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

Documentary Image

There are plenty of photography documentaries available online which span different genres, period in time and subject and I enjoy it when I find relevant, feature length and interesting films, which help to educate as a change from books or blogs.

When I’ve finished watching a documentary I’ve particularly enjoyed, I’ll update this post with a link to the video. (There’s a twitter thread too). As of 28th August there’s 15 videos around 10 hours.

If you know people who aren’t into photography as much you are, and would like to introduce them to your passion, you could send them your favourite from this list as an introduction to the Photograph as Art.

Born from Science and Art, what follows are stories of imagination, of playing with light and technology or changing worlds and societies. Without photographs, would we see the struggles of marginalized people, perceived by the general populace as ugly, outcast or irrelevant?

Without photography, how would we illustrate issues around death, sex, mental health, drugs, sexuality and abuse?

Do you simply enjoy pictures or are you intrigued at, or maybe excited at the reasons behind why people are compelled to create and share photographs? Are you genuinely interested and surprised with other peoples work?

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.

Take some time out from your reading, delve into these documentaries instead. 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.

What’s missing? Do you have a favourite? Is it online? – Why should we watch it? – 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

The Wizard of Photography (George Eastman ‘the Man who created Kodak’ documentary). Part 1 below, be sure to watch Part 2 and Part 3

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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 we all do every day with our smartphones.  Most of us today assume the 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.  But there is more to photography that this, we 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.

 

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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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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Photographer’s Interview Part II

November-2012

Describe your approach to photography?

Initially, I tend to take a chaotic approach to photography, often thinking of a story to tell or an idea to share.  They can be from my own experiences or emotions, current events or a different way of looking at content matter.  Quite often, these ideas never materialise as expected.  The ideas may be sound but photographically could be too complex to depict within a single image or set of images.

Once an idea is formulated and acceptable as a photographic set, I capture a few test shots to review the idea then run with it and I’m normally satisfied with the results.  I’m very much a ‘think about the photographs’ person which could be a downfall as it can sometimes take a long time to actualise them.  Sometimes never, however I’m always fond of the work.

What themes or concepts have you explored in your photography this year and why?

As in the previous two years, I have been dark literally and photographically.  In “left to our own devices” I represent the omnipresence of mobile internet, in a world in which we are connected to evermore people, the body seems to act like a phantom limb, requiring just a thumb to interact with ‘digital people’

Other themes considered were the absurdity of confirming to political correctness.  This was difficult to present photographically, as political correctness doesn’t teach people to be mindful of problems in the way they think, it simply attempts to censor speech to avoid offending people.  As such, the project is on hold and may surface again in the future.

Austerity under the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition Government was documented in an attempt to highlight that how people cope, or do not cope with Austerity.  Instead, what was photographed was the forgotten items and areas which have become part of and not enhanced by their presence.  Again this project (Austerity 2015) was shelved as more source material is required to effectively demonstrate the projects intention.

As chaotic as I am, photography as a practice and as a format is in a state of flux.  This is demonstrated with two part project ‘Coming or Going‘ and ‘Road to Nowhere‘.  By re-evaluating past projects they become my focus once more.  By manipulating printed photographs, I add further dimensionality to the same ideas I regress  to within some of my projects.  This practice ensures photographic work can be more than what they were originally intended for.  Sometimes, if feels like I am on a road to nowhere.

What artists and/or photographers have most influenced your work this year and why?

Marc De Groot, Steven Klein and David LaChapelle are inspiration for staged photographs.  In their photographs, you see clearly that the camera lies, scenes are deliberately over-processed or hyper-real to create a sense of fiction.

I enjoy the photographs of David Moore and Richard Billingham due to the content and aesthetic of their photographs, something which I hope to achieve when ‘Austerity 2015’ is complete.

Phillip Toledano was another influencer for his work on the editorial ‘Is Facebook Making Us Lonely’ article from The Atlantic.  Using his images as a source of inspiration, I adapted his visual technique and lit similar scenes using ambient light from the devices only.  I connect well with his images as there are parallels between his life and mine which become apparent in ‘Days with my Father

What is the most important thing that you have learned about photography this year?

Not every project should be and can be a photo project however when ideas are thought though, they should at least be shot.  It’s important to shoot what you love, what you know, to plan ahead and set achievable goals.  However, no image at all is better than a bad one.

If you could do anything to improve your images, what would it be?

To read and digest more information on Art and Documentary Photography and to be able to transfer that knowledge into my own work.  This is already a practice however more reading will always be advantageous provided I can use the knowledge practically.

Typically, I use natural or ambient lighting die to the nature of my photographs.  This is restricting in part because areas may not be correct lit and I’ll need to plan on the fly.  My immediate priority is to become more adept with lights, flashes and studio rigs.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may also enjoy..

