Bath Student Study Day: Gold & Grayson Perry Tapestries

On 23rd January, a small group of photography and textiles students met in Bath to visit the Holburne Gallery and the Victoria Gallery to view the current exhibitions of “Gold” , from the Royal Collection and the Grayson Perry tapestries, “The Vanity of Small Differences”.  One could say a juxtaposition of topics.

Holburne Gallery

The Gold exhibition explores how the exquisiteness of gold is represented throughout art.  The exhibition which is beautifully curated, draws from every department of the Royal Collection.  The exhibits themselves range from the ostentatiousness of a gold charger weighing a hefty 8.8kg (19lbs) and still used in Buckingham Palace, to the simplicity of a bronze age pure gold cup (my favourite exhibit).

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/69742/the-rillaton-cup (accessed 29.1.2016)

 

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https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/32/collection/50836/tray (accessed 29.1.16)

The exhibition was divided into three areas of spirituality, power and status.  There was a huge lions head “donated” to William IV by the East India Company having previously belonged to Sultan Tipu and formed the centre piece of his magnificent throne.  Even the most simplest of exhibits represented ostentatiousness and demonstrations of wealth such as the delightful opera glasses encrusted with pearls and diamonds.  There were exquisitely gold embossed book covers, the place gold has in painting as well as several gold bowls, pieces of jewellery and gold gilt tables.  Not normally an exhibition I would have visited but found it fascinating and beautiful.

We also visited the main gallery where there was an exhibition of Michael Eden’s 3d printing which was fascinating. Inspired by 18th century pottery Eden manages to place his ideas firmly in the 21st century with witty titles and modern technology.

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These exhibitions have opened my eyes to objects in art that I would not have given a great deal of attention to.

Victoria Gallery

The Vanity of Small Differences is a well known set of tapestries by Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry.  The six tapestries in the series featured Channel 4’s three-part series, All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry shown in June 2012  where Perry explores British taste as an inspiration for his art.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/in-the-best-possible-taste-grayson-perry

In the six panels of The Vanity of Small Differences Perry relates the rise and fall of a technology magnate and consists of the characters, incidents and objects.  I had the sense in the gallery that Perry was sitting somewhere looking on with amusement as we all identified with on various aspects of the tapestries.  It starts with the birth of Tim Rakewell in Sunderland and follows his life from humble working class beginnings through his university days and on to his country retreat in The Cotswolds.

Perry’s influence of the “Englishness” portrayed by Hogarth and Renaissance painting is evident in the tapestries.  Each tableaux relates to a religious

The Vanity of Small Differences tells the story of the rise and demise of Tim Rakewell and is composed of characters, incidents and objects Perry encountered on journeys through Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds. Hogarth has long been an influence on Perry’s work and this exhibition is heavily influenced by “A Rake’s Progress”.  He also manages to link scenes to mainly Renaissance paintings. The tapestries also include a narrative woven into each tapestry spoken by one of the characters.

A magnificent piece of work which is powerful, political, humorous and thought provoking.  A most creative way of linking existing influences and interests to tell the story.

http://www.victoria-miro.com/exhibitions/429/ (accessed 29.1.16)

With both of these exhibitions I have learnt a lot about how art is produced and perceived and what purpose it might have for the artist as well as the perception of the viewer.

 

 

 

 

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Lens Work: Research Point

Research point
Do your own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project.
Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course.
Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph. 

 

The use of depth of field is a powerful tool in photography.  It dictates the compositional elements that draw in a viewer’s eye and it is this that provides the photographer with the control to direct what the eye sees.  For example using a shallow depth of field,  where the photographer wishes the viewer to focus on the main subject and by throwing the other elements of the environment out of focus (shallow or narrow depth of field) means that the viewer has no choice other than to focus on the main subject. The photographer has total control of the viewer.

Both Godwin and Adams use depth of field to enhance and draw the viewer into the landscape.

 

Manipulation of depth of field is a good way to modify the characteristics of your photo, and manipulating the aperture is the ideal way to do this because it has little or no effect on composition. You simply need to change the shutter speed (or change the light sensitivity – ISO) to compensate for the changes in the exposure from the adjustments to the f-number. Changes in distance and focal length also affect DOF, but these changes have trade-offs in terms of composition. Therefore, changes to aperture are the best way to manipulate DOF without affecting a photo’s composition.

http://www.exposureguide.com/focusing-basics.htm (accessed 26.1.2016)

In my research for Project 2 I noted that both Ansel Adams and Fay Godwin use black & white photography to further “dramatise” the effect of the landscape,  Godwin in a brooding and haunting way and Adams in a more romantic way.  However both, by and large, make best use of depth of field to ensure the viewer has an opportunity to take in the whole shot.  Having said that, both compose their photos in a way to draw the viewer into the shots. Godwin uses the relationship between man and the land  to do this in her composition whilst Adams is more likely to use leading lines to draw the viewer in.

 

Godwin in her last interview talked about how she became a landscape photographer because of her love of walking and desire to earn a living.  This was predicated by her relationship with Ted Hughes who asked her to co-author a book of poems about the Bradford area (The Remains of Emet).

I had no aspirations to become a landscape photographer at all. In fact it was portraiture that was my beginning, I suppose. I have always been a very keen walker, though, and I often took a camera with me on my walks. But I was, and still am, an avid reader and so when I first started I chose to photograph many of the great writers in this country to try and earn a living.

Ansell was widely revered and many replicated his photographs of the American National Parks.

ansel adams quotes – Bing images.

As well as comparing the approaches of Godwin and Adams I did the same with Bourdin and Kuhn.  Whilst both exploit in their photography the human form, Bourdin does it in a quite aggressive way which is evocative and sexy even though many of the models are at least partially dressed.

Bourdin has been criticised for his treatment of women.

“objectifying the female form in pursuit of the perfect image…”

via Guy Bourdin: Audacious, Controversial, Humorous and Surrealist Fashion Photographer | Yatzer. (accessed 26.1.2016)

The way in which Kuhn expresses her photography of nudes is much softer, often using blurred imagery or reflections to help compose and frame her shots.

Critics have observed that Mona Kuhn’s subjects seem ‘nude but not naked

via Evidence by Mona Kuhn. (accessed 26.1.2016)

 

Conclusion

Whilst Godwin and Adams are primarily landscape artists and Bourdin and Kuhn use the human body in their work, the ways they portray themselves as artists are quite different.  I observed that the photographic artistry was more similar between Adams and Bourdin  and Godwin and Kuhn than first appearance.

Both Adams and Bourdin have been cited as searching for “truth” in their images by using sharp and crisp images.  Similarly, Godwin demonstrates her passion for truth in the landscape.  This becomes evident in “The Forbidden Land” where there is without doubt an urge for her to inform viewers of the devastation of the countryside by man for commercial or selfish reasons.

Kuhn however, seems to be portraying the strengths and weaknesses of the human body which creates tension and unease for the viewer.  Despite this apparent difference between the four photographers, my view is that in their own interpretations they are endeavouring to capture a story, whether it be past, present or future by using a set of aesthetic codes including composition, depth of field, sharpness, lines and viewpoint to express their point.

IMG_4098 (2)

Photo from my archive of Olden Ffordd in Norway, re-imagined as a high contrast black and white shot.

The next image goes beyond the brief but I couldn’t resist trying it out.

Edited image as a black and white shot.IMG_4098 (2)

 

Tutor Feedback and Reflection – Assignment 2

OCA Wearn EYV02 13 Jan 16.doc

For Assignment 2 I chose crowds as my subject.  Big mistake.  I realised without doubt that street photography is not my forte.  That was confirmed by the feedback from my tutor.  Although, some shots were OK many (and I really knew this when I submitted them) were not well composed and the framing was not always satisfactory.

My tutor cites image 8 as an example of where the framing is detrimental to the shot.  I hadn’t even noticed how close the man in the right hand bottom corner was to the edge of the shot, so caught up was I in getting the shot of the boy climbing on the sculpture.  This until the feedback, had been one of my favoured shots!  I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn.

However, Image 5 was a better example of well composed crowd street photography with the eye being drawn into the man who is looking towards the woman who is purchasing an item from the stall.  I did think this was one of the better images too.

Having reviewed my submission following tutor feedback I feel that Image 4 is a particularly bad example of composition and Image 2 is not particularly well framed with my “spot Darth Vader” being tucked away at the bottom of the shot.

I have followed up my tutors recommendation of looking at Lee Friedland’s work and his use of reflections to frame his work.  I have also tried to emulate  this technique in my photography.  This is a shot I took on an unofficial study day to Bath.

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Overall the feedback has been very useful and has made me assess my approach to street photography.

 

 

Exercise 2.7

Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

I shot this exercise several times.  Demonstrating depth of field seemed to be a simple exercise I managed to confuse myself twice!  The first when I downloaded my sequence I truly thought that using my 24mm-105 lens that I’d shot at around 25mm but when I checked I’d shot everything at 80mm focal length!  The second time I did not manage to get close enough to the canal boats to achieve the feeling of “being in the shot”, so my third attempt was to set up some bottles on the table at home and demonstrate, using a 17 -40mm wide angle lens and with an ISO of 400 because of the extremely dull conditions I managed to more effectively demonstrate depth of field using small apertures and wide angle view.

Image 1

OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8712

ISO 250, FL35mm, f22@ 1/15sec

Image 2

OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8711

ISO250, FL 35mm, f20 @ 1/15sec

Image 3

OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8707

ISO250, FL35mm, f8, 1/125sec.

Not only did I not get close enough to the barges but all of the images are slightly under exposed.  The actual difference in focus between the foreground and background show very subtle differences which can really only be seen when the image is blown up at 3:1 ratio.  This is the same for the indoor images too.

Image 4

OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8727

ISO400, FL22mm, f22 @ 1/10sec

Image 5OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8725

ISO400, FL22mm, f16 @1/20sec

Image 6

OCA Exercise 2.7DOF-8722

ISO400, FL22mm, f8 @1/80sec.

In this second set of images the small screw in the foreground is out for focus between f8 and f14 but then becomes increasingly clearer up to f22.

None of my attempts are particularly imaginative or in fact well composed.  I seem to be having trouble assessing the closeness of the image even when using live view on the camera. Something I need to work on.

Exercise 2.6

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. (Remember that smaller f numbers mean wider apertures.) Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

Books f4 unedited

f4.0 @ 1/80sec, ISO 100, FL 80mm

Books f22 unedited

 

f22@0.3 sec, ISO 100, FL 80mm

Using the smallest aperture for my Canon 24-105mm lens and using AV (aperture priority) setting with a focal length of 80mm, the depth of field is very narrow with only the title of the main book clearly visible.  The shutter speed is the fastest of the three images published here at 1/80 sec.  By increasing the size of the aperture to f16 the shutter speed slows to 1/6 sec and the depth of field is increased.  In this image we can now see more of the title of the main book and can begin to pick out the titles of the books in the background.  When the shutter is set to f22 (the smallest aperture) the shutter speed is significantly slower at 0.3 sec., however the depth of field is increasing with the authors name now visible but the titles of the books in the background remain blurred.  The difference in depth of field between an aperture of f16 and f22 is not as significant as between f4.0 and f16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The distorting lens: Exercise 2.5

Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom in; you’ll need to be aware of the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Focus on the subject and take a single shot. Then, without changing the focal length, set the focus to infinity and take a second shot.

Exercise 2.5

 

Exercise 2.5

Taken on a Canon 5D Mk III (full frame), 1/400 @ f4.0, FL 105mm.  The first image is zoomed to 105mm with the model heron in focus in the foreground and without changing the viewpoint I moved the lens to infinity focus and the heron becomes blurred with the grass and frost in background now in focus.

The distorting the lens: Exercise 2.4

Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus on the eyes and take the shot.

Exercise 2.4I was probably a bit close to my husband for this exercise.  However, it does demonstrate the way the shallow depth of field makes the subject stand out.  Taken on a cropped sensor 4/3 Lumix GX7 set on Aperture Priority, 1/320 @ F 5.6, FL 42mm.

Exercise 2.5 Elodie

 

Given a very helpful comment on my blog regarding the portrait shot of my husband, I wonder if this would be a better option for the exercise.  The background may still be a bit cluttered but the lighting is better.  Taken with a Canon 5D Mk III using a 24-105mm lens and zoomed at 73 mm.  1/320 @ f4.0.