Evaluation

My work in this project so far has been quite good. I started research early, from a variety of sources and had a general idea of what I wanted to document. This was further refined through group and individual tutorials as well as through research. I used a variety of sources – more than I have ever used for any one given project. This included a range of photojournalistic/narrative photography sources, where historical and contemporary practices are implemented. In addition, TEDx talks, videos/documentaries, Magnum Contact Sheets, traditional photography, books, Professional Photography magazines, the BJP, art based multi-media practitioners as well as material from exhibitions (for example Photo London) informed my research and practise.

I found it quite difficult to get a balance between commuting to attend so many lectures and finding time to take new material. It is common that final year students only attend taught sessions for 2 days a week in order to allow time for creative processes but our course is different from that approach. Whilst we are creative practitioners in training and still developing our own styles, it has been argued that trying to emulate other established photographers work can help discover techniques faster. Conversely, photographers such as Peter Marlow highlighted (in the November 2016 issue of Professional Photography) that his style began to develop when he stopped trying to copy Henri Cartier-Bresson and did his own thing. Balancing all of this industry advice as well as more traditional tutor advice was a little difficult. Lastly, in the same magazine, an art director anonymously cited the gender imbalance in industry photographers being on agents lists for representation and how the emerging photography style of today is too homogenised – “we need creative and fresh thinkers”.

Documentary projects of this nature, are at best, very time consuming and are rarely completed in a year. Some of the photographers I have analysed have spent up to 8/9 years on a personal documentary project whilst I barely have 9 months to realise and execute mine. One must also consider the ethics of the research I am doing and the type of photographs being taken, potential and past eviction experiences related to gentrification are not topics in a petri-dish, they are real, and those who experienced it will naturally have feelings about it.

Living in London (born & bred), in particular, the borough I am in, engenders interest and a reputability more than living where my University (Hertfordshire) would have. The project has developed quite nicely, considering all of the above factors, and I will capitalise on making further contact with the relevant potential subjects before everything slows down for the Christmas holidays. This will be with a range of people gentrification affects/involves and not just ‘victims’ will help to widen the story a bit more, an provide access to more people. Lastly to continue developing the story, shoots need to be occurring more regularly so that I can have more material to refine the ‘final story’ – especially continuing my spatial arrangements of printed photographs.

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Test Images 2

Below is a combination of some test images I have been able to use to refine my approach and practice over the past couple of months. (These are not the same images that were physically submitted).

Please note, there are some photographs which are ‘perfect’ in their edit and how they were captured but they have not been included here as they give me nothing to talk about and improve for the next few months.

Points of improvement

  • Image 1 – will have to be replaced with a ‘straighter’ architectural photograph, the clouds in the background produce a nice moody effect and the contrast is quite nice. Possibly brighten up the area at the bottom a little bit.
  • Image 2 (top right hand side) – the lamp post and the building behind have been aligned, the bottom of the picture has too much cropped out of it. Try re-shooting with more ‘grounding’.
  • Image 3 (right, middle) – this image is quite powerful on its own, possibly re-shoot with bars in focus to imply the feeling of being locked out, or not supposed to be there.
  • Image 4 (right bottom) – brilliant use of natural light in this portrait, as well as showing the environment (kitchen), possibly get in closer to the subject.

Overall, these images go well together, and even without the above advised improvements, go well visually as a series. A building connected to a person/people is being suggested here through these photographs. To refine my work visually, I will be/have taken on board the above criticisms and will be posting ‘finished work’ from the middle of next month.

 

Draft Proposal

(further development of my post on this same topic a couple months back), it includes points of improvement from my tutors.

Idea and subject area

I am working in the area of documentary photography and my idea is to photograph gentrification in London. I will be doing this by capturing buildings in areas it is affecting (so far, places like Southwark and Camden have been covered). This ranges from demolished buildings, buildings currently in question for demolition and new structures or construction sites. In addition, portraits of people who will be or are affected. There is a wider age range between people whose portraits have been taken than there was initially.

My research methodology

This long term personal project is linked to my dissertation (public architecture and its effects on inequality) and I aim to utilise a variety of sociological research methods. Most of these research based findings are based on secondary sources (books, journals, short films, other photographic and sociological studies and even national statistics). These have been compiled by other individuals with their own agenda. I have tried to reach out to individuals affected by gentrification directly – i.e. residents/ex-residents and people who sit on housing associations or who are on social policy think tanks. Given the raw emotion felt by many of these individuals, gaining the primary research I would like, has proven to be a lengthy and difficult process.

