Note to Assessors
This PDF document are my notes made along my journey with EYV and are handwritten. I apologise for the handwriting but please bear in mind that I have difficulty with fine motor skills and my writing can be difficult to read.
I will divided each section under each assignment but these are my notes, thoughts, ideas and sketches for all assignments and exercises. I also make notes using audio note taker via a dictaphone and I have not worked out how to convert those notes to a durable format in which they can be read, so these are not my complete notes but form a percentage of them.
My tutor advised me to add them digitally to my blog.
alan sillitoe, black and white, country park, external context, Fay Godwin, Landscape, mans influence, nick ut, north kent, original context, reculver roman fort, robert doisneau, terry barrett, the saxon shore way
Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.
I researched as part of the exercise the PDF essay ‘Photographs and Context’ written by Terry Barrett.
In essence he explains that there are three contexts’. The Internal, External and Original Context.
The Internal context is evident within the photograph and therefore should not really need any explanation. The example used for this is a photograph for an advert where the ingredients to create and Italian dish and Italian wording against the backdrop imply that it has “Italianicity.” The connotation that the ingredients would be fresh sealed in packaging be that glass or a can.
The External context I thought was rather interesting. I learnt that in 1958, Robert Doisneau took a photograph in a café entitled ‘At the Café, Chez Fraysse, Rue de Seine, Paris’. The couple consented to being photographed and the photograph was later published in a magazine devoted to cafes. However, sometime later the same photograph was published without permission demonising alcohol abuse.
Again, the photograph was published for a third time but without permission and appeared in a French scandal sheet entitled, “Prostitution in the Champs-Elyees”. Needless to say that the male in the photograph successfully sued the publication.
So, without knowing the first two versions and publications you could be forgiven that this was the first publication and had been taken totally out of context. Needless to say, the male in the photograph successfully sued and was awarded compensation. It has since appeared at the MOAM.
It has gained a place in the history of art and has been presented, received and interpreted in many ways by others. Therefore, the context in which it appears defines the meaning of the photograph itself.
Original context has to contain something which was present either physically or psychologically at the time the photographer intended to take the photograph.
The key here is that firstly the photographer intended to take the photograph in the first place and that the second ingredient has to be present e.g. a something physically present. Without either of these then the definition of an Original context doesn’t apply.
Barrett talks about Nick Ut’s example photograph of a young naked Vietnamese girl running away from the fields set ablaze by napalm with American soldiers in the background. It is without a doubt a haunting and harrowing photograph and we can only imagine how the child felt. I know what war and conflict feel like I have been there in Kuwait and Iraq. It is neither pleasant or welcoming. The images I have seen will never be erased from my mind and in a way neither can you do it when you have seen Ut’s photograph. Whilst we do not know the circumstances that surround the photograph it has become a synonymous with the Vietnam conflict. (Nick Ut, no date). If you have the knowledge and history that appertains to this photograph, like many other examples then it makes more sense and is more than just a photograph of war involving children.
I chose to pay ‘homage’ to Fay Godwin. Godwin, documented the changing landscape and how inaccessible the land had become to the general public. She was a self taught photographer, who started her career taking portraits but quickly moved into the countryside. She wrote several books ‘Our Forbidden Land’, Land and many others but by far a personal favourite a signed copy and first edition of The Saxon Shoreway From Gravesend to Rye written by Alan Sillitoe. Godwin accompanied him photographing the 140 mile walk.
The chapter Along the Wantsum and in particular Reculver appealed immediately to me. I have a love hate relationship with Reculver. It is of historic national and local importance and in my opinion an ancient monument and should be treated as such by the general public, but I find it heart-breaking to see children climbing over the ruins with little or no respect. I love that we are able to get up close and appreciate it but with that comes the price of commercialism
Reculver Roman Ruins and Towers are a short 20 minute drive from my home. Reculver is now a country park managed by Canterbury City Council. A great deal has changed since Godwin and Sillitoes walked past and if Godwin was to re-visit today she would be horrified to not only see the expanded caravan parks but the visitor centre, play area and pay and display car parks encouraging coach loads of visitors to a fragile part of the North Kent Coast.
