Tag Archives: Context

About Looking by John Berger

about-looking

Among my pile of books yet to read as part of my studies I had ‘About Looking’ by John Berger.  I have only recently been introduced to this author through my Context and Narrative Course, I read his book ‘Ways of Seeing’ and watched the accompanying BBC TV program on You-Tube which I found very interesting. I then went onto read ‘Understanding a Photograph’, in preparation for my fourth assignment.  The recent sad news of John Berger’s death prompted me to read this book, ‘About Looking’.

This book is made up of a selection of essays, Berger wrote from the mid 1960’s up to the late 1970’s.

His first essay examines how man looks and sees himself; how he regards animals and his world around him and compares this to how other animals regards themselves, man and the world through their eyes.

His next essay looks at pictures by August Sander the famous farm hands going to a dance photo and another image of a local musical band posing for their photograph and he discusses how their suits give away their status in society despite their smart attire.

Also included is an essay on the works of Paul Strand.  The rest of the book moves away from photography and looks at works by other artists from the 17th century such as Hals through to Artist’s such as Francis Bacon and Giacometti of the 20th.

An interesting read, Berger had his own style of writing and if you have heard him speak you can almost hear his voice coming through the pages of the book.

He was clearly very passionate about art and I am sure a nice guy to have met.  I am sure all who were fortunate enough to have met him will miss him.

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The Photography Reader, edited by liz Wells

the_photography_reader

This book is full of famouse / influential essays for photography and a particular essay of  interest is ‘See Photographically’ be Edward Weston.  In his essay under the section ‘Recording an image’ he describes an image being a piece of art when the artist has pre-visualized his intended work and selected the elements, composed and framed his picture through a planned process.  This I feel simply sums up true art and can be applied to music, painting, sculpture any medium that can be hailed as art.  additional good essays to read or re-read are Barthes expects from ‘Camera Lucida’ and Rhetoric Of The Image, Walter Benjamin’s extracts from ‘The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction’.  Also there are some good essays on fetishism which helps to understand the full meaning and use of this term, which would typically be only associated with sexual deviations.

Again this was a book listed as recommended reading of my Art of Photography course which had no bearing to the subject matter covered in the syllabus.  However, this book made sense with connection to the course on ‘Context and Narrative’ as many of the essays had been referred to or covered, yet it is odd that this book is not on the reading list.  I found the book a little dry at times as the essays differ in style; but overall this is a book that I am glad to have read.

Tutor Report for Assignment 5

shaun-mullins-512659-photography-1-context-narrative-assignment-5

I have just received my Tutor’s report for my last assignment for the Context & Narrative course and I am both pleased and relieved that my Tutor liked it and has given me a good report.

He comments that I didn’t mention if I used a tripod.  This was an oversight in my blogging, as I had used it and I listed it as the equipment used but obviously I did not make it clear that the camera was mounted to the tripod for all my shots.

When setting up for the shoot, I reasoned that by mounting the camera, it would slow me down and help control the framing of the picture and although I didn’t consider it at the time it was important in order to be able to merge more than one image through Photoshop, if required.  Which in fact was the case.

I feel that although I achieved what I set out to make, I still felt that picture wasn’t quite as good as I hoped.  I struggled with the framing as the camera was fixed; and my dog was not, which caused problems getting all the elements in the right place.  Perhaps I should have set the camera up a little further away or set the zoom to a wider angle for greater flexibility when cropping.  However, I was working at my second choice of locations due to circumstances beyond my control and time had been wasted trying to get access to my first location choice, leaving me less time to work.  All in all, I made the best out of a non-ideal situation and I am fairly happy with the final picture if not ecstatic.

 

 

Making it up as asked?

For assignment five, I have been given a fairly open brief, to create either a single image or a series of images to elaborate on the same theme.

I have chosen to create a single image.

“As the culminating assignment for the course you may wish to draw upon skills learned from Parts One to Four – issuing various forms of narrative, using yourself as subject matter, telling stories and reading images.  The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose.  Remember to create a story with a specific context like the artists you’ve looked at in Part Five.  This means you need to have an artistic intention, so a good place to start would be to write down some ideas.  This could then form the basis for a 300-word introduction to the piece.  You may find it helpful to draw storyboards to help you visualize your ideas.”

I have produced an image taken from a narrative that I found through my research, I then story-boarded to find the appropriate image and I chose this intended picture in order to link it to a metaphor for today’s society.  This image has been created in context of a short story that acts as my 300-word introduction to my work.

“The aim of this assignment is to use props, costume, models, location, lighting, etc. to contribute to the overall meaning of the image.”

I have used a ‘No Pets’ sign and a pet dog as my props,  I have used two models to act out the characters in my image, The female model was dressed as a business woman and the male model as a smartly dressed man in a country suit with walking stick and hat both suitable for a smart gentleman out for a stroll and a man dressed for his funeral.  I chose to use the location of my local church that I felt suited the image.  I used speedlights, light modifiers, coloured gels and manipulated the white balance controls to achieve my desired affects.

“If the narrative is to be set in a different era then the elements of the image must reflect this.  Also consider the symbolic meaning of objects and try not to be too literal in your approach.”

My choice of costume is modern, Graham’s country suit is of a classic style and still popular today.  Ann-Marie, was wearing her normal business suit that she wears for interviews and corporate meetings.  Ann-Marie represents ‘Lucifer’ and I naturally didn’t want her in a Devil costume, holding whips, or sporting a Satanic tail; so I thought that simply dressing her in a sharp business suit and some lighting can imply a hidden layer to her true identity.

I have included snap-shots of my location and lighting set-up with sketches and notes as to how I planned and carried out the assignment.  I have written a 1000 word piece including the 300-word narrative.

Going through the criteria for this assignment, I feel that I have done everything as asked; so I just hope my Tutor likes my final work.

 

Photography a Critical Introduction, Edited by Liz Wells

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Photography a Critical Introduction, edited by Liz Wells, published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

The image on the front cover of this book was very appropriate for my experience when first reading this book: ‘Babel’ from Cockaign, by Gayle Chong Kwan.

The last listed book in my recommended reading list for the ‘Context and Narrative’ course to be read which completes my reading for both essential and recommended for the course. Phew!

I originally purchased and began reading this book for my ‘Art of Photography’ (AOP) course but I didn’t understand the relevance to my course and I also found it to be too heavy reading for me at that time and I only got half way through chapter one before putting it down.  I was keen to read books themed closer to the topics covered in the syllabus and additional technical books on composition, lighting, exposure, etc to bring me up to speed with my basic photography skills.  I felt that this book should have been listed in the essential reading list for my AOP course as none of the syllabus touched on critical theory and therefore wasn’t even appropriate for recommended reading.  However, this book was listed as recommended reading for this current coarse of Context and Narrative and in my opinion this should in fact be listed as essential reading.

This book is definitely worth reading once the critical theory of art in photography needs to be explored and understood.  There was much that linked to my current studying and I could see likely future links to my next courses, particularly chapter 4, ‘The subject as object: photography and the human body’ which discussed various forms of fetishism in art and explained what this word means in the art world.  Not just sex and deviant behavior but also desire and even a form of addiction which can be exploited by advertising, etc.

I still found it a heavy book and it took almost three weeks for me to read, but thanks to all the other reading that I have now done and the clear link it had to my current studying I was able to relate to the subject matter.  I am pleased that I have finally read this book and I realize that I made the right decision  two years ago to put the book down as I would not have understood a word and the messages that are now useful would have been missed.  I probably would not have thought to read it again; so missing a second chance to learn something from this book.

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.

Assignment 4 -“A picture is worth a thousand words” (It’s a Lilly)

It’s a Lilly!

A still image from the end of the first act of the epic movie ‘Gone with the Wind’, Selznick International Pictures, Metro Goldwin Mayor, (AOL Time Warner Company).

It’s a Lilly!

The image

This image is fabricated, created from scratch in a Hollywood film studio.  The sky is hand painted using a technique called movie-matte-painting The tree and fence are just props.

The first impression I have, looking at this picture, is a sense of foreboding and a feeling of uneasiness.

What we see: a sunset, a triangular shaped cirrus cloud, a very low horizon, a picket fence and a small female figure.  We appear to be looking at her from in front and to her right, so as to see the silhouette of her chest.  Her left arm is just out of view, but her posture suggests that it must be mimicking the right. To the far right of the picture stands a tree. Its branches are naked.  One branch leans over towards the female figure and ends in a shape reminiscent of a hand-held scythe, with the tip of its blade pointing down on the figure below.

My interpretation

This is the final image from the last scene in Act 1 of the motion-picture ‘Gone with the Wind’. The audience has just witnessed this lady turn from desperation to determination; and the final image is made to look satanical with its fiery sky a witch like figure and a scary looking tree.  We are encouraged to draw parallels from our imagination.  I see Dante’s imaginable idea of ‘The Inferno’ and to quote from Canto III, lines 1 -3, ‘Through me you pass into the city of woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye.’ I am also reminded of the lines from psalm 23:4, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me…..

I see a lot of symbolism in this image:

From the point-of-view of the movie, The American Civil War was still within living memory of an elderly American generation; and perhaps because it was made with access to living witnesses some of the scenes are so remarkable (the siege of Atlanta for example). Therefore, the movie makers intended that this image translates that fences still need mending between the North and South.

However, I see the picket fence on several levels:

1, As representing home, family and her life; it is rickety and in need of repair.

2, Seen with a stripped tree, the broken picket fence also appears to suggest destruction and hardship.

3, The fences denote a road; and the setting sun behind her, with the fence leading to the foreground, connotes a journey.

The horizon has been set very low to give emphasis to the sky above Scarlet’s head, she stands as a small figure, as if under heaven or a damned soul at the bottom of the pit.  The sky is like her name Scarlet; and it is also acts as a signifier for many ideas: the unholy oath she just made in this scene, loss of innocence, war, and a sun setting over a disappearing civilization and way of life.

I see 1939 in this picture, war had been declared in Europe.  For many people watching this film, their own civilization was in danger of going the way of the South and the sun was setting over their world and their way of life.

The space for the sky on the left is filled with a triangular cirrus cloud with a faint suggestion of a crucifix in its pattern, strengthening this idea of heaven and earth.  This iconic symbol can be identified for denoting, love and peace; but it also connotes hope, forgiveness and unity under one faith.

The lone female stands like the tree leaning back angled in symmetry with its trunk.  Her arms hang down by her sides and her visible hand appears clenched.  Her posture suggests that she is standing to attention, just as a tired and battle weary soldier might stand.  For the American audience of 1939, the woman could be regarded on different levels, depending on who you were:

1 For middle-class white Southern and Northern citizens she is the fair and defiant but beaten and battered South.

2, She could also be symbolic for many working class Americans who suffered during the 1930s economic recession; and could be regarded as a figure denoting a nation that is getting back on to her feet and standing defiantly against her adversaries; thus connoting National strength and endurance.

3, In 1939 many people were still denied equal rights.  For the audience, this figure in silhouette could therefore be black, white, yellow or any cast the viewer chooses.  She is a woman, considered the weaker sex, but seen here to be strong and encouraging hope. “I know I have the body butt of a weake and feble woman, butt I have the harte and stomack of a king, and of a king of England too” Elizabeth I, 1588, Tilbury.

The tree is stripped and broken, yet it still stands, heroically defying the ill winds that have stripped it.  In his book, ‘Camera Lucida’, Roland Barthes described a feature in a picture that is a focal-point that he calls a ‘Punctum’ something that makes a nice picture an interesting picture.  I see the tree as the Punctum in this picture.  The silhouetted woman against the sunset and cloud makes a nice picture which Barthes calls the ‘Studium’ but the sinister tree with the branch hanging over her head turns this in to a more engaging photo (in my opinion).  The branch immediately above Scarlet’s head looks like a bony finger; it appears to point down on Scarlet like a condemning finger that is passing judgment.  In the context of the movie the tree could also represent the Union with its terrible judicial judgement on the South.

So why the title?

As the Technicolor movie camera began to photograph this scene a technician would have held a card with different colours printed on it in front of the camera to assist for colour calibration later on in development. The Technicolor team referred to it as a ‘Lilly‘ card if the filming was successful at the end of the scene the technician would call “It’s a Lilly!”

Word Doc.  Amended Final Draft-Its a Lilly-1

References

Link to Image http://dearmrgable.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/gwtw5555.jpg

The trailer to Gone with the Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFu-jemU-bA

Selznick International Pictures  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selznick_International_Pictures

David O. Selznick Biography  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_O._Selznic

MGM history  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

MGM website:  http://www.mgm.com/

MGM  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

AOL Time Warner http://www.timewarner.com/

Movie matte painting video – Gone with the Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idQOBhiF-DM

Movie matte painting video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_kaA6250S4

Met Office / Cirrus Clouds:  http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/clouds/high-clouds/cirrus

Dante Alighieri Inferno, Canto III Lines 1 – 3.  Translation by Henry Francis Cary, Published by London Folio Society (MCMXCVIII)

Dante’s Biography:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri

psalm 23:4 – Translation from the original tongues being the version set forth A.D. 1611 Revised A.D. 1881 – 1885 and A.D. 1901 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1952 (The Bible Revised Standard Version Published by WM Collins Sons & CO Ltd. For The British & Foreign Bible Society)

The American Civil War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War

Atlanta  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta

Scarlet O’Hara  Biography https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlett_O%27Hara

The South  http://docsouth.unc.edu/

Confederate Army https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_Army

1930s economic recession  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression

Elizabeth I Tilbury speech http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/elizabeth-i-tilbury-speech

Rolland Barthes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Union Army https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army

Technicolor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor

Technicolor color card ‘A lilly’  http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Technicolor

The three strip Technicolor process  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor#Three-strip_Technicolor

Technicolor Film Camera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-T8MVrw1L0

CMYK https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMYK_color_model