Category Archives: Assignment 1

Assignment 1 ready to exhibit

I’ve been pretty quiet on here lately, but activity is still continuing. With the Thames Valley Group putting on an exhibition at the Lightbox in Woking for a fortnight, from next Tuesday, I submitted an idea for a revised version of my A1 work Remember When…? and it was accepted back in the autumn. Cue a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ hiatus while I got over the feeling that my work was rubbish. In the meantime, I was still playing around with cutouts and introduced the idea of a light table following the workshop with Paul Kenny. (He is using backlighting for his newer work, very successfully). Eventually I decided that my offering for the exhibition should be a series of my A1 altered images framed on a light table. My lovely local framers, St Johns in Devizes made me a hanging frame for the table, and a non-standard mountboard to accommodate eight images. I have spent the last few days trying out different images in it, with and without transparent coloured PVC backing, and eventually decided that for this series, I would show them directly on the white light table. They are now all packed up and ready to go to Woking tomorrow for hanging. I will post a proper image of them in the gallery, but here is a quick taster of what it will look like.

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Fig. 1 Framed version of ‘Remember When’ (2019)

For those who did not see the original assignment, these are my deceased father-in-law’s photographs, which I have altered by cutting out parts, in order to give them a new life and meaning. I have to say that they have come out far better than I could have imagined and my husband is very keen to find a place we can hang the frame at home after the exhibition. Given that this was the original purpose of the exercise, I am feeling quietly satisfied.

Also, I was pleased to be featured both on the flyer for the exhibition, shown below, and on the OCA Instagram feed. Fame, at last!

PS I could be spending a lot of money on light tables for future work, as I really enjoy making these images.

Figures

Fig. 1 Woodward, H. (2019) Framed version of ‘Remember When’. [Cut photographs framed on a light table] In possession of : the author.

 

Feedback from assignment 1

A copy of the feedback can be seen here: holly woodward_assn_1_dic__photography tutor report form – RT notes

I was not sure what Wendy was going to think of my assignment, which as my originally conceived idea had little to do with digital images, and was therefore pleased that she found it engaging. She clearly understood my concept of adding another plane to the photographs which overlaid the original and masked it. She mentioned the binary nature of the two layers and thought that there needed to be this tension for the images to work.

She talked about playing with the size of the images, both by blowing them up much larger and by putting them together in larger group, like that of Evan Roth’s Landscape with a Ruin. I think this is probably the way I will go for the Thames Valley Group’s Time exhibition, with a grid of many images.

Wendy was less taken with the originals than I had expected, largely because she felt the shiny gold backing was too obvious. As I like the patterns, I think I will revert to the matt gold backing that I started out with for future experiments. She suggested that I consider rephotographing them to finish the process of ‘making’. I need to look into this, and particularly John Stezaker’s work. What does ‘making’ mean, how does rephotographing/scanning finish the process, and how do the new images differ from the originals?

Finally, we discussed my interest in circles (and spirals) and I should research this further.

I also explained my first thoughts for assignment 2, which will most probably involve some primary archive material I have relating to the operetta composers Gilbert & Sullivan, and she approved them, saying that the assignment is a framework to structure research and one should not feel too constrained by it, providing there is a clear pathway from the initial ideas to the finished piece.

Things to do, following feedback

  • look at the work of John Baldessari, Carol Rhodes, John Stezaker and Evan Roth
  • consider the process of ‘making’
  • write 500 words on the circle motif

Assignment 1 – Remember When?

Artist’s Statement

This assignment asks for a series of 4-6 combined images of either portraits or landscapes. For some time now, I have been experimenting with repurposing photographs by altering their material properties. I am particularly fascinated by how one might use concepts from traditional womens’ crafts, such as patchwork, embroidery and paper crafts to physically alter photographs. At the same time, I have taken on the task of finding ways of using my later father-in-law’s many, many family snaps to make something new, but which references the memories which are contained in the original, careful stored and catalogued pictures. The series begins to examine the value of family photographs and how it changes and gradually fades over time as the people involved are no longer present to keep them alive. Most people’s physical family photograph albums are filled with images of scenes and locations which have lost their reference points and my father-in-law was no exception – he accumulated many hundreds of photographs (created at considerable financial cost) whose meanings have passed away along with him.

