I am, as usual, ashamed to say that i was too busy working to take many process shots of the group working. The advantage of this project is that we had some extra cameras for the groups to use and document our working- we were too busy to spend much time doing this and i don’t have permission for some of the images but here’s some that we can show- just remember my mantra “we’re not here to have fun”!!!!
The Disney Dogs
This group wrote a lovely story which i have published below. As you can see it’s quite a long story but as they wrote it it just got better and better and really highlights the children’s talents for creativity and imagination- i think it also demonstrates how it’s a fairly hands-off approach to their writing and image editing…
Below are some of the additional images from the Disney Dogs shoot- these pictures just make me smile- so much comedy and fun from this group…
For this post i would like to talk about the writing element to the project. I am not a writer by any means but the writing was given as much time as the photographs, with much assistance from the teachers. After a class discussion about photography we introduced the project itself. Below is the information sheet sent to teaching staff prior to this lesson. After several meetings and emails i had a good understanding of what we could achieve and this allowed me to accurately research and then inform teaching staff;
PICTURE MAKING WITH WRITING AND CRITICAL THINKING
TO BUILD ON INFORMATION CHILDREN ALREADY NATURALLY POSSESS
TO INCREASE LITERACY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
We will learn how to use photography to illustrate our stories
We will use photography to show a range of human emotions
We will learn camera techniques to introduce light and darkness, to give mood and emotion to our pictures which will illuminate our stories
We will learn how to capture movement with our cameras
We will learn how to take better pictures
Inspire, inform, connect, values for schools, determination, resilience, excellence, community spirit, confidence, leadership, communication, peace, understanding
We will look at the skills required for each of the sports in the Games and how these are different for a runner compared to a weightlifter compared to a shooter
We will look at the skills required to become a world-class athlete;
Determination, stamina, confidence, state of mind, diet, training programme
We will find stories of past Commonwealth games in Scotland (Edinburgh 1970 & 1986)
We will look to develop our own sport for inclusion in the Commonwealth games which takes it’s inspiration from what we have around us
We will look at the theatre, drama and spectacle in sporting events
We will look to the animal kingdom for comparisons in human athletes
We will look at the cult of winning prizes- is it winning or taking part? What about those who come second? Or third?
We will think about what equipment is used, how it is made and by whom
We will look at the human body and it’s capapbilities
We will look at sport as a tool for revolution
We will try to imagine how it feels to be at the Games;
Who comes second
Who has trained hard
Who have travelled very far to be here
All the writing created by the groups was inspired by the above. The main thing for me was to try and have them see past the obvious Hussein Bolt runs 100m race and wins a gold medal. The children’s imaginitive ideas far surpassed my expectations. They would spend a few hours with me creating their ideas using mind-maps and then writing up their stories on the computer, and adding their proposed image ideas. I did not interfere with their writing process, and the children were more than adept and confident at managing their writing on their own- they actually informed me! I learned about ‘wow’ words for starters!!
As an example, here are the World-Wide Webbers making their mind-map for their idea of the Games being open to people of varying ability…
Once the children have written up their word document of story/image/props list/list of tasks i email it to their teacher who then works with the children to ‘upscale’ their story. I provided nice heavy paper and writing pens for the children to write their stories up ready for me to scan and lay on to their images in Photoshop. Below is the World Wide Webbers written text without any editing in Photoshop…
The writing process is something that is started with me and finished with their teacher in class. Once their story is finished the children then do a test shoot to work out their best angle of view, composition, timing, etc. Below are some of the test shoots done by the Webbers demonstrating their ideas…
These practice images demonstrate composition and help the children work out props and pose- in this series it became obvious which hand the ball should be in and what the crop should be. This informs how they should pose their model for the final shoot. The Webbers chose to ask the school secretary, Mrs. Mockery to pose for their image. It was their responsibility to ask Mrs Mockery, plan her session and organise the props and costume. This maintains their ownership of the work and reinforces their responsibility.
Here are some of their images from their shoot with Mrs Mockery…
Below is their chosen final image- they liked the determination in Mrs Mockery’s eyes and the pose was good…You can still make out the symbols showing which country she plays for and what the actual sport is. I should also add that all the teaching staff loved seeing Mrs Mockery in the photographs…
Emotion, by Wild Wolves
I am going to use several of the finished images from the Talking Pictures project which finished at the end of June, to talk about how we made the work. With thanks to the teachers i got lots of the model release forms returned. We worked on the project for approximately 3 months and there’s more information about it in my previous post…
Bearing in mind the project ran from April to June and that is the busiest term for schools it was important to make sure that we developed a way of working that caused the least amount of disruption to the classes. We began with a few lessons to the whole class. The first time i met the children we had a class discussion on the power of photography and the power of the image. I showed them photographs by August Sander, Richard Avedon and Helen Levitt. We discussed the different cameras used by each of these photographers, narrative in photography, reading a photograph, labelling their subjects and in the case of Helen Levitt the morality of using a fake lens on the side of her camera to photograph her subjects without their knowledge. The discussions were robust and the children were engaged.
Many of the images from the shoot day with the Wild Wolves were just wonderful (to be fair all the groups worked hard on their shoot days). The model, C really embraced the role, blocked out what was happening around him and posed without inhibition. I added a selection of images from each group’s shoot to a closed album in flickr and sent it to the teachers. The children and their teachers were then able to choose the one they liked best. They were asked to consider which one best represented their story, and the one with best exposure, composition, and where the model was best posed. This was a democratic process done by the whole class which removed any decisions made through favouritism and also boosted the confidence of the models themselves. It made them feel part of a team working towards a common goal.
Below is the final edit but i’ve also included a few other layout ideas the children and their teachers had to choose from…The exhibition images were always going to be 20×24″ so we decided on the text taking up a smaller space as it would always be readable at the selected print size.
