Tag Archives: OCA

Part 2 Exercise 2.3

In this exercise, we are instructed to read Sean O’Hagan’s article on the 1975 New Topographics exhibition and watch a video of Lewis Baltz. We are then asked to write down responses to the work of any of the photographers mentioned in the O’Hagan article and thoughts on typological approaches.

O’Hagens Article

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/feb/08/new-topographics-photographs-american-landscapes

O’Hagen examines the influence of William Jenkins’ 1975 exhibition, where he considers the work exhibited to be the linchpin in a turning point in Landscape photography. Jenkins Exhibition brought together a number of photographers who knew each other and who had influenced each other but the exhibition should not be considered as a “collective”. These ‘New Topographics’ allowed photographers to shift their approach of documenting the landscape. Instead of a capturing the romanticised view of the American Landscape, this approach focused instead on the changes made by man on the environment and on how society was exploiting the landscape and the environment.

By focusing on the man-made changes and the encroaching urbanisation and suburbanisation of the land, they documented the unspoiled wilderness of the ‘new frontier’ of Adams and O’Sullivan which was now being sullied and destroyed by the construction of water towers, parking lots, fuelling stations and roadside diners and drive-throughs.

The “New Topograhics” approach of constructing a narrative and vision by placing the image within the frame and isolating it allowed the geometric shape of the structure to be viewed as a shape and to show the viewer something which they regularly see but ignore. By then repeating the same view, angle and post production it shows the rhythmic shape of the narrative, enhancing it bringing to view the things constructed by man that man then ignores.

The ‘New Topograhics” approach can be identified in works such as ‘Ed Ruschas’ “Every building on Sunset Strip”. While this work does not sit tightly with the aesthetic approach outlined by ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher’ it does present a social view of anonymity and abstraction.

Closer to the Becher’s aesthetic and mentioned in O’Hagens article are the works of Frank Gohlke, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz, Nicholas Nixon, Andreas Gurtsky and the aforementioned Bechers. These photographers wanted to create a family of motifs, a pattern of experiences which the viewer experiences sequentially as they view a network of photographs of objects which have been divorced from their original purpose and everyday function.

Andreas Gurtsky.

Gurtsky is a student of Bernd and Hilla Becher and has cultivated the aesthetic response of the Anonymous Sculpture. Gurtsky tries to draw the viewer away from the transparent notion of representation by purposefully avoiding context and association.

Gurtsky uses a system of rigorous  procedural rules; standardised format and ratio, near identical lighting and a consistent approach to colour, which is a step away from the Becher’s restricted use of black and white photography, as does his use of a higher vantage point which creates a fantasy world, full of human creation but without the human representation.

While Gurtsky could be interpreted as cold and unfeeling, it can be seen that even within the frame he uses the technique of rhythm and repetition to present his view. ‘Rhein II’ is a prime example of this.

Frank Gohike

Gohike as a contemporary of the Bechers, worked on landscapes where man-made constructions competed with nature. He examined how this competition created a frame through which could be seen the way that man has marked the landscape with his own constructions. Grohike frames this aesthetic so that for the most part the suburban or industrial landscape stretches off into the horizon, leaving little room for nature. This scale creates an imbalance in the viewer and questions the viewer’s perceptions of the items within the frame. ‘Grain Elevator and Lightning Flash, Lamesa, Texas, 1975’ is a prime example of Grohike’s work. Here he uses the monochromatic zone approach and values,  which is characteristic of the work of Ansel Adams, to give depth to the scene, but unlike Adams, Grohike focuses on the man-made changes which have created the new landscape.

Like Gurtsky, Grohike for the most part does not represent people within the frame, instead choosing to represent the landscape as a fluid and dynamic relationship with the forces acting upon it, whether they be man-made or natural.

