Reflections Upon Leisure – By William Henry Davies – Exercise 3.5 – Photography From Text

Inspiration

The brief asked us to produce a series of photo’s that reflect a piece of written material, and I completed this with my own photography earlier in the coursework (seen here). Having previously read ‘Behind The Image: Research In Photography’ By Anna Fox and Natashe Caruana (2012) I had started to make a photo archive which includes my own photography, photo’s purchased from EBAY and second-hand shops, and photography and articles from newspapers and journals. Creating the archive reminded me of the montage produced by Gerhard Richter’s series Atlas (seen here), in which he makes use of newspaper photo’s and sometimes overlays text  from those same papers.

Initially I was attracted to Richter’s overpainting, and my first response to Atlas was quite negative, it wasn’t something that I liked. However, over a period of time this has grown upon me, and exercise 3.5 gave me the perfect opportunity to try something different.

Technique

The process of selecting which photos and text to include required me to experiment with which worked together on each individual plate, and then create a layout that symbolises the line(s) from the poem (signifier). For example the presentation ‘what is this life if full of care’ (below) is about connections and networks that we create throughout our life and create value for each of us.

What is this life if, full of care,

‘No time to stand beneath the boughs (below) is a reflection upon how precious life is, and that it will end in death – let us enjoy the life we have by slowing down to appreciate it.

No time to stand beneath the boughs,

 

Some of the photo’s and text were cut carefully, and others I tore from the newspaper, I wanted to see the effect of each – my structured mind has resistance to having torn edges, and layouts that are not aligned. The non-aligned layouts work, it creates a scrap-book style, and the torn edges are effective as a physical collage, but this comes out poorly in the photographs of the art.

My aim was to create light box style digital images from the pastiches, and although the process for doing so takes just a few steps – Lightroom, set white balance the same in each image, adjust clarity, contrast, vibrance and exposure to create brightness in the text and pictures, adjustment brush up to the edge of each text/photo – increase exposure to maximum (bright white background). This sounds simple, however auto-mask was tricky for images with a white border and without auto mask the process was time-consuming. The process wasn’t 100% accurately even when I followed up with the auto-masked erase brush. Consequently I was left with some digital artifacts around the edges. They have been removed or altered in some places by exporting to Photoshop and painted out.

Relationship to current photographic trends

There is a lot of talk in relation to how the digitization of photography and the excellent cameras in smart phones, along with social media, have created a situation in which photographs are taken with ease, shared almost instantly and then deleted or never seen again, and only printed on very rare occasions.. The reaction by many professional and academic photographers has been to focus upon the materiality of photography by printing, creating photobooks and making use of scrapbooks and albums to store and present photography. I am in agreement with the argument and have begun to print my own photos, make photo-books and use appropriated images.

However, I don’t think the argument is as simple as it appears. The digitization of photography has meant that old and damaged photos have been saved by uploading them and digitally removing scratches and marks, adding colour, and creating archives or new print’s. There is a saying ‘What goes on the net, stays on the net’. What this means is that if I or you publish a photo on the world wide web, there is always the possibility that it remains as a record that could be permanent even if I delete it. As soon as a photo is published on-line it can be copied, downloaded for individual or collective use, re-posted in a positive manner, or used to troll and embarrass. Deleting my original post in no way guarantees that it has been removed from the web. My creative process has been a representation of this, and a rejection of the view that physical photos are the only ones with intrinsic value.

Although I created the collages as a physical piece of art, once I had created and photographed them I removed them from the white card and returned them  to my archive. Yes I can recreate the physical object as a permanent record because I have kept the photo’s and text, but right now, none of these plates exist in the material form. The only places that these exist are on my hard drive and online. The digitization has provided me with a permanent record of the art I have created.

Difficulties encountered

As mentioned previously, the use of the adjustment brush, which was necessary in order to achieve my objective, has left digital artifacts. You can’t see them unless you zoom in very close, but I can, I know where they exist. The use of  WordPress slide show is the correct presentation for this sequence, however it isn’t possible to adjust the caption text colour on a free site. This meant that white text on a white background left the text unreadable. I have had to return to Photoshop and include a layer the length and position of the caption on the slide show, dark in colour, with reduced transparency, so that the text can be read. It works, but it is not how I want the presentation to be.

Overall

What an enjoyable and interesting project this has been for me. I love photography, so much I cannot express it enough in words. Becoming more involved with photography has increased my creative drive, and this has freed me up to let go of some of my rigid thinking so that I can explore and express myself with other media. Despite the challenges of the adjustment brush, technically this has been straight forward, creatively it has felt powerful and dynamic, but again very simple.

This has been my first attempt at working with these materials and this genre, and there is room for improvement. The photo’s in each plate work well with each other, but tI haven’t created a consistent sequence photographically, and wouldn’t be effective without the captions. Leisure is my favourite poem, and the words create a strong narrative, in future I can strengthen this by using photographs which connect from one plate to the next.

You know what – despite the imperfection (my perfectionism may be easing? Or that inner critical voice may be becoming a touch kinder?), I am pleased and excited about what I have produced.

I’m so pleased that I am now going out into the sun, walking to the cliff’s and I am going to stand and stare.

 

References

Fox, A and Caruana, N; 2012; Behind the image: Research in photography; Switzerland; AVA Publishing SA

Richter, G; 1960-2013; Atlas: Online AT: https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/art/atlas (accessed on 02/07/2018)

Leisure – By William Henry Davies – Re-worked

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What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time
To stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows (and hogs and dogs and deer and hedgehogs and koala and giraffe?);
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where Squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch his feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Exercise 3.5 – Photographs From Text

Brief:- History painting was a specific genre of painting that depicted scenes from religious, historical or mythological texts.  Choose a text that has meaning for you. It can be anything from a poem to a newspaper report, a biblical passage or a scene in a novel. It can be a long text, but it would probably be best if it was reasonably short, even a few lines. You’ll need to know your text by heart, so read it repeatedly.

Try to generate visual ideas that communicate something about the text. Discuss the text with other people and find out what images spring to mind for them. Write down any ideas you get from the text. They can be visual ideas or thoughts about the subject.

How would you turn that text into a photograph or a series of photographs?

  • Begin by thinking of a literal translation from the text, like a movie or a biblical painting.
  • Next, try to think in more metaphorical and symbolic ways. Text can be didactic, but you don’t have to illustrate the text; you can use it as a starting point for your picture making or you can create a broad interpretation based on the intuitive or emotional meaning the text has for you. For example, the Resurrection may cause joy and this joy could be metaphorically expressed in an explosion of colour, as in the work of Polly Apfelbaum.

When you’ve finished your work, place the photograph or photographs you’ve made with the text, side-by-side.

Leisure

by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Leisure by William Henry Davies

Reflections

What a lot of fun I have had whilst making this sequence, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Because I read the course manual before I started Foundations in Photography, I had planned to use Leisure by William Henry Davies from the outset. It is probably my favourite poem, and one that is etched in my memory. My intention had always been to make this as close to a literal representation as I could do.

Technically this has been quite straight forward, with the only challenges coming from using Photoshop to remove an electric fence in the scene with the cows, and also from trying to get the text size correct. This has been difficult because I have taken the photos on four different cameras, each with their own dimensions, and because they have all been cropped to different ratios so that I could make each omage how I wanted them. I felt that it was important to get the text correct on the full size image, rather than the 1080p that I have saved the photos as, so that if I need to rework a photo then I have the original in its complete form.

The text has not worked out, and this is easy to correct by saving the original without text to 1080p and then increasing the canvas size and adding text, which can now be added at the same size.

I am going to go back and do this, but I felt that it was important to, as my former school teachers would say, show my workings out not just the answers.

Because this has been planned for a long time, than I have had the opportunity to take these photos in many places that I have visited, although I have had to include two from before I began Foundations in Photography so that I could retain the narrative, and two portraits from previous coursework.