Week 3: Reflection

Consider how professions of photography are viewed by non-photographers and the general public.

Drawing on my personal and professional experience, I have found that photography has been considered an ‘easy’ profession and requires little work to perfect. I have, for example, been asked to photograph at friend’s and relative’s weddings, despite not being a wedding photographer, as I am well known for being a photographer. Interestingly, in many of the approaches to shoot these events, there was a tendency to add the comments ‘When I searched for photographers, they all charge too much, would you do it instead, Phil?’ Although never malicious, the comments primarily de-value my images, financial reasons being the primary motivation for asking me to do it, regardless or whether I could actually deliver a good job. The other issue I have always found with asking me to shoot these events for friends and relatives, once agreed, is I stop being a guest at the wedding and am in a sense now an ‘employee’ of the event without an acknowledgement of that fact.

Figure 1. Acid Mine Drainage image used as the cover for a Text Book. Cover image by Phil Hill​*​

Another interesting exchange I have experienced was from a series of images that I shot in Kenya that highlighted a kind of pollution known as ‘Acid Mine Drainage’ (Fig. 1). I was contacted by a South American website who wanted to use my image. I raised a standard usage license and the reply I received was an angry “What! I can’t believe you sent me an Invoice” with the rest of the email outlining his annoyance of being asked to pay for this kind of content, and then questioning how much I cared about environmental issues. Images from this set, have been used for a book cover, Science Photo Library, and on the BBC illustrating Acid pollution, and illegal Gold mining that was happening on the site who had no issue at all in paying for the images.

Considering this from another viewpoint, Simon Norfolk discussed in his Small Voice podcast interview​†​ about how photography in certain circles is very self-congratulatory, and the obsession with turning grand socio-documentary projects into photo books only to be viewed by the 100 or so other, predominantly white middle-class, photographers that buy it. This esoteric approach to photography can only exacerbate the issue of a wider audience understanding what photography is and the value of it.

Do you think this has any impact upon how you conduct yourself as a photographer, or influences your practice in any other way?

Continuing from above. That being said, starting my carnival project, I have found that on approach of the subjects, they assumed a cliche pose, presumably for the local press photographers that were also marauding in the background (Discussed in my week 2 reflection). This actually gave me the opportunity to ‘Break the ice’ and then re-position the subject to capture the images I was looking for. I have questioned the representation my subjects, however after continued discussion, I feel that there is an amount of conditioning that needed to be removed from the ‘performance’ of the subject, allowing me to capture something more. People seem to have an assumed idea of what a photographer is, through the photographers that they have most contact with such as school, wedding, local press, all of which are looking for a particular type of image and pose. It is therefore important to try and work past this, and capture a more authentic image.

Think about and describe how you have responded to changes in technology in your own practice.
Figure 2. Insta_Repeat Instagram profile shows how people are starting to create the same imagery on the platform​‡​

Social media and the internet continues to shape and accentuate this kind of social conditioning, especially as we are more frequently served the same kind of images and information of via algorithms and artificial intelligence learning of our behaviour online. This has been highlighted through instagram accounts such as Insta Repeat (Fig. 2).

Week 3 webinar reflection 10/10/19

I am pleased with the images that I have shot so far for this project, despite some technical issues. After adding an edit of the work on this week’s forum, I have received a positive response for my work, especially the portraits which come out as the strongest part of this project. I was given Photographers, such as, Margaret Mitchell​§​ to look at and found her work to be really useful in Identifying ways in which I can develop the work. Margaret has a real sense of the locations and environments in her work, which really helps to contextualise it. Paul also suggested that I look at clémentine schneidermann’s​¶​ work, and the series she did ‘I called her Lisa Marie’ (Fig. 3 & 4) which again serves to really place the surreal elements of these Elvis Presley fans in a Welsh setting. 

Figure 3. ‘Liz and Steve’ from I called her Lisa Marie by Clémentine Schneidermann​#​
Figure 4. ‘Little Elvis’ from I called her Lisa Marie by Clémentine Schneidermann​#​

After discussing the work on the forum, I decided to experiment with putting some of the images together in a variety of diptych layouts to see how this might change the way the individual images are viewed (Fig. 5). It was suggested that I might look at also creating triptych layouts of the work. Although these were well received during the crit, the way that I have been approaching this project so far is to separate environments, the details, and the portraits. The feedback has highlighted the need to bring some of those elements together where possible. In a sense, this would be useful when viewing each of the images in isolation of one another.

Figure 5. Experiments with Diptych layouts using the images from my Carnival shoots so far. Images by Phil Hill.

Michelle also followed up with this feedback:

Great to see the access you have and the ease with which you are able to work with them. It may be helpful now to consider what narrative you want to explore and whether you can combine the positioning of the figure within the urban and rural landscape  to illustrate something about the individuality of these people? Alec Soth/Anna Fox/Katie Grannan/Lauren Greenfeld all good possible sources of research.

Michelle Sank​**​

Clearly an area that I should be focusing on for future shoots. I also need to consider the narrative that I intend to portray. This is an area that I feel needs much development. I have approached the project so far with a basic knowledge of ‘Social Capital’ and continue to read Robert Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’​††​ on this subject to hopefully begin informing and developing the narrative this way. Paul has also suggested that I read Peter Kropotkin’s book ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’​‡‡​ which considers the idea of collaboration within societies. A potential area for the narrative to work with my images might be through the lack of communication between newer elements of my home town of Frome moving in and ‘Gentrifying’ the area without thought or consideration of the people who have lived there for generations, the same people who are involved with the carnivals.

  1. ​*​
    Ryan, P. and Hill, P. (2014). Environmental and low temperature geochemistry. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, p.Cover.
  2. ​†​
    Smith, B. and Norfolk, S. (2019). A Small Voice Podcast – 107 – Simon Norfolk. [online] Ben Smith. Available at: https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/simon-norfolk [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  3. ​‡​
    Instagram.com. (2019). Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) • Instagram photos and videos. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/?hl=en [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  4. ​§​
    Mitchell, M. (2019). In This Place — Margaret Mitchell. [online] Margaret Mitchell. Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/in-this-place [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  5. ​¶​
    Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  6. ​#​
    Schneidermann, C. (2019). I Called Her Lisa-Marie. [online] Chosecommune.com. Available at: https://www.chosecommune.com/book/icalledherlisamarie/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].
  7. ​**​
    Sank M. (2019) Week Three Webinar: Work in Progress. Falmouth Flexible
  8. ​††​
    ​Putnam, R. (2007). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  9. ​‡‡​
    Kropotkin, P. (2016). Mutual aid. [Charlestown, SC.]: [Createspace, Inc.].

Week 3: Work in Progress

This is the first edit of my ‘Carnival’ series, drawn from 3 shoots. Shoot 1 / Shoot 2 / Shoot 3
Reflections on webinar feedback

People have really responded well to the portraits that I have been shooting. I too, think that these are the strongest of the series and feel that I want to expand on this for future shoots. Considering ‘Interdisciplinary Practice’ from week 2, I want to start collecting more stories and quotes from the subjects to really get a sense of who they are beyond the person in a costume. A couple of times now, I have discussed through critique and tutorial, the importance of getting past the outward ‘performance.’ It is important to continue photographing subjects either before, or after the event.

Margaret Mitchell, In this Place
Figure 1. Image from ‘In This Place’ by Margaret Mitchell.​*​

Paul suggested in the forum that I look at the work of Margaret Mitchell which I have not seen before. After reading the synopsis of the project ‘In This Place’​†​ I am keen to also show “family and home, connections and place.” What I like about Margaret’s work is there is a real sense of the environments, even when the image is predominantly of a person (Fig. 1). Initially, my intention was to create portraits and edit the work together with the environments and detail shots forming diptychs of the work. However, a more focused approach of environmental elements showing in the portraits is something I am keen to expand.

