Looking at Part 1, Project 1 made me think about complexity and simplicity in photography.
I visited the Fox-Talbot Museum and took some digital images but also some instant images using Fuji Instant Wide film and a Lomo Instant camera. Obviously, I took a few instant images of the windows; I had to. It struck me that I didn’t use film, and given that Fox-Talbot essentially invented the negative process that seemed a bit odd on reflection, but when I go back I’ll take a film camera with me.
This part of the course talks a little bit about digital cameras and their complexity as opposed to the original cameras and their simplicity. Although I have invested in a digital camera as a ‘serious’ or ‘proper’ camera, I will admit that I don’t really like them and they don’t give me the same experience of photography that I used to get using film. They’re too complex, images are somehow less valuable – people don’t think as carefully as they did using film so now everything is photographed over and over again. I can use a digital darkroom (Photoshop or Lightroom), but the excitement and the involvement in the process is not the same.
I have several old cameras, one is a Cresta 3 Brownie. I’ve taken some images with it, I haven’t developed them yet as I haven’t yet finished the film; it needs a lot of light to work. You can change the aperture by using a sliding metal plate that fits under the lens but the shutter speed is fixed. There is no manual control – it’s just a box with a lens really.
Exercise 1.1 would be impossible without a digital camera as you have to produce the histogram.
When I decided to invest in my camera, one of the reasons I went for the Fujifilm XT-2 was because it seemed to give me the closest experience to a film camera. I think that has worked for me. I rarely have to touch any menu settings and all the controls I want are on the lens or on dials on the top of the camera.
I found Project 2 slightly confusing – especially exercise 1.2 Point. I didn’t really understand it until I found ‘Photography’ by Barbara London, Jim Stone and John Upton (published by Pearson). In chapter 17, under the heading ‘Basic Design’, there is a section titled ‘Spot/Line’. There are some example images that perhaps illustrate the what the course text is trying to say more clearly (Hiromu Kira, The Thinker is the best) and the accompanying text offers a lot more explanation.
I’ve already talked about cropping and framing, both in the notes from the exercises and in a blog post on composition, but one of the ideas I have picked up from the section on Alfred Stieglitz’s ‘Equivalents’ is that the general idea in photography seems to be that the better images draw you into the picture and away from the frame (by points, lines, and other compositional devices) so you feel like you are seeing through a window into the world. However, Equivalent doesn’t do that; it feels more stark, so perhaps more authentic or honest? It’s another compositional device.
I found Exercise 1.4 Frame confusing. I could get multiple grids up on my viewfinder, but none would divide the view into four. I tried composing in a section but that’s almost impossible – naturally I find myself looking at the whole image so I’m both not sure how successful I was and not sure exactly what the point of the exercise really was.
I was lucky enough to have the BBC Britain in Focus series to refer to when I was looking at this section of the course which helped a lot, particularly with the historical aspects of photography.
Project 3 Surface and Depth was again, for me, lacking detail. I didn’t warm to Thomas Ruff’s work, I didn’t enjoy it and unlike the reviewers I didn’t find it ‘beautiful’. However, it did make me make work. After I’d played with producing my own versions I then went on to think about other ways to downgrade an image and I experimented with taking photos of photos, often using plastic sheeting between my new lenses to add some softness and texture and I also used that technique to take photos on Photo Booth on my iMac. My favourite experiment was using my iPhone to take an image of an image I had displayed on my computer screen and then when that image appeared on the screen I took it again. I repeated that process several times. I liked the results and will try it again with a different style of image. I’ve written a blog post to illustrate this process.