An Interview with Danila Tkachenko

An email interview (summer to December 2016) with Danila Tkachenko primarily about some of his projects – namely Restricted Areas and Escape – after having read about him on lensculture.com a few months ago. Danila has been very busy over the last 12 months, and yet still managed to find time to have this insightful chat which we concluded at the beginning of January 2017 (many thanks to Ilya Fomin, Danila’s assistant, for helping out massively with translating and acting as the “middleman” – top job!). Danila Tkachenko is a visual artist working with documentary photography he lives and works in Moscow, Russia. He is currently (Jan 2017) working on his exciting new project called Lost Horizons.

RESTRICTED AREA

KB: Why do you think it is that we (especially the Western world) have this dependency on “things” and objects? Or is that just me?

DT: I don’t consider that a dependency, it is what the nature of the Western world is only. Perhaps it was before that in the East people weren’t depended on “things” but now, unfortunately, the contemporary world is more democratic in this sense; capitalism rules everywhere and everybody. I think that capitalism is characteristic of the human, it’s his/her inner model of behavior.

KB: Yes, everything seems to be merging as we accept capitalism, although I’m not so sure it is a “characteristic of the human” as you say (if I have understood what you mean by that), but rather we have been submerged in it for so long now that we no longer question it so much, or are even aware of any (valid) alternatives.
And let’s be honest, Danila, how much of all these modern plastic toys we surround ourselves with do we really need? Have we been conditioned to think we actually need all this rubbish and illusions that surround us?

DT: I think it was becoming little by little. Humans always created utopias and started to believe in them. Often human life is too routine so people imagine other worlds to get away from reality, make different things and build illusions just to avoid the meeting with the real world.

KB: Hahaaa, and then the illusions become reality and we look for illusions within illusions…
Regarding your Restricted Areas project, did you manage to go inside those scary looking residential buildings [shot 2 from the website] in that abandoned polar town? Or was it too dangerous?

DT: I got inside some of the buildings, they are empty. That’s not dangerous at all. Perhaps you should beware of the homeless people who can live there, but it was too cold and I didn’t meet anyone there.

KB: Surely too cold and isolated for any people in there right? What about Chelyabinsk-40? What was it like going there? Unbelievable. Was the disaster really kept secret?

DT: Yes, that’s true. It’s more famous as Kyshtym disaster and kept secret until 1989 – a year of the collapse of the USSR. It happened that horrible incidents were passed over in silence by the State from people. But for justice sake, it happened not only in USSR, the western world also had its secrets.

KB: Oh yes, of course, I should imagine that even innocuous countries like Costa Rica have secrets! Why on earth did they build that 4 KM shaft in the Murmansk region??

DT: The shaft was scientific and was built for studying of the lithospheric plates. That’s not the deepest shaft, for example near there was another one which depth was more than 12 km.

KB: Really? Amazing. Something to see I should bet.

ESCAPE

KB: Has the language of the “wild people” deteriorated? Could you communicate ok?

DT: All of them cut off society around 10-20 years ago, they weren’t born in the forest so they know the language and I could communicate with them well. But as they live separately from the world I needed to gain their confidence. That wasn’t easy but I helped them and they allowed me to take some pictures.

KB: Wow, that was quite brave of you! Do you think these people have “found themselves”, or are they just lost?

DT: I can’t say whether they have found themselves or not. “Lost” and “found” are very abstract definitions. But they live how they want to live and I guess they are happier in the forest than in the city from which they have escaped and to which they aren’t going to return.

KB: Going off to live all alone – assuming they are alone – could be seen as running away or as a very risky thing to do. What about the government, don’t they do anything about them?
Do you think that becoming an outcast (or “lunatic”) is the only way to “remain yourself”, as you mention in your accompanying text on the website?

DT: I don’t know exactly what “remain yourself” is. The people that I shot don’t «remain» themselves, they just run away from the society for different reasons. They couldn’t accept the world, it was too difficult for them so they decided to go away and I don’t think that was by reasons of self-contemplation or something like that.

KB: What, you mean they don’t contemplate the self? Are they running away from themselves or going to find themselves, whoever they are? But aren’t we who we are wherever we are? Are we all so blind? I don’t think we are.

DT: Yes, we can’t run away from ourselves, but we can run from the others. The people from this series got away from the society and they like it.

KB: Ok. What about you? Do you really feel the need to escape the “social context” and “feel the real you”(again as you mention on your website)?

DT: No, I don’t feel the need in this. Social [context] is around us and it’s difficult to escape from it.

KB: Yes, I see.
Danila, may I ask you an awkward question? Who IS the real you? (Sorry, I find it hard to actually answer that type of question myself…)

DT: I’m the artist who works with the documentary photography.

KB: OK, thank you for the insights into a truly fascinating study.

RUSSIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS

KB: According to a BJP article you would like to “present a selection of Russian photographers to a European audience through a series of exhibitions“, right?

DT: Yes, those were my words.

KB: Have you managed to do that? Any luck?

DT: No, it happened that during the last 2 years I was concentrated on my new projects and didn’t have the time for anything else.

KB: Ah, OK, I understand.
I adore Rodchenko’s amazing work, could you recommend any other great Russian masters (old and new)?

DT: Yes, besides Alexander Rodchenko, I can recommend that you look at works by Leo Borodulin, Naum Granovsky, Anatoly Boldin.

KB: That’s great! I will definitely check them out. Thanks again, Danila.

End.


Sources

Данила Ткаченко родился в Москве в 1989 году. В 2014 он закончил московскую школу фотографии им. Родченко, класс Валерия Нистратова. В этом же, 2014 году Данила Ткаченко стал лауреатом конкурса фотожурналистики World Press Photo 2014 с проектом Побег/Escape, над которым работал три года. В марте 2015 закончил работу над проектом Закрытые Территории / Restricted Areas, уже получившим ряд международных призов, в том числе European Publishers Award For Photography, грант Burn Magazine, и включенным в голландский журнал Foam Talents. Серия была опубликована в таких изданиях, как BBC Culture, The Guardian, IMA Magazine, GUP Magazine, British Journal of Photography. В данный момент Ткаченко работает над двумя проектами, география которых охватывает значительную часть России и несколько соседних стран.

Danila Tkachenko was born in Moscow in 1989. In 2014 he graduated from the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia, department of documentary photography (supervisor Valeriy Nistratov). In the same year he became the winner of the World Press Photo 2014 competition with the project Escape which he worked on for 3 years. In March 2015 he finished the project Restricted Areas which has already received a number of international awards including European Publishers Award For Photography, Burn Magazine grant, and included in the Dutch magazine Foam Talents. The series was published in such magazines as BBC Culture, The Guardian, IMA Magazine, GUP Magazine, British Journal of Photography. At the moment Danila Tkachenko is working on two projects which are being shot in a significant part of Russian territory and several neighboring countries.

LensCulture, D. (2017). Danila Tkachenko | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/danila-tkachenko [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

LensCulture, A. (2017). Restricted Areas – Photographs and text by Danila Tkachenko | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/danila-tkachenko-restricted-areas#slideshow [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

Tkachenko, D. (2017). Danila Tkachenko / Projects. [online] Danilatkachenko.com. Available at: http://www.danilatkachenko.com/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

Tkachenko, D. (2017). Danila Tkachenko / Projects / Restricted Areas. [online] Danilatkachenko.com. Available at: http://www.danilatkachenko.com/projects/restricted-areas/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

Tkachenko, D. (2017). Danila Tkachenko / Projects / Escape. [online] Danilatkachenko.com. Available at: http://www.danilatkachenko.com/projects/escape/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

British Journal of Photography. (2017). Ones to Watch: Danila Tkachenko. [online] Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2015/02/danila-tkachenko-restricted-areas/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

A1 Tutor’s feedback and my comments

Student name Kevin Byrne Student number 515754
Course/Unit Expressing Your Vision Assignment number 1
Type of tutorial Audio-Visual  

NB Something I’ve been meaning to finish and upload for a few months. Not really fair as I am now viewing the assignment (A1) and feedback with loads of hindsight (over 6 months’ worth!), but enjoyable and enlightening all the same… Kev Byrne, 27/12/16

Formative feedback

Overall Comments

This is a good start to the course. Reading through your notes on preparation, it seems you had a bit of a tortuous time deciding on subject and approach – maybe over-thinking this a little?  The quote from Bunnell is pretty apt: “Half of the photographer’s work is in the discovery of his subject.” Looking is perhaps the most important part of that process – and often without a camera.  With this first assignment, there is a tendency to over conceptualise and strive for something that is ‘different’.  As you say, the brief can appear somewhat intimidating. One approach I always suggest, as part of any preparation, is to walk around a location at different times of day and just look; then after an initial shoot, return and shoot again  – time permitting of course – there is always something different in the way we observe on a 2nd and subsequent visits to a place.
Ok, I see what you mean about taking the view in, looking around to see what you see, something that is easy to say perhaps (for me) but not all that easy to do what with commitments elsewhere. I’ve found myself over the years always noticing things/views/shadows throughout the day with the idea to go back and shoot them later – which doesn’t always happen but I find really useful when it does. So, I see what you mean about revisiting a place, view, subject or whatever, makes sense.

This is a good submission with nine images supported by brief comments, a concise and articulate refection and a set of detailed notes about preparation and workflow, with three sheets of contacts to demonstrate the full range of images captured for the assignment.

Assessment potential

Assignment 1

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

This set of nine images certainly meets the brief and gets across your interests, ambitions and motivations about the course and about you as a photographer.

You explore a range of techniques and approaches to reveal a level of technical expertise and the set, as a whole, is very well considered in terms of communicating the content in an engaging way. It communicates more of a sense of your working day than your environment, which was a surprise given that you live overseas (I wouldn’t have been able to tell that from this set).
Re the last point, I was trying to do something differently but still stay within the brief:
However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.
I believe this is what I have done with this selection. Also, couldn’t my “working day” be seen as the environment in which I live (it is, after all, however tight and close the images portray that environment)? My environment is what I see (create?) and that which makes up my routines and habits – and besides I wanted to steer away from the familiar territory of shooting what I know (angles/shadows and abstract views), wanted to look at who I am and what I do (which, I thought, is not that much really while thanks to this exercise, I realise that it is actually loads at the same time!) – which is obviously effected by the environment in which I find myself. But I have always been ME wherever I have lived; I’m not sure my surroundings (or my ability/inability to capture them) would reveal all that much (more) about me. Or maybe I’m wrong?