Next Shoot
Figure 2. My aim was to give a sense of the ‘spectacle’ and light show during the Frome Carnival without showing it in a straight forward way. Image by Phil Hill

I am planning another shoot at the Salisbury Carnival on 25/10. I won’t be able to get to the location until after dark, so was originally planning to capture more of the abstract images captured during shoot 2 (Fig. 2). However, after considering the forum comments and the work of Margaret Mitchell, I will aim to shoot some night portraits (Fig. 3) that blend the abstract images into the background, or more of an ambient approach to combining the two approaches (Fig. 4). This is with the aim of including a sense of the carnival and the spectacle of the light show, together with portraiture. These examples are purely technical explorations at this stage with the hope that it will start to support and develop the contextual, narrative elements of this project in the future. Although, I could see the images taking on a similar aesthetic to Laura El Tantawy’s ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’​‡​ series (Fig. 5).

Figure 3. Example of night time portrait with off camera flash and ambient light abstracted in the background. Image by Dunja Djudjic​§​ 
“The Square I Remember” from “In the Shadow of the Pyramids” by Laura El-Tantawy 2005-2014​¶​
Figure 4. Example of Night Time Ambient portrait: ‘Daniel in Times Square.’ Image by Gaby Deimeke​#​

  1. ​*​
    Mitchell, M. (2019). In This Place — Margaret Mitchell. [online] Margaret Mitchell. Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/in-this-place [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  2. ​†​
    Mitchell, M. (2019). In This Place — Margaret Mitchell. [online] Margaret Mitchell. Available at: https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/in-this-place [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  3. ​‡​
    El Tantawy, L. (2019). In the Shadow of the Pyramids. [online] Lauraeltantawy.com. Available at: http://www.lauraeltantawy.com/in-the-shadow-of-the-pyramids/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  4. ​§​
    Djudjic, D. (2019). Here’s how to take awesome night portraits with off camera flash. [online] DIY Photography. Available at: https://www.diyphotography.net/heres-take-awesome-night-portraits-off-camera-flash/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  5. ​¶​
    El Tantawy, L. (2019). In the Shadow of the Pyramids. [online] Lauraeltantawy.com. Available at: http://www.lauraeltantawy.com/in-the-shadow-of-the-pyramids/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].
  6. ​#​
    Deimeke, G. (2019). Blog – gaby deimeke photography – Daniel in Times Square. [online] gaby deimeke photography. Available at: https://www.gabydeimekephoto.com/blog/daniel-in-times-square [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

Shoot Three: Contact sheet

Gillingham Carnival 5/10

I have spent an afternoon photographing another carnival in the Somerset Carnival circuit. Initially, I felt I was getting some really strong portraits for the series. I have started to better engage with the subjects and get a sense of why they are involved in the community event. For example, Jennie Bowie (fig. 1) had been doing carnivals since she was 16 in the 1960s. The commitment shown by the people that I have spoken to is quite impressive.

Fig 1. Jennie Bowie ‘Road Warrior’ with some of the technical issues I experienced on the day.

Unfortunately, I was not careful to check that my camera settings were correct during this shoot and found to my disappointment that I had been shooting in Large JPEG together with the sRGB colour space. Out of the 244 images that I shot during the afternoon, I have managed to salvage 10, not including some of the strongest of the set. Of the images that I don’t think I will be able to use, is the portrait of Jennie Bowie (Fig 1). This is due to complete highlight clipping on her hat. Overall, I am pleased with the saved shots. However, depending on the final output, it may put a limit on using them.

For future shoots, I will need to consider creating a pre-shoot checklist with the aim of safeguarding against easily avoided mistakes, such as this.

Week 2: Reflection

How my work relates to interdisciplinary practice?

I consider the work that I produced when freelancing for magazines. Regularly, it was my job to follow up on the trip of a writer. Many would attend ‘Junkets’ to write a piece on the destination, if commissioned, I was then sent to respond and photograph the key aspects of the text. Photography and writing work closely together and support one another. Images providing visual stimuli for the words, and words provide additional context and background that may not be ‘read’ visually. 

Spread from National Geographic Traveller. Words by Helen Warwick, Images by Phil Hill.​*​

I have created personal work that utilises text, as I mentioned in my previous post and find it a fantastic accompaniment to the image, providing narrative, and context to the work.

