Thursday, 23 February 2012

'Waste' Concept Update

Thought Management
Having received research from my partner from the Commission seminar task, it made me think a lot more about my idea. Anne Hardy, Mario Caicedo Langer, Matt Wain and Katie Thompson are among the artists related to my initial concept of the lack of recession for second hand buyers and how second hand products which are waste to one person are useful and loved by another.

I looked at Anne Hardy's constructed sets in relation to my very first original idea of photographing a living set up of second hand furniture placed in a random location. However, I felt this concept lacked depth because despite the location representing it's purpose in one place when it has been discarded from somewhere else, it still seemed much too random and not considerate enough. This idea would also lead to with difficulties of finding location and transport, and most importantly, the whole room of second hand furniture.

Then I considered the idea of making something useful from waste products - recyclable materials and scrap metal etc. This is exactly what Mario Caicedo Langer does; constructing ornaments or furniture and turning the theory of 'waste' around into a more positive subject along with Katie Thompson who transforms objects. I would have liked to experiment with this idea but didn't want to risk choosing it solidly for my concept in the danger that I would not be able to produce something of value to photograph and especially in enough time.

Then I really decided I wanted to focus on second hand furniture because I have a tie to it and wanted to portray a personal message through my photographs. My family have always purchased second hand furniture because it has been the best and most cost effective choice for our lifestyle. I want to portray the advantage of buying second hand and in a sense, how there is no recession for second hand buyers because the economy does not affect them in the same way it does others.

So a summary of my concept would be the availability of the second hand market and the advantage of having it in our current economy and the anonymity behind it's context; one mans trash is another mans treasure.

Visual choices
I am still playing around with a few visual ideas for my series - the composition and framing mainly and how each image in my series will work together because I want them to flow really well. This is something I failed to achieve in my last two series I presented for the Environment projects. 

My new idea is to take a set of portraits of second hand buyers with their furniture. For example, I visualise each person to be sitting and looking straight towards the camera. I have decided I will use medium format colour on my Hasselblad 500 c/m and isolate my subjects with their objects with a very shallow DOF.

I am also considering involving the subtle presence of money. For example, a small pile of notes sitting on the lap of each of my subjects. This brings in the economical advantage to buying second hand and brings a new level to my concept. I feel there would be something lacking without the presence of this, especially as the idea of second hand furniture in itself is strongly linked to money in general. I have also thought about somehow labelling the furniture with it's price which will be low and therefore give some indication to it's context and how it was not brought new. I need to go about this very carefully though as to keep the image subtle, natural and classy.

I also want to experiment with including my dog in my series who we rescued from a dog home (and in that sense is second hand) but I do not know if I want to take it that far yet.

I like Alec Soth's almost minimal style and the muted tones. The posture and pose of these subjects as well as the context of them is something I'd like to incorporate into my own series although the lighting in my images will hopefully be slightly warmer.

I would have liked to visually explore my previous ideas more, but instead I allowed myself a lot of time simply for thought and working out how they would work in my mind which is how I work comfortably. As well as this, my previous ideas are not something I could have easily and quickly have explored because they would have taken time and organisation to photograph and all to possibly just discard the idea which I would not have had time to do.

I intend to shoot at least one roll of film this weekend to experiment with how each of the elements I want to include will look. What I can make work. What I need to leave out of my series. One of the images I want to include will be taken in my own home where we have an abundance of second hand subjects and very beautiful natural light every now and again which I want to really take advantage of.

Images to come...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Research Task: Laura Dack's research for my project

Concept: the lack of a recession for the second hand market and the availability of hand-me-down products

Hardy’s work is constructed within empty spaces, repopulated with sourced second hand furnishings and objects that reanimate the ‘room’ into discombobulated, dystopian environments. The lack of displayed human interaction leaves us to create how the rooms came to be how they appear, rendering their disorientating appearance ‘dreamscapes’. Her images appear painterly, as they are constructed to be viewed purely from the camera’s vantage point, producing a purely two-dimensional environment. The images will always appear unreal or fabricated, yet the scenes depicted still ‘possess’ the space.

In looking at her work, the concept of using an object from someone else’s life to create a new pictorial one springs to mind. Second hand objects carry with them a story of their past ‘life’ and in creating new images with them it carries on both their legacy and their function. Reusing furniture reduces waste that has been created by fly-tippers, but can be used to a similar visual effect, as if they have been dropped into the scenes.

Detatched, 2009
Cell, 2004
Untitled VI, 2005

Langer works with broken gadgets, scrap metal and other unwanted waste to create a series of cyborg-style sculptural creations. He reuses a common waste product due to the vast increase in electrical consumerism and consumption in the past thirty years. The forms he creates take items that would otherwise take a lot of energy to melt down into bi-products and reform, and creates new products that can be reused in their reincarnations.

Langer’s art inspires ideas of using found, ‘unneeded’ or refused objects to create something functional once more, such as ornaments as he did, or other items such as furniture. 

Tin Man, 2009
Robo-Planter, 2011

I came across this commercial photographer when researching photographers who shoot portraits of people in their personal environments. I was drawn to using his work as an example in this research as in these shots the use of the environment expresses the idea that people have a relationship with furniture and visa versa. This made me think about the change that occurs to cast-off or second hand furniture that is bought or collected; does it lose its story/surface memory when passed from one person to another, and how does it reincorporate itself into a new environment.

Obviously the furniture in his images doesn’t suggest they are second hand but it is relevant to the portraiture theme of the project to see the relationship between subject and environment. From this I personally would be inspired to photograph the homes of those who collect second hand furniture but, unlike the work of Anne Hardy, I would have the subject in the image to draw parallels between the furniture and the owner, suggesting the personal relationship between them.

Thompson is a South African designer who fashions furniture from recycled objects, such as old suitcases, buckets and umbrellas. The pieces she creates have a vintage finish to them, showing that recycled goods can seem upmarket and need a second glance to notice why they have a quirky edge to them, rather than old rusty objects cluttering up gutters. The concept of recycling objects before they decompose or lay waste in a rubbish dump is a fast growing concept and many boutiques offer these kinds of products.

My research has inspired me to come up with an idea to collect objects from people I know and from fly tipping that are no longer wanted or needed to craft a new environment in a studio. Although overly ambitious, this is what my visual concept would start out as:

I would use these objects to reconstruct either a 360˚/270˚ scene of a room, or multiple single vantage point scenes of a room, and photograph various parts of the scene to create various narratives about the suggested inhabitant of the scene. I would construct furniture in the style of Katie Thompson, by using bits of furniture and other objects. I would be tempted to pastiche the dystopian backdrops of Anne Hardy’s work and also her use of hanging objects to fill the room so that no part of the image(s) is empty.  

If I were to create just one scene, I would shoot it from various angles with a shallow depth of field focusing on the key item in each image, which I would intend on basing a story around.

If three separate scenes were created, I would shoot with a large depth of field to emphasise the sheer amount of objects, as I would aim to cram a lot into one area, creating jumble heaps, much like scenes in the movie Labyrinth in the junk yard where children’s forgotten things end up.

I would light it with the studio’s own continuous overhead tungsten lighting and use a softbox flash, to recreate interior lighting and a natural light source like a window to highlight some objects, possibly coming through a fake window.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Research Task: My research for Laura Dack's project

My research for Laura Dack's project.
Basic concept: the rate of decay and consumption concerning waste.


David Maisel
David Maisel is a perfect visual reference for the aspect of decay in this concept in terms of both still life and landscapes and he would definitely be an influence of mine. Popular work of his comes in the form of the still life images he has produced from photographing copper canisters originally kept at the Oregon State Insane Asylum (where 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' was filmed in 1975). 

Having looked into these photographs, I discovered that the copper of the containers reacted with water when they were kept in an underground archive at the asylum which flooded numerous times over a number of decades. This is what caused the different formations and colours on the cans during their time in the depository where they were left. The canisters contain ashes of patients who were never claimed by anyone. Each can is individual and unique, just like we are. Metaphorically these cans become almost like portraits of the people who's ashes reside inside.

"These deformations sometimes evoke the celestial - the northern lights, the moons of some alien planet, or constellations in the night sky. Sublimely beautiful, yet disquieting, the enigmatic photographs in Library of Dust are meditations on issues of matter and spirit."

As is evident from the above photograph, Maisel uses a very shallow depth of field which highlights detail in the formations; similarly to how a portrait photographer may use a very shallow DOF to focus on the eyes of their subject to highlight their importance. Maybe Maisel is trying to say something about these people through representing the cans in this way specifically.

Despite the nature of the objects and the negative connotations linked to them through their origin, the subjects in their present form are strangely beautiful. The shallow DOF aids this but it is predominantly the colour and detail in the photographs that makes them so.

