February 21, 2015

Drawn by light – Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye


It’s taken me a while to write up my visit at the end of last year to the Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the Science Museum. The visit was hosted by two OCA tutors, Rob Bloomfield and Wendy McMurdo. Wendy’s excellent review is written up here. I was very impressed that she had previewed the exhibition and really done her homework so she could show us around the exhibition and talk a little about selected pieces which was very interesting and added a lot to the visit. On other study visits I’ve been on its often the first time the tutors have seen the work so there is an obvious element of them winging it (which is also fine because you get their unfiltered responses).

drawn by light exhibition media space

I don’t have a great deal to add that that review really, apart from my own impression of how contemporary some of the images seemed to be. Especially the images of Christina, above, by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman. This was part of a set of images which were amazingly from 1913. It looks like she’s wearing a red hoodie! In fact I was surprised at how early the colour photographic processes had crept in. I was always under the impression it was much much later. I enjoyed seeing the range of classic images all together in one collection (although a few more sitting down places from which to enjoy the images would have been nice, its a largish sized exhibition across several rooms but in my pregnant state I found it quite tiring to do all at once including the tutor talks). This trailer from the science museum shows some more of the pictures that were on display (no photos inside the exhibition so I didn’t make as many notes on my phone as usual).

I love this quote from the timeout review I read because it sort of sums up the exhibition for me.

Got to love a pun in the name of a serious exhibition. ‘Drawn by Light’ could refer to the pull of the nascent technology of photography in the early nineteenth century, which drew scientists, artists and wealthy dilettantes, mothlike, to this incredible new way of recording the world on light-sensitive plates. But it also reflects the ‘artistic’ tack of a lot of early photography. This was drawing with light: a noble creative calling, whereby the treasures of the earth and the human soul might be delineated, analysed, catalogued. A path to enlightenment, if you will.

I enjoyed the 1850’s Salon style layout of one of the walls of images too, it gave the modern audience an appreciation of how these images may have been viewed when first exhibited.

DrawnByLight wall of images

In the little exhibition booklet it explains that they used images from the V&A (such as the one below) depicting an Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society 1858 to recreate this typical Salon curation. Its amazing to think of all that great work stuffed into such a small space.


After an hour or so around the exhibition we all convened for a chat over coffee, unfortunately there was much of it I couldn’t hear because the group was very large and I was somewhat on the edge. I think there was mention of the many gaps in topics of the images, since the RPS are “quite conservative” about what topics constitute art (which was quite cheeky I thought coming from the OCA tutors considering that even today academia frowns upon certain genres (namely wildlife photography which I find can be just as artistic as landscape or anything else, just go see the WPOTY exhibition if you need convincing of that).

The one image that really stuck with me was this one of London in the twenties: The Heart of Empire, c.1923, Alfred George Buckham.

The Heart of Empire, c.1923, Alfred George Buckham

It has so many elements that make me love it. The light. The subject (I’m a proud Londoner so any lovely London views, especially around the thames hold a special place in my heart). The point of view, even today aerial views are not as common and mundane as many other view points for photographs so in those days – to take this photo – wow! The plane as the focal point and the shafts of light and the Thames leading the eye through the photo. Its amazing. The reproduction here looks a little newspaper-clippingish but its well worth going to see in person.

With the exception of that one image (and some of the colour ones), overall I think I agree with other OCA student, Sarah-Jane, that I was glad to see it but I wasn’t as excited as I should have been about this exhibition. A lot of these images were amazing for their time-period, and certainly very interesting as an academic collection of historical images however, as a modern audience, people have seen hundreds of images of a similar nature (sure, its good to see where we came from) but I think I prefer seeing the contemporary shows of where photography is now. The modern exhibitions seem to have a trend of showing images super blown up. Does it make me shallow that it’s more impressive? Perhaps. Maybe its just that I’m tired of seeing millions of tiny photos of mediocre things (on a computer screen, mobile phone, or in fact printed as these are) I want to see something that wows me in some new way, something I can get excited about. I’d still recommend going to see it though, its on at the science museum media space until 1st March 2015 (so you don’t have long).

