Nothing Special by Martin Kollar

Martin Kollar’s book Nothing Special (2008) is a book made up of images taken in ten different countries and focused on people at leisure. What is shown are everyday situations but are also extraordinary or absurd. Some of them are also quite comical. This is what I found most interesting about his work, how the every day can be shown in such an unusual way. It’s also about how the subjects are placed within the frame which adds to this. I found it great to look at as part of my research and liked the simplicity in which it is laid out, especially having one image per spread, this means that each image stands on its own rather than being in a pairing, but because the images are so visually interesting this doesn’t really matter and it works well.


Karen Knorr

Karen Knorr has been fantastic to look at when thinking about composition and what’s in the frame. You can see that it’s thought about very carefully and even though the subject matter doesn’t relate to my work, I think it’s helpful to remember about lines and making sure everything is straight. I especially like the work shown in the middle, which is a publication, Gentleman. The use of space is very interesting, and especially having one man just outside the frame. With the pose of the model, it’s also a good mixture of constructed and simple but also relaxed. I don’t think I want the images to look too staged, but the models will need to be somewhat directed because of the format I’m using.


National Portrait Gallery

It’s that time of year again where the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize comes to the National Portrait Prize. There were some great pieces of work there, and as I grow and see more work in my own practice it’s really interesting to see the different paths each photographer took before getting to a place where their photograph is selected to be shown. The winner’s work was fantastic but there were a couple others which I also found really interesting that I want to discuss.

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Shown above are the two images, Owen Harvey had displayed in the gallery, they’re from his series Skins & Suedes which is about the skinhead movement. With his portraits, he wanted to show a vulnerability to a culture which is known for its aggression. I had a look at the rest of the project on his website and these two images were definitely my favourite. The simplicity of the locations and pose shows that you don’t need a fancy set up to take a great portrait. I didn’t see anywhere however what they were shot on, my guess would be medium format but I can’t be sure.

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Next, we have two images by Catherine Hyland from her series Wait-And-See Pudding With Patience was shot on a small Caribbean island called Nevis, known for its sandy beaches but also has sugar plantations created to bring wealth to the British Empire. The island is harnessing renewable energy resources to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation. The series was shot on commision for the British Airways magazine High Life. It’s interesting that big companies are hiring photographers to create this kind of work for their magazines, instead of just showing the beautiful sandy beaches and women in bikinis. And again the portraits are very simple but with the lighting and the subject matter, they become a comment on a certain aspect of the subjects life.

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Lastly, I wanted to talk about Danny North and their series As I Found Her – A Portrait of Eigg. The series documents the inhabitants of the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, which has sixty-eight residents. The residents run the area sustainably using sources of renewable energy. They were taken over the course of a year to be able to capture the close-knit community and was created to better understand this and what it means to live in the remote parts of the United Kingdom.

There are more images from the series their website which further shows different aspects of the residents’ lives. This work I found very interesting as I feel it quite closely relates to that of my own ideas as also what I would like to continue to explore after I’ve finished my degree.

Overall I always find the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize inspiring. It shows such great work but also what people are finding interesting in photography, specifically portraits. This year I was mostly interested by the work more documentary based as this is the path in which I think I might take once I finish, to them look at their gives me inspiration for what I may also want to do.

Nephews by Fryd Frydendahl

Nephews by Fryd Frydendahl is a book made up of images created over 10-11 years. As you can tell by the title they’re of the photographer’s nephews, the photographs began when her sister passed away, but were not just a way to help with the grief. She wanted them to be playful, and a lot of them involve props and didn’t want to show them crying or being vulnerable over their mother’s death, but strong as her mother and sister were. Instead, she wanted it to be about empowerment. The books also interesting because it’s made over such a long period of time you can see how the photographer has improved. Another aspect of her work which I found intriguing was that she never shows any aspects of time in her photographs, but mostly because she thinks it can be distracting.

As part of my research I found her work visually inspiring and shows different ways to take a portrait, but still, have them coherent.

Large Format Test

As I haven’t used a large format camera since first year I decided to have a go with it in the studios so that I didn’t have as much pressure and do a couple of portraits. I used Ektar 100 to shoot these, and have 10 sheets, so I now have 8 left which I going to take on location so I can practice using location lighting and also playing with visual style.

Because I was so nervous about using large format again (large format makes me nervous in general) I did not pay enough attention to the lighting, or even really thinking about how I wanted to take the photograph. The model and the pose looks good, looks almost like a passport photograph or a school photo. It’s the lighting which was overexposed on the face, even though I did use a light metre and there’s a shadow underneath her chin because I didn’t use a reflector and aimed the light above. For portraits in the future, I’m going to use a softbox on each side, which I know works from a module in first year called the copy, where I did Thomas Ruff’s Portraits. 

My Last Day at Seventeen by Doug DuBois

My Last Day at Seventeen by Doug DuBois is definitely one of my favourite photobooks I have looked at. The title of the book was used from something one of the people he met during his residency said on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. There’s a photograph in the book that he took when she said this as well, however, I have not included it.

The photographs included in the book were made over a five year period, over five summers in the town of Cohn, County Cork in Ireland, and was an invitation from Sirius Arts Centre in 2009. The theme of adolescence running through the book was not always the intention for the project but came along when a young couple, Kevin and Eirn took DuBois to a housing estate called Russell Heights. DuBois spoke about how tightly knit the community was, everyone knowing each other, either being someone’s cousin, spouse or a friend of a friend, when I read this I could really relate because this is exactly how my hometown is, you can’t go anywhere without someone knowing who you are, or seeing someone you know.

The project was very collaborative with the people he met and was taking photos of, over the course of his time their he discussed the images with them, trying to decide what photos to keep in and what should not. It was important to him to feel they were represented correctly. DuBois even included a transcript of them arguing over a photograph instead of the actual photograph itself, this is shown in the last image I have included. Through working so close to them all he began to feel like he belonged. The project itself looks at the adventure of childhood, but also the fragility of it as in will eventually end. This project isn’t just about the people seen in the images, but instead is showing what it’s like growing up in Ireland.

Most of the images were staged, and only a handful were spontaneous. He had an assistant during his time there and used 4×5 and 6×7 cameras. In an interview with lensculture he spoke how because the cameras he was using was so large, there was no way he could be accused of spying on peoples lives, everyone could see what they were doing. This I think will help me with my project, I feel like when you have a smaller camera people are more aware of what you’re taking pictures of, feel more vulnerable, when I’ve used large format and even medium people are more curious than they are cautious.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the sketches/graphic novels which are intertwined with the images. These were created by a Dublin based artist called Paddy Lynch and were inspired by stories spoken when people were looking through the Marquette of the book. They made audio recordings of these sessions. They flow really nicely with the style of the book, an interesting way to include stories which are quite hard-hitting.

Overall the fact that this project took DuBois five years to complete is very daunting, as I know these kind of projects take time. I hope to start getting in contact with people who I can photograph to get things going and to make people aware of what I’m doing. I love the style of his images, the integration of landscapes, portraits, some with people in them and some without. It’s annoying that because I have been too busy I haven’t been able to go home again to take pictures, but am hoping that over the Christmas and January period I will be able to go more, especially after Dissertation is handed in. For now, I’m going to practice style with people I know in London, especially working on my technique, and figuring out how I’m going to carry all the equipment!

William Eggleston’s Guide

William Eggleston’s Guide is one of the books I have looked at so many times and is so well know that it has been neglecting by me to mention it. I have always really enjoyed this book and Eggleston’s work in general. The book is very simple, with just a photograph from the book as the cover and gold lettering, in some ways the front cover is similar to ‘The Christmas Tree Bucket’ by Trent Parke.

Inside the book, there’s one image per double page, on the left is the title of the image and then on the right is the image. The images are both landscape and portrait and are all of his colour work, which as is well known Eggleston had the first one-man show of colour photographs at MoMA in New York.

All of the images in the book are from Memphis, the colour is definitely the most attractive thing about the images, as well as the content, the composition. Another great example of work as well because the photographs were taken in his hometown so some great inspiration for the work I’m going to be doing.

We Make the Path by Walking by Paul Gaffney

We Make the Path by Walking by Paul Gaffney is the photographer’s debut photo book and was self-published, making 1000 copies and 50 special editions. The photographs were taken in rural Spain, Portugal and France as he walked around 3,500 kilometres on foot. The book is beautifully made, in the first image I have shown how the book comes, it has a case which has one of his photographs on it, a postcard slotted inside and then the book itself is plain grey with the title printed on the top left corner. Interestingly, shown in image three you can see that the book has not be attached to the spine of the cover so you can even see the glue holding it together. It makes it look very raw and handmade, a very rustic feel to the book.

The book has been nominated for the Photobook Award at Kassel Photobook Festival 2013, shortlisted for the European Publishers Award for Photography and included in the Photo-Eye ‘Best Books of 2013’ list. The prints themselves are beautiful, they were printed using offset on Munken Lynx paper. It’s very tactile and matte, a lot of books I’ve looked at have either been glossy or semi-glossy but I think matte has worked well with his prints. Most of the images have been printed on one page of the double spread, and again as a recurring theme, he has also printed some of them so that they go partly across to the other page without any gaps in the image. This is still something I am not keen on in photo books, as I have said before I would prefer to be able to see the whole image rather than there being a disturbance making some of it unclear. This is the only part of the design I have not liked, it is a lot different to the previous books I have looked at style wise, but is definitely one of my favourites.

As last time I went home I just walked the route I would go to walk the dogs to take pictures I definitely see the appeal of presenting walking as a kind of meditation, I find it very relaxing and calming, especially walking somewhere scenic it can feel very magical.

The Christmas Tree Bucket by Trent Parke

“The Christmas Tree Bucket is a modern-day Christmas story with a dark edge. A wordless narrative, Parke’s story is an ironic take on the typical Australian suburban Christmas. He photographs friends and family, and casts them in a twisted tale that merges fact and fiction. The viewer is left to make imaginative sense of images of barbeques, screaming children, a burning gingerbread house, and even the photographer himself vomiting into the infamous Christmas Tree Bucket. “It was there, while staring into that bright red bucket, vomiting every hour on the hour for fifteen hours straight that I started to think how strange families, suburbia, life, vomit and in particular, Christmas really was… Merry Christmas!” – Trent Parke.

The design of Trent Parke’s book in fantastic, I loved the front cover and the use of wrapping paper, which is also in the middle of the book as well. The front cover makes it look like a very traditional Christmas album with gold foiled writing and red as the cover colour. The images themselves show a very usual Christmas, but it’s the way the photographs are taken and the way they’re edited that makes it seem so satirical and sinister. I also found the title to be very interesting when first hearing it, it sounds like a children’s story about a magical Christmas bucket but turned out to have chosen because the photographer threw up in a bucket. I didn’t take a picture of that page because it’s gross but the bucket is shown in the last photo, being used to hold the (now dead) Christmas tree up.

I think this book is a great example of how you can have some fun with a project and really make it your own. To explore family life and put a twist on a holiday associated with wonder, food and Santa. The wonder is turned into horror, food into vomit and Santa into someone coming to murder you rather than give you presents. It’s an example of some great editing and design, and also that the title for a project can come from anywhere, which is why I’m waiting for my Chrismas Bucket to show itself before deciding anything.

Carry me Ohio by Matt Eich

Carry Me Ohio by Matt Eich is volume 1 of for as part of ‘The Invisible Yoke”. It was created when Eich moved to a rural area in Ohio. He began to photograph the communities he found there and found it to convey a story which plays out around our country and the world. He calls photography the ‘antidote’ to the collective forgetfulness of our history and the damage we course ourselves. The photographs shown are his ‘love song to Ohio’ (Eich, 2016).

The book is beautiful which he has created, the images and the way they are laid out flow very well. I have shown above in the sequence of images some of my favourite images from the book and also to show the different ways they have been presented. There are both landscape and portrait layouts, but always the same on the adjoining pages. There are also some images which flood onto the next page, shown in the second, fifth and eighth image. This seems to be a popular way to present images in books and online at the moment, and I’m not sure I like it. It seems a little unnecessary and rather being able to see the whole image clearly, it is cut off. Otherwise, I think the sequencing works well and I found it very interesting as it’s a good example of taking photographs in a certain area, a journey of discovery, finding the communities around where you live and getting to know them.

I think Eich used a mixture of different media for the project, perhaps both 35mm and medium format when looking at the pictures, but I have not found anywhere where this is stated. They’re all in colour, however, which recently I have been enjoying more than black and white images. I think colour shows more when photographing areas and communities, it gives the audience more of a sense of what it looks like, and what kind of a vibe you would get from it from the images. Black and white would say something completely different.

Overall it was a great to be able to see the photobook in real life as it is sold out now and the price is going up for it as it’s very popular. More recent publication show what is popular at the moment when it comes to photo books, to give me a better idea of what is going on in photography now.