Assignment 2: Collecting

08th February 2021

The Brief

Create a series of between six and ten photographs on one of the following subjects: • Things • Views • Heads

OXA EYV (2014:51)

Jail House Punk

A Covid Mental Health Fanzine

Concept

The concept of this fanzine is to present imagery which shows that during the COVID lockdown, the isolation that I found myself in, impacted both my physical and mental well being. The self-portraits represent the various emotional states as I experienced them.

The poem was written by me for this assignment and coupled with the self-portraits, I decided to present them as a fanzine, a form of magazine that I would buy weekly when I was a teenager, and which I would happily sit and read in ‘chosen isolation’ in my bedroom.

It was while researching work by various photographers, that I had watched the Elvis film, ‘Jail House Rock.’ The title initiated thoughts connected with the COVID lockdown and how I felt as if I was in jail. I decided to change the title to ‘Jail House Punk’ which symbolises me, with my punk hair, clothes and music, in the house, in lockdown.

The video

Jail House Punk Fanzine

I decided to make a video which showed each page being opened. The idea behind this is so that rather than two-dimensional images on a blog, the viewer can see the movement of the fanzine as it should be viewed, as a three dimensional tactile object.

The sound that runs in the background of the video is also created by myself.

I collected the sounds from a sleep app. The sounds are ‘the womb’ which is the sounds of a baby’s heartbeat coupled with their mother’s heartbeat and a 2.5Hz continuous tone. The womb sounds represent me as a mother and the foetal position in which I predominantly sleep, and the 2.5Hz sound is one that I add to my sleep sound creations.

The binaural beats of 2.5 Hz are in the Delta range, allowing you to let go as your brain is flooded with serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. 2.5 Hz is a sedative and pain relief frequency. It stimulates the production of endogenous opiates.

Wildmare, R. (2018)

To record the sounds that I wanted to use from an app called ‘relax melodies’ I recorded them individually on my iPhone using the ‘Dolby On’ app and from here they were downloaded into Adobe Rush.

Recording the video wasn’t as straight forward at first. I had to watch a YouTube video and write notes on how to best set up my Panasonic GH5 for video work. The notes from the YouTube video can be found on the blog post GH5 Video Settings. However once the settings had been changed setting up the tripod and camera and shooting the video came down to common sense and was easily completed.

To combine the video with the soundtrack was also a very new experience for me. To do this I downloaded Adobe Premiere Rush and watched their tutorials so that I knew how to navigate within the app. The blog post, Adobe Premiere Rush has my notes from the tutorials and describes a little about using it for the first time.

Self-portraits

The Poem

The poem is written by myself to illustrate how I felt in lockdown and to strengthen the link between the written word and the visual imagery of the self-portraits.

The poem is the original hand written piece completed as I lay in bed. I composed the piece straight onto paper without any alterations.

The front cover

The front cover is a self-portrait created by the cross-app technique which is a staged photograph. Beginning in Photoshop to ensure image is faultless both visually and compositionally, the image is transferred into an iPad app. Once in the apps, the image is ‘created’ by transferring to one specific technical app to another.

Within each app it is not the case of just ‘playing around’ with different settings but working on may combinations of settings to produce the ‘right’ look. These include, size and positioning, and searching through text examples.

The black vertical lines represent the bars of a jail.

The front cover is created as follows: Photoshop – WordFoto – Sketchbook – Photoshop.

The completed front cover

Examples of some of the photographs and editing and production of the front cover image.

Background images

The background images consist of shots of my duvet as it was found on the day that this shoot took place. It includes the objects as they were found on my bed which included my glasses, medication box, mobile phone and remote control. The colour was also good for pushing the washed out images forwards towards the viewers.

Below shows the fanzines layout and how the images relate to their backgrounds. This includes how the orange of the duvet frames the washed out high key images, and words such as ’emergency’ on my mobile phone were purposely left as information for the viewer.

The drawings

Many of the fanzines that I had in the 1980’s, consisted of photographs of my musical hero’s. These photographs took the form of portraits which could be used as posters and also fan drawings which were sent in and then chose by the publishers to be printed within them.

I therefore produced three types of ink drawings. The first is in grid format and shows close-up details from the images already used for the fanzine. The second shows an ink drawing of myself asleep, an obvious staged photograph, and lastly, a combination of a washed out photograph with the ink drawing over the top of it.

Technical

Using a selection of self-portraits which are taken over a period of time meant that the camera used and settings are different according to the type of light and its strength.

  • Camera: iPhone 7 and iPad
  • Lens: fixed focal length2.9mm (32.0mm in 35mm equivalent) f/2.2
  • Settings: mixed depending on environment and lighting conditions (see individual image information)
  • File type: HEIC/RAW, jpg (see individual image information)

Printing

An Epson SureColor P600 printer and the cheapest photocopier paper was used. The cheap paper looked and felt like the quality and thickness of the 80’s magazines that I use to buy.

Workflow

Initial ideas and working out

Overwhelmed with possibilities after reading the assignment brief, I began work by jotting down any ideas or visualisations connected with the theme ‘heads’. The working out can be seen below.

Beginning the fanzine

Image selection

I decided that I would follow Thomas Ruff’s idea of using images that had already been produced.

Thirty one images were chosen in total and whittled down to the final eight. One of the criteria that I had chosen the images for was the fact that half of images had been taken in bed and there is predominantly a bright light source to the left side of the faces.

Having selected images that I could work with, I was drawn to two ‘High-key Light Mono’ images which are greyscale portraits on a white background. Both of these images had been taken like this on the iPhone using one of the cameras shooting modes.

The high contrast and lack of details give a harsh visual feel to the portraits which for me represents how I feel when my CPTSD is triggered. It was this criteria that I wanted to use for the portraits already taken, so I used the camera app to take photographs of the photographic portrait images which had been printed out in A4 size.

Image manipulation

The ‘High-key Light Mono’ images were manipulated in such a way that they symbolised fading away into a nothingness, which is how I feel when dissociating. This nothingness represented my essence that had been dissolving away during lockdown. I was slowly dying of boredom, and loneliness which had taken a tole on me and my depression and dissociative disorder had begun to engulf me.

The fading effect is created in an iPad app called Autodesk SketchBook and it is a very simple technique. The hard erasure brush is adjusted in size and opacity, according to the image part being altered and the iPad pen is used as the erasure on the image.

Once this part of the workflow had been completed I began to work on other ideas in the SketchBook app as they appeared in my imagination. I annotated the images to review ideas of content as I worked. These ideas can be seen below.

Trial: The Composition

Once I had I trialled various image ideas in SketchBook, I unpacked the concept further by looking at compositional values and different types of grid formats which can be seen below. From here while I was experimenting I added text to see if that would compliment the series visually as well as add pointers to the viewer about the images links to emotions.

I decided that the overall effect of presenting such work within a fanzine was not true to the original content of the 1980’s and was akin to the modern day composition trends.

From a Leporello book design to a fan magazine design

To begin unpacking this idea I began to make notes in SketchBook on my iPad. I draw the book and labelled the pages with example layouts. Then I added the six images that I felt visually were the strongest and showed varying emotions.

Although the leporello book proved to be a good way of presenting the portraits and was similar to a few small fold out fan magazines that I had, I decided to go with the initial idea of an A4 magazine format.

Evaluation

What worked well

I wanted to portray snippets of my feelings in lockdown. The images portray this specifically because they are a documentation of how I was feeling at the time they were taken. I also believe that my additional creative work on the images where I changed the original images by use of the iPhone’s camera, High-Key Light Mono effect and the erasing of details in SketchBook, worked well to achieve the visual likeness of my essence being dissolved away into a nothingness.

Another area that I feel worked very well is the presentation of the magazine as a video which enabled the viewer to see it as though they were looking through it. I also believe the soundtrack which I have called ‘Womb2.5’ works well as an accompaniment to the visual aspect of the video.

What did not work well

There are a two sections within my workflow that I feel did not work particularly well.

  1. The first area that needs developing is the technical aspect of printing. I noticed that I have two problems that urgently need researching and fixing. The first problem is monitor to print colour differences. I do calibrate my screen with the SpyderX system so there should not be a problem but there is. This will definitely need to be researched further because there would be no point printing the images otherwise or even planning for them to be printed. The second problem which I cannot work out, is that I cannot print from Photoshop because it cannot find a printer, if I print from the Epson printer app I have horizontal lines running through my images and I therefore can only print through the open file on the desktop. This does not make sense and so far my researched have not shown a reason for such a variety of different outcomes.
  2. Lastly is my magazine making technique. This was definitely a fail. If you watch the video you can see that the pages edge will not stay glued down in the centre fold of the magazine due to the fact they were over lapping. This makes the overall visual appearance quite poor and if truth be known it has upset me as it spoils the whole visual outcome of the work within the video.