Maisel’s 'Library of Dust' monograph was called “a fevered meditation on memory, loss, and the uncanny monuments we sometimes recover about what has gone before" by The New York Times.


From looking at the interior images of the Asylum taken by Maisel, vibrant colour and either natural light or light coming specifically from lightbulbs seems to run through all of his images in this body of work. To me this makes them striking just like his photographs of the canisters.

There is something strange about the beautiful natural light coming in from the windows and the brightly painted walls when perceiving this in context - this is a stark juxtaposition with the nature of the location and it's history although this is displayed visually also through the peeling paint and random rubble carpeting these same rooms. I personally really like these photographs. Both elements photographed of the Asylum - the canisters and interiors and part of Maisel's body of work 'Library of Dust'.

The DOF used for the photographs of the interiors is larger than that of the canisters. This allows the details of the peeling walls and the dirt lining the edges of the room to retain their detail as these are important aspects of the photos visual elements and meaning. The natural aesthetics that both sets of these photographs take on are something that can be used in your own project to help structure it. It makes them more relatable in the sense of their realism and also how we often strive for beauty.


Robert Polidori
Robert Polidori has created photographs of destroyed interiors after the New Orleans flood, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and photographed buildings greatly affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The visual approach to his images are similar in a way to Maisel's. The buildings are adorned with bright colours despite the negative context they are in.

It is said that "Polidori transcends the limits of photography and captures traces of the human condition — paradoxically, in places that have usually been abandoned and are devoid of human presence. Each photograph amounts to a social portrait, revealing the soul of its various subjects, and layering both past and present in poignant works steeped in sorrow and beauty."

The theme of decay is as much evident in these images as Maisel's asylum work. I get the impression more from Maisel's series that these places have been abandoned for a long time which supports the concept of the rate of decay specifically. However, Polidori's seem more like it is simply documenting the stare of these interiors.

Other similarities between the two interior works which I feel work very well are:
  • the large depth of field displaying the detail of the decay and allowing all aspects of the images to become equal in importance (and for the scenes to be viewed as a whole).
  • The seemingly natural light providing some beauty to the devastating scenes.

Andreas Gursky

A good photographer to look at in terms of consumption which his project particularly his 99-cent work. He photographs things on a large scale, which would relate to a theme of a fast rate of consumption.




I would chose to portray this concept though landscape or the interiors of decaying buildings because these can look very effective when the decay is displayed through a large scale. However, a smaller still life could be very intimate and more personal just as Maisel's canisters are.

Specifically photographing buildings after certain events when the times of the event and the time of the photograph being taken are known, relates to the 'rate' of the decay. As well as decay, the theme of consumption could be portrayed through photographs of commercial interiors such as shops and supermarkets. Utilising a long exposure time and therefore blurring movement of people could represent the rate of consumption also.


 the viewer

I would personally use a large DOF to include all the detail of the scenes and to equalise it; just as Maisel and Polidori to avoid isolating importance to certain parts of the focus. I would most likely use a large format camera with a wide-angle lens for optimum detail.


be (composition, objects/subjects 

This would depend mainly on whether the theme of decay or consumption is chosen. I feel taking a similar approach to Gursky and photographing consumer related interiors relates well to the specific rate of things occurring (such as consumption). In this case I would try to include as many materialistic objects like food and general shopping items into my photographs as possible.

However, I think the rate of decay is even more interesting. The rate specifically of decay may be hard to represent. Possibly just the theory of decay due to certain circumstances would also work. These circumstances being things like natural disasters that Polidori works with.


lighting, camera
  • I would choose to use a large DOF as I’ve already mentioned and have the whole photograph in focus.
  • I would take the photographs from a medium distance if working with decay to involve much of the scene. It is not a macro image but in the case of the rate of consumerism, a further distance away would work a lot better to include as much repetitiveness of objects (and possibly people) as possible in the images.
  • I love the look of the natural looking light if taking the route of the abandoned and decaying urban buildings – it contrasts so greatly. Artificial lighting seems to relate very well to the concept of consumerism.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Fashion: constructed image - Our Concept (updated)

Originally written by Joe Borsos.

For our constructed image we decided that we wanted to look at the element of duality. We started with this idea so that we could construct a more complex narrative to portray interlaced binary opposites. This lead us to construct our narrative around the ‘American Dream’.

