In this exercise I am to look at two images and compare what I can see to a ground level landscape, a map or Google Earth and make some brief notes.
This image is ‘The Cheshire Plain from Beeston Castle’ by Derek Trillo.
This style of image gives a better overview of the environs but no real detail. We cannot tell the height of the objects in the frame or much about the topography of the landscape. Very little human interaction with the landscape can be displayed.
The above link leads to an image of Beeston Castle via the Google Earth satellite. The landscape is completely flat, there is no indication at all of ground features or topography. Terrain types can be guessed at such as fields and woods etc. No human interaction with the landscape can be displayed.
The above image is of Beeston Castle using Google street view. This gives a good indication of the conditions of the immediate area. Some topography is apparent, basic details of the scenery can be seen. This method fails to show overall size of the site, its relation to its environment. It is more likely to be the method used in order to display humans interacting with the site.
When looking at a city there are the opposite problems. It is far easier to show human interaction with the environment than to show the site itself. Particular buildings come to represent an entire town or city because the entire place itself cannot be displayed together in any great detail. A birds eye view of a town would show the entire place but o detail. There would be no way to differentiate between the heights of buildings and the topography that might have affected building choices. A ground level street view is highly limited in what it can display to the viewer. A city scape from a raised elevation is the best way to present a city, it can provide some depth, some detail, and a bit more of a sense of place.
I was then directed to look at the image ‘Agecroft Power Station, Salford’ by John Davies and to make some notes.
The photo being taken from th elevated position gives the image a sense of depth. The juxtaposition of the chimmneys next to the power lines and football match certainly gives a sense of scale!
Taking this shot from ground level would have reduced the sense of grandeur that the chimneys have. It would also have reduced the amount of detail in the image such as the car park in the foreground or the hills in the distance.
Taking the image from closer to the tower would potentially have reduced the available context, as the image is, we can see the tower receding back towards the horizon.
Seeing the football match being played immeadiatley drew me back to the work of Mitch Epstein in American Power.
The above image illustrates exactly what it would look like to take such a shot from nearer ground level. The grandeur of the chimneys is lost as the focus of the viewer is transferred to the foreground interest.
Initially I thought that potentially this change o focus might be because of the vivid colour of the football shirts. To test this I dropped the saturation from Epstiens image and found that the focus it still on the foreground. A slightly elevated viewpoint definetley gives for greater drama!
In this exercise I am to look at the work of Robert Adams and Fay Godwin, note down my responses to them and discuss whether or not this research will influence my own choice of subject in future.
I first looked at the work of Mitch Epstien in American Power. The juxtaposition of elements representing lush countryside and the industrial applications that humans use to damage the planet are easy to see and understand.
The images which clearly show the pollution or steam billowing up from big chimneys into the sky whilst people are engaged in healthy activities around them, raises the question of what the human race is doing to itself as well as the planet.
I fully understand the point that Epstien is making and agree completely. This is not a topic I would choose to explore myself because its all just a little bit depressing. It is a subject that people know needs addressing but they won’t whilst money is still the key factor.
I then looked at the work of Fay Godwin.
Initially I looked at her work ‘Forbidden Land’. The focus here is very much on the idea that people are attempting to restrict access to large areas of natural countryside. There is a focus on the act of fencing off, or privatising the space as opposd to the space itself.
In this image the sign with the word Private is made to look almost ridiculous by its size, dwarfed in comparison to the surrounding landscape.
In this image there is a long list of forbidden actions, again displayed on a piece of wood which is dwarfed by the beauty of nature. Who are people to say that you cannot have access to the natural world? In this case walkers on footpaths are still permitted but I have seen plenty where they have had their access denied by landowners with physical obstacles.
I then looked at her later work imagining that it would be the same sort of thing. Instead I found that she seems to have focused on the drama of the English landscape, it’s beauty and complexity as opposed to its relationship with man made structures. There are several images that include man made elements but they seem to support the landscape rather than detract from it. In the image below, though the house is the only man made object within the frame, it does not steal the attention of the viewer. The focus is still on the sky and the wild grasses in the foreground. The house aids with depth in the image whilst not becoming the focus.
In this image the beauty of the natural landscape beyond is artificially fenced off from the viewer with the concrete bollards. They seem almost unreal in contrast with the stunning colors of the autumnal landscape beyond. The lone animal foraging through the leaves is a point of focus for the eye to travel to on its journey around the frame.
The bollard somehow makes the scene beyond almost unreachable by the viewer, as though we are trapped behind an invisible wall, unable to escape from the urban zone into the countryside beyond.
In this exercise I have to review some of my holiday photos and analyse them. These are some pictures from a trip to Naples.
I took this picture because whilst in Italy I get a bit obsessed by nuns and monks. This guy entertained me immensely because whilst walking past this bin he spotted something he wanted and ended up up to his shoulder in it fishing something out. Not something that I expected to see!
My main focus on this image was just trying to get a shot of a monk in focus. They may not look it but monks and nuns are nippy movers! I had many blurred images from previous attempts by this point so I took my chance when this guy paused by the bin. It was after this that I realised what he was doing and stopped to watch. Some things i life are just too interesting to watch via a lens or screen!
I took this picture of the market street to illustrate how the Neapolitans local shopping areas work. Stalls and tiny shops are jammed together that create quite an interesting sight as you wander down the road.
My main focus on this image was the composition. I wanted to capture the length of the street, the height of the buildings, the detail in the foreground products. Because of the variable light readings I remember using the couple walking down the road as my focus point. It worked quite well because the ladies red jacket draws in teh eye of the viewer down the market road.
Predominantly fruit and veg was sold locally in shops like this. The narrowest of streets could harbour a greengrocers, a fishmongers, anything!
My main focus on this image was to try and get in as much as possible. I was in some incredibly narrow backstreets and had my back to the opposite wall taking this. I wanted to try and include the whole range of food and the milk crates which formed the basis of the display.
I took this picture at Pompeii purely because it is so reminiscent of the photos that Ive seen in books about that era, the traditional crumbly pillars.
In this image I considered the viewpoint more than anything else. I wanted to be lower than the pillars and to have them take up the majority of the image. If I were to take it again I would crop out the two bits of pillar on the leftmost side.
All of these images were ones that I chose to take so for me, seeing them again returns me straight to the scene. I think images 2 and 3 would be the most effective were I to show a third party. They have a sense of the local place and atmosphere. People are not required to provide this, though in some images they can enhance it such as in the images below…
I find Italian balconies fascinating. Mostly the townspeople live in flats so the balconies represent their entire outside space. What some people choose to do with their balconies is wonderful, there are verdant jungles, outside furniture, a lot of washing lines and also a lot of neighbors having a chat. This interest initially sprang from watching the film Rear Window in college, the idea that so many different lives are going on in such close proximity is interesting to me (and I’m a bit nosy). Well, I spotted these four from my hotel bedroom window, I know for a fact that a lot of people don’t understand why I’d want to take these images (I confuse my friends a lot), but they are two of my favourites!
Do I think it devalues the final image if little or no thought has gone into the photography?
No. An image is an image. I can put a great deal of thought and consideration into an image for it to turn out dreadfully. If, however, I take 50 shots of the same thing and one of them speaks to me in a way the others don’t, the rest will never see the light of day again but that one image will be retained.
I don’t think mobile phones and iPads are a blight on photography at all. It has made it more accessible to people who are interested. Not everyone can afford a camera but almost everybody has a mobile phone now. Great photos can be taken on mobile phones. The only blight on photography since the digital revolution is that people take great pictures which never see the light of day. They sit on clouds or in memory cards when they should be in frames and on the wall!
In this exercise I am to look at two different images of a scene provided to me in the course manual and make some notes on the differences between the two.
The scene is of a town surrounded by countryside.
The first image of the town is a wide angle shot. In the foreground is a closed gate, behind it a field, and beyond that a town. The inclusion of the gate gives a sense of perspective to the image, and scale. The viewer can see the town but also, the far side of it, and the hills beyond. The viewer can take a proper gauge of the location of the town and the kind of environment that it is situated within.
The second image is of the same town but through a telephoto zoom lens. The majority of the fore/middle ground is covered by buildings, in the far distance is a patch of hillside and then just sky. With this second image there is no real sense of place, just large amounts of people. This image feels more accessible because there is no physical obstruction to the viewer (the gate in the first image), but there is also nowhere to travel. The viewer can delve into the detail of the image and explore the different dwellings and roadways, yet cannot escape the town itself.
Initially I am to look of photos of Whitby by Ian Berry and consider how the lack of people would affect my sense of the place.
Having examined this photographic study by Berry I can say that without the people in the images the place would look stark and barren. They are what gives the location life and character, people are important to images of locations.
I am then shown the image of ‘Cathedral’, Box Freestone Quarry, Wiltshire 2008 by Jesse Alexander and instructed to make some notes on it.
To me, it looks like a hole in the ground. It looks as though a shaft of light is coming in from the surface and lighting up the ground below. The image in the course manual is black and white and not the clearest so I will now go online to discover what it actually is.
In this exercise I am to reflect on the role of photography in the work I have just looked at.
For me a photograph of an artwork is just a record. It does not become the artwork because it is not the subject, it is an image of the subject. Prime examples of this are the wayside sculptures by Richard Long.
A photograph becomes an artwork when it is only with this medium that you can capture the elements of a moment. For example, in the photo study ‘Sleeping by the Mississipi’ there is an image of a man called Charles Vasa who mends model planes. The photograph of that man, in that place with those objects can only be captured with a camera. That is when a photograph becomes the thing as opposed to being of the thing.
I could only listen to half of this curators talk on the subject of Richard Longs work. I could only do half because enduring listening to the highbrow philosophical activities that some people class as art was making me wish I could headbutt a wall. I guess art is always intended to provoke a reaction, mine is that of aggravation.
In my opinion – Walking is not art. Picking up a stone, throwing it, following it, and repeating this process around ‘a mountain’ does not make you an artist, it makes you a colossal tit. As for cutting a circle in your neighbours lawn and giving it a title?! This was ‘created’ in the 60’s so I can only assume that he was absolutely off his face on some kind of hallucinogenic. Obviously the art world recognises this as some kind of higher thinking otherwise the Tate wouldn’t have brought the photograph. Part One of this module made me fully aware that I think Contemporary Art is absolute twaddle, listening to this lecture just confirmed it.
I’m hoping the point of listening to this lecture is to introduce the point about using photography to record these exhibits and whether this photograph then becomes an artwork in itself. I would say no, it is a record of the artwork because it is a picture of a ‘thing’. When a photograph becomes an artwork is when that image records something in its raw state, something which requires the medium of photography to allow it to take form.
In an effort to try and make this vaguely more level headed I can only refer back to my initial definition of what art is from back in Part 1.
What is art? – In my opinion, art in general is anything which draws you in, absorbs you, makes you want to keep studying it. For example the beauty in a sunset is a sensation of nature, the photograph or painting which can capture that sight, that is art.
After much consideration, even with my newly broadened horizons post-Part 1, I cannot say that Richard Long passes my own art definition, but I’m sure he’s idolised by many many other people!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other examples of photography documenting a journey through time/space
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this exercise I am to flick through a photo album and pick out any photos that I consider to be artistic. I am to note down what it is about these images that makes them more like artworks than some of the others.
For me what differentiates a photograph from an ‘arty’ photograph is the manner in which it has been taken. For example, a plain fact recording image of Pevensey Castle would be a plain, level, equally lit bland image. An artistic photograph of the Castle could have dramatic lighting and stunning composition or it might use some parlour trick to display the image in a way which provokes interest. An image of a glass of wine has the potential to be very plain, but be imaginative with the contents, tilt that image on an angle and reverse the polarity of the picture and you have something very different.
Here is an image of Pevensey Castle taken from a record on Wikipedia to compare to one I took myself.
This is an image that I took of Pevensey Castle years ago. I used a fish-eye lens on a tripod, produced a panoramic landscape initially and then morphed them into a globe using Adobe Photoshop. My initial landscape was well lit, it was a beautiful day, but distorting the image gives it interest which a standard depiction of the Castle (though beautiful) does not have. Using Photoshop trickery is one method in which a photograph can be considered artistic.
2. Glass of Wine
Glass of wine as an illustration for an alcohol merchant in comparison to my own depiction.
This is an image of a wine glass which again I took some years ago. I used a white background and taped a wine glass to a piece of wood and then raised one end of the plank on a pile of books. I partially filled the glass with water and let droplets of ink fall into it. Using Adobe Photoshop I turned the photograph into a negative which produced the fire effect, I also straightened the glass again artificially to give the irregular angle.
I would consider this to be getting closer to a traditional arty photograph. It is a depiction of an object in an irregular way but with less artificial interference.
3. Bluebell Wood
A bloggers image of Bluebell Wood vs my own.
This is an image that I took in Bluebell Wood in East Sussex. This is a traditional scene variations on which cove all kinds of available merchandise in that locations gift shop! I think my version of this scene is arty because of the framing and the light. I composed it so that the viewers eye is drawn through the image, over the log and into the trees. The sun highlights the log in the foreground and though this screen resolution may not show it, the nearest bluebells are the point of focus. The shadows on the left stop the viewers eye leaving the frame in that direction, the green fronds on the right serve to point the viewer back into the center. With no obvious human interference and use of the scenes components to make the image visually appealing, this is what I would class as an arty picture.
4. Rapeseed Field
I have one further example of what I consider to be an arty photograph. This is the most basic example that I could find to hand. Initially there is an image of a rapeseed field from The Telegraph newspaper, this is followed by one of my own of a rapeseed field in Oxfordshire. The fields contain several pathways on which the seed does not grow. I used the pathway and applied the rule of thirds to create a striking rendition of the scene focusing on the colour, composition and viewpoint. It’s very basic but I think that it works, I would class this as an arty picture.