Contemporary Narratives - Photography: A Short Guide to History, Theory, and Practice: Online Course Starting April 27th 2022
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Thursday, 28 October 2010
I recently watched The World of Apu, Satyajit Ray's wonderful film where the delicacy of touch and pacing is so naturally crafted, it leads you into a space of love, heartache and, ultimately, a kind of redemption. The female lead is Sharmila Tagore, who was 14 when she made the film. The clip above is one of the great domestic scenes of film and shouldn't really be watched outside the context of the full movie.
Ray directed Tagore in the simplest manner possible - he didn't talk about the motivation of the character or how to get into the role, but simply told Tagore to look up, look down, look left, look right. The interplay of glances and gestures, the opening up of the scene as the film progresses is so gentle and unforced - but the way in which Tagore reached his goal is direct and unpretentious. It seems that this simplicity is just as apparent in photography, where the best work is the sum of a few simple parts, where pretension, artifice and disguise have no role to play.
The UK DVD of The World of Apu includes a rather special Mamoun Hassan Masterclass. I couldn't find it online, but his Masterclass on Tokyo Story is at the BFI site.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
"The photographs are not meant to be portraits, which is why they have no titles. It is not my intention to give expression to their personality or state of mind. Nor do I want to sketch a sociological image of contemporary youth or girls at the moment of puberty. I look for a certain mood in the pictures, in which the girls almost figure as actors. As a matter of fact I treat my models as objects which you can direct and guide. They are simply material for me."
So says Hellen van Meene, but it was a long time ago so perhaps she's changed her mind. Still, it is a bit like Magritte's pipe. The pipe's not a pipe, but the picture... the picture of the pipe is not the pipe. It's the same with the portrait. Saying the portrait is not a portrait is fine, but it doesn't mean it is the case at all.. The girl is not a girl, but the portrait is a portrait.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Ben Lyons has been running Intern Aware with a particular focus on Whitehall and political internships. At the same time, Intern Awar is campaigning in other areas and is working towards getting the UK minimum wage paid for all interns, including those in photography, the media, working for agencies or individuals. I know photography is a grey area where the rhetoric of volunteerism is rife, but that is no excuse for no-wages or sub-minimum wages - wages that ensure that access to the media, arts or photographic fields is only open to those with massive bank accounts or trust funds.
So if you are working for any organisations or photographers where no wages are paid, especially for organisations where you think wages could be paid, do get in touch with Ben and the team at Intern Aware. It could help make all the difference.
Monday, 25 October 2010
The times they are a-changing back!
But at least Margaret Thatcher didn't dismantle every part of the British support structure. She started the job, but was held back at least part of the way. There were too many one-nation Tories who realised the effect that would have on Britain, and not just on the poor, but also the rich and on themselves, the people who made the decisions.
The same can't be said of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander - what names could we call them? This is a polite blog, so I won't call them names, but I will comment on how alike they look and how, now, anybody who does not look like them, anybody non-male, non-white, non-privately educated non-healthy, non-heterosexual, non-wealthy, is a minority group, an equalities group. And that is a poor state of affairs to be in.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Check out the latest edition of Randall Munroe's map for social networks. Down there in the Southwest corner, you'll find the Photo-Blogs, surrounded by the Bay of Drama and Sea of Opinions and Zero Comments.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Maurice Broomfield, the great photographer of British industry died on 4th October. When I have a few hundred pounds spare, after I have bought a replacement for my broken camera, I will buy a copy of his man spraying asbestos. Truly wonderful. This is from Jon Levy's obituary at Foto8.
Behind each of his images is a story; I delighted in his tales of lighting trickery and his admiration and praise for the workers he photographed. Take, for example, the milk factory in Wiltshire (1966), where he decided to paint the employees’ boots white to make them stand out from the background, always regarding it as his job to elevate the subject and pay homage to the workers. On this occasion the plant managers adopted his idea permanently and white boots became compulsory. In another image, of the T Ward works (1958), he made high art and drama out of a cold steel drum on a winter’s day. Employing dramatic lighting he cast the scene with warmth, while creating an image imbued with gravitas.
Monday, 18 October 2010
I was never that mad keen on Chris McCaw's Sunburn pictures - they seemed to follow a well trodden path of extreme burning-out of the negative by the sun, or something else that is bright. But now that I see the cameras he has been using, my opinion has changed somewhat. Is camera envy a good reason to change one's mind? No, not really. I know that process is terribly important, relevant and pertinent, but I can't help feel that it is a rationalisation for something else. Still, McCaw's beast is impressive.
This is from the Photo-Eye Blog, where McCaw is interviewed by Anne Kelly and talks about his work.
