Viktoria Sorochinski – Lands of No Return

© Viktoria Sorochinski

Tableaux images have been a theme throughout part five of the course and I have been looking for examples beyond the references in the course materials. In the July edition of the BJP there is a short article about an ongoing work by Viktoria Sorochinski, entitled ‘Lands of No Return’.

Focusing on her home country of Ukraine, this project explores the remaining authentic villages in the rural parts of the country, often now only inhabited by the elderly. There is a tangible sense of something passing in this very engaging and evocative set of images and Sorochinski uses a mix of formal portraits , informal portraits and still life scenes to provide a narrative setting out the circumstances  around these dwindling communities. there is an extra poignancy given the current political tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.

© Viktoria Sorochinski

What particularly interested me was the framing and content of the still life images and the square format the artist had chosen. I am sure whether these are staged still life scenes or items in the village houses as the artist found them. Irrespective of the background to these images it is the still life work that reveals something about a way of life that is passing, a simplicity probably not enjoyed by those that have moved to the cities.

© Viktoria Sorochinski

It is also perhaps the interplay between the formal and informal portraits that anchors this work and the light it shines onto a fading way of life that once existed across Europe that is now being taken over by a way of life in which the occupants of these marginal and elderly inhabitants have no place. The work is capturing history before it is lost.

This work has given me much to think about in how to order images to create a narrative that describes more than that written of the faces of the subject so the work.

References

Projects : Viktoria Sorchinski i:  British Journal of Photography Issue 7861, July 2017

Viktoria Sorchinski Lands of No Return, found at: http://www.viktoria-sorochinski.com (Accessed June2017)

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Clear of People -Michal Iwanoski

I pre-ordered this photobook by Michal Iwanowski at its design stage, long before the printed artefact came into being.

Having heard Iwanoski speak at the OCA Landscape Symposium last year I was drawn not only to the final prints in this work, but more importantly to the rationale and artistic intent that underpinned the work. Landscape as a repository of history and memory is a theme I am developing in my own practice and Iwanowski has created a visually evocative work that to my eyes encodes two individuals epic journey in a desolate and hostile landscape, littered with ghosts of a recent and troubled past.

© Michal Iwanowski

Clear of people records in pictures, the re-enactment and I choose this words carefully, of an epic journey made by two of the artists relations, his grandfather Tolek and Uncle, Wiktor. In 1945 they escaped from a soviet concentration camp in Kaluga and the two brothers made an epic 2200km walk back to their home town of Wroclaw in Poland. passing through several states they risked capture and worse very day o the three month odyssey. 

The brothers walked at night to minis the risk of being seen, using remote and cross country routes avoiding settlements so the they did’t encounter  people who might see them and report them to the authorities. This would have led to the return to incarceration or worse. Their journey must have been fraught with danger. There is nothing about this journey that is ordinary or easy. It is a concrete example of the triumph of the spirit over adversity. That spirit driven by notions of love, family, home and belonging. Interestingly like many war time exploits

© Michal Iwanowski

Seventy years latter using a hand drawn map with notes given to Iwanowski by his uncle, he re-enacted the journey. Again avoiding people and travel through a landscape that still held close to the past Iwanowski has created a visual record of his version of the Tolek and WiKtors journey. He was questioned by Russian police during the journey and also felt the sense of isolation and challenge is uncle and grandfather must have felt, although he was not under the same pressure thy must have been. he also allowed himself the luxury of hotel accommodation. This doesn’t detract from the body of work he has created however.

The images in the book are haunting, some with a hint of foreboding, I have been trying to decode the elements of the images that give me a sense of foreboding, because this is a powerful tool to develop in my own work. In part it is the interplay between the text and the image. Iwanowski sets a clear and detailed scene and context for the work, so having read his introduction I know I am seeing the work through his re-0enectment of his relative’s journey. I choose the word re-enactment carefully because the artists sets out in his text how he tried to recreate some of the conditions NN and BB experienced.

The landscapes are a mix of sweeping vista’s desolate roads and ominous forests. Images of distant houses some ruined and others far away but just close enough to make out lights and humanity create a tension about Tolek and Victors quest for home, but threat of discovery and its consequences never being far away. Natural and man-made obstacles add to sense of the challenge of the journey. From quite a mixed collection of images there is a coherence created by the sense of a lonely and dangerous journey.

© Michal Iwanowski

The book itself which was delayed in production is a simple but visually beautiful artefact. its simple card cover and ‘lay flat’ binding contains subdued colour prints. All rectangular images. some time a small image set against the background of a white tow page spread, other pages contact full spread landscape images that fill the pages.  Near the end of the volumes there are very nicely copied archival images, family photographs of Wictor and Tolek before the war, letters, notes from the backs of photos and official documents. set against this is the sort of their family and the the journey. this is a piece of living oral history committed to pare in the life time of one of the travellers. The overall effect of this section of the book is simultaneously, melancholic , a hymn to a lost generation, but also deeply uplifting in the triumph of their spirit and tenacity to overcome the circumstances they found themselves in.

I am smitten by this work!

This is a work I will continue to return to in my own quest to improve my personal practice and find that elusive personal voice.

References

Iwanowski, M. (2016) Clear of People, Brave Books, Berlin

Clear of People: found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_lBUl-3454 (Accessed May 2017)

Charles Latham, Cyrus (2006)

My tutor suggested that I  should look at this work i response to a recent assignment submissions. I could find little on line about Latham but did manage to get hold of a copy of Bright’s(2010) book : Autofocus, the self Portrait in Contemporary Photography. I was pleased to get the book as self portraiture and auto images have very much been a developing theme for me in Context and Narrative.

Latham’s work is unusual, but strangely compelling. Bright describes how Latham created an imaginary friend called Cyrus in response to a chain of events. Starting with the artist posting images of himself online in the act of self harm, following the break up of a relationship. Some sort of reactions followed to his post that led to the creation of this imaginary friend. Cyrus subsequently carries much of what Latham doesn’t like about whimsies and his comments quest kin Bright 2010 suggests a tension between cyrus being a mini and simultaneously a repository for fear and self loathing. 

It is an intriguing work in that it asks a question of me the view about is cyrus lather, or is he a a vehicle for lather to exercise his demons. My gut feeling falls on the latter.

What is perhaps more significant is Lattham’s use of the self image as a tool to reveal things we don’t like in ourselves without actually saying they are us. Cyrus is a ‘proxy self’ and i am intrigued by the idea of porters of proxy selves’ I may explore this further in future work but for now have added , Latham to my mental  gazetteer of intriguing photographers!

References

Bright, S (2010) Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography, Indigo, Toronto

Madame Yevonde (1893-1975)

© Yevonde Portrait Archive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yevonde Middleton was a society photographer photographer known as Madame Yevonde. Born into an affluent family she attended several independent girls schools and by all accounts was a free thinking and motivated woman in a time when opportunities for women were less available than today. She was active as a society photographer from 1914 until well after the second world war. She was one of a list of photographers whose work my tutor suggested I look at. I was previously unaware of this artist, but am pleased to have been introduced to her work.

An internet search revealed some highly engaging , cinematic images that stood out because of their vivid colours and strong composition. There is also something of the surrealist in some of the images and I am remided of the portrait work of Man Ray in some of the compositions. The striking difference is  Madame Yevonde’s use of colour.   I subsequently discovered that she used a

The interest in colour probably stemmed from her father whose business manufactured printing inks, the young Yevonde had been exposed to the work of her fathers business from a young age. After leaving school she worked with the photographer Lallie Charles not quite finishing her apprenticeship with hime and setting up her own central London studio as Madame Yevonde at the age of 21. Having a wealthy father to assist certainly will have helped, but her work to my eye stands out as being strong and innovative. Using ocular would not have been the norm so i suspect she was also a risk taker. Her early inters in women suffrage reveals itself in her work, there are images of strong female characters, which must have pushed against the tide of the times.

The process she used was called Vivex and was produced by Colour Photography Limited of Willesdon. A three part negative process, that at one time accounted for 70% of the colour work i the UK. The process was finished in 1939 with the onset of the war and never restarted again. However Madame Yvonne recreated the process and continued to use colour after the war. Many famous people had images made by her but from my brief research it is her images of women that really stand out

by Madame Yevonde, Vivex colour print, 1936

In addition to portrait work she also undertook fashion and magazine work as well as advertising work. In the Archive referenced below there is also some documenters work recording the artisans at work in the fitting out stage of the Queen Mary liner. Of all her work i found this the most engaging. The mix of beautiful and creative composition employed in a documenter project make for some very original documentary photographs. The image below shows the artist  Doris Zinkeisen painting column of the Cunard liner in the 1930s before it went into service in 1934. At a time when documentary photography would almost have been exclusively  black and white, Madame Yevonde was truly a colour pioneer, long before Bulmer, Egglestone or Parr!

Things that I take from this work include:

  • Colour Pioneer
  • The very brave, imaginative and bold us of colour
  • Commercially very successful
  • Painting like quality evocative of the pre rephealites
  • Strong cinematic composition
  • The use of a complex technical process
  • Use of very imaginative theme for tableaus images, mythology in particular
  • Not as well know as she ought to be!

As an end note I have to say I am surprised this artist is not as well known as some of her contemporaries. Her work to my eye is every bit as engaging as Beeton, but she would appear to be eclipsed by others?

References

Madame Yevonde Archive, found at: http://www.users.waitrose.com/~felice/biography.htm (Accessed May 2017)

Madame Yevonde – ‘Godessess’ Found at: http://uk.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A9mSs2bEwy1ZhBUAtI5LBQx.;_ylu=X3oDMTB0ZTgxN3Q0BGNvbG8DaXIyBHBvcwMx (Accessed May 2017)

Madame Yvonne by Lawrence Hole, found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoHwrMT2Rak(Accessed May 2017)

The camera as a hiding place

I have been reflecting further on assignment 3 and the notes provided with the assignment that made reference to there being few images of me in my substantial archive of images. As the photographer I am often behind the camera. This stands out in our family photographs, but it is more than this?

As an experiment I thought I would dig out from files all the images I have used as avatars on social media, networking and forum groups over the past few years to see what they say about me.

The findings were interesting and confirmed my view that I like to hide in plain site and the camera is my cloak of invisibilty!

  

Pierre Beteille- Reflecting on assignment 3 feedback

© Pierre Beteille

Pierre betteille is a french photographer who produces whimsical but also thought provoking images. Although he studied fine art, he is a self taught photographer, his work has been used in advertising campaigns and his distinctive high dynamic range images , some of which involve significant post processing ( in photoshop I assume), are strangely engaging.

My tutor suggested I looked this work in the feedback to assignment three. There was a logic to this suggestion when I started to look through Beteille images, some of which were him holding books, the approach I had taken in the assignment. The significant difference being that i used the books to hide in plain site i my work where Beteille uses the book as a prop. Below is a contrast between my approach and his.

© Pierre Beteille

In this image the arts holds a copy of Camus 1947 novel ‘La Peste’ about a plague sweeping through the French Algerian city of Oran. Beteille’s facial expression and his use of rubber gloves to hold the novel, presumably to avoid catching something from it tell the view something about its content withouts necessarily being familiar with this work. Bettie encode a lot of information about the book is a single image, whilst whimsical at first glance there is far more to this image than first meets the eye.

In the image above, one of a set from assignment three I use the biook as a mask, it is the only one of the images that relates to my professional role, the other images represent my interests  and passions. I can see that the comments made by my tutor about how the images would be read by other left a lot unresolved. Yo need certain information that I haven’t provided in order to decode the image. It does make me think whether I needed to use captions. that said the Beteille images need no captions.

© Pierre Beteille

Reflecting oin Beteille, my own work and the feedback from assignment three, i think i need to look at how i can use more creative visual elements, perhaps the use of humour as a vehicle to tell a wider story. the next assignment is an essay so this will need to wait until assignment 5.

That said the Beteille images have made me thing about image content and that is before I even think about image qualities. it is worth noting that there is a real HDR quality  , almost hyper real to al the Beteille images I found. I am not sure how I feel about this. i am not really a fan of this style of picture, there is something of the unnatural about them, however i think i should do some experiment with this approach to see the impact it has on the making of meaning, which seems to be the Holy Grail I am seeking!!!

References

www. pierrebeteille.com/photos/self/ (Accessed March 2017)

Image and Text-Research Point

Examples of relay in contemporary photographic practice include Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field (see interview in the Appendix to this course guide) where clashes of understanding or interpretation work together to create a perhaps incomplete but nonetheless enriching dialogue between artist and viewer.

Look these pieces up online. Investigate the rationale behind the pieces and see if you can find any critical responses to them. Write down your own responses in your learning log.

  • How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?
  • Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to include interviews or audio.

I have in truth slowed up a little on the course recently, in part due to work pressures but also as I try to make sense of part two. This section of the course has taken me into new areas to consider and I want to get a better grasp of the whole are of the postmodern narrative.

Looking at  and reflecting on Sophie Calle’s work ‘take care of yourself’ shed some helpful light on the subject but also raised for me many questions. Being dumped by e-mail can not be a nice experience although Calle has turned this into an engaging and thought provoking piece of art. I looked at the individual components of the work as well as some images of the work as it was exhibited at the Paul Cooper gallery in New York. It was seeing the work set out on a wall that gave me some insight into this different way of working. Sending the e-mail letter to 107 women from very different walks of life and then photographing them reading it was a novel way to explore the themes the letter raises. In the photographs of the work on the walls of a gallery I had a real sense of the notion of ‘relay’ work is assembled into what at a  distance looked like the maquette for a book, but its order is unclear. The viewer is left to piece together the collections  of images and words. Central to the work, from my point of view, is the letter, blown up and highlighted in fluorescent pen, annotated along side the highlighting.

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Copyright Sophie Calle

A sort of  guided deconstruction of the artists boyfriend’s ‘Dear John’ letter. I think there is a clear sense of the absence and presence of the author simultaneously. The real point though is that the viewer must make sense of the work and although the core theme is somewhat fixed, how a narrative is assembled is left to the viewer. Factor in the viewers own biography and I suspect there will be very differing messages and interpretations  drawn from the work.

Sophie Rickett’s work ‘Objects in the Field’ was very different to Calle’s work but equally engaging. Not least because i was familiar with the work of the Cambridge astronomer whose work was at the centre of Rickett’s project. Roderick Wiilsrtop was both a research astronomer and an optical engineer, perhaps part of the last group of astronomer engineers. Silstrop had previously designed and built multiple mirrored reflecting telescopes in order to achieve his scientific research goals. Ricketts uses many of his images, created on film ( a process now replaced in astronomy with CCDs) to create a different and i think diverging narrative. Willstrop work had a scientific and empirical dimension, but Rickett’s uses this almost biographically making reference to her own experience of going to the optician as a child. The final work again create a sense of relay with a mix of text, images and audio all adding up to a non linear narrative from which the view can make a wide range of interpretations.

sr

Copyright Sophie Rickett’s

So how do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?

Well they certainly do not possess a linear narrative, indeed in the case of Calle she creates to potential for multiple personal narratives. Text an image are juxtaposed to create some thing fundamentally different. Butler (2002) says of the post modern narrative that there is

“a disruption of any temptation to settle for a familiar world”

This is very true of callers work and although more subtle true of Ricketts work. traditional linear story telling is not present, indeed the notion of the story is somewhat illusive. The viewer decides upon an interruption of the work.

I remain uncertain about this whole area of work but i have begun to make sense of the themes both of these artists explore. i also have a very clear view of barthes concept of relay which is particularly present i think in callers ork. i will need to return to this again to create a deeper personal understanding!

