Posted in 08 Typologies and new topographies, Coursework

Exercise 2.3 Typologies

“Write down your own responses to the work of any of the practitioners O’Hagan mentions in his article, and describe your thoughts on typological approaches.”

Before I started this unit I was driving in the countryside and as we reached a junction and stopped we slowly drifted by the hedgerow, instead of filled with chattering sparrows I saw an old glove hanging from a branch like an urban leaf; just along a can was crushed between two branches. I decided to go back and create a photographic collection of the items found in the foliage. In a strange humanised way they almost seemed to belong there (though obviously littering is horrible) It just felt like they had adapted to their surroundings.

Then in the course, I come across Typologies and the Collective photographer which fitted perfectly with my ideas. From never doing personal projects alongside the photography course suddenly my mind is filled with them.

“A typology is a collection of a single type or class, with the collection itself being more important than the individual components.” 

Key points

  • In 1975 the New Topographics exhibition was held featuring 168 photos of the ‘mundane’ captured by revolutionary photographers such as  Robert Adamas, Lewis Baltz and Bernd and Hilla Becher (famous for their collective images of German water towers) images such as streets, urban areas, parking lots challenged the the world’s perception of beauty, twisting it and turning it on it’s head, pulling it away from contemporary ideas of beauty such as Ansel Adam’s images of the National Parks and instead focusing on seemingly inconsequential and banal images of real life. It was met by intense negative reviews yet it also created a new wave of photography echoed in many images created after the exhibition.
  • Despite being an unconventional perception of beauty it carried a warning message of mans ongoing urge to rapidly take over the country, expanding urban areas and eating up the surrounding beauty like an environmental game of PacMan.

I find it quite interesting that the exhibition should have been met with such negativity especially when it reflected their own lives. Perhaps this was one of the reasons they didn’t like it, perhaps they didn’t like the way nature was being eaten by the urban landscape (though it continued)

Bernd and Hilla Becher 

Personally, I do find beauty in the collection and the images are visually appealing. They reflect real life in quite an evocative and moving way, throughout their images, especially the Becher water tower images; you see rhythms echoed through the architecture just as such echoes appear throughout nature. They are fascinating in an unconventional way, not merely for collections, but for aesthetic appeal on a larger scale. The images are also a time capsule for a time from before. How many of these water towers still stand? They may not phsyically be there, but their presence will always be felt and documented through these images. Then again that brings it back to a collective use when the aesthetic is also felt. I think it is something in human nature to want to categorise, we categorise people into friends and enemies, enemies into rivals and nemisie. Food is into groups, animals into classifications. So it seems natural that photography goes the same way, it is visually pleasing to see such images grouped together, there is a link between them all, it’s harmonious. We see several images of similar things, they may share similarities but also their appeal is in their uniqueness, just as every fingerprint is different, so too are these images. Even if you had two identical towers you would still probably notice some discrepancies. The couple quoted that they photographed ‘buildings where anonymity is accepted to be the style’.

James Mollison – James and Other Apes

Such images also raised awareness of the outspread of the urban landscape, watching places dissapear before your very eyes but they also raise awareness of issues in the animal kingdom. James Mollison was touched and in awe of the similarities between the faces of man and primate. He travelled the globe to meet orphans of the bush meat and pet trade capturing close up haunting images, ‘like a passport photo’ The name of the typology ‘James and other Apes’ serves to show the connection between man and primate and the similarities are powerful, their eyes call out to you, they are a reflection of our features. For an animal lover like myself I know the empathy they have, how all animals think and feel and are not at all different from us. I do not need to see such images to raise awareness but it calls out to others who feel something stir inside of them. The typology is visually appealing, aesthically beautiful and yet it’s imporantnce is those two factors coming together to create a physical, internal reaction.