Tutor Feedback on Part 3

I received my tutor’s comments on my work for Part 3, which contained a number of positive comments as well as areas that I need to improve.

In the exercises he was complementary about the Ophelia image; but in general terms, and particularly the ‘Brush Factory’ work, he thought that I needed to develop new technical skills in post-production. I fully agree with his comment and I have begun to rework the brush factory project to improve the final images and give the people a more ‘ghost-like’ appearance as suggested.

On Assignment 3 he outlined several issues that he would have liked me to explore more fully in the development of the project. He also though that there was, perhaps, an over-reliance on outside sources for images. Overall he thought that the assignment ‘ran out of steam’, perhaps having been restricted by the methodology. I can see all the points that he is making – I do not think that I need to start again, but I will re-work the later images and change their methodology before submitting for assessment.

On the positive side he liked the ‘exploratory approach’ to developing my ideas and said I should continue to investigate this in future work.

He thought that my choice of subject for Assignment 4 was appropriate – but that I need to be more analytical in my assessment of images, not just descriptive.

Another Kind of Life, Photography on the Margins at the Barbican Gallery

This is a major photography exhibition at The Barbican presenting the work of 20 different photographers from the 1950’s to the present day. The Barbican website describes the exhibition as following “the lives of individuals and communities operating on the fringes of society from America to India, Chile to Nigeria. The exhibition reflects a more diverse, complex view of the world, as captured and recorded by photographers”.

The exhibition is split into twenty separate areas each devoted to a single photographer and their particular subject. It certainly begins with a punch, as Waywell (2018) writes “Any photography show that kicks off with a room of Diane Arbus followed by one of Bruce Davidson means business and you’d better believe that things don’t get much easier after that”. What they have in common is that all the photographers deal with people who, for many different reasons, are marginalised, are on the fringes of society. Colli (2018) describes the exhibition “Focusing on issues of gender, sexuality, race and violence; Another Kind of Life is a starkly honest and brutal portrayal of what is like to live at the outskirts of what is deemed acceptable in society”.

What is fascinating about the exhibition is how involved the photographers have become in the lives of their subjects Luke (2018) writes “As significant as the artists’ subject matter is their position as a photographer: the camera isn’t some detached, objective eye; it’s held by a person, engaging with other people, with varying degrees of intimacy”. You feel very close to the people in the photographs as you make your way through the exhibition, each is an individual with a story to tell rather than just a subject in front of a lens.

I was very interested to discover what first instigated the idea for the exhibition. The British Journal of Photography and the BBC website both published interviews with the curator (Alona Pardo). It seems as though the exhibition can, in some ways, be seen following on from the work of Diane Arbus, Zhang (2018) writes “It is through an extensive study into her oeuvre, considering its criticism but also looking further to her legacy and the impact of her vision on the discourse of today, that the curator was inspired to pursue these questions in the work of other documentary photographers”.

The aim of the exhibition is best summarised in a quote by Pardo in conversation with Macdonald (2018) ““These are the forgotten and the marginalised – those that we wish not to see – and the photos are very much about giving them representation – they’ve shed all kinds of judgement, there isn’t judgement, there is just a desire to reflect accurately and as authentically as possible the daily grind that some communities have to go through.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Another Kind of Life. At: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2018/event/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Colli, E. (2018) Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins Exhibition Review – The Barbican. At: https://www.thestrandmagazine.com/single-post/2018/03/04/Another-Kind-of-Life-Photography-on-the-Margins-Exhibition-Review—The-Barbican (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Macdonald, F. (2018) Culture – Another kind of life: Fascinating photos of outsiders. At: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180316-another-kind-of-life-fascinating-photos-of-outsiders (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Waywell, C. (2018) Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins review. At: https://www.timeout.com/london/art/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins-review (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

All Too Human: Tate Britain

According to the Tate website All Too Human celebrates the painters in Britain who strove to represent human figures, their relationships and surroundings in the most intimate of ways. I was interested in seeing the whole exhibition as it contains work by a number of great artists, but I specifically wanted to look closely at some of the landscape paintings.

