Category Archives: Coursework

Archives

Do you have any archives that you could have access to? Might you be able to use it for the beginnings of a project? Blog about some ideas that you could come back to some day.

I do not currently have any burning desire to work on an archive project at the moment but I can see possible opportunities in the future that may interest me.

The archives I currently have access to would include my own personal photographs but I also know my parents have an extensive photo album collection from my childhood (my Dad took lots of photographs of our travels) which could be interesting to refer to as an archive project at some point in time and transfer to digital. My dad also has a large collection of photography slides he had made up for projection so they would be fascinating to look at.

I guess there are also local archives in museums of my local area which would be fascinating to look at as a project or family photo albums more further afield.

 

 

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Project 2 The archive – Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission
or not!)

Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation.

Then listen to the recording and make note of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are
unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, mis-communications etc.

Reflect upon the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied
to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording
process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

For this exercise I recorded a conversation with a friend  down the pub. I asked my friend first if it was OK to record a conversation. We spent the whole evening putting the world to rights but I recorded roughly a 17min conversation. I have decided not to share the actual conversation on line, for my own privacy but I have a recording if my tutor wants to hear it.

My recollection of the recording was that we were sat drinking pints outside in the evening. It was fresh but not cold. My beer was good! There were a few people about and there was some kind of function going on at the pub. There was also a bit of Police activity further down the road during part of the conversation which kept distracting me (4 Police cars drove past at one point, generally unheard of in my town) along with people walking past.

I remember having the usual catchup conversations but I find recalling the detail of the conversation is quite hard now thinking back to it. A lot has happened in the past week. It was a clear night and I remember chatting about how it would be a good night for photography, talking about different camper vans, travelling and wishing I knew more about fixing up engines.

Having listened back to the conversation I was surprised to hear how many different things we discussed in a short period of time; some interconnected/linked others entirely random. I spoke about a red umbrella I’ve recently purchased, book purchases, framing pictures/photographs and YouTube.

As a general observation I noted how conversations don’t take a linear storytelling form and how the un-constructed conversation differs massively from a pre thought out or planned story, play, film, conservation or speech.

I think one of the challenges for photographers as storytellers (whether fictional or non-fictional) is to make the conversation coherent but also fluid and natural. When I think back to some of the TV shows that were around when I was a kid growing up in the 90’s some of the dialogue seemed out of place for the characters i.e. written by an adult for a teenage character and audience, the two things didn’t align correctly. Ever watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek or Roswell? It could be it was an adult trying to recollect their own childhood but only seeing it now through the eyes of an adult in a different time and place.

I think another challenge for photographers is getting your visual message to communicate effectively to different types of people who all have different backgrounds and upbringings etc. A single photograph may mean something different to different people but you may want the core message (your intention) to reach as many people as you realistically can. I also think we as photographers may learn something new from fresh eyes that we never saw ourselves or never originally intended. Its important to be clear about what you want to communicate, unless you intentionally want to leave something widely open to interpretation.

I was also interested to observe the following:

  • I really hate the sound of my own voice recorded. Its sounds really different to how I hear it in my own head or when I write. I struggle to find the correct words sometimes when I speak, as if the thoughts are too fast for my mouth to communicate verbally. I may even hang on a particular word for a moment or take a pause or drink some of my pint!
  • It was fascinating to see how conversations start, often through open questions or through observations on society and reflecting back upon them.
  • how topics end and lead into other ones.
  • how themes or patterns in conversation develop.
  • how conversations can go off on tangents, sometimes coming back to its original theme.
  • how conflicting ideas are dealt with in conversation.
  • how fascinating the introvert mind is.
  • how there are gaps in verbal conversation where other types of communication take place, like visually observing your surroundings.
  • the recording doesn’t necessarily capture all the distractions around us, like cars driving past or people walking past. I find I am often highly aware of my surroundings or easily distracted, this in turn means I sometimes don’t hear what people have said properly. So it was interesting to hear that on a recording. For example at one point I misheard a town my friend was talking about, it wasn’t until further down the conversation my friend and I realised we were thinking about two different places! I guess this is an example of miscommunication.
  • how the words we use and the way we say them impact on the successful or unsuccessful delivery of our message. This would seem extremely relevant to the visual language of photography and how we as photographers communicate our message across.
  • how conversations don’t always follow a smooth pattern of one person listening and the other speaking. Communication isn’t always a straight line, it jumps around. There are stops and starts, interruptions, sometimes someone loses their train of thought and the other person tries to pull the conversation back to where you were.

