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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thoughts on web galleries

Digital photography cries out to be displayed on the web. It is by far the easiest way to gain exposure with minimal outlay and effort. It still requires though, a good deal of thought. It also requires being on top of the latest iterations of what a web gallery is and how it can work best for the photographer and for the viewer. This last point is currently probably the trickiest part of decision making when it comes to getting my work online.

Making the decision which images to put online is very important as I only want to the public at large to see my best shots. And keeping it up to date is also paramount as my photography gets better or changes direction. What I think looked good 6 months ago may not quite work today. Preparing it to the right specification and size etc is made very easy with Adobe’s myriad solutions and even free software now gives you massive scope to obtain the right balance of quality vs file size. All these issues are the easy part.

My main issue these days is which platform to use to best show my work. I have to decide not only what looks good but also what gets most traffic. There are a huge amount of ‘free’ options on the web, some of which are better than some of the paid options. Over the years I have been through many of these options to see what generates the most interest vs how it looks. Facebook, for example, looks terrible but I’m well aware that a massive amount of traffic gets to see my work. Flickr works well but again is not the most elegant looking gallery even though they update it quite regularly. 500px looks great but for one reason or another I have never quite got along with it although I still hold an active account. Many photographers use Smugmug which I haven’t tried. It is a website aimed at everyone from new starters to professionals and gives different options for each. The last two mentioned here (Smugmug and 500px) also give you the potential to sell you photos online. This approach is quickly gaining ground over the traditional online vendors of photography such as Getty Images. The other obvious thing that has happened since Facebook and Twitter came on the scene is the social media nature of many of these sites. Indeed, Flickr were caught short and suffered because they didn’t keep up with the move towards viral photography.

So, along with the best looking platform I also need to consider how easy my images are to share. I don’t think it is enough now to just have a pretty platform showing off your images. People want to share and by sharing comes notoriety. Many photographers use Facebook as their main page to push the clients (actual or potential) towards their website, such is the SEO power of Facebook. Indeed, advertising with Facebook even allows you to find your demographic and point them in the right direction with a few simple clicks and $10 worth of advertising. Google analytics allows you to see who is navigating to your website, when and how often. Again, it is a free service providing you are a Google member (and who isn’t in one way or another these days?). Photographers need to use all these tools to their advantage.

Of course, a good looking simple photographic website is still essential. But it can’t be the only site or presence in a photographers armoury these days.