BA Phot

LP&E Part 2 Research Task


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Project 2.1 Surveys - Exc 2.1 - Project 2.2 The Road - Exc 2.2 - Project 2.3 Typologies and New Topographies - Research - Project 2.4 Mapping and Other Technologies - Exc 2.3 - Project 2.5 Land Art - Exc 2.4 - Project 2.6 Psychogeography and ‘Edgelands’ - Exc 2.5 - Conclusion - Upsum - Eval

Adams, R. - Baltz - Bechers - Brown - Coekin - Deal - Friedlander - Frith - Fulton - Gohlke - Graham - Henner - Hofer - Kander - Khan - Kruger - Levine - Long - Nichol - Nixon - O’Sullivan - Rafman - Ramirez - Rickard - Ruscha - Russell - Schott - Shore - Soth - Spencer - Thompson - Titchner - Watkins - Watson - Wessel - Wolf - Wylie - Zahn

Campany - Debord - Dyer - Kelsey - Snyder - Sontag

Appropriation - Axes of commonality - Cultural appropriation - Google SV - New Topographics - Nichism

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - Asg.6 - I&P - C&N - EyV -

Research Task

Wylie’s series British Watchtowers (2007) and the more recent Outposts (2011) seem to retain more of the Bechers’ influence, with the aestheticisation of functional military installations. However, histories of earlier c onflicts can be traced in both bodies of work. The system of observation posts across the hills of South Armagh in British Watchtowers dates back to Iron Age strategies for power and control. In Outposts , some of the sites of the NATO forward operating bases in Afghanistan date back to earlier conflicts. Search on youtube for footage of Donovan Wylie discussing Outposts.
In a 2008 article titled ‘New Topographics; photographs that find beauty in the banal’ Sean O’Hagan traces the influences of the photographers included in the seminal 1975 exhibition and their influence on subsequent generations.
From the list below select one exhibiting photographer from the 1975 show and explore their influence on a contemporary image maker in relation to taking a typographical approach to their subject matter: 1975 exhibitors include: Gohlke, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis , Nicholas Nixon and Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Contemporary photographers: Paul Graham, Candida Hofer and Donavan Wylie. LPE p.77

New Topographicists - Recent Topographicists - Comparison

[Spellchecked 9Jan]

[2Jan22] Let's look at all the candidates for this exercise.

Frank Gohlke
b: 1942 Wichita Falls, TX
MoMA - Wikipedia
Nicholas Nixon
b: 1947 Detroit
Fraenkel - Wikipedia

Of the 10 artists shown in New Topographics (the Bechers, of course, account for two), Joe Deal, John Schott and Henry Wessel have been, without explanation, excluded from the cmat. list for this exercise. Of the others, only Gohlke and Nixon need an introduction.

The restaging of the show was organised by Britt Salvesen who wrote an accompanying book that sells for upward of $1k, but there's a PDF here. He writes of Gohlke and Nixon (2010, p. 22),

Frank Gohlke believed that "pure photo-optical-mechanical means don't have to be supplemented to say fairly interesting and complex things about the nature of reality."56 To arrive at this realization, Gohlke had to sort through various representational conventions. He first studied literature, only to find that graduate coursework stifled his will to write. Then, contact with Walker Evans at Yale and more sustained study with Paul Caponigro in Vermont instilled a dedication to photography and place. Even so, as he put it in 1978, "I didn't know what the landscape was ... .I mean the landscape was a picture to me .... It was always through this haze of other pictures." His wife's career brought about a move to Minneapolis in 1971, and there in the Midwest Gohlke found himself drawn to grain elevators and other structures on the city's margins, where he began "to understand what a landscape was, and what it meant."
He joined a community of photographers that included another newcomer, Nicholas Nixon, who arrived in June 1971 from Michigan. Like Gohlke, Nixon studied literature as an undergraduate but gravitated to photography, learning basic skills alongside his friend John Schott, who remained at the University of Michigan to pursue graduate studies in art history. Minneapolis gave Nixon, as it did Gohlke, an early body of work, albeit of a very different nature. W hile Gohlke gravitated toward the industrial margins, Nixon-using an 8xl0-inch camera for the first time-focused on his tum-of-the-century neighborhood, Kenwood, and its diverse residents.58 Both of them feeling like outsiders, Gohlke and Nixon were self-conscious about their role as observers; sharing an admiration of Walker Evans, they appreciated vernacular architecture and its potential to represent ways of life. Gohlke's grain elevators prompted him to ask "how they worked within the social and economic system. "59 Nixon's Kenwood interiors, likewise, had formal qualities ("large spaces and high ceilings") that accommodated and reflected their inhabitants' "wide range of styles of living." Salvesen, 2010, p.22

The two images shown on the SFMoMA web page (Box C on Page 3) are:

Box A
(a subset of SFMoMA (Box C Page 3)
1. Nicholas Nixon, Buildings on Tremont Street, Boston, 1975
2. Frank Gohlke, Irrigation Canal, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1974
© the artists, their agents or their estates
img: 1-2. SFMoMA.

As regards what was actually on show, Salvesen notes,

A willingness to grapple with this question [the validity of landscape photography as a genre or even a concept] unites the show's ten artists. From the outset, the list of prospective participants was a short one. New Topographies was not meant to be "a sweeping curatorial statement with only one or two photographs each made by dozens of photographers," like many exhibitions claiming to take the pulse of current trends. 165 Instead Jenkins and Deal chose fewer artists, each represented by a group of around twenty recent prints. Baltz, Deal, Nixon, and Schott showed selections from finite projects with specific geographical parameters; Adams, Gohlke, Shore, and Wessel contributed selections from larger, ongoing bodies of work; and the Bechers were represented by recent American applications of the approach they had devised years earlier in Europe. It is no longer clear in most cases who made the final selection of images, but the artists seem to have been given a high degree of discretion to do so within the scope of the exhibition's thesis. Salvesen, 2010, p.42

For the New Topographicists we have:
Frank Gohlke, "Unrelated by geography or building type, and printed at different sizes, Gohlke's photographs do not immediately reveal a unifying idea in the manner of Deal's or Baltz's. Made in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul, and on road trips to Los Angeles, Wichita Falls, Albuquerque, and various places across the country in 1973/74, the twenty images feature houses, parking lots, a grocery store, an irrigation canal, and other utilitarian motifs, reflecting Gohlke's conviction that one couldn't understand a structure without understanding the landscape, and conversely that one couldn't understand the landscape without looking at human culture." (Salvesen, 2010, p.44)

Robert Adams - ""What I tried to do in The New West ... was to include the objects we'd brought to the landscape and which by common consent are the most ugly, but also to suggest that light can transform even grotesque, inhuman things into mysteries worthy of attention. " Such apparent parallels notwithstanding, Ruscha's basic starting point-his personal, ironic vision, as well as his sense of context and audience-set his project apart from that of Adams, who stated unequivocally, "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world." (Salvesen, 2010, p.27) (Adams quoted in di Grappa, ed., Landscape: Theory New York: Lustrum Press, 1980 pp. 10, 6)
"Among the photographers included in New Topographies, Adams was most explicitly aligned with environmentalism, and thus the one who (as Baltz discerned) faced most squarely the lure of sentimentality proffered by landscape." (p.35)
"Adams, like Gohlke, expressed reservations about the New Topographies idea. Jenkins remarks that Adams was "not all that enthusiastic about being part of the show," in part because the curator had described it as a post-Ansel Adams endeavour. The younger Adams held a deep respect for Ansel Adams's work" (p.44)

Stephen Shore - "How Shore -chronicler of cities and small towns alike- came to be included in New Topographies is not precisely documented, although his work had achieved significant visibility beginning in 1971. His primary personal connection among the group of participants was Nixon, a recent acquaintance through whom he met Gohlke and Schott. Shore did not submit an artist's statement, nor did he discuss the concept with Jenkins, although he concurs now that "there was something there that Bill picked up on." Most likely Jenkins saw and selected the 8x10-inch color contact prints at LIGHT Gallery, where Harold Jones showed forty-five of them (concurrently with Frank Gohlke's work) in February-March 1975. The photographs represent aspects of everyday life, yet Shore eventually gave them the title Uncommon Places, hinting that light and attention, photography's basic elements, can transform even the most unprepossessing sites and objects. For New Topographies, Jenkins selected a range of images made in the United States and Canada, mainly streetscapes of varying types: dusty intersections, shadowed alleys, car-lined streets. (The one exception depicts a swimming pool, no doubt a welcome amenity at one of the numerous motels Shore occupied as he traveled the country.) Shore's pictures stood out as the only color prints in New Topographies, but were otherwise compatible with the other works in the exhibition in terms of subject, scale, and affect. Max Kozloff observed that Shore's color, suave and beautiful, was also assertive and unforced. 193 In other words, color could be just as cool as black and white." (Salvesen, 2010, p.48)

The Bechers - "the Bechers were represented by recent American applications of the approach they had devised years earlier in Europe. It is no longer clear in most cases who made the final selection of images, but the artists seem to have been given a high degree of discretion to do so within the scope of the exhibition's thesis. " (Salvesen, 2010, p.42)
"During several months in 1974, the Bechers toured sites in New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and southern Ontario, Canada. Not surprisingly, grain elevators and steel mills attracted their attention, and they also sought out humbler structures, such as the wooden winding towers typical of "small family coal mines hidden in the mountains" of Pennsylvania. 196 The seven typologies in New Topographies-three of coal breakers, two of pit heads, one of a salt mine, and one of a house-represent a range of compositional strategies used by the artists at this time, The number and orientation of prints depends on the object's function, complexity, and shape, In New Topographies, the most extensive typology ( of a coal breaker) comprised two panels, one of eight prints and the other of six, while the most condensed example (the salt mine) featured only two prints. The groupings and arrangements of prints result from a combination of research and aesthetics, The first considerations are the structures' functional and structural type; then criteria such as construction material and geographical location may come into play, As Hilla Becher has noted, "The economic structure of a region, the way the minerals are deposited, and the kind of mineral involved, as well as the working conditions that result from this all culminate in the 'style' of the structure."197 More than anything else, this attitude toward the built landscape aligned them with the other participants in New Topographies." (pp.48-9)

Lewis Baltz "Baltz had just completed a new, NEA-funded body of work, New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California, when it came time to select prints for the show. His previous major project, Tract Houses (1969-71 ), had primed Baltz to make significant intellectual contributions to the New Topographies thesis. New Industrial Parks advanced its predecessor's visual and conceptual aspects, encompassing distant views along with close-ups of facades, and intimating Baltz's affinity for European cinema and minimalism." (Salvesen, 2010, p.42)

Nicholas Nixon, "Nixon's ideas about landscape may have evolved in the New Mexico desert, but he is represented in New Topographies with images of the city of Boston. Finishing his classes at UNM in May 1974, he left for Boston in July of that year and made the views during his first three months there. An isolated but significant chapter in his development, this was the first project Nixon "invented on his own," away from the academic context. Through photography, he captured his initial, .subjective response to a new place without sacrificing its specific details. Sensing he was on to something, he sent a sample print to Jenkins on February 28, 1975, explaining his intention to assemble twenty-five prints and submit them to Eastman House for exhibition or purchase. His self-assignment in the Boston views, as he recalls it, was to depict the coexistence of old and new, the complexity of urban space-while at the same time purifying his authorial stance, trading his student ambivalence and flirtation with irony for a "positive," straightforward, factual approach." (Salvesen, 2010, p.33).

Of the group, Salvesen states,

when New Topographies photographers made pictures of ordinary houses, as they nearly all did, there was no ready pictorial formula for portraying their ordinariness. Hence the variation that distinguishes Baltz's Tract Houses (which include frontal, geometric details of dwellings under construction), from Adams's New West (featuring some groupings of houses, whether raggedly lining new roads or sprawling across plains); the Bechers' "developments" (their term for the eight-part photographic grids showing the four sides and four corners of an individual house as if it were a freestanding sculpture) from Wessel's head-on views (portraits, really, of ranch-style homes individuated by landscaping and window treatments). Salvesen, 2010, pp.22-23

And finally,

Apparently, viewers had no trouble accepting and even admiring the rather light printing style which distinguishes many works in the show from the high-contrast, expressive chiaroscuro commonly seen in art photography and photojournalism at the time. Although they tended to use the word "technique," these viewers were really commenting on craftsmanship, an issue of great importance to all the participating artists, for a variety of reasons. For Schott, making preternaturally detailed contact prints was part of the conceptual game, differentiating "a picture taken by the gas meter reader and an artist."215 Baltz concurs: "If there remained any traces of photographic virtuosity in New Topographies it was not gratuitous but driven by the necessity to render the content of these images in the most legible possible way. It was logical that these kinds of images be precise. "216 Adams, too, relates darkroom craftsmanship to subject when he clarifies that he attended to printmaking "not just because I love the tonalities" but because he strove for accurate representation of Colorado and its light, which was "the great redemption of the subject." Salvesen, 2010, p.54

[7Jan] No, still going — interestingly, Salvesen relates,

"In retrospect," Jenkins says now, "I wish I had [included Ruscha in New Topographics]. . .. I think that if Ruscha had been in it, it would have fleshed out that part of it that's not quite so photographic."87 But in fact the show was meant to be photographic, occurring as it did in an institution dedicated to the medium and including artists who identified themselves as photographers. In interviews Ruscha has distanced himself from fine-art photography and its associated technical and expressive standards, while carefully designing every element of his books. Gohlke was frustrated by the contradiction between what he called Ruscha 's "contempt for the photograph as a hand-crafted item" and the images' careful formal organization, which is an aspect of craft. "Ruscha has inverted the nineteenth-century distinction between an object crafted by hand and machine," Gohlke explained in 1975. "Now the photograph as a hand-crafted item is to be rejected because the 'real' art position is [to see the photograph as J a machine-crafted item .... Those splits really do us great harm, psychically and culturally. The crafting is really a matter of the spirit; whether it is done by hand or machine is ultimately not as important as the fact that some of the raw material of reality has been shaped by some human mechanism." Salvesen, 2010, p.27

and later,

Gohlke recognized that Ruscha's work wasn't as uniform as that artist would have us believe-instead, the uniformity is largely an effect of seriality, which thus emerges as Ruscha's true innovation:
"What, if anything, can photographers learn from Ruscha that they couldn't or didn't from other photographers? The whole notion of series allows you to see that a fairly coherent formal position was being worked out despite his disclaimers. He might say anyone could take the pictures-but Ansel Adams couldn't. The series is what gives the individual photograph its interest, although parking lots for example are interesting in themselves because there is variation. Tiny details within them become very interesting."
Five years prior to Gohlke's reflections on Ruscha, the issue of seriality had been considered in the influential exhibition Serial Imagery, curated by John Coplans at the Pasadena Art Museum. Although the show featured no photography other than Warhol's appropriated Marilyns, Coplans's thesis readily accommodated the medium:
"There are sufficient indications in the emergence of Serial Imagery over the past decade in the United States that the rhythms attendant upon the Serial style ritually celebrate, if only obliquely or subliminally, overtones of American life .... Serial Imagery is particularly fitted to reflect its contemporary environment, because of the open and unplanned nature of its internal dialogue, its highly systematic yet flexible process of production, its high degree of specialization, and its narrow, deep focus on a single issue. Its redundancy is a positive act that continuously affirms the power and continuity of the creative process." Salvesen, 2010, p.28

The first quote within the quote is from a taped interview with Gohlke, the second from a Coplans essay in the book of the Serial Imagery show, PDF here.

From which we can conclude that New Topographics, however influential or ground-breaking in retrospect was partial, incomplete and inchoate (to serially quasi-tautologise liberally).

Now back to the exercise.

Regarding the later group,

Paul Graham

Paul Graham, we met in Part 3, Page 2 with his portraits on the A1.
Candida Hofer features in Typologies: nine contemporary photographers (1991), along with the Bechers, Lynne Cohen, Judy Fiskin, Roger Mertin, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha and Thomas Struth. I have now completed my documentation of that book.

Charlotte Cotton, in the fourth edition of The photograph as contemporary art (2020, p.83) states,

The most prominent and probably most frequently used style of photography since the 1990s has been the deadpan aesthetic: a dispassionate, patient, keenly sharp version of photography that heralded the medium's status as a contemporary art form. The adoption of a deadpan aesthetic moves art photography outside the hyperbolic, sentimental and immediately subjective. Cotton, 2020, p.87
Candida Hofer
b: 1944 Brandenburg, Germany
Tate - Wikipedia
Box B
Candida Hofer
img: Amazon

After documenting the Bechers (schooling an "independent, artistically led" approach), Baltz ("icy-cool, consciously minimalist"), Taryn Simon ("singular"), Gursky ("a figurehead"), Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong ("considerate") and Edward Burtynsky ("impartially … polemical") (pp.84-91) Cotton comes to Candida Höffer, of whom she says,

For over fifteen years, Candida Hofer (b. 1944) has made cultural institutions her subject, creating an archive of the spaces in which collections are stored and accessed. Hofer's approach was developed using a handheld medium-format camera, which allowed her to work unobserved and with a degree of intuition when looking for the viewpoint that best described what she found in these spaces. This approach has carried through into Hofer's work using a large-format camera, and has given her room for the inclusion of unexpected elements in the construction of her imagery. Her pictures' clear, lengthy gaze is prevented from being a deadening experience by her choice of a perspective that does not edit out the oddities and contradictions of the interior space. At times, this is done simply through the choice of a vantage point where we see the space sitting subtly out of kilter with the architectural symmetries of the site. Cotton, 2020, pp. 91-2
Donavan Wylie
b: 1971 Belfast
Site - Wikipedia - Guardian

[8Jan] Donavan Wylie does not appear in Cotton but he does get a mention in Bogre (2019, pp.143-4). This is largely for the 2011 controversy over images of ?? published in Time magazine that had been digitally manipulated, Wylie "had color corrected, desaturated, and eliminated peripheral elements [a vehicle] from the frames for aesthetic and security reasons" (p.144).
Wylie's projects include British Watchtowers (2007) and Outposts (2011), both depicting military installations and, the cmat. says, manifesting "the Bechers’ influence".
We are directed to YouTube for Wylie discussing Outposts and that's here, note also the Guardian article. He speaks of his fascination with observation posts, derived in some part from growing up in Northern Ireland with British Army posts (The Troubles ended in 1998). Such posts give power to the observers: he observes and photographs the observers and publicises it to his audience. The photographs looked interesting and detailed (fig. C1), but I thought that by far the most interesting sights were Wylie being interviewed with some cameras theatrically placed on a skateboad (or perhaps a dolly) behind him (fig. C2) and a shot of him being winched up on some form of machinery to take a photograph, indicating the (to me) surprising degree of co-operation from the military (fig. C3).

Wylie Wylie Wylie
Box C
1. Donavan Wylie with Outposts image
2. Donavan Wylie being interviewed
3. Donavan Wylie preparing to take a photograph
© the artists, their agents or their estates
img: YouTube.

Charlotte Cotton, in the fourth edition of The photograph as contemporary art (2020, p.83) states,

The most prominent and probably most frequently used style of photography since the 1990s has been the deadpan aesthetic: a dispassionate, patient, keenly sharp version of photography that heralded the medium's status as a contemporary art form. The adoption of a deadpan aesthetic moves art photography outside the hyperbolic, sentimental and immediately subjective. Cotton, 2020, p.87

Having named and evaluated the Bechers and Höfer (amongst other) as exemplars, Cotton continues, "Deadpan photography has a great capacity for capturing the wonder of the manmade world in an elegiac manner." (p.93)

I regard Hofer's work as the most interesting and from the New Topographicists, I will select Baltz.

Baltz's projects include "New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California (1975), Nevada (1978) and Park City (1981) … Rule Without Exception (1991), Lewis Baltz: Politics of Bacteria, and Docile Bodies, Ronde de nuit (1998)" (Hostetler, n.d.). These are all exterior subjects, the earlier ones in black-and-white, those after 1990 in colour.

Hofer's subjects have included pinball machines (Flipper, 1973), Turkish immigrants (Türken in Deutschland', 1973–1979) and during the latter project switched from black-and-white to colour. Hofer then turned to institutional interiors, usually unpeopled and printed large (Paik, 2017).

Although the subjects photographed by Baltz and Hofer are, at first sight, different, this is outweighed by the similarity of their approaches to their subjects. These are (usually) static, depopulated, architectural and in sets. Baltz published his work in series, Hofer tends towards individual images then gathers them into books. In both cases the lineage of their work can be traced back to the Bechers: Baltz spoke of feeling being "validated" when he first saw the Bechers in exhibition (Campany, 2018, p.79) and Hofer studied under the Bechers at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf .

LPE Part 2 Research Exercise References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Bogre, M (2019) Documentary photography reconsidered. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative [C&N]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Campany, D. (2018) So present, so invisible. Rome: Contrasto.

Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. (3rd edn.) London: Thames & Hudson.

Cotton, C. (2020) The photograph as contemporary art. (4th edn.) London: Thames & Hudson.

Hostetler, L. (n.d.) Lewis Baltz [online]. Available from [Accessed 9 January 2022].

Paik, S. (2017) Candida Höfer [online]. Available from [Accessed 9 January 2022].

Salvesen, B. (2010) New Topographics . Göttingen: Steidl & Partners.

Page created 03-Jan-2022 | Page updated 06-Nov-2022