Project 1 – The Instrument
Four different exposures of the same frame – taken within the same minute.
In studying the images closely the obvious difference is the lone figure disappearing from view. Closer inspection also shows the traffic movement. Less apparent, but clearly visible in image 1, is the movement of leaves.
Studying the histograms demonstrated the shifts in light during such a short span of time and how this affected the colour balance.
Project 2 – Visual Skills
Exercise 1.2 Point
Changing the position of the single point of focus within the frame
Exploring the importance of composition through point, line and frame. The first three pictures were taken to allow an evaluation of my own technical skills in terms of drawing the eye to the required object. Choosing surrounding objects that were larger in scale gave me the challenge of ensuring their size didn’t detract from the focal point of the miniature figure.
Within these pictures there appears to be several factors that influence the view in its perception of the image.
The relationship between the objects and their size, shape and opacity has a bearing. Particularly in the case of the translucency of the surrounding objects, giving the opacity of the miniature figure some dominance over the other artefacts.
Use of shallow depth of field also lends to draw the eye to the required point – the focal point should have been a little sharper to ensure its prominence.
Position within the frame seems less important within this context. Although the third picture – to the front and off centre – seems to be the most effective.
Exercise 1.2 Part 2
Images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame
The eye goes directly to the parcels, enhanced by their colour and sharpness of focus. The eye also appears to be led by the lines within the image – ie the brick work and divisions in textures and blocks of colour. Being at the edge of the frame also means that the eye has nowhere else to go – the parcels appear to be the ‘arrival point’.
The top digits carved on the post were the intention for the point in this image. The depth of field and symmetrical disappearing lines have resulted in the focus being led to all of the digits, suggesting a shape rather than a point. Being at the front/centre of the frame, with a sharp distinction in light and distance between foreground and background emphasises the post as the desired recipient for the viewer.
The point, the tip of the branch, is small and defined within the frame – but being centre frame and with the muted tones it becomes a little lost. The eye tends to be taken to the openness of the background.
Of all the shots taken this is the one where the relationship between the point and the frame seems least apparent. There is too little content within the frame to give the point context.
The point becomes too lost in the eye’s desire to move to the red mass in the foreground. In relationship to the frame it there needs to be more contrast in tone and colour.
The leaf in the foreground and at the centre is positioned well to draw in the viewers response. There is an added interest of two sharper less organic shapes that also draw the attention – the red and white tile pieces. The lack of distinctive colours and tones does mean that the overall picture lacks definition and aesthetic dynamic.
Following the route the eye takes when viewing an image
The eye begins on the sharply focused point then scans vertical lines within the frame and finds different masses of texture and colour before returning to the point and then the edge of the frame.
The image with less distinctive colour and light and with a central focal point has led to more erratic eyeline and more overall scanning of the picture. Perhaps searching for relationships within the frame, or looking for the significance of the theme.
There is a definite attraction to the central line. The symmetry then draws the eye to four corner points – with the lighter parts of the frame also add emphasis.
Exercise 1.3 Part 1
Using line to create a sense of depth
The diagonal lines of light and outline of the structure of the bridge lead the eye across the water. A better perspective would have been to position the boat at the end of the diagonal lines.
The bridge would serve better in leading the eye and enhancing the depth within the image if it was placed directly in the corner and at the centre of the distant mountains. The horizontal lines created by the shore, the posts and the mountain base also cause confusion as to where the theme of the photo lies.
A street scene offers a multitude of possibilities in terms of line – due to the architectural nature of the environment. This image incorporates diagonal pointers from the trees, parked cars, paving stones, wall and house roofs. All lead to the train crossing the bridge at the end of the street.
Exercise 1.3 Part 2
Using lines to flatten the pictorial space – keeping the film plane parallel to the subject.
Comparing the use of line to create depth and to flatten the image
The first collection demonstrate to some extent the use of diagonal lines creating a sense of depth – particularly so in image 3 where the lines converge to lead the eye to the end of the street view. With reference to Eugene Atget’s (1857 – 1927) examples – his photos creating a strong sense of depth not only through the use of vertical line, but also through the change on focus and size of close objects and those on the distance.
Use of strong architectural lines in the second group of pictures helps to reduce the depth of field and flatten the images. This is harder to capture in nature – with more organic shapes.
The diagonal lines within the first group were placed within the frame to lead the eye either into the distance, or to a specific point. Without this devise , and allowing the diagonal line to just leave the frame, the image does not give the viewer a place to go or rest the eye.
This is not the case with the second group, as the image has been flattened, the eye stays within the frame, viewing the image as a whole.
John Szarkowski (1925 – 2007) identified the ‘the central act of photography’ as a decision about what to include and what to reject, which ‘forces a concentration on the picture edge…and the shapes that are created by it’ (Szarkowski, 2007, p.4)
In his preface to Walker Evan’s American Photographs (1938) Leonard Kirsten makes the distinction between cropping and framing. – My personal interpretation is that framing takes place in the actual shooting of the image, where the photographer is making decisions about composition, what should be included in the shot, dof and positions of subject matter, line, point and shape. Cropping is post production, where the photographer analyses the effectiveness of the framing and makes adjustments to enhance the image.
Exercise 1.4 Frame
Using the viewfinder grid to frame one section of the photo.
The nine pictures were all taken by choosing a different section of the frame to compose within.
For the original original shot I used the bottom centre box to compose my image within a frame. The varied vertical lines within the image produce a pleasing uniformity in the close image and the spire flanked by the bigger buildings in the foreground helps to draw the eye in. In comparison, looking at the full image, the composition has by chance still worked in drawing the eye to the church spire. Perhaps as this is in the centre on the image, this approach has worked.
This time the face of the statue was the focus, framing it in the left central box of the viewfinder. In the cropped version the moving water and background architecture provide a soft contrast to the defined sculptural lines. The omission of some of the whole sculpture shape leaves the eye wanting to discover more. The full frame image provides this, but also loses something by excluding the edge of the water feature.
The silhouetted horse and rider statue was the focus for the top central box. The choice of shape was really too larger for the box and lost something in the crop. Interestingly the full frame image worked well – with an element of symmetry in the skyline either side of the central image.
Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content. Focus on composition and the material nature of any specific medium (Wells, 2009, p347)
Select six images that work individually as compositions and also together as a set. Present them as a single composite image.
Working on the definition of formalism as focusing on form rather than context I revisited one of my favourite themes – abstracting aspects of the urban environment. I am drawn to the different representations of line, shape, angles, textures etc in architectural design. I kept my iso on 250 and used the prime 85m lens with a fstop on 1.8 with a fast shutter speed – 1/320 – 1/1250 depending on the light. This gave a brightness to the images and ensured close cropping wasn’t required to ensure the correct elements were abstracted. In putting together the images as a composite there was a strong temptation to use black and white versions to ensure they complemented each other well. However due to the muted tones and the geometric nature of the images they seem to work well as a set without this.
Project 3- Surface and Depth
Research point – commentary on reviews by Campany and Colberg of the Thomas Ruff publication – ‘jpegs’
Thomas Ruff is not a photographer/artist that I had encountered before. In first reading these two reviews on his ‘jpegs’ project I had a few doubts as to how much value I would put in the process, and final result, of this project.
My initial issue with his work was the acquisition of images from the internet to create his own distorted piece of art.
On reading Campany’s review of this project, he points out that many art forms have taken the approach of manipulating ‘found objects’ to create an alternative view on the subject matter. He cites the work of Warhol, Donald Judd and Carl Andre, the installations of Sol Lewitt and Hanne Darboven and the photo work of Christian Boltanksi and Bernd & Hilla Becher within Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism. He also referenced movements such as Dadism, surrealism and cubism in the use of archived photography.
It should be noted that Ruff uses his own images as well as those found from internet searches.
My other personal issue with the manipulated images within the ‘jpegs’ project was what is being added to the images in terms of artistic aesthetics to the works.
Campany’s reflection on the importance of ‘grain’ in photography during the pre-digital age and the relationship this has with manipulating pixels raises the question of how this approach to creating a new artistic image through a found image opens up a world of possibilities in terms of creating a new movement in aesthetics.
The other interesting point is the importance of how Ruff’s ‘jpegs’ is viewed. In Colberg’s review he talks about the difference between viewing the images in the book and how the impact of the larger reproductions on the gallery wall was lessened because the ‘amount of detail in the images was actually not large enough to justify the sizes shown in the gallery.’ Campany stressed the importance of not viewing the images digitally but as printed matter.