Tuesday 26th September 2017 –
As we near closer towards the end of the September, and my inevitable return (and confrontation!) of my final year at The University of the West of England. Eeek! The Semester begins with some jumbled responses of apprehension, anxiety, and excitement. Today, I attended my first lecture on our Intensive Production module, we began by briefly going over the module contents and structure which proved to be very helpful but also appeared quite daunting! Nevertheless, it is still quite reassuring to have some structure and organization set out from the very start! Later on in the day, I attended a technical workshop whereby we were received from training/instruction on using a Canon XA30 Camcorder.
We were then given the opportunity to get some footage in which we plan to edit during next week’s session. For me personally, although I don’t have much interest in incorporating video within my production piece, this opportunity was invaluable from my perspective, because not only do I have a strong passion for expanding my knowledge but this also gives me the chance to get some degree of experience that may be more relevant within the media industry.
We worked in small pairs, I and Rey decided to shoot a small and very basic series of clips that depict myself walking down a corridor and exiting into a staircase. This was quite a basic task which was mostly used for the purpose of gaining experience in using the Canon XA30 but also as an opportunity to refresh any video/editing skills that we had learned during the first year.
We tried to achieve a variety of different shots and angles as to create an interesting sequence. Our shots included:
- Wide Angle
- Close-up Shot
- Lowdown shot
- Behind shot
- High Angle shot
This was a rather awkward exercise as I don’t really enjoy being the subject for being filmed for that matter, so will be cringing constantly throughout the production process! However, we plan to edit the footage in next week’s workshop. Towards the afternoon, we took the opportunity to begin to go over and work through some ideas for our first intensive production pieces. At the moment, it is quite unclear as to what my project will feature or include, although at this stage; I am taking the opportunity to reflect critically on my past production pieces over my degree so far. I am reflecting on works that went well, and some that went not so well, as well as reflecting on overarching themes and discourses and what/why I am interested in them and attempting to pull an idea from this very vague and woolly starting point.
Here is a diagram to outline my thought processes so far…
In this reflective approach, I have constructed a diagram that entails any recurrent or overlapping themes throughout my previous academic works. Here is some brief description that outlines my general train of thought…
From a really young age, I have always been fascinated by psychology as a broad area of investigation, in particular, analyzing behaviors and subtle inner workings of the human mind. The idea of the human brain and cognitive processes has always been of strong interest to me due to both of my parent’s suffering from mental health issues and illnesses. Early on within my higher education, during the sixth form especially I decided to study AS/A2 Psychology during which we touched on some interesting themes and theories. Although it was when I enrolled at the university, whereby I was exposed to more complex and intriguing media and cultural theory where I discovered my true interest in physical media theories with notable topics including commerce, and post-industrialism, psychogeography and also museology. Nevertheless, over the course of the last year or so, it has become more clear to me that my real interest lies within studying the psychological, physical and environmental effects of consumption and consumerism. Why is is that we become so compelled by buying things? Why does retail therapy ‘exist’? What are the effects of this westernized mindset? Our behaviors and actions are not without consequence and inevitably, as time progresses, is it becoming more clear as to what our future holds?
Anti-Capitalism / Post-Consumerist Traces…
(I use to term ‘Post-Consumerist’ in a slightly different way, by which I am referring to the duration or state in which material objects reside after disposal)
The psychology behind consumption truly fascinates me… why do we buy certain things and not others? Why does this typically make us feel good? Why is brand so very important within the commercial and leisure based decisions we make?
Within contemporary western society, waste is a large and growing issue that is becoming more and more pertinent each day… gradually we are becoming slightly more aware of how we waste and how this may potentially be cut down or streamlined. However, we are not only guilty of wasting, in recent years, it has been assumed that maybe our most loved and trusted commercial flagships are encouraging this buy new/upgrade culture! I am a great believer of… “Unless it’s broken don’t fix it” and also “If it’s working why replace it?”. Increasingly, commercial flagships are streamlining and altering their already dynamic business models and it seems increasing, within the contemporary culture we buy things to only last us a year before we ‘Upgrade’ or ‘Update’ because newest is best right?
If we want to buy a car or phone or other material objects, we no longer save money for a number of months and then pay the full purchase price (…and then the material object is yours to keep) but rather now we enroll onto hire purchase, subscription-based leases whereby we pay ‘X’ amount in monthly installments for a named duration and then after a year we ‘Upgrade’. Bottom line, We don’t really buy anything nowadays and expect it to either last or be present for a prolonged duration, we are the culture of the upgrade, update, new, newest, newer – …But what happens to all of the things that are now so suddenly obsolete?… When you put a crisp wrapper in the bin, its “out of sight out of mind”, we simply don’t consider waste or disposal of a particular product before we even buy it.
What happens to the material object after we discard them? Where do they go? What effect is this having? I think it is particularly important to address and consider the effects of capitalism in a critical and reflective way because it is an important part of our physical and psychological existence to manage and dispose of waste appropriately and responsibly. Increasingly, products and commercial processes are getting banned for fear of the effects they may be having on the environment. (E.g. Microbeads in cosmetic products)
I am largely interested in creating a visual representation of waste everyday waste, although, at this stage, I am unsure as to whether I am going to study a particular object, place or location or person… I may also consider adopting a visual ethnographic practice. However, at this stage, my fundamental underpinning wishes to address and challenge Capitalism and its dominant hierarchies by subverting its dominant ideologies thus creating a visual representation of the aftermath of immediate consumption/waste.
Banksy – Capitalising on Anti-Capitalism
Over the years, the mysterious and puzzling Bansky has gained cult recognition within contemporary art and activism. Although he not explicitly recognized as a photographer, but rather a street artist. I feel that the content and approach Bansky’s work showcases fit well within the general ideological trajectory in which my production may follow. I am fascinated by Banksy’s satirically cryptic representations of contemporary political and cultural issues brings activism straight into the vernacular and every day. Although as an artist, he is shrouded in mystery and anonymity, lacking an official identity (aside from ‘Banksy’) seems to feed into the buzz around activism. With many of his works simply appearing overnight in at first glance, ‘random’ areas and locations, Banksy’s identity stemmed from his life within the City of Bristol, but now recently, is spreading across the globe. His mysterious and artistic approach to activism, often featuring humourous propaganda that challenges mainstream political and environmental issues have often bled back into the ideas of anti-capitalism. Although, rather ironically due to Banksy’s iconic cultural recognition, his works have become the face of contemporary street art/activism and as a result, many of the materials or surfaces in which he works on are being sold for large quantities of money. Just this year, a Bristol Post article described how several iconic pieces of Banksy’s artwork had been removed and shipped to Qatar for £3.9m (Wood, A., Houghton, A. 2017). It is really important to acknowledge that consumerism and capitalism is a sealed cycle and even if one criticises it, one still remains a part of it. Within the 21st century, Capitalism and consumerism are woven into the very fabric and culture of humanity on various different levels. Whilst addressing issues around capitalism, one is necessarily challenging this unbroken cycle but rather attempting to raise awareness to its power structures and their influence over day-to-day living.
Although, rather ironically due to Banksy’s iconic cultural recognition, his works have become the face of contemporary street art/activism and as a result, many of the materials or surfaces in which he works on are being sold for large quantities of money. Just this year, a Bristol Post article described how several iconic pieces of Banksy’s artwork had been removed and shipped to Qatar for £3.9m (Wood, A., Houghton, A. 2017). It is really important to acknowledge that consumerism and capitalism is a sealed cycle and even if one criticises it, one still remains a part of it. Within the 21st century, Capitalism and consumerism are woven into the very fabric and culture of humanity on various different levels. Whilst addressing issues around capitalism, one is necessarily challenging this unbroken cycle but rather attempting to raise awareness to its power structures and their influence over day-to-day living.
Bansky offers real inspiration to me because of his abstract and revolutionary style and approach that functions around the perfect combination of satire and subversion within his broad focus on activism. I intend to incorporate subversion within my photography project, as to challenge and make visible some of my concerns about the effects of consumerism.
Sophie Calle – “Suite Venitienne”
Sophie Calle was born in 1953 in Paris, by profession she is a writer, photographer, and artist. As an artist and photographer, she utilizes abstract and avant-garde approaches to her pieces. I find Sophie Calle’s work rather interesting because she uses slightly questionable methods within her photographic series titled “Suite Venitienne”. Calle recalled how she followed strangers, “For the pleasure of following them, not because they particularly interested me.” She also states ” I photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them.” (White Cube, 2017). I find this approach really unusual but simultaneously quite inspiring, I feel that this approach could potentially work well on a project of my nature although I have concerns regarding ethics and consent whilst working in an institutional practice.
Alejandro Acín – “Everything Must Go”
Based in Bristol, A. Acín identifies as a designer, photographer, and editor whose work is concerned with capitalist consumption within contemporary society. Founder of IC-Visual Lab and acted as Creative Director of Photobook Bristol for 3 years. I stumbled across this photographer when researching photographic projects that critiqued capitalism. I took an interest into Alejandro Acín because of his focus on Capitalism, with particular reference to his photographic project titled. “Everything Must Go”. Which captivates his focus on the space and atmosphere of a Car-boot sale, describing it as a place “where people come to play, where the conventions of retailing are suspended, and where participants come to engage in an produce theatre, performances, spectacle, and laughter.” (Acín, A. 2017) He pays particular focus on re-imagining the car boot as an area for play, comparing it to the notion of the carnival.
The Car-boot is a liminal space that embodies “The carnivalesque, the festive, and the popular, which subverts convention” through a “celebration of the free market and the unshackled individual ” (Acín, A. 2017). For my production, I am largely interested in outlets of waste and re-consumption, eg. When we deem a product to be no function to us, it either gets thrown in the trash, sold or given away. Acín’s images may offer me insight into the study of thrift type recycling, this may provide me with a potential avenue of exploration when conducting my photographic investigation into waste culture and the aftereffects of consumerism.
*Irving Penn – “Cigarettes” Still Life
Irving Penn is an American photographer and artist, renowned for his involvement in fashion, still life and portraiture photography. Penn also has explored and develope a simplistically modernist approach to his photographic series. His images are typically printed on large aluminum sheets, giving his images a unique tonality and contrast. I became particularly interested in his photographic and print series titled ‘Cigarettes’. Irving Penn features a very unique and well-crafted approach towards still life compositions that has been carefully mastered and developed over many years. Paying particular attention to the mundane and everyday items and activities that are taken for granted, such as eating food or smoking. I am largely interested in exploring and raising attention towards the mundanity of disposing of consumed items.
I am largely interested in exploring and raising attention towards the mundanity of disposing of consumed items. When we discard used items, we don’t give them a second glance or thought; as if they become invisible from our psyche from the moment they are placed in the trash. There are some strong parallels between my proposed inquiry into the everyday effects of consumerism and Penn’s picturesque still life prints. It is important to mention that I also planned to adopt a very similar methodological approach to documenting and presenting my subject. Similarly, I planned to photograph discarded and grubby objects against a white and clinical background as to create a strong contrast and juxtaposition against the feelings of abjection and revolt alongside the pure and clinical white background that denotes purity. Although, unlike Penn, I plan to print large-scale images on high resolution and super glossy photographic paper rather than aluminum. As to juxtapose and provoke feelings of guilt and revolt as well as beauty and visual contentment as to raise awareness to the effects of over-consumption.
*Catherine Schultz – “Discard.”
Catherine Schultz describes herself as “a multi-disciplinary artist with an emphasis in Sound Design” (Schultz, C. 2017). Schultz predominant focus is on audio construction and soundscapes, so as a result, there is little information available that describes her influence and interest in an around her photography projects. However, she states that she has worked on numerous independent projects including collaborative installations. Generally, she has made very little information regarding her photographic works, such as inspiration, contexts or any other background information that may provide insight into her train of thought or project inspirations. Within ‘Discard’ she only states “an ongoing collection of images capturing the essence of discarded objects.” which offers little explanation. I personally discovered this series in a search for similar projects/photographs to the ones I plan to take. I found particular interest in this series because I felt that her images completely encapsulated the mundane simplicity of consumerism and its careless disposal within Western Society. I was also largely interested in the style and aesthetic of her images, they appear to have a very particular aesthetic similar to that which is achieved through the use of a disposable camera. Again, this is interest to me! Why use a disposable camera? Surely this is either a product of traveling or a nomadic lifestyle or maybe this is a form of irony that she has deliberately honed within this series? I would argue that from the little information that is available about her photography, combined with the aesthetics of this series (‘discard’) that it can be assumed that this project may be down to a contradictory critique of waste culture. Which is a very interesting approach, to which I may consider trialing or incorporating within my photographic investigation?
I was also largely interested in the style and aesthetic of her images, they appear to have a very particular aesthetic similar to that which is achieved through the use of a disposable camera. Again, this is interest to me! Why use a disposable camera? Surely this is either a product of traveling or a nomadic lifestyle or maybe this is a form of irony that she has deliberately honed within this series? I would argue that from the little information that is available about her photography, combined with the aesthetics of this series (‘discard’) that it can be assumed that this project may be down to a contradictory critique of waste culture. Which is a very interesting approach, to which I may consider trialing or incorporating within my photographic investigation?
Cindy Sherman – “Untitled Series”
Cindy Sherman was born January 19th, 1954. Sherman identifies as an American film director/photographer. Her contemporary approach to scene construction creates critical photography that is socially engaging. Photography within the 1970s focused more strongly on exploring social roles, especially feminism and female oppression. Her critical and photographic approach to investigating social relevance works by scene manipulation, hidden identity and stereotyping.
Her photographic convergence between self-portraiture and role play allows for large amounts of control over how the scenes are constructed, relying heavily upon cinematic prop, makeup, and mirrors. She focuses strongly, on the topic of narrative photography through the display of caricatures and typical screen media. She is often both the photographer and subject of her images meaning that she can both construct and critique her posed subject simultaneously. Some of her most noteworthy series’ include narrative based photography that appears to mimic film stills due to her methodological approach to photography when re-creating film stills. A large proportion of her works examines B-Movies that all exhibit a particular style and cinematic approach. Sherman is largely concerned with film theory and the ‘Gaze’, representation of women within films in regards the female gender acting out a role of subversion, abjection, and victimisation.
Tuesday 3rd October 2017 –
During this weeks lecture and workshop we did more video production based work, however, our focus was around camera rigs and stabilization. We spent a large period of time learning the basics of what each rig does, how it works and also how to correctly use the equipment whilst minimizing the risk of damage of incident to oneself or equipment. Although, for me personally; I am not planning to incorporate video into my production this year, however, it is still useful to know that we have access to such equipment if needed, alongside the fact that this also gives us some degree of industry knowledge. Towards the end of our workshop session, we were given an opportunity to go out, film some footage and thus test the equipment. In this instance, we were able to use a Cam frame (Right-hand side) and the DSLR Steadicam stabilizer (Left-hand side). It was a really odd experience for me seeing as I typically shoot using a tripod or simply free-hand.
I found the CamFrame a lot easier to use because it was simple and it provided a stabilized and easier to use way of operating and holding the camera, allowing us to get somewhat steadier shots. Whereas in contrast, the Steadicam stabilizer was far more difficult to master, I personally struggled with its operation, I personally found the rig far to (ironically!) unstable! However, from my perspective, it was unsure as to whether it was due to the fact that there were time constraints meaning that we didn’t have heaps of time, as a result we just put the camera on the mount and then went straight to testing it out. We were unsure as to whether we had set up the rig correctly, by which I mean; was the weight of the camera balanced correctly. I question this because the rig handle didn’t sit correctly. This was also paired with the fact that neither of us had any sort of experience using a stabilization rig, meaning that with practice we may have been able to master it more skillfully. Nevertheless, it was a useful and interesting exercise. We also went back over the basic principles of cinematography:
Following my artist research, I also attempted to develop my idea further. At this stage, I am still unsure as to what approach I am going to adopt or as to what I am exactly going to photograph. However, I have narrowed my project down to 3 slightly separate ideas that all surround and explore themes of capitalism and its effects.
Standard ‘Commercial’ Style Shots:
From this perspective, and a mostly initial idea was to photograph old, discarded or damaged items in the same way they would have been from when they were first created and advertised. From this perspective, I will not only be, (in the act of photographing) capturing and documenting waste, thus raising awareness about it, however, I will also be adopting a similar aesthetic and style to that of commercial type photography thus juxtaposing and highlighting the repercussions of consumer waste-culture.
Textures & Entropic Macro Shots:
Here, I will be again, photographing waste, discarded products but on a much closer and detailed scale. This could potentially lead on from my last production piece that covered abstraction and surrealism whereby only a small section of the product/subject will be visible; in which case will hopefully engage the viewer and provoke them to stare at the image for longer whilst they realize what they are actually staring at.
Before/After Product Shots:
Here I will adopt a more standard methodology of presenting both the original product in its new form alongside a discarded or trashed version of that product to highlight our overconsumption thus directly tracing and addressing contemporary waste culture by contrasting the two subject. I am largely interested by capitalist products and their lifespans… This approach will allow me to directly address and outline the lifespan of a particular product by making waste very visible by contrasting the two stages of consumption.
Generally, I feel that it is really interesting, to raise awareness to the responsibilities we have as individuals and as parts of a consumerist society to ensure that the things we use and waste are disposed of appropriately and responsibly. From my photographic investigation, I intend to address and make visible the capacity of waste culture and its effects on contemporary life. I would argue that, when items are discarded that are (possibly) at an instant removed from our human conscience, this may largely contribute to the degree of waste and trash that is increasingly cluttering our streets, villages, towns, and waterways.
Inspirations – My ‘Home’, away from ‘Home’…
My inspiration for this project is quite loosely based on some elements of my daily life and academic career that I have developed over the last 2 years. I will briefly mention some points of contention in which sparked my interest in capitalist consumerism and its subsequent waste culture. When I was very little, my parents struggled to make ends meet. As a result, I experienced the effects and stresses associated with financial hardship. This taught me the concept of value, money, and materialism. I, unfortunately, didn’t experience the pleasures of having the newest and most fancy items unlike my younger counterparts, who grew up around families with large mortgages and paychecks at the end of the month.
It started out with silly or seemingly mundane things, reflecting on this back to the vulnerability and embarrassment that I was often experienced as a child as a result of this… When I was really young I wanted to have the same things my peers around me had access to… fancy devices such as desktop computers, games consoles, and video games. I will use the example that for me comes to mind most clearly… From a really young age, I always wanted an Xbox 360; I was fascinated by its (then!) realistic graphics and its ability to transport me to a different place, time or identity. It fascinated me! I wanted to break into the confines of a computer-generated world of control and false responsibility. It was only when I turned 15-16 when my father saved up enough money to even attempt to buy me a games console.
My dad saved up enough money one year to buy me a second hand Xbox classic which by then was nearly 7-8 years old. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I was fortunate and grateful to have received it; because I had to wait for a substantial amount of time. Examples such as this taught me important lessons about material culture, economic and intrinsic value but also the importance of saving money; If you want something, you save and then when you have enough money, you can have it!
This was always puzzling for me as a child because I didn’t have a rich family to buy me the things I wanted immediately, within our household… unless you absolutely needed something; you simply didn’t have it. This made visible the various different class and economic segregations within our small village. This later sparked my longstanding interest in taste, class and other capitals. This taught me how to value objects, and possible the difference between intrinsic and economic value, it was the epitome of “Another man’s trash, is another man’s treasure…”. In short, possibly laid the foundations for my deep interest in consumerism and waste culture.
After progressing my academic studies onto further education and University, shortly after my first year, I decided to move in with my longstanding partner due to the increasingly demanding costs attached to student accommodation within Bristol. Towards the end of the academic year, I upped and moved most of my worldly possessions to Swindon, as to live with my partner and his family. This was a substantive change within my life, I had gone from living in a desolate area of the countryside in North Somerset to residential halls on the University Campus right through to living in a suburban area of Wiltshire. The change was initially quite drastic, within the countryside (my home) there was rarely any litter, in fact, that area was typically clear but at times fell victim to fly-tippers; but as a whole was quite clean. Moving to the streets of Wiltshire, in an area that is within walking distance of a retail park expectantly meant that the streets are frequently littered with trash and empty packaging. For me, this was quite a contrast in location. This drew my attention towards waste culture and our apparent disregard for litter.