In one of the first rooms I saw David Bomberg’s Toledo from the Alcazar, I was intrigued by the composition of the painting. Obviously the painter was viewing the scene from a high vantage point, but my attention was drawn straight away to the strong diagonals in the image. Most notably the line running from lower left to upper right, below which is the town and above which is the countryside beyond. There is also a path running almost in parallel above this line which emphasises it. The roofs and the streets of the town provide further strong diagonals, as does the way Bomberg has painted the countryside just beyond the town. The overall effect giving a strong dynamism to the painting, when you view it you can almost feel the movement in the town.

This use of diagonals was something that I noticed about other landscape paintings in the exhibition. In another room were paintings by Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossof in fact that room had the title The Cityscape of London.

I was intrigued by Kossof’s Christ Church, Spitalfields, Morning, in particular the way in which he had twisted perspective and painted the scene with the building slanting away from the viewer. In the same room Auerbach’s Chimney in Mornington Crescent – Winter Morning had equally strong diagonals and playing with perspective. The guide booklet issued with the exhibition ticket states “Both Auerbach and Kossoff display great sensitivity to the conditions of light, convey the dynamism of city life and reflect the mood of a specific moment”. It also states that “they went on to develop highly distinctive approaches, representative of different ways of looking and engaging with reality”. This is perhaps something that I could work on in my own practice and try to develop a more personal approach.

But for a study of the patterns of a cityscape and of light, it would be hard to better David Bomberg’s Evening in the City of London.

Tate (n.d.) All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life – Exhibition at Tate Britain. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/all-too-human (Accessed on 27 March 2018)

Assignment 3: Explanatory notes

For the first three images I wanted to look at how the town of Wymondham was changing and to show before and after images of new housing estates at the edge of the town. I did not have any ‘before’ pictures but wondered if Google Streetview was up to date or if it would still show how things used to be. Having studied, in the previous module, how artists had used Streetview I wanted to try using it to produce some of the images. I found that it had been updated very recently where all the new developments were taking place, but I also found a number of glitches in the system which allowed me to create the before and after images. I originally planned to use the ‘before’ images from Streetview and then take my own ‘after’photographs. However, discovering that I could obtain both before and after photos from Streetview at the same time, I decided that it would be more relevant to use all the images from Google. In this way it does query the ‘truth’ of what Google is showing us.   I left the Google location and capture details on the photos to show when and where they had been taken. In all cases the satellite view on Google earth was up to date and I used this as the central image to set the location with the before and after images on either side. 

01 Albini Way

I found that while all the images for the road were of the new development and taken in 2016, there was a single point where the image had not been updated and it showed the scene captured in 2009.

 

02 Norwich Road

In this instance I found that the Streetview images from the Norwich Road side of the site had been taken in 2016, but when viewed from the opposite side of the site the images dated from 2012 and showed what it was like before work started.

 

03 London Road

When looking at the Streetview images of London Road they again date from 2016 and show a completed development, but if you look from the side road, just as it joins London Road, this dates from 2009 and shows how it used to be.

 

For the next three images I wanted to look at how some things had changed over time but how it may appear that little has changed. I found a website George Plunkett’s Photographs of old Norwich which had a number of photographs taken from 1931 onwards including a number taken in Wymondham. I also discovered a number of photos and postcards advertised on Ebay. Having looked at ‘appropriation’ in the previous module it was something I thought I could try in order to produce these images. Again I kept the Google Earth satellite view as a central image to fix the location but also as a symbol of the contemporary nature of the final image.

04 Bridewell Street

The first image just goes back 20 years to 1997 and shows that little has changed over that time. The next two images go back a bit further and start to show some changes.

 

05 Church Street

Compared with the earlier photo we can see the influence of the motor car – parking, yellow lines and speed humps.

 

06 Damgate Street

Life on the streets was different in the earlier photo with the chair outside the door and people standing in the street, that wouldn’t be done today! The pub is no more, but the building looks just the same as a family home.

