Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pre-reading and thoughts

Just been doing some pre-reading for the study visit to Bank Street arts on Saturday. The visit is to look at Jim Mortram’s work but in the notes we are pointed to an article on We are Oca on the Julie project by Darcy Padilla. Reading the comments first, I was surprised by the wealth of feelings this had stirred in people. I then went onto the website, first look was that it was an interesting project, hard to do getting close to the subject and going from photographer to friend and then watching Julie’s last days.

I then revisited this and read through all the text and saw the work as a whole and that’s when it hit me, the images are horrific. To see someone so frail, in such poverty fading in front of the camera and to be honest, reminiscent of the films we watched of the concentration camps when I studied a level European history in this modern age was sickening. As what point are we going to move from the rich and the poor segregated into two worlds that never meet, and why don’t we feel guilty about this? Are we just ignoring it? Its work like this series that puts it there for you to see, the whole raw emotion laid out. Of course there is a part of me that says that 18 years cannot be all bad, there must have been some happiness, or contentment but its not those images that cme back to haunt or raise a tear.

This will be something that will be there for a long time to come and it needs to be seen by a larger audience.

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Henri Cartier- Bresson- A Question of colour. Somerset House, London 12th January 2013

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I was looking forwards to this exhibition, I’ve never seen any of Cartier-Bresson’s work displayed and after looking at his ‘A propos de Paris’ book recently; I was interested in seeing some in person. Curated by William A Ewing, this features some images by Cartier-Bresson that had never been exhibited before, and the title ‘a question of colour’ was certainly apt, comparing the Cartier-Bresson’s well known black and white images with those in different shades of colour from similar tones, to zingy and vibrant. Capturing the decisive moment in these, the question is not now about whether it should be colour or black and white. It’s more about the subject, the composition and what that photographer is showing you. Looking onto a snapshot moment on the street in most cases, a strong subject will be that whatever colour it’s viewed in.

The fact this exhibition was a mixed set interested me and allowed me to get to know some new (to me) photographers that I like and some that I don’t. The outstanding photographer within these for me was Karl Baden; I liked his strong use of shapes and colour and how he made use of objects such as car windows to frame the subject.

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Some of the images taken by Joel Meyerowitz caught my eye, especially the woman in the Fifth Avenue, NYC image.

 

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The closeness of the subject and the fact she is holding a book entitled ‘The American Character’ shows that he was in the right place at the right time to capture an interesting character; again going back to my earlier comments on the comfort level of the photographic in a well-known area comes through. For me the exhibit shows that colour can equal black and white and in some cases surpass it. Strong, vibrant colours make the images seem more real, black and white tones make the images seem more hard hitting and gritty in some cases. The choice is there and I don’ t think you can opt for one or the other as they both have their strengths and weaknesses yet when done well, possess and extraordinary power.

Colour highlight for me was the Ernst Haas image of the Frigidaire in Paris, France 1954. The blue tones of the shop compliment the colour of the cars and the white bonnet of the woman walking past just ties it in with the signage.

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The monochrome highlight was Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Fish Market- Foulton Street’, it’s very atmospheric and you feel like you are looking back into time and I have to think that if this was in colour, it would not have that same feel.

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Overall thoughts

– It’s the content of the image that matters more not the colour

– Colour can add a feeling to an image but it still needs a strong subject

– Worthwhile for seeing the comparison between Cartier-Bresson and the photographers that have followed him as well as a good introduction to the different works and photographers that you might not have come across

– Exhibition catalogue would have been good but looks to have sold out

Tim Walker. Storyteller- Somerset house, London 12th January 2013

While I was in London I’d earmarked a couple of other exhibitions that were free to get in and not too far away from the Tate. Originally at Somerset house for the Cartier-Bresson exhibition, we actually came to this one first after lunch and a break to refresh ourselves after the Tate. Unfortunately it was really busy in there so I wasn’t able to take as much time as I would have liked looking at the images, and secondly it was in a number of smaller rooms that weren’t helped by the large props placed around.

Walking in, my eyes were first drawn to the prop of a giant Spitfire plane at an angle as opposed to the image it featured in. I love the mix of fantasy and reality in photography and this seemed to follow on nicely from some of the Photoshop experimentation that I had undertaken as part of the exercises in the previous module, Digital Photographic Practice. The outstanding feature was that everything in Walker’s images was carefully considered and meant to be there, there wasn’t anything left to chance and the details really drew me in as a viewer. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently with other work, and am now trying to consider that everything in there should be there and to be aware of all the components of the frame not just the main subject. While some of the images were grotesque and others beautiful, because of the colours and detail, I still enjoyed looking at them and some were quite humorous such as the people mocking up traffic signs or flowers and lips overlaid onto a photograph.

Again it was a shame that photography wasn’t allowed as it was a really well put together show and the little rooms and large props such as the giant swan carriage and giant snails helped to give a magical feel as you walked through. In contrast to the fantasy and the fashion images were a series of portraits that have to be my favourite so far. All of the portraits of these famous people had the same location, a white background and a white desk to sit at, the rest was the subject and any props they’d chosen/had chosen. The non cluttered background made the subject quite striking and really stand out and for sheer amusement; the series of the Monty Python cast with smoking bowler hats was striking, being clever, witty, amusing and technically perfect. Certainly something to aim towards in my portrait work. It did feel a little bit like a throwaway exhibition being in a gallery off the courtyard and through the smaller rooms but after viewing it, it certainly deserved the attention it was getting and I’d certainly recommend a visit to this and the Cartier- Bresson show.

Overall thoughts

– Wow

– Composite images can be as valid as a standard photograph

– Presentation can help the experience and to echo the contents of the collection or the subject matter

– Giant dolls are scary especially when filling a room but giant snails are fun

– Photography doesn’t have to be serious

– Consider everything little element in the frame

 

Giant snail prop                                         Some portraits

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William Klein and Daido Moriyama. Tate Modern, London 12th January 2013

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I hadn’t been to London for around 7 years, and this was my first visit to the Tate Modern, finding it was relatively easy, it’s a huge imposing building on the side of the Thames next to the Globe theatre. Already impressed, I wasn’t expecting so much of the inner space to be vast and empty but this was just an indication on how huge an exhibition could be here. Collecting the tickets and gaining entry went smoothly, although it was frustrating not being able to take any photographs of the exhibitions or of the notes on each piece as I had to scribble the details down frantically and hoped that I’d managed to get most of it correct. As the exhibition was split between Klein and Moriyama, I’ll discuss them both separately and then summarise what I felt on the exhibition as a whole.

Stepping through the entrance into a dim room lit by a large video screen playing what I now know is’ Broadway by light’ was certainly overwhelming, on one side bright flashing video and soundtrack, the other had a wall stretching high above me with advertising images on them. It wasn’t what I was expecting from an entrance into a photography exhibition but it made more sense as I’d been through the different rooms. I felt that Klein was very mixed, and while I can appreciate his progression through the different methods, the way this was presented was jumbled, perhaps it was to show us that he has never really moved away from the ways of thinking and work in each area, coming back at a later data to add paint to contact sheets for example in ‘Club Allegro Fortissimo’.

For me, I would have preferred a logical move through time so that I could see how he had grown and progressed but then I guess when do we actually work in isolation and keep it all neatly segregated. Unfortunately as the exhibition is close to finishing, I won’t be able to return to have another look which I am sure it would benefit from. The wide open spaces certainly benefited this exhibition with walls full of blown up almost floor to ceiling images, highlighting that some images such as ‘Evelyn, Isabella and Nena’ with the models echoing the tall skyscrapers in the background still have as much visual appeal as they did when first photographed with striking contrasts of the black and white. I liked the posed fashion shot, even though some of the models look quite severe, it got me thinking about planning and the set up that goes into what I’d refer to as a fashion portrait.

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From these two iconic model images, we moved onto a huge wall of different portraits and then this flowed into more conventional hung images at eye height. His street photography covered different cities and some I found to be really interesting, and others such as the Tokyo 1961 series were a little disturbing. Without any clear narrative, when viewing a couple of the images such as the man on a bike grimacing and the man making what seemed to be wax heads, these seemed quite sinister and I was uncomfortable viewing these and it made me wonder whether Klein himself was at risk and how much acceptance did he have there? In direct contrast to that, the image of Tokyo night-time with its neon lights providing a fascination contrast between light and dark and then later in the exhibition I could see echoes of this in the painted wooden panels and the abstract patterns.

Street photography is one of those styles that I think a lot of students aim for but struggle to do and after viewing the New York images by Klein, I feel that he was stronger in these as he knows the area inside out compare to some of the other ones. They have a more coherent feel and while he cameras is right there in the middle of the situations, and the subject is often aware and looking at the camera, I feel there is more of a respect there than in the other image series such as Tokyo. Moving on from this, there was a video of excerpts from some of his films. I watched some of ‘Mr Freedom’ but didn’t really understand what it was about, the costumes and look of the film were eye catching but it just didn’t grab me. Following on, the final gallery of Klein’s looked at his contact sheets that he had revisited with enamel paint. After all the monochrome, the splash of colour on these was really eye catching with the organic painting providing a frame for the viewer to focus on. The only negative in this was that the impact of coloured paint on a coloured image of the funfair felt out of place and didn’t have the same power as the monochrome images.

A sample of Klein postcards

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Daido Moriyama

The next gallery was the start of the Daido Moriyama exhibition, in contrast to the Klein presentation, a lot of the images were presented as a smaller size and even in book form within cabinets, with an exception being the large work ‘Memory 2012’

Walking into this gallery, the first difference is the size of the images, they were smaller and on one wall all together like a collage and to see the details within these, and you had to stand close to study the image. As a comparison to Klein, the subject matter was much darker, and for some such as Provoke no 2 and Shibuya, this provoked thoughts and feelings of confusion as the images were blurred, confused as to why this image was taken and voyeuristic looking onto a moment that should be private not shared. It felt that Moriyama was showing two sides, one capturing a shadowy and hidden world where people are exposed in different ways and amounts, from the woman naked on the bed through to the aftermath of a car crash. The other of showing the mix of Japanese and western cultures merging, such as the stacked patterns of jars and boxes within a shop, later moving onto the larger images of commuters on a tube and an alternative portrait of a woman. Differing from this and really catching my eye were some of the abstracts such as Hysteric no 4, comprising of what seemed a large round fan in one images and spotted walls on another. It was hard to see what they were as objects but in monochrome the shapes and patterns were very striking and it was an interesting change.

One wall was taken up with Memory 2012, a large collage of a number of his works and I struggled to see how a number of what seemed random images fitted together into a coherent narrative. I stood there looking at them and I could group some into smaller themes but not one running through this. I bought one of his books and within this were some of the images and on their own with a couple of lines of narrative, they were much stronger compared to how they were displayed.

The Light and Shadow series of close ups of everyday images really stood out to me. While the rest of the exhibitions challenged me, this was much more comfortable as it’s similar to work I’d do. I found that because they were all monochrome that you focus on the shape and form of the subject, not what it or the overall image is. While for close up and everyday objects I tend to favour punchy colours, I’m going to try and experiment a little and see what they look like in black and white. The final outstanding piece for me was the room build built out of Polaroid’s, the idea to take hundreds of different colours, objects and rooms and then put them all together to project a room was very clever and there was so much to take in and look at within this installation. The exhibition closed on a video interview of Moriyama and some sample books before we exited through the gift shop.

Postcards and book by Moriyama

 

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Overall thoughts

– Too much to take in, too many rooms and images.

– Hard to see it all in one visit- would need to go back a couple of time

– Not always a clear narrative

– Felt I missed the input from other students and tutors which for a large and complex exhibition is really needed

– Personally I preferred Moriyama over Klein as I could identify with some of this work and the unusual subjects and compositions he showed.

Summary

Overall the exhibition was not about colour or black and white, but it was more light and dark, of the moods and content, different tones, how the content made us feel as viewers etc. I feel that both Klein and Moriyama were strong enough to hold their own exhibition in the whole of the space as opposed to sharing, and that the connection between the two wasn’t always that clear to the viewer. I’m pleased I managed to see it; not least it’s good to have the comparison of a large London show with what I’ve seen in my local area.

 

Exercise: A public space

Find a public park or beach. Try to capture the sense of varied use.

As its January and there isn’t much happening in the parks, I decided to focus on a local area of a marina and canal path. This is a pretty popular place where a number of different activities can be undertaken, there are boats, fishing, cycling and walking as well as a pub so it seemed to offer the better location for people undertaking any activity. I visited here twice on different weekends, the first one I took some photos but as I was using my SLR, I did get some unwanted attention from the people fishing who wanted me to take their photograph and I didn’t feel that comfortable. I went back a couple of weeks later with just my Sony point and shoot and due to the small size and the fact I turned the sound off, I could hold the camera at different angles to get people in the frame. I had better results this day despite waiting for some time in the freezing cold as there just wasn’t anyone around!

I’m more comfortable with the smaller camera as it’s not that noticeable and I’ve been taking it around with me to galleries to capture people there (which I will look to upload here later)

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Exercise: An organised event

For this exercise you will need to research and prepare in advance. Look for an organised event at which there will be plenty of people and where they are moving around. Think about telling a story.

I’ve not actually been able to do this exercise as I haven’t found an organised event at the moment due to the time of year and weather. I will try to come back to this later on.

Exercise: Standard focal length

Use a standard size lens, if you have a smaller sized sensor then this will be in the region of 27mm to 32mm. Keep both eyes open and adjust the zoom until the size of things in the scene look about the same in each eye.

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32mm lens

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28mm lens