Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2.
Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course.
Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.
The exercise introduces several photographers’ such as Ansel Adams, Fay Goodwin and Moan Kuhn and their use of narrow depths of field to emphasize either a political or aesthetic statement.
A shallow depth of field directs the viewer to a very focalized point in the image the opposite using a wide depth of field allows the viewer to view the image freely and has no specific focal point.
Ansel Adams a well-known American Landscape photographer used a wide depth of field taking images across the USA. Adams formed the f64 group and the name f64 derives from the smallest aperture of a large format camera. The modern DSLR equivalent would be f22 on a full-frame or (35mm film camera). Adams formed the group in response to the style of Pictorialism. Pictorialism an artistic movement lasted past World War 1. Photography became more accessible to the masses with the invention of the Kodak box camera and flexible film. Pictorialize photographers produced soft-focused images manipulating both prints and negatives to create painterly effects. This attempt was used to support the argument that photography was an art form just as was painting, drawing or watercolour. In contrast Adams group produced images that were sharp across the entire image.
Fay Godwin’s work recorded the British Landscape similar in style to Adams. Godwin produced ‘Land’ containing 127 images, which I am fortunate to own a signed copy. Godwin produced Black & White photographs and only later in life did she sell her equipment change to using an early digital camera just before her death.
Godwin self-taught was passionate about the British landscape and how much of the British landscape had been lost or fenced in and although the public could see it they were forbidden to access it. Her book ‘Our Forbidden Land’ an attack on the destruction of the countryside. In ‘Our Forbidden Land’ she wrote about the dilemma of access to Stonehenge, a site mass marketed by English Heritage which charges substantial sums to everybody, from individual artists to wealthy advertising companies. She foresaw a time when “the only photographs we are likely to see of the inner circles of Stonehenge will be those approved by English Heritage, generally by their anonymous public relations photographers”. Our common land would be the copyright of others. We are fortunate that she made her journeys round the British Isles when she did, before even more of our landscape was fenced off or built.’ (Drabble, 2011)
Public Footpath, M.O.D. Lydd, Kent, 1987.
Her books ‘Land’, ‘The Saxon Shoreway’ and ‘Our Forbidden Land’ all having a similarity in that they are wide landscapes with very few composed with people in them and sharp throughout.
I looked at the work of Gianluca Cosi in ‘Panem et Circenses’. Cosi uses a very narrow depth of field and it would seem dealing with precise focal length to point of macro photography. I can find very little in the way of resources either on his website or the internet. The example in the syllabus, which I cannot find on his website ‘Slivers of Sharpness’ I find does not necessarily project ‘corporate power’ I see this image as a neglected piece of street furniture or that it has been damaged and forgotten. The soft focus does nothing in my opinion to enhance the statement.
Panem et Circuses translates as “Bread and Games” deriving from ancient Rome and implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the commoner. This image makes more sense that the path shows the erosion and the distant offices are perhaps the civic commoners. Here is an example ‘Panem et Circuses#No.4 2004’
By far for me the most interesting in my research was Mona Kuhn with her use of shallow depths of field creating ‘bokeh’. Her subjects are naked and usually focus on specific parts of the anatomy with a dream-like state surrounding them. ‘Mona Kuhn believes she is working quite consciously in the tradition of the nude.’ (ARTNews, 2012).
A few months earlier I had a friend model for me and discovered she had a tattoo across the back of her neck. Her tattoo “Gemini” was a personal statement and design and for something she was known for but concealed the majority of the time by her long bright ginger hair, which had great notoriety than her tattoo.
I wanted to expand my idea of exposing tattoo’s into my photography and fortunately my wife has several. Kunh develops a close relationship with her subjects perhaps this was the reason I was comfortable to photograph my wife rather than a stranger that I didn’t have that close relationship with. I wanted to submit one of the photographs for a forthcoming photographic competition. However, I decided to go with a different image but realized that my intentions at the time now echo Mona Kuhn’s collection of the ‘Private Series’.
Moan Kuhn’s work predominately uses the unclothed body to represent the essence of we are. I remember clearly at the time focusing on the foreground tattoo and wanting this to be the focus leading the eye to the second furthest tattoo but to have a line of symmetry with the head. I positioned the lights to create the shadows and elude to parts of the body but illuminate the focal point of the tattoo. I intended to use less lighting than I did at the time. Amongst Kuhn’s gallery I found this photograph, which would have been my preferred lighting technique for my subject.
So, if I had to redo this photograph what would I do differently?
I would use lighting to define the outline of the body, spot light the tattoo but maintain the pose. Tattoo’s are personal statements and have significance or story for whom they belong. I wanted to expose the covert tattoos to expose our second person and in a way when we are naked we are wearing a set of clothes.
Drabble, M. (2011) ‘Fay Godwin at the National Media Museum’, The Guardian, 8 January. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jan/08/margaret-drabble-fay-godwin (Accessed: 4 August 2016).
Landi, A. (2012) ‘ARTNews’. Available at: http://www.monakuhn.com/static/files/2012_ArtNews_AnnLandi.pdf (Accessed: 8 August 2016).