Surface & Strategies - Week 10

As previously mentioned at this late stage in the module I've finally made the decision to proceed with my self-portraiture sub-project. 

I started the week with the scheduled photoshoot of Reg at La Spezia. At the time I'd thought the shoot had gone well but getting home and looking at the video on a large monitor I was unhappy with the results and have resolved to go back at a muturally conveneint time to repeat it.

I was also able to conduct the photoshoot with my new collaborator, Georgio Rafaelli of La Spezia delicatessen. I discovered from Giorgio that his premises had figured in the infamous 1930's 'The Birdhurst Rise Poisoner' case when three  members of a local family died in mysterious circumstances that were later found to be due to poisoning by arsenic bought from that pharmacy.  

The shoot went reasonably well. Wasn't possible to conduct the photoshoot in the morning as planned, but this simply meant a delay till when Giorgio was available in the late afternoon.

Giorgio Rafaelli behind the entrance to the serving area of his Italian delicatessen./cafe. Graham Land, 7th August, 2018

Georgio Rafaelli at an unusually quiet table in the cafe area of La Spezia

I was also able to shoot a short video. This proved a little more problematic and I'm considering if there's time going back to repeat that aspect. See:

For the first of my new self-portrait shots I decided to take a shot of my face in the semi-reflective LED screen of the blood pressure (BP) monitor that I use to routinely , I had a period of high blood pressure some years ago and whilst I successfully took various actions to reduce it I still take monitor my BP daily in case it comes back. The key is get a reading within 30 mins of waking up, it should have a systolic of less than 130 mm Hg.

It os located between my printer and PC near a North facing uncurtained upstairs window. Setting up the shot early morning. Setting up the LED light proved the most difficult part. In the end it was squeezed in on a light stand where there was just sufficient gap on my large office desk. I'd purchased a 7" remote monitor to allow me to see the view from the camera via it's HDMI port.

I'd thought the shoot went reasonably well, though it did take some 23 shots before I was happy. However, the devil is in the detail when shooting so close with a macro lens and it was all too obvious that I needed to give the desktop surface a serious clean before repeating the exercise. 

Face in BP monitor on a very unclean desktop surface. Taken by Graham Land, 4th August, 2018

Face in BP monitor on a very unclean desktop surface. Taken by Graham Land, 4th August, 2018

So I then moved on to the more  distinct image reflected by the small flat LED control panel of my Epson P800 photographic printer. I was fortunate in that the awaited expiry of one of the ink cartridges it uses had just occurred, so I didn't have to actually operate the printer to have a reasonably interesting screen. Though I did place some cut used paper in the exit tray to make it look as though it was in the middle of a print job. A also decided to use a second, smaller, LED light quite close to my face but out of shot. I only needed ten shots to get the image I wanted, this was what I thought the best of those images: 

Face in control panel of photo-printer. Taken by Graham Land, 4th August, 2018

 This is a very different process to my normal practice. While I spend some time setting up shots for my street fashion work, I don't go to the level of detail and effort  required for this type of image capture. 

Two days later, after a half-day extensive tidy and clean the large office desk and adjacent area, I repeated the shoot with the BP monitor. My previous experience with this set-up greatly helped and within only fifteen attempts I felt I had the shot I wanted. This is that shot:

Face in BP monitor on a very clean desktop surface. Taken by Graham Land, 6th July, 2018

However, another question had arised during the first shot that this repeat hadn't resolved. Wa it best to include my finger as in the shot below:

Face in BP monitor with finger over on/off switch. Taken by Graham Land, 6th July, 2018

The results of that decision can be seen in my August 'Work in Progress" portfolio

The next shot was not set up at all in advance, pure serendipity. I was visiting my dentist in the morning, with a my camera gear and tripod for the scheduled shoot at La Spezia delicatessen/cafe  for my Croydon Shopkeepers project shortly later. 

I have to wait is a small waiting room with a skylight window. The head of my dental practice is very into all things technological and he had installed a cascading water feature on one wall. I took this shot a later when i had a further appointment, and was a lot quieter, to illustrate the room.   

