Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Gordon Parks

Reading through some of the material in the course has led me to look closer at the American Farmers Association, a group of photographers capturing images of social injustice from 1942-1944. I chose to look closer at Gordon Parks as his work tended to also group racial injustice alongside poverty and social justice. It would have been a time in America only 70 years ago that questions the segregation by race and restricted privileges.

Parks [b. 1912 Kansas] was himself born into poverty, this would have surely driven him to search for a better way, and what better than to translate his emotions and political views into documentary. His images are largely of African Americans, many show oppression and sadness but in contrast many show life in the face of adversity and the challenges of living in an America as a black person.

The following image was taken from an archive known as Fort Scott 1950. The use of light is fantastic, and the way in which the two people seem disconnected gives a slight juxtaposition, perhaps with the woman wanting something better with her life.

Gordon Parks - Tenement Dwellers, Chicago 1950

The second image taken from the FSA series just warms me. This is one of Park's more famous images for obvious reasons, one of the lighter ones.

Gordon Parks - Woman & Dog in Window, Harlem New York 1943

I found Park's best work though was Segregation Story 1956. A brilliant collection recording in true documentary fashion what it must have been like for Black Americans during this awful time of being classified as a different human being. It is truly work like this that opens doors and opens minds increasing awareness of social injustice to a level that forces change for the good of mankind. Documentary has a lot to live up to and a tremendous role to play in our society as we strive to improve living standards and share more of what we have.

Gordon Parks - Department Store Alabama 1956 

Gordon Parks -  Segregated Drinking Fountain, Alabama 1956

Exercise: PhotoNotes

This exercise involves reading an online article written by Elizabeth McCausland, published in January 1939. We are then to write short notes and a single paragraph on why this is important to this course.

  1. Written in 1939 this is a very fresh approach to Documentary.
  2. Documentary has a documented history of development and rapid growth with strong impulses producing intense work.
  3. Documentary is described as a "New Function" of the direct and realistic for the "profound and sober".
  4. References are made 35 years prior to the article of practitioners such as Lewis Hine's child labour images, giving evidence that documentary is nothing new.
  5. Two types (new and old) of practitioners that are "continents "apart"
  6. The article challenges the concept of the "honesty" of photography quite rightly. 
  7. McCausland repeatedly references The Farm Security Administration and capturing social injustice. This would have been very prevalent at the time of writing and I wonder if this has led to many photographers at the time shaping the modern face of documentary, giving an element of truth and form.
This article separates documentary from other genres of photography as well as establishing documentary as an art form. The concept of interpreting the unseen in an image is discussed at length; for example the social divide messages and how the photographer uses the physical to describe social injustice. It is these two points that help to progress the art of documentary and for practitioners to develop skills and recognise not only their immediate surroundings but how the image will be interpreted.   

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 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

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.