Tag Archives: Photography#writing#OCA#

Taylor, Jean - Time Sits Still (2018)

PART 4/PHOTOGRAPHY/PROJECT 2/EXERCISE 2

In Exercise 2 we are reminded of the argument that the ‘mechanical’ nature of photography precludes it from being considered an art.  We are then asked to make notes in respect of the following:

  • Does this make photography a medium uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?
  • Can other creative art forms deal with the concept of time to the same extent?

Firstly, I would point out that in my view photography is art and is not dependent on the mechanics involved in making a picture.  It is possible to take the most amazing, interesting, artistic shot, using a basic camera, dependent on the person taking it, how they took it and the story behind it.  After all what is art?  Going back to a question we were asked at the very beginning of this course.  I still believe it be something that makes you think, it can make you laugh, smile, be sad or happy, it is a passionate feeling, opens your eyes to love, hate, beauty and ugliness.  Overall it is about feelings, one person may see something totally different in a painting, photograph, play, film or book, each individual is entitled to see things differently just as an artist may paint, write, photograph or act differently, which is what makes Art so wonderful and intriguing and visually challenging.

Photography is not uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time.  You only have to look at the drawings found in caves and paintings by the Great Masters to see the relevance to Time and the passage of time.  Greek statues of emperors and soldiers are indications of time as no such warriors exist today.  Books written by hand in leather-bound notebooks, prior to printing are testament to great writers who laboriously wrote thousands of words by hand (Hebel, Shakespeare).  Soldiers who wrote letters home of the horrors of world war I, are typical example of Time being portrayed in the written word describing in detail what they saw, felt, hated, possibly outlining a portrayal of war that no photo or painting could ever be made to transcribe.

In today’s society paintings are able to portray time just as previous painters were able to do, war today is much more advanced than men in trenches and horses charging towards the enemy.  It is more sophisticated with planes, technology, ships and social media.  All of which show the difference in time. I have seen paintings showing the devastation in the Arab world, along with books and films, all conveying the horrors of war over time, like the Syrian and Yemen wars.

I do believe, all forms of art are able to deal with the concept of time in the same extent.  Just differently.  Photography is able to capture the moment at the exact time and place.  However, so can a writer and an artist, each can capture the moment in time, each can portray historically what is happening at that moment, whether it is a man in the street looking in a shop window at a baby’s cot.  A sad expression on his face.  A photographer can capture that moment, it may just be he has that look on his face regardless, a writer may write it’s because his baby died and the cot reminds him of this, a painter may see it as a beautiful scene on a London street and the man is just part of the overall painting.  It is a matter of time and place, and what the artist is seeing at that time.  All three scenarios could be seen by each of the artists in different ways.

On reflection of this exercise I am not sure I have understood the meaning of the questioning but if carried on thinking about what to write i wouldn’t have started to write anything as I felt I was over thinking it all.  I have read the essay by Walter Benjamin on ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ and can see the argument of how the mechanics of progression can change things, but that’s life and progression, people change and we will see things differently as we progress.  Films have progressed, sometimes the mechanical side of things have not enhanced films where you know ‘it’s not real’.  I have enjoyed reading more on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’ which is the concept of taking a photograph in a real life scenario, that captures a decisive moment, a moment in history, a time and place, perhaps this is the argument whereby a writer can’t physically write the whole image in one second or an artist cannot paint that same picture in that second, so perhaps photography does have the ability to be the art form that can capture the unique moment in time.  I am looking forward to learning more about this concept specifically in photography but also in the written word and visual communications as I realise I have completely changed my mind from when I first started writing my notes.

 

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PART 4/PHOTOGRAPHY/PROJECT 1/EXERCISE 2 (a)

The following photographs I have chosen from my own album and are ones that I consider to be ‘artistic’ for various reasons.  These range from the angle they were taken, the look and feel of the photo, the colours and composition, the memory of the occasion and mostly how the photo makes me feel.

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Sunrise clean up – Boracay – Jean Taylor (2017)

This photo was taken on a beach in Boracay, Philippines.  I felt this was quite artistic just by how it is framed by the overhanging plantation and the beautiful sunrise happening in the background.  It offers a feeling of peace and tranquility and perhaps the feeling of being able to hear the sound of lapping water and gentle sweeping of the sand.

