Peter Bialobrzeski

My tutor suggested that I take a look at the work of a German photographer, Peter Bialobrzeski. He captures scenes that encapsulates the surrounding area with a particular subject. For example, in 'Nail Houses' derelict buildings that have almost collapsed and viewed surrounded by a lively, fresh new backdrop. In this project Bialobrzeski is referring to people who refuse to leave their run-down homes, despite the offer of somewhere more suitable.

Meanwhile, Heimat presents the viewer with an alternative view of 'home'. It addresses the notion that having a home doesn't mean being rooted to the spot. The people in theses images are indistinguishable and insignificant compared to the vast settings they appear in, from large beaches to towering mountain ranges.

On reflection, my images tend to zoom in to closely to the people in particular places. I need to vary my perspective and consider the wider picture. This is something I will bear in mind for my final assignment.

Assignment 4 feedback

This assignment was something that I struggled to really get a grasp of. Capturing a sense of place involves just the right balance of people and place, and I got it wrong this time. 

I had around 50 images of Bergen to choose from, but with it being my first time there I was caught up photographing as a tourist, instead of a photographer solely meeting an editor's brief. On reflection my photographs capture all the elements of Bergen, but as my tutor said, they miss the mark. I decided to review the other photographs that I took during my time in Norway and realised that I probably had better images from other places. I had taken a lot of photographs in Flam, which has managed to retain it's character, despite the commercial pressures of it's popularity as a cruise destination.

Below are the images I would have used for my fourth assignment.

I have also created an alternative assignment 4 that I would have submitted with these images.

In preparation for my fifth assignment I need to consider the images I will submit much more carefully. I also need to take more photographs so that I can have a wider variety of images to choose from.

Art collecting at the National Gallery

It's incredible to think how works of art, such as Seurat's Bathers at Asnières made their way from the artist's pallet all those years ago to the walls of some of the finest buildings in the world. 

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Whilst visiting London yesterday I thought it would be a good opportunity to go to the National Gallery and attempt to replicate the art gallery style of Thomas Struth. The capital during the summer holiday was bound to draw crowds of tourists, and it was exceptionally busy in the National Gallery. 

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In my earlier post about Thomas Struth I referred to how the National Gallery have relaxed their rules on photographing the works of art. Partly because it was so difficult to monitor the use of smart phones taking selfies and also because it is so easy to get a copy of any painting of the web, albeit at a lower resolution. 

Without my DSLR, I relied on using my iPhone to capture the images on this blog post. I had visited this gallery many years before, when taking a photograph was considered to be like ripping the painting off the wall and hanging it in your own home. So to be allowed to photograph in there was an unusual position to be in.  

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Many visitors were using their digital devices to take advantage of the National Gallery's leniency. With the click of a button you could have Van Gogh's Sunflowers on your screen and take with you. In some ways this 'art collecting' is advantageous to the a National Gallery, because these collectors will upload the art work to social networking sites such as Instagram and Twitter, tagging the gallery in the process and subsequently publicising it for others. Since the gallery is free to enter, presumably to enable more people to have the opportunity to view a piece of our history, it maybe considered aworthwhile activity, sharing the artwork across digital networks. 

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However, the downside to this is that the experience for the viewer is hampered. The primary viewer, at the gallery, may find it difficult to see the paintings in their full glory. With so many people swarming around each work of art it was very difficult to take the time and look, and appreciate, what was there. Some were moving around photographing so quickly, it could have just as easily been the graffiti on the gallery walls outside that they were photographing. 

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For the secondary viewer, looking at the art work on a screen does not do it justice. Some of the paintings in the gallery are huge. You really have to be there to appreciate the time and skill it took to create them. Many digital copies also exist that have not been captioned. I too have failed to take the time to identify the paintings depicted in this blog post. Without the detailed information displayed alongside the painting on the gallery wall, we view the image at a superficial level. 

Yesterday art appeared to be devalued due to a desire to duplicate and dispense something that had always been rare and unique. Hopefully the images people see will encourage them to visit these galleries to see for themselves. After all  there's nothing like being able to stand next to the original piece of art. 

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Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth, a German photographer who trained at the Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts (1973 - 80), was influenced by Bernd and Hilla Becher's industrial landscape images. Some of his first exhibited works included capturing the streets of Japan, Europe and America in black and white. Struth's photographs were highly structured, to show what was specific and yet unremarkable about urban space. Taken on large-format cameras, the people, who inhabited his cityscapes, were dwarfed almost to non-existence.

