Exercise 4.8 Photomontage

Again, I didn’t seem to have a definite idea for this exercise. Photomontage seems akin to painting, in that the artist will probably have an idea before putting brush or pixel to canvas. Now accustomed to this blank state of mind I basically started browsing through my 100’s and 100’s (1000’s) of photos till something struck me.

Thankfully, I have a habit of merrily snapping away when I see things I like. Such photos aren’t necessarily FiP work or even personal projects but are often one-offs. They sit in my Iphotos looking a little lost, kind of displaced, having no immediate kindred image to sit besides. Often they’re taken on my phone as I didn’t have my SLR or my ‘point and shoot’ with me at the time. Some of these one-offs have risen to the occasion today.

For this exercise I have drawn upon the following:

A sunset of winter’s sky taken when a Starling murmuration failed to happen at the RSPB reserve at Minsmere.

The tree line and beach huts are from a photo of an empty car park in a Devon beauty spot. Check out the full image here, it’s one of my favourites:

https://david516059.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/experimentation-exploration-reflection/

The young woman was from an illuminated advertisement off Oxford Street in London taken on my first study visit.

The giant Dinosaur was found at a garden centre off the main road to Norwich. Thankfully, I saw it before it saw me and I was able to make my escape unharmed.

The foreground is telephoto shot of the incoming tide on the river Deben near Woodbridge.

And finally, the big question mark is a self-portrait from FiP Exercise 2.9. The original can be found here:

https://david516059.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/exercise-2-9-a-night-portrait/

Rereading the workbook for this exercise I don’t think I’ve met the objective of placing an odd number of objects in the foreground. Silly me! But then on reflection all the action is at the rear of the image.

Well, using Photoshop I lassoed the bits I wanted and copied and pasted them on to my blank canvas. While cropping gave me neat edges, in the tradition of photomontage it looks crudely done. Here is the finished work…

Ex. 4.8 Photomontage

 

 

 

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Exercise 4.7 Juxtaposition

I’ve been aware of John Heartfield’s work for a long time now. His photomontages struck a chord with me many years ago. They are both powerful and poignant but I have to recognise that I may well be judging them from a Post WW2, late 20th century perspective. I’m sure they were impactive in their day, and the Nazis must have hated him! However, when we look into any historical context we have the benefit of hindsight. The image below was made in 1932 but we know what happened in the years that followed…

 

Picture 086

 

The FiP workbook also invites us to look at the work of Heartfield’s contemporary, Hannah Hoch. While Hoch’s work often commented on the role of role women in German society in the early 20th century she would also direct her art to critiquing the state. The image below shows the head of state and his finance minister in bathing costumes, lifted from a newspaper and juxtaposed against an embroidery pattern. Germany was going through a tense and rebellious period and this simple artistic act mocks the two men as out of touch with the lives of many German people. The use of an embroidery reference also serves to emphasise the distance between the politicians and the work and lives of women.

 

Hoch Heads of State

 

Both Hoch and Heartfield were part of the Dada artistic group. For Dadaists art reflected the difficult and turbulent times in which they found themselves. Their art didn’t hold back in its acknowledgement of the everyday street violence, food shortages and the failings of politicians. For many the photomontage was the best way to express their feelings through art. The photographic element brings a sense of ‘truth’ while the juxtapositioning added a dream-like quality. In discussing the superior quality of photography over painting in the political commentary in Dadaism and of Heartfield’s work in particular, Hughes argues that:

“Only the realism of the photograph, its ineluctably factual content, made his work credible and, to this day, unanswerable.” (Hughes, 1991: 73)

So, having done the ‘pre reading’ for this exercise, I set about making my own work. Leafing through magazines and newspapers I became a bit frustrated as nearly all of the larger images, that would serve as the background, had text imposed on them – it’s something magazine editors can’t resist. Also and more significantly, I was struggling to come up with an idea.

What I really wanted to do was emulate this early 20th century German political photomontage I’d just researched. I am a political animal at heart and I wanted to express something about how I feel. Magazines and newspapers would provide me with found images and as these were failing me I decided to look elsewhere; to the internet where a wider range of images was available.

So, with a range of printed photographs, a pair of scissors and a ‘Prit stick’ I set about creating this, my own piece of political photomontage. And if anyone is struggling to understand it, it’s not about Brexit!

 

Ex. 4.7 Juxtaposition

 

References

 

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/heartfield/

 

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-hoch-hannah-artworks.htm#pnt_2

 

Robert Hughes (1991) ‘The Shock of the New’ Thames & Hudso

 

 

Exercise 4.6 Using Image Layers in Photoshop

A quick look at my Non OCA work tab will reveal that I’ve already been playing with multiple image layers in Photoshop. My slight preoccupation with trees led me to discover a Dutch photographer called Kim Boske. She has produced some very interesting work that looks like multiple layers of images of the same tree. I don’t know her technique but I became intrigued by her work when trying to evolve my own from the simple silhouette-like 2 dimensional representations of a tree.

One of the trees I repeatedly photographed for Exercise 3.4 Documenting Change, turned out to be, upon closer examination, two trees very close together! It really surprise me how I’d not noticed this and started my questioning of how I could photographically represent a tree’s 3 dimensional qualities.

This current exercise introduces at further Photoshop technique into my ‘toolbox’. So far in my practice I’ve been using the default ‘normal’ in the blend mode. By using ‘screen’ as instructed all of black in an image becomes translucent. The images below have had this blend applied to them as well varying levels of general translucency applied along the way.

Out of curiosity I also dabbled with some of the other blends available. None were used in these in these images, as they didn’t really suit this subject matter but it’s good to know they are there.

For this exercise I revisited the same pair of beach trees from 3.4. Needing some predominantly dark images I got under the tree and shot looking up into the canopy. Though I took a good many images I narrowed the range down to eight and produced a contact sheet so readers can see the ‘raw material’ I have been using.

This is composed of 4 images (as instructed in the course notes):

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 02

 

This is composed of 3 images:

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 04

 

However, my favorite is this, were I used just two images. Less is more, perhaps:

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 03

 

Contact Sheet

Ex. 4.6 Layers in Ps

 

Kim Boske

http://www.kimboske.com

Exercise 4.5 Layers – Look Who’s Back!

In the early days of my FiP journey I feel I treated the exercises in a rather clinically way. When photos of shadows were needed, I photographed shadows, when blurred movement was required I sought out the same. I appreciate the exercises are there for us to consider a function of the camera or particular approaches and techniques in image making. But as my photography is evolving I’m increasingly seeing opportunities within the exercises to make the kind of images or shoot the kind of subject matter that appeals to me.

That said, the creative process cannot be rushed too much. I pondered over this exercise for a few days, as initially my mind was blank. So, it required the use of a window and reflections to create a layered image with foreground and back background. There was an easy option involving large retail spaces. I work not for from shops like Tesco, M & S, and Next. I could loiter around these, particularly at dusk and take advantage of the large windows and bright lights. Yes I could but it would probably have been a technical and rather soulless response to the exercise. Then, late one evening while relaxing on the sofa the answer was staring me in the face.

Eagle-eyed followers of this blog will know that chez Dave is blessed with a conservatory. If you’ve missed it don’t worry; it only appears in the periphery due to its need for a good tidy up and de-clutter. Staring through the sitting room window into the conservatory I spied all the reflections and layers I needed. After a couple of test shots were taken it was identified that the windowsill also needed a good de-clutter. After some reflection I came up with a solution: the usual domestic detritus was removed and replaced with the three figures used in Ex. 4.1 – an opportunity to revisit this still life. Moreover, with a nod to Part 2’s lighting theme they were then lit from the left with a red cycle light to add a little atmosphere.

Ex. 4.5 layers 1

Exercise 4.4 Patchwork

An afternoon in Norwich city centre seemed an ideal opportunity to collect a series of photos for this exercise. But the dull overcast light and the occasional drizzle did suggest quality images wouldn’t be forthcoming. That said, I wasn’t going to be beaten by the typical English weather. Walking through the multistory car park on our arrival I spied my first image; some parallel yellow lines painted on the dark tarmac roadway. Seconds later another image with a bold yellow theme. That’s it, I’ll keep my eye open for ‘yellow’! The day may be dull and miserable but I’ll aim to have a bright sunny feel to this series. Astute readers will quickly realise what I’ve done here. “Ah Dave, Norwich, yellow; of course…”

Norwich is the home of Coleman’s mustard, and historically speaking was famed, so the internet tells me, for canary breeding. From which the local association football team gained it colours and it’s nick name: the Canaries play in yellow. But lest you go on thinking “Dave, you’re so chromatically aware” I let you into a little secret. The Norwich connection to yellow never crossed my mind. Besides, what I know about football can be written on the back of a postage stamp. I was born and raised in a Rugby League city, no one talked soccer!

Back to the patchwork…

Here they are 20 photos taken around the centre of Norwich. Some indoors some outdoors, many with a yellow theme. Some of which were given a little further encouragement with Photoshop’s saturation slider.

 

Patchwork 1

 

The photos are not laid out randomly. Once I started to compose the patchwork it seemed clear when some images clashed or just didn’t sit well together. For example, I had one of a small pale blue jewellers shop that was just too weak in amongst these quite bold colours. I took it out and replaced it.

The yellows are obviously striking and so too are the whites. There is also an unintentional grey theme running through the patchwork. Though dark at times it recedes when standing next to the yellow – the Lloyd’s bank photo illustrates this well.

Following the instructions I took out a distant and one close-up image and replaced them with photos of a person distant and close up. Paradoxically, they are taken from the same position with my ‘point and shoot’s’ zoom at the same setting. The framed filled image suggests a close up while the tilted image with more of the ceiling in it feels like a distance shot.

 

Patchwork 2

 

For me there is change in my response to this second patchwork. Perhaps it’s because my partner now occupies two spaces in the work. I am familiar with her and have an emotional connection to her. But perhaps the change has occurred because there is now an identifiable person in the work. As humans, we seem to have a curiosity about the faces of others. We look at them, check them out, if only to establish if we know this person. It feels that the inclusion of a human face like this has made the work less abstract and more tangible and identifiable.

 

If folk want to compare the two patchworks they may also notice that the human face has replaced two powerful and socially imposing institutions, the police and a bank. But may be that’s a coincidence just like the yellow…

 

Picture Analysis: Laura Letinsky

This image by Letinsky is used on P.126 of the FiP workbook. We are invited to look closely at the image and then answer some questions regarding her approach and, more generally, around issues of representation.

Letinsky

 

Reality and Representation

 

With reference to the unreal or constructed imagery in Letinsky’s work the workbook posses the question what the are real and physical, things exist in my life. Well there are the obvious three-dimensional things like my home, the car I drive, the bicycle I ride, and the locations where I work and play. Then there are the people I know and relationships they bring; partner, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.

After, this the question moves towards things in life that are representations, but before addressing that it is worth looking at some things that fall between the real and representational. I really enjoy a good bike ride around my local countryside and my love for birds and the natural world is well documented in this blog. These in themselves are not ‘physical’ but nor are they strictly representational. Such activities have to be interpreted and result in an emotional but sometime physical response from me. As for the representational within my life well, there will things like TV, radio and many aspects of the internet. Photography itself is representational: when I photograph a tree, for example, I create a representation of it, be it it in pixels on a screen or microscopic ink dots on paper.

The third question in the series asks how might all this representation affect people? So much of modern life is now ‘screen based’. Social media can help friends keep in touch more easily but then people’s experience of life is increasingly disjointed from human interaction. Human beings are social animals and social skills have to be learnt. With many of life’s interactions and transactions being undertaken via a screen based device we can easily reduce the effectiveness of skills like empathy, understanding and interpretation.

 

A response to Letinsky’s photograph:

A visual description – objects back ground and space

Upon close inspection of the work, it becomes obvious that Latinsky creates a unique world; one that defies gravity and really only exists in the viewfinder of her camera or computer screen. Of course these aren’t my words but ones I’ve lifted from the workbook explanation for exercise 4.2. Nonetheless they adequately describe her approach. She creates a scene with a largely white to mid grey background and little or no sense of perspective. However, into this world she introduces an implied tabletop populated with fruit and cutlery hinting at a domestic realm in her constructed reality.

 

Composition, design arrangement

The, albeit, sloping tabletop is placed in the bottom left quarter of the image. Two sharon fruit are placed together on the top. With them is a crescent shaped object (I don’t know what it is) and a small saucer. Either side of the fruit is a spoon. Both of the spoons look superimposed: the left-hand one has a red substance in it and the right-hand one carries what looks like yogurt. The latter spoon hovers just above the tabletop. Seemingly falling, but frozen in space, some cherry stones and stalks appear to have slipped from the tabletop.

 

Sense of space and dimensionality

As suggested already there is compressed feel about the perspective with the plinth-like table is positioned against the background. Also, there are some visual contradictions occurring within the image. The table appears quite two-dimensional but the table’s surface is obviously three-dimensional. While the two Sharon fruit are reflected on the surface of the tabletop unlike any of the other items, reinforcing the unreal, dream like quality of the image.

 

Connotations

As recommended in the workbook I looked at the wider work of Letinsky and David Bate. I also visited the Rijksmuseum website and explored the painting of Pieter Claesz. While I was aware that these early still-life works were riddled with symbolic meaning, I’ve now taken some steps now to understand what these meanings actually are. As such I could offer that Letinsky’s use of fruit is perhaps to emphasise the impermanence of life. Fruit is will soon rot and decay just as old age or illness will ultimately take us all. But I’m not sure this is what her work is about. The image is sparsely populated with objects and thus drawing conclusions from it seems problematic. With the risk of stereotyping I wonder if there is a feminist message here due to the implied domestic setting of the table and the serving of idealised food.

The FiP workbook gives some clues towards interpretation. Evolving from earlier works involving left over meals, where viewers are to become detectives looking for clues and connotations, Letinsky’s recent works advance this notion further, “looking at the ways people incorporate representations and collective fantasies into their ‘reality’ and their desire”. I’m not sure I fully appreciate this at this stage in my learning journey…

 

References:

http://davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html

http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/

https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/artists/pieter-claesz

 

Scans from my notebook – showing my “working out”…

Letinsky 1 blog

 

Letinsky 2 blog

 

Exercise 4.2 Constructed Imagery

I’m not entirely sure I ‘get’ this exercise. OK, it’s about still life and the relationship between the space the items placed in it, and their relationship to the effects of light. I ‘dig’ that but I am left wondering if I’ve missed something here, or may be I’m just over thinking it…

Anyway, as per the instructions in the FiP course book (p.124 – 125), here is my chosen space. It’s by a bedside in front of a chest of drawers. The scene is lit by artificial light: a ceiling light and table lamps.

 

DSC_7719

 

Now here is the scene with the inclusion of the large flat surface. On reflection the space is rather small and flat object a bit big. I tried not to let it become an ‘object’ within the space by leaving some of it outside of the frame. Nonetheless, the dark surface breaks up the symmetry of and rhythm of the background.

 

DSC_7722

 

Perhaps I was meant to leave the flat object in place but the notes weren’t too specific so I removed it. In stead I placed it with this non-clichéd item.

 

DSC_7726

 

Next I replaced it with a hairdryer and placed it in a way not to over emphasise it. I feel the previous photo does emphasise the bottle of bathroom cleaner. In composition it obeys or at least leans towards the ‘rule of thirds’ and the flat plane of the bottle faces into the rest of the frame.

By contrast, as the hairdryer is much darker it recedes into the image while its location at the rear of the space helps to under emphasise its presence in the scene.

 

DSC_7727

 

Next I brought together a variety of objects that I had close to hand; as it’s within the home they all have a broadly domestic feel about them. For this photograph the lighting was changed slightly. I turned off the ceiling light and relied more on the table lamps and a reading light – this exposure was almost a second longer the previous image.

 

DSC_7730

 

The next two shots were taken a few days later. The camera location is just about the same but does give a little more space to play with – a slightly better position I think. The image was taken using natural light with the source being a window to the right of the scene. What is clear is how different they appear. I think these have a mellow feel to them compared with the warmer and more energized set under electric light – or may be that is just a reflection of my mindset as the time the they all taken?

Here is a more formal still life, perhaps not to removed from what might be found in such a domestic setting.

 

DSC_7734

 

This final image is more akin to the exercise brief of creating ‘…an entirely artificial, constructed image…’ ‘…depicting a place that only exists in the frame of your camera’. However, I can’t go as far as saying it might ‘defy gravity!’

 

DSC_7736