Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Term 2: Portfolio Images

These final 5 images were chosen out off a what became a large number of photo's taken on the night. I decided on these 5 because they each because important in telling the story and yet leave enough room for a viewer to make up their own mind about what they are seeing. I did have another image that initially I wanted to include however I was unable to match the sky colour to these images. While I still think it could have worked with the series I like 5 as a number of images sitting together. The result of the consistent red worked well. Using the blue gels to add a sense of mystery (and light) ended up matching the blue drinking cup. The mix of red, blue and green in the images definitely uses the influences of Alex Prager and Gregory Crewdson and yet these final images are very much my own without too much 'copying'. I've added my own humour, movement and style of which I am very proud of. 

A huge thank you to Caryline who has taught me so much during the past several months I never thought I would understand as much as I do (believe me I know it's nothing compared with experts!) and I never really thought I would be as inspired as I have been. It's be life changing. 

Thank you MIT! 

Term 2: Portfolio Contextual Questions // Portfolio Series

What were you thinking about when you made this work?
I wanted to create a series with a narrative, something familiar yet sureal. The idea initially started out as a series of situations I had seen on the side of the road which I wanted to recreate in a slightly more styled fashion. However this initial idea wasn't surreal and was probably more documentary in style. The content straightforward and obvious. These situations I'd seen on the street and noted down  with the aim of recapturing what I had seen in during the glimpse driving by.  But the individual set-ups became too difficult to stage and execute to the level that I felt I was ready and able. After the first test shoot I decided I wanted to simplify and draw on my skills as a storyteller and work with more of a linear narrative approach by using one model and capturing one story. But I needed to get clear on the story. I decided to stick with the idea of the side of the road but moved it closer to the house, getting closer to the door I started to think about about reasons why someone would knock on a door at night. I considered the situations I myself have had to knock on the door of a house at night alone. It's always rather unnerving. So, I started asking questions. Did they know who was behind the door? Are they excited about answering the door? Is it a rendevouz with a lover? The fear of knocking on someone's door goes back to childhood (for me at least) when one was forced to ask about a ball on the other side of the fence or drop off something to your grandmothers friend. For some reason there was always a fear surrounding the experience, maybe you would get told off or it wouldn't be the person you expected to answer the door. So, I wanted to explore these feelings in a situation that included night, isolation, expectations and 'the worst that could happen', or at least the idea of 'the worst that could happen'.

What was going on in the world and did any of these events influence your thinking at the time?
There are a lot of things going on in the world but nothing in particular that influenced this work. I do watch far too many terribly made crime tv shows (secret shame) and I'd say the content of these had a decent affect on the subject matter of the series.

What photographic genre and sub genre (if applicable) does your work fit into?
Fine Art - Staged Photography

Who are your photographic influences? What photographic genre do these photographers fit into?
Gregory Crewdson / Fine Art Photography
Jeff Wall / Fine Art Photography
Alex Prager / Fine Art Photography

What ideas or techniques do you take from these photographers into your own work? 
Crewdson did a whole series of images taken at twilight, this was one of the initial inspirations for this series and something I will continue to work with. I really like the idea of creating an image at a time of day when the light and moment seems more fleeting, like life itself. Crewdson also creates images that seem to take place just after and just before an event. The event doesn't have to be huge and in fact Crewdson seems to focus more on the personal and often suburban tragedy. I wanted to use the street where I live to create a similar feeling with the goal to keep it lighter in mood. Due to the way in which Crewdson works (at twilight with continuous low lighting) his images hold little movement, the long exposures mean the character's moments often feel very held. This was a quality I initially toyed with but realised wasn't something that felt right for me. I want to explore more movement and forward moving emotion or reaction.
Wall's work with 'micro-gestures' appealed to my instincts as an actor, the tiny moments when the truth between people becomes apparent. This would have been more suited had the series focused on interconnecting relationships or images that stood alone. One of my initial ideas was to show a father and son mowing the lawn outside the front of their house, the father moves towards the son to keep him mowing with his plastic toy mower on the footpath and out of the way of the dangerous mower. A brief moment of survival and nurture in a suburban setting.
Coming across Prager was a happy accident; her colour, movement, surrealism, female subjects and emotion driven images have pushed the concept of my series to find consistent colour, subject matter and a clear journey. Her style has helped me to look at the influences of her and Crewdson and forced me to question the 'why' in my own series. From her work I have taken her use of red, highly styled subjects, sense of humour and movement. It was also through her work that I have begun researching colour theory.

Are you influenced by artists working in other disciplines? 
The compositional work of Alfred Hitchcock in his films clearly influenced Prager and Crewdson. His obsession with the dark side of what humans are capable of and where their fears lie. Hitchcock knew that fear generally comes from the unknown, not showing everything all at the same time and sometimes not showing it at all. He also knew that it's nice to dress and style beautiful women and then put them in danger!

Term 2: Portfolio // Before & During The Shoot

Once I finally settled on shooting one model, covering one narrative it was much easier to plan and execute.

I decided to approach Torum to be the model for the shoot after trying to think of someone with a classic face that would also be able to pull off the final shot I had in mind of the girl getting fright. Having never worked with Torum before I contacted her, took her for coffee and talked through the concept with her. She was excited about the idea and yet concerned as she didn't think she was photogenic. After convincing her that this would be more like putting on a character rather than just taking a selfie she agreed. We planned to do a test shoot on the weekend to warm her into it and for myself to experiment with lighting. We weren't going to worry about styling for the test.

It rained. And then it rained again. Both test shoot evenings didn't work out and in the end I was forced to plan the entire shoot without really knowing what would happen on the night.

Styling: Torum decided she was more than capable of doing her own make-up and hair.

Costume: I searched high and low for an imaginary dress I wanted her to wear and in the end opted for her to be wearing my own coat. I really wanted to work with red and I couldn't anything close to this through any of my contacts.

Lighting: After experimenting with the MIT portable lighting kit during the first test shoot I knew there was no way I would be able to get far enough away from the sensor to be able to get the shots I wanted. I researched online and decided to use two basic lamps from bunnings. Each cost $10 each. One used a tungsten bulb and the other a halogen worker lamp. Where needed I added the blue gels from MIT to soften the light.

Planning the shots: I worked with a very basic hand written storyboard so that I knew what shots I wanted to get. I imagine they would make no sense to anyone else!

On the night
Prepping for the shoot became a bit of a weather nightmare but I decided that no matter what we would go ahead and if it rained then we would get wet.

Torum got ready at my house (the location). It took a while for us to get our groove on but by the time the sun started to decend we were working well together and with the help of my Dad (holding lamps and reflectors) to get the shots I was after to create the story. Our biggest trouble shooting was which shoes she should wear so really it went far better than I expected.

Term 2: Portfolio // Hitchcock Research

After looking at the work of Gregory Crewdson and Alex Prager I wanted to go back to one of their shared influences, Alfred Hitchcock. They both point to him as someone whose style they've used in their work. Crewdson seems more to take Hitchcock's dark themes of suburban loneliness and unknown demons, while Prager is more overt using similar wardrobe styling and even includes many birds in her pieces. Both take influence from his carefully choreographed images and thoughtful lighting.

So what have I learnt about Hitchcock himself.

Hitchcock started making films before talkies became the norm and was trained in telling a story in pictures using very limited dialogue.  He was also an artist that got better with age as he honed his style and techniques. He loved to take his audience on a journey, surprise then and tantalise them. He also very clearly celebrated beautiful women in film after film, using them as his muse. He played with people's fears of the unknown and turned it into entertainment in a very artful way.

Here's a couple of things that straight away I want to use during my portfolio shoot:

Female in centre of frame

Chiaroscuro & 2nd Figure in side of frame

Mixed use of vantage point

This filmic editing technique was used by Hitchcock, particularly during his action sequences to show enough of what was going on for the audience to understand but not so much that they get bored. This idea came from what Hitchcock described as what people actually see or remember during a fast sequence of events like a fight. You don't see everything that's happening but you understand.

For my series I want to use this technique of not showing everything but showing enough that the viewer can make up their own mind about the journey of the girl in 5 images.

Term 2: Digi Tech // Aaron K Response

Aaron K has much to say about the Photography industry and is a prime example of someone who manages to traverse many areas of the industry in an expert manner. In fact it was such a diverse talk it was difficult to decide how to respond.

