A thought provokingexercise is now complete. I have always enjoyed the concept of typology but looking at it from the pespective of the landscape has given me a new insight into my own odd photographic predjudice and got me re evaluating my likes and dislikes.
Typology sees to raise its head in every module I have studied so far and you can see much of what I think about it and about practitioners like Bernd and Hilla Beecher who I have studied in detail in the blogs of my past modules. I must confess I had not associated Typology with Landscape until this point, though I don’t really understand why as the link is clear and in fact, much of the work I looked at was a landscape in one form or another.
In general, I would say I am rather keen on typology and I love to make a nine by nine panel of typological similies which I have done on several occasions in the course of my degree. As an Engineer turned artist I do like the idea or order and of sorting things into classes and types, I am a really big fan of Hans Eijkelboom’s work people of the Twenty-First Century which is an enormous collection of typologies of people.
To move into the Landscape topic I decided to take a look at the work of Robert Adams. Initially, they made me react like a slug finding the salt as they seemed to me to be of the vernacular type I loathe, but I saw a Youtube clip on the New Typologies:
In this film, he talks about Adams and points out the way his images are split in two with one part being a classic nature landscape reminiscent of the work of Ansel Adams and the other half contains buildings, mobile homes and other modern (in the 1970’s) constructions. I started to really look at Adams work and saw this contrast in many of the images he made and found myself starting to like the whole concept. what for me had originally looked like something taken straight from my Mums Kodak Instamatic now takes on a richer and deeper meaning the images have far more depth and feeling than those old family snaps.
I am finding that I started this degree with some strange photographic prejudice and that the layers of this are slowly being peeled back to reveal a deeper understanding of the subject matter, I guess I am starting to see my own ignorance for what it is/was and have begun to throw it out in favour of a more enlightened understanding. I assume this is an indicator that the course is working and I am learning something. It does make me realise that I should challenge every fixed idea I have and look beneath the surface for the real answers. This was a strangely provocative exercise, I am not certain it was designed that way but it was very effective in making me look inward and see the need for change.
I finally completed exercise 2.1 I took the images last week but it took a while to source a copy of Two-lane blacktop my chosen road movie to watch. I have now finished writing it up and the exercise can be found here: Exercise 2.2: A Road
Whether you live in an isolated village or a city centre, roads are something we all have in common. Make a short series of photographs about a road near where you live. You may choose to photograph the street you live or work on or another nearby. How you choose to approach this task is your decision, but use this exercise to develop the observational skills that will be challenged in Assignment Two. The objective is to try to think about something that is familiar to you in a different way. You don’t need to make any preparations for this exercise. Work intuitively, and try not to labour the exercise. Compile a digital contact sheet from your shoot and evaluate your work, identifying images of particular interest – to you or, potentially, to a wider audience. <BLANK SPACE>
Watch one of the films mentioned in this section or any other ‘road movie’ of your choice. Write a short review (around 500 words), focusing on how the road features within the film’s narrative. <BLANK SPACE>
Make a short series of photographs:
I chose to photograph my own road, I was born here moved away when I bought my own house and moved back when I inherited my parent’s house so there are around 53 years of memories in this place.
I took the images on a walk without much setup or fuss, I wanted to be true to the brief and shoot freely. When I got them home I chose nine of them and in an hommage, to the work I have been studying of the photographers of the mid 19th century I created an analogue effect on them:
This is the entire contact sheet:
Watch a Road Movie and write a 500 Word Critique
The movie I chose to watch is called Two Lane Blacktop and here is my critique:
Two Lane Blacktop
Two lane blacktop is one of the most iconic cult road films ever made, the film focuses on the road more than the characters who do not even have names. The story is loosely based on a race across America for “pink slips”. The film’s opening is just over 6 minutes long before anyone even speaks. Our two “heroes” are two small-town car freaks who ride around Route 66 in a souped-up, ‘55 Chevy, painted in Grey Primer, looking for like-minded petrol heads to race.
The film is centred around the race between the Chevy and a GTO, however, it focuses more on the road which is depicted in two ways, firstly the drag strip or raceway which is the destination of each trip along the road and the source of income for our “heroes” and secondly as a home and a means of connecting all of the destinations. Their world is something that is familiar because of the influence of American films like “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Easy Rider” and “American Grafitti” it is populated by the typical Americana style establishments that have slowely been creeping into our culture over the years. The road is like one of those Hollywood film sets where all the buildings are just flat boards, in that all we see are the diners, motels, gas stations and hamburger stands that live along the road and we are not taken in further to see what lays behind. The road takes on an identity of its own in this film making us beleive that it is in itself a place to live and not just a method of moving from A to B. As far as our “heros” are concerned the road is home.
The focus of the film as mentioned before is on the surface of it a race to Washington, however, this is not really true as no one competing in the race seems at all interested in winning, or indeed focused on getting to Washington at all. The real focus is on the road and the nomadic lifestyle that everyone in the movie seems to lead. In fact we never learn who won the race as we never seem to get to Washington by the end of the film which closes as the Chevy takes off on the drag strip one last time and the film closes with an image of the celluloid burning away from the middle.
We are led to hope that there will be a love interest as the two heroes pick up “the girl” somewhere near the beginning of the film but no one seems to succeed in forming a relationship with her, though her part is probably one of the things that makes the film.
Two Lane Blacktop has become a cult road film, that did not perform as well as it should at the box office probably due to its proximity to some other films like Easy Rider stealing its thunder, it is however still the go to move for every petrol head and car freak and remains a cult classic.
I finally finished the first exercise in part 2, I have to confess it took me longer than I would have liked firstly due to technical difficulties running out of toner in the laserjet so I could not read the paper properly then I had to read the article several times before it really sunk in what it was saying.
Once I sat dowanand really applied myself to the source material the meaning gave itself up to me and I was able to do the task set, which was to select two images not mentioned in the text and evaluate them with reference to the points made by Snyder in the text.
In the end it came down to the two types of Landscape Photography Snyder describes as Invitational and contra-invitational, and relates to the purpose and intention of the image, in the Invitational images created by Watkins the images are pleasing freandly and inviting and make you want to visit, where the images by O’Sullivan are hostile and surreal and are far less inviting, the former driven by a business need to encourage development of the land and the latter by a more scientific need to document the landscape.
Today the TV group held a bookmaking workshop led by the OCA Tutor Polly Harvey. It was a really fun day of bookmaking where we were taught to create 4 book styles, a simple folded board book, a sewn single signature book, a Japanese binding book and a french pleat book.
It was a very informative day which left us taking home 4 finished projects, I tried to take a few images with my phone but it was such a busy workshop I soon fell behind here are a couple of the early ones and some of the finished projects once I got home:
Having had my tutor feedback and the report I was keen to wrap up Assignment one while I was still resonating with it, and before moving on to the next part. Russell said I should not redo the work but experiment and stretch it further, I have commented elsewhere how I liked this approach and how it made me feel like I was pushing myself and developing my practice rather than redoing something I got wrong, this was a much more healthy and developmental approach for me.
The area we agreed I would explore was making a set of Diptychs again but this time exploring pairing the birdseye views and cropping and rotating and flipping to make the image work in context. I went with a square format for the crops and tried to match each one so that they resonate with each other compositionally. I initially put them on a border because I misheard Russell thinking he said the ones I did before were good (I did not like them) however, this was not the case so the final images have plain white borders. I also could not make the fourth set work together and although I love the images alone in the initial set they did not work as a Diptych, so I found two new images from the Sewerage plant visit and used them imitating a domino effect, and am much happier with the final result.
In a really quick turn around Russell booked a Hangout with me this evening and we spent a couple of hours discussing my work the degree and photography, it was a really helpful session and you can see the full feedback in the assignment section.
There were some opertunitiesto extend the work which for the first time in my degree felt like a discussion on pushing the work to further heights rather than, “I dont like that do it differently”, this felt much more educational and far more of a development of my practice than before, if I analyse it being told your work is wonderful leave it just as it as you have it, is nice but does not streach you as an artist or photographer, also being told “I really don’t think that is any good do something else” tends to dampen the enthusiasm, I felt Russell hit this ballance right on the fulcrum, he made me feel that he liked what I had done and that it was well developed, we discussed the project and he told me that he really liked the work I had done playing with Diptychs and that he felt I could push this further in an experimental way of moving the assignment beyond its current resting place.
I loved this discourse and the fact I am not fighting degree deadlines any moreand so I can take the time to push my work further. I will be experimenting with the ideas that came out of the session and looking at the Diptychs again.
To clarify what may read as an odd comment from the tutor report, Russell commented that I needed to look at colour balance in two of the images and mentioned “we discussed what caused this which is quite peculiar”.
