While I was on holiday in Mexico last month I was standing on the balcony of our hotel suite and taking photos of the activity on the beach and the gorgeous sunset. After a while I got bored doing this and switched my camera over to do multiple exposures and played around with various scenarios for a while. The results were actually quite pleasing. After studying the images on the computer when I got home I thought this might be a good technique to use for my final assignment in this module. I was intrigued with the way the texture of the sand and the glimmers and ripples in the water affected the images and the way they interacted with the layer of human evidence or activity. Some examples are below.
I’m not sure if my idea will work on level ground, so I might have to find some locations where I can get a bit of height, or somewhere where I can shoot upwards and get the same type of message. So apart from concentrating on traces and indexicality I just have to find a suitable topic to work on.
At this stage any ideas/comments are very welcome.
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.
Martina Lindqvist’s project Neighbourswas 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.
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.
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]
Your journey may not involve travelling the world or an excursion across Russia. you might see your journey to the post office every Monday as particularly relevant – or the journey from your bed to the kitchen in the morning. Note the journeys you go on regularly and reflect upon them.
Now photograph them. Remember to aim for consistency in your pictures.
My main journeys consist of travelling to and from work – approximately 16 kilometres each way, trips to the supermarket which is part of my daily commute route. I wasn’t too keen on photographing out of the car window for one of these trips as buses and other traffic usually obscure the views, so I decided to take a walk around the block that I live on and photograph the pathways leading up to the houses. I did not include the houses that did not have foot paths leading from the sidewalk or off their driveways. For consistency I stood at the centre of the pathway on the sidewalk, but for some of the houses where there pathway curved off from the driveway I stood so that the pathway would be centre to my frame, so that all the pathways are basically centred in my frames.
Its quite an eclectic block of houses. Most of the homes were built in the mid-60’s which classifies as a heritage house in Vancouver! But some development has taken place in the ten years that we have lived in this area and large new houses are gradually taking the place of the older houses and of course pushing up our house values (not to mention the property taxes!). Houses are built with wood here in Canada so are extremely easy to knock down. One can go to work in the morning and the house on the corner will still be standing. Upon return it will be nothing but a pile of rubble.
For this exercise we are to chose a view point and write down everything we see over the period of one hour.
I decided to go to the harbourside near the Auto Mall and do my observations there. The area has lawns in front of the beach with scattered built in picnic tables along the way. It overlooks the Vancouver Harbour and DownTown and also the Mosquito Marina boatyard. Its an area where commerce, industry and recreation all converge. There are also bike trails and dog walking parks so there is quite a bit of foot traffic that passes by. I landed up writing up four pages in my notebook but could have written more as I missed somethings while writing. I was quite amazed at the amount of activity that takes place there.
There are clearly lots of mini projects that one can pull out of this observation exercise. Because of the expanse of the harbour (it takes 15 minutes to cross by seabus), I would obviously zoom in on certain objects and have done so if one looks at the final photo of the cruise ship exiting the harbour. Getting closer is not really an option, unless I was to rent a boat and actually go around the harbour, but that is not in my budget at all. I photographed using my DSLR and had no problems.
Below is a bullet point summary of what I saw.
Immediately upon arrival I noticed a boxer dog come bounding up to some people sitting at the picnic table closest to us, with his own trying to catch up to him. He led her quite a merry dance and bounded over to another group sitting on the grass also having a picnic and ended up investigating their late lunch.
People sitting at picnic tables eating lunch
Two girls carrying strange beach bats that had a net surface.
Numerous people walking their dogs. Some were couples, some families, some looked like brothers, others were same-sex friends
A couple sitting on the rocks talking
Barges at anchor loaded with sand, gravel and containers
Cruise ship docked at Canada Place
Bayliners going out of the harbour
Couples walking (numerous)
One family, husband and wife walking, while their two boys rode their bright grass green bikes. The one child had huge training/balancing wheels on his bike and by observing his actions I think he may have been autistic or handicapped.
Flags on the boats and on the boat houses
The ocean current was quite fast flowing and the water was choppy
A boy kicking his ball with his mother
Seaplane landing (numerous times)
Seaplane flying overhead
Seabus coming into Lonsdale Quay harbour. The seabus turns straight around and heads back to DownTown, so there is a crossing from both directions every 15 minutes.
A grandmother kicking a ball to her grandson
Picnic tablecloths flapping in the wind
Long shadows from people and trees
Pleasure boats crossing the harbour (numerous times)
People packing up their picnic and leaving their space under the tree
Couples walking hand in hand (I was quite pleasantly surprised to observe that over the course of the hour there were probably more 50+ year olds walking hand in hand than there were of the younger generation). This could be a potential project.
Single people walking by (too numerous to mention).
New fast ferry enters the harbour. At $80 per crossing to the island its just too expensive to go for a jaunt.
Cormorant sitting on the log circle near the boathouses
People on bicycles of all kinds – mountain bikes, road bikes, retro bikes and even a unicyle went past.
Man dressed in black sitting at picnic table with his bike – also black – propped up against the table.
Camp chair behind him.
Labrador running around on the grass, pauses to pee.
Elderly couple return to their car next to me. The gent hands her down off the pavement so thoughtfully. He is hunched over, wearing blue sweater.
Woman in brown frilly skirt with walking stick and female companion who is carrying a dog poop bag
A white motorbike parks next to me. The rider is wearing a white/black houndstooth check jacket with shiny black helmet. The rider is a young girl. She locks her bike with some difficulty and then walks onto the grass in front.
Young man with a cup of coffee walks by
Little boy explores the rocky embankment, while his grandmother stands watching him from the top.
The motorbike rider comes and sits on the pavement in front of her bike.
A mother and daughter (possibly – they looked related) walk by with their dog and a cup of coffee.
The motorbike rider removes her jacket to reveal a teal green/blue floral shirt underneath and puts it on again.
A man with a doberman with red collar and heavy chain lead walks by.
A cormorant swims in the ocean.
A woman with a retriever goes by
A man and woman on bikes fly past.
A man and woman, walk to the rocky embankment, look at the view and stroll slowly on.
Two women with a pekinese dog walk past. One is Asian, the other has red hair.
A couple and a dog sit under the palm tree.
A couple with an Alsatian dog that is soaking wet and off lead go past
Two boys and a girl carrying balls and water bottles go past.
A man on a bike with a baby trailer followed by his wife also on a bike ride past.
Man, woman and son walking two dogs – poodle and a pug.
Yellow cranes at Lonsdale Quay
White cranes for the new development next to the Quay
Man with red bottle like glasses and strange haircut strides past with a Walkman.
Seagulls fly past.
Cruise ship reverses from its mooring at Canada Place.
Man under the palm tree picks up a skateboard and starts shaking it at the girl with him. Looks like they are having an argument, throws his hands into the air. Whiffs of marijuana come from that direction.
Little boy belonging to the family that was picnicking in front of me is crying because he has stepped on a thorn. He sits down and then throws a tantrum when his mother tries to remove the thorn.
The wind has picked up some more and the swells are increasing on the water.
A rubber dinghy roars past the barge in front, turns and roars back to the boathouses.
The cruise ship has turned and is preparing to leave the harbour.
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.