What strikes me about these last three photos is how little the structure of these town centre streets has changed and I think that this is something that helps to build a sense of place.

 

For my last three images I chose to look at three iconic buildings that really do determine the town as a place. For these images I wanted to give a sense of really going back in time to before the age of mass photography. Although photography had been invented by the time of  the images I have used, I chose to use a drawing, an oil painting and an engraving to add a sense of ‘long ago’ to the first image, a sense of timelessness.

 

07 The Green Dragon

The Green Dragon is a medieval public house dating back to the fourteenth century.

However it would seem that  pubs may not have been popular topics for local painters. The earliest image that I could find dated from the 1906 publication “The Old Inns of England” (Harper 2013).

 

08 The Market Cross

The Market Cross is a well known local landmark, according to Wymondham Town Council it was built in 1617-18 (to replace an earlier cross from the middle ages which was destroyed by fire in 1615) and cost £25-7-0d. The oil painting on the left is by Henry Ninham and dates from 1865. Ninham was one of the lesser known artists of the Norwich school, best known for his etchings.

The imposing setting in the town centre and being so easily recognisable as such an old building, the cross has become a symbol of the town – being used as a logo for the town council and on the town signs, as well as a Bowls Club and the local Vet! 

I particularly like the satellite image for this group, as well as showing the location , the shadow of the Market Cross is immediately recognisable .

 

 

Even older than the cross – 

 

09 Wymondham Abbey

Probably the town’s most famous landmark the abbey was founded in 1107. The engraving on the left is by Thomas Lound  dates from 1847. Lound was a later member of the Norwich School of Artists and interestingly a keen photographer (and according to the website Early Norfolk Photographs showed 5 of his photographs at an exhibition of 1856 – “two of Ely Cathedral, two of Bromholm(e) Priory and one of the Fish Market, Norwich”).

 

The abbey has also become an iconic building, its twin towers forming the logo of the local high school.

 

 

 

Images not used

In addition to these images there were a number that I tried out but dismissed in favour of the ones above.

Instead of using the photo of Church Street, I thought of using one of Market Street:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However I decided to use the Church Street image as 1) the original was a better street scene whereas the Market Street view was mainly just of a shop and 2) the Market Street image seemed a bit unbalanced with only a small first photo on the left compared to the other two, This could have been addressed by cropping, but I still didn’t feel that it gave a ‘balanced ‘ feel.

 

I tried a couple of alternative views of Damgate Street, changing both the original photo on the left and my contemporary version on the right. Again, for the left image I thought the older photograph worked better and that the landscape, as opposed to portrait, orientation for my contemporary photo worked best.

 

For the Green Dragon and the Market Cross I tried an old photo on the left, but wanted an ‘older’ feel to the original images so decided to replace them with a drawing and an oil painting respectively.

 

Also for the cross I tried to photograph it from different angles, before deciding that the viewing angle (and lighting) were best in the final version I used.

 

For the abbey, wanting to preserve the ‘older’ feel of the left hand image I decided against a photo from 1954

and instead choose from several etchings, the oldest dating from 1738

and the next from 1818

But I decided that the viewpoint and tone of the engraving I finally chose was the one best complemented by my contemporary photo.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Early Norfolk Photographs. At: http://www.earlynorfolkphotographs.co.uk/Photographers/Thomas%20Lound/Thomas_Lound_photographer.html (Accessed on 22 March 2018)

Harper, C.G. (2013) THE OLD INNS OF OLD ENGLAND. At: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/43865/43865-h/43865-h.htm (Accessed on 19 March 2018)

Part 3: Reflections

I had a number of external interruptions to this part of the course, serious enough for me to request an extension to the deadline for submission of the assignment. Fortunately they all seem to be behind me now and I have finally completed the essays and assignment.

I enjoyed practising my photoshop skills in the exercises on ‘a persuasive image’ and ‘local history’, this will be important for my plans for Assignment 6 and creating a collage/montage for that assignment.

I also enjoyed putting into practice the concept of ‘appropriation’ that I learned about in Part 2. Before starting the course I doubt that I would ever have considered using Google Streetview to form part of an image, now having tried it I can see that it has its uses.

