Negotiated photography project

This journal entry is an ongoing living and breathing document that details the progress of my 'negotiated photography project' up until the point of submission to the university later in the year. Thereafter, it will become a record of how I produced a body of photographic work in accordance with the specifics of a university project.


Research Practical

Yesterday I conducted a test shoot using my 4x5 large format camera, shooting 2 sheets of expired Kodak Ektachrome 64 film (only one of which is seen below), and one fresh sheet of Kodak Portra 400. My results are mixed.

I shot figure 76 by first framing the shot and then placing a whisky bottle on the table, to be able to pre-focus, approximately, where my leg would be. Using an aperture of 5.6 at 1/15s, I primed the lens; removed the dark slide; removed the whisky bottle; and while holding the shutter release cable, stood on the table; then exposed my shot.

I decided to try the fresh Portra film (figure 77) in case the expired Ektachrome film didn't work out. In my haste, I took note of the position of the table and moved it out of the way before standing where it had been, then exposed the shot. In hindsight, I should have reframed and refocused the shot first. As you can see from figure 77, it's out-of-focus for the most part. A stupid error but one I hopefully won't make again. I also note that I will need to adjust the rear of the camera to be level with the subject; as the camera is pointed downward, only a thin sliver is in focus.

I also note rubber band markings on the negatives, which can be seen running vertically in these images, results from the 'taco method' of sheet film development, even though the emulsion side was facing inward and had no direct contact with the band. I've read that using hair bands circumvents this issue so will try that next time.

I also researched whether I could get my large format lenses to sync with my flash lights, and I can! I searched online and found out how, so my next step will be to do a second round of test shooting to see what light settings I'll require. I'll first test on my DSLR replicating the same film speed with the aim of establishing a suitable shutter and aperture for the large format lens, before then shooting a properly focused sheet of film, probably in black and white, as it suits this purpose, and saves the pennies. Once successful, I'll keep record of my settings and then proceed with colour film again.

Figure 76.
A expired sheet of Ektachrome 64 film shot, developed and scanned. Exposed at 1/8s, ISO 64, developed for 30 seconds longer than recommended. Despite having expired in 1989, it seems to only have a slight yellow tinge variation to it.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 77.
A terrible photograph that is out-of-focus with an unpleasing combination of natural light (left-hand-side) and artificial light (right-hand-side). Though the colours are great.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

As my thoughts continue to evolve, I've noted some ideas down for possible props that could accompany the portraits (figure 74) while the work of Annelie Vandendael inspires (figure 75).

Figure 74.
Some props listed that might accompany my shoot.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 75.
Portraits by Annelie Vandendael inspire for their creativity.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration

I encountered some wonderful work by photographer Ren Hang who produced this series of portraits. I like the simplicity in subject, lighting and backdrop, something that I'm aiming for with this project. I plan to begin test shooting soon.

Figure 73.
Portraits by photographer Ren Hang.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration

Today I visited the Tate Modern to view their permanent collection of Daido Moriyama work. I also encountered some portraits by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel and another by Zanele Muholi

Figure 66.
Portrait by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 67.
Portrait by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 68.
Portrait by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 69.
A collection of Daido Moriyama's work.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 70.
A collection of Daido Moriyama's work.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 71.
A collection of Daido Moriyama's work.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 72.
Only Half the Picture by Zanele Muholi.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Thoughts & Ideas

Some workbook notations exploring my thoughts on conceptual approach and why/what I'm trying to convey with this project (figure 64) while thoughts on how the images might be presented in a gallery space (figure 65).

Figure 64.
Notes on my evolving concept. The project should be representative of me.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 65.
Presentation ideas crudley sketched out, where I envisage my portrait-aspect photos divided into thirds.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration

More inspiration in the form of three portraits I've encountered recently. Nakedness and colour, post-photography creative working and powerful composition are the key elements I take from these.

Figure 61.
The strong bold colours and naked figure are striking. Artist unknown.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 62.
The creative use of post-production artistic license overlayed onto the portrait is also quite striking. Artist unknown.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 63.
A Constructivist photo from the Red Star Over Russia exhibition brings ideas of tight composition and differing angles.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration

Seated portraiture paintings for inspiration.

Figure 58.
Seated Nude 1939, by William Scott.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 59.
Return from the Market 1953, by André Fougeron.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 60.
Jean Cocteau 1916, by Amedeo Modigliani.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

I discovered photographer Amy Luo and her series Stills from Lens Culture's Exposure Awards 2017, some of which can be seen in figures 56 and 57. I think to myself if I can get by using plain backgrounds or whether I need something more, like textured backdrops and detailed objects.

Figure 56.
Stills by Amy Luo - a series of indoor portraits displaying what I feel is a sense of solitude.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 57.
More of Stills by Amy Luo - an inspirational body of work.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas Practical

Yesterday, I managed to head back to Process Supplies and pick up a suitable thermometer (and also a 1200ml measuring cylinder and extra drying clips), so today I just attempted my first C41 colour film development. The trickiest part was first getting the developer to the correct temperature then maintaining that. They're currently drying so we'll see when I scan them, but if these comes out well, I'll be developing my own C41 colour film for the project! Exciting times.

I've also further developed my thinking around the test shots that I've done so far, notes in figure 53, while further inspiration for my self-portrait route is detailed in figure 52. I hope to introduce some fun into this body of work.

Figure 52.
Some inspiration for my self-portraits from Edwin Wurm and Thomas Ruff bring a sense of the atypical, in the form of silliness and humour.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 53.
An evaluation of my three format approaches thus far - Polaroid instant film, medium-format and large-format .
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 54.
These workbook sketches illustrate ideas for my self-portraits, and also notes on how to execute them with a production line style approach, switching props in and out.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

With this inspiration in mind, I also conducted a quick test (as quick as setting up a 4x5 camera can be) to see what a double exposure might look like. My light meter gave me a reading of 1s at f8 so I halved that to 1/2s and shot the scene twice, the first time with me in it, the second with just the empty scene. It's definitely something I'll try a few more times.

A black and white double-exposure photograph shot on large format camera in a 5x4 aspect ratio. The scene is a home office with the ghostly sillhouette of a man sat in an office chair, leaning over his desk.
Figure 55.
A development issue aside, where I accidentally allowed ambient light to leak in after placing the negative in the Patterson development tank (along the top), I shot a quick and dirty 5x4 double exposure to see how this might look. I'm happy with it so might investigate multiple exposures further.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Practical

I picked up some 1 litre Winchester bottles from Process Supplies today, so now I can mix and store my C41 chemicals that I took delivery of the other day. I planned to do that tonight but discovered my thermometer only goes to 30 degrees Celsius, whereas I need my chemistry at 38 degrees Celsius. I'll need to find another one.

Figure 50.
My new Winchester bottles!
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 51.
My new C41 chemicals, awaiting mixing!
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas Practical

I ordered a C41 home development kit today, a Fuji Hunt C41 X-Press 5L Kit, so I can learn to develop colour film at home, should arrive early next week. This is so I can shoot and develop my own colour films for the project, removing the inevitable delay in waiting for a lab to develop, not to mention the hassle in dropping off and collection of my film. Longer term cost effectiveness should also help keep costs down.

I also noted my recent idea about producing a self-published booklet or zine of the resulting photography from this project. My ideas are to make three copies, all self-produced on the cheap and assembled myself and left about London, signed, dated and numbered - ending up in the bin probably ...

Figure 49.
Workbook writings detailing my ordering of C41 chemicals to start developing my own colour film. I also made notes detailing my thoughts on producing a zine, of sorts, at the end of it all, with examples by Jason Larkin's Platinum and Edward Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas Practical

I visited the Flowers Gallery today to see the an exhibition called Dark Line - The Thames Estuary by Nadav Kander. I wanted to see this because his work along the river is both mystical and intriguing and aligns with my own thoughts around shooting self-portraits in places of isolation. His work is very good, obviously.

I find the crop very interesting as it creates a sense of uniqueness, given the subject has been shot before. He also appears to break each image into three vertical slices, removing the middle slice, which can be seen to good effect in figure 39 and 40. His apparent use of early and late light with longer exposures seems to be what gives the quality to this body of work. He presents the work alongside found items which are displayed in pools of water with minimal lighting to highlight the object within (figure 41).

Figure 39.
Nadav Kander's work in the series Dark Line - The Thames Estuary.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 40.
Nadav Kander's work in the series Dark Line - The Thames Estuary.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 41.
Nadav Kander's work in the series Dark Line - The Thames Estuary.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 42.
Nadav Kander's work in the series Dark Line - The Thames Estuary.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

I also finally managed to get out and use a working Polaroid camera today. I wandered around the Bethnal Green area and built up the courage to ask strangers if I could photograph them, and below are the results. On reflection, I like them, they have an imperfect quality to them but I'm not sure others will appreciate them. Perhaps I'll leave them and come back to them in a few days to see if they grab me and what thoughts I might have about how to take this approach forward. I managed to shoot only four people so will need to build on this to get a better feel for the approach regardless.

I'd be interested to see what my tutor thinks about these. I feel as though they're not as strong as the medium format black and white shots I've done already, but they do have something about them. Speaking of which, I need to build on that content using colour negatives, which I think will make that approach a strong contender for taking forward.

I need to revisit my concept and focus less on the format too.

Figure 43.
My first Polaroid test shot - Andy.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 44.
Andy volunteered himself for more poses.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 45.
His manoeuvres gave me some fleeting ideas on positioning my subject.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 46.
My second Polaroid test shot - another Andy, who I was passing in the street.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 47.
My third Polaroid test shot - Muhamed, a bar tender.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 48.
My fourth Polaroid test shot - Richard, a photographer.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Practical

Today I scanned the negatives I developed yesterday and shot on the 22nd November, and I can see that the idea isn't really coming together yet. The large background subject distracts from the main focus, the person (me). Though I do like the two-tone colours of the jacket and jeans contrasting with the background tones. I don't like the fact my clothes have creases which is accentuated by the natural light. The composition with the model to the right, the upward sloping ground and my arm out to the right holding the shutter release cable all don't quite work on reflection.

Proceeding from here, my initial thoughts are that I need to consider the attire I'd wear, a more centred composition and a more refined pose. I think crucially, I'd also need to shoot locations that better suit, perhaps superimposing a second exposure of myself in post-production, but I don't think this is where I want to go with this body of work. Hmmm ...

Some more thought needed.

Figure 38.
One of the developed 4x5 negatives from my first proper on location test shoot. Objectively speaking, it's OK, but doesn't really shout anything.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Practical

I developed 2 of the 6 large format negatives I'd shot on the 22nd November using Ilfosol 3 developer. The work had been shot on Ilford HP5 400 for cost and ease-of-development reasons, for quicker evaluation than if they'd been shot in colour, not to mention far greater costs. The development process went well with the negatives coming up really nicely which is always a bonus. I'd developed plenty of medium format and 35 mm negatives before, even 8x10 negatives, but these were the first at the 4x5 size I'd ever shot and developed.


Practical

My Polaroid camera arrived yesterday so I headed out to do some test shots with a cartridge of Polaroid Originals Color 600 Film around Kings Cross. I ended up around Saint Pancras and Pentonville mostly. I took along my Hasselblad for good measure to further develop that avenue but only ended up with one more shot that I figured might work, pending development of the film. I also found that my new Polaroid was faulty - it wouldn't eject any film and then sporadically did so only after collapsing it down and opening it back up. Whatever the issue was, the first four frames didn't appear to have been exposed to light during that hiccup. I'd only discovered the issue after asking a woman in the street if she wouldn't mind me taking her photograph. I explained my project and what I was doing, and she was kind enough to follow my instructions. Thankfully she was patient but as the problem with the Polaroid persisted, I let her go on her way. Later in the afternoon, the last four frames did expose and eject fine, but I was making arrangements to have the camera swapped.

It was also very cold, so I ended up in a few pubs to compensate ... no real progress made today.

Figure 37.
Four blank negatives and four exposed negatives from my first cartridge of Polaroid Originals Color 600 Film.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Thoughts & Ideas Practical

Figure 35.
Workbook notes on how I might continue the large format avenue - setting up on location and asking if passing strangers wouldn't mind having their photos taken.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 36.
A note (on the left) on a product to consider after researching a little about developing my own colour film, should I end up pursuing that route with this project. It will help keep development costs down.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Today I scanned the medium format negatives I'd developed yesterday (Fomapan 100) and the pic of the bunch are here to see. I like them. What I gain from reviewing these is, that although I think they're good, I probably need to try shooting more with people looking directly at the lens to build that connection between subject and reader. It's something to investigate as I believe it will make the work better. We'll see.

I enjoyed shooting these particular photographs as I'd built up a rapport of sorts with the subjects I shot. I've had a fear probably common to many photographers, and that's approaching and photographing strangers, but on this outing, it came naturally and these kind folks all consented. It's a nice step in my personal development as a photographer.

I wonder, should I shoot in colour? And should it be colour negatives or positives? I think colour will bring something extra to this work if I end up pursuing it. On a side note, really pleased with the Fomapan film.

Figure 31.
Tiarne, 24 Nov 2017
Red Lion Street
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 32.
Adam, 24 Nov 2017
Red Lion Square
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 33.
Nick, 24 Nov 2017
Eagle Street
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 34.
Avtar, 24 Nov 2017
Corner of St. Cross Street and Hatton Garden
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Thoughts & Ideas

Thoughts and notes on my evolving concept - with less of a focus on East End 'people', and instead, just 'people'.

Figure 30.
Musings jotted down in my workbook about the concept at hand. What am I trying to shoot?
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Research Inspiration

I chanced upon a photographer called Robert Doisneau in a second-hand bookstore in the West End today. The book contains a wonderful series of portraits and general street scenes. I liked his work immediately, particularly in the context of photographing people as a subject matter.

Figure 25.
A great family portrait makes up the front cover of Robert Doisneau's book.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 26.
A portrait of a woman and her dogs. It contains a wonderful series of portraits and general street scenes.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 27.
A wonderfully casual and vulnerable shot.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 28.
Great tonal range and subject matter.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Doisneau's work reminded me of August Sander's Face of Our Time and so I dug out my copy to take it in again.

Figure 29.
August Sander's Face of Our Time is a magnificent work I derive inspiration from.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

Today I visited the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and later visited Austin Desmond Fine Art gallery to see some works by Keith Vaughan entitled On Pagham Beach, Photographs and Collages from the 1930s, for inspiration.

I wanted to see portraiture styles by other photographers I wasn't necessarily familiar with and so Keith Vaughan's work fitted that bill perfectly, as did the finalists to the Taylor Wessing exhibition. The photograph below of monochrome head and shoulders (figure 19), with tight focus, almost profile, makes great use of directional lighting.

Figure 19.
A head and shoulders portrait by Keith Vaughan on display in the Austin Desmond Fine Art gallery.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 20.
A full body nude portrait by Keith Vaughan on display in the Austin Desmond Fine Art gallery.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 21.
A portrait by Catherine Hyland from her series Wait-and-See Pudding with Patience Sauce, on display at the National Portrait Gallery while the Taylor Wessing prize shows.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 22.
Owen Harvey's series entitled Skins & Suedes, on display at the National Portrait Gallery while the Taylor Wessing prize shows.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 23.
'Padding, 16, Irish Traveller, Liverpool' by photographer Craig Easton from his series Sixteen, on display at the National Portrait Gallery while the Taylor Wessing prize shows.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 24.
'BEAR' Brown from the series In Trump Country by photographer Richard Beaven, on display at the National Portrait Gallery while the Taylor Wessing prize shows.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Practical

I ventured out to get a few test shots at a location along the Thames that I'd decided on beforehand. I'd also been sure to check the tide times to make sure I'd be visiting at low tide.

I took along three film dark slides so I could capture 5 shots (I'd exposed one already at home) and made use of all, trying some slightly different poses to see what might work best.

