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.

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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.

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).

Science Museum Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph exhibition

On the 24th August I was lucky to be on leave and had the chance to visit the Science Museum Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph exhibition.

From the exhibition website information; ‘In the nineteenth century, as the industrial revolution boomed, Fox Talbot revolutionised culture and communications by inventing the negative-positive process, a technique that formed the basis of photography around the world for over 150 years and immortalised him as father of the photograph.

Discover the influence Talbot’s revolutionary technology, techniques and practices had on his contemporary practitioners – Anna Atkins, Hill and Adamson, and Calvert Jones – and see original prints from his seminal publication ‘The Pencil of Nature’.’ (Fox Talbot: Dawn of the photograph, 2016).

The day was warm and the cool temperature/humidity controlled environment of the exhibition was very welcome. The exhibits were displayed in several rooms in a chronological fashion, with the earliest works of Fox Talbot and various contemporaries displayed first.

The pale ghost like early prints from waxed photogenic drawing and calotype negative experimentation seem so fragile compared to the stunning Daguerreotype positives of the same era. Progress through the rooms shows the steady improvement of Fox Talbots repeatable print process via the use of negatives. Also they also include the works of other luminaries producing important works at the same time a Fox Talbot such as, Rev George Wilson Bridges and Rev Calvet Richard Jones.

A selection of images from the book of the exhibition (Roberts and Hobson, 2016) are shown below:

fox-talbot-1fox-talbot-2fox-talbot-3fox-talbot-4fox-talbot-5fox-talbot-6

Overall a very interesting and historically important exhibition. My only criticism was that the lighting on the few Daguerreotypes that were on display were poor positioned and I found that I had to contort myself to view them clearly.

Reference:

Fox Talbot: Dawn of the photograph (2016) Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/fox-talbot# (Accessed: 11 September 2016).

Roberts, R. and Hobson, G. (2016) William Henry Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph. United Kingdom: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers.

Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter’s “Brick Lane” project has a nostalgic documentary feel attempting to capture a fading way of life. His monochrome almost cyanotype treatment makes it feel older than it is. The colour certainly cools the mood of the image. Examination of the objects and detritus that litter the image show it to be modern. First impressions give the impression that this could be a garage sale or ad-hock market. But closer inspection show the objects to be damaged, broken, discarded or abandoned.

Brick Lane 1

(Tom Hunter, 1980\’s)

The graffiti only enhances the feeling of abandonment. The old man walking through could have probably walked this route all his life. Slowly watching it decay and deteriorate as time goes by. Those who experience change over a long period to time are less likely to be shocked or surprised than those who experience the results of of this long term change for the first time. It is my impression that the old saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” rings true here.

Reference:

Brick Lane (1980\’s) Available at: http://www.tomhunter.org/brick-lane-2/  (Accessed: 17 July 2016).

 

 

Jodie Taylor

Jodie Taylor’s “Memories of Childhood” project attracts me the same way as Gawain Barnard’s “Boredom To Burn” project. Both explore the destructive nature of boredom experienced by the young. Outlets of frustration and anger at changes they experience both physically, mentally and socially. Drives to understand and explore the limits of the boundary’s laid down by school, parents and society in general. Pushing and experiencing the melancholy of resistance and learning to accept or rebel.

Jodie Taylor - Memories of Childhood 1

(Jodie Taylor, 2013)

The need to imprint or make ones mark on you surroundings has been something that has happened since man lived in caves. Who is Mad Mikey? Did he write this or was it someone else making a statement?

Reference:

Photography and Nostalgia (2013) Available at: http://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/ (Accessed: 17 July 2016).

JH Engström

The JH Engström image I have chosen is one from his series of images titled “Haunts“.

JH Engström - Haunts 2

(JH Engström, no date)

This series contains a variety of images some overtly sexual and I found it hard to determine the narrative. I started to comprehend some kind of link to memories, fantasies, places been and shared experiences. I was drawn to this particular image as its faded appearance suggested the past. A nondescript estate of flats that be anywhere in the world. The bottom half of the images scrubby muddiness suggested transit and much use. While the objects in the centre first appear to be a play area, but on closer examination seem unrelated and out of place.

Reference:

VU, G. (no date) JH Engström series. Available at: http://www.galerievu.com/series.php?id_reportage=60&id_photographe=17 (Accessed: 8 July 2016).

 

Gawain Barnard

The Gawain Barnard image I have chosen is one from his series of images titled “Boredom to Burn“.

(Gawain Barnard, no date)

This project reminded me of the kind of naughtiness that kids get up to when left to their own devices (like on school holidays), when playtime leads to boredom. Memories of my brother and I using a magnifying glass on a hot summer day to burn ants or grass came flooding back. We were never responsible for any large scale damage. The aftermath of a large burn can turn up and reveal all sorts of things hidden or lost in the grass over time. What drew me to this collection was the variety of subjects revealed, and for me in particular this hand saw. This picture for me generates questions such as:

  • Why a saw?
  • Who lost it?
  • When was it lost?
  • Was it looked for?

I find myself attracted to the odd and out of place and hence to this image.

Reference:

Gawain Barnard (no date) Available at: http://gawainbarnard.com/photo_13162026.html#photos_id=7988362 (Accessed: 27 June 2016).

 

Keith Arnatt

The Keith Arnatt image I have chosen is one from his series of images titled “Miss Grace’s Lane“.

(Arnatt, 1986)

I was drawn to this image as it seems like any old piece of waste ground that I might find in my local area. The broken red racket immediately focuses my eye, which then progresses towards the sunlight shining on the hedge. From here  the path / track leads out of the picture left or right. You are presented with a decision on where to go, but for me my eye favours the broken ground  in the top right corner. For me a triangle of interest is formed between the racket, the sunlight and broken ground.

Reference:

Arnatt, K. (1986) Miss Grace’s lane Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-miss-graces-lane-t13163 (Accessed: 27 June 2016).