Rainy Day Woman


For this week’s photography assignment, I chose to do a sort of hybrid of options 1 and 3. Due to my lack of a school-aged child to assist me in approximating any kind of Literacy Through Photography-like project, I decided instead to try to work with a similar sensibility to the children in the program, within the context of the faceless portrait assignment. So, after convincing my best friend to serve as my model, we took to the streets of my neighborhood (the East Village). Unfortunately for us, the weather was bitterly cold and windy with driving rain and sleet, adding some drama to the photographs, but leaving us bedraggled and freezing. We retreated to my apartment, where I experimented with some staged lighting techniques as well as the use of the tripod. Later, once our extremities had thawed, we once again braved the rain and cold to try some night photography. While the conditions were less than ideal for what I’d hoped would be primarily an outdoor documentary-style project around my neighborhood, it was an interesting learning experience trying to work around the challenges that presented. And though the several weather-related changes of venue resulted in a less cohesive set of photographs, I think it gave me the chance to experiment with more different kinds of shooting and lighting than I otherwise might have.

The first photograph below is my  attempt at flat lighting and serves to introduce my subject in as straightforward a way as possible. I only use it here as a point of contrast, to illustrate exactly the kind of portrait I was trying to avoid in the rest of the series. The assignment asked for a series of portraits which did not include the entire face of the subject. I realize that there are one or two that do include most or all of my subject’s face, but I’ve included them here because I thought that for other reasons they represented non-conventional portraits–in the one with the stop sign, for instance, most of the face is visible, but it is at the very edge of the frame, almost out of the shot, and there are other elements of the shot, such as the sign, which draw the attention of the eye. As I mentioned, I also tried to capture the spirit of the photography I presented last week, taken by children through the Literacy Through Photography program. I did this by first choosing subject matter which touched on some of the basic themes often presented in the children’s photographs–friends, the home, and the community. I tried to capture the kind of candor and, when possible, spontaneity that these children’s work so often exhibited. And, I tried to work, especially in the outdoor shots, in a documentary style, looking for ways to make straightforward, mundane scenes more interesting, working with the available lighting, and not taking too much time to set up or stage any one shot, operating in as point-and-shoot a way as possible.

As for the question of whether experimenting with lighting and composition helped or hindered the concept I was working on, I guess I would say a little of both–it certainly helped me to come up with some unexpected results and to think in a more active, engaged way about the kinds of shots I was taking. I think it both broadened and narrowed by scope creatively, broadening in the sense of expanding my metaphorical photographic “toolbox” of ideas and techniques, narrowing in the sense of refining my photographic sensibilities, making me more focused, in a sense, on aesthetic considerations that I previously might have left more to chance. As someone who’s done some photography before on a mostly for-pleasure basis, my process previous to this, I think, was much more scattershot, experimenting with things, but not with as much of a conscious sense of purpose–I still might have gotten some interesting shots or ones that I liked in the process, but I wouldn’t necessarily have known how I got them–it would often happen almost coincidentally. While I do think that in photography, as in any art form, there is often some element of luck or chance that goes into producing something beautiful–perfect conditions at the perfect time, or a mistake that turns out perfectly, I think that through the Zettl readings and through the process of this assignment, I became more aware of the fact that being aware of considerations of light, framing, etc. doesn’t mean having to sacrifice the spontaneity or the creative spark, but in fact can often mean stacking the odds in your favor of having those freak creative moments coalesce perfectly. In other words, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I became more aware that a big part of luck in the creative process is not luck at all but awareness and skill.

In terms of which photos I like best, I tend to be drawn to high contrast, particularly in black and white, so I think I often like images that are a little more blown out and contrast-y than a lot of people might like, and that goes for some of the photos in this set. Another thing I also like, which, again, others might not like so well is a blurry, out of focus picture, in the right context. Of course, I also love really sharp, crisp detailed photos, like the photo of the eye below, but there’s something about photos like the one in the stairwell and the one of the figure on the dark, rainy sidewalk below which really appeals to me. Somehow, they evoke to me a kind of dreamlike quality, a sense of mystery, a frenetic energy, or sometimes even a sense of intimacy, that I find really appealing. Of course, as I say, I think the technique has its time and place and I’m not just going to frame any old out of focus picture and call it a beautiful work of art.

I really enjoyed this assignment, and while I think my results were a little mixed (not to mention a little schizophrenic, with all the different techniques and styles I experimented with), I do think it was helpful to try to apply Zettl’s writing in real life scenarios, and I considered the process very instructive, not to mention fun, over all.














































And finally, a photograph to encapsulate my feelings toward the exercise as a whole:



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