Week 1: Mirrors and Windows
“In metaphorical terms, the photograph is seen either as a mirror — a romantic
expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and
sights of this world; or as a window — through which the exterior world is
explored in all its presence and reality.”
(SZARKOWSKI, 1978: 2)
- What do you make of the ‘mirror’ and ‘window’ analogy? How helpful is this in understanding the nature of photography?
It’s an exciting notion, and I think they are similar on a point. Metaphorically the photographer is both a mirror and a window. In my photos, I mirror the world in a particular way that I see it and connect to it, cutting frames out of it to express my own reality. This process allows the viewer to glance into my inner world, and you could say that he looks into my soul through a window. I think we all use this analogy either consciously or unconsciously.
- As an image maker, do you identify more closely with one or the other?
I am not sure I can pick one because my preferences are guided by the general context, my personal mood, and also the thing I feel like expressing at that moment when I point and shoot. I can ask myself tho what comes to mind first. Probably the answer to that would be – the window. One reason is that I have this fascination with form and light that the window will always describe. Then the window will somehow become a mirror, too, many times reflecting the photographer and the immediate surroundings, giving depth to the scene by offering access to the world behind her.
- What other metaphors do you know of, or can think of, that provide an insight into photography?
I think that using space while highlighting one single element in your photography could work nicely as a metaphor. The good usage of negative space that creates an organic relationship with your subject can symbolize freedom or solitude. On the contrary, it can give a sense of belonging to that environment in which the subject is captured. The more meanings you can find inside a photo while watching it and the more intriguing it gets to the viewer by bringing together multiple reading keys and atmospheres, the more valuable it becomes. The usage of negative space is just an example but the good usage of chromatic contrasts colors hard to define or just using one dominating color, good usage of lights and shadows, or dynamics by placing subjects other than in the center of the image or by using the rule of thirds, better said placing the subject where you were expected to place it can create powerful metaphors and assumed gestures by which you try to bring your viewer in a certain state of mind. Another thing that comes to mind now is meaningful assumed cuts of the essential parts of the frame – these can work as well as metaphors.
- What is your motivation for photography? What do you want to learn about and how can photography help you get a greater understanding of it?
I don’t have a rational motivation for taking photos; my push comes from a deeper place. It can be defined as almost an act of healing and better understanding myself in this process of learning about myself and how I connect to the outside world.
In the mid-1930s, Lee Miller (1907-77) lived with her wealthy Egyptian husband in Cairo, and the American photographer escaped from the confinement she sometimes felt by making expeditions into the desert. Portrait of Space, taken on a trip to the Siwa oasis in 1937, is one of her most famous images, its title a collision of genres. The portrait is of a landscape, not a person, though the shape of the clouds recalls the lips of Miller floating in the sky in Man Ray’s painting The Lovers (1934), and two hillocks on the right can be seen—if we adopt the Surrealist perspective invited by the picture—as a pair of eyes. The gaping hole in the fly screen is also a kind of eye, opening on the scene.
Week 2: Methods and Meanings
- What methods and methodologies have you consciously applied to your practice to date to communicate a concept or an intended meaning?
I am consciously using different compositions or making certain chromatic choices or frames in a certain way to reveal the scene through my own perception of what I see at that moment and how I want to communicate that in the best possible way to my viewer. I am purposely using one type or another of equipment for my work. I use analog cameras to bring a timeless sense to my work or polaroid to make my frames unique and challenge myself to work with a rigid square photo format. So that when I shoot, I have to narrow my options down to the best frame, that is, trying to dynamize the square form so that the outcome isn’t rigid or cliche. I usually go back and revisit the same places over and again because I like to accommodate myself with the space and people, I want to have a sense of belonging, and although I know I am an intruder, I want people to start seeing me as one of their own so that the fear of the camera vanishes allowing me to work in a relaxed manner. Relate very well to children and enjoy their freedom and the natural way they express their feelings – raw and without using any masks. O, for a couple of years, I have been working on a series of photos shot in southern villages in Romania that turned into a project and later into a book called “Childhood Memories.”
