COURSEWORK: PART 5 VIEWPOINT

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case?

Original image:

jim dow wall paper

Jim Dow, Window Detail, Wallpaper and Lino Shop. Leytonstone, London. June, 1983 © Courtesy of the Artist.

My Response:

IMG_0290 PS resize

Niki South, Closed B & Q DIY Store front, Cardigan, Cardiganshire, June 2016.

When I visited the Exhibition Strange and Familiar: Britain as revealed by international photographers (Barbican 16th March – 19th June 2016) I was drawn to Jim Dow’s photographic series of British storefronts “Corner Shops of Britain, 1983-1993.” His colour images capture these shops re once prominent on every high street, but were even then fast disappearing then at over 3,000 per year, “victims less of the recession than of Suburbanization” (Wakefield, 1995). According to the wall texts accompanying his photographs at the exhibition, Jim Dow set about “photographing his subject with taxonomical clarity, appreciatively recording a traditional way of life seemingly on an inexorable path towards cultural extinction” (Barbican 2016). Dow was concerned with capturing “human ingenuity and spirit” in endangered regional traditions…artifacts of a vanishing era” (Getty, nd).

My attraction to his image was two-fold. On a superficial level as I had a previous life in retailing, I am always attracted to shop windows and merchandise displays and it’s fascinating to see how these have changed over the years. On a deeper level I feel pained at the demise of village and town shops and the rise of out of town superstores. This is more marked in rural areas and it has particularly upset me to see especially in Pembrokeshire, where I spend much of my time, the ruinous impact that it has on the towns and villages as they become ghosts of their former selves, with empty and decaying buildings and a rash of charity shops.

My initial impulse was to photograph a modern day DIY shop, with a window characteristic of today (with little merchandise in it if any and no visual appeal). As I planned my location I realised that 23 years on from the original image even the more generic DIY shops were no more and items such as Wallpaper and Lino are most commonly bought from superstores like B & Q. I scouted a couple of locations intending to show an out of town position, unappealing store fronts with no advertising of specific merchandise as a contrast to Dow’s traditional images. On visiting the location of this photograph I was further surprised to find that even where a more local DIY superstore chain, previously bought out by the larger B & Q chain about a year ago, had now also become unviable and had moved to a larger regional town (in the next county). This I felt illustrated on a continuing larger scale, the disappearance of familiar shops and endangered regional traditions that Dow had photographed 23 years ago. I emphasised the meaning of my photograph by cropping the image to focus on the shuttered shop door and the “We’ve moved” sign.

I have responded to several of Barrett’s types of information in Dow’s picture. Firstly the “internal” context of the subject (Window detail, Wallpaper and Lino shop, 1983) with my internal information (Closed B&Q DIY shop 2016). Secondly the “External” context surrounding the picture: In the original attractive product displays compared to the lack of product displays in the modern shop. However the true thrust of my response is to the “original” context as outlined in my narrative. My response is agreeing and providing evidence for Dow’s representations of “a traditional way of life seemingly on an inexorable path towards cultural extinction” (Barbican 2016).

References:

Barbican Centre (2016).  Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers.  16 March–19 June 2016 Wall texts and captions. http://www.barbican.org.uk/media/events/17922strangefamiliarwalltexts.pdf. (Accessed 26.6.16).

Barrett, T (1997) Photographs and Context: www.terrybarrettosu.com/pdfs/B_PhotAndCont_97.pdf (Accessed 16.6.16).

Dow, J (1983) Strange & Familiar: See beautiful Britain change decade by decade. Knowels, K  march 2016  http://www.thememo.com/2016/03/18/strange-and-familiar-barbican-exhibition-london-martin-parr/ (Accessed 26.6.16).

The J. Paul. Getty. Museum (nd). Jim Dow. http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/3727/jim-dow-american-born-1942/ (Accessed 26.6.16).

Wakefield, N (Nov. 1995) Jim Dow. England 1981 to the present. Art forum International:  http://jimdowphotography.com/England-portfolio.php (Accessed 26.6.16).

