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A2 C&N – preparation (music)

In my previous post, I examined ideas for ‘photographing the unseen’ and finally decided on the subject of music (with sound being unseen) – see here. In this post, I dig into the possibilities for the project.

I will use my own collection of musical instruments and accessories as subjects, but how to photography them to signal the sound of music? The music that mainly interests me is that of mass-culture, rock and pop music. Classical music has a different aesthetic.

Visual effects as signals

Mass culture has many ways of portraying music, some which are so embedded in our visual culture that there is an automatic association with music. For example, the early pop videos with their unsubtle visual effects (colour and light distortions), and the MTV videos first launched in the late 1970s; Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles was one early example. It features high contrast video, posterised effects and montage.

Posters for concerts and album art work to a significant extent still use the same unsubtle, attention-grabbing approach to visuals. Often text is mixed with the images. Bill Board Magazine features what it considers to be the 50 best album covers of all time, which reflects the eye-catching style.

Source: billboard.com

Pop Art drew its inspiration from, amongst other things, pop music. The Tate website provides a fascinating introduction to the genre, including a discussion of the differences between the British and American versions, apparently with the British being ‘more academic’ in approach, with a ‘focus on questions of representation, with irony and parody’ (Tate, website). The site also features Peter Blake talking about his work, and his use of photo-montage.

Photography Today (Durden, p 12) discusses photography and mass culture, specifically the work of William Klein, Andy Warhol and Daido Moriyama (bye-bye photography). In all the work there is a poster-like quality – high contrast, low-detail, and abstraction. This avoids the straight / literal interpretation of a subject, inviting the viewer to find meaning; rather than read detailed information. While this style doesn’t specifically reference music as mass-culture, it could be part of an overall group of signals referencing music.

Technical tools

I’ve already explored the use of ‘extreme curves’ adjustments in anticipation of this project (see here), which can be used to disrupt the indexicality of the photographic image and also signal the extreme contrasts found in music art. These kind of adjustments echo the effects applied to distort sound waves (for example processed electric guitar signals).

I also wanted to explore techniques for using text and creating montage within Photoshop; I found YouTube videos that demonstrate various techniques (saved to my Photoshop playlist – here):

  • How to use vanishing point tool to add text with same perspective as elements of image.
  • How to create hand-written text that fits a curved element – using free-transform and warp tools and blur / mask layer to add imperfections to the text and make it appear natural.
  • How to use displacement tool to have text take the form of the plane of an image element.
  • Using layers to create photo-montage.

I will explore some of these techniques during post-production.

Overall direction of project

Here I set the overall direction for my project, which will most likely evolve as my work progresses:

  • Range of close-up / abstract shots of musical instruments and accessories.
  • Selections of text / quotations relating to music
  • Experimentation in post-processing to disturb indexicality of images and visual signals towards pop/mass culture connected with music
  • Use of text superimposed on images to act in relay and evoke sense of concert/album posters.
  • Overall images should not represent personalities or clearly defined images of instruments – they must suggest music, not representation of the objects used to make music.
References

Billboard Magazine [website]. Best Album Covers of all Time. Available from: http://www.billboard.com/photos/6715351/best-album-covers-of-all-time/1 [accessed 24.1.16]

Durden M (2014). Photography Today. London and New York, Phaidon Press Limited.

The Tate [website]. Pop Art. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/p/pop-art#Americanvsbritish [accessed 24.1.16]

Youtube.The Buggles.Video Killed the Radio Star. Available from: https://youtu.be/W8r-tXRLazs [accessed 24.1.16]

Youtube. Bye Bye Photography by Daido Moriyama. Available from: https://youtu.be/iwDm5JsCeHM [accessed 24.1.16]

Youtube. Photoshop videos [for my reference]. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtFVp4OpD5nY-3t3a0hUKH59-6cGNQ9eG [accessed 24.1.16]

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