Images

The photographs for this assignment are physical objects which change as the light moves around them. These images show the subject matter, but are not the assignment work itself. That has been sent to my tutor.

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Fig. 1 Woodland sphere (2018)

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Fig. 2 Riverbed (2018)

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Fig. 3 View from the ramparts (2018)

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Fig. 4 Airfield from above (2018)

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Fig. 5 Tears at the beach (2018)

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Fig. 6 Through the pathway in winter (2018)

Reflection

Firstly, I must address the time it has taken to produce this first assignment of Digital Image & Culture. I began the module in February 2018 and so it has taken the best part of six months to do. Much of this time has been spent experimenting and learning about Photoshop layers, but I have also been attending workshops on paper making and darkroom techniques and visiting a variety of exhibitions, both in photography and other artistic disciplines to broaden my horizons. These are written up here:

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/research-and-reflection/exhibitions/

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/research-and-reflection/personal-reflections/

Throughout this first module, I have been looking at ways of cutting up old photographs to consider how the family memories we cherish alter and diminish over time. As mentioned in the Contextualisation blog post, I have been using my father-in-law’s archive of family holiday snaps to explore these ideas, with the aim of producing some work which will remind his children and grandchildren of him and his wife, while being artistically interesting in its own right.

The analogue journey towards the submitted assignment has been précised in this post:

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/yet-another-twist-in-the-journey/

but I had previously been experimenting with digital collage using patterns on my own photographs and news photographs, which were explored in Project 1 at

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1-the-constructed-image/project-1-the-origins-of-photomontage/

It very quickly became clear that the material nature of prints was crucial to the project, as I found that digitally altered images, although they have their place, are too flat and uniform, giving an almost otherworldly feel to the images, and they did not allow the use of reflective backing material which I wanted. By using actual prints, I was able to choose between a matt, reflective or transparent backing, which alters the way that the interventions show themselves as the photograph is moved around. The different materials each have connotations which are relevant to the concept, with gold symbolising memory, happiness and love, black referencing grief and forgetfulness, and transparency connoting gaps in recollection and the fuzziness of declining memories (although I did not use transparency in the final selection).

The use of patterns, and in particular circles has been a feature of my photographic work for some time, as is clear to anyone looking at my Instagram account here: Alongside this, I enjoy using concepts of colour and pattern making which come from patchwork and cross stitch, hobbies I enjoy alongside photography. An early iteration of the assignment saw me trying to make named patchwork squares from the photographs, but at the time I did not have access to the cutting machine, and felt that the results were not as complex and delicate as I wanted. Although I tried a variety of different patterns once I began cutting the photographs, I kept coming back to variations on the circle, with its ‘circle of life’ connotations and enveloping nature, but in this case often broken or stretched. This seemed to speak to the emotions which are generally felt in the months after the death of a loved one.

Looking ahead to how this work can be built upon in future, I am fascinated by the possibilities of using my own photographs as the basis for further explorations around the use of transparent and translucent ‘gaps’ in photographs, which the viewer can choose to fill with different backgrounds. There are a number of photographers who have used images with figures removed to leave a plain black or white gap in the image, but I believe this concept has potential for consideration using non-portrait images as well.

Finally, after a fascinating visit to Susie Bigglestone’s studio, I have begun to record my experiments in a sketchbook, and thumbnails from some of the pages are attached below. It is useful to see the evolution of an idea through a series of experimental phases, which informs the final result.

Fig. 7 Pages from my sketchbook (2018)

Self-assessment against coursework criteria

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Clearly the original photographs in this assignment are not mine, and I had no input into their production. My own intervention has been to select photographs, cutting patterns and their positions on the photos; in other words, the layering aspect which appears to be on top of the originals, although in reality it is behind. I tried some of the patterns with a transparent background, but this is difficult to show in an online scenario, so I reverted to gold, with some black. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with paper cutting and will undoubtedly use it again in future assignments.

Quality of Outcome

Currently, I am too close to this work to be able to give an objective opinion on its success or otherwise. The physical photographs (and I have many more which I made during the selection process) have been turned from poor quality landscapes into objects which one wants to handle and move around in the light to reveal or hide the patterns and the subject. For my assessment submission, I will need to make some others, as there are marks on a couple of the images which I cannot remove, and I still wish to try out some other work using transparent backing.

Demonstration of Creativity

There are not many artists who work specifically with this type of photographic intervention, with Pippa Drylaga and Kensuke Koike being the ones whose work most closely resembles this assignment. At present, I am limited to using stencil shapes which I find on the internet, and then altering them to make them my own, but I would much prefer to create my own patterns. This will require delving into Photoshop Shapes Microsoft Illustrator though, which I have managed to avoid up to now.

Context

I am confident that the research aspect of this assignment has been well covered. Details of the main influences are contained in this post: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/assignment-1-contextual-background/

but I have also looked at the work of many other photographers and artists working in this field along the way.

Figures

Fig. 1 Woodward, H. (2018) Woodland sphere [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 2 Woodward, H. (2018) Riverbed. [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 3 Woodward, H. (2018) View from the ramparts. [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 4 Woodward, H. (2018) Airfield from above. [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 5 Woodward, H. (2018) Tears at the beach. [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 6 Woodward, H. (2018) Through the pathway in winter. [Altered photograph] In possession of: the author.

Fig. 7 Woodward, H. (2018) Pages from my sketchbook. [Photographs] In possession of: the author.

Bibliography

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Project 1 – the origins of photomontage’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, 4 June. Available at : https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1-the-constructed-image/project-1-the-origins-of-photomontage/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Some ideas from Marlborough Open Studios’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, 9 July. Available at: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/some-ideas-from-marlborough-open-studios/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Yet another twist in the journey’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, 24 July. Available at: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/yet-another-twist-in-the-journey/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Assignment 1 – contextual background’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, 14 August. Available at:  https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/assignment-1-contextual-background/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Personal reflections’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, various Available at : https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/research-and-reflection/personal-reflections/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘Exhibitions’, Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, various. Available at: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/research-and-reflection/exhibitions/ (Accessed 09/03/2020)

Assignment 1 – Contextual Background

As with every single assignment I have done up until now, the subject of this one has become way more complicated than I had originally intended it to be. En route to my current position, I have been thinking about how our personal relationships with photographers can affect how we view their images, alongside how family memories and understood truths change over time as stories are gradually fragmented and reimagined by the people who keep them alive.

The background for the assignment started from a desire to explore old family photographs through crafting methods that are traditionally thought of as feminine. By declaring that arts such as sewing, paper-cutting and patchwork, for example, are crafts, Western (patriarchal) society has traditionally rendered them somehow less worthy than more masculine arts such as writing, painting, etc. As anyone who has visited a high level craft exhibition will know, the creativity, talent and execution of womens’ arts is obviously of a similar level to any so-called masculine pastime, but because many of the ‘crafts’ originated through the need for clothing and household goods, they have generally been considered as artisanal, rather than artistic. Things are changing, but slower than one might hope.

Historical background

Altered photographs have been around for almost as long as photography itself. Traditionally, the alteration has come in the form of photomontages and collages (the distinction between the two being defined here) (1), with many 20th century examples being overtly political in content, such as  Hannah Hoch‘s Dada pieces (2) advertising pieces and Peter Kennard‘s anti nuclear war images (3). However, I am more interested in how images can be physically altered using techniques which have come directly from the craft arena, such as embroidery on photographs (Maurizio Anzeri, (4) Shaun Kardinal, (5) Diana Meyer, (6) Julie Cockburn (7) and Hinke Schreuders (8) and paper crafts (Joe Rudko, (9) John Stezaker). (10)

These paper craft interventions really began by mistake, with the Farm Security Association’s mutilation of rejected negatives for their project on the Great Depression by famous photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans by punching holes in the negatives. An excellent explanation of what happened and why can be found in Maev Kennedy’s (2018) review of the exhibition Killed Negatives (11) at the Whitechapel Gallery this year, which sadly I did not manage to see.  The holes were made to prevent them from being used, but they alter the originals and their addition produces another story, layered on top of the original purpose.

Bringing this forward, the duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin used a reversed technique in People In Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground, (12) which took images from the Irish Troubles which had been made for news organisations, and which had subsequently been catalogued using different coloured dots pasted on the photographs. Broomberg & Chanarin’s project looked underneath those dots to find the random world of minutiae which occurred around the events which were the subjects of the original photographs.

Another method of altering images is to rearrange the elements of photographs, and the work of Kensuke Koike, and in particular Single Image Processing (Koike, 2018)(13,14) has been a crucial precursor to this assignment. Koike began by taking found photographs and carefully cut elements out and then rearranged them to make visually interesting comments on the originals. The integrity of the original is retained, as it is all still part of the new photograph. I wish to come back to this principle in a later section of this blog post. (see below), but in the meantime, it was frustration at my inability to cut photographs cleanly by hand that made me go out and buy the Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, which has opened up a host of possibilities for my work in this area. Some previous posts detailing my progress can be seen here.

https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1-the-constructed-image/preparation-for-assignment-1/

The final artist who has been important in driving my thinking has been Pippa Drylaga. She is primarily a paper artist, who produces beautiful delicate pieces of work, but alongside this she explores paper cutting and print making in different media.  I found her series  Forgotten Moments of Someone Else’s Past (15) while I was looking at her other work, and it uses the same techniques that I am exploring on photographs from an album she bought at a second-hand shop. It is fascinating to see how the cut images differ from their originals, simply because she has made patterns of the background to the unknown people.

Pippa Drylaga screenshot

Fig. 1 Elsie, Upper Hills, 1930’s (s.d.)

[This is also of interest at a design level, and is something I may come back to later. Often, a pattern of cuts on an image completely obscures the subject, but brings out the colours of the photograph in wonderful abstract ways. Three of my own examples are shown below, as illustration.]

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Fig. 2 Cut grid pattern. (2018)

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Fig. 3 Cut leaf pattern. (2018)

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Fig. 4 Cut cubes pattern. (2018)

Some thoughts on altering photographs

John Stezaker, another collage artist, said in a Guardian article recently, ‘cutting a photograph can feel like cutting through flesh‘ (Guardian, 2014) (16) There is no doubt that it is not as straightforward as cutting a plain piece of paper. The photograph is imbued with meaning and links us to our past and that of our family. I feel the same when cutting pages from a book or a map; spoiling something of value, however notional. It needs to be done with care and an acknowledgement of the feelings of the viewer about the photographer and the subject, whether that be a person or a scene.

Most of the artists and photographers I mention above have been working with ‘found’ photographs, where they have no connection with the photographer or subject, and even so, they treat them with respect and try not to waste them. In my own case though, I am working with photographs from my partner’s family archive, and therefore the potential for causing hurt and offence is more immediate.  To give a little background, my father-in-law was an enthusiastic but not particularly accomplished photographer, who collected literally thousands of images during his lifetime. From what I can see, he never threw any of his less successful images away, and instead indexed and filed them carefully away in boxes and albums.

