Visual Literacy Final

December 15, 2008

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“Under the Bridge” Artist Statement

During the preproduction portion of my project, I had originally wanted to capture the urban decay of a bridge in Georgetown. I wanted to achieve a series that could encapsulate this particular area near the Potomac, and also produce a realistic example of photography. I wanted to focus on what was beautiful about the ordinary, especially the incredible intricacy of the bridge despite its massiveness. My idea was influenced heavily by the realism movement and the anti-pictorialism emphasis that was put on photography by artists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Photography is just that, and should be utilized to depict the incredible actuality of life rather than the manipulation of photography to make it look like something else. It was not difficult to prepare for this series before the production of it, but there were certain initiatives that were taken in order to ensure everything went smoothly. I purchased several color cartridges of 400 speed Fujifilm, insured that my camera was prepared to take color photographs outdoors, and took some initial pictures to make sure that my camera was functioning properly. There were no real difficulties with preproduction, however there was some difficulty deciding when to shoot. I wanted to shoot on a sunny afternoon so that there would be enough light under the bridge. However, the week of shooting was mostly raining and cloudy.

Production, for the most part, went according to plan. I used a Nikkon N55 SLR camera to obtain my shots. The photos that were shot were taken on K Street, NW, located directly under the Whitehurst Freeway. I took a total of two 24 role exposures, all consisting of images located underneath the bridge. The shoot, which I had anticipated for the December 10, ended up being completed by December 11 due to weather restrictions. I used the manual option on my camera with various F-stops in order to achieve the best images possible. I also utilized a light meter to ensure that I used the appropriate F-stop settings. Shooting took approximately an hour, most of the images consisting of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and various areas underneath it. While I had anticipated to shoot primarily the Francis Scott Key Bridge, I found myself taking a lot of pictures of a much older tunnel on the underside of the bridge. This made compiling my series later on much more difficult. Within the two roles of film I shot, most of the pictures can fit within three categories: the underside of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, a deteriorating condemned house under the bridge, and the old stone tunnel next to the bridge. The pictures I took of the Francis Scott Key Bridge best utilized the concepts that we learned in class because they conveyed a decent amount of shapes, lines and color. I also liked the contrast in these pictures the best. However I really enjoyed the pictures I had taken from the decaying house under the bridge as well. These pictures visualized a considerable amount of color and contrast, but there were not enough usable pictures for a photo series. The pictures that were taken of the stone tunnel were probably my favorite from my photo shoot. I attempted to imitate the technique of Frank Hallam Day’s “Hull Photographs” that I had seen in the Addison/Ripley Fine Art exhibit. The inside of the tunnel was stained with so many natural colors that looked like brushstrokes on a canvas when I had developed my photographs. Despite the fact that these were my favorite of all the photographs, I felt they did not fulfill the objective of my original project proposal and therefore did not create my series by using them. The way I chose to present my photographs is through mat-board. The seven photos I chose for my series are in a cluster on light green matting. The images vary from close-ups of the steel pipes holding up the bridge, the archways that support it, to the bolts that hold it all together. In the center of the matting I chose to place an elevated picture of the entire bridge. The surrounding photographs are also elevated at varying levels, however the complete image of the bridge is the highest off the mat-board and is obviously the center of focus. The first photograph I chose, starting from the left of the mat-board, is of the bolts that hold the bridge. The contrast in this photograph is pretty good, however, I really wished it was not as blurry as it came out. The second photograph, up and to the right of the first, is of the archway underneath the bridge and depicts the form and lighting qualities that I had hoped to gain from shooting in this location. Directly underneath this photograph is one of my favorite in the series. This third photograph presents important elements of design like line and form. The fourth and center photograph is of the entirety of the bridge, like previously stated, and also depicts lots of line and patterned qualities. Up and to the right is the fifth photograph, which I feel encapsulates the decaying urban area that I was shooting by its use of color and texture. The photograph directly below the fifth is of the bolts of the bridge, and was chosen for its texture and shadows. The last photograph in the series was chosen for its form and contrast, but also because of the graffiti within the arches. The decay of this urban area is present within all the images chosen, and all the photographs are therefore part of a consistent series.

Looking back on the project during the post-production of it, I realize that there are several things I would have changed or utilized had I more time. I would have liked to take pictures from a different angle, perhaps on top of the bridge looking down, to capture the bridge in its entirety. I also would have really liked to present those photos I did not choose for my “Under the Bridge” series. However, I feel that the photographs I have presented are all consistent with a solid theme and incorporate the same ideas. The mat-board I chose for my final presentation was also consistent with what I had wanted for my project, however I would have preferred the entirety of the project to be framed in a black border in order to make the images stand out. I like that I used color photographs rather than black and whites, but also feel that black and whites could have further emphasized the contrast within some of the photographs. If I were to make my work better, I would use a different camera or a tripod. My first photograph within the series was one of the best shots, however it did not turn out as good as it could have due to the blurred focus. However, the final project is uniform to my original project proposal and the direction I wanted to go with the project. Inevitably I am satisfied with the project and would really only change the camera I used in order to make it better. This series has inspired me to continue taking photographs of the ordinary in an attempt to continue capturing the beauty within it. In conclusion, all parts of the production of my “Under the Bridge” photography series have come together to encapsulate the objective of my project: urban decay and the natural beauty that lies within seemingly ordinary things and locations. 

 

 

Here are some of the photographs I chose not to use:

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The Addison/Ripley Fine Art Gallery is a very small and quaint showcase within Georgetown. It is also, deceivingly, a frame-shop where one can take photographs or large-scale artwork to be framed. Although the photos within the exhibit were very diverse and dynamic, the gallery itself and method of displaying the photographs was a bit off-putting. The room was crowded with other frames and photos that were propped up on the floor, there was not a lot of systematic placement of the photos on the walls, and similar pieces were often exhibited in separate rooms. The display and character of the room in which art is presented is often just as vital as the piece itself because in order for the work to be effective, the viewer must be able to grasp as much from the image as possible. Addison/Ripley was very modest and lacked cohesion in their approach to displaying their artwork.

Regardless, the gallery exhibited work from the likes of Frank Hallam Day, Kenro Izu, and Diana Walker. All of these artists have very different photographing techniques and also have a taste for different subject matter. There was not really a sense of unity between the different works of the artists, but each work could be appreciated for its own characteristics. One particularly interesting piece was Frank Hallam Day’s Hull photos, primarily #38.  From a distance, one is mislead to think that the photos were actually paintings on a canvas. In actuality, the photograph focuses on the side of a ship in water and accentuates the texture and differing colors by their linear movements horizontally. Because of the incredible color, form and texture of the ship hulls, the photographs could almost be confused with an abstract piece of artwork. For example, the rusted metal and worn paint that covers the side of the boat blends beautifully into the water worn bottom of it, which in turns almost melts into the sea. The many colors and textures within each layer of the boat are visually fascinating. 

Frank Hallam Day’s Ship Hull photos and other pieces in the exhibit like his “Blown Up” collection simply bring new meaning to unnecessarily beautiful things. A person could walk by that same ship everyday and not realize the nature of its beauty until it is the focus of a photograph. The pieces within the exhibit are governed by an understanding of realism, in the sense that they are unmodified by any other artistic techniques, but create colorful and astounding images for the viewer. It takes a moment to decipher what the viewer is looking at because of the close focus on the rustic, natural side of boat, but inevitably the audience is surprised by the simplicity and commonality of the object. Although Addison/Ripley’s fine art gallery is not very impressive in its manner of exhibit, the works that are displayed are beautiful and visually stimulating. 

Shock Advertisement Critique

November 18, 2008

The Chase and Sanborn advertisement for their ground, pressure packed coffee, is not a surprising image for the 1950’s. However, considering its social and political context and the way an audience would view it now, the advertisement is utterly shocking. The image is of a woman, most assumably a housewife, bent over her husbands knee with his hand raised to spank her. The man is faced away from the camera, while the woman’s horror-filled expression is the focus of the ad. Chase and Sanborn begin the advertisement by stating, “If your husband ever finds out that you’re not ‘store-testing’ for fresher coffee…” This image strongly manipulates the viewer and exhibits several social issues that were relevant within the 1950’s.

The image itself may have been borderline appropriate within the 1950’s, however, from a twenty-first century perspective, the article seems sexist and crude. The viewer within the 1950’s was led to believe that the Chase and Sanborn brand of coffee was necessary for the middle-class housewife in order to avoid beatings from her husband. If the housewife was bold or ignorant enough to purchase anything else than Chase and Sanborn and the coffee did not remain fresh, her husband was likely to give her a good smack. This kind of advertisement could instill fear within the viewer and make them subconsciously associate stale coffee with physical abuse. It also asserts male dominance over women by depicting the physical strength of men over women. 

