On Completing Foundations In Photography

Firstly, I must say that although I’ve now completed Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, I have not finished the 5th Assignment. However, I had my final tutorial last week, and the assignment continues as part of a body of work on eating disorders. I intend to continue with “My Emotional States of Anorexia and Strengths in Recovery”, of which I am still embroidering on the photography. Once completed I will write an artists statement and an exhibition proposal.

Sounds big to me, and what’s amazing is that exhibiting my photographs is a possibility, a possibility which I would never have imagined when I started Foundations in Photography.

One year prior to enrolling on the course I was desperate, scared and unable to leave my home for more than a five minute trip to the chemist to pick up my medication. A good friend said that I needed to do something different to rebuild my mental health, and so I bought a camera. My camera gave me a life. With a camera in front of my face I was able to gradually build up the time I spent outside. On top of this I discovered the peace and mindfulness of photography.

I set myself small projects to try and develop technique and style. Photography became a passion, it set fire to my soul. That spark is the reason that I enrolled on Foundations in Photography.

Being on a low income meant that I was worried that I couldn’t afford to apply for the course, so I applied for the Open College of the Arts bursary. I put together a written statement which was accompanied by 10 photos, with explanations of why I had taken them. I recieved the full bursary, which is half of the course fee’s. Looking back on those photos I can see that they were pretty poor, but I had a good understanding of why I had made them.

Beggining Foundations in Photography was a daunting experience, but I found the course material to be clear. My approach was to follow it to the letter as I was afraid of getting it wrong. I had no idea of how to use my camera in manual mode, but I soon got used to it by following the guidance in the course handbook.

British Touring Cars Championship
100 photos {2017)

The first assignment was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise. It was the first serious attempt that I made on researching and planning a photo shoot. I managed to produce three or four strong photo’s.

York :- A Photographic HistoryAssignment One (2017)

However, I really came to life during the third section of the coursework, specifically exercises 3.3. I broke away from the brief, I tried a few different styles of photography, and developed my own interpretation of the exercise.

Bulimia
Sick of Bulimia (2018)
Whitby Abbey
A Hermits Journey (2018)

My best photo’s come from a place of authenticity and exploration of self. That’s not the only Photography that I do though. I’ve explored portrait, and I am improving in this area, and I love macro and events photography. Going out and making developers my photographic eye, and keeps my enthusiasm going. The OCA encourages that we continue shooting for our own enjoyment outside of study.

My favourite assignment was the fourth one, Responding to a Theme. I produced a hard hitting piece of work on the themes of self hatred and self love.

Self-Hatred-and-Self-LoveSelf Hatred – Self Love (2018)

Although I’ve now completed the course, I am continuing with assignment Five, which is part of a body of work exploring which I’m producing about eating disorders. This is a mixed media art project in which I’m embroidering on photography. I wouldn’t have had the idea or confidence to attempt to learn an additional skill if I hadn’t studied Foundations in Photography.

One of the most important aspects of my development has come from the Foundations group email. It developed into an opportunity to critique each others work. It’s been such a helpful practice. It’s not easy to have my work critiqued and to analyse others photography, but it’s developed the way in which I view photo’s, and consequently, the planning and production of my own work.

The written aspects of the course have been enjoyable as well. I like to think and write, I find studying to be rewardingso I’ve put a lot of effort into it. My use of Photoshop and Lightroom were poor at the start of the course, I still have a long way to go in this regard, but I have developed some useful skills and techniques as well.

My tutor has been invaluable. Not only have I been given guidance and feedback on the assignments, I’ve also recieved ideas and information for further development, and suggestions on which photographers to research and review. This feedback has been tailored to the work that I am producing and my personal developmental needs. Thank you Jayne.

The student support services have been on hand as well. I became ill during the course, and needed to seek an extension. They took my difficulties into account and they checked up on my health and well being every few weeks. The level of care and compassion was wonderful. Thank you Lia.

My goal now is to complete my current project about anorexia and then sign up for the BA in Photography, and I’m going to study again with the Open College of the Arts. Open learning suits me very well and the OCA coursework and support has been top notch. Studying this way suits my life style and keeps the pressure off of me. I’m feeling very grateful this morning. Thank you OCA

Illustrations

100 photo’s (here)

Assignment One – Square Mile (here)

Sick of Bulimia (here)

A Hermits Journey (here)

Self Hatred – Self Love (here)

 

Review – Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky (1962)

  • Still life
  • Staged photography
  • Controlled accidents
  • Food
  • Destructive nature of human behaviour
  • Domestic life
  • Food as feminine – social construct of domesticity
  • Pastels
  • Lighting – bright, natural
  • Space
  • Broad White backgrounds
  • Half eaten foods, non desirous {unlike traditional still life of food)
  • “half eaten apples, dirty dishes, and scattered cake crumbs are a common motif in her work” (Amy Lin (2016))
  • “I realized that still lifes were a vehicle to explore the tension between the small and minute and larger social structures.” (Sholis, B (2013)
  • Uses other photographs, including her own, highlighting consumption of photography and relates this to consumption and homogenization
  • “Using images already in the world, including my own earlier works, is akin to using objects in the world. It’s all raw material ripe for the picking, so to speak. Alongside its ability to provoke sensations, photography has a way of homogenizing experience. A piece of schmutz and a Tiffany diamond become the same thing once they’re photographed—they become photographs. I have a love/hate relationship with this power of the camera to flatten difference.” (Sholis, B (2013))

IllFormVoid31_620_webFig. 1. Untitled 31 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

Untitled-no-18Fig. 2. Untitled 18 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

08_IllFormVoid_49_2013-1024x787Fig. 3. Untitled 49 from Ill Form and Void Full (2011)

Having looked further into Letinsky’s Ill Form and Void Full series I have decided that I am going to make use of her style of still life photography for assignment 5. I’m already producing a body of work on eating disorders, and Letinsky’s style of cannibalising photographs adds an additional element that I can use to explore anorexia. Catabolism is a state in which the body turns its own proteins (muscle) into energy which can then be used so it can function. The body destroys itself in order to preserve itself. I am going to seek permission from Letinsky to use her photography in order to do so.

Illustrations

Figure 1, Letinsky, L; Untitled 31, Ill Form and Void Full [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018

Figure 2, Letinsky, L; Untitled 18, Ill Form and Void Full [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Figure 3, Letinsky, L; Untitled 49 [paper
Archival Ink Print]; AT: http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

References

Lin, A; 2016; Laura Letinsky; Online: AT: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Sholis, B; 2013; Interview With Laura Letinsky; Online: AT: https://aperture.org/blog/interview-with-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Addition References

http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/ (accessed on 26/12/2018

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura-letinsky (accessed on 26/12/2018)

Review – Maria Aparicio Puentes – Research For Assignment 5

I have now made the decision that I am going to embroider on photography for assignment 5. I’m not yet sure if I will work with emotional expression or something in the style of Laura Letinsky. Whatever I choose, I am looking forward to sewing over photo’s.

Maria Aparicio Puentes (1981)

  • Puentes “hand-stitches over images. She works closely with the existing structure of the photographs, overlaying geometric shapes with thread.” (Frankoski, 2015)
  • She uses a wide variety of stitches
  • She mostly embroiders over black and white photo’s, adding the dimensions of colour and texture
  • Some of her stitching is complimentary to the photography
  • Some are quite garish and out of place
  • She collaborates with other artists and photographers

Be-brilliant-05_2xFig. 1. Be Brilliant 05 (2014)

This photo conjures up two ideas to me. One is of a person who is both singing and plucking music out of the air. It has a beautiful, sensual nature, and represents a positive, joyful connection with the universe.

The other thought is around bulimia. Of a person expressing the high of vomiting. Bulimia may sound quite disgusting if you are not bulimic, but for many who are it can bring relief and sometimes joy, especially in the earlier period of the illness. There is potential for me to use this style.

M.-Aparicio-Puentes-Sasha-MademuaselleFig. 2. 01

The above collaboration works well. It’s crisp, simple and the three pastel colours make the art very natural. It’s so subtle that the stitching could quite easily have been on the jumper itself

Illustrations

Fig. 1. Puentes, M, A and Wierzbowski, L; 2014; Be Brilliant 05 [photographic paper (semi-matte finish) and threads]; AT: https://www.mariaapariciopuentes.com/Be-brilliant (accessed on 21/12/2018)

Fig. 2. Puentes, M, A and Mademuaselle, S; ; 01 [photographic paper (semi-matte finish) and threads]; AT: https://www.mariaapariciopuentes.com/01 (accessed on 21/12/2018)

Feature Image Puentes, M, A and Radičević, T; 2014; Be Brilliant 02 [photographic paper (semi-matte finish) and threads]; AT: https://www.mariaapariciopuentes.com/Be-brilliant (accessed on 21/12/2018)

 

References

Frankoski, E; 2015; Maria Aparicio Puentes; Online: At: https://www.pifmagazine.com/2015/07/maria-aparicio-puentes/ (accessed on 21/12/2018)

Also viewed

https://www.frankie.com.au/blogs/art/artist-interview-maria-aparicio-puentes-photo-embroidery (accessed on 21/12/18)

http://www.escapeintolife.com/artist-watch/maria-aparicio-puentes/ (accessed on 21/12/2018)

Actions To Carry Forward From Assignment Four – News About Action Man

Actions

  • Update assignment to include the image quality, colours and mask concept re over-sewn photo.
  • Meditate
  • Gallery layout
  • Collaborating with others – OCA collaboration group and TL
  • Continue to use thoughts and feelings as drive for my photography
  • Consider using prose and verse more frequently to enrich photography
  • Build up mixed media skills
  • Be photographed by AK – journal my reactions to the shoot and the photos, use the journal to create prose and verse of the experience
  • Mexican Votive painting
  • Continue emulating Laura Letinsky to develop this technique further
  • Read about lighting and ask JK when neccessary
  • OCA London regional group
  • OCA TV

