Assignment 5: Final Version

Note: This ‘final version’ of assignment four includes additional work and changes based on tutor feedback.

Initial project proposal
I sent the following project brief to my tutor before starting the project:

I’d like to use this assignment as an exploration of unnoticed, un-photographed but essential elements of our man-altered landscape. I’d like to try and continue the adage of the New Topographic movement in the modern day in which every detail is documented. I plan on documenting the undersides of bridges, street-side bins and bus shelters. I’d like to show how man-made structures with the same purpose can differ.

In particular, I had this idea when listening to the words of Lewis Baltz. His photography captured, “material that people filtered out” and “things that were marginalised … things that were off of the scene, that were never observed, were never spoken about because they were so ordinary and quotidian, because they were so commonplace.”.

I will be using my local county of Sussex, which includes a variety of different environments within a relatively accessible distance. I can choose from Chichester to Brighton and up to Horsham.

I will be exploring urban spaces on foot and more rural locations in my car. I will use the internet -in particular, Google Maps- to scout out locations and how to access them. Aside from some bridges, everywhere I shoot will be publicly accessible.

I’d like to explore the commonalities and differences in man-made structures that share the same purpose.

My tutor responded, Your proposal is fine, I’m intrigued to see how you get on.

The Bechers
The idea for this assignment grew from my appreciation of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s work in the New Topographic movement. I spoke about them in detail during Assignment 4.

A comment in the Guardian stood out to me during my earlier research into the couple. “The Bechers approached photography the way a botanist might approach the cataloguing of flora and fauna.” (O’Hagan, 2014) When I began the ‘Landscape’ unit, I was under the impression that the format of the work would be exclusively rural and classic. Discovering the Bechers widened my eyes to the extent of what landscape photography could encompass. Their work is so unusual within the genre and that distancing and uniqueness really appealed to my own creativity.

As part of the New Topographic movement in the 1970s, the Bechers explored the effect of man on nature through photographs of urban development. In particular, they shot the industrial architecture that was popping up across the previously empty natural landscape.

The Bechers approached this work using typology, the collation of multiple singular subjects within a single set of photographs. Their impact lies within “[prompting] us to pause to reflect on similarities and subtle differences” (Photographic Typologies: The Study of Types, 2012) in similar buildings, items, places etc. “Typologies not only recorded a moment in time, they prompted the viewer to consider the subject’s place in the world.” (Photographic Typologies: The Study of Types, 2012) For the Bechers in 20th Century America, this meant subjects like the water towers and gas tanks that were increasingly common across the country.

Gas Tanks 1965?2009 Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher 1931-2007, 1934-2015 Purchased with funds provided by Tate International Council, the Photography Acquisitions Committee, Tate Members and Tate Patrons 2015 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P81237
(Becher, 1965)

Water Towers 1972?2009 Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher 1931-2007, 1934-2015 Purchased with funds provided by Tate International Council, the Photography Acquisitions Committee, Tate Members and Tate Patrons 2015 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P81238
(Becher, 1972)

Interestingly, whilst the Bechers had a number of photographers as students of their school, ‘Kunstakademie Dusseldorf’ none of them continued with that typology approach.“Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, Axel Hutte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth modified the approach of their teachers by applying new technical possibilities and a personal and contemporary vision, while retaining the documentary method their tutors propounded.” (Dusseldorf School of Photography, n.d.) In fact, whilst the Bechers “defined a style [that] made them one of the most dominant influences in contemporary European photography and art” (O’Hagan, 2014) in the 20th Century, the use of ‘typology’ has been largely forgotten. There are however, still a handful of photographers who use the format today.

One of those is American photographer Jeff Brouws who has in his own words, “compiled a visual survey of America’s evolving rural, urban and suburban cultural landscapes … compiling typologies to index the nation’s character.” (Brouws, n.d.) In his typological work, ‘Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations’ Brouws copies the idea of (another New Topographic member) Ed Ruscha in capturing these structures across America. The two works “share an aesthetic sensibility in the way both artists employ a deadpan, neutral gaze”. (Jeff Brouws Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations, 2016)

tags-8
(Brouws, 1992)

Another example is Oxford-based Steve Tyler who has used typology outside landscapes. He instead photographs typologies of ‘Mass Consumption’; discarded cigarettes, can openers and crumpled receipts to name a few.

cap-final-copy_o
(Tyler, 2012)

What is unseen anymore?
The world in the 21st Century is vastly different from the 20th- with the proliferation of mobile phones with cameras and social media. Every aspect of life is recorded and documented. Kait Williamson of Georgetown University states, “Today, many use photography as an obsession and norm of documentation” (Silverman, 2015) which can be seen en masse on applications such as Instagram and Facebook. In the Guardian, Jacob Silverman writes, “The cultural premium now placed on recording and broadcasting one’s life … means that Facebook timelines are suffused with postings about meals, workouts, the weather, recent purchases [etc].” (Williamson, 2014)

To say that that every single item and experience in the world has been documented by photography is no-longer an overstatement. Silverman sums up the thinking behind this all-encompassing documentation as, “what matters is not so much the content of your updates but their existing at all.” (Williamson, 2014) As such, when I began to consider what the modern equivalent of the Becher’s new frontier of photography would be, I struggled. I asked myself “What is not photographed?”

After a lot of thought, I settled on the topic of infrastructure, specifically public bins, bus shelters and the undersides of bridges; their supports. I noticed that generally these weren’t recorded, perhaps because our interaction with them is so different than the more positive elements of life that generally people want to express.

Form Follows Function
‘Form follows function’ is a principle that was developed in the 20th Century to express how architectural design should work. This meant that the design of a building or structure should first and foremost reflect its intended use. ‘Form’ was far less important.

As society has modernised so has architecture with it. We now see more and more buildings designed with looks in mind. As we have perfected our standard blocks of structures we have moved into changing their form. These days it’s as important to focus on aesthetics as it is to cover the function of a building.

bull-ring-road
(Tsiatinis, n.d.)
25372935714_10789c9e97_c
(van Zundert, 2016)
19660003656_d99804b4eb_z
(van Zundert, 2015)

What becomes apparent when exploring the urban environment is that certain aspects of our infrastructure are given greater aesthetic importance than others. Buildings and skyscrapers offer a visual premium compared to the smaller, less-interacted-with elements of daily life. A question I found myself asking was, “does infrastructure attempt to be visually pleasing?”

When researching my topics of choice it became apparent that the things we interact with less look worse than those we see or interact with more. The bus shelters are by far the most engineered, the simple ‘box’ design built in many different ways. Our time spent around and inside these shelters give more importance to the design, which has lead to them being designed more sympathetically. On the other hand, public bins are entirely built around their limited function. As a society, we don’t interact with bins for any meaningful amount of time, which is reflected by their lack of alternate designs. Taking this further, the undersides and supports for road bridges are purely mechanical and seperate from our use above.

It is our interaction and the amount of it that dictates design in the modern day. Whilst road bridges are generally concrete blocks on supports, pedestrian bridges are increasingly more design-lead.

450px-a1_appleyhead 2791028_ea2b9f8e
(A1 Appleyhead, 2012) (Dixon, 2012)


Response to Brief
At its simplest, I wish to put my own stamp on typology and in some ways ‘modernise’ the approach that the Bechers had originally. Their work was compositionally simple, monochrome and brightly lit. My work is typically long-exposure based and with the strong colouring that that brings with it. As such, I plan on using the Becher ‘framework’ of infrastructure topography whilst shooting with my typical style.