I didn’t grow up here – although I have definitely grown – and I have lived here long enough for it not to be so ‘new’, so my take on this brief was to look again at my world and try to snatch a few snippets of it (with a newer way of seeing), which, all said and done, I feel has been accomplished, right?
You wrote that, “…a surprise given that you live overseas (I wouldn’t have been able to tell that from this set)”, yeah, ok, fine. But my objectives here were not to show anyone where I lived by looking at the selection, I’m not so interested in the physical ‘where’ (although it plays a huge part no doubt), but rather the who, and how the where is perceived. Am I waffling? I am, right?
And as I wrote above though, I wanted to keep away from the norm, this dull [my words] set, is me trying to ‘see’ in a slightly different way, I think, to force myself to think differently (anything but ‘dull’), hopefully without losing myself in the form, defying the point of the assignment by hiding behind the image so to speak. Surely this is also keeping to the brief’s suggestions of
“…to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings”, as well as, “…it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.”

My “ambitions” hopefully being communicated: I am prepared to experiment and move out of my comfort zone without too much fear of messing up either, yet quite willing to accept that I have no real idea what I’m doing at this stage of the course!

It’s good that you are using prime lenses and have an awareness of depth of field, but you need to be wary that this, while defining and isolating a focal plane and point, it can often create a distracting level of blur. For example, in your first shot, the blur is a little too dominant, taking in the whole of the bottom half of the frame.
Fair comment, just love it though. Although, can’t see what the kitchen table or the plate or the background window or any other details would have revealed any more about ME personally – I was focusing on food, breakfast (or the storytelling of that action) and not the environment where we find that action. Am I not revealing how focused my brain is, how narrow I can be? Surely I am showing the viewer how I am able to filter out the peripheral and concentrate on what I need. Am I sounding too defensive here? Just trying to think about things. Am I being too myopic about this? Is there a risk of actually revealing too much (how exciting)? Knowing when to draw the line which isn’t all that clearly defined can be tricky.

While the image of the cable and plug socket makes a narrative point, it’s not particularly interesting, whereas the following shot of the broom and dustpan offers a good balance in composition between shape and colour, and an interesting blur that hovers above and yet connects the two.
Yes, agreed, not too interesting – although I didn’t shoot it to be interesting, but rather explanatory, and new (for me) in terms of subject and narrative effect. I personally dislike this shot and its lack of anything other than itself, but I like the fact that it is exactly that: something I don’t usually do (in photography) but which I physically use on a daily basis (razor/trimmer) and thus communicates something about myself and my (admittedly close) surroundings. The plug and cable shot was also a reasonably quick, off the cuff type of shot so, again, something new for me there really.

Better use of DOF in the shot of the mouse, with the subject placed well to capture an angled light that helps define shape, mass and texture. A narrative in this image might better be communicated with the device being held in hand, and maybe a larger background context – even in soft focus.
Yep, I see what you mean – I’ve got a soft spot for macros though, so no real experimental stuff going on here! Although, I could argue that this is actually revealing something about me and my photography more than the context of where it is being taken – again, this is part of the brief too, right?

Indeed – what constitutes a dull photo?  There’s a major movement in the medium that deals with this type of image,  the art of the mundane, one devoid of any emotional content and thus (for me) narrative.  It’s all about the personal (or collective) aesthetic, and it has its place. I’m not sure the angle or reduced depth of field help this shot become more interesting – perhaps a wider and more engaging context (desktop peripheral that define the user, and more atmospheric light might intrigue?
I must be honest, this is unchartered territory for me, I just tried something new in terms of subject matter, lighting, and composition and I think it works in those respects. Although it doesn’t do much for me aesthetically speaking (whatever that actually means) – this is not the type of photography that I do, enjoy, look at, or clearly understand. (What do they call that, deadpan?)
Still, I suppose that is why it is challenging (and presumably beneficial) to me to attempt this style, or approach, and be open to its novelty.

There are strong graphic elements and a good use of colour in the following image, and yes I can imagine that, given you are looking for engaging subject matter at all time, then you’ll find this most anywhere, washing line included.  There’s a good balance to this composition with the varying layers of soft focus background, expanding horizontal white lines and the broken text at the bottom of the shot.
Yeah, this is what I usually do (or prefer doing – or know how to do?) with my photography, so more revealing as to what I know (and what surrounds me constantly?) and not where I’d like to go? These shots pop out all the time for me, I adore them, but find that as soon as I have captured them, edited them, they are done: they no longer interest me. Is that normal? Feels normal to me, I suppose it means that it’s time to move on and look for the next capture, next view, the next fix even (if we can call it that).

There is a sense of mystery in the following image, with the two arrows set on the paved ground and yet no context to suggest their purpose.  As you say, and as I mentioned in my opening notes, going back to the location to capture this in better light and thus enhance the atmosphere is good practice.
Ok, I see. My incessant need to catch these views I always observe around me does tend to crop out other details (isn’t that the beauty of this type of shot though? It is for me!). If I included the supermarket car park wouldn’t these contrasting symbols be contextualized and thus their intended true meaning revealed? And wouldn’t my meaning(s) become irrelevant and be lost –  totally destroying the whole point of me framing them?  (My meanings being: the juxtaposition of the arrows, their (beautiful) conflicting, incongruous nature; my knack/need to capture them to demonstrate how I see the world around me.) Am I looking into this too much? Or not enough? Or just the wrong way? As if there is only one way anyway.

The zoom effect has it’s uses, but for me, once seen quickly forgotten. Worth trying out to see what it offers. As with all of these type of effects, they have an ephemeral appeal and it’s style over content – something that we have to be wary of.
Yes, I lost interest in this technique rather quickly too!
Still, the books are there, they can be seen, I think the movement doesn’t obscure them or my intended idea too much (idea being that I like books but they also baffle/dazzle me too!). Again though, I am simply trying something new for this assignment, trying to move out of my comfort zone, however beautiful or ugly or (un)comfortable that actually makes me feel. I must admit though, I enjoy the uneasiness it creates and the creativity that brings (or tends to).

The shot of the student at work is too cropped to offer any real information in this context and could essentially be anyone, anywhere, anytime.
No, I disagree. If the picture were presented on its own without any ‘co-text’ as well as context then we could say that, we could call it incongruous (although I bet there are those that could argue against that too). But this image comes within a brief, and is also part of a set, and is presented on a blog (with explanatory text) within a page with images before and after it, so, I feel it does offer information within the context of the sequence of images and through its presentation. Besides, what does it even matter who it is? It’s obviously someone, or an image of someone at least, that I have chosen to include through its (their) relevance to me, to the story that I want to tell and to the narrative context I have chosen to provide it in. Is that not right?
“Anywhere”? Well, couldn’t any picture arguably be anywhere and nowhere at the same time? No, wait, what does that even mean??
As to whether any photograph ever refers to any TIME – other than the moment/context in which it is taken (as well as, more interestingly, when it is presented or viewed) – is just as onerous (and fascinating!), don’t you think?

Still, this ‘student shot’, I believe, has a place, it has a “-where” in my view: the inclusion in my series obviously gives it a place – we can assume (and only that) that this photo belongs to my set due to this inclusion, can’t we? I mean, why else put it in there? I’m not mental. Well, not that mental (at least not yet). The text here also serves a purpose, doesn’t it? To clarify, to remove ambiguity, to explain, to contextualize. So, it doesn’t really matter who it is – it’s obviously someone, and someone presumably relevant to my narrative; it’s got to be somewhere – it is – even if you could argue that it isn’t actually anywhere/anything – just ask a jellyfish or something – and certainly nothing more important beyond its intended use in my attempted series of shots here; and it is of course “any” time – as in any moment of time – although I have clearly coerced it into this context, I have given it a time to exist, given it a purpose quite far from the meaning of “any”, I believe: now it has “a” time, not an unlimited amount, it has been anchored (reborn even?) by being placed within my set, placed within my meanings.
I am waffling again, right?

The final image, again a technique worth exploring and in this instance a vertical movement provides the strands of rising light and a glimpse of the nighttime exterior.The lights work well, but there is little to see in the setting – no distinct focal point.
Yes, I found this fun, and different too, and I also found it pertinent in the story I was visually trying to narrate here: tired, walking home, exhausted, night, end, consciousness waning, sliding away… This shot, I would say, has less to do with what is in it (and its settings) and more to do with its meaning (or meanings) – what the viewer could infer from it, and what it actually communicates (or what I intended for it to communicate). Whether this photographic effect captures those meanings (within the context as the conclusion of this set) is for others more qualified than myself to say (or perhaps not, perhaps it should only be up to me? Or equally so?). But it felt right at the time for me: fortuitous even, lucky and weird, weird or lucky, but right nonetheless.

So a pretty good set, and one that certainly demonstrates your interest in the medium, your approach to looking at the world around you to communicate something beyond the ordinary, and a high level of technical engagement.  This is summed up in your thoughtful conclusion, and I’m pleased that you found the assignment engaging and in allowed you to work in a more creative way.

Coursework

The development work for the assignment is good (see my notes above).

Research

This will develop more throughout the course and it’s important to contextualize your own work with that of your professional peers. It is also important to look at the work of your OCA peers and where possible join the community weareOCA

Learning Log

Your Blog is still in a fairly formative stage, with evidence of reading and research and the current assignment components uploaded.  I’ll be taking a further, detailed look as you progress towards the 2nd assignment.
I have created a WordPress site, but kept the Blogger site as a backup.

Suggested reading/viewing

Reading

There’s a comprehensive reading list for the course and additional reference points for you to explore for each project.

Here are a few alternative links to online sites that I recommend to everyone as a resource for a whole range of approaches and styles:

http://www.magnumphotos.com/ www.lensculture.com www.aesthetica.com

Referring to my earlier comments about ‘dull’ or ‘mundane’ images, Cotton covers this in Chapter 2 of his book – ‘Deadpan’ images.

Cotton, C. (2015). The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Pointers for the next assignment and Suggested reading/viewing Context

Assignment 2 is ‘Collecting’. You can choose from one of the options offered in the course handbook or may have an idea of you own – feel free to run that past me.

Tutor name Russell Murray
Date 15 March 16
Next assignment due 15 May 16

A5 Prep 3: B/W dummy run with accompanying texts

Introduction

After dabbling with a torturous self-imposed battle with myself and which type(s) of text to use with this set, I have finally decided to stick with a Duane Michals’ inspired poetry idea under each photo ( from my original ideas). Even accompanying text will be ‘rendered’ poetic by the way it will be presented – to hopefully keep some homogeneity and cohesion both visually and conceptually. The texts will also incorporate some type of reference to an original image or concept (or will be direct quotes) that inspired me to create my image – then using and adapting those texts or quotes – to appear as a poem under each shot, to become an intergrated part of the sequence.
I will probably remove the source references directly after the text and will leave them in the resource and notes section following the images. The text, at a later date, will then be added to the photos themselves (a thicker bottom border) when I print them later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“This city is afraid of me
I have seen its true face
Of what Reinhart and Malevic didn’t see
And of which Robert Fludd left no trace.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“If I were dim as the sun,
Night I’d drill
with the rays of my eyes.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Mapplethorpe’s anguish like Margaret’s smile,
Was De Mesquita’s pupil with no mathematical guile;
Volkmann’s impassiveness would make Kertész ask,
If like Gillian we’re always wearing a mask;
And if Moore opened the door to perception,
Would Ted Hughes’ muse be Godwin’s intention?;
Marjane’s stories and Andy’s construe,
Would make Rodchenko black you out too;
Then what of Peggy Sue in a Daguerreotype?
And Amelie in a Hollywood stereotype?
As Muslim girls dance in Amsterdam,
Was Strand more French than Uncle Sam?
From those amazing blueprints by Sir Herschel,
To Turk’s fake portrait commercial;
In awe of Cameron’s Iago with his downward gaze,
Never to see Gaiman’s gift to amaze;
Yet here I am to witness them stand tall,
On my train ride going nowhere, nowhere at all.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Squealing under city stone
The millions on the millions run,
Every one a life alone,
Every one a soul undone:
There all the poisons of the heart

Branch and abound like whirling brooks
And there through every useless art
Like spoiled meats on a butcher’s hooks
Pour forth upon their frightful kind
The faces of each ruined child:
The wrecked demeanors of the mind
That now is tamed, and once was wild.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“I’ll use you when I want to – not when you do.
I’m so in control, so strong, so deluded it’s untrue.
A modern God making me the walking dead,
Who knows what it’s doing to my head.
I’ve become like a ‘mombie’ on the march and prowl,
Vacant and social and so very in the now.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Immediately I sprang into action,
experimenting toward realizing
this vision.
Dressed up as a tourist, I walked
into a cheap cinema
in the East Village
with a large-format camera.
As soon as the movie started,
I fixed the shutter
at a wide-open aperture,
and two hours later when the movie finished,
I clicked the shutter closed.
That evening, I developed
the film,
and the vision
exploded behind my eyes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“…What this one here?
Yeah, well,
she gave it to us
years ago
when she last visited us
– can’t remember now when exactly
but it was years ago.
I never really liked it at the time,
to tell you the truth,
seemed pointless
to give us something like that.
I mean, we see that sort of stuff
all the time here, you get me?
– ten to the dozen round here
they are.
Don’t get me wrong,
we weren’t
ungrateful or anything,
it’s just, you know,
what could we do with it?
No disrespect
or anything,
but we would’ve been better off
with the bleedin’
money,
you know? [laughs]…”

a5-shot-8-final-ii
“Conscious of looking
not only at the clearly depicted subject
But also at the photographic form
into which they have been projected
Reveal much about collective cultural behaviour
Public yet strangely isolated and mannered
as they individually engage
with the spectacle of history
 the potential for including a marriage
of a contemporary moment and a historical moment
in one photographic plane
to retrieve masterpieces
from the fate of fame
 the depicted scene
deliberately and conspicuously engages
the idea of the physical permeability
Nothing more than a pictorial fiction
 in the end almost actively indifferent
to her very existence

that sense of exclusion
the sense of uncommunicating realms”

a5-shot-9-final-iii
“Evans explored the United States of the 1930s
—its people, its architecture,
its cultural symbols (including photographs)—
with the disinterested eye of an archaeologist
studying an ancient civilization.
Penny Picture Display might be interpreted
as a celebration of democracy
or as a condemnation of conformity.
Evans takes no side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“All these years
of arseholes;
arseholes farting on
and staining me
with their putrid stenches;
Bitches and wenches,
drunks and punks,
leaving their dust and tears to enter every part of me like I don’t do enough for them as it is; plastering me
with their symbols,
and images
all of which come and go;
sad as it is, I am not alone,
there are the others with me
they too ripped from their duties,
stripped of their meanings,
placed in this place,
put in the dungeon
this prison of nostalgia,
in this resource wasting waste of space;
gazed upon
like freaks of nature, freaks in a show;
relics of your vanity,
remnants of your passage through time,
watching your noisy brief journey,
your wonderfully sad raping of everything;
we are glorified by your lights
as ours have grown dim
you shelter us,
this at least we accept;
but
let us decompose naturally as all things should,
without your eyes,
and photographs,
without your pity or your pride;
I have wheels yet I cannot move,
let me move again,
roar again;
let me live once more.”

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“Variable 3 or 4
Becoming southeasterly
at times
Rough, or very rough
occasionally high
Showers everywhere
Moderately good
occisionally very poor
eventually dark
or even black”

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“Suffice is to say,
proud though we are of this work of fiction,

We humbly acknowledge that the truth
is infinitely more wonderful;
depressing though it is to consider
that Richard Nixon’s signature
is on the moon,
the fact that there really is a smiley face
on the planet Mars
is strangley heartening.

Keep smiling.”

End.



Sources

Dcmooregallery.com. (2016). Duane Michals – Artists – DC Moore Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals#3 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye Photography Festival. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLCisOI0Xw [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Wales Arts Review. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye International Photography Festival – Wales Arts Review. [online] Available at: http://www.walesartsreview.org/david-hurn-at-the-eye-international-photography-festival/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). Photographer Duane Michals Talks About His Career. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZa_oOzXVkY&list=LLQaHf9JAWYjHV3RrR8ozYCg&index=3 [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Rockpaperink.com. (2016). Undercover: XXXXXXXX XXX XX XXXXXXXXX XXX. – RockPaperInk. [online] Available at: http://www.rockpaperink.com/content/column.php?id=485 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2016].

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1998 | Rodchenko | Portraits of Mayakovsky. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1998/rodchenko/texts/portraits_mayakov.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Mayakovsky, V. (2016). Poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky. [online] Marxists.org. Available at: https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/literature/mayakovsky/1916/own-beloved-self.htm [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016]. -Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1916, excerpt from:
To his Own Beloved Self The Author Dedicates These Lines

Veoh.com. (2016). Watch Videos Online | Genius of photography – 2 | Veoh.com. [online] Available at: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v7279508h5dT6DeQ [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

Zoecrosher.com. (2016). ZC. [online] Available at: http://www.zoecrosher.com/polaroided [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Moore, A. and Gibbons, D. (1987). Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc.
Shot 1 – First two lines from Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, 1986-1987, DC Comics (p1 issue 1 caption one); shot 12 – end page Absolute Watchmen edition, Dave Gibbons’ final comments.

DC. (2016). WATCHMEN. [online] Available at: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/watchmen [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. 1st ed. New York: HarperPerennial.

McCloud, S. (2016). The visual magic of comics. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics#t-825156 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Walker Evans. Penny Picture Display, Savannah. 1936 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/58181?locale=fr [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (2016). Walker Evans | Penny Picture Display, Savannah | The Met. [online] Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265556 [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Short, M. (2011). Context and Narrative. 1st ed. 1000 Lausanne: Ava Publishing SA.

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA | Walker Evans. Subway Portrait. from the series Subway Portraits. 1938–41. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walker-evans-subway-portraits-1938-41 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2016].

Reuter, K. (2016). eCUIP : The Digital Library : Social Studies : Chicago: City of Neighborhoods. [online] Ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu. Available at: http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/arts/public_art/gallery/paint/paint_undercit.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].
Shot 4 -James Agee, 1937 (Reuter, 2016)

Sugimotohiroshi.com. (2016). Hiroshi Sugimoto. [online] Available at: http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/theater.html [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Collections.vam.ac.uk. (2016). Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France | Paul Strand | V&A Search the Collections. [online] Available at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1059589/young-boy-gondeville-charente-france-photograph-paul-strand/ [Accessed 23 Nov. 2016].

Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1990). Image, music, text. 1st ed. [London]: Fontana.

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos Photographer Profile. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZHEN [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGROLS [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

O’Hagan, S. (2014) The photographer who caught the heartbreak on both sides of America’s social divide. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/03/jim-goldberg-rich-and-poor-photography (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Goldberg, J. (2016) Raised by wolves. Available at: https://vimeo.com/39715337 (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Higgins, J. (2013.). Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. London: Quintessence Editions.

Cotton, C. (2009). The photograph as contemporary art. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Fried, M. (2008). Why photography matters as art as never before. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Marien, M. (2014). Photography. 1st ed. London: King

Shot 8  complete texts with page references:
“…The conditions that structure images;
Conscious of looking not only at the clearly depicted subject
But also at the photographic form into which they have been projected
Rarely proposed as an experience into which we can immerse ourselves psycholocically
The pleasure of scrutinizing them as photographs
Reveal much about collective cultural behaviour
Public yet strangely isolated and mannered
as they individually engage with the spectacle of history…”
(Cotton, 2009, pp97-8)
“…This suggested to me the potential for including a marriage of a contemporary
moment and a historical moment in one photographic plane
to retrieve masterpieces from the fate of fame…”
(Higgins, 2013, p61)
“…The painting might be held to beckon the viewer into the depicted scene
deliberately and conspicuously engages the idea of the physical permeability
Nothing more than a pictorial fiction
The painting in the photography is not only closed to her but in the end almost actively  indifferent to her very existence
the difficulty of determining how much of that sense of exclusion is based on the actions of the figures in the painting and how much on those of the persons in the photographs
the sense of uncommunicating realms…”
(Fried, 2008, pp119-121)

A5 Prep 2 (text with image ideas and notes)

a5
Introduction

The idea of incorporating text is a contentious one as I’ve never really done it before for project work on this course, and also, I think it can make or break a photo. I’ve recently come across so many great uses (in my opinion) of accompanying text used to narrative effect in very different formats and with very different results (and simply wanted to include them as I like them, find them exciting, challenging and engaging).
(From… to… and … Most notably… and not forgetting… Finally…All of which…)

Seeing as there isn’t really enough space left on my A5 preliminary notes to adequately see how the sequence and text (and its presentation) will look, I thought I would try a dummy run here to see how it might turn out. These are NOT the final sequence and may change before submission.
After dabbling with a self imposed torturous battle with myself and which type of text to use with this set, I have finally decided to stick with a Duane Michals’ inspired poetry under each photo. Even accompanying text will be ‘rendered’ poetic by the way it will be presented – to hopefully keep some homogeneity, cohesion both visually and conceptually. That may develop into some sort of text ON the photos themselves when I print them later.

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“This city is afraid of me
I have seen its true face*
Of what Reinhart and Malevic didn’t see
And which Robert Fludd left no trace.”
*First two lines from Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, 1986-1987, DC Comics (p1 issue 1 caption one).

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“If I were dim as the sun,
Night I’d drill
with the rays of my eyes.”
-Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1916, excerpt from:
To his Own Beloved Self The Author Dedicates These Lines

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“Mapplethorpe’s anguish like Margaret’s smile,
Was De Mesquita’s pupil with no mathematical guile;
Volkmann’s impassiveness would make Kertész ask,
If like Gillian we’re always wearing a mask;
And if Moore opened the door to perception,
Would Ted Hughes’ muse be Godwin’s intention?;
Marjane’s stories and Andy’s construe,
Would make Rodchenko black you out too;
Then what of Peggy Sue in a Daguerreotype?
And Amelie in a Hollywood stereotype?
As Muslim girls dance in Amsterdam,
Was Strand more French than Uncle Sam?
From those amazing blueprints by Sir Herschel,
To Turk’s fake portrait commercial;
In awe of Cameron’s Iago with his downward gaze,
Never to see Gaiman’s gift to amaze;
Yet here I am to witness them stand tall,
On my train ride going nowhere, nowhere at all.”
-K. Byrne, mid Dec 2016.

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Squealing under city stone
The millions on the millions run,
Every one a life alone,
Every one a soul undone:
There all the poisons of the heart

Branch and abound like whirling brooks
And there through every useless art
Like spoiled meats on a butcher’s hooks
Pour forth upon their frightful kind

The faces of each ruined child:
The wrecked demeanors of the mind
That now is tamed, and once was wild.
-James Agee, 1937 (Reuter, 2016)

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“I’ll use you when I want to – not when you do.
I’m so in control, so strong, so deluded it’s untrue.
A modern God making me the walking dead,
Who knows what it’s doing to my head.
I’ve become like a ‘mombie’ on the march,
But not me, no way.
No, no.”
-K. Byrne, mid Dec 2016.

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Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large-format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.
-H. Sugimoto

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“…What this one here? Yeah, well, she gave it to us years ago when she last visited us – can’t remember now when exactly but it was years ago. I never really liked it at the time, to tell you the truth, seemed pointless to give us something like that. I mean, we see that sort of stuff all the time here, you know? – ten to the dozen round here they are. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t ungrateful or anything, it’s just, you know, what could we do with it? No disrespect or anything, but we would’ve been better off with the bleedin’ money, you know? [laughs]…”
In conversation with the author, late June 1989; later published in Madstock’s The Definitive Guide to Being Blatantly Screwed by the Local Community’s Ridiculous Take on Those Numbnut Tourist and Their Willingness to Part with Pots of Money for a Pile of Arranged Rocks, 2nd edition (C. Twat., 1990). [Bill Owens/Jim Goldberg/ inspired]

a5-shot-8-final-ii
Shot 8 – Here I am looking to include a collection of writings from different sources re Struth’s Chicago gallery shot; an almagamation of texts from Cotton (2009, pp97-8); Higgins (2014, p60); and Fried (2008, pp119-121)
“Conscious of looking
not only at the clearly depicted subject
But also at the photographic form
into which they have been projected
Reveal much about collective cultural behaviour
Public yet strangely isolated and mannered
as they individually engage
with the spectacle of history
 the potential for including a marriage
of a contemporary moment and a historical moment
in one photographic plane
to retrieve masterpieces
from the fate of fame
 the depicted scene
deliberately and conspicuously engages
the idea of the physical permeability
Nothing more than a pictorial fiction
 in the end almost actively indifferent
to her very existence

that sense of exclusion
the sense of uncommunicating realms”

a5-shot-9-final-iii
This text is taken from the MOMA website where you can see the front cover of the 1936 Penny Picture Display from which I got the fictional cover and magazine idea used for this sequence.
“Evans explored the United States of the 1930s
—its people, its architecture,
its cultural symbols (including photographs)—
with the disinterested eye of an archaeologist
studying an ancient civilization.
Penny Picture Display might be interpreted
as a celebration of democracy
or as a condemnation of conformity.
Evans takes no side.

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“All these years of arseholes; arseholes farting on and staining me with their putrid stenches; Bitches and wenches, drunks and punks, leaving their dust and tears to enter every part of me like I don’t do enough for them as it is; plastering me with their symbols, and images all of which come and go; sad as it is, I am not alone, there are the others with me – they too ripped from their duties, stripped of their meanings, placed in this place, put in the dungeon – this prison of nostalgia, in this resource wasting waste of space; gazed upon like freaks of nature, freaks in a show; relics of your vanity, remnants of your passage through time, watching your noisy brief journey, your wonderfully sad raping of everything; we are glorified by your lights as ours have grown dim – you shelter us, this at least we accept; but let us decompose naturally as all things should, without your eyes, and photographs, without your pity or your pride; I have wheels yet I cannot move, let me move again, roar again; let me live again.”
Excerpt from The Train Carriage Interviews (this excerpt: 1938 Northern Line London Underground train, edited version); Unfortunately, a totally fictional collection of interviews, but something that might be an interesting idea to develop on as a personal project: the unheard voices of the forgotten, or something: looking at the common everyday objects all around us, and interviewing them? Ok, not actually interviewing them, but imagining that I were! Imagine the possibilities here: an interview in Chinese (electronic devices), Vietnamese trainers, old Russian Cameras arguing with Japanese ones?

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Would like to include commentary here based on Mark Power’s The Shipping Forecast. Unlike Power, I won’t be visiting the place mentioned in the forecast as I intend to invent my own forecast pertinent to the image presented (shot 11), although I do intend to keep the format of the text similar to the standard braodcasts, that being: place, wind, rain and finally visibility. Something along the lines of this:
“Variable 3 or 4, Becoming southeasterly, at times, Rough, or very rough, occasionally high, Showers everywhere, Moderately good, occisionally very poor, eventually dark, or even black”

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Moore to end (and start again?)? Would like to use possibly Dave Gibbons’ comments (taken from my own copy) from the Absolute edition of the Watchmen which has a lot of notes and sketch work from the authors at the back and end with Gibbons’ text (of which this is an excerpt):
“Suffice is to say,
proud though we are of this work of fiction,

We humbly acknowledge that the truth
is infinitely more wonderful;
depressing though it is to consider
that Richard Nixon’s signature
is on the moon,
the fact that there really is a smiley face
on the planet Mars
is strangley heartening.

Keep smiling.”

End.



Sources

Dcmooregallery.com. (2016). Duane Michals – Artists – DC Moore Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals#3 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye Photography Festival. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLCisOI0Xw [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Wales Arts Review. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye International Photography Festival – Wales Arts Review. [online] Available at: http://www.walesartsreview.org/david-hurn-at-the-eye-international-photography-festival/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). Photographer Duane Michals Talks About His Career. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZa_oOzXVkY&list=LLQaHf9JAWYjHV3RrR8ozYCg&index=3 [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Rockpaperink.com. (2016). Undercover: XXXXXXXX XXX XX XXXXXXXXX XXX. – RockPaperInk. [online] Available at: http://www.rockpaperink.com/content/column.php?id=485 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2016].

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1998 | Rodchenko | Portraits of Mayakovsky. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1998/rodchenko/texts/portraits_mayakov.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Mayakovsky, V. (2016). Poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky. [online] Marxists.org. Available at: https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/literature/mayakovsky/1916/own-beloved-self.htm [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Veoh.com. (2016). Watch Videos Online | Genius of photography – 2 | Veoh.com. [online] Available at: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v7279508h5dT6DeQ [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

Zoecrosher.com. (2016). ZC. [online] Available at: http://www.zoecrosher.com/polaroided [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Moore, A. and Gibbons, D. (1987). Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc.

DC. (2016). WATCHMEN. [online] Available at: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/watchmen [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. 1st ed. New York: HarperPerennial.

McCloud, S. (2016). The visual magic of comics. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics#t-825156 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Walker Evans. Penny Picture Display, Savannah. 1936 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/58181?locale=fr [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (2016). Walker Evans | Penny Picture Display, Savannah | The Met. [online] Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265556 [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Short, M. (2011). Context and Narrative. 1st ed. 1000 Lausanne: Ava Publishing SA.

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA | Walker Evans. Subway Portrait. from the series Subway Portraits. 1938–41. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walker-evans-subway-portraits-1938-41 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2016].

Reuter, K. (2016). eCUIP : The Digital Library : Social Studies : Chicago: City of Neighborhoods. [online] Ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu. Available at: http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/arts/public_art/gallery/paint/paint_undercit.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Thomasstruth32.com. (2016). Thomas Struth – Photographs – Museum Photographs 1. [online] Available at: http://www.thomasstruth32.com/smallsize/photographs/museum_photographs_1/index.html [Accessed 18 Dec. 2016].

Sugimotohiroshi.com. (2016). Hiroshi Sugimoto. [online] Available at: http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/theater.html [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Collections.vam.ac.uk. (2016). Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France | Paul Strand | V&A Search the Collections. [online] Available at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1059589/young-boy-gondeville-charente-france-photograph-paul-strand/ [Accessed 23 Nov. 2016].

Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1990). Image, music, text. 1st ed. [London]: Fontana.

coDrops, N. (2016). THE SHIPPING FORECAST – a project by Mark Power Photographer. [online] Markpower.co.uk. Available at: http://www.markpower.co.uk/Photographic-projects/THE-SHIPPING-FORECAST [Accessed 18 Dec. 2016].

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos Photographer Profile. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZHEN [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGROLS [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Higgins, J. (2013.). Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. London: Quintessence Editions.

Cotton, C. (2009). The photograph as contemporary art. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Fried, M. (2008). Why photography matters as art as never before. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

O’Hagan, S. (2014) The photographer who caught the heartbreak on both sides of America’s social divide. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/03/jim-goldberg-rich-and-poor-photography (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Goldberg, J. (2016) Raised by wolves. Available at: https://vimeo.com/39715337 (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Marien, M. (2014). Photography. 1st ed. London: King

A4 tutor feedback and my comments

Tutor’s comments with my (very informal) annotations in blue.

Overall Comments

For Assignment 4, you chose to explore a complex and challenging concept through a reworking of Exercise 4.4, ‘Artificial Light’.

‘… considers our consumerist society and our dependency on “beauty”, “acceptancy”, “normalcy” and how these phenomena condition us, often with our misguided, as well as harmful, expectations of them.’,

As you say in your introduction, this allowed a high level of control in the studio and a chance to refine your approach to conveying mood and meaning.

Working with limited resources in an adhoc studio, you have produced a compelling (and disturbing) set of images.

As with the previous three assignments, the work has been developed from highly focused research and exploration.

 Assessment potential

 Assignment 4

 I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.   

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

This is a strong and disquieting set of images, one I feel achieves what you set out to do and bring to the attention of the viewer the sheer wastage through the contemporary fashion (and laws) for perfection (EU and major supermarket chains), and this terrible waste. Although at the time of writing, I notice that Tesco have started to offer misshapen fruit and veg – as did Terry’s chocolates in my youth. Yes, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall also mentions this tactic/research method used by supermarkets in his TV series. Too little too late? Still, something is better than nothing, I suppose…

You could have approached this in an eco documentary fashion showing tons of perfectly edible and nutritious products being plowed back into the ground – as the Italians have been known to do with their ‘tomato mountain’, and complement this with the dispossessed and starving. Wow, wish you’d’ve told me that before doing this assignment! Although, how would you have known that I was going to do this type of thing anyway? Possibly my lack of communicating with you could be something I will need to address in the future? (Thinking of the next tutor, that is.) Still, brilliant idea, and could still be developed for personal projects or even as a kind of adjunct to A4 – at least on the blog, so thanks for that!
But this set takes a different, more adventurous approach and, I think, offers an alternative vision, one that comments on the manipulation of genes and selective breeding. Yes, but do you think I should be wary of overcomplicating things? Am I running the risk of cramming too many ideas into one thing and inadvertently creating illegibility? I suppose I have kind of answered that question by the act of asking you it, haven’t I?

The Tomato, wrapped in wire, is the least ‘violent’ of the set, its  steel constraint, simple and effective.  The hard light and contrasting bright and saturated colours of subject and background (as in all the shots) emphasizes this idea of modification – a kind of false ‘purity’ of hue and depth. Yeah, as you say: “…emphasizes this idea of modification…”; I was looking to make them ‘sickly’, to exaggerate their form/texture/colour to coincide with our expectations of how the produce should be presented and sold to us on the stands, as well as to exaggerate the manipulation and tampering that seems to be going on.

The second shot of the apple punctured with screws creates a real tension; a symbolic visualization of torture and conflict not only between the steel and the flesh of the fruit but also the colour – silver against the green.  It could be a prop that the ‘pinhead’ character out of Clive Barker’s Hell Raiser series might carry with him.  I’m not sure about the selected focal plane which draws the eye to the back of the apple, and it might be better focused further forward so that the screws closer to the centre of frame are (also) sharp. Agreed, definitely Pinheadesque here (even if we are using screws here), although totally not intended but rather welcome all the same. Fair point about the focus, I see what you mean. I had tried to use a few different focus points (as can be seen from the contact sheets uploaded with the assignment) but to be honest, I was obsessed with the (progressively) submerged screws so much that I kind of neglected the other parts – at least with this particular framing. I think that was because I was quite pleased with the work I had put into sinking them in and just wanted to have that ‘penetration’ as a key point, and not unlike Barthes’ punctum (I think I’m beginning to understand his writing a bit more than before!), this aspect (being the screws) continually grabbed – and still draws – my attention.

The sweet potato wrapped in chain link has a similar feel to the first image, although the vegetable’s ‘mass’ calls for something a bit stronger.  The scratches/imperfections on the skin add to the feeling of constraint and struggle.   The focal plane and depth of field is better in this image, although could be a bit deeper to get some additional textural detail on the skin at the centre of the image.  This is a matter of personal taste at the end of the day as the composition works well. You know, I’d missed those scratches to be honest – they were a result of me cleaning the potato before shooting! The 42mm at F7.1 nicely framed the subject and still added a reasonably shallow DoF (although no where near as slim as the primes I’d been using) so that’s why we are still missing detail here (although I do like it this way).

The following, bell pepper superimposition is a strange image, like some hallucinatory vision out of the Ipcress File, although there is also a degree of absurdity which makes it all the more compelling.  It’s good to see you experimenting in this way, looking at the way double exposures can create a disturbing and unreal atmosphere.  It’s even more intense in the following shot of the radicchio and hypodermic needles; the vibrant, psychedelic colours creating a real feeling of unease.  This is perhaps the most abstract, and for me, the most successful shot of the set; so extreme, it really hits a nerve, and could be interpreted as a metaphor for the torture of man or beast. As I mention in my contact sheet notes, “In all honesty, I think the idea is the most successful of this assignment…” and I agree with you, it does feel psychedelic and extreme, and is definitely both the most dramatic as well as the most abstract shot for me too. What do you mean by “…a metaphor for the torture of man or beast.”? In what way? Forgive the ignorance, I am genuinely interested.

The final shot is a great composite, worthy of the best graphic novels in the horror genre. The steel wire appears to come out through the eyes of the black skull, and the green stalk of the tomato a kind of mad growth just tipping out of the frame.  The barcode and warning triangle are a nice touch to a very well blended set of images. Again, as my notes from the contacts also point out: “…as well as adding a stability to the double exposure thanks mainly to the triangle and the (intended) position of the wire through the eye and skull of the sign, and the (unseen at first [‘unseen’ meaning when I took the shot not after you noticed it too]) green stem coming out of the top of the skull.” I think the warning sign shot is a nice way to close this set, don’t you? The less ambiguous nature of the warning sign, the explicit visual (and implicit) warning message work well, I believe, as a way to clearly emphasise and clarify what this pseudo-fashion-come-advertising shoot actually means. Yes, I probably have been heavily influenced over the years (just look at the prep for A5!) by the comics I have been reading (since I was 13) so I will take that as a MASSIVE compliment, thank you!

My guess is this is a set that would get a strong reaction from most people.  The super saturated colour and grotesque imagery are reminiscent of the perfect advertising pack shots but also some of the high fashion images that can be see in today’s journals.
I have tried asking a handful of people what their impression of the series was varied: mainly confusion and incomprehension of the message from most people; only one or two got the warning feel to the set; it was only when I mentioned the idea behind it, and the intended message did it seem to click for the viewers. So, not that successful at communicate its intended image. Not that I find that that alarming – I quite like the doubt suggested, I want it to be there really: I want participation in interpretation NOT dogmatic regurgitation of what I’m trying to preach or prescribe. But still, I believe this project would need an explanatory text – if not under each photo – at least some sort of introduction to present the set. Perhaps even a title, something along the lines of Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2008) something like a paragraph, even a ‘strong’ title; a code number or more appropriately a sell-by date? I am really really looking forward to adding text to my images and will probably do a personal project on that, but I’d still like to keep it reasonably open to interpretation as not to exclude the viewer’s (equally) valid take on what they are looking at (bit like Duane Michal’s poetry).

Coursework            

 One again, you put a great deal of work into the four exercises leading up to the assignment – I’ve commented on these in our email correspondence.   The level of work is not only of a very high quality and demonstrates a real understanding of the principals of lighting, but also shows your tenacity, high level of interest and dedication to producing the very best work.
Thanks! I remember what my mum always used to say to me when I was younger: “If you’re gonna do something, do it properly.” which I still totally agree with. And I really am interested in photography, perception, learning, the mind, the self, life, and cannot see the point of just going through the motions with something like this – it needs to be real to work, needs to mean something to me or it is just a waste of time, like many things in life I suppose – what you give is what you get: the more we put in the more we get out, right? And to be honest, I could give more, but that would mean divorce, so this is as good as I can do, which just has to be enough, and is.

 Research

As above, your approach to research is exemplary, and this can be see in particular in 4.3 Artificial Light, where you explore all manner of examples from different media to gain an understanding – theoretical and through practical application – Carravagio, Hopper, Brassai, Sugimoto, Holdsworth and Shintaro.

Learning Log

In addition to the images, you offer a full set of contacts that show the amount of effort and exploration you put into this assignment. This is also accompanied by your notes and sketches revealing a detailed and considered workflow tailored for this subject and approach.

Suggested reading/viewing

 For the final assignment:

 The Lensculture Blog always offers some interesting work – search for ‘story’

https://www.lensculture.com/

Take a look at:

http://lenscratch.com/

and Duane Michals’ work (ha, already all over this guy – but thanks!)

http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals#1

Sarah Moon, ex model, worked with Polaroid photography and produced some very interesting work with a narrative base. (Dreamy, weird, like the retro image quality and mixed media; find it weird though, not what I’m used to; have tried to contact her for an interview, no luck yet…).

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=sarah+moon&espv=2&biw=1380&bih=670&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj40bucgtfNAhVIFMAKHdSfABgQ_AUIBigB&dpr=2#tbm=isch&q=sarah+moon+coincidences

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

The final Assignment, ‘Photography is Simple’ requires you take a set of ten shots of the same subject with a progressive development throughout – so order (or narrative), is an important component in terms of presentation – accompanied by a 300 word statement ‘what’s it about’.

We can chat by email as you start to work through Part 5 of the course As I have already said in our emails, I have finished part five a couple of weeks ago. And A5 is done too, just tweaking it for you.

Thinking about the Festive Season, I’ve suggested a slightly longer submission date for the final assignment, but if you feel you’re ready to submit earlier, please go ahead.
Great, really appreciate that, now I can procrastinate with style!


Tutor name Russell Murray
Date 6 Nov 2016
Next assignment due 10 Jan 2017

A5 prep 1: ideas and statement of intent

 THIS IS an almost FINISHED ROUGH COPY (3/1/17)
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What am I hoping to achieve with this project?;

  • a homage to Duane Michals, Andrey Rodchenko, and Walker Evans
  • an enjoyable thought-provoking sequence of cohesive images
  • a variety of shooting techniques
  • to challenge my own photographic abilities and creative ideas
  • to include/reference many inspirational artist (throughout the selection)
  • stay within the brief but unafraid to push beyond it
  • attempt some mixed media not just digital photos
  • finish this course with an ambitious, highly conceptualised (and hopefully successful) assignment
  • to preempt the next course by delving into the power of narration
  • to include an accompanying text/poem for each shot
  • and also to enjoy doing/attempting all of the above!
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8. Final story board of the sequence with detailed prep notes on what and how to approach each shot


What is the conceptual intention?

Having been inspired by a presentation by David Hurn of Duane Michals’ Things Are Queer sequence, I wanted to try something similar with my own photos for this assignment. My intention was to use the sequential power of the images and to include scenes within scenes. The idea was to show the images as having some kind of clear narrative connection between them and possibly to have some kind of stand-alone appeal too (although I don’t want to get too held up with that and would rather work on the sequence itself).

 

I had seen and read about Alexander Rodchenko’s brilliant and influential work and in particular his survival strategy of having to deface much of his work of liberals and artists or otherwise find himself ‘defaced’ or ‘removed’ under Stalin’s Purges. This irony I found shocking and sad and something that I felt needed to be remembered and respected especially regarding Rodchenko’s brave (or even cowardly?) sacrifice; was it his presumed pain of destroying his work and trying to survive at that difficult time in Russia, or a nod to his ability to adapt politically that is so intriguing? Whatever it actually may have been, I find it fascinating and worthy of inclusion here throughout the sequence.

So I wanted to include defacement in each image to pay homage to primarily Rodchenko, and also to create a quite clear homogeneity between the images, a clear linking theme which I hoped would be carried along within the sequence. Also, the defacement idea could be justified as simply adding anonymity as well as attempting to create some tension, and increase visual impact. I even toyed with the idea of not having to defend or validate its inclusion as Zoe Crosher did in her interesting Polaroided series (2008) and just leave that “indecision” there, something that Lucy Soutter (Soutter, L., 2013, p18) points out shouldn’t really be done:

“While contemporary art photographers do not necessarily reference these historical precedents explicitly, they rely on them to legitimate their work and to ensure that ambiguities are read as desirable complexity rather than as indecision, weakness or failure.”

However, I much preferred the inclusion and the reference to Rodchenko’s work more than Crosher’s (brilliantly) ambiguous and curious approach to her project.

What type of narrative style will be used?

The narrative style will most probably be from ‘behind the camera’ although I would like to try to mix styles (hopefully not confuse the viewer though).
What I mean by ‘mix styles’ is to try to use the three main conceptions of narrative as Barthes observes in Image Music Text (even if referring to the novel rather than photography, it is still relevant I feel [Barthes and Heath, 1990, pp. 110-112]). The first concept being: a narrative emanating from a person – the author, “…of a perfectly identified individual who periodically takes up a pen to write his story: the narrative (notably the novel) then being simply the expression of an I external to it.”; the second: the narrator as omniscient consciousness – “…at once inside his characters (since he knows everything that goes on in them) and outside them (since he never identifies with any one more than another),”; and the third one where, “…the narrator must limit his narrative to what the characters can observe or know, everything proceeding as if each of the characters in turn were the sender of the narrative.” Although my intention is to experiment, and as much as I find the third concept intriguing, I will most likely stick to the first “external I” narrative for both the images and the accompanying text (although with the latter there could be more scope to experiment with the second and third narrative styles).

The gradual panning out, used so wonderfully by Michals in his photography, was something that I had always admired in the work of writer Alan Moore’s graphic novels, especially his work with artist Dave Gibbons on their 1987 seminal graphic novel The Watchmen, as can be seen here:

The 1988 hardback edition of The Watchmen included extra material from both Moore and Gibbons’ preliminary studies for the book. These notes include a script that Moore wrote for Gibbons to help him visualize and get into the story before doing his first sketches. What amazed (and still amazes) me is the sheer amount of writing that Moore did (and presumably still does) for each panel – I suppose that comes with being a writer, but it is truly something to see (for the layman); like some sort of intense diary monologue which, I assume, must be quite intimidating for the artist; it just roars out his thoughts and feelings all intertwined with instructions and pointers. Here are his notes (from the 1988 edition) for just the first three panels from page one of The Watchmen:

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Alan Moore’s script for panels 1-3 of The Watchmen, page 1

I tried to copy this style when I made my own notes for this A5 assignment (the final story board image above) and found it very helpful for clearing my mind and visualizing and discovering (as well as discarding) various ideas and options available to me. Something I feel should become staple for my note taking (as well as a funny experience of trying to have a dialogue with myself – which we both liked, didn’t we, Kev?)

I also had an idea to possibly develop or include Scott McCloud’s fascinating observations about sequential images (and perception too) from his brilliant Understanding Comics (McCloud, 1994); here are a few snippets that I found pertinent as well as interesting:

I particularly like the final panel from page 101 of McCloud’s book where he discusses the concept of “greater length” suggested by the longer rectangular panel breaking up the normal flow – something which I have also recently read about (although relating to the presentation of photography and not comics) in Maria Short’s insightful book Context and Narrative (Short, M., 2011, p106):

“…it can be possible to achieve a certain pace in the series by using a particular size or shape of image at a key point in the sequence, either as a recurring theme or a one-off.”

This is something that I haven’t discarded as an alternative approach to my own intended presentation of this sequence (see below) and may use it, if not for this assignment, then for a later one perhaps – or even as a personal project in the not too distant future.
This connection between the narrative qualities of comics and photography (as with other forms of images of course) I find totally fascinating and look forward to developing a deeper understanding of this with the next course Context and Narrative.

More conceptual ideas

I was looking to include some of Walker Evans’ work too: The Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936 (simply because I like it and his work) and was inspired to make a cover for an invented magazine for one of my shots for the sequence (see shots 3,4, 9, and 10 below). The fact that the first edition of LIFE was also published in 1936, I found serendipitous and intriguing and I thought to include some content in some fashion within the sequence – perhaps using an advertisement from it on the back cover of my fictional magazine as a homage (with an eye to deface it in some way as not to be using any actual content from LIFE without permission of course – another justification for the blacking out of faces and defacement idea throughout the sequence). I also thought about recreating Evans’ wonderful Subway shots from New York (late 1930s to early 1940s) and attempting to put them into the sequence too (see shots 4 and 10 below).
The idea to blend Michals’ and Gibbons’ techniques, and a generous sprinkling of Walker Evans’ magic with the brooding Rodchenko undercurrent was something too good to let slip by however ambitious and challenging to actually realise.

Here’s my final idea as a storyboard (image 8) plus how the assignment took shape through some preliminary notes from my notebook:


How am I going to present these images?

The idea is to present the images as a sequence of 12 images (even if the brief says 10 – although shot 1 and 12 could be seen as the same image as could 2 and 11?) reading from left to right; I will resist my typical urge to crop to a square and use a standard 3:2 format for all the images to give the set its visual continuity (although, as mentioned above, I might use some different image sizes or formats to give the sequence some punctuation).
An alternative presentation could be to print them into a large magazine (almost broadsheet size) and have them viewed page by page to emphasize the sequential nature and to heighten the narrative effect, basically using the cover that I have used for the underground shots here.
Perhaps a series of four triptychs could also enhance the narrative of the images?
The assignment will also be presented online via my blog of course, and I will probably use individual images to allow a clean scroll down to help the narrative work here too, although, the idea of using triptychs in four groups in mini slide shows might also work for this – I am hoping to make some practice shots regarding the presentation and will add them to the blog.
Reading through Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics again, I came across many thought-provoking ideas and observations about images and perception which reminded me of his TED talk from 2005. It is also full of great insights one of which could be developed with this assignment (or, hopefully, at a later date) even though he was referring to the experience of comics being read through a computer monitor (13.01 on TED’s useful interactive tapescript):

“We could do circular narratives that were literally circular; we could do a turn in a story that was literally a turn.”

This gave me a presentation idea that could be used with this project. Whether or not I actually use any of these ideas with this assignment is by the by, what is useful here is just the thinking through it all, and, as I’m sure will happen, these ideas can be used at a later date with other assignments, projects and so on. Here are a few sketches and notes:

I am also seriously thinking about using some rudimentary poetry under each photo as a direct reference to Duane Michal’s use of text with his photography. The choice of text is a risky one, but I like the expected clarity it suggests and would like to play with that expectation to create a slight (or clear) ambiguity and doubt while trying to keep the focus on engaging the viewer and certainly not to condescend or spoon-feed them with the text  in any way, rather a playful addition seemingly in line with Michals’ own quite wonderful/annoying* mischievousness.
*Delete as appropriate (watch and make up your own idea)

I would like to include commentary based on Mark Power’s The Shipping Forecast to one of the images. However, unlike Power, I won’t be visiting the place mentioned in the forecast as I intend to invent my own forecast pertinent to the image presented (see shot 11), although I do intend to keep the format of the text similar to the standard broadcasts, that being: place, wind, rain and finally visibility, but render it as a poem to keep with the Michals’ idea.
Sticking with the idea of including text, I recently came across Jim Goldberg‘s work, and find it fascinating as well as moving. I could possibly include some sort of homage to his powerful work from the 70s onwards, however, I don’t want to overcrowd this assignment, could I run the risk of flooding it with too many signs and signifieds perhaps? Although, I don’t see that as such a massive issue as I need to push myself to see what I can, and can’t do with these projects.

What about the sequence?

Shot 1
The sequence of images starts off from an almost black macro photograph of the front cover of the Watchmen (being black on the hardback edition I have). There needs to be a suggestion of the details embossed on the surface of the book, as to not keep the image totally black as well as leaving some sort of trace of the Watchmen inspired visual, namely the iconic ‘blood splurge’ (but mindful not to have the detail dominate).  Looking at slightly underexposing by a couple of stops or possibly just reducing exposure in post production later. (EXIF data will be added to final sequence but I have not put anything on these test shots below.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShot 1 – Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Here is my preliminary shot – darkened by using levels in post production (exposure/contrast and blacks). Are they gonna sue me? I suppose I could clone out one of the eyes or something – make it clearly different yet still recognizable? I would like to add this short text from the Watchmen’s opening panel:
“This city is afraid of me
I have seen its true face
Of what Reinhart and Malevic didn’t see
And which Robert Fludd left no trace.”
The first two lines are directly from the Watchmen, whereas the final two lines are my words. The references here (Reinhart, Malevic, Fludd) are some of the pioneers to the ‘the black image as art’ or “The Great Darkness” which I stumbled upon when reading up for A2 (see idea 13 from the notes for that assignment, and which was further developed in the A2 addendum) and thought their inclusion only fair if not obligatory.

Shot 2
As we pan out (just as Michals did and as Gibbons was instructed to do by Moore), we see the next frame (shot 2) revealing a close up of Alexander Rodchenko’s portrait of Vladimir Mayakovsky. This portrait is blacked out across the eyes, (one of the main recurring themes of this sequence) with, perhaps, enough contextual clues as to be recognizable as Rodchenko’s famous portrait. My idea is to take a picture of the portrait and then print this shot onto photographic paper. My reasoning being that the defacing would be more authentic and look more like the original scratched and burned out images by Rodchenko himself – or a nod to Emily Watts’ work although without the acetate (M. Short, 2011, p158). I am hoping to include some text from some of Mayakovsky’s poetry:
“If I were dim as the sun,
Night I’d drill
with the rays of my eyes.”
-Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1916, excerpt from:
To his Own Beloved Self The Author Dedicates These Lines
I think the reference to “eyes” here works well, as Rodchenko’s portrait here has captured Mayakovsky’s intense stare.

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Photo of a photocopy of a book image of a photography of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky taken by Rodchenko in 1924. I really like the unintended profile ghost shadow formed by my shading; almost looks like he is turning away, in anguish.

I’m thinking that the first shot should be connected here somehow, and not just with the black, possibly include the Watchmen smiley? Like so:

a5-dr-2-iii
Shot 2 – with poorly edited “splurge” inclusion? Possibly some better editing… The smiley face to the top left here is almost like a thought to the Watchmen which, amongst many other things, has a series of cover-ups woven into its plot;  relevant as this is exactly what Rodchenko was trying to do: cover up his past allegiances (although granted not with Mayakovsky’s portrait – Stalin proclaimed him a hero in 1935!) and look towards a different, brighter future perhaps; which is exactly what Moore and Gibbons did in the conclusion to their groundbreaking – although admittedly dated – graphic novel.

Although, to be honest, I don’t like the Watchmen smiley here, doesn’t seem to work too well for me and I probably won’t include it.

Shot 3
The third image will be of a close up of a magazine cover inspired by the Walker Evans cover from the Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936 (as mentioned above). The cover will be different to Evans’ one: there won’t be 15 blocks of fifteen portraits repeated on the cover as he used (the portraits would be too small for my intended idea), whereas my intention is to include twenty inspirational artists (for me) as well as some iconic portraits. These portraits will then be blacked out with a black strip slashed across the eyes (although Rodchenko’s shot needs to be slightly different and clearly represented in the frame to link back to the second shot as well as work as a cohesive sequence).

I could include some text for the cover shot,  (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum, 2016)
“This picture is a composite portrait of a slice of society. It represents the window display of an anonymous portrait photographer in the South during the Depression. He was evidently not much of an artist but was good at pinching pennies, eager for business, and proud of his trade. On each of his large negatives he managed to make fifteen individual portraits. He thought most exposures good enough to use in this advertising display but covered his occasional failures with more successful images cut from other contact sheets”
I’d like to add this text under my image as a direct reference to Taryn Simon’s use of accompanying text with 2008 project An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar although I will probably present the text under the photo using Michals’ style.

The back cover will be only slightly visible (as it plays a larger part and will be revisited in shot 9). I want the whole frame filled with the cover which will be held at an angle as if someone is reading it (they will be in the next frame) with Rodchenko’s portrait blacked out and clear within the shot – without which I feel that the connection would be too tenuous. However, I intend to paste (stick on) shot 8 to the back cover (which will only be partially visible) to add to the repetitive connectedness of the sequence (much in the style of Things Are Queer).

I am also thinking about writing a long poem as a homage to the artists and characters that I have selected for my cover which can be read here: A5 Prep 3: B/W dummy run with accompanying texts

This shot can be taken whilst shooting images 4-5 as well as shots 9-10, hopefully on an underground train as explained below. The shot could equally be taken in a studio set up (meaning my front room not an actual studio) although the lighting would have to be pretty close to shots 4-5 and 9-10 to keep the technical aspects homogeneous.

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Shot 3 – close up

Shot 4
This shot is a blatant reenactment (a tableaux possibly?) of Walker Evans’ pioneering New York subway shots from 1938 through to 1941 where he hid his fast Contax 35mm beneath his coat and shot random people (mostly unaware of his camera). Genius. I’m thinking of actually using the London Underground as I will be there for a short holiday in early November. But looking at Evans’ shots, we can see that the background is the old wooden structures of the train’s windows that are no longer used. Possibly this shot could be more appropriately staged in an old English pub where the dim light and wooden windows could be similar to Evans’ 1938 work? Have I just justified me being in a pub? Excellent!
Although saying that, A trip to the London Transport Museum might bear promising fruit regarding dated carriage backgrounds (even the old buses could be useful for this).
However, the much more modern trains in use in London might add another interesting effect to the homage though, something that needs to be experimented with – after all I don’t think I want to faithfully copy or imitate Walker Evans’ work to the letter, but rather just be inspired by it for this assignment. The model will be sitting reading my fictional magazine. The magazine will be clearly seen and the model’s face will be blacked out with a black strip (to be added once printed) as mentioned before with the idea of keeping some sort of continuity with all the images, as well as the connection to Rodchenko again.

Whilst reading through Aperture’s Masters of Photography book on Evans I came across  the name of Walkers Evans’ close friend James Agee (and found his poem Rapid Transit about the subway); appropriately, this could possibly (and will) be used for shot 4:

Rapid Transit

Squealing under city stone
The millions on the millions run,
Every one a life alone,
Every one a soul undone:

There all the poisons of the heart
Branch and abound like whirling brooks
And there through every useless art
Like spoiled meats on a butcher’s hooks

Pour forth upon their frightful kind
The faces of each ruined child:
The wrecked demeanors of the mind
That now is tamed, and once was wild.

— James Agee, 1937 (Reuter, 2016)

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Shot 4 – Train shot homage to Walker Evans (this amazing model was in my front room). In this practice shot I think I’ll keep the WRONG framing of having a window frame coming out of the top of the reader’s head alla John Baldessari! Still, well see what happens when we get to London Town…

Shot 5
I’m looking to pan out again from shot 4 where we can see someone holding a mobile phone and using it to take a picture of the scene in shot 4. I could set this shot up by taking an actual picture of someone taking a picture (with a phone) of the scene in shot 4, or I could do this somewhere else and have image four on the phone’s screen – although I’m sure there will be some exposure issues with that – so I may just cut and paste this image in post production (even if I’d actually like to do it literally not with the computer?).
Or possibly just a hand reaching out for a phone with shot 4 on it? Something like this:

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Shot 5 – A homage to no one. Yeah, there aren’t any blacked out faces in the photo on the phone (although there obviously will be in the final selection).

Shot 6
For this shot I would like to insert a slightly panned out version of shot 5 onto a cinema screen – a direct and clear reference to Sugimoto’s Theatre series of photos. I recently managed to get inside a local theatre hall (they were very kind and let me snap away during maintenance and even offered me coffee!) and have been able to get some decent shots of the screen which was off, so some issues there if I want to get a lifelike dark effect illuminated just by the screen – similar to that done by Sugimoto – but that is not such an issue as I have already played around with some software and got the effect pretty close to Sugimoto’s light (even if completely different!). The slight issue may be trying to put (copy and paste, literally or digitally) my image onto the cinema screen (although my first practice attempts have been fun and semi-successful). The reason I say that, is that I don’t have Photoshop and barely know how to use Paint.Net (other products are available no doubt) – although I can always ask someone to help me!

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Shot 6 – Sugimoto eat your heart out, er, maybe not.

These practice shots, although a far cry from Sugimoto’s impressive and suggestive moods, are close enough for me to be used in the sequence. The model (if in the shot) that will be holding up the mobile phone will also have their head defaced to keep in theme with the previous shots – even if the darkness present (added by me) within the theatre hall keeps the photos relevant. Probably easier to use this type of shot with just the reaching hand and the phone on a table or something. Text from Sugimoto’s website (as well as Michael Fried’s book Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, 2012, p5) could be used under the shot, although, maybe not all of it (just my bold selection for example below):

“I’m a habitual self-interlocutor. Around the time I started photographing at the Natural
History Museum, one evening I had a near-hallucinatory vision. The question-and-answer session that led up to this vision went something like this: Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large-format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.
-H. Sugimoto

Shot 7
Here, I would like to shrink down shot 6 and put it in a frame which will then be seen on a shelf with some other pictures – possibly other iconic images or some other relevant symbols from 1936, or of Michals, Rodchenko, Evans, or something new? Or a load of my books and bits and bobs? (The bullet from my “response” to Edgerton’s Bullet Through Apple shot had to go in!).
My idea with this shot is to print the shot and place it in a frame. The frame could be hand-made by me, or I could just use an appropriately sized one from somewhere (store-bought, made, borrowed). I’m thinking of adding a monologue of a viewer (presumably the owner of the bookcase?) in something like the style of Jim Goldberg’s (very interesting) stuff such as The Nursing Home series from 1985 (which is handwritten and similar enough to Michals’ style too, I think); a preliminary idea can be seen here in A5 Prep 2 (text with image ideas and notes).

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Shot 7 – The idea with this practice shot is to add lots of detail, not to lose the “framed picture” shot, but seeing as this will then be inserted into a Thomas Struth gallery shot, I thought it would be appropriate to include detail seeing as those ex-Becher students tend to crave its allure. Not that my tiny sensor could ever dream of matching those view cameras that they all seem to use for their photography, but the idea still works in my view and without totally swamping out my Sugimoto homage. Please note the Watchmen inclusion too, as well as Scott McCloud’s fabulous book Understanding Comics.

Shot 8
Would like to pan out again from the framed photo of shot 7 and we find ourselves looking at a picture on a gallery wall with the framed photo within it. I think I need to take a picture of the full scene from shot 7 to reveal where the photo is? I’m still not 100% clear how to do this bit yet, need some trial and error. For the gallery shot, I was thinking about using one of Thomas Struth’s gallery series, in particular Art Institute of Chicago II, from 1990, as the base and then paste my full gallery picture in one of the large paintings that he captured. I was thinking about adding some quotes from Fried’s book  (Fried, 2008), and Cotton’s too  (Cotton, 2009) regarding their comments on Struth’s gallery shots (first preliminary ideas about using their texts can also be seen on the A5 prep 2 post).

struth-g-edit-2
Here is an example of what I am hoping to do. Here we see my cover portraits pasted onto Sugimoto’s theatre screen (this image would actually be my shot 6 – this is just a dummy run ) which is then pasted into Struth’s main painting in the Chicago Institute. I’m not even sure I understand it, need to do a practice run with it first.
Here’s an experimental shot and what I would actually like to see incorporating shot 7:
a5-dr-8

Shot 9
Zooming out from the gallery (institute) scene we discover that this is actually an advert on the back cover of a magazine which someone is holding. So this shot is very similar to shot 3 – this is 100% intended. Only this time the back cover dominates the frame with only a slice of the front cover (the opposite of shot 3) visible. Shot 8 (meaning the pasted shots 6-7) I think still needs to be visible, as does the blacked out portrait by Rodchenko possibly? Although he will be revealed in shot 10 so that may not be necessary.
Something like this?
a5-shot-9-final-iii
Another rough copy which I am hoping to tweak…
The MOMA text that accompanies the Penny Picture Display might also be appropriate here as my “accompanying poetry”

