On Your Doorstep

 

I’m very suspicious of the idea of ‘non-subjects’ in photography, I don’t think there are such things

– charlotte cotton  (Nigelshafran.com, 2014)

 

Most photographers usually explore the majority of the iconic genres and elements of photography, from landscapes to portraits, they have portrayed their own version of these genres through fresh eyes. However, only a select through have really tried simply photographing what’s in front of them, what’s on their doorstep.

 

Andre Kertesz, one of the biggest figures in the photographic world for his contribution to photographic composition and photojournalism, is on of these photographers he began to shoot locally. One of the reasons Kertesz might have tarted shooting locally is due to his illness, as beforehand, he was an “out and about” highly prolific photographer. However, Kertesz has also said the he had “a desire to create something from a personal place” (Eric Kim Street Photography, 2014). He was familiar to his surroundings, and therefore, his strong familiarity and sentiment is projected into his images.

 

I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important.”

– William Eggelston  (Behrmann and Behrmann, 2013)

 

William Eggleston is another prolific photographer, who seems to be the master of taking photographs of anything in front of him, and making these images powerful, his later work is certainly characterized by its ordinary subject matter. Eric Kim explains that when he first viewed Eggleston’s work, he “didn’t get it”, believing the photographs were just “snapshots , photographed without much thought or conviction”. He then decided to confide in his friend, who explained what he liked about Eggleston’s photographs were “the colours”, and that was when it clicked for Kim. He realised that Eggleston was no Henri Cartier-Bresson, aiming to capture the “decisive moment”, but instead, aimed to make the ordinary and mundane extraordinary. Transforming the way we look at a bicycle or a vending machine or even a “for sale” sign, Eggleston makes us stop and look at something we pass everyday, and makes us admire.

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Another example of photography with a more enclosed, sentimental element, is Nigel Shafran’s work. From 1997-1999, after his dad passed away, Shafran did a meticulous project on his father’s office. Although this was a form of mourning and dealing with the departure of his father, Shafron’s images of the office make us think a re imagine his father, and how he lived inside this small mundane space. Not only do the images build the character of his father, but they also give us an insight to the past, letting us see through the eyes of the deceased. Shafran had created other projects that focus on so simple and close-by subjects such as his “Washing-Up” series in 2000. Charlotte Cotton explains that these photographs are only what Shafran has seen, meaning that these inanimate objects in his images read like a diary of the events of his life; of what he eats, who he meets, and what the places he goes to look like. Shafran is letting us have an insight into his private, intimate world. Shafron explains that “sometimes I see photographs, and what’s interesting to me are the things on the edge that are not meant to be there, the soap packet, the bit of litter,the things that we can relate to and hold that everydayness”(Nigelshafran.com, 2014). Shafran states this perfectly; what he is taking photographs of is not just simple and mundane, but a bit more complex..he’s showing what we perceive as ordinary, life.

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Furthermore, we can look at the crowd sourced documentary project “Life in a Day”. Produced by Kevin McDonald, Ridley Scott and Youtube, Life in a Day aimed to capture a moment of the day on camera. The global community responded with over 80,000 videos to youtube, containing 4, 500 hours of deeply personal , powerful moments shot from contributors all over the world. From a remote home in Zambia, to a busy city in Australia, we are taken through the whole of one single day, 24th July, 2010 in 90 minutes. Starting with breakfast, we soon get taken on a journey that leads us to a young girl and father mourning her mother, to a boys first shave, to a marriage proposal. The film offers a unique experience, projecting beauty, humour, love and fear, giving an honest, heart warming, and beautiful film of what it’s like to live on Earth today.

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Overall, it’s safe to say that it appears the “simple” photographs, that appear ordinary to us, the ones created closest to the photographer, right in front of them, have so much more meaning than we originally give them credit for. They are the image the give us a glimpse of our everyday life, perhaps that’s why we ignore them? We find looking at photography a form of escapism, and we want to see something unique and overwhelming, something aesthetically pleasing. But when we really stop and think about these images that at first seem ordinary and mundane, it’s not long before we see that they project a glimpse of what it is like to be alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Album and Social Media

 

If it’s going to be a world with no time for sentiment, it’s not a world that I want to live in.”
Christopher Isherwood (Goodreads, 2014)

There are many photographs we all keep dear to our hearts that contain sentimental value, or have indeed, immortalised a moment in time, like a frozen memory that we want to hold on to. Usually these images successfully find their way into our family photo albums, kept for only your immediate family, or a selected few, to gaze upon, but now, with the advent of digital changing the photographic format by a massive margin, are we now deleting our history?

 

Family albums used to be almost a necessity to families, bringing everyone together due to the static snapshots of time that are collectively sentimental to you. These albums would contain birthdays, Christmas gatherings, newborns, holidays, weddings and so many more events that made a great impact on your life; memories that make you happy, that you want to keep forever. Usually, a family member is “designated” the role of being the writer and controller of the album, mine was my mother, who eventually passed it down to my sister as she began a family of her own. Family photo albums became a part of a culture, it was the done thing, yet as both time and technology has progressed, these albums aren’t quite the same as what they used to be. These days, you could say that around 50% of images, differing between each family, produce images that are fiction rather than fact. I’m not saying that these fictitious images are bad at all, but they just aren’t filled with as much life and character. When we see the bride and groom staring into the camera as they cut the cake, it’s not quite the same chemical reaction of seeing the two newly wed smiling, and staring into each others eyes whilst they cut the cake together, perhaps even making a mess of it. The same with group images; instead of everyone standing together perfectly, all simultaneously staring and smiling at the camera, we used to have someone looking the wrong way, a child sulking, someone scowling at another due to a joke they’re now laughing at..all of these things brought character, and represented a static moment of life, kept frozen in time. However, this is merely a personal preference, as Susan Sontag stated when speaking about family albums, “Interpreting it doesn’t exist”(profile, 2011), it’s whatever suits you and your family best, however you want to remember them. This is the same when remembering the deceased in a family album. It’s very seldom that you see a sad moment in a family album, yet there is now a niche new market for funeral photography. Although other may frown upon funeral images in a family album, wishing to remember the passed in a happier light, these images would have frozen a crucial moment in time for that family, its home of a family album is completely justifiable.

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One of the main reasons there are not as many family albums at present day is due to the progression in technology. Only in 2003 did digital truly become available to everyone, making the technological skill of photography a very easy hurdle to jump over. Kodak enforced this with a new slogan “you press the button, we’ll do the rest” (Kodak.com, 2014) opening the doors to a new generation where “everyone is a photographer”. The up-rise in digital meant that masses of images were able to be taken half heartedly, with no worry about the cost of film or the limitation of shots left to take. You were also able to delete images as we progress shooting, getting rid of our mistakes or the images we no longer like. In a sense, we had began destroying the history we had once created. With cameras being placed into mobile phones and the emergence of social networks, the downfall of family albums had begun. Instead of collecting personal images to store in one book, people kept their images on their phones, or even uploaded them to Facebook, where anyone and everyone could see your photographs. This completely destroys the authenticity of your personal sentimental photographs, in which no privilege is now required to view them, the strength of the image you convince yourself of keeping dear to you heart suddenly seems weak, as it seems you’re almost exploiting your own image just to accumulate “likes”. It is certainly a worry that the rise in technology could result in the decline in authenticity.

 

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Culture, Identity, and Representation

 

The concept of objectification has special relevance to photography. In one sense, photography inadvertently objectifies people people by turning them into something to be looked at” -Solomon – Godeu  (Wells, 1997)

We each individually represent our own culture and identity, through our country, skin colour, body structure, the way we speak, the way we dress, all of these elements are what define us to everyone else around us. You could consider it a book cover if you like, a first impression everyone gets of you, before they get to know you and your personality. However, people can make impressions of you without ever meeting you, through forms of media that are meant to represent you, whether for better or for worse, it differs from person to person, yet can result with consequences.

