Blog

Semiotics – Part One

I was really interested in today’s lecture at Bath Spa. In a similar way to Graham McLaren’s Ethics lecture last week, I thought that Robin Marriner very eloquently put into words a lot of concepts and theories that we probably all thought we tacitly knew something about but could not quite make explicit. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Robert Frank’s photograph of the American movie star (below) or, more accurately, of the American movie star’s fans – the literal point of focus being on them rather than on the Star herself.

frank15

The following section on specific and non-specific signs in visual culture really provoked a great deal of thought – that some semiotics derive from the specific medium used to make a piece or an object (in photography the point of focus, film stock, lens choice etc), and some are more generic and could be used as signifiers in different media (hairstyles, clothing, branding etc). I have recently discovered the writings of Marshall McLuhan, and in particular his maxim ‘the medium is the message’ – that the means by which something is expressed is indeed more inherently important than that which is expressed. This is particularly true in my research into the medium of film photography. I’ve also been looking at (rediscovering) the work of John Hilliard (below top); a photographer whose work I have admired for a long time because of its investigation into the nature and philosophy of photographic processes. His work is, in a sense, similar to Donald Judd‘s, whose work was also discussed today (below bottom) in that it is essentially self-referential, speaking more about its own nature than about anything external.

'Facade' and 'Flight of Happiness' 1982 by John Hilliard born 1945

dj-p-131-sc

But this all has set me thinking – is art (or ‘Art’) a bit like the ‘tree falling in a forest’ conundrum – i.e. does it make a sound if there is no-one around to hear it? I’ve always thought that, if a tree falls and there is no-one around to hear then it still gives rise to the phenomenon that allows us to hear it (i.e. it still creates vibrations in the air), but the notion of ‘sound’ is a subjective one dependent upon perception. So, if we make ‘art’ and there is no-one around to see it, and, moreover to analyse and represent it, is it still art? Or Art?

Pinholes

A couple of years ago, before I managed to get my own darkroom set up, and in an attempt to broaden my knowledge of processing and printing skills, I attended an evening class in Alternative Processes at Bath College. Along with half a dozen or so others, I was introduced to Anthotypes, Cyanotypes, liquid emulsions and a few other interesting experiments. One of these projects was to make our own ‘matchbox’ pinhole camera. Conveniently, a 35mm film will fit nicely into a standard size matchbox (instructions can be found here). As a degree-qualified jewellery designer and maker (and an unqualified tinkerer) I needed no second bidding, and made myself one. I think I was a bit keener than everyone else (or a bit sadder), and by the following week’s session I already had a roll of film that I had run through my new toy. The results of development did not seem too promising, but with a bit of fiddling (and nearly burning a few sheets of resin coated paper due to huge exposure times) I managed to get a print…

img_2445

This is taken from the Town Bridge in Bradford on Avon. It’s blurry, poorly exposed, got my fingers on the extreme right of the frame and altogether a bit rubbish. But I love it. Not only because of its authenticity or because it was taken with a camera that I had made myself for essentially nothing, but also because of the reaction it got from my peers. After dragging this print out of the drier, I took it into to light to see how crap it really was. One of my fellow students glanced at it and said, ‘Ooh, is that a pinhole?’

Within a few seconds, nearly everyone was gathered around me cooing and ooing as if I was cradling a new species of baby bird. It wasn’t the attention I was enjoying (it’s not me, it’s the camera and all that), but the irony. Spend a couple of grand on a digital camera with a billion pixels and it takes a huge amount of effort to get anyone to bat an eyelid at what you produce; buy a matchbox and instantly you’re a genius…! Here’s a couple more I took in one of my favourite locations with another matchbox pinhole I made; the one on the left is sepia toned. I’d like to spend some time doing more.

Toy Story

In 1995, Disney/Pixar released the film ‘Toy Story’. It was the first feature-length film consisting entirely of computer-generated – as opposed to hand-drawn – animation. As with many films that become ‘classics’ of their genre (as this one indubitably has), the deceptively simple narrative of what is ostensibly a children’s movie conceals a number of less obvious, and potentially more interesting, agendas. A cursory delve into any search engine will expound a myriad of theories concerning hidden meanings contained within director John Lasseter’s masterpiece – holocaust parallels, illuminati references and Marxist undertones all make an appearance.

However, another feature that can transform an ordinary film – or novel, photograph, work of art etc. – into a paradigm is its flexibility and malleability in terms of its manifold interpretations. Works that, on one hand, make a central theme and one or more sub-plots explicit to the viewer, whilst simultaneously allowing the audience to bring their own meanings and preferences to bear on its existence will undoubtedly be remembered long after more mediocre and less imaginative works have faded into relative obscurity.

An outline synopsis of the film is as follows:

Andy is a young boy who has a favourite among a plethora of toys – Woody, a traditional, pull-string cowboy; dependable, rugged, ‘old-school’ and ‘no-nonsense’. When Andy pulls his string, Woody’s recorded voice recites phrases such as ‘reach for the sky’. Unbeknownst to Andy, or indeed any other human, when the toys are left alone, they come to life and create a narrative all their own. We join the film just before Andy’s birthday, and there is concern, primarily from Woody, that Andy’s primary affections are soon to be transferred to a new, more modern and perhaps more fun toy. On the day of his birthday party, these fears are confirmed by the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, a ‘space ranger’ toy with so-called laser beams, ray-gun sound effects and retractable wings that he truly believes enable him to fly. His catchphrase is ‘To infinity and beyond’! The story then centres on Woody and Buzz’s struggle for dominance and to be first in Andy’s hierarchy of playthings.

Prior to the making of Toy Story, Lasseter struggled to persuade Disney to back a fully computer-generated feature film, and there exists a theory that this battle between the two central characters in some way reflects this – that Woody and Buzz act as metaphors for these two technologies and that their eventual compromise represents the truce that Pixar studios and Disney struck, leading to the film being made. I feel that it can be argued that this suggestion is a little more complicated and important than this. I assert that the central thrust of the film is a comment on the technology that begat it, a warning waymarker to the future of this technology and a nostalgic nod to the technology it replaces. It is my belief that Woody represents analogue image-making technology (photography, film-making etc.) and that Buzz is an avatar for digital image making technology. It is perhaps no co-incidence that Woody is a cowboy – an American icon whose legend dates back to the early-mid nineteenth century (as does the invention of photography).

Woody’s previously stated characteristics (dependable, rugged, old-school, no-nonsense) could equally be applied to pre-digital photographic equipment. Even his favourite catchphrase (‘Reach for the sky’) is realistic, pragmatic, predictable, achievable. In contrast, Buzz is arrogant, self-deluded, and elitist – not only does he believe himself to have an ability that none of the other toys possess (that of flight) but also he has no awareness that he is, in fact, a toy; he begins the film truly believing himself to be a ‘space ranger’ (and his card and plastic packaging to be his ship). This pretence and delusion is, I feel, directly analogous to the belief and faith being shown in digital technology at the time (and indeed now). Even his catchphrase (‘to infinity and beyond’), whilst sounding speciously impressive, does not bear scrutiny – if it were indeed possible to travel to ‘infinity’ (which by definition it is not), then surely to go ‘beyond’ it is even more preposterous.

Having first picked up a camera at the age of 8 or so in the late seventies, the overwhelming majority of my photography has involved the use of film, and continues to do so. Initially, photography to me was simply something that I had an interest in partly because my father had and partly because it provided a small boy with the chance to not only observe and make sense of the world (as it does this slightly larger boy today), but also the opportunity to collate a wide array of kit with which to observe it (another trait hardly allayed by the passing of time). As I grew older, a camera of one type or another was never far from my side, for documenting my life, the people and the places it contained. A way of framing the chaos.

Some time in 2001, having spent some time with a 35mm compact camera and my interest in photography as a means of expression in its own right (as opposed to a means of documentation), I spotted a Contax SLR gathering dust at a friend’s house. My last experience of an SLR had been that of my father’s Canon A1 and a variety of concomitant lenses in a faux leather bag that I used to ogle and covet when I was a teenager and which was subsequently whisked away by my brother soon after my father’s untimely death. I asked my friend if he would mind me borrowing his Contax – when he agreed, I think I became a photographer. I had always wanted an SLR, and having one in my hands made me feel as if I had somehow graduated in an unofficial degree of photographic competence.

Naturally, this called for the purchase of a good amount of literature – second-hand books and new copies of Amateur Photographer (I somehow felt that purchasing ‘Professional Photography’, or ‘The British Journal of Photography’ was a kind of fraud and pretension at the time. I needed a tripod before I could buy these), and in these fortnightly periodicals there was, at the time, an almighty battle raging – ‘FILM OR DIGITAL – WHICH IS BEST?!’ The latter technology was, for the consumer market at least, in its infancy and therefore in terms of quality of output, convenience and cost, this was still a valid question, and I felt myself stuck in a kind of no-mans-land between the technological trenches – I loved the dependability, the ruggedness and the realism of my film equipment – I loved the nostalgia, the memory of my father (another of the Toy Story theories is that Woody was the last toy given to Andy by his father before he either died or left the family home) – hell, film was, in no small part, a central pillar of my childhood and visual education. But a digital camera….! All those flashing lights, And sound effects. And – bloody hell, a digital camera can – as near as damn it is to swearing – fly, can’t it?

The ‘film or digital’ question seems, only 15 years or so later, as quaint now as a Victorian watercolour. In terms of convenience, cost, flexibility, ease of use, democracy of purpose, environmental concerns and (arguably, in some contexts) quality, digital image making has all but obscured its traditional counterpart. But this is missing a crucial and key point. Veracity. Reliability. Faithfulness. Truth. Integrity. Not qualities often used in the same sentence as the word ‘cowboy’ but traits that are generally accepted to be positive and not ones that can easily be ascribed to digital image making.

The end of Toy Story sees Woody and Buzz, after many misunderstandings, mishaps and misadventures becoming firm friends (The closing song by Randy Newman is ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’) and looking for all the world like the happy-ever-after couple and with Andy embracing them both as his equal favourite toys. It is perhaps too early for a similar rapprochement between photography and digital image making to be possible or even desirable, but it is creatively essential that the qualities – the uses and limitations – of each technology is understood and utilised to their best respective advantages. It is my intention, over the course of the next two years studying for my MA in visual communication, to investigate and exploit the best qualities of each technology and how each can be utilised to their best advantage.

Research Aims

Just thought it was worth including the following at this stage – below is a copy of my research aims and objectives, as required by our Research Methodologies module. Over the next couple of years, I will no doubt get distracted by a (countless) number of extremely interesting-looking rabbit-holes, down which things will no doubt appear larger or smaller than they perhaps should. I thought it would be quite valuable to have this on record in order to keep me on track and things their correct size. I’m open to the possibility of alteration and refinement but I think it’s important to stay focused…

Research Methodologies Task 2 – Aims and Objectives

 Statement of Intent for Research

The aim of my project is to ascertain the current status, uses and limitations of analogue photography now that its commercial dominance as a means of realistic portrayal has been usurped by digital technology. In order to carry out this research, I have the following objectives:

  • To examine the manner in which painting was transformed by the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century. Understanding and quantifying the implications of the seismic changes that digital technology is bringing necessitates the study of a similar precedent.
  • To expand on my extant knowledge of photographic techniques; in order to place photography in its contemporary aesthetic context it is necessary to discover what it is technically capable of. I therefore intend to gain a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the holistic nature of photographic image-making by exploring a wide range of traditional and alternative methods.
  • To enhance my knowledge of the digital methods necessary to enable the above, to include scanning, blogging and the use of the internet to access information and to facilitate dissemination.

Due to the nature of the subject, my methodological approach will be largely practice-based and qualitative and will draw from a multiplicity of sources, events and experimentation.

Carol Golemboski

I absolutely love these. I first came across Carol Golemboski‘s work in the August 2013 issue of Black and White Photography magazine. The images above are taken from here ‘Psychometry’ series. The first thing that made me stop turning the pages was simply how seductive the images are – they remind me of Vaughn Oliver‘s work for Pixies; another, much earlier, inspiration. In our attempts to make sense, analyse, pick apart or rationalise what we see, we sometimes can miss out on just being wowed by an image, and in a world drenched in pictures it is becoming more and more difficult to be so. After my initial, purely aesthetic response, I wanted to find out more – I wanted to discover how the images were made. One thing that interests me right now is the discovery of what silver halide is capable of – what it can offer us aesthetically, philosophically, morally, psychologically, ontologically (surely nothing marks or predicates our existence quite as much as a photograph) and epistemologically (much of our knowledge in the globalist society of the 21st century, due to the poly-linguistic nature of visual communication, is promulgated by images). Golemboski’s work operates on so many levels – yes, it is hauntingly beautiful and, yes, upon closer inspection, each piece contains a narrative, sometimes arcane, sometimes more obvious. What I find most intriguing about her work, though, is its technique. Generally her modus operandi is to set up objects in her studio and shoot them straight on film. She then manipulates the negatives by scratching, painting, drawing etc and prints them, perhaps using layers of other media in the negative carrier. I’m drawn to these images on this holy trinity of levels – immediate aesthetic response, secondary narrative intrigue and tertiary technical investigation. I would very much like to incorporate some of these techniques into my own practice, but I fear that they might end up being a pale imitation…!

Book-ish

A few years (another lifetime?) ago, I wrote a couple of books and was lucky enough to get them published (Allotted Time, 2006 and The Incomplete Angler, 2008). For reasons which are too complicated/personal/tedious to go into now, the writing subsequently dried up (briefly, both books detailed my utter lack of competence at two different activities – vegetable gardening and fishing – and there’s only so much of my own ineptitude I can write about, let alone foist on the general book-buying public). A third text has been taunting me since then – I’m pretty sure it’s about photography, but I guess I’m fearful that if I write about something that I actually profess to knowing something about I’ll look like an idiot. Paradoxical huh? Anyway, a couple of years or so ago I plucked up the courage to send off a synopsis to my agent (who, for reasons I won’t go into now, I sacked earlier this year). She responded by saying that it wasn’t for her, and that it sounded more like a proposal for academic study. Which was, I guess, one of the signposts along the road I have travelled to studying for the M.A. Here’s the synopsis. It seems kind of relevant to what I’m thinking about right now. Maybe I’ll write it one day…

Grains of Truth: The Case for Film Photography in Thirty-six Chapters

Synopsis

‘Grains of Truth’ (a reference to the unique veracity of film as a photographic medium) sets out to be, in part, a scholarly and objective view of the ongoing role of film photography as a means of factual documentation and artistic expression, whilst, in another sense, to be a first-hand, subjective narrative of my experience of the seismic changes in photographic technology of the last four decades or so. Through this, I wish to consider the effect that the transition from analogue to digital technology in general (with specific reference to cameras and photography) has had on both myself, through interspersed chapters on each of the twelve cameras I have owned or used since childhood, and on society as a larger whole, through discourses on the way in which we use and consume digital technology and on how film photography, and the sense of agency provided by analogue technology in general, can help make us happier, more patient, more careful and less greedy human beings.

The book is to be composed of thirty six main chapters, as a direct reference to the amount of available frames on a standard 35mm camera film – each chapter being at once a discrete piece of writing on its own, as well as forming an element of a larger, cohesive narrative, in a similar way to that in which a series of distinct images on a roll of film tells a story of the experience of shooting it. Twelve of these chapters will concern the aforementioned cameras and, as such, will form an autobiographical picture of the way in which the technology we use to record, process and disseminate information has transformed over the last forty years, and my relationship with it. The remaining twenty four chapters will deal with the broader impact and implications that photography – film and digital – has had on the psyche of our species, the more alarming directions that digital photography is taking us in and the proposition that film photography – with all its assets and liabilities – still has a relevance, a salience and indeed an imperative in the 21st century.

‘Grains of Truth’ is not intended as a rant against digital photography per se, rather as an examination of the appropriate (or otherwise) use of technology. Through it, I wish to convey the notion that the ever-increasing speed with which we interact with our world is in turn leading to ever-increasing frustration, impatience, impotence (in its broadest connotations), anger, alienation and, ultimately, dissatisfaction.

The cliché has it that a picture is worth a thousand words and, tempting as it might have been to slavishly impose this restriction on each chapter (each frame on a roll of film does, after all, occupy a limited amount of space), this seemed too contrived and restrictive in a book with creative freedom as one of its central themes. However, I also wish to convey a sense of the finiteness that we all must accept (as part of the mortal human condition) as being imposed on us when it comes to expressing ourselves – we all, by definition, leave some things unsaid. I wish to argue that digital photography tricks us into believing that we have almost infinite time and resources with which to live and express ourselves – we do not, and the physical limitation of film serves as a prescient reminder of our own physical and chronological limitations. It is also true that some photographs, as well as some pieces of writing, are more eloquent than others – some use very few elements and say a great deal, some chatter endlessly and say nothing at all.

London 11.10.16

A trip with Bath Spa Uni to see the Eggleston exhibition at the NPG. I have to confess that although I knew of Eggleston through his oeuvre of vernacular photography – his extraordinary images of the ordinary – I was less familiar with his portraiture so was excited to see this show. 

I have become very familiar with – and a big fan of – the work of the British photographer Martin Parr, and it’s always curious to find a meta-hero. I found myself immediately struck by how much Eggleston’s work echoed Parr’s, but constantly had to remind myself that, of course, the American’s work, although ongoing (Eggleston is now 77) predates and precursors Parr’s by a couple of decades. 

It would be something of a cliché to say that the thing that immediately strikes you on entering this show is the use of colour – for it is his pioneering use of colour film as an artistic medium that Eggleston is perhaps best known – but it is not. The first images to arrest you on walking into the gallery are in black and white. This is surely no coincidence – the reasoning for this is, of course, open to speculation – I would suggest that black and white somehow slows us down; we enter the gallery (any gallery) from a blaze of colour from both primary (the actual world around us) and secondary (the constant blaze of imagery) sources, so perhaps we are all, in a sense, colour blind – we just don’t see it any more; or at least if we do, we are so inured to it as to be desensitised to its impact. Perhaps black and white images serve to tell us that Eggleston is to be taken seriously, lest we were in any doubt.

It is, of course, impossible to look at the work of anyone else without also internally comparing it with similarities and parallels with ones own practice, and this show was no exception – the ego says ‘yes, this photograph is extraordinary and it puts me in mind of “x” photo that I have of my child/mother/friend etc.’ This voice is quickly answered by another saying ‘yes, but this photo is on the wall of the National Portrait Gallery and yours is still languishing in your file full of Velvia slides’. As always in art, context is, if not all, then certainly a good part of success, however that is to be defined. It is crucially important to look at these images (all images) in their chronological as well as their physical context. Indeed, the two are, I feel inextricably connected – perhaps Eggleston’s photographs would not have made it to the NPG had they been captured a couple of months ago – a glance at any social media site will reveal a candid snap of someone in a nightclub, which, it could be argued, is what a proportion of what is on display here represents. What makes these images extraordinary is – yes, the quintessence of a ‘type’ of person that most of us know, or at least think we know – but also when they were taken. They are all deeply perspicacious studies of certain facets of humanity and the human condition, but they are more than that because of when they were made, and it is crucial to view these pieces with one eye fixed on their location in time. Photography has this unique ability, and we should cherish that.

