Category Archives: The Art Of Photography

My Learning Log for the Level 4 Open College of the Arts’ course, Photography 1 – The Art of Photography

Assignment 4 – A coda

At the end of my second walk taking photographs for this assignment (down from Ladbroke Grove and through the Avondale conservation area) I noticed a laminated notice cable-tied to the railings of the western-most spur of maisonettes that fan out south from the base of Grenfell Tower. I bent down and read it.

I hadn’t noticed the laminate during my first walk (around the tower site) and so already had a lot of photographs taken from quite close to the tower’s base with a long lens. They showed damage to the tower in considerable detail. I had also taken pictures which showed how the remaining members of the community were both memorialising the fire and it victims while trying to gain some control over the narrative of the fire in preparation for the upcoming enquiry.

At the end of that first walk, as I was waiting to get the tube at Latimer Road station (one of the stations where the platforms are on the surface) I saw the tower looming over the awning on the other side of the tracks. It was quite a striking image. As I raised my camera and a woman told me sternly: ‘Some people round here don’t like people taking photographs of the tower.’ I stopped and thought. ‘Doesn’t it depend what you do with them’ I said? ‘Just saying’ said the woman, turning away while clearly putting herself in the no photographs group. I didn’t take that picture.  But I did make my second walk up over the hill and  down from Holland Park, taking photographs of the tower as I went.

At this point I could have (perhaps should have; still not sure) simply shelved the project and found something else to do for this assignment. I didn’t, so why?


This ties in almost too neatly with the opening of section two of Rosler’s In, around and afterthoughts (1981) where she reflects on the reaction by the residents of the Bowery to being photographed (‘you are likely to be met with hostility, for the men on the Bowery are not particularly interested in immortality and stardom, and they’ve had plenty of experience with the Nikon set’) and where the people can reasonably be described as ‘victims of the camera‘. This  leads on to her discussion of the fearless documentarian, risking all to bring back their despatches from the edge.

I had no interest in using my camera as a tool to make victims of the people who still live around Grenfell Tower or of seeking out survivors of the fire for inclusion here. They were already well advanced in the process of creating their own narrative(s) and memorials and these activities have fed into the enquiry and the press. They have successfully broken down the monolithic idea of ‘the dead’ into a series of portraits of individuals –  real people with lives and hopes and fears. The local community  – supported by sections of the press – are doing this without any help from me. They have a voice and they are using it at the enquiry, in the media and on the streets.

While I did not abandon what I was doing, I realised that I certainly needed to be careful in setting its scope. I already knew that what I was doing involved real, serious subject matter. While I could not untake the pictures I had already taken (I could have deleted them from my hard disks of course, but that is something I have great difficulty doing, even in the case of images which are wildly deficient in some way) I could reassess which of them I would use.

I resolved to use only pictures where there was an obvious distance between the tower and my camera. Ideally there would be some sort of object – a leafless tree, some fencing a row of terraced houses – partially occluding the view. There would be no ‘stolen’ pictures of people (going through my contact sheets, there weren’t any of those anyway). There would be no attempt to aestheticise the pictures or to awaken in the viewer their sense of the sublime. The photographs would show what the tower looked like from outside its immediate area. They would only be there to contrast with the statements from the planning documents. They would not draw attention to me, the photographer.


I think the key thing here is not whether you take photographs  but rather what sort of pictures you do take and what you do with them afterwards. Don’t take selfies with the tower in the background. Don’t stick the pictures up on Facebook or Instagram as if you had just come back from holiday or had a nice meal. Have a clear idea why you are taking photographs in the first place. Remember that getting involved with real events is a political action before it is an artistic one.

(I am, of course, also aware of the irony that this post is in part ‘about me’ and how – while I did not take physical risks in making this work – I have potentially placed myself in a place of moral and ethical hazard. Such is my bravery. Such is my burning need to show you the truth.)

I don’t think the act of taking photographs is automatically hurtful (or for that matter automatically beneficial either). While I made most of the pictures for this assignment with my D610, I don’t aspire to be part of Rosler’s ‘Nikon set.’

I don’t think my assignment is disrespectful either to the dead or to the living. It expresses a truth, but that of course is only a partial truth. There is plenty in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea planning documents which is not concerned with the visual impact of the refurbished tower. If there is a problem with all this, and my response to it, it can be found somewhere in the certainty with which I seized upon the gap between some words and their visual  contradiction as being suitable raw material for what is simply an assignment making up part of a course…

 

 

 

 

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Simon Chirgwin (512973) The Art of Photography – Notes for Assessors

Hello Assessors!

Nested below the link to The Art of Photography  (at the top of the page, under the title bar; it will take you back here, if you click it) there are 3 sub-category menus, each with further nested links to allow you to view specific categories of posts. I have replicated this tree of links here:


Assignments


Coursework



Research and Reflection


Each of the Assignment categories is headed with a brief introductory post, containing links to the Tutor’s Report and the folder on Dropbox containing the full-size files for all the pictures and some contact sheets included in the assignment.

I have not been able to reverse the most-recent-to-oldest sorting of the posts within any of the sections, or indeed in the blog as a whole, but assume this is normal.

All the assignment folders and an electronic copy of the Contents Document for the Physical Submission for Assessment can be viewed at once, by clicking this link.

 

Assignment 5; Narrative – Notes for the Assessors

I have remade the dummy book for this assignment following the suggestions in the tutor’s report. Now, instead of a series of individual prints, hinged together with masking tape, there is a single strip of pictures, scored and then folded to make a “concertina” book. The colour temperature of the pictures has been reset back to the original, cooler setting of the files created in my camera. If time and money permitted I would do one more edit, making the final, appropriated image/page darker, to match the others.

I would use this assignment as the basis for further work, creating other series of pictures of streets in Walthamstow that have obviously been damaged by wartime bombing. It may even build up into a stand-alone exhibition forming part of the Walthamstow Art Trail, either next year or the year after.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 5

I have included  a dummy book containing all of Assignment 5 – a concertina of 9 prints –  in my physical submission for assessment.


High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 5 – Light

This contains:

    • The 9 full-size jpegs that make up the composited book ((512973-PH4AoP-A5-nn.jpg)

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

 

Assignment 4; Light – Notes for the Assessors

This was the most overtly technical of the assignments for The Art of Photography. As such it ws mostly a case of trying to improve my application of techniques and lighting theory rather than of pushing me creatively. This does not reduce validity of the pictures however and while most of them are quite “exercise-y”, there are a couple (the two “texture”  pictures (05 and 06) and the second “shape” (02) which I think go a bit further.

For reasons outlined in my response to the Tutor’s Report (mainly around the fact that the flowers were long dead at this point) I did not reshoot any of the pictures for this assignment. I did however rebalance the colour following David’s suggestions and these are the versions of the picture files that were used to make the prints enclosed as part of my physical submission for Assessment.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 4


I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • Assignment 4.1: Shape – Photographic Lighting
  • Assignment 4.2: Form – Photographic Lighting
  • Assignment 4.3: Texture – Available Light
  • Assignment 4.4: Colour – Mixed Light (Daylight/Tungsten)

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 4 – Light

This contains:

    • 8 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A4-nn.jpg)
    • 4 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A4-contact-nn.jpg)

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

 

Assignment 3; Colour – Notes for the Assessors

This was probably the most problematic of the assignments. As noted elsewhere (here, and a few days ago, here, and no doubt a few others, too) I found it very hard to stop taking photographs and to start editing them into either finished exercises ready for a write-up or to complete the assignment itself.

Then, after handing in my work here, this has been the section that has seen the most reworking of the “completed” pictures. I had worked on accentuating the main colours in the submission and then, following Dave’s comments in his report, dulled them down again; for the assessment prints, I have further reworked the way the colour was handled, again reducing the saturation (in part directly, but also by lightening the overall picture) in order to get print masters that didn’t smash the colour gamut of the paper that was being used to make C-Print, while experimenting with soft-proofing in Lightroom.

Now, I suspect I have calmed the colours down a bit too much in some of them; as a result, I have included the original print for Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours – Orange and Blue rather than the reworked one. “A work of art is never completed, rather it is thrown aside in disgust” as Apocryphal said…

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 3


I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • 01 -Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours – Orange and Blue (01 in the original submission)
  • 02 -Colour Harmony through Similar Colours – Violet and Red (06 in the original submission)
  • 03 – Colour Contrast through Contrasting Colours – Yellow and Blue (11 in the original submission)
  • 04 – Colour Accent – Orange (13 in the original submission)

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 3 – Colour

This contains:

    • 16 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A3-nn.jpg)

There are no contact sheets included for this assignment as they would need to be so extensive as to be meaningless as anything other than as an indication of my indecision!

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

Assignment 2; Elements of Design – Notes for the Assessors

I still really like the pictures I took for this assignment and while I don’t have much to add to what I wrote after receiving the tutor’s report about the pictures included. However, I would say that the suggestions that I take a few paces back and take wider pictures than I did on Flotta seems to have gone on to influence the pictures I have been taking since.

Also, as a footnote, almost a year to the day I took the Assignment 2 pictures, I was back on Flotta again. While I waited for the ferry back to the mainland, I took an alternative to the picture that replaced picture 10 of the original submission. Here it is:

Entrance to the Oil Terminal, Flotta; 30-vii-15

Entrance to the Oil Terminal, Flotta; 30-vii-15

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 2


I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • 01 – Single Point (01 in the original submission)
  • 02 – Vertical and Horizontal Lines (03 in the original submission)
  • 03 – Distinct Shapes -Semi-Circle and Oblongs (06 in the original submission)
  • 04 – Rhythm (13 in the original submission)

 

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 2 – Elements of Design

This contains:

  • 14 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A2-nn.jpg)
  • 7 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A2-Contacts-nn.jpg)
    Contact 01 contains 10 (revised)
    Contact 02 contains 04
    Contact 03 contains 09, 10 (original), 11, 13
    Contact 04 contains 01, 03
    Contact 05 contains 06
    Contact 06 contains 02, 05, 08, 14
    Contact 07 contains 07, 12

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.


 

Assignment 1; Contrasts – Notes for the Assessors

After I received the feedback for Assignment 1, I did not make any changes to the pictures that make up assignment 1. The main suggestion – to match the aspect ratio of the portrait format pictures to that of the landscape ones –  would have meant a major re-edit and some possible re-shooting.

I had decided on the different ratios – 3×2 for landscape and 4×5 for portrait – at a very early stage and as a result some of the compositions were made with this in mind. I felt that the shorter portrait format would work better for a submission that would only be viewed on screen as the images would view larger on a normally oriented monitor screen. Also, at that point, I wanted to crack on with Elements of Design.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 1


High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 1 – Contrasts

This contains:

  • 17 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos
  • 8 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A1-Contacts-nn-thing&anti-thing.jpg)
All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.