Project 2 The archive – Exercise 1

Exercise 1

Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in so doing allows for a new dialogue to take place. Reflect on the following in your learning log:

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

This is an interesting question and one I found myself querying a number of months back when I attended a fascinating exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath ‘History Through a Lens’. The exhibition was of photographs from photojournalism and documentary photography from a wide variety of photographers placed side by side in an exhibition space rather than the broadsheets of a newspaper or magazine. By taking the photographs out of their original context they take on a fresh or different story, they also spoke of the history of the genre.

I am a little bit dubious about the intentions of someone using photography they have ‘found’, then re-branding it, sticking it on a wall and calling themselves an artist. Maybe its just me, maybe I’m wrong. The whole process and auction seems like a bit of a gimmick/PR stunt to me rather than a study of photography and its historical context. Maybe label yourself as a photography/art historian. Having said that, I have viewed some great photo-books using archives and found photography such as ‘Stonehenge: A History in Photography by Julian Richards’.

Yes, I do believe placing these on a gallery wall gives them some kind of ‘elevated status’, to what degree I guess depends on the advertising and PR behind the event. I could stick some old found photos on a wall and not tell anyone, the photographs haven’t changed at all nor has their significance to me but no one would know anything about them. Perhaps this is what Nicky Bird is asking us to question in regards to our feelings with photography in history. You could say all photography is history, the moment you take a photograph its history, how significant its role in the history of society as a whole is a different question altogether.

Where does their meaning derive from?

I’m not 100% sure I am clear what this question is asking me?! The meaning of what?

The photographs had their original meaning, whatever they were, taken for family photo albums to be shared with friends and loved ones.

The meaning of the photographs from their original intention has been stripped away and re-branded. I think this is a little bit risky with photography in general terms and leans towards the photograph as a lie. Is the photograph truth/reality or fiction? By taking photographs away from their original context you are indeed creating something new but you could also create an entirely fabricated story, using snippets of reality and create a whole new, false sense of history and reality.

For me history shouldn’t be distorted so carelessly. I think its ethically wrong, regardless of artistic intention. At the start of this section in the course-book it states “Photographic archives have allowed artists to create fictional histories based on photographs already in existence”. I don’t like the term fictional history, it opens up the floodgates for criticism. I just think it swings toward using photography as a means of propaganda and I don’t like it but maybe I’m taking it too far.

What if this was something of greater historical and social significance that had been re-contextualised? Images from WW2 concentration camps for example.

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their
value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

Not to me but maybe to someone else? Perhaps a collector of old photographs may find them of value or a museum may find them of historical significance, maybe they are of value because they show a certain place or person in time. Maybe a relative of someone in the photographs may find them more valuable, they may hold sentimental value, which in many ways is priceless. Also, to be frank, some people will collect any old crap in the hope that one day it might be worth more than they paid for it.

Reference:

http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/

Question for Seller on YouTube

Research point – Gregory Crewdson

Research point

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.

Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the
questions below.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be

I have looked at the work of Gregory Crewdson a couple of times already; whilst I studied EYV here and also for assignment 4 on C & N here, I also recently visited his exhibition ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ at the Photographers Gallery in London. During my previous research I had already viewed the video on the link above but I watched it again today.

Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

Yes, absolutely. As Crewdson explains at the start of the video clip the first element or part of his photography  is to ‘make a beautiful picture’ but as he goes on to explain just having a beautiful picture isn’t enough. I can relate to this as I have found it hard to connect with some photographic work I have seen which is good only on a technical and aesthetic basis. For example if I look at some commercial photography or advertising photography, I find it is often well constructed with beautiful lighting often in beautiful locations but the overall photographic experience has left me feeling emotionally cold and disconnected. Crewdson explains in the video he feels that’ beauty needs to be undercut with an undercurrent of something psychological or dangerous or desirous or fearful’.

