This assignment is based around us having to work successfully as a group. This would have been more successful, for me, if I could have chosen my own group. Unfortunately, though, the groups were chosen by the tutor. This is something I’m never pleased about as I always get more than one of the lazy kids in my group who are not only of no help but, more often than not, prove to be a liability and distraction. As is to be expected when groups are picked like this, 50% of the group I was in was populated by the types I mentioned above.

Initial Ideas

I struggle to come up with ideas on the spot but in this group, we had one person who was on form right from the get-go. Layla started out with an idea she’d seen Kylie Jenner do recently. This idea was of Barbie in a box. The box is the packaging the doll comes in.

We were all set to do this until I went away and thought that doing our own version of that image is just blatantly copying.

Because of this, I deciding to put some thought into where we could go leading off from this. I decided I’d like to do something that shows the fakeness of the whole “celebrity” business.

We got back together as a group and I voiced my concern and a new angle of thinking with where we could go with this assignment. My idea was to try to show how many celebrities try to convince us that they live perfect lives and are incredibly happy but, on the inside, are often struggling just like the rest of us; sometimes even more so. A prime example is that of Ant McPartlin and his drinking. I personally hate the whole “celeb” thing and so wanted to show it in a sceptical way if possible.

At our next get-together, we discussed and us two members of the group who were actually doing something productive came across another artist who had a large body of work depicting Barbie as a completely different character to the stereotypical one we all know. This artist is Mariel Clayton. Her Barbie work shows the character as an evil, twisted serial killer who’s really not the prim and proper, perfectly formed character we were led to believe in a previous generation.

Now, the images created by Clayton are far too crude and not something I’d want to create for this assignment, but, they are along with the same idea as I had in mind. By this, I mean that it’s showing the possible behind the scenes look at something we’ve been told is actually something else.

Our Ideas

Our initial agreed idea was to have a model laying on the studio floor with her hair fanned out. The shot would be taken from above and props would be intertwined in her hair. These props would be things like makeup, bottles of alcohol, jewellery, drugs etc. Her face would be heavily made up and she would have a strained smiling expression.

The idea behind this is that, on the outside, she is happy and healthy (the heavily made-up face) but, on the inside, she is troubled and relying on the alcohol, drugs and buying of material items to get her through. The fact that they are attached to her hair is meant to signify that they are inside her head and psychology.

The images above are a few from the test shots I took during the first practice. This session was about figuring out how to position the model and how to position myself to be able to get the shot. I would have prefered to have taken the shot from a normal orientation rather than upsidedown like this. The rest of the team decided on this style as it would show the items in the hair better when we add the props.

After a chat with Helen during her Photo Tech 2 session, it was established that we were probably looking to make our lives easy with regards to this assignment by shooting it in the studio. This was also mentioned by Dave in his session after we had delivered our PowerPoint presentation. The term “Playing it too safe” was used.

Helen understood what I was trying to achieve and came up with a great idea of how we could show the message we were trying to. 

The Crewdson image, to me, shows a woman who looks normal on the outside and makes an effort to look so, but who is dead on the inside. The extra figure in the reflection of the mirror tells me this due to the colouring used and its posture. I love the use of the mirror as a means of letting us see what is really going on inside the subjects head.

Because of the feedback we received, our second idea is to go out on location to shoot. Our idea now is to use a large Instagram frame we borrowed from a fellow student to have the heavily made-up model inside whilst on the outside of the frame there will be an empty landscape with the props, mentioned above, scattered around.

I originally thought we’d have the model sitting on the floor but we had another chat about this whilst off on a walk looking for a location. Now we think we’ll have the model stood up with her legs showing below the Instagram frame. The legs will be wearing slobbing clothes whilst the body of the model will be made-up and wearing nice clothes. The colouring of the background and area outside the frame will also be a more depressing colour whilst inside the frame will be colourful and happy.

To achieve this image, we are going to have to take 2-3 photos and then rely on Photoshop to put them together. Personally, I would have prefered to get a shot done in-camera, but I guess I think differently to the youths of the group.

Possible Location

Although I would have prefered to use a location full of rubble for this shot, we’ve been struggling to find one. I would have liked the rubble to signify the fact that the subjects life was a crumbling mess but it would also have been good to place the props on as it could have raised them up off the ground and had them at different levels to show them better and force the viewer to look around the image a little more.

The best location I can find for this shoot is actually not too far from the college.

This could work as it is desolate and the surface of the floor looks messy with it not being nicely tarmacked. The puddle helps too as it adds to the mess with its dirty water.

I think the next step along the production of this image is to get everyone together and go there for some test shots. My main concerns are the fact that this looks to be a car park for a local business (I get the impression it’s something to do with the Leicester Riders basketball team), and how to arrange the props so they show in the image well seeing as they are all going to have to go one the same plane; the floor.

After Another Meeting

After another meeting by the usual 3 of 4 members of the group, Layla has found us another possible location to shoot part of the final image. Because we’re now thinking of having the inside and outside of the Instagram frame different (the outside on location whilst the inside will be shot in the studio), we needed the desolate place to signify the real loneliness. With this in mind, Layla thought about shooting the location aspect on a farm that her other half works at. The image of the area is below. 

With this location having the hardcore pile in it, we may just have solved an issue I was having with regards to getting the props to show clearly in the final image. My issue was that, with the location of the car park, the props would have to be on the ground, forcing the angle of the shot to be fro above. Now that we’ll have the mound of hardcore in the background, we can scatter the props on that, raised up from the ground meaning the angle of the shot can be more head-on.

Another Location Change

Due to the weather being awful at the time of this project, none of us really fancied trekking out to a farm to wade through deep mud just to get a shot that some of the team weren’t that sure about anyway. With this in mind, Layla offered the team the use of her house to get the location shot done.

We decided we would use the bedroom to show the chaos and true nature behind what people on social media try to convince everyone else their life is like. We would mess up the room and place little clues around it to show the complete contrast of a social media persona and real life.

We would then get into the studio and shoot the social media image under lights to put over the location image in Photoshop.

The Studio Shoot

I must admit that, after deciding some time ago that studio portraiture wasn’t for me, I really enjoyed this part of the assignment. After spending what seems like ages reading about lighting and portraiture, it was good fun to finally get on and do some. Now, I’m not saying the results are any good but, it’s my first attempt and I’m ok with how they came out.

After having to have a word and dish out jobs to individuals, I ended up pretty much doing the studio shoot with Caitlin assisting. I’m ok with this because at least the team was 3/4 together and getting on with the assignment and trying to help.

We settled on a pink backdrop with a couple of gels over some rim lights and a single head-on light lighting the subject. We would also need a light on the floor behind the subject lighting the backdrop as none of the other three lights would reach it from their positions.

I would have liked to have been able to use a blue and green gel or blue and orange but I left the colour choice to the other members of the team and they chose blue and purple. This looks ok but perhaps not contrasting enough?

After a bit of time taking test shots for all the lighting (including the light onto the backdrop) we set the model in position and took a few final shots we could choose from.

The two images above are my favourites from the shoot. Obviously, we cropped the bottom of the image to remove the bit that shows below the Instagram frame.

The Final Image

At the time of writing this, I haven’t had a chance to put the images together to create a final piece. We tasked Tom with this job seeing as he hadn’t done much else to contribute. He was fine with this and came into college on the day of the studio shoot to get it done.

Both final edits look pretty similar with Layla deciding to desaturate hers a little. This was to try and give a bit of an impression of the real sadness felt by the subject of the piece. She has also made the social media part of the image brighter so that it pops off the page more.

One thing I did notice was the fact that the softbox on the light lighting the backdrop can be seen in the image and would need removing in Photoshop. Layla has managed to do that but in Tom’s version, it can still be seen.

Out of these two versions, I’d be happier to submit Layla’s version rather than Tom’s. I still want to do my own version of the image but need to find the time to do so.

Evaluation

When this team was announced, my heart sank a little. I’d worked with both Tom and Caitlin on assignments in year one and, to be honest, I swore I’d never work with either of them again due to their absolute lack of input/help. If I’m being honest, this project would have happened just the same if neither of those two had been in the group as it was myself and Layla who did most of it. Layla took the lead and was an excellent group member and teammate. She came up with plenty of ideas and it ended up being a combination of hers and my ideas to get the piece done.

The team didn’t seem to be going far to start with as Tom didn’t show up and Caitlin was her usual self by being quiet and offering no suggestions or having any input to help the group come up with an idea or how to get things done. It was only once myself and Layla had mashed our ideas together and I dished out job roles to each of us that we started to get things done.

Anyway, onto the final image.

I think the idea we had was a sound one but I’m not overly happy with the final piece we’ve produced. I say this because it lacks too much quality, for me, with a big Instagram border slapped in the middle of the location image that was taken from the internet. I would have much prefered if we’d stuck with the idea of using the physical Instagram frame and simply inserting the studio image of the model inside that. At least then it would have looked better than this obvious Photoshop job that I think we’ll get slated for in the viva (and rightly so).

I just wanted the image from the studio to be inside the frame rather than the frame to be brought in from elsewhere. I must admit that I’m partly to blame because I didn’t think we needed the frame in the location shot. I imagined we’d use the frame and model in the studio shoot and bring all that across. Yes, it would still have been obvious that it was a Photoshop job, but that would be ok as it adds to the fakeness of the subject. I guess that can also be said of our two final pieces.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the studio part of the assignment but am not 100% happy with our final piece. The team worked ok but 50% of it put in a lot more work than the other 50%. This, to be honest, doesn’t surprise me considering who was in it.

Last-Minute Change

After another meeting of the team, along with tutor Helen, we decided on a 2nd location shoot. This time, we would have the model standing and holding the Instagram frame and we’d use that frame in the shot rather than bringing in a completely different one via Photoshop.

We ended up with two slightly different compositions where the model is posed differently. The reason for having three of each is because we wanted the location of the bedroom to be de-saturated but couldn’t decide by how much at the time of editing. I and Tom, who were there at the editing process, decided to do the three versions of each to show the other two members of the group.

Personally, I think the top composition is the better looking of the two images but, I think the lower version has the better narrative. I like how the simple change of having the model stand has created a much better juxtaposition. The legs and torso now sit better together.

The narrative of the other version shows the real emotion of the model as she looks into the camera via the mirror. This, to me, gives the impression of a look for help. She’s holding the camera looking at the image of herself and her fake online persona. This is told by the Instagram framed image in the top-left corner of our image.

The image above shows the final piece we submitted for this assignment. It’s the version with the most de-saturation and the version we all agreed on as working the best.

The reason for such a heavy de-saturation is because it shows how the life and her own mental wellbeing are being drained from her. The reason we kept the Instagram frame image so colourful is because that is the thing that’s draining the life and mental wellbeing from her.

It seemed to go down well during the viva and got some decent comments about its creation and narrative behind it. A pat on the back for myself and Layla then as it was the two of us who came up with the ideas to be mashed together to get to this point and it was us two who, for the vast majority of it, made it happen.