Year Two (43) – Controversial

Today’s post is more controversial than usual, it is not necessarily a nice topic and perhaps is not for the person who is easily offended – so if you are then please do not click read more…

However there are times when all photographers have to photograph things outside there immediate comfort zone, maybe they need an image that tells a particular story, something they feel uncomfortable with, the challenge then is to decide whether to publish those images or whether just to hide them away…

Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

The images that I am sharing today took place at The Old Bakery Group – this is a shared building – we were in one area creating our “Controversial Images” and the other part of the hall there was another meeting …. we share the kitchen, and at one point the other meeting attendees had come into the kitchen to make tea…. they were talking about what we were doing and I heard someone say that we were some “photographers” … if only they knew tonight what the theme was….

An innocent old bear can be lit with soft lighting to create a memorable greeting card – if it is the recipient’s bear, then it is even more special – using an antique and well loved bear certainly adds character to the shot.

Get well soon card - teddy and a drip
Get well soon card – teddy and a drip

Add something you do not associate with a child’s teddy bear – some cigarettes, some smoke, a very different greeting , more clarity and some editing in photoshop and suddenly the image is a bit more unsettling and makes you feel a little uncomfortable …  maybe you see a child’s teddy, suffering from terminal cancer, but still it is just a fag!

Ted Smokes Dope - Controversial Image - Lit with soft box.
Ted Smokes Dope – Controversial Image – Lit with soft box.

Add the reason for the cigarette… it is no longer a cute teddy anymore!

Afterwards with Ted!
Afterwards with Ted!

Other controversial ideas included children’s nursery rhymes and childhood questions… the innocence of childhood but with a twist….  These were lit with natural light, and it was either a question of increasing the shutter speed so that the duration was long enough for the light or increasing the ISO…

Does this represent 3 Blind mice or is it hickory, dickory dock?
What came first the chicken or the egg?

SEX is a controversial subject – well it is a subject that many people are not comfortable talking about it, add in Dildo’s, an Anne Summers theme and you don’t necessarily get controversial images – but you do get images that photographers are reluctant to share… add a shocking message that makes the viewer think… and you being to have controversial images!

The Selfie Stick!

Here I  took my inspiration from a packet of fruity condoms and the safe sex message, some members of the group felt that it was not controversial enough… for me knowing that I was going to share these images on my blog – made me feel they were!

Safe Sex! Use a Condom.
Safe Sex! Use a Condom.

Fruit flavoured condoms, I think the banana says it all … the jeans help tell the story, and it is certainly a shot I would not be comfortable sharing in an everyday situation … but it is only a banana after all!

Part of your five a day?
Part of your five a day?

This book and the healthy eating – 5 a day campaign – inspired me here … many of us want to loose weight or be a little slimmer … maybe if the next healthy eating campaigned was marketed with sex a lot more people would be reaching for the fruit bowl!

Practice Safe Sex
Practice Safe Sex
Shag yourself Slim!
Shag yourself Slim!

Bananas and condoms, peeling back the skin… is it an image you feel comfortable with?

Street photography is when you taken an image of people in a public place without them being aware of it – and that is the kind of style I wanted to create with this shots… we had someone who agreed to be photographed in a situation, that we would as photographers, not often be able to capture – a situation I  hope I would not find myself in for real … I wanted to give the impression that the subject did not know they were being photographed …

Street Photography - the drug taker
Street Photography – the drug taker

I choose a telephoto lens, but I got a long way back, included the foreground so that it leads you into the subject and adds to the feeling of desperation, and that she has no idea she is being watched.

The Overdose - found in the toilet!
The Overdose – found in the toilet!

Found in the toilet, I have edited it to make it a grungy, storytelling image – what was so bad that led to this … her face is out of focus – the focus is on the syringe, the location, the story rather than about identifying the victim.

As a model, I would not like to be identified by these shots, I would not want someone to suddenly be concerned that this really was true … I feel the anonymous feel, adds to the story – the unknown overdose victim!

The Drug Taker
The Drug Taker

The kind of shot you don’t expect to see – grumpy fingernails on manicured hands – at one point the victim cared … but now it is just about getting the next fix! A shallow depth of field, zoomed in, and the image is still anonymous, but it shows the hard hitting truth of desperation!

My final image from the shoot, and I have gone for a totally different feel – a high key look, with the whites of her eyes gluing … this is in the same location as above but my changing settings and over powering the light the image has a totally different feel – with the focus on her hand … her wedding ring, and the blood highlighted on her nose… is this still a druggy, or is it perhaps a victim of domestic abuse … does the ring tell the story?

Spaced out!
Spaced out!

Are they Controversial?
What is your most controversial photograph?Did they make you feel uncomfortable?
Should photographers step outside their comfort zone?


One thought on “Year Two (43) – Controversial

  1. “Helen, I love your blog. I particularly love the images that have come into question and would make a great add campaign. Love the angle of view. This kind of photography wouldn’t be controversial if it wasn’t for the people that outwardly spoke about their disapproval. For me, none of our group images are controversial because I only see the creative side. Great job everybody. I would love to take this further but feel a bigger audience is required to really get the fire going !” Tim


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