Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Paris Photo 2016

The iconic Grand Palais is located in the heart of Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 and was dedicated to the glory of French art.

The Grand Palais was the venue for over 180 galleries and art book dealers that made up Paris Photo 2016.

After a protracted detour due to French security measures on the anniversary of the Bataclan massacre, we waited outside in the queue with great excitement. Once the security checks were done and we were inside, our eyes were drawn upwards.  The scale of the glass roof of the Grand Palais was overwhelming.

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The nave of the Grand Palais has a glass domed roof constructed of iron, steel and glass.  The roof reaches a height of 45 metres and spans over 200 metres. It is impressive to say the least. I found myself looking upwards many times throughout the day.

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Paris Photo presents a visual plethora of images from all the genres you can imagine (and more).  Each gallery presents their images in a way that tries to tempt the viewers to buy the images.  I was fascinated by the different presentation methods used and the presentation can influence the interpretation of the images.  As I walked round, I found the array of printing mediums used overwhelming.  Until that point I hadn’t considered the beauty and depth of black and white of silver gelatin prints. I also enjoyed the scale and hue of massive cyanotype prints, some taller than me!

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A fellow student, Simon Fremont, captured several of the galleries using his gimbal and iPhone.  The resulting amazing panoramic images can be seen on his Twitter feed https://twitter.com/simonfremont

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Figure 16: Sutherst 2016

I did find myself people watching at times and was intrigued by some of the fashion on show.

Figure 17: Sutherst 2016

A highlight of the show for me was to get a photobook signed by Roger Ballen and Asger Carlsen.  A video of this was taken by Simon Fremont and can be viewed at https://www.skypixel.com/share/video/the-full-book-signing

The vast arrays of work on display took nearly 7 hours to walk around and digest.  At the end I was mentally and physically exhausted.  In order to review and digest the vast amount of work displayed, I chose to purchase the catalogue to study and digest further. This was important for me to do because reviewing the exhibition content will be helpful to my project development and enable me to consider the work of other photographers to help improve my practice. I intend to blog at a later point on my findings.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition at http://www.parisphoto.com/fr/paris/visite-virtuelle-2016#/accueil/

Positions and Practice, Project Development

Positions and Practice – My Practice

My current practice is about self-expression. My goal is to invite the viewer into a fantasy world where they can forget the reality of the conflict and darkness of real life. I see life as a performance. It is a world where fairies and mythical creatures occupy the same reality as everyday life.

I make pictures for adults that take them on a journey to revisit the fairy tales and stories of their childhood. I aim to create dreamlike images in which fiction and reality merge, and meanings shift. This work allows me to explore hidden areas of my imagination and to express my interpretation of life and the fantasy world. I operate in a world where light-heartedness dominates and where rules are meant to be broken.

In the creation of my images, I often attempt to blur the line between photography, embroidery and art. By focusing on techniques and materials, I intend my work to present a perfect finish and tactile nature. I enjoy experimenting and developing my work based on the results. I often create several practically identical images, develop different techniques on these and repeat my ‘mistakes’ in order to perfect my vision for the image.

With influences as diverse as Caravaggio and Roger Ballen, my work explores the relationships between stereotypes and the depiction of fantasy creatures in modern culture. Through multilayered images, I intend to astonish and manipulate the viewer to leave them with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts.

 

 

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice -Provoke, Le Bal Refection

Visit to the Le Bal to see the Provoke exhibition.  The strap line for this exhibition is ‘Between protest and performance – photography in Japan 1960-1975.’

This exhibition in two rooms, retraces the history of the short-lived, yet cult avant-garde Japanese photography magazine Provoke.

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The exhibition covers the three issues of the magazine and features the photographic work  of its members:-

  • Moriyama Daidō
  • Nakahira Takuma
  • Okada Takahiko
  • Takanashi Yutaka
  • Taki Kōji

The exhibition features predominantly black and white images which are presented in various ways dependent on the effect and interpretation intended.  The two rooms feel quite crowded as a guided group tour was taking place when we were there.  I found this somewhat distracting when viewing images.

I was however fascinated that a series of just 3 magazines could have such a profound effect on photography’s position in reacting to changing political and social conditions.  Again, in order to fully appreciate this body of work and the 3 years of collaborative research that went into it, I have bought the book that accompanies the exhibition.  I will be studying this further and intend to discuss my thoughts in another blog.

