352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Lecture 8 (Practitioner Talk by John Blakemore and a One-to-One Tutorial with Anthony Luvera)

On Wednesday 11th March 2015, I attended another day dedicated to the 352MC Professional Photographic Practice or Final Major Project (FMP) module. To start the day off, we had a practitioner talk by John Blakemore before attending one-to-one tutorials with Anthony Luvera. Unfortunately, however, after sitting through a majority of John Blakemore’s talk (discussed further below) and having a one-to-one tutorial with Anthony Luvera, although there was an option to take part in tutorial workshops with John Blakemore, I unfortunately had to rush off due to previous personal commitments. Please therefore find the notes that I took throughout the section of the day that I was able to attend (including the lecture and the one-to-one session), below:

 

Practitioner Talk by John Blakemore:

Within this talk, John discussed his practice including his photographic inspiration as well as different project he has completed. Unfortunately through, as there was a lot of students that needed to talk to Anthony throughout the day, it therefore meant that my one-to-one session was scheduled at the beginning of the talk, resulting in me missing the first 15 minutes of John’s lecture. Thankfully, however, my course colleague Aaron Sehmar kindly took notes for me during the section that I missed. Below you will therefore be able to see a copy of Aaron’s notes, followed by the notes that I took upon my return:

Aaron’s Notes:

  • John Blakemore began photography with no knowledge or education
  • Whilst in the National Service in Libya, his mother sent him a copy of the exhibition “The Family of Man” which was what sparked his interest in becoming a photographer
  • He went to Black Star Agency and started freelancing, but soon decided that he didn’t want to be a documentary photographer
  • He started managing the Taylor Brother studios in 1960 until 1964
  • He looked at Indian art and used the fact that they lacked in chiaroscuro and shadow as inspiration towards his photography – his lighting become more evenly lit and less dramatic
  • He then went to study at Lanchaster College, and as soon as he had completed the course, he was asked to teach the evening classes
  • In the early 1960’s he began a photographic project in Hillfields, Coventry, where he lived for a part of his childhood
  • John Blakemore – “I’m interested in the way that the camera allows us to see a world that we can’t see with our eyes
  • Whilst experiencing a creative block, he decided to go to Wales where he actually shot an exhibition in a weekend before spending the next 10 years shooting landscapes

 

My Notes (Once I had returned):

  • John Blakemore sees himself as an image maker rather than a photographer – he has always made images
  • He used the idea of significance of familiarity where he would visit the location two or three times a week
  • What he tried to capture within his photographs was the energy elicited from the landscapes
  • When he was commissioned by the Art’s Council, he completely forgot all of his rules of working which resulted in him taking a year to capture two successful images
  • He has rituals when photographing within the landscape – he liked to be out before sunrise to photograph the first glimpse of the light
  • He used to photograph the landscape in all types of weathers as he suggested that all weathers place their own magic on the landscapes
  • He immersed himself in the landscape as he thought that this created a completely different image than just observing the landscape
  • He also enjoyed capturing strange ominous shapes
  • He mainly photographed wind and water within the landscape as he thought that these represent the energy of the landscape
    • He started to focus on photographing wind when he wanted to create images of a large expanse of a landscape
    • He spent a lot of time watching the affect the wind had on the landscape
  • He called his talk “Re-Invention” as he reinvented himself (as an image maker) on numerous occasions over the years
    • He went from landscapes to documentary photograph
    • He made this transition from landscapes to documentary as he was terribly aware of his species affect on the landscape
  • He began to make still life images
    • He wanted to make simple and descriptive images
    • May be good to look at for my FMP as I am considering experimenting with still lives

John Blakemore Still Life

  • He began photographing thistles
    • He photographed them using a still life style, then photographed them representationally as he thought that they resembled the aspects of energy that he was interested in

John Blakemore Tulip

  • “Celebrations”
    • This collection was based on tulips but it didn’t actually focus on tulips (even though it was the main subject matter), but he used them to represent the methodology of his image making
  • John Blakemore – “One is not in control of the meanings that they find in your images… Anyone can invent their own meaning.”
  • He loves the silver print and has tried to extend the idea of what a silver print could represent throughout his photography
    • The silver print intrigues him because the printed images appear differently to how they’re expected to look (on occasion they can appear to symbolize that of a pencil drawing)
  • “Fragments of a History”
    • He looked into the slice of time through a particular place – he would dig up different objects in his garden to explore and reconstruct the history of his garden
    • He would make the still life, remove the object, then photograph the surface that they lay on using a double-exposure technique, as a way of enhancing the textures of both the subject and the surface

John Blakemore Fragments of a History - Double Exposure

  • Tulipmania – 1700’s
    • “Was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania
    • John Blakemore thought that for the past couple of years he was a “Tulip Maniac” so wanted to try and create a piece of work symbolizing this period of time

Tulipomania, No. 2, 1994

 

Hand Made Books:

  • Always make little books (between 1984-2012)
  • “This is the Book of Schmaltz” – uses text to anchor the meaning of the photographs
    • Could be good to briefly look into for FMP as I am considering the us of accompanying text to contextualize my piece of work
  • “The Small Window”

 

Colour Practice:

  • Uses colour negatives, then takes the negative to boots to get “M prints” before making them into a book (he has never used colour printing himself)
  • He doesn’t plan anything, he doesn’t make anything, he becomes responsive to the aspects that are presented in front of him
  • He is very aware of the chaos that moves around him
  • “Cutting the Light” by Authur Zuzonk – “What is this invisible thing called light that reveals everything but itself?”
    • This is a quote that John Blakemore has been using as inspiration for his most recent works regarding light

 

One-to-One Tutorial with Anthony Luvera:

In this one-to-one session with Anthony Luvera, I simply discussed with him the stage that I was currently at within my FMP before receiving general feedback and suggestions from him. All of the feedback he gave me within this session can be found below, along with some of my responses or further notes (which can be found in italics):

To start of the one-o-one tutorial, I simply showed him a contact sheet that I had created of a test shoot I had completed the following week regarding the compositional structure of my photographs (which has been included below).

Compositional Test Shoot Contact Sheet

  • When discussing your project, you interchanged the phrases methodology and technique when looking at the compositional element of your photographs – which is it?
    • When discussing the composition, on reflection I think that it is actually a methodology rather than a technique as I think that the phrase “technique” refers to things like double-exposures and deliberate blurring
  • So, looking at this particular composition that you have chosen, I was just wondering why you are using this particular composition?
    • Why are you using such a controlled methodology?
    • It’s a very static approach – why are you using it to represent the pathways that you are looking at?
    • I’m not suggesting that these techniques are wrong, I just want to know the reasons behind the developmental decisions; I want to be able to understand the context and the concept surrounding these methodologies
    • Although I didn’t say within the tutorial, throughout my development I have reflected on my photographic decisions and obviously have reasons why I want to use this particular composition; these include:
      • That I have always been really interested in this particular composition
      • I feel that this particular composition represents different ideas behind my project (including the fact that it obviously draws attention to the physical paths I have walked down with my Grandpa, enhancing the reconnecting aspect of the project; as well as the composition and leading line perspective represent this idea of travelling towards a particular destination which can be used as a symbolic reference to travelling back to the past through the recollection of personal memories)
      • The fact that this methodology is so controlled is that, because I have decided on this composition for my FMP, I want to make a uniformed collection, as well as the fact that the paths need to be central to the photograph in order to create this symbolic composition
      • However, with this being said, if I have enough film over the weekend, I will experiment with a more “loosely controlled” methodology

 

Research:

  • There are a couple of books in the glass case on the third floor of the library that may be interesting to look at for your FMP – you may need to gain permission to see this though
  • You should look into the idea of walking and photography:
    • Read “Wanderlust: A History of Walking” by Rebecca Solnit
    • I have also looked into the idea of the Land Art Movement (including looking at the works of Susan Derges and Jem Southam), and I am planning on reading “The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot” by Robert Macfarlane, as well as looking into the work of Richard Long and Hamish Fulton
  • You should also look into the idea of Psycho-Geography which looks at resonance in the landscape
    • You should read articles and books by Iain Sinclair
  • You should also read some books by Henry David Thoreau
  • In a journal called “Photographies” you should read:
    • “Photography, Archive and Memory” which is edited by Karen Cross an Julia Peck
    • “Mum’s Got To Sell The House” by Michael O’Brien
  • You should also have a strand of research dedicated to looking at the way in which artists/photographers explore and represent a personal story
    • You should look into the work of Sophie Calle – which I mentioned is already on my research plan
    • I then suggested that I was also looking into Bryony Campbell’s “The Dad project” – Anthony then suggested that this project focuses primarily on the representation of people through portraits ad that I should focus more on the work by Sophie Calle as she creates a more conceptual piece of work (the landscape images I am creating can be defined as conceptual)

 

Suggestions (including Experimentations and Further Research):

  • It would be really interesting to see what you could do with Video – especially in relation to the static composition that you are interested in using throughout your photographs
  • Time of day is absolutely key in the creation of your images – you seem to show an understanding of this through the later images on your Third Trip Contact Sheet (please see below)
    • You should look at the landscape work of:
      • Justin Partyka
      • Fay Goodwin
      • Stephen Vaughn
      • Edgar Martins

 

Trip 3 Film 1 Contact Sheet

Trip 3 Film 2 Contact Sheet

Trip 3 Film 3 Contact Sheet

Trip 3 Film 4 Contact Sheet

Trip 3 Film 5 Contact Sheet

 

  • You also need to try and disassociate your work from the personal
    • All work is personal
    • But you need to build a critical distance and a narrative around the work that is conceptually resonant
    • How you talk about your work is incredibly key
    • I then suggested that I was planning on using text within my FMP in order to increase the viewers accessibility and contextual understanding of the project which then lead Anthony to suggest:
      • You should start experimenting with the text now – it’s not something that you can through on at the end of the project
      • You should try and start writing about the landscapes now and bring examples of text to the tutorial (with Caroline Molloy and David Moore) next week
  • Finally, although the contact sheets are really good to see the development of your project, you should start printing them out at a 10×8 size so that we can begin to see what they will look like as a print
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