Artist Study – Laetitia Vancon

Laetitia Vancon was born in Toulouse, France, 1979. From an early age, due to her father’s service in the French Air Force, she led the restless childhood life of an “army brat”.
In 2003, after completing her studies as a Chemical Engineer she spent 6 years working within France and South Africa in a chemical firm manufacturing artificial flavor enhancers. The pressure, the feeling of insignificance convinced her to leave this life for something more unconventional. In 2009, she gave up her career, and while travelling throughout Australia and South East Asia, used photography to help her reconnect with herself and her environment.

In 2014, Vancon completed studies at the Danish Photojournalism School in Aarhus, specialising in Visual Storytelling. In November 2012, she received an award in Creative Journalism for her project “The Time goes by, Bruno stays” by Emaho Magazine.“The Top will Fall” was selected for the Sony World Photography Awards 2014, and she was short-listed for the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) International Print Exhibition. Her latest documentary “My Home, My Prison” was selected as favorite by l’ANI, at VISA POUR L’IMAGE September, 2014.

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NYT tearsheet, 2015, Vancon

Vancon has further developed and defined her distinctive, interactive approach to Documentary Photography. She places importance on connecting with her projects not to search for the latest scoop or hot news but to undertake them based on necessity. Adapting to more extensive, long term projects helps her create a more honest method of respectfully documenting peoples thoughts, emotions and place within society. By using this precise approach towards storytelling. Vancon hopes to confirm her values and belief in the importance of morality within today’s journalism.

She is relevant to contemporary documentary photojournalism and documentary debates. In addition, she moves fluidly between commercial, editorial and journalistic practice with a distinct style. She works well with natural light and has covered a range of issues I am interested in which is why I have chosen her for my study. She covers gentrification in Turkey in Life Carries On, as a personal project.

Below are my 3 key images for visual analysis.

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Fatos 9, Vancon, 2013

Image 1

  • The lighting in this image focuses on the child in the foreground as well as the 2 children in the background, these subjects work well together and do not detract from each other.
  • The main focal point is the child and her environment. The child, the graffiti’d wall behind her, the children behind her , help tell the story which is probably a justification for not blurring out the child’s background.
  • The light in this image appears to be artificial – there is a difference in the light distribution between the girl in the pink t shirt and her surroundings. This could however, be a result of the girl sitting where the sun was. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach 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 children and the architectural environment).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the slanted angle of the pavement and the children in the background the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus and the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is stronger as a series.
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Vancon, 2013

Image 2

  • The lighting in this image is quite dramatic. The lighting on the lower left hand sides adds more of a dynamic than an evenly lit photography would. The subject matter is clear – residential building demolition.
  • The main focal point is the shadow. The whole picture (the parts of the building still standing and the people in it), are part of this urban environment and this is justification for not blurring out the background.
  • The light in this image appears to be natural – there is a difference in the light distribution between the foreground and background but this is a result of the shadow the sunlight was casting. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach to photojournalism.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (changes to an architectural environment – a building being demolished).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the shadow of the building in the foreground as opposed to background the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus with the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is strong as a series and on its own.
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Vancon, 2013

Image 3

  • This is my favourite image. I took an image similar to this one before I had discovered Vancon.
  • The lighting in this image is quite beautiful. The lighting in the centre frames the child beautifully more so than an evenly lit photography would. The subject matter is clear -a child’s sense of wander as all she has ever known comes into question.
  • The main focal point is the girl. The whole picture (the details of the sofa) plus the little girl, form part of this her familial environment and this is justification for not blurring out the background.
  • The light in this image appears to be natural – coming straight from the window. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach to photojournalism.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (a child trying to process what sudden changes mean – where will she live, what is happening to her friends, can she look out of this window or sit in this sofa anymore?).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting – an off centre rule of thirds approach has been taken. Without the light illuminating the girl, the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus with the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is strong as a series and on its own.

Artist materials and processes

Vancon works both in black and white and in colour. Based on some of her work, I can assume that she uses a Canon DSLR or digital medium format for her work. Connection to her subjects is the priority which implies that she can live in places where she is working for extensive periods of time. Her photographs were taken in 2013 but the reportage was realised 2 years later. She is also aware of producing photographs for a variety of mediums. For example, newspapers (broadsheets), books and magazines.

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. Vancon has however, gone against this norm. She also combines interviews and collaborates with writers to add text to the online galleries where her personal projects are held. This adds context and an extra dynamic.

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Vancon, 2013

Key elements taken for my own practise

As a result of looking at Life Carries On, I will:

  • Become a bit more creative in the edit I produce 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/text 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

BIOGRAPHY (no date) Available at: http://www.vanconlaetitia.com/biography/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

PERSONAL PROJECTS (no date) Available at: http://www.vanconlaetitia.com/#/lifecarrieson/ (Accessed: 10 December 2016).

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).