As a result, getting into University required a sometimes hefty commute from Swindon to Bristol daily. Within a particular section of the commute, the motorway runs alongside the railway and a little further across a large landfill site. From doing this journey for just over year, the smell from the landfill site has become increasingly noticeable and increasingly apparent. This has only recently become more of an issue due to the stench that fills my car for the 3 mile stretch of the motorway. In reflecting on the past, the stench was not that apparent last year and has become very visible over the last 9 months. During the drive, I have also noticed litter and other trash scattered across the surrounding fields (Possibly a result of seagulls…) and livestock being moved away. Over a year ago, one of the fields that paralleled the M4 had deer in it, they have now disappeared. Again, this now provokes feelings of sadness and guilt, seeing a very mundane form of the after-effects of waste culture.
I have a strong interest in addressing and confronting the guilt and sorrow that is so frequently ignored or pushed aside, my intention is to produce images the examine consumer culture and waste culture; a byproduct of post-industrial and contemporary society within western cultures.
First Preliminary Shoot:
I particularly like the how these images turned out, I feel that the use of light and black background helps to frame and isolate the objects within the composition that not only directs the vierwers attention to the object and its distructive appearance but also gives highlights and exagerates how the light reacts and reflects from the broken and textured surfaces of the objects.
I think this it is really important to consider responsibiliy in realtion to place. Why is it that we so disgard things or objects so flippantly in public? Whereas individuals are somewhat more concientious in and around the domestic sphere. It is interesting to mention that within this project, I intend to raise awareness to the invisiblility around waste culture and consumption. Due to the nature of this project, I am collecting discarded items from my local area and then taking it out of its context and then photographed in a studio setting; After this project, I intend will responsibly dispose of these items. Although in a strange way, this project is breathing life into the trash, the act of photographing is thus giving purpose to these items once again.
Here is a selection of brief points that outline and explain this preliminary application of my photographic investigation…
- Shot with high resolution, oversaturated tonal images as to highlight/make visible creases, crinkles and wear/tear…
- Photographed, items found in my local area, take them out of context/location as to adopt a commercialized /stylised aesthetic; Similar techniques.
- Chose really broken creased items – as to highlight an aesthetic appeal, accentuating tonality, contrast, and shadow, creating visually appealing images in a juxtapositional way that highlights and explores the waste culture.
- Chose metallic objects, namely cans and foils, I am largely interested by texture, and in particular how these objects react and reflect light.
- I decided to shoot on a black background, due to the fact that I didn’t have any white paper, however, I actually liked the way these images turned out so I am considering using this approach to future shoots.
- I am fascinated by the way these objects appear against the black background! When shooting I am really conscious of how light works to accentuate surface and texture, I plan to create a synergistic juxtaposition between shooting discarded, trash in a oversaturated and high-resolution format. I feel that in this instance the use of oversaturated color can be assaulting and conflicting in a way that confronts the abject nature of waste culture in a way that is presented in a visually aesthetic way that pushes and pulls the viewer simultaneously.
- The use of a black background isolates the objects within an almost void like composition that allows the viewer’s attention to become directly drawn towards the object itself and the details of the surface.
- The approach of photographing these objects within an aesthetic and visually enticing manner conflicts and directly confronts the abject nature of waste culture.
Hamiltons (2017) Irving Penn. Available from: http://www.hamiltonsgallery.com/artists/irving-penn/series/cigarettes/ [Accessed 26th September 2017]
ILagon, P. (2015) 3 Things We Can Learn From: Irving Penn. Available from: http://www.ucreative.com/features/3-things-can-learn-irving-penn/ [Accessed 26th September 2017]
Schultz, C. (2017) discard. Available from: http://www.c4therine.net/discard/ [Accessed 27th September 2017]
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Siglio (2017) Suite Venitienne Sophie Calle. Available from: http://sigliopress.com/book/suite-venitienne/ [Accessed 27th September 2017]
Acìn, A. (2017) Everything Must Go. Available from: http://www.alejandroacin.com/index.html#about [Accessed 26th September 2017]
Wood, A., Houghton, A. (2017) Banksy art including iconic white rat removed from walls and shipped off to Qatar in £3.9m deal. The Bristol Post [Online] 25 Sep. Available from:http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/banksy-art-including-iconic-white-527434 [Accessed 28th September 2017]
Penn, I. (2017) The Irving Penn Foundation. Available from: https://www.irvingpenn.org/biography/ [Accessed 3rd October 2017]
MOMA (2017) Cindy Sherman. Available from: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/9/#/4/untitled-150-1985 [Accessed 3rd October 2017]