M2 - Week 3 - Constucted realities

If the photograph is a lie or not, in my opinion, depends clearly on the author's intention and it doesn't have anything to do with the photographed subject, methods and techniques.

Similarly to the written or spoken word or any other means of communication, a photograph can be indeed a a tool for a manipulative practices, we can’t do anything about it.

It is up to us to make an effort of finding out what is the context and author intention if we want to understand it. The other option is to have an personal interpretation of it but then we need to be aware that very often our understanding is far away from the true motives which determined the existence of that particular image. 

Constructed reality as an subjective expression is an creative communicate as any other - drawing, poem, melody etc. It is though much more difficult to interpret due to the layer of obvious connection to the real word, hence the context and author statement is very important. 

If Crewdson stated that his meticulously constructed scenes are real that would be a lie. Would anyone believe it? Thats a different question…

Sugimoto’s photographs of American Museum of Natural History visualisations (Diorama series) are an interesting case. He did not constructed the scene he photographed, it was constructed though to represent some speculative reality by the museum designers. In the ontological sense, the record is an authentication of that scene existing in real but the scene itself is a visualisation and Sugimoto knows about it. So he intentionally records a fiction but he is clear with the audience about that. It would be hard to believe in the authenticity of the existence of some subjects but most of the photographs create the strong illusion of reality. 

 I had found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it's as good as real. (Hiroshi Sugimoto)
Diorama, Hiroshi Sugimoto 

Diorama, Hiroshi Sugimoto 

M2 - week 2 - Artists research

Robert Cumming

Michelle Sank, my course tutor, recommended me the works of Robert Cumming recently. I started sketching out my concept of the 'impossible places' and this reference is just brilliant. I recognise some of the Cumming's works (probably from some collective publications) but never really look closer at his unique and influencial work.

Robert Cumming, Theatre for Two - Easy Analogies, 1978

Robert CummingTheatre for Two - Easy Analogies, 1978

Cumming arranged the common objects in an unusual way, experimented with light and vantage point. He begun as a sculptor but at some point realised that a nature of photographs gives him the ability to play with perception, light and other site specific ephemeral elements. His works exist in a space between photography, sculpture, installation.

I found an interesting essey written by David Company about Cumming. Here is what he says about the way Cumming used to produce his works:

"Each of Cumming’s images would begin with an idea (and it’s best not to ask where that came from). The idea would be translated into a meticulous drawing on paper. In the process of drawing, Cumming would be thinking through the practicalities. Then he would turn to making the necessary props and sets. When everything was ready, he would light the scene, set up the camera, and make the image." David Camapny, Domestic Disorder: Re-viewing the Photographs of Robert Cumming

I'd like to adopt similar stages to my production processes. It is interesting that when dealing with painting I usually, if not always, had some sketches of the concept. I have never done that for my photographic works. I like the experimental and spontaneous nature of my images and that way of working gives me so much freedom but I will try to incorporate the sketching phase at least to make sure that it doesnt work.

M2 - Week 2 - Perception of Object in context of the place.

The idea of 'impossible places' provoked some new reflections on an object in the context of the place it exists in. 

The specific place imposes a different perception of the same objects. What is expected, normal, and accepted in some places, like office for example, would be weird and unusual in a private space. I started to see a 'visual feasts' in that quite hostile environment some time ago and a couple of weeks ago decided to record them. With very wide aperture and hence a shallow depth of field I focus on the details which are intriguing and keep everything else blurred out.


M2 - Week 2 - Really real

'Is there anything peculiarly ''photographic'' about photography; something which sets it apart from all other ways of making pictures?' (Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision, and Representation,Critical Inquiry Autumn 1975 )

In my opinion the fact that the photographic image has a different ontological basis than the other types of visual representations is undeniable. In oppose to painting or drawing the photograph can’t come to life without the physical existence of its subject (the light must reflect off something to be recorded).

