For this week’s Project Brief, we had to submit 5 original photos imitating a photographer of our choice. I chose dance photographer Lois Greenfield and submitted some photography of my friend Ciara, a classical and contemporary dancer. I focused primarily on lighting, since Greenfield’s photography of dancers and figures are lit with soft, bright high key lighting that illuminates the subject perfectly in motion. My friends and I used our old high school’s media and photography room, and it took us a lot of trial and error to actually set up the lights and softboxes until we had Ciara perfectly lit. I then used Adobe Lightroom to complete that perfect, weightless airbrushed aesthetic. I focused mainly on bringing up Highlights until the white background was completely smooth and seamless, and so the subject lit up smoothly and prominently.
This week, I did my presentation on Robert Mapplethorpe, an iconic and influential photographer and artist who worked in the 70s-80s. He came from a conservative family, and moved to New York as a young man where he met the soon to be renowned artist and musician Patti Smith. Mapplethorpe inspires me as an artist and creative soul because he was someone who loved to and endeavoured to work endlessly, whether it was on a new art medium or a new idea in his photography. His work in the 80s focused mainly on the developing gay and lesbian movement in America, at a time when homophobia and stigmatism against AIDs was growing quickly too. Much of his photography at that time, such as the iconic Self Portrait with Whip, explored ideas around S&M, sexuality and homosexuality. He died of AIDs in 1989, but his desire to challenge audiences and push boundaries in art inspires me to give myself my own challenges, in my work, art and other aspects of my career.
Don’t have a great relationship with ‘work experience’ or anything like that; the last time that I had work experience was in 2013 and I was at a very small business’ admin building, and basically spent the whole time playing Happy Wheels on the computer.
Thus, the thought of having to put myself out there for work attachments isn’t too enticing when it’s first mentioned.
However, I’m at a point where I’m realising that grades and marks ultimately mean jack-squat; its moreso the opportunities that are presented to us and what we choose to do with them that paves our careers. For instance, I took up a paid photography job for a college function a few weeks ago, and even though I haven’t had a rags-to-riches overnight sensation experience from that, I now have that experience under my belt to present to future prospective employees.
So: Game Plan.
Step 1. What are my skills I already have, PLUS what are skills I want to learn and develop further. Write list, check for whether ideal outcomes are reasonable, leave to sit in fridge for 30 minutes.
Step 2. Have CV/Resume sorted. Any kind of experience in my opinion can be useful, for instance I used to work casual/part time at a workplace (shall remain nameless) that I believe has given me experience of what it is like to work in a poorly managed organisation
Step 3. Research organisations/companies you’d like to work for. For me, I can see myself working in a very creative workplace, involving technical and visual understandings of media. Thus, I can’t really see myself working in something like radio, but I reckon something in PR or marketing could suit me better.
Step 4. Here is my resume hire me please and thank you
Time to grab life’s opportunities by their politically correct labels and hope for the best.
The second half of our lectorial today was about the role and nature of audience in media. Key terms that were discussed were broadcast and post-broadcast.
- Broadcasting refers to how media is/was distributed to ‘mass audiences,’ mostly via television or radio. Broadcast media included things like the news or generic television shows catering to general demographics i.e. Families
- Post-Broadcast refers to this idea more specific, niched audiences becoming consumers of media, rather than just simply mass audiences
I was interested in how the change in communication technologies have contributed to the change in how media is received. Distribution of media evolved from from TV broadcasts to online content, changing how audiences could access this content. When this occurred, media creators and practitioners altered their approach to getting audience attention by going online. Now there are platforms like Netflix, Apple TV, Spotify and TIDAL all encouraging the individual nature of consumers.
For instance, in the last decade, the cable network Adult Swim has become increasingly popularised as audiences are able to access their shows (including Rick and Morty, Aqua Hunger Teen Force, Robot Chicken and Family Guy). The network has further developed itself by producing video games and music. Adult Swim’s penchant for creating mature, adult-oriented content in the form of animations and cartoons has attracted an incredibly tightly niched audience.
Without the formation of online streaming and downloading of media content, the kind of TV, films, music and content being produced would seem more generalised in the hopes of ‘entertaining the masses’ huddled together around the TV in the living room.
For our PB4, my group has been given the subject of Technology and Mediums, and we seek to explore the evolution of cameras and photography since the beginning of the 20th century and its place within society as a media form. Relative to our topic of Mediums, I read through Meyrowitz’s reading regarding Medium Theory.
To start off with, Medium Theory is the study of the distinctions between mediated forms (audio, print, text, visual, etc.) on social, psychological and physical levels. The simplest summary of the definition of Medium Theory in my opinion can be found in a quote by Marshall McLuhan, a literature scholar: ‘The medium is the message’ (1960s). The meaning behind this quote is that social influences that arise out of the media are influential not because of the message that is decoded, but because of the medium’s effect on recipients.
