For this exercise I had the choice to;
Flick through an old photo album – chose any photo’s that you consider to be ‘artistic’. Note what it is about these images that makes them appear more like artworks than others.
Go out and take some shots in your local neighbourhood. Take some that are purely utilitarian – to show some one elsewhere what your city centre looks like. Then take some that are more ‘arty’. What did you do differently? Show these to a family member or friend and ask them to comment. See if they also identify the ‘arty’ ones you took or if they see things differently.
I chose to do both parts of the exercise – glad for an excuse to wonder round Coventry with a camera…
Old Personal Photo’s
I flicked through a couple of photo albums and remembered a series of photo’s I had developed from a very old film, which I used to take photos with a manual SLR camera. I was (and still) am much more used to Digital SLR camera’s so it was interesting experiment. I few the photos produced from this film as more artistic in general than most of my photos, partly because of the unpredictability of capturing on an old film, I didn’t know exactly what I would get at the end and that felt like the artistic process, which sometimes has unpredictable results.
I gathered these photo’s together and photographed them, see two images below:
I knew I only had a limited number of shots, because I was shooting with a film camera. So I think that made me much more deliberate about what I chose to photograph, the results are interesting. The film was old so there’s a grainy quality and almost a blue or grey tint to all the photos which feels artistic. Some of the photos are blurry, admittedly my lack of practice focusses manually is evident in these, but for some reason this adds to the ‘arty’ nature. Another factor that I think contributes to the art quality is the nature of the photo’s, most were taken on a holiday in Cornwall, where I’ll probably never stay again so they feel rare or unique shots. The top two right images are from a friends wedding, again they feel special because they are a glimpse of a day which won’t be repeated again.
Seeing as most of the photos I take are using a digital SLR it seemed good to also look through those photos and pick some artistic ones.
I chose this photo because it captures a fleeting season, cherry blossoms only appear once a year and this photo seems particularly artistic because it focuses on one blossom whilst allowing the shapes of the branches to blur in the background.
I think this photo is artistic because of the unique focal point, the tree bark is in focus with a path or tunnel of tree’s just visible through the blur. I think it gives that sense of mystery or call to exploration – I guess in makes me intrigued. I think this capturing of attention or to question is something art works often achieve.
The photo on the left is of an Edison light bulb taken by my husband. I think its artistic because it captures a really unique view of the bulb, he played around with the exposure times allowing for most of the background to be dark with just the heat/light of the coil showing. It was actually taken in a Cafe in the daylight but there’s nothing in the photo to indicate this.
Finally this photo for me feels artistic, because it captures a really fun interaction we had with a robin. We were in a national trust garden and spotted this robin hopping around, he let me get really close, so I was able to capture several really dynamic photos of him. If you look closely you can see his beak is open, he was singing away the whole time I was taking photographs.
Photographing Coventry City Centre:
I really enjoyed the excuse to wander round the city centre, feeling a bit like a tourist trying to capture where I live with different eyes. I approached the ‘utilitarian’ photographs by deliberately using a larger lens, setting the camera to point and shoot/automatic mode, and literally just taking a photo looking at an area in general.
This was surprisingly tricky because I kept wanting to chose certain focal points or areas to try and draw attention to but in the end I managed to just snap a few photos this way.
For the ‘arty’ photos I changed between two lens’s, one with a greater depth of field to give a blurred affect if wanted and also to frame the images in a different way. I allowed myself to manually focus on different point or areas in the frame, and deliberately looked for interesting or different view points of the city, for example I took a photo of the reflection of another building and tree’s from a big blue glass building. I focussed in some blossoms in the foreground against a blurred backdrop of a building under construction.
I printed a selection of the photographs off in a 6×4 format. I don’t often get physical copies of the photo’s I take but I felt like seeing them as physical objects would help people to comment on them.
I took a photo (see below) of the photographs arranged as the ‘artistic’ ones on the left of the image, and as the ‘utilitarian’ on the right of the image:
I’ve included these images as physical photos in my Physical Learning Log, too for personal reference.
I asked my friend Rachel to look through the photos and pick out the images she thought were artistic or just pointed and shot photos. The only images she saw differently were 8 & 11, she found it hard to decide if these were deliberately shot by me or just accidentally shot.
Interestingly enough she said that part of what made it hard to decide was her familiarity with the city (she lives her too!). This reminded me of John A.Walker’s comments about how people bring their mental context with them when they view photographs or any art work. It really would be good to get someone who was unfamiliar with Coventry to consider these photos.
Personally I can still see some interesting things or compositional elements in the ‘utilitarian’ photos, particularly photo 13, it looks like a carefully chosen or frame shot with an focal point just off centre, something in the mid and background. But it’s a coincidence – the park has been recently updated (if that’s the right word for it), as a walk through from the station to the centre. It has been so carefully designed that if I pointed my camera in any direction and shot the result would a beautiful image.