3.1 Understanding viewpoints

The purpose of the exercise was to use a camera/screen based content as part of the sketchbook process.

Key words from the brief:

  • Make the same route as you did previously but this time using your camera
  • Your focus will be on a selection of landmarks or features from your route that you feel a particular interest in
  • “See” them afresh, deliberately zooming in and out, moving from the macro to the micro, noticing textures, details and colours, as well as larger shapes and forms
  • Select some images of your photographic journey to include in your sketchbook

This exercise follows on and is an extension to 3.0 Observation.

What I did

I combined my final sketching session with taking reference photographs. I started at the far end of my route in Chiswell Street and took photographs whilst walking back towards Bank Tube Station.

It was a Saturday morning so fewer people around that on a week day, and the weather was overcast and grey.

map of route
Map of the route from google.com

My focus was on four things:

  1. Capturing detail such as textures that I didn’t adequately capture in my drawings
  2. Taking pictures of subjects drawn in the previous exercise to provide additional reference should I want to develop the images further
  3. Looking for differing viewpoints that might enhance or add new dimensions to the drawings such as providing more accurate colour reference
  4. Photograph any new subjects or anything else of interest

All the photographs were taken with a Canon E05 with a zoom lens.

Contact sheets

I tooks an initial set of 60 photographs.

Questions from the brief:

What is the relationship between the photos and the drawings you made in your sketchbook?

Let us examine this with an example.

Both images are of the same subject although the framing is slightly different on each; the drawing was made with a view point at head height, whist the photograph was taken at hip height.

It took me two early morning sessions to complete the sketch. The drawing was made across two pages of an A5 landscape formatted sketchbook and the work took between 30 and 40 minutes to complete and was made using and ink pen, Sharpie and watercolour brush pens.

The photograph was taken three days later. Once I’d framed the picture in the viewfinder the photograph was captured almost instantly and saved onto a memory card as a JPEG.

The relationship between the two pictures is that they are both interpretations made by me of the same subject. The drawing is a far more subjective view; the focus of the drawing is on the winding path with very little detail or colour added to the buildings on the left or right hand sides of the image. The time taken to produce the picture meant that I had to take account of the slight changes in condition. For example the drawing was made just after sunrise when the whole scene was gradually getting lighter.

On the other hand, in using a camera I was being less selective, and once an image was in the viewfinder it was more or less ‘what you see is what you get’. This makes it a good way to capture a more complete set of information for use as reference alongside the drawing.

Do you see the photographs as a form of reference to possibly help you inform your earlier sketches or do you consider them to be an alternative and separate form of visual language?

Photographs can be both a form of reference and/or an alternative form of visual language; photographers are trained to create images that express a distinct tone of voice and communicate specific visual messages and ideas. Perhaps the degree to which a photograph can be thought of as reference or as artwork in it’s own right depends on the level of intervention and interpretation of the photographer.

My intention when taking the photographs for this exercise was purely as reference. Photographs are very good at recording what the lens is pointed at. Using a zoom (which I did), means that detail not accessible to the naked eye suddenly comes within reach.

So for me not only does a camera provide a good tool for capturing a record of a subject or event, digital photography is quick, easy, accessible and very very cheap. The attitude of the photographer is to snap away, take too many pictures an edit back later. I know that if I need to get more reference later I can just go back to same location with my iPhone and get it.

Do they provide visual reference?

A further example will illustrate the answer to this question:

The spatial relationships between columns and ceiling of this subject is fairly complex and the colour is a subtle set of greys. There is also a lot of texture in the different building materials.

My drawing focuses on the general composition and form of the image and because of the extremely wide aspect ratio of the letterbox format, includes both an interior view that is also covered by the photograph, and the external background view through the columns to the buildings beyond. This is not captured in the photograph.

Conversely, the photograph contains a lot of detail that I either couldn’t or didn’t capture in the drawing. In the drawing I was limited by the colour of the brush pens I had to hand and my skill to mix them. Many of the subtleties in the greys that are in the photograph are missing in the drawing.

Although I attempted to make marks in the drawing suggesting the rough hewn concrete on the columns, this is not very successful, so the same texture captured more faithfully in the photograph will give me the opportunity to explore this later in the studio.

The drawing exaggerates and distorts the architecture whilst the photograph provides me with the evidence of what the actual building looks like.

So the answer to the question is yes, the photographs do provide visual reference.

Did the process of taking the photos make you want to return to any of your sketches and develop them in some way?

The process of taking the photos involved revisiting and relooking at the subjects I’d drawn over the previous week.

Coupled with this re-looking, I’d read forward through the course materials and began thinking about how I might develop and interpret the subjects in the drawings and photographs using descriptive words or phrases as triggers.

For example, the drawing of the back corner of the Bank of England with it’s Greek or Roman columns, domes and statues struck me as very pretentious against the backdrop of steel and glass skyscrapers. I started to think about how I might develop a picture to illustrate this.

I wondered how using the adjective brutal to describe the Barbican Centre might change how I represent the building. The concrete textures captured in the reference photographs would surely play a part.

These thoughts caused me to use the photographic process, particularly the use of a zoom lens, to see the architectural features more clearly and in a new light.

I’m already exploring how to use etching techniques to recreate the Brutalist concrete textures using  different aquatint techniques.


What went well

  • I was able to capture good reference materials that will inform further image development


On Photography, Susan Sontag

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