A2 Planning and Research (Original)

A2 Final Submission 

I’d originally wanted to take a set of images to express some of my own personal political views, and had planned to use a combination of reflections and vortography after seeing some vortographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn. I’d experimented using some images of New York that I’d taken last year and the effect worked reasonably well so I’d been taking images for my assignment with vortography in mind; all my research and thinking was originally centred around that idea. I’ve included the notes and research I completed for the vortographs as I hope that I can revisit the idea when my personal life calms down a little.

Personal circumstances made it difficult for me to get the images I felt I needed in London as I worked on this assignment. I tried to take images as vortographs locally, but I felt that both aesthetically and in terms of communicating the message I’d wanted to get across they just weren’t working. I was expecting to be able to get more images in London nearer to the assignment deadline, but that didn’t happen. I then had to rethink the assignment and take it in a totally different direction, with little time left to research or plan, when I knew the images I’d hoped to create weren’t going to work.

The set of images of The Eiffel Tower in Paris is working with a more traditional idea of view, or perhaps more accurately perspectives, but I didn’t want to get a set of typical views of the Eiffel Tower so I have tried to do something a bit different.

The original purpose of the Eiffel Tower was to suggest and celebrate the power of France, and strong vertical lines suggest links with virility, power and the spirituality that every nation wants to claim for it’s own as a justification for that power.

Like power and spirituality, the tower seems quite elegant from a distance, up close of course there are rivets, rust, and a chaotic feeling from lines of iron leading everywhere and nowhere, but all linked in some mysterious way to create this iconic monument to the industrial power of France. I liked that chaotic idea as it matches my experience of Paris in general, along with the feelings of being in the crowds of people who are visiting the Eiffel Tower, all speaking different languages, all seemingly obeying different cultural rules as they cross each other’s paths.

I tried to vary combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint while I took the images, and I ended up with about 300 images in total. However, looking at the images I’ve chosen here I find that my preferred images are mainly taken with a zoom lens and a wide aperture as opposed to the wide angle lens, small aperture and slow shutter speed suggested for views in the course text. I wanted shots that weren’t obvious so this combination has given me the results I wanted. Some shots have the tower totally out of focus, but it’s always there in the background; again, working as a symbol of a power that isn’t always clear but is always present. Because the Eiffel Tower is so iconic, it is still recognisable even when obscured or unfocused. With the exception of image 8, I also wanted to hide views of the works going on around the tower and the vehicles, hoardings and people. However, I didn’t want all of the images to be totally devoid of life, so there are birds, there are some people, there are representations of people and hopefully the movement of the carousel suggests their presence.

Obviously the Eiffel Tower is very iconic, so hopefully that helps the images to work as a set. I decided to use monochrome rather than colour to help too. The light on the day I made the images helped with that decision as it felt monochromatic anyway, the colour of the tower is not particularly attractive, and monochrome helps that feeling of a tradition and structure which is powerful and helps to emphasise and tie in with the ideas of line I’d researched in the run up to this assignment.

I felt that many of the landscape format images were perhaps more successful in some ways, but the feeling of strength is heightened in a portrait format. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use a tripod and I think it shows in the final images, especially with a long focal length as it was hard to focus and I do realise that it’s something that needs to be improved. My sensor had some dirt on it and I wasn’t able to remove it so that was frustrating as there were images I couldn’t use because of it. I still don’t have a good feel for what a set of images should look like. I am trying to balance variations in view for interest that might end up breaking a set up with avoiding creating a set of images that feels monotonous. In image number 6 I wanted to have a group of people in focus on the tower, and the group in front of the tower out of focus. I’m not sure if it works because the people on the tower are too far away to be clearly noticeable. The first five images are my favourite. I really wasn’t sure about number 7 especially as it’s really echoing ideas from images 2 and 5. I’ve included it as I hope it adds to the feeling of the overall collection. I added the final image as I think it helps to fulfil the idea of lens effects. I like number 9 but I wish I could re-take it with a different aperture and frame it slightly differently as I’m not sure it works.

Sudjic, D. (n.d.). The language of cities.
Webb, J. (2010). Design principles. Lausanne: AVA Academia.
Edwards, P., Antliff, M. and Greene, V. (2010). The Vorticists. London: Tate Publishing.


A2 More Planning and Research

Vortographs – Very Rough Notes!

I’ve included these as this is where most of my research, thinking and planning time went – it’s the idea I was originally working with.  It was a rough version, I hope that’s okay, but if not then I can re- write with proper references etc. Page numbers refer to ‘The Vorticisits, Manifesto for a Modern World’, Tate Publishing.

