The past and the present.
English vintage photo (likely 1930s) of three ladies paddling, dressed in bokeh from NYE 2017 fireworks in Florida, USA.
This week we were set a collaboration task, which proved to be logistically more difficult than I imagined it would. The topic for the work was completely up to us.
After finding a family portrait postcard photo, with the only words written on the back ‘Xmas 1917’, I made the decision to look at family portraiture through the following decades, with the ambition of arriving at the present date – 100 years seemed like a good idea, but it turned out to be a bit of a mammoth task!
Unfortunately, work loads meant that my partner in crime and I weren’t able to talk properly until the night before our webinar. So after discussing the initial idea (the postcard) we pretty much went about it alone until then.
I asked friends on Facebook if they had any suitable photos I could use – I gathered two this way, a few from mine and my husband’s family archives, and obtained the rest via the Google search engine. This in itself presented problems as I had no way of knowing whether searching for British family portraits would also yield portraiture from other countries. There were many very early photos to choose from. There were less from the 1930s onwards; and the later the decade, the more difficult it became to find official family portraits.
Settling on six photographs, and after having read Paul Martin Lester’s Visual Analysis, I set about analysing them – although had I done so according to all of his six stages this would have taken considerably more time.
A quick chat the night before with my collaborator, and all was set to present my work the following morning at our webinar session. I had some interesting feedback. One of the group gave me some background historical information about the location of the studio where one of the portraits was taken (Bow in the 1960s). My tutor also introduced me to a couple of search engines that I’d not heard of before, where the search results will be less biased towards the UK. Apparently imageatlas.org/ is a collaboration between a photographer and a programmer.
It was interesting seeing the other team’s collaborative project, which was based on a couple of triptych slides of bridges. The discussions which followed were largely focused around locations, different ways of presenting work, themes, output.
I’ve realised that I should start planning not only what my Research Project will be, but how I am going to make it accessible / present it.
I tried hard not to ‘make anything’ this week, but by Thursday I couldn’t wait any longer! The photo montage at the top of the page is some of the mothers and children photographs I sourced – one from every decade between 1910- 1960. Having said that, the relationship between the subjects was another assumption that I had to make.
The chosen photos with their basic analysis’ are below.
In response to the debate surrounding his Hipstamatic photographs of soldiers during the Afghan war, Photojournalist Damon Winter stated that it was “never my intention for these photos to be seen only in the context of the tool by which they were made’; and that there are two valid fundamentals involved in the making of the image – aesthetics and content. However, I consider there to be a third, equal component – that of the photographer’s intention.
We may draw parallels to the aesthetics of Art , for example “Equivalent VIII” (commonly known as Bricks) by Carl Andre in the 1970s. His installation was a minimalist oblong arrangement of bricks. In this case, the piece was considered to be a work of art because the artist intended it so, and was further validated by being exhibited by Tate Gallery. Critics claimed that the Tate had been duped, others defended its decision as a major player in the international world of contemporary art.
I would argue that by applying smartphone filters to his work, Winter deliberately intended to create an aesthetic piece of work, and in this case the original publisher of his photographs in 2010 (New York Times) was in fact the exhibitor, just as was the Tate when it exhibited Winter’s Bricks.
If his intention was to create an intimate narrative of the soldier’s lives, Winter succeeded. In his creative use of the tools he had to hand, he was able to produce a set of controversial photographs which had their validity questioned and discussed.
Nowadays of course, the Hipstamatic filter can be applied after the picture has been taken. If an individual wishes to, they may take a photo on a DSLR, upload it to their smartphone and then apply Hipstamatic (or other) filters.
With photography being so immediately accessible these days to anyone with a smartphone, the meaning of the word ‘photographer’ has had to adapt to change, although the general public, in my experience, still view photography as a profession that requires lots of expensive equipment, technical expertise and a repertoire of carefully staged shots (whether it be events or landscape etc). However, images made on the smartphone by ‘citizen witnessing’ – a phrase coined by Stuart Alan in his ‘blurring boundaries: professional and citizen photojournalism in a digital age’ (2013), can be sent anywhere around the world in seconds – therefore allowing the casual bystander to become an ‘accidental’ photojournalist. Newspaper and online publishers typically pay less for these images than those from a professional photographer.
