A4 Planning and Research

Assignment 4: Languages of Light 

Research and Planning 

My assignment is loosely based on exercise 4.4 


When lighting a natural object for this exercise I decided to use artificial light so that I could learn something entirely new; I then wanted to continue to explore lighting using a mix of artificial and natural light. 

My favourite work mentioned in the course text was by Sally Mann, although what I’ve produced obviously bears no resemblance at all to her work! I think it’s an aesthetic I would like to try to capture in future work though. 

Description of process and reflection on creativity. 

I’d read through all of the assignments at the beginning of the course and initially I’d had an idea to use places of worship and had been taking images with this idea in mind for some time. In those images I was working with available light. However, on completing the exercises other ideas and themes came up that I wanted to explore.

One reason I decided against my initial idea was a lack of creativity. I wanted to try to express an idea rather than just make images of a subject that happened to fit the brief. There are so many bits of inspiration I have taken on in the last few months both through my study of photography but also just through everyday living; it’s difficult to pull them all together. 

I’d seen the work of another student, Kate Aston1, on Instagram that I found really inspirational. I started experimenting with some ideas that she was using totally outside of work I wanted to produce for OCA although I did add it to my learning log2. I had already begun researching female photographers3, selfies4, the representation of women, pornography5 and this coincided with me beginning a collection images, sounds, articles and short videoclips to try and become more aware of what I see everyday around a theme of messages that are given to women about their worth and place in society.

I wasn’t planning on using this work to inform A4 as I’d moved on to an idea to illustrate a precognitive dream I’d had6. I started taking some images using artificial light but they just weren’t working; I had a clear idea of how I wanted those images to appear visually but I don’t yet have an advanced enough understanding of studio lighting to get the cinematic feel I was trying to achieve7. 

When I was practicing lighting with artificial light I first worked on the exercise and then moved on to see if I could learn how to light various different objects8. I’ve had varying degrees of success, but the idea made me recall some work I’d seen by Beatriz Ruibal9; when her mother died she made images of everyday items that belonged to her that had become full of meaning, and I found I was doing the same thing to myself. Of course, not everything meaningful has a positive connotation and I wanted to experiment with that idea. 

I associate my mother’s family very strongly with pentecostal Christianity. Realising that a defaced bible would be included in my items led to ideas around illustrating biblical verses about women using flowers and fruit, which ties in with ideas of ideal feminine qualities represented by flowers and also tied in with images I’d been taking that were about looking for anatomical forms in flowers10.

I must admit I had so many ideas spewing out that I was getting myself into a tangle of potential and didn’t really know which avenue to explore. I sat and drew mind maps11 of themes that were coming up for me in the various images I was making, and just beginning the process of making some of these images made clear to me some things that weren’t going to work, for example that illustrating ten bible verses wasn’t going to happen and that it might be best to focus on just one for the assignment. I chose part of a verse from 1 Timothy 2:1212. One translation of this verse says “I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to have authority over a man, but she must remain silent.” The end of this verse struck me as being the essence of the whole message of the passage in which it appears: she must remain silent. 

I wanted to include text and I think after working on assignment 3 and including a letter I wanted to find a more subtle way of doing that while still clearly having the text represented. My eldest son looks so much like Bob Dylan does in Subterranean Homesick Blues13 that I’d asked him if I could take some images of him holding text to send to my father. So I’d had that idea and then I saw some images from the series ‘Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say’ by Gillian Wearing14. Wolfgang Tillmans15 is a real inspiration to me at the moment too and I’d also seen the work by Mathieu Asselin about Monsanto16 during a study visit to The Photographer’s Gallery17.

I did consider making images and using text separately, but I decided to try to experiment with various ways of including text in the actual image at the time of capture. I hope I’ve managed to do this in a creative way. I’ve used text reflected in a mirror, and I’ve introduced the textural element using shadows and also by printing the text onto printer transparencies and shooting through those. I think these don’t always work as well as I’d like, but I wanted to communicate the idea that the shadows of these verses, the reflection of them still has an effect on my life, that I or other people may still see the world through them and that we can’t always see what they say but they’re still there. This is especially true for females in my family.

Perhaps to work more cohesively as a set I would stick to one type of lighting rather than this mixture of natural and artificial light, but I think that for me this assignment is really representing the seed of an idea that requires more work and that further experimentation and refinement will help.

I initially tried a few different ideas using fruit, flowers, text and myself7. But I think the images I’ve chosen to submit more accurately reflect the ideas I’d had when I initially sketched out what I wanted to achieve even though I faced a lot of technical difficulties and some of the images aren’t quite as I’d hoped they would be. 

Bibliography, References and Examples

  1. Kate Aston C&N and Kate also recommended a lot of areas to explore in a comment at the end of this post.
  2. Some entries on my site that explore this work: thinking-about-light-thinking-about-self-portraits.  Explaining period tracker app Clue.
  3. Researching female photographers
  4. Selfies ALSO here and here and here
  5. Pornography and thoughts see also here and here.
  6. Precognitive dream work and here.
  7. Images I took that didn’t work and here.
  8. Meaningful objects and here
  9. Beatriz Ruibal
  10. Floral anatomy
  11. My mind maps / scribbles / paper notes
  12. Biblical screenshots
  13. Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues
  14. Gillian Wearing
  15. Wolfgang Tillmans
  16. Mathieu Asselin – Monsanto
  17. Photographer’s Gallery study visit
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