Whilst the Bechers photographed large industrial buildings, I’ve chosen to focus on the smaller, more integrated parts of infrastructure.

I’m hoping that the outcome will be a sense that topography can work in the 21st century and that it won’t seem so unusual in print.

My work would exist in a gallery space and likely be seen by the average visitor to that type of establishment. I’m not sure that the work is original or interesting enough to draw more of a specialist crowd than that. I think that, in terms of mindset, I’d be looking to advertise my work to millennials, particularly those who generally document their lives through Instagram etc, as I mentioned earlier.

Planning Photographs
In terms of the treatment, I will be using different equipment depending on the subject as I’m aware some will be closer or further from me and some will be lit quite differently. For the bridges at night, a mix of a 55mm and a 21mm will be used depending on how close I can get to them. For the bins, I am confident of where I can stand to photograph them, so I will exclusively rely on the 55mm. For the bus stops in the daytime, a 24-70mm zoom should allow me to shoot regardless of situation. In addition, for the night photography I will use a tripod to steady the shots.

My budget needs only to cover any petrol I’ll need- likely one single refill which would cost approximately £35. I won’t incur any costs in presenting the work as it will be entirely digital.

I have done extensive research into finding each subject and mapping them into the best routes possible for me to complete each set.

I’m unsure about the lack of creativity that may show though if I rigidly stick to the classic Becher format of documentation; of all subjects from the same angle. I won’t be sure of how much of a problem this would be until putting the sets together after having taken the photographs.

Reading about the ‘White Cube’ earlier in the unit reinforced it as my favourite way to present photographs. The absolute core of this work is my variation on the Becher’s original work. With so much of this assignment being based on their work, how better to present the topography than to emulate their presentation. This means approaching it from ‘the white cube’ and laying out the sets separately in grids.

01_bernd-and-hilla-becher
(White, 2014)

Contact sheets
Still not totally sure of how I wanted the bus shelter set to look when finished, I made sure to take each subject from multiple angles. This gave me more options in post than I’ve had during previous assignments.

Taking my tutor’s previous advice about restricting myself less, I decided to take multiple angles of each subject. The Bechers did in fact occasionally photograph from different angles but these shots aren’t nearly as distinctive or well known. I found that the alternate angles I went for didn’t work well visually- perhaps because they seem less ‘typical’.

contactbins contactbridges contactbus

Artist’s statement
Anxiety, stress, depression. I never had an escape from myself until I bought my first camera. What began as an occasional hobby has become an integral part of my life- I explore the world through my camera, with which I have the most unusual experiences and adventures. My night-time long-exposure photography lets me capture the night as clear as day and often gives a unique perspective on scenes seen many times before.

In this set, titled “Becher’s Belief” I’ve begun to think about how my personal voice can develop when considering the work of other practitioners. Using the New Topographic photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher as a template, I have put my stamp on the banality of some of our modern-day infrastructure.

Becher’s Belief
Here are the completed sets:

Bins
fotojet-collage

Bridge Undersides

fotojet-collage2

Bus Shelters

fotojet-collage3
Each singular shot can be found in greater detail here.

Analysis
It’s impossible to assess the sets I’ve taken without direct comparison to the original work of the Bechers. Whilst I’ve piggy-backed on their ideas and made a general ‘modern’ take on their ideas, I can’t help but realise that my sets are a poor facsimile. To compare something so important and defining as their work to my own vague variant seems almost distasteful. I have succeeded in what I set out to, but the sets feel empty without the important artistic heft of the originals.

“What if those things you declare as unseen are unseen?” my tutor asked. To experiment, I decreased the exposure from a handful of my shots in an attempt to ‘remove’ my subjects from their scenary. The changes just didn’t work however, as important visual information and definition is lost. The point is made – the subjects are more hidden – but I don’t feel that they accurately portray my visual identity.

I’d hazard  a guess that the shots can be looked at more favourably within a gallery context; the overall theme taking some of the weight that the singular shots can’t carry.

The bridge set works best because visually they are the closest to the originals. The subjects in their locations contain less background noise and are more akin to the stand-alone structures that the Bechers photographed.

Initially I felt that my interest and comfort in night photography would make a difference to some of the work; the lighting and colour differences giving my versions their ‘stamp’. Instead the time of day feels unnecessary and doesn’t give any real extra meaning or personal context. I wonder if they would look less out of place if I had made the Bus Shelter set in colour rather than monochrome. These Bins now look out of place in a overarching piece of work that should show differences in similarities. I’ve missed the mark there.

My tutor questioned whether other elements of the scenes were unseen. I began to think about the wider context of these singular pieces of infrastructure. It became apparent that I had photographed these places in a way that belied their use altogether. There is no sign of buses, timetables, passengers, people waiting, rubbish in or besides the bins, nor of the cars above the bridges. As such, these photographs have lost much of their context within the wider environment- their uses are unseen.

Evaluation
I was disappointed when I found that many of the bins were so similar. Originally I had imagined that whilst they all look the same, their immediate environment would differ. If I were completing the assignment again, I’d spread myself out more; learn the dates of bin collection to capture some overflowing and cast a wider net in terms of the area I shot in.

I took my shots of the bridges on two separate occasions and whilst the natural ambient lighting was the same, my ability to interact with the scenes changed from one outing to another. On the first, I was able to light the bridges with a torch. What I found with my second set was that the roads were too busy to light without causing trouble for drivers. This has lead to some of the shots not quite matching in terms of lighting. I would attempt to capture the second set at a much later time and avoid any traffic.

References
A1 Appleyhead. (2012). [image] Available at: http://www.steelconstruction.info/File:A1_Appleyhead.jpg [Accessed 25 Jan. 2017].

Becher, B. (1965). Gas Tanks 1965–2009. [image] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-gas-tanks-p81237 [Accessed 8 Feb. 2017].

Becher, B. (1972). Water Towers, 1972-2009. [image] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-water-towers-p81238 [Accessed 8 Feb. 2017].

Brouws, J. (n.d.). About [online] Jeff Brouws. Available at: http://www.jeffbrouws.com/about/main.html [Accessed 10 Jan. 2017].

Brouws, J. (1992). Twentysix Abandoned Gas Stations. [image] Available at: http://www.jeffbrouws.com/series/images/tags1/TAGS-8.jpg [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Dixon, D. (2012). The Merchant’s Bridge at Castlefield. [image] Available at: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2791028 [Accessed 11 Feb. 2017].

Dusseldorf School of Photography. (n.d.). [online] Tate. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/d/dusseldorf-school-of-photography [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017].

Jeff Brouws Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations. (2016). [online] Landscape Stories. Available at: http://www.landscapestories.net/issue-24/ls_24-040-jeff-brouws?lang=en [Accessed 1 Feb. 2017].

O’Hagan, S. (2014). Lost world: Bernd and Hilla Becher’s legendary industrial photographs. [online] theguardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/03/bernd-and-hilla-becher-cataloguing-the-ominous-sculptural-forms-of-industrial-architecture [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017].

Photographic Typologies: The Study of Types. (2012). [online] Redbubble. Available at: http://blog.redbubble.com/2012/04/photographic-typologies-the-study-of-types/ [Accessed 4 Feb. 2017].

