Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Roland and Sabrina Michaud exhibition

Earlier this week I attended an exhibition showing the work of photographers, Roland and Sabrina Michaud, at The Empty Quarter gallery in Dubai.

The exhibition was titled ‘A Love without Frontiers’ which references the husband and wife’s lifetime of travel and exploration. Roland, a Frenchman met Sabrina, a Moroccan in the late 1950’s. They then began their photographic journey, which has taken them across Asia. They travelled by foot, car and horseback documenting the people and places they encountered and shared their images with the world via the 23 photographic books they have published.

A collection of the Michaud’s most famous works were on display, depicting scenes from Afghanistan, India, China, Mongolia and Pakistan.

While a few of the photographs were portraits the majority showed people carrying out their day-to-day tasks whether that be work or play.

One of the first things that came to mind when I viewed images was the bold use of colour and the ever so slightly soft focus effect that the prints had. It made me think of Autochrome images I had viewed and read about previously in Robert’s, The Genius of Colour Photography. This alongside the use of shadow and light gave the images a painterly quality and seemed to romanticise the scenes.

A few images which really stood out for me were:

Young Kirghiz girl, (Afghan Pamir), 1971 demonstrates this bold use of colour. The girl’s gaze is focused as she concentrates on her task, possibly sewing or threading. The colour red dominates. It is the colour of her headscarf, jacket, dress and also features in the background, a red and blue tapestry. Although red is usually considered to be an active colour, the girls pose and concentration the overall effect is warm and calm.

In Afghan Dervish, 1967, contrasting colours feature again. It shows a portrait shot of a dervish, an Islamic mystic. The man is elderly and the side lighting emphasises the wrinkles and furrows of his skin. His head is covered with a purple scarf, decorated with a garland of purple ornaments. The man’s eyes are the focal point of the image. The eyes are sharply in focus while the focus softens around the sides of his face and ears. He looks directly into the camera lens with a very intense gaze and this helped me to connect to the picture. I spent quite sometime returning his gaze and wondering what he was thinking. The areas of soft focus also added a sense of calm and quiet to the image.

Playing Sitar in the Shalimar Gardens, Lahore. (Pakistan), 1981 has a more muted colour palette, using pinks dusky pinks and purples. As the title suggests, the subject is a sitar player. The photograph has been taken from a distance and the sitar player, a woman, sits between columns and underneath archways. While framing the woman the archways also add a rhythm for the eye to follow. The soft pink light seems to indicate that it either sunset or sunrise. Again the overall effect is calm and serenity.

Kazakh family life in the Altai Mountains (Mongolia), 1999 shows more activity. The photograph shows the inside a dwelling. It’s walls and floors are covered in an assortment of many different patterned and coloured rugs. The colour red, again, is dominant although there are small splashes of green and orange. A single bed sits in a corner also covered by a patterned tug. Someone stands on the right of the frame, their back to the camera. In the middle of the frame a woman sits engaged in a household task. On the left of the frame a man sits cross-legged, a young boy on his lap. In his hands he holds a ‘guitar’ like stringed instrument that it appears he is playing. The three faces are lit from the side by what looks like natural light. The man is looking towards the guitar, the woman towards her work, smiling. The young boy however, is looking straight towards the camera, unsmiling, perhaps not quite as comfortable as the other family members to its presence. I liked this photograph as it offers a glimpse as to what family life resembles to another family in another part of the world. A fly on the wall perspective.

Overall, I found this exhibition interesting in both a visual and anthropological way. It felt a little bit like a journey as I got a hint as to what the Michaud’s experienced on their travels. It was apparent through the work that the Michaud’s were comfortable in the places they photographed and also that the people they photographed were comfortable with the Michaud’s.

I did wonder as to how working in a photography partnership would work, particularly with one’s spouse. Would they be creative differences? Would there be competition? However, it seems to work for Roland and Sabrina Michaud. There work in equally credited to them both and they are still now, in their 70’s and 80’s,  travelling in the middle East and Asia with their camera and their motto:

‘Old age in winter for the ignorant, but harvest for the wise’

The exhibition runs until March 13th, 2014. The majority of the photographs mentioned above can be viewed on the gallery website.

