Thursday, 18 November 2010

Putting an image into context: Oscar Rejlander

Two Ways of Life (1857) - Oscar Rejlander

The image I have chosen is an image by Oscar Gustave Rejlander. The image highlights a step forward in the skills and tricks of photography in the 19th century and also in a way the birth of art photography as a form. When first printed the image was about 31 inches and is made up of over 30 glass plate negatives, something that had not really been done before; the art of image manipulation started. To initially create the print he posed small groups next to each other and took the photograph. Once he had each separate negative he printed them one at a time onto a scroll of light sensitive paper, producing this highly skilled image, which depicts the different moral decisions that a young man faces and has to make. At the time this image was taken and created other photographic artists were at work to make art through image manipulation too. One of them being Henry Peach Robinson, on of his most noticeable pieces being ‘Fading Away’ (1858) in this image there is a scene depicting the death of a child – something which at this time was too familiar to people viewing the image. His image was again a photomontage but of only a few negatives, making it more believable. When people discovered the fact that the image had been constructed from multiple images they didn’t know what to believe and what not to believe – and so the argument of the photographic truth or rather the reality of images started.
In 1889 photography had its 50th anniversary, for this J. Wells Champney wrote an article summarising what photography had achieved in its fifty years, this covered: anthropology, science, society, military applications and technological advances. In it he says “As an aid to science, as a recorder, as a duplicator, photography has helped advance civilisation”. At the end of his article he stated how he believed that photography as an art form had not progressed as a normal art form should and towards the end of the 20th century more people came to agree with his point. One artist which refused the ideas of photography as an art form was Peter Henry Emerson who through his work was a strict naturalist and believed that the photograph should be what the camera captures and should not be edited and manipulated in any way. One of his most important theories was the ‘Naturalistic Photography’ theory. Emerson was so much so disgusted with the works of artists like Rejlander and Robinson that in 1890 he wrote a pamphlet on ‘The Death of Naturalistic Photography’. CARRY ON HERE TOMORROW
            When I initially looked at this image I was not aware that it was made up of so many images, the first thing I thought about the image was the way it looks. The image is quite romantic; this is mainly because the image, at a distance and up close is very beautiful, exotic and emotional. Rejlander’s image draws the viewer in due to its size but also because you get the sense that you need to look at every part of the image to investigate further what is going on and what Rejlander is trying to say through his work.
When looking closely at all the different characters in the image you can clearly see how there are two young men, framed in the central third which appear to be looking in opposite directions. One young man is slightly less presentable in his dress sense and is listening out to the left side of the image which shows games, wine and naked women, which I would think for the date the image was created was a suggestion of prostitution. In contrast to this the young man who is listening out to the right hand side, dressed properly, looking over to the characters that are suggesting religion, work and education. Even though both sides of the image have nude figures on, the side with the religious figures have their faces covered, almost to suggest its just the beauty; in comparison to the nude figures on the left which appear to be sprawled out in a way. What I love about this image is that in a way it is almost timeless and could easily still be related to any century.

Triptychs, holy trinity where 'holy grail' figure is in the centre of the image with the 'two ways of life' either side.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


So its 10am, we left hamble at 6am and just finished breakfast anchored up next to the ilse of wigit haha. I also just enojyed a pint of Harvey's. We have a barrel, what an ace weekend

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

DEMO 2010

With less than a day until the demo the time to defend UAL is rapidly approaching.

With fees speculated to rise to £8,000 for Home/EU and up to £17,000 for International we cannot stand by and watch our ship sink. So it's time to man the deck, batten down the hatches and prepare for battle! Keep UAL afloat! 

Join us as we march alongside your lecturers, tutors, technicians and well over 15,000 students nationally to defend university education from the potentially devastating measures the government want to push through. The latest revelation in our campaign is that students from the RCA have agreed to march alongside us in solidarity. Awesome!

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Self portrait 1.
Clive Roberts, 05/06/56
Clive Roberts, 05/06/64, Mechanic
Clive Roberts, 05/06/09, Financial Advisor

Right so... as my project progressed and after a few group crits there was suggestion that more contrast was needed in my images and they were too much 'to the point' SO to get around this I have taken to creating images of my family but with me in the images. I am going to create a series of self portraits where I become the people of my family. Simular to the works of Sherman - in contrast though the people she depicts in her work and of no relation and also the works of Dita Pepe have inspired my project. In her work she takes images with men and creates scenarios of what her life could be like if one thing was different. In my images I am portraying my family and their ambitions and job choices. Seeing whether through the generations the ideas of what they want to do changes or whether it is simular through the same family.
The basis of this image is that the background is the garage setting and the foreground is myself in a suit, dressed as my Father who is currently a financial advisor. The tools on the road signify the spannering of mechanics and the road is a symbol of how the choices could have been made. When taking the images I had the help of a photo-whizz friend but I chose the framing and then jumped in the picture. In my right hand is my remote - it wouldn't reach to the camera so I simply put it in my hand. I wanted there to be a clue as to that this was a self portrait.
Excuse my horrendous english.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Reality Research: Dita Pepe

Dita Pepe - Self Portraits (1999 - 2008)

'I feel that everything in life is relative. When I look back on my life, if things had been just slightly different, I could have ended up being someone completely different from who I am now' - Dita Pepe on her work of self portraits.

Pepe's series of images is actually named Self Portraits with Men she has been working on the series since 2003. The images she produces highlight how her life could have been altered by decisions she made - with men. The quote I have taken from the Auto Focus book highlights this point. This work I feel is composed really well and also with a sense of humour which I always find is a good thing. The images are portraits of her taken with men at their homes or in their surroundings. The children in the images are also that of the Father figure in the images.

What I find fantastic about these image is that way that they are all believable, this is what I want to make a sense of in my images. Technically the images look very natural but I believe there has been use of fill in flash with most of the images. In some of them it has been flashed in from the left side, other straight on. Where ever it is it has been put in to add that extra contrast from the background to the foreground, even if its just by a few stops. The images are all taken in such a mundane and ordinary fashion that they all could be the truth, its up to the audience to persieve their version of the reality. In contrast with my idea where I am looking at my family and their ambitions when they were young to see whether the ideas and ambitions change through generations, as a kind of experiment. Another idea I did think about trying out was just depicting my ambitions and creating self portraits of these to find which reality the audience view best. Or even looking at the top ten and bottom ten jobs and depicting them through imagery.

Pepe's images are snapshot images in a way a from looking at the way she has photographed the ones in the series you get the feeling that she understands the basis of a good 'snapshot' photograph. All of the images are taken in a very laid back, family album kind of way. Other series of images Pepe has made include a very similar series except they were called Self Portraits with Women, very original titling! In the Auto Focus book it talks about how Pepe's images are 'Masquerade' in that they are not actually her, instead all of her imagery depicts different people but never herself (as does Sherman)

Both images taken from Auto Focus: The Self Portrait In Contemporary Photography, pg. 108 and pg. 109

Reality Research: My Little Dead Dick

My Little Dead Dick - Shanghai (27th April 2007)

My Little Dead Dick is a colaberation of two photographers - Patrick Tsai and Madi Ji. They met on-line and loved each others photographs so met and 'fell in love' as the book states. Their imagery is a basic record of their time together, in the images you get the feeling for their passion to photography but also towards each other. The images were posted up to as large posts which many people subscribed to - this is also a great example of young, contemporary photographers using the internet to boost their careers and gain recognition. In realation to their work and reality, the images they take are reality - the reality of falling in love and spending time with someone you love. All of their images were taken on film and carefully edited - they did all of this process together. The images cover the breakdown of the relationship too, they are a mixture of portraits and self-portraits.

In the way of relating this to my project there is just the fact the they are self portraits and how they have made it easier for themselves by using two of them to create images of themselves and each other. I also thought it would be a good one to research for the factor of using the internet to boost your name.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Reality Research: Hippolyte Bayard

Hippolyte Bayard - Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (1840)

Bayard is one of the earliest photographers in the history of the art, he was born in January 1807 and died in May 1887. His image above - Self Portrait as a Drowned Man. Was an image which is legendary and started something which he did not expect.

The story goes that goes with the image is that Bayard was working on the Calotype process at the same time at Louis Daguerre but Daguerre patented the idea before Bayard, meaning that he could not claim any fame or money from the process he had been working on for years. This is why Bayard took this image, the first self portrait as it is. The image itself is interesting as conceptually it is an image which expresses Bayard's disgust and death to the photographic world. As many contemporary photographers do now a days with self portraits - they make up scenarios to put themselves within - Cindy Sherman being a prime example, others would be Yasummasa Morimura with his images of placing himself within another image of someone famous. In relation to a direct copy of Bayards image many people have re-created it. One image which is not a recreation but in referance to would be Sam Taylor Woods image called Soliloquy 1.

On the back of Bayard's image he wrote a note on the back - perhaps in reference to a suicide note on the back which states why he drowned himself, part of it says 'The Government, which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life... He has been at the morgue for several days, and no one has recognised or claimed him. Ladies and Gentlemen, you'd better pass along for fear of offending your sense of smell, for as you can observe, the face and hands of the gentleman are staring to decay' This was inscribed on the reverse of the image. When people saw this image and note at the time they believed it and didn't know what to make of it. This is also I feel where one of the big debates about whether photography was truthful or not - or rather in connection to this project whether or not photography was actually reality. As this photograph expresses Bayard's reality of how he was fobbed off by Daguerre but yet to the public he didn't actually commit suicide so he is lying. A debate which would have caused high controversy at the time.

A few points I wanted to make about this image is that it was the first self-portrait photograph but also it was one of the first male nude images also. Back when the image was created it was strange for a man to have his top off, this is why you can see that his face and his hands are tanned a lot in comparison to his torso. Something else I've just spotted is that the hat on the left side of the image could be related back to Cindy Sherman's film still #7 where she is peering out of a door with shades on but on the left side is a hat, similar to the hat in the image above. I'm probably reading the image too much but for this to be the first self portrait and in Sherman's line of work it is possible that the link is there for a reason.

Just quickly as an example, the image by Morimura is in direct link to Edouard Manet's image called 'A Bar at the Folies Bargere (1882)

Cindy Sherman - Film Still #7
Cindy Sherman - Film Stills
This image does not directly relate to Bayards image but the concept of playing a character and not being yourself through self portraits is highlighted by any of the image in this series by Sherman.
Sam Taylor Wood - Soliloquy 1
This image is again not a direct link as it is not a self-portrait but instead she has used the similar stance which is palatable to the image of Bayard.

Gavin Tuck - Portrait of Something I'll Never See (1997)
This image is another to compare with that of Bayards in that both images are self-referential, they both look at themselves as a subject. The image by Gavin Turk is a portrait of his face with a deathly appearance, he has closed his eyes and has a death like peaceful pose.

Auto Focus: The Self Portrait In Contemporary Photography

Auto Focus: The Self Portrait In Contemporary Photography - Susan Bright

Bought a new book today, its lovely! Full of interesting and helpful stuff for my project. Theres a long introduction which talks about why people take self portraits and all the issues they can address but not only this it talks about how people use self portraits as an experiment for technical things as well.

Just as a reminder to myself heres the list of people to look at...!

Hippolyte Bayard - a MUST starting point for self portraits!
Jeff Wall
Helmet Newton
Bill Brandt
Chuck Close
Andy Warhol
Gavin Turk
Martin Parr (if I have to!)
Cindy Sherman
Sam Taylor Wood
Sunil Gupta
Elina Brotherus
Lisa Ohlweiler
Tracey Rose
Ananke Asseff
Dita Pepe
Tomoko Sawadn
Aneta Grzeszykowska - links to Cindy Shermans film stills work
Francis Bacon
Brett Whitley
Zhang Huan
My Little Dead Dick
Gillian Wearing
Hew Locke
Jemma Stehl

Animal Magnetism: Robert Clark

Just a quite post for these two images which go together, I'll write more about them and why they are some of my favourite images I've seen in a long time in a few days. I've got so much project work, ahh!

Basically these images were taken from the Sunday Times Spectrum section. The photographer is a guy called Robert Clark (can't wait to research his work more, eeek!) The two images are a pair. Biochemist Frank Fish (ironic or what!) helped to design wind turbine blades by taking inspiration from a humpback whale fin, which ahs a scalloped edge to help it generate force in tightly banked turns.


I will research fully at least 5 photographers...
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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Reality Research: Cindy Sherman

Untitled Film Still (#66)

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer, film director and model. She is most famous for her conceptual portraits, these are the images that I have been looking at for my project. A lot of her photographic work looks at the role of women in society and the media. Practically all of her work is self-portraiture which ties in nicely with my approach to my Reality project.

When Sherman graduated from State University College Buffalo she moved to Manhattan, NYC to start her art career. She bought a loft and began taking photographs of herself, the images she took in this loft are the images which are labelled 'Untitled Film Stills'. In the series of film stills Sherman dressed up with different make up, wigs and costumes to recreate B-Movie film stills. 

A B-movie is a low budget film which genre changed through the years depending on what was popular; often B movie's are associated with arthouse and pornographic films. Some say that her images are not self portraiture as she only plays with the elements of self-portraiture. The Cindy Sherman website states that 'Sherman plays a type -- not an actual person, but a self-fabricated fictional one.' In a way this is what I plan on doing in my work but to create a portrait is to convey a person, which is what I shall be doing. I shall be creating the members of my family through myself. The work relates in the way that Sherman creates the movie stills through props, wigs, make up etc. and also how she puts herself in a specific place but the ways she creates fictional archetypal characters is not similar to me.

Another way Sherman depicts that these images are not self portraits and portrayals of Cindy Sherman is by using the 'Untitled' captions. When portraits are of people usually they would have the name of the person they are portraying. Instead of this Sherman leaves the decisions down to the viewer. When you see a portrait with no name you don't know who it is. By doing this there is no connection, it also gives the viewer the chance to make up their own ideas of what the image is from and who she is trying to represent through herself.

Her Film Stills work gained her attention and from the images she got the chance to have her first solo show in New York at an exhibition space called The Kitchen. The show was called 'Rear Screen Projections' in relation to how she had shot the images - on a slide projected background in her studio space in Manhattan. 

The image above it one of Sherman's film still images, I have chosen this image as I feel it most realtes to what I have found out about her work in the way that the portrays archetypal characters through her imagery. Highlighting issues such as the role of women/ feminism. In this image is Sherman or the character she is playing doing the washing up. In the foreground out of focus you have the saucepan and in focus is Sherman and her washing up liquid, plates and her. She is looking away from the camera which suggests there is something outside of the frame going on but it is left ambiguous as to what she is looking at.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Public Enemies: Leo Regan

So I had a 3 hour gap today and after a hungover trip to tesco I decided to spend my time wisely by going to the library at uni. I was suppose to be looking for an image to write an analysis on so I started flicking through some photography books. After a few books I came across this one called 'Public Enemies: Leo Regan'. On the front cover of the book is a nazi symbol and a skinhead talking to his little girl, most likely telling her a story. I'm not really sure why this book caught my eye, or why the images did because the culture of the skinheads is quite an extreme view, one which I don't believe in. But there was something about the images. The images I found amazed me, the main ones of interest I have included in this blog. 

Half of the book is pictures and the other half of the book is writing. There is an introduction to the book by a writer called Nicholas Mosley; he starts the book off by describing who the people in the images are and what skinhead culture actually is and what it means to be a part of the skinhead society. As you carry on reading there is an Authors Foreward and then an introduction to the characters in the images. At first I looked at all the pictures (as you do!) but after looking at them I wanted to know more so I started reading the book from the beginning.

I think my favourite part of this book has got to be the interviews section. It contains paragraphs of responses of the characters in the images, simply talking about their culture and life. What I found when reading the interviews was that the images fall into place, its almost as though some of the images match up with the words of the interview, quite clever really. Some stories are shocking, others not so much but what I find most interesting is the way the photographer started the project and the way it progressed, along with his friendship with them.

In the authors foreward Regan states that the idea of the book was originally going to be a magazine article but after tagging along with and making friends with some 'hardcore right wing' activists he carried it on for a few more years... The images in the book were all taken between 1990 - 1992. The result I feel is fantastic; the book overall is a simply put together social documentary of skinhead culture. If your curious or just fancy finding out something different then its certainly worth a look. Another interesting point about the writing and the images as you might see from the images below is that they are in a way set into different sections. In the interviews it talks about how when people see skinheads they walk across the road etc. but this book looks right into the way they live, in a very nosey way. Almost big brother documentary. The sections I feel the book is split into is social, domestic, political. When you look at the images there are a lot of factors which turn the image around and cause great contrast. 

Newly Born Daughter (ACAB = All Cops Are Bastards) Milton Keynes Hospital

I have included this image as the first one as this is the image which starts the pictures off after the interviews and writings about the images. Its a simple image and introduces the rest of the images quite well I feel. When you look in the book the caption isn't included underneath the image like I have put it but instead you have to flick to the back of the book to find out the caption. If you didn't know what the A.C.A.B meant then you would be oblivious to the contrasting ideas which this image holds. The image I feel has been captured in a quite a romantic way in the way that the light falls on the young baby. But when you look at the other details of the image like the plane of focus chosen by the photographer and also look at the grimey details like the dirty hands and the tattoo. All of this makes for a very interesting image.

Sunderland Art Gallery

This has got to be another of my favourites, catching the people he met in a academic and arty way in contrast to the images I have selected later on of them at neo-nazi concerts and talks. The main thing I love about this image is the way its split into promenant thirds. In the central third you have the two characters, in their boots, army trousers, bomber jackets and with their shaven heads. Looking and admiring the work of art being displayed in front of them. 

Milton Keynes (Definatly one of my favourites)

Once again another image which I thought was brilliant, this time displaying the domestic side of the people he met. Almost trying to suggest that they are normal people and that everyone is different. This image is another which has the great composition. A straight on shot of the sofa, which for most is the heart of the sitting room, where most families spend a lot of their time. Above the sofa are family portraits and images of their children. One of my favourite parts of this image is the child's photograph on the wall which is slightly wonky, this could perhaps be a suggestion to someone who looks at this image without knowledge of the book that something within the image they are looking at isn't quite right.
Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes
Family bookshelf

Selling the British National Party's newspaper, The Nationalist. Milton Keynes

Displaying the flag of the South African new-Nazi party, AWB. London Underground

British National Party demonstration. Sunderland

Extract from the writing in Ragens book, the middle paragraph was the one that interested me most - about the character changing her look for her kids etc. The writing is all typed out from Ragen's recorder. He took a number of recordings about the people he was 'friends' with during the course of the project.

Propeganda Graffiti, Milton Keynes

L: Visiting the husband, boyfriend, father. London.
R: On remand in Pentoville Prison. London

Extract from the book that I feel fits in with the last images.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Project Proposal... Take 2

The subject I am going to look at for my Reality project is going to be that of reality and ambition. Looking at how when a viewer looks at an image they create their own reality but also in the way that I am going to construct the images to show the reality of a person but also the ambitions. The ambitions of my family through different generations, as ambitions could one day be a reality for them. I also want to explore this as when creating bodies of photographic work I like to discover new things. So from this project I hope to learn more about my family but also generally whether there is any link through generations and also whether there are any radical changes which have been made apparent by new technologies etc.

I am going to create a series of constructed self-portraits of my own family. The portraits shall in a way be environmental as the environment is going to pay a bit part in the audience reading the image. At the moment I am still walking around trying to find a number of different locations. I plan on using a friend from LCF to do the styling and make up on me for the photo shoot. I have also asked a friend to come and assist me on the shoot to take the image. Although I am thinking about using a cable release as this would highlight that they are in fact self portraits.



A flick through flickr...

Just having a look through flickr I typed in 'constructed self-portraits' to see what would come up. Many of the images were pictures of cameras in the mirror suprisingly. But I found this image below which even though it is nothing to do with my idea its a general feel as to how I wanted to compose my images and how technically I want to use flash. When I shoot I'm not going to have shadows as defined as this as I feel that dark shadows, bigger than the subject could give off the wrong connotations to the viewer.
Simular composition to this is the image below, again taken from flickr. The composition and colours are admirable. The lighting and detail in the image is something I would like to attempt to capture in my images as well.

The image above was taken on a Canon 5D Mk II, I have messeged the photographer to find out more information on the image, when I gain this I shall update this post.