Category Archives: Research & Reflection

Thomas Kellner – Fractured Architecture

Yesterday I met Kate 513284 at Lacock Abbey, for a catch up and to see Thomas Kellner’s exhibition called Fractured Architecture, Cubist Photographs, which is currently showing in the upstairs gallery. There is a short video here explaining his technique, but from a practical point of view, he re-images of well-known buildings by taking a series of images of the parts and putting them together. He does this by glueing his analogue negatives together to form a physical sequence, which he then make prints from. The whole process is initially like looking at the buildings through the reflection of a series of windows, but then you start to look closer and discover that the negatives are actually sequential, and so Kellner knew exactly the effect he wanted before he took a single shot.

At first glance, the images seem to fit into the genre of Cubist Decontstructivism, but Kellner has coined the phrase Radical Constructivism to describe his work, and he uses an artistic method he calls “visual analytical synthesis”. His aim is to take well-known viewpoints and reproduce them in a non-linear way – the way the eye flits around a view – rather than the basic two-dimensional view we are used to.

High res copies of most of the images we saw are shown in this Lenscratch article (2017) and a little more explanation of his technique is discussed here.

FL: You mention on your website that your work is all about playing with your viewers’ perceptions of what is real, landmarks that they consider to be constant and unchanging. Why is it that you think this is such an important message to spread?
“Kellner’s contact sheets give bodily form to our scattered, animated and animating act of viewing. In doing so, they reclaim the individual’s central position to the formation of image and building alike.” Pappas, Allison, MFA Houston in: Houston, we’ve had a problem! (The Hippo Collective, 2014)

One has to admire the precision and forethought that Killner uses to produce his work. It is startling and one inevitably gets drawn into thinking about how he made it. He says that initially he began nwith the idea of using a single 36 frame roll of film for each image, but that this has expanded now and he often uses two. For my own part, the image I liked best was one where he did not use the constraint of the rectangular format, but something a little looser in contruction.  IMG_3948v2

His work has echoes of that of Seung Hoon Park, David Hockney and Sarah Sense, both of whom I have reviewed before in Context & Narrative, but the techniques of deconstruction and reconstruction are all completely different. There’s plenty to think about in relation to my own work.

References

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock-abbey-fox-talbot-museum-and-village/features/fractured-architecture-cubist-photographs-by-thomas-kellner

http://lenscratch.com/2017/03/thomas-kellner/

http://www.mutantspace.com/thomas-kellner-photos-deconstructed-montages-iconic-structures/

https://www.thehippocollective.com/2014/10/20/thomas-kellner-interview/

https://susanspiritusgallery.com/artist/seung-hoon-park/

http://www.sarahsense.com/GalleryMain.asp?GalleryID=91121&AKey=L6DFM793

 

 

 

The male art nude – a workshop

WARNING: This post contains nudity

and is NSFW.

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Yesterday, I attended a workshop on the male art nude. It was led by Jo Suthurst, who is an MFA student at the University of Falmouth, and the workshop was part of her degree course. Jo is interested in the human body, and the parts that are usually hidden, particularly in people who do not conform to the current norm of beauty, and her blog is here. The timing of the workshop fitted in perfectly with some research I am currently doing on the male and female gaze (more of which I will address in a separate post).

I had two aims in mind for my own participation in the workshop. The first was to practise studio lighting, at which I am still an absolute beginner, and the second was to question the idea of the Female Gaze and how it might affect a photography shoot where the subject was a naked male.

Firstly, I will explain the practicalities of the day. It was held at a small studio near Cricklade, with which I have become familiar as a result of a Facebook group for local female photographers. We meet monthly to try out different concepts in a non-threatening environment and to share our collective experience. The attendees range from near beginners to commercial photographers, so there are plenty of different ideas to discuss. They have started to do regular workshops recently, and I signed up for this, as well as an Creative one at the end of the month, as I find studio work intriguing.

Jo explained the etiquette of nude photo shoots and referred us to some literature on poses for men, and also the model release form, which I have posted about here before our model, Clint, turned up. We were two students, Jo, and two other ladies, one of whom was the studio owner and the other a female model whom I had already met. The latter two were around, but did not take part in our activities. We started with a range of slighting situations for upper body nudity, and as the day progressed and we all felt more comfortable with the situation, moved on to full nudity.

I have never been to a female nude shoot before either, and have nothing to compare the experience with, so I asked Clint and Gemma (the female model, who does nude work, but was not involved in this day) how our approach differed from a shoot where the photographers were mostly men. Clint’s response was that an all female group was less threatened by his nudity and that there was a lot more conversation than would have been the case with male photographers. He is very experienced in nude shoots and was entirely comfortable without any clothing, so very soon his nudity became irrelevant from a social point of view and an outsider would have been startled to see three middle-aged women and an overtly naked man all huddled up together looking at a camera screen to see if a shot had work and discussing what might be improved.

Clint has done a lot of modelling for top shelf female magazines, and  his natural range of poses tended to reflect that. We also tried various ideas from David Leddick’s The Male Nude (2015), which includes an extensive series of images right through the history of the genre. The great majority of these fell into the category of “tasteful”, rather than “explicit” but Clint told us that he has been asked to pose for everything right up to extreme porn. This was well outside our remit for the day though, thankfully. Below are three images which give a flavour of our day. I won’t post any more for now, as I am planning to use them later in Part 4.

 

So, where does a day like this sit in the gap between the Male and Female Gaze? And what did I get out of it?

Laura Mulvey (1999), who coined the term The Male Gaze in 1975 to convey how through many centuries our viewpoint on practically everything has been that of the white heterosexual male. It is tripartite, and consists of a) the director, b) the actor’s performance and c) the viewer, all of whom are traditionally assumed to be male. (I am writing another post on this subject too, so won’t go into a great amount of detail here.) In this scenario, women are considered as the Object – largely silent, and something for the male to view and/or own, as John Berger said in Ways of Seeing.

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” (Berger, 1972)

Berger talked about The Gaze, but his gaze was the Male Gaze, and amazingly, he seemed to think that it was women who put themselves in the position of being objectified.

The response to this came with Jill Soloway’s lecture on the Female Gaze in 2016 (see my other post on this for details) where she asks society to move away from the male way of looking at the world, towards something more inclusive of many minority groups. This she characterises as the Female Gaze, which she argues consists of  a) a feeling-seeing on the part of the director, b) the actor is fully aware of being seen and can choose to agree to it, i.e. having a sense of agency in the transaction and c) returning the Gaze, as in I see you looking at me and I don’t want to be an object any longer.

Along the way towards this, feminists and sympathetic men made several less than successful attempts to subvert the Male Gaze, through notions like the Female Combatant, in which the female heroine plays what is essentially a faux-male role, including leadership, violence and super-strength, and the Objectified Male, in which the Male Gaze is twisted back on itself, with women supposedly looking at men as men have looked at women.

This workshop might potentially fit into this last category, but I would argue that it does not. Taking each of Soloway’s elements in turn, Clint said that he could tell from an image of himself whether it was taken by a straight man, a gay man or a women, as those taken by the latter two categories have a different feeling about them. The great majority are not what we would consider objectifying, but are using his body to express other ideas and/or feelings. He was aware of what we were doing and why, and I don’t think there was any question of him not having agency in the process. He was as fully involved in the making of the art as we, the photographers were. (It’s interesting to contrast this process with that of life drawing, as a quick diversion. In life drawing the model is simply there to be looked at, while in the photographic process we undertook, our model was an active participant with opinions and personal rights.) In some of the images I took, Clint has chosen to present himself as an object of desire, but that was his choice and wasn’t requested by me, and I am not intending to use those images as they do not convey the messages I want to examine.

Overall, it was a fascinating and very creative day, and I must thank Jo again for her teaching and knowledge on the subject of the nude. Finally, you might like to know Jo’s thoughts on the subject of Clint’s tattoos, which are something I have made no reference to in my own post, as for me, they were just something that was part of who he was. Jo puts a more considered academic viewpoint to the subject. From my own aesthetic point of view, the images I like best are the minimalist ones I took with rim lighting, like the top one, although the masked images are also interesting. (Jo does a lot of work with masks, and it is something I too have looked at before. She has access to a much wider range than me though).

Edited to add:

Following discussion on the comments thread below about the importance of the model’s tattoos and whether the work really does have a non-traditional viewpoint , I’ve now started to stitch Chines symbols for female words onto the photos, in the style of tattoos. I think this has some potential for assignment 4. Here’s an example below.

References

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

Leddick, D. (2015) The Male Nude. TASCHEN GmbH

Mulvey, Laura.(1999) “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44. [online] At: http://www.composingdigitalmedia.org/f15_mca/mca_reads/mulvey.pdf (Accessed on 13 August 2017)

Soloway, J. (2016) Jill Soloway on The Female Gaze | MASTER CLASS | TIFF 2016. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBvppooD9I (Accessed on 13 August 2017)

Suthurst, Jo. (2017) Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#7 – Male Art Nude – “Clint” At: https://josutherstphotography.blog/2017/06/08/surfaces-and-strategies-shoot-mod37-male-art-nude-clint/ (Accessed on 13 August 2017)

On the subject of model release forms

Today I attended an art nude studio day, more about which I will got into in a different post. However, the subject of model release forms came up and how they are necessary for this type of work. First of all I went to the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) website, to see what they say about it.

Bath, 18 May 2015 – With increased public concerns over privacy and the need for photographers to protect themselves and the people they photograph The Royal Photographic Society has produced a generic model release form which it has made freely available for all photographers to download here: www.rps.org/MRF

The RPS has worked with a top UK law firm to produce a RPS Model Release Form template with supporting notes to give guidance to amateur and professional photographers over how to use it.  A model release forms specifies how pictures can be used and is there to protect both the photographer and his/her subjects. Properly completed a signed form will protect the photographer in the event of any future claim. (RPS, 2015)

The principle behind the model release form (MLF) is that if one is using a photograph for commercial purposes, then there is the possibility that the model may sue for invasion of privacy. You and I might think that because the model has been paid to come along and pose for you, they have given their permission implicitly, but legally they have only agreed to the taking of the photograph at that stage. If you then decide to sell it to a stock library, for example, you need their permission again.

There seem to be three types of circumstance where MRLs are advisable

  • where you plan to sell the image to a stock photo library
  • where you plan to use it for advertising purposes
  • where there is a more diffuse promotional element to it.

The last is the one that applies to this blog, Facebook, Instagram etc. Because my pages are public, and can be viewed by anyone who finds them, I should really be covered by an MRF if I am making staged photos with a paid model.

As a general rule, MRFs are not necessary in the following circumstances:

  • if you will only be using the image for personal use
  • if you are shooting in a public space, and are not planning to use it for commercial purposes, although it is often better to get one signed where any individual is easily identifiable and is the subject of the image.
  • if it for editorial purposes, although this is a grey area again, and one needs to watch out for potential pitfalls. The one most easily accessible for a general photographer is probably the Royal Photographic Society’s one, which is available here: The RPS Model Release Form.

Thinking this through, initially I thought a form might be a bit over the top for many circumstances, but a few situations where one could get into trouble without one are:

  • paparazzi images, where the subject does not know they are being photographed on private land.
  • an image which the subject hates, but which is made publicly available. (This makes me wonder about the legal position of photos on social media where the subject is in a private area, e.g. school and has not given permission for the shot.
  • where an image taken in a public space is used for advertising, and the subject was unaware that it had been taken. We occasionally hear of situations where members of the public find their faces on billboards as part of advertisements, and they knew nothing about it.
  • Finally, one needs to think about those situations, such as the previous case, where potentially the model would have been able to make a commercial gain if they had known about the use of their image.

In the art photography world, an example of where a case has been taken to court is outlined in this article. It refers to Arne Svenson’s series The Neighbours, where he has taken images through the windows of his neighbours’ flats, without them knowing. In all cases, the person is not identifiable, but a lawsuit was made for invasion of privacy. It was an American case, and Svenson won on the grounds that the series of images was protected under the First Amendment, which is about freedom of speech. My own, non-legal opinion would be that in the British legal system he should also have won, as the subjects were unidentifiable even though they were in private spaces. Contrast his work, for example, with a similar series by Sharon Boothroyd, The Glass Between Us  where people are again photographed through their window, but in this case their faces can be seen and Boothroyd has asked each of them to sign a model release form.

References

http://blog.docracy.com/post/35863395427/whats-a-model-release

http://www.rps.org/news/2015/may/rps-launches-model-release-form

http://www.sharonboothroyd.com/index.php?/the-glass-between-us/

When Does Photography Become an Invasion of Privacy? Perhaps Never

http://arnesvenson.com/theneighbors.html

A quick note on sewing and pixels

I came across the following two books in the Whitechapel Gallery bookshop yesterday, which are worth noting.

http://www.javierhirschfeld.com/el-pixel-protector/

Moreno talks about how in the West, children tend to be protected in images to avoid the somewhat unlikely chance of the images being used for child pornography purposes, while this respect is not offered to African children. He therefore takes portraits of African youths and children, mainly in Senegal, and pixelates the faces, as a statement and protest about colonialism. Something to chase up later.

IMG_3857v2I noticed the second not for the subject, but for the cover, which combines two interest of mine, the idea of the red thread and sewing on images (or in this case, a book cover).

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Crewdson and Campany

Yesterday, my trusty wingman William and I visited two exhibitions in London –  Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines at the Photographers Gallery and David Campany’s A Handful of Dust at the Whitechapel Gallery.

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From Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral in the Pines

The Crewdson exhibition, Cathedral of the Pines is currently occupying three of the four exhibition floor at the Photographers Gallery. (The fourth has a fun interactive exhibition on photographing food, where we spent an additional happy 15 minutes.) All the Crewdson images were framed identically at double A1 size and were spread out through the exhibition space to give each one room to breathe. Each was labelled with a blindingly obvious caption, such as Woman at Window, which really did not tell us much at all. Together, all the images form a three stranded story, focusing on 1) a middle aged woman, 2) an older man and young girl, whose relationship remains opaque, and 3) some young people. They are caught in moments of stillness, which Crewdson likens to paintings, and the images themselves have a very painterly texture. Much has been written about the series elsewhere (see references below), so I will concentrate on our own impressions of the work.

There is a very strong sense of place in the series, a connectedness between the different images. One gets the impression of a story only part told – vignettes from a bigger tale that is just outside the viewer’s understanding, but which is somehow chilling.  Various props appear and reappear throughout the series, such as boxes, glasses of water, strange holes in the walls and floors, and prescription bottles. There is a strong sense of the male gaze – the women are often unclothed, while the men only occasionally and most of them have their faces turned away from the camera. It seems to be a series about women but by a man, and the effect of the male gaze is to make the women seem very vulnerable. Each person is caught in a moment of utter stillness, as in a freeze frame from a film, and in that stillness there is a sense of foreboding, loneliness and despair which pervades the whole production. We decided that the colour palette and cultural references were very reminiscent of Twin Peaks, which might have influenced this feeling. This stillness also encourages the viewer to form their own ideas about what the series means, rather than directing them.

“It’s a mystery, in the end, and I want it to remain so,” Crewdson adds. “That goes for everything: in life and art.” (Guardian, 2016)

We left feeling a little frustrated, and with the definite impression that we had been participating in a murder mystery play that we hadn’t solved. The pictures were technically very proficient, and the emotions they brought out were disconcerting, but curiously they seemed to lack “heart”.

After lunch, we went over to the Whitechapel Gallery in the pouring rain. I hadn’t visited this gallery before; my usual stomping ground includes the Tate Modern, Beetles & Huxley and the Photographers Gallery. It was much bigger that I had expected with an interesting range of exhibition spaces, and an excellent tearoom and bookshop. Our mission was to see A Handful of Dust, but we also took in ISelf Collection: Portrait as a Billygoat which was wonderfully “modern” in its craziness.

It had been suggested that I see A Handful of Dust by fellow students who have seen my project for the TVG exhibition on Time, and it was definitely worth going to. It is a curated exhibition by David Campany, working out from a single image of some dust on a piece of glass in Marcel Duchamp’s famously filthy studio, although it was later attributed in many different ways. A handful of Dust poster

Campany takes the idea of dust and works out in different directions, using a variety of historical images to make us consider the interplay between the dust under the bed at home right through to interstellar dust, with various diversions through the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, American dust storms, vandalism and fracking, amongst other subjects. It is difficult to pick out specific images that stood out, although I did like Louise Oates’ Notes on Hydraulic Fracking, the Desolate North East, and the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, Directed by Alain Resnais (1959). Campany’s decisions about what to include in the exhibition might seem somewhat random, but there is a clear thread underneath on the meaning of the photograph as document and as a record, but also of how everything is connected at a cosmic level. It was fascinating, so much so that I bought the exhibition catalogue. This turned out to be two books, one of the photographs and the other an extended essay by Campany which contextualises the works. I am looking forward to reading it over the next few days.

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Louise Oates’ Notes on Hydraulic Fracking, the Desolate North East

The presentation of the work was one area which I was not so enthused. The walls of the space are painted dark green, and text was printed onto it in black type which made it very difficult to read unless one was standing directly in front of it.

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Overall, we both preferred A Handful of Dust to Cathedral of the Pines, which was surprising, as I had expected the converse. And for future reference, the lady in the Whitechapel Gallery bookshop told me that the next big exhibition, when the Campany one is over will be Thomas Ruff, which will also be worth a visit.

References

http://www.bjp-online.com/2017/06/crewdson-cathedral/

http://aperture.org/shop/crewdson-cathedral-of-the-pines/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jun/08/a-handful-of-dust-whitechapel-photographers-show

http://aperture.org/blog/conversation-david-campany/

https://www.ft.com/content/70aec0e6-4583-11e7-8d27-59b4dd6296b8

 

 

 

Marlborough Open Studios – ideas aplenty

This last week, I spent five mornings doing a class in Qigong, (pronounced Chi-gong)which is a Chinese system of movements and breathing that promote good health and mindfulness. This is relevant to my studies as on Saturday, I set off on the first of what will be four days visiting artists’ studios to see the work they are exhibiting for the Marlborough Open Studios event. I have been feeling very disheartened about my photographic progress of late but suddenly my eyes seem to have opened again following the Qigong, and everywhere I go I see potential photographs. It is wonderfully inspiring, especially when coupled with seeing what artists from other disciplines are producing and how I might work with some of their ideas.

The majority of artists I have visited so far are not photographers, though I did meet and see the work of Richard Draper and Deborah Husk. Richard displayed some images from his series All Along the Watershed, a black and white landscape project, and I enjoyed talking to him about his influences, particularly Fay Godwin and our different impressions of the recent Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Deborah is a commercial photographer, but her art photography is about still life, mainly food and flowers. We had an excellent discussion about my project for the Thames Valley Forum on Time, and she showed me some wonderful 3D work using photographs and thread that she has done with Jane Corbett, an artists I met and blogged about recently. She also showed me a series in which she is aiming to produce something unique, as a means of removing the replicability of most photographs. In this case, she has photographed a set of objects, one of which has fallen from the picture and sits in reality at the bottom of the frame(link to examples here). I am not going to post a load of photos here, as I may decide to use them for an assignment, but there were some techniques and ideas I saw which I would like to incorporate into some of my work, and which I need to keep a note of.

  • Deborah’s images, which mix images and reality in the same frame – an idea I would like to explore, possibly with my Time project.
  • Her work with Jane Corbett, using photographs as 3D objects by cutting and threading, using millinary techniques.
  • Arran Miles’ collographs, which mixed screen printing with collage – so lovely I ended up buying one.
  • Rowan Whimster’s gorgeous pots, which look so fragile, but are in fact solid enough to hit with a padded hammer; each one produces a different sound, like a bell. Somehow, they manage to look both very modern and timeless.
  • Susie Whimster’s work which uses mark making as meaning. I must look into the concept of mark making, which is very much a part of the drawing/painting genre, but not so much used in photography.
  • Belinda Salmon Harding’s wonderful glasswork. Belinda did an MA with UCA, and we spent some time chatting about mutual interests. I took the photograph below of a piece of her work, which gives me much to think about in the idea of photography en abyme, something I also researched recently.

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  • Julie Smith’s lovely handmade books – I must have another go at these.
  • Mary Wilkinson’s minimalist paintings of Wiltshire and Devon, which resonated with some ideas I was trying out last week in Photoshop, using gradients and movement tools.

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I really want to try out some abstract work using this idea, but also tissue paper collage on top, and my recent purchase of a sample pack of Awagami washi photographic paper includes just the right sort of very thin paper. Am looking forward to some experimentation.

Next week, I plan to see several more artists in their studios as well. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing the work in media other than photography and the crossover points are legion.

Quick note on another iteration of the mandala work

Just thinking last night that the mandalas could easily be turned into cross-stitch patterns, in the style of Diane Meyer. http://www.dianemeyer.net/projects.html. There is something very attractive about the merging of two arts which use the same basis for their production (fabric square/pixel). I have a piece of software that will transform an image into a cross stitch pattern, so it is a possibility. Just not sure I can spend the time making the actual work. It takes Meyer many hours to do each image and I am sure I am slower than her.

https://www.diffusionfestival.org/diffusion-live

However, this has the side effect of making each image no longer replicable, which removes it from the genre of disposable photography into something else. I need to look into the different ways in which photographs have been made unique, not because I want to sell anything, but because I am interested in the materiality issue of image making.

(On a technical point, I have been wondering how to produce the formal gridwork of holes in the photographs, and reckon that it must be done on a light table with a fabric or paper grid underneath the photograph. I tried it and the photo paper was too thick, so decided to print a grid and then prick the grid holes over the photo using that).

Here’s an example of my recent thrush mandala, and the cross stitch pattern I have generated for it. P1610668-Editv2.jpg

P2P-6223166 cross stich thrush mandala

The software I used was the free pic2pat one which can be found at https://www.pic2pat.com  This is a great tool, as you can choose all sorts of elements of the final piece, including size, stitches per inch and number of different colours used. One could embroider the whole thing (which would take me years) or pick out a section/sections to do in the same way as Diane Meyer. A further possibility is to use my gold thread to expose some of the patterning.