Tag Archives: longevity

‘a poem inspired by a photo’ Robert Vieira – Death’s Birthday

Last night I did my last email check before going to bed (at this stage of the day it’s very rare I have any mail!) and to my surprise and delight I had a message from Robert Vieira with the subject: ‘a poem inspired by a photo’.

I have since learned that Robert has written around 800 short poems over the past 15 years and writes incredibly quickly (to my mind, as it will probably be 30 minutes before I send this blog post!) when he is inspired.

So it is my honour to share Robert’s poem, written on the 15th October 2014 in response to my photograph of Jean from Longevity:

Last Days

Death’s Birthday

My deathing day becomes younger all the time

As we move, more wrinkled, to the ending moment

Time is compressed and one day we will be dressed

In a way that hopefully allows us to see the infant day

The one day old looking back

The day before the end

And we will raise our eyes

Should they still move

To think about the ties of youthful times

When the deathing day was far off

When death only visited the aged

When death was much older

More removed from the leaves in which we walked

Heedless of the portent and the meaning

Of their crispy crunching under foot

Let us gather now the broken leaves of these dry days

And make bouquets for the birth of death

One day someone’s tears will make them memories of green

Copyright © 2014 by Robert Vieira all rights reserved. Image: © 2014 by Amy Romer all rights reserved

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Final Spreads!

Final Submission:

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When writing the piece I realised that the tattoo was an important element of the story and so I had to make a decision as to where it would go and what I would take out as I think 7 images would be too busy on the page.

I decided to take the picture of Josh looking up at his Dad in the living room because Josh in the bath looking up at his Dad represents the same thing.

I considered taking out the top middle picture with the red walls in the background because I felt it was in danger of being too similar to the establishing page but I decided that the content was different enough and the unconcious mirroring of Paul and Joshua on the sofa was important. Also, they aren’t on the same page so having a similarity like that in’t really too much of an issue.

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Design 1: Two establishing shots

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In my last post I explained that I was trying to work out whether these two images work well as an establishing spread to the story of Joshua and Paul and I’m pleased to say that I think they do!

 

Although the content of the two images are fairly different, i.e. a detail and a close-up portrait, they are similar in the way they are shot – with a 50mm lens and large aperture so there is an aesthetic similarly and they both have connotations that tell you what the story is about as opposed to telling you any denotation. For example, the tattoo is a sign of commitment and love for his absent child and the portrait of Josh with its neutral colours and detailed perfect skin is a portrait of innocence and beauty.

 

What really marries the two images together is the headline (thanks Dad). It gives both images purpose as one is lost without the other – which is indeed the case with unconditional love.

 

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Having made the establishing page, I had a think about what pictures I could use for the second. These six pictures seemed to hold a balance between them as three describe their activities together (the top three) and three are beautiful moments between the two of them. On the left, Joshua looks at his Dad with love as he gets him ready for bed. The middle picture shows them playing a game in the bath and I have captured a moment where their hands form a beautiful similarity. The third shot shows a moment of equal emotion and love in the form of an embrace between father and son.

I’ve placed the pictures in places I think works. I saw a clear division in content between the top and bottom images, which is how I divided those and then I thought about what would start the story – a picture of them walking along the river, which reads as Paul picking Joshua up and them both being very happy about it.

I placed the wide shot of them on the sofa in the middle as the other two are in different places other than the flat so it seemed to make sense to place it in the centre.

The bath shot went in the middle because it holds a neutral, lighter colour that separates from the other two, which are both in the flat and similar in ways.

I’m also aware that by placing two pictures through the centre of the spread will mean that the centre of the image gets slightly cut into the gutter of the double page. However, this is done in many editorials and I think that as long as you don’t place a picture where the centre of the picture is critical to the image then it is not a problem. Both my images contain subjects at the sides and I think therefore it is okay.

The Design

I’ve tried to keep the design simple and crisp as I did with Longevity because right now I am concerned with content. I just did what I felt was best as a starting point. This means using Futura for the headline again and this time using Courier New for the poetry, page numbers and title of the editorial, which I didn’t use before but I would still conifer it a crisp, classic and modern type face.

William Wordsworth

As I haven’t written the story yet I was trying to think of what to write on the page to avoid filling with placeholder text so I started looking at poetry about fathers and sons and found this perfect verse by William Wordsworth.

 

I have a boy of five years old;

His face is fair and fresh to see;

His limbs are cast in beauty’s mould,

And dearly he loves me.

 

It mirrors both the headline and the images when I read it and so I feel it has a belonging on the page to help establish the story between Paul and Joshua. Although I do have a concern that it might be necessary to describe the story on the establishing page as I did in Longevity but as I am more free to experiment with this spread, I am happy to run with it for now.

Next:

I’m going to continue having a play with this layout to try and get the best from it before using other establishing images in order to make a comparison and further develop the design and write the story.

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Longevity featured on Pig House Pictures Journal.

After a lovely and glamourous evening at our very own Press Awards at the Falmouth Hotel, where to my total surprise and delight I managed to be selected as the winner of the Documentary Singles and runner up of the Documentary Series categories for photographs feautured in Longevity – Pig House Pictures asked whether I’d let them feature my work, to which my answer was ‘Yes please!!!!!!!!!!’

http://www.pighousepictures.com/journal/amy-romer

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Listing Figures

I need to decide whether to include a list of Figures or whether to direct the reader the the correct picture within the story. Here, I’m comparing both.

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This shows that the list of Figures would be in the top right if I were to include them as a design element. I don’t think having a list here disturbs the page.

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In fact, this negative space on the page was originally designed in mind of placing the list of Figures there, but after re-writing the story and including it in the design, I felt like placing a list of Figures would be repeating myself.

However, I don’t think this is really the case as the list of Figures in my work is a purely functional thing, and aims to make it easy for the reader to discover the pictures meaning without needing to read through the story.

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I think having Figures in brackets does work but is less functional and direct as having it as a separate list. I don’t think it is necessary to direct the reader to all of the pictures as some of the pictures speak for themselves, namely Jean on the stairs and the flowers on the mantlepiece.

Having a list of Figures does inform the reader more than placing brackets within the story as I was able to state the title of the carer’s diary and the fact that it is my Dad’s hand in the picture, and I have dated the paintings in the hallway. For this reason I will probably use the list of Figures as opposed to using brackets within the text.

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Second page designs

Original layout

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This seemed to be the most obvious layout for 4 pictures of this format, where I felt one stood out as being more important than the others. It is neat and simple and leaves clear negative space along the right side where I have chosen to place my website.

I considered using this space to place a list of Figures but I feel like I’ve already listed what the pictures are within the main text and a list of figures might just feel like repetition. This is something I need to play around with though as I do still think I need a clear pointer that says ‘top right:…’ either within the text of in a list.

Layout 2

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I really liked this layout but you can see on the page that the space left for text is awkward and the layout will not work as a result.

Layout 3

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This layout works as it leaves a simple rectangular space for text, like the original layout but as you can see below, the centre gutter will chop the bottom centre picture in half, which I think will be too damaging to the picture story.

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Layout 4

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By making the three bottom pictures smaller I was able to avoid placing the bottom centre picture in the centre of the gutter, which I think is better but obviously not ideal.

I have then made the top image slightly smaller so it fits on one side of the page and have placed my pull quote in the gap, which is an element I like.

Unfortunately this leaves a larger gap for the story and I can’t fill the gap, which isn’t a massive problem but I’m just not sure I like the space it leaves.

I’ve tried putting in a list of figures to see how it would look on the page and I’m also not sure it works. It seems to make the design look too bitty.

Layout 5

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I think having the Figures placed as a design element in this design works much better. My eyes are not searching around the design like they were in Layout 4.

 

I think of them all I prefer layouts 1 & 5. I need to look at the Figures and consider whether directing the reader towards pictures would work within the main text in brackets such as (top left) and such as (bottom right) without it breaking up the flow of the story too much.

 

 

 

 

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New establishing spread design

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I wanted to do a design that included a full bleed on one side. This means that the picture has to be enlarged, if you are to stick to a design that is fairly conventional and ‘belongs’ on the page.

With a narrower column for text, I thought I’d tip the headline on it’s side and match the headline’s height to the picture, once again stretching the word like it’s meaning.

The text then looked odd as a block, but by stretching it vertically, it looks more as though it belongs.

Although I like the title on its side like this, there is something about this design that reminds me of a fashion magazine. Possibly the headline in capitals? I can’t quite put my finger on it but I don’t think it necessarily reflects the story as well as the previous designs.

I’ve also played around with the title of the editorial and the page numbers again and once again I think this works just as well as the other designs.

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Alternative establishing spreads for Longevity

 

I’ve created a few different versions of this layout, with fairly minor changes, such as the headline font and position of the title/issue/page number of the magazine.

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I think the position of the title/issue works on both layouts and what I choose would be a matter of personal preference. Placing the text across the top might be a slightly more traditional position and highlights where the centre of the pages are, which you might say works less well for a layout like this where the images and text aren’t placed centrally in relation to the page but it doesn’t bother me.

 

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Placing the title of the editorial, issue number and title of the article together like this condenses the information more and works with the idea of a minimalist design.

I’ve also made the establishing image smaller so that it doesn’t bleed over to both pages. This design is more reminiscent of Aesthetica magazine. The benefit is that the picture does not get obstructed by the gutter, although the photograph does not contain important detail at the centre of the spread, so is ideal for a design that is spread across both pages.

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I think the content is strong enough on the establishing page that the size of the picture is not important. All my designs give the same impression of what kind of magazine you are reading and what kind of story/photography you are viewing.

Both fonts work well but I do have a preference to Futura for the headline, because it looks beautiful as a large font and because the editorial becomes less of a copy of Aesthetica, which uses a font very similar to Palatino, as does Pig House Pictures.

I also think it makes sense for the headlines to be the same font family as the editorial titles, and for the main body text to be a more traditional serif font like Palatino or Times New Roman.

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Main content: before and after.

As mentioned in the previous post, I had written the story of Longevity around Christmas time for a publication in 205dpi magazine. When piecing the imagery and words together for myself, it became clearer to me that I needed to make some changes.

I had never explained mine and my father’s relationship to Hugh and Jean, and referring to my family as ‘the Romer’s…’ suggests that I am not one of them. I think this is because I started writing the story in third person and soon realise that I didn’t have a story without talking more personally about it.

It’s easy to forget that the person reading has no idea about the story and although I got three people that I consider better than me at English to proof read it, they all knew my relationship with Hugh and Jean and therefore also didn’t pick up on the fact I hadn’t included it in my story – it was already assumed.

There are other tweaks I have made, just for the sake of improving the writing and the explanation. I found that when I tried to add additional pieces of description, I was disrupting the flow of the reading but hopefully the subtle changes I’ve made are improvements if anything.

Before

Hugh Romer, 91 has lived at Mortlake Road in Kew for most of his lifetime. He and his wife Jean will be the last of the Romer’s to occupy the family house.

During countless visits over years past, it was always clear to me that Hugh was the dominant spouse. This was partly because of Jean’s mental disability, which resulted in electroshock treatment during her forties, to which Hugh is confident that the hospital most certainly “overdid it”.

Hugh would not only take charge of the house but being a former engineer for the BBC, he would gladly attend to any necessary maintenance, whether it meant repairing years of damage caused from stick bombs during the war or channeling rain water from the roof to flow collectively into the garden pond.

He would lead my father and me with Jean by his side around the grand Victorian house, telling us tales about my father’s Great-great relatives through photographs and portrait paintings that still hang in the hallway. He would then take us into the garden and unveil evidence of my Grandfather’s zoological fascination as a boy, which would eventually lead to his dedicated career.

In 2009, Hugh suffered from kidney failure and was unwilling to make repeated trips to hospital for dialysis. He has since been diagnosed with dementia, which is now at its advanced stages.

Today, they are both bedroom bound. Jean will answer the door to regular visits from day carers, who take notes on the their condition.

Their bedroom is filled with memories, of which neither recall, and flowers, which wilt unnoticed.

The house remains unchanged since 2009 but it is cold and dark now. Their electric blankets and a small fan heater keep them warm. The light beyond the window keeps them awake, until it fades and then they sleep.

After

Hugh and Jean Romer are both in their nineties and have recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. He and Jean are the third generation to occupy our family house, and they will be the last.

My father visits his Uncle Hugh often, and I do when I can. We both admire them and are saddened for them as they enter their last days together; and as a house once rich with memories is reduced to wclosed doors and dark halls.

During countless visits over years past, it was always clear to me that Hugh was the dominant spouse. This was partly because of Jean’s mental health condition, which resulted in electroshock treatment during her forties, to which Hugh is confident that the hospital “most certainly overdid it”.

Hugh would not only take charge of the house but being a former engineer for the BBC, he would gladly attend to all the necessary maintenance, whether it meant repairing years of damage caused by stick bombs during the war or channeling rain water from the roof to flow collectively into the garden pond.