- Can you identify and describe methods and methodologies in your practice that convey meaning, that you might not have intended at the time?
Something I observed in my photos is using the same chromatic contrast – blue and orange (in different shades or proportions). This chromatic choice is always returning in my photography like an unconscious obsession and attraction.
- Have any of these practitioners given you any inspiration for strategies or methods that you might ‘impose’ upon yourself to expand the creative possibilities of your own work?
“I like traveling without a set goal, looking around with visual curiosity, and being amazed by what I see; I do not want to create a project; I find that this way limits the experience in some way.” Nikos Econompoulous.
I enjoy Economopoulous interest and his open mind when it comes to photography. E is in perfect relation and contact with the space he is visiting, his purpose being the visual experience that he sometimes succeeds in turning into photography. Find his artistic attitude sincere and his curiosity vivid and inspiring. Visual events give him pleasure and interest – his mind is always busy with photography, which becomes an instrument of visual meditation, questioning oneself and then seeking answers through photography. These questions are part of the process in Economopoulous work.
“The world that you create in your mind and your soul it’s the ideal world that you want to photograph, seeking for it in reality; perhaps this concept is the closest one to “personal style,” taking elements from reality that correspond to the universe inside your mind.”
Photo Source: https://vk.com/wall-48369111_43601
Authorship and Collaboration
The digitisation of photography has seen the decline of the photographic print. Today we carry our photographic albums with us in our mobile phones. The outward manifestation of this is our phone lock screen, a public display of what lies, privately within the album. Using Penelope Umbrico’s use of social media imagery as an example, we put out an appeal for people to share images o f their lock screens. Ian, Jo, Sureita and Iris and over a hundred people collaborated in this project by sharing their images. These images predominantly represented things that the sharer was emotionally attached to; a person, pet or place. It is the image they most look at each day. The nature of digital images means these screen images may have been replaced, by the user by the time we share the project. Once images had been collated we explored the potential of making new imagery.
Sunset Portraits from 13,243,857 Sunset Pictures on Flickr on 10/08/13, (2013)
(1,539 machine c-prints, each 4” x 6”. Installation view at Orange County Museum of Art, CA) Available here (Links to an external site.)
Reference: Penelope Umbrico
WORDS and PICTURES: Activity
The Lane Sisters and Gail Page protest famous Hollywood costume designer Orry Kelly in this photograph.
This photograph would read differently without the cardboard written messages, take the texts away, and it would have looked just like a fashion parade. So, the words connote the image and quicken its reading; the words are the ones that illustrate the image now.
As Barthes states, this code of connotation is neither “natural” nor “artificial” but historical, so, if it is preferred, “cultural.”
Other more contemporary photos in the same key of reading are the ones of “Dude with Sign” that change the photograph’s dynamics by giving it a quick and singular key of reading, also using poignant cardboards to state the truth in a world full of illusions. It is evident that once again, the message connotates the photograph. The feelings and values projected into the reading of these photographs are developed by a given society and history.
List of Figures
Fig.1 CSU Archives/Everett Collection / Bridgeman Images https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-the-lane-sisters-with-gail-page-protest-famous-hollywood-costume-designer-87522808.html
Fig.2 Dude with Sign https://www.boredpanda.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/CTVK0bODkt5-png__700.jpg
Barthes, R. (1977) Image Music Text (The Photographic Message). Fontana
Jonas Grinevičius and Greta Jaruševičiūtė, “Dude Keeps Protesting Annoying Everyday Things With Funny Signs” Available at: https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-dude-holding-signs-protesting/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic (Links to an external site.) [Accessed 24 July 2022]
The Lane Sisters with Gail Page protest famous Hollywood costume designer, Orry-Kelly. Aug. 28, 1939. Available at: https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-the-lane-sisters-with-gail-page-protest-famous-hollywood-costume-designer-87522808.html (Links to an external site.) [Accessed 24 July 2022]