Use of Photography in Graphic Design

The word photography translates to ‘drawings made with light’. Graphic Design is known to be the combination between pictures and text in an advertisement. However, before photographs were created, graphic design had already existed. Behind any success story is a journey, and the journey of how photography and graphic design unified is just as important. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), on March 4th 1880, history was created when the first printed photograph with full tones was published in the New York Daily Graphic, to begin a never-ending bond between the two. The following post will show how history has made the two almost inseparable.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 8.01.18 PM

When it comes to describing what photography really is, Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe it is about making pictures by a photochemical process, where chemicals help produce the image. A dark box, called a camera, is used with a slight opening, to allow light to flow through. This allows an image of the outside object to be reflected even brighter. During the 18th and 19th centuries, people were constantly looking for ways to create images without having to draw, however, these dark box images were just projections that could not be printed. Later a light sensitive material capable of capturing this light was added to permanently fix these projections into photographs. Even up to 10 years after the invention, photographers would still give illustrators the visual evidence needed to document an event. These illustrations were later added with text for printed publications. (Meggs & Purvis, 2012).

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 8.01.27 PM

Until 1840, focus was still on illustrations, as photography was not yet detailed enough for publications. For that reason other curious inventors such as William Henry Fox Talbot continued to experiment with materials and their reactions to light. Talbot later invented photosensitive paper that allowed for negative images that created the bright parts of the subject as dark and the dark parts as light. It was in June of that year when Talbot was successful. His sensitive paper was exposed long enough to create an image, which was then developed using chemicals. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008) Many believe, “Talbot’s invention radically altered the course of both photography and, later, graphic design.” (Meggs & Purvis, 2012, p. 155) For that reason by the 20th century focus was on merging photographs and text together.

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 6.33.40 PM

London, Upton and Stone (2010), believe that due to the many tones of gray in a photograph, type and image could not yet be printed together. So how were they printed to give such clean versions of what was known then as graphic design? According to London, Upton and Stone (2010) photographs were first made into drawings to be transferred onto woodcuts in order to be printed in newspapers. This was quite a lengthy process as well as uneconomical. By 1880, the process of printing the grey halftones was improved as type and photographs could now be printed together. Photographs became an essential part of newspapers, and were said to be real life moments only reproduced on paper, rather than fancy illustrations. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008) Until the mid 19th century, documenting scenes from war zones was uncommon. As London, Upton and Stone (2010) believe, wars were learned about from soldiers upon their return, or even late news reports. In 1850, Roger Fenton was the first to photograph the Crimean war in detail along with Mathew B Brady who had also captured the American Civil War. However, Brady had only managed to capture the aftermath of war, as photographing during battle was far too dangerous. It was Brady’s courage that lead to irreplaceable documents of American history. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008). These pictures are being used until today and are the base of what is known as photojournalism, the use of images to tell news stories along with text. We later begin to use the same definition for what we now know as graphic design. Despite the fact that the art movement known as naturalism, also known as artistic photography, had begun in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that text and image, together were officially known as art and graphic design. (London, Upton & Stone, 2008). Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe the use of photography in graphic design mainly began at the German Bauhaus school, a place where concepts of all design and art movements were looked into. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), one of Bauhaus’s instructors, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was known to be an experimenter. He enjoyed playing with the size, angle and distortion of an image, as he believed photography had the ability to greatly influence poster design. In 1926, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was equally intrigued by typography, he saw it as a vital tool of communication with the importance of legibility. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). It was Moholy-Nagy’s curiosity that later started a new interest in joining these two art forms together at their institute which was later known as typo-photos.

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 6.35.02 PM

Another artist with similar techniques as those of Moholy-Nagy was Alexey Brodovitch. He was the art director at the well-known magazine, Harper’s Bazaar where he experimented with image size and positions. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). For one of their issues, Brodovitch and an American artist, Man Ray collaborated together. Man Ray had been playing with photographs since the 1920s by reversing and manipulating images he created what is known as photo-plastics, which helped bring out his unconscious thoughts. (Meggs and Purvis, 2012). On their project together, for Harper’s 1935 issue, they used contrast in the height of letters to highlight the height of the woman on the opposite page. Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe it was Brodovich who taught many designers to experiment with photography, with the many collaborations he did for Harper’s Bazaar. In the late 1950s another young art director known as George Lois was ready to go to any extent to sell his work. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), he believed that fully unified visual and verbal ideas were the essence to an effective conveyance of a message. Lois worked with the theory that can be restated as; verbal and visual components in modern communication are just as indivisible as words and music in a song. In the 1968 issue of Esquire Magazine, Lois featured Mohammed Ali, world’s heavy weight champion. According to Lois, (2014), Mohammed had recently converted to Islam and chose to object the offer to fight in the military. Repercussions followed when he got sentenced five years in jail, loss of his title, as well as getting banned from fighting. He followed by explaining his idea of comparing Mohammed to St. Sebastian and how he planned to use this poster as a protest with the idea of religious iconography as St. Sabastian had also gone through a similar battle. Lois (2014), mentions not only did this make a great poster for Esquire magazine; with a simple sentence ‘The Passion of Mohammed Ali’, it was later reproduced and sold as a protest poster. In less than three years Ali was free of his sentence, proving the power that comes with intelligently unifying photography and graphic design. The reason I chose this piece is because, Meggs and Purvis (2012) mentioned Esquire Magazine was at the verge of bankruptcy, and after hiring Lois for over 92 projects they were at a profit of three million dollars per issue.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 12.07.45 PM

Regardless of how common photography was becoming, how did film photography change to the digital one we know today? According to Savage (2014), experimenters George Smith and Willard Boyle are to thank for the creation the semiconductor circuit-the CCD which was the foundation for digital images to be saved and viewed later. They had worked together in 1969 with the aim to be able to capture images on a telescope, not only did this help us learn about what is beyond the earth, it was a big jump from capturing photos on a tangible material to having it saved virtually using chemicals. Despite how basic this technology may have seemed, in less than 30 years posters were now filled with digital photography once again harmonious with typography. According to Meggs and Purvis (2012), in 1996, a musician band by the name of Lou Reed decided to design a poster for one of their upcoming albums. They did so by using a digital photograph of a band mate and covering his entire face with the very personal lyrics from their songs. Another later example of how digital photography completely took the place of film with typography was in 2002, for the invitation of one of the world’s most renowned design firms, AIGA announcing the opening of nine more design studios. By portraying nine diamond shapes labeled with numbers, the background image is a digital photograph of a woman with make up tears and make up pouring down her face. Since this was part of the era when conceptual posters were at height, Meggs and Purvis (2012), believe these tears could have been caused by the heat when mining the diamonds, however the link between the tears and the opening remains unsolved to date. However, it wasn’t until 2003 when digital photography and typography together, not only created the layout of the poster but rather the main outline of the subject. Meggs and Purvis (2012), mention a designer by the name Reza Abedini who created a poster for the film Reves de sable. By using digital photography for the main face of the Persian woman, the rest of the composition was made with Farsi letters. Her entire cloak was decorated with these letters, although not legible but making very clear her cultural background as well as the theme of the film. Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 12.08.27 PM Despite how popular it has become to use photography and graphic design together, at times one must realize their individual importance as well. From the start with photographic negatives, to their combination as the typo-photo, photography is always adapting to the current trends. In this day and age, where we have gotten so used to life-sized billboards around us, we forget what it would be like without them. Thanks to Man Ray and many others, photography is quite an important part of our digital revolution. This paper listed the many examples through which harmony between photography and graphic design have helped change the world, only history will show what it further has to offer.

If film grew on trees, I wouldn’t need money.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I come from the generation where everyone believes they can be a photographer. Despite the talent we may, or may not possess, most of us don’t even know the basics to taking pictures. As the generation that grew up with handy iPhone cameras doing all the work for us, we don’t realise how hard it really was using an old fashioned camera. We have apps that give us film photography filters, but don’t know how to operate one. So why HAS digital photography engulfed film? How did companies like Kodak shut down? Well you can google those questions; I haven’t gotten around to that yet..

Moving from Digital to film?
As a street photographer, the concept of ‘frames per second’ is very important to me. Moments I want to capture depend on the amount of pictures I can take within that second! So how would I do that with a film camera?

The process of taking a picture with a SLR begins with inserting the film by trying not to burn it all. The more film you pull out, the less pictures you get to take on an already limited film. However, once the film is in it doesn’t get any easier. An automatic lock is activated after EVERY – SINGLE – PICTURE. After every photo, you are to pull back the lock and go to the next frame on your film. Just imagine the amount of ‘moments’ you just missed on the street ..

