Project 45

7 01 2012

Project 45 required me to shoot an image that I felt would be suitable for a magazine cover on the subject of ‘rain’.

For a while I thought I would have to resort to simulating rain in my shower or coming up with a still life of a wet umbrella, as although there was plenty of rain about, it always seemed to be when I was stuck at work or didn’t have my camera to hand.

One day over Christmas, however, I was in Hereford scouting out locations for my Assignment 5, when the heavens opened. I took shelter in a shop doorway, and noticed this lady who was determined that the sudden downpour wasn’t going to interrupt her shopping trip…



Project 44

7 01 2012

In this exercise, the object is to either photograph someone with a possession, or the results of their work or a hobby, or to illustrate the front cover of a book you like.

I immediately decided that the latter was the one I wanted to go for, and then came the decision as to which book I should choose. Some of my favourite books include ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, and many of the Ben Elton novels such as ‘Popcorn’, ‘Blind Faith’, ‘Chart Throb’ and ‘Dead Famous’. Any of those would be good fun to tackle but in the end I plumped for ‘The Dice Man’ by Luke Rhinehart.

The book tells the supposedly semi-autobiograhical story of a psychiatrist who one day decides to live his life by the roll of a dice, with shocking consequences. Immediately I pictured in my head the shot I wanted – tumbling red dice. So a visit to eBay and several trial runs later I came up with the shot you see below…

My book cover

Project 43

29 12 2011

This exercise looks at the use of symbols to convey a message within a photograph. I originally aimed to take a shot of my own to demonstrate each of the subjects but I think time and other factors may be against me if I am to meet the deadline for my next assignment. Instead I have found examples which are close to what I picture in my head for each subject, and if I have time I may come back to this exercise with shots of my own. So, to the subjects…

Growth – this is one of the easier subjects to show as certain symbols convey growth all the time in the printed media and advertising. My first thoughts were a green shoot of a plant breaking through soil (how many times each week do we hear the phrase ‘the green shoots of recovery’ when talking about the economy?) or of a high-rise building being built. I think the green shoot is by far the stronger and more recognisable symbol. The other idea was a child having their height measured which I also thought was quite a strong symbol of growth. The kind of images I would look to create for this subject would be something like these:

'Green shoots'

A child's growth

Excess – again, in the current financial climate, excess is something we see symbolised on a daily basis. ‘Fat cat’ bankers and their bonuses and millionaire footballers are constantly in the printed media, and both are recognisable symbols of excess when shown in the correct context. In fact, it’s not just bankers and footballers who are tarred with the same brush these days; anyone who is perceived to be living a hedonistic lifestyle might be said to be living ‘to excess’. Other symbols of excess might include anything where there is an obvious surplus – whether it’s someone who’s eaten too much food or had too much to drink, or a retailer with ‘excess stock’. My images (if I had enough gold or an American diner nearby) would be something like these…

Living to excess

This burger is called 'The American Dream' - says it all really...

Crime – perhaps it is just because of the times we live in, but crime is another subject that we see being portrayed in the printed media, advertising and the broadcast media on a daily basis. The first images that sprang to mind were of the riots back in August, with shops being looted, cars being torched and police being attacked. Then I started thinking of the aftermath of crime – a crime scene with the instantly recognisable yellow police tape around it, the outline of a body in chalk or men in a police line up. These, of course, are all examples of ‘visible’ crime – other types of crime such as fraud, treason, conspiracy extortion are much more difficult to symbolise. My symbols for crime would be something like these…

UK Riots of 2011

The classic crime scene image

Silence – this subject seems to have more scope than the previous three perhaps, in that it immediately evokes several suggestions of silence. Firstly, there is the suggestion of enforced silence – someone making a ‘shhh’ gesture, such as a parent to a child, or a librarian, or someone who has been gagged (literally or metaphorically); secondly, there is implied silence  – ie tranquility, total peace and quiet – which might be a woodland, a lake or a church; finally, silence can also be used to symbolise danger or unease – evolutionary psychologist Joseph Jordania noted that many animals will make random and haphazard sounds during their everyday business, such as foraging or feeding, as a form of contact call to other members of the group. In the event of danger, the contact calls will stop, immediately signalling potential danger simply by freezing and being silent. This trait seems to have transferred to humans too – it is a classic horror movie cliche for a group of (usually teenage) prey to stop in their tracks and fall silent at the suggestion that the killer is nearby. With this in mind, my symbols for silence would be something like these…

The Librarian


I did try to find a horror-movie-esque shot of some silent teenagers hiding from a serial killer behind a door or a tree, but even Google Images couldn’t find me something that specific…

The final subject to be symbolised is Poverty – again something that seems to be not too far from the headlines these days. Charities often use shots of malnourished children to illustrate poverty, while the printed media will often show images of homeless people or beggars. Poverty, of course, is all relative – someone living on benefits in a council house in England might be deemed to be poor compared to the middle classes, but in comparison with someone living on the streets or in a homeless shelter they are not. My images to symbolise poverty would aim to be something like these…

Starving children in Africa

Beggar on the streets of London

Project 42

18 12 2011

This project requires me to ‘produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened’. The suggestions given were something that has broken or something that had been emptied, but I also wanted to come up with a shot that had some artistic merit, so I tried to think of subjects of my own.

Eventually I came up with the idea of photographing a lit match, or alternatively a shot of a match which had just been blown out, which I felt may prove to be better ‘evidence of action’.

A bit of research on the net helped me find suggestions of how to set up the shot, as I didn’t fancy burning my fingers taking hundreds of failed photos! I pinched a few ideas from this tutorial and away I went…

After sitting in a darkened room burning matches for almost two hours, and a couple of hundred shots later, I came up with what I think is the best of the bunch:

The winning shot

And just to prove I didn’t cheat – here’s the set up I used…

The setup


Thoughts on upcoming Assignment 5

1 12 2011

So having read through the assignment notes for the final part of TAOP, I have had some thoughts as to potential subjects for my assignment. I have emailed my tutor with my proposal and he agrees it could make for a good series of shots, but since then I have also come up with a second idea which could also be quite good to cover. My deadline is 1st January so I may well potter about with both during my Xmas break from work and see which one I’m happier with.

In the meantime I have also looked  through the exercises in Part 5 and noted that I have to illustrate a book cover and shoot a mock up of a magazine cover on the subject of ‘rain’. Well there’s plenty of that about right now…! But taking a bog standard photo of a puddle isn’t really pushing myself so I’ve scoured the net for some inspiration and found this article from 2008:

While some of them don’t scream ‘rain’ in the way that the exercise requires, there are also some great shots there that have given me food for thought. I think my favourites are these two – the first for the photographer’s perseverance and the second because it captures ‘rain’ so succinctly:

'Drops' by DreamerSoul

'Rain, Rain, Go Away...' by Javier Galeano

The second is from TIME Magazine’s ‘Photos of the Week’ so I am aiming high to try and come up with something anywhere near as good…!

Project 41 – Aborted!

22 11 2011

The first exercise within the final part of TAOP is an introduction to illustration and narrative where the task is to produce a series of photographs that tell the story of an event in what the course notes call a ‘narrative picture essay’.

The deadline set by my tutor for my Assignment 5 submission is New Year’s Day, so although there are plenty of Christmas events coming up in the next month, I wanted to crack on and work through the exercises leading up to the assignment to give myself as much time as possible. As it happened, my girlfriend was due to take part in a charity skydiving event, so I thought this would make a good subject as I could cover all aspects of the day in a ‘before, during and after’ style. However the weather had other plans and localised fog meant that the skydiving could not go ahead! So I have a set of photographs that tell part of a story, but unfortunately not one that ends as it was supposed to…

I have posted them on here for now to demonstrate the shots I had taken, and although technically I have fulfilled the brief by having between 5 and 15 photos, the ‘story’ is not a great one so I will attempt this exercise again when I find a new subject to shoot!

In the meantime, here is the story of a long and ultimately frustrating day – and I wasn’t even one of the ones who had geared themselves up to fall out of a plane at 12,000ft…

Photo 1 - the airstrip when we arrived...

Photo 2 - training drills

Photo 3 - Blue skies!

Photo 4 - Geared up and ready to go!

Photo 5 - What's that coming over the hill...?

Photo 6 - Spot the runway...

Part 5 – Illustration and Narrative – Putting the subject first

15 11 2011

The introduction to the ‘Illustration and Narrative’ section of the course aims first of all to establish and reinforce what illustration and narrative mean, and how the end result will differ from everything that I have learned so far on the course, in as much as with an illustrative or narrative image, the graphic content of the photograph (composition, lighting etc) is less important than the subject matter.

The first task of Part 5 was to find two contrasting images demonstrating polar opposites in terms of subject and graphic content; one should be of a simple, almost mundane subject, but well composed, well lit, and visually appealing. The other should be eyecatching in terms of content but perhaps lacking in its execution and design quality.

For the first image, where ‘art’ is more important than subject matter, I tried to find an aesthetically pleasing image of a fairly mundane subject – a cup of tea.

'November 7, 2011' by Flood Gondekowa (used with kind permission)

This image caught my eye immediately as the design elements applied – lighting, composition, colour, graphical elements – all turn what would otherwise be a very ordinary picture into one that is visually pleasing.

Now contrast this with an image where the subject is all-important and the ‘form’ of the photograph less so. Images from news stories and photojournalism are often a good example of this approach, so I looked for something suitable to illustrate this point.

Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement clash with New York Police Department officers after being removed from Zuccotti Park in New York, November 15, 2011 - photo by Lucas Johnson / Reuters.

The eviction of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters from New York’s Zuccotti Park where they had set up a tent city provided a lot of emotive images. I picked this one in particular because it has a tremendous sense of narrative despite the fact that in design and ‘art’ terms it is flawed to a certain extent. If you were to be critical of the ‘form’ of the image, you could argue that large portions are blurred and unclear and that details are difficult to make out, but all of this pales into insignificance compared to the story that is being told by the image; the main perpetrator, the female protester, is in fairly sharp focus and the blurring around her serves to emphasise the struggle. This makes for a very powerful image in my opinion.