Tag Archives: Assignment 3

Assignment 3 – personal reflections

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Technically, I am happy with all of the images, except as I mentioned in the assignment itself, the slightly yellow cast on the last image. I feel that numbers 1 and 3 are the best, and ideally I would like to revisit the other artists to make more similar pictures of their workspaces.

Quality of outcome

I would describe the quality of outcome as adequate. The images themselves are functional, but I believe that the contextualisation of them as being not only working spaces, but also expressions of their owners’ identities and their relationship with their partners brings another viewpoint. I enjoyed visiting the artists and we got on very well, so I see that aspect and the consequent possibilities of doing further work with them as being as much a part of the outcome as the images themselves.

Demonstration of creativity

I don’t believe that these images push the boundaries of creativity, but my interpretation of the assignment brief did not allow much room for experimentation. A review of the numerous blog posts which were the route to my finished assignment show that I tried various ideas, but did not feel they fitted the brief adequately.

Context

It has been some considerable time between the submission of this assignment and the previous one. During this time I have not been idle, as shown by the exhibition visits and personal research in the Research and Reflection section of my blog. This has been supplemented by a large amount of collected ideas and learning, particularly around the ideas of place and time which are kept in my two sketchbooks. Alongside this, I have also been working on a project on the concept of time, which I hope will go on show next year at the Thames Valley Group’s exhibition.

I have found the prescriptive nature of this assignment difficult to merge with the personal work, which is most probably the reason for the time it has taken to produce.

 

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.

 

Assignment 3 – Home is Where the Art is

Assignment brief

Find out about a community that you don’t know much about and tell their story. What window into this world can you access through your role as photographer?

Introduction

Marlborough Open Studios is an annual collaborative event in which forty local artists open their homes and studios over four weekends to allow the public access to them and their work. It is a selling event, but the artists are all happy to talk about what they do without any commitment to buy. Over the course of two weekends, I was lucky enough to see the work of twenty two artists; two were photographers, and the others used a variety of media including printmaking, glasswork, sculpture and collographs. I have discounted the photographers from this project, as I did not feel comfortable about asking them if I could photograph their work. Men were also discounted, being in the minority (less than 30%) in what turned out to be a very female event. Other artists were happy for me to do so and were very willing to explain their techniques for me.

The background work which informed this assignment is outlined in the following posts:

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/background-for-assignment-3-the-female-studio/

https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/yet-another-attempt-to-find-a-subject-for-assignment-3/

Assignment 3 – Home is Where the Art is

The 20th century rise in woman’s autonomy based on their increasing presence in the formal workplace, and the consequent financial authority this 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 historically gendered view of art pursuits. As a woman, the possession of a personal studio in the modern world takes art from being a plaything to being a serious undertaking, which indicates independence and personal autonomy as well as financial stability. And for a woman, her own studio is a strong representation of her identity and the value of her work to herself and to her partner, if she has one.

This project  is based on a series of visits made under the umbrella of the Marlborough Open Studios Art Trail. Each artist in the Open Studios has been selected by her peer group as being worthy to be a part of a group which showcases the best of what North Wiltshire artists have to offer. My thanks go to the following artists who allowed me to photograph them and their work environment:

Photographs

Reflective commentary

The purpose of this assignment was to reveal either a mirror of a community one knows and how it affects the photographer personally, or a window onto a community that the photographer did not previously know. A review of my blog posts for this assignment reveals that I have struggled to settle on a subject for several months, and tried out several different options without success. My initial idea of using mirrors in the literal as well as metaphorical sense using photography en abyme is something I would like to return to later, but I was advised by fellow students that the next iteration using my village’s annual carnival was not working. Thanks are due to fellow student Kate 513940 for her suggestion that I look at the Open Studios for a more revealing subject, and something upon which I could base a windows project.

This was not a linear project, in which the order of the images was important. Of more interest to me was the question of whether to include some of the artworks or to focus purely on the spaces themselves. I decided on the latter because it was better reflective of my background research. My original plan had been to produce a series of diptychs, each showing the artist and one of her pieces, but this seemed too static , on reflection. I also looked at the possibility of showing the artists directly relating to me, the photographer, as the process of capturing the images was so voluble and enjoyable but did not have enough good quality images to produce a series. Like all events of this type, one is having to work “on the hoof” and allowing other visitors to speak to the artists, and so there was a limit to what could be achieved. However, the organiser of the event asked me if I would like to produce some photographs for next year’s catalogue, and suggested that it might be mutually beneficial for me to go back after the Open Studios was over and to spend some time watching and photographing individual artists at work. I may do this over the winter as part of my  rework for assessment.

Looking at the series I have produced, I have particular concerns about two images. No. 7 has a slightly yellow cast from being taken in artificial light and this does not fit the visual palette of the other images. Despite considerable effort, I cannot seem to remove this without losing detail in the image. The focus in no. 6 is not quite as sharp as I would have liked, but I think the image should be included as the composition and the artist’s expression are revealing. Conversely, I am pleased with nos 1, 2 and 4, which I feel capture the person as well as their environment. Regarding possible gaps, the inclusion of some painters would have added another element to the series, and I will try to achieve this over the winter.

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

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.

 

Note on ideas for assignment 3

A couple of ideas have so far presented themselves to me, and I now need to think them through in more detail.

  1. A study of the Victoria Cross event which will be happening in the village in April, showing behind the scenes and the event itself. (Window – as I will not specifically be involved myself, but functioning in an observatory capacity). It would be relatively straightforward, and continue with the themes of village life which I have explored in previous work.
  2. A response to my frustration that middle aged people, and particularly women seem to be an almost completely invisible group in advertising and are hugely under-represented in literature and visual media unless they are functioning in a business capacity. I need to work on the background to this, with a feminist perspective, but my initial thoughts are along the lines of a series of diptych images, of local group scenes with the middle aged women blanked out, and then portraits of them alongside, explaining who they are. I did a quick test as an example below.

img_2168-ass-3-trialThis would be accompanied by individual portraits of the people, with a short explanation of how they would describe themselves, e.g. in the above photo – Holly, photography student and local councillor; Bronwen, author and creative arts teacher; Sandra, TEFL teacher and runner. This is definitely a Mirrors piece, in the same vein as Exercise 3.2 and I need to think over who would be the best candidates to ask to participate, as they need to be willing to show something about how they see themselves in the individual portraits.

Thinking a bit further about how the individual portraits might be set, I also need to pin down how the portraits should be set and the type of gaze they include. Direct would indicate, “Here I am. Look at me, please!”, while Averted might give a more diffused feel. My initial reaction would be for Averted, but on reflection I think that it continues the trope about invisibility, but in a voluntary, almost participatory way. The more I think about it, the more complex and important the gaze will be to the series.