COURSEWORK: PART FIVE CONSTRUCTED REALITIES AND THE FABRICATED IMAGE

Research point 1 

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online. Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14]

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

Yes. Crewdson says himself that though it is most important to make a beautiful picture, but that ascetic alone is not enough, “it needs to have an undercurrent of something dangerous or fearful” (Youtube.com, 2017). His pictures are not beautiful to me, but they are certainly interesting and whilst some would find them beautiful many would not; I do think that most would find them interesting and perplexing and possibly disturbing.

  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

           Yes his work is definitely psychological. It sets out to interest you in the uncanny, the dark side, invites you to consider the “disturbance” in the image and to make sense of it. As Iles says “His genius is to insert that highly charged strange anxiety a sense of a moment having just irrupted or something disturbing about to take place.” (Youtube.com, 2017). The psychological for Crewdson is ordinary life but with a disturbance beneath the perfect order, an undercurrent of the dangerous or fearful, combined with emptiness and loneliness.

  • What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

I don’t think I know currently what my main goal is in making pictures; it used to be ascetic, pattern, shape, balance, proportion, colour, however I do feel that there needs to be more now. Quite what my “more” is I’m not sure right now.

Notes from the interview:

Chrissie Iles (Curator, Whitney museum of American Art)

  • He has shifted the language of photography, interest in the uncanny and the psychoanalytical made evident.
  • He takes on the mechanics of the cinema.
  • His work is never a single image but collaged from different shots.
  • Elaborate sophisticated rich unique and thought through.
  • He is interested in the dark side, concerned with creating uncanny moments.
  • He “came of age” in the early 90s when dramatic psychological became important for artists, giving artists permission to explore the psychological within photography in a theatrical cinematic sense.
  • He’s a complex person, good at working with a team, warm, open interested though interested in the dark side in a psychological complexities.
  • His father was a psychoanalyst, he used to listen into his father working, was very influenced him.
  • Inspired by Diane Arbus, the Paintings of Edward harper – deals in the American vernacular, ordinary, an emptiness.
  • Photos of Walker Evans interested in the ordinary life, indigenous architecture
  • His genius is to insert that highly charged strange anxiety a sense of a moment having just irrupted or something disturbing about to take place.
  • If you could freeze a moment in your dream and go into it in minute detail.

 Crewdson:

  • Most important is to make a beautiful picture, but just purely aesthetic is not good enough, it needs to have an undercurrent of something dangerous or fearful.
  • Early in career shot from the perspective of the aerial crane.
  • Twilight was the first work that put everything together, cinematic lighting in a choreographed way, which was a huge shift in the work, telling the story through light and colour.
  • He drives around scouting for ordinary nondescript locations, until he finds something that’s seems right and responds to something in the architecture.
  • In his work tries to create the ordinary but pointing to what exists beneath the surface, beneath the perfect façade.
  • Creates stories, Likes to project emptiness and loneliness with a quiet tone but on the scale of the operatic.
  • Likes to feel connected to the characters private moments.

Reference:

Youtube.com. (2017). YouTube. [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14] [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].

Link to my exhibition visit to The Cathedral of the Pines: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/cathedral-of-the-pines/

Part four: Reading photographs Book Review

Book review: The Photographer’s eye. John Szarkowski.

I am reading this book at the point where I am studying how to read photographs which seems extremely pertinent. So I rather than a standard book review this is a summary of my learning in relation to this.

Szarkowski sets out his intention for his book as “an investigation of what photographs look like, and of why they look that way” (Szarkowski, 2009).

I found it interesting how he makes clear that photography invaded the territory of art, could not work to old standards and had to find its own ways of making its meaning clear. Photography was invented by scientists and painters but the professional photographers it produced were varied in their skills and had increased vastly by the early twentieth century. There was a deluge of pictures, describing new things and in new ways, most especially the ordinary. Photographers learned from other photographers and photographs.

Szarkowski lists five issues he believes are inherent in photography and organises his selected images in these groups:

  • The thing itself: That the photographer deals with reality, though much of the reality can be filtered out by the photographer and as the photographer makes choices. He points out that our faith in the truth of the camera may be “naive and illusory …for though the lens draws the subject, the photographer defines it”. (Szarkowski, 2009).
  • The detail: The photographer could only record as he found it and had to “force that facts to tell the truth” (Szarkowski, 2009). He could however fragment details as well as put the details into a narrative. I hadn’t realised myself that the rise of photography freed painters from having to paint narrative stories. The images he chose for this section show a variety of significant detail and symbols, though these images I think could have equally have been placed in his groups of the thing itself.
  • The frame: Szarkowski considers that the central act of photography is the choosing and eliminating, which “forces a concentration on the picture edge…and on the shapes that are created by it” (Szarkowski, 2009). The frame he explains, edits meaning and patterns. Interestingly he poses the question whether painters’ use of the frame creatively was born from photography. Here the images that he chooses to illustrate seem to ideally do this, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Callejon of the Valencia Arena” 1933:
  • W1siZiIsIjE0NDM3MyJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDIwMDB4MjAwMFx1MDAzZSJdXQ.jpg

  (The Museum of Modern Art, 2017)

  • Time: All photographs are time exposures, some shorter some longer, catching slices of time and movement. Szarkowski, helpfully explains that the new beauty of “seeing the momentary patterning lines and shapes that had previously been concealed within the flux of movement” (Szarkowski, 2009) as decisive moments not as dramatic climaxes but as visual ones. Many of the images that he shows here show time blurred such as Rene Groebli’s Nude dressing (1952) which was a new image to me.

rene-groebli-nude-dressing-1952

 (Curiator, 2017)

  • Vantage point: He points out that it is photography which has taught us to see from different vantage points, challenging our notions of reality. So pictures can reveal the clarity and the obscurity of things. He also suggests that this has influenced modern painters. The images he has in this section of his book illustrate this well such as Clarence John Laughlin’s The fierce eyed building (1938).

fierce eyed building.jpg

 (Harvardartmuseums.org, 2017)

Szarkowski has certainly set out his idea of what photographs look like, and why they look that way.

My learning points:

  • I have discovered another way to read photographs, to look at The thing, the detail, the frame, the time, the vantage point; have any of these influenced the photographer more than the other and how?

References

Curiator. (2017). Nude dressing by René Groebli. [online] Available at: https://curiator.com/art/rene-groebli/nude-dressing [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017]

Harvardartmuseums.org. (2017). From the Harvard Art Museums’ collections The Fierce-Eyed Building. [online] Available at: http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/155284 [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].

Szarkowski, J. (2009). The photographer’s eye. The Museum of Modern art. New York.

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Henri Cartier-Bresson. Callejón of the Valencia Arena. 1933 | MoMA.

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

Part four: Reading photographs Book review

Ways of seeing – John Berger (1972)

I have had this book for many years but thought that whilst working on reading photographs that this is the time to revisit it. It was with this purpose that I re read the book.

The book comprises of seven essays, though I reread the whole book I would like to focus on the first chapter where many of the ideas presented have been taken from a previous essay “The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by German critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin.

Berger proposes that “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled” (Berger, 1972, p7) as the way that we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. So seeing is not just mechanically reacting to stimuli:

  • We chose what we look at
  • Can only see what is within our field of vision
  • Never just look at one thing
  • We look at the relation between things and ourselves (p9)
  • We are aware that we too are visible

He describes images as man-made objects that have been reproduced but detached from the place and time they were seen. Photographs are not accurate records as “the photographer’s way of seeing is reflected in his choice of subject” (Berger, 1972, p10). The photographer has selected “that sight from an infinity of other possible sights” (Berger, 1972p 10), though we know the object is affected by much more than this.

I have learnt that images were first taken to make up for something that was absent, rather like portraiture I guess, it was only later that the influence of the image maker on the subject was recognised. Berger also explains how images are beset by other assumptions when presented as works of art, concerning beauty, truth, genius, civilisation, form, status and so on. He suggests that these assumptions are often historical and may mystify our vision. In terms of paintings he suggests that it is the social and moral values that we hold that affect the way we see, rather that the painters skills.

