Epiphany

Posted: May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

I haven’t blogged much lately.  I’ve spent the last few months working on the new (old) house.  However, I recently had an epiphany about one of the major attractions for me in a photograph that I hadn’t really realised was such an influence on my style until recently…..so I thought I’d blog about it!  In my previous post I talked about a recent exhibition where I was drawn to the shots with limited colour palettes.  This got me thinking and I started looking back at some of my favourite photographers/images from the past and indeed my favourite shots that I have taken.  Interestingly the limited colour palette comes up again and again.  Work by Ernst Haas and Saul Leiter are both examples of this;

photo-by-saul-leiter-02[1]

05Leiter[1]

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The top two images here are Saul Leiter and the bottom two are Ernst Haas.

In my last post I  singled out Mark Power and Peter Marlow’s work in ‘Open for Business’ and these shots also have limited colour palettes and even in my own work I seem to lean toward this almost subconsciously.  The next two shots I took a while back mainly for their subject and form but the limited palette must have also registered with me and I have countless examples of this.  I studied colour under various ‘OCA’ modules but it’s another thing to realise the extent to which it impacts on your own work.  It has less to do with combinations of colours and whether they are complimentary or not but more on the range of colour in an image.  It’s not a hard and fast rule but a definite tendency and influence.

SONY DSC         SONY DSC

This goes further with the complete tone of an image and this seems to come mostly from film; what I can only describe as ‘the Kodachrome look’.  Photographers such as Stephen Shore and William Eggleston have produce these kind of images that have a whole atmosphere created by the overall tone.  This seems to be created using a combination of time of day and film stock.

I think I’ll be keeping an eye out in future to see how I use colour in the way that I do (rather subconsciously) and I intend to make this far more conscious in future.

 

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A couple of weeks ago I visited 3 exhibitions in Bradford with a couple of OCA pals.  The most interesting of these was ‘Open For Business’.  For this exhibition Multistory and Magnum Photos commissioned nine of the worlds leading photographers to document contemporary British manufacturing, exploring the condition of Britain’s manufacturing future.  Three bodies of work stood out for me………

Stuart Franklin documented costal related industries focusing on the construction of the aircraft carrier ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’, wave machines of the Orkney Islands and wind farms south of Glasgow.  All of Franklin’s images on display were large black and whites.  The image that I found most striking was ‘Pelamis wave machines, the Sound of Hoy, Orkney Islands’.  The image is of the wave machine from the front looking like a whale surfacing for air with the water rushing from its mouth.  Never having seen a wave machine like this it looks almost static in the water but, in fact, forms a long sausage shape that moves with the waves.  I had to Google it (probably like many others) just to see what it looked like.   A powerful image of power generation; the big swells giving a clue to the size of the wave machine.  It is also a very sharp image considering that it must have been taken from a boat that was also moving in the swell.

Pelamis wave machines, the Sound of Hoy, Orkney Islands

 

Peter Marlow uses natural light where possible.  A number of his images focussed on steel fabrication in the black country.  As with Stuart Franklin I was seeing shapes and forms that are unfamiliar, allowing my mind to wander.  The greatest appeal for me was the limited colour palette in these images.  There were rarely any more than one or two colours evident, almost like Photoshopped partial colour images.

peter marlow 1

I also enjoyed Mark Power’s work.  I liked the way it was presented and I liked the predominantly dark images focussing on small details giving a degree of intimacy that felt like I was seeing something not picked up on before; like I was getting some kind of privileged insight.

Mark Power 1

Mark power 2

What didn’t I like?  I’ve never been a great fan of Bruce Gilden and here we see more of the same!  A camera shoved in someone’s face, harsh lighting and features, wide angled and unflattering.  It’s Bruce Gilden doing what Bruce Gilden does and didn’t really add anything to the exhibition for me.

 

 

Arles In black

I don’t need an excuse to visit the South of France but if I did  ‘Les Rencontres d’Arles’ would be perfect.  Add to this an OCA study visit and a chance to discuss things with fellow students and tutors and I couldn’t say no. This year the theme, Arles in Black, referred to a predominantly black and white collection and I was a bit worried that this might be too much on such a scale. My fears were born out to a degree as, at times, I was desperate for some colour.

As I said it was great to mix with others.  Some I already knew and some I now know!  Being able to discuss things and bounce ideas around makes the world of difference – even if it is only ‘how do you pronounce Becher’?  Arles itself uses every available space to create exhibitions; galleries, churches, hotels and cafes all have work on display.  The biggest single venue is the Parc des Ateliers which used to be a collection of workshops for railway maintenance.

As usual, Arles provided me with a wealth of work I’d never seen and some new photographers to follow up on, some of whom are already influencing my next assignments!  There was far too much to go into detail on everything I saw but here are a few highlights:

John Davies had a collection called France England which was a mix of landscape and industrial landscape shots taken in the UK and France.  Having travelled from Stockport I was quite surprised to see a picture of Stockport viaduct (a picture I’ve taken myself, from the same spot) staring me in the face.  I’ve since revisited a number of his images around Stockport but that’s for another post!  All of the prints were beautifully produced with the fine detail that you get from a large format film camera and a wide range of tones but with a strong contrast and strong blacks.

‘Hulme Manchester 1984’ was the image that fascinated me the most.  I drove past these flats every day for many years before they were knocked down and it was never as quite as this.  This image almost feels like an artist’s impression of the future of housing; everything orderly and neat.  There is, however, the corner of a fence in the bottom left which suggests that it was taken from something that was not quite finished.  A number of Davies’ images, including this one, place the horizon in the middle with a large expanse of sky which I feel may unbalance these images.

John Davies - Hulme Manchester 1984

John Davies – Hulme Manchester 1984

I kept looking at ‘Agecroft power station, Salford 1983’ wondering where I had seen this before.  I then realised that it put me in mind of Mitch Epstein’s ‘Poca High School and Amos coal power plant 2004’ taken 21 years later.  Agecroft power station is one of those images that has a wonderful sense of delay.  The longer you look at it the more you see.  Discussing the image with others on the study visit was interesting as people picked up on different aspects of the image from the people in it to the way industry had shaped the landscape.

John Davies - Agecroft power station

John Davies – Agecroft power station

A large number of these images will form part of  ‘all that is solid melts into air’ Manchester Art Gallery from 11 October 2013 to 19 January 2014, Curated by Jeremy Deller.

Hiroshi Sugimoto had 2 exhibitions; Revolution and Colours of Shadow.  Revolution was in the Espace Van Gogh and was nearly all made up of B&W, night time, long exposure landscapes that were very large (94 x 47 inches) and presented on their side.  Without reading about them in advance they immediately look abstract because of their orientation.  Once you realise they are on their side it is difficult not to turn your head.  That said, a photograph for me can be as abstract as it likes, I find shape, form and colour as fascinating as a more obvious and defined subject.  In some ways I wished I’d not turned my head at all.   There is no point of reference for where the images are taken, no foreground, so they present a sense of floating in the air.  I found the images very calming and felt I could get lost in them.

Revolution

Revolution

Sugimoto’s second exhibition, Colours of Shadow was quite different.  Colours of Shadow is a series of Polaroids taken early in the morning through a prism, splitting the colours.  These Polaroids have been used by Hermes for a series of silk scarves and these were displayed along with the polaroids in the Eglise Saint-Blaise.  I was expecting prints but the scarves captured the light from both sides adding a new dimension becoming illuminated and vivid beacons against the pale yellow stone of the church walls.  The church setting was enhanced by Sugimoto’s ‘Last Supper’ which hung at one end.  The central runway created a catwalk with the scarves just out of reach.  There was an overall sense of worshipping the scarves (which retail for many thousands of pounds each).

