Figures of Authority

Figures of Authority is a photographic project exploring the role of communication and the representation of the individual in the digital age. Just as the digital image is defined by code, the online user is becoming increasingly condensed into information.

Activities such as politics have transitioned to online spaces where electoral candidates have begun to focus their campaigns. In this environment popularity is measured by how many times a statement is re-tweeted and debates can become highly toxic.

In an age where identity is formed using code, there appears to be a significant loss of humanity. If the potential Prime Ministers can defined by a set of figures, it would indicate society is conforming to a transition in identification, which resembles a bygone practice of cataloguing.

 

The project is a photographic response to the issues surrounding online communication, digital identity and the residence of computer technology in society. Building on concerns associated with artificial intelligence and research on the online disinhibition effect it appears as though the online world is becoming increasingly compassionless, impossible to tell whether you are engaging with a person or a piece of software. In this world, information is the key aspect and the individual is being increasingly defined by their digital footprint, constructed of personal information. This inconsequential data, scattered across the Internet using applications and platforms such as social media, is used to form an impression of identity by those collecting it. The idea that an individual can be represented entirely by their information or personal ‘metadata’ references the transition in photography where the image is now made up of information. Visual data is just one form it can take, as the digital image is capable of moving between a latent and manifest state instantaneously. The concept that a person can be completely defined by information is alarming, provoking premonitions of a dystopian future where the individual is recorded and catalogued according only to their online presence.

It has been noted that the transition from physical to online spaces has an active effect on behaviour, with anonymity, disassociation, imagination all contributing to this alteration. The online disinhibition effect is an unconscious change in personality and behaviour; where the emotions of the online user can become detached. This leads to abnormal social behaviour which can take place in two ways, either a rush of intimacy leading the individual to reveal more about themselves, or a release of anger where the individual instigates and engages in toxic activity. Previous excuses for this asocial behaviour have involved the individual disassociating themselves with their actions, believing that their online self is separate. However identity and personality is not thought of as being compartmentalised anymore, but rather as a set of constellations; when an individual enters an online space, certain parts of these constellations align to form a particular arrangement of the individual’s personality. Therefore online identity is not an extension of the self, but is just as much part of them as their physical behaviour. As well altering behaviour, online spaces allow the individual greater control over their identity, with the power and tools available to mediate and construct a picture of their identity with commercial idealism in mind.

The images which form the photographic response are binary-coded portraits of the seven candidates for the 2014 General Election, using appropriated images from their social media profiles. 2010 was a very influential year with a coalition was formed and in the five years following this event, politics has steadily become increasingly discussed in online spaces. Party leaders now have Twitter and Facebook accounts, the General Election debates were trending on Twitter and online quizzes were available to see which party is appropriate for each user. The information from political leaders is notoriously ambiguous, with no guarantee that any promises will be held, or that they aren’t hiding more sinister plans. In addition to this, online spaces have contributed to the mediation of their identity, the careful construction of a positive reputation. The Figures of Authority series is making a new statement, can these binary images be considered as a representation, a portrait of this individual? Although humans can’t instantly perceive what these images are offering, computer technology would be able to instantly read and know what visual data this image is telling them. These constellations and fragmentations of identity physically represented by the mediated profiles of information an individual scatters across the Internet makes online users vulnerable, easily exploited by software. Could a future be approaching where a practice of observing, documenting and cataloguing is reinstated with computer technology assuming the authoritative role over mankind?

Advertisements

Figures Of Authority – Presentation Strategies

Having progressed to a point where the content of my work was interesting and visually strong in my view, I needed to start thinking of presentation methods. In a tutorial with Anthony, we identified that my decisions need to to made from in-depth, informed research; the reason of ‘to attract attention’ is a given and can’t be used as a reason behind any choice. I had to focus down on what I want to achieve, why I wanted to achieve it and what presentation strategy could help me achieve the effect and interpretation I desired. Anthony recommended I start researching different presentation strategies employed by artists and photographers examining a similar sort of area to me, so I could get some ideas on what is most effective. Seeing installation shots or visiting the work in a gallery would give me a greater idea of how the work was intended to be perceived.

Originally when I begun working with the idea of the ASL (age, sex, location) I had the idea of making a database or catalogue type response to replicate what technology does with our information. I originally thought if I could gather together a vast amount of data (portraits and information) from different people I could create an archive of people, representing what the future may look like in terms of how we are represented. This could take me along two different paths, producing a physical artefact like a book or a physical archive, or creating and constructing a digital response. I began experimenting with creating websites both on Dreamweaver using my own experience with web design, and using free templates from hosting platforms. This was a process I had attempted in the previous module Phonar, where I used a blog to try and create a portrait of an individual using the inconsequential data they had scattered across the Internet. In my reflection of that project, I identified that I didn’t have the necessary technical skills to be able to create the sort of effective response I would ideally like to produce. If I was going to attempt a digital response to this project, I decided I would ideally need to seek technical support from a computing student in order to build something really effective. This would mean working alongside another individual a lot as well as trying to research and put all of my own ideas into the design process.

I initially tried to contact the head of the international MA department to see whether I could have support from one of the students, as Caroline had told me part of their module requires them to have commissioned experience. However as I am not a professional company with a registered VAT number, I wouldn’t be able to have an MA student support me in my project.The alternative was to get in touch with a third or second year student to try and have their support however I made a judgement call in that if the student did become busy with coursework, they were highly likely to prioritise their own work and not mine. I needed that guarantee that I would receive ongoing support, something I couldn’t get from an undergraduate student. As a result of this, I decided not to make a digital response as realistically, I wouldn’t be able to achieve the result I wanted by myself and I couldn’t guarantee support from another student. In addition to this, conceptually if I want to make a statement about the digital genre, it would be more appropriate to produce a physical response as it would make the audience relate to it more. A physical artefact is more personal and I want the viewer to try and make a personal connection with my work, despite the fact that I am portraying a distorted concept. It would exaggerate the point I am trying to make if the viewer can physically see the response in front of them, a screen is so much easier to ignore. It has been identified in studies that seeing the world through a screen makes people’s emotions disinhibited and they become detached with what they are witnessing. Therefore a physical response will encourage the viewer to really connect with the piece I present to them.

I moved on from the idea of producing a digital response, to producing a physical artefact. I could either produce a box of prints with each different portrait/information in them, representing a physical artefact with hundreds of people ‘filed away’, ready for anyone to view when necessary. This would be a good way of interacting with the audience and establishing this idea of the audience having a personal connection with the people and their information. I had observed in the second year Picbod exhibition, that an interactive exhibit is very popular with the audience, as they can have a real part of the process and control their own viewing experience. Another method would be to produce a photobook with all of the portraits in, I could make the layout very uniformed so that the audience was encouraged to make comparisons between the different people in the images. I had previously researched artists like Donavan Wylie, who used a uniformed style of photography to represent how banal and similar the inner layout of a prison actually is. The consistent style of photography and layout in the book helped to encourage the viewer to make comparisons in the content of the images instead of the layout itself as the design was consistent. This concept was something I researched in relation to my Phonar content in the book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte who suggested that in order to encourage the viewer to observe fluctuations in the data, that the design must be completely consistent. I start creating mock ups of the archival prints and how I would layout a book with the images to see how they would work in an exhibition. When putting these artefacts together I realised that they looked a lot like a family photo album or a collection of family photographs in a box. The fact that you could still see the person in the image, still kept the idea of the human being involved in the process of their own representation, whereas I wanted to create the impression that technology uses information to represent the human individual. My presentation method needed to be a lot less person, more detached and cold in order to create this idea of objectivity and the process of cataloguing without compassion.

Between this stage and the second formative feedback review, I had my tutorial with David Moore and Anthony Luvera, where I started producing the binary images. These would be more suited to the idea of a photo book or a box of prints however there was still that element of the human involvement. In order to counteract this, I decided that in the exhibition environment it would be more approrpiate to display the images as prints on the wall.  With the second formative feedback review approaching I decided to print off a variation of prints at different sizes to get feedback on which size would work best. I printed off some at a small size, approximately 10 x 10cm, some at a medium size of 21 x 21cm and lastly I attempted to print a larger size however the A3 printers around the university campus wouldn’t work for me. This larger size, if I had been able to print it, would have been approximately 80 x 80cm. For the small and medium sized prints I proposed displaying all seven images of the party leaders, however with the larger prints I would only display two: Ed Miliband and David Cameron as these are the two dominating parties. With these images I put my updated project proposal and simpler summary to make the project easier to interpret for my peers. It was interesting to observe people viewing my work and seeing which size of prints they engaged with more. In the verbal feedback session following, the general consensus from the group was that the medium sized prints worked the best overall as it was small enough to encourage the viewer to come closer and look. A large print would make the viewing experience too fleeting because the viewer would be able to discern the visual content without making an effort to engage with the image and the small prints were extremely hard to see even when the viewer was up close. The medium sized prints achieved a sense of intimacy and interaction without becoming too easy to consume.

With the size of the prints decided we focused on the additional issues at hand which were the printing paper and framing and textual support. It was identified that an absence of captions or an artist statement made it hard to decipher what the work was about and how the images should be perceived. The images became clearer when I was standing there explaining the concept behind it, therefore it was agreed that I should experiment with forms of textual support to provide the viewer with some information without being too didactic. In relation to the paper I would choose to print on, I acknowledged that I wanted to talk to Joanna at the print bureau to seek advice on which sorts of paper suited a dark print as my images are mostly black. It was suggested that I pursue a more fine art quality paper which would help signify the idea of a portrait, people would relate to the physical quality of the print and subsequently try to relate to the content of the image. In addition to this it was also suggested that I could print on newspaper as the repetitive numbers in the images correlate with the repetitive letters in a body of newspaper text. Taking all this feedback on board I progressed on to researching and experimenting with the different methods of presentation.

I went to talk to Joanna and get some test strips done, I asked her which paper would work best for a black print and we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the different paper types. There was a semi-gloss which still had some shine to the paper yet wasn’t completely glossy, this would make the blacks more vibrant and give the picture some protection from damage. The semi-matte however was less shiny therefore you could see the print more, however there are more risks in terms of damaging the print and with a lot of black there could be a loss in contrast. I ordered a test print of my images on both types of paper she recommended to see what the results would be.

In addition to the test strips from the print bureau, I wanted to search around and see whether any other organisations would offer printing and on what sorts of paper. I was mindful that simply going for the print bureau without researching anywhere else would be very close-minded and potentially limit the capacity of my project if I found somewhere else that was more appropriate. I had been recently messaged by the printing company Spectrum about a photography competition they were setting up and that students get 10% discount off all of their products. I decided to get in touch with them to ask about their different papers and they offered me a free collection of paper samples. I took this offer and up had them delivered before I picked up the test prints from Joanna to see what options they had.  Spectrum sent me an envelope of small sized test prints, each with a sample portrait on them with the description of what paper type they were, ranging from ultra-glossy papers to extremely fibrous matt paper. I narrowed it down to three favourite paper types: Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl 310gsm, Innova FibaPrint Semi-Matte 300gsm and Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl 284gsm. All these paper types were Giclee and not C-type, Spectrum had previously explained that a different colour profile was needed for the different categories of paper and to be mindful of this when choosing.

I really liked the Hahnemuhle because it had a good texture to it and was matt so the risk of being too shiny didn’t apply, however when comparing to the other test prints I did notice a slight loss in contrast. The Innova Semi-Matte was really nice, it didn’t lose as much contrast as the previous type and yet it wasn’t too glossy however I did notice that it was the first paper type to suffer some surface damage so I didn’t think it was a good choice to pick. Lastly the Ilford Galerie was perfect, with a pearl finish it meant that the print was still matt enough to see without it being too shiny but yet it had a good contrast to the image and a resistance to the print because of the coating. The fact that the paper was also the thickest t 310gsm would hopefully mean that it would be resistant enough to last for both exhibitions without suffering too much damage. The Ilford was definitely my favourite therefore I decided to order a test print in this type paper, I didn’t order a test strip because for the cost of delivery, I assessed that I might as well get a print, then if I decided it was good enough quality I could potentially use this initial print for submission.

As Spectrum was quite expensive I decided to seek a company that did pearl prints but for a slightly lower price to compare the finish and quality. Then if they were similar, I could order the prints from the slightly cheaper company and put more money into getting them on the wall. The company DS Colour Labs has been the choice for a number of my peers because of their good quality, affordable pricing and good customer service. I decided to look at what types of paper the company did to see whether they offered a pearl finish like the print I ordered from Spectrum. They offered a pearl c-type print which I knew would be slightly different to the Giclee paper Spectrum had offered me, however the price was very affordable. So I decided to get a test print of my image done using DS Colour Lab’s pearl finish paper to see if there would be a massive different between it and the print from Spectrum. As with Spectrum I decided to order a full sized print just in case the finish was so good that I could potentially use it for my Final Major Project. I could have ordered a sample print from DS Colour Labs with the ability to input my own image, however the aspect ratio was wrong for my print and I didn’t want to put in a white border around, I wanted to see how the image would be if I was to order it. It was for this reason that I chose to order a proper print so I could compare the two test prints more easily.

After I collected the test prints from the print bureau, and my test prints came through the post, I was able to look at the different papers and finishes to see which I preferred the most. The semi-matte paper from the print bureau was actually quite fibrous, with a bit of texture which was great to feel, however there was some slight discolouration. The blacks were less dark and the paper itself appeared to be cream rather than white, which meant that the white numbers also appeared to be cream as well. The loss of contrast made the image look a little bit flat, like the numbers had sunk into the background as opposed to popping out and capturing the eye’s attention.

WP_20150518_008 WP_20150518_009

In contrast to this, the semi-gloss paper from the print bureau had a really good finish to it, similar to that of the Ilford Pearl paper from Spectrum which I liked so much. The black was really dark and solid on this paper, and instead of appearing to sink into the background, the numbers stood out and had a lot of presence. In addition to this, the whites actually looked white so the print was more accurate to what I had intended to print.

WP_20150518_004 WP_20150518_006

The print from Spectrum in the Ilford Galerie Smooth Peark 310gsm proved to be as good as I had envisaged it to be. Although the pearl finish gave it some shine, it wasn’t too glossy to be able to view the image effectively, in addition to this the blacks were deep, the whites weren’t discoloured and the print looked to have a good contrast. Ordering an actual test print allowed me to see how the actual image would look if I went with this company for the final version and I was really impressed with the quality. The total time it took to print and deliver it to me was really good despite there being a higher charge than what the usual first class postage price would be.

WP_20150518_011 WP_20150518_013

A little while after the Spectrum print had arrived, I received the DS Colour Labs print on pearl paper; as with Spectrum I was really impressed with the delivery time. It came to me within two days of me actually ordering it, this was mainly because I made sure to order it before 1pm which meant they started printing the order the same day. The finish of this pearl paper was quite different to the paper from Spectrum, the DS Colour Labs print was much more glossy, with quite a shine to it however it was still easy to see the detail of the image. The contrast and colours of this print was really good, with deep, dark blacks and a white that almost looked metallic in some lights, giving the prints a slightly futuristic effect.

WP_20150518_010 WP_20150518_017

Although this print was different to what I was expecting, I really liked it because it provided me with an aesthetic I hadn’t previously thought about choosing. The increase in gloss meant that you, as a viewer, could see slight hint of your reflection when looking at the image, which would really help my suggestion that these images are portraits. Being able to see the shape of a person in what appears to be the background of the print would either help the viewer relate to the idea of the portrait but at the same time challenge them and make them see the contrast between the conventional portrait and the coded representation I am offering them.

After testing out printing companies, I then needed to consider how I wanted my pieces to be up on the wall in the exhibition. As I am getting prints, I had a few choices of how to put the pieces up including framing them, mounting them or choosing a more creative method like using a light-box or making a book. Straight away I could rule out the option of something like a light box, and the option of making a book. In the formative feedback review, the class responded to my work so well as prints on the wall that I felt I needed to pursue this option. A print on the wall is comparative to the environment in which we would see a conventional portrait print; as my prints are so minimalistic in content I assessed that I needed to try as much as I could to convey the notion of a portrait through the way the prints are exhibited. The next decision was whether to frame the print, or to mount it and what materials to use for either option.

 

FRAME

As my black prints are very modern and contemporary, I decided I needed a frame to suit it. I want to convey that these prints are a modern way of representation therefore it would be highly ineffective for me to frame them in an antique-style wooden frame. The frames need to be black so that they wouldn’t distract from the content, and in order to break away from the notion of antiquity altogether I decided they should be metal. This material would reflect the distorted, compassionless notion of portraiture I am offering to the viewer and link to the dystopian future I predict is awaiting us if we continue to classify people by their information. I researched different companies which would offer the frame type I wanted, and decided whether each company’s process was appropriate for me in terms of turnaround time, quality, price and whether they would frame the piece for me or whether they just supplied and delivered the frame for me to do myself. Although I have had some experience working with a framing company last summer, I wanted my pieces to be framed by a paid professional rather than attempting to do it myself for the sake of a cheaper cost. Quality is so important in my final major project, if the quality is not up to standard then the viewer isn’t going to take the work seriously.

At the end of the second formative feedback review, Caroline recommended I research an artist who used box frames for the installation of their work. These box frames suggested the idea of preservation, an act of anthropology that is normally seen in the study of smaller animals such as insects. The idea of putting my portraits in a box frame is really interesting and would quite effective at hinting to a future where technology will begin to research and catalogue the human individuals, in a process similar to that of the colonial photography in the past. I decided to research these options to see whether the price and the quality was going to be good enough for my project and whether I would have to frame the pieces myself or get it framed for me.

 

MOUNTING

In my second apt with Emma Critchley, we discussed using a frame for my project and whether this would be the most appropriate choice. She agreed that the presentation should try and reflect and suggest that of a conventional portrait if I wanted to refer to portraiture as my concept. If I wanted to go directly down the route of portraiture she suggested I change the aspect ratio of my images to a rectangle and make the print size slightly bigger. These choices would encourage the audience to relate to the image as a portrait. I explained to her the idea behind wanting to use a square print as it related to the social media profile I had taken the image from, and that I was considering captions alongside my images. We discussed the idea of using a frame and how this may constrict the meaning I am trying to convey, Critchley suggested that if my images were meant to depict a portraiture relying completely on information, then I too should rely completely on the information in my project. The presentation style needed to be completely cold and adding in a frame would take away from this notion. She advised me to get my prints mounted onto aluminium and have wooden baton fixings made, this would give the impression that the prints were just floating on the wall. This clean, expressionless style would accentuate the cold notion of representation I am offering to the audience, with the captions still providing the audience with the knowledge that these are meant to be considered as portraits.

This left me with the decision to make, whether to go with a frame and make the adjustments to my images that Emma had advised, or whether to pursue the new option of aluminium mounting. There were advantages and disadvantages to each option: with the framing, it would indicate in a more obvious way, that the images were portraits. Changing the aspect ratio would contribute to the idea that this is a different form of representation for portraiture, working to challenge the audience. However it would stray slightly from my original concept, if I wanted the to express the possible future of a world where the only form of representation is information; I needed to opt for the aluminium mounting. In addition to this, I made some important decisions to make the images square as it references the images found on social media which is where my found material is from. This also emphasises the fact that a social media profile, including the profile picture and information, is a form of representation in the digital world and online culture. In order to stay true to my project, I decided to choose the aluminium mounting as the clean, cold style would benefit my concept of a future world relying only on information. With my decision made I started research options in terms of getting my prints mounted on aluminium, as ultimately this would decided where I would actually get the prints done.

First of all I went in to see Joanna in the Print Bureau to ask what sort of options she had in the way of mounting prints and unfortunately she didn’t do mounting on aluminium which meant I had to rule her out of the mounting process, however there was still a possibility of getting the actual prints from the Print Bureau. My second option was Spectrum as I liked the print quality and I had seen mounting options on the website so it was highly likely that they would be able to do the aluminium mounting. Sure enough that was a service they offered and it would also include the wooden baton fixings, however the price was higher than I could afford, even with their student discounted pricing. I then contacted DS Colour Labs directly, on their website it said that they print directly onto aluminium so I wanted to ask them if they could mount prints onto aluminium. They emailed me back saying that was something they could do, however it couldn’t be from prints I had ordered somewhere else and they didn’t offer wooden baron fixings. But the price was in my budget and I could afford to find another company who would offer me custom made wooden baton fixings. For these reasons, I chose to use DS Colour Labs for the printing and mounting of my project. I had to resize and make the prints slightly smaller as the bespoke aluminium for my original size would take too long to be made and I would miss the deadline. However this was a very small size change that would barely be noticed. After ordering the prints and mounting, I got into contact with another company online which would offer me the wooden baton fixings. I discussed my project with them and what the size of my prints were and they advised me what size to order, I would then attach the fixings to the print and the wall myself as the assembly isn’t complex.

When I received my prints from DS Colour Labs I discovered a part of the aluminium mounting process they offer that I hadn’t accounted for, that they came with their own fixings on the back: a hook to be hung on a nail and two foam buffers on the bottom corners to make the print look as though it was floating on the wall. These were glued onto the back of my pieces so I had to make the decision whether to order them again, whether to try and get the fixings off and attach my own wooden batons, or whether to use the fixings given. I assessed that there was no time to get the project reprinted, and as it was my own error not knowing the fixings came with the prints, I would be paying double the amount of my project, money that my budget didn’t cover.  Using the fixings given would same me the fear and the risk of my own error if I attached the wooden batons, as there is a good chance I could attach them wrong or at a bad angle. In addition to this I would risk damaging my prints if I tried to remove the glued fixings from them, for this reason I decided to leave the fixings on that DS Colour Labs fitted them with as they still served the same purpose that I wanted the wooden batons to achieve. The more I thought about the fixings that DS Colour Labs had fitted with them, it became clear that the look of these fixings suited the project much better than the wooden material of the other fixings. The aluminium hook for the nail blended into the background of the print and the black foam buffers weren’t obvious when you looked at the print slightly to the side because they coordinated with the black in the images and helped give the body of work the futuristic look I had attempted to create. In my haste to try and fit to what Emma had suggested to me, I realised I had overlooked the crucial fact that these wooden baton fixings, if seen, would go against the aesthetic of my whole project.

 

TEXT

With my prints and fixings sorted I needed to turn my attention to the other elements I wanted in the exhibition space. It was identified in the formative feedback review that in order to make a point about the people in the images, I would need captions to tell the audience who the portraits are actually of. This was an aspect I was also questioning as it is impossible to actually tell who the images are representing as there is no recognisable indication of their likeness. Initially I decided on captions, these would detail the title of each image and give the audience a bit more information about what the image was representing, it could be that the captions I produced were the names of the candidates. However I needed to research more into the use and text in art to make sure that I was making the right decision for my project, which lead me to reading through the book ‘Art and Text’. It was through researching this aspect of including text in the piece of art that I was able to strengthen my original choice and find the reasoning why this was an appropriate choice for my concept. I started brainstorming what these captions could be and settled on three different options: full names, first names and the designated part colours. I printed out versions of my prints and stuck them to the wall in my room. I then printed off all three sets of captions and put them below each corresponding print, I asked my two housemates, one who did photography and knew about my project, the other who did English and had heard a little bit about what I was doing and asked their opinions. Previous to asking them I had made a provisional decision that I wanted to include the full names however I wanted other opinions to see whether they would differ from mine. I am very aware that my close proximity to my own project can leave me with a certain idea in relation to it’s outcome and that a different perspective is often very useful and sometimes very different. Both of my house mates decided that the first names are definitely the most effective, as it made you relate to the portraits because the names could represent someone real in their life, however when you know that the portraits are politicians it is still easy to identify who is who. The full names were too obvious and didn’t let the viewer interpret the images in any other way, in addition to this, the controversy that surrounds the election candidates could prevent the viewer even trying to relate to them in the first place. The party colours were too ambiguous, instead of representing a person they represented a whole set of people and beliefs, in addition to this some of the part colours are not as expected and therefore it would make it hard for the viewer to realise who the portrait actually is. Despite originally wanting the full names as my captions, I fully saw the reasoning behind having the first name captions and actually this would be the more appropriate and effective choice for my project. The first names would allow people to relate to the images, as it is so possible that the portraits could be of anyone, there is no recognisable likeness for a human to look at. However for a computer they could interpret this code and form the visual represent the binary code describes.

Once I decided the content, I needed to decide the style of the caption and how it would look as this was also a really important part of the process. If my captions didn’t reflect the tone of my concept, the effect would get lost through a mistranslation, so I experimented with different fonts, with reasonings behind each and decided which one would be the most effective.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.43

The first font was Cambria, the default font I have in Word, I made this the basis for comparison between the other fonts to see the main differences in the one I would usually use and the one I would want to use for my project. I could rule Cambria out pretty much straight away because there was nothing really stylised about it, it is just a font that is meant to be disregarded to concentrate on the content. I wanted a font that would help to make the statement about my work that I am trying to make in the content of the prints.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.52

The American Typewriter font was quite interesting, I chose this to be a referent to the older practice of catalogue in the case of colonial photography, linked to the process of making files with the portraits and keeping them tucked away as a record of the culture. This is the kind of stylised font I wanted with my project, however I feel this was too closely linked to the idea of a human sitting and typing these captions, although I do want to reference the colonial photography, I want to keep it true to my concept and create the idea that it is the computer making these observations from the information of the human race.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.43.58

Bangla was a more modern choice meant to create a sense of contemporary art however on reflection the font is too similar to Cambria in that it isn’t nearly stylised enough to actually make a statement about the work.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.44.01

I thought the Engravers font was really interesting and it encouraged a fleeting idea I had about getting the captions engraved into metal to sort of bring a modern, contemporary feel to the work. However on reflection the inclusion of metal into the fray would suggest that I am trying to link my piece to the concept of industrialism and the industrial revolution, this would be detrimental to my work as I am trying to hint at a future society, with conceptual referents to the past. Industrialism is not the concept I want to focus in on with my concept so this font is not appropriate for my project.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.44.06

The Orator font was really interesting, and straight away I felt taken to it, however I needed to pin down why I felt it would be so effective. The apparent loss of humanist characteristics in this font is really interesting, as with Engraver there is no trace of handwriting in this font, it really looks as though this was created digitally, to be viewed on the screen, with no intention to look like a human could have written it. This loss of personality is exactly what I want to achieve in my project, as I want to remove all traces of identity apart from the binary information I am offering to the audience, therefore this would be a suitable font for my concept. In addition to this, there is a subtle reference to the American Typewriter font in the aesthetic, the uniformed style with the thin lettering does look similar to that of a typewriter, making it stylised enough to pick up a reference, but not too strong as to make the viewer think that a human was behind the creation of these captions.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.44.22

Tekton pro was an experiment which I knew wouldn’t probably work having reflected on the other chosen fonts. I wanted to see what it would look like to have a font which resembled what could be perceived as human handwriting, just to see whether it would actually be appropriate for my concept. As expected however I didn’t think that this font would be appropriate at all, because it reintroduced an element of human identity back into the frame, which was an aspect I wanted to avoid at all costs because it detracts from the coldness of the prints in which only binary data is offered. It was a good choice to try this option out however as it did confirm what I already expected, but it allowed me to demonstrate and reflect on why this wasn’t a  good choice.

 

Orator it appeared was the perfect font for my project because of the aesthetic referencing the historic practice of using portraits as a process of cataloguing and the way it removes the trace of a human influence, creating the impression that this font was made entirely digitally, for the use of computer technology. However there was one aspect that bothered me about the appearance of the font and that was the difference in height between the capital letters and the lower case letters, although it would be grammatically correct to have the capitals in there, I wanted to see whether it would look better as lower case.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.45.12

This change was really effective for me, the captions appeared to read easier because there was no obstacle for the eye to tackle. Grammar is something that computers are taught in order to help the human being in applications like Word, which we use for our writing. In coding, there are a different set of rules that a computer must apply to, in which the human notion of grammar doesn’t apply, therefore by removing the upper case letters from the captions, not only am I improving the aesthetic, but I am also strengthening my concept.

As well as the captions, I believed my project needed either my artist statement, or a descriptive piece to signify what the project is about, give the audience a bit more information and actually inform them that the images are of the party leaders for the 2015 election. This statement would support the captions and allow the viewer to know who the portraits are of without the captions being too obvious. I wrote a statement for the exhibition catalogue and the source photographic review which detailed the concept behind the project and the statement it was trying to create. I put a lot of work into the statement to make sure that it supported the work but wasn’t too closed so the viewer couldn’t form their own interpretation. The first couple of drafts needed more work because it was either too gimicky or the terminology I used would give slightly the wrong impression. After a process of drafting and redrafting, my final statement read:

‘Figures of Authority’ is a photographic project exploring the role of communication and the representation of the individual in the digital age. Just as the digital image is defined by code, the online user is becoming increasingly condensed into information.

Activities such as politics have transitioned to online spaces where electoral candidates have begun to focus their campaigns. In this environment popularity is measured by how many times a statement is re-tweeted and debates can become highly toxic.

In an age where identity is formed using code, there appears to be a significant loss of humanity. If the potential Prime Ministers can defined by a set of figures, it would indicate society is conforming to a transition in identification, which resembles a bygone practice of cataloguing.

I then needed to decide whether to use this statement or whether to produce something new for the exhibition. I did think about writing another statement which explained the process behind the images and that the representation was in binary code, however I liked the fact that some people might not know what the code actually is, because that represents how unfamiliar we are with the process behind our technology however we continually use it. We couldn’t dream of writing the complex algorithms that are behind the Internet and social media however we trust them completely with our information. Even despite the revelations involving hackers and the knowledge that information on the Internet is rarely safe and ever truly removed, online users still partake in social media, causing their information to be scattered across the Internet. I decided that it would be appropriate to use the artist statement I had previously written, this would also mean that the description of my project is consistent through all the different environments in which it is displayed including web, print and in the exhibition space.

After deciding what the content of my text was going to be in the exhibition, I needed to decide what materials to use to print and put the text up on the wall. There are many different ways and materials which can be used to mount, just like a photographic print ranging from more temporary, light weight materials like card and foam to resistant, long term materials such as MDF and aluminium. The aesthetic and materials used for my captions needed to reflect my concept as much as possible in order to keep the overall effect strong. If I carelessly chose the simplest options for my captions, this might be detrimental to the impact I intend to make with the project and it takes away from the care I took in researching and producing the image content. I chose the company Spectrum, who I was impressed with previously but couldn’t order my actual prints from them because the aluminium would be too expensive. I chose to order on the Ilford Pearl paper, the one which I liked the best when testing my prints because it gave the black and white a good contrast and colour and demonstrated some resistance to wear and tear. These prints were to be backed on 3mm Foamex which is a popular material for mounting giving the appearance of floating on the wall however it is resistant enough to be able be durable for both exhibitions.

With the content and the materials decided, I made the order in Spectrum however a couple of days after I made the order, I had a tutorial with Caroline who suggested I change my captions to the full names and not include the artist statement. This decision was instigated by the last degree show meeting in which Anthony opted against artist statements as it would be a bit too obvious and not let the audience make their own interpretation. As the statements would be available in the catalogue it wasn’t completely necessary to have my statement alongside my work, for this reason I tried to ring the company and stop or change the order. However they had already printed and mounted the order so I had a choice to make, whether to continue with the original order and have the artist statement and first names, or whether to make and pay for another order with the full names. I decided to make the second order however keep the first set of captions with the view of using them for Free Range if my first set of captions got damaged in any way. I wanted to fix these captions on the wall using a detachable system such as velcro to make sure that these could be used again as much as needed or possible.

 

WALL PLAN

With all the materials ordered and coming before the deadline date, I needed to provide a concrete plan of what I wanted the piece to look like on the wall. I had already filled in a gallery requirement sheet at the previous formative feedback review and my request wasn’t rejected so I chose to follow the same plan that I had specified in the first instance. I wanted my seven prints (now 20cm x 20cm instead of 21cm x 21cm as previously suggested) on the wall at head height (approximately 160 centimetres) with an inch in between each print. Although I had already made known what I wanted the images to be displayed like, I created a plan to include with my submission to let the markers know how I wished them to be exhibited, this would also be my process if I was handing pieces to be exhibited in any other circumstances. This was also made clear later as one the required pieces alongside submission, to be used as a placeholder for when the curating team started making decisions about which gallery to put the work, and how to integrate it best with the other pieces. It was at this point I needed to decide the order of the different prints, I had the option of either randomising it, alphabetising it by surname or alphabetising it by forename. I didn’t want to randomise it, because a computer filing system wouldn’t catalogue files in a random order, so it would either be alphabetised by surname or forename. Originally I thought surname however I realised that this is a notion humans have introduced to order themselves, when creating the order of files in a folder, a computer would alphabetise it by the first letter of the first word, therefore I decided it would be appropriate for my concept to order the prints alphabetically by first name. When making the wall layout I made sure to include the title, my name and the materials used for the prints and captions, as this would give the curators a better idea of what the piece looks like both content-wise and in physical presence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 18.59.52

 

Overall I am satisfied with the presentation methods I have chosen to use for the exhibition of my work; although there are always ways I could identify to make it better. The one real hindrance to my project was the budget, and although I did work and save money to go towards it, I still couldn’t afford the printing company I really wanted. I recognise that the creative process is all about overcoming the barriers in front of you, so I negotiated with this obstruction and tried to balance quality with affordability, trusting that my concept was strong to challenge the viewer past looking at the overall artefact itself. I feel I have really taken the care and attention to make sure the presentation method is appropriate for what I want to achieve right now with this project. There were other avenues of presentation that I reflected upon in my research that I was really close to choosing, however it was through reflecting that I was able to identify what was right for my concept. The process of deciding which presentation method to use has been as careful as the creative process behind the piece itself, which I hope will really benefit the project which it comes to exhibit it, as the methods I have chosen are the ones I have identified will be the most effective for the idea I am trying to convey.

 

 

Research – Presentation Strategies

Having not taken part in an exhibition before, I wasn’t very familiar with the different options I could take for my own project, therefore I needed to conduct research to widen my knowledge and figure out what would be the appropriate decision for my project. My tutors had recommended I seek the installation shots of the different projects or to visit them in person if possible, this would enable me to see how the prints were displayed and how they worked within the particular environments they were exhibited. I attempted to research a wide variety of different artists, what their work investigates and how they were/are displayed. This would give me my own ideas as well as seeing what sort of methodology is appropriate for the work that is of a similar nature to mine.

 

Kennard Phillipps is a collaborative movement making work since 2002 to respond to the invasion of Iraq; the work seeks to challenge the concept of power and war internationally. Their cause has brought various different people together offering a range of skills to create work for different environments including gallery spaces, printed matter and online spaces. The piece I am particularly interested is also based on a politician, in this case the subject is George Osbourne and his quote ‘Britain is turning a corner’. The piece uses newspapers with economic figures as the basis before using alternative methods to overlay another design and element of subject matter.

Today-I-want-to-talk-to-you-about-this-governments-plans-for-economic-recovery.-George-Osborne-470x500

The piece is printed on newspaper which is a really interesting choice to use when responding to political and controversial matter. There is always a subtle indication that anything printed on newspaper, is the news from professional news organisations, our traditional gatekeepers who are meant to have a responsibility towards the public and publish the truth. This notion has been combined with the practice of politics, where information is given to the public in a matter that is meant to sound as positive as possible, being manipulated as much as they can to make sure that no negatives can be taken. A speech or a promise from a politician is always taken with a pinch of salt as they can be no way of knowing what they are telling is true, or what they have chosen not to tell. The medium of print also means that people can really get in close and look at the numbers and figures behind the artwork, looking at the detail may broaden their interpretation of the project. The act of taking something in their hands and looking at each part of it is not available in the online spaces of the Internet, the only function that comes close to this is the ability to sometimes ‘zoom in’ however this does not always achieve the best results. This is something I really need to consider with my images, I had previously thought of displaying them on a screen as this would indicate I am investigating a digital concept, however this would make it hard for the viewer to see the detail in my images. In a printed version of my image you can really see the individual numbers more clearly and a static print on a wall would be much more effective for the viewer and radically improve their viewing experience. These prints could either be separate prints featured on the wall, or all of the images could form a printed book. This piece has also opened up another avenue for my project, using alternative materials to print on as I have identified the newspaper has brought another element to the project. I need to consider whether the materials I use for my project compliment or destruct the notion I am trying to express.

 

Christian Marclay is an artist who explores the relationship between fine art and sound, attempting to produce pieces which explores the dynamics of both mediums. From January to April in 2015 there was an exhibition showcasing a vast majority of the work from Marclay’s work which in turn, demonstrated the vastly different outcomes each project produces. I was particularly interested in the work exhibited in box frames, Marclay took sheet music from songs and put them in frames with warped bullseye glass. The songs themselves indicate onomatopoeia, or reference the art of painting which Marclay envisioned having a dripping, wet sound, therefore the frames reflect this notion by replicating a raindrop.

b4633dff82e07caec63d9cb636dcccdb_0

b4633dff82e07caec63d9cb636dcccdb_4

b4633dff82e07caec63d9cb636dcccdb_8

These box frames are a really interesting idea and they really help to make the concept behind Marclay’s images clear. The space between the sheet music and the glass means that the audience can still see part of the music to recognise what it would be, without the warped glass becoming too much of a restriction. However the glass adds an extra element which works to convey the idea of water Marclay identified in the creative process. The actual box frame would indicate to me that these portraits are a study, in this case a study of sound. The brown frame, the white mount and the slightly aged tone to the paper of the sheet music all aesthetically reference zoology studies in which the scientist would preserve species such as insects. The idea of preservation and observation could be really effective for my project as it would indicate I am preserving a method of portraiture that might become common place. It could create the idea of the human race being preserved in a way that is convenient and legible for computer technology. In this case it would appear the box frames are a good idea, however when referring back to my reflection on the Kennard Phillips work, I remembered how important is was for the viewer to get close to a piece with detail, especially if the detail is the most important part, not the effect of the overall artefact. The distance between the glass of the box frame and the content would be detrimental to my project as it would obscure the view from the viewer and make their viewing experience limited as a result. The viewer needs to be able to get up close to my prints and examine the detail, a box frame would not allow this close interaction as the glass would act as a barrier.

 

Emma Critchley is a visiting professional to our course and previously gave a talk on her artwork before making herself available for tutorials on her work. She showed many installation shots of her work in the talk and this enabled me to really see how the work interacted and existed in the physical environment. She also explained that the creative process can either be impacted by the intended environment or the work itself can demand a specific type of space to be effective. Critchley’s work ‘Figures of Speech’ was an abstract investigation into the way communication is made and it is altered by a change of environment. Critchley photographed people speaking particular words underwater, capturing the release of air made with each element of speech.

IMG_0087

IMG_0165

These images are displayed in a very clean, abstract style with no captioning or artist statement, the work stands alone within the exhibition alongside the other elements of the project. They are displayed in thin black frames, so as not to distract from the image content, working to merge into the black background of the image. The photograph evidences that the pieces also have a specific lighting set up, the spotlights proving the viewer with the ability to examine the images in more detail, however the glass could work to make the viewing experience less effective because of the glare. Without being at the exhibition myself I can’t criticise the choice of glass without seeing how the pieces react being in a spotlight. Lighting is definitely something I should consider when producing my pieces and picking the presentation method, as the background of my images is mainly black, having glass may make it harder for the viewer to see what is in the image. With Critchley’s images it doesn’t matter as much because the viewers don’t have to get very close to the pieces due to the size, however since my pieces are small the viewer would have to get closer, increasing the risk that they might not be able to see. However the use of the black frame is something I can definitely apply to my own project, if I was going to use a frame it would need to be dark to merge into the subject matter and not distract from the image content.

 

I was recommended to research the artists of the Carroll Fletcher gallery, as they experiment with concepts and issues centric to the digital revolution. The first I chose to research was Thomson and Craighead, who have produced many different pieces of work which have operated in both gallery spaces and online environments. They often adapt the pieces to suit the different environments which can help to extend the lifecycle of the project, their piece Beacon began as a gallery installation however now that the installation is over, a digital version is now featured on the Tate website.

596_1000
Gallery Installation
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 19.42.59
Online Version

 

Although the gallery version looks different from the online version it doesn’t necessarily mean that the project itself has changed or become less effective. It has simply had to adapt to suit different environments, the flip screen installation wouldn’t be able to operate online however it would have had a powerful physical resonance in the gallery space. The online web version wouldn’t have had such a great effect in the space of a gallery, but it does have the ability to withstand and exist continually whereas the gallery installation has a limited amount of time to make the statement. I need to consider the longevity of my own project and decide whether I need to make certain steps to adapt the project to exist out of the gallery space once the degree show and free range are both over. My project needs to be able to exist afterwards online to continue making the statement and also to improve my exposure as a photographer after the exhibitions have finished.

Another project from Thomson and Craighead is London W1W which was exhibited in the Museum of London in 2013, existing as a series of fly posters. The pieces consisted of a number of tweets, statuses and other social media activity over a specific portion of time which where then made into artwork and pasted on the wall in location.

606_1000 (1)

In contrast to the previous piece, this body of work is very perishable, only meant to exist for a short amount of time. These fly posters will only exist until new exhibitions are put over the top of it, they will either scraped off or painted over. This presentation method is extremely appropriate for the subject matter it is investigating, the limited life span of this project represents the fleeting nature of social media, each thread representing the raw thoughts of the user at a time. The idea of the piece having to be removed or painted over represents the individual trying to change their representation by removing the content they have chosen to share, however like with the physical piece of art work, there will always be a trace of that information left behind. Although this piece of work won’t last and be viewed continually like Beacon will be, this presentation method is extremely effective and works completely for the concept. This is definitely a different element I hadn’t considered before, when seeing how Beacon would continually be seen by audiences, something I believed I wanted for my project. However after being introduced to another form of presentation which is although limited in time, is proven to be more effective I have found I need to be open minded and respect what is right for my project, not just what would be good for exposure. Ultimately if the project isn’t effective, it won’t stay in the public eye for very long which would mean my profile as an artist and photographer would suffer as a result.

 

Constant Dullaart is another artist from the Carroll Fletcher gallery who works with highly digital concepts, the website of Dullaart is an artefact in itself with a self-scrolling device and a digitally  creative site heading and subject bar. Dullaart’s project’s work both in an online space and a gallery environment, similar to Thomson and Craighead’s Beacon, however there isn’t such a big alteration in the aesthetic and appearance. The piece of work ‘Jessica.ps’ was shown first as a gif which explored the transformation a photograph can make when it is highly edited; this is relevant because the original image was one of the first cases of Photoshopping to an extreme standard before. This is a reconstruction of the original however as there was an attempt to delete and destroy the image for good after the discovery.

1

cons-sml-1

The piece was also adapted to also exist effectively in a gallery space, taking different stages of the editing process and displaying them as still images. Although the form of the project has changed, the original aesethetic is still very similar, allowing the viewer to relate to the project in pretty much the same way as they did before. The only difference is that they don’t see the project as a moving image feature, they view the stages in a slower time scale. I hadn’t previously considered trying to make my images into some other format to follow the exhibition however this is an aspect of my project I really need to make a decision about. whether my images only exist as images after the degree show and free range, or whether to change the nature of it to suit a different space. I probably won’t be able to exhibit again for a while and there is no great need to exhibit the project again following two major shows however I do want my project to exist online after the two different shows end. Therefore I need to think about how my project will currently operate in an online space and/or how to change it to make it more effective in a digital space. I could consider changing it into a gif, this would mean that all of my work is seen at once and none of the image are seen out of the context of the series. It also means that the viewer can make comparisons between the images throughout the course of the moving image piece, the fact that a gif is on loop will enable this comparison process to continue. However I wouldn’t be able to include the captions beside the actual images unless I used a different image file; one with the caption embedded or placed on a border around the content. Although gifs can be highly effective, this is clear from Dullaart’s work, I need to be able to justify that this option is appropriate for my project.

 

Reflection:

Overall the research I have done into presentation methods has been really useful, I have opened my mind up to new methods of presentation as well as ruling some of them out. I can appreciate how the different approaches are effective for each project however as the concepts are different to mine, I shouldn’t necessarily utilise them for my own work. I can however, keep them in mind when I next produce a body of work, as it may be that one of these methods I have researched would be perfect. The black frames from Emma Critchley’s work could be appropriate for my work however I am concerned about the glass and whether the glare would be too much. The fly poster approach is so effective for the concept Thomson and Craighead were investigating, but it isn’t effective for mine, I need to reflect that this project is a study of a moment in time, therefore it needs a sense of durability. One aspect both Thomson and Craighead and Dullaart brought my attention to, was the form my project should and would take after the exhibition time was over. I knew I wanted it to exist after the exhibition was over and that would most likely be in an online space, but I hadn’t put any thought into whether I should adapt the project and change it to suit a digital environment. However I now have some ideas to experiment with in relation to my exhibition and the life of my project afterwards which I will go on to pursue.

Research – Colonial Photography

In the creative process of my work I started thinking about portraiture as a medium and how my images fit into this genre. 2014 and 2015 has seen an increase in the arts covering social and cultural history and the practice of portraiture has been integrated in some important historical events, which have impacted the world and relate to the concept behind my project. The ITV drama Indian Summers investigated a the imperial rule of India and the issues surrounding colonialism and cultural domination. Photography and portraiture was employed by the Imperial Government to create surveys of the Indian culture to observe the environment and the native inhabitants. Using photography as a form of power was a significant part of the colonial rule and portraiture was used as a process of identification and observation. The power of the gaze is a concept widely discussed in photography, with Barthes originally describing the relationship between the photographer and subject as the operator and target. This exploitative, aggressive terminology relates to the objective style of portraiture embraced by the colonial rule. The photographer can have an incredibly powerful stance over the subject and this is generally reflected in the early cultural photography where it appears as though the photographer is very much the outsider. Aside from colonial photography this stance can also be loosely recognised in the work of Walker Evan and Robert Frank in their investigations of America. Abigail Solomon Godeau addressed this outsider stance and explained that this notion of portraiture is incredibly exploitative and often results in a misunderstanding of the subject because the photographer themselves don’t understand.

The purpose of the colonial portraiture was to collect and document evidence of physical attributes to learn more about the people of the Indian culture. The practice of photography to document biological attributes, known as eugenics, has been used in many different contexts, including the classification and identification of criminals, with some sociologists claiming to see repeating characteristics in the physical attributes of criminals. As sociology developed and the human race accepted that cultural differences are just variations in the lifestyles and environments of each part of the world, the practice of photographic cataloging reduced. It was only being used for governmental reasons deemed to be necessary in society such as photographing  individuals who have been arrested and the requirement of photographic identification in the form of a passport and driving license. However with the development of digital technology we are seeing a new form of observation and documentation, but this time it is all humans that are being investigated by computer technology. It has become common practice for technology to track and record an online user’s activity on the Internet with the view of creating a profile of information which is used to tailor their search results, target them for particular advertising and even look out for suspect terrorist activity by security organisations.

It has been said that the Internet is the largest free public archive in existence, with social media forming the vast majority of all the information. There have been many instances in which this information has been harvested and exploited by commercial companies in order to target certain individuals to try and sell their products. One key aspect of free social media that many users perhaps don’t realise is that they are the product, the terms of conditions of many social media platforms specify that the information the user shares on social media is technically their property, the only difference between whether the company can offer this information out to third parties, is if the user makes their profile private. Although many see the tailoring of searches, and advertising convenient, it means that humans themselves have encouraged technology to begin a continual documentary process where a representation of the individual is formed of their online information. This is comparative to that of the colonial photographers documenting the physical attributes of a foreign culture. Physical attributes and the information on social media represents the superficial, outward representation of an individual, the true representation comes from knowing and interacting with that individual; something that doesn’t happen in either practice. By encouraging and developing computer technology, we are actually introducing a new form of cultural cataloging, where no one is safe.

Photographer Jason Scott Tilley’s photographic project ‘People of India’ worked against the notion of colonial photography by looking at the people and characters in India and photographing them having known who they are as a person, rather than the process of objective cataloguing seen earlier in the history of India. In his project, he followed the footsteps of his father in attempting to document the Indian culture with an insider stance, producing a celebration of culture and representing the difficulties that certain individuals face. Tilley avoided producing what many characterise as ‘victim photography’ avoiding a dominate stance and not showing pity towards the subjects that he photographed. This was a compassionate statement about the colonial photography in history, aiming to introduce a new form of documentary photography where the subject was respected and empowered. Jason Scott Tilley’s negotiation of his concept was specific to his own personal values and his family history and therefore would have affected the outcome that he produced. In relation to my own project, although I am affected by the notion of harvesting information, it happens to a wide variety of people, and the effects of which are yet to be fully recognised. For this reason I can’t aim to produce a new form of this digital cataloguing, because society and technology isn’t at a point of progression and there is no closure on this very current issue. Therefore I decided that my project should make a very challenging statement, to question each individual’s place in the developing digital culture and question as to whether they are happy with the future of portraiture I am suggesting.

There are similarities between the practice of cataloguing I am investigating today and the colonial photography seen previously in history. There are also similarities in the stance of myself and other photographers that have investigated similar subject matter, in that it is a concept which affects us and we feel the need to make a statement about it. However there are some very big differences which makes the approach to our subject matter very different. I do not benefit from hindsight and historical closure as the concept I am investigating is very current, in addition to this the subjects I have chosen to use are not directly linked to me, meaning I do not have the benefit of an insider stance as I don’t know, nor have I met any of them. Although these appear to be restrictions, it means that I have chosen to take a very specific approach to my project, one that makes quite a controversial statement. Instead of providing an alternative to a past event, I am investigating and describing the possible effects of a very current event.

Research – Art and Text

When I identified that I wanted to use textual support in the form of captions and/or an artist statement, it was suggested I research further into the use of text in art as this could impact the method I would choose  to include text. I had to decide whether the captions would be considered as part of the image, or whether they would just be the titles of the images, in which case they could exist as captions. The book Art and Text constructed by Aimee Selby provides an insight into the way text is used in art through a series of essays, a background into text and many different examples of text as art.

 

Mel Bochner produced work called ‘Language Is Not Transparent’ in 1970 which was made using chalk paint on the wall. The concept behind the work was to investigate the spatial properties of text, how it’s presence can exist as signage and reality, the relationship between the suggested and the real is constantly fluctuating. The black paint dripping would suggest this piece is a act of graffiti and vandalism, however the white chalk written on the black paint references the way in which text is used in schools to teach. This piece demonstrates that text has many roles and uses in society, sometimes it’s physical presence is the statement, whereas in other cases it is the meaning from the language that is the statement. This is a really interesting introduction into the way text and language can be used in many different ways, and it is just as much about thinking of the way it physically interacts with the environment as well as the content.

WP_20150516_004

 

 

Catherine Street’s work ‘I see nothing in your plan but risks, terrible risks’ is a demonstration of how a title can be incorporated into the work in the form of a caption. The piece is collage and oil paint onto a magazine page, with the background depicting this magical, fantasy-like environment whilst the caption is layered on top, resembling a physical extract from a book. The likeness to a page of a book creates the tone that this work is fictional, story-like and poetic in nature, not mean to make a statement about reality but instead exploring the notion of imagination and hope. This is indicated by the impression the viewer has that they are looking up at the night’s sky, suggesting that the concept is dreams and the consequent inevitability of them ever coming true. I can take inspiration from this work in relation to my own project, considering how a caption can still look like an extract but yet still look really effective and stay true to the concept.

WP_20150516_006 WP_20150516_007

 

 

Artist John Baldessari produced an interesting piece of work called ‘I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art’ in 1971 which was a commission from the Nova Scotia College of Art. The piece itself was meant to make a statement about modern art and discussions over the quality of the piece against the concept behind it. The idea that value is assigned by the craft behind the medium rather than if it makes an interesting statement or inspires discussions. The most interesting aspect of this commission piece for me is the use of the artist’s own handwriting in the work, an option which is open for me to use in my project. Handwriting is a form of identity, through signatures and letters we create our own identity through the way that we write. As my project is about identity it would be an interesting element to consider in relation to how my captions are produced. Previously I was of the opinion the captions would be typed and printed however I could potentially use handwriting to reference the images of colonial photography I have come across in research. The captions were handwritten alongside the printed photographs by either the photographer or the printer, to describe the subject content. I could replicate this approach and handwrite my own captions in my project. Upon reflection however this idea is flawed because I am trying to make a statement about identity becoming information and computer technology taking an observing role over humanity, therefore my using my own handwriting I would be reintroducing a human aspect of identity. If the computer collects the different forms of information, it would also be computer technology that titles the images for the benefit of being able to file it away, my original idea of having typed captions was tested however it remains to be the most appropriate choice for my project.

