The Airmen by Michal Solarski

The Airmen is a collaborative project between Michal Solarski who took the photographs and Joanna Frydel-Solarska wrote the text that goes with it. The project is all about celebrated Polish World War II pilots, both Solarski and Frydel-Solarska would enter their homes and hear the stories from the war.

I found this project very interesting as all the images as shot inside the persons home, which is perhaps what I will be doing for my project. Most of the images are portraits but they have added some pictures of photographs or parts of the persons home. They haven’t put any information on how it was shot in the article on Lenscultures website but I like the way they are composed and that each individual home has its own colour tone. This is perhaps something they couldn’t control however if they were only using the light sources provided rather than bringing their own. Mostly we are taught to make sure that all the tones are the same so that all the images work as a series, but I think in this case it works to give the audience a bit more of a feel of each individual person. I think you can sense more about the home without there being a lot of stage lighting.

It’s also interesting that they have text speaking about their visits to each home and what it was like. Especially with the subject matter it’s fascinating to hear their stories. I think that I want to include text in with my project but I’m not sure how this is going to work in the gallery space. It may mean doing a book to go alongside it.

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The New Gypsies by Iain McKell

The New Gypsies is a series of image Iain McKell created during 1986 assigned by The Observer to document the New Age Travellers of the Peace Convoy. During the Summer Solstice, they were traveling to Stonehenge and this journey is what McKell was assigned to photograph. Fifteen years later McKell photographed the same event in 2001 to see how the culture had developed. What fascinated me with this project was seeing into this cultures lifestyle. As McKell was already interested in the culture before he was even assigned to photograph them you see images of someone really embracing and understanding their way of life.

The images he produced make their way of life seem mythical, people living away from urban life and the stresses that come with it. Living a simple life instead. Most of them lived in cities and as a part of a ‘normal’ society but it just didn’t suit them, and I can understand why not. There’s so much going on in cities that I always think it’s nice to get away or visit areas that are less industrialised. Especially as I write this on the fourteenth floor of my halls of residence, I can hear construction work going on, I can see train tracks and tall buildings and the further out I look there are more greenery and trees contrasting against them. It’s easy to imagine why people wouldn’t want to live as part of a city.

I think my research for my final major project is going to be based on how different photographers have photographed specific areas, people, and cultures, different ways of life. The different ways you can go about photographing it and the mediums used or how it’s presented to get inspiration.

Initial Research: Port Glasgow by Mark Neville

As part of my initial research for the Final Major Project, I looked at Martin Parr, particularly his series Think of England (both book and documentary film) and Signs of the Times (both of these I have already written about on my blog and have been re-tagged with the module code). Mark Neville and his book project The Port Glasgow. Iain Mckell with series The New Gypsies, Michal Solarski and his series The Airmen. Lastly, Eri Morita and her series In This Beautiful Bubble (these I will talk about in future posts).

Firstly I’m going to go to talk about Mark Neville and his project The Port Glasgow. The Port Glasgow book project was created over a couple of years, Neville spent a whole year in Port Glasgow photographing the people there. The result was a book which was solely made for the residents of Port Glasgow and the 8000 copies for them was handed out by the local football team rather than a delivery service. It is also to be noted that Neville didn’t sell the book in shops, but wanted it only to exist for the residents, and not for the middle-class coffee tables. One of the most interesting things for me about the project is the reaction of the residents to it, some of them loved and thought it represented the community in a beautiful way, however, the Protestant’s burned their copies at the back of the Catholic-Club because they thought it was pro-Catholic. This was the most extreme reaction to it, others also had a negative reaction and thought it presented them in a bad way because of how they came across in the pictures.

As my initial idea was based on my hometown Long Sutton I found this project really interesting as it would be so fascinating to see their reactions to what I came up with if I sent it back to them. Especially as it is a statement of how the work made of a specific place and their residents doesn’t usually get made solely for them but will be sold on the art market and end up on middle-class coffee tables. All the profits from the book went back into the town, and also the profits from an exhibition which showed the reaction from the town to the project which was shown in England at Modern Art Oxford and other venues. These profits were given to charities which were based in Port Glasgow.

We’re very lucky that our library has a copy of the book, here are some of my favourite images from it:

What I liked about these images is the range of different combinations and content in the images, both the use of portraiture, landscapes, and crowds really shows the different aspects of life there. This project is definitely one of my main inspirations for my own and found it really interesting to research and images that go alongside it.

 

First Tutorial

For our first tutorial I was asked to think about what I would like to achieve with my project and if it is just my hometown or a part of a bigger picture? It all stems from being asked where I want to live after I’ve finished university. It made me wonder why the people living in my hometown decided to live there, what appealed to them about it? Maybe it could be about anywhere, why does anyone decide to live where they do? I’d like to achieve some kind of documentation of either the feeling of not knowing your place in life.
When discussing this it was decided that it is probably important and more relevant for it to be based on Long Sutton (my hometown) rather than anywhere else or anything else. It was also suggested that I take the photographs using a large format camera. I haven’t used a large format camera since the first year of university so this is something I can practice to see if it’s something I want to do. I will also need to practice so that I would know what I was doing when I arrange to take the photographs of residents of Long Sutton.
We were also asked to speak about our favourite project we’ve done so far, mine is Canary Wharf from my first year, it’s a street photography project which was created to try and present the alienation I felt moving to London.

(Images from Canary Wharf)

I’m going to continue doing research to better inform and decide how I want to take the photographs and also how I want to present them at the degree show.

Long Sutton and Kensington (first shoots)

Over the summer I began to think about what I might want to do for my final major project and my initial thoughts went to the things which are closest to me; my family and my hometown. Developing my idea and also through being asked where I wanted to live after my final year of university (answer: I don’t know) I started to think about Long Sutton (my hometown) and why people choose to live there. I thought that I would just walk around taking pictures and see what happens if I got any inspiration.

Above are a selection of images (using a DSLR) I took, I was just looking for things I thought were interesting or just caught my eye. I took pictures of both people and areas in the main marketplace. They were also taken on Long Suttons busiest day – Friday market day. I was quite late getting into town but early in the morning and especially when Christmas comes around market day is a bun fight. Although I like these images I still felt intimated and didn’t really want to approach people going about their daily life to ask questioned or ask for their picture. This stuff doesn’t really happen there, but it’s perhaps what would make it interesting. I would, however, like to interview a few people and ask them questions about why they live there and photograph them to see if it would go anywhere.

More recently as I’m in London now I Googled which is the smallest borough, turns out it’s Kensington and Chelsea, in both population and size. I thought that this would perhaps be another area that would be good to photograph as part of my research and as I am drawn to greenery rather than the urban life I found the Kensington Palace gardens.

Above are my favourite images that I took (using DSLR) of Kensington Gardens. Again I took both of people and of the area, the last five images are some of my favourites, the sky was so grey but when the sun came out it made this beautiful contrast of colours and really made them pop. I didn’t really have a goal of what I wanted to capture whilst I was there, nothing was planning which really helped get my creative juices flowing.
I also took my Mamiya C220 medium format camera with me, as I hadn’t really taken it out for a while as it had to be fixed and wasn’t sure if it was going to work properly.

Kensington Contact sheet

It seemed to do okay but I’m still not sure if the images are as sharp as how it used to take, but I don’t know if it was me or the camera as I was using it freehand rather than using a tripod. I had been so used to shooting using my DSLR that I had forgotten the joys of using film and not knowing how it’s going to turn out.
I preferred the images of Long Sutton in black and white because the colours were quite dull and wanted to get more of a contrast, but in Kensington, I definitely prefer them in colour, because of how much the colours pop. Overall working in different places and with different equipment again I feel like I’m definitely getting some inspiration and ideas for my final major project.

Book Works Workshop

The Book Works workshop showed us how to make two different kinds of books, above are different examples of what can be done, however, we didn’t learn how to make them specifically. The workshop was actually for part-time students but there were a couple of spaces available, and as I picked wall as my module in my second year I didn’t do the workshop. I thought it would be a good skill to learn though if it’s something I want to do for the final major project.

Shown above are the two books which I did make on the workshop, the first one we did was the blue one, and then he showed us the simpler version, and also one where the sequence can be shuffled around before binding. The brown one is also something that would be pretty easy to make at uni without their tools, but the blue one had more elements to it. It also involved sewing the pages together, whereas the brown one was made just with glue. The cardboard cover for the blue one was also a more complicated to make and I feel like it would take practice to get right.

I think if I were to make one I would use the technique which we used for the brown smaller book, as it’s something that with time and patience could look really good.

Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines

Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines exhibited at the Photographers Gallery. As Crewdson is known for each image is so carefully produced that you can’t help but get up close and personal to see all the little details he has included. Especially with the size, they have been printed you can get up close and personal with them, and with the detail, they were shot in you are able to do this because they are so sharp. You can feel the intimacy of the images, it’s as though you are peering into people’s lives, their most private moments, but with incredible detail. Many of them also felt very eery, almost as though they are stills from a crime or mystery film. I think the sense of peering into someone’s life is most apparent when seeing the people in nude, as this is something most people only do in private, not to be displayed to the world. They just appear as ordinary people living their lives but happen to be captured by Crewdsons camera.

What I find most inspiring when seeing this work is how well they have been composed and the quality of them. I feel that composition comes naturally when I’m taking photographs in the street but when everything is staged I can become lazy and not think of everything that I’m putting in the frame and what it would mean. As I’m experimenting with ideas I think this will be something to consider in my work as the final major project will hopefully become my favourite piece and set the tone for my future work to be just as good and better. His work was a good example of how photography can tell a story without saying a word, but also that it will be interpreted in many different ways, you don’t have control over what people choose to see when they look at your work. All you can do is guide them in the right direction.

Overall I really enjoyed looking at all the images from this series by Crewdson, it was really interesting to see work that has been made over a year (2013-2014) as the final major project, as I started thinking and developing ideas over the summer will also be made over a year. It’s amazing what can be achieved in this time.

 

Final Images in Frames

For submission I decided to put my final images in the unfinished frames so that you could see what they would look like. Unfortunately as I only measured one of the frames you can see some of the white canvas around my images in the frames. This is even more noticeable in the frames which have already been sprayed black.
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Even from far away in the image above you can see the image on the far left has some white in the bottom; however, you cannot see any white in the image on the far right.
I’m not sure how I’m going to correct this for the exhibition, it may mean making the frames again, or I might perhaps be able to pull them apart and make them smaller. It only cost me £15 to make them so this would be the better option than having to pay another £54 to print plus £38 for mounting my images again. Making the frames again would be more cost effective.

This set aside I am really pleased with how my final images look, I particularly think the size was a good choice. Whilst carrying them around and when I was mounting I got quite a few compliments on them, particularly the one of Poppy, which is the third one in. Once I have sorted out the issue with the frames I think they will look very good in the exhibition and I’m looking forward to seeing them up on the gallery wall with everyone’s work.

Exhibition Statement

My Girl by Lucy Dack

The project My Girl explores why we name our cars. I was especially interested in cars that had names which suggested they had a gender. Was it subconsciously because the car had feminine/masculine features? Or purely just because they like the name?
I photographed small sections of the cars as I wanted to explore what it was about the small details which could possibly influence a name, or which gender they were.
All the photographs displayed contain cars which have been given a female name, which is why the project was given the title My Girl. This is also reminiscent of the relationship which can be built between car and owner, most people spend a lot of time with them, and rely on them to get them where they need to go. The more time spent with them, the more characteristics can be spotted, making them somewhat anthropomorphic.

From left to right; Goddess, Poppy, Penelope, The Bitch, Amber and Kylie.

