My current practice is now firmly based around environmental photography. While I did conduct an abortive documentary project on a social campaigner in 2016, my interest in environmental photography had otherwise been weak until suggested as an alternative to my original portraiture project by my tutor.
My style is evolving, contemporary-wise. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog I’m very interested in Harry Borden’s approach to such portraiture as he has a provides the sort of a natural and relaxed look to his images that I try to capture in my own images. Other contemporary photographers that I try to emulate in my environmental portraiture are Seamus Murphy , Stephen Wilkes and Nadav Kandar. I’m sure there are many others who’s practice I can also learn from.
I interviewed Harry Borden a few months ago and one of his key messages about how he conducts his shoots was to be relaxed. This is definitely an area I’ve much to improve on. I also noted how he preferred nowadays to avoid the use of props unless really necessary. This I’m keeping in mind as I’m proposing for my researchers & influences project to include an object that is close to them.
During the week I decided for my forum assignment to re-photograph an earlier picture. I decided to utilise an image I’d taken of Battersea Power Station taken with my first SLR camera from the train on my way back to my digs in South London from Victoria station. I’d moved to work in London at the start of that year from Yorkshire. At the time the image was it comprised two individual power stations, built in two stages, 1939's and 1950's, in the form of a single building with those iconic four chimneys.
I’ve since taken this route innumerable times and until recently the view of this Battersea landmark has been a constant. Little changing, even after the power station closed in the mid-1980’s and the first abortive development programme removed the roof.
The activity reminded me of the ‘now’ images of world War II sites shown a couple of years ago at the ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ exhibition at Tate Modern, particularly Jerzy Lewczynski’s 1960 photographs of the Wolf's Lair / Adolf Hitler's War Headquarters. I understand he called this type of image the of the "archaeology of photography".
It wasn’t as easy an activity as I’d first thought and has taken several attempts. Timing was critical as there is only a short window on a moving train to capture the same perspective. I also in hindsight made the error of not taking the same train as I did at that time. The train to Croydon, where I live, follows the ‘standard’ Clapham Junction route on the Western side of Battersea railway bridge. The Beckenham train that I almost certainly used in my original 1973 shot was, as now, using the track on the Eastern side of the bridge, closer to the Power Station. Comparing the then and now images that difference matters. It would also have probably removed the issue of other trains blocking the shot.
the shot was taken is important, if possible. In the end this image resulted.
Showing that in trying to emulate historical photographs effort to identify exactly where the shot was taken is important, if possible.
Project Activity Review
With reference to how i feel my project should look movine forward I'm very much in a state of flux. Easiest to begin with a review of where I've been since beginning this course of study.
My original project was to portray the edgy effect a degree of androgynous features make to the female face.
Androgyny is a look that has been appreciated in fashion for quite some time, from Coco Chanel through Grace Jones to present day models.
This further evolved to using a lens that is not normally considered suitable for portraiture, a 300mm reflex/mirror lens (on a half-frame DSLR body).
This provided an extra degree of uncertainty from the very narrow depth of field the use of such a lens close-up gives
It also gives a very detailed perspective of the collaborator's features, even with a very soft light. Examples from my project portfolio develped at the end of the first module can be seen here.
At the beginning of the second module I bought a second-hand 500mm reflex lens for my full format DSLR as this larger lens was much easier to focus with.
I conducted shoots with three different independent collaborators with varying degrees of success.
However, I belatedly I realized part-way through the second module that it was proving too difficult to recruit suitable collaborators and the use of such a specific set-up was not aiding my own development.
At the advice of my tutor I decided to move to my current theme of environmental photography.
My second project, which started half-way through my second module, was based on my initial career in pharmaceutical research and development and a later role in promoting innovation as a director of The R&D Society. Entitled "Portraits of Researchers & Innovators – facilitators of a better future’ my aim is to show something of these people in their work environment. Images from my first shoots for this project can be seen here.
During the last module I decided to expand my new interest in environmental photography by beginning a sub-project; "Croydon Shopkeepers of Distinction". Images from the portfolio submitted at the end of this last module can be seen here.
At the start of this module I'm considering one further sub-project, also on an environmental photographic theme. This I feel will both give me greater challenge and this greater experience will help in my decision for my final major project.
There are several avenues that i'm assessing, more on this in later blogs.
A fornight ago I went to the opening of the Central Saint Martin’s graduation show, looking at both their photography MA and various Fine Arts MA exhibits. Intrigued at the way video was incorporated into a number of Fine art installations, making me wonder again whether I should incorporate video into my own practice. Not quite so excited by most of their photography MA work, some seemed to be straying into different areas of artistic expression with minimal use of photographic means. The week after that, whilst I was on the ACA photoshop course at Falmouth Iniversity I was fortunate to be able to see both their Fine Art degree shows and those of a number of photography genres.
Earlier in May I'd visited the Photo London 2018 event and couldn't help but be impressed by the video installation 'Benefit Supervisor Sleeping' by Charlotte Colbert. Colbert’s work stages Sue Tilley, the model of a famous painting by the same name by Charlotte's earlier collaborator, the painter Lucian Freud. The video was apparently filmed in the original studio where Lucian Freud first painted her.
I took a shot of both the video installation and the montage it was based on.
But you really have to see the video to appreciate the art. Very effective.
Baker, S, 2014 War photography: what happens after the conflict? Daily Telegraph 7th November, 11:40 Accessed 30th June, 2018 from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/11213266/War-photography-what-happens-after-the-conflict.html
Kępa, M. 2012 Jerzy Lewczyński Culture.pl #photography & visual arts on-line magazine 14th Nov., (Accessed 30th June, 2018 from https://culture.pl/en/article/jerzy-lewczynski
Colbert, C Benefit Supervisor Sleeping Charlotte Colbert website articlehttps://www.charlottecolbert.com/benefit-supervisor-sleeping (Accessed 24th August, 2018)
Soource of images by other photographers shown above
‘Image No. 39’ from ‘The Republic’ series by Seamus Murphy. Accessed 2nd July, 2018 from https://seamusmurphy.com/Photography/The-Republic/24
‘Lt. Col. David Burke F35 Pilot’ by Stephen Wilkes, accessed 2nd July, 2018 from http://www.stephenwilkes.com/portfolios/portraits/526fcc76-2b58-426d-9e61-30740aa613db
‘‘Jimmy Choo’ by Nadav Kandar, No. 9 of an ‘Art of Fashion’ series commissioned by Nieman Marcus. Accessed 2nd July, 2018 from https://www.nadavkander.com/commissions/art-of-fashion-1/single#9