Assignment 5 Rework: Research

Beautiful and Sublime:

The difference between the beautiful and the sublime is explained in this animated video:

Edmund Burke on the Sublime, BBC Radio 4

 

Beautiful is being pleasing to the senses, a view that is already known and seen like those presented in brochures, postcards or travel guides while Sublime evokes ideas, art and experience that are overwhelming.  It is similar to a black spot that represents a warning.  A spot with a set of characteristics such as a threatening place, fearful or broken bridges or overhanging trees.  Something that is far from calm and overwhelms you with fear that causes pain and danger.

 

The Pond by John Gossage:

The Pond is a troubled narrative landscape book by John Gossage that represents photographs taken around a pond in a messy wooded area at the edge of a city.  It contains black and white photographs that tell a story about a walk that begins near a pond and continues where you cannot go back.

 

Exhibition Talk:  A Conversation with Photographer John Gossage
Smithsonian American Art Museum (2012)

 

Terra Incognita by Andrea C Morley:

Andrea is a London based photographic artist.  Her work is an experimentation and an exploration of the interaction between physical and psychic geography through beautiful emotional expression.  She combines poetic metaphor and abstract description to create landscape art.

 


 

Bibliography / References:

Boxer, S. (2010).  Art review: John Gossage’s ‘The Pond’ at Smithsonian American Art Museum  [online]. The Washington Post. Available from:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090305544.html  [Accessed 11 November, 2017].

LensCulture (2017).  Andrea C Morley   [online].  LensCulture.  Available from: https://www.lensculture.com/andrea-morley [Accessed 11 November, 2017].

Righthand, J. (2010).  Photographer John Gossage Reflects on “The Pond”  [online]. Smithsonian.com.  Available from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/photographer-john-gossage-reflects-on-the-pond-459091/  [Accessed 11 November, 2017].

 

 

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Reflection on A Documentary Video

Yesterday I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Abstract:  The Art of Design”.  I watched the inspiring episode about a Greek photographer called “Platon Antoniou” whom his family came to England as immigrants.  He explained that one afternoon he was jumped by a guy who beat him so hard that he fractured his cheekbone and eye socket and got his ribs busted.  At the hospital he was screaming out of despair and pain: “Why me??” And an old lady next door said:  “Why not you? What’s special about you?”.

After that he started to harness the experience that happened to him and that made him empathize with people who are hurt.  This opened a new door for him.  He then worked at George Magazine which was a huge thing for him but when John Kennedy died tragically; he felt the door was slammed at his face and he went back “home” to Greece and expressed himself around people of his own home.

Platon went back to New York and the New Yorker heard about his Greek photographs so they took him as a photographer where he did large photo essays such as for the Military, about Burma people, undocumented immigrant and Bakavu in Congo.  Platon focused on horrible situations in the world.  He got people’s stories and brought them to life.

It is the experience he went through as an immigrant and being beaten is what taught him to be affectionate towards others with similar situations.  It is what helped him produce photographs that when you look at them; you can read everything from the subject’s eyes.  He learnt how to listen to his subjects and empathize with them to get their stories and then show them to the world.  He became a bridge builder.

It is also the journeys he took to other countries is what made his photographs so inspiring but it is not till he returned to his home to explore it like something new to him.  We always leave home to explore thinking journeys in a new country will result with better pictures than at where we are but sometimes the best photographs are created at home that shows our own identity and reflects our own personality.

Platon also talked about observing, something I learnt from the French writer Georges Perec in his book “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris“, the way he explained it is very interesting:

“When you are still and sitting, your powers of observation go through the roof.  If someone walks by, it’s a massive event, you start noticing that the lady’s stockings have got a tear, that the bag they’re carrying maybe has nothing in it.  You tap into the human condition.  That’s a very powerful thing.  And it’s those amazing details of humanity that you start to understand”. —  Platon

Here are some of his powerful photographs:

Reflection point: Places and spaces (P. 106)

How often do you see people walking and reading their texts or on the train and reading their tablet rather than enjoying the view? What are we missing when we do that?

 

American naturalist and essayist “John Burroughs” said:  “To learn something new, take the path you took yesterday”.

We usually miss the value of “seeing” the familiar while trying to search for something new and inspiring.  When revisiting a familiar object such as a tree for example, we are able to “see” it in a different way, we will be able to notice its color variations, the shape of the leaves and so on.  We have to look at everything with new eyes.  Going on journeys or taking the same walk we take everyday; will make us discover new things, things that we did not notice before because we stopped looking at everything with curious eyes like when we used to be kids and we stopped noticing the wonderful world around us because we got used to it or because we are busy staring at our phones or texting or using the technology it offer us.  We are missing out the beautiful world around us and the discover of exciting things to Photograph.  We are missing what is extraordinary in the ordinary things around us.  We have to practice “seeing” more and seeing beyond the subject too.

While reading the book “Extraordinary everyday photography”, the author talked about a method called “Miksang” which is Tibetan for “good eye”.  Miksang is a form of contemplative photography that asks us to see our world in a new uncluttered way so we can be able to express what we see with our camera simply and precisely and produce an image that expresses what our eyes see and what our hearts feel.

We have to see the world without any clutter and without any of our ideas and opinions or value, dislike, pleasure, disinterest etc.  We should learn how to mediate and see the world as it is.

 


Bibliography / References:

Manwaring , J., Tharp, B. 92012).  Extraordinary Everyday Photography.  New York: Amphoto Books.

The Miksang Institute.  What is Miksang?. [online].  Available from: https://www.miksang.com/miksang/   [Accessed 20 June, 2017].

 

 

 

Reflection point: William Eggleston

In Project 1 Absence and signs of life, we are asked to reflect upon the following in relation to William Eggleston photographs:

  • Where does that leave the photographer? As storyteller or history writer?
  • Do you tend towards fact or fiction?
  • How could you blend your approach?
  • Where is your departure from wanting/needing to depict reality? Make some notes on these questions in your learning log.

William Eggleston Found his subjects in his homeland, the American South.  Unlike Walker Evans he did not seek a story, his subjects were everyday ordinary matters, objects that we might come across and not acknowledge because to us they are most often nothing.  However, to Eggleston photographing the ugly and the ordinary is his thing.  Looking at Eggleston’s photographs, we acknowledge the playing off of colours against shadows and the angle of view at the beginning then we go into the narrative behind them where the imagination starts to flourish.

Eggleston’s photographs are mysterious and hinting at darker narratives.  Although he had no desire to go out and document anything; he had captured the old weird America of the rural south through his lens by photographing the ordinary which in my opinion makes him both a storyteller and a history writer.

Looking through my photographs; I tend towards both fact and fiction.  With fact, I reflect what I see when representing family pictures or travel and holiday shots.  While with fiction I tend to create fictional stories and create photographs that represent them or create photographs using digital manipulation.  However, sometimes the fictional stories are based on real stories or they are used as a metaphor where the viewer imagines the story and makes connections and creates personal versions of it which is the way I blend fact with fiction.

Photography to me is a representation of what I feel modified with imagination to create art that tells a story.  It might manipulates versions of reality to reveal truths.  How true and false depends on our perception on how we judge reality.  We create our own versions in the photographs and express our own beliefs and the viewers will always have their own point of view.


Bibliography / References:

Glover, M. (2013).  Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the World’s Greatest Photographer  [online].  Independent. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/genius-in-colour-why-william-eggleston-is-the-world-s-greatest-photographer-8577202.html [Accessed 15 June, 2017].

Lázár, E. Visual Storytelling in the Photographic Works of Cooper & Gorfer  [online].  Anti-utopias. Available from: https://anti-utopias.com/editorial/visual-storytelling-cooper-gorfer/ [Accessed 15 June, 2017].

 

 

 

Research point 1: ‘Something and Nothing’ in Cotton

Read Chapter 4 ‘Something and Nothing’ in Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) London: Thames & Hudson. You will find this on the student website named PH4IAP_Something and Nothing.

To what extent do you think the strategy of using objects or environments as metaphor is a useful tool in photography? When might it fall down?  Write some reflective notes on these points in your learning log.

 

Non human things can be made extraordinary when photographed.  Through photography we give un-ordinary objects, ones that we pass by without acknowledging – imaginative possibilities other than their usual function.  Making art using daily life objects has to have its significance though.

Richard Wentworth, a British artist has photographed signs and debris of urban streets.  His photographed objects are abandoned or used for things other than their usual purpose which gives them a comic characterization or a new narrative to the story of the image taken.

An example mentioned by Charlotte Cotton was this photograph by Wentworth:

©Richard Wentworth. Kings Cross, London, 1999.

 

As we can see the image is of car panels wedged into a doorway.  We can see the comical characterization that Wentworth was aiming for (using car panels to prevent access to the property) but there might also be a new narrative to the image such as the reason for barricading a door.

On the other hand, there is photographer Nigel Shafran who uses forms found in daily life such as the photograph below of a sewing kit on plastic table:

©Nigel Shafran Sewing Kit (on plastic table) Alma Place, 2002

Shafran plays with the juxtaposition and relationships between shapes and forms in an environment of an interior by allowing us to observe our unconscious acts of ordering and stacking in our daily lives.  He transforms environments into poetic scenes!

Photographing familiar daily life objects offers imagination and visual curiosity of the world and environment around us.  It is a very useful tool to being presented as art when used in a way to add visual impact or tell a story.  The use of colour, light, pattern, repetition, texture, form, composition, order, angle and relationship between the objects play a big role in the success of the end result of the photograph taken.

Finding beauty in everyday objects is an art while using it as a metaphor is a difficult technique.  However, it is most impacting in terms of composition and visual communication.  Taking the subject to the extreme in terms of perspective, juxtaposition and scale can create metaphors.  Visual metaphors are less obvious and hard to detect but they are always felt.  To successfully use objects as metaphors, we have to connect mentally and emotionally with the subject to make a photograph appear more than “just” a photograph.

 


 

Bibliography / References:

Cotton, C. (2 ed) (2004).  The Photograph as Contemporary Art.  London: Thames & Hudson.

 

 

 

 

 

Camera Lucida: Roland Barthes’ Meditation on his Mother’s Death.

My tutor Jayne recommended a reading of Camera Lucida from the part where Roland Barthes meditates on the elusive nature of memory in relation to his deceased mother.  I found the book hard to understand at the beginning and I did read some of the recommended part before but I decided to re-read it twice and only when my mind is ready to absorb dense information.  To my surprise, I loved it and I very much enjoyed this part, it relates so much to my situation when I lost my grandmother.  I am here summarizing what I understood from the book:

After the death of his mother’ Barthes went through her photographs.  He had no hope of “finding” her.  Barthes was looking for a photograph that “speaks” of his mother.  He found lots of photographs of her but they all speak of history “his non-existence“.  A picture of her when he was not born yet, where history separates him from her, when there is no memory of him of her.

Barthes wanted to discover in her photographs, objects that reminds him of her, things that he saw and remembers such as objects she kept on her dressing table, her ivory powder box, etc.

Barthes considers the time when his mother was alive before him is history, a period that is good to see and acknowledge but not recognizable to him since he did not exist at that time.  The fashion, clothes she wore, items etc all unrecognizable to him.  He wanted a photograph of her that reminds him of the face he saw and recognized, the smell he loved and the memory of his existence with her that he cherish.  He wanted to find her in that photograph.

Barthes states that Photography forced him to perform what he called a “painful labor” as he was struggling to find the essence of his mother’s identity, the true “complete” her until he found the “Winter Garden Photograph” which to him provokes her truth and not just her identity.

The photograph was very old with blunted corners and faded sepia print.  It shows his mother ate age 5 with her brother age 7 at the time (1898) posed side by side under the palms of the Winter Garden (a house where his mother was born).

Barthes rediscovered his mother in this photograph.  It reveals all the innocence and kindness that he sees in his mother being a grownup.

Barthes looked at the old photographs by moving back through time just like Greeks who entered into death backwards, what they had before them was their past.  In the Winter Garden photograph, Barthes found his mother, the little girl in that old photograph is the little girl of his that she became during her illness.  The one he nursed and helped during her weakness.

To me the photograph of my grandmother that I cherish the most and reminds me more of her is an old Polaroid photo of her hugging me tightly while I am sitting on her lap.  My grandfather’s thumb that ruined a small part of the photo, my grandmother’s sweet look at me is the true “her” that I missed.  I can still hear her asking my grandfather to take the photo of the two of us and I can still hear my grandfather asking me to smile.  I don’t remember how old I was perhaps 10 but I remember everything about this photo and the place where it was taken.  Looking at the photo you can read the sweetness and kindness in my grandmother’s face.  The photograph is also so close to my heart because although my grandfather is not in it but I still see him in the photo from the mark he left of his thumb and him being behind the camera making a conversation with both of us (my grandmother and I).  I did not only miss her but I also miss him.  They both played a big part in my life and losing them was the most painful.  The look in my eyes in that particular photograph seems like if I knew this was coming, I was not smiling, I just stared at the camera!  The photograph to me talks about both of them, the sweet relationship between them and the love they have for me.  Those things that I remember and cherish.

Looking at the photographs I created for my grandmother’s memory, one photograph in particular explains me the most after their death:

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When everything has ended and you can no longer hear the voices of the people you love or visit the places they were once in, it’s no longer the same place, everything is changed, everything is different, everything is gone, only painful memories stay…


Bibliography / References:

Barthes, R. (2008) Camera Lucida. TATE Publishing: London.

Francesca Woodman

(April 3, 1958 – Jan 19,1981)

IMG_0332

©Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman is an American photographer born in April 3, 1958.  Woodman was famous for her black and white photographs of herself or female models.  Her work is rich of expressions and mystery.  Most of her photographs are taken using slow shutter speed and her models are young and nude.  Woodman came from an artistic family.  Her father works in painting, mother in ceramics and her brother in video.

Woodman committed suicide in the age of 22 by throwing herself out of the window of her New York flat.  Woodman’s work was often compared to surrealist such as HansBellmer and Man Ray and she was one of Cindy Sherman’s influences.

Woodman liked to work in old buildings with dusty floorboards which gave her photographs a scary gothic feel.  The space Woodman use for her photographs have rooms with uncovered windows, peeled wallpapers and crumbling paint. She appears in her photos as a ghost or an angel.  I here see why my tutor advised me to explore her work for assignment 3, I just wish I knew about her before submitting the assignment.

©Francesca Woodman

It is hard to understand Woodman’s art.  Her work is rich in symbolism yet it’s creative and gives the viewer the chance to get lost in imagination.  I see ghosts and death in her photographs and I feel it came from her dark side where she perhaps wanted to express it in her photos.

©Francesca Woodman

I find Woodman’s work haunting and inspiring.  She took her life early but her fame was reborn after her death through her photos.

The Woodmans [2010] Legendado [PT-BR]
Jordana Lee


Bibliography / References:
Elizabeth Gumport. The Long Exposure of Francesca Woodman [online]. NYR Daily. Available from: http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2011/01/24/long-exposure-francesca-woodman/ [Accessed 14 March, 2017].

Jillian Steinhauer. Finding Francesca Woodman [online]. The Paris Review. Available from: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2012/05/23/finding-francesca-woodman/ [Accessed 14 March, 2017].

Kate Salter. Blurred Genius: The Photographs of Francesca Woodman.  [online]. The Telegraph. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/9279676/Blurred-genius-the-photographs-of-Francesca-Woodman.html [Accessed 14 March, 2017].

Nicole Williams. The Art of Francesca Woodman: Haunting, Evocative, Personal. [online]. The Artifice. Available from: http://the-artifice.com/the-art-of-francesca-woodman-haunting-evocative-personal/[Accessed 14 March, 2017].

 

BJP – Portrait of Britain nationwide exhibition

British Journal of Photography (BJP) held an exhibition called “Portrait of Britain” where it featured the modern face of Britain.  Portraits that reflect the unique heritage and diversity of Britain.  Submissions varied from selfies to snapshots to documentary and street photography.  BJP selected 100 winning portraits to be showcased on JCDecaux digital screens. Visible on high streets, roadsides and in transport hubs.  The exhibition is held from 1st to 31st September 2016.

Below are some of the photographs that caught my attention:

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Dave Okumu by ©Phil Sharp

Phil Sharp’s portrait of Dave Okumu, musician and producer is very striking.  The portrait was chosen to be featured on BJP’s cover.  The colours here play a big role in the photograph.  It gives a strong visual impact.  The primary colors of red, blue and yellow works well together and adds an energetic feeling to the character.  Although we cannot see the subject’s eyes but his clothes say a lot about him.  The photographer used a vertical shot that shows the head and shoulder of the subject.  It is a candid photo where the photographer used an interesting background colour to avoid the ordinary and to add to the subject’s lifestyle.

 

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Chicken Mascot By ©Kelvin Murray

This seems like a candid shot by photographer Kelvin of the subject taking a break and sipping water out of a bottle.  I loved the somewhat cinematic look of the photograph, the angle of the shot, the empty space, texture of the costume, minimalist of the environment and neutral colours.  The eyes are drawn immediately to the subject because it stands out as a colour within a neutral background that has no other color to compete with for attention.

I personally was drawn to this photograph specifically because of the overall mood of the image.  The colours created a special mood and emotion to the photograph that convey a story of a man who entertains others by wearing a costume (mask on the true personality) but when on break, he goes back to the “real him”.  A normal human being with problems and big responsibilities to think and stress about.

