Saturday, March 13, 2010

Teacher let the monkeys out

The remote class, "Picturing the Body." taught by Jonathan Worth at Coventry in England is winding down. The students who are taking the class on site are finishing with some practicums, and as those classes are not accessible to yours truly, the culmination of the module involves gathering a selection of photos for consideration to be curated into a final exhibit of the students' work. George Rippon, another student, is responsible for the curating.

While the other students have been fine-tuning their darkroom techniques and such, I have moved on to other projects, primarily the text-photos, and the time has afforded me some distance from the photos I made for the module. I returned to the files today to have another look and make the final cuts for George to look at.

George and I have corresponded some this past week, mostly so that I might have some direction on how to proceed. He suggested that I send him up to forty images. I laughed. I knew I did not have that many images that I felt were worthy. I wrote, "closer to four." However, when I began going through the images, I was surprised at the number I actually did like. Furthermore, some images I initially thought were the best no longer had the same appeal, and those I thought were iffy were now seen in a more favorable light.

Now, dear reader, I ask your indulgence. Below you will find my final selection. If you are so inclined to look at all of them, I'd ask that you also try to determine which one or two you find most appealing, and leave a comment as to why. I know that this request will involve a bit of your time, yet I hope that at least one moves you to a degree that you are inclined to remark.

I thank you.

These first three photos are from the first assignment for the module. We were to photograph a stranger and I chose to ask a woman who works at the local liquor store. She is not a complete stranger to me as I have a penchant for cheap scotch; yet, neither of us knew the others' name, nor had we spoken more than necessary to complete a transaction with my credit card, so I hoped she would qualify as a stranger.
The last photo remains my favorite. The woman was very animated once she was comfortable with the photographing, many other emotions still lying below the surface. I see the photo as her almost in repose, the wisp of hair through her glasses lending a certain grace were it not for the tight lips. I also like the color and texture of the photo as it suggests an acrylic painting of the subject.

The next assignment, appropriately enough, was to photograph people we knew, or, as Jonathan put it, members of our tribe, which is a reference to a phrase used by the photographer Nan Goldin. I chose two women who farm up the road from us. These women are in many ways an exercise in contrasts, yet both equally loved by DW and I. While I like several of the photos I have of them, I chose the two below to perhaps best depict their different natures.
What I failed to accomplish in this assignment was a photo that contains both of them in a frame that shows the contrasting personalities. I do have video footage that more than exemplifies this, but it may have to wait to be seen at another time.

The next assignment, "Nude vs Naked," found me in a bit of a quandary. Aside from myself, I had little idea of whom I might ask to be my model. Yet, after an inquiry to a local gallerist, I had a name, and soon thereafter, a person willing to disrobe in 50°F weather for a modest fee.

"But you don't know what I look like." was her only hesitation.

"I don't care." was my response. She had experience as a life drawing model, which would be a good start, but the one thing I knew I didn't want to do was do what I see as the fairly stereotypical nude photo of the lithe female with her back arched "just so," suggesting availability no matter the setting.
This photo is very much a pose, and the pose is one commonly found in a life drawing class. What saves it is the window clouded over with cobwebs and dead bugs.  Yet, I was looking for something even less conventional.
I have to ask myself, what would this setting look like with a model more suited to high fashion photography? It might be an idle fantasy, and I suspect it would make the photos seem more contrived than they already might appear. These strength of these photos is that they tell a story, albeit bizarre, and for a reason. They, along with video from this session, will be used in an ongoing project that revolves around the compost pile with which she is burying her feet.

It would makes sense, no? that the following assignment would involve the clothed body.  I tried, but I'm afraid that this assignment did not turn out as well as I had hoped. I have one photo that I think works half-way decent, and that is "Résumé Photo."

As I mentioned, I could have used myself as a model for a series of nudes, and in fact I did, although I don't know if you could call them nudes, per se. The final assignment (there are several embedded links to different days of blog posts about this assignment) for the class centered around the topic of aging, so, as a man who can no longer take his age, multiply it times two and hope to reach that sum, I am certainly aware of my own aging process, and made me a suitable model.

This assignment was by far the hardest for me; yet, as I look back on it, I took more time considering an approach than with the previous sessions, and in today's selection process, I found more photos that I thought had potential from this final assignment than all of the others combined. Furthermore, the distance from the time I took the photos until now has made some of the photos I felt were too unflattering more palatable to my vanity.
Fear of Irrelevance

I have written about the last two photos elsewhere. If you're not too exhausted, you can read it here and here. Otherwise, I thank you for your time.


Crash said...

Well, I'll tell you my 3 favorites, but you may get depressed with it. I just chose them because they were enjoyable to look at, not for any interpretive art reasons:
1. The stronger farm woman. Looking upward into a glaring light, unafraid, determined to succeed. Especially compared to the other farm woman.
2. You in a suit by the pine trees. Jaunty. Comparing this to the little I have learned about you from your blog.
3. You holding the goose-neck lamp. Don't know why.

The more brutal photos of you and of the liquor woman are not photos I would drive very far to look at. I am sure they are good, artwise, just not for me. I suppose they could be saying that we can survive and be happy even with a few nicks and scratches. I do admire you for doing them.

joxum said...

I met Nan Golding a bunch of years ago in the late 80's, when I myself was a budding photographer and she was in Copenhagen to present her show.

I really like her style and her way of seeing things.

Speaking of photographing people we know, did I ever point you to Walter Hirsch, one of my favorite Swedish photographers?

Also, check out Anders Petersen. A totally different style from Hirsch.

Petersen spends a lot of time getting to know people before taking the first shot. "Cafe Lehmitz" is a classic over here.


Harpreet Khara said...

Hello Patrick, As iv pretty much commented as we've been going along, I won't write an essay here. If I had to choose 4 out your bunch.... hmmm

Set1: I quite like the abstract nature of shot 2. The tattoo and teeth are interesting compositionally. Because you can't see the eyes, the notion of stranger seems re-inforced. Shot 3, you fave is also interesting for the reasons you give.

Set2: Shot 1

Set3: Shot 2, for pure bizarreness!

Résumé photo, I like. I would just rotate the photo about 2 degrees clockwise to even out the horizon.

The last set, Not really a fan of the macro stuff, possibly because of over-exposure to intimate body part work recently.
I like the very last photo. The Caravaggio style lighting, posture and facial expression are interesting.

I'm just finishing my project, it's rather conceptual/contemporary.
I will be posting blogs on it, Monday-Tuesday. I just hope people understand my concept!


NT said...

I like the résumé photo and the b&w image of your chest the best. I also like "Fear of Irrelevance."

It should be said that I'm much more conventional in my predilections than you are, and so my opinion is probably of little value in your growth as a make of images.

Anonymous said...

Set1: #2
Set2: #1
Set3: #3
Set4: #6 and the "Carravagioesque" (btw at first I thought you were holding a welding torch)

Josef/ Galak

bastinptc said...

Thanks for the indulgence folks. I appreciate everyone's opinions. I'll let you know which one(s) get picked.