Hannah Starkey – Review

Brief:- Assignment three – A narrative photograph – A staged photograph. A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed and captured at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it; monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy or the old lady picture into an allegory that changes perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Hannah Starkey.

Hannah Starkey (b 1971)

Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 1. Untitled (2007)

Initial thoughts  – stylised art deco, classical, subdued but very rich tones, backstage at theatre? theatre bar? plush, expensive, alone, painted, modern art nouveau, space, lots of space (behind her, too her sides, in front of her), tatoo of female upon her arm looks very sad – a representation of the subjects state of mind), clarity of photo.

A woman is seated at a wooden bench in a theatre bar, she is smoking a cigarette, which is slightly obscuring her head, which is facing down and away from the camera. Symbolic, burned, stood up, hiding, maybe experiencing sadness or embarrassment. Her emotions are out of place for the environment that she is in, which although is a place where many tragedies are performed, they are pretense, whereas this characters emotions are for real. This is no performance, except it is. It’s a staged photograph, a performance representing a non-performance. I like the layered meaning within that.

What do I consider setting and props? I think that everything other than the model is a prop that creates the setting. The props are – chandelier, wooden bench, cigarette, glass with drink (half empty), tatoo, table lamp, mirror, wood panelled wall, stage curtain, stage door. Along with the space surrounding the woman they all combine to create a scene, in which she is very much alone within herself and isolated. There are very few colours, and therefore very few distractions. The figure is so prominent that I do not find the lighting to the top left a distraction, I am aware of it, but I am absorbed by the female sitting within her emotions.

Bloody hell, the mirror is wrong. The lamp is reflected in the mirror but the subject isn’t. If the lamp is a reflection then it has to be further away than the woman, and with the angle between the mirror and her, she should be reflected. A symbol that she is unworthy, does not exist, is unseen, overlooked, un-important. Un-important and yet completely prominent and dominant within the frame.

Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 2. Untitled (1999)

Initial thoughts – Holy trinity, judgement day, three young adults, grouped together, staring demeaningly at a separate female, distance, space between the group and individual. Three embossed figures which are representative of Christ above the group of women. The lone figure has her arms folded defensively in front of her body, she looks uncomfortable, unsettled. Muted colours, the people stand out clearly because of the colours, There is graffiti upon the wall. The group have a plain background behind them, which presents them in a neutral fashion, whereas the individual has the graffiti framing her head, which adds to the sense of alienation, insulted, dirty.

A young female has done something wrong, shameful even, and she is being judged by a group of girls because of her behaviour. She is an outcast facing her judgement day by the pure. Religious symbolism, which because of the demeaning looks from the group shows that the judgement is neither neutral nor corrective, its scornful and self-righteous. A reflection upon the ugliness of Christianity’s darker side, in which being right is more important than following the example of Christ. Condemnation over understanding, anger over forgiveness, hatred over love. The setting is a country where religious bigotry and sectarianism are rife, Ireland? Clothing has a dated look, so representative of the past rather than the present, and the staging reminds me, of 1980’s film Kes (Kes, film. 1970).

Illustrations

Figure 1 Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/hannah-starkey?image=9 (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Figure 2 Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_august.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Feature Image Starkey, H; 2002; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_2002.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Reference

Kes; [Film]; Prod Garnett, T; Kestral Film and Woodfall Film Productions; 111 minutes

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Review – Gregory Crewdson

Brief:- Assignment three – A narrative photograph – A staged photograph. A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed and captured at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it; monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy or the old lady picture into an allegory that changes perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Gregory Crewdson.

Gregory Crewdson (1962)

Crewdson, G; ; Brief EncountersFig. 1. Untitled (Birth) (2007)

Initial thoughts – Because the assignment brief is in relation to a staged photograph then I know this is staged.

Taken at night, in winter, dark, dreary, steam on the inside of the window – however both subjects are not dressed for winter and this creates some dissonance. Even with heating on I would be better dressed in the winter. The edge of the car, the angle of the roof, attempt to make this look like a candid street photo. The snow is cleared from the path – trying to work out who actually clears snow so diligently from paths, I have no idea. Muted tones in bedroom, wallpaper from 70’s? Muted tones allow the green from the bed sheets to standout and this emphasises the subjects. The front door has a glass window pane and we can see through to the bathroom, and the toilet is visible. Has this been a home birth? Is this meant to be a photo taken immediately post-partum? Is that why the clothing looks in appropriate? There is a separation between mother and child, a physical distance that strongly suggests an emotional distance.

Primary props – green bedspread, neutral background, clothing, glass paned front door, bathroom and both lamps.

Secondary props – Car, snow, telephone, bedside drawers, painting – these give the setting, or stage.

crewdson-untitled-bus-fire-twilight-2002Fig. 2. Untitled (Bus Fire) (2002)

Initial thoughts – Suburbs, bus has tipped over and smoke is coming out of the back, side street – this photo is a lie, the low centre of gravity in a bus, and more so because this is a single-decker, would mean the amount of force required to tip this bus over would be impossible to happen on such a small street. A roll-over from cornering is not possible in this setting as the corner that we can see would tip the bus the other direction, and even then there could not be sufficient speed for this to happen as the driver would have had to slow down to turn into the road before reaching the corner. There are no other vehicles and no angry mob, and although there are many youths around the bus, and one standing upon it, these would not have enough strength to over come the forces of gravity required to turn this bus over (a double-decker bus would take 77 people to push over, a single decker bus would take far more. Although the single decker would weigh less, the height of a double-decker means that it has a longer pivot and therefore requires less force to go beyond the 32 degree angle to break the centre of gravity. The angle point of no return for a single-decker is larger because of the shortened pivot (Morris, 2015). This is so obviously staged. Why would Crewdson go to the lengths of creating such an elaborate scene that has no bearing in real life in the environment that it is made? This appears to be a complete oversight on his behalf, which is a really useful tip for me. If I am going to create staged photos, then ensure the setting is appropriate for the context of the subject. I have a reluctance to further review this photo because of this.There is a disconnection between the nice, manicured, suburban neighbourhood, which backs onto a semi-desert mountainous region, during an evening that is moving towards dusk, which has a slightly romantic feel. Things are not as they seem, things are out of place, but this does not leave me with any feelings of a realistic dystopia

 

Reflections

The first photo looks incredibly simple. I feel dismay, sorrow, sadness and loneliness when I look at it because it’s a scene that I can relate to. The emotion and disconnection that I felt in my childhood, I didn’t belong, I didn’t fit in, I was a stranger placed in a home and world that made no sense to me. A very cleverly envisioned, planned, staged and produced photo, and one that I believe many people can relate to on some level, from some period of their own life. The second photo makes no sense to me at all. I’m not saying it’s a bad photo, but I read it in a more literal sense because I cannot find the allegory. This is perhaps my shortfall rather than Crewdsons.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Crewdson, G; 2007; Untitled (Birth) [digital chromogenic print]; AT: http://www.americansuburbx.com/galleries/gregory-crewdson-beneath-the-roses (accessed on 16/06/2018)

Figure 2 Crewdson, G; 2002; Untitled (Bus Fire) [digital chromogenic print]; AT: https://imageobjecttext.com/2012/06/29/suburban-stories-tales-of-the-unexplained/ (accessed on 16/06/2018)

Feature Image Zeitgeist films; 2013; Gregory Crewdson at work (standing on ladder) on the set of “Untitled (Ophelia)”; AT: http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/904087/qa-ben-shapiro-on-gregory-crewdson-brief-encounters (accessed on 16/06/20118)

Reference

Morris, R; 2015; How many people would it take to push over a double-decker bus if it was full of badgers?; Online AT: https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-would-it-take-to-push-over-a-double-decker-bus-if-it-was-full-of-badgers (accessed on 16/06/2018)

 

Review – Cindy Sherman

Brief:- In preparation for Assignment Three, we need to say a few words about staged photography. In advertising and cinema you find a highly artificial, constructed form of photography. Often multiple elements are layered in a final composite. Great care is taken with the arrangement of elements to guide the interpretation of the photograph. The term mise-en-scène, simply means ‘putting in the scene’ and refers to the placement of objects in space. Imagine a totally blank, empty studio. You want to create a scene in the studio depicting a small ancient dwelling inhabited by a hermit in the Sinai desert. You’ll need a lot of light to represent the sun. You’ll need a sky backdrop and plenty of sand and sandstone to create the dwellings. You’ll also need to research and find ancient artefacts that would have been used by an ascetic person. You’ll also need a hermit (actor). This is the way a movie is made, but it’s common to advertising and art photography too and is called ‘staged’ or ‘constructed’ photography. Key practitioners are Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Jeff Wall goes to great lengths to create what sometimes appear to be ‘documentary’ street scenes that reflect a telling human situation. Cindy Sherman consciously played with the identity representations of women in movies by photographing herself in different female roles. Her later work makes use of prosthetic make-up, costume, props and sets to emphasise the ways women were represented in historic paintings. Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

Cindy Sherman (b 1954)

Untitled #98 1982 by Cindy Sherman born 1954Fig. 1. Untitled #98 (1982)

Description of visual elements

Female with short blonde wispy hair. Neck, right shoulder and upper half of right arm bare. Red corduroy shawl draped around the rest of her, her left calf is visible under the shawl. She is sitting in a manner that suggests that she is on the floor. Staring at the camera, looks sullen, unhappy with being viewed, piercing gre/blue eyes. The lighting comes through a window that is immediately in front of her. The shadow of the window frame is a prop, it covers her mouth. The background is dark but there are some visual elements over her right shoulder. I am unable to make out what they are and they include some reflective metal and a flat piece of wood.

My interpretation:- The props are the shawl, the background, which could represent a stage or movie set, and the shadow that appears across her mouth. This is symbolic and represents that women do not have a voice, they are to be shown off for the appeal of the male gaze. It doesn’t matter how talented the female actor is, she is not allowed to be there for herself, but for the male viewer. Red shawl, and the way it is drapped reflects both vulnerability and sexuality. The sex appeal is more important than the represented woman as the shawl is in front of her, and she is vulnerable to how men view her. Her eyes say that she is tired of being watched. She will continue to be there and continue to feel vulnerable. A submissive pose in which the woman has no power. The lighting is very interesting. She i sitting on the floor and yet the shadow of the window frame is apparent nearly at the foot of the photo. This suggests that the lighting is coming through a prop window frame in a studio and the angle suggests that this is in between the camera and subject.

 

Sherman, C; 2016; Untitled #571 [chromogenic colour print]; ATFig. 2. Untitled #571 (2016)

Description of visual elements

Background of a lake with trees in front and quite close to the woman on the chair. The chair is covered with a white throw with a soft, downy fabric. She is sitting in a laid back manner which also appears elegant. Wearing a full length dress which has red and cream stripes that are vertical in nature. The red striped are satin or crushed silk, the cream are jacquard. She wears a silver silk hair band with a diamante bow. there is a wisp of hair peeking out from under the head band on the left, close to where her ear would be, and also her right forehead.

She has a pearl bracelet on her right arm, which is drapped over the chair, and has four bracelets of various designs upon her left arm. In her left hand she holds the necklace that she is wearing. Her own eyes brows have been shaved off and covered with concealer and she has drawn on eye brows, drawn with a brown kohl. Her eye shadow is pink/lilac and her eye lashes are long, she wears black mascara or false lashes. She wears concealer on her forehead but the wrinkles still come through, and liquid foundation upon her face that’s covered with a light powder. This makes her skin have a smooth appearance. There is a discrepancy in colour and texture between the concealer on her forehead and the foundation upon her face. Her lipstick is a deep plum gloss, and she has a beauty spot on her right cheek, it appears to be natural.

She is very well lit and no part of her is in shadow. The lighting is soft and a diffuser has been used on both sets of lights, unseen in the image, but diagonally in front left and right. The background is slightly out of focus and has soft lighting.

My interpretation:- The African Queen, 1920’s, elegant, style, wealth, opulence, formal portrait?, film set? No – it is a formal portrait. If it were to represent a film set then she would either not be seated on the chair in that environment, or be seated on the chair in a more appropriate environment. Her clothing, confident relaxed posture and jewelry all signify her class and wealth. I can imagine Humphrey Bogart lifting her into a dirty boat and sailing down the river. A constant tension and play of power dynamics that shift between the male and female characters. Both having power in different settings, both being confident and vulnerable at times. A good relay for me between the photo and the film and a reminder that women did have a voice in the movie industry at times, the power isn’t always patriarchal and misogynistic. I particular like this photo because of the style and class, along with the nostalgic relay back to The African Queen.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Sherman, C; 1982; Untitled #98 [chromogenic colour print]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sherman-untitled-98-p77729 (accessed on 04/06/2018)

Figure 2 Sherman, C; 2016; Untitled #571 [chromogenic colour print]; AT: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/03/cindy-sherman-interview-retrospective-motivation (accessed on 04/06/2018)

Review – Jeff Wall

Brief:- In preparation for Assignment Three, we need to say a few words about staged photography. In advertising and cinema you find a highly artificial, constructed form of photography. Often multiple elements are layered in a final composite. Great care is taken with the arrangement of elements to guide the interpretation of the photograph. The term mise-en-scène, simply means ‘putting in the scene’ and refers to the placement of objects in space. Imagine a totally blank, empty studio. You want to create a scene in the studio depicting a small ancient dwelling inhabited by a hermit in the Sinai desert. You’ll need a lot of light to represent the sun. You’ll need a sky backdrop and plenty of sand and sandstone to create the dwellings. You’ll also need to research and find ancient artefacts that would have been used by an ascetic person. You’ll also need a hermit (actor). This is the way a movie is made, but it’s common to advertising and art photography too and is called ‘staged’ or ‘constructed’ photography. Key practitioners are Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Jeff Wall goes to great lengths to create what sometimes appear to be ‘documentary’ street scenes that reflect a telling human situation. Cindy Sherman consciously played with the identity representations of women in movies by photographing herself in different female roles. Her later work makes use of prosthetic make-up, costume, props and sets to emphasise the ways women were represented in historic paintings. Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

Jeff Wall (b 1946)

Wall,-J;-1984;-Milk;-ATFig. 1. Milk (1984)

Description of visual elements

Window with stairwell inside, bricks which make a wall, green bush. pavement sloping to the left, light from upper left of the screen, shadow cast where brickwork juts out from the main wall, the photo frame is slightly smaller than the man if he were to be standing, man sitting on floor, no socks, shoe has no laces, looks dejected, sitting slightly hunched with one knee bent under, body leaning into second knee which is upright, forearm rest on knee milk is moving out from a carton to the mans left, spilt milk flying through the air, leather jacket, hair looks greasy but tidy, shadow cast over most of his face so that his expression is not easily seen, clothes look in good condition as do the shoes, one sleeve is rolled up and hand on that arm is in a fist.

My interpretation:- There are two visual discrepancies that highlight that this is a staged photo – the tidiness of the crop and the condition of the clothes and the shoes. These are just too crisp.

The staging suggests that the man is homeless and is sitting in a good, relatively affluent area. The partial view of the building on the left of the image, with the bush outside hints at the area being an office based area rather than commercial or retail. The building becomes a prop, as does the very clean wall behind the man on the floor. The lighting has been used to hide his face so that his expression is hard to read, and the mans greasy hair is also a prop, it’s used to create a narrative. It’s meant to do so in conjunction with the mans clothing (which doesn’t work for me), and the uncovered arm, with the hand clenched into the fist is building upon the narrative to show that he is angry. The flying milk may suggest that the guy is angry at having his photo taken and has shaken his arm in protest. Maybe he will get up and attack the photographer, or it could be that the fist and the sudden jerk of the hand, which has led to the milk being spilled, are a warning of aggression which is relaying “stay the fuck away from me”.

 

Wall, J; 2015; Listener; ATFig. 2. Listener (2015)

Description of visual elements

Six men surround a man who is kneeling on the floor, one is in full frame and is leaning over the man, dominating him with his height, very close crop with little background, other than the top left of the corner, where there is a quarter circle shaped blue wall. There are six men around the edge of the frame, only partially visible. Despite being on the edge of the frame they are in very close proximity with the guy on the floor. They are wearing  jeans, t-shirt, trackies and one is wearing chinos, the guy on the floor is wearing brown trousers and no top. The ground is barren, dry, dusty, and the guy on the floor has bits of straw on his trousers. He is wearing sandals and the others are wearing plimsoles, trainers and workman’s boots. The man on the lower left of the photo is looking towards the camera, his arms are folded over his chest. The other guys have their arms and hands in quite open and relaxed manner. The sun is almost directly overhead and the shadows are short.

My interpretation:- There is an air of menace and aggression in this scene. The guy on the floor is being towered over, dominated by the man next to him, oppressed by the overhead heat, and surrounded by the other men in a very close space. The straw on his trousers says that he has been on the floor in other positions and he may have tried to crawl away from his assailants at some point. He is being shouted at or spoken to very aggressively, although the man to his right doesn’t have closed fists. The open relaxed posture of the other men is a relay which says that they are relaxed and comfortable with violence. This relay keeps the oppressive aggression within the frame. The context of a dry barren wasteland is the stage that says the guy has been taken to this place so that the confrontation cannot be stopped by others, there is a purpose and intent to the confrontation. Is the guy going to be assaulted? is he going to be left there? Is he going to be killed? I don’t think he is going to be killed. The close proximity of the camera, which is being allowed to photograph, tells me that this assault is a warning to others not to cross this gang. That they know the guy on the floor will not be reporting the assualt. The man on the floor looks uncomfortable but I also think that he looks very relaxed, he doesn’t look afraid, and this is a visual discrepancy to me. The clothing of the men looks clean and relatively new. They are involved in some form of organised crime which gives them a good income, but they remain dressed in the manner of their peers, in their neighbourhood. They operate in the area that they live and probably grew up. Small time organised crime.

 

I find myself left with the impression that it is very difficult to show emotion in staged photography, and even with people as skilled as Wall there are visual discrepencies which can be noticed.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Wall, J; 1984; Milk [Silver dye bleach transparency; aluminum light box]; AT: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/picture-galleries/2010/march/30/the-world-of-jeff-wall/ (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Figure 2 Wall, J; 2015; Listener [inkjet print]; AT https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Review – Ray’s A Laugh

Brief:- Photography is often used as a tool to document the specificity of visual appearances. We’re all familiar with this use in passport photography, anthropological photography and crime photography. There’s no pretence at aesthetic quality: the photographer points the camera at the subject and tries to take a neutral ‘visual document’ which stands as visual evidence for what it represents. This mode of making pictures can be useful to all photographers as a means to research their subject. Whether this results in ‘finished’ pictures or not doesn’t really matter; it’s a means to gain visual knowledge. Take a look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh – a collection of family portraits originally taken as visual research for a painting project. It’s important to make a distinction here between what we can know through experience and verbal language and what is specifically visual. Thoughts aren’t visual and neither are emotions, although you can photograph the physical manifestations of these. Political ideologies aren’t visual but you can photograph people and events that illustrate them.

Billingham, R; 1984; Untitled (RAL 6) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; ATFig. 1. Untitled RAL 6 (1995)

1Fig. 2. Untitled R (c1995)

Initial thoughts:- Family life, snap shots, nothing significant, photo’s that anyone can take of their family. Documents of lower class, family life that is stricken by poverty and social exclusion. Taken by a family member with a resentment to the lifestyle that they have been brought up with? Desolation, unhappiness, drunkenness, degradation. Ray appears significantly underweight, possibly brought about by alcoholism/alcohol dependence. He struggles to eat properly, despite the full plate of food its unlikely that he will finish it, he’s drunkenly falling to sleep and his dinner will soon be spilled upon him. Liz, probably drinks but is not dependant, her addiction and way of coping with her emotions and the struggle of a life of exclusion and poverty is via food. Hopelessness, despair, life is hard. Irony – Ray most certainly does not appear to be a laugh.

Now this is where photography becomes interesting. Billingham took these photos as research for a project, and from the brief there is an assumption that these are a record of ‘what is’, apparently neutral, dispassionate and a visual record. My reading of the photos is entirely the opposite and is cognitive, emotional, symbolic and has a reading of the families circumstance and lifestyle that is based upon my perspective. This is of note because it suggests that if I am taking test photos, or making photography for my own visual research then the viewer may have a response that I was not even exploring, Maybe.

However, I argue that it is impossible to record a subject that you are emotionally involved with from a neutral perspective. If I had have walked into the family home and taken the exact same photos at the exact same moment, would my distance from Ray and Liz reduce the emotional impact upon the viewer? From my own photography I believe so. When I presented assignment one to my tutor, she picked up my discomfort and lack of emotion in two of the photos, both were photo’s that I didn’t feel a connection with the subject.

In my opinion Billingham was exploring his emotions through his visual research. If we are honest here the research was done for a painting, the painting was not going to be neutral, it was meant to be expressive and have an impact, and this is what was being photographed, the emotions that Billingham felt about his parents.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Billingham, R; 1995; Untitled (RAL 6) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/richard_billingham.htm (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Figure 2 Billingham, R; 1995; Untitled (R [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; AT: https://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/05/richard-billingham-rays-a-laugh.html (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Feature Image Billingham, R; c1995; Untitled (RAL) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium];  https://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/05/richard-billingham-rays-a-laugh.html (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Review – Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980)

Beaton,-C;-1941;-Fashion-is-indestructable-[----];-London;-Thames-and-Hudson;-p342Fig. 1. Fashion Is indestructible (1941)

Initial thoughts:- How beautiful and elegant. The opulence of the hall with its strong verticals, the luxuriance of the photographed women, the soft pastels of their clothes, the surreal illumination of the lighting, and the movement created by the dresses that the woman are wearing, all combine to make this beautiful work of art. A photograph which looks like a painting.

The strengths are in the lines, flow/movement, lighting, composition creates interest around the whole photo, pastels work well with lighting, dresses compliment the hall.

I could be in the room and making this photo, I’m so drawn in, this is the first photo where I have felt that I belong in this scene, that I am in the hall as a viewer. Powerful.

Reflecting upon a previous review, The Conversation by Buhler-Rose (see below) Buhler-Rose’s photo has a strong disconnect, a lack of feeling, the photo is a staged lie, whilst Beaton’s is dynamic, alive, natural and appears captured ‘as is’. His subjects are comfortable and relaxed.

The-Conversation-Alahua-FL-2006Fig. 2. The Conversation (2006)

Beaton,-C-1930,-MarleneDietrich-[Gelatin-silver-print],-;-Cologne;-Taschen-GmbH; p 552Fig. 3. Marlene Dietrich (1930)

Please excuse the resolution of the scan, I didn’t change the scan settings to photo, silly boy.

Initial thoughts:- Avant Garde, art, reminds me of the theatre comedy and tragedy masks which in this case is symbolic of Dietrich’s role as an actor. Subtle. No distractions, simple composition. 3 props – hair piece, choker and mannequin. Lack of foreground and the background which is immediately behind the subject, means that Dietrich, with the opposing pose of the dummy are immediately seen by the viewer because there is nothing else to see. She’s elegant and beautiful, but what I sense most of all is that she is looking out, she is the viewer instead of the actress who is been viewed on the screen. A creative change of roles.

Beaton,-C;-1928;-Miss-Nancy-Beaton-as-a-Shooting-Star-[silver-print];-London;-Thames-and-Hudson;-p264Fig. 4. Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star (1928)

Initial Thoughts:- Avant Garde, experimental, photography as art, a character from a fantasy novel, radiant. The light source in the background sets the scene for a surreal illustration of a fairy godmother, which is added to by a light in the foreground which brings out the texture of Nancy Beaton’s dress. The staff in her right hand adds poise to this portrait. The prop worn on the right of her head doesn’t look right, it detracts from this photo, although I do understand why he’s used it to reflect the shooting star of the title, sometimes you just have to simplify an idea Cecil (says me as if I am an expert – but I say as I see). Despite that god damn awful head-gear. I do not see a photo, I see a dramatic characterisation of a person from a fantasy novel or early film.

A whole load of props here, but only one is unneccessary. Staff, head-gear, stars, cellophane? fabric, dress, curtain. In fact I think that everything in this photo is a prop, including Dietrich, and this creates a set of a theatre production. This goes way beyond a formal portrait and is a work of art, and it could be a master piece without the head gear (get over it Richard).

Illustrations

Figure 1 Beaton, C;-1941; Fashion is indestructible; IN: Photography: The Whole Story; p 342; London; Thames and Hudson

Figure 2 Buhler-Rose, M; 2006; The Conversation; At: https://news.syr.edu/2014/03/new-geographics-features-photography-of-michael-buhler-rose-56929/ (accessed on 23/11/2017)

Figure 3 Beaton, 1930, Marlene Dietrich [Gelatin-silver-print]; IN: A History of Photography; p552; Cologne; Taschen GmbH;

Figure 4 Beaton, C; 1928; Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star [silver-print]; IN: photography: The Whole Story; p264; London; Thames and Hudson

Review – Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth (b 1954)

For this review I have tried to find photos made by Struth that I haven’t seen reviewed by other Foundations in Photography students. This is so that I can keep my initial thoughts as my own. However I am going to start with one portrait that I have seen reviewed by others because it is highly relevent to exercise 3.10 A Formal Portrait.

The Late Giles Robertson (with Book), Edinburgh 1987 1987 by Thomas Struth born 1954Fig. 1. The Late Giles Robertson (with book) Edinburgh (1987)

Initial thoughts:- I like, grace, calm, dignity, poise. It captures thoughtfulness, contemplation, a good example of how to capture a still portrait with a busy background. This is done by making use of the space in the foreground, the thoughtful expression, the side lighting from the window, shot in daylight so the background remains subdued, small aperture, distance between subject and background. The ‘props’ do not appear to be staged, they are what Robertson has gathered over his lifetime, things he values, and maybe some things that he has inherited. A man who values ‘things’ because of their emotional connection to events and people, memories. Dressed quite formally, smoking jacket? tie, very natural in them, this is his style of dress, smart, traditional. He has a heritage that is upper-middle class? Upper class? Old money. Culture and art are valued, and the landscape appears to be Constable or Gainsborough but I cannot be sure of this.

There is symbolism in relation to the depiction of age, the old way, and possibly a representation that the traditional life and values are ageing and will soon be lost. But I believe that is a minor consideration and Robertson’s values and character are more important to both the subject and photographer.

 

Hannah Erdrich-Hartmann and Jana-Maria Hartmann, Düsseldorf 1987 1987 by Thomas Struth born 1954Fig. 2. Hannah Erdich-Hartman and Jana-Maria Hartman, Dusseldorf (1987)

Initial thoughts:- Mixed thoughts about this, soft focus and large aperture (maybe even a photographic background) create an image of love, tenderness and gentleness. The position of the girl’s arm around her mothers neck and Jana-Maria’s hair also add to that sense. Jana-Maria’s expression changes between warmth and a touch annoyed/questioning, and Hannah’s expression is almost a challenge to the photographer and viewer. Dianne Arbus often forced her subjects frustration by delaying pressing the shutter so that people would eventually let go of the mask the ywant to present so tha the real self was revealed. In this photo it appears that Struth has done the same. Although I don’t consider this to be a formal portrait, and there is a tension between flattering and challenging, I wanted to include this photo because it presents a challenge to me with regard to reading and understanding it. It’s also of a different style than the other images that I’m including in this review. I feel that I am walking away from this photo confused.

Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo 1991 1991 by Thomas Struth born 1954Fig. 3. Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo (1991)

Initial thoughts:- There is something about this particular photo that I find appealing, although I cannot put my finger on it, especially considering that I do not find emotion within the photo. There is a gulf between husband and wife, and I get the inkling that this was shot in a place of work, probably outside of the home due to the size. I am viewing this photo from and Western European background, and there maybe cultural differences and formalities that are hard for me to fully comprehend, and I say this in response to my perceived lack of emotion and a formality that borders on rigidity. I find the light very interesting. There is more than one window in this room, and it/they are large. I don’t see obvious signs of flash and the light coming through the window is bright daylight. The only apparent prop is the chair, so that the woman can sit down. The chair doesn’t fit in with the desk/work bench. On second thoughts there is a space on this side of the bench that would give her space to work whilst having the direct light from the window. The combination of vertical/horizontal and diagonal lines may symbolise structure, a structured and organised lifestyle reflective of the wider community?

 

The Shimada Family, Yamaguchi, Japan 1986 1986 by Thomas Struth born 1954Fig. 4. The Shimada Family, Yamaguchi, Japan 1986

Initial thoughts:- Is this a formal or informal family portrait? Do I understand formal group portraits outside of a studio or wedding? Can a formal portrait include people in various degrees of relaxation and formality? Is this merely a reflection of the characters of people who are of different generations to each other?

I enjoy the composition of the family and the lines they are placed in take me backwards and forwards between the people. No one individual stands out and this means that the photo brings the family together as a group, a collective, despite the space between them. I’m quite impressed with that actually. My knowledge of group portraits is of the tradition British style of everyone being close together. This is a pleasing and comfortable photograph to look at, and I find the contrast between this grouping and the group photo’s that I am used to to be quite refreshing.

I also like the contrast between the grey rocks and green shrubs/bushes. A planned/formal/structured garden that represents prosperity. Although I say garden (and I mean the garden of the family’s home when I do), it could be a formal community garden/park/or visitor attraction. I am still more inclined to think that this is their garden and the live on the edge of the suburbs or a rural community (maybe I’m just and old romantic at heart).

The colours and tone of the clothing provide a contrast with the garden and this brings out the people as subject. The trees that form the background keep my eye within the photo and they act as a frame. No use of props, and none required.

Reflections

Four completely different styles of portrait from one photographer. Struth clearly is a people person and he either spends the time tgetting to know the people who he shoots so that he can bring out their personality, or he already knows them. Despite the styles being different between the four photo’s, the similarity is the capture of character. There are very few signs of props, and this is worth remembering, subtlety is paramount. Getting to know people is important as is liking people, in a general way. You may not necessarily like or know someone enough to like in order to make formal photographs, but there must be a genuine value of other. If portrait photography is undertaken without this then its going to come through and will over ride the  individuals character.

Clothing is important for two reasons, it signifies personality and individuality, and if the clothing is not what the subject is comfortable with then it will be hard for them to relax. This made me think of the photographer Rankin and his work with charities.

He uses a team of lighting, make-up, fashion, studio and design staff with clients who use of charities for support. He meets his clients in his studio on the day that he shoots them (sometimes over a couple of days). He brings out the best in these people, and some of whom really struggle with self-image and self esteem. In my opinion he is a genius and I envy and admire his sense of humour and the ability to create a strong rapport with people very quickly, in what is a very strange and difficult environment to be photographed in. Having a large range of clothing and accessories gives his clients the opportunity to look good and to find an outfit that they feel comfortable in, but his personality is the glue that brings the very best out of people. Maybe working with a background team ensures that he can spend his time creating a relationship with the person he is going to photograph.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Struth, T; 1987; The Late Giles Robertson (with book) Edinburgh [colour on paper]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/struth-the-late-giles-robertson-with-book-edinburgh-1987-p77746 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

Figure 2 Struth, T; 1987; Hannah Erdich-Hartman and Jana-Maria Hartman, Dusseldorf  [black and white on paper]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/struth-hannah-erdrich-hartmann-and-jana-maria-hartmann-dusseldorf-1987-p77747 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

Figure 3 Struth, T; 1991; Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo [colour on paper]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/struth-kyoko-and-tomoharu-murakami-tokyo-1991-p77751 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

Figure 4 Struth, T; 1986; The Shimada Family, Yamaguchi, Japan [colour on paper]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/struth-the-shimada-family-yamaguchi-japan-1986-p77745 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

Feature Image Rankin; 2016; Here as I am (pic 20); AT: http://rankin.co.uk/portfolio-charities/#/pic20 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

References

Rankin; Online AT: http://rankin.co.uk/portfolio-charities/#/pic0 (accessed on 24/05/2018)

Review – Bernd And Hilla Becher

Brief:- You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you. Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Consider the framing, viewpoint, background, placement, light and composition. Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself ? Is there a difference? Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series. Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together. 

Becher, B and Becher, 1959 to 1973 H Framework HousesFig. 1. Framework Houses (1959-73)

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) Hilla Becher (1934 – 2015)

Initial thoughts

Not Tudor, not imitation Tudor. I haven’t seen frame houses that are neither Tudor nor imitation. Maybe from the USA or parts of Europe that I havent visited. Orderliness, structure, unusual perspective, is there actually a house there or are these just mock walls like a film set? Very little background/vegetation and no people, but would like to see on a gallery wall for a closer inspection. The structure of each house is highly visible because there are no distractions. Routine – each house fills roughly the same area of the frame, and with only minor fluctuations in exposure and tone. All black and white so there are no contrasting or colours to distract. Very few windows, what do the residents do for daylight? Vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines – this appeals to me. Although there are slight differences it is possible to suggest that they were built by only three different builders (see the framework/bricks between the slopes of the roof’s).

I find myself only able to agree with the course manual in relation to the composition, framing and lighting. The routine and conformity highlight the shapes and lines of the buildings and their frames, and its interesting how the small structural differences and patterns are noticable and quite intriguing. Obviously this could not be the case if a single photo was exhibited alone. I think that if the series was to be taken and displayed with the same houses but shot at different angles, the detail would be lost. The 3D structure of the houses would alter the perspective greatly, and the backgrounds would then be a distraction. This is a great technique for photographing similar subjects if you want to highlight differences in detail and have an orderly presentation.

Stacy McCarroll Cutshaw (2012) describes the Becher’s work as being an important change of direction in landscape photography, moving away from the old romanticism and into a systemic approach, which is also more scientific. “The idea of topographies as applied to the photographed landscape stems from the exhibition ‘New Topographies: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape’ held in 1975 at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York… The Photographs were not romanticized images of the vast outdoors of the American West but depictions of everyday suburban sprawl. They focused on manufactured, industrialized landscapes, paying particular attention to the environment altered by human kind… Works by the German collaborative photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, such as Framework Houses (1958-1973…) also featured in the show. Their oeuvre is pivotal to a generation of European and US photographers who cultivated a systematic approach to photography.” (Hacking; 2014; pp 400 + 401).

My significant object

This maybe a tricky exercise for me. The most important object to me is my Gohonzon. The Gohonzon is  a scroll that is used by practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. It contains the Mystical Law of the Lotus Sutra written in Japanese text. It is the centre piece of my alter, sitting above the fireplace with several crystals and candles. I would not want to use anything else for this exercise.

My difficulty is that I do not meet other people regularly. In fact outside of appointments that I attend I have only met up three people, and a couple (all friends and family) this year. Currently I have no plans to meet up with anyone.

At the moment I see my options as being – find a church that’s open and photograph the alter, or make use of a photo that I took in Lindisfarne. It would be better to photograph my alter first and then go and shoot in a church. This would mean that I could control the composition, although the lighting will be significantly different (however I could make use of bracketed exposure, 5 stops each way and convert to HDR for the inside of the church). Then to find a different religious building, or a group, or individual and photograph their alter or significant spiritual object.

My second idea would be to make my photo first and then email it to several people and ask them if they can make a photo of their spiritually significant place, using the same composition and similar lighting if possible.

Difficulties are just solutions playing hide and seek.

Illustrations

Figure 1; Becher, B andBecher, H; 1959-73; Framework Houses; AT: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/127884 (accessed on 19/05/2018)

References

Hacking, J; 2014; Photography: The Whole Story; London; Thames and Hudson

Review – Gillian Wearing

In preparation for exercise 3.5 Photographs from text we are asked to take a look at “Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you too say”.

Gillian Wearing (OBE) (1963)

'I have been certified as mildly insane!' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963Fig. 1. I have been certified as mildly insane… (1993-3)

'I signed on and they would not give me nothing' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963Fig. 2. I signed on and they would not give me nothing (1992-3)

Wearing, G; 1992-3; Work towards peace [Fig. 3. Work towards peace (1992-3)

For this series Gillian worked with members of the public, requesting the opportunity to photograph them, and asked if they would write something pertinent to them on a large piece of paper. It’s a very clever concept, but also very simple. Its a collaborative process that allowed her to produce an image with the people that she photographed, rather than taking photos of them. She photographed people from varying walks of life, gender, race, sexuality, and the result is a series of photos where all are equal. They are equal because they have all been allowed to speak for themselves.

It reinforces to me what I have just read in The Civil Contract of Photography, in which Azoulay states “Anyone who addresses others through photographs or takes the position of a photographers addressee, even if she is a stateless person who has lost her “right to have rights… is nevertheless a citizen – a member in the citizenry of photography” (Azoulay, A; 2008; pp85). She goes on to discuss that the viewer is also a citizen of photography and that we are all involved and participate in the photo and its understanding of it, especially so in documentary/reportage/disaster/conflict photography.

Wearing’s approach is a very interesting one and it makes me think about how often this occurs, especially in comparison with mainstream documentary or reportage photography. Generally a photographer, who is working for a media outlet or other interested party, will have a brief and a duty to take photos according to the taste/politics/demands of the editor or organisation. How often do photographed people have the opportunity to consent to having their photograph taken, let alone to be a co-author?

The approach makes me consider my own photography in relation to the genres of street and events. I have worked with direct consent where I have explained my studies to people and gained their permission to make their portrait, at events I have worked on assumed consent, in which people are fully aware that photographers are around, and if they try to hide their face then I do not photograph them, and I have also taken some street photography without consent. This is not to say that any style is better, or correct, they all have their value, but I do like Wearing’s style, which is an approach that I have made use of for a project with homeless people (although I asked them what they would like to say to accompany their photo, rather than providing them with the means to write their own words) (Keys, R; 2018).

This is not an approach that I will be using for exercise 3.5 but certainly one that I would like to build upon in the future, and my tutor and I have discussed this previously.

 

Illustrations

Figure 1; Wearing, G; 1992-3; I have been certified as mildly insane… [chromogenic print on paper]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-66092/5 (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Figure 2; Wearing, G; 1992-3; I signed on and they would not give me nothing [chromogenic print on paper]; http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-66092/3

Figure 3; Wearing, G; 1992-3; Work towards peace [chromogenic print on paper]; AT: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/gillian-wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-wants-you-to-say-work-towards-world-peace

References

Azoulay, A; 2008; The Civil Contract of Photography; New York; Zone Books; pp85

Keys, R; 2018; Homelessness – People are only invisible if we choose to ignore them; Online AT: https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/homelessness-my-photo-essay-published-by-the-sociological-mail/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Review – Barbara Kruger

Barbera Kruger (1945)

Kruger, B; 1982; We Have Recieved Orders Not To Move [photograph and screen print]Fig. 1. We Have Received Orders Not To Move (1982)

Kruger, B; 2014; Untitled (Hello Goodbye)Fig. 2. Untitled (Hello/Goodbye) (2014)

My current research is in relation to exercise 3.5 Photographs from text and the coursework suggests looking at Kruger’s montages.

Initial Thoughts

Plain, unappealing, dull, text is prominent, text works well in first image which carries feminist political content. What is the female gaze? Second image appears like an advert in an underground station or maybe street art, questions identity and the gaze in general (we see the world how we want to see it, rather than how it is and because of this we lose track of who we are, and others view us through their looking-glass, hence we too become the unseen.

In relation to Photographs from text

Neither of these are photographs in their original format, but are relevant to one of my approaches. I intend to complete the exercise in two ways, one will be using a poem next to photos that I have taken, and the other will be a montage in the style of Gerhard Richter, using appropriated images from newspapers, including some of its accompanying text, and following the same poem, which may or may not be printed or written alongside it. Kruger uses appropriated images in many of her montage’s and employs the silk screen printing process to overlay the text. Her text in general is quite large, but with brief sentences.

My reason for choosing We have received orders not to move was purely because it reminded me of a thread based craft that my sister used to do. She would stick pins into a pre-marked board, and then follow a design to tie thread around the pins, which then created a pattern.

Kruger is a politically motivated artist, and her work is often based around the theme of the dominance of men, especially white men, and how the media promotes stereotypes. Although it has been written that she was influenced by Dianne Arbus I do not see that in these images at all, rather I can see her background working with an advertising agency coming through strongly. Often her art makes use of appropriated magazine advertising, which she then overlays with text of her choice. Generally the montages that she creates are simple and eye-catching, and they have been created this way to be impactful. They are also vernacular because they make use of the style of images and presentation that people are used to from reading magazines and newspapers. Using popular and current images to appeal to the populace was a successful technique that the Lever Brothers used to mass market pre-weighed soap. They would purchase modern works of art that appealed to the wider audience, and then place their logo into the paintings as seen in figure 3.

Relating to the first image Fabienne Dumont says “This work consists in enlarging advertising images taken from magazines, applying them to large banners, and adding a slogan explicitly directed at the public and questioning white male authority and the stereotypes spread by the media.” (Dumont, F; 2013).

Untitled (Hello/Goodbye) is a photo of a small section of an installation in which most of the wall space is covered with large vinyls that contain black and white text, with the occasion words in red ink. “Her texts often employ personal pronouns, which incorpo­rate the spectator into the discursive and graphic space: “I shop therefore I am.” “You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece.” References for these pronouns remain intentionally nonspecific, opening up a space of identification and disiden­tification.” (Erikson, R; 2017)

Sunlight Soap, Lever Brothers cFig. 3. Sunlight Soap (c1886)

Illustrations

Figure 1; Kruger, B; 1982; We Have received Orders Not To Move [photograph and screen print]; AT: https://awarewomenartists.com/en/artiste/barbara-kruger/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Figure 2; Kruger, B; 2014; Untitled (Hello Goodbye) [installation – Digital print on vinyl] at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; AT: https://hammer.ucla.edu/take-it-or-leave-it/artists/barbara-kruger/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Figure 3; Lever Borthers; (c1886); Sunlight Soap; Online AT: https://www.baytree-interiors.co.uk/item/sunlight-soap/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

References

Dumont, F; 2013; Barbara Kruger; Online AT: https://awarewomenartists.com/en/artiste/barbara-kruger/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Erikson, R; 2017; Barbara Kruger, Born 1945, Newark, New Jersey; Online AT: https://hammer.ucla.edu/take-it-or-leave-it/artists/barbara-kruger/ (accessed on 12/05/2018)

Wolf, J; 2018; Barbara Kruger, American Designer, Graphic Artist, and Photographer; Online AT: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kruger-barbara.htm (accessed on 12/05/2018)