Exercise – Nikki S. Lee

This section points out that photography is not always a true depiction of who we are, we can shape and mould our identities to fit a certain image, which may then be recorded by a camera.

Nikki S. Lee
For her ‘Projects’ this artist would observe the style and attitude of almost every group or stereotype out there and then she would incorporate herself into the group by dressing and speaking like them.  By playing different roles, Lee questions her own identity by transforming herself into other people’s identities. In an interview with The Creators Project (1) she says; “there is a Buddhist saying “I can be someone else and that someone else can be me as well.” Thoughts like this one – thoughts that cause you to view yourself in other people’s shoes – were my main focus, so the people play a significant role.”

nikki-1   nikki-2

These photos are part of the ‘School girl project’, she dressed and actually went to school with these girls for a few days then she took the pictures.
I don’t get the sense that Lee is being voyeuristic or exploitative. More that she is inquisitive, curious to know what it’s like to be a part of another culture (Lee is an American of Korean origin).  She takes pictures of various groups of people that we see everyday and share our lives with, but we don’t really take the time to learn and experience that culture. Maybe it’s about being accepted whoever you are and where ever you hail from, she also proves the point that the camera does lie.

Tracey Moffat
Under the sign of Scorpio (2005)
“….at this stage I have told very few of the Scorpio women that I have included them in this photo series (I have met about eight of them). The last thing one should do is flatter a Scorpio; they immediately get suspicious, and depending on their mood, will hate your guts for it. It has taken me years to learn to graciously accept a compliment. Growing up in the rough-and-tumble Australian suburbs, I was often mocked for my escapes into fantasy.” 
I read this with intrigue. I am also interested in Astrology and studied the subject many years ago.  Moffatt, also a Scorpio, based herself in a simple studio at home and “dressed up” as other famous Scorpios. She makes it obvious that she is acting and her performance is intentionally very amateur. She says “In my portraits I have tried to capture their spirit and likeness, but only at a moment’s glance”.  She used informal poses and created a comic book quality by adding high-key supernatural coloured landscape backgrounds to the images in Photoshop. She chooses to represent her portraits as “pop figures” – she admired Andy Warhol – but with an air of the unexplained.

For a long time the Curie’s efforts failed, but Marie had a type of psychic vision and kept repeating “it’s got to be there, I know it is there”. Marie can be viewed as a sort of acceptable turn-of-the-century scientific witch. She helped to find something that had never been seen before because she somehow believed that it was ‘there’.

For a long time the Curie’s efforts failed, but Marie had a type of psychic vision and kept repeating “it’s got to be there, I know it is there”. Marie can be viewed as a sort of acceptable turn-of-the-century scientific witch. She helped to find something that had never been seen before because she somehow believed that it was ‘there’.

I particularly like the contact sheet presentations where the viewer is able to follow the progress of the “performance” before Moffatt selects a pose to use. The added colourful backgrounds of her images really do portray an astral feel.

scorpio-2scorpio-3

In this series Moffat does not reveal anything of herself to the viewer. So for me the title Masquerades is relevant – masked to hide the true identity. These are self-portraits that can be used to examine cultural differences, identity, fantasy and the many ways in which a person can be (or wants to be) represented.

References
Nikki S. Lee http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/videos/nikki-s-lee [accessed 14th Sept 2016]
Tracey Moffatt http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/news/releases/2005/07/10/94/ [accessed 14th sept 2016]

 

 

Exercise: Gearon Brotherus Wearing

Reflecting on the pieces of work discussed in this project:

I have spent a couple of evenings reading and looking at images of the artists mentioned in the project, some held my attention more than others. There are also some interesting YouTube movies – for example Tierney Gearon speaking about her career as a photographer. The trouble is I become engrossed and tend to watch the whole video whether it’s relevant to the project or not, in this case just over an hour long! But that’s me – easily distracted! The good thing is that the distraction is about photography in some form or other, therefore I am continually learning.

Tierney Gearon
Gearon says to be able to share her work with anybody – it only takes one person to believe in you, feeds and stimulates. She speaks of the intimacy and spontaneity of using the camera to capture her family, her children in particular, processing things going on in her life. Her images of her naked children have of course raise issues in past exhibitions in the USA under indecency laws.  Gearon insists they are innocent images of her children doing ‘everyday things in a beautiful way’.

Untitled 2000

Untitled 2000

What I note with all these photographers is that they seem comfortable exposing their private lives, being so open, frank and intimate.

Elina Brotherus I hate sex 1998

“I hate sex” 1998

Elina Brotherus
In relation to her above image, when questioned as to whether she really hated sex, Brotherus responded with It’s not me it’s a photograph. It’s all in your head.” She goes on to say “It’s a good excuse to make things into objects, so maybe somebody else can also identify herself or himself in the situation.”  This statement implies that her images are not personal, therefore not autobiographical. However, by agreeing to have her series Annunciation exhibited in the Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Identity Exhibition,  she is dealing with her struggle to become pregnant – very personal and private. The series does relate back to her comment though, in that other women will be able to identify with the situation, thus she is ‘speaking’ for a wider audience. Would her being naked make them pay attention to her work and the accompanying explanation, or would her nakedness turn people away?