Never having been an artist I found Berger’s explanation of how the understanding of perspective has altered historically. The original Renaissance convention of perspective was that everything was centred on the eye of the beholder, the single eye was the centre of the world with everything converging on the eye. There was no reciprocal vision, the visible world was arranged just for the spectator, just a God was the centre of the world, it was as if everything converged on the human eye. Apparently it was after the invention of cameras that the contradiction that spectators unlike God could not be in many places at the same time and that there must be reciprocal vision. The camera could change its perspective, and unlike paintings could separate time passing from the visual experience so that what you see is totally dependent on where you were when, so is relative to a person’s position in time and space. Berger asserts that “The camera changed the way men saw” (Berger, 1972).

This was taken into paintings, the cubists in particular presented views from all points around an object. Neither had I realised that the camera also changed the way in which historical paintings were seen. I hadn’t thought that originally paintings were unique due to the place that they were situated as they were integral to the design of their building. However with the invention of the camera where a painting could be reproduced and placed elsewhere they could take on different meanings divorced from their original context and placed in another. Reproduction can also transform meaning when paintings are partially reproduced and not shown in their entirety.

Berger summarises how visual art has moved from existing in sacred preserves, then a variety physical preserves and later particular social preserves in particular those of the ruling classes. Of course now reproduction has removed art from these preserves which he suggests may render them “ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free” (Berger, 1972). He concludes in chapter one that the authority of the art of the past is lost and in its place is “a language of images” (Berger, 1972) where what matters is who uses it for what and that visual art has become a political issue.

A revisit of this text was really useful at this point in my learning as it widens my increasing understanding of how photographs are read.

References:

Berger, J (1972) Ways of seeing. London. Penguin group.

Benjamin, W. (n,d) The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Found in (1970) Illuminations. Cape. London

Part four: Reading photographs Book Review

How to Read a Photograph (Jeffrey, 2009)

In the foreword Max Kozloff discusses the history of photography and how photographs are seen as secondary sources by general historians but as primary sources by historians of photography. He points out that photographs can be used as evidence of “vanished material conditions, ideals, cultures and epochs(Kozloff, 2009), whilst it may also be used to express feelings, so being both discursive and figurative. As he says the difficult part is how to move on from a description of the contents of a photograph to an account that makes sense of it:

The visual facts convey a material reality of their time; as they’re composed and framed, they reflect a narrative desire of their time” (Jeffrey, 2009).

He believes that Jeffrey addressees this in his interpretations of the photographs in this book, as well as the biography of the artist, the psychological relations implied in the frame and through this work develops meaning for the photographer’s visualisation.

In the book Jeffrey explores the work of 69 photographers in 384 photographers with the images arranged roughly in the history of photography, divided by The Great War, World War Two and The Farm Security Administration photographers.

I have selected three photographers to give an overview of how Jeffrey analyses photographs.

Children fetching milk (Robert Doisneau, 1932)

chn milk

 (Pinterest, 2017).

Again he gives the pertinent points of the artist’s biography; his perceptive portraits of Parisians, his background in lithography and his work photographing for advertising Renaults. This picture shows his awareness of acute observation (Their clothes, their class, the shop name) and clever composition as well as his sensitivity to the human condition that the artist would have accumulated in his work.

This analysis is less insightful for me than some of the others in the book, though there are many like this in the book that are simple biography combined with observation.

Shoe making irons (Albert Renger-Patzsch, 1936)

shoe making

(PhotoPedagogy, 2017)

For this photograph he gives the biography of the artist, in particular his preference for purist photography and his objective manner often obscuring the contexts of his subjects. He also gives the context to the photograph, the Fagus shoe making factory not far from where he was freelancing. Jeffery assumes that he was asked to do some publicity photographs for the factory  of equipment, but the image eventually ended up in Die Welt ist schon (The world is beautiful); possibly as a symbol of contemporary regimentation. Apparently in the 1920s Renger-Patzsch was interested in forces like the German expressionist (1910-14), though he associated it with stillness, heightened alertness, the moment before the strike.

Jeffrey’s analysis does provide me with a context for the image and a possible motive as well as the possible philosophy behind it.

Tomatsu Shomei (Memory of defeat 2 Ruins of Toyokawa naval dockyard, Aichi prefecture, 1959)

toatsu

(SFMOMA, 2017)

Jeffrey describes Tomatsu as a symbolist and a materialist as well as a history artist. He worked for a periodical where each issue was devoted to a single subject and everything was expressed through images replacing language; this was in contrast apparently to Europeans hat thought that images should be supported by texts. Jefferey’s interpretation of the picture knowing this, is that this wall of corrugated iron peppered with shrapnel with the light behind it appears like the night sky lit by gunfire. He suggests that “Those defunct meters in the foreground stand in contrast to the liveliness of the cosmos beyond” (Jeffrey, 2009).

This analysis is more insightful giving us his thoughts about the purpose and possible thinking behind the image that matches with the background and philosophy of the artist as well as the context.

Conclusion

The book is perhaps more an exploration and history of the 69 photographers than explicit ideas about how to read a photograph, however the book has introduced me to new photographers. Certainly I gained more generally from his analyses of photographers that were new to me, like the last two of my three selected than those that were not. Is this just because they closed gaps in my knowledge rather than that they were better analyses?

My learning points:

When reading photographs

  • My aim should be to move on from a description of the contents of a photograph to an account that makes sense of it
  • I should find the psychological relations implied
  • Look for the photographer’s motive
  • Know the photographers philosophy
  • I will have to make some assumptions

 References

Jeffrey, I. (2009). How to read a photograph. New York: Abrams.

Kozloff, M (2009) in Jeffrey, I. (2009). How to read a photograph. New York: Abrams.

Pinterest. (2017) French touch. [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/288723026082257843/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2017]Plus.google.com, 2017)

PhotoPedagogy. (2017). The World is Beautiful. [online] Available at: http://www.photopedagogy.com/the-world-is-beautiful.html [Accessed 27 Jun. 2017].

SFMOMA. (2017). Shomei Tomatsu. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artist/Shomei_Tomatsu [Accessed 27 Jun. 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.

 

Part four: Reading photographs Exhibition visit

The Radical Eye. Modernist  photography from the Sir Elton John collection. Tate Modern November to May 2017

The Sir Elton John Photography Collection is one of the largest privately owned collections in the world (8000 works), ranging from the beginning of the 20th century to today. Its focus is “modernist photography”, from the objective clarity of modernist portraits to experimental darkroom manipulations and abstractions. It enables the viewer to see from the Bauhaus, the social commitment of early documentary photography and the imaginative surrealism how the ways in which the world was seen through photography changed. The exhibition is divided into five parts: portraits, experiments, documents, bodies and objects.

For the purpose of where I am in my OCA learning currently I will focus mainly on the portraits and documents section and detail the others at more appropriate times in my learning journey. I will say however that I was stunned by the breadth of his collection and the numerous and varied images of historical importance that are in this one collection. The curator of the exhibition Jane Jackson interviewed Sir Elton John Elton John to discuss his collection and the importance of photography in his life. He talks of how surprised he was to find that photographers could achieve things that he thought only painters could do, such as distortions, rayographs and light abstractions; he says that “for me photography is a journey of discovery” (Baker et al., n.d.), giving him pleasure and in an artistic way increasing his wellbeing.

Portraits

The portraits show a range of technical and psychological styles, from Man Ray’s portraits of the surrealist artists and thinkers, to Edward Steichen’s Gloria Swanson, to Alfred Stieglitz’s Georgia O’Keeffe and to Tina Modotti’s studies of Edward Weston. I am going to comment on those that impacted on me the most as I viewed them.

There were many interesting self- portraits, of which one that is still imprinted on me is Herbert Bayer’s self-portrait (“Humanly Impossible”, 1932).

Bayer

(Collections.vam.ac.uk, 2017) 

I really could not work out at first how this image of a man with an arm truncated arm was achieved. Then I realised it was a montage, in fact this is the original montage. Sir Elton John asks whether the image is about Bayer or about Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

weegee.jpg

 (Monroe et al., 2017)

This self-portrait by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) circa 1955 is technically interesting; it was probably achieved using distorting mirrors and double exposures putting two negatives together as faint repetitions of the image can be seen especially around his left eye.

