In preparation I am to listen to Professor David Campbell’s lecture on documentary and narrative. http://soundcloud.com/mattjohnston/david-campbell
Produce a photo-story of 10 images that as a set, tells a story and conveys a narrative. This must be at local level, and in colour. It is NOT a ‘day in the life of …’ It does not have to be chronological unless the theme naturally is.
A theme must be presented with further developments, complications and a resolution or non-resolution that poses more questions. Work must be edited and sequenced accordingly.
There must be visual variety – different lenses, viewpoints and compositions – but there must be visual and conceptual consistency across the images.
Include a short explanatory text, in the region of 200-300 words, with the final images.
Delivery needs to be in the form of a pdf book dummy, this will show the images in a pre-arranged sequence.
The aim of this assignment is to further develop my visual communication skills and give a framework for improving my selection and editing skills. The emphasis is on conveying a story clearly and structuring my work effectively.
I need to start considering what my critical review will be on…
Then the usual reflect on what I have done…
David Campbell mentioned the sound clip on his blog and I’m going to pinch some of his points…
A narrative is an account of connected events… however, [it] involves more than reflecting on how a series of events become connected… Events are not found objects waiting to be discovered. As Allen Feldman has stated “the event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated” (p. 14).
…In photography, narrative is related to the idea of context. No matter how complete or comprehensive a narrative appears it will always be the product of including some elements and excluding others… knowing what is best included or excluded requires an understanding of context…an understanding of context requires visual storytellers to be highly proficient researchers. As Stuart Freedman recently declared, we need “a return to a storytelling in photography as rigorous in thought and research as it is beautiful in construction and execution.”
Campbell also explains that narratives invariably have the following:
and the key stages of:
- introducing the location
- giving the story a ‘face’
- letting people tell their own story
- contextualizing those stories
- following a dramatic form
These points are not compulsory nor exhaustive and can contain the following dimensions:
- dramaturgy (the ‘art of dramatic composition’)
One of the most important dimensions is that of personification – does there need to be a character who embodies the issue and gives the story a face? Or does potentially reducing everything to a series of portraits cut us off from the context and individualize what might otherwise be regarded as a collective or social issue? Is it the case, as Robert Hariman has argued, that sometimes “things speak louder than faces.”
This is similar to a point raised by Maria Short in Context and Narrative, (2011, p.42) when she asks the key questions on communication intention:
- Do you actually need to photograph the subject itself: can you communicate your intention by referring to it, implying or photographing around it?
- If photographing the subject itself, ask yourself how important is location, time of day, quality of light, equipment and materials in relation to the concept?
- What do you need, or want, to show and share with your audience and how are you going to do that?
Campbell echoes this when he asks: ‘what is the story you really want to tell?’ Answering that can mean working through these questions:
- what is the issue?
- what will be the events/moments?
- if needed, who are the characters?
- what is the context?
The relationship between story, event and and issue requires knowledge of the context above all else. That demands research because not everything that drives photography is visual.
I whittled this down to two main initial ideas for an assignment that would engage at a local level, and both were completely different from each other. The first was to do with Crossrail. There is an awful lot of building work, roadworks, re-developing of a local station and this is having a huge impact on the local shops and community. House prices are affected, lorries thunder about the place, there is a profusion of men in orange and I thought this could be an interesting project.
Some photographers I looked at were unknown to me as I wanted to look further afield than ‘the usual’…
But these did not have the approach I was looking for. They were definitely more architectural than people focused and I wanted to focus on the residents/workers more.
There was always Lewis Hine as a superb example of men at work, but I wanted a little more contemporary.
Joel Meyerowitz took some amazing shots of firefighters etc at ground zero.
http://121clicks.com/photo-stories/men-at-work-photo-essay-by-indian-photographer-amlan-sanyal had another take. Which reminded me to a certain extent of Sebastião Salgado’s oil firefighters in Kuwait.
The second idea is a little more out there… local murders and or suicide/mental health.
Finding stories to tell was easy…there is even a murder map on line…
I narrowed this down to suicide. Why suicide? It is something that affects all of us even if we don’t realise it at first. It has affected me on a personal level several times, it has affected friends and colleagues in different ways. For example I decided to look up old work friends recently; one lived a few roads away from me.I discovered she died in 2013. A student in school committed suicide a few years ago, a colleague’s sister the same. A friend of many of our 6th form boys also took his own life. When I was in my late teens a friend at a youth theatre deliberately over dosed on whiskey and painkillers. It is something I feel strongly about and the more research I completed the more I felt this was something that I wanted to highlight as a visual story.
Mental Health issues
Researching photographers who photographed ‘death’ or suicide proved that there were others out there also following similar lines.