 

 

 

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COURSEWORK: PART 5 VIEWPOINT

Exercise 5.1 The distance between us

I don’t pretend that I can describe the ‘other’. The camera for me is more a meter that measures the distance between myself and the other. It’s about the encounter between myself and the other; it’s not about the other.                            (Alexia Clorinda in conversation with the author) EYV p102

Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring (!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.

When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:

Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.

The fishing boat

LR contacts Distance boat

I have always been drawn to this fishing boat which sits on the water or sand most of the year and has been for many years. I believe I know what most attracts me to it but tested it in the exercise by taking a number of quick shots of it as I walked towards it one day, trying not to think about composition.

Images 1 & 2:  The first shot does not betray the subject I intended in this shot as its set amongst other boat and they interfere with “my” fishing boat. The second is without the distractions of other boats but its small size in the image is not interesting to me.

Images 3 & 4: These are similar shots of the boat although one is landscape and one portrait. I much prefer the landscape image the width of the frame helps to emphasis the wide belly of the boat, even though the buoys and chains are a distraction and  the “thirds composition of the portrait image is probably more pleasing to most.

Images 5 & 6: The first sets the boat in its context, a beautiful river estuary with a mountain behind, a lovely old harbour wall, buts its impact is diminished by the boat in the foreground and the building in the background. The next image is compositionally fine with a leading lines of the wall and the anchor chain, but still does not portray why I am drawn to the boat.

Images 7 & 8: I hope with these a viewer can sense my empathy with the boat. In both the boat dominates the image, but most importantly the angle of the shot is from underneath the boat emphasising the underbelly of the fishing boat; this is what attracts me to this fishing boat – simply its shape. In both images my eye is drawn by the line at the bow up into the boat from the anchor chain and then to scan around the belly of the boat by the horizontal lines.

Image 8 is the most pleasing image for me as additionally the subject is more off centre with another leading line of reasonable length coming in from the right hand side taking my eye in again to the belly of the boat. I also like the slight tilt of the boat which gives it a vulnerability.

 

 

 

 

 

RESEARCH

Follow up research to Assignment 4 The language of Light

Uta Barth born 1958

My tutor suggested I look at her work following my Language of Light assignment; he commented that the way that she uses light as a subject matter rather than something concrete, helps to “develop your seeing eye so that finding photographs becomes freer and less dominated by subject matter”.(Trillo 2016).

Her photographs are both abstract and evocative, she “intentionally depicts mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception” (Anon 2012). She examines how the eye and the camera see differently and is most interested in what you can see when looking through a lens.

Ground and Field the work that gave her international attention, were “photographic blurs caused by focusing the camera on an unoccupied foreground; these lushly colored images tested connections between the descriptive clarity of photography and the haze of memory” (Anon 2011). Here as in much of her work, objects that would normally be in the background of a photograph are at the centre.

Ground_12

 Ground 12 (Barth, 2014)

In “…and to draw a bright white line with light” (2001) she manipulated the curtains in her home creating lines and curves of light that expand from a sliver to a wide ribbon across a sequence of large-scale, dramatically cropped images, that emphasis the pleasure of seeing.

Uta Barth white line

White Line. Installation view (The Art Institute of Chicago Photography, 2011)

Barth continues to explore the theme of perception in new and inventive ways, encouraging viewers like me to reconsider the traditional functions of the photographic image. Firstly I love her work, all of it that I’ve explored, but secondly I agree that her process is very freeing; taking a photograph of the act of seeing by removing a subject from the photograph in a setting that is both anonymous and familiar and eliminating all but the most universally abstract elements from the frame. I concur with Fallis (nd) that as photography is totally dependent on the visual, this is a good process for exploring the act of seeing and “by focusing on where the subject would be in a conventional photograph and by overtly calling the viewer’s attention to the absence of the subject Marth is, in effect, turning the viewer into the subject” (Fallis nd). Fascinating!

Keld Helmer-Peterson (1920 – 2013)

He was a pioneer of Danish modernist photography, photographed structures, patterns and details in cities, industrial areas and nature and his work became increasingly abstract. “Unlike documentary photographers, including Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange who infused their images with specific markers of time and place, Helmer-Petersen stripped his images of context, giving them an abstract, untethered feel”.(Hiatt 2014). He photographed in colour, most unusual for that time and aimed to illustrate “nothing whatever beyond the fact that we are surrounded by many beautiful and exciting things” (Anon, 2013).

Kled holmer peterson.jpg

Helmer- Peterson (Hiatt 2014)

Some of his subjects could seem to be picturesque clichés now, though they are always well composed in form and colour often where ordinary objects juxtapose and appear eerie  and mysterious.  His pictures “are remarkable not for what they depict but for what they are” (LIFE Magazine 1949).

I find his work a satisfying colour experience and another of enhancing the act of seeing in a very different way to Uta Barth.

References:

Trillo, D (2016) Formative feedback assignment 4 Languages of Light.

 Anon (2012). Uta Barth Conceptual Photographer https://www.macfound.org/fellows/859/ (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Anon (2011) Uta Barth May 14, 2011–August 16, 2011, Galleries 188–189, Art Institute Chicago http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/utabarth  (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Fallis, G (nd) Sunday Salon with Greg Fallis http://www.utata.org/sundaysalon/uta-barth/ (Accessed 14.6.16). 

The Art Institute of Chicago Photography (2011) The Art Institute of Chicago.http://utabarth.net/work/and-to-draw-a-bright-white-line-with-light/#image-2 (Accessed 14.6.16).

Barth, U (2014). The official Website. Ground 12 1992-93. http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Ground_12.jpg (Accessed 14.6.16).

LIFE Magazine (1949) cited in Hiatt (2014) The Unknown Master of Color Photography. Timeless images from one of the earliest.  https://newrepublic.com/article/118484/keld-helmer-petersen-unknown-master-color-photography. (Accessed 14.6.16).

Poynor, R (2013) Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color.The design Observer Group. http://designobserver.com/article.php?id=38030. (Accessed 14.6.16).

 

 

ASSIGNMENT4: LANGUAGES OF LIGHT

Niki South    Student number: 514516

Final Images

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Image 178:exposure 1/320, Aperture f/13, ISO 400, focal length 151mm

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 Image 57: Exposure 1/320sec, Aperture f/11, ISO 400, Focal length 77mm

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Image 168: Exposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/11, ISO 400, Focal length 103mm

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Image 69: Exposure 1/200 sec, Aperture f/11, ISO 400, focal length 48 mm

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Image 157: Exposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/11, ISI 400 133mm

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Image 42: Exposure 1/320 sec, Aperture f/8, ISO 400, Focal length 162mm

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Image 89: Exposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/13, ISO 400, Focal length 100mm

 

ASSIGNMENT 4: LANGUAGES OF LIGHT

Niki South Student number: 514516

FINAL NOTES AND ANALYSIS

BRIEF

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.

 Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor’s comments.

INTRODUCTION TO SUBJECT

Working on exercise 4.2 daylight “a combination of direct light from the sun, from the sky, and light reflected by the clouds” (Prakel, 2007, p58), stimulated me to further explore daylight and its impact on photography.  I was fascinated by: colour temperature, clarity, the quality of shadows and reflections, all this without the additional effects of location, season and sudden localised changes. I researched light conditions and considered carefully the impact of different lighting that occurs during daylight, their influence on photography and how to use to their advantage. Previously I avoided shooting at less favourable times of the day and now challenged myself to work with the light, consciously turning it to my advantage.

 MY PROCESS

I experimented with daylight at midday, the beginning and end of the day, to see which would best lend itself to a particular subject. I was influenced at the outset by Michael Schmidt and Eugene Atget. Both photographers worked with midday sun, presenting subjects in a documentary manner, “Photography was invented to enable us to portray reality with complete precision to the last detail” (Schmidt, 1979). Atget also “sought to illuminate his subject with even clarity, to best convey information” (Anon, n.d).

After initial experimentation, I found that photographing angular modern urban buildings in the midday light yielded interesting images and focused on shooting these. Reviewing my first images of the buildings in monotone, I decided to depart from the monotones that Atget and Schmidt used, as I considered in colour light reflected in the vertical surfaces was more visually interesting and presented the saturated colours evolving from harsh midday sun most effectively.

As I worked into the light reflected in the predominantly glass surfaces of these buildings, I recalled the work of Rut Blees Luxumberg, containing representations of urban phenomenon, revealing often abstract detail with glows of light, colour and tone.  Although shooting in daylight, I also was capturing some interesting colours and effects, bringing out details that might not otherwise been obvious. She suggests photography has the capacity to critically deconstruct the present, “photography is a powerful tool to question received notions of representation…to give visual pleasure” (Blees Luxemburg, 2015).

RBL

In deeper 1999. Blees Luxemburg (Emer 2012).

Despite their neutrality Schmidt’s photographs also “retain an opacity, a mystery and they become a support for our imagination”, (Delahaye, 2014). I continued shooting to capture images that were less obvious, a support for the imagination and gave alternative representations of urban buildings; I found I could do this by exploiting reflections of light in the buildings. When researching I found the “Fallout” (2014) work by Jonny Savage and noted how he used reflections to create layers in his images.

Link to research page: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-research/

Because of the short daily window for stark overhead lighting and only occasional bright sunny days, I returned many times for short shoots, often reworking the same locations, buildings and reflection with slightly different light, perspective and exposures.

When editing my priority was to fulfil the creativity criteria: imagination, invention, experimentation and personal voice. I shortlisted images which I thought were the most interesting, whole or partial reflections of light, steering away from representations which were less challenging for the viewer. When forming the series I ordered the images to break the rhythm of the photographs, by varying form and colour, to maintain interest for the viewer as they move through them.

See link to learning log for mind maps on preparations, shooting and editing: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-learning-log/

REFLECTION

How well have I developed the exercise to meet the creativity criteria?

Experimentation: I realised after exercise 4.2 that I usually shoot to avoid the midday sun, so challenged myself with these lighting conditions, therefore taking some risks. Using harsh overhead daylight was unforgiving and exposed some technical challenges: possibilities for blown out details, excessive contrast and light spots. I tried to overcome these by avoiding shooting with sky detail included in compositions under the brightest sun; instead then focusing on buildings vertical surfaces entirely, to avoid different relative exposures. I used cloudier days to include sky detail and shot away from the sun. I was careful of dark shadows, but did use it deliberately on my 1st image to emphasise the contrast between an actual building and its lighter reflection.

Imagination: I tried to capture imaginative images and look deeply. I found it quite difficult to vary perspective physically as these buildings were sited around a busy road system with limited pedestrian access (although I did manage to get in some unusual spots); I was unable to gain much height to photograph but did get underneath some buildings. I tried to compensate by using the reflections themselves to give a variety of visual access to the buildings. My thought processes were fluid which led to experimentation with abstract reflections and saturated colours.

Invention: Photographing the effects of reflected light in urban buildings, emphasising distortions, abstraction and colour was new to me; it has probably been shot by others but I have not come across similar myself. I hope that I have made the conventional more interesting.

Personal voice: It is becoming clear to me that I love to work with colour, this may come from my background in fashion and textiles. In my final images I deliberately choose images that appear either as brown tones in cloudy daylight, and as a contrast those accentuated by diffuse sky radiation in sunny daylight, which appear very blue. I sequenced these to alternate as much as possible in my series.

