The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

A1: tutor submission

Digital Images

A single print has also been sent to my tutor for feedback.

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Artist’s statement

This assignment shows a number of different musicians, photographed in their home environments. I have chosen to subtract from their surroundings so that they are left with a token of their environment and symbol of their relationships with music. Lost in music, so to speak.

As this work represents one of my first experiences of serious portrait photography, I did extensive background reading around portrait photographers and the process of working with sitters, which is reflected in my learning log and in my preliminary thoughts on this assignment. While, I was influenced by a number of the works I studied, Tanyth Berkeley’s work shaped my perspective on the ‘psychological gaze‘. I’d come informed by the traditional perspective of ‘eyes being windows to the soul’ and a portrait being made all the more compelling for including them. The idea of showing people engaged in something apart from the camera-eye and still creating intimacy in the image is something reflected in some of the posing in my work here.

In total, I photographed 7 portrait sessions, lasting between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours each. One sitter was excluded from the final images as I ended up with two musicians who were singers. The portraits were shot against a black pop-up screen, using a single speedlight reflected in an umbrella. Prime lenses with 35mm and 85mm focal lengths were used in the sessions. A light meter was used to assist with exposure readings. Images were captured in RAW and post-processed in Photoshop. By the end of the assignment, I was feeling much more relaxed about directing sitters and managing technical aspects of the lighting at speed.

My initial approach to the work was to make images that showed more of each of the sitter’s environment. However, this became problematic when aiming for some consistency across a number of different musicians in different places and working in their different home environments. There is more about this initial approach here. Sitters were all strangers to me and recruited through Facebook posts to a local community notice board. Details of the process are here. It was a time-consuming exercise finding volunteers, hindered by a few original volunteers dropping out – but a useful insight into the effort involved in this type of work before even sitting anyone in front of the camera! A learning for next time is to fix appointments with more sitters than necessary in anticipation of drop-outs. Model releases were obtained for sitters and have been emailed to my tutor.

Self-review against assessment criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

I found it a steep learning curve working with sitters and gaining experience of offering direction for posing. This is something I will continue to work on both through the observation of form in images and the practicalities of directing sitters (eg – I found mirroring with my own body effective, but am not yet consistently good at it!). As the work progressed, I found that I was learning to take more time to look at the sitter carefully before making the picture and having fewer rejects. However, I also need to pay more attention to what the sitters are doing while I’m shooting – for some rejects, I didn’t spot untimely blinks. I think this will come through experience and habit.

Quality of outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

My initial interpretation of the brief was quite literal in that I would have made images with very different environments for each sitter. However, after seeking some feedback on the preliminary work, I believe the change to simplifying the images worked more successfully. In my next assignment, I’m intending to make work that says something about identity purely through images of an environment – the simplification in this case will be that it will be in a single environment without people.

Demonstration of creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Prior to the shoot, I experimented with different lighting set ups and came up with an approach that would create a sense of intimacy and be practical when setting up quickly in the limited space often available in someone’s home. The light has a significant effect on the mood and look of the images but the range of possibilities is often limited by practicalities. I intend to experiment further with this in upcoming work.

I enjoy engagement with the sitters and finding a sense of connection, which I am aiming to convey through my images.

Context: Reflection, research, critical thinking.

Extensive research and reflection recorded in blog.

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