Choice of edit with text on image. Choice of edit where text is below image
The children began with their practice shots. As you can see the day we worked on the practice shots the Wild Wolves had the luxury of working in a classroom! It allowed us to practice setting up the background stands and practice pose. From my perspective it’s also good practice for me to make sure that i am working to that delicate balance of demonstrating and teaching but still allowing the children full creative control.
A few of the practice shots- looking at angle of view, crop, expression, colour cast, location and camera practice.
This images demonstrates how the Wild Wolves worked. All the group members took turns each at being the main photographer. As you can see this image was taken by a group member. I am demonstrating to E how to hold the reflector (most of the children found this to be the most boring job)! This image also demonstrates how the photographs can be taken anywhere with the right kit- in this case some cheap stands and black background. As earlier stated, space is at a premium in every school i have ever worked in so it’s better to work outside to avoid being shifted every 50 minutes which is never long enough to get set up. Working with natural daylight is also one of the best sources of light which adds to the quality of the image- finally look at all that space! No tables or cupboards or chairs to tidy away!
I keep a running list of favourite words and things (mainly in my head) and sometimes I get the chance to use them as a basis for a series of images. I have been utterly obsessed with brocken spectres for several months (if not years) but haven’t been able to work them as an idea in to a project.
A brocken spectre is, in effect a selfish rainbow. It is the enormous magnified shadow of an observer, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. They were first observed in 1788 by Johan Siberschlag in the Harz mountains in Germany. They are an optical illusion created when sun shines from behind an observer who is looking down on to cloud or mist. The light projects their shadow which falls on to droplets of water at varying distances from the eye causing a halo of colour like a rainbow. Because of the angle of view only the observer can see this rainbow effect and this is what makes it a selfish rainbow.
When I first learned about brocken spectres it reminded me of the selfishness and illusionary nature of social networking and digital technologies; of how we lack the technical knowledge and understanding of how networks are created, as if they are some sort of ethereal experience which they are not. I have developed a deeply cynical view of social networks and am an unwilling participant (I am not a luddite)!
I have wanted to produce a series of images of people interacting with technology and the one idea I keep coming back to is that of the sitter being lit only by the light of the device they are interacting with. I like to imagine how Velazquez or Poussin or Rembrandt would have worked had they lighting choices other than candlelight or daylight?
My Thursday group and I visited the National Museum of Scotland a few months ago and whilst there I took the photographs below. I was struck at how the light from the small screens brought out the features of those in the image, and I also rather enjoyed the space landscape in the background- a simulacrum which only adds to the idea of modern life as rubbish (Baudrillard). The images below are simply ideas- they are not formed finished images but just the start. I get the irony of shooting these pictures with an iphone, and I will shoot the finished project with my DSLR which will only add to celebrate the selfishness of technology, But, lest we forget, once upon a time photography in it’s infancy was cutting edge technology, as was the development of ready mixed paint available in tubes, or the use of perspective…
The HYPE group currently have an exhibition of photography, collage and painting at Armadale library (until 31st October). The work was created for the Scottish Mental Health Art and Film Festival. We took as our ambiguous theme the idea of ‘reflections’, allowing participants to interpret this brief as they wanted. Photographs were taken at a variety of locations in West and East Lothian and we used small round mirrors to reflect ourselves and our environment. Participants were encouraged to take photographs of each other and, as for all my workshops, the fake, smiley thumbs up pictures were banned making those being photographed think a little more about how they want to be portrayed in the images. Luckily there are so many beautiful spots to photograph this helped distract from the actual act of being photographed! I have included several of their portraits of each other and a few additional images taken by the group.
The collages began as line drawings from photographs. Participants then filled these drawings with paint, proline markers or samples of wallpaper, chosen by them and carefully cut to size. It was very restful making the collages and this produced a very nice atmosphere in the group.
Below is a gallery of (bad ifone images) of participant’s work with their comments on the work they have created.
We are careering towards the launch of the Future Self exhibition in Stirling on Monday and it’s down to the last few tasks- order the vinyl lettering and layout the interpretation text and then it’s just the 113 portraits to hang!! Writing the interpretation text is the bit i don’t like doing- it’s really hard to concentrating three month’s work in to a few sentences. I want to write about all the planning meetings, upload all the worksheets, show you the photographs the children took themselves, share their funny anecdotes, tell you more about them and their stories. Until then, here’s a little formal writing on the project…
“Future Self is a photography project which aims to support children and young people at the transition stage within primary school before going up to high school.
Future Self supported children and young people from the Primary 7 classes of Bannockburn, Cornton and Fallin Primary Schools to explore what they might like to do in the future with regards to career or further study, reflecting too on how they might change in the coming years and the skills they need or would like to develop. As they reflect on their time at primary school and look forward to starting high school, Future Self aims to use transition work being done by class teachers as a starting point for reflection on their school career to date and how they may develop and hone their skills whilst at high school to realise their ideas for future careers.
Through discussion and exploration in class and at home, and creatively through photography and costume, the children created a double photographic self-portrait of themselves as they are now and who they think they might be in 20 years time. The children are encouraged when taking the photograph of them as they are now, to consider a piece of advice they should give their future selves to enable their career goals. Then, using costume and make-up the children are transformed into that ‘future self’ and re-photographed. These two separate images are then merged in Photoshop and here today are the 113 portraits of the children who took part in the project.
At the beginning of the project the children visited the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and learned about pose and symbolism in art. Back in class the children learned about representation in photography and how the way we choose to represent ourselves in public can reflect upon our later lives.
Future Self has reached a broad spectrum of children across Stirling. Engaging in creative experiences can create a thriving learning environment, transforming levels of aspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, self esteem, critical thinking and openness to new ideas.”