Assignment 3,  Assignments,  Learning Log

Assignment 3 – The Decisive Moment

Brief

Create a set of between six and ten finished images on the theme of the decisive moment. You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’ or you may choose to question or invert the concept by presenting a series of ‘indecisive’ moments. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, event or particular period of time.


Idea

My approach to this assignment was to record the decisive moments in my day, that should be automatic, but actually require much focus from me.

At the hardest parts of my mental health struggles I did not even feel able to complete everyday tasks, such as brushing my teeth, taking a shower, cooking or sorting out the laundry. Although these tasks are small, mundane and insignificant to most, each took me great will power to complete each day.

I wanted to capture the time spent on these tasks that we complete so often we don’t even notice the time passing. Using long or multiple exposures seemed to be the most fitting method to do this.

Research

After the freeze exercise I was particularly drawn to the work of Harold Edgerton due to the scientific nature of his work and his ability to completely freeze a moment in time. You can envision what likely happened moments before, and moments later, but right now we’re on the cusp of the completion of that action, but stuck right where we are with the conclusion never to come. I also find his multi frame images entirely fascinating. In these it’s almost the opposite of the above; we can see the entire action at once, but at the same time this moment too is frozen. These stroboscopic images are beautiful and portray short actions that happen so quickly, that without such images we wouldn’t be able to stop and appreciate the motion.

This multi frame image is what I wanted to replicate in my assignment, however, having just switched to Affinity Photo from Adobe Photoshop, and being under tight time constraints, I didn’t feel I had the time to learn this technique within Affinity to create a series of images using this method.

I therefore decided to explore using long exposures to capture activities.

My tutor suggested I look at the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto and the way an entire film was captured in one image, like the passing of time completing my activities.

I found that with Sugimoto’s work what I actually liked most was the lighting effect and the way I was drawn to enjoy the features of the theatre building. However I didn’t like the loss of feeling of time. The bright aperture of the movie screen doesn’t really give away what you are seeing in the photograph if you didn’t already know what you are looking at. Sugimoto was drawn to the idea of recording a whole movie in one single frame, a concept I wanted to follow albeit with the shorter time period of completion of a daily activity. Sugimoto would have also had the benefit of a darkened theatre to help expose the surrounding room correctly. I discovered that I also needed to complete the tasks in relative darkness to expose the whole action in my images.

Hiroshi Sugimoto. Carpenter Center, 1993

Discoveries

I planned to experiment with 10. 20 and 30 second exposures, along with the bulb setting. I discovered 10 seconds best exposure time for most activities as 20 and 30 seconds only worked in a darkened room. I really wanted to use bulb to record the whole length of time the action takes, like Sugimoto, however I would have basically had to do that in complete darkness to make any sort of image, and that didn’t lend itself well to doing the task!

This was rather frustrating as my original concept was to record the whole length of time taken up on these daily activities. However I just couldn’t do the long exposure as needing complete darkness meant I would have had to do it at night time, and I have had difficulties doing so with the lateness of sunset, children’s betimes and struggling physically since having my covid jab.

Thankfully 10 seconds worked well and created some interesting images where the activity was still recognisable.

I also had the experience of a card corruption during this assignment and lost a whole shoot. Usually with client shoots I am so particular about shooting on to two cards, making immediate multiple back ups etc and working on the images straight away. However on this occasion I had used just one spare card when I spontaneously completed a second shoot and then left the card untouched. I wasn’t even able to review the images when I later tried to import the photos. A hard lesson learnt, I had to try and shoot for a third time just to try and make up the shortfall in images for the series, although I recognise these were even more rushed and poorly executed.

With more time I would like to have experimented further with different lighting and exposure times. I would also have liked to have tried either composite images of multiple exposures, or multi burst flash in one exposure.

However, as interesting as these experiments would have been, I do feel that these methods would not necessarily add anything visually to my plan of portraying the passing of time on mundane tasks any more successfully than a 10 second exposure. The biggest benefit I feel would be that I would have felt more satisfied knowing the whole action was captured within the single frame.

Conclusion

The images portray what I envisioned of portraying mundane tasks and trying to get across the feeling of time passing carrying out these tasks.

Although they do fulfil this brief, I’m not particularly happy with the actual images. For me the benefit of this assignment was thinking about the ways of recording the action, and showing a series of photographs that do show the completion of these tasks within the frame.

I was very frustrated with the time restraints as I wanted to really experiment with various techniques, but I also have to acknowledge that I can only do so much in the time I have and, importantly, can only do as much as my current health allows.

If I get time to re-work this assignment before assessment I would like to revisit the multi image frame idea as I feel this would work well and I would feel satisfied that I have explored this brief in more depth.



References

Dowling, S. (s.d.) ‘Harold Edgerton: The man who froze time’ In: BBC At: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140722-the-man-who-froze-the-world (Accessed 21/03/2021).

Genova, A. (2016) ‘One Artist Turned Abandoned Theaters into Apocalyptic Visions’ In: Time 09/09/2016 At: https://time.com/4471712/hiroshi-sugimoto-remains/ (Accessed 25/05/2021).

Harold Edgerton (s.d.) At: https://whitney.org/collection/works/10816 (Accessed 21/03/2021).

Harold Eugene Edgerton (s.d.) At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/harold-eugene-edgerton-swirls-and-eddies-of-a-tennis-stroke (Accessed 26/05/2021a).

Harold Eugene Edgerton (s.d.) At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/harold-eugene-edgerton-fanning-the-cards (Accessed 21/03/2021b).

Harold Eugene Edgerton. This is Coffee. 1933 (s.d.) At: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/49821 (Accessed 21/03/2021).

High Speed Camera « Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton (s.d.) At: http://edgerton-digital-collections.org/techniques/high-speed-photography (Accessed 21/03/2021).

Theaters — Hiroshi Sugimoto (s.d.) At: https://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/new-page-7 (Accessed 25/05/2021).

What is Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Theaters photography project all about? (s.d.) At: https://publicdelivery.org/hiroshi-sugimoto-theaters/ (Accessed 25/05/2021).

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