Here are some more reviews not linked to already above
Design week
The Guardian
The Telegraph
BBC Radio 4

September 20, 2014

Christopher Nolan Shares DIY Shooting Tricks of His No-Budget First Film, ‘Following’

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I really enjoyed the 30min interview with Christopher Nolan from Vice.Com:

I found it really interesting what he was saying about identifying the limitations and then writing the script to them rather than just having them in there and lumping it. For example, he makes the first four minutes of his film in his film club studio on a dolly and with great sound so that by the time people see that the rest of the film (all the outside bits) are hand held and with slightly dodgy sound they are already into the story and assume that its intentional. Also, he shot black and white because he knew he’d have issues balancing lighting with the little equipment available to him so once that decision was made he incorporated more film-noir style references into his script.

August 30, 2014

Storyboarding Tips

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I found this interesting blog post from cartoonist Ben Caldwell – tips on storyboarding from Dreamwworks!

The tips are basically these but visit his post to see the awesome illustrations that go with these tips:

  • Avoid flat staging unless when necessary
  • Lay down grids to help “ground” your characters & compositions
  • Use foreground, mid-ground, background, & far background to sell depth
  • Be mindful of screen space & camera positioning in your edits
  • When dealing with multiple characters try to logically group them to help making cutting back & forth easier
  • Be wary of composition in which everything is parallel to the frame
  • Careful of how you frame characters and don’t SQUEEZE them just to fit a shot, open up the fielding.
  • beware of vague “tightrope” floors, use perspective instead
  • Motivate your cuts

Tips on intimacy between characters:

  • over the shoulder shots & reaction shots help deliver dialog
  • characters squared off & looking at our left or right ear (depending on eye direction)
  • exploit different character heights if you need to establish or reestablish your shot


He also recommends a few other links including the amazing Toby Shelton, who shows us how its down with his Turbo storyboard at this link here.


Another very detailed post on storyboard sketching, specifically about directing the eye is here from the excellent seven camels blog.

This video clip shows how they did it for toy story.

August 30, 2014

Research: Diegetic and non-diegetic sound

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Project 13 Non-diegetic sound

Non-diegetic sound originates outside the scene. It is not directly justified by the image or actions. The most common example of this is the musical soundtrack. Another example would be voice-over or narration. Sometimes the line between diegetic and non-diegetic can seem blurred. The soundscape created for a scene may include a range of audio sources taken from archive or recorded elsewhere, but if the effect is to create a soundtrack that appears to be justified within the scene it is diegetic. Conversely sounds from within a scene may be exaggerated or manipulated so that they become abstract and therefore non-diegetic. Where either of these processes are used there is also a grey area where the definition is subjective.

The most common form of non-diegetic sound is music. Music can be used to create emotion or atmosphere, to follow events or even to predict them. It sets the tone of a film, implies a range of social and cultural references, provides clues as to dates and locations and identifies genre. Music also sets the pace of scene; it can be used to justify cuts, judge timing, expand or contract time and provide continuity.

(source: p70 of course notes)

One film which springs to mind as using sound very effectively is the 5th Element. There is a sequence which illustrates non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene, give clues or cues to action and creates atmosphere and emotion. The one I’m thinking of is where the Diva is performing a partially operatic song on stage (so the music is diegetic) while Leeloo is fighting the baddies in the Divas room (where the music is therefore non-diegetic). The music links the shots and in both the music sets the pace of the scenes. Leeloo punches and kicks in time with the music and the action is created with quick cuts (also paced by the music). The music is also very emotional which lends atmosphere and tension to the sequence, almost as if the Diva is changing her song because she somehow knows what is going on.

I managed to find a clip of the scene I was referring to on you tube:

When thinking of other examples of music and other non-diegetic sound used to create atmosphere, tension and emotion, one cannot help but think of any horror film you’ve ever seen. There is always some damsel in a flimsy outfit or innocent teenager heading into danger, and how do you know there’s danger before you see it? Well the music hints that there is trouble brewing of course! There is a famous sketch by comedian Eddie Izzard about this phenomena. (reference is at 8:30 in the following clip)

The Monty Python films spring to mind when thinking about sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic and intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. In a similar way to the Blazing Saddles reference in the notes these films play on the sound effects you’d expect for a scene and then turn them on their heads, for example in a scene of King Arthur riding into view through the fog accompanied by the sound of hoofbeats, we see that actually he’s pretending to ride (he’s just walking along as you might on a hobby horse) and his servant behind him has two coconuts banging together to create the sound of the “horse”. This carries on throughout the movie. I found a clip of this too:

I was a bit puzzled at first re Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references, but then I started to think about what sorts of music are in films that are a set abroad and realised that I couldn’t think of a film that is set in Mexico which doesn’t have at least some Mexican music in it (some examples are Desperado, Zorro, From Dusk till Dawn, the list goes on). Then you have Bollywood films which are filled with music which has cultural references even non-Bollywood films such as Slumdog Millionaire and East is East have Indian music in the soundtrack as a cultural reference. Films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also have cultural music in their score.

