Monthly Archives: September 2009

Visiting Artist Lecture: Haley Hasler

Kite,2006_thumb

Haley Hasler, Family Flying Kite 2006

Although I could not stay for the duration of her presentation, Haley Hasler was by far my favorite visiting artist lecture I have attended. Off the bat I compared her work to that of Frida Kahlo, and was happy to hear her mention Kahlo’s name. Hasler’s ideas for her work I feel can be easily translated from painting to photography. Narratives, self portraits, and observation/invention are a good combination of elements for a body of work. Hasler composed many of her paintings from several elements: pictures, mirrors, still life observations, and master paintings. Hasler used musicians in some of her paintings, and I think this is something I would like to do as well especially considering how the art and music building are combined.I liked her explanation of why she did mainly self portraits, “you are free from the consideration you would give to another person.” I find this to be true in my own work; it is hard to find models comfortable with themselves and that I am comfortable giving direction to. You also don’t have to worry about whether the model will like the photos you have taken (could be bad for business). On the other hand, it is easy to be overly critical of self portraits and to be more distracted by whether or not you look good, because honestly no one wants to look ugly in pictures that other people are going to see.

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Abstracting the Egg, September 2009

The following six images I have narrowed down from over one hundred photographs taken for the final series for the ‘Abstract the Egg’ project. I shot two rolls of film to start with, but found that most of my images appeared soft or slightly out of focus. I am very happy I decided to shoot the third roll, as five out of the six images below are from it.

However I am having a hard time choosing just three images from this group to print. I definitely want to print the tinfoil one, and one of the ones with the board in it, but as for the ones with the trees I am stuck. The darker image (the first one below) I like for it’s high contrast. The lighter image (fifth image) I like for it’s composition. As for the ones with the eggs in the water, both with the board and without, I like all of these images but am afraid of them being too repetitive.

These images have been edited for dust spots, and have been played with slightly with the curves tool on photoshop, but considering how I have never used our inkjet printers here at school I am not sure that this is how the final images will look or if I will need to tweak them more.

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Eggs_InH20w_Board_Layers_copyforblog

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Eggs_InTree_Light_Layers copy copy

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Susan Sontag, Melancholy Objects

First of all, oh my god this chapter was so boring. I think it took me four sessions to finally finish it, which is pretty bad considering how much I enjoyed reading the first two chapters.

Despite having to read the same sentences over and over, I absorbed a few things. In this section, there was a lot of talk of surrealism and surrealist artists. Apparently many surrealist painters became surrealist photographers when photography became popular amongst artists.

Much of this chapter reminded me of something I have always wanted to buy: holga120s

The Holga. A cool-ass camera. On page 53, Sontag says “In the fairy tale of photography the magic box insures veracity & banishes error, compensates for inexperience & rewards innocence.” This is oh-so-appropriate for the Holga because if you know anything about these cameras, you know that they usually end up technically destroyed and plastered in duct tape. I don’t really know much about them because I have never actually used one, but I did a lot of research at one point because I was interested in buying one. I found right on the Holga website hundreds of beautiful photographs that if taken by a better camera would be less intriguing. It is because this machine is so simple and fragile that it creates beautiful images; the light leaks basically make miracles.

panorama_16http://www.lomography.com

Sontag also cites photography as being “the inventory of mortality,” and that including photographs themselves that “everything is perishable.” She talks about the recording of age, I believe she also hit upon this topic in an earlier chapter, and how even in an instant after the photo has been taken that things have already begun to change. I am instantly drawn to memories not of having my picture taken in the past, but to memories of looking at those pictures and thinking about how young I was, or looked. It obviously wasn’t until the camera was invented that there was any sort of way to make a mirror image of what someone looked like. There was drawing and painting, but even the most unbelievable artists can’t make an exact likeness. I would say that it was in my mothers generation that people began to document their children’s lives through photography. At least in my family that is the generation it started. My grandparents have very few photographs of their children as children. Even fewer of their infancies. Many of the photographs they do have are poor quality Polarioids which have already begun to discolor and fade. My mother, on the other hand, has about twenty albums full of pictures of my sister and I.

DSC04934_2Graduation, 2008 Concord NH


Susan Sontag, America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly

I found it hard not to relate this chapter to the first assignment, ‘Shedding Light to Abstract the Egg.’ The entire reading was about photographing the ugly, and trying to find beauty in unconventional places. I have been trying to think of interesting ways to go about the egg project, but I have yet to come up with many solid ideas. “In photographing dwarves, you don’t get majesty & beauty. You get dwarves.” I feel like this somewhat relates to this project, or at least my feelings on it.

Diane ArbusDiane Arbus

Sontag spent the majority of the chapter discussing Diane Arbus’s photographs of ‘monsters,’ essentially deformed or strange people who were, at the time, outcasts and a taboo to photograph. These people were transvestites, dwarves, twins, people with strange talents (sword swallowing), oddball families, or people who just had a little something different about them.  “Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible,” exactly what Arbus’s and a handful of other photographers did: their images of these people opened a new world for art and shed light on a hidden society, making these types of people seem less…terrible than they did during the late 1960s.

On a different note, I visited my grandmother yesterday. I am the only photographer in the family, and my sister and I are the only two to ever express an interest in art and pursue it. My cousin’s boyfriend is a photographer who is currently going for his masters, and one of his pictures was recently chosen to be published in a surfing magazine. My grandmother tried to explain to me that she does not understand why photography is art, she said she knows why drawing is art but thinks taking pictures is more about the machine than it is about the photographer.

I gave her a picture for her birthday that I had taken, matted, and framed. I tried my best at explaining to her the intricacies of taking and developing pictures, and that it has more to do with your eyes and ability to compose than it does the camera. Cameras don’t tell you what to take pictures of, your eyes do. The camera captures the moment in a technologically advanced way, compared to sitting down with a pencil. Photography is art from loading the film to matting and framing the final image. At this point in time, it might be the generation gap, but I doubt much of her generation (especially those living in rural NH) has seen what fine art prints look like.


Susan Sontag, In Plato’s Cave

Nick Ut, 8 June 1972
“The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene.”

The topics of photographs are varied, as are the reasons photographs are taken in the first place. Susan Sontag spoke about many reasons why people take photographs and the impact they have on “a world already full of images.” If you think about the act of being a photographer, you must understand that you are not engaged in the scene you are photographing. Photographers are off standing: viewing and recording. They are not present in the picture, but the picture is what they see.

One thing my mother noticed while looking through our family albums is that she is not in many of the pictures. The thing she did not notice is that this is because she was the one documenting my childhood and had it not been for her these pictures would probably not exist. If it were not for pictures of my infancy and early childhood, I would not even remember the things she documented for me. In fact, aside from pictures of my family, there are many things I would not be aware of if there were not photographical documentation of the events such as the image above from the Vietnam War.

In the photograph of the nude Vietnamese child running down the street after being sprayed with Napalm, the photographer is not helping the innocent child which, in retrospect, is heartless. At the time however, it was important to document the casualties of war so citizens knew what was going on. These types of images had much to do with the antiwar movements of this era. And as heartbreaking as it is, if it were not for these kinds of photographs, people would never know about the true meaning of hardships and war.


Why I Photograph

Empty SwingEmpty Swing, Savannah GA 2009

I take pictures for two reasons. Personally, I take pictures of things that are meaningful to me. These images represent the events in my life that were important enough to document visually or that stood out as being particularly beautiful at that given moment. I have thousands of pictures from vacations, of my friends and family, and some pictures of days where I brought my camera along and snapped  a few pictures.

Professionally/scholastically the pictures I take are more abstract and generally do not hold the same sentimental value to me as my personal photography, aside from the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing the image. I want to make people look at things differently through my images than as they would see those objects with their own eyes. I want to make people notice things that they normally would not notice. Early in Susan Sontag’s first chapter, she said “Just about everything has been photographed…or so it seems.” This goes along with my style a bit, because although what I photograph has more than likely been photographed before, I try to capture it in a different way.

I have found myself mixing business with pleasure lately, and crossing over more of my successful personal photography into my scholastic work. I do find, however, that it is harder to determine if a sentimental picture is successful because it means something to me or if it is actually a good image.


What Remains

What Remains SeriesAt Warm Springs, Sally Mann 1991

Sally Mann’s life and photography seem to go hand in hand. From the documentary, one thing she said stood out: “It never occurred to me to leave my house to make art.” This is true of her work, she photographs the things that hold meaning in her life. Family, marriage, land, and death were thetopics of her workin this film and they correspond with events in her life. I appreciate the simplicity of her topics and of her photographs, and I think it is one of the attributes that makes the prints beautiful. I found it interesting that Mann encountered negative feelings regarding the controversy of two of her exhibits, the one of her children and the one of death. Some people make controversial art intentionally either to spark interest or make a point, but Mann was taking pictures of what she considers beautiful and important and the controversy came later. In this case, it was unfortunate that her work received such criticism because she missed out on having the exhibit in New York City.