I found this assignment challenging for a number of reasons. Namely for personal reasons which had a big impact on my ability to focus on this task and see it through to completion.
Another challenge for me was the scope of the assignment brief. As you can see from my initial thoughts I had a few very different ideas to potentially explore. Sadly with the current pandemic scenario plans to photograph people, or views from others’ windows, were non starters. Instead I found myself drawn again to my immediate surroundings, namely the ‘things’ that I have come to accumulate around me.
Having shot what I thought were my assignment images, when I looked at the selection I felt actually they were lacking context and didn’t come across as clearly as I had hoped. I had wanted the objects that were very much ‘out of place’ to stand out more, like an alien in the scene. However all it was was a set of photos of mess laying around my house! In itself, this could have made an adequate series, but it wasn’t the context I was going for. I wanted the photographs to portray how these things weren’t where they belonged. But actually the subject of my image just got lost amongst the chaos around it; the obviously misplaced wine glass and food colouring didn’t look so out of place on the bathroom shelf; because the shelf was so messy the context seemed lost.
This realisation came at a time of trying to sort the mess out anyway. As my mental health improved it has left me wanting to get to grips with many things, and my messy house is one of them. Therefore I decided that I would make each of the images a diptych; with a before and after image to show the chaos and the calm.
I decided to arrange these as after/before in layout; as the mess is the subject – and that is the context of my images, not the way it should look. As people tend to scan left to right as we usually understand that left comes before right when reading etc, my thought is that this will give the series greater impact and draw the viewer to what I am trying to portray in my images better.
Quite honestly, I felt very rushed to finish this assignment, and think the avenue I went down is subconsciously one that was chosen for the speed in which I could execute it, rather than whether I felt it worked creatively and as a series. As a result I wasn’t particularly happy with the outcome of the images.
My plan to shoot on my phone to emulate the approach of Nigel Sharan using a popular media of the time didn’t really work; I felt the images were poor, didn’t stand up to even light editing (when trying to correct white balance for example) and just didn’t produce results I was happy with.
Although I had the opportunity to shoot in RAW with my phone, I stuck with jpg shooting for the reasons above, however I have come to realise that I expect a greater quality and versatility from my image files. I also feel like this approach led me to rush the taking of the images more. Phones seem to encourage me to shoot quickly and with little thought, and as I came to look over my images it became clear that I hadn’t spent enough time considering how to re-create view points, lighting and white balance between the contrasting images.
My struggle with lighting differences and white balance issues became apparent when looking at the series as a whole. I converted the images to black and white to try and disguise this, but I came to realise that the adage I had heard before was in fact true- you can’t make a bad photo good by turning it black and white! The lack of contrast in many images meant in some ways the image looked even more flat, such as with the image of the cluster of plants on the shelf. Despite this, the clutter did seem to become more apparent in the second images; I think with the distraction of all the different colours gone it was easier to glance around the image and spot the many out of place items along the way.
Due to the poor image file quality the conversion to black and white created some unforeseen issues such as some pretty terrible banding. In some ways I liked the abstract effect it produced, but it further emphasised the mistake I had made in my choice of medium. The images were converted using my desktop editing software better tailored to editing RAW, and I wonder whether making the conversions on my phone would create better results. Due to the nature of these images and the mental load of trying to reshoot and re-tidy the clutter I was unable to shoot or edit these again within the timescale I had and have had to settle with the way they are.
I think in hindsight had I used my Sony camera I would have spent longer thinking about the image before pressing the shutter, possibly used a tripod to ensure the same composition, and completing small editing tweaks and the monochrome conversion would have been easier. Overall I feel this would have created a much higher quality of images in the series.
With more time and if feeling better, it would be have been nice to experiment with my initial ideas more and to be able to reshoot these images to a higher standard. However, all things considered, despite not being happy with the quality and execution of the images themselves, I do think the images portray the accumulation of clutter within my home, which is what I set out to do. Adding a series title of ‘Accumulation’ also helps to drive this viewpoint home.