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)

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.

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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)

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

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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)

Martha Rosler- some personal reflections

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I really enjoyed Rosler’s (1981) essay, ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (on documentary photography) it is quite accessible and raises a range of familiar and new to me, notions about the purpose of documenarty image making. The essay also offers a sort of highlighted mini history of the genre, using the work of some iconic documentary photographers to illustrate the argument she is positing.

I felt there was quite a marxist feel to the tone of her arguments, and a clear sense of the power and inequality in capitalist societies where the poor are very much part of a structured and perhaps necessary hierarchy or order of things.

She makes a strong case for the  gap between the ideals and intent of photographers such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, who saw the genre as a tool to first identify and then tackle injustice on the emerging post modern society of 20th century America, and newer 20th Century image makes such as Winograd, Freidland and Arbus. The latter photographers are used to sharply contrast with earlier documentary image makers. New Documents in 1967 given a platform the exposure at MoMA by Szarkowski offers a different take on documentary image making where there is perhaps a greater shift into the art world and away from social commentary and indeed conscience.

Highlighting Winogrand, Rosler (1981) says of him that he:

“aggressively rejects any responsibility (culpability) for his images and denies any relation between them and shared or public human meaning.”                                                 pp10

The essay culminates in the assertion that we do do not yet have a real paradigm of documentary, all that has proceeded does not achieve the notion to document.

There is a strong sense of a cubical but realist view of much documentary image making as supporting the prevailing orthodoxy of class and wealth hierarchy.

I will write more about this but I wanted to record some of the key themes that struck me on initial reading of this essay. These are summered as bullet points below:

  • Challenging questions about documentary photography as a genre or series of connected genre
  • An historical survey of approaches in the genre revealing something about motive and intent
  • Draws strong links between early documentary work and liberalism
  • Riis after reading a German magazine saw the power of the image over words
  • The notion of documentary photography offer the possibility of rectifying wrongs
  • Documentary images linking to social reform
  • Victim and Victimhood photography
  • The poor and needy being captured or visited upon by the ‘Nikon Set’
  • Documentary is a little like a horror movie
  • The liberal approach to documentary photography often references misfortune and natural disaster
  • More recently there has been less charitable views, the drunk the benefit chat, duster brought on by the subject and their behaviour
  • Documenatry as voyeurism
  • Documentary photographers taking the viewer to places they could not visit, like astronauts going to the moon
  • a new and manipulative take on quasi anthropology- Edward Curtis dressing north american aboriginal people in clothes he carried about!!!
  • Sentimentalism
  • The New Document and shift aye from reform to expression and srt
  • Documentary photography supporting and  underpinning the prevailing class and social order orthodoxy

References:

Rosler, M. (1981) In, Around and Afterthoughts (on documentary photography) found at: http://www.everyday.org/awt/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/rosler-martha_in-around-afterthoughts.pdf (Accessed April 2016)

MoMA (1967) New Documents Press Release February 28th 1967 found at: http://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/3860/releases/MOMA_1967_Jan-June_0034_21.pdf?2010 (Accessed April 2016)

Adverts, passive racism, cynical advertising ploy?

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The Gap fashion chain of shops has come in for some attention in the last week following the publication of the image above. The Gap must spend a serious amount of money on marketing and advertising so I was surprised at what seemed like an obvious faux pas in the release of this image.

Fresh from reading a chapter of Williamson (1978), introduced to me by the opening section of this course , I could not help feel there is something more cynical going on here?

In analysing the image there is the obvious, a group of children striking a range of poses, wearing the merchandise the store is peddling, there are some linking colours in the clothes with the exception of the one black child in the image. Wearing a Pink top, the child is smaller than any of the others. Whilst all of the children have confident looks, the greater stature of one of the children central in the image draws the eye. Not least because she  is resting her elbow on the  black child’s head. It is this  that has casued all the attention and the image has been seen across a range of social media channels with attendant messages about passive racism, exploitation and the inappropriateness of the content of this image.

The Gap’s management team have been quick to apologise and remove the image, but far more people are aware of this campaign because of the inappropriate nature of the content than would have been the case if this supposed error had not be shared. The Gap have also been quick to remind us all that they have done much to promote the cause of equality and many will also recall images of the Queen photoshopped to be black and leading black figures presented as caucasian.

I am left uneasy about this avery and whilst the passive racism is quite unacceptable in my view, I do wonder is this all a deliberate part of a campaign to creat inters and drive traffic. I and many others would not be blogging about this image had it not been so racially and culturally provocative and the Gap has a history for being provocative!

References

Williamson, J. (1978) Decoding Advertising-Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, Maryon Boyers, New York

Petapixel website – found at: http://petapixel.com/2016/04/05/gap-sorry-racially-insensitive-kids-pose-ad-photo/ Accessed April 2016)

Metro Website – found at : http://metro.co.uk/2016/04/07/is-this-gap-advert-racist-5801238/ (accessed April 2016)