Layers of Reality

by nathandowningsolent

St Petersburg, Russia, City of Shadows, 1990-1996, Alex titarenko

St. Petersburg, Russia, City of Shadows, 1990-1996, Alex Titarenko

St. Petersburg, Russia, City of Shadows, 1992-1996, Alex Titarenko

St. Petersburg, Russia, City of Shadows, 1992-1996, Alex Titarenko

The organ that is the human eye gives us probably our most, cherished, reliable and prominent sense. It is our key to the world, fear to darkness, call of response and the receptor of all things beautiful. But there are certain things we cannot see however, things we cannot interpret, unless we are assisted by the power of the photographic lens. Science and art seem to conveniently excel within photography to make it the powerful tool of expression and discovery it is today, relevant to imagery unavailable to a human. The notion of Layers of Reality, shown in Robert Shore’s book “Post-Photography: The artist with a camera”, explores the world incapable to human vision, only evidently documented through our manmade technological extensions.

Whether Eadweard Muybridge’s legendary images, displaying a horse levitating in motion, or the topographical photomontages of Sohei Nishino, this reoccurrence of a visually inaccessible phenomena, only available through the camera, is what the concept of this thematic follows. Frequently artists demonstrate time on a temporal scale, as apposed to the the ‘instant’ moment seen in the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. A prolonged shutter speed was undertaken with the work of Alex Titarenko in his eery photos of the Russian subway entrances in Dark Shadows (1992-1996), lightly misted with a stream of distant, ghostly motion, yet again steering to the notion of a something invisible to the human eye. The movement is atmospheric and is a more subjective way to photograph this scenario, showing an altered reality to the real world.

Our work undertaken for the project set this week was an attempt at the proposal of identity accumulated over an extended period of time. Evident through layering and montage, each section represents a faze or fashion style that the subject had once adhered to at some point. She is extremely happy with her life and feels she understands her identity, but this was only available through search and discovery, trial and error, and an almost self-reflective roulette that creates her existing persona. The build up of differing attire, creates a complete image and representation of the subject, still proficient in beauty and recognition, but slightly warped and misplaced, as if slotting together a puzzle. This is all relevant to a temporal scale, displaying each section as separate periods of time.


Temporal Adaptation, 2015, Nathan Downing, Alice Hawes, Libby Jane

Edit 2

Temporal Adaptation Test, 2015, Nathan Downing, Alice Hawes, Libby Jane

The first attempt, pictured in the second example, was not as successful. Taking influence from Jae Yong Rhee, we tried layering each photo over one another. Each layer representing a different characterised outfit. But we found that as soon as more than two layers were added, the detail in the face lost the impact we had hoped for. None the less, the image still explores the notion of a representation, unrealistic and altered from human visibility. After discussion we decided on the final we would show. In this examples we aligned the photos, using one single base layer for visual reference. We tried to keep the placement as exact as possible for visual recognition, but still wanted to include an uncanny alignment, presenting the physical action of slotting the complete picture together.

I believe we achieved the task very well, demonstrating a good example of “Layers of Reality” and really capture a sense of time through the images, working in this group was a joy. We have gained a key understanding of the studio through this shoot, but also unfortunately uncovered the necessary time required for makeup and prop set up, these are all areas needed for improvement within a group setting. Being able to construct a mental development plan based on these problems seems somewhat wise at this stage and I hope to build upon this experience.

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The photoshop techniques utilised in the final montage, were that of layer masks. Each segment of the face was masked off, so that only that part of the layer was visible. Each representation of identity was layered over top and aligned through the opacity slider. The alignment process was meticulous and took a while for the unresponsive scaling tool to accurately respond. No colour balance was used, I wanted to emphasise the difference between sections of the image.The secondary image was created with layered portraits all left at a opacity level of 20%, the transparent effect was not as effective as the block masking and feel the colours clash and detract from the emphasised partition of identity. A brightening of the facial features is seen in the adjustment masks to highlight the face and create a more complete image.


Lass, J, “Layers of Reality” Feb, 2015, FCI Southampton Solent University, Lecture Room

Shore, R, “Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera”, 2014, Laurence King Publishing, London

Shribman, B, “What Cameras See that our Eyes Don’t – Bill Shribman” Ted-ed, 2013 [Viewed 11 Feb 2015] Available at:

Slevin, T, “Representation of Time”, Feb, 2015, FCI Southampton Solent University, Lecture Room

Titarenko, A, “About” Alex Titarenko Online, 2015 [Viewed 11 Feb 2015]

Available at: