Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

The Why and How of Gregory Crewdson

When I went to see the Gregory Crewdson exhibition in London earlier in the summer, it was the opening day and I had a strange experience. I went with my friend David and we were looking at these fantastic images and I was trying to explain to David how I understood Gregory worked and the use of symbolism and atmosphere in the pictures. I was eulogising the work and the man, I think he is a genius. Then as I was explaining a man started to invade our space, he was in a suit but creatively scruffy, long hair and with a friend following. You know how it is at exhibitions, you sort of want the space to yourself and as I was in full flow was a touch put out by the intrusion.

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Gregory Crewdson The Haircut, 2014 © Gregory Crewdson

We moved on the next picture and in a short while here was the man again, more lacking in exhibition etiquette I thought in my very British way. The man and his companion had moved to the 3rd picture on the wall so David and I hopped to the 4th. I was leaning in close to admire the exquisite detail in one of the images when they appeared again, the companion leaned in and pointed to exactly where I was looking and turned to the man and said, “That is so beautiful, you are so clever”

I had been irritated by the presence of a master, how stupid of me. I didn’t say hello, a bit embarrassed but I wish I had now.

Yesterday I found this film on YouTube where Gregory talks about his process and motivations and intentions, I so wish I had head it from him in person. The 30 minute film shows him orchestrating the actors, environment and atmosphere to capture the remarkable images he makes.

This is such a brilliant 30 minutes I would really recommend you watch

If I had seen this first I would have recognised him and maybe not have made a fool of myself by explaining to the master his works!

The great man at work

Sadly the exhibition of his recent work Cathedral of the Pines has now ended at the Photographers Gallery

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Wim Wenders on his Polaroids – and why photography is now over

Wenders, too, now regards photography as a thing of the past. “It’s not just the meaning of the image that has changed – the act of looking does not have the same meaning. Now, it’s about showing, sending and maybe remembering. It is no longer essentially about the image. The image for me was always linked to the idea of uniqueness, to a frame and to composition. You produced something that was, in itself, a singular moment. As such, it had a certain sacredness. That whole notion is gone.”

The article in The Guardian is not one that will explain to you in detail why photography is now over, it is more the sense that for Wenders it left him behind when he gave his Polaroid camera to Patti Smith. The article is littered with the sounds of names crashing to the floor when dropped.

Why the Photographers Gallery would be bothered with showing pictures by someone who never thought of themselves as a photographer is beyond me. However, what do I know, I am sure all those names littering the floor and on the wall in the 3″ x 3″ white iconic frames will be enough to have hordes of people wanting to visit and buy a book or a postcard

If you want to read the article it is here

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/12/wim-wenders-interview-polaroids-instant-stories-photographers-gallery

Heinz, 1973, by Wim Wenders Photograph: © Wim Wenders

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Ephemera … Campbell Soups, New York, 1972. Photograph: © Wim Wenders

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/12/wim-wenders-interview-polaroids-instant-stories-photographers-gallery

‘They were made from the gut’ … Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977, by Wim Wenders. Photograph: © Wim Wenders/Courtesy Deutsches Filminstitut Frankfurt

 

Swapper – David Hurn Magnum Photographer

I chanced upon this on the BBC website. It is one of the most interesting articles I have ever read about the method and process of being a photographer. Hurn, one of the masters of documentary photography (although that sells him short as his work covered a far greater range) tells the story of how and why he became a photographer, his influences, mentors, and methods. I loved that he would find out when famous photographers were coming to the UK and then offer himself as a driver, guide and assistant. Or that he would find out where photographers he admired lived and would knock on their door and just introduce himself. This is an article you MUST read. It is long and full of images so give yourself time, you will be rewarded.

The Swapper is a story about the internationally-acclaimed British documentary photographer David Hurn; it is a story of a dyslexic, Welsh schoolboy written off as being “a bit thick” and an extraordinary “succession of bizarre coincidences” which would propel him into the ranks of photography’s elite.

A fixture of Sixties London and the Hollywood inner sanctum, his images of Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Sean Connery as James Bond, and the Beatles on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, became icons of the 20th Century.

But they are mere window dressing on a body of work so influential that recognition by him is now regarded as something of an anointing of careers.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/david_hurn_photographer_swaps_magnum

David Hurn, the iconic Bond Imagehim is now regarded as something of an anointing of careers.

 

David Hurn is a luminary of Magnum Photos.

Magnum is the stuff of legends. Being invited to join its hallowed ranks – there are only 62 working members in the world – is notoriously difficult; think of it as a kind of SAS, Harvard, an Olympics gold medal of photography.

“I saw a pattern in how all the most respected photographers approached their work,” Hurn said, “and I believed that these basic principles could be passed onto aspiring youngsters.”

Hurn’s interest was encouraged and he set up the School of Documentary Photography at the Newport College of Art. It would become one of the most sought after courses in the UK and beyond.

The course was run with Hurn’s characteristic pragmatic approach.

There was to be no philosophical navel-gazing about ‘truth’ or the ‘theory of light’, it was about being on time, wearing good shoes – “If you’re walking around for hours taking pictures, you need them” – analysing the contact sheets of successful photographers – “It’s the best way to see how they think” – and, most importantly of all, getting a job.

“It was unbelievable,” Hurn says. “We used to have about 700 applicants for 15 to 20 places.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/david_hurn_photographer_swaps_magnum

Jnr Wales ballroom dance championships, Bargoed 1973, Hurn

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/david_hurn_photographer_swaps_magnum

Pit pony handlers’ rest room, Neath Valley, 1993, Hurn

Book mark this link and go and read this wonderful story

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/david_hurn_photographer_swaps_magnum

Rankin launches social media campaign for World Heart Day

Rankin is one of Britain’s most famous and important photographers, he is the David Bailey of our times and in many ways as influential. He is a photographer who is at the top of his profession as his website shows.    He is also a man, a good man who cares about a wide range of issues and he is putting his considerable prowess and exposure behind a campaign for the “Heart for a Heart” campaign, created for World Heart Day

Rankin

The “Heart for a Heart” campaign, created for World Heart Day

The “Heart for a Heart” campaign, created for World Heart Day, is a response to the fact that every three minutes someone dies from heart or circulatory disease in the UK. Its aim is to get people who spend their days tapping the heart symbol on Instagram and Twitter to instead design their own heart-inspired artwork and post it on social media on World Heart Day, on Friday. From The Guardian

Rankin

Rankin by Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

“You have great artwork to inspire everybody,” he said. “Everyone can draw a heart, it’s one of the simplest symbols to draw and it works across all cultures and languages. The heart is the universal symbol. It can be romantic, it can be broken, it can be used on T-shirts to profess a love for a city. And, in recent years, it is synonymous with social media. The team and I wanted to make that mean something.”

“I am not an expert,” he said. “I just think it’s important to research these things for yourself. I am definitely a short, fat, very unhealthy bloke so if I can do a little bit, then everybody can do it. This is a fun way of going, ‘It’s important to look after yourself,’ and I like the idea of a social media conceit that is not just liking something.”

The photographer and the BHF are asking people to upload their artwork to social media on Friday using the hashtag #heartforaheart, tagging @TheBHF.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with being a short, fat photographer but I take his point, getting healthy and supporting this good cause is important

So what will you do, will you ignore the request,  or will you upload some artwork to spread the word and share the love?

 

I am a goat

So the summer has come to an end, rain hits the window of my office and as I idle away a few minutes I find a series of images by Kevin Horan of goats. As I said in the title I am a goat, in Chinese Year Of, so I was intrigued, who would have thought goats could be such interesting and varied subjects?
‘This is a work about portraiture,’ says Kevin Horan, who is based in Langley, Washington. ‘What it does and how it works. I’ve made portraits of people for years and the chemistry of it is still mysterious. I tell my subjects that a good portrait is a collaboration between photographer and subject. But how do you collaborate with a goat? A goat you’ve just met?’

Kevin Horan

Bella

Kevin HoranLily #4  ‘They’re treated as if they were customers in a small-town photo studio’

Lily #4 ‘They’re treated as if they were customers in a small-town photo studio’

Kevin Horan

Jake #1 ‘While the idea was to bring farm animals into a classical portrait studio, the studio actually goes to them – it takes a couple of hours to set up lighting and backdrops’

Kevin Horan

Ben ‘My first subjects were the sheep across the lane from me. But that didn’t work out. I then went to a small goat dairy, and a couple of goat fanciers, who were more cooperative’

Kevin Horan is an artist based in Langley, Washington, USA. He is working on projects which look at animals as people, people as animals, and the planet as a very small place. His pictures are reality-based, and he enjoys finding the amazing revealed in the ordinary. His work from Chattel was selected for the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 in 2014.

You can see more of his work which includes pigs here Kevin Horan

GREGORY CREWDSON: CATHEDRAL OF THE PINES

I find I can rely upon the culture section of The Guardian for many interesting articles about photography. If you have been on my courses you will have found that I talk about Gregory Crewdson, his images are cinematic in many aspects, both the nature of their creation and the sense they provoke. He has a new exhibition called Cathedral of The Pines and it is reviewed in the The Guardian

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‘They were more difficult because they were less spectacular’ … Father and Son, 2013. Photograph: © Gregory Crewdson / Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

In 2013, in retreat from “a difficult divorce”, Gregory Crewdson moved from Manhattan to a converted church in rural Massachusetts. “I had to relocate myself, physically and psychologically,” says the photographer. So he spent his time mountain trekking, long-distance swimming and, when the winter set in, cross-country skiing.

“I was out in the snow one day when I came upon a sign for a section of the Appalachian Trail called Cathedral of the Pines,” he adds. “It stopped me in my tracks, just the resonance of the name. I knew I had to use it.”

The resulting series is more sombre, foreboding and inward-looking than the meticulously staged cinematic photographs that made his name. It opens this week at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, the first time the institution has devoted all its gallery space to a single artist.

Cathedral of the Pines took two and a half years to shoot and, typically for Crewdson, required the kind of preparation that usually attends a Hollywood film: months of casting, location hunting and storyboarding, with an extensive crew to oversee lighting, props, wardrobe, makeup and even some special effects involving artificial smoke and mist.

The new exhibition can be seen from the 23rd at The Photographers Gallery

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Gregory Crewdson The Haircut, 2014 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 × 50 inches (95.3 × 127 cm) Edition of 3 + 2 APs © Gregory Crewdson

“By my standards, it was relatively restrained,” he says, laughing and citing his 2008 series Beneath the Roses, which cost as much as a mid-budget movie and entailed four city streets being closed down for shots that required rain and snow-making machines.

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Gregory Crewdson The Motel, 2014 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 × 50 inches (95.3 × 127 cm) Edition of 3 + 2 APs © Gregory Crewdson

Cathedral of the Pines was challenging in a different way. “These pictures are smaller in scale and, to a degree, they were more difficult because they were less spectacular. You have to create meaning and atmosphere in a more intimate way, which makes lighting, for instance, a lot more challenging.”

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Foreboding … Mother and Daughter, 2014 Photograph: © Gregory Crewdson / Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

see more pictures and read the rest of the review in the Guardian here

find out about the exhibition at the Photographers Gallery here

Paying it Forward: Stuart Franklin on teaching the next generation of photographers

Stuart was a member of the original Photogragraphers Workshop when we were based in St Marys Road Oxford. It was a darkroom and studio hire centre so anyone interested in making their own photographs could come and develop film and make prints. Stuart lived in Oxford at that time and would come to make prints, he is a very friendly and helpful man so I am not surprised as his role as a Magnum photographer he is teaching the next generation.

The urge to document their world photographically is a drive that has undoubtedly been felt by many Magnum photographers; and it’s a practice that Stuart Franklin explores in his 2016 book The Documentary Impulse, charting the motivation to visually tell stories and represent the world far back beyond the invention of the camera, all the way to cave painting. From pre-history onwards he explores a history of photographic representation in visual culture and many of the practical and ethical issues that form the backdrop to the current landscape of the industry. Through teaching, Franklin aims to help a new generation of photographers go beyond the practicalities of technique and understand their practice within the weight of this context. Here, Franklin discusses what there is to gain from a photography education, and explains how he experienced the ‘documentary impulse’ himself. You can read more here

Stuart Franklin Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 26th May 1999. ©Stuart Franklin

On a personal level, how have you felt or experienced the ‘impulse’ in your own practice?
An impulse or obsession is almost crucial to a life in documentary. I have explored a number of ideas – still working on some today – with an irrational drive, where work that I’m pursuing, and the way I’m doing it, makes absolutely no economic sense. Most of my books evolve in that way: Footprint, The Time of Trees, Narcissus, La Città Dinamica – even The Documentary Impulse. I work on projects because I am impelled to do so.

“In visual storytelling coherence across a body of work is an essential part of authorship”

– Stuart Franklin

Read the full article here and find out about the course Stuart is running

Stuart Franklin is teaching on the Intensive Documentary Photography Course with London College of Communication and Magnum Photos. More information about this course, including details on how to apply can be found here.

Supercharged children– in pictures

yet more startling images found in the Guardian.