On the day in question there was a beam of sunlight coming directly down close to the left-side of the door, close to the rectangular clock. The waiting room was not empty and I suspect I caused the lady sat in front of the water feature a little worry by looking very intently in that direction. 

I'd decided it could be possible with that strong light to get a reflection of my face. I lacked my remote monitor and release cable, but otherwise had the tripod, the full frame digital camera and a suitable lens. There was a bit of a delay so I went and asked permission to set up a shot. It caused some surprise, and did go up the chain to the boss, but a yes was given so off I went. People very kindly got out of the way, though i didn't actually need that much room. This was the result of a small number of trial shots. The camera  was fired by the delayed release timer function.

Self-portrait, standing by the doorway, the camera tripod mounted at similar height to the photographer. Taken by Graham Land, 7th August, 2018.

I was a little lucky in that for several of the shots I'd accidentally positioned myself out of the thin beam of sunlight, facial features are darker and vastly less effective. On my later trip I showed the dentists at the surgery an A4 print of the image, they are happy for to to do more if wanted.

The next self-portrait of the week was of my face in the alarm clock. An old Casio, it's served sterling service from the time it was originally bought when I was working in Kobe, Japan, to the present. 

Shot at lunchtime I decided half-way through the shoot to change the time to the morning to make it look as though I was about to switch the alarm off. However, in the end I went for this square format shot with the spider carcase. This relic had been carefully preserved during my pre-clean as I'd though tit might give an additional edge to the shot.

Self-Portrait in clockface, taken by Graham Land, 8th August, 2018

The lighting set-up was as follows

Lighting set-up for clock face self-portrait, taken by Graham Land 8th August, 2018

Lighting set-up for clock face self-portrait, taken by Graham Land 8th August, 2018

The final self-portrait of the week was set-up was in the bathroom, the toilet flush as a very shiny chrome surface. I'd earlier tried to get one of myself reflected in the chrome tap of my bath, but this proved a challenge too far. I was finding the realization is not as easy as the concept. This was the chosen image from the toilet flush set-up.

Face reflected in toilet flush handle, taken by Graham Land, 8th August, 2018

That completed my week project-wise. 

This week I bought a book by James Hall on a cultural history of self-portraiture. Largely on paintings he makes the comment "Past interest in the genre has been overshadowed by the obsession with self-portraiture during the last forty years". I presume from this painters are currently doing a lot of it. more to examine. 

I did come across some other good quotes in the research on self-portraiture that I've started. Daniel Rubinstein said in an interview  with Charlotte Cotton; "The Selfie is subversive because the distinction between life and image is being erased… it is the desire to share and be shared that manifests itself in the production of the image”. I'm not quite sure where the self-portrait stands in comparison. Strictly speaking both are the same creature. Susan Sontag's quote on self-portraiture i prefer, though the actual wording isn't so succinct; "The self is a text – it has to be deciphered...The self is a project, something to be built." And another quote I can relate to is thatof Barthes in terms of being photographed: "I do not stop imitating myself … each time I am photographed I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture”. I'm sure there's a lot more to find. 

Earlier in the week I'd participated in a web presentation given by Dr. Katrin Joost of the University of Cumbria. Talking about reframing illness she stressed the phenomenological aspects of such a project, the hidden context of the illness itself and the effect on those around. Very thought provoking.

My sole contribution was to point Katrin in the direction of the work of Celine Marchbank, a photographer who's  in the final stages of a project called 'My Mother's kitchen'. Where Celine is  representing the presence of the recently deceased mother through domestic shots of her kitchen and recipes written in her mother's hand. I recently saw Celine's work when she exhibited at a photoscratch event, a meeting I described in an earlier blog.

Screen capture of one of Dr. Joost's slides used in the presentation

Screen capture of one of Dr. Joost's slides used in the presentation




Hall, J 2014 The Self Portrait: A Cultural History London, Thames & Hudson

Rubenstein, D 2018 Keeping up with the Cartesians in Cotton, C. “Public, Private, Secret: On Photography & the configuration of the self. New York, Aperture.

Sontag, S 1980 Under the sign of Saturn London, Penguin

Barthes, R 1982 Camera Lucida. London, Village Reprint