Despite though the truly unique ability to record the trace of reality and invoke (in more or less accurate way) its 'tangible presence’, the photograph is always only a flat and static combination of shapes and colours and is always a 'different thing than the reality itself' (Szarkowski, p.8).

I believe that to experience the ‘really real’ moment in a particular time and space one must be present physically and experience it with all the senses - everything else is an representation. Photograph authenticates that particular moment but it’s not able to convey the complexity of it. That’s why the body of work is usually much more effective in conveying the author’s intention than a single image.

There are a multiple factors which influence and distance the photographic representation from the reality. Apart from the characteristics defined by Shore and Szarkowski (frame, time, focus, vantage point), there is as well the type of the camera and lens, filters, post-production methods, type of the carrier/transmitter etc.; there is as well the very important mental aspect - the way of seeing and intention.

David Bate in his book “Photography: The Key Concepts’ refers to term ‘realism' which describes the common through many centuries in all arts ‘attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements’. (Wikipedia)

'Reality is what we believe exists, whereas "realism" is the mode of representation that supports that reality.' David Bate

In my own practice the question about what is really real and IF is real matters mainly to myself I guess. For my audience so far,  which consist of my family, colleagues at work and peers my works are unusual, weird and definitely not real. The 'realness' of objects is easily recognisable but the construction of the image invokes the reference to painting rather than the real world (it is a common comment especially when someone knows about my former painterly practice). 

The reference to other more traditional and well known mediums in very often inevitable. There is always a resemblance of the famous Flemish still life paintings when we look at the contemporary still life photographs (Laura Letinsky)

Some of my works are interpret as heavily photoshopped compositions without any meaning because of the disconnection with reality through the formal approach - flattness, unusual vantage point, presence of some purely abstract shapes generated by the computer software etc. For me though they're real because I press the shutter and I know what my camera is pointing at. Or maybe I should say here - authentic instead of 'real' as only reality is real...

It matters to me that the image originates as a mirror/record of the reality. I wouldn't deal with photography if that wasn't important. It is actually easier to convey some ideas with paintings and drawing. I find it very challenging to find an adequate way to illustrate my concepts/thoughts/visions through photography, but I will persist because I find that connection with the real word, the "authenticity from which painting is barred by birth" (Arnheim) fascinating and worth the effort. 

I find those words by Snyder and Allan commenting on the Arnheim article very much resonating with my own reflections:

(...)In regard to form, a photograph is a compromise between nature and the "formative power" of man, a "compromise" or "coproduction"(...p. )

My thoughts are very similar but I'd add here as well the apparatus as a third 'collaborator'. I feel that a process of recording an image is a form of collaboration between me, other apparatuses and indeed the nature.

It became more apparent when I started to add layers by rephotographing the computer screen and provoking the visual artefacts characteristic to the construction of the camera and the screen (moire). Those forms are visible only when I look through the viewfinder and then on the recorded image. They would never appear in my compositions if not for the combination of my actions and properties of the devices.

What are the optical phenomenons actually? Are they real if we only see/experience them is some particular circumstances? They are probably the same as light reflections, shadows, rainbow etc. so yes, there real...(?)

Michelle Sank, my course tutor suggested to look at works of Robert Cumming. 



  • Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen, Photography, Vision, and Representation, Critical Inquiry Autumn 1975

  • John Szarkowski, The Photographer's eye

  • Davit Bate, Photography: The Key Concepts

M2 - Week 2 - Project development

I am equipped with some techniques and methods of image-making which I want to now use to produce the body of work with more 'tangible sense of reality' but still focusing on the qualities I am most interested with - the form, colour, texture, rhythm etc. 

I continue to explore the method of building the composition by adding layers using the rephotography, but I begun as well sketching out the grounds for the concept which I want to develop in this module - the 'Impossible places'. I'd like to build the compositions which are based on the fragments of the existing places but add the various forms and objects to it, to create the irreal, abstract space.