Monday, March 28, 2011

This week, through the work of Tod Papageorge I analysed the urban benches in Central Park. He is an american art photographer and published in 2007 “ passing through Eden ” a collection of images he took over 25 years. I was interesting by one part of this book where he presents a series of bench photographies.

Every day we have some opportunities to sit down on the bench in the private or public interior place or in the urban space.On the first time I’d like to mentioned the importance of material used for the design. In Central park , the bench framework is built by steel or concrete, the back and sitting set up by piece of timber. The choice of material has to be specific because it influences the shape and the strength of the design. Besides I think that it’s essential for designer to think about the “ surface appearance ” of each material as well as its temperature to promote the best human comfort. The other features are the global measures , depth , length,height. All of these components influence the usefulness of benches in the interior and urban space.

In the urban planning , each furniture have a particular disposition and direction and manage ours activities and attraction. Through the Tod photography I can make out three type of bench practices.

“ the stop bench “ where people make a break

“ the wait bench “ where people wait someone

“ the pleasure bench “ where people make a pleasant and relax activities.

All of these activities involve a particular posture and human behaviors and I think that some factors influence it, like the global design and several social elements. Indeed, men and women often haven’t the same position in the bench and the design must be adapted to the liberty of human body. The different culture and sex of people influence the practice of bench and I can identify benches like a “ social furniture “ where charming incident take place. In the Papageorge photographies , the majority of sitting are long and promote meeting between stranger, young and old people. But through his picture we can see that people sometimes share the same bench without more attraction and discussion. However it’s also funny to observe that people often choose the same bench and the same place. I think that it’s important to mentioned that benches become a personal sitting in the public space where we can maintain ours habits. Moreover since 1986 there is a new concept in Central park called “adopt a bench “, a project where people can buy their bench and write what do they want on the small metallic plaque. I’d like mentioned again the social implication of this furniture in the urban place. Indeed through this project people can enter in the life of strangers and share a part of memory.

To progress in my study I’d like to compare the interior bench space (airport space and private space) and explore how the surrounding can be influenced the behaviors of people.

The man behind the Machine

Having studied the photographic styles of Abbot and Baltz in closer detail, the idea of capturing the human effect on landscape inspired me most, to create an analogy beyond the survey. Both took worlds which are familiar and isolated fact, Baltz devoid of personal prejudice and Abbott's infused with emotion. I would like to juxtapose both styles. I have always had an interest in industrial landscapes, the unusual forms, noises, smells and robot like movements of the humans that inhabit these spaces. The people become the machines. I am intrigued by the Dublin Docklands. It it is a secret world, hidden from society, a walled fortress which never sleeps. A mini city with its own infrastructure where land and sea have a mutual dependence.

Human habitation is evident by the order of things; stacked containers or rows of cars in a parking lot. It lives and breaths efficiency. A fluorescent safety jacket on a chair in a security hut is the only indication of human presence within that space. People do not walk on these streets. The footpath acts as a threshold, a large curb. The cabin of the machine becomes the room, a mobile office, inhabited space. A trail is formed from loading bay to canteen, a ritual pilgrimage for the workers. Long canteen tables lined with benches and chairs emulate the rigid ordering of the docklands only broken by littered paper cups in the same way silos rest among steel boxes.

A steel ramp forms a bridge from boat to land. Cargo is loaded and unloaded, everything has a destination and a place. The worker overlooks and takes part in this procession. Their life although surrounded by people is isolated, conversation is minimal due to constant noise. There is a unified code, a seperate language for this place. Its identity is formed within itself. There is no hint as to where this place exists, it could be anywhere in the world.

Allan Sekula has captured a non romantic image of the docks, the workers and fishing in his book '
Fish Story'. His images are highly sensorial. He uses flash photography and atmospheric lighting to reinforce the human markation of these terretories. The subject matter varies but maintains a running theme. The images are arranged to tell a story. If they were shown alone one could interperit anything from them.
Taking Sekula's idea of relative matter I would like to create a story of the Dublin Docklands in a similar fashion. I would like to create an analogy of the man behind the machine, to try and capture the alien like quality of docks life in the 21st century. I have started by photographing the routes and inhabited yards along with the machinery. My next step is to trace the movements of the worker and the machine and lastly to focus in on the worker and their habitiation of sole and communal space.

