Assignment 4: Real or Fake?

For this fourth assignment in the Digital Photographic Practise course I am to look at image manipulation in more depth, culminating in an assignment based on Real or Fake. Using the premise of an imaginary or existing book I was charged with creating an alternative cover for an existing publication or to create from scratch a new idea and the subsequent covers for it. We are asked to consider the morally grounds of alternations and interpretation in photography and to consider our personal stance on the delicate nature of image manipulation.

Effectively image manipulation has been to some extent a constant element of photography since the William Fox-Talbot invented the negative-positive technique. It is my belief that image manipulation is an effective and brilliant option given to photographers, the ability to create evocative and emotive images that go further than there counterparts which are unedited. In photography there is a very broad spectrum of styles and focuses in which image manipulation is quite rightly so not used to the same degree as others, for example social history, medical and crime scene photography are each in there own right require a very truthful photographic representation that mustn’t be altered, compared to what we are all aware of with model images, advertising and landscape photography, which all can be used with image editing far more freely than the previous examples. I think this is an important aspect to consider with image manipulation, there is a right and wrong place and time for it, however it is completely down to the mind of the photographer based on what they are trying to create.

For this assignment I considered a number of options on which book or publication to base this assignment on. I had narrowed it down to either Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or my Grandfathers memoirs. After careful consideration on each individual book and what I could produce for each I found myself focusing more on my final option, my grandfathers memoirs. I felt this book gave me a blank canvas to work with in a very personal and interesting environment. I was able to take elements of his personality and recreate this in not only visual parts of the cover but in the overall feel it gives. 

This is the three images that I produced placed together like the book cover would be, from right to left is the back cover, spine and front cover. Starting with the front cover I wanted to create a clean image that worked well against a solid background, I found when researching book covers, for me it made it stand out more, similar in parts the Stephen Fry’s Autobiography, whereby the subject against a white background stood out further than others. With this book being a very personal endeavour it will be mainly only available to family and friends, I therefore wanted to use a play on the title coupled with my grandfathers lack of height. “A Long Life in Hampshire” with the word Long being his surname is counter to that of his height. I therefore felt an interesting and fun idea that would effectively catch the eye and interest would be to make him longer in the image. I felt a good way to do this was to use photoshop and layering techniques that alter the perspective of the viewer, in this case I have used four separate images, with two, the main and one smaller image to add a connection between the two versions of height while the other figures add further context and emphasise the effect.  I have also considered the use of type face on the cover of the book, I want to aim to produce something in keeping with the importance and seriousness that memoirs have because I feel the cover images themselves purvey enough suitable and effective humour that an over childlike or flamboyant type face would lack credibility. I have therefore chosen the rather basic Times New Roman, although commonly used its official feel is coupled with a good bold ability that would effectively catch the further attention of the viewer. I have differentiated between typeface for title and author because I feel the contrast will subconsciously invite the viewer to read the authors name.

In the spine image I have simply taken an element of an image on the back cover and placing it at the bottom of the spine, coupled with the title to continue the style and theme throughout the overall book cover.

The back cover is by far the most comprehensively edited and manipulated. My basis of thought for this image was to compliment the memoir style of the book which closely shows the personal styles, emotions and feelings of a single person throughout a considerable period of time. I therefore had the idea to show what I later termed “the many faces of” I wanted to show a fair number of different facial expressions, poses and interactions within the image, creating a complex group of images that show depth, catch the eye and perhaps after reading the book give the viewer an added insight to the subject that compliments the literature. This technical and layout reminded me of a photograph I had seen scrutinised of Kim Jong II of North Korea where he was inserted into an image among a group of guards and it was the inaccuracies in positioning and perspective that I am trying to achieve that found out the forgery. Consisting of 27 different individual images and layers the difficulty in this was firstly to create each individual image, consistently editing them to give the same lighting and colour saturation throughout which I achieved using the copy and paste tool in Lightroom to use the same editing on each image which I achieved by using the copy and paste tool for settings and only minor further local adjustments.  I then slowly and methodically considered each placement of the individual elements of the final image to maintain a sense of depth, consistency and interest throughout, I started with the axe, headless, head and sat down images as I found these to me my main focal point, working with the idea of row upon row I reduced the height of the image as I went further back, filling in the gaps to build up the image, this has resulted in a tight selection of individual images that work well together in depth and relationship together while still each image being unique it really pulls the interest in.

TestIve shown this image as a way of explaining the process of adding each image, this shows half way through, I began with the axe wielding, headless and sat down images, filling in the gaps at the sides then moving further back into the image starting to build on the depth.

Above shows two of the far trickier elements of the back cover, initially I had simply taken the head off the body without much further thought to the realism or lack of this showed, as seen in the image above these two. I then set about isolating these layers and copying them into a separate file to work on, first looking at the head and its placement. I envisioned having something running out of the neck so started creating the ligaments that would run along while also adding further length on the neck so I could then re-edit that with a more blood and flesh effect that would improve realism. I did this by building up a palette of colours that would give me the correct tones while also using a couple of reference images found online. It was this same technique I used for the body image where I again created a more realistic and gruesome neck.

Below shows the contact sheets of each individual element captured and edited for the final piece, as you can see it is a variety of clothing, stances, poses and styles similar to how you see character development in animation and video games.

Overall I feel I have shown an interesting and effective use of image manipulation to an extreme extent, I have looked comprehensively at ensuring the structure and basis of my idea fits well with the book itself and the both work in a marketing and advertising sense but also in being true to the book. Both front and back covers have seen alterations that would be impossible to do in camera, using Lightroom and Photoshop I was able to use a large number of layers and manipulation tools to create original and interesting concepts which have been executed well, I feel the back cover is let down by the two dimensional feel on the headless image, I feel this is although the focal point and interesting part of the image this lack of detail on the neck area spoils it slightly for myself.

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