Assignment 5: Introduction, Self – Assessment, Bibliography and Tutor’s comment.

This is the final assignment for The Art of Photography and I am quite sad about that. It has been an amazing journey that I started out on with trepidation but now I have relaxed into an amazing learning curve.

The full size photographs will be found on my learning log on the links below. I have also compiled a Blurb book so that the full experience of narrative and illustration could be explored and presented. This will be sent to my tutor and be available at formal assessment.

My choice of narrative and illustration is based on one well-respected potter Douglas Fitch and also making an appearance is his partner Hannah McAndrew who is also another respected potter. My self-imposed brief was three-fold. Firstly I wanted to achieve a dawn to dusk / ground to finished piece of work in one day. That was a very tall order and I have never attempted anything like it before. I also wanted to appeal to the customers and followers of this charming couple at the start of what is an exciting new relationship. Last of all I wanted this to perhaps have potential to be used as an education tool within some adult education environments. A cursory look around the Internet only served to confirm a suspicion that adults with reading difficulties have to use children’s’ books. This is, perhaps, something for me to revisit further along in my studies.

My self-assessment further on and the learning log blog will explain the thought processes that went into this assignment.

Links:

Research:

https://cmacfarlane2010.wordpress.com/category/art-of-photography-part-5-research/

Exercises:

https://cmacfarlane2010.wordpress.com/category/art-of-photography-part-5-exercises/

Exhibitions and lectures:

https://cmacfarlane2010.wordpress.com/category/exhibitions-and-lectures/

Assignment:

https://cmacfarlane2010.wordpress.com/category/assignment-5-aop-narrative/

 

 Self-Assessment.

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this last module of The Art of Photography that has introduced us to the concepts of narrative and illustration. I found a couple of the exercises challenging as I don’t respond well to creating photographs for tight briefs. Although I do realise that the exercises that challenge me are the ones that I stand to gain the most from

 

I am identifying my strengths and weaknesses; and my strengths seem to be within responding to something that is happening rather than creating an image to a tight brief. Some people might take issue with that as they might think that it lacks creativity, planning and execution. Personally I just think it is a case of ‘horses for courses’. Being a documentary photographer or providing supporting images for narrative often requires the ability to work intuitively and also to adapt quickly to change by bringing together technical and compositional skills. Also a documentary photographer has to be mindful of the dynamics of any given situation and their own safety. There is no time for lengthy conscious thought in many cases. Documentary/ Photojournalistic photography can also mean working in some less than ideal circumstance. Some might argue that by responding so quickly, one is merely snapping and I guess some people do but sweeping generalisations should be put aside and considered from case to case. I refer to my research into Rahul Talukder to demonstrate this. (See learning log.)

 

I considered how to present my work carefully and in the end decided that presenting my work in a magazine format would be a time a consuming activity that probably wouldn’t do my work any justice anyway and also require strength in journalistic writing. Finally, I’d need to engage in appropriate software training that would take time away from the actual photography. I found the Blurb format far more intuitive and I can envisage using this in the future with similar documentary work. (I am very disappointed with myself that there are two errors in the text but this would obviously be put right in before ‘putting out’ . In this world it has cost £30 and also took 10 days to arrive here after ordering. I will just have to live with it for assessment. Lesson well learnt though.)

 

The mix of black and white conversions alongside colour images is used as a tool to enhance what I am trying to convey in each image. The conversions are about intensity and atmosphere and the colour images are about the textures, colours and movement. In the book the images sit with a conversion on page and colour on the opposite page.

 

I have tried to bring in lots of different skills that we have covered in the course. There is evidence of controlled lighting, shutter speeds, juxtaposition, thought to graphic design and a little colour theory. Exploring colour theory in this context wasn’t the primary aim though.

Bibliography:

Unknown. (2011). Pyramids by Manuel Alvaraz Diestro. Available: http://www.dezeen.com/2011/10/26/pyramids-by-manuel-alvarez-diestro/. Last accessed 02/04/2014.

Unknown. (2014). Juxtaposition. Available: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/juxtaposition. Last accessed 01/04/2014.

Dunlop,J. (2014). How to use Juxtaposition effectively in photo’s. Available: http://www.expertphotography.com/advanced-composition-techniques-juxtaposition/. Last accessed 01/04/2014.

White, T. (Unknown). How To Get Started With Adobe InDesign – 10 Things People Want to Know.. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzE6nZofaI0. Last accessed 01/04/2014.

Maloof Collection. (2014). Vivian Maier (Street 1). Available: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/street-1/#slide-18. Last accessed 02/04/2014.

Campbell,D. (2010). Visual storytelling: creative practice and criticism.Available: http://www.david-campbell.org/2010/11/18/photography-and-narrative/. Last accessed 06/04/2014.

Boswell, B. (Unknown). Michael Cardew. Available: http://www.benboswell.co.uk/photography.php. Last accessed 16th April 2014.

Unknown. (Unknown). An interview with Anotnio Almos. Available: http://www.documentaryphotoreview.com/podcasts/podcast-an-interview-with-antonio-olmos/. Last accessed 20th April 2014.

Podcast:

Albos, A. (2012). The Landscape of Murder. Available: http://thelandscapeofmurder.wordpress.com. Last accessed 20th April 2014.

Journals / books:

Ismay,W.A. (1983). Kindred Pots. Crafts. 63 (July/ August), 40 – 41.

Seabourne, M & Sparham, A (2011). London Street Photography. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing/ Museum of London. 24,86,87,95,103-111.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This image isn’t an assignment image but a metering snap taken that I thought would be useful to communicate the conditions  of the pottery studio.

 

Tutor Comments:

Overall Comments

 Congratulations and very well done for completing the course. You have gone from strength to strength, and there is a clear voice emerging in your work. You have worked exceptionally hard, demonstrated a high level of proactivity in every area, research, creative application and technical knowledge, and the level of documentation and reflection in each assignment has been of a consistently high standard. For each assignment you have chosen a challenging subject to ensure a continual process of learning and personal progress and for this final piece of work in Narrative and Illustration, ‘Elements of a Pot’, you produce a beautifully presented study of the work of a potter through the creation of a single pot.

You submitted a range of work for the assignment including a Photobook, and individual files of your reflection, learning log, and research.

The subject for this assignment is a good choice, allowing you to have a degree of control in the environment, an opportunity to communicate closely throughout the process with the craftsman, and the challenge of working in a confined space where the opportunity for a wide variation of images is not easy to produce.

There are over thirty images, producing a comprehensive and detailed documentation of the process and this is excellent work. You also mix colour with black and white, and I’m while not convinced that this is a good approach when working with a single subject in a narrative form, it’s good that you explore and demonstrate your ability with that technique here. Also I note that in the book they are on opposite pages and complement each other very well.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Narrative and Illustration

 This is quite a conventional interpretation of narrative, the ‘dawn to dusk’ approach works very well, and holds the dual timeframe – temporal and practical – together. While the image quality is excellent, and the process of the making of this pot covered in great detail, the character of the craftsman is less evident. I thought you might have explored this further after including the two images of Fitch with his partner Hannah, in the opening pages. In your notes you reveal that there were several aims, ambitious, but I would be wary of trying to do too much.

I’m not going to comment on all the shots here, as some are ‘procedural’ and similar in composition.

You set up the context nicely with the dawn exterior of the workshop, capturing the ambience of the new day and the creative process ahead.

Looking at both the print in the book and the digital original online, I think the colour is a touch too saturated and the contrast a little high.

 

You take us closer to the pottery, a glimpse of his work inside, and a foreground detail of the special spade that he’ll use for digging clay – a little contrived, maybe, but it does the job.

 

You capture a sense of intimacy in the following shot (even though it’s from the back…) and again in the next, although this doesn’t really add to the story, I feel. There’s a good detail image of the material and you capture the texture and mass nicely. And the shot of them carrying the clay back to the pottery continues the narrative well – watch out for the ‘symbolism’ stuff…

Now the story of the pot really begins with Fitch preparing the clay and then at the wheel. You cover this well and get a feel for the, material and the process, not easy because this is a very tactile process and there is a lot of motion involved. The images are well composed given the limitations of space; the colour and textural details are very good indeed. The natural available light works better than the artificial, but including the practical lamp helps define the temperature and source.

Now you faced a challenge in getting a sequence that documents clearly the throwing process, and this works well, you have to sacrifice composition in situations like this, unless you have the opportunity to return and follow the process again, but it’s the documentation that is important here. The lighting on these shots is a bot mixed, and it’s further ‘confused’ by the mixture of colour and monochrome; the latter offers much more in the way of definition, contrast and atmosphere.

The blue gas flame is nicely captured in contrast to the cool setting and the following image with the pot ‘steaming’ is quite unusual.

You follow a similar process until he takes a short break from his work and offer a portrait. I think here, I would go back to my opening comment about capturing more of his character, and I would try to find a more relaxed situation that offers more of his personality away from the wheel.

I too, like the shot of the pot with Fitch’s hand on the lid and the wisp of steam to the top left. It has a sense of mystery, an artifact shaped from clay, something from nothing..

The exterior shot of applying glaze works really well because it offers more of an opportunity to see the potter in his working gear and the little eccentricities, feather and sandals. Again you capture the materials (slip glaze) very well making good use of light, and the application of design and a further coat of glaze comes across well in this sequence of shots.

The form and shape of the pre-fired vessel is good, using your knowledge of lighting to get the right angle for the lamp. It’s interesting that you include the stand as well, a nice touch I think, showing the working tools of the craftsman.

The kiln interior is a difficult shot to get right, but this does the job.

The following shot is full of atmosphere, and here you have a choice of focal plane; this one works, and I think a deeper one, in the kiln, would work too.

The final ‘one I made earlier’ shot works very well, with the glaze and design well rendered here. The natural light, and carefully selected setting works very well for this vessel with its delicate design and subtle colours.

You don’t include any notes about the final shot – the back cover image – but it closes the set very well, with a strong evening ambience.

As a final note, this is a very good set of images and you produce a strong visual documentation of the process of a pot being made.

While you introduce an element of background relationship at the beginning, you don’t follow this through, and the set would benefit from a couple of shots that reveal more of Fitch’s character and perhaps his other work.

You final reflective notes are detailed and informative, and you articulate your ideas about the documentary photographer very well. I agree with your comments.

Learning Log

Your log throughout the course has been excellent, going way beyond the exercises and including a good deal of detail about independent research and a high level of commitment. You document your research once more very well here.

Response:

I am thrilled that the feedback is as positive as it is.

There were a few points made:

‘Over saturation in one of the images.’

Yes, on reflection, it certainly is slightly over saturated and the point is taken.

‘Mixed light sources ‘confusing’ the images’

This is a constant problem for every photographer that has ever worked in the pottery. Day light, fluorescent and tungsten are all there to battle with. I am satisfied that I have overcome the problems as well as they can be and my results are comparable to others that have walked before me.

‘character of the potter’

I’m not sure that I agree but perhaps in the next module ‘People and Place’ I will explore standard portraiture more and come to another conclusion. I am not confident in ‘normal’ portraiture so this is something for the future.
Other feedback:
The local college are interested in the concept of illustrative education and have praised the book. They suggested that taking out all text would be better for their use.

Douglas Fitch is thrilled with the book and, now the assignment is finished, we will now work together to adjust it ready for availability to customers and I am thrilled that he has asked for the work to become available.

Advertisements

Chapter: Digging for Clay

CB/52

_DSC4848-Edit PSE-2

“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.

CB/53

_DSC4982-Edit PSE-Edit PSE-2

“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.

CB/54

Image

“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.

CB/55

Image

“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.

CB/56

Image

“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.

CB/57

Image

“The clay inspection reveals orange and grey hues.”

CB/58

Image

“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.

CB/59

Image

 

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.

CB/60

Image

“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.

CB/61

Image

“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.

CB/62

Image

“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).

CB/63

Image

 

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.

CB/64

Image

“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.

CB/65

Image

“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.

CB/66

Image

“The shape of the piece is now forming.”

CB/67

Image

“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.

CB/68

Image

“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.

CB/69

Image

 

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.

 

CB/70

Image

“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.

CB/71

Image

 

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

CB/72

Image

 

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.

CB/73

Image

 

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.

CB/74

Image

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

CB/75.

Image

CB76

Image

 

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

CB/77

Image

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

CB/78

Image

 

CB/79

Image

“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.

CB/80

Image

 

“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

CB/81

Image

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

CB/82

Image

“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.

CB/83

Image

“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.