CIP: The Shadows

Oooh boy. This was one for the history books: a brief I couldn’t understand. So the final main project for CIP was called The Shadows, and we were to, well, I don’t really know, to be honest. We were to go in teams to take photographs of somewhere of our choosing, staying in one position each. Then we were to compare our photographs and note any contrasts that were apparent. Things as direct as light vs dark and as abstract as funny vs sad. Then, we were supposed to use this as the foundation for… something. This something was to take the form of a series of posters, sculptures, photographs or a short film. It could also be a narrative, series of contrasts, some sort of concept… Perhaps the point of the brief was to be open-ended. The beyond limits brief gave a large amount of latitude, so it’s not inconceivable that this brief was written in the same vein.

Right from the start, I took the Bill O’Reilly approach of ‘@£$# IT! I’LL DO IT LIVE!!!’, so I went and took some pictures in Brick Lane near the university, went home and tried to find contrasts from which to make… something. I went to some sort of building site/car park/street art thing close to where the art shop Atlantis used to be before it moved in 2015.

Time restraints meant that I didn’t take as many picture as I should or would have otherwise, and not from as many different positions, since I missed the boat to work with a group. Also, as a brown skinned man with a beard in 2016, I was reluctant to spend too much time in one place taking pictures of stuff for no apparent reason, and I’m only half joking there…

I had intended to react to what I saw on site instead of doing the typical thing I do of having a goal in mind right from the start. Perhaps this was more because I had no idea what I was supposed to end up with, but never mind that. When it came to drawing distinctions from the pictures I had taken, I did the best I could and came up with a series of five images that I thought looked quite nice. Now, if you know anything about me, aesthetic sensibility is never number one on my list when it comes to the work I produce. It’s usually something like 1. Function, 2. Cost, 3. Ease, 4. Aesthetics. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes the order shifts, but functionality usually trumps ‘prettiness’. This time, I was thinking of the final presentation of the work to resemble some sort of gallery showing of photographs, with single word titles under each image. Very minimalist, very provocative. Very hit or miss. So I picked my five, tried to put them through some process which would enhance their visual impact.

Happy face.
Happy Face.
Sad Face
Sad Face
Hungry face
Hungry face
Internet face
Grass... face?
Grass… face?

After that, I had a look at some of the recommended persons of interest mentioned in the brief and realised my error. After looking at JR’s global Inside Out campaign and the trailer for Salt of the Earth, a film about photographer Sebastião Salgado, I realised I’d missed another opportunity to do something big. Fenced in by my inability to realise anything ambitious within my current time constraints, I resolved to create another selection of images with a more mature feel to them. It’s entirely possible that all I ended up with were hackneyed tropes, but you do the best with what you have…

The gallery space would be titled 'Hope'. All of the images would have no titles.
The gallery space would be titled ‘Hope’. All of the images would have no titles.
Yes I know you've seen this one before, but it seems more appropriate for this series than the other one really
Yes I know you’ve seen this one before, but it seems more appropriate for this series than the other one really
Hope 3.
Hope 3. I feel that the colour in the greenery makes me think that the greyscale sky is actually blue. Perhaps I’ve been staring at this screen too long…
Hope 4.
Hope 4.
Hope 5. The most enigmatic of them all. I wont deny this is more fine art than design
Hope 5. The most enigmatic of them all. I wont deny this is more fine art than design.

I feel a black and white colour-scheme gives a stronger sense of urgency and relevance to photography by helping distance it from all the packaging and selfies and whatnot we find ourselves surrounded by these days. (It doesn’t hurt that it usually tends to be cheaper to (re)produce either.) I’m a fan of the Sin City films and comic books and do like the idea of the reduced colour palette of black, white and one or two other colours sparingly used, so I took the opportunity to create some images using that technique, even though I suspect photography as an art-form is at it’s most powerful when it’s authenticity is beyond reproach.

All in all, I’m not sure I met the brief, but we are continuously being told to push the boundaries of the briefs we’re given. Had I not backed myself into a corner with how much time I could devote to this project, perhaps it could have taken on a life of its own. I think I would have liked to have gone quite abstract in the end, simply having my series of contrasts be purely form based.

A brief like this is a lot like that Press Pass brief I had that was mostly graphic design; it’s good to aim high, but for an illustration student to have to judge his photography against some of the worlds best practitioners? Well, who knows. If I’d given myself another week…