When looking at photography, the key characteristic to the image is the dependence of a physical object or person, with the essence that the original exposure has immortalised a moment in time. When coming from a conceptual approach, we tend not to concentrate on physical presence in the image, but it’s meaning, looking not only at what is literally laid out in front of us in the image, but perhaps the social reasons within, or the metaphors, creating its meaning. Liz Wells explains that the realism and familiarity brought about by the visual representations in a photograph reaffirm our sense of identity, rendering it a very powerful force. An example of this Is Edward Steichan’s “The Family of Man” exhibition in New York in 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition consisted of 508 photographs from 68 different countries; Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Bill Brandt are just some of the many photographers, both famous and unknown, that took part in this exhibition. Steichan’s aim was to mark “the universality of human experience and photography’s role in it’s documentation” (Steichen and Stoller, 1955). During the time it was open, it became the most popular exhibition in the history of photography as well as the culmination of Steichan’s career. The photographs were grouped thematically around subjects relevant to all cultures, including love, children and death, with many of the images concentrating on the commonalities that bind people and cultures together around the word. The exhibition toured for 8 years, making stops in 37 different countries, with 9 million people viewing it. Steichan’s “Family of Man” had accomplished expressing humanism in the decade following world war II, and could be considered when of the most positives outcomes of photography representing culture and identity as well as giving us a sense of equality amongst cultures.

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I never made a person look bad. They do that themselves. The portrait is your mirror. It’s you.”

- August Sander (Boerner.net, 2010)

 

Diane Arbus was an American photographer well recognised for her black and white photographs of circus “freaks”, explaining that her photos were of “deviant, marginal people, or of the people whose lives were ugly or surreal”(O’Hagan, 2011), explaining that the camera could be a little bit cold, a little bit harsh, yet its scrutiny reveals the truth. Arbus’ work is considered problematic for viewers, due to her transgression from the boundaries of portrait photography, photographing apparent”freaks” of which she formed long lasting relations with. This Is where people start to question whether Arbus is a humanist or a voyeur, claiming that is she felt at home when photographing these outsiders, she surely expressed a sense of guilty pleasure when taking the images. A statement which is backed up by Arbus confessing “there’s some thrill in going to a sideshow..I felt a mixture of shame and awe”(O’Hagan, 2011). Siding strongly with aspect of voyeurism, yet these images Arbus has are not representing, nor exploiting her new friends in a bad light, the essence of her pleasure is projected on them. Sontag explains that Arbus makes us not only question her motives of looking at “people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive”(O’Hagan, 2011) but also our own, explaining that Arbus’s outlook is “based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other”. What Sontag is referring to when she talks about “the other”, is an individual who is perceived by the dominant group as not belonging, or being different in a fundamental way. All outsiders are strangers would be considered “other”, as the dominant group would consider themselves the norm, thus those who contrast against them are deemed inferior, and our treated “accordingly” to the group, which from an outsider perspective, would usually be deemed unjust. In society, they may have no legal rights, regarded as unintelligent, or sub-human. In Arbus’ case, I feel that her personal voyeuristic idiane-arbus-1342353522_bmages of the other have a concept that defines an element of humanism, and therefore, it is hard to put Arbus solely into either category; I believe she is both.

 

 

Looking at exploitation of secluded cultures, the Massai people have made a stand, stating that “photographers are invading our culture”. The Massai people are on of the native tribes, that feel victimised and hunted buy photographers who seem to believe they have free access into an exotic land, filled with wildlife and indigenous people, where the law to protect these tribes remains scarce. They have stated that “Western photographers are stepping over boundaries, not being sensitive to our culture and way of life. They are invading and exploiting our people for profit purposes” (Maasai-association.org, 2014). As we have seen from Steichan’s “The Family of Man” exhibition, of course many of us want to know and see ever detail of world around us, we are intrigued and fascinated in discovering the beauty of both nature and mankind, as well as the utopia of all humanity being united. Yet their comes a time when we cross a line of respect, violating and soiling other’s culture, identity and representation. The Massai people claim they have discovered disturbing images of a circumcision event, a sacred rite to their culture, no intended for the masses of the public, let alone be sold in the western world, making the Massai people feel sad, violated, and disappointed. When we look at the pictures of tribes, we can ask ourselves just who is this person in the picture? Do they even know their picture is being sold? What is their name? Did they receive anything in return, or even give consent for the photograph? Theses are all questions we tend to ignore when viewing an image, or have never stopped to think about, and when these, victims, if you like, feel that “wild animals are given better recognition than their people” (Maasai-association.org, 2014), it is really time for us to stop and have a hard think about the images that surround us. They request that the public don’t buy books with nude images of the indigenous people and encourage booksellers to buy books that our culturally sensitive to the indigenous cultures. They also wish for us to let the bookseller know that we care about where the sources comes from, as well as credit the people in the images, and have the photographer show respect and privacy for the individual community and culture, as well as give something back to them.