It’s too late now to turn back the clock for the place of citizen photojournalism, with or without filters. We’ve opted for retro style images in certain situations because they sell – the iPhone stock app Stockimo (a sister company of Alamy) actively encourages its contributors to apply filters.
Work in progress
As per my previous post, this week I’ve been experimenting with prisms as well as different printing techniques.
I also created a montage, based on a photo I took in Bournemouth earlier this year (original below).
Here is the same picture with the left half photoshopped to include fragmented photos from the same town. I paid attention to shape, contour and colour.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work as I intended, it needs more light and smaller pieces in it.
Once I had printed this out, I laid it on my desk with the image from the bottom left corner displayed on my computer screen. It’s a photo c.1903 of people on the beach at Bournemouth. I reflected some of this image downwards using the prism. It’s a clumsy attempt but it’s given me a lot to consider. I’d previously seen some of Sam Hurd’s prism photography online.
So much to think about that I’m going to have to leave the practical element alone and do a lot more reading and reflection this week, to hopefully give me inspiration to find a direction to take my photography in.
My tutor has suggested I look at the work of Fred Ritchin, Emily Allchurch, Erik Kessels, Tom Butler, Joachim Schmid and others. And I need to read more articles on the reading list.
“Bear with me, I’m having an earthquake…” CRJ week Two.
It’s a strange title for a post I know, but this is a sentence spoken by my tutor during our webinar this morning as his surrounding book shelves wobbled just a little bit. Just one small part of the (massive) learning curve that I’m currently experiencing as I’m immersed in this cross – continental, interdisciplinary, flexible learning degree – that the architecture in Tokyo is built to a high specification to withstand these tremors.
That aside, I picked this as a title for my latest post as it seemed to sum up quite nicely some of my brain activity this week, as I grappled with new concepts, tried to critically evaluate some of my work and that of others; and to understand how I am, and am not, interdisciplinary in my work. I had to turn my thinking on its head, experiment with new ideas, research other work and figure out if and how my own had any contextual relevance to the content in this week’s tutor presentations.
As I looked more critically at my own work, I saw just how much evidence there was of the human psyche. Psychology has always fascinated me, having studied it during my Combined Honours BA. Since then my work within the educational sector has included liaising with mental health professionals; volunteering for an organisation which searches for missing despondents; as well as learning how to improve and maintain my own well-being as I’ve got older and more savvy about matters of the brain. I hadn’t really summed all this up previously and put it conveniently into a box labelled ‘psychology’, but the more I think about it, the more I realise this is what I have been doing.
One genre which also interests me is the use of found objects / collage / montage / embroidery within the photographic image. I looked at the creative work of John Stezaker, Ingrid Karlsson, Julie Cockburn and other examples of montage; and a scientific study by Ekman et al starting in the late 1960s. Ekman’s study led to the development of a set of facial photographs which represented the recognition of basic human emotions. I found this interesting and considered the links between this and the modern day selfie and emoji.
In my work, I often rework and reuse part of one of my images (such as the boat seen below on the left, taken in the Gulf of Mexico).
In the collage, top right, the body of the boat has been cut out from a book of idioms, the idiom being “all at sea” and its meaning (lost, confused). This is one of my more overt examples of an interdisciplinary approach between photography, psychology and other art forms which rely on layering. A bold approach to colour deliberately exaggerates the intent.
I spent so long this week thinking critically about my own work, and reading, that I left myself short of time to create something new. However, although my new images may be a little clumsy, they are something I can work with and hope to develop further:
Here, I have cut out the face of the girl in the vintage postcard, then placed it on top of a photograph by Tom Stoddart entitled ‘Young mother and child awaiting evacuation from Sarajevo’. The mother is anxious and tearful, not knowing whether she will be able to take her child away from the constant fear of living in a town under siege. This contrasts heavily with the photograph on the left (incidentally the message written on the reverse said ‘Ivy, with love and best wishes for your birthday, from Dad and Mother’). Two different times, different lives, different hopes from mothers to their child.
