As with my Snippets assignment, the story and emotion gleaned from Victor Bergin’s series UK 76 do not
As with my Snippets assignment, the story and emotion gleaned from Victor Bergin’s series UK 76 do not necessarily come from the photos but instead rely on the viewer’s interpretation of the text derived from the presentation. Bergin stated in an interview with the Tate that ‘there are already enough photos in the world. What we need to do is re-read the images we already have”
Bergin created a series of photos in 1976 imitating the illustrious images that are seen in glossy magazines of the many levels of British society, we are familiar with the style of such images. Bergin then superimposed text over the images continuing to reiterate the style of newspapers and glossy magazines. We are familiar with the style of such images but the inclusion of the text and it’s message disturbs and diverts our initial thoughts. There are three interpretations here, the photos tell one story, the text another but when the two images are put together another narrative is brought to light. The question is, which is the truth?
The viewer is drawn to the third as this is how Bergin has presented his series. As in Susan Sontag’s theory of Plato’s cave, we do not necessarily see the meaning set out for us. But the presentation of the images and text still lead the viewer to Bergin’s own message. It is almost like starting a painting with one clear idea, this is how the images are viewed, yet by the end, we may be swayed by our surroundings or background happenings and the image can end up completely different to the initial thought.
There is an almost timeless quality to his images, though the series, of course, state the date, Uk 76, the majority of the images could have been captured in the 21st century. And the issues he ironises ridicules and warns of is just as much present now as they were back then.
As aforementioned, my tutor suggested presenting my assignment work as an initial idea as opposed to a completed assignment as it would be approached like that in Universities. I sent some written work, ideas for the assignment and two photos and we spoke on the phone about it.
This is a way I would love to approach assignments in future. Having ideas instead of a completed assignment was so refreshing. We spoke about artists to reference, ideas to explore. As the main emphasis on the assignment is the written work he suggested several photographers who used text in their captions. He also recommended some amendments to change in the written work. “Don’t write ‘it’s a rough draft’, I know you work hard.” “Change ‘my personal opinion is’ to ‘my understanding of place is.”
Artists to research in regards to typography and presentation
Victor Bergens – Willie Doherty – Les Monaghan (my tutor) – John Kippins
Karen Norse – Barbara Kruger – Ken Lum – Julien Waring –
Bates, Balls and Barr
I asked around on the OCA photography Facebook page and was recommended to look at the work of
Georges Perec – An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris – Tom Wood – Roni Horns ‘ Another Water’ – Sophie Calle (who sparked the idea for the assignment)
I mentioned how I often found it hard to find certain photographers or artists to reference against my own work. He recommended finding one such artist and then researching their CV, who had they had a gallery with, who was their agent, what other artists did they present. The most helpful piece of advice he said was that you couldn’t just google the artists or read generic photography books, you needed to focus your assignment on one theory such as psychogeography, in my case, and then find the top names in psychogeography. As when it comes to assessment they will look at your work and think ‘That’s psychogeography, why didn’t they reference X and X.”
This made so much sense to me and I found it so helpful.
Find an article on whether words or images are more powerful.
He recommended seeing how the Snippets assignment looked like in different languages such as Vietnamese.
Les liked the idea of experimenting capturing Snippets at different places such as Blackpool seafront as opposed to quiet Lytham so I will go ahead with this.
Remove the capitals and experiment with different fonts. He put the emphasis on ‘lots of fonts.’
Consider an issue (social, political or environmental) that you feel strongly about. Design an image that you think will have a persuasive effect upon a viewer. This could be a deliberately rough photomontage or something more polished. You don’t necessarily need to make the photograph or tableau; this is an exercise in generating ideas, thinking about communicating an idea and taking an ideological standpoint. Annotate sketches and any other work and enter it into your learning log.
I decided to create a poster for the disappearance of tigers. When I was younger I was quite the Eco-warrior and very passionate about saving the world, I still am but back then I made my own posters and everything. I remembered one I had made from that time and decided to recreate it in Canva.
As the words disappear so do the tigers. Which will be gone first? The words fade into the background and eventually disappearing into the dirt the way the tigers may one day. Dust to dust. I experimented with the words covering the tigers face but this wasn’t as effective as the two were distracting. Composing with only half the tigers face reinforces the disappearance and the fragility of their future. I wonder if the poster could be strengthened with the use of a caption.
‘How many will we lose before we choose’
‘Choose or lose”
“How far will you let it go.
‘By the time you read the final words, it will be too late.”
Find three examples of landscape photographs (or the collective efforts of a set of photographs) that are being used to assert a particular ideological point of view. Look at images that have been used in advertising or other commercial applications, as well as within fine art and documentary photography. This might be a very explicit message, or something a lot subtler. If text is used, consider how this relates to the image. In your learning log, make some brief comments (around 300 words) describing how the photographer or designer used the photograph and how the image communicates its intended message.
When I read the brief one image sprang to mind, a symbolic image created by the WWF that I had reviewed earlier in the course here
The image doesn’t lurk in the background of the mind, it doesn’t use hidden meanings to illicit a response, it slams into the viewer with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. The mind acknowledges you are looking at a forest, but instantly the shape is of lungs. The forests are known as the lungs of the world yet the charred, rotten corner where deforestation has taken place grips the viewer, you can see it is due to deforestation but it is more powerful than that, just as these lungs on a human could mean death, so could this cancer of the earth. The death of the forest. The depiction of lungs brings it into comparison with humanity, the forest as a living creature that is being savaged and ripped apart and it implores you to help. For me it brought me back to a time when I was at a science museum in Scotland and saw a smokers lung savaged by Cancer. As a child that was quite a shock and that same response is felt here. The orange stands out, a rotten part of the forest that could soon stretch to engulf the entire organ polluting the rivers, the veins of the lung. Despite the fact that it’s photo manipulated, this doesn’t come into effect, the pure unaldulterated emotion cries out to us, it screams! You can hear the forest screaming in your head. And that is where the power comes from, it generates a guilt feeling. It’s one thing feeling the emotions the photo had intended to provoke, but how easy is it just to walk away. The tag line is the final slap in the face, or a hand reaching out to you, “Before it’s too late.” This is subtle. It doesn’t initiate the usual paragraph of ‘this is up to you! Help save the planet, save your home.” It doesn’t ask for help. Instead those simple words grab you in a way a paragraph of pleas could never do. It is a plea from the forest directly to you. It’s almost a choice, you don’t have to help but won’t you feel a terrible human being if you do look away.
On the Tate Gallery website I came across this image.
At first I assumed it was a quote image, featuring a beautiful scene with equally moving words. The type you send to loved ones or use as a wallpaper on your phone. This image seemed similar evoking the same emotions, a scene so pure and natural it seemed almost like an image of a fantastical land, grass waving in a gentle breeze. I expected it to be like one of these images. And the appearance echoed with harmony.
Then I read the words and suddenly the image took on a much different darker twist. Beginning with words evocative of the photo, “The music from the balconies…” it feels like you’ve been taken back to Tolkein’s world and you can hear Elves and other beings. Then the tone switches instantly, “overlaid by the noise of sporadic act of violence.” The image and the words don’t match, it grates against you as they are each a stark contrast of the other, beauty and violence, together seemingly beautiful yet fractured. It makes the viewer ask ‘why?” “what is the violence’ The words are taken from the novel by J G Ballard and features a high rise building that splits and gives rise to violence acts and strange happenings but for me it is the clash of the painting by Ed Ruscha coupled with the unfitting words that capture the imagination and say very clearly they don’t belong together. Two opposite poles of a magnet fighting against each other and invoking the viewers response. The Tate writes “For Ruscha, ‘the phrase was a powerful thought coupled with a pictorial idea that ends in a gentle kind of clash’.”
Read David Campany’s essay ‘Safety in Numbness’ (see ‘Online learning materials and student-led research’ at the start of this course guide). Summarise the key points of the essay and note down your own observations on the points he raises.
Imagine the scene, you’ve turned up late for a house party, everyone’s gone home and those who haven’t are sprawled comatose on the couch or are drunkenly snoring in an empty bath, bottles are smashed and strewn around on the floor wrapped up with streamers, the buffet table has been scavanged, just the bare bones of food left, presents open, wrapping discarded, shredded and cast around. These images are a typical scene for Late Photography. They are what happens after the event, an event in themselves in the stories they have to tell and the emotions they reveal. Of course in the context of the article Late Photography is described in relation to journalism, and most often terrible events but also to more generic events such as a football match or a wedding. David Campany describes the photos as evoking a numb feeling akin to that of a slow motion scene in cinema and being more powerful in capturing the emotion of the event than moving footage such as news reports. When I was reading the article I could feel what he meant. What is more powerful, a building on fire or the charred skeleton of the foundations? To go even further, I feel the powerful images of Late photography are those that evoke an emotional response. Again, which is the more powerful, a burning building, or an ashen teddy, an empty house or a crumpled family photo with echoes of a lost future.
In the past words and illustrations would document such events, then photography and and finally moving footage. Yet now we found ourself in a place where the photo is more powerful than the actual footage. One captures the mirror images, the other captures the emotional and human response and that moment where everything is still. I think back to a time when I got a shocking phonecall telling me someone was ill. It turned out to be ok but at the time it was pure fear. I hadn’t answered the phone but just the expression of the person answering the phone is enough to put you on edge. I was in a crowded cafe and the noise had been deafening but the sound just blurred away as though they were suddenly so far away. I remember my eyes fixated on the other person, the world in slow motion but my mind on overdrive. Everything felt numb, I wasn’t aware of my actions and as I stood up I clumsily knocked a mug of coffee over my art work and the floor. I feel that Late Photography captures this feeling, it’s a moment where the world stands still, everything fades around you and it’s just you and the image and the emotions evoked. It’s also a form of respect, standing attention seeing these images (if it’s of a terrible event) “It’s very muteness allows it to appear somehow uncomtiminated by the noise of the televisual.”
Campany wrote of a type of Late photography where the viewer is left to piece together the story, allowing their imagination to fill in the gaps that have been left intentionally blank. In that sense the photographer is like a writer, telling the story, allowing the viewer to interpret it, turning it almost into a game to solve ‘who dunnnit it’ I think they should only be used in this way to document or to inspire change, to describe ‘sombre melancholia’ as being ‘seductive’ is very distasteful and is disrespectful for the poor souls caught up in terrible events.
An interesting comment was made in the article that I felt especially drawn to. “Stilless only became the defining characteristic of photograph with the cming of mass cinema and it’s newsreels…it was the invention of stillness as a sort of by-product.” Of course photos had always been still but it wasn’t until the influx of moving footage that the stillness of a photo was truly appreciated as suddenly photography had something to be compared too. Moving versus still and that is where it’s magic comes from.
2. For personal reasons I’m not going to complete part two of this exercise as I find such images extremely disturbing. Instead I looked at Rodger Campany’s images ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’ and Paul Seawright ‘Hidden’ as shown in the course materials.
His image focuses on the afterath of the event. There is such a stillness and emptiness to the images, the image contradicts the mind filling in the gaps of the people fighting and dying here. Your mind sees one thing and fills in the gaps, tells itself the stories, but the eye can not physically see that, instead they focus on the utter desolation and emptiness and the two link together to generate such emotions of war, the waste of life, the injustice and the emptiness and stillness left behind.
Write a brief response (around 200 words) to Graham Clarke’s comments above. Do you think it’s possible not to be a ‘tourist’ or ‘outsider’ as the maker of landscape images?
“… the landscape photograph implies the act of looking as a privileged observer so that, in one sense, the photographer of landscapes is always the tourist, and invariably the outsider. Francis Frith’s images of Egypt, for example, for all their concern with foreign lands, retain the perspective of an Englishman looking out over the land. Above all, landscape photography insists on the land as spectacle and involves an element of pleasure.”
Images of exotic places abroad were only in the populations imaginations or captured through drawings in books or perhaps not even known only a few hundred years ago. Yet with the rise of photography, suddenly these images were brought to the masses connecting them to far away places.
The idea of tourism was first created in the Roman days when areas of interest were created and whole villages were built up around them thus creating the first ‘tourist hot spot’ fast foward to the 21st century and the world is a seething mass of tourism. You have to scratch deeper than the surface to find the true place hiding beneath. Once you dust away all of the souveneir snowglobes, teatowels and selfies you find yourself in the true spirit of the place. Yet at the same time in the book ” The Framed World: Tourism, Tourists and Photograph’ I was interested to read that “the carrying of a camera still signifes a tourist…we are almost perpetually primed to click’ This is perhaps true, whenever you go to an event or attraction now everyone is holding a camera or a smart phone, selfie sticks battle against tripods. Sometimes I find myself in the midst of some such scrum and I pause and put my own camera down. In that moment I realise I’m the only person who is truly part of that event, everyone else is a witness because they are only seeing the images through a screen. I feel I’m the only person grounded in the moment. Which is why, since starting this course, I rarely take photos at mass events. I capture a few, the ones that capture my personal respone to the event or location but I focus on enjoying it, capturing images both with my camera and my memory.
It’s something I have never thought about but how far can a photo go to take you inside a location. Is the photographer and therefore the viewer (as the two are perpetually linked) always the outsider? At first I was unsure. The photographer may not be a tourist and is instead immersing themselves in the location yet the viewer is always looking at two dimensional image, they aren’t looking at the Great Pyrmaids of Giza, they are looking at a photo of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Yet that is where photography lets the viewer transcends, they are suddenly there, they are standing at the foot of the Pyramids, though it is just a piece of paper or a computer screen the viewer can feel their feet sinking in the sand, the burning overhead sun and the crowds of people chattering behind them.
See these two images
In one you capture those feelings and emotions of actually being there yet in the other, you are given the truth. This seems to have diverted into a discussion of the picturesque and how sometimes we airbrush out the finer details to create a more aesthetically beautiful image.
In conclusion I feel like you can be both. Sometimes the images taken are from a tourists POV and yes, there is a feeling of being a foreigner in a new land, yet I also feel that a photographer can immerse themselves in the location and at the same time allow the viewer to be immersed too. One cannot work without the other.
Gather a selection of postcards that you’ve bought or recived. Write a brief evaluation of the merits of the images you find. Consider whether as Fay Godwin remarked, these images bear any relation to your experience of the places depicted.
Postcards have always been something wonderful to me, a little snippet of a memory, posted back home waiting for you, connecting you to all sorts of incredible places around the world or even on your own doorstep, whether you’ve visited them or not. There’s that enjoyment of sitting on holiday scribbling away, like a personal diary, one arriving from a friend showing they’re thinking of you or collecting them to remind you of special memories. Therefore I was rather upset to see the comments of a fellow past student who I will not name and their disregard of postcards. They wrote how they thought postcards were a way of bragging, a pointless memento that people had to wait for and why in this digital age would we care for something made of paper, so insignificant. It was then I realised what postcards meant to me that I could even feel angry, I know everyone is welcome to their own opinion (not that we always want to hear it) but to diss something so wonderful and timeless. They don’t see it, yes social media connects us all instantly but that’s what it is, instant gratification, the moment is gone, the photo is shared and I admit I post images of my trips away or places I’ve visited but I also send postcards to those who matter. Taking the time when you could just send a text shows you care. Just as creating a postcard of something says ‘this is special’ course book so too, taking the time out to write a postcard shows ‘you are special and we care’
I also do not share any of the thoughts of Fay Goodwin “I get satiated with looking at postcards. they are a very soft warm blanket of sentiment,” in fact her opinions infuriated me, I understand that the picturesque has perhaps an over saturated feel which has been intensified by tourism and the media yet if we reset all those thoughts and comments and for one moment made every human and man made element invisible we would see that the picturesque was not an illusion, it’s very much true, because the world and the countryside is beautiful and we happen to come across such scenes and beauty and feel that emotion of awe and love. Yet a critic comes along and says it’s a lie, an illusion yet they clearly do not see the beauty of the world because if they truly opened their eyes they would see just how beautiful the world is. Nor do I think Constable was painting a false picture, if you forive the pun, of the Haywain. Just because there is crime and unrest in the world doesn’t mean that we must only see images of that. Yes we know there is war and terrible things going on but at the same time every image of a landscape or painting of an area is not critised for lying. The images don’t need to be focused on that. For every painting in existence there is something bad going on in the background.
I do feel rather strongly about this and I’m not usually so outspoken on her but it wouldn’t be true to myself of I praised and accepted these thoughts I don’t share in.
Anyway, I will continue with the exercise.
Recently while re organising my room I came across a big file filled with postcards. My Dad was pleasantly surprised that it had been found among all the photo albums as it contained all the postcards he had collected, received and sent in return to family members. It was the equivalent of a travel book with pages filled with exotic and local destinations. He said he began the collection to preserve memories when digital cameras were still in their infancy. Some were places I had visited myself, others only my parents had set foot there and some were from friends abroad. What I find especially intersting was that a great deal of the postcards had been written and I saw how we all leave behind our own echoes in places which can be reseen in the mind. My memory of a church would be the blossom that blooms around it every year yet to the postcard owner, that day it rained, they attended a wedding and got a cup of tea on the pier. I am going to centre Assignment Three around echoes of memories and the places we leave ourselves behind in perhaps incorporating images of my childhood in them.
Below are a selection of the postcards with my thoughts of each one.
I was very inspired by Francis’s Firth huge project to photography every town, city and village in Great Britain, such an immense project to undertake and one that has served an understanding of the past.
I was especially eager to see whether my own town, Lytham St Annes qualified in the set. Why is there something so exciting about seeing your own town depicted in a project when you can just easily look out of the window and see it in stunning technicolour. I suppose it’s behind the artist’s vision, we all like to see how a place is interpreted to another and especially if that place bears some emotional symbolism to the viewer.