Project 2 – Lens Work
“The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes.” [Wim Wenders (1997) quoted in Bromberg & Chanarin, 2008]
“Deep focus gives the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is at least given the opportunity to edit the scene himself, to select the aspects of it to which he will attend.” [Bazin (1948) quoted in Thompson & Bordwell, 2007)
Research Point – Brief:
‘Do your own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project.
Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2…. Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.’
Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), was notably one of the most famous American landscape photographers of the 20th century. Adams primarily used large format cameras for their high-resolution. He co-founded a group called f64 formed of 7 20th century San Francisco photographers, developed the Zone System and was one of the founders of aperture magazine.
The Zone system provided photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualize the photographic subject and the final results, and co-founded aperture magasine. Put simply the system renders light subjects as light, and dark subjects as dark, according to the photographer’s visualization.
Adams used deep depth of field in his photography and on accessing the OCAs Bridgeman Education Library I came across this image which caught my eye, “Farm workers harvesting with Mount Williamson in background, Manzanar Relocation Center, California, 1943“. This image uses deep depth of field, you can see from the nearest worker in the foreground, right back to the majestic mountains in the background.
In contrast, Gianluca Cosci’s (1970 – ) series Panem et Circense, as referenced in the course, is an example of images that use shallow depth of field and mostly from a low viewpoint. You can see this series from the photographers website. I particularly like the images where he has used a very low viewpoint and focused on small areas of the road, selecting only a small specific area to highlight to the viewer – ‘Senza Titolo #9’ and ‘Senza Titolo #10’.
‘In my practice I strive to obtain an emotive response from the viewer to highlight the increasingly oppressive presence of corporate power over not just our every day life , but also its influence in the creative process itself, where art can be perceived by corporations as just another sophisticated and subtle instrument of propaganda that can be used and manipulated at will, according to their own agenda.’ Gianluca Cosci
Going off on a bit of a tangent warning!! This quote reminded me of when I heard Edward Burtynsky talk at Photo London this year (2016) where he acknowledged that his images potentially could serve a dual purpose: 1) the Corporate to represent their achievement, in scale and size. An image of their ‘success’, in their particular field of expertise, possibly hung proudly in their boardroom, And 2) used by environmental campaigners to show the negative impact that these companies are having on the environment with their large-scale man-made transformations of the landscape, most of which cannot be seen in their entirety except from a helicopter (which has been granted permission to fly over these sites). All his images are impactful, his OIL series shows the scale of man’s endeavours to extract earth’s natural resources from it in an aggressive way. Burtynsky’s images are quite often taken from a helicopter where using a large aperture doesn’t have much impact on depth of field as the photograph is being taken from so far away.
Lastly I wanted to mention Guy Bourdin (1928 – 1991) a French artist and fashion photographer, who used deep depth of field to create some strange but thought-provoking images. You can find a wide range of his work on the internet and of the images I have seen, I note that he likes to photograph legs and shoes. Having a person’s legs in frame in the way that he does (wearing shoes) gives a sense of unease. There is a real body disconnect within the image because you can only see the model’s legs. You cannot understand what the model is thinking or gain any context about this from the image, although I think that is the point and Bourdin’s images are more about aesthetics rather than the ‘why’.
Here is an image which I took using the shallow depth of field aesthetic and taken from a slightly less obvious viewpoint (ref: Cosci). It looks like the snail is about to slide over the edge and end it all – suicide snail, and I could image the photographer (me) trying to talk the snail out of it but instinctively we know that snails are not consciously suicidal animals, but the image could also represent loneliness as he’s turned his back on the world….
This concludes my exercise submissions for Part 2, next stop Assignment two ‘Collecting’ – The Beginning…
Gianluca Cosci – Panem et Circenses. 2016. Gianluca Cosci – Panem et Circenses. [ONLINE] Available at: http://gianlucacosci.com/page10.htm. [Accessed 29 June 2016].
Edward Burtynsky OIL Web Gallery. 2016. Edward Burtynsky OIL Web Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/site_contents/Photographs/Oil.html. [Accessed 29 June 2016].