Techniques and Processes Proposal 2a – Final Images with Evaluation – The Magdalen


For my final images for this proposal I have undertaken to technically process a series of images based along a conceptualisation client driven ideal of reinterpreting and connecting to the Magdalen from a visual and narrative spiritual directive.

becca 13And the tenth: As woman, loved and understood, independent, strong and free

My original idea came from the painting of the Magdalen taken by Frances de la Tour where the Magdalen is captured in candlelight on canvas. Following on from that directive, my client requested that she look at what Mary Magdalen meant to her and my directive thus became interpreting her visionary concept using a variety of technical approaches to come up with a pleasing joint aesthetic. Using the Magdalen’s lost gospel scriptures as direction, my client and I reconceptualised the Magdalen into a modern aesthetic revisiting her experiences and interpreting them into a visual dynamic in order to narrate her story.

mary darknessThe first form is darkness.

From a technical perspective this composition was created using a series of LED lights strewn across Magdalen’s face in a low light setting allowing the camera to capture the LED’s in shadow and light as a representation of the darkness she feels but that her journey has light at the end of the tunnel (represented here as circles surrounding the subject’s face). Working with a slow shutter speed, on a tripod and an ISO of 100, I was able to capture this photo quickly as I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve as a photographer.

mag 6Her second is doubt

Technical Approach (for Portraits):
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. I have additionally taken a series of images working at 1/125th of a second at an aperture of f/7.1 and an ISO of 100 with an 85mm lens using a single light source of the neewer c-180 strobe.

The third desire.

becca 72749 bw

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). This look was achieved by coming in closer to the subject as if in direct confrontation allowing for full desire to be shown (depicted by the camera and the lighting’s direct line to the subject). The classic Rembrandt portrait was used to highlight one side of the face and the hair is used as an additional tool to add shadow and light so that her appearance is haphazard. I then worked with my client to build her confidence to reveal this look.

The Fourth 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. The slight overexposure on this composition allows for the camera to capture light particles in the subjects hair, which assists in the overall look of feeling out of place and out of her depth. It has been purposefully left in colour to contemporarise the essence of confusion by placing it in a modern setting against a stark white studio background to show that it could be anyone today being bullied (for example) and finding that their faith and strength of character sees them through lonely and confusing situations.

The fifth 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)

2752 bwThis image was achieved by asking my client to move the scarf she was wearing around her head in a circular motion to capture this I used a low ISO and increased shutter speed in order for the flash to freeze the frame and the scarf moved. Additionally, the camera position and mount needed to be close enough to the subject matter and be just at the right angle to reveal the subjects face in the classic rembrandt pose so that the scarf emulates the light and dark on the face and vice versa. The look was then achieved by allowing the extended phottix and transmitter led flash to fire at the right moment.

The sixth, 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 but she shuns away from the rest of the Apostles because they refuse to accept that she has been chosen above them).

2716 bwThis image was achieved using a predominate Neewer remote controlled isolated flash using the Phottix transmitter and Receivers with the lighting set to the right to enable light to fall off behind the subject and along the backdrop studio wall. The single light source was directed to her forehead and a simple shawl completed the look the client and I wanted to achieve showing how we felt the Magdalen would wish to convey meaning in a contemporary setting using the modern aesthetic of a single light source following predominantly and being inspired by compositions from the old masters. Her single shoulder is bare and slightly highlighted as if she is shielding herself from her doubters and she clutches her scarf to demonstrate her tension hugging the cloth close to her chest.

becca 1

Given her existence spiritually within a modern context and allowing the client to explore the Magdalen and contemporise and interpret the Scripture, the Magdalen (in reference to historic biblical text) was known as a woman ‘of the night’. This image was achieved using a singular light source in a no daylight scenario and achieves the aim of the directive in a direct and yet subtle artistic way. My client wanted to raise the question how would the Magdalen be perceived today – therefore the image is a celebration of her independence and strength.

The seventh foolish wisdom of the flesh:

(A naive depiction of her desire to love and be accepted for who she is).


Even though Mary realised what true love meant, she only gained this knowledge through wisdom. In the first image in this section, the photographer moved away from the subject and confronted the subject matter compositionally virtually straight on so that personality, intimacy and character could be revealed. Lighting played a key factor to create a sequence of small shadows across the subject highlighting the cheekbone, nose and throwing part of the face in darkness. In the second image confidence of the Magdalen grows, her thoughts are seen to turn towards spiritual matters and in gradually revealing more of the face, the personality can be seen increasingly. The client brief was that she wanted to feel that she was unsure whether to reveal herself or not and so meets the camera with a question that for the present time cannot be answered. Using the same camera settings as given previously, this look was achieved by simply moving the light source so that it came from slightly behind the photographer. Her hand moves away from her body towards the camera in a deliberate gesture to reveal that she is interacting directly with it.

The eigth is the wrathful wisdom (a 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).

The ninth a universal acceptance of love, of being understood and then confidence and complete fulfillment

becca 5

In the final compositions I presented to use two separate and opposite lights as an approach to capturing shadow and light and then in the latter a single light source which enabled me to create distinct and separate moods of Mary being uplifted and happy. The first image is deliberately slightly overexposed to suggest a sense of ”other worldliness” about her, therefore I used my pocket sized LED and my gold/silver reflector to add a little light or warmth to the face and I again moved closer to my subject placing the light source as close to the subject as possible (overhead where the light worked best to create that sense of spiritual peace). The first image is in black and white to add drama and to show her relevance to the past, the second demonstrates that her presence is understood in the present (through my client brief). My client requested that the majority of these images were depicted in monochrome but some are in colour to emphasis other emotions that we felt were not completely revealed in the context of a modern setting. Colour was therefore additionally used to contemporise the feeling that Mary can relate to women today and guide them on their quest for love in the truest sense of the word.

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 and by adopting technical know how to reveal the Magdalen’s purpose and wisdom.


I believe that conceptualisation drives my technical approach as a photographer, as in, if I really want to achieve something, I will find a way to do it. Working with a client brief, visualising what they require in a character setting such as this has been a rewarding and satisfactory project. I believe that a photographers technical ability will ultimately decide upon the success of the final prints but in order to achieve this, one must first understand and be able to interpret a directive which involves working closely with your client to achieve his/her aims.

When I first undertook this project proposal I took a series of images narrated by metaphor of a variety of no daylight photography settings which I will include in my best practice. However, due to time constraints of my client we were unable to get together to marry up the portrait with the landscape in this instance. Unfortunately the necessary equipment was not always available upon request, through circumstance which was no ones fault but I would have liked to increase the project had it been possible by testing out calumet equipment.

As my interests lie more in landscape photography, I am undecided about purchasing battery powered and lighting equipment to this extent as I am unsure if I will be using it in the future. However, I have achieved a great deal with this client led directive as I not only better understand my audience and portrait photography but I have additionally been accepted onto another exhibition space because of my work here.

Last but not least, I would personally like to thank Rebecca for her interpretation, delivery and wisdom in depicting her favourite character from the Bible.

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