Finally, after a couple of weeks of avoiding it, I’ve begun thinking about my first assignment. The submission doesn’t actually count towards the final assessment of the module, but is a valuable ‘dry run’ as it will be submitted to my tutor and feedback given. When I chatted to my tutor, I committed (in a fashion) to submit my first assignment by the middle of December. I have taken a few pictures towards it, but still have more to take and it feels like the pressure is on. While that probably isn’t conducive to my best work, it will give practice in shooting pictures ‘to order’ and ticking them off against the list of contrasts we have to choose from.
The assignment is made up of three parts. This post forms the first. Our brief suggests that we look through our previously taken photographs and assemble pairs that represent contrasts. Contrast isn’t just about light and dark in a frame. Some of the pairs can be literally interpreted, such as straight/curved or continuous/intermittent, but others are open to more interesting representation. Sweet/sour, thick/thin or light/dark can be shown in many ways. The idea of beginning the course with an assignment on contrast reflects the methods used in the Bauhaus design school. Its teacher there, Johannes Itten was encouraging his students to ‘un-learn’ some of their previous, formal studies and natural techniques. If corporate buzzwords had been around in the 1920s, he would have been teaching them to ‘think outside the box’!
Looking through my photographs, I found that many of my pictures covered few of the contrast pairs – the 80/20 rule. For example, I found lots of straight/curved, but high/low was more challenging. What was useful in my preparation for the assignment itself, was thinking about pairing pictures. I was keen to not only make the pictures suit the particular half of the pair, but also that they were somehow related, in either the subject matter or the post-processing style. They also needed to be interesting pictures in their own right.
And so to the pictures – as usual, you can click on any of them to see a larger size.
Two pictures of ring roads of the East Midlands – thrilling stuff, eh? The first is Coventry’s hideous, throttling ringroad from beneath and photographed in fog. The second is Nottingham’s A52 Clifton Boulevard. This pair forms a very literal interpretation of the pairing. They are both long exposures, taken in the dark and treated them in a similar way. I wanted to keep some colour in the Coventry picture as the curve of the red tail light reflects the curve of the concrete structure above. Everything in the Nottingham picture is straight. There isn’t a curve anywhere, other than the circular starbursts caused by the tiny aperture. Black and white not only emphasises the geometrics shapes in the pictures, it gets rid of the strange colour casts caused by a mixture of street lighting types.
A second pair showing straight/curved and another literal interpretation. I was keen to use pairs that show a similar subject matter and ‘look’ similar and will try to do the same for my assignment submissions.
Everyone seems to use ice in this pairing. Here, I’ve photographed the icicles formed in a bush by cars passing and spraying the bush with icy water. My liquid picture shows the setting sun illuminating the water on the top step of the weir that forms the overflow of our local reservoir. This picture is another long exposure (25s) and was also on the shortlist for ‘curved’. The link obviously is water.
Here, the almost perfect symmetry of the pylon could have been used for ‘strength’, ‘square’ and probably several more of the pairs. It has been chosen for ‘diagonal’ because of the longest and strongest elements of the metalwork. The second image in the pair, ’rounded’, shows another pylon, the top of which was positioned at the north star for this stack of 30 second exposures, shot in Poland over a 3 1/2 hour period.
The road markings in in the first shot provide a literal interpretation of ‘intermittent’. ‘Continuous’ is a little more creative. The worker is photographed in the centre of a bell wheel that he is building. A wheel, or any circular form is by definition, continuous – it has no beginning or end. The shot was taken at Taylor’s Bell Foundry, a company that has been casting bells, and presumably making bell wheels, for more than 600 years – continuously! It was shot on medium format film using a Bronica and processed at home. The images share a square crop and a lack of colour.
The final image in our previously shot selection needed to contain both halves of the contrast. This tree in Bradgate Park has been standing in its spot overlooking the city for several hundred years. This picture was shot on a windy day (in June) and so the movement in the tips of the branches and clouds was caught in the long exposure, made possible by a 10-stop neutral density filter.
The next stages of the assignment are the submission of the final images and to review our own work against the assessment criteria, recording our thoughts. At the moment, it feels like I am hung-up on this assignment and need to gather momentum once more, but without submitting something I’m not happy with…
Freeman, M. (2011) Composition, Contrast and the Bauhaus [online]. The Freeman View. Available from: http://thefreemanview.com/observations/composition-contrast-and-the-bauhaus/ [30 November 2013]
Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited.