Monthly Archives: October 2009

Camera Porn!

m4

Leica M4

I don’t think about what camera I should use that much. I just pick up the one that looks nicest on the day

— William Eggleston

pen

Olympus Pen

f3

Nikon F3

More gratuitous pictures of some damn sexy cameras from Tokyo Camera Style !!

– Rory

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A Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Week 3

Lee Miller, Self Portrait in HeadbandLee Miller – self portrait in headband

Ooops! Should never leave a two week gap to write up notes! I’ll see what I can drag up from my tired ol’ brain cells on this one! Anyway, back on October 14th myself and a few other CorkAP’ers attended A Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Week 3. Presented by Chris Clarke, Glucksman Curator of Education and Collections, was The Commercial Image, and a very entertaining and informative lecture it was too.

Chris began his lecture by discussing photography in advertising, and how photography is a realistic medium that is easily mass produced. One of the first images he showed was Lee Miller – self portrait in headband (above). Lee Miller was a model who became a photographer. As her career progressed, Miller became a key figure in fashion, war photography (documenting the 2nd World War for Vogue magazine), and contemporary art, as assistant, muse and lover of surealist artist Man Ray.

Edward teichen - Lee Miller, Kotex AdvertisementEdward Steichen – Kotex advertisment

Miller was introduced to Man Ray by Edward Steichen for whom she modelled for Kotex. At the time this was a very controversial advertisement, as it was the first time that an advertisment for a menstrual hygiene product featured a photograph of a person. But a taboo was broken, and advertising and photography broke new ground.

Edward Steichen - Gary CooperEdward Steichen – Gary Cooper

Steichen was a also cross over photographer between art and advertising, (and a war photographer during WW1). Advertising at this time (and ever since) promoted as much as anything else an aspirational lifestyle, and in photographs such as the one above, we see Gary Cooper depicted in a suave, wealthy, healthy, manner – very aspirational. That said, the difference between how men were depicted in advertising compared to women was stark enough. In both cases, very aspirational, artistic images are used, but images of women were much more objectified than those of men – “Lisa as V.O.G.U.E” by Horst P. Horst, below, being a case in point!

Horst P Horst - Lisa as V.O.G.U.EHorst P Horst – Lisa as V.O.G.U.E

Robert Piguet - Brigand PerfumeRobert Piguet – Brigand Perfume

The way objects were depicted were also aspirational, sexualised, graphic. Robert Piguet’s ad for Brigand perfume is nothing short of phallic!

blow in her face and she'll follow you anywhere!blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere (!!)

Cigarette advertising was probably the most explicit in terms of aspirational advertising, with explicit sexual conoctations, emphasising the point that, really, you want these. Of course, cigarette advertising has since been banned (at least in this part of the world – is it banned everywhere?), and to modern eyes the one above for Tipalet is shocking, objectional, and, well, kinda hilarious. Did they really get away with this stuff?!

Silk Cut advertSilk Cut advert

By the 80’s cigarette advertising was very much curtailed, and advertisers had to become much cleverer. The advertisments became much more subliminal, pushing people on a subconcious level. The Silk Cut adverts, designed by Charles Saatchi were very clever, depicting a puple silk with a single slash in the fabric. Sublime, but not condoned!

David LaChapelle - EvianDavid LaChapelle – Evian

Art photographers used advertising as a way to sell their work, as well as the product being advertised. David LaChapelle’s work is big, colourful and garish. The scenes he depicts are very much set up, not quite realistic. His advert for Evian is selling what he does as much as it is selling water. Advertising has always been used by many art photographers as a valid platform to show their work – Jurgen Teller and his Marc Jacobs ads, Oliviero Toscani  and Benetton, Ed Ruscha Absolut Ruscha, Annie Leibovitz – Keith Haring. The list goes on, art photographers selling themselves and their work as much as the products they are commissioned to sell.

Juergen Teller - Marc JacobsJuergen Teller – Marc Jacobs

Toscani - BennetonToscani – Benneton

Absolut RuschaAbsolut Ruscha

Annie Leibovitz - Keith HaringAnnie Leibovitz – Keith Haring

It could be asked given a series of images such as these, are these photographers entirely promoting their own thoughts and ideas, or are they being influenced by their work in advertising, and is this affecting or changing how they work? Advertisers such as Benetton and Marc Jacobs are very keen to work with artists, designers, musicians and photographers. The association is seen, I guess, as mutually beneficial. Similarly, Keith Haring is an artist who alligns himself with photographers. The photograph that Leibovitz took of him definatley must have been mutually beneficial to both the artist and photographer. Of course, most photographers produce their own work as well as the commissions they do for advertisers. William Klein, a painter turned photographer, worked commercially for Vogue, and also took photos, such as “Supermarket and Gun”, which depicted the underlying conditions of the society we live in.

William Klein - Supermarket and GunWilliam Klein – Supermarket and Gun

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At the end of the lecture (which didn’t end there, but it’s gone too late to write anymore! ), Chris set us all a task, dividing us into groups and electing people to speak. It was a bit of a jolt to those of us who expected to sit and listen, but it was fun to partake, think a bit about what had been discussed, and have a bit of banter back and forth. All in all a great couple of hours. Tomorrow evening is lecture number 5, The Photographer as Artist. Looking forward to it!

– Rory

CorkAP exhibition in Brew Cafe, Paul St, Cork

Matt002

– By Rory O’Toole

Cork Analogue Photographers will be exhibiting work by members in Brew Coffee Shop on Paul’s Street in Cork for two weeks from 24 October 2009. Brew Coffee Shop is open on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday from 12 noon to 5pm and from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.

– Rory

A Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery Week 2

shell_shked_sml1

Don McCullin – Shell Shocked Soldier


Lecture 2 of a Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery was about Photography & Conflict, presented by Matt Packer, Glucksman curator of exhibitions and projects. Some of the photographs that he presented we had seen in week 1 with Fiona Kearney. She had talked about the history of photography, and the art that the eye of the photographer brought to these documents. What stood out to me during Matts’s lecture was the idea of the ethics of photography in situations of conflict.

Matt began the lecture by talking about the history of photography, and how technology changed the ways in which the war was brought home. In the early days, guys like Fenton and Brady needed horse drawn wagons to develop plates on the spot, and this largely prevented them from photographing the actual battle scenes – they general made pictures of the aftermath. As the technology progressed, particularly with the emergence of the Leice and 35mm film in 1925, photographers were able to become embedded with the soldiers, and photograph events as they happened. Robert Capa’s photographs of the Spanish Civil War, and later WW2, pioneered this type of photography in conflict. Not that Capa was immune to possibly fictionalising events either, as the controversary following his photograph “Death of a Loyalist Soldier, 1936” was to prove.

robert-capa-death-of-militiamanRobert Capa – Death of a Loyalist Soldier

This photograph by Capa was controversial when it was first published, as it was the first time such an image had been made in the heat of battle. It proved controversial ever after too – was it fake?

Capa coined the famous phrase, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. During the D-Day landings, Capa was certainly close enough.

10-rc-amer-soldier-landing-on-omaha-beach_2991_1992_webRobert Capa – American landing on Omaha beach, D-Day, 1944

This photograph is technically very flawed – shaky, too contrasty, over exposed. And yet it is a shocking masterpiece – a document showing exactly what was happening on the beach that day. Hardly surprising that Capa’s hand shook when he was that close – right in the middle of it. This was to become the working method of photographers ever after – being there in the thick of the conflict with the soldiers, dodging bullets, on the run, documenting what was happening.

picture.aspxCatherine Leroy – L’assaut de la côte 881

But what of the ethics of witnessing these atrocities?

Bergen Belsen 1945- George RodgerGeorge Rodger – Belsen Concentration Camp

George Rodger in 1945 went into the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp tasked with making pictures of what was there. And despite the horror of what he witnessed, he needed to document the scene, to compose correctly, make a good photograph. In an interview later he said, “It wasn’t even a matter of what I was photographing, as what had happened to me in the process. When I discovered that I could look at the horror of Belsen – 4000 dead and starving lying around – and think only of a nice photographic composition, I knew something had happened to me and I had to stop. I felt I was like the people running the camp – it didn’t mean a thing”

falling-manRichard Drew – The Falling Man

Matt told us a story about how he had met Don McCullin, and spoke with him about the very famous photograph from the Sept 11th attacks in New York – “The Falling Man”. McCullin commented that the photograph should never have been printed. Matt didn’t understand this. Why would you not print and publish a photograph as important as this? McCullin argued that the photograph should have been taken but never printed. It was important for the photographer to bear witness. But it is an entirely different set of ethics to use the image, to publish it, and to receive royalties.

Today photographers are like antennae on the scene, and images are being sent instantly to picture desks. Is the photographer still ethically responsible for what is used, what is published? Or has that responsibility been taken from him?

JN0001RWIN_GAJames Nachtwey – Rwanda, 1994 – Survivor of Hutu death camp.

Choosing the photography of James Nachtwey as a case study, Matt shows that Nachtwey chooses his projects, and makes excellent, very emotive pictures. But what are the links between the projects? What research has been done? Looking at his website we see that he has been to all the modern war zones and places of conflict, disease, famine, pollution – Bosnia, Romania, Rwanda, etc. But where is the broader sense of context? There seems to be a homogenity of approach no matter what stricken region he is in. Are the photographs about what he has seen, or about him? The sense of ethical responsibility is evident on Nachtweys website however – the home page contains the quote, “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”

ap000005Camera phone photo, London Underground, 07/07/05

Matt also discussed the idea of photojournalism in crisis. With modern technology, pictures are reaching the media from the general public using camera phones and so on. Has the value of the photo journalist been eroded by this? Robert Pledge argued that “… Certain individualists will doubtlessly continue the tradition of photojournalism. But books and exhibitions will be their media. They will produce long term stories, often grant supported, that will give us an understanding of the world different from the one we see on TV”

simon_norfolk2Simon Norfolk – Afghanistan

Which brings us to Photojournalism & Contemporary Art. As an example, Simon Norfolk uses a large format camera when photographing scenes such as this in Afghanistan. This format gives lots of detail, picture space, improves spatial relationships. It’s not taken on the battlefront – it’s the aftermath or periphery. It is primarily produced with a view to exhibition and a book. You get a sense of pathos with a photograph such as this. The photographer is engaging with people, not scambling about in the bushes avoiding bullets. Depicting the human farming activity in front of the ruins of the building, it attempts to display the human offort to build hope despite the evidence of destruction.

I have left out a lot more of what Matt discussed – it was a rather long lecture! But he concluded with a video, “Journalists Under Fire: Vietnam and Iraq”, featuring Don McCullin, Catherine Leroy, David Leeson, Mike Cerre and Jonathon Schell, discussing the ethics of photojournalism, what they witnessed, and how it affected them. I checked you tube, and here’s the 58 minute version –

After that heady evening, I’m looking forward to Week 3 – “The Commercial Image”

– Rory

Irving Penn

Penn_angels

Irving Penn has died at the age of 92.

From the NY Times “… In his catalog essay for a 1984 retrospective of Mr. Penn’s work at the Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski, then the museum’s director of photography, wrote, “The grace, wit, and inventiveness of his pattern-making, the lively and surprising elegance of his line, and his sensitivity to the character, the idiosyncratic humors, of light make Penn’s pictures, even the slighter ones, a pleasure for our eyes.”  …”

Click here to read more

– Rory

A Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery Week 1

80668577Niépce, 1827

So last Wednesday Padraig and I attended the first of six lectures on a Short History of Photography at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery. The first weeks lecture was presented by Fiona Kearney, Director of the Glucksman gallery. Miriam didn’t make the first night, so this post could be titled “Notes for Miriam”!

The first slide that Fiona presented was of the first photograph ever made (or at least the earliest surviving), which was made by French inventor Niépce in 1827. This image was fixed on a metal plate, and showed a scene from a window of a  house. The exposure would have taken many hours, and so the necessity of finding a place to keep the box still for that length of time probably dictated the scene produced as much as anything else.

Niépce collaborated with Louis Daguerre who went on, some 12 years later to patent a process known as the daguerreotype.

Boulevard_du_Temple_by_DaguerreDaguerre – Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 1838


A daguerreotype is essentially a negative image,  exposed directly onto a plate bearing silver halide.  It is a single negative process, and prints cannot be made from the plate. Although the end result is a negative, the mirrored surface appeared as a positive when a dark background was reflected onto it.

Henry Fox Talbot, an English inventor, perfected his own process, and in 1839 invented the negative process. With his process, the calotype, many prints could be made from a single negative. Although the daguerreotype was more popular at the time (possibly because it was a free to use patent, unlike the calotype which was licensed), the fact that Fox Talbot’s calotype was a double negative process meant that it became the precursor to most late 19th and 20th century photographic processes.

Latticed_window_at_lacock_abbey_1835Henry Fox Talbot – Latticed window in Lacock Abbey in 1835

Although the early photographers were essentially expert inventors and chemists, Fiona impressed upon us during her lecture that an artistic eye guided the creation of the image from the begining. The second photograph above, Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 1838, by Daguerre, is a wonderful example of this in my eyes. This is a technically interesting photograph, because the Boulevard appears to be empty, despite the fact that this should have been a busy street, full of life. The only apparent sign of life is the two figures towards the bottom left of the scene – a man standing still to have his shoes shined, and the shoe shiner. What has happened is that the exposure took so long that the only people that stayed still long enough to be recorded were the shoe shiner and his customer. I wonder if Daguerre and this man were in cahoots, as quite apart from the technical aspect, the two figures add enormously to the beauty of the scene.

800px-The_Horse_in_MotionEadweard Muybridge – The Horse In Motion

From the begining, photographers were very influenced by painters, and painting, in turn, was influenced and changed by photography. One of the things that photography did was change the way that we see. Eadweard Muybridge was commissioned by Leland Stanford to scientifically prove whether or not all four hooves left the ground during a gallop (possibly so that Stanford could win a bet!). Muybridge achieved this with his “The Horse In Motion” series of photographs, and in so doing changed the way we see, and the way artists paint.  No longer would paintings such as Epsom Derby by Théodore Géricault appear realistic. Indeed to modern eyes the horses in this painting appear to be flying rather than galloping, with all four hooves off the ground!

epsomderbyThéodore Géricault – Epsom Derby

And so some artists began to paint in such a way that now appears more realistic, since the invention of photography. Below is “Race Horses” by Degas. As you look at the painting, your eye is drawn to the startled horse in the center of the frame, and to modern eyes, this looks “more correct”, again due to photography.

degasraceDegas – Race Horses

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570px-Roger_Fenton's_waggonMarcus Sparling seated on Roger Fenton’s photographic van, Crimea, 1855.


Roger Fenton was the first photographer to go to war, commissioned in 1855 to the Crimean War to photograph the troops. Although he had to carry wagon loads of glass plates and chemicals, the photographs that were produced immediately changed the way foreign wars were reported on. Seeing the devastating impact of foreign war in images, rather than reading about them, had enormous impact – the written word could not compete.

784px-Fenton_cannonballs_crimeaRoger Fenton – The Valley of the Shadow of Death

The technology of the time meant that the photographer could not actually photograph the action as it happened, so early war photographs tended to be of scenes and landscapes – cannonballs on a road, dead bodies on the fields. And, long before photoshop, accusations of image manipulation were ripe. Did the photographer move the bodies to increase the impact of the horror of the scene. Were the cannon balls moved onto the road? And if so, was he morally right to do this?

mathew-brady-1863Mathew Brady, 1863

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An image that was certainly manipulated, if that’s the right word, was “Fading Away” by Henry Peach Robinson in 1858.

Henry_Peach_Robinson_Fading_Away_1858.sizedHenry Peach Robinson – Fading Away

This photograph was made from five different plates, or negatives.  At the time, this was a shocking image to its audience. It depicts a dying woman being attended to by two nurses or family members, with her husband staring mournfully out a window in the background. It was a shocking image, considered too real, despite the fact that paintings of such a scene were commonplace. It was the apparent realism of the photograph that shocked his audience, who considered it a step too far.

Fiona’s lecture also looked at the impact that photography made on the environment right from the early days. The formation of Yosmite as a National Park came about partly because of the photographs that were taken there. As people travelled there to make photographs of the natural beauty, so it was recognised that tourism was a new factor, and steps were made to preserve such places.

Photography moved away from trying to emulate painting, and the fashion for pictorialism was replaced by a search for “truthfulness” in photography by photographers such as Weston and Ansel Adams. But still the artistic eye led the way, composition improved, and the idea of photography as an art form was fought for and grew stronger.

We can see the path from where photography began gives us a clue to where we are now. The world is aware that images can be and are often manipulated. A photograph is not always truthful. But an artist can use photography to make a statement about the world he lives in now.

viewing_the_ice_floesSean Hillen – Viewing the Ice Floes

Rory