Assignment 2 – wide, open and empty

Thoughts to brief

I interpreted the brief as an assignment to make a collection of photographs expressing a single aesthetic code using a fixed combination of a lens technique and exposure.

Like in assignment one I wanted to do a type of photography or use a technique that I’m unfamiliar with. Some attempts I made before settling on ‘wide, open and empty’:

– street photography in the centre of Antwerp.

– action photography. start of the Tour the Flanders, an elite men road cycling race, in Antwerp. The shoot was educational, but I didn’t have enough quality outcome to make a series. I also would not have the option to make adjustments, as there was no opportunity to re-shoot photos.

Wide, open and empty

I don’t like the distortion in most photos that I make with my 14mm lens. Therefor I hardly use it. I thought it would be a nice challenge to make a series with this lens. I decided to go for nature views. I started with two ideas:

  • no obvious point of focus. To try and lead the viewer through a picture by lines and colour without a specific subject where the attention would go to first.
  • wide-, open-, emptiness

In the contact sheets you can see how those ideas developed in the various shoots. Although the selected photos are more about wide-, open- and emptiness, still some remains of the first idea are in there. All shots were taken handheld, lower then eye-level, with aperture priority mode at f/16 and ISO 200.

Reflection

The combination of landscape with clouds works very well. The clouds are necessary as the pictures don’t have a strong foreground interest.

I learned an important lesson about the 14mm lens. Very clear lines seen through the viewfinder don’t show the same on the picture. That’s is if the lines don’t lead the eye into the picture.

The series could improve by composing the horizon at less different heights, maybe one height when focus more on sky and one when focus more on ground.

Specific to photos

EvY 201 23/82. Various colour patches, different types of vegetation, bring depth into the picture.

EvY 202 – 22/82. Sand path as lead-in-line, but trees too small to be an obvious point of focus. Because of composition with lead-in-lines and the clouds the picture gets depth.

EvY 203 – 24/82. Various colour patches, different types of vegetation, bring depth into the picture.

EvY 204 – 25/82. Sand path as lead-in-line.

EvY 205 – 36/82. Various colour patches, different types of vegetation, bring depth into the picture.

EvY 206 – 37/82. Sand path as lead-in-line.

EvY 207 – 80/82. With some imagination a radial symmetry can be seen in the clouds. It leads the eye into the picture.

The order of the pictures I have chosen by alternating path and heath, matching successive pictures by colour of heath.

Reflection on feedback

I wrote in my analyses of the square mile assignment, ‘Keith Arnett and Gawain Barnard don’t inspire me. I’m missing exhibition of the technical skills.’ My tutor replied, ‘Perhaps when you get really technically proficient the techniques become invisible.’ I fully agree that an artist doesn’t have to show off his or hers technical skills, but I don’t think ideas are more important than execution. It’s something I’m struggling with while looking at a lot of contemporary art. I’m learning to look and decode.
My next comment was related to this as well, ‘Tina Barney. The dividing line between art and snapshot is thin.’ My tutor commented, ‘And I think this is increasingly true in photography in general…look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh‘. I did have a look and although the chosen pictures might look like snapshots, I certainly see well framed and aesthetically pleasing pictures. Art concealed as snapshots.

 

Suggested reading/viewing

Sontag, S., 1978. On Photography. London: Penguin. I did read. Some comments in my doubt-posts are from during reading this book. I’ll re-read in coming period.

I added the following books to my wish list:

  • Berger, J., 1982. Ways of Seeing. London: Pelican.
  • Fox, A. & Caruana, N., 2012. Behind the Image. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.
  • Short, M., 2011. Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.

Next time I order books this one will be included.

Learning log

My tutor suggested, ‘the Home page would be better holding what you currently have in the Geen categorie.’ I changed the front page of my site to a static page. I would prefer to show a limited number of posts on the front page, but in the chosen wordpress theme that’s not possible.

Assignment 1 – Off the baby blanket

Thoughts to brief

 My thoughts developed as follows:

  • childhood memorabilia in square format. 
  • parental house.
  • put my father in situations I remember from childhood
  • visit a nature park and use unfamiliar techniques.
  • ‘Why i avoid nature in the Netherlands’.
  • my newly rented apartment in Antwerp

Off the baby blanket

First the baby only lies on a blanket, starts turning by itself, goes on hands and knees. The first steps are set and the baby goes off the blanket. The first discovery of the undiscovered is what I aim to capture in this assignment. 

‘From the first gesture of a child pointing to an object and simply naming it, but with a world of intended meaning, to developed mind that creates an image whose strangeness and reality stirs our subconscious to its inmost depths, the awakening of desire is the first step to participation and experience.’ (Ray, M. 1980:167)

I first photographed with a wide angle lens to capture up close, but see around it as well, then a 70-200mm zoom lens to focus on a subject and portray the surroundings vague. Both from the idea that the span of interest of a baby is short. I settled for macro shots. Babies can focus. I used a tripod, locked the mirror, set the camera at Av priority and shot with a remote shutter. 

I didn’t often use my macro lens or live view before, or stage scenes, shoot indoors, and the subject wasn’t nature.

Research recommended websites

Keith Arnett and Gawain Barnard don’t inspire me. I’m missing exhibition of the technical skills.

Tina Barney. The dividing line between art and snapshot is thin.

Tom Hunter, I like his way of thinking. Karen Knorr, I like her use of text.

Reflection

The most difficult parts of the assignment were to make nice compositions of items that aren’t photogenic subject matter and unfavourable light. 

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Implied and actual diagonals make a strong composition. Lighter part of the wood, is a little distracting.

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Simple colour plains.

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Diagonals give dynamic. Implied triangles and color contrast. Bottom part of picture a bit too dark.

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Material contrast. Basic forms, lines, squares and quarter circles. I don’t like the imperfections in the wood.

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Triangles. The grain of the wood gives a dynamic.

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Circles. Contrast Black en Grey-white.

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Colour composition. The light wasn’t perfect which can be seen in the shadow on the left.

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Diagonal grain of the wood versus the quarter circle

I liked my the idea, but struggled a bit with the execution. I stayed true to my concept. I think the selected individual pictures demonstrate sufficient technical and visual skills. The quality of outcome is sufficient. The context is good. Adequate researched and prepared. My doubts are on the coherency of the selected pictures as a series and I’m not sure my creativity is seen enough, or even if I’m creative enough.

I can continue the project with everywhere I come to look for basic forms and color plains at maximum knee level. 

Bibliography

Ray, M. (1980) ‘The Age of Light’ In: Trachtenberg, A. (ed.) Classic Essays on Photography Sedgwick: Leete’s Island Books. pp. 167-168.

Magnum controversies

One of the founders of Magnum, Robert Capa, made a highly controversial photo on the 5th of September 1936 when he captured ‘The Falling Soldier’. A couple of months ago Magnum photographer Steve McCurry was publicly bashed for extensive photoshopping and he’s been accused of staging photo’s as well. In my research trail assignment for the — An Introduction to Studying in HE – course I’ll be researching if there are more controversies surrounding the photographers collective Magnum and if so, what they were. I’ll only identify the controversies and not investigate if there is truth in them.

[This article will be updated step by step]

Robert Capa

  • The falling soldier is claimed to have been staged
  • D-day landing. The story of melted negatives in a London darkroom isn’t true. There are eye witness reports that Capa panicked and fled back to a ship. He only made 11 exposure, which were not up to his usual quality.

Steve McCurry

  • Some of McCurry’s photographs have been digitally doctored.
  • Some of McCurry’s famous ‘photojournalism’ images were set up

Thomas Hoepker

  • 9/11 picture of 4 people bading in the sun while in the background the city is burning. At first the picture wasn’t published. When it was after 5 years, the people in the picture complained that Thomas had photographed them ‘without permission in a way that misrepresented their feelings and behaviour.’ (Jones, 2011)

Paolo Pellegrin

  • plagiarism and sloppy journalism. Misrepentation of background information and depiction with a photo with as subject a former marine in The Crescent, Rodchester, USA.

Bibliography (to update)

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_2_VForm

Koch, R. (2009) Photo:box New York: Abrams

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Falling_Soldier (last visited 3 May 2017)

http://thephotofundamentalist.com/uncategorized/steve-mccurry-controversy/ (last visited 3 May 2017)

https://petapixel.com/2016/06/07/eyes-afghan-girl-critical-take-steve-mccurry-scandal/ (last visited 3 May 2017)

Jones, J. (2011), The Guardian, At: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/02/911-photo-thomas-hoepker-meaning (last visited 3 May 2017)

http://resourcemagonline.com/2013/02/paolo-pellegrin-photo-controversy/21094/ (last visited 3 May 2017)