08th February 2021
Jail House Punk
Contact sheets show how I work through the images. For this assignment they begin with the original photographs taken from a period between April 2020 and February 2021, and then show the progression to final selection. They can all be found within a different post which can be accessed here: https://dawntomlincreativeartist.com/2021/03/16/collecting-heads-contact-sheets/
They consist of: *Idea: Heads in the Kitchen RAW *Original Self-portraits *Selected Self-portraits V1 *Selected Self-portraits V1 annotated *Cross-app images V1 *Cross-app images V2 *Cross-app ideas and grids
“Create a series of between six and ten photographs on one of the following subjects: • Things • Views • Heads” OCA EYV (2014).
Given a choice of subjects for this assignment was just like sending a child into a sweet shop and telling them they only have £3 to spend, but the catch is all the sweets are their favourite.
I already had a strong pull towards the theme of heads because my photography and art is predominantly figure and portrait based, however I decided that I would think about the other two themes before committing myself to ‘Heads’.
Overwhelmed with possibilities I began the assignment by jotting down any ideas or visualisations. Once I had chosen my subject I continued to make notes and sketches on the one theme to unpack possible ideas, this can be seen below.
Once my initial ideas had been unpacked I began to look online and in books for photographers who had produced images on or around the theme of heads. I began by looking through my book collection, however the ‘heads’ were nearly all self-portraits or portraits of other people and I was looking for photography series that had strong concepts behind them.
The following list is the photographers that I researched for this assignment and the links to my posts with the research.
- Alex Kayser: Heads https://dawntomlincreativeartist.com/2021/03/20/collecting-heads-photographers-research-alex-kayser-heads/
- Bettina von Zwehl https://dawntomlincreativeartist.com/2021/03/19/photographers-research-bettina-von-zwehl/
- Dominika Dovgialo https://dawntomlincreativeartist.com/2021/03/20/collecting-heads-photographers-research-dominika-dovgialo/
- Marius Els https://dawntomlincreativeartist.com/2021/03/20/collecting-heads-photographers-research-marius-els/
With the question, ‘How can I make my head series compelling?’ I came up with two responses. Firstly and most importantly after looking at other photographers work I decided that having a strong concept behind the images will engage the viewers and enable them to respond to the content in a reflective way. Secondly I will create visually interesting images with a technique that links the images together and which will also add to the information within the concept.
I decided that I would follow Thomas Ruff’s idea of using images that had already been produced. Unlike Ruff though, the images would be my own self-portraits all of which had been taken in the last year in lockdown. I thought of this concept after watching ‘Jail House Rock’ which starred Elvis Presley and for some unknown reason I visualised the COVID lockdown as being similar to being in jail.
Having been taking self-portraits to record my emotional changes due to the lockdown drastically changing my life and having an impact on my mental health, I decided to select only a few images and the choice would be random. The ‘random’ is an important part of my concept because it symbolises not being able to control the outcome of which portraits are chosen, just like being unable to control which frame of mind I will be in when I wake.
I chose the images by scrolling through my iPad and stopping the images with my finger. Thirty three images were chosen in total of which I chose a final eleven to work with. One of the criteria that I had chosen the images for was the fact that half of them had been taken in bed and had a bright light source to the left side of my face. Having spent weeks in bed I have come to realise that I can feel the heat from my lamp on my cheek and it was this connection of the light source coming in from my left that I wanted to keep.
The eleven images can be seen below with the technical details and the dates taken, and the thirty three chosen images can be seen on the Contact sheet post, here.
- 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)
Having selected images that I could work with, I needed next to take the concept further and decide if I wanted to adjust the visual look of the images or keep them in their original form, as well as this I had to decide how I would present them.
This is when my workflow began to get quite jumbled and messy because so many ideas were buzzing around inside my head, and I knew I was becoming over stimulated again.
While looking through the images there was one that was noticeably the ‘odd one out’. This image had been taken on my iPhone with the ‘High-key Light Mono’ effect in Portrait Mode which creates a greyscale portrait on a white background. I decided that I liked the visual features of this image because the lack of colour made it visually quite harsh due to its contrast and lack of details which made the overall feel of the portrait less welcoming and quite detached from the visual normalities of a human portrait, and in lockdown I definitely felt detached from normality.
Once the decision had been made to visually present my portraits like this I experimented with taking photographs with the iPhone High-Key Light Mono effect of chosen photographs that I brought up on my iPad screen. The results can be seen in the contact sheet below.