Excuse me while I salute old fashioned street photographers.

#YouMissedASpot, I mean shot.
As someone who takes pictures in extreme situations as those in Pakistan, my camera is then set to auto settings. That doesn’t mean it is doing all the work for me, but rather speeding up the process. If i were to set the setting for each picture each time, i’d be missing a lot. This is not the case with an ‘old fashioned fully manual film camera’. ( Bet you can’t say that in one breath ) .. The name might be pretty self explanatory, but trust me it was tougher than it sounds. Upon shooting every picture, you are to change your shutter speed as well as your focal length unitl that little light meter goes green. Finding the right exposure can be pretty frustrating at times. In other words, you have to keep playing with numbers until you’re good to go. Practice may help however, once you miss the shot, well you’re not getting it again.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

If film grew on trees, I wouldn’t need money.
With film photography, you have to be wise with the way to spend your film. With only 24 pictures on one reel, refilling can be time consuming as well as expensive. As a photographer that started digitally, I have a confession to make. I normally take upto 200 pictures per setting and end up liking a maximum of 10. #Guilty
Good thing I was born in the digital era or i’d be broke. Probably a better photographer, but broke.
Did I mention the developing process? Your pictures don’t just pop up, & no your film doesn’t go into your laptop, but that calls for a blog post on its own.

Find your comfort zone.
Despite the many differences between the two types of photography, I wouldn’t want to call either of them ‘better’.
Each one has its own perks and each one radiates its own excitement. The beauty of film photography, in my opinion, could never compare to that of digital. The natural highlights & colour quality has its own throne. The element of surprise is another treasure, in a day an age where patience is no longer a trait possessed. Learning film photography is a base to being a better photographer. Not only do you learn to appreciate it’s history, but rather you realise what a long way photography has come.
At the end of the day each one is an art in itself; try different mediums until you find yours!

Islamic Art with Adam Williamson

547419_10151892015695230_1968483436_n

Artist Adam Williamson of East London, told us about Islamic art and how he is currently teaching it at King’s College. He showed us several films of how he interprets those same Islamic carvings into performances in front of a live audience! That was a great eye opener for me; seeing how one artwork or practice can take so many different shapes depending on medium and context.

“Visualising the same art piece through different mediums can give an entirely new meaning and therefore be presented to a vast audience” – Adam Williamson

181131_10151938590285230_1438904963_n

For that reason, even for an amateur artist like myself, I now find myself on a path between photography and live sketching. Having a passion for both, when my ideas begin to flow, my instant reaction is to start to sketch. Only once I am satisfied, do I turn my sketches into reality by actually taking pictures of what I had originally thought of using live objects. This gives me the margin to make mistakes while I am still sketching. Once all my mistakes fit in perfectly, I capture them through my camera’s lens. However there are times I prefer to do the opposite, and take much more spontaneous photographs. If I come across something that intrigues me, I often repeat the same stages, only this time, backwards.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 7.32.37 AM

Adam emphasised on how important it is to constantly keep learning new skills to create a new platform. Watch the rest of it his tips here starting at 1m:
Enjoy!

 http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-2-meeting-artists

 

Critical Thinking @ Tate St. Ives

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

At our critical thinking workshop at Tate St Ives, things took quite a turn for me! Artist Greg Humphries completely caught me off guard when he asked me not only to sketch the person sitting next to me in under 30 seconds, but to use my opposite hand to do so! Forget about drawing, even gripping the pencil in my left hand was quite a challenge. Errors were easy to make and with only 30 seconds to spare, there wasn’t any time to erase my mistakes!

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 6.51.06 AM

It is quite intriguing to notice that when you draw with your comfortable hand, what you plan in your mind isn’t what usually shows up on paper. However that was absolutely not the case with my left hand. With the pressure of Greg’s voice counting down every second and constantly having to re-grip my pencil, what showed up on my sheet of paper was not even close to what I imagined in my mind… It was better.

The objective of the workshop was for us to realize the importance of mistakes. Struggling to stay comfortable with art is probably the first mistake an aspiring artist can make, and then removing all the evidence of past errors the second.

