Sunday, 30 March 2014

Subtle colour documentary

Exercise 23 - Select two bodies of work from the Panos study "Eight way to change the world" that show different conceptual and visual styles. Discuss aspects such as aesthetics and expression.

Bodies work selected are by Adam Hinton and Dieter Telemans

1. Adam Hinton

This documentary essay focuses on goal 3: To promote gender equality and educate women
Ø         The images always show a family relationship - mother/daughter; grandmother/daughter/granddaughter; normally the elder woman has not benefited from an education
Ø         The photographs have a situational portrait feel to them
Ø         Show some elements of how the family lives - their home, their animals, their clothes
Ø         The individuals photographed engaged with the photographer and they come across as being genuinely happy, but there is still a feeling that the photographer is an outsider
Ø         A common theme is the lack of shoes, that said the photographer does not in any way infer that these people are poor. In fact, the one interior shown in this portfolio, has children's drawings pinned to the wall, a calendar, some football paraphernalia and even a mask of Spiderman - it feels like a normal environment with a growing family
Ø         The women are all clean and well dressed and are very clearly capable of looking after themselves and their families
Ø         Even the Guatemalan photographs where the development goal has not been achieved, the women are portrayed as happy and competent
Ø         The images are predominantly square format, with the backgrounds tending to be quite dark (forest greenery or wooden houses); thus making the focus clearly the women
Ø         The colours are not at all subdued, indeed the women's clothing is quite colourful

2. Dieter Telemans

This documentary essay focuses on goal 7: To ensure environmental sustainability
Ø         These images, by comparison to Hinton's, are much brighter and airier; this is fundamentally because they are taken out in open spaces (by the wells)
Ø         This portfolio has a natural sequence of events to follow and as such has a much more clearly defined structure
Ø         There is a greater sense of freedom in the style of these photographs and whilst they all build on the narrative, some are also very artistic and even some humour
Ø         It feels as though the photographer was much more involved and better engaged in the community and the water collection activity - there is a real feeling of happiness
Ø         Again the people are portrayed as very competent, but here there seems to be a greater sense of community. (This may be down to the simple fact that the act of drawing water is done by all of the community and more normally by the children - who by nature tend to be more gregarious.)

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

diCorcia at the Hepworth

Introducing the Hepworth

The Hepworth - the classic view
Mordern art created by Wakefiled Warf Co Ltd

Old mill directly behind the Hepworth; purchased by the Hepworth as expansion space and due to open next year
diCorcia (b. 1951) is an American photographer who lives and works in New York and teaches at Yale University, Connecticut.

The exhibition at the Hepworth is significant, spanning four decades from1975 through to 2012 and includes six series:
Ø         A Storybook Life (1975–1999)
Ø         Hustlers (1990 – 92)
Ø         Streetwork (1993 – 99)
Ø         Heads (2000 – 01)
Ø         Lucky 13 (2004)
Ø         East of Eden (2008–present)

A Storybook Life - the largest number of images in a single project; all relatively small (~A4) in comparison rest of the exhibition - that said, they would have to be to cater for the volume in one gallery. The gallery is divided into two separate wall to create the extra hanging space required.
The images feel like a collection of almost abstract 'scenes' plucked out of every day American life; yet together they make sense and tell an interesting, if not a little mundane. To paraphrase Andrew (and my apologies in advance because I'm sure he was more eloquent...) diCorcia captures the moments that happen in between the important elements in our lives; his focus is deliberately the predestination rather than the important.
The majority of the Storybook images in the exhibition were from the 1980's onwards, however, they had a distinctly '70's feel about them - the colours, the film, the snap-shot style.
Photograph from A Storybook Life by diCorcia
Photograph from A Storybook Life diCorcia

Hustlers - very much the same feel as Storybook. These images are of male prostitutes whom diCorcia paid for the services, that is, their time whilst he took their photographs. The title of the images is: the prostitutes name, age, location and hourly rate.

Ignoring 'Marylyn'; this series of images has a very cohesive feel because of the way diCorcia has posed the individuals and because of their facial expressions. The locations are varied - car lots, motel rooms, picnic tables; but the prostitutes are always alone and always look lonely. The gallery write up for Hustlers talks about the failure of dreams and the reality of life - these young men moving to Hollywood to live the dream only to end up selling themselves for sex to make a living. I think the expression on their faces sums up the situation: "How did I end up here?"

From Lightbox -
Hustlers, was shot against a backdrop of devastation and despair during the AIDS pandemic in the late 1980s and early 90s. The work served as a defiant response to (largely) right-wing bigotry targeting the First Amendment rights of homosexuals. In October 2013, publishers SteidlDangin released a new edition of Hustlers and in a moving coda, diCorcia shared his personal story that puts this work in a sombre new light:
“During that period, 1990-1992, the government officially condemned homosexuality,” he writes, “while AIDS made death commonplace. My brother, Max Pestalozzi diCorcia, died of AIDS on October 18, 1988. How much is too much? My brother was very free. I loved him for it. Freedom has its price, and we never know at the onset what the toll will be. He died unnecessarily. I dedicate this book to him.”

Streetwork - this series is the only series where the images are not staged. The scene is selected and lit by diCorcia, but after that rather than creating his own decisive moment he has to sit and wait for it to come to him.
In my opinion these are the best images in the exhibition, they feel different, there is a sense of energy, of pace, of life being lived and whilst I accept that these people are frozen in time, you get the feeling that after the photographer left they got on with their life. These images feel real, whereas with the other images the staging has created an element of strangeness.
Whilst 'sitting-in-ambush' for his image, diCorcia mounted his camera on a tripod at waist height and this gives these images a distinctly cinematic feel to them. This is a significant detour in image creation and I wonder how many images he took at each location to ensure he could capture/select his decisive moment?
From Streetwork by diCorcia
From Streetwork by diCorcia

Heads - a strobe light was fixed to scaffolding which was triggered by diCorcia (~6 metres away) enabling to capture their image at the same time. All of the images were taken in broad day-light thus his subject were totally unaware of the strobe or the photograph. This series is an excellent set of portraits, in fact they could just have easily (probably more easily) been taken in a studio. "Over the course of two years diCorcia took more than 4,000 of these photographs, though he chose only 17 for the series." MOMA

There was some debate during the visit as to whether or not these images depict the individuals as isolated and thus that there is an deeper underlying message about modern society. Whilst the individual has been isolated from their background because of the way the image was taken; I personally don't see isolation in the people. None of the individuals is smiling, indeed a number look very serious; but I don't feel isolation - to me, they came across as typical commuters, thinking their own thoughts; getting on with their own lives; just commuters commuting. In reality, this in itself is a form of isolation...

Most notably about this series is the court action taken against diCorsia by Erno Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew and retired diamond merchant.
From Heads by diCorcia
From Heads by diCorcia

From The New York Times -
In summary: Nussenzweig tried to sue diCorcia and Pace (gallery) for exhibiting and publishing the portrait without permission and profiting from it financially. The suit sought an injunction to halt sales and publication of the photograph, as well as $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The suit was dismissed by a New York State Supreme Court judge who said that "the photographer's right to artistic expression trumped the subject's privacy rights".

Lucky 13 - is a series of dramatic and very sculptural poses struck by pole dancers. All of the dancers are 'hanging' upside down with rigid, far away looks on their faces. Unsurprisingly, during the visit the inspiration behind this series was discussed at length, as too the possible thought process enabling diCorcia to link his Hustlers body of work to this one.

From The Guardian -
Sean O'Hagan "was slightly bemused, by DiCorcia's revelation that this series of naked pole dancers in suspended motion, was prompted by the famous news photograph The Falling Man, which caught a tiny figure dropping from the north tower of the World Trade Centre on 9/11."

East of Eden - diCorcia was so disillusioned with economic and political climate towards the end of the Bush administration, he was "provoked by the collapse of everything, which seems to me a loss of innocence. People thought they could have anything. And then it just blew up in their faces." Thus the basis or theme behind this series of work is the Book of Genesis; in order words, this is diCorcia's way of starting at the beginning again.

Individually the aim of the images is to communicate elements of the book of Genesis, for example, the apple tree is a clear reference the forbidden fruit; diCorcia throwing a dart at his son references Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, etc. During the visit we all agreed that this was the weakest series in the exhibition and speculated that this was because of the very limited number of photographs in the series.

Subsequently I have been surfing and there are significantly more photographs in this series; whilst I admit to not being able to link all of them back to Genesis, the additional images enables the body of work to work. I would be interested to see this series, once it's complete, as a stand alone exhibition.

NOTE: We were allowed to photograph any/all of the diCorcia photographs with the exception of his latest works, East of Eden.

The Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield
Lightbox Time 
The New York Times - Street photography: a right or invasion?
MOMA - Head #10 
The Guardian  - Rent boys and pole dancers
David Zwirner - East of Eden 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier - a New Yorker, a photographer and a nanny. In her spare time Maier roamed New york and abroad (she was well travelled) with her Rolliflex taking candid shots of people and interesting situations, during this time she amassed over 100,000 images. Even more interestingly, with the exception of her charges, she did not share these photographs with anyone - there were for her own personal consumption.

I have selected five images with surrealist attitude, all of these photographs were copied from the various portfolios on the Vivian Maier website (see link below). Also I have provided minimalist titles for some of the photographs (those in quotes) because a significant percentage of her work remained untitled at the time of her death.

'Circles' from Street 3 Collection
Courtesy of the Vivian Maier website

The Sphinx of Giza and the Pyramid of Khuf, 1959 from Street 3 Collection
Courtesy of the Vivian Maier website

'Smoking chair' from Street 2 Collection
Courtesy of the Vivian Maier website

'Shoes and peaches', 1956 from Street 1 Collection
Courtesy of the Vivian Maier website

'New York Shadows' from Street 3 Collection
Courtesy of the Vivian Maier website

Website references:
Vivian Maier - the official website
Vivian Maier - discover her work
BBC Arts & Culture - Vivian Maier, lost art of an urban photographer

Thankfully the images are loaded, however, not from my home pc! My pc is still crashing each time I try to load photographs....

Some surrealists...

Andre Kertesz  - American photographer, born Hungary (1894-1985) 

Due to his unorthodox angles and unconventional approach to photography,  it took time for Kertesz to become recognised a serious photographer. He was particularly fascinated by common subjects presented (posed) in such a way as to focus on an element of their unusual shape - he took countless images of figures distorted in different ways - water, reflections in mirrors or metal; manipulation of the negative. Interestingly and considering how much emphasis we place on entitling our photographs today, the vast majority of Kertesz images have no title.
Image by Andre Kertesz
Martinique, 1st January 1972

Man Ray - (real name Emmanuel Radnitzky) American artist, born Philadelphia but lived most of his life in Paris (1890-1976)

Man Ray understood the creative power of photography and pushed it to its limits (of the time). The very essence of its documentary credentials and thus its ability to capture reality, were the very elements of the medium that he exploited for his art - he was acutely aware of the "unreality contained in reality itself".
"Legendary Photography, painter, and maker of objects and films, Man Ray was on the most versatile and inventive artists of this century." From the Man Ray Trust official website home page:

Copyright The Man Ray Trust
I think this note (and the thought process behind it) sums up Man Ray beautifully.
Image by Man Ray
La violin d'Ingres, 1924

Eugene Atget - French photographer and 'author' (1857–1927)

Atget is best know for his project to record 'Old Paris' that began around 1897 and continued until the 1920s. He was appalled by the modernisation that was sweeping across the city and 'destroying' the old building, the architecture and environment; as a result he made it his own personal mission to record the history of Paris before it was lost forever. However, Atget is admired less as a record photographer and more as a forerunner of Surrealism and of modern approaches to the art of photography. His urban scenes - featuring snatched glimpses, tangential perspectives, odd reflections and bizarre details - convey a distinctly modern experience of the city. The irony being that these 'modern' images are of a city that (in the main) no longer exists.

Eugène Atget, Church of St Gervais, Paris, about 1903, albumen print from gelatin dry plate negative. Museum no. Ph.224-1903, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Eugène Atget, Church of St Gervais, Paris ~ 1903
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

George Brassai- French photographer, born Transylvania (1899-1984)

Brassai was no a fan of photography until he say the work of Andre Kertesz - his eyes were opened and he took up the medium with passion and obsession. When developing his portfolio of images for Paris by Night, he focused on the dark bistros and darker streets - the very nature of these images presented him with a problem - exposure versus time (blur). To overcome this Brassai's solution was simple, place the camera on a tripod, opened the shutter and fire a flashbulb. The resultant quality and feel of the images - primitive, harsh and direct; would become his very trade mark. It was, for Brassai, better: straighter, more merciless, more descriptive of fact and most importantly in keeping with his vision: "as straightforward as a hammer".
"There are two gifts which every man of images needs to be a true creator: a certain sensitivity to life and at the same time, the art which will enable him to capture that life in a certain specific way. I'm not talking about aesthetics..."
Brassai, Winding Stream, Paris 1932 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tony Ray-Jones - English photographer, born Somerset (1941-1972)

Between 1966 and 1969 he worked tirelessly to capture his vision of the English, their rituals and customs and to promote photography as an art form. Ray-Jones’ candid approach allowed his subjects and the real world to some extent do the work for him. He was a "film director" snatching selected moments from reality. Ray-Jones said: "Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk like Alice, through a looking-glass, and find another kind of world with the camera."
Tony Ray-Jones, Blackpool 1968 © The National Media Museum, Bradford

Website references:
Victoria and Albert Museum
BBC News

A Japonese connection...

Exercise 22 - Write a short reflective commentary about the connections between the styles of Moriyama, Peterson and Sobol.

Similarity in style:

>    The images are heavily processed, high contrast B&W images with lots of black, sometimes quite grainy and requiring of a degree of focus from the viewer to make out the subject
>    The location of images is both public and private spaces, but the activity captured tends always to the personal and is frequently of a private/sexual nature
>    Framing is tight crop, often chopping bits off the subject matter as a result this gives the images have a distinctly 'snap-shot' feel about them - thus casting the viewer in the role of the voyeur
>    The photographs are candid, very personal and delivered with attitude - they come across as abruptly direct and in-your-face
>    The immediate impact of the images can be shocking (intentionally so), in terms of layout, processing and juxtaposition
>    Whilst the subjects of the images are often posing for the photographer, the images (regardless of their personal nature) do not feel staged - it feels as though there is complete engagement between photographer and subject
>    The images have an pent up energy within them, making the viewer want to understand what went on beforehand and what's going to happen next.
>    At no point/time do the subjects feel like they are being exploited by the photographer in these images. 

Below are three images I have sleeted, one from each of the photographers websites. By selecting the same subject "a dog" numerous similarities discussed above can be seen below.

Detail Image
Misawa, 1971
Daido Moriyama
Courtesy of the Artist and Taka Ishii Gallery

Sete, 2005
Anders Petersen
Courtesy of the Artist

The Gomez-Brito Family dog, ~2004
Jacob Aue Sobol
Courtesy of the Artist

Reference websites:
Daido Moriyama 
Anders Petersen 
Jacob Aue Sobol