Contact sheet of final photographs

 

 

 

After taking around 50 photographs for each person, consisting of various lighting levels (intensity of bulb, positioning etc), camera angles, framing and compositions, I have finally narrowed it down a few of the the most suitable photographs (per person) which fit my brief.

 

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I am very pleased with my final choices of photographs, however I am aware that there is variation within the lighting and the tones between the photographs. This problem can be linked with the organisation of the project, as although I aimed to film/photograph all the people on the same day, each of them had different schedules and could no attend on one planned day. Therefore I had to divide the workload into separate days, meaning that although I was able to remember the positioning of the hallogen 3 piece lighting kit, the heights needed to be changed depending on the height and positioning on the person. For example how it corresponded with their features such as skin tone and size of facial features. Although I was able to look back at the previous photographs I had taken of the other interviewee’s, it was quite difficult to recreate the exact ambience of lighting. I did try my best to do so by formatting the camera on the same settings for every shoot, however I knew that I would be to able to digitally manipulate the photographs to resemble each other through Photoshop. Elements such as levels, contrast, exposure and colour balance could be altered to result in a set of photographs which look professional, if edited carefully enough.

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Begining to Edit the film

To create my series of short interviews-documentaries, I will be editing the footage on Adobe Photoshop. Each film will be around 45-60 seconds long, which will feature each person who I photographed, discussing what one of the three words displayed on the website (Butch, Queer, Effeminate) means to them and how they perceive it. The audio will be played over a compilation/montage of extreme close ups of of the subjects face and body.

Here is a screen shot of the start of my editing process, an example of the framing of my shots. Extreme close ups of the subjects features are used to disorientate the viewers of who is speaking, as if they need to put together parts of the face to realise who is actually speaking. As the intentions of my film is to reduce the social implications of being LBG in society and focus on the fact they are humans, just like the audience who will be viewing it, therefore aspiring to decontexualize the stereotypical representation of the LGB community, through these still shots.

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Something that I have been contemplating throughout the editing process is how I could manipulate the sound and visuals to juxtapose each other. By this I mean by adding the audio of one of the interviewees and actually apply it over someone else close ups, as a way to confuse the viewers as to who’s opinions are actually being conveyed. What has inspired me to do this is Gillians Wearing’s video art piece ‘2 into 1’- two separate interviews of a mother and her sons, however swapping their audios and adding it to other interviewee who are miming the audio response.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36WUgFMDY-M

 

This video reinforces the idea of decontextualisation, through the unconventional link between the visual and audio method. Through exposing the ‘truth’ behind the perception of families and the relationships within them, Wearings observational documentary challenges the notion of perfect families ‘By attempting to destabilize the relation between the observer and the observed, both during the production and consumption, she attempts to complicate any conclusion based on detached observation in the field’. (Wesley Aelbrecht, August 2011).

The description above of ‘destabilising’ the relationship between the viewer and the subject (on screen) is something I am interested in exploring as I think it would be beneficial to the narrative of my film. As I am already essentially doing this by making it harder for the audience to detect exactly who is talking through the extreme close ups, as in testing their memory to remember who it is in the photographs on the homepage. However by disconnecting the the correct sound to the visual footage further enhances the concept of decontextualisation of the subject as it distorts the ‘truth’ to the audience of who is actually talking.

I have to take into account of what I am intending to achieve by doing this as it may over-complicate the presentation of  the results of my visual research project. Although I do believe it will tie in effectively as theoretically it does follow many of my objectives I had initially for the video.

 ‘In short, Wearing’s work radically changes documentary practices that long for objective truths and familiarity into its reverse, the unfamiliar.’ (Wesley Aelbrecht, August 2011).

 

Derogatory Words- My Questions

During my research concerning LGB representations in television, I found 3 reoccurring words across all the case studies and theoretical writings which were used:
Queer-  Encapsulates both men and women (A previously negative word surrounding the homosexual behaviour, that has now been reformed into a theory which oppresses the idea of a heteronormative society)

Butch– Targeted at lesbian women (women who supposedly disassociate from feminine stereotypes and aspire to more masculine)

Effeminate– Targeted at gay men (Men who adopt an overly feminine attitude and do not identify with stereotypical masculine tendencies)

All the case studies, research projects and online forums I read regarding the representation of the LGB community,  all include these three terms to describe the way they are characterised. Some I looked at:

  • Acting Gay: Male Shift The Frequency Components of Their Voices Towards Female Voices When Playing Homosexual Characters- Valentina Cartei and David Reby
  • The Perception of Homosexual Stereotype On ‘Gay Straight or Taken- Kelsey Wallace
  • Seeing ‘‘Straight’’ through Queer Eye: Exposing the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity in a Mediated Ritual of Gay Rebellion -Robert Westerfelhaus & Celeste Lacroix
  • Sperm Stealers!…And Other Representations of Lesbian Parents across Television

  • Were We Being Served? Homosexual Representations In British Comedy- Murray Healy
  • Reinventing Privilege: The New (Gay) Man in Contemporary Popular Media- Helene A. Shugart

  • Invisibility, Homophobia and Heterosexism: Lesbians and Gays and The Media- Fred Fejes and Kevin Petrich

As part of my research it was necessary to explore theories and more importantly case studies regarding the world of LGB in television, to provide evidence to create a solid basis for my argument I am aiming to present within my project. Although throughout my research I have come across some opinions which express the positive reactions to the embodiment of LBG in television, there is a difference between embodying them as part of our society, and framing their characters. The embodiment of LGB characters can be most commonly be found on television sitcoms, which can be seen as a type of humorous television program based on situations that could arise in everyday life, therefore creating characters that the audience can relate and empathise with- essentially recreating a mildly accurate realities. ‘They have made us think about ourselves by making us laugh at our own absurdity. Good sitcoms are a kind of virtual reality – they reflect the rhythms of everyday life, the pain of the human condition and, of course, the joy of laughter’ (Phil Wickham, BFI). However my project intends to question televisions role in framing LGB characters in (american) sitcoms- from the way they dress to the way they behave, and to highlight the ubiquity of heteronormativity, (another form of framing which ‘does not just construct a norm, it also provides the perspective through which we know and understand gender and sexuality in popular culture’  (Westerfelhaus & Lacroix). Therefore the three words that I have chosen to ask my interviewees about, address the elements in which may LBG characters are represented in television sitcoms.

Some questions I have brainstormed:

  • Can you personally relate to any LGB characters you have seen on american sitcoms?
  • What does the word Queer/Effeminate/Butch personally mean to you?
  • How do you interpret the representations of LGB characters in american sitcoms

Some other derogatory words I researched were ‘Alternate lifestyle’ and ‘sexual preference’ instead of sexual orientation, because these words are no longer considered appropriate, because “preference” and “lifestyle” imply that one’s sexual/romantic orientation is a choice, which it’s not. For gays and lesbians, heterosexuality is the ‘alternative lifestyle. However these terms do not directly link to the representation of LGB of American sitcoms, furthermore I decided to use words which strongly affiliate with the portrayal of their characters so I could gain a more detailed insight of how people (all sexes) interpret these stereotypes shown in sitcoms.

References

Westerfelhaus, R. & Lacroix, C. 2006, “Seeing “Straight” through Queer Eye: Exposing the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity in a Mediated Ritual of Gay Rebellion”,Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 426-444.

Phil Wickham on Sitcoms, BFI.co.uk  http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/445368/ accessed on 25 november 2015

Storyboarding

Here is a storyboard of how I envisage the website (created on Wix) as a platform to exhibit my photography and short films. The storyboards show how the user will be able to navigate through the webpages in my desired way. I have constructed the webpages in a simple format as I do not want my project to focus on the web-media element but simply as a means of presentation.