To extend the use of interdisciplinary practice in my own work, I am considering the use of audio. It was mentioned in the forum this week that Susan Mesielas used audio to record interviews with her subjects for the book ‘Carnival Strippers’​†​ that was then included in a book of the work. Jeremy Deller also used this approach for his work ‘English Civil war part 2​‡​ where he recorded the stories of the Miners who were at the ‘Battle of Orgreave.’ I am very keen to create a collaboration between me and the subjects that I photograph, this could potentially be a way of doing that and allowing the voice of the subject to help develop the work.

Following on from the ‘Other than Photography’ discussion this week, I would to also experiment with some of this technology. There is much potential to use my images to ‘trigger’ events using augmented reality, or as simple as playing an audio track to support the visual images.

Reflecting on 3/10 webinar with Michelle

From the webinar, I have really come to understand the importance of representing the subjects of my work in a considerate way, being faithful to them as people. Additionally, over the summer I read the book:  ‘Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time’​§​ by Mark Sealy. It is a conversation that I am starting to see come up more and more in photography, and has led to publications such as National Geographic issuing an apology for a history of inherently racist imagery.​¶​ It has prompted me to question my role in photography, and what I am saying when I create images. This is very much related to my images when I was freelancing as a travel and lifestyle photographer, primarily for the airline publication sector. Regularly my role was to present the ‘exotic’ back to a western audience to promote it as a destination to visit. 

Bamburi Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Image by Phil Hill
Dawn on Bamburi Beach, Mombasa. Image by Phil Hill

My research project, I am hoping to look at the themes of ‘Community’ and ‘Social Capital’ (discussed in my previous post). My first shoot was on the Somerset Carnivals that are taking place during the run up to Christmas. When approaching the subjects for a portrait, they would automatically assume a somewhat cliche pose associated with the local press photographers they are used to posing for. This would include giving me a ‘thumbs up’ with a wide grin. I would photograph them in order to break the ice and then ask the subject to adopt a more formal pose for the images that I wanted to achieve. I have started to question this approach in how I representing my subject, if they are naturally posing in this way, does that say more about their character that the pose that I ask them to do? A counter to that discussion, however, might be the social conditioning that they have prior to my photograph that they automatically assume. Does my approach allow them to be ‘read’ in a way that is more faithful to the person behind the presented image of them? These are important questions I hope to find answers as I develop my project.

After the discussion, I was given some photographers to look at:

  1. ​*​
    Hill, P. and Warwick, H. (2013). Free Spirit. National Geographic Traveller, pp.92,93.
  2. ​†​
    Meiselas, S. and Wolf, S. (2004). Carnival strippers. Göttingen: Steidl.
  3. ​‡​
    Deller, J. and Noord, G. (2002). The English Civil War. [London]: Artangel.
  4. ​§​
    Sealy, M. (2019). Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time. 1st ed. London: Lawrence & Wishart.
  5. ​¶​
    Goldberg, S. (2019). For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It. [online] Nationalgeographic.com. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/from-the-editor-race-racism-history/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2019].

Week 2: Webinar ‘Interdisciplinary Practice’

I have been considering a critical context for discussion in the form of Robert Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’​*​ who discusses the decline of ‘Social Capital’ and its impact on traditional communities. Social Capital are the networks and established relationships between people within society, which also can enable that society to function. It is an area that I have just begun to properly research, and very interested in exploring as a photographer. 

Identity and small communities is something that I have been exploring for a while without realising its link to social capital for some time. For example, I created a series of images called ‘classifieds’ when I was living in Western Australia where I responded to the adverts on Gumtree and asked instead to take a portrait. At the time, many people were using the site as a way of meeting people of similar interests, in a city that felt quite isolated and transient at times, forming a kind of online community.

“I have been doing tarot by myself on and off for 3 years now. I would like to take it a step further by reading for others. I am looking for people who are willing to be read.”

“Rock hobbyist looking to expand small rock collection, willing to pay for good specimens.”

“Hi, I’m a girl (early 20s) who just relocated to Perth, and I would love to find someone who genuinely would love to go rollerskating, maybe in Fremantle? I didn’t bring my skates with me, so it would have to be at a skate deck. I love disco and having a good time.”

Above images from ‘Classifieds.’ All of the text is presented as it was written on Gumtree.

Linking to the this week’s theme of interdisciplinary practice, I used the text from the adverts to caption my portraits (see above) which add an interesting background, context, and intrigue to the images. Writing, in one form or another, has a close relationship with photography. Another great example of this is Fay Godwin and Ted Hughes combination of landscape images and poetry in the book ‘Remains of Elmet’​†​ 

Remains of Elmet​‡​

  1. ​*​
    Putnam, R. (2007). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  2. ​†​
    Godwin, F. and Hughes, T. (1979). Remains of Elmet. 1st ed. New York: Harper Row.
  3. ​‡​
    Godwin, F. and Hughes, T. (1979). Remains of Elmet. 1st ed. New York: Harper Row.

Shoot Two: Contact Sheets

Second set of images towards my Work In progress portfolio, from the first Somerset Carnival that I have visited, looking at community and social capital. I have annotated the contact sheets and the Images can be viewed full size by clicking on the thumbnail and selecting ‘View Full size‘ in the gallery view.

Shoot One: Contact Sheets

First set of images towards my Work In progress portfolio, from the first Somerset Carnival that I have visited, looking at community and social capital. I have annotated the contact sheets and the Images can be viewed full size by clicking on the thumbnail and selecting ‘View Full size‘ in the gallery view.

Week 2: ‘Other than Photography’

Living Wines app in use​*​
Week 2 Forum: ‘Other than Photography’

Find a piece of work that has some kind of link to your own practice or research interests (you may already have something in mind or you may need to give this some thought). This could be anything you like – a film, a painting, a piece of text; but not a photograph.

Living wines app.​†​

I was shown this app last Christmas and could see right away the application and potential in presenting an enhanced, and extended experiential photography. Augmented reality, which the app is based, is already being used in a variety of commercial settings. For example, I have seen it used to augment traditional books and make the characters sit up off the page and talk and interact with you.​‡​ This has the potential to become cliche, or distracting of the central themes. However, in terms of including the subject that you are photographing, the technology, if used collaboratively and compassionately, could lead to interesting new ways to present photography.

Linking to this week’s reading and the studium and punctum,​§​ it could be used to add additional elements to the subjects story, such as audio narration of the background and context of the image to create that ‘puntum’ moment of resonance in the image.

I have been considering and exploring for a while, the fundamental impact that ‘gaming’ technology is going to have on all of the creative industries. Related to Marshal McLuhans discussions around ‘The Medium is the Message.’​¶​ the mediums and platforms that are associated with this technology. For example,  Photo-realistic rendering and powerful software such as Unreal Engine are being used in creative ways outside of their intended use, such on screen graphics for the Weather Channel.​#​ Real-time photorealistic rendering is starting to be used in film,​**​ and companies such as ‘The Mill’ are developing innovative motion capture solutions for automotive applications.​††​

  1. ​*​
    Shahen, M. (2019). 19 Crimes Wine. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/9pjrl3ORqXM?t=11 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].
  2. ​†​
    Livingwinelabels.com. (2019). Augmented Reality Living Wine Labels App – Living Wine Labels. [online] Available at: https://www.livingwinelabels.com/en-gb [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].
  3. ​‡​
    YouTube. (2019). Popar Augmented Reality Children’s Books. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/hIqQ7igjjek?t=26 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].
  4. ​§​
    Barthes, R. (1993). Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.
  5. ​¶​
    McLuhan, M., Fiore, Q. and Agel, J. (2008). The medium is the massage. London: Penguin.
  6. ​#​
    Blondin, A. (2019). Floods and Fires: How The Weather Channel Uses Unreal Engine to Keep You Safe. [online] Unreal Engine. Available at: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/spotlights/floods-and-fires-how-the-weather-channel-uses-unreal-engine-to-keep-you-safe [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].
  7. ​**​
    Alexander, J. (2019). Star Wars: Rogue One’s best character was rendered in real time, a cinema first. [online] Polygon. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2017/3/1/14777806/gdc-epic-rogue-one-star-wars-k2so [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].
  8. ​††​
    Vimeo. (2019). The Mill BLACKBIRD. [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/171939943 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2019].