Saturday, May 28, 2011

Prompt #2

#5 “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.” ~Mary Ellen Mark

     I think this quote is very true, as photography can be very personal. It can be personal expression of the person taking the pictures, but it can also be photographs of something very personal or private moments and strong emotions. So I think it is important to be honest with the people you are taking pictures of because what you are photographing can be a vulnerable aspect of someone. 

#6 In your opinion, when is it beneficial, ethical, or appropriate to digitally alter photographic portraits? When do you think it is inappropriate or ethically wrong?
     I think it is okay to digitally alter photographs to fix the lighting and other small things. I also think that it is okay to do so if it is part of your concept and it is made clear that the photograph has been digitally altered. I think it is wrong to digitally alter photographs when the person you are taking a picture of was not told that the photograph would be altered. I think this is very true in the media and tabloids. I always think that if something ever happened on earth, or as we look back historically, people will find the digitally altered pictures and think that is what was real. 

#7 Pay close attention to the types and number of photographic portraits you see in one day. Where did you see them? How do you think that the content of the portrait changes based on the context in which you see the image (news, facebook, magazine, advertisement, television, youtube, etc)? In other words, what is the difference between the portraits you see on facebook vs. those on the news? What is the difference between the “viewpoint” of the photographer in each situation? What is the difference between their “intents”?
   I saw a lot of interesting portraits today at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Some of them were representational, some were more conceptual. I really enjoyed one that was a picture of flowers, and was titled "Family Portrait." I took this two ways. One, the flowers represented each member of the family, or two, as my boyfriend noted, they all could have been from the same family of seeds. Either way it was very interesting and thought provoking. In regards to portraits on facebook versus those in the news, I think they both are very candid. Media portrays celebrities at their best and their worst. The paparazzi captures them at private moments and when they are minding their own business. I think they both can be exploitive at times. However, I also think they are both ways that let us see the everyday lives and personal sides of people. Facebook more so, because most of the time people post their own pictures. What is seen in the news is not always true, so it cannot always be believed.

#8 “My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.” ~Richard Avedon.
   I like this quote because a lot of time when you look at a portrait, you think about what the person in the picture is thinking about or who they are.  But a lot of times, portraits are just as much about what the photographer is thinking about and envisioning, as they are about the individual or people.

#9 “You don't take a photograph, you make it.” ~Ansel Adams

   I also agree with this quote, because a lot goes into taking a photograph. Some photographs maybe do not require as much thought. But you are always thinking of composition, lighting, your subjects, concepts, etc. So, I think a lot of a finished photograph is constructed -- either in your mind or physically.

#10 “All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this - as in other ways - they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.” ~John Berger

     This is true. Often when looking at photograph, it brings up certain memory associations, depending on the person who is looking at it. This is true for all visual art, I think. But for me it very true for photography, especially because you can connect with photography if it is of a moment in your life, a vacation, a place you have been. When looking at a photograph of a vacation, I might remember how great the weather was that week, while someone else might remember that we saw President Obama on our trip. This is what I like about photography, that it can mean different things to different people, and there is not necessarily a right meaning.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Contemporary Portrait Photographer -- Richard Avedon

Biography: Richard Avedon was born on May 15th, 1923.  He was born and raised in the United States, in New York.  He went to Columbia University before he started his career as a photographer for the Merchant Marines in 1942. He worked for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Life and later on The New Yorker. He did a lot of fashion photography, as well as portraits and reportage.

Significance: Richard Avedon was significant because he was wonderful at capturing the characteristics and personality of his subjects.  He is also noted for his large prints - especially his pieces of workers and life in the Western United States - which were compiled into a book and exhibit called In the American West. In 1994 the Whitney Museum brought together 50 years of his work in a retrospective exhibit, Richard Avedon: Evidence.  He pushed the boundaries in portraiture through the scale, subject matter, his methods of photography and his ability to capture the personal views/sides of celebrities. 

Composition: Avedon's work was often well lit and photographed in front of white backgrounds. His images are known for their movement and spontaneity, as well as minimalism.

Dovima with Elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, August 1955

Composition: His composition emphasizes scale differences and repetition through posture. He also emphasizes the dress that is being modeled by his use of contrast - the boldness of the dress stands out against the mid tones of the elephants. It is also balanced, as the woman is in the middle with elephants on both sides. The perspective is straight on and emphasizes the curves of the woman and the dress.

Concept/Aboutness/Idea: Avedon is working in fashion photography, but he does not just capture the dress. Through his use of nature and contrast (a white dress in the middle of muddy elephants, color) he succeeds in modeling a dress in a unique and thought provoking way.

