BOOK REVIEW: the Camera i – Photographic self-portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection

BOOK REVIEW

The camera I – Photographic self-portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection

The book consists of over 140 self-portraits from the nineteenth century until 1988. The photographs are from the collection of Audrey and Sidney Irmas.

In his introductory essay, Robert Sobieszek “Otherselves in photographic Self-Portraiture” meditates on the meaning and significance of self-portraiture. He suggests that as the artist and the subject are the same in self-portraiture the dynamics of viewing, interpreting and representing involve self-reflection at many levels. Interesting he asserts that:

to achieve an honest and convincing representation of the self invariably embodies the realisation that the inner and outer are ultimately distinct, that there are at least two selves, one accessible and another hidden, and that the “I” in self-portraiture is truly comprehending an “other.”(Sobieszek, 1994).

The photographer Richard Avelon said that every portrait is a form of acting or performance and of course the self can be constructed “The self is a project, something to be built” (Susan Sontag, 1978). But self-portraits are revealing “charts of the most personal sort usually done in quiet complicity with the self” (Sobieszek, 1994).

Sobieszek explains that self-portraiture is in three parts: delineation, distortion and disguise. The delineation as the self-portrait basically records the artist on a surface level. However the artist will have altered the surface view in some way and the challenge is seeing beneath the surface. Some self-portraits don’t use the face or even the artists body, Walker Lee Evans represents himself as a shadow, Lee Friedlander as a shadow on the back of a woman (1966).

lee Lee Friedlander, 1966 (Tfaoi.com, 2017)

Others distort their face or their bodies such as Bernice Abbott (1945) in a mirror reflection,

1945_berewnice-abbott_self-portrait-distortion_c (Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes, 2017).

Or as Bruce Nauman (1970) does with his own body.

a 1970 by Bruce Nauman born 1941 (Tate.org.uk., 2017).

Fracturing and multiplying the self-image are other ways of constructing the self. Anton Stankowski presents his face in a spiralling image (1937).

StankowskiAC1992_197_117 (Lacma.org, 2017)

Sobeiszek suggests that in distorting their normal look “an inner state of mind or interior agitation may be suggested” (Sobieszek, 1994).

Herbert Bayer‘s self-portrait “Humanly impossible” (1932) which I saw the original photomontage at the Radical Eye exhibition of Sir Elton John’s photographic collection, is an amazing manipulation of photography and just fascinated me.

herbert-bayer-self-portrait (Bayer, 2017).

Henri Cartier Bression offers a self-portrait which is a fraction of his body, his side, pelvis and foot (1933), as do many other artists.

Using mirrors and reflections are other techniques employed by photographers to distort or disguise themselves in a self-portrait.

dieter

The collection of images in this book helped me to see a wide picture of self-portraits by photographers. However each one seems to give further evidence to the idea that I came across when initially researching, Trish Morrissey, Francesca Woodman, Nikki S Lee and later Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun that we all have multiple selves. It is this that I shall take into my Assignment 3: putting yourself in the picture.

References

Bayer, H. (2017). Herbert Bayer Auction Results – Herbert Bayer on artnet. [online] Artnet.com. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/herbert-bayer/past-auction-results/28 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Lacma.org. (2017). Imagining the Modern Self: Photographs from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection | LACMA. [online] Available at: http://www.lacma.org/art/installation/imagining-modern-self-photographs-audrey-and-sydney-irmas-collection [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes – Photography in the Feminine, womens photographers. (2017). A – Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes – Photography in the Feminine, womens photographers. [online] Available at: http://photographieaufeminin.over-blog.com/pages/A-1933627.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Pinterest. (2017). Dieter Appelt – Autoportrait (1978) (Everything and). [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/466615211365531994/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Pinterest. (2017). killerbeesting* — Robert Doisneau – Self Portrait, 1953. [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/391813236303839543/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Sobieszak and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.

Sobieszek, R (1994) “Otherselves in photographic Self-Portraiture” in: Sobieszek and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.

Sontag, S (1978) Under the sign of Saturn. New York. Vintage books.

Tate.org.uk. (2017). Self-portrait. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/self-portrait [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Tfaoi.com. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://www.tfaoi.com/am/16am/16am1.jpg [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

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

EXHIBITION: BEHIND THE MASK, ANOTHER MASK

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask. National Portrait Gallery (Visited 1.4.17)

The exhibition is part of the “I am me?” season of displays and events exploring art gender and identity at the National Portrait Gallery. It brings together two photographers, of different eras, Claude Cahun (1894-1954) and Gillian Wearing (b1963). They both have a fascination with self-portraits and use self-images to explore themes around identity and gender and often play these out through masquerade and performance.

