Monday, December 31, 2012

A Sense of Self || Constructing Identity Through Photography

To illustrate yourself you see yourself as you imagine others see you. I think a photographer can construct a portrait of themselves through several means: metaphorically, a series of images that reflect the photographers ideals. beliefs, likes and dislikes, emotions, expressions, and everything else that goes into ones character. They could also create a more literal portrait, a self portrait. I take self portraits all the time, though it seems like none ever reflect me in my entirety. I would say the great deal of the photos that i take of myself are just me being weird at the camera. 

Here is an example:

Based on this you would get that I like cats, hoodies, bright lights, stars, and globes.......that is if you read into it. To set the record straight I do like all those things. The one thing that these portraits don't do justice to are the eyes, personally I think the eyes are the most expressive part of any photograph, or portrait, they show a lot more of the story than is captured in the image, and as humans I think we are instinctively tuned in to read peoples eyes. 
So can identity be constructed through photography? Absolutely, but not in a single image, since that is only a snapshot of someones identity. 

Photography and Death (A visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery)

Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of the oldest burial sites in Paris, hundreds of famous people, of all nationalities are buried there. Every thing from writers to dictators, painters to composers, are represented on the crowded headstones, squeezed into the equally crowded streets of Paris. Three of the people interned at Père Lachaise that caught my attention were Frédéric Chopin, the Polish composer, Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer, and Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator. (I was only able to find Chopin's grave.)

 Frédéric Chopin
 Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and pianist born in 1810, near Warsaw, Poland. He was widely regarded as a child-prodigy and one of the greatest romantic composers of all time. He wrote most of his well known works before he left Poland in 1830, shortly before the uprising in November 1830, and the consequent Russian suppression. He moved to Paris where he supported himself by selling his compositions and teaching piano. The bulk of Chopin's work is for solo piano, and are often very demanding on the artist, requiring great technical skill and an attention to nuance and expression. Chopin gave only 30 or so public performances during his 19 years in Paris, he died of poor health in 1849, at the age of 39.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer, poet, and playwright, born in 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. Wilde is best known for the play The Importance of Being Ernest, which he wrote in 1895. He is also known for being a prolific London journalist who had a biting wit, a flamboyant style, and glittering conversation. In 1896 he was arrested, charged, and imprisoned for gross indecency with other men. He served two years of hard labour, and upon release fled to Paris. He died there in 1900, destitute, at age 46.

Rafael Trujillo
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until he was assassinated in 1961. Officially he ruled the country as president from 1930 to 1938, and again from 1942 to 1952, however during the intervening and following years he ruled as an un-elected strongman. The 30 years of his rule was one of the bloodiest dictatorships ever in the Americas. Estimates calculate that more than 50,000 people died during his rule, including 20 to 30 thousand who were killed during the infamous Parsley Massacre. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961 in an attempted coup, that the CIA may have been involved in, he was buried first in his home town in the Dominican Republic, then in Paris, then in the El Pardo cemetery near Madrid, Spain.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Interlude (from anything that has to do with anything)

This post is all about my brothers cat. You can tell he likes me. It's also about boredom, lighting, and cool facial expressions.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eiffel Tower Cliche vs. Abstract (Day 4 photo assignment)

Shooting the Eiffel Tower in a way that isn't cliche is extremely difficult, to be blunt. In the thirty minutes or so that I had to shoot before the group left, I tried to see the park and tower in a different way. I had been there before, in both day and night, but my creativity hadn't really gone to its greatest lengths. 
Today I tried to use a tilt-shift technique that a photographer friend told me about. Basically taking the lens off the camera body and holding it about a centimeter off the mount. If you angle the lens up or down it can give you the same effect as a tilt-shift lens. This trick takes a lot of practice and is kind of sketchy without a tripod, seeing as you have to hold and focus the lens with one hand and shoot with the other. The top photo uses this effect, probably at a focal length of 28 millimeters, the focus point is supposed to be the base of the tree. 
Along with tilt-shift I tried to experiment with capturing motion. The carousel across the street form the tower made for a great shot that didn't feature the Eiffel Tower but showed in the context that it is placed in. Being a fairly bright day, getting a slow enough shutter speed proved somewhat of a challenge, and accounts for the star flaring of the sun. I probably set the shutter speed at 1/10, the aperture at f/22 (highest), and the ISO at 50 (lowest), and then turned the exposure down in photoshop to get this image the way I wanted it.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Sense of Others

