The problem with Ren Hang’s book

The problem with Ren Hang’s latest book, is that it’s so good! – It’s almost exclusively photographs and are the last set authorized by Ren Hang himself.  There will never be any more in this vein.  I’ve only sampled a few pages because when I get to the end, it’s the end.

So I read with caution and I promise not to ‘over excite’ myself with new material. I will learn to read with antici…

…pation and view just a few pages every and now and then and appreciate his work for longer.

Visit his website, (http://renhang.org) put his name in every search engine you come across and don’t forget to look at his beautiful, playful and innocent yet evocative, constructed and dirty photographs.

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Full Length Photography Documentaries

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From Ren Hang’s Website (Photography 2016) (Words below from poem 2017)
I’m back
You still stand there
I’m back again
You still stand there

Do you find it difficult sometimes to share your love of photography when your friends and family don’t share your interest as much as you do?

How do you tell them that without photographs, the world would never see the struggles of marginalized people, perceived by the general populace as ugly, outcast or irrelevant?

When you can’t verbally speak comfortably about death, sex, mental health, drugs, sexuality and abuse, what comes to the rescue?

When you’re such a geek because the philosophy of photography interests you so much , see their eyes glaze over after 2 minutes when explaining jux between Ren Hang’s photographs and poems.

When you’re excited at the reasons behind why people are compelled to create and share photographs and are genuinely interested and surprised with other peoples work

When you know that photography can be used to answer and discuss so many questions while opening up a treasure trove of new questions and imagery sometimes never heard or seen before.

When you know you’re just different, in this kind of sense..

We take photographs, we read about photographs, we read about people taking and reading about photographs and we want to know and understand more about photographs. How very meta.

So take some time to yourself, put your book down and delve into these documentaries.  These videos highlight our interest, demonstrate why we enjoy what we do, explores the craftsmanship of some of the great photographers while showing how diverse our photography community is.

To stay up to date, this list will be continually updated – as of 13 August 2017, there’s 14 videos over 9 hours.

What video’s are missing? – Are they online? Why should we watch them? – Please let us know!

Ren Hang: The Art of Taboo

Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame

William Eggleston Documentary: In The Real World

The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)

Joel Meyerowitz 1981 Street Photography

“Reely and Truly” – A Film By Tyrone Lebon

A Day in The Life of Andy Warhol

Robert Mapplethorpe

Vile Bodies Part 1 – Naked

 

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Without My Eye

Without The Eye

Without my eye I’m in the gutter
And without my mind I cannot see
Pick up the lens and press the shutter
Shoot what I love, what I perceive

Without the heart there is no story
And without the story I’m horrified
My imagination, my laboratory
Then work it over, ’till I’m satisfied

Before I came, I was nothing
And without production I can’t live
I show the world I amount to something
This is my work, my narrative

I’ve woken up, I’m here forever
And I do these cycles all the time
Explained for you, it’s for my pleasure
That’s why I wrote this dirty rhyme!

Why do you even try to stop me?
From doing things I need to do?
Get out the way of this tsunami
And give me credit when its due

Every one of my creations
They are something to behold
No fears or doubts, nor hesitations
I’m breaking through my threshold.

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Why Photography?

Road to nowhere
Road to Nowhere by Tom Robson

Entitled ‘My Life Is About To Change‘ the last meaningful article here is over 5 months ago.  It’s an excitable announcement that I’m going to university to study Photography & Video suggesting I was about to start sharing ideas, work and articles as I begin my degree.

Like many people, I get lazy.  I read about photography, I generate ideas for my own photo projects and I’m excited that I’m starting university soon. In the past 5 months though, when it comes to actually taking photographs or conducting research, or writing about photography, I’m not so good.  I’m not particularly skilled at writing, (in fact, I’m having an assessment soon to determine if I’m dyslexic) which is why I need to do this more and do it online in the open.

I’d love to promise a worthwhile and meaningful photo essay once a week, I’d love to share every useful and decent article or book I read.  I’d love to write more and share my research.  I want to do these things, but I’m no good at the process or routine of it – it doesn’t make any sense, does it? – All of this will become automatic in a couple of months, so I’m trying to give myself a head start, share more and try to do this more regularly.

Where do I start? – I guess the most obvious question is…

Why Photography?

Photography isn’t about holding a camera, taking a picture and sharing photos, that’s what the majority of people do every day with their smartphones.  You could be forgiven if you believe that the purpose of taking photos is to share them on social media, whether or not they are faked selfies or emotional acts of expression.  For the most part, the cameras which most of us carry every day are used to take photographs.  There is another group of people, we use our cameras to create photographs.

This is an important distinction because photographs are created for different purposes, they are created for art, for documentary reasons, for memories, for sharing on social media, to sell products, to take photographs of dead babies, the list goes on and on.

What is always evident is that photographs are created for a reason and I’m interested in the reasons behind the photographs.  This is why I can look at photographs of tower blocks or people pushed up against windows as works of art.

Maternal Line

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Olive Cotton 2017 winning work: Maternal Line by Justine Varga.

Justine Varga caused outrage when she won $20,000 in a portraiture competition with her work ‘Maternal Line’.  In her photograph, she captures her grandmother’s portrait.

The controversy appears to stem from people being offended that her portrait did not conform to their idea of what a portrait is.  Photography is subjective, it can mean different things to people.

A photographic portrait isn’t necessarily the image of a person.  Isn’t it better when the photograph is a real portrayal of the person? – Anyone can snap a photo, some people take great shots, others take great portraits while some really think about how to portray an individual using photographic technology.

People are upset because they were expecting the winning photograph to be an image of a person, they may look at Varga’s work and say “my 4 year could have done that” but you know what, your 4 year old didn’t, and neither did you!

As Justine Varga’s grandmother was testing pens on a sheet of paper, she noticed the action and wanted to ‘capture’ a portrait of her Gran doing this.  With so many photographs (or portraits) already, she decided to explore and capture the essence of her Gran, rather than a traditional photograph.  She asked her grandmother to test her pens on a 4×5 negative and after it was developed, you see her scribes, her movements, an imprint of her hand and even some saliva stains.

  • Is it a photo? Yes, a negative film with an imprint was developed and printed in colour.
  • Is it a portrayal of someone? Yes, there is a likeness of someone together with evidence of their DNA.
  • Is it a traditional portrait? No, it violates everything we have come to expect from traditional portraiture photography.

By these definitions, Maternal Line is a portrait of Justine Varga’s grandmother.  The sense of a traditional portrait is replaced by a different sense of a portrait, that doesn’t make it any less of a portrait.  Instead, the photograph has pushed the boundary between what is ordinary and what is unexpected, it has made people talk about what a photograph is and further advances Photography as Art (whether people like it or not)!

Found

Aside from Photography as Art, (or any visual representation) the nature of photography is interesting and in this example we can explore the connections between different acts of picture making and how we are connected to it at all times.

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Excerpt from Found by Carlos Pacheco.

In Carlos Pacheco’s ‘Found’ project, photographs found online are matched with CCTV footage of the same time and location which provide an additional recording of the moment the original photograph was taken.  What I find interesting in Pancheco’s example is that people are taking photographs for their own purposes and at some point in the future, a visual artist is linking the CCTV footage to the snapshot.  You have seen a further copy of the original photograph here and you are now, forever connected to the girl on the road.  Work begets work, art begets art, how very meta.

An hour of footage is removed every hour from the Abbey Road CCTV Camera, there is a time limit to how many images can be found and displayed in this manner.  Once the photograph and footage are linked together, a new record is created of the event, stored on a different server before the footage is deleted forever.  Adding to, and extending the life of the original footage.  Big Brother is watching you, but you may not realize that photographers and artists are using the data to create new things.

 

The case of Heather Whitten

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Photograph by Heather Whitten

The mininterpretation (or subjectivity) of photography is another reason why I enjoy the genre.  In November 2014, Photographer Heather Whitten posted a picture to Facebook of a naked child cradled in the lap of a naked man.  It caused controversy, some people saw nude images between children and adults as offensive and others saw a beautiful bond between a sick child and his father.  Facebook even removed the photograph because it didn’t meet the ‘expected standards’

She has also been investigated for child neglect because an online user reported her to local authorities.  Read the full story here and here and here, I don’t believe you’ll find any reason for her to be charged for child neglect.

Other interesting reasons for enjoying photography is understanding where it came from, how it’s impacted our world and what it might be capable of in the future.

This is why I enjoy photography, it’s why I believe there is no such thing as a bad photograph and I hope my own photographic work will transcend what is deemed acceptable by other people’s definitions of the genre.

What does photography mean to you? – Why do you like it? What is the best example of your reasons?

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Uni Reading List (Photography & Video)

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The 7 (out of 85) books I already own.

Last week, during my Uni interview, I asked for the reading list in advance and they provided.

There’s 85 books in total, 7 I already have and 3 which I can’t find.  I’ve made a public Amazon list so anyone interested can see what’s ahead or use the list for photo and video book recommendations.  Notwithstanding, the library should have most, if not all of these titles.

I’m not the best reader, and I suspect it will take a long time to get through them.  I should learn learn to read faster and find a logical order for them so knowledge can build progressively.

My life is about to change

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It’s been awhile since I’ve used this blog and a lot has changed since my last post in April 2016.  I’ve decided to learn more about photography and will be joining the creative teams at De Montfort University in October.  Since finishing photography courses at college (2 years ago) there has been a gap, I feel the need to learn more and in a structured way.  As I learn, I’ll be sharing ideas and projects here, at TJRFoto and formally at my website.

I enjoy reading about photography & taking photographs because of their ability to communicate ideas, stories & emotions without conversation or spoken language. I find it necessary to photograph because I enjoy the process & satisfaction that I am creating something unique with meaning which can last.  For example, I searched for additional meaning in my own work. Charles Grogg has said that damaging or altering his photographs bring his attention to them once again” (Regrowth: 2012).

In his images, he manipulates printed photographs adding connotations to his original work. In “Road to Nowhere“, I damaged a set of photos & reshot the results. Both projects talk about changes & opportunities we face & the piece encourages me to develop myself.

My work is personal & expressive (and sometimes I’m screaming). I like to work on topics, which have deeper meaning.

For “Here I Am“, you are invited into comfort zones. As I saw the public respond to these images when they were exhibited in 2014, I found myself in agreement that photography encourages voyeurism. I will ask people why they like photographs & some cannot answer the question, yet there they are, looking at Photographs.

My work: “Self Harm” divides an individual into two separate selves; The resulting domestic violence photographs show that self-harm is real harm and aggression, there is a victim & a perpetrator. “The Pernicious Periodic” is a narrative of despair & the desire to change. It is a parody of Dash Snow in a bathtub filled with Polaroid photographs.

Photographs (stories) are being created in such a specific way, which persuades you into a similar way of thinking (or arguing) about the content. I enjoy the apparent permanence of Photography & when I read about its impact through history & in modern society, I am stimulated into creating my own work, that provides a platform to highlight subjects, which concern me.

I also enjoy photography to reflect on myself, some of my work is autobiographical.  Photography is interesting because it’s language is universal & speaks to people from all backgrounds & abilities. My favourite photographers change over time, however core examples are: Phillip Toledano, Richard Billingham, Robbert Mapplethorpe, Steven Klein, David Lachapelle and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Photographs have changed my perspective on the world, I am gladly surprised what hidden meanings can be found in them.

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Left to our own devices

Technology has a capacity to make us feel isolated and lonely.  “Left to Our Own Devices”, is inspired by Banksy, who vandalised a youth club wall with a painting depicting two contemporary and smartly dressed individuals apparently embracing yet looking directly at their smart phones. (Banksy: 2004).  The image is familiar, it’s near identical both in colour, fashion and simulated lighting to Phillip Toledano’s image of a disenchanted couple staring anxiously at their devices for the May 2012 Atlantic article “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely”.  (Atlantic: 2012)

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Left to our own devices takes online social isolation and places it in context with a photographic portrait.  In these photographs, the devices themselves isolate the subject with its ‘captivating bubble’ yet the photographer also is present.  In these photographs, we see a reality of human-machine interaction and a void, surrounding the subject.

 

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Typical commercial portraits intend to flatter its subject whereas conceptual portraiture is designed to entice you into the story.  There is a certain composure, often ignored yet seen daily which has only surfaced within the past few years.  This is what Toledano and Banksy have suggested with the message of preference to digital interaction than that of personal.

 

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It is interesting to see how people really look when they are ‘engaged’; they see not the device or the technology in their hand but their connections to friends combined with new and old strangers, motionless as expressions and body language cease.

 

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Edvard Munch originally pencilled his artworks both vertically and horizontally providing the central character with the illusion of motion.  “The Scream” was painted in nature, underneath a blazing red sky placing it in fear of its surroundings or of desperation from isolation. (Prelinger: 2010)

 

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Left to our own devices releases an inner scream, silent – kept still by the inaction of the subject while encapsulating them within its source of light to the exclusion of all else.

 

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The stillness of the photographs is also a reference to the passing of time.  John Berger argues that original paintings (I infer photographs here) are silent and still in a sense that information never is.  (Berger: 1972).

 

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We can remain static, fixed within the bubble.  Away from the physical, away from the vanity of outward appearance and existing behind a screen, true expressions secluded, sitting within a void.

 

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This is our portrait for the duration of time online.  How we really appear on social media yet how we’re perceived to those around us, in our comfortable and social environments.  Portraits evolve and we no longer show our most flattering side to the photographer.  The tangible self is lost to what’s inside, a mental space that no longer requires our bodies.

 

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The world will go on without us, in fact Jean Baudrillard has spoken when humans disappear, when reality is left behind, our bodies are merely a phantom limb. (Baudrillard: 2007).  Once the photographer has identified the subject, they have already disappeared and what is left behind is a malady of the self which is never projected online.

 

Tom Robson Left to our own devices 10

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Obliviousness of users purchasing fruit and robots.
Yet unable keep to keep up the payments for their focus.
Enrolled into a clique and don’t know who the top dog is.
How low will we go, don’t you know it isn’t joy this brings?

Kids are taunting other kids for the fun of it.
They don’t use stance or wit, they just switch it on and put it in their fist.
They’re trying to get in the loop but can’t, and they are dismissed.
We condemn because we know, and we revel its killing them.

Why are so many people addicted? This shouldn’t have to be.
Is this us now, the human race, behaving naturally?
This is the information age, check the gauge,
We’ve got to upstage, while on-stage.

Living apart from friends, never making amends.
Eating each other alive just to survive the nine to five.
Every waking moment is on the screen, it’s routine.
Spending all our currency in front of us, a slot machine.

Trolling, complications and accusation.
Dividing our people, freedom of speech is in fluctuation.
We use it peace yet we contact the police.
We thought we got freedom, we thought emancipation.

Masses of sheep are together with hate.
Deceptions and indecision, no department of state.
The clock is ticking, but there is no ending,
But we will survive to see another day!

People being born today, already plugged in and afflicted.
Family roles and values are so conflicted.
Take out my battery or plug me in.
I’m busy on Twiter, this is my skin.

We’re disconnected from us, we’re hyper-connected to strangers.
Whatever happened to exchanging with your neighbours?
Disillusioned ourselves with the screen of pleasure!
And the damage that we’ve done will last forever.

黄色的大背景下

There are people who are scared to become a photograph and there are others who are proud to become one. Those who are scared either don’t appreciate what a photograph can represent or have a sense of vanity they don’t fully understand.  There are others who wish to participate in a photograph with potential implications, such like the Yellow Backdrop campaign.

There’s something to be said about metadata, some view it as about about privacy, security and big brother collecting data which we all share in real time on social media and in private emails. We treat the subject openly, or naively exhorting ourselves from the subjection of photography.

Yet, simply posing for a photograph in this particular demonstration (regardless of political persuasion) can bring an arrest because the police are collecting surreptitious photos for later scrutiny and identity matching. – Analogue metadata?

The act of participating here is a harmless act of support, yet in Hong Kong it’s an act of courage and defiance.

Poisoned Paradise

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Tears dripping with poison
gently corroding our minds.

Then you drink them
like it’s nectar
and the world becomes alive.

But our minds close
we collapse
and the ground embraces us.

We are left
in this strange town
called reality.

New Sketchbook

I’ve stopped writing about photography for a while and a birthday present has spurred me on to start up again.  The present was a book by Jürgen Teller, but that’s for another time.

 

My Sketchbooks from earlier courses.
My Sketchbooks from earlier courses.

It’s going to be much easier to write about photography because of the motivation, my next course starts soon (Level 3 in Photography).  My portfolio will change and I’m using the blog as a digital sketchbook, not just for original work, It’s easier to access than a paper book too 😉  So they’ll be short bursts from me alongside research links I’ve used, test shots, similar work etc..

In the last two years, I had an undeceive tendency toward my work and changed my mind several times before (sometimes during) the work & I’ve not been as busy as I’d like to be (see why here) so this year I’m avoiding that.  Three working titles so far are Music, Humiliation and Wake up to child abuse.

Music will combine praise/criticism for the #Selfie generation with abstract-portraiture and music with photography history.

Wake up to child abuse is a project I wanted to do a while ago (Pre Jimmy Savile) and after the child abuse cases over the past few years it won’t work because most people have already woken up to it.  It’s an important issue though and I’d like to do something conceptual with it.

Humiliation will be a fun project, but that’s a secret for now!