Progress so far

11.1.2011

I feel a little more confident in travelling around WordPress but not happy with how the theme layout (Fusion) looks and spent some time experimenting.  Fusion looks more organised and uncluttered to me but I’ll lose the Flickrstream link.  Is it really necessary?  It’s as if Flickr is, somehow, a lifeline to me as a photographer linking me with other enthusiasts.  Thinking about it, having a nice clear blog layout seems more important to me at the moment.  In any case I’m already on the OCA discussion groups and there are so many linkages that it can be quite confusing!  Settled for Fusion theme and I can do without the link, but I have asked for any feedback on it from OCA Flickr members who might have a look.

Additionally, my Lensbaby Composer lens had arrived this morning and I hardly had time to play with it because I was so caught up with the other things.  It came in such a pretty box as well.  Practising macro shots has whetted my appetite for other techniques but I think I might be trying to run before I can walk as it were.

The most important event of today was talking on the phone with my tutor.  I particularly wanted to ask her about size of photographs and pros and cons re blog and journal. Summary of discussion is: –

  • I need to read more than the general magazines: British Journal of Photography (BJP)P; Aperture and Source all have good articles.  I should also read on history of Photography.
  • Assignments: Best is to send everything on a cd and also prints so that she can give best feedback on quality.
  • Size of prints:  A4 but larger for the final assessment.
  • Paper log:  Could be a watercolour book or sketchbook to contain leaflets; jottings; interesting photos etc.

I raised a query about photographic style in the sense that I haven’t got one yet and she reassured me saying that I should remain eclectic.  Also, a couple of my Flickr images reminded her of Josef Koudelka who is Czech and a Magnum photographer.  I think this was in terms of  composition rather than subject.

Needless to say, but I will, that afterwards I immediately did an internet search on him. Briefly Josef Koudelka is famous for his images of the Russian invasion of his native Czechoslovakia in 1968. He has also spent many years photographing gypsies; matching his lifestyle to theirs, travelling and living rough with them. From 1986 he also made very different images with a panoramic camera, depicting urban and rural landscapes devoid of people to reveal the impact of industrialisation.  I need to do a further search on him.   Books I found on Amazon are very expensive.  Maybe the library will have some.

13.1.2011: I got some nice feedback last night that my blog theme looks clear and uncluttered and I’m pleased about that.  On the way to a meeting this morning I listened to Radio 4 – the This Morning programme. There was a discussion with Jonah Lerner who has done some research showing that hard to read fonts make people concentrate more and learn better.  He referred to the Monotype Corsiva font, which he described as hard to read. I don’t seem to be able to copy that font here on the blog, but when I looked at it I actually found it easy to read and more interesting somehow but maybe it’s more confusing if there’s a lot of it.  Don’t know what that says about me!

What’s a font got to do with photography then?  I think it’s because I’ve been wanting to make things clear which must be part of trying to give myself some order out of the chaos of this new learning experience. What I’ve found working as a mentor/assessor is that sorting out the order of a portfolio seems to mirror the student’s identification with a Course and understanding of what’s expected.  That must be why I’ve spent some time trying to find the perfect journal!

14.1.2011 Really good comment by tutor, ‘Clivedoubleu’ on OCA Flickr regarding thinking like a photographer not like a student trying to fulfil a brief.  Also about keeping assignments in mind as you go around. Even though the shots you take might not seem right to you when the actual assignment comes along they will still have been a good preparation.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 – National Portrait Gallery.

My husband went up to London today with a friend and called in at the exhibition.  He brought back the accompanying book, which has the winning and short-listed photographs together with those of other exhibitors.  It’s nice to handle and look at.

Writing of the photographers in the foreword to the book, Lucy Davies states, ”The best kindle a charge of emotion – that person isn’t really there, but your brain responds as if he or she is, and floods you with warmth, or repulsion.” (2010, p. 3).

