Steidl are perhaps one of the best known, and most respected publishers of photo books. Gerhard Steidl started working as a designer and printer in 1967. He soon built up a reputable clientele and the first Steidl book was published in 1972. Watching a film about how the company produces these books was fascinating. I didn’t realise just how involved in the process the photographer is, and how much Steidl is able to express his opinion to the photographer; if he doesn’t like an idea or where the photographer wants the book to go, he will say so and sometimes in very crude terms. He is constantly adjusting the colours of the photographs, and flying all over the world to show photographers prototypes of what their books can look like. The most important thing to Gerhard Steidl and the photographer is the quality of the book and this was very evident in the film that we watched today. In the film we saw a lot of Joel Sternfeld making a book – from showing Steidl how many photos he wanted in the book, to saying how he wanted the images to look like they did on his iPhone screen when he was taking them, to adjusting the colours on the test prints. I recognised this photographer’s name but I had never seen any of his work before so I was interested to see what his photographs would look like once he had decided on how his book would look. To be honest, I found the style of the documentary quite boring but the subject matter was very interesting to me. The production of books is something that we don’t really know much about, unless you work in that industry so it was an insight into something that I didn’t know that I was ignorant about.
The images are the main components of any photo book but words are just as important. In Image Text-Text Image it says “Text and image can complement one another, the text precisely specifying an event depicted in the image by naming it, for example. The text may just as easily work against the message of the image.” I think that this is something important to remember and something that was emphasised a lot in the documentary. The words and images have suit each other, otherwise they work against each other.
In Aperture photography journal, I came across this article by Joanna Lehan about a photojournalist called Thomas Dworzak who hitchhiked around Chechnya to cover the conflict there, explored New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and lived with US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, he created these nine scrapbooks from the safety of his own home. Each scrapbook is dedicated to a particular Instagram hashtag and each is made up of screenshots from Instagram.
Given the discussion on the class forum about if Instagram has ruined photography as an art form, I found the work by Thomas Dworzak very interesting and think that it lends a different perspective to my opinion about Instagram. I still think that Instagram has increased people’s appreciation for good photography and that it has inspired people to take pictures. However, I hadn’t considered that professional photographers would utilise it in order to make work and that this work would be featured in Aperture journal. I think that using Instagram in order to make work connects the photographer with a younger audience and perhaps helps people find him using Instagram.
Tate Britain houses many centuries worth of British paintings and sculptures. I visited this wonderful gallery recently and was very pleasantly surprised to see that they also show photography. Not much, unfortunately but I saw about 30 photographs by a photographer that I had never heard of before: Chris Killip.
I really enjoyed looking around this section of the gallery, and welcomed the opportunity to discover a new photographer. All the work I saw was in black and white so I’m not sure if he works in colour as well. It was also unclear as to what medium he is working in and I couldn’t find any articles or books about him that told me the answer. From his website http://www.chriskillip.com I discovered that he is a Manx photographer who was born on the Isle of Man and that his work is displayed in many galleries worldwide. After I found that out, I was quite surprised that I had never heard of him because I have been to a few of those galleries!
Through his photographs I got a real feeling of love for the community that he has photographed and that he is obviously a part of. The way that he captures people is very natural and I think, unposed.
After seeing Rwanda in Photographs: Death Then, Life Now I decided to research into current and perhaps older photographers who have photographed war zones, or the aftermath of wars.
The first photographer who came to my mind was and Simon Norfolk who is well known for his photographs of Afghanistan.
After seeing his photographs and comparing them to those that I saw of Rwanda, I realised that his photographs still show that a war was happening but they don’t show the hopelessness or despair or convey as much emotion as those in the Rwanda exhibition.
Another photographer who I thought of is Don McCullin who has been photographing wars for many decades.
Don McCullin’s photographs convey a lot of emotion, I think. The way that he captures his subjects and portrays them doesn’t seem overly sympathetic or as though he felt sorry for them. I think that he was just photographing what he saw, without worrying about if the images would be too graphic or emotional to show people.
In a book about his photography, the author has written about war photography, “There are questions to be asked. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we’ve accepted up to now that ought to be challenged?”(Delpire, R, Don McCullin, Thames & Hudson, 2007, 5-6). I think that McCullin’s photographs ask us all of these questions and make us think about what is happening in the world around us, in other countries.
It’s not often that I visit an exhibition that makes me cry. Often I find that I have no emotional connection to photographs and I like them from a purely aesthetic standpoint. But this exhibition was different. As soon as I stepped through the door to the exhibition in Somerset house I could feel emotion pouring out of the photographs. The genocide in Rwanda happened the year before I was born so I knew nothing about it. The first time I visited this show I felt like I was missing something so I went and did a bit more research about it, and I think that helped me connect to the photographs more this time. The photographs themselves are full of colour, even when depicting something less than pleasant and the photographers showed their love for this torn country through their images. Most of them have never had any formal training, yet they are some of the best photographs I have seen. Perhaps not technically the best, but I connected to them so much more than any other photograph I have seen. Some of the photographs were filled with such despair and hopelessness, whereas others contained hope and happiness. I thought that the variety in the way of presenting the photographs was excellent and kept the exhibition from feeling monotonous and samey.
Photographers with work in Rwanda in Photographs: Death Then, Life Now:
Jean Luc Habyarimana
Ocean City Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland, 2011
Cars parked at a Nascar Event in Richmond, Virginia, 2005
What else do pilots do when they’re flying a plane, other than concentrate on not crashing? Why? Take photographs of course! I found these photographs by Alex McClean who is a photographer and qualified pilot when I was just browsing the internet looking for some interesting photographs that I hadn’t seen before. I found them on this website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/11/alex-maclean_n_5126883.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592 I really like these photographs because they make us think about just what pilots see when they’re flying. Obviously, they need to concentrate on flying the plane safely but they have time to look out of the window, or in his case, stick his camera out of the cockpit window and press the shutter button. These photographs look almost unreal and like constructed photographs because of the order and structure that they contain but they were just what he could see.
Surfers behind breaking waves at Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii,
Loaded coal train cars in Norfolk, Virginia, 2011
These photographs, as far I could find out, have never been shown in any exhibitions and have only been published online. However, if they were to be exhibited I would imagine that they would be very large prints because of the patterns and dimension within each photograph.
At the beginning of the unit I saw that Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes was on our reading list. I groaned internally, as I had heard that it was a difficult book to read and understand everything that he was writing about.
However, I love a challenge.
And.. this morning I finished it!
Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that it’s a very difficult book to read, and I doubt that I will ever understand the entire book. But I enjoyed it. And that’s quite the surprise for me.
My favourite quote from the book is: “I always feel…color is a coating applied later on to the original truth of the black-and-white photograph. For me, color is an artifice, a cosmetic (like the kind used to paint corpses).” (Barthes, R. Camera Lucida, 1981. P.81). I used this quote in my essay for one of the other units and I find it a very thought provoking sentence. There’s a constant debate raging as to whether photographs show truth or not, and Barthes implies that black and white photographs show the truth. This could be considered quite controversial considering the debate on if it’s possible to show the truth through any image. It could also be taken that he’s saying he doesn’t like colour photography, although I don’t think that is what he was saying. I think he’s saying that colour isn’t necessary in photography.. but I’m not 100% sure what Barthes actually wanted us to take from it.