Silverman, J. (2015). ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ – the mantra of the Instagram era. [online] theguardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/26/pics-or-it-didnt-happen-mantra-instagram-era-facebook-twitter [Accessed 28 Jan. 2017].

Tsiatinis, N. (n.d.). Light trails outside Selfridges at the Birmingham Bullring. [image] Available at: http://www.nickt.co.uk/naturalworld/index.php/2011/09/17/night-time-cityscapes-at-the-birmingham-bullring-and-city-hall/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2017].

Tyler, S. (2012). Typologies of Mass Consumption. [image] Available at: http://payload36.cargocollective.com/1/6/217485/3028307/Cap%20Final%20Copy_o.jpg [Accessed 14 Feb. 2017].

van Zundert, T. (2015). Hold Your Colour. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timvz/19660003656/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2017].

van Zundert, T. (2016). The Canopy Under The Canopy. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timvz/25372935714/ [Accessed 13 Feb. 2017].

White, S. (2014). Gallery shot of Becher exhibition. [image] Available at: http://www.wallpaper.com/art/photographers-bernd-and-hilla-bechers-iconic-industrial-scenes-go-on-show-at-sprth-magers-london [Accessed 21 Feb. 2017].

Williamson, K. (2014). Photography and Social Index: Documentation Obsession and Progressive Themes. [online] gnovis. Available at: http://www.gnovisjournal.org/2014/04/17/photography-and-social-index-documentation-obsession-and-progressive-themes/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2017]

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Assignment 4: Final Version

Note: This ‘final version’ of assignment four includes additional work and changes based on tutor feedback.

A debate about the role of the New Topographic movement in moving away from established landscape traditions.

“This was not a movement … it’s very easy to believe that first there was a group of people who said, “Yes, we are the New Topographers-”
“-Down with Ansel Adams!-”
“-Let’s put on a show. And it didn’t work that way at all. It was a reflection of something much larger that was going on amongst a much larger group of people.”

The New Topographics eschewed the established trappings of the landscape genre and explored the social aspects of less traditional places. Landscape photography has always changed focus as new photographers and groups have approached it and it is up for debate if the New Topographic movement had a role in moving photography more generally away from the established landscape traditions.

The trajectory of landscape practice needs to be considered within the history of photography. Without the New Topographics, the genre would have undoubtedly changed with time, but not necessarily into what it is today.

Prior to the impact of the New Topographic approach in the 1970s, landscape photography was an extension of classic landscape painting going back centuries. The word ‘landscape’ is derived from the Dutch, ‘landschap’ meaning “a patch of ground”. (Visual-arts-cork.com, 2016) In the 16th Century, this meant a painting or drawing which portrayed a scenic view. Two years after the influential artists Constable and Turner began to use landscapes as their focus, the first photographic movement was formed. Known as ‘pictorial photography’, the genre concentrated on the mood and affect that photography could evoke. (Callow, 2016) The technology in cameras was very basic and didn’t allow the photographers to adapt their work. The mindset at the time was to emulate landscape paintings or drawings which meant using print manipulation to look less like a photograph.

The first solely photographic exhibition took place in 1852 (Baldwin et al., 2004) in London, arranged by the Society of Arts. It featured over four hundred photographs from seventy-six photographers. The purpose of the show was to highlight how photography could be artistic rather than simply functional in a commercial sense. An issue that photography had was that the medium was not regarded as art but instead seen as simple and mechanical.

This way of thinking was challenged in 1889 when Dr. Peter Henry Emerson expounded a more natural photographic take on landscapes in which photography was treated independently from painting. Following on from this, in the early 20th Century Alfred Stieglitz challenged the 19th Century status quo of emulating painted art. Stieglitz felt that photography should focus on what the technology could capture but from a personal view.

‘The Sublime’ has been a key focus of landscape photography since it began. Called “major expressions” by Rod Giblett (Giblett, 2009), a focus on picturesque and sublime vistas kept the genre at an artistic stand-still. The Sublime moves beyond mere beauty and aims to evoke strong emotional responses from the viewer. Mixed with these approaches was the intent of creating escapist imagery that didn’t reflect the reality of human life, with most photographs lacking even a hint of human influence.

Whilst the sublime photography of the 19th century was mostly European, the 20th century saw the increasing influence of American culture on landscape expression. One of the most influential American photographers was Ansel Adams. Adams was a member of the ‘F64’, the first group to eschew the traditions of pictorial photography and instead use technique and technology to focus on detail and sharpness. Interestingly, the principle of this movement was that “the camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh” (Weston, 1924) although Adams himself ignored the less tasteful aspects of life. Whilst he aided photography separating from other art forms, his work still portrayed landscapes in the same conventional, sublime way. At a discussion on the New Topographics, Frank Gohlke said that Adams, “represented a strain in American art that goes back to 19th century landscape painting and it’s pretty undiluted.” (NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now, 2010)

The exhibition, ‘New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape’ took place in New York in 1975 to a negative response from a disinterested audience. (O’Hagan, 2010) This new slant on landscape photography encompassed the work of a handful of predominantly American artists who focused on urban spaces and man’s influence on the environment. In the Guardian, Sean O’Hagan described the movement as “a reaction to the tyranny of idealised landscape photography.” (O’Hagan, 2010) Their work occupied a space between conceptual art and documentary photography. The photography centered almost exclusively on the urban environment, where man-made structures overtook the need to shoot the natural picturesque. (Gosney, 2013) Fosco Lucarelli referred to their work as a plain unemotional documentation of the way man has come to alter [nature].” (Lucarelli, 2015) Jan Tumlir of X-Tra Magazine considered that no other show had made such an impact on the rest of contemporary art, “from Conceptual art to “identity politics” to the return of the tableau picture form”. (Tumlir, 2010)

This new approach to landscapes depended far less on the individual image and instead found meaning within a wider context. No single shot was more important than another. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009) Landscapes had for so long been monopolised by depictions of grandeur and majesty and this was now challenged, paving the way for this tradition to be toppled. (NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now, 2010) Part of the exploration of these new types of landscapes was to ascertain what a photograph could be and what could be photographed.

It wasn’t only the subjects that changed, but also how they were photographed. In terms of composition, traditionally landscape photographs always included the horizon, generally in the center of the frame. Some chose to remove this aspect completely. (Gosney, 2013)

The commonalities of established practice pushed the New Topographics towards topography rather than “another art movement or aesthetic principle.” (Gosney, 2013) The historical and scientific elements of this movement were key to distancing them from tradition.

