Hiroshi Sugimoto

Album covers have often been an entry point for me to photographers…and so it was with Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose work graced the cover of U2’s No Line On The Horizon. Part of a collection of images entitled Seascapes’ for which Sugimoto travelled the world for some 30 years photographing its seas. Seeking to compose each photograph identically, the repetition of each meeting between the sky and sea nevertheless resulted in no two horizons appearing exactly the same.

So…a test photograph for a possible later collection of my own?

No line on the horizon... John Callaway [2016]

No line on the horizon… John Callaway [2016]

An article by Thessaly La Force in Apollo, an on-line arts magazine revealed Sugimoto to be a collector himself, as well as a former antiques dealer. Referring to a series of  photographs taken by Sugimoto of diaoramas of scenes of life on display at the American Museum of Natural History, La Force observed that ‘Sugimoto is a master of the long exposure and the large-format camera; the scenes are static and preserved, but in the true black and white tones of his gelatin silver prints, they are not entirely lifeless, either. Sugimoto’s ability to trick the eye – even in just an instant – juxtaposed with his open acknowledgement of the scene’s artificiality, demonstrates both his playful curiosity and also his rigorous technique. ‘The stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake,’ Sugimoto has said before of the Dioramas photographs. ‘Yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I’d found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.’

The collector photographing the collection perhaps…

58236_01_sugimoto

Birds of South Georgia [2012].  (c) Hiroshi Sugimoto

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Assignment 1: The Square Mile. Final Selection

So a return to Eastney Point and the notion of sea defences begins to exercise my mind. Portsmouth is ringed by a series of forts, built on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, after concerns about the strength of the French Navy. Considered of questionable military value they were criticised because by the time they were completed, any threat had passed, and because the technology of the guns had become out-of-date. They were the most costly and extensive system of fixed defences undertaken in Britain in peacetime.

On the foreshore near one of these forts, Fort Cumberland, are a number of additional structures dating from the mid 1920s, collectively known as Fraser Range, which specialised in training naval gunnery personnel. Now derelict, fenced off, and with a surprisingly large hole in the fence…

A defence system, increasingly defenceless, at the mercy of the sea, obsolescence, and the hand of others. So maybe there’s the story that my earlier sortie had failed to unearth.

Part I: The Sea

Brickwork... John Callaway [2016]

Brickwork… John Callaway [2016]

Beach... John Callaway [2016]

Beach… John Callaway [2016]

Fence... John Callaway [2016]

Fence… John Callaway [2016]

 Part II: Obsolescence

Broken.... John Callaway [2016]

Broken…. John Callaway [2016]

281.... John Callaway [2016]

281…. John Callaway [2016]

Slow... John Callaway [2016]

Slow… John Callaway [2016]

Part III: The Hands Of Others

Corridor... John Callaway [2016]

Corridor… John Callaway [2016]

Handle This.... John Callaway [2016]

Handle This…. John Callaway [2016]

Fused... John Callaway [2016]

Fused… John Callaway [2016]

 

Assignment 1: The Square Mile-Initial thoughts

Portsmouth has been my home town for some 30 years. One of the most densely populated cities in Europe, it is an island (Portsea) within an island (Great Britain). Pompey has the sea coursing through her veins. Maritime history is writ large in the guise of HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson and Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose. Today it remains the home of the Royal Navy as well as being both a commercial and cross-channel ferry port.

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

The city wears its history with pride, and attracts a considerable number of visitors. Yet even in such a compact city, where certain landmarks loom large, there are still one or two less visited margins that are off the beaten track. Places where the history is neither polished nor themed, but where it is slowly falling into disuse and disrepair. Locations that still after 30 years, keep drawing me back.

Danger..... John Callaway [2016]

Danger….. John Callaway [2016]

And so emerged the plan to go to Eastney Point and just see what happened…

Below are a few of the first sortie. I think they give something of a sense of the place, and few of my favourite themes were in there: open water: emptiness: rust: graffiti and symbols (locks, ropes and objects that are ambiguous in their use and purpose).

But what was the narrative? I wasn’t unhappy with the  photos, but  a further visit seemed to beckon…

To see EXIF data, click on each of the images above..

Exercise 1.3 : Review & Observations

In the photographs of the jetty used in 1.3 (1) , (below) there is a clear line for the viewer to follow which naturally leads them out of the frame. The choice of the jetty was an attempt (of sorts) to provide a metaphor. In the same way as the jetty directs the viewers eye along its structure, so too does the jetty itself mirror the journey from land out to sea.

The use of the lines informed by the architecture of the forts in 1.3 (2) below seeks to give the sense that the picture is only part of a much bigger whole.  Although I clearly had choice over what was contained within each of the photographs , the jetty images were dependent upon me ensuring that the entire seaward end of the structure remained in view. With the brickwork I was able to select aspects of the wall which could form a complete image in their own right, without needing to show the entirety of the fort.

Cropping vs framing:

Framing is the act of using the parameters of the lens as an indicator of what will appear in the final image. Naturally there are still creative choices to be made by the photographer as they compose the image.

Cropping is the act of removing elements of the photograph which detract from the overall image, in order to strengthen the final image. (The creative choice still rests with the photographer, as final arbiter of the editing process).

Kite. Ijmuiden aan Zee , NL. John Callaway [2016]

Kite. Ijmuiden aan Zee , NL. John Callaway [2016]

Beached... John Callaway [2016]

Beached… John Callaway [2016]

As an illustration, the two images above are cropped versions of the original photographs (below) taken in response to the brief for 1.3(1). I think that the image of the beach huts is much stronger in the cropped version, although I think the kite flyer on the beach image works equally as well both cropped and un-cropped because of the  windblown sand in the foreground.

 

 

 

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line

“Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wide- angle lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to the line”.

Langstone Harbour. John Callaway [2016]

Langstone Harbour. John Callaway [2016]

Living by the sea, I wanted to try and use the projection of a jetty as a means of creating a sense of depth. There is a large expanse of blue sea and sky in each photograph. The aim was therefore to use the jetty as both the focal point and the sign post into the distance.

I think that both photographs do this quite well, although the second image (below) is a far stronger image, as there are less distractions. I think that the shingle and metal objects in the foreground of the image above still make an interesting photograph, but at the expense of drawing the viewer fully into the picture.

Jetty. John Callaway [2016]

Jetty. John Callaway [2016]