Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, b ut you must make explicit un your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you”ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment 5.
Following my tutor’s advice after submitting Assignment 4, I researched the Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama’s series titled “Slow Glass”, which I mentioned on my reflection on A4’s feedback. One of the tasks that was suggested to me was taking some night shots with the same distortion technique I used on my precious images. It was on my way home while shooting these night landscapes that I came across a McDonald’s store and this image from Hatakeyama’s project came to my mind, so I decided to use the same subject but with my own technique as a response to his shot. Here is the resulting image:
Although the two images are completely different, both have common elements such as the subject and the use of distortion. The main impulse of taking the picture was the universality of the symbolic neon sign which (sadly, I guess) could be recognised internationally and in a fraction of a second. The first time I saw Hatakeyama’s image, the one thought that came to me was that there are subjects that no matter how you disguise or distort them, they will always be easily spotted and understood by a wide audience, even if that is not your initial intention.
I wonder what other viewers perceive from either of the shots. Even though Hatakeyama’s image is far more refined and encapsulates a finer and more interesting composition and colours, what I perceive is that there are symbols (not necessarily brands) that are so stablished in our everyday life that talk by themselves, no matter how you present them to the audience. When you see his picture, you forget about the beauty of the “Slow Glass” series and think “oh, look, McDonald’s!”. It is a stone on the path, a thought you can’t avoid confronting at a first glance.
This is the reason that provoked my response. I wanted to create a different image but showing nothing new to it, because the information sent by the subject itself is so strong that the intention of re-photographing it becomes almost pointless. Both images are taking the viewer to an undetermined part of the world but they can easily guess the look of the place, the smell, what kind of food customers are buying, the feeling inside the highly branded premises… the images themselves are sending lots of subliminal information that the viewer can relate to.
When editing my image, I could have recovered most of the information from the white, blown up area that covers the name of the company however it is the “M” symbol the only element I needed to keep recognisable.
In terms of what Terry Barrett explains about the sources of information when creating an interpretation of an image, I would say that:
- The internal context (a McDonald’s store at night) is the main element I have given response to. Hatakeyama’s picture gives more information about the location and therefore it is easier to draw a more detailed idea of the place itself. My image focuses solely on the store, avoiding any other information, apart from the time of the day/night. The store I photographed was also situated beside the road (a busy one) and a change in viewpoint wasn’t possible with the lens used. Therefore, I have answered only to one aspect of the internal context which is the main recognisable subject on the image.
- The external context (information surrounding the image) would relate to the physical position of the image, wether printed, exhibited, published online… I believe that since Slow Glass has been published as a photobook, exhibited in galleries and it can also be found published online in art related websites, the external context of his image has much more to offer than mine, published on a student online log. Whoever comes across for example, the book “Slow Glass: Naoya Hatakeyama” would also see the picture as part of a series, nicely printed in a high quality publication, which would automatically reinforce and validate the importance of the piece. This would also influence the internal context, elevating something mundane to an image that worths considering as a work of art.
- The original context (how the picture was made), which was the main reason why I was shooting that night. I did not plan to emulate Hatakeyama’s style; I was working on my own project which started shooting in the woods with day light. The technique is different, yet there is some resemblance in the aesthetics. Hatakeyama focuses on the water drops that cover the glass, leaving the background out of focus while I manually focus on the subject to then place a textured glass over the lens. The original context is therefore very different if looked at it in depth, however, thinking of it in a simpler way, both have taken the shot by placing an object between the scene and the camera, so not sure how to judge this one. I guess it is only a matter of perception.
I have found the text “Photographs and Context” by Terry Barrett extremely useful and well explained. Reflecting on this text and the interview with Quentin Bajac by Philip Gefter on page 105 of the course materials, I have noticed that so far intention vs perception and the context in which an image is found determine the viewpoint. Both perception or intention generate the internal and original context, with the interpretations of the internal context being more dependant on the viewers own perceptions and believes. The external context however, could be controlled by the artist to achieve certain reaction or perception from the audience. This reminded me of one of the chats with my tutor where he explained me about the importance of thinking about how to exhibit your work (format, place, size, adding music, video, text…). I
Aperture Foundation NY. (2017). View from a Judgment Seat – Aperture Foundation NY. [online] Available at: https://aperture.org/blog/view-judgment-seat-quentin-bajac-conversation-philip-gefter/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].
LAGalerie (2017). hatakeyama slow glass. [online] Lagalerie.de. Available at: http://www.lagalerie.de/hatakeyama7.html [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].
Terrybarrettosu.com. (2017). Photographs and Context [online] Available at: http://terrybarrettosu.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/B_PhotAndCont_97.pdf [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].