Assessment Criteria Evaluation Assignment 5

Assessment Criteria Evaluation:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I think that the set is a good use of technical and visual skills as it was the express instruction of the assignment to focus on what was in the frame and how props, lighting and models were used to comment on a particular subject/concept. I spent a lot of time correcting the lighting and angle of the camera and props and I think that my final set reflects this persistence. Also, I used the camera primarily in manual mode, and sometimes in Aperture priority but overall my general understanding of how, technically, to use my camera is improving greatly. One more point to consider is that my tutor asked me to look at the angles in his review of Assignment 1 and now I always pay attention to the lines in the viewfinder before I take the shot, realising that it is impossible to straighten a badly lined up image in Photoshop so I would say that this Assignment is a good indication of how I have taken that piece of advice and applied it to all future works.

Quality of Outcome

I think that overall the quality of my final images is good. I spent a lot of time editing images on Photoshop to find that they didn’t work for me as I had originally planned so therefore there was a lot of time spent going back to the drawing board and sometimes re-shooting the same concept to perfect it. I like to think that the feel of the set is a step up from previous Assignments as I spent a lot of time making sure it looked the way I envisioned it in my head and this level of commitment hopefully shows. – I have spent so long looking critically at it that it is not easy to see it in a different light, I will look back at it in a week’s time and be able to appreciate it more I am sure.

27/01/2018: Now that I am reworking this assignment and therefore re-examining it after a period of absence from viewing it I am seeing it as a potential viewer would see it. This has allowed me to change the sequencing of the set, changing some, pairing some and adding a black frame. I am now really happy with the set – although I wish I had some more images so that there were at least three black frames with pairs of images in them.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think that this assignment definitely shows creativity as I worked hard to ensure that my creative flow was not squashed under technical plans and goals. I still very much used my creative energy and I think that this is clear in the finished set. The angles of the shots in particular I think show this creative flow because although I planned some aspect of the camera angles I also worked intuitively with the subject and the mood. Also the fact that this Assignment was a response to a song is quite creative.

Context

This assignment was in response to a song who’s lyrics and tune brought up some feelings within me that I felt could be expressed in image format and as the Assignment guidelines suggested that inspiration could be found from other sources such as literature, theatre, music, documentary etc I think that this fits with those guidelines well. Also, I have put a great deal of effort in to the research and inspiration for this project, ditching ideas as I went because they didn’t fit with my ever changing ideas, ideas that were changeable depending on which artist/photographer was currently influencing me until ultimately the final set reflects all of these inspirations.

 

 

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Jeff Wall, Hannah Starkey, Tom Hunter and Taryn Simon

The work of Jeff Wall, Hannah Starkey, Tom Hunter and Taryn Simon is used in my OCA manual to help illustate the use of art, literature and real-life in tableau or constructed settings. I am going to research each further as I think they will help me to pick an idea for my assignment.

Jeff Wall:

Jeff Wall, born 1946. Canadian photographer well known for his recreation of history and his staged reality photography. His imagery often combines different concepts within the same frame, encouraging viewers to form their own ideas of what is fabricated and what is real.

It was suggested that we look at this image:

Image result for jeff wall invisible man
Jeff Wall, After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, 1999-2001

Every single aspect of this image his been placed there purposefully and the picture is Wall’s response and interpretation (and presumably the image conjured by his imagination) in response to the words he was reading/hearing in Ralph Ellison’s novel. As suggested in the OCA course notes, the clutter and chaos in the image are representative of the subject’s state of mind. The image itself is kind of bland, the colours’ dull and the individual props and location very mundane – yet the combining of all elements in the frame, the lighting and depth of field used transform the picture in to something that tells a story, one that for me instills a deep sense of unease.

Another image by Jeff Wall that I am inspired by in relation to this part of the course and heading towards Assignment 5 is the following:

Jeff Wall ‘A Sudden Gust of Wind’, After Hokusai, 1993

The image above is displayed in a light box in the Tate Modern and is based on a woodcut by painter Hokusai. According the description on Tate’s website the image was shot on multiple occasions using the same actors and the same location on days which had similar weather conditions and then certain elements from these individual images were combined digitally to create the desired effect. So unlike the image above (‘The Invisible Man’) in which every lightbulb was hung physically in the room, ‘A Sudden Gust of Wind’ was put together digitally using many photos. Obviously each individual image was not ‘real’ in the first place as it was a picked location and the actors were of course acting rather than spontaneous passers-by but this image has more of digital influence to bring it in to the land of fantasy than the other.

Hannah Starkey

Hannah Starkey, born 1971 in Belfast. Now lives and works in London, UK. Starkey uses composed scenes within chosen areas to snap what would appear to be candid images of everyday women but is in fact actors in staged positions. The following passage of Hannah Starkey’s Biography page on Sataachi Gallery’s website sums her work up perfectly:

 ‘Her still images operate as discomforting ‘pauses’; where the banality of existence is freeze-framed in crisis point, creating reflective instances of inner contemplation, isolation, and conflicting emotion.’

http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/hannah_starkey.htm

Starkey’s images look like scenes from dramatic films, featuring a strong female role. The scenes and backdrops surrounding the subjects look real, yet slightly detached from reality, bordering on the surreal with subtly dreamlike qualities – very similar to what can become the norm in the movies.

Untitled-September 2008
Untitled – Hannah Starkey, September 2008 

The above image is one of my favourite’s because there is so much in the frame for the eye to work out and to admire. It is not easy to view the main subject, a lady with an arm full of coloured bangles and a very intense expression, as the screen busies the mindwith its full spectrum of colour and its shiny and edgy qualities. I still can’t make out exactly what the ‘bars’ are created by – a hanging beaded partition? -a glass window with little cut patterns that refract the light, – silver foil strips? Whatever it is the screen is incredibly pleasing to view, it is complicated and beautiful and intriguing and wholst flitting around the frame to view it in its entirety the viewer’s eye inevitably catches the gaze of the woman within. Also, to the right of the frame is the reflection of the city behind the viewer which makes the scene even more interesting and 3D and brings the whole image to life. The whole composition looks like a candid street photo taken by a passing photographer in the moment but in reality it was, at least in some parts, composed. The image definitely looks like it could have leaped straight from a movie screen and I am very awed by it’s level of engagement with the viewer.