Death photography is nothing new…http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36389581
http://www.sarahsudhoff.com/at-the-hour-of-our-death In the series Sudhoff creates large-scale colour photographs of stained fabrics from trauma scenes and discusses the invisibility of death in our culture.
The photographs in this project attempt to capture the views of these settings. Using research gathered from media reports, I found several locations in the Bay Area and travelled to them. I walked along the paths taken by these people before they ended their lives. Most of these photographs were taken from bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most well-known “suicide destinations,” but also lesser-known beaches and overlooks. I purposely photographed from the perspective of looking up at the sky, down at the water or crags, or straight ahead but far away, thinking that these views might have resembled the ones seen by others moments before dying. Many of my images have a hazy and elusive quality, which I believe reflects the clouded state of mind of the suicidal.
– Donna J Wan
The one who influenced me most however, was Joel Sternfeld. Seeing him speak at the Photographers Gallery was one of the highlights of my year. Not only did I like his photography and the man himself, some of his ideas, the way he presents his photo-books, but also the way he explores new challenges photographing different topics in different ways. He also documented sites where murder or violence took place in his body of work On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam.
Russell sent me a link in my feedback which was very interesting to read and from that I looked at the work of Rob Gilhooly about Japan’s suicide forest.
The more reading I did the more I realise that this was not only a global issue, but was in fact, quite a scary local one.
- In Dec 2011 it was reported that 115 people in Kent took their own life in 2010.
- This was down from the year before – 151 but a rise from 2008 when the figure was 102.
- There were 182 suicides in Kent in 2013 – 144 were male.
- In 2014 there were 163 suicides in the county. Nearly 80% of suicides in Kent are carried out by men, according to Kent County Council figures.
- In 2016 there were 140 registered suicides, 104 (70%) were men.
- Suicide is the leading killer of men under 45 in Kent.
- Stats released by the Council also show that the county has a higher rate of suicide in both men and women than the rest of the UK.
- On average, 14 men per 100,000 will commit suicide but in Kent the figure is 16.5 per 100,000 between 2012 and 2014. For women, it is 4.1 deaths per 100,000 compared to 4.0 nationally. Between both sexes the figures are 10.2 compared to the national average of 8.9.
- Less than 20 percent of people who committed suicide were known to mental health services.
- Figures are usually only available for those aged 15 and above.
- Suicide is the leading cause of young deaths in the UK.
- Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health problem, one in 5 has an eating disorder and 1 in 12 self-harms.
- Figures in 2014 revealed nearly 100 children aged 10-14 killed themselves in the UK in the past decade. (Office for National Statistics) This was the first time the ONS included figures for this age group. Children under 10 are not recognised in suicide figures so this may be even higher.
- Globally, suicide is the second biggest cause of death for ages 15-29 and the single biggest killer of girls aged 15-19, according to figures released by WHO in 2015.
- In 2015 the number of teens in the UK taking their own lives hit a 17 year high, rising to 186, an increase of 48% in the previous 3 years.
- April 2017 saw the dangers on the internet increase with an online game called Blue Whale which encouraged self-harm for 50 days, the committing suicide on the last day.
- 75% of suicide victims share their plans
- 90% of suicides are diagnosable and treatable
images of research in physical learning log
Assignment 3 Visual storytelling – With This in Mind
Originally I had thought of calling this body of work It’s Mental. Why? Because there is clearly something that needs to be done to support the mental well-being of teens and men and ‘it’s mental’ that there isn’t, and is a play on words on the fact that the stresses people feel are all internalized. When I looked at the stats…I did think wow, that’s mental! However, on getting peer feedback, which is always useful, it was suggested that this was not in keeping with the empathetic and respectful tone of the images. After a re-think I chose ‘With this in Mind.’ A lot of what goes on is all in the mind, people are valued, loved and respected but they don’t feel this. Diseases, injuries and other physical problems often contribute to poor mental health and sometimes mental illness. Some physical causes (such as birth trauma, brain injury or drug abuse) can directly affect brain chemistry and contribute to mental illness.
This title also links to the thought processes of the loved ones of emergency services that respond to the various situations. Do they walk past these places, or spend certain dates with this in mind?
My challenge will be to capture something ‘that has been’ (Barthes, 2000. p.96) He constantly linked photography with death stating ‘Death must be somewhere in society…The horror is this: nothing to say about the death of one whom I love most…’
There is a taboo surrounding mental health issues and the death of a loved one by suicide. This taboo needs to be dismissed and fortunately there are different help websites and organisations being set up to deal with this very issue.
I need to capture objects and places that signify the people who took their lives, without being able to photograph the people themselves. In some ways an extension of my assignment one. Jasper Johns wrote ‘An object that tells of loss, destruction, disappearance of objects. Does not speak of itself. Tells of others.’ Johns (1990 cited Sontag 2008, p.199) I need to tell of these ‘others’ and highlight a growing problem in today’s society.
Is it local? – Yes
The Problem – suicide and mental health
The Characters – the victims of suicide
The Resolution – helping the bereaved, helping to prevent suicide
The Complication/Non resolution – sadly it will still happen no matter what is put in place
April 2015 – Jamie Shand
Family of ‘talented and artistic’ Bexley teen, found hanged at home, walk 1,000 miles in his honour…
These deaths affect friends and family who wish to remember their loved ones in a positive way.
Hi all – an update of fund. I am not sure any of us can quite believe that we are approaching the year anniversary of losing Jamie. It has been a year of finding out how amazing and wonderfully supportive so many of you have been for myself and the family and friends of Jamie. Without your support I would not be where I am today. Thank you
We have had some major events that have raised money but more importantly we have raised the awareness of how so many young people are struggling and many barriers to communication have been broken down…
…What good is all this doing?
I have been doing a great deal of research on a variety of projects – helped by Coral who is endeavoring to set JSIA up so gift aid can be accessed.
IMAGO is a charity which has set up a SAFE (Suicide Awareness for Everyone) scheme that runs in many schools in the Dartford and Kent areas. I have met with them several times and have been very impressed with the project. SAFE aims to empower young people to become ambassadors within the school environment so they can help peers and younger pupils…
…A spectacle however will be the “Jump for Jamie” event which will take place around Jamie’s 18th birthday in August. This is organized by 2 of Jamie’s close friends and there will be a range of people skydiving in memory of Jamie and raising awareness and money…
…I will keep you posted on all events.
This is keeping me extremely busy – I hope to move the charity forward and maybe affiliate with the Alliance of Suicide Charities.
My plea is – I think I now need a web site to provide information and update stories. Anyone out there willing to give me some expertise and time will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you all – Lisa xx
As you may or may not know I lost my brother, Jamie, in 2015 to suicide. On 22nd August (Jamies 18th birthday) me and a number of Jamies friends/ family will be doing a sponsored skydive to raise as much money as possible for Young Minds.
Young Minds is a charity dedicated to supporting young people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Any donations would be massively appreciated to help towards my target amount! Thanks! Help spread the word!
8th December 2015 – Reece Burrowes
A 17 year old boy who was found hanged in a Bexleyheath park on Sunday (December 6) has been named locally as Reece Burrowes.
“He was one of the funniest humans I knew and could imagine growing old with him. I just can’t believe this is true.”
The former Hurstmere School pupil kept his struggles secret and Reece’s death shocked the community – with between 400 and 500 people attending his funeral.
The coroner also issued an important message about teen suicide. She said: “It’s a very topical problem because at last people are starting to recognise that there is a problem of some kind.
“If only there was no shame in saying ‘I feel really terrible and the need to relieve something in cutting myself’.
“Reece committed suicide. We need to use this word ‘suicide’. We need to recognise this problem and we need to see it in our statistics at the end of the year.
May 1 2013 – Jean Gerlack
Some suicides are not included in the statistics as they cannot be ruled as such.
A GRANDMOTHER who plunged to her death from the roof of a Bexleyheath car park in front of shoppers “might have tripped”, an inquest has heard.
Gloria Jean Gerlack, known as Jean, 67, died from multiple injuries after being seen ‘tumbling’ from the top of the Broadway Shopping Centre on May 1 at around 10.15am.
Differing eyewitness accounts of the fall led coroner Dr Roy Palmer to record an open verdict at Croydon Coroner’s Court this morning.
The family of the grandmother-of-four, who live in Brentwood Road, Bexleyheath, said the inquest has helped give closure over the death of their “sweet, gentle” loved one.
The court heard during the inquest how the retired foreign exchange settlement clerk had recently been suffering from depression and had attempted self-harm once using a gas hob.
It followed worries about her dementia-suffering mother and moving house, the court heard.
Mr Gerlack said attempting suicide in that manner would have been most unlike his wife. He went on to say it was possible she went up with the intention of jumping and had “second thoughts” but it was too late.
March 10 2017 – Unknown Male
A man has been found hanged in Bostall Heath.
Police say a man has been found hanged in Bostall Heath in Abbey Wood and think he may have been there for some time.
He was found at 7am this morning, March 10.
Police attended and an area as been cordoned off.
A police spokesperson said they believe it to be suicide but this will be confirmed at an inquest.
This person was discovered by one of my colleagues out walking their dog.
June 2 2017 – Unknown Male
A man has been found hanged in Bostall Woods in Plumstead.
Police were called around 1.50pm today, June 2, to calls that a body had been found.