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Soulevements / Uprisings – Reflection

Visit to Jeu de Paume, Paris to see the Uprising exhibition.

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

A multi-disciplined exhibition. Uprisings is based around the theme of human gestures of rising up against the world or to raising up the world and to imply a better world.

The exhibition is an interesting and thought provoking mix that includes photographs, paintings, drawings, video installations and posters amongst others.  There is no delineation of the mediums.

There is a sequence throughout the exhibition:-

  • ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)
    • The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint.
    • And if the imagination made mountains rise up
  • GESTURES (INTENSE)
    • From burden to uprising.
    • With hammer blows.
    • Arms rise up.
    • The pasión.
    • When bodies say no.
    • Mouths for exclaiming.
  • WORDS (EXCLAIMED)
    • Poetic insurrections.
    • The message of the butterflies.
    • Newspapers.
    • Making a book of resistance.
    • The walls speak up.
  • CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)
    • To go on strike is not to do nothing.
    • Demonstrating, showing oneself.
    • Vandal joys.
    • Building barricades.
    • Dying from injustice.
  • DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)
    • The hope of one condemned to death.
    • Mothers rise up.
    • They are your own children.
    • They who go through walls.

The exhibition is jam packed with visual stimulus and I became immersed in the messages of each section. I recorded all the section titles as above.  Some sections were difficult for me to view.  I was particularly uncomfortable viewing an image depicting soldiers firing over the top of a makeshift barricade made from the stacked bodies of dead horses.  As a horse owner and equine photographer, the thought of horses dying in a human conflict is abhorrent to me.

An image showing children playing ‘war’ was truly horrifying to me.  The children were playing firing squad.  3 children stood on rocks playing the part of the condemned prisoners. Others faced them playing the part of the firing squad.  Some were hooded. I struggle to comprehend a situation where this subject is so commonplace that the children reenact the scene as play.

Photographs are not allowed to be taken inside the exhibition, so I chose to purchase the catalogue to study and digest further. This was important for me to do because the exhibition content disturbed me at times. I intend to sit down and study some of these images further to understand my strong negative feelings towards the imagery.  I hope that this will be helpful to my project development and enable me to make sure that my images are received in a positive manner in keeping with my subject. I intend to blog at a later point on my findings.

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Quote

‘Because photography is such an easy medium to master technically, especially with today’s cameras, people don’t realize that it’s not just being able to pick up a camera. When I lift that camera up to take a picture, I’ve gone through thousands of steps to get to that point. That’s what you’re really seeing; it’s a complex view of the world, through my imagination, through my experiences.’

– Roger Ballen

 

REFERENCE

Ballen, R. From photoquotations.com. 2016. photoquotations.com  ⁄  roger ballen. [ONLINE] Available at:http://photoquotations.com/a/811/Roger+Ballen/2. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

 

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Le Grand Orchestre des Animaux / The Great Animal Orchestra Reflection

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

Visit to the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris to see the exhibition ‘The Great Animal Orchestra’, based on the work of Bernie Krause.

Bernie Krause is an American bioacoustician, scientist and musician. Over the last 50 years he has collected over 5,000 hours of recording of natural habitats, including more than 15,000 wild species from all around the world.  The Great Animal Orchestra is split into 3 sections.

The first section is essentially a large dark underground room with a visual display of animal and natural world ambient sound vocalisations represented as spectrograms (green lines and dots of light). The display covers 3 walls and at the base of the display walls is a shallow water pool, shining like a highly polished surface.  As I entered the room, I could see other visitors sat on large cushion cubes or lying on the floor.

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This installation is a sensory experience, almost meditative.  It evokes emotion in the viewer.  Recordings of animals and the environment from various places including Africa and America are played and represented by the spectrograms and reflected in the water pools.  The experience is mesmerising and immersive.  The ambient soundscape is punctuated with explosions of sound from animals.  Bernie Krause intends his work to consider the environmental issues of the twenty first century, and the immersive experience of this room helped me to think about the natural world.

The next section is another dark room that contains Plankton, A Drifting World at the Origin of Life.  This is a video installation which features both aural and visual elements.  Artist Shiro Takatani, worked in collaboration with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce a beautiful and mesmerising trip through the beauty of marine micro-organisms.  Sitting on the steps inside the room, I was astonished at how stunning the images of the plankton were.  Whilst I enjoyed this installation immensely, I did at times have difficulty in making sense of the aural aspects.  Sakamoto’s composition is beautiful in its own right yet I struggled at times to make links to the visual elements.  Nonetheless, the installation is stunning and demonstrates that how work is presented can affect our interpretation and appreciation of the subject.

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Figure 5: Luc Boegly. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, “The Great Animal Orchestra” Installation view

The final section is on the ground floor of the stunning transparent building of the Fondation Cartier. The exhibition in this section is dominated on one side by a gigantic artwork by Cai Guo-Qiang.  The work, White Tone, was created using Qiang’s favourite medium – gunpowder.  Qiang drew the animal outlines with black gunpowder before he set them alight.  The final artwork appearance reminded me a prehistoric cave painting.

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Figure 6: Luc Bogey. Installation view of Cai Guo-Qiang’s White Tone at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2016.
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Figure 6: Shu-Wen Lin.

A video installation close to the gigantic work explains Qiang’s process for producing the work.  This covers the source inspiration for the work – it is a two-dimensional take on Heritage, a large installation of life-size replicas of animals (both predator and prey) gathered around a water hole, that was commissioned by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in 2013.  What is not explained and if left for the viewer to wonder about is why Qiang has chosen to reimagine the installation as a gunpowder drawing .

The other half of the ground floor features paintings, ceramics, photographs and videos focused on the animal world.  The presentation of the work reflects the orchestra feel with the use of varying heights for the images and seating and presentation walls made from terracotta bricks (designed by Mexican architects Gabriela Carrillo and Mauricio Rocha).  The circular form adds to the orchestra feel.

On one presentation space, beautiful dioramas occupied my gaze for a not insignificant amount of time.  The terracotta seating opposite this image was inviting and a great place from which to admire the work and discuss the MA Photography course with a fellow student.  Inspired by the work, we discussed our practice to date, how we arrived on the course and our aspirations for the future.

‘The Great Animal Orchestra’ is an inspiring and stimulating exhibition that has demonstrated to me that how work is presented can affect how it is interpreted and appreciated.

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Figure 7: Sutherst 2016

 

REFERENCES

Figure 5: Boegly, L. From artnet News. 2016. Fondation Cartier Stages Oddest Summer Show – artnet News. [ONLINE] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/great-animal-orchestra-exhibition-fondation-cartier-541805. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Figure 6: Boegly, L. From Inexhibit. 2016. “The Great Animal Orchestra” at the Fondation Cartier Paris. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.inexhibit.com/case-studies/the-great-animal-orchestra-at-the-fondation-cartier-paris/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Figure 7: Shu-Wen Lin. From Cultured Magazine. 2016. Sonic Boom: Cai Guo-Qiang | Cultured Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.culturedmag.com/cai-guo-qiang-fondation-cartier/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].

Positions and Practice, Project Development

Positions and Practice – Paris Door Knobs Mini Project

Whilst on the Paris study trip, I set myself a mini challenge to capture images that showed something about the area where I was staying.  I wanted to capture the images within a one hour walk from the hotel.  Images were to be shot on my iPhone and should be colourful.  Whilst on the walk, I was struck by the variety of door knobs and door colours in the area. The resulting mini project is a visually interesting collection that was great fun to collate.

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Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Critical Theory in Practice – What do others think of my work?

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2016

I used the above images to research how other people interpreted my images.  The idea was that I can use their interpretations alongside my intent to further inform and improve my practice.

Image Intention

To create fun images that questioned the notion that fairies should predominantly be female. Male fairies are generally depicted as a patriarchal figure. I wanted to challenge this with images that raised questions about gender stereotypes and that crossed over.

My thoughts about how the images could be interpreted – these were written before I asked others for their opinions

Reflection – The imagery of the way that the fairy is dressed gives a sense of feminity and happiness. Some viewers will react in a negative way to this image with a man portrayed as a fairy.  The subject is being quite provocative in one image with the way his finger has been placed in his mouth. The subject is making eye contact with the photographer and there is a definite connection between the two. There is a sense of campness in the image which makes the image almost amusing.

Formal Analysis – the choice of a male subject used to represent a female fairy creates a dialogue between the viewer and the photographer as to the use of stereotypes in the portrayal of fiction characters. Fairies are traditionally female. I wanted to explore this notion.

HEDONISM – this was founded on the basis of intellectual pleasure. This image goes against this perspective as it is promoting physical pleasure. The image has a sexual element to it.

Culturally this image would be unable to be displayed in certain countries due to the open sexuality of the images.

To help me understand and appreciate how my images would be viewed by others, I asked 30 people for their comments and thoughts. This was a mix of genders and ages. They have different life experiences which affect how they view the images. Feedback was given anonymously.

General comments

  • Images seem contrived – what is the reason behind them? Why did you take them?
  • Images are playful and great fun
  • ‘In my experience it is always the boys who want to play dress up’
  • Images go someway to breaking down gender barriers and depict these men as new romantics – more feminine that we are used to.
  • Really interesting images, with great composition
  • Reminds me of 1980’s Athena posters in a sweet and sour way – the images are double edged in their meaning
  • I love the blue backgrounds. It reminds me of taking my children to get their portraits done in a small studio – happy times
  • Would like to stay in a B&B with these on the wall – it would be a cool place
  • Images are slick – they look like advertising type images that have lots of production put into them
  • Images are planned not accidental
  • The subjects are playing a role and we do not see who they really are – was this scripted and acted or spontaneous
  • Images are very suggestive in nature
  • I see gender roles being merged and the viewer is challenged with a juxtaposition which may be contradictory or difficult on the eye. They also challenge the male role in our society and how sex is portrayed and challenged today.
  • Subject in photos 1 and 2 is far more comfortable in the role than the subject in photos 3 and 4 – why is this?
  • All images seem to contrast femininity and masculinity – I personally like them as the conflict really challenges you and your perceptions

Image 1 Comments

  • There is a joyous element to this image
  • Subject appears to love innuendo
  • Posing because he enjoys it
  • Comfortable in his own skin
  • Cheeky image – animated model
  • Exaggerated features – I like this
  • The longer you look at this photo the less uncomfortable it is to look at
  • I love the contrast of the tattoos and beard to the childish costume
  • Lots to focus on in the image
  • I do not like this image but it is interesting to look at and it is eye catching
  • I love this image – it is my favourite. It is comical and has a great sense of humour. It shows someone who does not care what others think of him. The colours help emphasise this.
  • It is disturbing and he looks like he is weirdly flirting with the viewer

Image 2 Comments

  • Most dramatic image and seems the most real
  • Looks like a scene from a dark and seedy Disney film.
  • Represents Narnia or a fairy tale but with a dark and seedy element
  • Should be on the wall in the toilets of a hotel
  • Introduces nature into the images
  • Homo-erotic implication in image with pose and black and white – removes this image from the playfulness of the others
  • Too dark – image does not pop for me
  • My favourite image of the 4. I really like the background and black and white effects. I do find the facial expression uncomfortable to look at though
  • Dark and gloomy image – quite haunting
  • I like that the background has little detail so the emphasis is on the model.
  • I love the detail of this image and how the background interacts with the model.  I like the sense of humour the image gives off.
  • Confident pose
  • Reminds me of a new profile picture for Facebook
  • Looks like the start of a really bad porn film
  • Making a connection with the outdoor elements in a scary way

Image 3 Comments

  • Interesting portrait – I really like this image
  • There is a real story behind this image
  • It has an almost Pierrot clown feel to it – sad and happy
  • Very Charlie Chaplin in nature
  • Plays the most with the gender issue
  • Pensive and slightly uncomfortable in what he has been asked to do – this adds a layer of interest. Did he pose like this because he was asked to not because he wanted to?
  • Successful as a portrait but uncomfortable to look at as the subject looks uncomfortable
  • I don’t like the pout – I would have preferred a happier looking model with a smile
  • Unusual image due to the facial expression
  • I don’t like this photo as it creeps me out. It reminds me of nightmare I once had. It does not make me feel good.
  • I feel as though the image is portraying a mix of beauty and disaster. I do not personally feel comfortable looking at the image as the pose and costume are disturbing
  • Tackles stereotypical issues
  • Exaggerated make up
  • Provocative clothing
  • Contrast between dark and light

Image 4 Comments

  • My favourite photo. It displays a lot of power but in a simplistic way.
  • I would prefer a background scene on this image.
  • I feel like there is a story behind the man. Why is he wearing this and why are there petals on the floor?
  • It is like there was some sort of celebration but now he is full of regret and doesn’t want to be there.
  • Looks like he doesn’t want to be there
  • Man in a girls world
  • Trying to look both evil and effeminate
  • Very weird
  • Contrasts neo-Nazism with gay pride

My thoughts following the survey 

I had not anticipated some of the comments I received.  Whilst I quite like the idea that the viewer questions what the intent was and why I took the images, I do want to ensure that my work is not misinterpreted in any way.  I was surprised to learn that one of my images was compared to neo-Nazism.  This was so far away from my intent, that I am going through a process of re-evaluating the aesthetics of planned shoots.

