Monthly Archives: August 2016

Part three – Project 3 – Research Point : Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s documentary ‘L’amour tout court’ (‘Just plain love’ 2001)

Note: There is no sound available to parts 4 and 5, so the response below has only considered the subtitles from these parts.

Cartier-Bresson (b: 1908 – d: 2004) was a French photographer who pioneered street photography and is most famous for being the originator of the phrase the ‘decisive moment’.

He was from a privileged background and although he had a catholic upbringing he was very open-minded.  He played the flute as a child but soon realised that he was better at looking than listening. Later in life he put down his camera and turned to drawing but was still looking / observing.

He believed it was important to be receptive to your surroundings and situations and that, for him, form always came first; the geometry and physical rhythm of a place or subject was the priority, before lighting or anything else.  All moments are passing so it’s all about the framing and the geometry.  It is then for the photographer to decide when to press the shutter button.

His most famous photograph ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932’ was a result of accessibility and chance.  He did not know what he was capturing through the planks which had a gap just big enough to fit his camera lens through and couldn’t see through the viewfinder.   Cartier-Bresson believed it was luck, “It’s always luck.  It’s luck that matters.” [i].

Cartier-Bresson looked up to Giacometti and talked about him warmly, he recalls he called portraits shots ‘doing a head’ which he found amusing, which also gives an insight into his sense of humour.

I think he believed that the feelings of the photographer as expressed through a photograph should be shared by many to be successful and that trust between the photographer and the subject was important.

I’m glad I watched this documentary as it has provided life and colour to Cartier-Bresson which up to now for me has just been about the decisive moment and a number of revered black and white photographs.  I now understand more about his process, what he looks for when capturing his images and the personality behind the photography which is as important.

References

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court Part1 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6l09YEeEpI&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part3 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea3E_8otCME&index=3&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part4 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBDV26UvaNA&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=4. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part5 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-rHc2–Mv8&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=5. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Cartier-Bresson. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Footnotes:

[i] Timestamp 0:56 : YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

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Part three – Project 2 – Exercise 3.2 Photographer Research

Project 2 – A durational space – Photographer Research

As part of the course we are asked at intervals to consider the works of, and research, certain photographers who have used techniques similar to, or the same as, those being studied in that particular part of the course.

For Project 2 of ‘Traces of Time’ which covers shutter priority and exposure times, I have chosen to do research on Robert Frank, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Francesca Woodman’s who have produced work which have parallels to the particular study area covered in this section.  I have kept to one or two relevant points.

Robert Frank

Frank (b: 1924 Switzerland) is an American photographer and film maker who used motion blur specifically as a style for creative effect.  As a young man he went to New York and worked as a freelance photojournalist for magazines such as Harpers Bizarre and Vogue.

In the 1950s Frank secured a Guggenheim fellowship and was awarded a grant to go across America recording the everyday lives of Americans.  Frank’s 1958 collection ‘The Americans’ has been one of the most notable bodies of work since the second world war.  The collection is split in to 4 parts, each addressing a different aspect of American culture.  The images are raw, not technically great but Frank wanted to capture a time, a feel and an emotion which he achieved through his methods albeit they were not the best technically produced images.

The course notes refer specifically to a 1955 image titled ‘Elevator girl’.  Frank’s ‘new’ style was said to have appalled older photographers.  In this photograph he used burred out of focus subjects and a tilted horizon, which portrayed immediacy but was against the standards that constituted a great photograph in the 1950s.

Interestingly, the use of elevator doors closing and opening as a motif, and as referenced in Geoff Dyer’s quote within the course “An elevator door is about to close, like a shutter that will open again, for a moment, not on another floor but in another building or another city” (Dyer, 2012, p210), has been used a lot in the art world over the years and is still being used today.  This motif is also referenced in Christopher Doyle’s opening sequence of the film Chungking Express (1994).

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Sugimoto (b: 1948) is a Japanese photographer whose interest in photography started in high school with some of his first recorded photographs being of movies playing on the big screen, so it is not surprising that this later developed conceptually in to a body of work titled ‘movie theatres’.

‘Movie theatres’ (1978), as referenced in the course material, was a series of photographs which captured movie theatres/screens using a slow shutter speed.  In 1974/1975 Sugimoto’s work took him to American movie theatres so he would bring his camera along and experiment with opening the shutter when the movie started the titles and then closing it at the end credits (exposure of typically 2 to 3 hours), then developing the film.  The result of this technique was to reveal the inside of the movie theatre using the ambient light emitted from the screen throughout the movie to expose the interior.  The screen however where the light was being emitted was purposefully white and blown out as a result of the long exposure time.  The white rectangle (screen) placed centrally in the frame adds a strong focal point which draws your eye in initially and it is only once you are there that your eye then explores the rest of the captured image: the stage, the seating, the balconies and interior, which has a haunting quality to it.

There is always a debate as to whether it is ‘the idea/concept’ or ‘the recording of the idea/concept’ that is the art.

I would say that the art in this particular body of work definitely comes across as more weighted towards ‘the idea/concept’ rather than technical capture.  Sugimoto refers to the concept being the starting point in his ‘contacts’ film which can be found on YouTube.  Although I can imagine there were probably a number of failed attempts at capturing the idea on film as he honed his capturing technique.  That said the final results are compelling and as a result of his work Sugimoto has acquired ‘a reputation as a photographer of the highest technical ability’[i].

In 1998 Sugimoto produced another series ‘In praise of Shadows’ (sharing its name with a 1933 essay on Japanese aesthetics, not sure if this is relevant…), which explored the concept of time, again working with long exposure times, where he photographed a burning candle on a black background from the time it was lit to the time it burnt out.  Conceptually this series was based on Gerhard Richter’s paintings of burning candles.

Francesca Woodman

Woodman (b: 1958-d: 1981) was an American photographer who took black and white photographs of herself or female models, mostly nude and blurred (using movement and long exposure times).  She sadly committed suicide at the age of 22 and much has been written about her work in relation to her mental state.

From the photographs I have seen, conceptually Woodman’s images appear to be unique and you do get a sense of her ‘self’ coming through into her images, even though a lot of her images are either blurred or framed so you do not see her face.  She appeared to be obsessed by herself and her body and has been documented to have become depressed because her work was not receiving the attention she thought it deserved.  On the face of it this seemed to be obsessive behaviour and it is sadly ironic that her work has now received so much posthumous recognition.  Her work is now well documented and is referred to regularly in photography circles and exhibitions.

References

YouTube. 2016. Inside Photographer Robert Frank’s The Americans – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHtRZBDOgag. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Robert Frank :: the Americans – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIAVs_fJjAQ. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Contacts: Hiroshi Sugimoto 2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY3nGoZqw9U. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Francesca Woodman – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesca_Woodman. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

[i] Wikipedia. 2016. Hiroshi Sugimoto – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshi_Sugimoto. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

 

Part three – Project 2 – Exercise 3.2

Part three : Traces of Time…

Project 1 : A durational space
This section is all about capturing a trace of movement within the frame.

Exercise 3.2

Brief:
Using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique try to record the trace of movement within the frame.

Practical:
I chose to use slow shutter speeds for this exercise.  I wanted to capture static scenes, which had a momentary moving element in them.  And, to push my photography further I wanted to achieve the same effect but under 2 different lighting conditions.

Part 1: For the first part of this exercise I shot in daylight, because of the subject and available lighting conditions I was able to achieve these handheld.

Part 2: For this part of the exercise I shot at night and as the lighting conditions were very different I had to use a tripod to allow me to use the shutter speed required to capture the motion whilst keeping the surrounding elements static.

Part 1 Results:
I used shutter speeds in the range of 1/5 sec. to 1/10 sec. to achieve the correct amount of motion blur from the car/s whilst keeping the background static.  With a lot of photography there is an element of chance that ‘something’ will happen that will add to the overall success of an image and in this case having the addition of the people in the frame I think made the shot a lot more interesting.

My contact sheet for part 1 of this exercise is below showing my shooting data and final selection.

EYV Contact Sheet Ex 3.2 v2

My final selection, cropped and adjusted for colour correction in Lightroom, is below.

IMG_2442-2 Ex 3.2

Part 2 Results:
I used shutter speeds in the range of 2.5 sec. to 4 sec. to achieve the correct amount of motion blur from the car lights to capture just the light trails whilst keeping the background static. A slower shutter speed was required to just capture the lights rather than the cars themselves.

My contact sheet for part 1 of this exercise is below showing my shooting data and final selection.

EYV Contact Sheet Ex 3.2 p2 v2

My final selection, adjusted for colour correction in Lightroom, is below.

IMG_2638-2

Findings:
I think undertaking the two variations above on the use of shutter speed together within this exercise clearly shows the impact different shutter speeds can have under different conditions, whilst trying to achieve a slightly different goal using the same theme.  The slower the shutter speed the more time you have to capture motion blur, however, you have to be careful that the shutter speed is not too slow for your chosen subject otherwise they could be so fleeting within the overall time frame that they are not recorded at all.  Saying that, this technique is used by photographers who want to photograph a landscape, urban or otherwise, which is busy with people but they do not want people in the frame.  A long exposure makes the people fleeting within time/frame and so are not recorded strongly (as ghosts) or not at all.

Reflection:

These are two exercises which I would like to explore more in the future maybe with a different subject matter.  I think using cars is probably a bit cliché but it certainly works here to show the effects of slower shutter speeds with moving objects.  It is interesting to think that you could order/arrange all moving objects according to their speed capturing them in differing states of ‘blur’ within a photograph.

This completes my submission for Exercise 3.2.

Part three : Traces of Time…

Part three: Traces of Time – An introduction

This part of the Expressing Your Vision (‘EYV’) course is all about tracing the development of photography through the introduction of ever faster exposure times.

The art of capturing and recording the world around us dates back to early man with wall drawings.  These captured scenes of daily life, landscapes and events which were used for communication, education and story telling.  Photography’s story starts circa 400BC when the Chinese and Greek philosophers explored and reported on the basic principles of optics. The rest, as they say, is history.

‘Drawing with light’ i.e. Photography, as we know it today, was born in the early 1800’s once we figured out how to fix an image for others to see and in c.1826 the first photograph was produced.  At this time exposure times were around 8 hours long, which made capturing anything moving impossible.  The subject had to be static for 8 hours for the ‘photograph’ to be successful so could not be used to capture people.

It wasn’t until c.1938 that exposure times had reduced significantly enough (to a few minutes) to capture a person. Daguerre’s ‘Boulevard du Temple’ is always quoted as the first photograph to capture human form, although it has been argued that this was staged nonetheless it was a significant point in the history of photography.

In the course notes a number of people have been referenced as pioneers of freezing motion and examples of shortening exposure times and what this meant in terms of how we see the world around us;

Muybridge (1830 – 1904) an English photographer who in 1877 captured movement as a series of stills, breaking down motion, allowing us to see what our eyes couldn’t fro example, a horse galloping has at one point all four legs off the ground at one time.

In 1906 Worthington (1852-1916) an English physicist and educator pioneered high speed photography through his work on fluid mechanics and the recording of drops and splashes.  He published a book on the subject titled “A Study of Splashes”.

In 1939, Edgerton (1903 – 1990) an American engineer was working with a photographer Gjon Mili who was using stroboscopic equipment which could flash up to 120 time per second.  This allowed Edgerton to capture a very brief moment in time which provided significant information on the behaviour of materials and substances, famously capturing in 1957 the ‘Milk Drop Coronet’ which shows how milk behaves when dropped into itself, enabling an alternative way to assess it’s properties and structure.

The projects within this part of the course explore exposure times and in particular; ‘The frozen moment’ – capturing a moment of a moving subject, ‘A durational space’ – capturing a trace of movement within the frame i.e. time as it passes using motion blur and ‘What matters is to look’ – explores the concept of the ‘decisive moment’.

To see the exercises to accompany this part of the course please head on over to Exercise 3.1.

References:

OCA, 2014. Photography 1 Expressing Your Vision PH4EYV260814

Wikipedia. 2016. Eadweard Muybridge – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge. [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Arthur Mason Worthington – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Mason_Worthington. [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Harold Eugene Edgerton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Eugene_Edgerton. [Accessed 29 August 2016].

Michael Langford, 2010. Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide for Serious Photographers. 9 Edition. Focal Press.

 

Part Three – Project 1 – Exercise 3.1

Part Three : Traces of Time

Project 1 : The Frozen Moment This section is all about freezing motion.

Exercise 3.1 

Brief: Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process.

Practical: One bright morning with my camera set to shutter priority mode, my daughter and I headed to the park for some fun in the children’s play area.

As we would be taking shots at a high shutter speed in good light, at a reasonable focal length, there was no need for a tripod so I took all the shots handheld.

Results: The shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. was enough to freeze the motion of this particular activity, noting that for other activities this may be different.

My contact sheet for this activity is below showing my shooting data and final selection.

EYV Exercise 3.1 Contact Sheet v2

My final selection, cropped in closer, is below.

IMG_7909-2

Findings: To start with I found I was missing the good shots due to the timing of capture and realised you had to be more considered about when you pressed the shutter button so as not to miss the action. I found the high-speed burst was more successful for me when taking a succession of shots during the period of motion.

Depending on how quickly the shots are taken (one after the other) determines how smoothly the eye sees the transition from one shot to the next. 24 frames per second is what the eye needs to see to perceive motion smoothly. The above shots are taken too far apart for the motion to appear smooth so the above sequence looks instead like fragmented slices of time.

Reflection: I enjoyed this exercise mostly because the reason for the motion was one of fun and enjoyment (although my daughter could have looked a bit more happy rather than having her concentration face on!).

This completes my submission for Exercise 3.1.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate Modern

Exhibition: Georgia O’Keeffe
Date: Friday 5 August 2016 @ 12:30pm

I had the pleasure of going to the Tate Modern on Friday to see the works of Georgia O’Keeffe and I wasn’t disappointed!  I didn’t know much about her work apart from her well-known clichéd paintings but I would definitely recommend the exhibition which runs until 30 October 2016.

Georgia OKeeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986) is most well-known for her flower paintings that have sexual connotations but there is so much more to Georgia O’Keeffe than this.

The exhibition covers O’Keeffe’s work from the 1910s to the 1960s and includes her paintings, drawings, charcoals and a sculpture together with work from those who inspired her works and photographs from Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946), her husband.  O’Keeffe was Stieglitz’s muse so there are a number of photographs of her in the exhibition.  There are 13 rooms so if you are going to go, pace yourself give yourself at least an hour and a half to take everything in.

O’Keeffe decided to be an artist before she was 12 years old.  I think back to when I was a child and although I had aspirations to be many things, working in the Pensions industry was not one of them… maybe that’s why I am now a frustrated wannabe photographer.

One thing I noticed particularly about her abstract paintings was the gentle calming use of colour.  She used pale blues, pinks, greens, greys and white, which were blended so softly.  She used rounded, flowing lines and an effective use of shading to take the eye on a pleasant journey within the frame.

There were many pieces that inspired me but a piece called ‘Shell No. 2 1928’ oil paint on board especially has given me some ideas for a future photography project.