WiP #13 – Reflections Processing in Photoshop

My tutor has mentioned to me before that I might try experimenting with the reflections that are evident in some of my composites. We discussed how this might be a way of subtly inferring to the viewer that something is not quite right with the images – that they are in fact composites. I could achieve this if I were to make the reflections of the people in the image not match up with the people composited into the frame. There were 2 ways I could envisage making this happen and they consisted of either absence (no matching reflections) or confused presence (reflections that didn’t match). The 3rd way, the one I had already implemented, consisted of creating a seamless pseudo-reality where the reflections matched the people walking by the windows, even though the people weren’t there at the same time as each other.

4 of the 11 of my final selection of images contain reflections in the windows. I feel because the majority of images don’t contain reflections, the overall effect of absent/mismatching reflections in the 4 images that should contain reflections will be muted. However, if the viewer grasps in at least 1 of the 4 images that the reflections are awry, this could be the key for them to see all the reflections are awry. Indeed, this could be a key to unlocking the fact that the images are actually composites. I kind of hope that the viewer would be able to infer just from the way the people are arranged in each image that the images are composites. I don’t see having the reflections also pointing to this fact as being extraneous information though; rather the mismatching reflections could back up this assertion for the viewer and add further intrigue to the images.

No Reflections I
Fig. 1 No Reflections I
Mismatched Reflections I
Fig. 2 Mismatched Reflections I
WIP - 51º28'45.334"N 0º1'22.217"W, November 2019 - Attention Paid to Central Grouping of People in the Composition
Fig. 3 Matching Reflections I

I set about reprocessing the composites in Photoshop. Firstly, I took out any reflections present in the windows by removing the layers I had inserted the reflections onto. Luckily, I had kept the original Photoshop documents with layers so this was quite an easy process. In my eyes the absence of any reflections in the windows was eerie. It was immediately obvious to me (perhaps because I am so familiar with the composites as they were!) that something didn’t add up in the image. Some of the 4 of 11 images containing reflections worked better in this regard than others. For example the image with ‘Deptford Station’ on the wall featured many windows and reflections for me to work with. With the young person performing a wheelie in front of developments image though, there was only one reflection to omit and this was on a perspex sheet next to the development rather than a truly reflective window.

No Reflections II
Fig. 4 No Reflections II
Mismatched Reflections II
Fig. 5 Mismatched Reflections II
9. 51º28'42.228"N 0º1'36.971"W, June 2019
Fig. 6 Matching Reflections II

Mismatching the reflections to the people in Photoshop was a more complicated process. Here, I had to insert mismatched reflections as layers on top of a layer with no reflections. The effect of the mismatched reflections was worth the hassle though. For me the mismatched reflections created confusion and busyness within the windows. It was clear to me that something wasn’t right within these images when looking closer at the reflections. This could then highlight to the viewer that the images are actually composites, not straight photographs. I feel the effect was less subtle than the absence of reflection reprocessing I had just carried out.

The two methods of reprocessing the reflections (absence/mismatched presence) could connote different meanings. The non-matching reflections could signify displacement of original people which in turn might point to larger ideas of change within Deptford. The absence of any reflections in the windows was more ambiguous in my eyes but the viewer might see not just absence of reflections but absence of soul to Deptford. This could connote alienation due to the developments. These potential meanings are very much only possibilities and would be dependent on how the viewer themselves reads the composites. However, the reprocessing of the reflections in these ways leads the viewer not only to the fact that the images are composites but also opens up new possible ways of reading the images.

No Reflections III
Fig. 7 No Reflections III
Mismatched Reflections III
Fig. 8 Mismatched Reflections III
11. 51º28'30.093"N 0º1'33.957"W, July 2019
Fig. 9 Matching Reflections III

Creating a seamless pseudo-reality where the reflections matched the people was my original strategy for the reflections. This approach doesn’t really embrace the fact that the images are composites but rather, makes the composites more slick. In one regard I can still see the appeal of this approach. There are no gaps in this world, the composites are complete if you like, even in details like the reflections the people passing by are creating. This signifies a constructed reality where everything matches and is balanced. Yet not everything in reality does add up so why should it in my composites? While the developments in Deptford may benefit the area in terms of new housing and infrastructure, there are simultaneously perceived detrimental impacts to the area like displacement, lack of character and segregation. While the seamless approach to the composites’ reflections is idealistic, the absent/mismatched reflection approaches potentially highlights something else. This is that not everything (both in the composites’ and Deptford’s developments’ make-up) is perfect.

No Reflections IV
Fig. 10 No Reflections IV
Mismatched Reflections IV
Fig. 11 Mismatched Reflections IV
Reprocessed Composite Where the People in the Image Have Been Rearranged to Better Fit In with the Rest of the Series
Fig. 12 Matching Reflections IV

At the moment I am leaning towards the reflections being mismatched to the people passing by in front of them. First of all, it is the most obvious approach for giving the viewer extra clues that the images are composites. Secondly, this approach ties in with change occurring in Deptford and that not all is ideal about the developments taking place there. I think it is true that the developments do to a certain degree rejuvenate Deptford but it is also true they can have negative impacts on existing residents. The way I have reprocessed my composites’ reflections is a reflection of this.

Overall I am glad I took my tutor’s advice to experiment with reprocessing the composites’ reflections. As described above my reasoning is two-fold – one is to offer the viewer clues pertaining to the images’ composite construction and the other is possible meaning added to the image because of how it is processed.

3 thoughts on “WiP #13 – Reflections Processing in Photoshop

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