Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Exhibition Review: Hisaji Hara at Michael Hoppen Gallery

Contemporary photography is going back to its artistic roots reminiscing paintings as its source of inspiration. Many notable photographers such as Tom Hunter and Peter Lindbergh’s ‘Portrait of a Lady’ editorial of Julianne Moore in Harper’s Bazaar [1] have used historical art references to build their photographic ideas; so it is refreshing to see emerging Japanese photographer, Hisiji Hara convert paint to pixels [2]. Hara bases his exhibiting series at the Michael Hoppen Gallery on Polish-French 20th century artist Balthus stating he wanted to explore ‘authenticity’ which he believed his paintings possessed [3]. Although Hara uses the painter’s original compositions, his interpretation are culturally and visually laudable in their own right [4]. This is the first time that Hara’s work has been exhibited in Europe [5] where Western contemporary art is slowly embracing photography of the East and it is encouraging to see portraiture capturing a timelessness to a wider audience which he recreates from his meticulous approach. Though it is interesting and beneficial knowing the background to the image, what the viewer reads and feels is all in the foreground. First notions are that his work is sexually suggestive, atmospherically staged and the viewer later realize it’s a beautifully dark portrayal of childhood innocence and mature eroticism and the transition between the two. Exploring themes such as this has created mixed interpretations of his work leaving a lasting impression on the viewer; one cannot figure out the entirety of his work in one glance, it takes absorbing the whole room first to get a feel for his portraits which is most enjoyable for the voyeur.

 [FIG. 1] © Hisaji Hara, ‘A Study of ‘The Room’’, 2009
Veysey, Iris; ‘In Review: Hisaji Hara at the Michael Hoppen Gallery’ on ‘Vignette Magazine’; Available at: http://www.vignettemagazine.com/exhibitions-events/in-review-hisaji-hara-at-the-michael-hoppen-gallery/

Reviews of this work have stated Hara puts the viewer in a voyeuristic role with compositions such as ‘A Study of ‘The Room’’ [Fig. 1, above] where we are looking through an ajar door as if we were the photographer. Though this isn’t present in the original [Fig. 2, below], Hara embodies the expression of Balthus’ paintings rather than copy every minute detail; Hara puts his own twist. While the viewer may feel prurient and slightly naughty looking at young girls in short skirted school uniforms the atmosphere in the purposely aged photographs is soft and ethereal challenging the notions associated with voyeurism. The contrast between the two is most compelling yet at times unsettling as we are charmed by the instant beauty but contradicted by society’s view of representations of young girls. Hara states that ‘If you can see the mixture of innocence and eroticism in my series and be unsettled by it, that is because you are seeing our unavoidable antinomy. And that is very beautiful and important for me.’ [6] He also mentions that ‘eroticism’ roots to our physical existence and that ‘innocence’ reflects our spiritual existence and how they both represent two opposing sides of our actuality. He believes Balthus had challenged this and forced the viewer to ‘listen’ to their spiritual side and not necessarily be overwhelmed by our physical self. Modern thought (our physical existence) associates short skirts with sexual desire and thus transforms the girl into an object. As Laura Mulvey puts it; ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1992, 27). [7] This can clearly be seen in [Fig. 1] and ‘A study of ‘Because Cathy taught him what she learnt’’ where there is a man leaning above the girl who is kneeling on the floor. Balthus said that he painted little girls because "women, even my own daughter, belong to the present world, to fashion" [8] thus creating a timelessness that children possess [9].

[FIG.2] Balthus; ‘The Room’, 1953
‘The Room’ on ‘Wikipaintings’; Available at: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/balthus/the-room

Admittedly it was Guy Bourdin’s exhibition at Michael Hoppen Contemporary that was the main attraction however wandering downstairs to find a small room displaying Hara’s 20’s styled portraits juxtaposed the feeling from Bourdin on the top floor. Hara’s girls possessed a soft innocence where the viewer feels enchanted to gaze longer; a contradictory character to Bourdin’s women who were powerfully sexual and demanded your attention in a loud manner. After viewing Bourdin’s colourful work first, made Hara’s black-and-white portraits become more captivating and somehow delicate especially his depiction of young females. Perhaps the Gallery purposefully chose two dissimilar styles to exhibit at the same time that both shared a theme of underlying sexuality to impact the viewer further more.

Another prominent piece that makes ‘A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus’ so beautiful is Hara’s painstaking approach to recreate the original compositions using a medium format film involving elaborate set up and technicalities. The disquieting serenity is due to Hara’s scrupulous staged tableaux which is becoming a prominent art form in modern photography. Today’s society is engrossed in digital post-production manipulation [10] thus rendering old-fashioned film a dying medium however Hara prefers the labour intensive approach using multiple exposures and a smoke machine that enhances the misty atmosphere and sense of depth. He does so by using a matte box and cardboard screens altering the perspective. With a foggy set up the exposure time would vary from 1 – 10 seconds reminiscing the long periods an artist would need to paint his subject. Again Hara embodies not only the composition of Balthus’ paintings but encompasses a painters approach too. Also the traditional means and soft focus prompt similarities to the Pictorial era [11] enriching his photographs with historical likeness that is refreshing for 21st Century photography.

Michael Hoppen Gallery has been applauded for bringing contemporary photographers from across the globe to the Western market and has created a platform for emerging artists. [12] Though the exhibition was considerably small leaving us wanting to see more of Hara’s work it was pleasant surprise to acknowledge world-class talent and forth fronting Japanese photography in the West. Though Hara uses Western influence for the basis of his photographs, it is his native cultural impression that is fascinating such as the use of Japanese actors including a self-portrait in ‘A Study of The King of Cats’ personalizing his work. In 1974 John Szarkowski, co-curator of an exhibit of Japanese photography at New York’s MoMA, wrote “What comes new of an artist today will, if interesting, be the common property of the whole world next year”. [13] Perhaps Hisaji Hara’s ‘A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus’ will be the advancer for Japanese contemporary photography.

Inside the exhibition (photographs by myself)




References:

1. Published in Harper’s Bazaar, May 2008
Galperina, Marina; ‘Julianne Moore as Famous Works of Art’ on ‘Flavorwire’; Available at: http://flavorwire.com/245622/julianne-moore-as-famous-works-of-art [Online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
2. In the exhibition the Michael Hoppen Gallery uses digital archival prints to see to potential art collectors rather than the originals themselves. ‘Hisaji Hara’ on ‘Michael Hoppen Gallery Past Exhibitions’; Available at: http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/exhibition,past,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,michael_hoppen_contemporary.html [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
3. 'Question: ‘Photographie.com : The Michael Hoppen Gallery in London is now exhibiting a series of your portraits modeled upon painting by Balthus. Why did you feel the urge to recreate / revisit his paintings?’ Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘Photographie.com’; Available at: http://www.photographie.com/event/hisaji-hara-ou-linevitable-antinomie-de-letre [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
4. Bohr, Marco; ‘Hisiji Hara’ on ‘Photomonitor’; Available at: http://www.photomonitor.co.uk/2012/03/hisaji-hara-2/ [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
5. Unknown author; Exhibition statement present at the Michael Hoppen Gallery
6. Question: 'Photographie.com : Your work contains an unsettling and at the same time most natural mix of innocence and eroticism - some might even say that your pictures contain lots of Lolitas. Why is this theme important to you?' Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘Photographie.com’; Available at: http://www.photographie.com/event/hisaji-hara-ou-linevitable-antinomie-de-letre [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
7. Chandler, Daniel; ‘Notes on “The Gaze”’; Available at: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/gaze/gaze09.html; [Online resource, accessed 16/05/12]
8. O’Hagan, Sean; ‘Hisaji Hara – review’ on ‘The Guardian’; Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/feb/26/hisaji-hara-photography-hoppen-review [Online resource; accessed 14/05/12]
9. 'Question: Photographie.com : Do you agree with Balthus' when he says that girls convey timelessness better than women ?' Author unknown; ‘Hisaji Hara, ou l'inévitable antinomie de l'être’ on ‘Photographie.com’; Available at: http://www.photographie.com/event/hisaji-hara-ou-linevitable-antinomie-de-letre [online resource, accessed 15/05/12]
10. O’Hagan, Sean; ‘Hisaji Hara – review’ on ‘The Guardian’; Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/feb/26/hisaji-hara-photography-hoppen-review [Online resource; accessed 14/05/12]
11. Bohr, Marco; ‘Hisiji Hara’ on ‘Photomonitor’; Available at: http://www.photomonitor.co.uk/2012/03/hisaji-hara-2/ [Online resource, accessed 14/05/12]
12. Michael Hoppen Gallery – ‘History’; Available at: http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/info,history,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,michael_hoppen_gallery.html [Online resource, accessed 16/05/12]
13. Tucker, Anne Wilkes; ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); published; Yale University Press [Hardcover](4 Feb 2003)

Beauty: Lara Stone by Josh Olins


Whilst going through my daily feed of current fashion photography I was mesmerized by this beautiful portrait of top model Lara Stone (above). Though many consider her not conventionally beautiful by the gap in her teeth and porcelain skin she has managed to take the fashion world by storm; her ability to transform herself into anything. I believe Josh Olin has captured natural beauty in the photo alone and all the details such as the adorned embellishments amount to an enchanted fantasy. Her direct gaze is what I find most fascinating especially the expression in her eyes. This photograph is powerful yet soft at the same time and I believe images that possess a balance between the two are the most compelling.

Lara Stone is photographed by Josh Olins and styed by Gillian Wilkins for Vogue Nederland May 2012


More photos from the shoot:




Beauty: 'Black is Beautiful' by Eve Arnold



Above image photographed by myself from at The Sunday Times Magazine 50th Anniversary exhibition at Paintworks, Bristol (Mar 23 – Apr 3 2012)

‘This image by Eve Arnold of an unnamed model was used as a cover picture in 1969. It was seen as ground-breaking at the time, even though the Civil Rights Movement in the US had already made great strides towards racial equality. Other photographs, taken mainly in Harlem, and a report by Eve Arnold addressed the slogan “black is beautiful”, which was in widespread use at the time. It was coined by the black poet and social activist Langston Hughes.’ - accompanying caption to image at the exhibition.

I believe Arnold’s image truly captures black beauty and that beauty isn’t restricted to one race. Publishing such a controversial image (at that time) in a national newspaper was a great platform to showcase ‘other’ types of beauty and challenged racial segregation and beauty. Who are we to say one race is superior and more beautiful than the other?

Useful Links:
The Sunday Times 50th Anniversary Exhibition http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/magazine/article858993.ece

Beauty: 'Real Beauty' by Jodi Bieber

 

Bieber’s body of work has been very inspiring and brave to challenge the concept of beauty. There has been much speculation to what beauty truly is yet there is no true answer. Everyone has their own view yet the media feeds the ‘fair-skinned, slim and sleek’ look as the typical beauty so we are forced to sallow this perception. Bieber goes against this and wants to show the real life people, not airbrushed but as beauty comes in the majority of the population; she focuses on shooting in her native country: South Africa. It is interesting to see how she addresses various themes such as race and body image in such a conservative nation. Shooting her subjects half-naked shows confident women in their entirety, not hiding their true body and shape. I am particularly drawn to the above photograph as I rarely seen a South Asian woman in just a bra and underwear, let alone being middle aged. This is due to cultural norms that don’t condone showing naked flesh as it conjures negative perceptions on the woman. I like how the woman in this image stands up for Bieber’s ‘Real Beauty’ project and that she looks proud of whom she is. The fact that Bieber shoots the portraits in the sitter’s home gives the viewer a sense of who the person is and makes the project even more personal. The little details such as the blue hanger and flower bed sheet shows how this image is constructed up to point, but the environment seems untouched. Usually I prefer portraits with a shallow depth of field and the background blurred, however in this case the background is as much in the foreground as the sitter is. Though the sitter is conscious of the photographer, in this series the subjects all seem rather relaxed and Bieber’s approach certainly eases any anxiety the women in the photographs had.


As my current project looks at the concept of beauty and the relationship with the media, especially the fashion industry I am enthralled to have come across Beiber’s ‘Real Beauty’ project as her themes confronts the ‘ideal’ beauty and raises questions on what it is. I like how Bieber finds it within and in her interviews she states her findings that ‘most women believe that there is no real perfect body shape, and that beauty is more about being healthy and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin’; this corroborates with my survey I posted on Facebook on what my friends thought beauty in people was. See my survey responses here.

Read an article on Jodi Bieber's work discussing 'Real Beauty' on Visura Magazine.

Useful Links:
British Journal of Photography - 'Sister Show' by Diane Smith http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/profile/1646030/sister

Exhibition Review: London - Paolo Roversi and Guy Bourdin (25/02/12)

On 25 Feb 2012 I visited London and dragged my boyfriend to two galleries that were showcasing fashion portraiture; Paolo Roversi at the Wapping Project Bankside in Southwark and Guy Bourdin at the Michael Hoppen Gallery near South Kensington. Though both photographers sharing the interest of fashion their approaches are very dissimilar and was interesting to see two different exhibitions in one day.


Guinevere Van Seenus by Paolo Reversi
Image Source: http://www.1883magazineblog.com/paolo-roversi-at-the-wapping-project-bankside/


Paolo Roversi is renowned for his soft focus, shallow depth of field, ‘rustic’ portraits that have been described as timeless. The models in his images do not look like stereotypical models and are dressed down. I like how he shows their natural beauty and captures ‘rawness’ unlike any photographer I’ve seen. In the above image she is partially nude yet the viewer does not first think this but we are drawn to her alluring expression. This photograph is difficult to date when it was taken as the characteristics do not show anything of this time, hence the ‘timelessness’ to his photographs. Her expression is ethereal yet focused directly at the viewer creating an almost haunting look reminiscing that of the Pictorial era in the late 19th and early 20th century. My two favourite photographs in this exhibition was a black-and-white portrait of Natalia Vodianova and an exquisite large colour print of Guinevere Van Seenus. My boyfriend, (he’s no art expert!) managed to feel these were the most expensive prints on sale, and rightly so: I think these were Reversi’s strongest exhibiting pieces (see below).



Guinevere Van Seenus by Paolo Reversi
Image Source: http://www.nowness.com/day/2012/1/29/1850/paolo-roversi-my-guinevere

I enjoyed this exhibition as it was displayed in a clean and clear manner; the prints weren’t too big or small and were spread out evenly through a vast white space. The visitor didn’t feel enclosed or too open. Even my boyfriend who isn’t interested in art much, let alone fashion photography was quite impressed with the work. 

Later in the day I rushed to the Michael Hoppen Gallery just in time before it closed. The exhibition wasn’t what I expected it to be: it was much smaller and cramped and the prints were hung in distracting places such against a bookshelf full of colourful books. Bourdin is renowned as a master of colour so was a shame to drown out his prints with even more colour and clutter in the exhibition. I hadn’t really researched much of Bourdin’s work before visiting except the knowledge of his erotic photographs. After going to the exhibition I wasn’t too keen on his work as it was too much ‘in your face’ and didn’t allow the viewer to digest the photograph as there was a lot going on. This was a surprise to me as I had read many comparisons between Helmut Newton and Bourdin and I am completely enticed by Newton’s work even naming him as one of my favourite photographers. However Bourdin did stimulate discussion and one must applaud his technical ability using vivid colour which was new at that time. One that I found particularly interesting was ‘Campaign for Charles Jourdan, Spring 1979’ (below) due to the clashing of bold yellow and red and the unusual posture of the female model. Bourdin is commendable on taking fashion photography to new depths and wasn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of a fashion image thus challenging the expected stood-straight face-on pose to the camera. Though I am not prudent and fully embrace female sexuality represented in fashion photography I did find some of his work quite crude however there were a few pieces that were composed wonderfully with flair.


