Response to tutor – assignment five

Overall I was very happy with the feedback for assignment five. You can find the full transcript here. The overriding comments were on shot-selection and their relevance to the narrative. I shall address this first.

I have decided to change some of the images as suggested my tutor. In turn, this may invite more viewers to understand where it is in the world that I am shooting which will bear more relevance to the narrative. I have set out the series again but this time substituting the images I felt needed changing after feedback with comments on that decision where necessary. Any extra information (e.g. extra captions and reason for change) will be in red.

Cover

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People start to gather at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after hearing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death. Mourner's flowers of condolence mingle with the 'get well' cards and balloons.

People start to gather at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after hearing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death. Mourner’s flowers of condolence mingle with the ‘get well’ cards and balloons.

LKY-IMG_1999150323

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s omnipresent image keeps a watchful eye over Singapore’s future generations at SGH where he was cared for until his death.

The grief of the older generations was palpable.

The grief of the older generations was palpable.

LKY-IMG_1828150323

In a city known for it’s capitalist ideals, LKY still turns a profit with state owned newspapers in the Central Business District in the aftermath of his death.

Messages of strength in the ever extending lines of people.

Messages of strength in the ever extending lines of people.

The organisation of the massive numbers paying their respects soon turned in to a military operation.

The organisation of the massive numbers paying their respects soon turned in to a military operation.

Signing the book of condolences at Tanjong Pagar GRC (Group Representation Constituency). Mr Lee Kuan Yew led this constituency throughout his political career until his death in March 2015.

Signing the book of condolences at Tanjong Pagar GRC (Group Representation Constituency). Mr Lee Kuan Yew led this constituency throughout his political career until his death in March 2015.

LKY-IMG_2161150323

“A journalist at Singapore General Hospital readies herself to report amidst the media interest generated by LKY’s passing”.   I am not convinced the initial series image did not work. There is an interview in progress which takes place in front of the long line of mourners. So I would see this one as a possible alternative. It also shows I was thinking along these general lines when shooting initially.

lky-IMG_5145150326

Mourners file along the river and past the towering banks of UOB and Bank of China as they make their way to pay their last respects“. I have changed the image and the meaning here to better reflect the city in which this event was happening. It ties in better with my capitalist remark earlier in the series too. Less complicated aesthetically than the initial image, it still brings a sense of scale to proceedings.

…..and by night. Some waiting for up to twelve hours to pay their last respects.

…..and by night. Some waiting for up to twelve hours to pay their last respects “as the tourist boat continues to ply it’s business on Singapore River“. Again reflecting trade going on as usual in a city that is mourning.

LKY-IMG_3602150324

Mourners pay their last respects at Mr Lee Kuan Yews’s home GRC, Tanjong Pagar. I have replaced this image as it is more pleasingly balanced and nearly made it in to the original series. It shows a clear generational gap in age, respects and clothing. Cropping the original image led to a wholly unacceptable result.

 

The other main feedback picked up on a point/question I raised on reflection:

“Maybe another concern would be to find the truly individual moments in amongst the thousands of other photographers all doing the same thing. Obviously the nature of photography dictates that each image is unique, but with circumstances being the same for most of the photographers, it stands to reason there will be many similar images out there all shouting for attention. My concern is that mine fall within that gamut.”

My tutor comments:

The same question exists for every photographer and now, as you’re approaching the next module, is a good place to ask it. To me, the overall feeling of your series is humanist – life cycles (pregnant lady next to old man in wheelchair), citizenry, trade. But an event doesn’t have to be recorded just as social documentary. Some other possible points of departure may be found within the shots themselves – raw emotion and extreme heat, death and commerce, text and the city (‘messages of strength’ is a great shot), the military (contrasted with the citizen), news media people looking bored (contrasted with seriousness), the night.

Within my shooting criteria I stated that:

” I need to challenge the viewer with something unexpected.”

and that I needed to:

“Be more creative in my approach, freer with my expression of the camera.”

As my tutor points out, this is still quite a safe series of images which though pleasing are ‘comfortable’, both for me and the viewer. He also points out that there may be jumping off points within the some of the shots already taken. Indeed, raw emotion would have been an interesting direction to take as Singaporeans are not known for expressing grief, particularly openly and in this case raw emotion was certainly on display. I think I got tied up in trying to make a balanced and honest report on what I saw (I believe I stated this) and didn’t take any alternative direction.

Assignment Five – The passing of Mr Lee Kwan Yew

This is the final assignment for Digital Photographic Practice. My outlines for this assignment can be found here and here. I have produced a PDF which can be downloaded and viewed via this link.

Here are the final images for the assignment with a short caption under each.

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People start to gather at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after hearing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death. Mourner's flowers of condolence mingle with the 'get well' cards and balloons.

People start to gather at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after hearing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death. Mourner’s flowers of condolence mingle with the ‘get well’ cards and balloons.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s omnipresent image keeps a watchful eye over Singapore's future generations at SGH where he was cared for until his death.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s omnipresent image keeps a watchful eye over Singapore’s future generations at SGH where he was cared for until his death.

The grief of the older generations was palpable.

The grief of the older generations was palpable.

Still turning a profit in the Central Business District shortly after his death.

LKY still turning a profit in the Central Business District shortly after his death.

Messages of strength in the ever extending lines of people.

Messages of strength in the ever extending lines of people.

The organisation of the massive numbers paying their respects soon turned in to a military operation.

The organisation of the massive numbers paying their respects soon turned in to a military operation.

Signing the book of condolences at Tanjong Pagar GRC (Group Representation Constituency). Mr Lee Kuan Yew led this constituency throughout his political career until his death in March 2015.

Signing the book of condolences at Tanjong Pagar GRC (Group Representation Constituency). Mr Lee Kuan Yew led this constituency throughout his political career until his death in March 2015.

Media interest grew as the week progressed.

Media interest grew as the week progressed.

Mourners file past The Fullerton Hotel with it’s flag at half mast.

Mourners file past The Fullerton Hotel with it’s flag at half mast.

Long lines of mourners shield themselves against baking heat of the day.

Long lines of mourners shield themselves against baking heat of the day.

…..and by night. Some waiting for up to twelve hours to pay their last respects.

…..and by night. Some waiting for up to twelve hours to pay their last respects.

Mourners pay their last respects at Mr Lee Kuan Yews's home GRC, Tanjong Pagar.

Mourners pay their last respects at Mr Lee Kuan Yews’s home GRC, Tanjong Pagar.

 

Reflective comment

Given that the subject matter came to me somewhat unexpectedly, it seemed to cover most of the bases that I set out in my criteria.

Workflow

The workflow was challenging as I was also working during this period meaning I was getting home each night and off-loading my Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) images and my work images. This meant needing to be very organised. I needed not only to transfer my images from card to hard drive but also to back up that hard drive so I could format each of my cards to avoid confusion in the days ahead and when I reached the end of the mourning period.

Images from work and college were well in to the thousands by the end of the week, so this part of my process was crucial.

Seeing like my camera

From this point of view I wanted to let the camera/lens lead the types of images I wanted to capture. Knowing that light, or lack of it, was no boundary I was keen to show the week’s activities through the day and night. I have used a certain amount of wide angle to try and put myself and therefore the viewer ‘in to’ the picture. I feel that some of my images are slightly more challenging (to the viewer) than in previous assignments and exercises and hope this comes across in the series. But I also hope that this challenge makes them more informative.

Monochrome

I was immediately aware that I would be able to shoot for a monochrome finish as the subject suited it both visually and metaphorically. I tried to use the abundance of light difference there often was (both day and night) to create contrasting images that would engage the viewer on more than just an aesthetic level.

As per my brief, I spent longer shooting. I spent as much of the week as I could shooting to take in the full range of areas and people that I could find.

In reviewing the final photographs against assignment three there is quite a difference in style. I have stopped worrying a s much about the technical clarity and instead am looking more to the story telling clarity and seeing the bigger picture both with the lens and metaphorically.

Real or fake

In shooting for monochrome I would clearly be manipulating these images post-shoot. As much as I would like to say they have not been manipulated too much it is difficult (again) to say what is too much. Just as when the photographer puts the black and white negative in the carrier of the enlarger and has to decide how many seconds of exposure to give, I too have to decide on myriad different scenarios for how my black and white images should look. I have tried, with notable success, to use only a neutral filter and in most cases, only adjusted for highlights and shadows in the images.  I have kept the images within Lightroom and used the arbitrary basic controls to adjust the images. This was tough given that I wanted to achieve consistency of the final black and white images.

I feel I have successfully told a story of the week. I feel there is a real historical value to recording these photographs (in deed if not in actual fact). My only downside to the series was that I was unable to cover the funeral cortège that took place at the end of the week. It would have been a fitting punctuation to the series but unfortunately was not to be. Maybe another concern would be to find the truly individual moments in amongst the thousands of other photographers all doing the same thing. Obviously the nature of photography dictates that each image is unique, but with circumstances being the same for most of the photographers, it stands to reason there will be many similar images out there all shouting for attention. My concern is that mine fall within that gamut.

The assignment showed me overall that it is the time and place one finds/puts oneself in that matters and not (necessarily) just the images. I am happy with the resulting series but happier at having stuck with the original brief instead of curtailing it but not sticking it out for the week. New opportunities continued to present themselves throughout the week and missing any of them would have changed the look and feel of my final series.

Improvement or interpretation?

Here I needed to make some adjustments to a photograph I had taken without making it obvious, just ‘improving’ it to make it stand out more from it’s surroundings. The image in question needed to be a portrait taken in the shade. The shade element presumably takes away the high dynamics that appear in portraits taken in direct light which would make the process of subtle improvement quite difficult.

I shall outline the process I used with the images below.

Quickmask

Quick mask

I started by using quick mask in Adobe Photoshop to shade in the subject’s face. I zoomed in so the subject’s face was filling the screen for accuracy). I used a brush that was 50% soft to avoid hard edges on the subjects features when I had finished selecting the head. I then painted in the red area.

inverse selection

After exiting quick mask, I inverted the selection to give me the marching ants around the subject’s face. I then started to apply some contrast, brightness and a little vibrance. I found that unless I was going to alter the rest of the image, if I used too much alteration it would look very abnormal and stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Hence (as per the course notes) it is very difficult to see the difference between the original and the edited version. The two are below for comparison.

Original

Original

ex2_edit

Edit

Looking closely there is slightly more detail in the hair and slightly more contrast on the face once I have finished editing. The eyes are slightly lightened due to the global lightening and puts a little more sparkle in the eyes. In fact, to my mind, his face looks a little orange and unnatural.

I am asked in the course notes to ‘Consider the limits that you would accept for this to remain an innocent, legitimate adjustment.‘ The words ‘innocent‘ and ‘legitimate‘ are very subjective and ultimately require me to have had an aim in the first place. In this case the actions are legitimised by the request of the exercise (although the tabloid editor asking the Photoshopper to perform a change of features on a celebrity would also be legitimate in this case). Innocent is a word which causes me a few problems. There are a few ramifications. At no point are any alterations innocent in my opinion. They are done with the full knowledge of the editor and as such can never be innocent. If, on the other hand the text is suggesting that it doesn’t do anyone any harm, again there could be an argument against it. In the case of the image above, any alterations are done due to a shortcoming in my technical ability in making the image in the first place. However, any photograph taken in RAW must by definition be edited/manipulated to some degree.The same is true of the celluloid negative, whilst no dodging/burning/cropping may take place, the decision has been made as to how long the negative should be exposed to the light, at the very least. A test strip of different exposure times will surely have been made prior to the final print being made. This in turn will drastically affect how the final printed image looks. None of this would be termed as wrong, indeed in the case of film it is absolutely necessary. But it is still intervention and interpretation. Many classic photographs can be seen in many different exposures from one publication to the next. This is all down to the printer and photographer.