Cecil Beaton: Theatre of War

Having in mind the brief, the second exhibition I went to was Cecil Beaton’s Theatre of War in the Imperial War Museum of London. First time I heard about Cecil Beaton was in the beginning of the course, but I never looked more into his photographs. This was a chance for me to get to know his work and identify why is he so important.

Theatre of War was more of a retrospective than a particular body of work. The exhibition started with Beaton’s early work, documenting his family posing for him in a theatrical manner. Cecil always had a passion about theatre and was a great influence to him as a photographer.

Cecil started working in magazines as a staff photographer, while he setup his own studio and doing mostly fashion photography. In the late 30’s some of his opinions didn’t have a good impact on the public and he lost his job as a staff photographer.

During the Second World War he was employed by the Ministry of Information to record the images from the home front. During the Blitz Beaton recorded many images and report back to ministry where they fed them to the press. One particular image made people forget about his anti-Semitic views and rebuild his reputation.

From this moment Beaton was photographing for the Ministry of Information and dedicated his career in to them. His style was quite different from other war photographers and this is credited mostly to his passion with theatre.

Although I got familiar with his work I didn’t like the idea of putting together almost 250 photographs in one exhibition. There was too much information for me. I felt that the exhibition was more like propaganda, reflecting on Beaton’s and MoI ways of working. It is known that he didn’t take photographs of any person, but just the beautiful ones.

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Final Task – Crime Scene

The three tasks so far have focussed on technical skills and application thereof. We have focussed this week on storytelling through bodies of work (the books and the movie) through technical application (the lighting workshops that turned into scene setting with actors and scripts) and by discussing “Why?” in tutorial.

 
Your final task is to build on this and make it your own. You will re-visit the “Human Presence” theme using all of the skills and techniques discussed and explored. You will previsualise your images and tell a story, that narrative will include an environment both populated and empty, detail studies and images of people, it will have a beginning a middle and an end, you will consider pace and flow, tension and resolution. 
 
The amount and nature of the piece will reflect one month’s work (a significant chunk of time we expect a significant piece of work).

For the final task I decided to build up on what I did on Task 2 and 3. I started building more complex stories on the person who lives in that storage room. Finally I decided to recreate a crime scene. What came out this story is as I was thinking initially, but I am more than happy with the outcome.

The story builds up without much information intentionally in order to let your imagination take part in my story. It is open to interpretation. I am portraying a story around a space instead of a character and that is why I am telling it from two different points of views. The first one being our point of view, introducing tragic irony, while the second one being the characters point of view. You are aware what is probably going on. But for him, the character it’s a surprise. The character is probably an investigator or a police officer and that is why some pictures look more like taken by the forensics team. I shot most of it with low key lighting and low angled shots to give a more dark and sinister feeling to the story.

For this shooting I used:

  • 2x Bowens Esprit 500 watts
  • a snoot with a honeycomb
  • a wafer strip light box
  • 2x Pulsar radio triggers
  • a Canon 5D Mark II (24-105mm, 50mm lens)
  • a tripod and a low backlite stand, extension pole
  • a light meter
  • a laptop tethered to the camera

Enjoy!
(click on the first one to start the gallery show)

I will also like to thank Hollie Woodward and Siobhian Palmer for their ideas!

Task 3 – Human Presence Portrait

For the third task build around the theme of Human Presence I had to make portraits of the people that populate my chosen location.

Your focus of photographic interest in task three is to make images of the people that populate your chosen location. Your approach may be that of a documentary practitioner or you may choose to develop your practical approach to portraiture. Whichever; your decisions, experiments and practical research should be detailed in throughout and supported by your sketchbook/diary/blog. 

Your images can be made in situ or away from the site (whichever you prefer), naturally/ artificially lit or a combination thereof. 

You should again apply the knowledge garnered throughout Level One, drawing on inspiration from the range of artists and practitioners so far covered as well as your own research and investigations. You should continue to develop your own practice within the module and communicate your unique vision of the world.

I got attracted by a particular space in the house I live in. The garage; which is our landlord’s storage room is filled with old furniture and tools. I thought of this place and start imagining stories I could around it. I imagined that it could be a cabin in the woods and the person who occupies it. Then I thought of murder stories and crime. I decided then to start applying my imagination into this space.

With great help and inspiration from fellow photographer Ioana Bultoc we started the project. It’s really great working with other creative people because you can share your vision or help them out in theirs. Ioana helped a lot giving ideas and of course taking the photographs. I mostly operated the light meter and the lights, as well as act. My imaginations were built around a male personality, which would either leave isolated in the woods or capable to murder someone. Because my planning wasn’t thorough and I didn’t have a story board my ideas were spread everywhere in the room, without any actual goal. So we ended up having a hybrid of those two ideas.
 
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