Fear :: And The Winner Is… + Discussion On The Subject
The Setup ::
Last week we assembled a crew to help us on a three day shoot in an old abandoned mansion. I set one day aside for everyone on set to have time to grab some gear, grab a model, and shoot for themselves as payment for helping me on the other two days of shooting. Knowing that competition can bring the best out in a person I decided we should have a shootout. I posted the images here on the blog and had you all vote.
Before shooting we decided to pick one word that we all had to shoot an image for. The first word that came up was “pain” but then someone said “fear” and we decided that would be a good one and off we went. Each photographer could interpret that any way they wanted and what happened in the comments of the original blog post has been an interesting conversation of whether any of us actually shot an image that communicated fear. I feel that some of you wanted far too literal of an interpretation. Fear can go a lot of ways. I think we all gravitated toward the “horror’ish” route based on the location we had to use but it doesn’t have to be the ONLY way to interpret it. More in the discussion.
The Results ::
The winner is… (after the jump)
When Dave emailed the image to me to put on the blog I knew immediately that his was going to be the winning shot. Dave said he worked on a number of different interpretations with the models but he felt that he wasn’t getting the emotions out of them that he wanted. Part of this, Dave says, was his inexperience directing. Keep in mind that Dave was part of this crew because I met him at our Photo 101 course about six months ago. He’s new to photography. It’s a great example of the student kicking the teacher’s ass! Great job Dave!
During one of his first attempts of the day he turned around and saw that panel of glass and wondered what it would look like lit from behind. Since he didn’t really feel he was getting the emotion he wanted from the models he turned to a more simplistic interpretation of the theme. He says he felt like he was copping out by going this route but at the end of the day, he felt it was a lot stronger than his other attempts. He shot a number of variations of this scene and felt the pulled back, wider shot worked best. Yes, the image is a cliché but it has a good spin on it by NOT cropping in tight to the hand. Again, when he emailed it to me my thought was it was the winner. It’s just so simple and effective.
I really appreciate the fact that Dave recognized he was struggling with the direction of the models so he went a different route, kept it simple, and beat us all by a large margin.
The Discussion ::
2,500 votes have come in for the contest so, to some viewers, each photographer interpreted the word enough to illicit a vote. Some folks commented that they could not vote for any of them because they felt the word was never interpreted correctly. Let’s talk about that.
What is fear to you? There is the fear of death, pain, disease, etc. There is also the fear of not being smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough. Fear of taxes, kids getting in trouble, pregnancy, etc, etc, etc. Fear can go in a lot of directions. Here is what we were all thinking as we were shooting for this assignment.
I was really impressed with Luanne Dietz’s interpretation. She is Photographer A. Her image is this one…
Luanne approached this theme by asking her subject, Mych, what he was fearful of. Mych responded that he is afraid of death so Luanne ran with that idea. Her approach was to create an image for the subject. She thought the rectangle box in the carpet on the landing could represent a casket. Add to that the creative framing of the broken spindle on the bannister as an implement of pain or destruction and I thought her interpretation was successful for what she was trying to achieve. I would like to see a little more direction given to Mych to create a pose that says “death” more than “sleep” but overall, good job.
Luanne says that if she had to do it again she would stay with the same concept but put more time into directing the subject to convey more of an emotion from him. She showed the image to Mych on the back of her camera and he couldn’t even look at it so in that way Luanne was very successful in interpreting her subject’s fear as a photo. She also feels that she would have worked with lighting a bit more instead of going with the available light.
Luanne’s thought was to create something that wasn’t completely obvious. She wanted to find a different way to convey fear than what you may stereotypically go to first as an idea of “fear”.
In speaking with Luanne after the results have been tallied she made an excellent point that all of us forgot to think about the viewer in some ways. You see, all of us had three days in this place and it was very creepy and strange. There were strange sights, sounds, smells, things, rooms, etc. Our experience being inside of the place for a number of days probably insulated us from thinking about how viewers who have never been in this old mansion might feel. Good point Luanne.
Photographer D is Megan Case. She shot this image…
Megan says that anytime she has a nightmare it is of someone chasing her trying to harm her. She decided it would be kind of funny to go with a B Movie poster idea. What’s interesting is that some folks commented that they didn’t like this image because it looked like a B Movie poster. So in some ways, she was totally successful with her idea. I would like to see the model only casting one shadow on the wall. That would mean spending more time feathering the light creating the shadow off of her enough to get rid of the second shadow but still cast the shadow of the arm. That arm belongs to her super awesome husband, Rob (AKA Scrim Bitch).
Megan says that if she had this assignment to do again she would have made an image that was more vague in context and subject so that it could have more of an open interpretation by viewers of the photo. That’s probably an aspect to Dave’s winning shot that helped him win this contest.
Photographer E was our business manager, Sherri.
Sherri wanted to use the elements of some sort of disaster combined with loneliness. Fear of being alone. Fear of what ever crazy predicament is going on. Etc. Sherri says that if she were to do it again she would stay with the same concept but spend more time directing the subject in order to convey the feeling better. In Sherri’s defense, she was in charge of a lot of logistics and did not have much time to get something thrown together.
Photographer F is our new studio manager, Dan Depew. Dan is currently in Bangkok so I have not had a chance to talk to him about his shot. His shot was this one…
She’s holding a telephone handset FWIW if you didn’t pick up on that before.
Lastly, I was photographer C with this image…
I shot four specific set ups for the concept. Two of them involved screaming. One of them involved being trapped. And finally the image above. It started out as another “screaming” attempt but Bonnie, the model in the photo, was such a sweet girl that getting fear out of her was nearly impossible to do. She would scream and then start laughing. It was funny. So, I had to take it a different direction and I decided to go in a horror movie direction with fear being more of an emotion I would want the viewer to feel than the subject to convey. I had directed her through a number of emotions and this one translated as the most believable. I then liked more of a quiet solitude of the trapped mirror image. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision to lighten her eyes in the main part of the shot.
If I had to do it over again I would have gone darker and dirtier, and like Megan Case said, more vague as to subject matter so that it could be interpreted differently for different people. I am happy with my image above and for all of the images I shot that day I feel this is my best one. To do it all over again I would go a different direction though yet I do stand by my photo and I do not regret my editing choice for this shootout.
The common thing that ALL of us struggled with… directing our subjects. As a photographer you are also a director. It’s a learned skill. If you don’t like working with people or if you find yourself to be very shy, then portrait photography is going to be a challenge for you.
I figure there are three audiences to speak to with your photographs.
A) Your subject / client
C) Anonymous viewers of your work
I specifically did not want to put interpretations into the original blog post. I suppose the most successful photographs out there are the ones that can speak to all three audiences at one time. The reason I did not want to explain any of these photos is to see how they ranked without interpretation. I feel as though a photograph should stand on it’s own without explanation. Explanations can also change the way the viewer sees the image. It can sway your idea or emotion of the image. We don’t always get the opportunity to explain our work so we have to work on making sure it stands on it’s own.
If you are still with us here, do any of these explanations sway the way you voted? If you didn’t think “fear” the first time around do you think that now? After all this talking do you have a different perspective on this set of images or does it support your original thoughts and emotions about the images?
Given an old abandoned mansion where do you think you may have taken this assignment?
Thanks for being a part of it everyone!