Introduction To Part Four – Experimentation: Still Life

Brief:- Look at Peter Fraser’s close shots of found phenomena at http://www.peterfraser.net. These photographers either create or find salient and amusing new meanings in everyday objects. The visual description of their images is not what the work is ‘about’, but the effect of a juxtaposition, arrangement or phenomenon. Have a careful look around you. Does anything catch your eye? Take a photo of it. There’s nothing to stop you interacting with objects, placing them together and combining them in new ways to create a new meaning. Look at the unlikely arrangement of objects in Nigel Haworth’s photograph. Old fruit, a chopping board and pregnancy tests hang in unlikely juxtaposition. Can you perceive the theme of infertility?

 

My Responses

Peter Fraser

Fig. 1. A City in the Mind (2012)

When I consider the term “found phenomena”, I think of objects that have been discarded in a public space. I was expecting to find many photos of those phenomena in place on the ground, or on a bench or fence etc, but having a look at Fraser’s website I noticed very few of these. Most of the objects have been arranged and they also appear to have been cleaned.

On seeing this photo my first thoughts were about being at school, and having been naughty asked to stand against the wall as a form of punishment. The representation of a woman from the Kayan Lahwi tribe is in close proximity to the upright piece of metal. She is so close that the metal is completely in her face, suggesting that she is forced to endure the practices of her cultural traditions.

Is Fraser, as an outsider, representing his own opinion that the women suffer from wearing the neck rings, which restrict their rights and repress their individuality? Having done a small amount of research it appears that Fraser is repeating the thoughts of anthropologists who have visited the tribe, rather than meeting with the women to discuss their perspective. I don’t believe that Fraser would have placed these objects in such a manner without having undertaken some research of his own. If he is trying to present what I have suggested, then he is off the mark and doesn’t represent the views of the majority of the Kayan women.

However, rings are placed around the neck from the age of five years old, so this practice is therefore enforced rather than chosen. The other aspect is that the rings weaken the neck muscles and suppress the collarbone and ribs. So there is a physical impact upon the women that cannot be avoided.

The metal in Fraser’s arranged photo appears to be in its natural form and perhaps this is the representation of the original, untouched or natural. The rings are usually made of brass, so the metal also gives rise to a literal representation.

Figure.2. Ice and Water (1993)

Those of Fraser’s photos which appear to be in the place where he found them are partially out of focus. Rather than comment upon this photo individually I would like to consider why he would choose to create these photos with a wide open aperture.

Soft focus can often be used to provide a sense of subtlety or romance, but I don’t believe this is what Fraser is trying to achieve. In these instances words such as forgotten, hidden, unseen, fading, unimportant, worthless spring to mind. It becomes apparent that these phenomena will soon be gone, removed from the former owners mind, and at some point will be landfill.

Nigel Haworth

Nigel HaworthFig. 3. Untitled (2017)

I find myself struggling with this picture, not because of the content, but yet again the insistence of the OCA telling me how to read the photo, it makes it very difficult to form my own opinion. This is not the fault of Mr Haworth.

Can I see, as the brief tells me to, the link between this photo and infertility? Yes I can to a small degree. With the four pregnancy testing kits there is a suggestion of the passing of time and the repeated attempts to get pregnant.

The knife adds a sinister element, but I don’t see this as having anything to do with infertility. Perhaps the inference with this photo is around termination rather than infertility. When you look at the pregnancy testing kits closely all but one have two lines which are indicative of a positive test. The fruit tied up with string could appear as bundles. We often use the term “bundles of joy”,or consider a stalk carrying a baby wrapped up in cloth when discussing pregnancy and babies. So there is for me a dissonance within this photo. The knife is an unnecessary element if the photo was to be viewed in the terms of infertility or pregnancy. The only justifiable placement of the knife, in my opinion, would be if the photo was representing termination.

Please OCA, please stop telling me how to read and interpret individual photos and allow me to form my own opinion. Instead of telling me what to see you could ask me how I read the photo?

Illustrations

Figure 1 Fraser, P; 2012; A City in the Mind; AT: http://www.peterfraser.net/projects/a-city-in-the-mind-2012/ (accessed on 03/09/2018)

Figure 2 Fraser, P; 1993; Ice and Water; AT http://www.peterfraser.net/projects/ice-and-water/ (accessed on 03/09/2018)

Figure 3 Haworth, N; 2017; Untitled; In Enoch, R; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Barnsley; OCA.

 

7 Replies to “Introduction To Part Four – Experimentation: Still Life”

  1. I am just about to start Part 4 Richard so read this with interest. I sympathise with your comment about not being told how to read or interpret images, however, certainly for me I found this useful particularly when I started the course. It encouraged me to look at the images in more depth rather than simply dismissing them because I didn’t like the image. Maybe later in the course this “direction” isn’t required as much.

    Liked by 1 person

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