Others: those who surround us and reflect who we are. They react to us, just as we react to them, in a way we shape those who we interact with just as they do the same to us.
People react to you in a bigger way if you are trying to take a picture of them I have noticed. The bigger the camera, the more uneasy they seem to be in front of the lens for the first time. I don't understand the reason behind this, other that the "imitation factor" that may come into play I guess. There are some people who are very comfortable in front of the lens, Jasmin and Breanna became my models today and yesterday, they were comfortable, Jasmin because I have shot her before.....a lot, and Breanna because I'm really just guessing that that is how she is.
I think that both my portraits are fairly dramatic in their own ways. The first was inspired by a photographer in my hometown who often pairs dramatic settings like sunsets, and unique strobe lit scenes and a soft strobe on the model's face and body, lighting them. I tried to replicate that with Jasmin, using my off camera flash and a narrow street near Rue Daguerre. It turned out to my liking, though now after the fact I realize (again) that her face is dead center in the photo, something that I have a bad habit of doing all the time.
For Breanna's photo, it was less of my visualization, and more her grabbing me and saying "take a picture of me putting on red lipstick, because we're in Paris!" This is a photo that I would love to replicate, in a more controlled setting, with strobes or flashes lighting from a different angle that straight on soft sunlight. (Here I am thinking a darker background, with a flash to the back, and at a lower angle to the subject, with ambient light filling in the rest.) Of course there are about a million things I could do with a photo like this, but for a spur of the moment shot, with the group already departing for somewhere else and not wanting to get left behind, I think it is pretty good.
I realize I really like the effects of artificial light on some subjects. I guess I like to engineer an image, rather than just letting it happen. That's something I have learned from photographing people, also it is hard for me to get the image I want on the fly, I like to shoot from as many angles as I can, trying to input any unique effects I can to influence the image.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sense of Place

Paris. That's where I am for the week. It is a far bigger city than Denver, and a lot more interesting. It's my third time here, the first that hasn't been in the summer. It is definitely one of my favorite places, and for the express purpose of taking pictures it is the best place to do so.
So where am I really. Well Paris is a lot of things. The capitol of France, an Ancient City, a battle ground in the French revolution, and in general a historic, iconic, and cosmopolitan city.
In particular, unique landmarks define Paris in the modern world. The Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee, the Arc de Triumph, the Louvre, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame de Paris, Versailles, etc.
The French culture is epitomized in Paris, and throughout its neighborhoods. It's, not surprisingly a great place to practice french, which is something that I have been trying to do. The food is the best as well.
I can't think of much else to say about this place. It is a place that you have to experience to know, I guess that's what I am doing.


The Eiffel Tower and Sacre Couer, both at night.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Sense of Transition

Last week I realized that this thanksgiving would be the first ever that I had not spent with my family. I would not get to have a massive turkey dinner and all the pumpkin pie I could eat, sort of sad because it is the only time I get to have that sort of stuff once a year. Instead I would be on my way to Paris, and in Paris on thanksgiving day.
Lets just say it was a brutal trip, and I was glad that it was over. I made it to the hostel where I was \staying and then went for a walk. I saw a cat, and it behaved just like cats in the United States, kind of stuck up, and snooty, quite reassuring being in a new country.
The cat. 

The basic premise of my walk was to to get myself looking at this place through my lens. The results were mediocre, but the next day I was getting a bit more used to it. Wielding a large camera in a big city is rather unwieldy and take a little getting used to, but I think I have the hang of it now.

 It was an absolute blur. Not that king of blur, but a blurry blur. 

The transition on the "Academic front" has be very little. Since finals, I get the notion that I must finish what is assigned before I go to bed, even if I don't go to bed. I know sleep is essential here, so I think I am going to go to bed now.

Jasmin is "studying".

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The guitarist

Posting a photo from my iPhone just to see what happens. Plus it's kind of a cool photo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Three Photos: For the three days I've had this.

 Here is a retro-ish edit.
 And fire, fire is pretty cool.
And cats. I love cats. And taking pictures of cats is sorta a pastime. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First Post

I just started a blog. It is currently distracting me from my homework, which I am doing on a Saturday night, in college. Something isn't right here.....that is all.