When I looked at the criteria for this assignment I was a bit overwhelmed. I had to choose between photographing the unseen and using props. I wasn’t sure which to pick, it took me sometime to pick. Eventually I settled on photographing the unseen, as I thought it would be very interesting to try and convey something that cannot be seen using photography. I made a list of things that were unseen, after I narrowed it down I choose Disability, in particular Fibromygylma.
I choose disability as, not all disabilities are visible, millions of people are affected by hidden illnesses, they have to deal with them and many who don’t understand disabilities judge them on what they see and not what they know about the person. People with hidden disabilities are unfairly judged.
One photographer, that influenced me was Bryony Campbell. In 2009, Campbell created The Dad Project. This project was centered on her father who had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. She stated, “This is my attempt to say goodbye to my dad. At first, the idea of introducing a camera into this un-resoluble equations seemed unwise, but eventually I think it become the solution. During the last eight months of his life, we recorded our relationship through photography and film. At the instant of Dad’s death my dual role felt absolutely concrete. There was no longer a separation. I wanted all the details recorded and revealed. This was the big unknown moment, one we will all have, one that nobody can envisage but everybody wonders about”.
Her series has a narrative and tells a story. The photographs and subject was personal to her. Her narrative was herself and her father.
For this assignment, I also did further research into ‘hidden’ disabilities and Fibromylgia.
I looked into the way black and white photographs enhance and convey emotion.
Oodee. Briony Campbell The Dad Project (A year on). [Online]. Available from: oodee.net/books/briony-campbell-dad-project [Accessed: 28th January 2016].
I changed my images to black and white as I wanted to show the emotion and monotone images I feel are best for this. I took on a challenge to tackle the stigma revolving around unseen disabilities, this challenge may not have paid off but I still believe it is an issue that needs tackling. I wanted to show how disabilities could also affect younger people.
Photographing the Unseen
When I first read about this assignment, I was apprehensive. I took me a while to come up with some ideas for what could be unseen. Eventually I made a list of ideas, which comprised of stress, memories, emotions, time, space, weather, disability, global warming and history. I narrowed the list down and decided to photograph disability/illness. I choose this theme as my mother is disabled, she also has fibromyalgia, which is an ‘unseen’ illness. I wanted to show the effect it has and what the problems she experiences are, for example walking. I did struggle about how to go about this, as I would be photographing something that cannot be seen. So I made a list of the symptoms that she experiences, and what adaptions had to be make and how I could photograph them. I want to show the effect it can have on day-to-day life.
For these photographs I used my Nikon D610 with a Nikon 24-85mm lens. I used aperture priority to achieve the effect I wanted. For the majority of the images I wanted the focus to be on one particular section and the rest out of focus. I found this worked well in the image of the tablets, as one is in focus whilst the small piles off to the right is out of focus, but the viewer can still see what it is. I also decided to use black and white images. I compared each image in colour and then in black and white, and I felt the black and white ones were more suitable for the theme. I found they reflected the emotion that I wanted to convey. It also drew the viewer’s attention without the distraction of colour.
Overall, despite my earlier apprehension I felt more comfortable with the theme I choose as it was personal and I wanted to convey the struggles people face with disabilities and illness that people cannot see. I feel the images work well as a series.
One of the main symptoms my mother experiences is pain, and she has to use an electronic recliner to help her get in and out of her chair. I experiment with different angles, showing the chair risen up, it down, and showing the control. But I found this one simple but on the remote it shows that the chair rises up.
Due to the pain and the stiffness caused by the fibromyalgia, she has to walk with a walking stick. Again I wanted to keep the images as simple as possible, just showing my mother holding the stick.
Other days to get around the house easy, she has to use a walking frame. For this picture I wanted the bit of the frame closest to the camera in focus whilst the rest was out of focus, and by using a wide aperture I was able to achieve this.
As I said previously one of the main symptoms is pain. I wanted to show the medication she has to take, but I didn’t want to show just a pile of tablets or the packets. So I choose to have the picture focus on one particular on with the rest in the background. This is one of the photos that I feel may have been better in colour, as most of the tablets were colourful, but I wanted to keep all the photographs in black and white.
This is a photo of the railings that had to be installed outside of our house; again due to the pain and stiffness caused she has difficulty just walking in and out of the house.
Due to her disability she has a disabled blue badge, which gives access to the disabled parking spaces so it is easier to get to the shops and in and out of the car. This is another image, which I feel may have worked better in colour as the badge is blue, but for consistency I choose to stick to black and white images.
This is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, but one I struggle to photograph. I experimented with different images, but this worked the best.
Forgetfulness, also known as Fibro-Fog is a symptom my mother struggles with. It has a huge effect on her day-to-day abilities. But again I found it hard to convey this through photography. I also found it difficult to get the camera to focus on one particular word.
For this image I asked my mother to write down all her symptoms and how she feels on one page in a notebook and I decided to photograph it as I feel this sums up the problems people face with a ‘hidden’ illness, No One Understands.
I was fairly disheartened after receiving the feedback for this assignment. Mainly because it said if I were to have t assessed I wouldn’t meet the standard required.
My tutor did state that the print quality has improved considerably. But the assignment as a whole was not as strong as the first assignment; it was straightforward and too simplistic. I understand her comments and am going to use the feedback when I rework the images.
She mentioned that some of the images were not as sharp as they could be; some had distracting features and others where quite similar to each other.
After reviewing the feedback I received for this assignment I decided to stick with my initial idea but redo all of the images. I considered the backgrounds, so nothing would show up and distract the image. I got the model to change clothes. I experimented with reflections and different shutter speeds. I replaced the disabled badge image, with one of a reflection of a disabled parking bay in a car window. I added a new image, of hands covering her face with her face imposed on top. This is to symbolise the stress and the hiding from the disability. I changed the image of the Sherbourne chair, I used a slow shutter speed to capture the trace of movement from rising the chair to standing. I removed the last image of the writing from the final selection.