Part 4 – Notes
- Sally Mann
www.americansuburbx.com/2013/01/interview-sally-mann-the-touch-of-an-angel-2010.html [accessed 12 March 2017]
In this interview Sally talks about her development as a photographer. They discuss some of the series of photos she has put together.
For example her series At Twelve looks at young girls at puberty and the stepping stone into adulthood. Sally explains they need to be seen as a series in order to understand her concept. On the other hand when viewing The Immediate Family each photograph can be looked at individually to get the narrative behind the photo. Having said this as Sally states they show the complexity of childhood issues throughout the years. She also used two different style of photography in these two series with the subjects in the former being carefully posed whereas the latter were candid shots of her family going about every day life.
Sally also understood Barthes concept of ‘punctum’ and wanted her images to stand out or grab the attention. She wanted people to ‘think and question’ what they saw.
Sally wonders what the ‘truth’ is in photography and feels this can be made up of many layers and that it is her responsibility to try and get to the bottom of the many layers that make up truth.
In the interview it also becomes apparent that Sally is not adverse to trying different types of photography. From her childhood photos she moved into landscape photography.
She believed that the south of the United States has a complex and varied history given the civil war and other events so chose to make a series called Deep South. She felt that southern people are deeply ‘romantic’. In addition as the quote in the course book shows she felt the light was different and had a special quality particularly in the afternoon.
She felt as she travelled round the area a connection with bygone eras and that perhaps the ghosts of slaves and previous army personnel were ever present – she indicates some of these thoughts in the photos entitled Proud Flesh on the website.
This preoccupation with the past and death led to a new series ‘What remains’ and Sally works through these ideas in this series and concludes that the one thing that is everlasting is love. Sally indicates that the death of her father had a profound impact on her. In addition Sally herself had a life-threatening riding accident and realised how vulnerable the human race is. She said this led to the reflection that ‘if you are aware of death you can look at it in 2 different ways: “ Either you are fearful of it and try to guard yourself from it. Or you can live more intensely in the moment.”
Sally has represented all of these themes in creative ways and using monochrome which seems to accentuate what she is trying to convey. She also talks about trying to make the mundane beautiful – for example a photo of her husband taking off his shoes is particularly poignant for her.
She talks about the need to break social taboos and how if you are brave enough to do this it can make the image that much more powerful. She states that you need to be patient and be prepared to spend hours perfecting your craft.
Interestingly Sally said she often takes the first photograph without having any particular concept in mind. She will take the image because there is some visual attraction and then will consider the context. She feels that those with artistic ability should challenge their ‘intellectual curiosity’ and if possible to make something beautiful out of the ordinary.
http://sallymann.com/selected-works/southern-landscapes [accessed 12 March 2017]
In looking at this series of images one can see what Sally was talking about in the interview – the soft, diffused light lends itself to the viewer thinking about days gone by. The crumbling ruins and pillers of the old southern houses adds to the atmosphere. In the photo of the tree roots one can see the ghosts of the southern slaves bending over while carrying out menial tasks or being whipped into shape by their masters. Despite the dark history there is a beauty to this series of images due to the light that Sally has captured so well.
- Michael Schmidt
The course book (p. 81) points out that Schmidt actively sought out a flat midday light:
“I prefer to work with neutral diffused light, i.e. to produce an image without noticeable shadows. The viewer must allow the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects”.
www.prixpictet.com/portfolios/consumption-shortlist/michael-schmidt/ [accessed 12 March 2017]
I found in looking at this series that some photos were easy to work out what they were but others puzzled me and I spent considerable time trying to work out what they were trying to convey. Overall in constrast to Mann’s work I did not find this set inspiring – maybe I need mood and shadow to speak to my emotions. It would be interesting to know if there is a gender difference in viewer’s perceptions of photos and speaking in very general terms males are often seen as having more difficulty in conveying feelings whereas females can be seen as romantics.
- Eugene Atget
The course book (p.82) discusses Atget’s progression from images that again were mostly taken in the midday sun to his latter work which were often taken in the early morning ‘using light and shadow to create a mood rather than describe a place’.
This suggests a progression in what Atget was trying to convey with his images or perhaps like myself he had realised that bright blue sky does not necessarily make the best photos. I also now prefer photos that I have taken either at the beginning or end of the day for creating more atmosphere.
www.nga.gov/feature/atget/work.shtm [accessed 12 March 2017]
This article describes the technical process Atget used for his photography. He used an old-fashioned camera on a wooden tripod and glass plates for his negatives. Photos were taken under a black cloth. When he pressed the shutter this allowed the light passing through to appear on the negative. He was known for vignetting – having a dark halo round the edge of the image from using lenses with a short focal length. When printing he would use albumen silver photographic papers. Atget classified his work by theme some of which he worked on for long periods of time; sometimes with smaller projects within a main theme. His architectural photography was different from those of others as he made asymmetrical images.
An example of his change to use light and shadow for mood rather than place is shown in the image on the website Parc de Sceaux. In this image there is a statue to the right with a grass path leading through some trees which appear to be leaning into an arch at the end with the low light shining through.
- Rut Blees Luxemburg
I enjoy night time photography and feel that there is a beauty inherent in artificial light. I did some research on the internet and looked at the following website: http://www.mintmagazine.co.uk/art/an-interview-with-photographer-rut-blees-luxemburg/(accessed 04/04/20017.
Luxemberg states: “
A picture can have many layers of meaning, an inherent ambiguity which invites interpretation and can give visual pleasure, so I got more and more drawn to photography.”
She feels it is important within the current ‘image culture’ to be critical and to interpret and analyse images. She states that she was drawn to the urban denseness and that the face pace means there is always something to draw the senses – rural photography takes place at a much slower pace. She prefers night time as it is different from every day life and there is a sense of anticipation. She looks for the ordinary or things that would normally be overlooked. She feels that this can be marginalised or subversive. She refers to one particular photo where it appears you are looking over an edge but never falling thus creating a sense of vertigo. Luxemburg continues to use film rather than digital.
I also accessed the following interview:
In this interview Luxemburg talks specifically about her body of work entitled Liebeslied.
“his elusive writing on the wall which seemed always more than just graffiti or some quick communication. Even when I first saw it was indecipherable. I think that the writer tried to eradicate it. Just after they’d written it. And now it has become a stain or trace, adding to all the other stains on the surface of the city. I like the curves, they are so baroque that they suggest something much more palatial, or sacred, instead of a cold outdoor space.It looks like a very private form of communication, the opposite of most graffiti or street writing which might tend to be a disenfranchised citizen announcing something to the world in general.”
The interviewer and Luxemberg have a conversation about the comparison with street photography. The interviewer sees the two as being opposite stating that street photography is usually taken in daylight with fast shutter speed whereas night photography requires a slow exposure. However there is still the common theme of the street with both types ofphotography.
They then move onto look at some newer works where Luxemberg believes she has gone in deeper or closer to the ground. She sees herself as wandering, usually alone and looking for ‘encounters’. They discuss her increased use of the river in her images and the relationship of this moving body of water to the sky and the use of reflections. She feels the use of nature makes her photos more intimate.
They talk in a similar way about the reflections of the glass in the city and how it reflects the city around it and that in this way the city isn’t as ‘impenetrable’ as it seems.
Luxemberg infers that she doesn’t do any post-production but carefully considers and plans before taking her images. She would rather spend more time on an image. She believes her use of titling opens up the images in another way. She does however want to leave some things open to interpretation.
Brassaï was born in Transylvania in 1899 but didn’t begin his photography career until 1930 and published the book Paris by Night in 1933. He felt that studying art in the widest sense would help the student developing their photography. He stated that ‘one doesn’t only photograph with the eyes but with all one’s intelligence’. It was his enjoyment of walking around Paris at night that led to his desire to photograph it.
He was influenced by Goethe and tried to include his objectivity into his photography. He also talks of being influenced by other painters and writers including Picasso. He wasn’t as strict about not cropping and did at times light the subject.
Brassaï believes that it is important not only to know how to compose an image but also places importance on the subject matter – the two go hand in hand. He doesn’t want ‘disorder’ or chaos in a photo. He very much saw photography as art. He didn’t want to make fashionable photos but ones that were made to last.
Many were of people on the streets at night. (http://www.americansuburbx.com/2015/07/brassais-lgbt-sex-paris-at-night.html accessed 09/04/2017).
And to finish with a quote that encapsulates Brassaï and his work:
“Fascinated by the night, which he found disconcerting, enigmatic, and suggestive, Brassaï photographed its every aspect, from police to prostitutes to the homeless to socialites, all in a dreamlike and mysterious manner”
- http://sato-shintaro.com/work/night_lights/index.html [accessed 09/04/2017]
These photos are of Japanese city streets with all the brightly lit street signs. Many include cycles. I find them rather cluttered but then perhaps this is representative of a highly populated country and particularly Tokyo.