As a photographer he has a relatively varied approach, although it seems his work (at least on his website) does tend to be taken in a studio. He work is glossy and smooth. He clearly knows how to get the best of out lighting and for that matter everything else.

But something in particular that Aaron mentioned was 'concept' and it's use in an editorial shoot. I completely agree that a concept driven editorial is far more interesting than just cool clothes in a random and non specific location.

Concept Driven Editorials can be found everywhere. I went straight to the big guns of editorial budgets and had a look at Vogue. Vogue pushes the limits of editorial with often obvious concepts but with the use of big production scale images they are able to do what younger magazines can not, creating elaborate sets and using the extent of their prop budget.

Vogue // Alice in Wonderland

These images take the characters and locations of Alice and Wonderland and dress them in the latest trends to create an extensive editorial of images. They are beautifully detailed and have successfully created images that stop and make you look. The familiarity of the story draws the viewer in, it's not until closer inspection that the clothing is even noticeable.

Vogue // Terry Richardson and Crystal Renn

The overt sexuality of these images is pretty clear. Crystal has a piece of food in her mouth in every image. They are disturbing, you want to look away but you want to know what she is eating and why. The concept here seems pretty clear. Gluttony + Housewife Styling = Sexual.

Context. We generally want it as humans and it's easy to see how just looking at pretty girls in pretty clothes sort of isn't enough after a while. By creating concept driven editorial you can generate a relatable series which makes viewers take a second or even third look at the spread.

After looking at a variety of concepts I deiced to opt for a simple photographic response. I wanted to create 3 images that were connected and could be part of the same editorial. I chose to include possible pieces that could be part of a fashion editorial mixed with the concept.

Concept: Empty Fairy Tale
- All imagery to be taken in a natural setting
- Each photo to include food element from a different fairytale + buyable item

Snow White


Little Red Riding Hood

The images above are pretty basic. I think it's relatively obvious what the fairytales are, however I don't think they are particularly interesting to look at. I think that better lighting and probably a model would have brought life to these ideas. In fact they probably work better as a test shoot to show someone where the idea could go before placing a model in the shoot. Although there is something in the idea that we never see the heroine of the story only their aftermath. If I was to do this again I would like to have more food in each shot, emphasising on the magical and unreal quality of the stories. What I like about conceptual editorial shoots is that there is room for the view to put the pieces together themselves and figure out what connects them.  

Term 2: Digi Tech // Nick T Response

The Perfect Client Experience 

After hearing about the Field Trip and discussion by Nick T I wanted to research and understand what a 'perfect' experience would be for someone who needed a photographer. Obviously this would change depending on what a client wanted and what kind of work the photographer focused on. However I have chosen to first do some simple research on what general expectations are and then narrowed in on my own practise as a photographer taking head shots by creating myself a simple process manual.

So here goes....

Basic expectations of a client looking for a photographer:
  1. A strong portfolio
  2. Great communication
  3. Professional process and environment
  4. Clear with costs
  5. Prompt delivery of images
There's a whole bunch of info online that relates especially to 'How to find a wedding photographer' that I thought might be helpful but....that really is specific to weddings. So then I just went about looking at great customer experience and from there I was able to find some more practical info. 

Here's some of the things that keep popping up:
  1. Be contactable - answer ph calls, emails and/or texts as promptly as possible
  2. Listen - figure out what a customer wants
  3. Do what you say you will do - and do it better
  4. Follow up on positive AND negative feedback
  5. Go the extra mile
  6. Be transparent when it comes to money
The work towards creating a great customer experience will go a long way to gaining repeat customers and getting recommended to their friends. You can see why Nick T puts such a large focus of his time and energy not only getting great shots but making sure people have a great time. 

Experimentation: The Perfect Headshot Client Experience // Process

Professional, personal, warm and easy.

Making Contact
-       Let potential customer know what you do and why you do it
-       Find out what their expectations are
-       Let them know how much it cost
-       Let customer know exactly what they will get for their money

Confirming the Booking
-       Make booking easy, add calendar event (and reminders for them and you)
-       Send clear information on what to bring to shoot & what to expect on the day
-       Recommend hair and make-up options
-       Send reminder 3 days before + encouragement
-       Send reminder the night before + encouragement + where to park/directions

Shoot Prep on the day
-       Have the shooting areas’ prepped
-       Lighting options ready
-       Camera ready, CF card empty
-       Hanger for clothes
-       Tidy House
-       Clean and tidy areas for them to change

Arrival of Client
-       Light snacks and beverages ready (tea, Coffee, water)
-       Music to get them in the mood
-       Let them know what’s going to happen
-       Give them time to dress and tidy make-up (if already done)
-       Shoot!

End of session
-       Tidy up Clients things if needed
-       Send them off with water

Receiving the images
-       Edit Images as soon as possible (within 5 days)
-       Send Images to either via Dropbox or offer for a USB to be sent or picked up

-       Send Invoice and thank you

Add images to Website with permission


Example of Email to Client: 

Hi Jane,

Thank you for getting in contact and thinking of me. Getting new headshots is always a great way to rejuvenate your image and make casting directors take notice. I come from a background of acting, directing and producing and know the difference great images can make to getting auditions. 

I offer a variety natural light headshots, shot from my home and some surrounding locations in Mt Eden.  I then take the images, edit the best and handover the final images for you and your agent to choose from.

Here is some examples of my work: website link

My current rate for a headshot session is $200 and includes:
-       2.5 hour shooting session
-       Editing of between 5 -10 images
-       Edited images in small (website suitable) and large formats (High Resolution)
-       USB with all images

If you have any questions or you’re keen to book a session let me know your time frame and we can go from there.

Kind Regards,

Sarah Graham


Making a Booking:

STEP ONE:  Organize a time and handover information

Hi Jane,

That’s great news. I’m very much looking forward to working with you towards creating you some stunning headshots. Below are a few options in terms of booking a session, let me know which one will suit you best.

Option One:
Option Two:
Option Three:

I have attached PDF outlining all the basics you need to know about our session. What to bring, hair, make-up etc.

Let me know what slot will work best for you and I will book you in.

Kind Regards,

Sarah Graham

PDF Attachment to include:

What to bring to your headshot session:

Bring a variety to tops
Most head-shots focus on your shoulders upwards so it's important to bring several options in terms of tops. Both formal and informal e.g males please bring shirt and t-shirt options. Try not to bring anything that is too low cut or too high cut. Make sure to include black, white and bright colours in your options. 

You are more than welcome to do you your own make-up for the shoot. I encourage you not to wear too much as these images need to look like you, not the highly glamorised version of you. If you use a make-up artist please let me know and I can arrange space for you to do this at the shoot. 

If you have long hair please style it out and we can always tie it up for a different look towards the end of the shoot. Females if you don't want to pay a load of money to have you're hair styles but don't feel comfortable doing your own I recommend having your hair blown out at Dry and Tea before coming to the shoot. 

Drink Water and Sleep!
In the week running up to the shoot make sure you look after yourself. Drink a minimum of 2 litres of water a day and make sure to get some decent sleep. This will go a long way to making your skin and eyes ready for your close up. 

Shoot Location & Parking
1/54 Ellerton Road
Mt Eden 
Free on street parking


STEP TWO: Confirm Booking via email

Hi Jane,

Great, I’ve booked you in for ________________ and sent you a calendar invite.

Let me know if you have any further questions about what to wear, make-up or hair.

Otherwise, I shall talk to you closer to the time.

Kind Regards,

Sarah Graham


STEP THREE: Email check in Optional
-       One week out from booking
-       Check in regarding make-up and hair + Clothing options


SSTEP FOUR: Text Reminder
-       Night before
-       Text reminder (include address so client has it on their phone)


Some of the above process was straight forward but the execution of these steps will actually be a lot of work. I can definitely see the usefulness of going the extra mile for a client. Looking after them every step of the why and getting images to them quickly and seemingly effortlessly. I personally find this rather difficult. I make time to do the job but forget to book time with myself to edit images and get them to the client. Following through will be a big focus for me next year as I work to gain headshot clients while working full time. This response has been most useful in preparing for this.  

Term 2: Digi Tech: Evaluation & Contextualisation

Jeff Wall // Milk, 1984

What do I see?
A man looking away,wearing no socks, bursting milk, tense hand on knee, sitting outside a building. The building looks clean and fresh - unlike the man sitting out front. Brick wall, reflective window, small hedge, strong shadows from direct light from the left hand side of the frame. Tension. Action and Movement. Questions that arise, 'Why is this man sitting here?', 'Why is his milk bursting?', 'Is he angry?', 'What is going on?'.

What camera and compositional techniques have been used?
Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is slightly wider than normal but it is still very present.


This image is filled with triangles. Whether the artist intended it or not (I'm going to assume that it was intentional given the staged nature of the work). This first and most clear example forms the structural integrity for the composition. The straight pillar meeting the angle of the human subject.

This smaller triangle from the top of his head, to his crunching hand and reaching out to the frozen splash of milk mirrors the larger triangle and sits inside it.

Here you can see the triangles created by the human subject's body. His posture has created many triangles including the one above. This way of placing the subject has added to the feeling of movement and tension in the image.

Direct Light

Sharp defined shadows mixed with shadows cast from a high angle. Potentially there is more than one light source being used to create this image other than the sun, or there is another structure adding to the slight shadow which I have noted above. Also the darkness of the interior in the background suggests another structure.




Our gentleman fits the bill of the foreground meanwhile the main 'background' of this image is the brickwall with the furthest away subject being the inside of the building. This layered approach turns what could have been a flat image if the left horizontal third was cropped out into a piece with depth.

How does this image make me feel?
Empowered and uncomfortable. The freeze frame of the milk suggests either this was a miraculous shot or a staged image (which knowing some of Jeff Wall's work you know it is). But the question of why this image has been captured isn't answered quickly on even the first, second or third view. The bright colours give a hopeful feeling while the look on the man's face is uncomfortable and potentially even in pain. This complexity is confusing and while there is a magical feeling about freezing the milk, I really have no idea at first glance what is going on.

What ideas do I think the photographer is working with here?
The fringe of society. The juxtaposition of the clean building with a moment of violence. The veil of happiness in bright colours and fresh buildings mixed with the reality of someone sitting on the ground outside it making a mess. I think the photographer is experimenting with fast shutter - capturing a minute moment in time, depth - having the furthest distance in the image to the side of the frame.

Who took the photo and why?
Jeff Wall - an incident the artist saw and then recreated. It is a continuation of images taken in the street of people during 'micro-gestures' - gestures that seem automatic and habitual. Wall doesn't like his work to become predictable and attempts to do something different in each of his works.

What is their ethnicity and does this influence the work?
Canadian Photographer - trained in the 60s and early 70s. Wall started out as a painter and then moved towards photography. He is careful and methodical in his style is almost jokingly how someone might joke about a stereotypical Canadian but really I how no idea if this is true.

When and where did they take this photo?
I'm not sure on the answer here as it's difficult to find answers about this photo in particular (in books and on the internet).

What are their political beliefs and are these relevant to the work?
Couldn't find the answers to this one, therefore if it is relevant to the artist and the work it isn't apparent.

What is is their social status and background and how does this relate to their subject matter?
Wall spends much of his time in so called 'cheaper' neighbourhoods where his studios have been located, these locations help to leave him open to being part of and seeing the margins of society.

In what decade or century was the the work taken? Does this influence your reading of this work?
1980s - the style of the work means it could have been taken at any point in the past 40 years. The image seems timeless.

Were there events happening at the time that may have influenced this work?
Taken as the world was coming out of a global recession and moving in to an era when wealth and luxury was very much celebrated. Wall goes against the the upcoming trend and sheds light on the edges of a frustrated society. From what I have read, there is an importance placed on the capture of 'liquid' via the camera shutter - something thing that can not be done with the human eye. The form liquid creates when it is frozen is powerful and impossible.

How is the work presented?
Transparency in lightbox 1870 x 2290 mm
Cinematographic photograph
Wall's choice to present his work in light boxes mimics commercial advertisements and brings the illuminated image into a gallery setting.

Where are you viewing this work and how does this affect your reading of it?
In a book of Wall's work and on a computer screen. I would like to see this image as it is meant to be seen, in a lightbox in a gallery. The image in the book isn't  as clear as the ones on the computer screen.