Tag Archives: Julian Germain

Exercise 2.3 Same model, different background

The brief:

Consider the work of both Callahan and Germain, then select a subject for a series of five portraits, varying the locations and backgrounds. The one consistent picture element must be the subject you have chosen, who must appear in all five images. Think carefully about where you choose to photograph them, either using a pose that offers a returned gaze to the camera, or simply captures them going about their daily business. The objective once again is to visually link the images together in some way…

Present your five images as a series and write around 500 words reflecting on the decisions you made. Include both of these in your learning log or blog.

I’ve been procrastinating too long on this exercise so am using some photos taken of my father on my recent trip back to South Africa. I did photograph him with the intention of using some of the images for my exercises, but thought I could reshoot the exercise when I returned home. That hasn’t happened so I’m moving on and using what I had previously shot.

My father has just turned 91 years old which is a ripe old age and this visit back to South Africa was most likely the last time I would see him alive, so I decided to photograph him and little aspects of his daily life. He is wheelchair bound on his good days, otherwise he spends his time in bed. Suffering from macular degeneration, his eyesight is hazy at best and he has difficulty focusing on people and objects. As a result his only form of entertainment in his daily life is listening to his transistor radio which accompanies him through out the day. He also loves his hats and on a winter’s day he will sit indoors next to a sunny window wearing his hat on his head to keep it warm.

The two images below that do not feature my father physically are indexical as their links to my father can be inferred, as are many of Julian Germain’s photographs in his work For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness. I chose to preserve my father’s privacy and dignity and not make photographs of him while he was in his bed or being attended to.

A portrait is always of something (and usually of someone). It draws its authority from the real and unique historical presence of the subject whose image it depicts, and at the same time reflects on and affects that presence.

The Chicago School of Media Theory

I feel this set of images are accurate representations of my dad who  once was a vibrant, active and strong man. They pretty much describe his daily life on a good day. I realise that I have one photograph that is portrait format while the rest of the images are landscape format, but in this set I think it can work as it serves as a central anchoring point for the rest of the set.

 

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Reference List

The Chicago School of Media Theory (n.d.) Portrait [online] Available at: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/portrait/ [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

Bibliography

Chandler, Daniel Semiotics for Beginners [online] Available at: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/ [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

Germain, Julian (2005) For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness [online]. Available at: http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/foreveryminute.php [Accessed 27 October, 2016]

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Julian Germain

It is abundantly clear in Julian Germain’s oevre For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness that the photographer has spent vast amounts of time with his subject. In fact the series spans 8 years, but interestingly Germain “didn’t see [his] photos of Charlie as a project – it didn’t have a deadline and there was no grand plan for it” (Malone, 2013). Germain met Snelling by chance on the way to a football match and struck up a friendship with him. Snelling’s brightly coloured house (orange and yellow) is what first attracted Germain. He would visit Snelling periodically, sometimes just for tea and a chat and not to photograph at all. Snelling surrounded himself with photographs, mainly of his wife.

For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain
For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain

Charles Snelling, the subject is very comfortable with the presence of Germain. He is photographed going about his daily life, drinking his coffee, talking a walk in the woods, eating ice cream on the beach and preparing his meals. Some of the actions and settings come across as rather intimate. For me the most intimate images are the photographs of Snelling’s photo album, the photographs of him and his wife who passed away. These images are pivotal to the series as we can see on Germain’s website that the album pages were enlarged larger than life for his exhibition, spanning almost the entire height of the gallery’s wall and dominating the rest of the images which are much smaller.

For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain
For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness by Julian Germain

My favourite image in the series is the one above, where Snelling is preparing his meal. According to Germain’s interview with The Guardian (Malone 2013), Snelling is stirring his gravy. The shallow depth of field creates a sense of intrigue and mystery. The viewer has just enough information to glean what is happening. The colours and tones (teal and oranges) lend a very cinematic feel to the image. The golden tones in the foreground of the placemat, crockery, mustard jar and orange juice create a complementary contrast to the teal tones of the kitchen wall and other blue tones from Charles’ jacket, and the tupperware on the far side of the table. The rising steam from the cut potatoes in the foreground completes the narrative, enticing the viewer to catch a whiff of the aroma.

… he showed me that the most important things in life are free. To me, he kind of symbolized a less complicated world that may possibly have existed once – that didn’t offer so many choices and contradictions.

Germain (2010)

Germain’s images ooze humility, simplicity and colour. The main take-away that I have from looking at Germain’s project is one should always take the time to build a rapport with the subject and keep returning for follow up sessions, if at all possible. Germain had the luxury of being able to shoot this series over a long period of time and was not under any pressure to make anything of the photographs he took of Snelling. He only decided to put them together in a body of work after Snelling’s death.

The complete set of images in this work can be seen in this short video clip.

Click on image above to access video
Click on image above to access video
Reference List

Malone, Theresa (2013) Julian Germain’s best photograph: Charlie in his kitchen stirring the gravy [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/02/julian-germain-best-photograph [Accessed 18 September, 2016]

PhotoBookStore.co.uk (2012) Julian Germain – For Every Minute You are Angry, You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness Creat. PhotoBookStore.co.uk 12 March 2012. 37 secs. Available at: https://vimeo.com/37733259 (Accessed 18 September, 2016)

The ASX Team (2010) In Conversation with Julian Germain and Penny Skerrett [online] Archive Magazine, National Media Museum, Bradford, 2005. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/09/interview-in-conversation-with-julian.html [Accessed 18 September, 2016]

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