Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Roger Palmer

One of the great advantages of being at GSA is the access you get to other artists, visiting lecturers and so on.  Last week Roger Palmer came to give a talk at the Friday Event - one that I missed due to work commitments (damn that mortgage!)  Luckily, he came back to take part in a question and answer session with students within Fine Art Photography - and it was so inspiring.

Apart from his obvious experience - despite living in Glasgow he is a Professor of Fine Art at Leeds University and was previously a lecturer at GSA, co-founding the MFA here - I was really drawn to his approach to his work.  Firstly, the majority of his images were in black and white, taken with a 35mm camera and a 50mm lens - something which you don't really see much of here.  (I did ask him if part of the reason for his success in this medium could be because of his reputation, colour is certainly seen to be much more contemporary at least at GSA).  He talked about having a system - 1 camera, 1 lens, 1 film, 1 developer, paper etc, something P has encouraged me to do and which I try although I don't think I've gotten all the elements right - yet.  He also prints the images himself and I really liked the mid-tones he creates.  His work reminded me very much of the New Topographer's work, of which I'm a big admirer.

And secondly, the way he talked about his work in a cultural context.  Despite the fact that he travels quite a bit, he stated that he's not interested in the countries or the culture within them as such, he is interested in the similarity of the spaces; he has nothing to say about [the country], but he has everything to say about photography.  This was an important point for me in terms of the work I like and look at - see my previous post.

But actually, what his talk made me really want to do was go out and take black and white photographs again!  I'm so caught up in working for this degree that going back to where I started has quite an appeal.  The idea that you also have so much more control over the whole process of your images and that you can do it all at home (at least I can/could) is quite an attractive thought at times.  I love doing this degree but it's hard work and it's made my life quite complicated; sometimes it would be nice to go back to having a simple life again!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Aesthetics v Politics

One of the things I realised not that long ago was that my definition of documentary photography was different from other people's!  Perhaps it says something about me that although I know Simon Norfolk's work, for example, has a heavy message behind it, I have tended to take it at it's aesthetic level - not what it was about, only about how it looked.

This came to light for me when I was part of a group discussion with a visiting professor - Prof John Roberts - and Norfolk's work came up.  It just struck me that I'd never thought of him as a documentary photographer which struck some of the others as very odd!  After I thought about this, I realised that this has been one of the problems with my work and the images I'm interested in - I don't think of it as documentary, but I appear to others as documenting such things as coastal erosion, or industrial leftovers.  When I think of the work I like, there's quite a bit by documentary photographers as opposed to artists - Donovan Wylie and Simon Burch are other examples.

That said, despite that new found awareness, I'm still adding Alexander Gronsky to my list - I really love his work.  Once again I know that he has a message behind the images, but I'm not considering what it is, only how they look.

(Interestingly, Roger Palmer came to talk to us at GSA last week (separate post to follow) and he said something that summed it up for me.  When talking about how much he travels to make his work, he was asked how much he considers the culture of each country or area.  He answered by saying that he's not interested in the countries or the culture within them, he is interested in the 'similarity of the spaces'. He has 'nothing to say about [the country] and everything to say about photography'.)

The Edge

Mountains & Waters

Less Than One

Some Interesting Stuff

As a result of my good talking to (by me!) I've been looking at some photographs for inspiration and I've collected a few that I found interesting.  However, I hadn't taken a note of the names of all of them which meant going back to find out the artists to credit them properly.  This made me realise three things:

1.  I look at a lot of the same stuff!  Normally, I wouldn't think that was much of a problem, but when you begin to deliberately go through site after site, you begin to realise how 'narrow' that view point is; to quote my 4th year tutor, it all becomes a bit tedious!  I never thought I'd say that, I love this type of photography!!!

2.  That there's a lot of good quality photography of this type out there - it's the old 'there's nothing new' argument again.  How can you make your own work stand out from the rest when 'it's all been done before'?

3.  Rather than going through lots of artists, I should just put a link on my blog to the New Landscape Photography blog of Wilson Cummer - I can spend hours looking at the work he chooses to post.  Thank you Mr Cummer, you are a source of inspiration to me, maybe one day I'll be on your site?

That said, here are a few images I have picked out so far:

Talking to Myself!

I've had a bit of a turnaround in the past few weeks and have been having some serious thoughts about my photography.  I think it's fair to say that since 1st year I don't feel I've done that well at making good images - I was pleased with the ones I showed in the 2nd and 3rd year exhibitions, but other than those, I feel there were few other good ones.  

And it seemed the harder I tried, the worse I got - it was incredibly disheartening and frustrating!  I think what happened is I managed to take a couple of good ones and then tried to replicate them - I became fixated on trying to take the same type of image again rather than just open my eyes to what was around me, to be open to seeing other possibilities.  Actually, I think that's been much of my problem this whole year so far; I've been like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the on-coming degree show and been too afraid to let go and enjoy it.

Thankfully, with self-awareness comes self-reprimand!  I took a day away from the city, drove up to Dundee (still have a bit of my heart in that city), had lunch with an inspiring friend, had dinner with P and spent the whole drive back giving myself a good talking!!  Things have been much better since then, and the creative juices have started to flow again - maybe I'm just a late starter?!

One of my new images - not a bit of concrete in sight! Well, with the
exception of a bit of a motorway that is!!