Bring on the Image Bank

Informing Contexts : Practice Reflection

MA Falmouth University

The mental imprint can at times dwell consciously in one’s brain, as John Stathatos writes on photography, “its unique relationship with reality, a relationship which has little to do with ‘truth’, visual or otherwise, but everything to do with the emotional charge generated by the photograph’s operation as a memory trace” quoted in Badger G. ”The Territories of the Medium”, The Genius of Photography, Quadrille, London 2007.

So it was with James Welling’s lingering image, The Glass House, Connecticut, USA, the impressionistic view of Philip Johnson’s own home, shot from 2006 to 2009.  That featured in the exhibition organised by ICP Curator Carol Squiers, What Is a Photograph? that explored the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970’s exhibited in 2014. It is an image for which Barthes may have made his observation, “The Photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination” Barthes, R. (1981). Camera Lucida: Reflections on photography (1st American ed.). New York: Hill and Wang. p115.  The deep orange seems somehow appropriate and not jarring as the subject is the setting and object that is the wholly glass walled Modernist house set amongst its own parkland. Map Magazine’s citation reads “his imposition of fanciful abstraction and colourful embellishments could register at odds with the no-frills rationality of modernist architecture. Could he be challenging Johnson’s conceptual conceit? Or conversely, perhaps Welling continues the investigation of transparency and the dialectics of interiority and exteriority propagated by modernist architects. Somewhat humorously, the combination of modernist iconography with dramatised, artificial lens flares appear as if spiritual transcendence is occurring on the very picture plane” http://mapmagazine.co.uk/8991/james-welling-glass-house/

I had this Welling image firmly springing into my mind when I walked out onto this flat expanse of roof, during my shoot of buildings under threat, in this case the Masonic Hall, known as the Clarendon Suite, Hagley Road, Birmingham March 2017 to be demolished April 2017. The ‘doubleness’ Welling cited in his work and the deliberate use of filters to cast and manipulate light onto the image but also through the dual glass facades all chimed.  This image is taken through a tinted glass corner; the glass itself providing a deepened hue viewed through one sliding door to another beyond and the clouds and a simmer of sun interplay with the leafless trees both beyond and reflected from behind. The building is 1971 vintage and the colours capture the light brown cast that spreads throughout the building.  My Birmingham view is less sunny, infused with ordinariness and uses no filters  but the layering of the architecture and the imposition of nature and the weather play into the shot of a building that is otherwise the antithesis of Johnson’s house as it uses extremely small amounts of glass to shield views to and from the goings on of an institution that operated historically with a high degree of privacy and seclusion.

figure 1: Wellings https://www.nowness.com/story/james-wellings-the-glass-house

figure 2: Own work, ‘Momento Mori’/Empty Series commenced March 2017, Birmingham

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Informing my Practice

Informing Contexts

Module 2, Week 1, Falmouth University

We were tasked with identifying how any aspects of this week’s sessions have influenced our own developing practice.

Summary

Here I explore the descriptions of my image making, my ontological approach, the context for viewing my output and some sample images.

Three Words and Phrases

A key word that applies to my practice is Compression, caused by composition of time and depth frozen and flattened onto the image.  Shore, in The Nature of Photographs, 1998 Johns Hopkins University Press, describes the depictive level and visual grammar.  I think of the act of capture as the collective of the 3 dimensional ‘pressed’ into the two dimensional layer that is the film or sensor, it is an act of suppression, making a new pattern, a new configuration.  The viewer’s eye can then see or read surface, the two dimensional, but also translate to the depth, thus reverting to the 3 dimensional formation.

Two images I cite:

Sugimoto for his long exposures of cinema, reduced to a plane of white light and an absence of people, exemplified in this image; Union City Drive-in, Union City, 1993

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Gelatin silver print © Hiroshi Sugimoto

http://www.artnet.com/artists/hiroshi-sugimoto/union-city-drive-in-union-city-0J8T6s9LlideUHv8UTzfBQ2

James Welling chose to shoot a famous Modernist house by Philip Johnson, in Connecticut, USA.  Avoiding a hackneyed repeat of thousands of images Welling uses an orange filer (exaggerated by the deliberate sun glare into his lens) on colour film and achieves a flattening and presses into the image the leafless trees. This was chosen as a key part of the Carol Squires ICP exhibit, 2014.

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https://www.nowness.com/story/james-wellings-the-glass-house

The frame, the gaze beyond, the border and edges which are extended, imagined, eluded or decided. There is always the unseen, deliberately or through circumstance, in the ‘wings’. The act of editing leads to a certain kind of censorship, of denial.  The viewer sees an abridged image, excluding the wider context, beyond, away, behind; eluded.  The process of compression is framed by the metaphoric scalpel which slices away the dimensions beyond.  It invites often the imagination to form a set of beliefs in the unseen.  The observations from the originator, “To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer’s craft. His central problem is a simple one: what shall he include, what shall he reject? The line of decision between in and out is the pictures edge. … It create the shapes that surround objects.  The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame.” Szarkowski. J. The Photographer’s Eye, MoMA, New York, 2007 p70

Two images I cite:

Uta Barth manages to evoke a feeling of tranquility balanced with uncertainty, this pair of images summarise this approach.  What lies beyond the frame? Untitled (07.5), 2007 Tanya Bonakdar Gallery,

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http://www.artnet.com/artists/uta-barth/untitled-075-a-KzU14lKvy3yPsnx6oGQSzw2

Bruno van den Elshout, in his beautiful publication New Horizons, 2012 photographed the North Sea every day for a year from a single and consistent viewpoint.  The frame is an absolute; the panoramic sweep the roving eye is ‘boxed’ into his frame.

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https://www.dewerk-winkel.nl/team/bruno-van-den-elshout/

My third and final key phrase is The Vantage Point (Szarkowski, 2007). To choose how to make the composition – the visual guides, the convention, the disobliging, the point leading to the object, the focus, or the absence. The Hungarian painter, photographer and Bauhaus professor,  Lazlo Maholy Nagy 1895-1946, was known for his adventurous and unconventional portrayal of structures and spaces propelling the viewer to assume a precarious vantage point.

An image I cite:

Alexander Rodchenko with his New Houses, Balconies shows architecture boldly with a view that requires a ‘double-take’ when the image is viewed from a distance.  Both he and Maholy Nagy have been oft copied since.

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https://uk.pinterest.com/hpiekarczyk/alexander-rodchenko/

Reflection on the ontological nature of my own practice.

Bazin writes, in his 1945 essay, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, “The photographic image is the object itself, the object freed from the conditions of time and space that govern it.”

As an image maker. My aim is to re-see.  Why a space exists, purpose, use, what it is, what it was.  Its permanence and impermanence. To look, to frame, to re-engage with the familiar, the elusive, the hidden. 

I am attentive to materiality; texture, craft; nature’s output and human’s artifice. I am engaged by the smear, the presence of humanity, the suggestion, but the especially the absent.

For the audience.  To re-show.  To exhume the hidden. To evoke what may be. To invite the dwelling of the eye. To stir a thought, an idea, an action, an imagination by seeing and pausing.

The contexts in which my work is consumed.

Digital Streaming, daily ambition – primary place is Instagram – increasing my following via being deliberately active; galleries, minimalist artists, local practitioners.  Instagram is copied to Facebook photo page (strong analytical data) and Twitter (one of three accounts I run and I cross-retweet).

Web repository for visual participation exercise with the public, will be on at least two hosting websites, one will be my own.

Photobook on empty spaces, annual plan; assume only 20/30 copies made, read by purchasers and their associates.  I hope to raise sponsorship for this venture.

Exhibition on heritage and public art, major project plan, locally based – as primary photographer, negotiating a possible highly accessible and well attended venue.

Photography Prize 2017 exhibition, current plan – with circa 20 other photographic artists, publicly accessible gallery in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

The act of photographing; I may use my large format camera and a scissor lift in a central square of Birmingham to shoot close up, that will be a spectacle in its own right.

Provide an illustrated and up to date statement of intent about what your work plans to achieve at this point.

My output needs to increase. I need to endeavour for less by seeing more, then distilling. I will access more hidden spaces.

I am developing thinking, writing and narrative to facilitate my verbal and written complement to my images.

I need to increasingly discriminate, discarding the ‘not good enough’.

I am increasingly looking to develop my image printing skills drawn from both analogue and digital sources.

These images created in the last 4 weeks; abandoned building (2), and canal. These have a particular compression, framing and vantage point. I intend to develop further all three of these factors in future.screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-17-54-12

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