Method: A lot of thought went into this photograph, not only the concept and compositional elements. He had to set up the scene, find elephants and organize them in a safe way, and photograph a model and a dress. He used successful lighting and a straight on point of view to emphasize the dress and the repetition.

Motivations: His goal is to emphasize the dress, as here he is working in fashion photography, but in an interesting and unique way. Also, this could act as a portrait of the model, as well.

Opinion: I like this piece because I think that he is really pushing fashion photography. Not only is he advertising the dress, but he is doing it a way that is interesting, and captures my attention.

Other Images
Homage to Munkacsi. Carmin, coat by Cardin, Place Francois-Premier, Paris, August 1957
This picture reflects the sense of movement and spontaneity that are characteristic of Avedon's compositions. 

Marilyn Monroe, Actress, New York, May 6th, 1957
This portrait of Marilyn Monroe shows his ability to capture the personal views/sides of celebrities.  

A recent portrait taken by Avedon, of President Obama. 

Recreation #2

Unknown photographer, American, 1900-1910.

Original (top picture)

The original image was created by an unknown American photographer in the time period of 1900-1910. The photographer uses composition to emphasize the dog and its relationship with the background.  Because of the similar color patterns on the dog and used in the background, the dog almost blends in with the background, especially on the right side. The photographer uses an off center composition, as well. The photographer uses a strong sense of lighting in this picture, as the whites are very bright. I think the concept depicted in their photograph is to capture the characteristics and personality of the subject or to place a dog in an unusual context. I say this because as I was trying to recreate this, I found that it is very hard to get a dog to cooperate and stay on a stool like that. The motivation for this piece may have been to capture a memory, to create a portrait, or to appreciate a four legged friend. I like this piece because it is interesting in the way that the subject is photographed.  It has the feel of a human portrait, but in this case it is a dog.  Rather then being candid, it has a very professional or purposeful quality.

Recreation (bottom picture)

For my recreation I wanted to capture what I considered to be a more modern interpretation of dog portraiture.  I wanted to include natural light from an outdoor setting instead of a studio setting. I really appreciate the original photograph, because I had a hard time getting my subject to cooperate and sit on a stool or chair similar to the one above. I wanted to try for the same feel of the original, which I think focuses a lot on posing and a controlled setting, so I wanted to try and capture a similar pose as the original photograph.  I also wanted to background to be similar, so I adjusted the exposure and brightness with the adjustment tool to achieve a similar background effect. I wanted to keep the same perspective because I believe that the straight on viewpoint is an important part of the original composition. However, I think my recreation ended up being a little more candid due to the differences in setting and the fact that my subject is a puppy!

Final Images Continued

For some reason, the blog would not let me write under the last image in the last post. So it is continued here (and the picture is posted here, also)!

 1. Composition
A. Amount of Subject: I decided to keep all of the subjects in the frame to emphasize the repetition of the elements. 
B. Sharpness and Blur: I wanted to focus on the subjects, but I felt that because they are repetitive and similar in shape and form, they did not all need to be sharp. So the first two M's are sharp, and then the rest are blurred. I think this is important, because even thought they are blurred, you can still recognize that they are all the same and it creates more interest. 
C. Lighting: I did not want dramatic lighting, but in order to get good lighting in my house, I had to put a couple of lights right above the letters. This lead to effective lighting and good cast shadows. It also created contrast between the dark shadow all the way to the right and the brightness of the window pane. Also, the shadows cast on the letters and by the letters create visual interest, as well. 

2. Concept, Motivation, and Method
In creating this image, I chose the letter M because it is the first letter of my first name and because there were a lot of them in the bag of letters that I have. In this image, I wanted to emphasize not only the repetition, but also the characteristics of letters. Because my first name starts with an M, I see it as very repetitive because I am always using it to write my name. However, because of this, I also feel like I identify with it and it is almost part of who I am.  This image is kind of a playful representation of how I feel about the repetitiveness of the letter M. 

3. Context
I think that this image deals with my psychology and how I identify with the letter M. I was hoping to show the repetitiveness of this letter in my life in a playful way.  I was also kind of influenced by the feel of I Spy books that I used to read when I was little. 

4. Interpretation
Students in class recognized the repetition. They also commented on the perspective (above and to the side) which creates the feeling of the letters as people. 
5. Evaluation
Based on critique, the theme of repetition was achieved.  Maybe I could have tried to photograph the subjects in a different location to explore the effect of the location on the effectiveness of the theme of repetition. 
6. Extension
I could see this photograph as a jumping off point for a project or series of images on identity or maybe themes that have been repeated in my life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Assignment 1 -- Final Images

1. Composition
A. Photographer's proximity to subject: I placed the camera close to the subjects, but decided on a     place where the layer in between me and the subjects would be evident.  I wanted the viewer to be able to see the dogs, but also that there was a layer between us, as noted by the fog and drool present on the window. This way I could get close, but not uncomfortably close since there was a barrier in between us. I wanted to emphasize the qualities of the dogs, both their differences and their similarities in this case. This is true for the other dog picture as well, except in that case I was more focused on emphasizing differences.
B. Sharpness and Blur: To me, the fog and drool on the window provides an interesting exploration in that it is a different kind/layer of blur.  The dogs are in focus, except for where the fog and drool cloud our vision. It was important to me to keep the dogs sharply in focus, so the environment behind them is not sharply in focus because it is not as important.
C. Perspective and Point of View: The perspective and point of view is from straight on.  I wanted to capture them from straight on so that the viewer felt that they were on the same level as the subjects.  Also, I thought that a straight on view would make an easier juxtaposition, because the dogs would be in focus and the eye could more easily focus on the two main subjects. Looking back, maybe I should have explored and tried different angles to see what they would have added to the juxtaposition.

2. Concept, Motivations, and Method
This image is about observing the two subjects and juxtaposing them -- noting their similarities and differences.  In creating this image, I wanted to convey my love of dogs by capturing their personalities.  In this picture, I wanted to show their similarities and differences, while the other picture of the dogs focuses more on their differences.  In order to create the image, I photographed the subjects from the outside of the door window, creating a layer between me and them.  In doing so, I had to work around the reflections in the window.

3. Context 
I think that this image deals with dogs and their personalities, as well as the qualities we as humans attribute to them.  I like to capture the visible emotions and characteristics of dogs. I was inspired and influenced by the photographer Tim Flach's work in the book Dogs.

4. Interpretation
Others interpreted this image as an interesting photograph because of the fog and drool evident on the window, as well as the layer that creates between the photographer and subject. The other photograph of the dogs was viewed as a juxtaposition between the two dogs and their two personalities or attitudes. 

5. Evaluation
Based on the critique, I think that the other image of the dogs may be more successful in creating a juxtaposition between the two subjects.  I think that this one is successful in exploring layers and sharpness and blur. Although personally, whenever I see something as similar as these two dogs, I find my eye moving around and looking for all of the differences, even if they are small. So maybe I could have captured them in a way that would have made that easier.

6. Extension
I am interested in dogs and capturing their emotions and personalities.  I would use this in a series of images of these subjects and other subjects to further my idea. 

1. Composition
A. Framing: In the frame, I decided to not include the entire flower. I thought it was important compositionally to capture it off center, with part of the flower out of the frame. I did this to emphasize the movement of the petals and the bold contrast between the flower and the background elements. 
B. Background Elements: The most important and prominent aspects of this picture is the flower and its petals. I decided to make the background blurry because it was not a focal point. However, in doing so, the background plays an important role because its darker tone provides a great contrast to the brightness of the white flower. Even though the background is blurred, it is still evident that there are leaves and organic forms, which is important to the emphasis on nature and movement. 
C. Sharpness and Blur: I wanted to keep the petals of the flower in front sharp in order to emphasize movement and shape. Also, as noted in class, I wanted to try and look at the flower in a different way, so I focused on the petals instead of the middle. 

2. Concept, Motivations, and Method
To me, this image is about the beauty of nature and the celebration of summer. I have always loved the outdoors and have been interested in different types of flowers and their identification.  In particular, I think this is an appreciation of the shapes, forms, and movement that can be found in a flower. My goal was to capture the bold contrast of the flower against the darker background of a tree and leaves. The first flowers of summer are very bold as they pop up and stand out against leaves and other plants. To create this image, I went to the MSU botanical gardens to capture blooming flowers outside. I zoomed in on the flower and used depth of field to create emphasis and movement. I took several different pictures focusing on different areas of the flower, and found this to be the most effective.

3. Context
For this picture, I was inspired/influenced by the artwork of Georgia O'Keefe.  Looking at her work and love of flowers inspired me to capture the beauty of a flower in my own way. My work is different from her in that it may have a different meaning or goal. This pieces is about appreciating nature for its beauty and happiness that it can bring.

4. Interpretation 
Others interpreted my image as a different way of photographing a flower due to the focus on the petals and front of the image, rather then the middle of the flower. 

5. Evaluation
I think that the focus on the petals is working because it creates movement and is an unexpected focus. I also think that the contrast is working and allows the viewer to see the boldness of the flower.  Maybe there could be even more of a contrast, with the background made darker to really stand out even more. 

