Juxtaposition

The word ‘juxtaposition’ is one that is bandied around frequently in artistic circles; photography, film and painting among them. I have always taken it to mean conflicting or contrasting articles within the same scene to provoke the viewer, overtly or covertly in to asking questions or making connections about the image in question. Michael Freeman in his book ‘The Photographer’s Eye‘ (2007, p.178), describes juxtaposition as bringing at least ‘two things to our attention at the same time, and as soon as the viewer starts to wonder why the photographer chose that viewpoint, and if the juxtaposition was intentional, this sets off a train of thought‘.

The exercise here asked me to make either a still life image of juxtaposition or a real life juxtaposition of a person and a possession. I decided on the latter which works better for my style of photography. The image in question is below. I think it fits the remit because of the two clear aspects in the frame; the young boy and his catapult.

Catapult boy

Catapult boy

While it may not be unusual to see a boy this age with a catapult, what attracts me to it is his actions and expression. He is not pointing it at me in an act of aggression, rather he is displaying it for me to see. The look on his face is proud, almost excited by showing me his possession and he is looking directly in to my lens. I suspect it may be homemade which could be the cause of his pride. Or maybe he has just used it to good effect. I can’t know whether either of these two quizzical statements are true, but it is what is suggested to me by him. The fact that he has pulled the elastic taught rather than just holding it up to me shows intent to use it for what it was designed to do.

The photo is clearly made in the countryside and no one else is in shot. If this boy’s image was transposed to say an urban scene, possibly with many other people in the image then a completely different story would unfold.

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Concentrating Light

In this exercise I wanted to focus light on one particular area of the scene. I did this in two ways. Firstly using the lighting set up I’d used for the previous exercises, I used a black piece of card to change the way the light falls on the subjects. I held it in front of the lamp to stop the light covering the whole subject. In this case the light was pushed towards the face of the dolls. In particular the yellow doll facing the light. I also used depth of focus to further accentuate where the light was falling.

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I also decided to use my on camera flash. In order to focus the light in this instance I made snoot from my Flashbender (a purpose made light modifier). A snoot is a conical shaped piece of material used for shaping and focusing light into one concentrated area. The smaller the hole in the end the less spread and more focus the light becomes. In this extreme case, it gave heavy lighting on the wall and monkeys whilst plunging the background in to darkness. This was done with the flash unit on full power. To change the way it looks I could drop the power or change the angle of attack by moving the flash off-camera and lessen the impact by bouncing the flash off another surface like a reflector.

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Contrast and Shadow Fill

As the title suggests, here I would be complementing the lighting by filling some of the shadows that appeared in the previous exercise. The elephant continues it’s starring role. I have moved the camera angle to be on a level with the model elephant. Other than that it is still the same initial lighting set up.

The first image is similar to a previous exercise in that it is lit, un-diffused from the right hand side, level with the model and three feet away from it. This is to give a control image to reference for the exercise.

Un-diffused from right

Un-diffused from right

The second shot is the same set-up by introducing the diffuser on to the front of the lamp. As expected the softness of light becomes immediately apparent.

Diffused from right

Diffused from right

The next set of five images are all shot with camera and the lamp in the same place but introducing various way of reflecting the light back on to the elephant from opposite the key light.

White reflector at 3 feet from object

White reflector at 3 feet from object

A white reflector is pointed facing at the elephant/lamp. This has the effect of bouncing some of the tungsten light back towards the subject. Due to the amount of natural fill light in the first two images the effect is not that noticeable other than it gets slightly darker and warmer due to me partially blocking the natural light with the reflector.

White reflector at 1.5 feet from object

White reflector at 1.5 feet from object

As I come closer towards the subject with the reflector I start to block out more natural light and introduce more warm light bounced back from the modelling light. The blue highlights from the previous image have now disappeared to be replaced with warm flat light. The texture is lost.

Dull side of aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject

Dull side of aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject

The introduction of the dull side of some aluminium foil in to the equation just barely starts to pick out a little more detail in the ear area. The hindquarters and face are a little lighter.

Shiny side of aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject

Shiny side of aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject

Again, very subtle changes as I turn the foil form dull side to shiny. The brown flank of the elephant has a hint of a highlight starting to form and the detail around the ear area is becoming more well defined.

Scrumpled aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject, shiny side out

Crumpled aluminium foil 1.5 feet from subject, shiny side out

After crumpling the foil in to a ball and opening out again, the highlights are again diminished. The reflected light much more even and diffused due to the refracted nature of the crumpled foil. So I think, although very similar looking to the image using the dull side of the foil, the face is slightly brighter due to using the shiny side, albeit crumpled.

This was a good exercise to observe the subtleties in changes using reflectors. It also proves once again the strength and colour of natural light over artificial.