Assignment one – Contrasts
Contrast plays a very important role in our day-to-day lives and can often be overlooked or disregarded, it can be used in a literal sense or it can be portrayed conceptually.
My objective was to choose eight sets of two images from twenty-one pairs of contrasting words and convey each word in a photograph. After this was done, I needed to photograph a subject that depicted two contrasting words in one image. I have provided eight sets of images each consisting of two photographs that contrast each other in a conceptual, literal or photographic sense. The contrasting pairs of words that I chose are as follows:
- Many / few
- Transparent / opaque
- Long / short
- Liquid / solid
- Smooth / rough
- Strong / weak
- Still / moving
- Straight / curved
- Continuous / intermittent (contrast ‘in one picture’)
As requested before continuing with this assignment, I had a flick through all of the previous images I have taken to look for literal or conceptual contrasts. The following three sets are what I found:
Far / near
Old / new
Still / moving (all-in-one)
I came across this shot of a pool break which was one of the first images I ever took with a DSLR a long time ago. This clearly shows ‘still’ and ‘moving’ in one image and is an extremely difficult shot to get also one that was a total accident!
Many / few
I stumbled across a derelict pub one afternoon and decided to try and get some shots for my first assignment. Places like this generally harbour some great opportunities due to their visual diversity. I saw a pile of rubbish on the floor and decided to use this shot for ‘many’, although, this could also be labelled ‘much’; it is not the most challenging or technical of shots but I think it possesses a certain charm. I started to look around for its contrasting partner and found some bottle caps on the floor which I then carefully arranged on the back of a leather chair to achieve ‘few’. I really like the simplicity of this shot and it could also have been used for the ‘curved / straight all-in-one’.
Transparent / opaque
To represent translucent I set a bulb on a black backdrop in my studio and photographed it using a soft box and translucent umbrella. It is a very simple shot and the tight frame and black backdrop isolate the subject giving it a good, strong appearance. For the latter shot in this set, I chose to photograph a pair of legs wearing opaque tights and back-lit the subject to give it a silhouette type appearance; this has enhanced its opacity giving it a solid black form.
Long / short
I really struggled with this pair because I had difficulty deciphering where short ended and long began, I think that the way you shoot a subject can play a huge part in what the final photograph exposes, for example; if I had shot the railway track with a telephoto lens zooming in on the track in the distance itcould have depicted ‘short’ instead of ‘long’. The track could also have been used for a ‘long / short all-in-one’ as it portrays the length through the continuous train track and the shortness through the piece of track that lay on the side idle. ‘Short’ was taken with an 85mm achromatic lens to isolate the subject from the background; I really liked the childlike quality of the miniature subjects I found on the roadside by a school in North Nottinghamshire and the way that despite the fact they are foreground subjects and therefore bigger in perspective, they remain short conceptually.
Liquid / solid
‘Liquid and solid’ were taken using the same element in both images; one using water and the other using ice.The first shot, ‘liquid’, took around two or three hours in my studio to achieve. It was a laborious task but one that was worth the effort. At first I wanted to take an image of a fast-moving river or a waterfall but after some thought I decided to take this shot of a drop of liquid as it would be more concise. After I took ‘liquid’ I froze the same bowl of water to shoot the following day as solid. I laid the ice on a piece of black cloth to create a contrast within the cracks and different textures and to define its shapes; I applied a solid blue filter to lend a cold feel to the image.
Smooth / rough
For smooth I used a pile of pebbles from the sea taken in my studio. I must say, I found smooth more difficult than I first anticipated. Although smooth is a texture, it is very texture-less; I found this difficult to convey through the medium of photography as I didn’t want my image to lack any interest or composition. I started by photographing the smooth curves of a cream contemporary plastic chair but found that the image lacked detail of any kind, rough on the other hand was easy for opposite reasons. We are surrounded by textures but presenting something with minimal texture was a real challenge.
Strong / weak
‘Strong’ is my favourite image in the whole set that I have produced for this assignment. I chose eggs because the design of the egg is one of the strongest natural structures in the world, the same structure that is the base for many of our man-madeconstructions throughout history. I used a psychotherapy book to add even more strength to the image as this is a strengthening practise within man-kind. This is a more conceptual image than literal and is very profound. ‘Weak’ is a photograph of two broken gates in the back of a derelict building, one of the gates looks as though it will fall at any moment conveying this word well. I de-saturated some of the colours in the image slightly to make them weaker.
Still / moving
The first thing that went through my mind when trying to think of a good shot for ‘still’ was still life. I decided to set up a still life subject in my studio taking the old fashioned fruit bowl and flowers composition; I wanted to portray something a little more quirky. I arranged a full-sized fruit bowl with apples, bananas and satsumas and sat it next to an oversized glass with pink roses and red liquid inside; the scattering of blueberries and rose petals were the finishing touches. Using soft but powerful side lighting, I shot the subject on a table in the classic way using a mottled brown, orange and yellow backdrop; I thought these colours were most suitable for this subject. I wanted the subject to be quite dark but with a good quality of lighting insteadof abundant. For ‘moving’ I shot a record spinning on a turn table with a shutter speed of 1/3 sec and a tripod from quite high up to fill the frame as much as possible with the moving object. The yellow and red lights lend contrasting moods as the red is quite intense and excitable and the yellow is calming and soothing, this has also helped to pick out grooves and define the record as it spins.
Straight / curved
I was almost uncontrollably excited when I walked up set of steps and stumbled across the first image in this set. I like this shot because, other than everything in it being totally straight, it has quite an erratic energy about it with good lead-in lines to the black granite wall at the top of the steps. The lamp-post in the foreground is what has made this image so well composed, cutting through all of the repetition. A simple image; one comprised of lines and blocks of colour yet very abstract. The second photograph is ‘curved’ and was taken of the ‘Round House’ in Nottingham. I was sure to incorporate the curved double yellow lines and pavement into the image for some foreground interest. Like ‘straight’, I like this image because of its repetitive nature, although, not quite on the same scale; even the straight white lines are slightly curved due to the 18mm focal length I used to shoot the subject.
Continuous / intermittent
This is my ‘two contrasts in one picture’ shot. I chose this contrasting pair of words because I thought it would be the most difficult and force me to ‘think outside the box’. I shot this image twice, the first time was a dry evening, the second time I took the more atmospheric approach and chose a drizzly evening so as the colours of the lights would shimmer off the puddles; the rain itself is a continuous cycle of water and is also intermittent but that was not the reason I took this photo. The lights and the car represent continuous as they trail through the picture and the stop sign intermittent grinding the car to a halt.
I have drawn a conclusion that contrast is everywhere and depending on each person’s subjective interpretation, each of the images that I have shot for this assignment could have been manipulated to suit that of another contrasting set of words. I found it quite difficult not to portray two contrasts in one image at a time, even though, initially, I anticipated this to be the most difficult part of the assignment. I can honestly say that I haven’t stopped looking at everything in a totally different light and I am now seeing contrasting things everywhere I look. I also found that what I thought in the beginning would be the easiest shots turned out to be amongst some of the most difficult. This assignment has helped me to look at things in a more conceptual way, taught me to curb my naivety and not to ignore the details.