This first project has been challenging and enjoyable.
This was not my first time working with film or medium format cameras but through this assignment I have discovered a new enjoyment for them. Previously I had found them slow, difficult to use and overall quite frustrating so when we were introduced to this project I admit to feeling somewhat concerned. But I chose Coventry University as I felt it would constantly push me out of my comfort zone and so it has from day one. Out of the two Medium format cameras I opted for the Mamiya 7, I had never used a range finder before and I was intrigued how such a small camera could still work effectively in Medium format. Although I found the focusing system tricky I enjoyed using it and could see the benefits of having such a portable system. With the RB67 I thought the images would be more or less the same just a lot more work in getting them. However I was surprised that I found I preferred the images from this camera although I suspect this was down to using a manual metering system.
It was great to dig deeper into the world of portraits and the complexities, not just around the photography but about understanding facial expressions and body language and how they can be used effectively. This was important as I had to stage each of my images so I had to coax realistic looks of emotion on the faces of my subjects. I also think it really helped using natural light. The first shot I took was with artificial lighting and it never felt right. Once I was using window light it really made the images stronger.
The old adage of less is more I think works well here, once I removed the superfluous and unnecessary environmental areas and concentrated on the person the image said much more. Where I have kept some of the environment in I have tried to ensure that it adds to the feeling of the image. The stark and plain bathroom, the family pictures on a wall, the empty desk all work to enhance the feeling of loneliness, depression, stress and unhappiness.
I have tried to keep in mind Roland Barthe’s Studium and Punctum system throughout this assignment with these images and although these elements are unique to the viewer, my personal feeling is that the portraits and lighting will be what grabs a persons attention and then each individual will find interest in the sadness of the subjects.
In addition to Roland Barthe there were so many lectures during this project that suddenly started making a lot of sense and I began to understand, not just why we had them but how they related to the assignment and the importance of putting them on the blog. It also surprised me how I could see the influences of some of the photographers starting to show in my thinking and outcomes
All in all I feel this was a good introduction to a uni project. There are many areas that I feel I can improve on for the next project. I still feel I started making images to early and I need to engage with the creative process for longer. Once I was really deep into research I kept on coming up with more and more abstract ideas that could have also made good images. I also feel that I could have planned my resources better. I ended up with 9 subjects even though I had organised a 10th person. Unfortunately, every time I agreed to photograph them they let me down. It got a bit frustrating but I need to anticipate these issues for future projects and have a back up plan.
Another area I will practice more on is my darkroom skill. By the end my printing was getting better but my borders were never perfect and no matter how well I cleaned my negative I always seemed to end up with some dust spots. I did come to Jon Legge’s workshop on spotting but that skill is going to take a long time to master and I was so poor at it I didn’t want to risk ruining the prints I had.