August 29, 2014

Why are things creepy?

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Assignment 2 was all about creating atmosphere, I ran across this video tonight and thought it was interesting:

August 23, 2014

Assignment 2 – Creating Atmosphere

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Assignment 2 is about creating a strong sense of atmosphere in a scene. I chose from the list of activities and atmospheres provided, not just because creativity failed me at supplying my own story (I find that the hardest part of this course so far) but I found it an intriguing challenge to try and make a paranoid cup of tea.


Making a cup of tea comprises of fairly simple steps so I decided to use this as my shot list outline (we were restricted to no more than 12 shots)

• Go to kitchen
• Fill kettle with water
• Boil kettle
• Get Milk from Fridge
• Put tea, Milk and hot water in a cup (assuming we’re not using a teapot)
• Optionally add sugar
• Stir and drink

But how to make it have a paranoid atmosphere? Different shooting angles? Different colour schemes? Lens choice?

I thought it was important to have a sense of why the character might be paranoid, my actor Jimmy J and I came up with some ideas from simple to silly here are a few

1. He’s a Germaphobe.
2. He doesn’t like the way the tea tastes from the zip-tap water but isn’t really allowed to use a real kettle (for health and safety reasons) but does anyway.
3. He’s totally paranoid about something, he thinks it’s the tea or something about the tea but actually it’s the giant lion or sea monster in the room, or outside the window, eyeing him up.
4. He’s sure something is wrong, he drinks the tea and collapses. Someone sinister/official (men in black style) comes in and puts the tea bag in an evidence baggy and leaves.
5. Same as the previous one but that official waves a black gloved glowing hand over his face and steals his face & identity
6. He’s a total mess until he’s had his tea!

I storyboarded (see below) a blend of ideas 1,2 & 6 (I actually storyboarded it several times as we made adjustments). The planned premise is that he’s a very British Gent who is a mess until he’s had his tea and then everything is just fine. Originally we discussed having him clutching his own briefcase with full tea making equipment (including a teapot) but for practical reasons abandoned this idea (most briefcases just aren’t deep enough to hold a kettle & teapot). So it’s all about his paranoid state of mind, I wanted him to be really dapper at the end when the tea was made and the world was put to rights again so at first we messed him up, creased his suit, had him buttoned up wrongly and shirt hanging out (we had to shoot the tidy scenes first though). The clip is split into two mind states, the paranoid mess and the dapper gent, so I wanted there to be visual clues, not just in his dress and acting but in the film process itself. I decided to go with shooting the paranoid mess shots with a fisheye lens, its distorted – like his state of mind. Nothing is quite right. Also, I planned to edit the colour of the film differently between paranoid mess & dapper gent. Additionally, I wanted the action to ratchet up as he gets nearer and nearer his goal of finished tea, so I planned lots of tighter and tighter cuts & closer and closer cuts in the storyboard. To validate my theories I did a bit of research online and watched a recommended example of a paranoid film – Dark City which I reviewed here.

I wanted to use the kitchen at work, mainly because it supported the storyline for point 2 by obviously being a public kitchen so the mise-en-scene is mostly taken care of, but also because it has the same constant lighting (with small variations depending on the weather outside the windows, although they are mostly sheltered by another building next door). My friends health isn’t always predictable so for practical reasons we needed the potential for repeated access to the location. This posed some problems with curious co-workers during filming but nothing which couldn’t be overcome. Also, the sink & fridge is on one side of the room and the plug (for the kettle is on the other) which poses some sequencing considerations which I worked out with several iterations of storyboards. I did the story boards on post it notes so they could be rearranged during this planning process, I think this worked well, we also took some test video to see which angles might work best and that fed back into the story board before our day of shooting.

Please click them to open the gallery with descriptions. Ignore the numbers in the corners because they got a bit thrown out when I replaced the cupboard scene (at place 3-4-5) with the fridge scene which logically had to be later in the sequence but I’d already numbered all the posits.

