Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Assignment 1: Local Communities

I intend to present all Assignments for assessment as a short printed document with each image on a separate A4 page, printed on high quality pearl paper. This will include any specific preparation, experiences, reference work and conclusions for the project.

For the learning log I have uploaded a PDF version of this document including high resolution screen size images, also included them in this article are the images a lower screen resolution for completeness. I have yet to decide on the final medium for assessment but will work this through as I progress through the course.

The images I took are of a local Junior American Football team, the final chosen 10 are shown below. Click on any for a full size screen show or select the PDF to see the full submission.

Assignment 1

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Walk Home

Walking home late at night I was made very conscious of street lighting hidden behind trees, causing a great diffusion of light. Using my smartphone I decided to take images as if the street lighting was a bright heavenly body, shining in the still of the night. I continued with taking images until I got to the road I live in.

I tried to obfuscate any street lighting poles or direct nearby lights to give the impression of a night sun as much as possible and left all of the images completely untouched in term of processing.

I was quite pleased when I looked at these the following day and thought they could be used here on this learning log as a document of my night journey home...here are the four best.

Assignment 1: Preparation & Selection

Assignment number 1 from this course is to to produce a small photo essay of 10 images demonstrating the experiences, lives and history of a local community. I have chosen  a local American Football team, the Kent Exiles, who I followed on the road to becoming the UK Junior Champions.

I have taken many images on various days, many of them action shots but many also about the people around the team and off the pitch. Choosing 10 will be a difficult task from the following contact sheets. My aim is choose a variety of images to hopefully complement each other. 

I was bitterly disappointed to miss out on some wonderful shots at the point of victory due to the camera having the incorrect settings, basically not enough light leading to low shutter speeds. These are also included on the penultimate contact sheet.

Clicking on any image will open a full size slideshow of the contacts.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Shawn Hubbard: Making the Cut

Shawn Hubbard is an American photographer than concentrates on capturing raw emotions and memorable moments associated with sports. I was given his name by my tutor in regard to the upcoming assignment to evaluate his work.

His style is becoming more and more fashionable in sports photography. Previously the job of a sports photographer was to capture the magic moment of the goal, touch-down, tackle contentious moments such as fouls. Capturing the action was the primary focus using fast large lenses mounted on mono-pods from single positions, and this would be the only images captured....

Now though we seek more and the role of the modern sports photographer becomes more of story teller, capturing moments on and off the pitch in less technicality and more emotional imagery.

Shaun Hubbard's images capture the essence of a sporting day. He has captured some bright and powerful images of NFL American Football, mixing in some traditional images with those off pitch displaying the emotions of players, managers and supporters and behind the scenes shots in locker rooms.

The work of Hubbard I found most interesting though was "Making the Cut", a series of images telling the story of the cheerleaders. Starting at what looks like covering specialist training, coaching, auditions and finally graduating to a match. Not knowing their culture we may be excused for thinking that this is a 'chick' pastime but it is not. The images show the hard work, determination and more importantly the team spirit and drive to be the best. The images also portray a group of individuals that are supportive of each other in their quest to be chosen. This is the attribute of North Americans that I admire the most; their genuine praise and happiness for those that succeed around them even when they themselves may fail.

There are too many images from this collection to show, but hear a few that I really enjoyed.

Images Shaun Hubbard https://www.shawnhubbardphoto.com/Stories/Making-The-Cut

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Exercise: A Decisive Moment

The aim of this exercise is to read Simon Bainbridge's article on the 2011 Hereford Photography Festival, in which he presents five artists on the theme of Decisive Moments. Taking one of the artists we are then to write a 200 word reflective commentary.

I chose to look at the work of George Georgiou, born London 1961. Bainbridge presented Georgiou's work The Shadow of the Bear: Georgia / Ukraine. This is a piece of work to demonstrate the effect that Russia has on its neighbouring countries. I found this piece of work hard to follow, the images were small on the PC screen but I imagine in a gallery these would look more impressive. I do see how these images string together to form a basic documentary but do not feel that the decisive moment is strong.

Looking at Georgiou's more recent work, Last Stop, did resonate with me. All of these images are taken from a London bus and carry a great theme: a documentary of a bus ride in which the outside literally does appear as another disconnected world of moments of time, some captured in great decisive moments. 

There is an air of continuity carried by the bus ride that takes the viewer to different parts of London, occupied by very different people in many circumstances. There are too many images in this collection to show but I really admire the way many of them contained more than one decisive moment.

George Georgiou - Last Stop
[200 words]

The exercise continues with listening to Jon Levy on the subject of The Intent of Documentary, making reflective comments.

