Category Archives: Readings
I found this book in the library at my work. It’s by Publio Lopez Mondejar. Not on the usual lists of photo books (as far as I know). Black & white images. All the photographers are male. Documents or pseudo- documents. Those who seem to support the dictator. Those who do not. Hidden motions. Transgression. Those from outside. Viewers. Right now I don’t feel like reading so much of the text. The history of photography under Franco vs the images. In ways I think you can see this story in the images. Or do I add my own layers/perspective to this? Images that seem largely conservative. But things seep through. Masat’s bull pierced with swords, staring at the audience, at the world. Unflinching fascists. Police repression. When they come they clash with the images that surround them. The other pages in the book with their soft victorian pastoral images. Jarring. Genoves “four stages of a political crackdown”. Lobato’s “procession in Aliste” full of menace. Candid images. Images taken as power slips or outside of power and with honesty. These are the images that excite and interest. The broken state. The fascist state. Images that look behind and into. Toward the future and the death of the dictator. Simo’s image of two meaning clearing away symbols of Franco’s dictatorship. The general in a frame. Already something of a ghost, it’s power gone. The man staring at the camera, real and alive.
I started reading the Phaidon book on Stephen Shore. It reveals a lot about his work, it adds layers. I like his stuff but I didn’t really think about his work. Why not? Not seeing so much of his work? It’s range. The variety? Changes and developments. The ideas? Feeling as if it was too ironic. Americana. The kind of image that has become commonplace. The weight of influence?
This quote is a reminder. A note.
“Shore: One of the things I did at the time when I was taking those pictures was stand next to the camera on its tripod and simply look. After I had gotten a rough idea of what I was photographing I would look at what was in front of me and literally pay attention to as much as I could as far back into space as I could see. And I would decide whether there was any slight adjustment I wanted to make.
Shore: Yes, taking into account any perceptions that came my way. And I would say yes, systematically, because if I didn’t do it systematically then I wouldn’t do it.? Does that make sense?
Fried: Perfect sense.
Shore: So it was like a check list. Okay, I have done all this, I have got the rough framework of the picture and now I am going to stand here and really look at everything. The metaphor I have in mind is that I am clearing the space for the viewer. That by moving my attention through the scene and making any necessary adjustment to the picture, I clear the space for the viewer to move his or her attention through. If I look only 50 feet into the scene, then there would be a wall that the viewer would stop at."
Lessons in space and ways of seeing.
Catalogue of photographs in the Norton Simon Museum. A strange book in some ways a snapshot of a fashion in photography. Many strong images but of a time. Before colour. Documents. Certain styles. Time has moved on from many. Left them behind. Somehow idealistic, engaged in the world but a little existential. Very 60’s if that means anything. The clothes & the approach. They sit together but there’s too much that doesn’t interest me and not enough by photographers that do interest me?? Why don’t they interest me? psychedelia? approaches that are clichés. Now or always were so. Things that do not connect with me. Art for arts’ sake. Painterly elements? Is it the way they are displayed in the book…too little space for the images to breath? Crammed together….smearing into one mood? There are lots of fine images in here and names to explore, but not to view here……
The album in the age of photography.
A frustrating book. A peek at some great archives. Collections you won’t get to see. Also not enough. More to explore. The personal. I would like to see more personal albums. The unknowns. An examination of the forgotten. How they work outside the art world. This is what an album kind of means to me. Aren’t the others something else? Archives for those we’ve read about. Preparations for books. And so the ones I love are the personal or not yet seen. A moleskin with army portraits. Goldberg’s Guest Register. For its flow, for his development and movement. Freedom. Wanting to be in touch. Close/personal/human. The space of Duane Michals pages. The W. Eugene Smith pages. Cause I want to explore all those pages. The Family Album of Daniel Joseph Lyon. All the colour. The life. Personal & strong. The Locust Album. For its strange colours and atmosphere.
What about the culture of the album?Their progress through history? The changes it has gone through. Fashions.
Ok the opening chapter covers some of these areas but somehow it doesn’t extend through the book. Well for me anyway.
Ideas of display and production. And fading and discolouration. Inspiring. The physical. The object. The life of objects. Brought into existence and progressing through life on their own.
Perhaps this is all a reminder.
The electronic is not enough.
The direction of the light determines highlight and shadow. Only some are good for creating the clues we need.
Front Lighting: Comes from the direction of the camera. It fills the subject with highlight and provides little evidence of depth. Shadows fall behind. The camera sees no tonal variation or depth. This is flat lighting. Useful for portraits etc minimizing texture.
Back Lighting: Also fails to provide the clues. Shadow is thrown forward. The side facing the camera is in darkness. Suggests drama but without other lights there is no dimension.
Side Lighting: Provides both highlight and shadow and thus depth.
Top Lighting: Is a kind of side lighting. It provides the highlight and shadow we need to suggest depth.
All these divisions are degrees and they can vary around the subject. three-quarter lighting an example. All of these degrees can be justifiable depending on relationship and effects we wish to creat. Depth might not always be our aim. We need to think about light. It is not a fixed set of rules. These are just useful ideas. A simplification of the options available.
Shadows should be used with subtlety. They can overwhelm and distract.
We can use a combination of lights. We can fill and stop light with gobos and reflectors. Backgrounds and other objects in the area can creat reflections or deaden the light. The shape and form of the background and the supporting object add depth and structure to the images. A curved background and the position of light can creat fall off in the background revealing the nature of the elements of the image.
Now on to new dimensions. Depth. This is not just combining the elements from before. New techniques. Visual clues toward the 3D. Essential clues. Perspective distortion. Tonal variation.
Perspective distortion: That something near is large. Far away small. Converging lines. Our angle of view can be used to control and influence this. Closer = more distortion. Farther = less.
Tonal variation: Highlights/shadows/mid tones.
We usually have small lights. Easier to carry. Cheaper. Reflectors and diffusers etc all change the size of the light. The light source is increased. Thus a softer shadow. Outside overcast days diffuse the light too.
Large sources become small sources if they are far away. The sun. Lights too. The angles that are created by large and small lights make the difference to the lighting. Small lights creat angles that are more direct.
Large ones emit rays in many direction. Thus a softer shadow. A light far away also does the same. “The closer we move a light to a subject, the larger that light source becomes in relation to it.
The reflections of rooms can creat effects that seem to conflict this idea.
Texture. Diffuse reflections and light often fail to reveal the texture of the object. A shallow angle of light reveals the texture. Highlights and shadows. This may also cause similar problems to those created by low angles in copy photography. Uneven lighting. As before it can be resolved by placing greater distance between light and subject. Small light sources also help. Small light sources produce sharp hard shadows. Dark subjects may require a different approach. Black objects don’t creat the diffuse reflection to give firm to surface textures. We can increase the exposure, although this may cause detail in the highlights to be lost. Another option is to creat a direct reflection with a large light source (overcast sky, soft box or reflector). The light is positioned above the subject. Not raking across the subject. In the example from the book the reflective properties of the object is used to record the subject at its best.
Subjects are varied. They are not usually simple. Some areas need a diffuse light others direct reflection. Consider what is important in an image and light for that. Or apply both principles to the subject. Problems can not always be solved. The competing elements cannot always be balanced. The problem cannot be solved.
Try a lens polarizing filter. Easy but least likely to work.
Use a still larger light. This will produce a range of reflections. Both within and without the family of angles. Compromise.
Use more than one light. Similar to previous option but easier to control and refine. Again a compromise, but a better one.
Use a Gobo. A Gobo is anything that goes between light and subject. To block out part of the light and it’s associated reflections. Can be difficult to set up. Close to subject it may produce shadows. Closer to the light it might reduce the overall illumination. It needs to be the right size to block the required area but not the others.
Are single surfaces that require both direct and diffuse reflection. Example: glossy wood. Direct reflection to show the gloss. Diffuse to show colour and grain. Careful use of a gobo to reveal both elements.
Taking photographs of paintings/illustrations/photographs we need diffuse light. Diffuse reflections are good at revealing colours and values of the original image. Not the surface. Can we take thus further and suggest diffuse light therefore creates less form. That it flattens images? Direct reflections will cause glare and reflections. Place light and camera outside the family of angles. Distance between subject. The angle of the lens. These elements all change relationships within the family of angles.
45 degrees often provide good results. ESP when light is distant from subject. A distant light also provides even illumination. If the light is close to the subject it will illuminate some areas more than others. Others light may help balance it but distance provides better illumination. However it is not always an option.
If we are unable to fix lights outside the family of angles we can also polarizers. It is not perfect but can provide solutions
As with many things our brains edit the information provided by our eyes. It edits the image. With a photographic image the brain does not play this role and instead the photographer must. Lighting is part of this.
Lighting is concerned with highlight & shadow. If these are correct the mid-tones are probably fine.
Highlight and shadow reveal form, shape and depth. Painters use these effects to create ideas of depth & form in their images. Although we are perhaps working with the physical and real we still use these effects to give physicality to our 2D images.
We try to capitalise on these elements to reveal what we wish to reveal.