‘Light’ book reviews

Books that I found very useful on Light

On commencing the TAoP chapter on Light, I had only a very basic understanding of how light behaved and how this relates to photography. As I worked through the exercises and projects (at a much slower pace that I would have liked) I used reading to explain topics further and in turn support my learning in this area.

Three books that I found to be particularly helpful were

  • Hunter, F., Bier, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. (4th Ed.) Waltham: Focal Press
  • Präkel, D. (2007) Lighting. Lausanne: AVA
  • Freeman, M. (2012) Light & Lighting. Lewes: ILEX

I will now offer a short review of each book highlighting the ways in which each offered support and inspiration.

Light, Science and Magic (2012)

I bought this book at the beginning of the course as per the recommended reading list. Since this point I have made a few attempts at digesting its contents only to become confused with the technicalities of diffusion, transmission and reflection. However, as I needed to extend my knowledge of light I made a concerted effort to read and, this time, to understand the concepts. Admittedly, I found the first three chapters difficult, however this time I persevered and I found it useful in helping me to understand the answer to the fundamental question, What is Light? This led to a further explanation about colour temperature that helped support my work on the exercises, Judging Colour Temperature and Light Through the Day.

The ‘family of angles’ was a concept that I had real difficulty in grasping no matter how many times I read the text. However, I carried out a practical exercise as directed on p121, and this helped demonstrate to me how to find the family of angles that, in turn, helped to demystify the concept. My blog entry on this can be found by clicking here.

The following chapters in the book contain a lot more practical information and advice and clearly guide the reader, using lighting set-up diagrams and varying subject matter characteristics. This section was especially helpful for Assignment Four as it explains about the angle of light in relation to texture, shape and form, three characteristics of an object the assignment asks to be revealed.

Despite it’s technical introduction, this book is actually full of practical advice on photographic lighting. It is a book that I will keep to hand and undoubtedly use as a point of reference for my lighting set-ups.

Lighting (2007)

This was also a book that was included in the recommended reading list for the course. It is part of the Basics photography series by AVA and has a good balance of technical information and practical tips alongside inspiring images and clear diagrams. The book consists of six chapters;

What is light?

Natural light

Available light

Photographic light

Controlling light

Using light

The section, What is light? Helped to reinforce what I had read in Hunter et al regarding light being an electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the eye. It expanded on this somewhat, by detailing the colour temperatures of common light sources and how a nomograph can be used to work out which filters can be used to convert the colour of one light source to another.

The Natural light chapter specifies the qualities of light at different time of the day. I referred to this often when researching the Light Through the Day, Cloudy Weather and Rain and the Outdoor at Night exercises as it helped me to understand how light behaves throughout the day and how to ‘read’ its temperature.

The section on Controlling light helped outline to me the possible uses for the light modifiers I had recently acquired, such as reflectors, a flag and a snoot, to build light and control it.

The last section, Using light, offers brief, yet clear advice on how to use light to reveal a subject’s shape, form, texture, tone and colour. Advice that was extremely useful in planning for and carrying out Assignment Four.

This book has both practical content and is easy to navigate, making it a handy reference book to have on hand.

Light and Lighting (2012)

This book was not part of the recommended reading. I found it in the photography section of my local bookshop and decided to buy it after noting that its structure is akin to that of a college course, containing lessons and encouraging reader participation.

The book covers five sections titled; Lighting fundamentals, Daylight, Artificial light, Photographic lighting and Lighting styles.

I found each section helpful in some way.

Lighting Fundamentals was helpful in that it explained colour temperature, WB and measuring light in a simple way. All helpful in supporting the Light exercises.

Daylight discussed the quality of light at different points throughout the day and in different weather conditions and how to use this to advantage. Freeman covers shooting into the sun, which was useful as it gave practical advice on how to achieve a silhouette and correct exposure. This section also outlines how reflectors and diffusers, both man-made and natural, can be used to manage strong sunshine.

Artificial light is a short section which discusses incandescent light, fluorescent and vapour discharge lights. The main learning I gleaned from this chapter is that even with WB presets many images taken under these types of lighting still may have deficiencies in colour accuracy. While sometimes these colour casts can add to a scene’s atmosphere sometimes they require colour correction, best carried in images shot in RAW format. It became apparent that there is no one ‘rule’ on whether to correct or not. Freeman advises that it is probably best to consider what is appropriate for your individual subject and setting.

Photographic lighting was a helpful chapter as it details the benefits of both flash and continuous lights alongside various light modifiers. It also illustrated the varying positions of a light in relation to the subject and how this could emphasis specific subject characteristics. Practical information that was useful when planning and carrying out both the exercises, assignment and future shoots.

Like Präkel, the Freeman book also looks at Lighting Styles. However, the Freeman book has a wider range of images to illustrate the varying lighting styles, several of which, the chiaroscuro, light painting and backlighting styles, sparked me to experiment.

Overall, I found each of these books helpful in widening my knowledge of light and in supporting me through this section of the course. While several of the topics are repeated in more than one of these books I didn’t feel that I was routinely covering the same ground. Conversely, I felt as though reading from more than one source helped broaden my knowledge and has helped me to consolidate my learning.

Light-Progress towards Assessment Criteria 4

Light- Progress towards Assessment Criteria

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Material, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Before beginning this section of the course I was aware that my understanding of light was lacking. Since completing the exercises, reading and assignment I now realise that having knowledge of light and how it behaves is fundamentally important in photography. I feel as though I have had several ‘eureka’ moments when things seemed to have clicked together in my mind.

Examples of these occasions include when I felt as I was beginning to recognise light temperature. I had previously selected WB routinely, based on shooting conditions and was not fully aware of how this affected the image. However, carrying out the ‘Judging Colour Temperature 1 & 2’, exercises and examining the resulting images made it clear to me that the different options compensated for the varying temperatures of the light and also of how this could be used creatively. I have since began experimenting with custom WB options in post-processing and now realise that the temperature my camera, a Nikon D5100, defaults to for Daylight WB is slightly different to the Daylight WB setting preset on Photoshop Elements 11. The ‘Light through the Day’ exercise has also helped me develop an awareness of the colours of changing natural light. On examining the resulting images it was easy to see the huge differences in the light temperature, sometimes even after only minutes of time had lapsed. Following this exercise I downloaded a sun compass from I Tunes, which would allow me to gauge the sun’s position while travelling or in an unfamiliar place.

The exercise on ‘Measuring exposure’ and ‘Higher and Lower Sensitivity” has helped see a shift in the way I meter a shot. Previously I used matrix metering the majority of the time, however I am now better at identifying a mid-tone in a shot and using this to TTL spot meter to achieve a better exposure. I do, nevertheless, realise that mastering an off-camera light meter is the next step. I also knew on a logical level that aperture, shutter speed and ISO had a reciprocal relationship when it came to exposure however these exercises have helped me to realise this practically.

A further ‘eureka’ moment came when I experimented with Bulb mode for the ‘Outdoors at Night’ images here I began to realise the opportunities that long exposures could offer. This encouraged me to use Bulb mode for the Colour 2, light painting shot.

110mm, f/11, 13s, ISO 200, Tungsten WB

Colour 2,
110mm, f/11, 13s, ISO 200, Tungsten WB

This section of the course has introduced me to many new techniques and pieces of equipment. I fairly recently acquire a speed light and a set of 500w (3200k) tungsten lights that I have found to be a joy to use compared with the desk lamp/daylight set ups that I have used for previous photographs. The lights offered bright, even light without the colour casts that the desk lamps gave. Where to position a light to reveal specific subject qualities was a major element of Assignment Four and as the tungsten lights have a stand and I can position the flash off-camera on a stand, it allowed me to position a light exactly where I wanted it to go and for it to stay in place.

When I previously researched photographic light and came across various light modifiers I quickly became puzzled as to what I would need and how would I use it. Research during this chapter, (Präkel, 2007, Hunter, et al, 2012, Freeman, 2012), made it clear that it clear that if I wanted to control light I would need some tools to be able to do so. I therefore have added modifiers to my kit, such as a large 5-in 1 reflector, a Rogue flash bender that can act as a reflector, flag or snoot, a shoot through umbrella and DIY soft boxes and grid. For this assignment I used some pieces of equipment more than others, such as the shoot through umbrella and reflectors, however I have taken the time to experiment with each item and realise their potential uses.

