Brief:- In this first exercise, you’ll use fragments of still life images to create a combined design. Arrange a still life set-up that includes a background (preferably an ironed white or black sheet) and three distinct objects. It would be helpful if at least one object was sized at least 0.5m or you’ll be photographing everything in macro. Use either sunlight from a window or one single source of electric light to cast shadows and bring out the 3D form of the objects. Photograph around the objects, both close and wide shots, not all from the front. Capture the edges and the lines of the objects as well as defined shapes within them – for example the sound holes of a violin. Capture edges where light and shadow create a sense of depth or recess. Take pictures of the textures and colours of the objects. Think of this project as collecting impressions and perceptions of these objects and let this guide your camera. You’ll need approximately 20 well-exposed images.
The idea behind this exercise is to imaginatively combine the different photographs into a single conclusive design. Have a look at some Cubist paintings and sculpture as inspiration. Notice how one object blends into another and how different viewpoints of the same object co-exist in surprising ways. The classic example of this is Picasso’s combination of the front and profile of a face, as in Weeping Woman, which you can see on the Tate’s website. Then look at Brendan Fowler’s Spring 2011 – Fall 2012 on the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) website, which attempts similar arrangements with photography.
Weeping Woman by Picasso (1881 – 1973)
The red, green and purple outlines are marks which I have made for the purpose of annotation. The original can be seen here.
- Red: – Profile view.
- Green:- Front view.
- Purple:- Triangles.
The combination of the frontal and profile view are quite apparent in Weeping Woman, and this painting is evidence that art does not need to be literal for it to make sense. I have used the purple to highlight some of the triangles that Picasso has used throughout the image. They become a visual anchor and can also be found in the womans hat and coat. As part of the head they provide definition to the collar and neck, chin, and movement of the tears. Also of note are the two hands, to the left and right of the mouth. They are both of the left hand and also shown from differing perspectives.
Swinging by Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
This wonderful painting by Kandinsky is relevent to the brief because of how the lines and edges of the shapes fit together to produce the overall effect. I am aware how easy it is to anthropomorphise, but I can only say what I see. To me, the shapes and colours, as separate elements, combine to become a man who is smoking, sitting down with a blanket over his legs. There is a lamp both in front of and behind him, and he is thinking deeply (highlighted by the yellow triangle above his head with the stream of consciousness flowing out from this). Is this a representation of Einstein? Did their paths cross when Kandinsky was living in Germany?
Brendan Fowler (1978)
Fowlers photography is certainly abstract and novel, and I can see the connection between his photography and the brief. There are some lines that connect with each other, and these provide a minor similarity with the work of Kandinsky, but only slightly. I think that rather than drawing any comparisons between the work of Kandinsky and Picasso, they should be viewed as stand alone abstract photography. The photo above is one of the better ones in relation to overlapping lines, and his way of creating layers is a new idea for me to consider. The layers, which are created in the physical form, rather than in digital editing software, have a solidity and strength to them, and without the reductionism that generally happens when I or others reduce opacity in Photoshop.. Neither way is better, but it’s nice to have an alternate way of creating layers.
Figure 1 Picasso, P; 1937; Femme en pleurs (Weeping woman) [Oil paint on canvas]; AT: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picasso-weeping-woman-t05010 (accessed on 11/09/2018)
Figure 2 Kandinsky, W; 1925; Schaukeln (Swinging) [Oil paint on board]; AT: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kandinsky-swinging-t02344 (accessed on 11/09/2018)
Figure 3 Fowler, B; 2010; Joel’s Phone on Lauro Table 1, “Looking at Richter Photo With Carol and Roberto” on Computer 2, Pots in Patty’s Window 1, Looking at Richter Photo with Carol and Roberto 1 [