Study Visit : Gregory Crewdson – Cathedral of the Pines

I must admit a certain amount of excitement in my looking forward to this study visit to the Photographer Gallery in London to see Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines. Up until then I had only seen his work in books or online, and had been very impressed. For an artist credited with massive image work I felt that you had to be able to view it in person to be able to really appreciate his work.

This is the first time that The Photographers Gallery has devoted all 3 of its gallery spaces to one artist. This is I think a great statement of respect to Crewdson’s work.

After meeting up with OCA Tutor Jayne Taylor and the rest of the group in the ground floor cafe we proceeded to the galleries with the plan of meeting back at the lobby for 13:00. Most of the group started at the gallery on the 2nd floor, while I decided to start at the 5th floor and work my way down.

All the images appeared to be approximately the same size around 3′ high and 4′ wide. This I felt worked well for the size of the galleries allowing a good initial viewing distance of 7′ to 8′, allowing the viewer to drink in the images. Though the pictures have such attention to detail that one is invited and drawn closer to inspect further in an attempt to decode their meaning. On closer inspection each image has a wonderful painterly quality.

Crewdson’s masterful productions are more akin to a film production that what most people would call photography. In each image the lighting is so balanced and there is nothing in the frame that Crewdson doesn’t want there, it is almost like a single frame of a film frozen. What results is a puzzling vignette left for the viewer to decipher.

My overarching impression of the collection that everyone in it seems to be emotionally detached, a nothingness that is neither happy nor sad. The scenes have the appearance of a form of still life or memento mori, where the entire tapestry of the unfolding act (including the humans) form the elements of the still life.

There is a considerable amount of nudity or partial dress, principally in the women in the images. Whether this stems from a sense of the confidence of isolation, lack of observers, expressing uninhibited personal freedom, expressing vulnerability or just plain not caring at all. These decision seem to be left for the viewer to try and figure out. Kind of jarring at times and with no guidance, one wonders if the nudity is just gratuitous.

Interaction between the protagonists within the scenes is clearly not there, and even when physically close each seems to have their own focus of attention. These people are charged with an emotional detachment, lonely but not lonely, sad but not sad, like empty vessels. Those scenes where it hints of some kind of intimacy or sex, there seems to be no happiness, joy or excitement.

As I mentioned earlier you are drawn into the details within the image searching for clues to make sense of the tableaux. There are plenty of them, for example; a dusty handprint on the thigh of a sleeping man in ‘The Pickup Truck’, a wooden crutch under the bed of ‘Father and Son’, plus numerous visibility of prescription drugs, underwear and other hidden treasures.

Once we had all viewed the collection we decamped to a pub near Carnaby Street, the Red Lion. Here we discussed as a group (for about an hour) the exhibition and the questions it left us with. This was a very valuable part of the study visit and everyone felt able to participate.

In conclusion I want to say that I enjoyed this collection very much and thoroughly recommend it to anyone. These study visits are important as we get a chance to interact with fellow students and peers under the guidance of an OCA Tutor. I look forward to more study visits like this one in the future.

The Blue Project – Contact Printing Frame

I designed a plan for my contact print frame using Visio. In order to make this split screen contact print frame I need the following:

  • Glass Sheet 13″ x 19″ (A3+) (edges dressed so that they are not sharp)
  • 2 x Sheet MDF (15mm) 13″ x 9 1/2″
  • 2 x Blass Flat Hinges 3″ x 2″
  • 1 x Rubber Sheet (3mm) 13″ x 19″ (A3+)
  • 4 x Metal Spring Clips 4″

Contact Frame Plan

So far I have ordered and received the rubber sheet and spring clips. It is my aim to source the glass, MDF and hinges from a local hardware store. Once constructed this frame will be able to accommodate paper up to and including A3 in size.

The Blue Project – Cyanotype Requirements

Experimental Photography – A Handbook Of Techniques has been a great source of information relating to creating sensitizing solutions for relating various solar photogram and contact printing methods. This includes creating Cyanotypes which is my intended medium for this particular project.

In order to try this method  I need the following:

  • 8oz (227g) of Ferric Ammonium Citrate Green
  • 8oz (227g) of Potassium Ferricyanide
  • 3 x 500ml Amber Bottles (Solution A, Solution B & Sensitizer Mix)
  • 600ml Glass Beaker
  • 200g Electronic Scales
  • Glass Stirring Rods
  • Plastic Funnels
  • Foam Brushes
  • Working Trays (probably use takeaway / food tubs)
  • Art Paper
  • Matt Postcards
  • Storage Box
  • Light Proof Bags (for the papers once sensitized)
  • Gloves (Nitrile) XL
  • Distilled Water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3%
  • Contact Printing Frame (will make)
  • Source of Ultraviolet Radiation (Sun or possibly a 2nd hand UV Sun Lamp)

I have ordered the above and most has already arrived and now together in a decent sized plastic storage box. I am constructing a split contact printing frame using the plans in the book. This frame will be able to accommodate paper up to and including A3 in size.

Safety Data Sheets for the chemicals used in this process are shown below:

Ferric Ammonium Citrate Safety Data Sheet

Potassium Ferricyanide Safety Data Sheet

Hydrogen Peroxide 3% Safety Data Sheet

The Blue Project – Introduction

Whilst stuck on Assignment Three I have been musing over, researching and doing some work towards a longer term project that may well take a great deal of time (and energy) beyond EYV.

I have been taken with the idea of producing cyanotypes for quite some time and have been researching into the methods and technical details of what is required. I have found a great deal of useful information online and have sourced a rather excellent book:

Experimental Photography – A Handbook Of Techniques

Thames & Hudson

ISBN-10: 0500544379

ISBN-13: 978-0500544372

This book covers the chemistry and techniques of most early sensitizing and development methods including Cyanotypes.

My idea for this project centres around:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Self Harm

Blue being a colour strongly associated with the above, I thought that Cyanotypes would be a good medium to reinforce my project theme. These items could include but are not limited to the following:

  • Razor Blades
  • Knives
  • Pills
  • Rope
  • Belt
  • Train Tracks
  • High Point
  • Car Exhaust
  • Gunshot
  • Drowning
  • Fire
  • Crash
  • Electrocution
  • Poison

The Radical Eye – Tate Modern 11th March 2017

On my birthday I went to London to visit ‘The Radical Eye’. This is the showing of an assembly of Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection at the Tate Modern (10th Nov 2016 – 7th May 2017).

The entrance is dominated by a large scale reproduction of the Man Ray image ‘Glass Tears’ and the exhibition is divided into 6 areas:

  • The Radical Eye
  • Portraits
  • Portraits / Experiments / Bodies
  • Exhibition Film
  • Documents
  • Objects / Perspectives / Abstraction

The exhibition is made up of over 175 images spanning the first half of the 20th Century, taken from Elton John’s world class collection of over 8000 photographs. The exhibited images are the work of almost seventy of the key photographers of that time.

Among these photographers are some of the works of:

  • Man Ray
  • Irving Penn
  • Dorothea Lang
  • Walker Evans
  • Margaret Bourke-White
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Edward Steichen
  • Helen Levit

I was struck by the framing of the photographs, though beautifully mounted the fames could be thought by some to be gaudy. However, when you realise that these paintings came straight off the walls of Elton John’s apartment you begin to realise they fit their hanging environment. I prefer the idea that they come from a home, are on display and loved, rather than stuck in boxed archives.

I enjoyed the exhibition and was very taken by a series of corner portrait images by Irving Penn taken in 1948, which were very striking. In particular, those taken of; Spencer Tracy, Noel Coward, Duke Ellington and the boxer Joe Louis.

Overall the exhibition presents a good cross section of photographs from some of the leading protagonists of the Modernist Photography movement.

2016 hmmm…

What can I say about 2016…. there were highs and lows… generally a good year, very busy work wise (as always)…. I started my degree studies with EYV…  attended my 3rd London Photo 24, and I was lucky to have won one of the main theme categories which was amazing… we had a smashing summer holiday in Minehead with our caravan…soon after holiday I was hospitalised and nearly died after contracting Sepsis from a urinary tract infection…. I attended the Brighton Photo Biennial and was privileged to meet many other OCA students. Had an interesting weekend, but the weather was foul… after this I kinda lost my MoJo in a big way, and have been trying to reignite my creative spirit since but with no luck. I had become very uninspired by my own images and overwhelmed by everyone else’s work (artists and fellow students alike)…. however I am determined to recover my confidence in 2017 🙂

Assignment 2 planning part 4

Texture blending

I thought I would try some of the images I took on Friday blended with a texture layer. I have been collecting a great number of image resources from photo magazines for the last few years, these include a number of textures. Looking through my collection I chose to experiment using the texture below.

texture

I added the texture as a separate layer to several of the station images. I tried several of Photoshop’s blending modes and settled on using ‘Vivid Light‘. This blend process is described below:

Vivid Light

Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast.

(Incorporated, 2016)

The six images I created are shown below.

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I am pleased with the results and would really value other people’s opinion. I used the same texture and blending mode on each of the images for a degree of consistency. Not sure whether to try a different texture and blending mode with each image. Personally I think that this will just appear rather random and muddled.Further experimentation could be made using a different single texture and a different single blend mode.

Reference

Incorporated, A.S. (2016) Blending modes. Available at: https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/blending-modes.html (Accessed: 24 October 2016).

Assignment 2 planning part 3

Hmm… Well I spend few hours at Waterloo and Euston Stations Friday afternoon and used the tube to get between them. There were a reasonable number of people about at each location and less down the tube. I took quite a number of images, but on reviewing them when I got back home I was less than happy. Most were blurred manly down to camera shake and me trying to focus on moving people. Lighting was very mixed and shutter speed increase was a contributing factor. I might have had better (noisier) results if I had used a higher or even auto ISO.

I really want to photograph larger crowds, so I will really have to be there during rush hour. I was also very concerned about getting stopped or quizzed by station staff or security so didn’t make use of the tripod I had with me. However hindsight being a wonderful thing I thought I would check online exactly what Network Rails policy was towards photographers and photography was. I was actually pleasantly surprised and wish I had read it before now. The following link explains it in-depth:

http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/777.aspx

An extract from the information page is shown below which may be of interest to fellow students:

Photography
You can take photographs at stations provided you do not sell them. However, you are not allowed to take photographs of security related equipment, such as CCTV cameras.

Flash photography on platforms is not allowed at any time. It can distract train drivers and train despatch staff and so is potentially very dangerous.

Tripod legs must be kept away from platform edges and behind the yellow lines. On busy stations, you may not be allowed to use a tripod because it could be a dangerous obstruction to passengers.

(policy, 2016)

Now that I know this I could have used my tripod providing I had taken care! To quote Alanis Morissette “Isn’t it ironic!“. Therefore I shall treat this visit as another scouting trip and plan another trip. Though as already mentioned I would see larger crowds during rush hour times. So timing is critical (07:00 – 09:00 and 17:00 – 19:00), and with a larger amount of people even greater care when using a tripod. Also trying different positioning to get more faces and crowds coming towards camera would be better. I know that on the underground tripods are a no-no and only small camera photography is permitted. They may well classify my SLR as a large camera and get all official, so would have to be careful.

I did have a play around with stacking and merging some of the images I took to try to get the effect in the images I wanted. I want to have elements in the composition in focus and others in movement. Not just a slight blur but a stacked blur to really emphasise the movement.

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I may also try blending textures to achieve my desired outcomes.

Reference

policy, c. (2016) Railway enthusiasts. Available at: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/777.aspx (Accessed: 23 October 2016).

William Eggleston Portraits -Study Visit National Portrait Gallery 1st October 2016

On Saturday 1st October I attended the ‘William Eggleston Portraits‘ Study Visit at the National Portrait Gallery in London. This was my first OCA study visit and it happened to be run by my tutor Jayne Taylor. There were approximately 14 of us. It was a real pleasure to meet follow students. One of the downsides of distance learning is the lack of physical contact with ones peers, a meeting like this is most refreshing. A really nice bunch of people studying a variety of courses all in the same boat. Link to the exhibition website is below:

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/eggleston/exhibition.php

The exhibition is not large, 100 images. These images vary in size from passport sized to several feet across. The variety of content range from early black & white, innovative early use of colour, very large prints and later works of high quality. The arrangement of the display and lighting was somewhat strange and I found myself having to continually move in and out to obtain the best perspective and to be able to read the information cards.

The colour prints were rich and saturated. The subjects generally appeared to me melancholy or even uncomfortable, and rarely engaged the camera directly. I was particularly struck by some rather stunning large low-key portraits that Eggleston created in the 70’s. Also his use of perspective was interesting. From above to make the subject diminutive and vulnerable as in the B&W image of the man in the phone booth or the later colour image of his grandmother framed in the room doorway. From low down to give the subject greater stature as in the 70’s colour images of the fashionable black man standing between the cars and the one of Shelley Schuyler.

Once the group had viewed the Eggleston exhibition we went to the cafe in the crypt across the road from the NPG to have some refreshments and discuss the exhibition as a group. This was a lively and friendly discussion and everyone was able to share their thoughts on the exhibition. Everyone’s views and perspectives were refreshing and valid. Overall my impression of ‘William Eggleston Portraits‘ was a positive one and made all the better for sharing with the group.

We also went to see another display in the NPG ‘Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862 – 1948‘. Link to the exhibition website is below:

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/blackchronicles/display.php

This was a small but poignant exhibition. I was impressed by the sharpness and quality of the large portraits in the initial hall. They seemed so fresh, that they could have taken yesterday with modern subjects dressing up. I am attending the Brighton Biannual later in the month, and look forward to comparing it to the ‘Dandy Lion‘ exhibition there.

A very enjoyable study visit and look forward to attending more in the future.

V&A Visit – 24th August 2016

As well as going to the Science Museum on the 24th August I visited the V&A Museum (just across the road) to see what they had to offer by way of current photography exhibits. On enquiring at the information desk I was pleased to find that there were a couple of photographic displays;

  • The Camera Exposed – Gallery 38a
  • A History of Photography: The Body – Gallery 100

Both were also free, which was a bonus.


The Camera Exposed

This temporary (23 July 2016 – 5 March 2017) display was a collection of 120 images from a broad spectrum of photographers, with each image containing a camera in one form another. There was no restriction on photography so I took some pictures of the images that particularly drew my attention. These are shown below, with their accompanying display information:

abelardo-morell-infoabelardo-morell

andreas-feininger-infoandreas-feininger

calum-colvin-infocalum-colvin

don-mccullin-infodon-mccullin

elsbeth-juda-infoelsbeth-juda

henri-cartier-bresson-infohenri-cartier-bresson

john-a-walker-infojohn-a-walker

john-french-infojohn-french

judy-dater-infojudy-dater

louise-dahl_wolfe-infolouise-dahl_wolfe

philippe-halsman-infophilippe-halsman

richard-sadler-inforichard-sadler

tim-walker-infotim-walker

timm-rautert-infotimm-rautert

tosh-matsumoto-infotosh-matsumoto

weegee-infoweegee

weegee-2-infoweegee-2

(Victoria and Museum, 2016)

I really enjoyed this display and highly recommended to anyone wanting to see a marvellous display of themed images. The combination of the various photographers inventiveness, creativity and craftsmanship is evident throughout.


A History of Photography: The Body  (Victoria and Museum, 2016) 

This display is held in the V&A permanent gallery and currently concentrates on ‘The Body‘. The gallery introduction is shown below followed by a selection of prints that I liked:

intro

weegee-infoweegee

suzanne-r-dworsky-infosuzanne-r-dworsky

sophie-ristelhueber-infosophie-ristelhueber

rineke-dijkstra-inforineke-dijkstra

josef-koudelka-infojosef-koudelka

john-coplans-infojohn-coplans

herbert-bayerherbert-bayer-info

helmut-newton-infohelmut-newton-1helmut-newton-2

erhard-dorner-infoerhard-dorner

edward-weston-infoedward-weston

carl-fischer-infocarl-fischer

bernard-f-eilers-infobernard-f-eilers

alfred-lys-baldry-infoalfred-lys-baldry

adolphe-bilordeaux-infoadolphe-bilordeaux

(Victoria and Museum, 2016)

Again another very interesting and varied display, and another I would also highly recommend. I am only sorry that my snaps don’t these great images (in both displays) justice.

Reference:

Victoria and Museum, A. (2016) V&A · the camera exposed. Available at: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/the-camera-exposed (Accessed: 12 September 2016).

Victoria and Museum, A. (2016) What’s on. Available at: https://shop.vam.ac.uk/whatson/index/view/id/2060/event/A-History-of-Photography–The-Body/dt/2016-09-12/free/1 (Accessed: 12 September 2016).