Photography project 3 : a sense of place

Ian Berry – Whitby

Looking at Ian Berry’s photographs of people in Whitby, the sense of distance and depth is extraordinary. Without the people, there would be less of this as the people themselves are placed in such a way that they recede into the distance. In terms of a sense of place, the people create this by their postures, clothing, age and the mood set with the light. The views of houses and landscape contribute to the idea of people living close together, creating a community.

Absence of familiar objects in photographs

Looking carefully at the Jessie Alexander image which has no familiar images, there is a temptation to create some familiarity by imagining what the images might be. Because there seems to be a light source it could be a window. From the shape it appears to be high up away from the floor. Because it is patterned in some way, it could be a stained glass window. It appears to be broken and the area that could be a floor, seems to be rough, possibly holding fragments of broken glass. Could it be a church window, possibly in a derelict building?

Exercise 1

The images suggest different narratives. The first image of the gate invites a walk on the fields overlooking a large city. There is a sense of spaciousness and of being above the city which would be noisy, busy and full of people and activity. The contrast between the two offers a balance. The gate is the largest object in the picture which together with the fence, appears to contain the city and field beyond. Although the gate is inviting, it is also a barrier.

The second image shows the buildings more clearly, bringing the viewer into the city, particularly focusing on the three tower blocks. In this image nothing contains the city as it sprawls out onto the hillside in the background. The three tower blocks are considerably taller than the buildings around them.

Exercise 2

When on holiday I enjoy taking photos for different reasons, sometimes of unusual things that I might not have seen before  and sometimes to remind me of a wonderful time. ship-and-houses
In reviewing some holiday  photos I did note the composition. I was not so aware of the viewpoint. The photo of the cruise ship was taken from a small boat crossing the body of water near Copenhagen. It would not have been possible to take the same shot at a later time and I was glad the boat stopped long enough to get this image. The photo was more about the strange and unexpected juxtaposition of ship and houses and friends who have seen it have also been surprised by this.

goats-in-tree
The goats in the tree in Morocco were something I had never seen and when looking at the photograph I still find it remarkable.
The image of camels zigzagging through the desert was taken outside Cairo and again the motivation was the unusual nature of the scene, the vastness of the landscape and the completely different way of travelling.

 

camels-in-desertI liked the sense of distance shown by the disappearing animals. I did not think about the lighting although I was aware of the brightness and the shadows, and the reflection of light from the sand.
I particularly like the image of the Cairo policeman on the camel because of the background of the city and the hazy pollution. I don’t think it is a good photograph probably because  it was taken very swiftly, but it pleases me to remember the moment and again the strange juxtaposition of the city and the desert.

camel-and-cairo
The photo of the felucca sailing on the Nile was taken because of the mood and peaceful sense of timelessness. The morning  light was beautiful and I felt I had stepped back in time. I was on a riverboat which was moving quite slowly passing the felucca. Again, the exact image could not have been repeated, although I probably could have found a similar postcard. I don’t buy postcards of these scenes because I want to be part of them in my memories. felucca
Overall, I notice that with holiday pictures I tend not to take too long to observe the light or viewpoint, although I do try to frame the image and find a pleasing balance in the composition. The qualities that attract me seem to be the strangeness that is outside of my experience. When showing them to others, they do seem to appreciate the strangeness.
Taking pictures with iPads and mobile phones is here and not going away. It gives more of an equal opportunity for people who have these devices to take photographs and perhaps encourage them to look more closely at their subject.  At one time only serious photographers could afford a good camera and because of the cost of film and development it was necessary to learn the skills needed. Some mobile phones take good quality photographs and the people using them appreciate that. It seems to be a sign of the times that digital images require little thought, but I believe that good photography taken carefully and with thought, will always stand out.

Research point
Whilst exploring the photographers related to New Topographics, I looked at the work of Robert Adams , Faye Godwin , Mitch Epstein , John Schott , Stephen Shore and Nicholas Nixon. Perhaps because these photographers were working mostly in the 70s with their New Topographics projects , the images are not us startling today as they might have been in those times . We now have Google images of cities taken from the air and taken from space which show in more detail the urban sprawl of humanity. I do think that the artistry of the topographic photographers is very pleasing in a completely different way to the satisfying images from space. The care and skill needed to take  photographs with a particular message is more obvious to me now. To use a satellite created image seems to require little artistry and more technology. I don’t see the message, just the outcome.

The photographers drawing attention to environmental issues are of course to be applauded. I have personally strong feelings about our abuse of the environment particularly in damaging the natural habitats of other species . However our own species has created its own habitat from bricks and stone , steel and glass . I do not find this particularly important when looking at urban photographs . The towns and cities are here and this is where we live . I do find images of metal or plastic junk to be more distressing . In terms of my own choice of subject being influenced by these photographers , I think what I would take away is more about how to frame a subject . The juxtaposition of images such as the bison on the road with a car in the background , taken by Faye Godwin , I find fascinating Initially it looked like a quirky idea but as I looked more deeply I felt the tension of the manmade structures and the car intruding on the habitat of the bison.

I will continue to look for those sorts of anomalies while  looking for line, light and composition in more urban areas . There is also the point that everything is part of the landscape whether beautiful or not. The caverns and caves, the  concrete buildings and the castles are all part of the whole.

Photography: exercise four

Is photography simply providing an authentic record of the artwork or is it part of the artwork itself?

The role of photography in the works of The First Woman on the Moon  (1999)and Self- burial (1969) are certainly important on many levels. Keith Arnatt with his Self- burial project very much linked the work to appearing and disappearing on television. The fact that the nine images were shown with no explanation, context or information would have made the project that much more interesting. Given that it was about disappearance and the impermanence of life, I think in this particular project the photographs were the part of  the artwork itself. Using television as a medium at that time contributed to the ephemeral aspect as there were few home video recorders in 1969 so once the image left the screen it was gone.

 

The First Woman on the Moon was an intriguing project. The use of language at the time of the first moon landing would be considered sexist today, with the first man on the moon talking about “One small step for man and one giant step for mankind”. I can see Aleksandra Mir’s complex motivations for creating the project so many years later with still no female moonwalkers.
The photography conveyed so much about the creation, particularly the relationship between Aleksandra and the men with the digger . I found the whole approach to be a sort of sadly amusing statement of society at that time although the project was created in 1999 . By then women had been in space though not to the moon and yet sexism was and is still alive and well in 2016. (We can see this today with the presidential debates in America and the comments made by one of the candidates.)

 

The photographs and film clips recorded the event as if it were authentic, showing that the only material we have from the 1969 moon landing was also photographs and film clips. This too could have been a piece of art and it was suggested at one time that the moon landing was a hoax and had been created in a studio. How do we know this is not true? If photography in some way represents the artwork, can we trust it?

 

Richard Long’s method of documenting his walking through photography , mapmaking , text and books is the only way most people would witness his work . Having seen an exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol , I found some of the exhibition quite engaging but I did not feel inspired by it . I think photography as a medium to express that which has gone before has to be of a particularly high standard, not only informative. For much of Richard Long’s work the photography feels more like an illustration of the work rather than a piece of art in itself. The idea of a human being participating in the landscape, measuring himself in terms of time and space against the landscape , would perhaps be difficult to express only through photography.

 

Reflecting on this, in my opinion, Richard Long is expressing a personal view of his experience in the landscape and he is not trying to be of the landscape. His work is more about himself against the elements and not about himself within the elements. I think this is a distinction that makes his work perhaps too intellectual for my taste. Having said that, he does create interesting natural land art on some of his walks which without being photographed, would not be visible to others. Listening to the curator’s talk and the questions afterwards, I did resonate with question about the elitism of this art form, particularly given the vary expensive camping equipment, clothing and travel costs of his walks abroad.

 

Exploring other walking artists such as Janet Cardiff, I see that her site specific audio and film walks are orientated to an audience almost like a guided walk. Because of this, the lack of many lasting impressions such as still photography makes her work ephemeral.

I enjoyed Hamish Fulton’s website and found his talk  on his work given at the Tate had some interesting points. He spoke of the dates of his walks resonating with people experiencing his work. They could have experienced some personal life event, or remembered a world event. Watching the film with Fulton talking about his experiences, the equipment he bought, the places he travelled to, again it felt more like a documentary and too intellectual for me.
What then, is my view on documentaries? Are they art forms?

References

Arnatt, K. Self – burial

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-self-burial-television-interference-project-t01747 (accessed 24 October 2016)

Cardiff, J. WALKS

http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/index.html (accessed 24 October 2016)

Fulton, H. Walking Journey talk at The Tate

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/hamish-fulton-walking-journey (accessed 24 October 2016)

Long, R.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/richard-long-1525 (accessed 24 October 2016)

Mir, A. First Woman on the Moon

http://www.aleksandramir.info/projects/first-woman-on-the-moon/ (accessed 24 October 2016)

 

Time and space…and money.

How do we relate to time and space in our work lives? I do think of time in terms of money because I have been self-employed for many years and my time is bought in chunks for the different things I do. Since I work from home, I have been less aware of paying for space as others might do –  renting work space. It seems that there is something of a café culture in some parts of Britain of preparing for meetings in  cafés and having meetings in cafes and doing the post-meeting work in cafes.

This shop offers space for customers to use the wifi, eat and drink as much as they want, and  only pay for the time spent. Charged at 6p a minute, the customer decides how long they will stay.

This is a wonderfully creative idea and although it seems unlikely at first glance that it could be profitable, it is part of a chain that already works,

The sounds of time

The sounds of time have been all around us . The ticking of the clocks and bells ringing to mark the portions of each hour. Now the sounds tend to be silenced . Watches and clocks no longer tick in the same way as they used to . The grandfather clock no longer stands in the modern home, no longer chimes , no pendulums swinging from side to side marking time.

But there is one sound of time that will not change and we do not want to silence . The beating of the heart. Each beat takes us closer to the end of our days. Each skipped beat, those beats that rush and hammer, all are a reminder of what is to come. The stopping of that sound.

Zentangles

Creating Zentangles has been a challenging and creative combination of structure and spontaneity. The certainty of the rules , the size of the square, the practice of the designs , and then breaking up the square to create space for something unknown to emerge as a finished piece. For someone who enjoys doodling it is the next large step .

Viewing this process in relation to photography , I see how photographs can be taken spontaneously and sometimes something wonderful does emerge. It is more likely that the photograph has to be carefully managed , the lighting thought through , the motivation for the photograph would also determine the framing of the shot and the mood.

Of course , photography does not replace other art forms , and in some ways can even contribute to them . Photography can and does capture a moment with such immediacy and accuracy unlike a quick sketch or detailed painting . What I wonder about is the hidden potential in other art forms . Enjoyment of an unexpected result in , for example, the Zentangle, is the creative pleasure that is important to me.
zentangle-1

zentangle-2

zentangle-3

Documenting journeys : research point

Exploring the photographs of the Daniel Meadows Free Photographic Omnibus project, I found access to a radio interview which took place earlier this year . The interview included clips from tape-recording’s that Meadows had made between the end of 1973 to September 1974 as he was traveling across  England.  I see his work as not only a documented journey but an invaluable social record which includes the voices of children and adults as well as his own reflections .

 

It’s very moving to hear people of those times speaking about everyday things in a very natural way . In some ways for me it is the sound of those voices which are more nostalgic than the images although  the photographs are of course,  significant.

 

I wonder if the proliferation of digital images makes them less valuable. In the interview Meadows speaks of the photographs that he took as being something that generally people would treasure . Perhaps being able to take selfies with a mobile phone , we know that  they are readily available. When I see photographs from the pre digital age they do carry some sort of treasured aura with them . Perhaps it is the story , the narrative of the times that the image evokes and invokes .

 

Daniel Meadows speaking this year at the age of 63 commented on how those people from the 70s remain alive in his mind and how well he remembers them and their stories.

Exploring other photo documentaries, I found  a journey thorough parenthood   presented in an amusing and politically incorrect way by American father Dave Engledow.  For me, the images more interesting that the usual baby pictures because Engledow  had staged them and used Photoshop and yet there is a sense of fun and in some images, spontaneity. Observing the little girl growing and changing was a great example of documenting the passage of time.

Recording a specific time in American history, Burk Uzzle’s exhibition of  is an extraordinary collection of photographs charting racisim in the 60’s and the death of Martin Luther King. Although the value of these images as a group is the content and history, the individual images are rich in narrative. The images of Martin Luther King as a strong and vibrant figure and then those photographs of his funeral are a shocking record of the time and place.

 

My own old photographs are precious because they record a history that nobody shares with me . Because my immediate family have all died the photographs are all I have left  of a  life in another country and another time and with other people . Looking at much older photographs of grandparents and family members I never met brings forward nostalgia as the mind weaves stories .

 

I do have photographs on a hard drive . I also lost many digital photographs to two computer virus which alerted me to the fragility of the digital image . Looking through the remaining images is not something I do very often but when I am looking for a specific photograph it is certainly much easier to access than to go through the big tin of old photographs in the cupboard .

 

Looking at someone else’s photographs on their phone is not as enjoyable for me as handling the paper , the photo album or the framed photo which someone might pass for me to see.  However I do enjoy receiving photos on my phone or computer when people feel the impulse to send them , almost like a postcard . I wonder if digital photographs and their immediacy brings a certain value whereas the paper photographs seem to hold a different value.

 

The following images are ones that I took a few years ago whilst observing the changing seasons in a small part of my garden.

 

zen-garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Engeldow, D.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/radiotonic/omnibus/7493554 (Accessed 14 Oct.2016)

Meadows, D. radio interview
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/radiotonic/omnibus/7493554 (Accessed 14 Octo 2016)

Uzzle, B
http://www.burkuzzle.com/american-history.html ( Accessed 14 Oct. 2016)

The timing of fireworks

Fireworks prints”, says UCL lecturer Simon Werrett, “became something of a genre in their own right, and were made by artists across Europe for several hundred years. They are interesting because of the diverse ways they represented very fleeting episodes, playing with time, space, and visual techniques to commemorate pyrotechnic dramas.” This was popular between the 16th and 18th centuries.

 

Public Domain

Public Domain Source

Although it might be imagined as most likely that the images were created after the event, recording the spectacle, in reality prints were made before the event, as Werrett says, “..an anticipation of its being remembered.” And being remembered as perfect.
This perfect version of the display might not have been a true record of what took place as sometimes the fireworks went wrong, there were accidents and mistakes, but the idealised memorabilia, printed on paper or silk, were given as gifts.

 

Simon Werrett teaches the history of science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Before joining UCL he was an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington. He is the author of Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Reference
http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/06/25/picturing-pyrotechnics/ (Accessed 11 October 2016)

Photography part two: exercise 2

Does the “mechanical” nature of photography make it uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?

 
Although obvious, I think film is a particularly useful way to present time and the passage of time. There seem to be different ways of doing this including the time lapse images that show for example, decomposing fruit or changing light across a landscape.

 

Still photography can be effective particularly with comparative photographs. These can be still images of a person or object taken at different times, for example a girl with long hair sitting in a chair. Sometime later the girl can be sitting in the same chair in the same position having had her hair cut. The same girl could be in the same chair some years later as a young woman. In all cases the passage of time is clear.

 
I think what works well is the potential to capture the detail, to manipulate the light and to create a similar mood.

 
Can other art forms deal with time to the same extent?

 
Images can be drawn or painted in the same way as described although this would be more challenging and the sharp details might not be as clear.  Music, by the measuring of beats in each bar is in itself a passage of time.  The passage of time can be seen in something woven such as a rug or blanket, where a pattern might tell a story.

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

As the eye follows the original movement of the loom, it is following the passage of time taken to create the piece. The same would apply to any craft with a specific process.  A piece of glass holds the story of its creation from sand, but in each of these it would require the viewer to be conscious of that story and perhaps interested in it.

 
Theatre, literature and dance all offer a narrative that spans time, but perhaps photography is the most immediate offering. Strangely, it could be the swiftest, showing the passage of time by speeding it up or by freezing a moment such as the image below.

