Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ara Guler

Ara Guler is a wonderful photographer of Istanbul. This has nothing at all to do with this course, but just great photography from someone who loves his city, and has the ability to show it. His own website has a very fine music soundtrack (Take Five) and slide show. I recommend that you make a coffee (espresso, or Turkish) and let it play. Call it research.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Colour in landscape

Marion sent me a link to some of her pictures from last week's Newhaven visit. The bleach colour style is effective, giving a means of interpreting the scene a little, rather than just recording what you see. It does remind me of a cross processing technique that we used to employ with film. If you process colour slide film in colour negative chemistry you can end up with punchy vibrant colours. If you you process negatives in slide chemistry, you get bleached, slightly cyan colour, giving a bit of a queasy, dystopian feel. This is an example of how you might use a technique to match your mood or point of view.
The titles of the pictures here suggest a slightly ironic point of view, and the drained and slightly off-colour matches this.
There is a temptation, if you shoot colour, to go for as much saturation and intensity as possible. This s a habit that John Fowles in his intro to Fay Godwin's 'Land' described as "making the landscape perform." For a long time colour was not considered a suitable medium for serious photography.
It was photographers like Paul Graham who changed that perception with subtle, understated and often symbolic use of low saturated colour in projects like 'Troubled Land' and 'A1-Great North Road.' 
Another very interesting colour photographer of disturbing landscapes is Simon Norfolk, whose 'Bosnia-Bleed' series is very topical still, and perhaps always should be, but is not especially easy viewing. Richard Misrach works in a similar vein, and it should be noted that many of these pictures are produced with large cameras and reproduced as large prints in books and gallery walls. The incredible descriptive power and detail produced can make even low saturated pictures of relatively mundane subjects seem quite hypnotic; and the context provided by titles and captions can jolt and disturb you.

Friday June 10 - Red Moss of Balerno, Threipmuir

So I went to the abandoned shopping centre for a look about and to see if we could get access for Friday. I wandered through the security gate, past the CCTV cameras and loudhailers looking for someone to ask. It was an interesting, slightly eerie place, and I took a few record pictures while looking for the security guard. He eventually found me, and promptly threw me out. Next time I will go through the proper channels, instead of a gap in the gate. Let's go to Threipmuir instead, it's less weird. It's just outside Balerno, on the edge of Edinburgh city, and you can move from a raised bog, the 'Red Moss'  full of bog-cotton, through beech tree avenues and onto the moors of the Pentland hills. I went for a look around this evening, and got stuck in the bog (not literally), exploring the cotton, the sphagnum mosses, birch wood and ferns. A good place to photograph, and it might be useful to bring macro kit if you have it, and wellies if you want to tiptoe off the walkway.
Here are the Google map directions.
If you go to Balerno and follow the signs to Threipmuir reservoir, park in the first carpark right next to the Red Moss.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ephemeral delight...

...on the fringes of Paris.

Friday June 3 - Newhaven

On Friday afternoon, we could meet at 2pm at the lighthouse at Newhaven Harbour. It is about the most obvious landmark in the neighbourhood!

Newhaven harbour, lighthouse

Visual poetry

The visit to the bings was a bit damp, windy and grey. And cold. So perhaps not too fruitful for shooting. However such days are still useful for exploring a new location and picking up the mood of the place and developing ideas for future visits.
I think the bings, and their odd post-industrial landscape could be worth repeated visits, and would yield pictures that are some distance from the traditional landscape.
I noticed that Steven traded down from his digital camera to the plastic Holga, which I thought was an interesting choice.
He described it as a bad weather camera, which I can understand. For those unfamiliar with it, the camera is cheap, has a hopeless lens that distorts a bit and vignettes; also the medium format film rarely lies flat, so parts of the image are sharp, but not all. The exposure is a bit random, and you can double or triple expose, and not always intentionally. It is everything that digital is not, and so has developed something of a cult following.
The results can be very dreamlike, other-worldy and magical; visually poetic.
Digital cameras can be very convenient and accurate, but the popularity of such odd analogue cameras suggest that we lose something with the convenience and control of our digital equipment. There is a craft in the unique interaction of lens, film type, processing chemistry and printing technique. It can produce images that have a physical quality, and even quite mundane subjects can be transformed into something quite beautiful, beyond what they actually show.
Paul Hill in 'Approaching Photography' suggested that photographs have an inherently beautiful quality, and I do think that the rich tonality of print can have aesthetic appeal, almost regardless of the subject. 
That physical quality - the mix of light, lens, focus, movement, time, film, chemistry, paper, is unique to photography. It is related to reality, but isn't the same as reality. The particular mix of equipment and materials is a significant decision to take when you are trying to put together a project or series of pictures, and can have a major impact on the look and style of the end result.
Digital photography, and online galleries, seem to encourage us to produce open-ended projects that are never quite finished or concluded, and have no physical product. To me this seems a bit unsatisfying. I think we have some need to reach a conclusion, and produce something physical to show for it. After all, editing and selecting, and then printing has always been considered an important part of any project.
Apart from anything else, viewing pictures on a screen is just different from a print.

I would suggest, if you view your hundreds of pictures from a shoot or a trip onscreen and somehow feel dissatisfied, that it may be because you haven't finished the job yet. Editing, selecting, printing and presenting to other people is part of the creative process.
I can't entirely explain why. It just is. 

Here are a few visually poetic projects:

Venezuelan photographer's Holga pics: Aaron Sosa

Alina Kisina - City of Home project: Ukraine

Peter Ainsworth's Concrete Island:

David William's, Ecstasies: