COURSEWORK: WHAT MATTERS IS TO LOOK

Project 3

Exercise 3.3

Unfortunately as I have not a manual camera I have not been able to complete the 1st exercise, however I have read other’s observations on the exercise.

  1. Find a good viewpoint…..where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.

The following were shot with aperture priority:

_MG_0692 panorama.jpg               _MG_0694 panorama.jpg

 1/200; f/11; ISO 400; 32mm                                       1/125; f/14; ISO 200; 30mm

With my eyes it was easy to focus 1st on the foreground, then the middle then horizon; however I then found it difficult to refocus on the whole depth. I found it was much easier to do this before focusing on the individual depths of the view. The camera was able to capture the complete depth of the view, although the width of the view that the camera can shot is considerably less than we see with our eyes, even using a wide angle lens. When we look we look in one gaze I think it is impossible to breakdown this coordination into parts and “look” effectively.

In The nature of Photographs (Shore, 2007) a similar exercise is suggested but with an image. It seems that when refocusing on different parts of an image “the direction and speed of your refocusing is not tied to the recession in depictive space” (Shore 2007, p84) but is affected by the flatness of the image. Shore talks about the way that our eyes see a photograph as a mental image and that it is our minds rather than our eyes that changes focus as we move through the image; that the mental level of a photograph “provides a framework for this mental image we construct” (Shore, 2007, p97). He also suggests that when an image is shallow mentally there is only a small sensation of the eye changing focus. I would guess that this is also true with an uncomplicated view and that our perception, experiences and mind can also affect the way we construct the image in a view and focus through it.

References: Shore, S (2007), The nature of photographs. 2nd edition. London. Phaidon

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COURSEWORK: PART 3 TRACES OF TIME

Project 3

Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use.

Personal response to the film Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court “Just Plain Love.” A documentary film, directed by Rafael O’Byrne, 2001.

 It was illuminating to see and hear the photographer that I’ve read and heard so much about. He was not at all as I would have expected. From the first moment the camera rolls there is a warmth mischievousness, and youthfulness (even at 92) in his demeanour. When drawing a friend and asked to flatter, he laughs but continues in his own way. He often laughs at himself. It was revealing to see him reflecting on his life, often with some amusement.

He seemed to enjoy recounting how he pushed the boundaries at home with his left wing Catholic parents, for instance describing how when his mother campaigned to close brothels he told her that many interesting conversations were had there! He shows throughout an unquenchable thirst for freedom. After leaving home for Africa he talks of the time he spent in jail, his body language and slowing of thought suggests that he still recalls these as very challenging times and admits he “always feels like a prisoner on the run.” (Byrne, 2001, part 1).

I was especially interested in his reflections on his many travels and the way that it influenced his work “You don’t have to go far to notice a difference.(Byrne, 2001, part 1).  He speaks intelligently not of the enjoyment of travelling, but of being in and observing a country which he could identify with, “The truth of travelling is not about discovering the new, but about that which will pass and about that which will last. So one can gain a deeper insight than by merely flicking through art books.” (Byrne, 2001, part 4). As a lover of the Far East myself I was particularly interested in the footage of his shots in India, his reminiscing of conversations with Ghandi and his reflections on the impact that Far Eastern religions such as Buddhism had on him as spiritual sciences; it is obvious that he immersed himself in these cultures.

When describing a shot taken of a Greek boy walking on his hands he underlines that this was simply catching the moment, not staged and also expresses the spirit of the moment: happiness, fleeting joyfulness, youth and agility – This is the essence of Henri Cartier- Bresson. This process is underlined when he explains how he took his famous leaping man shot (without seeing through the view finder), “It’s luck that matters…you have to be receptive that’s all.” (Byrne, 2001, part 2). He tells how he works intuitively, is on the look-out and reacts quickly. He talks of form as a priority over light, the divine proportion and geometry but says that he feels this intuitively. I find intriguing as in the preface of The Decisive Moment (Cartier Bresson, 1952) he wrote, “ If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of form must be vigorously established”; I guess we must take it at face value that he did do this instinctively.

It was also fascinating to hear how he approaches photographing people, “It’s an enquiry…but also it’s a physical embracing of the person. (Byrne, part 2). Throughout the filming he demonstrates empathy and it is obvious that he has formed close emotional bonds in his life; this is particularly evident when discussing his friends, contemporaries and subjects such as sex and love. He maintains that he likes his subjects not to notice him as “if the subject is aware someone is staring at them they will pose, put on a mask and lose spontaneity.(Byrne, 2001, part 5). I was amazed to learn that he even painted the shiny parts of his camera black so it didn’t draw attention. Certainly at a Kabuki actor’s funeral in 1965 he seems to photograph amongst the crowd unnoticed. There is a suggestion that his compassion and empathy helped to render him invisible to his subjects, now I have seen him interviewed I can understand this is probably so.

He is firm in his views; when reviewing a book of his prints is sharply self-critical, whilst when describing photographers is almost scathing at the way that they fail to seek meaning in what they see, “What matters is to look. But people don’t look. Most of them don’t look. They press the button. They identify. But fail to seek the meaning…beyond this or this. Very few do it.” (Byrne, 2001, part 1). When asked “Can one learn to look?” His response “Can one learn to have sex?” (Byrne, 2001, part 4) is typical of his instinctiveness. “I am a visual man. I watch, watch, watch. I understand things through my eyes” (Cartier-Bresson, 1963).

During the film reviewers of his prints, describe the best of his photos as having the same qualities as him “interesting, lively, vivid, sharp not overbearing or heavy”, (Byrne, 2001, part 3); having watched the film I would agree with this analysis of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

References:

O’Byrne, R (2001. )Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court “Just Plain Love”:

Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6l09YEeEpI&index=1&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. Accessed 12.2.16- 16.2.16).

Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw. Accessed 12.2.16- 16.2.16).

Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea3E_8otCME.  Accessed 12.2.16- 16.2.16).

Part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBDV26UvaNA&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=4. Accessed 12.2.16- 16.2.16).

Part 5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-rHc2–Mv8. Accessed 12.2.16- 16.2.16).

Cartier Bresson, H. (1952). The Decisive Moment, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Cartier-Bresson, H., (15.3.1963), Life Magazine cited in Cheroux, C. (2008). 1st Edition. London. Thames and Hudson.

Cheroux, C (2008), Henri Cartier- Bresson.1st ed. London. Thames and Hudson.

Golden, R (2013), Masters of Photography. Third edition. London. Goodman.

COURSEWORK: PROJECT 2 A DURATIONAL SPACE

Exercise 3.2

Using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the research, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process to your learning log.

I fancied trying to emulate the long exposures of Michael Wesely but need to capture subjects moving quickly to do so instead of using his technique of exposing over several years. It was a really windy day so I went into the garden to capture plants moving in the wind with long exposures. I set the camera to bulb and used exposures of over 1024 seconds, I tried to time them initially but this proved unsuccessful so I attempted to get the longest exposures as I could by using a small aperture. These were handheld to add to the movement. These two I find quite aesthetically effective.

_MG_9694     _MG_9702.JPG1/1240; f/22; ISO 100; 87mm                             1/1240; f/22; ISO 100; 66mm

With these daffodils I hoped to emulate in a short space of time Michael’s “The life and death of a bouquet of flowers” but in a rooted aspect!_MG_9745.JPG1/1240; f/22; ISO 100; 66mm

Next in a coastal location, I then slowed the shutter on bulb setting further by using an ND 8 stop Filter. Although I used a tripod, it was freezing, my fingers were numb and for some unexplained reason my remote shutter release wouldn’t fire and I therefore may have added some movement to the exposure with my finger on the shutter.  With the sun rising behind me the slow exposure made the image far too dark however I really like the effect and intend using this technique in the future when shooting water in motion. I like the ghostly water set against a backdrop of a dark eerie background.