I have also looked at Jean Gaumy's 'Men at Sea'. Gaumy joined the French Fishing Vessel on one of its voyages and maintains a written diary. The images are hugely atmospheric and truely capture the essence of life on the sea. Again, I would like to emulate Guamy's approach to photographing manual workers in their habitat.

Sebastiao Salgado's 'Workers; An Archaeology of the industrial age takes an account of the manual labour from cocao to tobacco plantations. Man is the machine.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Further Development

As was mentioned last week, my initial investigation into the housing estates of Cahir was heavily research based and confined to the documentation of form, or at least elevation. At the time, I had Walker Evans' series on Victorian Architecture on my mind, and I while it was a worthwhile exercise, the style and format of the images proved limiting.
During my second round of photography, I began to deviate slightly and began photographing the corners of housing rows, the gaps and views in between, and the relationship of building to landscape.

However, while these might have been diverging interests, each image was still ultimately concerned with form and space, without any real sign of occupation or the actual quality of that occupation. Also the method of taking remained consistent, maintaining a high aperture, low iso and consequently slow shutter speed.

I think though, I have a fair idea where I want to go next. Having looked at the work of William Eggleston in his publication "Los Alamos", I'm interested in how he captures a range of everyday objects into a unified visual world, perhaps thanks to his unique use of colour. More particularly though, I'm inspired by the range of his subjects and styles which seem to vary from the documentary to the highly subjective, and from personal portraits to non-specific human landscapes. Yet somehow avoiding a messy eclecticism.

I think this project could be focused on a single concept (albeit a rather broad statement):
If the housing estate is just a place where people live, then what is it like to live in?
Is it good? bad? or really, really average?
Where do kids play? Where do neighbours talk? Where's all the stuff beyond the houses... the washing lines, the strewn toys, the dirty boots and garden furniture?
Whatever emotions and opinions exist perhaps the point is that they're far more kaleidoscopic than presumed and that a greater range of photographic techniques and subjects may be required to express this.
I can't help but think that the face it shows to the world is not all the estate is, or could be.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Robert Frank - The Americans

Robert Frank, a Swiss born photographer working primarily in America, is best kown for his 1958 photographic book ‘The Americans’. This book culminates an approach to photography including; the purposeful production of books to display his images in a loose narrative “to be read and re-read like a poem”; an almost irreverent off the cuff style of shooting and a particular existentialist attitude that resulted in a questioning social commentary to much of his work.

Mary's Book

Even at an early stage Frank was compiling his work into handmade books, like that made for his girlfriend Mary in Paris and ‘40fotos’ a book which he used as a portfolio, which got him through the door at Harper’s Bazaar in New York where he worked under Alexis Brodovitch as a fashion photographer. Just as his career in New York was Starting to take off, Frank left for Peru and the Andes. Here, Frank learnt to be a mute outsider looking in on a place and society. He could not speak the language and was unable to engage with his subjects, not that he aimed to, this forced a way of working as an outsider making sense of his surroundings through images alone. Peru was revelatory on a technical level for Frank also; although proficient with most cameras, the Leica allowed him the freedom to pursue his subjects that others didn’t. This could partly have been a reaction to the perfectionist approach to technique he would have experienced while apprenticing in a landscape photographers in Switzerland, in much the same way his contemporaries and friends in the world of abstract expressionism were reacting against the perfectionism of their European heritage. Frank is often said to have been shooting casually without framing the image with the viewfinder but allowing his hand to find the image. He often crops to the edge of an image and isn't concerned with perfect techniques.


