Assignment Two – to Insta or not to Insta?

Having chosen my images for the assignment and tidied them up a little, mainly adjusting shadows and contrast or removing distractions, I was not quite sure that I had achieved the snapshot look I was thinking of originally.  I tried to crop the images to square to give them an ‘Instagram’ kind of feeling but this didn’t work well with most of the images so I decided to try actually putting them through Instagram and using the filters available as though I was actually posting them to the site.  All in all I am happy with the results of this as it gave the images the kind of feel I was looking for.

The difference in most of the images is quite subtle with the main differences being in crop and the light/shadows in parts of the images.  The filters I tend to use most on Instagram are ones which change the light and tone in the centre of the image and those which generally brighten the entire image, such as the one used on the self-portrait image.

I am rethinking my captions slightly with these edits and think it may work better to put typed captions underneath as if they were actually posted to Instagram rather than using handwritten ones.  This would give the images a modern twist on the idea of making them look like Polaroids.

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Assignment Two – Contact Sheets

 

I did take some of the images I took out of these contact sheets but mainly because of repetitiveness or poor focus.  The photographs of me were also taken on a different camera to the rest, my older 600D, as I don’t have a remote shutter cable for my 5D MKIII.

Having looked through the images I took and being able to compare them I have decided to use the following images;

  • The second image of my paperwork pile because I feel it shows my disorganisation well and is fairly straight already so theres room for cropping if I choose to.
  • The second shot of my dresser because I feel it is the clearest and I like the darkness of the room behind the dresser.
  • The second shot of the fridge magnet because I prefer it on its own – the other magnets on the fridge make it less evident what the focus of the image is – and I like the fact it talks about things being straight and yet it is not straight itself.
  • Either the ‘good expression, bad crop’ image of myself or the last one.  I will see how both work when I edit them but I like the expression best on the first.
  • The fourth from last medication shot because I like both the composition and the dark background.
  • Either the last or third from last child shot, I’m not sure which portrays childhood OCD best so again I will see how they work once edited.  I am not sure either of these will work well cropped square though.
  • The last TV image with the character checking knives because he looks distressed but also like he is concentrating.  He looks like he is feeling a little desperate as he checks the knives are all correctly in the block and for me, this is the image that is furthest from any stereotypes of OCD sufferers.  I will probably make a composite image using the image I took of the TV turned off so that the exposure is correct for both the TV and the image on it.

 

I quite like the idea of cropping these images to square, similar to Instagram style, or making them a similar ratio to Polaroid images.  I don’t think I would go as far as to put a Polaroid style frame on them but I would like them to appear like snapshots with captions underneath – the idea of handwritten ones appeals to me but I’m not sure whether to have them printed with borders and write underneath or whether to write the captions and scan them in to add to the photographs digitally.  One way will work better as a piece of physical work and the other will work better for the sake of my blog.

Assignment Two – Photograph Planning

Thinking a little further on the theme of OCD and common misconceptions I decided that I would like to take photographs to match the following comments;

“You must be so organised!”

OCD sufferers are seen as being very organised because they like to line things up but the need to do this is nothing to do with organisation itself and the things which they line up will often not be anything as useful as paperwork.  To portray this I think the disorganised chaos that is my computer desk would work well.  Although I can find most things in this area with ease, it is not a place that looks well organised!

“Your house must be super tidy!”

Probably the most common misconception when it comes to OCD is that sufferers all obsessively clean everything.  To address this I would like to photograph somewhere in my house which is untidy.  Initially I thought of my computer desk but then I realised that my dresser would work well.  It is covered in nic-nacs and bits and pieces that people leave on there as well as books and photographs.

“OCD is funny!”

People often make a joke of OCD, even people with it tend to make a bit of a joke of it to take the focus off of themselves I think.  A difficult one to photograph but I have a magnet a friend bought me some years ago which is entitled ‘The Law of Straightness’.  It makes a bit of a joke of OCD but anybody who suffers will know how close to true it is.  I’d like to photograph this surrounded by other magnets which are not straight or on a slight slant by itself.  Not sure which will work better.