Indeed I got a great deal out of Assignment 3, I am starting to think beyond the picturesque, in my background reading for the course I came across a quote by Graham Sutherland (Tate n.d.) “I learnt that landscape was not necessarily scenic”. I think that I am just about getting to that stage at the moment – thinking beyond the scenic or the classical view and trying to look at landscapes in a different way.

I am quite pleased with how Assignment 3 has turned out, a good example I think of how I am ‘getting beyond the scenic’ but also of my thinking more deeply about how to portray a theme, not just the idea of having a series of triptychs but of trying to get a robust definition of place and then interpreting it.

REFERENCE
Tate (n.d.) Paintings and Drawings by Graham Sutherland – Exhibition at Tate Britain. At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/paintings-and-drawings-graham-sutherland (Accessed on 25 March 2018)

Assignment 6 Backup

The course handbook advises that one should have a back up option for Assignment 6.

I still intend to produce photo collage/montage for Assignment 6, but by way of back up I have been taking photos in my garden of the changing nature through the seasons. I am fortunate in having a large garden which gives a bit more scope for using it in this way.

These are a less adventurous way of tackling the assignment – but at least they will be there if any major disaster strikes! Not all of the images would be included but at least I will have some to choose from.

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Picture 1 of 12

Exercise 3.6: The Memory of Photography

This was a challenging essay to get into and to understand just what the main points of Bate’s argument was. He refers, amongst others, to the works of Freud, Derrida, Foucault and Barthes in his examination of quite how photographs preserve, influence or even suppress memories. He starts by drawing on the distinction drawn by Freud between the ‘Natural Memory’ our normal capacity to remember things; and ‘Artificial Memory’ which is the range of devices used by humans to aid their recall of memories. Photographs are one of the devices used in Artificial Memory.

The article considers a photograph taken by Henry Fox Talbot of the erection of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square. Bate considers that this one photograph exhibits “the double phenomena proposed by Jacques Le Goff as transforming modern memory: the development of public space as literal memory sites the nineteenth – century craze for erecting monuments to the dead and the photograph itself as a memory device”.

Using this image Bate states that he wants “to argue that a favourite photograph might also be an ’empty shell’ for the favourite story about childhood”. He links the distinction between voluntary and involuntary memory with the work of Barthes. He thinks that Barthes’ punctum is like involuntary memory whereas voluntary memory is more like the studium. The punctum “has an effect on us involuntarily. If we follow an associative path for the image to our memory it can lead to other memories, even a suppressed memory and, with critical work, an essential repressed memory-trace”. He believes that “the image provides a scene in which we may bring voluntary (studium) or involuntary (punctum) memories to bear upon it”.

Bate describes how reading a novel by Susan Sontag about Lady Hamilton triggered a personal memory of childhood, via the photograph of the erection of Nelson’s column, which involved visits to HMS Victory.

He considers that at the heart of Fox Talbot’s image “is not only a record of the retroactive remembering of Nelson, whose historical purpose is forming a national identity but also an interpretation of it”.

Having read Camera Lucida I was interested to read of Bate’s linking of voluntary and involuntary memory with studium and punctum. It widened my concept of how studium and punctum may work within an image. It is also interesting to consider how this can affect an individual’s view of a photograph. As Bate concludes his essay “in terms of history and memory, photographs demand analysis rather than hypnotic reverie”. It is always useful to understand what may be influencing your view of an image.

Exercise 3.5: Local History

This exercise asks for a short investigation into a historical aspect of the area in which I live. For this task I chose to look into the history of brush making in Wymondham where I live. In particular I wanted to look at the history of the Briton Brush Factory, which was demolished some years ago and a housing estate built on the site.

I discovered a receipt which was for sale on Ebay from the Briton Brush Company, Wymondham, dated 1931, which shows that the company was originally established as S.D. Page and Sons in 1750, (the receipt shows the company’s telephone number as Wymondham 12 !).

