Category Archives: Part 3

Part 3 – Project 3 Self-absented portraiture

Exercise

Go to the artist’s website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series.

You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three
created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

I had observed earlier in part three of C & N that the images presented were all taken by women.

No it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that these photographs were taken by a man. I am married to a Chef, she uses every possible utensil in our kitchen when she cooks, so I feel the pain!  I want a dish washer. I am of the belief that it’s an outdated and other generation perspective that women do the washing up and men don’t.

In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

Perhaps gender can affect the way you see things in the world around you but it’s just like a whole bunch of different factors and possibilities. Your background, cultural beliefs, political thoughts, sexuality, religious or non-religious beliefs, etc, etc. It’s a melting pot of different things, for me it’s not one isolated factor, that is unless you intentionally want to make it an important factor with in your work, its part of your message.

What does this series achieve by not including people?

I think the exclusion of people within the images, leaves the viewer open to interpret the lives of the people we are peering into, through the objects which are included within the frame. I question the relationship, if there is one, how many people live in this household? Are they a couple? Are they married? Why don’t they buy a dishwasher? My OCD inclinations want the dishes washed up and put away. So I guess in one way the images are creating tension for me.

The images do give you a sense of time and place. A meal is being created, or has taken place, shirts are being washed in the sink, the recurring placement of a paint brush, some images imply multiple people have had a meal whilst others suggest only one solitary diner.  There are suggestions of seasonal shifts in time throughout the images, through the different ‘props’.

Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

No on the surface layer I think they are really very boring to be honest, it’s not really my cup of tea, I can’t say I’m that interested in them at all.

If I try to delve deeper to interpret the images I can draw some interest from them as an observer. I don’t find them visually or compositionally stunning or interesting, although they do use lines to lead the viewer through the image and the use of some bold colourful objects in a rather drab background. The blurb at the start of this exercise mentions captions to the photographs but I can’t see any captions on the photographers website accompanying the images when I looked, maybe that would have helped.

The interest for me comes from trying to understand the story behind the images and through the absence of people, use the objects placed within the images to pull that story together.

Reference:

Nigel Shafran Website – ‘Washing Up’ Series

Part 3 – Project 2 Masquerades – Exercise 2

Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory
you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way
you wish.

• Does the memory involve you directly or is it something you witnessed?
• Will you include your adult self in the image (for example, to ‘stand in’ for your
childhood self) or will you ask a model to represent you? Or will you be absent
from the image altogether? (You’ll look at the work of some artists who have
chosen to depict some aspect of their life without including themselves in the
image in the next project.)
• Will you try and recreate the memory literally or will you represent it in a more
metaphorical way, as you did in Part Two?
• Will you accompany your image with some text?
• In your learning log, reflect on the final outcome. How does the photograph
resemble your memory? Is it different from what you expected? What does it
communicate to the viewer? How?

This exercise took me a quite a bit longer than I had originally intended, due to the various elements I wanted to pull together but I feel happy with the journey and the end result.

I decided to recreate a photograph of a happy memory from my childhood spent with my Father. About a year or so after this photograph was taken we moved to live in Australia for about 4 years, renting out the family home here in the UK. I have included at the end some reflection from my Mother. As my Mother explains a lot has changed over the years, over 30 years since the original photograph. My Father now retired has Cancer and Dementia, along with a long list of other illnesses, last year he had a heart attack. The past couple of years have been a roller coaster of emotions. We still have a laugh on the good days and chat endlessly about music, photography, nature and wildlife.

I remember as a kid always being interested in what my Father was up to around the garden, doing repairs on the house or fixing the car. My Father had a busy job, sometimes away from home in other countries but we always caught up in the garden and its where I have some of my best memories with my Father… my Dad.

Reflecting on the final outcome, I love seeing the 2 images side by side, thinking about family relationships and how they change, evolve and can strengthen over a long period of time, how the role of the carer can shift from Father to Son and knowing that there is nothing wrong with that.

Dad and me

Image 1 – Dad and me, back garden, 1983

DSC_6042 and DSC_6064 Final blended image - Copy 8 x 10.jpg

Image 2 – Dad and me, back garden, April 2017

To create the final image it took a number of stages.

On location at my parents house where the original image was taken.  I set up my camera on a tripod with a cable release. I used the original image as a guide to frame the shot and put the camera in Aperture priority mode.

For the first image I got my Dad to stand in the frame on the left posing with the paint brush similar to the original image, and took a number of shots.

DSC_6042 Photograph 1.jpg

For the second image, I stood within the frame, making sure not to overlap with the first image, I used the middle of the fence in the background as a guide. Having already set the image up myself, I got my Dad to press the cable release a couple of times.

DSC_6064 Photograph 2.jpg

Once I was happy with the images I blended the two images in Photoshop Elements 14.

DSC_6042 and DSC_6064 Photograph 3 Final blended image.jpg

I then decided to crop in the image 8 x 10 to create a ‘similar’ feel to the original image.

We also decided to create a new image, just for fun!

DSC_6090.jpg

Dad and me, April 2017

It might be interesting to show your photograph to friends or family members –
perhaps someone who was there at the time and someone who wasn’t – and see
what the image conveys to them.

I asked my Mother to give her thoughts on the 2 images, particularly as she took the original image:

“The first photo,was taken in the garden of your childhood home in Atworth circa 1983.  The picture depicts  – father and son sharing time together engaged in a bit of DIY.  
This was a happy time in our new home as we had spent a lot of time apart in the previous year due to Dad’s work commitments.
The tank in the background contained heating oil but we converted to gas shortly after we moved into the house and the tank was eventually moved away on the back of a skip lorry.
Great fun rolling it across the patio on sticks as it was very heavy.
Dad was creosoting the fence as the garden had been neglected for some time.
Memories of a lovely little blond haired boy who was my constant companion.
Dad was a slimmer model then who,was always busy around the house.
2nd picture.
Fast forward thirty years to April 2017 and we are still in our family home in Wiltshire.  Many things have changed over the years.  The little blond haired boy has become a thoughtful caring young man – although slightly larger than our original picture.  He now has his own home.
Dad is retired and doesn’t enjoy such good health. He still enjoys pottering in the garden and doing some  DIY where possible. He has changed hair colour but the style is much the same.
The oil tank is long gone but the fences still need attention.  A BBQ has taken the place of the oil tank – A sign of the changing times.
Father and son still sharing time together.
Dad so enjoys the time they spend exchanging ideas and thoughts.
Roles are reversed and the support and help which Dad gave is now being returned.”
Alda Sinclair
22nd April 2017

Part 3 – Project 2 Masquerades – Exercise 1

Exercise 1

Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even
exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the
people she photographs, or both?

I would say the risk in this work is that you could produce a series of stereotypes of how you perceive different types of people to be, based on your own beliefs and assumptions. I think the reason it works in this instance is because the artist Nikki S. Lee immersed herself within the different communities of people she involved in her Projects series, to take on the role or identity of this different character, she is herself underneath it all but someone else entirely on the surface layer.

I think her intention is merely to explore different aspects of identity and herself. There is an aspect of this in all of us I believe; we slightly shift our behaviour, how we act or interact depending on who we are around. There is a good quote illustrating this thought process of Nikki Lee in Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography page 211:

‘I am interested in identity as it is affected or changed through social contexts, cultural categories or personal relationships. This interest began through personal experience. I realised that I changed…..depending on whether I was with with my family or friends.’

Nikki S. Lee, Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography, page 211

There is a great breakdown of the image Hip Hop Project (1) 2001 by Nikki S. Lee in Photography the Whole Story. It really illustrates how the the artist assumes the role of the character through the use of make-up, wigs and clothing. Through spending time with the people within the ‘hip-hop subculture’ she has become a part of the group, sitting as one rather than as an outsider.

I feel she is saying more about feelings of her own identity, than any of the groups she has involved in the work. I think she is (indirectly) asking us to reflect on our own identities, who we truly are.

Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach
with your family? If not, why not?

No, probably not. I think it comes down to the individual really, whether you would to be involved or not. Maybe I’m a little reserved about these kind of things and my boundary of personal space is some what larger than others, I am only prepared to allow some people into that personal space. The idea of a family portrait is that I’m happy with the people within that personal boundary, a stranger would not be welcome but that’s just my own point of view.  I would think the request a little bit odd to be honest and would question her motivation. The concept that a stranger could fill the place of another family member is unsettling. This could all say more about me as an individual than about the artist herself but I can only relate the world that I see back to myself and my own experiences. Perhaps on further discussion with the artist I may change my mind but I seriously doubt it. I think the whole thing is a bit weird if I’m honest, maybe the unease in the viewer is a part of the whole concept. Its a really interesting project.