The starting point to the exhibition was Cahun’s series “I am in training” (1927) where she blurred gender distinctions, dressed as a weightlifter but with painted lips and love hearts on her cheeks.

cahun wieghtlifter (Johnson, 2017)

Wearing has responded to Cahun’s image with “Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face” (2012), where she represents herself both as Cahun and as an artist; holding a mask of her own face and wearing a mask of Cahun’s face over her own.

wearing as cahun.jpg (200percentmag, 2017).

Cahun’s image makes me feel uncomfortable as her male costume with items such as stuck on nipples on her top, are at odds with each other; I guess this is the effect she desired. Wearing’s image is softer and more playful as she shows she can take on another identity (female).

The first part of the exhibition shows Cahun and Wearing’s early self-portraits:

In their youth they were both highly conscious of their own self-images and used the camera to begin with experimenting with their many different guises.

Cahun was born Lucy Schwob and transitioned from young woman to gender neutral. With her life-long partner Suzanne Malherbe they adopted gender neutral names, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. There are many self-portraits of Cahun: as a young girl with wild thick hair splayed out as if on a hospital bed, possibly referring to her periods of ill health and anorexia, in a turban, in an oriental setting, reading and so on. In the picture below she sits on granite rocks with hair arranged as a boy (1915-17)

Cahun early (Queerculturalcenter.org, 2017).

 Her self-portraits gradually become even more gender neutral, one with a shaven head shirt and braces another with a towel arranged as a Greek robe with bronzed skin, another in profile wearing a corduroy jacket possibly a recreation of a profile portrait of her father and below dressed as a dandy (1921-22).

cahun dandy (Hudson, 2017)

“Masculine? Feminine?

It depends on the situation.

Neuter is the only gender that suits me”

(Claude Cahun 1930, written on the exhibition wall).

Her early work is very narcissistic although obviously focusing on how gender represents identity, I’m not sure if she was expressing a wider issue than her own identity.

Gillian Wearing’s “My Polaroid years” are early self-portraits about 250 shots, in which she used makeshift props and backgrounds to reveal everyday life. Her mood ranges from the self-consciously performative to the ordinary and every day. She began taking the Polaroid’s as a project to examine her own age progression rather than an exhibition material and said when she viewed them objectively it was as though they were portraits of someone else

 “In a way they became anthropological images because I was distancing myself from being an artist taking the photographs…I was doing something as a photographer, but in a very unphotographic way

(Wearing from the exhibition wall, 2017)

Viewing them myself was like looking at her selfies over a period of time, unlike Cahun’s early self-portraits I don’t see any wider issues being addressed.  However as they were taken for herself rather than an audience then I don’t think they can be called self-indulgent. Both Cahun and Wearing certainly seemed to lose their inhibitions through performance.

However I did find her Me:me self-referential photograph below very interesting, conceived in the 1990s she appears to be looking at a magazine about her herself; is she referencing her multiple selves as the self-portrait repeats itself and disappears into infinity? Though possibly if it was to reference her multiple selves each image would have been different?

wearing me me.jpg (FAD Magazine, 2017)

Later works

“You always feel that you are the mask to some degree

(Wearing, 2012 from exhibition wall)

Masks became central to her practice. In 1994 she encouraged sitters in masks to confess all on video “Confess all on video. Don’t worry, you’ll be in disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian.

 Then in 2014 she reconstructed herself at 21 in a photograph from 1984 to represent her artistic life and life in a bed sit in a tableau evidence of interest in Dali and surrealism with a mask of her younger self over her face.

wearing self portrait hobbies.jpg (Royalacademy.org.uk, 2017).

Initially she used prosthetic masks with crudely cut out eyes, which I find disturbing:

wearing.jpg Secrets and Lies, 2009© Gillian Wearing (Skidmore, 2017).

In this image she poses with her head and shoulders turned as in a historical pose.

wearing cut out Self portrait of me in mask 2011.  Hudson, 2017)

Cahun similarly had a fascination with masks and masquerades “Under this mask, another mask” (1930) so she that could adopt an alter ego or other personality. Cahun obliterates her eyes whilst wearing always looks at the viewer. Cahun’s self-portrait below (1928) as a masked figure in cloak decorated with masks is apparently a visualisation of her belief that she was made up of multiple self’s.

JS1227cahun and masks (Hudson, 2017)

Both artists were interested in transcending time, and shared concerns about the passage of time. Wearing’s photograph appears blurred on a clock face “Me as a clock” (1990). Her “Rock n’ roll 70s” wallpaper uses forensic artists and her own technical work to create impressions of how she might look aged effects of plastic surgery with her changing hairstyles and dress influenced by Warhol works.

She also reconstructed a picture of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe ”Me as Mapplethorpe” (2009) wearing a mask of him just before his death in 1988, she tried to ensure her eyes held the same psychological expression as his, showing inner turbulence but still very much alive.

mapplethorpe (Royal Academy, 2017).

Both artists focus on their identities, though Cahun on gender whilst Wearing explores her identity more in relation to others whatever their gender. Cahun’s “Studies for a keepsake” (1925) where her disembodied head floats in different poses like an animal in a bell jar but with painted lips and shoulder length hair, shows her trapped by her female identity.

My conclusions:

  • I think they are both using their work to explore themselves as individuals (Cahun) and in relation to others (Wearing); sometimes using disguises or performance to investigate their ideas.
  • They are both unafraid to express themselves through their photography.
  • Their viewpoints are subjectively driven from their position in their worlds, as they analysis themselves, so their work is self-exploratory.
  • They are both using self-portraiture to question identity and wearing in particular how it can fluctuate widely.

 My learning points

  • Self-portraiture may be less than comfortable (for me) but it could be useful to for self-exploration.
  • I should embrace assignment 3 “Putting yourself in the picture” to explore my own identity.
  • Self-portraiture is not necessarily narcissistic but could be therapeutic and enlightening.

 References

FAD Magazine. (2017). Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask at National Portrait Gallery – FAD Magazine. [online] Available at: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/04/07/__trashed-9/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].

Hudson, M (2017) “Gillian Wearing And Claude Cahun: Behind The Mask, Another Mask, National Portrait Gallery, Review”. The Telegraph. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

Johnson, S. (2017). Claude Cahun: A Very Curious Spirit. [online] AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7358/claude-cahun-a-very-curious-spirit [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].

Queerculturalcenter.org. (2017). Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. [online] Available at: http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/Tirza/TirzaEssay1.html [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].

Royalacademy.org.uk. (2017). Behind the mask: Gillian Wearing RA | Blog | Royal Academy of Arts. [online] Available at: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/gillian-wearing-vincent-award [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].

Skidmore, M. (2017). The Many Selves of Gillian Wearing. [online] AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7906/the-many-selves-of-gillian-wearing [Accessed 15 Apr. 2017].

200percentmag. (2017). Gillian Wearing interview. [online] Available at: http://200-percent.com/gillian-wearing-2/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2017].

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

EXHIBITION: TAYLOR WESSING 2016 PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT AWARD

Taylor Wessing 2016 Photographic Portrait award – International Traditional and contemporary photography

I visited this exhibition with a group of fellow OCA students as an “unofficial” study day.

The works in final exhibition reflect the inventiveness and the breadth of their subject matter. The 57  portraits were chosen from 4303 photos. The judges Criteria was: the impact upon viewer and effective use of subject matter.

These are the photographs that most impacted upon me the most.

Frances – Josh Redman 2016

josh redman (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

Redman was previously a sculptor and this shows in this image. He photographed nude sitters in identitical lighting and backgrounds to enhance his understanding of portraiture. This image which combines elegance and spontaneous expressions seems to embody the spirit of the subject. Frances is eighty three and appears strong rather than fragile as you would expect at that age, proud of her skin and body aged and lined. Her skin appears warm and alive. He has captured her from an unusual angle looking upwards to her, perhaps this is part of what gives her the power in the image. I am in awe of this powerful image.

Sleeping worker 2015 – Etienne Malapert. The figure on the grass could be mistaken for dead with the cloth positioned over its head, however the title indicates otherwise. I was drawn by its ambiguity but lingered to enjoy the dappled lighting and subtle colours.

Rosanna and Maria Grazia – Fabio Boni 2016. Portraits of volunteers of Italian Red Cross have been photographed against a vibrant red Background which was chosen to suggest vigor and strength. Again it is the choice and effect of the background that attracts me.

John McCrea – Phil Sharp 2015. He normally takes publicity head shots for aspiring actors. He has used a very shallow depth of field which puts just the left eye and the chin in focus The subject has a cigarette in his mouth as a performance pose and gazes pensively in front of a black background, it is both a nostalgic and contemporary image.

Margo – Rachel Molina 2016

margo.jpg (LensCulture, 2017).

This image was noted for its sensitive use of focus. The sharp focus falls on the elderly lady’s face and the caring hand resting on her shoulder. The possible loneliness shown on her face is softened by her physical connection to a person out of shot. The vulnerability and caring suggested here is what interests me.

John Anastazia – Tom Merilion 2015 from the series Tanzanian street children

tom merrilon (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

These photographs were commissioned by a Tanzanian charity supporting vulnerable children. They were all posed against a white background which was used to disconnect them from the streets that they live on. This definitely focuses the eyes on small details such as his Chelsea football glove and his burnt arm.

Nigel Farage smoking a cigar – Charlie Clift 2016

farage-taylor-wessing (T and Luke,2017)

Photographed in a Belgravia cigar club he has encapsulated his public persona, buoyant, cheeky, and larger than life. The shallow depth of field leaves just his face in focus, arms/hands in front not in focus, though this is obvious in the large gallery print, not so obvious when viewing in a smaller format on line. Once again a plain background, this time blue, definitely enhances the subject and the details.

Boy Scout 2016 Karl Ohiri and Riikka Kassinen

ohiri and kassinen.jpg (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

The scout was watched from a distance as they were setting up a studio for another purpose in Lagos Nigeria. He was invited to stand in front if their bold yellow background which contrasts brilliantly against his dark skin and green uniform. As you look closely at the portraits you notice the small details that are enhanced, such as his fraying scarf and oversized uniform which contribute to his vulnerability. I think it’s the effect of the background against the subject and his clothing that attracts me, as it seems to bring the details in a sharp focus.

Simon callow – Andy Lo Po

ALP.-simon-callow-telegraph-561x748 (Wyattclarkejones, 2017)

This causes me to comment as it shows the actor i a reflective mood rather than as his usual exuberant character. It is obviously a good shot but I don’t like it as it doesn’t reflect the character that I know.

Angela – Peter Mosely 2016 from the series Dermis

Angela (Npg.org.uk, 2, 2017).

This is another of my favourites from the exhibition, It was achieved by photogravure a mechanical printing process where the image is etched onto a plate for printing. This shows her skin in forensic detail and stresses the physicality of her body. The appeal for me in this portrait is the brightness of her eyes staring piercingly and confidently at you.

John Harrison 36852 days old – Paul Stuart 2015

paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old (Doggett, 2017)

His face emerges from dark background with the strong directional lighting which draws attention to the lines on his face and flecks of silver in his grey hair. The depth of field is shallow with the focus on his forehead lines and the nearest eye which emphasises his alertness and curiosity.

Pink bobble hat “looking back to sea”- Katie Barlow 2016 Series in refugee transport bus Lesbos.  She has framed each of her refugee by the bus windows and curtains subjects and photographed through the dirty opaque glass. The framing and slight blurring enhances the atmosphere of uncertainty and mess (metaphorical).

Wing – Fabio Forin 2016. The subject is throwing his arms up in the air in a carefree way, head up, eyes closed, with the horizon line exactly intersecting with the waist of his trousers. I think it’s his graceful pose which it at odds to the cloudy dull scene behind him that intrigues me.

The “In Focus” display show cases innovative approach to portraiture:

Christina de Middel b 1975 who tackles conventional subject matter through unorthodox means.

middel daniel.jpg Daniel.(Npg.org.uk, 2017)

Her Series The Gentlemen’s Club men, shot in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, men who visit prostitutes were paid to talk about why they visited; the accompanying texts reveal the men’s thoughts and motivations. The images of the four men portray them in a manner which fits each of their stories. For instance Luis who visits because he is lonely is photographed with his back against the wall staring away in the half light. Whereas Daniel who visits for pleasure and fun without commitment, poses looking strong relaxed confident and in control, whilst photographed lying on a bed. She has protected the documentary value of the photographs by not manipulating them in any way, preferring to manipulate the reality in front of her whilst she is shooting. She believes that generally “photography has done a bad job in explaining what prostitution is about and has deliberately- for some obvious reasons- hidden the other half of the story” (McClure, 2016).