The basis of the work was much more about human values than beauty (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009). The attempt to alter a photograph into something more painterly had been done before by many photographers. (Tumlir, 2010) Rather than romanticising landscapes they didn’t want to change anything, instead photographing their reality. (SFMOMA, 2016) William Jenkins expressed that the likes of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston portrayed America in a narrow and overly-romanticised way. (Gosney, 2013) The photographic fraternity responded negatively to this, criticising the Becher’s work as, “boring, old-fashioned or documentary [photography] only”. (SFMOMA, 2016)

What interested the photographers in the original show was using landscapes as a reflection of culture. They found the basis of Adams’ work to be objectionable; the photographs didn’t invite the viewer to see what was really there. His work was escapism for the viewer, reflecting the landscape as grand and uplifting, which wasn’t reality. (NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now, 2010) In response to this kind of work, the New Topographics photography was “unemphatic and undramatic and anti-heroic”, (NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now, 2010) in other words, true to life. Focusing on how human progress had changed landscapes was a rallying call for the movement. Highlighting social issues and the connection between people and the landscape was as important as the views themselves. (Gosney, 2013)

Many of the photographs seem empty at first glance but hold more meaning when studied in detail. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009)

For the Becher’s, photographing water towers was the most enjoyable and represented function over form, of adaption to a situation over design. In exploring these towers and other elements of infrastructure, they found repeating patterns in structures with slight differences. This lead Hilla Becher to the idea of typology to present these similarities and distinctions. (SFMOMA, 2016)

Lewis Baltz refers the undocumented elements of human life “invisible … simply material that people filtered out.” In his own work he strove to differentiate himself even from the other New Topographics, seeking to be as objective as possible by not adopting a style or a point of view. He wanted his work to look as if “anyone could do it”, just wanting to record what was in front of the camera without judgement. Being a ‘photographer’ was not his aim, never feeling he had a role in art history. (Baltz, 2012)

adams_the_tetons_and_the_snake_river
(The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942)

newtopographics
(Mobile Homes, Jefferson County, Colorado, 1973)

Finding a New Topographics photograph that shared similarities with an Ansel Adams shot was difficult. I settled on ‘Mobile Homes’ by Robert Adams and Ansel Adams’ ‘The Tetons and the Snake River’. ‘Mobile Homes’ is the banal, urban contrast to ‘The Tetons’; both use a backdrop of mountains and skies that are quite dominant.

The similarities don’t go much further than skin-deep though. ‘The Tetons’ shows a breadth of nature that is unusual in the world; the mix of hills, mountains, rivers and trees is an escapist, painterly vision that’s true to tradition. The horizon line in ‘Mobile Homes’ breaks with traditions, placed halfway through the frame and the composition unusual in cropping the corner of the closest ‘home.

Ansel Adams captures a dramatic shot of strong, sharp shapes with deep tones that accentuates the presence of the mountains and hills. In contrast, Robert Adams captures a ‘flat’, ‘dull’ scene which is far more realistic and subdued.

The range of tones are better captured in ‘The Tetons’ where the light and shadows are captured without blown-out highlights or all-black shadows. ‘Mobile Homes’ overexposes the whites of the titular mobile homes which puts emphasis on how unnatural they are within the environment. Personally, the overexposure appeals- the contrast of the harsh white against the differing greys imbues the image with a hostility and dull emptiness that gives the scene more meaning.

In terms of viewer preference, it’s a case of “landscape or life?”, a choice of “the natural and spiritual versus the urban and the populous.” (Searle, 2002)

New Topographic photographer Frank Gohlke considered that the exhibition wasn’t particularly groundbreaking as studies of other aspects of life; geography, art history, literature etc. had been considering similar ideas since the 1950s. (B. Buntin, 2016) Dmitry Kiyan agreed, commenting that, “this movement would not exist without those who headed its beginnings decades ago.” (MISRACH, 2006)

Writer and photographer Deborah Bright has written extensively about the New Topographics and does not have as high an opinion about them as most. Of Bright, Kelly Davis writes that she accused the group of “neglecting to articulate a clear social critique.” (Davis, 2005)

Looking back, the Museum für Photographie finds that the New Topographics had worldwide influence on photography as a presentation of culture, far more than what was attributed to them at the time. (Photomuseum.de, 2015) On the other hand, a New Topographic photographer believes that the exhibition has “accrued meaning” as time has gone by and has been recontextualised within art history. (NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now, 2010)

With the proliferation of camera technology to the masses in smartphones and inexpensive digital cameras, every aspect of human life is now documented. I believe this is a natural progression from the shift in thinking that the New Topographics began. Whereas they laid the groundwork of social awareness in photography through more banal elements of human life, millennials use apps like ‘Instagram’ to document small details of their lives. What began as urban expansion into the traditional landscape has become commercialism, from food to fashion.

Whilst photography and painting had vied for supremacy of the art world for years they no longer do in the modern day, instead attempting to gain a fair share of the gallery space. (Tumlir, 2010)

I’ve never been enamoured by traditional landscape photography- the unrealistic, overly romanticised and ‘empty’ (lacking in human presence) scenes have never resonated with how I view the world. I do photograph the picturesque and beautiful, but with -what I now realise to be- a New Topographic frame of mind. I take photographs of places and spaces that mean something within the context of my life. Whilst the New Topographics encompassed their documentation of urban life entirely within their photographs, I use descriptive text alongside my work to share my particular response and experience.

12069234666_8849a30ce3_h(Star Sails Three, 2014)

This photograph is a useful example of my general artistic bent. In the previous assignment I spoke about my connection with this particular place; it has social and emotional elements that aren’t apparent from the scene alone. I set out to take a photograph that would be pleasing to the eye but would also be personal and have greater context. As such, I see myself as a product of New Topographic and Sublime thinking, where both approaches inform my artistic approach.

The evidence suggests that the New Topographics played a major role in shifting the focus of landscape photography from the traditional sublime to the socially inspired. Whilst changes in reactions to man’s role within landscapes were occurring in other aspects of society, it was the New Topographics that utilised this new thinking in photography. That’s not to say that the sublime has been forgotten, rather that the breadth of landscape photography has widened dramatically from that picturesque tradition.

Landscapes have and always will change with time and were in flux long before the New Topographics made their mark. From imitating other art forms to embracing new technologies, photography has always moved with the times. As a modern-day photographer, my work would not be the same without the full history of landscape practice behind me. My point-of-view has always been as an individual with personal reactions photographing the personal picturesque.

Word count

Without quotes: 1964
With quotes: 2108

Bibliography

Buntin, S. (2016). Interview with Frank Gohlke • Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments. [online] Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments. Available at: http://www.terrain.org/2011/interviews/frank-gohlke/ [Accessed 9 Dec. 2016].

Baldwin, G., Daniel, M., Greenough, S. and Fenton, R. (2004). All the mighty world. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, p.268.

Callow, R. (2016). Landscape Photography – The History & Definition of Landscape Photography. [online] Bright Hub. Available at: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/articles/40595.aspx [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Davis, K. (2005). NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: “Landscape and the West – Irony and Critique in New Topographic Photography” (2005) | #ASX. [online] AMERICAN SUBURB X. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2012/05/new-topographics-landscape-and-the-west-irony-and-critique-in-new-topographic-photography-2005.html [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].

Giblett, R. (2009). Landscapes of culture and nature. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.89-105.

Gosney, K. (2013). New Topographics – A Short History. [online] Kieran Gosney. Available at: http://www.kierangosney.com/blog/new-topographics-a-short-history [Accessed 8 Dec. 2016].

Lewis Baltz. (2012). Available at: SFMOMA. (2016). Hilla and Bernd Becher invented a new genre of photography. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/watch/hilla-and-bernd-becher-invented-new-genre-photography/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2016]. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (2009). Mark Ruwedel on New Topographics. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0_UC-jLgl4 [Accessed 28 Nov. 2016].

Lucarelli, F. (2015). Absence of Style: Lewis Baltz and the New Topographics. [online] SOCKS. Available at: http://socks-studio.com/2015/10/16/absence-of-style-lewis-baltz-and-the-new-topographics/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].

MISRACH, R. (2006). Dmitry Kiyan. RICHARD MISRACH. [online] Photographer.ru. Available at: http://www.photographer.ru/cult/theory/694.htm [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Mobile Homes, Jefferson County, Colorado. (1973). [image] Available at: https://frieze.com/sites/default/files/editorial/newtopographics.gif [Accessed 20 Dec. 2016].

NEW TOPOGRAPHICS: Landscape Photography Then and Now. (2010). Available at: https://vimeo.com/11716801 [Accessed 29 Nov. 2016].

O’Hagan, S. (2010). New Topographics: photographs that find beauty in the banal. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/feb/08/new-topographics-photographs-american-landscapes [Accessed 1 Dec. 2016].

Photomuseum.de. (2015). Landschaft. Umwelt. Kultur. Über den transnationalen Einfluss der New Topographics | Museum für Photographie. [online] Available at: http://www.photomuseum.de/landschaft-umwelt-kultur-der-transnationale-einfluss-der-new-topographics/ [Accessed 17 Dec. 2016].

Searle, A. (2002). Ansel Adams at 100 / William Eggleston, Hayward Gallery, London. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/jul/09/artsfeatures [Accessed 20 Dec. 2016].

SFMOMA. (2016). Hilla and Bernd Becher invented a new genre of photography. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/watch/hilla-and-bernd-becher-invented-new-genre-photography/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2016].

Star Sails Three. (2014). [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timvz/12069234666/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2016].

The Tetons and the Snake River. (1942). [image] Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/21/Adams_The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_River.jpg [Accessed 20 Dec. 2016].

Tumlir, J. (2010) New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape. [online] Available at: http://x-traonline.org/article/new-topographics-photographs-of-a-man-altered-landscape/ [Accessed 29 Dec. 2016].

Visual-arts-cork.com. (2016). Landscape Painting: Characteristics, History. [online] Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/landscape-painting.htm [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016].

Weston, E. (1924). Quoted in Hostetler, A. (2004). Group f/64 | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [online] The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/f64/hd_f64.htm [Accessed 23 Nov. 2016].

Posted in Part Four: Landscape and identities | Leave a comment

Assignment 6: Final Version

Note: This ‘final version’ of assignment two includes additional work and changes based on tutor feedback.

I worked on this assignment over the course of around five months, from conception to completion. I was tasked with showing how photographs of a landscape at certain intervals would show a transition.

Location
I decided upon Mill Hill in nearby Shoreham-by-Sea for my scene, based on a previous shot I had taken from the same vantage point. From one of the highest points in the area, the view encompasses a number of geological and man-made features.

Planning to Execution
A detailed plan of what I planned to do is here.

I wanted to avoid the standard monthly or seasonal transition and so decided on a shorter time-frame of a handful of months. However, I assumed that this would not show enough of a change and so I opted to show the change in time of day at the same time.

My original timeline ended up being pushed back a couple of weeks to begin with. During April I was ill and this meant missing the ‘sunset’ shoot that month. This meant that the remaining shots were postponed by a fortnight, further altering the planned timings.

Morning – 9:36am – March 16th
Midday – 11:15am – March 30th
Afternoon – 15:50pm – April 12th
[illness]
Sunset – 8:20pm – May 4th
Dusk – 9:25pm – May 18th
Night – 10:30pm – June 1st
Dawn – 4:10am – June 15th
Sunrise – 4:50am – June 29th

I think that it’s important to discuss the role of planning in my work generally. As a sufferer of anxiety, it’s impossible to act like a ‘normal’ photographer and take situations as they come; to be spontaneous. Instead, I plan photographic excursions to the smallest detail. Whether it’s using Google Street View, satellite imagery or looking at the work of other photographers’, I know exactly what I am likely to find before I step out of the door. That tends to mean that I have a very clear image in my head of what a shot should look like. Often this is reflected in almost an exact final photograph.

Equipment
I used a wide-angle 21mm f/2.8 lens to capture a larger space. This also came in handy when photographing in the dark due to it’s wide maximum aperture. I used a tripod each time and set it up next to a specific fence post to try and shoot from the exact spot every time I returned.

Photographs

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To better show the changing light and time, I made a slideshow of the final images:

slideshow

Reflections

My tutor bought up the fact that I had not mentioned Lancing College, which can be seen in the landscape. At the very start of the unit, when my knowledge of the subject was minimal, this whole area was one of few I could think of that was easily accessible. As such, the college just happens to be there. It wasn’t particularly integral to my thinking at the time and I don’t know now if it does make much of an impression on the landscape (besides at night time when the artificial light highlights its presence. During the day, I believe that the college blends in nicely with the surroundings; the short stretch of road in the foreground looks far more out of place.

There were more seasonal changes than I had expected over the course of the set. Grass and other foliage grows, the water levels of the river change and agricultural production takes place. At night lights turn on and car lights are visible.

What I found most interesting was the affirmation I found when putting the final images together in a set. The daylight shots simply didn’t stand out to me in any meaningful way, instead seeming ‘typical’ and nondescript. In contrast, the night holds so much interest for me from the settings and thought that goes into getting the light just right to the dark shadows and brighter colours that appear without the sun.

Unfortunately, whilst the transition between day and night is quite stark in the final shots, the loss of clarity and detail at night is quite extreme. There isn’t much ambient lighting at night in this area which meant doing a lot of post-processing to make the sixth (night-time) remotely passable. Perhaps a shorter day/night cycle would have worked better; starting at dawn and ending at dusk..

If I could start again, I would do a lot differently. When I look back on my planning I stated, “Whilst not finding a particular interest in landscapes, I do enjoy using wide-angle lenses to capture as much breadth as possible in a scene.” Having not learned much about what a landscape could be until after this exercise, I had no option other than to cover a ‘classic landscape’, something I later acknowledged that I disliked. Since the beginning of this assignment I’ve found a keen interest in Becher-style man-made subjects. I would have chosen something like an electricity pylon and used the closeness of the subject to reflect changes in light over time.

Had I the knowledge I have now, I could well have chosen the very same spot to take my photographs. What I would change however would be to turn approximately 45 degrees to the left, towards the coast. I would then be capturing the A27 (seen here on Google Maps) which I could have explored more in terms of its effect on the landscape.

The problem lies in the positioning of this assignment. As the final assignment, it should reflect the learning over the course of the entire unit. Instead, it only shows off where I started. It is an assignment that feels ‘cut off’ from the rest.

Posted in Part Six: Transitions | Leave a comment

Assignment 6: Tutor Feedback and Response

Overall Comments

A submission that demonstrates how far you have come through this module. Apply what you have learned to this submission to move the results beyond the aesthetic and technical.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

It is instructive to hear your reflection at the completion of this assignment – you are able to reflect on the educational value of this assignment. Whilst you view this slightly negatively, it does point to your progression through Landscape. You are now dissatisfied with landscape photography as simply a shot of the land. You have an interest in the human impact upon land, and despite your feelings that this assignment reflects your earlier views, we are looking at a human landscape. The effects of our lights at night, behind hills on roads, the choice to illuminate some buildings over others all point to a concern with more than just the natural.

However your critique should make mention of Lancing College, surely the most prominent feature in the landscape and most pertinent feature in our understanding of these images. Why this pillar of the UK establishment? What does photographing it through the seasons say? Most critically, why have you omitted any interpretation of it?

Roshini Kempadoo, Paul Reas, John Kippin, Fay Godwin, Sammy Baloji, Mark Power, John Davies, Dan Holdsworth and Jo Spence all immediately spring to mind.

The back lit image reminds me of Bedwyr Williams recent work. Have a look at his short film on Artes Mundi.

Assignment 6 is ripe for some form of enquiry, perhaps this image could point towards some retrospective critical analysis of your archive.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

Some good reflective writing on the value of this assignment to you. Overall your writing has been eloquent and perceptive. It does still need more reference to your reading of academic works.

Suggested reading/viewing Context

See photographers above, analyse how what they have included and excluded matters

Pointers for the next assignment

Look at bringing the level of enquiry in Assignment 6 up to the level you achieved in your later submissions.

 

I was pleased with the feedback again, having felt that I hadn’t done well in the previous couple. I’ll aim to do some additional work based on this feedback.

Posted in Part Six: Transitions | Leave a comment

Assignment 5: Tutor Feedback and Response

Overall Comments

A thoughtful submission that began with some useful research but hasn’t necessarily been followed up enough. This left you in familiar territory of being unhappy with results based solely on aesthetic appeal.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Good to hear that photography is still benefiting you. Try not to be so harsh in your self critique. Setting yourself clearer and more defined targets will help your evaluation – setting yourself up against the entire Bechers’ oeuvre perhaps invites failure.

A very well written introduction to your thoughts on the assignment, your approach and your aims. There are some decent citations and some useful attempts at bringing this twentieth century method into the present day through contemporary quotes. You have worked through a series of ideas to do with photography, architecture, modernity and contemporary living. These avenues could also have been usefully explored with a camera rather than just through words.

You mention aesthetics often, yet we would want to hear the Bechers’ thoughts on this (see below), and expect you to perhaps build from there. You have perhaps overplanned your shoots a little too much, we are not seeing enough exploring with the camera if all nine bus shelters make it into the typology.

Whilst you have tried to work around the subject, you resorted to frontality in each of your typologies. You resisted the urge to follow Rusha’s example and document all the shelters on one route for example, yet this would have given you the choice, and then you would have had to decide what you were making your choices on – aesthetics or as Rusha would have it, everything. I would be looking for an extensive contact sheet as you walk and shoot with your camera.

You note Baltz’s quote, and have used it as a starting point to think of subject matter. It would have then been interesting to see you experiment around his ideas, for example, with the bins, there was the opportunity to ‘place’ the bins in the landscape, as we are so used to not seeing them you could see how far this could be pushed until they ‘disappear’, how large a crop before the bin becomes background?

Working experimentally what else in your photographs is unseen? Kerbs, railings, lampposts, steps, firedoors, brickwork… I would like to see you deconstruct your own work applying some of what Baltz said.

In the contact sheet for the bridge supports there is another pointer to experimenting – the supports are so dark as to be unseen, what if those things you declare as unseen are unseen? Either through exposure or physical removal?

You need to be moving past Guardian discussions of (particularly historical or critically acclaimed) photographers, and utilising academic resources. If books are a problem, then there is still high quality research and critique to be found online; Blake Stimson on the Tate’s site, for example, has a piece contextualising the Bechers, analysing their motives and crucially (for you) discussing how their rigorous system actually releases the images into a more aesthetic frame. Building blocks such as these give you a surer footing when taking and evaluating your own images.

Baltz’s quote was a better starting point than a general homage to the Bechers’. Something new comes out of experimentation. You need to ally reading and writing to an enquiry that is camera based.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

Some good reflective writing indicative of wider reading, but this reading needs to be almost wholly academic.

Suggested reading/viewing Context

Try Stimson’s Tate article.

Pointers for the next assignment

Now that you’re aligning your practice with your writing don’t shackle your photography, experiment!

 

I find the research part of these assignments just so difficult. I don’t connect with the photographers and artists often because I have no connection/ no shared interest with them. I keep trying hard, and perhaps will find a way of researching that suits me in the future. At the moment, it’s just not meshing with my sensibilities.

Posted in Part Five: Resolution | Leave a comment

Assignment 2: Final Version

Note: This ‘final version’ of assignment two includes additional work and changes based on tutor feedback.

This assignment required a consideration of the nature of a ‘journey’ and how this could be explored within a photographic series.

The Tate expresses a journey as “wandering around [an] … urban or landscape location in order to explore it” (Exam Help – Journeys, no date) whilst Collins Dictionary lists, travel from one place to another” (Coulson, 1975, p.454)

My photographic trips always require journeying. In thinking about the elements that constitute those ‘journeys’, particular words repeated; ‘unknown’, ‘distorted’, ‘vague’- the substance and ‘proof’ of existence is lost by fast travel at night. I wanted to explore the question, ‘What am I passing?’

When deciding how to approach this work, I found a question posed by Weatherspoon Art Museum: “are documentary photographs art forms or simply straight-forward recordings of the subjects at hand?” (To What Purpose? Photography as Art and Document, 2012) To document my journey- to photograph from my perspective would be to collude with the darkness that I was trying to lift. Instead, to step away from myself and my journey, I could show the hidden detail of the places I was passing.

From learning about the New Topographics movement, I developed a keen interest in the photographing of unusual places. Whilst I decided against the documentation-approach that they favoured, I was interested in their subject matter, industrial intrusions on land … suburban sprawl … and parking lots. (New Topographics, no date)

Dan Holdsworth

I looked at the work of Dan Holdsworth, a photographer and digital artist from England who has shot extensively at night.


Megalith (Holdsworth, 2000)

I was pleased to see that an established photographer had included light trails in one of his shots. ‘Megalith’ is a series of just two photographs that particularly stood out for me. Shot in the both Netherlands and America, the subject of each is an advertising billboard beside a motorway. Whilst I strove to find the hidden details of the roadside, Holdsworth explored the explicit light sources that would already be evident. He over-exposed the lights to better define their impact on the surrounding air. In a similar way, I used long exposures to increase clarity but not so the light was unusually bright.

Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore is an American photographer who covered a series of road trips during the 1970s. His aim was to “make a photographic diary of the journey” (Jobey, 2017), something Shore explained as recording “every meal [he] ate; every person [he] met; every bed [he] slept in; every toilet [he] used; every town [he] drove through.” (Shore, n.d.) ‘Road Trip Journal’ was published in 1973 as a limited edition book and contained “hundreds of snap-shot size glossy colour prints of the minutiae of ordinary life.” (Jobey, 2017)


Bay Movie House, Ashland, WI. (Shore, 1973)

The photographs he took ‘on the road’ itself tend to focus on the subjects he passed, rather than the road ahead; used car garages taken from between the cars, shop fronts from the pavement, signs and street furniture up-close.

“What passes by, present, but unnoticed?”

I had this idea when using Google Maps to find the best route to Midhurst for ‘Assignment 1’.

Immediately important was a visual theme that would run through the set, linking the whole project. Instantly light trails came to mind when I considered what would give the ‘impression’ of movement; of travel.

