I am torn between doing some research on a number of photographers. They are ; –
Ok, I have made my choice. I am going to look at the work of Jo Spence. The reasons being, I know her work less than the others, she is a cancer sufferer,and involves herself in politics. My research will not be an in-depth study, but will be a broad brush approach, opening my eyes to a new artist, which fits in nicely with the work I am currently doing on C&N.
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.
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.
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.
This is the most comprehensive book I have ever read on the Nazi’s Final Solution and the concentration camps that were established.
It documents the inception, the running and the demise of them and looks at individual stories of survivors and those who died, including Kapos and Nazis.
The amount of research done to complete this book must have been immense as Wachsman source list is lengthy.
In parts the book describes in detail the treatment of hundreds of victims from the gassing, to the vile experiments that such “people” like Mengele carried out.
72 photographs are added to the book in two places. They show a wide variety of KL related scenes and some are obviously very upsetting. The photographs themselves are simply incredible as a result of the fact that photography was banned in most places these we taken. They are a remarkable record of this shameful event in human history.
Of all the books I have read of the Holocaust this has surpassed all the others.
If anyone shares my interest on this subject, this is a must read.
This is a beautiful book that presents solely black and white images. To me it has an Elliott Erwitt feel to it in some regards as there are many humorous images in there and some where the main subject are dogs.
It is apparent from this book that Maier was able to build up a good rapport with most people and was unafraid to photograph strangers. I imagine this to be very difficult given it was a man’s world she was living in. To me Maier is a pioneer for women photographers.
The title of the book gives the subjects away, but what is not clear is the natural ability she has for making what could be a boring image, become interesting. She clearly had a raw talent and one that understood basic photographic principles, without any formal training. How clever she was. There are a multitude of different photographic techniques in the book, which draw the viewer in, making you feel you are there, with the subject. Images portray humour, but also the hard nature of the life people around her had.
What I also like is that she does not stick to the white race. There are a number of photographers of the black population, at a time when the vile scurge of racism was still accepted as the norm in America. It is great to see her challenge the pure white photography issue. Very brave.
My favourite image from the book is included below.
There are number of reasons why I like this image. I will list them below.
symmetry within the frame
being in the right place at the right time
the cleaner’s shop being in the background, with the two large men cleaning up
there are two burly men, dealing with someone who appears to be smaller in stature
the faces of those watching in the background
the photographer is a lady in a man’s world
this is night time flash photography, which is somewhat unusual
the cigarette held in one of the men’s mouths
I have a number of questions around this about the man?
What had he done?
Was he drunk?
Had he been fighting?
Was he being treated fairly?
Was he picked on due to his size?
What was he wairing a suit?
What was his name?
What was his job?
Where did he live?
Did Maier know anyone in the image?
How did she know where the action would be?
Was she safe on her own in the dark back streets?
How did she feel?
I could go on with the questions, as the image raises more questions than answers.
I feel the book is well worth a look and a handy addition to my collection. Maier was new to me, and I have enjoyed her work and will return to it time and again.
The first thing I note about Vivian Maier is that she was born of Hungarian Jewish heritage, whose family fled the conflict, murder and the utter pointless and vile destruction of the Jewish population in Europe, around the time of the second world war. I wonder if this had an unconscious effect on her work, as I am sure discussion at home would have covered such topics. The reason I raise this is due to my interest in the Holocaust and its’ effects on the world.
The main focus of her work was street photography and self portraiture. It is clear that she did not feel her images were worthy of publication, due to the way these were horded in storage, only seeing the light of day just before her death. My view is that she was interested in the process of making a photograph, rather than the final image, which seems odd given the number of cameras she appeared to own.
Her fame was only really established after death, echoing artists like Van Gogh, Lautrec and Gaugin. This is very sad given her subjects and the quality of her work, both of which I enjoy.
Although a lot of her work itself portraiture it is interesting to note that in these shots, her own image only takes up a small proportion of the overall image. Her face is dead pan, expressionless but the composition is very cleverly done and very artistic in most shots. She is also showing off her surroundings and the people around her. There is also a number of images where she is making use of her own shadow which is something I have done. Please see the 2 images below.
I have enjoyed researching Vivian Maier and may even use some of her work to influence my next assignment. There is one question that I am left with though, and that is what is she reflecting on? The answers are manifold and I will leave this up to the reader to decide.
Francesca was clearly troubled but is this is not verified by her photography. Yes her work is different to most I see and that which I like and to the untrained eye her images can be quickly dismissed. However I feel that her work needs to be looked at over time to appreciate it in full. The majority of her images are black and white and a lot are 8 x 10 in dimension. She appears to use the full array of greys that are in between pure black and brilliant white, but without having a set style.
Looking into her background, both parents were artists and this will also have had some influence on her work, as will her settings including the time she spent in Italy and at her home in the USA.
Is her work a cry for help? Not for me. I feel t is somewhat exhibitionist as in the image below.
Woodman is said to have been a feminist, which I can understand, given her images contain many a female nude (mainly herself) but is she exploring her sexuality in a time when this would have been frowned upon? A lot of her work was shot in dilapidated, empty buildings, where she used props to create her images. She was also a great believer in slow shutter speeds, hiding her identity from the viewer. In the image above her identity is also hidden.
Bright, 2010, appears to suggest that her suicide and her mental health were the driving force behind her images, which I feel is harshened not 100% accurate. Yes, her mental health may have played some role, as it does for all photographers, but it is not the overarching meaning and reason behind her images. She may have been trying to tell her parents and friends, through the medium of photography, how she felt about her sexuality and an apparent feeling of emptiness, as depicted by the surroundings she chose. Her shots were planned out, sometimes weeks and months in advance and were even sketched. Her contact sheets were also annotated.
Her suicide has given her cult status in the same way as James Dean’s death, but for me her mental state is not the fullness of her work.
I am not a lover of her work, yet I actually like the images she has created when using the slower shutter speeds. They speak more to me than the other images and make me ask questions such as, why the heels, what is the significance of the straight arms, where was it taken, where is the door she is stumbling though?
Would she be as famous if she were alive and did not end her life so tragically and has the internet helped her notoriety grow?
Here are some iPhone shots of a number of books I have bought and read prior to my visit. There are also a couple of tickets to museums that formed part of my research. Please note this is an ongoing project and I will return and learn more.
Page 4 of the book which is immediately below states “photographing in Auschwitz-Birkenau museums is strictly forbidden”.
Below are a number of online resources used in my research and all appear in my references list.
Auschwitz-Birkenau (2017) Auschwitz-Birkenau, Available at: http://auschwitz.org(Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).