Campaign for Charles Jourdan, Spring 1979 by Guy Bourdin
Image source: http://lamblegs.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/hot-photo-friday-guy-bourdin/

Though the two photographers are regarding amongst the elite in the fashion world, they have very differing styles and approaches. Overall I preferred the Paolo Reversi exhibition at the Wapping Project Bankside than I did for Guy Bourdin at the Michael Hoppen Gallery. One of the reasons for this was the layout and space at the Reversi exhibition; I was able to absorb his images, feel the model’s expressions and the photographer’s mood. Whilst visiting these exhibitions I was engrossed in my ‘Beauty’ project so couldn’t help but notice the subject matter; both photographers featured nude models and all were Caucasian. Where are the ethnic models? I enjoyed how this day questioned how beauty can be presented in contrasting ways and the power a renowned photographer can have on influencing the new generation on what a beautiful image and model is.

Exhibition photographs I took at the gallery:

Paolo Reversi @ The Wapping Project Bankside




Guy Bourdin @ The Michael Hoppen Gallery




Bibliography:

Useful Links:
Paolo Reversi interview PDF article (British Journal of Photography) - http://www.thewappingprojectbankside.com/artists/paolo_roversi/press/BJP-March-2012-Roversi.pdf
Michael Hoppen Gallery - http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/

In Discussion: Photography and The Law


What are the Morals and Ethics?

Reading on the infamous photography legal case between renowned photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Erno Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew it raised question on the morals and ethics of reproducing images, photographing the public and who should own the copyright. Read more on the case here [1].

Philip-Lorca diCorcia's photo of Nussenzweig from his portraiture series 'Heads' (2001)

After acknowledging various viewpoints I have come to agree with the consensus that the photographer has the right to take pictures in a public place and photograph people unknowingly. In Philip-Lorca diCorcia's case, I agree with the New York State Supreme Court's ruling in his favour.

In today's surveillance society everyone is subjected to being watched, by who, we are not knowing; in a sense we are continuously being photographed, frame by frame. A student from my photography course, Rebecca Sharplin-Hughes, states 'The only difference about having your photograph taken is that the photographer has the right to do whatever they please with the photograph, this may mean that a photograph of you is published for all of the public to see,' .

Technology and accessibility have allowed practically anyone to own a device that can take a picture such as a phone camera, DSLR, compact camera and many more. In today's globalized world social networking is particularly prominent today; so an innocent photograph of the street which can capture many people's faces and then published online can be viewed by hundreds and more. This can be seen as a violation of privacy as the people in the photograph have not consented yet this is not necessarily frowned upon or unethical as such yet the viewership can be considerably higher than if a photograph was published in an gallery for example.

If someone, a photographer per se, decides to take this street photography further and to make a 'professional' body of work and publish unsuspecting people of the public in art galleries etc. it is seen as an invasion of privacy. I can relate this issue to instances such as wanting to take a 'professional' DSLR to a concert which I am not allowed purely down to the fact it looks 'snazzier' but compact cameras are accepted yet the function and act of taking a photograph is exactly the same. So in many cases many people see that if a photograph is 'professionally' being taken it can be more unethical but if it's done in an amateur manner it isn't. For example, if a professional photographer used a tripod & camera in the street one may seem more uneasy however an amateur tourist snapping pictures, one wouldn't seem so suspecting. The issue of taking photographs in public can come down to the professional instance however questions such as 'what is professionally taking a photograph' are debatable.

I found this statement interesting by fellow colleague, Sarina Langer's: 'Richard Billingham said that all photography is exploitative, and that all we can do is make the photograph so artistically good that this becomes relatively irrelevant.' I agree with the fact that taking photos in public is fair, but when forcing yourself onto someone's property/land is not only unlawful by trespassing but morally wrong. 

Overall I don't believe in intruding someone's space (in which Philip Lorca diCorica did not do as he used a powerful telephoto lens) is morally right, especially someone's home, however in public people should have the freedom to take photographs and publish them with respect. Then again this raises questions such as 'what is respectable?'.

References:
1. Wikipedia - Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nussenzweig_v._DiCorcia


Useful Links:

In Discussion: Is Digital Photography Devaluing the Photograph?

There has been a long-lasting debate over digital photography vs. analogue and where photographers all over the world are arguing each side. After reading an interview by James Weston discussing Ricky Adam's new book; 'Destroying Everything' points were raised on the role of post-production. See full interview here [1]. There are various factors to consider in this debate such as photographers shooting style, image quality, cost & efficiency, accessibility, manipulation capabilities, archiving, credibility, processing effects etc. which photographers take into account when shooting an image. Thus there are pros and cons of each.

Many photographers use film for its nostalgic quality however increasingly the younger generation are picking up this traditional mode and embracing the processes involved. Many regard film as being outdated though it is one of the first things one learns on a Photography course: the darkroom. Ricky Adam states 'You have to be a lot more resourceful when shooting film. For one you shoot fewer photos, but in doing so I think you learn a lot more about composition, lighting' For this reason we (photography students) are taught the importance of composition which someone doesn't seem as important in digital photography where we have the luxury of shooting many images stored on a small memory card. Especially when I was shooting on medium format film I had the added pressure of getting the 'right' shot in 10 frames meaning I carefully thought of how I created my images. Though the downfall of this is that it is difficult to experiment with ideas and adjusting lighting when you cannot see the image instantly (except Polaroid style cameras) whilst on a budget (film is expensive to buy as it isn't as in demand).

Though the digital camera is superior for image quality with incredibly advanced technology such as the Hasselblad's 200-megapixel camera [2] many pro photographers, especially in the commercial market opt for digital. The ease of transferring and uploading files quickly through the internet and having the ability to manipulate the images is favourable especially in a 'perfection' obsessed society. The 'flaws' such as grain noise, colour leaks usually found in film do not fit with non-blemished image of today.

Despite this I am firm user in Photoshop and admittedly have airbrushed and retouched both digital and scanned film images in what I believe is enhancing the image. Below are 2 photographs, one before post-production, the other after. The original image is a 120mm colour negative that I scanned in. I believe that without digital advancements and availability I would not be able to produce an image I was satisfied with.

(From my Hollie Beauty Shoot, 22/02/12, using a Mamiya RB67)

In some aspects images are a portrayal of something/someone and never the true likeness; how can one capture the 'truth' in a photograph when it is only two dimensional? Therefore digital photo-manipulation does not devalue the photograph but is a means to reach the photographer's intentions for the image. Film photography does not possess the technical capabilities unlike digital photography. It all really depends on what the photographer wants to achieve and the necessary means, either digital or film, to reach that. The question is not which is better as I believe they are equally powerful mediums in their own right.

References:
1. DigBMX.com - Ricky Adam: Destroying Everything http://digbmx.mpora.com/photo-ops/ricky-adam-destroying-everything/ [Accessed 16/05/12]
2. Hassleblad 200 mpx camera: $45,000 http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20066021-264.html [Accessed 16/05/12]

Useful Links:
Wikipedia - Digital versus film photography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_versus_film_photography
Kenrockwell.com - Film vs. Digital http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/filmdig.htm

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Image Exposure: Charlotte Free by Terry Richardson

For one of my other modules on my photography course I was looking into fashion photography and style and thought of Terry's work. One of the images that caught my eye whilst looking through his wealth of images on Terry's Diary was one of model Charlotte Free.

Charlotte Free at my studio #9
December 29th, 2011


This particular photograph stands out from his vast archive of images where he posts practically every day. It dates back to December 29th, 2011 with a caption of ‘Charlotte Free at my studio #9’. I like how simple the set-up is with a single flash attached to the camera body as the only source of light. This set-up is most common for his studio portraiture where he shoots many of his friends, acquaintances and models in his home studio. Usually he shoots black/white for this set up however there are examples of colour portraits such as the above photo. Terry prefers taking pictures in a landscape format showing only the torso and face. I think this particular set-up of shooting is Terry’s trademark style and is reminiscent of his portrait editorials for big magazines such as Rolling Stone. There have even been editorials using this simple set up for magazines like Purple Fashion. Despite Charlotte Free being an up-and-coming model being shot for various advertisements I originally thought she was one of Terry’s acquaintances who had quirky style so decided to shoot her over again. The reason why I chose this shot is I like the off white background and the slight vignette from where the flash fades outwards and her carefree expression. Terry has a great knack of getting the most of his subjects and showing off their personality on camera. He isn’t afraid of highlighting the fun side of ‘untouchable’ celebrities and portraying them as normal people who want to have fun too. In relation to my project about photographing people with style and loving what they wear, Charlotte Free is a great example of individual style. This photo isn’t made up and she hasn’t got a make-up/stylist team on hand; she is herself wearing clothes she enjoys wearing. The salmon pink colour in her t-shirt goes with the aesthetics of her hair and pale skin. Though this image only reveals one item of clothing, a person’s style is in much more than the clothes they wear, but how they wear it as well as the characteristics of their hair and skin. The viewer feels the essence of being a kid and having childlike freedom from her ‘The Ren & Stimpy’ t-shirt (which is seen as vintage today) and the motion of flying her hair around.

Useful Links: 

Blog Exposure: Terry's Diary

My new feature 'Blog Exposure' will look at my favourite blogs all over the net alongside my other 'Exposure' posts such as 'Artist Exposure' and other snazzy new features coming soon! In a society slowly obsessed with blogging, a free platform to share our thoughts and snippets of our lives, there's been a sudden emergence in photographic blogs, fashion and all things 'artsy'.

This post will look at one of my favourite photographers: Terry Richardson, a fashion portrait photographer whose style is very bold, suggestive and fearless in his approach. He has photographed from the likes of Lada Gaga, Jared Leto, Katy Perry, Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss and even Barack Obama... (just to name a few!) I love his candid portrait photography especially those of celebrities as he shoots them in such a fun manner you wish you were there joining in with the laughter.

Print screen of Terry's diary home page 15/05/12 00:47 (GMT)  http://www.terrysdiary.com/

On his infamous Tumblr blog: http://www.terrysdiary.com/ which he updates daily the reader gets to see his life in photographs. Its an insight into pop culture's icons, the people we are obsessed with and Terry's diary is a window into that crazy world. He gets access no other photographer has gotten. I love the simple clean layout allowing the photographs speak for themselves and the consistently multiple daily posts. There's currently 599 pages on his blog with 15 images on each page; doing the math that's like 8985 images! Being a portrait lover inspired by pop culture this is the go-to blog.


Print screen of Terry's diary archive page 15/05/12 00:49 (GMT) http://www.terrysdiary.com/archive



Let me know what you think of Terry's Diary and your favourite images from his blog!


Useful Links: 
models.com - Terry Richardson http://models.com/people/terry-richardson

Read More:
V.E.S.T: Image Analysis: Charlotte Free by Terry Richardson http://nishahaqvisualexploration.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/image-analysis-charlotte-free-by-terry.html

In Discussion: Semiotics (How to decode an image)

One of my photography seminars consisted around the understanding of semiotics: the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis) [1]. We looked at how meanings are made and what we associate with signs in social life (semiology). This leads to how a sign consists of a signifier, the material aspect (what we see) and signified, the mental aspect (what we learn through our society and culture). Studying semiotics is the foundation of understanding photography as there are many ways of seeing images (see John Berger's Ways of Seeing) and different ways of applying our interpretation that is influenced by society and our own personal experiences. But by first realizing the components of how an image is read one must understand semiotics.

There are 3 ways to analyse:

  • 'Linguistic' message - any/all words: this is both the connotation and denotation in the analysis of the image
  • 'Non-coded iconic' message - the denotations in the photograph: these are the recognisable/identifiable (the signifier) objects in the photograph
  • 'Coded iconic' message - The connotations that derived from the larger sign system of society (the signified) in the photograph. This is is dependant on external factors like culture, race etc.

These steps can be applied to this simple image:

Image Source: Kristianne's seminar in semiotics (Powerpoint presentation) [2]

Linguistic message: 'Toilet' (or for braille readers underneath)
Non-coded iconic message: A shape resembling a female figure wearing a dress
'Coded iconic' message: Put the two together and we are taught that this sign indicates a female toilet. The blue background signifies cleanliness/freshness. If the background were to be red it may give a different meaning, possibly the toilet was dangerous, as in western society we associate red with danger.

Though the decoding of the above image was simple the 3 steps can be applied to everything we see and gets more complex when an image gives us an emotional response or has differing cultural meanings making a common image/sign in one society completely different in another. This post has been a very basic introduction to semiotics and I'm still learning about this vast topic! There have been many books and philosophies on the study of semiology so I will continue to be reading!

References:
1. Wikipedia - Semiotics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotics [Accessed 14/05/12]
2. Drake, Kristianne; Semiotics Powerpoint Presentation; 13 Feb 2012

Useful Links:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Beauty In Discussion: Valeria Lukyanova - Is this the Real life Barbie doll?



After reading responses on ‘Katie Price Vs Orlan’ forum on my university photography website[1] and discussing the concept of beauty I was particularly interested in the case of Valeria Lukyanova, 21, where it is believed she is the ‘real-life’ Barbie. Barbie represents perfection and she is the icon for aspired beauty. Barbie is an American manufactured girls’ doll that launched in March 1959. During this time multiculturalism and globalization was a new concept and isn’t as prominent as it is today yet Barbie still circulates in its millions across the globe. Barbie is supposed to represent the population yet there is only a minority with white skin, blue eyes, blonde hair and is 5’9” tall. Why choose these features to symbolize ‘perfection’ when the world is so diverse? There has been much criticism for the doll’s unrealistic proportions and the damaging effect on females’ body image especially when socializing girls from a young age. Statistics show that ‘if Barbie were an actual women, she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe.[2] This would be the case of Lukyanova from Russia who is obsessed with the Barbie ideal. She is dubbed ‘the real-life Barbie’ due to her extensive plastic surgery (including removing two lower ribs), heavy make-up and revealing clothes. Lukyanova is willingly allowing herself to be objectified after posting hundreds of images of herself and her transformation. There has been quite a stir with her as despite the common perception of beauty being of Barbie, when it is seen in real-life there is some backlash. ‘One Twitter user wrote: “She looks not only ugly, but ridiculous.”’ and “A woman with completely perfect features is a boring woman.” [2] Despite Lukyanova extreme efforts to achieve ‘perfection’ not everyone believes so thus making the concept of beauty subjective. So this raises the question what is beauty?

What are your views?