Project Evaluation

My Girl

At the beginning of the module my project did not have a title, I just called it Cars with Names. My plan was to use a quote from someone I met who had named their car, perhaps something comical or witty which I thought would go well with the images. This however did not happen, I had lots of conversations but nothing anyone said stood out to me. I also played with the idea of using the term anthropomorphic, but it seemed too obvious when combined with the images.
The title My Girl only came when I had picked my final images and realised they all had feminine names; Kylie, Goddess, Amber, Poppy, Penelope and The Bitch. Poppy, Goddess and The Bitch are owned by women and Kylie, Penelope and Amber are owned by men. This wasn’t planned but I do like that it worked out that way.

Subject

The subject matter of my project are the cars themselves. I did consider taking pictures of the owners as well as the cars but I thought it would be best to have the project aimed solely at the cars. I decided to take the photographs of the cars close up. I wanted to focus on the curves, or anything that sets the car apart from others, or could perhaps influence whether the car is given a feminine or masculine name. I chose this subject because as I have recently found it very interesting how people name their cars and the thought process which goes with it.
As the images are very close up the photographs in the project are very simplistic, and some are more abstract than others. However, cars are not a difficult subject matter to distinguish, even if you don’t own one, everyone has at least seen one.

Visual Research

My biggest influence for this project was Martin Parr, I especially looked at his projects Think of England (2000) and Signs of the Time: a portrait of the nation’s tastes (1992). Visually I liked the high saturation of his images, and the composition. A lot of his work looks at the details, whether it’s someone’s clothes, or the interior of their house. I also thought his documentary approach to his subject matter was appropriate for my project.
I also thought that Parr’s comical approach to photographing his subjects would also be presented well in my project as I took a lot of photographs of the stickers people put on their cars. These are not going to be included in this project, but for a separate one I thought it would be very interesting.

Aims, Objectives, Concept

My aim for this project was to present photographs of different cars which represented their name/gender given to them. The main concept for the project was why we give cars genders; do they have features which represent this gender? People who are car enthusiasts can talk forever about their car, and where happy to talk to me about it, and everyone I spoke to at the Ace Café had a name for them. Most of the names had a reason behind them, but not all of them did, for some it was just to do with the colour of the car, or the model.
I think through my imagery I have come to resolve my concept; however, I think the idea behind the images comes through more in some than others. Overall all however I am pleased with how my objectives have been resolved, and all together I think the idea of gender and cars comes through with the title and the inclusion of the names of the cars.

Production

To create my images, I used a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens. I also tried using a 135mm lens, with Ektar 100 film. Alongside I also used a ring flash, this was an essential accessory for my camera as the Ace Café events I went to were all at night. This was something I did not consider when using a 135mm lens, I could not get close enough to the car to use the ring flash on the camera, so an assistant had to hold it closer for me. The ring flash however gave me flash back on the shiny surface of the cars. I also had difficultly focussing my images because it was dark, and the outdoor lights were not always usefully positioned. With the images, I took during the day I did not have this issue. It was bright enough that the ring flash would not even register with a light metre. The images taken without flash are flatter, and represent the actual colour of the car successfully.

Presentation

For the presentation of my images, I considered different options. One of which I was very keen on doing was presenting them in a domestic way, in frames you would find in a family home. However, with the images I had produced it was best to print them bigger and have them presented in a clinical, clean way, which goes with the style of the images.

The main audience of my images would be car enthusiasts, or people interested in documentary or fine art photography. I think I will have effectively communicated my concept to my identified audience through the context of my images, and how they are presented in the gallery space. The combination of the images, the title and description of my photographs will come together to create the context of the work.

Evaluation

The strength of my project are the images, and the concept. I am really pleased with the final images I have produced for the project, and I think that they have successfully shown what I aimed to achieve. The close up images will make the viewer consider the different aspects of the car rather than the whole thing put together. Especially when it comes to naming them, and giving them a gender depending on the name.
The weakness of my project was some of the ways in which I tried to photograph the cars, if I was able to photograph all the cars during the day I would have produced more images which I thought were good enough to display.
In the future to improve this piece of work I would perhaps, as well as photograph, film my encounters in a documentary style such as Martin Parrs. I think it would be very interesting for an audience to see the process.