Tag Archives: appropriation

Thinking about presentation – Anne Collier and Erik Kessels

My tutor suggested I look at the work of Anne Collier, from a presentational point of view, and following my research on Evan Roth I also want to revisit Erik Kessels’ presentation, which I think has much in common with Roth’s.

Collier, another American, is known for rephotographing old artefacts to reframe their meaning in the light of current thinking about feminism, the male gaze, and the effects of time on objects among other themes. While the subject of the work is very interesting and worthy of further research (Mousse Magazine, 2019), for the purposes of my own studies I currently want to look at in in terms of how she sets out her photographs and then presents them for viewing. I will use two separate images for consideration.

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Fig. 1 Clouds. (2012)

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Fig. 2 Open Book (Waves) 2, (2016)

As Katy Diamond Hamer explains, in a review of Collier’s 2012 exhibition at the Anton Kern Gallery,

Each photograph is a frame within a frame. The actual frame contains an image surrounded by white space and then the content, central, is appropriated from various sources. (Hamer, 2012).

Many of the objects in the images are appropriated, but the act of rephotographing them as framed studies in their own right, and as objects that show signs of use, give them a new authority, and specifically a space to be seen as individual pieces. So ften we see an album cover, for instance (one of her themes) en masse and we don’t take the time to appreciate the work that has gone into each individual one. By photographing them in a minimalist way, Collier gives the objects space to breathe.

At the other end of the scale, for Erik Kessels, more is better, and much more is even better. Kessels also uses appropriated images, but puts them in collections. Again I am interested in his work here in terms of presentation. Kessels is prolific and I could have chosen any number of works for consideration. He is interested in the sheer quantity of images being produced at present, their banality, and whether we look at them with any particular sense of engagement. In the two images below, My Feet and 24 Hours, we see both the size of the issue, and the lack of that individuality which would be present in a single analogue photograph. Our use of the internet has made photo editors of all of us, but the output is generally of much lower quality overall than what was produced when we were limited to a 36 frame film, and single images are generally very bland.

Kessels my feet

Fig. 3 My feet. (2014)

 

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Fig. 4 24 Hours of Photos. (2011)

Kessels work is not dissimilar to that of Evan Roth in terms of the presentation – both use images in huge numbers to make their point, but the point itself is different. Kessels is exploring our relationship to photographic images, while it could be argued that Roth is exploring the image’s relationshiop to the internet, although both obviously have other themes overlaying this fundamental approach, as well.

In terms of my own work, and this project in particular, I need to decide whether to go minimalist or maximalist, so the next step will be to try out each presentation to see which I prefer. I am not in the habit of mixing multiple images together within a single frame, so this should be interesting.

Finally, I am reminded of a piece I read a couple of months ago, on the biennial Lenscratch Photographs in Conversation exhibition, where two or more images were abutted in order to set up a dialogue which would not be there for each single image alone. Details can be found here (Smithson, 2019) and it is an idea I would like to explore.

Images

Fig. 1 Collier, A. (2012) Clouds. [Photograph] At: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/newphotography/anne-collier/clouds_8x10-2/index.html (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 2 Collier, A. (2016) Open Book (Waves) 2.[Photograph] https://www.antonkerngallery.com/artists/anne_collier (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 3 Kessels, E. (2014) My feet. [Photograph] At: https://www.damnmagazine.net/2016/02/03/my-feet-by-erik-kessels/ (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Fig. 4 Kessels, E. (2011) 24 Hours of Photos. [Photograph] At: https://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2016/may/04/photos-that-changed-the-world-24-hrs-in-photos/ (Accessed 29/02/2020).

Bibliography

Hamer, K. D. (2012) ‘Anne Collier @Antonkerngallery, NY.’ In: eyes-towards-the-dove.com. At: https://eyes-towards-the-dove.com/2012/04/a-n-n-e-collier-antonkerngallery-ny/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

Mousse Magazine (2019) ‘Anne Collier “Photographic” at Fotomuseum Winterthur’ In: moussemagazine.it  At: http://moussemagazine.it/anne-collier-photographic-fotomuseum-winterthur-winterthur-2019/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

Smithson, A. (2019) ‘The 2019 Photographs in Conversation Exhibition In Lenscratch.com  At: http://lenscratch.com/2019/05/the-2019-diptych-exhibition/ (Accessed 05/11/2019).

 

2019 Marlborough Open Studios

Over the last couple of weekends, Kate and I have done a tour of some of the studios in this year’s Marlborough Open Studios. I had found last year’s one very helpful and was just as blown away this year. The review of last year is here, and it was interesting for me to go back and reconsider my thoughts on that after a gap.

On the list for this year were Susie Bigglestone, Mark Somerville, Vincent Stokes and Richard Draper. We did see some others too, but these were the ones which resonated for me. Starting with Susie Bigglestone, we were greeted like long lost friends and again had a wonderful chat with her about processes and print materials. She has been experimenting with making cyanotypes on Izal toilet paper, which I thought was fantastic, and also various different chemical effects on lumen prints. An example of each is shown below. Also interesting was the discussion about the thinking behind her various flower series, which all came from her childhood memories of the Flower Fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. Her work can be seen here – https://www.susiebigglestone.co.uk/

Mark Somerville is a commercial photographer by trade, but enjoys making art photography as a sideline. In the past, he had focused on medium format Polaroid lifts but the film is no longer available and he decided to move onto to Photoshop manipulations. The work on show, Disruptions can be seen on his website at https://www.marksomerville.net/section780537_655471.html and I found it intriguing. He uses architectural geometry to make abstract pieces of work that range from the almost garish to blurrily pale and interesting. I came away with the intention of making some images of my own which echo some of his ideas, and a couple of the results are shown below. This led me down a path in which I need to spend some time looking at what constitutes appropriation of someone else’s work and where the line between appropriation and stealing someone else’s image lies. This will be the subject of another post.

Vincent Stokes was the final stop on our first day. He used to be an art teacher but has retired and is now able to spend much more time on his own work, which is a mix of painting and multimedia collage. (blurb from catalogue. He had some brilliant handmade books, which used the hardback from second-hand books, with concertina innards. He also paints over the text in old books and then uses them as the base for some of his work, and often one catches glimpses of the writing underneath what he is doing. The particular aspect of his work that appealed to me though was his methodology. For his latest series of work, he has taken an old painting, specifically Bicci di Lorenzo’s St Nicholas of Bari Banishing the Storm and has been making work based upon his thoughts about the painting. It’s an eclectic mix of solid colours, collage, found photographs and print work, and there was lots to consider there when thinking about how I am going to approach my next assignment. His website is : http://www.vincentstokesartworks.com/

A few days later, we visited Richard Draper’s lovely home near Avebury for his exhibition. Since the last time I saw his work, he has completed an MA in Photography and the effect was marked. The previous series I had seen, Watershed, was a mostly documentary work on walking the Ridgeway, in black and white. This new series Palimpsest also considers the same subject but from a very different point of view. For a start, the work is in colour. And it focuses on the minutiae of nature that one sees when walking with intention rather than the views. Alongside the images, there was a meadow walk in his garden punctuated by images on sticks, and a huge paper piece outlining the vertical topography of the Ridgeway in words that had come to mind during his various walks was hung in the hall. I really liked it all, and it resonated strongly with my own frequent walks along a stretch of the same route. More information on his work can be found at http://www.richarddraper.co.uk/

What happens when one rephotographs an object?

In the feedback from my last assignment, my tutor made this comment:

You mention that ‘the originals have a physical element that is impossible to replicate’. However, I think it’s the re-photographing or scanning of the original’; (very much as with John Stezaker’s work, where the original montage is re-photographed as the final act of making before presentation) which then allows you to move beyond the physical act of cutting and stitching and also play further with scale, which I think is interesting.

And as it has come up again with my second assignment, I felt that some research on how re-photographing affects the making process was in order. By understanding this, I may gain a better meaning of what I am producing, as a good deal of my work involves physical presentation, and this needs to be re-photographed for sharing.

First of all though, what is the difference between taking and making a photograph? The world, and particularly the digital world is awash with ‘taken’ images – photos shot to record a moment or a place – many of which will end up on Instagram or in digital family albums. The purpose behind the action of taking a photograph is to record, without any particular thought about what they mean. I am guilty of this myself, particularly when on holiday. On the other hand, ‘making’ a photograph is a deliberate act. As Stephen Shore puts it:

When I make a photograph, my perceptions feed into my mental model. My mode adjusts to accommodate my perceptions (leading me to change my photographic decisions)….. It is a dynamic, self-modifying process. It is what engineers would call a feedback loop. (Shore, 2007:132)

As a general rule, the concept of rephotographing refers to the taking of new images in the same location as older ones, after a period of time has elapsed. An example of this is Mark Klett & Byron Wolfe’s Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. This work takes historical images of the Grand Canyon and overlays a new image over the original to suggest consideration of the effects of time on the location. Another example, which I referred to in Assignment 1 is Abigail Reynolds’ cut images of landmark locations using old travel guides. However, it is not the process of making the work that is concerned here, but the ‘final act’ of rephotographing it, which my tutor says gives another layer of meaning, but also allows one to play with the scale, i.e. either much bigger or much smaller.

Take, for example, the work I showed at the ‘Time’ exhibition. The flat image of the final piece brings a sense of clarity and unity because of its size, which is less obvious in the real life version.  As well as adding a feeling of completion, one can also further reconfigure the image bringing out particular aspects for extra consideration. I have been playing around with this concept and came up with the experimental images shown below. In the first set, the image is cut, backed with text and then sewn over. I then played with the angles and produced some new versions of it. Doing this allows one to consider particular aspects of the work in detail which are not really visible in the original, but I am also wondering whether it alters the meaning so much that the original idea is lost.

Figs. 1-4 Views of cut and oversewn found photograph (2018)

The concept of rephotographing is inherently bound up with a post-modernist viewpoint of the arts. Richard Prince, notorious for his appropriation of other people’s images, contextualises his work by arguing that by making it again, he is making something new and taking ownership of the ideas and that it is pointless to try to make new work because everything that can be photographed has already been done (Grundberg, 2003:171-2); a concept that Eric Kessels also works with. However, in both these cases they are using other people’s work, and what I am doing here is rephotographing my alterations to someone else’s work. I am clear in my own mind that this work is now mine, not the original photographer’s – somehow the process of reworking has transferred ownership from him to me, and it now occurs to me that my rephotographing of that rework completes that transfer. It is now wholly my own.

I have just had a Eureka moment! My rephotographing of my own work on someone else’s original image makes it fully mine, and thus allows me to add whatever meaning I wish to present on top of what was there before through my own interventions.

Figures

Fig. 1-4 Woodward, H. (2018) Views of cut and oversewn found photograph. [Photographs of cut and altered image] In the possession of: the author.

References

Grundberg, Andy. (2003) ‘The crisis of the real: photography and post-modernism.’ In: Wells, L (ed.) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge. pp. 164-179.

Klett, M & Wolfe, B (2011) Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. San Francisco: Univ. of California Press.

Shore, S. (2007) The Nature of Photographs. London: Phaidon.