Assignment 5 – Things are Looking Up – Final

Brief 

Produce 12 photographs exploring an alter

Artist Statement (introduction in book)

For anyone who has grown up in the British countryside surrounded by rolling hills and large open spaces its creates a natural infinity with the rural domain. After all its part of our heritage. The city never feels like home, you can feel trapped, restricted until ultimately you succumb to its cold orderly nature. A place filled with lines ands lights all made for no other reason than to help us part take in the daily grind of urban life.

When you think of the city what you do imagine? Tall buildings, steel and structured or  a place to work, shop and possibly socialise. Everything about the city is tailored for  adults. A place to work, shop and socialise, where everything is ready and all you have is  pay. Nothing could be further from the open field in which I played in as a child. An open space, a blank canvas ready and waiting for your imagination to come out and play. Does the city stifle our ability to imagine or does it simply exist in other forms?

Nothing seems to come easy in the city and that goes double when you are exploring its landscape. While its true one street can look the same as the next, keep digging and there are moments it can surprise you. This book is about discovery, a journey which not only helped me embrace the urban landscape but also find that the surreal.

‘ The mind which plunges into Surrealism relives with glowing excitement the best part of its childhood. ‘

Andre Breton.  Manifesto of Surrealism. pp39

Back ground

When writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon moved away from Dada in 1924 to form the surrealist movement it was with one intention.  To investigate and discover alternate forms of reality which they believed the world was neglecting.  Their group required members to confront established artist movements with often provoking , random acts. It was in these moments that they believe we are able to tap into our unconscious mind and find a superior reality, a sur-reality.

A big part of this belief was that as we get older we lose the ability to imagine to dream. Photography was also seen as a threat to our abilities to create.

Photography was to deal it a decisive blow by mechanizing to the extreme the plastic mode of representation. Because it did not accept the necessity of engaging in a struggle with photography that was discouraging even before it was begun, it was necessary for painting to beat a retreat so as to take up an impregnable position behind the necessity of expressing inner perception visually.

Andre Breton. Manifesto of Surrealism. pp.272

Over time two methods materialised. The random, chaotic unplanned automatic work done by such artists Yves Tanguy’s Apparitions. (1927) (see fig.1) Along with the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects designed to create a surreal other world where anything is possible. A good example of this work would be The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali (see fig.2).

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fig.1. Mama, Papa is wounded. Yves Tanguy. (1927)
The-Persistence-of-Memory-1931-Salvador-Dali
fig.2. The Persistence of Memory . Salvador Dali. (1931)

Despite Breton’s apprehension about the cameras ability to do anything but simply represent the world photographers have successfully emerged using a surrealist approach. Gregory Crewdon (see fig.3) and David LaChapelle (see fig.4) are well known for staging landscapes in order to tell their stories. LaChapelle use of objects and visual metaphors in particular is very reminiscent of Dail’s style. The work of photographer Michael Levin (see fig.5) is described as a surreal landscape artist yet his work is relatively simple in compositionally in comparison. The leading lines, use of texture and way the images visually invigorates your mind seem to have more than one element of another approach minimalism.

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fig.3. Untitled (21) (2009) Gregory Crewdson
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fig.4. After the Deluge: Museum, (2007) David LaChapelle
Black-and-White-Landscapes-by-Michael-Levin-see-that-art-06
Fig.5. Michael Levin (2005) Steel Pier

The minimalism movement was primarily influenced by the Japanese in the 18th but didn’t really get going in America until the 1960s.  A step away from the emotion of expressionism its aim was to reduce the elements of an image to the point they become fascinating in their own right. Calling on the use of line, surface, texture and often colour it found a home in both art and photography. In the series Temptations by Nick Frank and Jeanette Hagglund I found a home for the images I had. The pastel tones which are common in minimalist work are present but most importantly the use of line, shape and perspective are combined to create a visual image which goes beyond its intended form. We look at patterns of a vertical building but in that moment we can forget its original function and explore patterns which are almost hypnotic.

Temptations_Cph03_webb
fig.6. Temptation. 2015. Nick Frank and Jeanette Hagglund

When describing minimalism in an article writer Davlin Ann recalled a quote by Albert Einstein which gives insight into just how much time and dedication go into perfecting the minimalist style. He said.

‘ If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. It would be a great slogan of minimalist artists. This photo technique seems to be very simple, but in fact you have to spend 100s and 100s of hours to perfect your skills. ‘

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

The images are simple, refined minimal landscapes, but to me the assignment was as much a hybrid of both minimalism and surrealism. The flaneur approach I took over months of walking the city in search of a very rare and certain view and experience that went along with it is very bit in the  spirit of what the surreal movement stood for.

The book

Individual book pages

3D Virtual Gallery embedded below or click here (link to gallery)

Technical review

All the photographs were taken with my Canon 750D using a 18-55mm lens. I let my feet do most of the angle and distance work and was constantly adjusting and playing with the angles. I tried to stick with the 18mm however sometimes as the buildings varied in height sometimes I had to use 18 to 30mm to get a bit closer it really depended on the situation. I would have preferred to there to be more consistency with the skies but quite simply as this project was on going and I had to capture the views as and when I found this caused the variation. I experimented with post production a lot in the beginning as earlier assignment posts will testify however for the final set adjustments were minimal as I wanted it to be about the vertical landscape and not the backdrop. This involved enhancing contrast to bring out the lines as well as some colour alteration in the last few photographs.  All adjustments were done using Lightroom and Photoshop. I did this because I felt the stylised approach would better suit the surreal feel of the images as I transitioned and explored both the culture and ideals of surrealism and minimalism. The adding of additional colour was also a difficult choice but one I embraced as I felt a strong connection between the work I had done and the traditions of minimalist photographs.

Animation created demonstrating transition

Bibliography

Andre Breton. (1929) Manifesto of Surrealism.  Translated from the French by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. Ann Arbor Paperbacks The University of Michigan Press

When Less is Really More: Minimalism in Photography. Davlin Ann. Photodoto [online] At https://photodoto.com/when-less-really-more-minimalism-photography-70-examples/ Accessed 20 March 2020.

Albert Einstein Quotes. BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc, 2020. [online] At https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_383803. Accessed March 24, 2020.

Illustrations

Figure 1 –   Tanguy. Y. (1927) Mama, Papa is wounded [online] At https://learnodo-newtonic.com/famous-surrealist-paintings Accessed 22 March 2020.

Figure 2 –  Dali. S. (1931) The Persistence of Memory. [online] At https://learnodo-newtonic.com/famous-surrealist-paintings Accessed 22 March 2020.

Figure 3 –  Crewdson. G. (2014) The Haircut [online] At https://gagosian.com/artists/gregory-crewdson/ Accessed 22 March 2020.

Figure 4 – LaChapelle. D (2007) After the Deluge: Museum [online] At https://magazine.artland.com/staged-photography-top-ten/ Accessed 23 March 2020.

Figure 5 – Levin. M  (2005) Steel Pier [online] At https://www.michaellevin.ca/b-w/1181 Accessed 23 March 2020.

Links to research and supporting material

Core elements

Post production / Book design

 

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