I found Man Ray’s “Self-portrait in bathrobe” (1929) somewhat at odds with his other work in the collection; In contrast to the solarisations, rayographs and the glamourized portraits of others it is strangely ordinary and realistic. It is quite a contrast to his celebrated “Glass tears” (1932) which was a photograph that again led me to ask how he did it; apparently it was a mannequin with the glass affixed to it.

may ray bathrobe

 (My Favorite Arts, 2017)

I found many of the portraits taken in the 1920’s stiff and posed and generally disliked then. However you cannot help but admire Edward Steichen’s “Gloria Swanson” (1924). Sir Elton John describes it as “perfect and has such a tactile look that it seems like you could actually touch the lace” (Baker et al., n.d.); he also alludes to the hidden meaning of this silent actress behind the veil. It is direct, haunting and alluring, extremely 3 dimensional.

Steichen gloria swanson

 (Iconic Photos, 2017)

I was drawn to Brassai’s “A costume for two” (1931) with two men sharing a suit, probably still posed but full of tension, life and possibilities.

Brassai

 (Anon, 2017)

I admired the Irving Penn series of Portraits posed in corners, in particular Noel Coward (1948) and Duke Ellington (1948).

            irving penn n coward.jpg               Irving Penn duke E            (New.liveauctioneers.com, 2017)                   (Pinterest, 2017)

He used parts of a left over set from a commercial shoot, and made portraits of writers, artists, musicians, politicians and other celebrities. They were asked to position themselves in a small corner and having viewed some of the others in the series since it is interesting how their personalities were revealed as they reacted to the claustrophobic limits of the setting. Penn said that “limiting the subjects movements seemed to relieve me of part of the problem of holding onto them” (text accompanying exhibition portraits).

Portraits of photographers are always interesting. Tina Modotti’s “Edward Western with his camera” (1923) where the perspective that she used juxtaposes his head with the cameras, as if she was comparing the human eye and the mechanical world; the camera’s lens appears to dominate.

Edward-Weston

 (Photographyicon.com, 2017)

Documents

In the 1930s photographers enabled viewers to see some of the less palatable aspects of society, marrying creative appeal to gain viewers trust in their visual records. They combine historical evidence, propaganda and the appeal of art.

The documentary photographs that interested me the most were the portraits, in particular the depression era photography which is distinct from the celebrity studio portraits and self-portraits that I’ve illustrated above. These portraits are scientific documents of social types.

It was a privilege to see “Migrant mother” (Dorothea Lange 1936) first hand. This is an iconic timeless image of the hardship of a woman and her seven children who’d sold the tyres from her car for food and living on wild birds caught by the children. It was taken at a camp for seasonal agricultural workers when she was working for the Farm Security Administration as part of a team of photographers documenting the impact of federal programs in improving rural conditions. Of the 160,000 images taken for the Resettlement Administration, Migrant Mother has become the most iconic picture of the Depression.  Lange said when photographing that it needed her total attention, Sir Elton John points out of the “photographs she took the pain in them- it just grabs you…It’s an exhausting photograph (Baker et al, n.d), and not so much that this is such a sad photograph, as that it is a resignation of this woman’s suffering.

dorthea_lange_.jpg

 (Migrant Mother and Migrant Mother, 2017)

Lange’s The damage is already done ( 1936) left a bigger impression on me probably as unlike Migrant Mother, it was the first time I had seen it, this portrait also reaches out to you and has a story all of its own which as a viewer I wanted to know more about. Though the portrait is titled “The damaged child” on the back of Sir Elton John’s print Lange has written “The damage is already done”. This child shot against a harsh tin background, exudes determination and steely character even though she is grimy, grubby, in ragged clothing and has a black eye. She is not flinching in front of the camera and looks older than her years. Maybe it is possible that she will rise above any damage done?

damaged child.jpg

 (The Museum of Modern Art, 2017)

Another Lange image “White angel bread line” (1933) also struck me as particularly poignant as the migrant man with tin cup depressingly leans on fence behind a queue. I think it’s the way she’s captured his look of grim determination that arrests me.

This the first time also that I had seen any Walker Evans photography and it had an equally strong impact on me. Floyd Burroughs (1936) an Albania tenant farmer taken with a shallow depth of field extracts him from his start background. It is his look of ease but resignation which stops me in my tracks. He was known for finding dignity in ordinary lives and this photograph illustrates this.

floyd burroughs

(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017)

Outside of portraits there were two other images in the documents section that particularly interested me. The first is Helen Levitt’s images of children at play in New York in 1939. As I understand it the Leica camera revolutionised street photography, with its range of film speeds it was able to capture movement and difficult lighting. This image shows both.

helen levitt

(Laurencemillergallery.com, 2017)

She began as an art teacher seeking to document children’s street chalk drawings and expanded from there. She associated with Walker Evans on the late 1930s though her street photography was much rawer and more playful than his.

Robert frank was an improvisational street photographer and this image showcases this. I was struck by this photograph as the technical quality appears to be prior to that time but his candid composition is of more of the 1940/50s.

robert_frank

(Christies.com, 2017)

Conclusions:

Whilst many of the portraits in this collection were artists, writers, musicians or celebrities, I was able to see from the portrait work in particular how from the early 20th century photography moved from not being seen as art to the artists pushing the conventions of portraiture, and the period covered by this exhibition is certainly crucial. This period in particular with its growth to include documentary, surrealist, realist, fashion, and celebrity, brought a harmony between technique and subject. Sir Elton John believes that there’s not a painted portrait that is better than a photographic portrait. I will look more closely at painted portraits to see whether agree with his analysis.

References:

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http:///doyle.com/auctions/16bp01-rare-books-autographs-photographs/catalogue/406-brassai-1899-1984-un-costume-pour [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Baker, S., Mavlian, S., Harbin, N. and John, E. (n.d.). The radical eye.

Christies.com. (2017). ROBERT FRANK (B. 1924) , Paris, 1949. [online] Available at: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/robert-frank-b-1924-paris-1949-5544483-details.aspx [Accessed 24 Jun. 2017].

Collections.vam.ac.uk. (2017). Humanly Impossible | Bayer, Herbert | V&A Search the Collections. [online] Available at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O128502/humanly-impossible-photograph-bayer-herbert/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Ades, D (nd) Instument of a new vision: photography in the first machine age. In: Baker, S., Mavlian, S., Harbin, N. and John, E. (n.d.). The radical eye.

Iconic Photos. (2017). Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen. [online] Available at: https://iconicphotos.org/2009/10/05/gloria-swanson-by-edward-steichen/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Laurencemillergallery.com. (2017). Helen Levitt – Artists – Laurence Miller Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/artists/helen-levitt?view=slider#3 [Accessed 24 Jun. 2017].

Migrant Mother, 1. and Migrant Mother, &. (2017). Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936, Dorothea Lange | Artspace.com. [online] Artspace. Available at: https://www.artspace.com/dorothea_lange/migrant_mother_nipomo_california [Accessed 24 Jun. 2017].

Monroe, M., Taylor, E., Kennedy, J., II, E., Lennon, J., McCartney, P., Loren, S., Presley, E., Kennedy, J. and Warhol, A. (2017). Weegee Self-Distortion. [online] Getty Images. Available at: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/distorted-self-portrait-of-american-photographer-weegee-mid-news-photo/520809084#distorted-selfportrait-of-american-photographer-weegee-mid-twentieth-picture-id520809084 [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

My Favorite Arts. (2017). Self Portrait in Bathrobe by Man Ray. [online] Available at: https://theartstack.com/artist/man-ray/self-portrai-1 [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

New.liveauctioneers.com. (2017). online] Available at: https://new.liveauctioneers.com/item/33437626_irving-penn-noel-coward-gravure [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Pinterest. (2017). Irving Penn – Corner Portraits 1948. [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/309341068143875769/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Photographyicon.com. (2017). Master Of Photography: Edward Weston | Icon Photography School. [online] Available at: https://photographyicon.com/edward-weston/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (2017). Walker Evans | [Floyd Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama] | The Met. [online] Available at: http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/275843 [Accessed 24 Jun. 2017].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). Dorothea Lange. Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma. 1936 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/56493 [Accessed 24 Jun. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: 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.

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.

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.