What is Parsons Challenge?
Parsons challenge is a required prompt for BFA Students. Applicants must create and submit a new visual work inspired by the theme within a piece submitted in their portfolios. Support your process by writing one 500-word essay describing how your ideas developed. You may also submit up to two additional visual pieces that document your process. All forms of media are acceptable—drawing, video, photography, sculpture, 3D work, collage, and digital images. The Parsons Challenge helps us understand how you develop ideas, visually communicate those ideas, and support your work in writing.
While finishing up the Chrysanthemum illustration, a thought struck me to capture nature in its true form and so I decided to document nature with photography, a field I had no experience other than the occasional mobile phone clicks. With the growing number of climate change protests by students across the world and the idea of preservation of nature, I decided to give my voice to the cause with the help of digital photography. I picked up my father’s old Nikon D70 DSLR camera with an 80mm macro lens and started clicking photographs of flowers in my neighboring park. It was a cloudy monsoon day with high-speed winds and the conditions were not ideal. With just a handy guide, I began my process of documentation of nature.
I initially used the auto mode on D70 to auto-adjust all the settings just to get the basic idea of Macro photography. I clicked a few macros of Periwinkle flowers and noticed that I was not able to add the background defocus effect, so I switched to manual mode and adjusted a few settings such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and area focus. I clicked a few more macros and noticed that the images were very bright and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. By the process of elimination, I figured that I was clicking with high ISO settings, so I changed my settings to ISO auto and started clicking with faster shutter speed. The images were sharper and clearer, so I started clicking photos of a magenta periwinkle which had white vertical highlights on its petals. The beauty of the magenta periwinkle was that white highlights added a gradient effect somewhat similar to my Chrysanthemum illustration and took multiple photos from different angles. Whilst I was shortlisting the photographs, I noticed that clouds had a negative impact on the images. The temperature of photographs was somewhat cool and instead of the warm natural lighting of the Sun, the images had an artificial studio lighting effect. Fortunately, the camera also clicked the RAW image files, so I promptly opened Adobe Lightroom and started editing the shortlisted images. In order to add that natural lighting effect, I increased the temperature to make the images warmer. Then I slightly increased the vibrancy and saturation to make the flower more prominent, increased the contrast to support the bokeh effect, and decreased the highlights to smoothen the gradient effect.
Finding such beautiful flowers in the polluted atmosphere of New Delhi is a blessing. Despite the unfavorable smoldering weather conditions and lack of preservation of the environment, the periwinkle bushes are the perfect example that nature can prevail even though humans disrupt the natural environment. Documentation of this natural beauty helped me gain a new skill and provided me with a new understanding of nature and life.
I’m inspired by nature and Chrysanthemums are my favorite flowers as they’re very large and are naturally available in several colors. This was the inspiration to my Parsons Challenge.