Assignment 5 – TAoP – Reflection on assignment

As my pre-shoot posts revealed, I had some trouble with the set up of this shoot at a late stage and had to move location and factory to get a story. This was quite disappointing as I couldn’t get the larger picture as previously discussed with both my tutor and my Magnum mentor. I still think it would be an interesting project to follow to it’s natural conclusion. I was even scuppered at the last when I wanted to photograph in one of the outlets that stocked the sarongs. I was told politely but firmly that I would not be taking any photographs (they then followed me round the store). Unfortunately I had no come back as the owner had asked me not to mention her or the company when going in to the outlet. But this is all part of the trials and tribulations of these sort of stories. Nothing ever goes absolutely to plan so I just had to make the best of what I got.

In the end I was pleased with what I shot and felt that the story did ultimately do what I wanted it to do. The family felt at ease with me taking photos, especially on the second day when they were very relaxed and I think I got the most out of it at that point. I can see in the shots from the first day that they are not quite as receptive and relaxed, making the shots slightly more stilted although this may not come across in the final images.

I saw the benefits of planning ahead even if some parts of the story didn’t come to fruition. The brief shot list I compiled helped me through the shooting and meant I didn’t miss anything that I really needed. Technically I was lucky with the lighting as if it had rained or been dark then I would have had a job to show the detail that I was wanting to show. Fortunately the light was pretty much perfect for both faces and fabric.

Another area I wish I could have expanded on was that the family were joined by extended family towards the end of the last day of shooting. There evidently was to be a celebration the next week and all the men were in drinking coffee, smoking and chopping onions in preparation.food prep It made for some great photos but after thinking about it long and hard, it just didn’t fit in with the narrative I was attempting to tell with the image numbers I was allowed. I daresay I could have gone over spec and it wouldn’t have mattered. However, the brief was there in front of me. If I had sent an article to an editor with 15-18 images for a 12 image brief, they would have been cut. So I decided to stick with the brief given. The same was true with expanding it beyond the ‘four’ walls of the factory. I thought about some general photography outside in the town but realised it would be just that, ‘general’. It would not have impacted on the story in a positive way.

I also wanted to get across that although this was hard work, it was not some sort of sweat shop that we all get used to seeing in the media. They were working for the family business (which of course can be the hardest), but the humour and apparent relaxed atmosphere really shone through. Hopefully this also came across in the series of photographs.

Technically I thought quite hard, in advance, about how to make the photographs. Which lens lengths to use and the style to employ in the main as the rest (lighting etc), would be out of my control. Of course this would be documentary photography. The main feedback throughout my Magnum mentorship was to get closer, be more personal (à la Robert Capa) and to take a few more risks (à la Robert Enoch, my AoP tutor). I have definitely got closer but have I taken more risks? In hindsight possibly not, at least not with my photography. My risk was more about taking on this project in the first place and getting out of my comfort zone personally. I suspect the risk taking in photographic terms will come along once I have become more comfortable with the personal risk taking, if that is not an oxymoron.

I now suspect I could have used photographs like the ones below. Less defined regarding the narrative (at least the narrative line I took), but slightly riskier regarding content. So, more graphic and less pretty.

ass5-3376While I’m still not sure this would have mad the final cut, I enjoy the different outlook that it gives. It shows the bruise on his back and the rips in his shorts. The muscular working arms and fingers are more pronounced, the fingers smudged with paint. The lack of personal attachment as I have neglected to get his head in to frame. If I look for a punctum here, the red underwear actually draws me in. Something about it disturbs the rest of the image, just the common workman-like appearance of the underwear showing I suppose. The image as a whole is much less romantic than the other images in the series which is probably why it wasn’t included, as my mind was set down a different road of explanation and narration.

ass5-3387The image above was much closer to making the final cut. I wanted expressive movement and expressive colour. This gave me both in a very graphic way. The triangle of black, top right, is big and quite appealing but for no apparent reason (technically it is a black hole which shouldn’t be there). There is a certain ‘yin’ and ‘yan’ in the set up of this graphic. Yet again, in the end, it just didn’t fit in with the narrative that I had decided to tell.

With both of the above I liked the individual photographs but using them and images like it in my final edit would have told a disingenuous story. It would have been far darker than my intention and indeed the reality which, in the end what I was trying to put across to the viewer.

In summary then, I was happy with my final assignment but possibly happier with what I have learnt along the way and from my assessment of it. The application of that learning is the next step.

Assignment 5 – TAoP – Illustration and Narrative

In the final assignment of this module I was to imagine that I am illustrating a story for a magazine. I could use up to 12 images including one for the front page to illustrate the story that is about to be told. The rest would be used to narrate the story inside the magazine. While text was not necessary, I would need to at least caption the images to explain and link each photograph. I will be looking to use the techniques that I have learned not just in this project but also over the course of the module as a whole and incorporate some of them in to this final assignment.

I have already written about what I wanted to achieve and the aims I have set out in previous posts, a list of which can be found here.

My assignment and layout is in PDF format with the original images below. I will annotate each image to describe what I was trying to achieve with it within the layout. I will reflect on this assignment in a subsequent post.

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Front page. I wanted a fairly straight shot with a ‘blank’ line to put my front page text in that also illustrated what I was about to show the viewer in some way. As the boys were laying out the batik in the sun a suitable gap presented itself.

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I wanted a suitably candid yet respectful and thoughtful portrait for the owner of the factory. I have used a wide open aperture to accentuate the bokeh and focus solely on the eyes. The shot was taken in heavy shade with the light flooding in from the side, softening the shadow on the face.

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I liked the way the blue in the first image played off against the blue in this one. As the waxing was the first ‘activity’ in the process it slotted in well. The concentration on the face against the playful pigs on the template. Also in the background more templates giving some place to the image. I made it noticeably smaller on then page so I didn’t detract from the owner’s image.

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Here I wanted to start showing the working environment and give some scale by giving a wider view of the factory.

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More detail to follow in on the previous image. The vivid green helps to give the two images continuity for the viewer. I also needed to show the cotton buds in use. There are a few beads of sweat on the brow. The size is small and cropped in the layout as the close up reveals more to the eye even when small.

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The wide angle and elevated view enabled me to show both environment and the main players. I also like the interaction they were clearly having with each other.

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The soft features of the young woman, softened further by the water, reflected in the harsh drum of chemicals giving a great juxtaposition which was too good not to take.

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I was hoping to achieve an all encompassing image illustrating the steam, heat, fire, green water and discomfort caused by working in these conditions. The rubber glove shows the toxic nature of the fluid they are working in. Again, something of a juxtaposition between the fire licking it’s way up the tarred barrel and the fetid water falling from the sheets.

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Simple slow shutter speed to give the impression of movement. I was keen to get the bulk of colour in the light with the right side of the image starting to recede in to the dark. This image is heavily cropped in the final version to allow it and the colours to fill the page.

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Probably the longest lens of the feature used to compress the sheets to give the impression of the pattern of colour and fabric everywhere. Luckily the boy had put on his T-shirt to cover up against the sun. It works well with the other colours on offer and starts to camouflage him. I have used a small aperture to try and get all the detail from the depth of sheets. This image is slightly cropped in the article to avoid showing the basket which is encroaching on the scene.

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Another wide aperture to concentrate on the cotton reels. The bright back light was just picking out the blue cotton as they spun off the reels. I was careful to use the dark background to contrast the light blue strands against.

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I led on the ground to get a bottom to top view of the woman tying the bundles with the tags. Behind are the sewing machines from the previous image also pulled in to the view by the camera angle. Luckily the light was falling on the foremost bundle as she pushed it forward. This was planned as the final shot in the series.

Approach to shooting – TAoP – Assignment 5

Narrative – Although there is a very clear linear order for the process, do I need to show it in the ‘correct order’? Do I need every part of the process covered by an image? What order will benefit the story-telling and therefore the audience best? What size and order will they be on the page (juxtaposing to tell the story etc)? This would be something to work out in the edit process, already knowing what my shot list would be. I needed to show the people, the conditions they were working in as well as, of course, the product. I wanted the look of the subjects to be natural without any looking in to camera. This I guessed would take a little while, both for me to get used to the environment (alien to me) and for them to get used to me in their home and workplace.

Technique – This would form part of the narrative and I decided I would use wide angle and 50mm lenses as much as possible. The wide angle would let me be in the same space as my subject matter, creating a personal connection for the viewer. The 50mm would give a documental  style with added control over the bokeh.

Intent – What approach would I take to my subject matter i.e. the people, the place and the objects within? Would I turn the situation in to something it wasn’t to give greater sensation or would I let it play out in front of me without overtly trying to control it?

Light – From photographs I had already seen, I expected the majority of the action to take place in the shade under simple shelters. This would provide quite low light to work in so I would need to be careful about showing the great colours that were on show rather than just getting under-exposed shots that didn’t show them off. I also wanted, though, to show if they were working in conditions which gave extreme changes of light i.e. from bright sunlight to fluorescently lit rooms.

Colour – There would be clear opportunity to show the colours of the batik. Indeed the colour is integral to the design. This would be organic I felt although, as per my comment above, I would need to ensure the light was good to show the colours off. Alternatively if the light wasn’t good I could tell a different story using muted colour instead. Possibly a combination of both.

Audience – My target audience would be twofold; the kind of people who buy this product when they are holidaying, but no idea how it is made; people who travel and have an innate interest in this sort of thing and may want to explore it further.

Presentation style – I would envisage the style to be something along the lines of National Geographic or a travel magazine. As I am not an editor, I would give a rough idea of the layout style via simple design software including some text.