Exercise 2.2 – People and Activity Research

Before you begin shooting, ask yourself what kind of photographs you want to make. Will they be candid photographs like Henri Cartier-Bresson’s or distant views of activity like Andreas Gursky’s? Will you seek out key gestures, facial expressions and telling relationships like Martin Parr or make ‘snapshots’ of characters in the maelstrom of life like Robert Frank? Will you try to frame the activity in a specific lighting effect like Trent Parke or will you seek to capture cultural details like Manuel Álvarez Bravo? Go online and research these well-known practitioners.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) renowned for being the developer of candid street photography. The decisive moment, setting up the shot, waiting for the action to present itself. Used small, often unnoticeable Leica with 50mm lens. People were therefore more natural and not playing up to or avoiding the camera. Often got very close to his subjects. Black and White. Decisive moment  more visible in Soviet Union, Moscow, 1954. Excellent composition, and often creates tension between subject in opposing thirds (diagonally). Leading lines, people, space, good tonal range. Dignity. Are these photos to aesthetic? Does he really photograph life as it is? (the aesthetic beauty suggests otherwise?) Founding member of Magnum Photos.

INDIA. Punjab. Kurukshetra. A refugee camp for 300.000 people.  Autumn 1947.Fig. 1. A refugee camp for 300.000 people (1947)

Andreas Gursky (1955) Oh my gosh. What can I say about him. He is a photographer and digital artist. Some of his photography appears very crisp, and detailed, with small aperture, and others don’t appear to have any clarity what so ever, and are  deliberately abstract. I get that he explores the effects of capitalism and how it impacts upon people and the natural environment. It has taken me a while to get to grips with his photography, with an initial repulsion that I had to wait to settle down, and the ntake another look.

My mind had certain preconceived ideas about what photography is, and Gurskey shatters these, and that’s why it has taken me a while to adjust. The other thing to consider is that I am only impacted by his photos based upon what I see upon a TV screen, and his art/photography may be 2 meters by 10 meters. I would love to experience being involved in photography with that proximity.

He is a master of digital manipulation and will blend different photos of the same scene together, so that the image is distorted in some way. He uses a variety of other pixel painting, digital over painting, pixelate and blur techniques, in order to alter his images.

I am writing this preparing for exercise 2.2, so I am not completing a thorough review here, but I would like to come back to him. At the moment his work is a little to abstract for what I have in mind for my planned shoot.

Hauptversammlung-I,-Diptychon,-2001Fig. 2. Hauptversammlung I, (2001)

Martin Parr (1952) One of the things that I try to get right with my photography is tidiness. Cropping at the edges to remove distractions, being aware of other distractions within the frame. This doesn’t bother Parr. His photos have parts of clothing where people are walking out of the frame, the edge of cars, litter etc. I do not believe this is an accident. He makes use of this to confirm the roughness that he presents, it is a prop for him to add impact to his photography.

It’s hard to look at Parr’s traditional photography, without being aware of the criticism that has been levelled against him, “Parr’s depiction of New Brighton holidaymakers was viewed by some as a grotesque and cold satire that ridiculed the working class” (Hacking, J, 2012; p455) I have seen interviews previously where he has defended his photographic style of showing what is there, however, when you view his more recent work you can see the criticism has impacted upon his photographic style. He has gone from being edgy, cutting edge, pushing the boat out and taking risks, to producing technically good photos at events where he has clearly been invited, and people know who he is and why he is there. It’s no longer candid, nor a challenge to view and interpret.

I find it quite interesting that I have this response. As somebody who is not comfortable with candid street photography, I prefer those earlier series produced by Parr.

If I was going to draw on Parr for inspiration for this exercise, then I could use both candid and more staged photography. I intend to be shooting in an environment where the staff know that they will be photographed on a regular basis, and without needing to gain permission, and combine these with photos of the public that are candid for large groups, and with consent for individuals and small groups.

I am reviewing photographers regularly now, and can see that you don’t have to make technically correct and aesthetically pleasing photos all of the time. With Parr, juxtaposition is more important than aesthetics. There is clearly an element of Cartier-Bresson in the photography that Parr produces. The juxtaposition is how he captures the decisive moment. His desire to capture human expression, which borders on humiliation of individuals, is paramount. Parr clearly has a vision of what he wants to capture. I do not believe he wants to humiliate the working class, but rather to show the disparity between life for those of different classes. There is a strong humanitarian impulse in his photography, although you need the inner space to consider this without preconception and prejudice.

London Undergorund and bus stops 1994Fig. 3. London Underground and Bus Stops (1992)

KENYA. Nairobi. The Karen Country Club. Table service outside the club. 2010.Fig. 4. Karen Country Club (2010)

Robert Frank (1924) The Americans 1958 – Frank is a photographer who I will explore more fully in the future. A renowned street photographer who was influenced a little by his friend Walker Evans, but more so by the Beatnik poets and writers. He moved to America in 1947, and his trips around America during the mid 1950’s gave him the opportunity to explore and present Americans as an outsider. He was curious to explore what was a new culture to him. (Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 2017a)

The facial expressions are key in Frank’s candid street photography, and I can see why he has been suggested in the brief for exercise 2.2. I see dignity, and contemplation throughout the series The Americans. Maybe Frank’s curiosity and contemplation of a society that was unfamiliar is why he chose the photos that he did (only 83 out of 28,000). The three photos that I have selected all capture emotion and leave me with a sense of feeling, sadness, perhaps anxiety as well. I am looking at these photos with an understanding that street photography is about capturing mood, however Frank was one of the first photographers to use emotion to make his photos, rather than to provide technically astute and pleasing “documents” (Kim, 2013). I have not seen many of Frank’s photos, but I can pick up on a racial tension. It is through the reading of articles that I become aware that the truly challenging nature of Frank’s photography was that he explored, photographed and presented the sides of America that were kept hidden, and showed the depths of despair that was felt in many communities.

Detroit 1955Fig. 5. Detroit (1955)

Funeral St Helena 1955Fig. 6. Funeral St Helena (1955)

IndianapollisFig. 7. Indianapolis (1956)

The capture of emotion and the people’s expression are pleasing to me, and something that I can capture a little of during the exercise. I will shoot in colour, but as I am capturing something of the historic, then I may convert to black and white in the developing process.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902 – 2002) His photography is crisper, cleaner and more artistic than that of Robert Frank, and although Striking Worker Murdered (see below) is graphic and bleak, his photography doesn’t have the emotional impact of Frank. I believe that as he photographs as an insider he does not allow his documentary photography become street photography. However his influences were different. His interests in art, cubism, abstract, and architecture can be seen throughout his photography and over 70 years of making photos. Many of his images are made collaboratively with the people that he photographed, they were either posed or semi staged so as to appear natural. It is apparent that most of the people who he took photos of, knew that they were being photographed. He makes good use of a small aperture and large format camera to bring out the details of the people and buildings that he shoots.

Striking-Worker-Murdered-1934Fig. 8. Striking Worker Murdered (1934)

Figures in the castleFig. 9. Figures in the Castle (1920’s)

The above photo has good composition and lighting, but the interest comes from the reflection of the domed ceiling, along with the stairs. It reminds me of a bird-cage, and the two women are standing on the perch. I wanted to include this image because it is a representation of the artistic influence of Bravo’s education and before he had contact with other photographers. Bravo was a self-taught photographer (Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 2017b) and I find this quite exciting. Because he was not influenced by other photographers, he had an eye for what felt and looked right to him, and without the need to photograph properly. I admire the artistry of his photographs.

How can I allow his influence in the exercise? The keys here are using your eye. What looks good to me? Does something look artistic? How can I capture the texture best? Depth of field – What is appropriate for the shot.

Illustrations

Figure 1. Cartier-Bresson, H; 1947; A refugee camp for 300.000 [Gelatin silver print on paper]; At: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN#/CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN&POPUPIID=2S5RYDPXT0R&POPUPPN=3 (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Figure 2. Gurskey, A; 2001; Hauptversammlung I [C – Print]; At: http://www.artnet.com/artists/andreas-gursky/hauptversammlung-i-diptychon-a-0FrC9PrRmiKHjIXN-uF4dw2 (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 3. Parr, M; 1992; London Underground and Bus Stops; At: https://www.martinparr.com/archive/exhibitions/signs-of-the-times/ (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 4. Parr, M; 2010; Karen Country Club; At: https://www.martinparr.com/2014/ (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 5. Frank, R; 1955; Detroit; At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/07/robert-frank-americans-photography-influence-shadows (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 6. Frank, R; 1955; Funeral St Helena; At: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-frank-the-americans#slideshow (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 7. Frank, R; 1956; Indianapolis; At: https://aperture.org/blog/separate-cars-open-road-robert-frank/ (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 8. Bravo, MA; 1934; Striking Worker Murdered; At: https://www.manuelalvarezbravo.org/english/thirties-A.php#nogo (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Figure 9. Bravo, MA; 1920’s; Figures in the Castle; At https://www.manuelalvarezbravo.org/english/twenties.php (accessed on 11/10/2017)

References

Cartier-Bresson, H: 1954; Soviet Union: Henri Cartier-Bresson; Online at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN#/CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN&POPUPIID=2S5RYDFPJD0&POPUPPN=33 (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Hacking, J; 2012; Photography The Whole Story; London; Thames and Hudson

Kim, E; 2013; Robert Frank’s “The Americans”: Timeless Lessons Street Photographers Can Learn; Eric Kim Photography; Online at: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/01/07/timeless-lessons-street-photographers-can-learn-from-robert-franks-the-americans/ (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Wikimendia Foundation Inc; 2017a; Robert Frank; Online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Frank (accesses on 11/10/2017)

Wikimedia Foundation Inc; 2017b, Manuel Álvarez Bravo; Online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_%C3%81lvarez_Bravo (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Also Viewed

Andreas Gursky; Online at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en

Gagosian; Online at: https://www.gagosian.com/artists/andreas-gursky (accessed on 11/10/2017)

Magnum Photos; Online at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN#/CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZMYN&POPUPIID=2S5RYD1TROZJ&POPUPPN=20 (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Wikimedia Foundation Inc; 2017; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Cartier-Bresson (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Scharf, A; 1998 (re-edited up to 2017); Henri Cartier-Bresson: French Photographer; Online at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henri-Cartier-Bresson (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Tate; Online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/andreas-gursky-2349 (accessed on 11/10/2017)

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Review – Anthony Luvera – Residency 2006 – 2011

This project fascinates me because it is about collaboration. Luvera did not take the photos, he invited his subjects to make the photos, after he had spent time teaching them how to.

  • Project followed on from Photographs and Assisted Self-Portraits 2002 (ongoing)
  • Inspired by Belfast Exposed Photography
  • Explored ideas around ethics and collaborating when making documentary photography
  • Regularly visited The Welcome Centre, which is a hub for people without permanent accommodation
  • Helped to prepare and serve meals
  • Got to know people and explained his project
  • Gave people cameras so they could make photos of things that interested them
  • Met with them regularly
  • Taught them how to use large format camera and how to take assisted self-portraits
  • Doing so blurred the boundaries between subject and photographer
  • Went with participants to the areas that mattered to them
  • Participant set up equipment and used remote shutter release
  • After this he used sound interviews to discuss the experience and their photographs
  • Self representation provides a documentary record that shows the person behind the local authority statistics that are kept about people
  • A reflection of individuality
  • Not necessarily a reflection of reality, as the director or artist involved in these kind of projects have an impact upon image production and representation

As someone with an interest in sociology I feel very grateful that my tutor suggested that I take a look at this project. It raises the question of how I can involve my subjects more with the creation of their photo. There is also the need to consider who has control of the image, how and where it will be displayed and the right to remove consent at a later date.

A person may agree to their photo being made use of for a project, but what should I do if they then decide that they no longer want their image to be used? Can they make use of their photo themselves? I have not used a model release form for any of the people who I photograph. I do gain verbal consent, and discuss how I will make use of the photo, but is that enough? I certainly think that I should begin to explore model release forms, and would also need to consider the wording. Does the form need to be generic or project specific? is there an opportunity to edit a basic form with a subject, so that it can be relevent to them?

Certainly food for thought, especially in relation to how I can get people more involved in the creative process as a collaborator. This really interest me.

References

Luvera, A; 2002 (ongoing); Photographs and Assisted Self-Portraits; Online at: http://www.luvera.com/photographs-and-assisted-self-portraits-2002-ongoing/ (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Luvera, A; 2011; Residency (2006 – 2011); Online at: http://www.luvera.com/residency/ (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Belfast Exposed Photography; Online at: http://www.belfastexposed.org/ (accessed on 09/10/2017)

The Welcome Organisation; Online at: http://www.homelessbelfast.org/ (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Also Viewed

Seymour, Tom; 2015; Belfast Exposed – A Photography Gallery That Crossed the Sectarian Divide; UK; 1854 Media Ltd; Online at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2015/12/belfast-exposed-a-photography-gallery-that-crossed-the-sectarian-divide/ (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Review – August Sander

Blacksmiths 1926, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964Fig. 1. Blacksmiths (1928)

Initial Thoughts:- I have uploaded all three photos before collecting my thoughts, and I must say that this photo surprises me a little bit when compared to the others, and to his photography as a whole. The surprise being that the focus is on the anvil rather than on the people. I have accessed Sanders photography on the Tate website, and his portraits are wonderful, and in the overwhelming majority of his photos it is the people who take centre stage (WordPress compresses photos and this has an effect on sharpness, however, with re-viewing the photo on the Tate website it is clear that the focus is beginning to drop off of the faces anyway.)

Two blacksmiths in working clothes, which are surprising clean for what can be hard, dirty, manual labour. Focal point is hammer and anvil? is this a representation of the rebuilding of Germany under Adolf Hitler? (I don’t know when Hitler was elected so I will check this later) Could it be a statement about strength? Oy maybe about the German work ethic? (As Henning Wehn would say “We Germans, we like a laugh, no honestly we really do, we really do, just like the Brits, the only difference is Germans laugh once the work is done” (Live at the Apollo (2015))

The man on the left looks stoic and proud and the guy to the right looks a little apprehensive. There has been a little staging so that the photograph could be made within the context of their work and behind the anvil, and the photo is posed. I believe the fire is to the rear left of the photo, although I cannot be sure. Neither of the men appear to be hot, and there is no smoke in the photo, which leads me to guess that the men have been photographed prior to work.

The photo when taken on its own does not fit the category of reportage or photo journalism. It has a feel of social documentary, especially when the symbolism of the anvil is taken into account.

 

National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture 1938, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964Fig. 2. National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture (1938)

Initial thoughts:- Formal, staged, posed photograph, of a man with significant status within the Nazi Government. A former soldier, wearing dress uniform showing his military decorations upon his chest. Is it significant that the swastika is at the forefront of the photo? I do not know. Maybe the symbol is on the other sleeve and I will have to look into that. If it is upon both sleeves then it is not a symbolic statement, however if it only appears upon the left then I would say it is. The man is viewed in profile rather than face on, and that makes this a very formal photo. His head is isolated from the background curtain, and this has been achieved by having a light source coming from the direction that the man is looking towards. The light brings out highlights throughout his face and this separates the tone of skin and the tone of the background curtain.

The emphasis and learning points for me here are in relation to lighting, not only of the features, but as a means of isolating the face from the background. The formailty and status is clear in this photo, and is emphasised when compared with the face on photo titled Non-commissioned Officer (1944), however when you then compare this with the photo below, which could be studio photography, then it does not appear that Sander is making a judgement about class or status, rather he represents what is.

 

Political Prisoner 1943, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964Fig. 3. Political Prisoner (1943)

Initial thoughts:- This is a photo that I like because it tells me something. The title becomes a text anchor. It makes a statement about the man in the photo that is definite and leaves no space for interpretation. And yet the mans eyes ask questions of the viewer. He is making a direct challenge about our perception of him as a prisoner, daring us to judge, and question. He is also at ease as to why he is a political prisoner. I sense confidence and self-esteem. The lighting comes form the front and slightly to the left, and the man not having a top on creates the isolation of him from the background. What initially look like scars upon his chest, and potential signs of ill treatment, turn out to be stretch marks upon closer inspection.

The fact that he doesn’t have a top on is meant to take this mans dignity away, although this has not been engineered by Sander, and can be seen in other photos of political prisoners that he has taken. I suspect the attempt to reduce dignity is part of the Governments treatment of political prisoners. When this photo is looked at with an open mind it is clear that it has been taken in a very dignified fashion. I suspect that it cannot have been easy for even a German photographer to be take photos of political prisoners. Perhaps Sander was employed by the Government and this was meant to be a propaganda photo? Regardless of Sanders role, this is a sympathetic photo.

Reflections and Further Reading

Sander has an art at ensuring his subjects are photographed with dignity, and there does appear to be neutrality. The impression that I get is of a photographer that will endeavour to bring out the best from his subjects, and take their photos in the environment that they spend the majority of their time. When viewed as a collection they are, what I would describe as, social history photographs that aim to present facts without a bias towards status. He has made photos where a victim of persecution, political prisoner, policeman and architect appear to be studio shot, and others of a string quartet, bricklayer, painter, teacher, nun and SS Captain in the natural environment.

Sanders used a large format camera with long exposures, and this will explain why some of the people are not as sharp or as crisp as the environmental objects (Washton Long; 2013).

Pepper Stetler comments upon this In Photography the Whole Story “Face of Our Time presents a cross section of the German Nation organized according to occupational and social types…Its heterogenity is why the Nazis destroyed copies of both the book and the publisher’s printing blocks in 1936.” (Hacking, 2012:299)

His subjects are well-lit, and are often naturally framed against walls, windows, or the natural environment, and others appear to be studio portraits. In the majority of his photos the people, as subjects, stand out from the backgrounds, even when they can be quite cluttered.

In some of his photos there is an element of individuality shining through, and this is also apparent in some of the more formal photos such as Touring Player and Raoul Haussmann as Dancer.

Response to my questions in the text

Germany was under a coalition government led by Hermann Muller in 1928. (Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 2017)

German Officer dress uniforms had a red armband with the Swastika Motif, that was worn on the left arm only. The officer may have wanted to show the motif, but from reviewing Sanders photography I do not believe tha the had any symbolic agenda, and he took and presented his photo as a matter of factual representation.

Sander has been described as a “leftist” and therefore not politically neutral, and that he was a German who spent time photographing and associating with Jews whilst they were actively being persecuted (Washton Long; 2013).

The Economist Newspaper sates “Despite persecution by the Nazis (his son Erich, a committed Socialist, died in prison in 1944), Sander travelled little” (The Economist Newspaper; 2009)

I am left with one question. How was a man who is disliked and persecuted by the Nazi Governement allowed to photograph the German Political elite and armed services, and able to photograph Political prisoners and Jews?

 

Illustrations

Figure 1. Sander, A (1928) Blacksmiths [Photograph, Gelatin silver print on paper] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sander-blacksmiths-al00039 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Figure 2. Sander, A (1938) National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture [Photograph, Gelatin silver print on paper] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sander-national-socialist-head-of-department-of-culture-al00151 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Figure 3. Sander, A (1943) Political Prisoner [Photograph, Gelatin silver print on paper] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sander-political-prisoner-al00113 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

References

Google Inc; 2017; Image search: German Officer dress uniform 1938; Online at https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=German+officer+dress+uniform+1938&client=firefox-b-ab&dcr=0&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwif6buThdrWAhUMXBoKHRzZDMMQ_AUICigB&biw=1280&bih=566 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Hacking, J; 2012; Photography the Whole Story; London; Thames & Hudson

Live at the Apollo (series 11, episode 5) (2015) Directed by Paul Wheeler [BBC TV comedy series], London, BBC Programmes, viewed via YouTube At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRIhHH4TQvU

Mulligan, T and Wooters, D; 2016; The George Eastman House Collection: A History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day; Koln; Taschen GmbH

Sander, A; 1944; Non-Commissioned Officer; Online at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sander-non-commissioned-officer-al00068 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

The Economist Newspaper; 2009; The Photographs of August Sander: Twentieth-Century Man: A photographer who believed he was enabling self-portraits; Paris; The Economist Newspaper Limited 2017; Online at http://www.economist.com/node/14302314 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Washton Long, RC; 2013; August Sander’s Portraits of Persecuted Jews, Tate Papers, no.19; London; Tate; Online at http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/19/august-sanders-portraits-of-persecuted-jews (accessed 5 October 2017)

Wikimedia Foundation Inc; 2017; German Federal Election 1928; Online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_federal_election,_1928 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Also Viewed

All titled photographs that are discussed, but not shown in the text, can be viewed online at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/august-sander-5319 (accessed on 05/10/2017)

Review – Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt (1904 – 1983)

Brandt, BillFig. 1. Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal (1937)

Initial Thoughts:- Real photo of a Northern Miner and his wife. Pulls no punches. Doesnt clean it up, doesn’t wait for sunday best, Makes the photo as it is. Miner – Dirty, stained with coal dust, hands filthy, doesn’t wash or change before eating, wooden table and wood shows signs of ageing, well provisioned with basic food, sugar, meat, sandwich, suet pudding?? loaf of homemade bread. Man – devoid of expression, Woman – looks dejected, fed up, not eating with her husband. This is a working meal of a shift worker, eating alone, going back to work? Mug, glassware, cutlery, ornament on stand mass-produced. Washing is hanging up above the table (jumpers, bedding). The womans handbag is hanging up. Its well used, but hanging up and not left around, it’s not an every day occurrence to use the handbag. This family is not well off, but neither are they broke, although every penny gets accounted for, and everything is repaired, reused, and looked after (the wallpaper is in very good condition, and the only sign of age is where it peels back from the door frame).  There is a painting on the wall behind the washing, and the figure looks to be appearing from behind the washing, looking down at the couple. Do they even talk to each other anymore? Does he just go to work, come home, eat, go back to work and sleep? Does she just cook breakfast, do the washing, tidy, clean the house, cook lunch, do more washing, do more cleaning, cook tea, darn clothes, sleep? Does she have any friends? Does she get time to talk to wives of other miners? He has community with his co-workers, she has little. This is not living. This is existing for existing sake. Where is the pleasure? It is not in the eyes or demeanor. Miners housing. rented not owned, tied accommodation, no work – no home.

 

Robert-GravesFig. 2. Robert Graves in His Cottage at Churston Devon (Circa 1941)

Initial Thoughts:- What a contrasting photo. bohemian, writer, thinker, space, time, cleanliness but busyness. Home is owned, his cottage, can’t see the whole house, but the representation is sparse in the way of possessions (other than writing equipment), does this suggest the cottage is inherited? Regardless of wealth he has enough money in the bank to live comfortably, to write (what doe he write? essays? books? Poetry? – he isn’t a journalist (his clothing, writing in personal space, draft of essay or book. Perhaps a student but I don’t think so. He is a free-thinker, creative writer) He wears several layers of clothing (appears he has four tops on). He is also an artist, there is a tube of paint and several brushes on the table. He drinks from a bone china tea cup, whilst he writes and paints. He has more than enough money in the bank. His is expression is studious, interested. His skin is healthy. What a difference a bit of money can do.

These photos are a tale of two halves. Both images have allowed themselves to be photographed in their own homes. Is photography real? Can photography ever be claimed to be factual? That debates for another day, but I do believe that these are realistic. They havent been staged. This is how the people in the photos live. It says a lot about society, then and now, that those who “have” can enjoy life and have some freedom and choice, satisfaction and the pursuit of their own ideals. Those who “don’t” just exist. All though in the UK there is more comfort and opportunity for those from the poorer side of the divide, there is still a chasm in the quality of life between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The images bring out the angry marxist in me, and sadness. How can I not feel for the couple in the first photo. But I am also like Mr Graves. I want to explore, to learn to express, to challenge, to create, to make a difference. The anger is because there is enough money in the world for everyone to live a free and comfortable life. There really is. So why do we follow this stupid capitalist system so that we can give the 1% more. There is enough for everyone, and yet we still allow this happen. We switch off our minds, buy the next car, the next phone, the next house, the next lie that tells us we should work harder so we can own more, achieve more, and we forget that there is already enough in the world for us to relax, to chill, to have the space to enjoy each others company.

These are timeless images. There is a truth within them. They are also not making a statement about what is right or wrong, but questions arise within the eyes of the viewer, when these portraits are seen in comparison.

What have I learned from these photos? Portraits are more than shots of faces. Allowing space around a person can contextualise their photo. Portraits can make social statements. Portraits are taken for different reasons, some make statements, some ask questions.

Illustrations

Figure 1. Brandt, B (1937) Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal [Gelatin] At: https://www.1fmediaproject.net/2013/03/06/bill-brandt-shadow-and-light-at-the-museum-of-modern-art-presents-a-major-reevaluation-of-the-artists-career/ (accessed on 04/10/2017)

Figure 2. Brandt, B (Circa 1941) Robert Graves in His Cottage at Churston Devon At: https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-male/G00005CApULC3wVQ/I0000tX1uxdB2Cpc (accessed on 04/10/2017)

Also Viewed

https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-male/G00005CApULC3wVQ/I0000TCSNXZyQv0g (accessed on 04/10/2017)

https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-female/G0000p2oj30TCuuk/I00000kpBRDZ7y80 (accessed on 04/10/2017)

http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/exhibitions/exhibition/bill-brandt-photographs-1982/object/robert-graves-in-his-cottage-at-churston-devon-brandt-1941-portraits-p4724 (accessed on 04/10/2017)

http://www.billbrandt.com/news/2015/5/6/barbara-hepworth (accessed on 04/10/2017)

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/robert-graves (accessed on 04/10/2017)

Review – Sleeping by the Mississippi, Alec Soth

Alec Soth (born 1969, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States) is an American photographer, based in Minneapolis, who makes “large-scale American projects” featuring the midwestern United States.[1] New York Times art critic Hilarie M. Sheets wrote that he has made a “photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers” and photographs “loners and dreamers”.[2] His work tends to focus on the “off-beat, hauntingly banal images of modern America” according to The Guardian art critic Hannah Booth.[1] His work has been compared to that of Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.[1] He is a member of Magnum Photos. (Wikimedia Foundation; 2017)

I shall begin in my usual way of reviewing two specific photos of Soth, and specifically from his work entitled “Sleeping by the Mississippi” as suggested by my tutor Jayne Taylor. Then I will read a couple of reviews and watch a YouTube video, so that I can build upon my critique of the photos that I select.

Charles, Vasa, Minnesota 2002Fig. 1. Charles, Vasa, Minnesota (2002)

Initial Thoughts:- Narrow depth of field makes person stand out, colours(turquoise, red, green), person not crisp despite narrow depth of field, overalls and shoes paint-stained and tatty, aeroplanes look to be intact and are likely to be radio controlled, both have signs of engines, I suspect that these are both in working action, Charles is proud to present them, they are important to him, is he possibly a retired pilot (aircraft, green overalls, sheepskin head-gear). This is appears to be the second storey of the property (background drops away from the level they are on), and it is possible that Charles will fly the aeroplanes for Soth. There is a pride to these aircraft, they are being shown off to an outsider, and that makes them special and important. These two aeroplanes may be a hobby but they are important and significant to Charles.

I think that he looks after himself, his beard and clothing may make him look unkempt but there is no sign of illness or ill health from the appearance of his skin, and his house appears well maintained. The paint on his house is smooth and doesn’t appear to have flakes or damage. It looks cold, snow lays beneath his feet, but he is warm and is appropriately dressed for the weather. Its winter as there are no leaves on the tree, so it is hard to guess whether this is a secluded woodland home or a wasteland. I suspect that the home is surrounded by wasteland, although I only guess this to be the case, a gut feeling.

Imagine living alone, or with little family, in a found home and in the middle of a wasteland. It’s the middle of the winter. You’re suspicious of strangers, suspecting ridicule at best, violence or murder at worst. And yet you’re standing here, having your photo taken. That says something to me about Soth. He has built the trust of this man. He has been welcomed and accepted, so much so that the man is displaying what is his pride and joy, his two remote-controlled aircraft. Soth is clearly a communicator, he has not just turned up out of the blue with his camera. He has visited the area and planned this shoot. But there has to be more. He has to be an insider to build that level of trust. Why? As an outsider with the best communication skills you are not going to be repeatedly invited back until the trust is built, it’s not going to happen, and without that you will either get no photo or at best a cold portrait, standing on the porch, with gun close by.

This is not a warm photo, but neither is it cold and detached. This man has trusted Soth deeply. It’s highly unlikely that even an insider, but stranger nonetheless, would be invited back unless he had known the family personally. So Soth is an insider, he knows enough of the local area to be considered so, and this has been his footing into him being allowed to photograph. This has been a planned shoot, at the very least there has been planning about how to build rapport so quickly.

The similar tonal range of the paint work, overalls, and colours of aircraft keep the eye central and the focus upon the man. The building acts as an anchor for the eye, and this renders the tree behind Charles as irrelevant rather than a distraction.

 

Fort_Jefferson_Memorial_Cross, Wickliffe, Kentucky 2002Fig.2. Fort_Jefferson_Memorial_Cross, Wickliffe, Kentucky (2002)

Initial thoughts:- Christianity is an overwhelming, imposing and powerful part of this community. The community is less important than the religion. Hope lies in the cross. Why is hope so important in this community? The car looks beaten, the workers are either involved in menial manual work or they are convicts involved in the same work. If the people were had higher importance or social status, then the cross would have less prominence. This is a narrative photo in which Christianity and the Star Spangled Banner are intrinsic. The protestant work ethic underpinning The American Dream. These men are not a part of that American Dream, as it stands they do not matter, and must redeem themselves. Salvation is not their right. They must work for it. Is this to do with the exclusion that is prominent for those in the deep south? Does this relate back to the slave trade, where the whites got rich and exported that wealth to the North, leaving behind poverty and a hard life for those of the South? Or is this about crime and having to earn any right to redemption? Either way these men are “sinners” under the oppression of the cross. The cross is only powerful for some!!!

The cross, white, pure, heavenly – the orange uniforms stand out as being dirty, stained and sinful. These men are laying the road surface as indicated by their rakes and tar brush, but they will not get to walk that road to heaven; They are sinners.

I do not want to explore the technicalities of this photo. They are not important, but the story is. I may have read the narrative incorrectly, but it is all that matters. It reminds me of the symbolism of A Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, by Walker Evans which I have previously reviewed. Another fine photo where the narrative was more important than the technicalities.

Reflections upon other sources

Alec Soth reports that he was driving around on one of his road trips around the Mississippi, and what attracted him was the glass room on the second storey of the house. He knocked on the door and it was answered by Charles’ wife, and he agreed that he would come back later when Charles was home. Charles had added different floors to the home and moved the internal structures around. The aircraft were a shared interest between Charles and his daughter, they would build them and fly them together. (Behind the Picture – Alec Soth, 2014)

Soth was an insider in many respects, he was born and lived not far from where the Mississippi begins, in rural Minnesota. So he has an inlet with the people that he photographs. He also has quite specific notes in relation to subjects that he wants to photograph, and has these taped to his dashboard when he is on a road trip. He is awkward and shy but finds this to be something that helps to develop the initial rapport with those he shoots. In the New York Times he reports “My own awkwardness comforts people, I think. It’s part of the exchange.” (Sheets, 2009)

The key point of learning for me from Soth’s account, is the necessity to make photos about subjects that interest you. If you are not attracted to your subject, then you have no connection to build upon. My tutor said the same to me on Friday during my Assignment One feedback session. When we show an interest in another person, whether that is about them as an individual, their beliefs, or about a person’s property, they relax, they give something of themselves back to you. This is also discussed in Creative Portraits (Davis, 2010:24-27), which I am currently reading. It is good for me to hear that Soth is shy and feels awkward around people, but this has helped him to create photography. As someone who is shy, this gives me hope. As it happens, I approached two couples today to ask if I could take their photos. I explained why, and also said that I need to practice my portrait photography because I find it so hard to be around people. It was the connection that let me in.

 

Illustrations

Figure 1. Soth, A (2002) Charles, Vasa, Minnesota At: http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14 (accessed on 02/10/2017)

Figure 2. Soth, A (2002) Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, Wickliffe, Kentucky At: http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14 (accessed on 02/10/2017)

References

Behind the Picture – Alec Soth, (2014), YouTube Video, Magnum Photos, At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cks_13JE3iw&index=131&list=PLjRzIl_KZc4jIw26rwjgIc__29fcXmjay (accessed on 03/10/2017)

Davis, H; 2010; Creative Portraits, Digital Photography Tips & Techniques; Indianapolis; Wiley Publishing, Inc

Keys, R; 2017; Review of “A Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania”, by Walker Evans; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/review-of-a-graveyard-and-steel-mill-in-bethlehem-pennsylvania-by-walker-evans/ (accessed on 02/10/2017)

Sheets, HM; 2009; ‘Trolling for Strangers to Befriend’; In: The New York Times [Online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/arts/design/02shee.html (accessed on 03/10/2017)

Wikimedia Foundation Inc; 2017; Alec Soth; Online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alec_Soth (accessed on 02/10/2017)

Also Viewed

http://www.bjp-online.com/2017/09/alec-soth-on-sleeping-by-the-mississippi/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/aug/25/alec-soth-sleeping-by-the-mississippi-loners-preachers-sex-workers-sinners

http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/1180-Sleeping-by-the-Mississippi.html

Review of Karl Blossfeldt

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a sculptor, who through his photographic studies of plants, was able to teach art, by steering his pupils back to nature and its creation of form and structure. He built his own cameras with high magnification so that he could photograph the minute details in plants.

Plate 46, struthiopteris germainca, 1928 soul cathcher studioFig 1

late 47 pinterestFig 2

Initial thoughts – Shape, pattern, texture, form, symmetry, sharpness, detail, pattern, repetition, macro, no distraction, plain/neutral background, (real size of “fiddle head” in Struthiopteris germanica around 3-5cm). Can see veins in fig 2,

What I particularly enjoy about Blossfeldt’s photography, is the sharpness and the detail. In Fig 1 it is possible to see the new frond growth that are curled up inside of the “fiddle head”, and in Fig 2, it is the leathery texture which highlights the surface structure that I am drawn to.

The neutral background means that the only thing that I see in Blossfeldt’s photogravure’s is the subject. There is an importance to ensuring that depth of field and accurate, sharp focus are spot on to make this type of photography, and worth keeping in mind for the exercises within this piece of coursework.

There are two images by Henry Troth (1863-1948) in A History of Photography (Johnson WS, Rice M and Williams C; 2016; p 274, 275) which I find to be more appealing. Lady Fern (Fig 1) shows the fern with its rhizome, cleverly arranged so that they rhizome is flat on the background and the fern is in the air.

Lady FernFig 3

Tulip Popular Blossom has a black background, and the lighting comes from the left. These combine to bring out some of the detail in the foliage, but more so in the flowers. The background has been removed from these images, but I do prefer the depth in them when compared with Blossfeldt’s images.

Henry Troth Tulip Poplar Blossom 1900Fig 4

 

References

Fig 1 – Blossfeldt, Karl; 1928; Plate 46 Struthiopteris germanica; [photogravure]; At http://www.soulcatcherstudio.com/exhibitions/blossfeldt/plate046.html (accessed on 13/09/2017)

Fig 2 – Blossfeldt, Karl; 1928; Plate # 47: Saxifraga Willkommniana; [photogravure]; At https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jjcoral99/karl-blossfeldt/ (accessed on 13/09/2017)

Fig 3 – Troth, H; 1900; Lady Fern; [gelatin silver print]; At https://www.pinterest.co.uk/lauredarre/vegetable/ (accessed on 14/09/2017)

Fig 4 – Troth, H; 1900, Tulip Poplar Blossom; [gelatin silver print]; At http://www.softpyramids.info/post/19153186317/henry-troth-tulip-poplar-blossoms-ca-1900 (accessed on 14/09/2017)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matteuccia (accessed on 13/09/2017)

https://www.moma.org/interactives/objectphoto/publications/774.html (accessed on 13/09/2017)

Johnson WS, Rice M and Williams C; 2016; A History of Photography From 1839 to the present; Koln; Taschen GmbH; p 274, 275

Review – Tom Hunter

Brief:-

Tom Hunter http://www.tomhunter.org/gallery/ – Look at the two series Life and Death in Hackney and Unheralded Stories. Do you notice the connection between the people and their surroundings? How does Hunter achieve this? What kinds of places are these photographs set in? Are they exotic, special or ordinary, everyday places? There’s something ‘mythical’ and yet also ‘everyday’ about Hunter’s pictures. Look carefully at one or two images and try to pick out the features that suggest these two different qualities.

Tom Hunter provides information about his art alongside the two galleries required for review by the brief, and I have been able to add to this with further reading online. Hunter uses local people in their own environment, a place that is familiar for he and them. The photos are staged with “sitters” (not models). They are local people who he either knows, or he discovers locally. Although the photos are meticulously staged so that they represent a painting from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the sitters are so familiar with the environment that only a few appear to be staged photos. Hand on heart – I have no idea about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and no art history, so I have had to do some research)

Hunter gave an interview to the Guardian Newspaper in which he says “The whole idea was to elevate the status of my sitters; to take the attributes of classical painting and put them on to my sitters. That was my political motivation. I’ve always been political, and it’s very important to me that people don’t see Hackney as a mythical place. It is a real place, and it’s somewhere everyone up and down the country can relate to. These things are going on in every town and county. You don’t have to go to Afghanistan to find a war zone. People are shooting each other every day in Hackney.” (Aitkenhead, D; 2005)

Do I understand the political intention behind staging people in their local setting to reenact news-stories, as a way of engaging the viewer with what is going on in front of their eyes? Yes. Do I understand the propaganda instigated by the capitalist minority so that they can further influence and control the behaviour of the proletariat, and corrupt their minds so that they scorn those who live an alternate lifestyle or who are socially excluded, and that this is social control? Yes I do.

Most of the external of the settings appear to be edgelands. The spaces between the city and the countryside, and they also appear to be less affluent. Hell that’s not true, they appear to be places of poverty and degradation. We are seeing marginalised people in marginilised communities. The kind of places that governments make quick promises to, and take slow actions about. These kind of areas can be found in cities and towns throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Interestingly the London Borough of Hackney is no edgeland. Its is in the heart of London and borders with the City of London (business district).

I do not see these places as being exotic (foreign, non-native, tropical) and only three of four of these pieces of art appear to have anything mythical about them. Maybe if I had a history with fine art I may have seen more mystery and myth within the series. Staging photos so that they mimic famous paintings does not necessarily create a magical feeling to those with no knowledge of those works. Although having read from Hunter site, his interview in the Guardian and a review by Robert Wilkes (Wilkes, R; 2014) I do have an understanding of the intent of adding an aesthetical feel to political issues as a way of engaging political dialogue.

Exploring the everyday and mythical

DMJ0104Z_09.tifFig 1

My thoughts –  A dilapidated house from the 1960’s. I would have guessed at an earlier period if it had not been for two miniature colour photos of children on the fireplace to the right of the scene. The woman is alive (colour of skin) and is wearing lipstick and eyeliner that is still very neat with no smudging,(so we are not viewing heroin chic of the late 90’s and no apparent drunkenness). Its 8.50 and I would guess PM as there is the reflection of a light in the painting of the female religious figure on the wall – top left. She is divorced and the wedding band is now on her right hand. Is she preparing to go out for the night to meet her friends? Despite this she is grieving and feels alone, dirty ashamed and unloveable (Symbolism – empty made bed, that’s stained and dirty, the floor has no carpet, the wall paper is terribly faded, there is no longer a mirror above the fireplace and there is now just white paint). She sees herself as a fallen woman, prostrating before Jesus and Mary (Mary statue, Jesus Painting, Cross on necklace on the Jesus painting, female religious painting). There is clearly the overlay of the myth of the fallen woman – a label that puts women on a pedestal as being saintly then humiliates them for being human, and the myth of Christ as portrayed (Catholicism – WHITE (WTF?), halo, saintly, GOD in the form of man).

The reality is that it could be any one of us in this situation and at different times throughout our life we all feel alone, ashamed, tired, grief and not good enough. When compared to Death of Sardanapalus by Delacroix and become aware that a man is laying on a bed staring out from his bed at an orgy, with a woman dead at his feet, we are then reminded that the woman on Hunters bed has suffered at the hands of man. That is so familiar that most of the 3.6b women on the planet can relate to. The myth that is alluded to is a familiar and frequent reality for many.

the-way-home-high-2009-emailFig 2

My thoughts – When I first viewed the series Life and Death in Hackney, this was the photo that I stopped at. The reason being that all of the others looked like candid or street photography. However this photo did not. It reminded me of a painting, and this was the one photo that looked staged. The canal has indeed become a stage so that Hunter could recreate the painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais. The blue trousers, the grassy bank and shrub with its flowers and bloom and its petals in the canal, provide a very surreal scene. However the bridge and industrial buildings in the background bring us back to the present day. The title suggests that there has been a misadventure on the way home, but the staging stops me from having emotion relating to it. I don’t believe the story because of the staging. I find that is a shame. Because the story is tragic, and it is tragic because it is real. Hunter read a newspaper article about a woman who had been found dead in a canal. This leaves me with the dilemma and tension between the beauty and art of the photo, and the tragedy of the narrative. I do not like that feeling, but its an incredibly clever piece of art that brings together myth, tradgedy and beauty – all of which are very real and very human.

References

Fig 1 – Hunter, T; 2010; Death of Coltelli; At http://www.tomhunter.org/unheralded-stories-series/

Fig 2 – Hunter, T; 1998; The Way Home; At http://www.tomhunter.org/life-and-death-in-hackney/

Aitkenhead, D; 2005; Life is Grand; In The Guardian [online] at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/dec/03/photography (accessed on 14/06/2017)

Wilkes, R; 2014; Reinterpreting the Pre-Raphaelites: Tom Hunter; At https://dantisamor.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/reinterpreting-the-pre-raphaelites-tom-hunter/

Review – Dan Holdsworth

Brief:-As research for this assignment, look at the work of two photographers and note down your responses. Dan Holdsworth http://www.danholdsworth.com. Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image? What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape? Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?

Initial Thoughts

I am aware that when I make my initial notes and present them in my learning log, I need to expand upon these to turn them into a critique. My notes often form an impression of my thoughts but the lack of detail can leave people unsure of my meaning. However I am going still going to record my initial thoughts for each of Holdsworth’s series that I have looked over, in my own way,  and then answer the questions at the end, followed by a reflection.

Spacial Objects 2015

Spacial Objects no 17 C-type print

Physical installation, large dimensions, over two meters tall. Constructed shapes, bold colours, reds, greens and blues of various hues. Constructed linear shapes, angles, bright highlights, deep shadows, some blacks but not many. Geometrical.

I am aware that this series is not photography, however it has relevance to me for two reasons. I had no understanding of photographic series before beginning Foundations in Photography. I had been working on a series about homelessness, but wasn’t aware of how to link photographs together in any way other than typography. Spacial Objects is typographical, coloured geometric shapes that have the same physical dimensions. But more than this they are of similar tone and use of highlights and shadows. The geometry is of linear angles, but there are circular patterns as part of the texture.

The other relevance to me from this series is seeing how an artist develops their photography over time and builds upon existing pieces of work. His series California from 2003 explores man-made structures and geometry; Mirrors from 2014 is a representation of natural form and structure where angular geometry is introduced by the axis of symmetry and thereby bringing man into the natural world; Spacial objects – a physical installation – man made geometrical shapes, which are a reflectiin of the best of man made and natural structure.

Mirrors FTP 2014

Mirrors FTP 2014 cg05a C-type print

Landscape, geology, rock forms taken from a distance, possible from above (flying over?) 180 degree symmetry rotated around mid-point. Muted colours of natural landscape possibly from igneous rock. Good tonal range, few blacks. Ice and snow in some of the photos in the series. Excellent depth of field, crisp, sharp photos. What is not being shown? Why has the half of the image that is used to create the symmetry included and not the other half?

Upon the first viewing of this series I have to say that I was somewhat perplexed. I asked my self:- What do I think he is trying to convey? and I responded that I had no idea, they are pretty photos that demonstrate excellent photographic technique, and are a great example of how a series of photos work well together. Similar tonal range and image ratio. Similar in hue and saturation, a typology of igneous rock formations.

I had to take a break and re view the photos. This time I asked:- What is missing from this series of photographs? Now were getting somewhere. I do not see any signs of life. No animals, no trees, no people. And what I now see, after reflecting upon what is missing, is that Holdsworth is using symmetry to bring the man-made “marks” into the natural form of the earth. The mirrored formations have sharp edges and create unnatural patterns which add an artificial dymension and destruction into a part of the world that man has not damaged through encroachment. It’s a very clever way to highlight the relationship between nature and man, without showing anything of man.

Blackout 2010

Blackout 2010 11 C-type print

Metamorphic rock formations, snow-covered mountains/glaciers at night. Either artificially lit, or long exposures then when digitally developed the skies have been darkened to black. I suspect there is a form of artificial lighting. There is light drop off at the far side of the scene and highlights at the bottom left. If the photos were taken with bulb exposure there would be some light drop off, but the sky would be brighter and we would see stars or clouds. The scenes are not lit by the moon. To have that level of lighting the moon would need to be higher in the sky than is suggested by the lack of light in the distance, and there would not be light drop off.

Surreal, ghostly, as if looking at the surface of the moon whilst being in a “moon rover” The photographs in the series have a definite sense of space, depth and timelessness. We are shown the “unseen”. Very few people will have seen these landscapes at night, and the artificial lighting means that we are exposed to the light that resides within darkness. This series appears more metaphorical to me, with the psychological aspect of looking within our shadow to see our light. I remain unconvinced by the series and of my analysis of it.

California 2003

California 2003 02 C-type print

This is a small series of only three photographs. A road, a factory and a car park (possibly from a petrol station or shopping mall).

Taken at night. Artificially lit, but the lights are from street lighting or building lights rather than lighting that has been introduced to the scene. Man made, sterile, angular, solid, defined, harsh lighting, are words that I would use for this series. Whereas the terms flow, movement, texture, smooth, balanced tone, are words that I think of when considering Blackout and Mirrors.

Questions from the Brief

Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image? What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape? Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?

I have looked at a mixture of Holdsworth series, some that have been shot at night and others during the day. My belief is that Holdsworth deliberately avoids shooting people, and in doing so he is trying to get the viewer to question the relationship between man and nature, and natural geology and geometry, in comparison to man-made structure and geometric marks.

There is a subtlety of texture, movement and tone in the landscape photos. The mountains in the Blackout series may have strong lines and angles but the interaction of a multitude of lines, textures and structure has a fluidity to it. This is a contrast to the series that I looked at with man-made structures (California) that have many straight, rigid lines. I believe that the series Mirrors exemplifies this. By introducing symmetry to the natural landscape Holdsworth is making a statement about the structures that man makes, and how “man made” interferes with the beauty and flow of the natural world.

This sense is added to by the lighting. In California the artificial lighting presents a sterile environment that eliminates nature. It highlights straight marks, straight lines and an inability of Man to add to the environment. The lighting in Blackout – whether it’s artificial or long exposure – brings out the surreal and creates flowing, ghostly ice sculptures. These have a multitude of texture and detail, and create a feeling of awe. The wonder of looking at the moon or the surface of Mars. We are seeing the unseen.

Holdworths work does not feel objective. I find its highly subjective and is leading the viewer to consider the impact of man upon the environment, the difference between the sublime and the sterile, and the confined and the free.

I have felt out of my depth with this review. Partly because as a student I am considering photography in a more serious manner, and partly because I have been reflecting upon themes, that Holdsworth presents, in a context that I have no familiarity with. I also have a thought that maybe I have over complicated this.

