Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
At the end of the chapter there is an assignment based on this idea and I am going to try to shoot it today. Basically I will set up the session in advance. I mount the camera on a tripod and use a cable release. Focus the lens and ask the model to look at the camera. Then I shoot 36 shots in complete silence over an hour. All I have to do is observe, look nothing else.
The following two quotes, for me sum up the point;
"Allow your self to stare. You will find that minor fluctuations in expression, or small involuntary gestures, become significant events."
This, I think points up a major social taboo that gets in the way of taking photos of people; allowing oneself to stare is something we never do. Funny thing is that the more I try it in the street with or without a camera the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.
"Silence is a prerequisite for fascination, that state of heightened attention in which particular effects of meaning can be produced. First and foremost the photographer must be quiet, thereby relinquishing the responsibility to keep the subject amused with reassuring banter."
One of the hardest parts of taking a portrait is having to supply banter, to relax the subject. That and fiddling with the camera, the lights, the tripod and so on.
"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that's why he never understands anything."
I was discussing this subject this morning with my wife. Her opinion on it was that if you answer yes to the following question it must be; "would I hang it on my wall"? Now there is no arguing with that is there? Its a subjective question and it is a subjective answer.
Perhaps we should be asking a different question .....
Monday, September 27, 2010
We went down to Arles to see the photo exhibition Rencontres D'Arles a couple of days ago. This is an enormous exhibition. It is displayed in venues all over the city. The main attraction for me was exhibition of Ernst Haas's work. It was displayed in Cloitre Saint-Trophime, a beautiful venue and worthy of a visit in its own right. In fact I spent as much time admiring the cloister and soaking up the atmosphere here as I did in the exhibition.
Arles itself is worthy of a visit. It is bursting with history and culture. The people are colourful and friendly. The light here is beautiful and Vincent Van Gogh was fascinated by the area. I could see why. It must have been a real change from the stiffness and formality of Paris. The light makes the most ordinary of things seem glowing and significantly beautiful. Colour is everywhere.
The exhibition itself was on two floors. The lower floor was lit by artificial light and the upper by natural. The difference between them was noticeable. The artificial lighting caused direct reflections from the glass and made it more difficult to enjoy the work behind it. But this was only a minor inconvenience. Of the work itself, well what can I say? For one thing seeing the prints is very different to looking at them on a website. This was one of the pictures that was on display. The reproduction on the web site does not do it justice. The colours here are faded. In the printed image the blue colour is a deeper blue and the yellow is stronger. The motel sign seems to glow. What interested me in this work was the way the colours work together to give a 3 dimensional feel to the picture. It was easy to forget that I was looking at a flat piece of paper. Another thing that was apparent was that Haas in his composition was deliberate. Nothing was there in the frame by chance. One of the photos showed some old rusty tin cans and a bale of rusty wire on the ground in a field. At first look it appeared that was all that was there. There was a kind of "so what" feeling to the picture. Until you noticed the background, which was the top 1/3 of the frame. Here you could see trees in full autumn regalia, reds, yellows, golden browns all the colours that were in the rusting metal cans and wire.
On the introduction to the works the curators says this;
For some time now, however, the pictures that brought him a worldwide reputation have been derided by critics and curators as ‘too commercial’: for some reason he has come to be seen as too feel-good, too sentimental. As a result his prestige has declined in relation to that of later practitioners of colour, and in particular William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz. In parallel with his commissions, though, Haas never stopped working in a more personal vein—for himself, you might say—and here we find a totally different kind of sensibility: these images are edgier, freer, more ambiguous—in other words much more radical. With very few exceptions they were never published or exhibited during his lifetime, perhaps because Haas feared incomprehension or a lack of appreciation. And yet these are works of great complexity and stand up very well against anything that came after them. This exhibition offers a selection.
I found that a little sad. Perhaps it doesn't mean he kept these locked away but to me that is what comes across. Also I think it says something about the fashions in art and how fickle it is. It certainly says something about our need to compare two different things like apples and oranges and reach a subjective decision on which one is "better".
Trends aside the pictures were, in a too well used word - beautiful. Dare I say, and this is my own interpretation, they display a love of colour just for colours sake. On the TAOP course colour is a separate section all to itself. The colour circle is discussed as are colour relationships, cool colours, warm colours ect. This exhibition reminded me that intuitively we all "understand" colour. However not many people take the time to study it. We take it for granted. If Ernst Haas had a message for us it would be to look again.