Building my own camera was a really liberating process as a photographer. Sometimes you get into that rut of having big dreams of owning high-end camera gear. The reality is that if you use your imagination and a practical sense of what you want to accomplish, you can do most anything. I feel confident that I can pretty much make any camera I need (I'm currently up to 30x40" mounted on a garden wagon). I also just made one on the base of a wheelchair to hold a 125 lb aerial camera lens!
The wheelchair camera (my friends call it 'the sad robot') was just built last month. So far it is only an 8x10" camera, but it has a 600mm f/3.5 lens that projects an image about 16x20". I was told the lens came off a U2 spy plane -- it is a beast. I use a car jack to raise and lower the lens. I even needed to get a handicap ramp to get it into the van!
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
For our final visit to Turkey, another mention for George Georgiou's excellent Fault Lines, now available as a book. I like the way that Georgiou tries to unravel the idealised Turk to reveal the ethnic mix that makes up the supposedly monocultural, secular (but 99% Islam, which is being a bit uninclusive to the atheists of Turkey) nation which was once something quite different. How it moved from that different place to what it is today, Georgiou answers through the places he photographs and the strategies he chooses along the way.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
This comes via Mrs Deane and is a collection of found images from Istanbul discovered by John Toohey. Orientalism begins at home! And Oscar Wilde begins in Istanbul.
See more pictures here.
Monday, 11 October 2010
Leaving behind the Turkish Meditteranean holiday snaps, but continuing on the Turkey theme, PhotoEye has an interesting inteview with Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari who have self-published The State of Ata, a "fascinating new self-published book from Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari exploring modern Turkey by following the pervasive imagery of the revolutionary leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In this 250+ page book, Mandel and Zakari weave interviews, found images, documentary-style photographs, comics, and more to tell a complicated story about a diverse country still in transition."
Anyway, it's the latest in a new line in books examining the visual and political iconography of a national leader. The most interesting thing is the piece of theatre that developed when Zakari held up a picture of Ataturk during a demonstration and the subsequent fallout from that.
I am not sure what Ataturk really means in Turkey, or the convoluted significances he has that combine from the past and present - but I am guessing that if anyone ever attempted to unravel the reality from the mythology, they would not be getting a warm welcome in Turkey anytime soon. This is from the interview and is an example of contested meanings at every stage.
PE: This project got a lot of media attention inside of Turkey because of one action by Zakari and the media's reaction to it. Will you describe this event and tell how this affected the documentary project and book?
MM: It's a rather amazing story, and certainly the significance of this whole spectacle needs to be recognized for what it was: an opportunity for the secular press to exploit the image of Chantal for their own anti-Islamist agenda. We were carrying framed pictures of Atatürk to put up in the hotel rooms where we staying along our trip, but that's another story: it was part of a performance that questioned the sanctity of the Atatürk icon, we certainly weren't putting up pictures of Atatürk in homage. Be that as it may, we did have these framed post cards, and while we were in Ankara on a Sunday morning we witnessed a street demonstration of Islamists who were protesting the government's new law for increased secular education. We quickly decided to make a picture of Chantal holding up one of the framed post cards of Atatürk. I found a concrete base of a light pole to climb up and get a better angle. Some of the Islamists reacted to Chantal with gestures and shouts. But there was no altercation, there were even some protesters who said that they, too, supported Atatürk. Chantal's gesture was, indeed, a statement in support of secularism. I made six pictures and in a few minutes it was over. Then we were gone. Little did we know that standing next to me on my light pole perch was a Reuters videographer that was keyed into Chantal's every move.
But that was in the morning. The march lasted until the afternoon, and there were converging throngs of protesters who coalesced and started roughing up the secular reporters. The police, who have a reputation for backing the Islamists, didn't stop the violence. So hours after our little photo event, all hell broke loose, the protest became violent, people were hurt. We were nowhere near this madness, as we had packed up and were on our way out of Ankara by then. But when the Reuters imagery of the lone, Western-looking young woman, holding up her picture of Atatürk to the angry marching Islamists was released, it was the perfect symbol for the media to run with. Chantal was proclaimed "The Courageous Girl," "The Girl of the Republic," "Brave Heart." The video was played endlessly on every TV station, all the newspapers were running with the story. When the reporters caught up with us in the little town of Goreme, all of a sudden there were dozens of reporters and photographers descending on us for more of the story of this brave Atatürk supporter. We ended up holding a press conference to try to clarify what we were doing and why. Yes, it was an image of secular support, but Chantal believed that everyone had a democratic right to speak, to protest, just not to become violent. The press edited it their own way to satisfy their agenda.
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Monday, 4 October 2010
The people up top are watching newly hatched turtles struggling to the sea- there was a woman who got so close and took so many pictures of the poor little thing, it's a wonder any of them survived.