In the OCA course notes it was suggested that I look at Hannah Starkey’s work becuase of the influence of literature in her imagery. One such image is featured in the course notes called Self-Portrait 2 by Hannah Starkey but I cannot find any reference to it on the internet except for a press release by the gallery Maureen Paley which talks of Starkey’s influences. The image in question (as seen in the OCA course notes) was based on Lord Tennyson’s 1832 poem The Lady of Shalott:

The Lady of Shalott (1842)

Part I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
       To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
       The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
       Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
       The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow veil’d,
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
       Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
       The Lady of Shalott?
Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
       Down to tower’d Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers ” ‘Tis the fairy
       Lady of Shalott.”
Part II
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
       To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
       The Lady of Shalott.
And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
       Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
       Pass onward from Shalott.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
       Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
       The Lady of Shalott.
But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
       And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed:
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
       The Lady of Shalott.
Part III
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
       Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
       Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
       As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
       Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
       As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
       Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
       The Lady of Shalott.
Part IV
In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
       Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.
And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seër in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance—
With a glassy countenance
       Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Thro’ the noises of the night
       She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d wholly,
       Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
       Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.
Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
       All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
       The Lady of Shalott.”
The poem is about the Lady of Shallott, locked in a tower with only reflections of the world outside reflected in a mirror. The lady of Shallott is cursed and so if she is to turn to look out of the window she will die as she is only allowed to view the world through the mirror. The Lady of Shallott is able to resist all temptations and the poem describes some very beautiful scenery reflected on the mirror and it is only when the shining knight of her dreams passes by that she is unable to resist looking at him directly from the window. It is then the curse takes effect and the lady of Shallott dies. The poem makes the reader think about whether it is worth looking upon the world through a mirror’s reflection without never really seeing or living it. The Lady of Shallott decided that being alive in this unreal state wasn’t worth sacrificing her desires for.
The point is that in taking a self portrait of herself reflected in a window, Starkey is not only taking a self portrait in the literal sense but this image is also a comment on photography itself and its ability to create a different, if not similar, reality. All too often we look at photography in the literal sense, as though it is real life as it happened – a true account and yet that is simply not the case. Although we no longer need mirrors in order to be able to see ourselves, as we can turn the camera on ourselves and each other, mirrors and reflections are still very present in self portrait photography and this adds a self-reflective quality and also adds a voyeuristic element – the viewer can now look upon the maker of the image as well as the image itself. This image is also an example of a photographer drawing upon influences from the wider world, in this case literature. This makes me think about what wider influences I could use to influence my own work -be it a poem, another photograph, a novel, a painting, a real life experience of my own or another…
Tom Hunter
Tom Hunter, born 1965 in Dorset England. Describing himself as an artist Hunter uses painting and documentary influences to directly inspire and lead his work. Hunter is known for his imagery which draws from the experiences of those in his immediate community such as squatters and travellers. The images are often taken directly from a true story about an individual and their circumstance and made in to a fictional work of art using staged people and props and as well as being based on true events the images are often loosely based on iconic paintings. Hunter never uses actors but instead waits for the right person to present themselves – usually a friend, family member or acquaintance.
‘Hunter’s work straddles the factual and the fictional and this gives the stories an emotional depth as well as an aesthetic strength.’
pg 113 of OCA course notes
In the OCA course notes Hunter’s series Hell and Other Stories is featured and I find this work utterly fascinating and inspiring. In this series Hunter took real news from the Hackney Gazette and created imagery directly from these stories that reflected the individuals within them. The visual styles he used are similar to the style of James Vermeer’s paintings in their use of natural light, windows, colours and tones. In an interview for the Guardian with Decca Aitkenhead Hunter explained that for Hell and other Stories he would read a news story that would interest him and then mentally visualise it and in doing so its relationship to a classical painting would emerge for him.
Living in Hell – Hell and other Stories, Tom Hunter
Personally I am really intrigued by this series because the images speak for themselves without need for captions or descriptions. They do not look as though they have been taken from a newspaper yet they still have a documentary feel. Its as if he has taken the ordinary and made it extraordinary with an effortless ease. The most interesting thing for me is that these images were based on news stories that were headliners but which had no image assigned to them so Hunter is working solely from imagination and the image’s coming to his mind’s eye whilst reading the headline. So, although these stories are real Hunter’s images are entirely fictional with hints to the truth which he has taken from whatever clues about the person in question and their situation were to be glimpsed in the text. Also, news is not always even remotely subjective so we have to assume that the stories Hunter read had already been elaborated or amended to fit the goals of the Hackney Gazette.
So, where Starkey used literature for her inspiration, Hunter drew from documentary and paintings to form a base for his imagery. This real life influence enabled Hunter to tell the stories of those subcultures who are often overlooked in society.
Taryn Simon
Taryn Simon, born 1975. American born Taryn Simon is a multidisciplinary artist who uses photography, text, sculpture and performance and is interested in categorisation and classification. Her work features a lot of research in to a particular subject and the photographic portion of each series is therefore minimal in relation to how much research there is, which sometimes comes in the form of large accompanying texts or audio.
In the OCA course notes it was suggested that we look at the work of Taryn Simon, in particular her series entitled The Innocents which is in investigation in to the wrongful convictions, for violent crimes, of men and women across America. The project works on several levels as it highlights the concerns of using photography as an accurate form of  identification used by eye witnesses and also it speaks of the innocent subject’s own memories and the implications that photography and the law have had on him. I watched an online video of Taryn Simon giving a Ted Talk (see here) in which she talks about The Innocents and she gives an example of how photography can aid in wrongful convictions. She describes a women who was raped and later when police are trying to find the perpetrator she is shown a series of sketches, photographs, descriptions, composite images etc and one of the men featured in those composites she is familiar with some features perhaps but cannot make a positive ID. At a later date she is given a handful of images, all new except for the original photo of the man she had some recollections of and now she makes a positive ID on that man. The photograph replaced a memory, if indeed there as ever one there before. So photographs, although seen as a useful tool in deciphering the truth of a crime, in reality it can be misleading and it can actually alter the memories of an individual  especially when it is paired with leading questions by officials etc, and can lead to the wrong men being put behind bars.
Frederick Daye – Taryn Simon from The Innocents
The series contains a photo of a man of colour at his alibi location, which looks to be a public bar, where over 100 people witnessed him at the time the crime was supposed to have taken place and  yet he was still convicted by an all white jury and served several years in jail until new DNA evidence exonerated him and implicated another man. The victim claims that law enforcement permanently altered her memory.
Another image in the series pictures a man at the crime scene of the crime that he was wrongfully committed of and Taryn Simon placed him here because he had never been there before so it was powerful to picture him at a place which has changed his life and therefore to highlight the fine line between fact and fiction both in his life and in photography.
The image featured in the OCA course notes from The Innocents pictures a man of colour sandwiched between two mattresses at the same site that he was arrested at for a crime that he did not commit. The man, Larry, served 18.5 years of an 80 year sentence for rape and robbery and the victim failed to identify Larry in two live line-ups and then made a positive identification days later from a photo array.
The project also shows a 30 minute video with clips from some of the men who were wrongfully convicted.
I find this whole project so interesting and shocking and I think it is a really important piece of work as it highlights the problems involved with people believing that photography is entirely factual and subjective and also that memories are always correct when they involve photographic proof.
References:

