Artist Study – Thom & Beth Atkinson

Beth & Thom Atkinson are a brother and sister in their early 30s who after three quarters of a century, have revealed their mysterious reinterpretation of the effect of the Blitz on contemporary London. They combine aesthetics from old paintings and tell a part fictional narrative of the terror of war on London’s landscape. They aim to preserve the physical and psychological landscapes of the Second World War landscapes in London. According to The Independent, Tonkin (2015), “the Atkinsons uncover… hollow monuments, as sites of memory, and, in Benjamin’s premonitory words, as scenes of a crime.” Beth was educated first as a fine artist and then as a photographer at the Universities of Leeds and royal college of Art respectively.

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Copeland Road, Thom and Beth Atkinson

Atkinson’s work appeals to me because it is quite simple yet profound. When I viewed these images I was thinking, okay I am looking at buildings, but what is so special about these ones? Then it hit me, when I saw the imprint of a building on a wall and an empty space. Something used to be here and now it’s gone!

They were chosen for my study because I am examining why everyone fears the wave of gentrification that is happening in London and what people do not want to disappear. The threat of something no longer being there draws in documentary photographers, like myself. I suppose it’s the thrill of being a part of history before it has happened. Missing Buildings, is a series comprised of 42 large format photographs and has been presented with other material to create a photobook. This appears to be a long term personal project.

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Florence Road, Thom & Beth Atkinson

Over a million of London’s buildings were destroyed or damaged by bombing between 1940 and 1945. Some of the types of buildings ranged from a suburban terrace, to the incongruous post-war inner city estate. Missing Buildings reveals London as a vast archaeological site, which still has the visible scars of its violent wartime past. The artists combined knowledge from books, images and grandparents’ memories to make more than a simple record of bombsites. They retell the story of an epic battle.

Below are my 3 key images for visual analysis.

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Hackney Road, Thoma & Beth Atkinson

Image 1 – Hackney Road

  • This is a road I have passed on many occasions. The lighting in this image creates a silently eerie photograph.
  • The main focal point is the building with the pink sign but this is overshadowed by the lamppost.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and quite flat, with the absence of clouds.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to initial training as a fine artist.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (buildings).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. I would have considered the image without the lamppost in the foreground but maybe it adds to the overall narrative.
  • In addition, the line of the pavement is not directly in the left hand corner but again, these composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, but the story is stronger as a series instead of this image on its own.
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Dingley Place, Thom & Beth Atkinson

Image 2 – Dingley Place

  • This is a road I have also passed on many occasions.
  • The lighting in this image creates a silently eerie photograph.
  • The main focal point is the building behind the tree, where there is a contrast between the shade of brown and the type of material the building has been made with.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and quite flat.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to initial training as a fine artist.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (buildings).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting and this image tells a story, both on its own and as part of a series.
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Brunel Road, Thom & Beth Atkinson

Image 3 – Brunel Road

  • This is a road I have also passed on many occasions.
  • The lighting in this image creates a silently eerie photograph.
  • The main focal point is the building behind the naked tree, it is also interesting to note that the tree is not in front of tall buildings.
  • The light appears to be natural (daylight) and quite flat.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to initial training as a fine artist.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image’s foreground (tree) in contrast to the background (buildings)..
  • 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

They have used colour film and a large format camera which alters the way the colour scheme the photographs have compared to a DSLR. Traditionally, footage related to the war has been shown in black and white so this is another opportunity to see it in colour. Given that Missing Buildings searches for mythology/strange apparitions as part of its narrative, this blurs facts and fiction and may have been too complicated to produce in black and white.

Key elements taken for my own practise

As a result of looking at Missing Buildings, I will:

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

Beth Atkinson (no date) Available at: http://www.bethatkinson.co.uk/ (Accessed: 20 November 2016).

Tonkin, B. (2015) Missing buildings: Thom and Beth Atkinson’s photographs capture the scars left on the London cityscape by the blitz. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/architecture/missing-buildings-thom-and-beth-atkinsons-photographs-capture-the-scars-left-on-the-london-cityscape-10475272.html (Accessed: 20 November 2016).

2016, T.A. (2016) Thom Atkinson photographer. Available at: http://thomatkinson.com/ (Accessed: 8 December 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).

What is fine Art Photography and how to do it? (2015) Available at: http://digital-photography-school.com/what-is-fine-art-photography-and-how-to-do-it/ (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

 

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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).