Photographing the unseen. What kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? (OCA C&N)
During my research, I saw several potential subjects for this assignment (see here) – I narrowed it down to two options; a representation of my deceased father through his carpentry tools, or the signification of the auditory perception of music.
I decided upon music, with guitar being a personal life-time interest. I explored this specific topic as part of further research (see here), including Pop-Art and photography and mass culture (Daido Moriyama for example). A fellow student suggested that I consider the type of font used in the textual overlays in the image (trail image posted to Facebook). Excellent suggestion, which I considered (see here).
All photos were shot with a Fuji X-T1 with a 60mm f/ 2.4 macro lens. They were taken indoors, with natural light from windows, with high ISO – given my intended post-processing and feel I was aiming for – images with refined detail were not necessary. I shot 100 photos for the project and the final images (pre-post production) are shown here. The time input to post-production was far greater than in taking the photos.
Music as an auditory experience is unseen. There are many signifiers of music, including musicians playing music and people enjoying concerts but these are often indexical representation of the musicians themselves or the experience of attending a concert. I wanted to find a representation of music that suggested music without literally representing its performance. A way of drawing the viewer into the image as music draws listeners into a sound-scape.
I was inspired by the way Daido Moriyama’s work makes the viewer work to see what is happening in the image – high contrast and dark tonalities are along way from straight representations. His Farewell to Photography reminds me of the message in Barthes’ The Death of the Author – but, get out of the way of the photograph and let the viewer make up their own mind. Flusser suggested ‘… one can outwit the camera’s rigidity … smuggle intentions into its program that are not predicted by it … force the camera to create the unpredictable … show contempt for the camera’. Playing with manual settings is one way, another way is to take control away from the camera in post-production.
My work attempts to represent music through layers of subjects that are associated with music but become difficult to read visually because of their post-production treatment. Underlying each image is a musical score (the written language of music) and the textures of a vinyl LP (including dust speckles). Over-laying the musical performance subjects is text that is mostly indecipherable – we know there are words there but we can’t always hear what they are saying. The font used is AHDN (a hard day’s night) and is another signifier of music. The words are quotations from musicians, talking about their feelings for music.
The personal interest in this subject made this assignment very enjoyable – reminding me of David Hurn’s words of wisdom ‘… photography is only a tool, a vehicle, for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else. It is not the end result.’
Against the OCA assessment criteria I conclude:
Demonstration of technical skills – the technical aspects of this work were mostly in post-production; the use of multiple-layers with clipping mask to adjust levels, masking of elements of each layer and discovering the use of textual content and rasterisation in the tool.
Quality of outcome – I’m happy that the outcome achieves what I aimed for in the images. I worked through a number of different approaches to arrive at the final processing treatment for the images.
Demonstration of creativity – I believe my approach steers away from an obvious interpretation of the topic (eg behind the scenes) and brings an interesting approach to visually signifying the sound of music.
Context – I have been active in recording context in my learning log and it is linked from this assignment..
Flusser V (1983). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Kindle Edition. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.
Hurn D & Jay B (2008). On being a photographer. Anacortes, Lenswork Publishing.