Met Police, alongside the London Ambulance Service, arrived at Waterdale Road leading into the woods.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police say enquiries continue but all signs currently point to the death being not suspicious.
April 14 2006 – Dan Spencer
Some victims do seek treatment, they discuss or hint at their intentions but no matter what support is provided they still, sadly take their own lives.
DAN Spencer was a happy child who was popular and confident. But this all changed when he hit 15 and 16. He became less outgoing and made excuses about not going out with his friends. Mum Pauline says she and her husband, Ray, sought counselling for the teenager and were assured he would grow out of it. He was also diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
And the trainee mechanic underwent counselling for six years and was also on anti-depressants. But in the last six months of his life, when he was 22, his depression got worse. Pauline said: “He described it to me as like flicking a switch…One minute he was happy and then he felt agitated.”
The night before he died he stayed up talking…for an hour-and-a-half. Pauline recalled: “He said: I can’t go on with this life. I am not living’.”
The next morning, on April 14 last year, Ray, Pauline and 20-year-old daughter Jo discovered Dan dead in his bedroom.
13 July 2013 – Adam Shulver
A WELLING United fan hanged himself in his own home after struggling to deal with “psychological problems”, an inquest heard.
Twenty-five-year-old season ticket holder Adam Shulver was found dead at his home in Montrose Avenue, Welling, on July 13.
Police were called shortly after 8pm and the ‘Welling Massive’ member’s death was not treated as suspicious.
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Dr Roy Palmer told Croydon Coroners’ Court today a notebook was found in Mr Shulver’s home with entries outlining a wish to kill himself.
July 11 2013 – Unknown Male – Belvedere
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) was called at 12.43 to Lullingstone Road to reports of a “critically injured” 22-year-old man.
Police attended the scene less than 15 minutes later as paramedics were trying to revive the unconsious man.
As well as the air ambulance, LAS sent a single responder in a car, an ambulance crew and a duty officer.
He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich by ambulance where he remains in a critical condition.
Police say they are not treating the incident as suspicious.
February 2015 – Unknown Female – Bexleyheath
Two policemen who rescued a “kicking and screaming” suicidal woman, who tried to jump off a footbridge onto the A2 in Bexleyheath, have been rewarded for their courage.
Back in February, Met Police were called to the woman, who had caused criminal damage to a building before fleeing the area.
PC Leighton Gill and PC Iain McAllen found her on the A2 footbridge, approached her and attempted to engage her in conversation.
At this point, a jogger ran onto the footbridge and the suicidal women climbed over the handrail, onto the road side of the bridge.
With her eyes closed, she leaned back towards the busy traffic below.The two officers sprinted towards the woman, realising she intended to jump.
PC Gill grabbed hold of the woman, but was also being pulled over the side of the handrail – as she continued to kick and scream. He and PC McAllen (above) continued to hold onto the woman, who was dangling over three lanes of fast-moving traffic, despite being at risk themselves.
The pair managed to wrestle her back to safety – and she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and taken in for hospital treatment.
Seeking help and recognising the issue
If you or anyone you know have been affected by these issues there is always help at hand.
PAPYRUS – papyrus-uk.org or call 01282 432555
Survivors of Bereavement (Sobs) 0870 2413337 sobs.admins.care4free.net
24 Hour Mental Health Urgent Advice Line 0800 330 8590
National Schizophrenic Fellowship helpline for Bexley 808 808 3333
Adult mental health services 020 36689490
CAMHS 020 3260 5200 Mind in Bexley 020 8303 5816 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Release the Pressure Campaign http://www.releasethepressure.uk 0800 107 0160
Samaritans 08457 909090 email email@example.com or contact 116 123
Mental Health Helpline 24/7 emotional support and advice for people in Kent 0800 107 0160
Cruse 0844 477 9400
Childline 0800 1111
HOPEline 0800 0684141 or text 07786 209697 if you are having suicidal thoughts or worried about someone committing suicide
What is Safe?
Safe is a youth-led project, which aims to raise awareness of mental health, reduce suicide breaking down, stigma, getting young people to talk about their feelings, recognise the danger signs and to seek support, if and when they need it. Safe was established in October 2011 in memory of James Naylor, a young man from Brenchley who tragically took his own life at the age of 23.
Starting from one committee made up of 6 young people in Tonbridge, Safe ran on a very small scale in a number of schools in Kent from 2012 until 2015. We took the learning from this and developed a new model of delivery which put resilience and peer mentoring at the forefront of Safe’s activities in schools. Subsequently over the last academic year Safe was funded by the Department of Education and successfully worked with 35 schools from Kent, Medway and East Sussex.
We are now in another exciting stage, offering even more flexibility by partnering directly with some schools and offering Safe funded via local councils to many others across Kent, Medway and in Bexley.
