Monday, 29 June 2009

Not photography


'Sweet pea'
Here are a couple of pages from my art journal that I have been filling at a frantic rate. It is a dual exploration of different techniques and subjects coupled with me trying to free up my creativity. My work is usually rather 'straight', but inside there is definitely a mad artists trying to escape. I have given myself permission to do anything in my journal - even if at times it is rather juvenile, or like an angst ridden adolescent's diary. I am aiming to indulge myself, but I keep feeling I must justify myself - it is strange how difficult it is to let go and not worry about critisism. Now I can get back to selecting photographs for my assignment before the glue and paint beckon.
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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Assignment 5 - first selection.

Here are the first set of photographs up for consideration for my final assignment in the style of Fay Godwin. My theme is 'man's' constant battle to control nature and nature's fight back. Fay Godwins's photographs in Glassworks and Secret Lives are full of light so this is my aim too. This is a rather simplistic explanation, I will aim to add further with each posting.
The first set were taken round the greenhouse in the snow...the snow representing the force we cannot control.

glasshouse 5
I have posted this before. Here the morning sun was shining through the snow - the sun has tinted the snow almost giving it the appearance of fire.

glasshouse 3
This is a faded rag tucked into a greenhouse strut photographed through the frosted glass. The rag has been there for some time and has almost taken on a permanent form of creases. I particularly liked the diffused light seemingly making the cloth glow.

glasshouse 2
This one was taken from inside the greenhouse. The frost makes the surface of the glass appear scratched and the photograph unfocused. The whole thing takes on the appearance of a miniature abstract landscape...
More information on Fay Godwin here.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Thinking time

I am supposed to be working on my final assignment for OCA Photography 2, Landscape. I have to compile twelve photographs taken in the style of my chosen photographer, Fay Godwin. Although she was well known for her black and white landscape work, it was her collection of more intimate colour photographs she took of gardens which attracted me. My tutor gave me the go ahead and I have been working on this collection for 6 months but cannot come to a decision at to whether I have a good enough pool to start selecting or whether I should be taking more photographs. This time has also coincided with my rediscovery of painting. I have always drawn, but I haven't had my paints out for years. I am in a creative rush at the moment, indulging myself in a frenzy of picture making inspired by the art journals kept by many bloggers and flickrites. I have been trying to 'let go' and really let myself be as emtional, sentimental, messy, fiddly and so on as I feel. I always worry about what others may think, that I mustn't be self-centred or indulgent, so this is a bit of self applied art therapy and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I am finding it quite difficult to give myself 'me time' since I retired - something I longed for when working full time.
But I want to start seriously thinking about my photography assignment, but to end this blog I shall post a couple of flower paintings I started my art journal with - before going a little more wayward.

thought I'd share
This is a very conventional watercolour study of an aquilegia...
snow in summer
...whereas this study of 'snow-in-summer' is beginning to loosen up!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

OCA Landscape: Project 15

This project has to be taken over the year it is reckoned you will take to do this course. This is the same location I used for my One Acre Assignment so I visieted it frequently and it is pretty close to home.

The same view taken over four seasons:

From 'The Clappers'
Spring (April)

Panorama - July
Summer (July)

Panorama - October
Autumn (October)

Panorama - January
Winter (January)

The autumn scene is not what you expect as it doesn't show the normal autumnal colours. However I was lucky as we had a good sprinkle of snow.

View towards Harlington, from Sharpenhoe Clappers, Bedfordshire.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Windows and Mirrors

I have been reading from various sources, mainly on line about an exhibition at MOMA, New York (1978) called "Mirrors and Window: American Photography since 1960". The accompaniying catalogue contains an essay on this theme by the then director of photography John Szarkowski.
Joe Cornish, on his web page, says he found the essay hard work and at this moment in time I have no intention of reading it, however the essence of what he is saying interests me.

"This arrangement is designed to illustrate a critical thesis which I hope may offer a simple and useful perspective on the bewildering variety of technical, aesthetic, functional, and political philosophies that characterise contemporary photography's colloquium. This thesis suggests that there is a fundamental dichotomy in contemporary photography between those who think of photography as a means of self-expression and those who think of it as a method of exploration."
To quote Cornish summarizing "Some photographers are more interested in themselves, and some are more interested in their subject matter" You can read more of Cornish's article here
So some photographs are windows onto the world, a description, a straight representation. Traditional landscape, documentary and portrait photography could be seen as photographs as windows.
Photographs as mirrors however, according to Szarkowski are a reflection of the photographer's self-expression. Cornish seems to regard this idea in a disparaging way suggesting self-obsessed.
indulgent artists.
John Blakemore, in his Black and White Photography Workshop, however sees the photograph as a 'mirror' as a means of self-expression for the photographer with the photograph acting as a metaphor. He suggest the photograph then is concerned not with information but with suggestion. Perhaps here could begin a debate about the photographer as artist. These two could serve as good examples. Joe Cornish's landscapes are beautiful aesthetic experiences, many abstracted details of rock and natural formations. John Blakemore's photographs however are more obviously a product of his creativity. He talks of previsualizing an image, and then how to achieve this through studio and darkroom techniques. So is Blakemore more of the artist than photographer?
In conclusion Szarkowski acknowledges that no photograph is purely 'mirror' or 'window' but on a continuum between the two. Perhaps there is a similar artistic spectrum on which we can place photographers - a debate for another time.

Here is my own contribution,from my greenhouse series:
Last Year's Gloves


Friday, 5 June 2009

Abstract or not?

I have been reading a lot of definitions of abstract photography to try to clarify my own thinking. It seems to me that macro images are often described as being abstract when they are just close-ups or detail. Here are some defininitons of abstract I have culled from many sources ;-
  • Abstract (adjective) existing in the mind only. Having no reference to material objects of specific examples. Not concrete.
  • Abstract (noun) essence of the whole
  • Abstract (verb) to take away. To remove from reality.
Perhaps the definition is less easy to apply to photography than other art forms. We know when a painting is non-representative and may be a total result of the artist's imagination, but in photography, the viewer knows that the photographer started with an object or a view of the natural world which has been abstracted. Very often the object is still recognizable but the subject has become secondary to other considerations such as shape, form, colour.
Before taking the Open College of Arts photography course these questions would not have mattered to me, but now I want to develop a language to talk about my photography.

Here are two of my photographs which illustrate what I have been talking about.
Abstract or macro?


glasshouse 5
Ice and Fire

Beads is a macro shot taken infront of blue and red cellophane taped on a window.

Ice and Fire is snow on a greenhouse roof, shot into the morning sun.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Some thoughts on Fay Godwin

Having finished my written assignment on Fay Godwin I have to complete my final assignment with photographs taken in her style. The photographs of hers which have attracted my attentions are the colour pictures she had to publish herself called Glassworks and Secret Lives. The book is out of print but I managed to get a small signed paperback after a short search on google. The hardback versions are over £100. There are a good selection from this collections in her book Landmarks which is easily available.
The images in this book are such a departure from her usual black and white landscapes that no one wanted to publish it, which is why it was done privately, however I love the images. This is the only one I could find on-line which links to an interview with Fay for BBC's Woman's Hour, here.

It is these images, many of which which may be described as abstract which have attracted me and inspired me in making her my choice as my chosen subject and I hope to make last assignment in the style of these colour photographs.