Category Archives: Part 2

Page 51: ex. 2.3

In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.

Produce a series of 6 photo-based self-portraits that use digital montage techniques to explore different aspects of your identity.

Image 1:

Self portrait 1 1

 

Image 2:

wine and ferrero mountain 074 1

 

Image 3:

Time passing DSCF5141
Reaching the end of the line.

Image 4:

Rocky headland with contrast DSCF1188

Image 5:

Colour exploration104302576
Self and tree bark , partly b & w painterly colour treatment in PS layers.

 

Image 6:

Wallabrook clapper bridge 2 DSCF7714
Autobiographical expression.

 

Produce a 500 word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you use the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)

This work reflects the digital representations of myself which reference different aspects of my identity.

The original choice was between using photographs in the family albums and photographs of myself. Because I do not like seeing images of myself and because I have an aversion to photographing people in general, I chose to tackle this option to see if I can overcome this obstacle in my photography.

The work which inspired me most was Vibeke Tandberg’s experimental self-portraits using photomontage as seen in her “Herself – Photography” on the Youtube film(1) and her “Undo” (2003) series.   The freedom and variety of expression evident in her work was exciting and wide ranging: from presenting herself pregnant to using a lightbulb and a corner of a cube to say something about herself, which, to me, is quite liberating. Her manipulation of her photographs ranges from being so subtle that the viewer is not sure if what they see is what is there, to her obliteration of certain elements of her work ( her scribbles over her Amy Winehouse look-alike self) which leaves no doubt about what she has done. The photomontages in (1) present quite dark, disturbing images whereas her pregnancy ones at first sight look quite normal but then you start wondering if they have been manipulated or not because they don’t look quite natural enough. In the 2005 article in Frieze, Christy Lange asks us, in looking at Tandberg’s ‘Undo’ (2005), “What should we make of her self-portrayal not as an anxiously expectant mother but as a lonely woman whose body is peculiar and unfamiliar to her?” (2) The artist portrays her pregnancy not as a natural marvel but rather as this alienating physical experience in which “her swollen belly is like an unwelcome and stubbornly shifting mass that her position must constantly accommodate.” (2) This too is part of an uncompromising approach to her practice: why shouldn’t she?

In Lorraine Rubbio’s, August 28, 2014 article (4) on Tandberg, she gives us a glimpse of what constitutes the latter’s thinking on artistic practice: “it is a mix of self-awareness and fragility, two rather opposing characteristics that I think define the very core of any artistic practice.”(4) When you see her images, however, it is difficult to see that fragility: she portrays herself in very harsh, face-on terms with the viewer – challenging rather than seeming vulnerable, which, to me, is implied in fragility.

That fragility and self-awareness features in my poem, although I had not read up on Tandberg when I wrote it. In the rest of the images, I have used digital technology to cast myself as an artist’s subject as well as a subject in front of a camera’s lens. Unlike Tandberg, I have not been subtle in the methods I have used to process the images, and that is something I would like to explore further. I am not questioning how women are represented, nor am I revealing any psychological darkness, as far as I am aware. My images reflect the different identities I have chosen to depict: the positive, colour-loving optimist; a gourmande who cannot resist wine and chocolates; an older person who realizes she is fast approaching the end of the line; the nature-lover tending sometimes to feel part of the geology; the drama-queen; the complex character who is sometimes lost and confused; the image-maker, both in text and in pictorial representation. Unlike Tandberg’s work, mine has the occasional flicker of light humour; image 3 plays with the idea that it might not be manipulated: an image standing where others have stood and it too is on its way out.

 

References:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-TcVnnAxI
  2. https://frieze.com/article/vibeke-tandberg-0
  3. http://www.zingmagazine.com/zing12_staging/zing12/reviews/reviews-2.html
  4. https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/artnet-asks-vibeke-tandberg-75786
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P.45:Ex. 2.2

Write 500 words in your learning log on a piece of work by one contemporary artist-photographer who uses the archive as source material. You may focus on any artist you wish but you may wish to select either:

  • an artist who exhibited as part of the exhibition Archive Fever (2008)
  •  one of the British artists’ projects produced by UK organization GRAIN
IMG_2365
Photo of the Kessells exhibition of 1 day’s uploaded images at Rencontres D’Arles, 2013 . Photo:Anna Goodchild.

 

The artist I will look at is Erik Kessells whose work I first saw at the Rencontres D’Arles in 2013. My first reaction to Album Beauty was to wonder why he would want to use family albums, those artifacts that are ‘glorious in their dullness’ (Arles 2013 catalogue), why he would want to trawl through flea markets and second-hand shops and stalls all over the world to find these albums. Tim Clark (1) calls the exhibition “a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of obsolescence.”(1). That obsolescence contextualizes the work in time and one day, perhaps, our current practice of uploading our every move will also be seen as obsolescent – perhaps that day has already been and gone and the mountains of images are being recycled in more ways than one through montage and collage to create different work as in the case of Lilly Lulay, Katie Shapiro and countless others. Anouk Kruithof (2), in focusing on subconscious traveling uses something she found by chance to illustrate something connected to this image re-cycling and obsolescence: she found empty photo sleeves, arranged them randomly on A0 sheets of paper which she then put under glass and arranged them on a gallery wall. In doing this, she invites viewers to fill in the contents of the sheets with memories of their own travels thus experiencing a vicarious or second hand journey. The glass reflects their faces and thus makes the viewers part of the ‘scene’.

Reflecting on that exhibition space in conjunction with Kessells’ maelstrom of printed images uploaded in a 24hr period on Flick’r in the next gallery space suddenly brought home to me the magnitude of our collective and individual desire to upload our expressions or narrate our dull lives to a global audience possibly again to be part of that vicarious journey, to be seen as being part of that bigger picture of humanity.

IMG_2374
Exhibition space 2: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild

Recently I wrote a blog on Ted Forbes’ “Nobody cares about your photographs” in which I decried his sentiments that we need to make work that makes a difference, that matters, make us feel better about ourselves. Of course I realize that he is referring to that mountain of daily dumps on social and photographic networks, but I also think that iconic images, images which have mattered in moving people, like Don McCullin’s “Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968”, were not premeditated, were not made to make people feel better about themselves.

In an article entitled “The vanishing art of the family photo album.” We see that what Erik Kessells found in the family albums he trawled through was “an archaeology that lists the detritus of beauty, boredom, travel, companionship, innocence, youth, pride and participation.” (1) Those carefully constructed images of self, largely radiating happiness and the best of everything – similar to what we see on social media today – also contain ‘the dissonant, the banal, the disruption to ritualized harmony within family photography.’ He finds beauty in something less than perfection and mistakes which reveal, perhaps, something the photographers did not want to show.

His discoveries record what the archives found in family archives tell us not only of the history of a particular family, but also how habits have changed over time.   He discovered a pattern in the making of the family albums which averaged 7 – 8 in number and which record photos of a relationship in the first album, the marriage in the second, fanatical urge to photograph the first child in the 3rd, then the 4th – 7th albums are a complete mix whereas the 8th album would focus on the couple living alone again.

These piles of archaeology exhibited on the floor of what once may have been a family home, invite, ironically, more photographs to be made and uploaded to social media sites because there are no ‘family albums’ any more, yet we need to be part of that picture – even if we don’t quite fit.

IMG_2366 1
Photo album exhibition space: Arles 2013. Photo Anna Goodchild.

References:

  1. (http://time.com/3801986/the-vanishing-art-of-the-family-photo-album/)
  2. https://www.coursera.org/learn/photography/lecture/wuMhX/6-4-interview-with-anouk-kruithof
  3. Rencontres D’Arles 2013 catalogue.

P.41 Ex. 2.1:A series of 12 images which have a particular motif.

Bring together a series of 12 images in which a particular motif appears again and again, you may use found images or images found online. Select an appropriate way to display your series and present them on your learning log.

Having looked at various presentations of the series of Joachim Schmid, Corinne Vionnet  and Derek Trillo, I have decided to use images from Flickr with beach huts but without people as the recurring and dominant motif.  Working back-to-front, I came up with the following ideas before analysing what I had picked up from the four photographers whose work had inspired me:

IMG_2429

IMG_2430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initially I had thought of working on a ‘roots’ motif but found it too restricting.  Then I started working on beach huts because the UK has such a long coast line … and produced these layered image combinations bringing the strident-coloured, playful / toy-town elements which I associate with beach huts

Then I went back to my research and analysed what had inspired me in my reading and why.

From Joachim Schmid I got the sense of ‘seeing the role of photography as evidence of broader social impulses’ and ‘we can use photography as data to build a more democratic picture of any given point in time.’ Since the UK is a collection of islands and peninsulas, the beach hut has a lot of scope to develop and morph into different duck forms , but it doesn’t: it remains stoically and steadfastly shed-like and invariably built of wood / plastic made to resemble wood.  Its function remains the same, its form follows its function and so it too is invariable.  If I were to present beach huts selon Schmid, I would present the images from the top left image above formally in an album/ photobook because that is where they would be today.

From C.Vionnet,  I appreciated how she had created her own single image of an iconic structure using many images made by others of that same structure but which had its own atmosphere.  Using  beach huts as  British iconic structures that everyone photographs, I tried to emulate Vionnet’s idea:

Beach huts selon Vionnet

I used 12 images of beach huts, photographed facing the viewer, found on Flick’r, reduced the opacity of each one to 40% but found that some were still dominant.  I then had to play with their position in the stack of layers to create my own image which turned out as an anti-strident-coloured beach hut concept.

Derek Trillo maintains that architecture without people would be ‘starchitecture’ because buildings were made to be used by people and so photographing buildings without them is pointless.  He also supports his claim to use people because they give the building a sense of scale.  In my search through Flick’r for photographs of beach huts with people, I found very few, the overwhelming majority had no people at all.  From Trillo, I would get the idea of extracting beach huts from their landscapes and show both reflecting an absence and a presence together:

 

Absence
An absence
Extracted
Extraction

 

Although the absence images show an abnormally large gap in the image, the extracted images appear to be relatively insignificant.

All the experiments have their merits and demerits and I have great difficulty in deciding which I would choose to meet the requirements of the exercise: the playful sets reflect the leisure aspect of the function and form of the beach huts; the Vionnet-inspired image reflects an example of art photography; the album reflects the idea that these are found items collected under a unifying theme, and the Trillo inspired extractions have the deeper function of making us reflect on the significance of the objects in our landscape.