Our programme raises awareness of mental health issues among pupils, including the danger signs to look out for and challenges the stigmas around mental health. As part of the programme in some schools, we develop the skills of a number of students to become peer ambassadors and create safe environments in which young people feel able to talk about their feelings and seek help when they need it. In all schools, our youth workers deliver an assembly per school and between 10 & 20 sessions from a series of 20 PSHE related topics, as selected by each school.
Quotes from the 2015-2016 DofE Safe project;
“My 13 year old son opened up and talked to me about his feelings after your assembly. From what he described I think he is depressed. He lost his father to suicide last year but I thought he was doing okay. I was a little shocked to hear what is going on for him but I am really pleased he was brave enough to talk to me. I am really pleased this is happening in this school as I might not have known otherwise.” – Parent
“We have been privileged to be part of this project. The sessions have been of high quality, relevant and engaging for our young people. It has been an extremely valuable project and the Safe Ambassadors have been a real asset in taking things forward” – Ms C, Executive Principle
“It made me think about who I am…..” – Young person, year 8.
“You made it informative and got us involved” – Young person, year 7.
“I liked it being interactive and the videos” – Young person, year 9.
“I think it made people more aware of mental illness” – Young person, year 9.
Semicolon Project – Amy Bleuel
Project Semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel in 2013 as a tribute to her father, who died by suicide in 2003. Bleuel herself was subjected to abuse, rape, suffered a miscarriage, suffered from alcoholism and had five major suicidal attempts. Why a semicolon? It is explained that ‘a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.’
The mission – Within the belief that suicide is generally preventable, the mission of Project Semicolon is to help reduce the incidence of suicide in the world through connected community and the greater access to information and resources.
The semicolon manifested in both drawings and tattoos, becoming a sign of hope for those who struggle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The movement became prominent in early July 2015 and people began to upload photographs of their own semicolon tattoos through social media to support the project. Selena Gomez tattooed a semicolon onto her wrist to commemorate the premiere of 13 Reasons Why. Apparently other cast members Alisha Boe and Tommy Dorfman also have these tattoos.
There is a book due to be released in September 2017, published by HarperCollins entitled Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over.
My daughter has a semicolon tattoo.
Amy Bleuel died on 23 March 2017, aged 31; the cause of death was ruled as suicide.
Research completed having looked closely at the individual subjects chosen I started to think about how I would like to tell their story. On looking closely at Joel Sternfeld’s book, most of the images were taken in flat dull lighting conditions, presumably to match the sombre subject matter. Despite suicide and mental health being a very serious issue most people interviewed after the death of a loved one wanted to remember and celebrate their lives. I made the decision that the images taken would hopefully reflect this, showing people using the spaces where these events happened as they should be, or if no-one present the lighting would be bright and sunny…all dependent on our climate!
Was interesting and a bit of a failure! Although I think I may use one of the images anyway… I wanted to create an ‘anonymous’ shot profile on of a young man, revealing some of his identity though to show how we know people but don’t always see everything. School has a lighting set up and I asked if I could borrow it. However the day I had free didn’t coincide with the day that the art tech could be there and show me how to use the flash set up etc, the backdrop is in need of replacing so was a bit rickety, I played with using barn doors on the lights but that gave too much spread, I swapped to a snoot but that was too small and produced too directed a light. So I tried experimenting, and failed, with getting the remote flash to work, so ended up with a higher ISO than wanted, aranging my subject so the light was not directly behind and gave the rim lighting I kind of wanted. This involved tripping over desks as there wasn’t anyone around to help me move them all… all the things that GOOD organisation irons out. I would like to try studio lighting again and hopefully with someone who knows what they are doing and can teach me. Despite using a blue filter the daylight coming through the red blinds gave some of the images a red tinge but these I could fix in RAW, although I would have preferred to have them correct in camera. At least I pushed my boundaries and experimented with a different technique.
First and only edit as there weren’t THAT many decent shots!
These are the two that made the cut and may get used…
And this may be the one to use.
Keeping all the subjects and locations very local enabled me to capture and visit several different places on the same day..also meant I could take advantage of having a sunny day. Although the weather has been kind in that respect this year.
Usual pre-shoot checks…clean lens, cleared card, full battery, different lenses or zoom lens to allow for different perspectives. All shots taken in natural daylight and handheld.
Unsure of the format I will use for my final book I took images both landscape and portrait and with the possibility of being able to crop in either direction or even square.
Second edit whittled down to these:
Final choices were :
Was to mop up some more of the venues or places associated with the narrative I want to tell. Taken with natural daylight a mix of handheld and tripod. Used my 24-70 lens and used different vantage points and focal lengths to obtain the final shots I wanted.
