Monthly Archives: September 2016

Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien

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Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien, published by Laurence King Publishing.

I have just finished reading Photography: A Cultural History that I began reading back in late May and have finally finished reading today.  This book was very dry for me and I had to interrupt reading it by reading about four other books in the meantime.  However, I have persevered and finished it.  To be fair it is a good book all the same, as it tells a good comprehensive history of photography from conception to present day.   This book explaining the influences from art, politics and national cultures that has shaped photographic practices throughout the world from the 1830’s to present day with details on photographers / artist with examples of their work that have been of influence.

Certainly a must read book for any photography student and I do now have a better understanding of Surrealism, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc. than I did before.

The last Tycoon

Photo by William Eggleston.

Yesterday, Saturday, my wife and I visited London to see the William Eggleston Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery and then go on to see a play.

The weather was warm but wet however, this didn’t dampen our day.  On arrival to Trafalgar square, I mistakenly went in to The National Gallery and after a quick scout around asked a member of staff where the William Eggleston exhibition was.  The young lady gave me a look that one would have expected to get from the head waiter at Simpsons when asked for a Big Mac and fries.  She politely and a little condescendingly informed me that I was in the wrong gallery and directed me around the corner for The National Portrait Gallery.

As I walked around the corner and entered The National Portrait Gallery, I noted that it is all part of the same building but separated and given a side entrance.  Unconsciously perhaps placing portraiture in it’s considered place in the hierarchy of Art.

Photo by William Eggleston, this eligant but prim woman sits legs crossed next to a post wrapped in chain and pad-locked.  The post appears to act like a metaphor you can look bot can’t touch!

Anyhow, having found the exhibition we enjoyed Eggleston’s mixture of black-and-white and colour photos of mostly friends and family.  Some of the pictures on display were seen for the very first time as they had come from his private collection.  Also there was a display of some of Eggleston’s video work that he had made in the early 70’s a genre that I was unaware that he has worked in.  His pictures and video was of his life in Mississippi and it was clear from his images that he is a very good observer a talent that I have always had myself but only now with this photography degree course can I see a real use for it and have a reason to develop it further.  This exhibition was about his portraiture based work and had interesting details about his subjects, such as the dentist who had lost his practice through his use of drugs and later died in suspicious circumstances; his road trip with Dennis Hopper; his friends and neighbors, etc.

Photo by William Eggleston.

This image Eggleston describes as his first attempt  with colour and pleased with it’s success that he felt worked continued.  I agree the low sun from the sun-set or sunrise gives this young man’s skin tomes a very warm hue.  I like the shadow that repeats, yet with what is probably Eggleston’s shadow it also suggests another narrative.  The lady in the corner also works for a triangular formed composition.

My personal favorite photo was of a girl he photographed in black-and-white in a local night club who was clearly had at least one too many.  (Didigiat image unavailable)

Eggleston’s Grand-father with his man-servant at a funeral, photographed by William Eggleston.

I note that many photographers that are recognized in the art world are from privileged or fairly affluent backgrounds, naturally photography is not a cheap past time and for it helps to mix in the right circles in order to get interesting pictures in sometimes exotic locations.  Eggleston is no exception, from a wealthy family background he has been fortunate enough to have the support and subject matter to tap in to.

Following on from this exhibition we ended the day enjoying a good play about a 30’s film producer, called ‘The Last Tycoon’ The play reminded me of my exhibition and the title reminded me of the photo of Eggleston’s Grand-father with his man-servant who is unconsciously mimicking his boss’ pose.

Working log for assignment 5, my initial thoughts.

9/9/16 – I am beginning my planning by going back to the start of this C&N course and re-reading the introduction and reviewing what I have learned in order to help me focus on what I need to achieve.

Up to now my assignments have been successful and my Tutor is very keen that I produce something that can top my achievements with this final assignment. So I want to produce something that is good and sophisticated enough to work well but at the same time try not to over complicate the work and try to keep the idea simple.  Well that’s the plan.  As I work out the project we will see if I can keep to this.

Keeping in mind my essay for my last assignment – I must be sure that every single element in my picture has a reason to be there and they must in some way contribute to the narrative.  The frame / choice of composition must suggest a greater context.  Lighting has also been mentioned and I am comfortable with using speedlights soft-boxes, flags etc.  I relish the opportunity to create a professional type set-up.  I thank my TAOP course and the section on lighting that I had spent extra time working on, I learned so much about both the basics and advanced photography skills on that course.

My plan is to produce one single photo; but it must suggest that it is part of a story.  All stories have a beginning, middle and end and my picture must suggest a previous moment that is leading to the next.  The picture must be readable and must have both a studium and punctum element on order for this image to really stand-out.  All the elements inside this picture must assist this process or they should not be there.  If I can meet these goals I am at least half-way there.

But the first half of the journey is to find the subject.  I intend to use my past brain-storming techniques and I have yet to do the last exercise of section five which is an interview and perhaps an idea may germinate from this.

Clive, my Tutor has recommended an author Kafka that I came across whilst reading Walter Benjamin and perhaps an idea may present itself from one of Kafka’s short-stories.

This last assignment is both exciting and a little scary; but life without a little fear is like a meal without a little herbs and seasoning, plain and dull.

Tutors report for assignment 4

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I have just received my report from Clive for assignment 4 and I am very pleased to learn that my essay was a total success!

Interestingly, Clive recommends that I read, ‘The Trial’ by Kafka, an author that by coincidence I have just learned of through my reading of Walter Benjamin’s 1934 essay observing the tenth anniversary of Kafka death.

Clive’s final comment is some advise for my next assignment and he quotes:

“…..this is the one you’re going to be remembered by as the final assignment the assessors will see for this module so you want to make it the pinnacle of the work. Bringing everything you’ve learned from the other assignments to bear.

Use your ‘voice’ to express a sophisticated idea in a sophisticated way. Think of the thought that went into making the scene you chose for this assignment. I think you’ve got the skills and awareness to make something really good that will leave the assessors with a very strong impression of your abilities.”

No Pressure then!

One-Way Street & Other Writings by Walter Benjamin

One-Way Street

I have just finished reading this book of  Walter Benjamin‘s Essays that include ‘Brief History of Photography, published by Penguin, that looks at the early development of photography and works such as August Sanders.  Also included is ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ Benjamin examines how photography has made the great art classics more available to be seen by the mass public but by doing so he considers that there value has diminished in  virtue of the rarity for public access.  He then goes on to look at cinema as a new art form and how this form of media is changing and influencing art both politically and culturally.  There is an essay on surrealism and an essay about a Czech writer that I had not heard of but who sounds interesting Franz Kafka.

This book was a heavy read and took me a whole month to get through!  Alas, I am not a true intellectual and never shall be but I persevere with these type of books as I do get a better understanding (if only a tiny bit) of the theory behind my art.  And if I find myself maneuvered into an unwanted conversation with someone who tries to fob me off with some intellectual Bull I can at least confidently tell them that I have actually read the works discussed and put them straight.

Tutor’s feedback for Assignment 3

My Tutor’s feedback was very good!  He liked my work!

Shaun Mullins – 512659 – Photography 1 Context & Narrative – Assignment 3 (1)

I went on holiday and had to wait until my return before I knew what he thought of my work and if I had to re-do any of it.

I was happy to learn that my assignment had been successful with only advisories that he suggested that I could do to improve the pictures.

I had complained that I could not obtain a true black-and-white with my Canon printer and that Canon was unable to help as they will always use the colours in the mix even for grey-scale only images; so Clive my Tutor has suggested that I deliberately add a colour cast similar in practice to Ansel Adams.  Clive suggests using a slight blue purple hint to the images and advised that this could be achieved using the Black-and-White feature in the Layers and ticking tint and clicking on the tint box to bring up the colour menu.  Type 257 as the value for Hue and 3% for saturation.

He also suggested some adjustments in Levels to improve the images.

Image 1# for example, Clive suggests that I darken the bottom left corner in order to prevent drawing the eye towards it.

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This is my new version which I hope is closer to Clive’s idea.

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This again needed more work, Clive notice a dark line at the top right of the image that I had missed and I wasn’t happy with the cross that I wanted in the image, it was too faint.

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This is with the new adjustments made in Photoshop using the cloning tool and the dodge-and-burn tool.

This next image Clive suggested the shadow behind Sarah should be softened for better separation.

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He is right of course and I think that this is a better version.

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Image 4# was a little too dark.

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This is the new adjustment.

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This was not my favourite image and I have struggled to improve it as Clive suggests.  I need more Photoshop experience.

Image 5# Clive complains that the composition is too tight with the edge of the box too close to the edge.

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Unfortunately I do not have anther photo that offers more space and this would require reshooting; so all I can do is add the tint.

Image 6# Clive complained was too dark.

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I hope that this is an improvement.

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Adjustments made in Photoshop, Layers, Levels.

Image 7# This image Clive felt was okay.

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I have just altered the tint.

Image 8# Clive suggested that the background was similar in tone to the hands.

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This is my new version.

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The last image that Clive critiqued was both for composition and exposure.  My hand should be more central and the focus of the picture and my shoulder is too bright, so drawing the eye away from the subject.

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My solution was to choose another image and make some adjustments in curves in Lightroom before finishing in Photoshop.

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This I hope is better.