Jeff Wall

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/jeff-wall-room-guide/jeff-wall-room-guide-room-6 (accessed on 12/12/2017)

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/wall-a-sudden-gust-of-wind-after-hokusai-t06951 (accessed on 12/12/2017)

http://rogallery.com/Wall_Jeff/wall-bio.html (accessed on 12/12/2017)

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-wall-jeff.htm (accessed on 12/12/2017)

Hannah Starkey

http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/hannah_starkey_september_2008.htm (accessed on 14/12/2017)

http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/hannah_starkey.htm (accessed on 14/12/2017)

http://www.artnet.com/artists/hannah-starkey/ (accessed on 14/12/2017)

https://www.maureenpaley.com/exhibitions/hannah-starkey-1/press-release (accessed on 14/12/2017)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45360/the-lady-of-shalott-1842 (accessed on 14/12/2017)

Tom Hunter

http://www.tomhunter.org/info/ (accessed on 16/12/2017)

http://www.tomhunter.org/living-in-hell-and-other-stories/ (accessed on 16/12/2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/dec/03/photography (accessed on 16/12/2017)

http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/tom_hunter_life_and_death_in_hackney_duke_street_2000/ (accessed on 16/12/2017)

Taryn Simon

https://www.ted.com/talks/taryn_simon_photographs_secret_sites#t-1029529 (accessed on 17/12/2017)

http://tarynsimon.com/works/innocents/#1 (accessed on 17/12/2017)

http://tarynsimon.com/biography/ (accessed on 17/12/2017)

Inspiration Swipe File

A swipe file of images I have been directly or indirectly inspired throughout the duration of Context and Narrative. In no particular order and uncategorised.

CASE
Unable to conceive, 2009
MUCA
FRANCISCO JOSE DE LUNA ARCE

 

PAOLA ESTRELLA

 

Miles-Aldridge-Thought-After-Filthy-Thought-(after-Miller)-web
MILES ALDRIDGE Thought after Filthy Thought
PAST LONDON SHOW, BEETLES & HUXLEY
Sebastião Salgado: Genesis
Flo Kasearu
“Grown Out”, 2012
Temnikova & Kasela
Murray Fredericks
Burning Tree Allandale Station, 2015
ARC ONE Gallery

First impressions of Part 5

It has been a while since I checked in with my thoughts on the course in general and how I feel I am learning and progressing throughout it. I have just submitted assignment 4 for tutor reviewing and have spent the morning reading through Part 5, the final part of Context and Narrative. I feel as though Context and Narrative (the second OCA course I have taken) is a definite step up from Expressing Your Vision in terms of difficulty and engagement or maybe this is because I have been officially assessed for EYV and realised I wanted to do better (57% felt a bit low) so I am now putting in the extra effort at every opportunity. I feel as though there has been more theory and written work to Context and Narrative but I don’t resent this as I quite enjoy learning the theory and debates surrounding photography too and I enjoy the written aspect as well as the practical.

Looking at Assignment 5 without having yet begun the exercises in Part 5 that come before it I am feeling quite overwhelmed by how much it is asking from me. I am also really excited and intrigued to find out where this Assignment will take me as it is a completely self-driven assignment without any direction other than an instruction to use props and to consider the light.

I don’t have any initial ideas on subject matter for the assignment or whether I want to do a series or just one image but I do want to take inspiration from every single section of Context and Narrative so far, drawing on all that I have learnt. I want to use text and perhaps music and moving images such as a slideshow and maybe some collage etc to compile something that sums up my progress on the course. I am also intrigued by my grannie’s old family photo archive, perhaps if she would allow me to view them I can incorporate aspects of this in to my final assignment submission also.

Looking back over the sections of my learning log I have decided I need to visit another exhibition before completing Context and Narrative and I also want to write up reviews on a couple of books and articles that I have read and that have helped me with this course.

And so I begin the last part of the Context and Narrative journey…

Ongoing Research Trail and Evaluation for Assignment 5

See my other research post relating to this assignment here.

My tutor suggested that I look at the work of Long Chin-San as research for this assignment. Long Chin-San was born in 1892, a photographic master who devoted his long life to the promotion of photography as a valid art form. Chin-San was the first photojournalist in China after the Shanghai news agency Eastern Times bought a colour printer and asked him to make use of it. Chin-San developed a compositing method which allowed him to combine images to make one singular image in the dark room and as he knew the six laws involved in ancient Chinese painting he combined elements of this practice with Western styles of photography to produce unique and beautiful composites. Chin-San’s work is interesting to me with regards to this assignment because not only is his work constructed but it is also inspired and composed of ancient Chinese art – something which makes every one of his pieces utterly unique. I don’t know how I haven’t come across his work before as I find it really enjoyable to view and it is very inspiring also.

Long Chin-San 

Some of Long Chin-San’s work is clearly a composite and in other images it is not so obvious. What is obvious in all of the work is the traditional Chinese painting influences and in the nature photographs the trees and very oriental looking which immediately transported me to that area of the world. I am really inspired by all the images of his that I have seen.I like the simplicity that lots of his work has and the ethereal and spiritual style, I don’t know how I would incorporate those techniques in to my own work at this stage as my Photoshop and camera skills are limited but I will be revisiting the work of Chin-San in the near future as I am greatly awed by him – the great master of Chinese photography.

I looked at the Staged Photography tag on Artsy.net for further inspiration which brought up 14,439 posts relating to staged photography. Here are a selection of my favourites and brief interpretations of them:

Cabaret #6 2006 – Miles Aldridge

Before I research further I will bullet point key points that I notice without any further context:

  • Fashion photography style
  • Model – deathly pale, mannequin like except for the grip of the hand and the ‘squishiness’ of the breast
  • Specific lighting, bright and aimed at chest and part of face to highlight the cheeks and smoke and chest
  • StudIO set up
  • Red – danger, romance, seductive
  • Surreal
  • No hair on model, illness? Cancer? Again, mannequin like in appearance like Guy Bourdin’s mannequins (here).

