Another Never-Been-Done-Before!

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Your experience of life alters when you do something you have never done before. This image is one of those things I have now done for the first time. This image is my creation from beginning to end: I photographed in on black-and-white film, with an analog camera. I developed the film, printed a contact sheet, picked the image, enlarged it and printed it.

I cannot say I have now ticked off an item of my bucket list, but I have conquered another photographic mountain that at first seem unsurmountable. Next!

The Four Directions

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The Studio! I have anticipated working in a studio ever since I started my formal study of photography. My current academic endeavours at Kensington & Chelsea College have opened my eyes to other photographic genres, yet deep down I still consider myself a portraitist first and foremost. And studio portraitist is the next frontier for me, to conquer the misteries of artificial light.

For our final project in the Studio Photography unit we had to create two series of four studio created images, one series consisting of still lives, the other of images taken with models in the high glide part of the studio. I opted to combine my two series in a single project about the Four Directions. With the help of my two amazing assistants, colleagues Gesine and Liliana and fellow photographer Rodrigo as my model, I present to you my interpretations of the Four Directions.

NORTH:

EAST:

SOUTH:

WEST:

Photographic Actor?

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One unexpected development of my photography studies has been being asked to pose for the projects of some of my fellow students. So do I consider myself a model now? I would rather say that I am now also a photographic actor, as that combines my two loves, photography and acting. The preceding and following images were taken by my colleague Gesine Garz. Check out her amazing oeuvre!

Feta and Puy Lentil Salad

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One of the most challenging assignments we have had was to make a series of photos to illustrate a recipe. Challenging as you had to make the pictures interesting and appetising and deal with photographing in a kitchen.

Here is the illustrated recipe, comments are welcomed:

Feta and Puy Lentil Salad:

 
Ingredients:
200 g feta cheese
juice of one large lemon
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a bunch of fresh mint, chopped
300g Puy lentils
3 cloves garlic, flattened but not peeled
2 bay leaves

Break up the feta and let it sit in the lemon juice and half the olive oil.

Tip the lentils in a large saucepan of water, add the garlic and the bay leaves and cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender. They must not be soft.

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Drain the lentils, discard the bay leaves and pour the remaining olive oil over them while they are still warm. Season with black pepper. Add the marinated feta and sprinkle over with the fresh chopped mint.

And here is the finished product, ready for a romantic evening:

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Meet the locals at “Proyecto Asis”, wild life rescue sanctuary in Arenal, Costa Rica

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In December 2013, I had  the privilege to visit the Central American country of Costa Rica, a country with an incredible natural beauty  and dedicated to the pursuit of a pure and clean life. The country is known for the diversity of its flora and fauna. I saw many sights and colours and took a great many pictures which I will be sharing on this blog very soon.

During a visit to the hot springs of the Arenal volcano I had immense pleasure of visiting “Proyecto Asis” . According to their website, the sanctuary exists because “human development and the accompanying destruction of natural habitat, not to mention illegal hunting, have led to a precipitous decline in wildlife populations, causing many species to be in danger of extinction. We believe by doing our part in helping injured wild animals and educating the public on the struggle of these animals, we will be helping to restore the balance between man and nature”.

At “Proyecto Asis” I made the acquaintance of its current residents and was quite impressed. At first I was shocked to see some of them living in cages, albeit large and comfortable ones. The lovely guide explained to us that the animals living in cages are ones which are used to living in packs. As they were abandoned or forcibly taken away from their packs, they need to become part of a new pack before they can be set free again together. It is all for their own good and their living conditions are a vast improvement over their previous circumstances.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you some of the current locals at “Proyecto Asis”!

Le Troisième Homme

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In early November our Photography class travelled to Paris to attend the 2013 “PARIS PHOTO” exhibition. Four days filled with images of all sorts, inspiration in many forms and one, very compelling assignment: to photograph a series of images inspired by the movie “The Third Man“. This 1949  motion picture, directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Wells, was the first movie ever shot almost in its entirety on location. “The Third Man” is a classic “film noir” thriller shot in black and white and is famous for its lighting techniques which won Robert Krasker, its cinematographer,  an Oscar. Although the film was shot in Vienna we were given the assignment in Paris, as that city as well as London, show similar locations. So for your enjoyment, here is the series I call “Le Troisième Homme”.

Visual Lemonade

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A proverb tells us that lemonade is what we should make when life gives us lemons. So what to do when a tutor gives you visual lemons, aka bad snaps? Make visual lemonade!

We were given an envelope with 20 truly bad pictures. Our mission (should we choose to accept it)? “To discover some redeemable features and to organise them into a presentable form“. As this was a class assignment, we chose to choose to accept the mission. And there I was with my 20 visual lemons.

But fear not! Just the previous day, I had learnt about textures and tones and a very bright lightbulb went off in my head.

Careful scrutiny revealed that 4 of the images displayed some interesting textures.

As I was looking for interesting tones, the next step was to desaturate the pictures and lower their exposure to make them black-and-white.

Having done all this, it became time to look for the interesting tones. The images were turned every which way and carefully scrutinized. Slowly a pattern of sorts evolved, one of the semi finalists was eliminated and it was time to crop-crop-crop.

So without much further ado, for your viewing pleasure: VISUAL LEMONADE!

What’s Charcoal Gotta do with It?

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One of the most interesting classes we have had at Kensington & Chelsea College, was a live drawing class with a nude, and very rude, model. When I heard about it my first reaction was apprehension. I am not known for my drawing abilities, so nothing good was bound to come out of it. Then I thought “I am studying photography, what’s charcoal gotta do with it?”

We soon learned from our tutor that the object of the class was not the become the latest “it’s” in the art world, but to train in identifying lines and tones created by the reflection of light on a subject.

Lines

We started slowly and progressed. From the basic lines, we moved to more of an outline of the human form.

Outline

Then we turned off the lights and, working only with a light on the rude and nude model, set out to draw the tones created by the light on her body and on the background. You create the different tones by using a rubber eraser and also smudging with your fingers.

Tones

It was indeed a very useful exercise, one that would come in handy the very next day. But more on that later…………..

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William Egglestons’ Energy and Process

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The exhibit of William Eggleston (b. 1939) photographs at the Tate Modern consists of 30 photographs from two of his series,  “Chromes”, created between 1969 and 1974, and “Election Eve”, which is the result of a commission by “Rolling Stones” magazine to photograph Jimmy Carter’s hometown prior to the 1976 United States presidential election [1] . The images from the two series are not mixed and are presented subsequently, 20 from “Chrome” and 10 from “Election Eve”. Each picture in the exhibit is connected to both the one in preceding it and the one following it, by subject in some cases and by predominant colour in others. Many of the photographs are of cars and gasoline stations, some of Eggleston’s most favorite subjects [2] . Both series contain photographs of gasoline stations and, as a matter of fact, the two series are connected by three consecutive images of gasoline stations, each of a different brand, creating a seamless totality.

It is clear from the pictures that they were taken in the sixties and seventies. The automobiles, fashions and furniture styles set the historical context of the photos. In one of the gasoline station photographs, the brand evident is “Esso”, one that has not existed in the United States since the late seventies.

It is also evident that the pictures were taken in the South of the United States. There is a rural quality to the images that one usually associates with the Southern states. Furthermore, Eggleston is well known for spending most of his career documenting aspects of the South [3].

The Eggleston show at the Tate Modern is part a greater exhibition of works from different art forms entitled “Energy and Process”, which according to the exhibit notes looks at the interest of the artists in “transformation and natural forces”.  William Eggleston is credited with the transformation of fine art photography by “establishing the acceptance of colour in fine art photography [2].

Eggleston’s career initiated with black-and-white images and was inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Walker Evans.  He began experimenting with colour negative film in 1965 and in 1967 he started to use color transparency film, his ultimate medium of choice.

The one quality that captures one’s immediate attention in the Tate exhibit is the vibrancy of the colours in the pictures, particularly the reds. This is one of the trademarks of Eggleston and is a result of the dye transfer printing process  which he started using in 1972 . According to the Tate Modern Exhibition Notes this is a “highly complex and expensive process, which allows various colours within a photographic print  to be printed as separations”.  The Notes further indicate that “each colour is printed in its richest form, maintaining strong red and green tones within a single image”. The process also makes the prints durable and prevents fading [2]. The dye transfer technique, was initially used for printing advertising images and Eggleston was one of the first non-commercial photographers to use colour in his work.

The Exhibition Notes also describe the displayed collection as images recording “a particular place at a certain time”. For Eggleston what is important is that he photograph and not document every day life [2].

According to Eudora Welty in her introduction to “ The Democratic Forest” , Eggleston’s photographs “focus on the mundane world”. In his introduction to “Ancient and Modern” , Mark Holborn indicates that these mundane scenes have a dark undercurrent.  Both qualities are evident in the Tate exhibit, as the collection evokes an area in decay and a sense of alienation.

The image that immediately caught my attention and clearly exemplifies alienation is that of a white gravestone in a cemetery from the “Election Eve” section.  The stone stands out as the only white stone surrounded by grey ones.  It is at the center of the image, clearly its protagonist. The name inscribed on it “Smith” which is considered one of the most common last names in the US. The other three gravestones in which the name is evident are all inscribed with “Cranford”, an uncommon name. There are flowers at the other graves, but none at the Smith one. All of these elements serve to accentuate that the Smith grave is different and alienated from the others.

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In the image it is clear that this is a new cemetery as to the left there is an empty expanse unencumbered by any walls. In a sense, this sets the photograph apart from other photographs in the series, in particular the other “Election Eve” ones. Those images are of dilapidation and decay, whereas this one is about something new.  Then again, a cemetery is where bodies are placed so they can decay in peace. Having a cemetery as the only new thing in a decaying town also gives a clear statement that the town is dying out.  The Smith grave, although included with the other graves, sits at the very edge of an enclosure and appears to be in the last horizontal row of existing graves, further increasing the sense of alienation.

As stated before, each picture in the exhibit is connected to its neighbours by a common element. The Cemetery picture is connected to the one on its left by subject, the red earth of the cemetery, which is the same red earth as the dirt road in the neighboring photo.

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With the picture on its right the connection is one of predominant colour. The rusted roof panels in the picture on the right side are the same as the colour of the red earth of the cemetery.

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The image of the dirt road on the left of the Cemetery picture is also connected to the other photo from the Eggleston exhibit which captured my attention. It is the image of a white flowerpot on a worn out patio deck. The white flowerpot is at the horizontal centre of the photograph and stands out from the others not only by its colour, but also because it is the only one with a plant in it. This is in direct contrast with the Cemetery photo, where the white grave is the only one without flowers. The planks of the deck resemble a dead end road leading to the white flowerpot and are of almost the same red earth colour as the dirt road in the picture on the right of this image.

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The four photographs taken together create the impression that the whole town is rusting, in a state of irreversible decay. Images from “Election Eve” images were also shown at the Gagosian Gallery in Paris in 2011. There the photographs were arranged in a different order and this serves to illustrate that the way images are grouped strongly influences the context in which each image is viewed.

“Rolling Stones” never printed Eggleston’s images and in 1977 “Election Eve” was published in two volumes, which contained one hundred chromogenic prints [4]. Thirtysix years later they still make an impact.

References:

[1] http://www.egglestontrust.com

[2] http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/display/william-eggleston

[3] http://www.egglestontrust.com/election_eve_intro.html

[4] http://cityplanning.tumblr.com/post/58882541/william-eggleston-election-eve

To whet your appetite

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This past week I was asked by a friend to photograph some of the dishes of her restaurant for an advertising she is planning.  It was my first attempt at food photography and it is a good thing that in class we covered some of the pitfalls of photographing cooked meals. I experimented with different backgrounds, depths-of-field, white balance settings and flash. Here is a sample of the result. What do you think?