Tag Archives: outside

Assignment 5 – Making it up

Club Class

from an original story by: Earl Hamner Jr.

club-class

A Traveller and his best friend were walking along a road they were both dead; and looking for somewhere to rest.

Eventually, they came to a high stone wall along one side of the road.  Set in to the wall was a tall arched open door.  Standing in the doorway was a smartly dressed, attractive, young lady.  The Traveller greeted her and asked her where they were.

“Why, this is Heaven!” She replied.

“Wow!” the man replied and they both proceeded to enter.

But the young lady stopped them and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept pets.  There is a place for your dog just up the road, leave him with me and I will take care of him.”

The Traveller thought for a moment and unable to leave his friend outside he decided to continue his journey along the road.  Further along they came to a gate that stood alone, with neither a wall nor fence attached; and it looked as if it had never been closed, he saw a man behind the gate, leaning against a tree, reading a book.

“Excuse me!” called the Traveller. “Do you have any water?”

“Yes, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”

“How about my friend here?”  (Gesturing to his dog).

“You should find a bowl by the pump.”

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was a hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveller filled the water bowl for his friend before taking a long drink for himself.

When they were finished, the Traveller asked the ‘Gateman’,

“What do you call this place?”

“This is Heaven,” he answered.

“I’m confused,” Protested the Traveller. “The young lady down the road said that that was Heaven, too.”

Shaking his head sadly the ‘Gateman’ replied, “Oh no!  That’s certainly not Heaven! That’s the gate to hell!”

“But can you not do something to stop her tricking people in to entering hell?”  Demanded the Traveller.

“No!  We’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”  He replied with a wry smile.

no-dogs-1

So much for the contextual narrative!  What do we see?

A man stands in the foreground holding a dog on a lead, whilst gripping a walking stick with the other hand.  He’s looking at the dog that’s looking back, he’s dressed in a suit with a Yorkshire cap; both he and his dog are drained of any warm colours with a distinct cold blue hue tone as is most of the image.  In the background we see a sign indicating no dogs on a wall by an open door, inside the doorway we see a smartly dressed young woman, she appears to be pointing or wagging her finger, her mannerism implies a negative signal and her legs crossed emphasizes this negative message.   She appears to be illuminated by very warm amber light and a red halo rims around her head.

My intention for this image is to create a division between the outside world of the Traveller and his dog with the world beyond the door in which the women stands.  To achieve this I used the white balance settings of my camera, gelled speedlights and made additional enhancements in Lightroom.  The Traveller is between worlds, it is cold.  He and his dog are both dead and I wanted their shades to reflect this.  The young lady on the other hand is standing somewhere that is very warm and I wanted to convey this; I also wanted to hint at danger using rim lighting.

There is another message in this picture, one of temptation.  The young lady represents the fetish pleasures of capitalism; her sexuality is to tempt the man away from his moral values.  The price for this implied promise of luxury and pleasure is that he must be selfish and turn away from anything that could hold him back.  His dog represents his values and socialistic principles of loyalty, trust, responsibility and selflessness.

I didn’t want to create an obvious ‘Lucifer’ therefore I thought that a sharp dressed business woman would act as a suitably modern metaphor for him/her.

When creating this image, I tried to keep in mind Barthes idea of studium and punctum.  The Traveller and dog is part of the studium of the picture punctuated by the warm coloured image of the attractive women (the punctum).  I wanted to carefully construct a single image to project my intended narrative.

This was a particularly tricky picture to make when depending on the unreliability of a dog and using non-professional models.  Further complication was that my chosen doorway was unavailable to me due to a lost key.  The location I chose happened to be my local church which had the ideal doors.  I obtained permission from the Vicar however, on the appointed day the Vicar had taken his wife away for her Birthday and not informed anyone of our arrangement.  No one had the key to my chosen Choir Vestry door; so I had to use a fire escape door instead.  This side door was exposed to the wind and also needed to be wedged open and in the process of the shoot I dropped an expensive speedlight that bounced and although remained serviceable may now need to be serviced by Nikon.  I was unable to get the perfect shot as either the speedlights failed to fire at the perfect time or the dog kept moving around and directing my models is still a new experience.  I ended the afternoon feeling low as I thought that I had failed to get a suitable image.  I gave myself a couple of days space and looked again and I was pleased to find some images that I could collage together to make one suitable picture in Photoshop.

I enjoyed making this image and although it may not have a great wow factor, I am pleased that I was able to achieve my vision.  I would like to make more images based on a narrative theme in the future, perhaps using novels biblical stories, sagas, legends and songs.

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Exercise – Project 1 – Autobiographical self-portaiture

 

I have been looking at the images by artist such as Francesca Woodman, Elina Brotherus, Sally Mann, Elinor Carucci, Richard Billingham, Tierney Gearon and Gillian Waering.

Francesca Woodman


Photo by Francesca Woodman. This lined image is available to view on line: http://bibliotecaiie.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/francescawoodman.jpg

Francesca Woodman’s images I find both a little erotic and disturbing.  Woodman clearly a lot of pent up sexual-tension with an artistic voice wanting to be heard.  If I was to say that there was an element of narcissism in Woodman’s photos I think I would be wrong.  I think that she was probably insecure about herself and her looks, yes she was very self-indulgent which may sadly have lead her to her death.  I believe there are indications of her moods of depression in her images.  We all sometime feel that we could just disappear and I think that Woodman acts out some of these wished imaginings in her photos.  I personally, think that Woodman’s images don’t need accompanying text for the images to be appreciated.  However, they communicate best as set.

Woodman clearly had mental-health issues and I wonder that perhaps the wider issue here is the stigma attached to this form of health-issue and the lack of understanding and help available for sufferers.  Many artist suffer from depression as many artists by there nature are bipolar in some degree and perhaps educational institutions such as schools and colleges / universities should also watch for this and offer counselling and support.  Woodman committed suicide in 1981 and over 30 years later we are still loosing talent through our lack of understanding of how to help.

Elina Brotherus

Photo by Elina Brotherus. This linked image is available to view online on her website: http://www.elinabrotherus.com

Brotherus has used her naked body to put ‘a spotlight’ on herself.  I think that her nakedness not only reflects her sense of vulnerability but also her lock of power and sense of naked honesty.  She uses nakedness to grab the attention of the audience / viewer in order to pass on her intended message.

For me Brotherus images instil mixed feelings of sympathy and admiration for both her struggle and sadness and her honesty and dignified strength.

Some may interpret Brotherus’s work as a little self-indulgent; but I would disagree.  Brotherus has used herself as a subject to bring to peoples attention issues that are often hidden.  These issues she has experienced for herself and therefore can tell the story from the inside.  By using herself as the model and subject she enforces the truth and her own honesty.

I don’t believe that this style of images can be imitated purely for image sake by ‘outsiders’.  These images come from the heart and therefore if mimicked would lack the context that these images were created to represent.  These images have been made to represent the artist own feelings and emotions and whilst the images can be replicated the emotional message the originals carry can not without some honest intent from the new artist.  In this way only another artist going through similar experiences can produce similar work and would then have his or her own style and signature.  Anything else would be a false facsimile.

As mentioned above, I believe that the motivation of these artist are to raise awareness of issues, that are often hidden from public-sight.  Naturally these issues have to be close and personal to the artist in order for the artist to be able to be an insider and produce honest and truthful images.

Project 3, Exercise.

In this last project of this section, I have looked at the concept of creating images that convey a sense of the unseen, for example feelings and emotions.  I have already started to think about this form of art with my last exercise of creating images for a  poem and this project is moving this theory forward in to use of every day life and personal experiences.

I have been introduced to three different projects by photography students as examples of creating images out of the unseen.  The first is by Peter Mansell (My Space) who has taken photos of objects and even of empty spaces that represent his disability and his life.  I very much like these simple but well thought out and composed images.  I got a very real sense of his visits to the hospital and Peter’s life at home.

The second project is by Dewald Botha (Ring Road) I liked the interesting perspective and sense of being on the outside.  The timing of the photos suggest early morning with a cold mist and overcast looking skies this could of course just be smog but it evokes a sense of cold and the unusual locations of not belonging almost like trespassing.

The third project is by Jodie Taylor (Memories of Childhood) the link for this only illustrates three photos but I was able to understand the sentiment and sense of nostalgia as we see these places of her childhood.  I think that all of the photos from all three projects are cleverly conceived and nicely composed.  The project that resonates most with me was Dewald Botha’s, ‘Ring Road’.  I have been in sales for much of my life and I was a Territory Sales Rep. I was working from home; so I was always a little bit of an outsider even with my own company as I would only visit their offices for sales meetings and training days.  I have often found that we set boundaries for ourselves in both our professional and personal life and boundaries is the subject that Botha explores.  I often used the M25 to travel to all compass points of my sales territory and his choice of subject matter struck a cord.

Authorial Control

This concept of loss of authorial control doesn’t mean a lot to me.  The point of creating an image, sculpture, music or literature is to express your ideas in to something of substance; but how other people choose to interpret the work is up to them.  Hopefully if you have done a good job the meaning of that idea is obvious and will be experienced as you intended it to be.  (Unless the idea was to be deliberately ambiguous and to enjoy watching others make interesting interpretations.)  A photograph can be easily re-used re-labelled and re-contextualized and perhaps as students and later as photographers we will do this to other peoples work and one day others will do it with ours.  That’s life.  Moreover, if a photographer is employed by a magazine then that employer must have rights over the editorial decisions.  A wedding photographer on the other hand has more control; but at the end of the day the Bride and Groom can always re-frame the pictures and add their own captions etc.  In my opinion it’s not worth loosing our hair over this idea of authorial control.

 

Exercise, Project 1, Telling a story

Country Doctor I have just been looking at two photo essays, the first is W. Eugene Smith’s, County Doctor and the second is Bryony Campbell’s, The Dad Project.

Two very different essays , the first was made with the photographer W. Eugene Smith’s chronicling the life of a Country Doctor in the State of Colorado in the late 1940 over a period of three weeks for Life magazine.  The images and accompanying text paints a portrait of a general practitioner dedicated to his work and his community with some dramatic images and some apparent good candid portraits. Smith claims that he began by taking pictures without film in order to relax his subjects and as they got used to his company he then started taking picture for real.  However, he is also had no qualms about staging photographs in order to provide life magazine with the images required.  Smith was also an outsider and although he spent several weeks with Dr. Ceriani the documentary element lacks a personal – emotional involvement type feeling to the pictures.

Bryony Campbell’s work on the other-hand seems to be electrically charged with raw emotional involvement.  Campbell’s images clearly have not been staged and this honesty to her work produces such strong emotional feelings that they are almost palpable.  Whilst Smith’s work make an interesting documentary, Campbell’s work touches her audience on a much more personal level.  The sensitive subject matter she has chosen to document touches us all as it is a subject that we all have to face but all either don’t want to talk about or know how to talk about, Campbell’s essay gives people that opportunity.  As it is about her and her family it is clearly a documentary from the inside and so instead of appearing to be intrusive or insensitive the work appears to be candid and honest.

Campbell describes her work of The Dad Project as an end without an end, this could refer to her spiritual belief but I suspect that it has more to do with that this project has become a part of her life and a part of her.  She writes in her website blog that at the end of an interview at the BBC for the World Service the interviewer asked her, “Is it hard to talk about the experience and then just get on with a normal day?  Do you feel that the project is stopping you from moving on?”  Campbell reflects that the project has become part of her normal day and that it has helped her in her grieving process and as such does not feel the need to ‘move on’.  One does not get over the loss of a loved one, one simply learns how to live with that loss and therefore in a sense we all experience at some-point an end without an end.

Research point – Project 2 – Photojournalism

Photojournalism is a word that has been coined to describe news images, i.e. images that are made to support news stories.  This type of photography can often be regarded (perhaps sometimes mistakenly) as a factual way of presenting information to the public.  However, we only need to visit a news stand on any typical day to see that the viewpoint that these images present to us are typically more reflective of the Publisher’s / Photographer’s employer’s own agenda than a strictly unbiased representation of the ‘Truth’.

This argument has been debated by many photographers, art critiques and scholars over the years.  Three prominent writers who have examined this topic are Marta Rosler in her 1981 essay, In, Around and Afterthoughts’ available to read in the book ‘The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography’, Edited and published by Richard Bolton,  MIT Press Cambridge.  Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’ Penguin.  Abigail Solomon-Godeau in her 1994 essay ‘Inside/Out’ available to read in the book ‘Public Information, Desire, Disaster, Document’ Edited by Kara Kirk, Published by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  All three of these author’s works are summarized in a very helpful book ‘Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange, published by Focal Press.

Martha Rosler’s 1981 essay, ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts’

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Walker Evans (1903 – 1975)

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00651773/resource/

In Rosler’s essay she looks at the photograph used in social politics between the haves and have-nots, she begins by asking why are photographers still making documentary style photographs of the Bowery area on New York, notorious for its drunks and down and outs which have has been covered by many photographers over the years with much questionable motives. She states that documentary photography in the USA represents, ‘a liberal social conscience’. However, she makes the argument that documentary photography has failed to achieve any status of ‘truth’ as it gained associations with ‘muckspreading’ and has ‘been partly strangled by the myth of journalistic objectivity’. She argues that the believability of documentary photography has come under attack from two political opposed camps. The left attack it as being a social institution that serves only the wealthy and helps to enforce the wealthy classes dominance over the poor. The right sees an attack on its truthfulness beneficial to their standpoint which considers social inequalities and elites as natural.

To support her argument She examines the history of documentary photography in the USA beginning at the turn of the century when some socially concerned individuals such a Jacob Riis tried to highlight the plight of the poor migrant works living and working in the slums on New York, the Farm Security Association (FSA) of the 1930’s and 40’s to changing attitudes in the later part of the 20th century.

She argues that in the early days of documentary photography by photographers such as Lewis Hine who were ‘propagandizing social work’ and trying to right wrongs, didn’t understand that it was not in the interest for the establishments to right these wrongs, as these wrongs were essential to the social system. She cynically argues that these conscientious, privileged, do-gooders were simply expressed sympathy for the poor and appealed to the self-interest of the privileged. They were making a strong case for charity rather than self-help.’ She goes on to make the case that, ‘charity is an argument for the preservation of class as it encourages the giving of little in order to pacify potentially dangerous lower classes.’

She gives examples of famous documentary style images to support her opinions. In the 1930’s, the period of the Great Depression in the USA and the Dust Bowl disaster an organization was set-up called the FSA to investigate and report back Washington the situation amongst the farming community as their work photographers were sent out to document what the saw. One such photographer was Dorothea Lange and she came across a women and her children in California who were victims of the depression, she took some photographs and made a note in her diary that she (the mother) ‘She thought that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me.’ One of these photographs was to become one of the most iconic photographs ever produced and has been used re-used copied, imitated all across the world. Although the picture has become so famous no such fame or fortune fell upon the subject or her children. It has been argued that the camp that she was living in at that time received funding for better facilities that the mother Mrs. Thompson would have benefited from. The point that Rosler is making is that again nothing was done to help Mrs. Thomson get out of her poverty trap and when a follow up story was made in the 1970’s her identity was revealed to the world for the first time and she was still impoverished living on state benefits in a Caravan / Trailer. Rosler uses Mrs. Thompson case as an example of how documentary photography can abuse / victimize its subjects by publicly humiliating them by exposing their misery and in Mrs. Thompson’s case she suffered this form of victimization twice the second time with the 1970’s follow up story. Rosler also uses another example of multi exploitation of victims of documentary photography and uses another FSA photograph taken in the 30’s and published in the 40’s of a Tenant Farmers Wife and published in a book ‘Let us Praise Famous Men’ which documented the marginalized sharecroppers and children. A follow up story in the late 70’s published in the New York Times Magazine – Rosler cynically states that there a double irony with this follow up story as it first re-consigns the original story from marginal and pathetic to marginality and pathos and gives away the victims true identity thus making the subject a new victim. She also points out that the type of reader of the New York Times will get a certain satisfaction from this story that although the poorer are now better off they haven’t caught up.

Rosler has clearly put a lot of thought, research and work in to these arguments; but I am not sure she is fare in her judgments. She talks with the power on hindsight. When these photographs were taken the photographer was trying to show the world what they themselves saw. Riis and Lewis Hines tried to use photographs for a good cause, how their photographs were later seen, used, read or edited was beyond their control. The problem with anything a man does is that it can be often interpreted by others in ways beyond their control. This can be true of photographs – we will see what we want to see. A photograph of an unconscious drunk can be seen either as an image to highlight the plight of a down and out or cynically regarded as exploiting a vulnerable man’s dignity. Is it important to understand the photographer’s agenda or is more important to simply see the image and take from it what you like? After all, you are going to anyway.

Having said that I believe that a photograph can change situations providing the image is seen at the right time in the right place. I believe that an image has to be topical if it is to make the most impact. For example the migrant mother at the time of the depression when any people across the world were experiencing hard times the almost saintly stoic pose of the mother and child touched a chord with millions. Images of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau at the end of the war probably had maximum impact because by then hatred for Germany and Nazis was at its zenith and also perhaps a war tired world needed that jolt to remind them for what the fighting and suffering had been for.

Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+from+belsen&view=detailv2&qpvt=images+from+belsen&id=FAFD6A5E2A4CF0E1F7A7165380BDB562A386EE17&selectedIndex=21&ccid=0TWJF3wV&simid=608034805826260146&thid=OIP.Md13589177c15fee64e3f9f5914400bf9o0&ajaxhist=0

– In this book Sontag believes that the human psyche becomes deadened to the effects of shocking images of war and death.  She refers to her own experience that she had when first seeing photographs of Bergen- Belsen and Dachau in a Santa-Monica book store, July 1945 when she was only 12.  She can now refer to a time before and after she had seen these images and experienced ‘the epiphany’ as a result of these shocking pictures.  However, she goes on to say that as time has passed and more and more similar images have flooded the viewing world she believes that a saturation point has been reached were it is now difficult, if not impossible, to experience that sense of shock and horror.  At the time of writing this only 30 years had passed and images of carnage, destruction and death was almost a daily occurrence with images coming back from the Vietnam war.

I agree with this argument (to a degree), as we have all become more familiar with pictures of the holocaust, world war one and two, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.  These photos all begin to take on a similar image in our minds and unless they are able to touch us on a more personal level such as somewhere where we have lived, people we have known, children like our own, etc. then the new images that we see on a daily bases won’t necessarily move us as perhaps they are intended.  However, exceptions to this are events that are extremely dramatic and rare such as the events of 911 in New York.  However, I personally liken this type of photographic genre to be similar to Hollywood’s horror movies that have to keep finding new ideas for even gorier and stomach churning stories and images in order to keep providing the audiences with a feeling of shock and horror for which they are demanding.  We now need to see something very extraordinary in a picture to effect us like that of Sontag’s experience or of many of us with 911. I refer to an experience that can be identified as how we were before and how we were after.

Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s 1994 essay, ‘Inside/Out’

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http://aperture.org/shop/books/nan-goldin-ballad

– Published in the book ‘Public Information, Desire, Disaster Document’, Edited by Kara Kirk, Published by San-Francesco Museum for Modern Art. – In Solomon-Godeau’s essay she argues that there are two types of documentary photography, Inside and Out.

The first are of images taken by a photographer who is involved and a part of the subject matter ‘an insider’. She gives as an example of this type of photography as taken by Nan Goldin with her photographic work entitled “Ballard of Sexual Dependency” a collection of photographs documenting her stormy relationship with her boyfriend with candid shots of both her and her boyfriend together. Clearly she had kept her camera with her all the time; so her boyfriend appears to be behaving naturally as if the camera isn’t there.  Her project, ‘The Other Side’, Goldin used this same ‘insider’ technique with her transsexual friends, living with these people she was able to photograph them in normally very private moments.  Despite the closeness of the subject matter Goldin felt that the camera still leaves something out of the image something that a mere machine can not capture.  “If it were possible, I’d want no mechanism between me and the moment of photographing.”  Solomon-Godeau acknowledges, “that both of these works can be considered as exemplary of the insider position.” However, with regards to ‘The Other Side’ Solomon-Godeau questions, “how does the insider position determine the reception of these images or even the nature of the content?”  Solomon-Godeau goes on to reason that for example to photos of her friends dressing / undressing, indicating the intimate relationship the photographer has with the subject, ‘has a specific valency with respect to cross-dressing and transvestism’.  In other words these images can be read as either identities, roles, masquerades or “third genders”, as the title of “drag queen” or “transvestite” suggests a transforming through dressing-up.’  These images record moments in that transformation from male to extravagant fantasy, Hollywood style femininity and glamour, documenting a ritual that is itself about exteriority, appearance, performance. Solomon-Godeau points out, ‘that the very presence of a camera as they dress or undress, make love or bathe – instates a third term, even as the photographer wishes disavow it.’ – ‘The photographers own eyes is inevitably frustrated by the very mechanism of the camera – which cannot penetrate beyond that which is simply, there’.

nan_goldin17

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Nan+Goldin+Pictures&view=detailv2&&id=1A7350AA546623EAA4AEEB1ACDA67B6DA6BF9E3F&selectedIndex=29&ccid=ofNUutLI&simid=608036300484707580&thid=OIP.Ma1f354bad2c8691a171908b85b82182co0&ajaxhist=0

 

diane_arbus8

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Diane+Arbus+Photographer&view=detailv2&id=C6BD79CC704275DCB63C50A3E749A586DD93C6E5&selectedindex=78&ccid=ZfmE1hjA&simid=607996254197056365&thid=OIP.M65f984d618c069f365e323c219362afco0&mode=overlay&first=1

The second – Out, is documentary photographs taken by an outsider, amongst the photographers Solomon-Godeau refers to is Arbus, who photographed social and physical deviants in a way that prevented compassionate involvement. Susan Sontag described Arbus’ work as morbid voyeurism and Sontage uses Arbus as an example of photographs taken from the outside, ‘On Photography’. America Seen Through Photographs, Darkly’.

I personally don’t think that you need to be on the inside to produce a successful documentary project; but you do need close co-operation with those that are in ‘the inside’ in order for your work to imply any insight to the subject matter. I would simply refer anyone to a scientific documentary show such as BBC’s Horizon or reading a magazine journal such as ‘The Economist’, or trade journals.