Tag Archives: object

Photography a Critical Introduction, Edited by Liz Wells

51bn-imbrel-_sx381_bo1204203200_

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.

One-Way Street & Other Writings by Walter Benjamin

One-Way Street

Walter BenjaminOne-way Street and other Writings, (2009) London: Penguin. ISBN:978-0-141-18947-5.

On the critique of violence, (1921) is an essay considering the use of violence as a form of law enforcement and justice.  An interesting essay for studying documentary theory.

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. I shall look for examples of his work.

A collection of essays that include Brief History of Photography, (1931) that looks at the early development of photography and such influencing works as August Sanders.

Also included is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, (1936) 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.

Notes of interest for, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

  • Benjamin argues that recent technology has fundamentally changed the meaning of reproduction in art.
  • He argues that art has always been reproducible by limited technological means since the times of Ancient Greece by means of casting and embossing for bronzes, terracottas and coins.  Then much later came printing.
  • Until the development of photography and gramophone the reproduction of most art forms could retain their genuineness through provenance.
  • However photography and the gramophone has fundamentally changed the meaning of reproduction of art as a whole.
  • A piece of art holds its status of genuineness through provenance and provenance is beyond technological reproduction.
  • Something reproduced by manual means still holds its genuineness (even when branded a forgery).
  • Something reproduced by modern technological means does not.  For example a Brahms symphony reproduced in a concert hall 150 years after Brahms’ death still retains its genuineness.  However, if recorded and then played back the genuineness.  A painted copy (manual reproduction) of the Mona Lisa retains a genuineness.  However, a photograph (technological reproduction) of the Mona Lisa does not.
  • With the new technological reproduction of photography and gramophone, the reproduced works of art has now a new meaning: one that can go anywhere and be enjoyed by anyone. A symphony concert can now be enjoyed in a living room or a priceless Rembrandt painting from the pages of a book.
  • New methods of technological reproduction has also provided new ways in which to experience beyond the range of our normal senses for example slow motion and macro-photography.
  • Although technological reproduction does not physically alter or effect the original, it does alter the original’s value.  Its here and now is devalued.
  • The genuineness of a thing is the quintessence of everything about it since its creation that can be handed down, from its material duration to the historical witness duration to the historical witness that it bears. The latter (material duration and historical witness) being grounded in the former (the thing’s genuineness), what happens in the representation, where the former has been removed from human perception, is that the latter also starts to wobble. Nothing else, admittedly; however, what starts to wobble thus is the authority of the thing. (233).
  • The above passage suggests that when the genuineness has been removed the material duration and its historical witness becomes questionable.
  • ‘We can encapsulate what stands out here by using the term ‘aura’. We can say: what shrinks in an age where the work of art can be reproduced by technological means is its aura.’ (233)
  • Reproductive technology, we might say in general terms, removes the thing reproduced from the realm of tradition.  In making many copies of the reproduction, it substitutes for its unique incidence a multiplicity of incidences.  And in allowing the reproduction to come closer to whatever situation the person apprehending it is in, it actualises what is reproduced. (233)
  • Art’s meaning alters over time.
  • Within major historical periods, along with changes in the overall mode of being of the human collective, there are also changes in the manner of its sense perception. (234).  ‘A classical statue of Venus, for example, occupied a different traditional context for the Greeks, who made of it an object of worship, than for medieval clerics, who saw it as a threatening idol.’ (236)
  • ‘Works of art are received and adopted with different points of emphasis, two of which stand out as poles of each other. In one case the emphasis is on the work’s cultic value; in the other, on its display value.’ (237)
  • Much wisdom had already been thrown away on deciding whether photography was an art (without asking the prior question: whether, with the invention of photography, the very nature of art had undergone a change), but before long the theoreticians of film were asking a similarly hasty question. (240)
  • The fact that the work of art can now be reproduced by technological means alters the relationship of the mass to art.  From being very backward (faced with a Picasso, for instance), it has become highly progressive (given, say, Chaplin).  Yet this progressive response is characterised by the fact that in it the pleasure of looking and experiencing is associated, directly and profoundly with the stance of passing an expert judgement.  The link is an important social indicator.  In fact, the more the social significance of an art diminishes, the greater the extent (as clearly turning out to be the case with painting) to which the critical and pleasure-seeking stances of the public diverge. (248-249)

 

 

 

Art and Photography

Art_and_photography

I have just finished reading this book which was on my courses list for recommended reading.  Art and Photography has been edited by David Campany, published by Phaidon and covers the subject of contemporary photographic art from mainly the 1960s till the late 1990s.   Campany has divided the book in to topics:  Memories and Archives; Object object; Traces of Traces; The Urban and the Everyday; The Studio Image; The Arts of Reproduction; Just Looking; The Cultures of Nature.  He begins his book by explaining what he means for each topic title with the theory and history.  When I started to read this book I had read half way through this introduction section before I realized that it was best to read each part of the Introduction section along with the topic chapter itself as much of the introduction was referring to photos found in the relevant section in the book and reading the intro in conjunction with the section made more sense.  Some of the artists are illustrated and discussed two or three times in different topical sections dependent if their work has crossed over.

A useful book for consulting for ideas and for reference.

Art Photography Now

Art Photography Now

I have just finished reading Art Photography Now by Susan Bright.  Book cover image by Viviane Sassen.  Published by Thames & Hudson.

This book illustrates and discusses the work of the currently generation of established Artists in photography.  Bright has divided her book in to different photographic genres: Portrait, Landscape, Narrative, Object, Fashion, Documentary, City.  With examples of work from Artists who are particularly known for a specific genre for example: Martin Parr – Documentary, Corrine Day – Fashion, Gillian Wearing – Portraiture.

An interesting read and a book to keep on the shelf for reference.  Some styles I had not seen before which I liked for example: Katy Grannan – Portrait; Rochard Misrach Andreas Gursky Dan Holdsworth and Doug Aitken – Landscape; Hannah Starkey, Bill Hensen and Jeff Wall – Narrative; Camille Vivier, Jonathan Villiers – Fashion; Erwin Wurm, Allan Sekula – Document; Naoya Hatakeyama, Richard Wentworth, Paul Graham, Philip-Lorca Dicorcia, Rut Blees Luxemburg.

I like Vivian Sassen’s portraiture style, I like her photo used for the book cover, this photo has the added punctum of the golden hand.

Working log for Assignment II – The Unseen

_DSC9683-resized

For my second assignment, I have been given a choice between photographing the unseen or using props to create a narrative.  This is my learning log.

For this project I have decided to choose the first option, the unseen.  My reason, is that I feel that this is more challenging and it can help me become more familiar with the theory of semiotics and how to put it into practice in my future compositions.  The Unseen is another form of pictorial narrative; but this time I am going about it in another way.

Part of my brief is to make a list of at least seven ideas for the unseen.  Maybe my life is a little too ordinary and dull but seven ideas was tough and all I could manage.

MY PLANNING

I first made a note of the assignment criteria to help guide my thoughts.

img502

I then considered technical methods for image making that might inspire some ideas.

img503

I then continued to put my thoughts on paper as to what I could conceder as unseen.

img504

I then made a list of potential subjects.

From these general lists I fell upon the subject of depression and hope in the context of redundancy.

I then decided to write a narrative which I gave a working-title of ‘Redundant Reflections’ .  Now I had my first draft of my narrative, I could then start thinking about what pictures I wanted / needed and how they might look like.  Therefore, I broke it down in to sections in my mind, then made a list of the images that I believed would complement the text.  I initially listed eight images then later decided that seven was enough.

I sketched out some ideas for images. a couple I used and for other images that I later produced simply came out my head as worked with my camera.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

The first image that I made from my narrative represents the beginning of my recovery from my depression.  I wanted something to both represent my dog how she has contributed positively to my life. The lead refers both to a dog and walks / exercise, a toy representing fun and happiness / love and a dog biscuit that suggesting reward.

_DSC9096-resized

D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @50mm, 1/80, f/4.5, ISO-320, ambient light, RAW.  Adjustments in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The second image I created is for the opening image to this project, representing my redundancy.  I thought of finding something that I used and is recognized as a familiar object that would be associated with work but now could also be considered redundant as a useful object.  A popular object from the recent past that is both no longer in fashion and redundant in popular use was my old Filo-Fax which has now been replaced by electronic diaries.  My first idea was to photograph it with other redundant objects such as a feather quill pen and bottled ink, old stamps and old redundant currency.  When I put it all together, I didn’t like it.  I then realized that I was looking for a strong metaphoric message for redundancy and that was simple.  Simply throw the Filo-Fax in the bin!   By chance the two pieces of paper that found themselves at the top of the bin couldn’t have been better placed.  An eye and a sales brochure with the words “Just You” as if to say, “We just got rid of you.”  In order to get a good exposure for the white paper and black Filo-Fax, I used my Sekonda hand-held lightmeter to take an incident reading.

_DSC9085-resized

D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @120mm, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO-5000, ambient light, metered using hand-held incident lightmeter, RAW.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The next image I created was the second image for the first paragraph to represent my job hunting and the market conditions.  The idea for this image came strait off the page of my narrative.

_DSC9122-resized

 

D-800e, 24-120mm f/4, @31mm 1/80, f/8, ISO-4000, ambient light, metered using incident measurement from hand-held lightmeter.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

For the next image I worked on, my  initial idea was to play on the words ‘learning curve’ and using a stack of books to make a curve; but as you may see, I don’t think that this idea worked too well; so I stopped and read the book ‘This Means This, This Means That’ by Sean Hall, to get fresh inspiration.  The final composition was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, he has used this point of view in a couple of his films.  The red No Entry symbol on the front cover of the book, I thought, would look better returned to red. by colour popping.

_DSC9169-resized

D-800e, 24-120mm f/4 @65mm, 1/160, f/4, ISO-4000, ambient lighting.  Adjusted in Lightroom and converted to greyscale in Photoshop.

_DSC9250-Edit-resized

D-800e, 24-120mm f/4 @58mm, 1/80, f/9, ISO-4000, ambient lighting.  Adjusted in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale and colour-popped in Photoshop.

Alfred Hitchcock.

However, when I asked my student forum to comment on my work, the consistent opinion was to keep all the pictures in grey-scale except for the last image which they agreed worked in colour; so I changed this back to full grey-scale and made alterations to the text as also suggested.

_DSC9250-a-resized

Camera settings unchanged from above.

I had an idea for the ending as something to suggest a new beginning and optimism for the future.  At the time of this project it was early spring with the buds just coming out and ideal for my last image.  I decided that although I have chosen to use grey-scale the last image must emphasise hope and I felt that a colour image dominated by green would suggest this.  Plus I feel that this change to colour also acts as a full-stop to the narrative.

Resized-9589

D800e, 105mm f/2.8, 1/80, f/8, ISO-125, ambient light only, adjustments made in Lightroom.

I then set about trying to create an image to suggest shock, I couldn’t find any examples on the internet other than foolish images of people looking wide eyed and open mouthed.  I considered a broken cup or spilt tea / coffee but I wasn’t sure that that would suggest anything other than a broken cup or a spillage.  I then had the idea of filling a cup with tea and photographing it as I banged it on a table to capture the shock wave like ripples. But as you can see, I don’t think that the image is powerful enough to convey what I was after.  In the end I decided that this image was not needed for the narrative anyway.

_DSC9495-Edit-resized

D800e, 105mm f/2.8, 1/250, f/3, ISO-800, remote shutter control with remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

I decided to move on to produce an image conveying the business travel and my choice of image with the pillow can also be associated with the sack.  I am particularly pleased with this image, it’s simple but I think to the point.  (I hope you agree.)

_DSC9683-resized

D800e, 24-120mm f/4, @58mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO-800, ambient light only.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

The last image I made for the set was to convey an impression of depression and poor health.  This came surprisingly easily, as I recalled that Hollywood movies often uses the symbolism of a tub of ice-cream when the heroin is depressed or sad; so why not use the same idea?  My first attempt was okay; but I didn’t think was strong enough in it’s message; so I reshot using a hamburger that really represented bad diet and unhealthy living.  This image I believe best represents the result of my redundancy which I think is far better than trying to create something to just symbolize shock.

_DSC9633-resized

D800e, 24-120mm f/4, @78mm, 1/125, f/8, ISO-125, remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

_DSC9744-resized

D800e, 24-120mm f/4 @86mm, 1/125, f/4, ISO-125, remote speedlight in a soft-box.  Adjustments made in Lightroom, converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

Have I met the assignment criteria?

  • Consider how to use the image and text together to create my chosen narrative.

Yes, I believe I achieved this.

  • Look at how images can be used to tell us about things we can’t see, to convey a feeling or suggestion.

Yes, I believe that my images meet this aim.

  • Try to keep to things that I have a personal interest in or curious about.

Yes, I believe that I have kept within this field.

  • Produce 7 – 10 tightly edited and visually consistent.

Yes, x 7 key images consistent with the narrative.

  • Write a 300 word Introduction.

Yes, A 300 word complementing narrative.

Based upon the feedback from my fellow students from my forum, particularly the very helpful and I thought good advice from Steve Middlehurst, who suggested adding the stills as well as the slideshow for the assessors to be able to clearly scrutinize each image.  With this in mind I decided to put the slideshow at the very top just beneath the title and as each image represents the unseen I feel it works well and added the large stills beneath the text for closer examination.

I sent away for my images to be printed by a third-party printing company, when they came back I found that the crop they had used was not the same as I had expected and seen on my screen then ordering through their online website.  I had waited a week for the photos to arrive and decided that it was too risky to try and get a better print from this same company; so I visited my local Tesco that has a photo-lab but they could not offer a service that included a border forcing me to try and coble one up in Photoshop. Moreover, they could not offer a matching matt-paper, silk being their nearest option.  I emailed my Tutor who insisted that  my presentation should be consistent.  At first I was annoyed and turned to my student forum for advice.  They were all great, I got a little from some reminding me that I should be printing my own work anyway if I want to be a professional photographer which I needed to hear even if I didn’t at first like it.  A fellow student suggested a Canon printer that he uses and I ordered one on Amazon Canon PI7250 for £50, plus paper and spare inks.  Thursday, mid-morning I took delivery of my new printer and after unpacking and setting up spent the rest of the day figuring out the mysteries of printer profiles and colour profiles.  Fortunately, I have been in the practice of calibrating my screen using a Colour Spyder4 and by late Thursday evening I printing out my assignment photos for my Tutor.  I can truly say this assignment has taught me lots.

 

 

 

 

 

On Photography, Susan Sontag

On_Photography

Susan Sontag, On Photography, (1979) London, Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-14-005397-5.

This book by Susan Sontag is a collection of essays discussing how photography has influenced the world since its invention and how it has played a part in the surrealist art movement in the 20th Century.

The book was first published in 1977 and although photography has moved on she spends a lot of time discussing how photography was first introduced accepted or not and how it came to be the most enduring and influential part of the surrealist movement.  She also looks at how photographs are used and how they can be re-used.

Topics and points to note:

  • In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge out notion of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.
  • Photos are a grammar and even more importantly, an ethics of seeing.
  • Photos give us the sense that we can hold the world in our hands.
  • In photographs the image is also an object.
  • As object they can be collected, bought & sold, cherished, thrown away, lost & found, etc, etc.
  • Photographs furnish evidence, they appear to provide proof when something is in doubt.
  • A photograph justifies, for example through use of surveillance and is a presumption of proof that something exists.
  • Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that like all mass art form, photography is not practiced by people as an art.  It is mainly a social rite, a defence against anxiety and a tool of power.
  • Photographs can abet desire and emotions of morality.
  • The industrialisation of photography permitted its rapid absorption into bureaucratic ways of running society…photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic.  Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institutions of control, notably the family and the police, as symbolic object and as pieces of information….many important documents are not valid unless they have affixed to them, a photographic-token of the citizen’s face.