June 7, 2021

PH0701 | Methods & Meaning

Notes from presentation

Gillian Wearing – Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say. 1992 – 1993. Showing a disconnect between our inner lives and public persona.

Sophie Calle, The Shadow (1981) and Double Game (1999) were referenced, however they’re didn’t seem as relevant to my work as the Wearing series above.

Methods & Meaning Forum Post

This image for me is an interesting example of using photographic “faux pas” to create a good image. Here Cindy Sherman is parodying fashion photography. She’s used a crumpled badly hung backdrop, awkward pose and has cropped the image awkwardly across the feet. These elements exaggerate the point Sherman is trying to make as she criticises contemporary culture.  “I’m disgusted with how people get themselves to look beautiful…I was trying to make fun of fashion.” She is challenging the illusion that fashionable clothes can impart glamour, sophistication and elegance. 

Discussion Week 2

Investigate and discuss practitioners or bodies of work and identify

  1. Their methodologies
  2. research strategies
  3. technical considerations
  4. presentation choices
  5. intentions and/or conceptual underpinning of the work

I’d like to consider Brooke Shaden’s work and methodologies

An example of her work can be found here: Begin Again series:  https://brookeshaden.com/gallery/begin_again.php 

What I enjoy most about Brooke’s imagery is the depth of her conceptual work and use of symbolism and colour. Her methods are very similar regardless of the series or concept she is working on.

Her method starts with a concept/idea that she wants to explore. She brainstorms her initial idea with pen and paper considering the possible symbolism/colours/elements that could be used in her images to portray the concept. 

She has said that once she has a concept she likes to develop it by going deeper within her own self to find understanding, she refers to this as the cosmic onion (peeling back the layers on her initial idea). 

Brooke carefully considers the colours, scene/location, elements, pose, subject, costume, props, technique and lighting as she plans her shoot, tying them back to the concept she’s exploring. 

After brainstorming in written form Brooke then sketches out very simply her idea for an image, she usually knows what her end piece will look like before she shoots it. 

Most of her work is self portraiture and and heavily edited/composited in post production. She always shoots with a square format in mind and often takes multiple blank background images of her scene so that she can expand out the canvas in post production to fit the square frame [she’s used a square format prior to the rise of instagram]. 

She often shoots multiple frames of herself on location with a clear idea on how she will use them later in post production. She always shoots in natural light with a tripod and remote release shutter. 

Her post production work is also very methodical, compositing elements before toning and colouring the overall image. Her editing style is what makes her images recognisable as hers. 

The image below is one from her series Begin Again where she explores the concept of the self. The images in the series have all been created using the same style and toning and as such they all have a similar aesthetic which ties them all together.

Webinar Week 2

Present your own work (1 or 2 images), articulate your ideas. See posts The Masks We Wear

In the webinar this week you are asked to discuss a strategy you employ in the making and/or presentation of your work and how these choices affect how your work communicates your intended ideas. 

During the webinar you will take it in turns to present your work, articulate your ideas, and receive feedback and comments from your tutor and your peers.

You should prepare one or two images to share with the group. (Have ready screen resolution jpegs or a PDF.) These might be examples of work you are making at the moment, or you might have some older work you would particularly like to discuss. If you wish to share your ideas around another practitioner’s particular strategy, that is also ok.  

Reflect on comments, ideas and further suggestions posted on the fora this week, as well as discussions from the webinar and your own contributions.


What methods & methodologies have you consciously applied in your practice to date to communicate a concept or intended meaning?

My method tends to start with a story/concept that I want to show. I love to journal on an idea and see what free flows. I often also sketch out ideas until I have a vision in mind as to how the end image will look.

In a recent shoot The Masks We Wear I decided to choose lighting which mimicked the images seen in beauty adverts and magazines. Firstly, because I was using cosmetic face masks picked up from the beauty isles of my local Superdrug and secondly, I like the idea of the lighting removing all the shadows from the face. For me it felt synonymous with the beauty industry standards of perfection, having no flaws or shadow side. It’s also how we try and show ourselves to the world, without our shadow sides and our flaws, only wanting to show the lighter brighter sides of ourselves.

I wanted to show in the series how we try on many different masks in an attempt to seek perfection, be the perfect version of ourselves so that we can try and effortlessly fit into and be accepted by society.

I toyed with the idea that, as the images progressed through the series, the eyes would become closed as if to shut off the windows to the soul. Perhaps providing the narrative that in an attempt to seek perfection and shut out any “shadow” aspects of the true self, all that is left is the mask as the soul with all its depths and shadows are hidden and shut off to the world.

I have considered whether the images would be more impactful with a much younger almost childlike model. Due to time restraints, I decided to try the concept out on myself first which has allowed me to play around and take my time altering the lighting. I think I will complete the series using myself as the subject to see what I make of it as an idea. In future, I would like to use models for my shoots more. I think right now I am not sure where to find one and I possibly lack the confidence to try out new things with a model present. Although I’d rather not photograph myself it does make learning quicker, easier and faster as I can step in anytime without much planning.

Challenges, surprises & learnings

I actually found the very first task of the week the most challenging. The forum post about photographic faux pas resulting in a good image. I felt a bit lost as to where to start looking and I there wasn’t an image which instantly came to mind. It wasn’t until I was looking over some artists from the Feminism in Art History course I did a month ago that I saw something that seemed a very obvious answer to the question.

This week I’ve been reviewing the Criticality and Critical Writing links shared in the CRJ Seminar which have been a really useful learning resource for me. Although I love to journal I think, often, my writing can be more descriptive than analytical and writing critically isn’t something I’ve had a lot of practice with.

I also found the webinar really useful and interesting this week. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone whilst sharing and talking about my work was a little daunting but having done so and received feedback on it, it’s allowed me to feel much more confident about doing it again. It was also really fascinating to see and hear from other students, I tend to follow work that reflects my own interests and genre so it was a breath of fresh air to see photos from other genres and listen to the artist behind them.

Unexpected methods

During the webinar I was given feedback about my images that allowed me to see ways in which I had conveyed meaning which I hadn’t anticipated at the time. For example someone mentioned how the jawline/mouth was more hard set in one image and softer and more angelic in the other which I hadn’t at all considered and is something I am not looking more closely at as I shoot the rest of the series. Michelle also mentioned how the eyes are very confrontational in the image, which again I had not considered, I knew they would be the focal point of the image but the intention was not there to confront, which given the concept of the image, it works really well.

Have any of the practitioners you looked at this week (including your peers) given you any inspiration for strategies or methods you might ‘impose’ upon yourself to expand the creative possibilities of your own work?  

I found Gillian Wearing’s idea of putting together two very opposed representations of a person very interesting. In I’m Bored [above] I find the visual juxtaposition of the well turned out, polished and seemingly accomplished gentleman and the sign of how he feels, bored, really visually interesting. I like how the two things fight against each other as we read the image. It’s an idea I might like to play with in future concepts.

I think I already try to incorporate much of Brooke Shaden’s methodology into my work. I have taken many of her courses and follow her closely on social media, which is why I knew so much about the methodology that she shares. I adore her work and the symbolism and concepts that she works with.