Photographic experiments #1
To get back into taking photographs on film, I photographed the rooibos tea process of crushing clay and forming it back into an object. I shot the first roll of Portra 400 and the second one on E6 expired kodak Ektachrome select 100, which will probably give some wacky colours. Unfortunately due to the lockdown I still don't have the E6 film to update this post. Here are the images pre-and post-editing, with my evaluations. Out of the ones I've received so far none of them talks about the process in a way that I'd like it too. I need to do more practical research on how to document this experience in a way that does not reinforce the already established methods of photographing "the maker" or "the labourer". It is a technique that I believe continually depicts the person as lesser, and the dominant gaze is always held by the photographer. I don't need to add to imagery that already orientalises "the subject" of the camera. This is the main issue that I have with the way I use the camera, but more in detail analysis will fall under each photograph. I'm analysing these photographs in particular because I feel as though they exemplify some problems and ideas I'm working through.
Image 1 this image has a lot of technical issues! Yikes. To be fair, I'm not used to using this camera, but I will not excuse the fact that this image is not as good as it could be. Compositionally it's wack! The image focus is pantry but specifically of the TEA. Which simply falls in the background and its out of focus! I think the image was also underexposed, which caused the scan to have a lot of digital noise. I'm not settled on how I feel about it tonally, the colours remind me of old cookbooks. Overall i won't use this image in my works, but it's a good reminder that I need to practice more and take more time when photographing. TO NOT TAKE CHEAP SHOTS (that was a good pun).
Image 2 this image has similar issues to image 1. its not the best composition but I do like the edit a lot more. I think the visual tones work well and are better representation fo what it looks like in person. I did shoot these unintentionally at the blue hour, so I feel like colours that a are coming through have a much wider variety than at any another time of the day; particularly because the mini light inside the cupboard has a tungsten hue
Image 3 So this photo has some exciting light leaks. I'm not sure if this was my camera back that caused this or a fault when it was being developed. But its a very visually appealing accident. However, and this is a big however, my hand is somewhat connoting to the "the blood of life" or the "hand of god". The tea dripping from the hand into the earthy looking clay, and this bright light coming from the corner just seems very biblical (using this term loosely), which is not my intentions. So even though the light leak is a very interesting aspect which I may consider utilising in further photographic projects. This image will not work for my current project.
Image 4 & 5 I will discuss the two following photographs together, as they touch upon similar issues and are good to compare. Image 4 - I feel as though the tones in the original scan were pretty accurate. So I didn't end up making a lot of changes this one. However, there is definitely a subject spectator dynamic that I am not about. This is a typical angle of photographing a worker of any sorts, so I really have to focus on shifting this dynamic. The one image that I always think about that does this well is Carrie Mae Weems kitchen table series...
Carrie Mae Weems - kitchen table series 1990, untitled
She, of course, is not in the position of "the worker", but this series is clearly self-determined in the way she chooses to represent herself. So yes, I need to be analysing this aspect of my practice a lot more.
Image 5 - This image of the bat is overexposed. And the crushed clay gets lost in the cloth. But I'm not sure if that something I dislike. In my edit, I think I made the tones slightly too red. So I have to watch out for that, and possibly calibrate my laptop. I do find it interesting how the lack of my presence activates the image in a very interesting way. There's this anticipation for what is happening in this experience. Something about preparing an activity and documenting only the prep 'sits very differently'. I'm not sure what it is about it yet; nonetheless, I'm intrigued. I think in the edit I draw a lot more attention to the clay and not the context, which now typing that I realise that something I don't want to do.
Image 6 This image has some very interesting light leaks, particularly the strip at the bottom. Which can either indicate a poor camera or a photograph aging? I do feel although it balances out the strip of bright light across the top in a subtle way. I don't mind this angle, and I'm finding that it does abstract the content a lot more. However, this doesn't feel taxonomical or clinical, which is something I'm appreciating, and a lot of areal photography of objects can do that. This does make me realise that shooting on colour film is becoming a very significant aspect of the project. And something I'm going to have to adopt as a "method".
Image 7 The initial scan came out very blue heavy, I felt like it was really depicting the space well. In the edit, I brought in warmer tones like yellows and reds in specific areas. Which depicted the in-person viewing experience of the objects a lot "truer" (if that makes sense). But those tones are very dependent on my relationship with the space. I find studio can be very cold, physically and sometimes emotionally and the industrial nature of it probably plays a significant role. It always fascinates me how so much creativity and community comes out of a space that suggests the opposite. And the combination of those colours and tones in my edit 'feels right' in saying that. I'm finding the more I photograph, the more critical it is to not manipulate the image, but it's a catch 22 because I'm positioning my reality in the lens. Which begs the question can photography exists without some degree of manipulation or human intervention. And if so are we to judge how someone chooses to do so.
Out of them, this is one of my favourites. I'm mind romanticised these photographs. Like someone was in a rush and dropped this on the floor revealing clay chips? I'm not sure whether that's something that is relevant to the direction of where my practice is going. I guess I've always romantic, which is why I like photography.
Out of this shoot, there aren't any photographs that id be printer per se. I've realised i need to just keep shooting, because I'm learning a lot about what I don't like, and hopefully it will help me build some kind of idea as to how I'm going about decolonising the lens and my practice.