Thomas Ruff at The Whitechapel Gallery

Thomas Ruff is currently having an exhibition of his work made between 1979-2017 at the Whitechapel Gallery. His project Portraits has always been one of my favourites he has created, but have only ever seen them in books or on the internet. It was amazing to be able to see them as they are meant to be seen, they have been printed so big you can walk right up to it and see the detail, but because they are taller you have to be further away to see the whole thing.

Not all of his work is printed the B0 size, some of them are quite small. It’s interesting to think why he decided to do some of the projects large and others smaller. I thought the borders went well with the images and also the wooden coloured frames which were used for most of the work, but with some, they had black ones. It’s helpful to see how they have been presented in different ways and compared to different works I have seen at different exhibitions. I definitely think so far I am planning to print them quite big, but whether it will be Portraits big, or smaller, a similar size to Gregory Crewdson’s work shown at the Photographers Gallery.

Overall I found the exhibition really interesting, I always enjoy seeing the work people have made over a long period of time to see how it changes and develops, and Ruff has made many different pieces.

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In This Beautiful Bubble by Eri Morita

“After my husband and I had our daughter in 2005, we decided to move from New York to Maui, then Tokyo, and later Santa Monica. We currently live in San Diego. Raising my daughter in Southern California, I’ve come to realize that her current environment is nothing like that of my own childhood. I grew up in the industrial area of Tokyo. There were many small manufacturers and houses right next to each other. Children ran through narrow alleyways and explored the neighborhood without adult supervision.

On the other hand, here I see rows and rows of beautiful homes. Nature is serene and tranquil. Children live in protected environments. They are given everything they could imagine wanting. The housing boom made it possible for everyone to have a spacious home. Parents drive SUVs to drop kids off at school. There are houses being built on land where there used to be coyotes and bobcats.

One day, another parent from my daughter’s school said, “Someday I want my kids to see the outside of this beautiful bubble.” She grew up in San Diego and is raising her children in the same neighborhood where she grew up. The title of my new series, “In This Beautiful Bubble,” came from this conversation. I am curious to observe how children grow up in this man-made utopia.” (Morita, E. (2013). In This Beautiful Bubble. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/eri-morita-in-this-beautiful-bubble#slideshow)

Growing up I saw my own hometown as a bubble, separated from the outside world. It’s so easy to get caught up in the small town life, with all the gossip, everyone knowing everyone and what they’re doing. I found great inspiration from this project and thought the images produced were really interesting to show this suburban life Morita’s children are growing up in. Each person has a different part of their life shown, shooting both indoors and outdoors. I think it will to be based on the person with my own project on where and how I photograph them, but it’s fascinating to see how Morita has presented hers.

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.

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.
2017-04-13 10.53.49.jpg

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.