Saturday, 9 July 2011

Art Photography Course Documentary

Week four saw us examining the documentary impulse within art photography. The photographers we examined were Stephen Shore (again)William Eggleston, Stephen Gill, Hans van der Meer, Paul Seawright, Alec Soth,  Mitch Epstein and Helen Levitt.

William Eggleston

Not sure where to begin on Eggleston, again such an iconic photographer who can really be credited with bringing colour photography to the forefront of documentary photography. His use of colour and the everyday as his subject was very controversial.

one of many interviews with him can be read here

A fair few of his images have also be used for album covers, I found this blog entry about it

Tricycle, Memphis, 1969-71

Untitled (plate 7 from the series 'Fourteen Pictures'), 1980

Untitled (plate 11 from the series 'Troubled Waters'), 1980
When I was first introduced to Eggleston's work about three years ago I did wonder what on earth? I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about and what made his images such a great influence. Now I have researched and read more I realise what a turning point the use of colour was. With some of his images I still wonder ok why? Like the red ceiling one, but the subtle use of tonailty in the green scene above I can appreciate, ok it's just a livingroom but it captures a style, a fashion and the colours work well together. He captures the everyday, sometimes I think shots are bland but maybe I am still learning about him, or maybe some of them are and no-one likes to point it out?

Stephen Gill

Born in Bristol but now living in London Stephen Gill started his own publishing company to ensure he had total control over how his photographs are seen.

An interview with him can be read here

He has concentrated on taking images in and around Hackney. His latest series Outside In has a very novel approach, he literally scooped up rubbish he found in Brighton and dropped inside the chamber of his camera, the randomness of where the items then fell, created the resulting images.

An article on Lensculture explains

I really like this idea and the effects, maybe you could kind of adapt it by putting your 'findings' in a glass and shooting randomly to gain a similar surprise result, because I don't fancy putting water and rubbish inside my camera.......but a good way to document the litter problems we face.

More information and images can be found here on his website.

Whilst finding myself oddly drawn to his images I don't think it is an approach I would use. His photographs are blurry, out of kilter, yet seem to sum up the places he captures despite this.

Hans van der Meer

Van der Meer is a Dutch photographer who has combined sports photography and documentary together with a different take on the subject. (A new name to me) Instead of focusing on the premier leagues he has turned his attention to amateur and lower league teams and the basic stadiums in which they play. He does not zoom in on the play or players, but concentrates more in showing the environment as a whole.

The whole series European Fields can be found on his website

Warley, England

Perafita, Portugal

Celerina, Switzlerland

I love his use of depth of field, the wide field of view and the small appearance of the people making the backdrops appear more impressive.

Paul Seawright

Paul Seawright, born in Belfast, is another photographer who is new to me, but then I haven't really looked that much into documentary photographers as yet. He has produced many bodies of work and documents things both home and abroad. He photographs people, landscapes and architecture. His portfolios can be found on his website.

One of his most recent bodies of work was a commission from the Imperial War Museum to cover events in the Afghan war.

His images have been described as exploring 'malevalent landscapes.' Not sure we have any of those locally, but I suppose some alley ways or the edges of local woods could be viewed in this way. Not sure I'd want to photograph that at the moment though, but it is an interesting concept, local areas we find a bit creepy or scary for no real reason.

Alec Soth

Alec Soth (pronounced Both) is an American photographer, and yet again somebody new to me. I don't think I have come across his work either. An interview with him can be found here

He has some interesting comments about how he used to produce his work for himself, but now when thinking about selling himself and having to consider an audience you lost the 'purity of intention'. They also discuss how work can be read differently from its intention, how his book Sleeping by the Mississippi is viewed in Europe as a social commentary but is wasn't meant to be. Soth is also brutally honest about accepting editorial work that he shouldn't have and describes one job as a 'nightmare.' Too tight a deadline, with equipment he was unfamiliar with. working with traumatised chimps (ones that had been released from scientific research) who he couldn't get close to. A good lesson to us all to know our limitations and not get attracted by money.

He doesn't seem to have a set style, maybe as I haven't looked at enough of his work, but I found a lot of his comments insightful.

Mitch Epstein

Mitch Epstein was a student of Garry Winogrand, who introduced him to the colour work of William Eggleston. One of his bodies of work concentrated on what he knew, and was very personal to him, Family Business documented the demise of his fathers businesses, retail furniture and low-rent real estate.

American Power was an exploration of American energy production sites.

Epstein has produced many bodies of work from around the globe his work can be seen on his website

Lichtenberg, Berlin 2008

BP Carson Refinery, California 2007

Newton Street Row Houses 2000
from Family Business
The juxtaposition of the elephants against the built up area I found really amusing. He seems to use conventional jules of diagonals, repeat patterns, frames within frames and contrast really well.

Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt born in 1913 took many photographs on the street of New York during the 1930's and 40's but in the 60's started to use colour. In 1959 she received a Guggenheim grant to explore her family territory but a burglar broke in and stole all of her colour transparencies. :o(

New York, circa 1940, © Helen Levitt.

New York, circa 1940, © Helen Levitt.

New York, circa 1959-60, © Helen Levitt.

New York, circa 1971-early 1990s, © Helen Levitt.

New York, circa 1971-early 1990s, © Helen Levitt.
One of the things you cannot help but notice in her images is the humour. Not a name I knew before which I hope to address as the images I have found so far are an intriguing history of street/documentary photography.


Homework Week Four

Our assignment was to create one image that you consider questions the world as an art image from a documentary perspective. Out of all the photographers work examined I still felt that Stephen Shore's resonated more with me therefore looked to include street furniture and the cables cutting across the sky, as with Shore I also hope to capture some of the local residents.

Taken in my local neighbourhood on a grey summer day, I used to exposures show the grey skies but lighten the foreground.
I combined looking for images to complete this homework with gathering images for my assignment one.

I wondered if the road sign would make for an interesting final shot, again trying a low viewpoint I sat in the pavement waiting for other elements to come into play, the woman on her mobile phone was quite an interesting element but I didn't think the image was balanced. Likewise the green van provided contrasting colours but there was not enough movement within the image.

The church hall grabbed my attention as it is a place where the community gathers, another image I felt would show traces of people, it also fitted my criteria of containing signs, the pre-school school helped show the generations, I took a series of shots with different people passing by to edit them once home.

The sign for East Wickham Farm also caught my eye due to the grafitti, a sign of people on a sign, it also gave me the opportunity to shoot from a slightly different perspective as the fence is about 6 foot tall and the sign a few feet taller, meaning I had to shoot upwards.

This was supposed to be a shot of a small pet cemetery but due to fences,plants and other objects getting in my way I couldn't get a better shot, but then did it show traces of people? I guess it showed the affection they have for their pets, but it didn't work so that aspect didn't have to be thought about.

Woodland Farm Trust, this helps illustrate the contrast to be found within the locality, the traffic cones add to the countryside/urban aspect but I felt this image again had no movement or any other interest to it.

 This was an accident, hit the button while moving my camera......

Trying to show the unique side of Welling in someways is difficult as in so many ways it isn't! It is a typical London suburb, however it does have the odd unique element, the inner city farm being one of them. Shooting a few different aspects of the farm and its signs I hoped that I would be happy with one of them to include in my final set.

Walking back to where I parked my car I spotted the Welcome to Welling sign and thought this might make a good introductory shot, the weather was again unpredictable, with the cloud cover coming and going and playing havoc with the light. On reviewing them at home I determined to go back and try again.

My car was parked in one of the local pubs which, a Bexley London Borough sign is right outside so tried to capture a shot which had the Bexley sign, the pub sign but also incorporated people/vehicles. Again possible for location that would need reshooting.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Well, I am into construction photography but I love to visit natural places which are filled with natural things. I love to capture wild animals and birds. Photography is my passion and i love to be in this profession.