Presence/absence

Brief

When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.
Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express
something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis.
• Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things
around without getting into trouble!
• Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you.
• Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.
• Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another
photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be
anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a
particular tree in a landscape.
• Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool
or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has
been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.
• Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the
image below, it may not need it.

Final Images

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At New Year we were in the Cotswolds visiting my in-laws. While we were there some squirrels had been playing in the trees in the garden. I popped out with my camera to take some photos of one of them high in the trees. While I was doing that my gaze wandered around the garden. It is somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time when we’ve stayed with my sister-in-law, playing with the children or just chilling out.

Looking around I saw many of the things that the kids and I had played with over the years. I found myself thinking that these were great examples of presence and absence. The swings and slides, the abandoned football, the trampoline covered with branches, placed in front of the goal. The bikes leaning against the house.

All things that were once used by the kids when they were little but now abandoned, never to be used again.

I know that this doesn’t exactly fit the exercise brief but I do feel that it highlights presence and absence.

Contact Sheets

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Emulation

Brief

Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online).
If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes.
Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you:
• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)
• the composition or design
• the subject
• the concept
• the photographer’s viewpoint
• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.
When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need:
• equipment
• location
• models.
When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.
Tanya Ahmed’s photographs from the series East 100th Street show the influence of American street photographers like Bruce Davidson and Garry Winogrand, but they are  also very much her own.

Research

Adam Fuss / Tanya Ahmed

Adam Fuss’s work, artnet (2018), builds on Man Ray’s work, producing some very artistic results. Some of the effects seem to be a lot more complicated that Man Ray’s original rayographs and without knowing that they were photograms could easily be taken for photographs taking using a camera.

Ahmed (s.d) has a similar look to Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street series, Magnum Photos (2014), but there are clearly differences. Davidson’s images have a darker feel to them, even the ones of people, whereas Ahmed’s photos are much brighter, especially the ones of people. What I get from her photos is a sense of a place where people are happier, of a place that has seen improvements.

Davidson’s images leave me with the impression of an area that is more run down, and whose people are surviving more than prospering.

Irving Penn – Frozen Foods

Penn produced a number of still life images. Irving Penn (s.d) shows examples of these, including Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. I’d come across a variation of this in Hacking (2015), this version being minus the string beans.

Penn’s images were made at a time when we weren’t inundated with plastic packaging so I decided that I wanted to recreate the images both with and without the packaging.

Considering the bullet points in the brief for this exercise concerning what appeals to me about this photograph:

• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)

The colours in Penn’s photograph range from muted greens through to bright oranges. The mix of colours contrast with each other but also provide a link, for instance the blueberry and yellow corn when combined link tho the green beans and asparugus.

The reflection in the surface is not immediately noticeable but when seen can’t be ignored.

The lighting has been done in a way that provides shadows between each of the blocks of fruit and vegetables, giving a sense of depth to what could otherwise have been a very flat image.

• the composition or design

I like the way that the different shapes of the fruit and vegetables have been pulled together by making square blocks, but throughout the image there is the circular theme within each of the different items. The carrots positioned end on so that they appear as round item, the larger circles of the raspberries; which then carry that circular theme down into each individual raspberry. Even the asparagus tips have that theme at their ends.

• the subject

Fruit and vegetables are such a simple subject, one that

• the concept

The concept is a really simple one. Take some fruit and vegetables and stack them on top of each other. No fancy backdrops, just let the items speak for themselves, their colours, their textures.

But make them into small bricks and stack them on top of each other.

Such an image could be used in different way. The blocks are reminiscent of a child’s building bricks, and in a similar way to how a child might build something with their bricks, these blocks can build up a healthy diet.  This would work for both children and adults.

• the photographer’s viewpoint

Penn has captured the blocks straight on. Although this could easily have led to a very flat image, the use of light and shadow provides and indication of depth.

• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.

Penn has constructed the image in such a way that the differing shapes within it draw you deeper and deeper into it. The big square blocks stacked on each other, then the smaller rounder shapes drawing you to the finer detail such as the textures on the carrots and asparagus. There is so much to see within the image, regardless of where the eye first alights.

Final Images

Not So Frozen Foods

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The variety of different styles of packaging made capturing an image of everything still within it’s packaging a challenge. I eventually achieved this by attaching string to each of the containers which were then cellotaped to a cupboard and each container allowed to hang in such as way that it rested upon the ones below it. Even so, this was wasn’t a simple task with different containers swinging loose at some point. the final image was processed to remove signs of the strings.

Frozen Foods

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Having tried capturing each item in its plastic container I decided to try and replicate the original image in a much closer way. The vegetables were blanched before they and the fruit were placed in suitable containers and then put in the freezer.

The challenge with the above was to remove each item from its container get it so that it would rest on another item and then take the photos before the ice that was holding them together melted.

Exercise 4.11 Emulation-8851

In the final image above I decided that I wanted to include the packaging once again so that there was a contrast to how I see the time that Penn’s image was taken, compared to our current times.

References

  1. Magnum Photos (2014) Bruce Davidson – East 100th Street Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3RP0468 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  2. Ahmed, T. (s.d) East 100th Street Available at: http://tanyaahmed.com/east-100th-street/ [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  3. Cheim & Read (2018). Adam Fuss Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Photogram-Adam-Fuss/dp/0965728013 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  4. Adamson Gallery (s.d) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.adamsongallery.com/artists/adam-fuss [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  5. artnet (2018) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/adam-fuss/ [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  6. Penn, I. (s.d.) Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. At: https://www.irvingpenn.org/still-life/ (Accessed on 13 August 2018)
  7. Hacking, J ()2015) Lives of The Great Photographers. 1st edt. London: Thames & Hudson

Contact Sheets

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