5 Months Masters Milestone
What a great start to my Masters, and Nikki Price Photography will still be running in a business sense, but I’ve decided to take a small step back to concentrate on my studies. This choice of course isn’t an immediate concern for me as I’m not directing my time a million miles away from where my passion lies, and I have some smaller projects in the pipeline for 2018.
I’ve realised in writing this blog, that I had two pre-loaded draft blogs on:
- a literature list (in an attempt to encourage myself to write as I go along)
- and a two month review of where I am with my research
I won’t repost the whole blogs but here’s a little flavour for you:
The thing I’ve found with research and reading around a subject you are so passionate about, brings up all kinds of the thoughts and processes. I’ve found myself in a natural ‘rabbit hole’, wanting to keep delving into subjects and getting more and more excited about where it is leading me. I have been writing using good old fashioned paper and pen, and often let my thoughts wander having ‘revelations and ideas’ at times, so I always try to keep my observation journal on me. In many ‘how to’ guides I’ve seen advice like ensure you diarise time to just think, which I think is sound advice!
Great thinking places I’ve found are (I’ve also got Lauren Elkins Flaneuse book waiting in the wings to be read so hoping for some further inspiration):
- on a train -journeys over half an hour are best (great for when I travel to Uni)
- in a cafe – always a bonus for a long lunch
- in the shower -all best ideas are made here aren’t they?
So where am I now?
Three months further into my reading and I feel I’m getting to that research niche in that shadow, my thirst for knowledge and reading is growing, like I commented to my supervisor, ‘I loved that book so much I felt like I inhaled it!’ (speaking of Annette Kuhn’s Family Secrets). I’ve completed my first presentation and was comfortable doing it.
My research (no matter how wide I am reading at the moment) keeps pulling me to: using family photography (memory and narratives) as a means to researching Identity, Belonging, and Loss.
So in photography’s core concept of the ‘Rule of Thirds’ here are my top three (boy this has been hard!) key readings that have made a huge impact on me so far, and would encourage you to read them:
Annette Kuhn (1995) Family Secrets
Taking Autoethonography to the next level with this book, a straight talking 360 degree analysis of the authors family photographs, allowed me to think more about the ‘face value’ of the immediate photograph. This read has enabled me to think more about my childhood photographs, particularly those during my senior school years and to analyse them within the wider social context at that time, and my family unit. Kuhn’s reflection on her school uniform echoed that of my own, mother buying the size up so we ‘would grow into it’ (I’m sure many families consider this!) coming from a single parent family. I was also the first in my family to go to University, and all the expectations and feelings that surrounded this. Kuhn’s father was the photographer and yet it was her mother who was the instigator for the photos of Kuhn in various home made outfits, mirroring a matriarchal perception of mother as the nurturer, time keeper, and recorder of childhood moments. This also ignited my love of concepts of time travel, and awareness of time using photographs to allow us to metaphorically travel/connect with different points of time, Marc Triver notes that ‘a room needs a clock to denote the passing of time’ P185 in Berger’s book;
John Bergers (1967) Understanding a photograph
I read Bergers book at the same time I watched his 1972 BBC series of Ways of seeing. Both have completely transformed not only the way I am thinking about and analysing my own work, but art I see in many places. My connection to of art is greater, taking a 3 minute ‘dedicated’ time to ‘see’ work that I find of particular interest to me, looking deeper into what the artists message was, the context in which it was made, and having that critical reflection. I particularly enjoyed Berger’s diagrams on ‘Memory’ and its ‘non-linear’ way of looking at a photograph, in that recalling memories from photographs although constructed in a very chronological/linear way (in a hard copy of an album Birth through to before Death), the process of understanding/seeing a photograph happens in a very “radially” way “that is to say that an enormous number of associations leading to the same event” (P59). This allowed me to think that a photograph isn’t simply a static moment in time, but an artefact to revisit again and again, to enhance or obtain different meanings from it as Berger says “The appearances of the event photographed implicates other events, It is the energy of these simultaneous connections and cross references which enlarge the circle beyond the dimension of instantaneous information” (p91) i.e. a photograph allows for more interpretation, beyond what you can initially see.
The great thing about Berger’s work is his no-nonsense straight forward talk, and written words, that I find very accessible, de-mystifying the arena of ‘art’.
Roland Barthes (1982) Camera Lucida
Probably the key three things to come out of Barthes Camera Lucida is his analysis of the ‘Winter Garden’ (p63) photograph, the Punctum (p27) and Studium (p28). In his analysis of the Winter Garden, Barthes was searching for his mothers true identity, connecting with who she was before he was born. He suggested that ‘the photograph doesn’t necessarily say what is no longer but only for certain was has been’ (p85), in the case of his mother, she was at the Winter Garden, that is for certain, looking at the concepts of photographs moving across time, this would allow Barthes to now ‘see’ his mother as she was then. Although strange for me to say perhaps from coming from a visual perspective, I found the beautiful thing about his analysis and his connection to the photo was that there was no copy of it for the reader to see, as he notes ‘this photograph only exists for me, for you it would be nothing other than an indifferent picture’ (p73). The Punctum; that something within the photo that pricks your interest, and the Studium; allowing time to contemplate the photo, have been two simple concepts but inspirational ideas.
Along with Berger and Kuhn’s books this has changed the way I am seeing, I have revisited past work and family photographs, to really ‘see’ what is contained within. For Example; my Punctum in this Family photograph is the red coat I am wearing. This photo was in a collection kept by my late father, I didn’t recall the moment it was taken until I saw the photo, and the red coat immediately stood out to me ‘pricking’ my interest, the spending time (studium) to analyse it further.
How I go about taking a photo….
As you know I love sharing my completed and ongoing photography projects with you, whether they are through commission or personal, working on both for me is such a pleasure. I have wanted for a long time, to share more about the planning and processes I go through in order to capture that ‘best shot’.
Light.co contacted me and said how much they enjoyed my previous blogs and asked if I could write a blog about how I go about creating so many great images, so…..what a perfect opportunity to do just that. Light Co are keen to get more photographers sharing their stories of how they go about creating that great image so if you want to do get involved contact them direct. Their new camera does look very interesting, kind of a DSLR capacity but with the convenience of a phone, it uses a multiple lens system to shoot the scene at once and then they are put together in a DSLR quality photograph.
Personal projects; these start as little creative balls that bounce about in my head, sometimes they come from inspiration of other artists work online, or face to face in galleries. Other times they are the ‘wake first thing in the morning and have to keep a sketch pad next to your bed’ kinda shots that you know you just have to take or you’ll burst! My submissions for the Skin Exhibition this year at the Horsebridge Centre were like this, I had pictures in my head of exactly how I wanted these photos to look (after months of thinking about it!).
Commissioned projects; Clients contact me to book shoots as they like my informal style, our initial meeting is more of a friendly chat, them letting me know what they want, and me explaining how this can be achieved. It is the trust clients have in me (through my years of courses, practice, and self taught skills), that I love the most, its about collaboration, enabling me to have full creative reign with the photos, but within their requirements.
For a start point, what you choose to photograph, is unique to you, from your gut/your place of instinct, you have chosen to press that shutter at that exact moment for a reason.
It is difficult to think of just one shot to describe to you, so you may find the following process useful:
- Sketch (stick women are fine!) some initial ideas of how you want your particular photo to look, what camera are you using? I have upgraded to a Canon 6d, there are so many ‘point and shoot’ cameras out there, including ones on mobile phones, which provide good quality photos. What lens do you want to use (I love to work with my 50mm lens) taking into consideration of things such as depth of field. I get fully absorbed in my mind of what exactly I want to shoot sometimes over many hours!
- Shoot time – key tip if you are shooting all day, or out on location (If its a shoot for a client, I will undertake a pre-shoot to familiarise myself with the location), wear comfy shoes! remember a strong stance will help the shot if you are working with a heavy full frame camera. Many must do photography tips mention the basics of the rule of thirds, this is a good starting point to set up your photo but as the saying goes ‘aren’t all rules meant to be broken?’. Your golden shot may not come immediately, so having patience to get to it, is important, equally if you feel that you aren’t getting that ‘one shot’ then move on to the next, particularly if you are time limited, my night photography shots are very much like this; setting up in the evenings in the cold and wind, but patience and perseverance will reward you. Have a try also mixing up your photo orientation; play with portrait and landscape shots. Basic edits on phones can be undertaken by in phone or downloadable apps, I have Photoshop Express on my iPhone, and use lightroom and photoshop for more in-depth edits on the Mac (I could go into this much more, on another blog perhaps?).
- Have fun – I can’t emphasise this enough, taking photos professionally or personally is a pleasure. Always try new things and push yourself to those shots which are out of your comfort zone, some accidental photos and mis -fires in the studio have provided me with some of my most favourite shots!
Here are just some of my top recent photos:
Products: A great shoot with the Sunlight centre cafe team. This shot was taken under studio lights, 1/125 f5.6 iso 100, with my 24-105 lens. Post processing in Lightroom.
Portraits: Working with the fabulous Sullivan family. This shot was taken in early light 1/200 F5.6 iso 320 with a 50mm lens. Post processing in Lightroom.
Personal Project: Night Photography. This shot was taken at 11.30pm, 8 sec exp, f1.4 ISO 200 50mm lens. Post processing in Lightroom.
Please feel free to share your photos with me.