STEAM | Further Shoot

 

Fortunately this week, I was able to visit STEAM courtesy of a family member offering to take me, who was attending the model rail convention. I used this time to also re-visit STEAM’S wax figures; using this opportunity to conduct another shoot. Whilst shooting there I notice that during my initial visit, I missed a section from the end, so this time I managed to obtain some more images with different wax figures which worked well in adding variety to my investigation.

It is interesting to mention that during my second visit, I realised how much more this space had to offer me. It became apparent that there were loads of different wax figures that I had initially missed, I used this time to photograph them which allowed me to produce some really great images. Upon my second visit, it also became apparent that within many of these elaborate constructions that micro-narratives existed within these. For example, I have noticed that two waxworks featured early on in the exhibit (typically featuring audio and atmospheric soundtracks, reciting a particular narrative or scenario! – Very immersive). Some characters and constructions focus on a particular narrative or industrial temporality, focusing exclusively on particular figures, showing different aspects of their lives. For example,  the women with dark hair reaching up for a brush head is later featured on a constructed railway station with a young child (although one of her fingers are broken)

For example,  the women with dark hair reaching up for a brush head is later featured on a constructed railway station with a young child (although one of her fingers are broken). In another scene, near the beginning of steam also, is a man receiving a harsh discussion with his boss who is seated at a table is later posed as controlling the train whilst glancing out of the cab area.

This is interesting because I interpret that as a very conscious statement in revealing temporality alongside the struggles of that time. Not only does this action reveal that nature of industrialisation, it also adds a very human layer to these inanimate objects, re-imagining them as humans, with real lives, facing real struggles of that time. Although, I am unsure if this was a conscious decision on STEAM’S part of whether this was a result of mass produced replicas or if these are actually unrelated. It has also brought to my attention, why and what are these figured imitating, are they based on real people coining the facial features and mannerisms from past accounts or were they a construction a combination of people manifested into one wax figure? How were these figures created? Were they produced using actual photographic documentation? How did they achieve such a degree of authenticity among these inanimate renditions? How were they posed and modelled in such a hyper-realistic manner? In order to try and resolve some of these questions, I attempted to open some dialogue with STEAM through twitter…

Due to shooting conditions being indoors in low lighting, I initially felt it would be best to shoot using a tripod to in order to minimise image blur and maximise sharpness and clarity within my images. Myself and Becky have attempted to initiate some form of dialogue in order to ascertain permission to do this although we are still waiting on a reply from them.

For obvious reasons, and being able to shoot again, I have now decided that having a tripod is no longer essential within my project. I felt that within my initial shoot, my images were grainy and of poor quality, although this was down to be shooting on my Canon macro lens, combined with somewhat inadequate lighting and poor camera set up, hence why I felt that using a tripod would be more appropriate.

I initially decided to shoot using my macro lens due to its compact and unobtrusive appearance, I am very much aware of the strengths and limitations with shooting in an institutional but very much public space although after switching to my larger UMS telephoto lens, this seems to have solved my issues with image quality. For this reason, my second shoot was much more effective, due to my now being somewhat familiar with this space, I was able to shoot with more freedom and confidence than on my first visit. So far within my shooting periods, using a larger and more obtrusive lens has got its limitations in terms of feeling awkward standing out and being mistaken for as press journalist! However, I am more confident and comfortable when using this lens because it gives me the freedom of shooting at a distance when needed but also being able to get stunning images. The only other limitation I can mention is that when using my telephoto lens (that is heavier than my Canon 750D body!) for prolonged periods of time certainly makes me feel like I have had a hefty day at the gym working my top half! Although this is a minimal price to pay in the name of photography! Due to the successes of my second shoot, I have now decided that having a tripod is no longer essential within my project. I felt this was most appropriate because when correctly adjusting my camera setting, and using a good quality lens allows me to achieve a balance between my camera settings and shooting conditions.

I feel that within my project, the act of photographing something that already still has an interesting effect on my images. When photographing my subjects, (…being inanimate objects), I am utilising a variety of camera techniques and settings in order to photograph these wax imitations in a way that not only makes them appear hyper-realistic, blurring the lines between the human and inanimate, uncanny and familiar and authenticity and artifice. I am producing images that work to re-animate still figures, my images become concerned with capturing a single moment, frozen in time, a temporal cross-section; rather than documenting the stillness of these objects. I will be using the act/practice of photography to not only re-animate stationary figures within fictitious constructions but by isolating certain areas of the human body; namely the face and hands… works to capture these creations that effectively immerses them within their constructed environment in which they are performing history.

At this stage, I feel that my photographic investigation examines and broadly draws on various themes, practices and discourses…

 

Points to draw on…

‘Decaying museology’, ‘The Uncanny’, ‘Estrangement’, ‘Still Life’, ‘Narrative’, ‘Performing Spaces & Temporality’, ‘Authenticity or Artifice’, ‘Details, Skin, Textures’, ‘How light plays with surfaces/appearance’, ‘Re-animating the inanimate’…

Allowing me to conduct a second shoot allowed me to get a better understanding of what camera settings are most appropriate to use when photographing within STEAM. During the last shoot…

I used a medium or larger focal length of around 135.0m, this allowed me to create the illusion of intimacy, capturing detail even whilst shooting from a considerable distance due to being in a public area.  A medium aperture value of around 5.6 allowed me to achieve a shallow depth of field whilst also allowing more light to enter the iris which compensated for my poorer shooting conditions. Within my photography, I wanted to minimise image blur and distortion whilst also achieving sharpness and clarity. I photographed using a faster shutter speed of around 1/50 – 1/80, this allowed me to snap images quickly due to being in a public place, this shutter speed allowed me to balance sharpness and lighting whilst also shooting handheld. Due to shooting in very low or poor lighting within a closed space, my ISO value set at around 6400 due to the poor lighting and faster shutter speed, however, despite this, I felt that my images were still very clear and only featured minimal image grain/loss. Although, I feel that by capturing small amounts of image noise allowed me to subtly connotate discourses of authenticity which fits well with my overall photographic investigation.

Traditionally, image grain was a characteristic of shooting on photographic film that detected the small fragments of metal. Grain appears as comes in various shapes and sizes and is linked with the light sensitivity of that particular film (translating roughly to ISO within today’s digital photography!). The size and amount of grain within images was dependent on multiple factors although, using very fast film exposures with a slower ISO would create smaller traces of image grain.

Higher ISO values were typically used when shooting in lower lighting, on fast film types, artists such as Robert Frank shot using fast film. Other examples include spontaneous shooting styles using fast film.

 

Film Examples…

‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) – Mocking Authenticity

I am largely interested in the politics of representation as a general theme for this year’s photographic investigations, in continuation with last semester’s project on capitalist critiques and commodity fetishism. Although, this project works to focus more strongly on representations in relation to the tensions existing between authenticity and artifice and performances within a space. I am concerned more strongly around documenting and preserving a dying generation of traditional museology, it is common knowledge that government funding is restricting museum and heritage institutional funding. Just in Bristol, massive cuts across the heritage sector means that many people working in museums could lose their jobs, alongside this, museum opening hours are being reduced radically, A Bristol Post article states that ” Museum opening times in Bristol are likely to be reduced as part of swingeing cuts by the cash-strapped city council” (Bristol Post, 2016). With the futures of museums becoming increasingly destabilised, such institutions are feeling the pinch, creating immense tensions in balancing economic and intrinsic values. Museum experiences are becoming increasingly fragmented by traditional museology and often failed attempts at contemporary technological upgrades, trapped between these forces in order to maximise visitor numbers entrenched in audience segmentation models and ‘infotainment’ agendas.

STEAM – 2nd Shoot

STEAM | Museology & Immersion – Model Railway Exhibit

Whilst at STEAM, I also took the opportunity to take some images of the model railway exhibits, this was interesting because of the complexity featured within many of these ‘miniaturisations’ are fascinating due to the sheer detail of these micro-worlds. This is particularly fascinating because these almost stand in as mini dioramas similar to one’s features within traditional museums. I used this as an opportunity to experiment with immersive camera trickery similar to that of Hiroshi Sugimoto, which allowed me to create realistically immersive renditions of this miniature worlds. Here are some images…


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