Photographers – Maciej Dakowicz

As part of my tutor’s feedback for Assignment 3, it was suggested that I research some contemporary street photography and the ‘Cardiff After Dark’ series by Maciej Dakowicz was suggested.

The photographs show young people out at night on the streets of Cardiff. They more or less all appear to be drunk. There is a real sense of hedonism, with everyone out to have a good time while drinking and partying to excess.

I really liked these photographs. The debauched behaviour of these young people may shock or offend some people but to me, that’s just what young people do when they go out on the town. I did it myself when I was their age (although maybe not quite to such excess!) The images are good-humoured and non-judgemental. They just show people having bawdy and drunken fun and many of the images made me laugh out loud.

St Mary street is one of the main streets of central Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. It is one of the main hubs of clubs and pubs in the city. The street is closed for cars on weekend nights and is the main scene of the city nightlife. Everything takes place in public - from drinking, fighting, kissing to crying and sleeping.

St Mary street is one of the main streets of central Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. It is one of the main hubs of clubs and pubs in the city. The street is closed for cars on weekend nights and is the main scene of the city nightlife. Everything takes place in public – from drinking, fighting, kissing to crying and sleeping.

Maciej Dakowicz – Cardiff After Dark

I liked the use of the ambient light which made the images look more authentic than if the photographer would have used a flash – there is a real sense of being there on the street in among these people. The warm colours also lend to the party atmosphere.

The images do, however, also give a sense of how thin the line is between having fun and the more unpleasant underbelly of this excessive nightlife. Often the police are seen watching over the drunken antics of the revellers and in among the images of men in fishnet tights, drunken superheros and laughing women, are some more uncomfortable images – the police beating a man on the street, a seedy-looking man helping himself to a grope of a woman’s bare leg while she is distracted. I am reminded that the alcohol-fuelled streets at night can easily turn into an aggressive and threatening place.

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Maciej Dakowicz – Cardiff After Dark

My final thoughts on these images is that Cardiff needs more bins! There is rubbish everywhere although often it is piled around a bin that is already hopelessly full. I thought this was quite touching.. the people in these images aren’t so self-obsessed that they would just throw their chip wrappers anywhere – they do try to put them in the bin – there just isn’t room!

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Photographers – Angus McBean

Angus McBean (8 June 1904 – 9 June 1990) was born in Wales and photographed many famous film and theatre stars, often in a surreal way.

Flora Robson 1938 - Angus McBean

Flora Robson 1938 – Angus McBean

I really liked Angus McBean’s ‘surreal’ portraits such as the Flora Robson image above. I like the humour in these images and the fact that they are a bit different from the more usual ‘hollywood-style’ black and white head-shot portraits.

Angus McBean also created his own Christmas cards each year, in which he featured. Scenes often feature him shrunk small and ‘hiding’ in amongst a doll’s tea party, or superimposed onto a bust of himself. I thought these were wonderful, funny and playful and enjoyed looking at all of them.

Angus McBean Christmas Card

Christmas Love 1982 – Angus McBean

Artists – Pieter De Hooch

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A Mother Delousing Her Child’s Hair – Pieter De Hooch 1660

Pieter De Hooch was a Dutch ‘Golden Age’ painter who specialised in ‘through views’ like the one above. His images often include scenes where you can see through doorways. I really like all the squares and rectangles in this painting. The different sections of the interior give a sense of depth and the light coming through the windows contrasts with the darker interiors giving the sense of the inside being quite dark compared to outside. I find the different ‘compartments’ of the image, where the shapes are all complimenting each other, make it really interesting.

Exhibitions – Avery Singer

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Avery Singer – ‘Happenings’ 2014

I recently saw an exhibition of Avery Singer’s paintings at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I really liked these large paintings. Singer has an intriguing technique of creating an image using digital 3D software and then projecting the image onto a large canvas. She then uses an airbrush to ‘colour in’ the projected image on the canvas to create a greyscale painting of the original digital image.

I really like how ‘busy’ these images are. I had to peer at them for quite some time to pick out the subjects amongst all the shapes and shadows. They also have a fantastic sense of depth which is much more apparent when you see the original canvases in the gallery. The subjects of the paintings poke a bit of gentle fun at the art world and I found them witty and entertaining. I really enjoyed this exhibition.

Exhibitions – World Press Photo 2016

World Press Photo 2016

Warren Richardson – ‘Hope for a New Life’ August 28, 2015

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I was able to go and see the World Press Photo 2016 photography exhibition, which happened to be on there when I was visiting. I am not a great fan of documentary-style, reportage photography, so I probably did not go into the exhibition in quite the right frame of mind, but to be honest, I didn’t enjoy the exhibition at all. My overall impression was that it was, almost without exception, the usual, depressing catalogue of war, death, misery and despair.

Of course, I understand that these are press photographs and that the consumers of news love a bit of human misery.. ‘if it bleeds it leads’ as the newspaper editors say. I also respect that these press photographers would argue that the world needs to see these uncompromising images of all the awful events and dreadful injustices that happen in the world, but we have all been looking at these images like these for decades. Does it ever change anything? Are there fewer wars? Greater justice? Less poverty? More equality? To my mind, nothing actually changes and I guess that I am bored and frustrated with it all. So, same old images, different warzone/despot/oppressed minority.

It also struck me how, by far the majority of the press photographers in the exhibition, were men – to be fair in a Middle Eastern war zone, a man is much more likely to get photographic access than a woman, but I could not help feeling that I was seeing a very ‘male’ take on the world. Misery and destruction, so often the result of male aggression and need for dominance, being photographed in all its technicolour glory by men, so the rest of us can all wring our hands about what an awful place the world is, while doing nothing about it. Personally, I simply had no interest in it.

Would we have a different view of the world if more of the press photographers were women? Would it be a more balanced view? A more positive view? Would it change anything? I very much doubt it, but maybe I might take  bit more interest if for once I could see a different view of the world.

 

Assignment 5 – Rework

Feedback from my tutor on Assignment 5 included the following suggestions for follow-up work:

  • I think this assignment needs further development to fully explore the ideas and concepts behind it. Think about how you can combine the ideas of landscape and portraiture, and how landscapes can become portraits. If you are interested in studying landscape further look for Land Matters by Liz Wells.
  • Continue your research / reading on photography theory.
  • You have produced some very strong work for this assignment so I whole heartedly recommend that you continue your studies.

The re-work for this assignment is documented below:

1.I think this assignment needs further development to fully explore the ideas and concepts behind it.

My foray into more ‘conceptual’ photography unfortunately fell rather short of the mark for this assignment! Although, I could have seriously done without the extra work of having to rework this assignment, I don’t regret having had a go at doing something a bit more experimental. My tutor has been repeatedly advising me to get out of my comfort zone and be more experimental and I really enjoyed the process of thinking about this assignment in a more abstract way.

I decided to keep with the idea of creating a ‘portrait’ of a person which conveyed information about their personality rather than what they looked like. I watched the film recommended by my tutor: ‘The Draftsman’s Contract’ by Peter Greenaway. This film centres around a series of drawings of a stately home which a draftsman is creating for an aristocratic woman. Objects keep appearing in the views the draftsman is drawing and consequently end up in the drawings themselves, giving clues to the mysterious disappearance of the woman’s husband.

I decided to try to build on the scenes I had already photographed but this time I included Clark in the images to try to better convey that the chosen scene and how Clark is positioned in it were together describing something about Clark.

The reworked images are below:

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I struggled with reworking this assignment to recreate images similar to what I originally had, but this time with Clark in them. Some of my concepts didn’t really work any more, such as ‘loyal’. I could not think of a way of taking a photograph of nature, including Clark, that conveyed a sense of Clark’s loyalty. The result was that I really struggled to rework all 10 images and in retrospect probably should have scrapped this idea all together and gone back to the drawing board to develop something new.

Something else I learnt from this assignment is that trying to create something ‘conceptual’ is treacherous territory! What make some some conceptual images work and others (like mine) not? A series of portraits by Lorenzo Vitturi was suggested to me by my tutor as inspiration for reworking my assignment but I was a bit bemused by these images:

Yellow Chalk #1&2 from the Dalston Anatomy series - 2013

Lorenzo Vitturi – Dalston Anatomy – Yellow Chalk #1 and 2

I think that understanding conceptual art and being able to create something meaningful myself is going to take a bit of work!

2.Continue your research / reading on photography theory.

This will be an ongoing task.

Assignment 5 – Self Assessment

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I spent quite a lot of time exploring my local area looking for scenes that I felt would reflect my husband’s particular personality traits. Communicating my husband’s personality through images of plants was actually quite difficult! It took quite a lot of time to find enough images that I felt ‘worked’ for my concept but I think visually I did find images that represented what I intended. Although it was quite challenging, I did enjoy seeking out the images as it did make me look at my surroundings in a different way.

Technically, the images themselves were not difficult to take and were quite simple, usually with the focus on a single object. I took all the images using natural light and tried to keep the background not too distracting.

 

Quality of Outcome

I was pleased with the concept I had for this assignment and found it very interesting. It was the culmination of inspiration I had had from visiting several exhibitions. My concept was quite an abstract one so I hope that I was able to communicate my intentions clearly and present the work in a coherent manner.

 

Demonstration of Creativity

I thought my concept of finding images in nature that reflected aspects of my husband’s personality and using these images to create a ‘portrait’ was quite a creative one, if not a totally new idea. At several points I nearly gave up on this idea as I was concerned that it was too abstract, was straying too much from the assignment brief (even though the brief was rather ‘vague’), and simply just wasn’t working but I decided to stick with it and see to through as the concept did make sense to me and I was keen to try it out.

The images themselves are not particularly creative and I would have liked the individual images to be stronger and to communicate their ‘personality trait’ more robustly. I am not sure how I would achieve this but I feel that I have an imaginative concept being executed with a set of fairly unimaginative images.

To me the images taken at a low view point, such as ‘Grounded’ and ‘Enigmatic’ are stronger as they seem a bit more ‘abstract’ than the the simpler images such as ‘Loving’. I think this slightly more abstract style of image works better with my ‘abstract’ concept.

I am not sure how much this assignment reflects my own personal voice but I certainly enjoyed using my photographs to try to ‘say something’!

Context

I did not do a lot of specific research particularly for this assignment as I had already formed the idea of what I wanted to do from exhibitions I had seen and other photographers I had encountered on the course. However, I did think quite hard about what I was trying to convey in my images and how to take a series of images to reflect this.