Monthly Archives: November 2009

Susan Sontag, The Image World

In terms of ‘modern art,’ photography is right up at the top with the latest technological advances in the field of artestry. Our generation accepts photography as an art form, unlike generations from the past that had to fight for this acceptance. People used to consider photography to be a mechanical replication of reality, Sontag describes photographs in terms of being created by “light waves reflected by objects.” I also liked how she said that photography is addicting, because is seems as if everyone takes pictures these days and I think this fact has taken away from the artistic approach. Kind of the “when everyone’s special, no one is” thing of photography. People take pictures of their friends, families, kids, dogs, flowers, vacations, selves. It’s become overwhelming, and frankly who cares about these pictures? So I guess as artists, it is our job to take off-beat photos and stop people in their tracks. Hello egg project, hello photo collage. I’m rambling, bear with me.

“A photograph is not only an image, an interpretation of the real, it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint of a death mask.” The history channel recently did a documentary about death masks, which is essentially a plaster (or some other material) mold made from a face. They focused on Abe Lincoln’s death masks and how these masks have helped historians document Lincoln’s significant ageing while in office, leading to the discovery that he had some sort of rapidly deteriorating illness (I forget exactly what they said he had, or what they thought he had).  I believe photography is more than art, that photographs are documents, and that in the future they will be beneficial in the same way as death masks have been and I found it interesting that Sontag made this connection.

Photography has a certain appeal to it that, in my opinion, few other art forms have. “Our irrepressible feeling that the photographic process is something magical has a genuine basis.” Photography may be appealing because it is seemingly magical; that with the click of a button an entire scene is easily captured. It may also be because every individual photograph is different, is personal, captures an intimate event, or gives the illusion of posession of a cherished person or thing. In reality, a photograph is a piece of light sensitive paper exposed to the light filtered through a light sensitive piece of plastic someone fed into a machine and exposed to some environment. Photography is an illusion, same as any painting or drawing. This will be especially interesting for our upcoming project, The Indecisive Moment, because there will be no actual event or environment, it will all be fabricated and essentially an illusion inside of an illusion. On the other hand, Sontag says that “photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…of making it stand still.” This is also true of drawings and paintings, except that a photograph is literally taken in an instant where as it takes hours to do a painting/drawing so perhaps light or objects/figures have shifted slightly.

One thing is true about photography ONLY: photographs are exact.



Ideas for Photo Collage

mirrorI think this is my best idea, and after doing a number of different drawings I think I can make this into a series. Here, I would like to photograph the bathroom empty, and then photograph my friend Kasey getting ready (brushing teeth, washing hands, makeup, etc) in front of the mirror, but photoshop her actual body out so that it all you can see is her reflections. The other images I think I can make from this one include a shot in our room (including her sleeping, studying, etc) but this one was a little too complicated to draw.


This one would be a little more surreal, of Kasey’s silhouette in front of our huge window, and then I would photoshop in a picture I took this weekend from the Boston Aquarium of jellyfish.


This image would be of Kasey looking out of the french doors at herself outside.


This one is from a painting I saw in a downtown Portsmouth gallery, kind of a play on words of a common phrase. This could also become a series of different word play images.


And last but not least, this is a reproduction of a painting by Max Klinger called the Judgement of Paris. I always thought this would make an interesting photograph and was considering using the composition for my final project, but it seems to fit the parameters of this project as well. It is a mythological scene, I would make it more modern and was thinking about using Kasey again for it having her pose as all the figures. So instead of it being the Judgement of Paris, it would be the Judgement of Kasey (Kasey being judgemental/critical of herself).

Susan Sontag, Photographic Evangels

richard_avedonrichard-avedon1188215126-1Portraits by Richard Avedon

There were many good quotes in this chapter about photography, what makes a good/bad photograph, and why photography is an art. On portraiture, I found Nadar and Avedon’s quotes to be opposing but both important and truthful. Nadar said “the portrait I do best is of the person I know best.” Avedon said his best portraits are of people he just met, but that “it is through the photographs that I know them.” Avedon’s feelings on portraiture may be different because he photographs many models, dancers, and actors/actresses: people who are used to being in front of the camera. I find that in my work, the people I photograph are my family and friends (and that the models of many other photographers, famous or not, are also people they know on a personal level).

In terms of photographers having to fight for their work to be considered art in the past, one thing I think that will begin giving photography a bad name are those drunken college photographs taken with point-and-shoot cameras. These “portraits” flood the internet. Ansel Adams suggested coining the term “making photographs” instead of “taking photographs”. “Making” a picture sounds much more artistic and professional, where as “taking” a picture relates more to sloppy, not thought out or composed images (aka myspace portraits, etc.) that give photography a bad name. This is where it is good to revert back to old cameras such as the 35mm or the 4×5, because these are more artistic and complex and require more time and effort to compose a single frame. And for those who think photography is not an art, well they haven’t seen or used a large format camera. Just being able to use the 4×5 camera requires skill, and it takes hours to set up, meter, compose, and shoot just a few delicate frames. After using the large format camera I have much more appreciation for my D60.

One last thing I would like to apply more to my own work is that ‘the image must exist in the photographers mind at or before the moment when the negative is exposed.’ I think this relates directly to the photo-collage project, especially considering we have to physically/literally sketch out our ideas. I think this is a good rule to work by, and I think I will actually do this for my final as well. I have ideas for photographs pop into my head all the time, and I think my work would benefit if I sketched out these ideas-both to save them and to reference while working or shooting. I think a lot of the problems I have had in the past with composition/lighting/themes is that I didn’t spend enough time mapping out what I want to do and how I want the final image to look. I have always kind of let things happen, and usually it has worked out but I have found that while trying to produce more mature work I have encountered many more problems that could have been avoided with more thorough planning.

4×5 Collaborative Project