Category Archives: Individual Practice 2: In Step

External Speakers / Visits

Creative Torbay copyright Robert Darch

This blog post is only included for completeness.

Visits such as those made to the Elton John collection at the Tate Modern and Format Festival in Derby along with external speaker visits and other external activities undertaken in the period such as photography support for Bath Spa Careers and visit to the Photoshop World Event in Orlando have been included in the Professional Contexts Blog dossier rather than these project blogs.

Only activity directly related to the making of the project is included in these pages.

To access this additional material select “Professional Contexts 3” as the category from the blog home page.

Please note Professional Contexts Blog posts may continue to be modified and updated until the (revised) Professional Contexts hand in deadline of 31st of May.

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Protected: Individual Practice Review & Evaluation

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Individual Practice Brief

 

 

 

 

The brief for Photography Individual Practice Y3 will open as a PDF when you click the link below.

IndividualPracticeModuleHandbook2016-17firstv

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Individual Practice : Initial Research Lines

Shoe of the Month May 2017 * see footnote.

When I decided to do a project on shoes I started to think about where I might find interesting shoes. Northampton was and still is, on a much reduced scale, the centre of the shoe making industry in the UK.  I decided to look at the local museum website and found the following information :

“Northampton Museum and Art Gallery has the largest collection of historical footwear in the world, designated as being of international importance.  The ground floor is given over to the display of some of the museum’s 12,000 shoes, spanning the period from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day and includes novelties such as Elton John’s ‘Tommy’ boots from the film Pinball Wizard, giant boots made for Jumbo, the eleven year old female elephant that took part in the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition in 1959, and a signed pair of football boots by former England international captain and fashion icon David Beckham.

There are also two galleries dedicated to footwear: Life & Sole focuses on the history of shoemaking and contains a re-creation of an old shoe factory;  Followers of Fashion concentrates on the history of fashions in footwear throughout the centuries and includes designs from the likes of Salvatore Ferragomo, Manolo Blahnik and Vivienne Westwood.  There are also several paintings on display that reflect the museum’s focus on footwear, such as the 17th-19th century Dutch and Flemish works by Jan Miel and Hendrik van Oort featuring cobblers, shoemakers and shoeshiners.” (Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe, 2017)

The website also informed me that they were advertising for volunteers, with photography skills, to re-photograph and catalogue the collection. I contacted them as requested to be told the Project Manager was absent for three weeks, when I was able to eventually make contact with the right person I was informed that the web site was woefully out of date and the positions were no longer available, further that the shoe collection was currently closed until April or May 2017 as the galleries and displays were being completely overhauled. Nor were they willing / able to provide any access in the meantime despite the academic nature of my enquiry.

This was a frustrating outcome having had to wait for some time to be able to get a definitive answer.

In parallel I had also contacted a number of shoe recycling outlets and large scale recyclers. This after some research to track down the companies in question as it turns out many charities and council recycling sites sub-contract the actual recycling to third parties who have large scale regional processing centres and merely act as collection points.

I contacted 3 such organisations, none of whom were willing to let me visit their regional centres, especially armed with a camera. Quoting variously; health and safety restrictions, lack of insurance for 3rd parties and lack of staff time to accommodate extraneous activities. I have no idea what lay behind this reluctance other than a suspicion they thought I intended to show their operation in a negative light.

This opinion based on regular reports of a number of dubious activities in the charity recycling sector – e.g. various recycling companies advertising that they support specific charities which upon investigation exposes that whilst the recycling operation is often highly profitable – giving truth to the expression  “where there’s muck there’s brass ” – the actual contribution going to the charity in question is often minuscule.

I was surprised that there was such a consistent and industry wide reluctance to engage but the bottom line was that this was a another dead end as my goal was to get some images for my project rather than embark on a long term investigation of the recycling industry.

I then considered the remaining shoe manufactures in Northampton, in response to the influx of cheap mass produced shoes from places like the Philippines, Korea and China the remaining UK based manufactures tend to be more specialist high end designer makers. Often selling hand made shoes in the £500 to £1000 plus range.

