Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Materials, Techniques and Processes - Disposable cameras

Many of the new 2016/17 BTEC Units require students to work with, explore, use and identify the use of Materials, Techniques and Processes (MTP's). P.S. Add equipment to that as well.

What options are there and what can you do?

Use your digital camera at the start as a note book rather than the equipment that you produce your interim and final images on.

Across any unit that requires the use of MTP's aim to use as many different types of camera in the production of your project to demonstrate control and use of a range of camera (You are aiming to be a photographer after all)! The options include...

Disposable cameras
The use of these cameras will get you using a very basic method of shooting that produces 24 colour prints. The film inside the camera differs from camera to camera giving you the opportunity to then research the films characteristics and properties via the films. Once you know what the film is inside the camera, search using the name of the film in Google followed by "Product data sheet"...
Fuji Reala Product data sheet
Then click on one of the PDF files that you're presented with. Print this off, read through it and use the general information about the films properties and characteristics. (Write up in your own language). Similarly do the same for the camera as the camera will have limitations that you need to be aware of before using. See here 

So for instance around Feb/Mar time our students have to shoot a brief where they produce a Typology of small buildings and structures. Ideally this is one of the easier methods to use to start the project and whilst shooting on this camera they can potentially shoot the images on their Mobile Phone cameras and do a very similar things side by side. At this stage these are just test shoots that they use to explore the idea and develop the approach that they might use towards the end of the project when they then need to print the images in a digital photobook.

What you should do...

1. Plan and propose...

Explain what you're going to do, usually it's a good idea to be flexible with your initial idea. You know you're going to shoot for instance bus stops, corner shops, pubs or similar, but once you start you may change your idea realising that another option might be more realistic or better. In your plan say when you're going to do it, what type of light your hoping to shoot in (you could include weather reports), what problems you envisage, how you might compose the images (use a diagram), what camera you're going to use and why, how you might use it, what you're going to be taking pictures of and how quickly you hope to turn this part of the project around. Personally I'd advise shooting the images in one day and get it processed the next and then get in your sketchbook the same day - again this can be a part of your plan.

2. Shoot the images...

Go out and shoot the images - experiment with the idea, shoot some upright, some horizontal, some close up, some further away, remember at this stage you're just experimenting and coming up with ideas, it doesn't have to be right, this is just a test. The important thing is you're trying things out and experiencing different ways of making images and looking at  the potential of this method. Try and get all of the images shot - don't waste the film and if necessary shoot a different theme or idea if you run out of subject matter.

3. Process the film

Get it back to the *shop or lab you bought it from and have it processed as soon as you can. If they ask if you want it digitized say no, you just want the prints and the negatives. *Boots is probably the best and most efficient at this.

4. Put the images in your sketchbook folder.

As soon as you can get the images stick them in your book. Don't necessarily stick every single image in the book, just those that allow you to show what you've done and have been successful. Include those that haven't been successful, but don't dwell on failures too much. Annotate the images if you feel compelled to do so, but keep annotations brief because the important part is yet to be done. It's useful if you number the images too.

5. Reflect on your work using the Gibbs method.

This is the important bit, this is where you need to look at the Unit criteria and start to write up your Gibbs reflection looking to address the criteria. The first sections of the Gibbs cycle see below...
Description, feelings and evaluation can be written up with just 2 or 3 paragraphs each, but the bit you need to focus on and write up in detail is the analysis section. Suggestions as to what you might write definitely need to include discussing expectations based on the camera and the films product data. The manufacturers say the camera and film will do x, y and z, but what is your experience now having used it?
Observations relating to Parallax error - is your thumb over the images - why?
Upright or horizontal - what worked best why?
Could the images be cropped square - consider Photobook format?
How did the camera cope with the light - exposure?
How did the light effect the image - what might you need to consider during subsequent shoots?
Do the prints show the characteristics as described in the product data sheets?
Do your images or the approach you've used look anything like the images/photographers you've researched, what aspect of their work/approach have you tried to include?
Discuss the context of your research and your images that you're now making - why might these images be interesting as a final product, what's the potential of your project?
Are you images affected by converging verticals - does it matter - what might you do to alleviate this issue?
What is the print quality like of the prints - could they be enlarged?
What do you reckon to these cameras - do they have any potential - explain?
Conclusion - Keep this simple or omit if you've drawn conclusions in your analysis.
Plan the next shoot using a different camera and repeat the process again.

Contextual Influences BTEC and UAL level 3 Art and Design

Contextual Influences

If you're looking to attain good grades in your Art and Design course, one area that you need to demonstrate that you've investigated and learned about is the contextual aspects. This is one of the aspects of your research that you normally have to read more to grasp and make sense of and therefore will gain you additional points as such. More importantly it leads you to looking at wider subjects and therefore accelerates your learning.

Currently for what I teach (Photography) I break it down into 3 sections...
  • Operational context.
  • Historical context.
  • Zeitgeist context.

(1). Operational Context – This is where you identify and explain the working context; is the work you’re looking at art photography/personal work where the photographer/artist has full control over every aspect of the process, chooses the subject and Materials, Techniques and Processes and the work is usually produced over months and years. Or is it Commissioned Photography/Art where the work is done to a brief set by someone else (Client/ad agency) using MTP’s that they stipulate and is produced within a time scale and you’re paid a set wage for producing the work for them. Or is it Amateur work – where it’s done for pleasure and isn’t usually sold to provide a living wage for the artists/photographer?

(2). Historical Context – This is where you read about the photographer – interviews or critical reviews and discover who the photographer is influenced by. Using the images of the artist/photographer that they are influenced by, you have to identify connections and look to see if this is a re-occurring theme within the art/photography world.  Is it being used in similar ways historically? Ideally you should make direct connections with other forms of art especially paintings.
For an example in practice see here (Note the inclusion of the older images alongside the main Testino images) http://southendasphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/how-to-put-together-your-research-for.html
See this example below...
The most recent image (A) is a Mario Testino image from Vogue 2011. (B) Is a David Bailey image from the mid 1960's and (C) Is a Jan Van Eyck painting from 1434 "Arnolfini Wedding".
You can see that there is potential to refer to all of the images if you're looking at any of them because of their similarities. The Testino image no doubt refers to Van Eyck as they not only reference the pose, but also the clothing and the whole 'Dutch Old Masters' theme. Whether Bailey referenced Van Eyck is speculation, but as a student, if you're making these speculative comparisons, what it demonstrates is a very broad knowledge of both art and photography showing how one can influence another. Not only that, it also demonstrates you're looking at important historical art and photography as opposed to images and photographers of no consequence whatsoever.
The key point here is that if you were to research any of these artists/photographers you would find endless research material from which you would potentially learn a great deal. By delving a little deeper for instance into David Bailey, you might then start to learn about the things that were happening around him at the time in wider society...

(3). Zeitgeist Context – This is where you examine the photography/photographer and look to evidence that the work has been produced in response to something that is happening now as opposed to events happening at the time when the work was being produced (Historical). You might look specifically at political, social, environmental or cultural events that may have shaping or inspiring the photography in some way.

As an example when writing Donald Trump rescinded on some of the measures that Obama had started to implement with regards to oil exploration in Alaska and Dakota. There were concerns about the rights of Indigenous North American Indians and the fact that a pipeline was due to be built within their homelands. Oil as you’re probably aware is one of Ed Burtynsky’s main themes in his photography, so there’s the potential to look into this further and make connections between Ed Burtynsky’s concerns and work and the events unfolding off the back of Trumps presidency and seeming disregard for the environment.

This may then lead you into delving into what was the trigger for Burtynsky – what inspired him to produce the Oil project? Is Burtynsky still working with the theme Oil, or has someone else taken up the challenge, or is this a theme that you might like to explore more locally?
Conclusion - The conclusion you need to draw from this is the more you know about contemporary and historic photography of consequence e.g. the work that is written about, reviewed, critiqued and analysed by experts, the easier you'll be able to make such contextual connections. This involves reading and studying - primarily books as a starting point finding the names of the relevant photographers and artists. At the start of our courses we advise you to buy a book to help with your studies "Photography the Whole Story". Once you have the names of the photographers and artists that are worthy of your time, you can then add internet research.


Note When you write this material up in your book

Monday, 13 February 2017

Lost your old Blended learning - find it here

I've moved all the blended learning to the other blog...


All new blended learning will be posted on that blog. If you're looking for the old ones check out the side bar in the other blog or scroll through the 'Older blog pages'.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Photographic Assisting

I've just stumbled upon this - an article in the Guardian by my mate Johnny Minster, we spent 3 or 4 years together at Barking College of Technology under Brian Hatton and Plymouth College of Art and Design under Bryan Preston, Roger Swingler, Dick Hill and Michael Cranmer. As I recall, we shared a house together for two years and it was his Mum who suggested I had the temperament to become a teacher.

Anyway here it is... https://www.theguardian.com/careers/how-to-become-photographers-assistant

Here's another useful link from Youtube

Monday, 31 October 2016

Materials, techniques and processes - ideas and things you can do - Mixed media photography.

Do this - Get together paints, pens, pencils, chalks, crayons, biros and any other method to draw onto a 'Support'. The term is usually applied to painting and drawing and refers to the medium onto which you can draw/paint etc. The same term can be used in the context of photography because we too paint onto the surface in different ways - sometimes directly, as in the case of Arnulf Rainer

As part of this process we as the 'Artist' have to explore the use of how the 'Mark-making' tools work in conjunction with the 'Support' and make judgements as to whether the combination of both is successful. You have access to a number of ways in which you can produce your images - digitally and traditionally. Some of you may have access to additional methods such as 'Ink Jet' printers at home so have a larger range of potential supports for your experiments.

With a broad selection of mark-making materials...

HB pencil
2 B Pencil
4 B Pencil
High-lighter pens
Water-colour paint
Goache paint.
Poster paint.
Oil paint.
Acrylic paint.
Coloured pencils
Conte pencils
Water-colour pencils
OHP pens
Permanent markers
Dry wipe board markers

Get all of the supports that you have got access to... Search out or use the hyperlinks here to find more information on the characteristics and properties of these papers. Record this information with samples of the different papers/supports...

Photo-copy paper more here
Photo-copy card (CRU)
Ink Jet paper from home
Kentmere VC Select

And try all the different mark making materials (pens/pencils/paints) on the surface. Number each one and then write up your observations of how they work in conjunction with the support. Again describe the characteristics of the materials - thick, runny, oily, fine, watery, translucent, opaque etc. Does it react with the paper, or sit on top of the paper, does it rub off or is absorbed, is it neat or untidy, does it look like it has potential or does it look unprofessional.

Watch this video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnDaY14SRpM
To see the potential for some of these techniques (Skip to 5 minutes into the video).

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Light - identifying it, writing about it as a technical aspect of your work in college projects.

Photography... It's all about the light, if there is no light there is no photograph. If you're at college studying photography, you're studying light as well and with 2 years of work free study surrounded by lecturers that are experts in the art of light you need to be leaving college with some basic knowledge of light.

It's usually the case on a level 3 course be it A-Level, UAL or BTEC there'll be some requirement at some point where you'll need to discuss your use of light and why you've made the choices that you have with regards the light.

So what decisions and knowledge should you identify when writing about it, analysing it and planning it?

(1). What is the light source and what are characteristics of that particular source. If it's an artificial source, is it trying to recreate something in nature... Sunlight or moonlight, reflected light, scattered light, fire light, dappled light, diffuse or point light?

(2). Direction - where's it coming from and why, why are you choosing to shoot in that particular light? What is it doing for your subject, is it moody, emotive, dramatic, objective, neutral?

(3). Does it flatten the subject or does it model the subject e.g. pick up the shape, form and texture, do you want it to do one or the other, if so why?

(4). Refracted, diffuse, reflected, specular, point?

(5). If it's an artificial facsimile of a natural form of light, how have you achieved it and how close have you been able recreate its properties and characteristics - be explicit in your explanations, draw floor plans and photograph the set-up.

(6). Colour of light http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/natural-light-photography.htm

(7). Lighting equipment - what did you use, why did you use it what are its pro's and cons.

(8). Inverse square law and its application in photography - how does it help you and why do you need to know about it, how have you used it?

(9). Reflected light - controlling light in the studio using zones and inverse square law.

(10). Artificial light sources, their characteristics and properties.

(11). Studio flash, modifiers, dishes, soft boxes, snoots, diffusing screens, reflectors, umbrellas all the equipment and its characteristics and properties.

(12). Studio space, heights, distances, widths and walls... why?

(13). Influence - whose lighting technique and style are you borrowing from, your analysis of their approach.

(14). Deconstructing and analysing other people's lighting using visual clues.

(15). Ratios - between highlight and shadow, masculine and feminine lighting.

(16). Masters of lighting - classic lighting techniques used by painters.

That's some of the easy stuff.

Use these prompts above and your notes from over the first year when all of this was covered, discussed and used in practice. (That's if you're on one of the courses I deliver).

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Prompts - The background in the image

The background in an image is important. Sometimes the background can say as much about the person as their clothing and their facial expressions, it's often a part of the narrative of the image.

Back in 1988 when I was studying photography I was interested in Stock Photography and I read a book (Title and author I can't recall) on the subject. One of the most Important things I learned from the book and still use today was a formula that can be used when you're shooting images for picture editors with the intention of securing sales. The formula - which I still teach is...

Person + background + involvement + symbol = picture

All of the components are important, but the background element is very important.

For example have a look at this image here of my son...

You're told "Go and take a picture of the 14 year old kid that took six wickets for 15 runs in an adults cricket match". You come round my house, you look around and you see this wall and you shoot this...

If we examine the image and start deconstructing it what can we see and what can we start making assumptions about if we analyse it? (See prompts in the side bar).
We're concerned with the background at the moment, but we can't ignore the rest of the image. What can we see...

  • He's a white westerner.
  • From the clothes and the haircut we can see that he's not destitute and that he's possibly either working class or middle class.
  • He's fairly tanned and the environment looks warm, so he probably lives in a temperate area of the world or warmer.
But can we say anything about the background? Well it's kind of fairly neutral as it's breeze block. Breeze block would be usually associated with basic forms of architecture, in my own experience - social/council housing as opposed to private estates or anything 'posh'. Looking closer there's no designer labels and he's wearing grey track-suit bottoms which kind of reinforce the 'Working class' assumption. But, there's nothing in this image that tells the cricket story, even though it is the kid in the story.

This image represents an improvement in that there's some visual clues although they're a little esoteric the style and colour of the shirt and the inclusion of the Slazenger brand name and logo indicates an association with a sport. If you have some knowledge of sport you might be able to recognise the kit as being related to cricket and the image combined with the text now makes a little more sense, but the plain wall doesn't.

This is the image your picture editor would liked for you to come back with if you couldn't get an action shot (Or a smiley version). The background in this image albeit still fairly esoteric would be recognisable immediately when combined with the text relating to story "14 year old boy takes 6 wickets for 15 in an adult crickets match" because of the detail on the background - the grass and the pavilion. The ball though is probably the clincher to the narrative as it's the 'Symbol'.

Could it have been improved even more? Could the background have been even more 'Crickety'?...
Something like this?

This image uses the formula mentioned earlier...

Person + background + involvement + symbol = picture.

Backgrounds therefore are important as they are integral to creating the narrative. You can simplify them and then make the narrative ambiguous.

Simple backgrounds e.g. a solid colour or black and white still have connotations that can be read and made sense of. Alternatively a simple background focuses the attention on the subject and in many instances the inclusion of the simple white, grey or black background is of little significance. But these colours can also be made sense of in complex ways -

White http://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-white/
Grey http://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-grey/
Black http://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-black/