Gillian Wearing

wearing-2
In viewing her series “Album” (2003), I certainly didn’t get any sense of Wearing as a person or that she was questioning her role in her family history, or even how her role within the family affected the person she is today – the masks disguise. Personally I feel the masks make her look robotic, cold and even synthetic. She clearly went to great lengths to produce this series, the sculpturing being more prominent than the photography. She even cast her brother’s torso, reminding somewhat of Antony Gormley’s installation where he made cast iron life-size figures of himself. I question whether Wearing is trying to get closer to her family and its history or whether she is escaping from herself?
self-portrait-as-my-broth-002  sculpture-of-the-artists-005wearing-3

  • The question whether these images work for an outsider without accompanying text?Without text, I do think viewers will be drawn in by natural curiosity and while they may not fully understand the photographer’s intent, they may apply their own perspective and experiences. But I feel that Gillian Wearing’s “Album” series would be difficult to comprehend without any accompanying text.
  • Do I think there’s an element of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on your own identity in this way?  Maybe in the case of the naked images – Brotherus seems particularly at ease with her nakedness.
    Artists at work 9 (2009)

    Artists at work 9 (2009)

    I don’t think it’s so much self-indulgence as attention seeking maybe. That said it is a luxury to have oneself as the model – always available and at no charge!

References
Gearon, T. On her career as a photographer.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x260oJGuctM [accessed 20th August 2016]

Exercise – Nigel Shafran

Nigel Shafran’s Washing-up

shafran2

11th February 2000. Muesli, tuna and salad sandwich, left over seitan ‘Irish’ stew with Nick.

 shafran-1  shafran-3

Shafran’s series uses subjects involved in everyday life, more intimately, in the home. His use of lighting and neutral tones creates a crisp, clean finish, with just a little colour to highlight and draw attention. In an interview with Charlotte Cotton (1), Shafran comments; “Sometimes I see old photographs and what’s interesting to me are the things on the edges that are not meant to be there – the soap packet, the bit of litter, the things that we can relate to and hold that everydayness. I like it when something has been photographed in a simple way.” This appeals to me as I tend to see things that others may miss – insignificant items to many, but they do tell something about the owner.

Nigel Shafran’s series is the only piece of work in Part Three of the course created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

  • Did it surprise me that this series was taken by a man? 
    Quite a sexist question really. Why would it? The subject matter, washing up, is no big deal for men in this day and age. There is a strong male presence in the kitchen, recent statistics show that nearly 80% of UK professional chefs are male. Of course different cultures across the world may view this differently. I guess without the knowledge of who the photographer is, it may be assumed that it would be a female by some, true to stereotype. So no, I was not surprised at all. I also think that the series is not about the task itself, but more about the content/objects within the images. Which I find quite interesting.
  • Does gender contribute to the creation of an image?
    I’m not convinced it does. I don’t think gender is representative of art in any form. I suppose there is some subject matter that is chosen more by men than women – there are fewer female street photographers, although Elizabeth Char (b.1956) advises; “Don’t be afraid, you are a woman and this is an advantage. People are more compliant with women. Go out, shoot and smile.” I think when it comes to creation of an image gender is irrelevant. Actual shooting may be more defined e.g. more male war photographers and train photographers – but now I’m stereotyping!
  • What does the series achieve by not including people?
    I don’t think people are necessary in this series, the absence ensures a stronger focus on the subject matter and presentation. By excluding people one can concentrate more on what the image is conveying and allows the reader to bring their own narrative to the images. I struggled to find the captions to this series initially as they are not included on Shafran’s website. The idea of tying in the images with the narrative is interesting, but at the same time it restricts the reader’s own take on the individual images. I prefer to view them without the text.
  • Are they interesting still life compositions?
    Yes I think they are in a contemporary way. Having now completed the exercises for Part Three I view the images more as self portraiture or autobiographical. Shafran has created an interesting series and one that (for me at least), is a bit of fun. I enjoyed looking at the contents in the draining rack – beer cans, empty jars. The bunch of flowers waiting for a new home in a vase, but in the mean time coordinating nicely with a plastic bowl. Then there’s the crisp white shirt soaking over the edge of the sink – stain removal in process no doubt!

References
1. http://nigelshafran.com/interview-with-charlotte-cotton-edited-photographs/ [accessed 16th September 2016]

Self-absented portraiture

Nigel Shafran’s Washing-up

 

shafran2

11th February 2000. Muesli, tuna and salad sandwich, left over seitan ‘Irish’ stew with Nick.

 shafran-1  shafran-3

Shafran’s series uses subjects involved in everyday life, more intimately, in the home. His use of lighting and neutral tones creates a crisp, clean finish, with just a little colour to highlight and draw attention. In an interview with Charlotte Cotton (1), Shafran comments; “Sometimes I see old photographs and what’s interesting to me are the things on the edges that are not meant to be there – the soap packet, the bit of litter, the things that we can relate to and hold that everydayness. I like it when something has been photographed in a simple way.” This appeals to me as I tend to see things that others may miss – insignificant items to many, but they do tell something about the owner.

Nigel Shafran’s series is the only piece of work in Part Three of the course created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

  • Did it surprise me that this series was taken by a man? 
    Quite a sexist question really. Why would it? The subject matter, washing up, is no big deal for men in this day and age. There is a strong male presence in the kitchen, recent statistics show that nearly 80% of UK professional chefs are male. Of course different cultures across the world may view this differently. I guess without the knowledge of who the photographer is, it may be assumed that it would be a female by some, true to stereotype. So no, I was not surprised at all. I also think that the series is not about the task itself, but more about the content/objects within the images. Which I find quite interesting.
  • Does gender contribute to the creation of an image?
    I’m not convinced it does. I don’t think gender is representative of art in any form. I suppose there is some subject matter that is chosen more by men than women – there are fewer female street photographers, although Elizabeth Char (b.1956) advises; “Don’t be afraid, you are a woman and this is an advantage. People are more compliant with women. Go out, shoot and smile.” I think when it comes to creation of an image gender is irrelevant. Actual shooting may be more defined e.g. more male war photographers and train photographers – but now I’m stereotyping!
  • What does the series achieve by not including people?
    I don’t think people are necessary in this series, the absence ensures a stronger focus on the subject matter and presentation. By excluding people one can concentrate more on what the image is conveying and allows the reader to bring their own narrative to the images. I struggled to find the captions to this series initially as they are not included on Shafran’s website. The idea of tying in the images with the narrative is interesting, but at the same time it restricts the reader’s own take on the individual images. I prefer to view them without the text.
  • Are they interesting still life compositions?
    Yes I think they are in a contemporary way. Having now completed the exercises for Part Three I view the images more as self portraiture or autobiographical. Shafran has created an interesting series and one that (for me at least), is a bit of fun. I enjoyed looking at the contents in the draining rack – beer cans, empty jars. The bunch of flowers waiting for a new home in a vase, but in the mean time coordinating nicely with a plastic bowl. Then there’s the crisp white shirt soaking over the edge of the sink – stain removal in process no doubt!

References
1. http://nigelshafran.com/interview-with-charlotte-cotton-edited-photographs/ [accessed 16th September 2016]

 

Exercise 2 – Recreating a childhood memory

This exercise is timely in that my previous assignment was based on memory (post memory) and I have therefore read and researched a great deal on the subject. I have also found myself reflecting back to my childhood of late – an age thing! I am someone who likes to recall happy family times, because it is summer I am mostly recalling beach and caravan holidays. However, I think that will probably be a popular choice for students so I have considered a number of alternative ideas for this exercise.

  • School days – not my favourite subject.
  • Playing with my dolls – great memories!
  • Family gatherings and special occasions
  • Roller skating
  • Beach and rock pools
  • Caravan holidays
  • Playing with friends – garden, parks, playing fields

Whilst shooting my last assignment I visited an area where my Mum lived for a couple of years as a refugee from Czechoslovakia. Because this location is fairly local and a popular beauty spot, we often go there. Next to the hall and grounds is a huge playing field, now used for cricket matches mainly. Lurking to one side of the field is an original playground roundabout – still in good working order! This always gives me flash backs to my childhood, I loved the local park and playground. So my subject is chosen.

pdale-cricket    1

Thinking about the projects I have just completed, I pondered over whether to be present or absent in the photograph. I decided not to use a metaphor in this instance – difficult to portray, so I settled on including my adult self in the shot. I set up the tripod and with the use of a remote shutter release clicked away merrily.
For a few shots I set up the tripod and camera on the roundabout – asking my poor husband to run around with the roundabout to hold on to the tripod! This was to create the effect of me being in focus and the background blurred to represent spinning.

dsc_6362

dsc_6363 dsc_6354

contactsheet-001

I like this image of me looking on at the roundabout, watching with some uncertainty.
2

This prompted me to present a series in sequence – following the way I would have approached it as a child. I always observed first to check for safety and courage… then go for it. It was always a mixture of comfort and dread when others joined the ride – it would either be safety in numbers or dare devils spinning it too fast so I couldn’t jump off!

 

2  4
5  dsc_6447
3  6

I showed these images to friends and to my brother and sister, they all related back to their younger days of playing in the park. The images conjured up the feeling of carefree days, adventure, freedom and worry-free times. Which is exactly what they were for me too.