Tag Archives: Part Four: Photography

Assignment 4: Final revisions of essay

I wrote previously about revisions to my essay for assignment four here.  Now a few months after originally revising the essay I allowed a bit of time to re-read my tutor’s original feedback and my revised essay. Reading the essay back I felt that my writing was a little too apologetic, I was skirting around the arguments I really wanted to make rather than actually saying ‘this is my opinion’ and providing the evidence to back that up.

I’d also taken some time to read ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger and found this provided some interesting observations on Photography which I tried to reference in the essay. Essentially my re-vision of the essay focused on making arguments more succinct, writing a an introduction with clearer initial arguments and making a bolder conclusion. In my first version I hadn’t wanted to make a clear case as to whether or not I considered the photographing of Goldsworthy to be the work itself. I decided that I did feel that his work was in fact heavily wrapped up in the use of photography to the extent that it really becomes part of his work, although not the entirety of it. I think in my second version I managed to convey this much clearly.

It’s worth me mentioning or acknowledging that my tutor recommended reading, Landscape and Western Art by Malcolm Andrews, I looked into buying it and came to the conclusion I couldn’t afford to at the moment, sadly when I searched for it in my local library they used to have a copy but somebody stole it awhile ago (so it’s just on their records). I know the book would’ve helped me to explore why Goldsworthy’s photographs seem to sit alongside the romantic view of the landscape.

Assignment 4: Response to Feedback

There’s a few points which following my tutor’s feedback on the essay I have considered and will look to incorporate in a more fluid form into my essay.

Questions/Viewpoints to add into altered essay:

My tutor mentioned his work was in the same vein of romantic works – Is his work pastoral or idyllic, like the romantic paintings and early landscape photography? Link to Graham Clarke’s The photograph chapter on Landscape.

Graham Clarke talks about British Landscape photography as a form of controlling the landscape (for reference p.55), “The photograph allowed the land to be controlled, visually at least – to be scaled and ordered”. It makes me wonder about the element of control in Goldsworthy’s photographs. It’s another layer of man-made control and order, he constructs the sculptures from natural elements, but he is then adding another layer of man made alteration with the use of the camera to not just capture but frame our view of his ephemeral sculptures.

The man-made construction of his ‘natural works’ is somewhat a contradiction or juxtaposition of ideas: especially in sheep throws where he himself is visible in the photograph – its clear he is altering and in charge of the landscape not so natural as he makes pains to claim?

Issue of major income coming from photographs Goldsworthy publishes in coffee table style books – this is mentioned in the Guardian interview here.  I mention it because it adds a further complexity to the debate of whether or not the photographs are art in themselves. It is the sale of such books that forms a major part of income (my tutor pointed this out to me). This reminds me of Grayson Perry’s series of Reith Lectures which formed the basis for his book ‘Playing to the Gallery’.

At some point during the lectures he comes up with boundaries or markers to help us decide what art is and one of these is about whether or not the art work is deemed sell-able or has a monetary value. If that is a marker for something being art then Goldsworthy’s photographs are art works. As the Artist has control over his works, presumably Goldsworthy could refuse to sell the photographs, citing that they were not the art work but rather a reference point or a tool to make the actual work accessible to a wider audience (than himself and any assistants!). But he does sell the photographs, as objects but also as photo-books with length text explanations.

My tutor mentioned the use of text alongside his photographs as worth exploring – I agree with her in that it seems like another form of shaping our interaction with his work. He goes to great lengths to explain his process, the weather that shaped his work, his own feelings towards it, the history of the place etc. After reading these things it’s impossible not to see the themes of place and time within his work, he’s presented those things to us. I wonder what conclusion we would come to if we presented just with the pictures, no accompanying information? I’m also beginning to see how carefully constructed the interaction with Goldsworthy’s ephemeral pieces is, there’s the carefully framed photographs, the in-depth textual explanations or observations. It’s as if these temporary works are being embalmed or enshrined for the purposes of preservation. But I think in the effort to preserve the work can become lost, what we have instead is an artefact.

 

Assignment 4: Preparation/Research

I’ve finished my draft of the essay for Assignment 4, having chosen to focus on Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral sculptures and his use of/relationship with photography. I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on the research process and my approach to the essay.

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Project 3: Exercise 3 ~ Photographs from an elevated viewpoint

Considering two views of two different landscapes, what can you see – as compared to a photograph taken from ground level, a map, or Google Earth:

  1. Derek Trillo, The Cheshire Plan from Beeston Castle, 2008.

I think the elevated viewpoint of the plain of Cheshire allows you to see elements of the landscape which would otherwise have been hidden, specifically at ground level. At ground level you probably wouldn’t be able to see the little square of tree’s the the centre right of the photograph. Some of the lines in the soil are also more visible from above than at ground level. But the viewpoint does give an odd angle or crop to the landscape – you have no view of whats around, the lay of the land, just a small section of fields/harvested land and some trees.

A map would give a greater context, and some detail about the height of the land, surrounding elements, rivers, walk ways, any hills or mountains. But the map wouldn’t give you detailed images of these things, you wouldn’t be able to see actual trees or marks in the soil, or green grass through a map, just lines and notations to represent some of the geographical nature of the area.

I’d never used Google Earth – so i downloaded it and tried to search for The Cheshire Plan and then Beeston Castle. The Cheshire Plain didn’t seem to give me a view that was near Beeston Castle so I searched for Beeston Castle – from Google earth you can drag your way around the map – its an Arial viewpoint which you can zoom into so you can view the landscape from high above or in closer proximity. It gives a much wider view of the landscape around a focal point but the quality of the image is a lot less clear, there’s a grainy nature to the whole viewpoint. It feels slightly similar to the view you’d have of an landscape if viewed from an aeroplane.

2. City View – OCA Student – Peter Mansell

The photograph by Peter Mansell allows you to see the full height of city tower blocks, offices, in direct relationship to other buildings, road systems, a river and if you look very closely some very tiny looking people. The viewpoint gives you a sense of the vastness of the city area, the industrialised buildings, an urbanised landscape. If the picture had been taken from ground level the view would look very different, I imagine you’d get a sense of the height and breadth of the buildings, more detail, for instance, shops, pavements, windows, road signs and people would come into focus.

I  imagine Google Earth would allow for a sense of the distance between the buildings, and a chance to see how densely filled the area was, the points where housing started and city buildings (offices, retail) stopped or the mix between the too. It would also allow the viewer to virtually interact with the area as walking as a pedestrian through it’s street view, again changing the sense of scale of the buildings and landmarks seen in the original photograph.

3. John Davies, Agecroft Power Station, Salford, 1983.

For the first time in this part of my studies I can say I’ve seen this photograph as an actual object in my local art gallery/museum (The Herbert). In person your eye really takes in and scans the image carefully, and there’s plenty of points of interest or observation from the angle the photograph was taken at.

Taking the photograph from a distance but at an elevated point allows you to see just how large an area of the landscape is affected by the power-station towers. But as you look more closely you begin to see the other parts that are made visible by the unique viewpoint. For instance in the bottom left corner you can see some rubbish or waste left strewn across a dirt path, some old cars, and a few people.

The football game which is visibly taking place near the towers adds to the sense of the towers shadowing or looming over everyday life. Their presence is undeniable but hasn’t altered normal life – the footballers still play their game regardless of the alteration to the landscape. Just beyond the power station you can see (to the right of the image), the roll of hills, tree’s in the distance, the once more common markers of English Landscape. The photograph really allows an broad sweep of the area, there are details in the foreground, a large focal point in the centre, and then details in the background, all of which seem to have been made possible by the raised viewpoint.

Project 3: Research point ~ New Topographics

After reading  The Guardian article; New Topographics: photographs that find beauty in the banal, by Sean O’Hagan. I have few observations – firstly that this idea or concept of finding beauty in the everyday seems to be a feature in lots of post-modern art, it seems to manifest in lots of different mediums but is an undercurrent, as some kind of reaction to the world we live in.

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