Space, Place & Narrative:
“Decaying Museology | Performing Temporality”
Most of my final images share a strong degree of consistency and style that is communicated through the aesthetics and methodologies to these images.
Throughout my production and shooting phases, I made the conscious decision to manipulate the available lighting through camera placement and angle in a manner that gives my photographs a warm, inviting intense but intimate atmosphere. Lighting and camera position also worked alongside this warm colour profile that made my inanimate subjects appear animate and living by giving them a warm, luminous glow and texture rather than the cold, bland and isolating cooler colours that make wax figures appear lifeless.
There is a dark tonality within my images that is achieved through selective approaches to lighting and camera placement which allowed for dark shadows that worked to outline and accentuate the form and texture of my subjects thus heightening the uncanny aesthetics of these inanimate figures. Post-production adjustments to contrast, shadow, clarity and colour temperature also emphasised the shape and detail of my figures, giving them a realistic and alluring atmosphere. These dark tonal variations also work to counteract the flattened and compressed composition of my image (an effect of shooting with a large telephoto lens) which gives the inanimate waxworks a 3-dimensional appearance and perspective, further bringing my subjects to life and blurring the boundaries between authenticity and artifice.
Warmer colour profiles and lighting within STEAM also work to immerse its visitors with the heat and intensity that once existed in the space and is now a Grade II listed railway building. This lighting along with the recorded soundscapes, interviews, archival footage and moving mechanical creations all work to reanimate the past within an institutionalised space in a sense the that the hot, brutality and intensity of Swindon’s industrial heritage is brought to life, that now resides within this space and the hearts and minds of its visitors.
These images also reveal the chipped and damaged nature of my subjects which illustrates temporal traces that rest upon the surface area of my subject in a way that reveals the damaged and worn textures. This also acts to subtly communicate the fragility of traditional museological practices.
I have utilised a selection of different camera angles and techniques to balance available lighting and tonality. Shooting on my Canon 750D with my Canon EF 70-300 mm Telephoto Zoom Lens allowed me to achieve a very shallow depth of field that immersed my subjects within their historically constructed surroundings in a way that temporally suspended their fictitious motion; as mentioned by Hall Foster (1993) in relation to surrealism and ‘the fixed explosive’ – [See page 25 of the Compulsive Beauty, 1993].
These images work well together despite each individual image belonging to different waxwork figures. When shooting the top image, I used a fast shutter speed of around 1/125 seconds alongside an aperture value of f/5.6 which allowed optimum levels of lighting to enter the camera sensor. These settings allowed effective exposure levels whilst also casting shadow and tonal over my subjects which accentuated their exaggerated surface textures and tone. Due to the poor lighting and nature of my shooting conditions, my light sensitivity within the top image was especially high at ISO 12800. This allowed me to compensate for my poor lighting whilst creating a greater level of exposure. This high ISO value also gave this image a grainy appearance, this worked well within my photography because I feel that image grain gives my images another tie with reality. [>>> Link To reading in reader.<<<]
As a restriction of shooting within a public and institutional setting, I photographed my subjects using my Canon EF 70-300 mm Telephoto Zoom Lens which allowed me to achieve clear images from a distance whilst also compressing my focal plane in a manner that immerses my wax figures within their artificial surroundings. When photographing the top image, my focal length was extended at 110.0m which allowed me to achieve the effects mentioned above.
These setting alongside my shooting conditions gave these images a warm and inviting colour profile that further accentuated tone, contrast and texture whilst also giving my subjects a life-like glow which blurred the lines between truthful actuality and an uncanny alternative reality.
However, when shooting the bottom image, my settings varied slightly. Using a slightly slower shutter speed on 1/80 secs allowed more available light to enter the iris; this was important because I was shooting in an incredibly shaded area of the museum installation. My aperture value didn’t change, again allowing me to create a very shallow depth of field that alludes to some for of presence within a scene thus making my image appear more realistic or credible. Light sensitivity was slightly lower this time, however, because I felt that by slowing down my shutter speed; I no longer had to over compensate with light sensitivity levels. Although, unlike in the top image, my focal length was slightly more extended, set at 160.m. This compressed my focal plane further whilst clearly reveal minuscule details thus capturing my subjects ‘uncanniness’. Again, these settings allowed me to create highly effective images that worked well to capture uncanniness whilst also establishing consistency between two very different images in the sense that they appear aesthetically similar which allowed me to create an illusion that these images are both from the same figure when in reality they are not thus accentuating the delicate tensions between authenticity and artifice.
This set of images are slightly dissimilar to Set 1 and Set 2 in the sense that they will contain cooler and milder colour profiles making these images appear to have a more balanced exposure that doesn’t detract from the uncanny and immersive qualities of the figures but rather accentuate the subjects form and texture in a way that blurs the boundaries between factual realism and alternative realities. When photographing the top image, I used a fast shutter speed of 1/80 seconds with an aperture value of f/5.6 allowed me to capture a really good level of exposure within this image, making the appearance of the figure incredibly uncanny by emphasising the subtle details and marks that are visible on the wax ‘skin’. My ISO light sensitivity was set at 3200 meaning again, my exposure levels were optimal and that my images appeared clear and highly detailed. My focal length was set at around 130.0m which gave the top image a very compressed focal plane whilst also creating a really shallow depth of field that worked to immerse the male figure within his surroundings in a highly aesthetic manner. These settings and values worked well in a way that complemented my images whilst also allowing me to achieve an incredibly shallow depth of field that immersed the figures within their surrounding in a way that mimicked existing photographic styles. Throughout my visit through STEAM, I photographed the waxwork figures in a manner that seemed to directly mimic more traditional forms and characteristics of portraiture photography. This worked to make my images feel more authentic due to the aesthetic and compositional qualities my images now embraced. Now it was merely the subject (being inanimate wax imitations of real humans) that seemed to embody the oddness and uncanny nature of surrealism.
Despite photographing different areas of a body, my camera settings stayed roughly the same although when shooting the bottom image my shutter speed was at 1/80 secs and the aperture was set to f/5.6 alongside my ISO which was also set at 3200. The only difference in shooting approaches to this image is that within the bottom image I was photographing a smaller area of the body meaning that my focal length was fully extended at 300.0m which allowed me to capture a great amount of detail and clarity. It is important to acknowledge that when shooting with a fully extended focal length as a consequence lighting becomes slighting compromised however, in this case; this worked well to affirm tonality and depth of field within the bottom image giving the waxwork an oddly human appearance.
Throughout my visit through STEAM, I photographed the waxwork figures in a manner that seemed to directly mimic more traditional forms and characteristics of portraiture photography. This worked to make my images feel more authentic due to the aesthetic and compositional qualities my images now embraced. Now it was merely the subject (being inanimate wax imitations of real humans) that seemed to embody the oddness and uncanny nature of surrealism. This practical approach to photographing the waxworks worked to encapsulate the uncanniness and eerie nature of my subject whilst also making them appear more human through selective and highly controlled compositional structures/layouts and technique.
I also used some post-production processing in Camera Raw to accentuate and emphasise levels such as clarity, contrast and shadow giving this figure a 3-dimensional appearance and large tonal variation gave this image a particular aesthetic that is easy to the eye. This also exaggerated the subtle defects and marks that were present within the texture of the waxworks skin as to overstate its shared human-likeness.
Similarly my other images, I feel that this set work extremely well together for similar reasons mentioned before. Consistency plays a large part within my photography, both style, aesthetics and colour temperature works to establish consistency within these images despite them belonging to different figures; they both share a similar appearance that tricks viewers into assuming otherwise.
I feel that throughout these images lighting, tonality and contrast all work well to capture the likeness and uncanny nature of my subject in a way that draws attention to the fragility of more traditional museological practices. I feel that it is important to recognise that this cross photographic consistency may be partly a result of my shooting methods and techniques. Across both images (despite depicting different subject!) my camera settings were incredibly similar. In both images, my shutter speed was at 1/80 of a second, and my aperture value was within the middle ranges set at f/5.6. These combined in a way that allowed me to capture an incredible compressed focal plane and depth of field which acts to draw focus and attention to the microscopic details and textures that are visible that further signifies the dichotomous tension that exists within my photographic investigation. Within the top image, my light sensitivity was set to ISO 6400 and the focal length at 110.om this worked well to create an interesting composition that featured dark tonal variations and slightly saturated contrast giving the inanimate figure a warm and lifelike glow. These setting combined also gave my image a slightly grainy appearance whilst also dramatising the small chips, flecks and age-related defects that are present on the surface. The presence of grain within my images connotate ties with photographic truthfulness and authenticity alongside its more traditional and historic processes of photographic production and documentary photography styles. The defected skin also illustrates a great sense of temporarily alongside illustrating the fragility and decaying state of traditional museological practices. Similarly, within the last image, my shutter speed and aperture was exactly the same as the top image although the ISO and focal length were marginally different with light sensitivity at 3200 and focal length extended to 120.0m.
These values were different for a variety of different reasons, firstly, the light sensitivity within the bottom image was lower due to better available light meaning that I was able to capture large amounts of detail without excessive amounts of image grain/loss. The focal length within the bottom image was extended further due to the fact that I was photographing a part of the body that was smaller alongside the fact that this focal range acted to compress my focal length in a manner that draws immediate attention to the detailed texture and damaged nature of the figure’s hands. I made the conscious decision to make a set of images that worked to communicate a detailed narrative that really requires you to spend time with the discomfort that viewers may be experiencing in order to gain improved insight into the further discourses and representations that exist within my images. I also made a clear decision to present my work in a typically linear format, presented in a line. The first set of images works to attract my audience into the realm of the uncanny whilst also exerting the tensions between authenticity and artifice. The second set of images works to further extend this experience by playfully inviting viewers into an alternative reality in a way that inspires ambiguity and discomfort whilst also a degree of familiarity and recognition. The last set of images, however, is particularly important because like before it plays with the tensions, discourses and themes mentioned above. Although unlike, the other images, the last image set directly addresses the damaged and degraded nature of the wax figure in a way that directly disrupts the experience of the uncanniness within my series. The flawed and imperfect aesthetics of these figures also subtly connote the fragility and demise of more traditional museological practices whilst also closing off my fictitious narrative in a manner that invites further and deep contemplation and reflection.
Artsy (2017) Jeff Wall. Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artist/jeff-wall/works [Accessed 8th March 2017]
American Museum of National History (2017) Hiroshi Sugimoto: Four Decades of Photographic Dioramas. Available from: http://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/news-posts/hiroshi-sugimoto-four-decades-of-photographing-dioramas/ [Accessed 8th March 2017]
Bate, D. (2004) Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent. [Online] London: I.B. Tauris [Accessed 15 March 2017]
Emmaus (2017) Emmaus Bristol support Keep Bristol Warm initiative. Available from: https://www.emmaus.org.uk/bristol/latest/news/2098_emmaus_bristol_support_keep_bristol_warm_initiative [Accessed 25th February 2017]
Foster, H. (1993) Compulsive Beauty (1st ed.) London: MIT Press
Fraenkel Gallery (2017) Dioramas. Available from: www.fraenkelgallery.com/portfolios/dioramas [Accessed 8th March 2017]
fallenheero (2012) Why is film grain used in films? Are there any good implementations or films where it made sense to use film grain? Available from: https://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/xcnzc/why_is_film_grain_used_in_films_are_there_any/ [Accessed 17 March 2017]
Freud, Sigmund. (2003) The Uncanny. [Online] Revised ed. London: Penguin Books. [Accessed 15 March 2017]
Geczy, A. (2017) The Artificial body in fashion and art: marionettes, models and mannequins. [Online] London: Bloomsbury Academic. [Accessed 15 March 2017]
Gunning, T. (1989) ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectators and the Avant-Garde’, Wide Angle. Vol 8 (2/3).
Hiroshi Sugimoto (2017) Portfolio. Available from: http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/diorama.html [Accessed 8th March 2017]
Hoban, P. (2012) By inventing her own genre, Cindy Sherman has influenced the way generations of artist think about photography, portraiture, narrative and identity. ARTNEWS [Online] 14th February. Available from: www.artnews.com/2012/02/14/the-cindy-sherman-effect/ [Accessed 8th March 2017]
IMDB (2017) Saving Private Ryan (1998). Available from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120815/videoplayer/vi1701906201?ref_=tt_ov_vi [Accessed 17 March 2017]
Kim, E. (2017) How to Master “The Decisive Moment”. EricKimPhotography [Blog]. 07 January. Available from: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2010/07/01/%E2%80%9Chow-to-masterthe-decisive-moment%E2%80%9D/ [Accessed 8th March 2017]
@KeepBristolWarm (2017) Twitter. [Online] 22 January 2016. Available from: https://twitter.com/warmbristol?lang=en
Keep Bristol Warm #KBW (2017) Facebook. [Online] 11 June 2015. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/keepbristolwarm/ [Accessed 25th February 2017]
Lury, C. (1997) Prosthetic Culture: Photography, Memory and Identity (1st ed.) London: Routledge
Lomas, D. (2000) The Haunted Self: Surrealism, Psychonalysis Subjectivity (1st ed.) London: Yale University Press
Museum of Modern Art (2017) Cindy Sherman. Available from: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/2/mobile.php [Accessed 8th March 2017]
Mette, T.C. (2016) Walking in the Museum – Performing the Museum. [Online] The Senses and Society. Volume 11 (2) 136-157 [Accessed 15 March 2017]
National Geographic (2017) An Photographer Documents the Evolution of Taxidermy. Available from: http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/11/a-photographer-documents-the-evolution-of-taxidermy/ [Accessed 8th March 2017]
National History Museum (2017) Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016. Available from: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/wpy/gallery/2016/adult.html [Accessed 18th January 2017]
Onions, I (2016) Council cuts mean shorter opening hours for Bristol’s museums. Bristol Post [Online]. 2 September. Available from: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/council-cuts-mean-shorter-opening-hours-for-bristol-s-museums/story-29679016-detail/story.html [Accessed 17 March 2017]
Photomedia Reader | Goddard, B. (2016) Photomedia Module Reader 2016 -2017. Bristol: Caron Neutral
Peres, R. (2013) The Focal Encyclopaedia of Photography. [Online] 4th ed. Burlington: Focal Press. [Accessed 15 March 2017]
Smith, M. (2014) Why are dolls so creepy?. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/culture/story/20141201-why-are-dolls-so-creepy [Accessed 17th March 2017]
Swindon Borough Council Civil Offices (2017) Steam: Museum of the Great Western Railway. Available from: http://www.steam-museum.org.uk/Pages/Home.aspx [Accessed 17th March 2017]
The Art Story Foundation (2017) Cindy Sherman: American Photographer. Available from: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-sherman-cindy.htm [Accessed 8th March 2017]
Vergo, P., ed. (2000) New Museology [Online] Revised ed. London: Reaktion Books
Vella, L. (2011) Even Better Than The Real Thing. Thinking Practices [Blog]. 01 December. Available from: www.thinkingpractices.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/even-better-than-the-real-thing/ [Accessed 8th March 2017]
White Cube (2017) Jeff Wall. Available from: http://whitecube.com/artists/jeff_wall [Accessed 8th March 2017]
Yong, M. (2017) ‘Stay warm brave heart’: If you see a scarf around a lamp post next week this is what it’s for. Bristol Post. [Online] 20th February. Available from: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/if-you-see-a-scarf-tied-around-a-lamp-post-in-bristol-take-it-if-you-need-it/story-30138973-detail/story.html [Accessed 25th February 2017]