Brno Del Zou

The work of Brno uses a variety of images to conform as a group into a large, abstract picture that can be viewed by the audience as an abstruse face, caused by a variety of perspectives. His use of installations also allows for a depth within the layers, causing them, when presented, to cast shadows which add to the dramatic effect of the piece, as well as obscuring photographs that Brno does not necessarily want to be the initial focus of the audience. This effect is empowered by his use of black and white, as the shadows almost blend in to the overall piece, and contrast well with the harsh spotlight that draws out the brightness within the piece.

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This effect is very similar to what I am attempting to achieve, albeit more perplexing because of Brno’s use of excess features and perspectives, whereas I endeavour to create a vague realism in my installation. This will be achieved by creating an installation whereby the pieces are proportionately balanced, causing the overall image to be easily viewed as one. However, my variety of subjects will create a diversity within the installation, offering a hint of complexion to the image.


 

Brno Del Zou Influenced Experiment

 

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Francesco Sambo

Developing the theme of creating a bond between humans and animals, Francesco Sambo creates fantastical pieces featuring hybrids between people and a variety of animals, causing the audience to question their ties with familiar species as opposed to seeing them as altogether different from us. His use of nude models is indicative of nature, and creates a direct reference to how close we are to animals. This is further induced by using body language that directly correlates with the expressions captured in his animal subjects, offering a distinct link between our own instincts and reactions with theirs.

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Despite not being typical within the field of pet portraiture, Sambo has created pieces that form strong connections between man and beast, and cause the audience to think. I feel that this impact can be replicated within pet portraiture in an abstract way, featuring owner and pet within one outcome that demonstrates a bond, and therefore connection.

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Francesco Sambo Influenced Experiment

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As a subtle interpretation of Sambo’s work, I added donkey ears to a female model, using Photoshop. This was achieved using the Magnetic Lasso Tool to carefully select each ear individually, copying and pasting it onto my background image at an appropriate scale, and then using the Marquee tool to softly feather the base of the ear into the model’s hair, as well as softening the edges of the ears to give them a natural, fluffy look.

I feel that this response made a relative link to Francesco’s work, however the link of pet and owner is not clearly definable. Therefore, I feel that this experiment is conceptually a failure, despite being of skilled competence. As a result, I would not return to using this concept in future when creating a pet portrait themed shoot, however the techniques used in Photoshop were beneficial and may be useful for future work, including lifting a subject from one photo and placing it on an artificial background.

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Emily Hancock

Many photographers focusing on equine or pet portraits endeavor to capture personality and establish a bond between animal and human, as their client will cherish the outcome(s) likely longer than they shall have with their beloved pet. Hancock’s work is no different, using subtle contact between the equine subjects and their owners in each portrait. This instantly causes the audience, typically the client, to see a relationship between the subjects and creates an emotional warmth to the photograph.

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In addition to this, Emily uses a variety of locations within her shots. With equine based work, locations can be quite limited due to transporting the animals, and therefore typically the photographer will have to travel to their client. However, using familiar locations, such as the horses’ stable, can also have a large impact on tying an emotional response to a photograph when viewed by the correct audience (such as the horses’ owner). This effect can be achieved also by photographing in favorite riding spots, paddocks and other frequented locations, where memories can be linked to the image.


 

Additional work by Emily:


 

Emily Hancock Influenced Experiment

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In response to Hancock’s work, I decided to replicate her technique of forming bonds using touch. A local stud approached me to capture photographs of their newborn foals, and I used this opportunity to capture images of the owners’ first physical interaction with one of the colts.

Since my favourite work of Emily’s is black and white, I decided to adopt this into my experiment, carefully adjusting each colour using the ‘Black & White’ tool in order to manipulate the tones within the photograph when reduced to greyscale. I sharpened the image slightly and cloned out the distracting horses in the background, before adding a subtle vignette. Overall, these effects drew the attention to the connection, both physical and emotional, between the equine and his owner, as well as reducing distraction both from colour and background.

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This experiment was successful, as I feel the subtle touch resonates emotional ties as seen in Emily’s work, as well as having created a well composed and edited photograph. The soft, greyscale tones also had a positive impact on the delicate subject, enhancing the tones and textures seen in both the foal and the outreached hand.

Lindsay Robertson

As a photographer who appears to delve amongst a variety of subject matters, Robertson covers both equines and canines in her portfolio. However, it was her equine photos that attracted me to her work.

The style within the majority of her horse-based portraits is simplistic, typically using black and white or reduced saturation in order to dramatise an otherwise insignificant image. This, however, is an efficient technique, since the sharp focus on her subjects draws them out of their background, in which a blurred effect is achieved using a shallow depth of field. With location based shoots, a natural background such as that below, is often filled with vibrant tones and hues, which detract from the overall image. Lindsay’s use of greyscale creates a balance in colour, without allowing her subjects to dissipate into the background.

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With such a shallow depth of field, it is to be assumed that the subjects were based a distance away from their backdrop. Whilst the photographer may have also used a zoom lens, since her primary fields appear to be baby, family and wedding themed shoots, it is likely that her equipment is prioritised in the direction of those career paths. Furthermore, it appears that post-production techniques are frequently used within Robertson’s photographs, as indicated by the use of colour and lighting, such as Photoshop or Lightroom.

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The images below are especially relevant to my final piece, as my installation will require a substantial number of photographs that have the ability to connect in a formation to create an overall picture. Whilst these images may not completely connect, they are close enough that, if presented correctly, the audience could view them as an overall image. This is achieved here using an individual model, whereas my project is intended to feature a variety of equines in order to demonstrate a high level of diversity. Despite this, I endeavour to create a similar effect to that shown below, using well executed photographs that demonstrate tonal differences and sharp details.

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Whilst browsing Lindsay’s website, I discovered her pet portraits. Whilst brighter, giving a light-hearted feel, I felt that they were much alike that of Catherine Dashwood whom I researched previously, using a low saturation and vignette to increase the impact of each photograph. This effect appears to be common within pet portraiture, as it is frequently demonstrated within my themed mood board.

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Lindsay Robertson Influenced Experiment

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When responding to Robertson’s work, I concluded that the most effective technique throughout her photographs was the desaturation matched with the soft vignette, creating a border for the subject matter which flattered the focus and depth within the photograph.

In order to replicate this, I used the ‘vibrance’ tool in Photoshop to reduce the saturation, which I found drastically reduced the distraction of the stable door as it lost much of it’s distracting saturation, as well as the yellow sign in the background losing it’s brightness. I proceeded to use the burn tool to add a vignette, which I decided to use more forcefully than that seen in Robertson’s pieces as it appeared to frame my subject better when used in this way.

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In conclusion, I believe that this experiment was very successful as the final outcome has a much stronger impact than the original image. Although the door remains sharply focused, I feel that the muzzle’s definition is enhanced with the reduction of distracting hues, and that the eye can simply be drawn to the focal point rather than to an array of colours. This is reinforced by the use of a vignette, as the dark edge draws the audience into the photograph rather than toward the negative space.

New Forest Research – The Forest & Livestock

In preparation for my trip to the New Forest, where I will be producing a selection of my equine and experimental shoots, I have decided to focus a research piece on the Forest and it’s inhabitants.

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Most notably, my trip is due to take place from the 26th-29th May 2017, which falls within the release bracket for stallions into the Forest. The date set for the release this year was the 15th May, with all stalllions to be removed by the 19th June. Fifteen animals have been released for breeding, spanning across a wide variety of Forest sections. This allows a large number of mares to be covered without conflict between the stallions. Furthermore, with the trip scheduled in the Spring, the equine gestation period of eleven months also indicates a likelihood of youngstock from last year’s breeding season. These factors pose added risk when exploring the Forest, since the horses are excitable and protective. Whilst I consider myself to be well-versed in equine body language, I have not experienced working with semi-feral horses previous to this, so I am wary that I may not achieve a large number of successful outcomes.


Stallions Released 2017 (Name – Location):
Lucky Lane Warrior – Busketts
Cameron Luck of the Irish – Acres Down
Halestorm Branston Pickle – Hilltop
Sandhole Whispering Grass – Penn Common
Portmore Thunder Cloud – Wilverley
Sway Scrumpy Jack – Setley
Brookshill Brumby – East Boldre
Woodfidley Top Gun – Balmer Lawn
Haywards Impressionist – Backley
Knavesash Gold Fever – Withybeds
Skywalker – Ogdens
Lovelyhill Hendrix – Linford
Bakeburn Benny – Wootton
Bull Hill Major – Stoney Cross
Limekiln Brigadier – Matley/Ipley

Visitors of the Forest are encouraged to remain a reasonable distance from any animals, due to safety reasons, as they are, whilst owned, left to live ‘wild’. Therefore, most of the livestock may have feral tendencies and react negatively to human interaction. However, communications with a series of locals indicate that certain areas of the Forest are frequented by humans more than others, which implies that the livestock within the section are accustomed to humans venturing into their territory, and are more tolerant. One of these sections is called Appletree Court, located in Lyndhurst, and is the most local part in relation to where I will be staying. My research above also indicates that this year no stallions have been released here.

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Although the horses and other livestock are allowed to roam and live freely, agisters monitor the Forest to ensure the safety of the animals. This includes helping injured animals, due to road incidents among other causes, and humane destruction of an animal where necessary. It is well known that within the Forest, the animals have right of way. Despite being regulated to the concept of cars due to ongoing traffic, the animals have a complete disregard to the dangers of cars, and so drivers must be vigilant to ensure the safety of equines and cattle. Additionally, the agisters ensure that the owners, the commoners, of the livestock roaming on the Forest are meeting welfare requirements, and also maintain and construct stock pounds for use in the pony round ups, which it is also their duty to arrange.

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The round ups, also named ‘The New Forest Drift’, occur in the Summer and Autumn, and in these periods every equine is placed into one of the several pounds. These occur to remove foals for weaning, and to health-check the animals on the Forest. If an animal does not appear to be healthy, the owner of the equine will be required to remove it until the animal reaches a satisfactory state in which to be released onto the Forest again. Animals who have not been previously branded will also receive this at this period, with their commoners’ unique letter. Finally, the tails are cut into distinctive shapes which indicate which part of the Forest they belong in.

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Catherine Dashwood

Dashwood focuses her attention on pet portrait photography, particularly working with canine subjects, but also lightly venturing into equine photography. Based in Lymington, Catherine is in the center of the New Forest in Hampshire, and she states on her website that “we are so lucky to live in a beautiful part of the country enabling us to have some spectacular backdrops”, which she is always keen to take advantage of.

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The shallow depth of field within the majority of these portraits suggests that a zoom lens is being used to achieve a softened surrounding for the sharp, well focused animal subject. To further this cause, the saturation in much of Dashwood’s work appears to have been reduced slightly post-production, and a slight vignette applied to tone down the edge of the images, drawing the audience to the light that is inevitably focused upon the dogs. Catherine made reference to Photoshop during my discussion with her, and although alternative programmes may also have been used, I expect this is her primary editing software.

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After speaking with Catherine, I learned that her technique for capturing dogs in motion was to throw a ball. However, since capturing the animal without the ball in their mouth had an increased aesthetic advantage, she would frequently have someone throw the ball towards her from outside the frame, causing the dog to chase it and therefore approach her, running for the toy.

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I like the aesthetic that Catherine achieves within her work, perhaps because it is closely related to that of my own photography style. Furthermore, whilst I have typically ventured into pet portraits within the studio, and often liked the effect achieved by myself and those that I have researched within the studio setting, I feel that Catherine’s work is exuberant and filled with personality. This is important when photographing beloved pets, since their owners cherish the work in which you offer them, often longer than they are allowed to cherish their pet.


 

Catherine Dashwood Influenced Experiment

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I decided to extrapolate the technique of desaturation, by removing all colour besides that of the halter worn by the donkey. This was to draw attention to the colour, and therefore my subject, whilst removing the distraction of the greenery, building and donkey within the background.

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I feel that this experiment was a success, as the dark former donkey appears enhanced now that the richly saturated, colourful background is removed. However, the red of the halter I feel adds character to the portrait and draws attention, whereas the completely greyscale image appears dull and uninteresting.

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Peer Assessment – Progress of FMP

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My final project is based on the creation of a series of installations, whereby a collection of images are used to form an overall picture for the audience.


I have conducted research in preparation for the manufacture of the installations, regarding the use of thread in Lorena Cosba’s work. Whilst she uses it within her photographs, the artistic effect can tie in well with my own use for the material, and give an impression towards the impact it should have on my piece.


I have also conducted an online survey, collecting data preparing myself for working with a variety of animal behaviours. The collected data is also available broken down into individual responses over the period of the questionnaire, offering direct insight toward individual animals.


My previous photography within this field has offered some strong results, therefore I am confident that I can use these skills in order to capture a wide range of images that can be effectively presented within an installation piece.

Furthermore, I have arranged a trip to the New Forest in order to shoot a large portion of my photographs for this project, as well as having communications with private owners of pets and horses that may be willing to have their animals photographed.

Lorena Cosba

Due to my interest in working with suspension for my final outcomes, I decided to look into the effects of a variety of materials, such as threads, and their impact when presented within my piece. I decided to focus a piece of research on Lorena Cosba, since she regularly incorporates red thread into her photography pieces, often attached to printed photographs.

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Interestingly, the thread really draws attention to the photos. In this scenario, where they may be detracted from with the accessory of a human body, the bold red thread draws the audience up the walls to the printed images. This however leads me to the summary that I may need to create experiments to discover if my own pieces will recreate this response, as my installations are the focal point and therefore the thread may impose on the impact of my work.


 

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Alternative work by Lorena Cosba includes overlaying and time lapse. This is of interest to me due to the work with transparency, which is relative to the materials I will be working within my installation (acetate). Cosba’s overlays show a variation in saturation levels – whilst one is very bright in colour, the alternative is almost greyscale. Although in this piece I feel the vibrancy of colours is attractive, I maintain that my final piece should be at least primarily black and white, as the overwhelming array of colours may cause disruption within each installation.

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Lorena Cosba Inspired Experiment

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For this experiment I decided to incorporate the use of thread into a photograph, by using stitches that followed a significant shape. Within this image there is a golden tone, which is the only real colour aside from black and grey hues. Therefore, I selected this colour for my thread, tying the stitches into the photograph itself rather than selecting an obtrusive colour in the way Cosba frequently does.

The fine golden thread is almost lost within the piece when looked at as an overall photograph. Despite this, when looked at closely the stitches add a subtle, pleasant texture to the outcome. This allows an interesting effect in the form of an installation, as the thread may appear almost invisible from a distance, yet portray a soft, intricate detail when viewed up close. Since an installation piece is intended to draw an audience to look closely, I feel that this experiment was a success and conclude that thread is an appropriate binding material for suspension purposes, as it can appear both subtle and bold, with various colours offering a wide range of effects. This is illustrated both within my experiment and Cosba’s pieces.

FMP: Pet Survey

I will be conducting a survey to be completed by various pet owners, in order to decipher how to manipulate the behavior of my canine and feline subjects. This research will offer me an enhanced level of control whilst photographing, resulting in a higher likelihood of a successful shoot.


 

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JQ2W39W


 

Summary:

My responses to my survey have suggested that cats are predominantly friendly and relaxed, yet quiet. An individual responded to my survey, “its a cat.. They don’t listen”. However, another owner suggested that they have a highly personal connection with their feline companion that allows them some influence into the cat’s behavior, which implies that in contrast to dogs, an owner present may be helpful during the shoot.

Motives for specific behavior include specific petting that the individual pet enjoys, such as face rubs and playful headbutting – specific petting locations included the face, ears and chin. Five out of fourteen responses suggested their cat responded best to petting, while the other nine were food motivated. Survey responses recommended ‘Dreamies’ and ‘Pounce’ treats were favored by their felines.

The best ways to provide a specific reaction from cats were said to be audible and physical commands. It is important to remain calm and inviting, and consider using their name and treat and/or petting reinforcements, as suited to the animal.

On the other hand, dogs have been described as friendly, excitable and energetic. Although this suggests lack of idealism for photographing, the responses in regard to training were more positive than those regarding cats. An increased level of training is expected to be beneficial during photographing periods, and all respondents claimed their dogs were at least ‘somewhat’ obedient.

Canine subjects are more susceptible to treat motivation than cats have been suggested to be, and an individual states that their pet is trained to perform commands efficiently without expecting a reward. Specifically, this person says they point to the floor and tell the dog ‘down’, to which the animal responds. However, a large number of those responding to the survey suggested their pet required ‘bribery’ to perform commands, including treats and occasionally toys.


 

Survey Results:

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Final Major Project: Mind Map & Mood Boards

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Summary Mind Map


Equine Concepts & Considerations:

  • Macro – details include eyes, muzzles and textural details.

to consider: due to the nature of an installation featuring a multitude of images, some photos may appear insignificant and unappealing until situated within the composition. These especially include partial photographs, whereby something of interested is cropped in half, such as an eye, as well as hair texture and manes etc.

  • Tack – additional detail and variety can be achieved by including photos which incorporate tack.

to consider: tack will certainly cause the overall piece to appear disjointed and may detract from the overall effect. However, it may also add depth and intrigue, especially within individual images that appear to represent nothing more than a patch of hair.

  • Location – a variety of locations can be considered whilst working with equines, and arguably the most effective when shooting small aspects of the horse is the studio. However, I do not currently have the available facilities for an equine-based studio shoot.
  • Motion – a wide range of movements can be captured across the spectrum of equine photography, and whilst working with an installation concept, it may benefit to refrain from using a wide selection of movements within one piece. However, again, this may add interest and diversity to the installation.
  • Breed – across the spectrum of breeds are an array of sizes and characteristics that may disconnect when pieced together to create an overall image. For example, two photographs featuring one small head and one large one, may not present well together. It would be interesting to capture a variety of colours and breeds within the installation, though, to promote that sense of diversity.
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Equine Mood Board

Photographers to Research:

  • Lindsay Robertson
  • Emily Hancock

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My Equine Photography:

curtissayersphotography.com – Portfolio

First Year FMP Series


Pet Portrait Concepts & Considerations:

  • Macro – details include eyes, muzzles and textural details.

to consider: due to the nature of an installation featuring a multitude of images, some photos may appear insignificant and unappealing until situated within the composition. These especially include partial photographs, whereby something of interested is cropped in half, such as an eye, as well as fur texture etc.

  • Collars, Harnesses and Accessories – additional detail and variety can be achieved by including photos which incorporate accessories.

to consider: accessories (including collars and harnesses) will certainly cause the overall piece to appear disjointed and may detract from the overall effect. However, it may also add depth and intrigue, especially within individual images that appear to represent nothing more than a patch of fur.

  • Location – a variety of locations can be considered whilst working with pets. However, my research suggests that the most efficient way to photograph cats is at home. Dogs offer a wider range of scenarios, including home, location and studio based shoots. Pet owners often seek location shots in order to capture the essence of their pet, although studio photographs are also highly desirable.
  • Motion – a wide range of movements can be captured, including a vast array of tricks when working with dogs. However, whilst photographing cats it is unlikely to capture more than a sitting or lying cat.
  • Breed – across the spectrum of breeds are an array of sizes and characteristics that may disconnect when pieced together to create an overall image. For example, two photographs featuring one small head and one large one, may not present well together. It would be interesting to capture a variety of colours and breeds within the installation, though, to promote that sense of diversity.
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Pet Portrait Mood Board

Photographers to Research:

  • Catherine Dashwood

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My Pet Portrait Photography: