Francesca Woodman was a photographer who explored subjects of representation and poignant symbolism in which her work refers to personal issues such as identity and gender. Following her studies in Italy, Woodman began to use performance in her creative practice in which she was influenced from photographer Max Klinger. Woodman experiments with objects and portraiture and often uses herself as part of the subject matter in which she creates slow exposures capturing herself as a blurred subject to form a ghostly appearance. Woodman sadly took her own life at the tender age of just 22 years old but left behind a vast collection of works set in abandoned spaces.
Woodman explores the psychological aspects of self evaluation as she places herself in confined spaces evoking a sense of entrapment which may make one feel they are intruding in her seclusion. Woodman makes her presence vague among the surroundings as she lurks in discreet corners or moves frantically enough that we can only make her out as a trace in the background. One particular image of her lying underneath a door in the open space of a room evokes a sense of weakness and intense self torment.
I find Woodman creates a powerful atmosphere within her imagery as she exposes herself very intimately and this brings a pureness to her psychological narratives. Woodman creates an effective impact in how she uses objects almost threateningly towards her own body where this brings a dominant presence in the objects as active instruments. I admire her composition and I personally find she reflects herself strongly as a human individual. This has influenced my own creative practice in terms of how I could purposely make the audience feel uncomfortable as this approach may bring across the reality of psychological struggle to a greater degree.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei works in a variety of media including photography, film, sculpture and audio in which he explores subjects of irony and activism. Weiwei has featured in various documentaries which follows his exploration of international issues which contributes as a progressive aspect of his work. Weiwei has exhibited internationally and has participated in activist activities that has also made him to be known as a controversial artist.
The three piece series ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn‘ (1995) is one piece where Weiwei brings about a controversial message in which we witness the artist in three ‘freeze frame’ photographs of him dropping a historical Chinese artefact to the floor, destroying it in the process. Weiwei keeps an emotionless expression as we witness these actions, conveying further disturbance. The images act as a preservation for the object and a figment of a two dimensional subject as now it is only present in these images. Weiwei produces an intensity, especially in the second image as the artist brings across the notion that time has stopped as the artefact has not yet hit the ground. Weiwei brings a sense of past, present and future as in the first image, the artefact still exists, the second shows the active process of dropping it and the final image shows the result of its destruction.
I find Weiwei brings an effective symbolic approach to his works and goes beyond the boundaries to convey a message that could be rather daring and surprising in almost a stubborn way. I do find the way he communicates his motives is controversial, however he succeeds in establishing a reaction. This type of active practice Weiwei executes influences my developmental process of my own narratives where I could experiment with interaction with objects in a way how you wouldn’t normally use them.
Exploring other psychological examples of work has given me insight into how I could further challenge the audience through means of setting a specific task for the individual within the subject matter. I find the way both Woodman and Weiwei execute their own visual roles in their work makes the content even more personal; we see the artist themselves fulfilling the actions seen where they are acknowledging the audience directly.
The Photographer’s Gallery features a section where the viewer is invited to view a piece of work on a wall more closely, write down what they see and then place it inside a box. During my visit, the changing display project by Touchstone titled ‘What Do You See?‘ featured work by drawing artist and photographer Thomas Zummer. For the work titled ‘Study for a Portrait of Simon Ironing‘ (2005), I wrote down my thoughts on how the drawing may refer to futuristic possibilities.
I found the experience very thought provoking and I find this type of installation an effective way of interacting with the audience directly. The installation makes the viewer think deeper into what something could mean generally or to them personally.
Visit to Tate modern: ‘Performing for the Camera’ (PFTC)
‘Performing for the camera’, a show currently running at the Tate Modern gallery presents a wide range collection of photography with over 500 photos from a variety of well known artists and photographers. The show explores the art of performance and photography in which image content includes portraiture, fine art and still life.
American artist Jimmy Desanna features a series of images which depict ambiguous portraits capturing the human body and objects. Desanna was a leading artist in the 1980’s and 1990’s and is known for his experimental ‘anti art’ style where he poses individuals in awkward positions. Desanna has featured in many galleries including the Pat Hearn gallery and the Wilkinson gallery.
The series uses a variety of subjects in which Desanna uses objects to deform or place the human subject in bizarre situations. For example, the image ‘Marker Cones‘ sees a man on all fours with his hands and feet balanced inside 4 individual cones upon a green backdrop. Desanna creates a circus like atmosphere and keeps his subjects anonymous.
I find Desanna’s works a unique contribution to the show and I admire how Desanna has re-interpreted the human body as a functional asset for objects.
British photographer Martin Parr features a vast selection of images in which all of them feature …well.. himself. Parr is a leading documentary photographer who captures subjects of life referring to propaganda and international reality in which he allows us to be entertained by quirky re-interpretations of popular visual subject matter such as famous monuments. Parr creates humour by placing subject matter in places where they shouldn’t be, evoking a new perspective of life where one might look twice.
The series ‘Auto-Portraits‘ is an on going series that began in 1996 that captures the photographer using play role and green screen technology to make himself appear in various places as various people. Parr uses this as a way of providing fake evidence to the audience that he has visited ‘this place’ and is ‘this person’. Despite the fact that we know this is not to be true, Parr brings a comedic relationship between objects and space by using it to his initiative as a method of creating a life story display.
I find Parr brings charisma and is open minded about the subjects he chooses and I admire this in how he is creating a profile that is not real and yet he keeps the viewer interested through the use of referencing real iconic subject matter in world culture.
Hicham Benohaud began his career as a teacher in art education as well as taking his own educational occupations in Strasberg. Benohaud works in a variety of other media as well as photography and exhibits internationally in which he has featured in many shows including the Aperture Foundation in New York.
The series featured in ‘Performing for the Camera’ which is titled ‘The Classroom‘ (1968) Benohaud asked his students to spontaneously stop their work in class to pose for a photo where they were given the activity to use materials around them. This six piece series brings an evocative concept that breaks the rules by capturing a subject in a controlled environment; Benohaud does this during a school session where other children are to continue with their school work.
I find this series is cleverly executed in how Benohaud takes advantage of space and materials in an environment where there is a specified routine and Benohaud puts this routine on pause using one individual at a time.
Erwin Wurm is an Austrian artist who uses a range of media to provoke queer and humorous engagement between people and objects. Featuring two instalments in the ‘PFTC’ show, Erwin explores the everyday, although placing his subjects in unordinary situations. The ‘Claudia Schiffer‘ series (Untitled) depicts portraits of a young woman setting various poses where she uses her body to balance objects in odd places. For example, one image of Schiffer balancing a plate on her head as she leans on the table may put one on edge. What if the food got in her hair? Wurm puts the audience on the edge of their seat as he gives the impression that the pose will fall apart any second. The second series titled ‘One Minute Sculptures‘ presents a similar occupation where Wurm depicts his subjects against a white background, bringing pure focus to the subject matter through the execution of close up portraits. These portraits bring more contrast between space and subject matter. As well as photographic display, Wurm invites the audience to try experimenting with objects themselves in a similar fashion seen in the work.
I find Wurm brings a fun element to this piece where the individual is placed under pressure to maintain the given poses. I find this is influential towards my ideas of how objects can also be interactively challenging as well as visually thought provoking.
Japanese artist Keiji Uematsu conceptually explores objects and space in which he provokes barriers that could either bring elements together harmoniously or destroy them completely. Following his studies in Japan at the Kobe University, Uematsu travelled to Germany as a member of the formed artists group Moha-ha where he gradually developed his own platform for performance photography. Uematsu has featured at various festivals including the Performance Art festival in Brussels.
Uematsu’s work often consists of a mixture of black and white and colour photography creating illusion and unexplainable subject matter by using active techniques performed by the individual. The show features his work’s ‘Wave Motion IV‘ (1973) and ‘Stone/Rope/Man II‘ (1974). Within these monochrome images, Uematsu establishes wonder in how he brings the illusion that the man is holding onto an attached stone floating in the air.
Uematsu brings a sense of trickery into environments that appear quite ordinary and uses subject matter to the point where in the image, anything is possible. I find this series brings the viewer to want to know more about how Uematsu created the performance as the images leave us questioning the reason behind the pose.
Visiting the show ‘Performing For the Camera’ was beneficial towards my ideas of photographic installation when considering how I would bring across my narrative further to my target audience in a public space. I find the most valuable lesson I learned from this show was the variety of ways in which photographs could be installed on a wall when presented in a non interactive setting. For example, Martin Parr’s ‘Auto-Portraits‘ present a loose style of hanging pictures in which the images consist of different sizes, shapes and frames while other artists have featured their work as a long trail sequence to follow or by covering the wall completely.
This show has also inspired me to consider more ideas of how I could approach performance elements in my own work where I could create a complete twist on the subject matter by making the individual more active toward objects to capture unexpected moments.
The story for my narrative brings focus on two subjects: a single individual and a box. The story follows the developments of the individual’s keeping of the object in which the individual tries to resist temptation to open it. Revealed inside is the identity they desire. This sequence has been photographed capturing the subjects movements frame by frame in which I have selected key actions of the individual as he takes the steps to retrieve his longing for truth. This sequence was photographed using ambient lighting and I have chosen to use a male lead.
Contact Sheets-All Images
I have chosen to feature the images as a black and white series as I intend to avoid having elements in the background causing distraction in the content. During the editing process in Photoshop, I firstly cropped the images and used the saturation tool to take away colour completely. I also used the spot healer tool to diminish any unwanted marks on the subject matter.
I then used the curves, brightness and contrast tool to enhance the lighting and exposure of the subject matter. This was to bring more depth in the shadows particularly as the setting is intended to be quite intense and edgy.
I also made other adjustments where I made slight enhancement of clarity to refine detail. For one of the images which depicts the ring object inside the box, I used the smudge tool to create a blurred illusion effect. My intention of this was to add a visually uncanny presense to the object.
Black Box Narrative Storyboard (32 Images):
Other still life images of the box will be featured throughout the series to give balance within the visual content in which the viewer sees both subjects together and then transcends to a viewing of the box alone. These images refer to all objects present in the scene and establishes the dark character to the box object through use of intense lighting.
I found shooting this sequence quite challenging as I was working within a confined space with only two subjects to focus the narrative on. However, I am confident that this series brings across the theme and this has developed my skills in taking the initiative to delve deep into creating a narrative when involving subjects of a small number.
If I were to feature the series as a gallery installment, I would use the two images of the preceding objects found inside the box to encourage the viewer to participate in a physical activity. The viewer would be asked to choose one of the objects that the character in the series should take and so cards will be provided for the viewer to note down their choice and place this inside the actual thing. The box would be featured within the viewing space as an additional installment relating to this aspect of the series. The viewer would be asked which one they choose and why they chose it? This activity would be intended to give the audience the opportunity to consider what they would do if they were placed in the same position as the leading character in the narrative. This would bring more immersive quality to the series as an interactive piece as well as a visual one.
Reflecting on my self directed project, I have found exploring installation and photography as a combined concept an exciting investigation towards how I push the boundaries in presenting work within the public space.
In the early stages of this project, my experiments of photographing the ‘ball’ object echo my geometric experiments of observing the ‘box’ object during the staff initiated project. I found co-ordinating the materials for these experiments challenging as I found it difficult upon selecting suitable objects within a suitable background. My first two experiments seen as the ‘Blue Ball’ series involving using patterned materials as a supporting background brought me to question the significance of the background content in relation to the main subject matter as this was unclear. I found the later experiments using a plain matching background material worked more harmoniously as this resumed my intentions of producing attractive colour contrast to bring across balanced visual content.
My strongest influences towards my practice include Victoria Ivanova and Laura Letinksy as I find these artists communicate well in using narrative concepts in still life that brings the object themselves to life. I was distinctly inspired to use the ‘less is more’ initiative in which my practice involved putting things in and taking them out again. For example, I find my narrative development was largely improved in ‘The Pebble and the Acorn’ series and this helped me to understand visual story telling in more depth. I find this series was the most engaging and as visual pieces, I find the series works well because it makes the viewer think differently about ordinary items. This practice also allowed me to bring focus to natural specimens, thus taking the opposite intention of photographing nature as a space but instead as an item. The process of ‘placing’ and ‘replacing’ made the practice more interesting as my images changed frequently in which this assisted in conducting development in the story telling. I also found I held more control over the scene as instead of choosing my location for the setting, I was able to make it independently. This enabled me to consider further opportunities to change my subject matter as I wish.
Gallery visits including the Nude Tin gallery were particularly inspirational towards my practice in terms of managing aspects in photography involving lighting and technique. i found my visit to this gallery also offers me further opportunity to promote my work as a freelance photographer. Making my investigation into participating within local arts communities has given me further encouragement to enter into competitions and events as well as making engagements in the business side of the photographic industry.
Overall, I find this project has developed my learning of exact preparations towards organising an exhibit as a freelance photographer and I find my practice has taken to a level where I can recognise my own unique style in still life photography. My final chosen theme which explores ‘Acceptance’ will also be a partner theme with my previous concept exploring ‘Sanctuary’. I find both these themes would work well as a combined concept as they both consist of similar elements.
Reflecting on my recent practice, I find my work has developed on an entirely new level in terms of visual content and theme and this has brought me to develop a different genre of photography that brings focus on a variety of subjects.
Practitioners I have found particularly influential towards my practice include Yayoi Kusama and Clare Strand. I admire how Kusama realises her work as a visual, interactive experience and this has motivated me to work on a larger scale. Clare has influenced my ideas in the observation of simplistic forms in which this has led me to experiment further in exploring geometric form and the everyday necessity. For example, I found my work progressed well within the ‘Red Box’ series in which I learned to be more selective in colour in all aspects of the image content. I found this series projected my work in a new direction where I take advantage of the qualities of objects and space as well as in depth meaning.
My visits to the Photographer’s gallery was strongly inspiring towards my ideas development of installation concepts in which I particularly admire Trevor Paglen for his diverse use of media. From visiting the show, I have learned to be more open to other resources that may involve using a different medium altogether. I also learned how I could correlate different media used in relation to my chosen theme. For example, Paglen featured images of drone’s but he also featured text describing more about them. This concept helps the audience to become more educated in the subject matter as well as understanding the subject visually. This influenced my practice when considering other formats that can be used for the Major Project. For instance, my conceptual idea of using objects within the space as well as their counterpart photographs correlates the images with the ‘real thing’. I also found Laura El-Tanwany’s piece influential in terms of enhancing the mood of the space by using audio sound and this is something I intend to use within my Final Major exhibition.
During the course of the staff initiated project, I found my experimentation with featuring interior based objects within an exterior environment challenging as I found my range of selected subjects too specific. Although my final experiment of this worked well within the ‘Red Box’series, I found it difficult to consider how I would develop the concept further within a narrative sense. Speaking with photographer Maxine Beuret was beneficial towards processing my ideas of considering and researching further opportunities involved with the Arts Council England. For example, setting the exhibition in a public resource space presented was another possible objective in which the installation acts as a space with regards to its environment. Overall, I found this first short project gave me satisfactory practice in still life photography based outdoors and this has encouraged me to try something new with the exclusion of the individual as a subject matter.
Ernesto Neto is a sculpture and installation artist who integrates elements of the 5 senses within large interactive walk through pieces. His work brings focus on themes relating to nature, man made artefacts and the spiritual world in which he works with a large variety of materials where he induces elements such as scent within the experience.
Following his studies in Brazil, Neto has exhibited internationally in which he has displayed at museums including the Tate Gallery in London and the Guggenheim museum in New York as well as many other artistic establishments. Neto represented his country in the 2001 Venice Biennale Event and he has also participated in various other biennials and group exhibitions.
Neto’s installations are charmingly engaging as he allows the audience to physically explore space like an alternative world. Neto transports the viewer by inviting them to interact with the space within a leisurable setting that enables viewers to almost become lost as his works often work similarly to a maze structure. Neto is often known for an unusual element in his pieces which sees lumps of material mesh hanging from ceiling height creating a rounded sac shape; these have been used in many of Neto’s works including the Anthropodino installation in 2009.
I strongly admire how Neto establishes the interactive element within his pieces and I find that he also brings a sense of freedom and fun to his pieces. I particularly admire his netting installations where the audience can walk to higher level above ground which brings an exciting new perspective for the viewer. In works such as ‘Madness is a Part of Life’, Neto brings a jungle gym similarity in these pieces and this makes the installations all the more entertaining. I am inspired to bring the element of fun toward my Major Project Outcome as I find this will attract more attention in terms of encouraging people to play a role.
ARR Bomb Magazine (2008) ‘Artists In Conversation-Fernando Gomes and Esnesto Neto’ [Online] Availble from: ‘www.bombmagazine.org (Accessed Winter 2008)
BBC Three’s recent psychological drama ‘Thirteen‘ follows the story of a girl who has escaped her kidnapper and returned home in which this leading character re-adjusts to ordinary life. However, developments concerning her case provoke further events to occur.
The scenes in this drama provoke an intense observation of how life threatening events has affected the character’s mental well being in which the drama gives a deep analysis of the character’s relationships with others. We also see how the character retraces her steps upon her return in terms of her relationship with her own belongings in which we witness the character’s anxiety when recognising these items.
As well as developing characters, I find this drama also highlights how one reacts to objects of important meaning and this influences my concept ideas of realising an objects significance. For example, one scene which presents another character creating a visual drawing for the detective establishes the crucial element of possibility in which another piece solves the puzzle. I intend to bring this element across in my own practice toward my visual essay as I find this will develop further conceptual development when concerning the ‘object’ subject matter. As a part of my own concept, I intend to represent the object as an equal character (in its own way) where the individual is provoked to interact with it as if it is a living thing.
This drama has strongly influenced my conceptual ideas of setting the scene in which I find the suburban setting a fitting environment for conflictive, realistic drama.
ARR BBC (2016) ‘Media Centre-Thirteen’ [Online Article] Available from: www.bbc.co.uk (19/02/2016)
BBC IPlayer (2016) ‘Thirteen-Homepage’ [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk (Accessed 27/03/2016)