ASSIGNMENT 2: PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN

FINAL IMAGES

Niki South      Student number:514516

“DISAPPOINTMENT”

lr-2242-cp-ps-1500

“Flushed away”

Image 26: Exposure 1/100, Aperture f/4.5, ISO 400, Focal length 35mm.

___

lr-1725-ps-cp-1500

“Floating off”

Image 8: Exposure 1/125, Aperture f/5.6, ISO 125, Focal length 100mm.

___

lr-2369-cp-ps-1500

“Washed up”

Image 32 : Exposure 1/15, Aperture f/9, ISO 400, Focal length 39mm

___

lr-2512-ps-cp-1500

“Cracking up”

Image 42 : Exposure 1/60, Aperture f/5.6, ISO 400, Focal length 42mm.

___

lr-2689-cp-ps-2-1500

“Frozen heart”

Image 62: Exposure 1/25, Aperture f/6.3 ISO 400, Focal length 92mm.

___

lr-2838-cp-ps-1500

“Hung out to dry”

Image 76: Exposure 0.4, Aperture f/7.1, ISO 400, Focal length 48mm

___

ASSIGNMENT 2: PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN

Niki South        Student number: 514516

SUBMITTED INTRODUCTION

THE BRIEF

Start by doing some reflecting in your learning log. What kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? List a few examples of things you’re experiencing now or have recently been thinking about. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth or revealing, but it can be if you want. Equally, it might be something as apparently trivial as how you’re going to fit everything into your busy day. At first you may come up with literal examples, but the more you think about them the more those ideas will develop into specific and more original ones.

Make a list of at least seven ideas. Try and keep to things you have a personal interest in or curiosity about. Keep a notebook with you at all times and make notes when ideas strike you as interesting.

Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images.

“DISAPPOINTMENT”

INTRODUCTION

This assignment is personally driven a “metaphorical and visceral interpretation” as I chose to explore and visually represent the emotion disappointment that I have felt both strongly and frequently recently. I have presented six images, the first four depicting subjects that have caused disappointment, the fifth depicting a consequence of these disappointments and the last being a summary and commentary on them.

The captions accompanying each image signpost metaphors about these disappointments. Two themes run throughout the series, water and paperwork. Water for its symbolism of weakness, negativity and the unconscious; paperwork as it was central to some of the disappointments (flushed away, washed up) and so I included an element of paperwork in each image to provide some continuity (e.g. Shreds of evidence in the disharmonious nest).

My research on conceptual art was very useful to me and led me to:

  • Photograph objects for what they might suggest rather than what they are (nest)
  • Use everyday objects to create an idea (toilet, sink, clothes dryer)
  • Photograph as a record of my engagement with the art
  • Photograph as a response to a metaphor

This assignment was a new departure for me as I found I was reflecting and planning more that I was photographing. The real challenge was in devising and composing each image, and the photograph is merely a record of this. I am pleased that I took a personal approach, using self-exploration, broadened by research and exhibition visits , and feel that it was creative in a holistic way. The question for me is how viewers will respond to it, is there enough clarity in my messages or representations, and will they find them aesthetically pleasing? I guess this is always a risk with conceptual art or photography, not being in control.

ASSIGNMENT 2: PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN

Niki South Student number: 514516

REFLECTIONS ON FORMATIVE FEEDBACK

STRENGTHS HIGHLIGHTED:

  • My research.
  • My engagement with photography on many levels.

 AREAS FOR DEVELOPMENT:

  • Consider different formats as a way of informing the reader about and image.
  • Crop from images to focus on the strongest part.
  • Consider using either portrait or landscape within one series.
  • Shoot images that are more ambiguous, oblique, subtle and less cluttered for the reader.
  • Develop my sketch book use alongside my mind maps.

MY LEARNING POINTS

  • Make full use of various formats where appropriate to enhance my image or message.
  • Crop more brutally if effective.
  • When composing think more subtly and shoot and present images that are more ambiguous.
  • Continue to develop my sketches for shoots, perhaps I should present some on my blog?
  • Re-subscribe to the British Journal of Photography.

Link to learning log: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/a2-learning-log/

These mind maps summarise the narrative of my brainstorming. preparations and post shooting thoughts contained in the learning log

Brainstorm:

unseen-brainstorm-1500

Preparation:

mind-map-preparation

Post shooting:

postshooting-mind-map-1500

LEARNING LOG: PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN

“DISAPPOINTMENT”

THE PROCESS

Planning

My initial brainstorm did probably lead me down conventional channels, which I struggled to engage with. I then toyed with the idea of using a white shirt as a prop and developed a narrative for that. About the same time I reviewed the feedback for Expressing Your Vision and it seems that the area I need to develop is showing my creativity. So I went back to the drawing board.

unseen-brainstorm-1500

It had been a difficult few months for my family for a variety of reasons and the sudden decline of my father made a sad end to the year. So I decided to use the assignment to express my current feelings and the disappointments of the previous few months which were weighing heavily on me. Hence the subject: Disappointment. With a personal focus to the assignment I suddenly found it easier to move forwards.

I did a lot of research over the development of this assignment and much less photography than normal, but this suited me as I was in a heavily reflective mode. I researched some photographers who were photographing the unseen, see: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/research-for-photographing-the-unseen-part-1/). This gave me some starting points:

  • Photograph subjects not for what they are but for what they might suggest.
  • Creating an image that causes a response in the viewer.
  • Eliminating everything unwanted in a frame.
  • Build narrative meaning by recontextualising.

I also visited the Feminist Avant Garde photographers of the 1970s exhibition:  https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/exhibitions-books/a2-exhibition/. This exposed me to the variety of ways that ideas could be shared with a viewer and inspired me to research further conceptual photographer’s focusing on expression and interpretation, (https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research/a2-research/). The learning points that I took away  are:

  • The art of creation before holding the camera.
  • The use of everyday objects to represent an idea.
  • The power of combining text and visual messages.
  • Photographing as a response to a metaphor.
  • The photograph as a record of my engagement with art.

I decided to represent in my series of images subjects that had caused disappointment around me recently, (exam results, job resignation, death in the family, a home with fractious siblings), all causing me heartache. I then decided on a final image that would encompass all of these disappointments.  I wanted also to link the images and decided that water would feature metaphorically if not physically in all of them. I could immediately ascribe water metaphors to most of my subjects “flushed away”, “washed up”, “hung out to dry” “Floating off” “frozen heart”, where I couldn’t “Cracking up” I did use water physically (the nest was in a muddy puddle). Water is important to me in this work as it is symbolic of weakness and negativity, as well cleansing and the unconscious. I realised as I planned each image that documents/paperwork featured in several of them and decided to carry this across the series, therefore adding paper shreds to the nest and newspaper to the frozen heart image.

mind-map-preparation

Shooting:

Shooting this assignment was a completely different experience for me. I spent the majority of time reflecting and composing each idea and as they were all staged was able to test locations, compositions and exposure before shooting. I used a tripod (which is rare for me) and a new speed lite. My main challenges once the image was composed was the lighting and controlling the exposure. I decided in advance to present in black and white, though I prefer to work in colour I thought that monochrome would be more effective in presenting the subject of disappointment, and looked for composition which would lend themselves to black and white images.

postshooting-mind-map-1500

Editing:

Editing was easier than usual as I had evaluated in most cases as I shot, and before I moved from one subject to the next I reviewed my images. This caused me to make changes as I shot later subjects and I referred frequently to my own learning points from my research. Where I needed to make choices between similar shots I used technical criteria. These are two images that I toyed with using but settled on others eventually. lr-1809-1500-reject

Image 11: I thought the quality and composition was better in image 8

lr-2544-cp-ps-2-1500 Image 50: Although I was keen to focus on the fractured eggs in order to give a context to viewers I decided to use an image that showed the nest (Image 42).

Having settled on my images I ordered them by interspersing the more organic subjects of the nest and the family tree on the wet sand from, the toilet and sink images. I followed these causal subjects with the “frozen heart” and finished with the “Hung out to dry” image,as a  summary and commentary on all the previous images.

mind-map-editing-1500

Once I had chosen to follow a personal path with this assignment it evolved fairly organically. I learnt from my research and hope that it is a metaphorical visceral interpretation combining aesthetic images with self-exploration. I was certainly cathartic for me. What I can’t be certain about is how viewers will react to it, and I guess this is all part of conceptual art, not being in control. The images are a visual representation of disappointments in my recent life, but the question is, will viewers make any sense of the images or see the aesthetics in them?

RESEARCH FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN: PART 2

In my quest to broaden my knowledge of Photography as art and to find a platform for my growing ideas for assignment 2 “The Unseen” I have begun to research conceptual photography.

Photography as Contemporary Art evolved for the sole purpose of taking a photograph “so the act of artistic creation begins long before the camera is held in position” (Cotton 2014). The image is the work of art. Its roots were in the conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s; photography like the art where craftsmanship was less important and it could simply depict things, the act in the image being the artistic importance.

Conceptual art stresses ideas and some artists drew attention their ideas by placing a statement about the art which invites a response from viewers; rather like Sophie Calle’s “Take care of yourself” (2007) which I have previously written about in this blog (https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research/a2-research/). 

Some conceptual artists use photography to represent an idea or emotion. Jeanne Dunning (b 1960) created a series of photographs where organic mass is abstracted to the point that the human subject is lost. Apparently the blob “embodies the embarrassment and vulnerability of human physicality”.

dunning

(Museum of contemporary photography 2017)

Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

Has been called the father of conceptual art, spearheading the American Dada movement with Picabia and Man Ray challenging what Art is, “You cannot define electricity the same can be said of art. It is a kind of inner current in a human being, or something which needs no definition” (Duchamp 2017). He promoted everyday objects to art, such as the fountain, and “fashions puns out of everyday expressions which he conveyed through visual means. The linguistic dimension of his work in particular paved the way for conceptual art” (Duchamp 2017).

marcel

(Tate 1922)

Fresh Widow (1920) below is a model of a traditional French window. The title, inscribed at the base along with the words “COPYRIGHT ROSE SELAVY 1920,” is apparently a pun in the aftermath of World War I, which turned many a lusty young spouse into a widow. To signal mourning, the window panes are covered in black polished leather, which fully blocks out the view, thus disturbing the notion of painting as a window onto the world.

marcel-2

(Marcel 1935)

John Baldessari (b 1931)

I am interested in artists who combine text and images. Baldessari another pioneer of conceptual art, has an experimental approach to art “I try to give equal weight to words and image, at least when they are of equal importance to me” (Travel and Arts 2015). “Images and texts behave in similar ways – both using codes to convey their messages” ( Baldessari, no date). He is particularly interested in how text and visual messages combine, enjoying misleading, confusing, surprising and amusing his viewers to provoke their participation.

bad

Prima Facie: Intent/Concerned 2005 (Travel and Arts 2011)

His colour card series below expresses his examination of colour and image.

bad2    bad-3

Prima Facie 2005 (Travel and Arts 2011) Travel and arts (2011)

Stamberg hits the nail on the head in his article entitled “For John Baldessari, Conceptual Art Means Serious Mischief”, he says “a Baldessari makes you smile, then go … “Huh?” In his sunny studio, the artist says he’s trying to slow us down, to look in new ways” (Stamberg, 2013).

Andy Goldsworthy (b 1956)

In my foray into conceptual art I discovered that Land Art was part of the wider conceptual art movement, where “the photograph is the record, and the final product of an engagement or intervention with the rural” (Wells, 2009). Land art is art that is made directly in the landscape, sculpting the land itself into earthworks or making structures in the landscape using natural materials such as rocks or twigs. The work of Andy Goldsworthy became well known not because of his landscape work, where he uses natural materials to create an artwork, but through his photographs, which are integral to his art.

Goldsworthy photographs his work before it collapses, melts, gets washed away, or otherwise disintegrates. He says that photographing is not a casual act, the documentation does not interrupt the making, “Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive” (Goldsworthy 1969). The photographs are not the reason but the result of his art, the “left overs” of his creative process.

There is a beauty and balance in his works and they cause you to look with fresh eyes at our environment.

(Goldsworthy, 1969)

Keith Arnatt (1930-2008) is an example of an artist who moved across the boundaries between art and photography; trained in drawing and painting, he began by exploring landscape and sculpture but in the 1970s turned to photography to manifest his conceptual ideas, he wrote, “…whatever else art is and whatever else it becomes, it is some tangible manifestation of ideas – surely that is the bottom line.” (Cited in Written and Sritharan, 2015)

He then developed a fascination with impermanence as well as the landscape and combined these ideas into other often humorous projects such as “The absence of the artist” (1968) and Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self (1969).

Written and Sritharan, B. (2015)

I particularly like the way that Keith Arnatt portrays digging himself into a hole in “Self-burial” (1969) as a response to the metaphor.

arnot-3

Written and Sritharan, B. (2015)

The learning points that I may take from this into my next assignment are:

  •  The art of creation beginning before I hold the camera.
  • The use of everyday objects to represent an idea.
  • The power of combining text and visual messages.
  • The use of humour and “tongue in cheek” photography.
  • The photograph as a record of my engagement with art.
  • Photographing as a response to a metaphor.

 References

Andy Goldsworthy – melt (1969) Available at: http://visualmelt.com/Andy-Goldsworthy (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

Andy Goldsworthy digital catalogue: Photography (no date) Available at: http://www.goldsworthy.cc.gla.ac.uk/photography/ (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

Baldessari, J. (no date) John Baldessari biography, art, and analysis of works. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-baldessari-john.htm (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

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

Duchamp, M. (2017) Marcel Duchamp biography, art, and analysis of works. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-duchamp-marcel.htm#important_art_header (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

Liz, W. (2009) Photography: A critical introduction. Edited by Liz Wells. 4th edn. New York, NY: Routledge.

Marcel, S. (1935) MARCEL DUCHAMP’S WORK. Available at: http://mediation.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ENS-duchamp_en/ENS-duchamp_en.html (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

Museum of contemporary photography (2017) Available at: http://www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dunning%2C+Jeanne&record=2 (Accessed: 16 January 2017).

Stamberg, S. (2013) For John Baldessari, conceptual Art Means serious mischief. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/11/173745543/for-john-baldessari-conceptual-art-means-serious-mischief (Accessed: 4 February 2017).

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this post are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.