Exercise:  Childhood memory

I was moved recently by the snow here in Istanbul.  We have more snow here than I have seen in a while and it really brought be back to the winters of my childhood in the Northwest of the United States.  My dad used to take us skiing each winter, which is something I miss a lot.

Yesterday I was scouting some areas for assignment 3 and trudging through the snow I was reminded of those winters and spent the rest of the afternoon looking for places to cross country ski in Europe.  So I decided to re-create an image I have of being in Idaho with my dad as we went cross country skiing.  In fact, the lack of access to nature here makes me really sad at times, so this image (and the weather) makes me feel warm and content.

I don’t have ski equipment here, so I borrowed some ski poles from a friend and made this image.  I love how the snow makes such a clean slate.  It has been such a difficult time in Istanbul lately, so I have welcomed the quiet, beauty, and cleansing nature of the heavy snow fall.

They aren’t ski tracks, but it does remind me of the ski trails we used to cut in the wild forests of my childhood landscape. The path as it disappears into the vanishing point so obviously represents a journey, but even if it sounds cliche, it is moments like this that I remember I am on a journey and that life has its high and low points, and it is important to connect with the ‘spaces in between’ as Abramovic says.

Snow
Snow

The other ones I took are not so much a memory, but more of the memory of my childhood still inhabiting my body. My childhood wasn’t always easy, which is why I struggle at times–always in private.  My public persona is very much together and projects someone who came from a ‘normal’ background.

In both images I was trying to portray a sense of disconnection from the body and the self and maybe a sense of feeling insignificant and not seen.

Disconnected
Disconnected

In the first image I shot into mirrored doors that I opened to give the distorted effect.  I was trying to go for a disembodied feel.

Insignificant
Insignificant

In this image I took a photograph of myself from the confines of my bed with the still life effect of the bathroom in the background. It makes me look very small and vulnerable. The cluttered framing here is like my mind when I can’t let the memories go, and I lose myself in all of it.

I have decided to go with self-portraits for assignment 3 that are more positive than the dark idea I had before.  I feel it represents more of who I am.  The darkness is also a part of me, but it isn’t something I embrace so I am going to try and shoot images based on Abramovic’s method.

Exercise: Washing Up by Nigel Shafran

I think it is kind of a peculiar question that the OCA has asked if I am surprised that a man took this photograph.  Why wouldn’t it be a man in this day and age? It is this very preconception that goes into the idea of gender.  In fact, this question makes me a little grumpy.  Living in a country where gender roles are quite defined and trying to raise two boys who do not grow up to think that there are set male and female roles is quite difficult and frustrating at times.  Also, as a teacher of teenagers, I am constantly trying to battle these notions only to be considered a ‘feminist’ as if it were a bad word.  So no, I was not surprised that a man took these images.  My husband does all of the dishes in our home, my dad, my step father (both quite traditional men) and my brother all do the washing up and other household chores like cooking, laundry, etc.

I think gender is something constructed by society and if we aren’t aware of it, it will rule everything we do, so yes, I do think gender contributes to the creation of an image because often we construct images that appeal to us or that are about us or that reflect our society and gender comes into it.  But the question is is what defines our gender?  Hormones are different, that is for sure, but domestic roles, clothing, make-up, hair styles, pay?  That is society.

I think photographing objects is an effective way to show something about a person.  Usually we have objects around us that we like, so in a way, the objects, they way they are placed, etc., do give some insight into the person.  Personal objects also give a view to a person that maybe is not present in the face or body.

I have seen some comments on other learning logs that some people just didn’t get this work.  I liked it for some reason. Again, why things resonate is a mystery to me, but I liked them because I think you can tell a lot about the people in this household from the images and since I am in the midst of full on domestic life (two kids, aged 11) these objects interest me. Plus, I like kitchens with good energy and light.

I am quite interested in photographing my own objects as a way of portraying an aspect of my personality, but I might wait for the final assignment to do so.  I am interested in this because I have been living abroad for 18 years now so I think the objects in my home say something about me especially since I am quite particular in what is in my home.