“You can tell when someone has OCD.”

It is thought that OCD is something that should be obvious to people though often not to the sufferer themselves, another misconception which is perpetrated by the way sufferers are generally portrayed in the media.  For this I think that a picture of myself at close range, looking deadpan into the lens, would work well.  Can you tell just from my face that I have a head full of compulsions and rituals?

“You can’t treat OCD.”

It is commonly believed that OCD is an untreatable illness, that sufferers just need to destress, ‘man up’  and get on with life.  To counteract this I think a photograph of anti-anxiety medication could work well.  OCD both causes anxiety and is exacerbated by it so if you can control the anxiety with medication then the OCD itself is easier to manage.

“Children don’t get OCD.”

This is definitely not true, although I had no idea what OCD was until I was in my late teens and read an article on it, it is something I have suffered with for as long as I can remember.  For this image I would like to take a photograph of a child lining something up, my son used to line up his toy cars by size or by colour when he was small.  I’d like to use my daughter (who is still fairly small) and have her lining up cars (if I can find some) or some small ponies.  The idea is to shoot from above showing the line of toys and her hands adjusting them though other angles might work better?

“People with OCD are just anally retentive like you see on TV.”

It is usually true that people with OCD are portrayed as being difficult, anally retentive characters on TV.  Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory or the detective Monk.  These characters are shown to be finicky and stuck in their ways but, touching on the point I made earlier, unaware of the fact they have odd ways.  In actual fact OCD sufferers are fully aware both of their condition and how ridiculous it must seem to anyone who doesn’t have it, they are often embarrassed and will make light of it or hide it from others.  I was very surprised whilst watching Coronation Street last week when a character was shown exhibiting signs of OCD.  Not only was he performing rituals but when challenged by someone as to what he was doing he confessed that it was to keep someone he loved safe and that he was embarrassed by it.  The illness has begun affecting his life making him late for appointments and leaving him feeling panicked at the thought of not performing his rituals.  For this I would like to take a photograph of this character on the TV either looking stressed or performing one of his routines.

Assignment Two – Further Thoughts – Unseen Illness

Following an email conversation with my tutor I have decided to look a little further in depth at unseen illness for this assignment, specifically OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as being a (thankfully mild) sufferer, this is a subject I know something about.  OCD is an illness which is often misrepresented though and is as such very much misunderstood.  I often hear people state they are “a little OCD…” about something, usually to do with cleaning, or they’ll make statements to me such as “Oh, you have OCD? Your house must be spotless!”.  I have even had someone tell me I couldn’t possibly have OCD because I don’t obsessively clean.

Leading on from this I had an idea to try and show some of the common misconceptions people have about the illness using photographs showing reality paired with captions stating the way people on the outside see OCD.

What I found when searching the internet for common misconceptions was far more in than I expected.  I knew that it is generally thought that OCD is about cleanliness and order and that people think it is a good or useful illness to have but I discovered far more than that.

The main themes for misunderstanding that came up were those of cleanliness and quirkiness.  Thanks to the portrayal of OCD in the media it is seen as a bit of a joke or an anally retentive trait which the sufferer does not realise they have (think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory or the detective Monk, for example).  It is also assumed that it will be obvious from the way a person behaves that they have OCD though in reality you are unlikely to be able to see most of their obsessive behaviours.  Other causes are seen as stress, being weak willed and needing to relax, phobias, how people are brought up, being a woman and it just being a personality trait.

In actual fact it is a much different and far more complicated illness than is generally thought.  Most OCD sufferers, for instance, will be well aware that they have this illness.  It begins with intrusive thoughts – these can be violent or sexual thoughts, thoughts of hurting yourself or others (and fear that you will carry them out), fear of committing a sin, fear that someone you love will be hurt or become ill.  Most people have intrusive thoughts at some time or another but can easily brush them aside and continue with their day but in someone with OCD these thoughts are more persistent and the sufferer will use rituals to protect themselves (or more often their loved ones) against whatever ‘bad thing’ they are fearful of.   Sometimes these will be purely mental rituals but more often they will manifest as excessive cleaning (to fix the fear of making someone ill/getting ill themselves and passing it on), tapping or touching objects, arranging things the ‘right’ way and praying to name just a few.

 

Ideas

Themes I would like to photograph are as following:

  • Cleanliness
  • Orderliness (photo of disordered bookshelf?)
  • Rare in children
  • Media portrayal (Coronation Street have just shown us that a character has OCD but rather than being the usual quirky/anal retentive type he was clicking switches and checking things until they felt ‘right’ in order to protect someone he cared about from any more bad happenings.  He was clearly distressed and also embarrassed about his behaviour – as most OCD sufferers would be).
  • Untreatable
  • Obvious
  • Useful
  • Funny (a friend gave me a fridge magnet making a joke out of OCD, what is sad is how close to truth it is)

Other things I could try to show are the compulsions themselves (see second spider chart above) though I feel these images would probably be much more literal than the images I’ve discussed above and would teach about the illness rather than show/debunk the misconceptions people have about it.

 

References

I read from several sources online to find out more information about OCD and the misconceptions people have about it.  There is so much more to the illness than I have touched on above.

https://www.ocduk.org/ocd

http://www.sciencefocus.com/article/mind/i-still-remember-day-my-brain-broke

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201605/4-myths-about-ocd

https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety/8-common-myths-about-ocd.aspx

https://iocdf.org/blog/2017/10/03/help-seperate-ocd-myths-from-the-facts/

https://www.bcm.edu/news/psychiatry-and-behavior/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-misconceptions

http://www.toptenz.net/10-interesting-facts-misconceptions-ocd.php

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Assignment Two -Photographing the Unseen – Initial Thoughts

For this assignment I have a choice between 2 assignments.  The first is Photographing the Unseen and the second is Using Props.  For the  first choice I would need to try and capture something that is seen as un-photographabel and for the second it is suggested I choose between either a white shirt or a white handkerchief and through photographs tell a story about it or using it to help.  Of these two I much prefer the first brief, I feel it would be much easier for me to pull ideas from areas of my own life than to try and invent a new life for the prop.

The first thing the course book asks is that I do some reflecting on what kinds of subjects might be un-photographable and how I might go about capturing these.  from here I hope to be able to choose and develop an idea for my assignment.

Subjects

Nostalgia – inspired by Jodie Taylor’s work
Fears – specifically childhood fears
Unseen illness – anxiety, OCD
Stress – busy lives, modern living?
Emotions – love, sadness, anger
Smell and sound– senses that can’t be caught on film/image
Touch – can images capture senses in an un-literal way?

Approaches

Nostalgia – photo albums, childhood haunts, toys, memorabilia.  Tricky to find subjects that will evoke nostalgia in a wide range of viewers.  I would like to explore the play places of my childhood but am concerned my work would be too similar to Jodie Taylor’s.  From what I have seen she has taken and presented her work in much the same fashion I would choose to.  Processing and style of photography would be very important here – vignetting and/or 80’s style colour.

Fears – darkness, alleyways, being alone, loud noises after dark (as a child I was even frightened of the sound of the toilet being flushed in the night, too scared to even flush it myself).  Post production processing (vignetting, blur) and lighting could help to give these images a dark feel.

Unseen illnessOCD particularly – anxiety stems from it.  Lined up (or unaligned if I decided to show things as they shouldn’t be rather than as they should) light switches, cushions, cooker knobs – even the way a key is left in a door.  Captions of single words or short phrases – handwritten for more impact?  Everyday things out of alignment could extend this idea beyond my house but may not be as personal.  As could images depicting the extreme fear of germs which prompts some OCD sufferers to obsessively clean.

Stress – everyday living – the minute of every day – alarm clocks, loading dishwasher, filling car with fuel, paperwork, clocking in to work, cooking, etc.  Is this too literal though?  How could I show these everyday things as stressful – captions could help here.

Emotions – how to visualise this without liberalising?  No people? Lighting to create mood?  Or simply shot, stark images?  Love, for instance, could be something fuzzy and romantic, a rose with candlelight.  Or on a plain background.  Would both represent love?

Smell and sound – I’m not certain how these could be captured in an image, taking a photograph of something that makes you think of a certain smell or sound would not be easy.

Touch – possibly too literal for this assignment, photographing textures?

Loss – or fear of loss.  I’ve been sitting up with a very poorly cat tonight – he’s been ill for some weeks but started having seizures this evening.  Watching him recover from the latest one, not knowing if he’ll make it, got me thinking about how missed he will be if he doesn’t recover.  Image ideas could include his empty bowl, spot by the fire, medication, favourite toys, empty cat basket, empty lap.

As an update to my ideas on loss above, my little cat sadly didn’t make it.  The lack of his presence in the house leaves a large hole and I’m struggling to make sense of how such a young cat, only just over a year, can become so ill, almost out of the blue, that he cannot be saved.  Would the rawness of this loss cloud my judgement for this assignment or would it’s sharpness mean I would create more honest images?

Exercise – Personally Driven Work

For this exercise I was asked to read 3 case studies from the course book which showcase the narrative work of OCA students and discuss which I felt resonated most with me.

The first study is a set entitled ‘Check Up’ by Peter Mansell.  These images are very stark and give me, as the viewer, somewhat of an insight into his life, that of a paraplegic.  This is not something, thankfully, that I identify with although it is fascinating to see things from such a different point of view to my own (and I am in awe of him completing an assignment from his hospital bed!).

The second is called ‘Ring Road’ by Dewald Botha and the images are very beautifully shot but also have a lonely feel about them.  With nothing of this scale anywhere near me at all, and living still in my hometown, this project – whilst interesting both visually and metaphorically – it is not one I identify with.

The third case study is a series of photographs by Jodie Taylor entitled “Memories of Childhood” and I was instantly drawn to the image of graffitied garages in an area that does not look dissimilar to the area in which I grew up.

I was lucky enough as a child to have the run of my street and a couple of neighbouring ones from a fairly young age and I would spend hours with my brother and our friends playing in the street, by the garages and in ‘The Square’ (a block paved area of ground with walls on 2 sides and grass on the others).  It was only upon revisiting these streets as an adult that I realised what a rough area it actually was/had become.  The playground of my childhood was smaller than I remembered, damaged, graffitied and covered in shards of broken glass.  Despite the difference between my memories and the present reality, the streets I played on still take me back to my childhood and in my mind’s eye I can see the girl I was and remember acutely how I felt at that time.  Run down and rough they may be but these streets were once my happy place.

I followed the link in course book to see if I could see more of Jodie’s work and discovered an article written by her tutor and 2 further images.  The image of an alleyway could have been taken in the back passage behind my row of terraced houses and sparked an even stronger sense of nostalgia than the photograph of the garages did.  I would like to see more of this project but have so far been unable to locate it online.

The question asked in the course book, “How do you feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experience and emotions onto the images you’ve created?“, was not one I had thought about previously.  It is not that I assumed others would see my work just as I did, it was more that I had not considered that they may view it differently to how I envisioned it.  In looking through Taylor’s images I saw and felt my own childhood but upon reading the piece of writing with the photos on the weareoca.com archive I realised that the memories I was projecting onto the photographs (playing 40-40 home, hide and seek, riding bikes) were quite possibly very different from those that Jodie was seeing herself in these places.  Her tutor also felt pulled back to childhood but the memories s/he projected were very different to mine – teenagers smoking and jeering at passersby, a completely different phase of youth.

If this were my work being viewed and its meaning changed I am not actually sure how I would feel about it!  My initial feeling is that I wouldn’t like it, that somehow the meaning of the work had been changed.  As I think on it though I realise that if someone is seeing something in my work that resonates with them and they get enjoyment from looking, does it matter if they see it differently to how I envisioned it originally?

Looking again at Taylor’s work, her aim was to capture nostalgia and she has clearly managed that.  Without subjects in her work, just locations, she is not specifically showing us any of her actual memories but what she is doing is evoking a sense of nostalgia for periods of our own childhoods in both myself and her tutor.  If this as my project I would feel it was successful because even though the viewer may be picturing something different than I did whilst shooting, the photographs are still taking them back, still sparking in them the nostalgia I was trying to capture.

The Essence of a Poem

For this exercise I was asked to choose a poem that resonates with me and to interpret it through photography.  However, the interpretation must give the viewer a sense of the poem rather than being a record of it.

The whole concept of this is something I find quite tricky.  Firstly, I am not really a fan of poetry, especially the deep and meaningful stuff, and as such do not really have any poems that I particularly like and would want to work with.  Poetry is such a wide field that with no idea of what I like, how am I supposed to find one which feels personal to me?

I remember as a child I loved the work of Spike Milligan, his silly rhymes didn’t always make sense but they flowed nicely and got their point across in a few lines.  With this in mind I decided search through some of his poetry to see if I could find anything that I still loved today.  There were plenty of his rhymes for children which have a really nostalgic feel to me but I felt that the images they conjured in my mind were far too literal for this exercise.  I was very interested to realise though that he also wrote more adult poetry, the style is somewhat similar to that of his children’s rhymes but the topics far more sober.

There were 3 poems in particular which stood out to me, all had themes of loss whether it be what has already gone, what is going or what is to go.

The first is entitled ‘Indian Boyhood‘ and begins “What happened to the boy I was?  Why did he run away?“.  Its a very poignant look at how quickly we can turn from the small child we once were to an old person.  It gives the impression that we spend so much time living that we forget to be alive, like there was nothing real in those years between being young and being old.

The next I liked is called “Manic Depression” and was written by Milligan from the Psychiatric Wing of a hospital.  It brings visions of cold and bleak winters and dead landscapes to my mind.

The last is “When I Suspected” which is a melancholy look at either relationships or life itself, I can’t decide which but think it would work for either.  I can imagine Milligan looking into a mirror and reciting this to himself.  It is about the time when ‘it’ will end whether by death or by parting.

I decided that “Indian Boyhood” was the one which brought to my mind the most photographic responses.

I felt that something representing childhood would work really well and envisioned in my mind a child running across a field with a kite to begin with but then I realised this was probably far too literal and would not signify the ‘lostness’ of that childhood and the years in between.  The kite is quite a symbol of childhood, especially the kind of idyllic one we all like to imagine, though it would have to be a traditional looking kit for the analogy to work.  Another symbol of childhood for me is that of the balloon and I thought a balloon floating away would be good symbolism for the loss of childhood.

My school had a balloon release planned so I thought that would be ideal for capturing this photograph.  My initial thoughts were that a red balloon would be best, because of how bright and cheerful they are though I thought that would not really signify melancholy.  The balloons the school were releasing were blue and to me this seemed like a better colour to inspire the sadness and regret for a life passed that I feel from the poem.

What happened to the boy I was?
Why did he run away?
Is there no going back?
Is there nothing?
No refund?

Originally I had thought to just use one image to represent the poem but as I read through the poem again there seemed to me that it could be split into parts with the balloon getting further away until it was gone.  Rather than a repetitive set of images to take us through the poem, with the balloon getting further away I have just assigned a couple of the lines to these 3 images.  The sky changes as the balloon gets further away also, starting off clear and ending with just dark clouds, for me this symbolises the carefree happy days of childhood and how they disappear as we age.

To move this exercise on I would try and source balloons of my own and retake the images because although I feel the concept is right, I think these photographs would be better if I had used a zoom lens.  To get the cropping close enough that I was happy with the size of the balloon in the frame I feel I lost too much clarity, I would have liked the balloon to be sharper, particularly in the first image.