Saturday, 31 May 2014

General update

Over the last couple of months my PC had been getting slower each time I used it, any restorative activities carried out by me had little effect on performance.

Finally, I switched it on and it did nothing! I could see my desktop and it looked fine, but regardless of where I clicked or what I clicked on, my computer just crashed. Eeek!

I got my PC back today and its faster and spiffier than ever!

Anybody, local to Nuneaton, looking for a great PC doctor would do well to check out Nuneaton Computer Repairs. I found them friendly and efficient and very reasonably priced - they really did take the panic out of the situation!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Assignment 3 planning (part 2)

I'm currently favouring option 2 - manufacturing - documenting the manufacturing process of getting milk from the farm to the consumer.

I've worked up and walked through 10 images that document the journey milk makes from the cow to the consumer:

Sketches for one of my options for assignment 3
 I'm currently toying with the idea of developing this option a little further, that is, use these images as the 10 'core' images (as the assignment requires) with the images on the right page and some text - technical information - on the left page. After each main image (following pages), I would like to add a series of smaller 'linking' images that show some detail of the activities that go on between the 'core' activities. Since this is assignment is to be presented as a book, I think this legs...

Seeing is believing

Exercise 35 - read the WeAreOCA blog post 'Seeing is Believing' and write you own comment on the blog page and in you own blog.

Dated - 4th May 2011, a post by Jose commenting upon "the absence of visual proof of Osama Bin Laden’s death that still dominates the headlines on the BBC News website." And the poses the obvious follow up question: "In this digital age of pervasive visual illusions it seems unlikely that we would take such proof as face value?"

Were the governments were right not to release any images? I think this is an impossible question to answer, however, in my opinion the global release of such images could certainly have incited further violence, but even more importantly they would have instantaneously created another martyr - the very last thing the western world needed to create as an output from this particular war.

In the event that images had been released, would we have believed them? I think the public would have believed what they wanted to believe and rejected what didn't suit! That said, photographs, authentic (or otherwise) would have made the declaration of Bin Laden's death more real because humans rely very heavily on their most unreliable sense - sight.

[As an aside and picking up on the comments from Jose re: shamanism and Eileen re: respect/revere for blind people and the ability for people to visually manipulate the situation (and Clive on everything including mythology...); apparently university research (forget which one) has shown that, generally, people are much better at detecting lies when talking to somebody on the phone, the same lies that would go unnoticed if the people where talking face-to-face.]

To quote Sean O'Hagan's article 'Osama bin Laden's body: the world's most incendiary image'
Photography, for better or worse, possesses this immediate power in a way that words – too reflective – and the moving image – too animated – do not. It is a moment, freeze-framed forever.
Taking this thought further and taking Amano's comment (slightly out of context) 'gory images of a blood stained, probably hard to identify, body' - what format should/would the images have taken? Bloody and gory; bullet riddled; or perhaps clean and clinical taken in field mortuary after the postmortem with the Y-incision on display???? Regardless of the photograph selected for the front pages across the world, I have no doubt the image would have been seared onto the retinas of Bin Laden's flock.

[Off topic again and onto Zizek; assuming we select the final option for the photograph (the Y-incision) would this cover all three of Zizek's realities?]

Jeff Wall in Pluk magazine

Exercise 34 - briefly comment on the documentary value of Jeff Wall's work.

TATE on the different photographic styles of Jeff Wall:
'Jeff Wall glossary'

Documentary - straight photographs of everyday things that the artist has observed. They often depict inanimate objects or overlooked spaces.
Jeff Wall Diagonal Composition 1993

Diagonal Composition 1993 by Jeff Wall
Documentary photograph, Purchased from Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (General Funds) 2003
© The artist

Near Documentary - these pictures may be reconstructions of events that Wall has witnessed or they may be documentary photographs that involved a small degree of intervention by the artist. The resulting pictures occupy a middle ground between fiction and documentary.
Jeff Wall Man in Street 1995

Man in Street 1995 by Jeff Wall
Cinematographic photograph, Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller, Otterlo
© The artist
Also see TATE: Artists talk - Jeff Wall

Extract from an interview with Melissa Denes from The Guardian (Oct 15 2005):
'Picture perfect'
To start with, in the 80s, Wall thought his pictures should be about something. His 1982 picture Mimic, for instance, which looks like amazingly lucky street photography but was performed by actors in front of lights and a large-format camera, was "about" racism. To a modern audience, it might look as if the bearded man is on the phone, but in fact he is stretching the skin under his eyes and sneering or saying something to an Asian stranger, while his girlfriend squints in unconscious mimicry out of the frame. Today, though, Wall wants his pictures to be purely aesthetic experiences. "Twenty-five years ago I thought subject matter had some significance in itself," he says. "Mimic was about racism in some way, about hostile gestures between races, but I'm glad the picture itself is good and it doesn't need that to be successful. Now I try to eliminate any additional subject matter - those things are for other people, they're not my problem."
Since about 1990, Wall has been concerned with exploring the history of photography alongside that of painting (Michael Newman characterises this as a shift in Wall‟s „presiding genius‟ from Manet to Atget), making more works that have a documentary (or near-documentary) status, alongside large black-and-white prints some of which play with the limits of perceptibility in sepulchral tones (in a programmatic manner, these dark prints serve as a contrast to the lightbox works in which all is illumined in full detail). The use of black and white has also allowed a reflection on the conventions of the documentary tradition in photography. Nevertheless, the effects should not be over-stated, and Wall‟s recent work, including the monochrome pictures, is still discussed very largely in terms of painting, as is typical with museum photography, in which the history of photography is regularly downplayed.

Extract from an interview with David Shapiro from Museo Magazine (1999 - I think):
Shapiro: You don’t see yourself as a documentary photographer in any way?

Wall: Sure I do. I think that all photography contains an element of reportage, just by nature, and so everybody who practices it comes into relation with that aspect in one way or another. What's interesting is that there’s no one way anymore to come into that relationship. I think in 1945 or 1955, it was clear that if you wanted to come into relation with reportage, you had to go out in the field and function like a photojournalist or documentary photographer in some way; that was expected, and everyone expected it of themselves, and there was no very clear alternative. No other aspect of photography was really taken seriously, and that was great nevertheless because classic documentary photography really is photography; it really does connect to the nature of the medium. But still, it does not cover the horizon. There are other practices that are equally deeply connected to what photography is, and as well, there is no single way to satisfy the documentary demand. There’s no one way to come into this relationship with reportage. I think that’s what people in the 70s and 80s really worked on: not to deny the validity of documentary photography, but to investigate potentials that were blocked before, blocked by a kind of orthodoxy about what photography really was.

Extract from an interview with 'Prospero' from The Economist (Nov 30 2011):
'Many indecisive moments'
When talking about his latest exhibition at the White Cube gallery in London (2011) which consist primarily of large-scale prints in three modes that he refers to as documentary, near documentary (re-enactments of real events) and cinematographic (scenes constructed from the artist's imagination); Wall stated that "it's a pitfall to have a definition of photography".
Mr Wall's photographs are distinctive for the way they seem to capture a length of time rather than just a moment—as if time were frozen in crisp focus but then allowed to linger. It resembles the slow time evoked by painting more than that typically captured in a snapshot. Photographers have often pursued what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the "decisive moment". Mr Wall doesn't use the term because he finds the moment to be "so indecisive". He is not much interested in "having my finger on the pulse," as he puts it. Nevertheless, most of his work is set in the present or what he calls "a certain kind of now."

Interview with Maria Acciaro from Vice (Oct 14 2012):
'Floating in an emotional ocean of art with Jeff Wall'
Acciaro: What is your relationship with literature? If you were to compare your work to that of a writer, who would it be?
Wall: I've taken pictures that are explicitly inspired by the writings of other people, like Yukio Mishima or Franz Kafka, but I don’t think that this can define a relationship with an author. Those were incidents. It could have easily happened to someone other artist or with some other work of literature. So, my relationship with, let’s say, Ralph Ellison - because I took very elaborate pictures based on his book Invisible Man - was still incidental: one day I simply happened to be completely absorbed by the book and the image appeared. The relationship I have with literature is very important. I think that, somehow, all photographers are hybrid creators, novelists on one hand and, on the other, painters. And the photograph, the end result, acts like the combination of a painting and a novel. Walker Evans said: "There is no book that is not a book of photographs.” He thought that the task of a writer was to describe events that could exist as photographs. It is no coincidence that Walker Evans, in the beginning, wanted to become a writer. Many photographers have a very strong bond with the literature and consider themselves, in some way, writers. I think I'm one of them.

From TATE Volunteer 1996

This picture was based on Wall’s observations of homeless shelters and similar facilities, but was shot on a set. The mural on the right-hand wall, a precise replica of one in an actual shelter, was painted for the photograph. It emphasises the potential in black-and-white photography for registering subtle gradations of tone. The man sweeping the floor appears absorbed in his task, in a mood and world of his own. The impression is of a chance glimpse into someone else’s life.

Jeff Wall Volunteer 1996

Volunteer 1996 by Jeff Wall
Cinematographic photograph
Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, permanent loan to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel
© The artist

In summary:

With regards the documentary value of Walls work, it is not documentary in the classical sense of the term 'documentary', nor does it portray/communicate any particular event in a classic documentary way, that is, capturing the moment as it occurs. Wall commented that when he sees something interesting, he does not capture it in his camera, but rather in his mind. This enables his to take the 'scene' away with him and to reflect upon it, this reflection might take months or even years. Once completed, he then rebuilds the scene ensuring that every minute detail is correct - for example the mural in Volunteer - and then takes his photograph.

Thinking back to tutor feedback I have received on some assignment photographs, re changing the angle of my shot or my position or waiting for somebody to move completely out of shot; hasn't Wall achieved what we are all striving for? He is creating the perfect documentary photograph! Rather than having to 'cope' with an image that is not quite right technically or perfect in terms of composition, Wall sees the opportunity and then recreates the scene to create the document.

I would suggest that only real limiting factor in terms of his works documentary value is the time frame from him seeing the document to him creating the document!
If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Performative documents

Exercise 33 - view the video on Hasan and Husain Essop at the V&A exhibition Figures and Fictions and write a short reflective commentary.

Their work is very personal, close to home, clever art work cleverly choreographed - simple, but well conceived images that work on multiple levels.

I found it very interesting listening to the twins as they talked about their spacial awareness of each other as they were developing/building their multiple frame images - knowing instinctively where one twin finished and the other twin began.

Another interesting remark was about the lack of any artwork on the walls as they were growing up - living in a very sterile environment. I wondered if this is one of the reasons why they both chose art, photography in particular, as a medium that enabled them an immediate form of artistic communication? Also their subject matter is very controversial, is this another form of defiance as well as rebellion?

Regardless of the reasons, I particularly like their Coke Cola photograph. The sun bouncing off the white robes intensifies the heat of the images and makes the viewer wish for a cold glass of Coke. Plus, the arrangement of the 'people' looks as they are actually worshipping the Coke Cola sign!
Hasan and Husain Essop
Thornton Road 2008

Victoria and Albert Museum - Figures and Fictions

Think global, act local...

Exercise 32 - (1) read the article 'Think Global, Act Local' by Diane Smyth; (2) research Tom Hunters work; (3) listen to Hunter talking about his most iconic image 'Woman reading a possession order. Now summarise your thoughts.

This is less about my thoughts and more about the discussion points that captured my attention whilst listening to the interviews, in no particular order:

One of the best things he ever did was get a Vermeer book with the specific intention of recreating the images as photographs. He learnt how to see and understand light, especially as it moves through time and across surfaces.

In order to recreate the (Vermeer) paintings so that they had meaning to a new audience he entered in full dialogue with his models - the people who shared a squat with him- together they developed the concept and the composition of the new images.

Hunter hates prints, they never do justice to the image captured on film. Hence is obsession of presenting his images on light boxes, he likens the experience to walking into a cathedral for the first time and seeing the sun shining through a stained glass window - everything is so intense, so vivid, so alive.

He admits to being evangelical about his work and genuinely believes it can be a force for good. This is not however his motivation, it is his love for photography that drives him to create images.

He has been a lecturer at university for years and enjoys his work because of his exposure to this continuously changing medium. He believes his roll is not to influence or to judge his students, but to question their ideas so that they (both he and the students) understand what they are trying to achieve and how they want to communicate. His job is to enable his students to become the best photographers they can.

Hunter meticulously plans every single image he takes, he takes 100% control of every aspect of the image to ensure it turns out exactly as he envisioned. If the result is not absolutely perfect it does not get shown - to anyone. He is a perfectionist and a complete control freak. This is one of the reasons for not doing much commercial work - rather than delivering a brief, he has to develop his own ideas for a project and invariably they are better than those of the customer.

He gets his ideas for images from everyone and everywhere; the cinema, pub or from gossip; from general observation, newspapers, photographs and art; from looking, walking, talking and cycling... The list is endless.

Whilst he accepts that there is something melancholic about photography because its always looking at the past. Also that photography (as a medium) is used to portray some difficult, disturbing and challenging subjects; nonetheless, he firmly believes that the images create should be beautiful.

He photographs London because it is the most fantastic place to photograph - it is for ever changing and has an almost unlimited range of subject materials, from palaces to squats; from Michelin star restaurants to greasy spoon cafes.

He is a dinosaur and rather than moving forward with the times (to digital) he is intentionally moving backwards - his next project is with a 10x8 pinhole camera! He enjoys using the wrong equipment, with the wrong film, normally in the wrong light conditions (he invariably uses natural light). This whole process is very organic and its what makes and gives his work its unique feel.

Digital has created an archival nightmare:
   - In terms of the volume of images we take, there is now no need for us to think all we do is press the button and sift through the rubbish later (if ever).
   - In the event that we change our phones we loose our images for ever...
   - In the time it takes him to take 2 or 3 considered images, we have taken 200 to 300 thought-free images - how do we ever make sense of that volume of material?
   - He is concerned that we never really sit down, review and truly consider our images  - what we take, why we took them and how we could improve upon them?

After showing his tutor (Peter Kennard author of @earth) his portfolio of the ghetto, Kennard recommended that he look at the work of Vermeer. This was a pivotal moment in his career; whilst Hunter has only ever directly referenced Vermeer in one body of work, he always uses the vision he developed whilst looking at Vermeer to make his own images.

I found it very interesting listening to the interviews, particularly because Hunter came across as being a very genuine individual - unflappable regarding his fame; unchanged because of his wealth; yet nervous, or rather uncomfortable, about being the centre of attention during the interviews. Once the conversation moved from him to his work - his inspiration, his conceptualisation, his execution - he became enthusiastic, animated and engaging.