Photographer’s Interview Part I

…Broken

Unicorn (Behind The Scenes)

Photographs which should have been

and

Left to our own devices

Photography Exhibition: DISTORTED VISION

Distorted Vision Poster

 

Following from the successes of previous Exhibitions “The Eleventh Hour” and “Finding Focus” this year, Award in Photography Artists present: DISTORTED VISION.

Distorted Vision celebrates the final year of our collaborations together over three years as our qualifications are achieved and we are delighted to invite you to our exhibition which is held from 22nd to 26th June 2015 at The Old Library Café & Galleries, 54 Belvoir Street, Leicester, LE1 6QL (map).

The artist’s work on display contains a diverse range of photographic genres including portraiture, self-portraiture, street, documentary, still-life, conceptual, art photography, landscape and post-photography.  The artists also use a wide variety of techniques both in camera and by digital manipulation to produce the work.

Our teacher, Zoe Van-De-Velde has said “There was no intention to just teach students how to use their camera and to ask them to take the standard shots. Their work should, though their creative process be a reflection of them. By this method the students could, over the time of the course become themselves though their images and ultimately forget their tutor’s existence.”

Distorted Vision, presented by the Award in Photography Artists is a free entry, open exhibition featuring creative works by Doug Smith, Estelle Keeber, Gavin Whyman, Krupa Patel, Tom Robson and Zoe Van-De-Velde.

Of my own work, three titles shall be presented, “Left to our own devices”, “Road To Nowhere” and “ID²”

We do hope you are able to attend, should you live or work in this area.  Samples of my work can be seen at my portfolio: www.tomrobson.com.  If you have a project and feel my style is suitable for your needs, please contact me.  Selected artworks are available to purchase and I am available for hire.

Photography Exhibition: Finding Focus

Presenting, “Finding Focus” a photography exhibition” held between 20th June to 4th July 2014 at Flint Hall, Belvoir Street, Leicester.

The work is a celebration of the projects and achievements of the Award in Photography Artists as their qualifications are achieved.  The artist’s work on display contains a diverse range of photographic genres including portrait, self portrait, street, documentary, still life, conceptual, art photography and landscape. The artists also use a wide variety of techniques both in camera and through digital manipulation to produce the work.

 

Ways of Seeing

In order to undertake additional research across a breadth of photographers and photography genres, a forthcoming project will “steal” the ideas of fellow students in the hope of providing insight into the way they and I perceive the same subject matter. The intention is to escape beyond my comfort zone and using foreign ideas may serve as a mechanism to pursue this.

An original intention of the project is to highlight that ideas cannot be stolen because the method and creativity which lies behind the artist is different to another. Images are stolen all the time on the internet, laws have recently been passed which attempt to provide compensation to an original artist whose ‘orphan works’ are stolen and used online (The Instagram Act). (Available at The National Archives)

I find it interesting that one can take inspiration from another and recreate a derivate or new work of art. What’s the difference between stealing or copying an idea or paying homage to another artist? Is there even a definition for this and would the victim or celebrated individual agree to the fact they’ve been ripped off Daily Post (2013) or respected? BBC (2009) .

We all see the world in different ways, and this may become the foundation of the project, the message I wish to portray, it’s purpose is to highlight that it’s possible to recreate without theft nor homage, just by simply seeing things in different ways. Berger (1972)

Ordinarily, people cannot learn new subjects, or develop in their skill set unless risks are taken and attempts are made to trial something new. For me, it is the reason for undertaking further education in photography.

The above image is a sample shot based on the idea of a retired mathematics teacher, who is undertaking further education in photography. The original idea of the student was to rearrange clothes pegs in precise and specific geometric patterns. I had not seen her original images nor spoke with her about her idea however, after arranging pegs into a geometric shape myself and taking a few shots, I was satisfied with the result. This increased my determination to use other people’s ideas for my own project and the development on my own part is to do so, without stealing, without homage and without offence. If offence is taken, it’s theirs to take.

I also wish to research the artists which my fellow students have researched as research is an area I am lacking. I am unfamiliar with so many photographers and artists; it’s difficult to appreciate both photographs and photographers. I hope that by researching their inspiration, at least eleven different photographers and/or genres I will benefit by enhancing my own understanding of photography while appreciating both the joy and difficulty in creating photographs.

I believe the project has a strong concept, which I can demonstrate, yet the challenge is to ensure the project is not simply a collection of random images based on an idea, or a collection of ideas. Even if the viewer does not understand, or care about the concept, they must find the final set of images aesthetically pleasing when presented together. They should speak for themselves without the need for introduction. Susan Sontag (1977) The thought of invading their ideas with my own photographs, featuring a part of me in some format appeals. I intended to conceptually belong within the picture, not just to sequestrate the idea.

Each photograph will use its own technique which may harm the visual impact of the overall project. For instance, an idea for a single image is to take dozens of photographs then rearrange them into a final image, not different to David Hockney’s photo collages. How could I unify this concept with the above image of pegs?

I welcome the challenge, not just for the additional research and burying myself in other peoples works, for my own research in understanding how very different concepts can belong together in conceptual thought.

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