The image also demonstrates several social issues within the 1950’s. Women were still fighting for social equality within America. The audience that Chase and Sanborn was advertising to was assumed to be housewives, although many women at this time were already within the workforce. Although women were growing progressively more social and political authority within the United States, there was still definite inequality within the workplace and within political representation. Although women could work, it was more appropriate for them to be solely homemakers in order to keep the family unit stable. Male dominance was prevalent and it was media images like the one presented by Chase and Sanborn which continued to exemplify this dominance. Also, because the advertisement depicts a younger couple, the creators were advertising the married youth within America. By targeting a younger audience, the insinuations of the advertisement can continue to persuade families as they age as continue to make the company profit throughout their maturity. 

In conclusion, the Chase and Sanborn article not only advertises coffee grinds, but also violence towards women, male dominance, and defines the role of women as housewives.

Photoshop Project

November 18, 2008

Here’s the compilation of some of the photographs from my autumn leaves photo project.

autumnleaves

 

I forgot to thank my model, Kerry. Ain’t she cute?

Photo Assignment

November 18, 2008

So the theme I picked for my photo assignment was Eva Cassidy’s “Autumn Leaves”. I thought it would also be appropriate because I only had a little while left to get some great pictures of the fall colors. Unfortunately, most of my pictures were in black and white. Way to go Amanda. 

 

01_1109_9110_10kerry0008323-r01-0090008323-r01-0150008322-r01-028There you have it.

Edward Weston was born on March 24, 1886 in Illinois. He was an American Photographer; living and taking pictures in Chicago for most of his young life. At 16, he was given his first camera. Weston studied at Illinois College of Photography in Effington, Illinois and moved to California in 1906. Weston had four children with first wife Flora Chandler in 1909: Edward Chandler (1910), Theodore Brett (1911), Laurence Neil (1916) and Cole (1919) and opened a portrait studio in California. Weston was later inspired by ARMCO Steel Plant in Middletown, Ohio. In 1923, he moved to Mexico City and opened a studio with his lover Tina Modotti. Tina and Edward moved back to California in 1927, where he developed his unique photographic techniques that have made him famous. He began taking pictures of the West and Southwest United States with assistant and future wife Charis Wilson from 1936-1938. In 1946 Weston began to experience symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and died on the first of January, 1958 in Carmel, California. 

Weston was known for his work with shells, vegetables, abstract nudes, and natural rock and tree formations in California and Mexico. His portraits were generally frame filling and sharp. His photography seemed luxurious with abstract shapes and heavy contrast. He was considered a Modernist photographer. Also known for “straight photography” which was the renunciation of manipulation of the photographic process, (i.e. the use of a soft lens, special developing or printing methods). He wanted to capture a realistic depiction of life rather than take more artistic, soft-focused photos like those of Pictorialism, which was popular at the time. 

I respect Weston because of his emphasis on Straight Photography and participation in Group f/64 with other photographers like Ansel Adams, Willard van Dyke and Imogen Cunningham. His photographs have definition and clarity through Weston’s use of contrast and texture. His use of a small aperture, which determines the depth of field, sharpens the background with the foreground and increases the contrast. 

Pepper, 1930

Pepper, 1930

Nude, 1936

Nude, 1936

Oceano, 1936

Oceano, 1936

 

Classic Essays on Photography:

 

Photography and Photography and the New God

by Paul Strand (1890-1976)

The article, “Photography and Photography and the New God” was written by an American photography named Paul Strand (1890-1976). He helped establish photography as an art form within the twentieth century through his modernist theory. He is comparable to photographers like Edward Weston and Alfred Steiglitz and has photographed within America, Europe and Africa. 


The article itself is based on this concept of straight photography and photographic objectivity. Strand distinguishes artists before the Reformation as having been renowned for their work. However after the Reformation, the New Trinity or, “God the Machine, Materialistic Empiricism the Son, and Science the Holy Ghost,” gained the logical focus and artful expression was considered a “waster and a non-producer” (145). With the introduction of the camera, a creation of this new industrial era, some photographers found it necessary to emulate classic mediums of art (painting, oil pastels, sketches, etc.) through photography. This is an impressionist concept; a concept under much scrutiny from the modernist perspective. Strand argues that photography is an art form in itself and must be respected for what it is. The use of mechanical manipulation and deviating the development process to make a realistic image appear like a different type of medium takes away from the natural expression of the photograph. If a photograph is changed in such a way, it is no longer a photograph. 

The article was a little redundant at times and the term “New God” became a bit ambiguous near the end. However, Strand’s work is a great example of modernist thought and theory when it comes to the photographic process. It goes hand in hand with the theory developed by photographers like Edward Weston, and also captures the concepts of objectivity and straight photography. 

 

 

Here is my attempt at an Edward Weston Photograph. This is “Pepper, 2008”.