Discarded cupboard scene:

This section was written after the filming but before the editing
What went well:
The late addition of the trip to the fridge into the story board was a success, originally I had him doing the peering in shot into the cupboard. I thought that the camera being inside the space when he opened the door was quite atmospheric and I didn’t want to lose it but we were slightly bending the story trying to think what he’d be getting from the cupboard if he was bringing everything with him. This shot was one of those which I felt worked particularly well with the distortion on the fisheye lens too. We had to put this one on manual focus so the focus didn’t shift as the door opened.

The footage was much less shaky than I’d anticipated – hooray for stabilisation on cameras. I used my Olympus Em5 camera instead of my GoPro this time so I had flexibility on lenses. I’ve shot a few short clips with it underwater but not really used it in anger so I was quite pleased how easily it was to use. Obviously I used a tripod where I could but sometimes I had to hand hold.

The macro lens shots of the kettle looked like they might come out as I’d imagined them in my head so I look forward to editing that together. Also, I shot extra footage to get the diegetic sounds for the soundtrack so I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t have to be silent.

We didn’t film the shots in the same sequence as they will finally appear but I think I have all the shots in the bag for editing together nicely. For example, close up shots & shot where Jimmy doesn’t appear could be shot at a later date if we ran out of time so I planned those in last, whereas the shots where Jimmy is nice and neat (which appear at the end of the story) had to be shot first so that we could then crease up his suit. We had to be careful of continuity errors and took photos of things that we’d set out so that we could set them back into the same position when we came to shoot a scene which would show them in shot.

What went not so well:
I decided in the planning stage to use the fisheye distortion as a visual device to indicate all way not right, I knew then that it wouldn’t be ideal for every shot but I felt it was more important to be consistent across the paranoid mess portion but sometimes during filming I wished I could zoom in a little, the fisheye focuses very closely but its angle of 180 degrees and I’d forgotten just how wide that feels when you look into the view finder. I’d only done test footage of a couple of shots with it so when filming the whole sequence I revealed where it did and didn’t work so well. I’ll wait until I’ve edited it all together to really decide on whether this was the right approach to take or not.

As I’ve already mentioned, we used a public kitchen which was prone to interruptions. We only had an hour to do the shooting (which extended into two because we just had not finished). Even when people were not in shot they were making footsteps or other sounds which would have been discernible in the final sound track.

One major downside of the location was lighting. It would have been nice to have some nice contrasty & atmospheric lighting. I’d taken this into account somewhat in the planning stage and planned in the storyboard to shoot some scenes across the light (maybe also use a reflector to bounce some back on him) but although we choose a sunny day for shooting it soon clouded over and we lost that contrast effect.


What went well:
I like the effect of the fisheye lens.

I was surprised how well the colour change looked when I’d post processed the footage and Final Cut Pro isnt as difficult to get to grips with as I thought it would be (re Assignment 1 feedback). When I first applied it, it looked very overdone but when I played it back later it looked almost normal until the end when you see the normal colours. I might have to up the effect a little, I’m yet undecided. I’ll see what my tutor thinks.

I shot enough footage, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough and would trouble at editing time but I mostly had enough for the choices I wanted to make about the sequence.

I thought the sound worked out quite well in the end. I shot extra footage just for the sound track and that paid off. I had to spend some time in FCP working with the kettle boiling soundtrack to get it to flow nicely (because the kettle took much longer than was shown). Here is a screenshot of that area of the clip with the various little sub audio clips blended in. Its loud and overbearing on purpose because I think this serves to ratchet up the tension he’s feeling as he’s getting closer to completing his mission.

Final Cut Pro X Screenshot

I think the quick cuts around the kettle boiling and the footage of the fridge worked well. Just how I imagined. I know I didn’t follow the 12 shots rule of this assignment but my clip would have never worked the way I wanted if I had stuck too hard and fast to the instructions. I think this worked well for this clip and I hope my tutor agrees!

