Friday, 29 October 2010


Edvard Munch, 1893

I am still considering scream is one of the reactions of ‘silenced’. Maybe we could construct scream scenes to represent our ‘silenced’ theme. The conflicting things normally co-exist. One extreme results in the other extreme. I am considering a scene with low key dark tone, some traces of discursive institutions as mise-en-scene, people screaming into the darkness with deformed facial expression…

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Courtesy: Shirin Neshat

A gun, an eye, half face imprinted by Persian characters… I am moved by Shirin Neshat’s portraiture…

It is a simple representation but there is so much behind the image. I am considering constructing a simple but meaningful scene for our theme ‘silenced’.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


From our discussions and review of the media, we began to see a theme related to people and organisations being silenced – by the state and other institutions. We finalised our purpose as follows:

To visually represent the inter-play between the silenced and the silencer, to stimulate thought and discussion about our relationship to being silenced and to silencing.

My instant first idea…

1. Auditorium.

Everyone of audiences with 'shut up' seal on mouth; shoot from behind the speakers shoulder

2. Cathedral

3. Retail environment

4. In open natural field.

Everyone screams.

It is literal and cliché like the images I gathered from the internet. I need to go beyond this.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


The initial purpose is to create 6 film stills with each one can be conceptually engaging in its own. A total of more than 12 scenes were planned together with lighting set up. I used bounced flash with room ambiance light to create a balanced lighting effect. I then used Photoshop for montage. Although the lighting and composition is preset the same, because of bounced light, the changing position of the subject changed the reflected lights to everywhere. This result in tiny different colour hue to everything. Therefore, when photo montage, it is not easy to match the colour seamlessly. I should have considered this bounced lighting limit before the shooting. Another issue is that bed is soft, when sitting or lying on it in different area, the surface deformed. This makes impossible to photo montage perfectly as it is not possible match the bed linen checker. Only 8 works are reasonably ok. However, I found that the scenes with facial expression are too literal to create any conceptual engaging platform. Deadpan works much better and it could create multi layers of meaning behind the scenes. It was not my intention to create a sequence in the fist place, but sequenced edition works better by chance.

In general, I am reasonably happy about the first double portraiture project but not happy about the technicality of lighting, montage and the scenes set up.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sunday, 24 October 2010


We were shown the whole process how to set up a scene using Prolinca monolight kit. Andy Golding asked us to create a stage lighting effect and then showed us his entire gadget range from reflection/through umbrella, colour gel, barndoor kit, honey cone etc. Most of the stage lights are located quite high; therefore, to emulate it, we put the moonlight in the highest possible position with barndoor half close to create the spot light effect. To emulate sunshine, we need to take reflector off. To create a justified lamp post light, we need to use flagging to create the ambiance. We then worked out synchronizing of 2 monolight kit via slave sensor. Of course, the metering, posing, composition etc.

The amazing part is that he used a white plastic board to block some of the motivated stage lighting to create some shadow and high contract to achieve the right ‘staging light’ effect. This subtle usage did make a huge difference in the final shoot. The other thing is that he used blue gel in front lighting and yellow gel in back light, to contrast the stage light and cosy backstage lighting.

The final shoot is absolutely fantastic. A perfect Cindy Sherman style! I love studio lighting, as it just makes a bland dull image so dramatically vivid.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


We went to Brighton to visit the biennial. There are four major galleries and dozens of small galleries showing wide ranges of photo works. Martin Parr commissioned three photographers (Stephen Gill, Rinko Kawauchi, and Alec Soth) to shoot Brighton. Rinko’s sensual images are poetic as usual, but I was absolutely amazed by Stephen Gill’s work, the super conceptual approach and the uncanny beauty. He put found objects such as flower, insects, cloth, threads, etc into his medium format camera between the lens and film. This creates such astonishing images. As the objects are all found in the streets of Brighton, the photo renders an extra tangible dimension to my affect reactions.

I was moved by Soth's work.

We rounded off our celebration of the photography with a drop of Monmouth coffee.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


We were shown some painterly lightings usage in a few examples. I quite like the quiet atmosphere created by ‘northern light’ in works of Johannes Vermeer. Then Andy showed us how to emulate sunshine or other light source in studio.

Then we were shown how to darken the sky in daylight by flashgun. It seems easy and straightforward but needs a lot of experimentation.

Andy showed us how he used flashguns in constructed photography shooting. It blew my mind that the flashguns could create such a difference in tone and colour even in the most dull surroundings. I got so excited and wish to do the same very soon.

Monday, 18 October 2010


I planned about 10 set ups. The shooting took place in a hotel room. It was late night and I tried some ambiance light with balanced bounced flash. It worked pretty well.

I like one or two of the images. Four or five failed. The rest could make do, but I do not like them. I put too much dramatic acting and they are not subtle and not bringing any hook to what happened just now and what will happen afterwards – the multiple possible meanings. They failed the conceptual engagement as a film still some how, although the double portraits idea might provoke some thoughts. The shots with deadpan expression worked better. Subtleness can really create a space for spectator to engage. Simplicity creates sophistication. Nothingness creates a lot of significances. Less is more. I like deadpan.

I really need to re-design some set ups but submission time is approaching probably I have to submit and move on to the next project.

Friday, 15 October 2010


We managed to form a group of 4 and had the first group meeting in South Bank. We named our group ‘Fourmat’! The initial discussion pinned down the subject of the project. The project will reflect the ‘silenced’. Society, politics, culture, authority and etc force individual or group not to express or communicate. We would like to construct the ‘found scene’ to convey our ‘reality’ to confront and question the issue.

I did some initial research trying to get some inspirations. I feel this subject is rather social and political. A lot of current events and issues can be involved. Also it is a rather wide topic. Personally I like something more spiritual and more personal. Anyway, it is a challenging subject. Due to the time constraint, I think the most important thing is to narrow down our ideas and concentrate on one or two to get conceptually constructed. I look forward the second meeting.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Initial Shooting. October, 2010

Each one has a lot of selves. The self to be a conformed citizen, self to be a proper student, self to be its own dream seeker, self to be a voyeur, self to be a rebel against the reality, self to be a terminator, self to be its own slave etc. These selves conflict, argue, negotiate, and yield one with another/others all the times. We are not ourselves since the minute we were born to this world. We are all controlled by the influence from society, family, school, peers, capitalism, culture, nature, etc. We are a public production ourselves. There is a self inside each one of us but is the self the real one or the one who comes to terms with all factors around us. Who is controlling the self? What are the selves within one physical body? Do we feel them? Is one self necessarily better than another? Is one identifiable from another? Who are we? I am always confused of all the thoughts above on a daily basis. I would like to shoot a series on this showing the ostensible tip of the iceberg of our ‘selves’.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Courtesy: Martin Parr

Andy showed us a clip of the beginning scene in Mulholland Dr. Lighting, which I took for granted, was de-constructed and explained. I like this approach – deconstructive to separate some familiar things out of the context and then analyse them. He explained how director make the small source light into a ‘motivated light’, (in the specific scenes, how small sourced light be justified as car beam and soft big sourced light be justified as lamp post light) he analysed each scene’s lighting by show us the traces of direction of the light and how big the source is, also, what the purpose of the light and what light means in the setup, to show the ambiance, to infer the location, or to infer some other specific things such as car approaching etc.

We were then shown the first film still everyone does. Quite a variety of work! I am impressed. He analysed them and gave us comment such as how to mask off in a closed corridor etc. He introduced ‘contre jour’. Martin Parr used it all the times to overcome the strong sunshine problem. I used it before but I never crack it in a technical way – readings of the background daylight same as the flash readings against the target. I would like MartinParr something later on. He suggest we dial -1 to -3 to see the difference, (obvious, -1 showing, -2 small edge, -3 subtle). We had some test afterward. We then worked some rear curtain sync etc.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Summer Evening by Edward Hopper, 1947

We were shown the photos taken for the same project from our previous years. A lot of them are about sex and violence. I do not mind sex and violence but I found them bit cliché. I do not have any idea yet. Deadline is ticking and I am bit struggling. Basically, I like some mystery, loneliness, coldness, and deadpan feel in my works. I do not intend to make a super dramatic one using violence and sex and I would rather make some shots to create some subtle feels for viewers.

Low-key lighting is fascinating to me. It is easier to control light in a low-key environment as well. Some kind of darkness creates a certain atmosphere. These should all suit the ‘theme’ – the content. Now I do not have a theme. I just want to come out with some shots look like film stills.

