Planning my Photography Project

One of the things I have been asked to include in this reflection is a timeline of activities to show that I can plan effectively. Rather than use spreadsheets or tables in a word document I have chosen to use a programme called Asana.

It is very easy to use and there is a free version that works great for a project like this or for up to five people working collaboratively. There are mobile apps to go with the website too so that tasks can be ticked off while on the move.

After setting up a project you can easily add tasks, sub-tasks, assign them to different people, set completion dates, add notes and even attach photographs and files.

You can sort the tasks in any order and show all tasks or only incomplete tasks as seen below. Clicking on the ticks by the side of each task marks it as complete and if you are lucky a colourful unicorn helps you to celebrate your achievements!

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Then with all the tasks entered you can switch to calendar view and see all of your activities in a calendar. I find this useful for spreading the work out and spotting any bottlenecks. The calendar also syncs with my iCal (or Outlook) calendar so it can be seen alongside all of the other tasks and appointments that I have on during the week.

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Another useful feature is the project summary that includes a graph showing how many tasks you have completed and have left to complete. I have also set up a notification that sends me a copy of the summary each week. This serves as a simple regular reminder of what I need to do during the following week.

I like the flexibility of this software, I can add tasks in, delete them, move them around and change the completion date as often as I need to and it all looks neat and tidy. It has kept me on track so far with my FMP and as along as I remember to add new tasks in as soon as I know about them I’m sure it will continue to keep me focussed.

What is a Landscape?

When I initially thought about my Final Major Project I didn’t really want to do landscapes. There are other talented people in the class that are doing landscapes and I didn’t want to compete. I wanted to find something a bit different and unique but this week it has got me thinking about what exactly a landscape photograph is.

The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘landscape‘ as;

‘All the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.’

The Oxford Dictionary also says that the word derived from a 16th century dutch word; lantscap made up of lant meaning land and scap meaning ship. It was a general word meaning a picture of scenery.

These definitions are very broad and I wondered if there is anything more profound or academic about landscape photography so I checked out the Landscape Photographer of the Year website. I couldn’t find a definition for landscape photography but rules for entry included this statement;

“We are looking for an image that captures the beauty and variety of the UK landscape. An iconic view; a view along a cliff-side path or of a historic village; a view down a valley; an urban skyline or snow-capped peaks; maybe showing the drama of our seasons. Recognisable and memorable; a true classic.”  Classic View Definition

Another category, Urban Landscapes similarly describes cityscapes and country towns, accepting anything that is urban and of the outdoors. David Bate in his book ‘Photography’ suggests further ‘scapes’ including gardenscapes, suburbanscapes, ariel scapes, panoramascapes and even cupboardscapes describing them as different types of spaces. Also pointing out the many different uses of landscape photography from tourism, urban planning and military reconnaissance. He concludes that landscape is an historical term that encompasses human perceptions of idealised nature. (Bate, 2016)

From this I can conclude that I am taking traditional landscape photographs. Constable was famous for his iconic landscape paintings and in trying to reproduce them in photographic form I have ended up taking the very type of landscape photograph that I didn’t want to do!

However, on further reflection the subject may be traditional but the presentation and methods I am using to produce these landscapes is far from it. The most obvious thing is that I will am using multiple images, shot in digital raw format, that are being stitched together to form one detailed image.

I have actually really enjoyed getting out and around Flatford and looking at the landscape in a way that I haven’t before. Growing up near there I absorbed lots of information about the place but could never talk about Constable with any confidence but through this process I am much more knowledgeable.

I have lots of memories of the area (my brother as a baby crawling over the side of the boat my dad was rowing along the river, walking through fields of cows, feeding the ducks, eating ice-cream) and the scenes are homely and comfortable to me, they have connotations of a happy childhood but now I can also relate much better to Constable as I walk about.

I find time in the open spaces of the countryside and large open blue skies therapeutic and a great way to clear my head and order my thoughts.

Liz Wells quotes Constable as saying “By a close observation of nature [the artist] discovers qualities… which have never been portrayed before’ (p23). I certainly think that through this project I have had an opportunity to observe nature closely and in focussing on capturing the countryside in detail I hope I have been able to portray something new about it to viewers.