Reading and viewing

  • Diane Arbus: A Chronology – I relate to Arbus’ character and motives of fascination with self and other.
  • Stick close to Arbus over the next year, dip into her photography and also those critiques of her, especially Sontag.
  • Gregory Crewdson: Beneath the Roses – Look for the message of yearning to be, or for, something other than the mundane/seeking escape. Also view Twilight to explore effective use of lighting and colour temperature.
  • Ochi Reyes: Mother and Revelations
  • Daniel Regan and his Arts & health Hub and Fragmentary (London calling!!)
  • Claude Cahun – use of masks
  • Gillian Wearing – use of masks

Also

  • William Eggleston
  • David Lynch
No fella, it’s actions to carry forward, not carry Action Man forward
No, don’t do it, don’t jump. Yes, I promise you can write a travel blog at Christmas.

The End Of The Pagan/Celtic Year – My Review Of The Past 12 Months And Goals For The Year Ahead

When I’m in tune spiritually at the end of the pagan year, I like to reflect upon the past year and say thanks for it. I also consider the year ahead.

The start of the new year as winter sets in makes sense. Traditionally winter would be the end of the life cycle for many people. Even now winter is a time of increased death rates for the elderly and vulnerable. The new year was a spiritual occasion in which prayers would be asked for protection over the winter months. It was also believed that the half way points of the spring and autumn (equinox), was when the barrier between the physical world and the underworld was at its weakest. A time when spirits could cross over and would take the weakest. During the middle ages and up to the Victorian era, communities would gather, light bonfires, celebrate and also cross dress . Men would dress as women and vice versa, in order to confuse the spirits and thereby preserve their life for the year ahead.

Today i took the opportunity for prayer and reflection whist I was walking between Redcar and Maske By The Sea. I have a lot to be grateful for this year. I have some wonderful friends, who have been part of my life for many years, I am developing deeper friendships with my peers, and I’m also developing friendships and a supportive community on WordPress.

IMG_20181031_163245.jpg

I got accepted into university – I’m glad I deferred it because I would have been to Ill to attend anyway. My tutor has given me some ideas which organisations that I can approach with a view to an exhibition of my photographic body of work about eating disorders. She values the personal integrity of my photography, and this was also stated in my interview with the University for the Creative Arts. I’m beginning to get a feel for the kind of photography that I want to make, the photography for relaxation and fun – and events. I really enjoyed the narrative of A Hermits Journey (here). Technically I’m improving as well, especially in Photoshop, although I do need to stop and consider which is the easiest approach to bring the quality that I desire. I need to read more books on photography as well. When reviewing the work of other photographers, finding a balance between books and internet resources is critical.

I’m  also enjoying the creativity of mixed media art, and I’m loving being part of the OCA collaboration group. I don’t make photographs for that. I’m using it as an opportunity to explore written and spoken word.

One of the highlights of my year was the photomontage I created using street art (here). It was wonderful to gain consent to use music by DJ’s from Mars. Approaching established artists with a view to making use of their work is new to me, and feels like a huge leap forward.oznor

It’s also a pleasure to witness the development and progress of my peers. We all have different skills, preferences and unique styles of the photography and it’s been a privilege to view. I’ve been able to try techniques that I wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t seen their work. We all comment upon each others work, and this has been a vital part of my progression. I still find it hard to critique the work of my peers, although it is getting easier.

One particular photo produced by @andykabi on Instagram – touched that place of shame, persecution, unworthiness and vulnerability within me. It’s the most I’ve been affected by a photograph. Andy was kind enough to send me a signed copy. I get it back from the picture framers tomorrow.

As for my WordPress buddies, I’m touched by your honesty, integrity and support. You are so compassionate and have so much wisdom, which you share on your blogs and in comments.

Cork and london have presented me with opportunities to explore the unfamiliar. I love London, my holiday and time there were incredible. Sadly, I became very ill and had to return home. However, I’m trying to arrange a home-swap so that I can live in London. One of my main motivators is to become involved in a dynamic, vibrant and creative community. I was fortunate enough to meet two of my OCA friends whilst in London, but was too I’ll to meet two others as planned.

Now is the time to move, and to build a face to face community. Am I ready to start meeting up with people? Yes I am. It will be beneficial in so many ways, and one of those is in relation to my mental health.

Anorexia has taken it’s toll on my body and mind. The possibility of dying from anorexia was never going to be a motivating factor to change. However, my illness affected my photography and that was enough for me to seek and utilise supoort so that I can recover. Photography is saving my life for the second time. My passion for photography is intense. The more I make photos, watch the photography of others, and study photography – the more I fall in love with it. The more I have to give and the more I have to receive. Now that I’m in early recovery from anorexia and eating regularly, my ability to go back out with my camera has returned. The process of forming and developing creative ideas is such and pleasure, to be coming up with new idead again is wonderful. This is enough motivator for me to eat and continue with my recovery.

Occasionally I write photo essays, which have all been published in The Sociological Mail. Shaneka kindly publishes my writing, and I’d like to produce more articles over the next 12 months. Shaneka is always on the lookout for contributors, and I believe that she would appreciate the services of someone who can help with site maintenance and communicating with the feature writers.

My hopes and goals for the year ahead are :-

  • Move to London, Guildford or Farnham
  • Complete Foundations in Photography
  • Start a degree in photography with either the OCA or UCA
  • Exhibit my eating disorders body of work
  • Stay in recovery from anorexia
  • Develop the friendships I have
  • Develop new face to face friendships
  • Explore mixed media art
  • Assisted/guided photography/portraits for those who want to add photos in with their writing
  • Get involved with creatives in London
  • Travel to India
  • Write 7 photo essays
  • Write more poetry
  • Deepen my spirituality
  • Come to trust that the universe wants what’s best for me
  • Take a street photography workshop
  • Meet up with fellow students
  • Attend OCATV
  • Find some good birdwatching spots and go birdwatching monthly.
  • Find a photographer to get to know.
  • Eat no more and no less than what’s on my plan
  • Meditate every day
  • Attend yoga classes
  • Finish my model
  • Create a folder for competition stand photos
  • Read part of a photography book each morning

Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz

David Bate bungled-01 2009

Brief:- Have a close analytical look at the photograph above by Canadian photographer Laura Letinsky. You can see a larger version at http:// thephotographersgallery.org.uk/ill-form-and-void-full There is something immediately uncanny in this photograph and in much of Letinsky’s work. Firstly, notice the planes that make up the background and the area on the lower left of the picture. These ‘surfaces’, on which there are objects, shadows and cut-out pictures of objects, create an odd sense of space. It’s difficult to tell exactly which way gravity is working here. There appears to be a table top seen from the side in the middle of the area on the left, but then there’s another ‘surface’ seen from above too. This plays with our sense of dimensionality, the way we as viewers orient our viewpoint on the scene depicted. The objects themselves are simple, everyday items: two spoons, some fruit and cherry pips. Some of these appear to be ‘real’ in the sense that Letinsky has photographed them herself, whereas others have been cut out of magazines. Notice that these cut-out objects had been photographed from different viewpoints (and in a different time and space), which Letinsky has tried to incorporate into the perspective of her own ‘still life’ scene. The spoon on the left appears to rest on the surface and take part in the scene and the other spoon appears above the surface. How many things in your own life are real in the sense that they are in front of you physically? And how much of what you experience and know comes through representations? How do you think this affects people? In her previous work, Letinsky used left-over meals, plates and cutlery to indicate a scene, event or relationship going on beyond the view of the photograph, turning viewers into detectives looking for clues and connotations. Meticulously placed dishes express something about the thinking of the ‘character’ who placed them. In this work, she extends this by looking at the ways people incorporate representations and collective fantasies into their ‘reality’ and their desire. Have a look at Laura Letinsky’s website lauraletinsky.com. Also look at the still life work Bungled Memories by David Bate at www.davidbate.net. For a seventeenth-century comparison with Letinsky’s work, you can look at the paintings of Pieter Claesz here: rijksmuseum Pieter Claesz Write about the following issues in response to Letinsky’s photograph.

  1. Visual description (objects & background/space)
  2. Composition/design/arrangement
  3. Sense of space or ‘dimensionality’
  4. Connotations

Laura Letinsky

Ill Form and Void 12 Laura Letinsky 2011Fig. 1. Ill Form and Void 12 (2011)

Initial Thoughts – Lots of pleasing space. The whites and greys provide a feel of peace, stillness and serenity. The background surface is smooth and has the feel of a photographer’s gallery backdrop. There are three other planes, a vertical line which is slightly diagonal, intersecting with a horizontal line that slopes down towards it, creating a neutral space to the lower left of the picture. Then there appears to be a formica-like surface, which is reflective, and the subjects appear to be resting upon this, and then within that plane there is also the surface of a table which has a table-cloth over it. A spoon with crimson petals rests upon the table-cloth upon the left hand side, and on the right there is a half cut out shape of a plate, and then a whole plate with what appears to be some food remains. A second spoon, perhaps with sugar in it, floats above the table, and two pieces of fruit appear to be both on the table-cloth and yet not on it at the same time. The cherry pips and stalks begin on the formica-like surface and flow down onto the neutral space at the bottom left of the photo. At first glance, the way the planes intersect make the image appear to have horizontal and vertical surfaces, suggesting an upright structure. However, the more of see of this photo, the more that I think that it has been photographed from above, and that all of the objects have been cut from a magazine and placed upon the background. If this were the case then the shadows which appear in the area of light would have had to have been created in post processing.

There is an optical illusion within this photo, which makes it appear to be something which it is not. It has the suggestion of being a scene which was photographed, but is probably a collage, which has then been shot with a camera and developed digitally. I find this to be a clever piece of art, and one that I find enjoyable to look at.

As someone who has grown up with an idea of what still life is, from more traditional compositions, this drastically broadens my horizons, thank god. Letinsky’s composition is completely constructed and the only objects which I can see are pictures which have been cut from magazines, and placed by her onto a paper surface. I’m really impressed.

I have taken a look at other photos from this series (on her website – see references), and I only wish to add that I find this series to be beautiful.

David Bate

David Bate bungled-01 2009Fig. 2. Bungled Memories 01 (2009)

The above photo by David Bate is taken from his series Bungled Memories, in which he breaks every day objects. In their broken form these would be discarded, however, he photographs them and then uses them to create new works of art. On his website he discusses this series in relation to the psychology of “Freudian slips” (DavidBate.net)

I don’t get what he is trying to say with that description. The only thing that I can put in psychological terms is that by creating photos in which the breaks of the subject are completely smooth, almost perfect, and using backgrounds which creates boxes, is that we refine, define, clarify and compartmentalise our memories of events in a style which suits our internal frame of reference, rather than as literal representations of facts.

Pieter Claesz

Still Life with a Turkey PieFig. 3. stilliven met kalkoenpastei (Still Life with a Turkey Pie) (1627)

This is a more traditional still life in which the objects are painted in a manner that is a visual representation of “what was there”. There is no attempt to make the viewer think, no attempt to deceive or play tricks with the mind, and no attempt to ask the viewer to consider that there may be a representation of something un-seen. There is a clear sign of wealth and opulence, but this is also a clear visual representation.

I find it quite interesting that the art world at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th had a debate about how photography was just a mechanical description of what was there. I have always held the belief that the majority of traditional art did just that by using an alternate recording device – the paint brush. Here the photography of Letinsky and Bate take the viewer on a journey through the abstract and challenge the viewer to keep looking and questioning. Bathes was wrong. Art captures what was there, photography invites, questions and challenges (OK, so art and photography can both be factual documentations or original works that invite thought).

Illustrations

Figure 1 Letinsky, L; 2011; Ill Form and Void [Archival Ink Print on Paper]; AT: http://time.com/52027/pictures-of-pictures-the-ambiguities-of-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 2 Bate, D; 2009; Bungled Memories 01 ; AT: http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=96 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 3 Claesz, P; 1627; stilliven met kalkoenpastei [Oil on panel]; AT: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/zoeken/objecten?q=Pieter+Claesz&p=1&ps=12&st=Objects&ii=1#/SK-A-4646,1 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

References

http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/

http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=120 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

 

Hannah Starkey – Review

Brief:- Assignment three – A narrative photograph – A staged photograph. A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed and captured at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it; monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy or the old lady picture into an allegory that changes perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Hannah Starkey.

Hannah Starkey (b 1971)

Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 1. Untitled (2007)

Initial thoughts  – stylised art deco, classical, subdued but very rich tones, backstage at theatre? theatre bar? plush, expensive, alone, painted, modern art nouveau, space, lots of space (behind her, too her sides, in front of her), tatoo of female upon her arm looks very sad – a representation of the subjects state of mind), clarity of photo.

A woman is seated at a wooden bench in a theatre bar, she is smoking a cigarette, which is slightly obscuring her head, which is facing down and away from the camera. Symbolic, burned, stood up, hiding, maybe experiencing sadness or embarrassment. Her emotions are out of place for the environment that she is in, which although is a place where many tragedies are performed, they are pretense, whereas this characters emotions are for real. This is no performance, except it is. It’s a staged photograph, a performance representing a non-performance. I like the layered meaning within that.

What do I consider setting and props? I think that everything other than the model is a prop that creates the setting. The props are – chandelier, wooden bench, cigarette, glass with drink (half empty), tatoo, table lamp, mirror, wood panelled wall, stage curtain, stage door. Along with the space surrounding the woman they all combine to create a scene, in which she is very much alone within herself and isolated. There are very few colours, and therefore very few distractions. The figure is so prominent that I do not find the lighting to the top left a distraction, I am aware of it, but I am absorbed by the female sitting within her emotions.

Bloody hell, the mirror is wrong. The lamp is reflected in the mirror but the subject isn’t. If the lamp is a reflection then it has to be further away than the woman, and with the angle between the mirror and her, she should be reflected. A symbol that she is unworthy, does not exist, is unseen, overlooked, un-important. Un-important and yet completely prominent and dominant within the frame.

Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; ATFig. 2. Untitled (1999)

Initial thoughts – Holy trinity, judgement day, three young adults, grouped together, staring demeaningly at a separate female, distance, space between the group and individual. Three embossed figures which are representative of Christ above the group of women. The lone figure has her arms folded defensively in front of her body, she looks uncomfortable, unsettled. Muted colours, the people stand out clearly because of the colours, There is graffiti upon the wall. The group have a plain background behind them, which presents them in a neutral fashion, whereas the individual has the graffiti framing her head, which adds to the sense of alienation, insulted, dirty.