The cause is indeed quite peculiar and is unique to the current revision of DJI go and the Phantom 4 Pro, when you take an image with the camera gimble pointing directly down there is a bug that throws out the colour balance making everything have a orang/brown colour tint. The cure is to clear the video cache and reboot the drone and controller, none of which makes much sense when compaired to a conventional camera but is “a thing” with the complex interplay between hardware and software in a sophisticated drone like a Phanto 4 Pro.
I await a software patch that will cure this, but in the mean time I have a work around for the problem, it was fairly simple to correct the slight blue tint I had added correcting the images and this was the corrected result:
Read Snyder’s essay ‘Territorial Photography’ which you’ll find on the student website (see ‘Online learning materials and student-led research’ at the start of this course guide). Summarise Snyder’s key points.
Next, find and evaluate two photographs by any of the photographers Snyder mentions, but not specific examples that he addresses in the essay. Your evaluation (up to 250 words for each) should reflect some of the points that Snyder makes, as well as any other references.
In the beginning, photography was seen as precise and mechanical, handmade images were seen as more spiritual, Snyder thinks that this may have been more of a reaction to industrialization in general than from any threat perceived by artists. Snyder in his essay describes two distinct styles of landscape photography that emerged between 1850 and 1870 in the midwest of America. These were based on two different viewpoints, that of the businessmen who wanted to make the territory more appealing to settlers which Snyder termed “Invitational” Photography (Snyder, 2002, p189) which Snyder claims is demonstrated in the work of Carlton E. Watkins (1829 – 1916). The counterpoint to this was Snyder dubbed “Contra-Invitational” was demonstrated in the works of Tim O’Sullivan, which showed the landscape as a bleak and more hostile place that was less inviting to prospective settlers.
I have chosen to contrast two pictures, one Yosemite Valley, from the Mariposa trail (1865/66) by Carlton E. Watkins with an image titled “Quarters of men in Fort Sedgwick, known as Fort Hell” (1865) by Tim O’Sullivan.
Yosemite Valley, from the Mariposa trail (1865/66) by Carlton E. Watkins
This first image by Carleton Watkins shows a beautiful Valley looking into Yosemite Valley, it depicts a lush green and pleasant land with plenty of water exemplified by the presence of Bridal Fall on the right third of the picture. This image conforms to all the conventions of classic Landscape Photography which, the work of Watkins had a big hand in defining. It is tempting to liken it to the work of Ansel Adams but in truth, it is the other way around as Watkins was one of the inspirations for Adams work. The overt purpose of this picture was as a geological survey but as the article connected to this picture points out it is far more than that, Watkins must have gone to great lengths to compose this image and achieve something inviting and pleasing which would inevitably encourage people to visit. In this scene the foreground is dominated by the large round boulders, he as created a beautiful recession with distinct layers as we move into the image along the valley, captured in the distance are the famous icons of the Half Dome and El Capitan, all placed expertly in the frame giving credence to the idea of very careful composition. Snyder claims that Watkins created these images without realising he was conforming to the rules of Landscape painting and that his fans either did not see this or did not want to, preferring to subscribe to the mechanical view of photography.
Quarters of Men In Fort Sedgwick, Known as Fort Hell (1865) by Tim O’Sullivan
As can be seen from this image O’Sullivan depicts a more hostile environment, this composition is of Fort Sedgwick which was known as Fort Hell, the image depicts some very rough living quarters and is surrounded by fortifications and staked fencing. The living conditions look hard and rough, it feels like a desert and there is not much evidence of water the only obvious vegetation is a tree which looks in a very sorry state further reinforcing the idea that this is a tough dry place to live built of logs mud and skins, the entire fort looks like a shanty town built from whatever could be found at the time. O’Sullivan’s work was conducted during the first expeditions made without military control and was done under the scientific premise of documenting and surveying, it was not fueled by the need to sell the garden of Eden ideal to the viewer. Oddly although O’Sullivan was done by a scientific brief the chiefs did not think the images would be good enough for the survey and so they took an army of draughtsmen as well. Osullavans images were used to illustrate the reports written about the territory.
By contrast, this image would not likely encourage people to visit the area, unlike the previous image that was driven by the business ideologies behind it to expand and develop the resources in the area. Snyder comments that Ansel Adams found some of O’Sullivan’s images and described them as “technically deficient, even by the standards of the time, but nonetheless, surrealistic and disturbing” (Snyder, 2002, p192) which led to O’Sullivan being entered into the modernist history of photography where he has remained ever since.