References:
1. Various authors; Mycourse forum; published Apr 15 2012; http://mycourse.solent.ac.uk/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=42596 [Accessed 07/05/12]
2. Slayen, Galia; Huffington Post; published Aug 4 2011; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/galia-slayen/the-scary-reality-of-a-re_b_845239.html [Accessed 07/05/12]


Exhibition Review: Someone Else by Shilpa Gupta

Arnolfini, Bristol
3 March 2012 - 22 April 2012

Image: Taken by myself at the exhibition, 'Singing Cloud' (2008-09)

After attending Sophy Rickett's 'To The River' exhibition on the ground floor I made my way up to Shilpa Gupta's 'Someone Else' consisting of five artworks spanning 7 years of work. I was particularly interested in her work especially her choice of medium using 3D art installation, typography and photography. Her work examines 'themes of desire, conflict, militarism, security, technology and censorship' [1] The varying pieces look at how the media affects us. Exploring the theme of media grabs my attention as am interested in the relationship between the two. 

As we enter the first room, 'Someone Else' one see's a metallic book shelf consisting of 100 silver 'blocks'. Only until one looks closer you realize that they are recreations of books from all over the world that have been written either anonymously or under a pseudonym. On the cover she explains why the author had chosen anonymity. I was engrossed in reading the reason and learnt a lot historically from this piece of art. Shame I didn't have enough time to read through all 100 of them! The second piece was the main attraction of the show, 'Singing Cloud', a suspended giant cloud made of 4000 microphones. She reversed the function of the microphone and its emits a soundtrack rather than used to record. I was very impressed with this art sculpture and gave an unsettling experience especially as the room was dark, one could just see the small reflections of light bouncing off the microphone heads. This room was shared with a flap-board used to announce departures so the echoes transmitted around the room in the shadows gave an eerie feel which I particularly enjoyed as a piece of art doesn't usually leave an unsettling effect on me. The penultimate piece were four photographs of her stylized in military clothing pinned to the wall that are part of a wider series 'Don't see Don't Hear Don't Speak'. She shows the effect of violence in today's society and makes the viewer think about today's current affairs. The final piece is brightly bold typographic piece entitled 'There is No Border Here' shaped in a flag. She explores the idea of borders and nationhood and as an Indian artist this piece feels like a reflection of her. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition as I didn't know what to expect moving from one room to the other and the atmosphere differentiated entirely creating a new buzz every time. I enjoyed the diversity exhibited and hope to see more of her exhibitions in the future.

References:
1. Exhibition Guide document - Arnolfini, Shilpa Gupta, Someone Else

Useful Links:

More of my photos from the exhibition:

 'Someone Else' (2011-12)

'Someone Else' (2011-12)

'Someone Else' (2012-12)

'Untitled' (2008-09)

'Untitled' (2006)

'There is No Border Here' (2005-06)

'There is No Border Here' (2005-06)


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Exhibtion Review: To The River by Sophy Rickett

Arnolfini, Bristol
3 March 2012 - 22 April 2012

Image: Taken by myself at the exhibition

On the 5th March I travelled to Bristol with my BA Photography course and the first exhibition on show at the Arnolfini was Sophy Ricketts' 'To The River' (2011). When first entering we are surrounded by vast blackness to be only accompanied by 3 video installations in different corners of the room and 12 channels of sound [1]. This is an unusual experience as I am so used to hung framed works on white painted walls as a typical exhibition space. Rickett, amongst a new wave of artists experimenting with video installation, explores 'her interest in our encounter with the natural world [and] the process around photographic representation.' [1] In 2010 during the spring equinox she had filmed on the bank of the River Severn recording a small crowd of people gathered to wait for the Severn Bore to pass. Though this work has been previously exhibited at the Venice Biennale, this project was brought home as Bristol shares great history with the River Severn due to its location. Though unseen, the main subject matter and inspiration is the landscape and the river. I found the experience quite unsettling due to the bouncing of sounds echoing through the vast space and the visitor hearing only snippets of conversation making it more realistic to how it would feel to stand amongst the crowd. I think the blackness emphasizes the night making the exhibition four dimensional. Though the work itself hasn't been particularly inspiring for me due to repetition of film scenes and subject matter, her ambitious methods of large scale installation shows upcoming artists that the possibilities of medium and exhibiting modes are boundless.

Upstairs: A small room filled with Rickett's research from her sketchbook. This juxtaposes the feeling in the first gallery space of black and vastness, this room was white and enclosed.

References:
1. Exhibition Guide document- Arnolfini, Sophy Rickett: To The River

Useful Links:

Beauty: Supermodels Supernaturals by Peter Lindbergh

 Harper’s Bazaar Sept 2009

Peter Lindbergh is famous for his ‘classic’ approach to fashion photography and is on hot demand in the fashion industry. His shooting style is high-end glamour making the fashion instantly irresistible however from for this shoot he has stripped bare the made-up glamour and shows the real beauty in ‘supermodels’. In an industry fixated on youth which in turn reflects on wider society, the older generations are left behind and only a select few ‘mature’ models representing the whole age group. Adolescent models that have barely grown full breasts are being cast to model ‘adult’ fashion yet they are not adults themselves. This is confusing for the consumer and contradicts the true population, especially the target audience which is the older generation who are rich enough to purchase expensive designer clothes yet society is obsessed with youth and associates this with beauty. This particular shoot in Harper’s Bazaar shows that models over 30 are still beautiful and is ridiculous to think otherwise. The viewer can see their experience and Lindbergh captures this wonderfully. It’s refreshing to see non-airbrushed models that dominate the beauty and glamour market; Valletta, 35 (above) doesn’t need these digital touch ups as she is naturally beautiful. I like how her eyes are sincere and her simple expression. Usually I’m not fond of overly grey portraits as the tones are rather dull however the subject matter is so strong, the beauty shines through the dullness and shows that high contrast isn’t needed. Like Avedon and Daemian Smith I like the simple approach and that this method works best to show beauty as it is. Nadia Auermann (below) says ‘"I think women look best when they're natural,". I completely agree with this statement.

More photos from the editorial:
[Left – right]
1. Kristen McMenamy, 44 / 2. Helena Christensen, 40 / 3. Nadia Auermann, 38 / 4. Shalom Harlow, 35


References: 

Useful Links:
Fashion Gone Rogue - Peter Lindbergh http://fashiongonerogue.com/photographer/peter-lindbergh/



Beauty: My Generation by Andreas Laszlo Konrath

2004-2010

I enjoy discovering new art and Konrath’s work was found by chance after a succession of internet links [1] all connected by the world wide web but every HTML unique in its code. Like the human race, we are all made up of different genetic codes but all belong to the same species. Celebrating differences and uniqueness is a popular subject amongst modern artists including Konrath’s ‘My Generation’ series. Like many photographers before him he has adopted this style of a plain white background, studio style set up and opted for black-and-white portraiture, reminiscent of Richard Avedon and David Bailey. Despite being relatively unknown Konrath embodies youthfulness and instead of having the privilege to shoot celebrities focuses on shooting his own generation and their distinct style. Like Scott Schuman states in The Sartorialist’:  That is why young people, or the young at heart, are those that inspire or move fashion forward. They are still struggling to find themselves: ‘Am I a rocker? A footballer? Or a little bit of both?’ These contra-dictions produce the most interesting looks’. [2] Konrath shoots beautiful, sincere portraits of his young generation showcasing the diversity. ‘Sheryl, 2007’ (above) is particularly engaging as I am first intrigued by her ethnicity however I don’t believe this is the main focus; her individuality is what Konrath is trying to show rather than her representing a whole race; she is being photographed representing herself only. The tattoo on her shoulder adds to the uniqueness of her character and her fresh face shows she isn’t hiding behind a mask of make-up. Looking through ‘My Generation’ has been inspiring and I enjoy realizing different styles to emphasize individuality within a similar age group. I also like the ‘grunge’ effect on the borders making the ‘clean’ images smudged with imperfection. This reflects youth where many people make mistakes and are learning. Not only does this series look at youth but the beauty within. I believe this portraits are very beautiful as they’re simply shot and captures people as they are, natural.

[Left – right]
1. Max, 2006 / 2. Sean, 2006 / 3.Vala, 2010 / 4.Erin, 2008



References: 
1. Discovered on http://www.nutopiaforum.com/magazine.html [accessed 06/05/12], an online magazine showcasing photography from emerging artists created by Platon, renowned for his portrait photographs of well-known world figures. His work has featured on magazine covers such as Time, Rolling Stone and Esquire. 
2. Schuman, Scott; ‘The Sartorialist’; published: Penguin (Sep 3 2009)


Useful Links:

Exhibition Review: Monsters of the Id by David Cotterrell

John Hansard Gallery, Southampton
11 February 2011 - 31 March 2012

Image: Taken by myself at the exhibition

Although I visited this exhibition 20 Feb 2012 I am currently reviewing all the exhibitions I attended this year to practice my reviewing skills. This exhibition, co-curated with Helen Sloan was close to home based on University of Southampton campus and was interesting to see a different approach to art: using video installation, still life and interactive media. Although not being particularly ‘blown away’ by the art itself Cotterrell’s representation of his journeys to Afghanistan has an underlying eeriness that compels the viewer to take notice of his message. Also hearing the use of software used for military training in the exhibition made it more convincing. Though ‘conflict’ may come to mind thinking of war zones, Monsters of the Id ‘takes a deliberately oblique approach’ [1]; it is refreshing to see a different take on this current subject. The advanced interactive installation in the ‘Observer Effect’ absorbs the population in the room and trajects the data to ‘Searchlight 2’ revealing ‘illusory human shadows’ [1] on a desert landscape (see photo above). Landscape is the main theme in his work and how people interact with this space.This gives an idea of surveillance. My first thought of the human shadows was that it reminded me of ants representing how insignificant we are (see video below). I was most compelled by this room giving the illusion that it is lighted underneath however light is being projected from above. The idea of using viewers as part of the exhibition is the talking point making us more involved leaving a disorientated effect. The different rooms feel connected through similar theme however the rooms also feel disconnected too. Walking through the exhibition, despite not being impacted at first leaves an unsettling message, a ‘quiet anxiety between periods of violence’ [1] and makes us think of our unconsciousness, our id and the underlying effects of war.



Observer Effect room using interactive generative installation 
Close up of Searchlight 2 using generative mobile data-projections
Back room showing a military field desk raising the question, are we in control?
Apparent Horizon, 6 channel-HD collimated display
References: 
1. Exhibition Guide document- John Hansard Gallery, David Cotterell: Monsters of the Id

Useful Links:
John Hansard Gallery http://www.hansardgallery.org.uk/

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