_MG_06401/1.6; f/40; ISO 100; 200mm

Next I moved indoors with a tripod to capture the movement of a flickering flame; I did add to the natural movement by blowing the flame during the exposure. The remote release worked this time so the only movement was the flame. I don’t find these very effective, probably as only 1 point in the image is showing movement, I feel that they lack rhythm.

_MG_9854        _MG_9855

1/1240; f/5.6; ISO 100; 83mm             1/1240; f/5.6; ISO 100; 83mm

Finally I attempted to shoot some seascapes in the style of Hiroshi Sugimoto.The longer exposure of the first image I find quite effective.

_MG_0709    _MG_9381

1/+1024; f/40; ISO 400; 300mm             1/100; f/13; ISO 400; 300mm

These exercises have certainly expanded my toolkit with additional ways to use long exposures for creative effect, some of which I will pursue later.

RESEARCH FOR PART THREE: TRACES OF TIME

Project 2 A durational space

Michael Wesely

Michael Wesely is a German art photographer who is best known for his photos of cities, buildings, landscapes, and still lives of flowers taken with a special ultra-long exposure technique, sometimes of two to three years.(http://petapixel.com/2012/03/16/photographs-captured-over-years-with-an-open-camera-shutter/ accessed 28.1.16).weselyThe life and death of a bouquet of flowers. http://www.slideshare.net/Alanevans25364/in-depth-photographer-wesley

His response to “The decisive Moment” was to turn it around and say “okay, I cannot collect the best moments, or cannot find them in the contact sheets, so I’d better collect millions of moments in one picture” (Open Shutter, Michael Wesley Museum of Modern Art 2004).

In the 1990s, he began using the technique to document urban development over time, he used filters and extremely small apertures to reduce the amount of light entering the film, producing images that capture both space and time. In 2001 he began photographing the Museum of Modern Art’s renovation project, exposing for 34 months, using 8 cameras at various sites around the construction site.

wesley 2

Between 2001 and 2004 over a 13 month period he recorded the rebuilding of Leipziger Platz and Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

wesley 3He claims that he could take exposures for up to 40 years. http://www.unfinishedman.com/the-long-exposures-of-michael-wesely/, accessed 28.1.16.), although his method is of course secret. Wesely has made exposure the essential concept for his photography and less of a technical matter, whilst most photographers expose for a long enough time to register the image and a short enough time to halt the motion.

 

I find that his images have a ghostly nature as the long exposure eliminates any evidence of humans being in the shots and yet we know that they must have been in the shots. The transparency of the building also adds to their visual eeriness. In fact whilst a camera would usually record reality of a situation, though possible represented in a variety of ways in many ways the reality in these urban images is partially hidden. Certainly the camera here is creating a psychological dram to me.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Japanese New York based photographer is known for his minimalistic contemporary series projects, often with blurred out images creating surreal haunting images. One series is minimal stylised seascapes shot with long exposures with blurred horizons down the middle.

sugimotohttp://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/seascape.html

His theatre series used different timed exposures, taken with the shutter open for length of the movie, this leads to just white light being captured on the screen and the people do not appear to have been there due to the radiant white light from the screen (www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY3nGoZqw9U accessed 22.1.16.).This is very different to the effects of the long exposures by Michael Wesley, although the reality of the situation is also misrepresented as the time lapse essentially wipes the theatre screen to white space; these images also have a haunted image just as Wesley’s do to me.

sugimoto 2

http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/theater.html

He also photographed dioramas of stuffed animals and waxworks in museum displays in an illusionist manner. Sugimoto believes that photography is the best medium to make people think about time and period but that it is also young medium, for instance when he uses it to imitate paintings by photographing wax models (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nluiGJ4opt0, Autobiography Hiroshi Sugimoto Part 1, accessed 22.1.15).

