Arnatt - Botha - Eggleston - Gaffney - Gushchin - Halliday - Heartfield - Holdsworth - Ketchun - Klepuszewska - Letinsky - Lindqvist - Lipper - Lorant - Lynch - Lyons - Macnair - Montizon - Owens - Phipps - Pickering - Pittman - Shafran - Shore - Soth - Spero - Taylor - Walker - Wall - Wilcox - Wilkhu - Wentworth -
[17Apr21] A distinction is drawn between space and place, the latter being more specific.
People are influenced by their surroundings and its nature. Try to notice and make a note of changes in those effects.
Robert Harding Pittman has photographed the increasing sameness of urban spaces, in terms of contents (e.g. shops) and organisation (e.g. infrastructure), throughout the world for his project Anonymization.
[13May p.128] It is suggested the Kerouac's On the Road(1957) set the scene (in some way) for the US road trip photographers — Robert Frank The Americans (published 1958, photographed 1955-57) featuring the daily lives of US citizens, and Kerouac wrote the introduction.
Shore’s Uncommon Places (1982) was based on "road trips across North America between 1973 and 1976 show us the shifting cultural and economic climates in parts of America and yet most of them do not include people" (I&P p.128), but rather details of their environment and the effect they were having upon it.
The cmat draws parallels between Shore's work and Eggleston's Memphis and also mentions, annoyingly, that Shore "took his large-format camera" (I&P p.128) — it has been noted elsewhere, starting with Tina Barney's 10x8 snaps, that just carrying a wooden camera, while it betokens some commitment and implies some technical competence does not matter. But it seems to bestow some special legitimacy in the view of the course writers. †
Aaron Schuman, writing for americansuburbx.com, says of Uncommon Places,
In 1982, a slender yet hugely impressive version of Uncommon Places was released. Its impact was felt almost immediately, forever changing the course of art photography, and securing Stephen Shore a place within the canon of photographic history. Aaron Schuman, americansuburbx.com, 2004
In my view, by not depicting people, Shore has given a more impressionistic view of the society he was describing — if a person is in the picture, viewers will tend to concentrate on and interpret the person, in all likelihood superficially. Without that, the viewer's interpretation will be deeper and broader.
Although the images may first appear to be mundane, their effect is subtly profound.
† [17May] As luck would have it, I came across an illuminating quote on the use of large cameras from Richard Misrach in on Landscape and Meaning (2021),
When I was first shooting with the view camera, about two pictures out of every hundred were good After twenty five years of using the 8-by-10, my percentage hasn't improved much. It turns out, making a great photograph is elusive. Richard Misrach in on Landscape and Meaning (2021)
There's more on the Blog page.
[14May] The cmat asks,
● Where would you choose to do a project of this scale given the chance?
● What would you choose as your subject matter?
● What worlds would you like to create?
Interesting questions. At the time of writing, I am beginning work on Asg.4 which is currently about updating a 1956 I-Spy book, People in Uniforms. I am also rereading Barthes' Camera Lucida and books about that book and am very much into the then-and-now contrast. In this circumstance, I would work in the UK and probably concentrate on architectural photography, either recreating an old piece of work or concentrating on a genre such as stained glass or brutalism.
I would not be "creating a world", to my way of thinking, photographers do not do that: I might be exploring or reflecting the worlds in which those objects (to me) exist — any viewers would be free to create something out of their reaction.
[14May p.130] from road trips to journeys on foot.
Gaffney "walked 3500 km over Spain, France and Portugal with a camera and the intention ‘to explore walking as a form of meditation and transformation’" (I&P p. 130) and self-published We Make the Path by Walking in 2013.
See figs. D1 and D2. These are undeniably good photographs in the sense of being technically sound with interesting subject matter. D1 reminds me of something I saw at Photo 2019 and also something earlier on this course - I'll look into it - I think the photographs I had in mind were from Zhang Ketchun at Photo London and Dewald Botha in C&N Part 2.
The Soth image used in the cmat is one of my Soth favourites, fig. E1, Charles, Vasa, MN , 2002, from Sleeping by the Mississippi. Drenched in mystery and ambiguity, there is so much to work with in this photograph, the face, the clothes, the setting and, of course, the airplanes and how they are held.
But to bring me back down to earth, when I searched for a decent image and found one at MoMA, an Eleanor Macnair pastiche was also in the list, fig. E2. I made a mental note to include the Macnairs whenever this happens.
The cmat describes Soth's project as "evolv[ing] over a series of road trips by the Mississippi river" (I&P p.131) the project has little to do with the river itself but it provides a context "to tie the work together" (ibid.).
Soth was interviwed by Sasha Wolf for her Forty Photographers on Process and Practice (2019). He states,
For most of my career, the goal has been to create a body of work. I've always framed that in terms of the book. Great pictures almost felt like a lucky by-product. But in recent years I've gotten back in touch with the simple pleasure of trying to make powerful individual photographs … Great photographs are a mix of light, time and magic. Soth in Sasha Wolf's Forty Photographers on Process and Practice, 2019, p.226
Macnair says, "I never said it was serious. They are what they are. Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh.", eleanormacnair.com. And the same can be said for the photographs.
Back here, in 2004 Walker walked the A580 (East Lancs Road) to produce No Man’s Land. The cmat provides a link to his understated website.
The images were a surprise to me, small, untitled details of objects, presumably found along the way, as fig. F1 - I was expecting urban landscapes and decay.
[19May, p.133] This section opens with a reminder of the Barbican's 2014/15 show, Constructing Worlds, on architecural photography. The book of the show, regrettably, sells for £70 used.
The book's introduction points out that architecture was a natural subject for early photography and its slow films because buildings don't move. The cmat's approach to the subject is to explore how it helps in 'making sense of place' (I&P p.133).
We are directed to a few practitioners.
In Owens’ Suburbia project, he photographed middle-class residents of Northern Californa (his own community) in their homes in to 1960s and 70s. According to Modrak & Athes (2011 pp361-2) It comprises two phases, documenting typical suburban practices such as Tupperware parties (fig. H1) and mowing the lawn and then specific portraits of residents and their posessions, fig. H2-3. The images were accompanied by quotes from the subjects.
Interviewed by The Guardian (Abbott, 2015), Owens stated,
I’ve taken photographs that have been viewed by millions of people. It was me who photographed the Hells Angels beating people up at that Rolling Stones concert in Altamont in 1969. But I’m not proud of that image. I’m proud of the Tupperware. Who wants to photograph violence? Bill Owens inteview in The Guardian, 27 May 2015
Spero's ongoing Settlements project documents unconventional housing in the UK, using a standardised viewpoint for most of the images. Other projects include Balls (not a patch on Baldessari) and Churches, again unconventional (we have an interest in common there.
Interviewed for The Guardian by Dale Berning Sawa (2015), Spero stated,
A trip to Glastonbury festival in 1994 first sparked my interest in this type of community. Some people were demonstrating how to build a bender – an eco-dwelling made of hazel-wood poles, bent and tied and covered with canvas. The structures we build and the communities they embody have always been a way of understanding the world, and these benders stuck with me. In 2004, I decided to record communities around the country living in these and other kinds of low-impact structures. David Spero, The Guardian, 5 July 2017
Lindqvist photographed isolated homes in her native Sweden for Neighbours. They are beautifully composed. There is very little information on Lindqvist online.
The cmat concludes,
In conclusion, whether on a journey far away or close to home, whether it involves close-ups of food or street scenes of a local community, people do not need to be present within a picture in order to communicate something about who we are … subtle meanings emerge from well-chosen subject matter. I&P p.136
[21May] Larger scale urban subjects, mostly without people.
[21May] Part 5 is mostly photographs without bodies from large scale architecture, through details, to still lifes.
Part 1 - Portraits were once luxuries but are now commonplace. Opinions differ on what (if anything) portraits reveal of the subject. Photographers tend to work within (sometimes multiple) typographies. The study and plundering of archives is sometimes interesting.
Part 2 - A single portrait can only deliver a partial version of the subject and no portrait can see beyond the surface.
Part 3 - Szarkowski's Mirror/Window dichotomy — look at me vs. look at how I see the world. Two uses of gaze — descriptive and polemic.
Part 4 - The addition of text may seek to direct or to liberate the viewers' interpretations. Projects can use other people's narratives, written or verbal. Serial imagery can derive from coherent, fictional mental or textual constructs.
Part 5 - People in a photograph can be a distraction. We examine photographs (mostly) without bodies from large scale architecture, through details, to still lifes.
My personal reaction is that I found photographing people far more rewarding than I expected and my projects my successful than I expected. That said, I am unlikely to photograph many portraits in the future (although I would be happy to if invited) as my lifestyle and mobility (or lack of it) are better suited to the inanimate.