Category Archives: Part 3 assignment prep

Background for assignment 3 – the female studio

 The syntax of the studio, from babble to murmur remains not only private, but hermeneutically opaque. Objects, images and texts congregate according to the artist’s esoteric taxonomy, redundant outside of the studio, salient for the artist only. (Pigrum, 2007).

My recent visits to a variety of different studios show how the women concerned have managed to carve out a personal space for themselves in the home environment which allows them to follow their passion. This illustrates the changing relationship between male and female understanding of the way that the home environment is divided alongside an acceptance that those women’s art is considered sufficiently important to justify its own space. In a fascinating research article Gendered Space? (2000) , which many women can relate to, Paula Townsend explains the history of how space in the home has traditionally been divided on gender lines, with women being assumed to have overall control of the space, but in coupled families having no actual space to call their own. The man has historically had his study and/or shed, to which he could retire when he wanted peace or privacy, while in recent times, children often have personal bedrooms which they use for similar purposes. Women, meanwhile, are assumed to have the kitchen as “their space”, despite it being open to all at any time of day or night, and this is a room which is unsuited to longer term hobbies and activities; the table is required three times a day for meals and so needs to be clear of materials regularly, thus limiting women’s artistic endeavours to work that is easy to tidy away and which is portable, i.e. knitting, sewing, drawing.

Women’s increasing presence in the formal workplace and the consequent financial authority this has brought has begun to allow women to demand the same amount of personal space within the home that men have always had, whether it be their own study for private contemplation or a larger space to explore artistic pursuits. It also brings into focus how women and their partners view the work that she does in “her” space. Allocating a specific, unique room for her creativity gives the undertaking  a legitimacy which has previously been absent in the gendered view of art pursuits.  The possession of a personal studio in the modern world takes art from being a plaything to being a serious undertaking which merits a specific space and indicates independence, respect and personal autonomy as well as money. This lack of respect for women’s artistic value still prevails, as exemplified in Team LPD’s (2015) piece Artists in their Studios, which includes thirty eight artists in their place of work, only three of whom are women. Those three are Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo and Tamara De Lempika.

Moving away from gender politics, there is also the question of whether a personal studio is a positive or negative aid to creativity. Women often prefer to work in collective groups, sharing spaces and being able to discuss their work in situ. This allows for collaboration and feedback and is popular in arts which require space and funds to house large pieces of equipment, such as furnaces. Others prefer a smaller space, close to the house, where they can work in peace while still being available to the family. And a third group are almost peripatetic, taking their tools with them as they move around. Each group has found a way of carving out a personal space which helps her with the process of making her work.

The studio itself has been a concept for several hundred years, originally appearing in Mediaeval times as the Atelier, where a craftsman would produce his work, accompanied by a series of apprentices, all male. As patronage became the defined way for artists to make a living, they were able to afford bigger studio areas and more assistants until by the 18th century, art was being produced to order on an almost factory scale. With the larger studios came the concept of the Bottega (the workroom) and the Studiolo (the study, a place for contemplation) and a division of thought from action (Wallace, 2014). In the 20th and 21st century, the concept of the art factory was extended ………..

The studio as metaphor

Over and over, references on the subject of studios refer to Pagrum’s excellent article (2007) The ontopology of the artist’s studio as workplace, which delves into the mythology and meaning of the studio.  The arrangement of equipment, the ideas boards and mementos that litter the walls and shelves – all serve as a fulcrum for the artist to visualise and plan her work; a messy amalgam of fleeting thoughts and concrete examples which are the influences that inform her own ideas. Bookshelves are particularly interesting as an expression of the work they enjoy and tables overflow with the tools of their trade. Pagrum argues that this heady mix of paraphernalia and tools with ideas and the artist’s experiences merge together to make the studio a shrine to creation, or at least the expectation of creation. This expectation has both positive and negative aspects; the artist retires to this creative space to make her work, but when inspiration is low, the studio can also seem like a prison, with its lowering threat of failure. At the same time, Bain (2005) refers to the need for an artist to construct an identity, and the place of the studio within the construct as a physical expression of that identity.

Each artist’s space tells us as much about them, their personality and their interests as it does about their work. As such, it has been a rich seam of subject matter for artists and photographers for centuries. The subject has been approached by photographers in many ways, and for example, Hossein Amirsadeghi’s (2012) work, Sanctuaries mixes images of people at work with more general portraits of artists in and around their studios.   Barbara Yoshida’s fascinating series of 100 studies of women artists (Frank, 2015) focuses on their relationships with their studios more than the space itself, while Kamala Walton’s Works in Progress is more of a personal response to the space and character of different studios in and around Bristol. The Gagosian Museum’s 2015 dual exhibition of how artists and photographers relate to their studios (Architectural Digest, 2015) is an excellent insight into the concept of creation and how different artists express its two sides, while Elina Brotherus’ series Artists at Work looks at the relationship between the subject (the model) and the artist.  However, one subject which seems to be lacking is examples of photographers in their studios. Maybe this is because one set of studio lights on a white background looks much like another, or because the modern day photographer’s place of work resembles a computer lab more than an atelier. Perhaps this is something to explore in a later piece of work.

Whichever line of research the author takes to examine the idea of the artist’s studio, it remains a place of mystery and awe, somewhere that is an expression of it’s maker’s personality and identity as well as being a functional space.

“For many years the studio has possessed an aura of glamour, of apartness from the outside world, a place of magic.” (Giles Waterfield, 2009)

References

Amirsadeghi, Hossein, (2012), Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and Their Studios, London: Thames & Hudson

Architectural Digest (2015) Two exhibitions explore artists’ and photographers’ portraits of their own studios. [online press release] At: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/artists-photographers-studios-gagosian-article (Accessed on 27 July 2017)

Bain, Alison (2005) ‘Constructing an artistic identity’ Work, employment and society 19.1 (2005): 25-46.
Brotherus, Elina (2009) Artists at work. At: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/photography/#/artists-at-work/ (Accessed on 28 July 2017)
Pigrum, Derek (2007) The ‘ontopology’ of the artist’s studio as workplace: researching the artist’s studio and the art/design classroom, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 12:3, 291-307
Team LPD (2015) Famous Artists at Work in their Studios. [online blog] In: loveprintanddesign.com At: http://loveprintanddesign.com/famous-artists-at-work-in-their-studios/ (Accessed on 28 July 2017)
Townsend, Paula (2000) “Gendered Space? An Exploration of the Gendered Meaning and Experience of ‘Home’ in Contemporary British Society.” FORUM: eJournal for Postgraduate Studies in Architecture, Planning and Landscape. Vol. 3. No. 1. [online] At: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/forum/v3i1/gendered%20space.pdf
 (Accessed on 27 July 2017)
Visual Arts South West (n.d.) The artist’s studio. [online] At: http://www.vasw.org.uk/features/the-artist-s-studio.php (Accessed on 27 July 2017)
Wallace, Ian (2014) The Evolution of the Artist’s Studio: From Renaissance Bottega to Assembly Line. In: artspace.com 11.06.14 [online] At:  http://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/art_market/the-evolution-of-the-artists-studio-52374 (Accessed on 27 July 2017)

http://www.vasw.org.uk/features/the-artist-s-studio.php

Waterfield, Giles (2009) The Artist’s Studio, London: Hogarth Arts.

 

Yet another attempt to find a subject for Assignment 3

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been visiting artists who are exhibiting as part of the Marlborough Open Studios event over the last couple of weekends. Quite apart from my interest in seeing what they are producing was my desire to photograph them in their place of work. I had a wonderful time and the great majority of people I talked to were delighted to cooperate. I seem to have finished the photographing section of the project with two extra artworks in the house, but I’d have loved to take more. What seems to have appeared in the photos I took is a variety of casual portraits, images of people’s studios and examples of their work.  I feel the contacts show more coherence between the subjects and an overall theme which is specific to the group, unlike my last effort with the local carnival, which lacked anything to root it in a specific place.

My next job is to go through the attached contacts and pick out the ones I intend to edit and use. Fortunately, there is no question about whether they should be colour or monochrome – the colour is important for this series.Ass 3 - MOS contacts-1Ass 3 - MOS contacts-2Ass 3 - MOS contacts-3These images These Ass 3 - MOS contacts-4

Assignment 3 – the curation process

Trying to reduce the 415 photos I took on the shoot for this event has not been straightforward, particularly as many fall into a number of different potential themes. The three I have identified as possibilities so far are community, children and aloneness in a crowd. Below I have attached contact sheets to illustrate some of the photos for each.

Community

Lightroom (P1610956.RW2 and 12 others)

Children 

Lightroom (P1610959.RW2 and 16 others)

Alone in a crowd

Lightroom (P1620114.RW2 and 12 others)

My inclination is to go with a series on the theme of Alone in a Crowd, as that fits in with the assignment guidelines. However, there seem to be a better selection of images in Children, particularly P1610959, P1610968, P1620084, P1620177, P1620227 and P1620253. I also need to consider how I will ground the selected images within the event itself, and think that a sprinkling of crowd images will be necessary to provide context. Finally, my current inclination is to make the series monochrome, to reference the timelessness of these events. Sadly, I am not sure that any of the individual adult portraits I made (and which I showed in my previous post) will fit the themes.