I had previously found the photography of ‘edgelands’ to be very interesting, and I wanted to incorporate at least a sense of that in this set. Knowing that I would be passing through both urban and more rural settings, my set would go something like this:

Urban – Rural – Urban.

route
Map of route, from Worthing to Midhurst.

streetview (1) streetview (2) streetview (3) streetview (4) streetview (5) streetview (6) streetview (7) streetview (8) streetview (9)

The Computer History Museum refers to the usage of Google Maps as “surrogate travel” (Mark Weber, 2012) and this rings true of my experience. Dan Sieberg, a Google executive expressed that, “Whatever’s around you, whatever’s near you, opens up.” (Tom Chivers, 2013) It has certainly helped me, not just because of my anxiety. The darkness of the route was difficult to find detail in. Through the 360 degree ‘Street view” I was able to travel the entire length of the journey and make note of specific places I wanted to photograph.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

In shots #2 and #8, I photographed the first and last buildings in each town. The Guardian referred to edgelands as, “ragged edges of town, where urban landscapes fray and meet with country” (Mark E Johnson, 2015)  and I wanted to show this. Between the completely rural #7 and concrete #9 is the transition in #8, where the town ends; the line of lights occupying its outer edge and the dual carriageway heading outwards into the countryside.

Contrasting #7 with #4, I’ve used the naturally-occurring ‘starbursts’ from my lens to accentuate the difference between the rural and urban scenes. I’ve talked about this in more detail in ‘Starbursts’.

In each shot the light trails cut into the scene and head outwards, into the next. There’s a clear sense of ‘continuation’. As a ‘journey’ through multiple photographs, it was important to have a beginning and end point. I achieved this by capturing the car itself in #1 and #9. The trails move off from the still car at the start and join up to the car at the end.

Post production was limited to cropping and reduction of highlights and increases in exposure, the former of which is unavoidable with night photography, particularly when time is a factor. The importance of shooting in one self-contained trip took precedence over technical precision and meticulous planning.

I’m pleased with the set. What I’d be interested in exploring further would be longer journeys, particularly using different types of roads and landscapes. Also, what smaller details are missed?

Experiments following tutor feedback

My tutor felt that I should explore some of the scenes again, this time without the light trails. I didn’t want to retake the entire set because I knew that removing them gets rid of my central link between the individual scenes. Without the light trails, the scenes feel unconnected; no sign of a journey taking place at all.

A particular benefit of the cars passing through the original shots is that their headlights light-paint the scene, bringing out the detail that’s unseen without lighting.

I didn’t explore the ‘missing’ of the subjects whilst journeying. This lack of visual contrast lessens the impact of my drawing the subjects out of the dark. I went out again and this time photographed a couple of the original stops this time from within a car. Before setting off, I made sure to match the camera settings to the amount of light available. The difference is quite stark- stopping and taking in a scene gives the viewer far more detail and clarity than when speeding past.

References

Anon. (No Date). Exam Help – Journeys. Available: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/exam-help/themes/journeys. Last accessed 17th Aug 2016.

Anon. (No Date). New Topographics. Available: https://www.artsy.net/gene/new-topographics. Last accessed 19th Aug 2016.

Anon. (2012). To What Purpose? Photography as Art and Document.Available: http://weatherspoon.uncg.edu/exhibitions/show/?title=to-what-purpose-photography-as-art-and-document. Last accessed 18th Aug 2016.

Chivers, T. (2013). Google Maps has forever changed the way we travel, but has it ruined it?. Available: https://skift.com/2013/06/05/google-maps-has-forever-changed-the-way-we-travel-but-has-it-ruined-it/. Last accessed 12th Aug 2016.

Coulson, J. (1975). The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Page 454.

Holdsworth, D. (2000). Megalith. [image] Available at: http://www.landscapestories.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/04-Megalith_2000.jpg Last accessed 17th Mar 2017.

Jobey, L. (2017). In focus: The best new photography books. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/sep/25/stephen.shore.photography Last accessed 21st Mar 2017.

Johnson, M. (2015). A trail discovery around the edgelands.Available: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2015/jun/02/a-trail-discovery-around-the-edgelands. Last accessed 16th Aug 2016.

Shore, S. (n.d.). THE ROAD TRIP. 1st ed. [ebook] p.3. Available at: http://stephenshore.net/writing/theroadtrip.pdf Last accessed 22nd Mar. 2017].

Shore, S. (1973). Bay Movie House, Ashland, WI. [image] Available at: https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Arts/Arts_/Pictures/2008/09/25/cinema460.jpg?w=620&q=20&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&dpr=2&s=f9298aeb81054ab3f9b693ab1f014e05 Last accessed 19th Mar 2017.

Weber, M. (2012). Going Places: A History of Google Maps with Street View. Available: http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/going-places-a-history-of-google-maps-with-street-view/. Last accessed 18th Aug 2016.

Posted in Part Two: Landscape as Journey | Leave a comment

Assignment 3: Final Version

Note: This ‘final version’ of assignment three includes additional work and changes based on tutor feedback.

‘Space’ is a “continuous extension viewed with or without reference to the existence of objects within it.” (Borruso, 2007) Meanwhile, ‘place’ is a “particular part of space; part of space occupied by person or thing.” (Coulson, 1975)

Spaces do not hold simple all-encompassing ‘truth’. The ‘truth’ of a place is constructed by our interaction with it. In Inside/Out, Abigail Solomon-Godeau claims that, “photography can only show the outside and cannot make visible the subjective and integral truth of the subject.” (la Grange, 2005) In support of this, Martin Matthews states “A sense of place describes a particular kind of relationship between individuals and localities.” (Bremner and Matthews, 1992) Spaces have no objective meaning and are personal to the relationship between the observer(s) and subject.

As a photographer I interact with a space in order to capture my subjective experience. The intention with this medium is to share that point-of-view with the audience. To capture my specific relationship in a way that was evident for the audience was the challenging element set by this brief. When it comes to capturing a sense of place, we have to understand that spaces are subjective to the photographer. When viewing a photograph, it is important to note that, “As with human memory, we can no longer verify the original experience or sensation of the photograph” (Bate, 2010)

 

Halnaker Windmill
Halnaker windmill sits atop of the hill which shares its name, in West Sussex. I went into some detail on the history of this site in ‘Ex.3.5: Local History’

It’s current state as-of-publishing is a building that has completely lost its identity. Surrounded by multiple layers of fencing and long-uncut grasses, it is a derelict mill with little sign of its original purpose.

Dereliction speaks to what was, of prosperity and life beforehand. Yves Marchland called ruins “the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension. The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires.” Alongside the worsening state of the building, my emotional response to Halnaker has also deteriorated over the years. I’ve been many times, but taking shots from every two years from the past six, it’s apparent just how much has changed.

This ties into the concept of ‘place attachment’ which is a major element of ‘environmental psychology’.  – “to be attached to places and have profound ties with them is an important human need” (Relph, 1976). The role of memory is very important to our sense of place; “memories go beyond simply remembrance of the event, but also take into account the emotions, details, and stages of one’s life that contribute to their life story” (Fitzgerald and Broadbridge, 2013). It is memory that maintains our connection to a place.

I questioned what ‘place attachment’ means to me. To explore and connect with a place is to experience freedom; to interact with the ‘normal’ elements of a place without the anxiety that comes with encountering unknown people. Halnaker no longer holds that freedom for me, it is a place that holds and associates memory with anxiety.

 

A sense of the sky closing in
Finnish Photographer Martina Lindqvist shoots night-time landscapes (mostly) using artificial light to highlight her subjects. This use of light exacerbates the darkness and shadows in her scenes, giving the impression of there being little or nothing outside of the range of her light source. As a night-time photographer, I found myself drawn into her images; the unusual lighting making her work truly stand out from the norm. It is that unique lighting that gives the series “A thousand little suns” a sense of dread- the unseen in the darkness and the stark, unforgiving light that is so unnatural.

