Coursework

FMP - Reflections

I can’t believe it’s really the end. I so much enjoyed to be a student again.

I signed up for this course with the hope it will help me to break the impasse in my creative practice through finding my own visual language within photography. I wasn’t sure if it was the right move. For many reasons. One of my biggest concerns was the language as I was never confident in writing and especially talking in English. I was also afraid of balancing the course with permanent job and private life and to be honest I wasn’t really convinced that the photographic medium is really “my thing”.

The language was never a problem. It was a bit intimidating to talk during the recorded webinars but during the second year I found out that I talk to much and I am not really aware of passing time and other students waiting to be heard… It wasn’t easy to balance the study and private life and in fact during the last six months I didn’t have weekends or holidays but I was happy with that as it was a fascinating time. The true is I made it hard for myself but it was worth it.

It took time and a lot of effort but now when I know and understand the photographic medium much better than two years ago, I can say without hesitation that I love it.

What I gained during the two years course is invaluable. I will draw from the knowledge and experience for a long time. It changed me as an artist and I really like that change.

I feel very well equipped for the future and looking forward to turn my room into darkroom again. I have lots of ideas for the new projects which will be a further exploration of the motifs from the On dichotomies project. I have a long list of institutions, organisations, competitions and also individual artists to approach with hope for some sort of collaboration and a opportunity to be present in on photography stage.

FMP - Noemie Goudal

I researched the work of Noemie Goudal's recommended by my tutor Wendy McMurdo during the last 1:2:1.

Gaudal works are indeed very relevant to my current practice and the Dichotomies project I am working on. In her experimental and conceptual works the nature is confronted with constructed references to cultural objects. The works challange the perception of reality and expose the ‘world-making’ ability of the photographic medium.

"Noémie Goudal’s practice is an investigation into photographs and films as dialectical images, wherein close proximities of truth and fiction, real and imagined offer new perspectives into the photographic canvas. The artist questions the potential of the image as a whole, reconstructing its layers and possibilities of extension, through landscapes’ installations." http://noemiegoudal.com/category/about/

In some of her projects (Observatoires, Towers) Gaudal creates an illusion of the real place by setting up the two-dimentional, printed representations of the existing three-dimentional architectural object in the neutral, serene landscapes. There is an surreal feel and otherwordly beauty emanating from those constructions. The illusion of the real situation is very strong and it provoke the reflections on the perception. 

 Screenshot from the  Naomi Gaudal website

Screenshot from the Naomi Gaudal website

REFERENCES:

Website: http://noemiegoudal.com

FMP - First 1:2:1 tutorial

The first individual tutorial with Dr. Wendy McMurdo who is the Final Major Project module leader.

The place, time and broadband connection quality were rather unfavourable and I have probably missed a lot but what I didn't miss and received with huge relief was the message that there is still time to experiment. I was encouraged to explore, try out and be fearless. The good things are coming just out of doing. One idea leads to another and opens up a new directions which are sometimes so unexpected that it is impossible to imagine them.

That was always my way of getting to some interesting results, through working tirelessly and freely, lead by the instinct.

Some suggestions from my tutor to check out:

IC - Week8 - "Pictures can't tell stories...

....because they are still". These are the words of Jeff Wall recorded during the interview by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It is one of the most interesting and inspiring interviews I have listened. I agree with almost everything Wall is talking about in regards to the process of creation, interestingly though I am not an admirer of his works. I can appreciate the determination to visualise the idea and indisputable technical qualities but there is nothing in most of his images which I find interestig apart from one: "The sudden gust of wind" which is just a masterpiece.  

It is very impressive how he can articulate his intentions and a way of thinking and making in such an unpretentious and concise way. Some of the thoughts/statements I found very interesting:

He describe one of the qualities characteristic to his processes as observance.

A picture not accompanied by any verbal description has to be interpret as a poem.

"Picture making, of any kind, (...) expresses the acceptance of the way things are."

"...sense of liking the appearance of things" is another characteristic aspect of his creative process.

Inability to planning ahead. Not looking for the subjects but observing and reacting to the opportunities carried by the life. Accidents arouse from the everyday situations - any situation can set up a starting point for the new idea.

Pictures are make in occurrence of things or in an absence of occurrence.

His photographs are constructed snapshots where the snapshot opportunity is contemplated through meticulous phase of recreating, constructing/composing the image ('near documentary photographs'): ”One of the most interesting aspects of art, any of the Arts, is composition" and the act of making.

The nature of the picture changes through the time of making it.He enjoys the artistic aspect of making/creating which changes his relation to photography. He is not artistically satisfied by taking picture spontaneously.

 

REFERENCES:

IC - Week 8 - Interview with Laura Letinsky and various thoughts

In this week's course activity, I was asked to share an interview with an artist I find interesting and in some way influencing my own practice. I thought it is a good opportunity to come back to Laura Letinsky's works and a couple of interviews with her available online.

She is one of those artists whose works are not affected by trends and demands, similarly to Uta Barth about whom I wrote a couple of weeks ago. There is always something new I see in her works even though the subjects, colours, light and compositions seem to be so repetitive. Each of her compositions has its little punctum which makes those seemingly banal compositions so strong and evokcative.

In the interview with  Brian Sholis, she talks about the ineffable character of some aspects of the production process which I so much identify with:

"I want to keep the images on a precipice but it’s not one I can easily explain with words. Artists are increasingly encouraged to be able to explain their working processes, and yet it’s a nonverbal intelligence that often leads you to make a decision.(...)Some of the decisions I make in the studio are very conscious, and I use words to think about them. But when I make pictures I also do a lot of “grunting”—“ooh”s and expletives included; I use a kind of visual thinking that just can’t be articulated."

This is so true. Some decisions are just happening without any plan, the same way sounds flow in musical improvisations. Out of curiosity I looked at the definition:

"Musical improvisation (also known as musical extemporization) is the creative activity of immediate ("in the moment") musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians." (Wikipedia)

Without the references to music, this words would be perfectly accurate to describe what is happening when I compose my images in a collaboration with camera and the screen display.

The performance of perception and emotions in the state of flow.   


REFERENCES:

IC - Week 7 - Can photography provoke change? What is the role of aesthetics?

Photography can provoke change in my opinion and aesthetics has a major role in achieving this. 

I don’t agree with Sischy regarding her criticism of Sebastiao Salgado. I looked closer at his works and seriously don’t understand why he’s been criticised for taking the photographs which are his personal representation and expression of the horrifying events he voluntarily experienced (he organised and financed most of his journeys).

Not many photographers would have a passion and sense of a mission as strong as he had to be in all those places and capture the horror of pain.

Is it really wrong to capture people who suffer in a way they are not deprived of their dignity or even depict them in a beautiful way? I believe that most of those people photographed by Salgado would prefer to see themselves depicted not as an exhausted mass of flesh and bones but as humans with souls, emotions, names and stories. They’re all individuals, not just victims.

As David Campbell observed and articulated in his essay “Salgado and the Sahel - Documentary Photography and the Imaging of Famine”, the west media are saturated with the stereotypical image of starving Africans. It is a norm to illustrate the news of the terrible events there with a heartbreaking photograph of a starving child with a big belly or distressing close up of a dying person with flies around his head. 

We tend to match all people there and their situations to one model - a wretched, anonymous being whos only attribute is pain and misery. We feel that our responsibility is to be shocked, depressed and to cry, and we are being shocked and we cry and what?…

To trigger just compassion and pity is not Salgado’s aim:

“If the person looking at my pictures only feels compassion, I will believe that I have failed completely. I want people to understand that we can have a solution.” (Salgado in Campbell p.77) 

Campbell cites as well the David Levi Strauss who says:

“Whereas those other images end at pity or compassion, Salgado’s images begin at compassion and lead from there to further recognitions. One of the first is that starvation does not obliterate human dignity. . . .Salgado did not photograph passive victims, and pity does not suffice.” (Levi Strauss in Campbell p.77) 

His photographs are poetic, sentimental and beautiful but that, so characteristic of his practice, formal approach supports well his intentions.  I respect his choice and believe that the story he told is honest.

Would the photographs of conflicts and famines he captured be seen by so many people if they were technically wrong and just ‘objective’ and shocking? Would it be better if he wasn’t there and not captured those events? Definitely not. 

Susanne Sontag wrote: 

"Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacid imperatives of taste and conscience. The immensly gifted members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project of late 1930s (among them Walker Evans, Dorotea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russel Lee) would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film - the precise expression on the subject's face that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry. In deciding how a picture should look, in preffering one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects." (Sontag p.6)

Are the most iconic images of Dorothea Lange 'beautified' too then?...

I think it is important to remember that our decisions and actions are often subordinate to some automated physiological mechanisms and it is rather common knowledge that shock and pain is hardly a trigger for constructive actions. We usually want to forget about the images, facts, experiences which are traumatic and painful. 


REFERENCES:

  • Campbell, David  “Salgado and the Sahel: Documentary Photography and the Imaging of Famine,” in Rituals of Mediation: International Politics and Social Meaning, edited by Francois Debrix and Cindy Weber (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 69-96
  • Sontag, Susan (1979)  "On Photography"  Penguin
  • Sischy, Ingrid (1991) ‘Good Intentions’ in The New Yorker (9th September 1991)

IC - Week 6 - See of images

There is a sea of photographic images indeed and a lot of 'issues' caused by the ambiguity of this medium but so is as well a sea of spoken and written words which cause confusions or even conflicts since they inception.

I don't think the amount of images is a problem and all the opinions that there are too many photographs and we should stop creating the new ones seems to me too extreme and unjustified.

"There's no point in making any more images" (...)There are already enough photographs in the world... What we need to do is re-read the images we already have." Victor Burgin | TateShots

This point of view articulated by Burgin and other artists like Stazeker or Baldessari may be an effective art manifesto highlighting the negative aspects of ominous presence of photographs in contemporary world, but for me not convincing at all. We wouldn't say that there are too many notes in the notebooks, blogs, reports, newspapers, books etc and we should recycle all those written visions, thoughts and facts. Why the idea that there are too many images may have sense for anyone - I have no clue. 

Wassily Kandinsky wrote:

"Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. If follows that each period of culture produces and art of its own which can never be repeated." (Kandynsky, p.1)

The problem is, in my opinion, that we still struggle with the categorisation of photography. It is impossible to avoid confusions and misinterpretations when placing everything, from the nonchalant snapshot to thoughtful art piece, into one pot labelled 'photography'. There are a lot of genres of the photographically generated images but they all still refer to word 'photography'. 

In the world of written words, there is a 'note', 'diary', 'novel', 'poem' etc. All of those forms refer to the same medium but it is very hard to confuse them because they are characterised by the unique word....

Anyway, I think we can't and shouldn't stop making, taking, creating photographic images.

 

References:

 

IC - Week 5 - Gazing at photographs

My gaze is determined by the natural tendency to focus on abstract qualities of things.

I look at the forms, colours, structures, rhythms, patterns etc. The, often ineffable, attributes of the configuration of matter in a particular space and time - that is what grabs my attention regardless of where I am. My gaze is free from the social, economical and cultural aspects. There is no nationality, gender or religion involved. In my recent practice I focus on ordinary things in relation to the place and try to reveal the essence of their form, make more prominent the intriguing qualities as well as other aspects of their silent presence.

I try to figure out as well how to translate into photographic image my interest in the structure of matter and physical phenomenons which I perceive more intensively since I became looking at the world through the lens in a more conscious way (conscious of the photographic choices).

My gaze is becoming more and more obsessive and sophisticated. I see the visual potential in a spaces I have not paid attention to before, but I look at them not exactly as they are, but as they will be captured by the camera with specific lens and settings. 

RitaRodner-Places-174.jpg