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

This entry was posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 2: In Step.

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