Demonstration of technical and visual skills
I am comfortable with what I am doing both with a camera and with what I do when I get home with the files I have made. I have made definite choices about which camera and which lenses to use to make the images in the first place, and have done my utmost to slow down and adopt a more contemplative approach to image making than I have followed for the non-technical assignments for earlier courses, whether my heavy tripod was involved or not. I think this comes across in the pictures which are (mainly) geometrically composed upon a single, flat plane.
The pictures were taken at times when the light was falling on them helpfully, either to bring out textural detail, or to reduce contrast between the pictured elevation of a building and the sky visible above it, or sometimes both. Exposures have been long, maximising depth of field. Generally I waited for a cloudy day, to soften the winter light further, although possibly this has led to a muddying of the colour in some of the images.
I have some way to go with doing my own printing (and with the final processing needed to allow images to make the transition from screen to print) but this is not truly relevant to the work presented here, online. However, I intend to address this – whether to produce some sort of filmed presentation or actual prints, to be posted in a clamshell box – for assessment in a year’s time.
Quality of outcome
I took my time finding viewpoints in my part of London, where I could frame subjects I had tucked away over the last year or so, waiting to photograph them. I was pleased to be able to time this part of the module to fit the time of year when Berndt and Hilla Becher took most of their pictures – when the trees were leafless and the Northern European skies were covered with flat cloud. without necessarily making landscapes from them. Many of the basic ‘viewpoint’ images were then reframed to further emphasise their composition and to move them on from being simple ‘views’. I have played around with how they are presented and in the end have settled on showing the London series as single images, as large as I can get them within a wordpress page.
The patterning and repetition in the picture of the clock tower (fig.1) is fascinating; I could stare at the image for ages. I can see echoes of other artists’ work in the Thomas Struth-like street’s end vanishing point of fearsome symmetries (fig.4) and perhaps something of a Turner sea storm in the swirl of leaves and branches around the city cow (fig.3); the bands of colour – orange, green and grey – in the out-of-bounds outdoor gym (fig.5) hints at abstract expressionist colour-field pictures; there is something going on – Edward Hopper? – with the similarity of the sodium lighting and the sunset in fig.6. They are obviously pictures that have been made; they are there to be looked at, and I hope people will.
The Orkney pictures on the other hand are very much ‘holiday pictures’ taken while pausing during days out or when I stumbled upon something. They are immediate, of an instant, where the other pictures are deliberate and considered. By combining them into a slideshow (to be taken as one image), any nostalgic or emotional reaction to the actual pictures is deflected onto their presentation; They become distanced. I may even have accessed some form of Brechtian alienation in their performance…
Demonstration of creativity
The Orkney pictures create a sense of space for me, with their big skies and distant horizons; those taken in London – even though I have backed off as far as I can from the subject – are much more enclosed – claustrophobic even – with no clear view through to the distance. The horizon is blocked by buildings or walls or – in the one picture that promises an escape from the urban – the swirl of leaves and branches that enclose the Lea valley cow. The use of (bespoke) animation and sound effects to evoke a mechanical slide show creates a sense of contrast between the Orkney pictures (set in the past, looked at later) with those taken in London, as well as showing a different use for pictures of place. There is a ‘past tense’ sense to them when compared with the ‘now’ of being confined to one small corner of a bigger city.
I hope the links between each of the pairs of pictures and the titles which echo the voice-over’s commentary show my ability to make visual associations and to draw on other cultural clues – in some cases here, references to English-Language Romantic poetry, in others – to create a more complex overall sense of meaning to the series while tying it back to early nineteenth century ideas of both the beautiful and the sublime.
I have almost completed a log entry for each of the exercises – only one still to go, on conventions in landscape art, but I want to talk about it first at the tutorial. What is there is clear and – I hope – well written. It certainly should be, given how long it has taken me to get to the point of saying ‘enough’ and hitting Publish! . Of course, it all could be shorter (I’ve still not managed to get the hang of confining myself to 500 words or ‘brief notes’ – the writing around one of the exercises is too long to be submitted as the Assignment 4 critical review without pruning) and I must get better at writing stuff down, quickly and turning it into – if necessary, less polished – posts. So, I need to maintain the quality of thought that goes into the posts, while keeping an eye on both the word count and the amount of time it takes me to put words down in the first place.
I also have a list of ‘further reading’ things that I need to turn into brief, contextualising posts, before the thoughts get lost…
It is too early to be talking about outcomes resulting from the whole course with any sense of confidence in their being achieved, but a start is being made. I have been thinking about the many ways to portray places and the uses that different groups of people make of pictures of our environment. I have started to ponder why it is that we make the images we do and what they then may mean in different contexts. I have also made progress in making connections with a number of different groups of fellow-students and have opened myself up a bit more to peer review of my work as I go along.
There is much still to do, but I have made a start. I hope it is not a false one.