Adam Ansel – Born 1902 and died in 1984, American photographer and environmentalist who changed photography for generations to come. He was associated with the Sierra club and believed in their message about conservation. “Technically, Adams is particularly known for developing a “zone system” of measuring light in order to capture a range of tones”. He also helped to found the f/64 group in 1932, which was a group of like-minded photographers in California who rejected the pictorialist aesthetic that remained popular among art photographers in the 1930s. His work reached a wide audience in book form after the Sierra Club issued, the first in its series of distinguished picture-book publications, This Is the American Earth (1960), illustrated mainly with his images. These We Inherit: The Parklands of America followed from the Sierra Club in 1962. Among his other books are Photographs of the Southwest (1976), Yosemite and the Range of Light (1979), Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs (1983), and the published Ansel Adams: An Autobiography (1985), left unfinished but completed by Mary Street Alinder. “A crusader for unmanipulated photography, he taught and lectured widely”.
“Impression is not enough. Design, style, technique – these, too, are not enough. Art must reach further than impression or self-revelation .” ~ Ansel Adams (Ansel Adams, Nancy Wynne Newhall, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum (1963*). “Ansel Adams, photographs 1923-1963”).
“Black and white photography is truly quite a ‘departure from reality’, and the transition from one aspect of visual magic to another was not as complete as many imagine.” ~ Ansel Adams (Ansel Adams (1975). “The role of the artist in conservation” ).
“I believe the approach of the artist and the approach of the environmentalist are fairly close in that both are, to a rather impressive degree, concerned with the affirmation of life.” ~ Ansel Adams (Ansel Adams (1975). “The role of the artist in conservation”).
Fay Godwin – Much like Ansel Adams above Fay Godwin also had a keen interest in conservation. She started her career photographing writers which may have helped her to gain success as poet Ted Hugh’s said he would write poetry to illustrate her photos. The result of that was ‘Remains of Elmet’ (1979) her work which was mainly monochromatic then changed as she was elected as president of the Ramblers’ Association in 1987. She had the same effect that Ansel Adams had on America except this time it was the UK.
“It never particularly interested me to photograph landscape in colour, but the urban landscape really excited me.”
One commentator suggested to Godwin that she had been lucky to catch a certain perfect sky. “I didn’t catch it,” was Godwin’s reply. “I sat down and waited three days for it.”
In a note in the book, Fay remarked that the pictures were taken during an August heatwave, and that several times she “was refused permission to make trips to rigs, platforms, pipelaying barges and other facilities, because I am a woman.”
Mona Kuhn – Born in Sao Paulo but of a German family, Mona Kuhn takes an unusual approach to photography; her unique style almost always consists of unusual lighting, some bare skin and architecture. She went to college at Ohio State University in Columbus and studied international relations, she then moved to California where she attended selected classes at the San Francisco Art Institute. She is very popular in America and even has Elton John following her work. She works mainly in monochromatic and does all f her own darkroom developing.
“It’s the range of mid-tones in black-and-white,” she said, explaining why her work is so meticulous and time-demanding. “With mid-tones, it’s hard to hand it to someone else. The eye has to judge. It’s such a nuance. Two percent difference can mean a lot.”
“At times, I favor androgynous features. I prefer to seek the human and natural in us, to develop images within a full range of emotions, abstract from muscled, gender-heavy renderings of the figure.”
“The nude is basically — how do I say? — it’s just a neutral form of human being,” Kuhn said by phone from her Bay Area home. Her tone emphasized her idea of “being” as a state of existence, not a body’s bone, muscle, fat and sinew. “It’s away from fashion. It’s away from time. It’s a way for me to be timeless, to go to an essence of emotion.”
Kim Kirkpatrick – Once a postman, American born landscape photographer who now lives in Washington DC, Kim Kirkpatrick became famous between the 1980s – 1990s for his unique way of photographing places where “nature and humans meet”. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran College of Art and Design and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, he then went on to teach photography as an adjacent member of the faculty at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He has exhibited a lot of his work in galleries and museums and a lot of his work has a ‘Bokeh’ effect. (Bokeh – the blurred quality or effect seen in the out-of-focus portion of a photograph taken with a narrow depth of field ).
“I take pictures where nature and man meet, where one is taking over the other,” he explains.
Kirkpatrick’s fascination with the great outdoors began in childhood. “Like most kids I was looking at the ground,” he recalls. “I was alone a lot. We always had a creek or a hollow near our house.”.
Kirkpatrick gets annoyed when people label him a “construction site photographer.” The place “isn’t the point,” he insists. “People will latch on to it. These images can be found behind the school, anywhere. You grow up thinking you have to be somewhere else to create art.”