With the help of Walker Evans, who employed Frank at Fortune magazine, Robert eventually got a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955-56 which allowed him to travel America and pursue his emerging subjects of interest to make 'The Americans'. Frank shot over 28,000 images in all, which he would constantly make contact sheets from to help inform and refine his search in the field. From these he selected 300 images to print and only 83 were used in the book. Subjects included symbols, cars, cities, people, signs, cemeteries and others. The book was arranged in sections each starting with the image of a flag. He wanted the sequence of images to have a cinematic effect, with ghost images that would inform the reading of subsequent images. If Bresson sought to represent all the complexities of life in a single image, Frank sought images with a more singular message that would gain complexity when combined with others in a book.

By this time Robert Frank's initial excitement with America life had grown into a skepticism, a sentiment reflected in the existentialist beat culture of New York, of which Frank was a part. Jack Kerouac, a well known beat writer, wrote the introduction for the book and Frank was already making films with the those in the beat scene. The book aimed to investigate contemporary American society but had undertones that were not always palatable to most Americans and it was heavily criticized. It was said that his book was 'an attack on the United States' and even after he eventually found a publisher it was not an initial success. Much of the images were investigating issues like race and the power of the state over individual freedom. His questioning approach can be clearly seen in much of the motifs used in the book (figures from behind, lone figures in a crowd looking toward the camera, cars, figures in hats but certainly in his use of the flag, not as the typically idealized symbol of a nation and proud patriotism but often cropped and awkwardly draped, oppressive and almost malevolent.

Frank went on to make films and a handful of other book projects but he often returned to the Americans and re-cropped images or reprinted them adjusting their exposure and composition.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photography and the Human Habitat - PROJECT PROPOSAL

1 ; 4 - Tod Papageorges
2 ; 3 - André Kertesz
5 - Garry Winogrand

In the course of my architecture studies in France and in Ireland I learn to work at different scales. Architects must be curious person and they have to explore the human life to create all of appropriate space ( exterior, interior, urban and human spaces ).

At the beginning of the semester I studied the work of Garry Winogrand. After this first analysis, I was interesting by several photographers who work about the street and public relationship between people and their city.

For the project, I propose to work on the photography of the public space and I'm wondering how design of urban furnitures influence the human posture in the street.
Step to step I discovered the work of Garry , Tod Papageorge and André Kertesz and their photos of strangers in public place. They are tree Americans photographer and explore the global street atmosphere . Through these pictures , it's really interesting to see how people live together in the street. It's for this reason that I would particularly work on the urban sitting space. Indeed , if we attentively observe the city , there are different type of sitting, " natural " and " artificial " sitting. I mean by artificial, sitting built by designer.

André Kertesz photographed people on the benches and chairs in the street and studied the chair furniture itself and its urban implantation. Tod Papageorge shows how people find and exploit themselves the sitting in the city. In these photographies I perceive a visual noise and I'm interesting by the moment where photographers capture the movement and interaction between posture of people and the urban surrounding.

At the end of researches , I would like to show a series of picture, like a documentary book which explore the contemporary city life.

Art does not reproduce the visible rather it makes visible.

Project Proposal_Philipp Gengenbach

When I was looking into the work of Bernd & Hilla Becher I came across the quotation of the famous painter Paul Klee: „Art does not reproduce the visible rather it makes visible“.

Photography is an art, so it could also be called: „Photography does not reproduce the visible rather it makes visible“.

I think this sentence describes the photographs of the Bechers in really good way. But it applies not only to the photographs of the Bechers. Also a lot of other photographs we were looking at in this course are characterized by the documentation of daily things which happen in our life. We are completely used to it and only because of the photographic documentation we begin to think about it and maybe we recognize the specialty of these things. 

I was really impressed by this statement of Paul Klee and it was helpful for a better understanding of a lot of photographs we looked at in this course. I started to look at some photographs in another kind of way.

The art of photographing not only the very special things but rather the things whose specialty you could first recognize at second glance is very interesting.

My Project Proposal should be to analyze some photographs related to this statement of Paul Klee.
I would like to pick some photographs of the photographers we were talking about but also I will try to take some photos by myself which show daily stories in the human habitat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Photographys ability to make us re-evaluate our environment is one of the keys to its success. Throughout the course I have found myself drawn to the photographers that take the ordinary and extract beauty where others see nothing.

Eugene Atget photographed Paris with a no frills style that revealed more about the city because of its honest, non-judgemental approach. He did not adapt scenes to express an opinion, but recorded what was there as a casual observer to create an overview of the city. I am interested in how his pictures focus on the human interventions in a place, but are mostly devoid of people.

Bernd and Hilla Becher photographed industrial buildings and displayed them beside each other, creating a typology for what would be seen as awkward and alien structures. By representing the unique as one of many the strange shape become the norm. This method of photographing different objects using identical photographic techniques to highlight similarities is applicable to my proposal.

Stephen Shore embarked on a cross country trip which he photographically documented. He photographed the beds he slept in, the toilets he used and the fridges where he kept food. This approach captured the human effect on space. Signs of human activity make a space a habitat.

For my project I began to think about habitat. I was drawn to the one space I use most, my workspace. As an architecture student I could spend hours at my drawing board, without realising it I have cultivated a habitat around this 2m x 1m desk. We think of the home as a habitat, we spend a third of our days at work. Our workspace is as personal as out homes. Francis Bacon's studio is now on display in the Hugh Lane Gallery. His workspace had over the years becomes an extension of himself and gives us a deeper understanding of his mind and work. Even in the most sterile of offices stationary, keyboards etc are arranged to the users specific preferences. I want to document a variety of work spaces, particularly desks comparing and contrasting how people personalise them. I want to investigate what makes a space a habitat. By photographing work desks in a documentary style and displaying them in a way that they can be compared I hope to achieve this.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lewis Baltz; The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California

West Wall, Unoccupied Industrial Structure, 20 Airway Drive, Costa Mesa.

Lewis Baltz's dispassionate eye neither suggests nor implies a hidden meaning in his photography. He documents fact through vigorous clarity and detail. His documentary collection, 'The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California' allows the viewer an insight into the changing topography of what was once a natural landscape unscarred by man. Lewis Baltz is an icon of "The New Topographics" a movement of photographers who sought to capture "a man altered landscape" in the seventies. These stark photographs isolate fact and do not seek to imitate.

South Wall, Mazda Motors, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine

Baltz believed in viewing the series as a collective whereby one single photograph did not have precedence over another. This reinforces the idea that the suburban typology was to be read as a whole, its physical reaction with landscape and vice verse. Baltz does not hint at the use of the building nor its habitation and labels all photographs. They are what they are.

East Wall, McGaw Laboratories, 1821 Langley, Costa Mesa

Baltz plays on stark contrasts, barren landscapes and strong geometric planes. Lighting plays an important role, most photographs are devoid of shadow. Reflective surfaces capture the horizon. The skyline blends into the plastered surfaces of the building and photographs are devoid of human occupation. The framed space although truthful in expression becomes almost surreal, devoid of human emotion, perhaps a pun on American suburbia?

East Wall, Western Carpet Mills, 1231 Warner, Tustin

South Wall, H&K Industries, 1611 South Boyd Street, Santa Ana

Posted By; Lisa Halton 140311

Project Proposal_Conor Maguire

Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation, 1959 - Rene Burri
O'Donnell + Tuomey's Timeberyard_Stephen Murray

Photography and the Human Habitat

Project Proposal_Conor Maguire

Architectural photographs of today are almost always taken when the building has just been finished and before the clients properly occupy the building. The images can be the culmination of weeks of pre-planning, site work and post production when they are subject to the rigours of photoshop; being edited, cleaned up, stitched or sandwiched. The result is a constructed sleek image demonstrating the key ideas or design principles of the building, something architects rely heavily on when discussing their work.

I’m not criticizing this process but instead what I’m interested in is what happens after the initial burst of excitement when a building is finished. How do people inhabit the building? How does the building change or adapt, expand or contract over its lifetime? How do people make it their own? Alice recently presented a lecture that talked about photographing O’Donnell + Tuomey’s Howth House years after it had been finished. The pictures, untypical of the original shots, showed relatively little of the overall house but focused more on the life of the building at a smaller scale through texture, surface and material. It showed how the owner had made the house her home. This was something I found truly fascinating.

Emmet Scanlon also presented his house at a lecture a few weeks ago. It was interesting because he looked at the house not only from his point of view as the architect but as the homeowner. He showed a number of slides demonstrating the lifecycle of his garden over the course of a year and how it changed from season to season. Architecture and time, be it long-term or short-term, is something that we talk about all the time but rarely document. Even we consider a building finished when in reality it’s only at the beginning of its life-cycle, an empty shell ready to be inhabitted.

My proposal is to curate an exhibition where architecture is represented in the everyday, where we see a home in a different manner and a different time than we architects usually see them, where we look at a building at the scale of a person rather than the scale of a site. Rem Koolhaas made and released a film recently where he examines the famous “lift house” he designed in Bordeaux from the point of view of the cleaner (possibly inspired form the famous shot of the cleaner in Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion), at a time after the owner of the house had passed away. It sets up an interesting (and funny) play between time and scale and thus is a good reference for what I want to do.

Houselife - Rem Koolhaas

Berenice Abbott; Changing New York

Photograph of Berenice Abbott (1898 - 1991) taken by Hank O'Neal in his downtown studio, New York, 1979

Berenice Abbott's anxious energy led her to the playground of the avant-garde artists, Greenwich Village, New York from her home state of Ohio in 1918. She pursued journalism and later became enamoured with the world of sculpture and poetry, possibly due to her association with Man Ray, Eugene o'Neill and the poet and critic Sadakichi Hartmann. It was not long before the vulgarity of capitalism slurried the streets of their bohemian haven and so Abbott left for Paris along with her dadaist counterparts.

Abbott studied sculpture in both Paris and Berlin however it was not until 1923, due to a chance encounter with Man Ray, was Abbott to cultivate her future as a successful photographer. Ray, requiring an assistant with no experience and who would "do what they were told to" hired Abbott in his studio in Montpernasse, Paris. Abbott flourished in the field and to "be done" by Man Ray or Bernice Abbott was a passport to prestige.

Man Ray introduced Abbott to the work of Eugene Adget, a documentary style photographer who had captured the "sobering effects of the depression" in Paris. He became Abbott's unwitting mentor, "Adget's photographs somehow spelled photography to me". On his death in 1927 Abbott aquired Adget's entire collection of plate glass negatives and a total of 7,800 prints for fear they would be lost. Adget's ability to capture the complexities of human emotion through the banal settings of the Parisian streetscape aroused Abbott's psyche so much so that she sought "to do in Manhattan what Adget did in Paris" on her return to New York in 1929.

Requiring the inherent clarity that transposed onto Adget's prints Abbott bought an 8X10" large format camera. Dispelling her peer, Pierre Mac Orlan's definition of photography as 'plastic' and 'documentary' Abbott sought to emulate the "feeling lurking beneath the the surface of ordinary experience".

Abbott studied the photographs of Mathew Brady who created a photographic record of "a turning point in American history". Abbott failed to get financial support for six years until the Federal Arts Project hired her in 1935. This allowed Abbott to photograph New York's physical ascendancy and "capture disorientating sensations of city life". 'Changing New York', Abbott's masterful collection of New York City life was finally exhibited on October 20th 1937. 111 prints mounted in a series from one to four were exhibited for six weeks due to demand. Her collection along with Walker Evans for the International Exposition of Photography at New York Grand Central Palace for the FSA 'How American People live' was seen as "the most exciting and important photographs". Changing New York is the definitive anthology of Abbotts legacy as a photographer who captured human identity through the poetry of contrasts.

My photographs are to be documentary as well as artistic,

the original plan, this means that they will have elements of

formal organization and style, they will use devices of abstract

art if these devices best fit the given subject, they will aim at

realism, but not at the cost of sacrificing all esthetics's factors.

They will tell facts...but these facts will be set forth as organic

parts of the whole picture as living and functioning details of

the entire complex social scene

Ref: Berenice Abbott; Changing New York Bonnie Yochelson, New Press 1997

Posted By; Lisa Halton 140311