A young female has done something wrong, shameful even, and she is being judged by a group of girls because of her behaviour. She is an outcast facing her judgement day by the pure. Religious symbolism, which because of the demeaning looks from the group shows that the judgement is neither neutral nor corrective, its scornful and self-righteous. A reflection upon the ugliness of Christianity’s darker side, in which being right is more important than following the example of Christ. Condemnation over understanding, anger over forgiveness, hatred over love. The setting is a country where religious bigotry and sectarianism are rife, Ireland? Clothing has a dated look, so representative of the past rather than the present, and the staging reminds me, of 1980’s film Kes (Kes, film. 1970).

Illustrations

Figure 1 Starkey, H; 2007; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/hannah-starkey?image=9 (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Figure 2 Starkey, H; 1999; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_august.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Feature Image Starkey, H; 2002; Untitled [c-type print]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_2002.htm (accessed on 18/06/2018)

Reference

Kes; [Film]; Prod Garnett, T; Kestral Film and Woodfall Film Productions; 111 minutes

Review – Cindy Sherman

Brief:- In preparation for Assignment Three, we need to say a few words about staged photography. In advertising and cinema you find a highly artificial, constructed form of photography. Often multiple elements are layered in a final composite. Great care is taken with the arrangement of elements to guide the interpretation of the photograph. The term mise-en-scène, simply means ‘putting in the scene’ and refers to the placement of objects in space. Imagine a totally blank, empty studio. You want to create a scene in the studio depicting a small ancient dwelling inhabited by a hermit in the Sinai desert. You’ll need a lot of light to represent the sun. You’ll need a sky backdrop and plenty of sand and sandstone to create the dwellings. You’ll also need to research and find ancient artefacts that would have been used by an ascetic person. You’ll also need a hermit (actor). This is the way a movie is made, but it’s common to advertising and art photography too and is called ‘staged’ or ‘constructed’ photography. Key practitioners are Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Jeff Wall goes to great lengths to create what sometimes appear to be ‘documentary’ street scenes that reflect a telling human situation. Cindy Sherman consciously played with the identity representations of women in movies by photographing herself in different female roles. Her later work makes use of prosthetic make-up, costume, props and sets to emphasise the ways women were represented in historic paintings. Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

Cindy Sherman (b 1954)

Untitled #98 1982 by Cindy Sherman born 1954Fig. 1. Untitled #98 (1982)

Description of visual elements

Female with short blonde wispy hair. Neck, right shoulder and upper half of right arm bare. Red corduroy shawl draped around the rest of her, her left calf is visible under the shawl. She is sitting in a manner that suggests that she is on the floor. Staring at the camera, looks sullen, unhappy with being viewed, piercing gre/blue eyes. The lighting comes through a window that is immediately in front of her. The shadow of the window frame is a prop, it covers her mouth. The background is dark but there are some visual elements over her right shoulder. I am unable to make out what they are and they include some reflective metal and a flat piece of wood.

My interpretation:- The props are the shawl, the background, which could represent a stage or movie set, and the shadow that appears across her mouth. This is symbolic and represents that women do not have a voice, they are to be shown off for the appeal of the male gaze. It doesn’t matter how talented the female actor is, she is not allowed to be there for herself, but for the male viewer. Red shawl, and the way it is drapped reflects both vulnerability and sexuality. The sex appeal is more important than the represented woman as the shawl is in front of her, and she is vulnerable to how men view her. Her eyes say that she is tired of being watched. She will continue to be there and continue to feel vulnerable. A submissive pose in which the woman has no power. The lighting is very interesting. She i sitting on the floor and yet the shadow of the window frame is apparent nearly at the foot of the photo. This suggests that the lighting is coming through a prop window frame in a studio and the angle suggests that this is in between the camera and subject.

 

Sherman, C; 2016; Untitled #571 [chromogenic colour print]; ATFig. 2. Untitled #571 (2016)

Description of visual elements

Background of a lake with trees in front and quite close to the woman on the chair. The chair is covered with a white throw with a soft, downy fabric. She is sitting in a laid back manner which also appears elegant. Wearing a full length dress which has red and cream stripes that are vertical in nature. The red striped are satin or crushed silk, the cream are jacquard. She wears a silver silk hair band with a diamante bow. there is a wisp of hair peeking out from under the head band on the left, close to where her ear would be, and also her right forehead.

She has a pearl bracelet on her right arm, which is drapped over the chair, and has four bracelets of various designs upon her left arm. In her left hand she holds the necklace that she is wearing. Her own eyes brows have been shaved off and covered with concealer and she has drawn on eye brows, drawn with a brown kohl. Her eye shadow is pink/lilac and her eye lashes are long, she wears black mascara or false lashes. She wears concealer on her forehead but the wrinkles still come through, and liquid foundation upon her face that’s covered with a light powder. This makes her skin have a smooth appearance. There is a discrepancy in colour and texture between the concealer on her forehead and the foundation upon her face. Her lipstick is a deep plum gloss, and she has a beauty spot on her right cheek, it appears to be natural.

She is very well lit and no part of her is in shadow. The lighting is soft and a diffuser has been used on both sets of lights, unseen in the image, but diagonally in front left and right. The background is slightly out of focus and has soft lighting.

My interpretation:- The African Queen, 1920’s, elegant, style, wealth, opulence, formal portrait?, film set? No – it is a formal portrait. If it were to represent a film set then she would either not be seated on the chair in that environment, or be seated on the chair in a more appropriate environment. Her clothing, confident relaxed posture and jewelry all signify her class and wealth. I can imagine Humphrey Bogart lifting her into a dirty boat and sailing down the river. A constant tension and play of power dynamics that shift between the male and female characters. Both having power in different settings, both being confident and vulnerable at times. A good relay for me between the photo and the film and a reminder that women did have a voice in the movie industry at times, the power isn’t always patriarchal and misogynistic. I particular like this photo because of the style and class, along with the nostalgic relay back to The African Queen.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Sherman, C; 1982; Untitled #98 [chromogenic colour print]; AT: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sherman-untitled-98-p77729 (accessed on 04/06/2018)

Figure 2 Sherman, C; 2016; Untitled #571 [chromogenic colour print]; AT: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/03/cindy-sherman-interview-retrospective-motivation (accessed on 04/06/2018)

Review – Jeff Wall

Brief:- In preparation for Assignment Three, we need to say a few words about staged photography. In advertising and cinema you find a highly artificial, constructed form of photography. Often multiple elements are layered in a final composite. Great care is taken with the arrangement of elements to guide the interpretation of the photograph. The term mise-en-scène, simply means ‘putting in the scene’ and refers to the placement of objects in space. Imagine a totally blank, empty studio. You want to create a scene in the studio depicting a small ancient dwelling inhabited by a hermit in the Sinai desert. You’ll need a lot of light to represent the sun. You’ll need a sky backdrop and plenty of sand and sandstone to create the dwellings. You’ll also need to research and find ancient artefacts that would have been used by an ascetic person. You’ll also need a hermit (actor). This is the way a movie is made, but it’s common to advertising and art photography too and is called ‘staged’ or ‘constructed’ photography. Key practitioners are Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman. Jeff Wall goes to great lengths to create what sometimes appear to be ‘documentary’ street scenes that reflect a telling human situation. Cindy Sherman consciously played with the identity representations of women in movies by photographing herself in different female roles. Her later work makes use of prosthetic make-up, costume, props and sets to emphasise the ways women were represented in historic paintings. Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

Jeff Wall (b 1946)

Wall,-J;-1984;-Milk;-ATFig. 1. Milk (1984)

Description of visual elements

Window with stairwell inside, bricks which make a wall, green bush. pavement sloping to the left, light from upper left of the screen, shadow cast where brickwork juts out from the main wall, the photo frame is slightly smaller than the man if he were to be standing, man sitting on floor, no socks, shoe has no laces, looks dejected, sitting slightly hunched with one knee bent under, body leaning into second knee which is upright, forearm rest on knee milk is moving out from a carton to the mans left, spilt milk flying through the air, leather jacket, hair looks greasy but tidy, shadow cast over most of his face so that his expression is not easily seen, clothes look in good condition as do the shoes, one sleeve is rolled up and hand on that arm is in a fist.

My interpretation:- There are two visual discrepancies that highlight that this is a staged photo – the tidiness of the crop and the condition of the clothes and the shoes. These are just too crisp.

The staging suggests that the man is homeless and is sitting in a good, relatively affluent area. The partial view of the building on the left of the image, with the bush outside hints at the area being an office based area rather than commercial or retail. The building becomes a prop, as does the very clean wall behind the man on the floor. The lighting has been used to hide his face so that his expression is hard to read, and the mans greasy hair is also a prop, it’s used to create a narrative. It’s meant to do so in conjunction with the mans clothing (which doesn’t work for me), and the uncovered arm, with the hand clenched into the fist is building upon the narrative to show that he is angry. The flying milk may suggest that the guy is angry at having his photo taken and has shaken his arm in protest. Maybe he will get up and attack the photographer, or it could be that the fist and the sudden jerk of the hand, which has led to the milk being spilled, are a warning of aggression which is relaying “stay the fuck away from me”.

 

Wall, J; 2015; Listener; ATFig. 2. Listener (2015)

Description of visual elements

Six men surround a man who is kneeling on the floor, one is in full frame and is leaning over the man, dominating him with his height, very close crop with little background, other than the top left of the corner, where there is a quarter circle shaped blue wall. There are six men around the edge of the frame, only partially visible. Despite being on the edge of the frame they are in very close proximity with the guy on the floor. They are wearing  jeans, t-shirt, trackies and one is wearing chinos, the guy on the floor is wearing brown trousers and no top. The ground is barren, dry, dusty, and the guy on the floor has bits of straw on his trousers. He is wearing sandals and the others are wearing plimsoles, trainers and workman’s boots. The man on the lower left of the photo is looking towards the camera, his arms are folded over his chest. The other guys have their arms and hands in quite open and relaxed manner. The sun is almost directly overhead and the shadows are short.

My interpretation:- There is an air of menace and aggression in this scene. The guy on the floor is being towered over, dominated by the man next to him, oppressed by the overhead heat, and surrounded by the other men in a very close space. The straw on his trousers says that he has been on the floor in other positions and he may have tried to crawl away from his assailants at some point. He is being shouted at or spoken to very aggressively, although the man to his right doesn’t have closed fists. The open relaxed posture of the other men is a relay which says that they are relaxed and comfortable with violence. This relay keeps the oppressive aggression within the frame. The context of a dry barren wasteland is the stage that says the guy has been taken to this place so that the confrontation cannot be stopped by others, there is a purpose and intent to the confrontation. Is the guy going to be assaulted? is he going to be left there? Is he going to be killed? I don’t think he is going to be killed. The close proximity of the camera, which is being allowed to photograph, tells me that this assault is a warning to others not to cross this gang. That they know the guy on the floor will not be reporting the assualt. The man on the floor looks uncomfortable but I also think that he looks very relaxed, he doesn’t look afraid, and this is a visual discrepancy to me. The clothing of the men looks clean and relatively new. They are involved in some form of organised crime which gives them a good income, but they remain dressed in the manner of their peers, in their neighbourhood. They operate in the area that they live and probably grew up. Small time organised crime.

 

I find myself left with the impression that it is very difficult to show emotion in staged photography, and even with people as skilled as Wall there are visual discrepencies which can be noticed.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Wall, J; 1984; Milk [Silver dye bleach transparency; aluminum light box]; AT: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/picture-galleries/2010/march/30/the-world-of-jeff-wall/ (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Figure 2 Wall, J; 2015; Listener [inkjet print]; AT https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Review – Ray’s A Laugh

Brief:- Photography is often used as a tool to document the specificity of visual appearances. We’re all familiar with this use in passport photography, anthropological photography and crime photography. There’s no pretence at aesthetic quality: the photographer points the camera at the subject and tries to take a neutral ‘visual document’ which stands as visual evidence for what it represents. This mode of making pictures can be useful to all photographers as a means to research their subject. Whether this results in ‘finished’ pictures or not doesn’t really matter; it’s a means to gain visual knowledge. Take a look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh – a collection of family portraits originally taken as visual research for a painting project. It’s important to make a distinction here between what we can know through experience and verbal language and what is specifically visual. Thoughts aren’t visual and neither are emotions, although you can photograph the physical manifestations of these. Political ideologies aren’t visual but you can photograph people and events that illustrate them.

Billingham, R; 1984; Untitled (RAL 6) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; ATFig. 1. Untitled RAL 6 (1995)

1Fig. 2. Untitled R (c1995)

Initial thoughts:- Family life, snap shots, nothing significant, photo’s that anyone can take of their family. Documents of lower class, family life that is stricken by poverty and social exclusion. Taken by a family member with a resentment to the lifestyle that they have been brought up with? Desolation, unhappiness, drunkenness, degradation. Ray appears significantly underweight, possibly brought about by alcoholism/alcohol dependence. He struggles to eat properly, despite the full plate of food its unlikely that he will finish it, he’s drunkenly falling to sleep and his dinner will soon be spilled upon him. Liz, probably drinks but is not dependant, her addiction and way of coping with her emotions and the struggle of a life of exclusion and poverty is via food. Hopelessness, despair, life is hard. Irony – Ray most certainly does not appear to be a laugh.

Now this is where photography becomes interesting. Billingham took these photos as research for a project, and from the brief there is an assumption that these are a record of ‘what is’, apparently neutral, dispassionate and a visual record. My reading of the photos is entirely the opposite and is cognitive, emotional, symbolic and has a reading of the families circumstance and lifestyle that is based upon my perspective. This is of note because it suggests that if I am taking test photos, or making photography for my own visual research then the viewer may have a response that I was not even exploring, Maybe.

However, I argue that it is impossible to record a subject that you are emotionally involved with from a neutral perspective. If I had have walked into the family home and taken the exact same photos at the exact same moment, would my distance from Ray and Liz reduce the emotional impact upon the viewer? From my own photography I believe so. When I presented assignment one to my tutor, she picked up my discomfort and lack of emotion in two of the photos, both were photo’s that I didn’t feel a connection with the subject.

In my opinion Billingham was exploring his emotions through his visual research. If we are honest here the research was done for a painting, the painting was not going to be neutral, it was meant to be expressive and have an impact, and this is what was being photographed, the emotions that Billingham felt about his parents.

Illustrations

Figure 1 Billingham, R; 1995; Untitled (RAL 6) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; AT: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/richard_billingham.htm (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Figure 2 Billingham, R; 1995; Untitled (R [Fuji long-life print on aluminium]; AT: https://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/05/richard-billingham-rays-a-laugh.html (accessed on 03/06/2018)

Feature Image Billingham, R; c1995; Untitled (RAL) [Fuji long-life print on aluminium];  https://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/05/richard-billingham-rays-a-laugh.html (accessed on 03/06/2018)