Miles Aldridge

Miles Aldridge, born 1964 in London. British fashion photographer, regular contributor for top fashion magazines since the early 90’s, including Vogue Italia. His biography on Artsy.net describes Aldridge as a creator of a strange world populated by beautiful creatures in luxe, if artificially color-saturated, environments. The same text then adds that his imagery seems to capture an entire film in a single shot and can be likened to the work of directors David Lynch, Dario Argento, and Pedro Almodóvar. I very much agree with this. His imagery is like a movie still from a strange and erotic film in a freeze frame that seems to encapsulate a lot more than just the image of an actor/subject. His imagery is very evocative, surreal and movie like and it is of course very aesthetically appealing – if a little morbid.

Tom Chambers

The next photographer I found within the staged photography tag on Artsy.net was Tom Chambers.  From Lancaster, Pennsylvania which is Amish country, he completed a B.F.A. in 1985 from The Ringling School of Art,, Florida with a major in Graphic Design with elements of Photography.

Chambers uses photomontage to construct his images, adding different elements that do not necessarily belong together at that time or place and using Photoshop to make them look convincing. In an interview for the International Photography Awards in 2015 Chambers explained that he tries to create images that look “possible but improbable“. Usually Chambers uses children as subject matter as they convey the vulnerability and strength which he is interested in portraying and cultivating in his imagery. Chambers work has similarities to classical paintings with its luminous qualities and dramatic compositions. Thework within his exhibition ‘Reverie’ has been likened to that of post-war painter Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.

“As a fine art photographer I hope my work connects emotionally with the viewer and then inspires the viewer to take a new and different look at the everyday objects or more significant issues.”  -Tom Chambers for IPA, 2015

On his website Chambers describes the process he uses to construct his images from start to finish. He will initially make a sketch of any ideas he has for an image and will then go on to photograph each piece of the photomontage. He explains that the most important aspect of the process is making sure that the intensity and direction of light are the same or similar in each shot and therefore it can take over a month to get the right number of usable shots. Finally he uses Photoshop to stitch all the pieces together to make the final image. The finish product is printed with archival pigment inks on cotton rag paper.

With the Pack
TOM CHAMBERS
With One Eye Open
TOM CHAMBERS
Marwari Stallion #1
TOM CHAMBERS
From the series Marwari: Indigenous Spirits ARTSY

I am really inspired and intrigued by these photos as they seem magic in nature and yet they could almost be real life. There are no dragons or creatures that don’t actually exist and though some may seem larger than life perspective in a photograph can be interchangeable and objects can appear very differently using different lenses and angles than they actually are in reality so from this respect Chamber’s images could just about be real, at a stretch and I think that’s what makes them so special. They are like childhood dreams and the vivid imagination one remember’s from their youth.

In another series entitled To the Edge Chambers has added poetry in text form to add extra context to the work. The poem was written by Allen Chamberlain in response to the series of images and lines of the poem itself have thus been incorporated in to each image in the series. The pieces of each photomontage in the series were taken in Iceland and are a celebration of the diversity of the natural world (as defined by Chambers himself).

I find it interesting that the photos inspired the poet and not the other way around, although I suppose it is not unusual for a poet to be inspired by something he sees or otherwise senses. I like the fact that Chambers has taken this response to his work and added it to the work, as a a collaboration of sorts and this has added a new element to the series and more for the viewer to participate with and for them therefore to interpret.

Below are sketches relating to some of the ideas I had, some were just ideas that never came to fruition due to time or material constraints and others went on to become major players in the set.

Idea 1 – Coming directly from a love of Gregory Crewdson’s work, having viewed it for an exercise.
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Idea 2

Here are the contact sheets relating to this idea. I loved the shots but didn’t feel they fit with the final set. They would belong better in a different series.

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Second Shoot with more changes in light as the above images seemed a bit dark and dusky:

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Movie Stills Idea 1
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Movie Stills Idea 2
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Movie Stills Idea 3

Film Stills Inspiration:

I have used a Tumblr blog to map some of my research trail with regard to fil stills. Many users on Tumblr have compiled groups of movie stills and posted them (and reblogged from one another). I found this a useful way to gain inspiration for my own movie stills series. Please see my reblogged inspirations here. Lots of the movies I am not familiar with which is useful as it means I can look at the collection of images objectively and see how they fit together in series. Lots of these collections/series are similar in colour and tone but interestingly, the subject matter doesn’t seem to move in an obvious way which I was suprised about. I thought that the sequence of the film would be apparent in the stills, however there is a different narrative to the stills. Also, I came across sets of stills for movies that I had seen and not liked much and yet the series of stills were breathtaking and more full of feeling than I remember from the moving picture experience. I think in taking the still images out of context the meaning can be changed quite considerably and the artist that stitches some of these still images together in to some sort of sequence is creating another story which will definitely be interpreted in all sorts of ways unintended by the original movie creator/filmography.  I find this really fascinating and want to give it a go. I wondered whether to actually film some footage and then take stills from it but after shooting a little scene of me baking in the kitchen I realised that my DSLR doesn’t have the best film quality and the stills weren’t going to be very sharp. I also thought about making up a story for the imaginary film that the stills were to be taken from but I’m not a scriptwriter or practised in film so in the end I decided just to create a set of stills from a non existent Christmas indy-style movie in the style of other sets of movie stills I have seen, with plenty of mood and a cinematic style and see how I go from there. Other ideas include adding quotes, poetry, a hymn to the caption or description to accompany the imagery and I will experiment with all (see below).

Here are contact sheets from my third shoot when I’d decided to make some movie still type images:

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Next are the first Christmas themed images taken in Movie Still style:

ContactSheet-001ContactSheet-002Next are the contact sheets showing the images using the mannequin prop I found that I thought looked like it was from a movie set. I used Christmas lights and tinsel to make her look Christmassy, setting the Christmas scene:

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Next are more images playing with Christmas lights as subject matter. Still Christmas Movie Still themed:

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Notes from a later date:

I have decided that my own Movie Stills series needs more context, simply taking photos of nostalgic Christmas scenes and calling them movie stills isn’t meaningful enough. The next step is going to be finding some inspiration in either literature, art, theatre, music or other photography perhaps.

At an even later date:

Now that I have chosen my theme (a response to Sia’s christmas tune ‘Everyday is Christmas’) it has become easier to shoot for it. Some of the successful Christmas themed ‘movie stills’ that I have shot already aren’t going to fit with this new theme but I have shot several more that are really interesting and are making me really excited about my final set. I read several winter themed poems and the blurbs of some fictional winter/Christmas books and looked at a website that generates 6 word poems to find inspiration for my winter based ideas but it was when I thought of how I feel when I listen to this song that I decided that it was enough to inspire a set of intimate, nostalgic images.

The following contact sheets are a direct response to my main inspiration Sia’s Everyday is Christmas. I used a model to signify a love interest, Christmas lights and red lipstick to add a movie stills Christmas theme:

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Nathanial Dorsky – Stills from his silent films

Nathanial Dorsky, born 1943 in New York. An American Filmmaker

Dorsky’s films are available only as 16mm film prints and have been exhibited in many venues internationally. I found Dorsky’s work on Artnet under the Film Stills tag and the thumbnails from the search page really caught my eye and drew me in – I’d have loved to been able to watch one of the films but it seems they are currently only available at private showings.

The images are film stills taken from Dorsky’s films and so therefore there intended use was primarily to be shown as moving image but now they have a new purpose. Knowing that they come from a film makes them more magical in my opinion as you can imagine the type of film that they came from – slow moving, silent, beautiful, moving, thought provoking. Of course I don’t actually know much about the films themselves other than what is suggested at in the film stills and that which has been written by critics and in press releases.

There are lots of film stills on Dorksy’s own website and the four I have posted below were taken from one his films The Dreamer, 2016:

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Nathanial Dorsky – FIlm Stills from The Dreamer, 2016
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Nathanial Dorsky – FIlm Stills from The Dreamer, 2016
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Nathanial Dorsky – FIlm Stills from The Dreamer, 2016
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Nathanial Dorsky – FIlm Stills from The Dreamer, 2016

I feel really personally inspired and motivated by these film stills as they are very connected with nature and I tend to fall in to that category myself within my own photography. The first image is the most ‘film still’ looking with its use of reflection – it feels transient, like we are between scenes – and perhaps we are. There is lots to look at in the frame and there is a mind bending quality yet the subject matter is mainly calm and summery. The statue hints a religious undertone. The second, third and fourth image in the series are more straightforward – they all feature plants and trees in a moving state with lots of silvery light, the wild flowers slightly lighter and the crab apple falling more dappled, leaning towards a more autumn light.

The fact that these were taken from a real film makes me enjoy them more because I am searching within the image for its meaning – what part of the film has this one been extracted from and what purpose did it have within the narrative? Although, according to those who have seen the films Dorsky’s work didn’t have a clear narrative, it was more of a gentle guiding and ultimately it is a journey made together with the viewer. In an interview for Artweek.com Dorsky explains this:

‘When I start to build the film, it’s really a question of finding an image which is like the door to the film: you present the doorway, then the welcome mat, and then you enter. From there, it isn’t like, “I know where we’re going, and I’m going to take you there.” It’s more like, “I don’t know where we’re going, and we’re going to have this adventure.” That’s how the films are edited: there’s a first shot, and then there’s a question: where do we go from here?‘ – Nathanial Dorsky for Artweek.com

There is also an certain intimacy in the vast majority of the film stills, it seems that Dorsky was very creatively involved with all of his subject matter when filming, from the nature around to him to the people who made it in to his films. Even what appear to be complete strangers are filmed with a fondness and this could have something to do with Dorsky finding a similarity between himself and others that comes through in his films – in an interview with Artweek.com said  ‘Aloneness is a realization that everyone is in the same boat; that everyone is actually alone. We are all mutually alone.’

Not all film still style photo series’s are actually taken from real films, such as Cindy Sherman’s famous Untitled Film Stills series. I have looked at the work of Cindy Sherman before but not specifically her film stills work.

Untitled 34 – Cindy Sherman from Untitled Film Stills 1974

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills series is made up of 70 images in which Sherman takes on the female lead role by dressing up, using appropriate props and assuming the relevant character of. The roles included housewife, working girl, office girl, blonde bombshell etc.

‘Like real movie stills Sherman’s images evoke events in possible narratives which the viewer may invent or interpret in different ways, suggesting an original which never in fact existed.’Tate.org.uk

I found this sentence really reassuring because until now I had been a bit doubtful about how seriously my series could be taken as it was pretending to be something that it is not. That is that I have been referring to my images as film stills when in reality there never actually was a film to take them from. I now feel as though this could actually make my work relevant but under a different light. As is usual for me I am interested in creating imagery that can be interpreted freely by the viewer with hints of narrative and I had thought that the lack of a material film might have taken the validity from the work but it might actually make it more open to interpretation and more interesting in some ways.

One of the underlying messages behind Sherman’s series was to show that photography is not as honest as it might first appear, by assuming the identity of someone she was not she has proven that photography can allow people to be some body they are not and therefore it is not as trustworthy as first thought.

Evaluation

Please see my Assignment 5, Making it Up here before reading further.

I found this Assignment to be a lot more difficult than I had first imagined that it would be. I think perhaps it’s because my expectations for myself are a lot higher than they used to be, at the beginning of C&N for example and so in pushing for a better result I am having to take more time to perfect and evaluate the work as I go. I felt that direction with this set was pretty difficult, I am used to just taking a bunch of images in a very spontaneous way, even if I have a specific topic in mind, without much thought for special lighting or other items in the frame so having to think about all of that and then examine the picture on the viewfinder to check for anything that didn’t belong there was a new experience for me and one that I found quite time consuming. Ultimately though, the whole process was satisfying as I found it very rewarding when I finally had the images that I wanted.

Here are some snapshots of me setting up the scene and getting the props and lighting ready:

The series was shot in three locations, one was inside my house in the spare room, one was in my own bedroom and one was shot in my mother’s living room. I feel that the locations didn’t matter so much as the props and lighting that were used. Obviously each location had different light properties to consider before I began to add my own lighting but because of the close-up nature of the shots and the minimalist style it didn’t matter too much about the surrounding area as most of the background was purposefully excluded anyway. The second image in the set was shot outside using a street Christmas tree, I was technically inside of my house at the time, perched on a low window seat with the camera held outside of the window. It was night time outside and therefore dark, with no moonlight, so that needed to be considered as it was the only photo of the set that was reliant on my own lighting and the artificial street lighting. The colour scheme for the set was considered also and from the final contact sheets of all the ideas I chose images with use of the same light, colour and tone. The set is supposed to be warm and cosy.

