2 Getting Up

Some people need help with the most basic functions.


The purpose of this photo is to show that even the most basic of human functions can be difficult for some people. Help is needed not just with getting on and off the toilet but also sometimes medication is needed.

I wanted to show the aid that is used to help people on and off the WC. I know that this is not a promising subject for a photo but everyday objects and scenes have made successful photos (by William Eggleston for example).

I thought that to have an impact it needed to almost fill the frame and not be shown as part of the bathroom along with the basin etc. The natural light was coming from a window in the wall behind the WC which made it difficult to use that as a lighting source, so I thought it best to use a flashgun which I set on a tripod to the left of the camera position. I experimented with different positions for the flashgun using it both with a diffuser pointing at the subject as well as pointing it at the ceiling to bounce the light off. I preferred the results that came from using the flash to the side of the camera as I think that the shadows created add a little to the composition.

Knowing that the toilet suite was blue I wanted a differently coloured object to signify the medical assistance that is sometimes needed to help with using the toilet. I used a box of medicine that was orange and which provided a complementary colour to the blue of the pedestal and the wall tiles. I tried placing the box in different positions within the frame, but it seemed to work best when placed on top of the cistern in the centre. It believe that it adds a focussing point for the attention when viewing the image

In my Learning Log I had commented on photos shown in the May 2012 edition of the British Journal of Photography taken by Julian Baron. He deliberately overexposed his images of politicians as a comment on their relevance (or otherwise!). Although I would be doing it for a different reason, I thought that it would be interesting to try overexposure – ‘washed out’ could be a good description for a bathroom – for this image, it would make it seem a bit more clinical and make it a bit less like a normal, routine, function.

I deliberately overexposed some images by setting the flashgun to a higher setting than required. I think that this adds a slightly surreal effect to the picture and makes it seem a little out of the ordinary, which for some disabled people the whole process is.

My intention in this photo was to suggest that some people need help with the most basic of human functions – even these can be a struggle.

Technical alternatives

I chose to use a flashgun to light this shot as it is easily portable. Using it off camera on a tripod meant that I could create the shadows that I think add to the image. I did try using bounced flash to give more even lighting, but I think the side lighting is more successful.

I chose to use my 35mm lens as the size of the bathroom restricted the lens that I could use – a longer focal length and I would not have been able to include the whole of the toilet in the frame. I could have used my 18-55mm zoom lens but as the 35mm gave the framing that I wanted, then I prefer to use a prime lens rather than zoom.

Technical information

Lens: VR 35mm F/1.8G

Focal Length: 35mm

Aperture: F/11

Shutter Speed: 1/125s

Exposure Mode: Manual

Flash gun: Nikon SB700

No adjustments have been made to the image.


How could this image be improved?

Perhaps I could have made more of the items surrounding the pedestal (the spare toilet roll, brush etc.) and arranged them more carefully rather than just leaving them where they happened to be.

What have I learned from taking this photograph?

I had wireless triggers for my studio flash, but this was the first time that I had used them with a flashgun. Taking the flash off camera and mounting it on a tripod opened up new possibilities for lighting the scene and enabled me to use side lighting for this photograph.

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