The eagle-eyed will spot the label phootshoot not photoshoot!
Final images chosen to edit
Just in my garden…natural light handheld.
After looking closer cropping rotating etc I whittled it down to two images one to possibly crop.
For this shoot I had to wait for dusk/evening, the plan was to use a tripod and my 100mm macro lens. However by the time I had set up and sorted myself out it had got a little too dark for me to see what I was doing, plus a breeze had sprung up. I was attempting to capture a candle and it was rather tricky. I therefore moved into my gazebo, set up on a table and used a couple of spot lights! Not what I had intended to do at all…
So I did a re-shoot the next day, complete with windbreaks and a large reflector to stop the candle from blowing out or guttering and better light to work in. An overcast day did mean lovely diffused light with no harsh shadows. Second edit produced these to choose from:
and final image chosen before editing…
All contact sheets have been annotated with decision as to why the final images were selected and others dismissed. These are in my physical learning log. Editing/selecting was carried out in Adobe Bridge using the star rating system.
Sample of annotated contact sheets
Before I chose a certain size or shape for the book layout I had to see if I could crop all my images to the same size and shape for visual coherency. The answer was I couldn’t. I quite liked the idea of square shots before I started out but quickly dismissed this as I needed wider landscape style shots for many of my photographs. I did shoot some portrait and whilst I was pleased with some of the compositions I did not want to have a mix of landscape and portrait. I then experimented with crops in Photoshop. Whilst some worked 8×10, the wider images such as the bridge or Danson Park cropped aspects from the sides I wanted. The other extreme cropping 16×9 also failed to give a complete composition. It could be that other shots may work better with these sizes, but I chose to keep the original ratio the photographs were taken with.
I then looked through many of the books I have to see how to place the image on a page.
Books containing many artists use a mix of borders, full bleed and several images to a page eg Crazy Photography edited by Diane Routex.
As seen in the video above Joel Sternfeld has information on the left-hand side, image on the right with a white border around the image.
In Guantanamo If The Light Goes Out, Edmund Clarke has produced a large book which covers the need for portrait, landscape and pages of multiple images.
Joel Meyerowitz by Colin Westerbeck also has a mixed presentation. The pages are large enough for a complete portrait image to appear on the whole right-hand page, some landscape shots a small and fit on the right-hand side with large white negative space above and below. Other landscape shots cross the gutter filling the whole right-hand page and about 1/3 of the left. These are not full bleed and still have a small white border.
Genesis by Sebastião Salgado goes across the gutter for a double page spread with his landscape shots. Not all these crops are the same ratio. He uses a mix of landscape and portrait, the portrait images having a blank page opposite. All images have a white border.
Despite seeing many examples of books where orientation etc was mixed I decided to keep my images all the same size and shape.
Information or not?
Having many books and attending several talks there is a mix of opinions as to whether information should be included or whether the photographs should speak for themselves or the audience allowed to tell it’s own narrative. Some of the time I believe this is down to the narrative being told and if a book is there to inform as well as make people question. The latest talk I attended (which has yet to be written up) was very interesting as it was a Magnum talk questioning: How can you capture a story in just one image, and how does narrative unfurl in a long-term photographic project? This talk featured Patrick Zachmann and Matt Stuart.
Patrick Zachmann is a great believer in adding information to his books as is Joel Sternfeld.
In conclusion I have decided to produce a landscape orientated book and keep all my images in the same ratio. I think this will be better as the ‘publication’ is only of 10 images and too much variations would not provide visual coherence. I also think I will have images on the right with a small amount of information or maybe a quote on the left-hand side.
A pdf version of the book is here, but explanations for each image can be found below.
I shall complete the Assignment 3 write up on a separate page so that all the research and thought processes are not with the final result.
Book cover – front
None of my images really sum up the mental health issues that many people suffer from. I chose this image as the front cover for several reasons:
It shows 2 paths. People have to make a decision as to whether or not they are going to seek help, hide their feelings away and ultimately take their own lives.
The title of the book, ‘With This in Mind’ makes you wonder how someone could be in a place of tranquility and natural beauty and consider ending their life, that they visit these places with suicide in mind, taking items to help meet this end.
The green/brown negative space of the foreground allows for the use of white text.
This has a two line quote from The Suicide, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay which I felt particularly apt. The second page then has some pertinent information with regards to suicide and mental health statistics in Kent.
This image was taken to show the hidden/anonymous nature of mental health, how we only get half the picture, with people not always revealing everything to us. It also has the attached narrative of the high percentage of males affected. I used staged documentary here which I had second thoughts about as most of my other images are more ‘true’ documentary shots, taken on location/candids. However, I have included it as it shows my experimentation of other photographic techniques and equipment – I look forward to feedback as to whether or not it works as part of the whole.
I chose this image nest as I wanted to tell the story of teen suicide in Kent. My initial photo-shoot did not work so I did it again the following day. I did have an alternative portrait orientation shot in my edits that I liked the composition of better, but overruled it in favour of keeping the landscape imagery. Jamie was a BETHS student who is remembered via a trust set up in his name and fund-raising events are still organised 3 years on. I chose to use a lighted candle in response to a concert called ‘Into the Light’. This was another staged image but I felt it worked within the context of the narrative, I wanted other element’s within the frame to add to Jamie’s narrative, the passion flower behind to tell of his passion for art and music, the colour of the roses reflecting his favourite colour.
Continuing the theme of teen suicides my next spread is with regards to Wilmington Grammar school boy Reece Burrowes who sadly hanged himself in Danson Park. I chose this image of the rainbow splash park as it reveals how people carry on with their day to day lives, unaware of the people around them or events that may have occurred in a certain place. I like the action in the centre of the arch, the parent engaged with her child on the right and the parent disengaged to the left. I also like the rainbow as it signifies hope.
Dan Spencer was another young man, aged only 22, when he took his own life. Despite much familial support and some medical intervention he still saw no future. I felt the body language of this young man slumped on a tree stump, probably innocently waiting for friends, summed up the despair sometimes felt.
Some victims are found and never identified by the police or if they are the inquest is not as highly written about. A body was discovered hanged in Bostall Heath in Abbey Wood which is a popular place for families and dog walkers. This image was taken again for several reasons: to show how people continue to use these beauty spots, how the victims, no matter what age, were once someone’s child, the motion blur of the running child full of life juxtaposes the mental image of the stillness of death.
Bostall Heath and Bostall Woods straddles a few geographical areas, and several bodies have been found there. This image was used to show the choices/paths people chose to take. The brightness of the sunshine a contrast to the dark despair suicide victims feel. The tranquility of the scene juxtaposes the turmoil they must feel.
This image was next as it links into the anonymity of the reported victims yet introduces the idea of female sufferers. The stairs leading up signify another route to be taken or avoided. I particularly liked the effect of one side being urban, with the other leafy and green. I deliberately used a slow shutter speed in order to capture motion blur of the traffic to convey the sense of rapidly moving traffic and inherent danger. The red lorry stands out against the green background, with red also signifying danger.
Jean Gerlack was 67 when she died. An open verdict was recorded after she was seen to tumble from the top of the Broadway Shopping Centre car park. Carrying forward the narrative of female victims this next image also introduces the idea of hidden statistics. Not all suicides are recorded as such due to the age of the person or lack of evidence. The scene is of the place where she fell, and shows how people continue to walk on by, completely oblivious to what this site means to others. I had the pleasure of working with Jean many years ago in the City.
Initially this looks a very strange shot to include as you can’t actually see what it is supposed to be. However, this is where you can find Mind in Bexley! I took several shots some from a distance, some closer up, but decided to use this shot as it is completely ironic. Mind in Bexley and other organisations are desperately trying to highlight the growing concern over mental health issues in Kent, yet here they are, the blue painted building, totally hidden away down a grotty little alleyway between two shops! I like the cracks in the render of the other building which represents the cracks in peoples’ lives, the brick wall to the left which signifies the brick walls we sometimes face when trying to overcome emotional hurdles, whilst the alleyway reveals yet another path to tread before we get help.
The final spread completes the narrative, that there is hope out there, that people will continue their lives and not use that final full-stop. The subtleness of the tattoo passes unnoticed by those who do not know the significance; a semicolon meaning the author has decided to not end the sentence, the person their life. I deliberately left the person blurred and in the background as I wanted the semicolon to be the focus point; achieved by using a shallow depth of field. I felt a full facial portrait would detract from the small symbol on her wrist and any expression, smiling/sad/pensive/defiant would override the message. The subject lying down and sunbathing suggests she is at peace and temporarily stress free.
Short bit of blurb re the contents of the book, final image shows the rainbow signifying hope, The green grass and trees also allow for the use of text, which being white, matching the front cover, can be seen.
I have been personally affected by this topic in many ways and wanted to make a narrative out of it, which I feel I have achieved. The order of the images flow to introduce different people who are affected by suicide or mental health issues and the locations/circumstances. Hopefully it will raise awareness that people are not alone in their struggle. The visual story has characters, developments and both resolution/non resolution. Whilst some of the individual images may not convey the issue in their own right I believe that as a complete body of work, combined with the minimal captions, they are effective.
Previous research in completing other coursework, page layouts, magazine spreads etc, certainly helped with some of my decision making, as well as looking through the many photo-books I own.
