Posted by: benshelor | December 15, 2008

Final Project: Production Journal

Pre-Production

Breast cancer has touched my family in almost every way imaginable. My mother was diagnosed with the disease a mere six months after her mother in the spring of 1997, followed by her sister the year after and my grandmother on the other side of the family in 2005. While my mother, grandmother, and aunt were able to fight off the disease, the cancer spread in my maternal grandmother to her brain, lungs, and bones, and she lost her fight to cancer late in 1998. Every day, hundreds of women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer- many thousands will succumb to the disease. In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimates more than 178,000 new cases of the disease and more than 40,000 deaths.
Out of the pain of cancer though have come some positives for the family. The family is involved in community programs related to the disease, has taken part in several medical studies about the genetic component of breast cancer (which, it was discovered, is carried in the family and greatly increases the chance of younger family members to have cancer in their lifetime), and became involved in the event that they look forward to the most every year: the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure.
It is my mother’s devotion to this event every fall that was the motivation to create a poster detailing our fight against breast cancer to encourage participation in the event. Every fall, thousands crowd the streets of Knoxville, my mother among them, in a show of force and support for those who have had or are fighting breast cancer and their families. It is an opportunity to bond and support one another along their difficult journeys.
The goals of the project were relatively simple. The aim was to create an aesthetically pleasing yet intriguing poster design that would encourage others (who perhaps were not familiar with the disease or would not otherwise participate) to take part in Race for the Cure. Using my family as an example, I set out to create a poster that showed the devastating impact of breast cancer, powerfully yet subtly. Inspired by past posters of the event and attempting to echo the graphic design of the current Race for the Cure logo, my goal was to use the color pink (the color of the breast cancer awareness ribbon and the recognized color of Race for the Cure) and pictures of my family to encourage participation and fund-raising. With input from the class and ideas added along the way, the basic form of the work formulated in my head prior to any attempt at production.

Production

While the goals seemed simple enough, the production of the poster (especially in such a large size, 11” x 17”) was arduous and difficult at times. A lack of clarity in just what was necessary to go into the poster made getting started among hardest tasks. Even with some idea of what needed to happen and the ideas that I had compiled before starting, staring into the blank page (or, in this case, screen) reinforced the difficulty of the task ahead and just how much I had to design and complete. With limitless options, making the first decision that will set the tone and practice for the rest of the work is difficult. The poster would eventually be started over several times before arriving at the final production.
After finally getting a satisfactory start, production lasted roughly eight to ten hours. Incorporating breaks for software, obligations, and sometimes reflection (mostly phone calls with my mother as she looked through albums and reflected on her own experience and that of her mother and sister), the process was a long one but one that resulted in a work that I feel properly conveys the impact of breast cancer on my family to the viewer and encourages one to join the fight against the disease with Race for the Cure.
Although production was easier once initial ideas had been visually established on the page, some technical and aesthetic considerations/problems slowed production. Problems began with only a few layers of work on the page (of eventually more than 40 layers):
Firstly, I had difficulty making the main pink ribbon stand out from the crowd behind. No matter how much time was devoted to trying to calm the colors and lines of the crowd shot, the warm color of the ribbon made it difficult to make it stand out without distorting the image greatly. Even manipulation of the contrast and brightness of both the ribbon and the crowd in an attempt to bleach out the background image and make the ribbon easier to see just complicated and distorted the images and was abandoned. Eventually, a combination of light levels (and the addition of other material around the ribbon that took added visual reference) that was satisfactory was found and production continued.
Even with relatively few layers on the page, keeping each one separate and making sure to be working on the appropriate layer is sometimes difficult to get used to. Especially later in production, scrolling through layer upon layer of material (even with coagulating some into different types of files and combining them into a single layer for reformatting and movement) spoke to the underlying complexity of graphic design projects and the difficulties of working with computers. Many times, a tool was chosen from the list and used, only to find out that that had been on the wrong layer of material, which then had to be replaced and the process repeated (this time more carefully).
After adding pictures of my family, looking back at the piece revealed that some pictures were much brighter and drew the eye more than others did. Manipulation of opacities made things complicated but blurring the contrast and brightness made the pictures seem blurred or difficult to see. Some images worked well with lowering the opacity (especially ones that incorporated the ribbon behind, denoting that that person had or could have breast cancer). Others though showed material behind (such as that of my aunt on my father’s side on the right side of the poster) when the opacity was lowered and it was necessary to manipulate the brightness and contrast to dull the image slightly and maintain the overall focus of the piece.
Another problem was the lack of symmetry. The piece should (to me at least) look centered and symmetrical, yet somehow, on some levels, it did not. The truth of who actually had the disease clashed with the artistic vision of the project and made the work look asymmetrical. Vertical symmetry as well became a problem because, aesthetically, darkening from the top down is the most appealing but symmetry is lost here too. Multiple versions including darker pinks, even simple shades of white, at the top of the poster were attempted before the final, very light, shade of pink was chosen. Colors in vast quantities (or in important places, such as the top and bottom of the page, the first and last places the eye looks when viewing a project) made the shades seem much darker than they seemed in small quantities on the page and proved difficult in production.
The size and shape of the work also became problematic. After initial creation of the family tree and designs around it, I attempted to reformat the work onto another document to add the text and relevant details of the event. However, because the work had been created on a document of a certain size, movement to another piece distorted the images and required some changes in the design to make the project aesthetically pleasing. Although the poster did finish the appropriate size that was initially targeted (11” x 17”), this reformatting and resizing became difficult.
Later in production, word choice became somewhat of a problem. Over-inflating the risks of breast cancer could be perceived as alarmist and provocative advertising that may turn as many people away from the event as for it. Choosing the proper wording was a key to the overall aim of the project. While the wording at the top may seem slightly overstated to some, it is designed to draw attention to the poster and to the plight of the family below. Likewise, fitting the appropriate language at in the correct areas of the page proved difficult. Changing type-faces to maintain functionality and symmetry to fit every necessary piece of information mean changing sizes and words often.
The final problem encountered was the large size of the poster and loading it onto the internet. 11” x 17” is a very large work (and thus a large file) and did not easily load onto the web. It was necessary to reformat the work into a smaller size in order to load onto the internet so that it was viewable by those interested in coming to the race.
Considering the problems faced (and conquered) during production, the work portrays the initial goals of the project fairly accurately. Even with resizing and reformatting and the snag of technical difficulties, the attempt to convey the impact of the disease on my family and the details of the event (presented clearly and logically) was successful.

Post-Production

The majority of the problems encountered in production were overcome simply by manipulating the images and trying alternatives to the original idea placed on the page. Few of the images placed on the page worked immediately and most required some change in size, color, or placement to look appropriate with the rest of the project. Changing many aspects of the work required (and developed) familiarity with the program (in this case, Adobe Photoshop) and educated me as to the nature of more complicated and professional graphic design. Since humans seek order in everything they see and do, the asymmetrical nature of parts of the work bothered me (and still do now to some extent) and emphasized that just what we want to see in something sometimes is not accurate. Cancer is a disease that can strike randomly, and despite my best attempts at symmetry, this randomness is reflected somewhat in the design and accuracy of the family tree depicted on the poster.
The piece that resulted from hours of work was remarkably similar to the work that I had set out to create; perhaps too similar. Much of the creative process is incorporating the ideas or inspiration that comes while creating the project (or as a function of the partial designs that you have already created). I feel as though I was somewhat close-minded in my approach and did not feel free (not from the assignment, but because of my constrained, conservative personality) to deviate from the original plan in many ways. I had planned to use a family tree, and I did. I had planned to use pink, which I did. I had planned to use the logo of the Race for the Cure, which I did. What I did not do was the unexpected, and in some ways I feel that, despite it’s personal relevance and compelling use of a family torn apart by cancer, my poster really is not much more (if at all) impactful than any other anti-cancer campaign. Perhaps what would have been more compelling and attractive would have been something unexpected. A poster that does not look like the traditional poster for Race for the Cure could stir the emotions and passions of those looking to participate and donate. Given the opportunity to do the assignment again, I would think (or hope) that I would go about it with a more open mind to incorporate more of the ideas that came to me along the way in the creative process.
While I am proud of the technical production that I have made, perhaps the most significant victory of this project is my slight displeasure with the nature of the final project. The poster conveys the information necessary, completes its task, and carries out the objectives that I set for it, yet somehow does not grab the attention of the viewer in the way that I had hoped. I am inspired to try something new and different as a result. Race for the Cure is, and will always be, a cause very close to my heart and my family, but perhaps one that could benefit from an image change. Breast cancer effects men in just as many ways as it effects women (not through actual affliction with the disease, but indirectly) and perhaps a change in the image of the race could bring this fact to light: a fact I plan to work on publicizing in any future works for the promotion of Race for the Cure.

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Posted by: benshelor | December 15, 2008

Pre-Production Proposal

Final Assignment- Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” Promotion Poster

Principle and Goal

The presentation will focus on promotion for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, an annual race across the United States dedicated to raising Breast Cancer awareness and research funding. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 178,000 new cases of breast cancer were discovered and the disease is estimated to have killed more than 40,000 women in the U.S. in 2007. The curled pink ribbon of Breast Cancer awareness holds a special place in the hearts of breast cancer survivors and their families and Race for the Cure is an event that brings together survivors, family members, researchers, and philanthropists from across cities, states, and the nation in the fight against this deadly disease. In this case, the work will focus on a Race for the Cure event that will take place in Knoxville, Tennessee in October 2009.

Design Elements

The color pink will play a prominent role in the design of the poster promoting Race for the Cure. Pink is the color of breast cancer awareness and the curled pink ribbon dominates literature and promotions on the subject. The dominance of the color pink will make the poster instantly recognizable as promoting the cause of breast cancer research. The poster should collect all the necessary components to promote not only the details of the event but to provide compelling motivation to the viewer to become part of the event and donate to cancer research. Statistics, such as the one mentioned above in regards to cancer deaths per year, could galvanize some viewers to take more seriously the threat posed to them and the plight of disease survivors. Such statistics are designed not necessarily to shock the viewer into action, but more to show the massive impact of a silent killer. Images of survivors and supporters during past events can display the camaraderie of participants and encourage the viewer to partake and donate to the cause and the event.
The poster should be clear yet attractive to the eye. Common design elements such as balance and visual rhythm are important to keep the attention of the viewer and focus attention not only on the aesthetic attractiveness of the work but equally importantly focus attention on the more practical considerations of the event such as registration, time, and place. While a large pink ribbon will likely be the central object in the frame, text and images will surround in integrate with the ribbon to keep the piece visually interesting. If possible, I would like to create a collage of pictures (perhaps of survivors or of those who have lost their battle to the disease) to show the personal effects of the disease and darken the image to place white text over the top. Placing images of those who have been most effected by breast cancer could give a more personal and dramatic effect for the reader.

Production

The work will be as large as possible (11” x 17”) to draw attention. The large size of the poster will allow for the use of many pictures, quotes, and other information to captivate and entertain the viewer. Integration of information and images (some of which could be personal images from my experience at past Race for the Cure Events) must be carefully done in order to keep the poster orderly and effective. Use of images with different color values could make it difficult to maintain balance in the piece and keep the focal point in the center of the piece. If one picture or text is substantially darker or lighter than others, it could detract from the overall effectiveness of the work. Materials used will come from the Susan G. Komen website and information from reputable sources like the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Health. My family, which has been greatly affected by the disease, has a large stock of images taken while we were participating in the event which can be used with their permission.

Posted by: benshelor | December 15, 2008

Final Project

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Posted by: benshelor | November 19, 2008

Photo Essay

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Posted by: benshelor | November 19, 2008

Photography and Propaganda

The photograph above (from the website of one of the nation’s most important and influential newspapers, the Washington Post) shows a young African boy in a Congolese refugee camp taking food donated from the United States to help those fleeing violence in the region. The photograph shows an event that takes place everyday not only in the Congo, but across the continent of Africa and many places across the world that are dependent on foreign aid to feed their people. It is an unfortunate fact of life in an increasingly modernized West that the rest of the world struggles on a daily basis for such necessities as food and shelter.

While the photo is certainly impactful to the viewer for its visual content and the message of poverty and necessity that it sends, it also contains some subtle messages that make the picture an agent of persuasion, and to some extent, propaganda. More important to the underlying message of the photograph than the child in the foreground is the flag and wording that is clearly visible on the bags of food in the background. The flag of the United States and the words “Split Yellow Peas” and “U.S. AID” displayed on the bags give the message to the viewer that the United States is helping the situation. The stacks of bags in the background add to the message by showing that vast amounts of food are being sent across the world to help the victims of famine and violence.

British author E.M. Cornford said of propaganda that it is “very nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies.” Such a description is relatively accurate in a case such as the one in the photograph above. The picture is intended to spread the message both domestically and abroad and is as much a message from the government of the United States to the people of the U.S. as a message to foreign nations of the contributions of the United States. A closer examination (or one by someone who is more knowledgeable about the situation faced by refuges in Africa) of the photograph revels that almost everything in the frame comes from the U.S. or some other Western nation that has donated supplies to refugees. The clothing, shoes, even the plastic bag the boy is carrying are products of the West and were given by some kind of aid. While the image is designed to show the contribution of the U. S. and international aid networks to the situation in Africa, it is as much a show of what has already been done to the people of the very nations that send the supplies. The photograph is a prime example of the use of an unfortunate and sometimes deadly situation used to spread the political and ideological message of a government to its people.

Posted by: benshelor | November 12, 2008

Susan Sontag “On Photography” Critique

“The camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed.”

Diane Arbus

By the simple nature of photography, the artist is more free than perhaps in any other discipline to move about the world around them an truly capture the world, people, places, and events that humanity lives amongst every day. Susan Sontag’s 1977 article “On photography” takes a closer look at the practice, use, and conceptions of photography in the modern world through the work of the late Diane Arbus- a photographer famous for her odd, often disturbing pictures of the oddities of society and the world that were a contrast to the “beauty” of art and photography that had come before.

Sontag makes frequent use of 19th Century American poet Walt Whitman’s 1855 work “Leaves of Grass,” which posits a rather optimistic view of what was to come in American society. He forecasted a social and artistic revolution that did not materialize. Beauty, as seen by Whitman and later by the author, Sontag, is inherently objective.

Sontag writes: “To photograph is to confer importance.” Today, however, with the widespread use of photography, those things which have been photographed have lost their importance. There is a trivial nature about things which are photographed and some controversy as to whether a photograph is art, or at least is the artist’s personal expression, or not. Sontag points to attempts to “universalizing the human condition” into joy (as done by photographer Steichen in a collection of people from around the world trying to convey the unity of mankind) or into horror (as Arbus shows in her collection of people society has deemed ugly, the “freaks”.) Arbus’s photographs contrast the extreme with the normal- what Sontag calls “contrast between their lacerating subject matter and their calm, matter-of-factness.” They make the viewer think about the world they live in by asking if the subject they are so fascinated by feels the same way about them. Arbus treats all moments as if they were of equal consequence, downplaying the earlier notions of the importance of photography and installing it in the mind of the viewer as simply an everyday expression of what the artist sees and interacts with. The difference was Arbus’s interaction with her “freakish” subjects: her 1971 suicide seems to have proven that her photographs were dangerous to her. Arbus’s interaction with her subjects seem to imply for the photographer and indeed the viewer had associated with and befriended the subjects that were meant to appall the viewer, an implication meant to further disturb the viewer beyond the image in front of them. Her purpose was to provoke the thoughts of the viewer into wondering just what it was about this person, and their reaction to them, that so bothered them.

Sontag says: “The photographer once had the power to say to herself, Okay, I can accept that; the viewer is invited to make the same declaration.” Photography for Arbus boiled down to an acceptance of the world around the viewer. It was not the quest for beauty in the world but the realization that things and people are disturbingly imperfect.

The average modern personal experience with photography has been somewhat less emotionally and intellectually involved. Widespread use of the camera has changed it from a tool of art to a tool of simple documentation that has rid many pictures, and indeed many objects, of their value. Sontag’s article provides an excellent background and thought provoking argument into the nuances of photography as art, and indeed what “art” really means at all. Contrary to the popular notion that art is simply something beautiful, Sontag (through the work of Arbus) shows us that perhaps it is far more than that, it is a tool for expression of ideas of the artist and the viewer toward the world around them.

Posted by: benshelor | November 12, 2008

Photo Essay: World War Two Memorial, Washington, DC

Posted by: benshelor | November 11, 2008

Judson Brohmer

Judson Brohmer was a photographer for the United States Air Force that captured some of the most iconic and important images that have become the face of the Air Force.  Brohmer was born in 1963 in Palo Alto, California and grew up in Hawaii.  He graduated from the Univesity of Southern California in 1987 with a degree in Broadcast  Journalism and History.  He worked for several television stations before leaving to follow his passions for photography and aviaiton.  He worked closely with the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.  His free-lance photography was used by the biggest names in the Industry:Boeing, McDonald Douglas, and Lockheed Martin.  Brohmer was named official photographer for a number of new aircraft programs including the F-22 and F-35 fighter programs in 1997.  In 2001, he was killed in an aircraft crash near China Lake, California.

Examples of his work can be found at http://www.judsonbrohmer.com

Posted by: benshelor | November 5, 2008

Judson Brohmer Comparison Photograph

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Above is a photograph that was taken to attempt to replicate a photograph taken by Judson Brohmer in the early 1990s.  Brohmers photograph (not shown here) was taken of the nose of the aircraft looking back into the sunset.  This picture of a Beechcraft King Air was taken at the McGee Tyson Airport (KYTS) in Knoxville, Tennessee in the summer of 2007.

Posted by: benshelor | November 5, 2008

Photography Critique

Mountain dweller on horseback. Xinaliq Village. Azerbaijan. June

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The National Geographic Society’s “All Roads” film and photography competition has seen some of the best photography by young artists from across the world. In the tradition of other National Geographic photographers, these young people have captured images that have captivated and provoked viewers today and in the future.

Perhaps the most visually impactful image of the most recent “All Roads” competition came from that of young photographer Rena Effendi. The image of a mountain horseman from the country of Azerbaijan, entitled simply “mountain dweller on horseback,” is a stunning display of the landscape and provides immediate indication of the status of the man pictured in the middle of the frame. While the picture was taken very recently, the dress and pose (in combination with the muted colors of the background and surroundings and the lack of any modern references) make the scene seem as if it could be decades, even centuries, old and gives indication of the deep tradition of this isolated region. The dark but vibrant colors of the figure in the foreground of the frame draw the viewer’s eye as the background fades into more dull colors as the shot aims into the high mountains. The flowing green hills give way to high mountains as the green fades into the light of the sky. The photograph makes excellent use of the proper visual techniques to keep the viewer interested: the characters in the frame are placed in the bottom part of the shot which is angled up into the surrounding hills.

An image of the past that connects with the modern image captured by Effendi comes from the late Thomas Abercrombie, a famous member of the National Geographic Photography team that for decades brought the western world captivating pictures of his adventures from across the planet. His long-exposure shot of the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca during the Hajj (the annual trip to the religious shrine by Muslims from all over the world) stands out as one of the best of his many photographs. The excellent use of long exposure to show the slow movement of the crowd and his mastery of the lighting effects around the frame make the picture truly stunning. Abercrombie himself was a Muslim and was allowed to take the picture from a vantage point that very few western photographers were allowed to see because of his faith.

While the pictures created by these two photographers are simple breathtaking, what makes them truly come to life in the mind and eye of the viewer is their symbolism of the experience both of the subjects captured in the frame and the photographer behind the lens. Effendi and Abercrombie are/were (Abercrombie died in 2006) both of the Muslim faith but came from very different backgrounds. Effendi was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1977; Abercrombie in Minnesota in 1930. Effendi in her work captures the world around her in Azerbaijan (although she has become known also for her work in nearby Afghanistan); in so doing capturing peoples and places trapped decades or centuries behind the western world. She became a full-time photographer only in 2001 and has experienced travels much like those of Abercrombie and his fellow photographers at National Geographic living amongst the people she is studying. Abercrombie traveled the world on assignment for the publication- from Alaska to Saudi Arabia and everywhere in between. While the photographers came from extremely different backgrounds, their experience in capturing events and peoples around them seems to have been similar.

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