Known for his portraits of Spanish miners, Pierre Gonnord has turned his technique to young people, creating portraits that look like oil paintings. Light of the Soul by Pierre Gonnord is at Festival Portrait(s), Vichy, France, 16 June to 10 September. All photographs: Pierre Gonnord; he is represented by the Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid

Pierre Gonnord

Nicola, 2010 ‘I know why I do portraits. For the opportunity of encounters. These life experiences. Learn from others, listen, watch, see, feel, express. It’s to open one’s eyes to the world, to know other universes, other realities in order to go beyond one’s own small frontiers in the urban environment and enter little by little into the sharing and the understanding of humanity’

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Iris, 2011 ‘Installed in the silence of a room, generally a very small space, sometimes with daylight, sometimes with a lamp, a flash, just one spot … in a short distance, in the same living area, I can talk with the individual, my fellow, a chosen human being, and looking at him I repeat once again this old ritual. A very short moment. Probably the most ancient since man has been on Earth. Strip little by little all the details, and in silence try to catch what maybe is under the skin’

Pierre Gonnord

Adriano, 2010 ‘I chose the person, the individual, alone in the margins of his social group,’ says Gonnord. ‘When I travel and meet a community, I have time enough to establish contacts and connections, to know individuals that move me for their charisma, sensitivity, intelligence, shyness, beauty … and this is why I decide to invite them (and no others) to do a portrait’

Pierre Gonnord

Attia, 2010 ‘We are absolutely and irreparably involved in otherness. I would like for my portraits to situate us as spectators in front of this other that is at the same time our spectator. The other exists because we exist’

Remarkable aren’t they? see more here 

Even better go and see his website here

Gods of garbage – in pictures

Fascinating set of pictures found in The Guardian

Fabrice Monteiro travelled to the most polluted places in Africa and created terrifying characters who roamed their midst dressed in eerie debris. They are spirits, he says, on a mission to make humans change their ways

Fabrice Monteiro’s All images courtesy the artist, Photo Basel 2017 and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

‘Who is fighting for clean water in the US? Native Americans. Who is fighting for land preservation in Australia? Aboriginals. The rainforest in Brazil? Indigenous peoples.’

Fabrice Monteiro’s All images courtesy the artist, Photo Basel 2017 and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

‘When I started the project, I found out what Senegal’s biggest environmental challenges were and chose nine topics that seemed the most visual.’

Fabrice Monteiro’s All images courtesy the artist, Photo Basel 2017 and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

The surreal figures wear costumes made in collaboration with Dakar-based designer Doulcy, from items found at each location.

Fabrice Monteiro’s All images courtesy the artist, Photo Basel 2017 and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Informed by Africa’s environmental problems, Fabrice Monteiro’s photographs aim to highlight urgent ecological issues all over the world. His series The Prophecy is on show at Photo Basel 2017 until 18 June. All images courtesy the artist, Photo Basel 2017 and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

See more of these astonishing images here

And visit Fabrice Monteiro’s site here

Cloud Storage

When I am teaching I am often asked about cloud storage as a means of backing up images. It seems to me that most people shoot a lot and backing up to the cloud is OK if you have a fast broadband connection but there is the additional issue of cost. We have been seduced by the likes of Google and Amazon offering free or cheap storage but when that free storage is say 30GB that is not much use when you are regularly filling 32GB cards with images. Then came the options of unlimited storage, Amazon were one of the first in on this and it seemed a good deal but as we now learn from DIYPhotography this is coming to an abrupt end and if you have Amazon as your storage you have to look at what you are using because otherwise it might all disappear.

Clouds above Sydney Opera House

Clouds above Sydney Opera House

 

Google have been pushing people towards Google Photos as a means of cloud storage and you get 15GB free, less than one card! a 1TB of storage is $10 a month. Currently I use 3TB external hard drives to back up my images, so that would cost me maybe $30 a month with Google.

Cloud storage is fine if all you do is back up your phone snaps but for any serious photographer the cloud is adding to the expense. So you say external hard drives connected to the computer cost too, this is correct, my Western Digital drives cost about £70 so in 3 months or so I get free storage and the peace of mind knowing Google etc are not tracking my images.

I still like Flickr you get 1TB (1000GB) free and if you want a more pro feel you can upgrade for about £32 a year. It allows for RAW file storage unlike Google and although 1TB is not enough for all my images I use it for my personal work. The trick would be if you want more than 1TB then have more than one account, break your storage down into subject areas.