Category Archives: Research & Reflection

Assignment 5 – Response to Tutor

05/02/18

Comments on assignment:

I had a long and wide-ranging discussion with my tutor David for assignment 5. I will try to summarise what I took from it here.

  • My title ‘Forestry in Scotland‘ was too broad.
    • Agreed! Am trying to think of something more descriptive that isn’t too wordy – that is the difficult bit.
  • Lighting is inconsistent
    • This is about having most of the shots in a fairly flat light, if not downright stormy while 2 images were taken in bright sunlight with vivid blue skies. I hadn’t even thought about this as a problem – but on looking at the series as a whole they do rather stand out and produce a jarring note. I do have some replacements already available – I hadn’t even considered using them as my brain went ‘sunlight- that’s better’ without thinking it though.
  • Looking at the final edit in detail
    • This was very helpful, and I have done as suggested – my wall is now covered with prints. I am definitely going to go and re-shoot a couple of the ones that I had originally discarded but fit better into the theme. There should not be a problem getting cloudy days in Scotland in winter.
  • How do you show changes in time and season?
    • This I’d something to think about further for an extended project – maybe mark a spot and re-shoot at monthly dates – showing the changes in the trees, which might be fairly subtle.

Overall the discussion was very helpful – and hopefully I will get an improved final edit. At the very least it gave me a lot to consider and made me think more clearly about what I was aiming for.

Suggested Reading:

Paul Nash – an artist I had not come across before – related to the work produced by Arnatt. Destruction, here in the context of a response to WWI. Dead trees and land. Interestingly, the present push for re-forestation in Scotland was a direct response to the lack of wood available for military uses in WWI. So his horror in some way translates into the trees of today, and to their use as a resource for the community.

Nash, Paul, 1889-1946; We Are Making a New World

©Estate of Paul Nash/ Imperial War Museum

Images from Keith Arnatt – 2 of which are incredibly similar to some of the images I took for this assignment. If I had not taken them prior to seeing these I would have thought ~I would have been deliberately copying them. In reality it points up how the direct impact of forestry on the landscape leaves the same type of temporary destruction today as it did 30 years ago.

He also suggested a link to a fascinating and very long (2 and a half hours) audio interview with Keith Arnatt – this doesn’t finish – but cuts off mid sentence – so no concluding words of wisdom.

http://sounds.bl.uk/Arts-literature-and-performance/photography/021M-C0459X0036XX-0100V0

I took reams of notes  and was left with a lot of questions:

https://scottishzoe.blog/2018/02/12/notes-from-keith-arnatt/

Questions:

What narrative do other people impute to your work?

Could the subject matter of art be about the difficulties of being an artist?

Is the editing process actually the creative act?

Who are you taking the pictures for (and where are you displaying them)?

What is the role of preconception?

The photograph as an instant versus the painting/sculpture over time?

Does it matter what you photograph as long as you pay attention to it?

In reality all these questions are the ones that this degree is exporing, at one point or another. There are clearly no absolute right or wrong answers to any of them.  It is something to consider .

Michael Lange – another photographer I had not seen before. Some stunning images of deep in a forest, dark, minimal changes of tonality and colour. Lange started work as a photojournalist and has moved to fine art work. The images are redolent of the pine forest, not partially cut down, but what appears to be old wood. Again, these are the images I wished I could have taken to show the forest as it might be – although we have less major forests in Scotland than there are in Germany. His title – Landscapes of Memory – is relevant to the type of work I would like to move on to if I can extend this project.

Michael-Lange-photo-eye-wald-2016-954x714

© Michael Lange

Jem Southam – is a photographer who is exploring how memory and knowledge changes how we respond to the places we see. He looks at the same place over different times, different seasons and over several years – showing how a place will echo the season.  There are more changes where he is taking images in the South West of England’s than there are in the pine woods in Scotland – but links into the idea of extending the project – possibly for the landscape module.

FS_9094

© Jem Southam

Bloomberg and Chanarin – only managed a very quick glance at their work – but will be perusing this in more detail at a later date.

 

Land Values – Paul Mortimer

02/02/18

Paul Mortimer’s degree show for the OCA was at the Dundas Art Gallery in Edinburgh.     He describes Land Values as his photographic investigation of how important land is in your life. The exhibition consists of three parts:

  • Engagement and play
  • Transformation and conservation
  • Environmental contribution

Engagement and play is a fascinating look at Mortimer’s own environment, comparing an area in Yorkshire where he grew up with the part of Glasgow he now lives in. Mortimer asks the question- are there similar places to play and grow in as a child nowadays to those he found in his own youth? His answer seems to be no – but why? In a conversation about this with Paul we wondered at length whether it was because of the lack of perceived safety outside at present, or was it because what was wanted now by young people was more ‘sophisticated‘ than the activities we engaged in as children.

water

© Paul Mortimer

Transformation and conservation looks at the coastal area between Hartlepool and Sunderland where a piece of land that was used by the coal industry and heavily exploited has now been allowed to regenerate and is used for the almost opposite causes of recreation and tourism. The land still shows the traces of what was there before in the form of piers and fences, but is gradually returning to its natural state. These images are stunning, vibrantly coloured and reminiscent of the work of Fay Godwin and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

durham coast-12

© Paul Mortimer

Environmental contribution looks at the role of trees in our present urban areas, these were taken within the grounds of a hospital within the city of Edinburgh and show some stunning examples of trees against the somewhat incongruous signs in the area. The site is being considered for redevelopment, at present the grounds form an informal park for the local people and are taken for granted. Will this change with the changing use of the site? Mortimer hopes to be able to continue this project as the site changes its use and to follow the environmental changes here.

astley trees-15

© Paul Mortimer

This is an interesting tripartite look at how we engage with the land. Do we value it for what use it is to us – or does land have an intrinsic value, that is more than just its monetary worth? Why do we go to places? How does memory effect what our understanding of a new place is and our visions for the future?

www.landvalues.co.uk

 

Summary – weeks ending 26/01/18

26/01/18

Photography:

  • some interesting images of a van that caught fire and burnt out at the end of our road
  • using the Instax to get summary pictures of the week – this is hard! – partly to find an image that summarises what we have done, and partly because it goes against my  need to fiddle!

Reading:

  • Mark Cousins – The Story of Looking – a fascinating spin though the types of images and what you would have looked at over the history of mankind, also about the different ways people look at things
  • Professional Photography – talking about this years Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize – I found the 2nd place portrait of the Iraqi girl on the bus particularly haunting – I would never have considered focusing on the dirty window in this way. (Abbie Traylor-Smith)

Exhibitions seen:

  • The Way We Were: Photographs of Childhood from the National Galleries of Scotland – interesting exhibition of images of children from the very early days of photography up to today, both monochrome and colour. Some very interesting pictures taken in an early special needs school – not exploitative at all – just tender contrasting with modern images.
  • BP Portrait Exhibition: I see this every year and oddly enough am not usually very enthusiastic. I can see the technical skill of the painters but the rarely move me – this year the winning image – Breech – of a mother and child by the child’s father was very tender.
  • Land Values – Paul Mortimer – Final exhibition by an OCA 3rd year student

Thinking:

  • mainly concentrating on finalising the work for submission and getting things printed off.

 

 

 

Assignment 5 – Reflection

03/01/18

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:

I feel that this was reasonable for my stage. The selected images are in focus, and correctly colour balanced. They show a range of details from close up to distant focus. I have tried to keep the design and composition straightforward and simple enough to show the point without overcomplication.

Quality of Outcome:

I think that I have communicated my idea about the forestry work in Scotland. It was difficult to keep it simple and within the confines of 10 images and a very short introductory paragraph. This would have been easier as a longer piece of work – and could have then included images of other woodlands.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I am not sure that there is a great deal of creativity in this! The idea is simple, taken from my surroundings.

Context:

I spent a reasonable amount of time reading around various other photographers work on woods, forests and the impact of man on the natural environment. Reading the websites on the National heritage of Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland , although not directly linked the photography, was especially useful as it made me aware of the historical implications of what I was seeing.

 

Summary – weeks ending 29/12/17

02/01/18

Again a combination summary. Life rather got in the way!

Photography:

  • some images in the garden taken under heavy frost
  • images for assignment 5 of the local woodlands, unfortunately the particular image I wanted was not available – someone had removed the large pile of logs
  • Edinburgh at Christmas – not very successful pictures of the fun fair – too much distraction
  • Edinburgh Botanics light show

Reading:

  • still Barrett on criticism
  • Robert Adams – Beauty in Photography – interesting alternative take to Barrett on criticism especially in essay ‘Civilising Criticism’
  • Photoworks 23 – I particularly like the Folio on Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber with the contrasting works ‘ on the street’, with the contrast of the shaven headed ‘Cry Minami’ images posted in cities across the world versus the Sieber images of people shown from the back.

Exhibitions seen:

  • Futureproof 2017 – at Street Level Glasgow, a compilation of works from last years degree shows in Scotland
  • Robin Gillanders retrospective – Still in Edinburgh – I liked the images from ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ which shows images based on haiku by Henry Gough-Cooper which are based on the ‘Fragments’ written about love and philosophy by Barthes.

Thinking:

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idts/david_hurn_photographer_swaps_magnum –   came across this article online about the Hurn exhibition in Cardiff  – he says ‘The point of the selfie is immediate and only of interest for seconds so most of the interest seems to me as someone who doesn’t do it, to be the fun act of doing it, usually with friends.’
  • spent a lot of time considering which images to put in assignment 5 – and, more crucially, which to leave out!

Planning:

  • I have realised that over the last year while taking a vast collection of images – very few of these actually talk about what I am doing in my life. So, I splashed out on an Instax camera with my Christmas money and am planning to take an image every week that says something about what I (and the family) have been doing. I will then make this into an album.

Photography as Information – Exercise 5.3

04/12/17

A picture contains a story, not always the whole story, but enough clues that you can infer or imagine what the artist was intending. A good story can be read several times, a magical one never looses its appeal.

decisive-moment-henri-cartier-bresson-1

© Cartier-Bresson

In the Cartier-Bresson image Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare the eye returns repeatedly to the point at which the foot almost, but not quite, touches the reflection below. Is he jumping or running? Where is he going? Is it a man in a hurry – or a boy playing? If you took the same image today was that a female figure? A hundred stories are possible.

81TNHg05SYL

© Ronko Kawauchi

Illuminance – described as an ‘exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane’ (Aperture,2011) or ‘a mix of intimacy and deceptively casual observation’ (O’Hagan, 2011) is a photobook by Rinko Kawauchi. The cover shows a rose bright to the point where all colour and detail is lost, against a vibrant maroon background. It somehow retains the essence of a rose and allows the imagination to recreate any rose, with the luscious scent, and warmth of a garden in a summer evening. Technically, one could consider the image grossly overexposed, but it does not matter. The rose is still there.

d6059527a

© Hiroshi Sugimato

Hiroshima Sugimoto’s theatre images share the same aura of infinite possibilities. What film was playing? Who was watching it? Was I there?

These two images were taken on the same night, at the same gig, of the same person, from the same vantage point. One shows the person as a portrait; the other implies his presence by the outline of light though his hair.  The information that I am at a rock gig is conveyed by both – but one gives the detail, the other the feeling. Which is ‘better’? Which carries more information? It depends what you are wanting from the image. I would print the colour one as a reminder of the night, but the monochrome one was wanted by the musician for his personal records.

References

Aperture.org. (2011). Illuminance. [online] Available at: https://aperture.org/shop/illuminance-rinko-kawauchi/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].

O’Hagan, S. (2011). Photography books of the year 2011: a snapshot of Christmas gift ideas. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/13/photography-books-2011-christmas-gift [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].

 

The ‘isms’ – 4 Exhibitions

27/11/17

I was recently in Newcastle and went to four exhibitions on broadly similar themes – the issues of racism, sexism and civil rights.

Starless Midnight and Until, Until, Until …. 2016

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Starless Midnight is in homage to the work of Martin Luther King in his role as promoter of the Civil Rights movement and points up how, although there has been much progress, there is still so much more to do.  Nine artists are featured, all with their personal take on the ongoing issues, and is co-curated by Edgar Arceneaux. His video installation ‘Until, Until, Until …. 2016’ is also shown in the Baltic at present. This installation is a large-scale video presentation on a transparent screen though which you can see another screen showing a fractured vision of the original work. the gallery describes it as:

untitled

The scale of the installation – larger than life-size – and the interesting back story make a piece that is difficult to watch without an emotional reaction.