The concept of showing this idea of a duality to the American Dream, is to use the stereotypical signifiers of the ‘perfect American lifestyle’ but our narrative would subtly also portray the extreme ‘dark side’ to this concept of ‘American Perfection’.

The visual focus of this shoot will be tailored predominately to the 1950’s America. We made this choice as the high point of the American Dream and it’s most iconic propaganda campaigns are post world war II, starting in the late 40’s and 50’s.

Our set build will be of the typical 1950’s family dining room, as the dining room is the heart of the family life. It is where the family meet every day, to share their home cooked meal and bond together.
Looking at the concept of ‘Blue Velvet’, there is the idea that behind the white picket fence, past the perfect mowed lawn, there exists an incredibly dark and twisted life that is hidden from the world behind this mask of consumerism.

Our narrative will look at the American mother, as the mother is the one that keeps the house clean and in perfect order and prepares the meal to hold the family together. Our perfect American mother however, will be replaced by a lonely woman gone insane and delusional through her obsession with the ‘American Dream’; desperately attempting to pursue this. She has set up the full family dining room ready for dinner but she has no family. She has masked herself and life in the products of the American Dream to the extent where even her skin and posture will appear fake, and constructed, to show a loss of the human side to this consumerists’ dream.

Looking at other films like ‘American Beauty’, ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Fight Club, we wish to take their concepts of obsession with possessions, with the material objects, and in this action the possessions consume the consumer, and they lose sight of meaning in their self identity until they are no longer human. Another visual and concept film reference is 'Donnie Darko' for it's physiological aspects much like that of 'Fight Club'.

We will move away from the concepts of photographer’s like Gregory Crewdson and take elements of the lighting concepts of Finaly Mckay, where everything is lit meticulously to eliminate all shadows, making the person appear plastic.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

'The Portrait Issue' Research Task

'Changing Pace, David Weir', Finlay MacKay

Aesthetically, this image of David Weir, photographed by Finlay MacKay is very vibrant in colour. There is a great sense of movement in the photograph which is created by many things: the left leaning tree; the shape of the winding road expanding in the foreground; the posture of Weir, leaning into the speed. This is an effective element of the photograph due to the fact that it is part of a commission for the 2012 Olympics. The theme fits in very well.

Judging by the shadow, the photograph was probably taken late afternoon. MacKay has used strobe lighting which casts strong light over his subject causing him to stand out. This method means the viewer can pick him out of the photograph as important which he rightly is. The tonal range is great, with the highlights on the subject down to the dark trunks and shadows beneath the trees in the background. The DOF is large as most of the image is sharp. I might have expected a shallower depth of field to pick out Weir from the image so the viewer can focus more of their attention on him.

The photograph has been taken from a regular eye level view, from a point not too far ahead of Weir so in a sense we see him approaching us - further adding to the sense of movement evident in the image already. MacKay favours 80mm and 50mm lenses. This particular photograph has most likely been taken with an 80mm lens.

MacKay's photographic technique is creative because he has stitched together multiple digital images to make this final photograph. Similarly, for his first commercial campaign which was in 2002, MacKay used multiple negatives to produce his final image.

'Actual Life', Toby Glanville

Glanville took his series 'Actual Life' over a period of 3 years (1997-2000). He has an eye for integrity; things unaffected by commercialisation which is very evident in this image of his from the series simply through it's aesthetics.

The concept of the image seems to be a portrayal of a 'real' woman, caught as she's doing what she does every day, therefore it is 'actual life'. Judging by her clothing and the environment and context of the photograph, it looks like this woman is a teacher.

Glanville's single subject stands almost completely in the middle of his frame, just as MacKay's subject is. She is looking straight into the camera which Glanville obviously has held to his face for us as a viewer to see this woman with equality. There are no feelings on either side of superiority or inferiority. The expression on her face is natural and friendly and her pose seems her own.

The lighting in the photograph looks very natural, coming in though the window on the right. We can see the shadow of the window and blinds projected into the board behind the woman which is joined by her shadow. This and the highlight on the side of her face prove a good tonal range although the shadows aren't extremely dark or the highlights extremely bright. The soft lighting seems to relate well to Glanville's subject and the idea she is portraying of herself through her pose and expression. The depth of field is also quite large, like MacKay's. Both images portray a lot of detail to the viewer.