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

 
Reading “On Photography” by Susan Sontag, I am curious about her thoughts that photography is a medium through which works of art are made and that photography itself is not an art form. She writes that from photography one could make different images such as x rays, weather pictures and passport pictures. I had not considered that perspective and of course few people would consider the practical and working aspects of photography as described, to be an art form.

Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

 
I like Sontag’s analogy that out of language one can make shopping lists and bureaucratic documents as well as poetry, in the same way that photography can create different forms.

Photo faux pas

Painting with light might be the essence of photography but the language attached to it is less romantic. We “take” photographs at a photo  “shoot”. The best “shots” are “captured” when they are “lifted” in the darkroom.
If we were drawing the image it might be described as “creating” or “making “ a sketch, somehow inferring ownership of the entire process, but “taking” or shooting” has quite different connotations. Here it seems we are removing something rather than creating it.
There are more concrete examples of this idea of “taking” in some of the taboos around photography. When taking photos of people we ask their permission first, although  in a public place this is not a legal requirement.  Do we do this because if they can see us we consider it polite to ask?  Would we ask if we might include them in a pencil sketch of a scene? Possibly, but with less of a moral attitude.

 

Tourists take photographs of people in other countries, sometimes with little knowledge of the local taboos. In some countries it is considered rude to take photographs of unmarried or unaccompanied women.  Do we have the right to take pictures of another human being and particularly a possibly vulnerable young woman?

 

Pixaaby Creative Commons

Pixaaby CCO Public Domain

And what about the dead? Again, this is “not done”. Photos of funerals, cremations, burials would be considered in bad taste while a photographer at a wedding is essential.
Of course nudity in photographs is contentious although “sexting”, sending sexually explicit photographs to another by mobile phone is considered harmless by UK law, as long as it does not involve images of children.
Older photographic taboos may include the prohibition of taking photos of sacred sites, temples and ceremonies, while more recently no-go areas may include government buildings and any sort of military installation.
What exactly is it that we are taking? Information? A moment in time? The soul of the dead? The power of the camera, it seems, is mightier than that of the pencil.

Project 2 Its about time : Exercise 1

Exercise 1

Notes on first impressions on how each photograph conveys movement
Passing Place by Derek Trillo shows the figures facing one another and because they are blurred and the hand rail is not, there is a sense of movement. The vertical lines and colour balance the dark blurred figures.
The bullet passing through the apple is an extraordinary piece showing the passage of time and direction the bullet has taken and then capturing the bullet in midair. The explosive parts of the apple indicate the force and speed.
Harold Edgerton’s image of a tennis serve captures the direction of the movement of the person and the racquet with multiple images. As a black and white image it emphasizes the movement through the contrast.
The image of “Cousin Bichonade in Flight” appears to be the moment after she jumped and before she reached the ground. A wonderful moment of suspended animation.

 

I tried several ways to capture movement, taking photographs of a moving train, cars, birds and leaves in the wind. None of them worked because the camera held the moment static much as Cousin Bichonade was held midair. With my attempts there was no narrative and no context. I thought about the images described above and realized that  I do not know how to take photos with that level of technical expertise, I looked for a way to show the body in movement. After watching children running, I found there were things  that were  different when the body is moving to when it is still. The weight is distributed differently.
adrian-runningI finally took a photo that indicates that the man is running because of the wide stance, angles of the legs and feet, and the way his jacket is lifting slightly. The exercise was more difficult than I imagined.

 

Thoughts after reading the commentary

 

I feel I understood much of what was being conveyed, but I still do not understand how I would create an image such as the tennis serve or any of the others!

 

As a beginner, I am amazed at the possibilities and although I do understand animation, it is remarkable to see the images of the horse in this way.
I tried several ways to capture movement, taking photographs of a moving train, cars, birds and leaves in the wind. None of them worked because the camera held the moment much as Cousin Bichonade was held midair. With my attempts there was no narrative and no context. I thought about the images described above and realized that because I do not know how to take photos with that level of technical expertise  I had to look for other  ways  to show the body in movement.