Sorry, I missed a week. It was very busy in the gallery with the installation of Megan Campbell Newby's exhibition. BTW check out TV3 Nightline tonight for a story on it (or the item may run on Monday night, 11th Nov., depending on other news story programming).
(Here's the story, which did run on Friday night. Strangely there is no mention of the name or location of the exhibition!)
Also, on Saturday 9th November at 1pm, at Photospace Gallery, there is a gallery talk about Megan's exhibition What's in it for me? and the ethical considerations of the inclusive documentary photography process behind it. Megan, Erna Stachl and Dick Whyte will talk. Come along, and feel free to ask questions. Admission is free. Exhibition info
Today's photo: the gesture of reaching out to a stranger (presumably for money) and the stranger's non-response (visible in the reflection of the red area of the window) is all caught with precision and strong composition (leading lines, etc). It looks 'shot from the hip' but is deliberately framed. This photograph prompts us to question our normal response to the people we make invisible, those we do not wish to include in our construction of reality. There is of course also the element of There but for the grace of God go I.
It is the decisive moment - the best time to take the photograph, when all of the elements align in the frame in an effective way. And in order to communicate with photography we have to get the technical and formal stuff right, otherwise no one will bother to look at it.
One of my early photography influences, and the first New Zealand one, was Wellington-based photographer Peter Black. In 1986 I came across his book Fifty Photographs (National Art Gallery, Wellington, 1982) in a second hand bookshop in the Cubacade (Ferret?). It was a signed copy, $5.00. Score! I had made a darkroom and was already trying to do black & white street photography a la Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand Robert Frank and Andre Kertesz, and now here was someone local with a great eye and unique world view. I tried to emulate it. Much more recently, Hans came into Photospace and saw and liked Peter Black's book I loved you the moment I saw you. Follow link and scroll down a little way).
Clearly, Peter's photography (now colour and digital) has influenced Hans's, but the younger photographer (who is a TV cameraman in his day job) is very much in the process of developing a personal vision. (I'm working up to it.talking about some Peter Black photos in upcoming Friday Photo slots.)
Looking at this and other street photos, it all looks easy enough: you were just lucky to be there at the time that happened; I would've taken it if I'd been there; you must've set that up; it's obviously Photoshopped. No, no, no it ain't. It takes skill, dedication, tenacity, and a willingness to engage with the world extra deeply and to learn how to see stuff that others don't bother to notice, or choose to not see.
People are increasingly blinkering their experience of place and time by constantly engaging with the internet and cocooning themselves with music, so what Peter Black, Hans and others do is becoming even more vital. It is also becoming threatened by the trend towards perceived invasion of privacy - see The Friday Photo #3
What Hans does is walk around and observe stuff - moments of sadness and futility, or just plain funny, quirky things - the bizarre, the ironic, the iconic, the juxtaposed - and photograph it. Street photography is about the human condition; it is very local but also universal.
In order to be a street photographer, you have to always have your camera with you (obviously, but many would-be photographers can't be bothered carrying the thing, to their shame); know how to use it without shagging about with the controls (always have the camera primed and ready for the shot, safety off); and go out a lot, in all weather (today, for instance); and develop your eye; engage, be sharp, notice stuff; and for f___s sake don't have music playing in your ears. You have to be fully present, totally in the moment.
Developing your eye can be done in the library and/or art gallery as well as in the field; in fact looking at other photographers' work, as well as engaging in a wider study and enjoyment of in the visual arts, is vital for a photographer. Don't be afraid to emulate; it will come out looking different anyway, and eventually your photos will be recognisably your own. All of the good street photographers I know have distinct styles, their own concerns, and different ways of looking at the world. (See links below.)
In this blog series I've talked a lot about print quality and photographic prints as unique objects. The photograph above, though, doesn't yet exist as a print (except as a 10x15cm work print maybe) because it hasn't been exhibited. Currently it's just an array of pixels on various storage devices. We are planning to show Hans's work in Photospace Gallery in 2014 and this photograph will most likely be in the exhibition. He's working on pigment printing at the moment.
Hans Weston on Facebook
Also, see the websites of these Wellington photographers:
Further reading: On Documentary Ethics, by Greg Halpern
(Thanks Peter Black, for the link.)
Bit behind the eight ball today, sorry. The place has been busy, too, so running a little late with this. Burrowing into the gallery's stock drawers, I surfaced with this treasure. It seems appropriate for today's weather, except that there were umbrellas in use here. The only umbrellas you'll see in Wellington today will be shattered remnants, looking like deceased and partially skeletal giant fruit bats, protruding from rubbish bins around the city.
This is a vintage print, made by John Daley himself. Like many things 44 years old, it has a few wrinkles. These can be seen if you hold the print in a certain light; and they do but add to its charm.
Actually, you need to take the print out of its gallery frame to see the wrinkles clearly, and while you're (carefully) doing this, turn it over and look at the signature. Also, the subtle, warm tonality of the image and photographic paper can be discerned, too. Exhibition-quality photographic prints are individual, unique items, and if you're thinking about buying one you should look at it closely if at all possible. Don't expect something new and shiny off the production line. Look for character and uniqueness. And find out the provenance, if it is known. (This print is part of a private collection.)
