Category: Part 2

Exercise 2.3 – The Family Album

Question

Explore the family album and its iconography.

Provide six photographs (e.g. photomontage, work using found images) which reference the family album in some way.

The Project

There is more truth in the image of reality, which is perennially enduring, than the vision of the real, which is fleeting. (Fontcuberta, 2014, p.180)

On a recent visit to Hay-on-Wye, I was searching around the second hand bookshops and antique stalls for photographs much in the way that Erik Kessels, Joachim Schmid and others have done before me.

I stumbled across a photograph album developed by Mother Levine Murphy from the 1920s to the 1950s. From this example I was able to analyse “the family album of the mid 20th century”.

I believe it to be Mother Levine’s because there is a loose newspaper clipping in the front which shows her photograph, age 83 and a brief article about her life:

Mother Levine Murphy

On studying the album in more detail it became absolutely clear that these pictures had been taken by Mother Levine, starting in the 1920s. They are mainly pictures of her family, some fellow nuns and the various convents and locations she had visited during that time. There is one very interesting section where she went to Lourdes to visit the Bishop of Lourdes, Father Coffer and Canon Monk.

It suits my need very well that I did not know too much about this person as I intend to make an analysis of the family album of the 1920s rather than a historical record of the person..

I believe her job was to teach in the convent school at St Anthony’s convent in Sherbourne, Dorset.

She was professed in 1878 and so I guess she was born in the 1850s or 60s not so long after photography was invented.

More than that, I know very little about her as a photographer or as a person, only what the “snaps” tell me. Her photography was obviously a keen interest to her and must have been an expensive hobby in its day. She reminds me of Vivian Maier in her obsession but not in her ability.

My direct experience of 1920s photography to date is a visit to Chambré Hardman’s studio in Liverpool, a very interesting talk by Keith Roberts on his work analysing the Hardman portraits and part of the content of my attic in the shape of my own family portraits.

This was about the time when Edward Steichen was working for Vanity Fair. Portraits typical of this age are shown below:

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Family Albums were very much about groups of people dressed up either sitting or standing and always facing the camera in a formal pose:

imagesFZRXQO9XimagesJFUTPF5U

 

To try to understand iconography in relation to the family album, I purchased and read a few chapters of  Ancestral Images (Moser, 1998). It certainly gave a better understanding of iconography but I have had to work out for myself how that influences the interpretation of the family album. I think that the most important thing to understand is the positioning and formality of the people of the 1920s.

The family album which I have discovered covers the following subjects:

  • Single portraits
  • Group portraits
  • Buildings
  • Gardens
  • Beehives
  • Church interiors
  • The pope
  • Weddings
  • Ships
  • Cows

There are virtually no candid shots. People are posed facing the camera. The photographs are very much the interest of this one single woman. A strictly personal document, not in any way for sharing, perhaps for very occasionally showing a very personal friend.

Because this is the album belonging to a nun, it does not fall neatly into Erik Kessels’ categories of eight albums in a lifetime:

  • Man meets woman
  • Wedding
  • First Child
  • 4 albums assorted – holidays, children, dogs.
  • Final – man photographs woman in landscape

Instead her life is only really within the category of “4 Albums assorted”. It is interesting to note that this album may be the only one in her life. At first I thought that it was only about the 1920s as the first photographs were dated but, like most albums, the information attached to each picture has deteriorated and so much is left to supposition.  In the present day it would be possible to access much more metadata as long as the digital file were available.

I bought this album in an antique / junk shop and I presume the copyright is mine. I have reproduced some of these pictures so that I can put them onto this blog and my selection of six is as follows:

20160820 XPRO 054A

 

20160820 XPRO 040A

20160820 XPRO 043A

 

20160820 XPRO 033A

 

20160820 XPRO 031A

 

20160820 XPRO 042A

 

This traditional approach to producing a family album is not so common these days as social media has taken over and many of the pictures are more informal.

My own family photos have taken on a very different look as shown by this “outside looking in” picture taken recently for the “People and Place” module:

 

20150320 037 Raw Convert (Copy)

There are many ways of representing portraiture in the modern age. Only today, I attended a performance of the portraiture of Brazil where a performance artist / dancer used his own body to represent the portraits of Brazilian people. He interpreted photographs, text and voice , using his own naked body. Ref: Tiago Cadet: Alla Prima – Home Manchester – August 20 2016:

Tiago-Cadet-Alla-Prima-2-472x264[1]

 

The contrast in quality of presentation between the 1920s photo album and today’s many methods of representation is stunning but there is still something most compelling about carrying out a historical exercise to analyse early photo albums. Part of the excitement is in finding out about the person behind the pictures.

Conclusion

The family / personal portrait has changed significantly over time. The 1920s portrait was formal, sitter or group facing the camera showing a sense of pride and grandeur. By the 1950s the subjects were starting to relax a little.

Today the portrait is rarely so formal and the sitters do not demonstrate their sense of wealth and grandeur. The pictures are often shared immediately with friends and then lost for ever. Every conceivable emotion could be demonstrated by the images posted on social media and formality is rarely one of these.

There are also many other ways in which one’s portrait can be demonstrated, by performance, use of sound, video, interview techniques and many other.

References

Moser, S. (1998) Ancestral Images: The Iconography of Human Origins. Sutton

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera:  Archive Noises. Mack

Schmid, J.    http://weareoca.com/photography/an-interview-with-joachim-schmid/

Schmid, J.    http://www.nowseethis.org/invisiblephoto/posts/678/essay/13

Kessels, E    http://lightbox.time.com/2013/09/04/the-vanishing-art-of-the-family-photo-album/#22

Chambré Hardman, E.   Study Visit – Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool – 9 February 2013, Peter Haveland and Keith Roberts

Chambré Hardman, E. 59 Rodney Street. The National Trust

 

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Exercise 2.2 – Mishka Henner – “No Man’s Land”

Question

Write 500 words on a piece of work by one contemporary artist – photographer who uses the archive as source material.

Mishka Henner – “No Man’s Land”

Mishka Henner is a Belgian artist living in Manchester. He has used Google Earth, Google Street View and You Tube to provide source material for his work and he is known for using “Print on Demand” to try to bypass traditional publishing methods. He was awarded the Kleine Hans award in July 2011 at Arles for his print on demand works, “Photography Is”, “Collected Portraits”, “Fifty One US Military Outposts”, “Dutch Landscapes” and “No Man’s Land”.

I first saw his work “No Man’s Land” when I visited the photographer’s gallery to view the entries for the Deutsche Borse Prize in 2013. http://www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk/mishka-henner-3).  Although it did not win the prize, of all the shortlisted entries, it is the work which has remained in my memory.

At the time I was unaware that it was acceptable to use works by other authors as part of an entry into any competition, let alone a significant worldwide event.

According to The Daily Telegraph 13 April 2013 ” No Man’s Land is a survey of prostitution”. His images are from Google Street View in Spain and Italy and document the presence of sex workers.

His picture “Carretera de Rubi. Terrassa. Spain 2012”  has been used on the front page of the course material for this project. It is a picture which attracts the viewer’s interest immediately and has a huge political element.

Carretera de Rubi Terrassa Spain 2012

 Carreterade Rubi. Terrassa. Spain 2012

 Henner has been described as a “Modern Day Duchamp” and he states that “Duchamp was about changing the way we think of art, and in consequence how we look at the world”.

This project started because Henner’s partner Liz Lock was working on a project investigating street prostitution alongside sociologists in Manchester. Henner came up with the idea of searching Google Street View for material for his project and sure enough he found plenty. He then discovered that there are internet forums set up for men using street view as a means of finding girls. The project therefore became (in Henner’s words) one of “looking and being witness to the whole world with which we cannot empathise”.

Henner has not altered the images in any way, we see what we see, and this demonstrates the manufactured nature of these world views.

Henner particularly likes the landscape views which come out of these pictures (in a traditional landscape sense). However, he accepts that the images of the women are  intensely voyeuristic and therefore have more impact.

In his words “People tend to focus on the women, but the figures are tiny. At one time these places must have been lush greenery and rolling hills. Now they are littered with trash with these poor women standing by the road to make a living. The project became about the fall of Arcadia (Doctor Who)”.

The following are two examples of his work. There are many others which demonstrates how much material is available.

Carretera de Olot Crespia CT Spain

Cisliano Milan Italy

 

The following clip shows the wealth of material not related to “girl on street” and starts to develop tension between beautiful landscape and the ugliness of the road system.

 

Henner revisits these digital locations regularly and the scenes have changed (street view is updated every 2 to 3 years). He is continuing his work as streetview moves into other countries and he describes the work as having an archival role. Most of these images will disappear without ever being looked at

Similar to works by Joachim Schmid, Henner’s project raises an important question about authorship and ownership. Google have produced and displayed these images for the benefit of Google’s economic growth. Henner’s use of these images is more in line with a curator whose skill lies in identifying, locating, exhibiting and theoretically contextualising images.

Note: His work is not unique. While researching Mishka Henner, I discovered another photographer, Txema Salvans  who has actually photographed Spanish prostitutes who work from a busy roadside:  www.featureshoot.com/2014/06/waiting game/

Reflection

Henner has followed his instincts in pursuing a subject which is close to him because his partner has already  been deeply involved in the subject.

He is someone who has pushed practice to use photography to create an archive which records at a point in time across Europe.

He has used the archive to record the social and economic position of a group of people in a particular environment .

He is making a huge political statement.

The format of his presentation was a series of large scale prints and a video in an exhibition. This contributed significantly to his success.

There is a deep satisfaction in researching a subject which has sprung from an exhibition visit and finding out after the event a mass of information not available at the exhibition. To write up the detail helps to consolidate one’s thoughts and is one of the few ways of retaining the detailed information.

My own analysis of the subject has only really scratched the surface but the result I have obtained is a close study of Henner’s approach which makes me think of projects I have done which need a longer period of time to complete. An example of this is my work photographing outside looking in (through the window at night) which took up a large part of my work on “People and Place”.

 

 

Exercise 2.1 -Repetition of Motif

Question

“Bring together a series of 12 images (a typology) in which a particular motif appears again and again. Select an appropriate way to display your series.

Definition on Motif

A decorative image or design, especially a repeated one forming pattern.

A dominant or recurring idea in an artistic work.

A single or repeated design or colour.

Reference

The question refers back to the work of Corinne Vionnet (link 3) in her series “Photo Opportunities”

I have referred to this work in my blog “Exercise 1.1 – The Origins of Photomontage”

It has strongly influenced my approach to overlays and I have produced work already which is my interpretation of this style. The origins of Montage

The Project

I started by looking at other ideas for the reproduction of a motif.  Some of my early thoughts were:

  • Andy Warhol – Marilyn
  • Colour cast
  • Stamps
  • Self portrait grid
  • Same place, different times of day
  • Self portraits in a specific style
  • Art’s most painted subject
  • Bamburgh Castle from the beach
  • Advertising through time – oxo, shampoo, perfume

 

I investigated the Andy Warhol idea by working on one of my self portraits

self-portrait-warhol-style

The picture was fun to produce and I learned a little more about post production but it did not have any real meaning. It was copying somebody else’s idea and I was looking for a little more creativity and originality.

At this point I started to become obsessive about the idea of perfume advertising and, as obsession is a good pointer to success I pursued the idea of specific perfumes, keeping the field fairly narrow.

The favourite perfume in this household is Chanel No 5 and on researching this further I discovered a vast history of advertising since 1921.

Many famous women have become the Chanel No 5 model over the years, for example, Marilyn Monroe, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve,  Carole Bouquet and many others.

Marilyn Monroe was reputed to have said, when asked what she wore in bed, “Why Chanel No 5 of course”. This set off a stream of very competitive challenges for the title.

My artwork for this project is made up of a background of the iconic Chanel bottle and box with an overlay of each of twelve Chanel models from the advertisments found on Google Images.

The models are Audrey Tautou, Brad Pitt, Candice Bergen, Carole Bouquet, Estelle Warren, Giselle Bundchen, Grace Kelly, Kate Moss, Lily Rose Depp, Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman and Vanessa Paradis.

I thought a lot about presentation and whether it was necessary to display the models in chronological order but it transpires that women’s beauty has not faded over the ages and as the overlay of the model is in black and white it is not possible to tell the era from which the model has come apart from perhaps showing the fashion of the time. Even that is difficult to decipher and so I have made my mix randomly. There is one male model in the mix which I believe helps to keep interest and invite the viewer to return for a second look.

I have decided to display the images as a single grid. This gives each the same opportunity and allows the viewer to obtain best benefit from the repetitive motif. I considered other formats such as individual framed prints or an audio visual presentation and I also looked at whether to add text to describe the people in the picture but I preferred the chosen layout and have given the viewer the chance to identify the models thus holding his / her gaze for longer.

Chanel No 5 Composite-1

I was intrigued to look at whether by creating an image of my own, it would be possible for the viewer to establish if this was genuine.

This was my own result:

imagesN6ZHB01S Colin Chanel No 5

 

Who would know the difference?

One other picture which I discovered on my journey is the following:

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It intrigued me because as I started looking at Chanel models it brought back my time photographing models on the catwalk of London Fashion Weekend where I started to realise how distorted and in some cases emaciated the models needed to be to compete in today’s market. At first I thought this was one of these and then I remembered the work of Sally Mann and, of course this is one of her children.

After further research, I realised that the Chanel context was a spoof created by the website http://www.tomorrowstarted.com about Chanel Kids. “Every child alive needs Chanel”. This just shows how when doing one’s research on the internet, one has to be extremely careful of the validity of the source. The picture is the most powerful one I have come across in the context of Chanel No 5 but although it has made me think about the modelling industry it is in no way authentic.

Conclusion

This project worked well for me because it gave me an opportunity to consider the advertising industry in terms of fashion models and a simple iconic image. It starts to demonstrate just how much effort has gone into advertising this single brand of perfume, the enormous cost involved in attracting customers by playing on their vanity, their sensitivity and their desire to become a part of a limited but fashionable group of people.

 

 

 

Research Part 2 Project 1 The Artist as Curator

PROJECT 1: THE ARTIST AS CURATOR

Artists have become increasingly interested in the use of the “Found Image”. The role of editing has never been more critical. As photographers we must find new strategies of working with the wealth of digital images which have been and are being spewed out today.

Joachim Schmid and Erik Kessels are two artists who work with and understand the photo archive. It is my challenge to study these artists and gain an understanding of how I can use the photo archive for my own benefit.

In the essay ‘Archive Noises’ in Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera – Phtogr@phy after Photography, London: MACK, Fontcuberta opens up some of his ideas about the importance of the archive of photography in the modern day.

Francois Arago presented the daguerreotype to the French Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris (August 1839) and stated that the invention would impinge on:

  • Perception
  • Memory

“It would apprehend what meets the eye and preserve what escapes the memory, by retaining visual information that deserves to be conserved.”

In the last quarter of the 20th century, photography was not about what you “took” but how it was presented. This is what led to the manipulation of found images to create art: to create an “aura”.

Joachin Schmid’s work is informed by a concern with visual ecology.

Schmid and Friche visited flea markets, second hand bookshops, looking for anonymous amateur snapshots which resembled those of the grand masters – Adams, Evans etc. reprocessing them and mounting them so they were indistinguishable.

Schmid encouraged recycling rather than producing an excessive proliferation of new images.

This work parallelled the work of Duchamp and the Dadaists.

The Archive Project

Schmid took banal amateur photographs and grouped them together, e.g. couples, children with a ball, mustachioed men, baseball players etc.

He used the photos to embody different ideas. He then gave one last chance to all the material which he had previously rejected.

Link 1: Interview: Sharon with Joachin Schmid

This interview followed a Tate conference on Vernacular Photography.

Schmid talked about collecting snapshots, looking for repetitive (recurring) patterns. To find repetitive patterns he needed stamina and good luck to find the right pictures. It was not a series of “Eureka” moments.

He refers to Italo Calvino’s “Adventures of a photographer” (which I have managed to find and print off the web). This is a superb essay by a non photographer, a gem of a reference hidden away. I have also read Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”, recommended by Peter Fraser last year. He is a source of inspiration and has assisted the “Flaneur” in me.

Schmid can relate to Calvino’s statement that photography leads to madness.

The Archiv Project was produced as a series of books and Schmid discovered that people’s attention span for books is much greater than for text on a computer (digital representation).

Other People’s Photographs Project generated more than 3000 photos. These were all shown in a book and this presentation method made it much easier for the viewer to look at the “whole” and give it adequate attention.

Schmid says “Wandering round looking for photos is more fun than scanning the web. It holds the interest for longer. But use of computer technology is more efficient and more effective”

We all take the same pictures and this works to Schmid’s advantage. In the future there will be too many photographers. He says “With higher levels of education in photography it will become more difficult to make a living out of the art.)

Link 2:  Photography as Urban Archaeology – The Practice of Joachim Schmid

“I am an artist because there is no other description of what I do”

Schmid created an “Anti Museum” of forgotten, lost and disused photographs – taken by the anonymous public. His work is curatorial and editorial and it is sometimes difficult to see where editorial selection ends and creative representation begins.

In one of his projects “Pictures From the Street”, he walked the streets for nearly 30 years searching for discarded, lost or torn photographs because of the mystery behind them. They reflect the role of photography played in everyday life. He sorted them by type and aesthetic approach in a “visual taxonomy of the mundane”.

He did the same exercise online (mainly Flickr) in his “Other People’s Photographs” project (2008 – 2011) which is where he produced 96 print – on – demand books.

In his photographic garbage survey project (1996 – 1997) he systematically walked pre arranged routes through seven cities collecting, preserving and documenting every piece of photographic garbage in his path:

  • Paris – 91 objects – 9 days
  • Sao Paulo – 83 objects – 8 days
  • Berlin – 43 objects – 6 days
  • Rotterdam – 28 objects – 6 days
  • Vigo, Spain – 23 objects – 5 days
  • Zurich – 12 objects – 4 days

He mapped each day’s route and noted details of each found photo such as location, date, position in the sequence of the day’s discoveries (a sort of urban archaeology).

He logged the type of photo in each city and therefore compared the cities (torn photos / polaroids / photo booth)

The project was an attempt to understand the flip side of photographic collection and preservation. This is another way to curate by setting limits on where we look for material.

Conclusion

“Now we’re a species of editors. We all recycle, clip and cut, remix and upload. We can make images do anything. All we need is an eye, a camera, a brain, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view. And when we’re not editing, we’re making”

Link 3: Corinne Vionnet

Today, the travelogue is less likely to be a tangible album found in our homes than it is an online directory of digital images. This gives a platform to collect the travel souvenirs via keyword search and use them for inspiration going forward.

I have worked on Corinne Vionnet’s ideas in part 1 coursework and my ideas at the moment for exercise 2.1 are to find on the internet a subject (not holiday tourist pictures) which is repetitive in the same way.