Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Sylvie Bonnot

An inspiring photographer whose work I experienced at Unseen, Amsterdam is Sylvie Bonnot.

Bonnot uses multiple techniques and materials in her work.  These include drawing, 3D elements, painting, etching and working with cellulose and gelatin layers.  In each image, her starting point is the photograph.

Her images caught my eye.  Bonnot was explaining her work to other viewers and I was able to discuss her work with curators from the gallery where her work is currently on display – The Merchant House.

It is evident from many of her images, that Bonnot is attracted to images that depict extremes of weather.  She uses a process she calls “the mue”. What she does is take the exposed gelatin layer off the photographic paper and then fixes this to another medium.  This produces images that have creases and imperfections in the surface.  The results are stunning. The image becomes distorted and deformed.

As well as landscapes and cityscapes, she has also included the image below, which is absolutely stunning and caught my eye from across the space.

As she has developed and perfected this technique, Bonnot’s work has increased in size and this was ecident in the exhibition.

cThe other works that attracted my attention were her arved drawings over the top of photographic paper. Bonnot uses a hot needle to draw the lines onto the images.

I was fortunate that the gallery staff also showed me a carved drawing that had been drawn onto a photograph printed onto an alumininum surface.  The result is that the lines are much finer.

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Bonnot’s work is really inspiring to me as she constantly appears to push the boundaries of photography.

“Wandering across a landscape is my way to try to understand and catch its inner qualities, its mysterious oddity, and its intrinsic extra-ordinariness.”

– Bonnot (Sylviebonnot.com, 2017)

It was explained to me that once Bonnot has taken the photograph she then analyses the image in terms of how a walker interacts with the landscape and her own reaction to it.  From there she superimposes linear structures on to the images. To my eyes, the lines give a sense of movement through the image and whilst they may appear random, there is a sense that the ‘route’ of the lines obeys some form of logic internal to the image.  I feel the movement.

“Photographing at first is noting, the gesture is quite simple and spontaneous or at least looks like. It fixes the memory, it moors it.

But having more than many of them force you to memorize your on sequence, what and when you saw, you tried, you did, and you felt.

Many months are needed before you can draw the set of images which will meet your sensibility. During these successive readings also arise set of drawings complementary to those sketched in situ.

The lines carve the paper, fondle your sheet; your gesture hunts for restoring your walk, your wait, your watch. Ghosts come to life. With its own means drawing goes along the process of photography. Some forms and lines you noticed and/or photographed are brought back to the surface of the drawing paper. Being on a paper sheet or on the surface of a wall, a drawing tends to conquer the territory on which it is laid out. It’s a pendulum through the appearance of reality you caught off the landscapes and their and your ghosts of memory. What did I do see, what could have seen the other, what will be left?”

– Bonnot (Sylviebonnot.com, 2017)

 

I understand her work.  I hear and feel the dialogue she has created between the landscape and the inner voice of the place.  The inner qualities and nature of the places she has visited are expressed clearly and vividly with her interventions. The journey her work takes me on is somewhat dreamlike; lines and image intertwine; the images become the voice of the earth and our interaction with it. I am excited for my own journey through pbotographic exploration and experimentation.

 

REFERENCES

Sylviebonnot.com. (2017). sylvie bonnot. [online] Available at: http://www.sylviebonnot.com/textes.asp?id=2&num=2&lg=gb [Accessed 30 Sep. 2017].

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Unseen Living Room Talk Unseen and Undiscovered

During my visit to Unseen, I attended a talk by Susan Bright and Simindokht Dehghani. Bright is a British writer and photography curator.  Dehghani is the owner and director of Ag Galerie, Tehran.

Bright spoke about the work of five emerging photographers, whilst Dehghani spoke about influential photographers in Iranian photography.

 

Bright explained that she selects works based on whether or not it excites and thrills her.  She expressed her like for photographers that sit outside the traditional genres and types. The work she presented in this talk was by the following photographers:-

  • Anne Eder, UK – tintype ‘Moss Monster’ images.  She creates worlds for the monsters she makes and then installs them in a forest.  Eder then documents their decay.
  • Caroline McQuarrie, New Zealand – she uses hand skills such as embroidery and knitting.  She uses these skills subversively in her practie.  The threads peirce the images.  McQuarrie also uses doilies which contain images she has taken from her family album, to produce a collection of the images (or possibly to indicate an entrapmen of the images and memories). Her practice also includes embroidery onto cyanotypes to produce image that have an Instagram feel and quality to them. This work particularly interested me as it showed different ways of using threads within images, and inspires me to further push my work along this path.
  • Keirnan Monaghan and Theo Vamvounakis, New York – commercial photographers whose work ‘Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography’ was recently curated and published in a book by Bright.
  • Jesse Chun, New York – project work concerned with national identity. The work is in 3 parts.  The first contains scanned passports which are then reduced to just the bird and landscape images on the pages. She used a high-DPI photo scanner to capture the watermarks on passports and turn them into large-scale images.  The second are the forms that need to be completed for immigration.  She deconstructs the documents removing elements of text from the forms and turning them into poetry.  Part three sees her completely delete all the text from the documents. She then abstract the boxes and lines that remain, before printing them on blueprint papaer to mimic architectural designs.
  • Annede Gelas, Holland – Gelas has produced a book about the violent death of her husband on holiday in the sea.  Bright explains that the book made her cry.  She says it is not possible to flick through the book; it reads like a novel and demands time from the viewer to appreciate it fully. I am keen to track down this book and experience what Bright experienced.

 

Dehghani spoke eloquently about the war and violent images that have shaped the face of Iranian photography.  Covering images that depict public hanging, execution of serial murderers and beheaded bodies, the talk offered a fascinating insight into an area of photography that I hadn’t really given much thought to previously.

After each had spoken, a discussion forum was opened.  Both Bright and Dehghani expressed a preference for portfolios to be emailed to them by photographers looking for  representation.  A physical portfolio requires more time and effort to view. They both also explained that they look at Instagram for potential photographers. But whatever the method of getting your portfolio in front of a curator, the key factor (which was expressed very clearly by Bright) is that the work must speak to the viewer.  Work that evokes an emotion or reaction is more likely to be picked up by a curaotr or agency.  Sound advice for the future. I found the talk incredibly informative and engaging.

A sample of the discussion (apologies for the poor sound – the huge room made it tricky to record this well).

 

The venue for the talks was stunning and the images below give some indication of the beautiful light and shadows that added to the atmosphere of the discussions.

Coursework, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Time to Play

Throughout this module, we will be asked to carry out activities from The Photographer’s Playbook. All of these activities are carefully selected and aim to make us think about our practice and where it might be positioned in a professional context.

The first activity is from Michael Christopher Brown, an American photographer represented by Magnum Photos. “For much of my career, photography was more of a way to make money than a compulsion. I spent a lot of time communicating ideas that were not my own. Two years ago, during the Libyan Revolution, I began taking a more honest path with regards to photography. It had to do with finding a voice. An interesting exercise that anyone can do is to take one photograph per day for a week. The idea is to be focused enough to only photograph what is absolutely necessary. What are the seven pictures that not only define the week but yourself? What if you were to die next week and these were to be the last seven pictures of your life? This exercise can be an important analysis of the self in relation to life and photography.”(Flex.falmouth.ac.uk, 2017)

My week in images.  

My week reflects my trip to Amsterdam as part of the MA course, meeting friends, laughing, observing others, and then back to reality with happy cats, a chest infection, study time and a very dirty horse (his field is lovely and muddy – perfect for rolling!).

As part of my practice, I capture images every day.  Often this is on my iPhone, as I always have this on me.  I capture images of events, nature, and anything that catches my eye. I use these images as a visual record of my life.  Some of these images make it to Instagram or Twitter, whilst some just remain on my phone.

As this week’s task was about recording seven days, I did choose to include images that would not normally be published. These are the image of the tablets and the books.  The tablets remind me how my Addison’s Disease lets me do the things I want for a few days and then it rears up and knocks me back for a few more. But I am here and I am lucky to have the life I do.

My MA studies are very important to me and the book image is a reminder of that.  These are books that I am currently reading in relation to my project.  Animals, friends, and family are very important to me. I don’t normally publish images of myself but have included 2 here which have happy thoughts and memories attached to them.

So why do I take photographs every day? Moments are fleeting.  Time passes by so quickly and almost in front of my eyes.  The landscape and world around me seems to be constantly changing, whether it be due to the seasons or due to man’s intervention. The most important element of these photographs are that they make me feel something; they evoke an emotion in me. The light at that point in time might never be the same again, so I need to capture it at that moment.  The camera on my iPhone is a way for me to document and preserve that moment so that it can live forever. Beauty and art are everywhere.

The exercise has encouraged me to continue to record images everyday of the world around me. Whilst the photographs can’t replace my memories or me, they do offer an insight into who I am and what is important to me.

 

REFERENCES

Flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (2017). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/84/discussion_topics/2791 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2017].

 

 

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Photo Pleasure Palace

The Photo Pleasure Palace at Unseen was an installation/exhibition curated by Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender. The aim was to actively engage and encourage the viewer to interact with photography in a playful and completely different way. Both of these artists are known for the re-appropriation of images.  Their work leans towards the absurd and the Photo Pleasure Palace reflects this style. It has the feel of a carnival. Even the catalogue for the exhibition was presented in a fun way via a dispensing machine.

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The installation has a ‘Photo Fortune Teller’ and a ‘Giant Peephole’.  Other activities included the ‘Smash Gallery’, ‘Toilet Obscura’ and ‘Jump Trump”.

‘Jump Trump’

This activity encourages visitors to jump or fall onto a picture of Trump’s face.

 

‘Smash Gallery’

This activity invited visitors to throw 3 pieces of wood at an expansive gallery wall with photographs placed randomly on it.  The idea was that the wood should smash the glass on the image.  If that happened, you ‘won’ the image and it was sealed in it’s broken frame in a vacuum pack ready to take home.

I have never been very good at throwing or aiming at things but decided to have a go. A peer gave me his blocks too.  I was aiming for a photograph that looked very much like him.  To my surprise, I smashed the glass on that image with the second shot and then smashed the glass on another with the fourth shot.  I gave the image that looked like my friend to him. It was such a high to smash the glass on images in front of a huge crowd.

 

My visit to the Photo Pleasure Palace did indeed get me excited and involved with photography in a different way.  I take my hat off to the curators and salute their vision and execution of such a fun and interesting way of experiencing photography.

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Different Mediums

Unseen was the perfect place to view and appreciate the diversity in mediums used to produce and display photographs.

Fabric

Stanislaw Lewkowicz’s ‘Greetings from Calcutta’ consisted of 27 pieces.  The work is presented on silk pieces which have been lithographically and digitally printed on before being embroidered.  The work was pinned to the display wall.

The display was visually stunning and as the pieces were the only pinned at the top, as viewers walked past the work it moved like flags in the wind.

I discussed the work with the gallery representative and was able to find out more about the work. Lewkowicz is a traveler. The work was produced in West Bengal, with the help of women in the rural areas.  The women interpreted his images and text and then embroidered the images in the Kantha style of embroidery which is typical of the region.

I was informed that the work is an exploration of telling a story based on intimate subjects that Lewkowicz encountered when he was traveling. The work is presented as a diary of how he was feeling during his travels.  It is deeply personal, yet reflects the universal feelings surrounding both sociability and loneliness.

I am particularly drawn to the tactile nature of the work.  The unique hybrid pieces are packed with emotion and narrative.  In moving my practice further, this is a medium that I would like to explore.

Other works were presented on fabric. In particular, the cyanotype below was produced on linen and is a fine example of the use of fabric.  My only criticism is that the image has been framed and so we lose some of the effect of the fabric moving as viewers walk past it.

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Tracing Paper

The use of tracing paper to cover Lara Gasparotto’s work can be considered as an attempt to maintain the privacy of her images.  These private flashes of her life and subjects make the viewer feel like an intruder or voyeur.  I do like how she has used the tracing paper to overlay her images.  The label and commentary can be read before you pull the tracing paper back to reveal the images.  This experience encourages you to touch the work (something that is often frowned upon in gallery displays).

I was drawn to this work as I have been considering how I could use tracing paper to conceal part of the images, so that I can keep elements of the image hidden.

 

Metal Frames

I was interested in the use of cut aluminum frames used by Dutch photographer Bert Teunissen.  He has used vintage photographic paper acquired on his travels to print the images.  The prints are then mounted in the aluminum frames.  This makes for a visually pleasing and striking display.

 

Manipulated Work

Throughout the exhibition, there were many examples of physically manipulated images. A visual record of some of the work is presented below for future reference.

 

Embroidered Images

I have included embroidery on some of my images in the past (previous blog post). I was interested to view the different ways in which contemporary artists are combning embroidery onto photograph prints.

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Collage

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Roger Ballen and Miles Aldridge, Polaroids

One of the highlights of Unseen for me was to see Roger Ballen’s new work ‘Polaroids’.

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The new images on display are not in his characteristic monochrome.

An artist and photographer, in his instantly recognisable work, Ballen blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. This is still true in the Polaroid collection.

His unique style of combining drawings, paintings and sculptural aspects in his photographs is also still evident.

However, his normal style of square format black and white aesthetic is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, we are presented with intimate, colour images.  This presents his work and aesthetic in a new light.

The subject matter is the same. His work is still strange and extreme.  As mentioned in my previous blog post, Ballen’s work confronts the viewer and challenges us to go with him on his journey.  Where are we going? As previously explored, Ballen is taking us on a journey into the deepest recesses of our minds as he explores his.

His images, whether colour or monochrome are surreal, making statements that are absurd and challenging.  He has not lost this from his work by moving to the colour Polaroids.

Ballen chose Unseen to be the venue for his premiere of the Polaroid photos.  The Reflex Gallery have exclusive access to the work. His exhibition is due to be accompanied by a book of the images (yet to be published).

I was lucky enough to have the gallery show me other images in the body of work.  These were kept in a folder under the display.  Looking through the other images, I was able to fully appreciate the skill and vision that Ballen has.  The images are sharp and the colour palette enhances the overall narrative and aesthetic. I felt quite privileged to have had this opportunity.

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But Ballen is not the only photographer who had displays at Unseen of Polaroids. The same gallery had a display by Miles Aldridge, ‘Please return Polaroid’.

In the display, it is evident that many of the Polaroids on display have been damaged.  The damage in some cases is intentional, in others it is accidental.  The images have been trimmed, marked, cut and pasted into new contexts.  Parts of the images are modified, enhanced, rearranged or removed through this process. The images now have more of a narrative.  The display and the images themselves reminded me of a storyboard that might be prepared before a shoot.

What I particularly like about the images is that they are playful and celebrate the imperfections and flaws in the finished images. Too often digital images are manipulated to produce the perfect image.  Photoshop is used to create the images of the type that Aldridge is producing in the physical form.

The resurgence in Polaroid popularity is really interesting.  In an age where people constantly take images purely to post them to various social media sites, Polaroids are pretty amazing.  They exist in a physical form, whereas many digital images are destined to remain unseen on a hard drive of a computer.  There is something special about being able to touch and hold an image. There is a fascination with watching the image develop in front of your eyes, even after all these years it seems like magic.

Polaroids are distinctive.  The aesthetically distinctive iconic white borders have been replicated in filters on mobile phones and computers. The size of the images makes them intimate and engaging.

I am excited to see new work produced by photographers using Polaroids in the future.

 

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam – Displays

During my visit to Unseen, various displays stood out to me. For future reference, I have included a visual record of these below.

The various methods of displaying work demonstrate the uniqueness of each gallery and artist/photographer. Seeing the effectiveness encourages me to try out different methods and layouts when presenting my work in future exhibitions.

 

I was also fascinated and intrigued by the different methods of labeling and identifying work. Some appeared to be professionally printed whilst others were handwritten or painted onto the display boards. Again a visual record has been included for future reference.  Seeing the different methods, I can appreciate that not all labels need to be printed; handwritten labels are very effective. The red dots on the labels indicate that the photograph has been sold.

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Unseen, Amsterdam

As part of the MA Photography Face-to-Face event, I had the opportunity to visit the photography-focused art fair ‘Unseen Amsterdam’. In its sixth year, 53 galleries from 14 countries displayed work from established as well as up-and-coming artists and photographers.

Presented in Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek, the venue is quite spectacular.  The park is beautiful and contains many historic factory buildings.

The Westergasfabriek (Western Gas Factory) ceased production of gas in 1967 leaving behind a polluted site that could not be used for housing. In 1992, the site started to be used on a temporary basis for many creative and cultural activities. In 2003 the site was cleaned up and reopened.  A new kind of energy was felt on the site – the energy of creative and artist exploration and expression.

The main exhibition of Unseen was held in the Gashouder (Gasholder). This iconic building is the centrepiece of the park.  It is a large circular space with an impressive cast-iron ceiling.  There are no pillars in the space (only on the edges), which makes it ideal for a photographic exhibition.

The scale of the space is impressive to say the least.  As an engineer, I spent some time just looking and admiring the interior.  The ceiling structure is spectacular.

A huge marquee next to the main exhibition housed a photobook sale on a huge scale.  I could have spent hours in there too.

The images below are my visual record of the venue. Further blog posts will consider some of the work on display.

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Clément Lambelet

During my visit to FOAM Talent in Amsterdam, Clément Lambelet’s ‘Collateral Visions / Happiness is the Only True Emotion’ resonated with me and as so is worthy of its own blog post.

Lambelet describes his practice as “tied to society-based issues linked to human visibility. I am looking to explore the readability and visual comprehension of contemporary subjects such as the use of algorithms for human control” (C-lambelet.com, 2017)

The project considers the global issues of the privacy of individuals and how our faces can be reduced to a series of numbers and shape maps.  Lambelet questions the place of man and identification images of people within machines and algorithms used in face recognition software, which he notes, only recognise happiness.

“Even if it’s immediate, photography is never pure information. Despite its appearance of a transcription of reality, it remains free of interpretation – as evidenced by the need for legend in the press. But again, it’s both a limit and a force of the medium. The photographs that interest me contain little information. I prefer to present documents, such as press clippings or excerpts of scientific research alongside the images I produce. Their purely informative value contains an aspect that photography does not possess.”

– (Swissdesignawardsblog.ch, 2017)

The work on display resonated with me and work I have started to complete prior to the Amsterdam visit. In my previous blog post, I have considered the work carried out by  Martinez in relation to 21 emotional states.

I found Lambelet’s display of the work to be really fascinating. The layout reminds me of the books used in police identification procedures depicted in crime dramas on television.  It feels like an invasion of privacy of the people in the images. In particular, I am reminded of the police mugshots taken of Jeffrey Dahmer as seen in figure 1.

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Figure 1: Jeffrey Dahmer – Milwaukee Police Department

The people whose images are shown are almost dehumanised by the display and this made me slightly anxious. The manner of display struck a chord with me and forced me to consider how many times my photo may have been taken by CCTV etc and digitised for future use.  Even coming through the face recognition passport control lanes makes me uneasy.  Are the images saved?  Who will look at them?  How will the information be used in the future? Lambelet cleverly took me to this train of thought.

The text above each image looks ominous. I initially thought that it was personal information about the images. At least, that is what it looked like from a distance. Close up I could see that each image was being evaluated in terms of different emotional states:

  • anger
  • contempt
  • disgust
  • fear
  • happiness
  • neutral
  • sadness
  • surprise

Alongside each emotion was a series of numbers that appear to be a computer algorithm’s interpretation of the face.