Exercise: Lee and Morrissey

I think as it is with any kind of art, some things speak to you and some things just don’t.

Lee’s work didn’t really do anything for me.  I can’t really pinpoint why, but it just seemed really pointless to me for some reason.  I don’t see how it is a comment on photographs being able to capture our essence.  She changed her identity to make these images, so I am not seeing the connection. I think after seeing so much of Sherman’s work this pales in comparison. Also, I think they are quite cynical.

However, Morrissey’s work interested me. I am not really sure why this did, and Lee’s didn’t, because essentially both of them are dawning a mask of sorts to make the images.  however, Morrissey’s work is more authentic–in a sense–because she puts herself into an already existing context so it makes it more interesting to me because the process she needed to go through I think is cool. Also, the other people in the images were staged, but only in the way that they knew they were taking a photograph with someone dressed like a loved on.  I like how some of them looked really tickled to be a part of the project.

If Morrissey approached me to do this project Front, I would definitely say yes!  Being in Turkey where sometimes I find the creative aspect of the culture quite oppressed, especially of late,  it would be a welcome diversion.

The other work I liked of hers was The Failed Realist. I liked the concept behind it (that children can’t use images to depict their world for some time due to fine motor skills) but also I liked that it was a project done with her daughter so in a way the work also becomes about her daughter and documenting an aspect of her childhood even though the child herself is not visually present, the workings of her hands are. I think in the future the child will be very interested in seeing this work.

My current focus, Marina Abramovic, famously said that artists can’t be mothers or that they hold women back.  In some ways I agree with her.  To do it right, children take a lot of time and effort and art also needs this.  So when I see women artists with children, I am immediately drawn to them because it is hard to do both.  I think though that children can give us a sense of grounding that is unique so Abramovic missed out on this.  Though knowing about her upbringing, I would say she is more avoiding her own childhood then actually having children.  She had it pretty rough as a child and sometimes we cannot recover from our childhoods sadly, so I think Abramovic was smart not to have children.

 

Exercise: Woodman, Brotherus, and Wearing

I really enjoyed this morning of research.  I already knew and like Woodman, but I wan really into Brotherus and was intrigued by Wearing’s sign images.

These images all inspired me quite a bit and got the creative juices flowing.  The task though now is to try and take my own photographs that don’t look like theirs!  It will be hard though because I really loved a number of these photographs.

I am quite drawn to all of Woodman’s images, and have taken a number of mirror images myself. Here is one:

Disconnected
Disconnected

As for Brotherus’ work, there are a few that I also had taken similar images myself.  Those are from her “Carpe Fucking Diem” Series which I really enjoyed.  One is titled “Science Class 2” that reminded me of this image of my own:

Self-portrait English Class
Self-portrait English Class

As for Wearing’s work, I wasn’t as drawn to hers, but I thought they were quite interesting.  I especially like the sign images and thought maybe I could work this into my re-work of Assignment 2.  I will have to see what my tutor thinks though, or just shoot with and without and see how it turns out.

I don’t think there is a sense of narcissism in these self-images.  Why would there be? I think it is quite interesting to shoot ones self, so I think these images are really quite interesting.

Indeed, these artists are working through things beyond the personal, even if it isn’t intentional because what they are photographing are issues of the human condition I think, so they are going to resonate with a number of people for a number of reasons.

One of my favorite in Brotherus’ series is “My Dog is Cuter Than Your Ugly Baby.” I really liked this because even though I am a parent myself, I am not a parent who thinks her kids are the best, the cutest, the smartest, etc. I am sure one day they will resent me for this though!  Here is the image:

my-dog-is-cuter-than-your-ugly-baby

I think she really captures that feeling that many of my single friends feel when people are so crazy about their kids, or about having kids.

These ladies have given me a lot to think about and now my job is to think how I can make a series of self-portraits that include all aspects of who I am, or maybe I will just show one…not sure yet.

Grab a Hunk of Lightening–Dorothea Lange

” It is a process of getting lost.”

What a woman and what a life.  Known for her “Migrant Mother”  portrait shot during the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange was a formidable  human being.

At first, I didn’t think that her work would be relevant to C and N since from what I know, Lange is known for her documentary work with the FSA.  However, as I saw more of her images, it became clear that she was able to hit that ‘pregnant moment’ mentioned in the Cindy Sherman film.  Her images do tell of a narrative, but also they highlight the ‘universality’ of the work and focus on the human condition.  Such beautiful images.

Throughout the film, she comments a few times about getting lost and having a purely visual experience.  I am happy to say that I know exactly what she means.  When I was in Morocco last April without my family, I was able to get lost and just see what was before me.  It was an experience I will never forget and envy sometimes back in the hustle and bustle of life.

Another part of her life that resonated with me was the fact that she had  a family to take care of and especially with her first husband, his career came first.  While my life and partner are nothing like hers, I feel that sense of being a woman and mother who tries to keep it all happening for everyone.  Though Dorothea is reported to have not been the most hands on of mothers, which is maybe why she was such a good photographer.  She took the time to carve this time out to pursue her passion, something I struggle with, but am working on it.

When she met Paul Strand she commented on how he worked and was so ‘intent on his purposes and so solitary…because he was not living a woman’s life.’ What a poignant and spot on thing to say.

She also talks about the ‘mental disengagement’ needed for photography and to only become an observer.  I also feel this is important and is why I usually don’t take photographs when my kids are around (unless it is of them) because I can’t fully engage as an observer.

Some of her most amazing photos were not from the FSA, though they are an amazing body of work, especially the darned stockings that she photographed that told without telling, the difficulties of poverty during the Great Depression.  Her images from Manzanar, know being circulated around the internet in this Post-Truth, Trump era emerging in the US  important but also her images of covered women whilst she was abroad, are remarkable.

One of the narrators in the film commented on Lange’s ability to tell a story through the human form, the body.  I loved this idea.  In the media we see disembodied women used for the sake of selling sex, yet she photographed a foot, a hand, a silhouette, and the effect was moving. In fact, it gave me some inspiration for assignment 3, to use my body to tell a story.

The last words she said on this earth, were to her 2nd husband.  She said: “Isn’t it a miracle that it comes at just the right time.”

Who knows what she meant, be it death, or the image, or life, or people, regardless, what a thing to say before taking her last breath.

Source: Dyanna Taylor. (2014). Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening. [Online Video]. 24 August 2014. Available from: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/dorothea-lange-full-episode/3260/. [Accessed: 6 December 2016].

Cindy Sherman and Narrative

It is only recently that I have come to appreciate Sherman’s work.  At first to me they seemed too contrived, too constructed, even too pessimistic.  But now after having done some research into this type of staged photography, I have come to like her work.

In the MoMa interviews a light bulb went on regarding  narrative in photography.  Jumping ahead to assignment 5, I didn’t understand why were given the option to make a single photograph when the umbrella theme of the course is context and narrative.  Through the different videos of artists and curators talking about Sherman’s work, I learned that narrative can be seen in the before and after of the photograph.  For example, in her film still #60, she is clearly in the process of lighting a cigarette, however, something off camera makes her pause.  So there is an implied before and after in this image that creates a narrative.

Cindy Sherman #60

The other is #466.  In this, there is a ‘true narrative and a darker narrative’ and the darker narrative comes from the cheap, plastic pink shoes and the varicose vein stockings. It tells us a story yet also retains a certain amount of mystery, like any good narrative would do. Joanna Burton talks about the photographs being ‘the pregnant moment’ with no need for the narrative since there is a beginning middle and end in her images.

Cindy Sherman #466
Cindy Sherman #466

In the MoMa interviews, people were talking about how Cimdy Sherman has forever changed the art world and how important this work is.  I still don’t see that, because I think the work of Dorothea Lange is more important because of the content, but I enjoy Sherman’s work and definitely her creativity and technical skills.

 

Source: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1154