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.
fatos2
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).

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).

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).