I am not used to the concept of a photographic series. Yes I have grouped my own photos together. My project on Homelessness is my first attempt at this, and I had only considered the importance of theme, or a basic typography. Holdsworth many series have their own individual theme, and fit into an overarching schema which explores:- marks, shape, form, structure and light. His most recent series Spacial Objects builds upon his previous works, by trying to represent the best of space, geometry, light and structure that runs through many of his series of work. Spacial Objects is an installment of man made physical structures, that have some of man’s rigid geometric shapes combined with nature’s flow, space and texture.

Each individual series is made of photos that are a similar aspect, tone, lighting, hue and saturation, and also have contours and lines that are common throughout. This has been a wonderful, if somewhat challenging, opportunity for me to gain some understanding into how to present a series of work and how an artist builds upon previous knowledge and experience as they develop and mature.

References

Fig 1 Holdsworth, D; 2015; Spacial Objects no 17; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)

Fig 2 Holdsworth, D; 2014; Mirrors FTP cg05a; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)

Fig 3 Holdsworth, D; 2010; Blackout 11; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)

Fig 4 Holdsworth, D; 2003; California 02; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Homelessness; Online at http://www.photosociology.info/homelessness (accessed on 08/08/2017)

Review of Lyndsey Jameson – PhotoRealist Artist

I am reviewing Lyndsey Jameson as part of the planning and research for my project on mental illness/mental wellness.

Lyndsey is a visual artist who predominantly paints with oils in the photorealistic style. She has been awarded the British Portrait Award with the National portrait Gallery (2015). She also received second place in the visitors choice of the British Portrait award in 2010.

I find her paintings to be hard-hitting expressions of emotions and inner conflict. She produces a narrative within each painting, but there is adequate space within that for the viewer to become the co-creator of story by questioning our emotions, inner thoughts and our concept of self and identity.

 

The Harpy – Oil on Linen 2013

The Harpy - Oil on Linen 2013

Fig 1

Initial Observations

Woman melting, Rook on Head, Rose and hair pin above ear, Eyes – white-no iris-no pupil, mouth wide, burnt orange-brown-red-yellow canvas, with some whiter/highlights as frame around head. Photorealistic, Emotion – anger-fear-loss

The woman could be materialising (left side of body has no lines of melting) so could be forming. She Could be melting (right hand side of body is like wax, melting down the page. A sense of not being seen as only shoulders and head visible.

The colours of canvas initially suggested anger, movement, energy, intensity, but I also see warmth, sunrise, mist.

Narrative:- The appearance of woman, self, arising through the mist of the morning sunrise, with a need to be heard and seen. There is a strength in the mouth and eyes and the form of the body, which is very defined other than the left arm. Were are not being shown, subtle, tender curves of the woman, we are being shown the dynamic strength of the feminine, the goddess. The Power.The Power is not a confrontation or hostility to the viewer, we are not being lead to be fearful. The perspective is side on, and although the woman is looking forward, she is not facing us. This is power without threat. Inner strength.

Research The Harpy and Celtic power animal (Crow, Rook, Raven)

Harpy – Roman Greek Mythology, half maiden half bird, hunger, faster than the winds, swift-footed, Swift Robbers, bringer of justice, protective of family – especially when harmed, considered ugly by MEN

“But even as early as the time of Aeschylus, they are described as ugly creatures with wings, and later writers carry their notions of the Harpies so far as to represent them as most disgusting monsters. The Pythian priestess of Apollo recounted the appearance of the Harpies in the following lines:

“Before this man an extraordinary band of women [i.e. Harpies] slept, seated on thrones. No! Not women, but rather Gorgons I call them; and yet I cannot compare them to forms of Gorgons either. Once before I saw some creatures in a painting, carrying off the feast of Phineus; but these are wingless in appearance, black, altogether disgusting; they snore with repulsive breaths, they drip from their eyes hateful drops; their attire is not fit to bring either before the statues of the gods or into the homes of men. I have never seen the tribe that produced this company, nor the land that boasts of rearing this brood with impunity and does not grieve for its labor afterwards.” also Vicious, cruel, tyrants that punished the wicked. (Wikipedia; 2017)

The Poem The Harpy by Robert William Service gives a different perspective on the Harpy, and suggests that the harpy is wise, wise to the shame of men, but punished by the gods to play the game of love, either for loves sake or payment. However, this is not a submissive role. These are women of power and are the hunters and not the hunted, even though the man may feel that he is the one with the power.

Celtic and Druid Mythology around ravens and crows concern, wisdom, the oracle, fortune-telling, seeing the future, death but he one that strikes me is that crows can be trained to speak.

I believe that Jameson is showing a woman, truly stepping into her own power, sense of self and will no longer be subservient, quite, shy. She knows who she is, she sees who you are, she sees the future and do not dare stand in her way, because you will pay the consequences if you do. This is also symbolised by the cawing crow. She is also mysterious and has hidden depths

 

 

Raven

“A lot of negative raven symbolism comes about from their appearance on battlefields. They are scavengers (and curious to a fault), and are often seen picking at mangled remains of fallen warriors on battle grounds.

For example, the raven’s intelligence is possibly its most winning feature. Indeed, these birds can be trained to speak. This speaking ability leads into the legend of ravens being the ultimate oracle.

In fact, the raven is often heard to cackle utterances that sound like “cras, cras.” The actual word cras is tomorrow in Latin. This lends more fuel to the legendary fires that distinguish the raven as a bird who can foretell the future, and reveal omens and signs.

Countless cultures point to the raven as a harbinger of powerful secrets. Moreover, the raven is a messenger too, so its business is in both keeping and communicating deep mysteries. The raven is symbolic of mind, thought and wisdom according to Norse legend, as their god Odin was accompanied by two ravens: Hugin who represented the power of thought and active search for information. The other raven, Mugin represented the mind, and its ability to intuit meaning rather than hunting for it. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to soar across the lands. At day’s end, they would return to Odin and speak to him of all they had spied upon and learned on their journeys.

 

Keywords Associated With Raven Symbolism

Vocal, Brassy, Knowing, Curious, Truthful, Creative, Authentic, Intuitive, Mysterious, Insightful, Intelligent, Unpredictable, Unconventional” (Veneficia; 2015-2017)

 

Druidism and Crow

“Another belief was that the birds were faeries who shape-shifted to cause troubles. Magickal qualities included bringing knowledge, shape-shifting, eloquence, prophecy, boldness, skill, knowledge, cunning, trickery and thievery. In the Middle Ages, people believed that sorcerers and witches used the symbol of Crows foot to cast death spells. In most of England, seeing a solitary crow meant anger, but in Northamptonshire, it meant ill fortune. Crow, cawing in a hoarse voice, meant bad weather. A death omen was a crow cawing thrice as it flew over a house. The Irish believed that Crow flocking in trees, but not nesting were souls from Purgatory. Finding a dead crow was a sign of good fortune. Russians believed that witches took the shape of Crow.” (Clara)

 

Torsion – Oil on Canvas 2006

Torsion Oil on canvas 2006

Fig 2

Initial Observations

Male Face, tortured, bruised, cyanosis, haematoma, locked in, unable to express, constricted emotions and thoughts, the eyes – restricted vision – no hope – no future – suicide, the wires wrap tightly around his face – he is mentally and verbally squashed, everything is kept in, his emotions and thoughts are tight and becoming tighter, he can’t get enough oxygen. He is dying with the weight of what he cannot think about or say. He has witnessed or committed tragedy, intense trauma. This is a form of inner suffocation and strangulation. The torture is not as a form of assault, the wires suggest this and say that something has happened to him. The trauma has happened to him and its eating him alive. He is in so much pain but there is no way that he is going to let it out. He is going to die. The pressure is too much. There is no sign that he is going to hit out, the wires tell of impotence, an inability to express.

Pain, sadness, grief, trauma, suffering, intensity, suffocation, powerlessness and death.

With the dictionary definitions of testicular torsion I believe the man may have suffered sexual abuse, and that this has cut of the life within him, as in the first dictionary definition. A hard hitting painting that made me pause deeply.

 

Torsion – dictionary

“Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord (from which the testicle is suspended) twists, cutting off the testicle’s blood supply The most common symptom in children is rapid onset of severe testicular pain The testicle may also be higher than usual and vomiting may occur. In newborns pain is often absent and instead the scrotum may become discoloured or a testicle may disappear from its usual place” (Wikipedia; 2017a)

“def 1; late Middle English torcion wringing one’s bowels < Old French torsion < Late Latin torsiōn- (stem of torsiō) torment, equivalent to tors(us) twisted (see torse ) + -iōn- -ion” (Random House Dictionary; 2017)

“The Harpy – Poem by Robert William Service

There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;
She was old, so old, yet her years all told were but a score and three;
And she knew by heart, from finish to start, the Book of Iniquity.

There is no hope for such as I on earth, nor yet in Heaven;
Unloved I live, unloved I die, unpitied, unforgiven;
A loathed jade, I ply my trade, unhallowed and unshriven.

I paint my cheeks, for they are white, and cheeks of chalk men hate;
Mine eyes with wine I make them shine, that man may seek and sate;
With overhead a lamp of red I sit me down and wait

Until they come, the nightly scum, with drunken eyes aflame;
Your sweethearts, sons, ye scornful ones — ’tis I who know their shame.
The gods, ye see, are brutes to me — and so I play my game.

For life is not the thing we thought, and not the thing we plan;
And Woman in a bitter world must do the best she can —
Must yield the stroke, and bear the yoke, and serve the will of man;

Must serve his need and ever feed the flame of his desire,
Though be she loved for love alone, or be she loved for hire;
For every man since life began is tainted with the mire.

And though you know he love you so and set you on love’s throne;
Yet let your eyes but mock his sighs, and let your heart be stone,
Lest you be left (as I was left) attainted and alone.

From love’s close kiss to hell’s abyss is one sheer flight, I trow,
And wedding ring and bridal bell are will-o’-wisps of woe,
And ’tis not wise to love too well, and this all women know.

Wherefore, the wolf-pack having gorged upon the lamb, their prey,
With siren smile and serpent guile I make the wolf-pack pay —
With velvet paws and flensing claws, a tigress roused to slay.

One who in youth sought truest truth and found a devil’s lies;
A symbol of the sin of man, a human sacrifice.
Yet shall I blame on man the shame? Could it be otherwise?

Was I not born to walk in scorn where others walk in pride?
The Maker marred, and, evil-starred, I drift upon His tide;
And He alone shall judge His own, so I His judgment bide.

Fate has written a tragedy; its name is “The Human Heart”.
The Theatre is the House of Life, Woman the mummer’s part;
The Devil enters the prompter’s box and the play is ready to start. “(Service; 1953)

 

References

Fig 1;  Jameson, L; 2013; The Harpy Oil on Linen; Online at http://www.lyndseyjameson.com/ (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Fig 2; Jameson, L; 2006; Torsion Oil on Canvas; Online at http://www.lyndseyjameson.com/ (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Clara; Crow Divination Part 2 of 3; Online at http://www.avesnoir.com/crow-divination-pt-2-of-3/ (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Random House Dictionary; 2017; Origin of Torsion; New York; Random House Inc; In Dictionary.com; Online at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/torsion (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Service, RW; 1953; The Harpy; Online at https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-harpy/ (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Wikipedia; 2017; The Harpy; Wikipedia Foundation;  Online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpy  (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Wikipedia; 2017a; Testicular torsion; Wikipedia Foundation; Online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testicular_torsion (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Veneficia, A; 2005-2017; Raven Symbolism and Symbolic Meaning of Ravens; Online at  http://www.whats-your-sign.com/raven-symbolism.html (accessed on 05/08/2017)

 

Review – John Wilfred Hinde

Reviewing Hinde was a suggestion by my tutor Jayne Taylor. Landscape isn’t a strength of mine and the reviews she has suggested have been really helpful.

First thoughts on Hinde. Yuck. Dull. Tourism. Not my thing. In fact I dislike his photography so much I decided not to review it.

However, here I am. Reviewing. Why? Because after looking at Hinde’s postcards I started thinking how I could create something similar and yet different for assignment one:- Square Mile.

bm13aFig 1

My initial thoughts:- Summer, enhanced sky and sea, muted buildings, sand and people. Fast shutter speed. No blur/movement from people. Perspective creates four layers. Sea, sand and people, promenade and buildings, sky.

Shadows are strong, although there is cloud the sun is out. People and buildings in direct sun are not washed out. Photo has been developed well or filters used.

The sand, buildings and people have had black added which gives the acidic look (i.e. if you make a colour wheel with paint you can pastelise the colours by adding white or make them acidic and muted by adding black).

bp15Fig 2

Perspective, colour, movement suggested by lights reflection on road, but definitely reflection from illuminations not traffic going past. Wet road but no signs of current rain. Colours acidic. Development suggests possible overpainting (lights from street lamps have very little gradient).

Notes from john hinde collection contact and essays (Beale and Abadie; 2009)

Developed interest in colour photography just prior to leaving school. Used three colour Carbro process (single colour on tissue for each three colours exposed onto gelatin – bit to complex to explain just now). Work for Adprint on Britain in Pictures series and further developed expertise in colour photography. 1955 set up John Hinde Ltd and developed his postcard works which coincided with increase in tourist industry.

Notes from Kate Burt – Independent

Burt quotes Edmund Nagele – a photographer for John Hinde Ltd who explains the extensive planning and production of each image to ensure the timing and lighting were correct and that obstructions were removed or obscured.

Negele explains how Hinde would make extensive notes for the Milan based photo developers he used, telling them what to remove, what colours to change and how to complete the developing.

“After John had masked the transparencies, black and white negatives and the prints for the colour-notes would be made. More umming and arring behind closed doors: John himself would prepare these instructions for the colour separations, which were produced in Milan (Italy). No PhotoShop in those days, only skilled Milanese Signores who would change colours, follow the scribble “make new sky” to the letter and insert the perfect holiday wish. They would eagerly remove objects of lesser desire; telephone posts and TV-aerials scored especially high. More desirable items included people and cars, thus the scribbles became frantic: “make jumper red” and “change colour of car to yellow”” (Nagele)

Having made a brief review of Hinde it’s clear that he was a very skillful photographer and perhaps more importantly a developer. He broke the mould with his vision on producing idyllic landscape, tourist photography, believing that high quality and aesthetically pleasing colour photography rather than the custom black and white. He was a master developer who made use of his experience in the printing industry to ensure he produced colour rich (high saturation) photos. Knowing that there was a lack of technical ability in the UK to produce the colours that he wished, he had his photos developed in Italy. I can see the skill, planning and vision that Hinde had, but I neither like his subject matter or photos. I do wonder if this is a commonly held view (Parr excluded), as there is no mention of Hinde in the bibliography  of Hacking (2014) nor in Johnson, Rice and Williams (2016).

 

References

Fig 1 – John Hinde Studios; BM13A The sands and promenade, West cliff, Bournemouth; Online at www.johnhindecollection.com (accessed on 30/07/2017)

Fig 2 – John Hinde Studios; BM13A Blackpool illuminations, The pleasure beach; Online at www.johnhindecollection.com (accessed on 30/07/2017) (I have not signified John Hinde as the photographer as it’s possible that his employed photographers made the photos).

Abadie, M and Beale, S; 2001-2009; Nothing to Write Home About; in johnhindecollection contact and essays; Online at http://www.johnhindecollection.com/contact_nationalmedia.html (accessed on 30/07/2017)

Burt, K; 2011; King of technicolour tourism: A new exhibition celebrates John Hinde’s postcards; Online at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/king-of-technicolour-tourism-a-new-exhibition-celebrates-john-hindes-postcards-2307780.html (accessed on 30/07/2017)

Nagele, E; Wish you were here: The early days of my photography; Online at http://nagelestock.com/uk/Stockphotochat/postcard.htm (accessed on 30/07/2017 (link is inconsistent – sometimes works/sometimes doesnt)

Hacking, J; 2014; Photography the whole story; London; Thames and Hudson

Johnson, WS, Rice, M, Williams, C; 2016; A history of photography; Cologne; Taschen GmbH