This assignment tasks the student with creating combined images. The student is required to produce either a series of four to six portraits (looking at Stezaker and Stenram) or a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings (as with Gill’s Hackney Marshes series).
Complete Parts 1 and 2 of the assignment and upload the finished images to your learning log together with a short reflection (500–1,000 words) on your motivations, references and methods for both parts of the assignment.
For this assignment, I chose to create portraits because of easy access to source material and because of difficulty in accessing landscapes due to my current physical limitations and the current social restrictions due to lockdown.
Using traditional ‘cut and paste’ techniques (scissors, scalpel and glue) to produce a series of simple photomontages using elements from two to five original or found photographs. These can be found images and/or images that you’ve shot yourself.
I started this part of the assignment by acquiring as much source material as possible. I then sat and cut out as many pages as possible which contained images. At this point I was just gathering any and all images, while at the same time looking for the odd image which I could use as the “main” image.
Once I had sorted the material, I then went through the images, refining my selection, putting aside any which I did not feel suited the overall requirements I had in mind.
In my choices and selection I used Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield, Man Ray and Alexander Rodchenko and John Stezaker as inspiration for the works.
Once I had a choice of images, I then tore or used a scalpel or scissors to remove any extraneous material that I did not want. I positioned the images loosely on a board and moved them around, taking off some and replacing others until the idea I had in my head started to form the final scene.
Once I had the layout I wanted I transferred the pieces onto a new piece of coloured paper and glued them down into the format I wanted.
Not all of the images I produced I was happy with. For example, I started to created an image about the interchangeability of the male model in fashion portraiture. The final image just would not gel and in the end I stopped working on it as I was unhappy and uncertain with the results. I also found that because many of the models looked so similar, it was extremely difficult to make it obvious that they were not of the same person.
The original idea of this second image was to slice and move the pieces around to intermix the two models. However I did not feel that the final image would work and could appear too jumbled to present the message.
Slave to Fashion
The first final combined image I am happy with is this, ‘slave of fashion’. Here, a richly dressed, jewellery laden individual sits forefront of the image. They portray the people who wear the finely made clothes and who are figuratively adorned with money.
I wanted to show the contrast between the people who make the cloth, the clothes and the jewellery, who are unknown background figures ignored by the cameras and shunned by the public figureheads. These figureheads are the new royalty, where cash is king.
Look here Sheep
The next image is shaped by a statement from the American comedian Bill Hicks, where he spoke about famous people selling their image to marketing companies. Allowing the marketing companies to influence the man on the street by saying that we have to emulate the fashions and ideas of the rich and famous so we can be like them.
Here the blood soaked film star faces forward, there is no expression in his eyes only the reflection of money. He speaks of the goods for which the man on the street must bankrupt himself to purchase. His image and his words are used to market to the sheep.
His Face is his Money
The third combined image is in the same theme, here, an actor known best for playing a God of Thunder poses while wearing a tailored suit; the image is dripping with the insinuation that power is money and being famous is a way of becoming powerful. Once again I dropped in pieces of money into the image as a less than subtle way of poking a stick at the semiotics of advertising.
Using digital montage techniques (Photoshop or similar image-editing software) produce a digital montage using elements from a minimum of two and a maximum of five digital files. Use components that you have shot yourself rather than found images for this exercise.
With this section I started by working on photos I took of my wife and my in-laws, however none of the final images came together, and I found the results very unsatisfactory. I converted the images to black and white because I just could not get the skin colours to match as they both have very different complexions.
During a discussion with my tutor I had said that I had decided not to include the subjects of disability and health in these images. That being said, a small seed was planted in my mind and when I decided that the initial images were not suitable I returned to the ideas of self-portraiture and decided to work on a photomontage within the boundaries of how I was feeling during the current health pandemic.
While looking through source material I encountered some stills of the film “Strike” by Sergei Eisenstein where he had combined images of birds and people. This, along with ideas of a Netsuke I had seen in a Museum in San Francisco and a Herm I had seen as part of the Scan the World project, helped as a starting point for the works I wanted to create.
Two faced version inspired by a Herm, this was one of the first images I produced for part 2. It is my interpretation of an ancient Greek Herm. Herms were placed above doorways and in some cases had two faces, one for each room. While I liked the idea, I am not
e sure that the final version worked for the Assignment. It looked to ‘samey’, and so was never completed.
I feel like Death
“I feel like death. But you look okay.” This comes from many a conversation I have with people, because when they initially see me they do not know or realise that I have what is called an invisible disability. The fatigue, sickness, pain and vision loss are not apparent to people who do not know me. Even then I can look at myself in the mirror and see that I look okay, when I just feel like death warmed up on the inside.
Faces of mental health
Facing the internal struggle with mental health during lockdown. When it came to combining the images and creating this piece I did not want to go down the path of multiple faces repeating onto each other, as I had seen this too often on various album covers. I was inspired instead to create my own interpretation on the image of the 4 face Brahma. Usually, the Brahma, or Buddha has 4 bodies, each pointing a different direction and each one having a different symbolical meaning. I knew that I would be unable to get 4 full body self portraits for myself so went with different facial expressions and directions.
Here I digitally removed most of the left and right hand headshots leaving only the faces. I then reduced the amount of face available using photoshop masks and painting out the parts of the face that I did not want to remain. I then shrank the two faces down to just over 70% of their original size to give both perspective, but also to show that the faces were representational of the internal struggle I have with my mental health during the current lockdown.
I wanted to finish on a funny note after portraying the darkness of chronic ill health and depression and mental health issues caused by the lockdown.
Like a lot of people I have not had a hair trim or a proper shave since February, although in my case this has been exacerbated by a shattered ankle. Using Hannah Hoch as a point of inspiration I photographed one of the family cats curled up in a ball. I then digitally removed a portion of the fur and copied it onto a portrait of the top of my head (where I am bereft of hair) Thus replacing my baldness with a ridiculous amount of hair.
Although I am amused by the combination of pieces I am not sure that it fully works. the hair has been blurred to give a slight definition of distance but I feel that it distracts from the overall work.
I found the process of cut and paste a lot more fun than the digital version, possible because I had more of a choice in the source material to work with. It is almost as if having the material first allowed me to work forward and create the works. It was very different in part two where I had ideas which I could not work and then abandoned and I also found the choice of source material was much more limited, reducing the scope of the work. Had I plundered the mine of my own images from the last 12 years I may have a better choice, but restricting myself to purposefully produced source material directly for the Assignment vasty reduced my overall choices and limited what I could stretch myself to do.
Again, like the examples prior to Assignment 1, I found that I had to update my Photoshop skills which meant another learning curve and a bit of frustration with trying to produce what I had in my mind on the screen.
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