Untitled 06 (A Thousand Little Suns) (Lindqvist, 2010)

 

A sense of walking
British artist Hamish Fulton describes himself as a “walking artist” (Fulton, n.d.), “transforming walks into works of art” (Sooke, 2012) including some examples of photography. Whilst my set is deeply personal, I chose not to include myself in my photographs, prefering to capture entirely the sense of place. Fulton however explores his sense of self whilst walking through the landscape.

Walk 2: Margate Marine Pool (Fulton, 2010)

Fay Godwin was known for being, “one of Britain’s finest landscape photographers” (Harding, 2010) who favoured “bleak landscapes and scenes of urban dereliction” (Drabble, 2011). I was struck by how similar her work, ‘Heptonstall backlit’ was in composition was to my very first of the windmill.

Heptonstall backlit (Godwin, 1978)

“She set out on a long journey into the wilder landscapes of Britain, sometimes in company, sometimes alone, often on foot” (Drabble, 2011) and explored the relationship between poetry (a passion of hers) and the land. Shooting entirely in monochrome she shot both the up-close features and the wider expanses of the country.

 

“Too Close for Comfort”
I set out to create a photographic analysis of how the ‘truth’ of a subject can change depending on the viewpoint. I wondered if I could somehow capture that change- could I give the impression of former life with the real, cold reality of dereliction as it stands now?

With ‘place attachment’ and my perspective comes my truth- a truth affected by a mental health condition. The Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that I suffer from can be summed up as “emotional intensity”, which means that I cannot regulate my emotional responses.

My ex-boyfriend lived in Havant, Hampshire and I spent a lot of time with him there. The breakup was bad (for sufferers of BPD, a breakup can be akin to the pain of a death) and I’ve not been near Havant since. Halnaker sits atop one of the highest hills in Sussex, and the landscape stretches out for miles at the top.

I had a nice time trying out my first camera on a couple of nights at the Windmill, until, on my third visit I turned my back and saw the lights of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower. Instantly, I saw Havant, and I was right back in the clutches of depression and abandonment. From that moment, I wouldn’t see the Windmill the same way again.

Whilst I have been to Halnaker many times, these three images (from my first visit up, then two years later and finally for this assignment) catalogue the deterioration of the building. The area has changed from a nice, quaint tourist-attraction to a gloomy, off-putting area that doesn’t invite interest.

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Halnaker Windmill in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

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Contact Sheets

I began with 29 photographs from my hour-long visit to the area, and whittled those down to a final 8 which would become my set. My final choices are made up of what I considered to be the most useful distances from the windmill. Some were too close to or taken too far from the windmill to work with the other choices. Others weren’t composed particularly well or had similar shots that worked better.

I used three lenses during the set. From the furthest point away I used a 24-70mm zoom. The next shot took me much closer, but I didn’t want that to be too obvious to the viewer so I changed to a wide-angle 21mm. This would give the impression that I hadn’t got much closer to the windmill. Finally, getting much closer, I used a 55mm to hone in on the details of the building itself.

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Set in colour

What particularly inspired me was the film, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) and the use of colour to express its narrative. To begin with, in the ‘real world’ of Kansas, the sepia tones reflects the dreariness and oppressiveness of Dorothy’s life. In ‘Oz’ within her dream, colour is used to reflect the freedom and wonder she experiences in contrast with her life in Kansas.

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Fig. 1 and 2 “The Wizard of Oz”  (1939)

To match a ‘drain’ in colour with getting closer to the ‘reality’ of the place, I wanted to desaturate the images as I went along. I decided on removing 14% of each shots saturation at a time beginning with 0%, 14%, 28% etc. until the final black and white shot.

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Final set

The disparity between the impression of the windmill at different distances is most apparent when comparing the first and last shots in the set.

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The first, in full colour, gives only the slightest of hints that the windmill isn’t what it once was- the lack of sails instantly noticeable. The blue sky and lush trees negate any negative associations, however. In contrast, the final shot is lonely and exposed rather than warm and appealing. The area is fenced off, overgrown and unapproachable. The removal of colour brings out the imperfections.

 

Final Thoughts
I am not particularly happy with the shots themselves, which look more like snaps during a walk. With specifically planned stops at measured distances and better light, I think I would have better quality photographs.

I think I met the brief- creatively, at least. I think the concept works. It’s difficult to show change in a place that is ‘stuck’. It’s the execution that’s lacking. It could be that the place I chose to focus on isn’t dynamic enough for the ‘distance’ aspect that I went after.

In wondering how to possibly expand on this idea and what i’d do differently, I considered what the opposite idea of what I’ve done would look like. If I had chosen to explore more positive avenues, I would have looked into ‘life’ and how that’s shown through colour and movement. Likely this would have been city and light based, with the benefit of being at night to use my talents.

 

References
Bate, D. 2010. The Memory of Photography. Photographies, 3(2): 243-257.

Borruso, S. (2007). A History Of Philosophy for (Almost) Everyone. Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 250.

Bremner, G. & Matthews, H. (1992) Making sense of place: Children’s understanding of large-scale environments. Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Coulson, J. (1975). The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 643.

Drabble, M. (2011). Margaret Drabble on Fay Godwin. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jan/08/margaret-drabble-fay-godwin [Accessed 12.03.17).

Fitzgerald, J. & Broadbridge, C. (2013). Latent constructs of the Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire: A recollection-belief model of autobiographical experience. Memory, 21(2), 230-248.

Fulton, H. (2010). Walk 2: Margate Marine Pool. [image] Available at: https://www.turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/hamish-fulton-kent-walk-series (Accessed on 13.03.17).

Fulton, H. (n.d.). – Hamish Fulton : Walking Artist ——-. [online] Hamish-fulton. Available at: http://www.hamish-fulton.com/ (Accessed on 13.03.2017).

Godwin, F. (1978). Heptonstall backlit. [image] Available at: https://whencuriositythreatens.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/heptonstall-backlit-yorks-007.jpg?w=676 (Accessed 12.03.17).

Harding, C. (2010). Fay Godwin ‘Land’ Revisited – Gallery Two Exhibition. [online] National Media Museum. Available at: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/aboutus/pressoffice/2010/august/landrevisited [Accessed 1.03.17).

la Grange, A. (2005). Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. Burlington: Focal Press, 128

Lindqvist, M. (2010). Untitled 06 (A Thousand Little Suns). [image] Available at: http://martinalindqvist.com/athousandlittlesuns06.html (Accessed 9.03.17).

Relph, E. (1976). Place and Placelessness. London, UK: Pion Limited.

Sooke, A. (2012). Hamish Fulton wanders the neural pathways. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/9014354/Hamish-Fulton-wanders-the-neural-pathways.html (Accessed on 12.03.17).

Figure 1. “The Wizard of OZ “(1939) [Film Still] At: http://loud-dreams.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/the-wizard-of-oz-where-are-you-on.html (Accessed on 12.10.16).

Figure 2. “The Wizard of OZ “(1939) [Film Still] At: http://diariodiunacamionistaperbene.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/il-mago-di-oz-l-frank-baum.html (Accessed on 12.10.16).

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