Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Dewald Botha

OCA alumnus photographer, Dewald Botha’s Please Sit body of work is “an exploration on the social context of abandoned sofas and chairs, mostly in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China” (Botha online).

In contrast to Andrew Ward’s work where I found a thread of sadness running through his work, I find the opposite in Botha’s series. For the most part the abandoned chairs and sofas in Dewald Botha’s series have been repurposed. They seem to have a clear role to play in watching the world go by. They are positioned strategically on the side walks, outside shops and verandas in a very communal way.

From ‘Please sit’ series by Dewald Botha (2014). Image reproduced with kind permission of the artist.

With the exception of a few images where the sofas are literally on the rubbish heap (perhaps waiting to be rediscovered as some of them are in quite good shape) the majority of the items seem to have found a secondary purpose, even if it is as a bicycle stand or clotheshorse! Some of the chairs featured rather make me think of the scruffy wing-back chair that is used at the Street Cars dispatch office in Coronation Street – down and out, scruffy but still loved enough to be used outside to watch the world go by.

A strong sense of involvement and neighbourliness runs through the series and is evident and locked in in the final two images of the blurb book – the heap of sofas juxtaposed with a claimed sofa being carried away on a rickshaw bicycle, representing hope.

Reference List

Botha, Dewald (2014) Please Sit [online] Blurb Books. Available at: http://www.blurb.com/books/5578908-please-sit  [Accessed 27 August, 2017]

Botha, Dewald (n.d.) Please Sit [online] Dewald. Available at: http://www.dewaldbotha.net/please-sit.html [Accessed 27 August, 2017]

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Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward,  is an L.A. based photographer who performs a public service to the community (although this isn’t the main thrust of his photography). He photographs abandoned sofas in Los Angeles. Originally from Dublin, he relocated to L.A. to work in Hollywood as an assistant director.

Upon finding an abandoned sofa, he pushes and shoves it into a better position, photographs it, returns it to its original position and then reports the  sofa’s location to the city for pickup via a smartphone app. The photographed furniture pieces provide a bit of a visual history of the areas that he drives around in.

The Sofas of L.A. by Andrew Ward

“Although they’re inanimate objects, there’s a certain amount of humanity to each one”.

Andrew Ward

Ward tries to photograph on overcast days in order to get good colour satuation and tones from the old furniture. It seems that he either moves the sofa right up to the curb and photographs from the middle of the street or right up against the wall – I’m guessing the sofas photographed backing the walls were taken in alleys or parking lots. The project is a typology. Some of the photographs are presented in a grid format on his website which makes for interesting viewing as these images give hints as to the surroundings where hedges and fences provide a clear delineation that seems to emphasize the exclusion of the abandoned sofa. There is something rather sad about this. We catch glimpses of the house or property behind the sofas and wonder about the identity of the owners. There is less of an identity attached to the sofas that are positioned up against the wall, but maybe more mystery. It feels as if they have been kidnapped and crudely discarded in some alley far away from their “home”. There is just something very jarring about seeing a very ornate, obviously once expensive French settee standing in an alley. To me these sofas feel more abandoned than the ones on the sidewalk.

The Sofas of L.A. by Andrew Ward

These pieces of furniture that once enjoyed a private life behind closed doors, and could probably have countless stories to tell if they could, are now relegated to the public eye to be scrutinized, ridiculed, picked over or abhored.

Reference List

Brunhuber, Kim (2015) L.A. photographer finds beauty in abandoned couches [online] CBC News. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/l-a-photographer-finds-beauty-in-abandoned-couches-1.3127823 [Accessed 24 August, 2017]

Ward, Andrew (n.d.) The Sofas of LA [online] Andrew Ward Photography. Available at: http://andrewward.com/#sofas-of-l-a [Accessed 24 August, 2017]

A Matter of cleaning up: treating history in the work of Allan Sekula and Jeff Wall

I came across this journal article purely by chance and as it relates to image and text I made a few brief notes.

By comparing the works of Allan Sekula and Jeff Wall, van Gelder considers two photographic artistic methodologies. She also looks at the different ways that Sekula and Wall treat the relationship between the photograph and its caption(s); diverging attitudes towards the pictorial aspects of photography; the interaction between their essays and images – which differs widely.

‘there is a larger montage principle at work than that internal to any single work, or even book. Any retrospective look allows for that larger montage to emerge’.

Allan Sekula

Sekula’s preferred method of working is to encourage the viewer to consider his entire project in totality, with ‘cross-references and meaningful links to invisible but recoverable images’.  Sekula is sceptical of the legibility of the individual image and so prefers to present his work as a combination of text and images.

Build a sequence based on another picture that is not part of the sequence.

Allan Sekula (artist statement)

Photographs that were not part of an exhibition/presentation, but which were part of the original concept often contributed to the conceptual framework he was working with. The absent photos are part of his visual thought pattern. Sekula works with diptychs and triptychs, double and triple motifs that change the content of the images slightly. So the captioning of his images is quite important in providing clues to the relationship of the images. His captioning is quite cryptic, subtly concealed, often providing links to other images or even essays, not working on a one-to-one relationship with the image they are paired with. (This might be why I found the one exhibition of his work I attended a few years ago quite confusing – wish I had know about this at that time).

Both artists are art critics in their own right as well, but the way they present their work is again entirely different. Sekula does not delineate his critical texts from his images in his presentational methods – both are always intermingled. Wall, on the other hand, does not exhibit his photographs together with his essays. His essays are published in exhibition catalogues or art magazines. His way of working confirms the division of labour between the artist and the critic. He is an artist/critic. Wall fixes the meaning of his photographs with his use of text, while Sekula tries to get rid of the discursive schism between the critical essay and the images.

‘[A]s soon as you create a relay between a text and an image, you undermine any purist claims for either text or image. Neither element is foundational. The image is no longer the truth upon which the text is a commentary or subjective gloss, nor is the text a pinning down of a truth that is otherwise elusive in the image’.

Allan Sekula

For Sekula ‘an image is always part of the larger montage that is made up by the non-totalitarian totality-to employ a Deleuzian term-of his photographic archive’ (more on Deleuze here). Sekula’s texts help to contextualise and further the work and offer the viewer an insight to the photographer’s point of view. His texts and photographs are so interwoven that it is difficult to discern where Sekula the artist or Sekula the critic begins and ends.

van Gelder then compares of a few of Wall’s photographs with those of Sekula’s and goes into a little more of the specifics of the points mentioned above.

Reference List

van Gelder, H. (2007) A matter of cleaning up: Treating history in the work of Allan Sekula and Jeff Wall, History of Photography, 31:1, 68-80, DOI:10.1080/03087298.2007.10443503. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03087298.2007.10443503 [Accessed 14 August, 2017]

Julia Nathanson and Mariko Hino

Just before I went on vacation, while I was doing the Research Point 2 exercise for part 5 of the course, I looked briefly at two photographers who photographed alleys and mentioned that I would do a proper write up on them once I returned.

Julia Nathanson is a Canadian photographer from Toronto. She attended New York Film Academy and has won numerous awards for her mobile photography, been published in Hipstography, The App Whisperer, and National Geographic and has won numerous awards including Hipstography’s Street Series of the Year in 2014 and 2015, and the Mobile Photo Grand Prize at PhotoIndependent in 2016.

Her series In the Lane features brightly saturated images of scenarios in the alleys of Toronto and various found ephemera she comes across. What stands out for me is the work is all about colour – blues and oranges/orange and green/red, blue and green/bright reds and blues … I don’t actually have a cell phone but I can see that some filters have been applied to some of her images, which enhance the colours.

I find her work playful, almost like a child’s colouring in book and it just makes me feel rather happy, even if one is viewing rather dingy items.

From In the Lane series by Julia Nathanson

In contrast, Mariko Hino’s work Restore, also featured on LensCulture, is more serious, inviting contemplation. While zooming in and focusing more on the details found in the alleys, her overall colour palette is more subdued and the images more ambiguous. Hino is from Tokyo and received the Ryo Owada Award for her work in the ‘Heart Art Communication Best Artist Exhibition’ held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.

Restore – 9 by Mariko Hino

It is so interesting to see that similar subject matter can be tackled basically from the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Reference List

Hino, Mariko (n.d.) Mariko Hino [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/mariko-hino [Accessed 9 August, 2017]

Nathanson, Julia (n.d.) In the Lane [online] Julian Nathanson Photography. Available at: http://www.julianathanson.com/in-the-lane/ [Accessed 9 August, 2017]

Indexicality and the Depiction of Time

I came across a rather interesting paper on indexicality entitled Indexicality and the Depiction of Time on the Radicality of Vanishing Zone by Liat Lavi. The paper specifically addresses works by Roi Kuper, namely Vanishing Zones and Atlantis. I have made some brief notes on the paper and I’m hoping some of these ideas will feed into my assignment.

  • Indexicality refers to the direct relation that a photograph has to reality. A photographic image is a physical trace of the world it depicts.
  • Photography is also symbolic – builds on interpretation. Is usually hyper-iconic – bears an extreme resemblance to the object it represents.
  • Iconic nature of a photograph is not separate from the indexical nature. There is a relationship between the indexicality and the iconic nature of the photo (strong-indexicality).
  • Examples of strong-indexicality – myth of Butades’ daughter – traces the contour of her lover’s face on the wall as he prepares to leave for battle; Saint Veronica who wiped off the blood and sweat off Christ’s face with her veil as was left with an imprint of his face on the veil.
  • The manner in which these myths combine icon and index together serve two purposes: (1) to bridge the divide between the real and the  representation, and (2) to overcome time and defy death.
  • Although straight photography conveys a sense of timelessness, every photography that is produced measures some element of time, as there is no zero exposure time.
  • “Straight-photography … functions out of time by capturing a durationless moment, by reducing the present to a temporal vanishing point” (Lavi). Apart from fixing reality in time, photography also toys with the idea that a “temporal presence could be given eternal form(Lavi).
  • There are two very different ways of dealing with time:
    • time as a succession of momentary, durationless states
      (presentism – only the present moment exists)
    • time as eternal and fixed (4 dimensional – time in all its entirety already exists)
  • Change is illusive and difficult to capture
  • “When photography is abstract, it is primarily judged through this abstraction and regarded as a reaction to the all-pervasive strong-indexicality that is photography’s (‘true’) nature” (Lavi).
  • Photography is either indexical (natural, realistic and in sharp focus) or anti-indexical (vague, blurred or manipulated in any form)
  • This dichotomy affects how time is perceived in a photograph. An indexical photograph “captures a durationless moment and transposes it out of time by giving it eternal form” (Lavi). The anti-indexical image seems to operate outside of time.
  • How can change be captured? Long exposure provide one solution, but run the risk of erasing any moving object in the frame. Only stationery objects can be captured. I would argue that capturing the blurred smear of people or moving objects might constitute change as the traces of their various positions of their journey might be visible so long as the exposure is not too long.
  • Another way of capturing change is re-photography. Examples of such projects are David Taylor’s Working the Line; Zane Williams’ Double Take and Mark Klett’s After the Ruins. Re-photography is using found photos or stock images taken quite a long time ago and then rephotographing the same location from the same view point and presenting them side by side. When differences are very slight the viewer has to work harder to discern the change in time.
  • Lavi concludes his paper by stating that “photography seems unable to capture time as change” (Lavi). He cites two works by Roi Kuper to support this: Vanishing Zones and Atlantis. Both bodies of work are about the passage of time. From the artist’s statement for Atlantis:

The rays of the sun breaking on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, spread before the eyes of the viewer, erase a stretch of water, hide but also indicate an enveloping place that repeats 23 times while only the sparkles on the water vary.

Roi Kuper (Atlantis)

Atlantis project by Roi Kuper
  • Vanishing Zones is an entirely different project. Kuper made these images by printing the images, then separated the paper layers and saved the emulsion, then he contact printed it to create a new negative and reprinted that, repeating the process. He also scrunched up the prints and re-flattened them out or buried them in the garden for weeks, dug them up, washed them in water and rephotographed again, until parts of the original image were erased and eventually crumbled entirely.
  • The images in Vanishing Zones “capture a ‘chunk of time’; they transmute the photograph into an organic entity, giving form to the wrinkled and scarred body of the photograph” (Lavi).
  • Time operates on memory, sometimes distorting or hiding our memories.
Reference List

Lavi, Liat (n.d.) Indexicality and the Depiction of time on the Radicality of Vanishing Zone [online] Available at: http://www.roikuper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/vanishing_zones_liat_eng-libre-1.pdf [Accessed 28 July, 2017]

Bibliography
Mikulinsky, Romi (n.d.) “And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past”? On Roi Kuper’s “Vanishing Zones” [online] Available at: http://www.roikuper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/vanishing-zones-Romi-Mikulinsky.pdf [Accessed 29 July, 2017]

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What does photographer Pedro Meyer think?

At this stage of the course where I can see the finishing line looming up ahead, it was very inspiring and thought provoking to view this video where Pedro Meyer gives his thoughts on photography.

He comments on the concept of modern art and the idea of inspiration. Meyer urges the viewer to forget about being a photographer, but instead concentrate on becoming a story teller. This is when the magic begins to happen. Its well worth putting aside the fifteen minutes to watch this video, especially if one is feeling a little down and demotivated. There is no way that I can so eloquently put his ideas across in writing so I’ll let him speak for himself.

Reference List

Forbes, Ted. What does photographer Pedro Meyer think? [vidcast, online] The Art of Photography 19/7/2017. 15 min 49 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Be1dfn8Chl8&feature=em-subs_digest (accessed 24/07/2017)

Martina Lindqvist

Martina Lindqvist’s project Neighbours was made on a visit back to her village in Finland. Her project reflects the remoteness of this rural population and these abandoned simple structures reflect this. The series features “dilapidated houses shot in plain, snowy environments that metaphorically speak to her sense of isolation and disconnect” (Slate). There is a surreal element to her images, that slowly penetrates one’s subconsciousness when viewing the work. She has digitally removed all traces of vegetation and other details around the houses. It is almost as if she has turned these houses into still life images. Indeed they appear so. She has digitally created a uniform grey sky as backdrop for each image with white snow in the foreground. The composition is very centrally placed with the houses all in the centre of the frame and the horizon line cutting across the centre as well. Melancholia and nostalgia just ooze from her photos.

Untitled 04 (Neighbours), Colour Photograph, 2013 by Martina Lindqvist
Reference List

Lindqvist, Martina (n.d.) Neighbours [online]. Martina Lindqvist. Available at: http://www.martinalindqvist.com/neighbours01.html [Accessed 24 July, 2017]

Rosenberg, D. (n.d.) How These Snowy, Dilapidated Houses Helped a Photographer Connect to Her Finnish Roots [online] Slate.com. Available at: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/11/09/martina_lindqvist_neighbours_is_a_series_that_metaphorically_speaks_to_the.html [Accessed 24 July, 2017]

Wilkes, R. (2014) Martina Lindqvist shows the devastating effect of urban migration on rural Finland… [online] We-heart.com. Available at: https://www.we-heart.com/2014/10/07/martina-lindqvist-photographers-gallery-london/ [Accessed 24 July, 2017]

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