‘Two Sides …’ Rework and an adventure in bookbinding

This part of the assignment is not so much ‘rework’ as work itself. The assignment was originally submitted to Garry in electronic form only. I have now produced prints for assessment.

The main change is to re-process the driver’s-view images as monochrome, eliminating the colour-popping which was a gimmick too far in the original submission.

There are two decisions in presentation. The first, as hinted earlier, is to print double-sided, with the corresponding driver’s- and passenger’s-view images on opposite sides of the same piece of Permajet Double-sided Oyster paper. My intention is to have the two views intimately linked but making it impossible for the viewer to see both at the same time.

The second decision is influenced by Garry’s comment on my second assignment submission, where he was enthusiastic about the prints being presented in a box. In that case, the box was the shallow A4 box that the printing paper was supplied in. That would be inappropriate for assessment, and it would be tricky to produce a presentation box from scratch. I have therefore decided to present the three sets of prints (assignments 1 to 3) in purpose-made folders based on a design by Alisa Golden (2010, 224).

The first attempt was a disaster, due to poor choices of materials. I used wide satin ribbon as a spine cloth and Permajet Oyster paper for the printed outer linings of the covers. Unfortunately, neither material takes diluted PVA adhesive particularly well, and the Oyster resin-coated paper is too stiff to fold around the cover board.

IMG_2596

As seen above, plain copier paper is not the answer either. It folds well and takes PVA. However, it gives very low-contrast images when put through an inkjet printer.

For the final version I located some self-adhesive book-repair cloth tape for the spine and a special photo-quality inkjet paper (an Epson product) for the outer cover lining. It is still not perfect (there are a few wrinkles and glue spots that I will have to try to avoid in the equivalent folders for assignments 2 and 3) but it does the job intended – a protective cover for a set of prints.

IMG_2594

Reference

Golden, A. (2010) Making Handmade Books. New York: Lark.

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Unconsidered circles – censorship, archives, dots and black suns

Belfast Exposed was formed in 1983 as a response to perceived censorship of images arising from what were euphemistically referred to as ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. It is an archive of photographs from press, commercial and domestic sources and includes some 14,000 contact sheets. Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin were invited to make works based on the archive, which culminated in a book and exhibition in 2011 (Mack s.d.), repeated in 2015 (Belfast Exposed 2015). The book is out of print in its original form but is now available as an ebook.

The work is in two parts. In ‘contacts’ (Broomberg & Chanarin 2011-1) we see contact sheets and individual images marked-up (or just marked) as a result of use and public access over the years. Archivists have marked images as they were used, ordered or recatalogued. Some members of the public have scrawled over their own faces to obliterate them, fearing reprisals for their involvement, which is a form of censorship in its own right. There is an interesting question to be asked, whether censorship is any better or worse for being performed by the ‘participants’ rather than some faceless authority figure.

One of the ‘marks’ that appeared on many contacts was a sticky dot, in various colours. This was semi-random and simply indicated that an image had been selected or approved for some purpose (reverse censorship perhaps) but formed the basis for the second part of the project, ‘dots’. Broomberg and Chanarin peeled back these dots and published, in circular format, what had been hidden behind them. According to the artists,

Each of these fragments – composed by the random gesture of the archivist – offers up a self-contained universe all of its own; a small moment of desire or frustration or thwarted communication that is re-animated here after many years in darkness. (Broomberg & Chanarin)

Another archive marked by small circles is the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentary project of the 1930s and ’40s. The head of the FSA Historical Section, Roy Stryker would, notoriously ‘kill’ photographs that did not fit the FSA message by removing part of the negative with a hole punch (Bennett 2017) in a overt act of censorship.

This damage, sometimes referred to as a ‘black sun’ (for reasons obvious in the smaller image above) rendered the negative unprintable at the time. Recent advances in software, particularly Photoshop’s content-aware fill facility, mean that some of these images can be rescued if important complex detail has not been lost (Bennett 2017).

strykerpunchfeat

The alternative approach is to collect the censored images into a book, as Bill McDowell has done in ‘Ground’ (Meier 2016). McDowell tells us that the book is “the result of three separate acts of picture making: the original photographer’s deliberate compositional and contextual choices, Roy Stryker’s hole punch, and my recontextualization.” (quoted by Meier).

At one level, the images draw attention to the act of censorship and make us wonder what was off-message and had to be suppressed. At another level, the black circles unify the images and create a new archive with, possibly, a new meaning.

The two sets of ‘circle’ images are opposite treatments; ‘dots’ concentrates on the circles, while ‘Ground’ shows us everything else in the image. However, both archives have similarities in that they show us how people have dealt with troubled times.

References

Belfast Exposed Photography (2015) PAST BELFAST EXCHANGE GALLERY EXHIBITION: PEOPLE IN TROUBLE LAUGHING PUSHED TO THE GROUND [online] Available at <http://www.belfastexposed.org/exhibition/People_in_Trouble_Laughing_Pushed_to_the_Ground&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

Bennett, MJ (2017) Countering Stryker’s Punch: Filling the Black Hole with Photoshop and GIMP [online] Available at <https://petapixel.com/2017/07/31/countering-strykers-punch-filling-black-hole-photoshop-gimp/&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

Broomberg & Chanarin (2011) PEOPLE IN TROUBLE LAUGHING PUSHED TO THE GROUND (contacts) [online] Available at <http://www.broombergchanarin.com/hometest/#/contacts/&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

Broomberg & Chanarin (2011) PEOPLE IN TROUBLE LAUGHING PUSHED TO THE GROUND (dots) [online] Available at <http://www.broombergchanarin.com/hometest/#/kodak-1-1-25-1-1/&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

MACK (undated) Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin:  People In Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground [online] Available at <http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/4-People-In-Trouble-Laughing-Pushed-To-The-Ground.html&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

Meier, A (2016) Scarred Rejects from the Farm Security Administration’s Great Depression Photos [online] Available at <https://hyperallergic.com/287638/scarred-rejects-from-the-farm-security-administrations-great-depression-photos/&gt; [Accessed 10 March 2018].

Research points – Gregory Crewdson

Gregory Crewdson is an American artist working in the medium of photography. I use that form of words because ‘photographer’ is not an adequate description given the kind of large-production operation that he has put on from ‘Twilight‘ (1998-2001) onwards. Indeed he says that he hardly touches the camera, and the credits list for ‘Twilight‘ (Crewdson and Moody 2002) list three ‘camera operators’ and a ‘director of photography’. It is probably best to think of him as similar to a film producer, applying the same type of organisation to a single image as to a movie. It is no surprise that his influences include Hitchcock and Spielberg (and the painter Edward Hopper) (Wikipedia)

In Crewdson’s tableaux series, ‘Twilight‘, ‘Beneath the Roses‘, ‘Sanctuary‘ and ‘Cathedral of the Pines‘,  no part of the mise-en-scène is left to chance. Some tableaux are shot on location (scouted) and some, indoors, on a movie sound stage. Many of the buildings are constructed sets. Props are bought in and listed in the ‘credits’; in Twilight, there is even a credit for a ‘bug wrangler’, presumably dealing with the butterflies and other insects that have been imported (and supplier credited). Scenes are lit with movie lighting and shot on an 8×10 camera.

Crewdson’s images have a unique look, slightly menacing in a Spielberg way, with great detail and a muted colour palette. They all have a sense of concealed narrative; as spectators, we can be sure that there is a story but we are intrigued about how the situation arose.

We are asked to view a YouTube video, then respond to following questions.

Unfortunately, the referenced video is flagged by YouTube as ‘no longer available’. I watched the following instead, but the set questions seem a little non sequitur as a result.

Gregory Crewdson (Photography DOCUMENTARY Film)

Photographers in Focus: Gregory Crewdson

Gregory Crewdson – Close Up – Ovation

Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

I am not sure that Crewdson’s work has beauty in the traditional ‘skin-deep’ sense. When I first saw the Cathedral of the Pines images, I was vaguely irritated at the amount of effort that had been expended to produce something rather banal (technically perfect but banal nonetheless). It was over a period of several weeks that I realised that my subconscious was still working on them and I wanted to see more. I bought ‘Twilight‘ and have made a point of looking out Crewdson references on YouTube and elsewhere on the web.

Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

I assume this is a reference to a comment in the missing video.

Several commentators (eg Searle 2005 and Moody (in Crewdson and Moody 2002)) note that Crewdson’s father was a psychologist with consulting rooms in the basement of the family house. It is variously told that the young Crewdson would press his ear to the floor to listen, or that he would imagine doing so. This is sometimes given as an explanation for an interest in the psychology of the characters in his photographs.

Many of these characters appear pensive or thoughtful; where there are multiple figures in an image, I feel that they are close to each other but do not communicate. Each has his or her own thoughts that would only be expressed on the psychologist’s couch -and maybe not even there.

I regard the images as surreal, in the sense of stimulating the subconscious using the tropes of dreams. The nudity or the underclothes worn by some characters are a classic dream trope, as is the sense of being in a situation without a clear idea of how one got there. The detachment of characters from each other may indicate that each one is part of the other’s dream, rather than being fully ‘real’. The analysis of dreams is, of course, a classic technique in psychiatry.

What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not? 

Broadly, I make pictures because I like to make pictures (circular, I know but as good a reason as any) and I prefer to make the sort of pictures that I want to look at. That may be a roundabout way of saying that I am looking for beauty or amusement in my surroundings and trying to express it.

Some of my images are entered in camera club competitions, although none are made specifically for that purpose. (I like them; if the judge agrees, that is a bonus)

I see nothing wrong with making beauty a goal in my photography, despite some elitist comments that I have seen on OCA social media about images without deeper meaning or significance. All images have their place, whether it be the gallery wall, the front page of the newspaper, or the living room wall. There are photographs that I can appreciate in  a gallery but I would not want in my home.

The beautiful photographs, the ones we hang above the fireplace or on the bedroom wall, have a special quality of their own. These are the images that we are prepared to invite into our homes, love and live with for years at a time, rather than for ten minutes as part of a gallery exhibition. That makes them significant in their own way, a way that we would be wrong to ignore.

References

Crewdson, G., and Moody, R. (2002) Twilight . New York: Abrams.

Guggenheim Foundation (undated) Collection Online: Gregory Crewdson [online] Available at <https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/gregory-crewdson&gt; [Accessed 5 March 2018].

Photographers’ Gallery (2017) Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines [online] Available at <http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/content/gregory-crewdson-cathedral-pines&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Searle, A. (2005) Too much information [online] Available at <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/apr/19/photography&gt; [Accessed 6 March 2018].

Wikipedia (2017) Gregory Crewdson [online] Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Crewdson&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Mise-en-scène – Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American artist, using photography as a medium as a reaction to the perceived limitations of painting and because “I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead” (Wikipedia). The majority of her work uses herself as subject and explores the nature of portraits as representation and the commonplace depictions of women in popular culture.

It is her late-1970s series ‘Untitled Film Stills‘ that brought her to fame and show the most realistic mise-en-scène. These images show single female characters in costume and settings reminiscent of Italian neorealism or American film noir (Wikipedia). Costumes and props were bought second-hand and most of the indoor shots were taken in her apartment. Indoor shots are self-portraits with a long shutter release. Outdoor shots used another photographer with Sherman directing (Tate). It may be that their success as representing film publicity stills is a result of imperfect scenery-building.

The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told. (Sherman, quoted by Rosenberg)

Sherman’s later work is less realistic, placed somewhere between parody and caricature, and rather darker in character. Her make-up is more obvious and often grotesque, and the settings are either very plain sets or back-projections. The MoMA website shows some of her parodies of centrefolds, society portraits and classical paintings.

References

MoMA (2012) Cindy Sherman [online] Available at <https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/#/0/&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Rosenberg, B. (2018) Cindy Sherman Artist Overview and Analysis [online] Available at <http://www.theartstory.org/artist-sherman-cindy.htm&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Tate (undated) Cindy Sherman [online] Available at <http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cindy-sherman-1938&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Wikipedia (2018) Cindy Sherman [online] Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sherman&gt; [Accessed 4 March 2018].

Mise-en-scène – Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hustlers

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is an American photographer known for flashlight ‘street’ images and constructed tableaux. ‘Hustlers‘ was his first cohesive series project, conceived partly as a reaction to the funding policies of the National Endowment for the Arts which were influenced by late 1980s right-wing attitudes to AIDS and homosexuality. (Bicker 2013)

The premise of the series is simple; diCorcia would set up a carefully stages and lit tableau, then locate a male prostitute as subject – paying his going rate for ‘services’ as a model fee. This is another example of work (cf. Taryn Simon or Paul Seawright) in which accompanying text – in this case the titles of the images – is vital to understanding the series. The title of each image is in the same format, the subject’s name, age, place of birth and typical ‘fee’

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source: time.com

This, for instance, is ‘Eddie Anderson, 21 years old; Houston, Texas; $20

The work is non-sexual, paying lip-service to the NEA stipulation that funded work should not be obscene, but subversive in that the subjects’ fees were paid from NEA funds.

The tension in the images comes from the juxtaposition of contrived locations (carefully arranged and lit in advance) and real-world subjects who were reportedly rather unsure about the transaction (Davis 2014).

References

Bicker, P. (2013) Trade: Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood Hustlers [online] Available at <http://time.com/3803327/trade-philip-lorca-dicorcias-hollywood-hustlers-drug-addicts-and-drifters/&gt; [Accessed 28 February 2018].

Davies, L. (2014) How the camera saved the photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia [online] Available at <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/10602637/How-the-camera-saved-the-photographer-Philip-Lorca-diCorcia.html&gt; [Accessed 28 February 2018].

Wikipedia (2018) Philip-Lorca diCorcia [online] Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip-Lorca_diCorcia&gt; [Accessed 28 February 2018].

Influences – Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon is an American conceptual artist, working across multiple disciplines including photography. The work that we are directed to by the course notes is The Innocents, a series of photographs of men who have served time on a Death Row, or part of a life sentence, for crimes which they did not commit. In most cases, men were convicted on the basis of mistaken identification evidence influenced by photographs. The series is intended to question the way in which exposure to apparently credible photography can influence memory and eyewitness evidence.

For each photograph, Simon takes her subject to a location significant to the trial (scenes of crime or arrest, or alibi locations) and makes an environmental portrait. There is no real mise-en-scène involved, and individually the images are rather banal. The power of the series comes from the number of images/examples and their accompanying anchorage text.

Mise-en-scène – Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter is a British artist/photographer, living and working in Hackney. He is an Honorary Fellow of the RPS and was the first photographer to have a one-man exhibition at the National Gallery (Wikipedia 2017). His artist website is more comprehensive than most, carrying his important works in galleries, biographical information, a blog and a series of essays. It appears to be a favourite with OCA students as many of the comments and ‘pingbacks’ come from EYV and C&N learning blogs. (I suspect that his website has WordPress underpinnings)

Much of Hunter’s work is influenced by the style of the ‘Old Masters’ of painting. In some cases, such as Woman Reading a Possession Order, there is a deliberate reference to a master work (in this case, Vermeer’s ‘Woman Reading a Letter‘). In others, it is the style and lighting, rather than subject matter that are referenced (Hunter 2011). The series Unheralded Stories is based on such artistic references and the accompanying text on the website names some of the ‘originals’

Hunter’s work is mainly centred on the people of the poorer parts of Hackney, with many titles or themes deriving from stories in the Hackney Gazette. For instance, the project ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories‘ takes lurid headlines such as “Naked Death Plunge” or “Murder, Two Men Wanted” and constructs tableaux around the event or its imagined backstory.

‘Woman Reading a Possession Order’ is part of the project Persons Unknown (the standard addressee of a possession order against squatters) arising from Hunter’s own time living in a squatter community. It is an attempt to challenge the common stereotype of squatters as feckless, unclean and generally objectionable by portraying them with dignity.

Hunter’s mise-en-scene does not rely on stage sets or actors. Photographs are made on location and with the local residents that they depict. Rather, it is about taking time to get everything right, the light, the composition, the ‘props’ (a.k.a. clutter of everyday life, rearranged) and the people. Partly it is an equipment-based approach. I was aware that he uses a large-format camera but had assumed that (like Wall, Crewdson or Gursky) this was to achieve image quality. However, there is a deeper motive as quoted in an essay by Tim Birch (2012) Large format working takes time, care  and commitment.

“I really wanted to show that the subjects I was dealing with were as important as the rich and famous people, in the same way as Vermeer.” (Hunter, quoted by Birch 2012)

References

Birch, T. (2012) Website Essay [online] Available at <http://www.tomhunter.org/website-essay&gt; [Accessed 28 February 2018]

Hunter, T. (2011) Under the Influence [online] Available at <http://www.tomhunter.org/essay-under-the-influence/&gt; [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Pulver, A. (2009) Photographer Tom Hunter’s best shot [online] Available at <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/nov/04/photography-tom-hunter-best-shot&gt; [Accessed 27 February 2018]

Wikipedia (2017) Tom Hunter (artist) [online] Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Hunter_(artist)&gt; [Accessed 27 February 2018].