Time to throw it open to my fellow students now, for critique.

Assignment 3 – the shoot

Weather conditions for the shoot on Saturday were perfect – warm, but not too sunny. I took my  45mm lens for the portrait shots and a 45-175 mm zoom one for the longer shots, and on the whole this was the correct decision. My intention was to take most of the portraits at the beginning, when the carnival was not too busy, and then change to longer, more candid ones as the afternoon wore on. My first pass on the portraits is shown below.

Lightroom (P1610884.RW2 and 13 others)At present, I have not decided whether they should be colour or monochrome. My preference is for 1-4 and 7 at the moment, but there is a long way to go in the editing process still. (P1620227 is in the wrong group and needs to be moved). Also, I have not fully processed any of the images and still need to unify them by colour grading.

The first pass of preferences for the general photos are shown below.

Lightroom (P1610928.RW2 and 38 others)Lightroom (P1610928.RW2 and 38 others)

The purpose of this shoot is to act as a mirror on my community and also to say something about “how this group informs me as a person”. It should explore something about me as well as the group.

My village is a close-knit community with traditions that date back centuries, but which are under threat both from the different priorities of modern life and the increasing number of outsiders who are moving into the area. The carnival has been a feature of village summers for many years, but was discontinued in recent years as it had become too large and policing/public disorder was becoming an issue. A group of people reinstated it in 2016 as a family occasion, with no alcohol allowed on site, and I hope that my images give an impression of the relaxed fun and village cameradie that the carnival inspires.

I now need to do some ruthless editing to limit the series to approximately ten images, which reflect how I am linked with the community, as part of it, but still (after five years) an outsider despite my in-laws’ long-term residence in the village. My final selection needs to be coherent as a series, rather than simply being an event shoot.

Preparations for assignment 3 shoot (finally)

IMG_1160v2

I really need to move along with Assignment 3 now, and it is time to put aside some of the other projects I have been exploring in my Personal Reflections. The more I think about the assignment, the more I believe I am over thinking it, and trying to make it too complicated – it really should not be that difficult. I therefore decided to revisit the assignment criteria again, and to me the following are the important aspects that we are asked to consider:-

  • it should feature a community (more than one person)
  • it should tell their story
  • the story should be something we can all relate to
  • I can choose if the community is one with which I am familiar or not.

I have already photographed various people from my village community for this module, and I have decided to continue this by photographing another village event, this time the Carnival, which takes place this Sunday. This post is by way of preparation, so that I can make the most of the day itself. There will only be one chance to do this, so I have to get it right.

I am intrigued by John Berger’s idea of a photograph “cutting across the continuum of time” (1) and how they can function as historical documents for future generations. An excellent example of how this can be achieved is in Martin Parr’s series Unseen Cities (2) which I reviewed here. In it, Parr examines a way of life which has been repeated for hundreds of years but which seems anachronistic to the current generation. He looks both at the behind-the-scenes aspect and the on-show element to give a rounded picture of the ceremonies and people involved in the City of London.

My previous research on David Hurn’s Tintern Photographic Project (3) series is also relevent to this, as is Paul Strand’s Tir A’Mhurain (4) and Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. from the point of view of my own photographic practice, I prefer the aesthetic of the former two to Goldin’s, and I would like to take the opportunity here to consider Paul Strand’s book in more detail, as I am lucky enough to own a copy.

Strand made it his life’s work to immerse himself into various communities around the world and to make works which have a powerful sense of place as well as the people who lived there. Apart from South Uist, he produced similar works for Egypt, Morocco, France, and Ghana among others. Tir A’Mhurain is a mixture of text and poetry, alongside portraits and landscapes, although it is not entirely clear to me how much of the text was written by Strand and how much by Basil Davidson, who collaborated with him on the book. It was photographed over three months in 1954, and thus the images are black and white, while the aesthetic is realistic. The majority of the portraits are taken as close-ups, although there are some full length ones too of groups and individuals. Strand managed to capture most of them against a fairly plain background, often in a door frame, so that the attention is focused squarely on the person and not their surroundings. The “place” element is supplied by the interweaving images of the countryside and people’s activities within it, mostly farming, fishing and housework. The thing that captures my own attention most is the clothes, which mark the year as being from the past; many of the activities still continue in the Outer Hebrides in much the same way today, so the clothes are what separates the people from now. (In contrast, the clothes in the Martin Parr series are what marks the historical aspect of the ceremonies – in this case they haven’t changed for centuries, and the punctum is that their wearers are seen in very modern situations.)

So, the aim on Sunday will be to achieve a mix of single portraits and street shots, alongside some images which root the village in its past. And for the single portraits I will have to overcome my fear of rejection and ask people directly if I can take their photograph. I will need to take a great many images in order to have sufficient to select a series that not only represents the village, but also my own place in it as an outsider (one isn’t considered a local until one has lived here for several decades) but also an active participant in village life. The issue which I am mulling over now is whether to make the carnival the centrepiece of the series, or to use it as a vehicle to enable me to present a wider range of people than I would normally be able to  on a day by day basis. And as a sideline, I also want to try to produce something with a specific unified colour grading. The idea I will be trying to achieve is a representation of the village as it is today as if it were a future historical document. It may also be that I present it in a book style, to allow for more images to be included.

References

  1. Berger, J.  (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
  2. BBC (2016) Unseen City: Martin Parr reveals the square mile’s secrets. (online) At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/culture/story/20160301-unseen-city-martin-parr-reveals-the-square-miles-secrets (Accessed on 27 June, 2017)
  3. Tinternvillage.co.uk (n.d.) David Hurn’s Tintern Photographic Project (online). At:  http://www.tinternvillage.co.uk/history/david-hurns-photographic-project/ (Accessed on 27 June, 2017)
  4. Strand, P.(2002) Tir A’Mhurain. Edinburgh: Berlinn Press.

 

A change of plan – photography ‘en abyme’

As part of the feedback I received at the recent Thames Valley Group meeting, our tutor Jayne suggested I read Craig Owens’ essay Photography “en abyme”. This was, I realised later,  a response to my photograph of the cut-out figures shown below.

img_2168-ass-3-trial

Fortunately the essay is available to download and the link is here: http://www.ecolemagasin.com/IMG/pdf/owens.pdf. It is not the easiest of reads, and my summary also relies on the explanation to be found in Chapter 5 of Gelder & Westgeest’s Photography Theory in Historical Perspective.

Owens uses the image below, Bal des Quatre Saisons by Brassaï as the starting point for his argument.

Bal des Quatre Saisons by BressaÏ

At a superficial reading, it appears to be a standard image of a party scene, but as one looks at it in more detail, the viewer becomes aware that

a complex web of internal reduplications deflects attention away from that which, despite the status of photographs as imprints of the real, remain external to the image: the reality it depicts. Psychological and sociological details are thus displaces by the network of internal relationships between subject, mirror and other, which structures the image. Owens, 1978, 73

The image shows two couples and three other people. At first glance, it appears the two couples might be the same, but slowly the realisation  dawns that the pair in the mirror are sitting opposite the three people at the front of the image and are only visible in the mirror’s reflection. I had originally considered whether the mirror was in fact a window, through which one can see into another room, but this is not the case. The two couples seem to mirror each other’s positioning in a way that Desmond Morris (see refs) would find interesting, while the other people in the image are a separate but integral part of the scene. The girl on the left appears to be looking at someone outside the frame, while the woman at the back is looking directly at the photographer, albeit through the mirror. So, the photographer is part of the image, despite not being visible.

The strange duplications and reflected connections extend much further than this, but only add detail to the argument. The point is that the mirror references the analogical definition of the photograph as a mirror of reality.

Because the mirror image doubles the subjects – which is exactly what the photograph itself does – it functions as a reduced internal image of the photograph. The mirror reflects not only the subject depicted, but also the entire photograph. It tells us in a photograph what a photograph is – en abyme. Owens, 1978, 75)

In simple terms, en abyme is a term from literary theory, which refers to a small part of a text that reproduces the whole thing in miniature, in this case an internal mirror that provides an explanation for the whole scene. However, there is more to it than that. The Youtube lecture by Prof. Michael Paraskos below posits the notion that an idea mise en abyme can offer the viewer the possibility of seeing an alternative reality, one that is not imprisoned by our current cultural norms. Paraskos uses the concepts of mirrors and windows, as has been outlined in the course materials, but rather than “windows”, he explains the idea as a “looking glass”, (from Lewis Carroll) in which one can see the possibility of a different reality, unrelated to our current world, and not bound by any underlying assumptions that we take for granted. He theorises that in this zone, there is the possibility of producing new, creative art. It is a complex lecture, and I probably do not need to go into more detail than that for the purposes of this post. Where it is relevant is that the en abyme concept can be used to describe “mirrors and windows” in a different way to that suggested in our coursework.

