Wednesday, 30 May 2012

OCA Study Visit – 26/05/12 Burtynsky’s “Oil” at The Photographers Gallery

This was an exhibition ambitious in its scale and the size of its subject. It was set over two floors of the gallery and the images were printed and mounted in large frames. The contrast between seeing the images at this size and looking at them in a book or on a monitor made all the difference to the way I perceived them. At such a large scale I was able to look very closely at the detail of each of the images.
From We Are OCA:
“How is it that these two extreme poles of function can coexist in a single image?” … thought provoking question.
Posted to "We Are OCA" forum in reply to Dewald's post on Jose’s question:
A reproduction of the print at the start of this article was on sale in the gallery bookshop for £2500. I assume Jose was alluding to this when posing his question. Perhaps the question should be "These extreme poles of function do exist within these documentary images and is it right that they should be traded as art?"
From a wider perspective, is this a reflection of the change from a market economy to a market society where everything has a price tag and very little has value?
Jose replied to my post:
Good question too Richard. £2,500…in my opinion as soon as a photograph operates at that level of perceived value it starts to function like a fetish object. It becomes desirable because the prospective buyer feels that by possessing the object they may acquire some of the symbolic qualities of the object – e.g. environmental credentials. And a process of positive feedback begins. Paradoxically, I think that this process also enhances the documentary value of the photograph.
But the problem of ambiguity of meaning remains, which I what I implied in my question.
My reply
Another facet of the argument I hadn’t considered Jose, thanks for making the point. If it is the purpose of Art to promote discussion, Burtynsky certainly succeeds.
I also posted this summary to "We Are OCA" forum:
I think the exhibition posed more questions than it answered. Ultimately it comes down to individual perception. I was impressed more by the technical quality and impact of individual images than by the collection's documentary qualities. It is such a vast subject with so many overlaying and interlinked causes and effects that each could furnish a documentary project on its own.
This exhibition certainly provoked a lot of discussion, both on the forum, at the gallery and after the visit on the day. My personal view of the exhibition is summarised above. This is only my second study visit so I still learning about critique and how people perceive and express their ideas. I am hoping that future visits will give me the experience to express my ideas more freely and confidently.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

"il faut que je sois" Roeland Verhallen

12 May 2012
This small exhibition at Kings College Cambridge was enigmatic to say the least.
"The photographs will be presented alongside a critical review from the viewpoint of photographic theory, as delivered by Simeon Koole, a Cambridge graduate researcher in photographic history and theory. The exhibition creates a triad consisting of photographs, text and viewer, thereby facilitating constant interaction of all three elements."
"It must be that I am"
“I’m Roeland Verhallen. 20-years-old. Dutch. Photographer.
I’m always looking for new combinations of situations, objects and people.
Why take photographs of something that is there for everyone to photograph,
when you can create something unique instead?
It’s all about creating a certain ambience where someone can step in,
bathe in, and get out from with a feeling that will be with them
throughout the rest of the day.”
I recall the exhibition was about Time, Being and Ancestry. The review below gives some hint about its meaning although at this stage in my studies, much of it was lost on me. The photographs were beautifully composed and printed from a medium format (6x6) Hasselblad camera. The use of film is explained in the review.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Exhibition – Jane Bown - Exposures

Bown Exhib
There is a link here to the Guardian interactive pages showing the images and video from the exhibition.
This was a very enjoyable exhibition covering the decades since 1949 when Jane Bown  had her first portrait printed in the Observer. I must have seen a lot of these early ones. The Observer was the Sunday paper of choice in our house when I was growing up and I used to make a point of looking at all the pictures even though the text didn’t interest me.
The accompanying video to the exhibition made it clear how simply Jane Bown worked, black and white film, available light, f2.8 at 1/125sec. With subjects as diverse as Lucien Freud and the Queen, she was able to engage them all to produce stunning portraits, some formal,(Orson Welles) others relaxed and playful (Bjork) This was a complete contrast to last week’s exhibition and a valuable insight into journalistic portraiture. especially those subjects who were photographed in context, Francis Bacon, Henri Cartier Bresson, Ninette de Valois, Jacob Epstein, which tell you so much more that a simple head shot.
Winchester Photographic Society Exhibition
A very large range of photographic subjects were covered by this exhibition, some stunning black and white portraits, wonderful wildlife and some nice landscapes. It’s a shame that HDR software seems to predominate the colour landscapes but I hope that as a gimmick it will soon pass. I think it makes everything too samey. That is a discussion for another forum. On the whole I enjoyed the work shown. A link to the Society’s website where some of the images are on display: