Project 2. Lens work.

Do some research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project. 

Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes described in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took this photograph isn´t important: find a photo with a depth of field that fits the code you´ve selected. The ability of photographers to adapt to a range of usages is something we´ll return to later in the course. 

Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you have re-imagined your photograph. 

From the authors mentioned in this section, I have selected two photographers who´s work on landscape photography is radically different.

Firstly, I have researched the work of Kim Kirkpatrick, an American photographer from Washington D.C who produces his images in this same area ( I love how this resonates to the Square Mile assignment).

A very shallow depth of field was used on his early work and shows his intention of capturing the beauty of “unnoticed elements”. With an exquisite care put on composing each image, the soft areas on the background interact with the sharp subject, framing it and enhancing its presence.

Kim Kirkpatrick´s early work
Kim Kirkpatrick´s early work

Looking at his current work, the differences and progression seems to follow a purpose. It feels more personal. His images maintain the same crop and distinctive style and his love for bringing awareness of overlooked objects and scenes is constantly present.

The depth of field looses that extreme level shown on earlier photographs, introducing the viewer to a broader view of the area. Therefore, there is a greater integration of his subjects in their surroundings as opposed as using the background to isolate the focal point of the image.

It presents the viewer with a more realistic idea of what he sees and points at the importance of representing the colours and atmosphere as he perceives them.

There is a particular interest in capturing the landscape in great detail and uses a large format camera for his recent work, taking various minutes to produce an 8 x 10 negative. As Kirkpatrick recognizes himself, his work is not everyones preference and still he shows passion for what he does. I appreciate how warm and personal his work feels to me how carefully crafted despite seeking beauty where others would not see it. Also the not-so-obvious compositions on his most recent photographs and the dedication to a specific story told through images in a specific area makes his work one to admire.

 

The other photographer I would like to comment on is Ansel Adams. Born in San Francisco, California in 1902, he was actively involved in Environmental movements and as Kirkpatrick, his work explores the beauty found in nature through landscape photography.

ansel-adams-landscape-photography-tetons-and-the-snake-river-1942
Ansel Adams.Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

Adams´s  approach and aesthetics are radically different from Kirkpatrick. His landscape style seems aimed to show the greatness of monumental forms of nature, capturing impressive images of waterfalls, mountains, deep valleys and natural parks. His images show either a high or low viewpoint combined with a very deep depth of field: canyons and waterfalls seem to elevate themselves from a ground view showing their magnificence and the horizon expands in front of the eyes when contemplating rivers, valleys and mountains.

His images are distinctive and skillful. It represents the kind of landscape photography that would appeal the public and would be sold on a postcard. However, it feels less personal than Kirkpatrick´s work. Creating the kind of images Adams does would certainly require discipline, knowledge and amazing technical skills, but how challenging is it to look for beauty among beautiful things? In my opinion, Kirkpatrick´s take on the mundane demands a greater consideration of the subject and a different kind of love.

 

My photography archive

I have selected a couple of images from my personal archive to illustrate the two techniques mentioned in the course materials for Project 2:

Image 1 shows a very shallow depth of field. It is not a technique that I would normally choose but it was intentionally chosen in this particular case. This photograph was taken as part of a newborn photoshoot and I wanted to capture the baby features that disappear soon after the first couple of weeks. By using a shallow depth of field these features are made more noticeable, isolating them from the rest of the scene.

Image 2 has a very soft overall feeling, with just a very narrow area of the bird on focus. There was no particular intention in use of depth of field here apart from feeling it was the obvious thing to do in this kind of shot. Now, I would have put more care on getting the whole subject in focus by slightly lowering my aperture or stepping back and recomposing the image.

 

Image 3 and Image 4 show a deeper depth of field. Image 3 was recently taken at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the intention was to capture the whole installation locating it in its surroundings. The depth of field came determined by the focal length used and the distance to my subject rather than by personal election. However, reflecting now on the course materials and my own research, I would have definitely given this mater a thought and use the aperture more carefully to make sure I can capture as much detail as possible from the background.