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A brief storyboard of the scenes which I am shooting for the 45-60 second video:

IMG_0826The video aims to capture extreme close ups on the photographed subjects, highlighting their features by taking them out of context- concerning social constructions of sexuality and the representation of sexual orientations. The close up shots are intended to confuse the viewer of who’s view is being put across, from the audio overlaying it. However I have concluded that I will be mismatching the audio and visuals of the photographed subject, in order to deceive the audience of who is actually talking. The reason I feel that this combination would be beneficial to my project, is due to the main element of decontextualising the mainstream associations of LGB people mainly influenced by their appearance, furthermore challenging this common notion that they live up to certain ideals which are presented through television as the reality of it.

Film Contact Sheets

Here is an insight to what the framing of my short clips will look like, I have purposely captured extreme close ups of of the subjects to following the criteria of my work to conceal their entire identity to challenge my audience about their sexual orientation. I will be editing one shot from each persons face together, to make a combination of features of their face to represent the variety of opinions. I want to emphasise that I have not pre mediated any of their answers, they are all their own opinions.

Purpose of Black and White

 

 

 

One of the main reasons in which I have decided to have exhibit my final pictures in black and white is due to the metaphorical link it has with the intentions behind the photograph. Stripping all colour from the image correlates with my aim to strip the subject of any social constructs of stereotypical representations in regards to their appearance. Taking away the tones visually means its raw, it’s stripped back, it’s honest and it allows you to show the true person without the distraction of colour.

Here is a shot of one of the people I will be using in my project. I am using this as a test photograph as the positioning of the camera was no suited for what I wanted (shoulders included). I found that the black and white picture is much more striking as all his features stand out due to more definition from the combination of dark and light tones. Along with linking to my photographic intentions, the black and white photograph presents a sharp image which defines the face in such a flattering way by highlighting the contours of the face. The natural inspired studio lighting seemed to blur our small features such as his freckles, where as the black and white filter (which I manually adjusted to achieve this) emphasised these. This was something that I was extremely pleased about as I wanted to present the final pictures as people who are displaying themselves as they are, before being generalised into social groups/class/genres, simply mammals.

 

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I have noted down the exact measurments for the filter I customised on this photograph, as I intend to use it for the rest of the final pictures. However I am aware that the other photographs will vary depending on the appearance of the subject eg skin, eye, hair colour, therefore adjustments to the filter may need to be made to keep the images looking more or less the same.

The History of Homosexuality

Throughout history, homosexuality has always been a topic which has attracted much discrimination, contributing massively to the construction of their presence in society. Factors such as religion and culture were continually the main force against the ‘unnatural’ sexual orientation, passionately opposing the LGB community with little knowledge to recognise exactly why people led these ‘alternative’ lives.

Jeffery Weeks chapter ‘The History of Homosexality’ in his book ‘Sex, Politics and Society- The regulation of sexuality since 1800’ explores the transformation of attitude towards sexuality that has taken place in England over the last 200 years. It is important to briefly review the history of sexuality in and the role of homosexuality, to present an understanding of why I have decided to revolve my project around a topic which consists heavily of sexual representations. By exploring the key historical events regarding the common perspective of LBG people, allows me to acquire knowledge such as: the foundations of the negative representations, why society thought in this specific way and how progressively over time the LGB identity has become more accepted by the public.

Weeks earliest account of sexual discrimination to homosexuals was recorded in 1533 under the reign of Henry VIII, the law demanding a death sentence for ‘Abominable Vice of Buggary'(Weeks:1981). This was the first law of Sodomy, which translated as the death to anyone who participate in any unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. Clearly this was devised long before the studies of sexuality were researched, showing that at the time their was not even a thought or inking that homosexuality could be a possibility of a ‘type’ of person, but instead creating a criminal offence for the ‘type’ of person who disrespect Gods orders. It was presumed that Sodomy was a potential in all sensual creatures instead of a sexual orientation, and those who decided to act upon these ‘immoral’ behaviours were the ‘real’ criminals. This law was only lifted in 1861, followed by a reformed sentence of life, instead.
Even the most advanced philosophers at the time such as Jeremy Bentham believed that ‘sodomites’ and ‘bisexuals’ were capable of marriage. The prospect of a man having a sexual orientation separate from the ‘instinctive’ pro-creational purpose was not certainly not welcomed or explained, furthermore the knowledge to validate why was extremely underdeveloped, which opened room for many irrational conceptualisations.

The theorisation of Sex

Research recorded in 1813 in Robert Holloways ‘The Pheonix of the Sodom’ found that males who prostituted themselves were usually ‘not effeminate men, but coalmerchants, police runners, drummers, waiters, servants and a grocer’ (Holloway:1813, 13). This proved from an early stage that the association of homosexual behaviour was not routed from the feminine mind implanted in a male body- a concept theorised by german lawyer Karl Urlrich who believed ‘sodomy’ was answerable to an embryo malfunction during pregnancy. During the latter of the 19th Century the new theory of the ‘Medicalisation of sexuality’ switched the focus from homosexual behaviour as an act of sin, to a symptom of an illness. The shift to pathology and psychiatry welcomed many advanced ideologies. The emergence of theories such as Karl Westphal’s description as ‘congeintal reversal of sexual feelings’ or ‘moral insanity’ following the idea of Sexual Deviation- sexual deviants by trying to brainwash homosexuals out of their sexual orientation. Thus to ‘solve’ problems of sexual variation, many traumatic experiences such as week fathers, overpowering mothers and gender confusion were used as ‘symptoms’ to sexual preference. The characteristics of ‘sexual deviants’ were defined as the social ‘problemed group’. However the more liberal Havelock Ellis’ agreed it was in-born, ‘natural anomaly’ (Weeks:1981)  therefore not a disease or to be viewed upon as immoral; becoming one of the leading most applicable concepts to the difference of sexual orientation. On the other hand, Freud believed sexual orientation was a result of social constructs, arguing that sexuality was not a ‘pre-given essence but a drive constructed in process of the development of human animals’ (Weeks:2001). Freud’s theory was based on cultural civilisation, repression and accumulation of experiences throughout childhood. In the middle of the spectrum lay William Mcdougall’s primarily ‘naturalist’ view of the instinct of reproduction as a desire for offspring, arguing that heterosexual activity is only engaged in for this purpose. However, Mcdougall concluded that if these natural instincts were to fail, that social and cultural factors must be the influence ‘weakening the natural sexual force’ (Weeks:1981). Although this approach initially seems undeveloped due to the argument that sexual activity is solely for reproduction, it adopts both Freud’s and Ellis’ theories, it suggest that sexual orientation is an independent variable.

Whilst these studies were underway, in the wider context it evoked the studies of sexuality in general, rather than just homosexuality. A new social group were introduced who were now part of speculation and observation. Yet, throughout the entire (brief) history I have researched and examined, very little information appeared about homosexual women, focusing almost completely on behaviour of men. Lesbianism as a crime never managed gain any attention from the House of Parliament, although one specific attempt in 1921 to criminalise provoked Lord Dessar to comment on the subject which had previously been kept away from public interest. Lesbianism was seen as a threat to the stability of society, as Dessar worried it would draw attention to an ‘act which no women had cared of thought about before’ (Weeks:1981) therefore promoting it. Not only does this present the inequality between homosexual men and women’s place within the same group, but also showing the long standing battle gay men have faced generally in society, inside and outside their ‘social group’. Ellis vaguely touched on theories concerning lesbianism, specifically by comparning males sexual initiative to lesbian sexual desires. Thus implying that they were masculine women, purely down to their sexual urges. This could be seen as one of the earliest accounts behind the stereotype of lesbians adopting a more male appearance or what now is called ‘Butch’.

This book has great value to the broadening of my understanding of LGB people as part of our society, informing me about the history and culture which has essentially shaped the way in which they are represented now. The information I have gathered will be extremely beneficial towards the drafting of the question I intend to ask my interviewees. As I am on the search for derogatory terms used in the media to address LGB people, this reading has expanded my knowledge and awareness of historic terms, events and landmarks which I can look out for in modern day media, which may have significance to the people I interview. Therefore I can build my questions around historic matters which may also be relevant today.

Impact of Composition

As I have previously mentioned in my blog post about Susan Sontag, the framing of the camera significantly manipulates the way in which an image may be perceived and interpreted. By changing the composition of the camera can completely alter the intentions the photographer wants to capture. This video I stumbled across coincidently on Facebook, documents the possibilities of representation through capturing one man from different angles. However not only does it show the variation of representations, it highlights the power of perspective (on behalf of the photographer).

Luckily, this video I found demonstrates the extent in which a photographed persona of the subject can drastically change, which is an issue I aim to highlight through how LGB people are represented in media. Therefore I will be trying to neutralise these representation by capturing both LGB and heterosexual people in a way which will diminish the element of sexuality through photographing them in a style to exhibit them as just humans.

Testing lighting and composition

Here are a few test shots I took of my friend Georgie. This was a starting point for my project as I wanted to play around with the framing/positioning and lighting of the photograph, to become more confident in using this equipment but also to perfect my style of photography for the final pictures.

What was used (in the Frenchay Studio):

  • 3 Point Dedo Lighting
  • Cannon EOS 700D
  • Tripod

Contact Sheet:

Test trial shoot with g

The three I have circled all tick the boxes in terms of the framing of the subject, close up headshot. However the first and third circled photographs suffer from harsh shadows in the lense, whereas the second I have manage to just about avoid them. I certainly do not want any shadowing in my photographs, so this has test shoot has taught me how the way lighting works together to compliment the subject. For example positioning them so that the shadows do not enhance any features which are not intended to be highlighted. After countless repositioning of the 3 lights, I came very close to eliminating the shadows, however this is something I found quite difficult and will have to continue working on to achieve a shadowless picture!

Other than the shadow difficulties, I succeeded in finding my desired lighting to capture the subject in. Although I will be converting the photographs into black and white in post production (photoshop), the lighting is important as I want to make sure the face is well lit as I want them to kind of illuminate on the page, brining out all their features. I was also pleased with the composition of these photographs, however I do think my final pictures will be more zoomed in, as I have mentioned before, I do not want to include any clothing in the pictures, I want to present them as simple human beings as in the interviews, I want to challenge the audience by adding the subjects voice over extreme close ups of their body/facial expressions so they have to piece the puzzle together of who is actually talking, therefore this wont give it away as easily. Furthermore I will need to position the camera higher on the tripod so that less body is shown (below their shoulders) and more face is, along with less space at the top of the screen.

Susan Sontag On Photography

As photography is a topic that I am relatively new to, I wanted to further my knowledge about the technicalities of photography and come to terms with the impact photography has in society. American writer Susan Sontag, who wrote extensively on photography in her book ‘On Photography’, is a collection of essays which explore the possibilities that photography enables. As Sontag describes is as “a progress of essays about the meaning and career of photographs.” (Sontag:1973)

Other than my desire to strengthen my awareness on photography, I was also drawn to Sontag for the another reason. Sontag was heavily involved in Human rights activism, partly covering equality for LGB which as she infused this passion into her works. Sontag immersed herself into becoming an Aids Activist, a current crisis in which she felt had a severely damaging impact on the representations of the LGB society that ‘unashamedly mobilised a collective identification with gay men'(Sontag:1977). Sontag raised awareness of the unfairly generated negative representation of gay men at a time where the main importance lay with issue of health, not on the social construction of gay men. At this point in the world the epidemic of Aids was a fairly new disease, providing more of a reason for heterosexual citizens to create an opposition against the morality of homosexual activity, encouraging further challenges to the people of various sexual orientations. Although today the presence of openly LGB people is more accepted -to an extent(depending of country, culture,religion etc), the Uk seem to have one of the more liberal outlooks to adopting their culture into modern day society. However I am still aware and feel that it is important to exhibit the challenges the LGB face in the supposed democratic society we live in, as it is evident through multiple news reports that they are still a target of discrimination due to their sexual orientation. I have picked Sontag as a key theorist for my project as I believe that her association with gay activism in relation to photography is extremely relevant and influential in terms of helping my understanding of how photographs are constructed in certain way to evoke specific ideals, which will help determine the methods of how I frame my photographs to exhibit my intentions.

A recent story concerning gay discrimination ending with a positive outcome:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34665478

On Photography

Sontags writing on photography have enabled me to clarify and comprehend the purposes of photography. I have selected a few detailed quotes that I came across in her book, which explain various facts/theories behind taking a photograph.

‘In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. (Sontag:1977).’
 
I was drawn to Sontag’s fascination with photography as a platform for democracy as she mentions photographs provide us with ‘a right to observe’. This creates the notion that it potentially undermines authority by serving us with the ‘right’ to view what we ‘deserve’ to see. This quote emphasises how photography eliminates hierarchy between the viewer and the subject or photographer (depending on the context the photograph is taken in). Regarding the photographs I intent to take, this element of welcoming a democratic approach is suitable for my project as it follows my aim to promote awareness of the effect that modern day media has on the personal lives of the LGB community- which is something that people should be conscious of as it is not regularly publicised.

‘Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power.’
My project aims partly to add to the ‘thickening’ of the environment through broadcasting individual opinions of how they interpret media representations of LGB people in an apparently liberal space. Again this pursues the idea of photography as a form democratising issues which are not conventionally reported on. In a way this theory promotes power as Sontag argues, providing the public with knowledge- informing and educating the spectators whilst having an ability to shape their viewpoints. The power a photograph holds in the capability of transforming peoples opinions furthermore it can be used in negative ways- for example propaganda images manipulated by governments. Of course my images propose a positively fair/unbiased insight to the LGB individuals, however I want to draw attention to how elements such as positioning and framing and can drastically modify the interpretation of an image.

Example: Kennard Philipps

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‘To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.’ By exposing a subject through the lens, Sontag argues that the photographer captures their sense of reality by immersing themselves with the subject in order to provide the viewers with segment of the beings presence, to represent their version of reality. As the photographer/filmmaker for my project, this theory is central to my method of photography as depending on the subjects personality, the appearance of the subjects will vary in the photographs. What I feel is necessary to display will rely on the subjects viewpoints and responses I receive when interviewing them. I do not want to represent the subjects as something fake through the photographs, I was to present their truths, therefore it is vital there is some diversity in subjects appearances in my photography to reflect the variation of the subjects opinions regarding LGB representation in the media which follow in the video. As my objective is not to recreate, but to capture my subjects reality through video footage of an account of reflections.

‘The subsequent industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.’ Sontag has stressed that the omnipresences of cameras has increased the consumption of images, this progression she believes has not altered the value of the images, as although they may fade away, they will have once been enjoyed. Behind every image holds a meaning, even if they do not seem to be of much important, this still abides by the freedom to image distribution, contributing to the democratisation of imagery. Capturing experiences and ‘translating’ them into photographs is the style of photography my project intends to mirror, by taking images of people who talk about their experiences. Although this does not necessarily capture ‘the’ experience, the photograph should be a reflection of the experiences they recall on. Whether the nature of the responses be good or bad I want the photograph to encapsulate these feeling presented through the filmed video, to create a visual consolidation of their emotions into on photograph.

To collect photographs is to collect the world.’ 

Sontag, S. (1973) On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.