I wanted to continue on from assignment 1, this time examining some other themes that came up for me as important and examining some of the reasons I feel disconnected. (am I banging on about this disconnected stuff??). Basically, I’m looking at Brexit. I wanted to find a way to represent it, and this has coincided with me looking at the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn, especially his work on London and his vortographs. I know the assignment is about lens effects; vortography seems to me to be a lens effect, and to me the use of it works well in the context of the message I’m trying to convey. I feel that the UK has been fractured (this word came up in my second tutorial). I thought about lots of ways to represent this fracturing – cutting up instant images, fracturing a mirror or lens filter to shoot through – they were all ideas I though of persuing, but vortography really spoke to me as the planes and lines in the image are broken up and disturbed. I’ve had a really tough time personally over the past month and it also seems a way to represent me. It just works. The worry I have is that these aren’t traditional lens techniques; I can’t use aperture, zooming etc to get effects. I can’t zoom in on a subject when I have mirrors around the lens or the whole effect is lost. Another worry is that for images to work as a set, I think the whole set will have to be vortographs. That worries me as I’m finding it difficult to judge the aesthetic merit of them.

I looked at How We Are; Photographing Britain. There was an essay ‘England your England’ referred to that was written by George Orwell, I read it and I loved it. He said that we underestimate the Europeans and that we live to regret it. I originally thought I’d use Orwell’s take on Britishness as a starting point for subjects, but then I decided to use Google instead. Times have changed; I wanted to see what represents Britain to the modern mind. So that gave me a list of British Icons as a starting point for subjects. I wanted to use London, I was quite clear about that, and originally I had thought about crowds. I have tried to include people; it’s unusual for me, but I’m seeing it as a beginning.

As I was reading up on the voticists, I found out that the movement came out of a ‘strange synthesis of cultures and times’. (35). ‘the theme of the emigre is central to vorticism, which, although a London based movement, included individuals either alien to British society or on the margins of the cultural establishment.’

In the context of both my experimentation with vortography and my thoughts about Brexit, that quote really struck a chord. Feeling alien to British society is now something that applies to me and clearly also applies to many of my contemporaries. Also I’d been playing around with some photos I’d taken during a period I’d spent living in New York. I’d been experimenting with using the mirror arrangement around the lens on a photograph either printed or on screen to give me more options with initial image capture – being able to use varying apertures and focal length which is impossible when creating the image in camera for example. I really like the colour effect when photographing through the vortograph on the iPhone. The effects are vibrant and add to the sense of otherworldliness and provide an added dimension of uncertainty to the fracturing idea. The lines seem to add to the feeling of an environment heavily reliant on technology – ‘man within a technologised urban environment’. 43

Evaluation points;
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manor, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention.
Context -reflection, research, critical thinking.

In terms of evaluation I’d say I’m worried that it’s difficult for me to judge the aesthetic qualities of the vortography. I’m going on instinct, gut feeling really. Technically I don’t know if I’ve pushed the idea of lens effects too far. I don’t know if I’m meeting the brief, and that is my main concern. The lens effects that are mentioned don’t feature as heavily as they might. I’m not sure if abstraction is valid. If the images capture the message of a Britain that feels fractured. My camera isn’t great. I’ve tried to overcome the limitations of it by doing something a bit different. I’ve taken images on an iPhone. I find it easier to point a camera at people that way; I worry about reactions otherwise. Vortographs are difficult to compose. The design can be a little repetetive. I didn’t want to use digital techniques for this, I wanted it to be an effect with the lens. The images shot on a camera have been shot in RAW, but haven’t been adjusted; the colours are effects of re-shooting on a screen, which also adds textural effects that I like.

I might try different sizes of mirrors. I experimented quite a bit. I put trial images on Instagram to guage feedback – were the subjects still recognisable, for instance? I think multiple exposures, broken mirrors and broken glass, are something I’d like to try to take forward, especially as I’m thinking about personal projects on mental health. The ideas behind vortography would also seem to work for mental health ideas, but I don’t want to do it to death. I also thought about using Google maps, breaking up the country (or areas of it) into shapes that could be tesselated, moved, recombined and jumbled up. I’d love to be able to do this with a real knowledge of how the Brexit vote worked in certain areas, but I’m not sure it’s that simple, because there also seem to be splits between old and young, rich and poor, north and south. Lots of dichotomies, perhaps with individuals not necessarily fitting into the sections of society that they once would have felt comfortable in.

A2 Ideas from my paper learning log

I’ve not been at home much so I’ve been using a paper learning log as I find it easier when I don’t always have reliable internet access.


Some early thoughts on A2


Thinking about A2

I decided to ask for ideas on British icons on Facebook. Seemed like a good idea at the time….