Assignment 2: Collecting-What to include…

I’m still following my ‘rules’ for how the finished images should be presented. Namely black and white landscape with dimensions of 10 x 8. The rationale for this was outlined in an earlier post. And I’m more or less settled on the idea of what I’m trying to convey. Structures which in some way suggest the passage of time, either through their slow decay, or through their seemingly having been part of the landscape for centuries.

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Meon Valley. John Callaway [2016]: f11.0: 1/200s: 16mm focal length: ISO 200

However, the more I get out and photograph, the more difficult it becomes to make the final selection. Not so much what photographs make it from contact sheet to become black and white images but which ones work best as a collection.

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St. Hubert’s, Idsworth. John Callaway [2016]: f9.0: 1/640s: 19mm focal length: ISO 200

If the two photographs above are archetypes of either slow decay or seeming permanence, then does every other image have to be in the same vein?  How rigorous should I be in following a set of rules?  Although not aiming for a series of near identical images such as those produced by the Bechers, how much compositional variance could there be without compromising the overall coherence of a series of between 6 and 10 photographs?

Does this fit?

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Meon Valley. John Callaway [2016]: f11.0: 1/200: 25mm focal length: ISO 200

…or this? Still a work in progress.

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Wickham. John Callaway [2016]:  f3.5: 1/25s: 16mm focal length: ISO 250

Serendipity:  A couple of hours after posting the above, I was reading an article in the current issue of British Journal of Photography– an interview with David Molina Gadea. The final paragraph seemed too good not to cite here…

“I’ve asked many famous photographers to help me edit and they say, ‘Well, this photo goes with this one, and what’s the story by the way?’, and they put them in a different order and then I go home and do what I fucking want!” [British Journal of Photography Issue 7851: September 2016: p43]

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Fay Godwin

I first came across the work of Fay Godwin through her collaboration with the poet Ted Hughes, in a work entitled ‘Remains of Elmet‘ [Faber & Faber 1979].

“The Calder valley…was the last ditch of Elmet, the last British Celtic kingdom to fall to the Angles. For centuries it was considered a more or less uninhabitable wilderness, a notorious refuge for criminals, a hide-out for refugees. Then in the early 1800s it became the cradle for the Industrial Revolution in textiles….” [Ted Hughes. Preface to ‘Remains Of Elmet’]

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At the time, it was Hughes poetry that drew me to the book. His words offering a bleak imagery which described the impact of industrialisation on the landscape.

“…Farms came, stony masticators
Of generations that ate each other
To nothing inside them.

The sunk mill-towns were cemeteries
Digesting utterly
All with whom they swelled…”

“Remains Of Elmet” Ted Hughes

Godwin’s photographs appeared as political statements, writ large. Landscapes that despite their beauty were raw, scarred and imperfect. Black and white imagery seemed to enhance the remoteness and isolation of the image whilst the depth of field seemed to support the view that “deep focus gives the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is…given the opportunity to edit the scene…(and) to select the aspects of it to which he will attend” [Andre Bazin: Cited EYV p48]

Not that Godwin should be pigeon holed as a black and white landscape photographer, as this excerpt from an online interview with her in UK Landscape shows:

Q. The book “Glassworks & Secret Lives” (Your colour work) had to be self-published! why was that?

A. Because in the dreary British way I had been ‘pigeonholed’ as a black and white photographer, and at my age it was not permissible to move on.

Q. Is your dedication to Landscapes a way to resist against modernity?

A. What a thought! I passionately love modern architecture, design, modern ways of looking at landscape etc. What I loathe is the multi-national conglomerates who must take responsibility for the degradation and pollution of so much of our landscape with their factory farming and greed.

Yet after some 35 years since I first encountered her work, I’d like to think that she still has an influence…

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]

Umkomaas, Kwa-Zulu Natal. John Callaway [2016]

The Distorting Lens. Exercise 2.2

“Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the frame in front of a background with depth. Take one photograph. Then walk towards your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length. Take care to frame the subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot” 

So…first of all, make sure to read the instructions! This is not a background with any substantive depth. So the only real change in the background is the detail in the stonework over LGC’s right shoulder. Still, I like the photos, and it was our 30th wedding anniversary on the day it was taken!

Slightly counter-intuitive in some ways walking towards the subject and zooming out too.