Although high fashion was an aspect of the industry I had considered I decided that this wasn’t what my project was really about and didn’t pursue this line of enquiry any further. Instead deciding to focus on what could be found in local 2nd hand outlets such as charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales.

Footnote : Shoe of the Month: Rollermania

The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop-rock band from the 60s and 70s. With their unforgettable haircuts, good looks and half-mast tartan trousers they had a strong following among teenage girls. Rollermania peaked in the mid-70s with a stream of top hits including the classics Remember (Sha-la-la), Keep on Dancing, Bye Bye Baby, Shang-a-Lang and Summer Love Sensations. The band made an impact on teen fashion. Fans supported them wearing tartan scarves, homemade tartan trousers and even Bay City Roller inspired shoes. Designed by Barrie K, these shoes were made in 1975.

 

 

 

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Shoes and Boots in Popular Culture

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz

Shoes and boots have long featured in Art, Literature, Film and TV and with a little thought we can all think of examples of the humble shoe being central to some key pieces of work.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers in the 1939 film the Wizard of Oz being one example, in the book they are silver but red was considered more impact for the emerging Technicolor technology being newly employed by film studios at the time. The shoes are regarded as major icons of that era of movie making and a consortium of leading Hollywood figures including Leonardo Di Caprio and Steven Spielberg paid a rumoured $2 million to secure them for a new museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2016 the Smithsonian Museum  started a kickstarter campaign to raise $300,000 for the restoration of another pair used in the making of the film. (Gelman, 2017)

We are all familiar with Cinderella and her glass shoe, the story first published in French in 1697 is quite mild compared to the horrors contained in the Brothers Grimm version of 1812 with the step sisters cutting off parts of their feet to try and fit the shoe and being blinded by birds sympathetic to Cinderella by the end of the story. Not at all the saccharine Disney version, made in 1950, that most people and children are familiar with.

Many of the Brothers Grimm tales feature shoes such as the Seven League Boots which enabled the wearer to travel vast distances rapidly, written at a time when the fastest transport available was the horse and that certainly would have been far too expensive for the common man. So the idea of rapid transit was very appealing.

As depicted in Shrek

Puss in Boots is another popular character, famously made comic in the Shrek animated films but in the original story is a master of duplicity and violence, conning a king into believing his low born master is a prince and thus allowing him to marry his daughter and murdering an ogre to steal his castle along the way. The shoes give the character a status far above that of a cat – even a talking one.

Puss meets the Ogre, Engraving by Gustave Doré, 1867. From original story.

In all of these tales there are strong morality lessons and its striking how often shoes are used to define or transform characters social standing, so “poor” Cinderella wears wooden shoes, glass shod Cinderella becomes a princess. Puss in Boots master is similarly transformed by his clothing. This theme of stern morality is perhaps most viciously illustrated in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes. The anti-heroine who is the centre of this tale of the dire consequences of sinful vanity,  goes to church in bright red shoes, received from a kindly benefactor after the death of her mother. Thus Karen, allegedly vindictively so-named after Andersen’s loathed half-sister, attracts both sympathy as an orphan and  condemnation as a sinner, compounding her error by failing to care for her grandmother and is punished by being forced to dance unceasingly for ever. The dancing becomes so persistent, that Karen heads to the town’s executioner, and asks him to chop her feet off with the red shoes on them, while she confess’s her sins of vanity. Her reduced social status is then reinforced by the executioner fashioning her wooden feet whilst the shoes, containing her severed feet continue to dance. (Racked, 2017)

A film based on the story was made in 1948 with the twist that Karen is now a ballet dancer torn between two men.

In All Quiet on the Western Front an anti-war book written by Erich Maria Remarque and based on his own experiences of WWI as an 18 year old. One of the central characters boots become a symbol for how war destroys morality, requiring that soldiers abandon social niceties and think only about their own survival. The boots command as much, if not more, respect and attention than the man to whom they belong, and in this way symbolise the cheapness of human life in war.

“Paul, Muller, and Kropp go to the hospital to visit Kemmerich. The hospital stinks of infection. Kemmerich is very weak. Someone has stolen his watch off his wrist. He will not live long. His foot has been amputated, but he doesn’t know it. The others don’t tell him. They try to be encouraging, telling him he will be going home soon, but Kemmerich can barely respond. Paul thinks of Kemmerich’s mother, who cried when they left home and asked Paul to look out for him. Now, Paul can barely look at Kemmerich’s waxy skin. Muller puts Kemmerich’s things underneath his bed. He sees Kemmerich’s prized pair of boots, more comfortable than what they wear, and asks Kemmerich for them. He wants to get them before they are stolen as well. Kemmerich doesn’t want to give them up, and Paul stops Muller before he can argue. After a while, they leave, bribing an orderly to give him some morphine for his pain. As the walk back to their camp, Muller talks about how nice the boots are. Better that he should have them when Kemmerich dies than anyone else. There is no hope for him.”

In the film version Paul is alone with Kemmerich when he dies, he retrieves the boots for Muller. There is then a recurring montage where each new owner of the boots dies wearing them.

Even though written by a German, the enemy, the book was extremely popular in the UK and USA. It was published in the late 1920’s as National Socialism was on the rise in Germany and was hated for its anti-war sentiments by the Nazi’s who often burned examples of it, and many other titles, at public rallies. It was banned by the Nazi’s from 1933 when they came to power until their defeat in 1945.

James Clavell’s novel and subsequent film King Rat, about allied prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore—a description informed by Clavell’s own three-year experience as a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison camp-features a similar scene whereby a dying prisoner wants to “die with his boots on” the doctor looks under his bed to see the boots have been taken so removes his own and puts them on the patient, retrieving them a few minutes later when he dies. Another illustration of how mundane items become significant when all else is gone.(Clavell, 1962)

The symbolic use of shoes continues to this day.

In the short story Big Blonde by Dorothy Parker written in 1929 the testing life of Hazel plays out: she has outlived her beauty, but has to try to keep men happy, partly by wearing high heels – she teeters along “on her aching feet in the stubby champagne-coloured slippers”. Even her attempt at suicide is a failure, and she wakes up dreading having to put the shoes back on again as they have come to represent all that is wrong with her existence.

In 1940 Agatha Christie wrote the aptly named One Two Buckle My Shoe, featuring a brand new patent leather shoe with “a large gleaming buckle”. As it turns out, this is a major clue.

In the 2000’s so called “chick lit” had a reputation for shoes and shopping, and the TV series Sex and the City series made much of the Manolos and Jimmy Choos coveted by the characters.

Sex and the City Characters Shopping

A 2015/16 V&A exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, suggested that the symbolism of shoes has changed little over centuries – so, for instance, contemporary advertising for trainers implies powers of flight and speed akin to winged sandals and seven-league boots. And shoes in modern children’s literature also convey some of these ideas. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, in which modern-day youngsters are the children of Greek gods and mortals, show Percy (son of Poseidon) fighting Luke (son of Hermes); Luke wears winged baseball boots. (Vam.ac.uk, 2017)

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Individual Practice : “In Step” – Bibliography

References

Blahník, M. and Menkes, S. (2010). Manolo’s new shoes drawings by Manolo Blahník. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

British Vogue. (2017). Today In History – July 14. [online] Available at: http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/danielle-steel-bought-300-pairs-of-louboutins [Accessed 15 Apr. 2017].

Brown, M. (2017). John Berger, art critic and author, dies aged 90. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/02/john-berger-art-critic-and-author-dies-aged-90 [Accessed 15 May 2017].

Cartner-Morley, J. (2017). Manolo Blahnik: ‘There is nothing charming about a woman who cannot walk in her shoes’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2012/nov/20/manolo-blahnik-shoes-british-fashion-awards [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].

Clavell, J. (1962). James Clavell’s King Rat. 1st ed. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks.

Grimm, B. (n.d.). The Complete Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales. 1st ed.

Hutchings, P. (2012). ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’: Heidegger. Sophia, 51(4), pp.465-478.

Joachim Froese. (2017). written in the past | Joachim Froese. [online] Available at: http://www.joachimfroese.com/written-in-the-past.html [Accessed 16 May 2017].

Kollewe, J. (2017). Now on sale: Jimmy Choo (the whole company). [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/24/now-on-sale-jimmy-choo-the-whole-company [Accessed 2 May 2017].

Louise Alexander Gallery – Contemporary Art Gallery. (2017). Guy Bourdin – Louise Alexander Gallery. [online] Available at: https://www.louise-alexander.com/artist/guy-bourdin/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].

Manolo Blahník drawings. (2009). 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson.

Museums, N., Museums, N., Museums, N., Museums, N., Museums, N., Museums, N. and Museums, N. (2017). Picture of the Month | Northampton Museums. [online] Northamptonmuseums.wordpress.com. Available at: https://northamptonmuseums.wordpress.com/category/regular-features/picture-of-the-month/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].

Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe. (2017). The World Famous Shoe Collection @ Northampton Museum & Art Gallery – Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe. [online] Available at: http://www.northamptonshirebootandshoe.org.uk/content/northampton/northampton-articles/the-world-famous-shoe-collection-northampton-museum-art-gallery [Accessed 15 May 2017].

Quick, H. (2016). Vogue The Shoe. 1st ed. London: Conran Octopus.

Racked. (2017). Why Do Magical Shoes Play Such a Big Role in Fairy Tales?. [online] Available at: https://www.racked.com/2016/5/24/11689794/magical-shoes-folklore-fairy-tales [Accessed 14 May 2017].

Stulberg, R. (1973). Heidegger and the Origin of the Work of Art: An Explication. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 32(2), p.257.

The Cut. (2017). Danielle Steel Is Christian Louboutin’s Best Customer. [online] Available at: http://nymag.com/thecut/2010/03/danielle_steel_is_christian_lo.html [Accessed 15 Apr. 2017].

The Sydney Morning Herald. (2017). Shoes who?. [online] Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/shoes-who-20091109-i67v [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].

Vam.ac.uk. (2017). Closed Exhibition – Shoes: Pleasure and Pain – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/shoes-pleasure-and-pain/ [Accessed 14 May 2017].

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Individual Practice: “In Step” Final Images

These are the final images selected from all the shoots done for the project. This is the project I have chosen to submit to Source and here is the Artist Statement that accompanies the submission which I feel neatly summarises the final form of the project.

“In Step is a study of discarded shoes. For me there is a fascination with this abandonment. Each pair has a story, sometimes as a result of natural consequence and have been either outgrown or discarded by death, some are worn out and some have simply been abandoned by the capricious nature of fashion. In this way they reflect our lives, the very mundanity of these objects holds all our histories. By utilising traditional still life and portraiture lighting styles and presenting these shoes on a larger than life scale they are transformed in context reminding us of their potentially intriguing past and inviting the viewer to imagine a new history for them.”

Image 1

First Steps

My young granddaughters much loved first “wellies” which she has, naturally and inevitably, rapidly outgrown.

Image 2

Dead Men’s Shoes

Men’s Brogues acquired from a car boot sale. My impression is that the men’s shoes available at car boots and charity shops is that they tend to be from older individuals – judged by style – and as such suspect that the last owner is no longer with us, this in stark contrast to the range of women’s shoes on offer which seems to cover a much wider age range. Thus the reason for the shoes being discarded more varied. My supposition is that men wear their shoes out before replacing them whilst women replace or add to their collection much more frequently.

Image 3

Moonwalk 1

Borrowed from friends who had completed the Moonwalk twice and in the process destroyed their trainers.

Image 4

Rembrandts Boots

Part of the inspiration for this project was Rembrandt’s painting of old shoes and these worn out old boots, acquired for 50p at a car boot sale reminded me not only of the subject of his painting but also the, possibly apocryphal, story that Rembrandt obtained the boots to model for his masterpiece at a Paris flea market thus my own experience echoed his process.

Image 5

Obsession

Another charity shop acquisition, I found the aggressive nature of the design highlighted the often absurd nature of fashion and I simply wondered, firstly who would want such shoes with their overtly sexual fetish overtones but then secondly who would then dispose of them? A mistaken purchase? Bored? On to the next pair?

Image 6

Sportsmad

This pair of old skates borrowed from skating whiz Kelly. These once state of the art items now look extremely dated with their faded leather uppers, wooden wheels and bump stops. Obviously much loved to have been retained long beyond the time when they could have been superseded by sleeker models.

Image 7

Fashion Victim

Charity shop purchase. Another highly stylised shoe, covered in decorative brass pieces on heels and toes, along with extraneous and superficial buckles and zips. An ecologist’s nightmare with their frivolous non practical decoration, many resources consumed and difficult to dispose of or recycle.

Image 8

Moonwalk II

The male version of the Moonwalk trainers.

Preparation and Presentation.

I prepared some test strips to decide which paper and printer to use (included in hard copy submission). I had always envisioned a series of large prints so that the shoes would be presented as much larger than life – putting the presentation of the images firmly in the realm of the sublime by exaggerating the importance of the mundane objects that are the subject of the images.

I had gone to some lengths to minimise the post processing of images by paying particular attention to exposure, focus and composition of final images to arrive at a consistent and coherent final set of images. This approach proved successful, post processing was basically limited to setting grey point consistently, removing any dust spots / flaws in background and applying the high pass filter.

The maximum width of a print on the Chromera printer is 75 cms, so this dictated the final size of images which were photographed at a 3 to 2 original ratio.  Applying a high pass filter on a duplicate level, reducing the opacity of this level by 15-20%, with blending mode set to overlay improved the display of texture and contrast in the images. I made a Photoshop action to resize, apply the filter and save the images in one click so processing of the images was very rapid after the first one. Dust spot removal and exact cropping is per image so couldn’t be included in the action.

For marking the images will be simply pinned to the wall, a subset of the final images will be shown at the degree show with the addition of a simple white frame – separate to the print, a technique seen at some installations at the Format festival in Derby which I thought was extremely effective and particularly cost effective. I have made these frames in the wood shop at Bath Spa. Example of the effect and method from the format festival.

I am also considering a suggestion from Hugh to have a shoe “sale” of the collected props in the form of a donation to charity. I will definitely display at least some of the shoes and boots collected to shoot underneath the prints.

**** Update 11/05/2017 **** There is a major mechanical problem with the Chromera printer which is being investigated by the vendor. However it may be that the prints will ultimately need to be produced on the existing Epson printers. If this had been the only choice to start with I may have made different display choices, I did consider the alternatives but ultimately the size of the prints was predicated on maximising use of the Chromera printer.

Having conducted a further test print, displaying full size final images from Chromera and Epsom side by side, and canvassing opinion from tutors and fellow students have decided final images will be printed on cotton rag stock on the Epsom ink jet printer but to the size specified for the Chromera to match the already made external frames.

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Individual Practice: Review of Shoe Shoots 7-9

Shot on 27th of April 2017, proof images from the shoot can be seen here.

Having discarded the idea of plain black or white backgrounds for the images. I introduced a couple of variations in this shoot, mid grey background, naturally lit in front of a large window – actually french windows so pretty much a floor to ceiling light source.

I really like the aesthetic this gives to the resulting images as the background is neutral but allows for some soft shadows which I find attractive but mainly that the shoe in question attracts all the attention of the viewer. This is the style I subsequently decided to use for all subsequent images. Using compositions from some of the earlier shoots, certain images where re-shot to replicate the background and lighting styles were consistent to ensure a coherent set of images.

Shoot 8

Shot on 29th of April 2017, proof images from the shoot can be seen here.

This was a final shoot with flash, now on grey background. The use of a gridded soft box gave a certain crispness to the images but I think the softer natural light is more suited to this project and hence this just helped finalised my decision to shoot the final images in natural light.

Shoot 9

Shot on 5th of May 2017, proof images from the shoot can be seen here

I had earlier shot some skates that Kelly had kindly provided but had rejected the images because the skates were too new and clearly did not fall into the category of discarded. Kelly kindly arranged the loan of some vintage skates and I re-shot these as were much more interesting than the original skates for the purposes of my project. This  shoot also includes some re-shoots of previously selected images either to improve the quality or finalise the composition or lighting of some images.

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Individual Practice: Review of Shoe Shoots 4-6

Shoe Shoot 4

Shot on 9th of April 2017, images from the shoot can be seen here.

This wasn’t really a shoot where I intended to get final images although I did collect some interesting images. In reality it was more research in that I visited car boot sales as another source of discarded / recycled shoes. I choose to visit one of the larger car boots in Swindon which happens at weekends at Blunsdon Stadium. A few things became quickly apparent, firstly prices are significantly cheaper than charity shops but the quality is much more variable with everything on offer from very good quality items to frankly complete rubbish. There is also an interesting cross section of society at such events, sellers ranging from seemingly middle class mums selling mainly brand name children’s clothes in good condition to hard core market traders, buyers on the other hand, judging by the clothes worn and cars driven seem to be mainly lower income families who are depending on such events for staples. This juxtaposition is interesting to witness, it does also lead to a degree of tension in some exchanges and some unintended irony with old shoes for sale next to iconic fashion magazine Vogue back issues.

 

Shoe Shoot 5

Shot on 10th of April 2017, a total of 112 images from the shoot can be seen here. Following the feedback from shoot 3 I decided to photograph my increasing collection of shoes against a plain white background. I now had shoes from friends as well as additional purchases made in charity shops. As well as some donated specialist shoes in the form of roller blades and ice skates obtained through freecycle, along with some borrowed skates from Kelly. Again I was satisfied with the technical quality of the lighting but the white background made the images look more like fashion shots than the documentary look I was after.

I did do some experimental work with props such as including the charity shop labels in some shots which I think gives an interesting contrast when you have something that is, or was clearly, a high fashion item at one point then contrasted with the label which then lends a different perspective. I also included a cocktail glass with some shoes I thought were probably from the 50’s, or at least styled then, to give some additional narrative to the images but at the end of day have to conclude the fashion shoes are not as interesting as battered and obviously worn examples also acquired.

 

I also discarded the idea of using Kelly’s skates which are obviously very high quality and cost and, as such, far from the concept of discarded or at least re-cycled shoes.

Shoe Shoot 6

Jayne Brown 1924-2017

Shot on 11th of April 2017, images from the shoot can be seen here.

I had put an appeal out on Freescycle and one lady had kindly donated her recently deceased 93 year old mother in laws 10 or so pairs of shoes. In a brief conversation she stated that in recent years mum refused to purchase anything new claiming she wouldn’t get the wear our of it and “could be gone tomorrow” I thought this was an interesting back story and made me think that simple captions to the images might be an interesting way to present them as per the example above. Sadly apart from this the donated shoes were too plain or not worn enough to make interesting subjects.

The rest of the shoot was trying the variety of shoes I now had in various compostions and I was now starting to focus more and more on simplifying the images, eliminating any distractions and focussing on the shoes themselves as objects. A couple of the shoes here, although not necessarily the compositions in this shoot stood out. Namely the male and female trainers borrowed from friends which they had used in completing the moonwalk twice.  The MoonWalk is a fund raising charity event walked over the marathon distance with a couple of unique aspects, firtsly its done overnight and secondly all participants, male and female wear decorated bra’s.

As a result these trainers were the first shoes I decided would be definitely in the final image selection.

Shoe Shoot 7 – 9 review here.

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Individual Practice: Review of Shoe Shoots 1-3

This is a review of all the shoe shoots undertaken to arrive at the final images selected for submission for marking, this will be series of posts rather than a single one, only to make them manageable in length. The final images selected can be seen here. There has been much discussion and input from a number of sources including the obvious ones of Hugh, Helen and Kelly. My view has always been that I am happy to experiment, try different approaches and I don’t regard any of the time or results achieved as wasted even though many will not make the final selection. One thing I have learned during my assignments over the past 2 years is that it is impossible to precisely predict where you will end up on a project and that actually once you start projects evolve, and develop of their own accord due to many factors not all of which are necessarily explainable or even totally rational.

The one thing that I do hold onto for the final images is that the one person who has to be happy with them is me. This because as much as the feedback and input of tutors and others much more knowledgeable than myself is extremely valued, if you are not personally convinced of the merits of the composition, style and credibility of the final work it rapidly feels very hollow and without meaning.

Proof Images, i.e. unedited, straight form camera can be seen on this website via the links in each shoot or as printed proofs in the accompanying display books.

Shoe Shoot 1

Shot on 10th of February 2017, all images, a total of 87, from the shoot can be seen here. My original concept for this project was broadly to illustrate the range and diversity of shoes that you come across, there are every day shoes, casual trainers,high fashion shoes and endless speciality shoes for work and sport e.g. golf, tennis, roller skates, ice skates, waders, steel capped boots and so forth. Once you start to think about it these apparently mundane and everyday objects have tremendous range and versatility. Initially I collected some images featuring shoes to give some ideas, most of these were fashion images, often featuring models and I initially intended to include this in the work but was persuaded to focus on the objects themselves. More detail about the concept can be read here.

I was always intending to acquire more shoes but at this point I was relying on what was available which inevitably meant relying on family and friends. For this first shoot I choose to use my daughters wedding shoes as I though it was an interesting observation that some of the most high value, or at least cost, items have effectively a single use. I also choose my young granddaughters first shoes because at the other extreme such shoes are also unlikely ever to be worn out in terms of “getting your moneys worth” but for the very simple reason that the child will outgrow them before that can occur.

I did have some specific objectives to explore even at this early stage :

  • Composition, I was looking for the best ways to display shoes as individual objects. This included the whole shoe, pairs of shoes and macro shots of details as I experimented.
  • Backgrounds, I looked at using various materials as a background that would complement the shoes.
  • Lighting, I originally envisioned this as a studio project using flash, although this later evolved. I did experiment with strongly directional lighting which gave some interesting shadows to the final images.

The learning I took from this shoot was that  I liked plain, even lighting and had evolved a set up for this which involved the main light on a boom arm, basically horizontally overhead with a fill light, a softbox, from one side.

Shoe Shoot 2

Shot on 15th of March 2017, all images a total of 64 from the shoot can be seen here.

By now I had started to collect shoes from charity shops, typically costing around £5 a pair for the women’s fashion shoes which I tended to find the most interesting at this stage.  I continued to experiment using a variety of coloured but plain backgrounds including yellow, pink and plain black. I did also try an alternative piece of material – chair doily – to set the shoes on.

On reflection and in discussion with Hugh we concluded that the doily added nothing to the image and that highly coloured backgrounds were more of a distraction. The resulting images were more fashion shots than anything else and the best shots were those taken against the plain black background although I wasn’t entirely happy with some of those as they showed the flaws and dirt of particularly the brass tipped shoes, although my view of this evolved later. This was because I think sub-consciously I was trying to obtain fashion style shots instead of the objects in front of me which are discard shoes. So I have come around to being adamant that showing the blemishes is integral to project.

The more I consider this point the more I recognise its a constant struggle to resist the temptation to adopt a pure fashion aesthetic for the shots and the answer lies in exposing the shoes as is i.e. warts and all.

I was very pleased that the lighting adopted worked very well and now had a good recipe for setting this up.

Shoe Shoot 3

Shot on 31st of March 2017, all images, a total of 68, from the shoot can be seen here.

I wanted this shoot to further explore the simplicity of the plain black background and further it had been suggested I look at the work of Joachim Froese whose work typically uses traditional still life elements such as using a piece of wood as an anchor to the work as frequently occurs in Baroque still life paintings.  I decided to try this technique for this project and built a set to accommodate this, described in detail here.

Technically this all worked well and there are a number of images from this shoot that I like very much and would be happy to see on the wall. Sadly this enthusiasm was not shared by my tutors and the feedback was consistently downbeat. In fact I suspect I don’t have words to describe the despair felt by Hugh in particular when he saw the images where I had included another classical still life element of the skull. To be clear I don’t like these images either it was simply experimentation.

To put this in context there was very positive recognition of the technical quality of the images in terms of lighting and production effort in terms of the organisation but rather it was the execution and documentation of the artistic concept that required re-focusing.

On reflection I agree with this conclusion in terms of comparing the images to our discussions on rhopography or the depiction of mundane objects. I think this is partially because some of the shoes, even though acquired from charity shops, appear too new and again have more of a fashion aesthetic.

Review of Shoe Shoots 4-6 here

Also posted in 1 Individual Practice