I read pages 208-209 of Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography in the Chapter titled ‘Performance’ which gives some background on Trish Morrissey and the Front project (2005-07), along with a selection of accompanying images. I would agree with the writer Susan Bright that the image ‘Hayley Coles, June 17th , 2006, 2005-07′ is one of the most ‘striking’ images in the project. I think the colour of the skin of the three different people in the image is quite a powerful reflection on the multiculturalism of the modern family, although we don’t see the real mother as we assume she is the one taking the image. The position of the mother figure enacted by the artist at the centre of the image, with the father and son either side speaks to me of the central role of the mother in the family unit and the image has a real classical or ‘mythical’ feel to it.

Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven Years and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects on-line and make some notes in your learning log.

Seven Years explores the family photograph; creating new fictitious or partially recreated, staged snapshots using props and clothing to give the images an ‘authentic feel’ from the 1970’s and 1980’s. The title references the 7 year difference in age between the artist and her eldest sibling, the artist and her sister play out different roles in the images. I can relate as I am the youngest, with two older siblings. I loved having an older brother and sister growing up to sort out the bully’s and generally looking out for me.

It’s impressive how Morrissey has recreated the look and feel of the era. On a recent visit to my parents house I remember seeing the many shelves of family photo albums, my Dad was a photography enthusiast, there are multiple albums of the family during the 1980’s when we lived in Australia and our return to the UK during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sometimes my mum would take on the role of the photographer whilst my Dad was working away with work. Its interesting now to observe the difference in the style of photographer. Dad passed me down his old Sigma SA-1 film camera last year, I’m still determined to get it working and I’ve bought another one on-line.

I digress a little but my point really is that the photography album as a hard copy, a physical thing, has taken a back seat as people share endless photographs on-line using social media sites. My wife and I were talking a while back about how the photo album was a way of bringing people together, sharing your experiences, sharing the story behind the image, sitting down with another human and sharing your life and adventures. Its like when your folks get out the really old family photos and tell you the story behind the image, this is your great, great uncle, he was a fisherman, etc. That stuff fascinates me.

The Failed Realist is a series of self portraits of Morrissey in collaboration with her daughter, taken between Jan-Oct 2011. The head-shot images show Morrissey with a fairly deadpan look with a variety of different colourful face paintings created by her daughter between the ages of 4.5 to 5.5 years old taken from her own experiences ‘a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream’.  Morrissey references the Failed Realist by psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927-2001) commenting that:

‘the child’s desire to represent his or her world is hampered by motor, cognitive and graphic obstacles that will be overcome with time, but for the moment, their interpretation is flawed. The Romantic artists thought this was a reflection of direct access to the expressive self and strove for a return to this innocence in their own painting.’ (Morrissey)

I think this project highlights the free imagination of a child expressing themselves, devoid of the filters, influences, prejudices and concerns of an adult.

Reference:

Bright, S 2011. Art Photography Now (Second Edition). Thames & Hudson.

Bright, S 2010. Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. 0 Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Hacking, J 2012. Photography: The Whole Story. 0 Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/trish-morrissey-seven-years

https://www.lensculture.com/projects/228833-the-failed-realist

Projects Nikki S Lee Bing Image Search

Trish Morrissey website – Front

Trish Morrissey website – Seven Years

Trish Morrissey website – The Failed Realist

www.tonkonow.com/lee.html

Part 3 – Project 1 Autobiographical self-portraiture

Exercise

Reflect on the pieces of work discussed in this project in your learning log and do
some further research of your own.

Francesca Woodman

Look up Francesca Woodman’s images on-line. What evidence can you find for Bright’s analysis?

“It is difficult not to read Woodman’s many self portraits – she produced over five hundred during her short lifetime – as alluding to a troubled state of mind.” (Bright, 2010, p25)

In Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography Bright briefly reflects on the image From Space²  by Woodman. In the self portrait I can see Woodman (at least I can assume it is her, I can’t see her face) stood naked with part of her legs and her face along with top half of her body covered by torn, flower patterned wallpaper, as if she is trying to disappear within the very fabric of the room. As Bright explains Woodman’s naked body seems to stand out more than disappear.

I reflected quite a bit in Expressing Your Vision on Francessa Woodman. It’s really sad that she committed suicide, her photography is incredible. I feel I can relate to her photography. I have always thought there are places you can go in life and if you choose to explore them, open those doors, you can’t undo it, once you have opened your mind to certain things you can’t close it again, you are either enlightened or forever damaged by what you awaken.

