Monday, 27 November 2017

Shadows and Light

My first "change of lighting" experiment will use a photograph that I have taken. Some time ago I bought a decent digital camera, and I have been taking photos as a way to expand my creative output and stretch those creative muscles.

I selected a bright photograph and changed its lighting digitally to create a comedy/tragedy pairing from the same image. The experiment will involve me making a formal change and see what "content" changes result.

Before I select a technique, I must decide what I mean by comedy and tragedy. I look at these words in terms of drama, particularly Greek drama and its re-uptake in Renaissance drama. 

Comedies begin with disorder and end with harmony. In comedic drama, the initial disorder derives from scenarios such as mistaken identity, ambitious goals that are poorly planned or that fall victim to the unpredictability of human will, or protagonists trying to mitigate their powerlessness against antagonists and making mistakes as a result. Eventually, the problem is solved and the disorder is halted.People reveal their true identities, goals are achieved, and the powerless gain power over the antagonists: they convince antagonists to release their hold or they usurp the antagonists and take their power away.  Marriage is the traditional outcome of comedy. In Shakespeare's comedies, three or even four couples will become engaged. Dancing and music signals the good social relations that arise when people learn to get along and be fair and honest with each other.

Tragedy is the reverse of comedy in some ways. In tragedy, protagonists pit their will against the world. The desire to achieve goals creates disorder, at first only in the community, but later in the protagonists themselves. The protagonist's goals are destructive and selfish even if the goals didn't start out that way. A good person may get bad advice from a bad person (think of Othello and Iago), or a  good person may be put in a bad situation that the good person cannot full rise to the occasion to combat (think of Hamlet), or the community as a whole is to blame for harming good people (as in Romeo and Juliet). Death and disintegration signal a tragedy, but not all death is tragic. Death in tragedy is unnecessary and wasteful rather than natural. Even if the community rights itself after the death, the sense is that the deaths were unnecessary. 

My pairing will attempt to show this contrast between comedy and tragedy through lighting. In the term "lighting" I include colour, since colour is an aspect of lighting.

What does light change do in a photograph?  I looked at a book on photography called Stoppees' Guide to Photography and Light to see what I could do. I learned that in photography, light can emphasize some details over others, whether positively (increased light on an area) or negatively (decreased light on an area). Some lighting seems more familiar and thus natural or normal. Darkness created by shadows and dark backgrounds obscure details and create a sense of depth (complexity) or danger (lack of knowledge about the subject). 

Colours also play a role in what a photography can seem to mean. Bright colours  tend to be seen positively, but colours that are too bright for the subject at hand or are an unusual shade or tint create unease. 

My goal, then is to create a sense of unease by using colours that are unnaturally bright or tinted an unnatural colour but that are accompanied by heavy shadow. I also want to emphasize unusual details that seem off-putting or somehow "incorrect."

I chose a bright photo of a bridge in my city that crosses the North Saskatchewan River. Using photoeditng software that came with my camera, I changed the photo to emphasize the posts of the bridge rather than the span. I decided to keep the colour in the tragedy photo instead of using heavily shadowed black and white, an obvious choice for tragedy.  I chose filters that minimized contrasts and maximized shadows. The image is tinted an unnatural blue-green, the river is too bright a blue, and the sky is nearly white, as though something bright has just exploded in the sky. I wanted the shadow under the bridge to seem darker.

The result may not seem obviously "sad" but I didn't want to go with simply sad. I wanted some eeriness as well.

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