Assignment 5: Photography is simple

Brief

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.
Assignment notes
In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’ Write about 300 words. Your response to the question doesn’t have to be complicated; it might be quite simple (but if you can answer in one word then you will have to imaginatively interpret your photographs for the remaining (299!)
Make sure you word process and spellcheck your notes as they’re an important part of the assignment. For this assignment it is important that you send a link (or scanned pages) to the contextual exercise (Exercise 5.2) for your tutor to comment on within their report.

Photos and Contact Sheets

Introduction

The idea behind the images I have produced stem from my infatuation with water or more to the point under the water. Scuba diving was a sport I started way back when I was in my late teens about 1987, taught by my Uncle who was in the Armed Forces based in Cyprus at the time. The equipment we used was very basic back then where your Buoyancy Control Device was not an all in one jacket with internal bladder and integrated weights but more like a life preserver and weight belts, the use of an additional air line or Octopus was not used either, if a diver ran out of air they shared the same mouth piece from their buddy and took it in turns to breath. Compared to other sports SCUBA is still classed as in its infancy where equipment is continuously being developed to make it safer for divers of all experience. The photos show a series of images of my equipment in their individual parts and then later as the full unit. There are two set of images one the equipment I use today and a series of old photos of friends I have dived with, myself and as well as my daughter whilst she went through her training to become a qualified diver, these are memories that I continuously look back on and reminisce about during my journey through underwater exploration.
The design and engineering that go into this equipment has to be second to none as divers lives depend on the equipment not malfunctioning. The equipment also has to stand up to some extreme conditions such as salt water, chlorine, frost, heat and multiple different pressures. When you look at the images you can see the engineers art-form of cast and milled stainless steel, the hours of thought and processing to achieve the best design for the function the equipment is needed for. Why do I feel so affiliated to this equipment? That’s simple it was my choice after weeks of trawling through reviews, write ups and testing. It’s not the most expensive and best equipment money can buy but it is some of the most reliable and for this reason I meticulously keep the equipment clean, stored, serviced, configured and calibrated to a very high standard. As with most divers I spent an age fine tuning my gear to just the way I wanted it ensuring when fitted everything is streamlined to the way I dive. The hoses, mouthpieces, clips and weight positions are tweaked over a period of time to almost an obsession. When I reached down for either a guide line, surface marker buoy or writing slab I know where it is without having to struggle or look.
You can ask divers why they are drawn to the sport and you will probably receive different answers each time but one thing all divers share is the social engagement between each other, sharing experiences and knowledge. Myself it is not only the social aspect but also the peace and tranquillity, the secrets that lurk just below the surface knowing very few people have seen or explored. The older photos are taken over a period of probably two decades using an old GoPro originally and moving onto a Nikon tough camera which I have used on trips the last few years.

Research

Probably one of the most famous of artistic engineers has to be Leonardo da Vinci who was also known to have designed an earlier version of diving apparatus which consisted of cane tubes joined by leather, with steel rings to prevent them being crushed by the water pressure. The tubes are attached to a face-mask and at the other end to a bell-shaped float to keep the openings above water. He designed the equipment whilst working in Venice in 1500 originally drawn up to allow soldiers to engage in sneak attacks against enemy ships. This was one of Da Vinci’s least known inventions until his famous Codex Alanticus which was published after he died.

davinci_scubagear_hf
Leonardo da Vinci Scuba Drawing

We should should also never forget the original designer for the SCUBA units we now use today as standard and that is of course Jaques-yves Cousteau, you can see the technical drawings Cousteau created below showing the rear mounted cylinders, internal workings for the regulators and fins that can propel a diver with the least amount of force and energy required.
Cousteau and his family retreated to the town of Megreve near the Swiss border during World War 2 after the Nazis had occupied Paris where he continued with his underwater explorations and experiments. This is where he met Emile Gagnan a French engineer in 1943 around the same time as compressed air cylinders were being invented. Gagnan had developed a demand valve used to supply cooking gas automatically for converted cars to run on. They continued to work together developing the breathing apparatus, a couple of months later Cousteau announced the first 2 stage valve was ready to be experimented with. As with most inventions it never worked correctly straight away but after time the first aqua-lung device was ready for use and was initially used for divers to remove underwater mines. Following his success with the aqua-lung Cousteau continued to innovate the marine industry.

jacques-cousteau-patent-collection-patentsasart

Jumping now to some of the images produced by Duane Michals I enjoyed the Photographs with Text series but am left a little confused as I feel the text is now narrating a story about the image and forcing me into a way to interpret the photo instead of making up my own mind to what I am seeing. Garry Winogrand argues that as soon as a narrative is placed with a photo the photo becomes a lie and becomes an illusion of literal description. Michals heavily influenced photography in the 60s with sequences of images to communicate narratives. He also introduced text to the photos not as a label but more of a thought or muse.
Michals started his interest in art at the age of 14 whilst studying a watercolour class at University and received a BA in 1953, after a short period in the army he returned to studying, 1956 he Michals studied graphic design at Parsons School of Design but never completed the course. Michals described himself as a self taught photographer after picking up an interest in photography whilst on holiday in the USSR in 1956, in 1963 the photos from this trip became part of his first exhibition in New York. From this he continued to work for many years as a commercial photographer cover items such as the Great Gatsby for Vogue and the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Duane Michals

Technical Approach

Again I have stuck with a 35mm prime lens and the Nikon D5600. ISO set to 100 and camera set to aperture priority mode as I wasn’t to concerned about the shutter speed due to being midday and plenty of natural light.

Link to Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2

Self Assessment

Starting this a assignment I found a challenge as it took an age to realise what meant so much to me it was worth photographing and writing about. I didn’t want to go down the normal route of people, landscapes and industrial scenes, I felt I needed to push myself to do something different. As you can see from the contact sheets I originally took he photos in a studio environment but after speaking to my tutor he explained that the lack of background made the images to technical and quite literal, so with this in mind I re-shot the images in a more of a dive site scenario which has now added the context required to explain what the images are about. When I originally started shooting images at the start of this course I would label my photos with a brief title but as the I developed through the course I refrained from labelling anything as to allow the viewer to envisage what they thought they were seeing, now I am having niggling dilemmas regarding context and narrative. Maybe I am overthinking this but I am going to need to reflect on this more.
I have looked at a few other student blogs to help to kick start this assignment, especially work by Neil Gallacher Neil’s A5 blog, the close up images of the guitar gave me the idea behind some of the close equipment photos, this is not something I normally do and should in future engage more what other peers have created in the work. Interaction with other students to bounce ideas to and fro is not always easy when you are located in a remote area so I am going to need to make more use of the student discussion forum.

References

Illustration: DaVinci, L (1500) Leonardo DaVinci Timeline, website https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/leonardo-davinci-s-inventions [Accessed April 2018]

Illustration: Cousteau, J (1947-1964) Jaques Cousteau Patented Collection, website https://fineartamerica.com/featured/jacques-cousteau-patent-collection-patentsasart.html [Accessed April 2018]

Illustration: Michals, D (1997) Photographs with Text, website http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals/series/photographs-with-text [Accessed April 2018]

Tutors Feedback

Please feel free to look at my tutor’s feedback

Link to Feedback

Assignment 5 Rework

After reading my tutors feedback to this assignment I was not shocked at the response. I have changed all the images as I originally thought and later backed-up with my tutor’s comments the images indeed look like they belong in a divers’ catalogue. All original photos are below.  The research was shabby and has been reworked to emphasise the two pioneers work towards the modern day scuba equipment.

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