Category Archives: Part Five

Access to archive material

On considering if I have access to archive material that I could perhaps use for a later project?  the answer is yes.  I have my wife’s Aunt’s old photos, plus photos that my wife’s Uncle and Aunt took of themselves and my wife’s immediate family.  Plus photos from my own family.  I am sure I could obtain access to photos kept at local museums such as Chertsey, Weybridge, Brooklands, Hampton Court, etc.

I had an idea that I once thought of as a good idea for a novel.  A few years ago Brooklands recovered a crashed Hawker Hurricane that was built at the Brooklands factory and first flown by the American Eagle squadron during the Battle-of-Britain, 1940.  It was later shipped via the highly dangerous Russian convoys to Russia under lend-lease and flown against the Germans on the Eastern-front before being shot-down and crash landing.  The Russian pilot survived and the plane was abandoned and forgotten until re-discovered and returned to Brooklands.  Perhaps a narrative can be created in a series of photos of the people that this aircraft touched from family pictures of aircraft riggers and fitters, aircrew, sailors, allies to the enemy.

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The Fae Richards Photo Archive

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

The artist Zoe Leonard and film-maker Cheryl Dunye collaborated to produce a project about a fictional American-African movie star called Fae Richards of the early 20th century and create an album of photographs charting her life and history from childhood at the turn of the 20th century through her glamorous carrier as a Hollywood movie star to her involvement with the civil-rights movement of the 50’s in to her old age.

The purpose was to question the truth of achievement and how history is recorded.  To ask, who gets included in written histories and why?  Who is left out and why? Who is in control of the information?

This is a cleaver project and required actors, carefully chosen costumes props and locations as well as authentic looking photography.

Exercise – ‘Question for Sellers’ by Nicky Bird.

http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/

Nicky Bird purchased old unwanted photographs on Ebay, first waiting to see if anyone bid for them and if no-one did he purchased them himself and asked the seller, how they came to own the pictures and what they knew about them?

This is an interesting subject as I had never imagined that family photographs would ever become unwanted / redundant.  Their meaning lost, their memories forgotten.  That is until a recent event in my own life touched on this very subject.  My wife’s Aunt died without issue in 2011, her husband had died the year before and she left her whole estate to her four nieces.  When we were going through her things (which was a big task as she left a six bedroom house to be liquidated) I came across two old leather suitcases full of old family photos mainly of my wife’s Aunts family taken in the 30’s and 40’s.  No one was interested as Sarah’s Uncle was the family link and if I hadn’t have taken these cases myself they would have been lost for ever.  At the time I took them I had no thoughts of photography; but I felt a certain sense of responsibility that these lives should be remembered and these images should be kept.  I can’t explain why, I just thought it was the right thing to do.  Perhaps it is simply was that we all feel important and deep down wish to be remembered.  Photography gives us this chance, even if the name and the memory is lost the image can still tell future generations that we existed, what we looked like, how we dressed, and how we posed, even what the world around us looked like.  Photos are more important in this respect than say a painted portraits of a Victorian, for example. The photograph gives a better likeness, it captures the confidence or awkwardness of the subject; thus hinting at his or her character.  The camera captures background that can tell a little about that moment in time and perhaps history that the artist may leave out or re-interpret.  Sadly many family pictures will disappear over time and the surviving images will become more and more important.  Imagine if photography had been around at the time of the first Roman Republic, even if only all that survived was a few family photos of only ordinary citizens our historians would have a field day!

In this exercise I am asked if Bird’s second-hand pictures displayed on a gallery wall elevate their status?

I guess the answer has to be yes, for now they are now the focus of attention and anyone or anything that becomes the focus of attention must by default become elevated in status.

Where does their meaning derive from?

Their meaning derives only from the context of their use if they have lost their original identity.  An unwanted family photo of an unknown person, taken under unknown circumstances, perhaps even the location is unknown, then only the meaning that is attached to the picture from the exhibition exists.

When they are re-sold is their increased value because they are now art?

This is a commercial question and one that can not be simply answered with a yes or no.  If the exhibition is successful, if the pictures can attract a contemporary historians eye, if the pictures can capture the imagination of art collectors, there is a lot of ifs, if the seller can market these images correctly / cleverly to the right market.  Art is very subjective.

Broomberg and Chanarin, ‘People in Trouble….Dots

http://www.choppedliver.info/people-in-trouble/

This is an interesting piece of work that is mentioned in my coarse material, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin worked together on a project using found images archived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, documenting the troubles and lives of ordinary people taken by photojournalist and the public.  When Broomber and Chanarin examined this archive they found a number of photos with coloured Dot type stickers attached over some of the images, these had been marked for their suitability for publication.  The stickers had been randomly applied but inevitably covered an area of the picture.  Broomberg and Chanarin uncovered these areas and reproduced pictures of only the round area that had been hidden by the coloured Dot.  By displaying these images without the rest of the picture the meaning of the image changes and a new narrative is created.

Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

Fascinating documentary following the work of Gregory Crewdsen as he prepares and takes the photos of his cinematic scale images using cinematic-lights a film-crew of up to 60, professional actors, cranes, assistance from police and fire departments, closure of streets exactly as a scene from a movie would be organized, staged and shot only instead of a cinematic movie camera Crewdson uses a large-format still camera.  He will then take the best examples and merge them together in Photoshop collage them in to one final perfect image.

Do I think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

yes, I find his images both beautiful and disturbing, as I believe, is his intention in order to create an interesting and engaging narrative.

Do I think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’?  What does this mean?

Yes, I do.  His pictures are almost dream like, the scenes are very surreal.  They encourage the audience to wonder what is happening? what has just happened? what is about to happen?  They are like that moment in a dream that is taking that turn in to the nightmare.  This touches on our own imagination, our own fears, our own anxieties.

What is your main goal when making pictures?  Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal?  Why or why not?

My main goal is to make interesting pictures, if the subject matter is beauty then that is what I want to create, if the subject matter is not then I want to make the image suitable for the subject with a choice of composition that holds the audience at least for a little while.  I do not think that there is anything wrong in making beautiful pictures; but it can become a little dull and boring if we can not vary the subject matter and produce images that offer some kind of narrative or symbiotic meaning that can engage, challenge and even entertain the audience in some way.

I like Crewdson’s pictures they may not be as subtle as Wall or DiCorcia but they are very well made and they can appeal to a public that doesn’t have to first have an acquired taste or understanding of art to appreciate the picture that they are viewing.

 

 

Jeff Wall’s Invisible Man

Invisible man by Jeff Wall is great constructed image, this picture has been inspired by a novel by Ralph Ellison ‘Invisible Man’ published in 1952 about a man who falls in to a forgotten basement during a riot and makes it his home.  He fills the ceiling with 1369 light bulbs that he illegally wires up.  This scene has been painstakingly constructed with every item representing the character and his psychological state.

Exercise – Setting the scene

In this exercise I have been asked to watch a scene from the ‘Goodfeelas’ by Martin Scorsese.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJEEVtqXdK8

What does this scene tell me about the main character?

He is confident, very self-assured, he has money, at least he likes to give the impression that he has and willing to throw it around.  He wants to impress his girlfriend, he is a net-worker, he is a lair and probably a hood.

How does it do this? List the clues.

1, From the opening scene the main character gives his car keys with a Dollar bill to a doorman to park his car, he then proceeds to discreetly bribe his way to his table with Dollar bills that we later learn from his girlfriend to be $20 Dollar bills.  As he enters the club from the tradesman’s entrance  as he passes by key people he makes a point to greet them by name, some also with the bribe.  He walks through the corridors, kitchens as if he owns them, as he enters the club the manager breaks off from talking to a customer to greet him and treating him as a VIP arrange for a table for him brushing off a complaint from a customer who had clearly been waiting for a table.  The sound-track from 1960’s pop-band The Crystals, Then he kissed, me is played through out the scene to suggest romance.  When his girl friend asks him what he does, he provides an un-plausible answer that he needed a second or so provide and he avoids eye-contact.  He is given a bottle of wine from another table full of suited men implying that the main character is popular and important.