My tutor suggested that I look at the work of John Goto, which is now on my list of things to do during the coming week.
It’s been a good week.
Week One. September 29th 2017
For me, this week has been exciting, stimulating and a bit fraught too as I began to get used to new learning tools, especially finding my way around Canvas, the place where all our module details, reading material, discussion areas, links to webinar sign-ups, student support, tutorials, etc are kept. As I navigated the site I was constantly discovering new areas and information that I needed to know yesterday – so it felt like I was on the back foot for some of the time. However, hopefully I now have got my head around it and will start week two having a better understanding of how it all works, and will rearrange my schedule for MA work accordingly!
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced this week is being able to physically put into words the thoughts and ideas surrounding my work. Being a teacher I am confident when talking to others, however talking about my own work is more difficult – and something that I’m going to have to improve on. I guess this is where this journal will help – by writing about what I’ve learned and the resulting impact on my own work should enable me to critically evaluate it using both written, and verbal mediums.
The topic of the week was Positions & Practice – the Global image, culminating with a practical activity and then discussing it in a webinar. It was interesting to see other students’ work and noticing how many varied interpretations there were of the task. I enjoyed seeing them and listening to our course director Jesse’s feedback.
So, the project was this:
Having reflected on the content discussed in this week’s presentations, ‘re-make’ an image of your choice. You may wish to re-make an image from one of the presentations, or a completely different image of your choice…Post your pair of images to the forum below (you will need to post before you can see any of the work of your peers) along with a few lines explaining your thinking here, in terms of your choice of image and how you feel it relates to theme.
Here is my contribution:
My first photograph is of a postcard sent to me from Marrakesh around twenty years ago. Its composition interests me – not only in its triangular structure, but more specifically the different ways the subject matter can be interpreted, without the knowledge or perception of the characters within it. The two people in the scene are looking away from the camera, with a single object facing it – an oud- like traditional instrument from the region. In the distance, the second person (unseen) is (presumably) sheltering from the sun underneath a black umbrella; which as we know, is unlikely to be very cooling. The private, closed language of the photo has been made public.
The second photograph has the oud player superimposed on a snap I took on a rainy day in Paris this year. Three tourists with umbrellas, again oblivious to the camera, face towards it; their umbrellas enabling them to continue their sight seeing. Why so oblivious? In such a place where everybody has a camera or smart phone out, tourists automatically step into a plethora of footage.
With the comparative ease of global travel this century and the mass production and circulation of images, cultural boundaries can blur. The umbrella is an object of protection and I find their designs and colours question my interpretation and understanding of what they represent. In this picture, I wanted to replace one umbrella with another and see how it can change our perception of reality. Without his instrument the oud player is no longer the focus of the image. Instead, the young boy is centrepiece as he explores and points. The man in his traditional clothing would not have looked out of place in a cosmopolitan European city, and his original solitary pensive gesture becomes lost here.
However, for me the resulting image is not a political statement, nor necessarily a cultural one. It’s more about the way the characters are looking – away, or towards; mirror or window. In answer to one of the questions asked this week, I usually see my own work as more reflective of the ‘within’, rather than a window on the world.
In my feedback, Jesse suggested that I might cut up some of my images, to make a more tangible montage – so I will be giving that a go at some point, as well as looking at the work of John Stezaker as suggested.
Here we go – this will be a new chapter in my life, as I start my MA Photography degree with Falmouth University flexible learning.
It feels like I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, although I was never really sure until earlier this year what ‘this’ was going to be. I intend to get as much out of this degree that I can!
Here is a bit of fun to begin with – this piece below is an amalgamation of quite a few different photos of mine, and a little mixed media too. It’s called ‘The sky is always blue, v.2’; and holds poignant reflections for me.