Scribbles about books (1) – Culture & Design

Art history is about investigating the circumstances surrounding an artwork. Under which conditions was it made? Which factors attribute to the end result of an artwork? Art history is about establishing the context of an art work. In order to do this art historians look at: the age of an art work, style, subject, artist, patron, etc.

When we look at the vocabulary of describing art and architecture we see many words that are relevant in other disciplines as well, not only in scientific disciplines, but also f.e. in commerce:

  • form and composition
  • material and technique
  • line & shape
  • colour & value
  • pattern & texture
  • space, mass and volume
  • perspective and foreshortening
  • proportion and scale
  • unity & balance
  • emphasis and focal point
  • rhythm & motion

Art works can be analysed from many viewpoints: social, political, philosophical, historical, and technical. Different people might come to different conclusions as cultural background and education will have an influence.

Photography

Some words more specific to photography, although related to/can be categorised under above mentioned vocabulary as well, are:

  • frame shape and dynamics
  • light & exposure
  • intent & post-production

There are many accounts on the social history of photography and there is just as many debate on those as well.

‘A great deal goes on the process of making an exposure that is not at all obvious to someone else seeing the result later. This will never prevent art critics and historians from supplying their own interpretations, which may be extremely interesting but not necessarily have anything to do with the circumstances and intentions of the photographer’, (Freeman, 2007:6)

Conclusion

For me if we talk art, everything can be summarised in two intermingled words: culture & design.

 

Bibliography

Kleiner, F.S. (2014), Gardner’s Art through the Ages 14th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Lauer, D.A., Pentak, S. (2012), Design Basics 8th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Freeman, M. (2007), The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes, East-Sussex: Ilex

Ion Barladeanu

The sixty-year-old wanderer, Ion Barladeanu, lives in the Romanian capital Bucharest, where he survives by cleaning up garbage. When a gallery owner finds that Barladeanu has a collection of fascinating social critique collages that he made when the dictator Ceausescu  was in charge, Ion B. becomes a celebrity‘, (Close Up, 2017)

Ion balances between genius and madness. Between being an artist and a drunk. His social commentary collages are fascinating, sharp, humorous & cynical.

Bibliography

Alexander Nanau (2010), The World According to Ion B.,

Close up (2017), At: https://www.npo.nl/avro-close-up/21-12-2010/AVRO_1416695 last visited (4 May 2017)

Henri Cartier-Bresson

‘What matters is to look, but people don’t look. Most of them don’t look. They press the button. They identify. But to seek the meaning beyond this or this…. Very few do it.’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

I do a lot of nature photography and the ‘justification’ I often read from other photographers is environmental preservation. I think it’s fashionable to say, but how many are really creating according to that idea. Is it not recording of an (rare) animal and behaviour, or the discovery of exceptional places, in various lighting situations? For me being in nature is more an escape from everyday life. I feel freedom during my shoots in nature.

‘I always feel like I’m a prisoner on the run.’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

I have to be on the move and discover: viewpoints, animals and animal behaviour. It’s about the hunt for new experiences.

‘It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters. You have to be receptive that’s all.

Like the relationship between things, it’s a matter of chance, that’s all. If you want it, you get nothing. Just be receptive and it happens.’

(Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

I treat every shoot as an expirement. If I go out to make good pictures I come home with little.

According to Henri learning to look is just about doing it and it’s important to love. In the case of Henri I think he meant people, cities and streetlife, In my case it’s my feeling of freedom. I get that by being in nature and by traveling. Henri doesn’t like to travel, but he likes to be in another country and observe. I also observe. I observe people, but I don’t intrude. I usually don’t get my camera out to steel a moment. It’s an objection I have to overcome if I ever want to do serious street photography. I don’t like if people take candid pictures of me, so I usually don’t create them of others.

‘It happens in less than a fraction of a second. You must feel it intuitively. Sensitivity, Intuition, A sense of geometry. Nothing else.’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

When I go out and make a good picture I feel it’s good the moment I make it. Of course I still make my technical mistakes. I think the main components of a picture are form, balance and light. Geometry is balancing the form. With different light I aim for different forms and balance.

‘I go for form more than for light. Form comes first. Light is like a perfume to me.’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

I see a lot of similarities in the life philosophies of Henri and mine. I have to read more about him.

‘What is important is what is next. Erase the past.’

‘What about the future?’

Question yourself. It’s essential’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, 2001)

Bibliography

Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court Part 1-5 (2001) At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6l09YEeEpI&index=1&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF (Accessed on 28 April 2017)

 

Aperture #226 American Destiny

‘The magazine of photography an ideas’. This edition is mainly about social documentary photography. It’s the first version edition I read and the editors write ‘the projects in this issue are bound by an urge to explore the social and political landscape of the United States’. I hope other editions take other types of photography in account as well. I can’t place the claim that this magazine would be about ideas. Besides the sociale documentary character of the main articles the magazine is incoherent, sloppy, and pointless. Maybe that’s why they claim the magazine is also about ideas, No finishing touch needed.

Like the claim of what the magazine is about in general, the titel, American Destiny, is also too comprehensive. The Pictures have a social content or better I decode a social content. The exploration of the political landscape I can’t decode (except in the LaToya Ruby Frazier article)  or it must be that the intend is for me to be prejudiced in e.g. the political thoughts of a contemplating black worker portrayed in front of a factory. I can decode all kinds of messages from the pictures, but from most not a political one. The accompanying texts are about the photographers and the projects. In these texts I don’t find many clues relating to the exploration of the political landscape. Are the subjects liberals, socialists, democrats, republicans, Clinton or Trump voters, etc. ? The fact that most portrayed people seem to share a similar social status, although that’s a big generalisation and a prejudice as well, doesn’t mean they share political ideas. The projects itself might very well be about the social and political landscape, but the choice of pictures published in the magazine don’t show the political exploration enough. Another reason why the title is too comprehensive is that the main articles are only about a couple of unprivileged societies. That’s too limited to justify the title ‘American Destiny’.

To end with a positive note, the magazine introduced me to some contemporary photographers like LaToya Ruby Frazier, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Carolyn Drake, Mark Neville some critics and a re-introduction to Gregory Halpern. I wrote about him in a previous post.

Bibliography

Aperture 226 American Destiny

Ruff’s jpegs

According to David Campany the photographic art of Thomas Ruff makes demands of us and offers pleasure, both aesthetic and intellectual. The viewer find themselves switching between thinking about the image they see before them and contemplating the state of ‘all photography’ in its totality.

All images that appear on the internet and/or printed in books and magazines today are digitized. It is surprising how few of them ever wish to address the fact that they exist as masses of electronic information that take visual form as pixels. Ruff does this by making large scale photographic prints, blowing them up beyond their photorealist resolution.

Pixels are grid-like, machinic and repetitive. They do not have the scattered chaos of grain. When we glimpse pixels we do not think (yet) of authenticity.

Many of Ruff’s photographs are images of unpredictability. Water, fire, smoke, steam, explosions, ruins are all phenomena that cannot be mapped in their detail. We see these subjects throughout Ruff’s grids of pixels. We switch from looking at figuration to abstraction and back again. The result is tension or drama. And it is tempting to see in it something of the character of modern life with its great forces of rationality and irrationality.

According to Joerg Colberg Ruff’s jpegs work well in book form, not as gigantic prints in a gallery. The amount of detail in the images is not large enough to justify the sizes shown.

The beauty of some of the images notwithstanding, the concept itself seems to rely too much on the technique itself. What else is there? Images on the web often have low resolution, and if you blow them up then they show funny patterns, and photography’s role has been changing through its use online – but all that is obvious!

Bibliography

In each post with citations on this website I include a bibliography. This post is just a rolling overview for later reference for myself.

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) London: Thames & Hudson

Feldschuh Gallery (2016) Brassaï At URL: http://www.artnet.com/artists/brassaï/lovers-in-a-paris-cafe-a-D3cqKzsddqMWvFXs1uSYLg2 (Accessed on 22 November 2016)

Hirsch, R. (2009) Seizing the Light, a social history of photography. New York: Mc Graw Hill

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

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

Rousse G. (s.d.) At http://www.georgesrousse.com/en/biography/ (accessed on 17 November 2016)
And At http://www.georgesrousse.com/en/archives/article/georges-rousse-in-ruesselsheim/ (accessed on 17 November 2016)

Steve McCurry.com (2016), McCurry, S. At URL: http://stevemccurry.com/stories/gateway-india-0 (Accessed on 2-12-2016)

 Fomu Antwerp (2016) At URL: http://www.braakland-fomu.be/vogelaar.php?space=3&lang=en (Accessed on 19 December 2016)

Gregory Halpern.com (2016), Halpern, G. At URL: http://www.gregoryhalpern.com/info.html (accessed on 19 December 2016)
Fomu Antwerp (2016) At URL: http://www.braakland-fomu.be/INDIVISIBLE.php?space=2&lang=en (accessed on 19 December 2016)

Aperture 226 American Destiny (Spring 2017)

Baron, J. (2015), What’s Next for Pittsburgh, At: http://www.nextpittsburgh.com/events/londonpittsburgh-first-solo-exhibition-western-pa-international-artist-mark-neville/ (last visited 2 May 2017)

The Guardian (2017), People power: Mark Neville’s documentary photography – in pictures, At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jan/06/mark-neville-documentary-photography-in-pictures (last visited 2 May 2017)

Magnum photos (2001) Peter Marlow At: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/image/LON23555.html (last visited 2 May 2017)

O’Reilly, Finbarr (2007 ), At: http://www.finbarr-oreilly.com/gallery/senegal-scenes/ (last visited 3 May 2017)

Landeros, K.M. (2017), At: http://kathyalanderos.com/west/sixteen.html (last visited 2 May 2017)

State library New South Wales (2007), Refner, E. , At: http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/events/exhibitions/2008/wpp/images/4.html (last visited 2 May 2017)

World Press Photo (2002), Refner, E. At: https://www.worldpressphoto.org/collection/photo/2002 (last visited 2 May 2017)

Carolyn Drake (2017) At: https://twitter.com/drakeycake/status/843850601523896320

Wikipedia ‘Flint water crisis’ At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_water_crisis (last visited 15 April 2017)

Knight, K. (2017), At: http://www.nickknight.com (last visited 17-05-2017)

Gastel, G. (2017), At: http://www.giovannigastel.it (last visited 17-05-2017).

(sources to update)

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

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)

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)