Part 4. Project 2. Research Point: Documenting Journeys

In this exercise I am to go online and find out more about three bodies of work; Paul Graham – A1 Project, Stephen Shore – American Surfaces, Alec Sloth – Sleeping by the Mississippi, Robert Franks – The Americans.

I am then to find some other examples of photography documenting a journey through time/space.

Paul Graham – A1 Project

In the early 1980’s Graham was a photographer who was one of the first to use colour in conjunction with documentary. In 1981/1982 he created a series of photographs of different scenes from along the length of the A1 motorway. They are a dreary set of images which feature grey skies, urban sprawl, random dining facilities and occasional people. It seems that this photo book is now a collectors item and is valued at £250, staggering. I read repeatedly that this use of colour by Graham with this and subsequent projects led to the evolution of a new school of British Photography which featured the work of work of Richard Billingham, Tom Wood, Paul Seawright, and Anna Fox amongst others.  

We-english.co.uk. (2019). We English » Blog Archive » A1- THE GREAT NORTH ROAD. [online] Available at: http://we-english.co.uk/blog/2008/09/07/a1-the-great-north-road/ [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Possibly inspired by a similar trip undertaken by Robert Franks (it is mentioned within a BBC article) Graham uses a combination of close up images and standing further back from a scene. It became clear through research that he started to take a more ‘step-back’ approach to scene photography during his time in Northern Ireland documenting the troubles and their interaction with the landscape. I think he used this approach where possible in highlighting different locations or characters within his A1 journey.

Ft.com. (2019). ‘Great North Road Garage, Edinburgh, November 1981’ by Paul Graham | Financial Times. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/d3b31b9c-5a50-11e2-bc93-00144feab49a [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

In other cases he used the new power of his chosen medium, colour, to highlight details that might otherwise have gone overlooked. This can be seen in the close up of the green interior with the red and white hanging signs.

Paulgrahamarchive.com. (2019). Paul Graham Archive. [online] Available at: https://paulgrahamarchive.com/introduction.html [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Photobookclub.org. (2019). Paul Graham’s ‘A1: The Great North Road’, A Summary. [online] Available at: http://photobookclub.org/2012/06/08/paul-grahams-a1-the-great-north-road-a-summary/ [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

BBC News. (2019). Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-13133461 [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Stephen Shore – American Surfaces

American Surfaces is a 312 image collection made by Photographer Stephen Shore during a road trip across America in 1972/3.

The collection can be displayed as smaller groups on different subjects such as informal portraits, photographs of urban streets, domestic objects, meals and street signs or displayed together en masse.

Shore spent time at Andy Warhols factory in the 1960’s and ever since, his work has been closely linked to conceptualism, according to an article on the Tates website. When he originally displayed these images they were mounted onto the sae surface in a giant grid using sticky back tape. The article talks about how this represented a key moment int he history of photography. I think that this approach to displaying the images makes sense, it is said that Shore said he wanted to photograph ‘everyone and everything’. How are the images from that to be presented in a way which gives all things and people equality unless like this? To do so would otherwise require a hierarchy of images to be made, but what is important to one viewer will not be important to another. This was not the first time that Shore had exhibited work in a grid format, in a Guardian article I read a description of a work of 32 images in which he had photographed a car abandoned in the desert from a variety of distances. Whist taken in black and white as it was early on in his career it was displayed in a grid in rows of four.

American surfaces is not the only style of roadtrip or documenting of time that he has undertaken. In Amarillo Texas he shot his travelling companion Doug Marsh every half hour for a regular day. These too were displayed as a grid.

Peneloped.com. (2019). [online] Available at: http://peneloped.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/IMG_0141.jpg [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Tate. (2019). ‘New York, New York, March 1972’, Stephen Shore, 1972, printed 2005 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/shore-new-york-new-york-march-1972-p81296 [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

O’Hagan, S. (2019). Shady character: how Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Momaps1.org. (2019). MoMA PS1: Exhibitions: Stephen Shore: American Surfaces. [online] Available at: https://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/93 [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Alec Sloth – Sleeping by the Mississippi

Alec Sloth was close to giving up on ever being an artist in his early 20s whilst working as a photo lab technician. He spent a month living with his mother in law assisting with her end of life care before finding the freedom to start driving with his camera. He traveled along the Mississippi over 5 years meeting people and taking photographs which as it turned out, were nothing like what he had originally intended. The Magnum website article states that he began with a list of keywords he was interested in taped to his steering wheel but would often find that the things he was drawn to take pictures of did not correspond to this list. What resulted is a series of 46 interesting images.

Interestingly as he took peoples photographs he would also ask them to write down their dreams. These range from a man living surrounded by snow who dreamt of running water to a prostitute who dreams of becoming a nurse. Seeing peoples environments that they inhabit and knowing what they are inspired by is an intriguing combination, it gives more depth to an image, more of an insight into that person.

Of the three artists that I have looked at so far in this research exercise, this is the one whose photographs I have found the most interesting. The portraits of people contain some kind of visual clue or interest, or even the use of colour is so stunning as to make them just interesting to look at. With the people-free scenes that Soth has photographed, he has again chosen interesting arrangements of objects, or good colour juxtapositions or just plain old interesting things to look at. The British Journal of Photography website article states that he sometimes would rearrange these scenes to make them more appealing, though the artist himself regrets the extent to which he did this I think that it is probably the source of the continued strength of the images through the book.

Magnum Photos. (2019). Sleeping By The Mississippi • Alec Soth • Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/alec-soth-sleeping-by-the-mississippi/ [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Alecsoth.com. (2019). Alec Soth | Sleeping by the Mississippi. [online] Available at: https://alecsoth.com/photography/projects/sleeping-by-the-mississippi [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

British Journal of Photography. (2019). Alec Soth is Sleeping by the Mississippi. [online] Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2017/11/alec-soth-mississippi/ [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Robert Franks – The Americans

In the early 1950’s Robert Frank drove across America with the intention of photographing it. He took approximately 27,000 images which he then had to whittle down to 83.

Despite having had photographs published by Life magasine they had repeatedly turned down his photo stories, this was something he was determined to accomplish so he set out to achieve it himself but on a very different tack. The article that I read on artsy.net says that ‘On a technical level, he brazenly tossed out an adherence to traditional ideas of composition, framing, focus, and exposure ‘. This is something that I have seen several times now and still do not understand. A lot of widely revered photographers seem to produce work which contains images that are out of focus or badly framed or of nothing inparticular. Every instinct that remains from learning photography at college screams to me that these are bad pictures and should be launched into the bin immeadiatley. Somehow, in a way which I do not understand, these images in the hands of experts are allegedly actually something good. I will have to take the experts word for it because I just don’t see how.

What Franks wanted to create was a study of actual America, not the airbrushed version of it presented by traditional magasines such as Life. He wanted the warts and all aspects, the bits with character.

YouTube. (2019). Robert Frank on photographing The Americans. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kMwnmrL5FM [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

In this video Franks talks about how he travelled and would hunt for photographs. He says that the camera must always be ready to shoot, because if it isnt then there are some great oppourtunities lost.

Indrisek, S. (2019). How Robert Frank’s “The Americans” Broke the Rules of Photography. [online] Artsy. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-robert-franks-the-americans-matters-today [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

LensCulture, R. (2019). The Americans – Photographs by Robert Frank | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-frank-the-americans [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Other examples of photography documenting a journey through time/space

  1. Work: My first example is possibly a little different to what the course manual is asking for….

One of my previous (and most favourite) jobs was on 2(AC) Squadron which flew Tornado jets. We took our regular turn in Op Herrick (Afghanistan) kinetically delivering Air Power to the enemy. Whilst there, a friend of mine called ‘Fatal’ used to make videos using a combination of video footage and still photographs. Having watched them back for the first time in years I can confirm that they absolutley capture a window of time.

The first example below is more video footage than still images. It gives a real taste of the essence of the mission of that time. In particular, the first sound that you hear on the video is the rocket alarm. On hearing this sound we all had to throw ourselves on the floor to try and avoid being struck by weaponry/debris launched at us by the Taliban. Reacting to this noise becomes subconscious, within days if you hear just the first note of the alarm you wold find yourself on the floor without making the conscious decision. Hearing it again took me straight back to 2010.

YouTube. (2019). HERRICK 2010. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qoae8YqiAI [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

This second example from Fatal is a lot heavier on the use of photographic still images. Mostly the video parts are chosen for their comedy value, the movie ‘Anchorman’ was in vogue at the time, and help to locate the video in history as approximately 2010. The video covers the Squadrons experiences over a 4/5 month period.

YouTube. (2019). Copy of Afghan the movie HD copy. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA92So_t6iI [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

More traditional examples of Photography documenting a journey through time and space…..

2: Holiday Blog

The Journey through India through photos as displayed on the blog Earth Trekkers is a more traditional depiction of a journey. It features images of the subjects during travel, sights that they saw, locals and isolated items of interest such as meals. There are both scene setting images and intimate portraits, colour and black and white. All of the images are framed and taken in a way that presents as artistic as opposed to traditional ‘holiday snaps’.

This blog shows the journey of the subjects through India.

Malinosky-Rummell, R. and Patil, J. (2019). A Journey through India in Photos. [online] Earth Trekkers. Available at: https://www.earthtrekkers.com/journey-through-india-in-photos/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

3: Time Lapse Photography

timelapse photography tips
PictureCorrect. (2019). Timelapse Photography: Tips & Tricks to Manipulate Time. [online] Available at: https://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/timelapse-photography-new-tips-tricks-to-manipulate-time/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

Time lapse photography is a way of showing the passing of time. It is often carried out with star trails but other objects such as the moon can also be used. This image shows the journey of the moon over the course of several hours.

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