Topic 1 Mirrors and windows Presentation

Notes:

Views of the world beyond our own, a glimpse of the photographer and their own unique perspective of it. (What about created worlds that represent a photographers perspective of their inner world?)

Szarkowski 1978 – Photography seen as either a
mirror – photographer projects itself on the things/sights of the world
window – through which the exterior world is explored in all it’s presence and reality.

Susan Sontag 1977: Photography – appropriation, relative knowledge/power.

Ibid: To photograph people is to violate them. By them seeing themselves as they’ve never been seen, by having knowledge of them they can never have. It turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.

Amilia Ulman | Excellences & Perfections 2015
Instagram series over 5 months, selfie culture
Gazes and perspectives, the screen.
Reason and motivation to share with others. Is the audience the mirror? Affirmation not from the mirror but from likes/comments.

Reflection

Before moving on to Topic 2, you should spend some time considering the following questions. You should consider writing your thoughts as a piece of prose (c. 500 words max) that you might, either now or at a later point, publish in your critical research journal (see below): 

What do you make of the ‘mirror’ and ‘window’ analogy? How helpful is this in understanding the nature of photography?

I think perhaps every image is both a way to look at the world and always a reflection of the artist. their motivation for taking that particular image (even if the intention was to have nothing of them reflected in it) is always there and thus a part of the photographers reflection. I think that photography isn’t just a mirror reflecting the photographer but also holds up a mirror to the viewer to see parts of themselves reflected back at them from the image.

As an image maker, do you identify more closely with one or the other?

I think my personal creative photography both reflects much of who I am as a person and a photographer but I like to think it also offers a different view of the world, conceptually. Offering a new perspective to the world in which we live. The paid portraiture work I do is definitely intended to be more of a window into the subjects worlds with much less of me reflected into it, although it could be argued that the style of my images is a reflection of my photography but the reflection element is definitely a much weaker element in client work.

What other metaphors do you know of, or can think of, that provide an insight into photography?

Microscope/looking glass to focus on something of importance at the exclusion of all else

What is your motivation for photography? What do you want to learn about and how can photography help you get a greater understanding of it?

My motivation for photography comes from a need to create and to explore/learn. I am fascinated by psychology I love to explore concepts visually in order to make sense of the world and create meaning from it. I keep a personal journal and I like to explore concepts which come up for me in my journal entries as a way to make sense of myself, the world around me and my place within it. I enjoy conceptual images that make you think and I would love to develop the skills to create conceptual images with depth and meaning.

Activity

Intro image: try and respond to the topic windows and mirrors
View into the personal world, or that reveals something about you/your intentions in photography
Include a few words about your concept and/or visual strategy

ideas

  • photomontage or double exposure using a self portrait/silhouette
  • Lineage/identity as a topic I’m interested in/focused on
  • masks?
  • maternal lineage/influence – mother/grandmother
  • genetics
  • other external influences – artists/British society/generation and decades brought up/northern roots
  • motherhood
  • gender – stereotypes, societal expectations and influence
  • photography, mixed media, painting, digital manipulation, digital drawing
  • personality
  • destiny, spirituality, astrology
  • cultural lineage, ancient myths, classic literature, stories, the way history has been told

Taking inspiration from Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch I tried working with photomontage for the first time. I used a mixture of scanned old photographs, digital images and I photographed the background as an arrangement of old items arranged on the desktop. I chose to use contrasting colours to separate and identify the foreground from the background. Working in Photoshop I arranged the layers with a mix of blending modes and opacities to create a photomontage that would introduce “me” to the rest of the group. My main thoughts were to include my interests at this time which are that of psychology, social justice, feminism, lineage & identity as well as trying out new techniques which I haven’t used before because this is something I’d like to continue to do throughout the course. I want to step out of my comfort zone more and risk the failure associated with trying something new and different.

FROM THE FORUM

Hi everyone,

I’ve really enjoyed getting started this week, I can’t wait to get to know you all!

I decided to experiment quite a bit with this image. I am hoping to use my time on this course to experiment with different ideas/methods so it felt right to start as I mean to go on (although I hope to use a little more restraint on the number of ideas I through at one image in future).

I’ve recently taken some evening classes about art history, feminism and female artists and I was really drawn to the work of Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch. I had not really considered photomontage as a way of working before and the layering of images really interested me as a metaphor for how our identities are layered. I’m fascinated by linage (familial and societal) and the impacts they have on identity and I thought I would try and look at some of the layers of my own identity, which would serve as a way of an introduction on this thread. 

I used images that show my familial/genetic lineage in a sort of digital photomontage, which I layered over a self-portrait silhouette. There are three images that are really similar but taken over three generations (of mothers and daughters) and it made me think of how much we inherit from the women that came before us and how history both repeats itself and evolves over time. I like how the layers of images blend into each other so you can’t quite see where one starts and the other ends, with many of the images, not very dominant but still a part of the whole.

In the background, I used old local newspaper clippings, letters and photographs, that represent the external/social influences that have shaped my identity. Then, over the top of the image, I used one of my abstract acrylic paintings as a way of making my own mark over the pre-determined elements beneath, which created some interesting texture and colour on the background.

On a printed version of this image, I also used red thread and stitched a sort of line art into the paper but I didn’t find the result as impactful as I’d hoped so I’ll leave that version for my CRJ. I have been playing around with the ideas of being tethered to certain aspects of our lives, with threads connecting ourselves to the parts of our lives that shape and influence who we become. It was nice to try stitching the print but it needs more thought if it’s something I’m going to try again.

Although the final image isn’t something that I’m particularly in love with, it’s been great to experiment with lots of different ideas and it’s given me some more food for thought for other images that I could create. It’s been really nice to play with ideas away from the stripped back studio images I’ve been creating for much of the last 5 years. 

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s images! 

Adele

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Hi 

Identity and personal identity is a rich area to get involved with, so I think you could have a great depth, all depends how far back you want to go and how much history vs nostalgia. Who we are or become is also a difficult/interesting are to study/create. Are you trying to work out how much of yourself is predetermined and how much is yourself ? It’s an interesting question.  

Yours Dylan 

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Hi Dylan,

Nice to meet you! 🙂 That’s an interesting question. Prior to this course, I had a project idea where I wanted to collaborate with local artists to create images for a project on motherhood. I wanted to look at ideas such as The Birth of the Mother, Expectation, Judgement, Unravelling, Tethered, Love & Fear, Duality and The Mother Shadow but I was not intending to use myself as the subject, it felt like a more shared and generalised response to motherhood that I was trying to look at and focus on. Since then I have been learning a lot about art history and feminism which feels tenuously linked but equally exciting. I’m not quite sure which direction I will go in, though I don’t feel like I want to focus on myself and my personal history/family, though I guess my images will be informed by my experiences.

I’m not usually one to share personal photos so this was definitely outside my comfort zone and very different from my usual style. It’s quite nice having the space to experiment and try new things, so I’m embracing it!

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John Inns4 Jun 2021 at 00:22

Hi Adele,

An interesting image and good to explore things outside your comfort zone – does that add an extra degree of tension to the final image? Maybe the thread you stitched was too far outside your comfort zone?

In a broader sense, I’m still grappling with the concept of “appropriation” of images. This was on display at an exhibition I recently went to at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne (see my blog) where appropriated exhibits outnumbered “conventional” (or whatever the opposite of appropriated is) exhibits. Is it important for the photographer to have produced the original image or not (copyright notwithstanding)? How important is “ownership” of the image, when using that image? Is this more common to photography where accurate reproduction of the image is much easier? If I was to take a painting such as the Mona Lisa and call it my own, is this still appropriation or something else (and why hasn’t anyone done this already?) So many questions…

Best wishes JohnReply

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Dylan Garcia (He/Him)4 Jun 2021 at 07:45

I Also am not 100 percent on the just taking other peoples images, just framing  it saying now its art, because I am an artist, but it was not art before, because the creator was not an artist. Maybe I am just being conservative in my thinking. I understand that using lots of eliments to create something new is good, but for me just taking one and saying it is now art is a con (and exactly the thing that makes people want to stop art funding).  I once had a image screen grabbed and used in a exhibition, in a different country so it was to expensive to take legal action, and I was pissed off as I am from a royalty background, where I get paid for other people publishing my work so for me it felt like theft. Most importantly it would have cost a small amount to legally licence the image, and the artist was wealthy. Adele I can see that her work is made of many elements and changed into something more/diffrent than the original elements. Anyway this is issue that I have to work on in my mind as it is a complicated area, but I am not sure that something is art just because someone says it is art. Maybe I am traditional and I want to see process, or hard work and that makes me feel like it is art. For Example Daido Moriyama works hard, takes a lot of photos and only uses a few, so I can see his process and the fact he works hard. 

Yours Dylan ReplyMS

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Michelle Sank4 Jun 2021 at 08:56

Hi Adele

Really good to see the experimentation starting to unfold and the area you are exploring is really interesting

Do you know the work of John Stezaker and also Deborah Baker who did some work around her family history with digital collage

Best

MichelleReply

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David Fisher6 Jun 2021 at 19:41

It’s fascinating to read your multi-faceted thought process Adele. I’m inspired by the way you seem to have immersed yourself in your subject and be so freely experimenting. That you’re not particularly in love with the final result suggests that you’re already succeeding at failing too! Kudos to you.

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ReplySara Kwiecien7 Jun 2021 at 05:28

I’m impressed with the process! The way you used different techniques is amazing.Very interesting subject. Can’t wait to see final result x

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ReplyEduardo Akins (He/Him)7 Jun 2021 at 07:51

Adele, you’ve embraced experimentation, and it’s a fascinating insight into your thoughts about this particular work.  The approach to visually “mapping” lineage with overlapping images and text has me thinking about a project idea that I’ve been contemplating for some months now.  Seeing this work has inspired me to allow a broader scope to come into mind, especially if it pushes me out of my comfort zone by using more digital editing processes.

Thank you for sharing such a personal creation.

(Now only if I could get Photoshop to download onto my computer without failing, as my CC account gives me access to the software!)

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Adele AnnettAdele Annett (She/Her) 10 Jun at 20:13

John & Dylan, it is something I have thought about too when learning about Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch. Interestingly I have been reading a book which referenced a series by Kathy Grove called “The Other Series” https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/294328 (Links to an external site.) she photographs famous paintings and airbrushes out the female figures such as The Other Series: After Man Ray 1989  (Links to an external site.)She is making reference to how Art Historians have erased the achievements of female artists in the past. It is interesting how she and other artists have used appropriated images to make their point. It’s also an interesting debate as to where the ethical/legal boundaries are drawn on such things.

Michelle, thank you for pointing me in the direction of John Stezaker and Deborah Baker. John Stezaker’s (Links to an external site.) work was very interesting to look at, it reminded me a little of the faces Picasso painted, creating a whole but not quite fitting. It’s interesting that he took found images of glamourous movie stars and spliced them into something which looked rather strange/grotesque. 

I’ve only managed to find two of Deborah Baker’s images on google (her website seems to be broken) she uses a really interesting use of scale and composition in her images, I like the colour work she’s done with them too, there’s a dream-like quality to them. 

Eduardo, I look forward to hearing more about your project idea! There’s something a bit freeing about stepping outside my comfort zone, it’s allowed to me try and create without being so focused on the result. Good luck with your project ideas and the software 🙂  

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