Sillitoe described it (Reculver) as “Reculver is surrounded by caravan parks – Caranville with a vegenance.” I fear that it was too late then as he goes onto to explain, “I hope no calor-gas bottle outside each tethered living van will explode, because if one does, so will the next, and I will clearly regret not being alive by the end to have witnessed a spectacular example of the domino theory in practice.” (Sillitoe and Godwin, 1983)
Godwin photographed the expanse of the caravan park surrounding the Roman towers, which resonated with my recent visit in my specially adapted wheelchair vehicle. The recent installation of a height barrier to the old car park and creation of a new open car park, with restrictions was the idea and inspiration for this exercise. Often Godwin photographs signs, which are direct in their message or show man’s interference on the landscape usually to its detriment and contain ‘Original context’. Her use of monochrome is appealing and removes the distraction for me and focuses the viewers’ attention to the important parts of the photograph. Although Godwin did later use colour film and a flatbed scanner for me the early work is by far her strongest photography.
I took a walk around the site from the entrance searching for a viewpoint that echoed the caravan park and the negative impact it had on the landscape; but because the place has changed so much I was unable to replicate the viewpoint and had to work back from the entrance to the more public areas searching for an original context photograph.
The entrance to the Country Park now has rather posh wooden sleeper sign mounted with metallic letter, which lit up when the sunset hits it and creates low shadows across the car park. The sign welcomes visitors but juxtaposed is the formal sign erected adjacent and three times the size outlining the pay and display rules and policies apply. Rather interesting for me is the disabled rules and regulations are so extensive that they are condensed in size and make rather difficult reading from a distance and inaccessible as the sign is mounted in the verge facing the entrance rather than the car park. Are we really welcome???
The next layer is the new welcome centre and café and further into the distance the towers and Roman ruins the commercialism spreads like a disease from the old photograph taken by Godwin.
The North Kent Coast has become something of a wind farm mecca and the increase to harness wind power is now more important than ever. I came across a sign containing information about the wind farm, which can be seen in the distance on the horizon from the edge of Reculver.
I selected the final image – “Welcome?” as my photograph in homage to Godwin’s photograph of Reculver.
Perhaps and just perhaps nature will reclaim it all as it did with the village that is now submerged in the sea who knows?
Nick Ut(no date) World Press Photo. Available at: https://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/nick-ut(Accessed: 3 July 2018).
Sillitoe, A. and Godwin, F. (1983) The Saxon shore way: from Gravesend to Rye. London: Hutchinson.
Ut, N. (2017) ‘Nick Ut: a career in photography – in pictures’, The Guardian, 30 March. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/mar/30/nick-ut-a-career-in-photography-in-pictures(Accessed: 5 July 2018).
I began researching Francesca Woodman as part of the Durational Space project and immediately struck by the similarity of her mental health to my own. I have struggled for months with various aspects of my care and disease. Sadly, Woodman at the age of 22 committed suicide after jumping off a building. “We read such a lot.” In the past, Woodman’s suicide – she jumped off a building in lower Manhattan – has been linked to a funding application that had been turned down. Berne disputes this. “She had an illness: depression. That’s all there is to it.” (Cooke, 2014).
It is sad to think that Woodman’s work did not achieve any status until after her death. Woodman’s suicide seems to be the focus of her autobiographical work and it should not be the case.Yes in someway she gained the recognition she deserved but her death is not why she was a success if you read the photographs. Woodman’s parents both with a creative background gave her a camera a Yashica 2¼ x 2¼ when she was just 13. In a lifetime she would produce over 800 pieces culminating in an exhibition entitled zigzag. Her images were of self-portraits and using either arms, legs, or other parts of the limbs but excluding her face and intertwining a collection of angles.
