After being shown the 3 issues we were to base are photo shoots around, I chose to make mine reflective of ideas brought to life by both the emotional issue and the dark issue. These Ideas included emotions such as, Violence, Isolation, Sadness, Abandonment and Distress. I looked at various photographers that had done work that also reflects these ideas, or emotions, through what is signified within their images.

Firstly I looked at work by Richard Avedon, in specifically a range of black and white portraits that I felt capture the oddity of the human psyche. I drew from the emotions signified through the facial expressions of his subjects and applied this to my own photo shoot, in order to signify a similar feeling of abandonment that I felt was well portrayed well within his images.

The Idea of trying to use strong facial expressions, in order to direct the narrative of my images, and signify the emotions I wanted to portray, became more apparent after looking at a similar series of images, taken by photographer Lee Jeffries. His images of people living on the streets of Europe and the U.S also had a strong emphasis on facial expression, as well as body language to portray emotion. These images made me consider the body language of my model, and how this could also be used as a tool to signify the emotions I wanted to portray within my own photo-shoot.

I also looked at a series of photographs taken by Logan Gelik, in which running mascara had been used to signify his model had been crying, reflecting the sadness of the girl in his images. This use of a signifier seemed to be another good way to direct the narrative of my photographs.

After finding work by photographer, Andy Armstrong portraying the emotional distress and physical pain of domestic violence, I chose to base my shoot around this topic. Looking at his images helped me to consider how I would create the stadium of my images, as well as what the punctum of in each image may be.

Barthes defines stadium as an education of some sorts, that allows for the discovery of the operator. Studium is what initially draws a viewer into an image for example the scene, subject or location. It shows a photographers intention encoding it for a viewer to then relay. Culture is influential to the way a stadium is likely to be interpreted, as connotations drawn from signifiers within an image are likely to vary due to a viewer’s cultural reference.

The punctum is the element that holds your attention keeping you interested, and looking deeper into what you see.  It can exist along side the stadium but also disturbs it. This could be something such as props, facial expressions, body language or lighting.

The punctum creates an element that stands out from the scene, and becomes the focal point of the image, adding meaning or a narrative that make the image much more interesting. The punctum can be individual to the viewer, as what people choose to read into can very, along with the connotations they may relay to it.

The studium is essentially coded, however the punctum is not, it is an element that within itself has a meaning, but was not originally embedded within the images meaning. Barthes describes this as “that accident which pricks, bruises me.”

When decoding the images I looked into, by Andy Armstrong. I noticed the studium to me, is created mainly through the lighting, with a circle of brighter light surrounding the subject, creating a visual contrast between light and darkness that draws in the viewer. This in turn leads the viewer to see a girl sat curled up in a shower, this is signified through the tiling on the walls of the images setting, and the wet hair of the model. The punctum is then established by the bruising on the girls face, as well as here expression and body language. Adding a new layer to the image, relaying emotions of sadness, and connotations to domestic violence.

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I feel the stadium in many of my images was created with deep shadows on the face of my model, causing contrast with a lighter, plane backdrop, in turn drawing the views eye into the image and onto the model. The punctum is then created through the smudged mascara signifying sadness, and the idea that the girl in the image has been crying. It could also be viewed as the bruising, facial expression or body language of the model.

The bruising that can be seen in some of my images, on the models face and neck, is what I feel signifies the idea of domestic violence, although is left dependent on the views interpretation of this signifier.

Out of the images I have taken, different elements can been seen to create the punctum. I feel in the images where my model is curled up, in a similar fashion to the model used in Andy Armstrong’s images, the punctum would be the body language, this the enhances the feeling of emotion re-laid through her facial expression.

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In images where my model appears to have slit her wrist, I feel it is the blood that creates the studium, as it draws the eye into the image. The deep red colour of the blood, contrasts with the darker colours in the shot, from there the viewer is lead to the puntum. Elements such as the running mascara, or facial expression, then build the narrative of the image. The mascara running down the face of the model signifies sadness, with connotations to someone crying, while facial expression of the model indicates, distress and worry.

By lowering the saturation of the image, it allowed me to make the red of the blood really stand out from the rest of the image, making it the strong, eye catching element of the photograph that draws you in. The blood signifies, self-harm, suicide and depression. This is re-laid to the viewer through the connotations they may draw from what they see.

The connotations they make to what is signified, helps further establishes the narrative of the photograph.

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I feel my images well reflect my intentions when going into this shoot. The emotions I wanted to inspire are brought to life through what is signified within my images. Ideas of, Violence, Isolation, Sadness, Abandonment and Distress, are all relayed to the viewer, and left to their interpretation when creating the narrative.

Ben Thompson

 

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