Visual Literacy Final

December 15, 2008


“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:



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.