Research Log – Part 5

Alexia Clorinda is an art historian, cultural critic, independent researcher and photographer. She is quoted by the OCA text author as saying ‘I don’t pretend that I can describe the ‘other’. The camera for me is more a meter that measures the distance between myself and the other. It’s about the encounter between myself and the other; it’s not about the other.’

Ariella Azoulay (born 1962) is an art curator, author and filmmaker. According to the course text, she argues that both photographer and subject both have a role in the photograph, neither one having full control.

Quentin Bajac, photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was interviewed in August 2013 by Philip Gefter , American author and photographry critic. He says that … ‘The most interesting photographers in that field are those who manage to find a proper balance between perception and the idea. I was talking about this with Paul Graham a few weeks ago, who said that you can set out with the best possible idea, open your door, go outside, and the world changes that idea. And you have to accept that and shift your expectation to accommodate what you observe and evolve with it. What you produce in the end will probably be quite different from the initial idea. This is what photography is about. It is about having an idea at first and accepting that you’re going to be seduced, in the etymological sense of the word, by the world you’re encountering.’[accessed 03/04/19]

Terry Barrett’s essay ‘Photographs and Context’ [accessed 03/04/19

introduces the notion that the interpretation of a photograph is altered by the context in which it is viewed. This context is adjusted by where it is viewed, in what form it is viewed, and specifically what text is used to accompany the image. He argues we should not accept the intended interpretation on face value but assess it in light of the context it is shown in.

Specifically Barrett suggests we interpret pictures according to three different types of information:

  • information in the picture (internal context)
  • information surrounding the picture (external context)
  • information about the way the picture was made (original context)

Project 2 – Improbable Images

Rinko Kawauchi (b 1972) is a Japanese photographer working in commercial and then fine art photography. Her image below is from the cover of her book Illuminance:

Another image by Kawauchi is shown below:

Her work is almost other worldly, somewhat fantastic, even though it appears very little information is transferred.

The following is an extract from the course text:

In Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000, Chapter 1, p.8ff), Vilém Flusser makes an interesting distinction between photography and writing as information systems. He points out that when you read a sentence you read it from beginning to end in a linear way; you don’t repeatedly return to different words in the sentence and read them again. But when you look at a photograph your eye returns to certain elements again and again, almost as if to re-experience them.

Flusser, V. (2000) Towards A Philosophy of Photography, trans. Anthony Mathews, London: Reaktion Books, 2000

One would have to review Kawauchi’s photographs many times, re-assessing this and that, in order to build up a composite whole.

Berger says (Berger, 1972, p.26) that ‘In a painting all its elements are there to be seen simultaneously. The spectator may need time to examine each element of the painting but whenever he reaches a conclusion the whole painting is there to qualify or reverse his conclusion.’

One has to wonder in the case of Kawauchi’s work that spectators will ever come to the same conclusion as each other or even take the same meaning from the work that Kawauchi herself invested in it. Kawauchi seems to make the viewer work for meaning.

Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple

‘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).

Jay, B. & Hurn, D. (2001) On Being a Photographer: A Practical Guide (3rd edition). Washington: LensWork

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.

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 noting 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.

Michelle Groskopfs says of herself in an interview in The Phoblographer that ‘I was a creeper initially and would push myself to seek and find small stories developing on the street. I did that for years and years. I was a real ninja but honestly it felt a bit impersonal for me. So my main evolution has been in moving significantly closer, shifting from context to detail. When I moved to LA from NY it triggered a wave of sentimental nostalgia for me. It reminded me very fundamentally of my suburban childhood. The more I looked around the more it tugged on my heartstrings and brought back these acute memories. I ended up using my camera as a device to frame the things that triggered memory.’

[accessed 08/04/2019]

Miho Kajioka (b. 1973) studied fine art in the United States and Canada and started her career as a journalist in her native country Japan. It was after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that Kajioka was reconnected to her photographic art. Two months after the disaster, while reporting in the coastal city of Kamaishi, where over 800 people died, she found roses blooming beside a blasted building. That mixture of grace and ruin made her think of a Japanese poem:

In the spring, cherry blossoms,

In the summer the cuckoo,

In autumn the moon, and in

Winter the snow, clear, cold.

Written by the Zen monk Dogen, the poem describes the fleeting, fragile beauty of the changing seasons. The roses Kajioka saw in Kamaishi bloomed simply because it was spring. That beautiful and uncomplicated statement, made by roses in the midst of ruin, impressed her, and returned her to photography.

The photos presented, span Kajioka’s adulthood, including pictures she took while living abroad, as well as scenes she captured in Japan after the disaster. The little pictures of a flower, or a running boy, are scenes from daily life, as it is. These fragments of her life, from various periods and against changing backdrops, are not so different from each other, and the differences that remain aren’t important. Happiness, sadness, beauty and tragedy only exist in our minds. Things are just as they are. [accessed 08/04/19]

Ane Hjort Guttu (b. 1971) is an artist, writer and curator based in Oslo. Through video works, picture collections, sculpture and photography her recent work has focused on the issues of power and freedom in the Scandinavian post-welfare state. [accessed 08/04/19]

She describes that ‘I was 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 any more. Everything became art, and in that same moment nothing’. [accessed 08/04/19]

Equivalents is a series of photographs of clouds taken by Alfred Stieglitz from 1925 to 1934. They are generally recognized as the first photographs intended to free the subject matter from literal interpretation, and, as such, are some of the first completely abstract photographic works of art.  [accessed 08/04/19]

Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968) is a West German photographer, awarded the Turner Prize in 2000. He was the first photographer and first non-British person to win the Turner prize. To examples of his images are shown below: