In planning for this exercise I considered for what subjects would measurement of distance be most meaningful. I decided to take some pictures of urban sketchers.
My wife is one of the artists and the others know me in passing; we are familiar with each other. In terms of intimacy, the distance between us would not be close, but not be distant either.
They are artists and I am a photographer. Perhaps while I was photographing them, they were sketching me. By this measure I was among colleagues and the distance between us is small.
My set of images are shown below:
Perhaps my favourite image is the one below, because of the spontaneous laughter, caught accidently:
Chris Hondros (1970-2011) was an American war photographer, whose images I admire. As a war photographer his images were all about context and narrative and the distance between himself and those he was photographing could hardly be greater. Below is a not so famous example of his work:
I cannot claim to be a war photographer, or in fact been in the middle of a war, but I have stayed for a time in Yemen (for business reasons) in an area of unrest and surrounded by soldiers and civilians armed to the teeth. I was usually accompanied by ex-military advisors. I had the opportunity to take some photographs; here is one of them:
This was taken outside camp. We had been travelling around the perimeter of the camp when we spotted this pop-up Qat Souk. Everybody was armed in this scene, but I unknowingly chose the only angle where it was not possible to see the weapons. I have picked this not because the style is similar, but because the distance between photographer and subject is almost as extreme.
Two more images from my time in Yemen are included below:
Looking at Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare for a ‘Pivotal Point’ (not a shape) to which the eye returns to again and again, one can see a number of candidates.
One such point is where the man’s left foot would meet its shadow when it goes crashing into the water. What information is carried in that point? Perhaps that he will get very wet? Maybe he will squash an insect? Maybe he is late for supper, which if it is Friday might be fish? Maybe he wants to put a bet down? Or he wants a Ricard? And does he regret making the decision to launch himself off the rung? Of course that information is not really there – there is no analogue or digital information present in the paper or screen (or whatever medium the image is conveyed in) – but somehow the point can convey these messages – the message is in the gap.
Another point may be the rung of the ladder that he has launched himself from. This point could convey the message that wherever he is going to in such a hurry is worth the risk of getting wet, adding a sense of urgency.
A third point is the head of the man behind the railings. He is looking away into what looks like, but cannot be, a cemetery. What is he looking at? I’ve looked a second time and now feel he is looking at me. The ambiguity is down to lack of detail, accidental in this case, a factor of age. There are other such points in the photograph, such as an image on the billboard or a point in the ripple, but these are of fleeting interest to me.
The following image by Kawauchi also has gaps that convey similar information as Bresson’s does. Kawauchi’s images are ambiguous, purposely so probably, allowing the spectator to imagine so much more.
A common learning from this is that less is more, or more fully, that more information can be conveyed through greater ambiguity.
Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple
Learnings from Research
‘There are two fundamentals in all picture taking – where to stand and when to release the shutter … so photography is very simple.’ (Jay & Hurn, 2001, p.37).
This suggests, as does the course text, that photography is simply a series of snapshots. The course text suggests that the snapshot is not a recording of the moment, but a recording of the ‘event of photography’. I am not sure what this means at this stage, as to me the snapshot is a recording of the moment. In this context I refer to a shot being snapped, not by the definition referred to by Bull (Bull, 2009, p 84).
However, it must be that experience and intuition play a part in determining position and the moment and that comes with learning and practice. The human mind can unconsciously process at high speed so that in fact the inspiration is nothing more than the brain reliving the learning obtained from, for example, this OCA module. The learning grows with the passage of the module and experience, skill and intuition with it, evident in the progression of quality, creativity and so on.
So photography is simple because the complexities of the process, techniques and so on, have become subconscious.
This mental process and frame of mind is consistent with what Ann Hjort Guttu describes as being ‘… in this state where everything could be art, or not… as if I was inside a zone where all things could be the result of a higher formal awareness: the roads, the chewing gum on the sidewalk, the yellow light over the city on our way home from kindergarten. Or it could not be, it didn`t matter anymore. Everything became art, and in that same moment nothing’.
Developing the Theme
I have interpreted these ideas for this assignment as having a brief to take photographs as the inspiration takes me in the view that taking the photograph in the end is simple, because of the learning I have achieved through my study. As with Guttu I take art where I find it, and present it to the spectator, and in the end the spectator can decide for themselves if they receive it as art.
Following some reflection after my initial ideas and following a recommendation by a fellow student, I revisited the work of Ringo Kawauchi and Wolfgang Tillmans. I have found that their work is the distillation of my thoughts I am trying to articulate above. I therefore have followed a different path (from the initial images taken), producing a set of images inspired by Kawauchi and Tillman that form a more coherent series while remaining “simple” and “pure”.
The specific attributes that inspire me and that I have endeavoured to capture in my series are:
- Texture (more evident in Tillman’s work)
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
(Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)
I used Adobe Lightroom to increase exposure to enhance the luminosity, increase contrast to enhance colour and texture, and slightly increased clarity. These do not undermine the message that Photography is Simple. The final image is simple in its receipt.
I found that I have some skill in observing a frame that within reside a collection of objects that when composed together produce a visually pleasing but ambiguous holistic whole. I believe that the results demonstrate that I meet the criteria. For example the following subject, a set of leaves, would have produced a dull and prosaic photograph if I had stood back and included a much wider scene. The combination of lines and curves, contrasting colours, in focus and out of focus areas in a tightly controlled photographic space make this photograph worth gazing upon. One can keep returning to the image and find something new in it.
Quality of Outcome
(Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment)
I am comfortable that I have produced a coherent series, each one capable of individual observation, but forming a whole, with a narrative that flows between them.
The series has the appearance of being simple, but is based on the layers of knowledge and experience that I have gained through this module.
Demonstration of Creativity
(Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice)
I am beginning to see a personal voice in this and the previous assessment. It will develop of course, but I am beginning to play with colour, light and shapes of colour in some consistent way. The series does show my experimental and playful approach.
This series came from my imagination. I then found a location that I could crystallise my imagined images. The inspiration did not come from the location, rather the other way around. This demonstrates the planned application of creativity rather than some lucky happenstance.
(Reflection & Research)
As stated above I have found the work of Tillmans and Kawauchi has specific attributes that inspired me and that I have endeavoured to capture in my series:
- Texture (more evident in Tillman’s work)
The following image from Kawauchi forms part of the context for my work.
Bull, S. (2009) Photography. Abingdon: Routledge
Jay, B. & Hurn, D. (2001) On Being a Photographer: A Practical Guide (3rd edition). Washington: LensWork