For the final assignment Transformations I had considered following approaches:
- Italian Futurists paintings – highly charged modern subjects, dynamic collective experience (crowds and riots), movement and speed; memories and states of mind shown as continuous time,
- Surrealism; abstract expressionism – transformation of a photograph into abstract piece of art; finding something that wasn’t there before; looking at something mundane with a new set of eyes (Seeing Like a Painter – Luminous Landscape),
- Photoshop compositing – Erik Johansson – photoshopped landscapes,
- Studio photography – showing how cameras transformed over the years from fully manual through modern film SLR to digital SLR; product photography,
- Studio photography: clouds of colourful inks in the tank of water,
- Street photography – transformation between light and shadow on objects in situ
- Photographing architectural features – for example doors or stairways leading to it; genre similar to Kerbs Photography; somewhat obscure but slowly finding its rightful place among true aficionados.
- New and old – coexisting next to each other; dilapidation of old and abandoned, but also growth of new, not always in harmony with old and existing.
My favourite subject was and still is the paintings. I try to seek influence outside of photography. The difficulty I encountered with developing this idea further is the subject matter. It proves very difficult to come up with a subject for a total abstraction. I like the play of colours and dynamism of futurists’ paintings, but the ones that I like the most do not represent anything. It is for the viewer to make up the story. The same goes for Abstract Expressionism.
While doing research I came across works of Ernst Haas (Art Wolfe referred to his work as a big source of inspiration and influence). Haas was a photojournalist and a pioneer of colour photography. He was an innovator and used photography as a medium for expression and creativity with great success. Ernst Haas was born and immersed into the grand cultural climate of Vienna before World War II. He became proficient in painting and drawing, and as a painter he had particular interest in an artwork’s formal qualities, developing a refined sense of composition and perspective. I think this is a very good example to follow, to study art and its formal qualities. Ultimately photography and camera are only tools and whats we arrive at the end is a composition that has to be appealing to the viewer. The contents of the image, subject matter and the likes are secondary in my opinion and not as important as composition, colours and emotions that they convey.
This finding in turn led me to investigate the contact sheets. In unrelated instance I was watching another great Creative Live class about retouching process from conceptualising and shooting the image in studio to the final product. It was hosted by a retoucher Pratik Naik and photographer Felix Kunze. During editing (selecting photographs from the shoot) Felix referred to the book “Magnum Contact Sheets“, that he studied during his time in photography school. He explained how they looked at the whole body of work to find quickly the best composed photographs to develop further. This inspired me to investigate the process and maybe apply to my own photography work. What was particularly striking is the fact that Magnum photographers were often judged by the quality and consistency of their contact sheets, not the individual photographs. What it can teach us is to be more consistent and purposeful when taking pictures. Something that is somehow forgotten now in the age of digital, when each additional frame doesn’t cost us anything. Also looking back and reflecting upon a body of work can be very beneficial. You can look for developing style, weak and strong compositions, mistakes, how many frames does it take to arrive at the one that works, and why did you choose that particular one. Often there are plenty of equally good ones, or everything is just so-so. It provides an intimate view into individual thinking and development of an image.
Assignment criteria: 1,2,3