My Practice : Check Point No 1

It is time to draw out the theory that has been gathering in my head and written notes and wrap it around my work, my practice.  This is the first of what will, I anticipate, roll into a series on this blog.

As a moment of ‘checkpointing’ my own work struck, I decided to delve into my array of photographs from the visit in November 2016 to PhotoParis, to pick out this example of street photography.  I consciously divide my image making into two; the carefully considered, set-piece exploration of architecture and its demise which creates a series of related images on the one hand; on the other I provide a visual running commentary on where I visit, the streets I walk around; what I  see, feel and do on a daily basis.  The former involves kit in heavy bags, significant planning and processing time, the latter the instantaneous fusion of phone/camera/Instagram and 4G and an inquisitive eye.

This example is street photography, shot at dawn on a cold and damp day around the Opera House district of Paris.  Though with an SLR.

paris-ad-nov-2016

I am reappraising this photograph; an ontological analysis.  It was taken because I am intrigued by how advertisement/billboards can often create a backdrop to a place, to alter the visual dynamic.  Hence, in this instance my photograph captured a photograph.  I see streets as ‘rooms’ often with contrived and random things colliding and making for unexpected juxtapositions.  Here we see a room in the room.  The deliberate depth provided by the commercial photographer contrives a deeper perspective into the side of this narrow street, itself a minor thoroughfare from the main boulevard.  My work often endeavours to capture depth by shadow and light; space beyond space.  That is why I was drawn to this view. I flattened the view by placing my vantage point exactly perpendicular to the other side of the street, as if to emphasise the perspective and depth provided by the billboard.

I chose the frame to contrast the posh clothing, one in workaday business garb, the other in weekend wear but sharply contrasted with the dirt on the doorway step, the cable hanging loose and the ball tapped bollard typical of Parisian streets.  The moment was captured as the moving car lit the left side of the image with its headlamps. Here is a controlled, farmed image with models ‘walking out’ of a tight board-marked concrete corner, as if striding out, but into a very ordinary, bland street (though actually appropriately dressed for the weather).  Move much more, as if out of their false world and into the real, and they would trip over the green bin.  Or out into the path of the car racing across the image.  My framing image chooses to miss out the branding, making the view a more uncanny and awkward positioning devoid of its link to the marketeer’s essential textual link.  The ad-world is projected into the real world; perhaps a hint of the cave that is Plato’s?

The men pose tall, legs astride, upright, hair gelled, beards just long enough to strike a match, like urbane morphs from the Marlboro Men.  Their gaze is ahead, forward.  The male cliche is enforced.  Just around the corner there is a female model, in a department store’s plate glass window, wearing a skimpy bikini……in November.  The ‘Admen’ are at it again.

This is a hunted image dominated by a carefully crafted farmed image.  The studio is taken out onto the street context via billboard.  This exacting commercial, studio image will feature in magazines, social media, in stores and may even be made ‘almost real’ emulated on manakins.  The studio is a faked, idealised, made-up marketeer’s world and the printing of the billboard medium is controlled and inserted into a chrome frame.  It is then spliced into the real, moving, gritty, grey street in a trendy town, outdone by the colourful trash bin.

Influencers in my thinking and composure; a current and concise list which will keep evolving and expanding;

Theorists

John Szarkowski – framing, compression, vantage point –  The Photographer’s Eye. MoMA, New York, 2007

Berger – on promotion, prejudice and seeing  – Ways of Seeing. Viking Press, 1973

Sontag – on voyeurism, Plato’s cave and references to ‘trace’ – On Photography, Penguin, 1977

Peirce – on coding and indexation in photography – a useful introduction – Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotic by Charles Sanders Peirce.  Edited Hoopes J. The University of North Carolina Press. 2014

Barthes – to keep me on my toes – Camera Lucida New York: Hill and Wang 1981.

Practitioners

Edgar Martins

Uta Barth

James Welling

Laura Letinsky

William Kelin

Artists

Mondrian & Reitveld : de Stijl

Rothko

Riley

Goldsworthy

Richard Long

Antony Gormley

Architects

John Pawson

Herzog de Meuron

Norman Foster

Philip Cox

Michael Hopkins

Caruso St John

Le Corbusier

Dennis Lasdon

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,

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-21-04-35

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-21-19-01

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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