Advanced Techniques and Processes – 2a – Magdalen Update – In the Studio

Relates to Outcome 1 and 4 – see 1 in folder

Introduction:

Following on from our lectures and reading week, basing my photography around my conceptualisation and reimagination of the Magdalen, I am refering to the Gnostic Scriptures and in particular the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene and Philip. (For the technical aspects of each composition please see below), studying the Magdalen narrative, which highlights three fundamental parts to her story: i.e. Her love of Jesus, her ability and experience to anoint and her transformational capabilities.

Therefore, basing my work on the kenotic principle of spirituality, all identity it would seem, can be forged through self surrender and within the context of the resurrection, anointing, as the ritual is most closely associated with the passage from death of self to fullness of life which conveys the very essence of Christianity’s transformative wisdom. And its gatekeeper is Mary Magdalen.

She is identified as the ”Apostle to the Apostles”. (as a first witness to the resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16: 1-11, Luke 24:1 -11 and John 20: 1 -18).

So, basing imagery along this concept, using technique to capture, I have reconceptualised the seven aspects of what the Magdalen has already revealed as truth in the Gospel of Philip and therefore taking a technical approach to photography, I have used my techinical ability to gain a set of images conceived through the Portrait.

For the above reference please refer to the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene (http://gnosis.org/library.marygosp.html)

1. The first form is darkness.

Darkness plays an important part of the Magdalen story. It is well documented that the Magdalen has not been accepted by the Church as being ‘free from sin’ and so subsequently the darkness falls on her whenever discussions arise that challenge the type of woman she was. I have therefore shown her as being sinful (represented by the darkness) so that it adheres to the stereotype of her. The range of images will then be able to demonstrate that her journey is one of enlightenment and raises the question ultimately, through the image, how can the Magdalen be judged so harshly, when the Church (and subsequently its congregation) are not free from sin either.

Technical Approach: Shot in a made up photography studio the lighting used was an E27 150w lamp with a neewer c-180 strobe light using a Phottix flash and transmitter which were arranged to capture light and shadow in a Rembrandt position on the face and to capture shadow behind the portrait subject. An additional LED light was then used to highlight the face if necessary (Manfrotto LED). A light meter reading was given of f/5.6 at 1/125th of a second exposure at an ISO of 100, with an 85mm lens. I then subsequently altered the settings accordingly and as I wanted to be closer to my subject I changed the aperture to f/2.8 and the exposure to 1/60th of a second and an ISO of 100.

Technical Approach:
Shot in a made up photography studio the lighting used was an E27 150w lamp with a neewer c-180 strobe light using a Phottix flash and transmitter which were arranged to capture light and shadow in a Rembrandt position on the face and to capture shadow behind the portrait subject. An additional LED light was then used to highlight the face if necessary (Manfrotto LED). A light meter reading was given of f/5.6 at 1/125th of a second exposure at an ISO of 100, with an 85mm lens. I then subsequently altered the settings accordingly and as I wanted to be closer to my subject I changed the aperture to f/2.8 and the exposure to 1/60th of a second and an ISO of 100.

2716 bw

2. The second desire.

Magdalen will be seen as being ostracised from the Church and the symbolic inference is obvious. Her need to love and be loved has taken the Magdalen on a difficult journey but as yet, her need is unfulfilled and as  ‘Kenosis’ suggests she is ”leaving her clothes (her egoic self behind her).” Bourgeault, et al, 66).

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3.Ignorance. (Mary fears that the Church and people are judging her and making assumptions that are not true).

The power of ignorance which is tied up with the act of judging.

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4. The fourth is the excitement of death (Mary is ”between two worlds” free to feel how she wishes and accepted by her Saviour and companion but only Jesus can see through the veil of suppression surrounding her).

The Magdalen is depicted in the Gnostic Gospel as being ‘‘between two worlds” and the Saviour reminds us that he sees Magdalen for her mind and that her mind exists in a way that only he can see… Additionally, it is well documented that Mary was present during his death and at his resurrection, therefore I have depicted the Magdalen in this instance as belonging in both worlds through the symbol of the shadow on the cross (see image above) and the image below which shows a figure present in the composition but by shaking the camera slightly I achieved a look to make it appear as though the figure is ‘between two worlds’. The portrait attempts to answer: What must she have felt like watching his death and how did she feel at his resurrection?

The saviour answered and said, he does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two is what sees the vision and it is…

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5. The kingdom of the flesh: (Mary is in control, showing that she is the Apostle to the Apostle’s and subsequently she is free to love who she wants and in whatever context she wishes).

2752 bw27822752Mary is depicted as still being in semi darkness but in control of who she is and recognised by such.

6. The foolish wisdom of the flesh: (A naive depiction of her desire to love and be accepted for who she is).

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7. The wrathful wisdom (the final acceptance in a metaphorical sense that the Magdalen will finally be accepted for what and who she is within the Church) and that subsequently Mary will be known for what and who she really was (and spiritually still is).

272927302759 bw2759Technical Approach:

Shot in a made up photography studio the lighting used was an E27 150w lamp with a Neewer c-180 strobe light using a Phottix flash and transmitter which were arranged to capture light and shadow in a Rembrandt position on the face and to capture shadow behind the portrait subject to create mood using reinforced patterns, caustic and chiarusco and key. I have adapted the lighting conditions to portray a sense of freedom (high key compositing) to a sense of betrayal and loss (low key compositioning). An additional LED light was then used to highlight the face if necessary (Manfrotto LED). A light meter reading was given of f/5.6 at 1/125th of a second exposure at an ISO of 100, with an 85mm lens. I then subsequently altered the settings accordingly and as I wanted to be closer to my subject and so changed the aperture to f/2.8 and the exposure to 1/60th of a second and an ISO of 100.

All other images accept 2696 were shot at f/2.8 at 1/60th of a second. The light meter reading indicated f/5.6 at 1/125th of a second but I altered it to allow for a greater depth of field across the subjects face.

Reasoning for technical and compositional approaches:

I have used a range of technical and compositional approaches to allow for an element of creativity and experimentation within each composition. The colour compositions are indicative of Mary’s intellect, wisdom and freedom which accurately narrates her story. The monochrome shots depict a time of self doubt, of trails and tribulations, of being judged by others that Mary must have found difficult to accept, as, if Jesus could forgive Mary for her sins, why couldnt anyone else? – this is arranged systematically interpreting the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalen herself to allow for her transition of being abandoned, yet believed, by being a wealthy woman in her own right to being loved by Jesus, something I feel she had difficulty accepting. Colour shows richness, so I have used this as a metaphor. Monochrome shows emotion and self doubt, therefore I have used both technique, lighting, composition of the model and colour to advantage. The studio portrait session is characterised by my client who has studied the Magdalen in great detail. The landscape session (see previous work) is characterised through metaphorical thinking. My ambition ultimately is two fold. One is to demonstrate that portrait and landscape compositions can merge together successfully, the other is to allow my landscape ambitions as a photographer to develop. I have discovered that conceptually I love creating a scene or an idea within a photograph which is usually demonstrated by portrait photography. My desire is to work on developing concept further and in by doing this, my technical ability is increasing.

Evaluation:

What were my aims and have I achieved them?

My aims were to become more technically proficient as a portrait photographer and combine that with landscape photography in order to create an interesting aesthetic/background so as to convey more meaning. I have achieved my first aim in that I now feel more capable as a technically proficient photographer working from a no daylight brief in the studio. I now need to put the portrait and landscape photograph into practice.

What have I done?

Using two lights as an approach to capturing shadow and light enabled me to create a series of mood shots in order to convey emotion successfully. If I felt that another light source was needed I used the pocket sized LED or a gold/silver reflector to add a little light or warmth to the face. Where more light was needed, I simply altered where the model was sitting, placing lighting slightly above the subjects head (for example) to throw shadows against the wall behind her. (see featured image for reference). This no daylight brief was successful as it conveys a sense of meaning, of isolation, of forgiveness and of desire with a need to be loved simply by lighting the subject in a variety of ways to reflect these changes. Yet youthfulness and compassion shows in the models face and by using colour within some of the composition, contemporarises the feeling that all women have the capacity to relate to the Magdalen.

The mood created by the two way lighting system, phottix transmitter and receivers and a standard lamp with a strobe ensured that on at least one part of the subjects face was exposed, creating a rembrandt style portrait. The volume of lighting was controlled by moving the lighting sources around the model to give a series of low key lighting shots with the contrast of high key and colour. This allowed the model to portray a varying degree of emotions. The text of the Gospels of both Philip and Mary have been interpreted as a client brief where the model worked with the photographer to create a collection of portrait images which was a successful collaborative experience and one which I feel will stand me in good stead for the future.

What have I got from it?

A client based successful interpretation and a sense of completion because of my faith. Additionally, I have further understood the texts of the missing Gospels in the Bible in a contextual and realistic way so that I can ultimately transfer transcendent meaning to the seer.

What is next?

I would like to reconceptualise these images to take into account location to add meaning to the images. However, the exercise was aimed towards gaining technical ability and it is therefore difficult to gauge portrait with my chosen landscape photographer ambitions. In combining the two, I will be able to achieve my aims and objectives in terms of lighting technique and composition and I will seek to rephotograph this when the portable lighting system and battery pack becomes available. Unfortunately my model (through other commitments) is only available at weekends so I may have to engage another model. My conceptual photography is successfully informing my technical ability. I have realised that if I want to create an image badly enough I will strive to learn more about technical accuracies in order to fully deliver a concept. It is in this that my photography of the Magdalen has been successful but I feel that ultimately my technical ability has proven that narrative is possible (and therefore transcendent meaning) if one takes care in getting the technical side (i.e. predominantly the lighting) right.

 

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