Figure 18.
A snap of my 4x5 large format camera on location for my first test shoot.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Thoughts & Ideas

Figure 17.
Workbook notes detailing my attempts to refine my concept.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

My notebook entry details thoughts on location and subject, such as Hyde Park to capture people walking their dogs, and Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath for portraits with city scape backdrops.


Practical

Today I scanned in the Fuji Instax films I shot yesterday. They're very soft but as expected from a plastic lens. The film has a lovely colour quality but overall not best suited to enlarging given how soft everything all is.

Figure 15.
A passing portrait of two men while wandering Soho.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 16.
A portrait from behind as two men pass by.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Research Inspiration Practical

I visited the Instant Stories. Wim Wenders' Polaroids exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery today. I wanted to explore my concepts around portraiture using less-common mediums and so the Polaroid format immediately came to mind with this and in research photographer Dash Snow for my studies.

Today I also purchased a Lomo camera as a cheaper alternative to a Polaroid. This camera uses Fuji Instax brand instant film, also cheaper than both Polaroid Originals film and Impossible Project film. I went for a wander through Soho to do a test shoot after visiting The Photographers' Gallery. Updates soon, once I scan those in.

Figure 11.
A portrait by Wim Wenders shot on Polaroid film.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 12.
A series of street scenes by Wim Wenders.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 13.
A series of closeup shots of a man's face.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 14.
A street scene by Wim Wenders.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe

Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

I gained some more inspiration around possible locations after seeing Brooklyn Bridge, New York by Walker Evans.

Figure 10.
Setting up my large format camera on location.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Research Thoughts & Ideas

My workbook notes further exploring ideas around concept and the use of equipment. I'd discovered work by photographer Jason Lee where he used large format Polaroid film. I also came across a Kickstarter campaign that catered to the use of Fuji Instax film in Hasselblad 500 series cameras backs.

My researched Polaroid films and Fujifilm FP-100C instant film before deciding to look into Fuji Instax film further.

Figure 9.
Notes detailing possible equipment and creative approaches to my project.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

I've begun to research some location ideas for my self-portrait concept. I used Google Maps and my own knowledge to narrow down my ideas of areas that might suit the large-format setup, without getting in the way of other people, in turn allowing me to shoot in peace.

Figure 8.
Notes in my workbook documenting location ideas, and an image for inspiration from photographer Nico Goodden.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

I've evolved my thoughts around the concept slightly (figure 6) as well as had ideas on composition and the use of format - either large or medium (figure 7).

Figure 6.
Notes documenting evolving thought around my self-portrait concept - a photographic study of anxiety and isolation.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe
Figure 7.
These notes detail further thought on how to shoot the self-portrait concept, with reference to a Robert Mapplethorpe photo. The use of an extra-long shutter release cable would allow me to execute the shots needed.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Thoughts & Ideas

My workbook details an idea around how I would compose and focus a shot for my self-portrait concept, including a sketch on how I envisage this to look and the use of large format.

Figure 5.
Workbook notes on an idea for how to execute a shot.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

Thoughts & Ideas

Figure 4.
Mind-mapped notes in my workbook detail my very initial thoughts.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.

I noted some initial thoughts around potential subject matter, location and format for discussion with my tutor and for later contemplation. These include shooting at locations in London, either a fine-art or documentary approach, in analogue and with a focus on people - either other people or self-portraiture.


Research Inspiration Thoughts & Ideas

I went to see Thomas Ruff: Photographs 1979-2017 at the Whitechapel Gallery today. Seeing the exhibition has helped me to start formulating ideas around what I might do for with this body of work. I took photographs of the work and of the descriptions to refer back to later, some of which are below.

Figure 1.
Thomas Ruff shot portraits of his friends for this body of work. I really admire the uniform approach he's undertaken, and composition used.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 2.
A work called Houses by Ruff in which he photographed buildings in Düsseldorf between 1950s-70s.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.
Figure 3.
A piece called Press++ in which Ruff took press proof images and blended the notations and markings from the reverse side onto them.
Photo by: Evan Skuthorpe.