RESEARCH: TWO SIDES OF THE STORY

Two sides of the story

I searched for inspiration other than those studied during the exercises in this module but struggled. I looked at urban decay photography, which is interesting, but the majority of these images are interiors whilst mine would be exteriors; although it does ally itself with aftermath photography which I like. I returned eventually to photographers I had explored when visiting the Strange and Familiar exhibition (March 2016) showcasing international photographers images of Britain. However most of the images I’d seen there contained people and I thought mine would not. I did revisit the images of Candida Hofer of buildings in Liverpool using clean graphic lines and interesting perspective, the colourful shop front images of Jim Dow, the angled lines and abrupt framing of Sergio Iarrain and the diagonals and upright lines of Garry Winogrand. I also drew on my observations after the William Eggleston exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (October 2016) that I would consider using more unusual compositions and use of space in a frame, leading lines and colourful objects set against dull backgrounds. (Link to write up: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/exhibitions-books/)

I found the work of the following photographers helpful:

Stephen Shore (B. 1047)

I returned to the work and writings of Stephen Shore who I had discovered when studying Expressing Your Vision. Shore made several road trips across the states where he shot roadside architecture in colour. His book Uncommon places (Shore 1984) proved that colour was essential “by creating composition of mindboggling complexity and brilliance” (Golden, 2013). Shore rather like Eggleston “shot the commonplace and made it suddenly arresting” (O’Hagan, 2015).

In Shores images I was able to see exteriors of buildings and streets presented with an interesting way of looking.

shore-1

https://fotocolectania.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/stephen-shore.jpg (Accessed 30.10.16)

 

shore-2

http://www.phaidon.com/resource/shore-1.jpg (Accessed 30.10.16)

It was also good to remind myself of his writings in The Nature of Photographs: A Primer (Shore, 2010). I like the way he describes how a photographer gives structure to a photograph on the depictive level by time, frame, flatness and focus. I realise that I do now change my vantage point as I compose to change the relationships within the frame. However it reminded me that the framing would be vital in these images to convey the correct context and narrative and should be “active” containing all the information needed by the viewer. It was stimulating to remind myself of these things although I felt that I would need to be less experimental in order to present the context and narrative for my documentary photos.

 Walker Evans (1903-1975)

He was a forerunner of American documentary photography, photographing the ordinary “creating an encyclopaedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making” (Walker Evans, 2000). He portrayed American life factually through individual portraits, surveys of buildings, signs, advertising, cars and domestic interiors. Walker Evans contributed more than 400 photos to article in Fortune Magazine using a standard journalistic picture-story format. His images of the Great Depression did more than hold a mirror up “no mirror ever made, after all, could so clearly reflect what he saw, and wanted others to see” (Cosgrove, 2012), he certainly gave a clear and unadorned documentary vision of his subjects.

Many of his photographs of buildings are shot straight on, perhaps this was a style I could try for my documentary photos:

walker-evans-1

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/52683?locale=en (Accessed 30.10.16)

This picture illustrates how his heighted attention on a part of a photograph gives the image the appearance of a collage.

walker-evans-2

Gas station, Reedsville, West Virginia, 1936 http://www.brianrose.com/journal/evans_gas_station.jpg (accessed 30.10.16)

In order to understand my subject the local area of Cardigan, I additionally did much reading around local news especially on housing and welfare and these are included in my bibliography. One story that particularly struck me was  the article on the increasing number of charity shops, their exemption from business rates and that it is unfair “as it’s not a level playing field” as other high street businesses have higher costs (Robinson, 2015).

References

Cosgrove, B. (2012) “American photographs” by Walker Evans. Available at: http://time.com/50857/walker-evans-american-photographs/ (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Golden, R. (2013) Masters of photography. 3rd edn. London: Sterling Pub Co.

O’Hagan, S. (2015b) Shady character: How Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Robinson, H. (2015) “Concern” as tenth charity shop opens in cardigan. Available at: http://www.tivysideadvertiser.co.uk/news/13624531._Concern__as_tenth_charity_shop_opens_in_Cardigan/?ref=mr&lp=3 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Shore, S. (1984) Uncommon places. New York: Aperture,N.Y.