References:

  • Bate, D. (2016) Photography: The key concepts, Second edition. United Kingdom: Berg Publishers.
  • Wells, Liz. (2011) Land Matters, Landscape, Photography, Culture and Identity. London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd.

 

 

Final Major Project Reflection 15

I haven’t had the feedback through from my last tutorial yet so I have concentrated on other areas of the course this week.

I was however intrigued why the footpath in my photograph of Flatford Mill and Constable’s painting of it was so different. According to the National Trust website in 1705 an act of Parliament was passed to make the River Stour navigable and then a turf-sided lock was installed in 1708. The turf in the lock was eventually replaced with wood in 1776, the same year that Constable was born and it is this lock that Constable included in his paintings. In 1838 a new wooden lock was installed next to the original lock so that the old lock could continue to allow boats to navigate the river while the new lock was being built.

In 1926 the wooden lock was replaced by a concrete lock and that was restored by volunteers int he mid 1970s. More recently in 1990 a weir was included in the lock construction to help manage the water levels during the winter.

The River Stour Trust website explains that “a distinguishing feature of the locks was the lintel that prevented the locks from collapsing inwards. This was almost unique to the Stour. The early designs of staunches or flash locks had a single gate that upon opening would release a sudden surge of water. Boats moving downstream would wait above the lock until the gate was opened and a ‘flash’ of water carried the boats with it. Later designs comprised two sets of lock gates and a central chamber. Craft enter the chamber and water is released either from or into the central chamber. This brings craft to the same level as the water beyond the second pair of gates to continue passage along the river.”

Although Constable included the lock in several of his paintings he often chose to leave out the lintels because this interfered with his sight-lines!

 

This week I’ve also been considering the copyright implications of using another artist’s work within my own.

According to the .gov website artistic work is copyrighted automatically and, for paintings, usually lasts for a minimum of life plus 70 years. This would mean that if there was no extension to the copyright it became available for Constable’s paintings in 2007. Additional to this, users may be allowed to use copyrighted material in a teaching environment or if a ‘less than substantial part of it would be seen.’ I plan to reduce the opacity of the representation of the Constable paintings I am using by 60-70% and blend out the edges so that I would actually only be using perhaps 20-25% of the original image. I think I should be ok.

Stuart Parkin

Last week I met up for a chat with local landscape painter, Stuart Parkin.

I began by asking him to tell me how he got started as a painter and he explained that he had always had an interest in drawing. He remembers enjoying drawing at junior school and then when he went to secondary school his art teacher was one of those inspiring teachers that encouraged him to develop his natural talent.

He decided to go on to art school but was encouraged by his dad to think about a more reliable career and to do an apprenticeship first. Then if he still wanted to go to art school and things didn’t work out he would have something to fall back on. So Parkin began working at the steel works, which was then British Steel. Then life just kind of happened and he met his wife and started a family. It was when he turned 40 that he finally signed up for a degree course at Hull School of Design and Architecture as it was then.

Parting of the Day Pastel  SoldI asked why he found himself drawn towards landscapes and he told me that he has always had a love of the outdoors and for many years spent a few weeks each year in the Cairngorms. Parkin says he loves looking at the light in the countryside, the way it changes colour and the way it falls on the landscape. And you can certainly see this in his paintings which focus on shapes and colours in a scene.

Parkin said that an abstract style was a personal choice developed from an interest in mark-making (different ways that you make marks on a canvas). Coming from an engineering background Parkin’s early paintings were very detailed but his college tutor encouraged him to change styles, draw bigger and even use a charcoal attached to a stick to help loosen up. Although he has painted some 6′ x 4′ industrial landscapes he now tends to paint much more manageable 4′ x 3′ canvases.

Parkin’s influences include Turner, particularly his later work that focuses on light and atmosphere, Pierre Bonnard for the colours that he uses, the contemporary artist Hughie O’Donoghue, the expressionist works of John Virtue and Mark Rothko. We discussed the work of John Constable and Parkin explained that he prefers Constable’s paintings that focus on dark and moody seas and skies.

Day's End Pastel SoldParkin has recently been widowed and we talked about how that has affected his art. I imagined that painting would be a good way to express his feelings and help work through the grief but he appears to have lost some of his enthusiasm for painting. Once he gets started he tends to lose himself in what he is doing but right now, in these early days, he finds it difficult to get started.

We talked further about Parkin’s Christian faith and how that influences his paintings. He explained that it wouldn’t always be obvious to anyone looking at his artwork but that he usually tries to paint something meditative or reflective and that looks towards something better in a dark world. He likes to give his paintings a name that could be interpreted in different ways, e.g. ‘Towards Home’ is quite a comforting title for most but for a Christian it can indicate a view towards Heaven.  He likes to think that his paintings have hope in them and the vision for a better world. He says it gives him a unique perspective and allows him to see things differently when he is out.

Afterglow  Pastel   SoldParkin does sell a lot of his work, mostly through entering open competitions locally although he is also beginning to enter competitions in London. He has held exhibitions at local galleries including Abbey Walk Gallery, Grimsby, The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Studio Eleven, Hull, Rope Walk, Barton-upon-Humber, Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre and 20-21, Scunthorpe. Although he does have a website, he hasn’t updated it for a while and doesn’t engage with any social media. We had a bit of a chat about it and I offered to help him out if I could.

As we moved on and talked about my project Parkin suggested that I look at the work of Kurt Jackson who makes notes on his artwork to remind him of the atmosphere around him as he is painting. I quite like this idea, particularly after my Destroyed project last year, although I’m not sure that it is suitable for my FMP.

After the Rains Acrylic on board 27 x 24cmParkin also suggested that I overlay an image of the original painting over my photograph. I had thought about doing this before and had dismissed it but I’ll think about it again.

Finally I spoke about how one of my tutors had told me to loosen up and not crop my photos quite so tightly and Parkin advised that I look at the blank spaces. He said they are all shapes and I should compare and contrast how they sit alongside one another, that they can harmonise or build tension and where I crop an image will emphasise that tension or create harmony. I thought this was good advise and will try to consider this when I am next taking some photos.

Irene Kung

My tutor suggested I check out Irene Kung, a Swiss photographer who photographs during the day time but in post processing transforms her images into haunting night time scenes that are often described as dreamlike but I think are more reminiscent of horror films or nightmares.

Talking about her process, Kung says “Each photo follows its own course, but in general the starting shot has to engage me in the way I spoke of earlier, as well as have the right light. In post-production I use Photoshop, exacerbating light through contrast. Then I eliminate what I’m not interested in to concentrate on the subject: I let it inspire me in a process that can be very time-consuming, but fascinating. What really counts is the final image you obtain, not what tools you use.”

I thought this short video was a good introduction to Irene Kung and her work.

As well as these photographs of buildings, Kung has collections of images depicting trees and animals.

I find Kung’s work interesting and like the way that she isolates the object that she wants to focus on but I don’t think I want to do that to my images for this particular project. I find it interesting that she converts the sky and the space around the object to black. This gives her images an unexpected and eerie feel.

I have chosen to produce my final works in black and white because I think it highlights the detail in the scene much more clearly than in colour and Kung’s photographs certainly emphasise the detail in the building, tree or animal that she has photographed.

I wonder what Kung would do with a photograph of Lincoln Cathedral or how she would edit a photograph of Constable’s Haywain?

References:

http://www.lanciatrendvisions.com/en/article/light-in-the-darkness-interview-with-photographer-irene-kung

Portfolio Statement of Intent

For my Professional Practice Module I plan to create a portfolio book based on my travel photography. This is the type of work I would love to be able to do in the future so it makes sense for me to spend time creating something that could help me with that. I will focus mainly on the humanitarian aspect of my travel photography and most of the photographs used will be from my trip to Tanzania in 2015 and to India in 2014 although I will include a few other images from previous trips.

I will chose my very favourite pieces of work to show fewer excellent quality images as opposed to lots of good or ok images.

I will include some text throughout the book but will keep this limited so that the portfolio book is simple and the photographs can take centre stage.