Next I will include a short break down of all props and lighting that were used:

Image 1

  • Technical: f/4.2, 1/60 sec, ISO-200, focal length 26mm
  • Lighting: On camera flash, artificial lights outside intentionally blurred so as to draw attention to forefront.
  • Props: After dark. Curtains are already there of course but they were parted carefully to show a triangle of black sky and the stars of outdoor Christmas lighting. Keeping a cosy indoors feel.

Image 2

  • Technical: f/5.6, 1/2 sec, ISO-800, focal length 55mm
  • Lighting: After dark. Bedroom light was turned on (standard LED bulb), shop wall Christmas tree had twinkling warm yellow lights on it, street had street lights, glow from the pub lights and windows and more Christmas lighting in the form of two white LED strings. I also used a small LED torch to help light the pine needles and so help the camera to take a non-blurry shot without use of a tripod because the tripod was not possible at that angle out of the window.
  • Props: Fixed position Christmas tree, fixed position lighting. Large aperture helped to keep distant lights soft and nondescript shapes in the background.

Image 3

  • Technical: f/5.6, 1/50 sec, ISO-2016, focal length 18mm
  • Lighting: Daytime. Curtains closed, not black out so allowing some soft daylight in. Bedroom light turned off. Light mainly from string of LED lights draped on subjects hair and a soft angled lamp, some soft lighting from a string of LED picture lights on opposite mirror.
  • Props: Model, red lipstick (adds Christmas colour and romantic tone), Christmas string lights in hair.

Image 4

  • Technical: f/5.6, 1/25 sec, ISO-2016, focal length 55mm
  • Lighting: Daytime. Curtains closed, not black out so allowing some soft daylight in. Bedroom light turned off. Light mainly from string of LED lights draped on subjects hair and a soft angled lamp, some soft lighting from a string of LED picture lights on opposite mirror.
  • Props: Model, Christmas string lights in hair.

Image 5

  • Technical: f/5.6, 1/20 sec, ISO-4000, focal length 55mm
  • Lighting: Dusk. Cottage shutters open, not much light coming in to room. Room light on, soft eco bulb with shade. Lighting primarily from white LED Christmas lights in crystal globes draped directly on the wooden horses back.
  • Props: Wooden painted rocking horse, white globe Christmas lights, pine wooden TV unit provides soft plain background keeping image flat.

Taking the shots took a lot longer than I had allowed for as there were lots of things that went wrong, such as the light not being strong enough, or soft enough or hitting the right areas. The props I had imagined looking a certain way and then it took along time to get them to hang right or sit right or light up in the correct way. Most of the images ended up being different to the plans but with the same concept. It went against my usual methods quite a lot as it is in my nature to work creatively and almost subconsciously without having much idea of what the end result will be. Most of the time this method does make me pretty anxious though as I’m never sure if I’ll get a set that I really like whereas with this series I didn’t stop until my goals were met, until I had the set, or a very similar set, made from the concepts which I had planned for.

Overall I’m really happy with the end result of my work for this assignment and I am pleased that I was able to plan and deliver without sacrificing any creativity. It will help me enormously for future assignments where I might have to work in this controlled manner.

 

References:

Long Chin-San

https://www.en.jimeiarles.com/chin-san-long/ (accessed on 18/12/2017)

http://photographyofchina.com/blog/lang-jingshan- (accessed on 18/12/2017)

https://onlinebrowsing.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/chin-san-long-picture-in-painting.html (accessed on 18/12/2017)

Miles Aldridge

https://www.artsy.net/artist/miles-aldridge (accessed on 18/12/2017)

Tom Chambers

https://www.artsy.net/artist/tom-chambers (accessed 18/12/2017)

https://www.tomchambersphoto.com/biography/ (accessed 18/12/2017)

http://lenscratch.com/2011/03/success-stories-tom-chambers/ (accessed 18/12/2017)

https://www.photoawards.com/tom-chambers/ (accessed 18/12/2017)

http://modernbook.com/tomchambers.htm (accessed 18/12/2017)

Nathanial Dorsky

https://www.artweek.com/events/united-states/art-exhibition/new-york/nathaniel-dorsky-film-stills (accessed on 20/12/2017)

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/movies/for-nathaniel-dorsky-and-jerome-hiler-film-is-the-star.html (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://cinema-scope.com/cinema-scope-magazine/interviews-the-inmost-leaf-an-interview-with-nathaniel-dorsky/ (accessed on 20/12/2017)

https://www.filmcomment.com/article/nathaniel-dorsky-heavenly-host/ (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://nathanieldorsky.net/post/161307028933/elohim-two-film-stills (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://www.artnet.com/galleries/peter-blum/nathaniel-dorsky-film-stills/ (accessed on 20/12/2017)

Cindy Sherman

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/cindy-sherman-untitled-film-stills-1977-80 (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sherman-untitled-film-still-48-p11518 (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://100photos.time.com/photos/cindy-sherman-untitled-film-still-21 (accessed on 20/12/2017)

http://artlead.net/content/journal/modern-classics-cindy-sherman-untitled-film-stills/ (accessed on 20/12/2017)

Assignment 5: Making it Up

Whilst listening to a Christmas themed playlist on Spotify I came across a song, by artist Sia, which resonated with me and brought on a wave of nostalgia that took a long while to dissipate and when I shot the images in the series you’ll see below I used that rush of feeling as a a creative influence and motivation. I decided to shoot a series in the style of Film Stills with inspiration from Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, Nathaniel Dorsky’s films (and their exhibited stills) and a variety of other viewer made film stills I browsed on Tumblr, click here for my research regarding this. The set is supposed to look as though it has been taken from a music video, if I were to create a music video for Sia’s Everyday is Christmas this is what it would look like in selected stills. As there is no original film to my ‘film stills’ I began to question their validity but actually I now think that like Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills this makes them even more intriguing and asks viewers to question the potential meaning of what they are viewing. The link to ‘Everyday is Christmas’ by Sia is here.

Each image in the set was planned and directed by myself, carefully adding and subtracting elements from the frame until I got the effects that I wanted. There is nothing in any of the images that wasn’t considered. The main props I used, and which are a main feature in every image were Christmas lights and sometimes other Christmas related objects. I wanted the set to be intimate so I used a close range, intimate angles and a large aperture. There isn’t much depth of field in this series, preferring to keep unwanted distractions in a blur of bokeh, turning them in to a mood enhancer. I cut the final images slightly to give a wide screen cinema effect. As I don’t have access to cinematic lights or really anything close I decided to go for a more muted, indie style. The lighting I used consisted of a soft desk lamp with an adjustable shade to help direct it, my harsh LED smart phone light, artificial street lighting, my camera flash and different Christmas string lights that all had changeable modes which were experimented with.

To view the evaluation for this piece please see the bottom of my research page here.

Final 6

Movie Still Curtains Wide Screen Dimensions

Movie still xmas tree smaller.jpg

just to see at 3700

3700 second redder

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Part 5, Project 2, The Archive: Exercise 2

Brief: 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 own 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, miscommunications 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?

A Conversation with my father.

I recorded a conversation that I had one morning with my father when I went to his house to do some paperwork and we had a cup of coffee together. I had my two dogs there two so there was some additional dialogue that includes both my father and I talking to the dogs. I wrote the following account of the conversation a few hours later when I got home from my father’s house so already I had forgotten lots of detail about what had been said. The conversation as I remembered it a few hours later is as follows:

I started to record when my father was talking about a Collie dog he had once owned which used to go out on shoots with gun dogs and it would be fine except occasionally it used to bite other people’s dogs.

We talk about how my puppy barked at a figure at the beach in the dark and then stopped when I talked to the man and therefore broke the ice.

We then go on to talk about Christmas trees as I make an observation that there are pine needles all over the house still and the tree has been gone a while now. My father then swears a lot on the topic of the Christmas tree and moans somewhat about his wife who didn’t want a non-drop tree this year and how he told her so. I then add that I have my potted Christmas tree in the van ready to bring back to its home in dad’s garden and I ask if it will last another year as a potted tree. Dad says it will but that I will need to feed it. He explains that trees don’t like being planted and dug up and then replanted but they will stay happily in a pot for many years provided it is fed.

We both talk to the dogs a little as one is a puppy and it was jumping at my older boy so we tell it off and then have small talk about it.

Dad then mentions his bad back and how he is resting it this week before going back to work as it is still quite sore. He says he wishes that he didn’t stay in his friend’s guest room as it was damp and he wishes that he’d stayed at home this year and watched TV. I talk about how I ate pizza and watched TV and played board games to see in the new year. He agrees this is a good way to spend New Years Eve. I then tell him excitedly about how my Sloe Gin that I made which has brewing a year was very tasty and that I shall be making it again.

I then mention that Fraser, my dog, has a new watermelon shampoo and that the dogs have to be washed all the time because of the mud. Dad nodded I think. I also tell him that Fraser has a new bed.

Dad asks if I want some ham as he has a particularly good one. I say no thanks at the moment and he says I can take some home if I want. I remember the biscuits he bought for my girlfriend’s parents and I tell him they ate them with the extended family who are over from Poland at the moment. I then tell him about the family a bit and he nods and makes small agreeing noises. I tell him about how Grzegorz is a salesman but a nice introverted genuine man and dad goes on to tell me about a salesmen he knew at the garage who sold great products and was a genuine man you could trust.

We then finish off by talking about my step-sisters dog and how she wanted a bigger one and not a sausage dog but that she doesn’t have enough time or space and I say that it would be silly for her to get a bigger dog like a collie or a Labrador as she doesn’t have the time to exercise it and it won’t want to be left all day. Dad agrees. He tells me more about Maria’s house.

The End

I have now listened to the recording again and found that there is a lot more detail in the recording of course. And because it is casual the conversation doesn’t really flow as it does in my transcript version of it. Also I have added information because I know the reader won’t know certain back ground details to make the story make sense yet we didn’t actually vocalise those details during the conversation as we already knew them. There was a misunderstanding at the beginning when I told my father that my puppy had barked at a man at the beach in the dark and then stopped when I spoke to the man as that broke the ice and my father said that he was no longer barking at the man’s dog as he knew he didn’t need to protect me now. I had said that Eli was barking at the man and not his dog but my dad had misheard me and thought I had meant the dog. There are lots of pauses and stammers too and the sound of my own voice is cringey to say the least… The main thing that I noticed though was that we went from one topic to the next linked by a word or aspect of the conversation that reminded us of something else. Like  when I leaped excitedly from New Years Eve topic about dad’s bad back to my Sloe Gin making and tasting experience because I had tasted it on New Years and had just remembered about it. So our conversation as a whole can be easily categorised in to topics or paragraphs, as above, with links between them.

In relation to photography and my own imagery I would say that a picture does not need every little detail to make a narrative that sums up the story but carefully chosen aspects from each section of the story. For example, if I were to create an image, or a series from the above conversation I wouldn’t need to add every little detail but perhaps I would use the miscommunication as that could create an interesting juxtaposition or twist to the set. That being said, the more information added to the photograph the more of the story would become visible. It depends how much the image maker wants to show and how much they want the viewer to guess at.

Part 5, Project 2, The Archive: Exercise 1

Brief: Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in doing so 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 elevated status?
  • Where does their meaning derive from?
  • When they are sold again (again on Ebay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact they’re now ‘art’?

Nicky Bird’s projects Question for Seller combines sets of old family photographed which she found and purchased on Ebay. She only bid on items that had no other bidders with the connotation that they were therefore unwanted (the fact that they were being sold on Ebay in the first place and secondly that there was no one else bidding on them but herself). Upon purchase Bird asked the seller one question “How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them?” and the replies, she insists, are as important as the photos themselves. The body of work Question for Seller was exhibited at Belfast Exposed between December and February of 2006/7. At the end of January the ‘photo album’ exhibit was auctioned on Ebay and sold for £205.00 and on the 1st of February each remaining ‘lot’ of photographs were auctioned off at the venue.

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

I don’t think the images have an elevated status simply because they were displayed on a gallery wall however the added context of the answer from the seller gives them a different meaning and this added interest might elevate their status from banal family photograph to interesting project material worth extra attention. The fact that the ‘photo album’ exhibit sold for £205.00 is evidence that Nicky Bird has turned the images from the unwanted to the wanted. However, sometimes if art is exhibited people do tend to buy just because it is up there – ‘if it is exhibited here it must be art’ some might say and that therefore might elevate their status just by their being placed on the walls of the gallery. On her website Bird explains that the work enabled viewers to explore the following question – ‘what is our relationship to the past, and what is the value we ascribe to it?’, something which the images on their own do not give the opportunity for.

Where does their meaning derive from?

Their original meanings have been lost, all but a brief explanation from the seller as to where the images came from and what they are about is left but to anyone unconnected to the families in the photographs they do not mean anything. Nicky Bird has added another layer to them by adding this brief disconnected text and this encourages the viewer to interpret the sets of old family photographs in a different way than how they were first intended.

The fact that all the ‘lots’ are accompanied by a response to the same question connects the sets of images to one another where they have no other connection. This creates a new archive, on which is aptly titled ‘Question for Seller’.

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

I began to answer this above but yes their monetary value and therefore their new found status as art has definitely increased. Whether they are still of value now, 10 years on, is another question altogether but they are almost certainly still of more value than those lonely, unwanted family photographs that sat praying for a bidder before Bird set her purposeful eyes upon them.

 

References:

http://www.belfastexposed.org/exhibition/question_for_seller Belfast Exposed exhibition details and biography of Nicky Bird [accessed on 12/12/2017]

https://www.nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/ Question for Seller info, Nicky Bird’s offical website [accessed on 12/12/2017]

Part 5, Project 1: Research Point

Gregory Crewdson – Untitled (North by Northwest)

Brief: 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

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  • Do you think Crewdson suceeds in making his work more ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  • 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?

Gregory Crewdson:

Background.

Born in New York in 1962, based in New York. Earned his MFA at Yale School of Art where he is now director of graduate studies in photography. His work has been widely exhibited internationally and he is well known for his unique style of tableaux photography.

I think that there is much more to Gregory Crewdson’s work than aesthetic beauty and although there is always beauty at the very forefront there is much more just below the surface. On viewing a vast selection of his imagery in online galleries and during the video I find the imagery incredibly evocative, it is definitely more moving than the majority of beauty and or fashion photography that I have seen. There is something about the blankness of the subjects, their stillness and their deep deep emotional presence set on a backdrop of surreal and fantastical scenery. The images transport me to another world, a dreamland, where anything can and frequently does happen.

I think Crewdson’s work is definitely psycholgical in more than the one sense. I think that his work reflects his own state of mind and his own deep fears and dreams in one form or another, as self professed by Crewdson himself within the video (Cathedral of the Pines represented a dark time in his life and the images were meant to be hopeful). I also think that the work is psychological in that it challenges people’s own ideas of reality and fiction and the line between them and also the range of very eery but intensely moving emotion captured on the faces of the subjects’ are those that every human can relate to having experienced them at least once in their lives. I can’t speak for all but for me this ‘tugging’ at my emotional heartstrings twists my mind and makes me want to analyse how I am feeling. These pictures definitely make me think – and feel. This is the best way I can think to describe the psychological element of Crewdson’s work.

When making my own imagery I am not too concerned about beauty but more about meaning. Having said that, it depends on the subject as where some things are meant to shock others depend on a beautiful aesthetic to pull viewers in before making their point. I do feel, as a photographer, that I am drawn to beautiful things, from scenery to light and shadow, to an interesting looking person or animal but I think that the meaning of the image will usually give it an interesting quality with or without beautiful aesthetics.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with making beauty your main goal. However, I think if beauty is your main goal and you achieve that but yet the image is flat and meaningless that it will not matter how beautiful it is as no one will be the slightest bit interested in it. I have come across images such as this in fashion magazines before. It’s the images which just show a statue-like celebrity with a necklace or item of clothing/accessory draped on him/her with no added interest in the frame – no emotion, no character, no background, no props etc that really bore me and I wonder how much product can possibly sell from those types of advert. I much prefer the images of Guy Boourdin, for example, where the images are provocative, frightening, shocking, sexy AND beautiful – that’s the whole package.

 

 

References:

http://www.artnet.com/artists/gregory-crewdson/biography (accessed 30/11/2017)

 

 

Part 5, Project 1: Setting the Scene

Brief: 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’.

Make some notes in your learning log.

I’ve never watched this film although I have heard of it so the following notes are based on the clip alone and my observations.

Summary:

The main character is young, handsome, suave, social, important, well-liked, well-dressed and confident.

I have written a list of the visual clues, as they happen, in order to work out how I came to the conclusions of the man’s character listed above.

  • Main character hands cash to assumed porter to look after car, cash exchange – hand to hand. (Well to do, upper class)
  • Guides his date across the road towards a long queue, hand on her waist, looking at her frequently as he talks. (Charming, ladies man)
  • Guides her straight through the queue to some steps, switching sides with her smoothly – turns to her as they descend and laughs. (Charming, ladies man)
  • Opens door for her as a suited man holds open the other, another exchange of dollar bills. (Showing off in front of her, wealthy – able to pay to use back entrance)
  • Main character glances at his date again and chuckles. (Charming, ladies man, confident)
  • Another suited man, gangster looking with slicked back hair and a moustache eating a burrito, stops and shakes his hand in a familiar and warm gesture. (Hint of gangster/drug/gang themes)
  • Another man on the right shortly after, a brief acknowledgement, again familiar. (Well-liked, celebrated)
  • Main character turns to left and makes hand gesture at two workers hanging around in the corridor, makes a joke, familiarity – he is well known and liked. (Sense of humour, use of banter)
  • He takes his date by her hand and continues to guide her through narrow corridors between busy workers. (confident, knows the back route by heart, a regular here)
  • Main character pushes two arguing kitchen porters in suits away as he walks smoothly past then squeezes past another as the room gets narrower and workers become more plentiful. (Important, able to push workers)
  • A chef to the left with tall white hat looks and grins. (Chef most important man in kitchen and he is smiling at the intruder)
  • A grinning older man in suit gets a warm shoulder squeeze as the main character passes him. (Older man looks important, boosting main characters VIP status)
  • As main character turns back to walk on he falls over a protruding work top – clumsy, human, quirky. (Proves he’s human, something women might find cute)
  • Main character steers his date in to a posh looking red hall in which he immediately shakes hands with a suited man on the left. (VIP status boost once more)
  • Another suited man immediately waves him over with one hand and then opens out his palms in a a gesture of welcome and then shakes his hand and his dates hand.
  • The suited man then waves to a waiter to make up a table – two men rush to set one up, it is ready as they approach it.
  • The suited man holds a chair out for him and they shake hands again.
  • As the main character begins to sit three men rush to shake his hand and another waves from further away and he waves back. (very well-liked and well known and respected)
  • Main character adjusts his suit with two firm shakes of the wrists in a formal manner. (Important, formal)
  • The suited man then points across the room to a group of who raise their glasses and hands to the main character.
  • When he answers his dates question – What do you do? He doesn’t hold her eye contact this time but his eyes move around the stage instead – a lie perhaps? Then he turns to her and smiles. (Shady, mysterious)
  • When the entertainment comes on he nods his head and points at him in yet another familiar gesture – they know each other.

I then read on in the course notes and the colour red was mentioned, implying danger and romance – something that I had felt but wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly where the feeling came from.