Artist Study – Felicity Hammond

Felicity Hammond is a fine artist working with mixed mediums – primarily, photography and sculpture/installation. I had the privilege of meeting her at Photo London earlier this year (in conjunction with The Photographers Gallery). Her series on show was, You Will Enter an Oasis, 2015. This was a photo-sculptural project dealing with the computer generated visions of opulent living and the discarded material that it conceals. Some, if not all of the (concrete) slabs were ‘found objects’ taken from construction sites, the natural elements (leaves, wood etc) were then fused onto it and the final product photographed. The finished product was printed on a surface of Perspex where distortion and warping gave the piece dynamic impact. Her work has won numerous awards/nominations from the following institutions: British Journal of Photography, Catlin Art Prize, Saatchi New Sensations and Magnum/Photo London.

Felicity comes from a very heavy fine art background. Her undergraduate degree was in Fine Art Photography, her MA was in Photography at the Royal College of Art and she is currently working on a PhD in contemporary art research. A lot of the work on her website combines at least two which give her work a conceptual approach. Following which there is a clear process, of making things, (photographing them – if that is what the end result is), and then considering installation.

F. Hammond, Installation, 2015

This photograph appeals to me for 2 reasons. She is a contemporary photographer and her work combines visual art with something tactile (sculpting and installation). An issue which is very dear to my heart has been expressed in a completely different way than I would have thought. It is in colour, Hammond has used sculpture, found objects and no more than 3 types of objects in each image (wood, plant and blocks). Her work has not isolated anyone from the art or photography world which is a sign of this series’clarity and success.

When I entered the room and saw her work I was able to use the items in the picture to hazard a guess at what the work was about. This visual language and visual clarity is something I am striving for in my own practice. Given that Hammond has devoted a lot of her life to visual arts she is able to work ‘quicker’ on great projects than someone who is just entering the professional world of visual arts (like myself).

THE FOLLOWING 3 IMAGES WILL BE USED FOR DETAILED VISUAL ANALYSIS

 

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F Hammond, 2014

IMAGE 1: THE TOWEL

  • Lighting makes the shadow where the wood is hanging on the rack appear soft but defined. The blocks do not have reflections on them and this image mimics a ‘bath showroom’ image.
  • This is a successful image, the lines, repeated pattern, muted colour scheme and simplicity work well. The brick in the top right hand side giving the image a sense of something beyond what I am seeing is particularly clever too.
  • The main focal point of this image is the wood/towel. The use of pattern in lines and object texture cries out to be analysed but not in a competing way – the use of a large depth of field helps here.
  • The image has been composed in a way which is unusual – the towel/wood is off centre and there is a good amount of foreground/background space.
  • The lighting setup is most likely even lighting (see diagram below, paired with a white reflector – see the drastic differences)

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  • Hammond’s intention is to address the spatial inconsistencies of simulated architectural propositions and how they materialise in the post-industrial landscape. She has done this by breaking down the heart of what buildings are made of and what they must remove in order to exists.
  • Looking at Hammond’s galleries of other projects, her stamp is there, in composition, colour palette, way of working and the mediums she employs.
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 F Hammond, 2014

IMAGE 2: THE BATHROOM

  • The lighting in this image is identical to its predecessor – even, soft and with minimal shadows
  • This is a successful image, it looks like a Hammond picture and does not visually stray from the theme of the series or its styling. This image screams nathroom tiles to me becuase of its pattern on the cube. In addition, the material behind the cube combined wiith the cube is what many opulent bathrooms consist of whilst the material on top of the cube has to be removed (clearing the land) in order for this construction work to begin.
  • The focal point of this image is the grass sprouting from the cube sitting on a wooden surface
  • This image has been composed using a play on the rule of thirds. There is a shadow behind the focal point of this image as well as a hole on the left hand side of the image whilst the right side of the image has none. The cube is given less monotony with the 4 main lines on its surface.
  • The lighting diagram mentioned in image 1 was most likely employed here too as well as the intention of this image and series.
  • Looking at Hammond’s galleries of other projects, her stamp is there, in composition, colour palette and way of working.
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Bermuda Grass, F, Hammond, 2014

IMAGE 3: BERMUDA GRASS

  • This images lighting is most likely the same as its predecessors.
  • This is a successful image, well executed, looks like part of the overall series and the 2 elements behind the focal point do not detract from it.
  • The main focal point is the rectangular slap with the grass on top of it
  • This image has been composed using the rule of thirds for the horizontal arrangement. The distance between the table top and the bottom of the picture was considered in the vertical placing of this object in the image.
  • The use of (what appears to be art or picture frames) on both corners of this picture make me think of an affluent persons living room – I could be wrong and this may not have been the photographers intentions.

Artist material and processes

Hammond’s end results are printed onto perspex and she works with sculpture, installation, role play and photography. I am inclined to believe that she used a digital camera for photographing these pieces however the colour palette is quite muted so medium/large format colour film could be equally as probable.

On Hammond’s website there are no behind the scene videos or written insight into her materials and processes. From the variety of projects she has up, I can see that she is a very tactile artist and is not afraid to incorporate a variety of mediums from the visual arts world into her work.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED FROM HAMMOND AND HOW WILL I APPLY IT?

  • Don’t be afraid to incorporate other mediums into my work. I’ve never sculpted but I have had a hand at drawing and painting, see how this changes my work and the end result and possibly photograph that? Maybe even moving image/sound – just experiment and see what happens!
  • Visual language, a recurring theme, nevertheless a very important one. Think about the material/signs present in my photography and what they will communicate to my intended audience.
  • Have a very specific way of working and subject. The ‘boring topic to photograph’ is the easiest to experiment with, because of its simplicity.

Bibliography

Hammond, F. (no date) Works. Available at: http://www.felicityhammond.com/#/you-will-enter-an-oasis/ (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Johnson, M. (2014) ‘A beautiful mess’, 23 December. Available at: http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2014/12/tips-for-using-natural-light-in-still-life-photography.html (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Liberation®, P. (2015) Juno calypso wins BJP international photography award 2016. Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/news/british-journal-photography-awards-2016-juno-calypso (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Liberation®, P. (2016a) Architectural photographer Frederik Vercruysse captures serene and haunting spaces. Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/frederik-vercruysse-architectural-photography-261016 (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Liberation®, P. (2016b) Photographer Vincent chapters documents the black lives matter marches in London. Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/vincent-chapters-black-lives-matter-march-london-130716 (Accessed: 31 October 2016).
Liberation®, P. (2016c) The complexities of life in Rio de Janeiro from photographer Stefanie Moshammer. Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/stefanie-moshammer-land-of-black-milk-rio-110816 (Accessed: 31 October 2016).
(No Date) Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/jessica-lehrman-revolution-250716 (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

 

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Artist Study – Jon Tonks

Jon Tonks is a British photographer based in Bath, England. His work has been featured in The Sunday Times, The Guardian and FT Weekend Magazines, Monocle, TIME LightBox, the British Journal of Photography etc. He been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Prize and in 2012 was Judges Choice at the AOP Awards. In 2014, Tonks was presented with the Vic Odden Award by the Royal Photographic Society for his first book Empire, a journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote islands – relics of the once formidable British Empire. The book was hailed by Martin Parr as one of his best books the year.

Tonks was born in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands (UK) in 1981, and took his first job as staff photographer on a local Midlands newspaper in 2005. Two years later he undertook an MA in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at London College of Communication, and now continues to work on his own documentary projects and for a variety of editorial and commercial clients.

This photographer appeals to me because he is a contemporary documentary photographer who has had success both in his commissioned work and commercial work. Traditionally, a documentary photographer is unlikely to be successful at both types of practise. This is evidenced by his book being published, where his work is housed and the competitions he has won or been shortlisted in. Additionally, validation by renowned BJP and a senior person in Magnum Photos adds to his credibility.

Tonks’ work has a clear theme visually and conceptually. Looking at his images, immediately, without reading any additional text I was able to decipher that he was looking at something related to Britain. This type of visual clarity is something I am striving for. His work reads well individually and as a series. Tonks spent 5-6 years documenting this work of personal interest and out of it arose a book, gallery exhibitions and prints. He has other series of work on his site but I will be focusing on his British Empire work.

The following 3 images will be used for detailed visual analysis.

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Image 1: Nigel Haywood

  • The lighting in this image playfully creates an air of royalty – mimicking commissioned royal portraits during the reign of the British Empire
  • I think this is a successful and well executed image. Every detail has been considered – clothing, furniture, wallpaper, decor, the mirror, lighting and accessories. It is a well directed image and the model has a good facial expression and posture.
  • The main focal point of this image is Nigel Haywood, it is a portrait and he is central in it
  • The image has been composed using symmetry, Haywood and the mirror can divide the image in half. The ‘busiest’ area of the image is the middle, the foreground is less busy with the background being the quietest area of the image. This had to be carefully considered as stereotypical tools for portraits such as vignetting or wide aperture have not been employed here. Decorations have been employed with the a warm colour palette with reds and white very present in the image.
  • Natural light may have been used as a filler for this image with flat artificial lighting being employed for visual consistency
  • The intention of Tonks is to portray an aspect of the British Empire – regal portraits with importance of furnishings, poise and oozing royalty. This is contrasted by the slightly humorous facial expression.
  • This image is in the distinct style of Jon Tonks. He does project based work in different locations combining landscape, object and portraiture.
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The Victory was the first pub to have a CD jukebox in Stanley, a feature that arrived in 1991. From the book “Empire” © Jon Tonks

Image 2: Pub

  • I think this is a successful image. Attention to detail was very important in order for this image to work.
  • The lighting in this image recreates a British pub interior.
  • The image has been composed almost like traditional still life images. The detail is in the objects and repetition in the photograph (for example, flags of different sizes in different places).
  • Artificial lighting was used here
  • The intention of Tonks is to portray an aspect of the British Empire – a quintessentially British pub and it definitely works.
  • This image is in the distinct style of Jon Tonks. He does project based work in different locations combining landscape, object and portraiture.
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Sisters Peak, Broken Tooth Live Firing Area. From the book “Empire” © Jon Tonks

Image 3: Sisters Peak

  • The lighting in this image is different to the others, quite moody and atmospheric.
  • It is different image to the others preceding, it is not filled with objects/a person but it is still successful.
  • The main focal point of this image is the clouds with the mountain peak beneath it.
  • The composition is less traditional, the mountain is not the central focal point with other natural formations present in the foreground of the image.
  • It appears natural light was the main source for this image
  • The intention of Tonks is to portray an aspect of the British Empire within this series.
  • This image is in the distinct style of Jon Tonks. This appears to be an establishing shot as there are no features indicating something ‘British’ other than an implied territory.
Tonks, Italy, no date
Tonks, Italy, no date

Artist material and processes

There is no clear description on Tonks website to indicate whether he works analogue, digitally or both. I will be making assumptions  based on the aesthetics of his images. The square format, colour palettes and the fact that this was a long term overseas project suggest to me that Tonks was working analogue. Mamiya 6/7 being possible camera bodies although a Hasselblad or any other type of camera could have been used and the images cropped accordingly. When travelling for photography access to charge up camera batteries is not always guaranteed but as photographers work more post 2000s with technological improvements becoming more global this could have changed.

Tonks, colour management, no date

On Tonks website, there are videos and a lengthy description of the printing process, colour management and book printing process. A printing house in Italy is employed, the images are no bigger than 8×10 in the book (confirming my suspicions about them being cropped for online galleries).The colour management software Pantone is employed with the CMYK space (for printing) though compatible RGB spaces have been invented by the said company. The process of printing is a very slow one to guarantee colour accuracy across every piece of finished material.

 

Tonks, Advice, Italy, no date

What have I learned from Tonks and how will I apply it?

  • Attention to detail is critical for any successful artiste and I will be ensuring that I am as meticulous with my work from creation to completion.
  • Clear visual communication – if my idea is about a particular location in London, make sure that the images have key features of it and leave ambiguous features for a series as opposed to standalone and reject images with no message.
  • Remember to allow space for local people to interact with me (outside of my camera) and photograph what I see around me- not just what I think I am looking for.
  • Find a lab and stick to it. I love the customer service I have received at Genie Imaging. They have digital and analogue facilities, they do fine art printing, the attention to detail is superb as well as a lot of industry experience so that is where I will be getting my work printed from now on.

References:

McCauley, A. (2013) Forgotten spaces: Jon Tonks’ search for empire. Available at: http://time.com/3796499/forgotten-spaces-jon-tonks-search-for-empire/ (Accessed: 26 October 2016).
O’Hagan, S. (2013) Empire by Jon Tonks – review. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/29/empire-jon-tonks-photography-review (Accessed: 26 October 2016).
Padley, G. (2015) Jon Tonks. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/tag/jon-tonks/ (Accessed: 26 October 2016).
Tonks, J. and Hole, T.J. (no date) Jon Tonks Portfolio. Available at: https://www.jontonks.com/ (Accessed: 26 October 2016).
Tonks, J. and LensCulture (no date) Empire: A personal history of British dominion – photographs by Jon Tonks. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/jon-tonks-empire-a-personal-history-of-british-dominion (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

 

My Personal Photography Brief

See my previous post for an explanation.

  1. I am documenting the regeneration happening in London; it is a current issue; also, an extension of my project from last year (The Lines that Divide)
  2. This will be shot in London – the specific area will be selected as I continue shooting, London is a big place!
  3. Previously, I was using a Nikon Fm10 and Canon AE1. I’ve been challenged this year to see if I could transition my practice digitally to save money. I will decide on using a Canon DSLR very soon but will still try to capture on film as well.
  4. Key influences (I have to select a total of 10) I am currently on 2 – see my previous post Idea Moodboard . Attention to detail RE composition, a deeper meaning in photographs, photographing a popular topic in a unique way.
  5. Creating a moody atmosphere, strong highlights and shadows (heavy contrasts). This will be achieved in the editing – push processing was implemented in the darkroom. This aesthetic will now have to be achieved in the digital darkroom.
  6. None unfortunately! I work with natural light, no flash or additional lighting.
  7. (See image below) as an example from my previous project (which influenced this one) for the type of aesthetic I wish to achieve. Quite moody photographs, coming from a concerned approach so there will not be image/subject objectivity.
  8. Documentary photography – this will cross over into architecture, portraits, city landscape and maybe still life. The images have to have the same look and feel. Nowadays people are less strict about a series containing both colour and black and white images. If this affects the visual authenticity then it this method will be abandoned for a slightly more traditional approach.
  9. 10 – 12 images (out of 40-50) from this work will feature in my final exhibition and it may receive press coverage. Newspapers, journalists and other people in the art world will view it. All the pictures from this series will be published in a book. I will make money from it by making a limited edition and keeping numbers very small. This will ultimately impact the way the series is edited and print/publishing decisions.
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Gabrielle Guy, A shadow, Lines That Divide, 2016

Personal Photography Briefs decoded

When coming up with photographic ideas a personal photography brief is always a good starting point. It helps you describe your ideas/how you want your images to look before you have taken them. It can serve as a reminder for what you are doing, how you want to do it and sometimes, why. Once the shoot is over, you can reflect on this document to see what you followed or didn’t follow and why. It helps in your evaluation, and you find yourself growing a lot faster a photographer. Once you move forward from the previous project you become more intentional with how you work.

Sections to break your photography brief into:

  1. Aims & Objectives – what are you doing/going to do and why?
  2. Location – where are you shooting, why? Include sample images here.
  3. Equipment – list here
  4. Influence – who are your key influences and why, what are you taking from their work and injecting into yours? Include every element and use visual language. Include key images here to demonstrate what you wish to achieve.
  5. Light – how should it look in your images, mood and atmosphere you wish to create? How will you achieve it?
  6. Lighting diagram – use it to show your setup and consider your subject and location. Include any good test shots you have here.
  7. Look and feel – how would you describe your images in words – use descriptive vocabulary.
  8. Genre – what genre are you working in – how will this affect the way your work looks visually?
  9. Audience – where do you want your work to end up? Who will view it and how will you make money from this work? Will this affect how you complete your project and the decisions you make?

You don’t have to write paragraphs for any of these sections. aim to answer in bullet points. This will help you absorb what you are doing faster and make planning the consequent shoots/projects easier. I’ve included my example brief in another post.

Idea Moodboard

Moodboards are very beautiful things for visual people but sometimes, even these need a bit of moderation. For my Final Major Project (which will be a stepping stone into the photographic industry) I decided to limit my initial moodboard to just 2 artists, yes 2!

Following my summer placement at Magnum Photos, I decided it would be a good place to start. This moodboard incorporates a ‘traditional’ photographer and a contemporary one who work in different ways – colour and black and white but are both documentary photographers who employ location and natural lighting in their work. In addition, they fit into the sub-genre of street  photographers. Their names are Alex Webb (the colour photography) and Matt Black (black and white).

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(filename is lecturers name – ignore that bit) – picture references available separately

When I was opened up to the influences that Webb had when studying and learning photography (Professional Photography magazine) he studied masters such as Cartier-Bresson who did not work in colour. This was a critical point for me. Whether or not a photographer has the same working practice as you – either in content or aesthetic there is always some principle that you can take away.

I had the privilege of assisting the setup of the New Blood Magnum exhibition and I was immediately drawn to Black’s work. The pictures he had on display were documenting the ‘Geography of Poverty’. For these he used poignant pictures and a key statistic/caption. The way he presents his work and his approach help give this series and unusual and more profound meaning than stereotypical documentations of poverty and hardship so frequently employed.

This moodboard was a good starting point for me because it challenged me to find similarities/differences between two photographers, whether it be in their work, practice, aesthetics or their approach. It allowed me to dig deeper and to challenge the way I work. I would recommend making a moodboard with a limited amount of photographers, artists (whatever it is you are looking at) as a starting point for a new project. It will force your eyes to be opened.

Final Year of Photography Degree!

So, the end of the final road begins. These past 2 years have been interesting as a Photography student. When you are completing placements, juggling freelancing and studying it can be hard to juggle all the information that is given to you and process it into something you can actually follow.

There are 3 things that I have learnt that have helped me a lot, they’ve been said over and over again but I don’t think the light fully switched on until final year so I will share them briefly below.

  1. Write down EVERY idea you have. As trivial as this sounds, there will be stages of growth in your development as a photographer. I now look back at ideas I had from the first year that I was not ready to shoot – I didn’t have the technical skills, the creative eye and quite frankly enough industry experience to attempt such a project. Writing it down tells your brain this is something important – not something I will be wasting time by doing and you’ll be surprised how much inspiration you can get after revisiting old ideas.
  2. READ like it’s going out of style! (I will elaborate this one further on in my blog) but when you are not making work, spend time looking at other creative work, journals, photographic magazines that explain how the successful live and think, books, films, paintings even music. You will find that when your reference these creatives in your work, your interpretation of it changes as you add your own flavour to what has been done before you. Saturate yourself in creativity, it helps you become more original.
  3. NEVER be afraid of failure. I cannot stress this last one enough. There will be some projects you try and you take some absolute sh*t pictures (at least I have) but this is all a part of the process. My editing in my early stages of learning  Photoshop was poor, and I had to submit some of this work for graded assignments. The feedback I got – though uncomfortable at the time, forced me to improve and to learn from what had gone wrong. It has been quite crazy how quickly the past 2 years have flown by, and I am glad that I attempted and failed the things I did at a time where it was less critical and I had a safe space to ‘fail in’. I can assure you that I’ve not made the same mistakes twice!

This year as I write my blog, I will be including more pictures, personal reflections and sharing tips for those creatives who wish to bridge the gap between student and professional and are unsure of how to go about it.

Welcome to my blog and please, don’t be afraid to leave a comment – I will reply.