Friday, 5 August 2011

Husain and Hasan Essop... and more on the Constructed Image.

I had never heard of the Essop brothers before going to the V&A Facts and Fictions Exhibition earlier this year and was struck by their images, not only the content but also by how they were produced. Hasan and Husain Essop are twins which assists with their collaboration. They share an upbringing, religion and identity. This means they can address and confront issues relevant to themselves from the same perspective

The exhibition information told us that the scenes within Halaal Art are digitally reconstructed but other than that not much detail. The video on the V&A website goes into a little more depth. To understand their images it helps to understand their intention, concept and methods.

Figures & Fictions: Hasan and Husein Essop - Victoria and Albert Museum

Husain describes how on entering his parents home you will find no pictures on the wall so it is a strange concept that their sons became artists. Part of the Muslim faith stipulates that the human form should not be depicted in art. 'There’s this idea in Islam that it’s not very permissible to put up pictures of people on your wall and we grew up with that.'

Halaal Art fulfilled their desire to explore the space and identity of modern day Muslim youth.To overcome the problem of representing the human form they photographed themselves meaning 'any judgment' was 'going to be only on yourself'.

It was reassuring to read that in the beginning, although they found a concept to draw inspiration from, a theme that would go through the body of work, it took them several years to really establish how to approach and successfully deliver their ideas.In fact Husain's coursework was initially failed.

Once they devised their concept (east/west conflict, the environment where they live, Muslim life) they set about capturing the scenes. Their images are constructed in two ways, firstly as the scenes are carefully set and posed, secondly with manipulation by combining images to create the final collage.

As their work is stitched together a tripod in an integral part of their equipment. Prior to visiting locations they discuss in detail the image they want to achieve. Camera set up, test shots are taken to check the light and then one of the brothers will do a series of performances, trying to remember the space occupied as they don't want to overlap characters.The roles are then reversed. Hasan usually poses first and if they need to be photographed together they will get a third party to press the shutter. On looking really closely at the photographs on display I could not see where one image was joined to the next; the manipulation of the layers is brilliantly executed. “The layering is the tricky part,” Husain explains, “It is time-consuming but simple, if you know Photoshop.”

Husain describes how two images, 'The Night Before Eid'  and the abattoir shot, work together; they show sheep being slaughtered during the day and being cooked at night. Another device for continuing links and visual themes within a concept.

A slideshow of their work can be seen here GOODMAN GALLERY : artists | show

Reading various interviews it has become more apparent that their own personal experiences have led to the work they produce, the attitude of their lecturers and fellow students at university, Hasan's experience of Hajj, environments and situations from their memories.

What I enjoyed about the Essop brothers work was not only the images themselves but that they are an excellent example as to how to approach producing a portfolio; drawing upon personal experience therefore fully understanding the topic, initial ideas/concept, how to resolve problems, planning, execution, ensuring images work together and production techniques. All things that should be followed when producing an image.

I visited the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2009 exhibition at the npg, one of the images that stood out for me was Wall Street Subway by Reiner Gerritsen. At first it was the sharp focus of all the faces that drew my attention, then I noticed the contradictions within the frame, the difference in sharpness/blur that just couldn't be achieved in a single shot. Later investigation proved that this was a constructed image. Reiner works differently to the Essop twins. His approach is more along the lines of street photography. He does not use a tripod, but quickly fires off 5 or 6 frames focusing on the individuals in front of him, hoping that none come out blurred. He later then stitches the images together, replacing the blurred faces with the sharp ones. He intentionally leaves the stitching together obvious.

At the time it caused some consternation with other students who were also at the exhibition, but I liked it, appreciated the artistic concept and because it was an obviously constructed image found no problem with his approach.

I later found this YouTube video which briefly explains his way of working and his influences

Isa Silva and Lottie Davies are two other photographers who use constructed images, and don't solely focus on one genre. Something that appears to be a trend with some of the photographers I have been studying recently, Nadav Kander for example shoots portraits, landscape and social documentary.


Lottie Davies - Photographer

Is constructed imagery becoming more popular? Possibly, Jim Goldberg won the Deuche Borse prize, Thomas Demand was a nominee, Lottie Davies won the Taylor Wessing prize in 2008, Reiner Gerritsen a 2009 nominee and the Essop twins were Spier Contemporary 2010 winners, being awarded one of the career development prizes by the judges.

Lots of things to think about and possibly apply to my own work

No comments:

Post a Comment