Assignment 2:

Introduction

One thing I do know was that for me, and most people I knew, the moon landing happened in black and white.  Yes, there were some famous pictures printed in Sunday magazines, but they felt less real than the grainy black and white images.

In the summer of 2019 Apollo 11’s mission was remembered and celebrated.  Much of the TV footage shown was in colour, and now colour made the event more real and immediate, I remembered the excitement, looking at the moon and knowing there were humans there.  

NASA’s image library is an archive of still and moving images of all the NASA missions and open to public use.  The images in this book are all taken from that library and are all in colour, as the astronauts saw it at the time.

At the same time as the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, I developed a problem with my sight and needed an operation.  The distortion in my sight both before and after the operation are replicated in the images – how I might have seen the moon landing if it happened now. The moment of the operation itself is represented as darkness

The work

The book takes images from the NASA archive, sequenced along the journey to the moon and back. All are colour. While I am used to seeing images of the moon landing in black and white, this is partly because everything was black and white in 1969. Looking at the same events in colour is interesting. For example, the colour images highlight how frail the Lunar Module looks – it seems to be covered in tin foil. But also, it is a reminder that this is what the astronauts saw.

At about the same time as the 50th Anniversary celebrations I was diagnosed with a VMT (Vitreomacular Traction Syndrome) which if left untreated, would have lead to a hole in my macula, so that I would have no vision in the focal part of my vision. My vision was slightly distorted and after a while I could see the small hole developing at the centre of my vision. The treatment, which involved having a bubble of gas injected in my eye, affected my sight for some weeks. I have used PhotoShop to manipulate the images to represent what I could see at points along the way. These are representations rather than reproductions.

In order to save the book with double-page spreads I have published it using Issuu (see below). The 12 mainpulated images are:

The book has text. I’ve used Futura, which seemed appropriate and also turns out to have been used on the Lunar Module. However, the text is difficult to read in the Issuu version. The introduction is the first paragraph of this post. Other text is and so it is reproduced below.

Page 3

Credits
All original images are from the NASA Image and Video Library.
https://images.nasa.gov
NASA Media Usage Guidelines
Still Images, Audio Recordings, Video, and Related Computer Files for Non-Commercial Use
NASA content – images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format – generally are not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.
News outlets, schools, and text-book authors may use NASA content without needing explicit permission. NASA content used in a factual manner that does not imply endorsement may be used without needing explicit permission. NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material. NASA occasionally uses copyrighted material by permission on its website. Those images will be marked copyright with the name of the copyright holder. NASA’s use does not convey any rights to others to use the same material. Those wishing to use copyrighted material must contact the copyright holder directly.

Page 4

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Thank you
Exerpts from President Kennedy’s address at Rice University on September 12, 1962.
https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm [accessed 4th October 2019]

Context

NASA archive

The NASA Image and Video Library brings together material from 60 separate collections. The material is free to use for schools (which I take to mean education) with NASA credited. The images have good notes about what is being shown in the photograph.

Other work on a similar theme

I’m sure there are any number of cases where material about space travel has been used. An example that stands out for me is The Race for Space album by Public Service Broadcasting, which samples audio from the BFI archives to tell the story of the space race 1957 (Sputnik) to 1972 (last Apollo mission) across 9 tracks. For me, the combination of archive voices with mixed electronic music, guitars and drums works well – the archive clips tells the story and with music providing atmosphere and emotion.

Blind photographers

Because part of the content is about how my condition and the operation affected what I see, I looked at the work of blind photographers. This is a really interesting subject in itself. There are a number of photographers with visual impairment and at least one collective, Seeing with Photography, where the sighted and visually impaired work in partnership to produce images. In most cases, it is difficult to tell that the photographs are made by people with any problems with their sight. This is not surprising – the images tend to be about whatever the photographer is pre-occupied with, not necessarily about their blindness.

Ian Traherne has 5% of the sight he was born with. His photographs allow him to record scenes that he himself cannot fully see. His website shows mostly black and white photographs. They tend to be quite dramatic – certainly those in chosen for the BBC post are. Whether this is because they are dramatic or because they more obviously illustrate the topic, is difficult to tell. These have a dark background with the centre brighter, which reflects, rather than disguises, his own vision. However, this is not the case with all the images shown on his website.

Pete Eckert and Sonia Soberats both use light painting in their images, but they are very different. Eckert’s image tend to be in very bright colours and feel altogether more commercial than those of Soberats. Her images are images are black and white, often somewhat out of focus. I feel she takes a more creative approach to producing the images. for example, in one she covers her models’ face with wet crepe paper to try to simulate stone. Soberats works with an assistant, but I believe Eckert does not.

The Blind Photographer is a book (and exhibition) of work from visually impaired photographers. Again, the images are rarely about blindness. Some do suggest that the photographer looks to reproduce the world as they see it.

Palmira Martinez’s Untitled, Mexico 2012, is an image of a swimmer in a red swimsuit in a blue green pool. There is motion blur, so the water appears as broken reflection and refracted light. What I like about this images is that the blur makes the colour contrast of three areas – the blue-green of the water, the red of the swimsuit and the yellow of the swimmer’s skin the focus of the image.

Mickel Smiten is a dancer who makes images of dancers. Some of the images have motion blur, but all they convey a feeling of the movement of the dance, perhaps because Smiten is attuned to that movement.

In Nudes (2007) Gerardo Nigenda superimposes Braille on images of a nude and blind folded woman who is being touched by a man. The Braille is not simply added to the photograph as a block or title – it is added to areas touching (fingertips) and those being touched (toes, legs, face, neck). The combination provides two ways to read the painting that is very intimate. This makes them, for me, the stand-out images of the book, though I can’t read Braille. Also, although the photographs are pin-sharp and indistinguishable from images that might be made by a fully-sighted photographer, these images are about blindness.

Jake Zukerkorn

Jay Zukerkorn is a photographer with Parkinson’s Disease who decided use the tremor as part of his photography. The resulting images, in a series he calls Movement Disorder, features beach scenes and so have a bright but limited colour scheme. Edges are blurred and people becomes indistinct figures. They are not dissimilar to images taken with intentional movement disorder, but the shake is not are not so regular and decisive. They are attractive images but also communicate some of what it feels to have the disease’s tremor.

Self evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The basic skills needed here were layout of the book and manipulation of images. I used the Lightroom book module because I wanted a consistency across the images and the originals, as a set were in a variety of sizes. Also, I wanted a simple and clean solution.

The choice of images was made partly on the basis of telling the story (Apollo 11 launch, Lunar Module descent, on the Moon, Lunar Module leaves, recovery. In addition I needed to choose images that would allow the effect I was representing to show up. For example, the final effect I wanted to represent is quite small, so I needed my final image to have obvious straight lines.

The manipulation of the images was really a case of trial and error with PhotoShop features until I could give an impression of what I had seen or was seeing. This was time consuming rather than technically difficult.

Finally getting the book to appear as double page spreads took a lot of time until I figured out how to do this using Issuu.

Quality of outcome

I am reasonably happy with the final book. I think it works as a story and showcases the NASA images.

Demonstration of creativity

I’m not sure about this one. The book is a sort of diary and so not creative so much as recording.

Context

Although I’ve described this as a diary, I tried to put his in the context of others with physical problems that affect or inform what they see. This has not been particularly successful as I have not found the breadth of resource I expected. I can continue to look into this, but that does makes it post hoc.

Sources

Online

Pete Eckert: http://peteeckert.com [accessed 4th October 2019]

NASA Image and Video Library https://images.nasa.gov [accessed 4th October 2019]

Geraldo Nigenda https://www.gerardonigenda.org.mx/en/work/nudes [accessed 4th October 2019]

Sonia Soberats: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/blind-photographer-paints-with-light-creating-stunning-images-58502861/ [accessed 4th October 2019]

Ian Treherne https://iantreherne.co.uk [accessed 4th October 2019]

Ian Traherne – BBC article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-48135931 [accessed 4th October 2019]

Wired: How Futura became the first typeface to land on the Moon https://www.wired.co.uk/gallery/futura-font-on-the-moon-christopher-burke-book [accessed 4 October 2019]

Book

Rothenstein J and Gooding M (eds) (2016) The Blind Photographer. Redstone Press London

Assignment 2 preparation

The Archive: produce a series fo relatedI images that use a readily available online archive (or archives) as their starting point of subject.

Initial thoughts

I considered a number of ideas for this assignment.

  • The family album and family resemblance.
    The ideas was to build on exercise 2.3.1 where I played about with people’s features to highlight how families look like each other. I had a trawl of the family photographs I had available and noticed that getting this to work depends, to some extent, on having photographs of people at about the same age and, to a larger extent, on having people facing in the same direction and with similar expressions. I don’t have access to enough family photographs to pull this off. Also I find I’m not keen on finding photographs of celebrities or people I don’t know for this exercise.
  • The conflict in Yemen.
    I visited Yemen on holiday and really loved the country. It’s wasn’t an entirely safe place to be at the time – a UK tourist group were kidnapped within months of my visit. However, the situation is now terrible and many of the places I visited have been bombed. I wanted to contrast my (small) archive of photographs with the current situation.
    The purely practical problem is that photographs of the war in Yemen are taken by photo-journalists to sell and even with education discount, using them was out of my price range.
    As an alternative, I looked at Instagram pictures posted in Yemen – the idea being that, even in a country at war, people are still posing for selfies. in the end, I felt I was just fishing for ideas.
  • Flickr
    Flickr is a really interesting archive because there is simply so much content. I saw / watched ImageNet, at The Photographers’ Gallery display a seemingly never-ending stream of photographs of cockerels. The same would be possible with Flickr, using my choice of search terms. The point being the volume of images and similarities between them. I quickly came to the conclusion that Flickr is still fairly dead, so it feels like raking through the ashes of an archive rather than exploring a living system.
  • The anniversary of the first Moon landing
    This brought me to July and celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing. I was 11 at the time of the Moon landing and of course it was a big deal, as space travel continued to be for some time. It was really interesting to see the footage of the mission and of the public response to the mission and I relived some of the excitement of the time. I wondered whether NASA had an image archive and, of course, they did. I decided to use this for the assignment.

Developing the idea

The NASA Image and Video Library holds images, video and audio. I searched for all images tagged with Apollo 11 and taken in 1969. This came to about 400 photographs of the Apollo 11 mission – it’s difficult to be precise, as the same key word search brought up slightly different images from time to time and not all were of Apollo 11.

One thing that struck me about the programmes I watched for the anniversary was that the footage was in colour. In 1969 I didn’t know anyone who had a colour TV – I’m not even sure that RTE broadcast in colour. When everything is in black and white, it’s not something you notice. As soon as I saw the footage in colour it just seemed more real and less like a historic document.

So, I decided to work with colour images only. This does exclude images like Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon, but does include images that are well known e.g. Buzz Aldrin on the Moon surface and Earthrise.

In parallel to this, in mid-July I was referred to an eye consultant to check a VMT – a condition that could lead to loss of acute vision – and was advised to have surgery. I’d noticed I was having a little trouble with reading, but just expected a stronger prescription. I was told I would need an operation at some point. Within a few days the problem had progressed to the point where I could see that a hole had developed (I assume it was tiny), so I went ahead and had the operation.

What I have done for the Assignment is to bring these two events together, superimposing what I could see through my right eye pre and post operation on the images of the Apollo mission with both are shown in date order. It seems apt to combine remembrance of a major even in my childhood with the effects of a condition that is, basically, age related.

Exhibiting ImageNet – The Photographers’ Gallery https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/whats-on/digital-project/exhibiting-imagenet [accessed 4th October 2019]
http://www.image-net.org [accessed 4th October 2019]

Exercise 2.2: Ryan Trecartin: A lossless fall 2010.

While searching for artists to write up, I came across Collect the WWWorld: The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age, an exhibition that had several outings, one of which was in 2012. It focused on how artists use the internet and included some artists mentioned in the notes, such as Evan Roth and Penelope Umbrico.

One name I had not come across was Ryan Trecartin. Trecartin is primarily a videographer. The work included in Collect the WWWorld is a set of four photographs which were published in W magazine. They are accompanied, at least in the exhibition website, by Trecartin’s direction for hair, make-up, props, clothing and post production. All four images are of Trecartin’s collaborators.

At first I really didn’t know what to make of the images or the directions. I thought they must be a joke. Now I think they are not a joke, but I don’t think they’re entirely serious either. Or at least they are knowing.

The images takes themes fro the internet and culture and present them in extreme form. For example, the first, Anti-Virals + Ashland Mines, includes the WiFi symbol (in the shaping of the model’s beard, photoshop ‘fails’ and stock imagery with the cross markings still in place. These are combined with extreme hairstyling and the image of a car steering wheel embedded in the models face.

Another image shows a woman wearing designer clothing, and carrying shopping bags, but with lots of labels from cheaper brands hanging from her clothing.

The images look weird. They are posed as magazine portraits, but are crammed with odd and unusual detail – a tan mark of a baseball cap strap across a model’s forehead, lower eyelashes longer than top lashes. The effort that would normally go into making the perfect glossy image has been put into off-kilter detail.

So, what do I think about the images? Well the first thing is that they do make me feel old! They are a sort of window into youth culture that I don’t understand with lots of references that I don’t get.

But there are intriguing element here. The extent to which the direction mood boards loft from the internet is not surprising. I think we’d all do that. But it highlights how much of what we see (and make) is recycling mediated by the internet. The images do hold up a mirror to some fashions that are odd (extreme contouring, pubic hair styling). In one image the instructions asks for the area around the model’s eyes to show reflections of charts and graphs, I suppose burnt in by looking at a screen all day. And, the images put post production front of stage, both in obvious ways but also in subtle changes of eye colour.

I found this in the notes: “This collection of images, compiled and commented on in an idiosyncratic mood- board, is also an invaluable screenshot of juvenile culture at a given time, as it is performed on, mediated and influenced by the internet, where fashion trends, new jargons digital folklore and internet memes flow, get remixed and collapse into each other.” This sounds like a good summary – the images feel like a display of digital image and culture expressed as portraits. there is youth fashion but also the wider culture and it is all crammed in. I think there is some expression of the identify of the ‘model’ but mostly it feels like they are just models, carriers of the detailed production. The images are really interesting and quite funny, even more so when read with the written instructions and, I think, quite different to anything I’ve seen before. A bit like Cindy Sherman on acid.

References

Quaranta, Domenico (2012). “Ryan’s Web 1.0. A Lossless Fall” by Ryan Trecartin
Published by Link Editions, Brescia. Available at http://319scholes.org/wp-content/uploads/ebooks/Ryan_Trecartin_A_Lossless_Fall_2012.pdf [accessed 28th April 2019

Exercise 2.3 1

Produce a series of six photographs (these can be photomontage, staged photography,work using found images, work including images from your own family archives, etc.) which reference the family album in some way.This is a series based on the family album.  The idea for this was sparked by Hans Eijkelboom, With My Family,1973, Dita Pepe, Self portraits with men and another photographer whose name I can’t remember who takes the place of the mother in family photographs.

Two things bother me about these photographs. The first is that they are sort of creepy. The course notes say “Eijkelboom rang the doorbell in the afternoon, while the husband and father of the house was away at work.” Did he think that he wouldn’t get the photograph if the real father was there?  Also, it’s an odd thing to explain to children – that this man is pretending to be your dad, but just for the afternoon. Second, we don’t know the families in the photographs, but in most family photographs you can tell that the people are related.  Indeed, one of the ways family photographs are used is to point out the family similarities (he has his father’s nose etc).

So, the idea behind the series was to mix up family photographs, moving people or bits or people from one to another.

I don’t have access to a real family album. My parents didn’t have an album, but kept photos in boxes.  When they died the photographs were split up between myself and my brothers.  We made copies of some of the important ones, but it’s a bit hit and miss.  So, I have a selection.

The first idea was to swop parts of faces.  The first one where I swapped eyes and mouth between myself and my brother works reasonably well.  I copied and pasted rectangles, but even so, it took people a little while to figure out what’s going on.

IMG_20190514_0011-Edit
Swap 1

Repeating this success turned out to be difficult.  For one thing, it needs two people facing straight forward. This is something that we only get in fairly formal photographs like wedding photos and then I had to deal with lipstick.

This is another brother and sister with eyes and mouth swapped, but only one eye each.

gemma and greg
Swap 2

The second idea I had was to move people from photo to photo. This is a picture of my brothers and cousins at the seaside. The boy on the left is my older brother and the new person along my cousin, standing in from his father, who is behind him.

Rosslare with david
Insert 1

Here we have mother and son in the same image.

Niamh and Rory
Insert 2

Finally, I had worked out by now that this didn’t actually work.  Another student, Catherine Banks reminded me that she had made an image where she merged herself with an ancestor (half of each face).  I tried this and couldn’t find pictures that matched well.  However, I did think this was a way of adding people in to photographs where we’d like them to have been in reality.  but in this case I didn’t want it to look like a Stalinist re-touch.  So, I added my parents to the next images match with the child who most resembles them. Neither is a really good match.

Wedding
Insert 3

The final picture, which is only linked to the set in the sense that it is from my family album, I put together because I noticed this repeated theme of holding something for a formal photograph: a missal, a photograph of someone (probably the Pope) a degree certificate, flowers.  On top of the outfits, it feels like the photograph is of what I’ve been awarded.

holding a thing
Holding things

I was conscious of feedback from my tutor that it was better not to try to make photoshop work perfect, so as not to have an ‘advertising look, so I mostly used rectangular selections to copy the features. Obviously, this wouldn’t work for moving the figures, but I’ve not spent time trying to get these perfect. Getting the tones anywhere close was more of an issue. Also, these feel like drafts rather than finished items.

It’s fair to say that the outcomes here are not that successful.  I think there’s a germ of an idea here, though and I may see if I can get more family images to work on.

Revisiting Flickr

I joined Flickr on 2nd May 2005 and uploaded a picture of a lone tree.  I can’t remember why I joined.  I think it was simply that I realised I was taking more and more photographs and it was getting more difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.  There wasn’t much wheat, apparently. I uploaded 6 images in 2005, 2 in 2006 and 10 in 2007.  Then I got a new camera for Christmas, uploaded 13 image before January and carried on from there.

What I remember from the time when I started to get engaged with Flickr was that I stopped seeing it just as a place to store photographs and started to get involved in with other people.  I started to follow others, although I can’t now remember how I came across their photographs, then to comment and eventually to join groups and discussions. When I realised that most comments were going to be limited to “Great photo!”, I even joined a critique group, where I had some bruising critique and an early exit.

When I joined OCA I used Flickr less and less. This was partly because I took fewer pictures for the sheer pleasure of doing so and critiqued those I took enough myself to not want to make them public.  I uploaded only 6 images in 2012 and none in 2013.

What I didn’t realise at the time is the Flickr was beginning to die.  Facebook was already the place to upload photos of family, friends, parties, and holidays. 500px was trying to skim off the professionals and aspiring professionals and then Instagram combined with better cameras on phones changed the game.

I’ve never gotten involved with Instagram.  Until recently,  I just thought of Instagram as just for selfies, self-promotion and holiday snaps.  I knew people who were trying to build up followers and that’s what it seemed to me to be all about – a competition.  I think it’s also possible that the rise of Instagram coincided with me having no photographs I’d want anyone to see, so there was no point getting involved in that race, Also, I didn’t associate it with ‘serious’ photography’ – I thought it would be a good place to follow fashion but not art photography.  Of course, I was wrong about that and I’ve realised I can follow both interesting and well known photographers on the site.   In any case, I now see Instagram as a way to follow others.  Since I don’t see it as a storage solution, I don’t see much point in uploading images that no one will see.

But back to Flickr – I needed to get some images for exercise 2.1 and that seems a good place to look.  While things have clearly changed and some groups (in which I’d include the OCA group) are dormant if not dead, there is some life there with discussion forms still active.  That’s what reminded me about what I liked about Flickr – there were side conversations that weren’t directly about photographs and went beyond the verbal ‘likes’.  On the other hand, most of the people I followed haven’t uploaded a photograph for 60 months or more.  Since I don’t actually know many of them, I don’t know if they’ve gone to Instagram or elsewhere or maybe just given up.

Flickr has a new owner, SmugMug, and have just done something with the servers that suggests that there will be some investment in the site.  Maybe the tide will flow back in.

 

 

Exercise 2.2. Hans-Peter Feldman 9/12 Frontpage

Hans-Peter Feldmann (and his team) collected the front pages of newspapers published the day after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. These were then displayed in a three rows around three walls at the Archive Fever exhibition.

Both Fontcuberta and Enwezor note the role that archives play in memory and the management of memory. This is an event that I remember very well. In fact, I found my copy of The Guardian from that day (though it seems to be a supplement rather than the front page). However, it is fair to say that our memories of the day have been shaped by at least some of the images on show here.

The first thing that struck me was the diversity of images. I’d grown used to the idea of there being two or three iconic images of the Twin Towers, one from Manhattan and one from across the river, and that there are just lots of versions of these. But, of course, that’s not the case and the newspapers shown here have images taken at different times and from different angles. Probably, as always, each photo editor wanted something different.