My immediate responses

1st Prize ‘Huntress with Buck’ David Chancellor:

http://portfoliography.com/2010/11/huntress-with-buck/

I immediately took in the russet tones in this image but my eyes went straight to the dead buck on the horse and I thought, “What a cruel picture”.  I didn’t even notice the girl on the horse to begin with.  I think I assumed it was a man.  Then I read the description that this is a 14-year-old girl called Josie Slaughter who is an experienced hunter from Birmingham, Alabama.  She flew to South Africa with her parents in order to kill her first African animal.  I think I got so caught up in my emotional response that I didn’t linger over the image and turned the page fairly quickly. When I went back to it I was more aware of the girl on the horse, her beauty and her straight gaze.

2nd Prize ‘Portrait of my British Wife’ – Panayiotis Lamprou

I found it a challenging image.  I recalled reading about it a few weeks ago without really taking in what the controversy was about. A beautiful, pale and Madonna like face (reminded me of a Modigliani painting) juxtaposed with an exposed lower torso, which is explicit in physical detail.  My eyes kept travelling up and down, not knowing where to settle.  This wasn’t embarrassment just that each aspect was fascinating but I couldn’t concentrate on either because of the pull of the other. The young woman is gazing at the camera but with a slightly sideway’s view, as if she is gazing into space and maybe thinking of other things. I felt slightly disconnected from her. The coolness is accentuated by the blue tones.

Other photographers

All of the other photographs are excellent in their own way but I particularly liked two of them. “Wafa” by Felix Carpio from his series Syria.  Again a beautiful young woman wearing dark clothes and a green headscarf.  All that is visible are her face and her hands.  To me it is a serene, peaceful image.  The other portrait is of a Haitian woman by Ramin Talaie.  An elderly lady standing by a tree, with her hand on its trunk.  She is wearing a red dress, with a purple belt and there is an air of pride about her.

15.1.2011

Bad weather the last few days has meant that I haven’t been out with my camera and I have decided I must be a fair-weather photographer!  I’ve practised indoors with my Lensbaby but have only slightly improved and am beginning to feel despondent about doing the Course and ever becoming a good photographer. I decided I must make the effort and anything is better than nothing so I should make a start on the third exercise, Focus at different apertures.  I discarded the idea of photographing trees on the Common because it was a cloudy day and the tree trunks are very dark.  Instead I drove around for a while looking for inspiration and eventually settled on some wall buttresses of a nearby village hall (see separate write-up on the exercise).

I felt much better when I got back even though not sure that the photographs were clear enough to show the effects of the different apertures.  At least I had been out and taken photographs.  Another idea I had was to start now to make a list of possible shots for future assignments.

I also looked again at the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize book.   Lucy Davies (p.3) quotes the photographer Philippe Halsman as stating, “If a picture has for everybody exactly the same meaning…it is a platitude, and is meaningless as a work of art”.  Does the meaning for the photographer match with mine (or with yours)?  David Chancellor is reported as stating that he wanted to explore the contrast between the peace and tranquillity of the location, Josie’s ethereal beauty and the dead buck.  The location itself isn’t particularly evident in the reproduction in the book (or in other journals).  It could be South Africa, or America or anywhere where there are mountains, grass and deer. There is a distinct contrast between the beauty of the girl and the dead buck.  Also the relative sizes as the girl’s slim body contrasts with the muscles and size of the horse.  The foreground figures dominate the image.

Graham Clark (1997, p.29) asserts that a photograph,  “…”exists within a wider body of reference and relates to a series of wider histories, at once aesthetic, cultural, and social.”  There is a lot of that here for me.  One could be reminded of a Celtic warrior queen astride her horse and surveying the scene. She is strong, independent and, despite her youth and size, capable of killing a large animal.  At the other end of the centuries we have a culture which is based on the right to have a gun and where children (for she is a child) are encouraged to kill for sport.

I can see why this portrait won the prize.  It is beautifully composed and the colours are wonderful.  My reaction has certainly been an emotional one.  I wonder how different it might have been if it was just of a girl on a horse or if the hunter had been a young man?

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