Joseph Cultice – The Garden Conceptual Practice The images in this body of work depict adults caught between what he calls: “Contradicting desires for limitless debauchery and domestic bliss, as a messy domestic life interspersed with seemingly wild liberation”. Cultice was trying to portray this issue with a series of staged-‐narrative images, depicting the issue as he saw it. He forces the question: “is the nuclear family still a relevant dream for contemporary society?” on the audience, as although many people are very happy with their domesticated lifestyle, there are still underlying desires for self-‐indulgence, rebellion and living for today. Although this is a common issue about a certain section of society, he has used only himself and his own family members in these photographs; a technique that would indicate the purpose and meaning of this body of work, and is an issue he feels is personal to him. A garden has been used in each of these photographs, as Joseph Cultice believes that the Garden of Eden, stands at the very centre of these contrasting desires and symbolises the very issue he is trying to convey. He believes that biblically, although Adam and Eve were bound by domestic responsibilities, despite being in happiness, there was still an element of rebellion, self indulgence and freedom, and example of this would be Eve taking an apple from the tree, despite the fact that God had explicitly told her not to. Withdrawal of concept through 2 images Image 1 • This image shows Joseph sitting on the sofa watching television; the mise-‐ en scene depicts props that have been placed around him such as a bong, several bottles of alcohol, these items have connotations of recklessness and partying, which links back to Cultice’s concept of desires for limitless debauchery. •
• It also shows that he has a lot of time on his hands, as he is able to sit there for hours doing nothing but watching television, and consume drugs, alcohol and take-‐away food. As a result of this, the room is a complete mess, almost like he is trying to rebel or escape from the domestic conditions that he currently lives in, in order to feed his other desires for debauchery. • The room doesn’t look like it would always be messy, as the props on the floor and table look recent, and don’t look very old. E.g. I doubt that he would be able to survive for a long period of time with 2 packets of crisps and a pizza. His family must be out of town, as there is an ‘Okay’ magazine, which is aimed at women, so it is doubtful that it is his, there is also a pair of children’s girl shoes on the floor, so there is still an element of family and domestic lifestyle within the image, despite it being minute. • He looks like he has most likely sat there all through the night, because the two lamps in the corner of the room are still on, and assuming that he only needs them in the dark, he may have turned them on at night, and because of the laziness of this character at this time, has yet to turn them off. • The garden is in the background of the image, and can be seen through the window, and the sunlight that is shining through the window could symbolise the conflict between the two desires that Cultice mentions. (Light + Dark = Domesticity + Debauchery) • He looks like he hasn’t showered yet either, as he is sitting in his pyjamas, slouching on the couch. Image 2
• The subject of the photograph is lying down on a towel in her back garden wearing only her underwear whilst she reads a book. This sort of clothing in such an open area has connotations of freedom and rebellion to the social norm of wearing clothes in such an open area. • On the flip side of this rebellion, there are children toys, and a washing line in the background, which suggests that despite this desire to do what she wants when she wants, she still has domestic responsibilities to deal with. • There is also a noticeable difference in the lighting between the primary subject and the props in the background. The subject in the centre of the photograph seems to be illuminated slightly more than the props in the background, and the photographer has more than likely done this with artificial light sources to make a distinct separation between the sections of the image which both symbolise different desires -‐ Almost a metaphor for light versus dark. • The soft lighting of this image also has connotations of normality and innocence, and may suggest that she thinks that there is nothing wrong with her self-‐indulgence and ignorance of her domestic responsibilities, and she seems to be escaping from those domestic conditions to do what she wants to do. • The body language of the subject also suggests that she is rather comfortable sitting down in the garden, wearing only underwear, with not a care for the child that she obviously has, and has perhaps left it up to the responsibility of the child’s father, while she relaxes. Identification of Genre conventions The genre that Joseph Cultice had chosen to shoot this body of work in was staged narrative, and it is clear that his body of work is a depiction of how he
sees this problem, this is also supported by the fact that in many of the photographs he uses his own family, making it ever more personal to him. This image is a good illustration of the conventions of a staged narrative genre, the first and foremost distinctive feature of a staged narrative photograph is an ‘enigma code’, and this image leaves the viewers asking multiple questions about the image, each of these questions born from the ‘Mise en scene’ that has been carefully constructed within the image. She is wearing a nice, outgoing top, which somebody would probably wear if going to a party or a nightclub, so it forces the question and places the enigma code: where is she going and why does she look like that. Another thought provoking asset to this image, is why the subject is not wearing anything on the lower half of her body, other than her silver shoes. This again could soon relate to the rebellion and devil may care attitude that the subject is desperately trying to hang onto whilst simultaneously trying to maintain a domestic lifestyle with her family. The main subject is also paying more attention to what appears to be a mobile phone, than her child beside her who appears to be sleeping on the floor. There is another enigma code here as the positioning of the child on the floor looks like he may have either fell down or have been dropped whilst sleeping as the position of his leg pointed slightly upwards suggests that he may have moved to that position by other means than attempting to sleep there intentionally. The light is also on in the house, coming through the window so suggests that somebody else is in, and knowledge from looking at the other photographs that are similar to this photo suggest that it is her husband who is in. This leads to ask the question: what is he doing? And where is his involvement in the caretaking of the child, is he just as bad as the mother in giving into these rebellious desires for immediate and selfish pleasures? Another convention of the staged narrative genre is that the images are ‘staged’ and a scene is set up, with the photographer’s specifications in mind, it is the complete opposite approach to photography in comparison to documentary. This image clearly has been set up, as although the photographer is the husband of the subject, in a scenario where this was documentary, the subject would not/ would be very unlikely to stand bottom half naked for a photographer, and it is also unlikely that the child on the pavement would be sleeping there if there was a warm bed inside.
Photographer Technique Analysis (Father + Son under umbrella) Camera Tech • This photograph has a very deep depth of field, as the toy/ball in the foreground is in pretty good focus, and the focus is good all the way through the image, but falls out of focus slightly towards the background, as is evident with the children toy in the back right of the shot. I think that Cultice would have used an aperture setting of around f/18, as this allows for sufficient depth of field without sacrificing too much light such as an aperture like f/32 might. • Because the lens has been set with a very small aperture you would imagine that the shutter speed has been set to a long exposure, however, because of the high amount of light within the scene from the sun (and possibly reflectors), this wasn’t necessary. Instead of a slow shutter speed, which would compensate for the limited light being allowed into the camera’s sensor, because of the small aperture, a relatively quick shutter speed, has been used, as is evident with the lack of motion blur on the small child’s hand. However, the shutter speed wouldn’t necessarily be that fast as the genre of this image is staged-‐narrative and so the actors, including and perhaps especially the child, may have been asked for stay still for a brief moment of time so the photographer could get the correct exposure. I would say that the photographer may have used an exposure time/shutter speed of around 1/20s give or take 1/10s.
• As far as I can tell there isn’t any noise within this image, and the other two exposure settings in conjunction with the good quantity of light from the sun, would probably produce a decent exposure setting anyway. So I think that Cultice has used an I.S.O setting of 100 or perhaps 200, as I see no conceptual reason for there to be any grain/noise, and the previous exposure settings would have been sufficient for a good exposure. Consideration of Lighting • For this image, the photographer doesn’t appear to have used any artificial lighting as the main light source appears to be the sun, which is a natural light. • Although it produces hard lighting, which would give connotations of drama, and perhaps mystery, the photographer has used high key lighting, and a natural white balance, which helps to reduce the dynamic/dramatic feel to the image, creating a photograph that looks a lot more natural despite the hard lighting. • It is also possible that he has used a reflector to reduce the contrast between the highlights and shadows on the subject’s faces, other than that the only other way that Cultice may have reduced this contrast, was his clever use of location, because the large light coloured wall, may have acted as a large reflector to bounce the light back onto the other sides of the subject’s faces, reducing the harshness of the transition from light to dark on the subjects’ faces. Composition • The rule of thirds has been used in this image, as the man on the left hand side of the photograph falls across the bottom left intersection on the rule of thirds grid. The woman on the right hand side is also positioned close to the top right intersection of the grid. This is done as these are the two main subjects that he is trying to depict as having contradicting desires, the small child may not have been placed in a similar spot, as the photographer wanted to metaphorically place him, caught between their contradicting desires. • The texture/pattern of both the exterior house walls/ patio provide plenty of natural lines, which help lead the audience’s eyes into the shot and towards the subjects, helping to direct focus on the most important area of the shot. Vantage Point • Joseph Cultice has used an eye level vantage point + camera angle as he has attempted to keep this photograph as natural looking as possible, so that the photo will look less posed and thus more realistic, an asset of a photograph that he wants to keep, to be able to highlight that this is a real issue, and not just a point of view, which would have been imposed with a different camera angle.
Framing/Shot type, CU, ECU, MS, LS, ELS • The shot type of this image is a long shot, and this shot type was chosen because it allows the photographer to show each of the family members, and what they are doing/how they are feeling, (judging by facial expression & body language) whilst at the same time it keeps the location in focus as well, which would highlight that this is a very domestic/family orientated location. This allows the audience to make a link between the location/domestic conditions and how the subjects are feeling, and make that distinction that there must be something wrong, (in particular with the woman) despite having a family to love and a house to live.