Course exercise

This is great for me, Elliott Erwitt is one of my all time favourite photographers. I have his book personal best by teNeues in hard back. The image in question has a double spread in the book so is larger than in the course booklet and its’ quality is superior in respect of print and clarity. The course notes say the small dog is the main subject of focus, but I have to disagree. I feel the 2 dogs and the walker are the main subjects. is it their legs, is it their coats. The sharpest object in the frame is the walker’s coat.

The image is clearly meant to create some humour and a little confusion at first glance. It is one image that makes you want to look again. The smaller of the two dogs certainly draws your eye and makes you study the image (studium according to Barthes). But what is the punctum. What pricks the conscious into making this an image I can relate to other than one I just like. The punctum in this image is the dog’s left eye.

Why is it veering off course. What is it looking at? Does he/she feel daft dressed up that way. Is the bigger dog wearing a hat? if not why not? Is the walker wearing a hat? What is the dog’s name? The questions go on…..

The three subjects have clearly been shot from low down, and are well positioned centrally in the frame and a shallow depth of focus has helped to create the feeling of being there. The subjects are well-lit, but dark against a blown out background. The small dog’s lead adds to the almost symmetrical feel to the image, but it is the lack of complete symmetry that adds to the appeal of the image fo me. This just adds a bit of further interest.

I have looked at Erwitt’s other photographs with dogs in them, to see if there is a reoccurring theme, regarding how they are framed, but I cannot spot one. What is apparent is his timing, his love of humour, people and dogs. His timing is reminiscent of the Cartier-Bresson “decisive moment” influence .

I do not quite agree with the thirds argument posed in the course material, for me the image is more symmetrical. But what is perfectly clear, as with any photo, is that the information is all there from the outset, but the information may lead to many, many more questions, some of which will be objective ones and some will be subjective.

I love this image and I now have an understanding, maybe subconsciously, why I like Erwitt so much. I believe he also has an interest in the Holocaust. There are two images in his book, one taken in the gas chambers at Auschwitz I ( I have a similar image) and another taken at the front gates of Auschwitz – Birkenau II. I am also a keen dog lover and therefore he is an obvious choice for me. It is also due to the quality of his work and the sense of timing and being there his image install in me.

On to project 2

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The language of photography

Schindler's list
Schindler’s List. One of my own images from my Holocaust project. This was taken in Oscar Schindler’s factory.

 

Definition of expression ; –

“The conveying of feeling in a work of art” 

taken from ; – Oxford Dictionary (2018) Definition of expression in English:, Available at:  https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/expression (Accessed: 20/01/2018).

 

Definition of communication ; –

“The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.”

taken from ; -Oxford Dictionary (2018) Definition of communication in English:, Available at:  https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/communication (Accessed: 20/01/2018).

The word communicate originates from French, Old English and Latin (communicate) and means to share.

Is it possible for a photograph not to communicate or to acts a means of expression?

For me to answer this question I wanted to know what the definition if information is and this is what I have found out – “What is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.” taken from ; – Oxford Dictionary (2018) Definition of information in English:, Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/information (Accessed: 20/01/2018).

As a photograph conveys an arrangement of something, whatever that may be, a photograph in its’ base level must act as a means of communication or as a means of expression, even this image was created accidentally as the frame holds the arrangement. However for this to communicate successfully there has to be something that stirs some form of interest.

I asked my daughter, who is 18, this question and her answer was “No, some photos do not speak to me at all even if I understand what they are of”.

Even complete abstraction is conveying an expression of feeling, perhaps more so than an architectural photograph.

The question is somewhat of a misnomer and is a good lead in to thinking about how to be  a successful photographic communicator.

For, me all photographs must communicate or act as a means of expression by the nature of their creation.

Part four – Reading Photographs

My selection of images taken from my Holocaust Project for critique. There is the original image and the 2 further images composed of 200 pixels, firstly in colour and then desaturated. I will make my choice of final for my assignment, as I progress on this part. All 5 images have a relationship to the Holocaust, which is a project and topic I have ongoing at the moment. The images are my own from my work in 2017. These images will occur from time to time in this part as I add my thoughts and feeling.

Project 3 Nigel Shafran

Officially this is the first male artist I have encountered in this project. Why would that be?

  • Are female artists more willing to express themselves in an exhibitionist way?
  • Sexism is all too prevalent and this is way of getting their point across.
  • The female artists, like the ones I have researched here, in my opinion are the Emily Pankhursts of their medium, trying to address the gender gap.
  • Ladies are perhaps more honest and open.
  • There is too much repression and they feel that they need to express themselves to achieve some form of emancipation.
  • Ladies may care more about the meaning of photography rather than the aesthetics of composition and the perfect picture.
  • They have more to tell than the men.
  • May be this course wants me to think more widely. The majority of my studies so far have been on men, yet my all time favourite photographer is Sally Mann.
  • May be ladies can make more of the mundane and be able to turn this into a storyline.
  • Women are repressed.
  • Women are happy not to conform to the traditional photographic norms.

Gender, age, angle, project, time of day, light, personal experiences, etc all have a bearing on our imagery, and this has been highlighted by the artists I have looked at.

This is not my favourite genre of photography, but it has a purpose and is one that certainly tells a story in its ‘own right, either with or without the photographer being in the shot.

I respect of Shafran’s work called Washing Up, this may be seen as a typically female job, by the sexist amongst us and will be one of the reasons his images contain no people. There is no reason at all why a man should shoot kitchen sink images if he so desires, in the same way a lady is free to shoot whatever she wants. However our minds, whether we like it or not, are governed by both conscious and unconscious bias, which sometimes is hard to expel.

In respect of they interesting, well that is an interesting question in itself. Normally I would view a full kitchen sink as simple and annoying, as normally I will do the washing up, but on this occasion I am lefty thinking what is it that he is trying to create. If there were people in the image, this would take up a large space in the frame and would detract from what he is showing us. I was not surprised these images were taken by a man, but I was surprised initially that someone could make an interning project out of such an area.

Are they interesting? Yes they are interning, by th change that takes place in the including what is on the windowsill and how life changes in his household. Do I like them as a series, possibly.

Again this is not my preferred genre.

 

Project 3 Maria Kapajeva

Her images are very staged as suggested in one of her titles e.g. a Constructed Encounter.

The series portrait of the artist is a substituted self absented way of presenting herself, by using models posing as herself. She is the least exhibitionist of all the artists I have looked at in this part of the course and is still one that is making the case for femininity.

There is some of her work I do not like such as, I am a usual woman. Whilst I understand the principles behind the work and agree with it too, the work appears almost child like and I do not feel fully represents women. May be this is what she wanted us think.

Her images are all about the story and are not necessarily the most beatify images to look at. They are nothing like the work of Sally Mann, whose work I adore.

I am glad I have come across Maria’s work and will revisit it at some stage, but at the minute I am happy to move on.

Primo Levi – Survival In Auschwitz

This book is not related to photography, however it is a great example of literature relating to one project that is dearth my heart. That being the KL’s of the Nazis in the second world war.

I bought this book in Auschwitz for 55 Polish Zloty, which is approximately £11.

Unlike many of the books I have read on the subject, it is a relatively short book, consisting of 185 pages.

Primo Levi is an Italian Jew, he is a chemist by trade and he is a survivor by nature.

He spent approximately 12  months in Auschwitz and the book describes, by way of prose, the dehumanizing effect that the camps had on the inmates and their daily struggles and rituals which were all at the whim of the cowardly Nazis.

His description of the Kapos and other block leaders was particularly interesting and sad and it shows what levels we as a species can stoop to.

The book is really well written, as he intended, in simple English and is a testament to the courage of the inmates and how man can endure what is thrown at him/her.

The original title of the book was “If this is a man” and was changed to its current title  by the American publishers. For me the original title is better.

I have read so many books on the KLs but this is one that I have enjoyed more than others, if that is intact the right way to describe this. There are no images to accompany the book, but the words conjure a myriad of images and will give me inspiration for my life and for my future studies.

You should read this book if you want to know what life was really like. Passion and intensity abound in the book and there is never any form of self-pity from him.

What an amazing book and what a gent. I have kept the review short as everyone should read such a book and make up their own mind.

God bless him and all who were imprisoned and to all those who are in captivity today.

 

Project 3 Sophie Calle

She clearly is a very talented artist, who can work/perform across multiple disciplines. Looking at her work though, I am unsure at first how she made money!

Following a man and dressing up, disguising herself, was one of her first projects. This is a cracking project well thought through, slightly insane and may even be called stalking these days.

She is not afraid to bare her soul, not body, and does so in a way which exposes herself to answers she may not like.

Her projects are attacked with a statisticians viewpoint, at times, canvassing the feelings of many a person, including in one case a parrot!!!

Her mind must always be working and looking for an artistic angle in all aspects of her life.

Suffering becomes a medium through which she can make art and must be part of the healing project and it is clearly a cathartic exercise for her. This is a common theme with artists of this ilk and one I can understand, given my own creation for my childhood memory.

 

Project 2 Jo Spence (self research)

Having spent some considerable time looking at Jo Spence, I find myself pulled in different directions. Firstly I admire her bravery, her work and how she speaks (or photographs) her mind. She is like me. I say it as it is. On the other hand the Libido Uprising project is just not my cup of tea, although I do understand what she is doing and why. Jo Spence appears to have influenced Gillian Wearing, whom I encountered earlier and I am convinced she will have given strength and courage to anyone who has seen her work.

Her life is somewhat tragic, being blessed with breast cancer and then leukaemia. My heart went out to her when I read her story. The illnesses have also been a catalyst for some of her best work.