How I plan to realise my project

I was getting a little stuck portraying my ideas visually and had to return to basics. I brainstormed (see previous post) what I could physically photograph and went through my archives of photographs taken in the past 2 years. This gave me an idea of what I had and what was missing from my story. I then reached out to various associations that were remaining in Southwark after the forced exodus in 2013. There is no longer contact between ex residents due to a ‘wanting to put the experience behind them’ which is totally understandable, which meant finding people would have to be approached differently. I have since had arranged/am arranging portrait sessions with other people that have been willing to get involved.

Timescales and production plans

The time frame for the photographs to be completed has now been shifted from December 2016 to March 2017. This is because finding participants, in any documentary project, is the longest and hardest part. The photographs will be printed/edited in April 2017 to prepare for the exhibition in May. The other publications that will follow in conjunction with this project are going to be realised around that time as well. The printing will be self managed as far as possible, instead of being taken to an external lab.

Intended audience

Broadsheet newspapers covering these stories – in particular The Guardian. The TIME/Financial Times magazines and papers may cover this story in the next two years, depending on what is the most pressing issue and which stories are being circulated in the media at the time. The residents and project participants are welcome to all exhibitions and will be informed of where the photographs are published next (i.e. book and magazine). Lastly, some of the images will be used in an attempt to get the ‘powers that be’ to reconsider some of their development policies in light of the people they are negatively affecting.


Bibliography

2016, T.A. (2016) Thom Atkinson photographer. Available at: http://thomatkinson.com/ (Accessed: 8 December 2016).
Delaney, B. (2016) Neoliberalism through a dreamcatcher: Five signs your town has gentrified. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/24/neoliberalism-through-a-dream-catcher-five-signs-your-town-has-gentrified (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Gorton, T. and Dazed (2015) This map marks all of London’s anti-gentrification campaigns. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/24336/1/this-map-marks-all-of-londons-anti-gentrification-campaigns (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Hanson, K. (2016) How to get involved in Anti-Gentrification month. Available at: http://www.timeout.com/london/blog/how-to-get-involved-in-anti-gentrification-month-070116 (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Harvey, W. (2015) I was part of the cereal killer cafe protest – here’s why I was part of the cereal killer cafe protest – here’s why. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/28/cereal-killer-cafe-protest-gentrification-poverty (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Hays, M. (2016) The one-in-six rule: Can Montreal fight gentrification by banning restaurants? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/nov/16/one-in-six-rule-can-montreal-canada-fight-gentrification-banning-restaurants (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Magazine, F.-S. and contributors, its (2010) Contemporary photography: An informal movement. Available at: http://www.fstopmagazine.com/pastissues/43/milbrath.html (Accessed: 8 December 2016).
Merriam-Webster (2016) Definition of GENTRIFICATION. Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gentrification (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Patrik Schumacher – people – Zaha Hadid architects (2015) Available at: http://www.zaha-hadid.com/people/patrik-schumacher/ (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Pritchard, S. (2016) Hipsters and artists are the gentrifying foot soldiers of capitalism. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/hipsters-artists-gentrifying-capitalism (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Wainwright, O. (2016) Gentrification is a global problem. It’s time we found a better solution. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/sep/29/gentrification-global-problem-better-solution-oliver-wainwright (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
What is gentrification? Definition and meaning (2016) in Business Dictionary. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/gentrification.html (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
What is Gentrification? | flag wars | POV (2003) Available at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/flagwars/what-is-gentrification/ (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Wiseman, E. (2016) Beware the vibrant, emerging, misleading language of gentrification. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/oct/09/beware-the-vibrant-emerging-misleading-language-of-gentrification (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Yip, J. (2015) I watched the anti-gentrification protest in brick lane from my shop window – here’s why I won’t move out. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/i-watched-the-anti-gentrification-protest-in-brick-lane-from-my-shop-window-heres-why-i-wont-move-a6670146.html (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
(No Date) Available at: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/in-defence-of-gentrification/18159#.WEARQLKLTIV (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
(No Date) Available at: http://www.patrikschumacher.com/ (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
(No Date) Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/11/30/activists-protest-zaha-hadid-architects-office-patrik-schumacher-speech/ (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
(No Date) Available at: https://twitter.com/Thom_Atkinson/ (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Practitioner Case Study – Mike Abrahams

Mike Abrahams has worked as a freelance photographer for over 30 years having become renowned for his sensitive eye in documenting the lives of ordinary people. In 1981, he was a cofounder of Network Photographers which is an internationally and his work has taken him around various parts of the globe. His photographs have been published in all the major international news media and his ability to work in difficult situations made him a highly sought after photographer. His work on Faith – A Journey with Those Who Believe, published in 2000, was a 5 year project, documenting the extremes/passion of Christian devotion in 14 countries. Awards for this work included the World Press Photo Award in 2000, and the book Faith designed by Browns, was a finalist in the Design Week – Editorial Design: Books.

Colin Jacobson, picture editor of The Independent Magazine, described his body of work from the conflict in Northern Ireland and published in the book Still War, in 1989 as “Documentary photography at its best – …comprehensive,… and concerned”. His coverage of the troubles in Northern Ireland was the subjects of a Television documentary “Moving Stills”. Other important assignments have included coverage the Berlin Wall, the Cult of Assad in Syria, The Jews of Damascus and Bradford’s Muslims.

He has completed both photojournalistic and corporate assignments. Some of his Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects have taken him to parts of Africa and Asia. Whilst these works have been commissioned, he retains a sensitivity whilst documenting various experiences. One of the most poignant for me was a portrait of someone living with HIV in India and fighting the stigma.

Fighting the stigma of HIV in India
Rajakumar, 2013, India, Mike Abrahams

Abrahams is quite an important practitioner for me because of his extremely unique and far-reaching approach. He moves fluidly between corporate and personal assignments whilst retaining the ability to tell ‘the story’ effectively.


Mike Abrahams (no date) Available at: http://www.mikeabrahams.com/about (Accessed: 9 December 2016).nursery-school-in-burma

Artist Study – Giles Duley

Giles Duley was born in 1971 in London. After 10 years as an editorial photographer across fashion and music genres in both the US and Europe, Duley shifted his focus to humanitarian projects. Duley He has worked with well respected charities such as Sans Frontiers, IOM and UNHCR to highlight less widely known stories equally deserving of action and public attention. He has documented some horrific and challenging situations being sure to capture the strength of those who fight instead of succumbing to their problems. His photographs create empathy for lives varying in circumstances and allow the viewer to be drawn to the subject.

In 2011, whilst on patrol with 75th Cavalry Regiment, United States Army in Afghanistan, Duley stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He was severely injured, and became a triple amputee. He has since returned to work. His work has been exhibited and published worldwide in many respected publications including Vogue, GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sunday Times and others. In 2010 he was nominated for an Amnesty International Media Award and was a winner at the Prix de Paris in 2010 & 2012. His self-portrait was selected for the 2012 Taylor Wessing Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

giles-duley-self-portrait-001
Self portrait – Taylor Wessing Photographic prize, 2012, Giles Duley

Duley’s work appeals to me because it is humanitarian and used to facilitate positive change for various members of society. His work deals with issues affecting a large proportion of society across continents . Duley has had to gain access to a range of communities and this takes both time and personal funding. He has successfully built up a network and is able to reconnect with people he meets in places as far as the Middle East! Whilst I am at a stage where I can still personally fund my long term documentary project, I do not have as much time. Duley’s longest and first project took 8 years.

The ability to use the camera as a tool for telling stories of marginalised communities is one that takes time and a lot of dedication and personal interest. For this assignment, I will be focusing on the series, A Family’s Story, Za’atari Refugee Camp. This series was done as a charity commission for Save The Children.

Below are my 3 key images for visual analysis.

a_family_s_story_28-1
Salwa waits for dinner, A Family’s Story, Jordan, Giles Duley

Image 1 – Salwa waits for dinner

  • The lighting in this image focuses on the child on the left hand side, and the slight vignette makes the detailed and ‘in-focus’ background, complimentary as opposed to distracting. especially behind the man in the centre.
  • The main focal point is the child and her environment. The child, the dinner and multiple cutlery pieces on the table help tell the story which is probably a justification for not blurring out the child’s background.
  • The light in this image is artificial – when you zoom in, the little girls eyes have evidence of on camera (or off) flash. Possibly a small flash gun, or continuous ring shaped LED lighting. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to photojournalism/using photography as a tool for societal change.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (a child, surrounded by patterned furnishings – rug, the cultural food and even the other child’s feet in the top right hand corner).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the slanted image, and the whole image in focus, the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the patterns in this image add to the setting of this story being in that part of the world (Jordan) whilst the presence of a child draws empathy and makes the story relatable. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is just as strong as a series, as well as this image on its own.
a_family_s_story_16-1
Amin holds his youngest daughter Safa who was born in the camp 8 months ago. The family sees her as a blessing that has helped them get through the hardships of the camp, 2014, Jordan, Giles Duley

Image 2 – Amin holds his youngest daughter Safa…

  • The lighting in this image draws immediate attention to Safa, in her fathers arms.
  • The main focal point is the little girl, Safa.
  • The light appears to be artificial – from a flash gun, and emphasises the Safa more than Amin, her father.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to humanitarian and emotive photojournalism.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by the subjects of the image (father and daughter) as well as the feelings it evokes straight away – empathy, familiarity and a sense of compassion.
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. The image has been cropped quite closely, to really remove any distracting background elements.This image is very strong on its own but also, with the series.
a_family_s_story_22-1
Amin washes his feet before prayer, Jordan, 2014, Giles Duley

Image 3 – Amin washes his feet before prayer

  • The lighting in this image creates a strong and moody photograph.
  • The main focal point is the right foot that the water is washing.
  • The light appears to be a combination of natural (daylight) and flash light, as there is a difference in light distribution between the arms – top part of the image, and the feet which are lower.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to humanitarian work.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image’s foreground (Amin washing his right foot) in contrast to the background (filled with stones/pebbles and the other parts of Amin’s body). It is strong for two reasons, it freezes the act and it shows a portrait without a face.
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting and this image tells a story, both on its own and as part of a series.
a_family_s_story_1-1
Amin’s family, Jordan, 2014, Giles Duley

Artist processes/materials used

Duley works both in black and white and in colour. Based on some of his behind the scenes/travel companion photos, I have seen that he uses a Canon DSLR for his work. In some of the earlier series however, it is possible that this work was completed on film. Cost throughout the process is important to Duley as he sells his prints at around £130. It is highly unlikely that film work can be sold so cheaply. His digital work is printed in a special way (inkjet photographic paper) and sold until the series is no longer available. He has also produced a number of books, images for campaigns and posters.

Long term documentary photography projects where one is required to live in an environment other than their own, means a change in access to amenities such as electricity (important for photography battery charging). This implies, that it is more practical to complete such a project on film photography. Duley has however, gone against this norm. He also combines statistics and facts with his humanitarian work to give it some context and an extra dynamic. For example:

“We have rights to dream and rights to achieve those dreams” – Amin

3 years of war.
6.5 million internally displaced people.
2.4 million Syrian refugees.
560,000 in Jordan alone.
Za’atari Camp with over 100,000 refugees.

Siwar, Amin and their five children.
One family.

Key elements taken for my own practise

As a result of looking at A Family’s Story, I will:

  • Produce an edit of analogue styled  black and white work which contains portraits with detail of the subject’s environment
  • Combine other elements into the final story besides photographs – such as statistics which can be used to represent the societal issue in question
  • Consider which other publications – besides a book, can used to present the story of the people represented and initiate a positive change

(no date) Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/watch/here-2012/giles-duley (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

(no date) Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/isabelleq/tedx-observer-unstoppable-ideas (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Duley, G (no date) Available at: http://walkingwounded.emergencyuk.org/witness/giles-duley/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Duley, G. (2013) Giles Duley: ’I lost three limbs in Afghanistan, but had to go back …  ‘. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/feb/10/giles-duley-photography-amputee-afghanistan (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Duley, G. (2012) When a reporter becomes the story. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/giles_duley_when_a_reporter_becomes_the_story (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Artist Study – Matt Black

Matt Black is a 46 year old documentary photography born in California. His work focuses on poverty, migration and the environment. He has received a World Press Photo Award, Robert F Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism (2016) and the W. Eugene Smith Grant (2015). He is also a nominee member of Magnum Photos. He usually works in his native area in Southern California and in Mexico. Black has photographed over 100 communities across 44 US states for his project, The Geography of Poverty. His projects often feature short films. Black has been named a Senior Fellow at the Emerson Collective, received a Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and other professional acclaims.

Matt Black 1.jpg
Fallowed Tomato Fields, Corcoran, California, Matt Black

Black’s work appeals to me because it is in black and white, political and socially engaged. His work deals with issues affecting a large proportion of society everywhere and he adds another element to his documentary photography – short films. Black has had to gain access to a range of communities and this takes both time and personal funding. Whilst I am at a stage where I can still personally fund my long term documentary project, I do not have as much time.

The ability to use the camera as a tool for telling stories of marginalised communities is one that takes time and a lot of dedication and personal interest. For this assignment, I will be focusing on the series, The Geography Of Poverty. This series was done using census data and then geo-tagging his photographs.

Below are my 3 key images for visual analysis.

matt-black-el-paso
El Paso, TX. The population is 649, 121 and 21.5% live below the poverty level. Matt Black 

Image 1 – El Paso, TX

  • The lighting in this image creates strong contrasts, especially behind the man in the centre. It appears that this photograph used natural lighting and the sun was quite high in the sky (daytime as opposed to sunrise/sunset).
  • The main focal point is the column in front of the building with the number 1500. This is overshadowed by the darker contrasts evident in this picture.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and with the presence of clouds. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to photojournalistic training.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (a person, surrounded by shadows and items common to a road – street sign, lamppost, etc).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the column/lamppost in the foreground the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the lines in this image imply an idea of overarching system or structural error. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story,the story is just as strong as a series as well as this image on its own.
matt-black-modesto
Modesto, CA. The population is 201, 165 and 20.8% live below the poverty line.

Image 2 – Modesto, CA

  • The lighting in this image creates an interesting effect though it is more even than in the previous image.
  • The main focal point is the man in the foreground, after which the competition for my attention is between the horizontal line, the Stop and Save Sign and the man in the background.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and quite flat.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to photojournalistic training.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by the subjects of the image (2 men) as well as the sign on the building and the horizontal line working almost as a divider.
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. There is a relationship/narrative between the visible and connoted factors inside this photograph. This image is very strong on its own but also, with the series.
matt-black-allensworth
Allensworth, CA. The population in 471 and 54% live below the poverty level. Matt Black 

Image 3 – Allensworth, CA

  • The lighting in this image creates a strong and moody photograph.
  • The main focal point is the hand on top of the pillar in the fields.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and quite dynamic (the shadow on the underside of the subjects hands) and the clouds in the sky.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to photojournalistic training.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image’s foreground (human hand on a pillar) in contrast to the background (expanse of empty land).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting and this image tells a story, both on its own and as part of a series.

Artist processes/materials used

Black works only in black and white. His earlier work in Kingdom of Dust has different shaped images – so I am inclined to say he used a medium format 6×9 camera. His Geography of Poverty series is in square format. I can speculate and say he used a square format film camera such as a Mamiya, or a Bronica 6×6. Alternatively, he could have used  Canon or Nikon DSRL/medium format, and edit and crop his images. Long term documentary photography projects where one is required to live in an environment other than their own, means a change in access to amenities such as electricity (important for photography battery charging). This implies, that it is more practical to complete such a project on film photography.

The fact that short films often accompany his documentary projects suggest that Black travels with a film maker or uses a camera which can produce short film footage – digital camera.

Key elements taken for my own practise

As a result of looking at Geography of Poverty, I will:

  • Produce an edit of analogue styled  black and white work
  • Combine other elements into the final story besides photographs
  • Compare a consistent (fine art versus photojournalistic approach) in both aesthetics and content

Geography of poverty (no date) Available at: http://www.mattblack.com/the-geography-of-poverty/idp5g8h3xnyw3afef56puvetzhu1k8 (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Laurent, O. (2014) Matt Black is TIME’s pick for Instagram photographer of the year 2014. Available at: http://time.com/3615902/matt-black-instagram-photographer-of-2014/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Matt Black • photographer profiles • magnum photos (2016) Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/matt-black/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

O’Hagan, S. (2016) ‘Poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem’. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/29/matt-black-photography-poverty-geography-california-us-sean-ohagan (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Written and Sritharan, B. (2015) Matt Black’s ‘moral’ photography of America’s sprawling poverty. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2015/08/matt-blacks-moral-photography-of-americas-sprawling-poverty/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

Testing Images

(reposted from a different section of my blog from over a month ago)

This is probably one of the the hardest aspects for me. I am not sure if others can relate or if this is a personal thing. So, I went out with my camera and took some photographs on location. I did not ‘chimp‘ and changed lenses a couple times (f/1.8, 50mm and f/5.6-6.3 50-250mm). I left the images for 2 weeks (yes 2 weeks) before I even looked at them on my computer. In that time I did extra research on other artists, photographs and some paintings (see my blog for relevant Artist Studies to follow).

When I did upload the images to my computer, I followed the process of proofing in Bridge then exporting to Photoshop etc. I work in BOTH digital and analogue but I am on a limited budget this year. I’ve been working with analogue material for almost 5 years now and this gives me a pretty good idea of the image aesthetics I am after. I followed a series of editing processes in Photoshop to get my digital work to resemble my film work.

Test series image
A test series image, Gabrielle Guy, 2016

One of my most striking images was similar to the one above but I had to reject it from the series – yes reject, and here is the reason why. No matter how striking the image was on its own, it is ultimately part of a series. When I was viewing it, it was ticking the boxes – a finished look, good composition, good tonal range and good exposure but it didn’t have the same message as a slightly similar image to it, nor did it speak the same visual language when it was grouped with other images from the series (click here for the Project post on arranging images in space). Editing your work is a brutal process but for every image you ‘reject’ your work becomes more refined and your thought process clearer. Ultimately, so does the message you want your photographs to tell.

Concepts And Planning: FMP

(This is a repost from a different section of my blog posted last month)

Following a test shoot 2 weeks ago and a tutorial with Diane Bielik, we were reminded that as photographers we are visual people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with planning shoots, refining concepts and evaluation with words but we need to plan visually.

How do you that?

By putting together a series of test images and printing them out! Images behave very differently on the computer screen than on Instagram, your online portfolio or a studio wall. Think about your end result. If your exhibition will be on a wall or in a gallery, it is pointless to have your collection on a folder on your computer and scramble to curate your work on a wall/physical space a week before the exhibition.I was advised to put together a working edit of prints (and negatives) I had from my previous exhibition that has been extended and see how they interact. I will admit, I was very hesitant to do it because it would remind me of how much more work I have to do and improve. I got over myself and did it and the change happened instantly!

Notice how this was arranged, purely on what visually looked good together. I walked away from the wall space, came back 5 minutes later, did some rearranging and then this happened…

Notice how with minimal rearranging, the set of images become more balanced and already the ‘pairs’ or ‘triplets’ that should move together are being formed. I went on to refine this set of images, reject two and note down what the collection need more of but what I learnt was so powerful I had to share. We as photographers are visual people, do not be afraid to do this type of proofing with your series work, the results will change your practice forever.

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).

 

Research & Development – Jeff Wall

Jeff Wall is an artist renowned for large-format photographs with diverse subject matter. It encompasses urban environments and tableaux vivant that mimics the complexity and size of nineteenth-century paintings. This aspect of his practise lends itself to his training in art history at London’s Courtauld Institute.

Wall started producing large, backlit photographs after seeing an illuminated advertisement from a bus window. He had recently visited the Prado, Madrid, and combined his knowledge of the Western pictorial tradition with his interest in contemporary media to create one of most influential visions in contemporary art.

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A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993

Wall calls his photographs, after Charles Baudelaire, ‘prose poems’. This description emphasises how each picture should be experienced as opposed to illustrate a pre-determined idea or a specific narrative. His pictures may depict an instant and a scenario, but the before and after that moment are left completely unknown. This allows the viewer to become involved in the deciphering of the photographs meaning. Naturally, it follows that diverse interpretations would emerge upon different audiences responding to his work.

The prose poem format allows any truth claims of the photograph – the facts we expect from journalistic photography – to remain suspended, and Wall believes that in that suspension the viewer experiences pleasure. In addition to the light-boxes, Wall has made, since 1996, black-and-white prints, and has recently begun to print large-scale colour inkjet photographs.

Below are the 5 images of his that I find the most interesting/relevant to my intended body of work. Following that are evaluations and influences for my practice to consider.

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Each image is uniquely composed and loaded with societal issues. What is most interesting is that the majority – if not all of these images, were composed by Jeff Wall to convey a particular issue. Yet, without being told that they were ‘directed’ they are assigned a meaning. For example: ‘racism/racial slurs’, ‘apartheid within the USA where segregation of black individuals was prevalent’, the importance of unpaid workers etc. Each of these images, if put on posterd/ads and ran as campaigns would be successful visually for the clear theme they seem to stand for.

My next concern would be of how ethical it is to direct an image that may stand for a prevalent societal issue. The end result would be similar if not identical to street photography however, a lot more instruction and ‘bias’ was involved in the directed photograph.

For my personal practice I wish to envisage the size and scale of the images I take and not wait until ‘printing/post-production’ to consider those factors. In addition, I would like to pay as much detail as possible to what is inside of my frames when shooting – what adds detail, what enhances and what detracts? This is particularly hard when doing fast paced street photography but, it is not impossible.


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