References

Butler, C. (2002) Postmodernism-A Very Short Introduction, OUP, Oxford

Chrisafis, A. (2007) He loves me not, The Guardian- found at: www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art ( Accessed July 2016)

Knorr, K.http://karenknorr.com/photography/gentlemen

Rickett, S. (2014) Objects in the Field, The Photographers Gallery- Found at: s://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2014/03/19/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/ ( Accessed July2016)

Heimr- Matthew Broadhead- BJP August 2016

Heimr

Copyright Matthew Broadhead

Matthew Broadhead’s strangely compelling work ‘Heimr’ uses a mix of landscape images explore the intersection between place, ideas, objects, history and philosophy. Travelling to sites in Iceland used by NASA and identified buy the US geological survey in the 1960’s to assist space scientist understand alien worlds.  His work explores the concept of space from a number of perspectives. He appears to be linking a interests in geology, philosophy and belief systems. The title Heimr, comes from an old nordic word for ‘world’.

Broadhead is a recent graduate from the University of Brighton and this project is developed into a photobook. I came across the work in the most recent edition of the British Journal of Photography and see it as part of my survey of landscape photography. I think these images ask the view to think about the remote, about other worlds but also about the world around us. It is hard to put a definitive description of the  work but I am intrigued by it and will return to again after some further reflection

References

Broadhead, M. (2016) British Journal of Photography (pp25), Issue 7850, August 2016

Artists website found at: http://www.matthewbroadhead.com ( Accessed July2016)

Trent Parke- Minutes to Midnight

Minutes to midnight 1-5745

Magnum photographer Trent Parke has spent his career turning his camera on his native Australia. Parke, who’s presentational preference is to create hand made photo books has published a number of very engaging works of art in this form.

Minutes to Midnight was the first of his books that I encountered and I have to say I was drawn not only to the edgy evocative images on each of its pages but also his approach to art practice and indeed the philosophy that underpins his work as an artist.

Minutes to Midnight is the product of  a road trip across Australia and is an eclectic mix of gritty black and white images that shines a light on the emotional state of Australia during a time of national and global change.

Made in 2003 , the images of rural and urban scenes capture people and place in shadows and light and all the works in the book say something about how Australians were facing the impact of issues such as 9/11, the Bali bombings and the huge bush fires and drought in the the country at the time  There is a sense of the uneasy about the work, not least because there is a simile narrative in some very disparate images locations. It’s worth noting that the  work was in part created in response to a newspaper article suggesting that 60% of Australians believed the country had lost it’s innocence.  

There are a wide range of pictures in the book, from scenes of people living in challenging circumstances in remote outback communities to scenes of commuters in the cities of the vast country. Parke creates a strong and coherent narrative of ‘unsettlement’ about a country of contrasts and one that is not without challenge and tragedy. His use of black and white grainy film is in my view very evocative and even in some of the harsher images there is an intrinsic sense of beauty .

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Parke was awarded  the W. Eugene Smith Award for humanistic photography for this body of work. To my eye Parke is a master in using light creatively to capture an instant  in time that says more than just the elements contained within the frame.

Parke himself suggests that a single image can contain a narrative and although he creates strong themes (using recurring motifs such as; young children holding babies, rural and urban landscapes presented in a very high contrast manner, dead animals, scnes with a single figure bathed in light) in individual images, there is a strong and coherent narrative of unsettlement, change and uncertainty that runs through this work.

A particular  draw for me to his work is that he uses film and controls all aspects of the production of his black and white work.  He  takes many shots and repeatedly visits the the same locations to achieve the image he wants, the image he has visualised based upon some discovery or some moment of inspiration when reviewing his developed negatives.

The image below typifies his approach. On just one negative he saw the effect of the lights and shadows naturally projected onto passing vehicles. The silhouettes  of people on the street at a particular time of day create a haunting and almost unreal set of shadows and light. He returened again and again to the same location at the same time for several  months to finally capture the image that he imagined. He is a object less on patience, application and perseverance!

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Copyright Trent Parke

Parkes background is interesting and has  elements of profound sadness about it.  Although as the video listed in the references below demonstrates he has an incredibly positive outlook on life and making images is central to his life.

trent_parke

At the age of 13 while at home with his mother, she had a fatal asthma attack and died. There was nothing the young Parke could do and this had a profound impact on his future. His mother had a small darkroom and she made and sold images to local newspapers. Following her death he picked up her camera and began to make pictures. He eventually worked as a photographer for a newspaper whilst also playing cricket professionally. Eventually he had to choose between the two career paths and selected photography. He then went o to be a sports photographers for one of the Australian national newspapers. His experience and skill as a sport photographer I believe  can be seen in some of his work. Choosing not to travel beyond his own country he has taken an immersive approach to recording his country in his own way.

Learning Points from Trent Parke’s work

  • Persistence and perseverance, he keeps returning to themes and ideas until he gets them right, this is by far the biggest lesson that i take from his work. 
  • Contrast in the narrative, he uses a wide range of themes from landscape, to group shots to protests to tell the story of a people and a land, i thought buyer were real parole ( although their work is quite different) to the philosophy and motivation behind is work and that of Alex Soth.
  • Film still has a place and a role to play, pardon the pun!!

References

Parke, Trent (2013) Minutes to Midnight, Steidl

Interview with Trent Parke by David Hanlon found at: https://vimeo.com/106406707 (Accessed May 2015)

In Public Interview -Trent Parke found at: http://www.in-public.com/TrentParke (Accessed May 2015)

Aftermath and Aesthetics-some thoughts and reflections

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Outposts- © Donovan Wylie

Aftermath photography is a very different approach to issues such as war and conflict. It takes a very oblique and less obvious perspective in order to explore theme of conflict. As Booth 2015 suggests:

‘contemporary versions of this form are usually devoid of people and engender a pensive mindset in the viewer’ pp28

A range of artist have employed this approach with Paul Seawright, Chloe Dewe Mathews and Donovan Wylie being exponents of this type of work that I am most familiar with. The image above by Wylie, from his work ‘Outposts’, explores the architecture of conflict through what to me is a very evocative landscape style. The serenity and loneliness of the image challenges the viewer to imagine the implications of the structure and the landscape in which it sits. It is the thoughts of the viewer that must make the link to the  conflict that look place at this location. It might be argued that the contrast between the desolate and lonely landscape and the history of conflict in the area create a tension between what is seen in the image and what we know bout its past.

Company’s essay ”Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”” makes a very compelling argument for a shift in the way way still photography has been repositioned in the light of other visual and new media, perhaps summarised by his statement:

‘the still cameras are loaded as the videos cameras are packed away’

Campany describes how still photography was one present at the time of an event, it is now much more likely to be deployed in the aftermath to make a pun on Joel Meyerowitz’s slow and steady study of the aftermath of 911. Campy uses this to lustre the place of still images in contemporary society, photography as a summarises or account rather than the principle media for reporting in real time. this is far more often done with television and video. This was quite a deep and philosophical essay stringent the concept associated with memory and meaning and I Company makes a challenging link between whether memory is influenced by still images or do still images shape merry more than the actual event or video footage of it

A key learning point for me in this essay and my wider reading around aftermath and aesthetics is that in an age of fast real time video information, still photography still has a vital and perhaps even more impotent place than when it was to the principal media for transferring information in the pre video era.

I have for some time been interested and intrigued by the work of Paul Seawright.  the image in the course matures which I think is a classic example of aftermath photography is an homage to and earlier work by Roger Fenton. I think the comparison which i know will have been made many times reveals something about the power of late photography and most importantly that the concept to some extent existed at the dawn of the medium and is not in any sense new!

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Roger Fenton- Valley of Death 1855

Valley+BC

Paul Seawight – Hidden Series, Afghanistan 2002

References

Campany, D. (2003) Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography”

Wylie Image found at: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/PlanAVisit/Exhibitions/DonovanWylie/ImageGallery (accessed May 2016)

Fenton image found at: www. artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/123407 (accessed May 2016)

Seawright Image found at:www. paulseawright.com (accessed May 2016)