My learning points

  • I could see the benefits that those who had also sculpted or used other mediums could bring to their portrait photography, such as Josh Redman.
  • I can now really appreciate the importance of the background in a portrait and the way that the choice of colour can enhance the subject, most especially when it is plain: Fabio Boni, Tom Merilion, Ohiri and Kassinen.
  • I appreciate the impact of using a shallow depth of field to focus on a small detail or part of a face, Phil Sharp. Rachel Molina, and Charlie Clift.
  • The importance of careful use of lighting and perspective, Josh Redman and Paul Stuart.
  • The impact of thoughtful framing, Katie Barlow to convey a message. The variety of ways that the photographer can capture the spirit of the subject, “The Gentlemen’s club”, “John Harrison”, “Angela”, “Nigel Farage”, “John McCrea” and “Frances”.

References:

 Lens Culture, N. (2017). Fleeting Truths: Thoughts on Portrait Photography – Interview with Head of Photographs Phillip Prodger | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/national-portrait-gallery-fleeting-truths-thoughts-on-portrait-photography [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

Mary Doggett’s Learning Log. (2017). paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old. [online] Available at: https://mary513255cn.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/exhibition-taylor-wessing-photographic-portrait-prize-2016/paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

 McClure (2016) in Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 16, National Portrait gallery Publications, London.

Npg.org.uk. 2 (2017). Weekend Workshop: Photogravure Printing – National Portrait Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/event-root/january/weekend-workshop-28012017.php [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

 Npg.org.uk. (2017). Taylor Wessing photographic Portrait Prize 2016 – Exhibition. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2016/exhibition/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

T and Luke, B. (2017).Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2016, review: Farage an unwelcome shock. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/arts/taylor-wessing-portrait-prize-2016-exhibition-review-nigel-farage-an-unwelcome-shock-a3400591.html [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

Wyattclarkejones.com. (2017). Andy Lo Po, Taylor Wessing Award – Wyatt Clarke & Jones. [online] Available at: http://wyattclarkejones.com/andy-lo-po-taylor-wessing-award/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

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

EXHIBITION: BP PORTRAIT AWARD 2016 LINCOLN USHER GALLERY

BP Portrait Award 2016 Lincoln Usher Gallery (November 2016) & National Portrait gallery

When I visited the exhibition I was as interested in the texts accompanying the portraits as I was the portraits and art work.

I NOTED THAT THE SITTERS RARELY LOOKED COMFORTABLE, AND ANXIETY SEEMED TO BE  A COMMON THEME:

 A PORTRAIT OF MY SON. Miseon lee (b.1959)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1381 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The artist says: ‘This painting focuses on the uncertainty of youth where young minds are left confused on the brink of adulthood.’

 A NUMBER OF PORTRAITS USED OR TALKED ABOUT MIRRORS AND REFLECTIONS:

DIVERSION (Oil on board). Charlie masson (b.1987)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1373(Npg.org.uk, 2017).

This is a self-portrait of the artist seen in the screen of his mobile phone. Phones and tablets are often used as impromptu mirrors, although the artist comments that they have also ‘become an extension of our bodies, containing all sorts of information pertaining to our identity.’

SELF-PORTRAIT IN PEMBROKE STUDIOS (Oil, charcoal and wax on panel). Eileen Hogan (b.1946)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0640(Npg.org.uk, 2017).

Since 2013 Hogan has used a studio that belonged to Leonard Rosoman. Hogan says: ‘He used a mirror on a hinge to gain a different perspective on his paintings, and I kept getting glimpses of myself at work. I came upon this image of myself by gradual, stealthy approach.’

A FEW ARTISTS EMPLOYED PROPS FOR DIFFERENT  REASONS:

PORTRAIT IN THE MIRROR: THE VEIL (Oil on canvas). Antonio laglia (b.1953)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1713(Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of Natasha, a professional model who has worked with Laglia for some time. He describes the process as: ‘The model entered the studio and sat in front of the mirror and just for fun tried some hats. When she found an old white hat with a veil, her reflection became the starting point for work to begin’.

TO SENSE WHAT IS COMING (Oil on panel). Jane Gardiner (b.1974)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0865 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The artist organised sittings with friends to create sketches, photographs and reference material for when she had recovered. Gardiner wanted to explore how people use props to tell stories about themselves and provided a range of crowns, ears and masks from which they could choose.

 TAD (SON OF THE ARTIST) (Oil on canvas). John Borowicz (b.1968)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1883 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of the artist’s son. Borowicz says: ‘This portrait came about quite by surprise. One day my youngest son found a large paper bag and instinctively put it on his head. While wearing the hat he became even more animated than usual, like an actor going into character. This transformation represented the notions of play and discovery in the purest sense.’

KARINA IN HER RAINCOAT (Oil on canvas). Brian Sayers (b.1954)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0326 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of the artist’s friend Karina. Sayers says: ‘I wanted the coat to be the main focus. The dramatic shape inspired me in relation to the figure it contained, particularly the way it enveloped her, and the colour.’ Karina happened to be gesticulating while chatting; the pose was captured in one of Sayers’s reference photographs.

I NOTED THE TECHNIQUES THAT ARTIST USED TO DELIBERATLY PORTRAY THEIR SUBJECTS IN CERTAIN WAYS:

 RÉGIS (Oil on canvas). Christophe Therrien (b.1966)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1015 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

Therrien aimed to capture a simple, ordinary gesture of everyday life of his friend. As Régis looks up into the dramatic light coming from above, the pose takes on added tension, while the low viewpoint was chosen to give intimacy to the moment.

 I WAS ALSO INTERESTED IN THE BACKGROUNDS AND OTHER PROPS THAT GAVE CONTEXT TO THEIR SUBJECTS:

PORTRAIT OF MARTIN CHAFFER (Oil on canvas). SOPIO CHKHIKVADZE (b.1972)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_2052 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of the photographer, Martin Chaffer, whom has a particular interest in paintings and agreed to several sittings with the artist. Chkhikvadze decided to paint Chaffer with a map of London to provide an interesting visual context.

FALK (Oil on canvas). David von Bassewitz

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_2002 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of the artist’s close friend Falk, depicted in his apartment, filled with books, paintings, drawings and sculptures. Von Bassewitz says: ‘It is like entering Falk’s train of thought. You could say his apartment in itself is a kind of portrait with him at the centre.’ Background can be a portrait with subject at centre like two pictures back to back. The shape and background in this picture facinated me.

 THERE WERE FEW SELF PORTRAITS:

 INSOMNIA (Oil and resin on wood). Diego Aznar (b.1985)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0284 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

This is a self-portrait, of which Aznar says: ‘In this painting I attempt to depict a state of anxiety by using a deeply shadowed background and a view from above. I’m interested in different aspects of human behaviour and how they are perceived by society.’

SELF (Oil on board). Shany Van Den Berg (b.1958)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_1556 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

This self-portrait was undertaken in a short time frame of 9–10 days to create focus and clarity. The artist says: ‘In the age of instant selfies, fleeting likes and constant sharing, there is something wonderful about the permanence of a self-portrait painting. It invites repeated musing and offers newly discovered details even after a thousand views.’

SOME PORTRAITS WERE OF INTEREST TO ME MAINLY BECAUSE OF THE ACCOMPANYING TEXT THAT EXPLAINED THE ARTIST’S MOTIVES RATHER THAN FOR THE PORTRAIT ITSELF:

FRANCESCA (Oil on canvas). Daniele Vezzani (b.1955)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0340 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of the artist’s daughter, Francesca. In creating this work he took inspiration from an earlier photograph of Francesca as a teenager while her personality was forming. He says: ‘The left part of the face is watching us carefully, the right one seems to be looking inside herself.’

SILENCE (Tempera on board). Bo Wang (b.1981)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0189 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of Bo Wang’s grandmother, lying in a hospital bed during the last stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak. Wang says that they had a sometimes difficult relationship until the onset of illness brought about a belated reconciliation. He says: ‘Sometimes she tilted her head and looked at me. There was too much emotion in her eyes to be expressed in words,’

PIA (Oil on board). Gentian Lulani (b.1972)

190_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0098 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

The portrait is of Pia, a friend of the artist, whom he met in Ireland. Lulani says ‘he was impressed’: by her abundance of ideas, plans, dreams and enthusiasm. It was not just her physical portrait that I wanted to paint, but her energy for her life ahead.’

LAURA IN BLACK (Oil on linen). Joshua Larock (b.1982)

500_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_0917 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

He says: ‘I sought a gesture and expression, along with a subdued colour palette, that is wistful, evoking a vague but deep longing. Her gaze is direct and bold, but also distant, searching for something unknown.’

THE LAST PAINTING DREW MY INTEREST BECAUSE OF MY READING AROUND PHOTOGRAPHERS USING IMAGES TO EXPLORE IDENTITIES AND RELATIONSHIPS:

DAD SCULPTING ME (Oil on linen). Jamie Coreth (b.1989)

500_2016_bp_portrait_award_work_2062 (Npg.org.uk, 2017).

This was given the BP YOUNG ARTIST AWARD. The judges commented that “We were drawn to the timeless quality of the painting and its treatment of a father and son relationship through art. It is a generational painting of the artist’s father sculpting a portrait of the artist”.

The portrait of the artist’s father, Mark Coreth, was painted entirely from life over the course of a month in the sculptor’s studio. ‘My father has influenced me greatly in my work and given that it is a relatively strange thing for a sculptor to raise a painter, I thought it could be an interesting father–son project to make portraits of one another at the same time,’ says Coreth.

MY LEARNING POINTS:

  • To consider the importance of mobile phones and other personal technology when exploring personal identites.
  • Think about using mirrors to give different perspectives on portraits/self-portrait
  • Remember props can be used to put subjects at ease or to help to bring out elements of their characters.
  • Consider lighting and viewpoint to give the desired emphasis and effect.
  • Remember the importance of the background to give context.
  • Try to work in a short time frame to retain focus and clarity

Excerpts of the accompanying texts by kind permission of Collections access Officer, The Usher gallery Lincoln.

Reference

Npg.org.uk. (2017). BP Portrait Award 2016 – Exhibitors. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp2016/exhibition/exhibitors/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].

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

ASSIGNMENT 2: PHOTOGRAPHING THE UNSEEN

FINAL IMAGES

Niki South      Student number:514516

“DISAPPOINTMENT”

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“Flushed away”

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

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“Floating off”

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

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“Washed up”

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

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“Cracking up”

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

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“Frozen heart”

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

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“Hung out to dry”

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

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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

EXHIBITION VISIT

Feminist Avante-Garde of the 1970s (The Photographers Gallery)

There are over 200 works of art by 48 artists, from 20 countries on display over 2 floors. This was my first visit to the photographers gallery and I liked it’s intimacy but spaciousness. The exhibition is a mixture of works by famous photographers such as Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman and Martha Rosler as well as one less familiar ones.

The exhibition addresses the female form, ownership, domesticity, sexuality, violence and female identity and is arranged in four themes: The seductive body, Domestic agenda, In my skin and Alter ego. Along with conventional photography there are exhibits of video art, photo montage and sculpture.  The exhibition is intended to reflect ‘a moment during which practices of emancipation, gender equality and civil rights protest movements became part of public discourse” (Written and Brookman, 2016). It explores the art of women “whose taboo-breaking, norm-questioning works changed the art canon forever, and opened up new ways for understanding gender, representation and sexual politics” (De Pressigny, 2016). These artists addressed political issues and challenged sexism in society and art.

Works attacking the domestic agenda were interesting and thought provoking. I was intrigued by the “semantics of the kitchen” Martha Rosler (1975) where a woman at a butchers block methodically names implements in alphabetical order, starting with a deadpan  expression “but as she demonstrates the use of each appliance her actions become increasing aggressive, suggesting murderous intent”( Güner, 2016).

rosler

(Martha Rosler, nd)

Birgit Jürgenssen’s self-portrait in a housewife’s apron, with a bored expression “redefines  the phrase ‘bun in the oven’ (Time, 2016).

birgit

(No date, 1)

Renate Eisenegger Hochhaus’s image is another attack on the domestic agenda and an interesting representation of this.

renate-1

Renate Eisenegger Hochhaus (Nr.1), 1974 © Renate Eisenegger / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (Written and Brookman 2016)

Martha Wilsons “A portfolio of models”(1974)  is descriptive but more straightforward presentation of the various roles of a woman in the 70s, where she depicts models in 6 frames as a goddess, a housewife, a working girl, a lesbian, an earth mother and a professional in their stereotypes.

