Looking at Gerhard Richter’s painted photographs, as they were suggested to me after I considered using collage/mixed media for assignment two, there has been some debate as to whether Richter should be noted as a ‘painter’ or an ‘artist’.
Once these limitations on medium specificity have been lifted and we are free to discuss each medium within the context of Art, we can begin to look at Gerhard Richter’s ‘Over-painted Photographs’ not as paintings or photographs but objects that address much larger ideas than that of themselves.
His approach to painting and his over-painted images can be said to achieve the same result, in making his audience look closely at the object, trying to discern what he is depicting and leaving it to their imaginations and personal interpretations. When asked ‘Why do most of your paintings look like blurry photographs?’ his response was:
I’ve never found anything to be lacking in a blurry canvas. Quite the contrary: you can see many more things in it than in a sharply focused image. A landscape painted with exactness forces you to see a determined number of clearly differentiated trees, while in a blurry canvas you can perceive as many trees as you want. The painting is more open.
Interview with Irmeline Lebeer, 1973
With his “Over-painted Photographs”, Richter takes ordinary commercially printed photographs, from his family album and these he smears with the oil paint left over at the end of the day, which is then pressed or scraped or lifted to give various textural effects. These photographs are just legible behind the paint. You can just about see the scene depicted and have to peer through the thick layer of paint to work out the meaning or content of the photograph.
I’m not quite sure I agree with one review…
The great sweeps of thick, dripping paint comment…in a different, artistic voice which imposes itself on the steady photographic one we thought we could plainly hear. It’s like watching Richter acknowledge the modern domination of the photograph and yet also his own refusal to give in to it. The photographic elements give something to the paint which gives something in return. The sum of both is far larger than the contribution of either alone. Lovely things, as exciting as anything you are likely to see. No artist has more to say on the photograph and how well we know it.
But I do agree that:
never have we looked so closely at a photograph than when it is someone else’s and covered in paint.
I was thinking of using this technique although it may be tricky; I’m not really an artist so it may all end up in a huge mess and I might move on to something else. The other problem I may encounter is covering up elements within the photograph that hint at the meaning I am trying to convey.
Gregory Crewdson was born in 1962 in Brooklyn, his career has spanned three decades with his work exhibited widely in the United States and Europe and included in many public collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
His most well-known bodies of work are probably Natural Wonder, Twilight, Dream House (a 2002 commission by The New York Times Magazine), Beneath the Roses, and Sanctuary.
Beneath the Roses, a series of pictures that took nearly ten years to complete—with a crew of over one hundred cumulatively—was the subject of the 2012 feature documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, by Ben Shapiro.
Crewdson’s photographs usually take place in small-town America, but are dramatic and cinematic featuring often disturbing, surreal events that usually take place at twilight. In creating what he calls ‘frozen moments’, he has developed a process akin to the making of a feature film. Operating on an epic scale, he uses a large crew to shoot and then develop the images during post-production.They are elaborately staged and lit using crews familiar with motion picture production using motion picture film equipment and techniques.
He created a body of work titled Twilight ‘where every detail was meticulously planned and staged, in particular the lighting. In some instances, extra lighting and special effects such as artificial rain or dry ice are used to enhance a natural moment of twilight. In others, the effect of twilight is entirely artificially created.’
Crewdson has cited the films Vertigo, The Night of the Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blue Velvet, and Safe as having influenced his style, as well as the painter Edward Hopper and photographer Diane Arbus.
He gave an insightful interview to The American Reader about his techniques as a ‘director’ and how little he tries to interact with his ‘subjects’, how he constructs his scenes, one was a scene from psycho…
AR. …we learn that the bathroom is a reconstruction of the bathroom in Psycho. Do you want viewers to recognize these symbols and be subconsciously affected?
GC: Right. Well, in that particular case, for me that was the starting point. I started thinking of motel rooms, and I thought of that motel room in Psycho. But that was just a starting point, and through the process of making the picture, the picture changed.
I think subconsciously we all have a connection to that imagery and a certain kind of dread.
AR: Do photographs naturally inspire or have more potential to inspire dread? It’s so interesting that you used that word because I’ve felt that in front of photographs before and I’ve just never put my finger on it. Is there just something about a still image?
GC: That’s an interesting proposition. I do think that dread is about a certain kind of expectation. And the fact that a picture can never resolve itself the way a movie can—maybe that’s a specific kind of dread that becomes associated with a picture.
I also found this observation very telling
AR: Towards the end of the documentary you talk about the inevitable disappointment of this imperfect translation of the image in your mind into what it becomes. Are you always disappointed?
GC: Yes. I think that’s the nature of representation. No matter what it will disappoint, it will fail in some way.
But that’s also part of the magic of art. If every picture met my expectation in exactly the right way, there’d be no mystery; there’d be no gap between what’s in my head and the picture I make. So it’s necessary. But it sure disappoints you. It’s also what propels you to make the next one.
Born Ascher/Usher Fellig on June 12, 1899 in the town of Lemburg (now in Ukraine) his family immigrated to the United States, where his first name was changed to the more American-sounding Arthur. Arthur Fellig has the wonderful nick-name of Weegee…as the story goes this came about during his early career as a freelance press photographer in New York City. Quite frequently his nose for trouble/crime often led him to a scene well ahead of the police.
In reality he tuned his radio to the police frequency, but friends and colleagues linked him to the Ouija board. Spelling it phonetically, Fellig took Weegee as his professional name. One of the original freelance paparazzi or ‘ambulance chasers,’ being first on the scene allowed him to take the first and most sensational photographs of news events and offer them for sale to publications such as the Herald-Tribune, Daily News, Post, the Sun, and PM Weekly.
He was flamboyant and arrogant stamping ‘Credit Photo by Weegee the Famous’ on the back of his images. Gradually his images seeped into other areas, New York’s Photo League held an exhibition of his work in 1941, and the Museum of Modern Art began collecting his work, much which depicted ‘unflinchingly realistic scenes of urban life, crime, injury and death’, and exhibited it in 1943. Weegee published his photographs in several books, including Naked City (1945), Weegee’s People (1946), and Naked Hollywood (1953).
Weegee also worked in Hollywood as a filmmaker, performer, and technical consultant. His 1945 book Naked City was the inspiration for the 1947 film The Naked City. The Public Eye (1992), starring Joe Pesci, was based on the man himself.
Why he is important is because he invented himself. He started out in commercial photography, then forged his own career as a press photographer, worked in Hollywood on Dr Stangelove with Stanley Kubrik. Although mostly known for his crime scene images he also shot fun street images.
Weegee’s photographic oeuvre is unusual in that it was successful in the popular media and respected by the fine-art community during his lifetime. His photographs’ ability to navigate between these two realms comes from the strong emotional connection forged between the viewer and the characters in his photographs, as well as from Weegee’s skill at choosing the most telling and significant moments of the events he photographed.
He used very basic press photographer equipment and methods of the era, a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera preset at f/16 at 1/200 of a second, with flashbulbs and a set focus distance of ten feet. He would hang around police stations looking for tips from the police, and Bowery nightclubs…synonymous now with Martha Rosler.
The former apparently, have been influenced by the latter, to produce photographs in a continuous stream of consciousness (usually translated as B/S :oX) that is before I go look, so I won’t pre-judge… Moriyama is cited as being a co-founder of the magazine Provoke… what they don’t tell you is he joined for the second issue and it only lasted for three…lies, damn lies n statistics…
So, linked by are, bure, and bokeh…or translated as rough, blurred and out of focus, these three photographers operate at the ‘limit of expression and coherence.’
Moriyama I know through having visited the Klein/Moriyama exhibition in 2013…it will be intriguing to see if my opinion has changed and what work the other two photographers have been producing…
Read Miranda Gavin’s review of Anders Petersen’s French Kiss and Jacob Aue Sobol’s I,Tokyo for Hotshoe Magazine.
Read ‘Bye, Bye Photography’ (AG Magazine#38) and research the work of Daido Moriyama.
Write a short reflective commentary about the connections between the three photographers styles.
Start thinking about the critical review… nooooooo brain is still on finishing this and assignment two…
Anders Petersen – French Kiss
As per usual a bit of research into the work before you read the review is always handy.
Oh….<coughs> LOLOLOLOL okay……so… new word scopophilia… coursework tells me that it links nicely with being a flâneur….hmmmm I think we need to sort out our stories before we get arrested…sorry officer I was just being a bit of a flâneur…you know…a man who saunters around observing society… rather than, oh what? Nah, don’t worry I was just indulging my innate scopophilia… you know…sexual pleasure derived chiefly from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity; voyeurism…. oh no damn I didn’t quite mean that…but oooops yeah that seems to be the closer of the definitions even Freud thinks so….
According to my little red folder Kertész’s scopophilia – the ‘pleasure that derives from looking’ (if you say so OCA ;oD if you say so) led to him working on a project about people reading …I’d say it inspired more his series on Distortion ;o)
But I am open-minded and will go with the flow…
These images are beautiful to me…I love the gentle peacefulness about them, the wonderfully surreal, and in general, because they are about reading and I so love to read…books….mmmmmm Waterstones….may be I just have a paraphilia for books.
