Category Archives: Photographers

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]

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]

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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David Spero

David Spero has done quite an extensive project called Settlements which is a window on the world of low impact ecological homes in Britain. A low impact development is a development that ‘through its low negative environmental impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality’ (Guardian). All these low impact developments in the series are involved in permaculture which is an holistic approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems. Permaculture tends towards maximizing diversity and replicating natural systems, encouraging biodiversity and soil health and moves towards a system where human beings are a complementary part of the landscape.

I found David’s talk quite interesting, although it was directed more towards an audience of architects than photographers. I was rather intrigued to learn that these settlers used the terminology of “roundhouse” and “longhouse” which, of course, are also part of Canadian First Nations culture and it was interesting to compare the similarities of the structures, the First Nations structures being much larger though as they are used for communal gatherings as can be seen on the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre’s website.

Spero first started off photographing the people’s homes from a mid-range distance but gradually he started taking communal portraits of the settlers and photographing the insides of the dwellings. For settlements that are off-the-grid, these houses are really quite sophisticated in design and space usage.

Reference List

Siegle, L. (2005) If you go down to the woods today [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2005/nov/27/observermagazine.ethicalliving [Accessed 24 July, 2017]

Spero, David (n.d.) Settlements [online] Available at; http://www.davidspero.co.uk/settlements/#ts-533 [Accessed 23 July, 2017]

The Photographer’s Gallery (2015) David Spero – Structures and Environment: Two Photographic Projects [vidcast, online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAuRgmtBG2M 56 min 32 sec [Accessed 23 July, 2017]

Paul Gaffney

Paul Gaffney’s We Make the path by Walking is a body of work that he made while walking approximately three and a half thousand kilometres over the space of one year. He was interested in the idea of long distance walking as a form of meditation and immersion in the passing landscape.

His photos do have a contemplative feel to them and one does get the sense that one is accompanying the photographer on his journey. The book can be seen here: http://www.paulgaffneyphotography.com/We-Make-the-Path-by-Walking. The actual book is presented in a beautiful wooden container, together with a individual print signed by Gaffney.

The first photo in the book sets the scene with an image of a pathway leading off a road – the start of the journey. The pathway is the visible thread that links all the images, the metaphor for the journey. All the photos in the book convey a sense of languid tranquility, of time standing still. The images are all in colour with the exception of two black and white photos towards the middle of the book. These two images struck a discord within me and one has to wonder why they weren’t rendered in colour. They just seem out of place.

The Western approach to landscape typically has been very much tied up in thinking from around the Enlightenment era, the sense of distance and separation. In comparison, around the same time, the Eastern approach was more about trying to get across the essence of space, rather than a straight representation of a place, or a particular point of view. I was particularly interested in reading about the way that Chinese landscape painters in ancient times would see themselves as more of a conduit through which the universe expresses itself.

Paul Gaffney, American Suburbx (2016)

Reference List

Gaffney, P. (n.d.) We Make the Path by Walking [online] Paul Gaffney Photography.com. Available at: http://www.paulgaffneyphotography.com/We-Make-the-Path-by-Walking [Accessed 23 June, 2017]

Shinkle, E. (2016) An Interview with Paul Gaffney [online] American Suburbx. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2016/04/an-interview-with-paul-gaffney.html [Accessed 23 June, 2017]

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Alec Soth

Looking at Alec Soth’s project Sleeping by the Mississippi, I can clearly see influences of William Eggleston in Soth’s work – the blood red decorated bar with the single occupant dressed in a lilac coloured fleece; a book resting on a window sill between two gauzy green curtains. But the strength of his work lies in the narrative he weaves from one photograph to the next. The work is about his journeys along the Mississippi river – not so much about the actual river per se, but more so about a reflection of his  wanderlust experiences and the people he encounters.

Like Shore’s Uncommon Places, Soth’s work is also about colour. His palette is more muted than that Shore’s (interspersed with some vivid, striking images to shake the viewer up) and in my mind creates a better coherence in the series. I was particularly taken with his landscape photos.

Peter’s Houseboat, Winona, Minnesota 2002 by Alec Soth

Some notes I made after reading his interview with Seesaw magazine follow:

  • Joel Sternfeld was his mentor.
  • Soth regards the process of wandering around making photos as a performance.
  • His work is more lyrical than documentary.
  • He feels photography is not good at telling stories.
  • He prefers that his work be regarded as a unified whole instead of separate images.
  • Sequencing images is incredibly difficulty but for him the “art is in the collection and interplay of images”.
  • The Mississippi river is a metaphor for wandering.
  • His images reflect his own “river”. He chose not to include condo developments and skyscrapers in his series.
  • He tries to follow Robert Frank’s model for finding and sequencing images by using mood and motifs. Motifs provide a thread through the work without being overused.

A video of the book can be seen on this link.

Reference List

PhotoBookStore (2012). Sleeping by the Mississippihttps://vimeo.com/44662076 [online] Available at:  [Accessed 22 June, 2017]

Schuman, A (2004). The Mississippi – An interview with Alec Soth [online]. SeeSaw Magazine. http://seesawmagazine.com/soth_pages/soth_interview.html [Accessed 22 June, 2017]

Soth, Alec. Sleeping by the Mississippihttp://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14 [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 June 2017]

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