WP_20150516_010

 

I came across two pieces of work by Stefan Bruggeman named ‘Sometimes I Think Sometimes I Don’t’ and ‘I Can’t Explain And I Won’t Even Try’  both exhibited in 2001. The pieces are physical installations of text using vinyl lettering which is an adhesive, securing to the wall with minimal protrusion, giving the impression that the piece is simply part of the wall. This simplistic yet modern approach could be suitable for my project and would give it a contemporary feel which could compliment the content of my project. The drawbacks with this idea is the distinct difference between this flat installation and the way my prints are being exhibition, as they come away from the wall to give the impression they are floating on the wall. Having the captions flat on the wall as vinyl stickers could conflict with this notion, the fact that vinyl lettering in itself is a quite a modern statement could take away from the prints and encourage the viewer to look at the captions as a separate piece of work. In addition to this, the university would be featuring vinyl lettering on the wall with the Collective Vision logo and additional text to give details about the exhibition, if I also used vinyl lettering it would give the impression that this is a installation the university has made as opposed to being part of my concept. Although vinyl lettering is a really interesting and modern way of exhibiting text, it is not appropriate for my project because it would exist to make a statement apart from my prints.

WP_20150516_011

 

 

The next piece of work I came across was ‘Photograph of a book (Art Is To Enjoy)’ by Matthew Higgs which comes from a series of book covers framed and presented as an artefact. The reason I was so interested in this work wasn’t as such the use of the book cover, but the way the text was the important part of the image and the methodology behind the mounting and framing used by Higgs to make this artefact. The mount and thin frame is comparable to Jason Scott Tilley’s work in his project ‘People Of India’ where the careful construction of the artefact mirrored the careful and considerate approach to photographing the portraits that were exhibited. I had decided on aluminium prints as I assessed with the help of Emma Critchley that my prints would be better without a frame as it would encourage the viewer to rely entirely on the information. However there was another route I could take with these images and present them in a manner which heavily referenced that of a portrait, in this case I could potentially include the captions in the actual print, would then, when framed, make the captions part of the actual artefact. If I changed my process to reference that of Higgs and Tilley, I could really pursue the avenue of making my images look like portraits, which would encourage the viewer to engage with them as portraits and try to relate to them. This is an interesting approach I needed to consider against the notion of just presenting the audience with a simplistic, clean presentation method with the captions existing externally from the print. I was torn between these two options as both of which would be a really interesting way of exhibiting the prints, however I assessed that the unframed print would be more true to my concept, as although I am attempting to make a statement about identity, it is more about the individual being represented entirely through information than it is about referencing portraiture.

WP_20150516_013

 

Reflection:

This research was extremely eye-opening and made me realise how diverse text can be in the creative process, how the physical presence and materials are just as important as the content. However it may be that the physical presence of the work is the statement behind the project, or in some cases it is the content of the language which reflects the concept. I have seen many different uses of text which have challenged my current wishes for my project in a very positive way, in most cases I have assessed that these methods are not appropriate for my work however I have been able to really focus down and identify the reasoning behind these choices whereas previously I was relying on intuition. I was very close to changing the direction of my project altogether to use text and presentation methods to reference portraiture more however upon reflection I realised that my original methodology would be more true to the idea I wanted to convey at the moment. If I wanted to rework this concept and exhibit it in a different manner I would definitely pursue the portraiture avenue as I think this would be really interesting. Overall it has been really useful to my creative process to research this book, as well as an abundance of new ideas that I will no doubt be visiting in relation to future projects, it has strengthened the choices I made in my creative process by challenging their legitimacy in comparison to other methodology.

Research – Photographers working with Information

Following my tutorial with David Moore I identified that my creative process needed to advance from the original attempts I had made using images and text overlays. Through researching artists like Broomberg and Chanarin, I decided that using found imagery would be the most appropriate method for my practice because of the links to my previous work in the Phonar module. However just taking this found material and exhibiting it doesn’t display any skill or further thought so I needed to find some way of making something out of the original images. This process of making could be anything from adding in other elements like text and additional imagery to the images or taking the original image and trying to transform it in some way. I thought back to the project I completed in Phonar where I sourced information about a particular person and tried to make an abstract portrait out them using their inconsequential data. I held this in my mind whilst completing additional research and came across a project by Mishka Henner which realised the ideas I had been thinking about, this is when I started thinking about using code in my final major project.

Mishka Henner

I previously researched Henner in relation to using found material however his practice is also very appropriate for looking at photographers who have worked with code. A project which is extremely interesting and actually heavily relates to my ASL work, is ‘_IMG01’  which takes an photograph taken by James Francis Hurley and displays it in a form of code. Just like I plan to explore with my images, Henner investigates an alternative form of representation of this image and displays it in a book.

IMG01-Book-Inner-03_900

IMG01-5x7-print_900

When the viewer flicks through this book they are having the experience of effectively ‘reading’ this code like they would with any other book. However the difference is that unless they are extremely familiar with this type of code, they wouldn’t be able to know what the code was actually telling them until they reached the original photograph. The original photograph provides that extra support to let them know what the code is actually describing. If I am going to work with code, I need to make sure that my viewer has some indication as to what they are looking at or provide them with the original so that they can see. This photograph, although historic, isn’t well-known globally which is presumably why Henner chose to include the original as opposed to just a description of what it is. If the image was of a subject or event that is particularly well-known globally then Henner could have just relied on a caption or short description to get the viewer to engage. With my ASL images the information will provide the audience with more knowledge about the subject I’m using however I need to decide whether they will benefit from seeing the original image itself.

 

Jon Haddock

I was referred to Jon Haddock in relation to my Final Major Project work as he has also chosen to work with code in his images. His RGB grid series are images made of up of numeric values which represent how much red, green and blue is in each pixel was in the original source image.

Original Image

airpirates1

Detail

ap-detail

Full Coded Image

airpirates07c

These coded images are really clever because a trace of the original image is still visible in the coded image because of the numerical values and the amount of space they respectively take up. This is an approach which tackles the issue I identified previously with Mishka Henner’s image in that the viewer can’t recognise the original in the coded outcome. Here the viewer can recognise the source image in the coded outcome however it still isn’t very obvious and you need the original image beside it to make those comparisons. Perhaps like I reflected on Mishka Henner’s work, the coded image would work on it’s own if Haddock chose an iconic image that is easily recognised globally. This is definitely something to consider in my own work when working with code, although my outcome may not look like Haddock’s I need to consider whether I need to include some contextual support to allow my viewer to interpret this effectively. The black background in this piece is actually really effective and really makes me think of a screen when viewing it which accentuates the fact it is built using a computing technique. These are all stylistic choices I must consider when producing my own images to see which will be the most appropriate for my concept.

 

Reflection:

Mishka Henner and John Haddock have pushed the boundaries of representation by using the computing that we take for granted in this digital age. Quite often we forget that the digital image is only viewed as a visual image when it is required to, for transmission, sharing and sending the image is converted into code in order to be sent instantaneously. A computer can instantly read the code behind the image and generate the visual preview that was originally created using a camera device. Meaning that every self portrait or portrait taken has been converted into code at some point of it’s lifespan as an image. Therefore the individual has been, and has the capacity to be represented by information and code, just like they increasingly are in online communication. This idea has inspired me to try and use the information in my appropriated images in a different way, if I could represent the original images using the metadata or data such as RBG or binary this would link really well to my original ASL idea and link to the ideas I established in Phonar. There are several design choices I need to approach carefully however that I have identified in my research, the idea of context and whether the viewer needs support to interpret the image effectively. I either need to provide the original image for the viewer like Haddock and Henner have in order to let the viewer make comparisons, or I need to consider adding in some textual support which would explain the idea behind the image itself. This research has been extremely beneficial as it has allowed my project to progress in a new direction which I believe will be more effective than what I was previously exploring.

Research – Using Appropriated Material

In my tutorial with David Moore we identified that my use of street photography in relation to my ASL idea wasn’t really very effective. I was trying to combine a physical encounter with a digital one and make a statement about the difference, however the actual effect was just to blur the boundaries between, making it unclear what I was actually trying to focus on. David Moore suggested that I keep the practice of my project entirely digital and concentrate on continuing to make content and try different approaches to see which would be the most effective. What struck me about this advice was his use of the term ‘make’, this would suggest instead of observing and photographing content, I should be really working with content and trying to create something new that hasn’t really been seen before. When brainstorming a few ideas I remembered reading about Mishka Henner in Jonathan Shaw’s New Fotoscapes, who worked with appropriated and found material in contempt of the image saturation we see in current society. In addition to this I recently attended The State of Photography Symposium and was really interested in the project ‘War Primer 2’ by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin which used a combination of archival imagery and sourced imagery from the Internet to make a statement about the similarities and difference in warfare through the years. Working with appropriated material could easily be characterised as ‘making’ because it is essentially a process of reshaping and moulding the content to make a new statement. It could also be considered as extending the current capacity of the original content and using it to make a greater impact than it was previously doing. With this in mind it would appear that using appropriated material could be an interesting and effective method in exploring my ASL concept.

 

Mishka Henner

Mishka Henner is a photographer who seeks out a new approach to producing content, predominately using material that can be sourced either in a physical archive or from the Internet. Henner, like other artists, exercises his freedom of speech as an artist by using this found material in a different way to make a new statement. In his project ‘Photography Is’, Henner investigates the meaning of photography and demonstrates how ambiguous the term appears to be in the age of digital technology. Similar to the work of David Rule, he explores how the practice of photography can be represented through text without the use of any imagery.