Then, also, we get different headlines, many of which are in languages I can’t understand.  “War” features a lot – war on America –  “terror”, “assault”.

It’s interesting that this is an art installation.  It is, after all, an historical archive and really could be held by any museum.  But the newspapers would be probably be held flat or bound.  Here the papers are framed and displayed on walls. They are displayed as images.  Only the front page can be read.  So, depending on the national style for newspapers – no editorial, no opinion pieces, no background.  

Fontcuberta quotes Schmid as saying that photographs do not just represent our reality bu are realities themselves.  “Today’s reality is the reality of images”.  Here, we see one of the key moments of our current history as images.  While one could argue that most of us experienced the reality on TV,  9/12 Frontpage brings together a world view in a way that, I’d image, is quite contemplative in real life, in a way that mixed TV footage  could not be.

Looking back over his previous work, I was interested to see that Feldman was a collector of images even before this, publishing books of images of similar or linked objects.  Hardly surprising, I suppose, but helps me think of this as being Feldmans natural reaction to the event, rather than that the approach grew solely out of the circumstances.   Feldman produced a number of books of linked images.  One example is all the clothing in one woman’s wardrobe.  But he did also do a book of Lone Trees (!) in 152 Bilder. He also collects images in a way that people do on the internet – Seated Women in Paintings, 2008 is the thinking woman’s version of Women laughing alone with salad, which is nice link between the non-digital archive and what archives became inside the digital world.

 

‘Very miscellaneous’ Joachim Schmid interviewt by Val Williams in Insight (Photoworks, Brighton, February 1998)

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera: Photogr@phy after Photography. London: MACK

Enwezor, O (2008) Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art International Center of Photography, New York Steidl

https://www.thehairpin.com/2011/01/women-laughing-alone-with-salad/ [accessed 30th April]

Exercise 2.1 appendix

I spoke to my tutor about Assignment 1 and we also chatted about the Lone Trees. She suggested I had a look at overlaying all the image, in the style of Corinne Vionnet.

I did this, trying these at 30% opacity and then discovered that I needed to shuffle them so that the darker images were at the bottom and the lighter snow scenes at the top. I resized the images to make all the trees about the same size.

Where this works less well than a Vionnet is that the point of interest, the tree, is not only not the same in each images but also complex in that there are lots of branches going in different directions so that we end up with a very fuzzy tree. Also, whatever way I try to organise the opacity, I can really only see about five or trees here. Deeper than that I can make layers invisible without there being any difference in the overall image.

So, to some extent I’ve got a blended archetypal tree, but mostly not. Nature is not as amenable to blending as buildings.

Exercise 2.1: Lone trees – 12 images around a motif

The lone tree is a very common motif – I admit to having some of my own – and there are lots on Flickr. This is such a recognisable motive that some images were called “The lone tree shot” and people made comment about this being a cliché describing their own photograph. But, this is a motif for a reason. I find many of the photographs very satisfying.

My plan for this exercise was to collect 12 images of single trees where the trees themselves would be of similar shape and size. As always with these exercises, this was not as simple as I first thought.

First, I wanted all the images to have a Creative Commons licence. This cut down on the number of possible options. Then I decided that a set would look better if they were all black and white. I also felt, looking through the options, that pictures in snow and fog went together better – they tended to be simpler. Finally, they all needed to be the same aspect (landscape) and the same dimensions. The most common option was 6X4, so I resized all the images to this ratio and size in inches.

By the time I’d worked out these criteria, I realised that I didn’t have as many images as I’d thought to work with. Also, I wanted to like, or at least not dislike, the images. In fact, I included some that didn’t quite fit the set because I liked them. I put together a slideshow in Lightroom, with each image fading into the next. Then I discovered that this exported as video. While I was thinking about whether it was worthwhile upgrading to be able to show video, I discovered that WordPress has a sort of slideshow. The fade isn’t as good, but it’s close enough.

I’ve not managed to achieve my original idea, that the slideshow images would blend almost seamlessly into each other. But it has been an interested exercise to go through the steps of putting this together. It’s a different way of looking at images. I started off just collecting images that I liked or that I thought would work. By the end I realised that I was looking for images that met specific criteria.

Lone trees

Photographs by:

  • fauxto_digit,  Me and my shadow
  • Duncan Rawlinson, Tree silhouette 02
  • Bryce Bradford, Whiteout
  • Matthew Paulson, Lone tree in the snow
  • Ric Capucho, Hütten – Ilford XP2
  • marcel lemieux, An old friend
  • Sarah Horrigan, Tree in winter
  • Max Nathan
  • murych_, Lonely tree
  • Fan D, Protect yourself big tree
  • Joanna Paterson, Misty Galloway Tree
  • Stuart Richards, The harshest winter

Assignment 1

Brief

Produce either a series of four to six portraits (looking at Stezaker and Stenram) or a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings (as with Gill’sHackney Marshes series). Complete Parts 1 and 2 of the assignment and upload the finished images to your learning log together with a short reflection (500–1,000 words) on your motivations, references and methods for both parts of the assignment.

Motivations

When I was completing Documentary I wanted Canary Wharf to be the subject of my final assignment. This didn’t work out for a number of reasons. One of them was that I never felt my photographs expressed what I disliked so strongly about the place. Taken at face value it is just another office and shopping complex. In fact, it is probably the model for that combination. In some ways like an out of town office block (it is in London but not of it) in that there is an idea that people will go there for work and not have a reason to leave. No nipping out to country pubs for lunch. The difference is in the scale of the operation. Transport, shopping, eating and drinking working and, to an extent, living are all combined in one estate.

“Canary Wharf rises above its surroundings like a castle – a key protected fort of global capitalism – displaying its power over the poverty stricken areas of Tower Hamlets that surround it.” Murray 2007

And Canary Wharf is an Estate – it is privately owned and highly controlled. It is policed by security guards who man security checks on approach roads. By being on the Wharf, we have agreed to being photographed. There are no homeless people and people get moved on if they are regarded as suspicious. There is only one free newspaper allowed, there are lots of fast food outlets, but the range of brands is strictly limited. There is only one brand of dry cleaners and shoe repair. Although the Isle of Dogs on which Canary Wharf sits is quite a deprived area there is nothing like a Poundland on the Wharf. It is, basically, controlled, sterile and single-minded.

Although Canary Wharf does not only house banks, the overall impression is one of a focus on money and business. For example, Canary Wharf is accused of lobbying to have the Cycling Superhighway on the Embankment re-routed, because they value motor traffic getting to the Wharf above cyclists and pedestrians (Gilligan 2018).

When I tried to take documentary photographs, I just ended up with pictures of buildings and people in a shopping centre. I thought that being able to manipulate the images might help bring out some of what I wanted to communicate. I intended to use some of the images I had taken for Documentary and supplement as necessary.

Visual references

One the photographers my tutor pointed me to for the Documentary course was Alexey Titarenko. Titarenko photographs cities and uses two effects to achieve an eerie look. The first is blurred motion. The second is solarization. I liked both effects, but never had the chutzpah to set up a tripod in a shopping centre or tube station (and get accosted by a security guard). Revisiting the images, I thought I could use solarisation to get a slightly other worldly look.

The other key reference kennardphillipps, best known for the Tony Blair “Selfie” photograph Photo Op (2005), referred to in the course notes. Indeed, I had forgotten until I checked back on their link that one of their images, Profit 2017, has a very direct connection to one of the collages I made. I’m aiming for some of the same expression as they achieve.

Part 1

Part one is based on collage of physical photographs. For this I produced two images.

The first is intended to represent Canary Wharf as a machine. The bottom layer of transport fees workers through the shops and then to the offices, where they disappear.

I tried several version of this. First, I used this photograph of buildings, with one photo of the shopping centre and the tube station below. The monochrome images are from a photograph by chuttersnap from unsplash.com, intended to give the idea of the mechanics – the hidden pipes and tunnels that make the machine work. Other version included the escalator delivering people from the bottom level to the next level.

chuttersnap-480370-unsplash.jpg

Added image chuttersnap-480370-unsplash.jpg

I wanted the building to look more forbidding and also wanted the people strips to look more hectic in some way. After some experimentation, I used a different building and used two images each for the shopping centre and tube station, splitting each and then patching together.

The building image is solarized. The people images have saturation increased.

The key problem with this images is really a lack of craft skills with gaps appearing between the sections. This has some of the feeling I wanted, but I had to leave out the pipes image as I’d reached the limit of five images. I do think it worked better with a filler image.

The second Part 1 is an image of Canary Wharf from a distance, with the Financial Times replacing the pink sunset. I chose to remove the pink parts of the original photograph to replace with the FT. I’m not sure that was the best idea.

Part 2

For part 2 I combined images of money with images of Canary Wharf.

I found this part more satisfying than using the physical images, probably because it was more under my control. It was, however, really time consuming, particularly selecting around the skyline for the top image. The least successful of the three is the third, I think. In fact the colour of the pound coins is quite a good match for the sun’s reflection in the building, but it looks unlikely. Also, although I used a similar method on all three images, this one looks different. The colours have turned out differently and, because this was taken from the 17th floor, there’s less distortion in the buildings.

These three images (and the sunset from part 1) have a much simpler idea behind them than the first images. I think that might make them less interesting, but at least I knew that they were conveying what I wanted, while I’m not at all sure of this for the first images.

Reflections

One thing I can say about this is that I feel I’ve learnt a lot in the course of doing this assignment. From looking at the wide range of artists in the bibliography, through figuring out how to judge the size for different photographs to go together to lots of photoshop skills. So, while I’m not convinced about the outcomes, I have enjoyed the assignment.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills. This assignment stretched my technical skills in using Photoshop. I have learned a lot about layers, masking, using adjustment layers and also how to go about these to get the effect I want. I have also learned that I need to be more careful with my craft skills to get a reasonable output.

Quality of outcome. The first two images in Part 2 are closest to what I was aiming for and I think are a reasonable outcome. The other images are not as successful and not what I set out to achieve.

Demonstration of creativity. This is one I always find difficult to reflect on. I’m conscious that I’ve put time into trying different ideas here, but I don’t think that Ive demonstrated that well and I don’t think that the final images are particularly distinctive.

Context. I spent so much time faffing about with the different images that I realised very close to the end that, while I had looked at all the links in the notes I probably didn’t go much beyond that and that I’d be hard pressed to say where that context fed though to what I produced here. So, having written that, I can see where I need to spend more effort for the next assignment.

References

Fraser, Murray 2007. ‘London Docklands’. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London, Volume 5 Number 1 (March 2007). Online at http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/march2007/fraser.html. Accessed on 19th March 2019.

Gilligan, Andrew (2018) Who’s behind the bid to get London’s flagship bike lane ripped up?https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2018/nov/30/whos-behind-the-bid-to-get-londons-flagship-bike-lane-ripped-up

kennardphillipps at kennardphillips.com (accessed 17th March 2019)

Titarenko, Alexey. http://www.alexeytitarenko.com (accessed 17th March 2019)

Introduction exercise

This exercise asked us to re-photograph every photographic image we saw in one day.

I started doing this and got as far as Marylebone station when I realised I would either take the photographs or get to work. I chose to get to work.

However, what I did do was start to notice then, and on the days since, the photographic images I see on a daily basis.

The first thing I noticed, of course, was the sheer number of images I saw: on shops and buildings, on the front of magazines, online.

Advertising images were on display in about half of the shops I passed, they were on the tube escalators and on the tube platform and, because I then worked above a shopping centre, in the corridors I took to get to work. Most ‘outdoor’ advertising includes photographs. The exception seemed to be ads for books, because book covers are often illustrated. Ads for well known brands often look as if the photography is original, but lots of advertising looks like it’s probably stock.

The other place there is lots of stock photography is online. I read an online newspaper every day and nearly all articles are headed by a photograph. What is interesting to me is that images of famous people are likely to have been taken live (e.g. Theresa May getting into a car), while those about a subject will use a stock photograph. This is the newspaper equivalent of the TV reporter standing outside a closed offer to give their report – the photograph attests to the fact that this is real news and that the paper had a representative there when Mrs May left Downing Street. Articles about well known people will be illustrated by an available photograph of that person. More general stories (Most people want higher taxes on rich to support poor – OECD” from the Guardian 19th March) are most likely to use a stock photograph – here a Rolls Royce

“A luxury car in front of the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco. Photograph: Lionel Cironneau/AP”. Often, these images can be said to either have their own language of symbols or to rely on visual cliches.

While all of these seemed to reinforce the importance of photography in our lives, I also noticed the increasing importance of moving images. Increasingly, moving images are being used instead of still – across news websites, advertising sites, on apps (e.g. Instagram). London Underground had fixtures running clips to advertise the power of the moving image. I wondered whether we will soon look back on still images as we now see black and white – out dated and really only suitable for art.