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1st Week!

What a week its been! Everything has built up to the first classes of the Fall term (or the Autumn Term for those back home in UK).

I’ve figured that as well as doing the monthly blogs, I might do a weekly blog as well detailing everything I have gotten up to the week in a more condensed form, leaving my vlogs to me a more overview sight of the month!

So here goes…


Monday:

So the first class to begin the term off was my Photography, Art, and the Media: The 19th Century.  To start off the class, we decided to watch two film to make us think about the age old question: What is Photography? The films to help the grey brain cells were:

  • Ulysses: Based on a picture that was somewhat spontaneous, the director looked at how the memory affected those that were part of the original photo and how much they could remember of it, whilst also looking at the other historical events that were happening at the same time.
  • Nostalgia: Looking at the pictures taken back by Hollis Frampton, we are taken down a journey with personal comments made on each individual picture whilst they are being burnt; however there is a slight twist to it (watch the film to find out!)

Both of these films were a great start in getting the whole group to think not critically, but offer a variety opinions not only on the film but towards the question “What is Photography?”


Tuesday:

Oh yes. The class I was pumped for. This was the beginning of the Colour Printing class, taught by Darin Mickey (have a look at his work if you can!) I was quite excited for this class as it was going to push me into a new limit of analogue I have always wanted to try. Shooting in colour isn’t the hardest, but being able to go into a fully functioning colour lab? It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass down.

And although we didn’t go straight into printing this week, we are given quite a few tips. For example, with negative printing (this would be colour and Black+White shooting) you want to over pose the prints more as it allows it to be dealt easier in printing.

This can be done by either going up an aperture or shutter stop. However, an easier way is that if you are using a light meter, by changing the ISO settings on it, it will automatically give you that 1 stop change.

E.g.

A 400 ISO —> Shoot at “200 ISO”

So now its onto shooting more rolls of film in order to start printing!

In the afternoon, we had our first Seminar class. As we were in smaller groups, it was an opportunity to get to know each other a bit better, with everyone talking about their interests, their aspirations etc. It was interesting to hear what everyone had to say, giving a deeper insight into them all. Afterwards, we started looking through each others work, but in a different critique method: instead of explaining their work, we as the viewers had to decipher the work with no help and make our own interpretations on it, providing interesting responses.


Wednesday:

This was the first lecture with the Dean of the School, Fred Ritchin. This was possibly the one class I had no idea of what to expect, apart from that I was prepared for a lot of information to be heading my way.

And I was right! In three hours, which seemed to fly by so quickly, we had covered so much material my brain was hurting. The conversation started talking off about hyper text (non linear narrative) and how it can begin a collaboration with the reader, something which the digital is good at doing. This then led on to a conversation about digital and analogue and the restrictions between the two and how a multitude of ideas can be implemented differently.

We was introduced to a site Fred used to run called pixelpress.org which should the capabilities of the digital in which analogue could not do, and in how text can provide a different meaning to the image as well. Do have a look at the website, as it will definitely start making you think about how important text is…


Thursday:

This was the start of my video class. I know I have already done video in the past, however I personally del that there was much more that I could lear from this, especially in terms of editing the video to an acceptable standard.

So we was introduced to some of the tools in order to give more steady shots (fluid tripods, shoulder rigs) as well as some of the better external microphones that we had on offer for us to use. And it was drilled in that with DSLR’s, the internal microphone is rubbish, so using an external microphone is always the route you want to head along.

We was also given our assignment for the week which was to shoot a video on out daily routine, and we was advised to follow the 5 second rule (don’t remain on a frame for more then 5 seconds.) To help us understand this more, we was shown then short film The Big Shave by Sorcasse (again something I would highly recommend but be warned, very graphic!)  to show us how we could shoot a similar video.


Friday:

The class where I was different whoop!

So this was the first class for Future Storytelling and the main thing was that stories can be told however we want them to, whether it be via Transmedia (art of telling one story over multiple media where each is unique) and Multimedia (different forms of media to create powerful stories that can communicate.)

However to make a more powerful story sometimes, it is best to get the obvious out of the way in order to surprise both the audience and you, with surprise being a way for the brain to release dopamine to the body.

We was also introduced to the different types of User experiences out there:

  • Visceral design
  • Behavioural design
  • Reflective design

And finally, to finish off the week, we had our Digital technical seminar to round off the afternoon. This was just a quick introduction and recap over Colour theory and how the Primary and Complimentary colours work together and how it helps with colour correction.

For example:

If there are 256 different shades of RGB (primary colours), we could check to see if we have a correct exposure on an area by clicking a grey area to make sure that there are equal amounts there, such as R= 119 G= 119 B=119.

If one is unequal, then you have to change the others so that you can make everything balanced out

This led onto us talking about histograms and the actual importance they hold when we go and take photographs. The rule of thumb for getting a good capture is to get your histogram more to the right (e.g. making it more over exposed.) Now this may seem strange to do, however this allows the highlights to have more information stored in them and giving more subtlety in the tonal ranges. So when it comes to editing the picture, you can avoid loosing any information in any area if you decided to darken the image in RAW for example.

I also learnt the use of the HDR feature as well! If you are in a situation where you cannot change your histogram at the risk of loosing information in your image, you can use the HDR feature to give a more rounded exposure that will give the information in all areas of the picture by combining multiple images of different exposures.


So yeah, that was just a general overview of what I got up to this week… A lot isn’t it? There was more I could have included, but all I have mentioned was probably the more interesting stuff I think! Next week will begin to get more serious, and I can’t wait for it as it means more information is gonna be chucked at me and I so ready to absorb it all! Until next time!

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The Move, Adjustment and Settling

When they said it was going to be intense, they weren’t kidding. And that even before I moved to the USA!

The past year has been a blur of sorts. It was hard to believe that this time last year, I was even considering the notion of studying in the USA. Of course I had the option of places in Europe, but obviously I had to be the odd one out and be different. So begun the process of talking to lectures about advice and opinions, before I settled on trying out The International Centre of Photography in New York.

This was the beginning stages of what was a long and tiring process; never before I had to write a proposal of my work at such a high level of writing. Yet I still managed it; I think it was down to my determination of getting everything right and not leaving anything to chance helped. As well as getting lecturers to proof read it all!
Soon, everything had been handed in, and began the waiting period of hearing anything.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

*ping*

When the e-mail came through stating that I had got my place in the programme, I screamed. In a restaurant. Yeah I was quite excited… But still, the feelings that were bursting through me was unreal. Words could not explain it at all. But now it was real, it was time to start prepping for the travels. And that meant getting my visa (however that’s a story I don’t want to get into as I fear for my blood pressure rising…)

Time flew by, and before I knew it, I was leaving the house at 4am. The flight was how flights should be; smooth and steady. But the excitement was building up inside me more and more, eager to actually start this new adventure. In the first week of being in The Big Apple, my family and I started the basics of moving into my accommodation and getting the essentials for me to live in some sort of student way (don’t worry I bought all the snacky stuff later on!)
We also planned the journey I would take in the mornings to actually get to ICP, so I had an understanding of where I needed to head to so I wouldn’t get lost (although the travelling system is fairly straight forward there.)

And then I was left all by myself. It was emotional saying goodbye to my parents as we all knew how big and life changing this could be for me. Tears were shed by everyone, par my brother who seemed more interested in Youtube at the time (although I’m hoping there was some emotion later on though.)
I know that for the past two years I have essentially lived on my own in Coventry, but this was different. Living alone, in a different country thousands of miles away? It’s the same but not the same. And I will always miss home, that’s a given.

But I wasn’t given much time to dwell on that as the orientation period was starting. For 3 weeks.

Yes you read that right, 3 weeks. And it may seem like a long time. but with the amount covered (darkrooms, DML, printing, Library etc) it was needed. And having it all spaced out helped as well, as it allowed everything to be taken in. What I found to be very interesting (and also a good way to bond people from the different courses) was the Scavenger Hunt. Rather then your traditional hunt of finding items, we were given set themes that we could interpret fully and do whatever we wanted with.
And the ability to be free and shoot whatever was amazing, and I felt like that I came out with some interesting shoots. But the main thing was that I had a fun time shooting, which is the main thing. Here are some of the images I shot:

Edit1_46 Edit1_47 spirit Edit1_1 Edit1_25 Edit1_36 Edit1_41

So as I type this out, I’m prepping for my first proper week at ICP. This is where I’m gonna be starting all my classes in full and start my journey into learning so much. However, I don’t want to bore you all with writing about everything! I have created a youtube channel where I will be making monthly vlogs at least saying what I have learnt etc. I’ve already shot a video about my classes and scavenger hunt, so click on the video below to find out more (when I publish it)!

The Beginning! August-September Vlog

Until in a months time people…

Summer Work: Lucy Film Review

The average human will only use up to 10% of our brain at any one time. But what would happen if we were able to lock into the rest of our cerebral cortex? What extraordinary things would we achieve? As the film states in the beginning, “Life was given to us a billion years ago. What have we done with it?”

In Luc Besson’s film Lucy, we dive into the fabled myth of unlocking our brains full potential, albeit with the help of a fatally potential drug.
Lucy, played by Scarlett Johansson, is an ditzy American student in Taipei, who is tricked by her week-old boyfriend to deliver a package, only to become an international drug mule within a couple of hours with the drug CPH4 sewn into her abdomen. However, her life isn’t getting any better as the drug is released into her blood system, when the pouch is broken via a hefty kick from a gang member.
From that moment onwards, we go on fast-paced journey as we look into some of the potential side effects as the brain’s capacity increases, helped by the numbers flashing on the screen.
However, as her powers increase from the simple basic ones of superhuman strength and telekinesis, to being able to pull mobile phones lines out of thin air, it begins to borderline fantasy.

The film undoubtedly has amazing graphics; similar to something like The Matrix in the impossible becoming possible (where would you see someone being able to control gravity and make 7+ gang members float in the air?) However there are moments where it just becomes over the top and actually detracts from the plot that is going on.

The bonus of having Morgan Freeman acting as a Doctor studying in the realms of this plot helps the audience begin to understand what exactly is going on, with basic information being chucked out at us at times. Although the random intervals during his speeches about the world are quite distracting and hold no real value at all, acting like filler spots.

I think that the film is something that you should see, and how you watch it can determine how you feel about it; the graphics are top notch, action packing fighting scenes and mind-boggling scenarios. Yet I feel that towards the end it became very repetitive in what was going on, in that you expected something similar to turn around. And the ending? Well, that is definitely up to the viewer to determine how they feel, as mixed responses can be generated from it.

Most reviews from online forums such as Rotten Tomatoes to online Newspaper articles all give positive reviews mainly, with the odd negative one here and there. They talk about the graphics being one of the best for the year, whereas the plot could have been written slightly better. And the performance of Scarlett Johansson is very good.

If you can, see the film. It won’t be a waste of your time at all. Just prepare for some heated conversations afterwards as to what the film could have been.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11027673/Lucy-review-everything-Scarlett-Johansson-does-is-worth-watching.html

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/21/lucy-scarlett-johansson-luc-besson-review

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-lucy-review-20140725-column.html
http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/lucy–film-review-another-big-comicbook-treat-intensely-visualised-with-scarlett-johansson-as-lady-vengeance-all-over-again-9684940.html

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/24/lucy-film-review-scarlett-johansson-luc-besson-morgan-freeman

Summer Work – Re-do Project

Last year in the 154MC module, we were asked to do an extra-curricular activity project, which could be based on everything. Mine was based off Slender Man, but at the time I was still in the beginning stages of planning those pictures, as I wanted to make it into a project for me. So the pictures that I made were simply introductory and planning pictures so that I would begin to get a feel for what I exactly wanted to do in the project.

So in order to give myself a better understanding for the project, then a lot further research would be needed in all areas

The first starting point then, as in other projects, would be to look at the origins. In 2009, in the Something Awful forums, a photography competition of a sort was created; a user by the name Victor Surge created an Internet meme depicting a thin, unnaturally tall man with a blank and usually featureless face, wearing a black suit.
In his picture, the man was seen hidden in the trees in a busy children’s park.

The inspiration for this came from the idea of the “shadow people”, paranormal beings that have supernatural powers from apparently the shades of the underworld.

When reading up on the shadow people, you can begin to see the links made that can be contributed towards Slender Man; both have the ability to produce an onset of hallucinations and paranoia, all that come down to psychological problems.

Since the introduction of this meme, many people began to actually turn this piece of fiction into real life, as many fingers were pointed to historical references, which seemingly seemed to reflect the Slender Man.

  • One of the earliest ones is a cave painting found in Brazil that dates back as far as 9000BC, which depicts a large man with tentacles leading a child by its hand away.
  • After this, the next reference is in Egyptian Hieroglyphic, which again showed a person with multiple limbs
  • Perhaps one of the more talked about references has to be Der Ritter, where a multi-limbed skeleton is shown fighting. Freckenberg, the artist, was more known for his painting on human anatomy, so this was very unusual for him. Some say the skeleton was to represent the plague that was ravaging Europe at the time (1500’s) but others think that Freckenberg was trying to represent “Der Großmann” otherwise known as the Tall Man. This was a legend that used to take bad children who wondered into the woods late at night.
  • In both Romanian and English history there are references to a Tall or Tree man, again with references to children being kidnapped and killed.

As depicted in the “history” (some of it has been changed/photoshopped in order for people to create this history) Slender Man has specific behavioral patterns. Some of this is creating pure fear into his victims as he taunts them by visiting them from time to time, letting them see his face, almost a psychological thrill for him.

SO with all this history made from the forums, it inevitably blew up via social media, presumably the only way that it became so popular; this is turn allowed various YouTube channels to create online video series that were based off the Slenderman, with one of the most famous being Marble Hornets.
This series looked into the life of a video director called Alex who was seemingly being haunted by Slender Man, with the episodes delving into the history of Alex and his friends as to some of their sudden disappearances. What made this series so famous was that it followed the lore very well as to what the Slenderman is, yet making it their own in a way though.

However, like most things, there is a negative with these things; and recently, the thought of Slender being real has had some serious consequences in real life. On May 31st, two 12 year olds were reported to have stabbed one of their friends 19 times on the basis that they wanted to become proxies (slaves of the Slender Man) and to actually see him and prove that he is real.
Sadly, this isn’t the only case; recently there have been more of these attacks where young children or teenagers have attacked love ones or friends in these attacks after reading up on Slender Man.
The main reason behind all of these incidents is that all the information is easily locatable online for anyone to see of any age; some people put it down to the fact that as humans, we are more likely to believe in the unbelievable. If we are presented with hard facts about something, the fear factor is lessened in most people; yet if we are told about something that we know that can’t be real, yet there are claims, this fresh fear in increased to the point that we start to believe (I myself have been one of those people.)

Yet these videos just weren’t the end of the Slender Man push; these myths became so popular, some game developers decided to take advantage and create games to push this fear to the next level.
The idea was very simple; you are stuck in a forest with no way of getting out, with the only solution being that you have to collect 8 pages to win, but for every page you would get, Slender would become more aggressive in trying to capture you. Simple, yet effective. The hysteria caused was massive, with more people becoming drawn into the hype. And it increased and increased to create another game, again with more hype caused by it.

And it was really these games that caused the start of this project. I had never heard of Slender before, and when I was first introduced to the game, I was hooked at first with fear, then competition and finally into fascination. I started to read up on all of the lore behind it to quench this thirst for knowledge.

And then with my friends, who enjoyed the game as well, we played our own real life version of it, which was when I discovered that it would make a good project to take in, as most people created fan art of Slender, and no real proper projects. SO this made me more determined to carry out the project to offer something different.

For the actual shoot, it was much more difficult then I had imagined it to be. To make it as realistic as possible, we went into a forest to get that background look into everything. However, when it got later, the trees actually blocked out all the lot rendering it hard to get any natural dark photos as flash had to be used to get the camera to properly focus.
This meant that the subject was clearly lit up when walking around, however the background was covered in more harsh shadows. This was problematic for me as it was becoming harder to get the picture that I was seeing with my eye on my camera.
So I decided to change things up a bit by using my iPhone camera; the reason behind this was that the phone was simplistic in taking pictures of what it sees rather then you changing all the settings.

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This was much more in tune when it came for me taking the homage pictures of the game itself, as I was able to get the lighting to show everything that was important without loosing any detail at all. This is important as if I only used minimal lighting, it would have been near impossible to get Slender in due to the moonlight being blocked out, creating a darkness around the whole area.
What also made it more interesting was the noise created in the pictures; one of the myths that come with the Slender Man is that when you come closer to it with electrical equipment, he creates a disturbance with anything you may be using causes static.

Distortion Slender 1

Overall with these pictures, I was pleased with them as for a first attempt at something that was new to me; they have come out quite well. However though, not all of the pictures, in my opinion, are up to standard. A lot of these pictures are quite basic and are more in line with the game itself. For me to push it out that little bit further, I think I have to go down the lines of the proper myths that surround the Slenderman.
I think there are other areas of interest I have to look at such as lighting in films (Friday 13th is one that I will have to look at) so that I can fine tune everything down into a couple of pictures that really do stand out massively.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27776894

http://theslenderman.wikia.com/wiki/Slender_Man

http://theslenderman.wikia.com/wiki/The_Tulpa_Effect

http://theslenderman.wikia.com/wiki/Quantum_Theory

http://theslenderman.wikia.com/wiki/Canon

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/06/03/the-complete-terrifying-history-of-slender-man-the-internet-meme-that-compelled-two-12-year-olds-to-stab-their-friend/

http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/30/the-story-of-slenderman-the-internets-own-monster/

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/slender-man

http://time.com/2817725/slender-man-killing/

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Slender_Man

Summer Task – Portraits

Taking a portrait of someone can in fact be a difficult task to do at times. When it comes to a family member, they always try play down the picture saying, “it just doesn’t look nice.” Whilst on the other extreme its very nerve wracking taking a picture of someone you don’t know, as you have no idea how they will react at all.

In the past, I have taken photos of my family so many times that they have become used to it (with the odd moan here and there) it’s no longer become a challenge for me to show them off. So taking a picture of someone I know well, I wanted to mix it up a bit.
SO I decided to focus on taking portraits of my housemates for this year. These are the people I have agreed a legal binding contract with, and whom I have to live with for the next year. So it would be wise to say that getting to know them well enough is a very important aspect.

I decided to take two different approaches to the pictures in order to give some variety. Firstly, as a group we have watched films and shows late at night as bonding sessions as well as chilling out.

Portrait 1

So I wanted to get the television lighting to show up in the picture as a way of highlighting Lee. Secondly, I wanted to show off the other little bits and pieces that are floating around in the area as well; as a university students, we all have chargers, glasses etc lying around, so to not include them is almost as if they are trying to be hidden on purpose. Finally, I wanted to get that relaxed body position as well; having Lee sitting up straight and stiff would of seemed to unnatural for someone sitting on a sofa by themselves, where most people would be sprawled out. The key for this shot was really, getting Lee to just do what he has done every night.

Portrait 2

The second picture is simpler, yet is focuses more on the actions of what goes on in the house as well. We are continuously in and out of the kitchen, so I captured the moment in which Will would be entering from one doorway to another, with the light difference acting as that transition.
These two pictures were much easier to take as I felt more comfortable in getting my camera out and taking the pictures, with no questions asked at all. For portraitists, having the confidence to take those shots is key to making it look right.

IMG_1895

And on that point, we move onto the picture of someone we don’t know. This is where building that confidence is key to achieving what you want. And I found that actually, the best way to do this wasn’t by stopping in front of someone, ask him or her for a picture and run away. Rather, I followed a similar technique that Humans of New York uses; talk to them first. Hold a conversation for a bit and talk about what they do, their life and so on.
And by that, you begin to build up a quick acquaintanceship with that person, hence allowing you and them to more comfortable around the camera. As in just one picture, you can tell if the subject is putting on a false bravado or if they don’t want to be there at all.
So for my portrait I had gone around Coventry Market talking to some of the stall members; working with my Dad in Covent Garden Fruit Market in the past has already given me the facts of how things work there, so striking up conversations were quite easy, yet interesting still as it is a completely different lifestyle. And with this chap, he was more then happy for me to take his picture in the end, providing that it was good looking enough!

152: Saltprints

The final type of alternative processing we looked at was Salt printing, which dates back to times older then cyanotypes. Henry Fox Talbot was the one to create this process, and just like cyanotypes, requires the combination of two different mixtures to form the light sensitive solution.

Mixing process:

  1. Mix 20g of Sea salt or sodium chloride (not table salt) with 1 litre of water well. Then place your paper into this liquid until fully soaked.
  2. Leave your paper to dry or dry with a hairdryer
  3. Then mix 12g of Silver Nitrate with 50 ml of Distilled water
  4. Then mix 6g of Citric Acid to 50 ml of Distilled Water
  5. Place the two mixtures into a brown bottle.
  6. Pour some of the contents into a bowl, and using a brush, paint the surface of your paper with the solution.

(Note 1: Place an X on the side your are not coating to so you know what side to expose. Note 2: Wear plastic gloves as this solution will stain and leave black/brown marks)

  1. Leave to dry naturally or use a hairdryer

Now you can go off to making your print! It is advisable to use negatives or acetate sheets this process to get the best results.
Placing your negative onto the paper, sandwich it all together with two glass sheets so that the image won’t move. You will begin to see the paper turn a reddish-brown very quickly; the exposure time depends on the sunlight so judge well!

Once you have taken your image inside, make sure to wash all the residue solution off the paper, whilst at the same time mix 500ml cold tap water + 25 grams of sodium thiosulphate powder + 2 grams bicarbonate of soda or dilute standard fix to 1:19 (but it can bleach out the image slightly).

Place your washed paper into this fix for about 5 images so that the image won’t fade at all, then wash for a further 10+ minutes.

photo 2(3)

I think out of all of the alternative processes we have looked at, the salt prints are far by my favorite. Yes it may be a longer process overall then the others, but the quality of the picture is undeniable; plus there is also something about that earthy look to the picture that makes it look like it has just come from the olden times. This is the process I would prefer to carry out in the future if possible, that is depending on what my pictures are based on though!