 

image

Portrait by ©Jamie McGregor Smith: “Photographed in his studio in Bethnal Green, London, Rob Ryan is famous for his intricate and romantic illustrations. With the sun high in the sky, the skylights created a beautiful spot light on the artist and his work, separating him from the rest of the studio. Capturing your subject whilst their attention is off camera, allows the viewer’s attention to examine the whole context of the space, and better appreciate the relationship with their working environment.”

The place or location of the photograph taken by photographer Jamie McGregor addresses the story of the subject.  He has taken an advantage of the chaotic background by including what adds to the story and excluding what doesn’t.  The location means something to the subject who is here an Illustrator.

The use of framing and light helped draw the attention to the subject but at the same time the eyes can wander around looking at every detail of the space provided in the photograph.  Photographing the subject within his environment helped achieve the natural and candid feel of the portrait and helped show the subject’s personality and lifestyle.

 

Disappearing Home

Mr Bloomfield by ©Emanuele Giovagnoli. Emanuele Giovagnoli: “Mr Bloomfield, fishmonger and photographer, is surrounded by the photographs of London Old Billingsgate Fish Market that he took over three decades. George’s Plaice shop, Roman Road, Bow, London 2015.”

This portrait by photographer Emanuele Giovagnoli tells the story of Mr. Bloomfield using the background as context.  His old photographs hanged on the wall, his expression and the space in front of Mr. Bloomfield where his gaze is fixed create strength and add interest to the photograph.

 


 

Bibliography / References:

BJP. Be part of our new nationwide exhibition, Portrait of Britain [online]. British Journal of Photography. Available from: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/04/portrait-of-britain-exhibition/ [Accessed 30 September, 2016].

BJP.  BJP’s Portrait of Britain exhibition to launch across the UK on 1st September [online]. British Journal of Photography. Available from: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/08/bjps-portrait-of-britain-launches-across-the-uk-on-1st-september/ [Accessed 30 September, 2016].

BJP. Portrait of Britain [online]. British Journal of Photography. Available from: http://www.portraitofbritain.uk [Accessed 30 September, 2016].

 

Social Media Profile Picture (P. 13)

Looking at my social media profiles; I noticed that they are either my kid’s pictures or one from my photography images.

image

My Flickr Profile

For example, my Flickr profile now has my son’s portrait which is also part of my photography images.  The previous profiles were all same either my kids’ portraits or my art photography images.

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My Instagram Profile

The same goes to my Instagram profile which again here my youngest son.

All my social media profiles does not have my own portrait on it but they still in my opinion says a lot about me even more than if I uploaded my own portrait.  It describes me as a mother who finds that her kids are everything to her and it represents me as a photographer who is also more into portraits.

I find my profile images present an accurate image of who I am as a person.  One that is around her kids all the time and into art and photography.  I have always been the one behind the camera when it comes to family occasions or family gatherings and travel.  Sometimes there is not even a picture of me, it’s always my kids and their dad but it’s something that I love to do, I am not fond of having my picture taken or posing, I enjoy being the one who takes those pictures and my shots still talk about me and describe me as a person.  I sometimes ask to take a snap of me so at least my kids remember me when I am away one day but when it comes to my media profiles I only upload my kids and family images or my photography art images.

 

Collective and Individual Identity (P. 11)

Identity is who we are, our qualities and beliefs that defines us from others.  While Collective identity is what emerges from belonging to a group.  Therefore, it is not fixed.  This belonging may cause to override the person’s personal identity.  The person might get a great satisfaction out of it or great risk.

My own identity has changed more than once over my life.  An example of a collective identity that had risks involved is something that happened to me at school years ago, I used to be ranked second in my class every year until I met some friends who had no interest in education and I started to be the same to fit in the group!  I would skip classes, sit at the back and talk and not pay attention when I used to sit in front and have answers to all my teachers’ questions.  My grades went down and I wasn’t the second in class anymore, I wasn’t even the 10th!  I passed anyway but that really affected me.  I felt that I belonged there with this group until I went to college.  Fortunately, I pulled myself out of this group and I was back to my old self again and this time got ranked first on my class and all colleges in the specialization I took.

Another small example was changing my specialization to be with my friends!  I was so confused about what I really wanted.  My personal identity was so challenging back then.  However, experimenting with different identity in the past taught me to be who I am now.  I learnt to be myself and accept who I am and respond in a way that supports my own values and standards.