There are also many humorous depictions such as Penny Slingers work “wedding invitation” (Art is just a piece of cake)

renate
(Slinger 1973, No Date 3)

An emphasis of the 70s feminist avant-garde was the female body, this decade was a time for the conceptual eradication of all that the female body had come to symbolise over thousands of years of patriarchy. I was attracted to the playful work of Katalin Landik (1978) using 6 images where a face behind a glass sheet is represented as distorted views as the subjects face presses against it.

landik

(Ltd, 2015)

This work is contrasted by Ana Mendieta’s “Untitled “ glass on body imprints face (1972 ), a similar project where her face is pressed against a glass screen but presents much  more distorted appearances; the colour in these for me gave a more violent mood to the images. It’s performance, the poses, and documentation is unsettling, “to describe the work as disquieting is an understatement” (The Photographer’s gallery, 2016).

ana

(No date, 2)

I was also struck with the “Destruction of an illusion” Karin Mack (1977) where a black and white facial image is gradually over the five frames reduced to a fragment and has pins placed in it.

ewa

(Ewa Partum, Change, 1974)

Annegret Soltau’s (1975) self-portrait in 15 frames with black thread increasingly wound around her head and shoulders is an effective way to portray a woman as distorted, My most important aim is to include bodily processes in my work and to use myself as a model – because I can go the furthest with myself,”  (Pangburn and Dazed, 2015). I found this to be rather like Renate Eiseneggar’s (1972) “isolation” in 8 frames where a head with Cotton wool and plaster tape is wrapped around them increasingly until they obscure the face.

On a slightly less disturbing level for me was Francesca Woodman’s work explores the formal and psychological potential of the body to create poetry, such as her portrait “self- deceit”.

woodman

(Francesca Woodman Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978/1979)

 Learning points

The artists displayed were pioneers challenging depictions and ideas of women in the 1970, hence the exhibition title “Avante garde”. However to be honest as a photographer I was struck not so much by the feminist issues raised and confronted but by the variety of the ways that this was represented. This was a good lead in for me to conceptual photography where ideas are stressed rather than the subject being photographed, or through it, and where the focus is drawn to expression and interpretation. It has given me inspiration for photographing “The unseen” for assignment 2. I will reflect on the many alternative and creative ways that ideas can be represented, such representation, distortions and alternative depictions of reality, as well as using metaphors and text to underline messages.

 The exhibition will also be useful to reflect on when I am preparing for assignment 3 photographing the self.

References

De Pressigny, C. (2016) 70s avant garde feminist art show coming to London’s photographer’s gallery | read. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/70s-avant-garde-feminist-art-show-coming-to-londons-photographers-gallery (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Ewa Partum, Change, 1974 © Ewa Partum Courtesy of Galerie M+R Fricke, Berlin / Bildrecht, Vienna, 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (Written and Brookman 2016).

Francesca Woodman Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978/1979 © Courtesy George and Betty Woodman, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien (From Written and Brookman 2016).

Güner, F. (2016) Feminist art of the 1970s: Knives, nudity and terrified men. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2016/oct/03/feminist-art-of-the-1970s-knives-nudity-and-terrified-men (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Ltd, A. (2015) Paul Carey Kent’s Curated London Art Exhibition picks November 2015. Available at: http://www.artlyst.com/reviews/paul-carey-kents-curated-london-art-exhibition-pick-november-2015/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Martha Rosler: Semiotics of the kitchen (no date) Available at: http://collection.fraclorraine.org/collection/print/469?lang=fr (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Rosenbach, U. (no date) Penny slinger wedding invitation. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=penny+slinger+wedding+invitation&client=safari&hl=en-gb&prmd=isvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR8rniyszRAhXGlxoKHRBVAIoQ_AUIBygB&biw=1024&bih=672#imgdii=JaU6BZDDqzwlXM%3A%3BCJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A%3BCJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A&imgrc=CJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Pangburn, D. and Dazed (2015) The dA-zed guide to 70s feminist avant-garde art. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26094/1/the-da-zed-guide-to-70s-feminist-avant-garde-art (Accessed: 1 February 2017).

The Photographers gallery (2016) loose associations, vol 2 issue iv, Autumn 2016. London.

Time (2016) Feminist avant-garde of the 1970s. Available at: http://www.timeout.com/london/art/feminist-avant-garde-of-the-1970s (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Written and Brookman, J. (2016) Images of the feminist avant-garde in the 1970s shine a light on an artistic movement too long overlooked. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/09/images-of-the-feminist-avant-garde-in-the-1970s-shine-a-light-on-an-artistic-movement-too-long-overlooked/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 1) Available at: http://www.timeout.com/london/art/feminist-avant-garde-of-the-1970 (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 2) Available at: http://thenewinquiry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/haley-1.jpg (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 3) Available at: https://artblart.com/tag/penny-slinger/ (Accessed: 1 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.