Saturday, February 26, 2011

William Klein

Klein was born in 1928 in New York. His approach to photography was revolutionary and changed the way the photographic document was perceived. He describes his work as “in search of the straightest of straight documents, the rawest snapshot, the zero degree of photography”. Originally a painter he won his first camera in a card game. This casual approach to the medium was define his style as a photographer.

He was part of a Jewish immigrant family. His father lost his business in the 1928 crash. As a Jewish boy growing up in an Irish neighbourhood he experienced anti-semitism first hand and always felt alienated from mass culture. At the age of 14 he enrolled in college to study sociology. He then enrolled in the US army at 18 at was stationed in Germany and France as a radio operator. After the was he enrolled in the Sorbonne in Paris, here he studied painting under Fernard Leger. As a teacher Leger encouraged his students to revolt and reject conformity. Notably he said they should go out and work in the streets. When Klein returned to New York in 1954 he feel in love with the city. All the sights and sounds that he had forgotten or never seen suddenly inspired him. He set himself the challenge of photographing New York in a new way. As an american who had living abroad for 6 years he felt “oddly foreign”, and wished to capture the essence of New York in a photographic Diary.

The Book 'New York – (Life Is Good And Good For You In New York) was a scandal. His photos were blurred and out of focus. Just as important as the content of the book is its layout. “Like a movie I thought the book should be”. Pictures are cropped, pasted together and extend to the very edge of the page. This approach to bookmaking has influenced every photographer since. Vogue who commissioned the project saw it as crude, aggressive and vulgar – not the image they were trying to promote. The art world saw it a photographically incompetent. Klein earned the reputation as the “anti photographers photographer” for his rebellious approach. Having been received badly in America he to the book to France in search of a publisher. When finally they managed to get the book published it went on to win the Nadar prize.

“A technique of no taboos: blur, grain, contrast cock eyed framing, accidents”

Paul Seawright - Volunteer

Paul Seawright was in conversation with Professor Colin Graham at the Kerlin Gallery yesterday evening to open his exhibition Volunteer
Seawright discussed the project, both in the context of his own practice and methodologies and global politics. His interests lie in conflict and cities. This body of work addresses recruitment for the Afghanistan war across America. The photographs are taken at recruitment centre sites across America. 
Seawright spoke about how he researched and thought about this project for over a year before beginning any work on it. He discussed the long inception some projects have, and how some never make it to fruition. With this project, he was wondering how to address issues around American policy in relation to the war, and the resulting human cost, particularly in certain strata of American society. 

Navy Recruiting Centre, Post Office - Butte Montana. 1956 - Robert Frank
He talked about how, when teaching one day, he was showing his students Robert Frank's The Americansthis photograph (above) of a Navy recruitment center came up. He knew then how he would proceed with the project. He decided to document the recruitment centres, conscious of the often controversial recruitment techniques and short timeframe between recruitment and deployment to Afghanistan. His photographs never address the centres themselves, but look back into the surrounding territory, as though the viewer is looking through the eyes of one newly recruited. 
Untitled (UPS) from the Volunteer series, 2011, Lightjet mounted on aluminium, Framed with UV Plexi-Glass, Edition 1 of 6 +AP, 99 x 124 x 5cm framed - Paul Seawright
Seawright discussed how there are rarely people in the series as he thinks the viewer finds it harder to empathize when confronted directly with photographs of people. By putting the viewer firmly into the context in which recruitment takes place, Seawright enables some understanding of the predicament the recruited found themselves in.
Graham then linked this back to Seawright's much earlier Sectarian Murder Series made in Northern Ireland in 1988. In this he photographed sites of Sectarian murders in the 1970's, which also bring the viewer firmly into the situation.
Tuesday 30th January, 1973 from Sectarian Murder series, 1988 - Paul Seawright
Seawright then talked about how when photographing the American landscape, or indeed anywhere, he finds it really important to make authentic photographs, something that is voicing his concerns. When photographing the American landscape, he said he found it hard to ignore the resonances, both physical and theoretical, with New Topographics and Frank's What We Bought. He said that photographic references always come with him, and sometimes he makes deliberate references to  them, as when he took this photograph (below) in response to the Afghanistan war in 2002 for the Hidden series, commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London.
Valley 2002 from the series Hidden, Collection Imperial War Museum - Paul Seawright
Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855, Salt Print 10 7/8 x 13 3/4 in. - Roger Fenton
But Seawright emphasized that while photographic work is always about photography, he is not interested in his work being solely about photography.

He finds he works by bringing his own narrative to the places he works in, so his work is a response to the issue he is researching, not directly a response to the place. He mentioned Szarkowski when talking about photography as an editing process to support his narrative, to enable constructed meaning in the photograph.
Untitled (Hooters) from the Volunteer series, 2011, Lightjet print mounted on aluminium, Framed with UV Plexi-glass, edition 1 of 6 +AP, 99x124x5cm framed - Paul Seawright

Seawright discussed his Invisible Cities project in Nigeria, and he talked a little about how, inspired by Calvino's Invisible Cities, he sees cities as being made of small moments, connections and fleeting spatial relationships. 

Crossing, from the series Invisible Cities, 2005 - Paul Seawright

Seawright also talked about how his work is always personal, even when dealing with themes very far from his own personal experience. He described how in Calvino's Invisible Cities each of the multiple cities described by Marco Polo was always his own city, Venice.  In some way, Seawright feels he is always photographing Belfast and that a photographer is always photographing his or her own memories and thoughts. 

Stains, from the series Volunteer, 2011 - Paul Seawright

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paul Seawright at the Kerlin

Paul Seawright - at the Kerlin Gallery
25-Feb - 02 Apr 2011
Volunteer is a survey of sorts, landscapes from today's fraying, centreless post 9-11 North American cities. Each photograph has been made at the location of a military recruiting station, where a different battle is being fought - to find young men and women to volunteer for service in Afghanistan Made at the locations of military recruitment offices in 15 states including Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Mississippi, these new works comment not just on the ongoing war and the battle to recruit new soldiers, but the contemporary North American city, a landscape littered with thrift stores, gun dealerships, strip malls and pawn shops.

Photographers discuss their work

Garry Winogrand

Stephen Shore

Robert Adams

William Klein

Week 4 - New Topographics

This week we will be looking at New Topographics, edited by Britt Salvesen. The essay in the book is particularly important.
We will then look at four photographers from the exhibition and their work in more detail:
Stephen Shore - Uncommon Places
Robert Adams - What we Bought
Louis Baltz - The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, California
Bernd & Hille Becher - Basic Forms of Industrial Buildings

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eugene Atget wasborn in Libourne, near Bordeaux, in 1857. Only at the age of 40 did he quit a rather unsuccessful career in acting and became a photographer. Little is known of his absolute intentions, though a lack of theorizing and experimentation might suggest that Atget saw little to value in his own workbeyond a commercial products sold to artists.

Atget's technological approach was outdated before he even began. He photographed Paris with a large format, wooden bellows camera with a rapid rectilinear lens. His photography, consequentially, is characterised by a wispy, drawn out sense of light due to long exposures; a fairly wide view that suggested space and ambiance more than surface detail; and an intentionally limited range of scenes.
Atget occupies a unique position in the history of photography, being claimed as the father of two diverging ideologies. One the one hand, he is presented as the forerunner for transparent, no frills, unpretentious photography. His work a recording of traditional French life on the old back streets of Paris before they were bulldozed by modernity. On the other, Atget is seen as the first Modernist photographer. His images of snatched glimpses, tangential perspectives, odd reflections and bizarre details providing the basis for Surrealism.
The truth maybe somewhere in between. Eugene Atget ought to be viewed as a hinge joining the 19th and 20th centuries. His work bridges the gap between photography as a transparent, almost anonymous record of reality and as an artistic construct practiced self-consciously and intentionally. His genius lies in this synthesis.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Richard Avedon; Portrait of Erza Pound 1958

One of America's most influential photographers, Avedon was born May 15th 1923. When he died in 2004 the New York Times said "his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century." Originally a fashion photographer he went on to photograph the fall of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam war protestors and patients in mental hospitals. He had always been interested in portraiture and how it captures the personality of the subject. During sittings he would ask probing questions in an effort to evoke something that others could not. He is identifiable by his minimalist style. Sitter look straight into the camera in front of a white background.

Erza Pound is an American Poet who was a major figure in the early modernist movement. After the extreme loss of life of WWI he lost faith in the West, blaming capitalism for the War. He became a supporter of Hitler. During WWII he made radio broadcast condemning the USA and criticising Jews. When the War ended he was arrested for treason in 1945. This picture is taken in 1958, the year he was released from prison after a campaign by his followers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 3 - Robert Frank

There was some very insightful research last week on Atget, Abbott and Evans. This should be posted on the blog this week.

Next week we are looking at Robert FrankThe Americans (ucd library link), and the book about the work - Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, which will be put on temporary reserve.

Alongside this, we will aslo be looking at William Klein - Life is Good and Good for you in New York (ucd library link), Garry Winogrand  - The Man in the Crowdand Lee Friedlander

Chpts 17, 19 & 20 of Bystander (ucd library link) by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz should provide a good overall background.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eadweard Muybridge - Sequence of bird in flight (1883 - 86)

Eadweard Muybridge was an English born photographer who worked mainly in the United States. He had early success as a landscape photographer and became widely known, under his psuedonym Helios, for his images of the West including Yosemite and his early panoramas of San Francisco.

Muybridge is most remembered for his pioneering work on animal locomotion and his early motion picture projector which he called a zoopraxiscope.

After he was challenged by the Governor of California Leland Stanford to capture an image of a horse galloping with all it's hooves off the ground, Muybridge developed a technique to capture the motion of animals using a bank of cameras timed to release the shutter in quick succession.
Following the success of these images Muybridge spent a number of years working with the University of Pennsylvania and the local zoo capturing over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion.

Many of the these images work together in sequence to show the mechanics of motion and were a form of early videography. This image doesn’t show the motion of flight of the bird as clearly as many others do but seems instead to examine the figure of the bird at various stages of flight. Each frame can be read in isolation to examine the figure in abstraction or the group of images can work together to show a typology of form and figure from a single perspective.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Untitled Film Stills

This is a self portrait of Cindy Sherman in the Untitled Film Stills in 1978.

In this picture she is on the foreground , she seems pensive and lost. Her posture is clear , her look is distant and she is anxious about the modern society. This picture calls into question the role of the woman at this period.

On the background , there are a fuzzy building and the relationship between the town , the architecture and Cindy is interesting. Everything is straight, the building and her posture are vertical whereas her look is more horizontal.

This black and white picture could be a political and advertising picture.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Charles Négre: Henry le Secq at Notre Dame cathedral, Paris 1851.

In this picture Négre captures his friend; artist and photographer Henry le Seq as he looks out over Paris. Although the photograph is most definitely staged, I feel it captures that moment of awe or the payoff having ascended up though the Cathedral.

Le seq is the focal point in terms of both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional composition and depth of the shot. The sharpness of the gothic detail plays against the "softness" of the forground and background and sets up an interesting relationship between man and Gargoyle.

Close No. 61, Saltmarket - Thomas Annan, Glasgow 1868-1877

Thomas Annan was a Scottish photographer (*1829, +1887).

This photograph is part of a commission from the City of Glasgow Improvements Trust and is called "The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow" and was created between 1868 and 1877.

The collection of images of the working class areas of old Glasgow helped document the impoverished living conditions of the working class at the time.

The vanishing point is the black wall break in the back.
Everything aligns in it and the viewer brings this "black hole" into focus.

At the first moment you are not oblivious to the fact that the alley is very narrow and high. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Week 2 - Walker Evans

Licence Photo Studio, New York, 1934 - Walker Evans

This week, we will be looking at Walker Evans: American Photographs. The essay by Lincoln Kirstein in the book is important to read, as is an essay by Allan Tractenberg in Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans. (pp231-286, A Book Nearly Anonymous). 
Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye by Gilles Mora and John T. Hill provides a good background to Evans as does Walker Evans: Lyric Documentary by John T. Hill. 
All four books are on reserve in Richview Library. 
Also, check out this essay written by Walker Evans for Hound & Horn in 1931 - 'The Reappearance of Photography'

We will also be looking at a photographer that influenced Evans - Eugene Atget, and a contemporary - Berenice Abbott.
Have a look at the books on Atget in the library, as well as the following for Berenice Abbott:
Berenice Abbott: Changing New York - Bonnie Yochelson (ucd library link).
Two essays by Berenice Abbott in Photographers on Photography - Nathan Lyons (1951 It has to Walk Alone & 1951 Photography at the Crossroads (ucd library link).