Maartin Vanvolsem

He uses a moving camera to capture frames sequentially to build an image up over time, instead of a subject being captured and frozen in a split second. This however produces images that are the result of technology rather than the human eye. These images gain their meaning as the lines change over time because of the moving film and camera, causing sharpness and blurr. In these images the subject is important rather than how it is depicted.vanvolsem

http://kusseneerscom.webhosting.be/portfolio_page/maarten-vanvolsem/ accessed 5.2.16.

Christopher Doyle

Is the Cinematographer who shot the opening scene to Wong Kar-Wais Chungking Express (1994) at 1/8 second employing a “stutter-step effect, most likely by removing every second frame-or even every second or third frame- and duplicating others” (http://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/221-how-wong-kar-wai-turned-22-seconds-into-an-eternit/ accessed 5.2.16). This gives usually gives blurred movement and interestingly it is effectively neither slow or fast-motion. Having watched the sequence it is fascinating how the eye does naturally read a sequence of frames as movement.

 

Francesca Woodman

She took her first self-portrait at 14 and from then until her death at the age of 22 took some 800 photographs using innovative techniques. She frequently used time exposure, which blurred and diffused her figure. She was both presenting and dissembling herself and “she clearly sought to escape the strictures of the single image and still, frozen photographic stasis” (http://www.gerrybadger.com/francesca-woodman/ accessed 5.2.16). Apparently her work derives partially from the seventies American tendency to combine “personalised psychodramas with temporal and spatial displacements of long exposures and blurred movement”. (http://www.gerrybadger.com/francesca-woodman/ accessed 5.2.16), but in simpler terms, yes the shutter is creating psychological drama.

Woodman

Robert Frank

His work in the book The Americans (1959) is said to have changed the direction of photography and changed many of the rules set out by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Travelling round parts of America he shot 27,000 images and reduced these to 83 for the book. He used a handheld camera with movement and tilt producing grainy blurred images. Many reviews were disparaging, such as Practical Photography who dismissed the book’s “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness”. (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/07/robert-frank-americans-photography-influence-shadows  accessed 8.2.16) He preferred to present things as they were rather than romantically and therefore at the time was even accused of being anti-American.

frank

 

I find some of the photos that he took inside Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn the most interesting, photographs with a grainy blur and this one “ two lines of men at work, blacks and whites side-by-side and facing each other across the assembly line that runs up the middle of the picture” (http://www.npr.org/2009/02/13/100688154/americans-the-book-that-changed-photography accessed 8.2.16).

Frank 2

Of these photographers I have a strong preference for the work of Robert Frank, I intend to research him further and in time would like to try photographing using his technique.

COURSEWORK: PART THREE TRACES OF TIME

Project 1 The frozen moment

Exercise 3.1

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject. Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.

Using shutter priority I shot a number of different moving objects outside using different shutter speeds to discover the optimum for freezing subjects of different moving speeds.

_MG_93631/500: f/4.5: ISO 800; Focal length 37mm T

The water stream frozen like this seems unnatural to me.

P10000321/400; f/6; ISO 800: Focal length 77mm

I was surprised that I was able to freeze water droplets at only these shutter speeds.

_MG_0050 ps 1/640; f/6.3; ISO 800; Focal length 300mm

I spent a considerable time “catching waves” and found this shutter speed the most effective.

32 raw1/640:f/7.1; ISO 400; Focal length 70mm

I found the sports photography harder than I had anticipated, not aided by the fading light that afternoon but a speed of 640 secs, which my research had suggested did seem to be the optimum for freezing the action.

_MG_99791/5300; f/6.3; ISO 800; Focal length 300mm

The moving seagulls proved a tougher target and I had to increase the shutter speed substantially and of course use continuous shooting mode.

Of these images for me the seagull and the frozen droplets have the most potential for showing “beauty in a fragment of time” that would not be evident with the naked eye.