Elliott Erwitt – Dogs

Elliott erwit 4Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

The first things that me about this composition is the symmetry.  It makes full use of the rule of thirds in both horizontal and vertical.  I can almost picture a measured grid with an important element in each square.  It has a good equal balance and is very pleasing to look at.

Erwitt has chosen to shoot this scene from the viewpoint of the dog with places him (the dog) as the main focus.  From Erwitt’s introduction to his book Dog Dogs, he says that his images are “not pictures of dogs but pictures with dogs in them” and this is evident when we look at what is also included in the frame.  Next to the dogs is two pairs of legs, similar in size and equally spaced apart.  Its takes a while to see that the legs on the left are of another dog and the balance is suddenly even more symmetrical.

Whats interesting with this crop is that we can start to imagine what sits beyond the frame due to the clues given within it.  We can see a pair of dogs front legs but his body and hind legs must be attached even though we can’t see them.  It’s a big dog too, do people see him from their natural eye level and fuss him first before noticing theres a small dog way down there, close to the ground.  The look on the little dogs face is quite telling as he’s looking directly down the camera lens in a quizzical way as if to say, ‘what you are doing down here, this is my world’, adding humour to the narrative.

The way this image is structured makes me think that the story is about how dogs live and how they see things, almost like they live in a different world to humans.  Of course the size of the dog alters their perspective so theres an endless stream of variations.  With a dog so small Erwitt would have had to lie flat on his stomach to gain the perspective of his little world.

What links this little dog to the human world?  His clothing of course.  Dogs have fur to keep them warm however this little dog is wearing a hat and coat.  It’s clever to see that Erwitt has include the bottom part of the ladies coat in the frame too which gives them a connection.  This also gives more of the story away too as it indicates it was cold and we can start to imagine at what time of year this photograph was taken.  Does the big dog also have a hat and coat on?  Thats left to our imagination.

Expression and communication

I’ve been asked to think of any photographs that aren’t used as a means of expression or communication.

I immediately decided that such photographs can’t exist.  I have undertaken a similar exercise previously in the guise of discussing objective photography and even then concluded that this cannot exist.  For a photograph to be taken it requires an action and actions are born from responses to feelings or emotions.

I feel the same about the subject of a photograph without expression or communication.  If we look at non art types of photographs then were we have candid, commercial and radio graphical to name a few however, they all have something to say within them.  Theres a communication between photograph and viewer.  The viewer is gaining information from a photograph no matter what it’s subject matter.  The only photograph I can think of that doesn’t communicate or express anything is a blank one.

Assignment Three : Self-Portrait

I wrote a diary over two weeks and it said nothing about me.  It was basically a list of chores I do every day in my role as a mother.  This gave me the idea to base my self portrait on a subject I’ve been battling for years and that is, ‘loosing my identity’.  Making the transition from having a great career into becoming a full time wife and mother has been an eye opening experience.  I used to be the face of an entire team of professionals but now I feel completely faceless.

Over time I have become unrecognisable.  Power dressing has been replaced with bleach ridden jeans and sweaters.  Nights out are too exhausting to organise.  Adult conversations have become few and far between.  I talk to the dog so much he always knows my next move.  Passion for music has diminished with the desire for peace and quiet.  Slowly but surely my identity as I knew it has slipped away and been replaced with fatigued robot.  My identity that had naturally evolved with me is becoming a distant memory, even my name has changed!

People see who I am now and not what I used to be.  I struggle with this because I’m an evolution, I’ve been educated, I’ve travelled, I’ve achieved, all these things make up who I am.

A close friend told me they were jealous that I got to ‘potter’ around the house all day as a housewife.  In reality I run the house, look after the children, look after my husbands business finances, run a photography studio, make handmade jewellery and study Photography.  However, I’m seen as pottering.

The faceless feeling is carried throughout my journal entitled ‘A change of scenery’.

I wrote this journal whilst on a family holiday as I wanted to show that it’s not just a normal day to day issue, it follows me around.  A holiday to me is no longer a holiday, full of relaxation, fun and frolics.  It’s just a change of scenery, hence the title.

The journal is made up of a written diary with accompanying photographs.  The photographs are either auto biographical or self absent but never with my face on display.  Omitting my face is my way of getting across the feeling of being faceless.  The individual photographs themselves are a reaction to a feelings I’m having relating to identity loss.  Each photograph is captioned to give a hint to the feeling that spurred its being.  Whilst doing this I’m giving clues to my true identity, the personality that resides inside.

‘A Change of Scenery’

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Nigel Shafran

Washing-up

‘CC I was wondering about this with the Washing-up 2000 series because it is such a simple subject, almost too simple. I wondered if the series is an example of where it wasn’t a concept when you started but a close-by subject that developed into something

NS It’s a very close-by subject and a lot of my work and the subjects I choose are because of this. It’s what I know.

CC These are photographs of things that only you saw and inpart that means that these inanimate objects read like a diary of the events of your life – of what you eat, who you meet, what these places look like.

NS Sometimes I see old photographs and what’s interesting to me are the things on the edges that are not meant to be there -the soap packet, the bit of litter, the things that we can relate to and hold that everydayness. I like it when something has been photographed in a simple way.

CC I’m very suspicious of the idea of ‘non-subjects’ in photography, I don’t think there are such things. As in the case ofWashing-up 2000, there are subjects that are not very obviously subjects until they are photographed, regardless of whether that was the intention of the photographer or not. There is a feeling that the significance of our lives is implanted in these subtle and everyday occurrences.’

Nigel Shafran and Charlotte Cotton interview  [2004 ]

nigel shafranFig 1. Washing-up (2000)

Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? why?

Was this question written by a man?  The question is implying that wash-up is a woman’s subject and therefore the viewer may be surprised to find that it is the work of a man.  That certainly isn’t my thought at all.  I’m wondering if the photographs are viewed in a different way because they are taken by a man?  I’m trying to think back to my first thoughts when initially viewing the above photograph and I was trying to find the artistic merit.  This didn’t come until viewing ‘washing-up’ as a complete project when I could see the shifting changes of time.  The tinsel, a subtle indication of christmas time.  I didn’t assign a gender to the subject of ‘washing up’ in my initial thoughts and I wasn’t surprised to learn it was the idea of a male photographer, I see it as genderless.

In your opinion, does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I’d like to think that gender isn’t a contributing factor as we are all capable of the same things whether they are physical or emotional, we are all capable.  However, society has assigned these roles to specific genders, women deal with emotions and men deal with physical aspects.  This notion can be further encouraged by the elements so far studied in this section of the course.  We’ve looked at Francesca Woodman, Elina Brotherus, Gillian Wearing, Trish Morrissey, Nikki S. Lee, Tracey Moffatt and I’ve written a feature on Dita Pepe.  All female photographers or artists who’s works are a response to feelings and emotions they’ve experienced with the exception of our opening autobiographical self portraiture feature of a former OCA student.  Keith Greenough’s self portrait shows three images of himself in the same pose, same background with different identifying clothing which as a series culminates into the fact he is an ironman.  This leads me onto a male stereotypical representation as in Greenough’s self portrait the only other male, Nigel Shafran has chosen to photograph ‘experiences’ i.e. washing-up, a physical representation of an experience.

I would say that women are more open and don’t have the emotional restrictions that most men seem to suffer.  More women photographers expose their inner most thoughts through their photography than men do but thats not to say it doesn’t happen.  Charles Latham created a series of photos that showed him harming himself and posted them online causing a string of heated debates.  This was in response to a relationship breakup which evoked such strong emotions to want to photograph the harm and expose himself to the world.  This resulted in a project ‘Cyrus’ in 2006, where Latham included an alter ego in his self portraits which represented his self loathing.

cyrus-2006-1.jpg
Fig 2. Cyrus (2006)

So in response to the original question, I don’t see how gender plays a specific role in catergorising photographers work.  As with all art it’s an expression of the individual and  not their given labels.

Gender can be used as an advantage in certain genres and in that case will contribute to the creation of an image but not always.

What does this series achieve by not including people?

When we view portraits we tend to judge the person based on how they look and the environment they are in.  By removing people from the washing up series were able to look more at the inanimate objects for clues on the narrative.  It gives us the ability to make some unbiased deductions about the person or people who are washing up.  For instance we’r not making assumptions on how old these people are but instead where looking at how they live, what do they eat and drink, what other clues are present to suggest an occasion or activity.  Without people present we are forced to look deeper and use our imaginations until we decide what the photograph is about.

Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I wouldn’t really think of the washing up series as still life compositions due to the nature of the activity.  Washing up piled up indicates life, someone used the dishes, someone put them there, someone washed up and they’re waiting to be put away.  The photo taking is bringing life to the mundane and telling a story about what happens in that space.  As a series the shifting changes of washing up, different day, different lighting, different crockery, gives the illusion of things moving, objects be put away and different ones used.  I don’t see anything still about the series at all.

Fig 1. Shafran,N. (2000) washing-up At http://nigelshafran.com/category/washing-up-2000-2000/ (Accessed) 23/05/17.

Fig 2. Latham, C. (2006) Cyrus At https://mattsparling.com/2011/04/24/charles-latham-whatever-happened-to/ (Accessed 24/5/17.)

Nikki S. Lee

Nikki S. Lee’s ‘Projects’ (2011) saw her transform herself into members of different social and ethnic groups where she explores the way photographs represent our relationships with other people.

Fig 1. Hip hop, Hispanic and Seniors

In the above images from Lee’s projects you can see that she the extent of the transformations and her ability to infiltrate different ethnic groups and seamlessly fit in. What’s interesting is how she’s chosen to use snapshots, even including the date on the photographs to backup the validity of the ‘snapshot’ theme.  Also it’s important to note that Lee doesn’t physically take the photograph herself, this is done by a member of the group who doesn’t have any photographic experience.

Lee herself has never claimed to be a photographer but explains that she uses photographs as her medium for her projects.

‘Just because I use the photographic medium, that does not mean I am a photographer.  I am not talking about a hierarchy between photography and art.  I can be a photographer or an artist, whatever really.  I use photography now but that does not mean I will forever…….’
Nikki S. Lee
(Bright, S. 2010:41)

Bright, S. (2010) Art Photography Now. London: Thames and Hudson

Dita Pepe

‘I feel that everything in life is relative.  When I look back on my life, if things had been just slightly different, I could have ended up being someone completely different from what I am now.’

– Dita Pepe
Bright, S (2011:106)

This statement from Pepe forms the basis for her series ‘self-portraits with men’ where she placed herself in relationships with lots of different men.  These portraits take place at the mans house or surroundings and often include the mans children.  Pepe would then style herself complimentary to the man and his children making the overall effect very believable.

Fig 1. Self portraits with men (2003 – present)

Theres something very appealing about trying out different outcomes in relation to your appearance and situation.  Styles and relationships evolve and often in a way we don’t recognise ourselves anymore or even relate to our partners.  What Pepe has done is create a catalogue of relationships that can be handpicked during their well established stage.  I wonder if given the choice which scenario most people would opt for?

As the viewer we are automatically piecing together the kind of life each family has based on what their surroundings look like, how they’re dressed and their facial expressions.  We recognise certain stereotypes in these photographs and our perception is dictated by how the images are received e.g. the lady cyclist looks happier than than batman’s wife so we assume she has a better life.

Does this mean that Pepe is looking for her ideal scenario by trying out different relationship situations?  She is pregnant in some of the photographs, I wonder which photograph is closest to the situation she evolved into given her circumstances.

Masquerades

Nikki S. Lee

Nikki S. Lee’s ‘Projects’ (2011) saw her transform herself into members of different social and ethnic groups where she explores the way photographs represent our relationships with other people.

Fig 1. Hip hop, Hispanic and Seniors, (1998, 1999 & 2001)

In the above images from Lee’s projects you can see that she the extent of the transformations and her ability to infiltrate different ethnic groups and seamlessly fit in. What’s interesting is how she’s chosen to use snapshots, even including the date on the photographs to backup the validity of the ‘snapshot’ theme.  Also it’s important to note that Lee doesn’t physically take the photograph herself, this is done by a member of the group who doesn’t have any photographic experience.

Lee herself has never claimed to be a photographer but explains that she uses photographs as her medium for her projects.

‘Just because I use the photographic medium, that does not mean I am a photographer.  I am not talking about a hierarchy between photography and art.  I can be a photographer or an artist, whatever really.  I use photography now but that does not mean I will forever…….’
Nikki S. Lee
(Bright, S. 2010:41)

Is there a sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitive?

The words voyeuristic and exploitive are quite severe words to describe the possible effects of Lee’s projects.  In terms of voyeurism, who knows for sure but Lee? However, the passion stems from somewhere and her desire to carry out these projects, in particular the lesbian project, has a voyeuristic air to it.  She is seeing herself pose as a separate person in situations that she has had the idea to put herself into, I’d say that can be deemed as voyeuristic.

Exploitive?  It could be viewed that way.  Lee is definitely exposing certain social and ethnic groups giving an insight into their inner workings.  I don’t get the impression she is carrying out the projects to exploit them though.  Lee’s reason for carrying out the projects was to determine our perception of the person in the photograph dependant on who she was with and how she was acting.  It was planned and executed very well so the input from others would have been voluntary.  She may have highlighted certain groups but not expelled them, there was no derogatory motive.

Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

Lee isn’t commenting on her own identity although she is commenting on the identity of the person she is portraying.

‘The pictures are not about me – they are just stories’ – Nikki s. Lee (Bright, S 2010:41)

In order to do this she has to be commenting on the group identity also as its an integral part of her character placement.  The two together are what makes the project successful.

Trish Morrissey

The series Front (2005-2007), deals with the notion of borders, boundaries and the edge, using the family group and the beach setting as metaphors.   Morrissey assumes the role of the mother in other families photos.  This was to explore how vernacular family photography shapes the way ‘family’ is imagined and how groups of young people relate to one another.

Fig 2. Front (2005)

Morrissey wore the clothes of the person she’s replacing for authenticity.  She was able to enlist the help of family and friends but wasn’t shy of asking complete strangers to take part.  Once the series was underway Morrissey would have built up the confidence to approach strangers.

Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day at the beach with your family?  If not, why not?

Personally, I would happily oblige un the name of art but psychologically, I wouldn’t be comfortable seeing another woman take my place in the family.  I can imagine some people being against taking part for many reasons, for instance, they may just want to relax and enjoy their day out.  They may be introverted and too shy to be photographed which would be in contrast to what Morrissey was trying to achieve.

Morrissey uses self portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist, comment on these.

This statement was taken from Trish Morrissey’s website in regards to ‘Seven Years’.

Seven Years (2001-2004) aims to deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it. In the series, the title of which refers to the age gap between the artist and her elder sister, Morrissey functions as director, author and actor, staging herself and her sibling in tightly controlled, fictional mis en scene based on the conventions of family snapshots.’
Trish Morrissey
http://www.trishmorrissey.com

January-25th-1979

Fig 3. January 25th, 1979, (2001-2004)

‘The Realist (This photograph is a particular favourite of mine.  It made me laugh out loud when I first saw it as it reminds me of the photographs I took of my brothers during that era.  The composition is what makes this photograph brilliant.  It mimics the general disregard for a pleasing composition in family portraits and makes this one more believable.  Big brother is looking to the right but we know it’s mum as her knees are are just within the frame.  We know it’s mum because she’s wearing a skirt.  Even though this is two women disguised as young men the level of deceit is admirable.  Both ‘boys’ have their legs apart and their general demenure exudes young male domination of sofa space right down to the slouched position of the younger male.

The one single action that gives the game away is the feminine way in which the boy on the right has his hand placed on his hip.  Its not the position of it, it’s a very dainty hand for male.

The whole series is thought provoking and takes the viewer on their own journey back through childhood.  It’s especially interesting to see the expressions we used as teenagers transported onto an adult face.  In the above photograph one brother is looking directly at the camera but is way too cool to raise a smile.  Very funny stuff.

The Failed Realist (2011) ‘………….This photographic series was made in collaboration with my daughter when she was between the ages of four and five years. Face painting is a rainy day activity that we both enjoy.  Once her motor skills evolved sufficiently well for her to control a paintbrush, she wanted to paint me rather than be painted.  Instead of the usual motifs of butterfly, or flower, she would decide to paint something from her immediate experience – a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream.  Beyond the innocence of the child’s intention, more sinister themes such as clowns, carnival and the grotesque are evoked by these mask like paintings.’
Trish Morrissey
http://www.trishmorrissey.com

Party-GirlFig 4. Party Girl (2011)

I’m uncertain about what Trish is trying to say in this series as it seems to be an outlet for her daughter and not herself.  Unless the need to photograph the face paintings and give them titles constitutes a series about herself?  The best thing about this series is the names given to each painting.  It gives us an insight to what the painter was thinking at the time and how a young child’s brain develops in ways we don’t always understand or interpret correctly.

 

Fig 1. Lee, N.S. Projects (1998, 1999 & 2001).  At http://www.tonkonow.com/lee.html (Accessed 18/05/17)

Fig 2. Morrissey, T. (2005) Front.  At http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html (Accessed 18/05/17)

Fig 3. Morrissey, T. (2001-2004) January 25th, 1979. At http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-sy/workpg-06.html Accessed (18/05/17)

Fig 4. Morrissey, T. (2011) Party Girl. At http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/workpg-05.html Accessed (18/05/17)

 

Bright, S. (2010) Art Photography Now. London: Thames and Hudson

Bright, S. (2011) Auto Focus. London: Thames and Hudson