 

However, it is not all doom and gloom for western photographers entering different cultures to project their identity and represent them. An example of the good is American photographic journalist Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl”. Working under National Geographic McCurry found Sharbat Gula at a refugee camp in Pakistan, where he took her photograph, which soon became the front cover for the journal. The photograph has been likened to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and has gone on to be called “The First World’s First World Mona Lisa”, as well as becoming the most recognised photograph in the history of national geographic. Although her name was not known, the image was titled Afghan Girl, and it wasn’t long before the image became a symbol for both the 1980s Afghan conflict, and the refugee situation worldwide. The identity of Gula remained unknown for over 17 years, although McCurry made several attempts in the 1990s to find her, of which he was unsuccessful. The team had finally located Gula in 2002, with her identity being confirmed through an iris recognition, she recalled having her photo taken, yet had never seen her world famous portrait before. McCurry learnt about her life story, and how her parent had been killed in the soviet bombing when she was six years old, forcing her to seek refuge in the Nasir Bagh camp. More images were taken of Gula, which were used as a cover story of her life, and she also took part in a television documentation “search for the Afghan Girl”. National Geographic went on to set up a charity called the Afghan Girls fund, with the goal of educating Afghan girls and young women, as well as covering the costs for a medical treatment of her family, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. These acts got to show how important giving something back to those in need can be. It also shows the importance of just one photo; the image represented something bigger than just Gula’s identity, it represented the many innocent victims of war and poverty, something National Geographic had managed to begin to exploit and bring justice too.

 

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Second Photo Shoot

For my second shoot, I had rough ideas of what I wanted to take images of and I knew I wanted to use the Nikon D200 to accomplish them. I knew I wanted to shoot with my model wearing a full suit and tie just for a nicer attire of clothing to make the images more aesthetically pleasing. And finally, I knew I wanted these images to respond to Toni Frissell and Liat Ahroni’s work. The images responded to the theme “surface” through the concept of descending form the surface, and the use of distorting the subject using the surfaces’ reflection. Overall I feel this photo shoot went well, developing and progressing from my first photo shoot.

This photograph shows a figure in a suit supposedly falling into the water. I liked the potential of this image due to the posture of the figure and the lighting throughout the photo. Unfortunately, I forgot to brush the bubbles away from the lens when going underwater, making the image seem noisy. I also feel the wall to the right ruins the aesthetic of the image.

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This next photograph shows an arm pushing through the surface of the water, creating a trail of bubbles. After taking he photograph, I darkened the area surrounding the subject matter and heightened the clarity in order to strengthen and define the trail of bubbles. The concept of this image was pretty abstract; making shapes out of the trail of bubbles, I was aiming to for the image to portray space, with each bubble representing a star. The hand in the image would represent “the creator” of the universe. Overall, I feel my representation of this concept was weak, and I wasn’t particularly pleased with the result.

 

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This next photograph shows a figure in a suit from their chin downwards with their arms and legs spread. At the top of the image, we can see the surface mirror the figure’s body. In post production, I heightened the clarity to define the reflection in the surface of the water, and then adjusted the green and blue RGB paths, creating a cross process effect, which I feel compliments the surreal atmosphere of the image. I’m happy with this image just due to its composition and its aesthetics, and I feel it fits in nicely with the theme of our module.

 

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The photograph below shows a figure falling straight on through the surface of the water, their arms held up high. I took the shot just after my model had jumped into the pool. After taking the shot, I darkened the lower half of the image, fading out the figures’ legs and the background. I then heightened the clarity slightly in order to define the bubble surrounding the figure. The concept behind this image was the loss of identity through the use of bubbles, distorting the figures face. I feel this has worked to an extent, but we are still able to see the figure’s face, making the concept rather weakly portrayed.

