Brief:-As research for this assignment, look at the work of two photographers and note down your responses. Dan Holdsworth http://www.danholdsworth.com. Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image? What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape? Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?
I am aware that when I make my initial notes and present them in my learning log, I need to expand upon these to turn them into a critique. My notes often form an impression of my thoughts but the lack of detail can leave people unsure of my meaning. However I am going still going to record my initial thoughts for each of Holdsworth’s series that I have looked over, in my own way, and then answer the questions at the end, followed by a reflection.
Spacial Objects 2015
Physical installation, large dimensions, over two meters tall. Constructed shapes, bold colours, reds, greens and blues of various hues. Constructed linear shapes, angles, bright highlights, deep shadows, some blacks but not many. Geometrical.
I am aware that this series is not photography, however it has relevance to me for two reasons. I had no understanding of photographic series before beginning Foundations in Photography. I had been working on a series about homelessness, but wasn’t aware of how to link photographs together in any way other than typography. Spacial Objects is typographical, coloured geometric shapes that have the same physical dimensions. But more than this they are of similar tone and use of highlights and shadows. The geometry is of linear angles, but there are circular patterns as part of the texture.
The other relevance to me from this series is seeing how an artist develops their photography over time and builds upon existing pieces of work. His series California from 2003 explores man-made structures and geometry; Mirrors from 2014 is a representation of natural form and structure where angular geometry is introduced by the axis of symmetry and thereby bringing man into the natural world; Spacial objects – a physical installation – man made geometrical shapes, which are a reflectiin of the best of man made and natural structure.
Mirrors FTP 2014
Landscape, geology, rock forms taken from a distance, possible from above (flying over?) 180 degree symmetry rotated around mid-point. Muted colours of natural landscape possibly from igneous rock. Good tonal range, few blacks. Ice and snow in some of the photos in the series. Excellent depth of field, crisp, sharp photos. What is not being shown? Why has the half of the image that is used to create the symmetry included and not the other half?
Upon the first viewing of this series I have to say that I was somewhat perplexed. I asked my self:- What do I think he is trying to convey? and I responded that I had no idea, they are pretty photos that demonstrate excellent photographic technique, and are a great example of how a series of photos work well together. Similar tonal range and image ratio. Similar in hue and saturation, a typology of igneous rock formations.
I had to take a break and re view the photos. This time I asked:- What is missing from this series of photographs? Now were getting somewhere. I do not see any signs of life. No animals, no trees, no people. And what I now see, after reflecting upon what is missing, is that Holdsworth is using symmetry to bring the man-made “marks” into the natural form of the earth. The mirrored formations have sharp edges and create unnatural patterns which add an artificial dymension and destruction into a part of the world that man has not damaged through encroachment. It’s a very clever way to highlight the relationship between nature and man, without showing anything of man.
Metamorphic rock formations, snow-covered mountains/glaciers at night. Either artificially lit, or long exposures then when digitally developed the skies have been darkened to black. I suspect there is a form of artificial lighting. There is light drop off at the far side of the scene and highlights at the bottom left. If the photos were taken with bulb exposure there would be some light drop off, but the sky would be brighter and we would see stars or clouds. The scenes are not lit by the moon. To have that level of lighting the moon would need to be higher in the sky than is suggested by the lack of light in the distance, and there would not be light drop off.
Surreal, ghostly, as if looking at the surface of the moon whilst being in a “moon rover” The photographs in the series have a definite sense of space, depth and timelessness. We are shown the “unseen”. Very few people will have seen these landscapes at night, and the artificial lighting means that we are exposed to the light that resides within darkness. This series appears more metaphorical to me, with the psychological aspect of looking within our shadow to see our light. I remain unconvinced by the series and of my analysis of it.
This is a small series of only three photographs. A road, a factory and a car park (possibly from a petrol station or shopping mall).
Taken at night. Artificially lit, but the lights are from street lighting or building lights rather than lighting that has been introduced to the scene. Man made, sterile, angular, solid, defined, harsh lighting, are words that I would use for this series. Whereas the terms flow, movement, texture, smooth, balanced tone, are words that I think of when considering Blackout and Mirrors.
Questions from the Brief
Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image? What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape? Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?
I have looked at a mixture of Holdsworth series, some that have been shot at night and others during the day. My belief is that Holdsworth deliberately avoids shooting people, and in doing so he is trying to get the viewer to question the relationship between man and nature, and natural geology and geometry, in comparison to man-made structure and geometric marks.
There is a subtlety of texture, movement and tone in the landscape photos. The mountains in the Blackout series may have strong lines and angles but the interaction of a multitude of lines, textures and structure has a fluidity to it. This is a contrast to the series that I looked at with man-made structures (California) that have many straight, rigid lines. I believe that the series Mirrors exemplifies this. By introducing symmetry to the natural landscape Holdsworth is making a statement about the structures that man makes, and how “man made” interferes with the beauty and flow of the natural world.
This sense is added to by the lighting. In California the artificial lighting presents a sterile environment that eliminates nature. It highlights straight marks, straight lines and an inability of Man to add to the environment. The lighting in Blackout – whether it’s artificial or long exposure – brings out the surreal and creates flowing, ghostly ice sculptures. These have a multitude of texture and detail, and create a feeling of awe. The wonder of looking at the moon or the surface of Mars. We are seeing the unseen.
Holdworths work does not feel objective. I find its highly subjective and is leading the viewer to consider the impact of man upon the environment, the difference between the sublime and the sterile, and the confined and the free.
I have felt out of my depth with this review. Partly because as a student I am considering photography in a more serious manner, and partly because I have been reflecting upon themes, that Holdsworth presents, in a context that I have no familiarity with. I also have a thought that maybe I have over complicated this.
I am not used to the concept of a photographic series. Yes I have grouped my own photos together. My project on Homelessness is my first attempt at this, and I had only considered the importance of theme, or a basic typography. Holdsworth many series have their own individual theme, and fit into an overarching schema which explores:- marks, shape, form, structure and light. His most recent series Spacial Objects builds upon his previous works, by trying to represent the best of space, geometry, light and structure that runs through many of his series of work. Spacial Objects is an installment of man made physical structures, that have some of man’s rigid geometric shapes combined with nature’s flow, space and texture.
Each individual series is made of photos that are a similar aspect, tone, lighting, hue and saturation, and also have contours and lines that are common throughout. This has been a wonderful, if somewhat challenging, opportunity for me to gain some understanding into how to present a series of work and how an artist builds upon previous knowledge and experience as they develop and mature.
Fig 1 Holdsworth, D; 2015; Spacial Objects no 17; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)
Fig 2 Holdsworth, D; 2014; Mirrors FTP cg05a; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)
Fig 3 Holdsworth, D; 2010; Blackout 11; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)
Fig 4 Holdsworth, D; 2003; California 02; Online at http://www.danholdsworth.com/ (accessed on 08/08/2017)
Keys, R; 2017; Homelessness; Online at http://www.photosociology.info/homelessness (accessed on 08/08/2017)