Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08
Mentor: John Messinger
Title: Veteran's Stories
Description: For my Senior Project I used a 35mm camera to take portraits of six different veterans of World War II and the Vietnam war. In my final product I used four of the six shoots that I took, and I compiled all of the interviews into a book that I collaged with test strips and quotes from each veteran.
I printed on 16 by 20 inch glossy photo paper, and I used Kodak 400 black and white film. For the collage in my interview book I used images from google, and test strips from my photos.
My senior project wasn't exactly “typical”. It was a long and bumpy road. At first I wanted to do a project that involved service to the community, particularly the homeless community, because that is a growing problem in America today. However in the end all of the service projects that I came up with seemed like they would be difficult to accomplish, so with suggestions from some friends, I decided to do a project that had to do with Veterans of war. Since war has always been a topic that interests - yet baffles me, I figured it would be interesting to get the point of view of the other side.
So my new project was to interview veterans, and use a 35mm camera to take their portraits. After the interviews I was to develop the photos, and transcribe the interviews onto my computer. Transcribing the interviews was a task in itself, after transcribing I also had to edit the text to make it look presentable. Then I would develop the photos, and make contact sheets for the film. Then I had to print selected images, on 5 by 7 inch paper. Then I would analyze each image and decide which ones would be best to print on large 16 by 20 inch glossy paper.
Printing was very time consuming. First I would make test strips to find out how long I should expose the negative for. However, since I used all natural lighting in my photos, I had to make numerous test strips for each image because the lighting would vary throughout one image. For most of my images I had to perform a technique called “dodging” or “burning”. This is when I expose one side of the image for a certain amount of time, and I would use the shadow of my hand to expose another part of the image for a shorter amount of time.
One large issue that kept reoccurring throughout this project was the fact that I couldn't rely on my own schedule to get my work done. It's difficult when you're relying on other people's schedules. It's also hard when you're working with elderly people. Each of the veterans I interviewed was over eighty years old, and they were all self conscious in front of the camera, so I had to try and get to know them through interviewing first, so that hopefully the shoot would come out a little better.
This project not only taught me tremendously about how tedious and time consuming working with film and printing is, but I also learned a lot about myself, and others throughout the course of this project. One thing I always knew about myself is that I have a problem with procrastination, usually I leave things to the last minute to do. I think I've somewhat gotten over that problem thanks to this project, there are consequences for procrastination.
"CBS News." www.CBS.com. 2007. Viewed 14 Sept.-Oct. 2007 <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories>.
Hope for the Warriors. Viewed 09 Sept.-Oct. 2007 <http://www.hopeforthewarriors.org/contact_us.html>.
"Info Shop." www.infoshop.com. 2008. Viewed 28 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20070913095902994>.
"Iraq Veterans Against the War." www.ivaw.com. 2007. Viewed 27 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.ivaw.org/view/profiles?page=7>.
"New York Times Articles." New York Times. 2007. Viewed 12 Sept.-Oct. 2007 <http://homefires.blogs.nytimes.com/?8qa>.
"Veterans Against the War." www.veteransagainstthewar.com. 2007. Viewed 20 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://veteransagainstthewar.com/wordpress/>.
"Veterans for Peace." www.veteransforpeace.org. 2008. Viewed 29 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.veteransforpeace.org/>.
"Veterans for Peace NY." www.Veteransforpeaceny.com. Viewed 25 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.veteransforpeaceny.org/>.
"Vietnam Veterans Against the War." www.vvaw.org. 2008.. Viewed 25 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.vvaw.org/contact/>.
"Wounded Warriors." www.woundedwarriors.com. Viewed 18 Oct.-Nov. 2007 <http://www.woundedwarriors.org/contactus.htm>.
Community Member (Details)
My outside consultant was Diane Whitebay. She is a graphic designer and a professional photographer. It was difficult to meet with her in person because she lives in New Jersey. Our process consisted of mostly phone conversations, and I did meet with her once in December. She was helpful with giving me suggestions.