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  • 1. 3,000 Word Essay: CONTRASTS ‘Contrasts’ is an interesting topic to study for photography. Unlike Multiple Imagery or FashionPhotography, „Contrasts’ is not a specific genre or technique associated with photography; it is “the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association” or, in terms of photography, it is “the relative difference between light and dark areas of a print or negative.”1 A theme of Contrasts in photography can be explored in a variety of means; it is all down to the imagination and creativity of the photographer and being able to justify an idea or development. The theme of Contrasts can also come from the simple ideas of „opposites‟ or „differences‟ most children are exposed to in primary education –the two different sides to something and juxtaposing them, they can be as simple as short and tall, fat and thin, boy and girl. The theme of „Contrasts’is not just an important topic in photography, but in society too. Without contrasts in our everyday day-to-day life, everything, or everyone, would be the same – life would be much more boring and unoriginal without them. For example, in terms of colour, if there was no contrast in the world, everything would look the same colour and nobody would be able to see anything, as the colours would just blur together. In terms of people, everyone will be the same – it will be like everyone is mass-produced, just like robots – either we‟ll be all male or all female; we‟ll look identical in terms of weight, height, shape etc. and nobody will be able to express emotions because there would be no difference between happy or sad. Without contrasts, there is no diversification, and diversification is essential for us in this day-and-age, otherwise we wouldn‟t know how to interact properly with people and we wouldn‟t learn about the world we live in and the different cultures that surround us. Whilst exploring the topic/theme of Contrasts, from a photographic point of view, this can take on a variety of forms. For example, with fashion photography, the idea of contrasts might be looked at by researching the very origins of fashion photography in up-market fashion magazines and brands such as Vogue, Chanel and Dior, where all images would have been processed in black and white – the most basic contrast widely used within photography. Or alternatively, the physical content could be contrasted, such as male and female fashion, someone wearing a purple dress with bold yellow makeup, vintage fashion and modern fashion etc. With fashion photography in mind, contrasts are important to make the actual image more vibrant, or more eye-catching, often encoding specific messages or meanings, to encourage purchases of that particular fashion, product or brand. Landscape photography is also often very reliant on the theme of contrasts, whether the images are in black or white or in full colour. Black and white, a very common contrast technique, will be used more for architectural work, or dramatic scenery to make the landscape have a certain mood or tone. More modern landscape photographers may alternatively use a technique known as HDR (high-dynamic range) photography. HDR photography is used to “capture a greater dynamic range thebetween lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods.”2 Although not technically a method of enhancing the contrast within an image, it does increase the 1http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/contrast 2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-dynamic-range_imaging
  • 2. contrastbetween the dark and light areas, like stated above, which would be important to any photographer, let alone landscape photographers as it adds mood and tone to any photo, making it much more appealing and eye-catching, thus helping to sell more of that particular image whether it be used as part of an advertising campaign, within a book, or just a simple print or canvas. It becomes more important to study the art of HDR photography as more and more people in society get the technique so badly wrong, that it no longer looks professional. At one point, this stunning technique was sought out to be just a „fad‟ amongst photographers as it was often over-used, creating „grungy‟ effects, which is not the purpose at all of this technique.3 As previously stated, there is no real genre as „Contrast Photography’, and so the history of this topic comes from individual styles of photography which visually undertake Contrasts, such as Black and White Photography. Black and White Photography is one of the most classic examples of Contrast in imagery, as of course, at the very start of the history of photography in general, there was no developing in colour, and everything was shot and printed in black and white. Technically, „Black and White Photography’ is referred to as monochrome photography – where the camera captures a single hue – normally greys – rather than a whole colour spectrum, whilst the development of Full-Colour Photography only really came into perspective in the middle 20th century. The idea of photography commenced in 1790 when Thomas Wedgwood invented and developed the camera and the idea of creating permanent images. Since this very early start in the world of photography, there have been lists of photographers who have made an impact on the way we operate as a society and the media as we see it today. Toni Frissell was a female American photographer, famous for her work on fashion photography and World War II portraits – all of which were developed in black and white. She lived from 1907 to 1988 in New York, working for big name clients such as Vogue in its earlier days. She later also photographed for Harper‟s Bazaar, but most notably are her fashion photos of evening gowns, as she unusually shot in outside locations, emphasizing the active lifestyle of women. Although obviously not out of choice, the use of black and white imagery actually made Toni‟s work all the more dramatic, and especially in her War works, it made the tone all the more serious. Also as a War photographer, Toni was left, not out of choice, to pose these much like her works with fashion, as at the very start of photography and the development of the camera, exposure times were typically a lot longer than how we know them now, and so this made „action‟ or „movement‟ pictures impossible. However, with the development of technology in our society, it wasn‟t long before fullcolour cameras were developed. With the first colour-cameras, the colours captured weren‟t all that true to life, and so it was often that photographers chose to stick with Black and White Photography as the images looked all the more professional than those that were off-colour. Colour photography was first attempted in the 1840‟s where inventors began looking for a „chameleon-like substance‟, which would assume the colour of the light falling upon it. However, it wasn‟t considered a good3http://www.ianplant.com/blog/2012/09/12/hdr-images-the-importance-of-preserving- relative-luminosity-tones/
  • 3. quality success until the mid-20th century, where the use of colour-capable cameras became more and more common with the development of new photographic styles and techniques, such as HDR photography. Although first experimented with in the 1850‟s, HDR photography didn‟t become desirable until 1980, and this was due to the recent improvement of computer technology, which is now the main method of creating this technique. In 1850, Gustave Le Gray, who was considered to be the most important French Photographer of the 19th century, first made HDR Photography possible. The luminance of the photographing world was always too extreme to be able to cope with the rendering of exposures needed to produce the HDR effect, so Le Gray used one negative for the sky of a seascape he was working on, and another with a long exposure for the sea, and combined them both into one positive. Between the mid-20th century and 1980, the technique was improved once the technology was developed by applying the concept of tone mapping to cameras, so that it was possible for a Photographer to capture different exposures at once and combine them into one image. Two current photographers you might place under the category of working with „Contrasts’ are Mary Ellen Mark and Mark Laita. Mary Ellen Mark is an American photographer best known for her portraiture, photojournalism and advertising work. Mark focuses mostly on children, exploring themes such as homelessness, addiction, prostitution etc. The photograph on the right shows a child, Amanda, and her cousin Amy. Although the photograph typically shows the visual contrast of black and white in the image‟s toning, the picture clearly shows the contrast between adult life and childhood in this modern society we live in. The dramatic themes of this photograph force the viewers to consider the humanity of our modern society and how the media is having strong implications on the youngest generations. The girl in the foreground is dressed in skimpy clothes, smoking and is positioned in a manner that makes her appear to be superior to the girl in the background, who is noticeably larger, fully clothed and appears to be quite vulnerable. This immoral contrast shows just how strong of an impact modern media can have on younger children, as they grow up believing that acting like „adults‟ or bullies, will make them the stronger, better people. Although initially quite disturbing, the real-life contrasts of society that Mary Ellen Mark presents to us are truthful and tell a shocking story of what direction our society Is heading in contrast to how our ancestors would have grown up. Mary Ellen Mark also presents this idea in various other photographs of hers, including this image of two circus performers on the left. Again, aside from her use of visual contrast in the form of a black and white image, which I feel is to add drama and emotion to the tone of the photo, the encoded messages also hold strong contrasts, which viewers should also listen to. The overall contrast here is that of the distinct differences between the animal and human kingdoms. However, what is particularly shocking about this photo of Mary‟s is that she is also highlighting the similarities here, and therefore shows how their should be contrast between these two different kingdoms in our society, but there isn‟t. The two people pictured in the photo are dwarves, and the use of costume and setting of the tents within the background would suggest that they are being used as circus performers.This idea should in fact shock viewers into seeing that these two human beings are being treated like animals just because they are physically different from what is deemed the „norm‟ in our society today. Mary Ellen Mark highlights this issue by showing that they shouldbe treated like normal
  • 4. human beings by having one of them holding a puppy in the cradling position, insinuating the idea that they should be free to have children too, but instead they are given the chore of looking after animals and performing instead.4 Another interesting modern development into the world of „Contrast’ photographers comes with the combination of current art and design techniques, such as in the form of photographer Danielle Tunstall. Danielle is a graphic design and horror photographer from the UK. She likes to incorporate the graphicdesign part of her life with her photography work, making good use of her excellent and eye-catching Photoshop skills. With the increasing use of modern technology, we now have the advantage of being able to apply unique and creative elements to photography, in comparison to the limitations they had decades ago. Danielle evokes the idea of „Contrast’ in her work by visually implementing the idea of gore and horror within the most innocent of all of today‟s generations – young children and babies. Without the modernization of technology and photography, this wouldn‟t be made possible as Danielle uses a combination of dramatic makeup and costume technique and layers and overtones in Photoshop. This photograph on the right shows contrast through the important use of props and makeup, like stated before. The symbolic use of flowers and brighter colours of blue and pink suggest purity and beauty, whilst accompanying skull-makeup and darkened levels and curves suggest to the viewers that the model has a darker, twisted side. This is an effective technique to employ as it forces the viewer into becoming confused on how to express emotions over the photo, as the imaging creates a mixed-up tone of feelings and expressions due to the visual contrasts. 5 I feel I have so far worked quite well under the theme of „Contrasts’ as I have explored it both visually and in a much more complex manner where I have attempted to encode the ideas mentally to be decoded and interpreted in various ways by different viewers. It has also been important for me to include as many techniques as possible to vary the standards set by my portfolio, and to give it a creative and unique edge. This photo of mine on the left was based around the contrast of hot and cold, or some people might interpret it as solid and liquids. I wanted to create something that wasn‟t completely visual, I wanted viewers to have to really look at it to understand the meaning of Contrasts behind it. Whilst the ice, which would usually melt quite quickly, is completely solid in the hand, I wanted to use the liquify tool in Photoshop to give the hand the appearance of melting liquid, and thus showing the Contrast. Personally, I am quite pleased with this concept as it is quite different to any examples of Contrast Photography I may have looked at during my research stages, and I feel it has the potential to inspire other shoots in the future on a much bigger scale. In my portfolio I really wanted to bring a unique and modern take to the theme of Contrasts to my work, and I have so far mostly done this through Photoshop and various different editing techniques. Whilst the majority of Contrast 4http://www.maryellenmark.com/ 5http://www.behance.net/danielletunstall
  • 5. Photography’s history comes from the very basics of Photography, exploring the development of camera exposure modes and the differences in colour, I wanted to use the more extreme contrasts we see in our every-day lives in this modern society. Danielle Tunstall remained one of my biggest inspirations during a lot of my personal shoots, including both the photos on the left, and on the right. The photograph on the right was inspired by the idea of new and old photography, which I also learnt a lot about in my research. The idea was to photograph my model – a stereotypical budding photographer – with a modern, advanced camera, and alter the final images to have a vintage appearance to them, by, with this image in particular, creating a Polaroid collage. For me, personally this technique looks really effective and stands out completely from anything I have ever completed for A-Level Photography. Whilst I think that the traditional contrast idea of black and white photography will gradually fizzle out as the future progresses, considering the history of HDR photography for example, I believe that cameras and other technology will begin to be produced in the future where the curves and levels of an image enhance automatically when an image is taken, rather then having to be done in Photoshop, so that the colours are naturally produced with a higher contrast. Also, aside from the traditions of the visuals associated with photography, with the diversification of the media and our society, I feel like ideas such as poverty/wealth, children/adults etc. will become more popular with the photographers of the future. Considering our current society and means of civilization, our lives are only set to change dramatically in the next 50 – 100 years, with the idea of political and environmental issues such as the MiddleEastern wars, terrorism and climate change all likely to dominate the news, and essentially, our everyday lives. Photographers of the future are then only likely to use such issues as their muse, and I believe Contrast will begin to develop when we discover what we used to have, and what we will have in the future. Despite the major changes in the themes of Contrast photography throughout the development of the art, Contrasts will forevermore stay an important part in the imaging world, as without them, we would see no diversification, and it is important to us in the future so that we can see how our world and society is changing and developing. Photography will indefinitely develop and diversify in the future, but it is also particularly essential for us to fully compre hend and practice the theme of Contrasts now, in able for us to better understand the world around us. The idea of Contrast Photography additionally allows us as artists to develop our creativity and imagination, looking at new concepts that revolve around the everyday differences we see all around us, and in ourselves as well. Bibliography of all sources used: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/contrast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-dynamic-range_imaging http://www.ianplant.com/blog/2012/09/12/hdr-images-theimportance-of-preserving-relative-luminosity-tones/ http://www.maryellenmark.com/ http://www.behance.net/danielletunstall
  • 6. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100227135715AAwy wOP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrast_(vision) http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/examples-of-beautiful-contrastin-photography http://www.contrastphotographyuk.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wedgwood_(photographer) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toni_Frissell http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/gustave-le-grey-exhibition/ http://www.marklaita.com/ http://danielletunstall.tumblr.com/ http://www.behance.net/danielletunstall http://laurenbarretta2photography.blogspot.co.uk/