I like how the happy hat flip looks at the end – thanks Jimmy for humouring me on that 🙂

What went not so well:
I found it a struggle to edit down all the footage I wanted into under 3mins. I started making harder cuts and choosing to miss out on some of the closeups that we shot. I even sped a few bits up. After a couple of reviews of that I removed most of the speed ups (they looked a little odd) and cut more severely, even now I’m not completely satisfied. There is definitely an art to this. Some clips I wanted them to be shorter but I also wanted the whole action of what he was doing so there was an internal editing struggle, for example the 2nd shot where he is walking in. I wanted him to walk in, get the kettle out and walk towards the sinks. I couldn’t see a way of keeping the action but shortening it, there seemed to be no cut point. I suppose I’ll get better at editing with more practice as the course continues. I cut the getting stuff out of the bag shot (after he comes back from filling the kettle) right down and it looked a bit abrupt, I put him doing a shifty look in as a distraction from the harsh cut but it still looks a bit hard in my opinion. The main footage is now 3mins, the uploaded file is now slightly longer only because I added the title & credits.

I didn’t notice how prominent the WC sign on the door in the first shot was until after I’d edited and was playing back the whole clip! Its not relevant to the story so had I noticed it was there whilst filming I would have tried to cover it with something or shoot with shallow DOF to blur it out a bit.

I should have taken more control of the settings. There are some technical issues which I only really noticed on playback on the computer. for example the fluorescent lights flicker in some of the shots. And although I shot the fridge scene on manual focus I thought the other shots were ok when I reviewed them on the camera, however on playback on the computer I noticed that the focus occasionally shifts unintentionally during the shot. I could try and claim it was another ploy to show his state of mind but I don’t think anyone would buy that 😉 Some of the hand held shots could be steadier and straighter (although its hard to tell straightness with a fisheye anyway so its not too noticeable).

During the filming I made sure I wasn’t noticeable in any of the many reflective surfaces however I didn’t release until computer playback how noticeable the reflection of the camera/tripod was in some shots. Its easy to forget just how amazingly wide a fisheye is! 180 degrees is a lot to cope with and I should have been more observant at filming/review time.

After reviewing the final clip several times (and showing it to some people) I’m not entirely sure that the reasons for his paranoia are as apparent as I thought they were. There seems to be some confusion as to why. I think the little plastic bags of cup and spoon etc all brought in from his home weren’t as obvious as they would have been if I’d have left in the unloading of them all from the bag.

Apparently (according to my husband) you can tell I’m not a tea drinker because no one puts the milk in first when using a teabag *sigh*.

What I learnt for next time:

Having an actor is harder than just filming myself and what’s around me at the time (re Assignment 1 feedback). So superb planning and adjustments are essential.

I need to get my storyboard reviewed by a tea drinking consultant (or whatever equivalent for the next project) to check for plot holes (re the milk first issue). Also, my backstory should be much simpler.

The posits were a great idea but I also need a shot by shot tick list while filming to be sure not to be distracted. It worked out well this time because I wrote one just before we started filming but next time I should be doing this earlier in the process.

More border patrol on footage. I should review the footage on the camera much more carefully (even when on a time budget) for unwanted things showing in frame.

Take control of the focus and DOF settings because its not always obvious on small screen playback when things have flickered.

Install a little bubble spirit level into my hotshoe while filming for straighter shots. And research what kind of reasonably priced rigs are available for making steadier hand held shots.

When planning, don’t under estimate how long simple things (like walking into a room or filling a kettle) take to complete. Shoot them several times from different angles for extra cutting options or just plan for them to be a major time sink and really make sure they are essential to the story.

Filming takes MUCH more time than I’d anticipated. 1 hour filming time for every 1 minute of intended footage sounds about right, this would allow more time for reviewing the footage for each shot more carefully.

August 20, 2014

Viewing: Dark City (1998)

by Suzy Walker-Toye

***This review contains spoilers***

In the planning stage for my assignment 2 I did an internet search on paranoia in films just to see what would come up. One of the links I found was this top ten list of paranoid filled movies. I remember really enjoying Dark City when I first watched it (many years ago) so I took this opportunity to revisit the film with a more critical eye. The exercises in the lead up to A2 have been around mise-en-scène, compositional rules, colour & tone, and lighting so I tried to keep those in mind as I watched (and anything else that might help me out in my atmospheric A2).

There are many plot synopses of this film already online so I won’t go into too much detail on that, this is more a review about what I noticed about the film. Essentially though, an alien race, the strangers, have the ability to stop time and change the layout of the city (they call this tuning). They have set out an elaborate experiment on the human inhabitants, wiping their memories each night and replacing them with others to see what they will do. One man, John Murdoch, wakes up with the abilities to tune as the strangers do but with no memories, on the run from the police (because he was about to be imprinted with the memories of a murderer), he tries to find out who he is and what is going on in this city. One thing to note also is that I watched the cinematic cut not the director’s cut (which I read about afterwards and is apparently quite different), my dvd only had the one version on it.

One of the main things about this film is that the story is set in a city that is in perpetual night time so all of the film (except the end) is shot with artificial lighting. The tone of the film is dark & moody with dark green tones in backdrops and warm light with strong contrast on the human characters faces. There are lots of shadows (as one might expect of a film with this name). The mise-en-scène of the city shots looks like something out of an Edward Hopper painting (but a lot more dark & brooding, with less colours). I love this quote from another review I read:

“Its vast noir metropolis seems to exist in an alternate time line, with elements of our present and past combined with visions from a futuristic comic book.”


DarkCityScreenshot-6 The strangers live under the city and you see them in a sort of subterranean auditorium. When the scenes switch here the tone & colour of the film is noticeable much cooler and bluer. The strangers have pale white faces and all look and dress very similar, this adds to the unease of these scenes. The mise-en-scène of these shots are very sparse, you don’t get a sense of them at all. Just rows and rows of almost identical people. The light on their faces is also a cold blue, emphasising their pale features and its often lit from below to make them even more strange and sinister. DarkCityScreenshot-12


Unlike in the streets above where there are streetlamps and lit up storefronts, here it’s not obvious there the illumination is coming from. When the action is ramping up, while they do the tuning and change the city layout, there is lots of quick cuts between the blue under the ground and the yellow above at street level scenes which provides a nice visual contrast (when I noticed this I felt pleased with myself for already having the quick cuts and the colour changes in my A2 planning, otherwise I would have added it).















The only thing that is really a normal colour is the memories and the ending because they are in the daylight. The memories are denoted with a strange circular blurring effect around the edges (like a lens baby might create) and a sound effect so that you know they are memories (it’s more effective and less corny than I just made it sound though).



Throughout the movie I noticed that the mise-en-scène of the interiors was only the barest minimum the scene needed, by which I mean because each scene is actually an interior that the strangers had to construct and fill with items that they thought relevant it is all detail which they would have needed to go to the extra effort of thinking and making for the human experiment. I noticed there was a lot of repeating motifs in the set design too, archways and circles and very geometric shapes for both internal and external scenes – as if the whole city had been designed by one collective mind (which its revealed later that it has). There are a lot of centre of the frame compositions and many scenes filmed over the shoulder of another character, or down a long corridor with steep perspective or through a doorway or archway with another character silhouetted so you could see past them. It seemed to add to the claustrophobic atmosphere of being penned in on all sides by this fake city, or going miles to nowhere down a long street or corridor. I put some screenshots I took of this below (I really need to find a better way to screen grab than my iPhone) although there are much better ones here.









The whole film has been building to this, the final scenes are all in blazing daylight but the centrally based compositions and perspective shots maintain the look of the film even with the darkness alleviated.


August 13, 2014

Diegetic sound

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Diegetic sound originates somewhere in the scene. The voices of the characters are diegetic.
The sound of the bottle being placed on the bar is diegetic. The music from the piano is
The sound is diegetic even if it is off screen as long as it appears to come from the space in
which the shot and scene are taking place. The piano in the bar is diegetic, even if we can’t
see it in shot, because we have either seen it in a previous shot or because we assume that
this type of bar would contain a piano and so don’t need to see it. The latter case may
require some other visual cues. Perhaps this is something crude like a sign saying ‘Piano Bar’
above the window, or it may be that the actor looks in the direction of the sound and nods
his head in time.
These sounds are diegetic even if they are recorded later. The piano player may be miming
and the sound will be added later but it is diegetic because it is in the scene. The actors may
be dubbed, but the voices of the characters in the finished scene are diegetic.

(source: p55 of course notes)

June 9, 2014

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Further to my previous post on the Prix Pictet study visit, I took the opportunity of being in town on a Saturday to spend the afternoon visiting the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014. Its quite interesting visiting two such different contemporary photography prize exhibitions on the same day and I really enjoyed last years (which we did as a study visit, not sure why the OCA didn’t this year).

About the prize:
The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014 is presented by The Photographers’ Gallery, London. The annual prize of £30,000 awards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which has significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2013. The winner will be announced at a special ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery on 12 May 2014. source.

See this on vimeo here.

This year the winner is Richard Mosse and for once I’d actually seen the original exhibition for which he was nominated (at the Venice Biennale 2013, The Enclave at the Irish-via-the-Congo pavilion).

His exhibition featured photos & videos of rebel-filled forests made using military surveillance film that turns the world psychedelic pink colour. The first room of giant scale photographs were a beautiful counterpoint to the traumatising videos in the next room. Here is a quote from the curators statement leaflet I picked up there:

Death is plainly observed by the camera, which pans over twisted bodies lying on the side of the road, already bootless, looted by passersby.

Not really honeymoon material but powerful nonetheless.

From the Mapp catalogue:
Mosse documents a haunting landscape touched by appalling human tragedy in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where 5.4 million people have died of war related causes since 1998. Shot on discontinued military surveillance film, the resulting imagery registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, and renders the jungle warzone in disorienting psychedelic hues. 

See this on vimeo here.

As per usual in the Photographers Gallery there were video interviews you could watch with a headphone set. I was quite disappointed there was no interview with Richard Mosse, only this video:

See this on vimeo here.

The other nominations were all new to me.

Spanish photographer Alberto García-Alix is nominated for his publication Autorretrato/Selfportrait (La Fabrica Editorial, 2013), a book featuring black and white self-portraits which offer an insight into the artist’s life over nearly four decades. These include the upheavals at the end of Franco’s dictatorship in the early 70s through newly gained liberties in the mid-80s and into the present day. 

In the exhibition there was quite a long video presentation of the images (and some footage and voice over in spanish) and I stayed to watch most of it, it was quite atmospheric if a little depressing. The photos themselves are printed quite large, not as large as the Richard Mosse images but large enough to have some impact in a busy gallery setting. Some of the photographs are quite sexually explicit in nature (especially some in the video) so be warned, I wouldn’t take children to this. There is a small notice in the lift but I missed it until I was leaving (because the lift was full when I got there). I also enjoyed his interview (below):

See this on vimeo here.

I always seek the face of my subject, fixing his or her eyes on a point which will correspond to the eye of the spectator, so that the spectator is also observed by the image. That is the mystery of photography for me, its virtue: that is, that the image should observe the spectator.

Alberto García-Alix

I watched the video interview of American photographer Lorna Simpson before I saw the work and I’m not sure if that was a good idea or not. I think I should have viewed it then watched then viewed again like I usually do (but it was so busy that day).


She was nominated for her exhibition Lorna Simpson (Retrospective) at Jeu de Paume, Paris (2013). Simpson’s work links photography, text, video installations, most recently archival material and found objects. Emphasizing a conceptual and performative approach, she explores themes of gender, identity, culture, memory and body. She had found an archive of photographs of an unknown black women learning to pose for the camera (Hollywood style) and her work was re-exhibiting this as a body of work with photographs of herself inserted alongside. I thought that sounded really interesting and it was expect that there looked to be a few duplicates of her new images which ruined it for me. It was as if she wanted to lay it out in a certain way but didn’t have enough images and thought no one would notice if she duplicated a few, it would have been ok but there were no duplicates in the archived images, to me it just smacked of laziness. She needed to shoot new ones and not treat us like idiots.

See this on vimeo here.

Last but not least is German photographer Jochen Lempert. He is nominated for his exhibition Jochen Lempert at Hamburger Kunsthalle (2013).

Originally trained as a biologist, Lempert has been using photography since the early 1990s to study humans and the natural world. His approach is scientific and poetic as well as humorous. Always working in black and white, his work engages with a diverse range of subjects and genres, ranging from everyday views, to abstracted details.

four frogs

I had mixed feelings about this work. I loved the photograms. They were truly extraordinary, especially the “four frogs” series (above) and the one of sand which looked like static from far away but as you get closer looks sharper and sharper. However the other work and the poor presentation let this down. I know the presentation is deliberate to emphasise the actual medium of a print however it did just look like he’d laser-printed some images on cheap paper and blu-tacked them to the wall. I would have liked a proper interview with him also but you can see for yourself below:

See this on vimeo here.

The exhibition is on until 22nd June, its worth a trip if you’re in town.

June 4, 2014

Prix Pictet 2013 – Consumption: Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Last weekend I attended the study visit to the V&A to visit the Prix Pictet exhibition, The global award in photography and sustainability. I really enjoyed the 2012 exhibition: Power so I was keen on getting to this one. This year the theme was Consumption. All the artists were very different so goodness how they judge this.

Sadly since my visit the winner, Michael Schmidt, has died aged 68.

His entry, the Series: Lebensmittel was really interesting. Initially when I looked at the entries of the all the artists online before the visit it wasn’t one of my favourites, however seeing it all laid out so that it rippled and flowed as a series was most impressive.

(© Michael Schmidt © Prix Pictet 2013):
Michael Schmidt - Lebensmittel, Prix Pictet

As part of the pre-work we were expected to read the following article from Sean O’Hagan of the Guardian. This piece was written before the winner was announced and O’Hagan wanted Rineke Dijkstra to win.

“It is an intimate work about a single subject that is filled with political and cultural resonance.”

Although its a beautiful series of images (of a Bosnian refugee child becoming a woman in the Netherlands) it didn’t seem to be related to the theme so I wasn’t surprised it didn’t win (whether or not Dijkstra is a woman doesn’t come into it really).

Since then Sean O’Hagan has written a obituary for Michael Schmidt here.

If I was going to pick from the women to win I would have thought Laurie Simmons exploration of the unreality of consumer fetishism with the series Love Doll would have been it. She photographically tracks her days with a life-size sex doll trying to give her a personality.

(© Laurie Simmons © Prix Pictet 2013):
Laurie Simmons Prix Pictet
The Love Doll / Day 26 (Shoes)

I think the most visually impressive was the huge scanned creations from Chinese photographer Hong Hao. It was the most literal interpretation on the theme, for 12 years he had individually scanned in many of the items he consumed and then grouped them together into giant collages of “stuff”. One was a great trip down memory lane with retro items such as floppy disks and cassettes. It was interesting to try and discern his criteria for grouping items together. One was the underneaths of items so we were trying to guess what they items might be.

Another artist who’s images I was impressed with was, surprisingly, Mishka Henner. I’m not usually a fan of appropriated images presented as new work but I felt this series of Google earth images, Beef & Oil really highlighted global sustainability issues in a successful and impactful way. It does bring up the usual interesting topics of his he really a photographer or not (because his images are selected from satellites) but the images themselves are beautiful and really bring home what we’re doing to our world.

(© Mishka Henner © Prix Pictet 2013):
Mishka Henner Prix Pictet

The other artists nominated made less of an impression on me and although conceptually interesting, in my on personal opinion, were also-rans.

Motoyuki Daifu‘s series on his family reminded me of a sort of Asian Richard Billingham.

Juan Fernando Herran had a interesting idea for his series Escalas which explored the very edges of cities which were expanding outwards, the first things people do in these makeshift areas are create steps and makeshift walkways in their struggle for space.

Abraham Oghobase‘s untitled series depicted him making various actions in front of walls covered in person graffiti adverts for used cars, piano lessons etc.

Boris Mikhailov‘s series Tea, Coffee & Cappuccino is a street photographers take on the encroachment of the ‘west’ on his village in the Ukraine and the influx of cheap plastic signs and adverts. For me (as a Westerner) it wasn’t the cheap plastic which was the problem but the people taking a crap in the street. Nice.

Allan Sekula‘s series Fish Story is a series of prints exploring the now defunct LA shipyards.

Adam Bartos‘s series Yard Sale addresses the theme from the the other way, recycling by selling on the items you no longer have use for. In the UK car-boot sales are the equivalent and are big business for the farmers who’s land they are hosted on. This series of photographs depicts the way that people lay out all their old stuff in a way that they think other people might be attracted to it and therefore buy it.

I really enjoyed the exhibition, its well worth a visit. You simply cannot get an appreciation of the scale and impact of some of the images shown when you see them on the internet.

The tutor who accompanied us said we should review the exhibition with regard to our own work but on discussion went on to laugh and tell me not to bother when I told him my work was underwater nature photography. “Maybe try taxidermy if you want to photograph animals, thats more artistically interesting”. Thanks. I’ll leave my comments on that small-minded conversation to another post but suffice it to say here that I think I could make a pretty convincing case for showing nature photographs in a sustainability photography prize such as this considering what we’re doing to our planet.