PhotographyIs-01_6_900

The use of text to represent what is essentially a very pictorial concept is extremely effective, we stop thinking about the superficial aesthetic we are offered and instead we have to delve deeper into the content to find the meaning and gain an interpretation. The use of small circular breakers instead of large spacing or line breakers is extremely effective and whilst making it easier to distinguish each statement, it actually makes quite an intimidating block of text which the viewer is forced to get closers and consider each statement as one individual. The design of this project is extremely effective at encouraging a closer engagement and interaction, it’s given me a lot of ideas in relation to my project and how I can display the content I produce.

Henner has also worked with appropriated photography as well as text, including Robert Frank’s images from his series ‘The Americans’. The images were manipulated to create a very minimalistic representation of the original content, completely changing the meaning.

MH-Americans-02_1_900

Comically titled ‘Less Americains’, Henner works to reflect that just like American culture and society, the process of photography has completed changed since the original project. Therefore this series could be perceived an evolution of the original imagery to suit the changing culture. This process of change and transition is really interesting and I think provides an effective and engaging viewing experience, although there is some familiarity with these renowned imagery, there is still a sense of mystery that I would love to achieve with my work. Henner features a brief statement of ideas surrounding the project on his website, a resource which is extremely valuable in the interpretation of the work. The images still remain ambiguous enough to allow the viewer to take their own meaning, however the support from the text allows the viewer to engage with the project in the appropriate conceptual sense. Although it has been said that a photograph should speak for itself, I believe that discussion and some textual support can be extremely effective in the interpretation process. Reacting to the superficial value of the image is a very short-term process and supporting text helps to continue these ideas and encourages an audience to pursue the ideas further. I will definitely be considering how I can provide some textual support in the exhibition to allow the viewer to engage with my work in the same sense in which I have done with Mishka Henner’s project.

 

Broomberg and Chanarin

I attended the State of Photography Symposium in the Birmingham Library in January originally to find more about the artists Broomberg and Chanarin in relation to my symposium as their work ‘The Day Nobody Died’ was a case study in my research paper. However at the symposium they were talking about their most recent work ‘War Primer 2’, which is a modified version of the original War Primer by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht paired poetry with imagery to try and describe the World Wars that had ravaged society. Broomberg and Chanarin took the book and the original imagery, coupling it with likenesses and contrasts from current day war imagery to make a reworked, revised version.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.47.11 Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.46.30 Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.45.58 Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.45.49 Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.46.58

This book is incredibly effective and it really works to make a statement about war, although the technology has progressed and there are new methods in warfare, the nature of war is still very much the same and there are the same issues to conflict as there was before. In some cases however the book works to highlight new differences such as the Abu Gharib prison case which only came to light because of social media and the Twin Towers attack which brought the concept of terrorism into the public eye. This work, although simple, is highly effective and really works to make a serious statement about society and the faults associated with people in conflict. Broomberg and Chanarin did discuss quite a serious issue with using found photography in the digital age in relation to their work which could put me at risk when producing my own work. They exercised their artist freedom by using (and not paying for) the Abu Gharib images, which are all technically owned by AP photographic, who bought the rights from the various social media users as soon as the event happened.  A technicality such as this could put me at risk if I am going to be using appropriated material, I need to be careful when gathering material to find the source and make sure there is no licensing on the imagery. Or I need to be prepared to pay any cost to use the material if it comes to it, it wouldn’t matter as much if I wasn’t planning to exhibit this work however as I am going to exhibit my work under my own name, this could be a problem.

 

Doug Rickard 

Predating Mishka Henner, Doug Rickard used appropriated material to provide a new perspective of street photography with his project ‘A New American Picture’. When approaching and viewing this book the viewer is under the impression that this title is nothing other than conventional, typical street photography of America, practised by individuals such as Walter Evans, Robert Frank in black and white and William Eggleston with the emergence of colour photography. However the true concept behind this book is that Rickard collected appropriated material, screenshots from the streets using the Google Street View.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.36.42 Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.36.32

Whereas the viewer expects and trusts the photographer to have visited these environments and make an accurate representation, what Rickard has actually done is to bypass travelling and experiencing the environment to be able to get a convenient shot. These images are later rephotographed and taken out of the technological context, presented as a book for the final outcome, referencing the books of renowned street photographers. The locations are carefully chosen, based on the concept of economic depression; areas that are abandoned, desolate and neglected. Whereas the first street photography was to explore and record the cultural environment that was America, Rickard sought to investigate the then current state of the American environment. A society that has perhaps moved past the idyllic notion of the American Dream and come to terms with the real challenges of economic and cultural strain. Rickard’s images very much focus on the place, the location, as the people represent a temporal existence. These places have seen both the economic boom and the aftermath of the depression, and are now  being rebuilt or left to waste away. The use of appropriated material exaggerates the age of convenience, Rickard could be criticised for not providing an accurate representation of these locations, as without having been there to photograph them at that exact moment, he couldn’t know what was appropriate to frame. Using Google Street View has caused Rickard to take the outsider stance, where there is no context, only a simple search to find the desired results. However whilst this is a superficially a flawed practice, Rickard is making a statement about the culture of convenience created, which has ultimately left these places to deteriorate. There is a muted notion of seeing content through a screen which enables the viewer to break off easily and forget, something that can’t be avoided when you are physically present. Any gesture of help made online could be considered as empty, comparative to what could be achieved through physical action. It is clear that in this case, appropriated photography was important to use in order to make the relevant statement, this idea of seeing the American environment in a different way is realised through the process of this ‘screen photography’. I need to also consider what appropriated material would do for my project and whether it would be right decision for my creative process.

Alfredo Jaar

Another artist working with appropriation is Alfredo Jaar, whose work ‘Untitled (newsweek) used a variation of magazine covers to make a statement about the news headlines made by Western corporations, how horrors in less economically developed countries can be condensed to a sentence. Alfredo concentrates this series on contrasting the covers of Western corporations with a timeline of the conflict in Rwanda, demonstrating the time it took for these magazines to recognise and dedicate just a cover to the conflict that was happening.

newsrrrr003 94240 newsweek012_web 6_jaar_newsweek-48

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.23.09

 

In an exhibition space these images are displayed as prints with the relevant captions below, describing what was happening in Rwanda at the time these covers were released. In an online space however Jaar has created a web-based response where the viewer reads the description of the conflict and then is presented with the coinciding Western cover. It is clear why the appropriation of the covers was the right choice for Alfredo Jaar’s concept, because it would be untrue to the timeline he is exploring if he was to recreate the covers, the element of true history is lost. However it is his use of the this found material and the way he has adapted his project to suit both an exhibition environment and an online space which is really interesting to me. Although the fundamental dynamic of the project is still the same, it has definitely changed in aesthetic in the transition from exhibition to this online space. Prompting me to consider whether I need to to continue reworking my project after I have decided on my outcome for the exhibition to make it more effective in an online space.

 

Reflection:

Using appropriated or found photography has proved to be an extremely effective practice when approaching digital subject matter. Whether it is in contempt of the image saturation like Henner, or whether you use both old and new material to make a comparison like Broomberg and Chanarin, it is evident that it you use the material effectively then the work can be brilliant. One thing I’ve noticed about both Henner and Broomberg and Chanarin is that the output of working with found photography is very different, because they have different purposes. I need to consider what I really want to say when I am using found material before making experimentations because the process of working with this found imagery really affects the result. In the case of Broomberg and Chanarin they had to follow the aesthetic and structure of the previous War Primer book in order to let the viewer make the comparisons between the imagery without questioning the actual artefact that much. With Henner’s work he aimed to remove nearly all familiarity in the images to test whether the audience would feel a connection with them anymore; this reflects the way America has changed since the original images were taken. Another thing to remember when producing the work is my vulnerability to copyright and licensing and that I might not be able to legally use everything I come across without paying for the use. This would possibly restrict the way I could use the image and whether I could actually use it at all for my concept. If I am planning to source images I need to find a way to use them without getting into trouble, for example if I source imagery from social media, I need to read the terms and conditions. Doug Rickard and Alfredo Jaar have demonstrated that found photography is often the only method that is suitable for the concept you are investigating, however especially in Jaar’s case he has introduced the idea that I need to adapt my project to suit the different spaces in which I want to engage people.

One aspect I have realised when researching about found photography, is that it really relates back to the project I started in the Phonar module, where I collected the inconsequential data of an individual online with the view of creating a reverse-engineered portrait. The process of gathering portraiture online, especially using social media or web databases like Wikipedia relates to the ideas I established in Phonar which I wanted to pursue further. The idea of using imagery, particularly images of people in a different way is expanding the concept of the Post Photographic Portrait further and developing it into a full body of work. After researching artists and evaluating the relevance of this method in relation to my own concept and ideas I have previously engaged with, I have made the decision to use found photography in my own work. It appears to be a highly appropriate approach for my Final Major Project, and will open my practice up to new areas whilst developing on ideas I have previously established and researched.