Most of the comments were positive and picked up on some of the points that I had intended to portray.  There were a few negative comments that have encouraged me to look at the composition and framing of images to ensure that the fun and playful aspect I intended is maintained.

I found it particularly intriguing that my understanding of critical theory that everyone interprets images differently appears to be evident from the survey.  I intend to repeat this process as my project progresses.  However, this test survey had its limitations.  As all results were collected anonymously, there is no way to correlate any particular comment to an individual in terms of gender, age or life experience etc.  In future surveys, my intention is to collect this information alongside the comments. This will assist my categorisation and analysis of responses and help me reduce misinterpretation of my future images.

Coursework, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Critical Theory

Everyday we look at the world around us. We observe and recognise things. Our brains make sense of what we see and give it both a context and meaning.

Our society is increasingly filled with visual images. Each image has a purpose and has been published for a purpose. The images can produce a multitude of response and emotions dependent on the content and on the viewer and their life experiences. A single image can be interpreted in many ways by different audiences.

My understanding of critical theory is how a photograph is interpreted and understood.  The first step to seeing a photograph clearly is to think clearly about it.  We can do this by critically analysing a photograph for context and meaning in terms of a range of perspectives:- philosophical,  cultural, economic, social, technological, historical etc.

Each person interprets a photograph differently based on their own experiences and how these experiences have shaped their lives.  They also interpret images in terms of the perspectives that matter most to them.  This interpretation may not be what the photographer intended and may adversely affect how the viewer perceives the photographer and their work.

Critical theory matters because reading constructive criticism about images can increase our knowledge and appreciation of the work.  By considering a range of perspectives and answering descriptive, interpretive and evaluative questions about photographs, we can expand our awareness of and alter our perception of the work.  This in turn helps us to improve our own practice. We consider our photographs in terms of different perspectives and can work to ensure interpretation of our images is clearer and not ambiguous where possible.

In The End of Art Theory, Victor Burgin stated that ‘although photography is a ‘visual medium’, it is not a ‘purely visual’ medium. I am not alluding simply to the fact that we rarely see a photograph in use which is not accompanied by writing (albeit this is a highly significant fact), even the uncaptioned ‘art’ photograph, framed and isolated on the gallery wall, is invaded by language in the very moment it is looked at: in memory, in association, snatched of words and images continually intermingle and exchange one for the other. It will be objected that this is indistinct and insignificant background noise to our primary act of seeing.’ [1]

I think that this is a good example of effective theory in practice because critical theory is about considering how a photograph is interpreted and understood. We experience images in many ways and we often do not have a choice on how the image affects us. I had the chance to test out this aspect of critical theory recently when I asked a diverse group of people what a selection of my images were about.  The answers were very surprising and in many cases, not what I had anticipated at all.  The age and life experience of the viewer played a part in how they reacted to the images. I will consider this in another blog post this week.

To reinforce his point further, Burgin goes on to say ‘we cannot choose what we know, and neither can we chose what part of our dormant knowledge will be awakened by the stimulus of an image, reciprocally reactivated and reinforced by it.  Regardless of how much we may strain to maintain a ‘disinterested’ aesthetic mode of apprehension, an appreciation of the ‘purely visual’, when we look at an image it is instantly and irreversibly integrated and collated with the intricate psychic network of our knowledge.  It is the component meanings of this network that an image must represent, there is no choice in this.’ [1]

 

REFERENCE

[1] Burgin, Victor (1980)  The End of Art Theory – Criticism and Postmodernity. [online] Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Distribution Ltd.  Available from http://www.sichtbarkeit-sichtbarmachung.de/data/user/WiSe_2012_13/Sonstiges/internationale_Tagung/BURGIN__Seeing_Sense__1980_.pdf (Links to an external site.)[Accessed 19 November 2016]

Contextual Research, Positions and Practice

Positions and Practice – Quote

‘It is my belief that the most challenging photographs are those that create a tension between what we refer to as the real and the imaginative.’

– Roger Ballen

REFERENCE

A-Z Quotes. 2016. Roger Ballen quote: It is my belief that the most challenging photographs are…. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1443617. [Accessed 20 November 2016].