Flowers

28 May 2015

I wanted to create a discourse about beauty using the flower. The flower, the signifier of much around ‘beauty’ is still vulnerable to distortion through decay or the use of the photographic medium, and yet it seems to retain what it signifies, based largely on our cultural references. Even in removing the outward beauty in some, (not all to allow some journey in the concept,) the image remains something beautiful. As Susan Sontag said, ‘Nobody exclaims, ‘Isnt’t that ugly! I must take a photograph of it.” Even if someone did say that, all it would mean is: “I find that ugly thing . . . beautiful.” (Sontag, 1977) While I don’t know that that holds as true in the modern world with so much photography and the constant need for spectacle on social media, I did want to explore that idea as part of the context.
They also work aesthetically to create interesting images. I hope you enjoy.

FLOWERS

Flowers

Fatal

2-May 2015

New project: In a previous life I spent my days working with everything I had to find answers. The role – a traffic officer (police, not a highways mask) – was often mocked as being the anally retentive evil doer of the ticket giving variety. The reality was that I had the pleasure of working with a group of mostly hard working individuals who spent their time being determined professionals desperate to make life safer and to find answers when individuals lost their life on the roads.

I had the privilege of running investigations in to road deaths as well as being a family liaison officer. These two roles often led me to be amazed by and very concentrated on learning all I could from the scenes of fatal collisions. These places are parts of our communities that we use every day and that we live in and are part off. For a few hours they become crime scenes and then are released back to our communities where, for most life goes on. The transient nature of these places has always fascinated me and so it was this that I chose to explore in this photographic project.

This project is in part a reflection, but also a small tribute, looking back at what I used to do with what I now do and tipping my cap to those who continue to do the ‘job.’ whilst respecting those who have passed on in these places.

Until next time – here’s the project

Fatal

From 19th April – Happy Easter

19-April 15

Firstly, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Easter. This time of the year brings people together through faith or otherwise and I hope you had a enjoyable time. I’ve been busy during the holidays, working on a number of projects. None of them are in a state to show you at the moment, but so I thought I’d share with you a little bit of inspiration – my favourite photographer…..? Maybe

This is not an easy title. Music is a big part of my life and I can still not label one track or band as my favourite. It is the same with photography, so I start, especially for those who are new to the word of documentary photography, with one of the three photographers, who along with the amazing Szarkowski who produced the exhibition, New Documents, that changed the world as far as photography stands.

The photographer I choose is Garry Winogrand. I implore you to spend 15 minutes googling his images and at least an hour or two looking at them and considering them. He had an amazing talent and his work is still being produced, as seen by those of us who made the trip to Paris recently. I would argue that the other two photographers, Arbus and Friedlander probably had a little something extra about their work, but for me Winogrand’s work connects emotionally and is utterly superb.

Little known fact…… Joel Meyerowitz was asked to be the forth artist, but didn’t feel he was ready and so politely declined. It wasn’t a bad decision if you look at his amazing work, but a big call for a young artist.

Until next time…..

From 19th April – Happy Easter

What is a Photograph – Part 5

Pierce gives signs three categories;

Iconic; signs that is someway or another resemble the item they purport to be. The picture of a bicycle – it’s not a bike but it we understand what it means from what it resembles.

Indexical; These have a direct link to the object at their heart, if not directly resembling them. A footprint in the snow indicates the presence of a person, the bending trees telling us wind is present.

Symbolic; These signs have a meaning based on how we understand them, through a shared cultural understanding, such as a group of letters forming a word and then a sentence or traffic lights, the colour of which we understand as a sign to tell us how we should approach them.

The photograph can be all three of these signs. Iconic as they resemble what one takes the photograph of, sometimes symbolic, as the photograph, “of an assassinated political leader carried in a demonstration can symbolize a struggle for justice. (Edwards, 2006) And they are indexical as they are the result of the light bouncing off the object of the photograph so they have a direct link and resemble it.

So the photograph is many things, indeed some not covered here, but however we interpret or look at them they are a combination of the nature and man’s need to control it and form the object they create and they are a mechanism with which to communicate and which creates a discourse based on how we understand the signs that they are.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on what a photograph is – if you have any thoughts, you can always drop a line on the facebook page.

Until next time…..

What is a Photograph – Part 5

What is a Photograph – Part 4

What is a Photograph – Part 4

The, ‘graphe’ forms the identity of the photograph beyond its physical existence and having enabled us to read it’s framed truth it also exists as something else. It is where the photograph sits within history, its social and cultural loading that arguably gives it its fuller definition. It is a medium in which we can explore and question history, social change and our own and other’s cultures and cultural bias. From propaganda to documentary and journalistic photography, the use of the photograph has been catalyst important for calling in to question and questioning. Within the frame of the photograph we find a, ‘truth or proof,’ one that we can read dependant on what we the spectator bring to it.

This truth allows us to gain a level of knowledge from the photograph, however it can in itself be a lie as we are now all too aware. Not only with the photograph’s use in propaganda, but with digital manipulation, something not entirely new given the Victorians cut and paste images. What is in the frame of a photograph does not tell us what is without.

Many photographs are therefore a false truth, indeed an illusion, from those mis-truths which we are now more aware of in advertising, through to the full illusion of the pornographic image which offers the reader a false access to another’s body through a paper or electronic surface that so they can imagine themselves in the presence of someone else they may never know or have an intimate relationship with.

It is through this truth and questioning with what the viewer bring to the image that the photograph communicates. Charles Sander Peirce argued that, “all communication takes place through the medium of signs, (Edwards, 2006). As photographs are a visual communication they are in themselves signs and it is those signs themselves and how they communicate that we shall look at in my next post, the last in this series about these thoughts on what the photograph is….

What is a Photograph – Part 4

What is a Photograph – Part 2 & 3

Following on from Niépce’s work, which created the first use of light sensitive chemicals to fix an image created with a camera obscura, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre created the Daguerreotype which created a means of recording a scene and fixing it in a way had previously required skill in the use of the hand with pencil or brush. It then enabled anyone with the ability to operate the camera (and money with which to purchase or instruct its use) to have the object of the photograph, often still life, indexical for scientists or portrait for the well off, given the long exposure time and expense required, captured and fixed as a mirror image, taking our 3D world and turning it in to a 2D image. Such was the relative ease and detail achieved that, “the painter Paul Delaroche lamented that ‘from this day, painting is dead’.” (Delaroche cited in Clarke 1997)

This was during a time when, “nature was shifting from being seen as all-powerful and controlling human action, to something that could come, at least partly, under the control of human culture.” (Batchen 1997,) and this is what the photograph achieves. In a mechanical sense by using shutters in order to control light which hits the light sensitive film or causes an electrical charge on a digital sensor, allowing the user to create a photograph, the, “thing itself… the ability to convincingly record what is the front of the lens,” (Szarkowski 1966) for the human to use. This transformation gives, “every subject… significance by being transformed,” (Clarke, 1997) turning the subject, however banal not only in to a, ‘thing,’ a photograph, but in to something of significance, however much the value.

The value which we put to a photograph is, ‘always dependent upon the context within which we ‘read’ it, (Clarke 1997). From the record breaking monetary value of an Andreas Gursky minimalistic landscape or the social value of an image of an innocent falling from the World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001 or the personal value of the picture of an ultrasound scan of your yet to be born child. The photograph, this, “device with which we seek to order and construct the world around us,” (Clarke 1997) is one where the cultural significance we bring to it is constantly changing its value and also its meaning to the spectator.

Until the next post, thank you for reading….

What is a photograph Part 3

The photograph is a record of a, ‘moment’ one that captures and allows us to pluck it, ‘from the flow of time’, (Bazin,1980) to preserve it away from that flow.

In this manner, an image which draws Roland Barthes is that of the condemned Lewis Payne awaiting his execution. He is most certainly dead, but we are able to see him and his existence is there for us to view, as an original held in the Library of Congress or electronically virtually anywhere in the world. No one alive is able to tell us first hand what he looked like, the conditions he was in, possibly even what he was wondering just prior to his execution, yet this document, the photograph, allows us to see, to feel, to wonder at that moment in time, almost 150 years ago.

This moment fixed, with the Daguerreotype, was captured to produce a unique item. But Fox Talbots’s invention of the positive negative allowed us to control the nature element even more, creating our own copies of that fixed moment as often as we wanted so that, developing through to the 1920’s and 30’s so that ‘things could exist in many locations simultaneously, often in places they would not otherwise be.” (Benjamin 1999). This use of an image, particularly in print and the access it allowed to all, (if not initially to create, but certainly to view), during the period of modernity, with its development of the use of photography, moves us on from the nature element to help define the graphe and it is in this less literal sense that what a photograph is can really be found.

A photograph uses the 5 characteristics Szarkowski describes in, ‘The Photographer’s Eye.’ The thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point, (Szarkowski 1966). It uses these and the previously described, ‘nature’ to create the text of an image, but when analysing a photograph and therefore exploring what it is, both the photo and graphe are not, “separate, but together opposing aspects of nature and culture, embedded within the identity of photography when it was conceived and should both be embraced as integral to the medium.”(Batchen 1997).

In my next post we will look more in to the, ‘graphe,’ but until then, thank you for taking the time to read….

What is a Photograph – Part 2 & 3