Martins and Williamson (2008) describe the formation of a large factory for S.D. Page and Son in 1880 and how soon after that it moved to Wymondham. Grace’s Guide (2017) describe how in “1920 D. Matthew and Son amalgamated with S. D. Page and Sons, to form the Briton Brush Co, at Page’s factory in Lady’s Lane, Wymondham”. It also has some adverts for the various brushes produced at the factory.

Wymondham Town Archive (Fowle and Garner 2011) have a number of photos of brush factory workers.

Grace’s Guide (2017) records that in “1985 The company closed. After closing the factory was pulled down to make way for housing and the estate on the former brush works site has such road names as Briton Way and Page’s Way”.

In the previous part of this course I had looked at how artists had used Google Street View to produce images and I thought that I would like to try this. So I used it to find the ‘Briton Estate’ in Wymondham. It is not a particularly large area with just a few roads. There were a few instances where people were walking down the road and this gave me the idea to make an image from Street View where I replaced the figures with those of brush factory workers taken from the town archive photos.

I converted the final image to black and white (it looked very strange with the monochrome figures of factory workers on a coloured background. I deliberately left the Google street names and text on the image to maintain the link between the workers and the site of the factory.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Fowle, R. and Garner, M. (2011) Wymondham Town Archive Photo Album. At: http://wymondham-archive.norfolkparishes.gov.uk/category/photos/ (Accessed on 16 March 2018)

Grace’s Guide (2017). At: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Briton_Brush_Co (Accessed on 16 March 2018)

Martins, S.W. and Williamson, T. (2008) The countryside of East Anglia: changing landscapes, 1870-1950. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

Exercise 3.4: A Persuasive Image

PART 1

For this exercise I have chosen 3 images that argue a particular point. I have tried to choose three very different types of image, but all three have a related theme – the environment.

The first image is a very explicit message constructed by Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps, the image can be seen at https://www.kennardphillipps.com/new-work-greenpeace-savethearctic-campaign-song-oil-ice-fire/  It was produced as part of a video for the Greenpeace ‘Save the Arctic’ campaign. It is based on ‘Christina’s World’ a 1948 painting by Andrew Wyeth (The original can be seen at https://www.moma.org/collection/works/78455). The Greenpeace video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMsVvDwf-eA) starts with Wyeth’s image and ends with the KennardPhillipps’ version. The power of this image comes from its subversion of the original bucolic scene into an horrific vision of oil tar and refinery. The, not so subtle, message being that this is what oil exploration could do to the Arctic.

The second image I chose is also about the environment and pollution, but it is much more subtle. Justin Hofman’s image of a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton bud (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/09/seahorse-ocean-pollution/) sums up in one simple image the damage being done to our natural environment. Keefe (2017) describes how the photograph was taken and quotes Hofman’s summary of the image that “This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans”.

My final image is and advert for a car. The photograph at https://pushevs.com/2017/05/10/volkswagen-starts-advertising-new-e-golf/ shows a car being driven in a mountain landscape. The road is clear of any other traffic and the mountain air looks clear and unpolluted. This is used a background for the promotion of what is an electric car. The setting of the car sweeping towards you from the right, the clean, natural scenery behind and the prominent text announcing the ‘all-electric’ car are designed to promote the green credentials of the vehicle.

REFERENCES
Hofman, J. (2017) This Heartbreaking Photo Reveals a Troubling Reality. At: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/09/seahorse-ocean-pollution/ (Accessed on 15 March 2018)


 

PART 2

This part of the exercise asked me to consider an issue that I feel strongly about and design an image that would have a persuasive effect on the viewer.

I have been particularly taken with the work of Peter Kennard and I also wanted to experiment with collage/montage work in preparation for my final asssignment. I also feel strongly about environmental issues and pollution. So I decided to try to produce an image on this topic.

So, influenced by the work of KennardPhillipps, and with due respect to John Everett Millais, I produced Ophelia 2018!

 

Image of Ophelia, John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Exercise 3.3: ‘Late Photography’

David Campany’s essay “Safety in Numbness” takes as it’s starting point a documentary shown on Channel 4 which followed the photographer Joel Meyerowitz as he documented the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

Campany’s main thrust seems to be that when events such as the 9/11 attacks happen they are now shown in great detail and querying whether there is a need for the type of approach taken by Meyerowitz “The programme contained video images at least as informative and descriptive as the photographs, yet television was presenting itself as unable to perform a task now given over to photography”. Campany believes that Meyerowitz’s images may come to be remembered, not so much for the images themselves but that there was “a need, a desire, to nominate an official body of images, and that these should be photographs”.
He then questions the concept of ‘late’ photography which he thinks “foregoes the representation of events in progress and so cedes them to other media”. This means that such photographs will have a different relationship to memory. He states that “The photograph can be an aid to memory, but it can also become an obstacle that blocks access to the understanding of the past”. He even wonders if the ‘primitivism’ of photographic images appeals as a way of helping us through the complexity of memory recall when surrounded by multiple still and moving images in a wide range of technologies.

Campany then discusses the changing nature of war and the reporting of it. He describes Vietnam as the last ‘photographers war’ in later conflicts photographers simply weren’t allowed in or their movements severely restricted. Therefore many of the images were of the aftermath of the event leading to us being able to “see the damage afterwards, but at the cost of a sense of removal”.

Finally Campany considers the possible effect of late photography on the viewer “There is a sense in which the late photograph in all its silence, can easily flatter the ideological paralysis of those who gaze at it with a lack of social or political will to make sense of its circumstance”.

When I first read the essay I found myself disagreeing with much of what was being said, but after rereading it a few times, many of the points that Campany was making started to make a lot more sense. On first reading I thought that the main points were that contemporaneous and moving images gave a better representation of an event than a ‘late’ photograph. While this is part of the argument, I think that Campany’s main concern is around the effect that late photography has on how we view events.
It started to dawn on me that perhaps I had been viewing ‘late’ photographs as artistic forms rather than records of events and that this obviously had some effect on how I viewed that event.

I remember the events of 9/11 vividly, I can remember the initial confusion as to whether it was a dreadful accident and then the dawning realisation of the full horror of what had occurred. Everyone in the office were glued to their computer screens trying to keep up to date with events through news websites that could not cope with the volume of traffic. The most striking images were moving images of the planes striking the buildings, of the fire and of people fleeing the scene. The next day the newspapers were full of images of the attack, the front page images used were of the moment of impact of the planes and of people fleeing. As the days passed the images changed to ones of the aftermath of the event – the hundreds of photographs posted by relatives seeking information about those who were missing.

I think that in many respects Meyerowitz’s photographs are almost ‘delayed’ as opposed to ‘late’ photography. They show the results of the attack, and it is important to bear this in mind and not to think that the only valid images are ones taken at the actual moment of occurrence. The effect of a terrorist attack or a war goes on for some considerable time and I think that it is important to consider images of the aftermath as of equal validity to those of the actual moment of the event.

By way of comparison Robert Capa’s photograph of the Death of a  Loyalist Soldier in the Spanish Civil War shows the actual moment of the man being shot, but to me it has less resonance than Don McCullin’s image of a Shell-shocked GI in Vietnam awaiting evacuation. In some ways McCullin’s image is almost ‘late’ photography in that it shows the effects or aftermath of war. To me it is more moving because of the way it humanises the event, perhaps in this way it differs from some late photography that perhaps dehumanises the event.
I have thought a lot more now about regarding Meyerowitz’s images of ground zero. Technically they are undoubtedly stunning images, showing the devastation on the site and of the people engaged in clearing it up. It is important to have a record such as this, after all the site has been cleared and a permanent memorial erected to the people who died. But it is also important to remember that it is a record of only part of the event, the immediate aftermath on that particular site. Of the images that I found online, I couldn’t get a resonance with what actually happened on the day. The work tells part of the story of the aftermath, but what of the people affected, those injured, the bereaved, the deceased; their stories don’t seem to be told here, but arguably these are the most important to remember. 

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