Although I don’t consider myself to be a street photographer I do love people watching, sitting at rest and watching the little dramas unfold is great. I find I feel self-conscious, as most admit to, when focusing my camera on others, I don’t get in close enough, though I do experiment from time to time.
Read the article ‘What is Street Photography?’ on the London Festival of Photography website…
Damn… yet another dead link..the London Festival of Photography website is no longer there…so inside I’ll drop into one of my favourite blogs for insights and links to the last posting.
Could be it was replaced by this which was useful as it gave some really good examples of the kind of things people are currently photographing, and the same here.
After reading the articles that I couldn’t find, but improvised I then am set a task to follow one of the weekly instructions on Street Photography Now project 2011 and uploading a selection to my blog…that will have to wait until I get out to take some next weekend so watch this space…
I eventually got round to looking at the website in depth and chose the instruction:
#26 If you’re not sure its a picture shoot it anyway – Carolyn Drake
So I am combining some of these images with another exercise to do with surreal images…I had to build a small portfolio for each but then choose a selection of five for my blog. The portfolio is supposed to be in B&W but rather than convert them all I am just going to convert the 5 I have chosen.
Here is the small portfolio…
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
Assignment Two Single Image Narrative
The five final images that fit the criteria #26 If you’re not sure its a picture shoot it anyway – Carolyn Drake, applies not only to me as the photographer but also the subjects within the shots themselves.
After taking shots over a few months I whittled them down to these few which include selfies, a professional wedding photographer and people taking snapshots:
Vivian Maier, like Atget, was only discovered very late on in life. However, unlike Atget she did not ever use photography to make a living, it was a hobby she indulged in whilst working as a Nanny. She has now come under the umbrella of being a ‘street photographer’, reputedly taking more than 150,000 photographs during her lifetime, primarily of the people and architecture of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
During her lifetime, Maier’s work was unknown and unpublished, and she never even printed many of her negatives.
Maier left behind more than 100,000 images, in hundreds of boxes of negatives and undeveloped rolls of film, as well as some Super 8 home movie footage, audio tapes and trunks full of memorabilia. Some of this was auctioned when Maier, who had fallen on hard times, could no longer keep up payments on a storage locker. One of the buyers was an estate agent and flea-market enthusiast called John Maloof. When he began to print the black-and-white street portraits that were her specialty, he was captivated. Vivian Maier’s life and photography became his passion and, eventually, his living.
Out of all the research what intrigued me most was Ted Forbes take on it all…had this box of negatives fallen to another photographer like Abbott, or a curator like Szarkowski would his opinion be different? Atget and Maier run parallel in so many ways. Both suffering from being curated after their demise and with no input as to how they should be shown. Are they both just ‘good’ photographers who others are trying to hype? Is one so much better than the other or did they just get the right/wrong PR team?
I like some of both, other I think …’meh’…but that works with most artists/photographers/writers, some work is stronger than others. Here is a small selection of her work
Audrey Hepburn at the Chicago premiere of “My Fair Lady” at the RKO Palace Theater. October 23, 1964
November 1953, New York, NY
1954, New York, NY
July 27, 1954, New York, NY
September 18, 1962
1963. Chicago, IL
From her work I need to select 5 images that show the influence of surrealist elements.
This photograph has the elements of reflections in the puddles and reversed writing providing an unreal atmosphere to the image.
Shadows and cropping are both elements of surrealism, cutting large portions of an image from the frame. The small child is framed by 2 unknown ‘giants’, both at either sides and behind in the ‘shadow world.’
Unusual activity is also part of the surrealist movement. Why is someone doing a headstand in the street? The positioning of the advert provides an audience, whilst the young lady sporting only one shoe seems preoccupied by a hole in the one she has in her hand. Their clothes seem totally mis-matched as well.
Blur, and dream-like images feature heavily within surrealism. This portrait of Audrey Hepburn is out of focus whilst her companion is lost to motion blur. Was this intentional? A signifier for the unobtainable dream or an accident? We shall never know.
Juxtaposition, reflection…I just love this shot :o) shoes…cars…peaches… what more could you possibly want in a surreal photograph…I guess Kertész might have liked a distorted nude somewhere but we can’t always have want we want ;oP
Truth be told I think quite a lot of ‘good’ street photography, and even the not so good, does carry an element of the surreal, but life is surreal…nothing is straight forward, we only see snippets of life and most of that is just plain absurd when you examine it closely. A lot of Maier’s work does have elements of the surreal and most of that looks as if it was intentionally captured that way.
As far as her contribution to photography is concerned? I think that if she had published at the time she was an ‘active’ photographer she may have been more recognised…or perhaps not, knowing the issues of women in photography at the time, and the supposed fragility of her mental state. On looking at her images the majority of them, to me anyway, do stand comparison to those who came before, were contemporaries of hers, or have followed.
Curator Mike Seaborne reminded us that street photography wasn’t new and what we snap today will continue to provide a visual record of social and environmental change.
However, street photography in London is far from new. The first ‘instantaneous’ street scenes – those where traffic and people are captured in mid-motion – were taken in the early 1860s and by the 1890s candid street photographers with hand-held, and sometimes hidden, cameras were snapping Londoners unawares. The 20th century saw many famous and lesser-known photographers document life on the street for a variety of reasons. Their collective body of work provides us with a unique visual record of social and environmental change.
This was an interesting review by a non-photographer.
iN-PUBLIC had several photographers involved whose names are more recognised now.
I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and the companion book is a wealth of information with regards to historical and more contemporary practitioners. This is useful for me as I am considering some form of street photography for assignment two.
Guy Debord – founder of the Situationist movement…
Psychogeography – a multisensory perception of the environment concerned with:
unpicking the manner in which the contemporary world warps the relationship between psyche and place – (Self, p.11)
Look at Graciela Itubides images of Juchitan – these ‘resonate with the legacy of the surrealists of inter-war Paris.’
The coursework tells us:
The surrealists …understood [the photographic document] as a charged, enigmatic fragment that left as much unknown as it revealed, coaxing the viewer back onto their own judgement or imagination. (Barson et al, 2006, p.54)
In looking at her work you can see parallels with the work of Cartier-Bresson, Brassaï and Kertész: the cropping, shadows, odd compositions and juxtaposition of objects.
I also need to look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, (whose work I saw at Somerset House) André Kertész, George Brassaï, Man Ray, Paolo Pellegrin and Tony Ray-Jones, noting the key visual and conceptual characteristics that their work has in common. It was brilliant that I had been to the recent exhibition at the Atlas Gallery and seen work of these photographers first hand.
Back in 2011 I went to an exhibition of Hungarian photography and saw many original photographs from ManRay, Brassaï and Kertész. Although at the time I did not mention their surrealist leanings I bought the book, eyewitness Hungarian Photography in the Twentieth Century, which has many examples of their work, plus others. This review did a much better job than I did of describing what was there, and another from Beetles and Huxley.
Henri Cartier Bresson
Tony Ray Jones
Fortunately I work in a secondary school and support regularly within the art dept, therefore don’t struggle with the concept of surrealism within art or photography and quite like the idea of the surreal supplanting ‘reality’ within ‘straight’photography. Elliot Erwitt is one of my favourite street photographers who does the surreal so well.
Bullet pointed below is a list of some of the features regularly found within surrealist photography:
Depiction of the unseen
Alternative angles of the everyday/distortion
Everyday objects , people, and places shot in an unusual way
Use of lines /curves /shadow/light
Choice of camera angle /lens/ light / framing/altered perspective
Post-processing/ darkroom techniques / digital manipulation / cropping
Double exposure / collage /photomontage/ etc
Unusual subject matter
All of the above photographic examples include several of these techniques. I can see why this is included within the coursework as it shows the crossover between documentary and surrealism, and the use of abstract/conceptual ideas which can be used within assignment two. Atget is mentioned in quite a few academic papers/essays as being the ‘father of modernism’ or using ‘surrealism’ to name but a few of his labels, so it is always good to research as to why and how this occurred.
Not that much really seems to be known about Atget, despite him amassing an archive of over 8,000 negatives which compiled ‘a visual compendium of the architecture, landscape, and artifacts that distinguish French culture and its history.’
Atget called his images ‘documents’ but is nowadays recognised more as a ‘forerunner of Surrealism’ as his urban scenes feature ‘snatched glimpses, tangential perspectives, odd reflections and bizarre details.’
Read Canon Fodder: Authoring Eugene Atget by Abigail Solomon-Godeau.
Canon Fodder: Authoring Eugene Atget
At first I dreaded analyzing what appeared to be an overly long essay, full of overly long and academic language. However, I actually found it quite enlightening and in places amusing… I mean who doesn’t like poking fun at the establishment? Even though some of the language was tricky the overlying message was clear. I think it helped to read the brilliant americansuburbx article first, which set the scene.
The title itself gives you an inkling as to the content of the essay; the play on cannon fodder/canon fodder implies that Atget had no choice in the role he has been made to play within the battle of academia, and the designations being set out within the ‘art of photography’. He was sent out to fight the battles whilst the generals/curators and philosophers stood at the back and watched the raging debates: Atget held up as a standard, a model, a rule…
This is quite amusing as Atget didn’t even want recognition, nor to be described as a photographer:
In 1926, Man Ray reproduced an Atget photograph a group of pedestrians shading their eyes as they looked at the sky, watching an eclipse on the cover of a Surrealist magazine. When he told Atget of his intention, the older man replied, “Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.”
Atget was conferred the title of ‘author’…but of what? With a vast back catalogue of 10,000 images he could be called a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none; allow ‘the Atgetian deck to be shuffled’, sort them into ‘suits’ and you can make him fit any genre you like: primitive, documentary, modernist, unadorned-realist, surrealist, Marxist… it would appear that many philosophers, writers, photographers and curators have tried to claim him for their own.
The premise of Solomon-Godeau’s essay is that Atget is an invention of modern critical theory, the desire to have a pigeon-hole for everyone and a need, specifically, for a canon for the ‘art of photography’ and, like Meadows when the stars aligned for his project, the stars aligned for Atget to fall neatly into the firing line.
Solomon-Godeau pokes fun at Bernice Abbott, John Szarkowski and Margaret (Molly) Nesbit with regards to their deification of a man hard to classify, and the slavish way they hold him up to be the ‘father of photography’, whilst contradicting themselves within their own essays about him – effectively turning to wishy-washy waffle to describe his work when all else failed, or ‘swooning aestheticism’ as she puts it.
Abbott had her own agenda, after all she had previously owned the collection of Atget’s work; Szarkowski had a vested interest because MoMA bought the collection from her; as curator he had to make good on his investment. Solomon-Godeau writes:
Szarkowski, more than any other photography curator, has articulated a clearly defined position from within a particularly powerful institution of aesthetic validation.
This ties in closely with the previous exercise on Avedon and the positions of power held by institutions to further their own agendas. Apparently, Martha Rosler ‘dubbed MoMA “the Kremlin of Modernism”.’ Szarkowski shuffled the deck and imposed ‘thematic organizing’ onto the museums exhibitions and subsequent volumes.
Relieved to discover that she was not the only person questioning the deification of Atget, Solomon-Godeau cites Rosalind Krauss as another Doubting Thomas. In her essay Photography’s Discursive Spaces (Bolton,1992, p.294) Krauss also questions the interpretation of ‘this apparent incoherence’.
So who would you rather go with? Szarkowski who holds Atget up to be ‘an exemplary pedagogical lesson’ or Krauss who describes him like ‘the blind man’s elephant’?
Last weekend I wandered along to a new exhibition at Atlas Gallery exploring how photographers responded to Surrealism over the course of over 50 years: The Psychic Lens: Surrealism and the camera. It included vintage photographs by Man Ray, Andre Kertesz, Florence Henri and Bill Brandt alongside works by artists I had never even heard of, such as Vaclav Zykmund, Franz Roh, Raoul Hausmann and Japanese artist, Toshiko Okanoue.
Apparently there are two broad types of surrealism – ‘the oneiric, dream-like imagery, as shown in the work of Florence Henri, Roger Parry, Cesar Domela and later Bill Brandt and automatism,a process of making which unleashed the unconscious by creating without conscious thought, as shown in some of the works by Man Ray.’
This was the third exhibition of the day so by the time I got there I was a bit ‘imaged out’ but it was rather impressive to be surrounded by works of all these photographers that I had heard of and enjoyed looking at. The gallery itself split the exhibition over 2 floors with some images on the walls around the ‘shop’ and the rest downstairs. The walls were plain white with natural lighting and spots upstairs and spots down. Images below courtesy of Artsy
I loved the tones and textures in Man Ray’s Woman with long hair…wasn’t so convinced about the rare copy of Ostrich Egg with Stamp and Sandpaper…Some images don’t seem to have dated at all such as Herbert List’s Sunglasses Lake Lucerne Switzerland, whilst others that must have been quite eye-opening and challenging at the time, such as some of Franz Roh’s collages that now look very dated. Having researched Andre Kertesz Distortion series it was great to see one of the images up close and personal and I loved the strong contrasts in Horst P Horst’s Hands,Hands, which I could own for the mere sum of £18.500!
The set of images by Pablo Picasso and Andre Villers helped to develop a kernal of an idea for assignment 2, as did Toshiko Okanoue…which may or may not develop into something… cogs turning in the mind and lots of ideas floating about.
Although not strictly speaking ‘documentary’ it does fulfill the criteria of the B&W image and it does document the surrealist movement within photography..and heck look at the list of people you can go and see the REAL work of…I would recommend going to see this exhibition.