Once I had converted the photographs I began to manually take any unwanted details out of the images and I also erased part of the portraits to visually symbolise fading away into nothingness, due to the fact that it had felt like lockdown had stripped me of my essence. I was slowly dying of boredom, unable to go out to gigs, exhibitions and on photography trips and this had taken its tole on me and depression had started to eat away at me.
To personify these feelings and this effect I loaded the images into an iPad app called Autodesk SketchBook and used the Hard Erasure from the Brush Set: Legacy and adjusted its size and amount erased to gain different strengths in opacity around the areas that symbolised fading. This is not a new technique for me to use so completing this section of the workflow was straightforward.
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.
Once I had I trialed the 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.
While I was trying out the different grid compositions I noticed a couple of my images were incorrect in that I had the light source coming from the right side instead of the left side so I had to re-create the images so that they matched the rest of the series. While I was doing this in SketchBook I wrote a poem which was influenced by the work that I had been doing and presented it next to another grid that I had designed. The poem reflects in words what the images are portraying and also what I am thinking.
Having already titled the work ‘Heads in Isolation’ I was now thinking about using the last line, ‘Me, Myself and I’ as the title for the work. While I was deciding on the title I was thinking how the poem and grid could be presented so that they were not just straightforward printouts.
I came up with the idea that the poem would be hand written in a notebook, like the one that I keep on my bed for night time ideas and poetry writing and I would print the photographs out on my instax SHARE Square film which looks like polaroid photographs of old. Then I would take a photograph of the open notebook showing the poetry page and have the Polaroids and a pen beside the notebook.
Having this idea excited me so I programmed my printer with the first five images but I was very disappointed with the results. As you can see in the following image the prints came out quite light and details were lost. I could have used the prints because the portrayed details, which were becoming even more lost due to the print outcome, makes the concept of fading away into a nothingness stronger. I was now lost within another idea but I knew I had to stop keep going off into too many other directions so I stopped developing this idea at this point.
On March the 7th I took part in my first Focus Live forum meeting where I met other students and I presented my grid images for discussion. I was hoping that participating in the session would help me focus on my presentation ideas because I had become overwhelmed by that which I had created so far and was still at a loss as what to do next or even deciding which grid complemented my concept the best.
While we were discussing my work in the session some very good points were brought up. Firstly Clive White who was the tutor who was present, observed my use of words in the grid and said that they were not needed because the viewer can easily tell that the images were of emotions. It was also pointed out to me that the word ‘Void’ was also an emotion so having it presented as a feature apart from the word emotion, did not make sense.
Another suggestion for presenting my images was that of a book, specifically a leporello book design, a format I use to create in my Reception class for writing and illustrating stories.
As my agenda continued I was explaining how I came to my concept for the assignment, I mentioned that I had watched Jail House Rock and it had entered my dreams where I visualised my work and compared the COVID lockdown to being in jail. Clive White said that it would be a good title for the assignment as ‘Heads in Lockdown’ was discussed and it didn’t really spark interest in anyone.
It was this comment by Clive that set me off dreaming about designing a LP vinyl cover, so the next day I was side tracked into doing just that. I decided to call the ‘LP’ Jail House Punk because it reflects the numerous different punk hair styles that I have had in the year lockdown as well as the music that I predominantly listen to.
I designed the cover in SketchBook and the stages can be seen in the image on the left below and the final image on the right. Having taken two days to create this design I was using up the time I had left to complete the assignment and to submit it, but this did not deter me, so I began to think about presenting my images in a book format.
Jail House Punk album cover
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. Once this had been recorded I decided to design my front cover which can also be seen below.
Designing the front cover began with a screaming self-portrait which was taken specifically for this part of the project. I used my iPad and once the photograph had been taken I downloaded it into a design app called WordFoto. Once it had been loaded I trialed the eight preset design styles and spent a day fine tuning until I decided on my final image which was using a font called Classic Color. From here I converted the image into black and white, and downloaded it into SketchBook.
In SketchBook I draw a rectangle to symbolise a bar in a jail, filled it with black using the paint pot setting, duplicated it and moved both of the bars into position. From here I added text, the title, and an anarchy symbol. To help me decide on the title font I experimented until there were three that I thought may fit in with the design and uploaded them into Facebook for opinions. The majority of people which included myself preferred the chalk font which is called Chalkduster. For me the font was not formal and provided a sense of graffitiing on floors and walls something that tied in with me as a teenager where I would write the names of band members that I ‘loved’ and had a crush on. So for me the handwritten chalk style makes the title personal for the viewer.
Below shows the order of the designing of the book cover.
Once the front cover had been designed I decided to print out some of the portraits on ordinary A4 printing paper. I had not quite made my mind up, but I was musing on the idea of printing the images out this way so that when stuck in the book they actually looked and felt like the cheap music fan magazines I bought as a teenager. This idea would tie in with the teenage graffitiing me and would make the book relate back to the years 1980-1985. Thinking along these lines I decided to look for those fan magazines that I had in my loft and look at their content and presentation styles.
Yet again I had developed my idea and it was being taken into another direction.
Once the printing had begun I experimented with cropping in on some of the portraits. At the time these print outs were not for this Assignment but for photo-weaving works that I construct. Once printed I placed all of them on my bed, spread out so I could view them all at once, and I actually liked the composition of my portraits laid out this way so I took some photographs leaving in my cat, bras, part of a book and some items placed on the end of the bed.
This then gave me another idea which was to place the portraits on a background photograph of my quilt cover and leave the border colour. I also decided that some of the borders could have objects in them that are frequently laying on my bed to emphasise how I have spent most of lockdown on or in the bed. This idea also resembled some of the images in my magazines where photographs are placed on backgrounds of other images. I decided to use my glasses, pill box, TV remote control and mobile phone as my objects because these sum up my experience of lockdown quite well.
Within this stage in my work I decided to create the book similar to a fan club magazine which would enable me to mix and match my photographic images with my written poem and create some page specific designs to place between the portraits.
I decided the content could include the images, the poem, the images of the spread of photographs on the bed and some grid work. However having used the portraits for whole pages I did not want to repeat them in the grids so I designed a close up grid which focused in on the face tightly and emphasised parts of the features which showed the greatest emotion like eyes and the mouth.
Once the first grid had been completed and printed out and placed with the others I wanted to find a way to make it separate from the images. This meant the portraits would be the focus of the book with the poem, the spread of photographs on the bed and the grid would be a support content in the book. To visually create a different grid style I decided to draw the images in the grid which led me to also draw a full face portrait and a combination photograph with drawing on top of a photograph, these additional works would break up the image flow in the book.
Once I had taken photographs of my duvet cover with and without objects I placed the photographs on them, not uniformed e.g. centrally placed or in size. This again was to mimic the style in the magazines. Then from here I designed the magazine pages running order which can be seen below. Although I am happy with how the book is looking in my plans until I have printed a couple of trial pages out I will be unable to get a genuine response to how the pages colour and running order placements will look.
For the printing I used my Epson SureColor P600 printer, the cheapest photocopier paper that I had and Pritt-stick glue. The reason I chose the cheapest paper is because it is the thinnest and as near as I could get to the quality and thickness of the 80’s magazines that I use to buy.
I printed on a combination of A4 and A3 paper, using the A3 size for the two bed photograph images. I also folded in half blank A3 paper onto which I would glue the A4 prints. The resulting layouts are below.
Rather than just leaving the presentation of the Jail House Punk magazine as photographs I decided to make a video which showed each page being opened. This idea was influenced by the many YouTube videos watched where the host shows the contents of a book. These videos are sometimes presented with a voice over, music or just silence, however I decided that my video would have sounds that are layered over each other.
The sounds that I collected from a sleep app that I use are ‘the womb’ which is the sounds of a baby’s heartbeat and 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.
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.
Once I had watched, had written notes and used Premiere Rush with my notes as my guidance, I actually found using the app very easy and I look forward to using it again. My completed video showing my magazine ‘Jail House Punk’ can be seen below.
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 three sections within my workflow that I feel did not work particularly well.
- The first area that I will need to work on is the amount of times I change direction within my work as I am planning and as I am creating. In normal situations this would be a good process because I would be working through different ideas to get to the best possible outcome. However when you are working to a dead line this is not good practice. I am now a week behind handing my assignment in and it has to be submitted tomorrow and I am still writing up this blog post and I have not started my assignment write up. This means I will have to work through the night to get it completed. This definitely cannot carry on into my practice due to the fact that there has to be an acknowledged cut off point for completion. What I could do if my head is buzzing with new or better ideas is to keep them written down in a sketchbook of ideas for another time.
- The second 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.
- Lastly is my magazine making technique. This was definitely a fail. If you watch the video you can see that the page edge will not stay glued down in the centre fold of the magazine. 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.
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.
This means that as I am shooting my self portraits in the future, I will need to use both the natural effect and the High-Key Light Mono effect so that I have two independent techniques being shot and filed individually for future use.
The series presentation technique must also 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 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. Something I must definitely work on for the future.
- Elvis image, Wikipedia Commons (online) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elvis_Presley_Jailhouse_Rock.jpg (Accessed 08/03/2021)