Category Archives: Part 2 Projects & Exercises Narrative

Project 3: Dewald Botha Ring Road

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Dewald Botha taken from Ring Road

I felt drawn to Dewald Botha’s Ring Road for a number of reasons.

1) The work is set in China a place of increasing interest to myself as my mother was born in Hong Kong.
2) Dewald talks of being an outsider in the Country again a position that I can in part identify with for a number of reasons.

3) The subject matter the built environment and the Ring Road itself I find aesthetically attractive and therefore interesting as a concept on a number of levels.

4) He speaks of a search for beauty or relief and I am beginning to see this as a way forward for my forthcoming assignment 2.

5) As he walked the entire inner ring road over the period of a year I respect the intensity of his working practice.

6) His search for calmness has given me confidence and direction in my idea for assignment 2.

7) How his original idea has developed into a journey culminating in the creation of more universal concept interpreted through the lens of our own experiences is a journey that I would like to embark upon.

Whilst all three projects are interesting and thought provoking Dewald’s way of work stands out as relevant to my own thoughts and has provided a framework from which I hope to develop my own personal idea into a more universal and substantial concept.

We are asked how we feel about losing authorial control over our own images to the viewer and I must admit that I am inspired by this and would dearly love to be able to achieve this. This would be art.

Project 2, exercise in interpretation: If by Rudyard Kipling

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This is the only poem that my father passed on to us and it became part of his encouragement and insistence that his children to do better than he had and has stayed with me as I became a father.

Reading the poem aloud after all these years I now reflect on what I became and the hopes that I had for him and what he is now becoming as a person. Not in material terms but in terms of his spirit, in how he lives his life and how he is with others.

To illustrate my feelings I have chosen a reflective mood created by the following components:

George dressed informally gazing out and slightly upwards to imply a modest optimism whilst in thoughtful restraint. As the hands are excluded from the frame it implies a sense of inevitability and lack of control in our universe.

Black and white colour scheme with a mild vignette to imply a historical feel, again a sense of reflection.

Using a single image to create impact in reflecting an overall sense and mood rather than the communication of a story through multiple images.

Moving the project further

I think this concept could be developed into a deeper say assignment series of images of similar form but varied compositions such as George in different settings in different poses but with a consistency in the overall aesthetic quality.

Reference list

To see the full text of If by Rudyard Kipling you can see it at

http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_if.htm (accessed 18/05/2016)

Research: Images accompanied by text and audio

Sophie Calle’s Take care of yourself

The art works to deconstruct the text, interpret and transpose it’s meaning. In one video exhibit the letter is read aloud by a professional female clown. In another there are large hung canvasses displaying the text in braille (image below) and shorthand versions seemingly acting as metaphors used to re-evaluate the significance of the letter and in turn it’s author.

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Sophie Calle Taken from Take Care Of Yourself 

What follows is an extract from the interpretation made by a female criminologist and a contributor to the project:

“This email if it is authentic is apparently written by a seductive manipulator who maintains a relationship of dominance and influence over others. His is a non aggressive influence, the influence of someone adept with words, who has the capacity to pass off any negative act on his part in a manner that places himself in the position of victim obviating himself of blame and making the person he is speaking to feel guilty.” (http://artintelligence.net/review/?p=147) accessed 05/05/16

The sheer vastness of interpretations and opinions begin to take over and become an overwhelming avalanche of forensic detail and information to the viewer. This creates a powerful emotional force generated from within such a narrow formal brief and has resulted in a varied and complex body of work which can be interpreted in a number of ways and on a number of different levels but it was at it’s most simplistic Sophie Calle’s way of taking care of herself.

The work reflects postmodern approaches to narrative in that there is not a clear linear story line or plot but a complex melting pot of evidence from which the viewer can reflect upon, interpret and ultimately judge if they so wish.

Calle’s work has been labelled a simple act of revenge, she disagrees and supporting this claim is her artistic history which has consistently used human emotion and reaction as it’s subject matter. Others can interpret in whichever way we choose relative to our own histories, opinions and motivations.

It’s prompts many thoughts, emotions and questions about human action and reaction, relative control, emotions and their disruption, gender identity, behaviours and ultimately relationships. I really enjoyed trying to understand the depth of thought which underpins this art work and really enjoyed attempting it’s review.

Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the field

This work can be viewed at: https://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ (accessed 05/05/16)

The series was made during Rickett’s artistic residency at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge (IoA). Initially reworking original negatives from an obsolete scientific programme Rickett progressed the work to include a series of improved aesthetic images plus a wider range of original images plus a text essay which links together a number of passages containing memories of the artist from her childhood and early adult life plus her uneasy experiences of working closely with the original scientist.

In an interview with Sharon Boothroyd of OCA the artist concludes, “the work came to be about a kind of symbiosis on the one hand, but on the other there is a real tension, a sense of us resisting one another. The material in the middle stays the same, but its kind of contested, fought over.” It is clear that artist Sophy Rickett was extremely interested in making sure that the original scientist Dr. Wilstrop was an active participant in the process and tried to make some sense of their interaction for the completeness of her artistic work.

The patchwork structure of the essay placed together with the range of images included in the series reflects a postmodern narrative approach of creating a fluid and complex structure allowing and inviting the viewer to participate in the process of interpretation. It prompted me to think about collective knowledge and opinions, relationships and how we interact with others and how this looks from within and outside ourselves. Very interesting in it’s composition and the personal approach of the artist.

New York Times One in 8 million

A collection of mini projects which overlays black and white images of 54 New Yorkers with audio clips of the specific individuals speaking on subjects specific to their lives.

A really interesting way of showing the diversity of people in the city and further evidence of how text either visual or verbal changes the whole viewing experience and with it our perception.

This collection can be viewed by following the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/#

Kaylyn Deveney The Day-to-Day Life of Alfred Hastings  

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Kaylyn Deveney taken from The Day-To-Day life of Alfred Hastings

In this project the artist asks the subject to make their own captions on her images and, “thereby adding a critical second perspective to this work.” (Deveney, K)

I ‘am now beginning to realize just how powerful text can be in terms of defining the meaning of an image which is quite frightening given the amount of exposure we all now have to text accompanied images in a mass media dominated society.

Equally significant is our collective knowledge of images and (perceived) meanings and the codes and signals linking the two. This is of major significance when we begin to try to understand why we perceive things the way we do but also how many different individual interpretations are therefore possible.

Karen Knorr

Gentlemen (1981-1983) was photographed in Saint James’s clubs in London and investigated the patriarchal conservative values of Britain during the early 1980s. The images are combined with text in a critical and playful manner again demonstrating how the use of relay can really add direction and therefore impact to the meaning of an image.

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Karen Knorr taken from the series Gentlemen 

Gentlemen (1981-1983) was photographed in Saint James’s clubs in London and investigated the patriarchal conservative values of Britain during the early 1980s. The images are combined with text in a critical and playful manner again demonstrating how the use of relay can really add direction and therefore greater impact to the meaning of an image.

The final piece of research is a photograph by Duane Michals entitled This Photograph is My Proof (1974)

We are asked whether the image (is) actually proof of a happy liaison or is that just what we choose to see? What do you (we) think?

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Duane Michals This Photograph Is My Proof

Below the photograph above Michals writes,

This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself! 

A literal explanation might be that the couple are now no longer happy and this is a reminder of times gone by. However it is Duane Michals’ interest in the relationship between reality and fiction which tests the believability of photography which prompts us to consider whether we can rely upon the image and text to be authentic but instead should question whether there was ever a relationship between the couple and we are in fact viewing an elaborate constructed act.

A clue lies in another Duane Michals image (below).

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Duane Michals A Failed Attempt To Photograph Reality

Summary

Accompanying text certainly adds an additional layer in influencing and controlling the definition of meaning of the image. The inclusion of text seems to create the need for us to have a definite opinion and such is the role of language in our culture this seems to multiply any critical analysis.

As always the broader context including the motivation of the artist and now the perspective of the viewer contribute in developing any potential interpretation but when used correctly text can convert the purpose of the photograph into an entirely entity and into a different realm of thinking.

Reference List

An overview of Sophie Calle’s Take care of yourself can be seen at:

https://www.paulacoopergallery.com/exhibitions/sophie-calle-take-care-of-yourself/installation-views (accessed 05/05/16)

An article reviewing Sophie Calle’s Take care of yourself can be found at http://artintelligence.net/review/?p=147 (accessed 05/05/16)

Chrisafis, A. (2007) He loves me not. Guardian website 16/06/07. Can be viewed at:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art (accessed 05/05/16)

An overview of Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field can be seen at:

https://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ (accessed 05/05/16)

New York Times one in 8 million

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/#

(Accessed 06/05/2016)

http://kaylynndeveney.com/the-day-to-day-life-of-albert-hastings

(accessed 06/05/16)

Kaylyn Deveney image taken from http://kaylynndeveney.com/bert-grid (accessed 06/05/16)

Karen Knorr’s work can be seen at:

http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen/ (accessed 06/05/16)

http://www.1000wordsmag.com/duane-michals/

Duane Michals A failed attempt to photograph reality can be seen at:

http://www.reframingphotography.com/content/duane-michals (accessed 07/05/16)

 

Postmodernism and the death of the author

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Cindy Sherman

Postmodernism in the art world began in the 1960s and was initiated by the political, cultural and social changes taking place at the time and coincided with photography’s progressive acceptance as an art form and a highly relevant medium of the times.

Postmodernism questioned the authority of art collapsing the difference between high art/culture of modernism and mass/popular culture. As seen in the pop art movement artists began to experiment outside of medium specific conditions instead focussing upon their new ideas in transforming previously held modern view.

Artists began to use photography as a reference to a modern consumer society founded on the use of the photographic image as it’s ubiquitous code of language. Liz Wells (2009, p.286) comments that this was because, “photography then was still seen as inherently different (commercial, popular, documentary) from more established art forms such as painting and sculpture. This was no doubt in part because, to echo Roland Barthes, many elements within their pictures were deja-lu (already read). But this was the whole point.”

Roland Barthes’ highly influential poststructuralist essay Death of the author (1967) focussed on the written text but his viewpoint effectively questions the authority of the artist as well the author when he writes, “the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture”. Barthes argues for the liberation from the control and influence of the author’s (and critic’s) history, knowledge and interpretation on the basis that their work is the result of a cumulative and collective understanding and knowledge and not original in any case. And in order for us the reader to be born then the author must be sacrificed.

An excellent example of postmodern photography is Sherrie Levine’s 1981 landmark series After Walker Evans where Levine photographed and reproduced famous Walker Evans photographs from an exhibition catalogue. Levine’s work according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, was

“both praised and attacked as a feminist hijacking of patriarchal authority, a critique of the commodification of art, and an elegy on the death of modernism. Far from a high-concept cheap shot, Levine’s works from this series tell the story of our perpetually dashed hopes to create meaning, the inability to recapture the past, and our own lost illusions.”

(Quoted from the Metropolitan of Art website and accessed 01/05/2016)

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214

Reference list  

Barthes, R 1967 Death of the author

http://writing.upenn.edu/~taransky/Barthes.pdf (accessed 26/04/2016)

Bull, S (2010). Photography. Abingdon: Routledge

Wells,L. (2009). Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th ed.) Abingdon: Routledge

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267214

Cindy Sherman image can be seen at:

http://www.lightwork.org/news/cindy-sherman-retrospective-comes-to-moma/

(accessed 01/04/2016)

Project 2 Image and text

Roland Barthes 1967 essay Rhetoric of the Image contains two concepts describing the effect that text has on the meaning of an image.

Anchor – text controls the meaning of the image

Relay – text has an equal status to the picture. Used to create a fuller reading of the image that allows for ambiguity and broader interpretations. More akin to post-modernism’s view of narrative.

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To illustrate how powerful text can be in contextualising images and providing meanings I have made several examples using the above image taken from the Hillsborough disaster. For 27 years families of the dead have fought a long and arduous battle against the establishment to clear the names of the Liverpool fans. This week it was ruled that they were unlawfully killed on that day in 1989.

The actual text used by independent news website accessed on 30/04/2016 uses the anchor text

“An injured fan gets help on the pitch, as disaster engulfs the FA Cup semi-final match on 15 April 1989.”

It could have used the anchor text: “A single policeman is on hand to help injured fans in the absence of sufficient emergency services personnel”

The same image was used by the Times in 2012 as part of an article about the growing claims of unlawfulness against the South Yorkshire Police. The words used by the Times relay a different connotation, “Why the survivors can never forget”. This questioning of what went on that day in 1989 was the narrative which became the Liverpool families legitimate fight for justice.