From what I could extract the focus on this interview revolved around photo-journalism. Levy makes an important point that the intent of the photographer defines whether or not it falls into the genre of photo-journalism. This intent often being deciphered after the event has taken place. Could this 'intent' be to report, to shock, to confuse (propaganda), promote? I am trying to think of an intent that would not or could not fall into the category of photo-journalism. After all isn't this just 'Story Telling' as Levy points out in his opening statements?

In the past Levy points out that photo-journalism was largely a western view of life but rightly rejects this claiming that it is the view point that is all important and not the origins of the photographer. A good point was also made about how much easier it is to connect with remote photographers to get varying viewpoints making the world of photography a much more broader.


Friday, 2 March 2018

Exercise: The Myth of Objectivity

This exercise is to write a article of 250 words in response to two comments made 52 years apart with contrasting views on the genre of photographic documentary.

When comparing the two comments, and within the context of the original articles, I tend to reject Andre Bazin’s concept of a clinical documentary. In contrast Allan Sekula’s views seem more modern, literally.

In 1945 when Bazin made this comment the world of photography was quite different and the views of photography, especially documentary were more of a science and modern technology. Bazin alludes to the photograph as an accurate record that cannot be argued with. I cannot fully accept this, even in documentary. Yes, an image is an accurate record of what happened but it is the photographer that creates it, it is not “formed automatically” as quoted.

Thomas Hoepker, a German born photographer took this image of 911 but for fear of criticism did not publish it for five years. When published it still came under widespread criticism, when the subjects responded they replied that they were “in a profound state of shock and disbelief”. Clearly first impressions are otherwise.

Thomas Hoepker - Published 2006
Even early documentary of the Western States of the USA, such as Timothy H. O'Sullivan, faithfully recorded what they were requested to, but neglected the cost to the Native American. There is so much more than just one still to record a moment – that moment that is recorded is defined by the photographer – the interpretation that they alone form.

Allan Sekula interprets photographic objectivity as accepting that information (the image) is the “outcome of a culturally determined relationship”. This I interpret as the relationship between the photographic image and the creator.  This I feel much more comfortable with and believe that this also underpins all photography, including documentary, as an art form.

[274 words]

Monday, 26 February 2018

Exercise: "Around and Afterthoughts"

The aim of this exercise is to read Martha Rosler's article "around and Afterthoughts (1992) published in "The Contest of Meaning" Richard Bolton (ed.) and to make notes here in the learning blog.

I found this quite an interesting read, in general it questions the genre of photographic documentary in society.  It discusses the work of some of the great photographers that took images from their own perspective, yet Rosler suggests that this perspective is sometimes re-interpreted commercially in the art galleries and museums of an elite. Rosler argues this point a couple of times suggesting that this is to keep the status quo yielding towards liberalism.

Rosler quoted Jacob Riis [1849-1914] over a comment made when he heard of the invention of the flashlight  "The darkest corner might be photographed that way".  A brilliant play on words suggesting that documentary can also been seen as the darkest corner of photography.

The article describes many practitioners and forms a commonality of  documentary aiding social reform by bringing these darkest corners to light. A common theme being the Bowery district of New York City, where 'bums' lived between the street and the shop fronts in a constant state of drunkenness. Although not mentioned in this article, through it, I have discovered Leland BobbĂ© [b. 1948], an American Photographer renowned for his work covering fringe elements of society. Being brought up near The Bowery he captured images in the 1970's that really are quite disturbing by today's standards.

The Bowery - Leland Bobbé
Rosler makes a comment that in some cases the images are more unsettling than "the argument enveloping them". By this I read that as still images the viewer is left wondering, in a state of flux and is more unsettled than the actual event. This is repeated  in the article where the viewer may ask the question of what happened to subjects in the image. For example Dorothea Lange's migrant mother, (Florence Thompson), the twins of Diane Arbus, all of which have been re-photographed later in life. Personally the most disturbing and brutal image of documentary is that of Robert Haeberie "People about to be shot" . In this image we know what happened to the subjects but nonetheless I still have a small piece of my mind that lives in hope of their survival. Is this a evidence that we may not always accept or want to accept extreme forms of documentary?

Rosler makes a really great point that this disturbing nature of documentary can lead to sensationalism or 'trophy hunting'. Furthermore she addresses concerns that commercial organisations have promoted such work in order to make capital gains, such as the work of Edward S. Curtis that was bound in gold-decorated volumes and sold for enormous amounts of money.

Martha Rosler makes an important point that documentary has two moments [1] the immediate and [2] the aesthetic-historical. This is very true and I was hoping that she may address this further as I have often wondered at what point does an image move from [1] to [2], what are the triggers and how fast is the transformation? I suspect that this is largely down to the individual image or set of images. For example the images of 911 would have traversed into the aesthetic-historical faster than most, is this because that is where we want this event to live?