A big difference between the two images of Glanville's and MacKay's which jumps out at me is that of the camera position and how although the movement in the first seems to guide the subject towards us, we have no real connection to him like we do in Glanville's where the woman is making eye contact. This may cause some people to feel a lot more like they can relate to her with this connection and I think any other pose wouldn't work as well or be as effective as this one. This leads me to believe that the visual approach Glanville has employed means the viewer can read into the image in their own way; based on agenda background and identity more so than MacKay's or Gebert's.

'Freischneider', Ulrich Gebert

This is a portrait of a hedge cutter in his uniform and protective clothing out of context from his 'garden' as such. The significance of this separation is that "physical confrontation between man and nature is hardly necessary anymore to validate the claim to power". However, it also causes some confusion because the man has been taken out of context.

The prime similarities between the three photographs are the use of a single subject and the use of colour.

The gaze of the subject is very different in each. We only have eye contact with Glanville's subject like a traditional portrait which makes the photograph have a more emotional outreach to the viewer. And Glanville is fond of the traditional. The gaze of MacKay's subject is very much concentrated on his task which is what we notice about the photograph - what he is doing and how. Lastly, the gaze of Gebert's subject is elsewhere like he has been snapped unaware. He has a very focussed expression on his face.

The framing of Gebert's image is not at all like MacKay's and Glanville's who do not take their subject out of context as Gebert has done. We wonder what the subject is looking at. The camera position is quite close to the subject, much closer than Glanville's and MacKay's who are appearing to have more similarities. The depth of field is large - just as in the previous two photographs and we can see all the detail in the face of the man and his clothing. The photograph has been taken using a flash which creates the bright highlights. There are some shadows however and the tonal range is about average.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

'Waste' Brainstorming and Initial Ideas

Brainstorming ideas for our current 'Waste' project

After our lecture about our new project in which I took down general notes about waste, names of photographers linked to photographing waste and some definitions of the word, I put these together in a diagram along with some random ideas I could use for the project.

Through writing down all my notes and additional research I did in one place I was able to look at it all together and draw links between things which I have highlighted in yellow. I also highlighted the photographers who's work I admired the most.

How I came to my idea...
I considered waste more metaphorically like 'a waste of space' or a 'waste of time' and considered finding uncultivated land to take a series of landscapes of which could be given more purpose; it being a waste of space just as it is.

While also planning on going to my local tip and photographing the organisation of waste and recycling I suddenly imagined an empty field accompanied by a living set up - an old sofa and chair, old television and rug etc., some things which you might find in a tip that people have got rid of for whatever reason. They will be arranged as if they are in a real room and they are in use but there will be no physical room (no walls, roof or floor). A set made up of things people discard because they don't want them anymore despite the fact they can still serve a purpose. I want the significance of them being out of place - in a field - to represent how things can be put to use somewhere else if they are unwanted in one place, no matter where. Taking the objects out of context highlights how their purpose is versatile. "One man's trash is another man's treasure" after all. This also links well with the fact that waste is directly linked to human development.

Visual references and inspiration
I wrote down the names of the photographers we had been advised to look at concerning waste as a theme when I first started brainstorming. I particularly liked Anne Hardy's constructed rooms of things she had collected; deemed 'waste' by others. However, I thought recreating something similar would take too long and for this reason would not be a wise path to take. Her photographs are a particular visual reference as I aim to do a similar thing but outside a room and with more solid objects but less collectable things.

Other concepts I was interested in
I thought about using recyclable objects or general scrap to build something useful - something like a dog kennel, and photograph this. This would show the versatile aspect of things people throw away.

I also liked the idea of 'waste' being defined as a noun, particularly: "to wear down or reduce in bodily substance, health or strength" which considers the idea of waste more metaphorically.

Fashion: constructed image - Our Concept (Film)

Since being assigned the brief for our constructed fashion image project, we have been developing our idea and researching concepts for a week now.

We spent 2 days producing A2 mood boards full of visual references that related to our chosen category - film. We had a range of images involved in our findings from black and white surrealist film stills to fashion images of Tim Walkers' to a number of images involving hoarding and collections dealing with the obsessive side of personalities. Having such a vast range of references was good and bad. We had a bigger choice but then we had to narrow it down a lot to what we really wanted our image to be about.

Upon displaying our presentation on Friday, we have realised we still need to make a lot of decisions about our narrative, aesthetics and the general photographic choices we will employ for our final image. We will also refine our idea, which is explained in our presentation below:

video coming