RESEARCH: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

NOTES FROM BOOK:

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

I made these notes to support my understanding whilst working through the exercises in The Language of Light and in preparation for shooting assignment 4.

“A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere. They are often momentary, chance-sent thing…sometimes they are a matter of luck… Sometimes they are a matter of patience” Bill Brandt cited in Prakel (p57).

Daylight “is a combination of direct light from the sun, from the sky, and light reflected by the clouds” (p58).

Colour temperature is bluer when the light falling in shadows of an image are illuminated by skylight alone.

Morning light: Soft and diffuse. Before sunlight red to violet blue, immediately before pinker, at daybreak yellow.

Noon light: Though harsh does give saturated colours. Winter noon light is higher and has a warmer colour balance than photographic daylight.

Evening light: Strong, low angled light casting long shadows leading to crisper images. Sunsets are rich red and gold,

Night light: Gives an inky black or softly coloured backdrop.

Seasons: The winter is a lower colour temperature and the summer higher.

Location: Mountain top direct light is unforgiving and bluer. Coasts are giant reflectors as is sea spray. City light and tall buildings block all but overhead light. Vertical surfaces reflecting light. Pollution shows in a telephoto lens as yellowing or browning.

Fluorescent light: Is not a continuous spectrum of colours but a combination of green and orange and magenta light.

Street lighting: Is usually mercury or sodium vapour – giving violet/blue and yellow light respectively.

Neon light: Comprised of gases in a tube used to create colours.

Colour filters and film: Daylight and electronic flash (5500K)    Tungsten (3200K)

Exposure:  when contrasty lighting increase by 2 stops.

COURSEWORK: THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT

RESEARCH FOR EXERCISE 4.5

Bill Brandt 1904-1983

brandt 1  (Brandt, n.d)

 

Brandt wrote that he admired photography’s power to make people see the world anew, to experience it with “a sense of wonder.” (Smith, 2013). He had a distinctive visual style, which came from many different influences, documentary photography, surrealism, Brassai, Agtet, Paris then England. This resulted in a wide range of photography from night photography, portraits, landscapes, city views, to light bathed abstract female nudes taken from exaggerated viewpoints. Brandt saw this as his most important body of work, and many of his best pictures in the genre are in Perspective of Nudes (1961). He drew on Surrealist distortion, and shunning eroticism in favour of highly abstract compositions and psychological drama.

 

His “The English at Home” (1936) and “A Night in London” (1938) showed a variety of subject matter, particularly across different levels of the British class system: miners, parlor maids, wealthy Londoner’s, the London blackout. It was his feeling for social life – and for all types, from the working class to artists and writers – that lent distinction to his work”, (Houk, n.d).  He toured Britain to document the country’s most inspirational landscapes, from northern industrial towns to Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge. These were often uninhabited and melancholy with “a coldness about these pictures but also a haunting beauty” (Golden, 2013)

Many of his photographs invite questions, like “Belgravia, London” — in which a woman’s legs loom from the bottom of the image and makes us wonder where the photographer is.

brandt 2 (Admin 2012)

Whilst some like those taken on pebbly beaches seem strange as human parts are juxtapositioned on the pebbles.

brandt 3 (Admin, 2012)

 

He certainly preferred to rely on ‘camera vision’ rather than his own subjective vision: “Instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed”.                                                                          (Victoria and Albert Museum, n,d).

 

I am particularly inspired by his work and will experiment with some of his techniques, particularly juxtapositioning and abstraction.

Chris Steel Perkins (b 1949)

He joined Magnum in and began working in the Third World, most recently Afghanistan and Japan. His work has won several awards, including the The Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1989. He sometimes uses juxtapostioning and interesting framing. When asked “What’s the greatest picture you didn’t take?” He said “The one I missed yesterday, then the one I missed the day before” (Steele, 2011).

steel p (Steele-Perkins, n.d)

I especially like his unusual use of framing.

References:

Admin (2012) Bill Brandt – Inspiration from Masters of Photography. http://121clicks.com/inspirations/bill-brandt-inspiration-from-masters-of-photography (accessed 4.4.16).

 

Brandt (n.d). Bill Brandt Archive. The photography of Bill Brandt: http://www.billbrandt.com/ (accessed 4.4.16). 

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

 

Houk, E, (n.d) Edwyn Houk gallery: http://www.houkgallery.com/artists/bill-brandt/ (accessed 4.4.16).

 

Smith, R (2013). A Camera Ravenous for Emotional Depth. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light at MoMA. New York Times, page C21. 7.3.2013: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/arts/design/bill-brandt-shadow-and-light-at-moma.html?_r=0 (accessed 4.4.16).

 

Steele Perkins, C (24.1.11) Q & A. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/8278879/Chris-Steele-Perkins-QandA.html (accessed 4.4.16).

 

Steele Perkins, C (n.d) Chris Steele-Perkins. Magnum Photographer: http://www.chrissteeleperkins.com/# (accessed 4.4.16).

 

Victoria and Albert Museum (n.d) Bill Brandt Biography: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/bill-brandt-biography/ (accessed 4.4.16).

 

 

 

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.

Project 1 The distorting lens

My learning points from Project 1

That focal length combined with viewpoint can distort perspective. Therefore I must be careful when taking street photography portraits, when possible to move towards the subject, rather than zooming in to give the truest image (exercise 2.2).

When using a wide angle lens at a low viewpoint (I usually do this when I want to accentuate a subject) I should try to shoot without lines in the background, or blur them with a large aperture, to ensure that the distortion is not obvious (exercise 2.3).

For portrait shooting I should be aware that using a wide aperture (shallow depth of field), from a distance of about one and a half metres away with a medium focal length is useful for lifting the subject from the background and should add intensity to the eyes (exercise 2.4).

When using a wide aperture, long focal length and close viewpoint to isolate a subject, I should consider the background carefully; the background in the composition is important, even if it will appear blurred. Also I am aware that including a reasonable amount of blurred background, often with some form or lines, may add interest to the image (exercise 2.6).

When using a tripod I must not let it limit or restrict my natural choice of viewpoint, and must challenge myself to use it more often so that I become more accomplished and less impeded by it. I must also ensure that I review the images critically whilst shooting to improve the quality of my tripod shooting output.

These were extremely worthwhile learning exercises for me.

Project 3 Surface and depth

“Ruff has done a great deal to introduce into photographic art what we might call an ‘art of the pixel’, allowing us to contemplate at an aesthetic and philosophical level the basic condition of the electronic image” David Company.

Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg of Thomas Ruff’s JPEG work and begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made by each writer.

http://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/

http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/04/review_jpegs_by_thomas_ruff/

 Ruff JPEG 911

An analysis of the reviews on Ruff’s JPEGS by David Campany and Joerg Colberg

David Campany gives a clear explanation of Ruff’s JPEGs work and how he arrived at it. He underlines that all images are digitalised and explains that few address this as Ruff does; That they exist as masses of electronic information in the visual form of pixels (he describes pixels as “grid-like, machinic and repetitive as opposed to grainy and impressionistic like some 1930s-50s images). Company suggests that through Ruff’s large scale photographic prints, blown up beyond their photorealistic resolution, he has introduced us to photographic art called an “art of the pixel” which allows us to “contemplate at an aesthetic and philosophical level the basic condition of the electronic image”. He takes a positive approach to the impact of Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs work, likening it to “looking at figuration to abstraction and back again” resulting in great tension or drama.

Joerg Colberg seems less convinced of the impact of Ruffs JPEGs work. He outlines Ruff’s journey in producing them, which was that his 9/11 negatives returned from the laboratory blank and that he modified the poor resolution images then expanded them. Colberg admits his unease with the work, and that although the resulting images are beautiful there is a reliance on the technique and concept of the JPEGs and too much convincing that there is more to them than beauty “what more really I never managed to find out”. He concludes that he is probably being overly critical and does give Ruff credit for pushing the boundaries of photography, however finishes with the thought that sometimes “the medium is the message” (and I’m expecting too much)”.

I have only been able to view Ruff’s images on screen and would like to see them in print before arriving at my own conclusions. This is one of my images with a Thomas Ruff effect:

IMG_15134 smart fix ruff like