From the political climate of the day it was more likely to have relayed: “Why did so many Liverpool fans turn up drunk and without tickets?”

Reference list

Brown, D. The Times article from 13/10/2012

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3566598.ece

(accessed 30/04/2016)

 

Part 2 Narrative, project 1: Telling a story

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Dr. Ceriani helps the town marshal carry the heart attack victim to the ambulance. There, the country doctor will see that his patient is as comfortable as possible, knowing there’s nothing he can do to save him.

Perhaps the simplest form of narrative is story telling and we begin with the research of the classic photo essay Country Doctor that Eugene Smith (1948) made for LIFE magazine and The Dad Project by Bryony Campbell (2009).
Eugene Smith’s work is a classic story-telling project recording Dr. Ernest Ceriani working in rural Colorado, U.S. The images were an intimate and close up first hand account of the GP visiting and treating his patients. The essay is a descriptive account of the doctor’s work with limited hidden depth and no ambiguity.

The viewer is an audience spectator of cinematic scenes of a fragment of society not ordinarily accessible to the readers of LIFE magazine. The subjects don’t notice or recognise the camera or the outsider who is taking the photographs, which could quite easily pass for stills from a 1940’s black and white Hollywood film. Whilst the compositions are at times quite dramatic they are very straight and literal emphasised by the accompanying text describing the scenes adding only surface level detail and information and not necessarily adding any interpretive value to the viewer.

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Not published in LIFE. Dr. Ceriani examines his handiwork after the partial amputation of a patient’s leg, Kremmling, Colo., August 1948. The patient, Thomas Mitchell, was suffering from a gangrenous infection.

Certain images were deemed to be unsuitable for the final cut for LIFE magazine such as the baby being treated in an incubator and also the patient’s partly amputated leg. As we learned in part 1 to critically appraise any photographic work requires a thorough understanding the context of the photography and we should therefore take into account the commercial agenda and therefore the editorial control ensuring that only a dramatic yet sanitized representation of real life could be offered up to the American public. The story was of a totally committed professional working against the odds to support a local community of honest hard-working folk and this narrative fitted with LIFE magazine’s promotion and recording of the American way of life.

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Bryony Campbell, taken from The Dad Project (2009)

The Dad Project by Bryony Campbell documents her own father’s battle with cancer and eventual death. In comparison to Eugene Smith Campbell creates a completely different photographic outcome by involving both the viewer and herself in the series. Her subjects look straight into the camera and Campbell is the insider and an active participant and narrator of the story. The whole project and therefore the images are extremely intimate and open in a manner, which forced Campbell to question herself many times.

The context of the project is Bryony Campbell’s MA Photography studies providing more neutral editorial conditions than those experienced by Eugene Smith. In so far as the underlying agenda would be to make a project of quality as oppose to selling magazines.

Campbell uses metaphors and aspects of everyday detail to convey meaning and evoke atmosphere. This combines with some extremely intimate and, at times almost shockingly, raw images to create an extremely powerful project of work.

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Bryony Campbell, taken from The Dad Project (2009)

As a contrast to Eugene Smith’s straight scene images, Bryony Campbell makes more artistic compositions revealing themselves at a slower pace. These poignant images evoke deep feelings and raw emotions and this is made all the more powerful by the interspersing of images of ordinary everyday scenes such as creases in the sheets of her father’s bed amid the sadness and heartache experienced by Bryony Campbell and her family.

Campbell achieved her MA with Distinction but has also received wide professional acclaim and coverage as The Dad Project has gone onto help many other people come to terms with their own similar circumstances. In her final summing up Campbell refers to the project as a story about an ending without an ending. I think this refers to her own view that the images and project in general now have a life and future of it’s own and through her relationship with the project her memories and therefore relationship with her since departed father has n’t actually ended at all.

Reference list

Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor (1948) can be seen at

http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ (accessed 20/04/16)

Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project (2009) can be seen at

http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/the-dad-project/?overview (accessed 21/04/16)

La Grange, A Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. (2005) Abingdon: Focal Press

All images were accessed from these sources.