This is my learning log for the OCA Ditigal Photographic Practice course

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reading –The Digital Eye - Art in the Electronic Age

This book, written by Sylvia Wolf, is not on the reading list for the course but I thought I would take a look at it and have made a few notes below.
Digital photography is the latest in a long line of continuing technological innovations, but out of all proportion to that which has gone before, in scale and scope. The impact of the variety and number of devices now available for making, reproducing, altering and disseminating images is vast and widespread.
In the introduction the author asks several questions:
“Is it a medium in its own right, autonomous and separate from all photographic processes that have come before it, or is it another development in a long trajectory of technological innovations?”
“What impact does it have on how we view, understand and make photographic images”
Photography and representation: A historical perspective.
Photography’s relationship to the real:
1960’s Andre Bazin  photography does not create eternity as art does, it embalms time” (I detect an assertion the Bazin does not consider photography as art)
1981 Roland Barthes “Reference is the founding order of photography.” Again, there is a hint that Barthes considers photography to be an objective medium.
Alterations, collages, manipulation, all have been done before. Oscar J Rejlander’s “Two ways of life” is the most often quoted example having been assembled from 32 glass negatives. In the late 40’s, 50’s and up to the 1970’s the Polaroid system offered “instant” pictures, preceding the digital revolution and progressing Eastman’s “you press the shutter, we do the rest” 20th century revolution.
Art Photography in the Digital World – from the marriage of technological innovation and creative application came digital photography. It emerged from differing creative areas, medical research, video, textiles and photography. Artists took computer based imagery as a tool to develop their creative ideas. Wolf describes the work as belonging to three broad areas:
  • Socio-Political Commentary. I have included just one or two examples of the type of work for each of these areas. The book contains numerous examples. In this area Wolf cites the work done by Susan Meiselas (aka Kurdistan) and Lorie Novak (Collected Visions) to provide on-line forums for images to examine the the relationships between ourselves and our family photographs (Novak) and a forum away from the gaze of a repressive government (Meiselas).
  • Other Dimensions, other worlds. Isaac Layman, (Cabinet 2008) presented a view of how we experience the world, rather than a representation of a particular object, by re-photographing a stack of glasses on a shelf and refocusing each time to bring a different layer into focus, much the way in which our eyes and brain enable us to see a whole scene before us in focus all at once.
  • Reflections on the Medium Itself. Jon Haddock produced the “Children fleeing Napalm strike, Modified – 1972, Huynk Cong “Nick” Ut (2009) by erasing the children from the frame and forcing us to recall the full image from our collective visual memories. In a more bizarre example, he has produced a grid of the digital values of the RGB plot a frame of the film of the assassination of John F Kennedy. Such techniques demonstrate new aspects of the world that has been opened up in the artist’s imagination, providing a unique vision.
Returning to the questions at the start of this review, I don’t think that digital photography is a medium in its own right. It may have seemed that way in the 90’s but is no longer the case as it has become so widely accepted. It has also subsumed and absorbed analogue photography, with digital technology becoming the servant of analogue in some instances. The impact on how we view, understand and make images has always evolved and will continue to do so.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Criticising Photographs–Terry Barrett 5th edition 2012

Introduction: I have started reading this book which is a closely written work of eight chapters. This is my summary for Chapter 1. As I  have now finished DPP coursework I will continue to review each chapter in my Documentary blog here:
Chapter 1 About Art Criticism
The chapter is divided into eight sections. I have made notes on each.
Definition of Criticism
In the mass media, criticism is generally a negative judgement which does nothing to help us understand the work. Criticism is about promoting interest and asking questions about meaning rather than than the work’s aesthetic worth. With photographs, look closely at them and pinpoint in words what the provoke within you that helps to think feel and understand the work and what the artist is trying to communicate.
“Criticism is informal discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art”. A D Coleman
Sources of Criticism
Anywhere art is displayed, read about and promoted or sold. Classrooms, art colleges, the newspapers and exhibition catalogues and specialist collection in books are a good source. The factors that can influence the tone and content of the review can include editorial policies and style, personal preference of the reviewer and politics.
Types of Criticism
The two most valuable types of criticism:
Exploratory  Aesthetic Criticism does not generally provide judgements but does attempt to provide the reader with a full account of the aesthetics of the work to ensure that they can experience all that can be seen.
Argumentative Aesthetic Criticism on the other hand will attempt a full interpretation of the work and  then make a judgement of the work’s positive (or  negative) attributes. There will be a full account of the writer’s arguments based on stated criteria. They will attempt to persuade the reader using these arguments and are prepared to defend their opinions.
Other types may include:
Applied criticism – of a journalistic nature which is directed at the work. Theoretical criticism attempts to define photography and uses photographs to clarify arguments e.g Camera Lucida by Barthes. Connoisseurship is severely limited and is usually limited to pronouncements rather than reasoned argument.
Background of Critics
Varied, many have PhDs and have studied art and photography as art. Others may be artists themselves and/or teachers of art.
Stances of critics towards criticism
This section details the attitudes of certain critics towards their  work. A quote from Grace Glueck sums it up; “inform, elucidate, explain and enlighten”.  While A D Coleman (1975) says that when writing, critics should be…. independent of the artists and institutions, have a regular output, the work must be publicly accessible, be contemporary and about diverse artists. The critic should openly adopt a sceptics posture.
Relations between critics and artists  
The critic is writing for the public not the artist. He should be aware of the artist and his/her work but must not want to ‘be loved’ by the artist. Critique is not a judgement. The critic should provide an opinion and their own interpretation.
Art of Criticizing Criticism
Critics often disagree. This is a good thing and promotes debate.  According to Donald Kuspit, critics should be:
  • honest in their judgement
  • clear in their writing
  • straightforward in their argument
  • unpretentious in their manner
Jerry Saltz on why criticism is often obscure:
Why is it that so much art criticism is indecipherable – even to ‘us’? If art has lost its audience then surely this type of smarter-than-though criticism has played its part. Criticism isn’t the right word for it anyway. Much of this writing feels cut off from its objects. When a critic reports back about what he or she seen it should be in accessible, clear language and not a lot of brainy gobble-dygook that no-one understands. A critic should want to be understood. But the price you pay for this accessibility is dear. You can lose your ‘pass’ into certain academic circles, or it might mean that you don't get asked to be on all those panels that discuss art and its relationship to biogenic whatever and it may mean you won’t get asked to too many CAA conventions – but that’s OK.”
I have a feeling I shall be making good use of that quote in the coming years.
The Value of Criticism
Reading criticism gives you an increased knowledge and appreciation of art. The act of criticism also allows you to consider the work in more depth and think about what the artist’s intentions and meanings are.

OCA TV Group meeting 15/3/2014

  1. I have only made brief notes for this study visit. As I was between courses, I had no current work to show. those that did show were working on TAoP. Unfortunately I can’t recall any of it as it is over month ago. Clive white was the tutor in attendance and gave his usual to down earth practical advice. I have made a note about photographic voice and using a fixed focal length for all of your work as an example of one element of an individual style. Clive also mentioned that using full frame (35mm) sensors gives a greater depth of field. This is something I had not considered and perhaps my next digital SLR should be full frame. (I’ve got to wear out my D90 first but it doesn’t show any signs of giving up the ghost any time soon).
  2. While Eddy was setting up the printers for the afternoon session, Clive gave some valuable explanations and advice about balancing light sources using an electronic light meter and the use of the Inver cone when taking incident light readings.
  3. We had two printers set up for the printing workshop, a four colour Canon and an Epson 2400 which I think was an 8 colour printer. Eddy was able to demonstrate the differences between the the resulting test prints and  the discussion revolved around the differences between results obtained on paper compared with what we see on our monitors. Calibration and colour spaces to use were also discussed.
  4. The final session involved Clive setting up a large  format monorail camera (5x4), proving us with some optical formulae and challenging us to come up with the height of the image on the plate. I’m afraid with my customary speed of working out even the simplest mathematical formula, I never reached an answer before the session ended!
Another enjoyable day and I am looking forward to the next meeting on the 31st May.