To me, this work is really relevant to my current work and is quite powerful in the way it has been presented.  I spent quite a lot of time studying the display.  I am inspired to continue with my facial expression work after seeing how effectively this could be displayed in a gallery setting.

Below are my visual record images taken in FOAM.

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Lambelet is due to publish a photobook shortly that accompanies the project.  The book ‘Happiness is the only true emotion’ will further explore the failures of computer algorithms. I intend to try and get a copy of the book when it is published. Figures 2 and 3 below provide an indication of how the book will look.

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Figure 2: Lambelet. Happiness is the only true emotion. 2016
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Figure 3: Lambelet. Happiness is the only true emotion. 2016

 

REFERENCES

C-lambelet.com. (2017). About ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/about/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Swissdesignawardsblog.ch. (2017). Swiss Design Awards Exhibition Journal | CLÉMENT LAMBELET. [online] Available at: http://swissdesignawardsblog.ch/nominee/clement-lambelet/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

 

IMAGE SOURCES

Figure 1: McPadden, M. and Colby, C. (2017). Crime History: The Death Of Jeffrey Dahmer And The Evolution Of Cruising Serial Killers – CrimeFeed. [online] CrimeFeed. Available at: http://crimefeed.com/2016/11/crime-history-the-death-of-jeffrey-dahmer-and-the-evolution-of-cruising-serial-killers/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Figure 2: C-lambelet.com. (2017). Collateral Visions ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/projects/collateral-visions/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Figure 3: C-lambelet.com. (2017). Collateral Visions ◐ c-lambelet.com. [online] Available at: https://c-lambelet.com/en/projects/collateral-visions/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].

Exhibition Notes, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – FOAM – André Kertész

A further exhibition at FOAM focuses on the work of André Kertész.  The exhibition ‘Mirroring Life’, contains more than 200 of his photographs. The retrospective presents a chronological overview of Kertész’s extensive body of work.

Kertész is known for his unusual composition in his images.  He did not comment on his work and this adds to the attraction of the work for me as I try to interpret the narratives he has produced. The exhibition covered images from his early practice right through to his later work.

My visual record images of the display are shown below.

 

Kertész’s “Distortions” are a series of nudes that he produced in 1933. Kertész conducted a series of experiments with optical distortions.  He used different materials to mirror, stretch and distort the bodies beyong recognition.

I was fascinated to see these miniature images in their display cabinet. The patterns and shapes that Kertész produced are abstract and confusing. There is a humorous feel to the images as they reminded me of the mirrors in a circus or funfair that distort our bodies in strange and amusing ways.

Kertész produced the series of images during the spring of 1933.  He worked in a studio to create the work.  This is in contrast to his normal methodology of shooting in public places. The subject was also a bit of an exception for him.  He shot nudes by exception.  He is best known for the nudes in this series.  The images were created with 2 models and 3 mirrors. His equipment of choice was a large format camera with a zoom lens as this helped to give him the distorted effects he was aiming to achieve.

Kertész experimented with his shots, cleverly constructing the images with his use of shadow and light, distortion and deformation created by the mirrors. He made full use of the reflections and mirrored images in the successful images. We normally use mirrors to reflect an image, whereas Kertész produced images where the subject and content are often unrecognisable. This makes the work intriguing and makes me wonder where the idea for the work came from.  I want to know more.

The models in his images are made anonymous by the distortion.  We are unable, as viewers, to make sense of the images. We struggle to determine the message that Kertész was trying to communicate with us. The body has become merely an object in these images. Whether or not the image creation was driven by a fetish or voyeurism, the images certainly have an intimate and compelling feel to them.  We are drawn in, partly due to the size, partly because of the content and partly due to the measurements and notes around them.

This particular part of the exhibition held my interest for quite some time.  I admit to being fascinated by the distortions.  I would probably have been the ideal viewer for Kertész. I engaged fully with the work and spent a great amount of time studying the images in attempt to decipher the images.

Examples of the work are shown in my visual records below.

 

Having been exposed to the work of Kertész earlier in the MA course, it felt like a real privilege to have seen the work on display. A real highlight of my visit to FOAM.