Self-evaluation Assessment Criteria:
Technical and Visual Skills
As per the brief I used a variety of lenses, 24-70mm a 50mm and 100mm macro lens. I took more traditional street/documentary images as well as some more staged; experimenting with a studio setup, snoots and rim lighting. Images were taken at different times of the day, although my main intention was to capture bright sunny day lit shots I did not want to limit my photographic opportunities.
Where appropriate, I used selective use of shallow depth of field, but with the majority of shots I wanted to obtain as much visual information in focus as possible. I also used different shutter speeds depending on if I wanted to freeze the action or use motion blur to add a sense of life or danger.
On the whole some shots were pre-visualized, but I was aware of different elements or circumstances that may have cropped up in the locations and shot accordingly, looking out for other symbols and signifiers.
My visual awareness is further demonstrated by the variety of photo essay shot styles: individual portrait, wide group shots, country and urban landscape, busy/tranquil scenes
Compositionally I looked for frames within frames, different vantage points, although in the editing process most of my final choices were taken from low crouching position, and I looked to fill the entire frame with visual interest from foreground to background with leading lines to take your eye around the frame. I especially learnt to watch the light carefully and wait for elements to come together, or shoot several frames one after the other in order for those elements to do so.
Quality of Outcome
One of the important lessons or ideas conveyed within this part of the course is the understanding of reflexivity and authorship – that a photographer could, through their own unique style or attitude to a subject, impose a narrative on real events, happening at the time or historically. It is hard to be objective with your own images, but I hope that my empathy to this subject comes across and that my visual ‘style’ is becoming apparent through these images.
Feedback on Assignment 1 recommended only one choice of presentational technique so I have applied that to keeping all my images the same size and landscape orientation. I have posted a link to my research page and whilst I have had about 40 visitors have received no peer feedback as yet. Maybe people are still on holiday?
As per my conclusion I wanted to convey the issues surrounding mental health and highlight the broad nature of its victims and the families and friends left behind who feel that loss. I wanted to get the message across that there is help out there for those in need. In researching the people and locations most of these images were pre-visualised, for a narrative that I had in mind. I was pleased that I was able to produce the shots I had in mind, although some did end up being slightly different, and hopefully include more narrative information/symbols than initially visualized.
Demonstration of creativity
Being a straight documentary subject I was unable to be as creative as in Assignment 2, and it was recommended that I shoot this assignment in a more traditional fashion. However, within the remit I felt there was room for experimentation, therefore used some staged documentary and a studio set up. Despite many of these images being captured rather than constructed, I could also be creative with depth of field and motion blur. Thinking about how to represent each of my subjects also allowed for me to consider the effects of lighting, time of day, busyness of the scene, juxtaposition and be creative with elements within the frame.
As ever jotting thought processes down, doing rough sketches and creating mindmaps are all beneficial tools.
As with the previous assignments I tried to apply knowledge gained from the exercises as well as independent research. At each stage of this shoot I have reflected on whether the images told the narrative I wanted to and would they make a coherent body of work. Looking at the work of others, who have covered similar topics, and how they captured images helped me to choose the style that I wanted to use: Joel Sternfeld’s images came across as very sombre and Donna Wan’s too romantic. The disparity between the different approaches really underlined the individual subjectivity, reflexivity and authorial control of each photographer and how they used their photographic style to create a mood and put across their interpretation of a narrative.
Making sure I knew the background stories to the people I was representing in an image was vitally important. Hopefully my final set of images convey a sense of place as they are now, of choices people can make, of mood and atmosphere without being political, romantic, or depressive.
The photography talks I attended make me think more of the appropriateness of captions and how much information to include.
Context and Narrative is proving to be a very useful book in providing answers or making you think about implied meaning, and even if capturing the ‘obvious,’ including other subtle signs and symbols as well. The David Campbell lecture also highlighted various aspects to consider such as a narrative being an account of connected events, which my images are. His quote from Allen Feldman: “the event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated” made me realise that I could choose a subject that was ‘in the past’ and did not have to be a live event. Taking into account that ‘things can speak louder than faces’ I only have one real portrait shot.
The suggested body of work Tsunami Sidewalk by Chris Steele Perkins gave an insight to how documentary can be presented in a different way yet still have visual coherence.
Barthes, R (2000). Camera Lucida. London: Vintage Books. 96.
Short, M. (2011) Basics creative photography 02: Context and narrative. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA.
Sontag, S. (2008). On photography. London: Penguin Books.
Donna J Wan http://www.donnajwan.com/death-wooed-us-1/
Joel Sternfeld http://www.joelsternfeld.com/
Information printed out and full details entered in physical learning log from:
The Telegraph and Argus
Kent Live News