Category Archives: Assignment 1

Assignment 1: Further work

a.Presentation to and feedback from OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 21st March 2020

Due to the emerging coronavirus pandemic and pending UK Lockdown on 23rd March this meeting was held online via a Zoom meeting and use of accompanying OCA online padlet. Tutor Jayne Taylor was also in attendance.

With formal Assessment pending for July I thought this would be a good opportunity to do some more thinking about Assignment 1 and my use of an infra-red camera. This would be the second time I had presented work on Assignment 1 to student colleagues  (see here https://catherinebankslnd.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/assignment-1-looking-beyond-the-light-an-uncanny-view-of-a-familiar-landscape/ where I refer to online feedback from the Landscape Hangout on the student forum

I uploaded a written presentation to OCA TV Group Padlet  (see below) but also gave a verbal presentation during the meeting.

My questions were

  • Have I provided enough ‘proof’ that infra-red is appropriate
  • Is my ‘new’ statement sufficient or should I include explicit reference to the John Berger quote on the forest as metaphor?

The feedback was most helpful.  One group member queried why I was doing further work on assignment 1 as this wasn’t included in the Assessment process itself but as a diagnostic tool for the Module to begin a dialogue with my tutor.  I explained that, due to my tutor’s original querying of my use of infra-red I felt it important to make sure that I had explored this as thoroughly as possible.  People agreed that I had provided enough ‘proof’ on the use of infra-red but should remove the image of the clock as this no longer seemed appropriate to my theme – although one person thought it was extremely unworldly.

There was general agreement that I should include the John Berger reference in my ‘new’ artist statement to accompany the work.

In terms of presentation, and as a digital assessment process is now very likely, one suggestion was to try a slideshow perhaps using PowerPoint and also to have a white frame around it. Jayne Taylor suggested that I could create a montage where the usual green of the woods merged into red – I had already included in the presentation three images – infra-red; normal colour; and normal colour with a red Photoshop fill-layer applied through different blending modes – concluding that,  “the true infra-red still has a sense of being in a different space – more other worldly (with the shade of the red varying according to the ambient sunlight) because it is a light that exists normally unseen and when it is captured it infuses the photographs”.

Further written comments were added to the online Padlet after the meeting ended:-

  • I definitely like the red as a sequence. Other images could be added front and back to give the impression of entering another world (the forest).  I would need to read your assignment as a whole but for me it is the contextual side that needs to make the link between forest – uncanny – unseen and unseen – IR.
  • I understand the suggestion to remove the first image. Even so, I think it is extremely otherworldly, almost surreal. Maybe it would work as the final image?
  • I love these images Catherine – especially where the contrast is a bit higher. Well done.
  • I look forward to seeing the final presentation, I love the idea behind using them – disrupting our normal way of seeing. I do think you’d enjoy a little video by Donald Hoffman (the book’s good too but a video might suffice)
  • Hi Catherine, thanks for sharing your work with us all on Saturday. The images and text work very well together and the quote from John Berger is very neat and apt, especially the references to the kind of ‘negative space’ of the forest and the ‘’intangible’.  It would make a good introduction to the piece.
    Do you have a title for the work?
    As mentioned in the session, I think you’d find it enjoyable and rewarding to experiment some more with the images and perhaps try a collage or blended approach in response to your tutor’s comment about wanting to “see some normal images too”. Perhaps you could have both infrared and ‘normal’ elements within the frame?  It would be worth experimenting and recording the process in your learning log, even if you decide ultimately not to go down this road.
  • I particularly like your original ‘red images’ – very sublime. I’m impressed that you’re reworking your first assignment – but then again I have to restart mine!

b.Further viewing and reading

I have looked at the suggested video on YouTube, “The Case Against Reality | Prof. Donald Hoffman on Conscious Ageny Theory”, premiered on 9 Nov 2019. This video is almost two hours in length but there is also a shorter one of a TED Talk, “Do we see reality as it is?”.  In essence Hoffman believe that ‘Rather than as a set of absolute principles, reality is best understood as a set of phenomena our brain constructs to guide our behaviour. To put it simply: we actively create everything we see, and there is no aspect of reality that does not depend on consciousness”. He uses the example of a video game and how the viewer sees characters in a game whereas the reality is that it’s a pixellated screen with circuits and software hidden behind the screen. There is much that exists in the world which is unseen by humans -such as  infrared, microwaves and x-rays.

Hoffman would say that evolution does not shape us to see all of the truth, only that which we need to stay alive. So far as infra-red is concerned I’d have to research as to whether our eyes were never capable of seeing it or if this has an evolutionary advantage, so we have adapted to not seeing infrared (given that some other creatures, such as snakes do have infrared vision).

Recap/Reminder: I used an infrared (converted) camera for this Assignment because of its ability to capture an image which is infused by the kind of light which cannot be seen by the normal human eye. The RAW images are a pinkish colour and I decided to stay with this rather than convert to the more usual distinctive black and white or psychedelic images which can be created in processing software. I think the red has a softer, more dreamy effect which encourages the eye to roam as opposed to the sharper black and white or colour tones which are more startling (see here https://photographylife.com/introduction-to-infrared-photography

c.Further experiments

There are now eight images excluding the one with the clock. To begin with I had thought of just presenting photographic prints, given this is Assignment 1, and has printed some of the images on Permajet Titanium Lustre Metallic paper the sheen of which suits the idea of a different kind of light. I now began to wonder about other ways of presenting – say in an Exhibition – perhaps a lightbox would be a good idea.  I printed A5 size images onto Permajet Digital Transfer film; placed them, two at a time on an A4 lightbox I have and re-photographed them. 

It was obvious that the light from the lightbox had affected the colour of the images. So, as an experiment,  I then did some adjustments using the Selective colour channel in Photoshop.  Each image had to be adjusted individually in its proportions of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and I then used a high pass filler. Contacts sheet below to show the difference

 

I then did further test prints – using two further papers – Hahnemuhle smooth photo rag Book & Album 220 gsm and Permajet Portfolio 220 gsm.    The Permajet paper captures the colour more accurately but contrast is lost and there is loss of detail in the image.  The Hahnemuhle paper provides a sharper contrast between all the different shades of red and has a velvety feel although the colour has too much magenta there so would need to be tweaked for that paper. Of course, neither of the papers, being matte, capture the glowing effect of the Permajet Titanium Lustre paper I used to begin with. It isn’t possible to show enough of the differences on-line so this is an occasion where face to face feedback is needed. Overall, I’m thinking that these infrared images are probably more suitable for viewing online so will take this into account when preparing for the digital assessment submission. I’ll do another short blog post to present my personal statement and the final choice.

 

Daniel Blaufuks : Terezin (2010)

During our feedback session for Assignment One, my tutor suggested I look at the work of this photographer, in particular his project Terezin (2010)

Daniel Blaufuks was born in Lisbon, 1963, in a family of Jewish German refugees.  He uses photography and video and his work is presented through books, installations, films and facsimiled diaries and letters. His first documentary, Under Strange Skies (2002) chronicles the Jewish immigration, which included his own grandparents, through Lisbon during the Second World War and his film Slightly Smaller than Indiana (2006) is an essay on landscape and collective memory in Portugal. His project Terezin incorporates a book and video/film about Theresienstadt a World War II ghetto and transit camp in Northwestern Czechoslovakia.

Theresienstadt, in Northwestern Czechoslovakia, was established as a garrison town in the late C18th Century.  Between March 1939 and the end of summer 1941 the occupying German forces used the town as a military base. As they planned the first deportations of German, Austrian and Czech Jews to locations in the East in October 1941, The German SS and police decided to convert the garrison into a ghetto and transit camp.  The first Jews arrived there on 24thNovember 1941. To begin with it was those aged over 65 years and German and Austrian Jewish World War I veterans who met the criteria of either severe disablement due to war wounds or veterans awarded the Iron Cross 1stClass and above. Later on, a third category of the ‘eligible’ list was added – prominent Jews, especially artists, musicians and other cultural figures whose disappearance might lead to inquiry from their communities or from abroad.

Although the ghetto was run by the SS in practice it was presented as a model Jewish settlement for propaganda purposes. Educational and cultural activities were abundant despite congestion, hunger and forced labour.     When reports about the death camps began to emerge at the end of 1943, the Nazis decided to present the ghetto to an investigative commission of the International Red cross.  More deportations to Auschwitz were carried out to reduce the overcrowding in the ghetto and fake stores, coffee house, bank, school and kindergarten etc were opened with flower gardens planted throughout. Meetings between IRC and prisoners were ‘meticulously planned’ beforehand.

After the visit the Nazis produced a propaganda film and when filming finished most of the actors in the film, including almost all of the independent leadership and most of the children in the ghetto were sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.  The film has been used by Holocaust deniers to make false generalizations about the treatment of Jews by the Nazi regime.  More than 155,000 Jews passed through Theresienstadt until it was liberated on 8thMay 1945. 35,440 Jews died there and 88,000 were deported to be murdered. See here

The book

The book incorporates text, found photographs, facsimile diaries, photographs of objects; stills from the propaganda film, and stills from the film Blaufuks created in response to the propaganda film. the pages are not numbered. A DVD of his film is also included in a pocket at the back of the book.

At the beginning of the book Blaufuks recalls that the first image he saw of the camp was in Austerlitza book by the German author W.G. Sebald – towards the end, looking almost like a photocopy and portraying a space that seems to be an empty office.

There is no clue as to where the space is located and, according to the clock on the wall, it is exactly six o’clock.  He goes on to describe the small cabinets layered on an entire wall and how the whole room seems to be waiting for the occupant to return. His descriptions are very precise delineating exactly what we can see in the photographs – making them clear in our mind.

Blaufuks write about some diaries that came into his possession in the winter of 2001 – from the years 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.  Again – very precise. The diaries are written by someone called Ernst K (we aren’t provided with any more personal information about him). His written hopes, dreams, travels, photographs, scraps of papers with addresses and a lock of hair in a in ‘transparent cellophane paper. All appear. The diaries end in 1930 and Blaufuks wonders what happened to Ernst in subsequent years. No indication is given as to how/why these papers came into Blaufuks’s possession and who Ernst K was.  Was he indeed a real person I wonder, or is he a composite of the type of person who would be transported to Theresienstadt – the place where Blaufuks then transports me, the reader.

A description of the camp; how it came about – photographs, franking stamps, currency notes, charts. Postcards even. Stills from the staged film and then a description of his own visit to see the remains of the camp. He finds the room in the Sebald photograph.

 

The memory of this room prompted me, for some reason, to find the film fragments and to try to retrieve the images from their intended purpose, from the carefully constructed reality the film was planned to create for posterity

To slow down the continuous motion and search through the faces one by one and, once again inspired by Sebald’s writings, to see if somehow I could find Ernst K. among them.

 I needed to try to create some truth out of the falsity and out of those staged images. Was everything fake here or could we at least trust some of the expressions on these faces? Were these moments of happiness in the midst of chaos and despair or plain acting in front of a camera, just like in some of our later family home movies.

To understand how images can still lie even when we think we know the truth about them

(Blaufuks, D, 2010)

The book then continues with images from stills of the original film, interspersed with Blaufuks red-filtered images; photographs taken on his visit there (I think) empty rooms, details like a rubber apron, scraps of food.

The book itself ends with an essay by Karel Margry Theresienstadt 1944-1945: the Nazi Propaganda Film depicting the Concentration Camp as Paradise summarising the history of the Camp and describing the making of the film. At the end of the essay Margry provides, on paper, a reconstruction of the film in its final form – pieced together from available sources with scenes and sequences presented in correct order. Margry notes that, by order of the SS, the film’s music score was made up exclusively of pieces by Jewish composers.

Daniel Blaufuks’s re-presentation of the original Propaganda film

Blaufuks suffused the film extracts with a heavy red filter overlay which makes it difficult to see and also slowed-down the sound as part of his quest to find some truth in the images. The colour reminded me of old, thick blood. I couldn’t find the exact red so below is an approximate (I have experimented with layering a photograph of the crematrorium from WikiCommons but don’t think it appropriate to include it in this particular post but it can be found here)

The re-worked film opens with what seems to be an audience (perhaps watching the film) and the sound is distorted through being slowed-down. The conjunction of the heavy, dark, muted red and slowed film made me feel quite sick as it resounded in my throat and diaphragm. There is a sense of heavy doom about it. It is stamped with the words “STAGED NAZI FILM’ on the top right. 

Close-ups on people apparently reading at a table. A sequence of young women in shorts in a field, captioned “On the old fortress grounds people happily while away some of the leisure hours in the sunshine (05.33).  A lot of the scenes are of people sitting, reading, knitting, including what look like nursing staff. Large groups of children are shown. It refers to use of free time and watching football matches and a municipal bath that serves the population (1.03.49). It was the images of the municipal bath that made me shudder the most.

I read the book some time ago but have only just watched this film.  Somehow, I needed to circle around it knowing its falsity. I then re-read the book. To me this is a carefully prepared book telling a chilling story.  The precise prose is almost forensic in the mapping of how this Camp came into being; its purpose and destruction.  I could have ended with my response to Blaufuks film but, really, I needed to go back to the written words to gain some balance

Daniel Blaufuks writes a short postscript on the final page. Whilst preparing his book in Göttingen he discovered in Steidl’s library (his publisher) that the photograph in Sebald’s book was taken by the German photographer Dirk Reinartz and originally published by Steidl in the book “Deathly still:  Pictures of concentration camps” (1995),  which is still available.  Blaufuks writes, A perfect circle which started and now ends here in Göttingen.

I have another book by him Works on Memory: Selected writings and images (2012) Cardiff, Ffotogallery which I’ve read but will write about in a later post.  I feel very drawn by his mediations on memory and use of archives and artefacts to question truth and fiction and know that his work will be a useful resource later in the Module.

References

Terezin (2010) Blaufuks, D. (2010).  Göttingen,  Steidl Publishers

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/theresienstadt-establishment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresienstadt_(1944_film)

https://www.lensculture.com/books/7179-deathly-still-pictures-of-concentration-camps

https://www.yadvashem.org/holocaust/about/ghettos/theresienstadt.html

 

Response to tutor feedback on assignment One

This was a different way of receiving feedback for me.  Previously, in Level 1, I had a written report to which I’ve responded via a blog post.  In my first Level 2 Course I had a Skype session with my tutor who then sent me the notes she had already prepared to which I appended my own responses which were then incorporated in the Tutor Report form.  This time I had a Video meet with my tutor who then asked me to write the notes to which she added brief comments, plus suggested reading. The integrated report can be accessed below – my comments in red and my tutor’s in black font.

cbanks_lds_a1 feedback

I have mixed views about this way of giving/receiving feedback.  The video-meet feedback seemed very positive and encouraging to me yet it doesn’t seem to come over the same way in the written format. I’ll let it rest for a while.

Suggested reading/viewing

I now have the Daniel Blaufuks book project, including a video which has had a lot of impact on me with it its heavy red layering on old film extract – more to come on that and I’ll add a link when complete. (PS Here is the link )

I have also looked at the work of Awoiska Van Der Molen and Aletheia Casey  and find the latter the most interesting and relevant for me.  Casey’s work No Blood Stained the Wattle reflects upon the mythical telling and mis-telling of Australian history, using the violent conflicts and massacres of Tasmania’s colonisation as a backdrop, “to examine the notion of deliberate historical forgetting”. The series uses portraits juxtaposed with scenes of landscapes which have been rendered in different tones of blue and grey, whilst the portraits of Indigenous Tasmanians have a dark, haunted intensity about them – muted colours of clothing, so that the subjects’ faces seem to be appearing from a mist – the mist of the landscapes they accompany.  The physical photographic films are overlain with ochre, scratched and re-worked to reflect the distortion and silencing of history. The work is almost majestic in the stance of the subjects and use of colour and one that I will return to in Part Three of the Module.

Recommendations towards Assignment 2 will be covered in my future blog posts for that section.

Areas for development

Make progress with mind-mapping and ideas development for Transitions A6:

This has been achieved and will be covered in a separate post.

Equalising colour tones between images:

I have looked again at the images, but the red tones seem alike on my monitor and also on test prints. I will return to this at the point when I am preparing for Assessment.

Clarify the main concept for the work to increase the significance and purpose for the choice of infra-red:

Looking back at our discussion I see that my tutor’s question as to why the forest rather than any other place brought forward from me more about infra-red light and how it reflects from green spaces.  There’s so much written about the forest/woods – how they form the basis for so many fairy-tales, the dangers of the wild, the contrasts between human behaviour and nature.  I have many books about this but what I intend to do is to include relevant readings in future assignments.  My tutor also said she would like to see ‘normal’ photographs as well so I’ve done some experiments using a red fill layer over a colour photograph (in the same location although further back) which I converted to black and white, although when I checked later I realised I didn’t need to convert to black and white as just the red fill layer worked the same on colour.   I used a red fill layer (Pantone 1815c) at opacity 93% and then used blend modes of normal, darken and linear. Here are the results:-

To me the true infra-red still has a sense of being in a different space – more other-wordly and there are different shades of red. The images using the red fill-layer in darken and linear light blend are interesting through – similar to etchings.  I actually scrolled through all the blends which give different effects, some of them being almost like Japanese etchings.  So, an interesting experiment.

I could have used other techniques such as that used by the photographer Terri Loewenthal who creates psychedelic landscapes using coloured filters on her Mamiya 645 plus self-made reflective optics which creates scenes looking like double exposures. “Using the landscapes like a canvas, Loewenthal uses the lenses to color them. It grants her an autonomy most photographers don’t have: the ability to separate the color from the subject” (from Wired online magazine 06/07/18) .  Interesting to see this does seem to be more about technique.

I still think that using the converted infra-red camera gave me what I was looking for – a light that exists but that we are unable to see with normal eyesight. It exists and infuses the photographs. To clarify the main concept:

I am interested in the ‘edgelands’ between nature and humans, past and present.

The unseen, reflected light of infra-red stands for me as a metaphor for the history of those people who have walked in the woods over the centuries, events that have happened there and the unseen life that sustains the growth and life-cycles of nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection on Assignment 1

web_MG_9720

 

I’ve found it very useful to look back over Part I and see how much the Projects and Exercises contributed to this Assignment in leading me into the world of colour, particularly red.