Guy Bourdin – Born in Paris 1928 and died in 1991. He was a painter and self-taught photographer his whole life, he has worked with Vogue, Chanel and even had work exhibited in the Victoria & Albert museum. He worked both in black and white and in colour, his main body of work was fashion photography, he was also among one of the first to tell a story through his photographs. He often used mirrors in his work and reflections which was new to commercial photography back in the 1970s, he was a perfectionist, he developed a technic using hyper real colours, meticulous compositions of cropped elements such as low skies with high grounds and the interplay of light and shadows as well as the unique make-up of the models, which of course on paper looked even better. He viewed that the product was secondary to the image and I believe that was what made him so famous. It was his work for the shoe label, Charles Jourdan, that brought him the attention of a wider public, he dared to barely show the product and turned the shoe into a trivial element of a theatrical scene that enhanced sex and bad taste.
Despite being considered a cult figure by fashion insiders and photography connoisseurs, Bourdin – who never accepted invitations for interviews, nor consented to having his photograph on the Vogue contributors page – was renowned for being a solitary figure. As one of his long-time collaborators at Vogue remarked, “Guy wanted to remove every trace of his life.” I believe this is why I cannot find any quotations from Guy Bourdin.
Depth of field and how it influences the way a photo is perceived
Depth of field is a measure of the zone of distances (from near to far) that are within acceptable sharpness at a given aperture and focus distance. If for example something is close to us it will be of an acceptable sharpness but as soon as you move away the more and more things become unclear. Although as human eyes cannot distinguish a very small degree of unsharpness, some subjects that are in front of and behind the sharply focused subjects may still appear to be sharp.
If the subject say a portrait of a women at the beach is only focused on the face the background will not be perceived as much as the face will. Our brains are programmed to look at the obvious stuff, the things that stick out therefore we might not notice straight away that she dropped her ice-cream.
A perfect example of this is a well known photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt ‘VJ Day’ (1945)
This was taken in New York, Times Square 15 August 1945 the celebration taking place here is because the Second World War is over. The main focus of this image is the couple, she is wearing all white and it is really eye-catching, but if you look at the background you will start to notice the smiling faces of those also celebrating. There is a real sense of exuberance, pure joy. The depth of field in this photo is more of an after thought as the main focus of the images is the couple.
Taken from the book ’50 Photo Icons the story behind the pictures’ by Hans-Michael Koetzle which was published by Taschen in 2017 (page 162).
Peter Lindenberg – Born in Lissa, Germany 1944, Lindenberg had worked as a department store window dresser, he then went on to enroll in the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1960’s. “I preferred actively seeking out van Gogh’s inspirations, my idol, rather than painting the mandatory portraits and landscapes taught in Art schools…”. After moving to Düsseldorf in 1971, he turned his attention to photography and worked for two years assisting German photographer Hans Lux, before opening his own studio in 1973.
He introduced a form of new realism by redefining the standards of beauty with timeless images. His humanist approach and idealisation of women sets him apart from the other photographers as he privileges the soul and the personality. He changed drastically the standards of the fashion photography in times of excessive retouching considering that there is something else that makes a person interesting, beyond their age. He explains: “This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection.”
“If you take out the fashion and the artifice, you can then see the real person.” Lindbergh says. British journalist Suzy Menkes points out that the German photographer is: “Refusing to bow to glossy perfection is Peter Lindbergh’s trademark – the essence of the images that look into each person’s unvarnished soul, however familiar or famous the sitter.”
In the May 2016 issue of the prestigious magazine Art Forum, Lindbergh declares in his interview with journalist Isabel Flower that “a fashion photographer should contribute to defining the image of the contemporary woman or man in their time, to reflect a certain social or human reality. how surrealistic is today’s commercial agenda to retouch all signs of life and of experience, to retouch the very personal truth of the face itself?” He has worked with so many like Vogue, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar US, Wall Street Journal Magazine, The Face, Visionaire and many more. He set the tone and showed others working in the industry that you can still have a beautiful, real image true to the subject without all the props, glitz and glamour.
Look back at your personal archive of photography and try and find one photograph to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in project 2. Find a photo with a good depth of field that fits the code you have selected. Add a playful word/title that anchors the new meaning. The ability of photographs to suit a range of usages is something we will return to later on in the course.
Planning, execution and final outcome
Having looked back over project 2, my favourite part has been exploring the portrait side of photography. I have learned so much in regards to background, lighting and the subject themselves. I have decided to choose a previous photo that I have used in my coursework as I love the photo, it had good depth of field and fits the aesthetic of portrait photography. As mentioned above the uses and way in which we can adapt photos is ever changing and this is the perfect example. I also look forward to delving deeper into fashion photography in particular as the research has been fascinating.
‘Windswept in Winter’
This photo was from a shoot at the beach for my coursework ‘2.3 Focus’ I was asked to make sure the face was the main focus of the image and that the background had a depth of field. I quite like the idea of going to the beach during the winter and always have even as a child, it becomes a place of peace which completely juxtaposes what the beach is like in the summer. The way the wind has naturally flung her hair about is another thing I love about this image, the hair looks chaotic but the image itself doesn’t seem to be, her scarf wrapped around and the little bit of yellow from her coat adds a nice touch of colour to the grey gloomy sky.