Tag Archives: theory

The result of my final Assessment.

512659 Shaun Mullins PH4CAN Results Letter

512659 Shaun Mullins PH4CAN Marksheet

I have received my marks and confirmation that I have passed!  Which is great!

I am however, a little disappointed at the marks I got as I did my very best and read as many books as I could lay my hands on to fully understand the theory and concepts behind this course and put them in to practical practice.

I found my photographic assignments very challenging, and I spent a great deal of time reading for research and brainstorming for ideas which my blogs illustrate with my handwritten notes, sketched ideas.  I was disappointed that as a result of all that my images are criticized as being ‘stock-photography’.  It is also very ironic because at one point when I really couldn’t come up with any ideas I tried looking for stock-photos for inspiration but found nothing of any use.  So clearly their is a great stock-photography web-site I don’t know about, or maybe I’m just not good at asking the right questions to find them.  Anyway, these images came out of my head not anyone else’s but as I keep reading in every book OCA lists, “There is no such thing as a new idea” (unless you are an Assessor of cause)  Maybe, my ideas were cliche; I don’t know, I haven’t seen enough photos like mine to know, but I guess the assessors have.  I bow the their experience.  My images were considered too obvious,  hopefully in time my experience will teach my imagination to be more sophisticated and in turn more subtle.  My new course is also helping with ideas of motifs and the rule-of-three which I can use in photo essays to be able to put over an idea in subtler ways as they do in Hollywood.  Art like science works best with cross-fertilization of ideas, theories and practices.  For example, Geologist and Paleontologists have a better understanding of their work by being aware of the others sciences.

With regards to my essay, I was congratulated on producing a good essay.  I was criticized for reading too diverse range of books and authors; but at this stage of my course I am still trying to learn as much as I can whilst looking for something that can inspire me enough to confidently specialize in.  I prefer portraiture work and the Film-Noir images I did with Nikon really gave me a buzz; so I think that style of work is my forte.  I love using all kinds of lighting to create interesting / stunning images and just using natural-light I find boring.  This is where I think I will start drilling.

Anyway, I passed and I now need 40 points to reach my 120 which I hope I can achieve for my next course which was a new challenge, film-making.

If anyone other than myself bothers to read this, please wish me luck!

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.

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)

 

 

 

Reading Photographs, An Introduction to the Theory and Meaning of Images.

Reading Photographs

I have been reading this book whilst on holiday, in preparation for my next assignment, Reading Photographs, An Introduction to the Theory and Meaning of Images, by Richard Salkeld, published by Bloomsbury.  This is part of a set of about x10 text-books that are very good and this appears to be last last one of the series for photography that I hadn’t read.

This book  is divided in to 6 chapters covering the following topics:

  1. What is a Photograph – Briefly covers the history from invention and marriage of chemistry and optics, through to the evolution of photography and its practice. Case-study.
  2. Reading the signs – Briefly covers the theory of meaning, language, semiotics, ideology in an easy to understand way.  Case-study.
  3. Truth and Lies – Considers images reflecting truth in what is real, representation and reality, facts and fiction.  Case-study.
  4. Identity – Covers people and portraits, signifying identity, looking,the body.  Case-study.
  5. Big-Brother – The modern world, the bad, the mad and the other, surveillance society: and Panopticon (originally a 19th century idea to watch prisoners in a specially designed prison). Who is looking at whom? Public spaces – private lives.  Case-study.
  6. Aesthetics – Is it Art? What is art? Photography as art the history of an idea, into postmodernism.  Case-study.

This is a very good and useful book to read, in fact I read it twice.  An easy read and very well illustrated with profiles on key authors for further reading such as Roland Barthes and John Berger to name just a couple.  I would strongly recommend this book and I am surprised that it is not listed as either recommended or essential reading for my OCA course covering Context and Narrative.

Exercise-Project-2-Masquerades-Childhood memories

In this exercise I have created an image to represent a childhood memory.  I have based the idea of this project on Roland Barthes theory of mythology.  It struck me that our memories are a form of myth.  Our memories are never quite as they really were.  We recall through rose-tinted-glasses, our childish imaginings were myths both good and bad. My memory is of being scared of the dark as a child, particularly after having watched a scary episode of Dr. Who.  I was most scared of the Cyber-men and I recall dreaming of being chased and caught by the Cyber-men, I would hide under the bedclothes and peek out and being afraid of the shadows.  The myths of the Bogieman, monsters, ghosts and goblins haunted my dreams and imaginings to such an extent that as a very young child I could not go to sleep unless a light was left on in my room.

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D-800e, 24-120 f/4 @24mm, 1/125, f/11, ISO-6400, WB-Auto.  One remote speedlight operated via Pocket Wizard, converted to grey-scale in Lightroom and cropped.

I planned this idea out first on paper, putting my thoughts down which helped me quickly find an idea.  My thoughts initially were the usual happy memories of sunshine and ice-cream; but as I considered the theme of myth and I considered the darker side of childhood fancies.  The final product was converted to black-and-white as I felt that this made the image more dark and sinister, I also was not concerned about high ISO for this image because the grainier the image appears the better to imply a memory.

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Camera_Lucida

Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes, (2000) London, Vintage Classics, ISBN: 9-780099-225416.

Barthes examines, photography, what photography is, and how it works as a medium for art, commercial, social and private use.  This is an important book to read, unfortunately it can be a little hard to read, perhaps because of the translation and Barthes academic language; but worth persevering with.

  • Barthes classifies photos as either, ‘Empirical’, (Professional / Amateurs) ‘Rhetorical’ (Landscape / Objects / Portraits / Nudes) or ‘Aesthetic’, (Realism / Pictorialism).
  • A photograph is never anything but an antiphon (chant) of, “Look see,” “Here it is.”  It points a finger at the relationship it hold, it can not escape its denoted meaning. (page 5).
  • A photograph never distinguishes itself from its referent (what it represents).
  • A photo is a ‘signifier’
  • Barthes identifies two elements to a picture that is needed to make it interesting and he named them ‘Studium’ and ‘Punctum’.  Words he has taken from the Latin language.  ‘Studium’ is the general pleasing or good composition of the picture and Punctum is an element that punctuates through the image, an element that ‘pricks’ / creates an emotional response of some kind. (Page 25 – 28.)

The one thing that I got but didn’t fully realise until now is his idea of studium and punctum, a fellow student helped me with this when he posted a link to a good video explaining this theory.  https://phlearn.com/punctum-better-image

 

Photography The Key Concepts

Photography_The_Key_Concepts

Davis Bate, Photography, The Key Concepts, (2009) London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney, Bloomsbury, ISBN:978-1-84520-667-3.

Divided into eight chapters / subjects: History, Photographic Theory, Documentary and Storytelling, Looking at Portraits, In the Landscape, The Rhetoric of Still Life, Art Photography, Global Photography.

This is a very good book to refer back to as it contains lots of  brief explanations to subjects that keep cropping up through out my degree course such as photographic theory such as aesthetics, representation, structuralism, semiotics, etc.

Each chapter / subject can be read separately depending on which photographic genre you are working with such as portrait or landscape and some subjects will complement them all such as History and Theory.

Working in Black & White

Working in Black and White

Working in Black & White, by David Prakel, Basics Photography, Published by AVA.

I have just read this book on black-and-white photography which covers both for film and digital with advice on developing and darkroom techniques for those unfamiliar with it and for digital post-production editing with Lightroom and Photoshop.  The book covers all aspects, including going about thinking about tones rather than colour; but explain a bit of colour theory to help with understanding the mental and physical grey-scale conversion.  If using film cameras there is also an explanation of filters for both cameras and darkroom enlargers, how and why they are used and how digital software that mimics filters that can be used and again why.  This book also looks at returning or adding colour to black and white prints either digitally or manually for various artistic effects.  This book offers allsorts of fresh ideas that can be brought to your work.

I began photography with a Pentax K1000 SLR working with Ilford Black and White film that I used to develop and print myself.  I would recommend any modern photographer who has only experience with digital cameras to have a go converting some images to black-and-white and playing with the effects.

The main reason I chose to read this book now is because I am going on a couple of courses at the Nikon school in London doing Film-Noir style black and white portrait photography.

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.

 

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.