  the shot gives disorientating diagonals to enhance the sense of danger…..as if watching the recue workers un roped and clambering wasn’t already enough.

Image 3 shows a lady being lifted out of the shaft screaming. A sweeping line of rescue workers with ‘hard hats’ draw the eye around the frame. All the heads are bowed down towards the female and she is punctuating the image with her face lifted.

Image 4   is of the same lady, now on a stretcher, being carried out above heads of the same workers. The eye is first drawn to the tension on the face of somebody attempting to hold oxygen mask on the ladies face..

The 5th image tells us the above lady was lucky. Three pairs of lifeless ‘laid out’ legs protrude out from the bottom of a canvas on a dusty floor. The feet, without shoes, were a few hours before  walking around the shop floor. Again the composition is simple but solid and infers that death has occurred.

Image 6 is a simple side on head portrait of a lady with her eyes closed and tears streaming down her face.

Image 7 is a wonderfully powerful example of juxtaposition. A filthy wall holds posters of missing workers “Why God?!? Why???” is scribbled on the wall. The lower half of the frame shows a distraught woman barely able to stand walking through the frame clutching close to her chest the poster of her missing member of family.

Image 8 completes the set and two ladies lie on neighbouring stretchers reaching out and holding hands. Again there is a clear use of diagonals criss crossing the frame to enhance the sense of the scene being unsettling.

Conclusion:

The test for me is this. If I couldn’t read, could I look at this set and understand what had happened, where it had happened, the train of events and the human suffering? And then, would the calibre of the photography convey the urgency and suffering that had taken place.

Here the answer is quite clearly yes. It’s a body of work I would be extremely proud to have produced.

Reference:

Unknown. (2014). See Me. British Journal of Photography. March (n/a), 29.

World Press Photo. (2014). Talukder, R. Available: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/rahul-talukder. Last accessed 30th April 2014.

RPS Lecture: Photography in a connected age.

http://www.rps.org/events/2013/november/sharing-photography-and-photographs—photography-in-a-connected-age-london.

I attended this lecture in November with The Open College of the Arts and unfortunately I was very poorly throughout. Although I had a very efficient note taker I am still unable to recall enough about the lecture to be able to describe thoroughly the concepts that were being spoken about.

The first person to speak was Roger Hargreaves and, at this point, I was still fairly attentive. He gave a very interesting insight into the role of amateur photography in the narrative of the Obama election campaign in 2007/8. For the first time amateurs were actively encourage to take photographs with there phones and professionals were all but redundant. The election campaign was based on active participation on the voter and this appealed directly to the younger audience. Campaign workers and supporters were able to upload there images on to the election website.  There were 250,000 images uploaded for the Obama campaign but only 13,000 for McCain. Interestingly the website was designed but somebody who had been involved with the development of Facebook.

To my mind the Obama campaign was radical in it’s approach to using the voter to document the campaign.  Further comment was made about the ‘dying’ photojournalism industry as editors prefer to use amateur sources.  It’s certainly cheaper but is it better?  Well I think there is certainly a place for both.

 

Jason Evans.

Oh dear. His lecture was entitled ‘Enough is enough’.

Whilst I have sympathy with much of what he was saying it was all doom and gloom and the doom and gloom started with the dire shape that photography education was in. He stated that much of the course content was too similar, borrowed from film courses and didn’t keep up with the changing landscape of photography.

He went on to say that there were no grants, industries were not investing in professional photography as amateur ‘iPhone’ images were an awful lot cheaper.

He admitted he was getting lots of his chest and one of his other gripes was a recent exhibition where people were invited to engage with the art but thought it was okay to walk away with ‘bits of it’.

I began to switch off when he went on to moan about Russians….

I am sure there are many truths in what he was saying and difficulties within the art industry but what it all had to do with sharing photographs in a digital age I am still trying to work out.

I tried hard not to get irritated but struggled.  As far as I am concerned the changes in the industry and globalisation has happened. We sink or we swim or do something about it all. Whilst it is must be very difficult for those who started out life under ‘the old watch’ we all just have to get on with it and get creative. I can’t be doing with such negativity and if he wants to give up then so be it.

Alexandra Moschovi:

Alexandra spoke about the ‘post photographic age’.

Her lecture spoke about the invention of Google glassed (the concept had been invented 20 years ago by Steve Mann).  She showed a clip of google glasses being worn during a parachute jump. (To be honest is was very similar to Go Pro video).

Alexandra spoke about the transition from a ‘point and shoot fashion’ to a ‘shoot and share ‘ era.  There was also evidence about how everybody wanted to record moments in their lives and a photograph of the 2005 papal election was shown alongside the 2013 election. In the former nobody in the audience was seen to be recording events but by 2013 the heads of the audience were replaced by a sea of mobile image capturing devices at arms length above heads.

Where photography was 20 years ago, where it is now as a visual chit chat on sites such as flickr and where photography is going with the masses in the future were spoken about eloquently and gave food for thought as to how we define ourselves as photographers within this image making frenzy.