Tag Archives: Social

Exercise 3.3 – Late Photography

We are asked to read, notate the summarise the key points of the essay  Safety in Numbness by David Campany and then note own observations.

http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/

In Safety is Numbness; David Campany writes about the UK Channel 4 special report regarding the post 9/11 documentation by Joel Meyerowitz as he captured and collected the clean-up operations of the pile at Ground Zero. Campany reflects on the vast difference in the presentation of the images from the speedy reporting and video footage during the event. When news companies like CNN abandoned the unwritten rules about not sharing broadcasts and fed footage from their webcams out to all news stations it helped create an instant and ever-present form of new recording. This video footage went word wide and helped to document the plane strikes on the two towers and the eventual collapse of both towers. Campany presents the idea that by allowing Meyerowitz access and permission to photograph what was going on that the photographs were better suited to ‘record’ the ‘official history’ and that Meyerowitz’ images are a record of a record of a past event,  and that the images are not so much about what had happened but what happened after the event; what the  actions and activity followed in the silence of the event.

Channel 4 Reflections of Ground Zero

Meyerowitz images mainly contain remnants, similar to forensic photography but taken a step further away from the crime. Unlike the crime scene photographs of Weege, Meyerowitz captures the scene after the cleanup crew has started to remove the scene of the crime. These images are a planned capture of memory and history; an aid which allows you to think on an event without projecting remembrance. It is plausible that by doing this Meyerowitz causes the backfire effect where the viewer cannot accept this ‘version’ of presented history because they cannot readily accept these images into their own remembered view of the event.

Campany also proposes that since the amount of video footage runs to less than a few hours, that the multitude of photographs has helped to cement the idea of photographs as a form of unaltered memory as they are uncontaminated and ‘mute’ (Campany,pp5). These frozen moments of time allow the viewer to define and analyse the event through their own memory and the image presented to them. ‘Late Photography’ presents a record disconnected from the immediate event, the images are in a way unrelated to the actual action, rather the images are a slow, methodical, detached reflection, unconnected to the constant stream of visual presentations in today’s 24/7 media driven age of news and event recording.

The last point made by Campany is that by allowing Meyerowitz to photograph around Ground Zero for 9 months that the final set of images presented by Meyerowitz allowed New Yorkers, Americans and the World to mourn and reflect on their own recollections about 9/11.

Observations.

The photographs stand out as they are in reality the last analogue records of an event. This pre-digital ‘Kennedy Moment’  was mainly recorded on videotape, and various sizes of film and slide film. This pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram, pre-Telescope app time meant that the small amount of video footage is outweighed by the number of analogue records now available. Had 9/11 happened in today’s digital society with the amount of technology available then there would be a higher prevalence of common and accessible records as more of the public would be able to capture the event.

From a personal perspective, I found Meyerowitz’ images to be filled with the idea of American Manifest destiny, that they will overcome the event and press onwards and upwards. I can also sense Meyerowitz’ anger at initially not being allowed to photograph Ground Zero. It was only his interaction with a police officer that drove him to capture the images through Late Photography; using his political connections to get the mayor to give him the position of ‘official photographer’

When I think of 9/11 and the events afterwards I do not think of Meyerowitz, instead I am stuck with the image of the falling man (Drew. R 2001); an image published once and since has been filed away from the social remembrance as it is too powerful and painful an image. Meyerowitz presents the phoenix rising from the ashes, but what I remember is the following anger and lust for revenge against the perpetrators which overclouds the images and memories of the grief and pain of the mourners at the dedication ceremony.

In Campanys last point, while I agree that Late Photography has allowed everyone to work through their thoughts and feelings on 9/11, it has also given to a certain amount of “event safari” where groups are taken to see what is left behind.(Young, Oct 2009).  It has also given way to the instant digital grief after an event where Twitter and Facebook are filled with instant but in reality unfeeling ‘thoughts and prayers’ following an event.

Meyerowitz was not the only photographer to capture images of 9/11 through Late Photography, but he was the only one to have an exhibition of images. Photographers like John Botte, who spent three and a half months on the pile working and photographing. Botte shot 56 rolls of film during this time, many of his images were during the first 48 hours but he captured both on the pile at Ground Zero and different perspectives such as Presidents Bush visit and the memorial mass.

How does Meyerowitz images compare and differ from my own memories of  9/11 and what value does the work have?

Meyerowitz worked here with little emotion, he wanted to capture not only the scale of the crime but also to record for history what had happened afterward. He feared that the reality of the act would be lost if the site was treated as just a crime scene. Meyerowitz worked with the teams to photograph their acts as not only as they worked through the pile but also worked through their thoughts and emotions. Meyerowitz captured the humanity of the workers as they cleared away the bodies, the rubble, and the remains. The rescuers had arrived with the hope of clearing the rubble and getting survivors and once that hope was gone, they had to continue; to uphold the values of America and show that they would not be bowed. Meyerowitz worked to capture what he called the ‘terrible beauty’ of the pile and wants his photographs to show how people cooperated after 9/11 to help each other

The images differ greatly from my own memories; what I recall from that period of time, is, first of all, a great hollow in my stomach as the horror of the situation was unveiling. I watched the broadcasts and practically all of my memories are about the first day, mainly around the plane strikes and the following collapse of both towers. I was overloaded with emotion and struggled to grasp the whole situation due to its enormity. The following days were filled with sorrow as hopes of rescue receded and the social impact of the act of terrorism was brought into scale. Certainly, his images have shown the after effects and that hope was not lost and that the people on the site did not allow the act to make them lose their humanity. But they also clearly show a record of what happened as the pile was slowly cleared.

References

David Campany. 2018. Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of ‘Late Photography’ – David Campany. [ONLINE] Available at: http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

Channel 4 News. (2001). Reflections on Ground Zero. [Online Video]. 2002. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8hN-aNWWBE&list=PL0E496C00306D0177. [Accessed: 1 October 2018].

Friend, F., 2006. Watching the world change. New York : Farrar, Straus Giroux ; 2006..

International Center of Photography. 2018. Weegee | International Center of Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/weegee?all/all/all/all/0. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

Phaidon. 2018. Joel Meyerowitz’s World Trade Center Archive | Photography | Agenda | Phaidon. [ONLINE] Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/picture-galleries/2011/september/08/joel-meyerowitzs-world-trade-center-archive/. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

American Photo. 2018. Consent Form | American Photo. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.americanphotomag.com/91101-photographers-stories-pt-1-get-down-here-now. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

The Daily Beast. 2018. Ground Zero Photography by Joel Meyerowitz. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/ground-zero-photography-by-joel-meyerowitz?ref=scroll. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

The Independent. 2018. Disaster tourism: how bus trips to the scene of Hurricane Katrina make profit from loss | The Independent. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/disaster-tourism-how-bus-trips-to-the-scene-of-hurricane-katrina-make-profit-from-loss-8203902.html. [Accessed 01 October 2018].

Popular Photography. 2018. Consent Form | Popular Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.popphoto.com/american-photo/2011/09/behind-scenes-john-botte-9-11-photographs#page-6. [Accessed 01 October 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.

 

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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 

 

Untitled_Panorama3BwRedfilter

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. 


 

 

DSC_0094

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. 


 

 

DSC_0144Bw

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.).