The second post for Assignment Five focusses on the area I have finally chosen to concentrate on for my personal project …. layered micro and abstract photography. I have used our garden as the location and the subjects are flowers and leaves, building on my most recent still life conceptual project with tulips.
In the first post for this assignment I explained my thinking for choosing this subject. I have discovered layering techniques during the course as part of my steep learning curve in using both the camera and Photoshop. It has been a voyage of guided study, discovery, experimentation and opportunism.
I include by way of introduction a grid of selected images made using layers and overlays of photographs I have taken in each month from December 2017 to July 2018. Posting regularly in Instagram I have received encouragement and feedback from fellow OCA students as each month has passed. These and other created works form the starting point for the new pictures developed for the assignment.
Developing the pictures
I have produced pictures for the assignment that represent a July day in our garden during the hottest English summer in over 40 years. I have created the five layered images from macro photographs taken at different times of the day. When I dip into various www sites on “how to do’ macro and flower photography” it is clear I have broken all rules. For example one of the constant themes is to photograph flowers in perfect condition – something I have not done on this occasion, not only because the hot sun is having an impact on many blooms, but also as I believe the natural state adds interest and variety of colour, tone and texture. Another is to never photograph flowers in bright sunlight.
As with the tulip project I took an enormous number of photographs that required three edits to select the final five. I used my Olympus OMD four thirds camera with the 60mm1:2.8 macro lens and made a few adjustments to tone and colour, with a little cropping prior to using the selected photographs to develop the layered pictures.
Having created the images I have retrospectively looked at the work of three photographic and mixed media artists to explore any resonance with my own beginnings. They are: Abelardo Morrel, Idris Khan and Visa Kivinen
Discovering the work of Abelardo Morrel is almost overwhelming. Looking at the extracts form his forthcoming book, Flowers for Lisa (Abrams, October 2018) and his creative artistry is dizzying. He is known for his work made using a tent and camera obscura techniques. He does not use digital layering and describes his work with flowers in the following way:
“I love the way Jan Brueghel, Edouard Manet, Georgia O’Keefe, Giorgio Morandi, Irving Penn and Joan Mitchell, reworked the look of common flowers to show unexpected versions of them. The subject of the photographs in my work may be flowers, but they are also pictures about perspective, love, jealousy, hate, geometry, sex, life, the passage of time and death. I love how in choosing to limit myself to one discrete subject I was able to open doors into a world where I felt inventive, improvisational and fresh.
Technically, these images involve a number of approaches such as making multiple exposures to create floral explosions; combining my own painting with living bouquets and using ink to produce dense cliché verre (glass plate) pictures. Since I believe that new possibilities in art are always around the corner these works have been giving me plenty of opportunities to prove that to myself again and again. At the same time, they serve an emotional impulse to show the woman I share my life with my dedication to her.” (Morrel, A. Flowers for Lisa, Project, 2018).
This description of his own work that draws out the relationship between creative fine art photography and emotional response together with the many examples of his work on his www site resonates with me and I shall be returning to it again.
“Drawing inspiration from the history of art and music as well as key philosophical and theological texts, Idris Khan investigates memory, creativity and the layering of experience. Khan’s works – in media including sculpture, painting and photography – rely on a continuous process of creation and erasure, or the adding of new layers while retaining traces of what has gone before. He is well known for his large-scale works in which techniques of layering are used to arrive at what might be considered the essence of an image, and to create something entirely new through repetition and superimposition.” This is how Miro describes Khan’s work that I shall again wish to return to. (Miro, V. 2018). I particularly feel for the notion of using layering to reach the essence of an image.
Combining oil painting, body painting and nature photography into richly complex layered works has been Vesa Kivinen’s project for the last nine years.(Creators, vice.com; 2018). He uses mixed media to create layered works. The two take away messages for me are the importance of working on projects over a long period of time to allow the concepts and creativity to develop naturally and the use of mixed media.
This very brief exploration of the work of other photographers and my own enthusiasm for creating pictures has taken me by surprise. When I started the course I had no idea of the possibilities….I most certainly have now.
A Day in the Garden July 2018
The photographs that follow are grouped in five sets to show a day in the garden. Using my Olympus OMD camera and macro lens I took initial photographs that I subsequently developed and manipulated using Photoshop. With the exception of Honeysuckle I used a single image for each subsequent layered picture. In honeysuckle I added a photograph of a glass of effervescent fluid. In Currant Bush a hornet added to the shot.
GERANIUM AT FIRST LIGHT
CLOVER IN MID MORNING SHADE
SUNBATHING ON A CURRANT BUSH IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY
CLEMATIS IN BRIGHT AFTERNOON SUN
HONEYSUCKLE IN THE EVENING
This assignment is the final piece of work for the Foundation in Photography Course. As always I value comments and critique.
My thanks to my tutor and followers for supporting me on my journey through the course.
The final Assignment is a personal project and gives us the opportunity to set our own agenda. I commenced recording my course reflections and identifying areas I particularly wished to develop further (everything!) in my post “The Bridge-Part Four to Part Five” https://wordpress.com/post/sarahatoca.wordpress.com/6505. I identified objectives for the final part of the course that I discussed in a hangout with my tutor:
to continue to utilise my life experience and environment to inform my photography
to set myself small projects to develop technical skills
to utilise mobile photography, especially when ‘spotting’ interesting opportunities in unusual or unexpected circumstances
to explore the possibilities and limits of what the camera can achieve
to expand the range of working with people, especially when permission is needed
to utilise on line tutorials
to possibly revisit and develop the previous Trunk exercise for the final assignment.
I have completed and posted my work for the exercises for Part Five: Concept in Photography Projects 1 and 2.
In the remainder of this first post for my Personal Project I will explain my thinking about my approach to the final assignment.
During the course I have been on a steep learning curve. I remain excited by almost every aspect of photography and see this Foundations programme as helping me to “pack my bags” for the journey that lies ahead.
In an e mail conversation with my tutor and with fellow FiP students about this assignment I considered the approach I might take. A number of projects appeal to me that would require several weeks or months to complete and are beyond the scope of this course.
One project is to revisit Assignment 3 and the wealth of material I found and photographed in a trunk belonging to my late father, including a collection of maps and a compass. These, together with other documents that came to light and books subsequently written by others, (for example English,(1997) form the basis of an opportunity. This to follow the path my father took when escaping from prison camp in northern Italy during WW2 in the autumn of 1943 and to take photographs at points along the way. This I hope to do next year that will enable development of landscape skills in particular I believe.
A second project idea is similar in that it involves walking remaining stretches of the Pilgrims Way from London to Canterbury, the route followed by Chaucer and recorded in the Canterbury Tales. I would enjoy identifying landscape locations that survive, photographing them and comparing them with those of Jack Ravensdale, a photographer and landscape historian who undertook a similar journey and published his record in a book entitled “In the Steps of Chaucer’s Pilgrims”. (Ravensdale, 1989).
These two ambitious personal projects can be undertaken as the opportunities present themselves over the next year or so to compliment formal study.
Photographing people who I do not know was another objective I set myself. In the aforementioned post, “Exploring Possibilities: developing skills”. I committed to developing these portrait, documentary and candid photography skills at events such as fetes and garden parties. This is work in progress and as a result of photographs taken at one such event in the last week I can see the opportunity for series within this area, as examples “candid portraits” and “after the party”. The photographs below are “as shot”.
Finally, I have considered focussing on an area that has captured my attention as I have progressed through the course. Experimenting with Photoshop layers, overlays and filters to create new images. I have developed a number of these since late last year and have included them from time to time in posts. I used layers in Assignment Four. I have not undertaken any formal exploration or research into this photographic art form by other photographers, but admire the work of OCA students as posted on Instagram. In particular I acknowledge Judith Bach, Kate Aston and Andy (who posts as ‘drewkabi’).
I have therefore decided to complete this personal project assignment with a presentation of selected layered artwork that I have developed during the course and for this assignment, together with a brief review of such work by other photographers.
My first and most recent layered images are included below as a taster of the ways in which I have been experimenting. The first was developed in October 2017 and brings together three photographs taken in Sutherland with my Olympus OMD camera. The second was developed in June 2018 from multiple images of a cricket match taken from the TV screen with my iPhone. I blended these with another image taken in the garden. In both cases I used Photoshop.
My second post will complete this assignment, exploring layered images further and giving more examples. In the meantime ……..
Comments and critique welcome and valued. Thank you.
Ravensdale, Jack (1989) In the Steps of Chaucer’s Pilgrims Souvenir Press
English, Ian (1997) Home by Christmas Privately Published
The final exercise prior to the assignment in this section of the course considers the concept of connectivity within the global context. We are asked to recreate a photograph from photographs taken on the opposite side the world and to indicate the meaning of the final image.
Living between the fiftieth and fifty first parallels north, (London and the English Channel respectively) and looking at the globe I was reminded that the Falkland Islands lie in the same position between the fiftieth and fifty first parallels south. I have used two freely available photographs accessed via the www together with one of my own taken during the winter months to create the final image. My own image is of the Houses of Parliament in London on lying close to the fiftieth parallel north, the base image is a diagrammatic representation of the globe showing the fiftieth parallels in the northern and southern hemispheres, and the third image is of Government House in Port Stanley near the fiftieth parallel south in the Falkland Islands.
The concept is government, colonialism and commonwealth. The image I have created is deliberately faded to indicate the evolving state of the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century.
This is the second post that explores concept in photography through Exercise 5.5 entitled “What is a flower?” I am using the tulip to undertake this exercise. In my first post I followed the guidance in the exercise designed to prompt understanding of the nature of ‘concept’ mechanically, taking the photographs, viewing, discarding and selecting contact sheets, focussing on the capture of the image in front of me. I experimented initially with presentation of the images taken outdoors together with contact sheets of a selection of those taken inside, and invited comments on the work via an individual communication with my tutor, this site and via Instagram, receiving helpful feedback. The first post may be found here: https://sarahatoca.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/part-5-project-2-concept-in-photography-1/.
In the first post I did not overtly explore the potential connotations to be found within my work, although Petal Fall and the grid Light and Dark might draw forth ideas from the viewer. Falling within the genre of still life these photographs may be seen as purely decorative or prompt further meditation and interpretation. (Hacking, J. Ed 2012)
In this post I will complete Exercise 5.5 that asks for preparation and presentation of prints of the selected photographs I took and consider any emerging symbols or metaphors. I will look at the way in which other artists and photographers have used tulips in their work.
Exploring the connotations of tulips.
Tulips are, to my eye astonishing in their beauty at every stage of their existence. This season I have taken nearly 800 photographs of tulips outdoors and indoors in various stages of bloom and decay, against a variety of backgrounds. In addition to undertaking the exercise I wanted to develop my technical photographic skills and this I have started to achieve in the areas of landscape, macro and still life photography and in using different exposures to observe the effects.
Tulips, as with other flowers may prompt emotional feelings and memory. Some flowers have been adopted as symbols of various charities representing those who have particular illness (for example, the daffodil has become recognisable as synonymous with Marie Curie, the forget me not with the Alzheimers Society, the poppy with the Royal British Legion) and the tulip has been adopted by the North Cyprus Cancer Charity Trust. In each case artwork is developed to promote the charities in question and it is arguable that each of the flowers has become cliched.
Flowers of all kinds and tulips in particular have been depicted in a variety of art forms throughout recorded history. In the 17th century coveted tulips were painted and studied by Dutch artists, connoisseurs and intellectuals with one iconic painting in oils by Ambrosius the Elder Bosschaert, Flowers in a Glass Vase (Ambrosius the Elder Bosschaert (1606-10)displayed in the on line catalogue of the National Gallery that captures the sensuous colours, tones and textures exquisitely.
David Hockney has depicted tulips on a number of occasions, including Black Tulips (1980) a lithograph capturing them in full flower in a wooden pot placed on a stand covered in an embroidered cloth. Aesthetically pleasing this depiction takes me straight to the memory of my late mother in law who would have pots of flowers displayed in exactly this way. Had it been tulips they would have been brightly coloured and not black, and probably discarded once drooping. Any associations or connotations would not, I think have been considered and were certainly never spoken of. Yet Hockney may have been hinting at two obvious metaphors to be drawn from portraying tulips, those of death, the colour black being associated with death in western cultures, and sexuality signified by the gradually drooping attitude of the tulips. More recently Hockney has created artworks of tulips as part of his iPad art, that he describes as ‘performing drawing’ because of the ability to watch, change and playback the creative process. (Gayford, M.(2010).
A very different artwork – Jeff Koons’ tulip sculpture installation entitled Bouquet of Tulips has been gifted to the people of Paris as a memorial for the victims of the terrorist attacks of 2015. It has been rejected for placing outside the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum and a suitable site has yet to be found for it. (Marshall, R. (2018). The installation is made of concrete of monumental proportions and includes a hand held aloft holding a bouquet of brightly coloured tulips that have no apparent texture whatsoever apart from a single dimple in the apex of each flower. It could not be further removed from the work of the Dutch painters of the 17th century, but shows not only the enduring significance of tulips in art and their symbolic association with commemoration and celebration but also triumphalism and sexuality.
Georgia O’Keeffe painted flowers throughput her life, from the 1920’s making large scale modernist paintings at close range. She was also a photographer and applied photography techniques to her painting, encouraged by her close friend, and later husband, renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Whilst her flower paintings formed one part only of her extensive lifetime body of work they attracted, and continue to attract attention disproportionate attention. The Wikipedia entry (accessed June 2018) leads to numerous references to and critiques of her extensive portfolio, many of which refer to the erotic nature of her flower images that were marketed in sexual terms by her husband. These interpretations of her works depicting female genitalia were denied by O’Keeffe herself, attributing the continuation of this symbolism to the male gaze. A more balanced approach was adopted in the major Retrospective of her work mounted at the Tate Modern in 2016. (Ellis-Petersen, H (2016)
Tulips and Photography
In considering further the question “What is a flower?” and the guidance in this exercise I suggest the reproductive system of plants perhaps inevitably leads to a variety of connotations, analogies and metaphors aligned with human life course, sexuality and ageing. Photography, as artistic expression arguably brings opportunity for both the artist and the viewer to explore and express their feelings in ways that might otherwise be denied them. As the FiP Handbook suggests flowers are associated with occasion, anniversary and associated personal and communal memory.
I have briefly explored the work of other photographers and artists who have used flowers, and especially tulips as subjects . I am grateful to my tutor for nudging me in the direction of Robert Mapplethorpe and Georgia O’Keeffe, (Gullachsen, Lorentz; individual communication; June 2018)
Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photography (Holborn, M. et al 2006) includes photographs of tulips composed with minute attention to detail and shot with absolute precision, that are entirely beautiful but also carry erotic imagery. (Forago,Jason (2016) The images are best seen in print to appreciate the absolute beauty of his work.
Nobuyoshi Araki (Forago,Jason (2016) has embraced erotoc images of bondage with flowers, a concept too far for me to explore, being to my eye utterly degrading of both women and men and of the art of photography.
Irving Penn sought to emphasise the formal and structural qualities of the flowers he photographed that portrayed the fragility and impermanence of flowers and that hinted at the impending prospect of death.(Gregory,T. 2017). The image here from Penn’s Flowers Book (1980)
Completing Exercise 5.5 exploring my own photographs
With the course handbook description of ‘concept’ in mind, it being about ‘…entering a process where you don’t really know what the outcome will be..’ (Enoch, R. (2014) I laid the tulip prints on a table and considered ideas and meanings associated with these still life studies.
In my first post for this exercise I referred to regeneration and renewal and described the biological cycle of the bisexual tulip, with emergence and growth in spring followed by decline and decay, and then a form of resurrection with the formation of new bulbs and seeds. I arranged a grid of tulip photographs moving from light to darkness/darkness to light that might be construed as a metaphor for this renewal. Connotations I hold in mind now were those drawn not only from the exercise guidance but also from my brief review of other artistic work.
I selected approximately 80 photographs and have had them printed in small squares 10cm by 10cm for further selection, display and rephotographing. The prints did not accurately capture the original images due to my incompetent conversion to the square format. Nevertheless handling the prints allowed thorough study of the photographs and for connotations to emerge. I found myself spontaneously arranging the prints in pin board style and as time went on randomly overlapping them. I began to shape the overall arrangement in the loose style of the outline of the tulip shaped wine glass I photographed in the first part of the exercise and initially added the word ‘tulip’ formed from wire and covered in wool, reminiscent of the kitted scarves I also photographed at that time. This arrangement called to mind the work of Annette Messager (https://www.artsy.net/artist/annette-messager?page=1&sort=-partner_updated_at_) an artist studied earlier in the course.
I photographed the arrangement using one lamp and a reflector that produced the vignetted result here. I have chosen the title “Complexity and Confusion” as an indication of the connotation that emerged . With feedback from my tutor I removed the word ‘Tulip” and allowed the display to speak for itself.
I found I had taken several photographs of single tulips in the manner of Penn. Rather than having the full glory of the tulip opening in the warm sun to attract insects to assist pollination and subsequent reproductive success I recorded the colour, texture and tones of the underside of the flower, with all the other parts covered by the folded petals. I have entitled this image “Modesty”, but might equally have used the title “Sterile”
Numerous photographs indicated decline and death of the original flower. I include one of the fragmented tulip captured in low light I have called “Endings”.
I took a number macro images, an area of photography I find I enjoy enormously and am considering for further work. These images signify continuity, the potential lying within the seedpod deep within the disintegrated tulip. These images have an almost abstract quality. I have entitled them “New Life 1 and 2”.
I have been working on this exercise for several weeks. I have developed my technical skills and taken my learning about project planning and delivery to a new level. Still life photography requires careful planning, preparation and execution. A very large number of photographs were required to obtain the final few, and even then some I have used are not as good as I would wish. These are insights I will carry to my final assignment.
Comments and critique welcome and valued. Thank you.
Hacking,J.Ed. (2012); Still Life – the experimental period; in Photography the Whole Story p62
The second project in Part Five is about conceptual photography which is described and defined in a number of ways. The FiP Course Handbook (2014) explains it is “…to do with hunches and entering a process where you don’t really know what the outcome will be and you take photographs that attempt to document that process.” This is the first of two posts in which I take photographs of an available flower, tulips, concentrating on developing my technical photographic skills. To do this I have followed the guidance of the prescribed exercise. In the second I will present the arrangement of prints asked for in this exercise together with an exploration of other art and photographic work using tulips as subjects, retrospectively considering concepts that emerge in relation to my own work.
The Tate defines conceptual photography as “..photography that illustrates an idea” (Tate 2018) and describes the historical development and diversification of conceptual photography over more that 100 years. This definition appears to be at odds with the handbook, as it suggests that the idea is uppermost in the mind of the photographer or artist and that what follows is carefully planned and executed.
Exploring the photographers cited by the Tate I was absorbed by the work of John Hilliard, who certainly planned his work scrupulously in advance with a clear idea about what would come next. His work: “Camera Recording its own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors)”, is described in the following way:
“The central image in this work, visible in varying degrees across seventy black and white photographs, arrayed in ten rows of seven across, is the artist’s camera, an East German made Praktica. The camera, which is operated by Hilliard, is reflected in two mirrors, the larger of which presents a reversed image of the subject. Hilliard also holds up a smaller mirror which reflects and makes legible the camera’s setting and controls. The variables governing the making of the work are indicated by the second part of its title, ‘7 apertures, 10 speeds, 2 mirrors’ – the camera has become both the subject and object of the work, in that the seventy photographs show the images resulting from all combinations of aperture size and shutter speed in that camera. Across a diagonal axis, where the exposures are ‘correct’, it is possible to read the camera settings which produced each image. Where the photographs have been sequentially over or under-exposed, the next reading can usually be logically inferred.” (Hilliard, John; 1971, Tate),
The resultant art work is a grid of 70 sequential images that are precisely aligned to form a new image of geometric design with a diagonal gradient of light that falls from overwhelming brightness to darkness. This approach conceptualises the use of the camera in an entirely new way, as an artistic tool in its own right. The resultant composite grid of the images is more than the mere sum of the individual parts and a story emerges that requires individual interpretation.
Hilliard worked with film to create art works developed from his ideas. Digital photography allows for a greater range and diversity as photographs are altered, manipulated, merged, layered and overlaid using post processing software.
In looking ahead to exercise 5.5 I decided to use the tulip as the basis of my study and before commencing the requirements of the exercise took photographs of a single tulip using different exposures and post processing to develop a sequence passing from lightness to darkness as influenced by Hilliard.
A TULIP SEEN IN DIFFERENT LIGHT
With this small experiment in mind I commenced the formal exercise.
Exercise 5.5 What is a flower?
This exercise asks that we choose a flower that we observe and photograph over a period of time to create a collection of visual connotations about symbolic and metaphorical associations. The series to be supported by a formal definition or description of a flower.
I chose to photograph tulips due to my passion for growing them and therefore their availability at the time I took the photographs. So many indeed (nearly 800) that I have left them to rest awhile before proceeding. As I took the photographs I had no clear idea about where the exercise would take me, therefore having the Handbook definition more at the front of my mind than the of the Tate.
The first part of the exercise asks for a formal definition and description of a flower. Flowers are plant structures involved in sexual reproduction. Tulips are a form of angiosperm flower, a complete or perfect flower that is bisexual, having both androececium or male parts – stamens, and female parts known as gynoececium – stigma, style and ovary. In addition there are sepals and petals that are decorative only, but important in attracting insects that act as pollinators, facilitating the reproductive process and the continuation of the genus over time. A www search for ‘flower diagram’ reveals a plethora of examples of the reproductive system of a flower. The diagram below provides an illustration of the form of an angiosperm flower (codyolserbiology.weebly.co: accessed 10.06.18)
Tulips form a genus or perennial herbivorous bulbiferous geophytes (that store food, and allow year on year repeat flowering of the same colour and shape as the original flower). Tulips may also be grown from seed by allowing the seed pod of a tulip that has finished flowering to dry out and undergo a period of cold prior to extracting the seed and sowing. The germination of the seed and growth of the young plant takes several years to mature to the point that it is able to produce a flower that may bear no resemblance to the parent. This factual, biological description of the tulip fails to reach the visual, symbolic and metaphorical connotations developed by artists and fine art photographers .
Thewordtulip,likethecultivatedtulipplantitself,hasitsorigins in theMiddleEast.Thetulipfigures frequently in Persianverse,whereitsredcolorevokestheblood of martyrsandthefire of love,and in Turkey,tulips areassociatedwiththedelicaterefinementandluxurythatcharacterizedtheOttomanEmpire at theheight of itspower. (www.thefreedictionary.com). Tulips are associated with spring and love, and formed the subject of two centuries of the genre of Dutch flower painting that is said to have commenced with Jan Breughel the Elder in the early 17th Century (bbc.com 2016).
Following the rise and decline of a tulip flower illustrates the function of an angiosperm flower as it forms and reforms in a constant cycle of renewal and regeneration. I set out to photograph this event using the specific guidance for the exercise without knowing exactly where it would lead.
A macro photograph of the tulip in vibrant full bloom shot against a neutral background.
I chose two, the first whilst in a vase, the second in the garden.
TULIP IN FLOWER
A photographic record of the sequence of pulling apart the tulip.
I have photographed the natural and beautiful process of decline in the garden for this part of the exercise.
TULIP IN DECLINE
Together with a photographs of the gradual petal fall of tulips in a jar in the house.
Another perspective is achieved by photographing fallen tulip petals in water.
TULIP FALL IN WATER
An example of other subjects in the same form and colours of the tulip.
I selected favourite knitted silk scarves with some of the multicolours of tulips together with two tulip shaped wine glasses. The colour blue features here. I have yet to grow a blue tulip, but they exist, so here we have aspiration for next spring.
THE COLOURS OF TULIPS
Individual images of each part of the tulip whilst vibrant and in decline against a white or black background.
I experimented on a number occasions with a number of tulips in both wet and dry weather for this part of the exercise. I wanted to use the exercise to develop my macro photography skills using a white and black background. I used a number of different tulips and of different colours. Over a period of days I took over 700 photographs and then left them, returning after a month or more to edit down to the following contact sheets:
Printing the photographs as small prints and arranging them in a grid or pattern with the dictionary definition. Then to photograph this arrangement.
I have prepared the small size prints and await their arrival. A second post will complete this part of the project and will include exploration of other artistic and photographic works together with reflection on the project as a whole.