Two parts of the exhibition that I found particularly poignant were the works of Hinkle and the Gallery Tally.

Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle shows a number of drawing from an ongoing series – ‘The Evanesced’ which looks at the multiplicity of Black women who have been erased from history, for instance by trafficking or murder.

untitled-2

© Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle – The Evanesced: Uproot

These images are shown along a wall, en masse, described as ‘un-portraits’. Unless you examine them carefully all the women look similar. It is easy to miss the fine detail that turn them to individual people. It was easy to miss the individual disappearances too.

untitled-9

© Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle – The Evanesced

Michol Hebron presents the work from a collaborative project, Gallery Tally, where data is collected in the form of posters to show the representation of women in art galleries and museums. The posters are widely varied, and talk not only about the paucity of women artists on show, but also about the lack of work by other marginalised communities. The work by women photographers has been widely discussed recently for example in ‘Girl on Girl’ (Jansen, 2017) and the ‘Photoworks Annual 22 – Women’ – but it is shocking to realise that there is such a wide-ranging lack of equality ongoing in the wider art field. I only saw one (top right) where there were more females represented than males.

Posters from the Gallery Tally Project – attributions unavailable.

Gordon Parks – A Choice of Weapons and Syd Shelton – Rock Against Racism.

Side Gallery – Newcastle.

Gordon Parks (1912 – 2006) was an African-American photographer who said, ‘I chose my camera as a weapon against all the things I dislike about America – poverty, racism, discrimination’ (quoted in the exhibition information at the Side Gallery – Amber, 2017).  He initially worked for the Farm Security Administration and then went on to become a freelance photographer and film-maker, documenting the difficulties black people faced in the USA. This exhibition shows a selection of his work both in colour and black and white, together with the film on the Fonetenelle family, from Harlem, who lived in extreme poverty. The images are detailed, dark and claustrophobic, leaving nothing to the imagination, even brutal at times. The story is shocking, but similar scenes could be found today.

The coloured images are from a photo-essay published in Life entitled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden” and point up how the lives of black people were segregated from the those of the white Americans. They appear softer, even ‘charming’ until you look closely and read the signs. This is an interesting use of colour photography in an era when most images were still in monochrome. Colour images were only widely used from the 70’s when promoted by photographers such as William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz.

Syd Shelton (born 1947) was one of the prime photographers of the movement Rock Against Racism (RAR), which was developed by a collective of musicians, artists and activists to fight fascism and racism through music. There was a large exhibition shown in London at Autograph APB in 2015 and a small number of the images are shown in the Side Gallery. They are taken two decades on from the images of Gordon Parks but talk about the same issues of black versus white culture and perceived rights, this time in Britain rather than the USA. Shelton used his photography for a similar purpose ‘as a graphic argument …. a subjective witness’ (quoted in the exhibition information at the Side Gallery – Amber, 2017).

Although both the present exhibitions at the Side Gallery talk about the same issues, civil rights, racism and the abuse of power they come from a very different stance. Shelton was born in the UK and studied art at university before going on to become a photographer, working as a photojournalist. His images are from the outside, looking in, mainly of angry young people protesting on behalf of injustice in racism. Gordon Parks came from a poor farming family in the USA, he eventually ended up on the streets and taught himself photography, eventually working with the FSA, before becoming a photojournalist.  His images are from the inside, looking out, of the people themselves, and what they were going though at the time.

While both sets of images have a powerful impact Parks’s have a greater degree of empathy and emotion, less factual but more revealing.

References

Amber. (2017). Side Gallery – Amber. [online] Available at: http://www.amber-online.com/side-gallery/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].

Jansen, C. (2017). Girl on girl : art and photography in the age of the female gaze. London: Laurence King.

Mill, B. (2017). Edgar Arceneaux :: BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.. [online] Balticmill.com. Available at: http://www.balticmill.com/whats-on/edgar-arceneaux [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].

Mill, B. (2017). Starless Midnight :: BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.. [online] Balticmill.com. Available at: http://www.balticmill.com/whats-on/starless-midnight [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].

Photoworks Team (2017). Photoworks Annual 22.