When deciding how to compose the still-life photographs for this assignment I called upon the learning I had previously undertaken on this course. I considered presenting the images in a square format as this would frame the shape of the pumpkin neatly, however after planning with some sketches I realised the square format felt quite restrictive and a rectangular format would fit some of the compositions better, such as Texture 1 and Form 1.

Texture 1,  side-lighting, 105mm, f/4.8, 1/45s, ISO 100, Tungsten WB

Texture 1,
105mm, f/4.8, 1/45s, ISO 100, Tungsten WB

Form 1,  tungsten lighting, 68mm, f/19, 1/15s, ISo 200, Tungsten WB.

Form 1,
tungsten lighting,
68mm, f/19, 1/15s, ISo 200, Tungsten WB.

I tried to vary the compositions between each shot to add visual interest to the series, employing both static and dynamic balance, different camera perspectives, over-filling the frame and varying depths of field.

I also considered making the series consist of both black and white and colour shots as black and white can enhance the qualities of texture and form (Freeman, 2007, p127). However I experimented with a few black and white conversions and found that without the element of colour the pumpkin images seemed lacking. Perhaps because the bright orange colour is often considered a pumpkin’s dominant characteristic?

Quality of Outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The learning I have gained throughout this section of the course has been vast and have I found the exercises useful in illustrating how this can be used in practice. I have also found that writing about the steps I undertake during the exercises in my learning log helpful in organising my thoughts and to pinpoint exactly what learning has taken place. Further to this, I find that by linking my thoughts and findings to the research that I have undertaken, whether it be reading or viewing the work of other photographers, my thinking develops and my thoughts consolidate.

When planning and developing the images for Assignment Four I have tried to show how I have applied my newfound knowledge of lighting and how to control it. However, I opted not to use all the equipment and  all the techniques to which I have been introduced, as I didn’t want use a snoot or a flag for the sake of it. I choose instead, to select the tools that I felt best fulfilled the assignment criteria by revealing the subject’s attributes.

In terms of presentation of work, I did give quite some thought as to how the work for the assignment could be presented, as noted above, in order for the photographs to hang together as a series and also offer some visual interest.  

I have had a few blog problems lately, mainly with missing images and plan to repair this before commencing the next section of the course.

Demonstration of Creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

I was aware that while Assignment Four was essentially a technical exercise, I wanted it still to be visually interesting. I initially used a mind map and rough sketches to brainstorm my ideas.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.06.55 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.07.17 PMThese formed the basis of my ideas but there was a lot of trial and error as I tried out the various techniques and compositions. I returned to the drawing board often to rethink, particularly before I purchased the studio lighting. I had somehow gone from being largely unaware of how to use light at the beginning of this chapter to a point where I knew what I was doing was not good. In the end it has taken me nearly 200 different shots and a period of 4 weeks to reach a point where I am (fairly) happy with the images.

While the assignment brief asked for eight photographs to be taken of the same subject matter I took a bit of creative license and used a number of pumpkins in some of the photographs, trying to present the different subject qualities in slightly different compositions.

The exercise and assignment instructions encouraged me to experiment with techniques that were new to me such as backlighting to silhouette and rim lighting. While I did find the exposure for these shots tricky to master, I found the results to be worth the frustration and will use these techniques again, particularly to reveal a subject’s shape. Light painting, Colour 2 (see above) , is also an example of me experimenting with a new technique.


Reflection, research, critical thinking.

My learning log is the primary location where I reflect on my work, research and thoughts. I have also started to develop a more informal off-line electronic notebook. The benefits of this seem to be that I can cut and paste interesting articles and web links, however the downside of this is that it is I seem to be using this more as a way of collating information rather than for reflecting on its contents. While the core texts are influencing my thinking I am also finding that questions and ideas arise from magazines, websites and photography groups I follow on Twitter. I know from experience that my ‘informal’ reflection attempts can quickly veer off topic so perhaps I can find a way of adding ‘post-it’ style notes to each article in order to be concise?

As the concept of photographic light was very new to me I found that I had to undertake quite a bit of reading in order to support the exercises in this chapter. I have referenced this reading throughout, so my thinking can be sourced and I can refer back with ease should I need to.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend three different photography exhibitions this autumn, Rawiya, She Who Tells a Story, Jung Lee and Nestled in Nature and I have written about these in my learning log. These exhibitions were very different visually and in the messages they wanted to deliver. This was interesting as it helped widen the scope of photographic styles and intentions I have viewed such as reportage, historical record, nature and philosphical.