Tracing the links between the conventions of painting and early photography (Ex 1.3) I realised that it was intense colour I was drawn to in 19thCentury painting and the drama it could add drama to more intimate scenes.  All the elements of composition were there but the use of colour worked to loosen this and produce more expressive scenes. So far as mid-20thCentury photography is concerned, whilst I appreciate the artistry of photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and their use of leading lines in perspective and layering of tones, I have to admit that I am much more inclined towards colour photography than I am black and white, even though I grew up surrounded by the latter.

The Mind-map I completed during Ex.1.6 was particularly useful in enabling me to keep a hold of all the strands in Morley’s view of The Sublime and, again, it was colour that stood out for me most.  I think that was because earlier I had been so struck by Tacita Dean and her search for the green rays of the sun during my reading around her Exhibition visit. I followed the colour theme through the work of Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor and was pleased to discover Caroline Jane Harris whilst working on my eventual chosen Assignment topic.  Whilst writing this now I am reminded that the assignment I most enjoyed at Level one was based around a photograph of a girl with red-gold hair 

My tutor suggested I look at the work of Lauren Jury (Aldridge) and Helen Sear during our email exchanges regarding my first idea for the Assignment (Ex 1.7). Although I’ve parked that first idea for now, it’s interesting that these photographers used colour (particularly red) as contrasts in landscape photography and to draw the eye to the female figure – as do Elina Brotherus and Susan Trangmar. “Seeing red” as it were confirmed my decision to take the leap fully into the ‘red’ world of infrared before it’s processed and to use this and the forest as metaphors for the wild and unknowable – a place where we more directly meet ‘other’. I’ve long been interested in the ‘uncanny’ aspect of the Sublime so it was a good fit for my idea. Oddly, the unexpected did happen as well in reading the story about the place of execution and then coming across the piece of rope hanging from a tree.

So far as the technical is concerned, I could have used a red filter I guess but this would have given a different quality. Infrared photography has a quality all its own which contributes towards creating an atmosphere of ‘otherness’. All-over red could easily become a blur so I was careful to choose more structural elements in a scene when this was available and then chose the photopaper that seemed the most appropriate. Although prints would be a first choice I’ve also thought about other types of presentation that could be used., such as printing on transparent film as an overlay, or printing on tracing paper.

Reading the above, and thinking of assessment criteria I think I’ve met all of them to a reasonably competent standard. It took me longer than I’d anticipated to complete the Assignment, partly because I became side-tracked into experiments with alternative photography such as cyanotypes and leaf prints – still to be written-up – and also because I abandoned my initial idea after realising from the direction I was heading in that it would be a longer-term project.  Thinking back over my previous Modules, my creative process does appear to be one of following different strands at the same time.  In this case, I think I hung onto my first idea for too long which is why I got in touch with my tutor for advice, yet, at the same time, I felt more energy from working with two ideas at the same time.  How do I get the balance between hanging on grimly to an idea that doesn’t seem to be working and being like a butterfly seeking nectar all over the place. I’ve written above how creating the mind-map helped me to keep hold of the Sublime strands but does the structure of a mind-map actually increase my tendency towards lateral thinking because I can see lots of strands that interest me?

I’m also aware that I enjoyed the research into the Sublime and extended both my understanding and knowledge regarding artists who reflect it in their work.  However, I didn’t refer much to the Sublime itself in the write-up of the Assignment. Maybe I was taking it for granted that viewers/readers would understand my approach when I should have been explicit.

 

 

Assignment 1 – Looking Beyond the Light: An Uncanny View of a Familiar Landscape

Assignment 1 – Looking Beyond The Light : An “Uncanny” View of a familiar Landscape

Brief: Produce a series of 6-12 photographs that convey your interpretation of beauty and/or the sublime within the context of landscape. You may choose to support, question or subvert accepted definitions of these terms.

Introduction

Having decided not to proceed for the time being with “Viewpoint”   I returned to my interest in colour. I have already written here  about Olafur Eliasson’s Sun (The Weather Project (2003)) and his colour experiments, and  Anish Kapoor’s Maroon Trumpet (Marysas(2002) and Dismemberment(2009))  and its links with Greek myth and Titian’s painting The Flaying of Marysas. Also  here  regarding Tacita Dean’s search for the Green rays of the sun as it sunk below the Horizon in Madagascar and her belief that it is not an illusion.

In America they call it the green flash. When the sun sets, in a very clear horizon, with no land mass for many hundreds of miles, and no moisture or atmospheric pressure, you have a good chance of seeing it. The slowest ray is the blue ray, which comes across as green when the sun sets in perfect atmospheric conditions. It’s the last ray as the sun recedes with the curvature of the earth. Like a pulse on the horizon. It’s totally fractional, though it can last longer.
(From interview of Tacita Dean by Jeffrey Eugenides 1stApril 2006 Bomb Magazine )

I have also recently looked at the work of Caroline Jane Harris, an artist whose work encompasses photography, printmaking, drawing and poetry.  Harris is inspired by the natural world whilst conscious of the links between humans and natural life forms. Her series Anatomy of the Arboreal (2014) consists of hand-cut layered prints in different colours and reflects geometric, linear and circular motifs found in all levels of existence. I was fascinated by the delicacy and individuality of each but the red ones particularly drew me. The colour red captures attention, maybe because of the way it focuses behind the retina of the eye. It has so many associations, being the colour of passionate love, violence, danger, anger and also connected with religion and magic. I thought of the recent blood moon and total eclipse in July this year and the “red sun” in October 2017 event, created due to remnants of Hurricane Ophelia which dragged with it tropical air and dust from the Sahara.  The dust caused shorter wavelength blue to be scattered, making it appear red.  I have wondered how experiencing those phenomena and not understanding the causes might have been a terrifying experience in earlier centuries. For some reason I began to think of infrared light and wondered what it might be like to use my converted infrared camera to photograph the landscape and how it might evoke a similar sublime, “uncanny” effect. I wrote further on this here.

The photographer Jitka Hanzlova  Is mostly known for her portraiture as she explores an individual’s immediate surroundings and the landscape in which they live – often approaching sites of her own childhood – “the path that I take is a path back to look into the future”.  In her series Forest (2000-2005) she portrays the forest as a visual metaphor – a place where the line dividing reality and fantasy becomes thin and as a symbol of memory and loss.  Her forest can be anywhere, anytime, revealing aspects of itself in dusk, dawn, all seasons and soft light.  Hanzlova’s book of the series (2006) is accompanied by an essay by John Berger Into the Woods (2006) which also appears in the anthology The Sublime (Ed. S. Morley: 2010:125). One phrase encapsulated for me the attraction I feel towards trees:-

A forest is what exists between its trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different timescales…. A forest is also a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant, waiting behind a tree or in the undergrowth. Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible(J. Berger 2006)

Looking Beyond the Light

I actually began using my Infrared camera at the same time as I was searching for a “Viewpoint”. During July and August I took around 123 IR photographs – beginning in a park near to the local Hospital, then moving through the local Church to arrive back in Ether Hill Wood. It takes a while to get used to using the converted camera as the amount of near-infrared reflected by various subjects differs considerably so scenes that can look visually similar can demand different exposures.  My camera has a polaroid lens fitted to get the best skies for black and white processing in bright sun.  That was fine in some respects for producing deeper tones but less good on duller days so I had to make decisions at the time regarding whether to use it or not. The white balance meter was tricky as well so in the end I decided to stick with auto white balance but then changed this to ‘shade’ in Adobe Bridge Camera RAW so that I could achieve the same tones overall. Then I felt worried it was all ‘too red’ until I reminded myself that the Assignment only requires 6-12 photographs.

During August I read the following comment on a Facebook post for the local weekly Park Run

Did you know that Ether Hill (the official name for Achilles Hill) is believed, in the 14th century, to have been the site of the local gallows. It was chosen as it was visible for miles around to act as a deterrent for others to not commit crime. 

Next time you run up Achilles Hill and mutter to yourself that it’s killing you, you might be a bit closer to the truth than you think

That may or may not be correct, I certainly couldn’t find any mention of this on an initial web search although I did discover that this part of Ottershaw used to be called Chertsey Lane End.  Even so the information unsettled me  to think that people might have been executed in the place where I enjoy walking.

At the end of August I participated in the Landscape Hangout on the OCA student forum for the first time, presenting some early contact sheets for feedback (one of them below)

I also mentioned the story about the gallows. Feedback was very positive with reference to a ‘haunted forest’, that the photographs worked well with glimpses of people and trees needed to be interesting in themselves rather than just being red. There was interest in the tale about the gallows and Nuala suggested I could hang a rope somewhere as a reference to this. I thought about that afterwards, even began to look to see if we had a spare rope in the garage but then changed my mind as I wanted to remain as ‘authentic’ as I could be.  I was very surprised, therefore, at the beginning of September to actually spot a rope hanging from a tree in the nearby Copse whilst I out walking with the dogs so I went back the next and photographed it.  Now this is odd, because when I went back a week later the rope had disappeared!

After much thought I had reduced the set of photographs down to 22, including one where I had composited an image of a deer downloaded from Wiki Commons although I had decided that the latter wouldn’t be suitable because it was difficult to change the normal colour tones of the deer to match the tones of the infrared image. It was interesting to experiment though. I concentrated on choosing images which had interest in themselves in terms of composition, structure and content.

There was a meeting of Thames Valley group on the 15thSeptember where I presented the contact sheet plus a couple of A4 prints I had created using Permajet Titanium Lustre photopaper  which I thought complemented the colour and tones with its textured finish.  Again I had a positive response with a suggestion from Jayne Taylor, our presiding tutor that I should stick to landscape as such.

Final selection

I have now chosen eight images that I think represent the atmosphere I wished to convey – an environment almost parallel to the one we see but not quite – a place which contains traces of other people and events, floating in light that exists just beyond our vision.

At this stage I’m not entirely sure about presentation.  Certainly Permajet Titanium Lustre photopaper works well with these images if I’m thinking of prints and/or a book. I also created some short iPhone videos of people on the memorial fields below the wood and am wondering about combining these with the infrared photographs in some way.  I’ll work on this pending feedback from my tutor as well as reflecting more fully on the overall process in a separate post.

Notes on Infrared and Near-Infrared photography

I wrote about my early explorations into Infrared Photography here https://catherinebanks.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/early-explorations-into-infrared-photography/ (2012, so long ago and in my earliest days as an OCA student!).  On a re-reading I realised that I’d included most of the technical information there, so I ditched the lengthy notes and draft new blog post, so please do read about my early explorations if you’re interested in the process. That post produced quite a lot of comments and very useful discussions on whether infrared photographer should be considered ‘tricksy’. Two of the comments pointed to elements of Infrared that are of particular interest to me at the moment:-

Keith Greenough (OCA graduate) referring to one of my black and white IR images on Flickr and how the pylons stood out strongly:-

….This made me think about whether it might be possible to use IR in a project/assignment to highlight elements within landscapes or urban scenes which would normally be overlooked. The idea would be to make the viewer conscious of these previously unseen elements.
Just a thought…

Norma Bellini (OCA graduate)

….. What is ‘reality’? Is it what we actually see, or what is really there, but we don’t see? If it is the former then ‘reality’ is a variable because we see, and interpret what we see, in different ways. If it is the latter, we are being misled by what our eyes see.

These aspects have been occupying my mind lately in considering ‘The Sublime”, particularly “The Uncanny”.  There are elements in the landscape of our lives that can’t be seen even though they exist; radio and microwaves; feelings and emanations.  How is it that we can walk into a room and sense an atmosphere or feel a cold shiver down our spine before we even know that a place is said to be haunted or that something bad once happened there.  History and memory are layered into our landscapes along with the ravages or depradations of time. Infrared photography could be used as a visual metaphor for these perhaps – just as Richard Mosse used it in his project The Enclave  (2013). Remembering of course that he used a different type of infrared and infrared film (16mm colour infrared film,discontinued film stock developed by the United States military as a reconnaissance tool during the Second World War). This film turned the landscape deep pink and the rebels’ camouflage uniform bright green – making them stand out instead of hidden. As I mentioned in my original blog post there was much debate at the time as to whether this was appropriate.

In his latest project The Castle (2018) Mosse used heat as both metaphor and index by using a military-grade thermal video camera to document refugee camps and staging sites along mass migration routes into the European Union from the Middle East and Central Asia .  Also, in her project Dan le Noir (2017) the photographer Lynda Laird used infrared film to photograph the remnants of Normandy’s bunkers, accompanying these with a diary entry from 6th June 1944 written by Odette Brefort who was a member of the French Resistance . In an interview here   Laird talks about her use of the film and how it fits with her ongoing work concerning memory and a sense of place “trying to look at what’s invisible in a landscape – what you can feel and what you can sense”.

There’s precedent, therefore for my use of infrared, although I won’t be using infrared film but a digital camera converted to use the reflected light from near-infrared. An unprocessed infrared image tends to be brick and cyan but it can be converted to other looks in Photoshop. The images below show original image; conversion using  the channel mixer (plus some work in Nik Silver Efex Pro) and the gradient filter (blue/yellow).

I doubt I would ever use the gradient filter, even though the psychedelic effect is intriguing, but it was interesting to try. The more usual black and white can be very effective but, in the case of this particular Assignment, I intend to use the original red tones because they fit my concept.

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Busch D.D. David Busch’s Digital Infrared Pro Secrets (2007) Boston, MA, Thomson Course Technology

http://www.lyndalaird.com

http://www.richardmosse.com/projects/artist-statement

A Possibility for Assignment 1

Viewpoint: The Disappointed Sublime

Morley describes the ‘disappointed Sublime” as thwarted transcendence, particularly in relation to mass culture where sublime effects are routinely produced in the form of “consumerist pseudo-sublimity which may often seem to place the sublime beyond the reach of authentic experience.” My own experience has been more than being disappointed in the expectation of wonderful view and awe-inspiring experience but of experiencing the awe and then not feeling anything on a second visit – as happened to me in Venice. There’s also this perceived inability to ‘capture’ the wonder of landscape – indeed how can the gestalt of that experience be conveyed in a 2D print?

“You can’t possess a landscape and you can’t possess a place” – I identified with this statement  in an interview in Lens Culture  with Ana Samoylova   an artist who is interested in how we process and internalize images. She describes how she had never visited America before moving there so her main visuals of it came from photographers like Ansel Adams. When she visited Yosemite she was shocked because she had imagined ‘grand, high-contrast, black and white mountains, but what you see is more like Stephen Shore or a Roger Minick photo’. Photographs of places like Yosemite, ‘start to repeat each other’s compositions, which solidifies an idea of the place in your mind, even if it doesn’t actually look that way in person’. In her series “Landscape Sublime”  Samoylova builds a new landscape constructed through her own experience, using fragments of unfamiliar photographs to construct abstract sculptures which glow with colour and light. Interestingly, she also describes being in Provence recently which was so beautiful that she couldn’t distance herself enough from the pleasure of the experience, “So I ended up with a bunch of postcard-like pictures of lavender fields that simply fall short of transcribing the dizzying aroma of the humble little flowers, the buzzing of bees, or the fading amber sun”. So reassuring for me thought that even an experienced professional photographer can fall into the same trap!

“Viewpoint”

This project began when I paid closer attention to a signpost in the woods pointing the way to ‘Viewpoint’. I’ve already written here about my original thoughts on assignment 1 and the beginning dialogue with my tutor.

Here is an early contact sheet of some of the original photographs:-

A bright day with pale sky over darker, dappled woods – a challenging dynamic range.  Two ladies agreed to maintain their pose as they and I were looking for a viewpoint. The viewpoint bench was installed at the beginning of last year at a time when the foliage had been trimmed so there was a view of the grounds of the private golf club below. Now the foliage has grown back and the view is of wispy shrubs in the foreground.  My first idea was to have a large print of what could, hopefully, be considered a ‘sublime’ image so on my next visit I took an A2 size piece of card to see if there was a way I could fasten a print with string and clips. However, the shrubby foliage was too weak for this.  The ground directly in front is rocky, uneven and variously sloping as well so not entirely suitable for some kind of frame (especially bearing in mind my previous ‘accident’ in our garden with the backdrop frame.

The next idea was to use a Claude Mirror . This type of mirror is more identified with the Picturesque Movement, but I was at a stage where I was prepared to compromise.

You can certainly see the form/structure of the trees but it really is too dark.  I could just have well as used my variable ND filter over my lens again even though that wouldn’t have brought my hand into the frame.

I also tried a prism which gave some interesting results and almost-rainbows. I used a touch of high-pass filter with a soft-light layer adjustment to add more punch but, again, I was disappointed with the results.

 

My next thought was to provide my viewer with a different ‘viewpoint’ through composite layers. At first I attempted to do this including my spectator but it proved too complicated for me at this stage so I concentrated on introducing just a different view using images of waterfalls. For this I used a blended image created to balance out the high-dynamic range on a summer’s day in the wood.

 

A dramatic Alaskan waterfall:-

 

 

The more sedate Cascade in nearby Windsor Great Park here in the UK.

It was at this point that I decided to get in touch with my tutor to give her an update on my (non) progress because I didn’t feel as if I was getting anywhere. Encouraged by her suggestions I decided to change tack, as suggested and see if I could discover more ‘interrupted’ viewpoints and/or viewers with the thought that Windsor Great Park might provide inspiration.

I couldn’t believe it! I know it’s been hot, but it had rained recently. The Virginia Water Lake is still there but the Cascade was dry.

 

I thought I’d try the Roman Ruins instead.  I’ve only been there once before and was amazed at the gall of ‘stealing’ from antiquity and not only that but mixing the remains in with stones from elsewhere. Completely fabricated just to provide a ‘picturesque view’.  Why should that bother me though – we’re always making something out of nothing to provide spectacle and entertainment.

 

 

With hope in my heart, and after some more rain, I went back to the Cascade a couple of weeks later. Still dry!

 

My final attempt was to create a ‘little planet’

web.V.Water.littleplanet

Interim Hiatus

I am still interested in the idea of ‘back’ portraits within landscape but there needs to be more to them – a closer view, something more enmeshed.  I do feel inhibited about taking such photographs – it seems sneaky somehow and I felt better about it at the beginning when I actually asked someone if they could stay in place so I could take a photograph.  That could well be a good way forward for me as and when I’ve devised a more complete strategy.  This won’t be for Assignment 1 though as I need to get this completed as soon as possible. My fail-safe has been to begin another project on an entirely different subject which doesn’t depend on the weather or people.