How the series could be improved

To improve the image series I would shoot all of the images with the same camera settings and use the iPhones camera effect ‘High-Key Light Mono’ from the start of the image collection. This however was not possible for this assignment as the portraits used are part of a year long series of work which is why the original images were converted using this effect instead.

The series presentation technique will need to be improved because there is no point in printing out and producing images that are strong in their own right which are then are let down dramatically in their presentation. In this instance it has been my making skills which have spoiled the outcome. To improve this I have actually bought some books that show book making techniques and I will begin to watch and make notes on bookmaking for photography and art and this will become a side project. The reason that I am keen to learn the book making skill is because in my professional practice I would like to present my photographs in both sculpture and sculptural book creations. I do not like the software that you can make your books in on the computer because the viewers do not get to see the pages turned by hands. I prefer the tactile videos which are authentic.

I have enjoyed this assignment and have learnt many new technical skills. However the amount of direction changing that I have done during the course of planning and creating this work has at times frustrated me but more importantly it has meant that I have been constantly running behind my set schedule, therefore time keeping needs to be improved.


Photographers research

Bettina von Zwehl

Bettina Von Zwehl is a photographer whose portfolio of works consists of portraiture series. Her approach and presentation techniques are comparable to that of the conceptual artists and photographers Bernd and Hilla’s photography. These photographers had an analytical approach to photography and are best known for their extensive series of photographic images of industrial buildings and structures, which were often organised in grids format.

By presenting photographs in a repeated controlled format within grids, the viewer is able to visually compare similarities and differences in the images with ease. In the majority of her works the subjects wear the same clothes, have the same facial expressions and poses and the background and lighting conditions are the same which unifies the content. Not all series are treated with such tight representations, for example in the series ‘London’ (2012) the clothes and backgrounds are all different which can be seen in the screenshot below,

von Zwehl, B. ‘London’ (2012)
image: (online) bettinavonzwehl.com

Many of Bon Zwehl’s early works are posed for certain situations, for example holding their breath, standing in the rain and exercising. As her work develops it begins to take the form of silhouettes and series of profiles such as ‘Profiles 2’ (2002) and ‘Made Up Love Song’ (2011).

Made Up Love Song (2011)

This series was inspired by painted miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is constructed of images of staff in the gallery especially a series of portraits of Sophie which were taken three times a week over six months. Mixing the portraits in such a manor is interesting because the staff portraits break up Sophie’s portraits which are dominant in quantity within the content and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find and select the odd portraits out.

Due to the fact that the content within this series has been tightly controlled by Bon Zwehl the overall impact on viewing the portraits together is one of questioning. At first glance I was not sure whether the portraits were of one person or not and it wasn’t until I stopped scanning the work as a whole that the individual differences, although slight, began to emerge from the picture plane.

Within this series the portraits are all posed in profile facing the left and have been taken in front of a window using natural light as the light source. The warm brown background colour, sensitively complements the women’s soft skin colour just as their black hair colour complements their black tops. These dark tones are beautifully highlighted by the contrasting light from the window which almost divides the background into two and outlines the women’s strong facial features. Such a calm and delicate handling of the colour palette and the light is is echoed in the women’s well balanced posture. It is by far one of my favourite von Zwehl’s series and part of this set of portraits can be seen below,

Bon Zwehl, B. ‘Made Up Love Song’ (2011)
image: bettinavonzwehl.com

There are many other portrait series that are worth studying in more depth and commenting on. I was pretty excited by many of von Zwehl’s other series, the way she has presented the people, the silhouette work and also fragmenting silhouettes by tearing them were all very stimulating and thought provoking. These works however I will research at a later date due to time available to appreciate and research the images and the fact I would like to find any books with text in to read on her works in a greater depth. I have already found a YouTube film and dome journal articles but time is really short.

Lastly, I wanted to comment on how her work is presented on her website. Some of her series of work are presented as static images all which are visually accessed on the same webpage. Others are presented on the left hand side of a static webpage yet have a slideshow running of the images in the centre where one image will appear as another disappears in it’s place. Lastly we arrive at the webpage to view one large image which then is replaced by another in a slideshow. All three ways compliment each other very well and are obviously part of the pre-planning of her work. I especially like how von Zwehl’s has used the slideshow because it shows how structured her shots are as one pose is swapped for an all most identical following image. This chosen presentation format works particularly well for those images that are silhouetted.

Meditations in an Emergency (2018) first image
image: bettinavonzwehl.com

Researching Bettina von Zwehl has been the highlight of my week. Her concepts and presentation of her ideas and images have been very thought provoking and have given me sparks of ideas for my future practices in both photography and presentation techniques.


Alex Kayser: HEADS

This series of images I find intriguing, even though the theme at first glance looks like it is connected with baldness, it is in fact much more than that. The text that runs through the book is an interview between the photographer Alex Kayser and interviewers Lyn Mandelbaum and Alan Axelrod. During the interview when he is asked by Axelrod why he is photographing bald people, he replies that the baldness is nothing to do with the project, ‘It has to do with faces, exposed faces’ (Kayser, 1985: 9)

While browsing the faces it is easy to become lost in the book. The black and white images of the people become more than headshots, they become forms, colours, and ethnicities, each presented in the same way with minimal expression and composed as though in a police mug shot. This presentation makes the series even more interesting as I began to compare one shot to another and when I read the person’s name and their job type which appears below the photograph, I began to imagine them as individuals in life. Something that I find interesting is that there are a couple of women present in the book, including an artist who shaved her head specifically so that she could take part in this project, but finding them was not as easy as one would think.

Kayser, A. HEADS [Photograph] p.71

That which I really like about this series is how the headshots are close up, head front facing, cropped in tightly with the top of the head in line with the top edge of the picture plane. Each person that has been photographed is wearing a black top of one style or another and the neck line of the top that each person is wearing has been slightly cut off by the bottom edge of the picture plane. To complete the compositional values they have all been photographed in front of a black backdrop and the lighting comes in from the right of each head.

Sketch of p.37

Another feature of the images that has made me think is the facial expressions, or in this instance the lack of it. Kayser mentions in his interview that rather making portraits he is creating physiognomy studies and tried to give all of his portraits neutral expressions. However when I studied the contents of the portraits I could make out expressions such as slight smiles which are made obvious by the lip shape and eye expressions and shapes which also change.

The images of people without an identifying head of hair which makes each person unique, brings emphasis back onto the face. These heads presented in a row of four, two on each page are grouped together with other people with similar features, whether skin colour, shapes of the head or facial hair, one thing I have to be honest about, I was the most fascinated by the sticking out ears which were of all shapes and sizes.

Kayser, A. HEADS [Photograph] p.119

Presenting the heads in a row reminded me of the grid formats that we studied in the Foundation of Photography where the water towers, as an example, were all captured with the same distance and filled the picture plane the same. The head shots here fits into the category of typologies with the following visual similarities,

  • Same bald head
  • Same expression
  • Same black t-shirt
  • Same black backgroun
  • Same viewpoint: distance/ angle/
  • Same lighting

Looking at all these similarities actually shows us how important our facial and skull formations are because they shape each of our identities as much as our hair styles and clothes. This set of images reveals this as I walk my eyes around each of these faces more and more of their uniqueness jumps out at me, it is just a shame that the human race fights each other for differences such as the way we look, just take Hitler for example with the ultimate blonde hair obsession, but when we dare to look closer we are all in fact rises and falls of forms made by bone structure, and all beautiful in our own right.



Dominika Dovgialo

‘Behind the I’ by Dominika Dovgialo

Dominika Dovgialo is a Polish-Lithuanian photographer based in London. Her interest in mental health can be traced back to her school years where she took on a Peer Mentor role; someone who listens and tries to communicate to other students who are struggling. Dominika studied a Philosophy BA at King’s College London, developing her interest in identity, morality and the awareness of other minds.

Daniel (2018) fragmentary.org

As a theme for my art and photography, one that I always come back to work on is mental health. While researching other photographers I came across Dovgialo who produced a collaborative project with participants in art therapy where she wanted to answer the question, ‘How could I ‘photograph’ the mind and create a portrait of what is going on inside, as well as outside, the heads of my subjects?’ For her the answer ‘…was to invite them to be both observer and creator of such a portrait.’ Dovgialo (2018)

Having lived with mental health illnesses since childhood, attended counselling and groups where art was used as therapy and also setting up my own social art and photography group called ‘stART well’ which encouraged people living with mental health to leave the house, meet other people and create, I understood the concept that Dovgialo was trying to portray in this series of work.

Not only can such creative activities help the individual to express themselves and to release feelings and thoughts from within themselves but it can act as a way to raise positive awareness of mental health and battle the daily stigma that living with such illnesses brings with it. I also worked for a mental health arts project as their assistant coordinator, running the day to day business, teaching art, crafts and photography as well as exhibiting the members work in exhibitions which gave them such a sense of achievement that it had a positive impact on how they see and valued themselves.

For Dovgialo’s project the participants were given a portrait of themselves that she had taken in a previous art therapy session on which they could draw, write or collage onto. The outcome of the workshop can be seen below and shows how each participant approached and created different outcomes in their self-portrait.

images from Fragmentary website


This series is similar to self-portraits I took using my webcam which I then draw over using the webcam software tools. Using a photograph as a canvas onto which I am able to build layers and text is one of the areas that I am keen to incorporate into my own working methods and will definitely research other artists and photographers that implement these techniques and develop the concept practice in my own work in the future.

Beneath My Hoodie and in the Dark I Hide

Marius Els

My name is Marius, I am a new media artist living in North London.

I am passionate about conceptual fine art photography, expressing my thoughts and ideas in a surreal, colourful and theatrical way using digital manipulation in photoshop.

Each project consists of research, planned modelling, props and landscape photo shoots from which I gather chosen images to create the final image. 

Els, M. (2017) boredpanda.com

Marius Els was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013 (I hope my maths is correct). With this mental health disorder comes a very big battle with symptoms such as illusions, paranoia, depression, mania, anxiety and psychotic episodes. Els then began to use photography as a way of exploring and understanding his diagnosis which provided him with a way to express his emotions and fears during both manic and depressive episodes.

Having first hand experience of living with someone with Bipolar, I can fully understand how Els could produce work when he is manic because there is an abundance of energy, little sleep and a type of ‘I can do anything’ mentality that comes with it, but I am wondering how he created such amazing images when he was depressed. This is because my ex when he suffered with the depression side of his bipolar could not even lift his head off his bedroom pillow, it was like he had died, there wasn’t anything, not even a small spark of energy or enthusiasm to even get him to hold his pen or type a word (he is an author and journalist).

You can indeed tell by the three examples above from the post on Bored Panda that Els has spent a very long time planning and preparing his work from the initial idea stage, the many individual shoots that he has had to complete and then the montaging of the images together to produce his final one in Photoshop.

The first time I saw this Seasons of the Mind project, a title that fits so well with Bipolar Disorder, all I could think of was Salvador Dali. Once I had moved beyond my initial ‘Dali’ reaction I began to look at the complex interweaving of images that were within each composition.

To be honest I cannot relate the experiences I have living with my ex Bipolar fiancé with these images. The colours do actually match, the darkness of the depression and the colour of the manic episodes but the little images, which remind me of religious icons are related personally to Marius Els, I cannot read what they want me to know. Perhaps this is the point, Els Bipolar diagnosis is his, we each react differently within our own diagnosis and lives, perhaps this is Els in symbolic form?

Although at first glance the visual impact is quite overwhelming, once I had begun to look at the individual information and then compare compositions I could see similar attributes in the image constructions. These are:

  • Placement of heads and features are on the same point in the composition
  • Floating backgrounds
  • Buildings akin to monuments and temples in the background

The interest for me is the similar attributes in the compositions as they act to connect the images together as a series. This is the type of composition I am looking for in my work where I have a concept and the images are linked through similar visual attributes.


Bibliography

Books

  • Axelrod, A (1985) HEADS by Alex Kayser. (1st Ed.) New York: Abbeville Press Inc. p.9
  • Kayser, A. HEADS [Photograph] In: Axelrod, A (1985) HEADS by Alex Kayser. (1st Ed.) New York: Abbeville Press Inc. p.71 and p.119

Websites

Daniel (2018) exploring mental health in photography through interviews with artists: Dominika Dovgialo. At: http://fragmentary.org/dominika-dovgialo/ (Accessed 01.03.2021)

Els, M. Seasons of the Mind (Photograph) At: https://www.boredpanda.com/a-very-quirky-self-portrait-series-and-look-at-mental-health/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic (Accessed 25/02/2021)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIjqYcjfz-wV&A Photography Resident: Bettina von Zwehl (online) http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/bettina-von-zwehl/ (Accessed

von Zwehl, B. ‘London’, 2012 (online) http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/london-2012.html (Accessed 18.03.21)

von Zwehl, B. ‘Made Up Love Song’, 2011 (online) http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/made-up-love-song.html (Accessed 18.03.21)

von Zwehl, B. ‘Meditations in an Emergency’, 2018 (online) http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/meditations-in-an-emergency.html (Accessed 19.03.21)

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