Shore, S. (2010) The nature of photographs: A primer. 2nd edn. new York: Phaidon Press.

Walker Evans (1903–1975) | essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of art history | the metropolitan museum of art (2000) Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Bibliography

Dunlap, D.W. (2009) Behind the scenes: Edgar Martins speaks. Available at: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/behind-10/ (Accessed: 24 October 2016).

2015 (2006a) Aberteifi/cardigan – Teifi, Ceredigion – neighbourhood profile – schools – house prices – council tax – gas / electricity prices. Available at: http://www.uklocalarea.com/index.php?q=Aberteifi%2FCardigan+-+Teifi&wc=00NQNT (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Information and maps of walks in the cardigan area and beyond (no date) Available at: http://www.visitcardigan.com/cardigan-tourist-information/walking-in-the-cardigan-area (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

The Guardian (2013) UK seaside resorts in decline – in pictures. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2013/aug/06/uk-seaside-resorts-decline-in-pictures (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

(2016) A tax on outsiders, or sensible bid to tackle housing crisis? Available at: http://www.cardigan-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104688&headline=A%20tax%20on%20outsiders,%20or%20sensible%20bid%20to%20tackle%20housing%20crisis?&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2016 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Mathew Merrett (no date) Available at: http://thephotomat.smallfolio.com/#galleries/decay/urban-decay (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Rossington, B. and Miller, C. (2016) The most deprived places have been revealed – how does your area compare? Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/10-worst-deprived-places-england-6548105 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part One The photograph as document

Project 3 Reportage

Research point

Do some research into contemporary street photography. Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Graham, Joel Sternfeld and Martin Parr are some good names to start with, but you may be able to find further examples for yourself.

  • What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly black and white?

Colour and the street

Street photography began life in black and white, in an age when colour photography was deemed unrealistic because it carried connotations of advertising. Henri Cartier- Bresson, Eve Arnold, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, amongst many others, paved the way for reportage to be used in an artistic way, with no functional purpose other than to tell viewers about life from the point of view of the photographer. As colour photography began to be accepted as an art form in the late twentieth century, street photography followed suit.

Martin Parr (b 1952)

A UK photojournalist who uses heightened colour photography in an almost surreal sense and has said “you either get my photography or you don’t” (Golden, 2013). He “has consistently tested the boundaries of documentary style” (Cotton, 2014) sometimes using a handheld camera with flashlight combined with a macro lens to focus close up on a subject. He uses humour to convey consumerism as a visual language and is known for capturing the essence of Britishness especially in his documentary series The Last Resort (mid 80’s) where he portrayed Thatcherite Brighton.

I saw some of his work first hand when I visited his exhibition Unseen (Guildhall art gallery London, 4 March – 31 July 2016). He used his unprecedented access to high-profile occasions (as the City of London’s photographer-in-residence) to shoot behind the scene images of the pomp and glory in the city of London such as private ceremonies, dignitaries and Banquets. Katherine Pearce, Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery says: “Parr reveals the ‘unseen’, literally and metaphorically. He pays attention to detail and spots things that make you think again about what you’re seeing.” (Pearce, 2016).

I particularly liked the unusual viewpoints that he used such as this image shot from behind the queen, and the way he captures impromptu moments.

martin-parr-queen

Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

martin-parr-officials

Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

He presents the city and its rituals in a variety of ways, such as fun, as boring, as incomprehensible. I actually wondered if he was “taking the mickey” out of the ceremonies and traditions in the way he presents them without any reverence, but then maybe that’s just his way?

Joel Sternfield (b 1944)

He was one of the pioneers of colour photography known for large-format images that capture the American roadside. His body of work On This Site: Landscapes in Memoriam (1966), at first sight seem to be random locations and yet it transpires that these were all previous crime scenes. He applies his studied observation of colour to the everyday he found as he travels taking full length photographs of people where “Each picture tells a story via the person’s physical appearance and the rich details of their surroundings” (Sternfield cited in Getty, nd). These portraits “propose the facts of what has transpired” (Cotton, 2014).

