Produce a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings. Complete parts 1 & 2 of the assignment and upload the finished images to your learning log together with a short reflection (500 – 1000 words) on your motivations, references and methods for both parts of the assignment.
Use traditional cut and paste techniques (scissors/scalpel and glue) to produce a series of simple montages using elements from two to five original or found photographs. These can be found images and/or images that you have shot yourself. Re-photograph your finished photomontages and present the work in your learning log as a digital file.
I have taken my ‘immediate surroundings’ to include my home where there are 2 photograph albums left to me by my father when he died. They hold images of his beloved Florence all taken by unknown photographers, except one which has the Alinari Brothers’ stamp printed on the reverse. All the photographs are old &, judging by the scarcity of people in them and the dress worn by the few that were photographed, were probably taken at the end of the 19th Century. I have stayed in Florence many times and have visited the museum of the Alinari Brothers and know that it still prints their photographs and that it still holds all rights to the property. For this reason, I have not used the image which has the stamp on the back. Also in the albums are several prints of etchings done of Florence from medieval times to 17th Century, all but one undated, but printed by L’Universo in 1940.
Guiding my thinking has been the work and thinking of two main photographers: Rachel Smith and Lilly Lulay as well as the m.o. of Daniel Gordon. Lulay’s work “Mindscapes” focuses on trying to represent realities which a camera cannot access, namely her mind, while Smith makes us consider how we evaluate the materiality of images. Part one of this assignment is concerned precisely with how we physically reconstruct an image and so the digital representation of it cuts that aspect out of how the viewer interacts with it. Part 2 of the assignment deals only with digital representation and interaction so it is less of a hindrance to the viewer’s perception of it.
What struck me on looking at the images I had was the absolute mathematical and rational aspects of the layout and the architecture of the city. In the etchings, there are examples of the landscape outside the city and that too is controlled with a mathematical precision to the nth degree. I know that there is beauty in the aesthetics of mathematical formulae and geometry but I also believe that chaos theories exist and that not all people lead precise, ordered lives, and that there must be a Navajo rug design imperfection in how we structure our habitats and appreciate the world around us.
Image 1: Rational, mathematical Florence:
My first image reflects that hard, ordered and, to me, impersonal Florence revered by so many. I have photographed five images, some on to coloured card which I have cut out and stuck on to the base image like a stage set. This is to emphasise the man-made & orchestrated structure of the city which determines what its citizens do, where and when.
Image 1: Rational, ordered Florence:
Image 2: Reflecting on Florence:
The bridges in Florence have been important in the development of Florence as it is today. The base image is one of the photographs taken from the late 19th century, I imagine. The images under the bridge arches are reflections of Florence taken from the photographed etchings.
At the suggestion of a fellow photographer, I had thought of adding some graffiti rather than the references to historical Florence & this is what I came up with using found images on the internet:
I decided, however, that the connection was tenuous at best so went for my original idea:
Image 2: Reflecting on Florence
Image 3: Florence as seen then and now:
The graffiti idea stuck with me because you do see it everywhere and it represents the city’s users’ wish to leave a mark, to soften the geometric impositions that are all around them, I suspect. I was guided to this collage after I had seen, on the Photography Matters post uploaded recently by Gareth Dent, an article on Rachel Smith’s “The materiality of things.” In my case, the materiality involved refers to the tracing paper – a seeing through an image onto another and the two fuse into one creating a third and thereby illustrating the concept of the piece which is ‘seeing a city through history.’.
I used a base image taken from the Giotto fresco in the cathedral of Santa Croce and then printed the graffiti, reflecting the Duomo in Florence and tubes and cans of paint, on tracing paper. I have been using ink-jet tracing paper for my own projects lately and decided to try it on this image. I stuck the 2 images on my window (in the absence of a light table) and photographed it.
The first photograph of the collage with the 2 images stuck on a window:
I did not select this one because I felt it was too muddled.
Image 3: Florence as seen then and now
Strongly suggested are the eyes, featured in both images, which guide my thinking regarding Florence, and painting which is one of the cultural mainstays of the city.
Image 4: The absurd insistence on geometric precision:
Again representing the obsession with precision in architecture and city lay-outs, the images I have chosen reflect the imposed geometry in Florence. I have worked with a photo as a base and the photographed etchings as illustrations of the mathematical methodology in the construction of the city. I have used the collage work and concepts of Lilly Lulay’s Mindscapes to guide my work. Although in her collages she tries to visualise a space (in her mind) to which a camera does not have access, she states that her work offers ‘several different images and makes reference to multiple realities at the same time’ (1) as well as ‘visual fragments which are inserted, superimposed, partially hidden’ (1). I have attempted to do the same thing: but, instead of gluing down the whole fragment of a reality, I have made a concertina of the image and glued only part of it down. The concertina shows the repetition in the folds of the architectural structures (on the left) and that, even though I folded the paper randomly, the gardens too show that insistence on geometry which surrounds the people of florence. I have woven the cloud image through the carved marble columns to show the possibility of peace in an unstructured skyscape brought indoors. Instead of cutting the garden and sky images, I have torn them to indicate a rupture with the precision of scalpel or scissor cutting, reflecting my wish for freedom from precision.
The three images involved in this collage are:
Image 4: The absurd insistence on geometric precision
Image 5:Florence of my imagination
This collage was inspired by the video of Daniel Gordon – particularly the mess he works in, and the small structures with which he works.
I wanted to put together old and new, rational and Dada, construction and nature, materiality and imagination. The found images were taken from the internet and advertising catalogues.
The composition of the images leaning to the left goes contrary to the conventional dynamic lines leading from bottom left to top right of a landscape and should make the viewer want to rearrange it. Conventional Florence is absent.
From the internet:
The jeans and flowers were cut out from fashion and gardening adverts while putting them together was inspired by jeans used as planters I saw on a recent visit to Turkey:
Image 5:Florence of my imagination
Using digital montage techniques produce a digital montage using elements from a minimum of two and a maximum of five digital files. Use components that you have shot yourself rather than found images for this exercise.
I have selected an image of the Sacred Circle of monolithic rocks found under Great Mis Tor on Dartmoor in Devon. We discovered when we went to photograph it that many of the rocks had been destroyed. I don’t know what caused the rocks to break but it seems that, over the years, they have been used in target practice. In various places around the area there were spent gun shells which I have included in this montage to stand in for rocks which are no longer there. Five images make up this montage: one of the Sacred Circle and the others of the shells we found.
I am including a second montage because it reflects an experiment that I am trying out. When I was working with a particular image of Dartmoor trying to abstract the shapes I found in the image, I was aware suddenly that my dissatisfaction with landscapes stems from the idea that landscapes are not just visual concepts: there is sound which cannot be represented in a 2D photograph. My image, therefore, includes my experiment outcomes so far: I have used an iPhone app called Sonic Wire to recreate the birdsong I heard in that place, I then took a screenshot of the image I created & pasted it on the landscape with images of falling feathers following the lines of the song image. My ultimate goal is to record the birdsong and transfer it onto a 2d representation of it that is not conventional music notation.
What has worked and what hasn’t?
Seeing the collage work of Lilly Lulay, Sophie Shapiro and hearing Rachel Smith talking about the ‘Materiality of things’, really inspired me to do something on landscape collage that I had never tried before. The work of Peter Kennard pushed me to try something political and seeing his work physically was compelling. I enjoyed going on an experimental trip: I had no idea how I was going to use the images I had except that I knew I felt strongly about the imposed geometry of the landscape in Part 1. I was glad I had had a conversation with my photography friend about using graffiti. Is a concertina glued on a photo still considered a collaged photo? Is this part of the argument Rachel Smith refers to when she asks if we have to re-evaluate how we see and evaluate images? I feel that there is a progression in how the images developed and I have put them in the order in which they came to me. There is a development in the mood of the images: from deadly, mathematically serious, to irreverent fun.