If you're interested in John Daley's photography, there's the book Big Smoke - New Zealand City People in the '60s and 70s - John Daley, Godwit (Random House), Auckland, 2004. I remember seeing the exhibition at Pataka, Porirua, that went with the book. All of the photos had been reprinted for it, large and impressively. But they lacked a certain quality that can sometimes be found in a vintage print. They were nice and clear to look at, but somewhat cold- and distant-feeling.
The term 'vintage print' is used somewhat loosely and variously by galleries. In it's strictest definition, it means the print or prints made pretty much immediately after the photo was taken, and printed by the photographer. Some experts even impose a time limit on it. But in reality, under this definition, there would often be no vintage print of an image. Nowdays, with digital image capture, most photographers wouldn't bother to make a print until it was required for exhibition or for sale, and the image may well exist only in digital format until that occasion.
The term 'vintage print' needs to be applied with regard to a photographer's practice and work habits. There should always be a distinction (with older images) between 'vintage' and 'recent' prints. It is also worthwhile finding out if the print was made by the photographer or by someone else. A print made by the photographer is not necessarily better, nor is a vintage print necessarily of better quality than a recent one. It comes down to the individual print being offered, and what you are looking for.
'Nuff for now. Going live before it's too late.
The photo is on the wall in Photospace Gallery (by my desk) if you'd like to see the real thing.
Thursday evening, casting my eyes around the 'man cave' at home for a likely candidate for this week's Friday Photo, I settled on this work from the 2011 PhotoChop VIII exhibition, held at Thistle Hall, upper Cuba St, Wellington, in January 2011. The work is not signed but I'm fairly sure it was made by Markus McIntyre.
There's something nice about walking into an interesting exhibition and walking out again having purchased several pieces of artwork for the cash in your wallet. I remember doing similar at the 91 Aro St Gallery (run by some of the people responsible for PhotoChop) and MyGalaxi Gallery in the basement of 39 Dixon St, run by Arlo Edwards.
As it's clearly readable, I don't need to say much about the meaning of this photographic work, which was made simply by cutting two different photographs from magazines and gluing them down to a piece of cardboard. This method of creating artwork is so immediate that visitors to PhotoChop Vol.III were invited to construct and contribute their own works using provided materials.
(if it's not obvious in the scan, the wave on the left is one photo, the houses and beach another. It's interesting that two (or more) relatively innocuous photos can be assembled to create a meaning barely related to the originals.)
Works made by this same method, called photomontage, have been significant in the history of art, particularly in the Modernist period. As McIntyre's 2011 work contains a strong message about the big issue facing us in the 21st century - man-made climate change - historic works often tackled political issues of their time such as the rise of totalitarianism in Germany, Russia and elsewhere.
The Bauhaus artists and the Dadaists were fond of the technique, which could be made seamless (predating Modernism, Oskar Rejlander's 'Two ways of life' made in 1857 using an advanced multi-printing technique, was one of the first and finest examples of photomontage), but more often the seams were left blatantly obvious, with no pretense of hiding how the image was constructed. Pictures both found and original were cut with a blade and stuck down, simple as that. Unlike (say) oil painting, photomontage is an art making technique accessible to anyone. It naturally lent itself to bizarre juxtapositions, which appealed to Dada and Surrealist artists.
Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, El Lissitzsky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Max Ernst were among the leading exponents of photomontage.
The obvious play of the exhibition's title picks up on the highly egilatarian and low-tech nature of photomontage. These days, montages are of course most often made on a computer; but there's something nice about the scissors-and-glue, hands-on way of doing things. It is just as easy and immediate as working digitally, and it's good to use your hands for things other than touching a screen, keyboard or mouse occasionally, and to get them a bit dirty.
Anyway, this article in Wikipedia is a good starting point for research into photomontage.
Recommended reading: Photomontage - Dawn Ades, updated and revised edition, Thames & Hudson, London, 1996 (earlier editions, T & H 1976, 1986)
Text quoted from the Thistle Hall gallery archives 2011 page -
"OPENING: 3.00pm Sunday 16 January with music from Dick Whyte, The Doll, Unknown Rockstar. BBQ possible depending on the weather. BYO, some nibbles and drinks provided.
OPEN: 10.00am - 6.00pm Monday 17 - Sunday 23 January.
"A collective exhibition of collage images from print using photo chop, scissors and glue. Following the blazing paper trail left by PhotoChop (2007) and PhotoChop II (2009) the exhibition salutes the dawn of photo lithography, the 120 years old tradition of processing images for the mass print medium... give the new images a montage of new meaning.
"Artists include: Markus McIntyre, Menn-O-Matic, Will Frew, Rob Groat, Dick Whyte, Robyn Kenealy, Denise Durkin, Ruby Nekk, Sam Stephens, Don Smith, Curtis Nixon, Setefano Tevaga, Alison Jones, Di Dixon, Emma Goodal, Re-bound Books."
Photography Matters II