The Cancer Shock project, must have been hard to work with, but also cathartic. Is there an element of exhibitionism again in there. I’m not convinced that many people I know would bare all. I understand why this is done but again this is not my cup of tea. I’m also unsure if the general public wold understand what the project is really about or the necessity get get one kit off.

Below is my favourite image that I have seen relating to Jo’s work. My reasons for this are laid out below the image.

Untitled.jpeg

  • I am of an age where I actually remember using Squeezy washing up liquid. It was cheap and naff.
  • The images behind Jo also add to the message about the role of women in life and society.
  • I’m not sure but in the capitalism works poster, the main character appears to be the macho man Clint Eastwood.
  • The mask adds to the fact she is saying woman are being suppressed.
  • The gloves hint at what would have been classed as “women work”.
  • I think artists like Jo, will have awakened some ladies to take up the fight to strive for equality.
  • She is also wearing a wedding ring to add to the fact that she belongs to a man.
  • I am a believer in equality for all.

Project 2 Masquerades Trish Morrissey

First thing that I want to say is that I am commenting here on the Front series (2005-2007) and nothing else.

This work is similar to Nikki Lee’s as previously commented, but for me this takes it one step further, she actually wears the clothes of the missing person within the group. She transforms into to that person. The family snap becomes the non family snap, but something from the film, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

They are a performance and a snap shot, that is not a snap shot, but something that is well planned, well executed and a snap shot that includes a 4×5 camera, a tripod, an expert in photography to stage the overall image. It is a great big whopping lie, with humorous and yet serous connotations.

Her work has echoes of Cindy Sherman and I am more drawn to these than the work of Nikki S Lee, possibly due to the subjects and the settings used. They also make me feel easier about the image than Lee’s work, although I can’t explain why. It’s simply a gut reaction.

I would love to know what thoughts were going through the mind of the kids in this image above. They both seem relaxed enough,  although I can see some stiffness and awkwardness is Morrissey.

Untitled.jpeg
Image taken from : – Morrissey, T (Not known) Trish Morrissey, Available at: https://www.hawamediaplatform.com/nikki-s-leesimply a gut reaction. (Accessed: 02/08/17).

How would I feel if I were approached, well that would depend on who was asking, the weather and the overall project. Having seen these images I would also ask why they were recreating work that has already been done.

 

From now on I will discuss some of her other work.

The Failed Realist series, is simply childish expression in the form of face painting by Morrissey’s daughter, from something that she has just experienced. The paintings are pure innocence, yet to an adult they conjure up different ideas than what were intended at inception.

If this is the tooth fairy, I would hate to see the clown from It!

Clearly when viewing images our own psyche and consciousness takes over and may give the viewer a different perspective of the truth. The truth is specific to the viewer and shows how images can be interpreted.

Untitled.jpeg
Image taken from : – Morrissey, T (Not known) Trish Morrissey, Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/workpg-11.html (Accessed: 02/08/17).

Seven Years is a prop driven series pulling apart the traditional family photographs. It explores the differences between relatives and explore how these differences can create tension. They are all a lie that aims to give answers, but I am not sure the answers you get are the truth as the foundation for the images is does not start with the truth.

Clever work, that creates tensions that may not exist in an original image. The series are thought provoking and not displeasing to look at. They have made me think, but once more this type of work is not my bag.

Project 2 Masquerades Nikki S Lee

I think the first thing I want to say about Nikki S Lee, is that she is clearly talented and brave and narcissistic. Substituting herself into others’ groups and images, becoming fully immersed into the subject group. She is an actor and a challenger as wells an artist.

How I read her images is simply, Concept Is King. The quality and the composition of the photograph becomes unimportant, in comparison to the actual narrative she is trying to fit into and portray.

This interpolination appears to transcend different mediums of art and can also be seen in performing arts, animation, painting and sculpture.

What is she really searching for?

Does she like seeing her self in other people’s shoes?

Is she a lost soul, searching for a new and own identity?

Is it my cup of tea, most definitely not, but I do understand that it asks some fundamental questions with photography? The main ones being –

  • Does an image ever represent the truth?
  • What is the truth and how do we know when we see it?
  • Who are we as individuals?
  • Can you capture the true essence of a person/group in an image?

I believe that she exploits the good will of the group for her own vanity. This then loses the actual identity of the group, as she is in outsider imposing herself fictitiously within it. The group is not “the group” any more, as usually one of the group is missing (photographing the new group) and there is an imposter in there, creating a visual lie, albeit a humourous one.

I do see and understand what she is doing, but this type of work is simply not for me. It’s all acting, posing, and far too self indulgent for my liking. Yes it raises questions, which is good, but I simply don’t enjoy it.

Untitled.jpeg
Image taken from ; – Scharf, A (Not known) Nikki S Lee Conceptual Framework Photography, Available at: https://www.hawamediaplatform.com/nikki-s-lee (Accessed: 02/08/17).