For my final project, I have decided to focus my attention on portrait photography, particularly pet portraits and equines. These shoots will incorporate a variety of specialisms, including macro and fine art photography. Previously on this course, I have focused projects on horses and their body language as well as portrait photography featuring dogs. I hope to develop my abilities in what I consider my strongest field in photography, as well as use this project as an opportunity to interact with a potential client base (local pet owners) and enhance my interpersonal skills when working with strangers.
My intention is to create a series of photography installation pieces, in which multiple photographs are suspended to create a formation in which one overall image is perceived by the audience. I plan to create a trio of installations, covering the themes of horses, dogs and cats, that can be presented as a collection or individually without losing impact. Whilst my subject remains a comfortable scenario for myself, this artistic presentation will stretch my abilities, using proportion and anatomical knowledge to create a realistic outcome.
In order to complete the project to the best of my ability, I will be producing a variety of research pieces, including photographers, installation artists and expanding my knowledge of the animals I intend to photograph.
I will be communicating with pet owners to distinguish the ways in which they gauge reactions from their pets. This includes common training techniques as well as traits unique to individual animals, that may be impractical to use with another animal. This, whilst not directly in correlation with photography, is important information for me to achieve the best results when working with unfamiliar animals, and develop my skills in communicating with pet owners whilst preparing a shoot. This is particularly important for me in regards to working with cats and dogs, where I am not so well practised as opposed to horses, which I regularly work with.
Lorena Cosba incorporates 3D effects, using materials such as thread to add texture and depth to her photography works. Due to the suspension nature of my piece, it could be an interesting concept to explore using a variety of media, as well as incorporating them further into my work similarly to that of Cosba’s pieces. Furthermore, the nature of printing on acetate means that my outcome will be printed in black and white, therefore using colourful materials may be obtrusive to the overall outcome. I would like to explore this theme, and conclude whether the effects are negative or enhancing.
My images will be printed on acetate, rather than photographic paper, which will cause the piece to be transparent. This ability can be used to offer a variety of viewpoints, or simply to create depth within the formation. The effect of acetate, I find, is much more complementary to installation work as opposed to 2D presentation, therefore this seemed an ideal project to experiment with this medium. When printing on acetate, high contrast printing is most effective, therefore the potency of my overall outcome is highly dependant on photographs with tonal depth and non-distinct backgrounds that will not interfere with the composition. These effects can be heightened or manipulated in post-production, using Photoshop, as well as in presentation using backlighting to create a lightbox effect.
Light has the capacity to empower an acetate-based piece, as demonstrated in the work below, created by Matt Ritsman. Matt produces a variety of work using photographs printed onto acetate and layered, which he typically presents as a 2D piece over a light source. While this can enhance colours and details, when the light is particularly close to the image it can appear overexposed and lose depth, as seen below using strip lights. The effect has been used within the piece as an artistic strategy, however I would like to avoid this side effect of using light in my own installations.
Additionally, I will create experiments to deem whether I would like my photographs within the installation to be inconspicuously suspended using nylon thread, or boldly contrasting using alternative materials, such as coloured threads or string, as inspired by Lorena Cosba.
With such a practical-based project, I will require an expansive range of experiments throughout. These will test my photographs’ compatibility with the presentation style, as well as materials and presentational techniques. Factoring these into the project adds substantial time and cost, however I feel that creating small tests will benefit the final piece, reducing risk of mistake or misjudgement regarding the manufacture process of an installation.
Further risks are induced within this project due to the inclusion of animals, whereby a variety of risk assessments (for studio based work) and source of models can cause delays in shooting. To minimize these risks, I will be preparing shoots in advance, whilst simultaneously performing research and experimental tasks throughout the planning process.
Once I have settled upon models and arranged my shoots, it is important that I allow long enough periods within the studio for my animal subjects to become comfortable within the studio setting and with me. Previously I have struggled to acclimatize dogs with their surroundings in the studio, and so if I am able to settle a meeting with my clients before shooting in order to get to know the animals, this will reduce their anxiety with me whilst shooting. Alternatively, I may attempt home-based shots or location shoots, based on the judgement of my clients.
In order to review my final outcomes, I will seek feedback direct from the owners of my animal subjects, regarding their views and opinions on both the individual outcomes from the shoot and the installation pieces. As a unique presentation in terms of a pet portrait, it would be interesting to determine if this is of interest to the target market. Furthermore, I will ask for reviews on my service as a photographer, and whether they would select me for future work or refer me to friends, as these factors are relevant to me as an aspiring pet portrait photographer.
Throughout the project I endeavour to amass a variety of shoots, featuring a range of individual animals, which will be gathered into contact sheets and presented here on the blog. Conjointly, I will be photographing my 3D experiments, the purpose of which being to refine my final installations, and presenting them digitally as a record of my progress.
My installations will feature in the end-of-year exhibition which will exhibit my concluded presentation choice, which is particularly important due to the 3D nature of my proposal. Research will be undertaken to ensure that I have selected the most efficient presentation, and I will photograph my exhibition piece in order to review the success of this.
Macro shots may be of great use for my installation, where small parts of animals are captured to collectively build a larger image. This piece was successful as a standalone photo, whereas a less interesting part of the body may be insignificant due to lack of point of interest, when presented without the additional support of alternative images within my installation piece. Despite this, it important for me to focus images on alternative parts of my subjects, as collectively they will add value to the eligibility of the final outcome.
When photographing individual animals, using surroundings can be an effective device to enhance the photograph or add personality. This shoot was client based, and using the stable door gave them direct relevance to their pony and his daily behaviour – something that has great value when capturing personality within an animal for a client. In contrast, this is impractical for this project due to the composition aspect, whereby distracting surroundings within one photograph may not harmonise with surrounding images and disrupt the overall outcome.
A studio setting is of great value when photographing pets, as the control over lighting and backgrounds reduced the variables within the situation, allowing the photographer to concentrate on their subject. I have previously experimented widely with studio based shoots, and conclude that I will be using those experiences within my final project. However, whilst I have previously liked to shoot animals on a black background, I will be featuring a white backdrop for this particular project. This is because, when printing on acetate, the background will remain clear, allowing the ink that defines the animals to contrast more forcibly.
As a development to the focus of backgrounds, I will be photographing widely using a shallow depth of field. This will be helpful throughout the post production process, allowing me to easily distinguish areas which I would like to crop or digitally remove from the image before printing to enhance the focus within my subject. This is illustrated heavily within the image below, where a shallow depth of field allowed the background to dissolve, highlighting details as minor as the spider web draping between parts of the elaborate sculpture.