Eggleston, of course, had a wonderful eye for an image – a sense of the aforementioned quality of what it is to be human – but also a gift for showing the ironic, the playful and for making social comment simply by representation. And here is the parallel with Parr – both artists appear to be merely conduits for what is happening in the world around them – lightning rods perhaps for the bolts of human existence that we are all aware of but somehow do not see until the jolt of an unfamiliar context forces us to confront them. I noticed that one of the images in this show was a self portrait of him with a previous girlfriend, and I couldn’t help thinking that, like Parr, Eggleston is the sort of guy that you wouldn’t necessarily look at twice. Not in any way ugly, but- in the best possible way – ordinary. Perhaps this is an excellent qualification for being a documenter of the world around us – the ability to blend into it so that it carries on behaving as it would were we not spying on it. Eggleston himself said ‘nothing is more interesting than what’s around us’ – I’m taking this to mean that it is the observed, and not the observer that is worthy of scrutiny, and couldn’t agree more. Perhaps all those currently obsessed with documenting themselves and the minutiae of their lives through endless selfies and images of their latest meal etc might take heed of this. 

From the National Portrait Gallery I hopped on the tube from Leicester Square down to the Michael Hoppen Gallery to see the ‘Image as Question’ show. I had spotted this online a couple of days before the trip and it seemed like my kind of thing. A collection of images from a variety of sources subtitled ‘An Exhibition of Evidential Photography’. The show presents a broad spectrum of (amongst others) documentary, scientific, fashion and criminal photography whose common link is their original intention; the raison d’etre of all these images was not actually artistic – some have been made into art by post-capture manipulation, and indeed it could be strongly argued that they have all been made into art by virtue of being in an Art gallery (along with, I might cynically add, the concomitant inflation of perceived if not intrinsic value). Once again, context is all. 

I enjoyed the show – not least because of its variety but also because the inherent beauty in many of the images was precisely because of their lack of self-conciousness as ‘art’ objects. True, much of their appeal lies in an aesthetic quality that transcends their original, perhaps more prosaic, purpose; but to be encouraged to look at examples of what photography has been – the uses and purposes it has historically served – can only be helpful in my ongoing study of what photography might and can become. 

I also enjoyed the experience of seeing both shows back to back; the contrast of Eggleston – one man who knew (and knows) a great deal about the technique, art and science of photography against a collection of many who perhaps were utilising the medium for other intended ends was fascinating. Both shows purported that the protagonist(s) involved in their creation were and are somehow incidental – in Mark Boyle’s words ‘circuits of no importance’ – and were keen instead to focus on the phenomena of the world around us and its documentation. Although very different in their intent, Eggleston’s outcomes were, in their representation of the ‘ordinary’, strangely similar to the outcomes on display at the Hoppen Gallery.

Creepy huh?

Is it just me that finds this a tad disturbing? I received this email from Adobe the other day telling me about all the amazing things I can do with Elements 15, one of which is the ability to ‘turn a frown upside down’ and make ‘everyone in your photos look their best’. Where do I start? Firstly, I guess, is something I will be returning to again and again; the notion of truth. Photography gave us our first chance in history to relate the truth – all previous means of expression or representation were by definition subject to lesser or greater extents of mediation and interpretation – a tweak with the paintbrush here to add an extra sparkle to the sitter’s eye, the slightly more flattering adjective there in a piece of descriptive prose to make a landscape that much more appealing… But photography did not lie – a century and a half’s worth of the sometimes brutal truth. Yes, of course it was possible, with the requisite high level of skill, to manipulate photographs to an effect more dramatic than the original, but it was extremely difficult and time-costuming to bend the photographic truth. Now, apparently, all it takes is a few clicks. Any idiot could do it. Maybe even me. It has become too easy to once again tell a half truth, or even a downright lie, with an image. My problem, I suppose, is that it’s still called photography, and the end result of this deception is still called a photograph. I kind of hold film, as a medium, sacred because of the above reasoning. I don’t have an issue with contemporary technology  (anyone who knows me well will maintain, correctly, that by saying this I am indeed using digital technology to tell a big fat whopper) per se, but what I think is wrong is that the digital world has nicked the word ‘photography’.

This might sound like pedantic semantics (probably because it is) but when photography was invented at least its practitioners had the good grace not to just call it painting and have done with it. Painting with light, perhaps, or, as the translation of the word has it, light-writing, but the medium had the gumption to realise that it was new and distinct from all that had preceded it. Rant number one over…

Rant number two: what’s wrong with a frown? When did it become important that we should either be – or be seen to be – happy all the time? By capturing the wide and complex gamut of human emotion, the camera has hitherto made manifest and acceptable our individual expressions of not only joy and elation but also our unhappiness and despair – thus making these experiences – and all emotions in between – common, and therefore perhaps, by virtue of this, the human condition itself, more acceptable and manageable. Perhaps historically photography has helped us to feel OK about how we feel, even if how we feel is a bit less than tickety-boo. By subjugating, denying and mitigating these ‘negative’ emotions are we somehow also denying ourselves the ability to feel them, thereby making their experience less acceptable?

Thirdly: childhood is the one place that we have the freedom, the blissful ability to express ourselves without the constraints of our sometimes choking social mores and protocols. What do we want to do with the memories of our children – turn them into one big homogeneous lump of happiness? Maybe because if we can do that then we can conveniently gloss over the fact that we weren’t the paragon of parenthood that today’s perfection-obsessed media tell us we ought to be. We, and our children, are neither happy nor in any other way perfect all the time and by the ability to kid ourselves otherwise are we not setting ourselves up for a lifetime of striving for the absolutely impossible?

We don’t just smile with our mouths, either – maybe why that’s why the above photo (along with all these other reasons) gives me the heebie-jeebies… happiness is expressed in so many ways – a smile is just the tip of the iceberg of a whole range of facial muscles interacting together to form an expression of happiness. To reduce this complexity to a click of a mouse is, well, frankly a bit weird.

We are heading towards a time where, once again, our pictorial memories of our pasts will nor be reliable – is this progress?

Quote, quite

Just lifted the following from the Michael Hoppen gallery website. Seemed appropriate to my way of thinking about photography…

​’As T.S Elliot so adroitly noted “When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost and will produce its richest ideas”.’

Too much choice will kill you…! I’ve been thinking recently about why I now always shoot square format, and, along with the inherent reliability and trustworthiness of that particular shape (fair and square, square deal etc.) and how that relates to the fidelity of film as a medium, I think it’s probably true that when you shoot square it’s one less decision to make (portrait or landscape?) in a life that seems over-rife with options…

Pluie de Photographes

art-and-photography-book-cover

Found this book in BSU library after Tuesday’s lectures. I’m looking into the transition and upheavals that occurred in the mid-nineteenth century as photography liberated painting from its representational shackles… I’m interested in how a similar thing is happening right now (but more so!) with the dominance of digital image making. The title of the image on this cover is ‘Pluie de Photographes’. Now, my French never went beyond year 7, but even I can figure out (with the aid of the image itself!) that this translates as something along the lines of ‘rain of photographs’ (genius huh?!)

This set me thinking about the realisation that this is what it must have felt like back then – the rate at which a painter produced an accurate picture (not to mention the level of mastery required) was entirely normal to the human psyche until the camera came along, so the blinding pace at which it became possible to produce a representational image must have been staggering, not to mention the perceived requisite level of skill required to produce one of these new-fangled ‘photographs’…!

If, in the 1850s, the general public felt they were being subjected to a shower of photographs, it is little wonder that today, with the trillions of images floating around, we have become saturated with images. We are drowning…! So what of silver halide now and into the future…?

Click for more information on Heinrich Schwarz