By the end of the workshop I openly confessed to Greg how from that day onwards I was going to start sketching, however uncomfortably, with my left hand. I had finally become comfortable with my own mistakes and vowed to try and never be ashamed of them again. He looked right at me, smiled and told me: “You shall go a very long way in life.” Just thinking back to that brings me goose bumps. The fact that someone so successful can give an amateur artist like me such great hope in just a couple of seconds.

Having been exposed to so many different artists and styles of art, such as Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, and Tracey Emin and then visiting artists all over East London, seeing the different ways they express themselves through their art, really proved to me how there isn’t just one path for an artist to take. It helped give me an insight into new ways of looking at art. When you look at an artwork, it may not mean anything to you, but once you learn about the artist’s background, all the elements in their art begin to make sense.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 6.53.39 AM

Watch the excerpts of the workshop here!
http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

Graffiti; Value Creativity

63380_10151280393931212_824912867_n

Thanks to Offscreen Expeditions, I was fortunate enough to benefit from workshops I could not complete over years in Saudi Arabia! One of my favourites was located in what seemed the artsiest part of London, the East. With the help of MCP & Mark ‘Batlow’ we were given a street art workshop for starters. From the basics of stencilling, inverting images, down to changing caps for different strokes of the spray.

Below is an excerpt of the many ways we were taught to value creativity. Click on this link to watch the film

http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 6.32.22 AM

Towards the end of the workshop most of us had finally learned how to handle a spray can!

There was no stopping us.

380537_10152049944655230_1568851850_n

At first when I was handed the itinerary for the expedition, this was the one workshop I was looking forward to least, as it was too out of my comfort zone. However, once the workshop came to an end I realised how important it really is to step out of your comfort zone.

After a successful workshop, we had transformed East London!

10151807_857312000952417_1139571802173944546_n

The Language of Geometry

Workshop

On my last trip to London, I was fortunate enough to get very useful advice from all the artists I met. A personal favourite artists of mine Mark B, also known as MisterBatlow , emphasised on how an artists must experiment. Experiment until you’re comfortable to mix and make something you’re own. For that reason I try to attend every workshop possible, so I know what I enjoy & what may be a challenge for me.
One method of drawing that needs an extreme amount of concentration & an insanely steady hand is Geometry Designing. I had never appreciated it until I had to do it myself. On my last visit to the 21,39 Gallery I came across an installation by artist Dana Awartani. This was the first time I really enjoyed looking at geometry.

21,39

21,39 Gallery, Installation by Dana Awartani

Later this Ramadan I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Awartani on the Language of Geometry. She showed us how the simplest grids, could create the most detailed pieces. After numerous tries and errors I was able to create the following drafts.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset

After 25 minutes of sketching, these were just grids..

My over all experience of the workshop was quite a successful one however. I may not be able to master the craft of geometrical designs, however I did learn to respect this type of art. Kudos to artists that have the patience, skill & steady hand for such a delicate process. Hope one day I too could master it.

Winner of Create & Inspire 2012

Create & Inspire 2012

In the summer of 2012 I was granted the title ‘Winner of Create & Inspire’. The theme of the competition that year, was focused on the islamic pilgrimage, Hajj. Lucky for me, I had perfumed perfumed Hajj that same year where I had first starting taking photographs. At this point photography was just a mere method to take pictures of the journey, and not at all an artsy tool. Towards the end of Hajj I happened to sit right next to the woman in that picture. At first it was very difficult to snap a picture of her without her knowing, however I thought i’d take a risk .. she smiled right at me!

If at that moment someone had told me, this old woman would be the reason behind:
– falling in love with photography
– changing my education plans from business to graphic design
– going on a 17 day expedition all around the United Kingdom thanks to Offscreen Expeditions
– AND getting my photography exhibited at the British Museum?

Never in a million years would I have believed that. She later inspired me to write one of my best pieces titled  “A Million Emotions

I guess I owe her a lot.

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 4.24.24 PM

“Award winning photograph for Crossway Foundation’s acclaimed competition, Create & Inspire& expeditions programme targeting UK and Middle Eastern youth.  A London-based charity delivering arts and education initiatives for young people across the UK and Middle East, with a regional search to find the most talented young artists, photographers and filmmakers.”

Exhibited at :

The British Museum – Addis Gallery : (January 2012 – May 2012)  Click here for Details

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 4.22.11 PM

Feel free to read more about the creative journey on  http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/blog/by/118

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 4.31.52 PM