Following his death early this year, his children had the not inconsiderable task of sorting out these images, and I offered to do some initial weeding to make the task easier for them. The photos I have acquired consist of snaps of holiday locations, flowers and gardens, events long in the past and some of the most out of focus or over/underexposed pictures of family. I have been careful to steer clear of anything that could potentially have local history or sentimental family value. Using these as a starting point, I have tried to limit my early explorations to the least interesting ones, and to keep better images for later. Wherever possible, images with members of the family have not been used, except for a couple that specifically chose to consider the importance of the face to an alteration (post here) (17)

At a recent study day where I was presenting my work, a couple of people suggested that what I was doing to the images was destructive, and even ‘brutal’. That was never the intention. Right at the start, I explained to my in-laws that I wanted to make something interesting out of the most mundane of the collection and they were happy with that idea. So far, I believe that I have stayed true to that ambition.

Having said that, there is a whole area of study to be explored around appropriation of photographs, and the ethics and emotional aspects of repurposing family photographs, with their innate connection with our understanding of our family’s past and their ability to stand in for memories. Tinkering with this makes the possibility of accusations of misappropriation and re-writing history possible. However, by only using images from the archive without people, I can largely avoid these issues, and I see this assignment work as fitting more closely to the type of collage work of artists such as Joe Rudko, (9) who tears up old and found photos to make interesting  geometric patchwork style pieces.

Figures

Fig. 1 Drylaga, P. (s.d.) Elsie, Upper Hills, 1930’s. [Screenshot from artist’s website] At: https://www.pippadyrlaga.com/forgottenfaces (Accessed 27/02/2020)

Fig. 2-4 Woodward, H. (2018) Cut shapes on found photographs [Altered photographs] In possession of: the author.

References

Anzeri, M. (2018). Maurizio Anzeri. At: http://maurizioanzeri.com/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

The Approach (2018) John Stezaker. At: https://theapproach.co.uk/artists/john-stezaker/images/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

The Art Story (n.d.) Hannah Höch: German Photomontage artist. At: https://www.theartstory.org/artist-hoch-hannah.htm (Accessed 14/08/2018))

Cardinal, S. (2013) Alterations (Found and Unbound), 2013. At: http://shaunkardinal.com/2013/alterations-found-and-unbound/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Cartmell, P. (n.d.) Difference Between a Montage & a Collage. At:  https://www.ehow.com/facts_5705493_difference-between-montage-collage.html  (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Drylaga, P. (2018) Forgotten Moments of Someone Else’s Past. At: https://www.pippadyrlaga.com/forgottenfaces (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Kennard, P. (2018) Peter Kennard. At: http://www.peterkennard.com/photomontage/  (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Kennedy, Maev (2018) ‘Censored images of 1930s America to go on show in London.’ In: The Guardian [online] At:  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/06/censored-images-of-1930s-america-to-go-on-show-in-london (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Koike, K. (n.d.) Single Image Processing. At: https://www.kensukekoike.com/project/single-image-processing/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Lachowskyj, C. (2014?) ‘Nothing Added, Nothing Removed.’ In: Lensculture. At:  https://www.lensculture.com/articles/kensuke-koike-nothing-added-nothing-removed (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Meyer, D. (n.d.) Diana Meyer. At: http://www.dianemeyer.net/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

O’Hagan, S. (2014) ‘John Stezaker: ‘cutting a photograph can feel like cutting through flesh’. In: The Guardian. [online] At:
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/australia-culture-blog/2014/mar/27/john-stezaker-sydney-biennale (Accessed 14/08/2018)

People in trouble laughing pushed to the ground, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin  (2014) Interview by Book Jockey (Olmo González) [online] At: https://vimeo.com/97337922 (Accessed 14/08/2018)

The Photographers’ Gallery (n.d.) Julie Cockburn. At: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/print-sales/explore-artists/julie-cockburn (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Rudko, J. (2018) Joe Rudko. At: http://www.joerudko.com/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Schreuders, H. (2018) Hinke Schreuders. At: http://www.sudsandsoda.com/work.html (Accessed 14/08/2018)

Woodward, H. (2018) ‘More experiments for assignment 1.’ In: Holly’s Digital Image & Culture Blog, 11 July At: https://hollyocadic.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/more-experiments-for-assignment-1/ (Accessed 14/08/2018)