 Interestingly whilst researching Sternfield I came across the story of this photograph which interests me particularly in light of my earlier research into objectivity in photography.

sternfield

  (Sternfield 1978)

In the photo you see a fireman buying pumpkins whilst a fire crew fight a fire in the house behind. On first sight you might think the fireman was being negligent however it transpires that this was a training exercise which the fireman was on a break from. The photograph was apparently the most iconic image of his career, though published without captions other than location and date, “if this picture is deceptive, it’s only because we’ve deceived ourselves” (Keats, 2012).

Joel Meyerowitz (b 1938)

Is a street, Landscape and portrait photographer, influenced originally by Robert Frank. During the 1960s he worked in black and white with 35mm cameras looking for the extraordinary on the streets. In the 1970s he used colour in revolutionary way with larger cameras; he said that the small camera “taught me energy and decisiveness and immediacy… the large camera taught me reverence, patience, and meditation” (cited in Mulligan, 2005). Apparently he learnt that with so much action on the streets he just had to shoot and later discuss and think about the photos. “A lot of what I am looking for is astonishment” he says (cited in O’Hagan, 2012).

He is probably best known for his 9/11 photos Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (2006), the only photographer allowed onto the site immediately afterwards; the US Government later mounted exhibitions using his work.

I can identify with his feeling that colour gives him the sensation of things, a richness and more description. “If photography is about describing things, then colour describes them more” (cited in Louise, 2012). I also like the way that he describes a body of work as a building block of visual language “These pictures are all little gestural elements that don’t necessarily add-up on their own to anything profound, … they have to be interesting and interlocking in a way that you could fuse them in runs… to be stating a sort of collective of ideas into one thing that will carry the reader along”. (2point8, nd).

  He describes his use of context and relationships in images well. I found his reasoning for using a Leica as opposed to a single lens reflex (SLR) camera very interesting, as I had never thought about and SLR as being one eye, whereas with the Leica you have one eye in the camera and one outside due to the positioning of the viewfinder, so that you see the world and its context.  He explains “What you put in the frame determines the photograph… what you put in and where you cut the rest of the 360 degreesas the world continues outside of the frame; so what you put in and what you leave out are what determines the meaning, potential of your photograph” (YouTube, 2012). Certainly his photographs’ suggest relationships not representing objects.

 Paul Graham (b.1956)

Is an English documentary photographer, who was one of the first to photograph documentary in colour. He believes that photographs are subtle and deserve to be looked at with respect. He likes to uncover things that people might miss. His series A1- The Great North Road (1083) is one example of ordinary places, in this case on an arterial road.

paul-graham

(Coomes 2011)

This and other of his eighties work enforced the importance of using colour in documentary photography to expand its visual message. “The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness…it is a shimmer of possibility” (cited in O’Hagan, 2011). He says that when he takes photographs he is questioning how we photograph the world and asking what is the world like?

References

Coomes, P. (2011) Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-13133461 (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. 3rd edn. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

Golden, R. (2013) Masters of photography. 3rd edn. London: Sterling Pub Co.

Getty museum (n,d). Joel Sternfeld. Available at: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/3731/joel-sternfeld-american-born-1944/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016a) Guildhall Art Gallery. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/image-library/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016b) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

 Keats, J. (2012) Do not trust this Joel Sternfeld photograph. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2012/09/06/do-not-trust-this-joel-sternfeld-photograph/#50225726b22f (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Mulligan, T. (2005) A history of photography: From 1839 to the present; the George Eastman house collection. Edited by Therese Mulligan and David Wooters. 25th edn. Köln, Germany: Taschen GmbH.

Pearce, K (2006) cited in: Kallaway (2016) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr. (Accessed 17.10.16).

 You tube (2012) Joel Meyerowitz –‘What you put in the frame determines the photograph. Available at: http://youtu.be/Xumo7_JUeMo (Accessed 17.10.16)

2point8 (n, d) Available at: http://2point8.whileseated.org/2007/12/03/joel-meyerowitz-interview-part-1/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016b).

Bibliography

Another mag (n,d) Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8073/martin-parrs-last-resort (Accessed: 17 October 2016a).

Part One The photograph as document

Project one: Eyewitness

Exercise

  • Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power.
  • How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?
  • Write a list of the arguments for and against. For example, you might argue that these pictures do have a degree of objectivity because the photographer (presumably) didn’t have time to ‘pose’ the subjects, or perhaps even to think about which viewpoint to adopt. On the other hand, the images we see in newspapers may be selected from a series of images and how can we know the factors that determined the choice of final image?
  • Think about objectivity in documentary photography and make some notes in your learning log before reading further.

Response:

I found it difficult to find examples where I could be certain that it was citizen journalism and even more where these related to abuses of power. However in the process I discovered this story and have reflected on how the picture affects the story: Voices of the damned: These horrifying stories from concentration camp victims reveal, with chilling clarity, why this week North Korea was likened to Nazi Germany (Walters 2016). The report centres on the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea suggesting that the inmates are being gradually eliminated by deliberate methods.

mail-korea  Anon

mail-korea-2 Anon

The first picture makes it easy to visualise conditions in the camp and the second presents an army guard looking threatening and harsh. They support and enhance the narrative in the news story and must have been chosen for that. Certainly neither could be classed as objective. The picture of the camp would need authenticating, as it could be staged or from a different location. The picture of the guard carries the same issues but even if authentic, it is essentially only a snap shot of a face caught on camera and her demeanor could be explained by her surprise at being photographed.

New stories can obviously benefit from citizen journalism and photographic testimony from ordinary citizen but authenification is vital, as is responsible balanced use. Apparently the BBC can receive up to 10,000 pieces of user-generated content on a single day. Perhaps the way forward is to responsibly mix professional and citizens photos to give a rounded picture.

A Newstatesman article (Baker 2015) raises some interesting points. It outlines how verification is now relatively simple but that events can actually be staged with media coverage in mind. The Sydney siege and the Lee Rigby Murder in Woolwich are given as examples where in these cases citizen video footage was not shoot by chance but taken to control the stories.

I found it easier to access citizen video news footage, which raises similar issues as citizen photography. One such example is the “Syria hero boy” story (The Telegraph  2014) which was  a hoax story of a boy saving a girl from gunfire. It originally appeared as an original news piece, with unverified content and was later debunked (Crilly , 2014)

mail-syria-boy-hero Anon

For and against of citizen journalism:

For:

  • Enhances news stories
  • Widens the possibility for capturing an event
  • Many photos of the same event provide possible authentication and multiple viewpoints

 Against:

  • Only as balanced as the editing allows
  • Must be verified absolutely
  • Even if authentic the event could have been staged to capture the photographic evidence.
  • The image could be tampered with post production
  • Can never be objective as influenced by the context and photographer, however also true of journalistic photographs.

References:

Baker, V (2015) How far can you trust citizen journalism on the internet? The Newstatesman. 25.3.15.Available from: http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2015/03/how-far-can-you-trust-citizen-journalism-internet. (Accessed 3.10.15)

Crilly, R (2014) Syria ‘hero boy’ video is too good to be true. The Telegraph 14.11.14Crilley 2014). Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11232803/Syria-hero-boy-video-is-too-good-to-be-true.html (Accessed 5.10.16)

Malm, S (2014)Heroic young boy runs through sniper fire in Syria, pretends to get shot, then rescues terrrified girl as bullets hit the floor around them. The Daily Mail online, 11.11.14. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2829895/Heroic-young-boy-runs-sniper-fire-Syria-pretends-shot-rescuing-terrified-girl-bullets-hit-floor-them.html#ixzz4MCGmQHDZ (Accessed 5.10.16)

Walters, G (2016). Voices of the damned: These horrifying stories from concentration camp victims reveal, with chilling clarity, why this week North Korea was likened to Nazi Germany. The Mail online, 2.10.16. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565240/Voices-damned-These-horrifying-stories-concentration-camp-victims-reveal-chilling-clarity-week-North-Korea-likened-Nazi-Germany.html#ixzz4Lx25rEY9 (Accessed 3.10.15)

The Telegraph (2014) Watch: Syrian ‘hero boy’ appears to brave sniper fire to rescue terrified girl in dramatic video. The Telelgraph.  Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11222420/Watch-Syrian-hero-boy-appears-to-brave-sniper-fire-to-rescue-terrified-girl-in-dramatic-video.html (Accessed 5.10.16)