Expressing Your Vision – Assignment Five – Photography is Simple

Assignment Five

Photography is Simple

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing, Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in order words, it must contain some new information rather than repeat the information of the previous series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence. In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’ Write about 300 words. Your response to the question doesn’t have to be complicated; it might be quite simple (but if you can answer in one word then you will have to imaginatively interpret your photographs for the remaining 299!).

For this assignment, I decided to use St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire as my subject. The cathedral has been coined as the most sacred site in Wales; the build was completed in 1180. It has been the site for pilgrims for centuries. Up until the mid 16th century it was Roman Catholic, but now it is High Church churchmanship. The cathedral shows different examples of architecture from the time. The cathedral itself is made up of several small churches surrounding the nave and the high alter. Each church was completed at different times, but each provides a unique experience for prayers.

Before completing this assignment I research several architectural photographer for inspiration. I first looked at Nick Guttridge’s images. He produces architectural photographs that have a fine art look to them. I like the way his images are fairly warm and not sterile or uninviting. Fabrice Fouillet is another photographer, which I looked at. Fouillet has photographed many churches; one such work was named Corpus Christi. Fouillet states that he tries to reveal ‘a new conception of the sacred’.

I chose this particular building as I find it very interesting, as there is so much to explore there. I wanted to show the detail that I saw there, for example the ceilings. I found it difficult to narrow down the images from the whole lot I took. I used manual mode, I changed the white balance to shade as with auto it gave the images a very cold feeling. A problem I came across was the lighting, as it was dark inside but the light was very bright through the windows, I was forced to use a high ISO, I was worried about the noise in the images but it doesn’t seem to have caused too much problem.

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Assignment Five – Photography is Simple – Contact Sheet


Expressing Your Vision – Research Point

Project 2: Photography as information

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint;Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery). Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain? Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to included one or two of your own shots, and you wish to refer to Rinko Kaawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150-200 words. 

Behind the Gare is an image taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. The image show someone in mid jump, leaping over some water. The area is surround by rumble, with buildings in the background. There is another figure in the image behind the fence. On the wall there is a poster of someone leaping which links to the actual person in the foreground. The person who is jumping is blurry whilst everything else is in focus. The water is very light and shows the reflections well. In an interview, Cartier-Bresson stated that he couldn’t see the shot. He took it through two planks of wood, with only the lens showing through. He did not know the person would be there. When the interviewer said it was lucky, Cartier-Bresson said, “It’s always luck. It’s a matter of chance. Just be receptive and it happens”.

The Behind the Gare image is an example of a Decisive Moment. Cartier-Bresson described the Decisive Moment as, “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression”.

I find my eyes keep returning the half circle near the rumble on the ground, as well as the shadow of the person. The darkness of the shadows is in contrast to the brightness of the water. It draws attention.

I believe the pivotal ‘point’ of the image is the distance between the mans foot and his shadow. The image was captured at the right moment to show this gap. It not only shows a physical gap but could signify a psychological one too.

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Hiroshi Sugimoto is a Japanese photographer born in 1948. His work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of New York and The Tate Gallery. He has experience in time-exposed photography. For example in his series Theatres Sugimoto took long exposures in cinemas. On his website, Sugimoto said that he wondered what would happen if you shot a whole movie in a single frame. Sugimoto decided to visit a local cinema, dressed as a tourist, he set-up his camera and left the shutter open for two hours. The result was a bright white scene. Sugimoto did not use any other lighting in the pictures.

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Rinko Kawauchi is a Japanese photographer who was born in 1972. She has released several books and has received numerous awards for her images. One image is of a rose illuminated. I personally think the image is way over exposed that it makes it impossible to understand. You can see it is a rose but it is just too bright. The brightness of the rose is not the only thing that draws my attention; the other point is the blue dot on the top right hand corner. I do not feel it is a good representation.

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Expert Photography. Top 10 Henri Cartier-Bresson Quotes. [Online]. < http://expertphotography.com/top-10-henri-cartier-bresson-quotes/&gt; [Accessed: 10th August 2016].

Fraenkel Gallery. Hiroshi Sugimoto. [Online]. <https://fraenkelgallery.com/artists/hiroshi-sugimoto&gt; [Accessed: 8th March 2016].

Spectacular Attractions. Picture of the Week #50: Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Theatres. [Online]. < https://drnorth.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/picture-of-the-week-50-hiroshi-sugimotos-theatres/&gt; [Accessed: 12th August 2016].

Sugimoto, H. Theatres. [Online]. <www.sugimotohiroshi.com/theater.html> [Accessed: 8th March 2016].

The Japanese Times. In The Light Of Rinko Kawauchi. [Online]. < http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2012/06/14/arts/in-the-light-of-rinko-kawauchi/#.V7Rf82WnWt8&gt; [Accessed: 12th August 2016].

YouTube. L’amour de court. [Online]. <www.youtube.com/Playlist?list=PL707C8F8986O5EOBF> [Accessed: 1st March 2015].


 

Expressing Your Vision – Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device, such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris-Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment. Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take you time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five. 

This exercise required me to find a photograph by a famous photographer and to take an image in response to it. Where I live is in the middle of the countryside, and thus there is a lot of wild life, including birds. I found a picture by the nature photographer Martin Belan. I have admired his work for quite sometime now. One image of his stood out, it was the one with the bird silhouetted against a sunset background.

For me to take an image in response to this took time and patience for the correct circumstances, from the sunset and getting an image of the flying birds overhead. I managed to capture a few images of bird silhouetted against a twilight sky instead of a sunset, but I also caught them in the daytime mid-flight. Even though the daytime ones don’t have the same effect as the twilight images, I still like them. I found it difficult to capture the image so the whole bird would be in focus, as they kept flapping their wings and it caused blur, which I didn’t want. I had to make the shutter speed faster but a night the light then became a problem.

Here is the response image.

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And here are the others I took in the daytime.

I am responding to his image following Belan’s style. I did not try to replicate the location, but I did try to replicate the subject and the technique. In short I was trying to respond to his idea.

Barrett believed that you could interpret images using three types of information; information in the picture, information surrounding the picture and information about the way the picture was made. In other words, the internal context, the external context and the original context. I believe in this case the information in the picture provides the context for my image. As it is a simple image and all the information about it is in the image itself.


 

Expressing Your Vision – Research Point

Project 1 – The Distance Between Us 

Research Point 

For a short introduction to how context operates in relation to photographs, read Terry Barrett’s essay ‘Photographs and Context’; http://www.terrybarrettosu.com/pdfs/B_PhotoAndCont_97.pdf [Accessed: 16/06/14]. Barrett suggests that we interpret pictures according to three different types of information: information in the picture; information surrounding the picture and information about the way the picture was made. He call these the internal context, the external context and the original context. 

I am currently studying the Context and Narrative module as well, so I understand how important context is to a photograph. Terry Barrett’s essay ‘Photographs and Context’ reinforces this notion. “The meaning of any photograph is highly dependent on the context in which it appears”.

In this essay, Barrett uses a photograph taken by Robert Doisneau to show how the context can be confused or changed. The picture is of a man and a woman having a drink in a café in Paris. He liked the chemistry between the two and asked if they wouldn’t mind being photographed. Le Point published this image as a photographic essay on Paris Cafes. A while later this image was published on a pamphlet stating the evils of alcohol. This was done without his consent. Then the same image appeared under the headline “Prostitution in the Champs-Elysees”. These examples show how one image can be used under three different guises. Barrett goes on to say how if you present different environments for the viewers it will change their perception of the image. He makes a very important observation which is that ‘Photographs made for one purpose are often used for other purposes”.

Terry Barrett believes in order to determine the context of an image; the viewer must look at three different aspects of said image. These being:

  • What is in the picture (internal context)
  • What is surrounding the image (external context)
  • How the image was made (original context).

Photographs are often taken out of context, several can be seen online. This can happen when a photograph is staged and then the viewer thinks it is real. One such image is the image that was taken of a couple making out in the middle of the Vancouver riots. The media reported that is was real, however a mobile phone image from a different angle showed it was set-up. Another image is one showing construction worker having lunch atop a skyscraper that was taken on the 20th of September 1932. A historian for Corbis Photo Agency says it was set-up. It was infact publicity image for the Rockefeller Center.


 

Expressing Your Vision – Exercise 5.1

Part Five – ViewPoint

Project 1: The distance between us

Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This does;t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ best shot. When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs, instead evaluate it by what discover with in the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way: “Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do included the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there?”. 

Before completing this exercise, I looked at the definition of empathy. I found two definitions, the first being, “the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it”. The second definition, I believe is more suitable for approaching this exercise. “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this”. I have used the second definition of empathy to create an image for this exercise.

Whilst I was walking around St. Dogsmaels, in Pembrokeshire, I found some fishing boats that were just floating in the water. The weather was very misty and dull so I decided to photograph these boats. I like the effect that it produced, with the colour of the boat against the blandness of the background.

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The image with the blue boat provides little information other than there is a boat. The line between the water and the land/sky is indistinguishable due to the fog. I feel the dullness of the scene adds a bit of mystery. As the viewer you could be wondering what you could see if the mist wasn’t there. What is behind the mist or to either side of the frame? The angle of the photograph shows the boat longitudinal, showing a hint of colour form inside the boat. A different angle may have been better. But overall the mist, the dull colours and the ‘blandness’ reminds me of Marten Elder’s images, as he manages to capture the banal very well.

I also decided to include an image I took at Narberth Castle. When exploring castle or similar buildings I find myself wondering what it would have been like when these buildings were occupied, what the lives of the people were, and what history happened behind these walls. If you look at most castle now, they are tourist attractions, Narberth Castle is not one of the most visited of places, and the council have put up metal fences and even just discarded them around the walls, I find myself feeling sorry for the place (if you can feel sorry for a building?). In the image, you can see one ruin wall of the castle, on top a small incline. The light is shining from behind the wall. In the background you can see the metal fencing, and one discarded in front of the wall. The image is quite dark in the foreground; sue to the shadows form the light behind. But with the light coming from behind it highlights the castle outline. I chose to photograph a subject instead of a person because I find it easier to express empathy for a ‘still life’ subject.

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Merriam-Webster. Empathy. [Online]. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy&gt; [Accessed: 14th August 2016].


 

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979 – Tate

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979.

Tate.

A few weeks ago I attended the Conceptual Art in Britain exhibition at the Tate. The exhibition shows the development of the concept of art. The exhibition contained various art forms, such as sculptures, painting and photographs. It even contained a ‘sculpture’ of a pyramid of oranges. The exhibition had several famous photographers work. One in particular is that of Richard Long’s. Three of his early images were shown. A Line Made By Walking, England and Turk Circle. I found his composition interesting, the way he used lines and circles, these formed the base of his images. Keith Arnatt’s image ‘Invisible Hole Revealed By The Shadow Of The Artist’, really made me think. Firstly the image struck me as a self-portrait. Upon looking deeper, it makes the viewer question what can be invisible under certain circumstances but visible under others.

 

The New Art room concentrated more on the emergence of photography as an art form. The first image I came across in this room was by John Hilliard, ‘Camera Recording Its Own Condition’. Hilliard used different combination of shutter speeds and apertures, to create the images. There are 70 in total; the images are of the camera itself. I found this image very interesting as it shows different exposures; I spent along time looking at this image.

 

I found Braco Dimitrijevic series, ‘The Casual Passer By’ very intriguing. ‘The Pilgrim’s Way’ by Hamish Fulton, provided a different landscape. The image itself is very ‘blank’, it doesn’t give much away.

 

Stephen Willat’s ‘The Lunch Triangle’ drew my attention, at first I was slightly confused with it. It consists of three images, the first and third one shows someone who I part way through their lunch, but the second one is blank. I was confused as to why this was, what was the purpose, I then discovered that the second image acts as a bridge between the two images beside it. The display had sheets with questions, when completing it I felt that I was really engaging with the images. Overall I found it very effective.

 

Stephen Willat’s ‘Living with Practical Realities’ was one piece I found made me think. It was interesting to see how Willat investigated this woman’s living conditions. It was more an exploration into culture. It made me think of where I live and my culture.

 

I really enjoyed this exhibition, it showed me how art has changed and developed in Britain. I spent hours looking at the images and would definitely recommend a visit.

Context and Narrative – Assignment Four

Assignment Four

Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice. The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your choice image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis. It you choose a well-known photograph, take time to research it’s context – the intentions of the photographer, why it was taken, whether it’s part of a series, etc. Add all this information into your essay to enable you to draw a conclusion from your own interpretation of the facts. 

For this assignment, I was required to choose an image and analysis it. In Project 2, the exercise was to find an advertisement and briefly analysis it; the exercise stated that this advert could be used for the basis of the assignment if it was taking you somewhere interesting. This is what I have decided to do. The image I choose is an advert for Volkswagen Parking Assist.

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Deciphering an image can be challenging but is important for a photographer, there are several techniques to use. Looking at the denotation and connotation of the image is a start. Observing the obvious things in the image is known as denotation, but it doesn’t give the meaning of the things. This is where connotation comes in, as it refers to the associated meaning of the image.

First I will look at the denotation of the image. There are four subjects in this image. Three goldfishes in bags, and one hedgehog. They are arranged in a diagonal line going from the bottom left to the top right. The background is a very light textured grey. The colours are almost clean and clinical but the fish and the hedgehog add colour. The lighting clearly illuminates the subjects; shadows can be seen in front of them. But reflections can be seen in the plastic bags from lights used elsewhere. The fish themselves are all facing different ways giving the image animation. At the bottom right hand corner is the VW logo, and the tag line for this advert, ‘Precision Parking…Park Assist by Volkswagen’. Then at the top right hand corner is Volkswagens website. These are the facts are the image.

