When we were first given this project, I felt rather daunted by the fact we had to take pictures of ourselves revealing our personality and character, especially since I am a little introverted. However, I did learn a lot from this project – not only about the technical handling of the camera such as how to effectively adjust the aperture or shutter speed in accordance to the mood of the shot I wanted, as well as how important framing and composition was in a photo, but also about myself and what was it I wanted to reveal to people.
Task 1 – Me:
So for the first task, we had to introduce ourselves through a series of 3 photos, of which when put together should tell a story. I started this task by asking myself several questions – What characteristics am I able to show people? What do I want people to know about me? How do I want to audience to perceive my photos and me?. It was only after thinking about these questions that I thought – the best way to know a person is through their workspace. By studying one’s workspace, one is able to learn their studying habits, aspirations, preferences et cetera.
I then attempted to visually plan examples of the shots I felt would accurately depict these traits, using different framing methods as well as planning the composition of the photograph:
I then decided on the 3 characteristic traits I wanted to show others, which was how I am a night worker, a very tidy and organised person, and how I liked to daydream. I experimented with various framing methods, such as extreme close ups, close ups, medium long shots, and medium short shots. What was more important for me in this project however, was how I decided to composite the photo – mainly deciding what items or objects I should include or exclude in the picture, and what it could symbolize from a general point of view.
To portray my tidiness, I composed my photographs in a way that should show the difference between 2 people – my sister and I. This was because we were opposites when it came to tidiness, where she was extremely messy and disoriented while I was much neater. I hoped to show this through the inclusion of 2 chairs, making use of the separation the notice board makes, small post it notes on the wall showing our short messages to each other et cetera. Below are some of the test shots:
Night versus Day perspective: Does image show there are 2 people and their different habits?
Night perspective from a different angle
(Problem: Distinction of 2 people’s characters not very clear)
Inclusion of subject matter in shot
(Problem: Merely looks like 2 people studying; audience won’t know who they are without context, especially since only their back view is shown)
In the end, I decided on this particular shot, because I felt the distinction between my sister’s workspace and my workspace was clearer, and the natural day lighting allowed for me to see the noticeboard more clearly compared to at night, from which people can infer my sentimental personality as well (photographs on board), my likes (animation pictures) and how I worked in that space.
To portray my character as a night worker, I took various shots at night with a small aperture of F22 and a shutter speed of 1″. This was so that the camera would capture the lighting from the main light source in the photograph, of which in my case was my computer.
I experimented with various framing methods and angles, mainly close ups and extreme close ups. In the images above, I tried to include the computer without including it in the photo by making use of the reflection it made on my glasses. However, it was not as obvious as I thought it was, and what I was doing wasn’t depicted clearly enough.
Test shot with shutter speed 0.8″, aperture F22, ISO 1200
So I experimented from a different angle, which I found gave me more space to play around with composition. While still making the light from the screen as the sole light source, I also tried to include a clock to show the time. I felt this could make the meaning in my image clearer in order to show that I was not merely in some dark room doing work, but doing work late at night.
In the end, I chose a medium framed shot, as I felt the overall composition of the photograph was the clearest example of me being a night owl. I especially liked how the computer screen served as the main light source of the photo, and not only showed me doing work but also a faint reveal of the clock and the time it was.
To portray the way in which I relaxed, I experimented with medium close ups, close ups, and long shots. Often, I relaxed by looking out of my window, which was beside my workspace. It was important to repeatedly ask myself which image and pose would depict me in a calm, relaxed atmosphere, and what I should crop out in the image.
This series of images (test shots) was hard to choose the photo, because most of the shots either looked like I was too lonely. I had to find my way around this by continually adjusting my pose and angle of the camera, thinking “Should I show my face more to the camera, or just my back? What do I include in the shot?”
In the end, I chose this as my final shot. I liked how my face was angled just slightly to give a hint to where my eyes were looking, and the inclusion of the dreamcatcher which I hoped would hint my habit of day-dreaming.
Overall, since the focus would mainly be on the object(s) in the space, I decided medium or medium close up shots would work best, as it not only allowed the focus and lighting of the picture to have focus on the main subject matter, but also establish a close relationship with the photographer and the audience.
Final shots for Task 1: Me
Task 2 – Object:
For this task, we had to choose an object that was significant to me. This was hard, because I also have a habit of hoarding objects, making it difficult for me to determine which held the most sentimentality.
As a result, I read Sherry Turkle’s Introduction on The Things That Matter hoping to gain some inspiration. She spoke of how every object she found in a box that held her grandmother’s and mother’s possessions – no matter how small – provided Turkle with a new understanding of who they were and what they were interested in. When talking about how she attempted to gather information about her father – whom she barely knew as a result of a divorce – she learned to trace the power of objects in one’s life and how it connected them to ideas and to people. The most important thing I learnt from her writing, was that “Most objects exert a holding power because of a particular moment and circumstance in which they come into the author’s life”. This sounded out to me because it prompted me to start looking through all the important periods of my life to determine what object could mean a lot to me. Thereafter, I had to ask myself about its associations, such as “Where does it take me? What do I feel? What am I able to understand from it?”
I did consider using objects that reminded me of people or things I had lost, such as my Grandma’s mirror, or my stuffed toy dog, but these seemed extremely conventional, and therefore lost its meaning to me.
It was then I thought of my notebook, which were one of the many to hold an archive of all my storytelling ideas in comic form. It was important to me because it marked the beginning of my interest in storytelling – where I started creating my own storylines for my favourite TV shows (e.g. Winx Club), and used any notebook I could find to attempt to copy their drawing styles. It started my passion for stories and visual storytelling, and began my habit of drawing everyday.
However, it was difficult for me to show my interaction and emotion towards an inanimate object, especially one as ordinary as a notebook. I had to find out how I could show how important the object was to me, and I started by watching moleskine advertisements to analyse how they sold their notebooks. Watching their advertisement of “Everyone”, I found they included many shots of where the person would use their notebook – be it for drawing or taking notes.
I thought back to my own situation where I would use my notebook, which was the time I had before going to sleep. It was almost as if it was a ritual that I could not break and was something i had to do before going to bed. So I experimented with a few test shots:
Framing: Long / Medium Long shot
(Shows me in bed, wearing pyjamas using notebook; deliberate inclusion of clock to show time)
Framing: Close Up shot
(Notebook against neutral background next to my bed; No interaction VS with interaction; purpose was to show how the notebook was something I used before I go to sleep, and the first thing I looked at in the morning before anything else. This includes my glasses, which was something people will usually pick up first instinctively to correct their vision.)
Framing: Close Up and Medium Long shot
(Showing me interacting with notebook, how I actually use it and where)
Because I tried to show how or when I used my notebook apart from night, I took a few shots while I watched TV, because often I would gain inspiration from the shows I watched.Since the focus was to be on the notebook, I tried to take more close up shots compared to medium or long shots. The main challenge was how I could make the notebook remain the main focus while I showed an accurate depiction of how I interacted with it. For example, me siting on the sofa does not clearly show me using the television as a reference for my drawings, and neither was it clear when I took a photo of my back to the camera while drawing. Another photo that showed me watching TV was clear, but the notebook failed to be the focus as there were many elements of focus in the photograph.
Overall, I felt these were the most successful shots in depicting my interaction with the notebook, highlighting the times and places I used it in. I feel the composition of the photographs can definitely be improved to show myself having more emotional attachment to the notebook, such as how perhaps I could have pushed myself harder to include an accurate shot of me in front of the TV garnering inspiration for drawing.