6. Extension
I think this would be a great jumping off point for a series or project on nature. I think it could go two ways -- I could use it as an opportunity to learn about different types of flowers or I could use it to focus on the beauty of nature and maybe how it is appreciated and not appreciated in our world today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Prompt #1

#1: Imagine a world without photographs. Describe what this world would be like.
     A world without photographs would be very bland and unhappy.  Photographs are a great way of capturing wonderful memories, and without that capability, looking back on the good times in our lives would be a lot more difficult.  Photographs are also a form of personal expression and exploration, and without that opportunity, there would be a creative void leaving a lot of people would be unfulfilled. 

#2: What does the word "photograph" mean to you?
     The word photograph, to me, means documentation.  It is a great and effective way of capturing moments in time, expressions, opinions, conditions, and can be a great historical research tool.  Before I switched to art education I was a history education major, and I always loved looking at photographs as valuable primary sources.  They can reveal a lot about the time period in ways other sources cannot. This will be true for other generations to come, even though photoshop and digital imaging may blur the idea of what is real and what is not - it is still a great tool for looking at the culture and interests of the time. 

#3 “Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.”~Duane Michals. Write a brief reaction to this quote. Is this quote applicable to your experience with photography? What does it mean to you? Do you agree with the idea presented or disagree? 
     I definitely agree with this quote.  I believe this is applicable to my experience with photography.  I find this to be true especially in cases where the image has been altered, but not always.  Some times when I look at photographs, particularly portraits or historical photographs, I always wonder what the person is really thinking. I think a lot of the time (not all), things can be staged or set up in a certain way.  I always wonder what people would do when left to make their own decisions.  For example, the United States government pictures of the Native Americans, when they were forcibly removed from their land and killed, are very poignant.  The Native Americans are photographed, but you can tell it is not willingly, and that there is a lot more them then what the viewer can see.  At the same time, I think photography really prompts you to think about these things. Is the photograph real? Historically accurate? Altered? Does it always matter?  

#4 “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera.” ~Lewis Hine.

Write a brief reaction to this quote. Is this quote applicable to your experience with photography? What does it mean to you? Do you agree with the idea presented or disagree? Describe situations when photographic images reveal “the story” (as compared to words). Describe situations when words reveal “the story” (as compared to images).
     This quote is applicable to my experience with photography.  I think that photography is a great way to express and capture moments and feelings that are not always so easy to express in words.  To me, this quote means that visual representations can portray and capture moments that words cannot always easily express.  Some people are more visually orientated and some find their niche in other ways.  Personally, I like to see things and I like to read.  But I find that some things ARE better understood and expressed in a visual format.  In my own experience, I find this to be true especially for nature, such as natural parks and awesome nature scenes that cannot be expressed by words, they take your breath away.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recreation #1

Lewis W. Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, 1925.

Original Image

The original image, Powerhouse Mechanic, was taken by Lewis W. Hine in 1920.  He was born in the United States on September 26th, 1874 and lived in Wisconsin.  He attended the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and New York University.  This photograph is significant because it questions and brings social issues to light.  He is commenting and forming an opinion on social issues of his time, and is making these opinions available for viewers to see and form an opinion on, as well.  Hine creates a dynamic composition with the curving machine, which draws the viewers eyes from the center (the man) up and around the picture.  His perspective captures the worker straight on, and I think this gives the picture an edge/certain hardness that reveals the difficulty of industrial life.  The emphasis is on man and his relationship with the machine, thus shedding light on the concept of technology vs. man.  I think he is making a comment on social conditions of the time, industrial "progress" and ideas of masculinity in this photograph.  Through this portrayal of a working class American in an industrial setting, Hine shows the beauty of the machine and the toughness of the worker and American male. The method in which he captures the muscles of the man (organic) against the hard edges of the machine adds greatly to the photograph and its content and concept.  What I like about this piece is that it has a WPA feeling - of a worker toiling for the greater good of the country - but it also is a critical commentary on working conditions and social conditions of an industrial America in the 1920s. I like the contrasts of forms, the shadows, and the overall look of the photograph. 


In my recreated image, I focused on the overall shape and recognizable posture of the worker to spark a connection between the two.  I wanted to stick with the same straight on perspective because I think that is what gives the original photograph a lot of its life. I wanted to emphasize the figure in my recreation, because that is what I focus on the most and keep coming back to in the original.  I wanted to play off of the contrast of the man and machine.  I used the shadow of the figure as a way of recreating the original photograph in a new way.  I thought this was a good way of representing my views of the American worker, especially because a lot of times workers are unidentifiable, another face in the crowd, a bundled mass of American citizens all lumped into one category.  I think Hine captures this in his photo, also.  His portrayal includes an individual with a recognizable face, but to me, an outsider of this time period and context, it could be any worker from the 1920s.  It is less about recognizing who the worker is then appreciating or noticing the hard work and impact that they are making.