Assignment 5 – Photography is simple

The Brief

‘There are two fundamentals in all picture taking – where to stand and when to release the shutter … so photography is very simple.’ (Jay & Hurn, 2001, p.37)

So photography is simply viewpoint and moment… but what about subject? The simplest subject is the moment. You can record the moment with a snapshot, but when you review the photograph later you find you didn’t actually record the moment, you just recorded the ‘event of photography’.

It might take a very long time to simplify the whole world and its infinite framings into a subject that makes sense to you. Robert Adams said, ‘Sooner or later one has to ask of all pictures what kind of life they promote’ (Grundberg, 1999, p.34). For now, though, you should just feel comfortable with your subject. It should say something about you and, in the end, you like it!

The final assignment is an open brief. Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject exploring the theme ‘Photography is Simple’. Each photograph should be a unique view; in other words, it should contain some new information, rather than repeat the information of the previous image.

Assignment notes
In your assignment notes explore how you think you’ve answered the brief. This is a chance for a little philosophical reflection. EYV student Tor Burridge:

‘I have reconsidered my stand point that fundamentally photography is simple. When I shoot for the pure enjoyment of it photography does indeed feel simple. But really it is the product of layers of knowledge – on composition, on light, the technicalities of my camera. It is also inevitably influenced by the work of others, the subtle lessons that I have unknowingly committed to memory about angles and viewpoint. So taking into consideration the effects of context, the mind-set of the viewer and also the subtleties of what influences a photographer to make an image in a particular way, I think it can be concluded that photography is simple – until it isn’t.’

Make sure you word process and spellcheck your notes as QWE (the Quality of Written English) is an important part of presentation. Include a ‘Harvard’ bibliography to reference your reading and research for this assignment. The quality of your references and how deeply you’ve responded to them is more important than the quantity.

You may like to request a video tutorial for this assignment. As well as the opportunity to discuss the development and/or resolution of the assignment work, your tutor will be able to answer any questions you may have on assessment and progression to the next unit.

Research

Michele Groskopf
‘Not to sound corny but I go on and on how much street photography has taught me about myself – more than it taught me about people, what it’s taught me about myself. What makes me tick, what I love to look at, what I’m interested in, how resilient I can be, how creative I can be. I wish that for
everybody, I wish everybody’s passion led to that kind of self knowledge and self love.’

Michele Groskopf’s Interview with Ibarionex for Candid Frame is at https://audioboom.com/ posts/4242053-tcf-ep-312-michelle-groskopf [accessed 25/01/18]

Miho Kajioka
‘It was Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami that reconnected me to photography. Two months after the disaster, while reporting in the coastal city of Kamaishi, where over 800 people died, I found roses blooming beside a blasted building. That mixture of grace and ruin made me think of a Japanese poem:

In the spring, cherry blossoms,
In the summer the cuckoo,
In autumn the moon, and in
Winter the snow, clear, cold.

Written by the Zen monk Dogen, the poem describes the fleeting, fragile beauty of the changing seasons. The roses I saw in Kamaishi bloomed simply because it was spring. That beautiful and uncomplicated statement, made by roses in the midst of ruin, impressed me, and returned me to photography.

Miho Kajioka’s series ‘as it is’ is on Lens Culture: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/mihokajioka-as-it-is [accessed 25/01/18]

Ane Hjort Guttu
‘I was in this state where everything could be art, or not… as if I was inside a zone where all things could be the result of a higher formal awareness: the roads, the chewing gum on the sidewalk, the yellow light over the city on our way home from kindergarten. Or it could not be, it didn`t matter any more. Everything became art, and in that same moment nothing’.

Morgan Quintance’s interview with the Norwegian artist Ane Hjort Guttu is on Soundcloud. Listen out for the slightly uncanny ‘bell’ at 18:52, it marks the beginning of the passage quoted above. The paradox that Guttu is referring to has been visible in art since Duchamp and examples of it appear here in the ‘Equivalents’ by Stieglitz and ‘Gas Stations’ by Ruscha. You experimented with it yourself in Exercise 1.4.

www.mixcloud.com/Resonance/studio-visit-12jun2016-ane-hjort-guttu_studio-visit/ [accessed 25/01/18]

Response

My initial thoughts for this assignment and discussions with my tutor had me thinking of landscapes. so why landscapes, simply put it is what I enjoy the most in my photograph being able to communicate the character of the landscape whether it be the hills, road, bridges and brooks and take photographs for the sheer enjoyment. There is also for me an emotion wrapped up within it, a connection, a moment where nothings else matters. It that which I want to be able to convey in my photography.

Research

The first stop for me was to look at the most famous landscape photographers, so I started with the internet to see what response I got and I was directed to a site giving me their opinion of the 10 most famous landscape photographers:

  1. Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
  2. Michael Kenna (1953-)
  3. Nadav Kandar (1961-)
  4. Sebastiao Salgado (1944-)
  5. Brett Wilson (1911-1993)
  6. Franco Fontana (1933-)
  7. Takeshi Mizukoshi (1938-)
  8. David Brookover (1954-)
  9. Galen Rowell (1940-2002)
  10. Carr Clifton (1957-)

Michael Kenna (1953 -)

Now 67 Michael Kenna originally planned to serve as a priest before becoming influenced by painting and photography in Banbury at 17. Kenna became influenced by the work of photographers such as Stieglitz, Brandt and Atget and soon turned to landscape photography as his focus. In 1977 he moved to San Francisco where he went on to be mentored under Ruth Bernhard, learning how to manipulate the tone and composition from a negative to the final print. This is something Kenna still does to this day electing to make every print himself. After seeing an interview with him, it was interesting to note that to this day he still goes back to exposure taken decades ago to try different things with them. The things I do find notable with Kennas work is that it often cited as being devoid of any people and the images are quite minimalistic. Kenna prefers working alone and I imagine this is part of his process in looking for what is around the next corner and contemplating the next exposure, something that is reflected in the calmness and solitary nature of his works.

I my opinion Kenna has found a very unique voice with his work, an end to end process where the exposure itself is only the start of the journey. I cant help but think that there is a visionary quality to his work, an ability to look beyond what is in front of him to what the finished article could be.

Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.

Quite an interesting quote, on the one hand it could be a decision to use a certain Camera, Lens, Composition, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. More importantly I considered that it could also represent each individuals position in time and space and there response to it. What something means to me regarding a particular location or photograph, may mean something completely different to someone else. The message I often wish to convey to an audience is one of appreciation of the beauty of a shot. Another element of this quote is timing, a decisive moment when the conditions are just right from my perspective to take the exposure. It can be a matter of minutes or evens seconds that determine whether an opportunity is missed to get that perfect exposure.

One shot sticks out for me as it often reminds me of the techniques I use to explore when doing wet on wet painting with oils. This image below is taken from Michael Kennas’ series Abruzzo and shows the distant hills and mountains. I like the way the layers between the hills and mountains are separated by the fine mist with the foreground being completely silhouetted. Again there is an appreciation between what the photographer saw and the post processing involved to produce the final image.

© Michael Kenna

Sebastião Salgado

As a son of a Brazilian Cattle Rancher it was hoped Salgado would go on to become a lawyer, yet instead he became an economist after completing his studies at university. Whilst on assignment in Rwanda, Salgado took his first photographs, thus changing his vocation forever. He went on to teach himself the craft and become a photojournalist. Salgado would go on to produce photographic work that would be as dramatic, emotive and awe inspiring as his own life. His work would often involve the social injustices of the world illustrating exploitation, hunger and genocide on a global scale. It is fair to say when comparing Salgado with Kenna, the two couldn’t be more different. Salgados’ dramatic portrayal of the world around us was captured in such vivid detail, it is hard to see how anyone viewing it would not be affected as much as Salgado himself.

“Photography is not objective. It is deeply subjective—my photography is consistent ideologically and ethically with the person I am.”

In looking at Salgados work, there is something very emotional about it – I feel like I’m being drawn into a beautifully sometimes disturbing pictorial piece of storytelling, like Blue Planet. His work pulls at you, draws a reaction and you are under no illusion as to the context of the image before you and that is exactly what they are meant to do. I could have chosen any number of images here, but I decided upon the one below as it is a landscape, but one that beautifully shows to full effect the simplicity of a shot with all of the drama. This one is taken from his series “Genesis”:

© Sebastião Salgado

Franco Fontana

I believe the best way to describe Franco Fontana is as the artists photographer, his body of work often leaves me wondering if they are painted. Bright bold colours and geometric patterns adorn much of his work which I find surreal yet very appealing at the same time. His work is described as abstract, shot with a 35mm camera and telephoto lenses.

“The purpose of art is to make visible the invisible”

His quote makes every bit of sense and actually adds a personal context, motivation and style to his work. From mundane subjects such as road markings, we are gifted with an adornment of lines and colour, cityscapes when zoomed in provide a layering of blocks of abstract colour and finally rolling hills and blue skies provide a canvas of shapes and colours. I am amazed and for a person who originally had no plans on becoming a photographer when he was growing up, yet into adulthood he found a passion for the craft, joined a camera club and never looked back.

© Franco Fontana

In summing up, the photographers here represent some very different approaches, each finding something unique, a voice that elegantly describes the work they undertake. The one thing

Why do I enjoy landscape photography? To put it simply, I have always enjoyed being outdoors and with landscapes it is those moments when I’m alone, just being able to sit and take it all in and let go of everything else. I am reminded that I am just one very tiny part of this wonderful planet we call home. My photography is therefor an extension of myself, my thoughts and what I am seeing at that point in time, which is extension of those influences in my life, be it growing up, literature, art, media and life. It could also be considered an extension of art in landscape paintings which is something I have dabbled with but yet to master. With photography I can wield my camera to do things, that would often take so much time to do in a studio with a paintbrush and in fact I considers these an extension of one another.

So is photography simple? In essence it is, its universal, with so many diversities from polaroid to camera phones, pinhole photography to large format cameras it has something to offer for everyone. Photography is as much accessible to the world as the written word, the only limit to it is your own imagination.

Technical and Creative Approach

Part of me says use every technical aspect of the camera, but is this what the brief is asking for? On some level you could use every technique and produce 10 photographs showing the same thing using different techniques. I imagine that kind of approach very limiting and possibly quite difficult to pull off, whilst missing the point of the brief altogether. So I am going to try and incorporate some of what I have learned and create a set of images with a linking theme of just outdoors.

So I embarked upon a series of walks covering Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay, Lady Bower Reservoir, Kirk Bramwith and Consisbrough and each location provided something with the exception of one which you can read more on here. The idea was to present a calm reflection in the final set and to that end I would be using primarily the Canon 6D with an 18-35mm and 24-70mm lens, Many of the shots are handheld with exception to the lower shutter speeds used where I employed a tripod to capture the final images. Post processing was down in lightroom with exception to the first image which was created from 3 exposures in Photomatix.

Photos and contact sheets

Whitby Harbour at Dawn
  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 1 August, 2020
  • Exposure bias: -1/3EV
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 57mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/400s
River Don, Conisbrough
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 3 August, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 47mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s
Sprotbrough Falls
  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 24 July, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 42mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 65s
Tree lined path in Conisbrough (leading to the Viaduct)
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 3 August, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 28mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/125s
Boats Crossing at Kirk Bramwith
  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 19 July, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 53mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000s

 

Barge crossing at the Don Aqueduct
  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 24 July, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250s
Time slowed at Lady Bower Reservoir
  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 26 July, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 65s
The Old Post Office – Robin Hoods Bay
  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 1 August, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/60s
Conisbrough Castle
  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 1 August, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/60s
Whitby Harbour and Abbey (Pre-Dawn)
  • Aperture: ƒ/5
  • Credit: Andy Spooner
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 1 August, 2020
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 22mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 6s

Contact Sheets

You can view my all my contact sheets for this assignment here. I have only included below the ones I pulled the final selection from.

Reflection

Its fair to say either way the subject matter of landscapes is what I enjoy most and it is something I look to improve upon from a technical and creative standpoint as my studies progress and the rest of my life. This is the final assignment from this unit, one that has been challenging in terms of the time I had left to complete the unit and achieve an August submission date. There is a concern over the number of images I take, a part of me wants to go back to basics and take up film photography and learn those skills from the ground up with perhaps a view to having a appreciation for the finite scale of resources, thus focus more on individual shots rather than this click and forget mode of digital.

Have I managed to meet the assessment criteria for this brief, yes and no. I am very happy with what I have been able to achieve in such a short space of time in terms of breaking down a final list for research, which has been both engaging and rewarding. This tied in well with the idea of landscape, yet what I have found is that the idea of landscape to me is not just about wide open spaces. I find I’m also drawn to the smaller elements that exist within this. As such this has culminated in a lot of different feelings and ideas whilst I was out photographing, not all of them panned out and  I have had to be quite disciplined in the final selection of images to create a set that offers something different in each shot. it has enabled me to worry less about the outcome by just enjoying the journey. I have an idea of what I am looking for, but I don’t pre-empt what I will find.

References

Phototraces.com, Famous Landscape Photographers and Their Photos [online]. Available at: https://www.phototraces.com/creative-photography/famous-landscape-photographers/ [Accessed 05 July 2020]

azquotes, Michael Kenna. [online]. Available at: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/939705 [Accessed 17 July 2020]

You Tube, A conversation with Michael Kenna. [online]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8bMGzj6V9Q [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Ormsdirect, David Brookover. [online]. Available at: https://blog.ormsdirect.co.za/david-brookover/ [Accessed 22 July 2020]

You Tube, Franco Fontana Photographer. [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnI52IL1Y4Q&list=PLvP-fJ6DDIRWOB9IlXy4apF18nHKK0gQF&index=12 [Accessed 22 July 2020]

Italianways, Franco Fontana. [online]. Available at: https://www.italianways.com/full-color-in-rome-interview-with-franco-fontana/ [Accessed 17 July 2020]

Huxley Parlour, Michael Kenna. [online]. Available at: https://huxleyparlour.com/artists/michael-kenna/ [Accessed 17 July 2020]

Learn Zoner, Sebastio Salgado. [online]. Available at: https://learn.zoner.com/6-ways-the-life-and-photos-of-sebastiao-salgado-will-stun-you/ [Accessed 22 July 2020]

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