These are the assignment images I have submitted to my tutor. Unlike the first assignment there is no requirement for a text-based explanation. However I felt for my records, and based on my previous assessment that some description of what I hoped to achieve, how successful or unsuccessful I felt I was, would be of benefit to me and any viewers.
I have produced 3 images. This isn’t really enough for the assignment. I had initially thought that I would use the same structured scenes to create close-up and full length images – so achieve the 5 images that way – however by doing this I moved further away from my plan of having the images as reshot Caravaggio’s. So I probably failed here.
Choice of model. These were self-portraits with assistance provided by family. Once I had planned out what I wanted to do, then it became increasingly obvious to me that this would be a self-portrait project. So these images are me, but of course they aren’t, but then of course they are.
The clothes – these were based around the Caravaggio images or my variations on them. The clothes in the Supper at Emmaus image was actually an error. I had a singlet on intentionally, and then was supposed to have a red hoody draped over me, but with all the set up involved I forgot. However I liked the rather sinister image, so left it as is. The Elvis image had to be a jump suit, while the hairdresser needed a flowery shirt.
Setting – The location was simply my front room. I bought a large piece of black material off eBay (which really should have been ironed) and hung it to create a plain backdrop. However as the material took so long to arrive (from China probably) I ploughed on with the Supper at Emmaus piece, so the backdrop of that is just the curtains.
Each image was styled based on specific Caravaggio paintings. These were then altered based on simply my opinions, lifestyle, activities, things that are around me and how I felt about the images. I tried to mirror the structure of the paintings as best I could.
Environmental objects – The objects, props involved in the images were all added intentionally. Nothing was added that I didn’t feel added to the picture. It was all a fake environment, so I had complete control over it and it was all created in a bit of a bubble. I am not totally happy with the quality of the props, backdrop etc. I would like to spend longer organising the materials and expanding the series into both other Caravaggio pieces and other chiaroscuro works. I enjoyed organising the images, considering what should be included and what shouldn’t. In fact I liked the removal of the decisive moment altogether. I am not suggesting that everything was planned down to the last detail, but it did give me more control, which I liked. However the final results were not always how I expected them.
Background – I should have ironed this really. I thought it wouldn’t show as much on the image as it does. However I am using the excuse that the David & Goliath painting by Caravaggio seems to have nasty creases in it too – this excuse was thought up afterwards. I used various lights to try to give some colour to the back images. This involved my daughter lying on the ground behind me out of view, holding a torch with some coloured paper or material over it – to mixed success. I guess long-term this could be done with proper lights, but working with the torches was the primary part of this project so I had to stick to that.
I really enjoyed the research for this project. There was the basic research around Caravaggio, which added a little depth to the initial plans of portrait pictures. I also read a number of photography books (listed below) based on both the technical aspects of portraiture, and the development of styles, especially in the last decade. Both suggestions online from classmates, and from researching adapted Baroque paintings it became clear that Cindy Sherman was going to have to be acknowledged in this work. If she didn’t have a direct influence, which is possible, I could hardly ignore the sense of her work that floated about. So I felt it was worth a nod in her direction in each piece. Because of this each piece contains a Sherman reference from clowns, to fake tan, to simply an anthology of her work.
Supper at Emmaus – This along with The Judas Kiss is one of my favourite Caravaggio pieces, so I wanted to include it in this. Reorganised as a teddy bears tea party. This is pretty much how a large portion of my time is spent. The clown face paint covered 2 bases – firstly we do alot of face painting in our house, and secondly it was a reference to Sherman and her clown pictures, such as Untitled 424 (2004).
David & Goliath – The swapping of the severed head of Goliath for a childs ‘Girls World’ head was really the catalyst for this piece. David became a hairdresser armed with hair dryer and scissors instead of a sword and sling shot. The painted face in this refers to Shermans Wives, such as Untitled 397 (2000).
Boy with Basket of Fruit – The sweeping quiff became the idea generator in this image. Leading to a self-portrait of ‘70s Elvis, with burgers instead of fruit. This experiment piece by Caravaggio leant itself well to an experiment photography piece.
Some technical aspects – the initial experiments I had done really didn’t help me as much as I had hoped when I finally started making the images. I had done some experiments of me simply standing, but when I stood, or sat, in a pose, the longer exposure times made for some movement in the images. I reshot the Elvis images to try to have a greater freeze frame but wasn’t totally successful with this.
In total I shot around 4 sessions. Because of how I had the area set up at home it needed taking down and re-essembling each time, which wasnt super convenient.
I used a maximum of 3 torches, including snoots. I also used a basic house lamp to try to give more light, which didn’t work especially well, so I rested a torch without snoot, on a cushion to give a touch of the same lighting direction as the paintings. Camera was set on tripod, and longest exposure was about 5 seconds – any longer and movement became an issue. ISO was higher than I wanted it to be – I had planned on having it down at about 200 but it increased to about 1200 with reduced times. Aperature varied depending on the image. I feel that I would have liked to better light these images with proper lamps, freeze them, and remove the fuzziness that has crept in – however that wasnt the point of the assignment. I can always do this another time.
The images were processed in Lightroom. I darkened around some of the edges so that they became blacks, and also they got rid of distractions outside of the chosen area. Subsequently I did work in Photoshop.
I then decided to present these images as if they were paintings in a gallery. A kind of Thomas Struth gallery image. These were images I had taken during the course as extra research work. I was unsure whether to print the actual images, and frame them in baroque style frames, or to use the Struth format. I chose the Struth way because I thought it would give me some practice on Photoshop. But also it covered the brief of having the pieces ‘exhibited’ on a wall – these pieces just happened to be at the National Gallery.
I was unsure how far to push the use of lamps rather than torches, and though I don’t have snoots anyway, can see how they might have worked well for these images, if not for this project.
I am pleased with how much I enjoyed this project. I enjoyed the research of Caravaggio, Sherman, Struth and then the general research of photography portraiture. I enjoyed also the technical research involved, however I felt this was less successful both in how I utilised what I had learned, but also how much I could utilise what I had learned because of the torches and what I was aiming to achieve.
I think this tableau, structured image has suggested a new direction I would be interested in working on, and certainly an interesting way of my approaching projects. Whether I could do them in my front room could be an issue. So there may be a change in approach in that way. Following on from the last assignment I do generally give quite a bit of thought as to how the images could be displayed, and would even like to take this set up further, possibly showing the pieces and discreetly taking shots of people viewing them.
Cindy Sherman – Wives series https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/8/#/5/untitled-397-2000
Cindy Sherman – Clown series https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/5/#/4/untitled-424-2004
Caravaggio Images – Supper at Emmaus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Caravaggio),_London#/media/File:1602-3_Caravaggio,Supper_at_Emmaus_National_Gallery,_London.jpg
Caravaggio Images – David & Goliath https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_with_the_Head_of_Goliath_(Caravaggio),_Vienna
Caravaggio Images – Boy with a basket of fruit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_with_a_Basket_of_Fruit
Caravaggio: A Life Paperback; Langdon, Helen; Pimlico (1999)
European Portrait Photography since 1990; Gierstberg, Frits; Prestel (2015)
Cindy Sherman; Respini, E; MOMA (2012)
The Portrait Photography Course Paperback; Jenkinson, Mark; A&C Black (2011)