DISCUSSION: The selfie! In context of the previously discussed topics, we will discuss how the self-portrait functions as a portrait, a likeness, a performance, and a lie. Instructor presentation on self portraiture in art history, and contemporary forms of the self-portrait. How is a self portrait unlike or like a “selfie”?
STUDIO: Short instructor presentation on sequencing and editing photographs for a final portfolio. Students can use this time to edit photographs, ask questions, work on portfolio, etc.
ASSIGNMENT: Students will make 3 self portraits of themselves. Prepare a portfolio of final images to show for the last class. Email instructor images for printing.
"Traditionally, the portrait is typified by the notion that people can be represented by showing aspects of their 'character'. We understand the portrait differently. Instead of fixity, to us it represents a range of possibilities which can be brought into play at will, examined, questioned, accepted, transformed, discarded. Drawing on techniques learned from co-counselling, psycho-drama and the reframing technique we began to work together to give ourselves and each other permission to display 'new' visual selves to the camera."
Rosy Martin and Jo Spence
Elisavet Kalpaxi, “Self-portraiture: on photography’s reflexive surface”
Self-portraiture and its connotations are frequently employed in recent art photography, especially images that are obviously constructed to suggest a narrative and comment on earlier traditions in art. However, such self-conscious works seem to relate to a tradition of photographic self-portraiture that emerged historically, more as a solution to photography’s ‘authority consciousness’ than as an indication of any underlying psychological causes. Early photographers, such as Hippolyte Bayard and Oscar Gustave Rejlander, used self-portraiture to prove that their images were ‘made’ and not ‘captured’. Accordingly, recent self-portrait artists, such as Anna Gaskell or Anthony Goicolea, continue a legacy of ‘image-making’ and communicate with art audiences through an established vocabulary.
This distinction between unpremeditated and constructed responses to photographic self-portraiture is further amplified through the growing culture of the selfie, with camera phone photography now occupying a space equivalent to what was previously perceived as a more indexically loaded, amateur response to photography that became popular in art from the late seventies onward.
How is a self portrait unlike or like a “selfie”?
What is a self portrait? How can the self be best represented?
How does the self-portrait functions as a portrait, a likeness, a performance, or a lie?
DISCUSSION: Can a portrait be made of a person, without photographing that person? Today in class we will discuss Alfred Stieglitz's “equivalent” photographs and introduce the idea of using a photograph of an object, landscape, or space, to signify a person.
STUDIO: Using their photographs made last week, students will choose five photographs which could be “equivalents” for a person they have made a portrait of in the course of this class (or for themselves). Working in class, students will show these images to the class for further discussion on how non-traditional images can stand in for, or elevate, a series of portraits.
ASSIGNMENT: Students will be asked to make a series of photographs inspired by the notion of Stieglitz's equivalents. Additionally, students will be asked to bring in “documents” (books, papers, poems, notes, etc.) for the coming week. (5 images total; 15 documents)
Equivalence: The Perennial Trend
Minor White, PSA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963
When a photographer presents us with what to him is an Equivalent, he is telling us in effect, "I had a feeling about something and here is my metaphor of that feeling." The significant difference here is that what he had a feeling about was not for the subject he photographed, but for something else. He may show us a picture of a cloud, the forms of which expressively correspond to his feelings about a certain person. As he saw the clouds he was somehow reminded of the person, and probably he hopes that we will catch, in the expressive quality of the cloud forms, the same feeling that he experienced. If we do and our feelings are similar to his, he has aroused in us what was to him a known feeling. This is not exactly an easy distinction to make so maybe we can repeat. When the photographer shows us what he considers to be an Equivalent, he is showing us an expression of a feeling, but this feeling is not the feeling he had for the object that he photographed. What really happened is that he recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state or place within himself. With constantly metamorphizing material such as water, or clouds or ice, or light on cellophane and similar materials, the infinity of forms and shapes, reflections and colors suggest all sorts and manners of emotions and tactile encounters and intellectual speculations that are supported by and formed by the material but which maintain an independent identity from which the photographer can choose what he wishes to express.
The power of the equivalent, so far as the expressive-creative photographer is concerned, lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed. The secret, the catch and the power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities. Or to say this in another way, in practice Equivalency is the ability to use the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer's expressive purposes. He may wish to employ the recording power of the medium, it is strong in photography, and document. Or he may wish to emphasize its transforming power, which is equally strong, and cause the subject to stand for something else too. If he uses Equivalency consciously and knowingly, aware of what he is doing, and accepts the responsibility for his images, he has as much freedom of expression as any of the arts.
To be concrete, and leave off theory for a moment, we can return to the photograph of a cloud mentioned above. If we question the photographer, he may tell us that it stands for a certain quality that he finds in a specific woman, namely her femininity. The photograph exhibits softness, delicacy, roundness, fluffiness and so corresponds to at least one feeling or emotion that he has about her. If we ask why he does not photograph the woman herself directly, he may answer that she is hardly photogenic, or that he wishes to establish a certain aesthetic distance between his direct feeling and his outward manifestation of it via the photograph. And this is pleasant—as we all know, too intimate a photograph of a person frequently gets in the way of the viewer's enjoyment.
Founded on the belief that colors, shapes, and lines reflect the inner, usually emotive "vibrations of the soul”, Stieglitz began photographing cloud in the 1920’s—which he termed Equivalents—as a method for equating photographic content to conceptual idea.
IN CLASS QUESTIONS:
Thinking about our discussion last week on “stereotype” or predisposed “bias” in portraiture—what did this week’s assignment reveal to you?
Considering the photograph as a document, and the photographer’s ability to impart significance through this action, what are you signifying in your day-to-day photo making? (IE; what are you looking at and documenting?) Why do you think you were compelled to make these images?
What sort of personal, narrative, aesthetic, or emotive themes are emergent in the photographs you made?
Are we ever photographing the-thing-itself? Or are we always creating “equivalencies” when we make images?
How can a photograph of an object, place, natural element, stand in for a person in a portrait? What is that intellectually asking the viewer?
DISCUSSION: When does a portrait become performative? Is the studio like a stage? We will discuss the effect the studio has on the portrait. Short presentation on studio oriented photographers.
STUDIO: Students will be introduced to methods of lighting and studio set up, as well as alternative tools for implementing lighting, backdrops, in-camera tonal changes, etc.
ASSIGNMENT: Students will be assigned to make 2 “studio style” photographs (outside of class) using processes learned in class.
Karen Irvine, Camera/Action: Performance and Photography
“From artists who perform in public and record their actions, to those who perform specifically for their cameras, the legacy of performance art from the mid-twentieth century has been richly mined and extended by contemporary artists, many of whom have made the limitations and special nature of photography a central concern. Intending to raise questions about the limits of art production and self-perception, issues of framing, and the nature of time, many artists have chosen to approach the enigma of photography by making it integral to the piece itself, creating what Vito Acconci (United States, born 1940) aptly dubbed “photo-actions.” In 12 Pictures (1969), for example, he snapped one flash photograph of an audience every time he took a step across a darkened stage. In his video Three Frame Studies (1969), he pushed a friend, long-jumped, and ran in a circle for his video camera, letting the physical limits of the action refer to the boundaries of the frame itself.
More recently, Barbara Probst (Germany, born 1969) arranges for multiple photographers to take pictures of the same subject from varying angles at precisely the same moment. These works allow us to escape the bounds of the frame. They also deconstruct the notion of a photographically fixed instant, and further, the photographic idea that time is a linear phenomenon where each moment is experienced from only one position. Jemima Stehli (Great Britian, born 1961) creates staged self-portraits using a mirror in her studio — often considered the site of narcissistic production - by performing naked for her own camera. The resulting images are disorienting compositions; although we can clearly discern the camera on its tripod, the mirror confuses both its position and our gaze, while Stehli’s body parts serve as both a frame within a frame and a barrier that frustrates our voyeuristic impulses.”
Garry Winogrand, “CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHIE IN THE USA”
BASIC EDITING WORKFLOW (with Adobe Bridge and Photoshop)
To begin, upload all of your RAW images from your camera SD card onto your computer and file them under the date or a keyword (for example: “Mexico_Nov2019”). Create a separate folder within that folder for your edited images (“Edited_Mexico_Nov2019”)
Select the image or images that you would like to edit.
Right click > select “Open With” > Photoshop
If you have access to Adobe Creative Cloud you can download Adobe Bridge by logging in to your Creative Cloud desktop application and selecting Bridge from the download list. It is free with your basic Photo editing subscription.
If you have Adobe Bridge, the images you selected to edit will open in Bridge before opening in Photoshop.
Once your image(s) have opened:
> Select the “Lens Correction” icon from the tool panel on the right side (it is the sixth icon across the top)
> Making sure you are on the “Profile” tab > select “Remove Chromatic Aberration” > Select “Enable Profile Corrections”
NOTE: You can manually enter the lens you made these images with for a more accurate correction. Under “Lens Profile” > Select your camera Make > Model > and Profile.
> If you have any vignetting on your image that you would like to correct:
Use the “Correction Amount” tool at the bottom of the panel > slide the “Vignetting” scale to mitigate lens shadow around the corer of your images.
NOTE: If you still have slight distortion and vignetting > Select the “Manual” tab at the top of the panel > Use the “Distortion” scale and “Vignetting” scale to make minor corrections
Next, select the “Detail” icon (third icon across the top)
> Under “Sharpening” > Increase “Amount” between +15 to +30 (this will effectively sharpen the image plane—use sparingly!).
If you have noise in your image:
> Under “Noise Reduction” > Increase “Luminance” scale (this will “smooth” any noise caused by a high ISO)
Next, select the “Basic” icon (first icon across the top):
> Increase “Clarity” scale between +10 to +17
> Increase “Saturation” scale between +5 to +10 (paying attention to your image quality)
Look at the histogram at the top of the image panel. If any of the teardrop shaped icons appear with a color, this means there is is “clipping” of the darkest or whitest point in your image.
To correct this, and to improve the overall range of tones in your image’s exposure:
> Increase or decrease the “Blacks” scale so that any clipping is mitigated, paying attention to image quality. For images with a lot of shadow or with a black backdrop, it is not always possible to “unclip” the shadow warning.
NOTE: You want the edges of the histogram to stretch from each side as close as possible to the “edge”, indicating a full range of tones.
> Increase or decrease the “Whites” scale, paying special attention to image quality. For images that are overexposed, it is not possible to “unclip” this warning.
> From the panel at top left, select the “White Balance” tool (it is the eye dropper shaped icon, third in from the left)
> If you have a white point in your image, use this tool to click on the whitest spot.
> If you do NOT have a white point, skip this step.
NOTE: Selecting the white point will correct your image’s color balance. Often, because this removes color cast (and the density of blue/warm tones) the exposure of your images will change. Return to the “White” and “Black” scale to make adjustments.
IF YOU NEED TO CROP:
> Select the “Crop Tool” from the top left sidebar
IF YOU NEED TO STRAIGHTEN YOUR IMAGE:
> Select the “Straighten Tool” from the top left sidebar. > Double click on your image to automatically straighten.
To manually straighten:
> Place the straight tool/arrow next to the line you would like to straighten > click and hold down, dragging the straight line next to the line in your image > the image should straighten > press “Enter” to accept
To Undo > File > Step Back (or “Undo”)
LAST STEP (in Bridge):
Select > “Open Image” (at bottom right corner)
The “Embedded Profile Mismatch” screen will appear > Select “Okay”
You are now in the Photoshop workspace!
Go to > “Image” (top of left action bar) > “Mode” > Select “16 Bits”
***If you would like to convert your image to black and white:
Go to > “Image” > “Mode” > Select “Grayscale”
This will remove the color profile from your image as opposed to desaturating, which masks or hides color.
> Go to > “Image” > “Adjustments” > Select “Curves” OR “Levels” (these effectively do the same thing)
NOTE: At this point, your image should be pretty close to perfect in terms of exposure and contrast after the corrections made in Bridge. Curves and Levels can help fine tune your exposure. If you do not have a white point, going through Curves/Levels can sometimes remove color cast.
> Select the “Preview” box
> Click on “Black Point” eyedropper tool at the bottom of the menu > hold down the “Option” key and hold the eyedropper tool over your image > while continuing to hold down the “Option” key, click on your image > continue to click into the black points until you can no longer do so.
> Release the “Option” key to view changes > un-click “Preview” to view before/after
> Select the “White Point” eyedropper tool > Repeat previous steps used for “Black Point”
> After viewing all changes > Accept all changes by clicking “OK” OR select “Cancel” to reject changes
TO SHARPEN AN IMAGE:
> Go to > Filter (top of grey action bar) > Sharpen > Sharpen Edges
TO CORRECT COLOR CAST:
> Go to > Image > Adjustments > Color Balance
> Select the “Preview” box
> Select “Shadows”, “Midtones”, and “Highlights” from the bottom (based on what tonal range your color cast is appearing in) > Increase the opposite color of the color you are wishing to edit out in your image > Uncheck “Preview” box to review changes > Select “Okay” or “Cancel”
AFTER ALL CHANGES ARE MADE:
Go to > File > Save As >
In the “Save As” dialogue menu:
> Rename You Image > Select from the dropbox menu the (“Edited_Mexico_Nov2019”) folder created earlier.
> From the “Format” dropdown menu > Select “Photoshop” > Check the “Embed Color Profile” box > SAVE
> Repeat the previous steps, selecting “TIFF” and finally “JPEG” from the Format dropdown if you are finished editing this image.
In your “Edited_Mexico_Nov2019” folder there should be (3) copies of the same image:
ALWAYS “SAVE AS” SO THAT YOU DON’T SAVE OVER YOUR ORIGINAL FILE!!
AMY ST. JOHN
Split lighting is exactly as the name implies—it splits the face exactly into equal halves with one side being in the light, and the other in shadow. It is often used to create dramatic images.
To achieve split lighting, put the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of the subject, and possibly even slightly behind their head. Where you place the light in relation to the subject will depend on the person’s face. Watch how the light falls on them and adjust accordingly. In true split lighting, the eye on the shadow side of the face does pick up light in the eye only.
Loop lighting is made by creating a small shadow of the subjects noses on their cheeks. To create loop lighting, the light source must be slightly higher than eye level and about 30-45 degrees from the camera
In loop lighting the shadow of the nose and that of the cheek do NOT touch. Keep the shadow small and slightly downward pointing, but be aware of having your light source too high which will create odd shadows and cause loss of the catchlights. Loop light is probably the most common or popular lighting pattern as it is easy to create and flatters most people.
Rembrandt lighting is so named after the particular lighting style of the painter. Rembrandt lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek. Unlike loop lighting where the shadow of the nose and cheek do not touch, in Rembrandt lighting they do meet which, creates that trapped little triangle of light in the middle.
To create Rembrandt lighting the subject must turn slightly away from the light. The light must be above the top of their head so that the shadow from their nose falls down towards the cheek (similar to that of Loop lighting). Not every person’s face is ideal for creating Rembrandt lighting. If they have high or prominent cheek bones it will probably work. If they have a small nose or flat bridge of the nose, it may be difficult to achieve.
Butterfly lighting is a portrait lighting pattern where the key light is placed above and directly centered with a subject's face. This creates a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly. It's also known as 'Paramount lighting,' named for classic Hollywood glamour photography.
Butterfly lighting is created by having the light source directly behind the camera and slightly above eye or head level of the subject (depends on the person). It is sometimes supplemented by placing a reflector directly under their chin, with the subject themselves even holding it
Broad lighting is not so much a particular pattern, but a style of lighting. Any of the following patterns of light can be either broad or short: loop, Rembrandt, split.
Short light is type of studio lighting setup where the face side which is further from the camera gets the main light. In this type of lighting setup, the side of the face which is toward the camera gets less light then the side facing away form the camera. It is often used for low key, or darker portraits. It puts more of the face in shadow, is more sculpting, and is slimming and flattering for most people.
Broad light is just the opposite of Short light. In the Broad Light setup, the side that is getting the most light is the side turning towards the camera. The reason this lighting style is referred to as “broad” is that it typically makes the face appear to be wider.
The side of the face that is towards the camera has the most light on it and the shadows are falling on the far side of the face, furthest from the camera. Simply put, broad lighting illuminates the largest part of the face showing.
AMY ST. JOHN
DISCUSSION: Do portraits lie? Continued discussion on the ability of a portrait to convey the essential nature— or truest self—of its subject. Student photographs will be discussed in terms of their perceived emotional content, style, and aesthetics. We will discuss how formal choices (lighting, composition, color) alter the viewer’s experience of a portrait and can be used for dramatic effect. Short instructor lecture.
STUDIO: Continuation of last week’s studio activity in small groups.
ASSIGNMENT: Open assignment: students will be asked to make three portraits for next week, with special consideration given to the idea of creating a “lie”.
Winfred Noth, “Can Pictures Lie?” from the Semiotic Review of Books Vol. 6 (2)
There is little doubt that pictures can refer to something that does not exist or has even never existed, but do such pictures therefore lie? Surrealism has given ample evidence of paintings referring to mere imaginary objects. Consider, for example, Salvadore Dali's Burning Giraffe (1935), which shows a strange woman with open drawers protruding from her legs. We are hardly inclined to call the painter of this work a liar, but even the category of truth, at least in the positivist sense does not seem applicable.
Although it is clear that pictures can refer to factual reality and to the unreal, the question whether they can convey a truth or a lie remains disputed.
What is the semiotic potential of pictures? Can they express ideas that correspond to verbal messages at all, as the proverbial saying which states "Pictures can tell a thousand words", suggests, or is the semiotic potential of a picture inferior to the one of language insofar as a picture is necessarily vague and in principle unable to depict any truth about the world, as some logocentric semioticians claim? If pictures cannot tell the truth it should also be impossible to use them in order to convey a lie.
Let us begin with the semantic dimension of our topic. Photographs seem to be prototype of visual messages which are true because they fulfill the semantic criterion of correspondence to the facts. Under certain circumstances, photographs are even recognized by the courts as documentary evidence, which may replace evidence by ocular inspection or by verbal testimony.
A pertinent example is the legal status of a passport photo as a document for establishing the real identity of the person presenting the passport to the authorities. From the legal point of view, truth, in the sense of correspondence between a signifier and its referential object, can thus be derived from photographic pictures.
Semiotically, the correspondence of the photographic signifier with the object it depicts is grounded in what Peirce described as the indexical and the iconic nature of photography.
Photographs correspond to the depicted world by their iconic nature because, as Peirce, puts it, "we know that they are in certain respects exactly like the objects they represent." In addition to this correspondence by similarity, photographs also correspond to reality by their contiguity with the depicted object at the moment of their production. There is a "physical connection" between the signifier and its referential object since, as Peirce argues "photographs have been produced under such circumstances that they were physically forced to correspond point by point to nature." By this relation of productive causality, the photographic picture is defined as an indexical sign.
Family photos, which remind us of real situations lived in the past, press photos, which document a historical event, such as the Stalin-Roosevelt-Churchill meeting of Teheran in 1943, or scientific photos, which show a real world object in all its details, are typical examples of indexical photographic reference and iconic correspondence between the photographic signifier and its object which testify to the truth potential of the photograph.
Nevertheless, everyone knows that photographic correspondence can be manipulated. The referential object may be transformed in the picture, and its viewers arrive at the illusive or deceptive impression of a non-existing object. This deceptive potential of the medium was recognized early in the history of photography and made use of in techniques, such as retouch, color filtering, solarization, double exposure.
By retouching, the signifier referring to an existing object could be made to disappear. By montage, a non-existing object could make its appearance on the scene. Thus photography became a medium which lent itself to manipulation, deception, fakes, and forgeries. The more recent developments in computer graphics, with the new possibilities of shape blending, distortion, simulation, and other modes of digital image manipulation have greatly increased this deceptive potential of the medium.
“The image represents the tragic aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg (which caused the largest number of casualties of the entire war) by focusing on a single dead solider lying inside what Gardner called a “sharpshooter’s den.”
Later analysis revealed that he had staged the image to intensify its emotional effect. Though this practice was not uncommon at the time, its discovery made the photograph the subject of controversy. Gardner moved the soldier’s corpse and propped up his head so that it faced the camera. He then placed his own rifle next to the body, emphasizing the soldier’s horizontality and the cause of his death.”
Do portraits lie? If so, how?
In what ways can a portrait lie?
Is there ever “truth” in photography?
WEEK 2: PORTRAIT AS ESSENTIAL NATURE
DISCUSSION: Can a portrait ever truly capture the essential nature of a person? This week, students will discuss the emotional content of a portrait, using photographs they produced in the previous week as a point of departure for discussing the conceptual aspects of the portrait. In particular; students will be asked: Is there a screening of the self that occurs in front of the camera? Does a person project their notion or ideal of “self” to be captured? Or, is a portrait foremost an opinion of the portrait maker? Both? Short instructor presentation on photographers whose work illustrates these ideas.
STUDIO: Small in class “studio” photography activity. (Editing photographs, saturation, basic formatting techniques). Short time in lighting studio.
ASSIGNMENT: Students will also be assigned to make 5 photographs (outside of class), of one person, either familiar or a stranger, which will be shown and discussed at the start of the next class. Think of this assignment as a “mini series”.
National Gallery of Art: Modern Portraits in Photography https://www.nga.gov/features/slideshows/modern-portraits-in-photography.html#slide_1
Like other traditional artistic genres, portraiture was radically transformed with the advent of modern art. Before the 1800s, portraits typically depicted a sitter's external likeness; they also indicated his or her standing in society through clothing, setting, or the choice of surrounding objects. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, however, many artists rejected surface impressions. They argued that to reveal a person's character, one needed to show normally invisible elements such as mood or state of mind. Furthermore, artists wanted to address the unnatural space of art—flat canvases, self-contained chunks of wood or stone—as much as the natural space of the sitter. From the 1890s onward unnatural colors, distorted physical features, and abstract or nonrealistic settings became hallmarks of portraiture in advanced painting and sculpture.
Photographers transformed the scope of portraiture as well, beginning soon after the invention of the medium in 1839. Small, inexpensive photographs, such as tintypes or cartes-de-visite, catered to a broadly held desire for individual likenesses, expanding the clientele for portraits from affluent elites to middle-class multitudes. Nor were people interested in seeing or owning just their own portrait. Studios such as the firm of Albert S. Southworth and Josiah J. Hawes, established in Boston in 1843, or the Parisian salon opened in the 1850s by Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon), vied to photograph famous sitters, whose portraits were then sold or reproduced in print for mass distribution. Wide circulation of these portraits created the thoroughly modern phenomenon of stardom, bestowing upon images of politicians, actors, and even bohemian intellectuals, such as the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire, the status of icon.
In the early twentieth century, artistically ambitious photographers drew inspiration both from advanced vanguard art and commercial portrait photography.
Susan Sontag, “On Photography”
Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensely gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of the late 1930’s ( among them Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film—the precise expression on the subjects face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry.
In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although in a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are. Those occasions when the taking of the photographs is relatively undiscriminating, promiscuous, or self effacing does not lessen the didacticism of the whole enterprise. This passivity—and ubiquity—of the photographic record is photograph’s “message”, its aggression.
…To take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it take to get a “good” picture), to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing—including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune.
“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do—that was one of my favorite things about it” Diane Arbus wrote, “and when I first did it I felt very perverse”.
N CLASS QUESTIONS:
Can a portrait ever truly capture the essential nature of a person?
Is there a screening of the self that occurs in front of the camera?
Does a person project their notion or ideal of “self” to be captured?
Or, is a portrait foremost an opinion of the portrait maker?