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]

Assignment 5 Planning – Update

So I’ve spent the last two weekends trying my poor husband’s patience (he was my driver on this project so I could quickly hop out of the car and take my photos and not worry about parking/blocking traffic and so on). We covered the middle – higher income neighbourhoods where I live (North Vancouver city & district), the lower income neighbourhoods on the other side of the harbour (Vancouver Eastside) and the high income neighbourhoods of West Vancouver.  Now while I do refer to the low-middle-high income neighbourhoods, the reality of the housing market in Vancouver, Canada is that there is no cheap, affordable area to live in, unless one ventures out into the rural areas. The average house price in my neighbourhood (North Vancouver) is CAD $1.8 million, while the average house price in (West Vancouver) is CAD $2.7 million and the overall median house price throughout the Greater Vancouver district (all the municipalities) is just a little over CAD $1.0 million.

After scouring the alleys and streets of West Vancouver the last two weekends I was so disappointed to come across absolutely no furniture or other items in the alleys. I guess the by-laws in that municipality are extremely strict, or else the rich people pay to have their throw-away furniture removed for them.

The most common item that is thrown out is chairs (by that I am including sofas as well), followed by appliances. That being said, I’ve gone through my images and come up with two scenarios that I can present: 1) chairs/seating in any condition or 2) items that could still be useful with a repair or slight makeover (based on my quick inspection when I photographed the items). So I’m putting this out to my peers to see which theme chimes best with them – chairs or usefulness?

Chairs #1
Chairs #2
Useful #1
Useful #2
Bibliography

Metro Vancouver sees fewer home sales and more listings in July [online] Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Available at: http://creastats.crea.ca/vanc/ [Accessed 20 August, 2017]

July 2017 North Shore Market Update [online] Remax Rossetti Realty. Available at: http://www.realestatenorthshore.com/stats/  [Accessed 20 August, 2017]

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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]

Assignment 5 Planning – something to consider

I just want to jot down a further exploration idea for my assignment 5 in relation to found objects in alleys, before I lose my train of thought. I am wondering what the difference or quality of discarded items would be in different socio-economic neighbourhoods. Would the discarded items in a predominately high/upper income suburb be in better quality than those in a middle class or low income neighbourhood? What kind of “scrap” would I find there? Where would be the most proliferation of junk? Where would the owners place the items?

I’m pondering this because on the two days that I have spent driving around I have come across most of the items in the alleyways behind the houses, but have also come across some items on the pavement in front of the houses and this seems to convey a sense of desperation that that owner really wants to get rid of the item as there is obviously more passing traffic in the roads than in the alleys. But yesterday on the way to work, at an extremely busy intersection near my home, I came across, from what I could see from the car, a good sofa that had been dumped in the park between two bus stops. So now there might be another factor to consider – people driving their junk to some public place to dispose of it. The sofa might have been owned by someone living across the road, but then why wouldn’t they put it on the sidewalk outside their house, or in their alley?

One of the profs at the university where I work was quite interested to see the photos that I had taken so far and she remarked that it would be really interesting to write a story about each piece of furniture (she is a creative writer), so maybe we can collaborate down the line on this later.

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]

Assignment 5 – Idea 2 – Life is Scrap

Just a quick posting for some feedback on a possible idea for Assignment 5. I am amazed at the way our society just throws stuff out – sometimes perfectly serviceable items. What further amazes me and has for the twenty years I’ve been living here is that no much effort is made to sell on the unwanted item. Yes, there are garage sales here, but it seems that whatever is left over on that day is relegated to the sidewalk ‘free for the taking’.  Behind the houses in the alleys even more items appear and there is an unwritten rule here that if the thing is in the alley you can take it if you want it.

Yesterday I drove around for only an hour and took photos of found objects in the alleys (see contact sheets below). Before I get too involved in this project I would like to hear back from my peers to see if this has some potential. If I go forward with this as my assignment, I will obviously flesh out the notions of the throw-away society that we have become and the resultant consequences.

Life is Scrap Contact Sheet 1
Life is Scrap Contact Sheet 2

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