 

References

The Guardian. 2018. New Topographics: photographs that find beauty in the banal | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/feb/08/new-topographics-photographs-american-landscapes. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Media Art Net | Ruscha, Ed: Every Building on the Sunset Strip. 2018. Media Art Net | Ruscha, Ed: Every Building on the Sunset Strip. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/sunset-strip/. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Tate. 2018. ‘The Rhine II’, Andreas Gursky, 1999 | Tate . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gursky-the-rhine-ii-p78372. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Andreas Gursky | home. 2018. Andreas Gursky | home. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Places Journal. 2018. Frank Gohlke: Thoughts on Landscape. [ONLINE] Available at: https://placesjournal.org/article/frank-gohlke-thoughts-on-landscape/. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Photography and the Limits of the Document Symposium: video recordings | Tate. 2018. Photography and the Limits of the Document Symposium: video recordings | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/photography-and-limits-document#open240431. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

YouTube. 2018. Photographer Donovan Wylie on his Outposts series – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQekhfX73zE. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

YouTube. 2018. Photographer Donovan Wylie on the Maze series and his influences – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naoxP-iLvqU. [Accessed 03 July 2018].

Part 2 Exercise 2.2

The exercise asks that the student chooses a Road Movie and then writes 500 words on the Narrative of the Landscape within the movie.

I chose the Sam Mendes film “Road to Perdition”;

Landscape Narrative – Road Movies – Road to Perdition.

American road movies come out of traditional storytelling which can be traced back to Homer and the Iliad; the main characters of the story undertake a journey where they will have to make choices and face the consequences of decisions made. In Sam Mendes “Road to Perdition”, a father is hiding his mobster life from his family and must go on the run with his surviving son when his wife and other son are murdered because the surviving son witnesses his father and a colleague gun down some men.

Father and son undertake a physical and emotional journey, as the emotionally repressed father tries to save his son and prevent him from becoming like him. In doing so, on the journey the father opens up emotionally to the son and they finally connect.
Mendes uses a number of motifs within the film, but here we will concentrate on only two; water and the landscape. Water in the film is present as a lake, snow, rain and ice and they all represent life and death and the inability of man to change his fate. Landscape is used to represent not only the emotional state of the two main characters but also the narrative boundaries of the tale.

In the beginning, as they start the journey, the landscape is barren and flat, much like the emotional state of the characters. They pass empty fields and empty crossroads. They could deviate at any point, go away from the road and cross the fields abandoning the quest but instead they push onwards through the night into the city. The city is bright, busy and bold, the buildings surround and dominate the landscape and now the roads are filled with cars and the pavements crowded with people. It closes in on them, but at the same time, defends them as they are hard to distinguish from everyone else in such an identikit landscape, full of identical people performing identical tasks. Forced back out of the city, they start to cross the American landscape, which begins to appear like the paintings of Edward Hooper, even the characters themselves when dining look like his paintings. On the run, the two main characters come to the decision to fight back and the landscape reflects that decision by the representation of a piece of road lined on either side by trees. Here, the decision made, the other choices have been discarded and their fate set; now thoughts of abandoning the quest are discarded and the only path is forward.

The film is book ended by a body of water, the same body of water that the son is drawn to and viewing when his father’s fate catches up with him, mortally wounded by his assassin, he tries to clutch at a gun on the floor. His son hearing the shot arrives and picks up the gun but cannot shoot the ‘weegee’ like hit-man. His father understanding that he has succeeded and that his son will not follow in his path, manages to take a gun and kill the hit-man. The sunlit lake becomes the final scene, the sunlight over the water representing a positive future for the son.

The second part of the exercise asks the student to undertake a journey and document the landscape.

In this exercise, I chose to take a trip down to Cove Harbour, where in October 1881, there was a Fishing disaster where 189 fishermen perished in a severe storm.

This is my journey from the village down to the harbour, I had intended on taking these images in good weather but a sea haar still remained on the coast. Continuing with the challenging conditions under foot for me, I decided to photograph anyway in the unusual conditions as I felt that it was a good experience.

 

References.

IMDB. 2002. Road to Perdition. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0257044/. [Accessed 4 June 2018].

Assignment 1. Beauty and the Sublime. 

Interpreting the brief

The brief for this Assignment reminds you that it may feed into Assignment 6 at the end of the course. The brief here is open for some interpretation as it asks for between 6 and 12 images which convey from the photographers’ point of view, beauty and sublime.

The terms beauty and sublime have over the years had a number of definitions and the terms themselves have broadly lost their artistic values due to misuse and misinterpretation. One only has to look at the number of different uses and identities that Sublime has within the book ‘The Sublime’ to see how devalued the word has become.

I wanted to return to the ‘as near as the original’ definitions as possible for applying them to my interpretations on landscape photography

In this series of pictures, I settled on trying to capture some of the imbalance as described in Exercise 1.9. I wanted to see if I could get both sides of a social contrast within a single scene.

I wanted to capture the changes in Leith, which was a port town before being merged into the City of Edinburgh. The port of Leith was one of the industrial hearts of the city. The large ports and docks built, maintained and broke ships as well as handling cargo destined not only for the City but for locations to the north, south, east and west of the city. It was the first port of call for any immigrant to the area and provided many jobs on the docks and beyond for many residents. The area is now undergoing a large social change as buildings have been knocked down or repurposed for luxury housing, student housing, shops, malls, casinos and large-scale housing developments.

Visual Culture

Using landscape painting as a jumping off point for this assignment, I knew that I wanted to go to beyond the limitations of what I could see within the scene through the viewfinder. I felt that I could go outside the limitations of a 35mm frame by accepting that I could expand the visual canvas as the original landscape painters had done. With this in mind, I wanted at least a few of the scene to be stitched together from several images to provide a final image.

Images for Assignment 1.

Using my knowledge of the red filter for Black and White exposures, I wanted to get both the sky and the cityscape exposed properly together. After taking a light exposure reading, I set the camera to manual and chose the f-stop and the exposure speed which best suited the whole of the scene. After taking the images I then stitched the 7 exposures together in photoshop to produce the final scene.

 

Untitled_Panorama1BWredfilter

East Dock Entrance.

 

Entering the broken gates of the port, the gatehouse, longshoremen housing and storehouses are gone. Expensive housing has been built and a casino sited at a loading point. The cargo cranes are abandoned, unmaintained and rotting, providing housing for wild pigeons and gulls. Further expansion is planned as dockland is cleared awaiting the return of developers. 


 

Sitting behind an expansive mall is the Royal Yacht Britannia, it rests in a berthing area where ships would have unloaded grain. Now visitors can view the recovered land where large-scale houses rapidly rise on ground made up of broken buildings and dirt. They can view the rotting spine of a loaders platform as it dissolves into the sea and view the refueling of cable laying ships and mobile oil and gas exploration ships. 

 

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Britannia to rotting docks.

I stitched together 9 images to make this panorama. I wanted to capture the wide expanse of the area as well as the emptiness of it.  

 


 

The central point of this image is around about the 500-foot mark of the original sea wall, meaning that originally I would have been 500 feet from real dry land. When it was built it was a berthing and rest area for local shipping. During a storm the entire dock area would fill with ships seeking protection from rough seas. The lighthouse would have been the beacon that many sailors would have been happy to see on a rough day 

 

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Lighthouse to recovered land.

 

The lighthouse now lies empty, graffiti covered, its rooms, platform and the area underneath, between the supporting columns is an area for underage drinking and drug use. Stretching off into the distance is what is left of the ports and dry docks. The large mall and parking structure sits behind the royal yacht and nearly everything to the right is reclaimed land. Developers have pushed down the buildings and are slowly turning the land over to luxury housing. Many of the houses at Platinum point are beyond the reach of many locals who cannot afford the £265,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment. 


 

 

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Platinum point pool.

 

Due to the worldwide collapse of markets, the development of the area has stopped while the developers build on a smaller scale in other parts of the area. This has left the planned plots to fill as lagoon sites and the plots have become a housing for wildlife. It is only a matter of time before this pond it taken back by concrete and steel and the wildlife pushed further away. In the meantime, this plot reminds the apartment owners that their houses are built on nothing more than temporary land and at some point, the sea will reclaim it. 


 

 

DSC_0108satpull

Unused plot and road.

 

As already stated the developers have built amenities and infrastructure for houses which they have not yet built. Nature is trying to claim back the land, helped in part by residents who, having left, have dumped their patio plants onto the scrubland. These plants are beginning to take root and will potentially cause more problems in the future. Until then, the area is used by dog walkers, teen bike riders, and wanderers. 


 

 

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Behind the Gasworks.

 

The now unused gas tank dominates the skyline, it can be seen for miles. There used to be two such structures here before the first was taken down so that a small mall could be built as an amenities service for the local area. It is smaller areas like these that the developers have moved on to, throwing up student and luxury housing with the minimum of social housing within it. Until they start building the land lies unused, the skeletal remains of demolished buildings pointing out the last indications of local history.


Self-evaluation of the work

These images were not the ones that I originally planned for the assignment. I had planned on more Turneresque landscapes and it was only when I was in discussion with my Tutor prior to undertaking this Assignment that I changed direction and looked towards social politics through landscape.

I wanted to rekindle some of the social discourse that I had in my last course,  to examine what changes are happening during the gentrification of an area I knew well, along with documenting the rapid loss of local history as buildings are torn down in the rush to build houses that no one can afford.

Having decided on very wide landscapes I had to make my mind up on how I wanted to do it. I knew that I could not regiment the number of exposures needed as I would have to overlap and get in camera all of the landscape that I needed in one set.

Having no car and having to rely on a driver I had to plan the route carefully so that I would get everything I wanted in one day, otherwise, it could be two or three weeks before they were available again [and this would have up my course timetable completion into doubt].

I was pleased with the plan and although it was a difficult day I feel that I achieved what I set out to do.  While not all the landscapes stitched together I was able to fall back on some of the single images that I had taken which I felt also suited the series.

Contact Sheet.

Full contact sheet of images taken for this assignment.

Technical Choices

All of the images were taken either handheld or supported by a crutch used as an improved monopod. I decided to apply filters in post-production as I was interchanging lenses and the filters that I  have do not go up to 62mm. I chose Black and White for most of the images as I felt that they best represented the mood of the image. In a couple of the images I also boosted the saturation to see what happened with the colours but in most cases, single bright objects overtook the scene and pulled the eye away.

 

Visual Outcomes

The framings for these images are a response to the framings from paintings I have seen as part of this course. I wanted to get the scale of each scene, in such a way that at times the viewer is overpowered by the scale and may feel some vertigo as the image slips under their feet.

Over the day I made a number of images and through careful selection finally settled on the six that represent my interpretation of beauty and the sublime. In three of the images, I pushed my experimental boundaries to obtain a challenging series of images, where I have tried to define and express my emotions within the scene.

I tried to get both beauty and sublime within the same frame. Those that present my interpretation of the sublime were executed in a similar vein but I tried to continue the visual series with contrasting light and shadow.

I feel that they also have an uncertainty as they diversify from the weather conditions in which they were taken.

Reflection on assessment criteria

Overall, I am happy with this first assignment even with the personal challenges I had before, during and after the shoot. So far the coursework has guided me and encouraged me to undertake research into an area that I have not been exposed to much so far. It has given me some more creative ideas and techniques which I hope to carry on into the rest of the course.

References

Anon, 2010. The Sublime. (s.n.).

Roberts, R., 2011. Edgelands. Michael Symmons Roberts, Paul Farley. (s.n.).