Bringing the two together

Shallots being sown

Shallots being sown

Carl sowing the shallots on a cold morning.

Picture donated by Carl of crops being cultivated in the North west of Thailand

Picture donated by Carl of crops being cultivated in the North west of Thailand

Integrated image, bring the two growers together. I know there are visual discrepancies , bu the notion of both men working the land for the same end is the message I wanted to bring. I appreciate that a single image isn’t going to provide all the narrative – so I’m working ideas to see what might work and what might be considered trite.

Working the crops. Two men in harness for the same purpose.

Working the crops. Two men in harness for the same purpose.

 

 

 

Ethics

Burmese orphan dependent on Thailand refugee camp for survival

Burmese orphan dependent on Thailand refugee camp for survival

Does this picture draw you in? Does it impel you to stop and wonder why and what and who?

Thinking about how to move forward on assignment one – I have a new tutor who has suggested different ways to consider the work that I was proposing. The Gross’ do a lot of photography when they are in Thailand working with the orphans and my tutor suggested that I could perhaps use some of those images that Carl has generously donated to my cause. I have a number of concerns as I start to think about ‘found’ objects – in this case donated images – in my work. Clearly there is the issue that I didn’t take these images, but if I can accept that then I could  appropriate them into another piece – their inclusion in my work shifts them into my domain? I wonder about that, but am ready to go with it for a while. If they become ‘mine’ do I then have the right to do with them what I will? Can I edit then, photoshop them,  turn them into my creations in order to create an ‘Umney’ image that I feel is more compelling in the piece that I am creating? Carte blanche?

Making use of the education services provided by the Thai camp for Burmese refugees

Making use of the education services provided by the Thai camp for Burmese refugees

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Re-training to help integration into Thai society

Re-training to help integration into Thai society

tighter crop

tighter crop

These are the originals all below are provided by Carl – there are 100’s available. I had added text to some of the images, intent on driving narrative, expecting to extract emotion from the viewer. But is it ethical to do this? – should I leave them as is, as provide, as ‘found’???

Burmese orphan

Burmese orphan

Is this more or less compelling than the top image? It’s brighter, less ‘moody’, less likely to make the viewer be concerned perhaps?

original picture provided by Carl Gross

original picture provided by Carl Gross

And what about this? Not exactly gritty realism, but certainly changing the tone…

There is a huge need for artificial limbs in Thailand, they are required for the refugees who pour over the border from Burma after having limbs blown off by landmines. The Burmese army have been using these peasants to walk in front of them as they try and clear the jungle of insurgents

There is a huge need for artificial limbs in Thailand, they are required for the refugees who pour over the border from Burma after having limbs blown off by landmines. The Burmese army have been using these peasants to walk in front of them as they try and clear the jungle of insurgents

 

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The rise of Documentary photography

Young Oklahoma Mother  March 1937 by Dorothea Lange Young Oklahoma mother, age 18, penniless, stranded in Imperial Valley, Ca. March, 1937. Image courtesy of New deal Public network

Young Oklahoma Mother March 1937 by Dorothea Lange
Young Oklahoma mother, age 18, penniless, stranded in Imperial Valley, Ca. March, 1937.
Image courtesy of New deal Public network

“We have all had a surfeit of “pretty” pictures, of romantic views of hilltop, seaside, rolling fields, skyscrapers seen askew, picturesque bits of life torn out of their sordid context. It is life that is exciting and important, and life whole and unretouched.”

 

Elizabeth McCausland wrote this in an article she provided for “Photo Notes” which was published in January 1939 where she described the “The rise of documentary photography…”. The timing of the article, coming as it does around the start of the second world war and close to the end of modernism I think has a telling effect on the underlying premise of the work. And I take from the title of the piece “Documentary Photography” that she is making the distinction between as photograph as a ‘document’ and a photography as a documentary work with it’s own narrative and contextual references.

 

MacCausland very nearly dismisses all photography prior to the development of ‘Documentary” – the pictorialists whose ‘sterility’ of image was only survived by a few ‘fine workers’ the likes of Strand, Sheeler and Weston and only then when they “turn(ed) to newer and more objective purposes.” Similarly those who experimented with surrealism , like Moholy-Nagy, Beaton and Man Ray are similarly dismissed as passing fancies. It was the work of the FSA photographers and also Bearnice Abbott – who seems to come in for some special praise – that hold the beacon at the vanguard of photography’s capability to provide light in a Riisian tenement slum night’s gloom. Though where Riis is in the canon that MacCausland depicts is unsure as mentioned he is not.

MacCausland understands the photographers editing capability, framing the view to present the “rationalized wrinkles of an ageing face and obligingly overlooking peeling paint and rotting wood”. However the FSA’s depiction of  “an old woman’s knotted and gnarled hands is a human and social document of great moment and moving quality. The erosion of these deformed fingers is to be seen the symbol of social distortion and deformation: waste is to be read here, as it is read in lands washed down to the sea by floods, in dust storms and drouth (sic) bowls.” There seems to be no suggestion that whilst she accepts the camera can lie, it can only do that in the situation where profit or vanity or somesuch other human frailty is involved. When the motivation is to reveal by the process of ‘Documentary” the travails of society then the camera is king. And more so: “The fact is a thousand times more important than the photographer; his personality can be intruded only by the worst taste of exhibitionism; that is the last reality.” Suggesting that if the photographer is a documentryist then by association he (it always seems to be a male) will necessarily be telling the truth, portraying the truth. “Yet, also, by the imagination and intelligence he possesses and uses, the photographer controls the new esthetic (sic), finds the significant truth and gives it significant form.”

The author goes on to talk about how photography becomes confused with itself, by pandering to its own insecurities starts to portray photography as an elemental part of the “Art world”.  Whereupon she decries that today “progressive photographers are not especially interested in that point; it seems an empty issue.” I would tend to agree with that point, but then she goes on to say “(if after all the talk, we agree that photography is an art)”!

It might be easy to reflect with 20/20 hindsight and suggest that her views were, to some extent, naïve; but I don’t think so. I think that documentary photographers ‘in the day’ were no different to those operating in the medium today. Mostly grizzled veterans who have a nagging respect to uphold the integrity of vision, for ignoring it could open their output to ridicule and reduce their value to the practice of the documentary to that of a Cypriot bankers deposit. I think that her parlance might appear dated and somewhat romantic, but her overall view is one that I would hope to still be correct. That is that photographers who want to provide a voice to a situation will do so in a way that enables ‘a’ truth to be seen and to have the chance to enter into a debate by a wider audience than perhaps otherwise would have done so. Whether the work changes anything is quite another matter, so few documentaries do change things, but if it doesn’t enter the public consciousness then it stand no chance.

 

 

Hereford Photography Festival 2011

by kind permission of the artist Vanessa Winship

by kind permission of the artist Vanessa Winship

The exercise requires a 200 word reflective commentary. I went to this exhibition, one of the first study days with the OCA and wrote about it here and here. I thought, for the exercise I would reflect again on one of the bodies of work at the exhibition and see what, if anything had changed in my perspective of that piece of work.

This has become a difficult task! Firstly it is hard to find any of the work displayed in Hereford at the time and secondly when it is found it is either so small – Georgiou’s work as to resemble small thumbnails or reconfigured such as Winship’s work. So the experience I will have will be markedly different because of the viewing experience being so different, as much by the fact I am looking at a screen as opposed to prints on the wall in an exhibition space.

I then decided to look at Vanessa Winship’s work, the images on her website were at least at a size that were ‘readable’, though I couldn’t see the collection from the Hereford show only a number of the images in collections alongside images that weren’t at Hereford… I remember having a short email communication with her about her process, but this doesn’t inform the exercise I am trying to attempt. The images under the “untitled” gallery show young people and I seem to remember the photographer had taken some images from a children’s home or orphanage. What I remember about the prints were how beautiful they were, glorious monochrome images that elevated the subject by their presentation, however on the screen this doesn’t appear to happen as well as I remember on that stairway toward the library in Hereford. Most of the images are taken from one or two places, either full length or three quarter length studies. We are invited to inspect these children, to perhaps judge them and pass judgement on them. None of the subjects look particularly pleased to be photographed, they depict – to this reader in any case an awareness of the power of the camera to record whatever difficulties they might be experiencing. These children don’t exhibit the kind of assurance that Dijkstra might elicit from her portraits, though they don’t all have the same vulnerability. They do though question my/the viewers preconceptions and prejudices of the ‘other’ as these children are not from here, they are over there.

I’ve now re-read my blog post from 2011 and am still happy with what I wrote:

Snow, snow, snow

In the twelve years that the Deddington Farmer’s Market has been in operation today was the first time it has been cancelled; the call came at 6:45 this morning. If it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all! Will have to use what I have in the can for the assignment and try again in a months time to finish what I started………

leeks orangec2 rhubard stewc2So we went over to the Gross’ and bought some of their stock. The rhubarb is being readied for crumble tomorrow, the leeks will be combined with potatoes for soup – keeps the cold out.

 

The Harvest

Another cold day at the allotment. Ann and Carl harvesting what turns out to be a poor harvest, not much has grown in the cold weather – they are hopeful for next month. The Farmer’s Market is Saturday, snow is forecast for tomorrow – so I’m hoping for a bright Spring morning on Saturday.annec2 annemonoc2 B&Qc2 bagging2c2 baggingc2 carl2c2 carlc2 carlmonoc2 cuttingc2 cuttingmonoc2 harvestc2 leek pilec2 leeks1c2 on the barrowc2 on the barrowmonoc2 spade and glovesc2 walk2c2 walkmonoc2

More

Tomorrow there will be a harvest at the allotment prior to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday when I plan to cover the event and generate the rest of the images for the assignment. There will be a presentation that the Gross’s will be giving at a school that has been paired with one of the Thai schools which I plan to cover as well and might augment the assignment with later. I also plan to produce a video that will use pictures that were taken in a recent trip to Thailand.

Still haven’t decided whether to do this assignment in monochrome or not, so far each of my visits have been quite cold and that is what I want to portray as much as anything.