Additional reflections:

What worked well:

  • Fluid thinking and hence evolving ideas
  • Observational skills
  • Manual exposures
  • Experimentation
  • Use of colour
  • Use of manual settings

 What didn’t work so well and how the series might be improved in the future:

  • I’m sure I still have much to learn to improve my technical skills
  • I used auto white balance and it will be interesting to see how I can use this when I have the confidence to vary it
  • To continue to strive for varying perspectives
  • To use post production to enhance the images, as I tend to be quite pure, and compose and get things as I want them in camera.

 

Link to exercise 4.5: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/exercise-4-5/

 REFERENCES

Anon (n.d). The Art of Documentary Photography. National gallery of Art Washington www.nga.gov/feature/atget/bio.shtm (Accessed 27.3.16).

 Blees Luxemburg, R (2015) “Photography is a powerful tool”: http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/photography-and-film/art525886-photography-is-a-powerful-tool-artist-rut-blees-luxemburg-on-her-new-exhibition-at-the-museum-of-london (accessed 27.4.16).

Emer (2012). Rut Blees Luxemburg.

http://www.photoforager.com/archives/rut-blees-luxemburg (Accessed 12.4.16).

Delahaye, L. Cited in: O’Hagan, S (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. Guardian online. 28 May 2014:  

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. (Accessed 27.3.16).

 Prakel, D (2007). LIGHTING. New York. AVA Publishing SA.

Schmidt, M. (1979) Thoughts about my way of working’ in Camera Magazine #3 (March 1979) in http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/10/michael-schmidt-thoughts-about-my-way-of-working-1979.html (accessed 27.3.16).

 

 

ASSIGNMENT 4: LANGUAGES OF LIGHT

Niki South Student number: 514516

REFLECTIONS ON FORMATIVE FEEDBACK

My Tutors feedback has gave me encouragement, confidence and further food for thought.

Strengths highlighted:

  • The way that I explored and used various possibilities of light.
  • That the planning, notes and research support the images and explain the rational and methods.
  • I was particularly pleased that my Tutor commented on the sharpness and good exposures of the images as this was the first time that I had consistently shot in full manual mode and this had been a challenge for me in the harsh midday lighting conditions. I also noted this as a development point for myself after the last assignment.
  • The successful forming of a series. This I was relieved about as the series had evolved as I shot and subsequently edited, and was concerned that I may have strayed too far or misinterpreted the brief as it was unlike any other work I had seen for this assignment.
  • My creative concept combined with my choice of light. It seems that from my exercises and development work I was able to correctly assess the best light conditions for my subject.
  • Following on since assignment 2, when I lost my confidence to edit my images, it seems in the last two assignments, that my more fluid process and thinking is working well. 

Areas for development:

  • To ensure that I “kill any babies” during editing. I completely agree that the first image (29) does not fit as well as the others in the series and have dropped it from my final submission. This was definitely a case where I held onto the image for too long in the editing process because it was one the earliest images which I “liked”.
  • To take a step away from subject matter and develop my seeing eye, as in the work of Uta Barth whose photography “ isn’t about what is seen in the photograph; it’s about the very act of seeing”. (Fallis, nd).

 My Learning points:

  • To continue to trust my instinct, remain flexible throughout an assignment and have more confidence in my photography.
  • To continue to research widely and follow up on the photographers suggested by my Tutor. I particularly like the work of Uta Barth who “has made visual perception the subject of her work” (Anon, nd) and will explore further the work of Keld Helmer-Peterson.
  • To continue to learn how to voice the rationale behind my images; although my tutor commented that my explanations supported my images well, his comments seem to describe my rationale in both a more artistic and interesting language.

 References:

Anon (nd) Uta Barth Biography.  http://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/artists/uta-barth/series-photography

Fallis G (nd) Uta Barth. http://www.utata.org/sundaysalon/uta-barth/

 Link to work submitted to tutor: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-work-submitted-to-tutor/

Link to learning log: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a4-learning-log/

The following mind maps summarise the narrative of my preparations, post-shooting thoughts and editing notes contained in the learning log.

Preparations:

mind map preparations

 

Shooting:

mind map shooting

 

Editing:

mind map editing