Shot 10
Here we are back to familiar territory with a shot of someone reading my fake magazine again (thinking of using a different person reading it this time); again their face will be blacked out. This shot, along with shot 4, needs to be taken at the same time which poses some creative challenges: how will I get the intervening shots that I need to shrink down onto the back cover advert if I haven’t even taken them when I take this shot? Meaning, if I have to take shot 4 and 10 at the same time (in London), then I logically will not have shots 5,6,7,8 and neither shot 9 which needs to be on the back cover, bearing in mind I still have the idea of shooting on the Underground when I am there, which is causing the problem, I suppose, so I could just set this all up locally…But that would take away half the fun if not all of it!
I need to do a dummy run, see if this is viable. I know it is, just can’t see it perfectly yet. After all, I could just create the images I need by editing the sequence once I have all the shots – I could then just paste in the blanks so to speak, but again less fun and seems like a short cut too (or even a cop-out), one that I do not want to take, but may have to eventually if my practice run fails. Be adaptable, just like Rodchenko was!
Here’s how this shot is shaping up:
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No shot 8/9 inclusion here yet, will be pasting that in at a later date…

I am writing a monologue for this shot from the perspective of the train which will be put under the image using a poem format. The fictional rant is from an imaginary collection of ‘train interviews’ called: The Train Carriage Interviews. This particular train in the London Transport Museum is – appropriately – a 1938 Northern Line Underground train which I found wonderful as both Evans’ Subway series of shots and the Penny Picture Display cover were from that period! Here’s the excerpt in all its weird glory:
“All these years of arseholes; arseholes farting on and staining me with their putrid stenches; Bitches and wenches, drunks and punks, leaving their dust and tears to enter every part of me like I don’t do enough for them as it is; plastering me with their symbols, and images all of which come and go; sad as it is, I am not alone, there are the others with me – they too ripped from their duties, stripped of their meanings, placed in this place, put in the dungeon – this prison of nostalgia, in this resource wasting waste of space; gazed upon like freaks of nature, freaks in a show; relics of your vanity, remnants of your passage through time, watching your noisy brief journey, your wonderfully sad raping of everything; we are glorified by your lights as ours have grown dim – you shelter us, this at least we accept; but let us decompose naturally as all things should, without your eyes, and photographs, without your pity or your pride; I have wheels yet I cannot move, let me move again, roar again; let me live again.”
Unfortunately, a totally fictional collection of interviews, but something that might be an interesting idea to develop on as a personal project: the unheard voices of the forgotten, or something, by looking at the common everyday objects all around us and interviewing them? Ok, not actually interviewing them, but imagining that I were! Imagine the possibilities here: an interview in Chinese (electronic devices), Vietnamese trainers, old Russian Cameras arguing with Japanese ones?

Shot 11
This shot we start to zoom in as opposed to constantly zooming out (why the change? Can I do that? Why not?) and it will be almost identical to shot 2.
This could just be Rodchenko again, or perhaps zoom in to someone else from the cover, Alan Moore perhaps? What about zooming out again – to keep it cohesive – only this time the blacked out figure is Buddy Holly (born 1936) and we see shot 10 reflected in his glasses? But then where would we go for shot 12? And surely this would deviate from Michal’s idea – not that I have to stick rigidly to that.

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Paul Strand – Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France, 1951. Gelatin silver print. Thanks to Paul Strand as always.

A nod to the glorious work of Paul Strand perhaps here? Or possibly a different ‘symmetry’ to this set by using another Michals’ inspired surprise shot? Like so:

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Shot 11 – About to Be Switched Off. Probably final idea.

Here, we see someone about to switch a monitor off with shot 10 being displayed. I like the idea of this shot, something that I had thought about in my original notes (page 4 from the above notes), and a good way to ‘get me back’ to the black last image. I could have easily avoided any issues with trying to return to the black shot by ending with a different image, but I really like its closure and how it mimics Michals’ Things Are Queer (the real inspiration behind this assignment), but also how I can then play around with Scott McCloud’s “circular narrative” idea when presenting the work not perhaps for this assignment but more likely for a future presentation of it (as seen with my notes on presentation above).
This way shot 11 would merge nicely with my original intended ending of returning to the black image from the beginning of the sequence, again, similar to what Duane Michals had done with his Things Are Queer sequence.

Would also like to include commentary here based on Mark Power’s The Shipping Forecast which I found looking through Context and Narrative (Short, M., 2011, pp150-151). Unlike Power, I won’t be visiting the place mentioned in the forecast as I intend to invent my own forecast pertinent to the image presented (shot 11), although I do intend to keep the format of the text similar to the standard broadcasts, that being: place, wind, rain and finally visibility. Something along the lines of this:
“Variable 3 or 4, Becoming southeasterly, at times, Rough, or very rough, occasionally high, Showers everywhere, Moderately good, occasionally very poor, eventually dark, or even black”
Adding the “…eventually poor, or even black” last line would pull the viewer nicely into position for the final shot (being almost totally dark, black itself), set them up for the end which is in fact a return to the beginning.

Shot 12
Close up again of The Watchmen cover, this time from a slightly different angle, or possibly the same shot? As mentioned before, the idea is to bring the sequence to a close with the final shot being the first shot, possibly indicating an infinite repetition, the cycle of life, or just the concept of cycle as one of the true constants of human existence.
Or perhaps without any justification (thinking of  Crosher again!) because that is how I want it to end?

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With shot 12 – returning to the beginning of the sequence – I stay faithful to Duane Michals’ style, and yet not just a blatant copy. Although I think it should be darker, meaning blacker, as the Watchmen smiley seems to be a non sequitur here – too evident, needs to be more subtle perhaps. I’m thinking more along the lines of something like this:
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A black and white dummy run with the above images and the proposed texts as poetry under the photos, can be seen here with my A5 Prep 3: B/W dummy run with accompanying texts post.

Conclusion

This fascinating journey into some amazing photographers as well as photographic techniques has really pushed me to define how I understand (and have understood) photography, particularly my own, up to now.
Duane Michals’ work  – discovered fortuitously thanks to David Hurn – has really caught my eye (and mind), as has looking at Walker Evans’ work, reading through Barthes’ (tricky) analyses, and delving into the often murky waters of Russian Constructivism and Suprematism which I found particularly illuminated by Rodchenko’s art (and others such as Lissitzky, Klutsis but not forgetting others elsewhere such as, Bayer, Heartfield, Moholy-Nagy etc.).
All of this has helped me to appreciate photography as not just a Europe-centric, or American phenomenon, (although, respectively, that’s where it all kicked off for sure), or as some social media fad either, but rather a genuine visual and intellectual language that can be (and demands to be) presented and read in many different ways, and that is undoubtedly culturally bound, yet can (usually) cross those invisible borders with ease.
A fascinating, evolving, dynamic language that I will probably be (and look forward to) studying and observing and learning for the rest of my life.

Sources

Dcmooregallery.com. (2016). Duane Michals – Artists – DC Moore Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals#3 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye Photography Festival. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLCisOI0Xw [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Wales Arts Review. (2016). David Hurn at The Eye International Photography Festival – Wales Arts Review. [online] Available at: http://www.walesartsreview.org/david-hurn-at-the-eye-international-photography-festival/ [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

YouTube. (2016). Photographer Duane Michals Talks About His Career. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZa_oOzXVkY&list=LLQaHf9JAWYjHV3RrR8ozYCg&index=3 [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Rockpaperink.com. (2016). Undercover: XXXXXXXX XXX XX XXXXXXXXX XXX. – RockPaperInk. [online] Available at: http://www.rockpaperink.com/content/column.php?id=485 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2016].

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1998 | Rodchenko | Portraits of Mayakovsky. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1998/rodchenko/texts/portraits_mayakov.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Mayakovsky, V. (2016). Poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky. [online] Marxists.org. Available at: https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/literature/mayakovsky/1916/own-beloved-self.htm [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Veoh.com. (2016). Watch Videos Online | Genius of photography – 2 | Veoh.com. [online] Available at: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v7279508h5dT6DeQ [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

Zoecrosher.com. (2016). ZC. [online] Available at: http://www.zoecrosher.com/polaroided [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

Moore, A. and Gibbons, D. (1987). Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc.

DC. (2016). WATCHMEN. [online] Available at: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/watchmen [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. 1st ed. New York: HarperPerennial.

McCloud, S. (2016). The visual magic of comics. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics#t-825156 [Accessed 18 Nov. 2016].

The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Walker Evans. Penny Picture Display, Savannah. 1936 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/58181?locale=fr [Accessed 1 Nov. 2016].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (2016). Walker Evans | Penny Picture Display, Savannah | The Met. [online] Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265556 [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Short, M. (2011). Context and Narrative. 1st ed. 1000 Lausanne: Ava Publishing SA.

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA | Walker Evans. Subway Portrait. from the series Subway Portraits. 1938–41. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walker-evans-subway-portraits-1938-41 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2016].

Reuter, K. (2016). eCUIP : The Digital Library : Social Studies : Chicago: City of Neighborhoods. [online] Ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu. Available at: http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/arts/public_art/gallery/paint/paint_undercit.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Sugimotohiroshi.com. (2016). Hiroshi Sugimoto. [online] Available at: http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/theater.html [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Collections.vam.ac.uk. (2016). Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France | Paul Strand | V&A Search the Collections. [online] Available at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1059589/young-boy-gondeville-charente-france-photograph-paul-strand/ [Accessed 23 Nov. 2016].

Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1990). Image, music, text. 1st ed. [London]: Fontana.

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos Photographer Profile. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZHEN [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Pro.magnumphotos.com. (2016). Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGROLS [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

O’Hagan, S. (2014) The photographer who caught the heartbreak on both sides of America’s social divide. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/03/jim-goldberg-rich-and-poor-photography (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Goldberg, J. (2016) Raised by wolves. Available at: https://vimeo.com/39715337 (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Higgins, J. (2013.). Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. London: Quintessence Editions.

Cotton, C. (2009). The photograph as contemporary art. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Fried, M. (2008). Why photography matters as art as never before. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Marien, M. (2014). Photography. 1st ed. London: King.

Contacts

Ok, I have no idea why the date came out like it did on the contacts. Will change that for submission, but just cannot be bothered to change all these now. Yeah, you read that right.

P3 – Road Sign Abstracts

I thought that zooming in on some everday things would be a cool idea.

14-42mm, and 40-150mm zooms used; cropping and editing in post production.