Before beginning to develop and refine my ideas for this assignment, I had a quick read over my last tutor report. There wasn’t much in the way of critique or areas for specific development, but there was a suggestion to watch a video entitled The Art of the Metaphor in preparation for Assignment 2. The video provoked some thought and helped me to think about my subject metaphorically rather literally.
Having had plenty of time to generate ideas and think about this assignment, I decided to create some sketches which would give me a basis on which to refine and develop my final images. In previous posts, I have mentioned some of my influences, primarily being Jeff Wall and Duane Michals. Recently I have come across the work of Tom Hussey whom I find to be a remarkable photographer. Most notably, his Reflections project really caught my eye and has influenced the development of my assignment.
I have decided to create a set of images that portray Stress in its varying states, looking at the contributing factors and the resultant symptoms/effects. This will be presented in a sequence, almost like a story board. Each image will be in colour, utilising strong highlights and contrast to create an uneasy feel. Predominantly, they will be tightly cropped to create a feeling of constriction or they will be busy, in to order to confuse and disorientate. Each image will feature people/characters which I feel is important as stress is a very personal problem for the sufferer, and to be portrayed properly it needs to be personified. Most importantly, like Wall’s images, each will be staged. I’m also keen to use some double exposure and digital manipulation in order to create some ethereal effects which can depict a state of mind.
Some of the elements of stress that I’d like to try and portray are:
- Coping mechanism’s.
- Maintaining a facade.
All the sketches below are straight out of camera with no processing. They are presented in chronological order on a contact sheet to show the idea’s development.
Denial – As the initial image in the set, I want this to set a scene. It needs to portray the family unit and be busy/cluttered, with an action and signifiers/signs that will lead the viewer to the images meaning although the title will reinforce this. The aim is to make the main character appear nonchalant to the fact that he’s being handed a Final Demand/Bill. The clutter symbolises the hectic and disorganised lifestyle and cluttered mind. The child represents innocence and ignorance to life’s problems. The clothing and appearance is also important in setting the scene. I’m not content that the drinking suits this image, and it would perhaps be better to be engrossed in a mobile phone or the TV. The triangle created between the 3 main visual components works well and the lack of balance created by negative space on the right adds some tension. Like the rest of the sketches, the images were shot on remote shutter release, which is actually a wifi app on my mobile phone (in hand).
Anxiety – I’m tempted to refer to this as panic. It is often the initial stage of stress where we go through the Fight or Flight emotions, once the gravity of the situation is revealed. Money, or a lack of it is often a key contributor to stress so that is what I want to portray. The pile of bills and a calculator showing a negative figure denote the requirement for money, whilst an empty piggy bank and wallet denote a lack of it. Whats missing is the result (A-B=?). Perhaps my wife will model in the background, hunched on the sofa, head in hands? A shallow DoF to retain focus on the foreground elements, whilst the blurred figure in the background is clearly worried would work?
Anger & Despair – 2 emotions related to stress which are often bottled up and rarely seen, and which are also closely linked. I wasn’t too keen on the initial images because they were far too cliche, and the camera angle too high. I then tried some intentional movement during a long exposure to see if I could make my head look busy which may connote confusion or rage, but it just looked naff! The 2 double exposure sketches were each done in single exposures (4 seconds). I think that the hand gestures in the first are too strong and the OCA content on screen may not go down well with a tutor or assessor! I also want to shoot this at night so that it’s dark outside, which will denote working late.
Insomnia – This is tough one to portray without photographing someone awake at night. Jeff wall did it very well in his image Insomnia, but I do not have access to a set or studio of that size. I also do not think that wall’s image is relevant to your average stress sufferer, but rather the chronic insomniac.I began with some very close portraits, but felt that they lacked context. The later images convey the sense of sleeplessness better, but they are too bright. The colouring/light will need to be modified to create night.
Coping Mechanism’s – When things start to get stressful, stereotypically, we hit the bottle. Alcohol misuse is often an indicator of deeper emotional issues and would be a good way to connote a state of mind.As with other images, the clothing of the character will be important and I’ll opt for formal attire i.e. a shirt to depict someone who has just finished work. The use of alcohol to aid sleep after the Insomnia image will add to the sense of using alcohol to get through the situation. The lighting needs to be quite harsh to simulate kitchen strip lighting at night. As you can see, I opted to empty the bottle (not by drinking it) to portray a problem!
Putting on a brave face – For this image I’m taking inspiration from Tom Hussey, to show the real person and the facade. As the name of the assignment suggests, we are supposed to photograph the unseen, and to the general public, work colleagues, family etc, we often don’t see the stress that people are suffering.It took a little while to get the composition right for this sketch. I’ll experiment with the lighting when it comes to shooting and take multiple images in order to merge them so that the reflection differs from the person.
Depression – Depression is an extreme symptom of stress, which can manifest if stress is suffered for too long. It is a mental illness in its own right and is although not visible, is characterised by certain thoughts or tendencies. For this image, I want to depict suicidal thoughts, without the the actual act which, as the final image, will leave the story open ended.After getting the composition right (and working out how I could cover up my modesty), I thought more about the final image. I figured that bathing in a dark liquid would be representative of the dark mood and state of mind and would help to balance the image, allowing the handle of the knife to be the focal point thanks to a colour accent. I also plan to change the colour of the handle to red to connote danger/stop/blood.
So there we have it, my ideas laid bare. Now on with making the final images.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0edKgL9EgM [accessed 26/08/15]
- http://www.tomhussey.com/PROJECTS/REFLECTIONS/thumbs [accessed 26/08/15]