Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Assignment One - "Tied" Revisited Again

Back in June, I did some work on a Project that I tentatively titled "Tied".  It was linked with Assignment One, and I blogged about it here - http://stansocapwdp.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/tied-project-derived-from-assignment-one.html.  What started as a documentary-style project about the methods used to tie field gates in my immediate area - albeit one with symbolic possibilities - became, like many projects that I've looked at lately, more about the process of producing photographic art than about the subject matter (albeit, that subject matter remains in place).  I did more work on it at the time but then got sidetracked into other things.  Since these images might well form all or part of my final submission for Assignment One, I've been back to it again in the last week. 

Reflecting on what it's actually about, rather as I did with Assignment Five: 

·      It certainly stems from a documentary-style interest in this phenomenon of tied gates and an inclination to record them.

·      But, finding myself thinking about whether the subject would be better photographed in sunlight, even light, low sun, or whatever, I came to realise that I was actually getting (overly?) concerned about the 'craft' aspect of the photographic process - as much to do with what others might think as it was to do with my own aesthetics or interests.

·      This coincides with the Assignment Four research on Still Life and the transparent image processing of Lucas Blalock (who, by coincidence, often includes rope, hoses etc in his images).  I began 'playing around' with the images in Photoshop, leading (and some Mishka Henner influence to be acknowledged here) to the idea of completely removing the very subject I'd set out to photograph.

·      In some cases, that processing went further, highlighting the strings, ropes etc in different ways.

·      Finally, with one image, where, as one would expect, the string passes out of sight behind a gatepost, I came up with the idea of 'creating' an image of what couldn't actually be seen in the original image.

·      And so, the images have probably come to be almost entirely about the presentation of any subject matter in a photographic image.  They deal with the issues of truth and reality in photography, and with the layers of influence and decision-making in the process of making photographic images - in a not dissimilar way to my series for Assignment Five. 

I've been thinking about how they might be presented and have explored the idea of combining different version/stages together.  There are four examples below.

Tied 01

Tied 02

Tied 03

Tied 04
Presentation needs a little more thought & I would need to process some of the other images in a similar manner, but I'm quite interested in the way these explore, and maybe question, the extent to which photographic image-making plays with truth and reality.  Maybe?


  1. Well I'm so glad you've posted this Stan as I was having some trouble contextualizing the images you sent to me previously!
    In respect the art versus craft, I’m also (usually) in a quandary over this question. The ability to ‘beautify’ an image, as so many contemporary practitioners do, does provide a means by which to engage the viewer, so your concerns about light are, I think valid. Stezaker’s work, as well as those by Gersht and Letinsky don’t usually suffer from the criticism of ‘ugly’, so craft decisions are very important – Grayson Perry is discussing this in the upcoming Reith lectures, should be fascinating – and are a fundamental aspect of the image. It’s when the image is about craft only that it all starts to fall down, or walk through the gate and out of the picture!

    The transparency question is the one that I’m finding most difficult to comprehend from a conceptual perspective. It is clear that you have removed the presence of the rope by erasing it from the image – however to me it has been replaced by it’s own absence. The starkness of the removal – whether to black or white – brings into view, at least for this spectator, another element, another construct to the image altering it’s narrative – which I suppose is what you intended in any case – the image re-presents itself in an altered state with the absence, of the rope, being almost mythologized by it’s absence and maybe this primacy in the image’s narrative is what you intend and that it elevates the metaphor(s) associated with gates –open/shut/locked/unlocked and so on.

    As for truth in an image – well that’s a whole different topic and one that I think I’ll be dealing with in my critical essay for assignment four. Suffice to say that the various tomes I’ve been reading have been informed by noting how far the discussion has moved from Sontag to Ritchin. There and back again as one famous author had it!

    1. Yes, it was a bit mischievous to send you that image without context - though it did follow an exchange about 'ambiguity'! Thanks, John, for engaging with this post and for your thoughtful comments.

      I've seen that Grayson Perry is doing the Reith Lectures and am also looking forward to hearing what he has to say. I've also seen the discussion on OCA student - and I notice that, in the BBC interview, Perry stresses the importance of contextualising artwork within the History of Art. I am interested, if I can manage it, in creating images that have a 'current' art/photographic context. One of the problems I find when reading the likes of Sontag and Berger is that the world seems to have moved forward so much and so rapidly in the relatively short time since they commented that some of the 'assumptions' behind their views seem to have lost currency. Ritchin (and I've only read 'After Photography') is at least seeking to address a digitalised world - though (understandably) I'm not sure he does much more than raise lots of questions and possibilities. We are in a very broad and rapidly flowing/swirling flood - hence my previous post about learning to stay afloat!

      So, my reference to 'transparency' - and the images I've produced above - can partly be read as a response to something Ritchin said in 'After Photography' - that we should be looking to create useful and exploratory images. 'Tied 01' is meant to be a playful, and not particularly sophisticated, look at what 21st century photographic image-making can do. It is interesting to me (though, I grant you, not necessarily to others!) that I can use digital methods to painstakingly remove a complex and crucial element of my original digital photograph and, by so doing, create a completely different image. That I can then (perversely, by doing more deleting to black, as it happens!) produce another version, which appears to introduce traces of something that wasn't even in the original (the rope behind the gatepost) also interests me.

      The creative possibilities of 21st century digital practice are without bounds (through the gate an away!) - but the outcomes have nothing at all to do with an indexical link between an image and its subject, I suggest!