This assignment is a complete 360 from the first one. I went down a little earlier in the evening, brought my dslr instead of just using my phone, and took a lot of photos instead of being so timid. This paid off, I produced material that I really like, but I also had a hard time creating a single collection that looked unified, had a theme that I can really get behind, and featured the elements of gestalt the way I wanted to. I took pictures of lights/lighting, passageways/doors, nature, and industrial fixtures because I generally find some sort of juxtaposition between those elements that’s intriguing to me. I didn’t want to use any one of those elements to make up my theme, so I decided my general theme was Saturday night, because I feel like a captured that energy.
In terms of Gestalt, a lot of my images have several components combined into one image, but I was drawn more to similarity (through repetition), symmetry, and common fate. Some of those elements are ones I have always been drawn to, and some are ideas that I’ve never really looked for or never really liked taking pictures of, so I made a point to try and find them or try to capture them, even if I didn’t do a really good job of it. Hopefully each piece shows a little bit of gestalt shining through in it.
When I started this project, I was very excited and felt very secure and confident about this project. As an aspiring photographer and as a local Austinite, I felt as though I had a good grasp on what I was doing, but when I actually got to South Congress, I became a lot less confident. Due to parking difficulties, I lost a significant amount of daytime, so I was feeling very rushed to get the photos I could before the sun set, and I felt overall that what I was photographing was empty and missing something. I realize now that part of that is probably due to the fact that I am much more comfortable with black and white film photography, and producing images with color for the first time in almost a year was very strange, but at the time (and still now), I felt like the photos just sucked as a whole. I spent a long time trying to figure out if the work was good enough and whether I should go out and reshoot, but after reading more on the psychology of Gestalt I figured out that while I might not like my work this time around, I could still find elements of Gestalt in each photo. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I know this stuff feels stiff and insecure, but I think for this time around it’s the best I can do until I get someone else’s input. I definitely have a lot to improve on and hopefully I will be able to produce work that I love again, but right now I’ll keep this work and use it as a lesson for the future.
Contact Sheets -Gestalt 1
After watching and reading the media by Tan and Vilem, I started looking for possible connections between and to the pair. I watched Tan’s Ted talk first, and one point that really stuck out to me was how once she finished and sold her books, they no longer were hers, but became her readers’. To me, this statement makes perfect sense; once the creator has finished their work, it’s now up to the interpretation of the viewers. I spent my early education engulfed in blue-curtain metaphors and while, to some extent, there is a standard interpretation of literature, I always found myself thinking of different ways to see what the author wrote, especially in connecting through their past experiences, or mine.
The same idea was brought up in Vilem’s excerpt, where the creator encodes a meaning (takes the picture) and the viewer decodes it. While I appreciated the acknowledgement of this creator-critic relationship in Tan’s video, it was much harder to digest in Vilem’s work. At first it didn’t make much sense why I would feel this way, but after looking up at all the photos I’ve taken hanging on my wall, I realized my fears of “giving” my work away to viewers stemmed from my attachment to the photos. My photos are essentially different parts of me- an emotion I felt while taking the photo, the memories of events that took place in my lifetime, the way I see myself through these inanimate objects. While it’s easy for me to digest others’ works, it’s very hard to think about my own creations being decoded by those who have no understanding of life through my eyes. Seeing that statement written out, it sounds pretentious or contradictory to my previous thoughts, but I think it stems more from a sense of fear of wrong intentions, both perceived and received, that I’m struggling with the idea of. Just like Tan, I don’t want my intentions (as created in my photographs) to be tampered with. Perhaps I should share them, and maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by what’s decoded, perhaps I won’t. Either way, I know my intentions and my meaning, and right now that’s all that matters.
I think the presentation turned out really well! We all worked together on the PowerPoint and brochure to get all the views and interviews incorporated that we could. I learned about just how rapidly the city’s population has grown in recent years, as well as some history around why the infrastructure is set up the way it is. I also learned just how important the willingness to promote change is to actual production of change, and that the lack of this willingness is what has really set the city back from creating a better, safer transportation system. Learning about this topic brought up further questions such as why haven’t people been more focused on alternative transportation options, what the cost is for some options like a trolley system or making a bus stop at The Hancock Center, and how could citizens make sure that our representatives listen to our ideas more in the future? I think that this Wicked Problem has a lot of depths to it that make it truly wicked, and that if people became more involved in the actions of the city council then perhaps there would be more change implementations or thought-provoking ideas discussed. As a student, it’s hard to say that I could be a part of this change, but if many other students like me felt similarly and we could all try to produce change, then perhaps something will actually come of it.
I interviewed Sandy Guzman, the Legislative Director for Senator Kirk Watson. She is in charge of transportation policy within Austin, and she has a lot of ideas to offer on how to better Austin’s limited transportation. One of the issues I find with public transportation is that there are very limited options for how to get around that take a lot longer than just driving a car. It takes me 4 hours to get from my house to my campus by bus. If I take the metro, it’s a lot less time than the bus, but the times I can ride the metro are very limited so it’s not very useful. I hoped that by interviewing her I could get a bit more knowledge about what inspires her work and how she’s able to create opportunity for improvements. It’s interesting to me that I can look up streets in Portland and San Diego and they are what she sees as her inspiration. It made me wonder if she’s ever spent time one the buses or driving around during all hours of the day in those places to see what makes them similar or different than Austin’s infrastructure. I also was truly impressed that Ms. Guzman was able to so freely answer the problems she sees with public transportation. It made me respect her more as a politician but it also showed me that our infrastructure has gotten so bad that even politicians are starting to believe that voting for a representative shouldn’t prevent funding for ideas that could potentially fix the city’s traffic problem.
I made a story about the steps involved in making a latte. The first photo is of the whole beans, then the ground beans in a portafilter, which is a device you insert into an espresso machine after you tamp the grounds. Then there’s a picture of a shot of espresso I pulled. It has a light crema, meaning that the pressure wasn’t very strong in the pull, but as you can tell from the roast of the beans (they’re really dark), the espresso will still be strong. The next picture is of the steamed milk. The large bubbles on top mean that the foam is dry and stiff, which generally means it’s over-steamed slightly, but you just have to swirl the milk some in order to get a more creamy consistency, if that’s what you desire. Many people actually prefer a stiffer foam. The last picture is the finished latte. There is a good balance between milk, foam, and espresso. This set of photos might seem rather useless, but it gives a good visual of the knowledge for espresso and how each component effects the others. There are a lot of factors to making a latte, and while it generally seems like a commodity, it’s actually rather amazing to see all the individual pieces separately and how much work goes into making one.
I took photos of things in nature generally associated with symmetry: faces, flowers, butterflies, and leaves. Then I made them truly symmetrical and placed them side by side to show how sometimes making images symmetrical can make them look better, and sometimes it makes them look worse. I think I did a pretty good job of editing the photos, but now that I’m critiquing them, I notice some are in the wrong order (this is killing me now, actually, but I don’t have time to fix it) and the lighting discrepancies/ backgrounds change the way the images could be viewed. Other than that, I think the photos of the butterfly and the flower are really pretty, because of the contrast and the clarity of the images. I would definitely allow myself more time to edit the photos if I were to do this again in the future, because I took too much time adjusting the colors and being a perfectionist.
One of the main points I think Dr. Kennedy was trying to make during his presentation was that images can be warped by a title. You can, with 100% certainty, claim that a photograph means something, but if you are given one clue, or a different perspective about the image, your whole view of that image could change in an instant. Considering photographs are so convincing, and are often used as evidence that certain topics are true or false, this is a huge wicked problem because your reality and beliefs/perceptions could be altered without a second thought.
Seeing the way he changes images to make ordinary things transform into art was really amazing. Knowing that something so average could trigger such a deep response just by warping the colors or changing how the object appears is something that always intrigues me, as a photographer. There are certain questions that I have, though, about Dr. Kennedy’s photography. In his class, we learned about the moral limitations of photographers, or at least the code of ethics journalistic photographers generally have to follow. I’m curious if Dr. Kennedy has any photos that he regrets taking, or photos that could have been taken that he chose not to take, and how those photos (or potential photos) affected his career or views on photography. As a photographer, I have a difficult time judging when and if I can take photos, and I regret taking some, and I regret not taking some, so I would like to see his photos that he feels similarly about, and how they’ve changed his views about photography.
This week, we explored the background of our problem in Austin. I created this visual representation to help make sense of the system we are exploring. I broke down transportation into two parts: the people involved and the parts or things in the system. In many ways, the two intertwine in the such as a driver (obviously a person) and a car (which would be part of the system, but when driven by a person and car interact). There are also representatives that make decisions as to how the infrastructure should be remodeled or how to solve the issues our infrastructure has. these people are a huge part of the transportation system because they make the choices our city is dependent upon. Without their support, the infrastructure would be in shambles and it would probably lead to anarchy. Despite being a generalization of the transportation system, the map appears very intertwined and messy, and that’s due to the fact that the system /is/ very complex and messy. There are many people trying to accomplish many goals, similar and different, which creates a web that indirectly affects everyone around them.