Task 3: My World
For the last task, we had to choose a place that was significant to us. I had quite a few places in mind, namely my previous house in Rangoon Road that was demolished and reconstructed into a new condominium, inside my Father’s car, the neighbourhood I grew up in as a child, and my current house’s carpark. These places were all significant to me due to the emotional attachment that came with it, such as how my childhood neighbourhood and previous house was reminiscent of my adolescent years, my Father’s car being the only place I am able to spend time with him due to his busy schedule, and lastly my current house’s carpark, where I used to walk my dog who passed on 4 years ago.
The place I chose in the end was the carpark around my current house because I felt I could capture a sense of the space better, and it would also test how I could portray the significance of an ordinary space to me. However, the challenge of this space was that there was nothing to show my emotional attachment to it without my dog being there, which was impossible to re-enact since my dog was no longer around. This prompted me to think about how I could show something that is no longer there, but essential in depicting my attachment to the place.
I then came up with the idea staged photography, the deliberate arrangement or composition of items and things in the photo to create an artificially constructed scene. This involved me thinking about the types of props I would need to show my dog’s absent present nature, and how I would reenact our walks.
I referred to photographer Robert Zhao’s work of “The Great Pretenders”, a series of photographs based on the idea of camouflaging insects – namely the leaf insect. I was inspired by the method in which he dealt with truth (or untruths for that matter) versus reality.
In this work, Zhao played with the audience perception of truth by having a leaf insect posed against a green backdrop camouflaged amongst a bunch of other leaves. With the difference in colour and positioning of the “leaf insect” as well as the title he introduces his work as, audiences would perceive that there was indeed a leaf insect camouflaged amongst the leaves. However, this was not true, as Zhao merely edited his photograph slightly – and with strategic compositioning – left a subtle suggestion of what the image was depicting. His play on audience’s perspective and conception of how they viewed a photograph hence deepened my understanding of how photography was not only able to depict reality, but also able to manipulate it and represent something else entirely.
It was important that I was mindful of my surroundings with regards to colour, as I needed to ensure my prop, which was a leash, and myself would stand out from the surroundings and be the focus, all the while capturing the sense of place. This was especially since I felt long shots would work the best to achieve the effect of “sense of place”, because medium or close up shots of me and the leash may guide viewers into focusing on my interaction with my “dog”, and not my interaction with the space. This could also be confused with task 2 if the prop was the main focus in my photo.
Process: In order to give viewers the perception that I was walking a dog, I used a leash with a fishing line attached to a stool to hold it up, giving the idea that it was attached to my dog’s neck.
Thereafter, I would start the self-timer on the camera to 10 seconds – with it set to take 3 consecutive shots after the timer goes off – and run back to the leash, ensuring that the red side of the leash faced the camera, and got into a position where I was about to start walking. This resulted in the following test shots:
Comments: Playing around with the rule of third; which is more effective in capturing sense of place better? Which has a higher emotional value? Which seemed more natural?
Comments: Poses and what to include in shot – camera angled to include back of car? Include me looking at neighbours as they walked past (Which happened a lot while I walked my dog)? Will these additional elements be too distracting?
Comments: Car VS no car; will the focus be on me, the leash, or what I’m doing? Must remember that what I’m doing in the space will be able to better show my emotional attachment to the space and why it is special to me.
Comments: Pose I am in; Many a times, I will have to guide my dog to the side to avoid the cars, and similarly I will have to wait while she does her business; whether I should show not only how I interact within the space, but also how I interacted with my dog.
Comments: Examples of my perspective while walking my dog
Problem -> is the focus too much on the leash instead of the space?
Attempted solving -> Tried to take it in portrait instead of landscape to include more of the surroundings
These shots were the ones I felt the most successful in capturing the essence of the place in revealing my attachment to it and why it was significant to me.
These are all my final shots:
All in all, this project definitely helped me to explore the medium of photography thoroughly, from deciding on the frame of the shot, to staging, the composition, and of course deciding which shots best depicted my objective.
Thank you all for reading! Hope you guys enjoyed this project as much as I did 🙂