On a side note, its interesting to read some of the YouTube comments below the video (I acknowledge it can be dangerous to delve into the opinions of on line commentators). It would appear Crewdson’s work is a bit like Vegemite. Some suggesting he isn’t even a photographer at all now, more of an artistic director with a large crew who do all of the work for him and that he doesn’t even take the photographs himself. All art is subjective.

Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

I think Crewdson’s work is beautifully staged photography, using well constructed sets with considered lighting, props, locations, crews and actors. For me I find its often the actors (that add the human element) look of despair, the stare into the abyss that brings it all together. Otherwise these would just be well lit, constructed, empty spaces (both physically and emotionally). I often find when I’m sat thinking I have the same look, as if I’m staring into space, yet my brain is extremely active. To reference the wonderful Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, I am lost within my ‘Memory Warehouse’. Maybe its just something we do as humans to concentrate/focus, either way for me I think it works really well as a mechanism for expressing tension within photography.

The actors within Crewdson’s photography are primarily looking away from the camera/viewer. They often look off to the side, down at the floor or stare into the nothingness. Its as if we are peering into their world as a spectator, almost an emotional voyeurism, we can see into their world but they can’t see us and don’t know we are there.  As I have said above I don’t think the photographs would have the same psychological feel to them without the human element. So I guess we as the observers are trying to figure out ‘what is this person thinking?’, ‘what just happened to them?’, ‘what’s going on in this scene?’. I think if the actors/subjects looked directly at the camera and laughed or pulled a funny face it would entirely change the whole feel of the photographs. The lighting and composition add to the beauty and atmosphere of the shots but its the human element and staging, for me anyway, that provides a lot of that psychological tension.

What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong
with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

My main goal when taking a picture varies entirely based on what I am photographing and for what reason. I don’t want to tie myself down to one overall goal. Whilst taking a photograph of wildlife my goal maybe to capture it in good light to show of the animals distinct colours or I may be trying to capture a funny moment or a decisive moment, something that would make people stop to look at the photograph. If I were photographing a lion for example my goal may be to capture the majesty of the animal. If I were photographing an animal in the sea or just the oceans in general my goal maybe environmental; to highlight the pollution and rise of plastic in the oceans destroying their habitat.

I would like to the think my images do or will share the goal of being considered. By that I mean applying my learning, knowledge and experience to capture and create images that make people want to look for longer than a simple glance. I do want them to look good but I’m not sure beautiful is necessarily the word I would want to use as it implies good looking or attractive. I would much rather create photography that makes you feel something or gets a reaction from you. Beauty isn’t enough.

Its a hard question to answer, do I think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal in photography? I think in certain circumstances it would work to make beauty your main goal, commercial photography, advertising, fashion/modelling, perhaps landscape photography as well. For me personally, I want more than just beauty so I would say it isn’t my main goal but I do acknowledge it is an important element.

I think it could be more important to capture a moment but its equally important to have the right tools and skills at your disposal to capture that moment.

I guess this is all a bit different when we are specifically considering staged/tableau photography. I would like to think the light, placement of actors, props and set have all been considered and are there for a reason because you have a lot of time to think it through.

Reference:

Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame | Art in Progress | Reserve Channel

Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher on Amazon

 

Project 1 Setting the scene

Exercise

Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJEEVtqXdK8

Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions.

What does this scene tell you about the main character?

How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.

‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’ – Goodfellas

I love this movie, it has to be one of Scorsese’s best films. I have watched it more times than I care to admit. I first saw it when I was a kid in the 90’s, probably too young to watch it but I didn’t care. I think by the time I watched it I had already seen every single horror movie of the 80’s anyway. It is one of the best gangster films. ‘The Untouchables’ directed by Brian De Palma is also incredible, might be my favourite but they both tackle the gangster scene from two very different perspectives.

The entrance:

The scene opens with the main character Henry Hill taking out his girlfriend on a date to the Copacabana. His girlfriend later becomes his wife.

The couple skip the front cue at the Copacabana and use the back entrance, they walk straight in through the kitchen and everyone knows who he is, this says he is well known, liked (feared), powerful, respected. When he gets inside the club, he is greeted straight away by the club manager and given a fresh table right at the front of the club next to the stage. The manager says “anything you need man, you just let me know”.  Everyone wants to say hello, everyone respects him and no one messes with him.

When they get to the table another member of the audience has already bought him a bottle of wine.

When asked by his date what he does for a living he says he “works in construction” but as she feels his hand, she knows he is lying, he says he is a “Union delegate” a half truth you could say.

Of course by this point in the movie the viewer already knows what and who Henry really is.

The music:

The scene opens with the song ‘And then he kissed me’ by the Crystals, a hit from the early 1960’s, this suggests a period in time and with them being an American Group you could say a place as well; America. The Crystals were a New York group and the large Copacabana sign we see in the far left of the first part of the clip suggests we are in New York, as does the characters accent.  The song is fitting as we see a young couple going out on a date. The song plays through the majority of the scene up until around the point the couple are seated at the table, so it plays a key part in the scene.

The costumes, make up, props:

The clothing, costumes, make up and hairstyles used in the scene provide evidence of the period, the 1960’s. The girlfriends haircut and clothing is very 1960’s fashion as are the men’s suits, hairstyles, glasses, ties and the décor.

Cash:

The lead character Henry played by the actor Ray Liotta is constantly handing out cash. He gives cash to the valet, the doormen, the bar manager, all of the waiters, etc, etc. This strongly implies that the character is rich and powerful; he doesn’t have a problem handing out cash or walking around with large amounts of cash, he doesn’t care that people can see him handing out cash, in many ways, he wants them to see it.

I love the way we walk through the scene, the ‘long shot’ makes you feel immersed in the characters world, its masterful.

Reference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJEEVtqXdK8

‘Goodfellas’ film by Martin Scorsese

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099685/

 

Project 2 Reading pictures – Research Point Diane Arbus

Visit www.weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface/ for a blog about Jeff Wall’s, Insomnia (1994), interpreted using some of the tools discussed above.

I read through the blog on the OCA site by Sharon which helped to give a clear example of de-constructing an image with good explanations of denotation and connotation. It was also funny as I referenced that photograph by Jeff Wall in my second assignment! Linking this back to the coursework I would summarise denotation as the meat and bones, the  facts. The connotation I could summarise as the personal taste. A bad analogy as I’m a vegetarian but I think you get the point? Maybe cheese would be a better analogy?

Denotation = the facts

Connotation = mine or the authors subjective interpretation of the above (the facts)

Read and reflect upon the chapter on Diane Arbus in Singular Images: Essays on
Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth (2005, London: Tate Publishing). This is out of print but you may be able to find it in your local university library: some of the chapters are available as pdfs online. You’ll find the Arbus chapter on the student website.

See below.

If you haven’t yet read any of Judith Williamson’s ‘Advertising’ articles (see Introduction), now would be a good time to do so.

See: www.ocastudent.com/content/her

Yes, I have already read these at the start of the unit.

Diane Arbus  'A Young Brooklyn Family going for a Sunday Outing NYC' 1966

**Diane Arbus ‘A Young Brooklyn Family going for a Sunday Outing NYC’ 1966

Having read through the chapter on Diane Arbus in ‘Singular Images: Essays on
Remarkable Photographs’ by Sophie Howarth and with reflection on this section of the unit I can see how the essay by Liz Jobey works to de-construct the image using questioning, facts, historical placement and context, denotation and subjective connotation.

To crudely and briefly breakdown the essay I would say the following:

  • Jobey starts by setting the scene in her essay by posing some questions
  • Going on to describe what she sees (denotation) within the image
  • Before applying some interpretation (connotation) to what she is seeing,
  • Then back to denotation again.
  • The essay then turns to placing the photograph within its historical, social and political context in America.
  • Before pulling information from multiple sources to provide background and an objective viewpoint referencing Susan Sontag and John Szarkowski
  • Then bringing together the concluding thoughts in the last para.

There were a couple of points where I felt a personal subjective point of view was coming across in the essay as if her point of view was absolute but overall I felt the essay was very well balanced with information and points of view pulled from a variety of sources. It was very helpful to read the essay.

When I first saw the image by Diane Arbus the immediate thing that struck me was that the father (Richard Dauria) is the only one in the photograph directly looking at me (the observer/the spectator); the mother Marylin, and the children Richard Jnr and baby Dawn are all looking in totally different directions. So my eye is drawn like an arrow straight to the target of the fathers eye and his face. His hair is a scruffy wave a bit like my own when it gets a bit longer. Then I notice is hands, he has the hands of a working man, I observe his coat is slightly frayed and half of his collar is up. From his hands I am then drawn into the father son connection, then back to the sense of protection in the fathers face. The child Richard Jnr, to me, seems happy in the moment, safe in the security of his father.

It is only after this initial engagement that I am then drawn to the mother Marylin, which I find interesting compositionally as I would traditionally read right to left, it feels off, edgy and untraditional but I like it.  I notice the mother has really, really big hair (!) a style of the 1960’s along with the fur jacket. She is good looking. She seems fed up or not interested in the photographer, she has a 1000 yard stare.  I see she is holding the baby Dawn. Looking at the image you could draw a line straight down the centre of the image and they could be two completely different images within their own right, if you cover up one half of the image vertically you can see this. I have very little sense of place except for the title of the image (perhaps the exact reason for the title?).

This was a worthwhile exercise to carry out prior to the written assignment for part four. I have also taken the time to re-read Camera Lucida again by Roland Barthes along with the relevant chapter in Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange.

I have also enjoyed discovering the work of Diane Arbus, I like her unconventional and slightly rebellious style. I think some times the composition could be better but she had a real way for capturing the off guarded essence of people.  I do agree in a way with some of the points highlighted in the essay by Susan Sontag about whether the people captured in the images are shown in their best light. Did Diane Arbus use the ‘freak’ avenue as a way to further progress her own career, are these accurate labels to associate with the people she photographed? Maybe she just shined a light, gave a voice to the forgotten elements of society and its for society to decide what to do with that information? Is it really the role of the photographer/artist to come up with all of the conclusions? I think I may be battling the answer to that one for a couple of years!

Reference:

Project 2 Reading pictures

Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on
as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about
the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your
assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.

Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you
can add anything to your analysis.

I selected this image by Cuprinol taken from the back of S Magazine from the Sunday Express June 18, 2017:

scan0001

Cuprinol Advert taken from the back of S Magazine from the Sunday Express June 18, 2017

Below is the image with some of my observations:

scan0001

Cuprinol Advert taken from the back of S Magazine from the Sunday Express June 18, 2017. With my observations

I chose an advert for Cuprinol shed/fence paint that a lot of us use here in the UK. The image originally caught my eye because of the image of the blue tit bird in the top right of the image. At first glance I didn’t even realise it was an advert, let alone an advert for fence paint, I guess this could be called the hook that draws you into to keep looking at the image. My eyes then moved down the image to see the summer house below set in a nice sunny garden. I then noticed how the colours of the bird and shed matched; blue, white and yellow.

The image is creating a lifestyle, the toys in the garden, the relaxing chair, garden gnome, the nicely looked after garden. If you buy this product your life could be easier, you could relax on that comfy chair and enjoy your garden. It wasn’t until after I had viewed the image that I saw the pot of Cuprinol paint at the bottom left of the advert, then I saw the writing next to the pot of paint, I then related the words back to the image itself. So the advert has worked by drawing me from the top of the image all the way down to the bottom of the image to sell me the product. It uses a high viewpoint, as if viewed through the eyes of a bird, either that or its a giant mutant blue tit!

The advert and the image says that this product will ‘protect your garden wood’ so you can kick back and enjoy your garden for the next ‘6 years’. I did think the whole 6 years claim of the the advert was interesting, why 6 years? It seems like an odd number and quite precise, why not 5 years or 10 years? I wonder if the competitors provide 5 years of protection so they felt the need to say it protects for 6 years, a selling point. I wonder how the claim lives up to the reality of the product.

Overall I think its quite a convincing advert.

Reference:

  • Cuprinol advert taken from the back of S Magazine from the Sunday Express June 18, 2017. Image reused for educational purposes.