I need to browse a few people’s work to get inspired.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Courtesy: Gregrory Crewdson (from Beneath the Roses)

There are many tableau photography works quite enigmatic to me. There seems some story going on before and after the moment. We can not know explicitly. The atmosphere, protagonist and mise-en-scene are quite subtle. They could mean anything. This subtleness opens a whole new world and creates different conceptual engagements to the viewer. I like the way a good tableau photography implies. These photography depicts the key moment, a turning point and a causal link from one state of the story to another. This is the ‘decisive moment’ in digenesis - narration. In my project, I need to create a stage and catch this decisive moment using subtle mise-en-scene, lighting and acting. I come to love the word ‘subtle’. Photogrpahy is a subtle art. The subtleness in retouching and photomontage blur one reality and with another reality; the subtleness in constructive photography could open many versions of scenarios and lead your mind wondering from one to another.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Courtesy: Mitra Tabrizian (from The Blues 1986-87)

The staging and lighting are the keys to constructed photography. How to set up the scene, how to select and use props, how to direct the sitter’s posture, complexion and feel, how to direct viewer’s sight by lighting, how to create ambience by lighting, how many lights should be used… I found fascinating viewing the works by Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall and Mitra Tabrizian. Whatever message they want to convey, most of the staging and lighting are just fascinating. They create such a theatrical and dramatically feel in the whole setup. Especially Tabrizian’s work, it has a simplicity but just create the atmosphere properly. I like it. Considering my limited resource, I would have to create the film still in a way of simplicity.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Andy Goldin asked us to watch Moholland Dr. to pay attention to the lighting. I love David Lynch’s work even if sometimes I do not know what he is saying after watching. The strong contrast lighting and vivid colour in his films are the most impressive. I remember clearly the atmosphere and the feel in ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Lost Highway’ ‘Inland Empire’. Moholland Dr, I watched in a very small cinema in Paris in a very late winter night in 2003. I still remember vividly the uncanny dark scenes in super saturated colour. Now it is time to pay attention to the lighting!

Friday, 1 October 2010


First session in Constructed Photography! On flashguns. I am not confident in flashguns but after some trials on Nikon SB800, it is quite straightforward. The light inverse square law worked quite well.

The assignment was given. First one is to submit 6 film stills and to build narrative in digital in 3 weeks time. Second one is a group project of 4 film stills in medium format colour transparency printed in A3.

Individual Project: Film Stills (DSLR)

Working in pairs in the taught sessions and independently outside the classroom, you will produce 6 final images in the style of film stills. Each image should have a sense of a key moment taken from a film. You should stage and direct for each shot accordingly and in keeping with the style or genre intended. You will use a flashgun as a component of the lighting, taking care to consider the part the light sources play in the narrative.

Creating narratives in photographs, and carefully controlling the staging and lighting, will empower your images and make them highly persuasive in communicating their intended meanings. This is true for images intended for editorial, campaigning, propaganda, advertising, gallery and even photo journalistic contexts.

Group Project: The Narrative or Sequence.

Working in groups of four, you will produce four linked images of narrative based constructed photographic work. The outcome of each group will be a body of work, which communicates and interrogates an issue or concept.

In week four you will present a (5 minute) group PowerPoint outlining your proposal, preliminary research and related images.

Consider the potential context for your work: Editorial, campaigns, advertising, fashion, the gallery, portraiture, tableaux, posters, billboards, flyers, etc.

In documentary photography a ‘found’ scene is supposed to convey the photographer’s meaning or the supposed ‘reality’ of the situation. This generally assumes a direct relationship between the photograph and reality and tends to reveal effects rather than causes (can a photograph of a march against a war reveal anything about the conflict?) In the studio, or on location, meaning is created through juxtapositions and connotations of objects, people and lighting. Pre-visualization, construction and lighting are crucial considerations in constructed photography.

‘As Brecht says: “. . .less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality. A photograph of the Krupp Works or the AEG tells us nothing about these institutions. Actual reality has slipped into the functional. The reification of human relations - the factory, say - means that they are no longer explicit. So something must be built up, something artificial, posed”. (Extract from “A Short History of Photography” by Walter Benjamin, 1931.)

Contemporary practitioners construct images with passion, or controlled dispassionateness, insight and sometimes wit, questioning and confronting a wide range of issues.