Distinctions made between different medium forms include the degree of verisimilitude (dictionary.com: ‘the appearance or semblance of truth[reality]”), the degree of human intervention and interaction required of varying mediums, and the degree to which a medium can be distributed or received simultaneously to many people in many locations at once.
Something that interested me in this reading was the history of medium theory being dated back to Socrates in ancient Greece. Now, first and foremost, I am someone who admires Socrates; my favourite quote by him is ‘All I know is that I know nothing,’ and it really feels relevant to my brain at this point of the year. Anyway, he argued that writing had negative effects on the mind; he believed that we literally no longer needed to use our brains to remember things because we could write it all down. This interests me in regard to the subject of mediums and medium theory because I see it as a fitting and humbling show of the beginnings of communication media studies, way before media was even a thing. Additionally, I find it ironic that Socrates thought writing was bad for you because if he was zapped across time to the present day, imagine his reactions to phones, tablets, laptops, smartboards, printing presses, etc.
My favourite documentary is Rize, dir. David LaChapelle in 2005. It follows the dance phenomenon of Krumping in South Central Los Angeles, a dynamic and revolutionary dance style that the black community turns to instead of violence and drugs. It stunned me when I first watched it, and I was inspired by the incredible dancing and enraptured by the stories of individuals in the community.
I think what struck me about Rize, and was reminded of in the M. Rabiger reading on drama and narrative in documentary, was the struggles that people went through every day in this community. What struck me in particular was a quote from the reading by Michael Roemer: ‘Plot is really the rules of the universe at work.’ The way that I understand this quote is that although a complication in life, or of the universe, may be resolved, there is always another complication after that.
In Rize, there are many conflicts within the community that practices Krumping, despite their efforts to avoid things such as drug hustling and gang activity. After the Battle Zone event that goes successfully for Tommy the Clown, he comes home to find his house was broken into and robbed. In another incident, a young girl is killed and the grief felt by her family and the community reveberates through the film. These events of the documentary encapsulate the idea Roemer suggests, because in Rize, despite the fact that the community gets through incidents and crises in many shapes and with varying outcomes, there is always another complication that arises.
One of our more recent readings in Media 1 explored textual analysis from a media practitioner’s perspective. I have to say, it blew my mind a little bit; What made sense to me is that every cultural product made by humans is a text, and every text can be analysed.
These texts are analysed through semiotics; Semiotics and media are intertwined and depend on one another, allowing to make connotations, suggestions and representations that are communicated to audiences.
What I think caught my interest however is the notion that the language of signs differs among cultures; every ethnicity, religion, nationality and culture has their own language of signs and symbols that correlate with their social rituals and cultural beliefs. For example, in Western cultures such as Australia or the United Kingdom, the colour white is used as a symbol or connotation of purity, chastity, hope, etc. However in Eastern cultures, such as China or Japan, the colour white is a symbol of sickness and death, and is used to represent negative ideas. While an English woman may wear a white wedding dress for purity and happiness, in China white is worn to funerals.
This language-barrier, or perhaps a ‘semiotic barrier,’ is something I want to investigate and understand further in my studies. An example that I can think of surrounding how different cultures are represented by eachother comes from the 2013 fantasy-drama epic 47 Ronin, directed by Carl Rinsch. In the climactic battle scene that takes place during the wedding of Mika (Ko Shibasaki and Kira(Tadanobu Asano), the bride Mika is shown in a white wedding dress. On one level, this contradicts the source material’s Japanese heritage; a Japanese bride would wear red, as white is a colour of misfortune and illness. On another level, however, the film may have been written in this manner to connote a sense of Mika’s despair at an enforced marriage.
This is what I love about text analysis; any number of ideas and theories can be unpacked from a text, and it’s not wrong or right. It’s just another theory, which can be agreed or disagreed with, but cannot be negated outright.
From this week’s reading, Looking at Photographs by Victor Burgin, I got out two major ideas concerning the relationship between people and photography.
Firstly, there was a clear emphasis on the significance of subject and subjectivity. There is a lot of distinguishing between the ‘other’ and the ‘self,’ between the subjects being represented and the viewing subject. Secondly, there were many mentions in the text of how there is a ‘visual language’ in photography and imagery, a sense of there being a semiotic nature to it full of language and symbols.
My interpretation of the reading has led me to understand that these two factors are intertwined and interdependent.
The reading explored how, at a certain age, infants become self-aware; they are able to recognise themselves as a self in the mirror, and can distinguish separate beings as others. This is a trait believed to be unique to humans, and also elephants and dolphins. A product of this self-awareness is, as Burgin argues, the ability to reject reality and indulge the imagination; this becomes significant in the semiotic nature of photography.
This self-awareness gives way to encoding and decoding visual cues based on individual subjectivity. When someone observes a photograph in an album or a gallery, they view or recognise the subjects based on their own experiences and understandings that are unique to them only.
How this connects to the semiotic visual language of photography is that the human mind understands photography on a subjective level, and additionally on a unanimously cognitive level. For instance, Burgin summarised that the reason why composition is important and aesthetically pleasing is because it lets the viewer ‘prolong their imaginary command of the point of view.’
Essentially, on a cognitive level, the rules of composition in photography allow the human mind to become more invested in the subject and reject their reality for the sake of the representation. This is the same for all humans; we unanimously receive and decode representations using the same cognitive formula that is recognised in photographic and cinematic composition.
On a subjective level, our experiences, made more unique due to our self-awareness, shape how we experience the world and absorb visual language, and influence how our imagination runs and shapes our ‘frame of mind’ in which photography is remembered.
The visual language of photography is, as I understand it, a complex intertwining of the cognitive and psychological aspects of the human mind. Our ‘point of view’ or ‘frame of mind’ is a melded combination of how human reception of visual cues occurs and how our self-aware natures allow us to reject reality and substitute our own imagination, whether we are the author of a text or a receiver.
In one of our more recent readings for Media 1, I was initially taken aback by the sheer deepness and abstractness of this extract on Perspective and Social Distance. It took me a minute to notice that what was being discussed was essentially how perspective in a piece of media reflects, literally and figuratively, the distances between the audience addressed and the subject being represented.
That may seem a little confusing at first, so let’s try a better interpretation:
Let’s say you’re watching an ad on TV for the upcoming footy season. Any particularly exclusive shots you see of significant individual players may look at them from a slight low-angle, and depict them at full length in the frame which would place them a couple of meters away from the camera/the audience. This positioning of the player in this manner subtly suggests that their significance makes them superior to the audience; they are tall, powerful, and untouchable, far from our screens; at the same time, they are essentially framed so that the audience wants to be on their level, and join them on that platform several meters from the camera where there is apparent glory. That is the essential gist that I got from Perspective and Social Distance.
The reading looked closer at this idea of perspective by referring to its modern roots in the Renaissance era, spanning roughly from the 1500s-1600s. As I am fond to say the least of art, particularly classical art, this exploration clarified what the reading meant by ‘perspective’ in a tangible sense. A sense of hierarchy within artistic and mediated texts clarified for me how there is a distance both literal and figurative between an audience and a subject. In the foreground of a photograph for instance, there are the things considered most accessible to the audience; perhaps normal people, everyday objects, items, pets and animals. The further towards the background of the photo you go, subjects represented would be the ones difficult to attain for an audience; perhaps a representation of fame, fortune, glory, etc.
In Week 1, we were sent a reading in Media1 in the form of a graphic novel by Scott McCloud, exploring human perception in the media that we consume daily. I was reminded of this reading last week in our Media1 workshop and went back to it after we were sent out in groups to film content for a short film haiku. The constraints of the content we shot were that there was to be no focus on individuals, and no camera movement.
I was reminded in this moment of a method of storytelling I had learned about originally from a YouTube personality called Nerdwriter1; it is called Action to Action, and another is called Aspect to Aspect. In Scott McCloud’s Blood in the Gutter, Action to Action is shown as a storytelling method that allows a reader or audience to fill in the gaps, or gutter, between panels and frames. Nerdwriter1 analyses this deeper as a storytelling method for a society or culture that is very goal oriented; for example, in American comic books, Action to Action may be used to tell the narrative of a superhero intending to save the world, knocking down one bad guy at a time.
Conversely, Aspect to Aspect, as explored by McCloud, renders the concept of time unimportant, or even non-existent. Each frame shows aspects that allow the mind and the eye to wander, evoking an idea, emotion or setting. Nerdwriter1 has taken this a step further, and suggests that, particularly in an eastern culture or society, such as Japan, there is less emphasis on getting to a particular place or attaining a particular goal than the notion of allowing the mind to wander within a moment in time. Nerdwriter1 suggests that Aspect to Aspect can be utilised to evoke in an audience or reader a sense of simply existing in a moment. The YouTuber supports his theory through his video essay on the Japanese sci-fi thriller Ghost in the Shell, alluding to a series of shots in the intermission of the film that takes on this sense of being present in a moment, absent from time and time’s constraints.
Back to my original point about the haiku short films we were collecting content for. While I am not sure if Brian Morris was intending for us to rediscover the theory of Aspect-to-Aspect, I found it interesting that we had the goals of creating a filmic haiku (a Japanese form of poetry) and were using a method of filmmaking that is closely linked to a storytelling method used predominantly in Japanese film, narrative, literature and graphic novels. Emphasis on the landscape, setting and context was made clear to us, which is highly similar to the way that Ghost in the Shell conveys a mood and place through similar emphasis to its production design and landscapes.
LINK: Nerdwriter1’s video essay alludes to McCloud’d readings on Action vs Aspect in the first 3 mins