OCA Level 3: Body of Work/Contextual Studies

Category: Video Still Experiments

Experiment with video stills (2)

This is an idea I keep coming back to, although I remain sceptical that it will lead me anywhere. The methodology of capturing a sequence of video and selecting screen grabs to make something else appeals – there is also something that resonates with some of the reading I have been doing for CS concerning consumerism and how retailers try to gain our attention in an environment that is saturated with visual information. (Debord’s Society of the Spectacle for instance.)

This second experiment is again something quickly made. I took 2 minutes of video using my iPhone (this time set to the highest quality), imported into Premiere Pro and used the image capture function at various points which had potentially interesting visual information in them – I am particularly interested in window displays, store signage and imagery and brand logos. I then quickly cropped in Lightroom and put together as a collage. Again I am not sure if this is something worth pursuing or worth the time that would be needed to make something. In order to really work a lot of images would be required – perhaps I need to have a go at this in order to really understand if this is an idea that could go somewhere.

Thoughts:

  • I have searched for different ways to take screen shots from video and there are many different approaches of varying complexity. Using Premiere Pro as I have here is a very quick and easy technique – I may be able to get better quality using another method but I am not sure if it would be worth the extra effort.
  • The different aspect ratios, sizes and positioning of the images work well I think, although there are potentially other ways I could overlap them. The same things, but from different angles could also be something to work on, such as the apple logo in this example.
  • How to present these is something to think about. Physically they could work as large, poster sized prints or as introductory pieces at the beginning/end of a book or zine. Digitally they could lend themselves to being animated somehow – perhaps as a continuous loop of changing/overlapping images.
  • Although I have shot this video on the highest (4k) setting my phone allows, once the individual frames have been captured and cropped, they take on a more lo-fi aesthetic which appeals to me. This could be something that could be pushed further to bring this to the fore, for example, increased saturation (or destauration), contrast and emphasis on grain and movement/blur.

Experiment with video stills

I have a longing to make something for my BoW that is different to what could be termed ‘traditional’ photography, although I am not even sure what this means or how to articulate it. It is probably easiest to describe this as a desire to make a body of work that is not just a series of single images on a wall or in a book. I have no idea what this will look or be like, and the risks are many, however, I feel a real need to try and express myself in a way that recognises that the language of photography is in a sate of flux as we move from analogue to digital.

A phrase used by recent OCA graduate Sarah-Jane Field keeps circulating in my mind – “post Cartesian”, that is “the journey away from a Cartesian understanding of reality towards one that is networked, non-linear and lively.” (Field, 2020) Sarah-Jane’s work, particularly her L3 submission, is inspiring and original and I need to study it closer and understand better what is meant by terms such as ‘Cartesian’. This paragraph eloquently encapsulates her intentions and provides pointers on a potential way forward:

“my work eschews a monistic and linear view while embracing one that is entangled, multi-directional and polymorphic. It asks what image-making is, was, and is becoming, and although the photograph is definitely a protagonist, it must share the stage with other forms of exteriorisation. In doing so, the collection of expressions and traces on pages and screens are an investigation into the decoding and recoding of reality – and perhaps prompts us to believe we have the wherewithal to make critical and much needed revisions as we (re)discover more about our place within the universe.” (Field, 2020)

Researching CS, a section in Consumption and Everyday Life by Mark Paterson resonated with thoughts I have been having about how I can try to capture the experience of being a consumer. Paterson (2006: 226-7) references Featherstone’s (1991) notion of “the aestheticisation of everyday life” which refers to the rapid flow of signs and images which saturate the fabric of the everyday in contemporary society. In reference to consumption this is important because the selling of commodities relies on an immediate reaction to visual stimuli such as advertising and branding. Lash and Urry (1994) advance this by using the term ‘aesthetic attitude’, which is cultivated by involvement, participation and fragmented looks and characterised by immersion in dreamlike states and immediate pleasure: “Desiring, wishing, or daydreaming often characterises our drifting mode of window-shopping, of mall-going, the fantasies of ownership and of playing with our subjectivity.” (Paterson, 2006: 227)

I had been thinking about how to capture the experience of shopping and these ideas of “fragmented looks” and “dreamlike states” resonated with me and I could immediately imagine this as a coping mechanism against the flood of stimuli we are bombarded with as we shop and explanation about why marketeers need to try so hard to grab our attention. I have experimented in the past with taking images from the hip with my camera set to automatically trip the shutter at set intervals and wondered if capturing video and taking screen shots from this could be a way to advance this idea. (See here) I have also been struck by a practical problem where I was stopped from photographing using my smart phone in the Metro Centre. A letter to the centre management asking for permission to photograph for my body of work was refused with the explanation that the centre is in a period of change – the subtext for this is that there are a lot of empty units which I suspect the owners are sensitive about being portrayed negatively. Perhaps taking some video ‘undercover’ could be a way around this and could also lend an interesting visual twist.

I decided to capture a short sequence of video using my iPhone in my local Tesco to see if this was possible. I am encouraged that this is something that could have potential and is worth pursuing further. Below are a couple of quick examples of collages made, and I can envisage this working well with a large amount of images – something that will also support my exploration of visual overload. I will advance this idea walking and recording a full survey of a shop/shopping centre. This initial video was made at 30fps and I will see what difference capturing at 60fps and 4k will make, I will also make some video with my main camera see what that looks like.

The jaunty angles of the individual images contrasts with the formality of the grid structure. I also like the way the images are blurred in places.
Putting the images together as one long strip gives a feeling of progression/emphasises the experience of shopping but is by its very nature linear.
Here, I have loosely straightened the images and randomly overlayed them. This could have potential – especially if a large amount of images is used. I will explore this more and experiment with alternative/arbitrary aspect ratios/crops and look at ways to blend the images together/overlay in different ways.

Bibliography:

Field, S-J. (2020) End of Module Reflection: CS. At: https://sjflevel3.photo.blog/2020/08/28/contextual-studies-end-of-module-reflection-part-3/ (accessed 24th November 2021)

Paterson, M. (2006) Consumption and Everyday Life. Oxon: Routledge.

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