Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain? Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualize your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.
The pivotal point in Henri Cartier-Bressons image for me is clearly the heel of the mans shoe, just a centimetre or so from hitting the water. It is a moment in action in which as a viewer you can predict what happens next. You know with certainty that it will land, it is just a matter of when, the viewer can almost hold their breath waiting for it to happen. Will there be a splash? Or just ripples like at the end of the ladder? Perhaps this area is deeper than we think, will he vanish?
There is a lot of reflections, mimicry and questions in this image, perhaps this is what makes it so great, not just the intake of breath as we wait for the man to land. In the background there is the image of the man leaping in similar fashion, the sign Railowsky I have discovered is an advertisement for a circus but how coincidental that the image was taken behind a railway (Gare). There is a man watching from the other side, is this meant as a reflection of Bresson watching from this side?
The placement of everything in the image is taken in through the way in which the leaping man makes my eyes travel.
My eyes start at the heel of the man as I look for him to land , I then take in the rest of him. my eyes then travel to the ripples and across the ladder, taking in the debris in front. I look up past the mirrored reflections to the railowsky sign and the man leaping and finally to the man in the background, the fencing and then my eyes return to rest, or perhaps see if he has landed, at the mans heel.
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s image is in stark contrast to the cover image of Rinko Kawauchis book illuminance which does not have the smaller details to focus on or follow.
The first thing I notice about this image is that it is square, somehow this focuses my eyes to the centre of the image. Illuminance is the name for the scientific measurement from light so I can presume from both the over exposed image and the title that this series focuses on light and its qualities. The image of what appears to be a rose is so over exposed that it is only a combination of the shapes, light and colours that I can focus on. The colour palette and the bokeh in the background, ordinarily if this had been an image I had taken it would have been cast into my outtake box but actually it makes me see that there is beauty in everything. In the digital world we now often scroll through the LCD screen at the back of the camera or on a phone and delete imperfect images but reality is not perfect and we should embrace mistakes. This is what I think and feel viewing this image. I am sure for Rinko Kawauchi this was not a mistake but was expertly planned to convey this very message (I would like to think that this is the message, it certainly works for me). It reminds me a little of my ‘Rita’ image that I shared in part 4.
I have sometimes come across something which reminds me of an image or photographer and captured it. These are direct homages to the photographer and I celebrate the fact that it reminds me of a particular image or style.
21mm, ISO3600, F3.5, 1/200
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
My Walker Evans inspired image (Left) taken on the London underground, (Right Hand Image by Walker Evans)
My Imogen Cunningham inspired image (Left), (Right Hand Image by Imogen Cunningham)
My Robert Frank ‘The Americans’ inspired image of the London Duck Tours.
Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment? Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.
I pondered my choices for this exercise, I really enjoy street images with a twist of humour by photographers such as Elliott Erwitt and Matt Stuart yet I felt that I had already touched on street photography in assignment 3. I also like the work of Robert Doisneau, however I decided that the one element that I had not yet explored was landscape photography.
I have previously been drawn to the work of Fay Godwin, the contrast of monochrome and strong leading lines, yet with a simplicity about them, her images do not appear to be pretentious , judgemental or over processed. I have often taken pictures of my shadow in a similar fashion to her ‘Shadow – Pett Level’ image (Below):
However on the day I went out to photograph it was a clear blue sky and my timing was not ideal as I only had the middle of the day to work in so no long shadows were available. This meant that I also did not have the atmospheric skies to work with however I still tried to harness the style of Fay Godwin and relate to other examples of her work.
Fay Godwin was apparently a keen rambler and her images appear in many guides, the area I visited was in fact Tankerton and Reculver, areas which Fay Godwin would have covered in her series on the Saxon Shore Way which runs from Gravesend to Hastings. Aside for capturing beautiful landscape scenes Fay Godwin was a documentary photographer, documenting the landscape and its abuses and changes. Her book ‘Our Forbidden Land’ was quite political in that it showed the selling off and closures of public by-ways and land and areas that public were no longer permitted, I believe Fay Godwin was quite an activist for the environment.
Photograph by Fay Godwin – (accessed 03.07.17)http://photobradfordcollege.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/fay-godwin-land-revisited.html
In Fay Godwin’s image above, I am struck but its simplicity yet drawn to the various tones and shades that exist in both the image and nature. If I were to consider the types of information Barrett alludes to then the internal context would be : The deep depth of field showing the land, both natural and cultivated in the distance. My eyes are drawn to the horizon along these lines and then my eyes traverse the image to take in the single tree framed by the large cloud. I believe the original context would be Fay Godwin’s intent which was not only to celebrate the landscape but to draw attention to its use by man. In this image we can see the cultivated fields, but perhaps the intent is to consider the single tree, were others removed so that man could farm the land? What is the future of our countryside if it is to be turned over for man made use rather than wild as nature intended? The external context would have been the presentation of this work, I believe this image was part of her ‘Land’ series which explored the use of land and hinted at the exploitation, it was Fay Godwin’s latter book ‘ Our Forbidden Land’ that took a more political stance and showed destruction and commercialism and tried to hint at the future of the land. This external context is what helps me to formulate my opinion on her original context.
Despite my clear sky I focused on the leading lines and contrast as well as keeping the images in monochrome. I focused on the element of man-kind within the landscape both in a positive view as well as the blight on the landscape. I think that if Fay Godwin was trying to show something in this decade it would be the waste and rubbish that blights nature.
I have noticed from images seen online of her books and exhibitions that her photographs appear to be presented in a square format, this may not be the case for all of them but certainly the ones I viewed. In light of this I cropped my images into a square format to further mirror her style.
The above images highlight the blight of man on the environment, In the first image a lager can is left in the shingles standing tall to mirror the groynes and wind turbines (another man-made element) in the distance.
Internal context: The beer can is hidden in the shingles, not obviously clear on first glance, your eye is then drawn across the diagonals of the image to the previous additions of man , the groynes , the wind turbines barely visible in the distance.
Original context: The landscape was once blighted by man with the addition of groynes, these now appear to be at one with nature, we are accepting of the wind turbines which have been added sympathetically , does this mean the we in the process of accepting litter to nature in the future? The beer can planted as if it intends to grow?
External context: In the pages of a magazine (If the beer can was to show its label) it could almost be an advertisement for beer, a cold beer on a desolate beach offering peace and tranquillity, yet this is far removed from its original intent. As part of an exhibition or a book it could been seen alongside a series of images to add strength to the documenting of waste in nature.
In the second image a mattress is laying prone on the shore, resting with the tide! Its internal context being the mattress, the beach and the expanse, The original context and even the external context is similar to the previous image.
Interestingly although I have used monochrome to mirror the work of Fay Godwin I feel that the images showing litter in nature work best in colour as they feel more ‘now’ and can also serve to highlight the sometimes garish colours against more natural tones, something which is lost in monochrome:
Traces of man with nature, in the first image the old wooden groynes almost look natural against the modern wind turbines in the distance , this is also shown in the second image where man-made sea defences almost appears natural against the stark modernity. And in the third image we can see the additions made my man kind on the landscape in a bid to ‘enjoy the view’ a view that is gradually being hidden by development. Only those privileged to own huts can look out to the lapping waves, must we pay a premium to enjoy what nature gave us all?
My final two images concentrate on what I feel is the compositional style of Fay Godwin rather than the environmentalist.
The strong vertical lines lead your eyes upwards towards the clouded sky, the image is sharp with a deep depth of field and successful contrast, although not as much tonal range as I would have liked. The image maintains its simplicity and is a view often observed, it highlights the expanse of the countryside. There is still an imprint of man as the tracks in the field are not left there by nature but it shows a harmony between man and nature.
Internal: The field of wheat, skies and hedgerows
Original: The hand of man in nature; the hedgerows and nettles made by mother nature look on to the cultivated fields of wheat, our eyes drawn up the tracks to the backdrop sky provided again by mother nature.
This Image is my favourite, I love the contrast of the looming shadow over the ruins, it looks out to a sea unobscured by man. The strong contrast, strong leading lines , shapes and deep depth of field are in keeping with Fay Godwin’s style.
Internal context: Ruins looking out to sea.
Original context: The dark looming shadow signals foreboding as the ruins look to sea. The towers now stand as a marker to our heritage and history and is not considered a blight to the land, I wonder if this were true at the time it crumbled? will we look at crumbling 70’s facades with the same romanticism in the future? or is this a sign that whatever is manmade is temporal, mother nature, the land and sea, will outlive it all? All that will remain will be footprints of our existence in the earth, similar to fossils in our seas.
External context: This image could easily be shown in a tourist guide of the area, advocating the beauty of the ruins or it could be placed into a series of images of crumbling buildings destined to end in the sea.
I was planning to try to take more shots for exercise 5.1 however when I re-read the notes I decided that in fact I had captured the very essence of Azoulay’s comment:
Human subjects, occupying different roles in the event of photography, do play one or another part in it, but the encounter between them is never entirely in the sole control of any one of them: no one is the sole signatory to the event of photography. (Azoulay, 2012, p.17)
This image of my son proves the theory that the encounter is in neither the control of the photographer (myself) nor of the subject (my son).
I wanted an image of my son, unawares and candid however I was not the sole signatory to the event and he countered my planned image but putting his hand up to obscure my view.
I hadn’t planned on including his hand in such a manner just as he hadn’t planned on being my subject. Strangely the image actually manages to show (to me at least) his laid back humour, I can hear him laughing as I look at this and it has become a game between us in which he prevents his image being captured, so far he is most definitely winning this game!
If I look closely however I can see him in the photos on the wall behind him, evidence that I did once manage to beat him at this game.
Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot. When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.
I have been thinking about who or what I empathise with and distance and it struck me that the biggest ‘distance’ I feel that I might be able to capture is that of my growing children.
It is a constant source of conversation between myself and my husband about how as our children are growing up we are seeing less of them. My son has just become an official ‘teenager’ and he still does spend time with us but the time he spends alone in his room is ever-growing!
My daughter is soon to become an adult and is already independent, she works weekends and is either with her boyfriend or friends. Discussions around holidays have taken place as she is looking to go away with her friends rather than the ‘family’ holiday. She is becoming a stranger! Her dinner in the warmer ready and waiting for her late arrival home from work, the L plates on her car signalling that it wont be long until we are relieved of taxi duty.
Then there is the distance I feel from myself! A combination of motherhood and working at home alone has meant that when I look back on photos I no longer recognise the person I once was and I’m not always sure who I now am?
How can I try to capture these distances in an image and convey the emotion I feel?
In terms of my children I know that they will not pose for me willing and I don’t think a posed shot would show the truth of the situation. I need to be discreet and consider using my smaller camera or my phone but then this means I need to relinquish full control of the image. For some of the images their absence will demonstrate the distance.
I have made a start on trying to capture some images, discreetly or without my children present however this is proving extremely difficult. But on the other hand it has captured a true reflection of the problem at hand! ( Quite literally!)
The oversized hand and his miss-matched pj’s really does make me chuckle and this is actually a good representation of his character. He has a great sense of humour and is extremely quick, his reaction speed each time I lifted my phone was unbelievable. I am not even getting the chance to frame the shot!
My daughter on the other hand is seldom home and no longer seems to come out on family outings. Her lonely place setting waiting for her to return late from work with her dinner in the warmer. I realised that my son’s birthday cards are on display behind signalling another child growing older.
If I want to capture either of them I would need to think creatively, such as using the car wing mirror whilst I wait in the rain for the end of school. Unfortunately the figure in this image is too out of focus.