Tag Archives: Keith Arnatt

Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple – Initial Thoughts

28/12/17

Research

I started with the premise from Robert Adams essay ‘Truth in Landscape’.  ‘Our discouragement in the presence of beauty results, surely, from the way we have damaged the country, from what appears to be our inability now to stop, and from the fact that few of us can any longer hope to own a piece of undisturbed land’(Adams,1996).

When you think about images of forests they are broadly divided into two camps, with photographers who have celebrated the beauty, solitude and wonder of woodlands and those who have shown the devastation that mankind has performed. Some photographers have taken both types of images.

Marc Wendelski:

An example of this school of photography that concentrates on the damage we have done is the work of Wendelski who has taken a series of images in Germany based on the destruction of ancient forest during the process of open cast mining for brown coal and the activist that set up camps in the forest to protest this.

http://wendelski.be/?page_id=11

From this idyllic picture of sunlight though the trees

wendelski 1

© Marc Wendelski

to the destroyed countryside and swathes of mud

Joseph Koudelka:

A similar piece of work has been carried out by the Magnum photographer Koudelka. He has done a vast photographic report on the coal mining industry in the Black Triangle in Czechoslovakia. I was lucky enough to see this when it was on show in Edinburgh. The images are graphic, black and white, very sombre. In the Edinburgh exhibition relatively small individual images, approximately 1m x 30cms were laid out in a line, so you followed the trail of disaster around the room. The destruction here has been going on for much longer than the damage in Wendelski’s pictures in Germany but is startlingly similar.

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R1Z9ERT

Fay Godwin:

Godwin is particularly interesting in that her viewpoint and type of images she took changed over time. Her earlier work as shown in the ‘Secret Forest of Dean’ (Godwin, 1986) exemplified the beauty of a natural environment and how people could live in harmony with it, while in later work such as ‘Our Forbidden Land’ (Godwin, 1990) talks about how landowners limit access for their own use, and specifically, in reference to Scotland, talks about the environmental challenges caused by the widespread forestry work in the 70’s and 80’s, again many of her earlier pictures are simply beautiful.

Fence, Parkend Woods, Forest of Dean, 1985, Fay Godwin

Fay Godwin – Forest of Dean, 1985, (copyright now British Library)

Keith Arnatt:

Arnatt was also involved in the work about Dean Forest that was commissioned by Forestry Commission at the same time as that of Godwin. His work is difficult to track down, but the images I have seen ( in ‘I’m a Real Photographer‘)seem to fall more into the camp of the land is for use by industry, in contrast to Godwin’s more bucolic images (Arnatt, Hurn and Grafik, 2007).

Keith Arnatt - Dean Forest

© Keith Arnatt – Dean Forest

 and so we reach right around the circle to the original quote

Robert Adams:

Adams is the quintessential American photographer showing the beauty and wonder of the forest. A good example of his work is shown in the book ‘An Old Forest Road’ (Adams, 2017) which concentrates on barely visible paths in woodland, lit by seemingly random gleams of light. These pictures make you want to wander endlessly, exploring for no purpose other than to see the trees.

Interestingly, with the exception of Wendelski, all these images are in black and white. Some of this is because this was the accepted use when there were taken (Godwin and Arnatt) but some, like those of Adams are very recent. Is this because of the general idea that ‘art’ images should be in monochrome, because the more recent photographers are paying homage to the older ones, or simply because the colour green does not always print well? Certainly, monochrome does give some stunning images and shows the detail well. It also becomes difficult to tell simply by looking at an image of a forest when it was taken, this century or earlier. Monochrome tells the mythos of a forest well.

Practice

I started by taking images of forestry works when travelling around Scotland. Most have been taken close to me in Fife, but some were taken as far north as Fort William. In spite of this it is difficult to identify the place from the images and they become a generic series of Scottish forest images. The majority of the images were taken in the summer and early autumn, some taken in winter, again this is difficult to tell from the images, as although the light is different the dark green of the pine trees does not vary much across the year. This would not have been the case if I had been concentrating on deciduous trees.

I spent a considerable time deciding on whether to go with monochrome images, as was prevalent on the examples above, and discussed this at length with both my tutor, and the Scottish OCA group at our December meeting. Eventually I decided to use colour images, as some of them, such as the cut logs, stood out in colour and gave more information, and, even though the work was influenced by Godwin and Adams, I felt that colour was best for telling my own story.

References

Adams, R. (1996). Beauty in Photography. New York, NY: Aperture, p.14.

Adams, R. (2017). An Old Forest Road. Koln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter Konig.

Arnatt, K., Hurn, D. and Grafik, C. (2007). I’m a real photographer. London: Chris Boot, pp.38 – 41.

Godwin, F. (1986). The Secret Forest of Dean. [Bristol]: Redcliffe [for] Arnolfini [and the] Forestry Commission.

Godwin, F. (1990). Our Forbidden Land. London: Cape, pp.138 – 142.

Koudelka, J. (1992). Josef Koudelka: The Black Triangle • Magnum Photos. [online] Magnum Photos. Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/environment/josef-koudelka-black-triangle/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].

Wendelski, M. (2017). BEYOND THE FOREST | MARC WENDELSKI. [online] Wendelski.be. Available at: http://wendelski.be/?page_id=11 [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].

Wendelski, M. (2017). Marc Wendelski | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/mwendelski [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].

Initial Plan – April 2017

  1. Work my way though course handbook, looking at each exercise and expanding as required. Importance high as I want to complete the course in a timely fashion.
  2. Personal projects – present ideas
    1. People in the park: looking at people as they walk around, interacting with others, their dogs, phones etc.
      1. Initially looking at more distant shots, maybe using tele lens
      2. Close-ups!
    2. Tree ‘Art’: following up on my interest in nature looking at and contrasting the natural bark /growth patterns of trees with the, often childish or rude, graffiti carved into them.
    3. Intimacy: close-up work
      1. Contrast people, or rather small images of them with detail of possibly buildings, or? plants
      2. People interacting with each other
    4. Looking at photographers work in detail – present possibilities but this list could go on forever.
      1. Dayanita Singh
      2. John MacLean
      3. Keith Arnatt
      4. Walker Evans
      5. Diane Arbus
    5. Reading – again the list could go on forever
      1. Photography as contemporary art – Charlotte Cotton
      2. The Genius of Photography – Gary Badger
      3. Letting go of the Camera – Brooke Jensen
    6. Attend as many exhibitions, both of photography and general art as possible.

This list is much too ambitious, but it gives me a starting point.

To be reviewed monthly to keep a check on progress.

Square Mile – Reading and Research

On examining the photographers and images suggested for researching the Square Mile project I noted that although all of them show some linking in their thoughts to an area that is clearly important to them the actual thought processes and end results are very different. They can be broadly divided into a group that use photographs of people to show the identity of the place, and a group where the focus is on the place itself.

Barney, Dearden and Knorr focus on using people to give identity to the area of interest. Tina Barney (Artic.edu, 2006) took images of her family and friends in New York. These images show details of family life and the tension that can occur, thus exploring the place though the people that inhabit it and whom she knows well. Cotton says ‘there is a compelling blend of a photographically distant perspective with a subject that is intimately known’ (Cotton,2015).

Venetia Dearden’s series ‘Somerset Stories, Fivepenny Dreams’ is set in the area where she grew up. She says ‘My passion and curiosity for Somerset has been fuelled by my long-term connection with this area where I spent my childhood. I am compelled to return again and again to explore my relationship with the landscape and the people living here……… I witness a sense of belonging and identity within these rich bonds of family and community’ (Dearden, 2014). Dearden looks at the lives and activities of the families’ resident in Somerset at present to explore a place she knew well in the past.

Karen Knorr (Karenknorr.com, 2014) uses portraits to show the ideas that were prevalent in a very wealthy area of London during the 1970’s.

Horn, Hunter, Taylor and Barnard have focused on the place itself to explain their sense of connection with an area. Romi Horn (Tate.org.uk, 2009) has published a series called ‘To Place’ where she looks at the identity of a specific place, Iceland, in detail though photographs, drawings and text. Interestingly, this is far from where she grew up in New York, however, has become an area that she has studied intensively.

Tom Hunter’s ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories’ (Purdyhicks.com, 2017) investigates the history of his local area in East London, re-staging stories which paint an unsettling picture of the area.

Jodie Taylor (Taylor, 2013) for her OCA project focused on the area she lived in as a child, and the memories of that place which have been revived by returning there as an adult.

Gawain Barnard investigates the wildfire burning in Wales which occurs yearly in ‘Boredom for Burning’. He focuses on small details of the remains after the fires, bringing back memories of his youth. He says ‘The landscape of youth is laden with memories………our place of youth, our ‘home’ and the memories created during this period, for better or worse can create an embedded sense of place and can go some way in self-defining our later life attitude.’  (Barnard, 2013).

Keith Arnatt has utilised ideas from both these of groups with two series that are linked to his local area. The series ‘Walking a Dog’ (Tate, 2010b) is a collection of 40 out of 200 photos taken in his local area of people and their dogs in a standard pose taken in 1976 -1979.  The number of images form a work that makes a comment on society and people and points up the oft remarked similarities between dogs and their owners. He later showed a further series based in his local area ‘Pictures from a Rubbish Tip’ (Tate, 2010 a) 1988–9. This shows close-ups of rubbish from a local tip. Although these are factual images the way they are taken gives the series a feeling of an abstract composition.

John MacLean has taken a fascinating twist on this approach in photographing the hometowns of artists and photographers that he is inspired by, looking for what has, in turn, inspired their work. He says ‘It’s about escaping the hometown to spending all our time exploring, only to find ourselves back there once again’ (Pantell, 2017).

References:

Artic.edu. (2006). so the story goes. [online] Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/story/barney.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Barnard, G. (2013). Boredom to Burn. [online] Gawainbarnard.com. Available at: http://gawainbarnard.com/photo_13162026.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.
Dearden, V. (2014). Welcome to Venetia Dearden’s Website – Somerset Stories Fivepenny Dreams. [online] Venetiadearden.com. Available at: http://www.venetiadearden.com/en/somerset_stories_fivepenny_dreams.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Karenknorr.com. (2014). Belgravia | Karen Knorr. [online] Available at: http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Pantell, C. (2017). Hometowns. British Journal of Photography, (7857), pp.60-74.
Purdyhicks.com. (2017). Tom Hunter Porfolio at Purdyhicks Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Pictures from a Rubbish Tip, Keith Arnatt 1988 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-pictures-from-a-rubbish-tip-t13169 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Walking the Dog, Keith Arnatt 1976 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-walking-the-dog-t13064 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate.org.uk. (2009). Roni Horn aka Roni Horn: explore the exhibition, room guide, room 10. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn-explore-exhibitio-22 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Taylor, J. (2013). Photography and Nostalgia – WeAreOCA. [online] WeAreOCA. Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].