Category Archives: Personal reflections

I am in love with an app

From I was introduced to the iPhone app Procam yesterday, and I think I am in love. The app itself purports to turn the iPhone into a fully functional RAW camera, and one can alter the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO to suit the conditions. However, the bit that I love is its filters section, and in particular the set of five different kaleidoscope effects. Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by the idea of using the pixels within an image to alter it while retaining the substance of the original, and this app is fantastic for doing that. The number of different patterns is almost infinite, as every slight adjustment one makes alters it completely (a bit like an old-fashioned kaleidoscope). Here are a couple of examples below.

From a tapestry wall hanging at the Bristol Grayson Perry exhibition

 From one of my test images for assignment 5

My plan is to print some of these entirely unique patterns and to use them as book covers for the associated pieces of work. I may also try printing them on fabric to see how they come out, with the possible aim of having fabric book covers as an alternative. My recent purchase of Charlotte Rivers’ (2014) Little Book of Book Making has simple instructions for this, using only household items.

Edited to add.

Further to this idea, I am also investigating ways of making handmade boxes for my assignments, particularly no. 5, which will be delicate and would benefit from some protection in transit to Barnsley. I only mention this here, as I printed out one of my patterns onto washi paper and covered some card with which to make the cover of the box. The end result is too flimsy, but the idea is sound. (I subsequently tried it with packing cardboard, which was too lumpy, and finally settled on using mount board, which has the required strength, as well as being made in several layers, which can be folded if cut correctly.) Anyway, here’s how the paper looked on the first box – not bad, at all, I think.

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References

Rivers, Charlotte (2014) Little Book of Book Making. New York, Random House.

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Implied spaces, part 2

The third area of experimentation relates to a more esoteric idea, and uses some of my original understanding of the term, and what the blog I refer to at the beginning is looking at. I would characterise it as implied places – where one might layer an image in a collage effect to say more about the places and their meaning to a person or group.

My Photoshop skills are still fairly slow, so it has taken me all afternoon to produce this collage below. It includes some title deeds for the house, an image I took a couple of years back and also a photo of some of the historical inhabitants, and uses a Photoshop Mask template.

Untitled-1v2

I am hoping that with more practise, I can achieve a similar effect to that of patchwork, but using images rather than fabric squares. So, this work continues…..

The notion of ‘implied spaces’, part 1

I came across this term as a result of following the blog of the same name: here. It was the photographs that originally attracted me, with their multiple layers and mixed subject matter, but I subsequently became intrigued by the idea of an implied space. When I reviewed the work I did for assignment 4, and before I looked into the meaning of the term, I had concluded that the images in the work had an element of implied space, as in they and their contents hinted at what had gone before without making it obvious. We look at the chaos and imagine what the rooms looked like when they were in use.

However, after a bit of digging around, I found that the term is actually one that is used in art and architecture, and it has a different meaning. In simple terms, Art1011 defines it as the illusion of created depth in a 2 dimensional work, but here are a couple of more complex explanation, using literature and theatre as well as art for examples.

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~vzubarev/Class_Readings/WEEK_IX.pdf

https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/elements-of-art-space

So, in essence, in an image, an implied space is one where the position of figures and implied leading lines suggests a depth of perspective rather than a flat, two-dimensional space. Let’s take a couple of examples from my own work. Both of these images were taken earlier this year in Nice. The first gives no clue of three dimensionality at all (quite deliberately) while the second has implied lines of perspective, making it seem more three dimensional.

I’d like to now explore this concept in three different ways. Firstly, there is the idea of creating that three dimensionality by other ways than perspective, one of which I have been playing with and which fellow student Catherine is also looking at: producing a 3D images using Photoshop layers. My first attempt was blogged in a previous post, and it was surprisingly successful, but I am interested in trying to produce the same effect in a part of an image rather than the whole thing. Lo and behold, it also works!

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I suspect that 3D photography might lead me down a bit of a blind alley, but there is no doubt it is fun. (Must look up to see whether any art photographers use this technique in their work. Thomas Ruff does, but is there anyone else?)

The second idea is to produce the idea of perspective in a way that refers to the concept of foreground, middle ground and background through actual layers, rather than implied layers. I am thinking of the way that Thomas Ruff’s interest in examining various qualities and elements of the image rather than the overall effect here.  Here are two examples from my work this year. The first uses actual layers within the frame while the second is a created piece, using Photoshop layers.

To be continued……

Back to the explorations of colour

Now that my assignment has been sent off, I can get back to my explorations into colour and place. The mandalas are fun but don’t have a deeper meaning than what you see, at least not so far as I have divined so far. Today, I cam across a photographer who looks at the same concepts, but from a different angle.

Niall Benvie is a nature photographer with a wide range of interest, and his work caught my attention on http://www.naturephotoblog.com/. Niall has devised a process he calls Colour Transects, where he samples the colours of an image according to a set grid pattern. This produces a palette of colours which represent the image, but which also function as a device to encourage the viewer to move back and forth between the colour swatches and the images to find out where each colour swatch originated. He also titles the images with a latitude marker, as he’s interested in how the natural colour palette changes from south to north away from the Equator. His website is at https://niallbenvie.photoshelter.com/index.

I’ve been trying out his technique and here’s a screenshot of my first effort.

My colour transect 1

I think there is some potential here, not simply as a way of creating colour maps. Benvie’s concept of colours changing as one moves north or south is what has been niggling at the back of my mind. The colour palette of Australia is totally different from that of, for example, England or Iceland. Certain colours are strongly associated with the natural environment in each – ochres and very pale greens in outback Australia, bright greens and browns in England and blacks, whites and red in Iceland. My thinking on this is that it must be possible to capture a colour palette for each place which is definitive.

Some experiments in homage to Albarran Cabrera

Let’s not beat about the bush here. I love the work of Spanish duo Albarran Cabrera, and in particular the way it combines unusual media, a laser sharp focus on the Moment, the Japanese influences and the way they have taught themselves photography by reading (a lot) and just trying things out. There’s a very helpful video on their website about how they work, as well as an excellent article explaining the theory behind several of their recent series here.

I’ve written briefly before about their series Kairos, in which they use gold leaf to produce a visual divide between one moment and the next, using the Japanese idea of kintsukuroi (see below).

23716615ad68c9180dafd348a80f52ad--japanese-art-japanese-design

A subsequent series, which is currently being shown on Instagram is called The Mouth of Krishna, and references the same idea that David Campany’s recent exhibition A Handful of Dust does, i.e. that everything is ultimately made of he same stardust. It is how we choose to see it that matters.

In any part of the universe there is a whole universe – Hamlet saw infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, and eternity in an hour.
— Albarrán Cabrera

Most of the newer series are silver and platinum prints, some of which are toned with tea, but there are a few that are made with a different process, one they describe as Pigment print over gold leaf on Japanese paper.  An example can be seen here, but there are also a regular supply of new ones on their Instagram feed at https://www.instagram.com/albarrancabrera/. These are gorgeous, and I wanted to have a go at trying to replicate the technique on a domestic basis. I don’t know how they produce their pieces on a large scale, but I can certainly do so on a very small scale, as I happen to have both gold leaf and Japanese washi paper in my supplies cupboard.

First up was an attempt to add a gold leaf join to a torn print (using an old regular print that I don’t need any more). I found this extremely tricky and messy to do, and feel there must be an easier method than dabbing gold leaf onto glue, but the results have promise.

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Then I tried the idea of making a black and white print on very thin washi paper  (Awagami – Murakomo Kozo Select) and then applying gold leaf to the back.  First result was messy – too much glue, although I really like the almost painterly feeling that it shows in close-up.

A second attempt was more successful, although I will have to make sure that I keep bits of pesky leaf off the front of the photo. I like the fact that one can just see the gold leaf peeping out from the edges on this one.

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And finally, I tried it with a colour image. Albarran Cabrera mostly use yellows and reds as their colour palette, but my first attempt used greens, and was possibly too dark. (I have attached the original standard print alongside for comparison.

So, where do we go from here? I intend to use this technique for my next exercise , which is about illustrating five separate words. Just need to choose the words now! And I am also going to try it out with aluminium foil as the backing.

A possible collaboration opportunity

A couple of days ago, I visited an Open Studio showcasing the work of Hannah Dosanjh. Hannah is a Naïve painter who originally qualified as an Illustrator and I really enjoyed the visit for two reasons. Firstly, her work is very good, but what particularly attracts me to it are the little descriptions she attached to each one, which indicate her thoughts about why she made the picture and whimsical details about her life. See below for an example. They seem very much in alignment with the work I am currently doing on linking images and text. Secondly, Hannah lives and works in my village and her images are about everyday life here – the cake competition, the pub, etc. and I see that they complement some of my own work on village life. A few are shown below, as Hannah kindly asked me to photograph them for her to put on Facebook.

As it happened, when I turned up, another person I know was there, Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn. Talis is a musician and composer (our village is full of talent) and all three of us are Parish Councillors! It struck me that we could do some work together, and I have just the right opportunity for a group show coming up. Our local library will be shutting for six months from December and will re-open in July (long story about the Borough Council refusing to pay for our library service any more, and it being taken over by a library trust, of which I am a member), with an opening ceremony and party. The perfect event for a group exhibition and concert featuring local people who produce work on the local environment. I am looking forward to making this happen. If it comes off, it will also be an opportunity for me to learn how to put on an exhibition, and about curation, as we will almost certainly have more people anting to show work than space available, so some boundaries will need to be put round what is accepted.

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)