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I will now look at the connotation of the image. The point of this image is to advertise VW’s new accessory on their cars, the Park Assist. The hedgehog represents a VW car that has parked in the tight space between the goldfish, which are other makes of car. By showing the hedgehogs spines close to the plastic bags of the goldfish, it reflects the dangers of parking in tight spaces, and how the park assist can help. If the hedgehog had hit one of the bags then the bag would have burst and the fish would die. With actual cars, damage would have been caused to the cars. The creator of this image is using humour to attract the viewer and make them aware of a real problem that can occur when parking. A VW car is being represented as a hedgehog, which is different from the other ‘cars’, they are suggesting that VW cars are unique. The hedgehog is large, and has a deep colour, with a happy ‘cute’ look. Goldfish represent the other cars, they are all the same, and there is nothing to tell them apart. This goes further to reinforce VW’s uniqueness. The animals are positioned precisely with equal distance between each one. They are all in a straight line, which represents parking at the side of a road. The goldfish bags can be seen as triangles, whereas the hedgehog is a circle. The composition adds depth to the image as well as structure. With them in a straight line, the viewer can imagine the row of parked cars they are trying to represent. The gap between each animal is very small, again emphasizing the whole point of their product and how it can help park in tight spaces. IMG_20160729_0004The photograph was taken in a studio. The shadows suggest the main lighting is coming from the top left direction. There is obviously lighting coming from the direction of the viewer in order to show the subjects. If you look carefully at the plastic bags, reflection of the lights can be seen. The editors could have removed this using editing software, maybe this was an oversight or this is the effect they wanted. IMG_20160729_0003The accompanying text is short and brief. “Precision Parking…Parks Assist by Volkswagen”. The actual size of the text is very small in relation to the rest of the image, but it is effective, as it doesn’t draw attention away from the image but is informative at the same time. VW’s logo is clear in the bottom right hand corner; this is a necessary part of this image, as it is a clear recognition of the brand. The website address is very small in the top right hand corner. All of the text is on the right side of the image, for me it slightly unbalances it, maybe if the website address was at the top left or even bottom left it would look more balanced.

The use of animals in images produces an interesting response; Animals produce varying psychological responses, such as emotional, behavioual and neurological. Animals in adverts are seen as a selling tactic, McCutchen believes this is because ‘consumers are attracted to, and fascinated by animals’. This would then lead to an increase in sales. In 1984, Wilson came up with the biophilia hypothesis, which is the theory ‘that humans are genetically predisposed to attend to, be attracted to, and drawn to other living beings such as animals’. Animals that are deemed to be ‘cute’ grab the viewers’ attention, such as the hedgehog in this image. By using animals, this image is using psychology to promote their product.IMG_20160729_0002

DBB Tribal Berlin were responsible for this image. But it is not entirely their own idea, as in January 2009 Skoda released an image to advertise their Park Assist function. Their advert features a bubble trying to park among cacti. This is basically the same principle as VW’s advert. So by emphasizing VW’s uniqueness, they fail when it comes to creating an original advert.95b5ff7d06c9e8901cb3e3663c3013b2

According to reviews on the system, the Park Assist does work but has limitations. It only works when it finds a big enough space for the car to park in one manevour. This would require the space to be fairly large, and in a city this could be impossible. The driver is only in control of the brake and accelerator during the manevour, but if the pedals are pressed slightly to hard the manevour stops and you have to physically take over. The system uses points of references in order to park the car; this is a problem when there are low curbs. According to their advert the system allows you to park in tight spaces precisely, but in truth not in spaces as tight as they are portraying. As for portraying reliability and precision, with VW’s latest emissions scandals, it doesn’t look good for their reputation.

In the real world, if a parking car hit a stationary car, they both would be damaged, but in this image only the fish (other cars) would suffer from the hedgehogs spines, so it is not completely showing the dangers accurately.

Overall I believe this image is very clever in the way they portray the ‘cars’, and the humour is evident and easy to understand what they are trying to do. The composition is precise again emphasising the precision of Volkswagen, but also gives the image a sense of structure and solidity. This image is successful in representing and portraying what it is suppose to. By using humour and using animal it attracts attention and engages the viewer. The image is simple and sharp.


Ads Of The World. VW Precision Parking. [Online]. <http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/volkswagen_hedgehog_and_fish> [Accessed: 1st July 2016].

Auto Express. Self-Parking – Volkswagen. [Online]. <http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-reviews/39301/self-parking-volkswagen&gt; [Accessed: 4th July 2016].

Bignell, J. Media Semiotics. Manchester University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 April 2002).

Dictionary. Connotation. [Online]. <www.dictionary.com/browse/connotation> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Dictionary. Denotation. [Online]. <www.dictionary.com/browse/denotation> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Dyer, G. Advertising as Communication (Studies in Culture and Communication). Routledge; New Ed edition (18 Nov. 1982).

PinInterest. Skoda Park Assist. [Online]. <https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/135319163773748591/&gt; [Accessed: 3rd July 2016].

Stone, S. M. The Psychology of Using Animals in Advertising. [Online]. <www.huichawaii.org/assets/stone_sherril_the_psychology_of_using_animals_in_advertising_ahs2014.pdf> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Williamson, J. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Marion Boyars; Reissue edition (22 Jan. 2010).


 

Context and Narrative – Reading Pictures – Exercise

Part 2: Reading Pictures

Exercise

Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could us this as the basis for you assignment if you feel its taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation. Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you can add anything to your analysis. 

For this exercise I choose a Volkswagen advert for their Park Assist function.

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I have decided to use this image for the assignment. In preparation I have read several books on analysing adverts. A lot were very general but I found one that went into detail about analysing images in adverts. Gillian Dyer’s book Advertising as Communication has a section on analyzing photographic advertising.  I have listed the others below.


Bignell, J. Media Semiotics. Manchester University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 April 2002).

Dyer, G. Advertising as Communication (Studies in Culture and Communication). Routledge; New Ed edition (18 Nov. 1982).

 

Williamson, J. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Marion Boyars; Reissue edition (22 Jan. 2010).


 

Context and Narrative -Part 2 Reading Pictures – Research Point

Research Point 

Visit http://www.weareoca.com/photography.beneath-the-surface/ [Accessed: 24/02/14]. For a blog about Jeff Wall’s, Insomnia (1994). Interpret using some of the tools discussed above. 

Jeff Wall is a Canadian photographer, who was born in 1946. He graduated the University of British Columbia in 1970 with a Masters degree. Wall’s images were critical in the shift to view photography as art.

Deciphering an image can be challenging but is important for a photographer, there are several techniques to use. Looking at the denotation and connotation of the image is a start. Observing the obvious things in the image is known as denotation, but it doesn’t give the meaning of the things. This is where connotation comes in, as it refers to the associated meaning of the image.

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In 1994, Wall created the image, Insomnia. He created this image in reference to the quote ‘When a Prince doesn’t sleep well, a nation doesn’t either’. It is was staged and everything in the image was there for a reason, all of Wall’s images are set-up exactly how he wanted them and all have a deep meaning, that is not necessary seen at the first glance. Many of his images are hecetic and seem to have a lot going on, whilst being quite claustrophobic in the picture. This image, along with others in the series was exhibited using large-scale backlit light boxes. This emphasizes his cinematic tendency seen in his work. Insomnia the image was displayed quite large, at 1722 x 2135mm. It drew attention being this large, and his unique display method would emphasize the image and make it memorable to the viewers.

I will start by looking at the denotation of the image. We can see straight away that this room represents a kitchen. We can see the fridge, the cooker, the sink, table and chairs, and cabinets, all features of a kitchen. The walls are a cream colour. The cupboards are teal. It has a feel of an old kitchen, something from the 1960s. It has a well-worn feel, which would support the age of the room; the style and age of the cooker and the fridge also support this. The appliance, though there are few of them, are all old even for when this image was created. This has led me to the conclusion that Wall wanted to create a sense of age in this image. There is a simple table in the center of the kitchen, with an ashtray and a saltshaker on it. Two mismatched chairs are also present, but are in an awkward position. There is a tea towel discarded on one of the chairs. There is washing up on the side of the sink, this reminds me of Shafran’s Washing Up series, mainly due to the location and the objects present. The kitchen light, which is illuminating the image, can be seen in the window as a reflection. It is dark outside, which supports the name of the image, as you wouldn’t have insomnia in the daytime. The cupboards are open and there is an open brown bag on top of the fridge, this suggests there has been a search, but the person hasn’t shut the doors, possibly a frantic search. There is a man lying on the floor. The look on his face is disturbing, he looks frantic and worried. The man brings ‘motion’ to what would be a still life image. These are the facts of the image.

The meaning goes a lot deeper. Even though it is a staged environment, it shows the psychological state of the man on the floor, which I believe is what Wall intends. The lighting is bright almost; in addition to the colours of the cupboards and walls it makes the room look sterile. The shadow created by the light that covers the man gives an eerie feel to the image. It has no warmth to it; it doesn’t feel like a home, which would provide safety and security. The search through the cupboards and brown bag could indicate that the man was searching for something to help him, to provide some comfort to which he was unsuccessful. The chairs have been positioned oddly, they could have been used in the search, for example to stand on, or has he moved them and left them out of desperation, not caring where they are. Then we come to the man himself. He is laying on the floor, which is unexpected, personally I wouldn’t think of someone with insomnia trying to sleep on a kitchen floor, maybe this represent the desperation which he has found himself in. This positioning could also relate to a struggle he is going through, psychically and mentally. He looks worried, something has lead him to behave in this way, what it is we don’t know, but all we can see is the effect it is having on him. He appears to be in a laxed featal position, which could mean he is looking for comfort and protection. I find the image quite busy, and I can’t seem to focus on one part of the image, the composition I find is causing this. There are a lot of vertical lines, but also horizontal lines, which don’t seem to lead anywhere; it keeps the viewer searching the image.

I find that Wall’s image has been taken at a point where it is showing the result of what has happened to this man, and doesn’t show us what exactly has happened, so it leaves it up to the viewer to make their own minds up. He stated that the point of his images are, “mid-way between the ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ and the ‘Society of the Spectacle’”. The subject of his images follow a narrative right up until the camera takes the picture.


BH. Jeff Wall: Realism and Artifice. [Online]. <www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/articles/126370.aspx> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Dictionary. Connotation. [Online]. <www.dictionary.com/browse/connotation> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Dictionary. Denotation. [Online]. <www.dictionary.com/browse/denotation> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

OCA. Beneath The Surface. [Online]. <weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Tate. Jeff Wall Photographs 1978-2004. [Online]. <www.tate.org.uk/what’s-on/tate/modern/exhibition/jeff-wall> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

Tate. Jeff Wall: Room Guide, Room 6. [Online]. <www.tate.org.uk/wats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/room-guide/jeff-wall-room-6> [Accessed: 15th July 2016].

TLRU. Photographers you should know: Jeff Wall by Eugen Sakmenko. [Online]. <www.littleredumbrella.com/2011/04/photographers-you-should-know-jeff-wall.html> [Accessed: 15th July 2015].


Read and Reflect upon the chapter on Diane Arbus in Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth (2005, London: Tate Publishing). This is out of print but you may be able to find it in your local university library: Some of the chapters are available as pdfs online. You’ll find the aArbus chapter in the student website. 

For the next research point, I was required to read and reflect on the chapter on Diane Arbus in Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth (2005, London: Tate Publishing). It is out of print, I wasn’t able to find a psychical copy but I did find the chapter as a pdf file online.

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The chapter starts with an image that Arbus took in New York, and featured a Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing in 1966. Liz Jobey, who wrote this chapter, states that she can see Arbus’s photographs are ‘parallel’ in other art forms such as in literature in particular Raymond Carver’s stories. Jobey writes a lot about what will become of the family in the photograph. Specifically, ‘What tragedy is waiting to happen?’ It bothers me slightly that the assumption is that there is going to be a tragedy, they could just live out their lives with no problems. Yes, you might wonder what has happened to them, but it might not necessarily be bad. I find Jobey, is looking for a deep meaning of the photograph, she is trying to figure out what life has planned or how they are feeling by one photograph, this can be done with any photograph, as a photograph is just a capture of one time, it does not necessarily reflect or give anything away about the future of the subjects, it is all up to the viewer to make up their own mind and usually this is effect by the viewers own personal experiences.

Jobey also states that she pities the family for their compliancy. She asks why did they agree to be photographed, one could say why does anyone agree to a stranger photographing them, we don’t know what Arbus said to them, this could have had a big influence in their discussion. One point Jobey makes is that the viewer see the family as victims because of the way they look, I disagree with this. Why must they be victims? What makes them a victim from their appearance, or is it because they agree to be photograph, Jobey sees them as a victim. She goes on to describe the family. The man is looking shyly towards the camera, holding his boys hand ‘protectively’. His expression seems nervous. Jobey describes the woman as having ‘an armoury of self-protection clutched in front of her the leopard-skin coat, the leatherette handbag, the camera case with the strap wound round her fingers crossing out her wedding ring, her bland white baby’. Personally I think Jobey is making to many assumptions, she could just be carrying the items and not using them unconsiously as self-protection. The woman is not looking gat the camera, with a bleak defiant look on her face. Their baby looks in distress, probably because this is new and he doesn’t understand what is going on. Jobey states that ‘In posing for the traditional family shot, they have unwittingly under-minded all the positive values that formation represents’. The text that accompanied the image by Arbus stated, “They live in the Bronx. I think he was a garage mechanic. Their first child was born when she were sixteen…They were undeniably close in a painful sort of way”. Going by this text it seems Arbus is judging the family by this encounter, leading the viewer to believe that the couple being close was very unlikely. Jobey suggests that they could have been nervous of the camera hence their expressions and body language and believe Arbus could have mistaken their background (married early with a retarted child and a baby) as a reason for their look. There is a tendency of using your own personal experiences when looking at others; maybe Arbus was using her own life to reflect on this couple. The main problem is the viewer does not know how Arbus approached them, how she communicated with them or how she made them feel. They could have felt nervous just by her way with them and thus creating the uneasy look in the image, we shall never know.

Arbus provided some information regarding the family. Their names were Richard and Marylin Dauria. Richard was an immigrant from Italy who worked as a mechanic; he married Marylin when she was sixteen years old. They have three children, but only two are present in the photograph. The elder child, in the image is called Richard Junior who was mentally retarded. The baby’s name was Dawn. Arbus goes on to say that MArylin often got told she looked like Elizabeth Taylor. She also states that Marylin colours her hair black to make herself seem Irish, the reasons for this remain unknown. Richard Junior was born when Marylin was sixteen; she believed that this indicated a hasty marriage.

Jobey then goes on to talk about Arbus but not in depth. She mainly discusses her other work she did in the 1960s, one of which was ‘freaks’, which included portraits of people who were different due to their mental, sexual or psychical appearance. Susan Sontag stated that Arbus fascination with the ‘freaks’ ‘was an expresses a desire to violate her own innocence to undermine her sense of being privileged, so [sic] went her frustration at being safe’. If you compare the way the subject behave in front of the camera a clear distinction is seen. The Brooklyn family didn’t look directly at the camera whereas the ‘freaks’ look directly at the camera. The difference may simply be that the ‘freaks’ may earn their living by the way they look so may not feel uncomfortable being photographed, but the Brooklyn family were spending time as a family and are private and may have felt uncomfortable. “An Arbus photograph is more than a record of a person at a certain time in a certain place it is, more often than not, a record of a moment of personal anxiety, of a sudden identity crisis awakened and then captured by the camera”. I personally think this sums up Arbus images quite well. It appears as the subjects are not comfortable with her photographing her, and this leads to the camera capturing an image that would not necessarily represent the subject well. Maybe Arbus couldn’t put people at ease being photographed. Many people do not like being photographed and as we do not know how Arbus approached these people, or how she interacted with them, it is difficult to draw an accurate conclusion. I believe that she didn’t put people at ease when photographing them and thus they were wary and nervous and this is visible in the results.

Jobey’s chapter is interesting but I feel it lacks certain things. Whilst she does talk about Arbus’s life she doesn’t go into must detail, even a small paragraph about her life, her schooling, her career would have been helpful. I agree with a few things she said but others I felt she was being over judgmental, similar to what Arbus said about her subjects.


If you haven’t yet read any of Judith Williamson’s ‘Advertising’ articles (see introduction), now would be a good time to do so. See: http://www.oca-student.com/content/her 

I read Judith Williamson’s ‘Advertising’ articles again. I have seen these before and have studies them when I was in school. Williamson has written a book about advertisement, called Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Her book is an explanation of how she analysis adverts she sees. She looks into the hidden meanings in adverts. She looks at the wording they used, the imaging including what they show and what they do not show, and she also looks into the history of the company and how their history and their methods may contradict what and how they are trying to advertise.

In Gillian Dyer’s book Advertising as Communication she has a section on analyzing photographic advertising. She looks at the technical side of the image, at how the photographer has positioned the item and the make-up of the image. For example, what props have been used, as usually they are functional and reinforce the idea of the product. She assesses how the lighting has been used, the focusing and depth of field, any close-ups, the angle of the camera, and how the image has been cropped. She also looks at the use of special effects and how creative the advert is. Dyer also looks at the impact of the adverts, how they affect us culturally, personally and socially. She has a chapter dedicated to analyzing how words in adverts are used, and the effect they have on the success of the advert.

Another books which explains how to analysis adverts is Media Semiotics by Jonathan Bigenll. Similar to the other books Bignell, looks at how to approach these advert but he also looks at some him self and goes through them step-by-step on how he has analyzed them.

For this research point, I looked at Judith Williamson article on an Apple advert. This advert was for an iPad, and features a young girl holding it up whilst lying in bed. The text read:

This is it.

This is what matters.

The experience of a product.

How it makes someone fell.

Will it make life better?

Does it deserve to exist?

If you are busy making everything,

How can you perfect anything?

We spend a lot of time

On a few great things.

Until every idea we touch

Enhances each life it touches.

You may rarely look at it.

But you’ll always feel it.

This is our signature.

And it means everything.

Williamson stated that the image is one of illumination. The screen of the iPad is the only light and is illuminating the girls face and surrounding area. Williamson describes the scene as one of annunciation, as the child is being ‘touched by something ethereal, even godly’. She describes the positioning of the iPad as being like a skylight window. She states, “This illumination from ‘above’ feeds into the central connotation of being touched by some kind of pure, heavenly power”. This is referred to in the text.

Whilst analyzing the text, Williamson looks at how the company manufactures the iPads and the working conditions. For example, the workers in Asia have to work 12 hour days 6 or 7 days a week, under difficult working conditions. Williamsons seems to be concentrating on the hypocrisy of the advert and it’s wording. She does look at the image itself but the majority of her analysis is aimed at how the company operates and how they are demonstrating the opposite in their adverts.

The adverts are designed to sell products, the imaging is just as important as the text. The image should advertise the product but make people want to buy it, make people think it is necessary and they need it. In this advert, Apple are using the ‘experience’ of the iPad, as its selling point. The wording suggests that they have perfected this product and states that it will enhance your life. The image of a young child using the item with it illuminating her gives the impression that it will help and enhance her life. When seeing an advert like this or buying the product, people do not think about the actual company and how they manufacture this product, how they have exploited workers over the world. If you were aware of this, would you buy their products?


Bignell, J. Media Semiotics. Manchester University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 April 2002).

Dyer, G. Advertising as Communication (Studies in Culture and Communication). Routledge; New Ed edition (18 Nov. 1982).

OCA. Advertising. [Online]. <www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/source319.pdf> [Accessed: 4th July 2016].

OCA. Advertising. [Online]. <www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/source.2320.pdf> [Accessed: 4th July 2016].

Williamson, J. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. Marion Boyars; Reissue edition (22 Jan. 2010).


 

Context and Narrative – Project 1 The Language of Photography – Exercise

Part Four – Reading Photographs

Project 1: The Language of Photography

Exercise

Before you read any further, look carefully at Erwitt’s image and write some notes about how the subject matter is placed within the frame. How has Erwitt structed this image? What do you think the image is ‘saying’? How does the structure contribute to this meaning?  

Elliott Erwitt was born in France in 1928. His family moved first to Italy and then onto the USA. He attended the Los Angeles City College and studied Photography. He travelled across Europe in 1949 but in 1951 he was called for military service. In 1953, Erwitt became a freelance photographer for Look, Life, Collier’s and Holiday. During the 1960s he was the president for Magnum photography.

Erwitt has photographed dogs a lot during his career, he has even published four books with photographs of dogs. He often pictured the dogs in humourous situations and imagined them having human charecteristic, which is what he has done in this image. He shows the contrast between a small Chihuahua and a person but also another much larger dog. All you can see of the woman and the larger dog is their legs, which in the image have similar charecterisitics. He is comparing the dogs with the human, with the large dog the small dog and the person. This image was taken in New York in 1946.

Elliott-Erwitt-New-York-1974-1024x776He has positioned the subjects so that only the legs and feet of the large dog are visible on the left. But you can just see the dogs’ chest at the very top of the image. The legs of the woman are visible and you can see the bottom of her skirt. Whereas with the dog on the right, it’s whole body is visible, and it is wearing a jumper and a hat. This is the main focus of the image, which is positioned off to the right. The part of the image I am drawn to is the woman in the middle as her boots and skirt are dark whereas the background, the floor and even the dogs are a lot lighter. It does seem to balance the image out though as if the woman was on either side it would make the image look totally different. The image has a shallow depth of field as you can see from the background. Being in black and white the image has a timeless feel, it also shows up detail very well. I find the background is very bright behind the larger dog and the woman, almost overexposed. The composition of the image has straight vertical lines, made up of the legs, this gives the image structure. Erwitt said, “It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.” He also stated, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

I believe Erwitt is comparing the size of the large dog, the woman and the small dog. He is using the comparison to comedic effect. He is showing the huge difference in size as you wouldn’t usually put these together in an image. The structure of the image adds to the effect as the main focus is the small dog as you can see all of it, whereas the two other subject only their legs are visible again emphasizing the size different. Nothing else is known about the other two characters, so the viewer is left to make up their own minds. This allows for viewer interaction. I like this image as it shows an ironic take on street photography.


Creighton. Elliott Erwitt. [Online]. <https://people.creighton.edu/~sjg30403/bookreport.html&gt; [Accessed: 6th July 2016].

Famous Photographers. Elliott Erwitt. [Online]. <http://www.famousphotographers.net/elliott-erwitt&gt; [Accessed: 6th July 2016].

Magnum Photos. Elliott Erwitt. [Online]. <https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ERID=24KL53Z1OG&gt; [Accessed: 6th July 2016].

Photo Forager. Elliott Erwitt. [Online]. <http://www.photoforager.com/archives/elliott-erwitt&gt; [Accessed: 6th July 2016].