He would lead my father and me with Jean by his side around the grand Victorian house, telling us stories about my father’s great-great relatives through photographs and portrait paintings that still hang in the hallway. The on to the garden, where Hugh would unveil evidence of my Grandfather’s zoological fascination as a boy, which would eventually lead to his dedicated career.

In 2009, Hugh suffered from kidney failure and was unwilling to make repeated trips to hospital for dialysis. He has since been diagnosed with dementia, which is now at its advanced stages.

Although they are mostly bedroom bound, Jean uses her stair-lift to answer the door to carers, who take notes on the their condition.

Their bedroom is filled with memories, of which neither recall, and flowers, which wilt unnoticed.

The house remains unchanged since 2009 but it is cold and dark now. Their electric blankets and a small fan heater keep them warm. The light beyond the window keeps them awake, until it fades and then they sleep.

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First draft of double page spread

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The content

As discussed on March 1st in the article ‘Choosing a Story’, I think of the five images selected for the story, Jean on the stairs has to be the establisher. It’s a visually striking picture that entices you into the story. The second most important is Hugh and Jean on the bed as it introduces you to the couple and their bedridden existence. The other three are important in terms of telling the story but are more detailed shots, which are talked about within the text.

I wrote this story back in December for an issue of 205dpi magazine and have found myself editing it slightly, partly through criticism of my own writing but partly because I hadn’t really explained who I was in relation to Hugh and Jean and hadn’t made it clear enough what was going on in some of the detail pictures.

Originally, this story was called ‘Mortlake Road’ but I have tried to be less objective and more suggestive and elegant with my choice of word(s) for the headline. ‘Longevity’ seems the perfect description for Hugh and Jean and I have tried to use design to mimic this by loosening the tracking.

I will need to play around with Figures. I can either direct you to the pictures within the main body of text ie (top left), or I can create a design element for them. The space on the far right could work well for this although I’m enjoying the negative space I’ve created in that column.

 

The design

This design is based on a selection of elements I found myself being particularly drawn to during my editorial design research. My aim is to produce two double page spreads that borrows these elements to create a clear vision for my work that can communicate the story clearly whilst looking attractive on the page.

You can see here that I like the design to be simple and minimalist with plenty of negative space, simple type faces and clean shapes. Whilst designing, I found myself being very aware not to create a design element purely for the sake of design, but to make sure that it had a benefit to the story or to the editorial itself. For example, I have named the editorial ‘Documentary Photography’ (invention clearly not my forte), and have given it an Issue number. This is something you would find in any art editorial and allows me to think about design. However, when I started placing elements such as lines around the design, most of the time I deleted them as they seemed to have no purpose and distracted me from the content.

As I seemed to be drawn to the establishing image leaking itself across onto two pages, I have started with this design. It gives a clear area for the headline and standfirst, it looks crisp and I don’t have to worry about the issues faced when placing text over the top of an image.

The lines around the quote I think help the quote stand out and are therefore justified. They also look aesthetically pleasing as the lines match the thickness of the crisp capitals of Futura Light.

Having assessed editorials to look at how many typefaces they use on average, I found that generally editorials use no more than three typefaces. Often, they use two but will use a few various typefaces from their font family, as opposed to using different fonts altogether. In my design, I have used three fonts: Lixus Libertine and Minion Pro for the main body text and standfirst and Futura for the other elements.

I particularly wanted to link the headline to the title of the editorial, page numbers, website etc because it tightens up the editorial gives it a stronger brand (were it real) and I used Futura for this because it seems to be a versatile font that is crisp and modern but classic at the same time.

A note of Futura:

Following the Bauhaus design philosophy, German type designer Paul Renner first created Futura between 1924 and 1926. Although Renner was not a member of the Bauhaus, he shared many of its views, believing that a modern typeface should express modern models rather than be a rivial of a previous design. Futura was commercially released in 1927, commissioned by the Bauer type foundry.

While designing Futura, Renner avoided creating any non-essential elements, making use of basic geometric proportions with no serifs or frills. Futura’s crisp, clean forms reflect the appearance of efficiency and forwardness even today.

http://idsgn.org/posts/know-your-type-futura/

It is interesting to see that I seem to have chosen a typeface that mimics what I’ve been saying about avoiding ‘non-essential elements’ with its efficient, crisp appearance.

 

 

Next I will be showing various versions of this design. The changes are subtle but nevertheless important!

 

All images © Amy Romer 2014

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