BA Honors Creative Arts
Part 4 – Photography
OCA Blog: jeanjeannieocablog.wordpress.com/
COLLAGE OF DISPARATE, COPIED IMAGES VERSUS A VISUAL COMPOSITION CAPTURED IN A FLEETING, UNREPEATABLE MOMENT – IS THIS FAKE ART V REAL ART?
John Constable, The Hay Wain (1821) – National Gallery Website
Peter Kennard, Haywain with Cruise Missiles (1980) – Peter Kennard website
The following essay will investigate whether Peter Kennard, a photomontage photographer, is famous because of how he used a camera to capture other peoples images to raise awareness of political issues and therefore not a ‘real’ photographer, or whether he is an exceptional photographer because of how he took the photographs. In 1980, Kennard created a photomontage called ‘Haywain with Cruise Missiles’ (1980). This was a reinvention of the classic painting by John Constable ‘The Hay Wain’ (1821). Tate Gallery describes a photomontage as “a collage constructed from a photograph…often used as a means of expressing political dissent”. Tate (2019). It is from this photograph I will question what photography is and whether it is Art or whether the subject being photographed and how it is presented, is the Art.
The two photographs shown above are of the same painting by Constable. The first one being the original painting held at The National Gallery. “Constable’s painting is based on a site in Suffolk, near Flatford on the River Stour. The hay wain, a type of horse-drawn cart, stands in the water in the foreground”. The National Gallery (2019). The second photograph is of Kennard’s photomontage, the same photograph with nuclear missiles on the haywain. Kennard seemed more concerned about getting his message across about nuclear weapons, at the expense of defacing a photograph of a world renown masterpiece. According to Richard Slocombe of The Guardian Newspaper, Kennard’s purpose for his images was to create something meaningful and to be able to get the message out to the world, Kennard was quoted as saying “For me, getting the work out into the world and used is as important as its production.” Slocombe (2015).
In order to get his message across to the world, Kennard used photography to create copies of images and had them printed onto leaflets, t-shirts and billboards. Slocombe (2015). ‘Haywain with cruise missiles’ was displayed on posters and leaflets to help with the Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament (CND). According to Jarvis Cocker, Kennard’s art “is uncompromising, brutal & hard-hitting – but also very beautiful. It’s beautiful because it wants to keep us alive. All of us”. Cocker (2019). In my opinion, what Kennard was trying to achieve was admirable, however, the question can be asked was Kennard being a photographer in the true sense of the word? The Haywain with Missiles image was a photograph of a photograph of a painting that had been adapted by placing photographs of nuclear missiles on to the haywain in the picture. Does this make Kennard’s work ‘Fake Art’? It is not a photograph of an original scene of his choosing, it is a photograph of someone else’s art.
The creative aspects of Kennard’s works are his ability to get a political message out and across to the public by using photomontage. Photography is necessary to convey his photomontage in its various forms. His images focus on issues and political campaigns such as nuclear arms, war and police brutality. One of his other famous political images is Santa’s Ghetto (2006), an image of a smiling Tony Blair taking a selfie with explosions in the background. The purpose was to highlight Blair’s involvement in the war against Iraq. This photo was then framed by ‘Banksy’ and displayed in a Christmas grotto installation in London’s Oxford Street. Does this make the photograph Art, or is it a form of plagiarism? Neither of the photographs in this image belonged to Kennard. The photos were put together on a computer to make it look like an original photo unlike his previous work ‘Haywain with Missiles’ which was said to have been cut with scissors and pasted with glue. Either way, it was a photograph of a photograph, not an original scene taken from the camera of the photographer. Both of the images mentioned are typical of Kennard’s style, ‘Cut and Paste’ as we used to call it at school and technically now on a computer. This is how Photomontage could be described. According to The Tate Gallery, Photomontage was created by Dadaists in 1915 “It is a technique that was first used at the start of the first world war by a group of artists trying to find a way to protest against the war using their art”. Tate (2019). This was a Time of war in 1915 that Art was being used to put a message out to the world, something Kennard has copied in his efforts to do the same but in a different Time – like the war in Iraq when he used the image of Tony Blair and the missiles for the Cold War in the 1980s.
The two photographs at the beginning of this essay show a photograph of a painting that shows a house in the countryside with a horse drawn cart. Same place but different time. If the picture of the house and cart had been a photograph taken by the famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, it could have been considered a ‘Decisive Moment’ photograph. A photograph that “occurs when the visual and psychological elements of people in a real-life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance to express the essence of that situation”. Sulery (2019). In my opinion, the photograph would be the same as the original painting, a piece of art. John Walker stated “the meaning is determined by its spatial-temporal point of origin” Walker (2009), that is to say, the painting belongs to both “space and time” as it can be viewed again in a different period of time in the future, which is what happened. The concept of the painting was changed into something else, without permission of the artist. According to Bresson, this would not make him a great photographer, “A photographer must always work with the greatest respect for his subject and in terms of his own point of view”. Bresson. I believe that Kennard is an exceptional Artist of photomontage, however, in my opinion, Bresson was an exceptional Photographer because the photographs he took were of his own view point and not altered in any way.
Constable,John – The Hay Wain (1821) The National Gallery https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/john-constable-the-hay-wain (Accessed April 8, 2019)
Kennard, Peter – Haywain with Missiles (2008) found at Peter Kennard website
http://www.peterkennard.com/photomontage#/nuclear-disarmament/ (Accessed April 8, 2019)
Photomontage – meaning can be found at Tate Gallery – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/photomontage (Accessed April 8, 2019)
Jones, Jonathan – The Guardian, article on Peter Kennard
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/15/tony-blair-selfie-photo-op-imperial-war-museum (Accessed April 10, 2019)
Suler, John – Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche – The Psychology of the “Decisive Moment”. Page 1 – True Center Publishing – http://truecenterpublishing.com/photopsy/decisive_moment.htm (Accessed April 10, 2019)
Richard Slocombe – Guardian, article on Peter Kennards Hay wain
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/01/blair-selfie-peter-kennard-political-dynamite (accessed April 8, 2019)
Walker, John – Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning, page 4 (2009)
REFLECTION ON PART 4 – PHOTOGRAPHY
I started part 4 of the course on Photography with great anticipation and I was not disappointed. I have enjoyed completing the different projects and exercises, reading about the various Great Photographers, listening to podcasts, making blog posts and uploading my own photographs. I found certain photographers more interesting than others, however, Henri Cartier-Bresson was my favorite and became obsessed at finding out more about him. I also realized that the photos I prefer taking are like those of ‘The Decisive Moment’. In John Suler’s article The Psychology of the “The Decisive Moment” Suller’s (2019) he lists 10 key features of the “perfect” DM photo. One of the points “The capture of a unique, fleeting, and meaningful moment, ideally one involving movement and action” Suller (2019) is the perfect description of a DM photo. I uploaded a few personal photos of my interpretation of DM photos and can be found on my blog, Taylor (2019). Such was Bresson’s influence, I have ordered my first ever photography book, The Decisive Moment, deemed a photographer’s bible.
Another project I enjoyed was landscape photography, it was really interesting to read about how the photographers would take a car full of photography equipment to their chosen view point. The equipment would consist of various cameras with different lenses, lighting equipment and tripods, unlike today’s mobile phones with very good cameras installed. The photographer Ansel Adams caught my attention with his incredible landscape photographs. Adams had a different approach to Bresson’s Decisive Moment, as he believed it was ok to change the effect of a photograph in the dark room, whereas Bresson thought the opposite and that a photo shouldn’t be changed in any way. A selection of my landscape photographs can be found on my blog. Taylor (2019).
On my blog I have included a Research button and added Photographers names and links to various reading materials and videos that I had found of interest. My tutor had suggested doing this and I have found it very useful. I realise now that I should also add specific quotes and a summary of the photographer and their work. Looking back over my blog, I realise a lot of work has been covered with exercises completed and research links recorded, it is a very rewarding process to see my journey with OCA unfold and be able to refer back to it at any time.
I found the assignment difficult, I feel that certain aspects are still not quite coming together, one minute I think I have come such a long way and the next I wish I could write more clearly in an academic way and understand the requirements better. I have tried to follow the advise given on my feedback notes from my tutor in respect of my last assignment, but some things have just not clicked, like the referencing. However, I am hopeful that I haven’t been completely off track as Photography is one of the course choices I would like to pursue.
Cartier-Bresson, H – Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, ICP.org (online) Available at
https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/henri-cartier-bresson-the-decisive-moment (Accessed April 10, 2019)
Taylor, J (2019). WordPress.com. (online) Available at:
https://jeanjeannieocablog.wordpress.com/2019/03/05/part-4-photography-project-2-exercise-1-b/ (accessed April 10, 2019)
Taylor, J (2019) WordPress.com (online) Available at:https://jeanjeannieocablog.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-4-photography/project-3-a-sense-of-place/ (accessed April 10, 2019)
Adams, Ansel. Youtube.com (online) Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdCq-1MJmHw (accessed April 10, 2019)