This theory above is where I would like to place my assignment, and my idea is to use the concept mise en abyme to consider whether what we see through a mirror is reality or something different. Thus, although the assignment will use mirrors as props for the work, the overall result is a study of the windows concept, or the looking glass which Paraskos describes.

(Incidentally, I am left wondering whether Bressai’s photograph was deliberately set up to make a point set up or whether the photographer took advantage of a scene already in place.)

In my next post, I will look at some photographers who use mirrors in this way, and consider the test images I have taken so far.

References

Morris, Desmond. (xxxx

Owens http://www.ecolemagasin.com/IMG/pdf/owens.pdf

Gelder & Westgeest’s Photography Theory in Historical Perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

New considerations about assignment 3

 

P1550775v2

Holly Woodward, 2017

I’ve been rethinking what I want to do for assignment 3, after realising that my previous proposal about people who are missing from the current visual narrative might be a bit easy and too similar in visual content to the previous assignments, and therefore a cop-out. So, the need to look elsewhere for ideas has led to the idea of mindfulness and transience, about which I have been thinking a lot lately, and there is a project niggling away there that I have yet to full pin down. It has to do with the flashes of understanding about the experience of “Now” that come to us suddenly, and unbidden and all too infrequently in our busy modern lives. Having recently watched Guillaume Néry’s wonderful TED talk about the experience of free diving, a phrase he used strongly resonated for me – the journey between two breaths. https://www.ted.com/talks/guillaume_nery_the_exhilarating_peace_of_freediving?language=en

One could interpret this in two ways. Either the journey from birth to death and how transient our lives really are, OR as the gaps/flashes of understanding that come unbidden, such as Guillaume Nery describes. The latter is dependent on taking the time to experience life on a fully present, moment by moment basis. I have referred to this previously in this post: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/exercise-3-1-windows-or-mirrors/ and it has been a feature of my photography approach from the beginning.

Alongside this, there has recently been a thread on the OCA Facebook page about how our work for the OCA may differ totally from what we choose to photograph and to print for framing in our non-OCA lives, and my own feeling is that I want to combine the two, rather than keeping OCA work separate in its content and style. While I was happy with the subject and outcome of my last assignment (no. 2), I did not feel it reflected “me” in any way at all.

So, I’ve been mindmapping and researching photographers who work in the style I prefer and there is a link to the mindmap below

The_Space_Between_-_a_journeybetween_two_breaths

At present, the three photographers whose work I need to look at in more detail are Uta Barth, Emanuella de Ruiter and Cassandra Kapsos and I think I would like to do this through a series of semi-abstracts, possibly of light through the day or the coming growth of spring. My first idea was a series on the water of the River Ray from its source to its junction with the Thames viewed in a contemplative way, but after the mindmap exercise, I realised that I want to work with the idea of transience as an inner journey of the mind, rather than something physical. There will/may be time for that if I do the Landscape module. However, I also want to review work by people such as Paul Kenny, who uses natural found materials to express the idea of Now.

The references below have been parked here as they aided my decision making process. They may or may not feature in the finished assignment.

Roni Horn – Still water http://whitney.org/WatchAndListen/Tag?context=photography&play_id=30

Not the right idea, as she is talking about the Thames in terms of looking for something that she knows is there, but needs more time to find. I’m approaching from the opposite point of view – what is there is what is important now.

https://www.cassandrakapsos.com/light-as-space – this one is important

http://utabarth.net/ – so is this

http://www.emanuelladeruiter.com/new-gallery/ – and this. Most of her work is relevent

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photos/space-between-gallery/ – serendipity of damaged images saying more than the originals

http://jennifershaw.net/the-space-between/

http://massmoca.org/event/the-space-between/ – multimedia event

http://www.transientlight.co.uk/

http://mgjackson.co.uk/gallery_297745.html

http://lenscratch.com/2017/03/jane-fulton-alt-fire-and-water/

http://www.transiencephotography.co.uk/formpattern.php

http://peterbolland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/transience.html – good blog article

http://www.kentmathews.com/category/fine-art/transience/

https://www.wired.com/2015/06/berdnaut-smilde-nimbus/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2071658/Clouds-coffee-The-mesmerising-images-inspired-pouring-milk-morning-cuppa.html

http://www.inside-the-outside.com/seduced-by-light-john-blakemore-an-interview-by-joseph-wright/?