I also had the opportunity to attend a (free!) talk on the History of Photography. What I found especially of interest was the original daguerreotypes and stereograph that the presenter shared with the audience. While I had read about these early photographic mediums in books, holding them in my hand and looking at them first-hand seemed to strengthen my understanding of how detailed the early photographic processes were.

Narrative and illustration next…

Freeman, M. (2012) Light & Lighting. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. (4th ed.) Waltham: Focal Press

Präkel, D. (2007) Lighting. Lausanne: AVA

The family of angles


Hunter et al (2012, p39) tells us that the direct reflection is produced when a light is directed at a polished surface, such as metal or glass. The rays bounce from points on the smooth surface at the same angle as which they hit it. Therefore the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. They continue by explaining that the family of angles (FoA) is the area formed by a collection of these ‘bounce’ points.

from Hunter et al, 2012, p70, diagram 4.8.

from Hunter et al, 2012, p70, diagram 4.8.

However, when reading chapter 6 of Light-Science and Magic I came across an exercise (p121) that is designed to help identify where the FoA might lie when lighting metal. I decided to carry out the exercise and see what could be learned.

Finding the Family of Angles

I placed a metal garlic press on a black fabric background. I placed the camera onto a tripod set the lens to 55mm and pointed it down towards the subject at an angle of approximately 40-45 degrees.

1. Position a white target where you think the family of angles will be

The white target could be any convenient diffusion surface. The less sure you are of where the FoA lies the bigger the surface should be. As I had very little idea about where the FoA lay I chose a 106cm diameter diffusion panel. I placed it behind the subject.

2. Place a test light at the camera lens.

This light is a called a ‘test’ to distinguish it from whatever light we eventually use to make the picture. As the beam of the light had to be narrow I opted to use a small torch. This torch’s beam had to be in line with the camera lens so I removed the camera from the tripod and taped the flashlight to the top of the tripod.

3. Aim the test light.

I aimed the test light at the point on the garlic press that was closest to tripod. The idea was that the light would reflect off of the metal and onto the white target sheet. However I couldn’t see the light reflected in the diffusion sheet at all. I wondered where I had gone wrong and mentally retraced the steps. I decided to play around with the position of the white target. I placed it directly overhead, no test light to be seen. I tried positioning it more to one side but this didn’t seem to be catching the metal reflections either. It seems I had totally misjudged the family of angles. However, when I placed the diffusion sheet back behind the subject but angled I had a bit of a eureka moment when the saw a light reflected in the sheet to show the near limit of the FoA. I marked this spot with a piece of removable tape as instructed. I repeated this by moving the flashlight to farthest point on the metal and marked the far limit of the FoA with tape too. I shone the light on a few other points but these reflections did not extend beyond the near and far limit of the FoA I have previously marked.

4. Study the position and shape on the area marked on the white target.

The area marked was very low down on the white target and fairly narrow in width. It was interesting to note that the point reflecting in the bottom of the image corresponds to the limit marked at the top of the test surface and vice versa. Hunter et al (2012, p124) notes that being aware of this is useful in locating the source of glare and hotspots in future set ups.

How to light the metal

So it seems that after a bit of trial and error I had succeeded in finding the FoA. Now how should I light it. Hunter et al (2012, p125) notes that to keep the metal bright the light should at least fill the FoA to produce direct reflection. After removing the torch and replacing the camera onto the tripod I placed a spotlight behind the diffusion sheet.  I took some time adjusting the distance until the light more than filled the FoA that I had identified.


Light filling the FoA,
55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 100


To make the metal look dark Hunter et al (2012, p128) note that the light can be positioned anywhere outside the family of angles therefore avoiding direct refection. I positioned the light near the camera and took this shot.

Light outside the FoA, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/2, ISO 100

Light outside the FoA,
55mm, f/5.6, 1/2, ISO 100

The metal is indeed darker than in the first shot and has less areas of bright highlight which allows some more details to be seen. It does seem quite dull though.


This exercise has helped illustrate in a very hands-on way that the FoA behaves for direct reflection, relative to the light source, camera and position of the subject. It has demystified the concept for me (somewhat) by demonstrating how, once the FoA are located, they can be managed to show or not show reflections. It would seem though from my two examples above that a middle ground between keeping the metal bright and dark might be a better outcome for some subjects. Hunter et al (2012, p131) describe lighting set-ups that fill the FoA to produce direct reflection from the metal plus illuminate from other angles to produce diffuse reflection from the background as an Elegant Compromise.


Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light-Science and Magic (4th Ed.) Waltham, Focal Press

History of Photography Talk

History of Photography Talk

I recently had the opportunity to attend an evening talk on the history of photography by Matthew Dols, an Assistant Professor of New Media in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University (Dubai and Abu Dhabi campuses), organised and hosted by Gulf Photo Plus, Dubai.

Dols is passionate about photography and this has led him to examine the very beginnings within the medium. He began by talking about the camera obscura1, which is Latin for dark room, which is the earliest form of camera. It basically, was a hole in a tent of box that allowed an image to be projected and then traced to make a permanent image. Dols noted that this may have been in use as far back as 5BC which is much longer ago than the 1569 date that Clarke (1997, p238) offers as it’s date for development.

He also briefly mentioned the work of Muslim scholar, al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, whom I had not heard of before, who is rumoured to have invented the pinhole camera over 1000 years ago.

The discussion also covered the techniques used by Niépce (1765-1833) heliograph2 which was used to capture ‘View from the Window at Gras’ c.1826. However, it was the work by Frenchman, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre who developed the first published photographic process, the Daguerreotype3, in 1839 and Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot who introduced the Calotype4 in 1840. Dols outlined the processes both men had used and wondered out loud that of the two men who should be considered to be the ‘inventor’ of the photographic process. Should it be Daguerre as he was chronologically first or should it be Talbot as his process allowed a negative/positive process and is therefore the basis of photography proper?

Dols brought example of original daguerreotypes that he has collected and very generously allowed these to be passed around the audience for a closer look. This was perhaps the section of the evening that I enjoyed best. Up until point I hadn’t realised that because of their sensitive nature daguerreotype’s had to be protected by glass and were framed in a small, leather bound boxes to seal the images. The daguerreotypes were made of silvered copper plate and as such had to tilted to a certain angle for the image to be seen. The combination of holding the decorative box and the image revealing itself to me felt quite magical.

I also had the opportunity to hold and look at a stereograph5  in a stereoscope5. The stereograph felt quite flimsy in comparison to the daguerreotypes. It also seemed more ‘fun’ than the serious daguerreotype portraits in their leather-bound boxes, almost like a child’s toy.

At the request of audience members Dols provided the following as suggestions for reading on the history of photography and working with old medium in photographic work.

Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital
 By Todd Gustavson

Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography
 By Robert Hirsch

A World History of Photography
 By Naomi Rosenblum

On Photography 
By Susan Sontag (I have had this one sitting on my book shelf for a while, but since this talk have began to read it)

The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes
 By Christopher James

Primitive Photography: A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes
 By Alan Greene

Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Ideas, Materials and Processes
 By Robert Hirsch & John Valentino

In addition to working at the university, Dols is also a photographer and fine artist. His work can be viewed via his website by clicking here

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

The definitions below are taken from the glossary in Clarke (1997).

1 Camera obscura: a ‘dark chamber’, which constituted the earliest, form of camera, although it did not record a permanent image. Developed in 1569 by Battista delia Porta for use by artists, it consisted of a hole in a tent or box, which allowed the entry of light on to a flat surface. The projected image appeared as inverted, but with the use of mirror the artist was able to trace what he saw.

2 Heliography: the process invented by Niépce, it is the earliest form of photographic image, used to produce the famous ‘first’ photograph from 1826. It was based on a copper plate covered in a solution of bitumen. Its obvious drawback was the number of hours required for each exposure.

3 Daguerreotype: the first published photographic process, in France (1839), developed by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. Based on experiments he had made (with Niépce) since the 1820s, this consisted of a silvered copper plate made sensitive by iodine vapour. It was easily damaged and, once developed, had to be protected by glass to prevent the surface becoming scratched. To begin with, exposure times were up to twenty minutes, although they were rapidly reduced to seconds. There was no negative, thus each daguerreotype was unique. Despite its popularity it was rapidly supersede by Talbot’s negative/positive process.

4 Calotype: the basic process developed by Talbot in 1840, it consisted of a paper sensitized with a salt solution and silver nitrate. This was the basis of his photogenic drawings in 1834 but the calotype allowed a negative/positive process and is therefore the basis of photography proper. An earlier but different version was the salt print, which Talbot used in 1834.

5 Stereograph: an image based on the stereoscopic camera, which had two lenses set apart in relation to the eyes. Each ‘print’ had two exposures and when placed in the stereoscope (a viewing machine) produced the illusion of a three-dimensional image. Especially popular in the 1850s particularly for travel photography.

‘Rawiya- She Who Tells a Story’ Exhibition

Rawiya- She Who Tells a Story Exhibition

I visited the Gulf Photo Plus gallery space in Dubai recently to view an exhibition by the Middle Eastern Women Photography Collective: Rawiya, which translates from Arabic as, She Who tells a Story.

The exhibition showcases the work of four female photographers from around the Middle East: Myriam Abdelaziz, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Laura Boushnak and Tanya Habjouqa.

The artist each displayed different visual styles and subject matter but showed similarity in that each set of photographs showed simple, human moments occurring within the Middle East region.

I will now outline the theme shared by each of the photographers and some of my thoughts on the work.

Laura Boushnak is a Kuwaiti born Palestinian photographer whose work ranges from conflict photography to pictorial story telling.

Boushnak displayed a selection of work from her  ‘I Read I Write: Yemen – access to education’, series of work. The series is part of an ongoing project documenting women and education across the Arab world. Boushnak’s website cites that in Yemen, 2 out of 3 woman area illiterate and only 13% of girls attend secondary school, resulting from poverty, lack of resources and lack of parental awareness of the benefits of educated woman.

The subjects of her photograph are Yemeni woman, the first in their families to attend higher education, shown facing the camera and involved in daily scenes, such as studying and chores. For me, it was the handwritten text inscribed on the images (that had been translated to English and available in a leaflet) detailing Boushnak’s conversations with the students about their achievements and aspirations that helped to bring the challenges of the woman to life. The photographs documented the determination of these women in pursuing a future beyond that of wife and mother while helping to raise awareness of the work of YERO, the Yemen Education and Relief Organisation. YERO is a non-government organization, which aims to improve access to education for all and to support mothers with training, advice and assistance.

Myriam Abdelaziz  is a French photographer of Egyptian descent. She exhibited from her series ‘Cairo Dances’, which shows portraits of Egyptian belly dancers posed in ornate costumes against a red, studio background. Abdelaziz notes that the portraits document the dying art of belly dancing, as a combination of economic and socio-religious factors have led fewer Egyptian women to continue this historically rich tradition.

The dancers are wearing traditional belly dancing costumes, which contrasted greatly with the abayas, headscarves and veils the woman were wearing in Boushnak’s work. I feel this helped to show the diversity of experience across the region. The photographs showed the woman in a variety of dance poses, which the gallery as having a monumental, almost memorialised quality to them. As Abdelaziz has set out to document the woman I could understand the static, ‘memorialised’ effect. I did, however, think that I would have liked to see a similar sort of image where the poses have more energy to reflect the spirit of dance.

 Tanya Habjouqa  a Jordanian, exhibited her  ‘Occupied Pleasures’ series of work, that aided her Magnum Foundation 2013 Emergency Fund   award.

‘Occupied Pleasures’ explores moments in the lives of Palestinians were there is some respite from the ardorous political and economic situations and people experience lighthearted moments of joy such as family picnics, children swimming and woman practicing yoga.

I found this series of work of particularly interesting possibly because some of the scenes that presented themselves seemed so recognizable as everyday leisure activities, such as two woman enjoying a scenic cable car ride or two men riding on a motorcycle smiling as though not a care in the world. Others though, seemed to superimpose a familiar activity with an unexpected backdrop. Such as the image of the women practicing yoga on top of the rocky hilltops on the outskirts of Bethlehem wearing sweaters and heavy overcoats. This seems to show the determination of the woman to claim their moments of enjoyment in harsh surroundings and weather.

I also liked that these photographs showed a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of the people of Palestine that more often than not is passed over by popular press in favour of ‘hard news’.

Tamara Abdul Hadi  was born in the UAE, to Iraqi parents before being raised in Canada.

Abdul Hadi displayed work from her ‘Ramallah, 2011’ project where members of the Palestinian community were offered the opportunity to take a self-portrait. This was an idea she had developed after observing that so many residents of refugee camps in Palestine were being photographed so therefore decided to give these individual to choose how they would be represented.

They photographs show the head and shoulders of individuals of various ages, from young to old, and of both sexes, standing in front of a plain stone wall. The majority of individuals look at the camera face-on with a stoic, deadpan expression although a few of the children offer the hint of a smile.

I did like the basis of the series, that the individuals had control over how they were portrayed and that they were all presented with a similar plain background that would not detract from the portrait, leaving the viewer face-to-face with the model.

Abdul Hadi chose note to catalogue any information about her subjects’ lives, choosing to simply represent them through a photograph. The inquisitive side of me would probably have liked a little bit of information about the individuals involved, a first name, and an age. Although, I do realise not having this information leaves more room for questions and thinking.

It seemed to me at the exhibition that there were only a handful of these portraits on display and it did leave me eager to see more. This led me to Abdul Hadi’s website where, amongst other photographs from the series, there is a short Vimeo video that was recorded at the time of shooting.

Rawiya- She Who Tells a Story is running at Gulf Photo Plus until October 16th, 2013.

Jung Lee Exhibition

Jung Lee Exhibition

I recently had the opportunity to view an exhibition by Korean photographer, Jung Lee at the Green Art Gallery in Dubai. I knew very little about this photographer or her work, other than an article in a local magazine, before attending the gallery. As I entered the gallery my initial thought was that the works on display seemed huge. They measured 170cm x 136cm and were displayed in both horizontal and vertical orientations.

The photographs were a selection taken from a series of neon light installations from her Aporia, meaning ‘coming to a dead-end’ in Greek and her Day and Night series. The neon lights form short statements and messages and sit outdoors within a variety of barren landscapes.

The neon message is the focal point of the photograph. Lee has said she choose neon because it is common and regarded as a cliché, but in her composition she wanted it to become profound, philosophical even.  The messages include statements such as ‘I DREAM OF YOU’, ‘WHY?’, ‘ONCE IN A LIFETIME”, ‘YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU…’, ‘THE END’ and ‘I STILL REMEMBER’.

I briefly thought that the photographs seem like the front of a very beautiful billboard, with the colourful message bearing down on the passers-by. However, this comparison does the works a great disservice as the majority of billboard slogans are instantly forgettable whereas the messages in Lee’s work seem intended to provoke thoughts, ideas and questions, potentially on an individual basis.

Lee explains that while she wants her work to be open to a viewer’s own interpretation, she was inspired to create the Aporia and Day and Night series’ through literature. The Roland Barthes essay, A Lover’s Discourse, influenced Aporia that tells the story of the incompetence of people in love. Lee responds to Barthes’s character that searches on end for signs that he is in love, imagining sweet nothings as glowing neon city signs that express cliché statements. Day and Night is inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, which highlights that true faith and love lead the way to heaven. As a result Lee focuses on the words ‘GOD’ and ‘LOVE’ in her photographs.

The visual links to the idea of love and relationships was clear in the written message. Subtler, I thought, was the use of desolate landscapes as backgrounds for the messages, which Lee has said acts to make the words of love or hope seem more isolated and lonely.

I considered where Lee’s work may sit in relation to the eight categories describes by Cotton (2009) in ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’.

I think the works had a feeling of being ‘Something and Nothing’  (Cotton, (2009, p115) in the sense that the neon lights are an ordinary, everyday subject that has been altered conceptually because of the way it has been presented. Light that is usually seen in a forgettable urban environment has been placed centre stage in a rural isolated location.

I also wondered if it could be considered Physical and Material (Cotton, 2009, p219) because Lee combines her photography with installation work?

The exhibition has a few more days to run, ending on October 16th.

Work from the exhibition can be viewed here

Cotton, C. (2009) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2nd Revised ed). London: Thames and Hudson Ltd