It was during the mid-1980s that Struth created a series of portraits of individuals, and family groups, having collaborated with the psychoanalyst Ingo Hartmann exploring family snapshots. He used a large-format camera to capture the character of the people in his images. Struth's studentship in fine art is echoed in his use of tonal colour and composition. His family portraits are not uniform in their arrangement, but undulate in the same way that families can haphazardly co-exist. 

During his interest in portraiture, Struth became interested in the Renaissance paintings and the gallery's that they were exhibited in. This interest led to his best known work, Museum Photographs, being produced. This series of images set up a relationship between the viewer and the paintings that were visible in the photograph. He refers to this body of work by saying that:

"My question was: how can you not be restless? I can now see that the same question seeped somehow into the work insofar as I was trying to take the restlessness from inside myself and put it into the pictures and on to the walls."
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Thomas Struth's work reveals how the photographer is very much part of the picture, giving the viewer an insight into his own mind. As a photographer sometimes it is not until you are in the middle, or nearing the end of a project, that you fully understand the desire to create such photographs. It is only through embarking on long term studies that enables the photographer to give something of themselves to a body of work. Maybe this is where the line is drawn between the tourist snapshot and something with more intrinsic value. The tourist is documenting, recording their presence at a particular location at a very basic surface level. However Struth attempts to reveal the invisible feelings of restlessness, calm and strangeness. There always seems to be the viewer's need to know more about what is beyond the frame.

Struth considers a gallery to have a sense of an in between space. An environment where people rarely spend their time, and when they do they are unsure how to act acceptably.  

In an interview with O'Hagan (2011) Thomas Struth explains the motives for his photographs:

"For me, initially, the question was: how do you live with history? Then I began to ask: how is history embedded in the architecture of a city? How does a community represent itself in its architecture, truthfully or otherwise?"
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Life is an endless pursuit, to not only find answers, but to also understand the questions we ask and our reasons for asking them. This exploration of how a place's history can impact on the people that live there today. It is something I would like to explore further in my fifth assignment. Photography is Struth's method of communicating what concerns him, both socially and politically. Subsequently  O'Hagan (2011) refers to him as a political artist. 

With photography banned in many art galleries, to be able to view photographs that have been so openly executed, is in itself quite unique. Interestingly, the difficulty in preventing visitors taking selfies on their smartphones in the National Gallery has led to a photography ban being lifted. If the attraction of 'stealing' a rare self-portrait in the gallery, to post on social media, becomes more commonplace, then maybe less people will be encouraged to do it.

 

References

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/thomas-struth-2339

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jul/03/thomas-struth-interview-photography-whitechapel

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/15/selfie-portrait-artist-national-gallery-surrenders-to-internet

Project 19: Special processing

Selective processing and prominence

Brief: Select one image that you have taken for an earlier project, in which the issue is the visual prominence of a figure and setting. Use digital processing to make two new versions of this image. In one, make the figure less prominent, so that it recedes into the setting. In the second, do the opposite, by making the figure stand out more

I chose this image of a person walking in the forest. He was wearing a green coat which would make it difficult for me to make him stand out against the foliage. 

Making a person less prominent

In order to make the figure less prominent I used Photoshop to darken the overall image, by increasing the contrast and reducing the saturation. There was a lot of highlighting on the figure, which still made him stand out against the setting, so I decided to use the 'burn' tool to darken the highlights to make him less prominent. I had to be careful not to over-use the burn tool as this would create a large dark area which may be more noticeable. 

Making a person more prominent. 

As I mentioned earlier, the person's green jacket would be a challenge to make him more prominent against a green background. Using Photoshop again I decided to copy the background. Then I rubbed out all of the top layer, except the figure. This then meant that I had isolated the person in order to apply discrete changes to him without affecting the surrounding image. I increased the saturation and vibrance of the top layer to exaggerate the colour of the figure. After that I reduced the background's saturation and contrast (slightly), making it fainter in comparison to the figure.

Reflection

Completing this exercise has shown me how the emphasis of an image can be altered by using digital processing. The skills I developed whilst studying DPP came in very handy for working through this exercise. It has reminded me that even using the dodge and burn tools can impact on the prominence of people in photographs. When editing my photographs I tend to adjust the exposure, contrast and saturation slightly to improve the overall image, but I useful fail to consider the finer details in my photographs. This project has encouraged me to invest longer in presenting my images in the best possible light.