‘Photography is now over’ – Wim Wenders

It was a bit startling to read this when 1/3 of the way through a photography degree, especially coming from Wim Wenders, my favourite film director and a keen photographer himself!

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/12/wim-wenders-interview-polaroids-instant-stories-photographers-gallery?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Wenders, who created Paris, Texas and Until the end of the world, makes the argument that “It’s not just the meaning of the image that has changed – the act of looking does not have the same meaning. Now, it’s about showing, sending and maybe remembering. It is no longer essentially about the image”.

I would take the view that photography has always changed perceptions about how we see, and always will. Neipce, Fox Talbot and Daguerre opened the door for people to see themselves perhaps for the first time unadulterated by a painter’s vision. Sontag argued in the 70’s that Photography was undermining our sense of empathy through constantly seeing war images.

The ‘selfie generation’ is driving one such paradigm shift in ‘seeing’ right now. I believe that to be Wenders’ key point when he talks about ‘Now it’s about showing, telling and maybe remembering’ instead of having “produced something that was, in itself, a singular moment. As such, it had a certain sacredness. That whole notion is gone.”

Firstly, outside of the ‘selfie culture’ i’m not sure that I agree with him.  There is a thriving commiunity of contemporary photographic artists as well as installation artists using the medium as a tool for displaying their work.

Looking at the selfie culture itself, he has a point.  But Pictorialism, abstract and other movements may come and go as Wenders laments, but the fundamentals of photography are unchanged as it evolves as an art form. i.e. it is for the photographer to derive meaning from what he sees before him and communicate that meaning through an image.

I do agree that an intended meaning of “Look! Me at the Eiffel Tower doing a duck face” on a selfie isn’t very stimulating to most people.

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Catcalling: Photography and society

This post, while not specifically related to the course content, felt worthy of saving and reflection.

Noa Jansma from Amsterdam was fed up of receiving unwelcome catcalls as she walked down the street. So she started publishing selfies of herself including the person who had done the catcalling.  The image title was the words they had said to her.

https://www.boredpanda.com/catcalling-selfies-project-dearcatcallers/?utm_content=inf_10_2558_2&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=socialedge&tse_id=INF_5ad22750aaa411e7952ec9abf6008d70

This shows how photography can be a helpful tool in reconciling and healing.  Also, it can become a powerful, unforgiving mirror held up to society, showing it what it really looks like.  The words seem colder and more sinister in print, accompanied by a picture of the person that said thrm.  There are some similarites here to ‘Take care of yourself’ by Sophie Calle who ‘turns things that annoy or hurt her into a game’.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jun/16/artnews.art?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Exercise 5.3

For this exercise I decided to photograph the journey of my local bus service, called the ‘Amberline’.  It takes a 6.5 mile route between my local pub in a sleepy village and Derby City Centre.  I decided to walk the route, taking a photograph at each and every bus stop along the way.

I selected a 43mm f1.9 prime lens on a full frame body.  This allowed me to travel light and keep to a single focal length for consistency.  The 43mm lens was chosen as it provides a very natural field of view.

The time of year fitted the ‘amber’ theme very well and so I sought to include as many autumn leaves as possible in the shots.  I also toned the images with a warm effect, heightening the autumnal tones / amber theme further and looking like a 1980’s ‘Instamatic’ camera style.  I took time to explore each bus stop looking for interesting facets – some are bent, some shelters have interesting community notices pinned inside them, giant Remembrance Day poppies and laylandii conifers squeezing against the glass in their quest to grow.

The initial image contained an image of a but for context along with the single word ‘Amberline’ as a title in the same font as the bus itself.  Images titles were all taken from the timetable, quoting the minutes past the hour that the bus arrives (it is an hourly service).  The last image shows the gps points for the images plotted on a map.

Starting out in the centre of the city, the route takes us past urban parks and Derby’s industrial centre – Smith’s clocks being world famous at one time.  It is interesting to note the transition into rural countryside before the traces of people begin again in the outlying villages.  But stops now seem less frequent and linked to pubs, churches and doctors’ surgeries, indicating the changing role of the bus service from leisure time, urban work transport, recreation and finally as a rural lifeline for outlying communities.

1_Corporation St 35 mins past the hour

35 mins past the hour


2_St Pauls Church 36 mins past the hour

36 mins past the hour


3_Chester Park 38 mins past the hour

38 mins past the hour


4_Alfreton Rd 38 mins past the hour

38 mins past the hour


5_Haslams Lane 39 mins past the hour

39 mins past the hour


6_Pektron 42 mins past the hour

42 mins past the hour


7_Croft Lane 44 mins past the hour

44 mins past the hour


8_A38 Island 45 mins past the hour

45 mins past the hour


9_Derby Garden Centre 45 mins past the hour

45 mins past the hour


10_Duffield Road 46 mins past the hour

46 mins past the hour


11_Queens Head 47 mins past the hour

47 mins past the hour


12_Morley Lane 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


13_Alfreton Road Windy Lane 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


