As for this week – it was time to stop milking Latvia’s photographs and continue working on project.
One of the back-up ideas was to photograph memoriums of people passed away.
I have mentioned before that my idea involves items related to the person- photographs, books, cards, leftovers from their hobbies and things that they have left behind to be kept for the next generation.
The plan was fairly simple, but I had to choose between two options – studio or on location with studio lights.
Also for the Creative Future Module we had new assignment to create still life related to Final Major Project. The brief was to create still life photographs that could potentially sell your Final Major Project, exhibition and your skills in general.
The brief suited very well, as my next plan was to create still life of memoriums, based on inspirational research of Colin Gray and Sophie Calle.
The timing was good for another reason – my friend Alison discovered her great-grandfathers writing box and documents, certificates he has left behind. There was a finding of a box of grandfathers box too, with photographs, certificates and belongings.
I felt like my trial photo shoot with a fellow photographer and friend is a opportunity not to be missed. Plus I had no other volunteers.
On a lovely day I travelled to Scunthorpe with Bowens kit in my boot.
There it was – table full of memories, history and sentiment.
I thought that the natural light is spot on, will work great with the spotlight pointed at the main parts. Later to discover that harsh sunlight is taking away the mood and the technique is not really working.
This image though still is significant part of the process as in the background I see Alison’s present life.
For first twenty minutes together we went through the boxes, selecting the visually and emotionally important items. The sentiment and appreciation was in the air. In that very moment I realised that this assignment seems straight forward only at the beginning, because I actually get an insight to someone’s personal life, grief and memories. So this as well as crashing funerals and photographing terminally ill, is a sensitive subject matter.
Bowens Single Spotlight with Snood
Images in colour are the first edits, but I have re-edited some in black and white as to see if the toned down, moody vibe is enhancing the content and story behind the images.
The technique did not work as I estimated at first. I could not get the balance right between natural light and studio/flash. I could have tried ambient light, but that did not come in to my head at the time of the shoot.
The compositions did not work either. It was like trying to lay-out something so valuable with blind eyes.
This image is a fail and success at the same time, as the element of composition is failing, but the balance between both light sources work at its best [for the day].
Natural light and details
With the help of Alison I tried more compositions on the table and sideboard.
I was feeling the frustration of not having good material, so I switched to single elements and natural light.
I turned focus on specific items and used shallow DOF [85 mm f 1.8 or 24-70 mm f1.4]
The task was difficult, the arrangements of items had to be selected to look photographically good. Also the importance and writings accomplished by photographs was kept in mind.
I choose to “black&white it” as the colours turned out poky and sharp, distracting at times.
Some content worked better in colour, even enhanced the detail.
The out-of-date yellow is an interesting factor in this image, as it associates with old and historical.
This box is one of the key elements and the main reasons for the travel.
This writing box belonged to Alison’s great-grandfather Charles Cable and he used this to write letters to his family and friends in World War One.
The box also contains his scarf and medals, diary and other bits&bobs.
The smell and feel of the box was “historical” and sentimental, even though it is not mine, I felt the connection with my own family history and things left behind.
I think that photograph shows 80% of the feel and smell in the details.
Natural light and sideboard arrangement
As we moved closer to the present day, we started to go through photo albums of Alison’s family and focus turned to her Nana and grandfather.
As it was so difficult to arrange everything previously I asked Alison to work Nanas’s sideboard, duck statues and everything else.
Alison’s personal input seemed like the common sense, as she understands the family history best.
One of my favourites from the day is the wide angle shot from above with Alison arranging photos and papers and talking me through her memories of Nana and granddad.
The photograph is working brilliantly because:
- composition is finally making sense, adding Nana’s lamp and ducks on her sideboard accomplished by photo album, their portraits, family snaps and other items
- Alison’s hands is the recording of the moment
- right amount of detail leading into the centre of the image
This photograph is closely related to Alison. These two pictures are taken from the family album and show Alison at the young age with her granddad and Nana. These images are taken at different times, but both symbol relationship and bond between them. In the background souvenir map of Essex and granddad’s wrist watch.
Reflection and conclusion
At the end of the shoot I learned lessons about light, focus and angle and how important it is to make it right. Images need to be able to tell a story and reflect the memories of someone’s loved ones. Have I done it fully? probably not, as I can’t use single images without description. But I believe that this is a good start and if I can find some more volunteers, I could have series of these memorium photo-stories.
Sadly Alison’s Nana and granddad passed away some time ago. In one of the boxes Alison found grieving cards from their funeral and also some grieving cards from great-grandfathers funeral as well. I was astonished by these cards, as I did not know that they exist and are a thing.
So I photographed these as part of the memorium, as the last messages and goodbyes from family and friends.
These two images are showing the trends in different decades.
This supports my theory that death and funeral should have the same treatment as celebrations for new beginnings – christenings, weddings, babies being born, also birthdays and retiring. All occasions deserve a card.
Following days that week, I edited photographs, prepared them for Creative Future assignment and had meetings regards to the Final Major Project.