Category Archives: 2. Research and Reflection

Pace and Rhythm – The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Narrative Michael Freeman

I have been reading Michael Freeman’s “The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Narrative” (ILEX Kindle Version) and have found the section on “Rhythm and Pacing” very relevant for my most recent unit on Narrative.
In one section he talks about rhythm as being “variety in sequence, and this does the job of holding the audience’s attention”.

Pacing he likens to a long-distance running or cycling where you “hold back certain key moments  – or shots in the case of a photo story – until the right moment, and of course is tied up with rhythm”

He goes on to talk about how it is very unlikely that every one of our images would be great and therefore we need to select and then order them in such a way that they help each other.

I have been looking for evidence of this in newspaper supplements and magazines etc. and found a good source of inspiration to be “The Economist” supplement “Intelligent Life” where in each edition they have a Photo Essay.

The latest edition deals with “Northern Brazil: deep in the rain forest, modern health care mixes with ancient rituals”. In this photo essay there is a mixture of double page spreads (with text superimposed), photos that cover the top 2/3rd of single pages, with text below, photos that spread over a page and a third of the next page with further text to the right, whole single pages and pages where photos are of different sizes to allow for captions. The whole effect is quite gripping and pleasing. The “pace” picture for me in this Photo Essay was a double page with a tribesman running around the settlement in a hunting celebration (with fantastic panning effect).

Tony Ray-Jones

There was an interesting article in the recent edition of the British Journal of Photography about Tony Ray-Jones Notebooks.

The BJP ” That Tony Ray-Jones had a profound influence on the generation of documentary photographers who emerged in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s, despite his untimely death at the age of 30, says as much about the singularity of his ideas as his actual pictures. And it’s all there in the notebook and the ephemera he left behind ….”

I particularly liked the entry entitled “Approach” which “details 12 commandments that would still serve well today, particularly his mantra  – Don’t take boring pictures”

notes

Volunteering for Brisfest

Brisfest; A volunteer built celebration of Bristol culture, inspiring passion and creativity through a community festival showcasing Southwest talent from music and dance to cabaret and art.

I volunteered as a photographer for this two-day festival which took place on Saturday and Sunday 21st September and Sunday 22nd September. I thought the experience would be rewarding and provide me with some useful images for the current assignment on “Narrative and Illustration”.

I was unable to attend the media presentation on the previous day but had received three briefs in advance.

The briefs  Healing Areas & Workshops (follow link for briefs) , Sponsors, Traders & Small Venues-1 and Walkabouts, Street Acts & Spectacles were quite extensive and so I arranged to arrive early on the Saturday morning which allowed me time to do a recce ,  take photos of last-minute preparations and to engage with people working at the site before they were too busy.

The photos I took of the two days can be viewed on my Flickr sets for each day:

Saturday

Sunday

The whole experience was most rewarding but extremely tiring. I particularly enjoyed the way in which people related to me – I felt if I had been there without a camera I would have been more or less anonymous.

The light for most of the two days was most disappointing and I felt I needed to use flash rather a lot. However, because of the variety of art forms I had such a wealth of material to photograph.

I was so pleased with the results that I produced a 50 page photo book of the two days. I had great difficulty reducing the number of images I was to use to 50 pages – not surprising that I found it even more difficult to reduce that to 15 images for my narrative picture essay exercise in the section on “Narrative and Illustration”.

Inspirational reading

I have read a number of books during this unit. Firstly I have read Susan Sontag’s series of essays “On Photography”Penguin Books 1979 which has convinced me that I am doing the right thing in studying this OCA course on Photography.

Three other books have been very inspirational. Firstly “Paris Mon Amour”  by Jean-Claude Gautrand Taschen 2004. There has been “something of a love affair between Paris and photography” which Gautrand recounts from 1839 through to the events of June 1968 and the book is beautifully illustrated with over 200 large size prints.

The second inspiration has been Museum Ludwig’ Cologne’s “20th Century Photography” Taschen 1996 which provides an “fascinating insight into the collection’s rich diversity: from conceptual art to abstraction to reportage, all of the major movements and genres are represented via a vast selection of the century’s most remarkable photographs” in alphabetical order.

The third book that has inspired me is Ian Lawson’s “From the land comes the cloth – A journey to the heart of the Hebrides” Ian Lawson Books 2013  which I discovered on my visit to the Outer Hebrides earlier this summer. Based on a commission from the Harris Tweed Lawson produces some amazing photographs that replicate the colours of the tweed.  There are over 400 pages in large format of text and photographs of Lawson’s visits to the Outer Hebrides – every page inspirational. His use of light is amazing. I wish I had seen this before my visit. I would love to produce something like this (on a smaller scale) of a region and its people – perhaps a region in France which I know so well.

Link to a preview of Lawson’s book with lots of sections from the book

Background reading and research for Part four Light

I have had to research extensively for Part four on Light.

I have found two books by David Präkel (Exposure and Lighting) from the Basics Photography series from AVA Publishing ‘s Academia list very helpful. I have also referred to Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” 3rd Edition 2010 Crown Publishing Group.

I have also found  some instructional videos webinars on the Sekonic (makers of light meters) website very useful. (http://www.sekonic.com)

The best are by Joe Brady who, whilst promoting Sekonic lightmeters, explains how to use lightmeters effectively and gives many useful tips on using studio lighting and off-camera flash.

I have also attended a day’s workshop by local photographer Chris Williams from Mango Photography (http://www.mangophotography.co.uk) on using off-camera flash.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize 2012

I visited the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition of  The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012, at the M-Shed Museum in Bristol.

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The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize  is “the leading international photographic portrait competition, which celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography. The competition was open to everyone aged 18 and over from around the world.

Organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Prize has established a reputation for its diversity of photographic styles submitted by a range of photographers, from gifted amateurs and photography students to established professionals.

In the Prize’s search for excellence, photographers are encouraged to interpret ‘portrait’ in its widest sense of ‘photography concerned with portraying people with an emphasis on their identity as individuals.’

The 60 shortlisted portraits can be viewed on the NPG’s website at http://www.npg.org.uk/photoprize1/site13/index.php

The winner for 2012 was Margarita Teichroeb by Jordi Ruiz Cirera, 2011 © Jordi Ruiz Cirera – an image of a Mennonite woman, reluctant to be photographed, seated at a kitchen table, which is part of Ruiz Cirera’s long-term project to document the daily life of a religious community – one which forbids images. Having travelled to South America on two occasions, Ruiz Cirera gradually won the trust of the residents of several colonies located south of Santa Cruz.

See article in Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/10064608/Taylor-Wessing-Photographic-Portrait-Prize.html

The exhibition was truly inspirational and I was fascinated to see the application of many of the lighting techniques which I have been studying in the most recent unit.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the portraits in such large format.

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The M-Shed worked with a group of young curators from the Knowle West Media Centre, the University of the West of England and Young Arnolfini on the presentation of the exhibition. The Young Curators informed the hang of the portrait prize – they discussed different approaches to how the photographs could be displayed, the issues surrounding particular portraits and how the placement of the images can affect the experience for the visitor.

http://mshed.org/get-more-involved/it’s-your-museum/young-curators/

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Photographic experiences in Cardiff

I wanted to visit the Impressionist Paintings at the National Museum of Wales  in Cardiff as I thought it would be helpful to my current assignment on “Light”.

On my visit to Cardiff I was pleasantly surprised by two other opportunities to view the works of photographers.

The first was a street exhibition by two local photographers, Faye Chamberlain and Robert Kennedy

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The (English and Welsh) words that appear on the art panels seem to stand because of the subject contrast of the photos used to make up the words. I have just been reading about this in David Präkel’s book on Exposure (AVA academia Basics Photography 07 Exposure). On pages 32-33 he shows an example of reverse graffiti of an image comprised entirely of pressure-cleaned and dirty areas on subject reflecting different amounts of light. Präkel talks about where the “subject contrast is the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an evenly subject”.

More explanation of the photographs:

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I quote from Faye Chamberlain’s website (http://www.fayechamberlain.co.uk)

Dazzle Cardiff (2012)

14x 8 feet x 4 feet photo-quality dibond panels

A collaboration with Robert Kennedy (http://www.robthings.com/) commissioned by Admiral Cardiff and Stoford. These two Cardiff based artists and 60 Admiral staff have worked alongside each other to create this unique public artwork. A series of photographs taken in Cardiff through the months of March and April 2012 are included in 14 art panels. These are erected on these hoardings around the development site of Admiral Head Office, Bridge Street, Cardiff.

These public artwork panels were designed and implemented by lead artists, Faye Chamberlain (Cardiff based artist / photographer) and Robert Kennedy (Cardiff based sculptor and sign writer). Sixty members of staff across a number of Admiral departments were invited to take part in six 4-hour walks to photograph our city. The photographic based artwork, focused entirely upon Cardiff through a journey – mapping Cardiff’s City Centre, Parks and Bay.

Each group, with guidance from Faye and Robert, produced thousands of images featuring Cardiff at this point in time. The work documents a myriad of perspectives – the present time in the city from the urban built environment to the surrounding green parks and waterfront location of the Bay.

In addition, fourteen words appear on the art panels. The text is a combination of Welsh and English and has been selected by the artists and Admiral to represent Cardiff and the people who live, work and play in the City.

‘Dazzle Cardiff’ art panels are made up of images produced by both the artists and Admiral staff participants and together form digitally ‘tiled’ mosaics across 14 large art panels. The images are an intriguing mix of something that can be seen and read at a distance and yet reveal a more complex perspective of the city at closer inspection.

The Admiral development at the heart of the city Centre is an opportunity for participants and viewers of the art panels to reflect upon the changing role of a city Centre and what people may bring to it.

The second opportunity also came as a complete surprise when I was taken by the window dressing of a Vivienne Westwood window which took me inside the shop to discover the works of another photographer Zenon Texeira.

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The photographs were in a book which was on display. I asked the assistant permission to photograph and he also agreed to pose with the book. The  photographs were taken by Zenon Texeira on the world’s largest polaroid camera each measuring 50cm x 60cm. I believe the book was in a series of books entitled Vivienne Westwood Opus featuring friends and family dressed in her creations.

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From my research on google images I believe this to be the camera:

zenon texeira images

… and can be viewed better on this link:

http://www.thisisopus.com/federer

Plaroid camera

Before finishing this blog entry I will add a couple of photos that I took at the National Museum of Wales which I thought made good use of low evening light that I would want to try to replicate in my photos:

Claude Monet
San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight
(1908)

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And from Camille Pissaro
Sunset, the Port of Rouen (Steamboats)
(1898)

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And finally (for a bit of fun and experimentation) I thought I would combine some of these experiences (museums, sepia, film grain)  in my own photo:

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Age

I have been reading the June edition of the British Journal of Photography. There is a major feature about age, and more specifically its correlation with the career-defining work produced by some of the greatest photographers of the last century. They asked photographers from 19 to 100 when they were at the height of their creativity, and how, as time progresses, they’ve kept their work fresh in the face of what Martin Parr describes as “probably the greatest taboo subject of all”- creative decline.

I hope in my case, as I have come to photography quite late on, that my best work will come some time in the future.

Quote from Lorenzo Vitturi in the magazine: “I don’t believe creativity is a matter of age. It is something that comes and goes – a vital and mysterious inner energy that needs to find the right channel”.

From Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin “It’s about slow, calculated thinking – the slower you are, the better you are”. I too feel I need time to contemplate what I a doing.

It’s fairly obvious that I should be attracted to Brian Griffin’s work as, at 65, he is the same age as me. He says that he’s making his best work now, driven by fear that one day it will all be over.

War photos

Recently I have tried to analyse the types of photographs I like taking and looking at. I hope I am never in the position to take war photographs but I must say that so many of the iconic photos of our day are war photos and I have been aware and interested in this type of photograph over a long period of time.

On this theme I discovered a fascinating  article on a WordPress Blog entitled “Iconic Photos”:

war photo 1

The photo is fairly gruesome but what was interesting is that the photo had been used  for propaganda by very different factions (communists and fascists) in two wars a decade apart and had also probably been manipulated to enhance the “cause”.

From the blog:

“The photo, which does look like a poor Photoshop attempt, is often attributed to David Seymour, the future co-founder of Magnum who made his name during the Spanish Civil War. It was not clear who actually took it and it was not even clear when it was taken. In 1938, when L’Humanité, an organ of the French Communist Party, saw the photo, it used it to denounce the French colonial empire in North Africa.

In that aspect, L’Humanité was closer to the truth (but perhaps accidentally). The photo was perhaps taken during the Rif War (1921-1927), when Spanish and French Foreign Legions brutally put down a Berber rebellion in Morroco led by Emir Abd-El-Krim.”

There was also an interesting article in the June 15 edition of “Amateur Photographer” by Anne Wilkes Tucker, the curator of photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts in the USA, in which she discusses the crucial and malleable role photography plays in the theatre of war.  See also http://photowings.org/?p=3047

Other war photos I have studied recently is one which appears in Gerry Badger’s “The Genius of Photography”, Walter Hahn’s “Incinerating corpses in the old market, Dresden” – 25 February 1945,  which shows that “photographic images were used to show that German civilians had suffered as much as anyone else during the Second World War”.

In the same book by Gerry Badger there is another photo by Philip Jones Griffiths “Boy with Dead Sister, Saigon 1968”. Badger says “There are, broadly speaking, two approaches to photojournalism. There is the approach that tries to maintain a distance, a cool objectivity, and the approach that is involved, that is pointedly political.” … “Philip Jones Griffiths adopted the latter approach. He believed that the United States’ involvement in Vietnam was wrong and set out to show why”.

Another iconic photo from the same war is Eddie Adams “execution of a Suspected Vietcong, Saigon 1968. Badger says about this picture “This picture raises many questions about news photography and its ethics. Firstly, was the man killed because the news media were gathered around? There can be no categorical answer, but it would not be the first or the last time that the press have provoked events. And how many more atrocities are committed off camera? On balance, independent witnesses to such events are better than no witnesses at all.”

In fact I liked the whole of this section of Badger’s book which he calls “The concerned photographer”. Maybe I will not be in a position to take war photographs but I would like to look at ways in which I can become a “concerned photographer” . There are many social aspects that I am concerned about quite close to home. Maybe this is an avenue I can pursue in greater depth later in my course?

Before I leave this entry in my log I would like to add a relevant quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson, taken from “The Mind’s Eye – Writings on Photography and Photographers”

“The camera enables us to keep a sort of visual chronicle. For me, it is my diary . We photo-reporters are people who supply information to a world in a hurry, a world weighed down with preoccupations, prone to cacophony, and full of beings with a hunger for information and needing the companionship of images. We photographers, in the course of taking pictures, inevitably make a judgement on what we see, and that implies a great responsibility. We are, however, dependent on printing, since it is to the illustrated magazines that we, as artisans, deliver raw material.”

Another source I have looked at briefly is the Honors Thesis by Angie Lovelace “Iconic Photos of the Vietnam War and Their Influence on Collective Memory

http://vietnamiconicphotos.wordpress.com

Sorry for the decay – abandoned railway stations

I  really enjoyed a photo essay by Edward Carr published in the Economist’s July/August edition of “Intelligent Life” magazine entitled “We apologise for the decay” which featured the strange beauty of abandoned railway stations, captured by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.

“Marchand and Meffre are ironists with a particular interest in the early-20th-century belief in progress”. The photographs feature, from America, Michigan Station in Detroit and Central Terminal in Buffalo, Canfranc in north-eastern Spain and the Saint Martin metro station in Paris France.

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The photographers worked with a four-by-five inch large format colour camera. “It’s the best way to capture the sombre texture and the atmosphere” says Meffre. “Black and white would just interpose a fake past between us and them, when there’s no need. These stations, just the way they are, evoke a time that is lost to us for ever.”