Bath Time

by alexmasonphotography

For my final set of photographs have chosen to invade a private moment by taking photos of people in the bath. I wanted to challenge myself and take myself out of my comfort zone, by asking people who I am either acquaintances with or people I know slightly more, to get into the bath in my flat. I found that more than half of the people thought I was mad and out of the thirty odd people I asked, I only got 11 people to go ahead with it. I wanted to emphasize my open mind when it comes to photography and my social environment. I am aware of the culture I have been bought up in. I am aware of different races, different sexualities, drugs, drink, abuse and simply having fun. I chose to photograph some people with objects and some people without depending on whether I thought it to be necessary. I asked some people to bring an object with them. One of the models simply bought a hat along, another bought some headphones, another bought a sex toy and another bought a bong. I supplied people with an object if I felt it necessary.

One of the models is a friend of a friend and when it came to her taking her clothes off for the photo I noticed she had a big cut on her back and a bruised arm. I didn’t know what to say but I couldn’t avoid it and thought that she wouldn’t really get undressed in front of me if she didn’t expect me to look at the marks on her body so I thought maybe I should just say something. Maybe she wanted me to say something. I asked her what happened and she just told me that she got beaten up. I thought I would leave it at that. I wanted to portray a feeling of sadness, shock and a feeling of being vulnerable in the two photos I took of her by the use of body language, so head tilting down for example.

I chose to photograph two black guys in a bath together because I was interested to see what people thought of it in terms of their assumptions and views. People might assume that they are a gay couple, which in this day and age isn’t unheard of. I think if I showed it to my grandparents they would have a very different view to people my age in terms of homosexuality and what was acceptable in their day and what is acceptable now. I am quite often shocked at how old people talk about coloured people. I’ve heard peoples grandads referring to them as ‘wogs, niggers and coons’ which is the sort of language that would be frowned upon in this days society.

One of the reasons I thought it would be interesting to photograph people with little if not no clothes on was because I find that we live in such a judgmental world in which you can build up an assumption of who somebody is and what somebody is like just be what they are wearing. Somebody wearing a Ralph Lauren polo shirt and chinos you might assume is posh and wants to look flashy and somebody wearing a hood on their jumper and tracksuit bottoms isn’t posh and that you are going to get mugged. Removing peoples clothes strips them of their identity, in a way and in some of my prints I decided to use objects that would distract the viewer from what the person is actually like. Some of the models didn’t need to me prompted into a pose or anything which is what I wanted because I wanted the shots that I hadn’t posed to be as natural as possible. I also only used one light source which was the natural lighting of the room. I dim light in the center of the room. I shot 1/30th of a second on f5.4 on ISO 400 film. I used a shutter release cable to avoid getting too much movement and blur in my images. However I was aware that my images were not going to come out pin sharp because of the low light and the speed of my film. I looked at a couple of photographers, in particular a photographer called Steve Pyke. He deliberately shoots with slow shutter speeds because he likes the look that he gets with it which is where I came to the conclusion that it was okay for my work to be shot at the speed I wanted in order to create some well exposed pieces.

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As you can see in these photos taken by Steve Pyke he is not focusing on getting the eyes pin sharp it is more about the face. I seem to get the feeling he is fascinated with the face. He takes his photos whilst having conversations with the subjects so that he deliberately gets a small amount of movement. He gets up close and personal with his subject.

In my set of photos, the person in the bath with the bong has been clean from cannabis for 2 weeks and I asked him if he could bring along an object and that is what he came up with. Having come from a family full of various addictions I found this to be a brave move to be bringing something that could so strongly remind you of something. There were even bits of old burnt out weed in the pipe. I like the idea of having something that looks out of context within a photo.

All of the models I have used are ‘normal’ people. However I can understand how people who haven’t experienced and been exposed to drugs and nudity would react completely differently to somebody who is more familiar with this kind of thing. A photographer called Robert Capa once said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” In saying this, he didn’t mean to buy a load of longer lenses but to simply get closer and more intimate. I found that the intimacy in my work came from the sheer fact that I was in the same room as people as they were having baths ad taking pictures of them. I think people felt slightly unsettled when I locked the door with myself and them, in the same room. They were already in a vulnerable enough position as it was and then I had to lock the door to make sure that nobody walked in as I took one of the few shots I had on the film.

Because of the low light and slow shutter speed. I had to ask my models to relax or hold a pose and keep as still as possible. Like I said earlier, some people didn’t need prompting for the still pose for the photo. The photo of the person wearing the hat with his hands on his face, was however a natural thing that he did when he was in the bath, I just asked him to leave his hands there.

Another photographer I looked at was Richard Avedon. He has been referred to in several seminars and I liked how he used a white backdrop to these photos to take the subjects out of context from their lives. It makes you focus more on the body language, facial expressions and tones of the prints.

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I used this work to inspire my own work in the sense that I wanted to take my subjects out of context from their environment. I wondered how I could do this differently which is where I got the idea of photographing people in the bath. Stripping people of their identity and taking them out of context with the world.