Sea Views with a view – Boracay by Jean Taylor (2017)

Both these photos were taken in Boracay on different beaches, with my Pentax SLR, no Photoshop techniques or additional changes were added.  I had never seen a sunset like it.  I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to take this photo.  A modern yacht sailing towards the sunset, music blaring, people dancing, lights flashing, whilst facing the oncoming quiet, serene, traditional boats returning to the mainland.  I loved the contrast of the boats and the sky was just unbelievable, which is why I felt it could be considered artistic purely for its dramatic colours, contrasting boats and incredible sunset.  The second photo, I feel is quite artistic purely by how I took it.  Through holes in an upside down boat that was lodged into a tree, I thought the view was just a bit different to your average photo of a stunning beach and beautiful blue sea.

The Big Breakfast – Veggie style by Jean Taylor (2019)

Not sure whether anyone agrees to this photograph being artistic, but I wanted to put a different take on an ‘English Breakfast’, in that it didn’t have to be greasy and fatty, but healthy and colourful.  I cooked stuffed mushrooms, chilli tomato and poached egg and displayed them ‘artistically’, hoping to create a clean, mouth-watering, healthy food related photo.

Saudi Beach Hut – Jean Taylor (2019)

I discovered this amazing beach in ‘Half Moon Bay’, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.  The unusual ‘Beach Huts’ are designed to allow families protection from the sun and for women to be shielded from unwanted male attention.  The photo was taken using my Pentax SLR, I aimed the camera through a port-hole of one of the other buildings, providing a round frame, to me this gave it a different view and provided perhaps a little ‘artistic’ viewpoint.

Perfect writing moment – Jean Taylor (2018)

After a wonderful day walking around Washington, I finally found a spot at a ‘pop up bar’ on the Washington marina.  I was able to kneel down and take this shot of what I thought to be a perfect writing view-point.  The atmosphere was wonderful, with people all around, either walking past or sitting enjoying the view.  I wanted to capture my passions – writing, photography, pens, notebooks, boats and a cool glass of beer.  I felt it was artistic just by the view-point and the inclusion of the artistic items such as pen, notebook and camera.

School Run in Boracay – Jean Taylor (2017)

Another Boracay photograph, there were endless opportunities to create artistic photographs in this incredible little island, this one I believe creates the feeling of carefree travelling.  There appears to be no fear of falling off, no protection on their feet, or helmets on their head.  It captures a moment in a family’s journey to school or work in Boracay.  I felt it was artistic, purely by the colours, the moment and what it represents in a country so different to the UK, but also just by the look on the woman’s face, a picture that can’t be captured again in exactly the same way.  I love the photo.

The Cow Tower, Norwich, UK and Washington Monument – Jean Taylor (2018)

The Cow Tower was built to defend the centre of Norwich, it is a round brick tower with holes strategically placed for the cannons to have been placed.  It is empty inside apart from leaves and rubbish.  The outside area was beautiful with walkways, surrounded by a variety of trees and their blossoms.  Along one of the pathways was a small tree with pretty pink flowers that had some kind of religious material woven around the branches. I decided to use this tree as a viewpoint as I felt it added a different viewpoint of  the tower, perhaps adding some intrigue to the unusual material, but also added colour to the mysterious building behind the branches, thus providing a little artistic contrast in colours and intrigue.  The Washington Monument is difficult to photograph up close because of its height.  It is a building with so much meaning behind it, however, I felt I was unable to capture its beauty up close.  It wasn’t until I walked further away and around the surrounding park with its stunning lake, greenery and wildlife, that I found what I thought was a beautiful setting.  I took the photo from under a tree providing a picturesque view of this magnificent building, which now shows off its height and majestic appearance surrounded by the stunning scenery, I felt it was artistic just because of how the building is framed by the overhanging tree and the beautiful greenery.

 

 

CONTEXT AS A DETERMINANT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC MEANING by John A Walker (2009)

https://www.academia.edu/14664575/John_Tagg_The_Disciplinary_Frame_Photographic_Truths_and_the_Capture_of_Meaning_

Photographs can be seen differently and the meaning changes depending on how or where they are displayed.  For instance, according to John Walker a wedding photograph can be a treasured photo in a family wedding album whereas that same photo displayed in the photographers Studio is a commercial photograph showing a potential customer what can be achieved if you chose that photographer.

Photographs can also be used to ignite anger or love, depending on the context it is shown for example Walker points out that a photograph of a group of commuters crowding in to an underground train station entrance , placed against a photograph of a flock of sheep crowding into a fold is implying that ‘these commuters are sheep-like in their behaviour’ – imagine if this was placed in the tube station, it would cause unrest and be insulting to the commuters.  So again just depends on how a photo is displayed as to how the context is understood.

Another argument to seeing how the context of a photograph can be viewed differently according to Walker is where a photograph is published.   For example if it is published on a front page newspaper with big bold heading such as ‘Gypsies destroying the Great British Countryside’ and is showing a beautiful picture of the Cotswolds along with another photo of caravans and litter.  You wouldn’t want to go there, it looks awful.   Whereas this same Cotswolds picture could perhaps be found in a high-class glossy magazine advertising wonderful countryside to go walking and holidaying.  The context being different, from an angry photograph of somewhere not to be visited to a photo glorifying the beautiful countryside.

Walker also argues that although photographs are taken at a certain time and in a certain place, these photos can be used differently as it’s life might change.  He uses the phrases ‘circulation’ and ‘currency’ to describe how a photograph’s context might change by how it circulates through communities of the world – it may go from being a picture on an office wall, perhaps showing a current printing machine advertisement to then being part of a display in a history museum showing printing machines in a historical manner.  Thus showing how a photograph’s life can change over the years.

Reference is made to Jo Spence, a photographer who transferred images from her family album into the public sphere.  Her photographs may have started off as private and personal but then became public and social.  One example was a photo taken of herself as a baby on a sofa – to then have a mirror image of her as an adult, naked on the sofa.  ‘Wrenched from their context the images acquired a sensationalist, voyeuristic and prurient gloss’ – so were basically going from an innocent picture of a baby on a sofa to a different context of a sexual nature and aimed at a totally different audience.  I did find this quite interesting, as recently my daughter and I, quite by accident, took photos on our recent holiday together that were out of context.  My daughter is a model and was able to strike the most amazing poses, whereas me, totally un-photogenic, looked funny in comparison.  We decided on a spur of the moment to start an instagram page of photos of Mother v Daughter, with photos that are hopefully humorous in the way they capture my unglamorous shots compared to my beautiful daughter’s model ones.

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Jo Spence’s final years were very sad, diagnosed with breast cancer, Spence proceeded to capture self portraits of the desease and how it affected her body, they were in a way meant to highlight the frustrations and political unrest about women’s rights and the NHS.  As her work was ‘self-reflexive’ she did try to manipulate the context of photos, depending on whether they were in a family album or local newspaper.

Walker further argues how a photograph can be seen in a totally different way by a person because of their mental set, meaning their place in society ie ‘gender, race, nationality, class, age, education, kinship, etc.’.  I can see this myself in the way I see photos of game hunters proudly displaying a photo of their ‘prize’ a beautiful lion or elephant, dead on the ground, whilst they proudly stand there with their gun perched on the head.  To their friends and family it’s a happy occasion, how brave he was, what an amazing animal.  For me it’s disgusting and cruel and I would hate the photograph.

Having read the article in full several times and researched a couple of the photographers mentioned, I came to the conclusion, Walker is correct, a photograph once taken is more than just a photograph, it can depend on so many issues as to what will become of that photo and how it is perceived.  Whether it is shared on social media, found in a magazine or displayed in a front shop window, that photo could mean something different in each case.  It can also be seen in a different context purely by being the person you are, as I explained with the shooting of the animal photo.  I could also relate to photos that have been taken of beautiful children smiling, when they are actually living in squalor and war-torn cities.  A Photograph isn’t just a photograph it is a multitude of things it is also art as it can show passion, fear, love, cruelty, beauty, life and death.  It is significant to Time and Place as it will always represent the time it was taken and the place it was taken, it’s what happens after that moment when it can be become ‘Context as a Determinant of Photographic meaning’.

 Tagg, John – The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning – Academia Education (accessed 2/4/2019)

Spence, Jo – Work Part 1 and Part II: Studio Voitaire  Exhibition (2012) (accessed 2/4/2019)

Spence, Jo – Dust to dust: the photographer who stared death in the face – in pictures, Samantha Johnson, Guardian (accessed 2/4/2019)

Taylor, Jean – MothervDaughter (Instagram – accessed 2/6/2019)

https://www.academia.edu/14664575/John_Tagg_The_Disciplinary_Frame_Photographic_Truths_and_the_Capture_of_Meaning_