Photo Essay

“Welcome” Extreme close-up, low exposure
“Looking Back” Mid-range, used editing to enhance blue tone and reduce noise
“Concerned Patriarch” Worm’s eye in mid level lighting with low iso and mid range aperture
“Cornered” Slight downwards perspective, rule of thirds
“New Life” Mid to low overall exposure, used editing feature to reduce blur
“Fear of Death” Flash, mid range action shot, adjusted for photo angle with tilt edit
“Reminded” enhanced cooler hues that were already present
“Father and Son” eye level, angled shot using fast shutter speeds and flash
“Reliving Life” Mid to distant shot, no flash, medium shutter speed
“Joy or Devastation” Distant shot with zoom and tripod
“Chin up, Kid” about f/2.8, no flash, mid-worms eye
“Bleary-Eyed Blurry” Softened photo and motion through slower shutter speed to show warmth
“The Beauty of it all” Fast shutter speed, f/5.6
“Longing” Took in same conditions as first photo

This photo essay was entirely inspired by the strange, terrifying and beautiful dynamic of my father’s extended family. The photo progression, as well as lighting and my focus on pure human expression, develop the story of familial love and confusion, a group of people of various relation struggling and living with the imminent death of their kin. In my series, this saga took place during the last certain gathering of the full Gollin family clan, as a result of my father’s final stages of a long and difficult battle with a terminal illness.

This series aimed to create well composed yet deeply personal depictions of emotion and interconnectivity found among a far-flung but deeply invested network of family and friends. I took a variety of portraits, close-ups, and mid-range shots that were mostly candid, in that everyone was aware I was in the room and taking photos, but were not posed or pressured to compose themselves. Despite the underlying yet looming tone of the series, I also aimed to show genuine images of joy and love, as is inevitably part of life. My father is intentionally featured prominently in the series not purely due to my personal connection with him, but also as a means of visual symbolism for the way he is so centric to the other subjects’ lives during this critical period.

On a visual level, I chose a variety of angles, lighting, and hue, as well as what I later discovered to be a symbolically directional theme. This theme is found when noting that nearly everyone, despite different moods and times, faced left. Coincidentally, they are all incredibly liberal and were concurrently dealing with the recent election’s devastation.

The cool hue that dominates much of the series was created through a medium-low f-stop and the background illumination of a TV screen playing old Super 8 films. This visual feature contributes to the metaphorical depth of the series by enhancing certain shadows and illuminating intimately real expressions on the subjects of the series.


Visual Review 10: Among the Sierra Nevada, California

Among the Sierra Nevada, California by Albert Bierstadt

Among the Sierra Nevada, California has been my favorite piece of art in the Smithsonian American Art Museum for as long as I can remember. Since I am from a part of Maryland that borders DC, I have been to nearly every art museum in the area a countless number of times. This painting has, for a very long time, stuck out far beyond other exhibits to me.

The initial trait of the painting that draws viewers to it, and makes it so spectacular, is the manner in which it is displayed in the museum. The painting, which can be found on the east side of the second floor, is absolutely massive.


Photo Credits: flickr user andertho

In addition to its sheer size, the painting is displayed alone in its own nook of the gallery, and is surrounded by giant red velvet curtains. There is one seat in front of it, which is different than in the above photo, currently a large round velvet cushion, which adds to the extravagant display.


The display is reminiscent of how the artist used to display his works. Prior to motion pictures, Albert Bierstadt and many other artists would display their creations to crowds of people behind large curtains, and open them as a reveal. This display truly brings out the vast beauty of the actual painting.

The painting itself is so visually enticing to me due to many artistic choices the painter made. The scene is based off of Bierstadt’s image of the American wilderness in the 1860s. However, Bierstadt painted the work in Rome, so he was creating the scenery purely based off of artistic imagination.

The image projects an ethereal, almost heavenly tone through lighting, hue, texture and saturation choices . In the top center of the painting, the clouds are painted in a manner that is so light and airy that it feels like there could be a real sun peeking behind them. Additionally, the darker hues from the mountains surrounding the clouds creates a dynamic contrast between the two that serves to further accentuate the lightness of the clouds. The shading gets progressively darker going to left of the clouds, enhancing the dominatingly massive cliffside and balances out even the lightest portions of the painting.

The textures of nature in this painting are incredibly intricate, making the image feel like it was created with intense precision and detail, while also giving viewers a vast, nearly surreal landsacpe that they can become visually lost in. For example, the lake’s reflection of the mountain is so clear and smooth, while towards the shore, viewers can clearly see small, real-to-life ripples from the contact with land, giving the painting a dynamic sense of life. Viewers can also see the jagged edges of a log painted to look worn down, contrasted with carefully textured green moss growth,

This painting is so massive that it cannot help but be noticed by everyone who passes by, but to truly appreciate its grandeur,you must get up close and observe all that it has to offer. I have personally spent nearly a full half hour just trying to take in all of the detail and beauty.

Visual Review 9: Music Video

MGMT- Kids

“Kids” by MGMT was one of the first music videos to come into mind when seeing this assignment. It is a piece of visual art that simultaneously engages, enrages, and entertains viewers through unique visual techniques.

The video begins with a near-sepia colored colossal flame billowing in the background, and neon transparent font to indicate the artists and song name. This credit-like sequence is followed by a Mark Twain quote in the same alien-like font. The sequence ends and transitions into the video through the sepia flames creating intense texture and then a fade transition into the music.

The actual music portion begins in complete rhythm with sharp cuts between images and bright moving colors with wide varieties of hues, in stark contrast to the flowing movement and low color variation in the introduction. This sequence has a slow fade into a child in a crib in a very low-lighting environment with lighting coming onto the child from an angle above him. Creatures are behind the child in the lower third, and then the perspective shifts from birds eye to worms eye, as the viewers take on the child’s perspective. The camera does quick, unpredictable panning as the creatures grab at the child, and then pan slowly up and to the side in order to follow the creature’s movement.

Suddenly, normally lit hands come from the top left, pulling the child, with the camera panning at an angle to follow him, out of the screen.

Last image before cut
Following Scene

The director makes an interesting decision with every inch of this transition. The choice to use an almost-shocking quick cut as opposed to fading out, combines with the sudden color, subject and lighting shift to show the change in an off beat way. These two choices to make a significant visual jump are complimented nicely by the manner in which the subjects leave the previous scene out of the left side at an upwards angle, and seem to appear right in the equivalent location in the next scene, which develops fluidly into a tracking dolly shot, following a displeased looking, well-dressed mother and her child from the front, at eye level. This allows viewers to stare at the subjects in a manner that feels nearly face-to-face, except the woman does not look anywhere near the camera, and barely even glances at her child.

The creatively planned location, angle, and timing of when subjects exit and enter the frame is an ongoing visual theme throughout the video. It is implemented really creatively, and timed just right, so that when the camera tracks the subject off the frame, viewers begin to expect a scene change or turning of a corner. However, the style is even more creative due to how they vary the arrival and exit of different subjects. The style creates a fun surprise with how viewers can feel like they are just following someone into the next frame, but entirely different subjects also appear right at the angle where the other subject would be walking. This is a sort of high-end artistic homage to children’s cartoon characters, like Scooby-Doo, running in and out of various doors with different people and monsters coming out.

The music is well-flattered by this  delicate balance of grotesque and refined themes and visuals, because it is an incredibly free-form representation of an already quirky song, by an incredibly eccentric group.

Self-Portrait Assignment

I chose to use photos of my tattoos to represent myself in the form of three images. I used the cooling filter, color balance, and liquify on the first image. On the second image I raised both the brightness and contrast settings. On the third I used distort, vibrance/saturation, liquify, and curve adjustments.