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A5 C&N: submission to tutor

‘Construct a stand-alone image of your choice. Alternatively, you may choose to make a series, elaborating on the same theme … The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose’ (OCA C&N, p122)

The image for assignment 5, Making it up, is an autobiographical memory work about life-choices, and how the possibility of changing direction becomes more difficult as we age. The reasons for choosing this concept are described in a separate post (see here). Inspiration for the double self-portrait was drawn from Kahlo’s, The Two Fridas and, for the monochrome post processing, from David Lamelas’ Rock Star (Character Appropriation).

The process followed for making the image, including an explanation of the location, props, lighting and modelling is detailed in a separate post (see here). In summary:

  • The image includes two self-portraits: the rock musician-me (my aspiration as a young man) and the businessman-me (my actual career). Both subjects are contemplating what has happened as a result of life’s choices. The musician taking the higher ground (art and pleasure) and the businessman the lower ground (commerce and sometimes a grind). The cellar with its blocked door signifies entrapment or a blocked route.
  • The props reference my younger aspirations and life-style, and my current situation. A trade-off has been made between financial comfort and stability one one hand, and youthful dreams on the other. For example, the small pile of coins vs the money notes, or the cheap Somerset cider vs the expensive imported Russian vodka. Some semiotics are more personal – the leather hat refers to a similar one I wore when young (see old photo in process post); and Somerset cider (the place of my youth) against Russian vodka (a frequent place of business travel).
  • Studio lighting was used (illustrated in the separate post), but I didn’t manage to control the lighting completely in the way I’d hoped; possibly because of the confined space and reflective walls. It is an area with which I intend to experiment and practice.
  • The shoot was run with the intention of creating 4 separate images for blending in Photoshop: good exposures for dark floor and white walls for a blended backdrop, plus an exposure for each self-portrait. Within Photoshop, perspective correction was needed for the wide-angle lens (used because of confined space) and the monochrome conversion was with the Nik Silver-Efex plug-in. Ideally, I wanted pure black and white to reflect the music photography of my youth, but the walls were too bright in white and sepia toning became a compromise.

The final image is below – this results from some rework following feedback from a fellow student (explained in the process post).

16by9 cellar (blog)



Against the OCA assessment criteria, I conclude:

  • Demonstration of technical skills were demonstrated: a)  in the lighting of a dark confined space, but I found difficulty in controlling the light exactly as I’d envisioned (perhaps due to confined space and need of more experience); b) in the successful blending, correction and monochrome conversion of RAW files in Photoshop; and c) in meeting assignment brief of controlling and directing work – self-portraiture presents its own technical challenges and for a future project I’d like to work with others as model-subjects.
  • Quality of outcome – the overall image successfully conveys my intention. A point for improvement in constructed images is to visualise in detail how all elements will appear in the outcome. Specifically, I’d not sufficiently considered the visibility of the props in a dark space and with a monochrome conversion – on a screen-sized image these can be tricky to see. I intend to make a large print of the image to understand how the details are then conveyed.
  • Demonstration of creativity – a creative use of autobiographical self-portrait to express my concept and a disused cellar-space to create an oppressive atmosphere around the central concept.
  • Context – The context is noted in the three preparatory posts for this assignment (see – review of C&N studies, concept, process) but broadly, the context of the work is photography as memory work and the autobiographical self-portrait. There is a breadth and depth of context.

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