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This photograph shows a figure in a suit, falling from the surface of the water and descending into darkness. After taking the shot, I lowered the saturation of the image slightly before making the majority of the image back. This helped t concentrate on the subject matter, as well as pronounce that concept that the figure is descending into a deeper and darker place. Heavily inspired by Frissell and Aharoni’s work, I’m very happy with the result of this image, and would consider it my personal favourite in this module due to it’s aesthetics. The only thing I’m sceptical about is the darkness mixing with the black suit of the figure, loosing the shape and form of this body. It’s something I’m indifferent about, as I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, as I feel it compliments the aesthetic of the image as a whole.

 

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The next photograph shows a figure from their chin down, standing on the floor of a swimming pool whilst adjusting their tie. I’m really happy with the composition of this image, especially the distortion of their face due to be above the surface of the water, destroying their identity in the image. Overall I’m pretty pleased with this image, with it’s a quirky and surreal atmosphere.

 

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This last image shows a strip in which the majority of the image is darkness but at the top shows a hand reaching out to the surface. I really like the concept of this image, portraying a hand emerging from the darkness, reaching out for the light. I’m always happy with the composition, as I feel it gives it a certain aesthetic. The big problem however s the fact that it’s been cropped, and can’t really be used for much or printed as a final.

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First Underwater Shoot

For my first photo shoot, I was mainly trying to get use to my surroundings, as well as working in the new environment of underwater. It was incredibly fun, yet it was mainly trial and error, as it took a bit of getting used to. I mainly used the Nikon D200 and experimented with a Sea and Sea camera. By the end of the shoot, I was working with a recurring concept, responding to Emma Critchley’s work. I was happy with my results for my first time exploring underwater photography, and favoured the D200.

This photograph shows a figure from above from the chest upwards, wearing diving attire, floating on the surface with their arms spread out. After taking the shot, I raised the black for a stronger contrast and focus on the subject matter, and heightened the clarity to strengthen the reflection and texture on the surface of the water. I also adjusted the blue and green RGB paths until I felt I had the best colour tones throughout the image. I’m really happy with the surface of the water in this image, with the textures and bubbles making the surface almost seem like space. Unfortunately, I feel the appearance of the subject matter being in diving clothes is rather mundane, and doesn’t particularly compliment the aesthetic of the surreal surface.

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 This next photograph shows the surface of the water at the bottom of the image, with what seems like a cloud like explosion with a pair of feet emerging at the top of the disturbance. To take the shot, I had my model dive bomb into the pool, causing the cloudy disruption in the water. In post production, I rotated the image upside down before heightening the clarity to define the surface of the water, as well as the cloud of bubbles. I then proceeded to heighten the green RGB path slightly, as I felt the unique colours would compliment the abstract element of the image. I decided to rotate the image as I wanted to experiment with the concept of how we can interpret and image differently when seen from a different perspective. I think I’ve been successful in presenting this concept, yet I’m wondering if the image would be stronger if the feet could not be seen.

ImageThis next photograph shows a figure lying a the floor a swimming pool, their leg pointing upwards following a trail of bubbles to the surface. Once again, to take the shot, I had my model dive bomb into the pool, causing the disturbance in the water and the surface. I then desaturated the colour from the image slightly but kept the blue prominent, causing more of a silvery blue colour tone, which I felt complimented the atmosphere within the image. I then heightened the clarity to define the texture of the water, and darkened the edges of the image causing a vignette effect, which I felt helped draw the attention to the main focal point. The aim of this image was to depict the figure falling away from the surface, expressing the same struggle that Liat Aharoni’s image depicted. With the ambient lighting almost being like a spotlight on the subject, I also felt this image expressed the concept of “falling from grace”, with the focused light glorifying the figure. I’m really happy with this image, especially the posture of the figure and the position of the leg. I do wonder if the image would work better without the surface of the swimming pool floor, and I think I need to darken the right hand side to destroy the visibility of another object that was not meant to be captured in the image.

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This photograph shows a figure in the foetal position, surrounded by darkness. After taking the shot, I darkened the surroundings of the figure to make the focal point more prominent as well as portray the overwhelming darkness surrounding the subject. This image was my response and interpretation of Emma Critchley’s “suspended” photograph. The aim was to depict being a far away from the surface as possible and being engulfed by the abyss, with the foetal position representing the figure’s fear. I’m happy with the image, although I would have liked the figure to be slightly more prominent and sharper.

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This next photograph shows a figure upside down from the waist upwards – the rest of their body above the surface – their arms are spread wide out as they fall into darkness. In post production, I simply darkened the areas surrounding the figure once again. The aim of this image was to depict the figure leaving the surface and embracing the darkness, which I feel has worked well due to their posture, yet I’m not certain I’m happy that their head has been lost in the darkness, or whether this compliments the concept of being engulfed by darkness.

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This photograph shows a figure falling backwards into through the surface of the water, falling into darkness. Once again, after taking the image, in post production I darkened the surroundings before then heightening the clarity to define the texture of the surface of water. This image is the last in the series of three, this time depicting struggle and fierceness due to reluctantly falling away from the surface of light, portrayed by the posture – displaying struggle – and the roughness of the water.

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The photo series displays a set of the three images in a series I’ve named “Abyss”. The concept behind this series is portraying the confrontation of our fears when they arrive before us. I portrayed this through the use of the light surface of the water representing safety and harmony, whilst the darkness portrays the abyss, representing the current fear these figures are faced with being engulfed by. The three different images represent different realities one might turn to; The first shows complete fear, hiding away , feeling engulfed and hopeless. The second represents hostility, and the third represents facing fear with tranquillity. I’m pretty happy with this concept, and I feel the series can work well, but I’m not entirely sure it represents my theme “surface” strongly enough.

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Liat Aharoni

Liat Aharoni is an upcoming fine art photography. Her main explorations into photography focus on identity , the transformation of narratives elevated beyond realism into surrealism, and the dualities between the beautiful and the grotesque. Her fine art work has involved the use of underwater photography and has made an impact on my concepts for this project.

 

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This photograph by Aharoni shows a figure submerged in a body of water with their head above the surface, holding a couple of flowers in their right hand. I saw great similarities between this image a Frissell’s, almost like a reconstruction. However, with this image, I considered the figure to be falling from the surface rather than embracing. I really like the concept of this image, viewing the flowers and the white dress as a symbolism of innocence and beauty; the distortion and texture of the surface compliments the beauty of the image.

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Aharoni’s next photograph shows a figure falling into darkness, flailing their limbs around whilst looking up to the surface. What really stands out to me in this image is the symbolism of struggle; I feel the posture of the body and the look of desperation on the figures’ face portrays this concept very well. I also really like the different tones in lighting from the reflection of the water, covering the skin of the figure, as although we can’t see the surface of the water, we are able to understand that she is submerged and descending.

 

Toni Frissell

Toni Frissell was an American photographer known greatly for her fashion photography and her portraits of a variety of people from around the world. She worked with many famous photographers of the time under the guidance of Javier Hernandez and Edward Steichen before securing her job as a fashion photographer for Vogue. Looking at Frissell’s underwater photography has really inspired, with my concepts stongly influenced by her work.

 

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This underwater photograph by Frissell shows a woman in a white dress just beneath the surface of the water, yet their face is above the body of water. I absolutely love this photograph; I’d describe it as my ideal perfect image for underwater photography. Where we can see the distorted reflection of the surface at the top of the image, it’s almost as if the figure is floating up into a new world. The reason I would describe her as ascending rather than falling out of the new world is due to her posture, and where her face is above the surface, it’s as if she’s embracing this “other dimension”. I also really like the contrast between her white a dress, and grey dullness surrounding her. Not only does this strengthen the focal point, but also perceives the figure as almost being divine.

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The next underwater portrait by Frissell shows a ballet dancer standing straight, with the top half of their head above the water. What I like about this image is the eerie cold atmosphere created by the body of water that surrounds the figure. I also really like the surrealistic elements of this image, where we can only see her mouth, whilst the rest of her head is blurred and distorted amongst the reflection of the surface; An aspect I feel would be really strong in contributing to our theme.

 

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