Colours of Shadow

Colours of Shadow

Gilbert Garcin’s humorous and at times sarcastic images of life’s struggles were a well needed lift to the end of day 2; that point when you have seen enough in one go and are getting weary.  Garcin uses himself as the main character in his images resulting in a Monty Python meets Monsieur Hulot feel.  These pictures are created using mostly cut outs and models rather than Photoshop.  The images tend to stand or fall by their title.  The image below ‘Life’ see Garcin going round in circles with his cross to bear only to be buried under it.  I found myself playing guessing games trying to work out the title from the image before reading it.

Gilbert Garcin

Gilbert Garcin – Life

There were many other artists and photographs that inspired me including Guy bourdin, Antoine Gonin and Wolfgang Tillmans but I think I’ll have to follow these up in future posts.

Biospheric Project

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

I recently went to the Biospheric Project as part of the Manchester International Festival.  It was good fun and I learned a few things in the process!  The derelict mill on the banks of the river Irwell has been turned into an agricultural space; part farm, part laboratory and part research centre and has been filled with sustainable food systems.  Looking after my partners two nieces for the day we joined a number of workshops making all sorts of things.  The following gallery gives a flavor of what goes on:

I have to say making the self watering systems from old plastic bottles and cloth was inspired.  No more will the herbs in our window wither before we use them!

I’ve just had an interesting day out over at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Keys visiting the Mary McCartney exhibition with my photographer friend, Janet, and a group from the Guild of Photographers; a nice mix of people with lots of experience to share.

The exhibition is an interesting mix of celebrity portraits and images from ‘Off Pointe – A Photographic Study of The Royal Ballet After Hours’ and I must say I much preferred the latter; it’s just a personal thing as I prefer portraits of people I don’t know.  That said, I did like the celebrity portraits, especially Gwyneth Paltrow as Madonna.  It’s actually quite hard to see Gwyneth Paltrow, which is testament to the image and to the visual cues that we use to identify people.  The Royal Ballet shots were far more candid and captured intimate and personal moments of life off stage.  They were all B&W and none were posed which gives them a relaxed and ‘at ease’ feel that really came across.  This shot is one of my favorites.  It has a spontaneity that really captures a moment in time.  I also like the way it captures the dressing tables behind and how they’ve been personalised by the artists.

off pointe

Salford Quays is always a good place to take photos so whilst I was there I took a few shots of my own.  This quite dreamy shot of the Lowry is a split tone yellow/blue.

Lowry Through trees

Lowry Through trees

A bit of artistic licence in this next one……

Cat door

Cat door

…….the sign was originally on the blue wall.

There was a food festival on at the same time with some great stalls so I went home with images, sausages, cheese etc etc…….

Not your average burger van

Not your average burger van

Later on I went for a walk near home and got my favorite shot of the day.  Yep it’s a collie in a trolley.  It had to be a collie…you just can’t make this stuff up!

Collie in a trolley

Collie in a trolley

Humor

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

I do like a bit of humor in photography.  I’ve taken lots of shots in the past that capture a particular funny moment.  Digital manipulation makes it much easier to create these moments (even if they didn’t quite happen).  That said, this one is real!  I was in the Corner House in Manchester when this guy started putting up letters over the road.  He put up the H and the E and we were just wishing for an L or a P.  When the P came out (if you’ll excuse the expression) I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough.  It is said that the best camera you own is the one you have with you.  Turns out it is an Olympus XZ-1.

Help

Personally I think he could have just yelled if he needed help but it turns out he was actually putting up ‘The Place Beyond The Pines’.

I went down to London for Christmas this year and took the opportunity to visit Greenwich Park and Blackheath, an old stomping ground.  I took an old photo with me that I had taken sometime in the late 80’s (I think) with the aim of rephotographing the scene.  It shows the view from Greenwich Park over to Canary Wharf at the start of it’s development.

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I tried lining up the photo with the scene and taking a single image but depth of field and a gloomy day didn’t really allow for this.  Instead, I used the photo to position myself to capture the same scene and then placed a scan of the old photo on top of the new image using Photoshop.  I must admit that I thought the skyline would have changed more drastically than it has!  That said, the wide angle does dissipate the effect somewhat.  I’ll have to dig out some more old photos…..