This gave me the inspiration for this exercise. Woodman, employs the use of slow shutter speed and composition with light and shadow, contrast and use of monochrome to convey a sense of drama as in the ‘untitled image’ of Woodman bare footed bending forwards and out of the frame but with a blurred action of a flimsy material. The skirting is sloping downwards.
Like Woodman I am restricted in the use of models and my mobility further restricts locations where I can access. So just why did she put herself in the images?
Francesca once said that it was just a matter of “convenience”: she was always available, whereas finding a model would take time. “I do think that was it,” says Betty. “Though telling yourself what to do is also much easier than telling someone else to smile, or to look this way or that.” (Cooke, 2014). I don’t think that she was being narcissistic being her own model Kirsty Mitchell also took self-portraits in similar surroundings of dilapidated buildings shortly after her mother’s death.
I imagine that she was also controlled by her mental health and probably withdrew at times from the world immersing herself in photography. I say this because I use my own photography as a form of expression and escape.
In 2014, under immense pressure from work to take early ill-health retirement and living with a deteriorating terminal neurological condition I tried to commit suicide. I didn’t plan it but one cold, bleak april morning I woke up and left everything behind and drove to Beachy Head. Everyday mental health is a constant battle for me. On reflection the past few months have been a struggle with this course and I found myself thinking why am I putting myself through this?
But today, I woke and the sun was shining; with a positive attitude I picked up my coursework for the first time this year.
How do I portray what it is like for me to look in the mirror and see before your very eyes your body wasting? How do I express my fears, anxieties and depression?
I think that John Coplan had the answer. He was a British artist, art writer, curator and museum director who at the end of World War II emigrated to the United States. He became a director of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio.
In the 1960s, he began taking photographs of his own body and documented the ageing process. The photographs recorded what was once familiar had now become unfamiliar. I can compare this to my own body at the age of 48 and with the disease progression of only five years I no longer recognise my own feet. They have become distorted and contorted with the toes curling under and atrophy across the top of my feet as the nerves waste away sending signals to the muscles eventually causing atrophy.
I have carers to help me daily with showering, dressing, drying and making meals. The routine is laborious at times. It’s great to have help but I want to be independent for as long as possible. My activities are somewhat restricted; however, this gave me the idea to combine Coplan and Woodman’s style and be able to use a slow shutter speeds. Adopting Woodman’s composition but showing my deteriorating body as Coplan had done became quite an obvious choice. I thought about showering and how my naked body is exposed to the world and plain to see that my lower limbs are weak, disfigured and aged. What indeed was familar is now unfamiliar to me.
This exercise though posed several difficulties and challenges. The first being alone and no one to operate the camera and how would I get changed, unchanged and dried unaided; and be the model. So, in order to do this, I placed the items I required e.g. shower chair before I took the photographs. I used a tripod and manually focused the lens with a self-timer. To increase the exposure the naturally lit room I used a 6-stop Lee filter thus increasing the exposure from 1/8th of a second to 8-10 seconds.
I deliberately positioned the wide angle lens downwards to only capture the lower half of my body. I wanted to tell the story of not only a daily activity but how I cope. How I have to transfer from my electric powered chair into a plastic shower seat and leave my clothes within reach. There is no such thing as an ‘easy task’. I deliberately framed it so that my head was not visible but leaving my legs and arms in as the frame as much as possible. I couldn’t guarantee that of course my head would not appear! The angles of the tiles, flooring are reminiscent of Woodman’s photographs.
Unlike both Coplan and Woodman whose work is predominately in black and white I wanted to retain the colour in my photographs’. I converted them to black and white but it seemed the context and narrative was lost.
The first frame depicts the atrophy, clawed toes and the deformed ankles and lack of muscle in the upper legs but you cannot see the neuropathy that I have. I now wonder how do I portray that sensation? Short of sticking needles in I am at loss how to photograph neuropathy. Perhaps I shall give this some consideration.
I think this exercise was a success and overall I am pleased with the results.
Cooke, R. (2014) ‘Searching for the real Francesca Woodman’, The Guardian, 31 August. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/31/searching-for-the-real-francesca-woodman (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/john-coplans-2353 (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
We have been asked to research several photographers as part of Project 2. I chose to look at three photographers’ one of them being Hiroshi Sugimoto. I wanted to examine his work because he uses a style of long exposure rather than a more conventional route using either an automatic mode e.g., Shutter priority, Aperture or Program
Hiroshi Sugimoto for over 30 years has used a large format 8×10 camera
I watched the link provided, which comprised of two short video clips. In his theatre series, he opens the shutter using bulb mode for several hours starting at the beginning of the film and at the end finishes the exposure. This leaves a blank white screen in the cinema and all the people disappear. He explains that this is a blank space within a blank space.
Michael Freeman in his book ‘Photographer’s Vision’ looks at movies and films in a way that he explains a movie splits time into sections and to specific sequences. A famous photographer Eddie Adams, captured an image of a Saigon police officer executing a prisoner in the street in 1968 his view: “a still photographer has to show the whole fracking movie in one picture. A still picture is going to be there forever.” Freeman, The Photographer’s Vision.
In light of this quote Adams makes the point, which refers to a solitary image telling the whole story whereas a movie tells the story over several sections and has a definitive beginning and end. Comparing this to Sugimoto’s style of photography he takes one picture shown a film from beginning to end but does not literally show each frame of the film and considers he three-hour image one photograph. I question what is the point of this?
He explains that depending on the movie the screen can vary from being bright at the end if the film was optimistic and dull if that story was sad.
Sugimoto went onto photograph seascapes something I particularly enjoy photographing and using long exposures. He uses a very spiritual and natural way to express colour in photography and almost be at one with the world.
His latest four yearlong project ‘The Lightning Field Series’ involves no camera only striking metal with high voltage electricity and then processing the film in varying amount of salt solution to create a natural phenomenon. His philosophy is that the final photograph is representative of the wind and gods. The exhibition was called ‘The Day After.’ Nakamura, Memories of Origin.
I recently met up with an old work colleague and we discussed my current university work and he told about Nobuyuki Kobayashi. Kobayashi is a captivating photographer producing platinum palladium prints on washi paper using ancient techniques that date over 300 years. I watched the short 30 minute video and was totally gripped by his composition of the landscapes but the art of producing wonderful prints that only emerge months later in the darkroom. He describes ‘Yubi’ quite literally translated as ‘Yu’ meaning “gentle” and ‘bi’ meaning “beautiful.” His work echoes that of Sugimoto and this is why I wanted to mention him in my research.
I do not want to stray away from Sugimoto but I came across the phrase ‘Wabi Sabi’ whilst researching Capa. “Wabi” refers to an austere, natural state. “Sabi” refers to a lonely, melancholic sense of impermanence in life. So, the fact that everything in life is in a constant change and that nothing lasts forever. The fact that nothing in photography is complete or perfect and constantly evolving fits both these photographers’ work.
I found several websites describing Wabi Sabi, which I have included below for anyone who maybe interested in fiuther reading.
As part of the exercises to the frozen moment we are asked to research a durational space. Most photographers at some point try to freeze time or at least the sense of movement within the frame. I chose Cappa firstly because of his connection to conflict and documenting war having served in the Armed Forces I wanted to see exactly how he recorded it and how I had done so with overseas tours of Iraq and Kuwait.
Robert Cappa an adopted American sounding name but was born Endre Freidmann in Hungary 1913. His parents worked in Pest,Hungary running businesses and father although not clear where he served in the first world war he returned to Hungary.
I find it ironic that Cappa hated war yet came directly in the line of fire and that I willing signed on the dotted line to serve my country and put myself in conflict.
He studied political science at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi party. At a time of over four million unemployed in Germany, a banking crisis and collaboration of political parties.
He worked as a photographer in Berlin and in 1933 moved from Germany to Paris.
Prior to leaving in 1933 he met with others at the SDSE, Schutzeverband Deutscher Schrifstellar im Exil the (protective association of german writers in exile) run by communist leaders where he made friends with Gisele Freund, who managed to escape Germany with little notice that she would be arrested the same evening. She went on herself to become a distinguished photographer in France and would later become associated with the Magnum, the photo agency of which Capa would become one of the founder members along with Herni Catrier-Bresson, George Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour. The four were a collaboration of photographers that each played part in documenting wars formed Magnum.
David Szymin, who was known by his friends as “Chimm”, was born in Warsaw in 1911. Chim was a talented pianist in his youth and even considered pursuing music as a career. His father, however, had other ideas for his son. His father was a publisher of Hebrew and Yiddish books. He wanted him to study publishing with a view that he would join the family business. In 1929, “Chim” studied in Leipzig and commenced a three-year course covering printing techniques, graphic arts, and photography.
By 1932, he had moved to Paris and intended to study chemistry and prepare to research printing inks and lithography. He too found himself in the same position of Cappa had experienced in Berlin and found himself unable to fund his studies because his family had suffered during the economic crisis. His family had a family friend who ran a photo agency in Paris and he began work as a photojournalist.
Chim was friends with Cartier-Bresson. Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in 1908, the son of a wealthy Norman family in the textile business. He was a scholar at Lycee Condorcet and went on to study at Cambridge in 1928 reading literature, during this time he met the Cubist Andre Lhote.
As a child he had an interest in photography and this came back into his life when he found himself recuperating from an infection conracted in Africa. He was drawn to Surreralism and due to his wealth unlike Chim and Capa he had the luxury to travel to France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Germany during 1932-33 in pursuit of his passion for the subject.
Capa, had several transient jobs during 1934, as a darkroom technician as he had little technical knowledge about photography. However, a newly formed photographic agency was looking for photographers as they could not afford established photographers’ to cover the newly fashionable Riviera of St. Tropez. He was advanced a camera and film along with expenses. Unfortunately, his lack of experience and bad luck meant he failed to deliver any useable photographs and the Plaubel Makina camera he was supplied with was pawned to cover the unforeseen costs he’d encountered. The agency realised that something had happened when they received strips of 35mm film he sent were not the same format of the medium format single plates they had supplied. He returned to his employers with feeble excuses, who went on to rent their darkroom to other photographers whilst Capa moved onto other darkroom work.
During 1934 he met Ruth Gerf, who he wanted her to pose for him. Gerf did not want to meet Capa alone and took her friend Gerta Pohorylles along. Gerta eventually changed her name Gerda Taro and the two became friends. (O’Hagan, 2012)
Capa and Taro invented the American sounding photographer ‘Robert Capa’ as a marketing ploy selling their work under the pseudonym.
In early September 1936, both were covering the Spanish War and by far one of the most controversial images ‘Death of a loyalist militiaman’ a Spanish Republican soldier falling backwards, who appeared to have been shot falling to his death. However, it appears that there is a certain amount of curiosity as to whether the soldier was indeed posing for Capa and been shot or it was a staged shot, which he was known to have done.
For the first time he had documented the conflict in a rather personal, up and close way that had not been achieved before. Photographs that showed families and children such as crowds running for an air-raid shelter as the alarm sounds.
In 1937, Capa returned to France, Taro remained in Spain continuing to photograph the Spanish conflict. Sadly, on 25th July 1937, Taro was travelling in a car which was struck by a tank of the Republican army. A day later she died from her injuries. In December that year Capa covered the battle of Teruel.
From here on Capa moved to the invasion of China by the Japanese and ahead of the 1939 German invasion he had left France for America. Upon leaving France three boxes of 126 rolls 35mm film containing 4,500 negatives of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim. The ‘Mexican Suitcase’ thought to have been lost since 1939 had been re-discovered in 1995 by a Mexican family, descendants of a Mexican General. (The Mexican Suitcase, 2016)
Capa’s greatest achievement was by far the coverage of the D-Day landings. He covered wartime London and at the beginning of 1943 had a romance with Elaine Justin, which lasted two years. He spent a year covering the Italian campaign, including the liberation of Naples.
On 6th June 1944, he landed with US troops on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. I can only imagine the fear and anxiety he must have felt has he was shoved out of the carrier onto the beaches clinging to his camera. He had learnt from his earlier mistake in 1934 and immersing his camera in water. It was only when his film reached the darkroom that most of his film was ruined and only a few images were useable.
Again, it seems unclear if this was a mistake made by a clumsy lab assistant at Life magazine or that he had caused the accident.
The blur of some images is understandable but with some of Capa’s work the blur almost seems deliberate rather than accidental. Who am I to argue either way. I consider the tension and scene he was presented with I am pretty sure that he would have had little time to consider his settings more a case of point and shot, hope for the best and the law of averages that if you use enough film you will have something useful. He didn’t bargain for the aftermath of most ending up in the bin!
He followed the invasion and liberation of France and covered the Battle of the Bulge. In 1946, he became a US citizen and co-founded Magnum Photos. He took a break from his photography until he began to travel once again in 1948 where he travelled to Israel.
Once again he returned to Paris and from 1950 to 1953 he was the director at Magnum Photo’s.
His final photographic assignment in 1954 of the Vietnam War resulted in his death. On 25th May, 1954, he was travelling with a convey when the convey stopped. He followed the patrol into a field and took at least one photo, when he stood on a land mine and was fatally wounded.
Portraits of Capa portray him as a sophisticated man almost plucked out of a film from the 1950’s or a war hero with a cigarette in his hand dressed in uniform.
The Art of Photography (no date) The Mexican Suitcase. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KympSgVknO4 (Accessed: 26 September 2016).
O’Hagan, S. (2012) ‘Robert Capa and Gerda Taro: love in a time of war’, The Guardian, 13 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/may/13/robert-capa-gerda-taro-relationship (Accessed: 26 September 2016).
Pro Magnum Photos (no date). Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/ (Accessed: 26 September 2016)
The Mexican Suitcase (2016) International Center of Photography. Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/collections/the-mexican-suitcase (Accessed: 26 September 2016).
Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.)
As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use: rather than physically moving towards or away from your subject, the lens can do it for you. The other immediate difference between the shots is the ‘angle of view’, which also depends on the sensor size of your camera. Use the sequence to try to get a feeling for how the angle of view corresponds to the different focal lengths for your particular camera and lens combination. Which shot in the sequence feels closest to the angle of view of your normal vision?
My first observation on reviewing these images is that the highlights are blown, which I feel this would not have happened if I’d have used Manual mode. The matrix light meter was confused by the dark tones under the hall and the light areas at the far end of the image. During post-production I used Lightroom to control the bright areas of the image.
I decided for this task to use my full-frame Nikon D610 with a 16-35mm lens. I use an X-rite colorchecker to help create a lens profile later in Lightroom. The colorchecker helps to maintain a consistent colour management from screen to printer.
The local market town of Faversham is very close to my home where I found the ideal location of the Market Square, which has strong leading lines both vertically and horizontally. I felt it had added interest with people, vehicles and café tables around. It helped to create a sense of movement through the scene.
The shot that felt closet to ‘normal vision’ to me and the most comfortable was the middle image at 20mm. It gave enough sense of space and that your eye could manage without losing all the messages going to the brain.
Photographing from a fixed point isn’t uncommon for me due to my mobility and disability so I am interested to explore what the viewpoint would be if I lowered the angle and used my right angle viewfinder. I will look at taking more shots of the scene to experiment and add them to my log.
AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f4 ED
X-Rite colorpassport checker
Manfrotto tripod 055
16mm, ISO400, f8, 1/160
20mm, ISO400, f8, 1/160
35mm, ISO400, f8, 1/125