I had a similar intention on Image 4. As the sun was going down, I wanted to capture the light glowing from behind the houses and somehow integrate the woman on the balcony with the rest of the scene.

 

Resources:

-Kim Kirkpatrick´s Portfolio. Online resource.

-Gazzette.net Archive. Karen Schaffer, June 13, 2001. Photographer trespasses into our real world. Online resource.

-The Ansel Adams Gallery. Online resource.

– Gerry Badger, 2007. The Genius of Photography. How photography has changed our lives. Quadrille publishing Limited, p. 134-135.

On Thomas Ruff´s JPEGs series.

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer born in 1958. For his series called JPEGs he created compressed enlargements of images gathered on the internet, exploring the form in which photographs are stored and reproduced in the digital era.

We are asked to read two reviews of his work and write a short essay on the opinion of both authors (David Campany and Joerg Colberg).

Thomas Ruff, 2009. Ed. Aperture.

In David Campany´s view, Ruff´s series offers both aesthetic and intellectual pleasures, seeing each of the images unique but only in comparison with the others on the series. He also appreciates a connection between the way pixels are shown on JPEGs and a grid-like compositions on other artist´s work such as Andy Warhol´s screenprints or the geometric sculptures of Donald Judd. Moreover, he comments on how Ruff may have collected his images (mainly from the internet and his own), comparing the way photographs are digitalized and stored nowadays with the new concept of photography archives.

Campany sees an intention on Ruff´s work to contain the unpredictable (smoke, water, fire…) within the coldness and patterned repetition of the pixel, and identifies certain irony in how the use of the pixel is enhanced in the series while the pixel itself holds a negative value as opposed as the grain had in film photography.

On the other hand, Colberg does not appreciate any intention on Ruff´s JPEGs rather than the obvious representation of the digital format and the changing role of photography. He sees the beauty in the images but considers the concept behind them is poor, and even points out that the large scale used by Ruff to exhibit his work at the Zwirner Gallery is more a matter of business than an attempt to communicate or engage with the viewer.

Overall, JPEGs is a controversial piece. At the time that I consider the work meaningful for the author and can see his intention to communicate the idea of new concepts and changes in photography, I also see a point on Colberg´s opinion. A first look at the series made me think of images from the very first webcams and digital cameras. Nowadays, technology has improved in a way it seemed imaginable then and the concept of the pixel has a weaker presence. In some way, Ruff´s work is a journey back to that time when pixelated images where not only found online but also produced by our own cameras and also printed that way, showing the grid Campany seems to appreciate so much.

 

Resources:

David Campany, 2008. Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel. Ian Magazine, no2, 2008.

Joerg Colberg, 2009. Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. Contientious, archives, 17th April, 2009.

Tate museum, Art and Artists Archive, online resource.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)

Self Portrait, 1918
Self Portrait, 1918

Born in Hungary in 1895, this polifacetic artist became an important figure of the German art school Bauhaus, where he was a professor. Moholy explored a number of art disciplines (including Architecture, Graphic design, Painting, Filmmaking, Sculpture, Photography and Writing) from a very innovative perspective, integrating new technologies and experimenting with materials with the aim of creating “useful art”.

He claimed Photography as the medium of the future and experimented with the various ways images can be perceived, evolving hand by hand with new techniques. Like this, he worked with light sensitive paper to create images following the principles of Photography but omitting the use of the camera itself. These “photograms” are intriguing. The way common objects are rendered against the photosensitive paper creates silhouettes that remind me of radiographies, however projecting the outside form rather than the inside of the object.

 

His graphic design style has a remarkable influence from Constructivism and Cubism, showing geometric and abstract work also characteristic of his school. This interest in shapes and lines reflects also in his photographs.

 

In them, Moholy plays with unusual view points and cropping. He presents lines and shapes as an integrated part of our surroundings and creates interesting compositions with a clever use of empty space and shadows. As a result, I find his images are strong, aesthetically pleasant and have a very modern approach.

 

I personally like the way he integrated typography in his designs and how his bold graphic pieces relate to his photographic work. Also the architectural references throughout his Photography and use of perspective and lines are a great source of inspiration for my Assignment 2.

 

Resources: