Weeks 6 & 7: Methods & Strategies

Chance and serendipity in photography, and when our mistakes turn out better than expected. This week’s forum challenged everyone to post an image they considered at the time a faux pas and to briefly explain why it was considered a good shot and what rules had been broken.

I really liked this quote from Sontag, it’s a great insight and very sharp.

“To take a good photograph, runs the common claim, one must already see it. That is, the image must exist in the photographer’s mind at or before the moment when the negative is exposed. Justifying photography has for the most part precluded admitting that the scattershot method, especially as used by someone experienced, may yield a thoroughly satisfactory result. But despite their reluctance to say so, most photographers have always had—with good reason—an almost superstitious confidence in the lucky accident.”

I chose an image taken on a city trip with the following explanation: I was trying my hand at zone focusing and manually setting the shutter speed for street photography, neither of which worked out for this shot but I did really like the unintended result. The aesthetic created by the sense of movement, tilt and the just out of focus blur work together to make for what I think is an interesting image of a street seller and the hustle and bustle of the city.

I was given pointers by our tutors to look further at the work of Daido Moriyama and to read an article on Takuma Nakahira, another member of the Japanese Provoke Movement of Photographers.

What really caught my eye in the article was how Nakahira perceived plants.

“For Nakahira, plants are uncanny, mysterious creatures. He sees in them transcendental beings that are removed from the world of seeming certainty, that carry the otherness of things within them, and that threaten the self with their silence. To him, plants with their autonomous growth imply an intermediate state that belongs neither to the subject nor to the object of perception.”

I have never thought of plants in this abstract way; I had to pause and think about that, it’s such a different way of comprehending a part of the world around us, although the intermediate state is something I recognise, although I associate that with time.

Like the photographic faux pas, sometimes you can catch things between state, the work of Rinko Kawauchi frequently connects me to this way of seeing things.

There is an interview with Daido Moriyama at ASX where he talks about his 1972 work, Farewell to Photography. This was an amazing body of work, although he looks back on it as if this was a foolish time for him personally, although he is glad that he did it. I need to look at more of his work and how his aesthetic has evolved, watch some interviews and get a deeper impression of how he thinks about photography. It was not entirely clear in this interview why he wanted to deconstruct photography, only a vague sense of his motivation, and his ultimate conclusion that it was himself that was eventually deconstructed.

This week I spent a lot of time on my oral presentation. Critical context was tough and that part did not come easily, finding something from Sontag, Barthes or Flusser that you could bring seamlessly into your presentation was elusive. Most attempts were like an anvil dropped into the storyline. Thursday evening had a last talk over with a peer and our work to date on the presentations and project progress. Talking with peers really helps to keeps things grounded, I dislike forums and find it hard work to communicate with. Friday’s tutor led session went very well, quite a few peers had presentations pre-recorded and it was really good to hear others’ stories and to see where things could be improved. How others see and experience the world is always fascinating.

My presentation went well, I was not at all sure I was on target with my work but it was fine and I had positive feedback from my peers. Only some minor points to tidy up and it’s ready.

The penny is finally dropping with the course and the reading, forums, research and practical work is slowly coming together. I have been working through Sontag, finished Berger and read the course note on Barthes, although I need to tackle the complete book. Flusser I have on my list, but it looks ever so dry from a distance.

Micro ProjectWeek 7

For this weeks micro project I teamed up with a peer to create some work on the theme of using a pinhole lens/long exposure to capture ghostly/fleeting images, then to pick a movie each of our choice, make an equivalent number of screenshots (50 ish), mix both sets of images up and then create an animated gif.

Couple of interesting aspects, the impressions made by the differing image sets and having two conflicting narratives running at the same time. A movie and a personal set of images. And to what extent could you disrupt a very strong narrative by inserting random images?

My motivation for this was the work of Larry Sultan in his series ‘The Valley’ which captured the appropriation of upper middle-class homes for use as porn movies set. The images are mostly of the actors and crews sitting around in between shoots. What is interesting is the dual narrative that seems to run through the images, firstly these very nice homes with sometimes mementos of the owners on display and then this completely different impression created by the movie staff, on one hand you are trying to figure out who lives here, what are they like, some sort of guess who lives here show. While there is this second narrative of the porn set and what is going on there.

For the mini project, part of the aim was to see how far you could disrupt a strong narrative or create a second parallel narrative, given the time available the latter was not that realistic.

I chose the 1922 B&W silent movie Nosferatu and some stills from Bruce Conners ‘Cosmic Ray along with about 60 of my pinhole images. Using Photoshop they were placed in a frame timeline, mixed up randomly and then animated.

Based on feedback in the webinar, my movie was seen as quite coherent, due I think to colouring all frames to have a visually consistent look. Although the choice of movie lent themselves to pinholes images easily blending in. My peer had a much better set of images that disrupted the narrative very well, so an interesting outcome and something I intend to explore further. The practice of Larry Sultan is an area I want to spend more time looking into and understanding his work and thinking.

The micro project was a fun exercise, again collaborating really helps to move things along and bring another perspective to how to approach something, and a different interpretation which is valuable to critique your own approach and resultant work. I could have done things better in retrospect and somewhat lost sight of disrupting the narrative, but I like the outcome and it is something to build on. This idea of mixing imagery and creating dual narratives needs more research, some pointers were provided in the webinar so work to do there.

The week 7 webinar was very useful and a good discussion was had on the mini-projects, how we were settling into the course and how we were finding the content. Talked at some length on Sontag, Barthes, Campany and others.

Spent some more time on my oral presentation, recorded the audio and completed the bibliography. Assignment posted, we see how it fares.


SONTAG, Susan. 1977. On Photography. Penguin. Page 116

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens [Film]. 1922. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0013442/ [accessed 2 Nov 2020].

CONNER, Bruce. 1961. Cosmic Ray [Film]. Available at: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/184163/cosmic-ray [accessed 2 Nov 2020].

KOHARA, Masashi. 2010. ‘A Portrait Of Takuma Nakahira (2005)’. AMERICAN SUBURB X [online]. Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2010/06/takuma-nakahira-portrait-of-takuma.html [accessed 6 Nov 2020].

‘Daido Moriyama On Social Rebellion In 1960s Japan’. 2019. YouTube [online]. Available at: https://youtu.be/uQEDzei15UU [accessed 6 Nov 2020].

ARTNET. 2020b. ‘Larry Sultan’. Artnet [online]. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/larry-sultan/2 [accessed 6 Nov 2020].

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