Saturday, September 24, 2011


I haven't written anything much lately, and I have nothing much in mind to write, so I'm just going to post this visual thing instead:
I would say it's the most complicated, advanced, and ambitious staged photograph I've taken. I had to arrange all the instruments, all the clothing, and all the props - tripods, amp, guitar case, etc....

My idea stemmed from the assignment I had this week of taking a photo of something from a new perspective. It's a challenge I give myself when I'm taking a photo of something that is photographed very often. So I decided to focus on my backyard - which has been photographed by me for six years now.

I also liked the idea of photographing a line up of tripods and calling it 'March of the Swivelheads' (a b-side by the English Beat). This idea collided with the assignment focus, and then it changed.

It went from a line up of tripods to a line up of tripods including a line up of Justins. Then it turned into a mixed up photo of tripods and myself, multiplied in different poses around them. Finally, I came up with the idea of an entire band of Justins performing...and then the idea of such a band actually performing to film a music video.
Then the bit where the lead singer and director are arguing hit me. And there you have it.

I have six tripods. I could arrange them around the band and include them in the shot to showcase the film setup of the camera crew filming the musicians.

I lugged my entire drum set upstairs from the basement, as well as my bass guitar and amp, and keyboard. I used two stools to support it. I used the garden chair and table as the director's chair. My camera was the first thing I set up, then I positioned the tripods. The last thing I set up was the other camcorders atop the three tripods. I didn't really keep track of time, but I am sure it took almost forty-five minutes to set things up.

I arranged multiple articles of clothing for each character to wear. The first shot I took of myself was of me standing against the fence in the background, wearing the clothes I originally wore, which is the base image every other character is super-imposed on (as it's the most sunny and has the least clouds). I'd remove myself from the image later and edit it so that only the upper half of me appeared over the fence; that version of me is watching the chaos from next door.

Wearing different clothes for each character, I individually photographed myself on drums, keyboards, bass, guitar, recorder (I don't have a saxophone) and lead singer, arguing.

I tried to dress according to what character would most likely wear. I made the lead singer the most casual-leisurely, the recorder-er the most classy with the dress shirt, and the director the most slouchy in a wrinkled 'University of Arizona' shirt. The drummer and director are wearing the same shorts since you can't really see much of the drummer. The crew is wearing the most casual, comfortable clothing on the job. The young assistant who is checking the time and handling the director's drink I emphasized his youth and freshness by putting on my grade nine day shirt and wearing light summer shorts.

Unfortunately some props I used are hidden. There's a third tripod and camera behind the lead singer, and there's a script book lying on the table that is hidden by the director (I used my photo portfolio for that). I didn't position myself as the recorder player very well because I hide most of the drum set - it's not that small but both of me are making it seem almost non-existent or redundant.

The 'script' the director is holding is the original papers that contain my diagnosis for Asperger's Syndrome from eight years ago.

I'm playing a D major chord on the piano.

There's a running gag in which every one of me is bare-foot. The fact is that I didn't have that many different pairs of shoes (there are ten of me) so it was just simpler to go bare-foot - and it's a peculiarity of the image that's interesting or makes it different.

All in all I'm very impressed and happy with my efforts. I've never multiplied myself ten times before, or assumed so many different characters. I was willing to make it even more complicated if I had more equipment (like camera/sound equipment for the crew in the photo) but it's perfectly fine as it is now. The best thing about it is that it easily tells a story, realistically and naturally. All the band members are appropriately looking towards the lead singer who is adamantly standing his ground against the director. The idea is that the singer wants to improvise while the director wants to stick rigidly to the script. Some of the characters look embarrassed or disinterested in the dispute, or impatient. The young assistant is checking his watch. I originally intended the director to be the only one who wore a watch, but I forgot until I was photographing the assistant, so I worked the watch into that character. I also originally had the idea of a crew member yawning as he stands in idle, though that didn't get realized.

It's a great image that's very well executed. The only problems that annoy me is the fact I wanted a clear blue sky (no clouds) to saturate heavily, and I forgot to erase the color differences in the grass around the cameraman at the right edge of the photo. And the drummer could be seen better (you barely see his face, hands and one leg).

It's my most ambitious, complicated, and advanced staged photo. Unfortunately, though, it's not necessarily a new perspective on my backyard as it is just my backyard populated by instruments, props, and multiplied Justins dressed differently. Some wearing glasses and some not. I ended up taking different images for that assignment.

But it's still pretty cool and fun to look at.

Justin C.

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