What did not work?
The physical cutting was quite tricky when I saw how much detail showed in re-photographing the images. I had not sharpened the scalpel so the card was hacked rather than cut. Although I am pleased with how image 4 turned out , I am not sure that it meets the requirements of the exercise. I had forgotten the detail about being able to use my own images in this part, but I don’t think the outcome would have differed much.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, design and compositional skills:
If the physical image is to be considered under ‘Materials’, then I think the assessment would be good. The techniques too are good because they are varied; idem for my observational skills as I have considered a variety of sources for my collages. The design and compositions are varied and show my sensitivity to the effects I want to produce.
Quality of outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
I think my concepts of appearance vs realities have been communicated in the collages.
Demonstration of creativity: Imagination, experimentation , invention, development of a personal voice.
This entire exercise has been one of creativity and taking risks and I think I have shown that very well. The consistency of approach shows evidence of a personal voice emerging, although I’m neither a Peter Kennard nor a Lilly Lulay yet.
Context: reflection, research and an ability to analyse and synthesise my ideas:
I have shown evidence of research and reading around the subject and my collages are evidence of my ability to analyse my ideas and to synthesise them in concrete expressions of my concepts. I may, however, have to explain my workings in more detail.
- Links 12 – 23 on the OCA Student website.
A very good approach; the motivations clearly described with good explanations of the processes and the results evaluated with awareness.
You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.
I have included the above as the OCA template requires it.
Feedback on assignment
The quality of your creative thinking is progressing very well and you’ve produced some interesting work as a result. To get the most from it the quality of your technical presentation needs to support it so I’m going to concentrate on production in this report. The principals will be applicable going forward to we won’t need to repeat them once dealt with.
I’m attaching a PDF that covers some of the general concepts which here I shall apply particularly.
Students at Level 1 in particular are often dismissive of the need to work to the highest criteria from a technical point of view, their camera’s quite clever on auto and that should be good enough is their thinking but at Level 2 and 3 their work is going to be judged against some extremely technically adept students.
If the work is conceptually unsophisticated but technically accomplished then the technical brilliance isn’t going to count for much but the combination of technical brilliance and conceptual sophistication is going to put work that’s conceptually sophisticated but technically clumsy in the shade.
Those that have achieved Firsts have also been excellent technicians; in capturing, post production and printing.
It’s important to aim for the highest standards because that provides the highest quality of communication, both in terms of communicating the work and communicating the commitment and ability of the maker of the work to the assessors.
Above all being a person that’s acutely visually aware is what the visual arts are all about and the craft is part of that.
On to the actual work…
You seem to have satisfied yourself on the copyright issues so I make no mention of that.
I think it was an excellent progression of the brief to use this material and differentiate the layers with colouration. One is reminded of a shoebox peep show and it speaks of political machinations with the red Duomo looming over the intrigues of the citizens.
Technically the montage is as well put together as it needs to be to be effective; it doesn’t hinder the reading of the image.
However the ‘flat copy’, as such photographs of art work are called, could benefit from improvement.
The image is dark and lacking in contrast, meaning the eye doesn’t get the full physiological enjoyment from it. The eye prefers a fully tonally scaled image, i.e. one which runs from pure black to pure white, taking advantage of the full contrast range and thereby supplying the most information through the defining of individual tonal differences.
This is the Levels Histogram for this image…
There are 256 possible brightness values for pixels going from 0 black to 255 white.
In 95% of all cases we want the tones in our image to run from black to white so this is the first thing we do when we’ve chosen and image to use further. We examine the histogram and adjust the white point to the first significant pixel on the right and the black point to the first significant pixel on the left, then save.
In this case we already have pixels in the distribution at zero and our black point at zero, therefore our black point is black but our white point isn’t white it’s a light grey, we have to adjust our white point to 211 before the graph starts to rise significantly.
The image now looks like this…
The overall impression is brighter, the image is less dull and muddy but because it’s unevenly lit it’s still compromised, the darks are too bright on the right and the highlights too dark on the left.
The light is predominantly coming from the right. Imagine it was a sheet of blank white paper. The right hand edge would seem white and then the sheet would go smoothly progressively greyer towards the left.
We can compensate for that by making a graduated mask.
In Photoshop we switch to Quick Mask mode, select the horizontal gradient tool and apply.
Now using the Levels control one can adjust the white points and black points by inspection on the right hand side, then Inverse the selection and adjust them on the left side to balance out the image like so…
The image is still looking a little dark in the centre so one makes a rough mask with the lasso and then feathering it with the Refine Edge tool…
Then making adjustments to the white black and grey points in the Levels control to give the centre a subtle lift…
Finally remove all selections and go back to Level to check that the tonal distribution extends from 0 to 255 and if it does not then reset the black and white points to the points on the x axis where the frequency beings to rise on the left end and where it comes down to zero on the right hand end.
Compare the above to the first version to see the differences.
When doing flat copies if one doesn’t have the ideal set up, that’s a large soft light either side set at 45 degrees to the plane of the art work, then one needs a large soft light source to one side, say a north light window, set a good distance away from the art work and at 90 degrees to the plane of it.
The intensity of light falls off exponentially so if the light is too close in to the side of the art work there will be significant fall off in brightness from one side to the other whic h can’t be cured with a reflector on the opposite side. Also even though the paper maybe matt the image of the light will be reflecting in the surface causing flare and weakening the dark tones.
The light should be far enough off to the side that the brightness falls off by now more than half a stop across the width, this can then be evened out with a white reflector card that’s preferably about twice the size of the art work. The card should be tilted back away from the art work a little so it’s not reflecting in the paper in the same way the light source could be.
I think you made a good decision with this one. As a counterpoint the coloured material works better in Image 3.
There’s something of Adrian Hill’s Sketch club about this and the bridge cut outs are like a paper mask. I find it comforting.
This is a strong juxtaposition. ‘Giotto’ is overseeing contemporary Italian graffiti art; some might say balefully given the weight that the Renaissance still places on the shoulders of contemporary Italian artists.
For myself I think the way the top of the dome intersects with the nostril is a little awkward as it’s the visual centre of the composition where the eye comes to rest. Perhaps moving the dome down and to the right slightly, usefully revealing a touch more of the mouth, would be more comfortable.
This is the most exciting one so far with the interlacing and torn edges, the foldings on the left remind me so much of lira notes and the overall feel is reminiscent of old Italian magazines from the first half of the 20thC which my wife inherited.
She’s Italian; her uncle’s family home was a Renaissance villa on a hill outside Florence; in Castello.
She made montage work from her family archive, analogue, digital and painted, for her MA.
She was enthusiastic about your work.
What is immediately striking is the strong contrasts provided by the heavy shadows and the blacks and the clean pure whites; providing that physiological pleasure for the eye. It’s a blend of the contemporary and the historic, there’s a touch of EUR about the clock and the Renaissance is always with you in Italy, even if on a futuristic bike.
Also for me it evokes advertising as it feels a lot more fun than Florence used to feel like to me on a hot day; very much a place of air conditioned business filled with Art.
I thought this was an excellent idea but because of the aspect ratio and scope of the scene the idea rather gets lost.
At full screen size it’s difficult to identify the standing objects as gun shell cases. It would need to be a very large print on a gallery wall that the viewer could approach to look at the detail and then retreat to take in the whole composition.
Some general points about digital montage…
There are two ways to go with this, to make it as realistic as possible or to make it obvious. If one is going to make it obvious then there are no holds barred but if one wants to make it convincing then there are some rules to follow.
The direction and contrast of the light falling on the elements that are being composited in must match the light in the background image; which in this case seems to be semi diffused back lit, the shadows pointing towards camera.
The resolution of the background and the elements to be comped in should eventually match.
The resolution of the background should be equal to the final output intended for it; refer to the attached PDF for details.
Almost always this amounts to working with the highest resolution background one can to give one the most flexibility when it comes to outputs.
Your background is 4896 pixels wide, that’s the full resolution of your camera. That’s fine. You have the ppi set to 300, for same size reproduction that’s as high as one is ever likely to need and can confuse some packages such as Word when they import and display files set to a high ppi; see attached PDF.
Its good practice when one intends an image file for screen viewing to set the ppi to 96 and convert the colour space to sRGB if it isn’t that already.
The ppi is a property that’s stored in the header of your file. It makes no difference to the actual pixel dimensions of the file. In this case that’s 4896 px x 1699 px. What the 300 ppi is telling whatever application you’re using to display it is the physical size you intend the image to be. Some applications will take note of this, others will ignore it.
So you’re saying here that you intended the image to be viewed as 4896/300 inches x 1699/300 inches, i.e. approx 16” x 5.5”
If in Photoshop you do View/Print Size then that’s the physical size it will show you the image at because that’s what you set the ppi at. If you’d set it to 180 for example then it would have shown you the image at the physical size of 4896/180” x 1699/180”, 27” x 9.5”. If you do View/Actual Pixels then it will map one image pixels to one screen pixel. The most common screen resolution is 96 ppi so the image will then display at the physical size of 51” x 18”
The background resolution, i.e. its pixel dimension and the intended output dictates the resolution of the elements that are to be included.
Taking a real world example of one of your shell cases… 2nd from the right… it’s 237 pixels high so it would need to be at least that size in the original capture of it before you comped it in.
If it was exactly 237 pixels high in the original and when you comped it in you decided that actually you needed it twice the size and enlarged it in the composition then you would have halved the resolution of that element and it wouldn’t look convincing as an existing element because it would be less detailed and not as sharp as the background.
You’ve used the shell cases so small in the overall composition that you should have met the resolution criteria easily and many times over in your original capture of the shell cases but the other thing to consider is the quality of the edges of comped elements.
This is a section of your image at Actual Pixel magnification, i.e. 100%, the most accurate rendering of the image…
There’s a lack of distinction along the edges which we wouldn’t expect with metal, even distorted metal and there’s a sort of pencil lining effect in places. When the image is fitted on screen these are hardly noticeable but as a larger print to make the image more effective they would be seen, also at this size it’s obvious that the lighting is quite different.
There are lots of different and very effective selection tools in Photoshop, their use depends on the particular job at hand, often it helps for a selection to be slightly indistinct when one wants to blend something in but this is often not desirable when there’s a definite edge against a bright even tone.
One way to get sharp clean edges is to use the Pen tool to make a path and then convert it to a selection.
Here I’ve done a little to give you the idea…
You plot points to make straight line segments, the tool can then be refined so that you can select points and make the joining lines into Bezier curves to accurately follow an outline. Then you convert the path to a selection. You can then cut out your object with sharp clean edges.
Here I’ve done that as an example. I’ve increased the size of the shell cases to cover the originals, this also had the useful side effect of bringing the shell tip above the horizon, the alignment of the two was rather awkward. I’ve also run the Levels on the background in a similar way to the example in Part 1 and used selective masking with the Levels control to make the lighting consistent across the shells, within the bounds of what’s possible.
In terms of impact at screen or small print size I think that you could crop to make the image more immediate while still keeping the sense, something like this…
No problems with this, very good.
Excellent research; wide ranging and intelligently interpreted.
Make sure to explicitly reflect on the tutor reports.
You’re adept at self directed reading and there are plenty of references in the notes provided to follow up; go where your interest takes you.
Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
You have a wide range of possibilities to choose from so I can’t say a lot in terms of pointers but one thing I will say is that students often make a pig’s ear out of book layouts.
I don’t know how much experience you’ve had with it but even when working with supplied templates they tend to go mad and have a different layout on every page and classically they make the type much too big and use too many different fonts. One for headings and one for body text and captions is quite enough.
Most layouts are based on columns, typically one, two or three. The easiest thing is to keep the number of columns the same throughout the whole article or book.
There are a few simple rules to follow in order for the layout to feel organised and easy to follow for the reader…
Body text, with suitable margins, starts at the top of the left most column and then flows down it to the bottom, then from the top of the next column to the right down to the bottom and so on.
Images can only be sized at whole column widths, ignoring any margins, this may mean sometimes having to crop an image to make it fit, or indeed sometimes not be able to use a particular image in combination with others because of it; that’s one of the puzzles picture editors on magazines and newspapers have to solve. Any captions to run underneath the images, with suitable margins, up to the width of the image.
|Tutor name||Clive White|
|Next assignment due||10/8/16|
My response to the feedback from the tutor and my revised Assignment 1:
- Progress in the quality of creative thinking.
- Good use of material.
- The technical quality of my presentation needs a lot of attention & I have been given excellent guidelines and examples taken directly from my work which I appreciate & will appreciate more as I get my head around it all.
- In my assignment, I was not working from my image of the collages but from the physical works themselves which meant that I was not seeing what my tutor would see. The brief, however, required me to present an image of the collages and that was what I was assessed on, and that was found wanting. Looking at my work now, with a distance of 2 months, I can see that the image is dull and that there is an inconsistency of light across it.
My original submission:
After suggesting and showing how using Levels, Quick Mask mode, gradients and Refine Edge tool & Curves in PS to balance the lighting , my tutor came up with this image:
I followed the steps but had considerable difficulty using the gradient tool, which I don’t normally have, and could not remove all the selections.
My PS steps look like this:
Not happy with the bright orange middle, I reduced the vibrance & came up with this version:
I had considerably more steps than my tutor suggested which is a reflection of how limited is the depth of my PS ability at this stage.
I shall see in my next assignment whether or not my technical ability has improved – will I see that the image is dull?
Image 2 was not criticised directly, but I think there is an oblique criticism in a reference to Adrian Hill’s Sketch club which I had to look up & I can’t say that I am any the wiser. But Clive found it ‘comforting’. At least it wasn’t so bad that he had to gouge his eyes out, for which I am enormously relieved!
Image 3 was found to have strong juxtaposition, which is great. There is a tutor’s preference in dropping the top of the graffiti image down and to the right as it interferes too much with the Giotto & I totally agree.
I had to redo both prints as the originals were glued together and I tried 2 versions:
My preference is for version 1 because there is more of the graffiti detail showing and because version 2 is too aggressive and the subtlety of the Giotto is lost.
Images 4 & 5 were fine.
Clive puts his findings rather well & there’s no need for me to precis:
a) “I thought this was an excellent idea but because of the aspect ratio and scope of the scene the idea rather gets lost.”
b) Regarding digital montage: “There are two ways to go with this, to make it as realistic as possible or to make it obvious. If one is going to make it obvious then there are no holds barred but if one wants to make it convincing then there are some rules to follow.”
I personally had no intention of making it realistic because the physical relationship between the sacred circle stones and the spent shells is unrealistic, but there is a lot for me to learn from making it so for this exercise.
- I need to consider the direction & quality of the light in the main image;
- work with the highest resolution background for max flexibility;
- for screen viewing: set ppi to 96 & convert colour space to sRGB
- use the pen tool & Bezier curves to clean up the outline of the shells.
- run Levels on the image to make the lighting consistent across the shells
This is my reworked version:
I re-sized the shells, traced them more carefully so that they looked like shells, and then dodged and burned where necessary to reflect the direction of light.
What I learned from the revised assignment:
Looking at light when presenting an image & enhanced use of Photoshop: mostly the technical aspects of image manipulation deepening my use & knowledge of PS, in particular concerning image / print size in terms of pixels and resolution (ppi) to width / height ratios. I also became more aware of the effects of light over an image and how to adjust it.
I must leave time between producing the work & revising it prior to handing it in, in order to allow myself an opportunity of being less subjective about it. This would allow my perception to be less tainted by my thoughts closely associated in time to the work I have produced.