Pepper, 2008

Pepper, 2008

National Geographic Critique

November 4, 2008

Odysseys and Photographs: Masters from the National Geographic Archives and the All Roads Photography Project at the National Geographic Museum both exhibited exceptional photographers and their portfolios. Two photographers, Luis Marden and Khaled Hasan, have unique life experiences that have shaped their photography and their careers.

Luis Marden, who spent 64 years with National Geographic, was notable for his use of color photographs, both on land and underwater. National Geographic allowed him to photograph all over Central America, South America and the Caribbean. One of his most appealing images is entitled, “El Salvador” from 1941. It depicts the side of a dark skinned woman’s face as she studies a coffee plant. She is surrounded by the trees, the beans, and the white flowers of the plant line her hair. It is as if she and the plant are intertwined and have become one in the same. The picture uses a beautiful collaboration of earthy color: reds, browns, greens, and blacks. The photograph not only holds aesthetic beauty, but also distinguishes the coffee bean and plant as being a staple of South American agriculture and economy. Coffee is therefore apart of the El Salvador culture, and Marden insinuates the beauty of the culture through his photograph. 

Khaled Hasan, a photographer who was the 2008 Awardee of the All Roads Photography Program for his photo “Living Stone: A Community Losing Its Life,” generally uses black and white photography. Born in Dhaka, Hasan’s award-winning photograph was taken in his home country, Bangladesh. It is a close-up picture of a masked man, whom Hasan distinguishes as Kalam Ali, taken in front of stone-crushing machinery. Ali’s face is completely covered except for his eyes, which are vivid and astounding. Because of the contrast within the color and shape of his eyes, the audience’s attention and focus is immediately brought to his face. Behind him, the fast moving wheel of the stone-crushing machine is blurred while the rest of the machine remains focused. This effect creates movement within the piece. 

The life experiences and photographic eye give both photographers an edge within their work. They are different, most obviously, because of their use of color or black and white photography. Marden uses intense color to create the forms in “El Salvador” whereas Hasan creates form through contrast in his black and white photography. Also, although Marden emulated the cultures he was in, he was still not a native to his subjects like Hasan in “Living Stone: A Community Losing Its Life.” However, both photographers attempt to distinguish different cultures in their rawest forms: within the foundations of their social and economic institutions and everyday life. 

Photography Critique

October 29, 2008

 

Joshua Barash (1966-) is a contemporary photographer that uses several types of media to make unique, interesting images. What makes his work so distinct is his use of light projections of other photographs on the naked bodies of women. These women are generally shapely and faceless, and are comparable to a canvas for Joshua Barash’s work. Because of the intricacy of the projected photographs as well as the reality of the women’s bodies, it is often hard to differentiate between the forms and the image. His images are generally colored photographs and are featured on a black backdrop. One of his most striking images that speaks to his use of design is Under Riverside Drive II.

In Under Riverside Drive II, Barash uses intense contrast in order to compliment the initial form of the woman. She is seated with her back to the camera and her feet underneath her  body. Her hair is up, so as not to upset the projection, and her arms are folded politely in front of her body. The image is the opposite of a silhouette and filled with negative space, so the focus of the eye is therefore brought to the shape of the woman and the projection on her body. The projection on her body in itself is a great example of line, depth of field and pattern. The projection is a black and white photograph of metal beams and construction on the underside of a bridge. The beams run horizontally along the woman’s backside, and farther down along her hips they start to run vertically. The projected image has a vanishing point of a tunnel that all the beams and lines run to. This is the central focus of the projected image.

What is also interesting about Barash’s photograph is the placement of the projection on the woman’s back. Rather than placing the projected photograph’s focal point, or the beginning of the tunnel, in the middle of the woman’s back, he decides to place it on her left buttocks. One could only assume that the projected image’s focal point was at one time within the middle of the photograph, however,  by placing it on her left buttocks rather than the center of her back, he is adding to the curvature of her lower body. It also utilizes the rule-of-thirds if her back was considered to be the canvas.

It is unclear whether or not the projected images are, in fact, his own or the photography of another artist. If changes were to be made to the piece, credit should be given to whomever took the projected images. Also, within Under Riverside Drive II, the projector does not cover the entirety of the woman’s body. The top of her head is slightly cut off and is lost in the darkness of the black backdrop. Barash should ensure that his projected images covered his whole models, to create a solid and complete image. Overall, Joshua Barash creates an appealing image that forces the viewer to reevaluate the canvas and reality of the photograph. His images are unique in their presentations and give perspective on contemporary photography. 

bliss poster

October 28, 2008

Photoshop Project

October 22, 2008