14_Bottle Brook 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


15_Westley Crescent 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


16_The Chase (opposite) 49 mins past the hour

49 mins past the hour


17_Armoury Cottage 49 mins past the hour

49 mins past the hour


18_Fox and Hounds 50 mins past the hour

50 mins past the hour


19_Fox and Hounds (opposite) 50 mins past the hour

50 mins past the hour


20_Sunnymeade 51 mins past the hour

51 mins past the hour


21_Coxbench Keepers Cottage 52 mins past the hour

52 mins past the hour


22_Sandy Lane 52 mins past the hour

52 mins past the hour


23_Smalley Mill Road 53 mins past the hour

53 mins past the hour


24_Church St Coach and Horses 53 mins past the hour

53 mins past the hour


25_Horsley Churches (Opposite) 54 mins past the hour

54 mins past the hour


26_Horsley Churches 54 mins past the hour

54 mins past the hour


27_Horsley Road 90 55 mins past the hour

56 mins past the hour


28_Woodhouse Road 56 mins past the hour

56 mins past the hour


29_Hunters Arms 57 mins past the hour

57 mins past the hour


30_Highfield Road 58 mins past the hour

58 mins past the hour


31_Alfred Road 58 mins past the hour

58 mins past the hour


32_Meadow Court 59 mins past the hour

59 mins past the hour


33_Windmill Avenue on the hour

on the hour


34_Arthur Medical Centre 1 min past the hour

1 min past there hour


35_Old Oak Inn 2 mins past the hour

2 mins past the hour


36_Amberline route

route map


Final thought: it was quite easy to feel rather silly and self conscious taking photos of bus stops! But once I’d decided on a clear idea it was easier to be ‘on a mission’ and focus on the job at hand.  Something to think about the next time I feel awkward photographing strangers.

Exercise 5.2

This exercise introduces the idea of noting down everything that is visible from a fixed position, similar to Georges Perec’s “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris” (1975) then make observations about it.

I selected a café in my nearest city of Derby, on the basis that there would be lots going on:

Key things I noted from the exercise:

  • There is so much more going on than we realise.  As a photographer, the lesson is to LOOK HARDER!
  • Even after an some time I was noticing new things that had been there all along.  I finished the exercise when I seemed to run out of new things to see (over an hour later)
  • Seemingly obvious things are not readily apparent.  For example, I noticed all sorts of details yet I had written several pages in my notebook before I realised there was a huge Primark store directly opposite.  Distractions can give a distorted view of reality.  Had I taken a photograph of the exact same scene then looked at it, I expect that I would have noticed the Primark store sooner.

Some specific considerations posed by the exercise text:

  • Can you transform this into a photography version? Yes, there woulds be various approaches.  One might be to photograph details in the order I noticed them, perhaps using a telephoto lens to be selective.  The final image could be the ‘complete picture’.
  • Would you stay in the same place or get in close to the things you listed?  Get in close, although the earlier idea of using a long lens would serve a similar purpose.
  • Would you choose to use your camera phone in order to be discreet or would you get your tripod out? I attracted some attention during this exercise as it was.  With any sort of camera I expect it would be more so, potentially also including the proprietor of the venue asking what I was doing and asking me to leave.  I think a stealthy approach would therefore be essential.
  • Would it be better in black and white or colour?  I think black and white would work better where the items of note were more likely to be the expressions of passers by, texture, patterns and other abstract shapes.  Monochrome is a good medium for separating these elements out.  But Colour feels more appropriate given that the goal is to present my view and then allow the viewer to contrast this with their view, unadultrated.
  • Would you include your list with the final images?  For the project identified above it would not be necessary.  The viewer would see the full picture – perhaps with a 360 degree camera, panoramic shot or wide lens – and make their own conclusions about whether their assessment of what is noteworthy differs to mine.

After performing the exercise I ready a copy of Perec’s book to compare.  Where I worked outwards, starting with my immediate surroundings then gradually extending my view let or right, Perec seems to group things too: colours, trajectories.  He performs the observation over three days, marked as separate chapters in the book.  Otherwise the approach is very similar.

I’m curious to seesaw this would work as a project so have added it to my ‘future projects’ list to come back to at a later date.  In some ways I’m also reminded of the 1980’s quiz show ‘Catchphrase’, where a common saying or idiom is revealed in small chunks.

Martin Kollar – This Place

This caught my eye, so saving to my blog for reference.

Kollar’s This Place is an example of work that contains few people but says a lot about how and where they live.

Set in Israel, Images of people-less settlements eerily suggest clean, modern living while at the same time suggest isolation, abandonment and lonliness.  There are signs of life everywhere – building, shops, children making ramps out of junk to play on -but noone to be seen.  Their abence makes you womder whether an air raid alarm has sounded? People fled in fear? Disputed settlements in the West Bank or Gaza Strip? The tension in the lives of these people is clear without them being, in the main, visible.

http://www.this-place.org/photographers/martin-kollar/

Mindful photography

Part 5 develops a theme that I started to explore in Assignment 4, that of the concept of mindfullness in photography:

Whatever it is, begin to notice how where you are influences you”

And

in the moment is where good photographs are often found”.

Harding Pitman clearly identified with what was happening in the would around him, the sprawl of LA Style urban paraphanalia acrcross the world making places less uniquem characterful and more ‘western normalised’ over time.  https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-harding-pittman-anonymization-the-global-proliferation-of-urban-sprawl

I’m realising that successful photography must be woven into the very life we lead, not just to be a passive, detached activity like Sontag warns of in Plato’s Cave, to “help people to take possession of a space in which they are insecure” (Sontag, 1977. P.9) speaking of tourists that use the camera to pry into the cultures of others while being safely protected from it by the lens they peer through.

Instead, photography with personal meaning is dependent upon living mindfully, fully in the present, so that we are receptive to:

  • What is happening around us right now and;
  • How we feel about it.
The photograph is a combination of these two things – the awareness and the personal artistic response.
 
As we consider this concept more fully, is becomes harder to separate out many of the basic tenets of, say, Eastern Buddhism from practicing any art.  Perhaps that is why religion has inspired so much art through the ages: Tibetan Thankga Paintings and Mandalas, Christian frescoes, Greek statues of deities and American totem poles amongst them.  They are artistic responses to a spiritual belief, rooted in, and inspired by, a connectedness to the world around thrm.
 
This opens the door to the practice and study of photography being part of a personal spiritual journey and not merely an academic pursuit, developing a deeper awareness of the world around us and our place within it.