In many of Woodman’s photographs she is naked, with blurred motion and mirrors used as reflection, for me her work explores the spaces in between spaces, between this world and another deep spiritual place. I don’t mean in any strictly religious sense of the word, just maybe trapped in space and time, surreal.  Her images are in worn, derelict spaces, once lived in but long forgotten, perhaps a reflection on her own state of mind. The use of mirrors in her Self-deceit series is clearly extremely important in her work, sometimes she is in front of the mirror, to the side and even behind the mirror. The mirror, like the reflection of ourself in water provides us with a copy of ourselves and raises questions about the self, in some instances I think it could raise questions of vanity but I don’t feel that’s the case in Woodman’s photography. I feel it adds a high level of purposeful psychological tension.

I think the best reference I have found to explain all of this is in Photography: The Whole Story (page 469) where Hacking explains how Woodman read Marcel Proust and referencing a quote from In Search of Lost Time, fifth volume:

‘A person, scattered in space and time…no longer a woman but a series of events on which we can throw no light, a series of insoluble problems.’

Elina Brotherus

I viewed the Annonciation series by Elina Brotherus on-line; very powerful photography.  With the written text at the start of the series I feel it really provides the viewer with a good starting point to delve into the imagery, without it I think it would be hard to get a firm footing to start from.

I feel a longing in her photographs, that longing for a child. I can feel the pain, the loneliness, frailty, despair, sadness, it seeps through the frame and touches my heart. I want to give her a hug! This feels honest to me, brutally honest.

I feel she has really captured raw, honest, emotion within the series over a number of years which is hard to do without it feeling contrived or forced.

Gillian Wearing

As I mention below I don’t feel an awful lot towards the Album series by Gillian Wearing, the use of masks to recreate family images just doesn’t really interest me very much. I can understand the concept of exploring who you have become as a person through the links and influences of your family members but I don’t personally feel a connection with the work. It could be I just have a different outlook on life, which is totally fine.

“The mask acted as a disguise but also as a metaphorical device that helped her to examine her family through photography” (page 155, Bright, Susan 2010. Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography)

I find this work was probably an interesting personal voyage of discovery for the photographer but I don’t feel a connection with it.

How do these images make you feel?

I find some of the images a little disturbing. When the spotlight is focused inwards sometimes some pretty dark stuff comes out. I guess I am a little afraid of turning the focus on me in this section of the course as I’m not too sure how far down the rabbit hole I really want to go or how much of myself I want to show.

I feel sadness when I look at Woodman’s photographs and I am deeply interested in her photography.

I think Wearings’s Album series is clever and an interesting way to reflect on self portraiture through the use of masks of family members, are we just a mix of our parents and family? I find it interesting but if I’m honest I don’t particularly feel anything emotionally when I look at the photographs, I’m not too sure why that is.  Maybe on a different day I would feel something but I don’t today. I think it could be the masks.

In regards to Brotherus, I feel she is exposing her vulnerabilities, she is putting herself into her imagery.  I feel a connection with her as a human being and her honesty. I empathise.

Do you think there’s an element of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on
your own identity in this way?

I don’t really think any of these photographers are displaying inflated egos or vanity, you could be critical and say there is an element of narcissism but I think its more about exploration and trying to find out more about yourself, more than the surface layer. When you want to photograph someone, who is the one person you can always rely on to be around to photograph? Yourself. Maybe that’s why a lot of introverted photographers look towards themselves to photograph.

What’s the significance of Brotherus’s nakedness?

For me it displays raw openness and vulnerability, like the vulnerability of a new born child born into the world, naked and defenceless.  The image Annonciation 4 with what initially suggests a shadow figure reflected in a mirror, could be suggesting the unknown father but not a loving father figure, it has a sinisterness to the image. On closer inspection you can see its a poster with the figure facing away.

Can such images ‘work’ for an outsider without accompanying text?

I think in this instance the text really lends to the imagery. The accompanying text to Annonciation provides the background behind the images, leaving the viewer to explore and interpret their deeper meaning. I also think it sometimes depends on how well you can or can’t read an image as an individual but a good image should, to some extent, speak for itself.

Do you think any of these artists are also addressing wider issues beyond the
purely personal?

Absolutely, I think they all are.  I also think its subjective as to how how important those issues are to you as an individual, your own life experiences and what matters to you. If I am particularly interested in an issue I may look for deeper meaning. I think each observer may see or look for different meanings. This could be as simple as whether you are a man or a woman for instance looking at these images.

References:

Bright, S 2010. Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. 0 Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd.
Bright, S 2011. Art Photography Now (Second Edition). 2 Edition. Thames & Hudson.
Hacking,  J 2012. Photography: The Whole Story. 0 Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd.